“Who are you?” Wei asked with an annoyed face.
The other person who just protruded his head retreated. Trembling with fear, he replied, “I--I’m from the Ya tribe!” He still spoke fast.
Shao Xuan also heard the people of the Gu tribe mention it once before. Bo Gu said that the people from the Ya tribe brought all the elders and children in their tribe to safety. Nearby, he only sensed the Gu tribe’s fire seed, so the Ya tribe was probably quite far away, but seeing that the Gu tribe could entrust their elders and children to them, these two tribes probably had a close connection.
Shao Xuan gestured at Wei to set down the blade in his hand, and then he said to the person who stood not far from them, “Are you here to look for the Gu tribe? Why are you creeping up on us?”
“I… I came to…. see the Flaming Horns……” the other person stuttered as he spoke. He then hunched his head and narrowed his eyes to look at Shao Xuan and Wei.
Shao Xuan was speechless when he heard this. It sounded like he was coming to a zoo to see some chimpanzees.
It was at this moment when Bo Gu was carried over on another person’s back.
“Wa Ji, why are you here?”
Bo Gu’s wounds were treated, but he did not rest like the others in the area that had been cleaned and arranged for people to rest. Instead he ordered people to carry him over because he wanted to ask the Flaming Horns a few questions about hunting fearsome beasts. He never anticipated meeting Wa Ji from the Ya tribe here.
“How are they?” Bo Gu asked hurriedly, worried that the others who were sent away encountered an accident.
“They’re alright, very fine.” Wa Ji calmed down because Bo Gu appeared. It was clear that his tense feelings faded away, and although he still spoke fast, he no longer stuttered. “I came over to look after I noticed the sounds faded.”
Hearing that his people who escaped were safe, Bo Gu also loosened up and introduced the person who just appeared to Shao Xuan.
“This is Wa Ji, a member of the Ya tribe. Although the Ya tribe lives quite far away from us, they stop by our tribe quite often.” Bo Gu hesitated, but then continued, “The people of the Ya tribe live underground and have many tunnels. Their tunnels are wide and cover a wide range, so sometimes they help us deliver things. Before when we encountered giant beasts, they were the ones who helped bring our elders and children to safety.”
“But that doesn’t mean that he can creep up behind us like that. I almost went at him with my blade,” Wei expressed his dissatisfaction. “Even if he was curious about us Flaming Horns, can’t he look from farther away? Did he have to creep up this close?”
“(Cough), you must have misunderstood,” Bo Gu explained on Wa Ji’s behalf. “The people of the Ya tribe have bad eyesight.”
Shao Xuan looked at the other person’s narrow eyes and nodded. Before he felt that Wa Ji looked strange, as if he wanted to smile but didn’t look like it. So it was an eyesight problem.
“Shao Xuan of the Flaming Horn tribe.” Shao Xuan introduced himself, and then looked at Wa Ji. “Nice to meet you, excavator(the chinese characters sound like his name Wa Ji).”
“...... Wa Ji, I’m Wa Ji,” Wa Ji corrected him.
“Wa Ji, have your people ever thought about coming over to the Flaming River Trading Point to trade?” Shao Xuan asked.
“Flaming River Trading Point? I’ve heard about it, and Bo Gu told me about it too.” Wa Ji’s fingernails were long and his hands continued to dig at the ground restlessly. “I wanted to go before, but I didn’t dare to.”
“Why not? You know how to dig tunnels. Isn’t it much safer to go there underground?” Shao Xuan questioned.
Wa Ji lifted his head and looked quickly at Shao Xuan, and then lowered his gaze immediately, “I heard that the Flaming Horns are giant creatures with sharp fangs and claws and even eat humans!”
Wa Ji spoke rapidly and straightforwardly, and his words came rolling out of his mouth.
Bo Gu couldn’t even stop him in time even if he wanted to.
Shao Xuan and Wei were speechless. ‘What the heck?!’
Giants with sharp fangs and claws, that didn’t matter. People would know right away what was not true when they saw them, but “eating humans?” This the Flaming Horns could not accept.
“Nonsense! Who said we ate humans?!” Wei’s eyes glared at him furiously.
Wa Ji continued to shrink downwards, “I hear-d it! I didn’t make it up!”
“(cough), um,” Bo Gu had to explain this time, “The people of the Ya tribe hear a lot of rumours from many places, facts and false ones combined.”
The people of the Ya tribe liked to dig tunnels and also enjoyed socialising. When their tunnels opened up at a tribe, they chatted with them, and another group whose tunnels opened up at other tribes also chatted with other tribes, so when all of them grouped together, they would sometimes mutter nonsense and brag, mixing facts and false rumours, making it harder for people to discern which was the truth.
Wa Ji also noticed afterwards that it wasn’t appropriate to say these things in front of the Flaming Horns. He scratched his head with his long nails awkwardly and reached his other hand inside his shirt to look for something. He jumped out from the ground, revealing his short chubby figure. Before, Shao Xuan thought that Wa Ji’s neck was short because he was timid and had a shrinking stature, but now he noticed that his neck was already short in the first place. When he shrunk his neck even more, his head seemed directly connected to his shoulders.
Coming up from the ground, Wa Ji handed the thing in his hand over to Shao Xuan. “Would you like to have some?”
Sharing food was a friendly gesture among tribes. Wa Ji was trying to befriend Shao Xuan and Wei. If he could establish a good connection with the Flaming Horns, he could go back and brag about it to his other friends underground.
Shao Xuan looked at what Wa Ji brought out. It was dried food made from a segmented insect. “No thanks, you can eat it yourself.”
Wa Ji asked Shao Xuan more questions about the Flaming River Trading Point. He walked over and looked at the giant beast. He had extreme nearsightedness, so when he looked at the beast, his nose was almost touching it.
After he finished chatting and observing, Wa Ji finally left. Spending a long time under the sun made him uncomfortable. Not only did the sun not make him feel safe, it made him feel worse if he was exposed to it for too long. The people of the Ya tribe preferred dark places underground. They felt safest like that.
“I’ll head back underground and bring your people back.” Wa Ji said to Bo Gu and drilled once again into the ground. The soil splashed upwards under his rapid digging. Very soon Wa Ji was nowhere to be seen.
“There must be other tunnels nearby. If it was under our feet, the tunnels would have collapsed.” Bo Gu told Shao Xuan after Wa Ji left, “The people of the Ya tribe are just more curious than others. They don’t have much courage but they’re not bad people.”
Simply put, the people of the Ya tribe were just timid creatures who like to gossip. They didn’t have high ambitions or the ability to plot any conspiracies.
After making arrangements for those who were injured, the Gu shaman came over to look for Shao Xuan.
“You suffered huge casualties this time. Not even a house remains,” Shao Xuan said.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll just rebuild later.” This was already a satisfactory result for their current stage. At least many of their people were still alive.
The Gu shaman held up a wooden case and handed it over to Shao Xuan. “This time, I really want to thank all of you from the Flaming Horn tribe!”
Opening the wooden case, they saw many round gemstones of all shapes and sizes. These stones were the same ones the Gu shaman showed them from before, the ones that looked like the cat eye stone, but compared to the one he showed them before, these ones in the wooden case were even brighter and had narrower and clearer “eye lines”. When they spinned, they looked like a few eyes opening and closing.
But the gemstones on top are not the ones the Gu shaman treasured the most.
The Gu shaman lifted the top section off the wooden case and uncovered what was underneath.
The lower layer of the wooden case was encased with a layer of soft wool, and there were even special wooden squares made to fit small pearls the size of quail eggs. There were a total of nine squares with a pearl in each one.
At a glance, these nine pearls looked similar to the ones on the upper layer except they were brighter, but upon closer inspection, it was not actually the case.
“Look again,” the Gu shaman said.
Shao Xuan stared at the pearls, and then his eyes widened in shock, “This is...!”
Each of the nine pearls had a clear “eye line”, but different from the bright lines on the pearls on the upper layer, the ones on the lower layer had a thinner and darker line, and at the ends of these thin lines, thinner and subtler threads extended from the single line, causing the single dark line in the centre of the pearl to look like the widened pupil of a beast, slowly widening.
It wasn’t a usual effect that stones had under exposure to light. It looked exactly like a fierce beast’s widened pupil!
When the “eye line” opened like a beast’s pupil, Shao Xuan even sensed the same horrified cold feeling he felt whenever he looked at a beast’s eye. It was too similar! People who didn’t know would’ve mistaken it for a wild beast’s eye!
Not just Shao Xuan, when Wei and others saw this, they all scratched their arms. The goosebumps formed on their arms and made them feel tingly all over.
The good thing was many of them had even eaten a beast’s eye, so they recovered immediately from the sudden shock.
However, their calm emotions were suddenly replaced with surprise when the Gu shaman spoke again.
“This is actually called a “ground eye”. All of these stones on the upper and lower layer can all be referred to as “ground eye stones”, but the nine stones on the bottom are not normal “ground eye stones”. They’re “Universal Pupils”!”
“Universal Pupils?” Shao Xuan did not understand the meaning behind this name.
The Gu shaman did not explain right away. Instead, he moved the wooden case back and forth from left to right, and then covered them with his hand from above.
“Can you tell yet?” the Gu shaman asked.
“They’re…. Facing the sun!” Shao Xuan was shocked. It wasn’t obvious when the Gu shaman was moving the case, but when he covered them with his hands, the “eye lines” in the pearls in the upper layer was not obvious due to the lack of light, but the nine pearls on the lower layer were still facing the sun’s direction and opening their “eyes”!
“That’s right! Universal pupils will always open their eyes in the sun’s direction no matter where you are, where you’re facing, how you turn it. Even if it’s covered, as long as it is not under complete darkness, it will continue to open its “eyes”. Not just in the daytime, but at night they also open their eyes, except during that time, they won’t be facing the sun, but the moon. Legend has it that there is only one universal pupil in ten thousand ground eye stones.”
If it were just some beautiful gemstones, Shao Xuan wouldn’t be shocked, but these gemstones that were accurate in telling the directions were very useful.
Tribal people all had their ways of telling the direction. Some relied on gemstones on a cloudy day to locate the sun, or fortune telling, while others relied on their natural beast-like instincts. Some people could even tell the direction by relying on their tamed beasts, such as birds or other insects.
However, these “Universal Pupils” that the Gu shaman brought out were the most accurate and convenient gemstones. They were less restricted and were even better than compasses!