The man was tall, but broad-shouldered and narrow-waisted, appearing strong and powerful without looking clumsy. With a straw raincoat and a hat on his head, he dashed through the thick woods from the heavy rain and the night.
In spite of his rain gear, he was still drenched by the rain, and his chest showed a faint stain of blood, as if he had been wounded. The man, however, did not seem to care at all. He swatted away the dense shrubs in front of him, the spiky plants unable to do him any harm, as if they were soft willows in his hands.
The lower part of this man’s palm was covered by a strip of cloth, so it was impossible to tell if he had any beast marks. But looking at his figure and the speed at which he ran, he was, undoubtedly, a beastman, and also a very powerful one.
His face looked young, no more than twenty-five or twenty-six years old, with deep and handsome features. However, perhaps because of the heavy rain, his entire body looked shrouded in gloom. His eyes were also as dark as bottomless pools, adding a bit of coldness to the man’s expressionless face.
Deep in the woods was a small hut, hastily built from large stones, and it had a crude straw roof and a straw mat made of clover hanging over the door. The man glimpsed at it, and his hurried footsteps hesitated. He was anxious to go on, but he was feeling a bit tired.
These small sheds set up alone in the forest were generally called “guest houses.” They had clover signs hung at the entrance to distinguish them from ordinary dwellings. They had no owners, but they indicated that there was a beastman tribe nearby.
The Northern continent had a harsh environment, a vast land, and a sparse population. There were no city-states like those in the South, only a few tribes scattered in various places.
These small sheds were mostly for merchants or wandering beastmen to shelter themselves from the wind and rain. On one hand, it was a sign of the tribe’s hospitality, and on the other, it was a warning to those who came from afar—You are now on our territory. If you are not a good guest with good intentions, you better stay away from us.
Approaching the guest house, the man saw a faint fire in the shed—Apparently, he wasn’t the only traveler who was looking for shelter on this rainy night.
He hesitated for a moment. This guest house didn’t even have a door, and inside was even more empty, save for a single stove pit—Northerners had stove pits, which were holes dug in the ground inside the house. They were built with stones and filled with firewood, and they were good for cooking, keeping warm, and getting through the winter.
However, the stove pit of this guest house was really too crude. The stove pit was just a pit, and it had no cover on it.
Standing at the doorway, the man could see a person dozing off at the side of the pit. This person wore a large bamboo hat that covered his face, revealing only a pale and pointed chin.
The slightly raised Adam’s apple showed that the person was a man. He had slender limbs and seemed a little frail. That man’s hand lay limply one one side, hanging over the stove pit as if seeking warmth. The back of his hand faced right towards the door, making it clear that he was a sub-beast—He had no beast marks.
The man standing in the doorway was somewhat hesitant. He had always been cautious, but the fatigue of the day’s journey had finally overwhelmed his reluctance. Besides, the young and thin sub-beast inside the guest house was hardly a cause for further alarm.
The man finally coughed, adjusted his facial expression, and revealed a sincere and good-natured smile, making the deep-rooted coldness on his face disappear in an instant. His temperament changed dramatically, becoming a different person in the blink of an eye.
He asked very politely and with a little cautiousness, “This xiao xiongdi1Xiao means little, and it’s added to a name as a way of affectionately addressing someone (or simply addressing someone younger). Xiongdi means “brother” and it can be used as a polite term to address a man., can you lend me a roof so I may take shelter from the rain with you?”
The young man was startled. The conical bamboo hat over his face was lifted at a corner, most of his face still covered in shadows. He swept a glance over the man and didn’t say anything. With a mere “go ahead” gesture, he gave the stranger a place by the stove, seemingly defenseless against him. Then unable to stay awake, he soon curled himself up into a ball again and drifted off to sleep.
The man finally took off the straw raincoat that had been soaking wet on his body. The thin clothes under it clung to his body, outlining a strong figure. It was still sticky and uncomfortable, but being in the same room with an outsider made it hard for him to take it off. He sat down, threw a handful of firewood into the stove pit, then stirred it up to revive the fire that had been dying for a while now.
He kindled the fire and breathed out comfortably. Then he shifted his focus to the stranger next to him.
The man was very confused. Generally speaking, unless born into the family of a Chief or an Elder, sub-beasts held a relatively low position in the tribe. Most of them were craftsmen or laborers, and some who were particularly intelligent could be well-respected as doctors. However, no matter what their status, they seldom run around without their own tribe.
It was a little strange for the teenager to show up in the middle of nowhere and still be very comfortable in his own skin.
The man guessed that he might be from the tribe that built the guest house, or that he might have had a problem with his family, so he ran out in the middle of the night to act willfully.
The fire burned a little hotter, and the teenager seemed to feel warmer than he had been. He couldn’t help but turn over and move closer to the stove pit, dangerously lying right on the edge of it. Yet he slept very soundly, seemingly unconscious. His whole person was right on the narrow edge of the pit, and he was swaying as if he was about to fall off. It was a bit frightening to watch.
The man didn’t want to disturb him much, but seeing this scene, he finally couldn’t help but reach out and push him. He said softly, “Xiao xiongdi, be careful. You’re about to fall into the stove pit.”
When the teenager was pushed by him, his head turned sideways, and the hat over his face fell off completely, rolling right into the stove pit. But then the sleepy suddenly teenager reached for it, his movements too fast to be seen. He retrieve the hat before it caught fire, and a face that was still muddled from sleep was revealed.
After doing this series of actions, he still seemed to be half-asleep. He stared at the person who woke him up with a dull look.
The teenager’s pale face had a pair of petal-like eyes, the ends of which showed a little inconspicuous red due to the thinness of his skin. It was like a little bit of color as a finishing touch. Under the gentle light of the fire, there was a little lustre. It was so beautiful that it was somewhat at odds with the heavy rain and the dilapidated shed.
The man on the other side was taken aback. He stared at him for a moment, but then felt it was a little rude. So he stupidly smiled at him, then lowered his head to fiddle with the firewood in the stove pit. However, his eyes would lightly glance over the teenager’s hand.
The teenager yawned lazily and scratched his unruly hair at random. The man could still only see the back of his hand, unable to find a clue.
The man’s eyes flickered, and he wondered in his heart. What does this young sub-beast do? How could he have such a quick hand?
The teenager of unknown origin, however, had no desire for conversation, and after one glance at the person who woke him up, he dragged his own luggage over, and using it as a pillow, he went back to sleep. It was unknown what was inside that luggage. Full and bulging and over a zhang long, it seemed to be quite heavy.
The man thought, Someone wouldn’t go out with a beam on their back, would they?
As he thought this, he couldn’t help but look at the other party a few more times, but he didn’t mean anything by it. It was just that there was nothing else to look at, and when he saw a good-looking person, he couldn’t help but take a look at them.
As he watched, he couldn’t help but think back to many years ago, when he himself was still a feeble-minded teenager. He followed his father to the tribe on the other side of the mountain and met a little boy.
When the man closed his eyes, he could remember the way the little guy put a flower in his hand. He looked at him with clear eyes and smiled at him. He seemed a bit like… this sub-beast tennager before him. If that little guy had lived, he might have been this big, right?
This man was Hua Yi, who had been on the run for ten years after the Snow Wolf tribe incident
He thought to himself, then shook his head. It was hundreds of miles from Yufeng Mountain, and unless the tribe had scattered, which sub-beast could have traveled this far? And yet, when he looked at the teenager, he felt an inexplicable familiarity in his heart.
But the nostalgia and sighing in his heart was only for a moment, and he soon withdrew the faint smile he had. He cautiously leaned on the other side, closed his eyes, and seized the time to recover his strength. He retracted his hand back to his arms and pressed down the pocket knife hidden there.
For ten years, he had been living always ready for battle2枕戈待旦 (idiom) – to keep one’s spear by the pillow and await the dawn, and it had become instinctive.
In the middle of the night, the sound of footsteps came from a distance, interspersed with the sound of clashing steel and the roars of giant beasts transformed from a beastman. A beastman’s eyes and ears were extremely sensitive, and Hua Yi opened his eyes almost immediately. His pupils shrank for a moment, making his eyes, which were already darker than others, look like two deep wells. Not a single ray of light could reflect in it, and it was frighteningly cold.
One of his hands was still hidden in his clothes, but the other had taken on the form of a beast’s claw. When he turned his head, he found that the young sub-beast had woken up at some point and was staring at him thoughtfully.
Hua Yi kicked some soil into the stove pit, and the upturned earth extinguished the fire. He whispered, “Sorry, xiao xiongdi. I’m afraid someone’s coming for me. You better find a place to hide.”
The teenager didn’t reply, still studying Hua Yi’s face with a serious expression. The sound of the footsteps of the people outside were getting closer and closer. Seeing the teenager not responding, Hua Yi grabbed him by the shoulder with his spare hand, lifted him up from the ground, pushed him back, and said quickly, “Don’t just stand there. Hide if you don’t want to die!”
The teenager’s eyes fell on Hua Yi’s beast claws, and under the snowy white fur, he saw a silvery beast mark. He suddenly raised his head, and with a bit of untimely joy, he said, “It’s you! You’re Hua Yi.”
Suddenly recognized, Hua Yi’s heart tensed, and his killing intent instinctively emerged.
At that moment, however, a group of beastmen had surrounded the small guest house. A man with only animal skins draped over his bare upper body strode in. Without even giving the sub-beast boy a glance, he glared at Hua Yi with a gaze that was like nails nailing the man’s body, looking as if he wanted to pluck out a piece of flesh from it.
He stretched out his hand and said coldly to Hua Yi, “Hand it over, and we’ll let you live.”