Chapter 35 - Hunt in the Woods
It did not take the Wu riders long to rush into the woods. A middle-aged man, with triangular eyes, taking the lead. In his hand was a wooden case, which contained a pink beetle that looked like a longicorn. It was flapping its wings incessantly while buzzing weakly.
"Just as we expected, they fled here." A man, who looked to be around forty years old, in glamorous clothes stepped forward and snorted sardonically after glancing at the deserted carriage and the two black horse.
This was none other than the third master of the Wu Clan, Wu Tong.
"Then why are we waiting here? Go! Hunt them! We can't let them off!" The proud youth at the third master's back was overjoyed to find Shi Mu's trace.
"Ha, no worries. They were in the cart so long that the fragrance of Qian Li Xiang must have soaked into their clothes. It will take an entire night for the fragrance to fade. What, do you think we can't catch a mere Practitioner in a night? You two, stay watch the horses and guard Hua Er, the rest of you come with me." Wu Tong grinned complacently, and ordered his men. Hearing this, two Practitioners bowed obediently before they stepped back to the horses, while the others all drew their weapons and followed the man into the woods. Although they were only Practitioners, all had remarkable skill and moved agilely in the darkness. Wu Tong only wandered into the woods after speaking a few more words of warning to the proud youth.
An hour later, deep in the woods.
Shi Mu was still running rapidly with the girl in his arms. His shirt had long been torn by branches, which even left numerous bleeding wounds on his arms and legs. But Shi Mu was not worried about this at all. On the contrary, he was still pushing forward, as if he felt no pain. Each time he had run some distance he would turn abruptly to another direction, making his routes as complex as possible.
Meanwhile, the girl curled up in Shi Mu's arms with her arms around his neck, silent and faintly blushing. The dim starlight and a hazy mist together produced a strange, irresistible sensation. Along with the girl's soft body and the stirring faint fragrance of it, a strong temptation floated in the air.
But Shi Mu was left with no time to savor the beauty in his arms. Pursued by enemies, he could only rely on his superhuman eyesight to look for some good places to hide in, as his body moved like a leopard through the trees.
Suddenly, he darted to a big tree and hid behind it, trying to hear something after taking a deep breath, titling his head. Zhong Xiu lifted her beautiful face, her eyes gleaming with affection. For some time she seemed to have lost herself, only fixing her eyes upon Shi Mu's grave face.
Unfortunately, a short while later, noisy footsteps were heard from behind, mixed with some low curses. Shi Mu's color changed and, without a word, he turned about abruptly and once again ran at his top speed with the girl in his arms.
"Just as I thought, they must have some peculiar ways to track us, otherwise, how could they still find us after we've changed our routes so many times? Brother Shi, please put me down and flee by yourself. I'm only a burden to you, without me you'll have a better chance of escaping." Hearing the approaching footsteps Zhong Xiu eventually came to herself, and made a suggestion in a low voice.
"Miss Zhong, drop the topic from now on. I'm no hero, but I'll never place a woman or a child in the path of dangerous foes. Also, Uncle Zhong asked me to take care of you when he breathed his last words. " Shi Mu answered without hesitation.
"What's all the "buts"? With my strength and stamina you are no burden at all, I can run for the entire night and still have some energy to spare. I'm just wondering if our pursuers have as much endurance as I do." Shi Mu said in a rather calm voice.
"I see, I won't bring up the topic again. At worst I'll die with Brother Shi." Hearing Shi Mu's heroic proclamation, the girl's beautiful eyes glittered. She answered in the softest voice, and the arms ,around Shi Mu's neck, gripped him a little tighter.
But Shi Mu could not afford to abandon himself in her gentle words. He only kept running, and stopped suddenly when he noticed something: the trees grew thinner ahead, and large patches of open fields could be seen vaguely. It turned out that they've come to the end of the forest after running for so long.
"It's too late to take another route now." Seeing this desperate situation, Zhong Xiu was surprisingly calm, and not a bit of fear was in her heart.
"It seems I still have to fight them. Miss Zhong, please hold onto me as tightly as you can." Shi Mu told the girl with a somber face.
"Yes." The girl answered with an excited sound.
Shi Mu then darted to a big tree and moved his arms like an agile ape. In a moment he was already on a branch about fourteen meters off the ground. Dropping the girl on the branch, he told her to hold on to it, and then said in earnest, "Wait me here. I'll come for you if I can kill the enemies."
Just as he finished the words, he whizzed down from the tree and turned, running back into the thick forest.
Zhong Xiu could only stare in the direction where Shi Mu had just disappeared, leaning against the branch. Her anxious face was now quite pale, making the blue birthmark on her forehead indistinct, producing a gentleness that was beyond description.
After he had put some distance between Zhong Xiu and himself, Shi Mu narrowed his eyes and abruptly knelt down, hiding himself behind a thick bush. Raising his arm, he grasped the purple steel bow over his shoulder, while some ten black silhouettes were running toward his spot from over a thousand meters away.
The Wu Clan members would never believe that Shi Mu was waiting for them. Who wold believe that, on such a dark night, someone could have seen them clearly from a kilometer away. Unaware, the riders were running blindly forward. But still, after chasing their target for over an hour, most of them were as tattered as Shi Mu, their clothes torn, and some of them even beginning to grasp for breath.
Seeing this, Shi Mu could not help but lament that he would have outstripped them after running for a longer distance, but he ran out of forest to hide in. With the thought on his mind, he still acted quickly. Taking a long arrow from the pack over his shoulder at a lightning speed, he nocked the arrow in the most proficient manner.
"The Fragrance-Sensing Beetles are again reacting fiercely! They must be quite near now!" After a moment, someone shouted out in surprise, which made all the Wu Clan members pause. One of them protested, "Reacting again? The younger brother, is there something wrong with the beetles? Every time you have said 'we're near them' we could not find a soul around us. How could this guy keep running like this for a whole night? "
"Humph, even if we are all mistaken, the beetles won't be. We just missed him because he's so crafty, and we're too slow! But seeing the beetles reacting now, I suppose he won't escape again this time. He's exhausted. You guys just go and catch him, better finish the task before master Tong comes. Otherwise master Tong will definitely be upset, after all this running." The man with triangular eyes replied bluntly, holding the case in his hand.