With the end of the last hunting mission, it grew colder and colder as time went by.
Shao Xuan walked down from the mountaintop as he was dragging home the prey he hunted down during the last hunting trip.
The weather was colder than before, and winter was about thirty days away. He stored some of the food in the mountaintop storage cave, and brought down the remainder.
The other hunting team was preparing for their last hunting mission. They had to hurry up, because by the time they returned, it would official be winter.
Old Ke was meeting a friend in the mountainside district, and Caesar was waiting for him there as he would be Old Ke’s ride for going back home. As for Chacha… Shao Xuan saw him flying through the sky on his way back to the tribe. However, hadn’t seen him since the end of Sword Cleansing Ritual.
When stepping through the door, Shao Xuan noticed a falcon lying on the stone table. The eagle’s head was at the edge of the table as it remained still. Shao Xuan became stunned for a moment, because he thought that the eagle’s neck had been broken by someone. However, that thing immediately got up and jumped down from the table, as if it knew Shao Xuan came back. When flapping his wings, he knocked down quite a few wooden chairs around him.
Chacha had grown up, but he kept his old habits from his childhood. For example, lying on the edge of the stone desk, whilst throwing down everything else on the surface by flapping his wings. He got lectured by Shao Xuan a lot of times, but old habits were still old habits.
Shao Xuan looked at the approaching eagle, and tossed him a slice of meat, “Eat it outside!”
Even though his cabin had been enlarged, there was still insufficient room for Chacha to flap his wings.
After Chacha left the cabin with the meat, Shao Xuan intended to process the remainder by pickling it. However, he checked the stone crock in the kitchen, and realized that it was already full.
Shao Xuan had made a separate space in the kitchen with a wooden plank. In the space laid a simple stone stove, and it was more convenient than setting up a stone pot every time.
Shao Xuan recalled that there was an empty stone crock in the corner, so he walked towards it and checked. It was an old stone crock brought by Old Ke. But it had aged a lot, and there was a crack on the opening part. Not much water could be contained within it, so it was only placed here temporarily, for later use.
There was a wooden cover on the stone crock. A layer of dust was on the cover, since no one had touched it in a long time.
Shao Xuan opened the wooden cover and looked inside, only to find a washbasin-sized thing staying quietly inside. It also had many jagged ridges on its back. The water inside the stone crock merely covered its back.
Shao Xuan realized what had happened only after he saw it.
This turtle was trapped in the fish fence on a night after the two moons overlapped and the water-level rose. Shao Xuan asked Lang Ga to leave him with that, for he wanted to make a pot of stew with it. However, later on, when Lang Ga came to deliver it, Shao Xuan directly tossed it into the old stone crock in Old Ke’s place. After that, because of series of events, such as hunting, enlarging the cabin, and moving, it was left here, totally ignored. Shao Xuan forgot about its existence and Old Ke did the same. So, it was left here until today.
When you counted properly, you’ll find that almost half a year had passed. The turtle remained in the stone crock, and it was still alive!
Perhaps it almost starved to death, as it had no spirit at all. When Shao Xuan poked it twice with the wooden stick, it merely moved its body.
“Should I cook it today?” Shao Xuan thought.
As he was hesitating whether to cook it today, or keep it for another few days, Old Ke returned with Caesar.
When Old Ke came in, Shao Xuan asked, “Should we eat it today, or in a few days? What do you say?”
“What? It is still in there?” Old Ke was very surprised.
When Lang Ga delivered this turtle here, Shao Xuan said nothing about making it into a pot of stew. Moreover, with the experience of keeping Caesar and Chacha, Old Ke naturally assumed that Shao Xuan took this thing back to keep it as a pet. After all, he had a history of keeping food as pets, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he wanted to keep this one as well.
After putting it into the stone crock, Old Ke would refill the water every three or five days. And when he thought of it, he would toss some meat chunks into it. Old Ke thought that Shao Xuan would take care of it, but unexpectedly, Shao Xuan had already forgotten about it a long time ago. Later, when Shao Xuan’s cabin was enlarged, Old Ke came and asked about the turtle again. Back then, he learnt that Shao Xuan had no intention of keeping it as a pet, but to store it as meal. So, he stopped feeding it since then. There was a differences between food and pets.
In the past, pets and food were the same thing in Old Ke’s mind. Then, he got to spend time with Caesar and Chacha, and he gradually became attached to them. Caesar carried him everywhere, so of course he wouldn’t let him starve. However, food was a different thing. In the minds of the people in the tribe, why would anyone waste food by feeding their meal?
It was left behind, until now.
“Yeah, I remembered. It was trapped by the fish fence along the river, on the following night after the overlapping of the moons, when the water-level rose. I told Lang Ga to let me have it, so that I can stew it. But I forgot to cook it because I became busy after.” Shao Xuan explained.
“I’m surprised that it’s still alive! I’ve stopped feeding it for quite some time.” Old Ke sighed. After all, they were in no lack of food. Since the other stone crocks in the front were still full, no one would ever pay attention to the old stone crock in the corner.
“This creature had a habit of constant starvation. It can live long and well.” Shao Xuan said, and tossed a piece of fresh meat into the stone crock.
The turtle was usually timid, but it immediately bit into the meat. When its hooked mouth bit the meat, it pierced through the meat and pecked the stone crock because it used too much strength, creating a loud ‘Bang’.
Shao Xuan checked on the inner wall of the stone crock, and found that there were a bunch of scratches and bite marks all over its surface. If the stone crock didn’t have thick walls, perhaps it would’ve long been pecked through. Perhaps it contributed to the opening crack as well.
“Or, should we eat it today?” Shao Xuan turned to Old Ke and asked, but he found that Old Ke was staring at the turtle and was thinking about something.
“Ah-Xuan.” Old Ke said with his eyes fixed on the turtle in the stone crock.
“Aren’t you going to learn from the Shaman during this winter?” asked Old Ke.
“That’s the plan. The Shaman agreed too.” Said Shao Xuan.
“You can present it to the Shaman.” Old Ke pointed at the returned-back-to-life turtle as it had been fed earlier.
“Present it to the Shaman?”
The Shaman was in no lack of food, then why would he care for that turtle?
However, soon enough, Shao Xuan realized the true meaning of Old Ke’s words. He was thinking that this turtle had good values, for it represented longevity and immortality as Shao Xuan just said before.
Shao Xuan didn’t know what turtles represented in this world. But in his past life, many people did regard turtles as the symbol of immortal life. Let alone that this turtle indeed had a tenacious vitality. It had been placed in the crock for such a long time, that it no longer had the strength to peck on the walls. Or, he would have escaped already from the stone crock.
Shao Xuan recalled his memories when they first captured the turtle. Lang Ga had tortured his prey in the fish fence for some time, and then brought the turtle to Shao Xuan. It had then been starved for nearly half a year. If you do the calculations, you’ll find that it literally didn’t have much to eat. However, the turtle survived, which convinced Old Ke that Shao Xuan wasn’t wrong when he said that the turtle represented longevity and immortality.
People in the tribe always felt that they should present the things which symbolized good things to highly respected individuals, and of course, Old Ke held the same attitude. Since Shao Xuan would be learning from the Shaman, Old Ke regarded it as an honor. So, it made total sense to present the Shaman with a turtle that represented immortal life.
Seeing that Old Ke was persistent, Shao Xuan didn’t try to eat it anymore. After all, they were in no lack of food.
“Okay, then I’ll give it to the Shaman when I go to the mountaintop next time.” Said Shao Xuan.
Old Ke smiled at Shao Xuan’s word, “We should keep it properly until then.”
Old Ke thought that anything that would be presented to the Shaman must be in its best condition, as it was a gesture of their good faith.
So, after about ten days of a well-provided life, Shao Xuan grasped the turtle’s back, and carried it to the mountaintop, with its stomach facing the sky.
On the mountaintop.
The Shaman was sitting in the stone room, recording something on an animal skin roll with a pen made from animal hair. He was a little curious when Shao Xuan said that he had some food to present. After all, it had been already some days since Shao Xuan’s hunting team came back. What would he have now to present?
The Shaman placed his pen on the side. He looked at the turtle which was in Shao Xuan’s hand and he was about to say something.
But the Shaman’s old face sudden twisted a little, as he swallowed the words he was about to say.
In the past, when other people in the tribe presented food to the Shaman, the food would be meat bulks, which had already been processed, neat and clean. However, Shao Xuan brought him a whole turtle, an alive one with eagle-hooked mouth, and there were still wood chips at the corners of its mouth.
Obviously, the turtle had great destructive power. As it was brought in by Shao Xuan, a clear murderous look could be seen on its face, as if it was prepared to bite on anything that was in front of its eyes.
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