Li Mo had entered a recuperative trance and didn’t respond to Yun Ruoyan’s question. After thinking for a moment, however, she confirmed her logic.
Yun Ruoyan had heard of the forest of dead souls before. It was situated in what was considered deathly territory, right by a graveyard filled with yin energy and low in spiritual density. Those vengeful ghosts who refused to leave the world would drift into the forest and possess an animal, turning them into demons.
Since demons weren’t able to cultivate on their own, they tended to flock together in a horde before trying to invade towns and villages. Generally, however, such demons were weak. Although it would be relatively difficult for low-ranking cultivators to get rid of them, it would be as easy as squashing an ant for demon hunters.
As a result, many demons weren’t daring enough to rush into densely populated areas. Instead, they would gather in the forest. During the day, they would prowl around the edges of the territory and attack any lone cultivators they saw; during the night, they would return back to their usual haunts.
In addition to these demons, there were also a few spirits and other creatures who had come from all over the continent.
Because of the Li kingdom’s propensity for fighting and cultivation, those areas that were rich in spiritual energy had long since been claimed by one sect or another, and the beastkin that found themselves with nowhere else to go could only gather at some less-than-ideal territories to continue cultivation.
Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo were currently in the hollowed-out section of an old tree, an abode for one such demon or beast.
“Hey!” Yun Ruoyan whispered at Li Mo.
He had already been resting for more than two hours. Now that it was completely dark, Yun Ruoyan couldn’t even see her outstretched hand.
When Li Mo still didn’t respond, Yun Ruoyan pulled out a few monster cores from her pocket dimension. The cores weren’t of particularly high quality and glowed rather dimly. Only after Yun Ruoyan had taken out five of them could she barely see her surroundings.
What Yun Ruoyan was most worried about was that the owner of this hollow would soon return. Neither she nor Li Mo could use their spiritual energy, and if they were to encounter a demon, she really didn’t know how they would survive the encounter.
“Qiuqiu, can you hear me? If so, please respond.”
Yun Ruoyan tried to get in contact with Qiuqiu once more, but the usually reliable Qiuqiu didn’t respond. Not only that, she couldn’t even feel the Feilai Blade in her mind.
The link between Yun Ruoyan and Qiuqiu, as well as that between Yun Ruoyan and the Feilai Blade, was mental in origin. This mental energy originated from one’s brain.
Yun Ruoyan didn’t know what sort of poison Rong Yuehong had used on her, but it had hurt so much that, even now, she was still feeling twinges of phantom pain. That bone-searing pain was torture for body and mind, and her mental energy had all been sapped away by the poison.
At this point, she barely had enough mental energy to retrieve some items from her pocket dimension.
She hugged her knees as she sat by Li Mo’s side. She couldn’t contact Qiuqiu nor use the Feilai Blade, and the person by her side was in a trance.
It was a summer night, but the high density of yin energy in the region made the air surprisingly chilly. Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help leaning closer against Li Mo.
As the night grew darker, all sorts of chittering and chattering noises began to emerge from deep inside the forest. As these noises crept into her mind, an emotion that Yun Ruoyan had managed to dislodge for quite some time took over her mind: fear.
Yun Ruoyan turned toward Li Mo once more. Despite knowing that he wouldn’t answer, she tried to use conversation as a tactic to divert herself and prevent fear from taking over her mind.
“Why’re you taking so long? Didn’t you get rid of that centipede spirit pretty quickly? I even thought that you’d be able to send me straight home! How did we both end up falling into this terrible place?”
She subconsciously glanced all around her, at the two shadows reflected on the tree bark.
Her head swivelled as she looked all around her before turning to Li Mo once more.
Li Mo was draped in a black robe. She couldn’t tell where his inky hair ended, nor where his robe began. His facial features were hidden in shadow, but he still gave off an icy aura that prevented anyone from getting close.
The first time Yun Ruoyan had seen Li Mo, he was dressed exactly like this. In fact, she had never seen him looking any different…
Her eyes flashed as she crept even closer to Li Mo’s body before taking a sniff.
He didn’t smell bad!
A faint medicinal smell emanated from his body, one unique to pillmasters. Lin Zainan smelled much like Li Mo, for instance. Because pillmasters spent a significant amount of time refining pills with their own spiritual fire, their bodies would naturally take on a medicinal, earthy smell characteristic of medicinal pills. Even if they washed regularly, the smell would linger.
Li Mo was both a pillmaster and beastmaster, so it wasn’t unusual that he would smell like medicinal herbs.
What Yun Ruoyan was rather surprised about was why he didn’t smell more like a wild beast. According to popular knowledge, beastmasters had such an odor about them, one which they could control using their spiritual energy to attract, frighten, and control beasts.
Yun Ruoyan smelled his body left and right, but except for the faint scent of medicinal herbs, she could smell nothing else.
In truth, Yun Ruoyan had never seen a true beastmaster before, and she didn’t quite know what they smelled like. Perhaps it was an odor that only beasts could distinguish?
Yun Ruoyan stopped sniffing and turned to his face. Apparently, only a select few had ever seen the Slaughtering King’s face clearly. It was always partially hidden by long hair, just like a veil. Although he didn’t wear a mask, his emotions had always seemed shrouded.
Yun Ruoyan had had quite a number of close-contact encounters with Li Mo, but they had always been rather passive on Yun Ruoyan’s part. Guarded due to his untoward behavior and panicking due to how close he was to her, she had never focused on his face during such episodes. Either she didn’t dare to meet his gaze, or she had given up on stopping him and had closed her eyes entirely.
Until now, the only memories Yun Ruoyan had of his face were his dark eyes and clear, distinguished features. As a result, in this dark alcove where she could barely see a few feet from her, Yun Ruoyan became curious about the Slaughtering King’s true appearance.
And what better time to satiate that curiosity than now? She stooped down and leaned forward, until she was right in front of Li Mo’s face. Under the dim lighting from the monster cores she held in one hand, Li Mo’s face emerged from the shadows.
His cheekbones were high, his nose straight, and his brows dark.
“Not bad,” Yun Ruoyan muttered to herself. “Somewhat like Li Xiu, and very much like Li Qianhan. It’s just that his face is a little too white.”
Yun Ruoyan cocked her head. Perhaps because his face was constantly hidden behind his hair, Li Mo’s face was very pale. It wasn’t a stark white, but rather a… lustrous white?
Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help but think back to Li Mo’s transmogrified arm during his battle with the spiritual master. That wrist, almost three times the size of a regular human wrist, was covered with reflective silver scales, dazzling against the evening sun.
The heart which she’d just barely managed to calm began thumping again. When she looked again toward Li Mo, she couldn’t help feeling a chill that had nothing to do with the air.
Just as she was about to look away, Li Mo suddenly opened his eyes. His ink-black eyes, rimmed with frost, pierced Yun Ruoyan.
In shock, Yun Ruoyan was just about to scream when she clutched her own mouth. However, she lost her balance and her body began tilting backward.
Li Mo extended a long arm and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her into his embrace. Yun Ruoyan thought that he was about to take advantage of her again, and she began to struggle.
“Let go of me, let go of me!”
“Don’t move! There’s something coming,” Li Mo whispered.
Yun Ruoyan immediately quieted down. The ‘something’ that Li Mo had mentioned could only be a demon or beast. They could hear the sound of footsteps coming closer, as well as a conversation between two parties.
“Brother, we’ve got quite a good haul today. We can finally have a good meal for once!” a shrill voice piped up.
“Haha.” Along with that shrill voice came a coarse laughter. “I’ve barely eaten for three days, and my chest’s about to become plastered to my back. Quick, cook this meat and serve it to me.”
That voice seemed to be heading right for their hollow.
“How’s your injury?” Yun Ruoyan asked Li Mo in a quiet voice. Based on their voices, at least, these creatures didn’t seem to be particularly high-rank.
If Yun Ruoyan weren’t hurt, she could easily have dealt with five or six of them at once. But now that she had just a smidge of mental energy left and wasn’t able to use her spiritual energy at all, she could only hope that Li Mo was faring better.
Li Mo had barely stabilized his own injury, and he needed quite a bit of peace and quiet to recover. If he were to try to use his spiritual energy now, it would only worsen his injury.
Both of them were crippled.
“Don’t worry.” Li Mo lowered his head and glanced at Yun Ruoyan. Although she appeared calm, Li Mo could feel her heart pounding. “I’m here, so you’ll be safe.”
For some reason, Li Mo’s voice really did make her feel calmer.
“I’m not scared,” Yun Ruoyan murmured, standing up and pulling out a steel dagger from her leg. She stared grimly at the tree hollow, waiting for the demon to come closer.
“Sheathe your dagger!” When Li Mo saw what she was intending on doing, he hurriedly stopped her. If she were to rely on brute strength, she would be no match for the demon. Furthermore, the demons’ tough flesh meant that regular weapons wouldn’t be able to do much damage to them.
Yun Ruoyan turned to Li Mo, not understanding his intentions.
“Listen to me and store that dagger. I naturally have a solution.”
The two demons’ footsteps drew nearer. Yun Ruoyan frowned, but she decided to believe in Li Mo.
“Come, sit here.” Li Mo motioned to his side, and Yun Ruoyan moved without any hesitation.
Just then, voices came from outside once more.
“Brother, something’s wrong! There’s a strange scent around here,” the shrill voice spoke once more.
“A strange scent?” The coarse voice thundered, “Who’s there?! Are you blind, trying to steal my territory?!”
As that voice rang out, a coarse leg stepped into the hollow...Previous Chapter Next Chapter