Chu Feng made a circle around Zuo Jun. He could tell that his head had quite grown in size. It looked remarkably bigger due to swelling, but getting trampled by an ox for six times should deal sufficient trauma to cause anyone to lose their memory.
"Don't come here again, please. Why bother?" Chu Feng wearily shook his head.
However, if Zuo Jun stubbornly decided to come back again next time, Chu Feng was afraid that his head would eventually vanish, or at the very least, become like a mashed watermelon.
Chu Feng thoroughly searched his body from head to toe. He was especially looking for the communicator, wondering if there were any recent calls made from it. Unfortunately, the history was still empty.
Chu Feng conjectured that Zuo Jun had most likely deleted them after each call he had made.
This time, he smuggled Zuo Jun out of the village and left him on a disjointed highway connected to a nearby town, forty li away from his house. Then, he returned to his village.
The village came back to life again as people traveled to and fro the farmland everyday to do manual labor. Chu Feng overheard some of the conversations and learnt that the seeds of many crops had been sowed in the field.
According to some of the elderly, the present climate was the best for crops to grow. If everything went as planned, the seeds would mature in only a few months. This would be a bumper year for the crops.
Therefore, smiles began to emerge on the faces of many of the villagers.
Suddenly, a commotion broke out in the street. A young man was being lifted by a few others. His body was boiling hot. White vapors were seen steaming up profusely from his body. He cried and struggled in pain and agony.
"Hurry up! Get him to Doctor Wang's clinic!" shouted someone from the crowd.
A group of young and robust youngsters carried the man as they hurriedly rushed to the most renowned clinic in the village.
Chu Feng ran into this commotion just as he returned to the village. He hastily followed the convoy to see if there was anything he could do to help.
"Wang Pan, my boy, what has happened to you?" A young mother came over as her tears trickled down her cheeks. She was in shock.
This young man named Wang Pan was in quite a worrisome state. His face and his body had all become distorted. He rolled, tossed, tumbled and threshed on the stretcher. The others who had offered to help struggled to lay him down. His body was as hot as a boiling kettle, and steam was even rising from his body.
Chu Feng was instantly taken aback the moment he saw him. He wondered what had led this young man into this living death.
"Wang Pan became like this right after he ate a fruit," a mid-aged man informed.
Many villagers had begun cultivating on every possible acre of land.
There was an empty lot near Wang Pan's house. Today, he went there with a few others from the village to reclaim the wasteland and bring it under cultivation. He smelled a refreshing fragrance as he took a break and saw a silver fruit hanging off the stalk of a grass in the distance.
The grass looked ordinary. It had all the features typical of a weed, but to his surprise, it bore a silver fruit.
Wang Pan was quite parched and desirous for water at that moment. The mellow aroma of that fruit was truly alluring, and in the end, he could not resist the urge to eat the fruit, so he swallowed it whole. However, it was not long before he started rolling and tossing on the ground in pain and agony.
People gabbled out the whole story.
Wang Pan's mother burst into tears. She shuddered at the thought of perhaps losing her child due to food poisoning.
"Stop crying, woman! He is not dead yet!" Wang Pan's father cursed in rage. With the help of a few others, he got his son to the clinic. Saving the child was the most important issue at hand.
Wang Pan's body was fiercely twitching. Even with the collaborative effort of a few adults, his tossing body still could not be brought under control. His physical strength became stronger and stronger. He was almost on the edge of breaking loose from the restraint. In the end, Chu Feng stepped up and managed to subdue him.
Doctor Wang carefully examined him. With the help of professional instruments, he conducted a full body examination on Wang Pan.
"His body index appears to be very disorderly. Some of his hormones are abnormally surging at an exponential rate. The test results don't seem hopeful either. I have never seen a patient like this before." Doctor Wang had become all sweaty and humid. He was also at a loss of what to do.
"It is the rumors that killed this kid," said an elderly man, "He must have fallen victim to those false reports of people becoming superhuman celestial beings. To him, those news were just plain baloneys."
"Yeah, I agree. There has been quite a number of strange occurrences recently, but some of the reports we see these days are just misleading titles and exaggerated facts. It would be really foolish to believe in any of them," echoed another mid-aged man.
Chu Feng stayed voiceless beside the sick young man, listening attentively to the opinions voiced by the people present. Perhaps he was the only one here who knew that a metamorphosis into a monstrous-looking beast had become the young man's eventual fate upon eating that damnable fruit.
Although Doctor Wang was a respectable doctor renowned for his superb medical skills, the root of Wang Pan's symptoms remained a mystery to him.
Wang Pan's father looked ashen while his mother wailed in fear and distress.
Villagers rushed home to warn their children of the danger associated with the fruits found in the wilderness, enjoining them not to be allured by the sweet fragrance emanating from the fruits.
Chu Feng stayed at the clinic, guarding Wang Pan alongside Doctor Wang.
Chu Feng firmly pressed down the twitching body of Wang Pan, and at last, Wang Pan drifted off into a slumber. He no longer tossed about or turned from side to side, but his torso still occasionally quivered while pale smog rose from the scorching feverish skin of his. It was a truly horrific sight to behold.
Wang Pan's parents were wide awake. Their eyes had turned swollen from crying.
In the following morning right at the break of the dawn, Wang Pan, who had been tied up to the sickbed, finally awoke. He groaned and shrieked. He wanted to break loose and shook off the constraint!
Chu Feng was awaken with a start; he hurriedly reached forward to press him back down.
"It's so… PAINFUL!" Wang Pan ululated.
Chu Feng could detect a perceivable change in Wang Pan's body. His abdomen was inflating, swelling up like a balloon. The bloat was accompanied by sounds of crackling. It was a bloodcurdling noise that clinked as if many ribs and bones inside his body had started snapping.
During this process, a sphere of pale smog enveloped his body.
He howled and groaned. He bellowed with pain like a wounded beast. His roar startled almost every villager in town, prompting many to rush to the clinic to see what was happening.
Half an hour later, Wang Pan hushed at last. The pale smog dissipated, unveiling the suffering body of the sick man. However, the scene in sight immediately made everyone stare in bewilderment.
There was a limb at the abdomen of Wang Pan. It appeared silver white, and it seemed very much like a quite sturdy arm.
"Oh God! What's wrong with you, Pan? Do you still feel sick, my son?" His mother shrieked in terror, making a lunge for her son.
Wang Pan's face was pale as a sheet. He looked very much enfeebled, but he told his mother that he was fine, and that he was only a bit ravenous.
"Fine? Oh, my darling boy… look at yourself… look at this arm growing out of your belly!" Wang Pan's mother burst out in tears. Seeing what a monster her son had become, no mother would not feel grieved or heartbroken.
The news quickly circulated in the village. People were pouring in thick and fast from all over the village into this little clinic of Doctor Wang's. The rooms were clogged with curious onlookers.
"Hurry up! Get him food!" Wang Pan's father shouted. He ordered his neighbors and relatives to help him deliver food to serve for Wang Pan's expanded appetite.
"So those news and reports are real after all," someone from the crowd whispered. "We can see for ourselves the changes brought to Wang pan after eating that strange fruit."
Indeed, Wang Pan's body and appearance both had an evident profound change. He used to be a chubby man with a rather tanned skin, but now he became the complete opposite of his original looks. He was thin and bony, and his skin was pale and white.
Wang Pan crammed down a few mouthfuls of meat and bowls of rice before he finally felt full. Meanwhile, his newly acquired pair of silver white arms also wavered in the air, continuously stuffing food into Wang Pan's mouth.
People blankly stood as they witnessed the scene in amazement.
The food seemed to have greatly empowered him. He no longer felt enfeebled, so he left the clinic and entered a yard. He wavered those silver white arms, consciously feeling the changes within his body. The growth of this pair of hands out of his abdomen was a grievous blow to him. After all, he was a normal human being no more.
With a quiet fury, he banged his fist on a landscape stone, causing the boulder to crack with long and deep rifts and fissures.
Perhaps with a few more extra hits, the whole stone would shatter.
"Oh blimey! What a great strength he has acquired!" The crowd unsettled with exclamation.
"So the reports are real! Those strange fruits can mutate a person and grant him a superhuman ability." Wang Pan's ability had been much admired by some of the youngsters from the crowd.
Later that day, many people left the town for a grassland nearby. The expedition group was led by a bustling crowd of youngsters who wanted to find all kinds of wild fruits. To them, these fruits were a highway to becoming the god-like creature they ever admired to be.
No one wanted to feel left out from this so-called highway.
It took a couple of days before Wang Pan's condition finally stabilized. He went to the clinic for a re-examination, but none of his body index was normal.
That pair of arms was especially sturdy. They could not be harmed even when cut by blades or specialized cutters. They packed much force with them too. The strength it exerted could easily match the combined forces of a few adults.
Wang Pan had also lost lots of weight during the course of time. His skin was also steadily acquiring a silver white hue.
According to Doctor Wang, the changes to his body might be an ongoing process for the rest of his life.
"My son has acquired extraordinary force. On the basis of the theories proposed in many news reports, my son will one day become a god." Wang Pan seemed to have become his mother's proudest boast ever since the changes had occurred. She blabbed out about his son to everyone she met.
In fact, she was afraid that people might refer to her son as a freak, and in doing so, it might cost Wang Pan to stay as a single man for the rest of his life.
But in reality, he was admired by many. Most of the young men from the village were looking out for the strange fruits out in the wild. They wanted to follow his path and became a god-like figure themselves.
Meanwhile, Chu Feng was still whole-heartedly concentrating on his practice. Besides, he also used his communicator to search for all kinds of news related to the strange fruits.
Reports on these had increased exponentially for the past few days.
The number of people turning into a mutated "other" had surged for days on end. The cases were not limited to a particular region or country, but they included people from all over the world.
By estimate, tens of thousands had mutated, and this was only a rough estimate that did not include those who were unwilling to disclose their status as a mutated man.
Undoubtedly, this was an appalling figure. The number might have potentially coupled or even tripled if the unreported ones had been counted.
The internet had been boiling with discussions. Did this mean the beginning of a new era?
The mutated possessed supernatural abilities. Some could soar in the sky, some could melt metals, and some had a skin of boulder that kept them intact when submerging in scorching lava.
Jubilation reigned everywhere across the globe. People felt that this was the Age of Enlightenment returning for a comeback, opening a brand new chapter for humanity.
The abilities possessed by some people were as powerful as many mythological creatures. They were truly terrifying.
All in all, the fact that people could easily possess power beyond human abilities had granted the world an unprecedented sense of prosperity, adding up to people's endorsement of the status quo.
Many of the mutated had come to band together to challenge the silver winged man; however, the result was less than ideal for the challengers.
Although it was seemingly an unfair match between a gang of mutated beasts and a single man, Silver Wing managed to make a clean sweep of his opponents. No-one from the alliance could stand a chance against him. This result shocked the world.
The agitated and restless mutated men who were poised for a fight finally sobered down.
Although almost all mutations were due to the consumption of a strange fruit, there was a conspicuous difference in terms of actual strength between each individual mutated man. It called into question whether those who mutated earlier possessed a greater power than those who mutated later.
Later that day, another news reported that Kong Kim, one of the so-called "legendary four", had swept an organization formed by a group of the mutated. He defeated more than dozens of the mutated, sending shockwaves to the world again.
Only until now did people begin to realize that Silver Wing, Kong Kim, Fire Spirit and White Tiger, the legendary four who mutated the earliest amongst the others, were in an unchallengeable position. They were at the top of the pyramid, willing to crush anyone who dared to challenge them.
There were also rumors circulating amongst the community suggesting that there was a great power hidden in the dark, supporting the four with all kinds of resources including strange fruits of all sorts. This could be a whimsical conspiracy theory, but potentially, it could also be true.
Chu Feng was deep in thought after reading these reports. What would the future become?
He did not mutate, nor had he ever eaten any strange fruits. So far, he only practiced the special breathing exercise and the boxing styles taught by Yellow Ox.
He no longer paid attention to the reports. Training himself to become stronger was his sole goal. After having mastered the Demon Ox Boxing Style, he wanted to go and explore the depths of Taihang Mountains to see whether he could attain anything special from it.
Suddenly, his communicator sounded a lively tone. Someone was ringing him up.
Chu Feng was rather surprised. Ever since they parted their ways, Lin Naoi had never taken the initiative to call him. So what made her call today?