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Chapter 197: Footprints

 Chapter 197 - Footprints

The black mountain summits.

After setting foot on the mountain, a strong smell wafted through the air. It was choking, with a taste of sulfur. Ghost Li and Jin PingEr were both strongly skilled, and were still able to tolerate the smell, but as they gradually walked deeper into the mountain, the Yin wind which became stronger, slowly made their eyebrows knitted together.

The bone chilling wind, for some reason, when it brushed across their faces, although it was not a strong gust, its ghastly air made one shivered from deep within the heart. In addition, the faint hissing sound heard from deep within the summit ahead, undulating, sudden high and low, at times like a monkey crying in the night, and other times as if violent demons were laughing in misery, inciting panic in all who heard it.

Xiao Hui the monkey was crouching on Ghost Li's shoulder, after munching on the last wild fruit, flung the pit aside and looked around with his three eyes, seemingly oblivious to the strangeness of his surrounding.

Jin PingEr's frown deepened and said suddenly, "Something doesn't seem right."

Surprised, Ghost Li stopped and ask, "What is it?"

Jin PingEr hesitated before responding, "When I was last tracking here, there were no wails or howls or gusts of Yin wind. It was after reaching the Subdue Devil Ancient Cave then I encountered some of this. How did this place turn into netherworld-like in just a short period of time?"

Ghost Li looked off into the distance and said indifferently, "Maybe it is because this is the Beast Deity's lair, the evil aura is too heavy, as it should be. When you first came he was just resurrected, and naturally there was no such aura."

Jin PingEr thought it through, perhaps that was the only explanation. The day at Qing Yun Hill, the Beast Deity's bloody battle with Zhu Xian Ancient Sword, he was seriously injured by the sword, everyone saw how powerful the sword was. However the Beast Deity still managed to escape, with that level of power, it already shocked the world.

Jin PingEr's eyes moved, said abruptly, "Say, if we really do find the Beast Deity in the Subdue Devil Ancient Cave, even though he has been wounded, but with just the both of us, do you think we would be able to deal with him?"

Ghost Li shook his head and said, "How would I know?"

Jin PingEr looked at him and laughed suddenly, "Looking at you, seems like you are not confident huh! That being the case, why did you still follow me here?"

She looked at Ghost Li, "Don't forget, in the Majestic Fox Mountain, there is still a BiYao waiting for you to save her! If you die here, wouldn't you be letting her down?"

Ghost Li snorted and walked forward, saying, "Her father commanded me to do this, I owe BiYao too much, I have to do something, but you." He laughed coldly and said, "If you do unfortunately die here, I guess that will really be dying with grievances isn't it?"

Jin PingEr laughed coquettishly, smiling to his back, "Aiya! You this person is so formal, as long as we die together, be it Beast Deity's lair or a cattle pen, that is also good."

Ghost Li who was walking ahead [he he] coldly laughed, obviously he did not believe a single word of Jin PingEr, let alone being moved by the performance. He merely continued walking. The monkey on his shoulder instead turned his head to look at Jin PingEr, splitting into a rare grin, seemingly in a good mood.

Different from those ladies who used to associate with Ghost Li, Xiao Hui did not treat Jin PingEr as affectionate as how he treated Xiao Bai, Xiao Huan, in the days they spent together, this happy grin he showed was the first.

Jin PingEr was somehow surprised but it was after all not a bad thing, so she was rather happy. With a smiling expression, she was about to step ahead to tease the monkey who was just smiling when he suddenly opened his mouth, spat out a black thing, extremely fast, shot towards Jin PingEr.

Jin PingEr was shocked, but she was not an ordinary person, she did not panic, exerting force from her foot, she spun her body to the side by a few degrees to let the strange thing fly past her.

With a muffled pop, that thing hit the ground, it did not ricochet and instead smashed right into the ground. Jin PingEr turned to look, it was the pit of a wild fruit, it seemed like he had been sucking on one for flavour and decided to use it to play a trick on her now.

Played by a monkey, Jin PingEr was furious, her face also turned pale slightly, she glared sideways but saw that the grey monkey had already turned his body around and sat on Ghost Li's shoulder, facing her, his arms around his chest, both of his legs swinging, and his three eyes staring at the sky, a face full of arrogance, showing in abundance the legendary hoodlum spirit. Even his tail was swinging back and forth, as if he was saying- yes I am bullying you, I am a gangster and I am not afraid.

If she had not looked up to see that, she might not have been as angry. When she saw that, she strode up furiously to Ghost Li and yelled, "This monkey of yours is such an ill-mannered monkey, do you know it was spitting pits at people?"

Ghost Li slowly turned around and looked at Jin PingEr strangely, "Are you scolding him?" he asked, pointing at Xiao Hui.

Jin PingEr nodded.

Xiao Hui immediately got angry. He jumped up from Ghost Li's shoulder screeching, his three eyes wide open and both his hands clenched in tight fists, gesturing a fight. It seemed like it was burning with rage, and wanted to fight Jin PingEr who had came to complain.

Jin PingEr did not expect this grey furred monkey would learn to be so human, and took a step back in surprise. She ignored him and turned to yell at Ghost Li, "I am scolding him, this animal is just too vile. Raising him means you have to teach him manners..."

"You!" shouted Ghost Li suddenly, at Xiao Hui, simultaneously interrupting Jin PingEr.

Xiao Hui jumped in shock, and paused. Jin PingEr was also surprised, staring at Ghost Li.

Ghost Li frowned with a grave expression, and said to Xiao Hui, "I told you before, to read more books, knowledge brings reason, but you wouldn't listen. When I taught you that book

, why did you not learn? Return and make three hundred copies of it before coming back to see me!"

Xiao Hui's three eyes stared wide open, blinked a couple of times and touched his head with his hands. He scratched and pawed his head, stupefied.

On the other side, Jin PingEr was not any better. Recovering from her shock, she could not help but sneered, "What nonsense are you talking about. Even if this monkey did learn to be more human, it won't be able to read or write!"

Ghost Li turned to glance at her, "Oh" he said, as if he had just come to realise that. He said indifferently, "If that is the case, even you also say it so, then this monkey with no manners is not my fault. Heaven create all living things, why can't a monkey to learn to read, why, why?"

He looked at Jin PingEr, sighed with a complete lack of sincerity, said nothing and resumed his walk.

Jin PingEr was so furious her face had turned even paler.

The monkey Xiao Hui fell off Ghost Li's shoulder with a plop on the ground but he did not look like he was in pain. Instead he was screeching, howling with laughter, at times holding his sides as if he was about to split from laughing, and other times beating the ground, and even lying on the ground facing the sky, its tail dancing, in short laughing more and more crazily.

Jin PingEr became even angrier, right when she was about to flare up, Xiao Hui jumped up and rushed towards her making [zhi zhi zhi]. He made a big face at her and then scurried his way back to Ghost Li's shoulder. Once settled, he stared back towards Jin PingEr with a smug look before making another face at her.

Jin PingEr was so angry she was trembling. Gritting her teeth, she raised her arm forward. In the warm sun, the edge of her palm emitted a strange purple light.

However, the arm was only raised halfway before it stopped. In the silhouette of the male ahead, there seemed to be a faint green light emitting from his hand.

Jin PingEr's pupils contracted.

After a long while, she stomped her feet abruptly and lowered her arm. She then closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her chest rising up and fell a couple of times before she regained her composure. The green flare from Ghost Li further ahead dispersed slowly as well. His shadow, along with the grey furred three eyed monkey's sharp crazed laughter, moved further and further away.

Jin PingEr looked calm but still carried a touch of anger inside but also for some reason, her face turned a bit flushed. She had always bewitched people and toying with the wills of people were her past time. To be played like this by a monkey today...

She grunted, dispersing those thoughts. As she was about to start walking, she frowned suddenly, as if she thought of something else. She turned and walked back slowly. Within a short distance, she had arrived at the spot where Xiao Hui spat the pit to provoke her.

The fruit pit was part of the fruits commonly grown in this area, and there were nothing strange about that. However that particular pit was almost completely buried, with only a small part of the shell visible. This strange black mountain, was different from the other areas of the Ten Thousands Great Mountains where the ground had loose soil. Instead the ground here was solid rocks.

Xiao Hui's spit force, was actually strong enough to embed the pit into the rock.

Jin PingEr frowned deepened, slowly stood up, and looked toward the direction where Ghost Li's silhouette disappeared. The Yin breeze blowing from that direction seemed to still carry monkey Xiao Hui's piercing crazed laughter.

Muttering in a low voice to herself, "How could even the monkey, also have such skills, to be able to progress so fast. Who is this person..."

The vast black forest, again welcomed new visitors. Only this time the number of guests were far more than ever before. A platoon of troops advanced through the forest, marching through the thicket and the clusters of thorns.

However, on this part of the journey, other than the unexpected zero attacks by ferocious beasts, it was also unexpectedly smooth.

Leading the group were several unordinary people. Lu XueQi frowned and said nothing, but Zeng ShuShu could stand it no longer and burst out at Li Xun, "Li senior-brother, this, there is something wrong here!"

Li Xun stopped, glanced around before looking at Zeng ShuShu. He pondered a moment before calling out to the FenXiang Valley disciples,"We will take a rest here before continuing our journey."

Everyone cheered in agreement, evidently the long march was difficult.

Having settled the others, Li Xun and Zeng ShuShu walked a short distance aside, towards Lu XueQi. Whereas Lu XueQi frowned and took a step back.

Li Xun's expression dropped, and Zeng ShuShu being quick-witted, took the opportunity to interrupt, "Li senior-brother, you realised it too?"

Li Xun nodded his head, his gaze on the feet of the three of them, among the exuberant thorny undergrowth, although vague, it was still faintly visible that after the thorns were cut broken, the faint impression of somebody stepping over them.

"Someone was here before us, and certainly not long ago, walked through this part of the forest too." He was sure, and his forehead was creased with worry he couldn't hide.

Zeng ShuShu thought, and asked "Could it be Li senior-brother your sect..."

Li Xun shook his head, "Impossible, FenXiang Valley only has this team entering Ten Thousands Great Mountains, most of the valley younger generation elites are here, and there will be no one else joining us."

Zeng ShuShu frowned and said, "That's strange, according to Yun master valley, this news should not have been leaked! Could it be that other sects got to know of this news and ventured into the Ten Thousands Great Mountains?"

Li Xun hesitated, then shook his head and said, " I don't believe so. First of all, this matter is indeed still a secret, so only our two sects know." He coughed lightly before saying in a low voice, "Beast Deity is the cause of the catastrophe. If there were others trying to take advantage of the situation to finish the kill, then what our two sects fought tooth and nail for at Qing Yun Hill, wouldn't it be..."

Zeng ShuShu reached out a hand and patted Li Xun's shoulder, laughed and said, "I agree Li senior-brother, great minds truly think alike! Ha ha, ha ha ha..."

They studied each other and laughed, just then, a derisive snort came the side. It was from Lu XueQi. The two, surprised, turned to look at her.

Zeng ShuShu asked in a low voice, "Lu senior-sister, what is with you, did we say something wrong?"

Lu XueQi gave him a cold look , turned her head away and sneered, "What a repulsive countenance!"

Zeng ShuShu was stunned, for a moment did not understand the meaning of Lu XueQi's words. He was unsure if she was scolding him or Li Xun, or perhaps might as well the both of them. He turned his head to look at Li Xun, and the two looked at each other uncomfortably while they felt the awkwardness, unsure of what to say.

After a moment, after all Zeng ShuShu was more thick skinned, made a [ha ha], pretended he had heard nothing, spoke to Li Xun, "Li senior-brother, since the news has not spread and it isn't other disciples from FenXiang Valley, then there is something very odd about these tracks!"

Li Xun frowned, clearly thinking hard. As he was just about to speak, Lu XueQi turned back towards them and said coldly, "Beast Deity!"

Zeng ShuShu and Li Xun stood shocked, their expressions full of disbelief.

After a while, Zeng ShuShu nodded slowly. Though there was still some hesitation, he said, "This... even though what Lu senior-sister said was... wild, but thinking about it, it indeed is possible!"

Li Xun's expression was contrary to Zeng ShuShu. He looked like he wanted to say something but hesitated and shook his head, "Forget it, let's continue on and keep a look out. Speculating here would not do anybody any good."

Continuing, he said to the two of them, "You two should rest, I will check in on my juniors."

Zeng ShuShu nodded and said, "Li senior-brother, please go ahead!"

After cautioning them to be careful, Li Xun turned to walk to the back.

Once Li Xun had walked far enough, Zeng ShuShu turned his head towards Lu XueQi's back, smiled and said, "Lu senior-sister, could it be that you were scolding me earlier?"

Lu XueQi let out a disdainful snort, neither admitting or denying the truth of that statement. By doing that, she seemed to giving tacit agreement.

Zeng ShuShu forced a laugh, walked slowly to Lu XueQi's side and spoke in a low voice, "Lu senior-sister, there is something I would like to ask you."

Lu XueQi glanced at him and was surprised. Zeng ShuShu looked very serious, and that was very unusual. Immediately, she asked, "What?"

Zeng ShuShu took a deep breath, looked around before whispering, "Lu senior-sister, tell me honestly. Our sect's Zhu Xian Ancient Sword, is it truly damaged?"

Lu XueQi face paled to a white colour, a gleam in her eyes flashed, stared at Zeng ShuShu. Even her TianYa celestial sword, that faint blue glow like autumn waters, seemed to be buzzing, stretching the moment, before returning.

Zeng ShuShu's expression changed, felt as if the woman in front of him seemed to be ice a moment ago, now seemed to have become as sharp as a needle. He involuntarily took a step back and whispered, "Lu senior-sister, there is no need for this!"

Lu XueQi stared coldly at him, "You asking this question, what is the meaning of it?"

Zeng ShuShu smiled lightly and said, "I am also a disciple of QingYun sect, how would I not be concern about such a matter? WenMin senior-sister's hasty return, most likely is to report this matter back to the various teachers isn't it?"

Lu XueQi said nothing, just continued to stare at him coldly.

Zeng ShuShu nodded, "Alright, alright, Lu senior-sister, look, I have no bad intention, just that there are some things that happened within this period which are highly suspicious, there isn't much opportunities along the journey to discuss this with you, so I am taking advantage of this moment now."

Lu XueQi looked at him, "What kind of things?"

Zeng ShuShu coughed once before whispering, "What kind of a person do you think FenXiang Valley's leader Yun YiLan is?"

Lu XueQi frowned, "What do you mean?"

Zeng ShuShu smiled lightly and said, "Let's say it like this, do you think Yun master valley is a simple minded person? Or how about a person who hates evil and make the world's Good Faction as his responsibility, doesn't guard against fellow Good Faction Qing Yun disciples at all?"

Lu XueQi snorted and said nothing, but her disdain expression revealed her words, evidently disagreeing completely with Zeng ShuShu's questions.

Zeng ShuShu was not angry, it seemed he already knew Lu XueQi would react this way. He continued, "Since we all know that Yun master valley is not a warm hearted compassionate or of a simple mind, then on that day in the Mountain River Hall when he abruptly asked the three of us about Zhu Xian Ancient Sword being damaged, isn't that strange?"

Lu XueQi took a deep breath, and looked at Zeng ShuShu without saying a word.

Zeng ShuShu was a little embarrassment, and said, "Alright! I know speaking bad things about a highly respected elder behind his back is indeed inappropriate. However, you see, thinking back about these matters, things are somewhat strange..."

"There is nothing inappropriate about it." Lu XueQi clear and cold voice cut in, seemed couldn't be bothered about Zeng ShuShu's slightly ajar mouth, coldly said, "What's said is said, what's the apprehension for. From Qing Yun Hill till date, he is not a so-called good person too!"

"Eh ..." Zeng ShuShu was both surprised and amused, and was speechless at that moment. He never would have dreamed that the proper and inflexible Lu XueQi was actually more iconoclastic than himself, directly saying aloud her contempt for a highly respected senior of prestige and reputation. However, on reflection, this quiet and exquisite incomparable beauty, with that highly respected senior and his disciples, seemed to really have quite a history between them!

Looking at Lu XueQi, Zeng ShuShu for some reason, felt a chill on the back of his neck. His intuition made him questioned, has he inadvertently kicked the hornet's nest? He coughed at once, hurrying to change the topic. "This, eh, oh, let's not be concerning ourselves with his moral standing. I mean, this matter, Yun master valley at least have several areas of unusualness..."

"How did he know about the damage to Zhu Xian Ancient Sword, that's one." Lu XueQi interrupted, her expression did not change, but her eyes revealed a trace of glint, like dazzling crystals. "Second, once he knew, why did he tell us. He knew very well that once this news is revealed by himself, we would have to report it to Qing Yun various teachers. In that case, wouldn't the relationship between FenXiang Valley and Qing Yun sect change immediately?"

Zeng ShuShu nodded repeatedly, and said, "I knew with Lu senior-sister's intelligence, definitely will not overlook these crucial matters." He paused for a moment before continuing, "According to this then, there are only two possibilities, first, Qing Yun sect has a spy that is supplying him with information. He knew news that even me this Qing Yun disciple was not privy to, which means that the spy has a considerable position. However, with his reveal, wouldn't it expose that spy's identity?"

Lu XueQi snorted, and said, "Second, what is the purpose of him telling us? To remind Qing Yun sect that he already knew this secret, or to warn the various teachers, that FenXiang Valley is no longer afraid of Qing Yun sect?"

Zeng ShuShu looked intensely at Lu XueQi, sighed and said, "That was what I was thinking too, turns out you have been thinking the same too. To think I wanted to remind you. But on reflection, when you asked WenMin senior-sister return back to Qing Yun, it was to report these matters to the various teachers right!"

Lu XueQi was silent, and merely nodded her head.

The corner of Zeng ShuShu's twitched, and he abruptly released a long sigh filled with sorrow.

Startled, Lu XueQi asked, "What's with you?"

Zeng ShuShu laughed bitterly, and said, "I, I was sighing about our sect Zhu Xian Ancient Sword. Frankly, these few days even though I have arrived at this conclusion, but my heart wanted to deny it so badly. I was hoping I was wrong."

Lu XueQi said nothing, but turned her head quietly to stare into the distance. The depths of the forest were dark and secretive, the path ahead without the smallest bit of light.

Zeng ShuShu released a long breath, shook his head and said, "Forget it, thinking about it won't be of any use. We can only take it a step at a time. I wonder, what exactly has Yun valley master got up his sleeve?"

Lu XueQi did not answer, her gaze unconsciously drawn back to the faint tracks they had found earlier.

Zeng ShuShu whispered from the side, "Actually what you said about the Beast Deity although is possible, I don't think it is him."

Lu XueQi responded, "Then who do you think it is?"

Zeng ShuShu pondered a moment, and whispered, "If what that Li Xun said was true, if it's really not their own FenXiang Valley disciples, I am afraid that these tracks would most likely be from Evil Sect's remaining members."

Lu XueQi jolted and turned her head, the beautiful complexion was marred with emotions for the first time, "Why do you say so?"

Zeng ShuShu pointed to the tracks, and said, "You see, although these tracks are fuzzy, but it is clear that these are made by humans. If FenXiang Valley disciples never came here before, then there are no other sects in Good Faction that is as familiar with the Ten Thousands Great Mountains, it is difficult to imagine that they would be able to track to this point. But Evil Sect is different. That year after the big war, Evil Sect was driven out by the Good Fraction, such inhospitable natural environment like this, most likely they would have come before. So I think it is highly possible that it's them."

"What do you say, Lu senior-sister?" Zeng ShuShu turned around and asked, but when he saw Lu XueQi's expression, he couldn't help but stare in shock.

That beautiful woman was staring at the tracks in a daze, her face pale with a faint blush, emanating deep from within the skin and faintly captivating. In the middle of this desolated and cold ancient forest, she stood there woodenly, as if she had been sucked into a particular strange dream, and was no longer able to hear the people next to her.