He walked along the bottom of the cliff. Up above, the cliff reached outwards, blocking the sun and providing him shade. Cool water dripped occasionally from the rocks above onto him.
There were no signs of human activity here. In fact, there were no signs of human activity in the forest. Those Smoke school members must have entered the forest hundreds of years ago. The forest was extremely dangerous, bordering fatal. No matter how you strong you were physically, the lack of alchemy knowledge would surely lead to an early death. Alchemists may be able to identify dangerous plants, but it was highly likely for them to fall prey to the likes of the web palm and the bellvine shooter due to their weak physiques. Didn’t the Smoke school members who had their smoke pearls died here too?
Ye Chong felt very blessed to still be alive right now. He was very grateful towards Lunatic Guan. Without her, he would probably be a corpse by now.
The moist walls of the cliff were covered with moss, and smelt of moist decay.
It might be foolish of him to walk along the bottom of the cliff, but it was also the safest. These days, getting his bearings was his number one problem when he was in the forest.
He walked for three days. There was no need to concern himself with getting his directions right, so Ye Chong advanced quickly. He ran tirelessly like a leopard.
At the two ends of his wooden spear hanged two large string bags. His weapon was reduced to a shoulder pole. The string bags were not what someone with Ye Chong’s crude handiwork could make. It was actually from a sarmentous plant, known as the earthlush wisteria. They grew along the ground, spreading out like a web. Ye Chong used them to make his string bags. Inside the string bags were the materials that Ye Chong harvested from his surroundings, including a multitude of alchemy ingredients in large quantities. Ye Chong also found plants that were not recorded in Lunatic Guan’s chip. He collected samples of them for analysis at some later time.
Deep down, Ye Chong had the quirks of a researcher.
On the third day, he finally made a discovery. Ye Chong noticed the crack in front of him, and stopped in his tracks.
The crack zigzagged down the walls of the cliff from the top. It was very narrow, only about five meters across. Where did this crack lead to? No one knew, but Ye Chong hoped that it would bring him out of this forest.
The forest was like an alchemist’s paradise, but without the proper apparatus, it was like seeing the most alluring and naked woman before him and not being able to touch her. Aside that, his warily spent days were wearing him out. Moreover, he was also getting tired of the fruits that he had enjoyed very much at the beginning. It was too bad that he could find even an ant in this forest.
It took only three seconds for Ye Chong to make his decision.
Once inside the crack, it opened up into a wide space. This was no crack in the wall, but a huge valley. The entrance to the valley was narrow, but it widened up as he progressed deeper inside.
It was like entering a whole new world.
The dark red rocks that formed the walls were jagged. The walls of the valley were in patches of faint or intense dark red, like being washed with blood. There was no sign of life inside, not even moss, and it was dead quiet. Unlike the moist air in the forest, it was very dry in here. The air was almost scorching to breathe in.
Ye Chong’s first reaction was to feel for the bamboo water container on his waist. He relaxed when found there to have enough water for him.
He turned serious. This place was weird, no matter how he looked at it. Ye Chong took down the string bags hung on his wooden spear, and tied them onto himself.
He gathered his focus. With the wooden spear in hand, he advanced slowly but firmly. The solid rock felt nice below his feet, suitable for him to spurt if necessary. Back in the forest, the thick and soft layer of decaying leaves under his feet made him feel unsteady all the time. Now, he finally had solid ground to stand on.
As he moved further in, Ye Chong found that there were actually some vegetation in the valley. He could find moss in shaded corners behind some rocks. Water that seeped through the rocky walls were enough for him to replenish his water supply, even though it did not taste as good as his own water stored in his bamboo container.
Ye Chong walked for about five kilometers from the entrance, by his estimate. He took five hours to cover this distance out of wariness.
The day turned dark, and night came.
Nighttime did not bother Ye Chong, since he could see clearly with just a little bit of light. Ye Chong did not stop walking just because it turned dark.
There did not seem to be any dangerous animals in here. Ye Chong sighed in relief. This was definitely good news for him.
The dark red valley walls seen in the dark looked like a giant sleeping creature. The cloudless sky was covered with twinkling stars.
Abruptly, Ye Chong felt moved by the vast changes that were happening to him. The stars shone like diamonds in the sky, even though they would look much brighter in outer space. However, without the atmospheric disturbance, they would not twinkle as they would have right now. Some time ago, he was still flying a highly advanced starship; now, he was like a savage trying to find his way through the forest.
Ye Chong smiled wryly to himself and kept on walking. There was a right turn ahead. Somewhere above eye level, a rocky part jutted out.
Something weird then happened!
Suddenly, the rocky part that jutted out began to glow in patches of a vivid purple, as if some purple lights were turned on!
The palm-sized purple glowing patches continued to increase in numbers. Soon, the entire rock was covered in dense patches of purple light.
The soft purple glow was not too bright, but it was still very visible against the darkness, making it impossible to miss.
Ye Chong had sharp eyes. He saw everything clearly, sudden as it was. The rock was covered with a kind of seastar-like organism. These organisms rested on the rock. They were the ones that emitted the purple flow. In fact, they were glowing like five-pointed stars, but the details were lost due to the distance.
Ye Chong turned back and ran without hesitation.
The best strategy against an unknown threat was not to investigate, but to get away as fast as possible.
Ye Chong did not see the strangeness that was unfolding behind him. The purple patches floated into the air. WIth closer observation, one could see that the glowing organisms were spinning about themselves very quickly, thus propelling themselves into the air. Their five soft tentacles were like five blades of a propeller. By spinning very quickly about themselves, their bodies looked like purple discs, or purple laser discs.
Ye Chong did not see this, as he was running as fast he could away from them.
Swoosh swoosh swoosh!
Ye Chong heard the sharp booms from behind him. He turned around and was shocked by what he saw. Heavens! The numerous flat purple laser discs were all coming towards him. There were so many of them, probably in the hundreds.
They’re quick! Ye Chong had thought that he was quick, but now he knew better. He was not five hundred meters away when the five-pointed star organisms caught on to him.
Ye Chong felt a cold chill overcoming him.
He heard something closing in from behind, and quickly rolled to the side.
Puff puff puff!
The rock in front of Ye Chong was hit! No less than a few dozens of purple laser discs had hit on the rock. The solid rock crumbled under the attacks of the purple laser discs. They easily penetrated the solid rock like it was tofu.
Ye Chong felt another chilling wave overcoming him, and shuddered. He knew that his body was not as tough as that rock. If the purple laser discs hit him … The thought was terrifying.
Ye Chong reacted quickly, launching himself high up into the air.
Dozens more of the purple discs buried themselves into the ground where Ye Chong was.
With death so close, Ye Chong felt his surroundings abruptly slowing down. His breathing calmed down, an ability honed through countless experiences of escaping death.
He gripped onto his wooden spear, and his vision tuned out the laser discs. Now, Ye Chong could only see fast-flying blue dots around him. His vision had once again turned into this simple geometrical image.
While his vision became simplified, it was still the most complicated geometrical image he had ever seen. The blue dots moved quickly, and he was not sure if he could lock on to them. The faint and short blue lines were also moving unpredictably, appearing and vanishing randomly in his vision, making it even more difficult to lock on to the blue dots.
Ye Chong considered his situation calmly, making rapid calculations in his head. He was at the peak of his calculating abilities, a combined result of extreme calmness and madness.
His eyes shone coldly, without any trace of emotion. He was silent as a grave, his apathetic expression much like a lifeless corpse.
His legs stepped here and there and he wielded his wooden spear with deadly accuracy.
This was a moment that would inspire any combat expert.
Every established combat expert would have their own style of combat. It could be passionate and aggressive, or continuous and gentle. It could be with overwhelming force, or strange and unpredictable. Ye Chong’s preferred style was one of calculation. Calmness, accuracy and efficiency were all hallmarks of Ye Chong’s combat style.
Now, Ye Chong demonstrated the full potential of his own combat style.
The wooden spear always took the shortest route to its victim, delivering an accurate and lethal blow to the purple laser discs.
The purple laser discs came at him like heavy rain. They traced purple archs in the dark due to their fast speed. The night sky of the valley was now filled with a purple meteor shower, and at the center of this meteor shower was a young man with his wooden spear.
The leafy covers on the ends of the spear were already torn open, exposing the ink dark spearhead beneath. Only when the spearhead met its purple glowing target that it would shine with an eerie black.
Ye Chong’s hands were moving as fast he could manage. He was like a spring compressed to its limit and then released, unleashing his strongest attack. His efficient attacks and cold, calculative mind saved his life.
He could hear sharp cries from the purple creatures. Ye Chong’s wooden spear was also damaging to them. Five-edged mollusk bodies were scattered around him, their purple glow slowly fading out. The poison on the ironwood spearhead was strong enough to kill these creatures that Ye Chong had never seen before.
Ye Chong’s breathing shortened. His stamina was depleting very quickly.
133 of them! That was how many blue dots he had hit. They were already decreasing in numbers, but these creatures learned from experience. They switched tactics, abandoning straight lined attacks. They circled around Ye Chong, but did not easily approach him .
This change made it even harder for Ye Chong. He could only sense the attacks coming when they were near, so he could only focus himself and be prepared. The swooping sounds of those creatures as they flew around him were a heavy load on his mind.
In his first round of attack, Ye Chong had moved his hands so fast that he exceeded Mach 20! If word of this got out, it would create an uproar in both the Five Galaxies and the He Yue Galaxy.
However, Ye Chong had no perspective of how fast his hand actually were.
Up until now, he had benefited from other people in terms of combat and alchemy. Mech maneuvering was the only thing that he relied completely on real life experience to improve himself, after Mu/Shang’s initial training.
These star-shaped creatures knew about tactics!
Ye Chong was troubled. There were at least 200 more of them. On the other hand, they were beginning to fly around almost lazily, like they were drunk. With their charming sways and small sized bodies, they would certainly make for popular pets for the fairer sex. Ye Chong, however, was deeply troubled by their movements.
After nearly half a minute, those star-shaped creatures swayed higher up unsteadily, as if they could crash down at any time.
Abruptly, Ye Chong’s eyes swept across something. He was immediately encouraged, as he now had a plan.
On the ground were his many scattered leaf pouches. When Ye Chong rolled on the ground just now, his string bags were torn open, leaving his leaf pouches all over the ground. However, he had wrapped each pouch tightly, and none of them were torn open.
Ye Chong’s plan was to open these leaf pouches. Inside were more than 30 different kinds of knockout agents.
He continued to stare upwards, wary of the swooping purple discs around him, all the while quietly moving towards the leaf pouches.
The star-shaped creatures were smart, but even they could not guess what Ye Chong was up to.
Ye Chong was now three steps away from the nearest leaf pouch. He was secretly overjoyed, but dared not be careless. The closer he was to victory, the easier it was to fail. He had no intention of wasting this opportunity.
His wariness paid off.
15 purple laser discs came towards him from all directions. Seen from above, one would be able to make out some crude form of coordination amongst these 15 laser discs.
While there were only 15 of them, their attack this time was many times stronger.
Exhausted, Ye Chong’s wooden spear still swung about deftly, but now that he was no longer completely tuned in for combat, his movements were a little stalled. He only killed seven of them and avoided five.
On his body were three bloody gashes, like being cut with a fast moving knife. He experienced first hand the power of those fast-spinning tentacles.
The faint scent of blood in the air was very tempting for the hundreds of laser discs in the air. This was their first success, and they were all getting excited.
This slight delay was an opening for Ye Chong.
Without further hesitation, Ye Chong launched himself towards the leaf pouches.
The tightly wrapped leaf pouches burst under Ye Chong’s pressure. The colourful powder inside was now released to the air, their colours unrecognizable in the dark.
The air smelled of a blend of every possible smell. All knockout agents were designed to spread out wide to increase their effective range.
In that instant, a fifty-meter radius around Ye Chong was filled with this powdery mist. The knockout agents, made of precious ingredients, were so dense that he could see through them. This wasteful use of the knockout agents would have caused a heartache in almost every alchemist, Ye Chong excluded.
"30 over kinds of strong knockout agents, let’s see how you fare?" Ye Chong thought to himself as he heaved a sigh of relief.