Chapter 15 – He’s always up to something, just like you
Translated by Sunyancai
Shao Xuan lifted the curtain and walked inside, followed by Caesar. However, Caesar dared not relax or bump into anything.
Last time when he sniffed on something, that he was curious about, he got clamped on his nose once he accidentally touched it. Even with all his efforts, he could not tear it off with his paws, instead, the more he struggled, the tighter the clamp became.
Even though Shao Xuan came to his rescue soon and helped him remove the clamp, it hurt like hell for days. Ever since then, Caesar would always behave well when he followed Shao Xuan in here. And he would only stay with Shao Xuan with no extra curiosity.
Ke’s house was relatively larger than the others’ and was around a hundred square meters. In the room there were different kinds of stoneware, from daily-use stone cups and bowls, to hunting tools such as stone knives and spearheads. Also the tools were in different materials. Some of them were made from buckhorns or animal bones, and some were made from ordinary stones only. However, most of the tools were combinations of the former two materials, as composite type tools. The warriors in the tribe used mostly the composite type ones.
After glancing at the tools hanging on the wall, Shao Xuan looked away and went straight into the small room that Ke used to polish his stoneware.
Gray haired old Ke sat there still. Because he dealt with stones all day long, so all his animal skin clothes were covered with a layer of white stone powder. His hands, that he was using to hold the stoneware, now were stained with a layer of gray.
Ke fixed his eyes on the stoneware which he was still working on, and did not move his eyesight because of Shao Xuan’s entry, as if the whole world had disappeared besides the stoneware in his hands.
Knowing Ke’s character, Shao Xuan directly took out his animal skin bag and fetched those two stones as he handed them to Ke.
“Uncle Ke, could you please help me make two stone knives or daggers?”
The stones Shao Xuan took out could merely be made into short knives or daggers because of their limited length.
Ke stopped what he was working on and raised his head to take a look at the stones Shao Xuan passed on to him. Then he glimpsed at the two fish Shao Xuan brought and said, “Yes, one fish.” He meant that he could make the daggers for him and it would cost him only one fish.
“You must keep those two. The other one is my gift, in order to express our gratitude to your kindness for the past six months!”
Every time when Shao Xuan collected the stones, he would bring them to Ke’s place and do the trading. At first Shao Xuan was unfamiliar with all this stuff and he had brought Ke some not-so-fine stones, but still, Ke gave him food anyway. Later on Shao Xuan knew how to identify stones of different levels, so then he recalled and realized about Ke’s intention to help, because how could someone deal with stones and stoneware everyday and not know the difference between fine stones and normal stones?
Although Ke was a man who always wore a straight face, giving others a sense of alienation, he did help Shao Xuan a lot. What’s more, Shao Xuan had seen Ge, who was in charge of food delivery, come to visit Ke the other day, and the way they talked obviously indicated that they were pretty close to each other. So Shao Xuan guessed that perhaps this stoneware crafter was the true reason that Ge put Shao Xuan in charge of the orphan cave after Ku had left.
Ke frowned and before he could talk, Shao Xuan pulled out a small stone knife and handed to Ke, “Uncle Ke, please take a look at this stone knife that I myself made the other day.”
The stone Shao Xuan used to make this stone knife was not of good quality. In the eyes of a stoneware craftsman, perhaps it could merely be considered as an inferior one, barely better than those stones in the gravel yard. Surely it was not difficult to polish or craft, and Shao Xuan spent three days working on it.
Ke took over the stone knife and looked at it, as he brushed the knife with his fingers covered by stone powders. At last, he pointed at the spot about one-third away from the handle, and said, “This part is no good.”
Shao Xuan knew that experienced stoneware crafters could tell the strengths and weaknesses with one simple glimpse. And Ke was just pointing out and informing Shao Xuan, about the biggest problem about his knife.
Why should he only mention the biggest problem?
Shao Xuan was after all only a beginner when it came to stoneware crafting, and he could only rely on his imagination and thoughts. Shao Xuan had no idea of any crafting skills that stoneware crafters held dear. So naturally the stone knife was just something with numerous flaws. So that point was only counted as the biggest problem.
The more Shao Xuan communicated with people in the tribe, the deeper understanding he got about the tribe. No one should underestimate their wisdom and ability. Shao Xuan wanted to learn some skills in crafting and polishing stoneware from Ke by taking out that stone knife.
That stone knife was only made with a knife shape, and usually Shao Xuan could use it for normal occasions. But surely it differed a lot with the knives that hunting warriors used. In the eyes of Ke as a stoneware crafter, it was full of flaws. He could tell which part was easy to break, and which part was over-polished, and which part was not polished enough, with only one glance.
Judging from Ke’s expression earlier when he saw the stone knife, Shao Xuan realized that it was far from satisfaction. Basing on the fact that Shao Xuan was merely a child with no experience in crafting stoneware, Ke made a comment on his work. If other warriors came and gave Ke such a stone knife, Ke would have just tossed it away and simply ignored it.
“Uncle Ke, can I learn how to craft stoneware from you?” asked Shao Xuan. Now, he had plenty of time and with the coming winter, he would stay inside the cave and practice on crafting stones. He got all the stone materials for himself anyway.
However unfortunately, Ke shook his head at Shao Xuan’s proposal, “Not now. After you have awakened your totemic power, then we can talk.”
Why should someone have the totemic power if he wanted to craft and polish a stone? What for?
Regardless of the curiosity, Shao Xuan did not continue to ask. Seeing Ke’s reaction he knew that Ke did not want to explain.
Since Ke was refusing, naturally he had his reasons, but…
Shao Xuan did some calculation. After this coming winter, he would be ten years old. Based on other kids’ former experiences, someone could awaken his totemic power at the age of eleven or twelve. So he should wait for at least one or two years. And the slow kids like Ku, would only awaken their totemic power until they turned thirteen or fourteen years old.
So there was still a lot of time to wait, if you thought about it that way.
Even if he could not learn the skills now, he could always watch. So Shao Xuan squatted down there, watching Ke craft and polish.
Bystanders would assume it was very simple but only after they truly got started on it, could they realize that it was completely different from what they imagined before. Seeing Ke’s short knife and then glimpsing at the short knife he made… Ah, only comparing could show the truth. Aside from different stone materials, one could tell which one was better based on their outlook. No wonder when Ke was looking at the stone knife Shao Xuan made, he showed a tolerant look. Perhaps in his heart he had criticized a lot, but he kept all his criticism to himself since Shao Xuan was only a kid.
When the night fell, Shao Xuan stopped watching and helped Ke set up a stone pot with fires underneath. Also, he chopped the fish before he took his leave, and then he returned to the cave with Caesar.
Soon after Shao Xuan left, Ke placed the completed stoneware into a box, and wiped his hand, preparing to cook the food. The water in that stone pot was already boiled, and at the time when he was placing fish chops into the pot, there was a slight noise coming from the window behind. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh! Then there came the sound of arrows.
The person coming from the window fell on the ground.
Ke did not lift his head, while he stirred the soup in the stone pot with a spoon.
“Hey, Ke! Why did you change your tricks again? Huff…” one-armed Ge rubbed his butt as he complained. Earlier he hit the ground with his butt first, so he fell. Between his feet there was a leather rope tightly strapped, or else he would not have fallen so easily from just entering through a window. He lost an arm, not a leg, so under normal circumstances, how could he fall?
As he continued with his cursing, Ke continued stirring the soup in his stone pot, inattentive to Ge, who just climbed through his window and kept complaining.
Ge went through some troubles untying the leather rope, and he sniffed as he approached the stone pot, “Fish soup?”
Looking around the room, he saw the fish in the corner. Ge smiled, “Has that lad come already?”
“…” Ke remained silent.
“Ah-Xuan traded for a big bag of salt with me yesterday, with his fish. I think he’s really up to something. Today I went to the cave, and guess what? You have no idea how many fish they had stored on the top of the cave. They will have a nice winter this year, all those whelps. No wonder why you recommended Ah-Xuan as replacement for Ku. As you predicted, not before long, the situation in that cave has changed a lot! Now half of the salt I have would go to Ah-Xuan through trading.” Ge gasped in admiration.
In the mountains where the tribe was located, there was a natural-formed salt pond, which provided all the salt for the tribe. However, there were strict rules about the usage of salt, and a certain amount of salt would be given to each family, to meet their basic daily needs. One had to trade for more salt with his own things if he wanted more. Don’t ever think about stealing, for there were warriors guarding everywhere near the salt pond. People from the mountaintop district would be in charge of the distribution of salt, so whoever wanted to trade for more salt, needed to talk to the people living above. However, Ge was in charge of food, so he could save more salt than others. So Shao Xuan would take the fish and do trading directly with Ge.
Seeing that Ke remained silent, Ge found a stone stool and sat down as he kept talking himself, “The day before yesterday, I saw that boy crafting and polishing a stone knife, so I suppose that he wanted your comment on that, right? That was why he came, right?” Before Ke could answer, Ge continued, “In fact, that lad seems to be a nice person, and he is eager to learn using his smart head. I can tell that he is always up to something, just like you. He’s suitable for doing your job. Since he approached you and had enough integrity and sincerity, why not take him in as an apprentice?”
Ge kicked his legs in the air, as he glimpsed at the chopped fish on the table. Also, he noticed the stone pot which was already set up. It was not the same way as Ke used to set up the stone pot, and obviously someone did that job for him. It was less steady, and perhaps it was also the lad’s work.
Ke shook his head and finally said, “He will get hurt easily.”
“Indeed. Without totemic power, it would be severe if he had an accident. After all, what you’ve been dealing with is quite… dangerous.”
Ge pulled out an arrow from his armpit, as it was stabbed into his animal skin clothes. A few minutes before, when he entered through the window, he only paid attention to those coming arrows, but ignored the leather rope near the window frame, so he got pinned down like that.
It was just a small wooden arrow, and could easily be broken by a finger snap. But earlier, it stabbed into his animal skin clothes in the blink of an eye. Obviously it was at a very high speed.
Ge played with the half-hand long arrow in between his fingers for a while, and then he gently flicked his fingers, and the wooden arrow flew straight through the narrow-mouth of the wooden barrel hanging in a corner.
He was not sure where those small arrows come from, so he could only place them in the wooden barrel for now. Actually, the barrel was filled with things that he tossed into. When it became full, Ke would empty it and replace all the items inside properly.
“Ke, you will have to wait for a while. Based on the physique of the kids from that cave, you will have to wait for at least two more years.” Sighed Ge.