Back when the old wolf was still the head of its pack, the pack was stationed in a rocky area outside Morphey Forest. There weren't many ordinary beasts living there. It was originally not suitable for wolves to settle in, but because it was a hot area, fire essence was relatively dense there. Hence, the old wolf chose to live there.
Now the old wolf was out of the pack. The current head of the pack would certainly not allow the old wolf to continue staying in the pack. The old wolf who was now living alone had no protection from the pack. As a mere old monster, it no longer had the rights to live in the area rich with fire essence. Despite the place being barren, there were still many fire and rock monsters there that were stronger than it there.
The old wolf from the Bering Mountains had been searching for long. Due to the abundant sunshine in this area, a batch of fire-attribute plants flourished. This was a place that was finally to the satisfaction of the old wolf.
Seeing that a cluster of fruit was missing near his den, the failing brain of the old wolf couldn't think of a reason why. No herbivorous animals actually dared to come near his den after all.
There were only a few missing firecloud fruits, which seemed a little insignificant compared to the remaining ones. The old wolf thought for a while, but it couldn't come up with anything. So, it went back to its den and continued to sleep. It had just gone to the leopard's place in the north to find food, and its belly was now filled. It felt just right for a good sleep.
After all, the old wolf had aged and lacked the enthusiasm it had when it was young. This time, it had gone to hunt in the territory of the leopard monster in the north. The old wolf did it secretly and didn't alarm the leopard. The difference between monsters and ordinary beasts was actually not that big. Although they had insight into the elements, they were still bestial in their behaviour. They were just as lazy as other beasts in the winter, with the only advantage being it was easier for them to hunt. In the winter, they could even afford to be lazier than ordinary beasts.
The old wolf with a slightly swollen belly quickly fell asleep as soon as it laid down. Some viscous fluid flowed from its blind eye, and some scabs on its body also showed signs of cracking. It seemed that the old wolf's hunt had not been easy. However, it was rich in experience and while it slept, its tail continued to pat the ground. The slightest movement nearby would wake it up in an instant.
With only 10 days left before the arrival of winter, Locke and Angelina left the cave where they had been staying for almost a week. It would take at least a week for them to set foot out of the Bering Mountains. Leaving the mountains before winter was their plan.
Locke took a belt and tied the large grass quilt on his back. This was both their cushion and their mattress. This quilt was three times larger than the previous one that could barely cover the two of them. It took three days for Locke and Angelina to complete it. Without the shelter of the cave, these days, the two of them had to sleep in the mountains and forests. Without this quilt, the both of them would never be able to survive the cold nights.
In addition to a large quilt on his back, there were also pieces of jerky and wooden pots hanging on his waist. Although it hadn't started snowing yet, the two days of cold wind had already arrived. The jerky that had just been marinated for a few days was now frozen hard. Locke felt that he could even use the meat as a weapon. The wooden containers contained fresh water enough for five days, after which they would have to find a new water source.
Angelina was not carrying nearly as much as Locke, but she also had a small sack. The sack was made by Locke from the fabric torn off from a corner of her skirt. Locke had never seen this type of fabric that was smoother than skin, so he was extremely careful while he was sewing. He feared that he would tear the thin fabric. Fortunately, the quality of the princess' clothes was good, and Locke hadn't made any mistakes.
"This is silk," Angelina said to Locke, "And it is the most precious brocade silk."
The only clothing Locke had worn since childhood was linen, and Faustian commoners were only allowed to wear it. The official definition: only the nobles were allowed to use silk. Of course, some wealthy people secretly bought silk to wear without others knowing. In the battalion, Cardoj and Solon were also nobles, but they usually wore their own armors. So, Locke had no chance to see silk made clothing.
Angelina's bag was filled with fruits collected by Locke. It was not a large amount, so Angelina wouldn't feel too tired carrying them. This was not because Locke wanted to waste Angelina's strength; she was the one who had requested to help out. She didn't want to be a burden on him.
The night before leaving, Locke took a good walk around the saltwater lake. In the end, he didn't find the place where the salt crab king might be hibernating. When he talked to Angelina about it, the explanation given by her was, "The salt crab has the potential to become monsters. Although they still belong to the category of ordinary beasts, they have better instincts at avoiding harm compared to ordinary beasts."
"There must be a monster with the same strength as the salt crab king nearby. Otherwise, it would not choose to hide and hibernate even after most of its fellow crabs were killed by you. Its place of hibernation position must be a closed, undisturbed place." As soon as Angelina finished speaking, Locke and her turned their eyes to the center of the salt lake. The salt crab was an amphibious creature, and the crab king was good in the water as well. The only suitable place for the crab king to hibernate would be at the bottom of the lake. Locke was extremely thankful that he and Angelina hadn't overly disturbed the saltwater lake during their two-day stay. Who knew if they would be able to deal with a crab king whose strength is unknown?
Speaking of the crab king, Locke thought of the brown wolf he had seen. That wolf was a beast that had given him the greatest pressure so far. It is definitely a monster, Locke thought.
Locke and Angelina headed northeast. They started in the morning and by noon, they had reached the furthest part of the forest marked by Locke. It was also the location where Locke saw the brown wolf for the first time. Two people travelling together was much slower than one. Whether it was Angelina's lack of physical strength, or because both of them were carrying a lot of things, those things were slowing down their progress.
"Let's move quickly, this place is not safe," Locke said to Angelina, who was panting behind him.
Angelina pressed one hand against her knee and another on her chest as she gasped for breath. Her stamina was obviously at its limits. Actually, the two had already walked a lot. They should be taking a rest already based on how far they walked, but Locke was worried that he would meet the wolf again, so he decided to keep moving.
Seeing that Angelina still hadn't resumed after a while, Locke sighed. He walked over and stretched out his hand. Angelina raised her head to look at Locke, panting, not saying anything. She then placed her fair right hand on his arm. Locke pulled her along. Their goal was to reach the hillside in the northeast. Locke hoped they could reach there in time.
The old wolf slept quietly in its den, having had a full meal today. Normally, it would immediately go to sleep until it woke up again hungry, which would be in one to two days' time. Wagging up and down, the old wolf's tail gently stroked the ground, as if it was caressing precious silk. As the sun set, the last rays of sunlight shone on the old wolf's belly, causing it to roll over comfortably. Then, it fell asleep. Suddenly, as if sensing something, the old wolf's tail wagging stopped.
At the entrance of the cave, a black-spotted leopard appeared. Its footsteps were light, like an assassin hiding in the shadows. In the setting sun, its silhouette blocked all the light in the cave where the old wolf lived.
Locke and Angelina's travelling speed was quite fast, and at the moment the sun set, they finally reached the milestone Locke wanted to hit. Angelina slumped onto a stone like a deflated ball, rubbing her feet. Today's journey had been lengthy and most of the paths were mountainous roads, so it was a difficult walk.
Locke removed the quilt on his back, steadily putting the water and food aside, and started a fire. The place he chose was considerably good. It was a small depress on the back of the hillside which served as good shelter against the cold night wind.
Today, Locke hadn't bothered to find food as they were rushing on their journey. The two of them could only eat what they had prepared beforehand for dinner. At noon, they only ate a few fruits to fill their stomachs before continuing on their way. So, they had been hungry for quite some time. Locke started the bonfire and went back to the food. He chose a fatter salt crab jerky, skewering it with sticks to make barbecued meat. There was some firecloud fruit powder in Locke's trouser pocket. While roasting the meat, Locke skillfully took out some of it and sprinkled it on. The aroma of the barbecued meat spread everywhere. Angelina, who was resting at the side, couldn't help but raise her head, licking her lips in anticipation.
The old wolf dragged its scarred body, hobbling along the forest. It was late at night, and the biting cold wind was blowing fiercely against its pelt. Fresh blood was still gleaming on its fur, turning into frozen chunks that stuck to its fur.
The old wolf was sneaked up on by the monster leopard from the north. It had hunted wildly in the territory of the leopard two days ago. Although it had been very careful, it was discovered by the leopard. This forest was not that big, and each monster had its own strict territory. Crossing the boundary was a challenge to the ruler of that territory.
That was especially taboo during winter, when all the beasts in the Bering Mountains were struggling. Herbivores either chose to migrate to the dangerous Morphey Forest or stayed in the barren and cold Bering Mountains; carnivores also faced the same choice. Food was not easy to find. The old wolf wasn't successful in hunting in its own territory, and as its neighbour, the leopard, was not having a good time either. Even this clever leopard ate frugally during winters, allowing prey within its territory to slowly stock up.
The leopard who went hunting during the day suddenly discovered that three of the antelopes he was leaving for later were dead.
Biting the neck of an adult antelope, the leopard monster stared coldly at the three lonely piles of bone. Scattered around the bones were a few strands of brown fur. The only young antelope remaining collapsed and trembled with fear, watching the leopard feast on the remains of other antelopes but dared not escape. The leopard was a monster. It had a bigger appetite than ordinary leopards. Of course, an adult antelope wasn't enough to satisfy it. After eating the last bite, the leopard pounced towards the shivering antelope. With a vicious look in its eyes, the leopard decided to retaliate and make the shameless thief pay.