Five Dragons Mountain, Five Dragons Ridge.
Five Dragons Ridge was a small town at the foot of the mountain. A little over fifty thousand people there lived off the mountain and the natural hot springs, raising an economy that was on the flourishing side. The dozens of spa sanitaria, hotels, swimming pools, and bathing centers of all sizes were fully booked throughout the year.
However, business had been dismal lately—thanks to that beast in the mountain. Not only did visitors stop coming, the local folks were also panic-stricken.
After being shooed out of the door by her brother and sister, Long Qiu arrived at the town that same afternoon. She found the streets abandoned and the overall atmosphere strange. The handful of passersby she saw on the streets had anxiety and fright written all over their faces.
She literally had zero preparation and had arrived with nothing by herself. After making some peaceful consideration by the side of the road, she decided she should find someone to make an inquiry with. Please bear in mind that this was her very first operation on her own.
"Uncle, please take me to the mountain gate."
She hailed a shabby electrical tricycle (unlicensed cab) and hopped in like it was the most natural thing. The elder owner gawked at her: such a pretty girl, and with nice clothes, too. 'Are you sure you want to ride in this thing?'
Seeing the old man's silence, she asked again, "Uncle?"
"Oh, ok! That'll be five yuan 1 !"
The old man came to himself, turned the handlebar this way and that, and zigzagged their way away from the station.
The tricycle chugged its way forward and the old man couldn't help but peep at that half little face through the rearview mirror that he had installed himself. Those cheeks were as fresh and fine as newly picked lychee pulp and the skin of her nose as smooth as goose grease; she looked like a bright white moon sitting back there.
As the saying went: rejuvenated, an old man would let his fiery zeal show, fancying marrying a young woman. Every now and then, one could not help but be attracted by beauty (and let their unspeakable imagination fly)...
After much peeping, the young girl still kept her silence. He was about to try to strike up a conversation when she suddenly spoke, "Uncle, I was told that there is this beast up on the mountain. Is it true?"
"True! That couldn't be more true! It killed someone just this morning!" The old man was cheered up right away. "They were saying that it came all the way from Tianhua Mountain, but no one has seen what it looks like so far. Gosh, just look at what it's done to our town. Everybody is too sacred to come here. The five richest bosses in the town let the word out yesterday: ten million for whoever that can kill that thing! That's ten million, on my god. I'd be right on my way in if I had the balls…"
"Is it still up there?" Long Qiu automatically filtered out the irrelevant bullsh*t.
"Should be. It only killed someone this morning… Why, little girl, you're not going up there, are you?" The old man found the question strange.
"I'm just curious and come here to have a look."
"I see. Be careful, then. The area is sealed off now. You can't go up there even if you want to."
It wasn't the most clever way to fish for information. On the other hand, the old man wasn't the smartest man in the world, either. So, an equal match.
The tricycle soon arrived at the mountain gate. Long Qiu got off and saw that instead of a bleak scene she imagined, she was looking at a rather boisterous lot. The square was arrayed with tents of all sizes and colors, which people were going in and out of. They chatted and dined happily in twos and threes, as if out for a picnic.
At the mountain gate, however, was a picture of stark contrast. The road blocks were guarded by grave-looking police officers carrying loaded guns.
It only took Long Qiu a second to realize that the crowd was either app users or onlookers who had nothing better to do but to make a joke out of the whole thing. She then stealthily made her way round the mountain gate and headed north. A few kilometers later, where there was not a soul around, she jumped over the protective net and disappeared into the woods.
"Golden Silkworm, go!"
As soon as she landed, she released her most effective move. The chubby baby nodded and dashed into the woods in a whish. A couple of steps out and it turned into a snake, which slithered on for a short distance before turning into a frog—it was having a great time.
Long Qiu planned to wrap it up ASAP and pushed forward herself as well.
Five Dragons Mountain was not too big and the terrain was rather flat, but it was endowed with a variety of landscapes—peculiar peaks, grotesque rocks, waterfalls, deep pools, as well as plenty of plants.
She threaded through the trees like a wood elf, spreading out her mental force to aid the search. About twenty minutes into the search, there came a sudden growl in the distance. "Roar!"
The sound resonating in the mountain came from the southeast. At the same time, she sensed Golden Silkworm was approaching her rapidly.
Spinning around on the tip of her toes, Long Qiu turned gracefully in the air and dashed into the woods like a deft young swallow.
The thing growled repeatedly and was getting closer. With a loud rustle, the chubby kid came out first, then cheerfully hopped onto its master's shoulder and clapped its hands in a soundless laughter.
Immediately after that, the branches shook violently and an enormous shadow emerged as if falling out of the sky.
It was over four meters long and as tall as over two and a half meters. It had pure black hair in thick, short, and hard bristles, four stout, short legs, and very well-developed tusks that were 20 cm long.
It was an unnaturally huge boar.
Long Qiu eyed the thing, the look on her face strange. She couldn't help but break into laughter after two seconds.
The boar's short tail was tied into a bow, which cocked up high at its rear, shaking comically with the angry move of its body. Needless to say, it was Golden Silkworm's doing.
"You little rogue. Making trouble again, aren't you?"
Rubbing the child's head, she found the Golden Silkworm was getting more "off-key" these days. Having invested so much in raising this little thing, she hoped it wouldn't go all haywire one of those days.
The boar had chased the Golden Silkworm all the way here and was ready to have a good fight, but did not expect to find a human who was not showing the least respect towards it. Eyes bloodshot and extremely agitated, it dug its hind hoof into the ground, as if ready to charge.
The next second, however, the beast as huge as a small mountain seemed to give a flicker and disappeared from where it stood.
Long Qiu was genuinely stunned. A boar that knew how to flash out of sight? What sort of ability was that?
As much as she was amazed, it did not worry she to the least. Sliding her left foot sideways, she effortlessly moved several meters away.
The boar landed right at that moment. Realizing it had charged into empty air, its beady eyes were filled with utter astonishment.
Ever since it somehow acquired that move, it had never failed until now. Last time when it was surrounded by six men, it was with this move that it snuck to below the tree and took out one man first.
Why wasn't it working now?
Its poor little brain was not enough to handle such a complicated question. Kicking the ground with its hind hoof again, it flashed out of sight a second time. Long Qiu dodged swiftly and deliberately did not fight back, but only observed.
The boar was indeed as thick-headed as it looked. After a fourth flash, it was already worn out and began to whee and grunt.
"I see. It was not really teleporting…"
Xiao Qiu had by now figured out what it was doing. The boar seemed to have acquired a, well, natural gift of sorts, which enabled it to raise its speed to a maximum with a momentary burst of energy, with which it could charge out for a short distance.
The distance was within five to eight meters, which it could reach in the blink of an eye. That was why, at the first look, it looked like teleportation.
"I expected it to be an ordinary mutated beast, but this one is actually worth of some consideration…"
Long Qiu gave a little hop and landed steadily on its back, where she sat down and began to think.
The boar grew all the more irritated and did all it could to shake its body around, but could not get rid of the person on its back no matter what.
The ability of the short-distance charge was likely an unexpected talent brought by the exposure to the spiritual essence. Like her brother once said, one of the most important factor that would affect the result of instrument refinement was the own property of the material.
For instance, if the material came with "burning", the refined instrument would also "burn"; if the material came with "sharpness", then the refined instrument would also have a "sharp" quality.
However, so far they had not discovered more than a handful materials that came with such properties. In that case, she wondered if they could have a go with this boar.
Moments later, Long Qiu made up her mind. She reached out a fair hand and put the open palm flat on its head. Her energy than charged out… clack!
The top of its skull was shattered like broken glass.
All signs of life left its eyes and the boar collapsed to the ground without any warning. The death was instantaneous.
Long Qiu hopped off and walked around the enormous heap. Her eyes suddenly fixed on the spot between its hind legs.
"Move that leg aside," she ordered.
Golden Silkworm protested in silence.
"Move it now!"
'No, I won't!'
Golden Silkworm stared back at her.
Seeing that Golden Silkworm would not yield, Long Qiu could only flip the dead body with a streak of energy so that it was lying on its back. The hind legs then slid down, revealing the part in between.
Long Qiu scratched her head. Usually only the male boars had tusks, which made her think this one was a male. It was indeed born under some lucky star. The change it took was so significant.
On a second thought, she realized that female boars would live in groups, while the male ones lived on their own. Could there be more than one out there?
"Where did you find it? Take me there."
Right away, she ordered the Golden Silkworm to lead the way. They walked for a long while before reaching a valley and, after some more search, they finally found a cave. As expected, there were three piglets inside.
They were lying around in the cave. Seeing the strangers, they rolled to their feet and began to whee as ferociously as their little voices allowed.
Long Qiu was purposefully irritating the little ones and stopped when she was less than a meter away. She even waved at them.
One of the piglets was so angry that it dug the ground with its hind hoof and whooshed out of sight. Long Qiu's face lit up. Reaching out, she seemed to have grabbed a little boar out of thin air, which was kicking around fiercely and would not stop struggling.
"You can do it as well! Great!"
Delighted, Long Qiu knocked the three piglets out and returned to the dead body.
She was going to take everything back to the mountain for her brother and sister, so that they could see what sort of treasure they could make out of them. However, how was she going to transport everything back?
"Holy sh*t, the admission score of that school is out. My son is only two points higher than that. That was so goddamn lucky!"
"He got in, didn't he? That's good news."
"That's good news all right, but I can't go back! They're having a feast at home today and I'm playing the janitor here!"
A group of police officers were chatting at the mountain gate, complaining about this lousy task every two sentences. Such arrangement couldn't be helped. More than twenty people were killed or injured, making it a major case by every standard.
Moreover, a mutated creature was involved, rendering it all the more problematic.
The government had its hands tied at the moment, for the forest was the creature's playground. However experienced the soldiers were, once inside, they were nothing but helpless greenhorns. Word had it that the authorities of Shengtian and Dongyun were discussing the issue now. If nothing worked, they'd have to turn to the priests of Taiqing Palace for help.
"Sigh, it comes with the job. We'll be able to rest when we retire!"
The police officer heaved a sigh, took out a cigarette, and was about to light it. However, his hand shook, dropping it to the ground.
"What's wrong with you? Dementia got you or something?" teased one of the colleagues.
"She, she, she…"
The fellow pointed into the distance and could not stop himself from shaking. The other turned to look and their jaws went slack.
Descending gracefully along the long mountain track was a young lady as fair as white jade and as lovely as a fluffy toy who was carrying a piglet in each hand. The more frightening picture was that behind her, a mountainous heap was floating in midair.
Yes, it was floating.
She quickly walked up to them and smiled. "Hello, my name is Long Qiu. Could you do me a favor?"
An astounded silence.
"Hello? Hello, wake up, please?"
"You're Long, Long, Long Qiu…"
Coming to themselves, the police officers were then scared out of their wits. What was Princess Phoenix Mountain doing here?
"Um, it's me. Do you mind helping me to take it back to Bai Town?" Xiao Qiu pointed at what was behind her.
"That's, that's really not…" One of the fellows was about to play by the book when his colleague gave him a nudge. "Oh, sure! Of course! I'll dispatch a vehicle here right away!"
"Ha, thanks so much."
The fellows were extremely efficient and a large truck arrived in no time. Then, surrounded by all the eyes, the Golden Silkworm fought back its urge to swear at someone and tossed the giant boar down.
The truck that weighed a few tons itself shook with the impact.
After that, the mountain gate was wide open and two police officers walked out to clear the site. "Make way, please. If everyone please move to the side! Do not gather in the middle of the square!"
"What the hell? Why do we have to move?"
"Exactly. What's wrong with us having a picnic here? We aren't bothering anybody!"
The onlookers were disgruntled at the request and all began to yell. Among the hubbub, a gigantic truck rumbled out—loaded on it was an even more gigantic boar.
It was so big that it was taller than the open-box bed; its head was clearly rising above the sideboard.
A hush fell over the square as everyone was dumbstruck by the passing truck, as well as the glimpse of that girl in the passenger seat.
Uncle Jiang sighed and flicked his cigarette, completely unaware of the ashes dropping out of the ashtray.
He was sitting in the dim-lit living room of his villa, which seemed even emptier than usual with him being the only one to fill the space.
As a matter of fact, he was at a loss himself. Lately, he had been more irascible than ever and would lose his temper over the tiniest problem. A couple of days ago, he had a row with his wife and was impervious to all reason. So much so that a woman as gentle as Yang Qing could stand him no longer and left home.
He was at the time in the middle of a deal and had to see a client… before he realized, Yang Qing had been away from home for three days.
Rubbing his temples. Uncle Jiang stubbed out the cigarette. Despite the inexplicable sulkiness, he still picked up his phone and dialed the number.
"Toot… toot… toot…"
The call only went through after a long while, but the person on the other side said nothing.
"Hello, Qing Qing?"
Uncle Jiang called her by the nickname of her youth.
"Oh, it's you, Old Jiang…"
A voice rang out two seconds later, which sounded extremely tired and was accompanied by a faint chewing noise.
"What are you doing?" He found it strange.
"I'm eating. I'm hungry."
"Oh, it was my fault the other day. I apologize. I'll come by and pick you up in a moment. Please don't live by yourself out there," said Uncle Jiang.
There came another lengthy chewing sound, reminding him of someone very, very hungry. The voice then answered quietly, "Sure. I'll wait for you."
"In that case, you… hello? Hello?"
She hung up.
Uncle Jiang frowned. His wife did not sound all right!
He sat there dazed for a moment before suddenly rising to his feet and rushing out of the house. He was in the yard when he realized all was dark around, even the night sky above. It then dawned on him: oh, it was their area's turn for the blackout.
Shaking his head, he got into his car and found a couple walking in the front, who were engaging in the most cloying conversation.
"Aiya, the blackout is so annoying. I was going to watch GOT tonight."
"Hoho, don't worry. We can pump back the electricity ourselves tonight."
"Stop it. You're not getting anywhere near me tonight. It takes forever for you to stop."
"Why, you hold on to me too tight!"
Uncle Jiang honked the horn impatiently and the couple finally moved aside with much cursing. He then drove out of his residential area and headed for Liliac Lake.TL/N: roughly 70 cents.