Shao Xuan did not touch the old man. He just took the stuff and left.
What goes around comes around. If they killed and robbed, they had to be prepared to be robbed themselves.
When he got down the tree, Shao Xuan did not see the fat duck. There was a piece of rope tied to the tree and the other end had been pecked off.
Shao Xuan had no interest in where the duck went either. He went back to the robbers. The person who had collapsed on the ground had his features blurred like melting wax. It was very eerie.
Shao Xuan attempted to dig up some of the poisonous grass but they withered immediately. He still brought away a few withered plants but after using them on prey, he realised the toxin in this plant poisonous enough to kill an advanced totemic warrior greatly decreased as it withered. The worse it withered, the weaker its toxins were. In the end, it could not even poison an ant.
Then it was no use carrying it around. Shao Xuan gave up. Perhaps this peculiar plant could only grow here.
Shao Xuan continued walking in the planned direction. When he passed the treehouse, he heard a loud thud, like a huge wooden plank was smashed on the ground. Then he heard the old man’s furious curses and the duck’s quacks. It sounded like they were fighting.
“Ahh……” There was a shriek, then the old man screaming at the top of his voice-- “Die! Die!!”
Shao Xuan did not look inside. He just walked past with the stuff he packed.
On the other side, the treehouse had collapsed.
When Shao Xuan left, the old man spat out of his house and cursed but now much softer. He dared not yell too loudly or that damned man might come again. He was already relieved that he was alive. Then, he saw a green flash flying from outside into the house. It scratched across his head and then flew out again.
A clump of hair with some skin and blood was torn off his scalp. Not just that, the duck even left deep scratches from its clack. If its claws were a little longer and sharper, or it was stronger, they might have punctured his head.
The old man yelled in pain, waving his axe immediately. He was still in shock, now his fat bird was rebelling. Now he was so furious smoke might be coming out of his ears. He swung his axe around his house, chopping at everything.
However, the fat duck was not slow either. It looped around the house. The old man did not manage to chop off its head but instead managed to wreck his house.
The wooden treehouse wasn’t a robust structure either. It crashed from the tree and shattered into pieces of planks.
The old man scrambled out of the pile of rubble and grabbed the chipped axe. He chased after the duck, hacking at it but in the forest, the fat duck was a lot quicker than the old man.
The fat duck seemed to be having fun, bringing him for a ride and grabbing at him with its claws occasionally. It usually did honest work mainly because it was afraid of the rest of the men. Strength-wise, this old man was the weakest. Now that the rest were all dead and this old man was the only survivor, the duck did not want to listen to him. It would never give up such a good opportunity to turn against him.
The old man had lost all sense of sanity as he chased after the duck. It lured him into the area with traps nearby, set up by the other three men. The old man was not aware of this. The shriek Shao Xuan heard was when the old man’s foot was caught in a sharp, toothed clamp on the ground.
The old man set off multiple traps at once and was trapped on the spot. He did not have the axe with him now and could not get out of the trap. Seeing this, the fat duck went at him a few more times then waddled off. It spread its wings, leaving.
Soon after the duck left, the sky gradually darkened. A dark shadow perched on a tree nearby, watching the old man below. Soon, another similar bird arrived too. They were nocturnal and liked rotten meat. If there was no rotten meat, they would create some.
The old man was familiar with these. He sometimes fed them with remains of other humans. Now that he saw a few birds on the tree, a sense of hopelessness crept into him.
Within the quiet forest, a sudden shriek of agony shattered the silence. Then, there were squawks of many birds and the shriek intensified.
Animals hidden in the dark corners of the forest caught a whiff of blood and started sniffing in search of the feast.
As for Shao Xuan, he had already found the original path he came from. He did not rest in the cave, resting on a tree instead.
Before he closed his eyes, his eyes darted at a tree nearby. Among the leaves was a fat shadow, thinking it was well hidden.
Shao Xuan ignored it. He had used up a lot of energy fighting the three robbers, it was time for some rest.
On the next day, Shao Xuan woke up and continued on his journey.
The fat duck followed not far away. When Shao Xuan saw it, it would fly away and hide. When Shao Xuan turned around, it would follow again.
He didn’t understand. What did the duck want?
As he travelled, he suddenly heard a very desperate “Quack!”
When the duck flew between the trees, a larger bird swiped at it with its claws. Several duck feathers flew.
The duck fell on a branch, then a snake coiled itself around it. Its short claws could not reach the snake’s body. Then the snake bit down on the duck’s neck so it could not even make a sound.
Shao Xuan chopped the snake in half with his sword and lifted the duck by its leg, shaking it. The duck’s neck shook too- it was already unconscious. The snake had been venomous, it might not live long.
Shao Xuan looked at the unconscious duck, tied its legs with some rope, and carried it off. He picked up the snake too. He was going to roast it.
There were many venomous snakes in this forest. He wasn’t sure if this duck would live. It was a pity because if the duck was poisoned, he couldn’t eat it.
That night, Shao Xuan rested in a cave. This was one of the resting spots Gongjia Heng found, there was even a stone pot Shao Xuan made when they rested here.
He roasted some animal meat, boiled a pot of soup and threw the snake in. Then, he looked at the duck. Coincidentally, the duck had just regained consciousness. It lifted its head and stared at Shao Xuan.
“Quack!” It wanted to hide but the snake venom had not dispersed completely yet. It did not have strength in its wings and legs so all it did was tumble on the ground.
Shao Xuan looked at the duck, wondering if he should boil it. If it could wake up, that meant its body had broken down the venom already. If it could live…. It was edible.
The duck almost exploded in fear as Shao Xuan stared at it. Toughening up despite its fears, it quacked again.
Shao Xuan turned around and picked a stone bar up to stir the pot. He looked at the snake. This snake, while it was not the most venomous in the world, it was still not to be underestimated. An advanced totemic warrior had to be cautious too. However, the duck seemed to be fully conscious now, so soon and without the help of any antidotes too!
In some places, poisonous plants were probably more dangerous than venomous animals. The duck living in a place like that must have high resistance towards toxin.
Shao Xuan looked at the fat duck lying on the ground, his intentions unclear. Cooked and roasted food was all around him. The duck was not interested, perhaps because the effects of the venom had not completely faded yet. It fell asleep.
On the next day, Shao Xuan was woken by the sound of a duck quacking.
The duck had pecked the rope around its feet broken and then escaped at top speed. Shao Xuan had not stopped it.
The boulder he used to block the mouth of the cave was still there. The fat duck almost got stuck in the tiny gap between the mouth and the boulder.
When Shao Xuan rose, he pushed the boulder and looked outside. The duck was pecking at something in the bushes not far away, fluttering and energetic as ever.
Looking at how energetic it was, the venom must have been fully broken down already. The hungry duck foraged for food but Shao Xuan ignored it. It could do whatever it wanted.
After eating yesterday’s leftover meat, Shao Xuan continued on his journey.
The duck, who was still pecking among the bushes, dropped what it was doing and chased after Shao Xuan as he left. This time, it followed closer than before although it struggled to keep up with his speed.
When he passed through the monkey forest, Shao Xuan was once again before the large river. He looked around but he couldn’t see that giant crocodile. He was now going to take the risk though, he had no plans to build a raft.
Shao Xuan fished out a wooden whistle. Gongjia Heng had whittled it out of a tree branch from Gongjia Valley and taught him how to blow it. However, Heng could not guarantee if Hammer the Bird would obey Shao Xuan.
Shao Xuan blew into the whistle according to Heng’s instructions.
Soon, a bird flew over from the opposite bank. However, when it saw Shao Xuan, Hammer did not land immediately. It was only when he spoke a little and offered it a prey when the bird finally relented.
When Hammer was eating, the fat duck landed from the sky. It hid not far behind Shao Xuan, watching it cautiously. The duck was guarded around a bird so much larger than it.
After a full meal, Hammer was in a good enough mood to bring Shao Xuan across the river. The duck continued following behind. Hammer did not even look twice at it. It was just a tiny dot not worth its attention.
When he crossed, Shao Xuan did not see the giant crocodile.
Shao Xuan stayed for two days at Gongjia Heng’s place before setting off again. He did not enter Heng’s stone house, merely resting in the treehouse.
The fat duck rested outside nearby.
It understood very well that following Shao Xuan could mean it was going to be eaten but it followed him anyway. This was because it was not capable of surviving in the forest. After it was domesticated by the old man, it had lost all sense of survival. It was very reliant on humans. Everyone was dead and it had vented its anger on the old man already. Since it could not continue living in the forest, it decided to follow Shao Xuan. However, the places they passed through were even more dangerous. It kept seeing all these birds in the sky that could kill it with one swipe so it lived in terror every day. This duck grew thinner as time went on.
Even Shao Xuan wondered if the duck suffered from Stockholm syndrome-- or in the tribesmen’s words, it was an early sign of domestication.