Chapter 25: The Island’s Magic Beasts Are Artificial
The afternoon meeting was held inside the tent. There were four attendants: Zhen Jin, Zi Di, Cang Xu, and Lan Zao.
Several animal hide maps were laid out on the ground. The largest of them was in the center. Zhen Jin pointed to it and said, “Zi Di merged all the maps we had to create this one.” They all cast their eyes at this map. North to the top, south to the bottom, east to the right, and west to the left.
The northeast corner of the map depicted a ship’s anchor. Zhen Jin pointed to the anchor mark. “This is where the exploration team set out. It is also the beach where the front half of the Hog’s Kiss ran aground on. If the situation has remained the same, then there should be fifty to sixty people here, and the situation there should be controlled by the first mate.”
A cross was drawn on the southeast corner. Zhen Jin shifted his finger and pointed to the cross. “This is where Zi Di, I, and the rest of our group washed up at. There are also three landing crafts on this beach.”
A meandering path extended from both the fork and anchor. Both paths were marked with words or drawings at regular intervals. These two paths represented the path of Zi Di’s and Cang Xu’s respective groups but these two paths did not converge, rather, they both abruptly stopped midway. In the middle of this large map lay a wide, blank void.
Zhen Jin took out two smaller maps and slapped them down onto the blank part of the large map. One depicted a desert and the other a mountainous and forested terrain. The top of the montane forest map depicted the monkey bear’s cave, the spider forest, the mountain spring, and other notable locations. The two paths representing the two groups finally merged into one at the mountain spring.
Zhen Jin’s finger then moved to point at the marking of the mountain spring. “Right now, we are here and our goal”—his finger shifted toward the anchor marking—“is to reach here.”
No one objected. Cooperation and unity of strength were crucial for survival. With external help out of reach and unreliable, it was more logical to rebuild the ship and set sail again and building and sailing a ship was impossible with few people.
“It goes without saying that there will be difficulties, with two obvious issues. The first is the magic beasts along the way. The second is the strangeness of the land here. What are your opinions?”
Lan Zao replied in a deep voice, “Master, if low-level magic and battle qi were not restricted here, our strength would be much greater. But now, to deal with these bizarre beasts, we can only fight with our flesh and blood. However, no matter what, I and Huang Zao will be your swords. Wherever your gaze reaches, your swords will be there to strike,” Lan Zao expressed his loyalty.
Zhen Jin nodded, satisfied with his manner. “Then I look forward to your performance.”
Zi Di seemed to have keenly sensed something when she heard this and she looked at Lan Zao with a bewildered expression. “That's a strange thing to say. If the restrictiondidn’t exist, then all these fierce monsters would be using all kinds of quasi-spell abilities. We would be stronger, but they would also be more of a threat.”
“According to my speculations, that will not be so, Lady Zi Di,” said Cang Xu. “I believe the magic beasts on this island are unable to use quasi-spells.”
“Oh? How did you reach such a judgment?” Zi Di inquired.
Cang Xu did not make a direct reply but looked at Zhen Jin instead. “May I ask, my Lord, did you find any magic crystals in the bodies of the magic beasts you slew?”
Zhen Jin shook his head. “So far, I have not found a single magic crystal.” This was clearly abnormal.
Cang Xu nodded. “Although we haven’t managed to kill a Silver beast during our journey, we do have a few Bronze and Iron magic beast carcasses. We also never saw a magic crystal. Why was that?
“A magic crystal is formed when a magic beast lives in an element-filled environment for a long time. As it grows and feeds, magic power accumulates in its body, until a qualitative change takes place and the magic power condenses into a crystal. A magic crystal not only stores the majority of a magic beast’s magic power, but it also aids the beast in stabilizing and utilizing that power. Generally speaking, the more powerful a magic beast is, the higher the quality of its magic crystal.”
Neither Zhen Jin nor Zi Di had any objections. This was, of course, common sense. Cang Xu continued, “I believe the magic power in the beasts of this island is chaotic. They cannot coordinate or stabilize their magic power. Because of their chaotic magic power, the magic beasts cannot control their internal magic power and no magic crystals are able to form.”
Zi Di nodded and then shook her head. “It is true magic crystals cannot form when magic power is chaotic, however, this is just one possibility of why these beasts are incapable of forming a magic crystal. More importantly, Mr. Cang Xu, how can you tell that the magic power within these magic beasts is chaotic?”
This detail made Zi Di react with suspicion. She herself was an Iron mage. But she was unable to use magic here and was thus incapable of investigating the state of the magic power in these magic beasts. Cang Xu was just a mundane man, not even an apprentice in the study of magic. What methods did he have to do this?
Faced with Zi Di’s doubts and questions, Cang Xu remained calm and collected. “I extrapolated it.” The old scholar introduced them to a new perspective—“I believe the island’s magic beasts are not naturally born. They are artificial.”
“Artificial magic beasts‽” Zhen Jin and Zi Di exclaimed together and saw the astonishment on each other’s faces. As for Lan Zao on the side, he had likely heard Cang Xu’s theory before and did not look surprised.
“In that case, how can you tell that these magic beasts are not naturally born? Rather, that they were artificially made?” Zhen Jin inquired.
Cang Xu slowly explained, “Ever since I arrived on this island, I have dissected many magic beasts. I found that although they have a stable condition, with their organs working together closely as if they were born this way, on a deeper investigation, they were unnatural.”
Zi Di furrowed her brows as she mulled over his words. “Unnatural?”
“Yes,” the old scholar nodded with a deep look in his eyes. “They all lack a natural flow. Do you not feel that these magic beasts look like they were pieced together?”
Zi Di murmured, “I once processed a monkey bear’s carcass. A Silver magic beast that died at the hands of Lord Zhen Jin. It had the tail of a monkey, the torso of a bear, and the hands of an orangutan but with hard and slender iron-like claws. At first, it seemed it was an amalgamation of orangutan, monkey, and bear parts. However, its skeletal structure was very sound. It had two hearts while the rest of its internal organs perfectly supported its physique.
“I am a low-level mage and have spent most of my energy studying medicine. I have gathered many materials, and am thoroughly learned in the composition of most creatures. Although this is the first time I have seen this kind of monster, I thought its physique was perfect, without disabilities, mutations or useless body tissues. What is so unnatural about this?”
Zhen Jin’s heart skipped a beat. Zi Di mentioning the monkey bear made him once again think about the transformation of his hands. I suppose Zi Di is speaking about this event to highlight my strength. His thoughts spurred as he tried to uncover her intentions.
Sure enough, he saw Lan Zao's eyes widen and look at him with admiration. He exclaimed from the bottom of his heart, “Master, you truly have formidable strength!”
“Lord Zhen Jin, your talent is amazing. Your bravery and accomplishments will certainly be celebrated far and wide,” Cang Xu echoed and then turned to look at Zi Di. “Lady Zi Di, you are not wrong. I have confidence in your judgment. The structure of these creatures is indeed very logical and stable.
“I do not have the aptitude to be a mage nor have I studied medicine. However, I have had the pleasure of reading many books. Some of them contained the histories of many noble families, of how they rose to power, and of how they ran their territories. Their early developing years were actually a confrontation against nature. Using human power to curb nature.
“These books contained records of wiping out ravenous bandits, resisting beast tides, hunting wolves near villages, repelling wild boars from farmland, and much more. In order to guide future generations, the forebears compiled these history books and left behind many meticulous illustrations. These included detailed records on the forms and habits of magic beasts as well as how to resist and kill them.
“It is because I had benefited from these records that my foolish brain could ponder a bit deeper and arrive at many shallow but fascinating conclusions. As a result, it allowed me to sense the unnatural nature of the magic beasts on this island.
“Beasts with headgear are typically herbivores. Their headgear is their main weapon to defend against predators. Likewise, aggressive carnivores have longer and sharper teeth, more developed muscles, and are expert runners. Especially in short bursts. Some of them have pads on their paws which allows them to approach their prey more silently.”
Speaking hitherto, Cang Xu’s words shifted. “Not long ago, before Huang Zao found us, we had stayed on a sparsely forested hill. The temperature was low and the wind occasionally carried a little snow. It was the limits of where we had explored. There, we caught a startling glimpse of a Gold magic beast.
“It was a deer with enormous bone-like white antlers that looked like crisscrossing branches. This deer ate meat not grass. Furthermore, it also had a pair of huge snow-white wings. I named it a white bone winged deer. Although it was only a quick glance, I think it should have a sound body structure that is stable and perfect to support its daily activities.
“However, it is not natural. You see, its build is not suited for flight. Its pair of huge wings could, at best, let it glide. It is carnivorous, and lives at the top of the food chain, preying on other animals. However, it has antlers. Antlers are used for defense and are not good for attacking, chasing, hunting, stalking, or hiding.
“Take the monkey-tailed brown bear Your Lordship killed. When monkeys swing through the forest, their tails maintain their balance and stabilize their orientation as they leap through the air. But why does a bear need one? It is very heavy. What kind of tree could support it? Does it even jump a lot? Don’t you feel a monkey tail growing on its body is redundant?
“Moreover, it has orangutan hands which are similar to that of a human. The biggest difference between the claws of many beasts and an orangutan’s hand is that orangutans have thumbs. This structure benefits orangutans as they grab and move between tree branches. However, the monkey bear’s hands have sharp claws. Is this not also redundant? This is what I meant by unnatural.”
Seeing everyone deep in thought, Cang Xu continued, “The number one need in life is survival. Nature is cruel and harsh. Those that survive and reproduce often have amazing survival skills. These skills normally come from their organs. Take the mole for example. It possesses hard claws and teeth, and a suitable size for burrowing. But it is almost blind. In fact, it does not need to see because the soil is dark and without light. In place of its eyes, it has a nose that has an extraordinarily keen sense of smell.
“This is life in nature. It has strengths and weaknesses, united in a way that allows it to survive the cruel competition of life and find its niche. However, when we look at the monsters on this land, they are excessively strong. Their structure is very stable, but contradictions and conflict exist within. They do not have a clear place in nature. This is the case with the monkey bear Lord Zhen Jin killed. Does it need a monkey tail? It does not. Likewise with the white bone winged deer. Does it need antlers? Again, it does not. They are instead a hindrance to its hunting.”