There was a peculiar look on Zhou Quan's face. He looked somewhat faltered and bashful. There was something on the tip of his tongue, but he seemed reluctant to let it out.
Then, with a silly simpering look, Zhou Quan nudged Chu Feng lightly with his knee and quietly whispered, "Do you reckon that the person who had grown a full pair of wings would soar and hover in the blue sky?"
"Maybe." Chu Feng nodded, then he felt a bit amused. "It's not you who became the winged creature reported in the news, so why did you look all faltered and shy?"
"Don't you remember that I also have one of those glittering red fruits I took from a weed?" Zhou Quan carefully unwrapped a paper ball as he spoke. Inside was that stalk of weed that had been dug out earlier. Its fist-sized fruit was like a beautifully wrought carved agate with a rich aroma.
"If I put my life on the line and nibble away this fruit, what do you think I can grow?" Zhou Quan asked. Now, he looked even more shilly-shally than before.
This time, Chu Feng did not crack a smile, instead he had a solemn expression on his face. This would not have been much of a deal if they had never learnt about the potential of such a fruit. Now as they looked at it, they realized how much of a transformative metamorphism it could bring.
"I reckon we should wait for more updates on that winged man in the future. We need to be certain about any potential risks that associate with it," Chu Feng said.
"What an aromatic fruit you have there. What fruit is it?" asked the middle-aged man who had offered them the ride.
The car was speeding away from that small town, flying on the highway towards the end of the horizon.
"It's a wild fruit. No ideas what species it belongs to, so I don't really dare to eat it myself," Zhou Quan answered.
Indeed, Zhou Quan dared not to eat it. Just in case that what would grow on him was eventually not a wing, but rather some horns or tails, by then, he wouldn't even have the chance to regret it.
"Right. Don't eat it if you don't know about it. Nothing could be more troublesome than food poisoning at a time like this," the middle-aged chauffeur kindly reminded, then, he gave vent to a deep sigh.
He was worried about his family.
Hell seemed to have broken loose almost overnight. Strange occurrences cropped up almost everywhere across the country. Especially after personally experiencing it, he had never been so terrified in his life before. He only wished to get home as soon as he could, so throughout the journey, the car seemed to be going at a lightning speed.
One had to admit that this middle-aged man drove quite adroitly. The ride felt alarmingly dangerous, yet the thrill it brought was unparalleled by even the wildest adventure. It was quite an experience, but not much for Zhou Quan.
"Impressive! What a breathtaking joyride! Woo Hoo!" But soon, the continual jolting, rocking and tossing made Zhou Quan realize that this was not the thrill his body wanted. Carsickness soon developed into nausea and retching. He then gradually fell into a torpor.
The car was moving in full throttle. Even Chu Feng felt a bit dizzy by looking through the window at the speedily receding scenery outside. He was worried that driving so fast might lead to a severe accident.
He looked back and saw that bush of verdant vines still shrouded the vastness of the sky. Despite hours of speedy advance on the country road, they were still under the watch of this enormous cluster of vines.
It was suspending in mid-air. Its main body was kept distant to the ground. It looked like a green castle of sky-high stature. At the same time, it also looked like the outline of an undulating mountain range, grand and magnificent.
Deity Biomedical Group... what a name! Chu Feng mused. He used to think that this name might have just been randomly blurted out by Lin Naoi's father when he was in his high and vigorous spirits.
Now as he thought about it, he realized that the name might have carried certain specific implications beneath it. Judging by Lin Naoi's strange demeanors at times, he firmly believed that this family must have some insights into the truth that had been hidden away from the general public. She must have been anticipating something otherworldly to happen for a long time.
He finally comprehended that uniform look of indifference and aloofness on the faces of all her family members when all he wanted was to kiss her goodbye after graduation. It was the look of despise and contempt, and it was also his status as an ordinary outsider that made him unworthy of any forms of interaction with Lin Naoi. In the end, all he deserved was a wave of hand to farewell what had never belonged to him.
"What's the matter brother? Why do you look so dumbstruck?" Zhou Quan asked as he saw Chu Feng staring out of the window with unseeing eyes.
"Thinking about my ex," Chu Feng thoughtlessly blurted out.
"Did you break up with her? And now in a train of regret?" Zhou Quan asked with a smile.
"No. It was her. She broke up with me," Chu Feng answered forthrightly and honestly. To him, it was nothing disgraceful to be frank about it.
"Did you let go of it so fast?" Zhou Quan was surprised then began to wail mournfully. For him, his first love could never be deleted from memory easily. He was all heart-broken for almost two years. He felt that he could never let this die in his memory. His latest visit to Tibet was to actually cherish the memory of his first love and to let go of all his grief and misery.
"She had always been flat with me," Chu Feng replied, "There wasn't even a high incidence of us walking abreast. It had started plain as water, and then it ended in a prosaic way."
"Why? What happened between the two of you?" Zhou Quan curiously asked.
Chu Feng shook his head wearily. He had let it out, but understandably, he was also coy about the details of his insipid romance. He wanted to say no more.
At last, after hundreds of li of endless journey, the middle-aged man was nearing home. Chu Feng and Zhou Quan could no longer take this lift. They had to be dropped off somewhere before their destination.
"Those vines are out of sight now!" Zhou Quan realized that the blue sky was no longer clouded by the overgrowth of vines. This out-of-darkness moment made him feel ever so relieved.
Under the shade of the overbearing vines, there was an inexpressible feeling of constraint.
Half an hour later, they entered a neighboring city. They came to an inter-city bus station where they would then catch a bus heading northwards towards Taihang Mountains.
After the bus had been successfully dispatched, they felt a burst of ease and relief. They had been fearing that the current situation might perhaps hinder the buses from dispatching, but now it proved that their worry was redundant.
"To me, it is highly likely that this area has not encountered any strange occurrences so far. I think all the strangeness was only happening in that particular part that we just went through. I reckon everything that has happened so far was all thanks to that cluster of vines overhead!" Zhou Quan seemed indignant.
This coach's final destination was a metropolis in the north that had been the ancient capital of six dynasties.
During its trip, it would stop by the foot of Taihang Mountains.
"If everything goes as planned, we will get home before the sun sets," Chu Feng said.
There were only eight hundred li between that northern metropolis and where they departed, so even if they ran into a congested traffic, they would still arrive before the sun set.
Strange things occurred in succession at many places, so naturally, these occurrences became the most discussed topic in the coach.
"It is said that missiles have been used to bombard some of the stuff that have been floating in space."
"Yeah, I heard about that too. But I'm yet see any official reports from a reliable source, so I can't decide if this rumor is trustworthy or just bogus."
The voices of debate in the coach were all in a muddle. Discussions were mixed with a jumble of different opinions.
Chu Feng and Zhou Quan looked at each other at a loss for words. They had immediately come to think about that vine-like plant floating in mid-air. They thought it was crucial to bombard it at once.
Time flew as the coach smoothly drove on.
Zhou Quan sighed. He tried to search for more news on his communicator, but his search was futile until he finally found a picture of the winged man. It was him being picked up by the staff from the Deity Biomedical Group.
That was his last sighting. No more follow up reports could be found after that.
"Are they going to give that man inspection or are they using him as a publicity stunt?" Zhou Quan resentfully contended. In the photo, there was a convoy led by an array of luxury cars loaded with all the top executives from the Lin family.
Chu Feng glanced at the photo, but he left with no comments.
Nowadays, everyone's communicator had been flooded with all sorts of reports. A new report on the latest strange occurrence cropped up every now and then, making those who read them ever so anxious.
Chu Feng gave those headlines a fairly cursory reading. He then closed his eyes for rest before he finally fell asleep.
"Hey man, wake up! We've got a problem here." Zhou Quan roused Chu Feng from his slumbers.
Chu Feng looked a bit confused as he first regained his consciousness. It was afternoon already. The sun was almost down.
"What's the problem?" Chu Feng asked.
"The driver seemed a bit anxious. He said that he had been driving more than a thousand li, and he has yet to see the destination. He said that he had just seen the guidepost indicating that there were still a few hundreds of li left to cover," Zhou Quan explained.
Besides, many sections of the highway seemed to have also been torn apart by some unexplainable forces. At times, they had to endure some rather unpleasant moments filled with bumpy rides as the bus had to veer off the broken highway and onto the rugged dirt road.
This caused Chu Feng to wake right up, because to him, the story had sounded ever so familiar. Perhaps it was the same phenomenon as the one that had happened in the district where the cluster of vines had claimed its domination. Was the ground here also expanding, or was it being stretched by some forms of mysterious force?
Some passengers felt like the blame should have been on the driver himself. The possibility that perhaps the driver had been going the wrong way seemed more logical than Chu Feng's theory. But the driver swore that as an adept coach driver that had been taking years of itinerary travelling on this line, he would never make such an inadequate mistake.
The coach drove in the exact direction suggested by the roadside guideposts.
"The Deuce! Alright, I'm done. I quit. Fxck this." The driver was a man of hot temper. As he was being surrounded by whirls of complaints from his passengers, telling him that he had been going the wrong way, he decided to throw up his job. "What on earth is happening? I guess it must be somehow related to all those strange occurrences reported in the news. I want to live. I don't want to die yet!"
"Uh?" Someone raised his head and looked straight ahead.
There was a mountain towering into the clouds. Its appearance was sudden and abrupt. It situated itself right beside the highway, only inches away from blocking it.
"This mountain wasn't here just seconds ago. What happened?"
"Driver, please hurry! Take the wheels and get us out of here!"
Shrill shouts rang from within the bus.
The driver took a quick look at the situation around him, and without another word, he stomped onto the clutch. The coach hastily accelerated, going like a bat out of hell. He promptly acted because he was quite frightened too. He witnessed the unexplained appearance of that mountain in action.
"I really shouldn't have set myself on this long journey." He remorsed. His face was pale as a sheet as he desperately tried to accelerate.
Within the coach, many people were anxious.
Chu Feng and Zhou Quan had been through a lot, so in comparison, they were staying relatively calm.
However, Zhou Quan's composure could not last long before he could no longer trust himself, so instead he turned to his prayers. With eyes closed, his mouth murmured, "God bless me! God bless us! God let us arrive home safe and sound!"
The coach almost felt like it was being driven by a madman. It charged and swerved between lanes and lanes; they had too many narrow escapes from a severe accident.
In fact, one could see with ease that all the other cars had also been speeding. Obviously, the passengers on those cars were just as frightened.
"Thank God. We finally made it."
As the sky finally turned indigo blue, and a great many stars were shining, Zhou Quan gave vent to a sigh of relief. He saw recognizable sceneries. The unbroken line of the undulating prodigious hilltops of Taihang Mountains felt ever so familiar and intimate to him. It was there, his hometown, finally becoming gradually visible.
Chu Feng felt more and more eased in mind. It was only a matter of few li before he could reach home. He could easily walk there from here if he had to.
However, before the passengers could even learn to appreciate the smoothness of their ride, the coach came to a sudden halt. Many passengers crashed their faces and upper bodies into the seats in front of them, instigating another pandemonium as the passengers cried in pain.
"Do you even know how to drive?" someone cursed.
But soon, the coach returned to silence.
There was a lake forming under the canopy of glittering stars. Plumes of mists rose from the surface, mingling with the serene moonlight; it looked as if it had added a layer of chiffon to the fa?ade of this tranquil lake.
The lake was a big one. It gleamed with the glittering shadow of stars, lighting up the darkness of the night. Everything was in harmony with one another. All represented elegance and grace.
"What's happening? How comes the road has already ended here? And what's this? A lake?" Zhou Quan was astounded. They were not far from where he lived. He had been living in this district since his early childhood, and he had never spotted a lake here during all those years.
The road ended here too!
"Hurry up! Let's get off and go around it!" Chu Feng urged.
The cause for the abrupt appearance of this lake and the mountain were the same in essentials, while differing only in minor points. They were both due to the rapidly expanding earth on which they were located.
Some landforms of mountains and rivers that had been previously unknown to the world was now emerging before people's eyes!
The passengers were quite divided. Some suggested to take a circuitous route around the lake, while others insisted on remaining in the coach and waiting for the dawn to break.
It was a long trudge home for Chu Feng and Zhou Quan. They trekked for four hours along the circumference of the lake before they could see a small village up ahead.
It was a country town called Shun Ping. Zhou Quan's house was right in that town.
Yet, it would be another ten li for Chu Feng.
"Home sweet home!" Zhou Quan was glorying in the success of his homecoming journey. Although it was not an easy one, but it was, for sure, unforgettable and inimitable.
"Uh? What is that?" Chu Feng was facing the Taihang Mountains, when suddenly, the sound of rumble incessantly lingered on. Many towering mountains abruptly emerged.
"How majestic!" The mountains had an altitude of at least thousands of meters, if not tens of thousands. The mountains' ridges twisted and twined, stretching endlessly. Hundreds and thousands of them emerged in the blink of an eye, dwarfing all those that had come before them.
Chu Feng stood, revelling in the glittering view in front of him.