Book 8, The Ten Thousand Kilometer Journey – Chapter 4, The Black Shadow
The first snow of that winter was a major one. Many places in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts were covered with snow as well. Various tracks could be seen clearly, some belonging to humans, and as well as magical beasts of various sizes.
“What a large blizzard.”
Linley still wore only those ragged hempcloth pants, his upper body bare. Although the temperature was so cold that even rapidly flowing water would freeze, Linley didn’t fear it in the slightest.
Barefooted, Linley continued to stride forward.
“Boss, it should almost be the time of the Yulan Festival, right.” Bebe guessed.
After having been in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts for so long, Linley didn’t even have a rough idea of what day it was. Although Linley did have a pocket watch, the watch was only capable of keeping simple time, and didn’t track dates.
“Should be around that time.” Linley nodded.
After having been in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts for around two years, Linley’s prowess as a warrior had increased at a fairly rapid rate. He was at the peak-stage of the seventh rank now. But in terms of using the heavy sword, his skill in wielding his adamantine heavy sword was immeasurably higher than it was originally. In particular, after becoming a dual-element magus of the eighth rank, when he used his magic and his warrior skills simultaneously, his power was raised to a very high level.
“Hrm?” Bebe and Linley both turned to look back.
Not too far away, two sturdy warriors dressed in leather armor and holding weapons were running frantically, seemingly panic-stricken. Seeing that it was other humans, Linley continued on his path. The Mountain Range of Magical Beasts had a large number of human experts training within it, and in these past two years, Linley had encountered quite a few humans. With respect to the humans in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, Linley had a simple principle – Don’t irritate others.
After all, plenty of people were here with the intention of taking the magicite crystals in other people’s bags for themselves. Because Linley had an interspatial ring, he didn’t have to carry his bag with him. Thus, there were very few people who had the desire to act against Linley.
“Wait, wait!” A frantic shout from behind.
But Linley didn’t pay them any mind at all, continuing to walk forward. Those two people ran quite fast, and they quickly overtook Linley. When they drew near, Linley immediately halted and turned around.
“What do you want?” Linley stared coldly at those two men.
Linley could tell that these two were not weak. However, a human’s level of power was hard to judge at a glance. Linley was fairly cautious in dealing with these two.
“Us?” The two sturdily built men exchanged glances, and then forced out awkward smiles towards Linley. One of them, a one-eyed bald man, said apologetically, “We don’t have any bad intentions. Only, the core regions of the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts are too dangerous. We two brothers…would like to travel with you, friend. That way, we can help each other out. Wouldn’t that be safer?”
The other bald man started momentarily, then quickly nodded repeatedly. “Right. The core region is very dangerous. If we travel together, we can help each other out. How about this? Once we all leave the core regions and leave the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, we’ll go our own ways.”
Linley frowned. Turning back, he continued on his journey forward.
Linley wasn’t that easily fooled youngster of the past. He could tell that these two were clearly lying. Helping each other out in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts? What a joke. These two people definitely didn’t have any good intentions in wanting to travel with him. Linley didn’t want to cause any trouble, and couldn’t be bothered to kill these two either. Naturally, he wouldn’t want them to travel with him.
Seeing how bluntly Linley refused and continued on his journey, these two bald men glanced at each other. Hesitating only slightly, they immediately rushed over again.
“Wait, friend, please wait.” The two bald men caught up again.
Linley couldn’t help but frown as he turned his head to stare coldly at these two.
The two men looked awkwardly at Linley. The one-eyed man said apologetically, “I’m so very sorry, but we two really would like to travel alongside you. Don’t worry, once we leave this place, we’ll definitely show gratitude to you.”
Linley glanced at each man.
“If you want to follow, then follow.” Linley said calmly.
After having been in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts for so long, Linley was quite experienced now. If these two insisted on travelling with him, then let them. Linley was confident in his own ability to deal with them. After all, Linley had Bebe with him as well, on his shoulders.
“Thank you, thank you.” Those two bald men said gratefully.
Immediately, those two moved together to walk alongside Linley. At the same time, they constantly scanned the area around them, a hint of dread in their eyes.
“Friend, we hail from the O’Brien Empire’s southwest district administrative province. Where are you from?” The one-eyed bald man seemed to want to have more friendly relations with Linley.
Linley’s eyebrows twitched.
The O’Brien Empire?
Linley knew very well that if he were to cut directly through the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, he would be able to arrive in the territory of the O’Brien Empire quite quickly.
“Why so many questions?” Linley glanced at the man. “If you want to follow, then follow. Don’t make a sound.”
“Alright, alright.” The one-eyed bald man nodded repeatedly.
They could tell that Linley definitely was no ordinary person. It wasn’t too strange for him to be only wearing hempcloth pants in the winter, but what was quite amazing was that a human in the core region of the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts could be so calm and unhurried.
It was as though this dangerous region was nothing more than a flower garden to him.
“Big brother.” The bald man pulled at the arm of the other, one-eyed bald man. In a low voice, he said, “Big brother, do you think we’ll be able to preserve our lives?”
The one-eyed bald man looked at their surroundings in fear, then said in a low voice, “Don’t over-think things. For now, let’s follow this mysterious fellow. If we follow him, we might have a chance.”
“Right.” The first bald man nodded. But in his heart, he still felt fearful.
Up ahead in front of them, Linley was walking very naturally. Linley noticed that the two men behind him were whispering, but Linley had a feeling that these two men were not the type to try and act against him.
After a while, Linley took a rest.
Each day, Linley would only travel ten kilometers. The rest of his time was spent in training. The two men behind him became truly frantic when Linley rested so soon.
“Why have you stopped?” The one-eyed bald man said frantically.
“Hrm?” Linley glanced unhappily at the two men.
The younger man hurriedly laughed. “Milord, this is still the core regions. Wouldn’t it be better for us to hurry out of the core regions before resting?”
Linley frowned, then spoke. “Don’t annoy me. If you want to follow me, then follow. If you want to go, then go. As for me, if I want to stop, I’ll stop. If you keep kicking up such a fuss, then don’t blame me if I kill you both.”
The two bald men exchanged glances, then laughed awkwardly.
The two immediately retreated slightly, no longer daring to disturb Linley.
“These two are acting in a strange way.” Linley glanced at these two men. These two men said that they wanted to leave the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, but they insisted on following him. If he didn’t leave, they wouldn’t leave either.
Why did they insist on following him?
He didn’t know these two men at all.
Linley sat down cross-legged, placing the adamantine heavy sword across his legs. But just at this moment, Linley suddenly felt a tinge of fear in his heart….
Linley suddenly turned his head. A black shadow suddenly flashed in front of him, then disappeared.
“Ah! Ah!” From far away, a terrified cry could be heard, but after two or three cries, it fell silent. Only now did Linley realize that of the two bald men, only one was left now. The one remaining was the one-eyed bald man. As for his younger brother, the man was gone now. Next to the man, there was a pool of blood.
“Ah! Ah! No, no!” The one-eyed bald man seemed to have suffered some sort of unspeakable shock, as he began to scream.
Linley solemnly rose to his feet, and Bebe began to grow cautious as well.
“Boss, that creature is extremely fast!” Bebe mentally spoke solemnly. “We’ve been in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts for a very long time. This is the fastest creature we’ve encountered yet. I couldn’t even clearly see if it was a man or a magical beast.”
Linley hadn’t been able to see it clearly either.
That creature’s speed was simply too fast. In terms of movement speed, it was even a bit faster than Bebe.
“What exactly was that? Bebe has entered the ninth rank now, and we have spent quite some time here in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts. But in terms of speed, we’ve never met anything that was faster than Bebe.” Linley began to feel suspicious.
Bebe’s speed was his greatest strength.
It was hard to find a magical beast able to outspeed Bebe, even amongst the ninth rank.
“What was that strange creature? Could it have been a Saint-level creature?” Linley felt a slight shock. Saint-level magical beasts would naturally be fast. It would make sense for it to be faster than Linley.
Linley immediately turned his head to stare at the one-eyed bald man.
Right now, the eyes of the one-eyed bald man were filled with fear, and his mouth was continuously muttering something. Every so often, he would look around in fear, as though in terror of being attacked again.
“Ah!!!” Feeling himself being grabbed, the one-eyed bald man couldn’t help but scream in terror.
But when he came to his senses and looked behind himself, he saw that it was Linley who had grabbed him by his clothes.
“Speak. What is going on.” Linley stared at him accusingly. “Otherwise, I’ll abandon you here and travel by myself.”
“No, no, don’t abandon me.” The one-eyed bald man directly fell to his knees. “I’ll talk. I’ll talk.”
Seeing this, Linley couldn’t help but frown.
He had heard long ago that the O’Brien Empire was a major military power. The people of the O’Brien Empire deeply venerated the War God, and thus many of the citizens of the Empire would train in the path of the warrior. Powerful warriors were extremely proud. For this bald man to be able to enter the core region of the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, he clearly wasn’t weak either. Even if he wasn’t a warrior of the seventh rank, he must be a warrior of the sixth rank at least.
But the one-eyed bald man had just fallen to his knees, showing no spine at all.
“Milord, you don’t know how terrible these recent days have been. They’ve, they’ve been like a terrible, terrible dream.” The one-eyed bald man’s eyes were beginning to fill with tears.
Linley immediately began to listen closely.
“This time, myself, my younger brother, my wife, and a group of friends formed a squad to enter the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts and begin our training. We hoped to acquire some magicite cores as well. To people like us, who had entered the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts for more than five times, this was an ordinary trip. But we didn’t expect…”
The bald man’s entire body was trembling. “On the third day after we entered the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, just as we entered the inner regions, we entered a nightmare.”
“This squad of mine had six warriors of the seventh rank, and two magi of the sixth rank. As long as we stayed within the inner regions of the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, there shouldn’t have been any danger. But who would’ve thought…that we would encounter a terrifying monster.”
“Monster?” Linley frowned.
“The first time we encountered it, it immediately ambushed us, killing one of my good friends, just like how it acted just now.” The one-eyed bald man’s entire body was shaking. “I was furious, because this monster was simply too fast. We couldn’t even tell what it looked like. Only after hearing our friend’s miserable cries did we know that we were under attack. And then, seeing the blood on the ground, we realized that our friend was most likely dead.”
“At the time, we all believed that magical beast was only able to attack from ambush, and didn’t dare to face us directly. Clearly, it wasn’t that strong. In our fury, we even thought about killing it to gain vengeance. But at first, we couldn’t find the monster.”
The one-eyed bald man took a deep breath, calming his agitated heart before continuing. “But that very night, shortly after we finished dinner, the monster came again.” As he spoke, the lone eye of the man opened wide. Clearly he was very nervous.
“This time, like the previous time, that monster ambushed and carried off one of our magi. But this time, it carried the magus only a few dozen meters away before beginning to eat him. Right in front of us, the monster began eating our squad’s magus.”
“What did this monster look like?” Linley immediately asked.
“It looked like a panther whose body was almost totally pitch black.” The one-eyed bald man said.
“Totally pitch black body? The eighth ranked magical beast, Blackstripe Panther?” But saying this, Linley found that he didn’t believe it. A magical beast of the eighth rank couldn’t possibly reach such an astonishing speed. Not even a panther, a land-based magical beast of incredible speed.
“It wasn’t a Blackstripe Panther. Our squad was fairly experienced, and we know that Blackstripe Panthers are covered in extremely dense straight black stripes, while this monster’s body was covered in curved black stripes that looked like a decorative pattern.”