Covering her face with her hands, she peered through the gaps in her fingers.
"Im counting to ten~~!" Ling Ling shouted beside the haystack in the night.
"Dont put down your hands."
"Keep your face covered with your hands! No peeking!"
"Run, run! Let her chase us! Haha!"
The children scattered and quickly hid in the field filled with haystacks.
Ling Ling, however, had no idea that the rest of the children were in cahoots to play a prank on her. They had finally agreed to play with her only because of the prank.
After all, who would want to play late in the night with a stupid girl born with weak eyesight?
In the lonely field, only the girls crisp counting echoed without end.
The children who had gone into hiding were already gone by now. In the huge plot of farmland, only Ling Ling was left, her hands over her face, leaning on a haystack and counting.
All she had on was a single piece of thin shirt. Under the rustling night wind, it was barely sufficient to keep her warm. That, however, did not dampen her cheery happiness. Nobody had ever wanted to play with her until the childrens unexpected "acceptance" of her today.
Although they made her the "ghost" who had to catch them, she didnt mind being a "ghost" as long as there were others to play with.
"Ten! Ready or not, here I come!"
Peering through the gaps in her fingers, Ling Ling spun round excitedly, looking everywhere.
The field was deathly still. Only her voice reverberated across the air.
"Let me see. wherere you hiding?" Ling Ling walked along, her steps uneven. She was born with naturally weak eyesight. Anything that was slightly further away from her was a blur.
Tonight, the moonlight was dim. With her hands over her face still, she could only see through the gaps in her fingers. This limited her sight even further.
As she walked along, she sneaked up on a stack of hay.
"Hey, Little Yuan! Is that you?"
She jumped over and looked around the haystack.
It was totally empty.
"Aiya, its empty" Ling Ling exclaimed disappointedly as she began walking towards another haystack.
Along the way, she almost tripped and fell, but finally reached the second haystack.
"Chen Daniu! Is that you!?" She jumped around the haystack, which was larger than the previous one, again.
It was still empty.
One by one, she kept searching patiently.
Nobody had ever played with her. She came from a poor family and was born in poor circumstances, thus she had always been despised by others. Now, finally, she had playmates. She was happy. Really, very, very happy.
Ling Ling searched and searched for god-knows-how-long.
The night grew darker and darker.
And she still had not found a single person.
"Where are all of you?" Ling Ling was exhausted. She stopped, panting breathlessly.
Suddenly, under the dim moonlight and through the gaps in her fingers, she seemed to catch sight of a corner of some robe hanging from the haystack.
Someone seemed to be hiding right inside that stack of hay. That corner of a robe looked like the the clothes worn by one of the children.
'It must be Ah Jun!' Ling Ling guessed as she sneaked around the hay stack.
Her steps were very slow, almost tripping several times. Each time, however, she would do her best to stay silent.
Until she was right in front of the corner of the robe.
Ling Ling sucked in a deep breath of air.
"Ive got you! Ah Jun!!!" She lifted the stack of hay to reveal the person hiding in it.
Vaguely, she saw a child standing in the haystack. His face was white like paper, and seemed to be smiling at her.
Dong Qi sat up straight, startled and soaked through with cold sweat. She gazed at the painting of carps and shrimps facing her bed.
The black of the shrimps and the crimson of the carps formed a stark contrast with each other. She could see the rich colors even in the dark of the night.
"Another nightmare" Dong Qi breathed in deeply. The nightmare had been way too realistic. Even now, her heart was palpitating hard and fast.
Peering sideways through the window, she saw the full moon hanging in the night sky, raining moonlight down like silk.
"Young Miss! Young Miss!"
Hurried footsteps drew near, followed by a series of urgent shouts.
"Young Miss, are you alright!?"
It was Cui Ping.
Dong Qi wiped away the sweat on her forehead and got down from the bed to open the door.
Cui Ping was a servant girl with two stubby ponytails. Presently, she rushed into the room and held Dong Qi.
"Did you have another nightmare, Young Miss!?"
"Mm Im fine, Im fine" Dong Qi smiled bitterly. "Oh yes, wheres our invited Crimson Whale Sect representative now?"
"It takes two days to reach this place from Mountain-Edge City. They should be here soon?" Seeing that Dong Qi was fine, Cui Ping relaxed.
"Yea should be soon" Dong Qi clenched her hands together. They were soaked in sweat.
The carriage traveled through the woods. Thick foliage surrounded the carriage on both sides.
The carriage was riding along the mountain path at medium pace. Lu Sheng sat by the carriage window, rocking up and down with the carriage as it continued.
Xu Chui was the driver; Lu Sheng had brought only him this time.
As an expert of the Soaring Eagle Squad, Xu Chui was the one with the most potential to break through Strength Proficiency and step into Intent Proficiency. Lu Sheng intended to groom him as his trusted helper.
Fortunately, they had brought along sufficient fodder and rations for this trip towards Tea Sect.
"Xu Chui, how much further to Pure Tea Town?" Lu Sheng reached for a bottle of Golden Fragrance Ointment in his waist pouch, dug out a small piece with his index finger, and brought it to his mouth.
"My Lord, well be there once we go over that hill. When we reach Pure Tea Town, we would reach Tea Sect too. This area makes a living by planting tea leaves. Were surrounded by tea plantations. We should be near," Xu Chui replied respectfully.
Lu Sheng nodded, keeping the Golden Fragrance Ointment.
This stuff was nourishing to the body and was extremely effective for maintaining the bodys optimal condition for practicing hard body skills and outer force skills. Nowadays, he consumed a little bit of it each time to maintain his bodys condition.
After all, his hard body accomplishments were simply too out of the world. Too many skills were stacked on his body. Simply eating alone was no longer sufficient to maintain his bodys needs. Hence, he needed such daily medicinal supplements lest his body was overtaxed and lost its longevity.
Fortunately, Ive also cultivated life force skills to make up for it. Otherwise, just nourishing and taking care of my body would be an uphill task, Lu Sheng understood.
Feeling the never-ending cycle of inner Qi in his body, he shut his eyes and channeled Qi gradually, visualizing the overview diagram of Aquarius Qi in his mind.
Man is born with three treasures. Extract the Qi of the three treasures and condense it into Essence to supplement what is innately lacking. The meditation diagram was a painting of the sun hanging in the blue skies. But within the sun, cotton-like patterns swirled.
Lu Sheng shut his eyes and meditated. Swiftly, his body went into the unique mode for cultivating Aquarius QI.
Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill repelled all other forms of inner Qi in his body by instinct. It so happened that Aquarius Qi required Qi to move in several meridians that coincided with Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill, making it extremely difficult for him to sense Qi.
Already having expected it, Lu Sheng remained undeterred.
His inner Qi had long since reached the limits of his meridians capacity. All that had changed now was that the full-mastery of hard body skills had induced a qualitative change in his body, resulting in a slight expansion of his meridians. That was the reason why he now had a tiny bit of room in his meridians to cultivate Aquarius Qi.
After cultivating for a while, he opened his eyes and smiled bitterly.
'It still doesnt work my meridians and dantian have long since been filled. Before Aquarius Qi can even form in my body, its suppressed by Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill. If I dont find a way out, I cant upgrade my inner force and inner Qi at all.'
On the carriage, Lu Sheng fell deep in thought. Without cultivating an inner force of Yin-nature, he had no way of balancing the Yin and Yang in his body. This was a ticking time bomb. But now, his meridians were already thoroughly saturated with Qi.
'Inner Qi, inner Qi its the essence of the food we take in, accumulated over time, produced by the flow of the meridians. Its the accumulated surplus of the bodys physical strength, formed into energies of different natures and attributes.
Since its essentially Qi (gas), is there any possibility of compressing it to increase its density? Just like how the air can be compressed and condensed into liquid state under certain conditions, like high pressure and low temperature.
As for condensing inner Qi into the liquid state, what conditions need to be satisfied?' Lu Sheng shut his eyes in thought.
His hard body skills were too strong, such that his body would morph into a different form when he activated his strength. He labeled this mode as Yang Extreme. Yang Extreme Mode seemed to have satisfied one of the conditions requiredhigh pressure.
'The first condition required to compress air into liquid form is high pressure. To allow the liquefied inner Qi to flow in my body, the first requirement is for my body to be sufficiently tough as a vessel. I think Ive satisfied that requirement.
Additionally, I need a way to increase pressure.'
Lu Sheng stretched out his hand. Gradually, an invisible ball of scorching Qi materialized on his palm.
He lifted his palm up till it was level with his eyes. Peering through the ball of inner Qi, the scenery outside was distorted.
Clearly, some transparent form of gaseous matter in it was distorting rays of light.
'To compress it, I may inject inner Qi into a metal box no, no, metal can conduct inner Qi. I need to find a material that does not conduct inner Qi. Now thats a headache.'
Lu Sheng sighed and retracted the Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies inner Qi in his palm.
Outside the window, the woods were gradually replaced by tea plantation, rising and falling like waves with the hills.
Oily green tea plants covered the hills like a carpet. Many of them were withered; no one had come to pluck them, making the scene look deserted.
The carriage continued and quickly entered a small historic-looking town, which comprised only seven or eight streets.
The town was laden with cracked cement slabs. Most of the stores were closed. Every now and then, they would pass by fire basins for burning joss paper.
Travelers on the streets were scarce. Only a few hurried figures could be seen once in a while.
"This is Pure Tea Town?" Lu Sheng frowned. "Isnt there a Winged Honor Guard fortress nearby? This place should fall under their protective boundary. Why does it look so cold and deserted?"
Xu Chui shook his head, "Your subordinate does not know either. Perhaps we should first find the headquarters of Tea Sect. Our Crimson Whale Sect branch has pulled out from this place long ago. Weve got to find the locals from Tea Sect to figure out whats going on."
Lu Sheng took out the letter from Tea Sect requesting reinforcements. The seal stamped on it belonged to Sect Master Dong Shengping, yet the handwriting on the letter looked fine and intricate.
"The letter was sent by a certain Dong Qi. According to intelligence, Dong Qi should be the only daughter of the current sect master of Tea Sect. There must be some reason why the letter was sent by her. We just need to get to the address. Its Holy Fame Plaza, East Sixth Street."
"Yes, sir," Xu Chui acknowledged, driving the carriage along while looking out for the numbers on the buildings.
Before long, they turned twice and saw a lanky man sporting a white cap greet them.
"May I know if you happen to be the esteemed representatives of Crimson Whale Sect?" This square-faced man asked politely.
"You are?" Xu Chui asked.
"Were the ones dispatched by young miss Dong Qi of Tea Sect to welcome the esteemed representatives. Esteemed representatives, this way please," the man welcomed them with a wide smile.