After visiting the crop fields, Shao Xuan headed somewhere else. Since he was going to be away for a while, and they hadn’t set the date of return, he must ensure that any loose ends were settled first.
When he was heading to the beast pens, he met Ao, who was coincidentally looking for him.
Ao was holding a bulging beast skin bag filled to the brim.
“The Drumming Tribe brought this over, as debt repayment. See how many regular water moon stones it’s worth.” Ao handed the bag over.
Shao Xuan took a look inside the bag but couldn’t see much because of the bright sunlight. He headed into a wooden hut nearby with Ao. It was a temporary shelter for the animal keepers and patrol teams who passed by.
Seeing Shao Xuan and Ao approaching, everyone resting inside quickly left and took initiative to guard the area, not letting anyone approach. They knew that Ao and Shao Xuan must have something to discuss. It didn’t matter if it was secret, without permission, they would do their best to stay away and prevent other people from eavesdropping.
After entering the hut, Shao Xuan closed the windows and only left one open for ventilation.
Now that it was dark, the water moon stones inside were a lot more obvious.
“Not bright enough, inconsistent transparency and quality.” One look was enough for Shao Xuan to determine the quality of the water moon stones within the bag.
Good quality water moon stones were as bright as light bulbs plus they looked clean and clear. This was why they could be used as trading currency.
However, some of these in the bag were very dull, not bright enough for practical usage. Not just a light bulb, they were dimmer than fire torches. Some barely met the brightness requirements but they were murky. Only barely a tenth of the stones truly met their standards.
“The Drumming tribesmen must’ve chosen these from their stocks to pay us. I think these must be the best stones they have, though this is all they could afford,” said Ao.
After merging with the fire seed, the Drumming tribe slowly dissociated their mindsets from the primitive fire seed to its powers already inside them to generate water moon stones. Unfortunately, within such a short time period, the water moon stones made still did not meet previous standards. This was understandable to Ao.
“What are you all going to do about it?” asked Shao Xuan.
“We’ll accept it. Since the quality of these aren’t up to standard, we can’t price it like before. But when we built Flaming River Castle, the Drumming Tribe helped us many times and did not accept any gifts from Flaming Horn. I was thinking about valuing them at one third,” said Ao.
He meant to value these water moon stones at one third the price of regular stones.
If he did not do this and only accepted functional stones, then only one tenth of the bag Drumming Tribe paid had value. The truth was that the dull water moon stones were basically worthless and unusable.
Actually, Ao was satisfied with the Drumming Tribe as their neighbours. In comparison to the Wanshi Tribe, he was definitely happier with the Drumming Tribe. Plus they’d helped Flaming Horns many times. Now that Drumming Tribe had just rebuilt their houses and undergone major changes, they weren’t living their best lives now either. That was why Ao did not want to trouble them too much.
But that was just his opinion, he still wanted to listen to Shao Xuan’s opinion. Gui He had no problem with it but if Shao Xuan disagreed, it was still a no.
“Sure, just carry on as you planned.” Shao Xuan handed the water moon stones back to Ao. “Keep the duller ones separately.”
“I know.” Ao did not plan to use the dimmer stones anyway. They couldn’t even be used for reading anything one palm’s distance away, let alone light up one’s path.
“Bring the dimmer stones to the crop fields later, leave them there and see if any insects are attracted,” said Shao Xuan.
With more crops in the fields, there were more insects too. Although there were people in charge of killing pests and even the green ducks eating the insects in the fields, those were just during the day. They had a pest problem for nocturnal insects. Some people used fire torches to chase them away, which was effective because most living things feared fire. However, it was impossible to keep this up for an entire night.
Perhaps due to high human activity in the Flaming Horn tribe, most birds did not approach the village, especially not at night. This caused the nocturnal bug problem to proliferate. The warm weather, moist river banks and large crop fields were paradise for bugs. The ones flown over from the Fearsome Beast Forest area were especially annoying.
Coincidentally, these nearly useless water moon stones could be used. They couldn’t be used practically but they were still glowing at a brightness equivalent to a phone screen. Perhaps they would attract some nocturnal bugs.
There were all sorts of insects, many were attracted to light but they weren’t as dumb as the flying ones that would kill themselves in fire. They were clever enough to avoid the hot source of light- fire torches. That was why Shao Xuan thought it was worth an attempt with these stones.
When Shao Xuan mentioned it, Ao understood. He was the chief after all.
“You mean those nocturnal insects might like the glowing water moon stones?”
Ao had once walked outside holding a water moon stone. He had met many insects flying near him too, though he thought it was because of him, not the stone. Now that Shao Xuan mentioned it, could it be the glow of the stone?
“Many bugs that come out at night like the moon but the moon is too far away. But I don’t know if they’ll be attracted to the stones,” explained Shao Xuan.
“I see.” Ao was impressed, thinking, ‘No wonder he’s the Grand Elder, he knows so much.’
“We’ll know once we try it.” Shao Xuan wasn’t sure either. There were definitely bugs that were attracted to light, he just wasn’t sure if these glowing stones were bright enough.
“The Drumming Tribe surely knows about this, right?” asked Ao.
“Not necessarily. The Drumming Tribe used to be protected by their primitive fire seeds, most pests might not approach. And the river was still there so insects from the forest might not be able to fly over. The insects originally from that side shouldn’t be enough to cause problems. Now that both sides are closer to each other, and more insects might be flying over, they’re still very conservative with the usage of their water moon stones. It’s more likely they don’t know of this but we can ask,” said Shao Xuan.
“You have a point.” Ao almost forgot how intimidating the aura of a primitive fire seed was to other living things. The Drumming tribe’s residential area wasn’t as scattered as Flaming Horn too so the fire seed’s effects must have been strong.
Ao went to the house by the river with the animal skin bag. The Drumming chief, Fan Mu, was waiting there. He looked anxious. They were well aware that the quality of these moon stones weren’t as good as before but this was already the best batch they had in a while.
The Drumming tribesmen inside all looked up expectantly when Ao approached.
“What did Grand Elder Shao Xuan say?” asked Fan Mu.
“We’ll value it at one third of the previous price,” said Ao.
They were all surprised. To them, they would’ve felt guilty even if it was just one-tenth.
After his surprise, Fan Mu said solemnly, “Thank you!” They knew that this was Flaming Horn doing them a favour. If they brought these stones somewhere else, they would’ve been worth less than one-tenth of the initial price. They were grateful for this.
The Flaming Horns were good people!
“The next batch of water moon stones we bring over will definitely be better!” promised Fan Mu. They were getting better at making water moon stones. The moon was growing brighter these nights too so the production process was easier. Their quality would definitely improve, for even they were embarrassed to give the Flaming Horns poor quality stones as debt repayment.
“Right, what does your tribe do with the sub-par water moon stones?” asked Ao.
“Cough, we keep them and use it ourselves,” replied an embarrassed Fan Mu. The stones that could not fulfil minimum brightness were almost useless. If they did not hide it in their own houses, what was the other option? To sell them? Wouldn’t that just be shameless?
“The stones… If you can’t use them, don’t throw them away,” said Ao hesitantly. He wasn’t sure if Shao Xuan’s night plans would succeed. If they did, they obviously would need more dim stones. These stones were worth almost nothing, they could be counted as recycling trash.
“Eh?” The Drumming tribesmen looked at him, puzzled.
“Our… Grand Elder might need some stones like that.” Ao wanted to tell them about the plan but held his tongue and used Shao Xuan’s name instead. The Drumming tribe might really not know if the stones could attract insects.
“But we’re not sure if it’ll work so he has to test it first. We’ll let you know later,” added Ao.
“Sure, sure, sure!” said Fan Mu quickly.
After returning to the Drumming tribe, Fan Mu told the shaman this.
Upon hearing that the stones were valued at a third the original price, the shaman was very grateful to Flaming Horn. The news about the dimmer stones was a surprise too.
“Although we don’t know what Flaming Horn’s Grand Elder Shao Xuan wants to do, I hope he succeeds,” said the shaman. “If they still need more, we can give them what we have.”
“Yeah, I think so too,” said Fan Mu.
The failed water moon stones from their practice sessions were useless anyway. If Flaming Horn needed them, they would give all of it to Flaming Horn as a gesture of thanks.
The two moons in the sky weren’t crescents anymore and much brighter. However, they were still far from full moon.
If there were two full moons, the dim water moon stones wouldn’t be able to outshine the moons and their effects would greatly decrease. So it was also a good thing that it was a cloudy night!”
Most of the night, both moons were covered by clouds so it made Shao Xuan’s plan easier.
Shao Xuan looked up at the clouds then headed over to the crop fields with a bag of water moon stones.