Shao Xuan had been supervising the waterway project for the past few days and it was almost complete. He had to be there to tell them which places still had to be fixed and ensure they finished the touch-up work in time. Or it would be too hard to fix once the waterway opens.
As for the pterosaur, as long as it did not fly up to the residential area and attack any Flaming Horns, Shao Xuan paid it no mind since he did not have the time.
No one paid attention to the withered leaf birds during these few days but something strange happened to them as days passed by. They no longer behaved the same way they did before. Their nature was changing in a peculiar direction.
However, Shao Xuan didn’t know about this. He only knew about the pterosaur’s movements. As for the withered leaf birds, Shao Xuan thought other Flaming Horns were looking after them, so he thought nothing significant would happen.
Two days before the completion date, Shao Xuan was drawing the blueprints for some tools they needed to use for defence when someone ran over to look for him.
At first, Shao Xuan thought something happened to the pterosaur but the person who came over told him, “Grand Elder, a few strangers arrived. The chief said that if you are interested, you can come over to take a look.”
“Strangers?” ‘Stranger’ either meant other tribes they didn’t know about or people who came from the sea. However, since Gui He sent a messenger here to inform him, he knew that it was something unusual.
Shao Xuan set down the matters he was dealing with and headed for the headquarters. When he passed the stone bridge, he noticed some rafts stopped beside the bridge. Shao Xuan had never seen any rafts made from this material here. It didn’t seem local. There were even some things that looked like sails on the rafts, but they were not fabric. They were made from leaves patched together.
There were some decorations on the raft, and Shao Xuan hesitated when he saw one of these decorations. After he took a closer look, he could already guess why Gui He was looking for him.
There was a small spiral conch shell on the raft. Judging by the colours and stripes on the shell, it didn’t seem like something that could be found in the river. It was more like something from the sea.
These people came from the sea?
Looking at where the raft, Shao Xuan asked the person beside him, “Did they come from downstream?”
“Yes. That’s also what I heard from the people stationed at the stone bridge,” the warrior said as he looked around. Seeing no one around, he added in a whisper, “It seems like those people brought quite a lot of things. They even have cowries.”
Cowries were used as a currency in many places, and they were unique because they had medicinal properties and were extremely rare.
Shao Xuan wouldn’t be surprised if those people came from the desert area. Most of the cowries inland mostly came from there. Back then, the Rain tribe had so many cowries because they profited from being the broker.
However, after the disaster, cowries became rarer inland. Hence, some people who came on expedition trips to the trading point once wondered whether the tribes that lived by the sea were exterminated or migrated. At least they never heard of anyone who saw the people at the sea when they went there. No new cowries came from there either.
However, the sea didn’t just exist in that direction. Shao Xuan had clearly said before that if they travelled down the Flaming River, they would definitely see the ocean but he didn’t reach the sea last time because they were rushing back to replace Caesar’s eye. That was why they didn’t continue travelling downstream.
Now, tribes were coming from the sea downstream.
Shao Xuan didn’t tell the others about his thoughts right away. People who came from the sea, who brought cowries. This information would trigger the curiosities of other people who were visiting on expedition trips.
“How many of them came? And where are they now?” Shao Xuan asked.
“About fifty. Their rafts only stopped when they reached the stone bridge. Our people brought them up to the shore. However, when they came up, about more than half of them had already fainted. Now they’re bringing them up to the residential area to rest.”
Only fifty of them?
Perhaps the others didn’t make it alive due to accidents on the way.
When Shao Xuan went up to the residential area, he even heard some people in the tribe discussing this matter. Whenever a new tribe came by, people would begin discussing. Everyone had different beliefs and cultures. The way they dressed was different too. There were too many differences, so this was what they were discussing.
“I heard those people even have horns on their head!”
“What do you mean horns? Those are just fake horns they’re wearing!”
“Those horns aren’t real? How come I’ve never seen them before? They don’t look like horns at all……”
Shao Xuan had his doubts as he listened to the other Flaming Horns.
Gui He arranged for these people to live in the house they used to host their guests in the residential area. It was bigger, and there were rooms with beds and cushions. This was the same place the Feather tribesmen lived when they visited.
When Shao Xuan entered the house, he noticed Gui He and Gui Ze were both present. The two retired shamans were there too. Gui He was chatting with a person who was lying on a bed. That person was talking passionately although he seemed to be quite tired already. He was just forcing himself to stay awake. He was dark-skinned and skinny. There were many injuries on his body, and he spoke with a strong foreign accent. It was probably because the seaside was too far from the central region and there weren’t many people to socialise with over there, so they naturally developed their own speaking style. Gui He was having a hard time conversing with him too and this person was already speaking slower than usual.
There were some horn-like things on the table. This was probably the “horns” the others in the tribe were discussing. However, those weren’t actual beast horns. They were unique spiral shells from marine snails.
Seeing Shao Xuan enter, Gui He told the injured man to rest and walked out of the room. He gestured for Shao Xuan to follow him.
Those people took up six rooms. There were many rooms here. Gui He brought Shao Xuan to a room that was farthest away from the others.
“Which tribe did they come from?” Shao Xuan asked.
Gui He’s appeared confused. He looked at Shao Xuan and said helplessly, “I don’t know.”
Seeing Shao Xuan’s doubtful look, Gui He explained, “I couldn’t understand much of what they said.”
He could only try his best to guess what they were trying to say from some of the words they could discern, but Gui He couldn’t understand what they were trying to say at all when they suddenly spoke fast when they were excited.
“However, there are probably others in their tribe who can speak better. It’s only because about half of them had fainted. The rest of them who are awake are either hesitant to speak or forcefully staying awake. However, after Gui Ze gave them some medicine, it was clear their attitude improved but there are still some things they’re hesitant to tell. Their emotions are a little complicated. You can say they’re full of excitement and passion, but they’re still hiding something. Of course, I know these are common behaviours, but Ah Xuan, you don’t know. The way they look at us. The looks in their eyes. It’s very unusual. Other tribes have never looked at us like this.”
As he suddenly thought of something, Gui He took out a shell, “They brought a lot of things. There are beautiful stones and these rare cowries. No, these are different from the cowries we’ve seen before. They haven’t been polished, and some even have rotten meat on them.”
Shao Xuan took a close look at these cowries. He learned how to discern the value of the cowries by their appearance from Yang Sui. Some shells were pretty but didn’t look valuable. They also didn’t have any medicinal value. Some of these shells weren’t cowries and couldn’t trick anyone who was an expert in this field. Some of the shells that looked more common, however, could be used to trade for more goods from people who knew their actual value.
Now, the shells that Gui He showed him had attractive and beautiful spiral patterns and also had medicinal properties.
“These can be considered cowries. They’re even better than the ones from before,” Shao Xuan said.
“Indeed. But the strange thing is, these people act like they don’t value these at all. You know it too. If they wanted to use these as currency for trade, they would’ve protected them and made sure they were in the best condition, but these people weren’t like that at all. The only thing they cared most about was a giant shell.”
“A giant shell?”
“Yes. I already sent people to carry the giant shell into a room. Some of those people who haven’t fainted are still guarding the giant shell. I can sense something inside it. A human!”