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When Shao Xuan brought Yi Cong and his slaves back to the tribe, they met the hunting party so many people knew that Shao Xuan brought captives back and it was not difficult for Yi Si to find out. Usually, Yi Si minded his own business but he must have his guesses if he took the initiative to look for Shoa Xuan.
Shao Xuan did not keep the answer from him either. “It’s Yi Cong from your Yi family.”
“Yi Cong? Him?” Yi Si did not look shocked, though more puzzled. He had already guessed the captive’s identity based on the hunting party’s descriptions but he still was puzzled after Shao Xuan’s confirmation.
It was more likely that a Yi side-branch member would be here. Based on Yi Si’s knowledge of Yi Cong -- no, based on his knowledge of the Yi family, the people of the main Yi family would rather die than be held captive, especially not by a tribesman. This was puzzling.
Who was Yi Cong? Yi Cong was the most outstanding member of their generation. Yi Si grew up hearing people talk about Yi Cong potentially achieving the same status as Yi Tuan.
From Yi Si, who was the ‘idiot’ of the main family, this was the ‘other child’ that his elders would compare him to. It was because he truly understood Yi Cong’s talent that he was puzzled why Yi Cong would be here.
“Can I go meet Yi Cong?” asked Yi Si.
When Shao Xuan looked at him, Yi Si hurriedly added, “I guarantee I won’t do anything to harm Flaming Horn, I have left the Yi family after all.”
Shao Xuan looked at him in silence, then nodded. “Alright.”
Since Shao Xuan was not in a hurry to head to the construction site, he brought Yi Si over.
The half-beast slave, Grasshopper, also followed next to Yi Si. Yi Si looked at Grasshopper, then at Shao Xuan, “Can I bring him?”
“Yes,” said Shao Xuan.
The Flaming Horn headquarters covered an expansive area. They had expanded their territory since moving here from their old haunt, consisting of many small hills. Some of these hills had wanderers living on them, others were used for training or rock mining, a few used for holding captives.
Yi Cong and his six slaves were locked in the cave of one of these hills. The door was made of new green bronze. Unless they could make a hole in the cave, it was difficult to escape.
When Yi Cong saw Yi Si, his face twitched slightly, though not much shock registered- instead, he smiled. Privately, this reaction puzzled Yi Si even more.
“Take your time.” After Shao Xuan brought Yi Si inside, he closed the door and exited the cave.
When Shao Xuan left, Yi Si studied Yi Cong. Yi Cong and his slaves were not locked in the same cell, the rest were locked in six separate cells. At this moment, only Yi Si, Yi Cong and Grasshopper behind Yi Si were inside this cell.
“You’re here?” Yi Cong asked calmly, his eyes scanning Yi Si and Grasshopper.
Nervous from Yi Cong’s stare, Grasshopper’s spines were almost fully extended. Submission to the Yi family was deep in his bones, the Yi family made him nervous and he could barely straighten his back around them. Especially around Yi Cong, a person of high status in the family.
A slave’s life is directly related to their master. In the past in the Yi family, the slaves around more outstanding family members obviously led better lives and did not worry about food. On the contrary, slaves serving minor members did not lead great lives, sometimes even sold off during tough times.
Grasshopper served Yi Si and although they did not lead very luxurious lives, at least Yi Si knew how to run a business despite being ‘useless’ to the Yi family and did not starve to death. Still, Grasshopper was thinner and weaker than the other half-beast slaves.
Yi Cong compared the Grasshopper he remembered to this half-beast before him, his eyes fixed on Grasshopper like a spotlight until Grasshopper started to shiver, then remarked wistfully, “Much stronger.”
Although he did not want to admit this, this reality told Yi Cong that Yi Si and his slave lived much better here with the Flaming Horns compared to in the Yi family. Even the two half-beast slaves he had with him were far frailer than the current Grasshopper.
When Grasshopper followed Yi Si inside, the slaves locked in other cells had shock in their eyes: how dare this punk fatten up after abandoning the Yi family with Yi Si!
In reply, Yi Si merely smiled mildly, “Life got better.”
How ironic. A Yi clansman was living better in a tribe than when he was with his own clan.
Ignoring Yi Cong’s sigh, Yi Si asked, “Why are you all here?”
“The Gongjia people were searching for star butterfly larvae blood to forge weapons. Too bad Flaming Horn’s Shao Xuan got to it in the end.”
Yi Cong told him about the objectives of his trip.
“You all fought Yi Xiang already?” Although he was curious about the worm blood, Yi Si was more interested in the battle against Yi Xiang.
Seeing Yi Cong’s current predicament and thinking of the late Yi Qi, he could guess the battle outcome.
“I’m afraid the Yi family will not enjoy peace in a very long time,” said Yi Si.
“Indeed. This time, if it was not for Shao Xuan of Flaming Horn, all one hundred of us might have died inside.”
“What?! What has THAT got to do with Shao Xuan?” Yi Si finally looked shocked. The Yi family sent a hundred people against Yi Xiang into a battlefield in the dark realm- being unable to conduct readings, Yi Si could not enter that world. However, outsiders should not be able to set a foot in there either, so why did Yi Cong say that Shao Xuan saved them?
It was unbelievable!
“How… how…” Yi Si could expect many things but this outcome was nothing he had ever thought of.
“Why not? Even the shell left behind by the ancestors cracked.” Yi Cong briefly described how Shao Xuan broke the boundary.
“Our ancestor’s shell?!” Yi Si’s jaw dropped, his face saying ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding’. He knew how powerful that shell containing bone chips was, yet it cracked! Both Yi Xiang and Shao Xuan of Flaming Horn far exceeded his expectations! He knew Shao Xuan was powerful but not to the extent of being able to fight Yi Xiang!
Yi Cong sat leaning against the cave wall, his expression seemingly disappointed. But, Yi Si seemed to see some relief in Yi Cong’s eyes.
Yi Si was good at observing people, especially in detail. That was how he saw many contradictory parts in Yi Cong’s behaviour, which puzzled him even more.
After a while, Yi Cong finally spoke. “Founder Shaman Seal.”
He did not speak loudly, only muttering to himself. The other slaves did not dare to breathe, the entire cave fell to pin-drop silence. Yi Si heard him very clearly and was deeply shocked.
“The Founder Shaman Seal? Really?! Are you sure?!” Yi Si felt as if there was a knife stuck in his throat, every word was difficult.
The legends extended far back into history, when tribes first formed. There was a group of people known as the ‘Founders’, they were the ones who learned to wield the power of the fire seed and founded human tribes. They allowed humans to break free of the sufferings being at the bottom of the food chain, reproduce and prosper to this day.
There were many versions of these ‘Founder’ legends and every tribe called themselves the descendants of the ‘Founders’. If they did not have a ‘Founder’, where did their fire seed come from?
However, the people who truly could be called the ‘Founders’, in the Yi family’s eyes, were not the first people to form tribes, but the first group of people who wielded the fire seed.
Many people thought the people who formed tribes were the first to use fire seeds. Yi ancestral records stated otherwise. According to their records, the Founders first mastered the fire seed, then passed on the knowledge. The people who received this knowledge then used the power of fire seeds to form tribes.
So the Founders might not have belonged to any tribe!
If the many tribes of this world were tree branches, then the Founders were the one and only tree trunk! All other branches branched from one stem!
There was very limited information in the Yi ancestral records but they used many special methods in order to preserve ‘history’. As for how these ‘Founders’ looked like, how many there were and how they discovered then mastered the fire seed-- these were not mentioned. Within the diagrams left behind, the most obvious was a cross symbol made of double 工 that they called the Founder Shaman Seal.
Legends told that the Founder Shaman Seal appeared when the shaman did, that was why it was a representation of the Founder Shaman. Every person who knew about this seal revered the symbol.
This was why even Yi Xiang could not remain calm when the Founder Shaman Seal appeared where Shao Xuan was.
Yi Si’s heart pounded while Yi Cong asked another question, “Say, do you think the Founder Shaman is still alive?”
The term ‘being alive’ was different from the regular definition. To the Yi family, even if the physical flesh body was not present, one might not be completely dead.
They believed in the existence of ‘soul’ and their ancestors say that a person cannot live without one. Animals, mountains, rocks, water… everything had a ‘soul’. Some had very powerful souls, such as fire crystals while others had weaker souls, so weak even sensitive humans cannot find them. The Bone Reading Beast was formed using the power of the soul.
Yi Si knew what Yi Cong meant. The Founder Shaman was a mysterious figure. Due to the extremely long time frame, no one knew the truth. Although the Founder Shaman’s flesh body was gone, was his ‘soul’ still here?
Yi Si did not have an answer, it had far exceeded his expertise.
After some internal struggle, Yi Si asked, “So you didn’t have a proper talk with Shao Xuan?”
A proper talk?
Yi Cong smiled bitterly.
If they knew, would they have ended up like this?
Yi Cong felt like he had shortened his own life span by decades every time he thought about how he and King City’s army tried to kill the Flaming Horn tribe. Then, he thought about how Yi Tuan wanted to use Shao Xuan as bait to sacrifice Shao Xuan in exchange for a chance to escape during the battle against Yi Xiang- yet in the end, Shao Xuan destroyed their tortoiseshell. Although both sides benefited from the final outcome, Yi Cong was exasperated by what he remembered. The enmity had already formed. That was why to neutralise such hostilities and keep one life, he must sacrifice more.
Before Yi Cong answered, Yi Si asked, “You were willing to come here as a captive because of this?”
Yi Cong grinned without a word but Yi Si knew his decision from his eyes.
If Shao Xuan was just a regular tribesman, Yi Cong would have chosen to end up like Yi Qi, to die instead of being held captive.
At this moment, Yi Cong looked up in a direction, his eyes flashing. “The person I am waiting for is here.”