It was getting close to the time of harvest, one of the busiest times, so Shao Xuan didn’t go to the Flaming River Trading Point. Instead, he stayed at the headquarters and didn’t leave the house by the farmland even once. He ate and slept there.
Shao Xuan was aware of those people who were secretly observing them from the sky. The Flaming Horns had always been tight about their air defenses, but their air force was still a little weak. They only had two birds that were capable of aerial surveillance. One of them was Gui He’s falcon, the other bird was Cha Cha. Cha Cha was not at the headquarters because the bat leader was still nearby. He went to the trading point, and only the snow falcon was here, but he stayed at the centre of the headquarters, atop the mountain where everyone lived.
In the Flaming Horn tribe, besides these two birds, there were also other birds that could fly, like the green ducks, but they wouldn’t even listen to commands or go to battle. Even if they did listen and went to battle, their strength was…not good. They were already growing fat from eating the insects in the farm. They were not at all scrawny like they were when they first migrated here. Now, their movements were not as nimble as before.
They didn’t have as many giant mountain eagles as the Hui tribe, nor did they have as many tamed birds as the Feather tribe. They couldn’t let the birds attack anyone who looked suspicious.
Shao Xuan ordered the soldiers on the whistle tower to observe the people in the sky with his binoculars. If they made any sudden moves or flew toward the Flaming Horn tribe, they were to be immediately shot at with arrows.
If they had proper business, they could just walk in from the Giant Bridge of the Flaming River. Why fly in from the skies so furtively? With just a simple glance anyone could tell that they were up to no good. They were no different from the robbers.
In the Flaming Horn tribe, everyone was anxious. There was not at all any happiness like the usual harvests.
“How is everything?” Shao Xuan asked Ao as he ran over with his forehead covered in sweat.
“Everything is going according to plan. The wanderers had already informed everyone to stay inside their homes for the next two days. They were told not to come out, and even Qi Qi’s group who took care of the farms no longer needed to come. We already set strict rules on this entire farm.” Ao took out the water bottle that hung from his side and took huge gulps. He had been busy the whole day, so his throat was feeling dry.
As the thousand-grain gold ripened, the Flaming Horns had their full attention on that plantation, but during the past two days, they noticed that other crops were also ripening in the other plantations.
These were all crops that were brought over from the other side of the sea. This was the first time they planted these, and they didn’t know if the quality of the crop would be affected if they didn’t pick it in time. Some crops had to be harvested at a certain time, and if that time passed, the quality would degrade immensely.
The Flaming Horns didn’t have enough people on both of their territories. The Trading Point needed manpower and they needed it here too. It was getting close to the peak harvest time, so they would become a lot busier.
This year was special too. They didn’t dare to let the younger and weaker warriors harvest the plants, so these warriors were all dispatched to the farms around their boundary lines.
They hired a few hundred people from the Drumming tribe to come help with the harvest. Although they looked fierce, their character wasn’t bad, so they could still be trusted. They didn’t need to worry about anyone stealing from them during the busy harvest.
Many people of the Drumming tribe didn’t have much to do during the day anyway. Since the Flaming Horns needed manpower, and they would also get paid, of course they were happy. Shao Xuan had told them about all these before. There were definitely risks they had to consider during the harvest, and they might encounter dangers, so they knew to be prepared and not fret if anything went wrong.
The Drumming tribesmen were not afraid of the dangers. Every year during their harvest of the water moon stones, they would also encounter dangers, so these people weren’t worried at all. Fan Mu was leading this team, so if anything happened, they could deal with it calmly.
Of course, the Flaming Horns were still focused on the thousand-grain gold plantation. That was still their main focus.
“Is it here?” Ao asked Shao Xuan in a low voice. They didn’t tell everyone about the bat leader. Ao only told a few of the guards around the thousand-grain gold plantation. The soldiers who were dispatched here could be trusted. They wouldn’t talk too much.
Shao Xuan knew what Ao was referring to when he said “it”. “It’s here in our territory, over there in the mountains,” Shao Xuan pointed with his finger as he said this.
Ao looked over. That was the stone mountain where the warriors trained. There were not many plants there so it looked bland, but there was a natural cave there.
The bat leader was probably waiting in the cave. Recently, the warriors were all occupied with their tasks, so they didn’t have time to practice hitting the rocks on that mountain. As a result, the scent of humans faded in that area, so sometimes even birds flew there to build their nests. Now, even the bat leader was there.
The bat leader didn’t stay far since the thousand-grain gold was ripening. It remained on that mountain and would still fly around the plantation at the same time every night.
“No wonder the patrolling soldiers said there weren’t as many flying squirrels as before. That’s why,” Ao remarked.
It wasn’t just the squirrels though. All around the Flaming Horn’s headquarters, there were fewer wild beasts than before. Even though there were not many wild beasts where people lived, the Flaming Horn’s territory covered a wide area and there were a few mountains here, so there were definitely some smaller beasts and flying stone squirrels nearby the small hill where the wanderers resided. These beasts would steal stuff from them and sometimes even try to outsmart the wanderers. However, they rarely appear these days.
Even if the bat leader wasn’t their natural predator, it was a beast of a higher rank, so it would definitely affect them. The bat leader even affected the beasts that had been marked by the Flaming Horns. They all departed for the giant mountain where they lived and dared not approach the farms.
The wanderers had been warned to stay at home for two days, so they wondered whether the Flaming Horns were being defensive towards them or worried that they might steal the grains. Some of them complained, but very soon, they noticed that it wasn’t just them, but all the people who usually cared for the plantations. All of them were sent away. Besides a few of the Flaming Horn warriors who looked fierce with murderous intent, not many others were seen on the fields.
“I saw some of the Flaming Horns on patrol pass by just now. They all looked so stern, like they’re about to head to battle,” someone who went out to urinate came back and told a few others, “Something must’ve happened.”
“Isn’t it because of the grains?” an old man asked confusedly.
“Of course not! Have you ever seen a tribe harvesting with such a stern expression? They looked cold as stone,” the young man replied.
After some thought, they noticed that the Flaming Horns were indeed a little stern these days. They didn’t even smile as often as before.
“Could it be the king beast?!” the woman who was tanning the beast hide was so shocked that her hands trembled.
“It can’t be…can it?” Now everyone was worried sick.
After all, this place was similar to the Fearsome Beast Forest. It was even more dangerous here compared to the forest. At least they didn’t encounter any king beasts at the Fearsome Beast Forest. Who said that they wouldn’t encounter another king beast just because one came recently?
“Probably not. If it was, the Flaming Horns would’ve told all the children in the tribe to hide. According to what I know, the Flaming Horns didn’t do anything of the sort. They just increased the guards around the plantation,” a middle aged man who was calmer than most of them said as he tapped his fingers.
As he said this, they heard footsteps outside. The people in the cave were immediately silent.
“Lieutenant Er, what’s the rush?” the calm middle aged man hurriedly welcomed the person who returned.
It was He’er. He’er was close friends with Jiao Wu and a few other Flaming Horns. After they were told to come here, three people were put in charge of the group. He’er was the second in command, so everyone was calling him “Lieutenant Er”.
He’er didn’t waste any time. He was serious and didn’t smile at all when he gave out the order. “I just received news from the Flaming Horns. They told us to keep a lookout for any warnings. If you hear two sharp whistles, immediately shut the cave entrance.”
The middle aged man handed a bowl of warm soup to He’er, and asked him in a low voice, “Lieutenant Er, is something wrong? We’re all quite worried, and as you know, the king worm’s crisis had just passed not long ago…”
He’er accepted the kind gesture. He gulped down the bowl of soup in giant gulps. He was already exhausted after informing all the households. After he drank the soup, he also became more relaxed. After some thought, he said, “I’m not sure what happened, but it’s definitely not the king beast. As for the previous notice, it came from the Grand Elder Shao Xuan.”
As soon as they heard that it was Shao Xuan, everyone’s expression changed. Shao Xuan was the one and only Grand Elder of the Flaming Horn tribe. His rank in the tribe was higher than their chief and shaman. He was the founder of the Flaming River Trading Point and also the one who manipulated the king beast to build the Giant Bridge. Could his words be false?
The people who were resenting and complaining no longer complained. They followed as they were told. They knew that the Grand Elder couldn’t be wrong.
“Right, when you guys hear the whistle, make sure to shut the windows tightly too. Just leave a small hole for fresh air. Don’t unblock the entrance no matter what unless you hear the whistle again,” He’er instructed them once more before he left.
“Alright, we got it!” the middle aged person answered immediately.
He’er continued going from one household to the next, informing the others about the news. There were many wanderers and many caves here, he had to deliver the news as quickly as possible.
Even though the people in the cave didn’t know what exactly was happening, they did as they were told.
The Flaming Horn tribespeople were also busy preparing on the mountain they resided. There were many traps set in front of Old Ke’s house. “I heard a lot of birds are coming. Let’s make sure they don’t leave!”
Caesar was also helping on the side. Occasionally he looked over where the bat leader was with watchful eyes.
Two days went by.
Early that morning, Shao Xuan already told Ao and the others, “Get ready. The thousand-grain gold is ripening today. Around this afternoon.”
The atmosphere in the Flaming Horn tribe was growing tense.
Shao Xuan stood beside the thousand-grain gold plantation. He looked at the golden grains. They were even taller than back when they were on the other side of the sea. There were more grains now too. The grains swayed heavily in the wind, shining golden in the sun.
The shadow of the wooden stick that stood erect on the ground shortened gradually.
Far away, some birds were already flying over from the forest.
It was close to the thousand-grain gold’s ripening hour. There were fewer insects because their natural predator was here. Some birds were omnivores. They ate both insects and grains, so since they were here, the insects had to leave.
The insects didn’t have to fret if it was only two or three birds, but what if it was a flock?
Shao Xuan blew the whistle. Two sharp and loud sounds rang into the distance.
The people who heard the signal immediately reacted.
The wanderers who were told to stay quietly at home heard the noises of wings flapping outside. Some of them looked out their doors. Birds of different sizes were all waiting at their door, and judging by the sounds, more birds were coming.
Some of them wanted to catch a bird, but after they heard the whistle, they immediately shut the door tightly and locked it. They also shut all of their windows and left only small openings to see what was going on outside. More birds were descending. The birds were even fighting outside their door.
High up in the air, Wu He and the other six all observed from afar. They rode on the backs of their long-winged birds.
“Why is this happening?”
“So...so many of them!”
It was exactly because they were flying high in the sky that they saw a clearer and wider picture.
They saw that flocks of birds were flying to the Flaming Horn tribe from the forest. To be exact, they were all heading for the Flaming Horn’s farms. Perhaps their target was the golden glittering patch of land that the Flaming Horns were guarding tightly.
The long-winged birds that they enslaved were all carnivores and didn’t eat any vegetables. They never ate any grains, so they weren’t interested in the grains in the Flaming Horn farms. Perhaps they also figured that these grains were special, but they didn’t react as wildly as the birds that were flying over.
“It’s definitely something valuable there!” someone exclaimed passionately. His eyes were burning with desire.
“I heard that the Flaming Horns went to the Golden Grains Field once, and Ji Ju also gifted them some presents,” Wu He said.
Wu He went there once personally to inquire, and he even found some shocking news, or else why would the Flaming Horns be his first target after he came here?
The eyes of the other six gleamed with curiosity as they heard this.
“Could it be that those are grown from the seeds that came from the Golden Grains field?”
“It might really be those secretly grown grains in the Golden Grains field!”
“Nice! Luckily we came this time!”
The seven Chang Le people couldn’t let such an opportunity slip away from their hands.
What was the status of the Golden Grains field? That was the land that belonged to the famous Ji Ju! All of the crops that came from there mattered greatly to the aristocrats. All the guards there were carefully chosen. They could not be compared to the normal guards in the King City. Those fields outside the King City were the hardest to enter. If anyone dared to sneak in or barge in, they would not be able to make it out. Not even a carcass would be left behind. What was left of them would be made into fertiliser.
However, it was different here. This was the Flaming Horn tribe, not at all strict as the Golden Grains field.
What a chance!
“Hahaha, can’t believe we found something like this!”
“Do you see those birds?” Wu He pointed at the flock that was approaching the Flaming Horn tribe. “Let’s make a move when these birds are giving them trouble!”
“Does that even need to be said?”
If they flew in with this flock, they wouldn’t be easily noticed, and they could even grab some of the grains if they get the chance.
In stark contrast to the excited Chang Le’s, the seven long-winged birds that they were riding on were all anxious. They were even looking pitifully at the birds that were flying to the Flaming Horn tribe.
On the thousand-grain gold plantation, Shao Xuan was fully focused on the glittering land in front of him. All around the farm, warriors held swords and tools for harvesting as they waited for Shao Xuan’s command.