There were three angry characters on her forehead; no service.
She did not give up trying to make a phone call, but the phone still could not dial out.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu pursed her lips, to keep herself calm, and put the phone back into her bag, reexamining the environment around her again.
The ancient trees reached high to the sky, their leaves were elegant and luxurious, generously blocking the sunlight from overhead, and her surroundings were silent.
The trees here were weird, complicated, and grotesquely shaped, they were nothing like anything Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was familiar with, neither the familiar pine cypress, nor the common Chinese parasol tree or Black Locust. Looking back at the first sixteen years of her life, she had never seen these trees before.
All the trees here were very strange.
Her school specially selected the remote and silent deep forest for her three-day two-night class trip to stimulate the students.
Unexpectedly, just as the school bus reached the top of a hill, the driver unknowingly caught sight of something, and with a shrill scream, the bus skid against the earth without warning and rushed straight for the overhanging cliff.
The chauffeur fortunately reacted in time and hastily slammed on the brakes, and the school bus was suspected at the edge of the cliff, saving everyone’s lives.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu had bad luck and was seated next to a classmate with motion sickness, and the class leader had allowed them to open the window.
When the driver drifted around the bend, she did not have the time to stabilize her body and inertia pushed the student beside her towards her and she was thrown out the window.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu opened her eyes wide in surprise and subconsciously reached out, but her classmates turned their stunned faces away.
There was not enough time to be frightened, her body was pulled downward as if there was something dragging her forward.
When she woke again, it was in this weird place.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu felt strange. She only had a small forehead injury where it had probably knocked against the cliff as she fell and was otherwise intact.
To fall from a place that high, it was unexpectedly nothing?
In addition, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu found another mystical matter.
The small backpack with her had a lot of other things besides the stuff she had left with.
For portability, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu only brought two bags of compressed biscuits, two small boxes of Dove chocolate, a few bottles of mineral water and three sets of clothes. Worried about her great aunt’s sudden arrival, she strategically packed two packets of sanitary napkins.
Now, however, she could easily pull out a flashlight, a lighter, a Swiss Army knife, and a medicine kit from her backpack.
Even more ridiculously, even a sleeping bag and a tent could be fished out.
These things do not take up space, resembling Doraemon’s pocket, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu can see the inside of the bag, and successfully remove the items, but for her, the inside seemed to a huge, quiet space. A little familiar with this type of thing, she closed her eyes and looked carefully, only to discover the space was packed with all the supplies her class had prepared for the trip.
These things had definitely been in the bus’s luggage compartment, how could it be on her?
What exactly was this space?
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu sat on the ground in astonishment, staring at all the scattered things in front of her, perplexed.
But she had fallen from such a high cliff, and could still sit right here, it was very incredible. Finding the way back was top priority, not sitting here wasting effort.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu put her mood into order, removed povidone-iodine and a Band-Aid from the medicine kit to treat the forehead wound, then packing everything back into the space again, she left only the Swiss Army knife, preparing to find the way up the mountain.
She traveled for about half an hour, but the scenery before her did not change.
The trees were thick, solid and strange, the grass a lush, emerald green underbrush, and her surroundings were still quiet and outrageous.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu had traveled with her family several times and been to the deep mountains like this place.
No matter how pure or natural those places were, more or less there were traces of human kind left behind.
There didn’t exist anyone like her in this ambient place that was silent, primitive, and lush with vegetation growing abundantly.
She could not see any danger whatsoever, but at the same time, felt as though danger lurks on every side at all times.
Another half an hour passed. Looking at the sturdy tree trunk before her, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu felt a sense of familiarity.
Her eyebrows pinched conscientiously as she faced the large tree, then after while, she took the Swiss Army knife from her baseball coat pocket, flipped out the blade, and leaned forward to carve a few numbers into the tree.
Afterwards, withdrawing the knife, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu once again looked at this ancient tree and remembered her surroundings and restarted her journey.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu fell from the cliff this morning, was unconscious for a time, walked for an hour, she looked down at her wristwatch, and it was already 3:30 P.M.
Nights in the forest came earlier, usually before six o’clock, darkness would cover the sky and the weather would be much colder on top of that.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu realized it was impossible to ascend the mountain today, therefore she had to find a place to stay for that night before dark.
She left in the early morning and was too anxious to eat breakfast, then at noon she had lost consciousness and, again, did not eat something. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu walked for another half hour and finally felt hungry.
She only glanced briefly, but there was deep-frozen beef, seafood and other materials that ought to be what her class had prepared for her classmates to barbecue in the wilderness.
However, she did not have time to handle ingredients, she took out a lump of chocolate and a box of milk from her backpack to cope with her hunger.
Drinking down the last of the milk, her footsteps halted, and Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu looked at the tree before her with a familiar “1002” carving, and her breathe caught in her throat.
Choking on the milk in her windpipe, she coughed violently.
The trees towered high, covering the earth from view of the sun, and she was in the same place as she had come from just a moment ago.
How could that be?
She purposely walked in the opposite direction, so how could she have returned here?
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu’s expression turned to panic. The fear and unease that she had been suppressing for a long while now leaped from her mind in a race to outdo one another.
She had been tossed off a cliff, thrown into this unfathomable place, and it goes without saying, she was afraid.
Right now, she was trapped in such a large forest without any sign of a living creature around, as if she was alone in the woods.
Her shoulders trembling, she rubbed her damp eyes with a finger and cloaked herself in the sudden helplessness so deeply that she paid little mind to the sound of footsteps in the distance.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu focused on the tears, but those footsteps were growing closer.
Today, she had worn a pair of unpadded, navy blue shoes that exposed the instep. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu’s exposed skin was clear and white, like the milk she had just finished, and when a soft, wet tongue licked over the back of her foot, she stiffened in surprise, turning to look down.
A fancifully-striped animal crouched at her feet.
The round ears, blue eyes, sharp claws, and paw pads all indicate that this was a cat.
Unlike domesticated kittens, it resembled a leopard.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu reflexively took a step back, staring at this leopard cub.
It was a leopard unlike any other.
Under the eyes and to the sides of the face, there was a black tuft of hair, unlike a cheetah covered in spots. It had a slightly paler coat, and the eyes were not the usual aquamarine, but a rare sea blue.
It lapped at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu’s instep, discovering an insipidness, and immediately turned its head to slowly lick at the milk on the grass.
Milk that Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu spilled when she coughed up a moment ago.
After the little leopard licked up all the remaining milk, it raised its little head to look at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu.
Its eyes were a blue resembling the deep ocean watching Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu with intense concentration.
Probably having not eaten its fill, it took a step on all four legs toward Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu recoiled hurriedly, as if facing an enemy.
Although it was still awfully young, a leopard is not always something benevolent, not to mention still being stuck in this unfamiliar place, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu had no option but to protect herself.
The tiny leopard took another step forward.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu retreated two more steps.
The leopard did not move forward this time, instead stopping to look at her.
More precisely, to size her up?
After half the day had passed, the cub lifted a forepaw to scratch his own ears then extended his tongue to lick his paw and continued staring at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu only just caught sight of the wet blood on its hind leg, where there was a clear wound on its foot.
The flesh was lacerated, and it did not look shallow. She was surprised it could still stand so steadily.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu lowered her guard somewhat toward it, presuming that it had gotten separated from its parents and was attacked by other beats, only to appear in this place.
It had suffered so badly and probably not aggressive.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu considered for a moment, then took a box of milk from her backpack and cut off the top, slowly squatting with her arm extended to gingerly push it a meter away from the small leopard.
The cub’s dark blue pupils looked at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu then at the milk in front of it.
Quickly, it dragged its wounded body forward step by step.
It first licks at the edge of the milk, then buried its whole head in the carton to continue drinking with enthusiasm.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu looked in the opposite direction and heaved a sigh of relief.
Taking advantage of the little leopard’s attention on the milk, she drew back and hurriedly turned to leave that place.
Although a cub is of no danger to her, if by chance the parents came and saw the leopard’s injury, how troublesome would it be?
She only had a knife on her, and it would not withstand two adult leopards.
Such a thought made Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu even more insecure.
After nightfall, she did not know how many dangerous birds of prey or wild animals were in the forest. She needed to find a safe place as soon as possible.
To leave the forest, and avoid returning to the tree again, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu chose a different route.
Approximately an hour left, the trees were growing thicker and thicker and the branches lower and lower.
The branches grew in number and the leaves truly flourished.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu saw the entire forest suddenly plunged into darkness.
She could not see the hand she stretched out before her.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was distracted by the unclear situation and groped about in the dark to find the flashlight in her backpack, switching on the light.
She shown the bright white light at her wrist and saw the hour hand point right at the number “6”.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu dared not leave the light on for too long, afraid of attracting wild animals, and quickly glanced at the time then put the flashlight back into her bag.
Her mind was filled with doubt.
What was going on?
Why did the sky go dark all of a sudden?