Nine Astra Skies

Mad Snail

28 Three Enigmatic Books

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'Something bad is going to happen to Little Tanuki, isn't it?' Compelled by this deep-seated distress, Ye Chen instinctively sprung from his spot and bolted out of his door.

By that point, the white figure had already leaped over the castle wall before diving into the first grove outside of Ye Castle.

"If I get caught for being outside at this unholy hour by any of our watchmen, there's going to be no end to that storm! Best not let my father, granduncle and others know about this," Ye Chen murmured. Hence, he activated his astral body and his senses were immediately lucid enough to remotely locate every single watchman — the clansmen in-charged of taking care of the household while everyone else was asleep — lurking vigilantly in every tenebrous corner of the Ye Castle.

Ye Chen deftly evaded their line of sights as well as the traps that were designed to ensnare nightly intruders, hidden in the castle grounds. After he got to the wall safely, he vaulted himself over and dashed into the woods. Very quickly, he astral-located a scurrying tanuki.

What did it sense that was so important that had led it to run off like that?

Ye Chen did not stop to entertain his own question. Instead, Celestial Chi started to revolve within his body for him to sustain his stamina as he chased ahead, with sceneries darting by his sides in a flurry of blurred images.

It was about two hours later after the chase when he realized that he had trespa.s.sed into the deepest part of Lianyun Mountains. Scanning his surroundings, Ye Chen knew that he had stepped into one of the restricted zones the House of Ye had repet.i.tively warned against on countless occasions.

There were many of such restricted areas in Lianyun Mountains — places where every responsible senior in the family had always caution their juniors to never tempt fate in. Specifically, they cited the presence of formidable and lethal advanced-Stage mystical beasts as the sole reason. There were a few ignorant juniors who did trespa.s.s once, but they never came back again. 

Ye Chen could almost hear his father's voice telling him to not go any step closer, and his feet responded by slowing down into a shuffle. Yet, the young man was just as quick in rationalizing his own violation of the ban. After all, since his astral sense had achieved new acuity in terms of the width of its detection, it could now reliably subst.i.tute the nightly limits of his vision. If he remained vigilant enough to avoid crossing paths with any mystical beasts, Ye Chen was sure he would be fine. 

His momentary uncertainty had allowed Little Tanuki to add more distance between the two of them. Upon realizing that, Ye Chen quickly restarted his pace and charged to wherever his astral sense guided him.

While on his way, his astral body had already detected at least five or six Eighth Stage mystical beasts, all of which he had dexterously and safely evaded while a little voice in the back of his head remarked about how true his seniors' warning was. Had it not been the fact that he had awakened his astral body, disregarding their warning would have instantly turned into an indirect act of suicide. Facing off lone mystical beast may be somewhat manageable, but what if they came in packs?

His travel through the woods went on for about an hour until he found himself at the mouth of a narrow mountain pa.s.s. Barren cliffs stood at each of his sides forebodingly, leaving the only pa.s.sage wedged between them to be about two or three feet wide as it led into the deepest unknown of the mountains. Ye Chen knew a hazard the moment when he saw one; if there was any confrontation with a mystical beast while traveling along this mountain pa.s.s, he would be trapped. 

He was certain that Little Tanuki had pa.s.sed through here. However, after a very brief hesitation, he raced right into the pa.s.sage.

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It was another ten minutes sprint before suddenly, the scene before his eyes changed into something completely different from what its uncomely entrance had suggested. A lush, gra.s.sy clearing about ten miles wide in radius leaped into his sight, painting a stark contrast with the dreary, barren cliffs that surrounded it. Beautiful meadows adorned the gra.s.sy plain while a small creek whispered close by. It was quite a sight to behold. 

"To find a wonderland secluded by perilous cliffs is really beyond my expectations," Ye Chen muttered in awe. He turned around as he admired the soaring cliffs reaching into the clouds above. His heart was viscerally praising the marvels of nature. 

As he continued to saunter through this strange clearing, he started to become more aware of the abundance of tanuki cadavers lying close by. It seemed like they were all bitten to death. Most of these dead tanukis appeared to be very different from Little Tanuki. Although most of them had a single tail with either sallow, ashen or calico fur, some others appear to possess two tails. However, their second tail was just a bub. 

'Is this where Little Tanuki came from? I wonder what happened to its family,' Ye Chen thought as he observed. He may not have noticed it, but in his mind, Little Tanuki had ceased to be "just another tanuki". The amount of sentience and intelligence displayed by his friend had resembled too much of humankind.

However, he did notice that the area was very suitable for cultivation. Perhaps due to the cliffs enclosing the area, the clearing was concentrated with Celestial Chi, but Ye Chen was not sure about the source of it.

Nonetheless, the young man was hardly interested in the Celestial Chi here anymore. With a reservoir as immense and potent as the Flying Dagger in his head, Celestial Chi from natural sources, in their pitifully diluted motes, were like sc.r.a.ps to him.

So, he continued to trudge deeper into this strange wonderland until he finally found Little Tanuki.

It was standing before a large stain of dried blood with watery eyes, grief-stricken.

That pool of blood was probably what was left of Little Tanuki's beloved relative. Ye Chen sighed quietly and crouched down as his right hand gently stroked Little Tanuki's back. 

"Don't be sad, Little Tanuki," Ye Chen said, trying to comfort his friend.

Little Tanuki had probably been standing at the spot for a while now. Upon seeing Ye Chen, it immediately tried to cloak its emotion even though it did not succeed in hiding the morose in its eyes. Then suddenly, Little Tanuki's ears perked up in high alert. 

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A thought flashed in Ye Chen's head, 'What now?'

Ye Chen took in a sharp breath. If a single Chi Deposition Pill could equal to a few hundred Chi Ama.s.sing Pills, then fifty-three of them entailed an insane amount of wealth! Indeed, this would be the revenue generated by the House of Ye for over ten odd years. On top of that, although he did not know what the other two pills were, it gave a nagging impression that they were worth even more than the rest.

Ye Chen turned his attention to the books and thumbed through the pages; there were three of them.

The first book, 'The Grand Supreme Way of Alchemy' was a book about the ways of cultivating pills. The second book t.i.tled, 'Celestial Scripture on Mystical Beasts Cultivation' was a book detailing the ways a mystical beast could cultivate itself such that they could attain their ultimate form. Lastly, the third book, 'Palm Puncturing the Cosmos' was a treatise of a set of martial arts, completed with its cultivation system along with six of its corresponding martial techniques. 

He may have given all of these items a pa.s.sing glance, but Ye Chen already knew how much each of them merited. In fact, just possessing one of them was enough for a family to court with calamity should the knowledge of its existence ever come to light!

"Let's return Ye Castle at once!" Ye Chen stood up immediately and turned to Little Tanuki as he uttered his decision before stashing the objects with him.

Just as they were about to leave, both the human and the tanuki heard a few chilling howls that echoed outside the mountain pa.s.s.

Little Tanuki started to shudder at the sound, prompting Ye Chen to spy a glance at it. He couldn't fathom what kind of animal would give Little Tanuki so much fear. 

He extended the reach of his astral senses and found out that three large Demon Wolves, each about two feet large, were hurling themselves to their direction!

"Demon Wolves, and three of them too! Quick, hop onto my shoulder!" Ye Chen cried out frantically. This would be his first time facing three Seventh Stage wolves, and Ye Chen's heart was pounding. He was uncertain as to whether he could overcome them at all. 

Little Tanuki obeyed him and jumped up to his shoulder immediately.

Ye Chen started to run down the path in the mountain pa.s.s. 

Precisely then was when the three Demon Wolves, guided by their olfactory capabilities, locked Ye Chen as their target. They stared at the man and the tanuki perching on his shoulder from a distance, as their glowing blue eyes pierced through the blinders of the night like heralds of impending demise.

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