Behind that thick and solid leg was a massive head. As the head poked into the hollow, Yun Ruoyan first saw the fellow’s black face, fierce tusks, large fleshy ears, small beady eyes, and a few tufts of yellow hair on his crown. It was a wild boar!
“Where’re you guys from, daring to take over my hollow like that?” The wild boar’s beady little eyes gleamed.
Yun Ruoyan lowered her head as soon as she saw him. Li Mo spoke up beside her, “My wife and I were just passing by when it got dark. We planned on setting up a camp but were afraid of the creatures roaming outside, so we decided to find some shelter.”
“Where are you from?” a shrill voice piped up from under the boar’s armpit. Yun Ruoyan raised her eyes slightly, just enough to see what looked to be a yellow weasel. 
The hollow wasn’t all that small, and it would easily fit four or five Yun Ruoyans. The wild boar was particularly wide, however, and the hollow seemed cramped even with only half his body squeezed inside.
Yun Ruoyan had no idea how these two beastkin could rest well in this hollow.
“We came from the Xuanfeng Mountains to the south,” Li Mo answered. “The two of us were cultivating on the Xuanfeng Mountains, but a peak eighth-rank blademaster took over our dwelling. He even threatened that he’d kill us if we stepped into the Xuanfeng Mountains again.”
Li Mo sighed wearily. “All the good cultivation spots by the east have been occupied by the humans. We had no choice but to move west, hoping to find a quiet abode to continue our journey of cultivation.”
The wild boar commiserated with them. “Ah, the good old days! When the Beast King was still alive, we could still get by, but now that he’s passed away… even surviving has become a problem!”
“It is, isn’t it?” Li Mo continued, his tone cold and hollow. When Yun Ruoyan turned to him, she froze in shock. Li Mo’s current appearance had completely changed. His black robe was now yellow, and his dark hair had morphed into a red ponytail, revealing two sharp ears. He was now… a fox?
Yun Ruoyan slowly reached out her hands and touched herself, finding the same sharp ears replicated on her body.
This revelation came as a big surprise to her. She firmly believed that cultivation would give her the strength and independence she so deeply desired, but had been completely unaware of such an incredible transmogrification technique.
“The two of us would like to seek shelter here for the night. We’ll leave right away the next morning, so would you please…?”
The wild boar and weasel glanced at each other simultaneously before turning to the monster cores that Yun Ruoyan had been using for illumination.
“Sure, but not for free,” the weasel began.
Li Mo immediately reached out and gave them two of the monster cores on the ground. “These are night leopard cores that my wife obtained from hunting in the Xuanfeng mountains, and we’d gladly hand them over as compensation for the trouble.”
The weasel grinned widely as he snatched up the cores.
“Heh, the fact that this old tree let you in is proof enough that you’re not evil. Isn’t that so?” The wild boar knocked on the hollow of the tree, which began to shake. Yun Ruoyan saw the entrance to the tree hollow expanding at a rate visible to the naked eye, and the wild boar and weasel easily walked in.
The interior of the hollow had also become significantly more spacious by at least three times the size. Even after the wild boar and weasel entered, there was still plenty of space for everyone.
Yun Ruoyan finally realized that the tree hollow they had been residing in was actually the stomach of a tree spirit.
The wild boar sat by Li Mo’s side and put a cloth bag he was carrying on the floor. “The two of you are lucky to have met us. If it had been those demons, you’d be screwed.”
“Yup, yup,” the weasel continued. “Even we can’t handle those demons, especially since they all go around in a group. Come nighttime, they maraud through the forest and either possess or suck dry any living creature they encounter.”
“If not for this old tree keeping us safe, we wouldn’t even dare to return to the forest at night,” the wild boar finished.
Yun Ruoyan only knew about the existence of this forest of dead souls, but not how dangerous or lawless it was. “We’re at the foot of the capital, so doesn’t anyone come around to deal with these demons?”
When the wild boar and weasel heard Yun Ruoyan’s words, they frowned. The wild boar turned to Li Mo. “Why does your woman sound so much like a human?”
“Ah, you see, we’d often shapeshift into humans and walk around human society. My wife’s impressionable and has picked up a lot of their habits. Please don’t mind.”
“That’s not a good sign, you know. It’s not our golden age anymore, without the Beast King to shield us. We’re just treated like wild animals to be hunted nowadays,” the weasel sighed.
“Your wife really needs to curb herself,” the wild boar urged.
Afraid that she’d expose herself if she continued speaking, Yun Ruoyan just huddled by Li Mo’s side and clamped her mouth shut.
Li Mo had somehow obtained three flasks of wine and handed one each to the wild boar and weasel. The three of them were having an uproarious time drinking.
On the other hand, Yun Ruoyan’s confusion only kept growing. Who in the world was Li Mo, to have a dragon’s arm one moment and to be a fox the next? He had even transformed her into a fox without her knowing!
So, was he a man, a dragon, or a fox?
His interaction with the two beastkin was effortless and unfeigned, so he clearly was familiar with dealing with them. If he were truly human, why would he treat fellow humans so coolly but interact so warmly with these beasts?
While Yun Ruoyan puzzled over these matters, her stomach began to protest. She’d only eaten a cup of porridge in the morning as breakfast, and nothing ever since.
Li Mo turned to Yun Ruoyan and was about to speak when the wild boar grunted, “You’ve shared your alcohol with me, so I’ll do the same. We’ll kill our catch and get you some meat.”
Yun Ruoyan saw the wild boar stand up and grab the cloth bag that he’d tossed aside.
“Weasel, go make a fire and prepare to roast this meat.”
The wild boar walked to a side of the hollow, knelt down, and started untying the cloth bag.
Yun Ruoyan was very curious as to what the bag contained to make the two beastkin so excited.
Li Mo leaned over and blocked her vision. “You’d better not look.”
“Because you won’t want to, I promise.”
The less specific Li Mo was, the more curious Yun Ruoyan became. She stubbornly craned her neck and saw the wild boar open the bag and drag a human out.
“Ahem!” Li Mo coughed loudly to hide Yun Ruoyan’s sudden exclamation.
“Are they going to kill that man?” Yun Ruoyan asked in a quavering tone.
Li Mo nodded.
Li Mo pressed down on her shoulder and shook his head.
Yun Ruoyan had lived two lives, suffered gross indignity, and bore great burdens, but she had never seen such a bloody scene.
Although she wanted to kill Pei Ziao, she had never succeeded. This would be the first time that she would see a human being killed and dismembered in cold blood.
The wild boar grabbed the man the same way she would prepare a chicken for slaughter. The man was dressed in a blademaster’s garb and appeared to have a reasonably advanced cultivation. However, his arms and legs had all been broken, and he had no means of resisting.
Luckily, Yun Ruoyan didn’t recognize the man.
“Don’t kill me, don’t kill me…!”
When the wild boar plucked out a sharp butcher’s knife from his waist, the man, weak though he was, began crying out in fear.
“Heh, heh.” Enjoying his fright, the wild boar waggled the knife in front of his face. “As a demon hunter, why didn’t you stick to hunting demons? Why’d you have to try your luck with beastkin?”
The man was half-crazed from fear, and all he could do was beg for his life.
“It’s been quite some time since I’ve eaten human meat. I didn’t want to eat you at first, but you bastard killed so many of my kind that I have to take revenge somehow, eh?”
With a swift cut, the man’s desperate begging turned into a wail, abruptly cut short.
Yun Ruoyan subconsciously grabbed Li Mo’s arm tightly, her gaze still fixed on the man’s prone form. He lay dead on the ground, a pool of red blood slowly spreading out from his body. Quickly, the blood vanished, no doubt absorbed by the tree spirit itself.
The wild boar began to butcher the corpse. Yun Ruoyan finally had to look away, clutching her mouth.
“Oh, roast meat, I can’t wait!” The weasel was still working on the fire. When he spoke, she could clearly see the saliva dripping out of his mouth.
Yun Ruoyan’s stomach lurched as she felt a sudden urge to vomit.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter