Proofers/Editors: nick0 (Pascal)
Once Zhang and Cai Cao made it back to camp, the Blizzard Bear meat was tossed directly on a hot iron cast skillet. The tender meat sizzled while giving off an otherworldly aroma. Besides frying the bear meat, Cai Cao also skewed it and grilled it over an open fire causing the juicy fat to drip into the dancing fires.
Drool flowed out of Zhang’s mouth as he watched Cai Cao skillfully preparing the bear meat. Although he was ready to stuff every piece of meat in front of him into his mouth, Zhang did not rush Cai Cao because over the time they've stayed together he had found out that Cai Cao hated to be rushed especially when he was focused on cooking.
There was a time that Zhang had rushed him and that resulted in not getting to eat dinner and breakfast for two days.
“I bet you're really hungry right now. But you can wait hehehe.” Cai Cao thought as he looked at Zhang from the corner of his glinting eyes as he purposely took longer to prepare the food.
The longer Cai Cao took the more Zhang gulped as he imaged the Blizzard Bears meat melting in his mouth as he bit into it. It could be said that he was currently eating with his eyes while he waited to fill his stomach.
It was not until he noticed that Zhang was about to go mad from hunger did, Cai Cao finally present Zhang with the perfectly cooked meat. Of course like always, Cai Cao’s dishes came out looking inedible, but for those like Zhang who have tasted these dishes, they would know that the taste of Cai Cao’s dishes are out of this world delicious.
“Finally!” Zhang cried as he picked up a charred looking rib and bit in it. Despite looking burnt and inedible, the meat was perfectly juicy and almost seemed to melt inside Zhang’s mouth.
“Maybe because it's the meat of a Blizzard Bear, but after eating it my body feels cool and refreshed.” Zhang said as he continued eating the Blizzard Bear meat.
“I think so too.” Cai Cao said as he also ate the bear meat. But unlike Zhang who simply picked up the meat and bit into it, Cai Cao ate in a more refined manner. He would pull the meat off the bones and then eat the meat slowly with chopsticks, giving a refined and noble like presence as he ate.
Although Zhang had somewhat lost his table manners after his brief time in the army, not much could be said about him because during times of war, especially for a soldier, eating in a refined like manner was a luxury they could not afford.
With that being said, even before his time in the army, Zhang did not eat as elegantly as Cai Cao did.
“Although I miss my family and old friends, I can't say that times like this are half bad. To be able to eat a delicious meal with a dear friend is wonderful.” Zhang said as he looked at Cai Cao with a smile.
“Likewise.” Cai Cao grinned.
But like all perfect moments, they do not withstand the rest of time and often escape us like a gentle summer’s breeze.
As Zhang and Cai Cao continued their meal, the woods around them were filled with activity. Small animals were scurrying about, trying to find a place to flee or hide, larger animals and demonic beasts frantically trampled bushes and smashed into trees as they ran amok.
The mysterious or rather devilish silhouette was slowly making its way through the woods and towards the camp that our two adventurers had built. Any poor animal, demonic beast or not that what was caught in its path was turned into a withered husk and left lifeless on the ground.
“B-o-d-i-e-s.” The shadowy figure repeated as it inched ever closer to where Zhang and Cai Cao were. The hundreds of blood red eyes that littered its shadowy body could be seen as it walked in and out of the moonlight.
A cold tingle crept down Zhang’s spine causing his whole body to shake as he was enjoying his meal. Soon an eerie coldness swept over the camp and the dancing flames receded and were barely able to maintain their existence.
The wind began to howl as the clouds began to roll in, creating a shroud that obstructed the moonlight from sharing its brilliance.
“R-r-un!” Cai Cao tried to squeeze out as a horrid expression appeared on his handsome face. Of all the times together with Cai Cao, Zhang had never once witnessed such an expression, nor would he ever imagine Cai Cao making such an expression at all.
Slowly as Zhang turned his head, a shadowy figure with hundreds of blood red eyes came into view. The figure swayed as if it did not possess a definite form while it inched ever closer to where Zhang and Cai Cao were. The fence that Zhang had erected did nothing to obstruct the figure as it walked through the wooden planks that were stabbed into the ground.
Despite being told by Cai Cal to run, Zhang could not muster even an ounce of strength.
The two of them could not even budge because their limbs had gone limp due to fear. Perhaps it was because their cultivation were lacking or their experiences were little but the sight of the shadowy figure made the very fiber of their being quake.
“Dammit why can't I move!” Zhang cursed in his mind, he knew that if he did not run then some unspeakable horror would befall him and Cai Cao, but his body simply would not listen to him.
It was not until the shadowy figure was but a few feet away did a light bulb light up inside of Zhang’s head. Without a second thought, he bit down onto his tongue, causing blood to ooze out into his mouth.
Thanks to the sharp pain, his body jolted and he was able to crawl up onto his feet and hoist Cai Cao over his shoulder. His feet began to move as the irony taste of blood and the painful sensation within his mouth kept his mind sharp.
Of all things, Zhang was not brave nor courageous, however the nightmarish war that he was thrown into had given him an iron clad will that would allow him to do next to anything to survive.
Swung over Zhang’s shoulder, Cai Cao saw a barrage of boney white hands stretch out from within the shadowy figure and across the air.
The fear even made Cai Cao’s usually quick minded self become muddled, well at least until he came to his senses.
“N-n-no! I can’t die like this. I was suppose to soar through the heavens, I was suppose to be free.” He thought, as the scene of a familiar courtyard and a tower that stretched into the skies released over and over inside his mind.
With shaking hands Cai Cao reached into his robes and pulled out four miniature stone statues that he and Zhang had bought.
Injecting a tiny bit of his essence into the statues, Cai Cao tossed them onto the ground. Where they began to grow in size and become life sized. Despite so much happening, all of this transpired within mere moments.
“Attack!” Cai Cao roared, as four life sized statues, two with swords and two with spears stood awaiting his commands.
The stone soldiers and the barrage of hint white hands clashed, but sadly within an instant the stone soldiers crumbled and turned into dust.
What could have been used to deal with late level fragment realm demonic beasts did not even last a second against the shadowy figure. But it provided Zhang with just enough time to create distance between them and the their attacker.
“Use the scroll!” Cai Cao screamed to Zhang.
“Ye-yes.” Zhang replied as he pulled out the scroll that Cai Cao had given him earlier.
Once he tore the scroll, it turned into a blinding light and the ground began to shake. From beneath the earth a pair of massive stone arms began to raise. Soon enough a golem with the size of a large house was standing between our adventurers and the looming shadow of death.
“Attack!”Zhang roared, after receiving a command the golems bellowed a deafening roar and charged at the shadowy figure.
However the moment it smashed into the shadow, nothing happened. It was as if the golem has struck a wall of smoke because the shadowy figure dispersed and scattered around the massive golem in the form of a eerie black mist.
Without bothering to stop, Zhang continued to run forward while still carrying Cai Cao over his shoulder.
“No, I can't keep running endlessly like this. I must find a place to hide.” Zhang thought as a series of possible paths popped into his mind.
“Can’t head to the gate, the area there has no cover.” He thought before changing directions and running into the woods. Although he knew the deeper they went into the woods the more demonic beasts they would likely run into, to escape their pursuer he had to take this gamble.
After Zhang had ran a considerable distance, a loud rumble could be heard in the direction where their camp was.
If Zhang was able to see the site where his camp was, he would most likely be flabbergasted because the fence and stove he had built, along with the tents that Cai Cao had erected were no where insight.
This was because their entire camp was crushed underneath a pile of stones. The pile of stones being the stone golem that they had summoned.
Unlike the stone statues, this golem was something that could combat those that are the mid stages of the elementary realm, which is an entire realm higher than the fragmented realm.
Atop the broken golem was the ever fearful shadowy figure that roamed the Graveyard.
After dismantling the golem with hundreds of bony white skeletal hands, the figure surveyed the area with its hundreds of eyes as it repeated the word “B-o-d-i-e-s” over and over again.
“I think we lost it, you can put me down now.” Cai Cao said to Zhang after he had been carried by Zhang for close to an half an hour.
Moments later once his feet touched the ground, Cai Cao looked at Zhang with a somewhat embarrassed look.
“ I think I spotted an entrance into a grotto over there, we might be able to hide in there for the night.” Zhang suggested as he pointed into the distance.
“Let's go.” Cai Cao replied.
A few minutes passed before they found themselves in front of a small hole that was big enough for a person to squeeze into, but thanks to the moonlight that was shining down from above they could tell that the hole opened up into a small chamber.
They were currently located near one of the small hills that were located within the middle ring of the Graveyard and it would be dangerous to stay outside. Well regardless of where they were within the Graveyard it would be dangerous.
Upon entering the small hole that pierced into the side of the hill, they found a fairly spacious area inside. Despite it being so dark due to the lack of light inside they could tell that the cave was as large as a small house.
“Let me go get some branches and leaves or something to cover the entrance. I'll also bring back some firewood” Zhang said as he crawled out of the small entrance.
“To think something so dangerous was trapped in here.” Zhang thought as he picked dried leaves and branches off the ground.
Once he returned with a bundle of firewood and a heap of dried leaves, Cai Cao started a fire while he covered the entrance into the cave and the two soon had a minor part of their sense of security restored.
“I'm sorry for dragging you into this.” Zhang said in a somewhat dejected tone as he looked over at Cai Cao with a sorry expression.
“No need to apologize, how could we have known that something so powerful was trapped in here. If it had just been only the demonic beasts then the items that we brought would be more than enough to safeguard our lives.” Cai Cao replied.
“Yea who would have known…We’re also stuck here for another two days before the barrier can be opened.” Zhang said with a frown.
“Two more days… we don't have that many treasures left to use either… But it doesn't seem like that thing is active during the day though, so as long as we stay out of sight at night then we hopefully should be fine.” Cai Cao said as he pulled a scroll and a few miniature stone statues out from his robes.
“We can summon one more golem, a pair of stone horses and a pair of stone shield men. Here you take the golem summoning scroll and a horse statue.” He said, handing Zhang a scroll and miniature statue.
“I'll take a horse and shield man instead.” Zhang declined, knowing that the golem scroll was their strongest magical item at hand.
“No, take the scroll. If it wasn't for you then I'd be dead, so I will feel more at ease if you'd take it. ” Cai Cao said with a faint smile.
After some back and forth, and a sigh from Cai Cao, Zhang stored away a miniature statue of a horse and one of a shield man.
“We should get some sleep, and go back and check our campsite in the morning.” Zhang suggested as he began spreading dry leaves onto the ground, creating a makeshift bed.
“Although it won't be too comfy, it should make due for the night.” Zhang said with a slight chuckle as he laid atop the pile of leaves.
“ What are you waiting for?” Zhang asked Cai Cao after a few moments passed.
“I'm good over here.” Cao Cao replied with a fake laugh.
“You sure?” Zhang asked.
“Yea I'm going to sit by the fire for a bit.”
“Okay don't stay up too late, we have a long day ahead of us.” Zhang said before shutting his eyes.
However his eyes did not remain shut for the remainder of the night. Only a few hours had passed before a cold breeze made its way into the cave, causing Zhang’s body to go cold, thus waking him.
Half sleep, he saw Cai Cao who was leaning against the cave wall, shivering.
Shaking his head, he got up and walked over to where Cai Cao was.