Within the dense forest, the gigantic trees covered the skies, unaffected by the past winter as every strong branch extended outwards.
The past winter season did not affect the plants here, the area was still teeming with life.
This was not within the Flaming Horn tribe’s territory, also not along their hunting routes. There were no signs of human activity here, just the cries of birds and animals.
Yi Ce looked at a little mound of soil protruding from the ground. Twenty years have passed. The rock placed on the mound was already covered with soil, grass and flowers, no longer retaining its initial look.
This was where Yi Ce’s father was buried.
Yi Ce touched the jade stone hung around his neck. It was one of the jade stones that Yi Cong used during his readings. Other than this stone left behind for Yi Ce, the rest were already buried with Yi Cong.
He looked at the sky, then turned to leave.
After an hour, Yi Ce arrived at another spot. He soon heard a sound from deep in the forest.
The sound approached quickly from far in his direction.
Crack crack crack--- Boom---
There was the sound of human conversation, as well as the sound of broken branches.
A wolf taller than a man sprinted over like the wind with a girl of fifteen or sixteen years sitting on its back, wearing hunting clothes and her face painted with her tribe’s patterns.
Without looking at the fearsome beast charging at himself, Yi Ce smiled and lifted an arm planning to wave to the girl.
However, before he spoke, the figure on the wolf’s back suddenly grabbed Yi Ce by the collar and tossed him on the wolf's back.
“Shao Duo, is the hunting team back yet?” asked Yi Ce, grabbing on to the wolf’s fur.
Shao Duo was Shao Xuan and Gui Ze’s second child.
She had a brother older than her by two years, Shao Cheng, who was currently visiting Eagle Mountain together with Chacha. He had not returned and so did not participate in this hunt.
Shao Duo also had a younger brother three years younger than herself, Shao Xu. Although Shao Xu was not very interested in hunting, he loved studying herbs with Gui Ze, as well as meddling with strange, new substances, such as explosives.
Hearing Yi Ce’s question, Shao Duo gave a brief answer. “They’re back.”
“Was the hunt…”
Yi Ce wanted to ask about their haul from this hunt but Shao Duo interrupted him, “Shut up, we’ve got to deal with the pig behind!”
He turned around and saw a figure closing in, and heard tree branches snapping. Although he could not see it clearly through the trees, he could tell who was behind. It was Siya the fearsome beast as well as Uncle Mai’s youngest son.
Yi Ce grabbed on to the wolf’s fur with one hand, then swiped across the trees they passed, finally tossing the object in his hand seemingly casually on the ground.
A fearsome beast with tusks and looked like a boar burst through the forest. On its back rode a young man clad in hunting clothing.
He was no longer obstructed by trees and both parties were not too far apart so the young man could see the wolf and its riders. He was about to catch up when he saw Yi Ce turn around and grin. His chest tightened instantly, before he could yell ‘CAREFUL!’, Siya squealed and slipped, crashing into the ground.
The youth on Siya’s back reacted quickly by grabbing onto a branch and flipping onto the tree.
“Shao Duo! Yi Ce! Just you wait!”
Siya had been running just fine, how could it have stepped on a slippery fruit?
It’s just a fruit, one did not usually slip when stepping even on a pile of fruits, unless Siya’s hoove had landed at the exact spot that would throw it off balance.
Somehow, Siya landed in that exact position.
This had happened too many times. Other than Yi Ce, no one could do something like this… Though maybe the Grand Elder could. But Grand Elder would just ignore these children.
Siya, who had slipped and fallen, scrambled to its feet while huffing angrily, venting its anger on the fruit. It was not injured from the small slip, just very annoyed.
“Stop kicking the fruit, we’ve gotta catch them!”
The young man flipped unto Siya’s back, stopping Siya from wasting its time on the fruit, their main goal was to catch up. He was currently competing with Shao Duo to arrive at the tribe first.
At this moment, several teenagers of similar ages, guys and girls all clad in hunting clothing carrying their weapons, all passed him while laughing mischievously when they saw Siya slip. They were all riding on various fearsome beasts like the Phorusrhacos and cave lions.
Shao Duo was far away on Caesar, ignoring the other guy’s furious curses. He was the one who struck first! There were many juice stains on Caesar’s fur, and they dried in clumps, knotting up his fur.
Shao Duo rode Caesar, sprinting to the mountain in the tribe, left Yi Ce on the peak, then went to the stream to brush out his fur.
Yi Ce straightened his clothing and walked into the stone house in front. This was Flaming Horn Grand Elder Shao Xuan’s office.
When he arrived, Shao Xuan was writing on an animal skin scroll. Shao Xuan was already a husband and father now, but his face had not changed too much. He was just much calmer, as if any commotion in the tribe would naturally quieten down if Shao Xuan appeared.
The Flaming Horns and other tribesmen in the Flaming River district loved to spar whenever they met other warriors but in Yi Ce’s memory, very few people would want to fight Shao Xuan. Even the boisterous, short-tempered Water Tiger tribe became very quiet in front of Shao Xuan.
After he entered, Yi Ce sat quietly in a corner waiting, staring out of the window. He did not look at the scroll because recording on this animal skin scroll required power of inheritance. Shao Xuan cannot be interrupted. That was why Yi Ce merely sat quietly.
About ten minutes later, Shao Xuan rolled the scroll up carefully and looked at Yi Ce when he was done.
“You’ve already made up your mind to go?” asked Shao Xuan.
“Yes.” Yi Ce bowed respectfully.
Although Shao Xuan had not formally taken Yi Ce as a disciple, Yi Ce had learned a lot from him. He treated Shao Xuan as his master.
“I’ll be heading to the desert after sometime when Chacha returns. Do you want to go with me or follow the initial plan by crossing the ocean with the Longboat tribe?” asked Shao Xuan. He had just received a letter from the desert yesterday written by the Rock Hill Lord Shi Shu. The entire letter was basically a furious complaint about Sapphire’s bad behaviour in the desert. Didn’t we agree on not disturbing each other? Come get your freaking bug!!
After Yi Xiang left years ago, Rock HIll City quietened down, also retreating drastically. Shi Shy personally left the desert to negotiate with Shao Xuan and sign an agreement with Flaming Horn. Flaming Horn became the only tribe who could pass through the desert to get to the other mainland instead of taking the dangerous marine route. It was much more convenient this way. Unless they could prove their relations with Shao Xuan, the other tribes from Flaming River would never be able to safely cross the desert.
This time, Sapphire who had just levelled up again had been annoying Rock Hill by taking over a piece of oasis that belonged to Rock HIll. That was an important military base to Rock HIll, used to fight the scattered organisations in the desert, how could they give up on this base?
Rock Hill panicked.
They could not. Although Yi Xiang was no longer there, they could use secret weapons he left behind. However, they did not dare fight because that was still Shao Xuan’s bug. They did not want to fight Shao Xuan.
That was why Shi Shu hurriedly wrote a letter so Shao Xuan could go over before a war between human and insect broke out.
Shao Xuan agreed to go over. On paper, he was there to neutralise the conflict but in actuality, he needed to make sure Sapphire was fine.
Yi Ce also planned to visit the other mainland, to visit the Yi family headquarters in King City. Years ago when Yi Cong sent him to Flaming Horn, it was so he could live a better life. The Yi family was in chaos then and many people who stayed behind became cannon fodder. The leaders of the clan had changed since then. Since Yi Ce still had relatives there, he wanted to pay them a visit.
Yi Ce was as talented as Yi Cong himself, just as Yi Cong predicted. Yi Ce was very talented and could naturally read that most of his family was still alive, including his mother, though they were not living very well.
Since passing through the desert was easier, Shao Xuan offered for him to follow with. Travelling with Shao Xuan was definitely more convenient through the desert because Rock HIll respected Shao Xuan and not necessarily the Yi bloodline.
“No, I’ll go with the Longboat tribe as per our previous plan,” answered Yi Ce.
Shao Xuan nodded. “That’s fine too. Three days later, the Longboats will bring a batch of wood over. You may leave with them.”
Shao Xuan told him more about the situation in King City, then Yi Ce left.
He descended the mountain and crossed the stone bridge on the Flaming River to get to the trading point.
The trading point was now also known as ‘Flaming River Town’, it was the largest trading area on this mainland.
After the merging of fire seeds, the power dynamics of the mainland re-shuffled. Like the other side, tribesmen from different tribes even grouped together to form new tribes.
Every traveller from far and wide had definitely heard of Flaming River Town even if they had not been. Many different tribes and their goods were there and rumour had it that as long as you could pay up, you could get anything you want even if it was not available in the trading point. You could even buy information this way.
Yi Ce often saw trading parties from the other side including both businessmen and other organisations. They always made a peculiar expression when they heard Yi Ce’s name.
Only the Yi family used the name ‘Yi’. Although Yi Ce’s identity was not a secret here, not many knew which branch of the Yi family he was actually from.
These people from the other side had long lost their reverence and fear of the Yi clan, for they were long past their peak. They were no longer a great noble clan. The once powerful clan only second to the royal Ji family fell just like that. It was a pity, it was laughable.
In the past, Yi Ce only heard about the Yi family through other people. Today, he must see for himself.
Yi Ce told Yi Si about his decision to go back.
Yi Si had raised Yi Ce. He knew that he was not a Flaming Horn since young, and was a Yi clan member like Yi Si. However, Yi Si had left his family but not Yi Ce. Yi Cong had also expressed his wish for Yi Ce to visit his family when he was old enough to protect himself.
“The day has come.” Yi Si looked at the face that resembled Yi Cong so much, then sighed.
The Yi family had declined and the leaders were not very capable either. The clan was currently in murky waters and the family was in a messy condition. All the people who escaped the Yi family’s internal war did not plan to return either, since it was not beneficial to themselves anyway.
However, Yi Si was secretly fine with it because he knew of Yi Ce’s capabilities. Yi Ce had grown up in the Flaming Horn tribe. Although Yi blood flowed through his veins, he had the personality of a Flaming Horn, he just hid it well. Yi Ce was also technically Shao Xuan’s disciple, while he still had not learned everything from Shao Xuan, he was definitely stronger than whatever remained of the Yi family.
Yes, Yi Si thought of the current Yi clan leaders as trash. The once glorious, prospering Yi clan burned up like a matchstick. All that was left were a few pitiable embers. One storm was enough to extinguish it.
Yi Cong once said that Yi Ce would be key in the revival of the clan; Yi Si was excited to see this.
Three days later, the Longboat tribe brought wood to the Flaming Horn tribe.
There were thirty boats in their fleet, twenty for transporting materials while the other ten performed other functions like transporting travellers.
Some travellers got off the boat and walked towards the trading point while others went on board.
Yi Ce led his eight slaves, following them up the boat.
In the boat, a younger person looked curiously at the slaves around Yi Ce and came over to ask, “Hey brother, are you a slave master? But you’re also crossing the sea with the Longboat tribe? I’m Dong Mai, part of a small trading group in Chao Qiu City, we came to Flaming River Town with the Black Bears. We’re going back with them now.”
Yi Ce gave him a friendly smile. “How do you do, my name is Yi Ce. Yi Ce of Flaming River.”
Born in King City, raised in Flaming River.