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 Chapter 7: Mutation

Translator: Mike Editor: Chrissy

Zhou Quan was a very talkative man. Not a single moment of silence had skipped past throughout the journey. He talked about the strange news and extraordinary affairs that he had heard from the others during all those years he spent on studying in the west. All of which carried a mythical and religious overtone.

Tibet was a piece of strange land charged with occult virtues. Its history was written on legends and fables that had formed a long scroll of captivating stories that continued to echo down the centuries. Most of Zhou Quan's tales were cited from the Tibetan legends, recounting some of the most enthralling adventures of various Tibetan heroes and heroines. Passengers from neighbouring seats had all been captured by Zhou Quan's vivid storytelling.

"Not all of them are myths. Some have really happened in reality," Zhou Quan said in an earnest manner.

"Go on, don't leave us in suspense," someone urged.

"Once at a dilapidated temple, I saw a puppy mastiff keeping watch for an old mastiff at its last gasp. You know what I saw? I saw golden tears streaming down the cheeks of that puppy mastiff!" Zhou Quan said.

"Boo!"

The crowd greeted his hokum of a story with boos and hisses. They all agreed that he was just rambling rubbish.

"What I'm telling you is gospel! It's strict truth! My personal experience can attest to the absolute truth of my story!" Zhou Quan vouched for the facticity of his story.

"Afterwards when I recalled the incident, I realized the glare of the tears might be thanks to the resplendence of the puppy's golden pupils," Zhou Quan explained. "The pupils reflected its luster upon the tears, offering it a golden luminescence.

"If that were true, why wouldn't you take home such an extraordinary puppy mastiff to train it. Where is it now?" laughed someone.

"Well, I did. I did want to adopt that poor thing. But the thing is, there was an old lama guarding the dilapidated temple. He didn't let me take it no matter what because we couldn't communicate."

According to Zhou Quan, that dilapidated temple was perched at the foot a desolated mountain. Very few people paid visit to that place all the year round. The temple was near the state of collapse.

That guarding lama was awfully old and quite deaf too. Communication was almost impossible between them.

At last, Zhou Quan managed to make sense of it all. Lama had supposed that the puppy mastiff should belong to no-one. One day, it needed to return to the Holy Mountain anyway. There it would have its might to banish devils and evil spirits in years to come.

"But then, that puppy mastiff did prove himself and his extraordinary might. It gripped my trouser legs with its teeth, and then it managed to tackle me down just like that. It was odd alright." The look on his face suddenly had an unusual shift.

No-one believed him.

"When did this happen?" asked Chu Feng.

"About three years ago," Zhou Quan answered.

The train whistled as it skimmed over the scenery outside. It journeyed due east, and at last, it left the plateau of highland behind it.

"That's lots of food you've got there." Zhou Quan seemed inclined to carve up some of Chu Feng's packs of snacks. Obviously, he had regarded himself as no longer a stranger to Chu Feng at all. Before he even finished his sentence, he had already thrusted himself into the bags of delicacy.

"Which ones do you reckon are the tasty ones?" Zhou Quan asked.

"Those godly seeds tasted pretty nice," Chu Feng added.

"What? What do you mean?" Zhou Quan seemed very perplexed.

"Didn't you just say that some of the godly figures could be cultivated in a farmland?" Chu Feng's finger pointed to some orchid beans and some other nut fruits. "I reckon these might well be the seeds of Jehovah."

Zhou Quan didn't seem to be bothered by Chu Feng's harmless scoff and remarks; instead, he fiercely crammed his mouth with all kinds of beans and nut fruits. "Well, I've got to admit." The mouthful of food rendered his words all into an inarticulate ramble, "These gods' offspring do taste delicious!"

Everyone around him burst into laughter.

"Ouch!" suddenly, Zhou Quan cried out in pain as his face contorted from great agony. He took out a bean-shaped object from his mouth.

"Where on earth did you buy these stuff, man? Are they even edible? It tastes like crap and bites like an iron sheet. That thing, whatever it is, almost got my poor old teeth snapped off," Zhou Quan cursed while still struggling in pain.

"Clank!" Zhou Quan tossed one of seeds away before it landed with an unexpected yet typical metallic sound.

"Oh God! What is this? Look! It almost punctured a hole on the floor. Food safety issues, after all these years, still remained unresolved? Un-freaking-believable!" Zhou Feng became all fuming with anger and indignation while his cheek turned all red and swollen.

Chu Feng suddenly realized that it wasn't some orchid beans or nut fruits. It was that seed that was still relatively plump and intact from the stone box.

He kept it outside of its box as he boarded the train. He wanted someone else to help him determine what plants the seeds shalt correspond to, but then he was side-tracked by the chatter. Chu Feng had completely forgotten about its very existence, leaving it aside with all the rest of the nut fruits that was waiting to be eaten.

"Goddam it! Are there even any consciences left in this world? This is not even a bean. What on earth is it?" Having recognized the abnormality in its shape, Zhou Quan burst into anger. He stood up and bawled, claiming that he would take note of the manufacture factory labelled on the package and bring a file suit against them.

Chu Feng was a bit afraid of being shouted at, but he did frankly confess with a guilty conscience. He calmed him down, telling him that this was not a bean packaged to serve as a snack, but in fact, one of the seeds he had brought back from the highland.

Zhou Quan went mild at once. Although he was not working himself up to a fury, his face was still reddening. He was whimpering in pain.

For everyone else, it was the first a moment of silence, then all burst into gales of laughter.

Zhou Quan kept it to himself for a while before he opened up, "Hey brother, you were really not particular about things. That is not something you should have left about with other food, and it's not even a seed. It's a goddam iron.

Chu Feng also chuckled while hand-picking all sorts of nut fruits to make up to him.

At the same time, he also displayed the seeds on the tray table, seeking guidance from people in the same carriage as to what kind of seed this might be. Of course, he revealed nothing of its origin.

"The round one looks like a bean, but it's not."

"Wait a minute. Why is this one flat? Was it squashed?"

"This one has totally shrivelled. Its pitch-black body is definitely a rarity to me."

......

The discussion was intense and lively, but no-one seemed to recognize it. No-one could name it either. Some people guessed it might be the seeds of cirrus that grew in mountains.

"I really want to smash it to pieces though!" Zhou Quan gently rubbed against his swollen cheeks, glaring at the seeds.

"No, you don't," Chu Feng said with an apologetic smile. "These are rare species, and I am planning to plant them somewhere. Maybe it can grow into a goddess."

"For sure, man! If things do go in accordance with Zhou Quan's theory, just when a goddess can grow into life is anyone's guess," echoed another man from a neighboring seat; everyone seemed revelled in bantering Zhou Quan with their sly humors.

"Goddess? I think that's way too optimistic. I say these damned ugly-looking shrivelled nuts will grow into an old lama, or an old Taoist priest at most," said Zhou Quan in great resentment. His hand still clamped to his cheeks. It seemed like the pain rankling him still remained.

Time flew as the facetious chatters continued.

However, after the train had arrived at one of the stopover stations, it halted there for longer than scheduled.

"What happened?"

Unrest started creeping in as the train still lingered. Many passengers could not remain seated for any longer as their patience began wearing out.

At last, the crew member announced that there were accidents ahead on the railway, but they were working to promptly resolve the issue. They asserted that the train would soon be in motion again.

The assertive tone soothed the impatient passengers' stress and anxiety. They returned back to their seats, waiting patiently.

"Look! Breaking news! Now trees begun to partner up with the floating grass, joining the ghostly regiment of floating vegetation. Look at these gigantic trunks and branches suspending in mid-air. How strange!" Zhou Quan shouted.

He gave Chu Feng a poke, signifying him of the news on his communicator.

"Indeed, it is strange! Too many things that have happened recently can only be left unexplained. Now, I can't even confidently say that this is the world I've known," echoed many others in the carriage.

Obviously, Zhou Quan was not the only one who have seen the breaking news; the others too.

Chu Feng studied that piece of electronic photo very meticulously. It showed what appeared to be the roots and stems of a few trees drifting in the space, flourishing amidst the vacuum of the deep space.

Everyone seemed ever so bewildered.

A buzz of noises suddenly ran through the crowd. Everyone was busy expressing their clamors of comments. After all, this was a truly bizarre phenomenon. It defied all existent laws of physics. Naturally, everyone would like to be given an explanation. For without it, widespread panic would soon ensue.

Finally, the train re-fired, whistling into the distance. The bustling crowd of worrying passengers finally agreed to sit tight on their seats and resume their calm attitudes. Noises gradually diminished into the silence.

An hour later, the train stopped again at the following station.

Meanwhile, Zhou Quan stared blankly through the window while murmuring to himself, "That's not right. There has never been a mountain at this station before."

"You're right. I'm a frequent commuter travelling on this route as well. Why have I never noticed such monstrosity of a mountain here before?"

"No, look! That... that is not a mountain. That is a tree!" shouted someone in surprise.

Many people leaned against the window and attentively observed the enormous mass outside their window.

This revelation came as a genuine astonishment to Chu Feng. He finally managed to have a clear sight of the object. It was indeed a giant tree, standing tall and upright in the distance like a mountain. Its treetop soared above the horizon.

"Anyone got on at this station? Let's ask them what on earth have happened here?" someone suggested.

Before long, more than a dozen got on the train, but the true state of affairs they then recounted shocked the rest of the passengers. All were dumbstruck with astonishment.

It was an old maidenhair tree. It was quite renowned throughout the neighbourhood. It had been growing since hundreds of years ago, but somehow, its growth suddenly went unruly recently.

This caused quite a sensation in the neighbourhood, appalling many with its surging growth.

At present, the site where the tree grew had been fenced off, preventing anyone from coming near.

"So it was real!" someone exclaimed in admiration, "Someone posted photos of the tree only a few days earlier, but it was somehow soon deleted. I can't believe it is actually real."

How odd the world had become! How unfathomable!

It was practically impossible for a tree to suddenly grow to such an extent only within a day or two.

Time flew, but the train halted again after it had stopped at the station. Half an hour had passed before anyone even noticed, but the train still remained stationary.

The crew explained that another emergency had emerged ahead on the railway. They were waiting for related personnel to address the issue.

No-one on the train could stay calm any longer. Everyone wanted to form an explanation that could form a connection between the old tree and those that were floating in mid-air. They were certain that something must have been the common cause for both of the strange phenomenons.

In the end, people's patience became all worn away by endless hours of waiting. Some people even decided to get off and take a stroll outside the train.

Zhou Quan got off the train too, but he soon returned. The look on his face implied shock and astonishment. Zhou Quan said in excitement, "Look what I found here!"

There was a smear of dirt and soil on his hand. He tightly clutched onto an ordinary-looking weed that could be found almost anywhere anytime. But at that very moment, it did look somewhat special. Its body glittered with a bright green hue, reflecting its vigorous vitality. Besides, it also bore a bright red fruit the size of a fist, emanating a delicate fragrance.

"What a discovery! A bright red fruit grown out of a weed, and boy oh boy, doesn't it smell nice!" There were trills in Zhou Quan's voice.

This sent a shiver down Chu Feng's spine: What on earth was wrong with this world? Why had everything taken a left turn all of a sudden?

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