Last time when He Bian brought Dian Dian upstream to look for cures, they suffered some losses due to lack of experience. This time, he was smarter and more prepared. On the way here, they remained vigilant towards all the people and things they saw. If anything or anyone dared to approach them, regardless of who it was, they would kill without hesitation!
Don’t be fooled by He Bian and the other Di Mountain tribesmen’s amiability and friendly smiles. People with keen senses could notice their murderous energy right away. It was not directed at the Flaming Horns, but this was an energy they couldn’t completely hide.
Look again at their large wooden rafts that carried giant shells. There were many blood stains that hadn’t been washed away by the river. Some of this blood was theirs, while others belonged to some people and beasts that came in their way. The Di Mountain tribe had just returned from a brutal war and they were at the peak of their fierceness. Whoever dared to approach them would be killed right away.
He Bian told Shao Xuan about all the suspicious people he saw as they travelled upstream. He did not hide anything from Shao Xuan. After all, the Di Mountain tribe lived far away and rarely did anyone ever come by. The Flaming Horn tribe was different. If these people indeed came from the other side, they would really be a huge threat for the Flaming Horns, so it was better to be alert.
“Oh! I almost forgot!” He Bian walked up to the three giant shells with smaller seashells in them and searched for his target. He opened up one of these shells and picked up a shell that was as slightly wider than a human arm.
This shell looked like two hands clasped together with their fingers intertwined. The cracks were sealed by something and water was seeping out.
He Bian carried the shell out and gently knocked on the sides of the shell with a sharp hornstone. With slight effort, the shell was opened.
Inside, there were a few fishes with their bellies facing up.
Shao Xuan pointed at what seemed like small dead fish and looked toward He Bian. The look in his eyes showed his doubt.
“No, they aren’t dead. They had been fed with some medicine, so they look like they’re dead,” He Bian said.
They would go out and fish often, but sometimes when they caught too many, they couldn’t kill all of them at once because some people didn’t like eating dried fish. That was why the Di Mountain people found a medicine that could put the fishes to sleep so they could stay fresh in the water. Whenever they felt like eating the fish, they would take it out of the medicated water and put them back into normal water again so these fish would wake up and return to normal.
He Bian ordered a few people to carry a bucket full of water from the river. He placed the twenty fishes into the new bucket. The liquid in the shell was medicated, so once these fishes were removed from the shell, they would wake up from their deep sleep.
“If they don’t wake up after three days, then they probably won’t wake up again, but judging by their looks, I’m sure they will wake up in three days.” He Bian said.
If these fishes were really poisoned to death by the medicated water, they wouldn’t continue staying like this. The Di Mountain tribesmen frequently came into contact with fish, so they would know immediately whether a fish was normal or not.
“This is a gift from our shamaness. Last time when we came over, she noticed that you guys rear fishes too, so we caught some fresh fishes and oh! We brought some dried fish too! It’s in that shell.” He Bian poured the twenty small fishes into the bucket and shook the bucket slightly to make sure there were no problems.
“What fish are these?” Shao Xuan studied them carefully. They were as long as a human palm and had fusiform bodies. Their head and sides were both greenish-black in colour and they were darker than most fishes. He couldn’t tell much by their physical features. The Flaming River probably had similar fish.
“They are armour fishes. When they get bigger, their scales will become as hard as an armour.
Don’t be fooled by their size now. Many fishes start out small. Some of them are smaller than my fingernail, but they can grow so big that… they’ll become even bigger than your houses. The armour fishes are like that. Plus, they are the Di fish’s biggest enemies. If they ever encounter any Di fish, they would fight them to death. We helped the Di fish fight them off before, and we used to catch their babies in the river and eat them. The adults usually go upstream to lay their eggs and then return to the sea. These small fishes would hatch and grow bigger in the river, so I’m sure they can survive here too.”
He Bian told Shao Xuan all he knew about these fishes. Actually, they didn’t know much about these fishes and their preferences. They had only battled them before because they were enemies with the Di fish. The Di Mountain tribesmen usually just observed them and didn’t learn too much about them.
“What do they eat?” Shao Xuan asked.
He Bian didn’t know the answer. They knew that the Flaming Horns reared some fish and other beasts, but they had no experience in this. They would fish whenever they were hungry, so they never really felt a need for rearing animals.
“Um...umm...They’ll live if you put them in water… I guess?”
Judging by his looks, Shao Xuan knew he couldn’t get the answer he wanted from He Bian.
“Well, they will find stuff to eat in the water, and when they grow up, you guys can eat them. They grow very fast,” He Bian thought about how smart Dian Dian was by gifting them with these small fishes. They didn’t send any large sea beasts over, but these small fishes could grow as large as giant sea beasts. The Flaming Horns also knew how to take care of animals. What a perfect plan!
Shao Xuan was speechless. He was dumbfounded by He Bian’s confidence. If petting animals was that easy, it wouldn’t be a technique valued by most tribesmen.
He Bian and the other Di Mountain tribesmen followed Shao Xuan on a tour around the Flaming River Castle after delivering all of these gifts. The next day, the Di Mountain tribesmen returned home. They were worried that something might’ve happened while they were gone, and since the battle had ended not too long ago, their hearts were still with their tribe. Although they were very curious about the Flaming River Castle, they preferred places that were more quiet with fewer strangers.
“The Di fish did not disappear. After they lost their fire seed, many of them fled. Now, our tribesmen would kill any Di fish if they ever appear in our line of sight,” He Bian told Shao Xuan. Their return this time would mark a new beginning for their lives. They had no clue what was going to happen in the future.
Under He Bian’s command, more than fifty people dived into the river together. When they surfaced again, totemic stripes had already covered their faces. They waved at the Shao Xuan and the others on shore with their scaly bulged arms and left for their home.
Underneath the river’s surface, more than fifty underwater arrows shot forward, faster than the speed of ships. No wonder they didn’t spend much time travelling upstream this time. The bamboo rafts were pulled by manpower. They felt that the wooden raft travelled too slow and since they no longer had to carry anything back on their rafts, they no longer had to pull the raft, so they travelled even faster than the time they came.
Shao Xuan returned to the hill and brought the pearls and seashells to Gui Ze. As for the four giant shells filled with salted fish, Shao Xuan carried them to Gui He’s place and let him take charge of distributing the food. These were products from the sea and not many in their tribe had tried them. Regardless of whether they liked the taste, they could give these new delicacies a try.
As for the armour fishes that He Bian carried over, Shao Xuan decided to dump them all into the new canal they recently dug around the trading point.
The Giant Bridge extended all the way across the Flaming River and it blocked the path for many ships that were travelling downstream and upstream. Under Shao Xuan’s recommendation, the Flaming Horns dug a circular canal that surrounded the Flaming River Castle. Sluices were placed on both sides of this canal so the Flaming Horns could monitor whatever came in and out. Piranhas and other dangerous creatures were not allowed in the canal.
Now, there were no longer any river creatures in the canal that posed a threat to these small fishes. Shao Xuan didn’t know how to pet these armour fishes, so he did as He Bian proposed and dumped them into the water.
Shao Xuan didn’t dump them into the manmade lake because it was the green ducks’ territory and he was worried that the fishes might be eaten by the green ducks before they grew bigger. Even if the green ducks didn’t eat them, he was worried that they might become a threat for other fishes in the lake. They were the Di fish’s deadliest enemies after all, and surely this meant they were not simple to deal with.
The twenty fishes woke up the day after the Di Mountain tribesmen left. Shao Xuan wasn’t sure if it was due to the medicinal water but they looked lethargic.
Shao Xuan waited for another day. Seeing how they were swimming more energetically than the previous day, he carried the bucket and headed for the canal.
The pterosaur flew beside Shao Xuan, but those withered lead birds didn’t cross the bridge. They would only roam in the headquarters and they would become afraid if they went anywhere else. There were too many strange energies and creatures on the other side of the river. They only followed for a short while before they headed back to headquarters and chirped loudly on the branches.
The pterosaur ignored their cries and followed Shao Xuan across the bridge.
“Don’t you dare eat these fishes. If I find out that you ate a few of them, I’ll feed you to Caesar,” Shao Xuan warned.
He didn’t know whether the pterosaur understood what he said, but the creature looked within the bucket and cawed loudly and continued to follow Shao Xuan.
Shao Xuan ignored it and continued to head for the manmade canal.
The soldiers who were guarding at the post on the bridge were also curious when they saw their Grand Elder carrying a bucket to the canal. They watched Shao Xuan as he approached the canal and dumped whatever was in the bucket into the canal.
“Grand Elder, what are you dumping into the water?” someone asked.
“Fish. Pay close attention and make sure no one fishes here,” Shao Xuan said.
Those warriors nodded compliantly. They would definitely keep watch and make sure no one fished in the river.
The twenty armour fishes quickly disappeared after they were dumped into the canal. Their swimming speed in the canal was much faster compared to when they were inside the bucket.
The sluice might not be able to stop them from swimming out into the river. They could very possibly find some cracks and slip out into the river. They were still very small after all. However, Shao Xuan couldn’t care too much about them. He wasn’t concerned at all about whether these fish would grow bigger.
He recalled leaving Wu He and Gan Qie at Yi Si’s place the previous day and returned to the trading point with the empty bucket in hand.
After Shao Xuan left, the pterosaur finally stretched out its wings on a branch nearby and flew down and landed beside the canal. It observed the water for a while and then gave out a strange cry. This was clearly different from his usual cries. Usually, his cries were continuous and his last cry would be longer than the others.
After a while, it didn’t capture the attention of anything in the canal, but the guards by the bridge came over when they heard the noise.
“Don’t eat the fish here! The Grand Elder will get mad if he finds out!” the warrior that came over waved the spear in his hand and tried to scare the pterosaur away.
The pterosaur was on the other side of the canal when it noticed other people coming over. It flapped its wings and flew to a tree nearby and continued to caw loudly at the canal.
A greenish-black figure emerged from the river and swam across the surface before it dove under again.
Seeing this, the pterosaur immediately lifted off and left the scene.
The soldiers thought they had finally scared the pterosaur away, so they went back to their post at the bridge.
Not long after, the pterosaur flew back, now with a fish in its mouth. It went to fish in the Flaming River.
The soldiers watched as the pterosaur ripped the fish apart and threw the pieces into the river. Once in a while, it would give out the same sharp cries.
“What’s it doing?” the warrior at the post asked his companion.
“Feeding the fishes with fish?” the other person guessed.
“Should we stop it?”
“Nah, it’s not eating the fish in the river. We just have to tell the Grand Elder the next time he comes by and let him decide what to do about this.”
As long as the pterosaur didn’t eat the fishes in the canal, they wouldn’t shoo it away.
Meanwhile, in the canal, one of these fishes swam excitedly to the surface. Soon, a second, third, and more fishes came up. Suddenly, more than ten fishes were swimming excitedly in the canal as they fed on the torn pieces of fish.
After the fish was torn to shreds and only the bones were left, the pterosaur threw the remains of the fish into the river too. It didn’t care anymore and departed for the headquarters.
There were too many strange energies nearby. It felt safer back at the headquarters.
Inside the trading point.
Shao Xuan had arrived at Yi Si’s place. Yi Si was writing something and didn’t stop writing even when he noticed Shao Xuan. He only took a quick glance before returning to work.
Grasshopper was still tense beside Yi Si. Although there were fewer spikes on his back now, they didn’t completely disappear. It was clear that he was still very nervous.
Wu He and Gan Qie were still at the same place. After Shao Xuan left the scene the day before, they didn’t move or change places at all. Wu He was standing the day before, but now, he was sitting on a wooden stool and mumbling without much strength in his tone. Gan Qie remained where he was and hadn’t moved since yesterday.
Wu He’s eyes brightened as Shao Xuan walked in. He said to Shao Xuan, “Hurry and take him with you. I need to leave soon, for real! I won’t come back to the Flaming Horn tribe ever again!”
Yesterday, Shao Xuan told Wu He that he could leave as soon as he finished answering Gan Qie’s questions, but he never expected this person to ask him so many questions one after the other. He didn’t even let him leave after an entire night.
This strange man did not even sleep!
Wu He was fine with not sleeping for one night, but he didn’t want to see this expressionless face anymore. He had to answer all of these questions, and if he didn’t, this person would threaten him with his strength until he answered. His arms felt like they were about to break.
“How was the chat?” Shao Xuan asked Gan Qie.
Gan Qie loosened his grip on Wu He’s hands and shook his head gently. He was not satisfied with the answers. The answers were fine at first, but towards the end, all he heard was a series of lies and utter nonsense.
“I’m going to the Flaming River Castle. What are your plans?” Shao Xuan asked.
“Going back.” Gan Qie stood up and flipped the hood over his head. He followed Shao Xuan out the door. Before he left, he glanced over at Grasshopper, and this shocked the half-beast so much that the spikes on his body shrunk and erthe spikes erected again.
Gan Qie was actually just curious. Wu He already told him that Grasshopper was a slave and he was a mixed species with human and beast blood. How interesting, a half beast. Slave master and slave… This was totally different from the relationships that commonly existed between tribesmen.
Gan Qie already gained much information from Wu He. After returning to the Flaming River Castle, he immediately lied down in his coffin to contemplate his life. Shao Xuan, on the other hand, went to look for Zheng Luo.
“What’s the problem?” Shao Xuan asked, seeing the perplexed look on Zheng Luo and Duo Kang’s faces.
Zheng Luo handed the beast hide scroll to Shao Xuan. “You’ll know once you see it.”
Shao Xuan took a look at the beast hide scroll. The first thing he saw was the totemic sign. From this he knew immediately who sent the scroll.
“The Lu tribe?”