TMOTI Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Hard Work Pays Off
When Ji woke, the lake mist had mostly cleared. Soft light from the sunset made the water’s surface seem like molten gold. Gongyi sat near the fireplace, playing with a leashed wild chicken.
The chicken had dull-yellowish feathers, and parts of its scalp showed due to it running around and crashing randomly. Gongyi held a thin piece of vine, wrapped around one of the its feet. He pulled it occasionally.
When the vine tightened, the chicken stumbled around, hopping confusedly; once it loosened, it uncontrollably flapped its wings, trying to escape.
Ji laughed out loud without thinking. The sound was startling and sudden. Man and chicken alike turned their heads around. Four glistening eyes glared at her, snapping Ji out of her stupor. She stumbled backward, terrified.
Looking away, Gongyi walked to her, dragging the chicken along.
Ji couldn’t tell his expression, but didn’t think she did anything serious. She mustered her strength and daringly glared back. So what if she fainted after seeing a snake, it’s perfectly reasonable. Primitive animals had strong survival instincts, advanced ones had phobias and interests—it totally makes sense!
The chicken clucked with no end. Gongyi led it to a tree and tied it to the trunk, and gestured Ji to the huge basket.
She pursed her lips, not wanting to see what was inside. As she kneeled down, Ji started to feel sick. Besides utensils, the basket was full of skinned rabbit, chicken, and snake meat.
Gongyi thought she didn’t know how to clean the flesh, so he grabbed a rabbit carcass, pulled out its intestines and organs, and plunged the meat in the lake.
Ji’s eyes twitched as she watched. The moment her fingers touched the raw chicken, she flung herself to the side and threw up violently.
Gongyi buried her vomit, disgusted. He tied her up again, and threw her to the same tree the chicken was kept. He cooked his meat at the rising fire, and blissfully feasted with a small pack of salt.
Even the poor chicken, wildly flapping its wings, was thrown half a piece of fruit.
Ji licked her lips, and lost her curiosity for this man in a minute of hunger.
A savage is always a savage…. A selfish savage, too!
When he finished, Gongyi pointed at the pile of scraps, bones, and ash. He waved his arms lazily, and spoke in his strange language.
Ji swiped her head to the side with her nose high—Hmph! You don’t feed me, and expect me to clean up your mess? I’m not your slave, go do it yourself!
Gongyi didn’t bother to encourage her, so he started to shoot the nearby wild game. No matter what animal, if it fell in his sight, his arrow made a “thwack”, and it dropped to the dirt. With every kill, he trudged over and gutted its corpse.
Ji still didn’t care. Kill all the animals you want, I won’t be humiliated!
When the closest animals nearby were gone, Gongyi slung his great bow over his shoulder, and prepared to venture the nearby woods.
Ji started to get worried.
As the proverbs say, there’s nothing big forests don’t have. * If she was tied here alone, some giant snake or beast will definitely come and eat her. Once that happens, she’ll have to die with the stupid chicken!
*This is an old Chinese proverb. It basically just means the farther you go (the larger the forest is), the more opportunities there are (the more animals and plants it contains). But Ji thought of it literally, instead of figuratively.
Gongyi already walked for two steps.
“Don’t, don’t go!”
The wild chicken also started squawking to her yells, kicking up the dust and grass around it.
“Gong, Gongyi…. Gonyigongyigongyigongyi!”
Ji finally broke down. Tears streamed down her face, and she started sobbing.
The man finally stopped. He turned around, and cut her bonds.
This time, Ji didn’t speak a word of protest. She swallowed her civil pride, and ran off to clean her chicken carcass. She chanted to herself: “Hard work always pays off, hard work always pays off…”
Even though the unprocessed, smudged meat was terrible to look at, she acknowledged that it looked filling.
After a long time of cleaning up, Ji’s face was distorted and wretched. Her mind was chock-full of intestines, tendons, muscle tendrils….
Gongyi picked some bird feather off her hair, and lightly smiled. He restarted the fire, and roasted the chicken. Then, he sprinkled some salt on it, and passed it to Ji.
Ji had no desire for politeness. She wolfed it all within three or four bites. A stray feather on her brow quivered as she ate.
She finished her deserved meal, and left a neat pile of bones by her side. Viewing the horizon, she could see a sliver of seawater, but it was nearly blocked by a towering cliff.
If this side was a cliff, then what’s on the other side of the island?
Ji ground her teeth, and glared at the forest: No matter how big, it’s still smaller than the whole island. What are the chances of crossing it?
In her memory, she first woke up on this island on a long strip of beach—the time between then and now, was merely a day!
The meager light filtered through the thick branches of leaves. Breezes of sea winds tickled the lake reeds. Gongyi quietly snorted, and closed his eyes.
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