After they found the netting-patterned jar, they continued to travel downstream. Shao Xuan could sense another tribe around, but they were slightly farther away from the Flaming River so he couldn’t distinguish what kind of tribe it was. The only thing he could confirm was that these tribes were not strong, or the aura from their fire seed would’ve been easily sensed.
When they were planting the signs, they also noticed some traces of human activities. They deduced that people rarely came by the river because although there were traces, they were not new. They also noticed that other than the net-patterned pots and tools they found earlier, there were also others with different designs.
After sensing the fire seed, Shao Xuan marked out its approximate location on his map.
“Should we go take a look over there?” Duo Li asked Shao Xuan. If they could travel upstream and locate the position of the fire seed, then they would be able to identify the characteristics of that tribe.
“There’s no need.” Shao Xuan rolled up his map. “We don’t need to care too much about that. Heading in that direction would waste a lot of time. The Flaming River is long, and we’re not even sure if we can finish exploring the area within the scheduled time. Let’s not pay too much attention to the smaller tribes for now.”
Looking ahead at the Flaming River, Shao Xuan said, “I feel like there’s going to be a slightly bigger tribe in front.”
It was rare to hear Shao Xuan say “slightly bigger”. Most tribes along the Flaming River were smaller tribes with fewer people. Some of these tribes did not even have more than a few hundred in total. These were tragically low numbers, Duo Li and the others couldn’t understand how they even survived.
When they heard Shao Xuan say “a slightly bigger tribe”, all of them looked surprised. Finally, a larger tribe?
If the tribes around the Flaming River region consisted of only tribes with a few hundred people each, they wouldn’t bring much trouble to the Flaming Horns. Even if they joined forces against them, they would still be too weak to fight the small group of Flaming Horns from the central region.
“Did you all notice the river widening the more we travel downstream?” Shao Xuan asked.
They wouldn’t have noticed if Shao Xuan didn’t mention it, but the two shorelines did seem farther apart. They had been travelling along the side of the river opposite the territory of the fierce beasts. Now, when they looked at the forests on the other side, everything appeared smaller. It was just like Shao Xuan said. The river widened as they travelled downstream.
Shao Xuan roughly estimated that the distance between the two shorelines was already more than a thousand metres at their current location. The variety of fish also became more diverse as they travelled. There were not only piranhas like before, but also other types of fish.
But the good thing was that the boats continued to travel normally in the river. There were no wood-eating bugs or giant beasts in the river.
No, to be more specific, there were no longer river beasts that lived in the river like before when the great river still existed. However, whether there were fierce beasts that entered the river, they were not sure. A wider river meant a larger habitat. Perhaps a few fierce beasts that liked water had already come out from the forest and entered the river.
“Stay alert. Keep a close watch on everything happening in the waters. We’ll continue to travel along the shore,” Shao Xuan said.
Usually, there were fewer aquatic beasts near the river shores. They usually settled in the middle of the river where the water was deeper. Shao Xuan and the others still could not tell whether there were any beasts in the river. It was always good to stay more vigilant. The closer they were to the shore, the easier it was for them to escape if anything happened.
“Where’s Chacha?” Shao Xuan looked around in the sky. He did not see Chacha’s figure.
“Probably went hunting for food?” Tuo said.
Shao Xuan did not care. He had been like this for a while now. Every time after he brought Shao Xuan up into the skies to scan the grounds below, Chacha would fly far away to play or look for clues farther ahead. Sometimes he even went to the territory of the fearsome beasts to search for prey.
Somewhere downstream from where Shao Xuan and the others were.
In the centre of the river, a wooden raft was shaking violently.
Atop the wooden raft, a frightened young man held onto it tightly. He still had some hope if he stayed on the raft, but if he fell into the river, that would be the end for him.
The reason why the raft was shaking so violently was that something was shaking it from underneath, in the river.
On the shorelines, a few young men shouted. Even if they wanted to help, they could not do anything. If they jumped into the waters now, they would die. If the fish swallowed them in the river, they would also lose their lives.
There’s no use. That fish was too cunning and wouldn’t give them a chance to shoot. It either hid in the waters or behind the raft. If they shot arrows, they might even end up hurting the person on the raft. So they had to be careful if they fired.
“Hang on, big brother! We’re already calling people over!” a child about the age of ten shouted from the shores.
“Use the oar! Use the oar to hit it!”
“No! Don’t listen to him. You’ll just anger it if you hit it with the oar. Bo Luo, hold on tight to the raft and try to buy yourself time!” another slightly older young man called out hurriedly.
These people were all so nervous that their faces and ears were red. Large sweat droplets rolled down, but they didn’t even have time to wipe it off. No matter what they did -throwing rocks or hitting the water- they couldn’t divert the fish’s attention.
Their initial target was not the strange fish, but another type of fish that was about the length of two humans. The nets they weaved was specifically designed to catch those fish, but they never thought that a strange fish would suddenly appear and kill their target fish. Not only that, it almost ate all of them too. If Bo Luo did not go out to divert its attention, they would not have made it to the shore safely. Now, although they were all safe, Bo Luo was stuck. He was dragged along with the wooden raft to the centre of the river.
What’s worse, the strange fish did not even try to attack with all its strength. It played with the wooden raft and swam in circles around it. Occasionally it would bump into the raft on purpose and cause the raft to shake violently.
The strange fish had probably lost its interest playing with its prey. It finally emerged from the river and revealed its body.
Brown orange tips covered its skin like a thick armour of scales. It glinted in the sunlight, sending chills down their spines. More than half of its triangular head was visible.
Half of its body was already above the surface. It had no fear at all and did not worry about the threats anyone could bring. Its jaws were wide open. Then, it bit fiercely onto the wooden raft.
The wooden raft was as thick as a human, but the beast bit off a huge chunk effortlessly.
The wooden raft shook violently with every bite.
The person on the wooden raft screamed in terror and tried to edge away from the strange fish.
“Shoot! Hurry!” someone screamed from the shore.
“We’ve run out of arrows!”
“Throw rocks! Keep throwing rocks!”
“No, there’s no use!”
“Why isn’t daddy here yet?” a girl couldn’t help but cry out. Not just her, the rest were feeling the same way.
Who would’ve thought that such a powerful fish would appear?
No wonder the elders in the tribe didn’t let them get close to the water. All they wanted was to catch a giant fish to prove their strength. If they knew such a terrifying monster existed, they would’ve never come here knowing their own capabilities.
This was literally suicide.
There was no way their nets could stop that strange fish.
Some people wanted to jump into the river to help but were all held back. Whoever jumped in would die. That strange fish no longer felt like playing and would never give them a chance to escape.
In the centre of the river, the strange fish had already chewed away half of the wooden raft. It was ready to bite again. Two more bites and it would get to its prey, but after it opened its mouth, it suddenly halted, dropped the raft, and went under.