I thought I escaped from the cage.
Afterwards, I realized,
I had only stepped into a larger cage. No matter what I do, there’s no way to escape it.
This cage known as hatred.
– Gong Hua.
The Flower lumbered out of the mangled cage.
Still a little disoriented, he didn’t know where to go. However, he didn’t remain puzzled for long and began to stride forward slowly in the only direction he knew of… his home, the Tree.
He walked at a snail’s pace because of his unbearably bloated stomach. Earlier in his berserk rage, he consumed gobs and gobs of blood. As it was not water, he felt unaccustomed to it. He simply ate too much.
After walking for a while, there seemed to be a group of people catching up to him. The Flower halted his steps and turned around to look at them.
By then, the Flower had already recognized this race – Humans. These people rode on beasts. This was not the first time the Flower came across humans sitting atop of them. He once wondered why Humans would choose to ride beasts instead of walking themselves. After some observation, however, he more or less understood. Animals run faster than men, and some beasts can tow extremely hefty objects.
The men sitting on the beasts wore a thick layer of…“rock”. The Flower seldom saw anything like it and didn’t quite understand what it was. He could only treat it as rock for the time being.
Besides their garments, the men also waved in their hands “rocks” of different shapes.
Sparkling and pretty, those are probably decorations, the Flower thought.
The people leapt off their beasts and carefully approached Gong Hua. After reaching a certain proximity, they surrounded the Flower and raised the rocks in their hands, pointing it towards him.
The Flower cocked his head and stared. He imagined that these men must want to cage him again.
One human slowly walked into the barricade. Mesmerized by his movements, the Flower gazed directly at him. That man walked towards the Flower’s front and stopped about three steps away.
The man was quite tall, and the Flower had to arch his head to look at his face. That man also lowered his head to return the gaze. For a while, there was no movement. Then, the man suddenly retracted the glistening stone he held in his hand and untied the enormous object slung over his shoulder.
The Flower recognized this object. Humans are always wrapped in it. Except, this object looked different on every individual human, just like the varying petals on different flowers.
It was then that the Flower suddenly recalled. The Leaf Tribe also used objects to wrap themselves, but what they used were various tree leaves, fur or feathers. They would fasten a vine at the waist and occasionally hang flowers or pretty stones.
However, the objects wrapped around the humans were not leaves. The Flower didn’t know what these things were called and could only refer to them as petals.
Just then, the man slung that huge “petal” over the Flower’s body and carefully tied a knot. He even inspected it meticulously to make sure the petal was secure and wouldn’t slide off.
The Flower was amazed. It felt soft, indeed like a petal. It might be a petal from a flower he has not seen before.
However, even if this object really is a petal, a flower wouldn’t exchange petals with another. Thus, the Flower didn’t understand why that Human would drape his petal over his body.
The human opened his mouth now and sputtered a chain of sounds. However, the Flower could not understand them and so only continued to stroke the “petal” on his body. He really liked the touch of this petal.
Witnessing this, the man scratched his head, seemingly perplexed. Then, he stretched his hand and pointed at himself, continuously uttering a string of words, “Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin, Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin……”
The Flower finally understood, this man is Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin.
“Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin,” the Flower carefully enunciated the Human’s name. He mimicked the man’s action and pointed to himself saying “Flower” in the Leaf Tribe’s language. After he finished, he thought for a moment and further explained, “.”
Destined to be abandoned since birth, the Flower has not been given a name. The only thing he has left is his identity and gender.
The way to differentiate a Flower’s gender vastly differs from other species. On appearance alone, males and females look about the same. Neither of them have sex organs or nipples. Other than the strands on their heads, not a hair exists.
However, the female’s physique is generally stronger than the male, as she holds the responsibility of raising children.
Nature has always worked in this way. Giving birth to offspring is vital. Hence the reproducing female needs to be the stronger gender.
The Flower tilted his head, yet he did not deny the way that man addressed him. He understood that the other party’s language is different and pronouncing the name in the exact tone would be difficult. The “Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin” he uttered may not have been the correct pronunciation either.
Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin spoke again. Upon noticing a lack of response, he simply lifted the Flower and walked to the beast he previously sat on.
The Flower was startled. When Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin sat him on the beast’s back, he started to caress the beast out of curiosity. Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin also followed suit, as he jumped on the beast’s back and started to caress it. He then pulled on its rein, so that the beast would start running.
The Flower turned to sense the Tree’s location. Only then did he realize that the beast was taking him in a completely different direction. He turned towards Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin, and the latter smiled. He said a word Gong Hua didn’t understand and then uttered “Gong Hua.”
Because of Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin’s smile and the apparent kindness he emanated, the Flower did not jump off the beast. Gong Hua was a flower that has been left alone for fifty years; between a smile and a lifeless Tree without Leaves, the former appeared much more attractive.
The beast dashed at blazing speed, and it wasn’t long before the Flower realized he again returned to that small town, the town he obliterated.
A pungent, rusty smell wafted in the air. That smell formerly made the Flower feel so bloated he wanted to retch. The only difference now was that a rotting stench also hung about. The Flower could not stand it anymore. He leapt off the galloping animal. Momentum soon propelled him across the ground, forcing him to tumble for a few revolutions.
Once he stopped rolling, he knelt on the roadside and started to gag. But, nothing came out. The blood, consumed days before, can no longer be vomited.
Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin walked behind the Flower. He was muddled; for a second, he didn’t know what to do. After inspecting the Flower’s four limbs and making sure there were no grave injuries, he gently patted the Flower’s back. He hoped that would make him feel better.
The Flower certainly felt better. He stopped hurling and turned back to look at Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin. He hoped that man would smile at him.
He didn’t smile. The man stared at the Flower with his brows creased into a frown, worried. However, the Flower still felt unexpectedly comforted after staring at that expression.
When he saw that the Flower was no longer vomiting, Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin once again lifted the Flower and strode forward with large steps.
Just then, the Flower finally turned his attention to his surroundings. A lot more people had appeared in the town’s vicinity, as well as more triangular objects.
There have been many of such triangular objects in the circus. Every time the circus relocated, the first thing done was the setting up of these triangular objects. There were gigantic ones big enough to allow crowds to squirm within, and there were smaller ones with only enough space for a cage to enclose him, allowing only a few individuals to enter at a time to gawk at him.
The Flower took a long time to understand that the Humans use these triangular objects as mobile homes. Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin brought him into a tiny triangle, which was so small it wouldn’t be able to fit even the cage that once enclosed the Flower. When they entered, there was already a person present. Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin exchanged a few words with that person before he placed the Flower on the floor, smiling at him before leaving.
The Flower watched Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin leave and his heart sank a bit. He felt upset; even though this wasn’t the first time he was left behind.
Just then, the person who remained suddenly stroked the Flower’s head. When the Flower spun around, the person pointed to herself just like Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin and continuously reiterated, “Mila”.
Afterwards, she would point to the Flower voicing, “Gong Hua,” before pointing to herself again saying, “Mila.”
The Flower understood. This person wanted him to call out her name. The Flower pointed his finger towards the human and said, “Mila.”
After he finished, that person revealed a candescent smile. Upon seeing her smile, the Flower followed suit.
At this moment, two men emerged from outside, hauling a barrel filled to the brim with water. They placed it down and subsequently left.
Mila brought the Flower to the barrel. She ran her fingers through the water, making ripples on its surface.
The Flower was confused. Does Mila want him to drink the water? But, he had eaten too much a few days back and did not have appetite for anything. Moreover, he didn’t like steaming water and has even less need for such a big barrel of it. This barrel could conceal him completely.
Mila shoved the Flower and pointed to the barrel.
The Flower understood slightly. Does Mila want him to enter the barrel?
The Flower disliked hot water, yet he did not wish to see Mila disappointed. She smiled at him. Thus, he stepped into the barrel. The moment his feet dove into the water, Mila pushed his shoulders down, sitting him. This action caused the water to rise past his shoulders.
Mila took off the big petal draped on the Flower’s body and held a small petal, grinning as she wiped the Flower’s face with it. She then pushed the petal into the Flower’s hands.
The Flower could somewhat understand her action. After Mila used the tiny petal to wipe his face, the foul odor somewhat faded……. It appeared that the combination of water and a tiny petal can remove the stench on his body.
Once he understood this point, he immediately used the tiny petal to scrub his hair, where it reeked the most.
Upon observing the Flower’s actions, Mila knew he understood. Smiling broadly, she started to walk out.
The moment the Flower saw Mila leaving, he immediately halted his wiping and shouted, “Mila!”
Mila spun around, staring at him curiously, with a smile still plastered across her face. At that point, the Flower began to understand. No matter if it’s Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin or Mila, they have not abandoned him. They were only leaving for the time being.
Mila walked to the side of the barrel and caressed the Flower’s head, murmuring incessantly. Although she should know that the Flower wouldn’t understand, she still talked to him for a long while with a gentle tone before leaving.
Understanding that Mila and Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin would return, the Flower felt assured and continued to scrub his body with the petal. The hot water felt less annoying now.
Not long after, Mila indeed returned, holding a stack of petals. She pushed those petals to the Flower and uttered a few words.
The Flower stared at the petals, then raised his head towards Mila.
Mila spoke again, spread the petals, and pointed to herself. With no reaction from the Flower, she smiled a constrained smile. She put on the petals piece by piece then took them off, demonstrating the action to the Flower repeatedly with utmost patience.
The Flower stared at Mila’s actions with immense curiosity. Mila ceaselessly put on and peeled off the pieces of petals. She wore two small petals first, attaching each to the upper and lower body. She then grasped a large petal, putting it on headfirst then wrapping herself completely from neck to knee.
The Flower understood. He stood up, wanting to try wearing these soft petals as well. However, before he could take those petals, Mila turned to grab another large petal and began to wipe his damp body.
That petal sponged away the water beads on his body. By then, Mila has also pulled the Flower’s whole body out of the barrel. Mila grinned at him before stuffing petals into the Flower’s arms. She then turned around with her back facing the Flower.
The Flower imitated Mila’s movements and wore the petals one by one. He first attempted the small white petal, which had two holes for him to poke his legs through; he pulled that to his waist. He then slipped his head through a slightly larger white petal and stretched his arms out of the two holes on the side. The largest blue petal came last; he also slipped his head through it and cast his out his arms. The only difference between this blue petal and the white one was that this is much larger, covering the Flower to his knees.
After putting on his clothes, the Flower immediately tugged on Mila’s arm excitedly. He wanted Mila to see him with his petals on.
Mila turned around, smiling as she caressed the Flower’s head. The Flower recoiled immediately. The action was too intimate and made him feel slightly embarrassed.
Yells traveled from outside the triangle. The Flower heard them. Mila heard them as well. The latter hollered back towards the sound, and Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin subsequently walked in. He was dazed upon seeing the Flower and soon broke into a smile.
The Flower mimicked him, widening the corners of his lips to reveal a huge grin. This made Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin smile even more, from ear to ear. He walked forward and stuffed a soft, downy object onto the Flower. Its color resembled that of soil.
The Flower took it and sniffed, discovering it aromatic and soft. The Flower suspected that this could possibly be a petal as well? However, he never saw a petal colored soil and was thus fascinated by it.
Mila and Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin started to converse, but the Flower could not understand their words. All he could do was play with the soil-colored petal by himself.
Mila turned her head around, and grabbed the petal with one hand, before tearing off a piece of it.
“Ah!” The Flower was stupefied. The petal was actually torn!
Mila stuffed the torn fragment into the Flower’s mouth. This startled him even more. He held it in his mouth, confused about why Mila would stuff a petal into his mouth.
Mila smiled and turned back to talk to Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin.
Amidst listening to Mila talk, he recognized a familiar sound, Owen…… but only “Owen”. Mila did not mention “Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin”.
“Owen?” The Flower glanced at Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin, puzzled. Is he called “Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin” or is it simply “Owen”?
Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin heard the Flower. He spun around and answered with a smile, “Gong Hua..”
He also mentioned something else after his name, but the Flower couldn’t understand. He pointed at Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin and asked, “Owen?”
The Flower repeated it. He preferred Owen to Zhan∙Owen∙Paladin, as it was shorter. In contrast, Owen liked to call him “Gong Hua” instead of just “Hua”.
How weird, Owen actually preferred longer names. But that doesn’t matter, as long as he likes it.
“Gong Hua,” the Flower nodded. He would always remember his new name – Gong Hua.
Owen beamed a bright smile at Gong Hua and resumed his conversation with Mila.
During this time, the two people sneaked glances at Gong Hua while they spoke, but the latter was oblivious to it. His paid full attention to the petals on his hand and body and constantly played with them. He even discovered that these two different petals were actually worlds apart.
Occasionally, he would raise his head out of curiosity to peek at Owen and Mila. If their eyes met, Owen or Mila would smile at him. This incited him to raise his head more regularly. He anticipated the next time their gazes would meet and the smiles that would follow.
However, the two soon finished their discussion. Owen flashed another smile at Gong Hua before leaving.
Mila turned around, stretching her hand to tear a piece off the petal in Gong Hua’s hand. This she stuffed into Gong Hua’s mouth while smiling at him. She uttered a few words to him then followed Owen out of the tent.
After Mila exited, Gong Hua spat out all the petals in his mouth. He checked the direction of the Tree again but still doesn’t want to leave. Compared to the Tree without Leaves, he preferred to stay with Owen and Mila.
And with his stay, a month soon passed.
All this time, Gong Hua and Mila stayed together. Often times, Mila would teach Gong Hua a little of the Human language and, at the same time, be surprised to find out about his exceptional memory. As long as she said it once, no matter how insignificant, Gong Hua would remember it.
In only a month, Gong Hua could almost name every item in the Human language. However, he still struggled with sentence structures.
Sometimes, Owen also visited the Flower, but he seemed busy and always left as quickly as he came. Even then, he never forgot to bring little gifts for Gong Hua. Most of the time, they were tidbits and sweets. However, Gong Hua never ate them. He stored these objects in a bag Mila gave him and would occasionally take them out for a whiff.
Gong Hua may not eat them, but he enjoyed the fragrance these sweets emanated.
Mila still brought him those soil-colored petals every day. No! It is “bread”. He now knew that the object was called bread. Bread is actually a type of plant seed ground into powder, then baked into a type of product for consumption. It served as staple food for the humans.
At first, Gong Hua adamantly refused to eat the bread. After a few days, however, Mila’s face crumpled with worry as she handed him the bread. Tears then begin to well up in her eyes when Gong Hua doesn’t eat.
At the sight of Mila’s tears, Gong Hua eventually bit down on the bread and reluctantly swallowed it. Mila was then able to smile through her tears. However, only after he finished the entire bread did she feel relieved enough to leave.
The moment Mila left, Gong Hua immediately ran to an isolated corner and vomited everything. His stomach could not digest it. Despite having to force himself to eat and vomit two meals every day; despite having to stay near the town he wrecked havoc in; despite having to tolerate the putrid stench still penetrating the air even now.
He still didn’t want to leave.
Gong Hua spun around as Mila frantically rushed over. Upon seeing him vomit all over the floor, she panicked and was on the verge of crying.
Concerned, Mila lightly patted Gong Hua’s back and asked, “What is it? Is your stomach upset from the bread?”
Gong Hua shook his head.
“You don’t like eating bread?” Mila asked hesitantly.
Gong Hua still shook his head. He only drinks water. Naturally, he would dislike bread.
Mila knitted her brows, but upon seeing Gong Hua’s stare, she quickly smiled and said, “Okay, I’ll bring you other food tomorrow?”
Gong Hua still shook his head. He only drinks water.
The following day, Mila brought a bowl of soup filled with meat and vegetables instead… However, her blanket of long hair disappeared.
Gong Hua stared at her head dumbfounded. Mila initially had long curls the color resembling that of sunflowers; they were extremely vibrant. Whenever he followed Mila around, humans always fixated their gazes on her hair.
“Come, drink some soup.” Mila wore a bright smile and passed the bowl to him.
Gong Hua received the bowl and stayed silent for a moment. For the first time, he started to eat things without vomiting.
After Mila coaxed Gong Hua to sleep, she could not help but turn back a few times, burdened with worry. Confirming that Gong Hua is laying well in his bed, she finally peeled open the tent door and walked out. She only took one step before abruptly colliding with a black figure. Startled, she stepped back. She began to recognize the person she bumped into. She breathed a sigh of relief, murmuring, “Owen.”
Mila nodded her head and informed him. “She finally ate something and didn’t vomit this time.”
“That’s good.” Owen frowned with his eyes fixed on the tent. “Such a worrisome child.”
“You’re really that worried?” Mila chuckled as she spoke, “At first, you kept nagging me, saying I was too fond of the child, I can’t do this, I can’t raise every orphan I find, can I? My ears nearly grew calluses from your incessant bugging.”
“That…” Rendered speechless, Owen couldn’t explain even after pondering for half the day. He only scratched his head and said, “Even if I don’t raise her to adulthood, I can’t actually let her starve to death.”
“If you like the child, say it. Why can’t you just admit it?”
Mila rolled her eyes, and seeing how Owen awkwardly stiffened, she interrogated him no further. She only turned her gaze towards the tent Gong Hua slept in and sighed, “That child is really different. She has nothing, can’t speak, yet doesn’t make a fuss. It’s as if she doesn’t want anything.”
Mila intentionally casted a sideways glance at Owen and mumbled bitterly, “Of course. There’s nothing odd about you liking Gong Hua. She has delicate features and is a very attractive girl.”
“What nonsense are you talking about?” Owen panicked and spluttered. “Gong Hua is still a child. I saw it clearly that day. Her chest hasn’t even developed…”
“You saw it clearly that day? Hm?” Mila narrowed her eyes to menacing slits.
Owen’s jaw dropped as he frantically tried to condone himself. “She, she didn’t wear anything that day! Even then, my eyes didn’t roam anywhere! Moreover, her hair covered most of her body, and you obviously know, I, I… the person I like is you! We have, for so long… Mila, you have to trust me!”
Idiot! Mila burst out laughing and said in her fits, “There, there! I was just joking.”
“You shouldn’t even joke about something like this!” Owen spoke, feeling a little wronged. “It’s not like I’m some pedophile, why would I like Gong Hua? She’s younger than me by at least fifteen years!”
Mila shook her head grinning and explained. “Gong Hua is certainly not a child, but probably just born with a small chest. She looks about fifteen or sixteen, only younger than you by about ten years!”
“Sixteen? Doesn’t that make her an adult?” Owen’s mouth gaped wide open, completely unable to conceive it. He asked, “That can’t be, can it? Her, her figure looks about twelve… Arghh! I only took a small glance.”
Mila shot him a disdainful look and muttered, “It’s because you’re too tall, so you didn’t notice that Gong Hua is actually taller than me. I measured her height, and it’s 170 cm! How can that be the height of a twelve year old?”
“That tall?” Owen was blown away by surprise. “There are girls that tall?” According to his impression of women, girls are all supposed to be small and petite.
After hearing his words, Mila hesitated. She has seen Gong Hua naked, although never precisely. The mass of hair always cloaked over the body as well. However, it seemed that that child doesn’t have nipples… Nonetheless, these things aren’t appropriate to mention to a man. Mila simply could not muster the courage to discuss nipple problems with him.
“No matter what, that child is simply too odd.” Mila said distraught with worry, “Look at her. In the beginning, she couldn’t even speak!”
“She could be suffering from a trauma,” Owen explained. “There are many people scared into aberration upon witnessing frightening events. Not to mention, this town’s been reduced to a bloodbath! Gong Hua’s entire body was soaked with blood. She probably witnessed the entire massacre.”
Upon hearing Owen’s explanation, Mila fell silent. She was not an easily frightened person. As military personnel following the army, witnessing blood scenes were not uncommon. But, this town could not simply be described as a bloodbath. It was completely decimated; the infrastructure was reduced to rubble, and there were even houses half buried in the ground.
Despite mobilizing a team of thirty people and a month of excavation, corpses could still be dug out from depths deep of the earth.
What exactly happened in this town?
Is it a natural disaster? An earthquake?
An earthquake would be the most plausible explanation right now, but anyone who’s seen the remains would feel that something is amiss. Half of the houses were embedded in the ground, and many people were encased in deep soil instead of rubble. The ground surface was inexplicably flat, scarred with longitudinal marks. It was if some enormous, elongated creature crawled through.
Everyone who passed by this town couldn’t accept earthquake as the explanation. However, no one could offer any alternative insight.
This place lies neither near water nor mountains. Hence, it could not possibly be a flood or a landslide. Other than an earthquake, what other plausible explanation could there be? Is there even “anything” that can bring about such destruction?
Mila felt a chill down her spine. If the “natural disaster” were to befall once more, can the team withstand it? She couldn’t help but tremble at the thought.
“Don’t be afraid, you still have me, unless I die.” Owen picked up on Mila’s emotions and squeezed her hands lightly. His thick, callused hands comforted her, although Owen’s words made her so embarrassed she hid her face by looking at the floor.
Behind them, another hand also emerged, startling the two of them. They simultaneously turned around, then broke out into smiles.
It was Gong Hua!
They had no idea when Gong Hua started standing behind them. He had even latched his hands on theirs. His expression was somber, as if this was a solemn ceremony.
Mila grabbed Gong Hua’s hand and chided, “Gong Hua, why haven’t you slept yet?”
Hearing Mila’s words, Gong Hua raised his head and replied honestly, “I was listening to your conversation.”
“Ah…” Mila said a little apologetically. “I’m really sorry. We shouldn’t have talked outside the tent. The noise must have woken you up.”
Gong Hua shook his head to show he didn’t mind. He then asked curiously, “Owen, Mila, why do you put your hands together?”
The moment he posed the question, Owen and Mila exchanged quick glances. However, they shifted away again when the eyes met, their faces turning pink.
“Mila, your face is red.” After Gong Hua finished saying that, he instantly discovered something new and exclaimed, “Owen, your face is red too! Why do faces turn red?”
Mila’s face flushed even harder at Gong Hua’s words. In turn, Owen cleared his throat loudly and raised his voice, “Seriously! Kids shouldn’t ask so much. Go to sleep, quickly! Be good, and I’ll bring you out to play tomorrow.”
Go out and play? Gong Hua could not fully comprehend the meaning of ‘play’, but he understood that it meant Owen would come visit him tomorrow. He immediately spun around and asked, “Would Mila come and play too?”
“This…” Mila hesitated. Owen is the team leader, so no one would question him no matter where he went. On the other hand, she is merely military personnel. It’d be really impertinent of her to take leave without permission.
Owen hurriedly declared, “I’m the leader. I’ll let you go on leave… Don’t glare at me! I know you care about what others say, but we haven’t taken rest for so long. Everyone knows you’re serious in your work. They won’t disapprove!”
Mila looked daggers at Owen, yet as she saw Gong Hua’s eyes filled with anticipation, she couldn’t help but soften her heart and agree.
“Okay! It’s only right that we accompany Gong Hua to play. She’s still a child after all! Staying at this kind of place from dawn to dusk wouldn’t be good for her…”
While speaking, Mila also forgot that she just corrected Owen about how Gong Hua should be sixteen now and how she is not a child. Despite saying this, she still treated Gong Hua as a child herself. This is because Gong Hua has just learned how to speak, and her words all sound like a child’s. Even her actions and manners looked childish, thus no matter her age, Mila could not bring herself to treat Gong Hua as an adult.
“Never go close to town,” Owen reminded Gong Hua. “I’ve told you this many times. Did you obey them?”
Gong Hua nodded his head. He has no desire to step foot near that place. Even though the putrid stench has faded away considerably, the smell still stung. This smell reminded him of the terrifying screams and that rusty, salty stench of blood. He dreaded those memories. So even if Owen didn’t mention it, there’s no way he would go close to the town.
“There’s a lake nearby. Do you want to go there for a picnic?”
Owen and Mila started to discuss their outing’s venue for tomorrow. To be honest, there’s really nothing in the vicinity that can be considered fun. The bustling cities were all miles away, and there’s no way they could travel that far.
“Would it be dangerous?” Mila was concerned. “There seems to be many wild beasts in this area.”
“It shouldn’t be. Many members went there before. Even if it’s dangerous, there’s still me!” Owen thumped his chest as affirmation. “I’m a ‘Spiritmancer’, you know! I’ve cleared five levels of Unchain!”
“What is a spiritmancer-you-know?” Gong Hua immediately questioned, as he pretty much understood nothing. It was exhilarating to make new discoveries every day.
Owen corrected him. “It’s not spiritmancer-you-know, it’s ‘Spiritmancer’. Aye! You still can’t differentiate between , can you? Anyways, a Spiritmancer is a very powerful person, and his greatest strength lies in his ability crush ‘souls’ using Unchain.” We can make the opponent fall in one slash! Your big brother Owen here is a powerful Spiritmancer, you know!”
“Don’t listen to “Uncle” Owen’s nonsense. A Spiritmancer is just a type of battle occupation!” Mila sighed. She pushed Gong Hua to the tent while saying, “Okay! It’s late now. Gong Hua, you should go to sleep!”
Gong Hua was completely baffled. Spirit? Spiritmancer? Unchain? Battle? Occupation? He actually wanted to continue with his questions. But when Mila deepens her tone, there is no way to refute it. He can only obediently do as she says.
“I’ll explain tomorrow,” Owen winked at Gong Hua.
Gong Hua grinned and nodded. With Owen’s reassuring words, he was finally willing to return to his tent and sleep. Behind him, he could still hear Mila chiding Owen.
“You! Don’t explain so many battle terms to a little girl!”
“I rarely get a chance to show off! It won’t hurt just to let me get a feeling of it… Okay, okay! Stop pulling my ear! I promise not to reveal anything horrifying! Arrgh, it hurts!”
While listening to Owen and Mila’s voices, Gong Hua obediently laid on his mattress, thinking of tomorrow and where they will “play.” Even though he didn’t quite understand what “play” meant, knowing that Owen and Mila will accompany him was enough…
Without realizing it, Gong Hua soon drifted off to sleep. In his dream, there were trees, leaves, as well as Owen and Mila.
The moment Gong Hua woke up next morning, Mila hurried him to wash and dress. After he finished, he was forced to sit on a chair, instantly stuffed with a piece of bread for breakfast.
While Gong Hua gnawed at the bread, Mila grabbed his hair in one hand… He sprang up immediately as his hair strands struggled to break away from Mila’s clutches.
Gong Hua firmly shielded his hair with both hands. He was so embarrassed that his entire face went beet red.
Mila held onto the comb, her body frozen. She knew there was something weird about Gong Hua, like that nipple problem, but who would’ve thought that even hair could be an issue!
She had already felt that something was amiss while clutching Gong Hua’s hair earlier. Upon touch, that cluster of black didn’t feel like the texture of human hair at all. She was unable to describe how it felt; it was soft, yet not as fine as human hair. Moreover… did those hair strands just move by themselves?
“Gong Hua, your hair…” Mila’s voice sounded odd. “Can it move by itself?”
Gong Hua nodded his head.
Mila sucked in her breath and couldn’t respond momentarily. She breathed deeply a few times, forcing herself to calm down. She was then able to part her lips and murmur, “Can you make it move a little?”
The moment Mila finished, she saw Gong Hua’s hair starting to float. She had to quickly clasp her mouth to prevent an outcry escape from her lips.
Who are you… No, Gong Hua, “what” are you?
Just then, Gong Hua suddenly spoke, “Mila, are we going to play? Is Owen coming?”
The flustered Mila couldn’t listen to Gong Hua clearly and only turned instinctively to look at him. That one look settled Mila’s wave of emotions.
In her eyes, Gong Hua is but a little girl, but in fact, Gong Hua’s actions are more innocent and pure than ordinary girls, like those of children under ten. What could be so scary about a girl like that?
Mila grinned and nodded in response, “Mm, we’re going out to play. We just have to wait for Owen to come find us.”
Gong Hua was delighted, smiling from ear to ear as he nodded his head.
Seeing his smile, Mila felt more relieved. She even started believing that moving hair isn’t all that abnormal. After all, the “” houses so many tribes. It wouldn’t be strange if there were people who can move their hair.
Despite that, Mila still carefully instructed, “Gong Hua, can you stop your hair from drifting about? It doesn’t matter if it’s blown by wind, but you mustn’t make it float on its own, all right? Everyones’ hair can’t move. If yours does, people will realize that you’re different from them.”
Gong Hua nodded his head obediently. At the same time, he halted the movements of his hair, letting it fall naturally.
Seeing Gong Hua’s reaction finally put Mila’s mind at ease. Even if she could accept Gong Hua’s oddity, it doesn’t mean everyone can. To avoid invoking fear amongst others, it would be best if no one realizes it.
“Come, I’ll brush your hair,” she beckoned towards Gong Hua.
Gong Hua shook his head, face red again, while shielding his hair.
Mila was dumbfounded. In that moment, she realized something abnormal about Gong Hua’s reaction, and came to a rather embarrassing thought. She hesitated, then asked with a red face , “Gong Hua, when I touch your hair, do you feel something?”
“Yes, it’s ticklish, a weird feeling…” Gong Hua muttered softly.
“So-sorry,” Mila said sheepishly. “Then, then you’ll brush your hair yourself! This hair band is for you to tie your hair. This means you gather your hair to the back of your head, then make a pretty butterfly knot around it…” While she rattled on, she held a brush and hair band, clumsily demonstrating the action to Gong Hua.
Gong Hua nodded his head and took the hair band. He placed this on a tiny strand of hair, which twirled itself around the band and brought it onto the back of his head. Subsequently, all his hair, without a strand less, floated to the back, allowing itself to be tied by the hair band. Finally, the band was evenly tied into a pretty butterfly knot. The process, from start to finish, had not required the use of hands and was done entirely by hair.
What a convenient way of tidying hair. Mila was speechless.
She breathed in and cautioned once again, “Gong Hua, if there’s anyone around, don’t let your hair move about no matter what. Do you understand?”
Gong Hua thought for a moment then asked, “Can I let Owen see this?”
“Not yet. I’ll let him know in a few days…”
Before Mila could finish, Owen’s loud bellows travelled in from outside the tent, “Mila! Are you guys ready?”
“Ah!” Mila suddenly remembered that she herself had not tidied her appearance yet! She blurted in a hurry, “Gong Hua, go out and talk to Owen first. I must brush my hair first as well.”
Gong Hua agreed. As he stepped out of the tent, he found two other males standing outside.
One short, one tall. Both shared gentle features, but the taller man seemed more reliable than the other. This obviously has something to do with age. The shorter guy seemed like a child and looked even younger than Gong Hua, probably only ten or twelve years old.
They should both be “male” right?
Gong Hua can generally differentiate between Human men and women now. But, he has no idea whether he is considered a male or a female. Since Human women can reproduce, then Mu Hua, the Flowers who give birth, should also be females. However, Human male bodies held more physical prowess than women. This contrasts with Flowers, whose females are usually stronger! Does that mean human males are the same as Mu Hua?
Gong Hua cannot comprehend at all. Hence, whenever he found himself wearing a skirt, which is a female garment, he didn’t request for a change of clothing. He simply has no idea whether he’s a girl or a boy and so he doesn’t know if he should be wearing skirts or shorts. It’s just that he prefers wearing skirts, as they resemble petals more.
Just then, Owen stretched out his hand and gave the man beside him a loud pat on the shoulder. He said, “Gong Hua, let me introduce everyone. This is my team’s only Spirit Charmer, Zhan • Cedric Tershiziel. The one beside him is his younger brother, Zhan • Cas • Tershiziel.”
“Such long names.” Gong Hua felt troubled. Owen and Mila sounded much better.
“Zhan • Owen • Paladin isn’t that short either!” Cas raised his voice in protest. “What’s your full name?”
After hearing Cas’ words, Owen and Cedric’s faces changed color. They both know that Gong Hua had trouble even speaking properly. He has also never mentioned his full name. It probably too traumatized to remember.
“What’s a full name?” Gong Hua didn’t understand. Mila told him before that it’s okay to ask questions if he doesn’t understand.
“A full name is your whole name!” Cas said as a matter-of-factly. “The first cword of your country’s name, followed by your first name and surname!”
“What’s country’s name and surname?” Even though Cas answered his question, he remained confused.
Cas glared straight at him and scowled, “Why don’t you know anything? Your country’s name is what you call the place you were born in. You’re a citizen of , aren’t you? Then, the first word of your full name should be Zhan, then Gong Hua, followed by your surname. A surname is… simply a surname! Your father’s surname is your surname!”
“Cas, quiet!” Cedric bellowed at him furiously. “Did you forget what I told you?”
Cas froze. Just then did he recalled his brother’s instructions regarding Gong Hua. Gong Hua cannot remember anything, so it’s crucial that no one asks him about his past. Upon recollection, Cas immediately sealed his mouth shut, albeit a little too late.
Owen consoled Gong Hua nervously, “Gong Hua, it’s okay if you don’t remember your full name. It’ll come to you someday, so take your time to remember…”
Suddenly, Gong Hua blurted out, “Leaf • Gong Hua • Tree.”
“What?” Owen was stunned.
“My full name is Leaf • Gong Hua • Tree.”
Gong Hua racked his brains to think of this. The country he lived in… He only knew that he lived together with the Leaf Tribe, so it should be Leaf, right? And if his father’s surname is his own… since he was born from a tree, it is his mother as well as father. Since a tree is only called Tree, that should naturally be his surname.
“Leaf? You’re lying!” Cas immediately forgot his brother’s warning again and roared, “There’s no country like that! The Continent of Xi Zong only consists of our country, Zhan Yan, the western side’s Yi Xiang, the midland’s Lin Feng, and the eastern front’s Da Shi. Everyone’s names should start with Zhan, Xiang, Feng, or Shi.”
“Leaf?” Cedric, in turn, was dumbfounded and exclaimed, “Could you be from the Leaf Tribe?”
“I am a Flower.” Gong Hua thought for a bit and added, “Leaf Tribe’s Flower.”
“Flower?” Cedric’s was confused. It wasn’t that surprising to him though, as he held minimal knowledge in the first place.
Leaf Tribes in Xi Zong are extremely rare and never associates with the outside world. Already unusual to come across this species in the first place, the only sparse information Humans could obtain is rumors, rumors on how everyone in a leaf tribe is beautiful, kind hearted, etc. However, getting into specifics would be impossible.”
After looking around and ensuring no one else is nearby, Cedric whispered, “In short, you belong to the Leaf Tribe, right?”
The moment Gong Hua nodded his head, Cedric’s expression fell heavy.
“Okay, I’ve kept you waiting.”
Mila flipped open the tent door and rushed out briskly. The instant she walked out, she noticed the odd expressions on everyone’s faces. She couldn’t help but suspect that Gong Hua’s abnormality has been discovered. Frantically she questioned, “What is it?”
Owen scratched his head and said, “I’m not too sure myself, Gong Hua seems to, seems to not be of the Human Tribe… “
Mila froze. The matter seemed more serious than she thought.
Just then, Cedric abruptly turned to the two of them and said, “Mila, Owen, let’s go over to the side and talk for a while, shall we? Cas, chatted with Gong Hua first… I’m warning you, you’re not allowed to mention anything about the Leaf Tribe, and you’re also forbidden from bullying her, understand?”
Cas stared at his brother’s expression and understood the gravity of this warning. He nodded his head vigorously. As a sign of making peace, he even took the initiative to clasp Gong Hua’s hand.
Cedric dragged Owen and Mila to the side without a moment’s hesitation. The other two were all question marks. They only stared at Cedric to wait for his explanation.
Cedric fixed his gaze on the two people, his tone somber as he spoke, “Owen, Mila, the Leaf Tribe is very valuable. Especially since rumors a while back told of the Leaf Tribe’s relocation to another continent, none of them remain on this continent anymore. If you brought Gong Hua to an auction, you could sell him at an unbelievably high price…”