The mountain was very high and quite .
There were several places where the mountain stretched straight up and down at a near 90 degree angle.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu grit her teeth and, using the and belonging to sport committee member Chén Bīn, she finally climbed to the top before dark.
She looked down at her watch, and it read 5:43 P.M. The entire journey had taken almost 12 hours.
Standing at the top of the mountain, she panted trying to catch her breath for several minutes. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu thought, shortly after with incomparable joy, that she had never expected to reunite with her classmates and teacher this way.
Had they been looking for her these past two days?
Did they notify her parents?
If her mom and dad knew she fell off a cliff, where they frightened?
But, she turned her face to see the surroundings of the peak, and stared blackly, utterly stumped for words.
This was just an ordinary mountaintop. Along the cliff grew a few Greeting Pines, and beyond that, the sky stretched an azure blue. There was nothing else.
Where was the cliff she had fallen off of?
What about the G80 highway she could see from the school bus?
Before her, a continuous mountain range covered in greenery rolled as far as the eye could see.
Surrounded by high mountains in all directions, she stood in a dip in the middle like a huge basin. This basic was not barren, however, and there many growing plants that Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu could not name.
There was a stream circling through the mountain valleys, and it was the one Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu had crossed over yesterday.
Gazing passed the basic, the mountains seemed to extend endlessly into the world, the river meandering along it. There was a completely unfamiliar world laid out before Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu.
A world she had never come in contact with.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu tightened her hands slowly tightened into fists at her sides, her body shaking slightly. She did not blink as she overlooked this distant world.
The suspicion she had repressed deep in her heart was finally confirmed.
This world was not her own.
She had crossed over.
As if to accentuate her heart's thoughts, the clock struck six and her everything was immediately plunged into darkness.
Here, there were no high-rises, no science, no technology, no cell phone signal. . . and even no sunrise or sunset.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu stood upright even as her heart descended into madness.
Shocked and confused, she was even more dazed.
Why had she come here?
How would she go back?
If she really could not go back, how was she going to live here?
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu did not sleep. Instead, she sat cross-legged at the top of the mountain the entire night.
The difference in temperature between day and night here was drastic. It was very cold at night, and she was only wearing a thin, black-printed baseball shirt with a white vest, and wide-leg pants that were not very warm. The next day, her mind was dizzy.
Having digested her circumstances overnight, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was able to ease her mind somewhat.
Regardless of why she came here, since she was unable to go back, she had to find a way to live here.
At this thought, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu raised her spirits and took two tables of cold medicine from her kit and drank it down with mineral water.
She also took two slices of bread from her space and ate it with some milk. After she ate, she began to prepare for descending the mountain.
The way down the mountain was more difficult and dangerous than going up, so Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu went very slowly. By three in the afternoon, she had only managed to make it halfway down the mountain.
This part of the road was covered in green plants and their leaves were larger than the palm of Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's hand, each with one or two pinkish flowers at the top. There were many flies buzzing around these flowers, and Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's back was also bright red and they were attracted to fly around her.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was afraid of bugs since her childhood. At the start, she could use mosquito repellent to keep them away, but these insects slowly became immune to the sprays, and only increased.
Being bitten by this kind of insect quickly caused her skin to swell and itch. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu could not help but want to scratch as the whole back of her hand soon became red.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu dared not to scratch, but quickly decided that this was not the way to go.
She looked around and found there was a tree opposite her that had no bugs at all. Even when they flew past, the flies would quickly turn and fly away.
The tree roots were no different, but there was a plant that looked like catnip under it.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's eyes were bright as she walked over to the tree at lightning speed.
Turning around, she resolved to see that those insects were no longer anywhere near here, the ones having circled above her head now scattered.
This kind of plant had a faint fragrance that could not be detected by humans, but was very irritating for insects.
So they never came too close.
To avoid the bugs for a while, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu picked several stalks of catnip and wrapped them in white gauze to make a simple sachet.
When she was done, she looked at with satisfaction and lifted her foot to leave when her toes kicked something.
It was hard like a stone.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was confused. When she bowed her head to look, she saw the grass was growing two huge antlers. They grew to either side of the tree and were rather gorgeous in complexity.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu had never seen such a beautiful pair of antlers, and while surprised, she couldn't help stooping down to touch them.
However, before she could reach them, the antlers moved on their own and the surrounding grass began to rustle.
Then, a head slowly rose from the catnip bush and uttered a groan of suppressed pain.
"Oh, who kicked me just now?"
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu stared at this adolescent boy with antlers with foolishly wide eyes. Then her legs lost strength and she fell with a thump to the ground in fright.
"You, what are you. . . ?" Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu stared at the boy in front of her, complexion deathly pale, and asked with a stutter.
The other person sat cross-legged on the ground. He looked to be a human teenager of about seventeen.
He had a pair of large antlers growing on either side of his ears, with long grey hair spread along his cheeks. His nose was also layered in grey hair. He had large eyes and lips that were slightly thick. He was also watching her.
"I?" The teenager pointed at his nose then said with a smile, "My name is Eric, what's yours?"
Receiving no response, the juvenile with antlers looked at the borderline shell-shocked Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu and scratched his head, "Sorry, did I just scare you? Don't worry, I am herbivorous, unlike those carnivorous savages, I won't hurt you."
Having seen Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's slender and weak appearance, also exuding the scent of grasses, the deer-anthropomorph took her as part of the herbivorous species.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu gaped at him, her eyes frozen on the boy's antlers and his grey nose. Her fingers tightened a little as she prepared to flee, but the young man's expression suddenly became dark. Without waiting for her to react, he grabbed her wrists tightly and pushed her head down into the grass, following shortly after to hide with her.
". . ."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu, unable to make head or tail of the situation, began to struggle and wanted to stand up, but Eric quickly put up a finger, "Hush."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu looked at his black fingers, like a deer's hoof, and pursed her lips to not make a noise.
Eric appeared to be nervous, his eyes fixed in the opposite direction.
However, with his eye catching antlers, there was a sense of disharmony trying to hide in the grass.
He appeared to discover that and quickly pulled a handful of catnip from the side to camouflage his antlers.
Not a moment later, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu felt the ground shake followed by the cry of a beast.
Eric's body tensed further.
The beast's cry was getting closer. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu looked away to see two adult cheetahs, with stripes from head to food, rushing towards them.
The cheetahs ran very quickly, and in the blink of an eye, she saw the two figures pass before her. Their thick tails drew perfect arcs in the air as they made disappeared between jumps.
Only after the two cheetahs were gone did Eric take a long sigh of relief and pat his chest as though saved.
The riddle of Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's heart only continued to grow, like a mess of wool. One must find the thread's end, and all the rest would follow.
"Why. . . why are we hiding?" Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu tentatively asked, looking at the boy who was taking the grass off his antlers.
Eric paused and, assuming Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu to be an ignorant child, patiently explained, "The leopards are carnivorous, the natural enemy of the herbivorous kind. If they found us just now, you and I would be dead."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu firmly pinched the palm of her hand. It hurt. This was no dream.
Her voice trembled a little, "What did you just say?"
Eric was puzzled but repeated obediently, "If we were discovered just now, we would. . ."
"Not that," Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu interrupted in flustered frenetic, "What did you say we were?"
Eric stared at her blankly then laughed, "We are herbivores, ah. You do not smell of blood, but you smell like grass. I should not have guessed wrong, right?" He suddenly remembered, "Oh, look at my memory. I don't have your name yet. Who are you? What's your race?"
Half the day later, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu voiced roughly, "Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu, my name is Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu."
Eric smiled warmly, "Your name really is like the humans."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's pulse sped up, but before she could ask, Eric continued, "But the humans went extinct seven hundred years ago. This continent no longer has any traces of their existence. You should have nothing to do with them."
Dropping that heavy bomb with nonchalance, Eric looked at the sky, "It is going to be dark soon. Were you separated from your tribe? My race is just behind the mountain, not very far from here. Would you like to spend the night with my tribe?"
After he finished, he saw Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's pale, dull eyes and thought she was frightened by the cheetahs just now. He carefully offered to comfort her, "Do not worry. My family, though not strong, will not let you get hurt. On the contrary, if you stay here, you will be eaten by wild animals."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu subconsciously asked, "Why?"
Eric's smile faded away and he solemnly said, "A few days ago, the leopard boss was injured and went missing. They have been looking for him. Already on this mountain, several of my clansmen have suffered an untimely death for no reason."