The two fellows jumping out were both huge. They had frighteningly prominent noses and were heavy-browed with big eyes. Black patterns lined their cheeks. The two looked quite alike—presumably twins—and the main difference was in their hair style. One was bald, where the other had a buzz-cut.
"How dare you do that to my ghoul!"
Seeing that bloody pulp on the ground, the baldy glared murderously at Xiao Qiu, baring his shiny white teeth—which reminded one of a shark—as if trying to swallow the girl whole.
Ghouls were very hard to refine and it had cost them a fortune in resources to come up with seven. They weren't exactly fighters, but had a very special skill set: they could smell the energy of Yin spirits, making them ideal to search for the altar.
The Archmage led the team to the mountain himself this time and had divided the followers into several small groups to conduct the search separately. With this ghoul killed, they would have nothing to present to the boss and the only choice left for them was to defeat these two, which might win them some leniency.
"Who are you people? Why are you not afraid of the fire spiritual essence?"
Long Qiu backed a few steps away and furrowed up her pretty brows. The energy coming out of these two made her very uncomfortable, as if she was not facing two living human beings, but two corpses that could move and speak.
"Heh heh heh! Never mind who we are. All that matters is that you've killed the ghoul, so you're coming back with us to face your death. You're quite pretty, though. Maybe they'll make you into a top-grade ghostly woman." The buzz-cut guffawed. He then turned his palm around, suddenly revealing a black-bladed piercer. "Surrender now, or I'll have to skin you bits by bits."
Long Qiu never liked talking nonsense. Pointing at the two with her long sword, she said coldly, "Bring it on!"
"You'll regret this!"
The baldy had been waiting for this. The words were barely out of his mouth when he dashed forward several meters in the blink of an eye, bringing himself just close enough into the attacking range.
'That was fast!'
Long Qiu was slightly surprised. She was about to shift to the right, but paused abruptly. When she was not looking, the buzz-cut had also closed in and was now on her right. The two were ready for a joint assault.
Both were holding that same type of black weapon, which was giving off a sinister stench. They stabbed at her with lightning speed.
The long sword made a few successive dabs, the point of the blade precisely meeting the piercers', giving off a couple of crisp clanks. After fending off the attack, she followed the momentum and flipped the tip upwards, slashing at her opponent's chest at an angle.
"I see you've got a few moves there!"
The baldy dodged effortlessly, baring his white teeth. He then shifted his body abruptly and went round Xiao Qiu's back, which he aimed his blade and slashed down in a whoosh at.
The buzz-cut also brandished his piercer with a series of quick movements. The weapon turned into a wall of black shadows, blocking all directions in her front.
The two were indeed twins and they had developed a joint attack technique specifically based on that. With their near telepathic coordination, they had never been defeated in their past dozens of engagements.
Unfortunately for them, of all the opponents there were, they stumbled upon Xiao Qiu today, who was a "skill freak". Her gift in swordsmanship was so exceptional that she was almost outshining Xiaozhai.
With attacks coming from both her front and back and dark shadows blocking her either side, she did not even look back when she pushed the long sword out with a backhand move, sending the sword out from under her armpit. The black piercer was shaken away by sheer force.
Immediately after that, she spun around on the tip of her foot and her long sword quivered repeatedly, producing several green flowers in an instant. The flowers bloomed, revealing layers of petals, and collided with the dark shadow, making an odd fizzing sound reminding one of evaporating liquid.
"The sword is a magical instrument!"
The buzz-cut shouted in astonishment as he withdrew his weapon in a haste. The energy fluctuation coming from the piercer in his hand was greatly weakened. While he had yet to recover from the shock, a clear voice ran out in his ears.
Through the circles of green light as large as flower pots, a cold blade arrived promptly. The buzz-cut was too late to dodge and only had time to tilt his head sideways.
The long sword jabbed into his left shoulder and came out from the other side, bringing out a splash of green blood. Xiao Qiu turned her wrist slightly, the blade whipping around beneath his shoulder blade. She then slashed the tip upward.
"Ah!" the buzz-cut screamed loudly. His brother came to his rescue, dragging the stumbling wounded man away. A large piece of flesh was missing from his left shoulder, exposing the grayish black bones inside.
"Huff… huff… hehehe!" Panting, he suddenly let out an eerie chuckle, which looked hideously creepy. "Nice, you'll be the first, then! When I'm finished with you, you'll wish you were dead!"
With that, his left arm convulsed suddenly and the muscle on that arm swelled and bulged, as if lumps of flesh were growing out. Blood rumbled inside the arm, making a muffled thundering sound.
In the matter of seconds, the frightening wound was filled up by the flesh lumps and the man looked so appalling that he was an insult to the eyes. He was now a monster made up of flesh lumps and so was the baldy. The two men had transformed from two human being to two humanoid creatures right in front of her eyes.
They were relatively high-ranked in their sect, enabling them to receive more refinement with the occult skill. Thanks to their natural gift of excellent physical strength, the refinement had all been used to improve their strength and speed.
They did not get the chance to demonstrate it until today, for their past opponents had not been powerful enough.
"Good, you have forced us into using the occult skill."
The twins moved swiftly and abruptly disappeared from where they stood.
Why, they were faster!
Xiao Qiu dodged right away and, as if a bomb had landed, the ground was smashed in in front of her. She was not the least bit frightened and was going to move into another round of sword fight when a soft voice came to her ears.
"Ok, that's enough practice for you today. Now move aside."
Pursing her lips, she leapt swiftly out of the battlefield.
Right at that moment, a figure jumped down from up on the cliff and landed between the twins, light as a white feather. He then struck out with open palms.
The twins waved their knotted arms as thick as tree roots and went up to meet his strike.
The ferocious impact of the two forces contorted the air around them, which twisted and exploded, sending out a shock wave. The mountain rocks nearby were blasted into pieces and the mild fire spiritual essence became chaotic.
Looking at the black energy lingering in his palms, Gu Yu said in a surprised voice, "A poisonous skill? That's unusual."
Circulating his spiritual essence, he eliminated the black energy in no time.
The twins stumbled back hastily and opened their eyes wide in disbelief. The refinement of the occult skill had given them poisonous flesh that even the Mages dared not touch directly in combat. This man, however, had casually waved it off as if he was chasing away a fly.
"Who might you be?" the buzz-cut asked in a hoarse voice.
"Never mind who I am. All that matters is that you were bullying my little sister. For that, you'd have to leave something behind. But judging from your look, tsk, tsk…" he replied with their own words from earlier and went on, "So, tell me, who are you and why are you on the mountain?"
The twins did not reply to that, but only exchanged a look. Although they could not figure out how capable this man was, the only choice for them now was to fight their way out.
"Such a bluff!"
They were extremely fast. Being the top-level warriors of the northwest branch, their attack was not something one could take lightly. In the blink of an eye, they had closed in on Gu Yu and were striking out with their fists.
But Gu Yu was faster.
He stretched out both hands and grabbed. His move seemed unhurried, but the twins found it impossible to dodge. The two dumbbell-sized fists smashed down and felt as if they had landed into a pile of cotton ball. They were drowned in it before they could make a sound.
The black smoke circled around where the fists and palms met; it was highly corrosive. Ordinary people would have their skin burnt at a single touch.
However, they were not facing any ordinary man. The circulating spiritual essence not only neutralized the toxins, but went further by penetrating the twins' bodies, rampaging around their meridians.
The real, pure power of orthodox cultivation met the unorthodox, perverted skill headlong, shaking the latter greatly, and crushed it with little difficulty.
The buzz-cut spewed a mouthful of blood in a matter of seconds. Eyes bloodshot, the knotted muscles all over his body started cracking, which was gradually covered by bloody lines.
"Who on earth are you people?
"You still won't talk?
"Well, tough guy."
Gu Yu did not want to waste his spit and was going to use his killing move.
Just then, the baldy reached out to his right arm with his left hand and ground his teeth.
With a scream, he ripped his own arm off. Instantly, there was a blast of green blood, and the small lump of cloud formed whooshed towards Gu Yu.
Frowning, Gu Yu had to back away for a few steps.
The baldy grabbed the chance and clutched onto his brother with his only arm left and threw the latter away. "Go!"
The buzz-cut did not have enough energy left to keep the occult skill running and was back in his ordinary human form. He landed quite a distance away. Without looking back, he stumbled on and fled.
The baldy growled and jumped at Gu Yu, trying to make his last stand. A big hand grabbed him by the neck and twisted.
From his neck down, the entire spine shattered in a crackling sound. The man as big as a small hill tumbled, then collapsed to the ground in a thud. Right after that, a palm wrapped in flame touched the body lightly.
Roaring flame erupted instantly, devouring the corpse.
Taking back the Flaming Cloud Needle, Gu Yu checked his palm, apparently very pleased with his experiment's results.
Long Qiu, however, watched the fleeing buzz-cut anxiously and was about to chase after the man when Gu Yu stopped her.
"That's OK. We need the messenger."