Snow fell heavily. A girl was clad in a long, fire-red fox-fur robe. Her skin was white as snow, a stark contrast to her clothing.
The other man was wearing a rare snow leopard traditional Han Dachang clothing. It did not even contain a single hair from a different species, it was all pure snow leopard fur. He was very tall, yet currently crouched inwards within all the fur and coughed vigorously as if his lungs would pop out any moment. The girl next to him patted his back gently and worriedly.
The person at the head of the line yelled impatiently. “Are you blind? Move aside1”
The girl was not angry. “Brother, may I ask, which way is Spiritual Mountain?”
These were all good-for-nothing, unemployed men who were used to vulgar manners. Someone chuckled and leered, “You’re so beautiful, why don’t you spend a night with me and I’ll tell you?”
Her face reddened a little as she glowered at him. She was about to speak when a voice came, “What’s going on?”
She turned to see a handsome young man riding on a sturdy horse, clad in traditional Chinese clothing. He was Li Chengfeng. Terrified his father would say something crazy and embarrass them again, he had quickly rushed forward. After asking, he leapt off the horse to speak to them at the same level. The girl immediately took a liking to him.
She greeted him. “Brother, may I ask for directions to Spiritual Mountain?”
Li Chengfeng gestured to the ones who spoke previously for them to continue walking, then greeted the girl and the coughing man. “Head down this path, follow it until you enter Cheng’an City, then leave through the Cheng’an north gate and head east. You’ll arrive shortly.”
She smiled lightly and thanked Chengfeng, then helped the man forward.
Li Chengfeng noticed that she was very pretty, and when he studied the man’s face, he saw sunken eyes with dark rings around them. He looked chronically ill.
Stunned, he blurted when they had taken several steps, “You’re both going to seek medical help from the Spiritual Mountain Sect.”
She opened her mouth, about to say something but changed her mind to say, “You’re observant. We are indeed going to get medicine.”
He smiled. “You can visit the Sanwei House or Spiritual Immortal Hall in Cheng’an, these two are great clinics. The doctors are skilled and ethical. If you need to, just mention the Cleansing Moon Li family, they will do their best to help you.”
The girl liked Li Chengfeng even more, even the sickly man beside her smiled and nodded. They then turned and left. More than ten metres later, they both turned around at the same time to look at him in puzzlement. The girl in red yelled, “Brother, have we met?”
Li Chengfeng turned to look at them and thought for a moment. “If you live in the area, I’m sure we might have met even if we don’t know each other!”
The two chuckled. The girl then helped the man away.
Madam Xie lifted the carriage’s curtain, looking out suspiciously. She thought to herself: this voice…. Sounds very familiar…
At the mountain peak ahead of this treacherous mountain path, Uncle Li was looking down at the long line of carriages.
Zhan Qisheng held a cage in his hand, feeding a strip of meat to the squirrel inside. He occasionally shushed and played with the adorable squirrel.
Although it was snowing, sweat sprouted from Uncle Li’s forehead. “Fourth Young Master, you must think this through. Once the beast is released, the consequences will be disastrous!”
Zhan Qisheng chuckled. “We’re not in the northwest, what’s there to be afraid of?”
Uncle Li gave him a long, hard look, privately sighing. They didn’t call this Zhan son the pig for no reason…
Zhan Qisheng played with the squirrel then put the cage down and opened the cage. He turned to look at Uncle Li, who nodded exasperatedly.
Zhan Qisheng fished out a small jade flute and started blowing. A subtle hissing sound came from it, like leaking air but both expressions did not change. However, the squirrel in the cage grew more and more agitated.
As he blew, the squirrel leapt out of the cage as if it had gone insane and started to grow at alarming speed. Muscles expanded so much the layer of fur broke. Its adorably tiny limbs grew into powerful, terrifying front claws and hind legs.
Uncle Li was startled, instinctively taking a step back. Zhan Qisheng put down the jade flute, his expression filled with excitement and madness. A low chuckle gurgled in his throat as if he was very proud of his work.
The ‘squirrel’ had now become a ten-metre tall giant, its features now completely different from a squirrel’s.
Although its tail and limbs remained slender, its head had turned into a bird’s, its mouth morphed into an extremely sharp beak. Muscles pulsed across its four limbs, each foot looked large enough to flatten a grown cattle. The claws on all its limbs were ten-centimetres long, they dug deep into the solid rock ground as if it was just tofu.
Li Bo knew that this was one of the magical beasts that escaped from “Heaven’s Corner” -- the Grim Stork!
After the Zhan family captured it, they used a magical cage to seal it in a small-sized state and remain looking like a squirrel. Only blowing this jade flute would lift the seal and release the terrible beast.
When the Grim Stork was released, it immediately turned to look at the to live humans with it. Although it was once cared for by Zhan Qisheng, it did not recognise him at all. It let out a deafening roar when it saw them both.
The roar shook the forest, as if a gust of wind passed through. Uncle Li covered Zhan Qisheng’s ears and moved his True Yuan to withstand the deafening sound waves.
After the roar, it slammed its claw right at Zhan Qisheng, who did not move but smirked mockingly, staring right at the claw.
Just as he was about to be slammed into a pulp, Uncle Li suddenly pressed on Zhan Qisheng’s shoulder. A circular array appeared beneath his feet and both disappeared into thin air.
The Grim Stork was furious that its prey was gone, raising its head to let out another roar.
Frustrated it had lost its target, it suddenly quietened down to sniff the air. Its head turned, and it saw a long line of carriages heading towards it.
The Grim Stork excitedly scraped its claws against the rock ground, causing stone chips to fly, then let out a piercing cry as it pounced down from the tall mountain peak!