Xin Fan woke up with a clear mind. A proper sleep was something that he hadn't experienced in quite some time and it was refreshing whenever he had a chance to do so. Xin Fan could hear the mumbles of Chilong on the bed beside him and Tianfei, a bunk above him. Xin Fan slowly crawled out of bed to open the windows to see the snow. Already at this early hour, he could see children throwing balls of snow at each other.
"Kids wake up!"
Aunty Lu opened the door with a wide grin. She seemed to be ready a long time ago. Tianfei slowly got up while rubbing her eyes, still not fully awake.
"Ehhh...where am I?"
She slowly climbed down the bunk bed and headed over to the bathroom. While this was happening, Chilong and Xin Fan headed towards the dining area where they were greeted with the sight of food. Aunty Lu was quite excited as they slowly sat down to have the meal. Xin Fan took a bite of the meat bun and his eyes lit up. It was just like the food he ate back at home.
"Ahh...It's been a while since I've cooked for somebody else."
Aunty Lu looked satisfied at the sight of the childen enjoying the food. Although Chilong didn't say anything, his enjoyment could still be seen. Tianfei slowly entered the dining room afterwards still looking a bit tired. As she looked at the food on the table and Xin Fan and Chilong eating it, her face shifted from tired to betrayed.
"Ah! You didn't wait for me!"
She scrambled over to have a seat and grabbed the few remaining meat buns on the table. She ate extremely quickly as if she was a hamster.
"Hey! We only ate one!"
"Don't rush. There is still more. Nobody will take it."
Xin Fan and Chilong let out a sigh of relief. Aunty Lu took out another plate from the steamer and placed it on the table. After eating breakfast, they left the home and decided to explore the village. Over in the main square, Wang Mei was having a conversation with her grandfather.
"So you need some dried rations to last another week. Right?"
"Yes Grandfather. The school would pay for it."
"Alright then. It'll be done in a day."
From the conversation, Xin Fan could infer that they would depart once again soon. For now it was best to explore around and have a stretch before another long ride. As he was about to explore, Xin Fan felt a tug on his robe. It was a boy around 4 years old, no older than Xiao Xing. Next to him was a girl who looked quite similar to him just with an extremely blank look.
"Hey. Big brother you are a cultivator right?"
"Huh? Um sure?"
"My sister has been acting strange recently."
"Huh? Why does that have to do with me?"
Xin Fan was not quite sure about what this kid was talking about. That was until he looked at the girl. At first glance, she looked pretty normal however anyone can tell, this wasn't normal. As Xin Fan looked around he could see this everywhere. People would still do what they normally do, but they would seem to be somewhat blank.
"I'll take you to Teacher Wang."
Xin Fan led the siblings to the teacher.
"Hmm. This may be serious. I'll look into it."
The kids thanked Wang Mei before going on their merry way. Little did Xin Fan know, he too would soon be dragged into this mess. The small group of 3 climbed the back mountains for some exploration.The air was fresh especially in this part of the continent. Like Xin Fan's village, it was far away from the main civilization and everyone was self sustaining. Although in unfamiliar terrain, Chilong and Xin Fan managed to easily get around in the mountains. Tianfei on the other hand, lagged behind unable to adapt to the environment.
"You've got to adapt Tianfei. I'm sure our trial in Tower City would be worse."
Xin Fan who managed to climb a tall ledge looked down on the other two who were still climbing. As he did so, Xin Fan's eyes widened as he watched Chilong. Chilong was actually eating a fruit from another tree while climbing with only one hand.
"What does it matter."
A small burst of qi erupted from Tianfei's feet before she leaped up and easily scaled the ledge. At the same time, Chilong finished eating the fruit and started to speed up scaling the ledge at the same rate.
"Well, suit yourself. It's fine as long as you can keep up your mobility in this terrain."
As they traveled, Xin Fan could hear the sounds of animals howling. Chilong seemed especially on guard as if it was instinctual. It was not long until they reached the peak of that mountain. The view was breathtaking to say the least. At this height, they could see the entire village as it expands outwards to the forests.
"Zhiqi Forest. Land of the untainted."
Xin Fan turned around at Chilong's words.
Chilong was reading a steel plaque that was embedded into the ground. There was a layer of rust and snow covering it.
"That's what it says here. I found it because there was a scent of metal."
Chilong recovered the plaque with the snow as if it was untouched to begin with. He seemed extremely serious about the matter. His ears twitched as he heard something coming towards them in the distance.
"Looks like we aren't welcome...Hide."
The three hid behind a large rock covering their bodies in the snow as extra precaution. Xin Fan carefully took a peek behind the rock to see what was coming. There stood a large wolf with eyes wiser than a man's. It's silver fur shimmered against the snow and sun. It had a white aura much thicker than anything Xin Fan has ever seen before. The wolf was bowing towards something. Xin Fan could not even make sense of what it was before it disappeared into thin air. Seeing the 'thing' disappear, the wolf too left leaving a trail of paw prints.
"What did you see."
Xin Fan was speechless. He really had no idea what he just witnessed. There were many questions that was in his mind. What was that creature? Why did the wolf bow towards it? Why did the wolf seem as if he had intelligence.
They left the peak of the mountain and headed back to the village. Every forest had it's king and that 'thing' seemed to be it. They knew that it was not their place to meddle into such affairs and left the mountain the way it was.
The suns have started to set and once again it was time to sleep. They went to sleep early as the time to depart was tomorrow. As the moons started to rise, Xin Fan entered a dreamlike state. It was strange.Although Xin Fan felt awake, he started to see things that he shouldn't. It was blurry, like a dream but seemed too real to not be part of reality.
"Where am I?"
When Xin Fan opened up his eyes again, he was not in his bed.
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