Chapter 18 – Thumbs up
Translated by Sunyancai
Outside the cave, it was still snowing heavily. A thick layer of ice covered the riverside, and now few people from the tribe would go outside. One could only see a boundless piece of white if he looked afar in the distance.
Inside the cave, there was a bonfire burning, and the atmosphere unlike old times, heated up.
After they installed the ice blocks on those vents (to prevent wind from entering the cave through the holes), the cave was much brighter than before, and they did not have to suffer from the cold wind as well. Those feelings were new to all the kids, so two days in a row, they were in a mood of extreme excitement. All of them sat around the fire and discussed about the letters and numbers written on the stonewall.
Yes, Shao Xuan had copied all the words and numbers in the animal skin roll that were left behind by the old hunter in charge of teaching, and wrote them on the stonewall. With the light in the day, they would see those words and numbers clearly without any fire. If they could memorize and master all that was written on the wall, the old hunter would not have to start from the very beginning the next time he comes.
Unlike the others, Shao Xuan had been staying at that stone room and carefully wiping out those stone powders all day long, except when it was time for eating.
Shao Xuan had moved all sundries in that stone room to other places, for the fresco on the wall was pretty large in size.
Shao Xuan stood up and took a deep breath after the whole fresco had finally been cleared. He moved his arms and legs to ease the sore and ache before he took a few steps back to look at the picture on the stonewall with the light that poured in.
Since it was not so bright inside, Shao Xuan still needed to rely on the torch to observe the details of the fresco, for some parts of it were not distinct enough.
Aside from the two pictures, that Shao Xuan saw in the first place, there were some more astonishing pictures hidden behind the layer of stone powder.
The pictures covered agriculture and stockbreeding as well. Look at those men working on a field, and those who were whipping up the sheep…
There was someone in a fancy leather robe holding an exquisite wine cup with complex fancy patterns, there were some women picking up fruits as they held baskets in their arms.
There was even someone riding a horse, in one picture there was a man riding on horseback with a kid.
Next to it, there was a picture describing a hunting mission or a war, which was relatively larger than others, and took nearly half of the wall. In its front there was a tall horse, on its back sat a sturdy warrior who was obviously stronger than the others, with feather decorations on his head. His head raised up high to show his imposing appearance. Perhaps he was the leader of the group.
Around and behind the sturdy warrior, there were a few men on horseback riding with him. Beside them, there were some… wolves?
No, they were not wolves.
Compared with Caesar, the animals on the picture had long and upturned tails. Some of them even had curvy tails. They were probably hounds.
Some of the hounds revealed their tongues with their mouths open, as if breathing heavily. Another two inclined their head to those men on horseback, as if listening to someone’s words.
In the background of the painting, there were some buildings, which were far bigger and taller than those that Shao Xuan had seen in the tribe. He heard that people up on the mountain had better living conditions. Shao Xuan imagined in his mind based on the information he had heard, and he figured that even the houses up in the mountain could not be compared to those mansions in the fresco.
He moved his sight back to the first picture that he saw. Inside it there was a woman with fine decorations on her head, they were not as rough and simple as those decorations that women in the tribe were wearing. Instead, they were more delicate and exquisite. As for the pot that the woman was holding…
If these pots with complex decorative patterns were not stone pots…What were they? Shao Xuan though about one possibility – pottery.
How long had these pictures existed?
If they were the same age as the stone room, then they should be at least hundreds or even thousands years old.
Before thousand years, there was agriculture like stockbreeding and farming. Even pottery existed, and hunting tools were in an unimaginable variety. They even had hounds, real hounds! Unlike Caesar, who was merely a wolf, brought back and kept by a human accidentally!
Shao Xuan suppressed the shock in his mind, and kept looking.
The fresco on the left had obvious differences from the fresco on the right part of the stone wall. In the middle that distinguished the left from the right, there were only abstract lines and shapes. So abstract that Shao Xuan could not understand. It seemed messy at first look, and Shao Xuan could not speculate its meaning by other pictures as well. However, what was obvious was that after these lines and shapes, the style of the fresco had changed very much. It fell down sharp with a feeling of loss from the earlier strong confidence. Many pictures were portraying something bleak and desolate.
Women kneeled down on the ground, weeping. Kids were standing up straight, with blank and lost looks, as if they had no idea of anything. The background was not filled with those mansions, but the cave that Shao Xuan was living in.
There was no more agriculture as farming and stockbreeding. No more pictures about three or five women carrying baskets to gather food. No more riding and shooting, no more hounds, and no more pottery, whose workmanship was much more delicate than stoneware.
However, both the left and the right part of the fresco on the stonewall, there was a logo carved above the picture – the tribal totem.
The tribal totem of the scorching horn tribe looked like the two horns of dicerorhinus, which was a rhinoceros with two horns. But the horns were longer, with flames around them, just like the name of the tribe tried to describe.
So, was it showing the life of the scorching horn tribe?
Shao Xuan recalled that archaeologist from his last life, who had said that basically, frescos and paintings on the wall described the daily lives of men of that age, or their fantasies and hopes, which was also a kind of spiritual sustenance of mankind at that time.
The pictures carved on the stonewalls of that room were absolutely no imaginary scenes. The emotions filled up in the images was so intense. Only true experiences and real things could arouse deeper, richer, and more intense emotions of people.
What had happened in the tribe?
Or both fell on the tribe?
At the end of the fresco on the stonewall, there were a lot of palm-sized pictures in various styles. Take the one on the upper left for example; it had a spider resting on its net. Or the one on the right end, there were plants like bamboos or something. In one picture, there was even something as a mask, it was so creepy to look at…
In those pictures there were plants, animals, and many things that went beyond Shao Xuan’s wildest imagination.
Just as Shao Xuan fixed his attention on those frescos, he heard someone calling for him.
“Ah-Xuan! Come quickly, Ah-Xuan! Uncle Ge is here!”
The other kids had no interest in the depth of the cave. For all those years they lived inside, aside from coming to a certain place to poop, they never went into deeper places. Those parts were never their thing and they got over it once they had gone once into the depth of the cave. Therefore, the kid calling for Shao Xuan did not go towards him, but shouted directly at him.
Coming back to reality, Shao Xuan realized that today was indeed the food delivery day for Ge.
This time, Ge also brought three days worth food at one time. When Shao Xuan saw him, he still had quite some snowflakes on his coat that hadn’t melted yet. However, Ge cared no more about the snow, but kept staring at those vents with the ice blocking them. He played around with the stone plate in his hands as he stared, and obviously, he hadn’t expected that something like that was stored in the cave. Ever since he was in charge of food delivery, the cave had always been dark during wintertime. In the past, he had heard from someone else that there was similar stuff in the cave, but he never thought the kids would use it. In addition, since it was messy and chaotic in the orphan cave, he did not bother to do anything more. Nevertheless, unexpectedly he saw that they used them here today.
Shao Xuan asked the other kids to help “unload” the food. Now with a sufficient food supply, the kids in the cave did not act like old times, where they fight over everything, especially when it came to food. Hearing Shao Xuan’s words, all the kids came to help, and then Shao Xuan distributed the food to different groups. He was no more his worry after the food was distributed to group leaders, for they would decide how to distribute to different people.
That day, Shao Xuan did not let Ge to leave immediately. Instead, he asked him to tell stories about the tribe to the kids. Ge did not have any other plans after the food was delivered anyways.
Shao Xuan merely wanted to learn more information from Ge, and see if the stories in Ge’s description could tell him a thing or two about the frescos in that stone wall. It was too bad that Ge’s stories were no different from the stories he heard from Lang Ga in the past. He did not get the information he wanted to hear.
Shao Xuan drew something on the wall with a carbonated branch. He knew that Ge had glimpsed at his picture and saw what was on it. However, he acted all the same, with no abnormal behaviour. Obviously, Ge did not know what the picture was.
What Shao Xuan drew was just one of those varied pictures that were on the right side of the stonewall of the stone room. Ge was considered as an experienced warrior in the tribe, and he did not recognize that picture. Shao Xuan sighed at heart, for it seemed to be very difficult if he wanted to know more about the things in the fresco.
At the end of the fresco on the right part of the stonewall in that room, under those various pictures, there was a sentence. However, Shao Xuan could not connect them to a whole sentence because he did not know a few words in it.
Even though Shao Xuan could speak the language fluently, he was not familiar with many words and letters. He planned to ask for the help of that old hunter, the next time when the old hunter came. Shao Xuan will ask him about the meaning of those words, and learn them all when he had the opportunity.
About ten days later, that old hunter finally came down the mountain again and showed up his face in the cave again.
Seeing that there were so many changes in the cave, he was shocked and surprised to know that these kids in the cave had made much progress. He was quite pleased, so he took out another animal skin roll, ready to teach something new.
In the spare time of teaching, Shao Xuan consulted a few words from him, not all the words he asked were from the stonewall. He mixed some other words in, because Shao Xuan did not want to raise the old hunter’s suspicion.
However, it turned out that Shao Xuan had thought too much. The old hunter had high interest in teaching, and nothing else. He merely assumed that Shao Xuan had seen those words from somewhere, and then he taught him one by one, quite patiently and eager.
After that, the old hunter even praised Shao Xuan, “Those words are written down well, with a certain momentum! You will turn out to be a brave warrior!”
Shao Xuan smiled about it and did not reply. The words that were praised were from the stone wall. He copied them, so even though they were not exactly the same with the original ones, they carried some of the original charm and style, because they were copied.
Judging from that, the one who left those pictures and words on the stonewall in that room should probably be a warrior, a tough and strong one.
After the old hunter had left, Shao Xuan copied all the things in the old hunter’s newly left animal skin roll, so that the kids might review from time to time. Then he went to the stone room again.
After mastering those words, Shao Xuan finally understood the meaning of that sentence.
“One day, we shall return to our previous land. Glory is still in the fire, and the fire of scorching horn will never be put out.”
After that sentence, there was a big word – “Zan”. Perhaps that’s the name of the master of that stone room, and the one who carved all those pictures and the sentence.
The final sentence was deeply carved into the wall, much deeper than any other picture, especially the last few words. From that, one could easily see the intense emotion of the person when he left the sentence on the ground.
Even though Shao Xuan still did not know why it was painted by stone powder, he felt appreciative to get the opportunity to see them. In addition, he admired the one who left those words for him to see.
From that sentence, it was easily implied that his situation or the whole tribe’s situation was not good, or even depressing. But they did not give up.
Even if the situation was in despair, it meant that hope was still there as long as one was still alive, as long as the tribe was still there.
Shao Xuan held the carbonated branch, and drew a simple image of “thumbs up” behind the word “Zan”.
He just gave him a thumbs up.