Zhao Yali was physically weak so they had to stop several times for rest along the way. Fortunately, they didn’t encounter any more dangerous circumstances.
Finally, they arrived at Zhao Village and Zhao Yali looked calmed by it. “This is my alma mater, I used to study here. There used to be many boys swimming in the river beside my school, but it seems to have been long abandoned now,” Zhao Yali introduced and sighed.
A woman walked toward them from the opposite direction and greeted Zhao Yali, “Hi, Lili, you’re back?” She then looked at Luo Yuan and asked, “Is this your boyfriend?”
Zhao Yali felt awkward and said, “Oh, no. He just helped me come here.”
The woman didn’t seem convinced and continued, “Why not? He looks good and you were obedient since young. But I can’t talk much now. I’m sure your parents are waiting for you at home. You should go see them. Remember to come to my place for a meal with your friend tomorrow!”
“Oh, I think he will be fine. He’s leaving today.” Zhao Yali quickly rejected.
“Oh dear, why don’t you stay here for a few days?” the woman asked. She didn’t seem to believe Zhao Yali again.
When she was gone, Zhao Yali explained timidly, "I’m sorry, she is one of my extended family members. She is used to being very passionate. I hope she didn’t bother you too much."
"Don’t worry," Luo Yuan replied.
This village gave him the feeling of peace and quiet. The villagers looked friendly. like people did prior to the recent happenings. However, that didn’t seem to be normal, and he wasn’t sure if it was real. For some reason, he felt that the area wasn’t completely safe. But finally, they arrived in front of a small old house after the long journey.
“Basic experience reward: 400”
“Comment reward: +200”
Luo Yuan immediately felt relieved and free when he heard that familiar sound.
“Please remain silent later to avoid any misunderstandings. And if my dad asks you whether you have a girlfriend, please say yes,” Zhao Yali told him hastily in a depressed tone of voice.
“Alright, I got it. I promise I won’t talk nonsense,” Luo Yuan easily agreed.
Zhao Yali felt relieved and knocked on the door with excitement. “Mom! Mom! I’m back!”
“Coming, I’m coming!” They could hear the footsteps of Zhao Yali’s mother rushing to the door. The grill was opened, and a woman with an apron walked out from the house. She hugged Zhao Yali, and both of them shed tears of joys.
Luo Yuan noticed how alike the two looked. He was standing aside, uneasy. Since his parents had passed away in the accident, he hadn’t seen this kind of a heart-warming scene. After a while, Zhao Yali’s mother wiped away the tears and let go of her daughter. She looked at Luo Yuan and nodded, saying, "Oh dear, you’re Lili’s friend right? Come in, please. Why don’t you introduce him?"
It was difficult not to talk about Luo Yuan’s appearance. He was tall and handsome. Besides that, he had become more stable and mature after the period of training and fighting. Right now, he could be considered as an outstanding person.
Zhao Yali’s eyes were teary as she stared at Luo Yuan for a second, then she replied to her mother, “Nothing much to introduce, just a normal friend. But Mom, where’s daddy?”
Her mother nagged at her, “How could you say that?” She turned to face Luo Yuan. “I hope you don’t mind. Please come in.” She quickly turned back to her daughter. “Lili, can you please help me make some tea?”
"It alright, ma’am. My name is Luo Yuan, but you can just call me Yuan. I’ll help myself, don’t worry. I really appreciate it," Luo Yuan said.
"Alright, allright! Lili, can you please come and talk with Luo Yuan? Your dad and Xiao Huang have went to the farm since he said he wanted to prepare some meat for you. They will be back soon," Zhao Yali’s mother said happily while looking at Luo Yuan.
Zhao Yali was shocked and her complexation paled instantly. “Oh no, mom! How could you let him go alone? It’s very dangerous outside! I’ll go find him!”
She looked at Luo Yuan with eyes begging for help, and he nodded.
However, her mother wasn’t worried at all and said, "Don’t worry, my girl, he has Lao Huang. She is amazing, none of the other animals can beat her. You will be shocked when you see her later."
Luo Yuan’s facial expression changed instantly. "Is that a mutated animal again?" he wondered.
Zhao Yali was sitting in the living room together with Luo Yuan when they heard someone trying to unlock the padlock outside the grill. “Must be my dad!” Zhao Yali stood up when she heard the sound.
A gigantic animal which was nearly two meters in height squeezed into the house once the door was opened. It was wagging its tail happily, but the feature that attracted more attention was an extraordinary flaming red fluffy fur. It was moving up and down, following the animal’s jumps. The fur was red, and it looked like a burning flame.
The animal’s limbs were very strong and brought out a feeling of power. Even if a person was to only look from afar, they would feel pressured. But strangely, there was a chain tied around the dog’s neck, and the far end of it was held by a man. Yet based on the animal’s body size and energy, it could probably easily break the chain if it used any strength.
Zhao Yali was shocked and stood up in fear. She didn’t feel comfortable looking at this gigantic dog as she found it unreal.
Luo Yuan’s body tensed, and he looked very serious as though he had bumped into a very powerful enemy. His hand naturally traveled to his knife just like at the time when he was about to fight with the big snake.
Suddenly, a man with a snakeskin backpack came in holding the chain in his hand. The man looked about to be about 50 years old. "Oh, my dear! You’re finally home! Were you shocked?" the man asked her.
"Is this Lao Huang?" Zhao Yali asked.
The gigantic dog kept wagging her tail and made some sounds to show how happy she was when she saw Zhao Yali. She did not rush to Zhao Yali but turned around to look at her father. He scolded the dog and she whined but allowed herself to be chained beside a big tree. Through all that time, she kept on looking at Zhao Yali while whining.
Luo Yuan quickly stepped forward to shake his hand when he saw Zhao Yali’s father walking toward him. "Hi, I’m Luo Yuan. How are you?"
Zhao Yali’s father looked at Luo Yuan and said, "You’re Lili’s friend? Don’t be afraid, the dog doesn’t bite and she is very smart. We usually let her go around the house." He noticed Luo Yuan’s knife hung by his waist and asked, "Were you alright on the way home?"
Although Zhao Yali’s father dressed very plainly, he was not just a normal farmer. He spoke in a very fluent and accurate Mandarin. He must have gone through something different before settling here.
“Oh, don’t worry. Just some small problems, it was manageable. Luckily, I had a knife,” Luo Yuan replied, smiling.
However, Zhao Yali’s father had already noticed a few tiny blood stains on his daughter’s dress, and he could understand the risky and dangerous experiences behind the simple description from Luo Yuan. He looked a bit scared and worried. "It seems everything is worsening faster than what we expected. I thought the city would be safer, otherwise, I’d have waited for her at the station. I’m so grateful that you were there for her along the way. I can’t imagine what would have happened otherwise."
“You’re very welcome, uncle. Yali used to help me a lot; she is just like my sister. I only did what I had to,” Luo Yuan replied respectfully.
Zhao Yali stood aside with a mad face. “Is there any younger brother who will get on top of the sister?” she wondered in her mind.
Her father continued speaking, “Alright, then I won’t mention it anymore. I wanted her to come back in the first place, but I thought the city center would be safer than the villages. It’s good that she’s back now, at least we have food here. Besides that, her mom will no longer need to worry about her and nag me every day."
Suddenly, Zhao Yali’s mother called her father from the kitchen. He smiled and said, "Oh dear, please take a seat first. I need to help her mom. Let’s drink together over dinner."
Luo Yuan quickly replied, "Sure! Thanks for helping." After he went into the kitchen, Luo Yuan asked Zhao Yali, “How was my performance?”
Zhao Yali stared at him and said, "Normal." A moment later, she asked Luo Yuan, "When are you leaving?"
"I’ve never seen people like who would be so mean to someone who’s helped them so much. Don’t you think it would be nice to offer me a dinner as a return before I leave? I’m starving," Luo Yuan told her. Suddenly, he put his palm on his forehead as if he was recalling something important and said, "Oh! Don’t you plan to get yourself some panties?"
"You pervert!! Your mind is all about pornography!" Zhao Yali was mad and blushed. She was trying to run up to the first floor when Luo Yuan stopped her and passed the gun to her, “Please hide it properly.”
Zhao Yali took the gun carefully and quickly checked the surroundings, then ran up. Luo Yuan smiled and walked out of the living room. He looked at the gigantic dog. She was lazily lying on the floor, and to Luo Yuan’s amazement, she was still taller than half a meter. Her ears moved a little and straightened instantly when she became aware of people approaching her. She opened her eyes slightly and then closed them again. Luo Yuan noticed they were light blue and clear, just like crystals.
Luo Yuan stepped a bit closer to her and then stopped. This dog wasn’t like those mutated rats. Even though Zhao Yali’s father described her as a gentle and smart dog, he wouldn’t take the risk of challenging her. If he did, he would be thrown away five to six meters by a simple hit, since the size of the dog was really beyond imagination. Luo Yuan would receive some minor injuries even if he was confident enough to kill her. Yet, it was necessary to kill her. He noticed a few red animal hairs on the floor which were about 20 cm in length. He picked one up and used his identification power.
“Fur from a mutated gigantic dog.”
“Rarity: Light Blue”
“Comment: This is a fur from a mutated dog that consists of a small power of fire.”
“It’s real!” Luo Yuan was shocked but he proved his own speculation. Zhao Yali was going to be safe here.
Luo Yuan had no idea what was the factor that controlled the mutating speed since he realized that some animals were mutating faster than the others.
Most of the mutated animals were categorized in Grade White, and there were just a few animals classified in Grade Blue. Those graded as blue were usually super rare and were as valuable as the feather of a phoenix or the horn of a Chinese unicorn. However, Luo Yuan had seen two of these rare animals so far: the big snake and the gigantic dog in front of him. Each of them could be the king of their particular area. Perhaps, there was also a huge one in the rat community.
Thankfully, they hadn’t bumped into it.
Anyway, it was no wonder that the village looked extraordinary peaceful. As the infrastructure and agriculture in the villages got more sophisticated, cows became expelled from the farms. There was no reason for the villagers to be worried, especially since the dog was considered the big animal of the surrounding area and was enough to scare away the smaller mutated animals. Most importantly, she had undergone the evolution to light blue grade which was sufficient to protect the villagers.
He recalled the couple who had killed their dog in the Choo Village and felt they were stupid as they didn’t know that a dog was always loyal to its owners as long as they didn’t abuse it. Even if the dog mutated, it would not change its loyalty. Also, even if the dog was only graded as White, that was sufficient to fight off most of the threats right now. Though, it was extremely expensive to rear one if the dog didn’t know how to find its own food.
"Oh, but what is this power of fire?" Luo Yuan noticed about the comments about the fur and wondered what it could be. "Does that mean this dog can spit fire?" He rubbed the fur a few times but didn’t feel anything unusual. He then pulled the fur but it didn’t tear, so he increased his strength and pulled again. Only then it finally tore into two pieces. The fur looked normal but it was actually very strong, even stronger than some wires.
“What are you doing here?” Zhao Yali suddenly asked from behind him.
Luo Yuan turned around and saw Zhao Yali had changed into a long light green dress that brought out the fairness of her skin. She had also put on some light makeup which made her look even more charming.
“I’m studying her fur to see what I could learn about it.”
“Such a waste that you didn’t work as a biologist. Oh, her fur is so long! It used to be yellow but now it became red!” Zhao Yali said, grabbing the fur from Luo Yuan.
“You’re getting harsher now!” Luo Yuan noted, getting up from the ground. He looked at the gigantic dog which had stood up and was now wagging her tail while looking at Zhao Yali. “Why don’t you play with her? It would be great if you could help me get a few of her hairs, the fur on her body looks darker,” Luo Yuan said.
“I’m scared,” Zhao Yali muttered, looking at the dog. She seemed to be willing to try but was still hesitating since the dog’s size was truly scary.
“She won’t bite you. Remember your dad. He said she has mutated and become very smart, that means she won’t do anything that might be dangerous to you. But she will be depressed and disappointed if you just keep standing here.”
Based on her actions and performances, the dog was quite intelligent. It could be compared to an 8-years-old kid. If Zhao Yali couldn’t overcome her fear, the dog would begin to keep a distance from her and eventually end up hurting her.
“Alright, I’ll try. But you don’t go too far away,” Zhao Yali said with a nod. She would have been feeling numb and looked deathly pale if this was any other animal than the one it was. However, it was a home dog and she was gentle enough to make Zhao Yali feel relieved.
Zhao Yali felt boosted when she saw Luo Yuan nodding. She slowly walked toward the dog, while her heart beat vigorously and her palms sweated continuously. The dog wagged her tail at a faster pace when she saw her master coming nearer to her. She was so excited and kept squatting and standing up, but did not rush forward.
Finally, she barked a few times and then lied down on the floor. Rolling over, she exposed her soft belly. Luo Yuan took a look and realized it was a female dog.
Zhao Yali suddenly felt familiar and overcame her fear. She walked quickly toward the dog and bent down to rub its belly. The dog kept whining in joy and she rubbed her furry head against Zhao Yali’s legs with some saliva dripping out at the edge of her mouth. Perhaps she had undergone some training before since she was quite good at controlling her strength.
Zhao Yali chuckled and said, “Good girl!” She then turned to Luo Yuan who was standing nearby, afraid of getting closer, and said, “If you bully me again, I’ll ask Lao Huang to bite you!” The dog’s ears twitched immediately and she raised her eyelids. It seemed like she was thinking of standing up.
Luo Yuan was sweating and whispered to Zhao Yali, “Can you please stop joking? When did I bully you?”
Zhao Yali shyly said, “You know better!”
Zhao Yali’s mother came out from the kitchen with an apron tied around her waist and talked to both of them, “Lili, come with your friend for dinner.”
“Alright!” Zhao Yali replied. She then patted the dog’s head and kicked Luo Yuan once when passing by.
The dinner was good with a big pot of an eel, frogs, and quail eggs. There were also a few plates of vegetables and some hard liquor, homemade and a bottle of Chinese traditional. Zhao Yali’s parents were very nice and kept putting food on Luo Yuan’s plate and pouring liquor into his bowl.
The amount was overwhelming for Luo Yuan. He had drank three bowls of hard liquor even though he tried to reject it. Luckily, he was quite good at drinking and his body was also fitter compared to others’. He only felt a slight headache even after drinking so much.
They continued to chit chat for a while after the dinner. Luo Yuan asked to leave by using the excuse of having some pending tasks in Donghu city. Zhao Yali’s parents asked him to stay overnight but Luo Yuan insisted on leaving. They then asked Zhao Yali to send him out.
After the two left the room, Zhao Yali’s mother asked while cleaning the dining table, “What do you think of this man?”
“Very stable and mature, has good manners. I kind of like him but I don’t think Lili wants anyone now. As you know Weiqiang has just passed away recently. I think we should just go with the flow,” Zhao Yali’s father replied and then grabbed a cigarette and began to smoke.
"You’re always like this, not paying enough attention to the details. Unlike you, I understand our daughter." Apparently, she didn’t believe that Luo Yuan was just normal friend. She continued, "She used to behave like this when she brought Weiqiang over. Apparently, they had been going out for a while already but were still pretending not to. While today I saw her peeping at Luo Yuan when we were having dinner.”
“Oh dear! You have such keen eyes! I almost got tricked by her! But we don’t know whether the man has noticed it or not.” Zhao Yali’s father laughed.
“Can’t you see that he purposely went out of his way to send our daughter home even it’s so far from his original goal? Does that say nothing to you?” Zhao Yali’s mother asked.
“I think we should just leave it to the both of them.” Zhao Yali’s father continued to smoke and sighed. “The world is only getting more terrible. There hasn’t been any electricity for a week or more already. I’ve heard that there was a big turmoil in Zhang Village a few days ago, and a few people had suddenly died. Our village is considered better than the rest but still… Now they will be living separately, so who knows whether they will even see each other again or not.”
Zhao Yali’s mother looked worried and slowly sat down, putting the tablecloth aside.