Chapter 1 – Full of Life
Stone Village was situated within the boundless mountain range, surrounded on all sides by great peaks and deep ravines. Vast and obscure mountains towered majestically nearby.
Sunlight passed through the dyed clouds, scattering down a golden radiance that bathed the people warmly within.
Dozens of children were gathered together, their ages varying from four to those over ten years old. They were currently within the village courtyard at the front of the village, and as they faced the sunlight, they trained their bodies with hmph and ha sounds. Their young and tender faces all had serious expressions. The older children seemed powerful like tigers, while the younger ones still practiced with good form and posture.
A well-built middle aged man dressed in beast fur scanned over each and every child with bright and lively eyes. Copper toned skin covered his powerful body, and black hair scattered down his shoulders. He was currently giving out instructions with a stern voice.
“When the sun rises, all living things begin to move, so the air of life is the most exuberant at that time. Although we cannot take in the sunlight as meals and ingest air like people from legends, there are still great benefits to be had by training oneself while facing the sun. It can fill one’s body with energy, and in doing so affect the rest of your day. Rise early and work hard every day. Strengthen your muscles, tendons, and bones. Allow your blood to circulate. You must all do this in order to survive in this mountain range.” The middle-aged man stood in front of them as he instructed the children in a strict manner. “Do you all understand?”
“We understand!” The group of children were full of vitality as they loudly replied.
There were many appearances of prehistoric lifeforms within the mountains. Occasionally, huge wings that covered the sky would pass over and cast giant shadows on the ground. There were also some desolate beasts who stood on mountain peaks, howling as they absorbed the moon’s essence. Of course, the various poisonous insects that moved around about could not be forgotten, as they were also abnormally terrifying.
“Understand!” The little guy, who was clearly distracted and was half a beat slower, yelled out with his immature voice.
He was a very young child, roughly one or two years old. He barely learned how to walk a few months ago, yet he already began to train with everyone else. Of course, he waddled over by himself into that group and clearly didn’t belong there.
Hmph hmph ha heh! The little guy made sounds from his mouth, and his tender little hands tried their best to wave around. He tried to imitate the older children’s movements, but he was too small and young. His movements were slanted, and his steps were unstable as he staggered around. In addition, there were white-colored milk stains on the corners of his mouth, making him appear quite foolish.
When the older children saw him, their eyes and eyebrows began to squirm about. The previously tense atmosphere of the morning exercises immediately began to relax by quite a bit.
The little guy was quite beautiful. His skin was white and tender, and his eyes were large and black as they moved around. He looked like a porcelain doll, extremely cute. The yi yi ya ya sounds coming from his mouth as well as his young and tender movements made him seem extremely lovable and naive. Nearby, some of the elders who were sitting cross-legged on large rocks also revealed smiles as they breathed in and out.
Even the robust and bare-chested male adults looked over with smiles. These were the strongest people in the village, as well as the powerful individuals that hunted for and guarded the village. Right now, they were also training. One of them held a big bone club that originated from the skeleton of an unknown beast, and another individual had a black metal-cast broadsword in his hands. As he brandished it about, the noise created from wind was thunderous.
The environment they lived in was extremely harsh. Various floods of fierce beasts and poisonous insects made it extremely difficult for them to gather food. Many of their men died in the wilderness before they even matured. If one wanted to live, they could only do so by strengthening themselves and working hard in the morning. This was true regardless of whether they were an adult, elder, or child. As a result, this became a habit that had been ingrained since youth.
“Concentrate!” The middle-aged man who was responsible for supervising and instructing the children’s training loudly yelled. The children hurriedly went back to being serious as they continued to train in the soft and dazzling morning sunlight.
“Huu… yiya… Tired.” The little guy exhaled. He sat down on the ground and looked at the older children as they trained. However, after a while, his attention shifted. He stood up, and while staggering, he rushed towards a five-colored sparrow that was moving about nearby. His endeavors did not end well. Even though he fell on his butt a few times, he did not cry. Breathing heavily, he climbed back up before chasing again with hmphs and sighs.
Following the loud shout, every single child began to cheer as they massaged their aching hands and feet. Then, while shouting, they split up and rushed towards their respective homes for breakfast.
The older villagers all smiled as they climbed down from the huge rocks. As for the adults who were as well-built as tigers, they also laughed. Some of them following their own children back home as they held their bone clubs and broadswords.
Stone Village was not too big. There were around three hundred people if you added up everyone. The houses were made out of huge stones, appearing rather plain and natural.
At the front of the village, there was a huge tree that had been struck by lightning. It was roughly a dozen or so meters in diameter, and at that moment, the light being emitted from the single branch was already being concealed by the morning sunlight. It now seemed quite ordinary.
“Oh? You have Earth Lizard meat? Hand me some!”
The children were lively and restless, and as they ate, they didn’t have much etiquette. Many of them came out from their homes, gathering together while hugging their pottery bowls.
Grass and trees flourished around Stone Village, and although there were many fierce beasts, they had guards protecting them from the large mountains. Food was not abundant for the villagers. There was only some rough wheat bread, wild fruits, and bits of meat in the children’s bowls.
In fact, food shortage was always a serious problem for Stone Village. The mountain range was extremely dangerous with abnormal beasts and fierce birds roaming about. It was common for villagers to lose their lives whenever they went out to hunt.
If they had a choice, the villagers would not be willing to enter the mountains. Entering the mountain meant blood and sacrifices.
To them, food was always extremely precious, so wasting was not allowed. Every single child was taught this from a young age. Hunger, food, life, blood; these were all interconnected
The courtyard of the old chief, Shi Yunfeng, was located at the front of the village. It was pieced together by huge stones and tightened up with huge burnt willow wood. In front of the courtyard kitchen, a white-colored liquid was boiling within a pot, causing the fragrance of milk to waft through the air. As he simmered the milk of beasts, he would throw in some medicinal herbs from time to time and stir everything slowly with a wooden ladle.
After a short while, the old man yelled, “Little guy, come over and eat!”
The little guy lost his parents when he was half a year old, so he grew up by drinking the milk of beasts. He was already a year and a few months old, the age where a normal child should have weaned, yet he still drank the milk with delight. He was unwilling to stop, so he was constantly being teased by the older children.
“Yiya, hu… I can’t run anymore…” He was out of breath from chasing the five-colored sparrow sparrow persistently. He fell and sat on the floor.
“Little guy, drink your milk!” A bunch of older children clamored together.
“You little monkeys, weren’t all of you his age at some point?” The old chief laughed as he reprimanded them.
“But we weren’t drinking milk anymore when we were one and a half! Hehe…”
The little guy made a silly smile as he faced the teasing of the older children. His big, bright, and black eyes squinted into a crescent shape, as if he didn’t mind. He sat in front of the pot and scooped with the wooden ladle, drinking it happily.
After breakfast, several extremely aged people gathered in the courtyard with chief Shi Yunfeng. Although their hairs had all turned white, they still seemed to be full of life.
“Strange events have occurred recently. Late last night, a giant creature passed by, creating a massive disturbance. Something must have happened deep within the mountain range.”
“Mm. I woke up from my sleep a few times last night. My skin and bones are feeling rather cold. Some powerful creatures must have passed by.”
Several elders spoke one after another. They were either frowning or in deep contemplation. While discussing the signs of danger they noticed recently, they felt like something unusual had happened.
“Something impressive must have appeared within the deep wilderness, attracting the attention of nearby creatures. They must have all rushed over towards that location.” Shi Yunfeng said this after thinking for a bit.
“Could it be that a mountain treasure has appeared?” An elder immediately widened his eyes. His hair and beard all stood up as he expressed his surprise.
The others also revealed unusual expressions and burning gazes. However, they quickly put away the flames in their eyes. It was impossible for them to obtain such things, as there was no one willing to enter the deepest parts of the faraway mountain range.
After all these years, not a single individual returned alive after entering such a place. All sorts of overpowering creatures dwelled within those mountains. Even if everyone from Stone Village went together, they still wouldn’t be able to accomplish a single thing.
“Chief, we haven’t entered the mountains for quite a few days.” Just at that time, a powerful adult male walked into the courtyard. He was the leader of the hunting team, and was also the next in line to serve as Stone Village’s chief.
“It hasn’t been too peaceful recently.” Chief Shi Yunfeng furrowed his brows.
“But there really isn’t much food left.” Shi Linhu said. His build was extremely tall and big, being over two meters tall. He carried a broadsword that weighed roughly three hundred jin, and his entire figure was like a human-shaped bear. Chunks of copper-colored muscles covered his body, winding about around like a python.
“The little ones need to grow and they cannot starve. We must think of a way.” An elder spoke.
“Although it isn’t too peaceful and quiet at night here, there aren’t many abnormalities in the day. I’ll bring some people out, and there shouldn’t be many problems if we are careful,” Shi Linhu said.
In the end, dozens of males who were at the prime of their lives gathered at the front of the village. The chief, Shi Yunfeng, brought them in front of the lightning-struck tree and began to solemnly pray.
“Guardian spirit, please protect my clan members. Allow them to hunt some prey for the children and return safely. With devout hearts, we will bring sacrifices and offerings to you for generations to come.”