Chapter 1. A Mysterious Encounter (1)
A man was wearily ascending a mountain. Well, a poor excuse of it anyway. The so-called mountain was more a wasteland than anything.
“Oh god, I feel like I’m going to hurl.”
The man’s voice came out with a strange sense of hoarseness. Coupled with the weird outfit he was wearing, he resembled a crackpot almost alarmingly closely.
His attire was composed of some sort of ragged, dirtied cloth that was almost unidentifiable. In fact, the patches of blood all around his body was what kept the cloth stuck on to him.
He seemed rather tired, seeing that his arms were dangling lifelessly every time he took a step. In one hand, he held a saw with a shape vaguely reminiscent of a sword, and in the other he held some sort of dirt-caked root.
“Damn it, can’t even find rats on this stupid mountain…”
The man complained as he plopped his tired ass down on a boulder next to him. He took the root in his hands up to his lifeless eyes and studied it.
After having brushed off the dirt, he used his teeth to carefully scrape off the outer layer of the root, revealing its white flesh underneath.
“I would even kill for a kudzu root right now.”
The man bit down on the root.
The man frowned as he muttered under his breath, but kept chewing despite his complaint.
He was just too hungry.
However, after just a few bites, the root had already disappeared into his mouth.
“Tch, doesn’t even fill my stomach.”
The man stood up again, brushing the dust off his pants.
He looked around with eyes filled with dissatisfaction. No matter where he looked, all he could see was dead trees.
This was all thanks to the war.
As the war continued, the palace taxed the locals more and more. Not only that, but a drought began, forcing the peasants to scavenge the mountains for food.
This mountain in particular was rather dangerous.
But even so, the trees had been completely stripped bare. Due to their extreme hunger, the peasants would scale even a mountain as dangerous as this one just to chew on tree bark.
“Damn the war…”
The man had already stopped looking around, his eyes had sunk in depression.
All of this had happened subsequent to the fall of the previous dynasty, which led to various warlords attempting to claim the throne.
That was the start of this war that had lasted for the past thirty years.
Of course, this didn’t mean that all of China was going to suffer from starvation, but this particular place was unfortunate enough to have its habitants starved and taxed into absolute poverty.
It was an omen of ruin.
“God damn it, do I have to go further in?”
The root the man had dumped into his mouth moments ago was something he only found after hours of searching. There was no way there were any animals to be found in this area.
After all, animals had to eat too.
Despite knowing this, he couldn’t help but complain.
He looked farther up the mountain, before turning back to look down the mountain.
“Should I go back?”
He immediately shook his head.
“Screw that, they’ll just give me a bowl of porridge and work me all day. That, or they’ll use me as cannon fodder.”
Not even the military could feed their soldiers properly during a drought this bad.
All they could give was a single bowl of porridge.
The man hung his sword on his waist and walked farther up the mountain. He should be able to find a place the peasants hadn’t touched if he climbed far enough.
There, at least, he should be able to find at least one animal.
“Ah man, a dog would be perfect right now.”
A dog’s nose was a dog’s nose for a reason.
Even on a mountain like this, there had to be a living animal somewhere. At times like this, hunting with a dog was the most ideal.
“Hehehe, with a dog, hunting becomes much easier and you can even use it as emergency food if you need to. How amazing would that be?”
The words that were coming out of the man’s mouth would easily make a dog piss itself out of fear.
“Here, boy! Where are youuu?”
The man called out to a nonexistent dog in boredom.
But then, he felt something a ways away.
A dried bush shook a bit, and a white ear popped out of it. When he got closer, he saw that a skinny rabbit was stuck in the bush.
“I’ve struck gold! I mean, rabbit!”
Almost instantaneously, the man leapt at the rabbit, skinned it, and put it over a fire.
The idea of an imaginary dog in the man’s head had already disappeared.
The rabbit roasted nicely, releasing a delicious smell as it cooked over the flame. Of course, the meat wasn’t seasoned at all, but the man didn’t even care at this point.
Currently, the man was sitting down, facing away from the rabbit, his face like that of the most generous saint.
“You’re a good boy, aren’t you?”
The man whispered soothing words at something in the forest as he slowly lifted a stick in his left hand.
“Good boy, good boy! Here, go fetch!”
The man threw the stick in his hand, which flew over the head of a grey beast with triangular ears.
The man spoke again.
The grey beast moved to follow the man’s orders.
Of course, instead of going for the stick, the beast went straight for the man himself.
“Damn it! Shit!”
The man cried tears of frustration as he abandoned his rabbit and ran away from the animal he had just been calling a good boy.