The muscles of Zhu Zi bulged, to emphasize his strength, as he latched onto the coral horns of a deer. Following a loud grunt, he lifted the small calf-sized deer up and over so he could then slam it back down onto the ground. From there, it only took another five or six punches to render the deer paralyzed. It remained on the ground without strength to move.
A clamor arose from the people around him as the villagers extolled him for his feat.
“Zhu Zi, you’re simply amazing! What a man to capture even a Bulldeer!”
“Aye, those are beasts that can beat a wild boar when they reach adulthood!”
“Zhu Zi, thank you! Imagine just how many of us would have been injured by it if not for you…”
Having been lavished by the high accolades of these villagers, Zhu Zi was pleased. Ever since he had found that peculiar white stone when he was ten, his body had undergone a massive transformation. No longer was he the same sickly boy from long ago. Now, he was a strong male with a body that was practically immune to every disease and sickness that could be thrown at it. Zhu Zi was now the man that every villager would praise as the best hunter in the village.
“Haha, let’s get this Bulldeer tied up and ready to go, we’re goi—”
“Aah! Big brother Bai, be careful!”
The startled voice of Shao Ling suddenly cut into Zhu Zi’s speech, causing everyone to look to the right side of the forest.
Before anyone could move even a finger, a “thwack” could be heard following the sound of something falling to the ground. Shao Ling’s voice cut through the forest again, but this time with a tone of amazement. “Woah! Big brother Bai! You did it! You’re amazing!”
Befuddled by Shao Ling’s shout, everyone looked to the right side of the forest where the thicket was slowly being pushed apart. As soon as the thicket was pushed away, the source of why Shao Ling was so excited was made apparent to everyone else, which resulted in their jaws dropping to the floor.
What shocked them wasn’t Bai Yunfei or Shao Ling. Instead, on Bai Yunfei’s right shoulder was a giant water buffalo…
All around Bai Yunfei, the very same group of villagers that had been praising Zhu Zi were now smiling and laughing around Bai Yunfei. Even Shao Ling was going on and on about the amazingness of Bai Yunfei and the story behind the catch. Compared to the water buffalo on Bai Yunfei’s shoulder, the deer wasn’t even half its size. With nary a word, Zhu Zi gave a small snort.
But he said nothing.
“Shao Ling, why are you here?”
A rather crisp voice suddenly made itself known, allowing Zhu Zi’s face to finally light up. Turning his head, he saw Xiao Fang walk toward the group. A bamboo weaved basket was strapped to her back and a tiny hoe hung by her left side, but on her face was an inquisitive stare that roved over everyone.
“Sis? Aren’t you supposed to be picking herbs in the east? Why are you here?” Shao Ling asked with an equal amount of curiosity.
First greeting everyone else in the group, Xiao Fang then replied to Shao Ling. “This IS the eastern forest! You all should be hunting in the northern mountains. How did you manage to come all the way here?”
“Wha— this is the eastern forests?” For a while, Shao Ling was lost. In the midst of a confused look around, a realization hit him, “Oh! I know! We must have chased that river doe all the way over here without realizing it…”
“Xiao Fang, why are you collecting herbs all by yourself? Wasn’t aunty with you? It’s dangerous to be by yourself with so many beasts around here…” Zhu Zi questioned Xiao Fang in concern.
“Mom felt worried about grandma, so she went home first. I’ll be careful, don’t you worry brother Zhu Zi…” Xiao Fang nodded her head to reassure him. Halfway through her nod, her eyes landed on the not yet trussed up Bulldeer at his feet.
“A Bulldeer!” she remarked. “Brother Zhu Zi, did you hunt this? How amazing; this is a grea—”
Halfway through her words, Xiao Fang’s eyes landed on the water buffalo on Bai Yunfei’s shoulder. When she had first arrived, the villagers had blocked her view so she had been unable to see the buffalo.
Laughing as he greeted her, Bai Yunfei waved, “Miss Xiao Fang, how goes herb hunting?”
“Ah? Oh! I just need some Adder’s Tongue (A randomly named item, if there is any grass with this name, it is purely coincidental)…” Xiao Fang replied to him with a rather blank stare.
“Ah, Adder’s Tongue? Then let me help you with tha— watch out!” Bai Yunfei had barely enough time to finish his sentence when a sudden movement from the corner of his eye prompted him to cry out a warning to the other villagers.
The Bulldeer that had previously been motionless on the ground had suddenly sprung to its feet. It had been pretending to be unconscious! Before any of the villagers could react, the Bulldeer made a beeline for Xiao Fang!
Bringing its head down, the deer’s two giant coral-like horns ominously oriented themselves in Xiao Fang’s direction. Practically no time elapsed before the Bulldeer was well within ramming distance of Xiao Fang! Like a deer in headlights, Xiao Fang was rooted right where she was. If she didn’t move out of the way now, then the consequences would be dire for her.
Out of all the villagers, Zhu Zi was not only the closest one to the Bulldeer, but also the fastest one of them to respond. He dug his feet into the mud beneath him preparing to fly toward the Bulldeer like an arrow released from its bow. He flew straight toward it to grab its tail.
It came as a complete shock when the Bulldeer kicked up its behind so that it flew up into the air, and with a decisive kick, the two hind legs shot straight for Zhu Zi!
Zhu Zi was right in the middle of grabbing the tail of the Bulldeer, so the two hindlegs of the beast caught him right in the abdomen. The hindlegs of the Bulldeer, though far from dangerous, were more than enough to send him flying back with spit coming from his mouth.
Not only had it been effective in kicking back Zhu Zi, the impact force doubled its speed toward Xiao Fang!
Zhu Zi, Shao Ling, and Xiao Fang’s father cried out one after another in horror—not a single one of them would have enough time to save her. Thus, they were horrified at the oncoming danger.
Xiao Fang shared their horror, but while they were vocal in their terror, she herself was silent. She could see the Bulldeer charging at her. She could see that the coral-like horns could claim her life without a problem, but the shock of it all left her mortified.
A sudden tightening of something on her right wrist snapped Xiao Fang out of her stupor. Pulled out of the way of Bulldeer’s charge, she was brought to safety behind a large figure.
“Don’t be afraid.”
Those three words didn’t even register to the still bewildered Xiao Fang. All she could see was the figure clench his right fist to punch the incoming Bulldeer.
Just as fast as it came, the Bulldeer went flying in the opposition direction, tumbling to a stop right in front of the motionless villagers. Both the nose and the mouth of the Bulldeer were filled with blood, and in its current state, it was clear for everyone to see that it was dead.
An eerie silence pervaded the forest for a good while as everyone stared at the dead Bulldeer in mute shock. For as long as the forest was devoid of sound, their minds were devoid of thought.