Shao Xuan only took Caesar back to his cabin after having dinner at Old Ke’s place.
Although he had been away for over twenty days, it was obvious that someone had helped keep his room clean. There was clean water filled in the crock. It was still fresh, so Shao Xuan figured it must have been poured in recently. Also, the animal skin on the bed had been washed and air-dried, for it had no bugs or stale smell on it.
Apparently, Old Ke had asked someone to do all that.
Shao Xuan moved his arm a little after he lit bonfire.
It had only been three hours, and Shao Xuan could feel that his bones were healing quickly. Indeed, those were fine herbs. As for the totem patterns on his body… he knew that he was making more progress than his peers. Among the newly-awakened warriors this year, Mao was the publicly acknowledged genius in the tribe, and the totem patterns on his arms only spread out about half a finger’s length.
When they were hunting, no one had the spare time nor the energy to pay attention to Shao Xuan’s totem patterns, even though he was wearing a sleeveless top made from animal skin. Instead everyone had their attention focused on the prey, for one negligent move could result in death, especially in the forests filled with dangers and risks. All of the warriors were extremely cautious. Also, since Shao Xuan was pretty skilled in using his totem power, his patterns would quickly disappear after the prey was hunted down, before anybody had the spare time to look around. Hence, no one had noticed the astonishing length of his totem patterns.
Just now, Old Ke had broken his cane out of shock. He didn’t believe his eyes at first glance, but after he rubbed them and took a closer look, he finally confirmed that what he saw was real. Naturally, someone else would also be totally stunned if he saw that, for example, Keke.
In fact, Shao Xuan had noticed that Keke glanced at his arm after the first punch. His attack was not really fatal, and Shao Xuan knew it was merely a test. However, what Shao Xuan didn’t know was why Keke and Tuo did that.
Lying on the bed, Shao Xuan had finally felt his tense nerves relax after so many days. Life inside the tribe was indeed safe and cozy.
Waking up the next morning, after a good night’s sleep, Shao Xuan stretched his body. Surprisingly, he found that his arm was already healed, which was even faster than Old Ke’s estimate of “a few days”. In fact, he could’ve recovered quickly even without the herbs he took yesterday.
Shao Xuan made a pot of soup with meat jerky and wild fruits for Caesar and himself. It was not tasty, but he was used to it already. The soup was not much, leaving Shao Xuan and Caesar still hungry.
So he patted Caesar on his head and said, “You’ll have your feast once the meat is delivered.”
Caesar smacked his lips, while he slowly yawned and stretched.
Seeing Caesar’s foolish appearance, Shao Xuan once again thought about the wolf pack’s hunting when he was on his way to the second location. Compared to the wolves in the forest, Caesar really did not have a wolf’s nature, and if he continued to behave that way, perhaps he would really turn into a dog. Shao Xuan was not sure whether it was a blessing or a curse.
Shao Xuan took a quick shower with a bucket of water, and then dragged Caesar outside and used a fish-teeth brush to clean him. It had been over twenty days, and that little beast was rolling on the ground all day long. Perhaps Ge also had a hand in it, as there were lots of kinks and knots in his hair.
Old Ke would help Shao Xuan clean his house, but that didn’t mean that he would help clean Caesar. In the eyes of Old Ke, Caesar was still leftover prey. Why would anyone clean prey?
When Tuo and Keke were delivering the meat to Shao Xuan’s place, they found that Shao Xuan was brushing Caesar’s hair outside.
The Shaman had arranged someone else to do the delivery, but Tuo and Keke asked for the job on their own.
“Oh? Is your arm all right?!”
They watched Shao Xuan nimbly brush Caesar’s hair, having no traces of an injury at all. Keke put the meat down and instantly he wanted to approach to check on Shao Xuan’s arm, but he was stopped by Tuo.
Keke was about to struggle, but Tuo silently said “The team leader,” causing Keke to quiet down immediately. When he returned yesterday, he was dragged out and beaten up by the team leader, so his face was still swollen today.
When Tuo and Keke carried the meat inside, Shao Xuan thanked them with a smile. He also wanted to give them some meat as gifts, but got declined politely by Tuo.
Tuo noticed that although Shao Xuan was not wearing a poker face, he also wasn’t enthusiastic. However, he couldn’t really blame Shao Xuan for that, after all, Keke had broken his arm only yesterday!
Tuo smiled, a little embarrassed, “Well, the Shaman said that early in the morning, on the day after tomorrow, everyone should go to the mountaintop dressed neatly and cleanly, so as to attend the memorial ceremony for the ancestors.”
Instead of staying for longer, Tuo dragged Keke away, for he worried Keke might start some trouble again.
After Shao Xuan had finished brushing Caesar’s hair, he went inside to check on the food that was delivered.
All of the meat had been properly processed by someone. Even the Thorn Black Wind had been skinned and chopped by some skilled warrior.
A Thorn Black Wind had two layers of skins, one was the hard scales, and the other was very tough thick leather. The two layers had been separated and specially processed, so there was no trace of blood, and they were pretty clean.
Caesar was standing still about two meters away from the meat chunks of the Thorn Black Wind, curious and afraid at the same time. However, he was drooling over the meat, so he growled and ran his tongue around his lips.
Shao Xuan took out the smallest piece of the Thorn Black Wind’s meat, after a second thought though, he cut the meat again, and tossed the smallest part to Caesar. Advanced prey contained a lot of energy, and Shao Xuan had no idea how much Caesar would be able to take.
Looking at the pile of food, Shao Xuan calculated for how much salt he could trade with the tribe.
To attend the memorial ceremony of the ancestors later, everyone in the tribe became quite busy. They took out the things that they were most pleased with, since the memorial ceremony could be compared to the Snow Festival. The other hunting team, which was supposed to set off right away, was instead delayed for a few days, and would start the hunting mission after the memorial ceremony.
Shao Xuan asked some tailor to make him a jacket out of the scale layer of the Thorn Black Wind. It was like an armor, and although it looked stupid, it was necessary for him to make a good impression. It was the most direct way for someone to show his ability in the tribe, and Shao Xuan had to observe the customs of the place.
Of course, Shao Xuan didn’t forget to send some scaly skins and meat to Mao. After all, he had contributed to the hunting of the Thorn Black Wind.
Only fifty days after the Snow Festival’s ceremony, there was yet another grand ceremony within the tribe.
It was not as complicated as the one during the Snow Festival regarding rules and procedures, and no one danced.
Shao Xuan was arranged to stand at the spot closest to the fire pit. Being the real star in finding the ancestors, he was qualified enough to have the position, and no one else in the tribe was against the decision.
Because of that, there was only one skinny body among the ones that were standing near the fire pit, and it was Shao Xuan.
This time, Shao Xuan didn’t dare to allow his mind to drift away. Instead, he paid attention in following the others in this memorial ceremony of their ancestors. He was whispering at heart: Dear ancestors, please kindly give us your blessings in the hunting missions to come! Please shelter us from those troubles!
The four ancestors were cremated in the fire pit. Originally the flame in the fire pit harmed no one, but now it had wrapped up all those dried bodies. Soon enough, four bodies gradually disappeared, and there wasn’t even smoke or dirt created. When the flame returned to its normal size, the fire pit went back to normal. There were no ashes of the dead, nothing was left there.
Everyone who passes away in the tribe will be cremated like that, but not everyone has the honor to have such a grand ceremony during the cremation. Let alone that this memorial ceremony was not second to the Snow Festival on scale.
Shao Xuan noticed that the bone ornament was gone. Obviously it was retained by the Shaman. It’s reasonable, burning such a treasure would be unwise.
After the sincere worship and prayers, Shao Xuan was summoned by the Shaman after the memorial ceremony.
He asked Shao Xuan about the things that happened in the cave, and it was far more detailed than the other’s questioning. Also, the Shaman was paying extra attention to the feelings that Shao Xuan had back in the cave, the so called “totem guidance”.
Shao Xuan had explained things properly, but he also played dumb when it was necessary.
Finally, he went back home after being questioned for about an hour.
When Shao Xuan left, the Shaman took out a small box made from jade. He opened it carefully and there were three similar bone ornaments lying inside. Shao Xuan would be totally surprised if he were here. It turned out that there were more of them. However, the little ball in the middle of the bone ornament was no longer glossy. Instead, it appeared dim.
Beside the jade box, there was a roll of animal skin. It didn’t look ancient, but in fact, it was more than a thousand years old.
The Shaman unfolded the roll and inside there were some simple pictures with the appearance of the bone ornaments.
“Finally, all were found.” The Shaman sighed.
If there was someone else in the room, he or she would be quite confused. Six bone ornaments were drawn on the animal skill roll, but there were only three of them in the box. Why did the Shaman say “all were found”?
Thinking about Shao Xuan’s answers, the Shaman had a trace of smile on his sad face. He knew that Shao Xuan wasn’t telling the complete truth, but that was fine.
“The power of the flame will guide you in the right direction. Just like in ancient times, when our ancestors used fire to light up the night.” The Shaman had said that, but in fact, there were very few people who could do that. Even if they had the feeling, it was just a blurry one, and almost none of them had an image or a concept as clear as Shao Xuan’s. No one could depend on the blurry hints to walk out of the cave. It would be exactly like how the three ancestors had the feeling and they found the Elder at last. However, they couldn’t get out from the cave.
Recalling Shao Xuan’s abnormal behavior when he was awakened, the Shaman figured his awakening was more like an awakening under the support of a complete flame…
Was that the difference between the complete flame and the incomplete flame?
The Shaman stared at the bone ornaments in front of him. He reached out with his withered hand and touched the dim ball in the middle of the ornament slightly. Then, he put the animal skin roll back, and covered the box with its lid, before putting it back where it was.
Taking two steps back, the Shaman stared at the box silently, and made a sincere salute.
The Elder. It was a title that had been heard in the tribe for a thousand years. He wondered when someone would be addressed by that title again.
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