376 The White Monster

    "Hahaha so you managed to meet up with Hou Fei? How is that rascal doing?" Ming asked as he pulled up Jin before he got swept away by a fast rapids river. They had travelled through the first portion of the vast bamboo forest where the clear path became a rocky one, and eventually, they reached a rapid river crossing.

    With no cultivation powers at his disposal, Jin was not able to safely jump across the wide river nor perform the glorious water walking technique through his chi powers. Jin had to sink himself into the river and use his scabbard as support when needed while resisting the rapids with all his might so that he would not fall and flow along with the current.

    Even if he did, he used his scabbard to get a foothold against the riverbed and continued trying. The odd thing was, the river did not seem to end as far he could see. Ming confirmed that it was indeed never ending and told Jin he could attempt swimming as long as he did not mind getting hit by the rocks along the way. However, Jin was already doing so badly at the start, Ming feared that he would die an accidental death in the river but thankfully Jin managed to cross it with only some minor injuries.

    "He...is ...doing ...huff fine." Jin answered his worried looking grandfather as he tried to catch his breath the moment he came out of the water.

    "Watch out not to lose your backpack or sword. Otherwise, you practically guarantee your demise. " Ming warned Jin before they continued walking. Jin had not felt so powerless for a very long time. He remembered the days he was struggling with Ming's training, but this was way more intense than anything he ever remembered. Even though he did not show it, the hike was starting to take a toll on his body. Especially the small yet heavy backpack was becoming more and more of a burden. Jin hoped whatever was inside was worth it.

    "We are reaching our camp soon. So hurry up, I want to reach it before the sun sets." Ming decided not to waste his energy talking and gave Jin the breather he needed as they continue to enter the other part of the bamboo forest.

    After what seemed like hours to Jin, they finally reached the designated camp spot where there were already two sets of camping equipment prepared at the side of a bamboo tree. Ming passed one to him and told him to set the basha tent up.

    Jin roughly remembered how and got onto it as Ming prepared the campfire and food for the two of them. He was previously talking to Ming so vividly that he had forgotten that this was part of the training process, so he decided to keep quiet and make the tent as instructed even if he was still half dead from the river crossing. Using the camping equipment, Ming began to boil some water and used it to heat up the packet rations that came with the camping set.

    Eventually, Jin completed setting up the Basha tent and went towards the campfire for his dinner.

    "Tiring, isn't it? Without your cultivation powers." Ming asked as he passed the packet ration all heated up for Jin to eat. He checked the ration labels and realised it was ...macaroni with meat and vegetable fillings in the packet. Jin reluctantly opened it and ate, but it somehow tasted good even though he clearly remembered it being terrible.

    "Tiredness and hunger can make any food taste great," Ming lectured his grandson after seeing his surprised expression, while he also chewed on his packet ration. At this point, Jin asked if there is an objective to this particular leg of the journey.

    "Oh, don't you worry that much. When it comes, it comes. Just be carefree for now and rest up." Ming answered with a gleeful tone which made Jin extremely suspicious of his expression. Not to mention, his anxiety was hitting maximum values.

    "You mean it could come anytime?" Jin asked as he gobbled his entire ration packet in case he would jinx himself for saying it out loud. True enough, Jin suddenly heard a growling from the back which made Jin stop all his movements and slowly reach for his sheath at the side of him.

    "Well, what do you know? What impeccable timing." Ming sniggered as a shadow immediately pounced towards Jin sitting location, but Jin was able to safely use the scabbard to block the bite from the monster right in front of him.

    White, furry, blue eyes and with a very large angry mouth. That was the first thing Jin saw as he tried to identify the white monstrosity which then it finally clicked what creature Jin was facing.

    It looked exactly like the mythical White Tiger of the West from the legends. ( Xi Fang Bai Hu/Byakko). The moment Jin removed his scabbard away from the White Tiger's jaws, he spat out the macaroni that he had still been chewing into the tiger's mouth and somehow it managed to choke the tiger momentarily, allowing Jin to kick himself away from the White Tiger. (He wished his kick was strong enough to knock the White Tiger of the West away)

    "What the **?!" Jin exclaimed as he swallowed the rest of his food down and even calmly took his flask that was hanging at his waist and drank it.

    "You do not look as surprised as I had imagined of the tiger. Should now really be the time for you to enjoy your food?" Ming complained as he laid back and decided to watch the show from a tree branch.

    "What can I say, I kind of expected that from you. Besides, better to die without an empty stomach." Jin joked as the White Tiger prowled around the prey which had angered him. Jin honestly did not know what to do about this situation. He read books about the White Tiger of the West and the praises of magnificent strength and prowess it possessed. How could a human with no cultivation powers suppose to beat a monster of such legend? "I think even at Grade 7, the chances of surviving this without my bellators would be low." Jin thought to himself as he gripped onto his katana hard.

    "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this earlier, but one of the restrictions forbids you to change your weapons. Bam is in permanent Katana form and Boo in your wakizashi form. But that should be about it. Good luck with your new friend." Ming commented as the White Tiger noticed the distraction in Jin's face (Hope and optimism had begun leaving his body) and went to charge it with its claws at the front. Jin tried to evade at the very last second before he -

    Yeah, Jin died. The tiger got him.

    With just a single charge, the tiger's paws literally swiped away Jin's head before he could make a move, causing it to roll beside the fire pit. Jin was not used to his new body without cultivation, nor did he have access to his Inverse Eyes that would allow him to predict the movement of the White Tiger correctly.

    "Oh well, I kinda expected him to die the moment White Tiger appeared. At least he did exceed my expectations a little bit." Ming grinned as he snapped his fingers, causing the entire scene to change right in front of their eyes.

    "UWWWOOOO!!" Jin suffered a violent shake from his consciousness and realised he was being swept away along the river with Ming strolling along the side.

    "Good wake up call?" Ming shouted to ask Jin who was struggling to swim across the river. Jin did not say a word and tried his best to get out of the river as he once did and Ming offered his hand once more to pull him out.

    "What are the chances of me killing the White Tiger?" Jin panted for air as he lay down at the side of the river and Ming sat beside him for company.

    "Honestly? None. I mean you can always hope for it to have a sudden heart attack, but otherwise 10/10 times it will decimate you in a direct confrontation. But you can figure it out, can't you? I mean right now, you kind of know where it appears." Ming tried to console him.

    "Will it come for me no matter what?" Jin asked as all he had was a blank in his mind.

    "Who knows? I just leave it to you. Oh and no matter what, do not open that backpack. I will be waiting for you on the other end of the bamboo forest." Ming reminded him as he continued to stroll through the forest.

    "Fuck...that means I will have to fight it at least a few times to learn the tiger's attack pattern. And I don't even know if he has any magical abilities." Jin cursed as he thought to himself how impossible this task is.

    "Just a tip as an exchange for telling me the juicy story about your recent life activities. The forest is your ally if you know how to use it. Cheers!" Ming had decided to help him out a bit via a private long range transmission before he became uncontactable. Jin sighed as he stood up and looked at the immense bamboo forest right in front of him.

    Jin tried to summon his chi from within to confirm that he really did not have any cultivation ability within him. True enough, he felt nothing was happening. Even when he tried to cultivate, no chi was being circulated around him.

    "Guess that means I have to fight one on one against this monster of Legend." Jin sighed as he went into the bamboo forest with his backpack. He knew the chance of him dying in the second round was extremely high since nothing much has changed but he needed to seek for any advantages and check the surroundings as Ming suggested before the White Tiger finds him once more.

    "If Ming was being cryptic, he could mean that was when the tiger will appear but if he was blatant with his clues...then that was quite a useless clue." Jin thought to himself as he took out his shirt to squeeze whatever water remained in there so it would be more comfortable to run around with it.

    He assumed both the worst and the best. By being optimistic and if Jin was not mistaken, he probably had a few more hours before the White Tiger would appear to hunt him down. Perhaps, he might never encounter the White Tiger until he is ready to fight!  But one thing was for sure. Hiding would not give him any advantage at all since he was now a vulnerable prey instead of the venerable hunter. The worst? The tiger can appear at any time, anywhere. But as he ventured around the bamboo forest for half an hour, Jin realised something stupid.

    He did not know where he was going as he was blindly walking around without any useful landmarks. That was when he tried to crack his brain to remember what Ming had taught him about woodland survival. He figured that was what Ming wanted him to do in the first place.

    Setting up Basha tent, hiking through the forest and now leaving him alone in the bamboo forest with just his sword and that damned backpack. Jin had been surrounded with tremendous help ever since he received the System and while he did have close encounters with various monsters or even enemies in the real world, there was not much of a real threat with the System protecting him.

    Jin guessed Ming wanted him to fend for himself so that Jin could push himself to the limit. It was definitely not impossible to defeat the White Tiger just...a matter of how (but also when).

    "ARGGGHH! No matter how I think, I still cannot see myself defeating the beast!!" Jin shouted out loud while scratching his head after brainstorming for some time. A few birds flew away from the sudden anger outburst he made.

    Very soon afterwards, he heard some rumbling noises from afar. Only then did Jin realise how much he **ed up. So, he quickly climbed up the largest bamboo he could find and as high as his strength permitted, hoping the White Tiger would not sniff him out that soon after his blunder. But as 'promising' as the plan sounded, the bamboo bent and broke from his weight causing Jin to suffer a terrible fall. That was when he heard a low growl emanating from behind him.

    Jin scanned the area in a panicked state as he struggled after biting his tongue in order to tolerate the pain from fall. (Else he would be giving away his location away from shouting once more.) But it was too late when he felt something sticky dropping on to him.

    As if the tiger had the intelligence of a human, Jin could swear it smirked at him before aiming for Jin's neck. The prey had lost its consciousness once more.
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