I touched the long fangs arcing out of the wide-open mouth. They were over 15 centimeters long, with elliptical cross-sections, and felt rough like a shark skin. It looked like the teeth were usually folded inside the mouth to keep them hidden. Unlike saber-toothed tigers, the tainted cat had fangs on both the top and bottom jaws that were blunt at the ends. They didn’t kill by impaling prey, but by pressing down on their jugular vein and strangling them.
There was only one reason for this method of killing that I could think of. In order to perpetuate the copycat legends, children needed to be taken without leaving behind blood or any other evidence so that there would never be any proof of murder. No matter how I looked at it, the tainted cats were bred for the sole purpose of killing people.
I threw up. As monstrous as the cat was, I still felt instinctively revolted at killing a warm-blooded animal. But more than that, I was disgusted at the existence of this cursed creature.
After an hour, I finally arrived at the giant pit that used to be Shun’s home. I had to hurry. I was covered in sweat and the tainted cat’s saliva had soaked into my sweater and ran all the way down to my socks. It was cold and extremely nasty, but I didn’t have time to stop and wipe myself off.
Having learned my lesson from my near-death experience earlier, I didn’t carry a torch. If I became too accustomed to the light, I would be left blind if the torch went out. It would be better to let my eyes adapt to the dark as much as it could and make the best of it.
Although I kept following the compass north, the first sign that confirmed I was going the right way came from a moonlit spiderweb. The threads were twisted so that they resembled faces and words. Although I didn’t know at the time, spiderwebs are the most sensitive things in nature and are the first to indicate that things are going wrong.
As I got closer to the Holy Barrier, the trees began to show signs of deformation. Most of them leaned in the same direction, as if they had been bent over from an unceasing wind.