This year’s monsoon did not last long, ending after just barely twenty days.
When the skies cleared, temperatures rose rapidly. It was now the hottest time of the year.
At this time, the two moons had gradually grown into full moons. Fire torches were no longer needed at night for a clear view.
After watching the Thousand Grain Gold passing their second blocks, he finally brought his party on the boats to embark on their expedition.
The Flaming River’s water levels rose a little after the monsoon. Due to mud and silt, the river was a murky yellow now.
Taking a look at the flowing river, Shao Xuan bade his tribesmen farewell and set off with the two hundred people he chose.
There were two boats, one hundred people on each. Shao Xuan’s boat travelled in front.
In fact, the Longboat tribe’s gift boats were gigantic and were definitely enough for two hundred people. Forget about two hundred, even five hundred would be fine. However, they brought with them stocks that took up some space. Plus, if there was some accident to one boat, they could return on the other.
Two boats bearing the Flaming Horn totem left the tribe with billowing sails bringing them downstream.
They definitely weren’t going to bring any fearsome beasts on this trip, though Chacha was an exception. Too bad it could fly, plus it wouldn’t stay at Flaming Horn without Shao Xuan there. That was why he made Chacha follow him on this expedition. Chacha could help with surveillance from afar, since their field of vision was limited on the boat.
Half a day later, Shao Xuan kept monoculars to instruct his crew to approach the banks and plant their signs.
After the Flaming River was named, they only planted signs bearing the name ‘Flaming River’ within a limited radius. The ones in charge of planting signs were operating within a limited distance anyway. They mostly relied on word of mouth by the tribes around Flaming River to spread the word.
Now, since their team was travelling further downstream, they took the opportunity to plant sighs. From here on, Shao Xuan instructed his crew to plant signs at every interval.
When the people in charge of the signs were busy on the bank, there would also be guards to prevent ambushes. This was not a region they were familiar with so they must remain vigilant.
Shao Xuan got Chacha to bring him up in the air and circle the area. After they landed, he took out a scroll, dipped an animal fur brush in colour pigment then drew. He was updating his maps. Since his tribe will be living here for a long time, they must be familiar with both sides of the river.
It was simple on the side with the Fearsome Beast Forest. The topography was generally the same, nor were there people living there. If there were others, the Flaming Horn ancestors who were blocked off from the world by the river would’ve discovered them already. They wouldn’t have missed another tribe for one thousand years.
Shao Xuan mainly focused on studying the other side.
After last year’s disaster, both sides of the river underwent different changes. One side sunk while the other protruded upwards. This caused one side to be elevated than the other. Shao Xuan and the rest could only study the less elevated side when they were on their boats.
The lower regions were coincidentally the site they most needed to observe anyway. Farther away from the Fearsome Beast forest, most of the tribes were located on this side. Their boats also tended to travel this way.
After planting the signs, everyone rested for a while and set off again.
Every day, the routine was similar. Sometimes, they would encounter beasts drinking water on the river banks but they couldn’t swim so all they did was roar irritably at Shao Xuan and the rest.
“In the future, would more fearsome beasts that know how to swim cross over to the other side?” said Duo Li.
“Probably not.” Tuo did not think so. “The forest fearsome beasts know what habitats suit themselves most. They might cross over due to an accident but in the end still return to their original habitat in the forest.” Tuo deduced based on his vast hunting experience and knowledge of animal habits.
“So that’s why I haven’t seen any fearsome beasts cross the river.” Duo Li nodded.
“There are other reasons.” Shao Xuan kept his animal skin scroll and said, “In the memory of many fearsome beasts, this side is dangerous. Plus this side must’ve been hit hard after last year’s disasters. The beasts that lived near the river all ran far away. Just like the nocturnal swallows that used to live around our tribe, they’ve disappeared. They left to escape the disaster and then found a new place to live. That is why, there shouldn’t be too many fearsome beasts crossing this river in the near future.”
After a pause, Shao Xuan continued, “Then again, there are tribes on the other side of the river. Although they are not very closed to each other, their presence will still affect the beasts. It’s because of the fire seeds in the tribes.”
When Shao xuan mentioned the fire seed, Duo Li, Tuo and the rest remembered. The Flaming Horns often forgot to take fire seeds into account because theirs no longer existed in the primitive form. But to most of the tribes here, the primitive fire seed still existed. Even the fire seeds of small tribes had massive effects on forest beasts.
Nothing new happened the next few days, the topography of both sides of the river was similar.
Shao Xuan continued updating his maps. He could sense if there were tribes in the area. Due to the distance from the river banks, he could not sense the human auras but he could sense the fire seeds. They were very faint, plus some tribes even deliberately hid their fire seed’s auras. The shamans of many tribes might not even be able to identify these fire seed auras but Shao Xuan could.
Due to time constraints, it was impossible for him to scout out each tribe. However, as long as he sensed the fire seed, he could gauge their general characteristics. This was a newfound ability he discovered he had.
A few years ago, when he wanted to know what a tribe’s fire seed was like, he must be close to their tribe. It was just like how he only sensed the Drumming fire seed when he just crossed the river years ago. Now, he could sense them without going too close. Sometimes, he could only sense a faint trace if the tribe was too far away.
Ten days later, Shao Xuan had already made seven dots on the map. Four dots had totems drawn next to them, while the other three did not. The dots represented a tribe living in the area. Upon closer inspection, one would notice that the locations of the dots with totems were closer to the river banks. The rest without totems were farther away.
It was also impossible for Shao Xuan to pinpoint their exact location. He just had a general sense of where they were. This map would just be a rough reference. At least the Flaming Horns had an estimate of the number of tribes in the area around Flaming River.
In the future, when the number of people at Flaming River Trading Point increased, they’d receive more information and get to update their maps. They had to take baby steps first.
“If we travel further, we should meet that Gu tribe, right?” asked Duo Li.
“Yeah, that’s based on what Zheng Luo told me.” Shao Xuan looked at the notes on what Zheng Luo told him about the Gu tribe. It was the furthest from Flaming Horn, so Shao Xuan remembered it.
The Gu tribe was the one Zheng Luo mentioned, the tribe that traded fishing nets at the Flaming River Trading Point. Apparently they also lived by the Flaming River and were luckier than the Luo tribe that disappeared after the disaster. They did not suffer major losses. Therefore, he deduced that they weren’t very close to the river banks.
Shao Xuan straightened himself. If he couldn’t focus his mind, he might not be able to sense a tribe farther from the banks.
If the Gu tribe specialised in making fishing nets, they must catch fish often. However, before the disaster, this river wasn’t a good place to fish. They might have been fishing in another river farther from this one.
Shao Xuan instructed Chacha in the air to take note of other inland streams in the area, and to alert him if he saw any human activity.
Another day passed but Shao Xuan still hadn’t sensed the presence of another tribe’s fire seed.
Chacha, who had been given a massive responsibility, also did not see any signs of human activity. Worse, other than the Flaming River, he didn’t see any other rivers! There were no lakes either, just narrow mountain spring brooks at most.
Perhaps due to the lack of rivers, regions far from the Flaming River did not have dense vegetations. The rolling hills were simply plain. Both sides of the river had great differences. On one side was the land of beasts and lush vegetations. When one looked out from an elevated place, this entire area was green and ancient skyscraper trees could be seen. On this side, the grasses merely resembled short fur.
Without a water source, the lands in this area might not be suitable for agriculture either. And without dense trees, there might not be many beasts. Then the possibility of finding a tribe here would be low.
“Is that Gu tribe really here? Could they have lied to us?” asked Duo Li.
Not just Duo Li, other people thought so too. Not every person who went to the trading point always told the truth. Some of them only mentioned general locations, one might not be able to find them when visiting the actual place. Just like the Zhi tribe- everyone knew which piece of land they were on but very few could find their nest.
Some tribes told complete lies, even pointing in the wrong direction.
“Perhaps we've passed the Gu tribe already,” said Tuo.
Shao Xuan looked at the map. He hadn’t been able to sense the totem characteristics of three tribes. Perhaps the Gu tribe was one of them.
“That’s possible too.” Shao Xuan nodded in agreement of Tuo’s deduction but thought for a while and took out the fishing nets the Gu tribe had brought to the trading point.
The Gu tribe had brought these nets out for trade. They’d been kept by Zheng Luo, and afterwards Shao Xuan brought two Gu nets out for his expedition. If they couldn’t hunt any beasts, they would be able to catch fish.
The Gu tribe’s net was different from the Luo tribe. The Luo tribe’s net had finer mesh while the Gu tribe had both kinds of nets. Their weaving patterns were very different from Luo, and there could be different weaving patterns on just one net.
After looking at the nets, Shao Xuan turned to Duo Li, who was fishing using a fishing rod, and said, “Get Kun Tu here, I need to ask him something.”
Duo Li grunted, kept his fishing rod and rushed into the cabin looking for Kun Tu.
Shao Xuan had picked almost a hundred guards from the trading point to come with him on this trip. They took up half the expedition team. The guards who were often on duty at the trading point would have met many tribes and had some impression of foreign tribespeople. Kun Tu was the guard stationed at the trading point’s entrance, one of the people who had direct contact with the Gu tribe.