Chu Qiao stood up. The pain within her body was bearable, then the dizzy spell that originated from her fever hit her like a torrent. She had already not eaten for one day and one night, and her face was as white as fresh snow. She steadied herself against a tree and took a few deep breaths to get a grip, before turning towards the dense forest.
"You are leaving just like that?" Zhuge Yue raised his eyebrows and lifted his foot, intending to follow her. Just as he did, Chu Qiao suddenly turned back, and with a whooshing sound, a white flash took to the air. Like an agile sparrow, Zhuge Yue's left foot released a burst of strength, and he lept into the sky. The white flash grazed his face. With a buzz, it bore into a thick rock. Strands of hair floated down and Zhuge Yue's left cheek was left with a small inconspicuous white line. Only a moment later, the white mark seeped out a crimson red liquid. Thin and straight, it was like a razer that had cut through paper.
Chu Qiao coldly warned, "Do not think that I won't dare to kill you."
Zhuge Yue wiped away the thin trace of blood on his face and nonchalantly replied, "But can you?" His long and flamboyant sleeves fluttered in the cold wind that had penetrated through the thick vegetation. Chu Qiao quietly glared at him, her arch-nemesis of many years, before finally putting her hand on the sheath, gradually pulling the sword out. Slowly, words came out from her mouth, "If that is so, let us reach a conclusion today."
With a quick twist of his long sleeves, his sword appeared within his hand. Still sheathed, he pointed the tip of the scabbard at Chu Qiao. "Alright. Then I shall play along with you."
Chu Qiao, with a flick of her wrist, positioned her sword and exploded towards him. But it was then a wave of nausea hit her like a truck. Too weak to even groan, she fell in Zhuge Yue's direction.
"Take her down!"
Roughly a dozen men leapt out of the bushes. The leading one, with a bamboo blowpipe still in his mouth, noticed how Zhuge Yue was still standing still. Without hesitation, he puffed his cheeks and shot out the hair-thin needles straight at Zhuge Yue's chest.
With a swing of his sleeve, over a dozen needles were swept astray. With blue gleams on the tips, it was apparent that these needles were poisonous. With his arm stretched out, he took the chance to pull Chu Qiao, who had already fainted, into his chest. He then noticed that her face appeared even paler; her left shoulder had around seven or eight needles stuck close to each other, and was seeping black blood.
Zhuge Yue scowled. It was apparent that things had taken a downward spiral. In the nick of time, he noticed the metallic cylinder hanging at Chu Qiao's waist, and without any suspense, he pulled the trigger string. A few blood-curdling screams followed. In that rain of projectiles, not a single one was spared. In that opening, he carried Chu Qiao and fled.
Chu Qiao was merely temporarily dizzy from her ailments, so in a few moments, she was fully conscious again. Opening her eyes, she only saw how Zhuge Yue was carrying her, with constant rustling sounds behind, an obvious indication of pursuers. By now, there was no more pain in her shoulder, as she had lost all sensations in her left arm. She clenched her teeth and fiercely shouted, "Let me down!"
Completely ignoring her, Zhuge Yue slashed at the vines blocking his path.
"Zhuge Yue put me down!"
"Noisy!" He stopped in his tracks and pressed her against a tree trunk, coldly declaring, "Do you want to die? No problem, but you have to first tell me, where is Li Ce!"
"I don't know!"
Sneering, Zhuge Yue replied, "You don't? Then I am so sorry. Don't you hate to be in debt to others? I shall make sure you owe me a favor, a favor so big, you can't even repay it with the rest of your life."
The sounds of the pursuers rapidly caught up, as if it was the growling of a beast ready to strike. Out of the blue, lightning struck, and then came the rolling sounds of thunder. A torrential downpour ensued. The heavy water drops created splashes of mud as it struck the ground. Still pinned to the tree, Chu Qiao's eyes resembled that of a cautious wolf as she glared unwaveringly at Zhuge Yue.
"Zhuge Yue, you have been stalking me so much. Are you sure you did not fall in love with me?"
With a wide grin, Zhuge Yue put his face next to her ear, almost touching it. He whispered in a hoarse voice, "You are so scared of being indebted to me. Are you sure you are not just scared of falling in love with me, making it difficult for you to avenge your siblings?"
Chu Qiao countered, "If that makes you feel better, I shall not reveal my real thoughts until the moment I kill you."
Zhuge Yue grinned. "Same to you. If you have the luck of living until tomorrow, I will return to tell you how amusing you are."
"Zhuge Yue! If you do not eliminate me now, you will regret it in the future!"
"I am more curious to see how someone who can barely survive can make me regret."
With a menacing gaze, Chu Qiao growled, "Someday I will make sure you die in my hands."
Zhuge Yue brushed that threat aside. "Someday? That line is too old. Xing'er, do you not have anything new?"
A group of at least a hundred men approached them warily. Everyone clad in black and their faces covered in cloth. With every step, they checked their surroundings. Four gigantic hounds led the way, leading the group towards the hideout of the duo.
Chu Qiao laughed lightly. "Looks like we've got company. Zhuge Yue, if you have any last words, you can say them now. If I am in a good mood, I can help you convey it."
"Shouldn't that be my line? Pretty sure they're not after me."
Chu Qiao taunted, "Do you think they can still differentiate between us?"
"If they cannot even do that, then they are nothing but living trash, even if I don't permit them to live."
The hounds, as if signalling the start of the incoming bloodbath, started to fiercely bark at the same time. The mob halted for an instant, but immediately dashed towards the duo!
Whoosh! With a sharp buzz, Zhuge Yue drew his blade. The afterimage of the blade was vividly visible as it accurately cut through an incoming arrow while splitting the pouncing hound in two. Fresh blood splattered everywhere, some landing on his robe, looking like blossoming petals.
"Go!" someone shouted. The men in black rushed up in quick succession, their blades tearing through the heavy night, and their flurry of arrows shearing the air. There was nothing but bloodthirst and death.
With one clean flash of his sword, two heads flew up into the sky. Zhuge Yue's figure leapt, lightning fast like an eagle. In full view of everyone, his dazzling sword skills were on full display, beautiful like fireworks. At this point, the two headless corpses dropped while still maintaining their original battle position, and took a few steps past him before dropping into a puddle of mud, blood spurting out of their wounds, creating a mess.
Following that, Zhuge Yue stepped back to his original spot, and with an immense amount of slashes, took down the torrential rain of arrows. Chu Qiao was standing behind him. By now, the poison had spread to half of her body and she did not have strength left in her right hand to hold her sword. Her legs were trembling and if she had not been so determined to hang on, she would have certainly been lying on the ground.
Zhuge Yue turned around and raised an eyebrow. "You are already in such a state, why are you still pushing yourself so hard?"
Chu Qiao weakly replied, "None of your business!"
"If I was not here, you would have died long ago, and yet you still speak of killing me. How shameless."
Just then, an arrow flew towards his blind spot at a height that was almost touching the ground. Aiming straight at Zhuge Yue's heart, Chu Qiao astutely noticed it and pounced towards Zhuge Yue. A few sharp blades flew through the air. With a shake of the sword handle, he stabbed it into the ground and used it as a pivot. With a quick twist, he grabbed Chu Qiao and brushed past the fatal arrow.
"If you do not get serious, we are both going to die here!" Chu Qiao fiercely exclaimed.
Zhuge Yue replied, "So you are also scared of death?"
Chu Qiao clenched her jaws and unsheathed her sword as well. Without any excess motion, without any flamboyant style, her movements were neat and steadfast. Every swing of her blade was deadly.
The rolling thunder resounded and the heavy downpour continued. Stepping on the mixture of blood and mud, the hundreds of assassins brandishing their blades crowded forward and surrounded the duo. No shouts or screams, no sounds of fighting, everything was covered by the roaring sounds of rainfall. But in the freezing shower, shadows flashed by, crisscrossing in a flurry of exchanges. Blood splashed and body parts splattered onto the trees around.
The hearts of assassins pounded rapidly, as their blood boiled. All their weapons unsheathed, they maintained their swift movements. But still, facing the previous round of confrontation with nothing but mounting losses on their part, they felt shivers go down their spines. Still forming a circle, they slowly retreated while keeping their eyes focused on the duo, who were still in an aggressive stance. At the signal of their leader, all reached out behind them. Following that, a row of short javelins, each half a meter in length, appeared.
Furrowing his eyebrows, Zhuge Yue's face showed seriousness once more and he cautioned, "Careful."
"Go!" the leader bellowed. Countless javelins flew towards them from all directions, leaving gleaming trails as they cut through the heavy air.
"Step aside!" Pushing Chu Qiao aside, Zhuge Yue flaunted his sword. With movements like lightning, he deflected two projectiles, and in the process, the huge force scraped off a layer of skin. Seeing that, Chu Qiao brandished her blade and was ready to charge forward. It was then with a woosh, a silver arrow shot past, and a black chain fell from the sky, like a snake. It caught her at her waist. A huge force followed, pulling her up right before the swarm of javelins hit.
The assassins were surprised, but with quick reactions, they lifted their head and aimed upwards, only to see a shadow descend like a comet. Waving the sword in his hand, the intruder blocked all of the arrows. As if the grappling hook had a mind of its own, even as if he had casually flung it out, he was still able to traverse through the dense forest with ease.
A cold wind blew through the dense woods. As Chu Qiao flew past, looking at the mob below, she saw Zhuge Yue in a bloodbath, only with his eyes still crystal clear. Just like that, he looked at her indifferently. The only thing that could be seen in the infinite depths of his iris was the reflection of his flourishing blade.
Lightning flashed and thunder boomed. Just as the assassins looked up in search of the vanishing lady countless grappling hooks appeared out of thin air. More intruders turned up, coming from the sky.
"Master, leave first!" AhJing shouted as he beheaded an enemy.
A few men in black landed, shielding Chu Qiao and the man. Razor thin blades struck out against the enemies, as horses rushed through the mud towards them.
"Let's go!" the man's voice bellowed, with a tone of undecipherable emotions. He took Chu Qiao by her waist and jumped onto one of the horses. Waving the whip, he left.
"Intercept them!" the enemies barked, as the horde of assassins sailed forth.
With an emotionless hmph, the man effortlessly slit the throat of one assassin. The blood gushing out was still searing hot and blinded another man, who panicked. Before he could recover from the surprise, he was struck squarely in his chest by an arrow.
The man held pulled the reins and the horse stood up on its hind legs. With a huge bang, its front legs vigorously kicked the chests of two incoming assassins. At that moment, their ribs were crushed, their blood gushed out like a geyser. Flying more than 30 meters back, they rammed into four of their other comrades.
Seeing how they could not defeat the intruders, the leader of the assassins snapped out a cylinder from his waist and shot it into the sky. A pale blue firework went off in mid-air, shining light in the vicinity.