After the strong winds, a heavy rainstorm arrived. After the scorching sun tortured them for an entire winter, it was finally covered by thick rainclouds. For many people who lived on the land, they had never felt so happy seeing rain clouds.
The raindrops rained down quickly as if someone poured it down from the sky in scoops.
The parched earth greedily absorbed the rain, and a muddy smell spread everywhere.
The wanderers were so excited they carried out jars to collect water from the sky. In the past winter, they had worked laboriously for the Flaming Horn tribe in exchange for food and water. However, they had not received much food and water, and some of them complained. It was not until they heard about the situation outside that they stopped complaining. They were afraid of being driven away. After all, although the water was scarce, it was sufficient for keeping them alive until now.
The heavy rain seemed to calm the fierce beasts down. After being maddened by the heat for an entire season, they were all calmed by the rain. You could tell from their roars of joy.
Each of the tribesmen had their own responsibilities. Some took charge of keeping guard, some took care of the farmland, some managed the animal pens, some made pottery, some made textiles... They were all ready to start working. It was too hot before for them to work, and most of them didn’t even want to move more, so they all put their duties aside. Now, they could finally start working again.
The sprouting seedlings in the ground were also growing with an unusual liveliness, and the forests turned greener than before.
Although the extreme weather had passed, the guards and defences had not been decreased. The two chiefs took turns to supervise them every day. Even when the rainstorm came, they didn’t retreat.
“It’s best to be vigilant at all times.”
This was what the two shamans said after the sacrifice.
Although the two of them could not predict exactly what would happen, they sensed that a huge crisis was about to arrive, and it was not targeting any specific tribe. It was just an indescribable sense they had.
If the two shamans had different opinions, they might have to go through a dispute, but both of them had the same interpretation. The Flaming Horn tribe knew that whatever was going to happen, they must not be sloppy and let their guard down.
On a sunny day after the rain, the hunting team set off to hunt in the mountains.
Shao Xuan entered the mountain forest with the team. The green-faced fanged beasts had already been fed and had their blood extracted. People were naturally keeping watch over them, so he didn’t really need to be there.
They finally entered the forest again. Everyone in the team found that many trees in the forest that turned brown and died. Some of the dead trees had already been drilled through by various insects and were dotted with countless holes. If they were to be chopped down, a lot of tiny bugs would crawl out from within.
Carrying his prey, Shao Xuan and his team came to rest in a cave nearby.
“There used to be a stream there,” Shao Xuan said as he pointed to a place on the mountain.
“Yeah, but I don’t see it anymore. It probably dried out from the hot weather,” Mai said next to him. He didn't understand how streams formed. He only knew that even if rivers and streams dried out in the autumn and winter seasons, they would flow once again in the springtime when the snow starts melting or when the sky starts pouring. But now the stream that used to be in front of the mountain was gone, and he didn’t know why. Oh well. If it's gone, it's gone.
Mai carried his prey into the cave. The others looked over but didn’t know what Mai was talking about. They followed him into the cave. Only Shao Xuan remained standing outside, looking at the location where the stream originally was.
“I’m going to check out some other places.” Shao Xuan said to those who were resting in the cave.
Mai and the other soldiers were full of curiosity so they followed Shao Xuan and wanted to see what he had discovered.
Shao Xuan remembered that there was a river nearby, not a big one, but river beasts often hid there, ready to ambush.
The stream had stopped flowing. It was probably because there was no snow on the mountaintops that year, and the unusually hot winter melted all the snow that used to cover the mountains all year round. However, the river over there did not originate from just melted snow alone, but also from other groundwater sources. It rained so much a few days ago. Even if it wasn’t enough for a stream, the muddy puddles on the riverbed would have certainly risen, no? It was such heavy rain.
However, when Shao Xuan passed by, there were only a few fish swimming weakly in the river, and larger river beasts were not seen. The reason was that the water level was too low!
The river was too shallow and the river beasts did not like to stay in shallow places.
As a result, they did not appear here.
Mai and others were also surprised to see the falling water levels but the shock was only for a while. They thought that it might be because the forest was too “thirsty”. After the rain fell, the forest "drank" the rainwater, so there was not much rainwater left for the river.
But even if the forest could absorb a lot of rainwater, what about the groundwater?
Why couldn’t such heavy rain that lasted a few days raise the water level in the river? Even if the rise was not obvious, it didn’t make sense for the water level to drop so low.
In the past, the water was often yellow with mud because the river beasts liked to stir up the sediments at the bottom of the river, but now, the river didn’t only become more shallow, but it also became clearer. Which meant not even a single river beast had come by recently.
“Let’s go to the next location. I remember there was a cave here.”
Shao Xuan had discovered a karst cave with a puddle before when he was out hunting with the hunting team but now the water there was red and some small creatures swam in the water. The water wouldn’t be drinkable even after boiling so Shao Xuan did not return to that location anymore.
As soon as he entered the cave, Shao Xuan's eyes shifted around. It was not just him. Even the other warriors who had sharper senses felt something wrong.
In the past, when they came, they could feel the cool winds bringing in humid air, as well as the light and sweet smell from the shade-loving plants in the cave. But now, all those smells were no longer there.
Shao Xuan walked further into the hole. Before, they could see shallow streams on the ground after a few steps in but now they had walked for more than ten meters into the cave and yet the surrounding rocky walls still remained dry.
Mai took out the Water Moon Stone and illuminated their surroundings.
There was no water!
Still, there was no water!
The further they went, the more the ground curved downward until only a few underground caves remained.
“Even this cave is dry!” The Flaming Horn warriors who had just experienced a strange winter suddenly felt dryness in their throats.
Why was there no water? !
Right then, they already understood what Shao Xuan wanted to check, and everyone became alert.
They thought the worst had already passed, but they didn’t expect it to still exist.
As they took a closer look at the ground, on the uneven surface of the stone cave, there was some unknown dry red substance that could be scraped off with a knife.
“These are…” Mai pinched the red substance that he scraped off the ground and crushed it between his fingers, turning them into powder.
“These used to live inside the puddle but now they’re all dead.” Shao Xuan frowned as he walked out.
Hearing Shao Xuan’s words, Mai and others felt their throats getting drier. They were afraid they might die of thirst without water.
In the next few days of their hunt, Shao Xuan went once again in search of more water sources.
The weather looked normal, except that the water source in many places was still declining, especially those produced by groundwater. There was no longer a place that resembled its previous appearance. Most of them were either dried out or on the verge of drying out. It was only a matter of time before it would dry out completely.
Meanwhile, within the Lu tribe.
They thought the dark times had already passed, but now they realized that their lives did not get much better. Even the water in the lake that belonged to them was decreasing. The levels did not even rise after the rainstorms a few days ago. Even though they witnessed how rainwater flooded into the lake, the water levels in the continued to decrease.