Chapter 4: The Tree and the Beasts of Prey
Translator: Mike Editor: Chrissy
At the very summit of the Kunlun Mountains, a vigorous bush strove for life on the highest precipice, lonely yet tenacious.
It took the barren bronze as its earth, as its nutrients, and as its source of vigor. It had a glittering green body with a natural luster.
Its trunk was as thick as one's wrist. In spite of its stunted growth, its body wrinkled with rugged barks. The barks were like layers of fish scales, peeling off the sturdy trunk, revealing the vigorous core of this staunch plant.
Its leaves were like sheets of sculptures made of green jade, translucent and full of intelligence. Their shapes were like an infant's palm, supporting the weight of beads of pearl-like dew. As wind breezed by, the dew rolled like many spotless mini-pearls on a jaded plate.
There was a bud with size of a fist, growing on top of the bush. All throughout, its body was silver white, but it was spotted with golden marks. It was about to blossom, but the delicate fragrance had already started emanating from the bud.
The strange little bush silently stood there in pride.
Chu Feng tried multiple times before he finally gave up on trying to climb up via the bronze side of the mountain. He decided to risk the route that had been punctured by many rolling stones. It needed him to be extra careful, or else he would die.
He stepped down from the bronze precipice, arriving on a flatter ground. He looked up at the rocky peaks towering above him while he was making the detour around the mountain.
"How could it possibly grow on bronze?" Chu Feng felt ever so dazzled.
The world had become ever so strange. Throughout history, the world had witnessed many major mishaps taking place to reshape societies and to reshape the norms of civilization. Strangeness had become a word intrinsic to all facets of life. Nothing was unexplainable. Nothing was meant to be understood.
Everything that Chu Feng had recently encountered cause him to frown. Although he had put in lots of deliberations in trying to understand the cause of the bronze mountain and the plant, nothing seemed to be reasonable.
A shadowy figure suddenly emerged on his mind. That figure had once told him something he chose to neglect. He didn't care about those words, but now his feelings were evoked by them.
"Someday, even the weeds on the roadside might blossom with fruits the size of a fist. When that time comes, the norms and the traditional beliefs we have today will never stay the same."
This was said by Lin Naoi. It wasn't particularly articulated when she said them, so it sounded ever so facetious and casual.
Just like her parting words, her voice was gentle when she spoke, but it had a cold and indifferent undertone. It felt like she was standing at somewhere high and above. Her voice sounded afar. Anything she ever said were indistinct and distorted.
Chu Feng thought that what she said was only referring to their relationship, though in a pessimistic manner. He thought she meant that neither life nor their relationship would ever stay the same.
"Or does it have another meaning?"
During this post-civilization era, the world had witnessed many major mishaps. The majority was ignorant to the inside story, but some did hear the truth.
What did Lin Naoi actually know?
Her figure still lingered on his mind. Chu Feng let out to a deep sigh. Some said love was a river that drowned the tender reed. What had passed was in the past, and what good would it do to not let it stay in that way?
He once again looked up at the bronze peak, and something caught his eye.
Was she really implying something he was unaware of? She contended that many norms and traditional beliefs would eventually change someday, but what about the things that had already proven to be an oddity? The bush, for instance?
This bush must have been an extraordinary entity existing here even before any mishaps had ever taken place.
There were lots of stone ripraps on his path. It was a narrow one too. It hung on the verge of the bronze cliff, beside a drop that measured hundreds of meters down into the canyon beneath. It was a dangerous path to navigate.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blasted down from above. His eyelids couldn't stop twitching. He saw a stretch of shadow suddenly emerged, pouncing on him.
Something was approaching!
By reflex, his agile body made a somersault to dodge the pouncing shadow. With great momentum, he quickly rolled down the hill, keeping a considerable distance from the shadow. He even pulled out his folding crossbow in the process and quickly assembled its parts.
In an outdoor environment, especially when travelling by oneself, carrying tools for self-defense was imperative. Chu Feng let fly a steel arrow almost instantly as he turned around. Bang! The arrow was discharged.
At the same time, he realized what he had shot.
There was an unspeakable expression of surprise on his face. This creature was way bigger than any species known to men.
It was a golden bird of prey whose feathers shined with gloss. Its wingspan reached almost six meters. Just then, it dove down from the sky with a clear intent to catch Chu Feng off guard.
The steel arrow swayed into a cyan stone, striking a splash of blinding sparks. A deafening clank then sounded, reminding Chu Feng that the shot had missed its target.
At the same time, the bird's cutting claws continued chafing against the stones, producing a piercing noise that made Chu Feng's flesh creep. The bird then hastily soared to the sky as its fluttering wings blasted gusts of wind against its surroundings.
The sight sent shivers down his spine. Thanks to his sharp reflex, Chu Feng had escaped imminent death/a dire situation.
Usually, an ordinary falcon could easily shatter the skulls of its preys. These birds were notorious for what their claws could accomplish. As such, had Chu Feng failed to swiftly flounder away, it wouldn't be hard to conceive what a bloody scene the bird could have portrayed on Chu Feng just then.
Chu Feng lost no time in quickly retreating to a more advantageous terrain. He leaned against a giant boulder, aiming his folding crossbow at the sky, maintaining his vigilance.
The golden bird of prey poised in mid-air. It hovered near the ground, creating unsettling swirls of wind around the mountain.
Chu Feng had never seen such monstrosity of a bird.
Judging by its look, Chu Feng recognized it to be a golden vulture. Its feathers were pure without strays, shining with a glittering gloss. Its size suggested an incomparable ferocity and wildness in its inherence, inspiring fear in the beholder.
How could a vulture be so big? This one must have been a kind of its own.
Some old tribes might have taken this as the legendary Roc if it were seen in ancient times.
Many historical recordings of past events had been assimilated with exaggeration. A golden bird measured about six meters in length would have certainly triggered much outcry in society.
The golden vulture was a ferocious beast, but instead of diving down, it persisted on hovering. With an extraordinary sense of acuity, the vulture realized the threat that the folding crossbow posed.
Suddenly, Chu Feng sensed a smell of blood.
Three snow leopards were slowly approaching from down below without making a sound. They had eyes of a devious ghost, and mouths of an edacious sharp. Their face had been stained with blood, drastically contrasting with the whiteness of their pointed fangs, hinting their recent revel in a bloody feast.
They fixed their glare at Chu Feng, slightly arching their bodies to pose a menacing posture. They noticed the golden vulture as well, growling and moaning to express a profound sense of dread and fear.
The three leopards seemed much stronger than those of the same kind. Their sharp claws were suffused with a cold and piercing shine. Their powerful torsos were ready to leap and kill at any moment.
Chu Feng frowned on the situation. He had never thought that he would encounter anything so perilous. With a bird of prey hovering high above, and a gang of beasts creeping down below, it was a rather worrying situation to say the least.
Suddenly, the three snow leopards trembled. Something seemed to have made their blood run cold. They quickly ran for cover, dodging the subject of their fear, then they disappeared in a riprap of stones.
Quietly, a yak arrived on the mountain, partaking in the commotion. It had a black body like a silk satin, gleaming with a black gloss. It had cumbersome horns pointing upwards to the sky.
This one could be well-qualified as a yak king. It had a body that measured more than one zhang in length. All of its four limbs were sturdy and strong. It was also magnificent in physique. Its body was shaped like a black hill, stacking on top of the magnificent Kunlun Mountains.
It had the body of a hill, yet it was elusive as a snow leopard. Its appearance was quite abrupt. No one could have noticed its approach or existence.
Besides, it really struck Chu Feng as strange to see the fear inspired in those three leopards upon them seeing the yak.
The black yak cast a cursory glance at the hovering vulture, then it ceased all its movements. It quietly stood there, piously gazing at the bronze peak of the mountain.
Why did all these creatures decide to congregate here?
Chu Feng knew he was still at risk of falling prey to any of these vicious animals. He did not dare to take any risks, but instead waited for the right moment to move.
In the far distance, there were shadows of six or seven wild animals running uphill. It was moving with a very fast pace. All of them bared their cutting fangs; clearly, they were not afraid of advertising their menacing ferocity.
It was a pack of wolves. All six were tall and big. The leading one flaunted a body of white fur. A ghostly green glow pierced through its only eye, accentuating its ferocity and wildness.
They paused briefly after they had moved closer. They seemed anxious when they saw the black yak and became even more agitated when they discovered the hovering golden vulture.
Suddenly, the silence reached a breaking point. All six wolves charged in unison towards the peak of the mountain along the ragged path.
Almost simultaneously, the three snow leopards begun their action, breezing by like the wind. Their target was, too, the prey on the bronze peak.
Chu Feng hastily retreated.
The incessant roar of the beasts was brutal and relentless. All had one goal, and that was to be the first to reach the peak.
There was a loud thump as one of the leopards plummeted into its demise. Its face had been battered to a pulp, crushed and mangled beyond recognition. It was clapped to death by what seemed to be a yellow shadow.
That thing had the speed of lightning, dashing right into the group of jostling beasts, tearing and ripping everything in its way.
That was a mastiff. It had the mane of a lion and the size of a Tibetan mastiff. Its claws had been incarnadined with the blood of leopards.
It was not only a fearsome beast but also an agile one. It could leap for more than a few meters before gnashing its powerful teeth into its victim.
The wolves howled in pain as blood spurted from the gashes. One of the wolves had had its neck snapped, then tragically flung into the depth of the canyon beneath.
Another wolf was bumped into the air, its head smashed onto the bronze cliff and instantly fell into a torpor.
"This is the true mastiff from the Tibetan legend!"
According to the locals, a true mastiff belonged to the wildness. It could battle lions and tigers, but its rarity meant not many people had ever spotted one.
This mastiff was even better than the one living in the legend. It was fast like a lightning bolt, blitzing right into the party of beast. It took out one leopard and two wolves in the beat of a heart.
This must be the mastiff king, Chu Feng supposed.
The mastiff once again leaped into the air, landing its atrocious claws right on the eyes of a wild wolf. Its claws were as dreadful as a bear's paw. With an explosive puff, the wolf's eye popped from its socket.
As it landed, the mastiff flung itself onto a leopard. The poor beasts soon found themselves writhing in agony.
The snow leopard collapsed in a pool of blood. As their throats had been pierced through, their deaths were already imminent.
The mastiff remained unscathed. That ring of hair that had stayed erected around its neck seemed like a lion's mane. Although it looked sawed-off and scrubby, it had the imposing manner of a menacing lion. It leaped up again, bearing down on the other beasts that remained.
Chu Feng could not believe that a mastiff could ever be so ferocious.
The last leopard died at last. The one-eyed wolf was the only survivor. It desperately ran for its life, only wanting to ride out safely from this brutal massacre.
But only with a few leaps and jumps, the mastiff caught up with it. The mastiff deeply gnashed its teeth into its neck, almost snapping off its whole head.
That's it. All nine ferocious beasts were disposed in only a few minutes.
Chu Feng clung to his folding crossbow as he braced himself to face the potential danger.
The mastiff finally calmed. Its mouth was dipped in blood, but none of which was its own. Its brownish mane was stained with blood drained from the other beasts. It kept its body still as it looked up to that bush on the bronze precipice.
The black yak's gaze was also fixated on the little bush. It stayed calm and composed throughout the fight. Not for once had it ever moved an inch.
The fluttering sound reminded Chu Feng of the vulture's presence. It poised in mid-air, overlooking this very bush on this very peak.
The three strange creatures were all calm and mystifying. Their actions were cryptic and inexplicable, yet they all seemed to have a man-like intelligence. They had poise and were able to keep their equanimity. Their goal was that bush on the peak, but none of them promptly acted. All seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
Chu Feng was amazed. All these creatures were really quite extraordinary. They were the exceptionalities Chu Feng had been looking for.