Chapter 11 – Recording and counting numbers
Translated by Sunyancai
All the kids in the cave had been in a state of extreme excitement these days. Just like when the poor turned rich overnight, they’d be incredibly hyper.
And the consequences of being driven by excitement was quite simple – fighting.
When they were not fishing, they fought each other in the cave.
In the past, they fought over food, now they still fought over food, but in a different kind of way. Now, they would usually fight protecting their own food, instead of robbing or stealing food from the others. Sometimes they would just beat the one who wrongly took their fish by mistake when bringing their quarries back.
The fighting was not one versus one since Shao Xuan had incalculated the idea that groups were a different version of a small hunting team, the tradition of one versus one had developed into gang fights. Thus the war between groups and teams were more intense than ever.
Shao Xuan sat aside and sighed, for he was the one who brought this upon himself.
After seeing that a kid’s dragging of the wrong fish triggered yet another battle between two groups, Shao Xuan thought for a while and set his eyes on a smooth wall near the entrance, regardless of the messy situation inside the cave.
A long time ago, when everyone in the tribe was living in the cave, they polished the wall and carved letters on it. Afterward, all residents in the cave were kids, and no more letters were added there. Even when someone had the whim to paint, they would only paint or carve near the bottom. In the higher places, there were only ancient traces left.
All traces on the wall were different in depth and carving or painting patterns, because of their different ages. Some of them were painted by pigment produced by plants, and some of them were strictly carved by a stone knife. Many traces had already turned fuzzy and discolored. It was just a waste to keep them there since no one could tell their original meanings.
Shao Xuan called those super excited and super energetic whelps together and told them to pick up stones to polish the wall.
Deep down the cave, there were some relatively larger stones, which they carried out together. Because of their limited height, the children would have to stand on those stones to reach the upper sections of the wall.
Since they had something to do to kill the time, the undisciplined kids began to fit in their places. Besides, this was Shao Xuan’s command so no one objected to it. Even if reluctant, they would still grab a stone and polish a little.
Because the wall was already polished by the former residents, the kids would only need to grind the surface to remove the original marks. When it was almost done, Shao Xuan stood up on a big stone and used a burnt branch, as a pen. He wrote down five numbers representing five groups on the top of the wall, and in detail explained which group they belonged to. But still, Shao Xuan wrote down each of the group’s member’s names just to be on the safe side.
Every once in awhile, someone in the tribe would be sent to the cave to teach some basic knowledge to the children. For example, counting numbers and commonly used words. That was how Shao Xuan got to know the language here. However, other kids in the cave were unwilling to listen, so they rarely learned anything new. Shao Xuan was the only one who paid attention when a teacher came to the cave.
Every kid in the orphan cave would wear a stone tablet with his or her name on it. Although they did not know many letters and couldn’t write, they could still recognize their own names.
After writing down the groups and names, the fish they brought back would be recorded on the wall. At first Shao Xuan meant to use simple numbers to record how many fish they had dragged back for each group, but the kids weren’t satisfied with that. Looking up at the fish hanging up in the cave, Shao Xuan drew some fish in stick figures on the wall. It was an abstract fish, quite simple to draw and easy to be recognized.
Finally, those whelps were satisfied, and they even made the smartest kid in each group verify that the quantity on the wall matched with the exact number of fish hanging in the air.
Shao Xuan could draw one fish in one stroke, and there were in total dozens of fish, so it took a short time to complete the chart. Besides, the wall was extremely wide and tall, so it could contain over a thousand fish painted on it.
There was an air vent at the top of the wall, opposite to where Shao Xuan drew all the fish. During daylight, the sun would shine on the wall, which made all the markings on the wall pretty obvious.
So, every day when not fishing, the kids sat with their group members and wove straw ropes, they would constantly look up on the wall, and count their fish, then they looked at the real fish hanging on the hooks and checked the numbers. Due to this, their counting abilities were improving very quickly.
Those who used to be reluctant to count would count at least ten times a day or more, without anyone pushing them.
“Ah-Xuan, is twelve the one after ten?”
“Okay… Eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen…It’s not right, Ah-Xuan, why are there only fourteen fish in our team? There are fifteen on the wall! One is missing! Who took our fish?!!!”
Before the sentence was finished, the kid, together with the other four in his group, grasped sticks and stones with ferocious looks and scanned at other kids in the cave with gloomy eyes.
Shao Xuan took a deep breath and pointed the wall with a branch, “Didn’t you see that the first fish on the wall is crossed with a thick slash? That means that you have already eaten the fish! Actually, you ate the fish last night! Will you vomit up the things in your bellies to confirm it? I – can – help – you – with – that!”
“…It’s true.” The kid thought for a moment with his head crooked, as he eased himself down. He put his stick down and sat with the other four kids, as they continued to weave straw ropes as if nothing had happened earlier.
“Ah-Xuan, I heard from Uncle Ge that tomorrow we will have good weather. Shall we go to the riverbank tomorrow?” A kid asked expectedly.
All the other kids’ attention was focused on Shao Xuan as they stared at him hopefully. It seems that they would all have their hearts broken, should Shao Xuan provide them with a “No” answer.
“Yes, tomorrow we will go there as usual.” Shao Xuan looked up at the sky as he walked out of the cave.
Now, these dozens of kids were all working together. Indeed, they were voracious and they would love to go fishing all day, but still, deep down in their hearts, they knew it’s for the best that everyone worked together. They had to, the main reason being that they could not find stone worms by themselves.
Shao Xuan had tried many kinds of worms that could be found in the tribe as bait, but stone worms were the best and most efficient ones. For those who did not obey orders and acted alone, Shao Xuan would not give any stone worms to them.
“Undisciplined but you still want stone worms? Fine, go and find your own.” Without Caesar, one would have spent all day searching and only capture a few of them. Those stone worms were much quicker than earthworms, one would only return empty handed if they could not catch them immediately upon seeing them. Everyone depended on Caesar’s help to get stone worms!
The second reason that they had to work together, was that they could not get the small black floats by themselves. To get those, they must catch a black worm that lived in the black swamp. It’s such a shame that aside from Caesar, no one could go near the black swamp.
Due to these reasons, Caesar had a higher position in the cave. At least now, the kids were not seeing Caesar as food. Some flexible kids even learned how to fawn over Caesar. Since they’ve seen Caesar gnawing animal bones, they would toss fish bones to him. However, Caesar was not interested in fish bones.
No matter what, these whelps had eased their relationship with Caesar, so Shao Xuan no longer worried about whether they would join together and roast Caesar alive.
The next day, Shao Xuan was woken up by the kids, and then together they ran to the gravel yard to dig stone worms. Every time Caesar caught one, Shao Xuan would distribute it to a team leader of a group.
One stone worm could be used for two or three times. After a stone worm was dug out, they would cut it into two pieces. After a few minutes, the two ends would grow into two separate worms. Given enough time, they could grow into the same length as before, as if they were never cut in half.
When they were all set, Shao Xuan led them to the riverbank.
The guarding warriors were different people from before, but Shao Xuan soon got to know them well.
These days they all watched those children fishing, and at the end of the day, Shao Xuan would give them one fish as a gift. So he left the warriors with a good impression, and warriors had changed their views on the children in the cave as well.
Seeing the waters, all the whelps got excited. They hurried to set the bait but were immediately stopped by Shao Xuan.
“Stop! Step back! All of you! Do not touch the water! Do not toss the bait yet!”
Shao Xuan held the first kid in the front and threw him backward as he stared at the surface of the water and frowned.
Something’s wrong today.