Huo Yuhao was astonished by the intensity of her reaction, but he could also relate to that dejection in her heart. The resentment was faint, and only surfaced from time to time, but it was acute and extreme.
This… What experiences has she been through? So much resentment has accumulated in the deepest recesses of her heart, to the point where it's almost impossible to believe.
Strangely, they both grew silent. Huo Yuhao didn't know how to console Wang Qiu'er, and Wang Qiu'er didn't seem like she could control her emotions, but she didn't attempt to express them anymore. That faintly discernible resentment vanished along with their words.
They continued forward as Huo Yuhao tried his best to determine their location, and a soul tool meant for that purpose appeared in his hands. It was already a challenge to determine the four cardinal directions inside the dense forest, but Huo Yuhao relied on what the Ultimate Soldier Plan had taught him, and he was sure he was on the right track.
An hour passed before Huo Yuhao made a gesture and immediately stopped walking.
"Let's take another break. How do you feel?" he turned and asked Wang Qiu'er.
Wang Qiu'er's emotions had settled down by now, but her charming face was as cold as ever. She shot a cold glance at Huo Yuhao and said, "I am now absolutely certain that the place you're heading towards is the source of the danger."
"You already feel danger? But have you realized that there seem to be fewer and fewer soul beasts the further we go?" Huo Yuhao frowned as he informed her.
Wang Qiu'er grunted coldly and said, "That's what is most terrifying. Soul beasts inhabit this area, yet they cannot live here, even though they're extremely adaptable. That shows how dangerous this area is. I think it won't take long before we will encounter these dangers first-hand."
Huo Yuhao stared at her with a calm look and said, "It's not too late to change your mind."
Wang Qiu'er said, "Stop spouting nonsense. Let me ask you, Huo Yuhao… Is Wang Dong'er the person that you are willing to throw your life away to save?"
"Eh?" Huo Yuhao glanced at her, astonished.
Wang Qiu'er continued, "I have been thinking about it, and I figured that only she is worth it."
Huo Yuhao replied, "You're wrong. My companions are also worth risking my life for."
Wang Qiu'er pressed on, "And this time? Is it her?"
Huo Yuhao nodded his head lightly.
Wang Qiu'er's eyes froze momentarily, and she grew silent for a few seconds. "I knew it."
Huo Yuhao said, "Let's rest a little more. Did you not say that danger is about to come?" He didn't continue Wang Qiu'er's topic because he realized that her eyes had become a little peculiar, to the point where her aura had changed.
"Alright." Wang Qiu'er didn't say anything else as she casually found a place to sit down. They sat opposite each other quietly while they rested.
This break was relatively shorter, as they hadn't travelled for too long before this. Huo Yuhao stood up again after fifteen minutes and gazed forward into the distance.
It was afternoon at this point, and there was still some time before evening. However, the temperature was starting to decline, and there was a crisp and cool feeling within the forest.
There were far too few soul beasts within the Setting Sun Forest at this moment. At least, Huo Yuhao drew this conclusion from his observations as they proceeded in that direction.
This sentiment hadn't been that intense when he had entered the Great Star Dou Forest. There were many soul beasts within the Great Star Dou Forest, and innumerable mighty entities among them. However, the Setting Sun Forest's landscape seemed to reflect the seriousness of the damage that soul masters had inflicted on the world of soul beasts. Perhaps it wouldn't be long before the Setting Sun Forest became just a normal forest.
However, human soul masters needed to hunt and kill soul beasts to obtain soul rings if they wanted to increase their cultivation.
This necessity would always lead to conflict and disharmony, unless all the soul beasts in the world went extinct one day. If that day did come, there would no longer be any soul masters, either.
It was apparent that they would have to emphasize their research into spirits. However, even if their research was successful, the most they could do was reduce the need for soul beasts. The truth was that spirits still required soul beasts as a foundation.
These thoughts flashed by one after another in Huo Yuhao's mind. He was a gifted student from Shrek Academy, and he was clear on the fact that this conflict would erupt in the near future. It could take ten years, a hundred years, or a thousand years, but the human world would be adversely affected if soul beasts went extinct. After another millennium, the soul master profession would become ancient history, and would no longer exist.
Forget it. I'm not going to think about all that for now. No matter what happens in the future, obtaining that herb for Dong'er is the most important task at hand.
They raised their guard as they continued forward, as peril could descend upon them at any time. Wang Qiu'er retrieved her Golden Dragon Spear, and Huo Yuhao stretched his Spiritual Detection to its limits, focusing in one direction from time to time.
They moved forward for another fifteen minutes. Even Huo Yuhao felt a little unsettled at this point, and he had an ominous feeling that something was here that made him feel a little stifled and pressured.
Wang Qiu'er murmured, "Wait."
Huo Yuhao immediately halted in his tracks and turned towards her. "I also think something is amiss. How are you feeling, Qiu'er?"
Wang Qiu'er surveyed her surroundings as she lowered her voice and said, "Have you realized that the light around us is a lot weaker than before?"
"Eh?" Huo Yuhao had been using Spiritual Detection this whole time, but his Spiritual Detection was mainly focused on soul beasts that could appear, and other sources of danger that could attack them in some way. Wang Qiu'er's reminder made him realize that this place was a lot dimmer than before.
"Can it be because the sky is getting dark?" He rarely came to the northern regions, so he didn't know much about the weather in these parts.
Wang Qiu'er shook her head and said, "It's still afternoon. Even if we go further north, there can't be so little light. Furthermore, there are no clouds blocking the sun, and you can see the trees' shadows on the ground. Furthermore, we are comparing the sunlight now to how it was fifteen minutes ago. How can the sky turn dark within such a short period of time? There is only one possibility that can cause the light to dim and weaken... the air."
"Air?" Huo Yuhao asked doubtfully.
Wang Qiu'er said, "Don't you have Spiritual Detection? Concentrate it on a relatively small area and focus on what's inside, observe and see how the air is changing in that space, and then jump up into the sky and perceive how different the air is up there from how it is down here. You should be able to discover something."
"Alright..." Huo Yuhao answered slowly.
Huo Yuhao immediately focused his attention and used Spiritual Detection on the air in front of him. He discovered something different the moment he concentrated.
Even his Spirit Eyes found it difficult to distinguish the fine dust that was drifting around through the air. These dust particles were pale white. They weren't thick and dense, but they were floating stably. They were inside a tremendous forest, and the air inside the forest should be a lot better than the outside world. These dust particles clearly wouldn't be here under normal circumstances.
Huo Yuhao jumped into the air and activated his flying-type soul tool. His body was propelled upwards as he surged into the sky.
He pierced ten meters above the canopy, and his vision instantly lit up, as if he had just broken through some barrier, everything around him very bright and clear.
Huo Yuhao was still using Spiritual Detection, and he immediately discovered that the fine particles disappeared completely once he was out of the forest.
He looked down toward the Setting Sun Forest beneath him, but his naked eye couldn't distinguish anything.
A thought flashed by in Huo Yuhao's head. He continued channeling his flying-type soul tool so that he could fly even higher up.
Huo Yuhao looked down once more when he went even higher, and he could finally see what was going on.
The Setting Sun Forest looked extremely calm, but there seemed to be a faint and thin fog floating around inside the forest. What made him even more astounded was the fact that this fog gradually dissipated and vanished where they came from, but it was a lot denser in the place they were heading towards. It felt as if a patch of cloud had descended on the forest, and even the vegetation was blurry and obscured. These clouds weren't just white, as he could even see multi-colored hues in the distance.
What… what is this?
Huo Yuhao didn't have too much time to think. He immediately returned to the forest and relayed his discoveries to Wang Qiu'er.
Wang Qiu'er's eyes grew a little slack as she stared at his eyes, but she immediately recovered as she blurted out, "It's a miasma, this should be a miasma!"
Huo Yuhao was momentarily stunned. "Miasma?" He only had a fuzzy understanding of the term.
Wang Qiu'er lowered her voice and said, "A miasma is a kind of venomous gas that gradually arises from decaying and decomposing vegetation and animals that are not taken care of, and if there isn't any wind or rain to blow it away. I've seen this before inside the Great Star Dou Forest, but I've never seen it like the way you describe it. It covers such an enormous surface area, and it even contains specks of various colors.
"Different miasmas have different toxic effects. A lighter miasma will cause dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhea, while a heavier miasma can be fatal. It seems like the danger that I sensed before this is related to this miasma. The only thing is, where is this immense miasma coming from? Toxic miasma is not to be trifled with, and it's not something that we can resist with just our soul power. What do we do?"
Huo Yuhao contemplated momentarily, then said, "It seems like it's not just because of soul masters hunting that there are so few soul beasts inside the Setting Sun Forest. This phenomena must also be closely connected to this miasma. Qiu'er, you should turn back. It's too dangerous here, and there's no need for you to accompany me to face this peril."
Wang Qiu'er's eyes widened as she said, "We have encountered a situation that normal human ability cannot fend off, and you still haven't changed your mind? Will you still go inside if you know that you will never come out alive?"
Huo Yuhao answered, "I have a solution for this. Even though this solution isn't perfect, it will increase our chances of venturing deeper within. However, it's quite dangerous. I must go inside for Dong'er, and I will never have the courage to go inside again if I back down today. Go back, Qiu'er. Let me prepare."
There was miasma in the air around them, but it was still relatively weak and thin. Their physiques were quite formidable, and it wasn't difficult for them to resist the miasma at this point. This was the reason why Huo Yuhao had no intention of turning back.
Huo Yuhao released his all-terrain self-driving fort onto the open ground beside him and got to work.