"How are things looking? When will the leopard race leave the mountain? . . ."
"Eric, another two people were hurt today. . ."
Eric was the grandson of the clan's oldest patriarch, but he was also the race's youngest and strongest warrior. He was kindhearted, and usually, people liked to ask him for help.
The leopard beastmen were disturbing their race, so Eric volunteered to go look at the mountains. Now, everyone was concerned.
However, the quick succession of questions were left unanswered as the clansmen caught sight of the petite woman behind Eric. Stunned, they all turned their attention to Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu.
Eric was of the reindeer race, and their general size was rather large. Both male and females were tall and strong.
Standing beside him, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu did not even reach Eric's chest.
She was very small, slight in stature, with a thin neck that looked as though a pinch would snap it in two.
Compared to their bodies covered with hair, her smooth skin and hairless body was the appearance of a child not yet fully grown.
Faced with the doubts of his clansmen, Eric took the initiative to explain, "Her name is Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu, I met her on the mountain. She was separated from her race, and I invited her to stay overnight. She will leave the mountain after the danger is over."
Danger naturally referred to the leopard race.
The beastmen did not speak, and continued to stare at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu with suspicion in their eyes.
This girl did not appear to be the same race as them, and she wore a strange style of dress. Wouldn't she just cause trouble?"
One could not blame these people for their thoughts. Recently, too many of their own had been injured, and everyone was endangered.
Eric was perceptive of everyone's thoughts so he quickly said, "She is like us, herbivorous. Smell it, she has the scent of peppermint."
At this remark, the reindeer beastmen raised there sensitive noses and really picked up the scent of grass.
In a split second, they lay down their guard and revealed friendly smiles to Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu.
"That being the case, it is better to live at my house. My family has a spare room."
"We have a new species of corn this year. I don't know if you would like to try it? I'll bring a little over."
"What is your race? You look like a minor, your parents will be worried."
. . .
The reindeer race really was friendly and good-natured.
Once aware that Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was not a threat to them, they became very cordial.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu barely managed to smile, her fingers tightly holding the sachet at her waist, which she quickly hid behind her.
In the end, Eric tactfully declined the clansmen's invitations and invited Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu back to his grandfather's place.
Eric's grandfather was called Barry, and he was the oldest and most prestigious elder of the race.
Both of Eric's parents died early, holding him in their arms.
"Grandpa, I brouht back a new friend," Eric said with a cheerful voice as he pushed open the gate.
An old man with a hunched back was drying mushrooms in the garden, and he slowly turned around when he heard Eric's words. . . If not for the antlers on his head, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu would have thought him to be an ordinary old man.
The old man still had not turned to see who greeted him. "Eric, come help me set these mushrooms to dry in the sun. We have to store food before it becomes winter. . ." His line of sight fell on Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu and he immediately stopped.
Eric was very practiced in the way of introduction, "Grandpa, this is Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu. I met her on the mountain. . ."
Regardless of how shocked Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was at that moment, she knew, that to survive, she had to integrate into them as soon as possible.
Therefore, she respectfully and obediently called, "Patriarch."
Barry's long face lost his smile and his hands dropped a fresh mushroom as he looked at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu. After a long moment of silence, he slowly picked up the mushrooms dropped on the ground, "Oh. . . a new friend."
Eric nodded and continued, "She's gotten lost from her race. Grandpa, can we think of a way to help her find her way back?"
Barry was always tried not to hurt anyone, and he would rarely refuse those who asked something of him.
Eric's helpfulness and morality were inherited from him.
However, this time, he stared deeply at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu and unexpectedly refused. "We won't be able to help her."
Eric was startled. He had not thought his grandfather would refuse so bluntly. "Why not? Every race has their own settlement. As long as we know what race she belongs to. . ."
Barry calmly interrupted, "Her race is not here."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's heart suddenly jumped and she looked up at Eric's grandfather.
But, after finishing this sentence, Barry said no more and turned back, walking silently into the wood cabin.
Eric scratched his cheek and comforted Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu, "Do not worry. With so many things happening recently, Grandpa may have said so to protect the race. You can rest assured that, since I promised to help you find your race, I will not go back on my word."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu nodded inattentively and smiled at him, "Thank you, Eric."
Supper was a simmered soup served with rice, corn and wheat sprouts.
The raw corn and mushroom soup Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu found acceptable, but the sprouts were hard to swallow.
Luckily enough, Eric and his grandfather did not mind. Eric believed that she simply was not fond of wheat sprouts, so he gave her another bowl of mushroom soup.
After the meal, Eric when to his friend, Carter's, family to borrow some wood planks. There was a vacant house at the west side of the garden that was ventilated and clean, but it needed a bed.
Once Eric had left, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu took the initiative to clean up the table and glanced at the old man weaving a mat in the courtyard.
After a long time of wavering, she shyly walked to the old man and asked hesitantly, "Patriarch, why did you say my race is not here?"
Barry stopped weaving the mat that was to give Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu a bed, "Where your race is, I think you should understand better than I."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu originally held only a trace of hope in her chest, but to hear him say this, she was more convinced that he must know something.
He had said it well. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's race was not here, not even in this world anymore.
"Then . . . do you know how I can go back?" Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu continued to restrain herself, but nevertheless had to ask.
"I do not know," replied the patriarch without lifting his head.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu hung her head. It came as no surprise, but she was still extremely disappointed.
After a while, the patriarch asked, "Does Eric know your real identity?"
"He doesn't. I did not tell him." Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu shook her head and pinched the hem of her coat, "Eric told me that. . . Is it true that humans went extinct seven hundred years ago?"
Barry nodded, his face tranquil, "Is true."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu's heard crashed into the abyss.
The patriarch did not know what to think, so he turned to look into the distance. The bifurcated stag antlers also rose up, "Humans were the most intelligent and dangerous creatures since the beginning of time. They invented impossible things and changed many organisms. Unfortunately, they failed to adapt to the changes in the environment in the end and were reduced to such a state."
The old man's voice was distant. "Seven hundred years ago, the weather changed dramatically and the sky and earth turned upside down. The four seasons turned to chaos, the day and night continued without end, and while everything else began to adjust, humans, too, disappeared."
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu thought that there didn't seem to exist dusk and dawn here, and her chest tightened with fright.
The day and night turned so upside, causing the loss of dawn and dusk, happened after the seasons became chaotic?
Barry finished the well-made vine mat and eyed Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu, "Where are you from? Human survivors?"
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu shook her head, "No." How was she going to explain how she came here to the old man? "I do not know how I came here. When I tried to go back, I couldn't."
She clearly remembered falling from the cliff. There had been a force dragging her down.
As if it were deliberately pulling her to this world.
Barry didn't open his mouth to speak for a long time until he caught sight of Eric's figure from a distance. Then he slowly said, "This is the westernmost part of Asia. If you want to find out how to go back, it is better to go to the eastern sea. There is a turtle there, named Pat, that has lived for a very long time. He may be able to help you."
He had just finished when Eric pushed the gate open and entered, "Grandpa, what were you talking about?"
Barry shook the finished mat and said with a kind voice, "It's nothing. Go make the bed. It's going to be dark soon."
Eric smiled at Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu, showing his teeth, and turned to carry the pile of planks on his shoulder to the other side in a beat.
Eric was very efficient. Before dark, he made a solid little bed. A rattan mat was laid out over it, covered in a layer of cotton, then another layer of rattan mat. The two mats were then stitched together to make a simple mattress.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu went to bed for the first time since crossing over. Though not as comfortable as home, she slept very well.
After daybreak, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu made a decision.
Despite the uncertainty, she still wanted to go to the eastern sea to take a look.
What if she found a way to back? She had no other place to go.
After making her decision, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was prepared to bid farewell to Eric and the patriarch but found that Eric was not in the yard.
"He went to the mountain corn field," Barry told her.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu inquired for the approximate direction and readied herself to go.
The patriarch wanted to send her off but he was getting old and his footsteps unsteady. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu gracefully declined, "No, you just sit here. It's not that far anyway."
He knew his physical condition, so he did not insist.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu slung her backpack onto her shoulder and went into the mountains.
She found that there were other races nearby aside from Eric's, the sheep and rabbits.
Gazing at a group of long eared beastmen, Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu thought about finding a longer way around. She didn't want to be discovered by them and provoke unnecessary trouble.
This road and the one Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu took yesterday were a bit alike. There a lot of unknown flying insects around, but Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu was wearing her catnip sachet so they did not come close.
In the distance, she could see the cornfields.
Eric was standing with his clansmen, breaking off the corn.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu walked over step by step, when she suddenly stopped and looked towards the woods.
A mossy green ray of light flashed past. Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu looked carefully for it, but it had already disappeared.
Why did she feel like there was something following her all the way?
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu shook her head and was preparing to go into the cornfield when she saw the grass move. Followed by an oncoming breeze, an agile figure rushed out of the grass and, without allowing Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu time to react, threw her to the ground and claws tightly gripped her shoulders.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu suffered immediately, her brow pinching in pain.
She looked up, and above her was the strange face of another beastman.
The other person's eyes were blue-green, under which a cluster of black hair spread down to the chin. He had a black nose, and his mouth was open, exposing sharp teeth.
Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu, astonished, opened her mouth in a gape. There was not enough time for the fear to set in before another member of the leopard race also emerged from the grass.
The beastman looked at the weak hands of the girl and asked, "Rhode, what are you chasing her for?"
The leopard called "Rhode" still pressed down on Jǐ Xiǎo Ōu. Leaning over, he sniffed her everywhere and said with certainty, "There is nothing wrong with my nose. She smells of Ryan."