Chapter 21 – You are burning
Translated by Sunyancai
This was Shao Xuan’s first trip to the mountaintop.
In the tribe, people with higher position would also live higher near the top.
As they were closer to the mountaintop, Shao Xuan realized that the kids around, and those warriors leading their way ahead, including Ge, had lost their casualty as they went and became much more serious and reserved.
When Shao Xuan and his companions arrived, there were already a lot of people gathered around the fire pit. People living in mountain foot district stood relatively far from the fire pit. In fact, they were standing according to their living positions. The higher they lived in the mountain, the nearer they stood to the fire pit.
Luckily, even though they stood far from the center, the spot they stood on was a high terrain, so one could also barely see the situation by the fire pit.
How many people did the tribe have in total?
In the past he was not sure, but now, Shao Xuan had an estimation.
Today’s ceremony required all people in the tribe to attend. You had to come even if you were ill in bed, or had trouble walking. Shao Xuan calculated roughly and found out that the population of the tribe should be no less than a thousand, probably around one thousand and five hundred.
Over a thousand people did not seem to be very much in Shao Xuan’s eyes, but since he came to the tribe, it was his first time seeing so many people, so it was a lively day for him.
On the mountaintop, there was an empty ground, in the center of which there was a crater. And in the center of the crater, there was a flame swaying in the wind.
The fire pit.
This was also Shao Xuan’s first time to see the tribe’s fire pit, which was not even close to the image he had in mind.
Shao Xuan had questioned why the tribe’s fire pit would be located at the mountaintop. After all, it was the coldest place in the whole mountain. What’s more, there was already a well-developed fire maker. Why bother to keep a fire pit? Everyone spoke with extreme reverence when they talked about the fire pit. And the way they looked at the mountaintop was with unshakable devotion.
He had heard from people in the tribe, that the fire pit was connected with the tribe’s prosperity. As for how they were connected, Shao Xuan had never heard a word. Now, he may find an answer with his own eyes.
The big empty space on the mountaintop was enough for everyone in the tribe to stand on.
The crater had a radius of four or five meters, but the flame burning in the middle was just like normal candlelight. It was not bright, and it seemed like it could easily be blown out by the wind. Also, inside the fire pit, Shao Xuan did not see any wood or anything burnable. Under the flame, there were no combustion-supporting materials.
This was an eternal fire in the fire pit.
Around the fire pit, there a circle of man-height thick timber piles. A stone bowl was placed on top of every timber pile. Fresh meat, fruits and bird eggs were piled up in every stone bowl as sacrificial offerings.
Beside the timber piles there were crowds of people standing there. From the discussion around, Shao Xuan learnt that those were the strongest warriors from different hunting teams. Some of them were still young, while the others were middle-aged. In total there were fifty warriors.
Their faces were painted with the same lines as those on Ge’s face. However, what differed was that the totem on their face was no longer in a single dark color. White and red was mixed up in those lines, and they were dressed up in a grander style. Someone wore a pair of giant antlers on his head, which were much bigger in size than any of the antlers Shao Xuan had seen others wearing. They nearly covered the warrior’s body inside.
Aside from the warrior with the super giant antlers, the other warriors were wearing exaggerated decorations as well. At first, Shao Xuan assumed that the warriors he saw on his way up were already outstanding on their decorations, but unexpectedly there were some with more garish decorations.
Suddenly, the surrounding crowd quieted down. Shao Xuan looked up.
It was the Chief and the Shaman. People automatically made way for them, being extremely respectful.
There were also giant horns on the Chief’s head, while the Shaman had no exaggerated decorations. He was holding a cane, with his back somewhat bent, and wearing a grey animal skin cloak.
This was Shao Xuan’s second time seeing the Shaman, and he felt that the Shaman had not changed much since the last year, when he told him to keep Caesar.
The ones following the Chief and the Shaman, were those who received greatest attention during this ceremony.
Near eighty kids aged from ten to fourteen followed the Chief and the Shaman closely, and then stood in line beside the fire pit.
Shao Xuan saw the four kids from the orphan cave, including Mo-Er.
When they were back in the cave, they were very hot-tempered. However, now they were quiet and calm, standing there in sleeveless tops made from animal skin, with their hair combed and decorated with some bones ornaments. Ever since Shao Xuan knew them, they had never been more tidy and clean.
“So many kids this year!” someone whispered beside him.
“Yeah, I agree. Last year it was only thirty, forty at most. But this year, the number doubled.”
“This is a good sign! With so much fresh-blood joining, our tribe will be much stronger and more powerful than before.”
People were discussing, and the kids around Shao Xuan also murmured because they all felt envious. Almost everyone wondered when they could stand on the spot by the fire pit themselves.
After some time waiting, the preparation work had been finished, and the ceremony began.
The Chief was a strong warrior named Ao, and people said that his strength ranked in the top three among the tribe.
Ao delivered a short speech first, about last year’s harvest and their hope for the next year, to boost the morale. Shao Xuan had heard a lot of those similar pep-talks during his last life, so he felt no extra excitement. But the people surrounding couldn’t be more thrilled, and some of them even yelled with open arms after the Chief’s speech. All the brats also followed the yelling with their faces flushed.
After the Chief’s speech, the Shaman took over. After all, the Shaman was supposed to serve as the main character during this ceremony.
Nearly eighty kids surrounded the fire pit, and they were standing closer to the center than those fierce warriors standing by those timber piles.
The Shaman carried his cane and stood at the side of the fire pit with his back bent. He opened his arms and began to sing.
The atmosphere of the scene suddenly changed, from the earlier excitement to being tense. Each and every one kept their mouths shut and even their breathing became very careful, as if fearing to affect the singing.
Shao Xuan did not recognize what the Shaman sang, it didn’t seem to be the language that the people used to communicate throughout the tribe. And the tone sounded weird.
However, the weirder thing was still yet to come.
Along with the Shaman’s singing, the flame danced and rolled over and over. Without any combustion supporting materials, the flame grew bigger and bigger. As it spread around, the flame itself grew higher, until the flame extended to the edge of the fire pit, and covered the whole crater. The flame itself grew to at least three meters high, and in the meantime, on the top of the flame, gradually appeared a picture outlined by flames. It became more and more clear, and was gradually combined with the giant flame down there. The top curved itself symmetrically, and finally formed into two horns, wrapped in dancing flames.
That was exactly the totem of the scorching horn tribe!
There were three Flames in the fire pit. The first Flame – Soaring Flame!
The Soaring Flame became the totem!
As the totem appeared above the fire pit, the totem patterns on the warriors’ bodies began to become more obvious.
Everyone stared at the direction of the fire pit, and their eyes were filled with reverence.
It was completely dark, and the two moons were hanging up on the two ends of the sky. However, on the mountaintop, it was pretty bright and covered with a color of red because of the dancing flames in the fire pit.
The Shaman’s singing did not stop, yet it grew much louder and more sonorous. Then, sounds of drums joined the singing with a certain rhythm. The percussion of bones and stones could also be heard along the singing.
Some people clapping their hand, drums resounding high and low. However, the timbre was totally different from the drum’s sound that Shao Xuan had heard during his former life.
Bones’ clicking, stones’ hitting and drum’s beating melted together.
The male and female warriors standing beside the timber piles began to move and they joined the Shaman’s singing. One by one, they kept a certain distance and circled around the fire pit, as they were dancing with their arms and legs.
That was the ritual dance that was passed down from the beginning of the tribe’s establishment.
Shao Xuan recalled the words of his schoolmate whose major was archaeology, “Many tribes have their own styles of ritual dances. That is a very important part in each tribe’s ritual. It carries with it the unique decorum of a certain era, and conveys the worship they have towards their tribal ancestors. The ancient dance is not supposed to be delivered or learnt just by any normal person. Ancient traditions must be followed and respected.”
And now, those who were dancing around the fire pit were all elites in the tribe, and those who had earned the qualification to dance the ritual dance on the ritual activities.
Even though some moves seemed to be ridiculous in Shao Xuan’s eyes, it was a great honor that everyone desired to acquire. When back in the cave, Shao Xuan often heard some kids’ daydream about becoming one of those ritual dancers someday, and dancing during a ritual ceremony.
The melody played in the ceremony was incomparably weird, as every individual syllable sounded harsh or dull when it was singled out. However, when combined together, it was perfectly suitable for that certain time, under those certain circumstances. People felt it natural to hear that melody here and now. During this ceremony, the melody and rhythm was supposed to be like that.
However, compared with the ritual dance and weird rhythm, Shao Xuan cared more about the kids standing by the fire pit.
As the picked out warriors were dancing the ritual dance surrounding the fire pit, the flames in the fire pit grew bigger and bigger, and then many flames flew out from there.
Yes, flew out.
One after another, sparks and flames flew out from the fire pit and they floated in the air.
The second Flame of the fire pit – Flying Flame!
However, the kids standing near the fire pit did not try to avoid, but kept standing there respectfully, and let those sparks and flames float down onto their bodies.
Shao Xuan stared at that direction with his eyes wide open. The sparks and flames did not burn them as they floated down onto the kids’ bodies, and they did not even burn their clothes. It was like the flames and sparks integrated into their bodies directly.
With more flames and sparks integrated into their bodies, some kids began to show the special patterns of totemic warriors on their bodies. The more they contacted with the flames and sparks, the clearer and more complete their totemic patterns became.
The flying flames did not stop after they made contacts with the kids chosen by the Shaman, who stood around the fire pit. Quite a lot flames and sparks also flew around and afar. Some flames and sparkles also flew to the place where Shao Xuan was sitting at.
Seeing the approaching flames and sparks, Shao Xuan wanted to step aside naturally. However, he forced himself to calm down and remained standing still. Since others did not move, it should be not as harmful as he imagined.
Indeed, Shao Xuan only felt a comfortable feeling of warmth when he was contacted by the flame, with no pain of burning.
At that time, Shao Xuan was fully relieved, so he kept staring at the fire pit, regardless of the fact that more and more flames and sparks flew towards him. The kids around the fire pit were the luckiest ones among the whole year. They would acquire strength and power through the fire pit, and awaken their totemic power. He wondered if the three kids from orphan cave and Mo-Er would be able to successfully awaken their totemic powers this year.
As he was gazing at the pond, Tu, who stood right beside Shao Xuan suddenly called out his name in a low voice.
“What?” Shao Xuan came back to himself and moved his eyesight from the fire pit, only to realize that every kid surrounding him was staring at him as if he was a ghost.
“What’s wrong?” Shao Xuan wondered. He was too enthralled by the fire pit and did not notice his surroundings.
The few kids hurriedly stepped backwards, yet still stared at Shao Xuan in shock.
Tu swallowed his saliva and said, “you… you are burning…”
“Burn what?” Shao Xuan was still confused. What were they saying? I wasn’t burning…
“You… you are burning…with fire…”