Shao Xuan knew that the material they used to make the giant black shields was somewhat similar to rubber, but it wasn’t exactly the same. The Flaming Horns were quite familiar with rubber. They had been living in the forest for so many years. They knew from studying different plants that some types of tree sap could be used to make waterproof clothing and shoes so they wouldn’t get wet in the rain, but the Flaming Horns had always felt that those were too troublesome and weren’t comfortable. It even hindered their movements, so they rarely used this material. After all, they didn’t have the proper skills to craft it back then and they had limited materials.
Shao Xuan had also thought about giving these materials a try, but he set those ideas aside after he noticed how the other Flaming Horns were not too interested and rarely used it during their hunts. However, when the Chang Le’s used this shield during their mission in the thousand-grain gold fields, the giant black shield caught Shao Xuan’s interest.
It was not ordinary rubber. Shao Xuan couldn’t figure out the processing it went through. This rubber was lighter than the type Shao Xuan usually used, but it could block most of the arrows. It even stood strong against the long spear that he threw. It didn’t penetrate completely. A part of the spear’s handle was still stuck on the shield.
Wu He and the other four prisoners remained unswerved and didn’t answer Shao Xuan’s question. Their eyes were affixed on the bowl of meat, but they did not say a single word.
Some of their faces reddened as they fought the temptation. They tried to hide their tempted expressions.
Shao Xuan looked at the five of them seriously, and then said, “It’s fine if you don’t want to talk about this. Let’s change the conditions.”
“...What is it!” Wu He glared at Shao Xuan. How could they answer such a difficult question? Even if Shao Xuan changed the conditions, Wu He bet the question wouldn’t be much easier. Still, he remained hopeful. As long as he didn’t need to reveal any of Chang Le’s secrets, he could tell him anything, even some of the slave masters’ secrets.
“You guys probably go to many places right?” Shao Xuan asked while he observed the five prisoners across the bars.
The Chang Le’s were always proud to speak when people asked them about the places they’ve been. Even the slave masters didn’t go to as many places as they did. Wu He’s group of five smiled as they heard the question.
“Then draw a picture,” Shao Xuan said.
“What do you mean?”
“You mean you want us to draw out the places we know about?” Wu He’s fingers scratched at his ear. He emphasized every word to make sure he didn’t hear it wrong. “We’ve been to too many places. How can we draw it all out?!”
“You can’t even draw a map? Too bad then,” Shao Xuan turned around and prepared to leave with the bowl of meat in his hands.
“Wait!” Wu He reached out from behind the stone pillars. “What’s the rush? I never said I couldn’t draw! Why didn’t you say it was just a map earlier?”
Shao Xuan stood still and didn’t move at all.
“You can draw it?”
“Gosh, of course I can! Come back, come back, that……” Wu He pointed at the bowl in Shao Xuan’s hands. “Put that bowl down. We can discuss this nicely.”
They’d never reveal the secret behind the giant black shields even if they starved to death, but if he only wanted a map, they could still draw it for him. Besides all the hideout spots the Chang Le’s didn’t want anyone else to know about, they were very willing to draw anything else, even the slave masters’ cities.
“After we draw it, will you feed us such high-quality meat everyday? I want this kind that you’re holding right now. Please stop feeding us meat that tastes like burnt wood. Oh yeah, the grains too. We want the newly harvested grains, those golden ones…… Hey! Don’t leave! Wait! We can talk more about it!”
Wu He was anxious when he saw Shao Xuan walk out. The four others in the cave desperately wished to beat him up. They were all worried about the food. It was such a rare opportunity for them to improve their living conditions, but Wu He almost ruined all of it.
They were prisoners of war. Their demands were not as high as Wu He’s. They’d be satisfied even with the slightest improvements. At least cover the ground with a thin cushion or a layer of dried grass? The ground here was not flat at all. Their fractured bones had just reconnected, but a night’s sleep here almost broke them apart again.
“Alright, I’ll do as you wish. Where should we draw this map? I’ll draw it real quick so we can eat as soon as possible. Gosh I’m starving,” Wu He sat on the ground as he pleaded.
After Wu He finished speaking, he was kicked to the side. A skinny tall brat was looking at Shao Xuan with a wide flattering smile. He was totally different from the time he stole the grains.
“He’s been starving, so he’s a little out of his mind now. Just ignore him, Grand Elder. Okay, let’s talk about this. What do you want us to draw? Where do you want to know about? How detailed do you want this drawing to be?” The tall skinny brat asked so many questions in a row that his mouth was bubbling up with saliva.
“Just draw a simple one for now. Try to draw a general map of the other continent,” Shao Xuan said.
The five prisoners thought, ‘You call this simple?!’
Wu He was just about to speak, but one of the prisoners covered his mouth and dragged him to the corner of the dungeon, far away from the entrance. The tall skinny prisoner was the only one left negotiating with Shao Xuan. “We’ll… do our best!”
“That’s good then. I’ll let some people bring in a drawing board and some drawing tools for you. As for the better hospitality that you wanted, I’ll have to see how well you draw first.”
Shao Xuan’s final sentence was a warning for them. ‘Don’t fabricate anything. If I notice something strange, get ready to be abused!”
“Alright, don’t worry!” the tall skinny person rubbed his hands as he eyed the bowl of meat.
Shao Xuan passed the bowl to him. The tall skinny brat held it gratefully. They were afraid that Shao Xuan might change his mind, so all of them fought for the meat. Even Wu He, who was still resentful towards him, rushed over to seize the food.
The Chang Le’s were fond of enjoyment and never treated themselves badly. Even after they came to this new continent, they still kept the same mindset. All they thought about was how they could adventure, what there was to eat, where they could explore, and what they could do when they were bored, and so on. They didn’t care much about anything else. Simply put, their mindset was: As long as you can provide enough for me to eat well and play well, I can give you whatever you want, without any objections.
In the other Chang Le’s eyes, the five of them would suffer the fate of prisoners in the Flaming Horn tribe since the Flaming Horns promised to keep them alive. Their deal was still ongoing after all. They were put in a dirty place and fed rotten grains. Everyday, they were stuck in the same tiny place. These might be normal for some people, and maybe most people wouldn’t care, but to the Chang Le’s, this was torture. Life was meant to be enjoyed, not to be suffered. Taking away their enjoyment and freedom was driving them crazy.
That was why the Chang Le’s who left the Flaming River Castle felt that letting the five prisoners stay here in the Flaming Horn tribe was already the worst punishment they could receive. There was nothing left to be discussed. However, those people never knew that these five prisoners, whom they expected to be suffering, were trying to negotiate for a better treatment by helping the Flaming Horns draw a picture.
Not long after Shao Xuan left the cave, some people carried in a stone drawing board that was almost as tall as a human.
Wu He and his companions looked at the polished stone board. The muscles on their faces jerked twice, “This drawing board is way too big!”
The Chang Le’s definitely wouldn’t reveal the secret behind the giant black shield. Shao Xuan already knew this was going to happen, but his main objective wasn’t to discover the secret behind the shield. His map of the other continent was not complete, so if he could get the general picture of the continent, it would make his future work more convenient.
That continent on the other side of the sea was different from here. There were people everywhere-caravans, adventurers, migrating tribes, and so on. They were constantly exploring the continent. As a result, more unknown places were being explored. On the other hand, most people on this continent rarely migrated because of their primitive fire seeds. They never strayed too far apart from each other. Even expedition teams only travelled on the same routes throughout a year. They never went to explore new territories.
Now, those tribes in the central region had begun to take action. Perhaps in the future, this continent would also develop in the same fashion as the other continent, but this wasn’t something that could be done in a year or two. The Chang Le’s could provide a shortcut for them to understand the other continent.
Shao Xuan would check on their mapmaking progress every day. If he was satisfied, he would bring in some dried grass cushions and improve their food quality. However, Chang Le’s expectations were still very high, so Wu He and his companions worked harder on their drawing. They believed that if they worked harder, the Flaming Horns would change their grass cushions to beast hides and also improve their food quality. Life was still beautiful. At least they could still enjoy their lives as prisoners of war.
Besides checking on the prisoner’s progress, Shao Xuan spent the rest of his time studying the mummy-looking monster in the secret underground room under the Flaming River Castle.
Amidst the dense forest on the other side of the sea, it was the season of harvest once again.
The Taihe tribespeople were getting ready to harvest their medicinal herbs. They had to sundry the herbs that had to be sundried while the day was still clear. After all of these herbs underwent the necessary procedures, the expedition teams departed once again.
Every time after an expedition team departed, they would take a short break. Even though they already knew that there wouldn’t be a team of soldiers carrying giant bags of beast hides, they would still look in the same direction they had come before. The leader of their expedition team never asked them to look over there. Every one of them did it naturally without being asked.
The two teams had such a strong connection with each other, one that was established for over ten years. This habit wasn’t an easy one to change.
After the Flaming Horns left, they accepted the piece of land from them, but no one lived there. The first reason was the Taihe tribe never had a large population to begin with. They could guard over their own territory, but they couldn’t do it if they had to watch over two territories. The Flaming Horn’s land was not that fertile either. It could be used to cultivate normal grains, but it didn’t meet the requirements for growing medicinal herbs. Even if they could be grown, the quality of the herbs wouldn’t be that great. After all, the Taihe tribe’s farms had been enriched by generations of cultivators.
After the Flaming Horn tribe left, the ducks had also left. The situation here was constantly changing. Some tribes came while others left. There had been more than ten battles fought here, but it was still relatively safe and was suitable for living. It wasn’t too far away from the city either, so this was very limited. Back when the Flaming Horns were still here, the Flaming Horns and the Taihe tribe were allies, so people never dared to offend them, but after the Flaming Horns left, the other tribes in the forest no longer treated the Taihe tribe as they used to.
The Taihe tribe also wanted to look for a new ally, but they couldn’t find any as reliable and trustable as the Flaming Horn tribe. Even the Mountain Wind tribe, whom they worked with before, couldn’t be their ally. They had a conflict not long ago and it didn’t end well.
Usually even when there was nobody to argue with, the hunt leader of the Taihe tribe had a bad temper, so besides going on expedition trips, they never socialised with anyone from foreign tribes. Their shaman said that this was probably what they call loneliness.