Rosy dawn filled the sky with charming glow. Sunshine cast onto the bedroom floor as well as Chu Feng's goose down quilt. Chu Feng was in deep slumber. He felt the warmth brought by the sunlight and opened his eyes. It was, for him, a good and sound night of sleep.
The negative moods he had last night were all washed away along with the bloodstain. He was an optimistic person. He knew how to relieve stress for himself. It was a new day, so he wanted to live a new life. Chu Feng felt brimming with energy and vitality.
Chu Feng didn't carry out his special breathing exercise this morning. He went knocking his parents' door right after he got up. He was expectant. He wanted to know how they had changed overnight.
His parents had been sleeping longer than they used to be. Clearly, this was the functioning of the purple pine nuts. The nuts were transforming their bodies, otherwise, they would have gotten up already.
Chu Feng heard a sound of screaming coming from behind the bedroom door. He was taken aback. He knocked at the door and cried, "Mom! Take it easy! Don't take things too hard! There's nothing wrong with having a pair of horns protruding out of your skull! At worst, we can go to a beauty parlor to help you remove them."
He was worried.
Soon, Chu Zhiyuan's voice came from behind the door. He sounded shocked and astonished, but he went silent after spelling out just two words.
"Dad! Don't cut the horns off! Trust me! It is a sign of power and prestige. Open the door!" Chu Feng cried as he knocked on the door.
"Goddamn it! Don't you speak to me like that!" Wang Jing opened the door. He no longer sounded fearful; on the contrary, it sounded slightly happy.
"Huh?" When the door opened, Chu Feng was instantly dumbfounded.
There were no horns weirdly protruding from her skull; in fact, it was quite the contrary, she looked young and fine. Her complexion was glowing with health. She looked as if she had lost a few years of age. There were no wrinkles nor any crow's feet crawling on her face.
"Who is this! Since when have I gotten a sister?" Chu Feng screamed in an exaggerated manner.
Wang Jing became even happier when her son said this. "Shush! You cheeky boy!" she joked.
She was happy. Even the looks in her eyes suggested this. The worrisome look on her face had long gone, because changes like this really made her happy.
"Mom. You became youthful again. Quickly see if you can feel any other changes in your body," Chu Feng urged.
Chu Feng himself was happy too. His mom was in her fifties. Years of hard work had taken its toll on her appearance, so she was no longer the once youthful woman. For years, her face had been crawling with wrinkles and crow's feet.
When the wrinkles disappeared, her complexion became better as well. Wang Jing seemed as if she had lost ten years of age.
Wang Jing looked like a woman in her late thirties. This made her especially joyous and excited.
Not a single woman didn't like to be pretty and charming, particularly for those whose youth was no more. Regaining what was lost made one treasure something even more.
"Is this happening… for real?" Wang Jing was still standing in front of a mirror, lost in thought. She still couldn't believe what happened to her.
As to Chu Zhiyuan, he was not a worry for Chu Feng either. Between Chu Feng and Chu Zhiyuan, there had always been a very healthy father-and-son relationship. Both were in high spirits, so both were chattering in the living room right now.
The changes that had happened to Chu Zhiyuan was quite obvious too. Gone the silver sideburns, he was now a man taking pride in a head of a healthy black hair. He looked very vigorous too.
He became young too. He looked in his forties, with rose and ruddy cheeks. The black bags under his eyes were no more.
"I feel full of life now. I feel that I have an endless supply of strength in my body. I feel like I'm in a better shape than I've ever been before!" Chu Zhiyuan was recounting the changes he felt happening to his body.
"Mom, dad, take a careful look at yourself. See if there is anything extra growing on you," Chu Feng reminded them with a smile.
"Hey, you cheeky boy! Are you actually wishing for your mom and dad to grow horns and scales?" Chu Zhiyuan glowered at Chu Feng, but he himself burst into laughter too.
"This is amazing! Besides the fact that we haven't gained any non-human features, we become younger, healthier and prettier!" Wang Jing said. She could hardly recover herself from her surge of emotion.
"What do you guys want to eat for breakfast? I will stroll around the morning market to buy some ingredients," Wang Jing said. She asked because she wanted to celebrate what they have achieved and become with a feast.
"We don't need to be too particular about the breakfast. Feng had brought back quite a sizeable amount of meat, so we can simply cook those meat over a slow fire to save you a trip; or if you insist to go somewhere to buy some ingredients, duck meat, mutton, eggs and milk would be nice," Chu Zhiyuan said.
Wang Jing stared at him and said, "I see. 'Don't need to be too particular about the breakfast' huh? Is anything else you want to eat?"
"Don't scold at me for wanting to eat. I'm just feeling so hungry," Chu Zhiyuan said with a blushing face.
In fact, Wang Jing's stomach was rumbling with hunger as well. The feeling of hunger was almost unbearable.
"This is normal," Chu Feng said with a smile. He explained that when one's body constitution initially improved, the feeling of hunger was insatiable.
"I don't feel anything odd about my body, but I do feel refreshed and energetic. I feel strong too."
Chu Zhiyuan was detailing how he felt during breakfast.
Wang Jing nodded. She had a similar feeling as well. She hadn't acquired any superhuman abilities.
Chu Feng frowned. "This is not right," he thought, "while everyone mutates after eating the strange fruit, why won't my parents do so as well?"
He tested his father on how strong he was. The result was impressive. Chu Zhiyuan was strong and robust; in fact, he was stronger than a few strong young lads combined, but this was not a mysterious ability by any means.
Wang Jing didn't seem to care at all. She was already satisfied. Being young again was perhaps the best gift bestowed to her.
Chu Feng turned on his communicator. He hesitated for a moment, but in the end, he texted to Lin Naoi: "Do all who have eaten the strange fruits mutate?" he asked.
Deity had a deeper understanding about the functioning of strange fruits. Before the world was shaken up by this series of upheavals, they had already known about many secrets that were hidden from the others.
Soon, Lin Naoi gave him the answer. She said that not everyone would mutate. Some lacked the mysterious molecules necessary for mutation, thus they would not mutate even after eating strange fruits.
Chu Feng was dumbstruck.
Because of his relationship with Lin Naoi in the past, Deity had once tried to test his gene with his hair. In the end, they concluded that he was not capable of mutating.
However, he himself was ignorant of this knowledge.
"Why is this the case?" Chu Feng texted.
Lin Naoi told him that the cause of this was very complicated, but it didn't mean that it was a bad thing. To say it was whether good or bad needed to be tested with time.
Chu Feng didn't ask her if he would ever mutate. Lin Naoi didn't mention it either.
"Feng, you don't have to worry about this. For us, getting those superhuman abilities would only come to a waste," Chu Zhiyuan said.
"Yes, I agree. What are we going to do with those abilities and power? Go to the wild and kill beast? Me and your dad are old bones. We will never be able to stand the fright alone when we saw those beasts out in the wild," Wang Jing said.
"You mother and I wish for peace and calm. Think about it, Feng. People at my age should only spend time at home," Chu Zhiyuan tried to give Chu Feng a few words of comfort.
Chu Feng nodded in agreement. What his parents said was truthful indeed. Even if they had acquired the superhuman abilities like every other mutant do, he wouldn't let them do anything wild either.
He did want his parents to have some power to at least defend themselves.
But the situation seemed to be very complicated. Different people had different mysterious molecules in their bodies. It was hard to say what mysterious molecules anyone had, if they had any at all.
But soon, Chu Feng was relieved. He said, "As long as I am by your side, no-one is ever going to touch you."
He thought that as long as he himself was powerful enough to frighten all the other mutants, no-one would ever dare to offend his parents. Therefore, he wanted to be even stronger!
Chu Feng thought that if it was necessary, he could try to make a display of his abilities to the public. He needed to show his "fang" to make others fear him.
Suddenly, he was reminded of the special breathing exercise!
"Mom, dad! There is still a way for you to do this. If you'd like to try, I'll teach you the way."
Teaching them the special breathing exercise was not possible in the past, because they had never encountered any catalytic pollens before; but after having eaten the strange fruits, the breathing exercise might work on them.
"Yellow Ox, remind me of how you taught me the special breathing exercise," Chu Feng contacted Yellow Ox. He wanted the calf to tell him what it did to pass on the "essence" of the breathing exercise to him.
The special breathing exercise was divided into two components: "form" and "essence". One might mimic the form of a breathing exercise, but he would never gain the "essence" by simply imitating.
He needed to gain the "spirit" first. Back in the days, Yellow Ox passed on this "spirit" by making Chu Feng's entrails resonate with his pulse. When the strength of one's body pulsated rhythmically with one's physical body, one would unlock the gate to acquire the "essence" of a breathing rhythm.
The process of passing on the "spirit" was like the abhiseca ritual .
For the thunderous breathing rhythm, both Chu Feng and Yellow Ox had copied its "form" step by step, but the effect of this breathing exercise was less than ideal. There was only one reason for this, and that was neither of them had acquired the thunderous "spirit". No-one had ever done the "abhiseca ritual" on them.
Somewhere far away from the hustling civilization of Shuntian, Yellow Ox was in a great rage. The calf replied to Chu Feng's request: "Get f*cked! Under no circumstances would I ever let you pass it on to another human being," the calf said, "you're already an exception that I regretfully made!"
"Why are you so serious about this?" Chu Feng was still being thick-skinned; he persisted on asking the calf to teach him the way to pass on the "spirit" of the breathing rhythm.
Yellow Ox was fiercely jabbing away at its communicator. The calf told him that this was not a joke. It would never pass on this breathing rhythm to anyone in the future, otherwise, it could potentially lead to a fatal disaster for them both.
"How?" Chu Feng asked.
Yellow Ox told him that this breathing rhythm was second to none. Along with the thunderous breathing rhythm, it was a secret that should only be handed down from generation to generation exclusively inside the family.
The calf warned that he should remain low-key about the matter. The special breathing exercise should never be known by a third person, or one day, they would both meet their own undoing.
Unless both of them became a saint or a god one day, the "essence" of this breathing exercise must remain an exclusive secret. These were some serious warnings from Yellow Ox, and they truly frightened Chu Feng.
The special breathing rhythm he mastered was nothing trivial. It was amongst the best of all breathing rhythms, so much so that its sheer weight could crumble the sky and shatter the earth!
"It was okay for me to pass on the rhythm to someone outside the family, because I acquired the rhythm in a way that was fair and square, but you're different," Yellow Ox later added.
Chu Feng was speechless. He realized the importance in keeping the secrecy of this breathing rhythm.
However, Chu Feng was not too worried either. Yellow Ox had once said that in the ordinary world in which he lived, one could gain as much strength and power in the course of a single year as he would normally do in a hundred years.
"I've gone all out just to become a saint in this world!"
This was originally Yellow Ox's goal, but it was now Chu Feng's as well. He needed to become a saint too.
Chu Feng then asked if he could only pass on the "form" of the breathing rhythm to his parents.
Yellow Ox said that this was okay. "This is similar to our situation for the thunderous breathing rhythm right now," Yellow Ox said, "The 'forms' of a breathing rhythm has never been a secret for anyone these days. They have been circulating in the outside world for quite a while now."
Chu Feng started teaching his parents the "forms" of the breathing rhythm when the morning sun was still generously casting down its vigorous sunlight. The breathing exercise was at its best when practiced in the morning.
As expected, the two almost choked themselves when they first started practicing. This was a mistake that Chu Feng himself had made before as well.
At this stage, even the "form" was a difficult task for the old couple to accomplish. They needed time to master it.
Chu Feng hadn't decided when to teach them the thunderous breathing rhythm, because it was too powerful. The person who practiced the thunderous breathing exercise was prone to injure himself. The breathing rhythm would strike him like a thunder, crushing his soul and wrenching his flesh and blood.
To Chu Feng's disbelief, the two quickly began to have a good grasp of the breathing rhythm. This gave Chu Feng a shock, but it also made him vent out a sigh of relief.
"Feng, you don't have to run in circles around us days and nights. This breathing rhythm can keep us in good health, but we have never wished to use it as a pathway to become a master of any kinds. In fact, we care more about you than ourselves. Tell us! Tell us what you've been up to recently!"
Chu Zhiyuan finally asked after everything settled down.
Chu Feng hesitated, but in the end, he decided to tell them what he had seen and what he had been through in the past few weeks. Of course, as for those particularly dangerous events, Chu Feng glossed over them with just a few words. He didn't want them to feel worried for him.
The old couple was shocked. They were totally speechless when Chu Feng was recounting his experience. They were astonished, because everything sounded so epic and so unbelievable for them.
"Feng, have you ever been injured?" Wang Jing sounded frightened.
"No, no, mom. I'm, fine. Look! Your son, me, is perhaps the most powerful fighter out there right now. Who could ever injure me?" Chu Feng said with a smile. These were his consoling words for his worrying parents.
"The family of Mu and that Mrs. Xu both sounded like a trouble to me," Chu Feng whispered under his breath.
"I agree." Wang Jing looked anxious and worried. "Feng eradicated all thirteen mutants at once this time. You've awakened that woman, completely exposing your identity to her."
Chu Feng nodded. She was right. When thirteen mutants all disappeared at once, that woman would be shocked and astonished. This would be a heart-rending news for her; at the same time, it would also make her realize that something was not right about him.
However, he had no alternatives. How could he let his enemy escape scot free?
"Have you had any plans?" Chu Zhiyuan asked.
"Yes!" Chu Feng nodded. Since his true identity had been exposed, he needed a plan to redeem the situation somehow.
"Let me think," Chu Zhiyuan pondered in silence. This tied to the safety of his son and the safety of his family. In a time like this, he needed to stand behind his son's back, coming up with plans that would save everyone from the family.
"You are a powerful fighter. For now, they are powerless against you; but, no-one would ever know what evil intentions they are harboring against you. Wicked people like them are the hardest to guard against. Moreover, they would most likely take me and your mom as hostage to fight against you," Chu Zhiyuan said.
"You're right. I don't fear them, but you and mom are my weak points," Chu Feng said.
"Again, you are a powerful fighter alright, but as the old saying goes: 'as a fence needs the support of three stakes, so an able fellow needs the help of three other people'. It's time for you to take a side," Chu Zhiyuan said.
Chu Feng nodded. This was exactly what he thought.
"Bodhi Genes is a comparable strand of force against Deity. There are also Pre-Qin Research Institution, Extra-terrestrial Culture Instituion, Tonggu United… these are big companies as well," Chu Zhiyuan tried to sift out a few options for his son.
Lately, all the big tycoons and the country's influential forces raised to the surface. The battle at Mount Song and the fight for the Bodhi tree were both startling news for the world to witness. Although it ended in failure, it underlined the power of all the big companies in the country.
"You're right. In fact, there is an even bigger company out there. It's worth a try," Chu Zhiyuan said with a smile.
"Which company?" Wang Jing asked.
"The government, of course!" Chu Feng said, but then he continued with a frown, "but I'm afraid that I won't stand laboring under someone else's command."
"That's not necessarily the case. The government needs to expand its armory with capable mutants. As long as you're competent enough, you will enjoy enough freedom when working in their team. They would even probably give you complete freedom as long as you can devote your heart and soul to them," Chu Zhiyuan said.
"So, what are we waiting for here? Quickly! Call that old friend of yours and ask him to enlist our son!" Wang Jing urged.
The father had an old friend working in the military. Chu Feng had met him once before, but he didn't quite know him. He only knew that he and his father were in a good relationship.
But Chu Feng showed a strange look on his face. Since when had his father known someone working as a high-ranked officer in the military?
"It's not exactly what you thought," Chu Zhiyuan smiled, "he is only some nobody working in the logistics department."
"But he has some connections with people higher up in the military. I can ask him to put in a word for you," Chu Zhiyuan said to Chu Feng.
Chu Zhiyuan walked into his room, ringing up that old friend of his.
He walked out of his room after a while, divulging some important information to his family.
"According to what I've gathered, White Tiger is working for the government too. Usually, he is free to roam around the world and free from any confinements. He only needs to lend them a helping hand when they need it."
This meant that only people with power comparable to Kong Kim, Fire Spirit and White Tiger would be allowed with freedom.
"Then there's no problem for me!" Chu Feng nodded. If strength and power were the only traits they considered, then there would be nothing that Chu Feng would have to fear.
"If you choose to join them, many other benefits would be available to you as well. For example, you will gain access to rare books talking about martial arts that no longer existed. You will also gain access to all the latest news before everyone else. They will also offer protections to the families of their members," Chu Zhiyuan informed.
Chu Feng's mind was persuaded at once. Everything they offered sounded so enticing to him.
Who could have a reserve of rare books talking about ancient martial arts that had lost to times better than the government? Who could offer safer protection for his family better than the military? No-one!
"But they don't offer these for free. They need your contributions. The more you contribute, the more you will get from them. If you devote nothing to the government, the government won't pay you back anything either. Even the degree of protection they offer depends on how much you can contribute," Chu Zhiyuan informed.
Information like these would certainly be a secret hidden away from the public's prying eyes. Only people who had connections within the system would know these latent rules.
"Is it dangerous?" Wang Jing asked. This is the only thing she cared. She wanted her son to be free from all dangers and harms.
"That depends on how you choose and what you are capable of. Some missions are easy to complete; some are not. There is a big one waiting for people to take on right now," Chu Zhiyuan solemnly said.
"What big one?" Chu Feng asked.
"Do you know why the wolf on Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau had suddenly gone berserk? Do you know why there are waves of beasts attacking on humans all of a sudden? Their intention is to distract the government from their main task at hand."
"What main task?" Wang Jing was bewildered.
"While big companies are fighting for ownership of famous mountains and great rivers, the government is preparing to join the competition as well. They will have to take at least two famous mountains. In the interest of the government, the military will baulk at no sacrifice, not even the loss of civilian lives and destruction of an entire mountain by using weapons of mass destruction," Chu Zhiyuan said.
Chu Feng was taken aback.
"Amongst all the famous mountains, there is one that they're most eager to acquire!" Chu Zhiyuan said.
"Which one?" Chu Feng asked.
"The place where people from all dynasties had gone on a pilgrimage to!"
Once, it was a holy site, but now it was only a sacred ruin. The mountain and slope had become a bloodbath. The battle that had taken place was extremely tragic. It was a wretched sight. Although the mountain was glowing like a mysterious lump of gold at times during the night, the place had been spotted with lifeless bodies and streams of blood. Merely the sight alone struck terror into people's heart.
Translator's Thoughts Mike
 (A Tibetan strength-giving ceremony)