The door opened, and a man in his fifties walked in. He wasn't exactly old; only the hair at his temples had grown slightly silver. He had a scholarly and refined bearing.
Behind him was a woman ambling in her fifties. She had a kindly look, but she seemed to be in a gloomy mood.
They were Chu Feng's parents, Chu Zhiyuan and Wang Jing.
"Where has our Feng been? Where is he? I'm so worried!" Wang Jing mumbled. She went fumbling for her communicator as soon as she got home.
For the past few days, there had been numerous incidences where beasts began to attack the local people. Thousands of people had lost their lives in the span of a few days. Wang Jing also heard about this, and that's why she was growing increasingly unsettled day after day.
"Feng said that there was a mutant protecting him, so he should be okay. Don't worry!" Chu Zhiyuan tried to console his wife. He was still quite calm.
The familiar voice came from a dark corner, which startled Wang Jing. She turned her head around and saw her son, Chu Feng, walking right towards them. The gloomy look on her face instantly disappeared. She was pleasantly surprised.
"Feng, my little boy! You're back!"
Chu Feng had long outgrown the size of a "little boy", but in the eyes of his mother, he was always a kid regardless of his age.
She hastily ran towards her son, locking him in her embrace. Then, she looked him up and down with a face that was all smiles.
Wang Jing had been in constant fear for the past few days. She worried that Chu Feng might run into danger in the world outside.
"It's good as long as you're back!" Chu Zhiyuan was happy too.
"Why didn't you tell us that you're back?" Wang Jing reproached.
"So I can give you a surprise!" Chu Feng smiled.
Things had been overwhelming recently. The rise of the beasts and the fall of mankind had caused the break-up of many families and the deaths of many people. Roads were disconnected, and communications were unstable.
Amongst all the great tragedies in the world, it was certainly a joy for any families to be reunited.
"Tell me, what do you want to eat. I will go cook for you!" Wang Jing joyously asked. Since the moment she saw her son, the smile on her face had never dwindled.
"I want… beef!" Chu Feng still had the grudge in mind. He was finally in the city of Shuntian, so finally, he could eat beef without scruples.
"It's not too easy to buy meat these days, but it's okay, me and your dad will see what we can do," Wang Jing said.
Chu Zhiyuan nodded. He put on his jacket and was about to leave the house.
"Mom, dad. You don't need to. I've got the ingredient already." Chu Feng jumped to stop his dad from leaving the house. He had already worried about problems like this.
After the upheavals, while the grain supplies were still normal, other food were scarce to find. Beef, for instance, was one of them. Because the roads that headed towards the northern grassland had been torn into many disjointed sections, meat products were difficult to transport.
Chu Feng opened the fridge then drew out a few chunks of fresh meat.
"That's so much meat! Where did you buy them?" The two was amazed. Supplies like this couldn't be even bought with money.
"I bought them on my way to Shuntian. I was worried that the city would be in short supplies of these stuff." Chu Feng smiled.
"There are people selling beef outside the city?"
"A bull mutated, causing quite a bit of casualties to the villages around. So, when there was a mutant passing by that village, he killed the bull and sold the meat at a make-shift stall," Chu Feng explained.
It was a mutated bull indeed, but it was a mad one. Although it did not eat human meat, it had killed or injured many by running amok in crowds of people. Chu Feng arrived at the village just in time to stop it from ruining the entire village.
Of course, Chu Feng had to keep a bit of the story to himself. He lied that the killing of the bull was done by another mutant, but the lie was out of goodwill.
The dinner was a comprised entirely of beef. There beef braised in brown sauce, boiled beef, fried beef, spiced beef…
"Are you alright, son? I never knew that you were this into beef before. Look at the dishes on the table. They are all different, but they are all of the same kind," Wang Jing said.
"You didn't get kicked in the head by a bull on the road, did you?" No one knew a son better than his father. Chu Zhiyuan looked at his son doubtfully. He believed that Chu Feng must have been bullied by that mutated bull, so eating its meat was his way to give vent to his resentment.
"You're right, dad. I was being bullied lately, but not by a bull. It was a yak-a yak which had the hooves big as a washing tub. It trampled on me and threatened me. So yes, I'll have to swallow its meat and gulp its blood to soothe my anger," Chu Feng said.
"What? Seriously? Did it injure you?" Wang Jing was unsettled.
"No way. I was just kidding, mom. No way that I would let a bull trample on me. Mom! Quickly! Eat with me! These dishes are too good to be wasted, mom!" Chu Feng quickly digressed from the topic.
"Here! Drink with me, son! Being treated with so many dishes was hard to come by these days." Chu Zhiyuan was in high spirits.
"Sure!" Chu Feng poured some strong alcohol into his cup.
"The ways of the world are getting way stranger than before. Even monkeys can hold sway over a region and act the bully. If someone told me this story a few months ago, I would call it bullsh*t, but these days, things like these are happening like flies in a summer day!" Chu Zhiyuan blushed after a few shots. Feeling tipsy, he began mumbling about the recent events.
"That ape is still one of the good kind. At least it isn't killing half a city worth of people like that white snake," Wang Jing said.
"You don't understand. That ape is a cunning and crafty animal. It could kill a whole city worth of people if it wants," Chu Zhiyuan said.
"How is that possible? The ape had a kindly look. I could tell that it was not an unscrupulous and vicious animal at the first sight I saw its face on the news," Wang Jing disputed with Chu Zhiyuan. She believed that the none of apes in Mount Song was of the evil kinds.
"Don't judge a book by its cover. Apes are the kind of animal that would turn against its friend before you know it. They are intelligent species, which makes them all the more difficult to guard against," Chu Zhiyuan said.
"This is your prejudice. I know that you're still holding grudge against them for what they did thirty years ago. Yes, you did get scratched by a monkey at Mount Song back then, but come on, it's time to let it pass now." Wang Jing dished the dirt in front of their son.
"Excuse me, ma'am! That is not true!" Chu Zhiyuan blushed.
Chu Feng was sitting on the side, having a fit of giggle at this feud.
"Look! Even your son's laughing at you," Wang Jing laughed and said.
The dinner went on for a long while. The family was happy, and the whole house was filled with joy.
"Mom, dad. Would you consider yourself strange if one day, you guys suddenly grow a pair of horns or have the ability to jet out flames?"
The family was eating fruit while watching TV. Chu Feng asked the question in the most natural way.
"Those are some eccentric things for a man to be capable of, if he could still be called a man."
"Exactly. People who have mutated shouldn't be called mutants. To me, they are just a bunch of sadist beasts in a different species."
Chu Feng almost spat out the chunk of apple in his mouth when he heard his parents' remarks.
For the rest of the night, he didn't say a word about the purple pine cone. He never thought that their parents would have such opinions about the mutants. He later went online to look up what could happen to someone once he or she mutated.
Zhou Quan, for instance, was perhaps the unluckiest mutant in existence. While the others could all hide their nonhuman characteristics more or less, Zhou Quan's distinctive feature was only getting more and more obvious. It was almost as if he feared that the other people could not tell how much of a "domineering" mutant he was.
"Oh right, Feng. You're back just in time," Wang Jing smiled and said while her gaze was still fixated on the TV.
"My best friend has a niece. I swear, you won't even believe what a charming beauty this girl is until you see her," Wang Jing happily said.
"Oh no, not again." Chu Feng hurriedly ran into to his own room.
"Feng, hear me on this! You can't afford to miss the opportunity again this time. This girl has many extraordinary qualities. And, I heard that she was a classmate with Jiang Luoshen. Yes! Jiang Luoshen! Can you believe that? I heard that she was just as charming as Jiang Luoshen, if not more."
Chu Feng was sweating bullets. He never thought that his mom would set him up for a date with some strangers.
He knew that back in the days, his parents were married late. They didn't give birth to him until they were in their mid-thirties. Clearly, they didn't want him to follow in their footsteps, so even though Chu Feng was still early in his years, his parents were already quite concerned about his marriage.
Moments later, Chu Feng recovered his composure. Smile emerged on his face. "Perhaps, this is the life that a normal person should be living." he sighed with emotion.
With what he was capable of, Chu Feng might not be perfectly suited for an ordinary life, but he didn't want to be forced into living one either. "But isn't this what all the parents will do for their child?" Chu Feng questioned himself.
What had he been through lately? Which one in particular could be counted as the way of an ordinary life? Is learning magic power with Yellow Ox counted as a part of the everyday life of a normal human being? Or is fighting fierce battles at Mountain of White Snake something day-to-day? How about killing Chen Hai, a boxing master, in a primitive mountain then killing hundreds of beasts left and right?
A normal human being would not have done any of the above in their everyday life.
"The process taken for someone to undergo a complete transformation was so short and so fast." Chu Feng sighed.
In the past, he never believed any legends or fables, but after so many strange occurrences happened around him, his worldview had completely shifted.
Chu Feng accessed the internet with his communicator then browsed through an array of news report. He wanted to know how the others had changed after eating a strange fruit.
In short, the type of transformation differed from individual to individual. Everyone could take on a form unique to himself based on his initial body constitution.
The night sky was starry and lively.
Chu Feng stood by an open window, practicing his special breathing exercise as part of a daily routine.
Tonight, he felt special. The effect of the breathing rhythm felt different.
Ever since his body evolved, the effect of the special breathing exercise became different each time he practiced.
In the morning, he would be shrouded in the golden mist and brilliant glow of the rising sun.
In the evening, he used to be cloaked in soft, white luminescence when he practiced the exercise, but things suddenly became different tonight. Plumes of black smoke were sinking into the depths of his body via the pores and the nostrils. Although the smokes were faint and vague to the eyes, Chu Feng could still sense them trickling into his pulsating body.
The black smoke felt chilling.
"Huh? The breathing exercise becomes more effective in this way?" Chu Feng was surprised.
Chu Feng felt chilled to the bone while feeling cleansed to his soul. However, in this way, the breathing exercise became more effective. His blood and flesh became more transparent, his entrails became more gleaming, and his body constitution was slightly evolving!
When the breathing exercise finished, Chu Feng felt brimming with energy and vitality. The process of evolution became faster.
He knew that this was a good thing.
"Yellow Ox! There are some huge problems with the breathing exercise!" Chu Feng called Yellow Ox as soon as he finalized the special breathing exercise.
Yellow Ox was taken aback. "What happened?!" Yellow Ox quickly texted back.
"I was just doing the breathing exercise as usual, but suddenly, a breeze of black wind came out of nowhere, sneaking into my body through the pores of my skin! I think I've just been attacked by evil spirits!"
"Moo!" Yellow Ox widened its eyes. It was such a weird expression, as if what Chu Feng said were some sheer fantasy for the calf.
The calf was envious, but soon the feeling of envy evolved into hatred. It mooed and mooed between clenched teeth, as if Chu Feng's words had offended the calf somehow.
"Was it the attack of an evil spirit, or was it a sign that I've achieved something brilliant, something new?" Chu Feng asked, "Wait! Why are you gritting your teeth? Oh, I see! It's because I've achieved something you haven't, isn't it?" Chu Feng laughed and asked.
"Go f*ck yourself!" Yellow Ox replied in anger.
Then, it ignored Chu Feng completely.
Chu Feng tried to talk, but Yellow Ox turned off the communicator, giving Chu Feng a cold shoulder.