LOOG – Chapter 28

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Chapter 28: Confident

“An eye?” Bao asked, puzzled.

“Yes, a special type of eye.” Ruan’s eyes glittered. “Are you familiar with Fei Beasts?”

She thought for a moment. “I’ve heard of the term, but I always thought they were something from storybooks or legends.”

“Well, of course you’ll find them in stories, but that doesn’t mean they’re fantasies. They’re definitely real. When the Demon Emperor came to Qi Xien, he unleashed a special type of energy.”

Bao’s ears perked up. “Energy….”

Ruan nodded. “Some people say that he brought the energy, other people say that it was always here, and that his arrival unlocked it.” He shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t think that matters. The point is that the strange energy opened up our world in a way that defies imagination.

“Creatures, beings, entities that previously existed only in stories… now walk the earth. From the clothes you’re wearing and that accent of yours, I would place money on the fact that you’re from Li Fan, right?”

Bao smiled. “Yes. I was born and raised in Yu Zhing.”

“As I thought. You don’t talk like a commoner either. Your speech is too refined. A noble lady perhaps?”

Bao looked back at him expressionlessly.

His eyebrow twitched, and he said, “Very well. The point is that you live in a part of Qi Xien that, with the exception of the presence of the Demon Emperor, most closely resembles the Qi Xien of old. However, outside of Li Fan, outside of the heart of the Empire, things are different than they used to be. Strange things lurk in the mountains and forests and jungles, and Fei Beasts are one such entity.

“I’ve only seen one in person once. It looked like an ox, pure white, with one eye, and a tail that resembles… well you might not believe me even if I told you. Look, bring me the corpse of a Fei Beast, and you’ll get your crown.”

“I thought you said you just wanted the eye.”

“Well considering that Fei Beasts have only one eye, do you really think you’ll be able to bring me the eye without killing the thing? Probably not. And considering that creatures like that are essentially walking treasures, I’d like to have the whole thing. The eye is the most important part, but the rest of the animal can be used in other ways.”

“Presumably they’re dangerous…?”

Ruan nodded. “Could be very dangerous. But I see you brought along a few fighters. Plus that bodyguard of yours seems stronger than two men put together. You’ll probably be fine. Although I wouldn’t suggest that you personally attempt to tackle the beast.”

Bao snorted. “I killled an Ogre and tamed the Demon in that fallen star. You think I’m scared of a one-eyed cow?”

Ruan chuckled. “I like your attitude. According to the reports, a Fei Beast has taken up residence in a cave about three days to the west of here.”

“Three days west? Isn’t that the Kushen Basin?”

“Not quite, but close. I’m pretty sure this Fei Beast wandered in from the Kushen Basic actually. Hard to tell. So, do we have a deal?”

Bao considered the matter for a long moment, and in the end, decided that there was little other choice. “We have a deal.”

“Excellent. How soon do you need the fallen star… refined?”

“The sooner the better.”

“Well then, you have another choice to make. If you trust me, then leave the fallen star here, and I’ll… begin preparations ahead of time. You can even leave one of your men behind to keep an eye on me. He might even be able to help out with some of the preparations. If you don’t trust me, then take it with you. However, if I wait until you bring the corpse of the Fei Beast back, then it will take a minimum of seven days to complete my work.”

Bao was not a trusting person in general, but in this situation she didn’t see the harm in leaving the star behind. The sooner she got back to the stronghold, the better. Based on Ruan the Flamingo’s reputation, she doubted he would try to flee.

“Very well, I’ll leave the star here, along with one of my men. Is there anything else you can tell me about this Fei Beast?”

Ruan looked up in thought for a moment, then said, “Not really. Fei Beasts are extraordinarily strong, so I wouldn’t recommend simply walking up and trying to kill it. Oh, another thing, their mere passage causes lesser forms of life to wither up and die. Nearby plant life, insects, everything nearby will shrivel up within moments of their hooves touching the ground.”

Bao’s eyes went wide. “What about people?”

“The effect doesn’t reach people.”

She nodded. After a bit more thought, she rose to her feet. “Very well, I’ll take my leave now. We’ll get you your Fei Beast. Remember, don’t touch that fallen star.”

**

After conferring with Mao Yun, they picked a disciple to stay behind with Ruan the Flamingo. Then, they rode west. The terrain was mountainous making the travel slow. Nothing of note happened for the following three days. Thankfully, Piduk, the local guide, was also adept at tracking and mountain travel, which was of great help. It was on evening of the third day that they found the cave Ruan the Flamingo had referred to.

Unfortunately, no Fei Beast was in sight.

However, the fact that the creature killed all lower life forms around it made it very easy to track. A swath of brown vegetation littered with dead insects trailed off to the south, which they followed at a healthy speed.

A day later they caught up to the Fei Beast as it drank water from a stream. It was surrounded by dead grass and plants, and as soon as they caught sight of it, almost everyone in the party gasped. Now Bao knew why Ruan had been so evasive about the creature’s tail. The tail flicked back and forth almost as if it had a life of its own, and at the end it were two pits that looked like eyes. Furthermore, the tail split open at the end in what looked like a mouth, filled with sharp fangs. All in all, the tail looked like a snake!

Muttered curses and murmured exclamations could be heard from the various disciples.

“It’s like a demon!” Mao Yun said.

Bao studied the creature for a bit. “I don’t think so. Just something… not native to our lands.”

“How do we take it down?”

Bao turned to look back at the disciples. “Wang Tian, come here.”

One of the men trotted his horse forward. “Chieftess?”

“You were the one who usually led hunting parties into the forest for the late Lord Shu, isn’t that right?”

“That’s right, Chieftess.”

“What was the biggest animal you ever took down, and how?”

“A big deer I supposed. Most of the time we hunt with the dogs, and take the animals down with bows.”

Bao glanced over and confirmed that Wang Tian had a bow strapped to his saddle. After looking back at the rest of the disciples, she counted only one other who had a bow. “The young man back there with the bow, is he one of your hunters?”

“Yes, Chieftess. Chieftess, are you… going to ask us to try to shoot that… thing?”

Bao took a deep breath. “I’m thinking about it. It’s called a Fei Beast, and its hooves can kill plants and insects, but not people. It looks strange, but essentially it’s just a big cow. Do you think you could take it down?”

Wang Tian studied the Fei Beast for a bit longer. “It’s hard to say, Chieftess. In the hunt, it’s not always possible to kill the deer with a single shot or two. Sometimes you have to track it down after shooting in the first time. With this thing, tracking it down won’t be a problem. So I guess there’s no harm in trying. Are they fast?”

Bao frowned. “I’m not sure. Looking at it, I would guess not. Are you up for the task?”

Wang Tian grinned. “Of course. Give me a moment to prepare.”

Wang Tian and the other disciple talked amongst themselves for a few minutes before they were ready. During that time, the Fei Beast stayed in place by the stream, occasionally drinking, but making no other moves.

When Wang Tian was ready, he and the other disciple rode their horses to a position upstream from the Fei Beast. Bao, Mao Yun, and everyone else rode a bit off to the side, where they had a clear view of the entire area. If the Fei Beast ran, they would be able to keep eyes on it for quite a distance.

After everyone was in place, Wang Tian and the other disciple sent their horses galloping toward the Fei Beast at the greatest speed they felt was safe. As they neared, the Fei Beast looked up at them, and then let out a grunt that echoed like thunder.

When they were roughly twenty meters away, they drew their bows and loosed arrows. One arrow slammed into the Fei Beast’s shoulder, the other landed in its chest. Immediately, the creature bellowed in rage, rearing up onto its hind legs.

Even as Wang Tian and the other disciple let loose another volley, the Fei Beast began to charge toward them. They immediately turned their horses around to flee.

However, the Fei Beast was much faster than any of them could have guessed. It began to close the distance rapidly, and soon was only a few meters behind the two of them. Just when it was almost upon them, Wang Tian turned his horse into the water, while the other disciple veered off in a different direction.

The Fei Beast turned toward Wang Tian, who was currently aiming for the far bank. While the second disciple galloped back toward the group, the Fei Beast leaped into the water. Wang Tian looked back in alarm, kicking his horse lightly to try to gain more speed. It was useless. A moment later the Fei Beast was upon him. The creature swung its head, and its horns pierced into Wang Tian’s horse, lifting it into the air and then tossing it violently off to the side.

As the horse and Wang Tian landed in the water with a splash, the Fei Beast turned to look at the other disciple, who by this point had just rejoined the group.

And then the Fei Beast began to run toward them.

“Dammit,” growled Mao Yun.

Various other curses could be heard.

Bao gritted her teeth. Based on how fast the Fei Beast was moving, she could tell that they only a few seconds before it was upon them. Her thoughts spun as quickly as lightning, and a moment later, she was galloping directly toward the Fei Beast

I’m only going to have one shot at this. I’d better not miss. Be confident, Bao. Confident! You can do this!

As she closed in, she leaped up to stand on the back of the horse, using the energy in her body to make herself lighter, but her feet more steady. At the same time, she drew the long dagger she kept sheathed at the small of her back.

The Fei Beast’s single eye was staring at her, bloodshot and filled with rage.

When it was only a few meters away, she crouched down and then leaped straight out into the air, using the energy in her body to propel herself with extraordinary speed and grace.

The Fei Beast reared its head, but she sailed over it, grabbing one of its horns as she passed, then using her moment to swing down and lock her legs around the creature’s massive neck. Its muscles were so powerful they fairly thrummed with strength.

Before the beast could react, she reached down with the dagger and drew it across the Fei Beast’s throat, slicing it as deep as she possibly could. Blood immediately began to spill out like a waterfall, and almost instantly, the creature’s steps faltered. Once again channeling the energy in her body, she leaped off its back to land a few meters away.

The Fei Beast staggered about a bit, but the amount of blood pouring out of its neck was such that anyone could tell it only had a few moments of life left in it. Sure enough, it soon toppled over.

Bao re-sheathed her dagger and then smiled.

Confident.

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