Chapter 8 – The most beautiful word in the world
Translated by Sunyancai
The fish Shao Xuan pulled out this time was even larger in size than the first one, but Shao Xuan just knocked it out with a stone since he did not ask for the warrior’s help. Even if the fish was merely unconscious, it could not survive without water.
With the fish hung on a tree with the straw rope, Shao Xuan took out the smaller fish which was speared through, and then he found a few dry branches.
Looking around, Shao Xuan noticed that the two warriors guarding the riverside were curiously looking at his direction, so he waved to them.
The two warriors hesitated, for they had already returned to their spot, but out of compulsive curiosity, they came back to Shao Xuan.
“What are you doing, Ah-Xuan? Are you going to eat that? Do you need our help?” The warrior asked having gotten Shao Xuan’s name when he speared the fish to death.
They were scared and curious about creatures like fish. But since the fish had been dead, the guards had put their fear behind, and curiosity towards a new kind of quarry filled up in their hearts.
“Allow me this time, since you were in charge of killing earlier!” The other warrior stepped forward and quickly grasped the fish. He used his stone knife to cut it open and disemboweled its guts. While in the meantime, he discussed with his companion.
“Wow? Are those the intestines? So short…”
“Is that the stomach?”
“No, the stomach…that is the stomach, for sure!”
“Watch out…What’s that? Don’t break it. Perhaps it’s poisonous…”
“Where’s its heart? Cut more, move your knife… Ah, you’re no good at it…Let me demonstrate… you need to keep your hand steady to avoid the blood from flowing…”
The warriors were discussing enthusiastically, and Shao Xuan was standing aside, stunned and speechless.
Were they really hunting warriors? They acted just like weird forensic experts!
Two anatomy enthusiasts with an excessive curiosity!
No matter how bizarre the impression they struck in Shao Xuan’s mind, one had to admit that they were masters of anatomy! Even though it was their first time dismembering a fish, they did a quick and clean job. As they were cutting, they took the time to give Shao Xuan a lecture about the detailed dos and don’ts when hunting and killing an animal in the wild. For instance, some animal’s guts might be poisonous while some animals had poison sacs inside their bodies. Also, there were some kinds of animals that possessed delicious guts, but for unfamiliar creatures, people would normally not eat their viscera for safety’s sake.
Soon, the fish was handled and cut open, with its guts and gills removed.
“There are not many parts left to be eaten, but fortunately it’s large in size.” The warrior said as he cleaned the blood on his knife.
Since no one wanted to get near the waters again, the two warriors used some leaves to clean the fish and wipe the blood, then used those leaves to wrap its viscera and bury it besides the tree. They did that because the fishy smell might draw some extra and unnecessary attention. It would be fine in the tribe, but now they were pretty close to the river. Besides flying animals, there may be unknown creatures which were sensitive to blood. They had to be cautious and they reminded Shao Xuan to do the same, should he hunt alone himself the next time.
The tools to make fire were not so primitive as Shao Xuan imagined before, it was some kind of a powder. Every totemic warrior was allowed to carry some of that powder. When making a fire, one would take out a stone spoon and place some powder inside, and then use a stone pestle to quickly grind it. Very soon the powder inside would become flames and turn the stone spoon into a small torch to ignite hay and branches.
Shao Xuan was pretty surprised when he saw Ge, who was in charge of delivering food to the orphan cave, lighting a fire with that powder. He thought that people in the tribe might be able to drill wood to make fire, or use flints, but he had never expected them to use such convenient tools. The children in the orphan cave did not have flammable powders, meaning they could only possess the powders when they become a totemic warrior and started their own life on the outside.
Sometimes, Shao Xuan would feel an odd contradiction when observing the tribe, as if the skills they mastered were uncoordinated with their developing levels.
But wondering was one thing, Shao Xuan did not think further for now.
One of the warriors tasted the grilled fish to make sure that it was edible, and tasty even. Three people and one wolf shared the whole fish. Two warriors could not be full with such little food, and Caesar was not particularly interested in cooked food in the first place, so he just ate a little. Shao Xuan was the only one that had a good meal from the fish.
After eating, the two warriors asked for the fish bone to be kept as a souvenir. Shao Xuan’s instinct told him that they were planning to take the fish bone back to their hunting team to show it off in front of other warriors.
Later on, the two warriors returned to their guarding duty, as Shao Xuan took Caesar back to the orphan cave, carrying the other dead fish on a straw rope.
The sky grew dark and some of the kids in the orphan cave were already sleeping, while others were about to sleep, but a few were waiting for Shao Xuan’s return.
There was a bonfire inside lit up by Ge every afternoon, for kids to keep warm or cook food. It was the kindling fire, and Ku was in charge of putting it out every night before he went to sleep. In the future, Shao Xuan would be the one responsible for that too.
Standing at the entrance, Shao Xuan told Caesar to wait outside with the fish, while he took a deep breath and strode inside.
The awake kids were relatively older and they were thinking about something around the bonfire. As Shao Xuan went in, all eyes were moving with his footsteps. Shao Xuan could obviously feel their hatred, for he took the position they longed for.
After a few steps, he climbed up onto a giant stone in the shape of millstone not far from the entrance. That was the highest place in the cave and one could have a clear view of everywhere inside standing on it. That was where Ku distributed food.
Those few older kids approached. Shao Xuan looked at them and clapped his hands, “Get up! Everyone get up if you are not sleeping!”
Aside from those sound sleepers, everyone in the cave gradually came around.
Shao Xuan began his speech when he saw most of the kids were already here, and he spoke as he stared at those older kids in the front, “I know you are not convinced that I am the one to replace Ku and you want to take me down, so that you can take Ku’s former position! You kept yourselves awake to do just that, right? But! Just know that Uncle Ge was the one that put me in charge! You can just go find Uncle Ge if you have any problems, resentments, complaints or grievances towards his decision! Troubling me won’t help even a little bit!”
Those kids standing in the front frowned and clearly they were thinking the possibility of approaching Ge. Should they discuss it with Ge? Or perhaps Ge would be angry? Will he stop delivering food if he’s angry? Then would they be starved without food? That way seemed impossible. The older kids had more thoughts than younger ones after all.
Xuan looked around and continued, “Have you ever wondered why I get to take Ku’s position? I’m younger and shorter than you guys, and I’m not even as strong as you. Why did Uncle Ge put me in charge?!”
“Because I’m better than you with more ability!” Shao Xuan said firmly and he did not blink twice for lying in front of everyone. In fact, how could Shao Xuan learn about the delivery man’s mind? He was thinking about having a good discussion about it with Ge tomorrow, himself. But at the moment, what he needed to do was to go through the night first by astonishing and alarming those little “wolf cubs”, or else he’ll have to watch his back all the time, in case they would unite together to mess around with him.
Shao Xuan did think about some soft ways, but those little bastards were too tough to handle. You couldn’t reason with them and based on Shao Xuan’s observation, Ge’s decision wouldn’t be changed in a short period of time. So, having been made responsible, Shao Xuan would have to be responsible for a while, and maybe longer. This left Shao Xuan no choice but to be mighty and handle the trouble once and for all.
The kids standing in the front were angry about Shao Xuan’s words; some even raised their eyebrows. But before they could speak, they got roared back by Shao Xuan, “All of you, keep your mouths shut!”
Then Shao Xuan shouted out, “Caesar!”
Caesar was waiting outside, and he promptly dragged the fish in at Shao Xuan’s call.
All eyes were fixed on Caesar until Shao Xuan went for the fish and lifted it up. Then they noticed that there was something else.
“See that? I hunted it and brought it back!”
Shao Xuan untied the straw rope to reveal the fish’s whole body, and he lifted it with its tail so that the kids might have a clearer view.
Many fish lacked eyelids and could not blink, so their eyes remained wide open even when they were dead.
Under the not-so-bright fire lights, the fish’s red eyes appeared to be somewhat strange and dim. Its mouth opened and closed as Shao Xuan waved his hand, so the surrounding kids might see the numerous tiny sharp teeth in its mouth. The dirt on its scales got wiped out, so the fish reflected ghostly luminescence, which added the night’s coldness.
The kids at the front couldn’t help but take a step back. A minute earlier they were glaring at Shao Xuan, but now their eyes were filled with heavy fear and vigilance. In the meantime, their look towards Shao Xuan turned from hostile to discrete.
The tribe admires the strong. Powerful warriors may receive the expectation and worship from the entire tribe, and most of the time, people preferred simple and easy solutions when faced with troubles, and that solution was namely violence. Except for fighting each other, there was a simpler way to compete; by showing their game. Normally, a better game represented a stronger warrior.
For now, they were merely children with no totem power. This meant none of them were a totem warrior who could hunt outside, let alone bring any game back unless they robbed things from other kids. Hunting such a ferocious creature was impossible for each and every one of them.
It was obviously a tough creature. Look at its teeth! One could get bit very hard by those teeth!
“Can you hunt? Are you able to bring back such game, or any other edible things? Could you? You? Or you? Are any of you be able to do that?!”
The kids pointed at by Shao Xuan shrank backward again and shook their heads.
“Obviously you can’t! So swallow all your resentment and emotions down, since you can’t!”
After you punch someone with a stick, you’d better offer a carrot, so Shao Xuan needed to comfort them since he had already delivered his lecture.
He lifted the fish again.
“This is the gift I prepared for you all since today’s my first day in charge!”
The crowd was quiet at his words, and it took a while for some kid to ask in a trembling voice, “What does ‘gift’ mean?”
Another older kid continued the question, “Edible?”
Shao Xuan was shocked and then said, “…Yes.” So tiring.
The atmosphere in the cave suddenly got heated up.
All emotions like resentment, vigilance, and grievances were gone in the wind.
In their perspective, “edible” must be the most beautiful word in the world.