Chapter 2: Thriving on the Filthy Mountains (II)
The hot flames burned under the barbecue rack that emanated the smell of roasted meat. Even the scent of dirt and grass after a rainy day could not compete with this smell of food that could tempt many animals. A little bit later, an adult female fox with hot red fur ran to the entrance of the cave. However, the dissected body of the Ironclad Brown Bear was displayed at the entrance. The fox recognized it was a monstrous beast that could swallow him in one bite, and immediately, the animalistic instinct warned her that whatever was inside the cave was very dangerous.
Thus, she gave up on the idea of entering the cave. Instead, she just tore off some of the uncooked guts of the Ironclad Brown Bear with its mouth and ran off as quickly as she could, disappearing into the bushes.
Other animals had made the same decisions and paid visits. Some had run off quickly, and the ballsy ones just ate outside the cave. It didn’t take long for the Ironclad Brown Bear’s body to turn into an empty shell that only had bones left. It fed the hungry, growling stomachs of many animals nearby, and the empty shell had made itself useful by becoming the best natural deterrent that blocked the cave from the world.
“Eat.” Inside the cave, the woman sprinkled some salt onto the bear’s hind leg that was skewered on an iron rod and gave it to the little boy. The little boy accepted the food and started devouring immediately.
Hunger was not exclusive to wild carnivores. He, too, was hungry, but he was so quiet that it was almost like nothing had happened.
“Qi, starting from tomorrow, I’ll take you hunting with me.” The woman had a beautiful voice. Her voice was almost like the sound of a woman’s slender fingers plucking the strings on the best Guzheng in the world.
The boy named Qi nodded quietly. He finished eating the meat and drank a bowl of scarce distilled water, then went silent again.
Silence, health, and vigor were the three codes of living that the woman gave the boy. The woman tried her best to keep the three codes of living for the boy.
It went on for six years.
Time passed too quickly. It had been nine years since the boy and the woman hunted together. It had been three years since the woman left without saying farewell.
The same hideout place had mountains of beast skeletons piled together. The inside of the cave was much different than nine years ago. There was an additional cozy blanket made from animal fur pelts, resilient wall coverings made from hair-like vines; the barbecue rack assembled from iron rods, rocks, and wood, and the glasses and the ceramic bowl assembled to distill water were still the same as back then.
The cave was still as dry and fresh as back then. Time had proven the cave was a rare safe haven in the wild mountains.
The boy had turned sixteen. His gentle yet savage face had been seasoned by the winds of the mountains, giving him a dashing appearance. His black obsidian eyes were darker than ever; they were also larger and rounder, enough to charm women from underage to middle-age. His countenance was carved by the winds and rains on the mountains, his nose was chiseled by the bloody scent of prey, and his lips were shaped by tasting the flesh of wild beasts.
Every inch of his hard yet flexible muscle was trained from endless hunting battles.
He held the shiny, black three-feet-long wavy blade that was nicely polished, like the way the woman held this knife, the woman who cared for him and guided him.
“Sister Ruorong, I’m almost done all checkpoints that you have set up for me. I will make it out of the mountains this time, then I will find you, no matter where you are in this world.”
The teenager stared at the mirror-like knife that reflected his stubborn eyes. His voice was clear and bright, like the sound of jade clinking together, nice and sonorous.
His name was Wu Qi.
Wu Qi stood up from the polished rock stool that he had sat on for nine years. The pair of tan-colored leather boots on his feet were shiny and structured, the leather came from the “Giant Crocs of Abysmal Swamp” that ruled the Demon Swamps at the bottom of the mountains. The soles of the boots were as hard as steel, the two rows of spikes were his deliberately left on when he was crafting those boots. Other than that, his entire outfit was all handmade with self-gathered materials from hunting battles year after year. Their features of keeping him warm and swift were stellar.
Wu Qi left the cave with no hesitation. His traveling bag was light and simple, as there was nothing extra other than a water bottle, leather notebook, wolf-hair brush pen, a few meat jerkies.
Wu Qi walked along the dangerous forest that he knew like the back of his hand. On average, the mutated plants had grown to twice their height from nine years ago. Wu Qi was 1.8 meters tall, the bushes were tall enough to reach his chest. The mutated kapok tree branches had been pushed to even higher places by the growing shrubs, but Wu Qi still had no trouble with jumping on them easily.
The air was not that moist. It rained three days ago, but the ground was now dry. It was super easy to spot the footprints of a target in the dried-up mud. Soon enough, Wu Qi found a foot-long footprint that had five toes in an area of trampled plants. There were other visible footprints around it, including half of a four-toed footprint.
Wu Qi found the first clue with his excellent vision. Now it was the time for his even better senses of smell and hearing to guide him into safety. For an experienced hunter, advanced senses of smell and hearing were enough for them to have a clear idea of the area within a radius of ten meters. Wu Qi was up to these standards.
Inside this luscious and damp forest, hair-like vines draped and intertwined from a tall kapok tree, forming a natural chartreuse curtain. These hair-like vines were the “spider webs” to some mutated creatures that were clever enough to use it to detect movements. The vines grew wild and bushy, but only a few herbivores had munched on it when they were extremely hungry. At the same time, it effectively blocked Wu Qi’s field of view, which created some inconvenience for him.
He took out his knife and chopped at the vines. This type of action served as a warning to those mutated animals so they can bugger off and get away as far as possible.
After he cleared his field of view, he saw what was ten meters away in the slightly foggy forest with his superb vision. Plus, he had devoted many years of his life living in this forest, so much that he knew everything about the ecology of the forest. His gifted talent, battle-refined body, and supernatural senses had together pushed his overall ability to the top tier of the food chain. His swift movements, his gaze that could lock onto a prey’s movement and heartbeat, and the blade that had bathed in many creatures’ blood that lived on this land for over nine years were all threats that were even deadlier than the Ironclad Brown Bear’s vicious mouth.
Not surprisingly, once the smaller mutated animals that were ten or twenty meters away sensed the hair-like vines were being chopped down and caught the whiff of Wu Qi’s scent, they all moved away as far as they could.
Only one animal had the guts to enter Wu Qi’s sight after seven seconds. Having shoulders that were 2.1 meters broad, body that was almost four meters long, and the weight of 980 kilograms, it knew there was nothing for it to be scared of.
This was an Ironclad Brown Bear from nine years later. Its strength and agility were at least two times stronger than nine years before. Wu Qi was searching the knowledge that Ruorong had taught him, and he judged this particular Ironclad Brown Bear as one that evolved to first-order “Humongification” ability and had a mutation intensity of close to 100%.