All the residents in the mountain foot district knew that Old Ke didn’t take any work in stoneware crafting anymore. People didn’t know what he was doing all day, but everyday, early in the morning, he would sit on a wolf’s back with his cane in his arms, and only late at night would he return home…
While Old Ke didn’t have to trade for food himself, for Shao Xuan’s game was beyond enough for both of them. In Shao Xuan’s words, he was “paying the tuition” with the meat, and Old Ke didn’t decline his offer after thinking about the proposal.
One person set the traps, while the other made every effort to break them. Although Old Ke was very tired these days, he was in quite a good mood. Finally, he could practice and perform all he had learnt after he left the hunting team. Although his skills weren’t as good as during his days in the hunting team, they were enough to benefit Shao Xuan after all.
Seeing that Shao Xuan got schooled by those traps and lassos every day, Old Ke had a good laugh. In his youth he was also being schooled that way. However, he wasn’t as talented as Shao Xuan now, and his schooling took much longer. So long, that even now, he refused to think of those days. Hence, Old Ke took every single minute to prolong Shao Xuan’s experience in feeling those “mysterious” moments.
Old Ke knew at heart that Shao Xuan was very talented. Perhaps after some time, all the traps he set wouldn’t be able to stop him. If Old Ke was at his peak, he could have been able to “school” Shao Xuan for longer.
“Alas…” Old Ke was a little upset, but not as gloomy as he used to be.
“What are you sighing about?” Shao Xuan climbed up the mountain with a face full of mud, and sat beside Old Ke. These days Old Ke made a few advanced traps, and in order to avoid the short arrowshots from the brushwood, he was hit in the face with a ball of mud. That mud seemed to know that he was going to present himself there at that time, and it was just waiting for him. Since Shao Xuan had no time left to dodge it, he had to meet the mud with his face. What if it weren’t mud but anything else?
Shao Xuan felt that he still had a lot to learn.
For the one that got hunted, he could only be considered an expert if he could see through all kinds of traps. Being the one that hunts, one could only be considered an expert if he could set a trap that could ascertain the kill.
Even so, many people in the tribe felt that learning that skill was more or less a useless option. Who would have so much time to set a trap in the hunting grounds? Everyone had to fight brutally by force!
But Shao Xuan had the feeling that perhaps it could be of great use later if he learnt it now.
Old Ke harshly criticized Shao Xuan’s movements earlier, and then looked at him to check his response. He noticed that Shao Xuan was thinking hard while he stared at the trap zone beneath. Old Ke felt comforted seeing that Shao Xuan didn’t get upset or reluctant because of his criticism.
Even though Old Ke was making harsh comments all the time, deep down at heart he was worried that Shao Xuan might have some problems with him. It was rare for him to find such a young talent with all his skills. If Shao Xuan quits halfway, Old Ke would be vomiting blood out of his chest.
Old Ke told Shao Xuan that he back in his days did better than him, and it was only because that he had been learning more than one hundred days. However, it had only been less than twenty days since Shao Xuan started learning…less than twenty days…
Shao Xuan was still thinking about Old Ke’s comments earlier, and compared Old Ke’s comments to his own movements. when Old Ke felt something and looked at somewhere on the hill. There was no one there a minute ago, but now, someone was standing right there.
It was Ta, the team leader of Shao Xuan’s hunting team, also the trueborn son of the Chief. He was one of the few senior totem warriors in the tribe, and a candidate for the next Chief election.
Old Ke recognized him with one glimpse.
Old Ke did not have much connection with Ta. At his peak, Ta was merely a junior warrior, just as Mao now. When Old Ke quit from the hunting team, Ta was only a group leader in one of the hunting groups. However, Old Ke had heard the stories from some old pals, that Ta didn’t value setting traps at all. And he was even more so after he entered the advance group. Only a few warriors in the advance group knew a thing or two about setting traps, and there was no expert at all.
They were of two different opinions, and people holding different opinions could hardly be friends. So Old Ke had no good impression of Ta all the time.
And, Ta wasn’t looking at Old Ke in a friendly way either.
Originally, Ta planned to recruit Shao Xuan into the advance group. Of course it was just an attempt. He thought that since Shao Xuan was under the protection of the ancestors, he should have the good luck blessed by the ancestors. Wouldn’t taking Shao Xuan into his hunting group increase their chances of a successful hunting mission with loads of things to harvest?
Since last year, the hunting results for Ta’s hunting team had a sharp drop. Although Ta’s team would bring back many ferocious beasts after every hunting mission in the eyes of the public, in fact, they hadn’t finished lots of their tasks. Regarding the achievements, Ta’s team’s wasn’t as good as the other hunting team’s.
The team leaders of both hunting teams were candidates for the next Chief election, and they had been competing with each other ever since. Seeing that the other side was exceeding his team for quite some time, Ta was quite anxious. This time, since the incident with the ancestors happened, he focused his attention on Shao Xuan, who was almost the same age as his own son.
Ta had heard of some of the details in the last hunting mission. The more he learnt, the more satisfied he was with Shao Xuan. At first, he assumed that Shao Xuan was only a little bit stronger than his son, with more advanced night-seeing ability and a little bit of good fortune. However, when Keke had tested him later, he realized that the kid was making prompt progress… Perhaps that was the reason why the Shaman liked him?
Ta had mentioned Shao Xuan’s fast speed of progress to no one. He asked Keke and Tuo to keep it a secret as well.
Even if there was no clear rule that prevented newly-awakened warriors to join the advance group, they would normally choose some senior warriors with more experience in hunting missions. They would be able to protect themselves if anything happened. Truly there was no precedence of recruiting a newly-awakened warrior into the advance group.
The next hunting trip was approaching, and Ta planned to discuss with the Shaman these days, and recruit a newly-awakened warriors into the advance group. Although there was no clear rule, he had to ask first. As for the Chief… The Chief was his father, of course he would be on his son’s side. Naturally, the Chief wouldn’t be an obstacle there.
He heard that Shao Xuan was training in here these days, so he came to check on him. However, he found that Shao Xuan was merely learning about setting traps with some old guy who quit from the hunting team! It was such a waste of his talent! Such a disappointing thing!
As Ta and Old Ke were judging each other with unfriendly looks, Shao Xuan came back from his meditation, “Hey!”
Ta looked along Shao Xuan and Old Ke’s sights, and found that the wolf labeled by the Shaman was running up the mountain from below. He was running happily, who would think that he was a wolf?! He was so lame compared with the wolves in the forest!
Ta had no appreciation for Caesar. In his perspective, it was better to chop it and feed it to the people in the tribe, or he would just waste more food if he was kept alive. The more he thought about it, the more dissatisfied he became. Ta felt that Shao Xuan had many things that he didn’t approve of, if he weren’t seeking for the ancestors blessing, he wouldn’t allow Shao Xuan to join the advance group, even if Shao Xuan grew into an excellent mid-level warrior.
At the other side, Shao Xuan didn’t care for other people’s opinions, for he was busy being happy about his training for Caesar.
Caesar cheerfully ran to Shao Xuan with a palm-sized animal skin bag in his mouth. He placed the bag in front of Shao Xuan, and sat down next to him, waiting to be praised.
“Good job!” Shao Xuan praised him generously, and tossed him a long prepared beast’s meat as his reward for getting the task done.
“What are you doing, Ah-Xuan?” Old Ke was curious.
Shao Xuan poured out a few fruits from the animal skin bag, and then collected the bag into his pocket. He smiled, “There’s a saying, that a good hound serves as the eyes and ears of the hunter. I’m trying to train Caesar into a good hound. Perhaps he would be able to help in the hunting missions later.”
Ta was about to leave disappointedly, but at that word, he stopped in his tracks and kept listening.
“Good hound?” Old Ke was confused.
“Even the slyest fox couldn’t escape from a hound’s nose.” Said Shao Xuan.
“Hound?” asked Old Ke.
Ta was paying attention to Shao Xuan’s explanation, too. He felt pretty interested in taking advantage of the wolf’s sense of smell.
“Hound. It’s a trained wolf.”
Shao Xuan was training Caesar, and he taught him to find things by smell. At first it was clothes, then bones, and fruits afterwards. Now, Shao Xuan wanted to ask Caesar to find something with even fainter smell.
“Wolves have sharp nose.” Shao Xuan smiled.
“The Shaman taught you that? It is a good method.” Old Ke said without much interest.
At Old Ke’s words, Shao Xuan responded with a single “Um”, and gave no further explanation.
In fact, he would love to bring the scene depicted on the walls of the orphan cave back to life. However, since someone deliberately covered it up with stone powder, Shao Xuan chose not to reveal the secret easily. Before he left the orphan cave, he painted a layer of stone powder on the fresco when the other kids were fishing outside. The window of that stone room was blocked as well, and no one had noticed that.
When they had enough rest and were about to head back home, Shao Xuan glanced at where Ta was standing earlier and sneered, before leaving with Old Ke’s tool box in his hand.
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