The crop field guards would pick some of the caught insects and put them aside for Shao Xuan to study when he was free. When he saw any new, foreign insects, he would pick them out.
After a life of living in the forest, they could guess which of these insects were potentially threatening to humans based on their physical characteristics. It was good preparation to know more insects before their trip.
They prepared insect-repelling herbs and mud too. When they leave, it would be after the monsoon when temperatures would soar. They would be wearing sleeveless clothing then, some of them topless. They’d need the coloured mud and insect repellent then. It would help with camouflage and repelling insects.
The monsoon season would arrive at full moon. Judging by the moons in the sky, the monsoon was near.
Before the monsoon arrived, the Longboat tribe arrived again. This time, they weren’t heading for the trading point but were here to give the Flaming Horns boats.
Before they left the Flaming River Trading Point, both tribes had negotiated once and the Longboat tribe had agreed to gift them two boats.
Due to the change in weather last year, many of the Longboat tribe’s boats had been destroyed. They did not have enough for themselves, and could build a limited number this year. They could only afford to gift Flaming Horn two for now. They would have to wait if they wanted more because it took time to build boats.
The Longboat tribesmen were strict in their craft so they spent a lot of time and effort on each boat.
The boats they gifted Flaming Horn were about the same as their own fleet, though there were masts added. But that was not the only difference.
There had been a lot of advancement in their craft this year.
There were troughs added inside the boats. Shao Xuan had seen them. The rooms inside the boats were leak-proof so in the event of hull damage, the boat would still be able to operate despite water seeping into one or two cabins. The boats were now more sink-resistant. This was why Shao Xuan was so impressed by the Longboat tribe. They truly were masters of boat building.
Perhaps the disaster had encouraged the Longboat tribesmen to innovate and build leak-resistant cabins. Or perhaps they already had this idea for a long time. No one knew.
Even without this, their boats were always sturdier even if other people were given the same materials to build the same boat. Shao Xuan could not determine how many secrets were hidden in this craft. The Longboat tribe truly lived up to their names, for their mastery of the art far exceeded other tribes.
This time, the Longboat tribe’s gifts were given with utmost sincerity. It was a lot better than the boats they gave Flaming Horn due to the incident with the green-faced fanged beasts at Fearsome Beast Forest. Those boats might’ve looked almost the same, if one were to actually put them to use, it was incomparable to these current boats. If both boats collided, the previous batch would definitely be destroyed first.
When they saw that the Flaming Horns were satisfied with the boats, the people who brought the boats over secretly heaved a sigh of relief. For some reason, although they were always arrogant when interacting with other tribes, they became much more timid around the Flaming Horns. Especially when they met Shao Xuan. They were always worried he might shoot fire if he got upset.
After Flaming Horn inspected and accepted the boats, the Longboat tribesmen went to trade at the trading point once more. To them, there were many coveted items at the trading points, other than beast flesh and hide, fish skin glue and wood were also attractive goods. The wood that Flaming Horn helped them procure previously were all kept in the storage. They planned to take some back. They had been hungry for sturdy, ancient wood from the Fearsome Beast Forest for a long time.
Two days after they delivered the boats, monsoon began. Consecutive days of rain caused activity at the trading point to quiet down. The busy folk finally had time to rest.
Zheng Luo passed all the information he collected at the trading point to Shao Xuan. They had discovered three more tribes in the Flaming River area, though they were further away from Flaming Horn. They only know of the approximate location, just not the exact points.
“I’ve mentioned one of the tribes to you before, that one is almost the same as the Luo tribe, which already disappeared after the disaster. They brought a lot of fishing nets, so they must be a tribe that catches fish for a living. But they were way luckier than the Luo tribe to be able to survive the disaster unscathed. And the other tribe…”
Zheng Luo told everything he knew to Shao Xuan, who recorded them on an animal skin scroll. He would confirm these notes during his expedition down the river.
After receiving the information, Shao Xuan returned to the main village and ascended the hill to talk to Gui He about the finalised candidates. They had mostly confirmed the two hundred names, it just required some finalisation.
On top of the hill, Shao Xuan saw that the two former shamans- who were now elders of the tribe- seemed to be arguing about something.
Ever since Gui Ze took over as the new shamaness, the two elders did not need to live in the shaman’s quarters anymore. They built two more houses here for convenience whenever they had to discuss matters. Unfortunately, their conversations often ended in argument.
When Shao Xuan went over, the two elders were in such a heated argument they almost fought each other with their walking canes.
“What’s the matter?” asked Shao Xuan.
“Ah Xuan, it’s great you’re here. Come take a look at what I drew.” The old man dragged Shao Xuan into his house.
Shao Xuan looked at what the old man pointed to. There was a thin stone slab. On the stone slab was a mess of colour pigments.
What was he supposed to be looking at?
Sensing Shao Xuan’s confusion, the old man realised the problem. “Oh, not that. That’s something I drew last time. Look at this one.”
The old man pointed at a wide leaf on the table. There was a much clearer drawing on the leaf drawn with bright red pigment.
Shao Xuan was stunned to see the drawing. The old man often drew observational drawings, i.e. of people he recently met or things he saw, or an important event etc. Shao Xuan thought he’d draw something with a story. The drawing on the leaf was a scene from the grand banquet at the Flaming River Trading Point.
Although it was a simple drawing, Shao Xuan could recognise it based on the outlines. That was because many people had talked to him about it and drawn it for him before this.
“This is… the ancestor’s flame giant?” Shao Xuan was puzzled, not understanding what the old man meant. They were both in such a heated argument over the ancestor’s flame giant?
“Yep!” The old man was very emotional. He picked the leaf up carefully and pointed at the drawing. “What do you think of it?”
“It’s a simple and clear drawing, captures the sanctity of the ancestors,” said shao Xuan.
“I’m not asking your opinion on the drawing! I’m asking you, what do you think after seeing the ancestors in this form?” asked the old man.
What did he think?
He only knew that his ancestors took the form of a blurry flame giant. What opinions could he have about it?
Shao Xuan did not catch his point.
“Don’t you think our ancestors look exceptionally great in this form?” asked the old man hopefully.
Exceptionally great? Which part? Shao Xuan was still confused. It was rare to hear a Flaming Horn compliment something to look ‘exceptionally great’.
In the end, the old lady standing next to them had to explain. “He wants to design new ceremony clothing based on the ancestor’s flame giant form.”
“New ceremony clothing?” Shao Xuan was shocked and looked at the drawing once again. With fresh eyes, he did feel a wind-swept, breezy pride from the drawing.
But didn’t the Flaming Horns despise clothing styles like that? Didn’t they all think that clothing like that was useless during a hunt, hence it was ugly as hell?
After spending so many years here, Shao Xuan’s sense of aesthetic had been affected too.
But after understanding the old man’s intentions, Shao Xuan did think that it was beautiful. He also thought it was a hint from the ancestors that it was time to change their ceremony attire.
It wasn’t going to be a big problem though. To the Flaming Horns, their ancestors were always good. Even if they didn’t like this style before, if it was created by their ancestors, they would attempt to embrace it.
The old man wanted to change the Flaming Horn ceremony attire but the old lady disagreed not because she didn’t like the ancestors’ style. Similarly, she thought it looked good. However, she didn’t think everyone should wear this attire. Their founder was the first shaman so this clothing style should be reserved for the shamans.
Shao Xuan thought about this style involving billowing fabric, then thought about the usual tribesmen attire involving horns and fangs worn around the neck, a green, wide blade in hand, white beast claw shoes and colourful snakeskin belts.
It was a jarring comparison…
“You two, carry on with your discussion.”
Many changes here were not due to Shao Xuan’s deliberate planning. In this world, changes occurred after various events.