Seeing the group of people move so slowly towards them, the guards at the gate grew impatient.
Even before these people crossed the mountain, the guards had already noticed them. The eagles who were keeping watch from above were the ones who spotted them first and told the guards about them. These guards thought, “The Rain tribe, Drumming tribe and Pu tribe have all arrived. Who’s next?”
Chacha, who was keeping watch from above, informed the guards that not many people were coming. Thus, the guards reckoned that this was one of the smaller tribes settling by the Flaming River.
These guards looked forward to meeting them.
Half an hour passed. They weren't here yet.
After an entire hour, even the Pu tribe had entered the market. However, these people were still nowhere to be seen!
Kun Tu, who was in charge of keeping guard outside the trading point, thought to himself, “Is totem sign of this tribe a tortoise?!”
When they finally saw the people arrive, the guards finally found out why they were so slow... These people were too cautious! They could be scared away by a simple poke.
They stopped after every step and looked around after every three steps.
They had nearly eighty people. Besides the one leading them, the others were all dressed the same way.
When they finally got near to the gate, Kun Tu blew on the wooden whistle, signalling Shao Xuan that a tribe was approaching.
Those people stood at the entrance and did not enter. They kept their guards up against the armed soldiers who were guarding the entrance. They were still extremely vigilant.
“Just come in! We won’t eat you up. Trust me. In the Flaming Horn Trading Point, it’s perfectly safe to trade here. You can rely on us, the Flaming Horn tribe,” Kun Tu said.
Their leader looked Kun Tu up and down and questioned whether his words could be trusted.
After a while, that person nodded and stretched out his neck to look around. Kun Tu thought that he would walk into the trading point comfortably, but to his surprise, the leader of this group walked in like a thief, slowly inching forward and stretching his neck out to look out for the dangers ahead. After he was sure they were safe, he took baby steps into the market. He scanned his surroundings and looked extremely nervous. It was as if a small breeze or grass movement could startle him.
Shao Xuan looked at this strange tribe and asked loudly, “Which tribe do you belong to?”
Shao Xuan had already tried his best to sound friendly, but these people still seemed startled and took a few steps back in retreat.
The leader of the group somewhat realised that his behaviour might not be appropriate, and felt like he did something wrong. He forced himself to calm down and cleared his voice, “Umm, (cough), we’re from the Zhi tribe. I’m the chief, Abuli.”
Abuli? A chief?
How could there be such a timid chief?
Shao Xuan noticed their vigilance and was curious. Despite what he thought in his mind, he knew that they had no intention to rob or steal, so he walked over with a cheerful smile on his face, “I’m an Elder of the Flaming Horn Tribe, Shao Xuan.”
The chief straightened his back but felt weakened again.
The chief, Abuli, seemed awkward and didn’t know what to say. His smile seemed forced, and he couldn’t force any words out of his mouth.
These people were probably not used to socialising with other tribes. ‘Perhaps this was the first time they ever participated in a trade,’ Shao Xuan thought.
“I wonder what the Zhi tribe brought over to trade? What would you like to get from our market?” Shao Xuan took the initiative and asked first.
Lang Ga and other soldiers who stood behind Shao Xuan glanced over at those people who just came, especially a few members of the team. When they were moving rocks to the trading point, they had seen these few a couple of times. Even if these people changed their looks and armour, Lang Ga could still recognise them. It was just like how he could remember beasts on his hunts.
However, what could these people possibly have to trade?
Judging by their looks, the Zhi tribe seemed like a tribe that had lived apart from the rest of the world, like the old Flaming Horn tribe. But back then, even if the Flaming Horn tribe had nothing to trade, they had beast hide. These people lived in this area, so they probably didn’t have any better beast hides. What could they offer to trade?
Lang Ga did not look down on the people from the Zhi tribe. He was just curious about what these people had to offer. The rattan baskets they carried on their backs were so tightly knit together that they couldn’t tell what was inside.
There weren’t even gaps in the basket that they could see through. The baskets were covered tightly from above, so Lang Ga could only hear the slight collision and rubbing of hard objects in the rattan basket from when one member of the tribe staggered a while ago. Besides that, he couldn’t discern anything else. The Zhi tribe walked too steadily and quickly. Their strangely giant feet were so stable that even if they seemed like they would trip the next moment, they stood firm and walked just as firmly as before.
Surely, no matter how small a tribe was, they should not look down on them.
Chief Abuli did not directly answer Shao Xuan’s question. His eyes quickly scanned his surroundings as if he was looking out for danger.
“We’d like to trade for some food, uhh, and some beast hide. The thicker ones with better quality!” Abuli’s words were fast and nervous, unlike his slow pace when they were approaching the trading point. After he spoke, his eyes continued to move back and forth, scanning for dangers.
“The Flaming Horn tribe has both food and beast hide, but would you prefer to trade with us directly or look around before you decide? The Rain tribe, Drumming tribe, and Pu tribe are all here.”
“Not the Pu tribe!” Abuli quickly refused. He did not know who the Rain tribe was, but he knew about the Drumming tribe and Pu tribe. The Drumming tribe seemed too fierce, so they didn’t dare to talk with them. The Pu tribe, on the other hand, was not dependable. They had terrible character and were too cunning.
“We’d only like to trade with the Flaming Horn tribe. We saw your wooden board. It said, ‘Fair Trade. No trickery!’” Abuli’s eyes were big. He no longer looked around and focused on Shao Xuan. He wanted to get a firm answer from Shao Xuan.
“Yes, indeed, you are correct,” Shao Xuan nodded.
After he received a firm answer, Abuli breathed out a sigh of relief. He relaxed, but he did not completely let down his guard and vigilance.
Shao Xuan brought them over to the trading centre, and as they walked by, they saw many empty houses on the way. There weren’t many people in the large trading area, so many houses remained empty.
But the Zhi tribe’s member’s eyes were filled with admiration as they looked around the trading point. Their eyes brightened up even more when they saw the beast hides the Flaming Horn people wore. As for their weapons, the Zhi tribe was merely curious. They did not pay too much attention to it. All they cared about at the moment was food and animal hide that could provide them warmth. This winter was going to be slightly colder, so they had to be ready.
Even though the trading market looked dull, and not many people were present, the Zhi tribe already felt like they were in a whole new world.
The young warriors from the Zhi tribe couldn’t take their eyes off the beast meat and hide laid out in front of them. They grew even more excited when they saw the young cubs in the breeding pen and went over to touch and pet them.
Lang Ga was happy to see that although these people drooled over the things that they saw, they had no intention to rob or steal. They only followed their chief Abuli and walked on.
The people from the Zhi tribe wanted beast meat and beast hide, so Shao Xuan brought them to see the booths where these goods were laid out. The more goods they saw, the more tense and anxious Abuli got. The Flaming Horn tribe’s beast hide was much better than he had expected. He didn’t know how much goods he could trade for, and he wondered whether what they had brought could be traded for his expected quantity.
After he brought them to look at the goods, Shao Xuan brought them into a large warehouse. All eighty members of the Zhi tribe could fit in that space.
“You all have already seen the beast hide and beast meat. It should satisfy your needs. Now it’s your turn to show us something that we might like.”