Shao Xuan was about to have his second hunting trip. Even though he wanted to work on Old Ke’s newly-invented serial traps, he did not have enough time to spend on placing traps and ropes. It was close, but time was limited. It had been nineteen days since the other hunting team left, and they would be back in a few days. Now, all the warriors in Shao Xuan’s hunting team were preparing to set off.
It would be the second hunting trip that Shao Xuan would take part in, and the third hunting mission this year. According to the traditional standards within the tribe, there would be more newly-awakened warriors hunting this time around. In order to look after those new warriors during the mission, there would also be more experienced warriors tagging along with the team as their guardians. Because of this, Shao Xuan anticipated that there would be about fifty more warriors in the hunting team than last time. (E/N: In case you’re confused it’s the third hunting trip for his team, not counting the other team.)
For example, Sai, who used to have a problem with Shao Xuan, and Sai’s father, who had missed the past few trips in order to train his son, would join this hunting mission. Luckily, many residents in the mountain foot district, who were unable to store as much food as people in the mountain side or mountaintop, were able to go fishing. Hence, they had to focus their attention on those fish in the waters. Even though the energy the fish contained was not comparable to beasts from the forest, it could at least keep the residents from starving.
Old Ke did not ask Shao Xuan to go to the training ground any more, for Shao Xuan had to use these last few days to craft more pieces of stoneware to be used. The stone cores all came from the Shaman and the Chief as gifts for his great deed in finding the ancestors. Naturally the stoneware crafted from them would also be of fine quality.
Perhaps Caesar also sensed that Shao Xuan was about to leave, as these days he followed Shao Xuan closely everywhere, and sometimes he would even act like a spoiled child, with his nose and head clung to Shao Xuan’s hands.
Shao Xuan was not sure whether it was an illusion or not, but he felt that after feeding Caesar the meat of ferocious beasts over the last ten days, Caesar had grown much bigger and stronger than before. Caesar liked the meat of ferocious beasts very much, and was especially fond of the Thorn Black Wind meat. After eating these, he would refuse to eat fish sometimes. Well, he grew picky.
There was still a lot of meat remaining in his cabin, so Shao Xuan took most of it over to Old Ke’s place. It should be sufficient for them to eat for over ten days, allowing Shao Xuan not to worry about the man and the wolf’s food while he went on the hunting mission.
As Shao Xuan was communicating with Old Ke about which traps fit what kinds of ferocious beasts, he heard someone calling his name from outside.
Old Ke nodded towards the door, indicating that Shao Xuan should go and have a look.
Shao Xuan lifted the curtain, and found that Tuo was standing outside the door. He came without Keke this time.
“I went to your cabin earlier, and no one was inside, as I expected, you’re here instead.” Tuo waved at Shao Xuan, “The Shaman asked for you.”
Old Ke’s eyelids twitched, and he stopped the work at hand.
Since the Shaman asked for him, there was no reason for stalling. Shao Xuan told Old Ke about it and told Caesar to go inside, while he followed Tuo up to the mountaintop.
They were about to set off for the next hunting mission. Why did the Shaman summon him now?
He came to the same stone room where he was questioned about the ancestors after the memorial ceremony. It was the Shaman’s guestroom, and normally all conversations happened there.
The team leader Ta was standing right outside the stone room, and he showed a rare smile upon seeing Shao Xuan.
Tuo did not enter the room, and the Shaman was waiting inside alone. He sat on a straw mattress with a smile, looking extremely gentle and kind. However, if you took a closer look, you’ll surprisingly find out that it was totally impossible to expect what he was about to say.
Seeing Shao Xuan come, the Shaman pointed to another straw mattress in front of him, indicating Shao Xuan to sit.
After a proper salute, Shao Xuan sat down with his legs crossed, waiting for the Shaman to start the conversation.
The Shaman looked at Shao Xuan in silence, not eager to say anything. Shao Xuan kept waiting in silence, as well. He was in no rush, for he was prepared to wait.
A short while later, the smile on the Shaman’s face grew clearer, and he opened his mouth slowly, “Show me your totem patterns.”
Shao Xuan had prepared for that when he saw Ta at the door, so he was not surprised the slightest bit. As he urged the totem power inside him, immediately totem patterns began to reveal on his face. Meanwhile, the totem patterns climbed on his uncovered shoulders and arms, and the patterns passed his shoulders for over the length of a palm.
Seeing the totem pattern on Shao Xuan’s upper arm, the Shaman nodded, “Impressive, indeed. No wonder Ta asked for to have you join his hunting group.”
The advance group?
Shao Xuan had hopes, but since he had heard from Lang Ga and the others that it was more than difficult to be selected as a member of the advance group, he felt that he would not be chosen as one of them because he was just awakened this year. However, unexpectedly, that was really why he was summoned by the Shaman.
Shao Xuan had no idea what the difference between the advance group and other hunting groups was. Only those in the advance group knew what the tasks were, no one else. However, according to Lang Ga and the other’s gossip, the advance group had their own extra tasks.
No matter what, there was no denying that the advance group would encounter more trouble. The things that happened in the normal hunting group was messy enough for Shao Xuan. He knew himself well. Even though he was making much faster progress than others, he was still a junior totem warrior who had awakened only this year. Was Ta not afraid that he would be a liability that holds the advance group back?
What were they thinking?! These people!
“I don’t think that I have such capability.” Shao Xuan said.
“Indeed. Normally all warriors in the advance group would be mid-level warriors, or almost mid-level warriors. You are not. However, Ta values your capability and he came to me personally, to recruit you into his hunting group.” Said the Shaman.
Valued my capability? What kind of capability? Shao Xuan was confused, but he figured it out soon enough.
Why did the people in the tribe envy Shao Xuan very much? Because of the blessings of the ancestors!
Seeing that Shao Xuan kept his silence, looking puzzled, the Shaman continued, “You needn’t worry. No one will force you if you do not want to join the advance group. As for Ta…I’ll turn him down for you.”
When he was about to decline the offer, he hesitated while thinking about something, “Are there more benefits for people in the advance group?”
Shao Xuan had discovered that there were some advantages for the elite group in the tribe. Aside from some advantages that are common to all in the tribe, people of higher ability would be able to receive more preferential treatments. Also, the leadership of the tribe would be glad to offer them more help.
“Yes, for example, Tuo had better herbs.”
The Shaman smiled at Shao Xuan’s words, “Of course there are more benefits. Every single warrior in the advance group would be assigned a pack of fine herbs when hunting. It could further stimulate the healing ability inside a warrior, hence to accelerate the process of healing.”
“Is the pack of herbs distributed ahead of time?” Shao Xuan asked.
“It will be distributed to the people one day before the hunting.”
All herbs were distributed by the Shaman, and only the Shaman knew how to mix the herbs properly.
Shao Xuan sat still and said quite seriously, “It’s an honor for me to gain the team leader’s acknowledgement. Of course I would be glad to join the advance group! There’s no reason for declining.”
The Shaman was totally speechless, “…” Then why were you making a complex expression earlier?
“It’s just…” Shao Xuan showed a little embarrassment, “Can I take an other kind of herb?”
“An other kind? You may easily get wounded during a hunting mission, and the speed of healing would be essentially important. Without the healing herbs, you would be exposed to danger in much higher odds.” Said the Shaman
“I know. But can I have an other kind of herb?”
The Shaman felt a little complicated, for he had never met anyone else with such thick skin at a young age. Certainly, the Shaman had already known a thing or two about Shao Xuan’s thick skin, so facing Shao Xuan’s request, he was only slightly surprised, but not so perturbed.
“So what do you want?” the Shaman was still in an eased tone.
“Health recovering herbs, do you have any?”
He was asking those kind of herbs for Old Ke. Based on his performance when setting traps, one could easily find that Old Ke’s ability was falling short of his wishes. He was getting old fast. Due to stone crafting for a long time inside the room, he caught some occupational diseases. Healthy warriors of course could heal and have those pains relieved by their tough physiques, but Old Ke could not do the same. Shao Xuan could constantly hear his subdued coughing.
For most of the year, Old Ke would lock himself in the dim room of his, crafting stoneware. He was not as tough as before having lost one of his legs, and most of the food he traded for, with the stoneware, was the meat of inferior beasts or other animals. Yet, Old Ke was a mid-level warrior back in those days; the energy contained in inferior food would never be able to meet up with his needs. As time went by like that, the strong body of this mid-level warrior degenerated as well. It seemed that Old Ke was getting older much faster than the others.
Now since Shao Xuan was able to join the hunting team, he didn’t worry about the meat issue anymore. However, after suffering from chronic illness for so many years, Old Ke could use some herbs to nurse himself back to health. Normal herbs might not work, so Shao Xuan wanted to take some more effective herbs from the Shaman. The tribe had a tradition of elite preferential treatment, so normally all good stuff would be distributed to only those who were the elites. Other warriors had no access to fine herbs, for after all, they were hard to obtain and limited in quantities. This time, since Shao Xuan had the chance for being considered as an elite, he planned to take advantage of that. Ta had raised the proposal, even if Shao Xuan declined him this time, he would be facing a second round after all. That team leader was not someone that easily gave up.
Shao Xuan knew at heart that even if he could not be of great help to the mission, he would be kept safe by Ta, for Ta wanted him only for the reason that he was blessed by the ancestors. Ta would definitely try his best to ensure his safety. What’s more, Shao Xuan figured that if this time’s hunting result was still not good enough, he would be kicked out of the advance group, and then his next opportunity in rejoining would not come by so easily again.
However, Old Ke was getting older and weaker as every day went by…
This was an incredible opportunity.
When the Shaman was having the conversation with Shao Xuan inside the guest room, Ta waited patiently some distance away from the stone room. He could not hear the talk, but he knew that the Shaman would surely reject his proposal if Shao Xuan refused to comply.
After a while, Shao Xuan came out and left with an animal skin bag in his hand.
“He chose to join.” Said the Shaman.
Ta felt quite happy about it, and as he looked up to express his gratitude, he saw the Shaman’s old cloudy eyes.
It seemed that the Shaman’s eyes were just like normal, but Ta felt an enormous psychological pressure. He sensed that the Shaman was angry, and all his anger was on him.
Ta dared not continue to look at the Shaman, so he looked down again, and made a sincere salute to him, “Please trust me. I’ll bring him back, safe and sound.”
The Shaman said nothing but waved his hand to let Ta leave.
After he left the stone room, Ta wiped his forehead and found a handful of sweat.
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