Yan Han let out a scream, his heart thumping frantically from the intense stimulation, a result from all the adrenaline pumping in from what he had been going through. In contrast to the cold on his skin, his body felt heated inside. Even his ability to react had been numbed.
The woman was about 30 cm from him. Her dishevelled hair hung loose, revealing a pale face. Her lips, however, were blood-red, reminding one of a lifeless thing.
His head all muddled up, he could do nothing but scream. Without knowing it, he was waving both hands around, as if trying to chase this thing in front of him away. But when his hands reached out, they caught nothing but empty air. The woman had disappeared.
At that moment, the green snake on Li Dong's arm also plunged into the brushwood in a whoosh and was nowhere to be found.
Icy breeze blew over them as they looked around blank-faced. Standing there in the woods, the three felt as if they had been in an illusion.
After quite a long while, Zhang Qianqiu was the first to come to himself. He said in a quivering voice, "Time to leave. Stop staring! Let's go!"
Still feeling the chills along his spine, Yan Han grabbed Li Dong and starting moving out.
"Huff… huff… we, we've probably stumbled into the gate of hell!"
Already exhausted, Li Dong was panting even more heavily. His limbs had gone incredibly stiff from all the tension and he had to force his blood vessels and muscles to work as he stumbled his way out.
They had walked in looking like cats that ate the canary, but were now throwing away everything as they fled. Their backpacks were half zipped and the contents were spilling out all over the place.
They had been running forever when they finally saw the wire fence ahead. Once through, they would be safe again. However, instead of rejoicing, the three halted abruptly in unison.
Hanging down from the two-meter-tall wire fence was a person, who just happened to block the opening they made.
She wore a long piece of garment resembling a sleeping gown and the lower hem covered her all the way down to her ankles. The robe seemed weightless. Like a white rag hanging up there, it swayed in the wind.
It was none other than that woman from earlier!
The woman was making an extremely irritating and odd laughter that reminded one of nails scratching against the blackboard. She was grinning broadly at the same time. Scarlet goopy liquid trickled down the corner of her mouth and dripped onto the clothes.
Yan Han completely lost it. Losing his head, he turned around and darted, too panicked to choose the way he was going.
Li Dong was cowardly and could not decide for himself. Zhang Qianqiu might have his doubts, but there wasn't time for him to think and he turned to run all the same.
The three ran for their lives, chased by the sinister wind. That thing was at their heels and would make a half-human, half-beast growl every now and then.
Li Dong was the heaviest and was soon falling behind. He felt a chilliness and a cold hand had snatched the back of his neck. Terrified, he shouted, "Qianqiu, help me! Hel—"
The words had barely left the tip of his tongue when something tightened around his throat and he could not make a sound after that.
Immediately after that, he was spun around and the ghostly thing opened her mouth, puffed out a mouthful of white steam, then inhaled again, sucking the steam back in.
He felt the world had gone dark and thumped down to the ground, passing out.
Zhang Qianqiu's sight was blocked and the first thought came to his mind was that Li Dong had been sucked dry of his Yang energy. He was the one bringing Li Dong here, but instead of taking care of the latter, he had had him killed.
He was overwhelmed with remorse and anger in that instant. Together, the two emotions had fought over his fear.
He stopped abruptly and took out an outdoor dagger from around his waist, yelling, "Old Yan, you go first!"
Yan Han was petrified and yelled back frantically, "Are you trying to get yourself f**king killed?!"
Zhang Qianqiu had made up his mind. Dagger in hand, he turned to face the ghostly thing, all shaky. "Bring it on!"
Seeing this, Yan Han bit his lips bloody. He no longer knew what to think, but could only lower his head and went on running.
"Come here, come!"
Zhang Qianqiu emboldened himself repeatedly and before his courage wore off, he let out a sudden cry and dashed at the thing with all his strength.
As if it was flitting over the tip of the grass, the ghostly thing landed noiselessly in front of him, those bottomless black pupils staring at the young man, revealing no emotion at all.
When he dashed near, the ghostly thing waved casually.
Zhang Qianqiu fainted as well.
Yan Han was running alone through the woods. Cold air flooded into his lungs, stinging the warm organs inside. He felt as if his heart and lungs were being scraped with a sand paper. The pain was unbearable.
His legs were growing sorer and his strength was almost wearing out, but he dared not slow down.
He was still running when a small river appeared in front of him. It was wide-ish and he could not tell how deep it was. The cold, clear water rippled in the chilly air.
Yan Han was so frustrated that he wailed—he could not swim!
For two seconds back there, he actually considered closing his eyes and bracing death. On a second thought, however, his strong will to live forced him to stand up straight and make his last fight.
Turning around, he faced the ghostly thing as Zhang Qianqiu did earlier.
Yelling recklessly, he charged at the thing in near madness, both hands brandishing in the air.
The end he met was even more miserable. The fellow was kicked high into the air right away and after making a perfect hyperbola across the river, he crash-landed on the other bank.
Yan Han closed his eyes, as if ready to see himself smashed into pieces. As it turned out, he was not even scratched from the landing. The thing was not as strong as he expected and he had the thick growth of grass as a buffer. All he felt was the soreness all over his body.
He had little time to think. Rolling back to his feet, he sprinted towards the east hastily.
His move surprised the ghostly thing, who started cursing loudly. "Damn it, not that way!"
The training field.
Snow had fallen over the green pine trees, covering everything with a silver whiteness.
Xiaozhai sat on the loose snow. A thin layer of frost had long formed on the tip of her hair and both shoulders. There was no steam coming out of her nose and it almost seemed she had stopped breathing.
She had been cultivating with Thunder Technique since last spring and by this winter, she had practiced for an entire 18 months. The sign of a breakthrough had finally come. It was only the Metal Thunder this time and she still had four more to learn—the Wood, Fire, Water, and Earth ones.
The mountain breeze blew, shaking the white snow off the branches and splashing it high into the air.
Xiaozhai heard none of that and remained motionless. Her mind was focused on herself alone as she activated the "Shenxiao's Tinkling Jade Book of Great Thunder". Looking inward, she saw a streak of white energy of Metal Thunder generated from the Lung Palace, moved along her meridians, and eventually gathered in Huang Ting, where it was faintly attempting to come out.
Huang Ting, or Niwan Palace, was the spot between two brows.
Extremely well endowed and with a sound foundation, reaching the current state was only a natural progress.
She had been sitting there for two days and when the white steam gathered again, the Thunder energy finally stirred in her Huang Ting, as if it was trying to break loose and become one with nature itself.
All of a sudden, she was washed over by an unprecedented sensation.
Xiaozhai had lost count of time when something jolted in her mind and certain chain was broken inside her. A streak of white energy flew out from her Huang Ting and shot towards the western sky.
Meanwhile, a great stream of vital essence approached from the western sky, which commingled and eventually fused into one with the white steam, nourishing her body in return.
Lung was the western spirit of Metal. With the spirit contained by the lung, when one reached the passionless state, the spirit was steadied.
From then on, the energy of Metal Thunder would unify with one's mental force and take root in one's body. Be it walking, standing, sitting or lying down, the energy would circulate ceaselessly. Activating it with one's vital energy and the harmony with nature was achieved!
Xiaozhai slowly opened her eyes. Despite the peaceful look, hidden deep down was a hint of aggressiveness.
With a wave, a streak of golden purple lightning materialized from her palm and shot out with the most formidable force.
The streak as thick as a small wine glass exploded on the snow-covered ground twenty meters away. The sky darkened and all branches rustled, as if a small earthquake had just taken place.
With the violent shaking came an odd cry of pain.
Seconds later, snow splashed down, revealing a large deep pit, out from which rolled a man. Apparently, the man was extremely lucky. Crawling out covered in dirt, he kneeled down right away.