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Lian Hua picked it up. Flapping its bare wings, the bird cried out.
One hand around its ankles, the other hand fixed around its behind, Lian Hua pushed the bird toward He Xu’s little furnace with its head facing down. Seeing it couldn’t do much by playing cute, it exhaled pitifully, lighting up the firewood. He Xu took over the duty of maintaining the fire.
“Are you going to behave today?” Lian Hua shook the naked bird. It kept chirping weakly. An animal mutant like this sparrow was quite rare. Usually they’d have consciousness as well. Obviously the sparrow hadn’t developed spiritual awareness yet. Lian Hua wanted to subdue it so they’d have a solid source of fire from now on. If the sparrow knew his plans it would probably want to cry, but right now it was nothing but a normal level one mutant sparrow. Even though its abilities were useful, its intellect was low.
“So, want to recognize me as your master?” Lian Hua tempted it.
The sparrow glanced at him, turning its head away to show it was defiant. Even if it wasn’t so smart, it at least understood the lifelong commitment of submitting to a human.
Seeing how stubborn it was, Lian Hua couldn’t help but yank off three more new feathers growing back on its rear.
The sparrow started crying out like Lian Hua had seized its family. Barely any more feathers had managed to grow back in half a month before he’d pulled them out again.
He Yuu and He Xu were already used to the sight, so they kept busy roasting the corn and bamboo rice. Poor sparrow, whose fault was it that you fell into Lian Hua’s hands?
Lian Hua was frustrated. He didn’t expect a sparrow to be so difficult to deal with.
“Master, how about trying the spiritual awareness mushrooms,” Lian Yu jumped onto his shoulder and gave this suggestion. “They can’t open up a normal person’s spiritual veins but still might help in increasing intelligence.”
“Oh?” Lian Hua produced an odd mushroom. Originally he’d been saving it for Zhao Xiaolong, but since the boy now had his own ability he had one leftover.
The moment he produced the mushroom, the sparrow stopped squirming around. Jokingly he moved his hand around, and the bird’s beady black eyes followed the movement of his hand.
“Do you want this? If you submit to me I’ll give you this.” He said in a conspiratorial voice.
The sparrow’s head moved rapidly before it finally nodded.
“Now that’s a good bird.” Lian Hua was satisfied.
Hesitantly the sparrow spat out a drop of blood. Receiving it, Lian Hua swallowed it deep into his own stomach. From now on the sparrow was his pet.
He threw the mushroom to the sparrow and stuffed it back into the barrel so it could rest up.
What Lian Hua didn’t know was that subduing a mutant beast was anything but easy. For someone with plant-based abilities to do so was tiring enough, and with a low success rate too. Level one mutant animals might be more willing to die than to become someone’s pet. Unless you raised them before they mutated, they were rarely willing to stay. An emotionally attached animal was more likely to stay with its owner.
Finally picking up a source of fire made Lian Hua very happy.
“Little Yu, why didn’t you tell me I could do this? If you did then the sparrow wouldn’t have to be stripped naked.”
“If it doesn’t suffer, it won’t be willing to submit,” Lian Yu said defensively.
“Okay…” Lian Hua didn’t know what to say to that. Instead he went to help with the cooking.
“Big Bro, look what I picked up!” Zhao Xiaolong ran over, dragging something unidentified in his hand.
“Shh! Big Bro Xiaolong, don’t be so loud! Don’t you remember when you attracted that swarm of beetles by being so loud?” He Yuu’s mouth was fixed in a pout. Most of their troubles were the result of Zhao Xiaolong’s actions.
“Well, I’m just a little excited,” he responded, scratching his head.
“Hmph.” He Yuu ignored him.
“But Yu, I really have a big discovery. Look what this is.” He pointed at the unidentified object behind him.
Everyone stretched their necks out to look.
All Lian Hua saw with the first glimpse was a pale leg. Zhao Xiaolong had dragged this person over by the leg somehow.
It was an odd-looking man wearing a weird-looking Daoist robe. His face looked quite clean-cut, and his hair short and well-maintained. But his eyes were pressed shut, and it was unclear if he was hurt.
Walking over, Lian Hua inspected him and didn’t find any external wounds.
He poured some water over his face. Finally the young man blinked his eyes and woke up.
“Thank you for helping me. Humble thanks indeed.” The moment he woke, he stood quickly and bowed with his palms pressed together.
Everyone: “…” Was this guy a monk or a Daoist priest?
“Rumble…” No one responded to him, and the young man laughed awkwardly, his stomach rumbling loudly.
“Is it possible for you to gift me some food?” The young man continued, his palms pressed together while his eyes kept darting toward the fire.
“Eat a little more slowly.” Seeing Xiao Ze’s intimidating method of eating, Lian Hua didn’t know what to say.
“Mm hm…oh…delicious…” Xiao Ze stuttered while shoveling rice into his mouth. There were already three empty bamboo sections next to him.
“Big Bro, this guy is like some kind of starved ghost,” He Yuu said with concern while chomping down on roasted corn.
“He must’ve failed from hunger!” Zhao Xiaolong remarked with insight while opening up another bamboo section.
“Ke…ke…ke…water…” Xiao Ze pounded his chest as his body was wracked with deep coughs. Lian Hua quickly pushed a ball of water toward him.
Accepting it, he slurped it down quickly and laid down, rubbing his stomach. He had single-handedly managed to eat half their food.
“Are you okay?” Lian Hua was worried the guy would choke to death.
“Yes, I am fine.” Xiao Ze nodded. He had given them a rough introduction of himself before digging in.
“Hold on,” he sat up suddenly, “Can you look at my back for me please?” With this he rolled his shirt up, exposing a back bruised black and blue and scratched up. “My back is in a little pain.”
“Nothing wrong, it’s just a little dirty.” Forcing a laugh, Lian Hua released a small water bubble and plant magic to heal him. After moving over the skin, all his exterior wounds disappeared, and his soft, pale skin went back to normal.
“Really?” Xiao Ze scratched his head, confused.
Lian Hua slapped him on the back. “Does it hurt?”
Xiao Ze shook his head. “Maybe I was imagining things?” A few more mutters and he seemed to stop thinking about it.
This young man was named Xiao Ze, and was a Mao Mountain disciple who came off the mountain to train. Who knew he’d faint from starvation here and get picked up by Zhao Xiaolong.
“Big Bro Xiao, can you really help us find the Huayang Base?” He Yuu couldn’t help but ask again.
“Of course!” He said, thumping his own chest.
Lian Hua was worried. Could a man who fainted in the middle of nowhere really help them find a way?