It was still winter but there was a warmth flowing through the tribe. Every Flaming Horn tribesperson had a smile on their faces they couldn’t wipe off.
With news of the banquet spreading, everyone was preparing to get to work as soon as winter ended. No one thought this was wasteful behaviour, they were all excited for it especially since it wasn’t held by one person but the whole tribe. Many didn’t get a single good night’s sleep for a while from too much excitement.
The chief and shaman said this was the time for them to shine.
The new bronze tools were limited so although everyone already had one, it wasn’t enough since one wouldn’t be sufficient to hunt. The rest had to use stone tools so sounds of stone grinding could be heard from the top to the bottom of the mountain. Even deep into the night, light and noises escaped from some houses as they worked hard- but not too hard to be a nuisance to their neighbours.
The bats that once appeared at night disappeared for some time.No one had spotted them recently. Some speculated that they moved away with the migratory birds, some said Chacha scared them away but no matter what the true reason was, this was safer for the tribe without the protection from the fire seed. Even if they came back, the tribespeople would just get rid of their nests.
From Shao Xuan’s rough estimations, the banquet would be held around a hundred days after winter ended. They would have to delay the reopening of the trading point but it was fine as they needed to prioritise the preparation work. Opening it after the invitations were out wasn’t too late anyway.
Yang Sui was the first to know about the banquet because he went to the tribe to discuss the fire seed with Shao Xuan. He didn’t expect to hear such shocking news.
It was a banquet!
Held by a whole tribe!
That was crazy!
The actions of the Flaming Horn tribe were shocking to some, and heartfelt to others.
“Have you decided?” asked Shao Xuan.
“Yes!” Yang Sui drew his attention back to Shao Xuan from the busy Flaming Horn tribespeople working in the snow. The actions of the Drumming tribe made him more determined and convenience a lot more Rain tribespeople. There were some that still rejected the idea but the majority supported Yang Sui now. “For our tribe... it isn’t the best time to merge with the fire seed yet but I’ll make necessary preparations first.”
Shao Xuan told him exactly what he told the shaman from the Drumming tribe. He believed that after this, Yang Sui would head to the Drumming tribe for their advice too.
Yang Sui was still in a trance as he went back to his tribe. When he finally came to his senses, he was seated at the shaman’s house surrounded by a group of people. Most of them had a look of disapproval on their faces as if Yang Sui had committed some evil crime. They only held back because of Yang Sui’s influence in the tribe and they had already agreed to fuse the fire seed. They had no smiles for Yang Sui as he returned home from the Flaming Horn tribe, only blank expressions.
“I know how to fuse the fire seed now. I went to the Drumming tribe to ask too but let me think about the details first before I come up with the plan,” said Yang Sui.
Many only took a glance at Yang Sui before settling their eyes to the ground to prevent him seeing the anger and disapproval in their eyes.
Even if Yang Sui didn’t see them, he knew what they were all thinking about but he didn’t say anything except for a heavy sigh.
“I’ve got some news from the Flaming Horn tribe.”
Some eyes perked up. They were curious about the mixed emotions that sigh carried.
One of his supporters asked, “What did you hear, shaman?”
“The Flaming Horn tribe is holding a banquet.”
Those that seemed disinterested immediately looked at Yang Sui, “Is it a true banquet? Not just some gathering?”
“Yes!” Yang Sui looked very serious, he emphasised each word he said, “It’s on the day the Flaming River Trading Point opens!”
Everyone took a sharp inhale.
They were now carefully calculating and rationing their food so they had enough for the winter but the Flaming Horn tribe was already planning a banquet.
How wealthy were they to be able to do that?
After the initial shock, the house exploded. They had only heard about banquets and never experienced one themselves. Even if the larger tribes had had them before, they were too far from the central region to attend one. Now, Yang Sui was telling them they get to do that!
Everyone started discussing but Yang Sui ignored that and said, “When Flaming Horn tells me the exact date, I will bring some of you to attend it.”
The discussion stopped for a moment.
“Some of you” was too vague.
“Then… Can I go?” A person asked Yang Sui.
“What about me?”
Yang Sui didn’t give a direct answer but said, “I’ll decide then, I don’t know how many people I can bring over.”
“There’s a limit to a banquet? What does that mean? There’s not even that many of us,” complained one of the elders.
“This can’t be helped, they are inviting a lot of other tribes too so they have to limit the number of people that each tribe can bring. The Grand Elder was kind enough to inform me a little earlier.”
“You have to bring me! Shaman, I always supported you!”
“Me too! Me too!”
“Shaman, I think fusing the fire seed is not bad at all. They did it quite early on and they can hold banquets now!”
Yang Sui looked at the people before him. Just a few days ago, they were all strongly rejecting the idea of the fusion. Who knew they would change their mind just because of a banquet? Even those that were still opposed to it knew they wouldn’t stand a chance anymore so they took their chances by pledging their loyalty to the shaman.
To be honest, banquets were just events for leaders of each tribe to show off their skills. When the larger tribes had banquets, they would only invite the influential people in each tribe. The Flaming Horn banquet would probably do the same.
How could they miss this opportunity?!
Yang Sui smiled, this was the reason he mentioned the banquet in the first place. He could increase his supporters by using the banquet invitation as leverage. With the Flaming Horn tribe as a successful example of the fusion, people would also think twice about their initial opposition.
The impact of the banquet on the tribespeople was much larger than Shao Xuan expected.
Shao Xuan wasn’t aware of Yang Sui using the banquet to attract people to agree with him, he was busy preparing for the hunts. There was also the sacrifice going on.
As soon as winter ended, the yearly sacrifice ritual would begin. Their numbers were much bigger now so the mountain top would be quite crowded.
When the snow stopped and the cold wind was gone, the pitch dark sky was greeted with the thin lines of the moons. A warrior standing guard sent out a signal when he saw the moons.
The whistle rang through the quiet night to each corner of the tribe. Even some part of the Drumming tribe could hear the sound.
The Flaming Horn warriors rushed out from the houses to look at the moons and let out weird animal-like howls. They were not able to control their warrior instinct then.
Soon they would enter the forest to hunt as part of the steps to fulfil the dream they held on for so long.
Duo Kang roared, “Are you all ready?!”
“We can leave anytime!”
“My sword is ready!”
Replies were shouted throughout the mountain.
Duo Kang let out a hearty laugh as he walked out his house, he was too agitated to sleep now. He went to the hut beside his home to carve stone weapons.
Across the river, the Drumming tribe heard the noises from the Flaming Horn tribe. They were envious of the banquet that the other tribe was holding but that also calmed many of the tribespeople. Seeing that the first tribe to fuse their fire seed was so successful lessened their worries a lot.
Fu Shi looked across the river, he couldn’t see what they were doing with the trees blocking but he could guess what they were cheering about.
“We will be even better next time!”
In the Drumming tribe, those that were awakened only listen to the sound but didn’t walk out. In the centre of the tribe a few walked to the shaman with nervous expressions.
Fan Mu went into the shaman’s house and saw a few people were already standing there surrounding the owner.
The shaman had a water moon stone in his hands.
The rock didn’t glow and was still very rough. It looked like a normal rock found in the river, an untrained eye could easily mistake it for one.
Everyone in the house had their eyes on the small stone in the shaman’s hand.
After the fusion, they couldn’t produce any water moon stones but they blamed the lack of moons in the sky for it. Now, the moons were out, it should be able to happen. They were only crescents now but they could already feel the difference.
The shaman took a deep breath and opened the door to go to the empty field. Without the trees blocking, he could see the two dim moons.
With a deep breath, the shaman focused his totemic energy flowing through every inch of his body. The energy went from his neck to his arms then flowed into the stone in his palms.
The shaman could feel that this attempt was different from the ones in the winter. He could feel the stone becoming alive.
The sound of tiny beads dropping to the ground echoed through the room. This was a sound every tribe member here was familiar with.
They would hear it at the river every full moon. Although it was much slower than what they were used to, this was already a win for them.
They were already confident about succeeding but doubts still hovered over their minds. They prepared for the worst in case they wouldn’t be able to make the water moon stones anymore but now they were all pleased.
The faint glow from the stone wasn’t enough to light up the room but this already caused the tribespeople to dance around the room in joy.
“We did it!”
“That Grand Elder was right! We can make our own water moon stones!”
The Drumming tribe erupted in laughter, adding to the excitement from the Flaming Horn tribe.
Figures emerged into the darkness from the caves.
A crocodile lifted its head to look at the sky and let out a low growl. Winter was over, the ice had melted and the hunting would soon begin.