After killing those four people, Li Suchun did not run to his master's friend. All he could think of was to leave Shu Zhou as soon as possible.
It would not be an issue if he were alone. However, traveling with a zombie could be rather problematic. Transportation such as buses and trains was immediately ruled out. Because of its fear of sunlight, they also had to stay hidden during daytime and travel at night.
The main roads were too risky and thus the deserted country paths were their only option. They could not cover much ground in the night and had to find places to hide before dawn. As a result, he was still making slow progress on leaving Shu Zhou after so many days.
He exhausted the money his master left him during the previous week. Luckily for him, he bumped into a few drunken countrymen and frisked them after knocking them unconscious, which provided him with quite some cash.
The Corpse-refining Technique of his sect was classified into six grades. According to the records, the first five grades were white, iron, bronze, silver, and golden corpses, leaving a blank spot on the last one, to which there was no information at all.
To "upgrade" a zombie, the owner had to find a place with four Yin elements to cultivate it and facilitate it with magical instruments tainted by evil spirits of Yin quality. The old lady was now only a white corpse with a lot of limitations. Whenever he wanted to use it to attack, his best choice was to make a surprise attack against his target.
Li Suchun had been spending time with the white corpse round the clock, so it was inevitable that he would be contaminated by corpse energy. Mao Mountain used to have Qi-nourishing methods to strengthen the practitioners, but these methods had been lost.
Within a month, his face had gone dreadfully pale with reddened pupils. The way he talked and behaved had all become gloomy and eerie.
Corpse energy would not only affect one physically, but also have an impact on one's personality. He had taken four lives at such a young age and found himself indifferent towards the act of killing people. In the moment when he spotted Liu Changhe, for example, the idea of killing the man had indeed crossed his mind.
Fortunately, evil was not in the youngster's nature and he managed to resist the impulse.
It was a moonless, windy night. The wilderness seemed to stretch on endlessly.
A man and a corpse walked under the inky sky, carrying with them desolation and loneliness, as if they had been abandoned by the entire world.
Li Suchun was inadequately dressed for this weather, but showed no signs of feeling cold. He walked ahead, tearing at the bread with his hands and darting looks in all directions constantly. The white corpse hopped behind him.
Luobi County was to the northwest of Shu Zhou, not far from the city boundaries. After Luobi, another dozens of kilometers away was the neighboring province. With much land and few people, it had even more mountains than Shu Zhou, making it the ideal hideaway.
After walking for some distance, Li Suchun suddenly waved his hand and the white corpse stopped at his command immediately. He inclined his head to listen carefully, then looked into the distance. As expected, along the main road that extended out from the wild meadow, a flickering dot of red light seemed to be moving.
His face changed abruptly, knowing all too well what the light was. Making a conjuring gesture with his fingers, he commanded, "Quick!"
With that, he quickened his pace and the white corpse accelerated along him. That image looked hilarious yet horrifying.
Wearing a coat across his shoulders, Xiao Bo was complaining to Liu Changhe, "What's gotten into your head today? As if dragging me out of bed in the middle of the night is not enough, you had to call the goddamn police? Why did you call them for such a petty thing?"
"They did not look like decent folks to me and I was scared… anyway, the call's already been made. It's not like I can take it back, no?"
Puffing on a cigarette, Liu Changhe was quite annoyed as well. He comforted himself by saying, "They don't like to respond to cases at night, though. I'm not hurt or anything, maybe they won't be bothered to come."
As soon as he finished that sentence, the sound of sirens approached and was at their door within no time. Then, someone hammered at the door.
"Bang bang bang!"
Xiao Bo cast a stern glance at the weakling nearby and hurried to answer it. Two police officers were standing outside, who asked him directly, "Did you call the police?"
"Well, the person who called is inside. Please come in."
Xiao Bo lead them into the room. Feeling uneasy, Liu Changhe smiled apologetically and replied, "Sorry for making you come all this way. Yes, I made the phone call. "
The police gave him a glance with incredibly serious faces, then said, "Tell us everything you saw—in detail."
He dared not keep things from them and repeated the story carefully. The police confirmed his statement over and over again, focusing on the appearance of the person in question and his oddness.
After that, Liu Changhe gathered his courage and asked, "Well, you seem to mind this person very much. Is he a wanted man or something?"
"Don't ask questions you're not supposed to ask! Don't make irresponsible remarks either! Starting and spreading rumors is punishable by detention!"
The police browbeat him. As soon as they were out of the yard, one of them dialed a number immediately. "Hello, is that Director Wang? We've found a possible suspect!"
Tianzhu Mountain, the High Ladder of Wonder Valley.
The High Ladder was in the East Pass scenic area. Staircases had been chiseled out along the rock face, leading all the way to a giant boulder on the top. Dilapidated railings were set up on it, which circled out a platform where one could appreciate the view from above.
This place was not open to public and was practically deserted on normal days. However, right now, a man and a woman were climbing the stairs.
Gu Yu was in front. He leapt right onto the boulder when he was a few staircases away. Xiaozhai followed him and reached the top easily as well.
Both stood on the platform, taking in the cliffs, peaks, steep mountains and flatter hills, which were decorated by tall trees of various degrees of green, lofty mountain hazes, and the scattered streams and ravines. The magnificence and grandiosity of the East Pass outclassed that of the West Pass.
Their minds were not focused on sightseeing, though. After looking into the distance on all directions, they took out a map and started ticking and drawing on it.
"Green Dragon Pond, no; Echo Valley, no; High Ladder, still no…"
Gu Yu crossed out several spots in a row and sighed involuntarily, "This mountain is too big; we might not finish our search until next year."
"Cheer up, we've made a third of it so far," encouraged Xiaozhai.
"Two days and only a third... sigh, let's continue…" shaking his head, he was nevertheless not dispirited.
After climbing the mountain, they soon separated from Zhao Jiu and his team, spending one day in the West Pass and another in the East Pass, but both ended up being a fruitless errand. The area of Tianzhu Mountain was well over 500 square kilometers and the scenic area took up only less than half of it. They still had all those undeveloped areas to cover.
Gu Yu had divided the entire mountain into twelve regions. They had only searched four so far.
It was shortly after noontime and the sun was shining brightly overhead. After a brief discussion, they decided to explore deeper into the mountain and would find their camping spot in the evening.
They descended along the High Ladder and returned to Echo Valley, then traveled northeast along an unmarked path. Xiaozhai held a dagger in her hand, cutting a mark on the tree bark every now and then.
The deeper they walked, the more vividly they could sense the nature's power. All kinds of unruly and unrestrained plants filled their sight, growing so tall and thick that they almost blocked out the sky. Here, the two human intruders were the aliens.
Over 300 types of wild animals inhabited Tianzhu Mountain. On their way in, they spotted many animals such as kestrels, Asian bullfrogs, and owls. Some they could recognize, while others they could not.
The animals here did not have much contact with human beings and were not scared off by the two. They stayed just far enough away to observe these two curious creatures.
"That owl back there was so pretty. The color of its feathers was very rare."
While speaking, Xiaozhai waved her dagger and an unknown poisonous insect was cut in half.
"I rather like kestrels. They are so dumpy…"
With a twig in his hand, Gu Yu also picked up a small snake trying to ambush them and sent it far into the air.
"Kestrels are so ugly; even pheasants look better than them… if you really like them that much, I'll catch you a kite after we get back."
They chatted on as they walked. About forty minutes later, they stopped abruptly, for a peculiar creature showed up in their front.
It was about the size of a sika deer with dark brown fur and a white tail, which easily caught their attention. Behind its eyes, long hair covered the part from its forehead to its neck, as if it was wearing earmuffs, giving it a dorky look.
The creature seemed rather timid and stood watching them from afar. Any movement from the two, and it would probably scamper right away.
"Is that a musk deer?" Xiaozhai was unsure.
"I think it looks like a dumb roe deer," said Gu Yu.
"Are you kidding me? Roe deers are so much more adorable."
"Whatever. Let's catch it and have a look."
Staying with Xiaozhai for these days had made Gu Yu loosen up a bit. With that, he made his move, dashing out into the distance with a few strides.
The animal jumped in fright and turned to run away. Unfortunately, it did not make very far before staggering like a drunkard and falling to the ground.
The two walked near and looked around the innocent creature for a while, finally reaching the conclusion that it was a black barking deer.
"Sigh, poor little thing, off you go!"
The two lost interest at once. Patting the animal on its head, they carried on with their search.
The black barking deer shook its head and remained confused for a while, then disappeared into a thick growth of grass, still dumbfounded.