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Chapter 265 - Wolf Charge
Because he had lost too much blood, Qi Jian was somewhat dazed. It took him a while to respond after hearing Zhexiu's words, at which point he instantly became much more clear-headed. His face became even paler. then, he turned his head with some difficulty so that he could see Zhexiu's face. While Zhexiu's face was as expressionless as ever, it was very obvious that there was no vigor in his eyes. Qi Jian's body instantly became very stiff.
"You......can't see anymore?" Qi Jian's voice trembled and he was about to get off Zhexiu's back.
As if to indicate that he was not allowed to leave, Zhexiu's hands grabbed onto Qi Jian's legs like iron bands, giving Qi Jian no chance of leaving.
Feeling the heat and strength of Zhexiu's hands on his legs, Qi Jian became both ashamed and hurried, using all of his strength to try and leave. Zhexiu gave no response and allowed him to struggle. He stood like a statue as Qi Jian's strength faded away and his struggles died down. In the end, Qi Jian gave up and powerlessly draped himself on Zhexiu's shoulders once more.
This time, when he turned to Zhexiu, the expressionless face that aroused incomparable hatred in him, the face like a dead man that made him want to go far away, seemed to have another indescribable atmosphere hanging about it.
Yes, it really did seem like a statue; like a wolf, or perhaps a youth, standing on a cliff and staring into the distance.
Unconsciously, Qi Jian's heart softened, and so did his eyes. When he saw Zhexiu's face, an expression of admiration appeared on his small and pale face. Then, for some reason, he felt very sad. Especially when he saw Zhexiu's eyes, he began to cry, his tears filled with grief.
Zhexiu remained cold and indifferent, as if he could not be influenced by what he could not see. He said, "If crying could solve problems, then I would absolutely be the world's number one expert in crying."
In the snowy plains, in his battles with the demons, there were innumerable problems concerning life and death that needed to be resolved.
Qi Jian felt deeply humiliated. He lifted up his arm and used the sleeve to wipe his tears, but he could not wipe it clean because the tears continued to fall.
Zhexiu's voice became rather hesitant. "Perhaps… you…"
Then he after a long pause, he said, "Don't cry, there's no problem."
It was very obvious that Zhexiu was no good at consoling others, and even worse at sweet-talking. So while his manner of speaking seemed stiff, it felt even more sincere because of this.
Qi Jian rubbed his nose, then gave an unhappy grunt of agreement, though it was not clear who this unhappiness was directed to. Then he softly said, "Then......let's go."
Zhexiu looked at the darkness before him and composed himself. He then said, "We should continue in the direction of the Mountainside Whispering Wood."
Supporting himself on Zhexiu's shoulder, Qi Jian laboriously lifted his head and looked at the ramrod mountain path in front of them. "Continue straight forward for four hundred yards, then turn right. I'll tell you when it's time."
Without hesitation, Zhexiu grabbed tightly onto Qi Jian's legs, then began proceeding forwards. He harbored not a single doubt about Qi Jian's words.
This made Qi Jian feel both moved and puzzled.
The mountain wind blew across Zhexiu's face, but he had already closed his eyes.
Then the mountain wind blew across Qi Jian's small face.
That wind seemed to carry a sort of heat with it.
Qi Jian felt it was somewhat warm, and somewhat calming.
In the mountains of the Garden of Zhou, the sound of footsteps continuously resounded. It was accompanied by Qi Jian's clear but weak directions, followed by Zhexiu's calm and indifferent replies.
"Slower, there's a hole up ahead."
"A small stream, two yards, and in front of us is the beach."
"Are you okay?"
"Let's go faster."
"There is no ‘but’."
"Careful, don't run into that tree."
In Zhexiu's view, they had to find the other human cultivators in the Garden of Zhou as quickly as possible. However, they had run so many dozens of miles and had not met a single person. Last night, the vast majority of the human cultivators had already gathered in those three gardens, in accordance with Chen Changsheng and the white-clothed young lady's instructions.
Now that he thought about it, this had probably been long taken into account by that legendary Military Advisor.
Human cultivators entered the Garden of Zhou for the purpose of vying for magical artifacts and legacies, so if the Garden of Zhou was to be cut off from the outside world, there would inevitably be internal strife. Even if there was a person that succeeded in stemming the chaos, the human cultivators would undoubtedly congregate in some place. Meanwhile, for Zhexiu and the Mount Li Sword Sect disciples, these assassination targets would be even more likely to go off on their own.
Zhexiu and Qi Jian stopped at a cliff. The distance from the closest place the humans had gathered, the Mountainside Whispering Wood, was still dozens of miles.
On the hillside behind them, they could already make out two shadows stretched long by the setting sun.
The Demon General couple had already caught up to them. He was still wielding his carrying pole, while she was still carrying around that big iron pot. It looked like they were moving to a new home, but in reality, their speed was dreadfully fast.
Qi Jian gave a painful cough and his small face grew even paler. He reported, "Southwest, at the Guizhen Star, approximately......six, no, five miles."
For them, the shadows of that Demon General couple on the hillside were like the shadows of death. They had to find a way to break away from them.
"They stopped." Qi Jian said with some astonishment.
Zhexiu replied, "They want to see which way we're going to go."
Although he could not see his surroundings, over the past two days, he had walked the surrounding mountains of the Garden of Zhou many times with Chen Changsheng and inscribed the geography and the environment into his heart. If they continued on their present plan to go to the Mountainside Whispering Wood and meet up with the other human cultivators, then the Demon General couple only needed to change their course slightly and cut through a forest to intercept them.
In silence, Zhexiu estimated the distance between them and the couple, then decided that there was no way they were going to make it to the Mountainside Whispering Wood.
He faintly recalled someone on the lakeshore apparently saying that the demons could grasp their location at any time.
Even if they could not grasp their position, it seemed that this couple were truly worthy of their titles as Demon Generals. It was clearly two chasing two, but they had used strategy and tactics. This chase and flight had persisted for a few hours now, but they had gotten no closer to the Mountainside Whispering Wood. Rather, they were being pressured farther and farther away.
Carrying Qi Jian on his back and feeling the last rays of twilight on his face, Zhexiu silently thought, then turned to the southwest.
He could not see, but he wanted to look at those Demon Generals that wanted to kill him.
That distant hillside had been enveloped by the sunset and was, at this very moment, ablaze.
Liu Wan'er and Teng Xiaoming stood amongst the blazing field, looking back.
From a distance, the two pairs stared at each other.
"I'm going to start running,"
Zhexiu suddenly stated calmly and resolutely.
He could not see the path, and yet he was going to run?
Qi Jian was shocked, and his hands subconsciously tightened their grip on Zhexiu's shoulders.
Zhexiu said, "From time to time, you would report their position to me, and at the same time give me directions. Now......first tell me, this cliff in front of me: how steep is it?"
Qi Jian's voice was very weak, and at this point, it began to shake even more. Because he was nervous, it took him a while before he replied, "It's about forty-three degrees......can you really do it?"
"I'll definitely fall a few times, but I just need to get up and start running again."
After a pause, Zhexiu added, "The fall will hurt a lot, so don't cry."
Qi Jian gave a light grunt.
After a moment of silence, Zhexiu said, "Hold a bit tighter."
Qi Jian gave another grunt, then tightly wrapped his arms around Zhexiu's neck and brought his head close to the shoulders.
After all these preparations were complete, Zhexiu took a deep breath. The true essence in his body began to madly circulate around his body in order to suppress that poisonous Peacock Plume that was attempting to spread from his eyes to many other places. Then Zhexiu crouched his body.
As he moved, his two knees, through some method beyond human comprehension, began to bend strangely.
The front part of his boots burst open as sharp claws protruded from his dark wolf fur. As they thrust into the solid rock of the cliff, they gave a 'zeng' sound.
Simultaneously, countless hard and coarse hairs sprouted on the edge of his cheeks and his neck.
His transformation turned his eyes blood red. When mixed together with the green of the poison in the depths of his eyes, it produced a very strange hue.
It looked like a fresh lemon: sour to the extreme, able to stir up endless vigor.
"Afraid?" he asked.
Qi Jian did not answer. His hands tightened their grip even more and he drew even closer to Zhexiu's body.
Zhexiu was rather surprised, apparently. After a moment of silence, the corners of his lips perked up. He was probably smiling.
If Chen Changsheng were to see this, he would almost certainly be incredibly shocked, because he could not recall a single time he had seen Zhexiu smile.
It was a shame that Qi Jian's head was buried in Zhexiu's neck so that he could not see it.
Zhexiu said no more. Holding tightly onto Qi Jian's legs, he began rushing down the incomparably precipitous cliff face.
Sand and stone scattered; debris flew about in chaos.
Carrying Qi Jian, Zhexiu madly rushed. Every time his feet landed, they would dig deeply into the cliff, giving him an excellent grip.
The poison of the Peacock Plume had damaged his vision, but it did not hampered the rest of his strength.
After his demi-human transformation, the wolf youth could use his nearly perfect balance and speed to increase his running strength and instinctive adaptation to unimaginable levels, in accordance with his surroundings.
In only a few moments, he carried Qi Jian all the way to the bottom of the cliff.
Several miles away on the hillside, it was clear that the Demon General couple had not expected them to use this method, this direction, to break out of their entrapment. They paused for a while before once again beginning their pursuit.
With a rumble, the cliff trembled as two dragons made of dust followed them.
"South, at the Zhen Star, four miles."
Qi Jian withdrew his gaze, then attempted to make his weak voice as clear as possible. "Three hundred, two hundred forty, two hundred, one hundred seventy, stone steps, inclined at a forty-one degree angle, ready......jump!"
Like a young male wolf, Zhexiu carried Qi Jian as he frantically made his way through the mountains. Turning into a gray shadow, he leaped up a dozen yards, directly jumping to the top of the stone steps.
Qi Jian felt that sudden shock of the landing and the pain of his abdomen. However, he held it down and made no sound. He weakly said, "Go straight for four hundred yards. Enter the forest?"
Zhexiu's heart and soul were engaged in running so he did not answer, only nodding his head.
Qi Jian rested his head on Zhexiu's shoulders once again, feeling the incessant shocks. As he saw the forest get closer and closer, his hands tightened their grip, and his mind also became more tense.
He was unable to see the path, carrying a heavily injured person, yet he still ran at his fastest speed.
Moreover, he was doing so in the mountains.
It was truly mad.
What Zhexiu was doing was mad.
With madness came an inevitable price to pay.
Even though he had already transformed, and even though Qi Jian was doing his best to calculate and giving him a constant stream of directions, he would still inevitably tumble—and these were serious tumbles.
However, just like he had said at the top of the cliff, every time he fell, he would get up straightway and continue running.
Because only by so madly rushing and throwing caution to the wind could they continue to live.
The first few times that they fell, Qi Jian would subconsciously close his eyes, but later on he no longer did. This was because every time they were about to fall, Zhexiu would always valiantly adjust his posture so that he suffered the brunt of the fall, doing as much as he could so that Qi Jian was not further injured.
He did it regardless of whether they fell on mud or sand, the soft water of the stream, or even the hard, sharp surface of the cliff.
Qi Jian did not close his eyes, not because Zhexiu's protection made him lose his fear of falling, but rather because he wanted to see the path ahead as clearly as possible, so that Zhexiu would hopefully fall less often.
Zhexiu's body was covered with wounds, flowing with blood.
He closed his eyes, lowered his head, and silently continued his mad rush.
Qi Jian tightly held on. His eyes had long ago turned red.
She wanted to cry.
However, he did not cry.
She was obedient.
So she did not cry.
An entire journey of chasing and fleeing.
Seeing the Sunset Valley, but unable to approach it. They could only keep moving forward.
In the end, there was no more path to walk.
Zhexiu, with Qi Jian on his back, had finally arrived at the perimeter of that plain, so he finally stopped running.
Liu Wan'er and Teng Xiaoming also stopped their chase.
This Demon General couple looked at the distant sun which was just about to set, then looked at the silhouette of that youth in front of that half-sun. Their eyes were filled with admiration.
Zhexiu's head was lowered as he continuously gasped for air.
Sweat and blood were all over his body and face and caused those dark hairs to tangle together, which made for an absolute mess.
Qi Jian rested against his shoulder, close to those very hard and very prickly hairs. They seemed to be very uncomfortable, but she felt that they were very soft.
"I'm sorry,” he said apologetically. "My directions weren't very good."
Zhexiu expressionlessly replied, "It was me that didn't run fast enough."
The distant setting sun continued to hang at the edge of the horizon. For some reason, it had not been completely swallowed by the horizon.
In the sunset, the vast and boundless plain seemed to be suffused with a golden light, like the plaza of the Divine State.
This was the very center of the Garden of Zhou, its most enigmatic and most dangerous location—the legendary Plains of the Unsetting Sun.
Several hundred years ago, there were once many cultivators that attempted to enter this plain, yet of the people that entered, none of them had lived to return. They had only left behind rumors.
It seemed very strange. If no one had ever been able to leave these plains, then how did those rumors get left behind?
"So where do we go next?" Qi Jian whispered.
Ahead of them were the plains; it was death.
Turning around was a battle, and also death.
It was just like Tang Thirty-Six and Chen Changsheng had said at the Ivy Festival: Qi Jian was a very delicate child.
However, in the end, he was a disciple of the Mount Li Sword Sect. Moreover, he was the last disciple of Mount Li's Sect Master. At his waist was Mount Li's Relic Sword.
In his view, if he was going to die, then it should have been by turning around and engaging in one final battle.
Zhexiu did not turn around, nor did he ask for Qi Jian's opinion. Carrying him, he entered the plain with its grass that was about as high as a man.
"No human has come out of this plain alive," Qi Jian nervously said.
"I'm not a human, I'm a wolf."
Zhexiu continued, "The plains are my home. I don't believe there are plains that can imprison me."
Qi Jian said no more. Hugging Zhexiu, he somewhat rested his head against Zhexiu's shoulders comfortably.
The plains were filled with the same grass, so his directions were no longer needed.
Then walk wherever you want. No matter how far you walk, it is okay. No matter how long you walk, it is okay.
Even if it was the path to death, with someone to keep company, then he should still walk to the end and see.
The grass rustled as it rubbed against their clothes.
The distant sun still had not set.
It was just as stubborn as they were.