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Bogda Shan, early in the morning.

Snow leopards preferred to descend from the mountains at this hour. In the daytime, they sunbathed on bare rocks high up in the mountains and would follow the trodden-out paths at dawn or dusk to moors and valleys at lower altitudes to seek their prey.

One was now threading through the withered grass with its back arched; its footsteps were soundless thanks to the thick pads on its paws. Stealthily, it pushed forward until it reached the top of the rocky cliff, then squinting its pale blue eyes slightly, it scrutinized the prey below.

It was a fully grown snow leopard, its grayish white fur speckled with black dots and circles. The leopard was over a meter long with a thick and long tail.



Snow leopards were extremely good at jumping. A single leap could take them down a rocky cliff three to four meters tall. It was their most common way to ensure an instant kill.

The two victims-to-be were totally unaware of its presence. The leopard watched for another minute and decided to take action. Thrusting against the ground with its hind legs, its giant body cast a small shadow. Its sharp claws glinted coldly in the sunlight, then...

"Thump!"

"Sigh…"

Watching the big cat that had landed face down, smashing a pit in the ground, Gu Yu shook his head. "You're lucky that we've just finished our breakfast, or you'd be in bits and pieces by now."

He rubbed the head of the big cat who was still immersed in a vision, its eyes filled with a bizarre horror.

Xiaozhai covered up the campfire with some dirt, put away the pots and pans, and said, "I must get a piece of land of mine own some day just to keep these big guys. It's so vexing, being unable to take them away with me and having to just stand around and watch."

"Open a zoo, then. I'll be selling clothes right next to you." [1]

Gu Yu remarked with sarcasm, then leaped onto the big rock and looked into the distance with binoculars. "The color is changing towards that direction. I think we're almost at the edge of the forest belt."

"We won't get any food once we are out. We need to get prepared."

"Yeah, I'll catch some snowcocks later." [2]

They had invented a rather crude way to preserve food. The animal meat was scraped off the bones first, then compressed repeatedly by Gu Yu with the help of his spiritual essence. When the meat became an extremely solid, dense ball, they would dig a hole on the ground and bury it, which would freeze it rock-solid in no time.

They could then break off a chunk of it easily for cooking. Toss it into the water, heat it up, and they would get a broth that was not exactly fully boiled. It was quite convenient if you could look past the somewhat gross way it was made. Apart from that, they had also brought with them large quantities of compacted rations and ignition fuel.

They were currently at the mid-mountain zone, below the altitude of 2800 m. Vast coniferous forest and other highland vegetation covered the ground. Had it been summertime, they would even find the spectacular view of glaciers encircled by forests. However, in a cold winter like this, all trees were encrusted with ice and not a trace of green was in sight.

Based on that tiny bit of information they managed to extract from Aygul, the disciple of Tianshan Sect was probably living in a valley, which meant the place should be surrounded by mountains, hence their general target: southeast, mountains all around, a lower ground.

Therefore, they cast about the mid-mountain zone for two days and only decided to move upwards after the search came back empty.

Wrapped in thick mountaineering suits with a huge bag on each of their backs, they plodded through the forest belt, taking extra care to avoid a row of yellow houses, for that was an observation station set up by the government.

They had almost lost count of time when an open space suddenly jumped into their view. The ground elevated abruptly, revealing a magnificent belt of glacier.

They had reached the high mountain area of Bogda Shan, a land with thin air and covered by snow all year round. Unbroken chains of snowy mountains stretched into the distance. Looking around, they saw cracks, holes, ditches, and icefalls—as deep as a hundred feet straight down—everywhere.

This place was probably accessible in summertime. In the winter, however, it was a death zone.

"Damn! They really had the balls to go in!"

"They have not a single piece of equipment for that."

"To tell you the truth, after following them around the past few days, I'm officially admiring those two, and I haven't ever admired anyone."

After Gu Yu and Xiaozhai disappeared from sight, a few people suddenly sprang out from the edge of the coniferous forest belt. After a hubbub of complaints, one of them asked, "Boss, are we going to follow them?"

"Not anymore. It's more than we can handle now."

The leader of the team did not look happy. Unwillingly, he said, "Report this. See what they're gonna do about it."

These fellows were also people of the Second Department, who had been shadowing the two ever since they arrived at Dakang. They were the ones who took away the dead wolves.

The wolves were sent to the specialists, who were petrified by the way they were killed. The skin and fur of one wolf was intact with its skull shattered, while another one had a precise cut—almost as clean as one inflicted by a machine—on the throat, which just happened to sever the artery.

They had ran tests on figures such as the hardness of a wolf skull and how great a strength would break it… with such analysis, they could come up with a general scale to evaluate their fighting capability.

The authorities had had a number of mishaps in evaluating the duo. Wang Ruoxu and the soldiers offered an extravagantly colorful description on their fight with the zombie. However, those higher up were incredulous. A zombie that had taken out twenty-eight people was nailed into the lake defenselessly by mere two people, just like that?

However, they did not have to wait long before Xiaozhai summoned those thousands of snakes. This time, the authorities were provided with solid evidence—they had the Miao people and their blood to take samples from.

And now, they were presented with wolves those two had killed. It was the most telling piece of evidence so far, for the dead bodies would not lie.

Based on the above-mentioned information, the authorities were able to come up with a relatively reliable (or, an opinionated) evaluation: extremely good at hand-to-hand combat, expert in using a dagger, able to control snakes, lack of ranged-attack method, and limited means of making attacks.

The BIMAUP was still at an early stage and could not have a clearer understanding of their abilities. In short, compared to Li Suchun, these two fellows were the more capable ones.

Therefore, after the team leader reported the turn of events, an instruction was sent out promptly: reinforcements were sent out and the team must stay where they were, waiting for the duo to come back down!

Whiteness, an endless stretch of whiteness.

It seemed to be the only color left in this land. Even the blue of the sky was somehow painted over by a thick layer of decadent gray.

"Hoo…"

A gust of wind stirred the air suddenly, setting off plumes of white fog. They were granules of ice crystals, formed by loose snow being swirled up into the air. The two turned around, their backs taking the force of the wind, and only turned back after it quieted down. Gu Yu noticed that Xiaozhai was panting slightly and asked, "You all right there?"

"I'm fine, for now. Not so sure if the temperature takes a dive after dark."

"Let's walk a bit further, then we'll find a place for the night."

"Em."

With spiritual essence circulating inside him, Gu Yu took the bitter coldness slightly better than Xiaozhai, who, despite her remarkable capability in martial arts, had the body of a mortal after all.

Wrapping her suit tighter around herself, she looked around as she marched on. Those snow mountains towering aloft had been there for tens of thousands of years. They seemed to have filled up the entire space; she could be stepping towards the end of the world.

Walking in this place, she was forgetting where she came from and where she was going. Time itself seemed to have disappeared.

"I'm sorry, having you running around with me for so long," she blurted out.

"What made you say that all of a sudden?" He was surprised.

"It's so boring climbing these mountains, we've got to compensate for it by saying something even more boring, no?"

"Then how about taking the boredom further? Like, what are we going to eat for dinner?"

"Haha, that's indeed very bor-"

"Crash!"

Before she could finish her sentence, the earth beneath her sank, cracking wide open around her right foot. She fell straight down with chunks of ice and snow.

"Xiaozhai!"

Gu Yu flung himself towards her, but one step too late. The giant dark opening stared back at him.

"Crack!"

"Bang!"

Falling down with the collapsing layer of snow, Xiaozhai was extremely quick to react. She found her ice ax and jabbed it hard into the ice wall, scratching out a series of "SCREEEE" that would give one the creeps.

The ice wall was slippery and hard, so the friction was minimal. She barely managed to stop falling after another few meters. Looking down, she saw only darkness beneath her. She then steadied herself with her right hand and fumbled out a flashlight with her left. With the light, she realized she was almost at the bottom of the ditch.

Retracting the ice ax, she landed on both feet. She was in another world.

At that moment, Gu Yu's calling came from above. She raise her head and shouted back, "I'm ok. Come down here and see for yourself!"

"..."

A couple of minutes went by without a sound from above, then a rope hung down and Gu Yu slid down with it.

"Is this a cirque?"

He flashed around with his flashlight as well. It was quite spacious down here. The place had ice walls on three sides and the fourth one was left open, which looked like the entrance of a dark tunnel.

"Maybe it's a secondary ice layer. The snow fell heavily over such a short period of time and covered it up with a thin layer. This is where… hey, look at that!"

She suddenly moved.

[1] TL/N: It is referring to one of the largest wholesale markets in north China, Beijing Zoo clothing wholesale market, which is next to Beijing Zoo, as the name suggests.
[2] ED/N: This is actually a legit name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowcock

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