"Oh, you're going to the Ying Long Sea? I'm actually going in that direction myself."
Lao Gan was surprised by her sudden comment.
"Really? Where are you headed?"
"Oh, I'm going to the Dark Water Kingdom, I've heard of its mysterious reputation and wanted to see what it is like."
Ming Yue lied partially, she wasn't so naive as to reveal her real intentions to a stranger she had just met.
"The Dark Water Kingdom huh... That place has closed itself off from the rest of the world. Some say that everyone else had disregarded them for their eccentric research. I hear that the denizens of that kingdom experiment on their own bodies, for the sake of understanding the world."
Lao Gan rubbed his chin, trying to recall all of the things he heard of the illustrious kingdom.
Through him, Ming Yue learned a bit more about her destination.
She never did ask Elder Shen about his past in the Dark Water Kingdom. It felt like it was a topic that shouldn't be touched.
Being sent to Heaven's Gate and then to have lost contact with his home, it was sure to bring up unwanted emotions.
Ming Yue thought this as Lao Gan continued speaking. She looked at him with curiosity, it was strange to see him talk so much when he was incredibly quiet minutes ago.
The night continued on as Ming Yue continued listening to Lao Gan and the next day, they had decided that it was better to travel together.
At first, Ming Yue thought that Lao Gan would be able to defend himself without her help. Instead, at every encounter with a beast, he simply pulled out a talisman of some sort. It was a small silken bag that seemed to ward off the beasts. Whatever it had, any crearue that came close would cower away, wrinkling their nose.
While he had this little trinket, Ming Yue opted to not take advantage and battle it out with whatever stood in her way. This was a perfect opportunity to improve her proficiency of the skills she had created with Elder Xiang. With the amount of complexity in these techniques, she needed ample time to perfect them.
However, she focused on the first three techniques that she had nicknamed, "The Three Winds". The first move was the most important, "Phantasmal Wind" could finish a fight the moment it began. The success of such technique hinged on timing: knowing when to move, when to disappear and then when to strike.
To create an illusion and trick her opponent, moving when they think she still stood there, and defeating them before they could even act. That was the concept behind "Phantasmal Wind".
With every fight, she was able to advance it bit by bit. She was a little bit faster, she became more accustomed to it. Several fights later, Lao Gan had stopped relying on his trinket as it wasn't quite as useful. Ming Yue was always up for a fight and not many lived past the first move.
As they traveled further into the forest, their surroundings slowly changed. All but a few leaves were left on the trees, the ones laying on the ground had become damp and dimmed in color. The air grew colder as frost appeared on a few branches.
It was then that they encountered their most dangerous opponent.
A monstrous deer that stood on its hind legs and their forelegs were not hooves but claws with jagged talons. It resembled a deer and yet it was nothing like it. Its head was a skull without flesh, two beady blue eyes that stared into one's being. Its body was thin but muscular and its movements were unnatural to say the least.
Quick to move and incredibly forceful, it seemed to snake its way around the winter trees like some deathly spirit.
As for what it was, Ming Yue could not identify it for it was always moving. She only caught a glimpse when they had first encountered it before the creature vaulted away. However, Lao Gan was able to recognize it.
"Miss Ming, we should escape it! That is a Primal Frost Deer, one of the rarest creatures of the Four Season Forest and it is incredibly dangerous. It is rank 4! We will not be able to defeat this beast. Not even my Beast Warding Bag will have much effect", he warned her, readying himself to run.
But it was too late. The Primal Frost Deer had seen them and it has marked them. It did not take much to understand that it was hunting them now. The beast released a deep and gutteral roar that echoed within the forest.
In that moment, it revealed itself and locked eyes with the two.
Lao Gan was afraid, he knew that the Primal Frost Deer would chase after them if they ran. However it was the better option than standing their ground and fighting. The creature would hide under the shadows and strike with an unreal amount of ferocity.
He had heard stories of this beast: how it would hunt and attack one by one. He was frightened to say the least. The journey to the Ying Long Sea was the most dangerous one that he had undertaken. There were little to no roads or establishments on the way there, it was absolutely wild. Though he was willing to make the journey, death was the more reasonable result. So he prepared, grabbing talismans and the like to protect himself.
He was no fighter nor did he really bother with cultivation. Him being able to carry the amount he carried came from years of traveling the continent by foot. He had managed to get through many of his endeavor through preparation and a burning passion to try the wondrous variety of food. But he was not prepared for this, an encounter with a beast that lived in legend.
The merchant had seen many things but at this moment, he was not expecting this.
Ming Yue stood her ground. Brandishing her blade, she prepared a different stance where she moved her off hand in front of her. Wisps of air gathered before forming sharp needles at the ends of her fingers. Like an extension of her hand, they followed the movement of her fingers andacted like claws.
It was the "Zephyr Claws" technique, one of the assassination techniques she had created. However, was she planning to assassinate the Primal Frost Deer?
Almost simultaneously, Mign Yue and the monstrous deer charged forward.
With one hand outstretched, the deer had the same reach as Ming Yue with her sword. It opened its hands and grabbed at Mign Yue as they drew closer. However, it did not notice Hei Yue, who had released the black fog, blinding the creature.
Ming Yue had avoided its grip, using her Zephyr Claws to stab into the beast's body and climb it.
The needle like claws pierced deeply and caused an enourmous amount of pain. Every time they entered the body, each one would tear into its flesh, causing the holes to flow with a greenish blood.
This was a rank 4! Like the Diving Dragonfly!
Certainly Ming Yue had killed the dragonfly but it was already injured and the experience had left her half dead. However, it was different this time. She was much stronger than before.
The Primal Frost Deer had turned and twisted, grabbing hold of Ming Yue's leg before tossing her against a tree.
She managed to prevent the impact, digging her sword into the ground to slow herself and recover. Afterwards, she threw herself back into the fray as Hei Yue and Xiao Yin provided support, attacking the beast and sending off waves of energy.
Lao Gan could not believe his eyes as he watched her battle the beast. It wasn't often that he would see a rank 4 and even less so to witness a battle with one. Just one rank 4 could tear through towns and required a group of Earth Realm Cultivators to defeat it.
Yet, how strong was this young girl for her to fight something that required multiple experts?
He could not fathom it.
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