Yun Ruoyan could clearly hear a series of squelching noises as the wild boar’s knife chopped human flesh. The characteristic odor of human blood grew stronger and stronger in the confined space. In the end, she couldn’t stomach her nausea any further. Bowing her body, she began to retch.
It was true that, during the imperial territory, she had seen copious amounts of blood and dead corpses. There, however, the blood was from a magical beast and the dead corpse had been killed in a single lethal blow.
On the other hand, the wild boar was chopping up the human corpse the way he would a chicken or duck, preparing to roast him up…
Li Mo reached out and patted Yun Ruoyan’s back. She turned to look at him, at his unperturbed face, and guessed that he had experienced such a situation before.
Allegedly, soldiers would frequently feed tamed, carnivorous beasts with human flesh in order to make them more ferocious. Li Mo had entered the barracks before he was ten, and had surely seen human flesh before.
Another rumor was that there were army ruffians particularly fond of human flesh themselves. Whenever they captured an enemy general, they would cut him up, mash his meat into a paste, mix it into their porridge, and enjoy a sumptuous meal.
This apocryphal tale had been related to Yun Ruoyan by Lin Qingxue, who had heard it from Lin Bo. When he was young, Lin Bo had accompanied Lin Zainan during a prolonged stay in the army. According to him, when the army lacked rations, they’d had to make do with human-meat porridge.
Yun Ruoyan’s gaze next landed on Li Mo’s lips. His lips were slightly pursed, as if he were trying to prevent himself from smiling. She began to frown, and couldn’t help but imagine the sight of Li Mo consuming a bowl of human-meat porridge. As she did so, her stomach roiled further.
“I’m not going to eat that meat.” Yun Ruoyan looked away from the grisly sight.
Li Mo’s smile slowly widened. Ever since the first time he saw her, Yun Ruoyan had startled him at every juncture. It seemed as if nothing could perturb her—until now. This was the first time that Li Mo had seen Yun Ruoyan reveal such a pained expression.
He couldn’t help but want to tease her further. “Human flesh is juicy and tender, and it melts on the tongue. It’s a far cry above regular poultry. It’ll be a pity if you don’t try it, especially when it’s so fresh!”
When Yun Ruoyan heard this, she felt bile rise up her throat and retched twice more.
By this time, the wild boar had brought the freshly prepared human flesh over to roast on the fire. As Yun Ruoyan glanced at the two ears impaled on a wooden stick, she immediately closed her eyes. Regardless, her brain continued supplying the mental image of arms and legs being roasted over a fire.
Yun Ruoyan didn’t think she could stay in this hollow a moment longer. As she stood up, thinking to leave, Li Mo pressed down on her shoulder.
“What’s wrong with your wife?” the wild boar asked as he continued preparing the meat. “She’s so pale. Is she famished? Heh, don’t worry, I’ll leave her the tender thigh meat.”
The wild boar’s words prompted another bout of retching.
“She’s even vomiting?”
As Li Mo rubbed Yun Ruoyan’s back, he smiled and answered, “My wife’s pregnant, and she hasn’t had a very good appetite lately.”
“Oh, really? In that case, I’ll prepare some lean meat for her.”
Just as Yun Ruoyan was wondering how she would get through the meal, footsteps suddenly came from afar.
“Not good.” The weasel jumped and peered at the woods outside. “That pest’s coming over. He’s attracted by the fragrance of this human flesh, I bet.”
“Old tree, close up, will you?” the wild boar shouted up at the tree’s crown. With another shiver, the entrance to hollow closed up like a wild beast’s jaws.
“Brother, that fellow’s already smelled the meat, so…”
The wild boar spat into the flames and thundered, “That glutton eats everything he sees! Sooner or later, I’m going to kill him and gobble him up.”
Please, take the meat away! Yun Ruoyan didn’t know whom the wild boar and weasel was referring to, but she was very grateful for his appearance. She wasn’t sure she could stand looking, hearing, or smelling it any longer.
Thudding footsteps quickly approached the outside of the hollow, followed by loud knocks.
“Wild boar, weasel!” a voice thundered from outside, “I know you’re in there! Aren’t you going to invite me in and share what you’ve got with me?”
When neither the wild boar nor weasel spoke up, Yun Ruoyan turned to Li Mo. His brows were furrowed, and his gaiety from the chat with the beastkin had vanished.
“A bear. From his voice, his cultivation’s probably advanced enough that it’s already formed an inner core.”
“Inner core? Do beastkin have inner cores too?” Yun Ruoyan only knew that magical beasts had such cores, but not beastkin as well.
Li Mo nodded. Rather than explaining further, he murmured, “I can’t use too much spiritual energy right now, so my illusions are relatively weak. If that bear enters, he might be able to break the illusion, so hide behind me and don’t show your face.”
Only then did Yun Ruoyan realize that neither she nor Li Mo had truly become a beastkin. It was only Li Mo’s illusions that had bewitched everyone present, including Yun Ruoyan herself.
“Tell this old tree to open up!” The black bear continued pounding on the wood, making the entire hollow shake. “Otherwise, I’ll burn it down.”
As soon as the black bear made that threat, the hollow opened up before the crowd could react.
“Old tree, you traitor!” the wild boar and weasel both shouted in unison.
“Black bear, why aren’t you asleep this late at night?” the weasel gulped as he stood up.
Yun Ruoyan peeped out behind Li Mo’s back as she glanced at the entrance to the hollow.
A gigantic shadow was standing outside, covered from head to toe with black fur. He was naked save for a tiny patch of black cloth covering up his privates.
“I might have left you a bite or two, but given how long you ignored me…” The black bear swiped at the weasel with a huge claw, knocking him flat against the tree bark. When he slid down, he curled up into a little ball, not daring to say anything.
“Take what you want, but don’t hurt him,” the wild boar grunted.
“Of the entire forest, you two are the most dishonest. If you exclude me from something good next time, I’ll skin both of you and eat you up!” the black bear warned, pointing a furry finger at both of them.
The wild boar glared at the black bear, but also didn’t dare reply.
The black bear stamped out the fire with a few stomps and grabbed all the human meat, both the pieces that were already roasting over the fire and the ones that were still raw.
Yun Ruoyan sighed as she saw the bear’s actions. Take it all away! Don’t leave anything behind!
Just as the bear was about to leave, he suddenly began sniffing the air as if he’d smelled something unusual. Turning back around, he asked, “Are there strangers here?”
Neither the wild boar nor the weasel answered, but the black bear’s gleaming eyes had already landed on Li Mo in the corner.
“Where’re you from, fox?”
Li Mo bowed, respectfully recounting the story he’d told the wild boar and weasel.
The black bear listened to his introduction expressionlessly, his face an impassive mask.
He didn’t speak, so no one else dared to, either. After a pregnant silence, he suddenly asked, “Who’s that woman behind you?”
Woman, not spirit! Had they been discovered? Yun Ruoyan clutched Li Mo’s arm more tightly. As if perfectly unperturbed, however, Li Mo replied calmly, “This is my wife. She’s pregnant and feeling a little unwell.”
“Your wife?” The black bear clearly didn’t believe his words. “Why does she smell like a human?”
“We frequently travel through the human cities, so we’ve picked up some of their scents,” Li Mo explained.
“They’re truly two fox spirits. We’re sheltering them tonight, and they’ll be gone by tomorrow,” the wild boar commented.
“Right, they’re just passersby. There’s nothing to be suspicious about,” the weasel added, bending down.
The black bear glanced at them, turned to Li Mo, thought for a little, and then finally left.
Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help letting out a long breath, but the black bear suddenly turned right back around.
“No, my nose has never been wrong! There’s a live human here, a very fragrant one!” the black bear muttered to himself before walking up to Li Mo. “Let your wife come out. I’m going to inspect her.”
When Li Mo didn’t move, he continued, “What, you don’t dare? You little brat, you’re hiding something good too, aren’t you? You want to die?!”
The black bear thought that, just like the wild boar and weasel, Li Mo was hiding something good to eat, and he reached out behind Li Mo with his grubby claws.
“You dare!” A sudden shout emerged from Li Mo’s lips, emitting a discernible pressure that affected all the beastkin present. The old tree trembled, the wild boar and weasel stumbled backwards, and even the black bear took a step back.
“Interesting, very interesting.” The black bear took only one step back before stabilizing. “I’ve been trapped in this forest for too long without any competition. Tonight, you’ll be my sparring buddy.”
The black bear began to grunt loudly as its hulking form grew even more imposing.Previous Chapter Next Chapter