After the old man climbed up the mountain wall and took a look, he climbed back down- his hands and feet shaking along the way- although it was because he was excited, but not because he was afraid.
The old man was disgusted by his speed of climbing down, so he ordered Shao Xuan to catch him, wanting to jump directly. Before waiting for Shao Xuan to say anything, he had already let go of his hands and leapt.
“I……” Shao Xuan wanted to curse but he had no time for that. He scrambled to catch the man.
“It definitely is this time!!” The old man quickly ran towards a direction as soon as he got down. That was the direction where the wild rats were running towards too.
“Even though it might not be the ‘Thousand Grain Gold’, it must be something extraordinary in order for the wild rats to do such a thing!” The old man speedwalked with full energy as he had a good sleep, very determined to follow the wild rats.
Shao Xuan was also curious what caused the frenzy with the rats. As he ran, more wild rats leaped out from nowhere. Those wild rats just stared at Shao Xuan for a moment and then continued running. It seemed like the thing on the other side was more attractive than an abnormal giant, mused Shao Xuan. They’d ignored Shao Xuan’s existence and only focused on their journey.
“There weren’t that many wild rats running around last time, why would the population suddenly increase?” Shao Xuan said.
“Perhaps that ‘thing’ is going to explode soon!” The old man didn’t say much but increased his speed of walking. After years of waiting and searching, this situation had given him hope again. Although he encountered this kind of situation before, all he found was other precious herbs but not the Thousand Grain Gold. However this time, he had a strong hunch. In the ancestor's notes, it was mentioned that the ancestor did witness wild rats nearby when the Thousand Grain Gold was found. But the notes didn’t record anything much, therefore the old man couldn’t obtain more information from it. The old man could only look for it himself based on his own assumptions.
It has to, it has to be the Thousand Grain Gold! thought the man.
It had only been a few days since the day Shao Xuan met the old man but it was his first time seeing the old man move so quickly with such enthusiasm in his eyes. The old man would probably risk his life to fight anyone in his way now.
The longer they ran, the more wild rats they encountered. Regardless of where the wild rats were living- some hid under the mountain caves, some hid underground, others living nearby or far away, they seemed to all appear suddenly, as if rushing to reach the same place.
The movement of the wild rats had attracted nearby animals. The animals targeted these wild rats.
A weasel-like animal managed to stop a few wild rats, then staggered away with its prey. Another weasel that looked slightly stupid stayed still, perhaps it wanted to catch a few rats on its own. But those wild rats did not slow down nor change direction, they rushed forward with such sense of urgency. They leapt forward with one foot stepping on the weasel and then jumped over it. The other wild rats behind did the same thing too. Usually, these wild rats would never have the courage to do this, and they would quickly run for their lives as soon as they felt they were threatened.
Even when the wild rats saw some of its brethren taken away, they never slowed down.
The average size of the rats increased as the swarm approached their target. Therefore, the predators were fewer. Perhaps the predators were afraid of them, not brave enough to hunt alone as they were also afraid of being attacked by the wild rats.
Shao Xuan and the old man followed them. They were forced to stop when they reached a place near the mountain top.
Why were they forced to stop?
The vast space before them was filled with rats. At the same time, there were still wild rats from afar rushing forward to join the crowd.
Even though this scale of wild rats was nothing compared to the swarm of insects that Sapphire had led in the desert, it was a shocking sight for the mountains used to look so barren. There weren’t many animals nearby, therefore being able to see thousands of wild rats at once was shocking enough.
The rats that stopped still wanted to squeeze forward but there wasn’t any space left. The first few wild rats were particularly huge. When they got annoyed by the pushing behind them, they turned around and killed a few of the smaller wild rats. Upon witnessing such a scene, the smaller ones were startled and stopped pushing forward. When the wild rats behind stopped pushing, the larger wild rats then turned around with satisfaction and continued staring at a few plants swaying in the wind on the mountain top.
Since they couldn’t move forward, the wild rats behind stood up and stretched their neck to look up diagonally. Before they stood up, they looked like a blob on the ground. After, they craned their necks until they looked like a pole.
Shao Xuan also saw a few plants growing on top of the mountain. The upright stalks were very thick and about the height of one person, the leaves were lanceolate and narrow. Every plant had several dark golden colored grains on it, making it look heavy. When the wind blew, the grains swayed with it.
The old man stopped and panted. His nostrils enlarged and contracted, his eyes focused on the peak of the mountain top. His eyes never looked away, as if that was the only thing left in this whole world.
The old man’s eyes were filled with strong enthusiasm and excitement, the two fists clenched tight, anxiously wanting to rush forward and dig up the plants.
“That’s the ‘Thousand Grain Gold’?” Shao Xuan asked in a low voice.
“Yes! It must be!” The old man tried suppressed his excitement in his throat. He seemed to have ignored everything around him, completely focused on the plant. He was so excited that he started laughing out of control. “Ha! Hahahaha! I found it! I’ve finally found it!!”
Shao Xuan’s eyelid twitched a few times. Something wasn’t right.
As expected, the next moment after the old man laughed, the greyish-white wild rats in front looked back at the same time. Their small eyes narrowed threateningly. Especially the big wild rats nearer to the mountain top, who were almost two to three times larger than the usual wild rats- their eyes were red and filled with ferocity.
The few big ones on top of the mountain top looked at the swinging dark gold-colored grain, turned around and looked at the old man also staring at the grains. The big wild rats felt threatened. They stood up and made a series of sharp “squeak” sounds from their mouths.
Grabbing the old man by his clothes, Shao Xuan then started to focus the power of totem in his body, totemic patterns appeared like lava radiated energy surges into the air, shaking off surrounding rats that started to pounce with their jaws wide open. Shao Xuan’s feet were filled with power as he started to run down the mountain.
The wild rats were probably still concerned about the grains on the mountain top, therefore they did not dare to chase Shao Xuan and the old man. They were probably afraid of not being able to rush back on time to snatch the big meal.
Shao Xuan, still carrying the old man, sprinted down to the mountainside and only stopped to let go of the old man when he saw that the wild rats had stopped chasing them.
The old man did not bother to look at the totem tattoos on Shao Xuan’s body, all that mattered to the old man now was the plants on top of the mountain. The old man’s heart and mind were occupied by the dark, golden grains.
As soon as the old man was placed on the ground, he wanted to run back to the mountain top. Shao Xuan stopped him forcefully.
“Let me go, let me go! That was Thousand Grain Gold, Thousand Grain Gold, do you know what that means?!” the old man roared while struggling.
“I don’t care if it’s the Thousand Grain Gold or Thousand Grain Shit, all I know is that place is filled with wild rats. Do you want to be rat food?!” Shao Xuan yelled loudly.
The struggling old man heard these words and finally regained his sanity. He kept repeating Shao Xuan’s words…”Filled with wild rats?”
When the old man thought about those wild rats at the top of the mountain, he became very annoyed, “No no no no, the grains must not be wasted on the rats, they’ll be destroyed!”
Fortunately, the old man was still thinking logically. He circled around the same place, trying to figure out the best strategy.
“Those grains have not ripened fully yet, the rats were probably just waiting for them to ripen. All we need is to get rid of them before the grains turn ripe,” said the old man.
“How do we get rid of it?” Shao Xuan asked. It wasn’t because he had no idea how to deal with those wild rats. It was possible for him to fight with those wild rats by force but there would be a price to pay.
After all, there were too many rats and the larger ones nearer to the mountain top would be harder to deal with compared to others. He couldn’t guarantee that the grains on top of the mountain will not be damaged.
The old man also mulled over possible scenarios. He thought about it for a while and then relaxed his furrowed eyebrows. He called out to Shao Xuan, “Follow me.”