When Shao Xuan arrived at the crop fields, Ao and tonight’s guards in charge of the fields were already waiting.
They were all holding tools in their hands. Other than their own axes, knives or other hunting weapons, they carried specialised tools for farming like vine woven into a large net, nets attached to long poles etc. They usually only used these during the day but rarely at night.
“All ready?” asked Shao Xuan.
“Yep, we were just waiting for you,” said Ao.
The guards who were called over were confused, not knowing why Ao wanted to see them. However, they would still obey their two elders’ instructions.
Shao Xuan surveyed the fields and asked one of the guards. “Which part usually has the most bugs at night?”
“Which part?” The guard thought for a moment and pointed. “There.”
That area was where their more valuable crops were planted, mostly given by Ji Ju. Even the Thousand Grain Gold were planted nearby.
“We’ll test that area then.” Shao Xuan went over with his water moon stones.
The two moons in the sky had just appeared but then were quickly covered by clouds once again. The land darkened with the lack of moonlight.
The chirping insects were silenced momentarily by the sudden disappearance of the moons but continued chirping.
It was dark but since everyone was very familiar with the farms, they did not need to worry about accidentally falling into any of the drainage trenches. In addition, although it was dark, there was a small fire built on the ground which was enough to help them see.
Shao Xuan did not start right on the edge of the fields but instead only stopped a distance away from the crop fields. He took out the ‘subpar products’ from his bag, then arranged them together in a circle.
“Put out the fire, and everyone back away,” said Shao Xuan.
Everyone obeyed his instructions, even putting out the fire torches they held.
Due to the banquet, many of the patrol guards became very frugal and used few water moon stones for illumination. While they didn’t believe one banquet was enough to bankrupt their tribe, they privately felt like they should be frugal now anyways. That was why, everyone seemed to suddenly become more frugal in lifestyle since they started preparations for the banquet. Within the tribe, they would not use water moon stones if fire torches were available. Even after the feast ended, they still did not change their habits immediately.
That was why when Ao asked them about it, even they didn’t know if water moon stones could attract insects because they had been using fire torches.
The entire area darkened without a single fire lit. Against the darkness, the water moon stones became very obvious.
While they were all dim, when concentrated together, their total brightness had obviously increased many folds. Though they couldn’t be compared to good quality stones, their numbers contributed greatly.
After backing away, Shao Xuan suppressed his aura to erase his existence as much as possible.
Everyone else had been briefed by Ao so they knew what to do. When Shao Xuan and Ao dimmed their auras, they followed suit but also stared curiously at the water moon stones.
What were the dim water moon stones for? Were they baiting the insects?
It was very quiet. They heard faint sounds from the tribe on the hill, as well as insects from the forest but they did not pay attention to these sounds.
Shao Xuan focused on distinguishing the various sounds around.
Within the fields, water was flowing across the irrigation canals dug by the tribesmen.
The night breeze blew, causing friction between the crop leaves and producing a rustiling.
Shao Xuan cocked his head, listening to a sound from a particular direction.
It came from the field.
Tiny, abrupt leaping sounds could be heard heading in his direction.
In the sky, sounds of insect wings beating fast could be heard approaching. These were the nocturnal flying insects.
A slender figure appeared at the water moon stone pile, the black silhouette obvious against the glowing stones.
Shao Xuan was delighted.
When they saw the figure, the warriors in charge of guarding the fields all raised their eyebrows.
Although it couldn’t be seen fully, they still recognised it based on its shape. This was one of the most annoying insects in the field. They stayed underground during the day and only came out at night. It was too difficult to guard the crops against these insects unless they could add underground barriers around them too.
Plus, these bugs weren’t afraid of the herbs they burnt meant as insect repellent, nor could they be smoked out. Everyone gritted their teeth whenever they saw the tiny holes bitten by these bugs in the mornings.
They couldn’t believe that the dully glowing water moon stones could attract the irritating insects!
A few nocturnal flying insects arrived the moment this one arrived, and their numbers were increasing.
Very soon, probably because they realised there were no threats around, all the other insects hiding in the trees, among the grass and in the fields also flew over as if something was attracting them over.
More and more silhouettes could be seen against the water moon stones. Big, small, long, short, winged, wingless, jumping, flying insects all started to congregate around. Some even started to fight among themselves for a spot in the light.
When the water moon stone pile was almost completely covered by bugs, and the sky was filled with the sound of flapping insect wings, Shao Xuan commanded in a low voice, “Now!”
In a moment, the people with the nets pounced to catch the concentrated swarm of insects in their nets, then slamming it into the ground.
The insects in the nets were flattened on the ground.
The bugs on the ground were consecutively hit with the giant fly swatter. At this moment, the nearer an insect was to the stone pile, the harder it was for it to escape the swats.
When everything ended, Shao Xuan used a wooden stick to prod all the various insects under the water moon stone light. Some of the insects on the ground weren’t flattened but had lost their mobility.
Shao Xuan was about to embark on an expedition along the Flaming River downstream so they were likely going to meet the same kinds of insects. He wanted to check out the types of insects he might encounter.
Shao Xuan picked some of the bugs out and put them in a cloth bag. He chose only the ones with intact bodies. A portion of these insects were rarely seen, some looked aggressive with venomous stingers or pincers, plus they camouflaged well with their surroundings. If they didn’t catch these insects now, they might not even notice these insects during the day.
He had to show his expedition team these specimens so they would be mentally prepared.
Ao instructed the rest to clean up the area and sweep up the dead insects into a pile. They’d ask the farmers if these could be turned into fertiliser when they arrived.
“What do you think?” Ao looked delighted when he came over to talk to Shao Xuan.
How could he not be happy? Now he knew that these basically useless water moon stones could be used to attract insects. Although it did not completely solve his problem, at least he could alleviate it. Any help was good.
“It’s alright but the effects are limited. The bugs we caught might not be the ones eating the crops,” said Shao Xuan. “Plus, the stones might not work well on cloudless nights. The good-quality moonstones would still be better.”
“Of course I’m aware of that but a majority of the bugs we caught were crop-eating pests. As for the moonlight… based on the weather, these few nights should be cloudy. Even if the clouds only cover the moon for a while, it’ll be enough.” Ao was prepared for this. He did not have high expectations for its effectiveness. At least they were effective. It was better than wasting the water moon stones.
“Then should we get more of these stones from the Drumming tribe tomorrow?” asked Ao.
This could be counted as a night-time insect trap.
On the next day, they crossed the river to meet the Drumming chief.
When he knew that Flaming Horn wanted their ‘rejects’, the Drumming chief dragged out several sacks without a word. When Ao wanted to pay them, Fan Mu stubbornly declined any payment. To the Drumming tribe, these were useless. It was a waste to leave them in the store anyway, and they wouldn’t be able to sell them for much money. Might as well give them all to Ao.
However, Ao did not take them all. He took two-thirds away and left one-third for the Drumming tribe. With Shao Xuan’s consent, he also told the Drumming tribe about last night’s incident.
The Drumming tribe was currently facing a food shortage. Although they didn’t really like insects, there were still several kinds of insects from the forest around the river banks that tasted decent. Plus these insects had already started to cross the river. It was just that the Drumming tribe lived in close proximity to their fire seed, hence the insects never flew close.
“That’s very interesting!” Fan Mu found this idea to be very unique. They had possessed water moon stones for such a long time, yet never noticed this phenomenon.
“You all can experiment with a few stones too, you might even catch some bugs,” suggested Ao.
“Thank you for telling us!”
The Drumming tribe was very grateful that Flaming Horn was actually willing to share knowledge and experience with them. That night, their patrol team tested this theory and indeed caught some. The patrol team roasted these insects for supper.
On Flaming Horn’s side, the initially deemed useless water moon stones were distributed. At night, when the moons were covered by clouds, they soon heard the sound of flapping wings.
“Hey, be gentle! I don’t want everything to become fertilizer, we might be able to eat any bigger or intact bugs!” yelled one of the people waving the nets.
“I know!” answered the guy with the giant fly swatter.
After a round of swatting, they cleaned the ground and picked out bigger and intact insects. They ate the edible ones, everything else was left aside to be made into fertiliser. As for insects they didn’t recognise, they were more cautious. The matter of eating insects was nothing to the Flaming Horns.
This happened at a few spots around the field that night.
That was why for a long time after this night, there was one more thing for crop field guards to do during their night shift--- getting their supper from the water moon stones.