The crew grew more alert after the revelation about the Gu tribe.
If the Gu tribe wasn’t a very powerful and aggressive tribe, it would be fine. Minor squabbles wouldn’t affect Flaming Horn either. However, if they were very aggressive people, then Flaming Horn must stay guarded.
Of course, Shao Xun didn’t think the Gu tribe was a group of people who liked to invade and rob other tribes for a living. If they were specialised in robbery, why would they spend so much time perfecting their craft? Also, that would mean they kept a high profile- though why hadn’t any of the tribes in the area heard of them?
Even when Flaming Horn’s expedition team visited the major trading points in different parts of the mainland, they still hadn’t heard of this tribe’s name. Various expedition teams never mentioned them, even the Pu tribe didn’t know of the Gu tribe’s existence.
This meant that the Gu tribe’s most likely situation was: far from everyone, in a secluded place, somewhere lowkey around the Flaming River region.
This analysis calmed Shao Xuan down.
Vegetation along the banks grew denser down the river. It was difficult to determine if any tribes lived in this area.
After flying in the air with Chacha for a while, he returned to his boat to update the map. There wasn’t anything important. Only the river and hills were particularly noteworthy but the number of hills was falling. Yet, he encountered more water bodies here.
In the air, he saw lakes and rivers, as well as more animals in the forest. They could hear a cacophony of animal sounds far and near, shrill and deep, within the forest.
Shao Xuan was updating his map in his cabin when he heard commotion outside. Duo Li and the rest must’ve caught some fish again, some fish they hadn’t seen before or it wouldn’t have caused commotion like that. This happened more frequently- the further they travelled downstream, the more diverse the aquatic animals were.
When Shao Xuan went out to take a look, he saw Ah Guang holding a long, peculiar fish as thick as his arm. This weird fish was covered in mud yellow and black pattern. If it rested along the banks, it would be difficult to spot. It had a sucker-like mouth and a very slippery body. Ah Guang could only pin it under his arm at the portion behind its head, causing it to struggle and twist vigorously. There were countless hook-like teeth in its sucker-like mouth that were lined in a ring-like shape. However, they did not touch Ah Guang. They were only useful at a certain angle of ninety degrees.
Duo Li stuck a wooden stick into its round mouth, only to hear gnawing sounds and then realise that the stick had turned into wooden chips.
The weird fish also had two pectoral fins like huge fans large enough to cover a human face. When Ah Guang pinned them down under his arm, the fish looked longer and more slender than it usually did.
After playing a bit with the fish, they then cleaned it and thought about roasting it for food.
“Eh, it’s got a hook in its stomach!” Tuo, who was in charge of cleaning the fish, took out the hook from its stomach. After washing the blood away, the shape of the hook became more obvious.
Tuo passed it to Shao Xuan. “It’s man-made.”
It was a stone fishing hook as long as the little finger, with a hook at the end. It had been sanded so it was very sharp.
The fish could chew wood up to pieces but not sturdy rock. That was why the hook was unscathed in its stomach.
“Maybe there are tribes nearby? Or it swam here from somewhere else?” deduced Tuo, looking at the forest on both sides of the river.
The crew thought the former was more likely so both boats grew more alert.
Shao Xuan did not sense any fire seed auras. Even if there was a tribe here, they weren’t close.
Half a day passed. When they stopped by the banks to plant a sign and rest, the ones who entered the forest to hunt discovered a broken clay jar half-buried in soil.
The jar was small but its craftsmanship was exquisite. It was coloured too but Shao Xuan cared more about the patterns.
There was an extremely delicate, deep-coloured netting pattern etched on the surface of this jar as big as a palm.
The artist who made this must have been very dedicated to his work. While a netting pattern wasn’t complicated, it was difficult to draw it accurately on the curved surface of the jar. One mistake would ruin the whole pattern, hence it wasn’t simple.
Hundreds of lines were drawn very close to each other on the outer surface of this clay jar, all equal and smooth. It seemed as if a ruler had been used during the drawing process so the space between these lines were all equal and unbroken. The artist must have been very experienced.
Other than the thin, crossing lines, there were also thicker curved lines near the bottle’s mouth and underneath the bottle. Two-thirds down the bottle, there were also thick curved lines. Underneath was the tightly-drawn net pattern. This formed an obvious contrast between the thick and thin lines, creating an impressive visual effect.
Making pottery required passion too. The person in charge of pottery at Flaming Horn was Xing. He gained more wisdom the more he worked on his pottery. The old man once said that pottery made from passion will always be different from one made without.
Although the jar was broken, after washing off the layer of mud, the delicate hand-drawn lines were still obvious. This was enough to create a striking impact, or the Flaming Horns who were looking for food wouldn’t have discovered it.
There was even grass around, plus it had been half-buried in the soil. Only part of it peeked out from among the grass but they still saw it in an instant.
It was obvious that this jar was not made out of a whim. Its creator had injected enough passion and patience into its making this jar as big as a palm. Its previous contents must’ve been very important.
“Any totems on it?” asked Tuo.
Shao Xuan shook his head. “Not sure. Perhaps it's on here but we can’t see it or the broken part was the part with the totem. Or they didn’t draw their totem on. The second and third deductions are more likely.”
If the person who made it was so detail-oriented, he would be even more careful in pouring his passion into drawing the totem. If there was a totem, even if Shao Xuan hadn’t seen it before, he would’ve definitely found it already.
“I wonder which tribe made this. Could it be the Gu tribe?” asked Duo Li.
Shao Xuan mulled over the thought as he stared at the jar in his hand.
He had the same idea as Duo Li. Different tribes preferred different patterns due to varying lifestyles, i.e. some liked cloud patterns, some liked animal print.
The pattern on this jar was in the net-pattern category, it was obvious that the tribe liked net-like patterns.
It was likely to be the Gu tribe!
They did not throw the jar away. Instead, Shao Xuan brought it on the boat and told them to search around the area to see if they found anything else.
More clues would lead to a better understanding of the jar’s origins.