Truthfully, things were no safer in Hedong City.
Every few days, machine guns and fighter jets could be heard firing all over town. The city’s defensive measures might have guarded it well against ground attacks, but they were certainly no good against high-speed birds and flying insects. If one could get used to the flying invaders and explosive shoot-downs though, then everything else would seem more or less normal to them.
Since the beginning of time, humans have always been able to adapt easily. From natural disasters to world wars, it should come as no surprise that people would get used to hearing gunfire and bombs explode.
Luo Yuan sat on his bed with his legs crossed and his eyes closed, taking deep breaths in order to relax. He exhaled.
“Oh, hurry up and massage my legs. They’re numb already!” he told Huang Jiahui suddenly, breaking the short-lived tranquility.
“Why are you always like this? Why can’t I get some sleep?” she said as she turned her back to him.
They discreetly made love several times and were still continuing to do so.
“There’s not much time left, it’s almost daybreak!” he joked as he lay next to her, wrapping her up in his warm embrace. He gently slid his hands under her shirt and caressed her tender breasts. He held them in his hands and rhythmically squeezed them, fondling her hard nipples with his forefingers.
He felt the tension leave her body as she gasped with desire. “Didn’t you have enough last night?” she said as she bit her lower lip.
“But that was last night, it’s morning now,” he whispered in her ear as he breathed in the scent of her body.
“Stop fooling around! Wang Shishi will be waking up soon. We don’t want her to hear us,” she said as she grabbed hold of his hands. “I’m not as shameless as you are.”
Luo Yuan laughed and hesitated. He was thinking back to the night before when he had realized that Wang Shishi had been eavesdropping through the door. He had kept quiet about it because it had aroused him further to know that they were being watched. He had thrusted harder into Huang Jiahui, and she’d moaned and arched her back ecstatically as he’d come inside of her.
He snapped out of his thoughts. He knew how wrong it was. “Alright, later at night then!”
“You savage!” she exclaimed before she went back to sleep.
He frowned as he waited for the numbness in his legs to go away. When it did, he got up and got dressed.
Meditating was actually quite effortless. All one had to do was remain still and quiet. Crossing one’s legs was optional, but clearing one’s mind was a must. As a matter of fact, the position of a person’s body was hardly the most important factor in meditation. It didn’t matter if you were lying down or standing up. The choreography only instructed someone to cross their legs and sit still, all as a mental exercise to prompt and facilitate the state of a clear mind.
Luo Yuan prefered to lie down, as that made it easier for him to fall asleep and ignore the numbness in his legs. No one could really tell if meditation was good or bad, but if it helped clear the tangle of a troubled mind and calm the heart, that was all that mattered. If only mastering the art of the sword was just as easy.
Luo Yuan practiced his swordsmanship for an hour while the girls had their beauty sleep. After breakfast, he left almost immediately for the market. He sat by the market’s entrance holding a dark owl feather and a dated newspaper with the words “BUYING AT ANY PRICE” written on it in chalk.
Luo Yuan’s initial experiment with the dark owl feather had not turned out so well. He had wanted to see what the results would be if he merged the properties of the feather with his sword or bullet proof vest, but unfortunately the feather had vanished into thin air.
Had he not split the feather into tiny pieces before the experiment, it might not have been just the feather that would have been destroyed. His sword might have broken in the process as well, and that was something his poor heart wouldn’t have been able to bear.
He tried again, and this time he was more cautious. He cut a small scale off his vest and attempted to merge it with another piece of feather, but it was to no avail. Both materials were destroyed in the process. Luo Yuan thought that it would be a waste to simply dispose of the feathers, so he decided to experiment with other materials. He thought maybe blue rank materials were not meant to be merged together through alchemy.
He discovered that the dark owl feather could be combined effortlessly with everyday items like a simple kitchen knife. It didn’t just improve the material properties, but also slightly increased their speed, a fact that surprised Luo Yuan. The rarity level, however, was limited to a basic white since the amount of feathers he used in the combination was limited. It did surprise Huang Jiahui how smoothly he was able to wield the kitchen knife that night, though.
Even if all the feathers could be used for was a mere speed improvement, Luo Yuan was still not going to let them go to waste. Pants, shoes, clothes and any other available equipment had to be upgraded. However, he was aware that the rarity of the equipment would remain plain white if he used just a single feather. That was when it hit him – he would need more feathers, a lot more of them.
The marketplace was the most crowded in the morning when civilians habitually went grocery shopping before they headed off to work. The entrance was where the crowd began to form. Luo Yuan didn’t have to wait too long for his first curious inquirer to appear.
It was a middle-aged man who asked him, “Why are you looking to buy feathers here at the marketplace? What can you do with them anyway?”
Luo Yuan looked at the man squatting down in front of him. “I’m making bulletproof equipment with it. I’ll pay you a good deal if you have any!”
The man nodded as he said, “No doubt the equipment will be sturdy, but you’re going to need a lot of feathers just to make a single piece.”
“To make something truly bulletproof, I shall need at least three to four layers, so approximately thirty four feathers.”
“That much?” the man mumbled.
Luo Yuan laughed. Judging by the man’s reaction, he was bound to have some feathers at hand. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be asking so many questions.
“I wouldn’t be buying them at any price if I didn’t need a lot of them.”
The man hesitated for a moment. “Well, I have a few at hand, but I’d like to hear how much you’re willing to pay first.”
“If my calculations are correct, a military bulletproof vest would cost a 100-gram rice coupon. How about I pay you a 3-gram rice coupon per feather?”
“That’s way too low! You can’t compare conventional bulletproof equipment to biologically enhanced equipment,” the man said as he shook his head. “Biological equipment might be in limited supply, but I’ve heard that it is much better in all aspects compared to conventional equipment! Three grams is definitely too little. How about a 5-gram rice coupon per feather?”
The two of them bargained for several minutes, as neither wanted to end up on the losing side of the deal. Finally, they reached an agreement, setting the price at a 4.5-gram rice coupon per feather. The middle-aged man was more than delighted to settle at 4.5 and he ran out to bring the feathers. While he waited, Luo Yuan succeeded in making a second deal, so by noon he had bought a total of thirty dark owl feathers. Just as he was about to leave, a man suddenly stopped in front of him.
He was tall and large in built, so big that his presence alone was enough to intimidate someone. He stood there and looked at Luo Yuan, his stern face looking confused.
“Boss Luo? Is that you?”
Luo Yuan looked up at the man. He looked a bit familiar but he couldn’t quite recall who it was. Then suddenly he smiled.
“Qian DakuiI! Long time no see! When did you get here?”
“I was supposed to be on the third group, but I was detained for a while for starting a fight in Hedong City, so I just got here recently.” He spoke in an obnoxiously loud volume that prompted many looks from the people around them. Most of them would have beaten him if it wasn’t for his size.
“Have you got any of these? I’m looking for dark owl feathers.”
“Yeah, I’ve got some alright. I saw a bird get shot down by one of them machine guns in the outskirts. I’m sure it’s these same feathers, but they must be rotten by now. Do you still want them?”
“Yeah, of course! Where can I find them?”
“It’s a very dangerous place. I stumbled upon them while I was running for my life! But it shouldn’t be a problem for Boss Luo, of course!” he said, bursting into laughter. He knew what Luo Yuan was capable of. He had seen him effortlessly kill an armed man using only his sword.
“Wait a minute. You’ve been into the wild? I thought the army was guarding the exits,” Luo Yuan said. He was certain that the borders of Hedong City were being heavily guarded by the military.
“Guarding my ass! We do all their dirty work for them! We hunt down the food and then they buy it from us for nothing. They even give us the weapons to do it! Where do you think the city gets its food supply from?”
Luo Yuan knew what Qian Dakui was insinuating. Watching him got Luo Yuan excited about hunting, not to mention that he was also tempted by the idea of successfully casting his own set of blue rank equipment. He wondered how many feathers a single black owl could provide him.
“Alright, I’m in. Just tell me when and where.”
“That’s the spirit! How about tomorrow morning? Let’s meet at the marketplace and I’ll introduce you to my comrades.”
“Sounds like a plan!” Luo Yuan nodded in agreement.
They talked for a little longer, and then left the marketplace without exchanging any contact information.