Sui Xiong had great patience. Or, more likely, after traveling through space to this strange world, wandering in the vast sea, and absorbing magic in the ice trench, he had perfected the skill of patience.

So he spent five days next to the weird vacant space, watching. During these five days, he rarely moved and always carefully observed his surroundings. Through observation, he was able to sum up the law of magic in the woods—it was actually quite simple: the magic was weakest at noon and strongest at midnight, and this cycle went on endlessly.

In addition, he finally understood why there was such verdant plant life in the woods and so few animals and insects. Every night, the thick magical power killed many of the animals and insects, and their carcasses slowly seeped into the earth. Perhaps those black skulls and skeletons were actually the accumulated debris.

The thick magic late at night had no effect on Sui Xiong. His body had long gathered the ice magic with such a staggering concentration that it had reached its limit. It even got to the point that his body continued to lose magic as he produced more every day. Because it could no longer be condensed and stored, it had to be dispersed out of his body.

Only this concentrated ice magic was comparable to the magic fog in the woods at night, and only the black fog (which became much thicker above the black vacant space) would be stronger than the magic dispersed by him.

He also discovered something: the black skeletons seemed to be resentful of all creatures except plants. As soon as insects or animals came close to them at night, they would attack wildly, kick, scratch and bite, intending to kill them. But they turned a blind eye to Sui Xiong, who was quite close to them, as if he didn’t exist. Maybe this was because the body that he was in was actually already “dead”.

After observing for a few days in succession, Sui Xiong felt that he had collected enough information and finally chose one day at noon to dig underneath the black vacant space as the sun shone splendidly. What he saw met his expectations: a bunch of dark black bones when he only dug a bit at the surface. They weren’t complete skeletons, but a variety of bone fragments.

“It seems that the skeletons temporarily pile up at night.” Sui Xiong watched the bones as they faded slowly from dark black to light grey in the sun, and he nodded secretly. He didn’t move the bones, nor did he fill the burrowed hole until the next night.

As he had guessed, the faded bones didn’t turn into skeletons that night, although the magical powers of the woods still clung to the vacant space. The bones simply rattled all night long.

The next day was once again sunny. The bones faded even more in the sun, and they shook with an even weaker sound at night. So Sui Xiong almost fully understood now. He no longer observed and left.

He walked alone in the black woods, moving by day and resting at night. Along the way he could, from time to time, see those black vacant spaces that he suspected had skeletons buried beneath them. He also tried attacking the black skeletons and found that they were very weak. He could destroy them by sweeping them away, without using magic.

“This is a good thing,” Sui Xiong smiled and said to himself after destroying another group of black skeletons. “It seems that this world is not very dangerous.” So after walking for another five or six days, he finally saw the long-awaited traces of people.

It was a small village built on a vast open space. This space was clearly the result of man-made deforestation, as it was surrounded by many stumps. Many of the traces of deforestation on the stumps were still new, and some villagers were working hard to cut down the black woods and extend a cleared space for survival.

This was a small village, with small cabins forming a circle around a significantly taller stone house that was surrounded by wells. A strange cross-shaped statue was erected on the roof of the stone house, which was formed by a horizontal dagger and a vertical eye. The strange statue made Sui feel somewhat uncomfortable. It wasn’t a feeling of danger, but pure disgust. It was a feeling similar to Hindus seeing fried steaks, or Muslims seeing rice with pork, or foodies seeing microwave dinners, or animal activist seeing someone eat live shrimp… This statue was really cursed, and he did not like it!

The village looked quite normal except for the upsetting statue. The village was surrounded by wooden fences that were large and tall like massive walls. The stone house was somewhat crudely built, but it used ample materials so that people knew it was strong when they saw it. Also, the villagers who were walking around wore somewhat shabby clothes. Apparently, they weren’t particularly wealthy.

The entire village had only one exit, guarded by a tall and strong bald man. Although the man didn’t wear armor, he carried a big ax that appeared to be heavy. He seemed quite powerful. He vigilantly kept watch and never left his post. He seemed to be a very responsible man.

Pieces of farmland surrounded the village. The farmland was planted with a kind of vine that Sui Xiong didn’t recognize. The vines had neither flowers nor fruits, only pieces of grey-green leaves.Looking closely, he found that the leaves had vague golden veins, which emitted a slightly golden color when reflecting the sunshine.

There were also farmers working in the farmland. They were mainly women and children doing strange work: they didn’t plough or fertilize the soil or weed or catch insects, but instead carefully sprinkled a spoonful of water on the leaves of the vines. From time to time, they would scoop out water from the wooden casks, large or small, that they carried on their back or arm and sprinkle it onto the vines.

The spoons they used were quite small. Ten or more spoonfuls of water were roughly equal to an ordinary person’s mouthful of water. It was clear that they cherished the water when taking it from the wooden cask, as they often paid careful attention to it for a while before watering the vines. The origin of the water was quite extraordinary, and the water needed to be obtained through special rituals.

The rituals went like this: every ten days or so, a few young girls wearing black robes gathered in front of the main entrance of the stone house in the evening and chanted incantations while circling a huge pot. A live chick hung from a wooden shelf above the pot, and they chanted incantations until the moon rose. Then they cut the neck of the unlucky chick and let the blood flow into the pot, mixing with a pot of water. Then they continued their incantations. Not until midnight did they carry the pot into the stone house.

More than once, Sui Xiong tried to see what they were going to do with the pot once it was inside. But something in his soul prevented him from entering the stone house, as if a tough beast hide was stopping him.

He only knew that the next day, the villagers got a bucket of well water when the moon was rising and placed it in the moonlight for a night before delivering it to the stone house before sunrise. Some unknown process would occur, and on the third day, the water used for the vines was available in the stone house.

Sui Xiong speculated that there must be some type of pharmacists or magicians living inside the stone house who instructed the little girls to cast magic on the well water so that it had special powers to promote the growth of the vines. Of course, maybe the man who never left the stone house was actually a secluded chef who had mastered the essence of a thousand-year-old cooking technique. Perhaps he could create fantastic flavors when stewing a pot of chicken blood, and even the vines could sense this and grow.

Sui Xiong felt that in this magical world, anything was possible. Well, by any rate, he must taste this chicken blood soup!

In addition to the special water used for the vines, villagers of course also drew water from the well for daily use. Sui Xiong noticed that although there was a small river not far from the village, no one went to the river to use its water. All people drank, cooked, and used well water.

Perhaps this was related to the ubiquitous chaotic and turbid magic in the woods. According to his observations, the closer a place was to the village, the weaker the turbulent magic in the woods would be. But a somewhat uncomfortable atmosphere would linger over the village. Perhaps it was this atmosphere that annoyed him which allowed the villagers to resist the all-encompassing chaos of the magic in the black woods and avoid being harmed.

But this defensive effect was apparently limited. Every late afternoon, both the lumberjacks and the farmers hurried back to the village and locked the door, and a group of young men with hammers or axes came to the cabins on the two sides of the main gate and took turns to keep watch.

During this time, the uncanny atmosphere at the center of the village would become much stronger, shrouding the entire village. The vines in the fields would also emit a slight golden light. It was quite different from the atmosphere, rejecting the chaotic magic inherent in the black woods. The two complemented each other, guarding this little village.

Sui Xiong, hiding in the depths of the woods dozens of miles away, sensed from afar the village’s predicament weighing on his soul. He found that the main work of the villagers, besides logging and farming, was raising chickens . However, they never ate the chickens. The chickens were purely a sacrifice. He also studied the vines, and strangely, the vines echoed the uncomfortable atmosphere. But when he touched the vines with his soul, he didn’t feel any repulsive force. They just seemed to be ordinary vines.

Obviously, there was something mysterious going on. Unfortunately, he was unable to communicate with the villagers because of the language barrier. He had to hide his doubts in his mind and intended to ask for details only after they had established a friendship.

Sui Xiong was in no hurry to come into contact with the villagers and instead had opted to observe their lives from afar. He’d been observing for a long time and finally confirmed that the villagers’ lives were rather tedious. Rarely had he seen anything in the way of entertainment or recreation. Every day that they weren’t logging, they were farming, living a life devoid of fun.

The strange people in this world seemed to lead a hard life! Day after day, they repeated simple laborious tasks and never rested. Like a group of industrious ants, they tried to run their own little territory without laziness or relaxation. Sui Xiong silently watched them, waiting for the right opportunity to approach them.

He didn’t want to rush into contact with these people. For one thing, he didn’t know the language of these people, so they simply could not communicate; for another thing, his appearance was monstrous, and he was afraid that when he appeared he would scare these people to death. Maybe they would surround him and launch a desperate fight.

He knew nothing about the customs and practices of this world. However, by putting himself in their shoes, he knew that a normal person, when faced with a big monster speaking a different language, would try to either escape or fight. If anyone were rash enough to be friendly to the monster, that person would either be a protagonist full of love and courage like in fairy tales, or a deity from a cartoon. Either way, none of the people in this village seemed like the type.

After a while, the vines in the fields grew thicker and the golden veins on the leaves became more apparent. When the villagers saw them, their faces often flashed a smile, presumably with hopeful joy for a plentiful harvest. But it was strange that they often showed fear and unease too, which Sui Xiong found quite surprising.

After a period of time, they stopped logging. Guided by the bald janitor, all young adults, men, and women started combat training, improving their skills with an ax and hammer. Many others were busy making shields with wood as if they were preparing for a fight. Sui Xiong curiously observed them and couldn’t understand what was causing their concern or whom they were trying to go to war with.

But he was a little happy—judging by the villagers’ preparations, it was foreseeable that the upcoming battle would be very dangerous. As long as he appeared as a friendly party, he wouldn’t be treated as an unwelcome enemy.

This was exactly the chance he had been waiting for!