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107 Tracking Party

    "Look, there's blood." A man dressed in thick, crisp white robes pointed at the snow, at the droplets of dark crimson blood that scattered across the snow. It did not seem that a fight had taken place, or there would have been blood splattered across the branches or the trunks of the trees, splattered in all different directions. Accompanying the blood was a set of small shoe prints, proving that the blood was most likely from a wound that continued to bleed, as the person continued walking. The blood and the shoe prints continued to lead into the forested snowy landscape that seemed to be without end.

    Another man who is more advanced in age, dressed in light gray robes looks closely at the blood. He bends down to inspect it. With two fingers, he scoops a small chunk of snow, giving it a sniff, "It doesn't look or smell like blood from that thing." He says with a deep breath, furrowing his thick brows.

    "How do you know what its blood is like?" The man in white asks with a chuckle. Not believing that this man before him would truly know. He's just pretending to be the expert.

    The two men walk further, trying to catch up with whatever it was that had left the blood. The tracks were quite an easy trail to follow. With the fallen snow, it was so easy to track, since accompanied by footprints was also a trail of discernable blood. Even if it was uncertain if they would find what they were searching for at the end of the trail, it was still the only lead they had gotten in the past couple of days.

    "Look." The man dressed in white pointed ahead.

    There was a figure cloaked in blue ahead of them, the figure seemed to be trembling, though that was not all, there were also sounds of muffled laughter coming from the same source. This figure did not look like the thing they were searching for, but they still kept their hands near their swords as a precaution.

    Their footsteps lightly inching forward with their hands by their sword handle.

    The trembling and sounds of hysterical laughter came to an abrupt stop, as though their footsteps had been discovered.

    The figure did not turn around, but a childlike voice emanated from the front, "Gentleman, who might you be searching for?" There was not the slightest bit of worry or fear within this soft voice. They had come to the conclusion that this person was either a child or someone who practiced the dark arts, leading to this predicament where the practice had gone awry, thus the tainted black blood that trickled in the snow.

    "Turn around... Slowly." The man in white said as he was close to unsheathing the sword. The man in gray looked on with an amusing manner, but he had not yet released the handle of his own sword.

    "Oh... Why should I?" The voice was now imbued with a sense of curiosity. This time, they could not deny that the voice was of innocence that anyone would wish to protect.

    Even if it was the voice of an innocent child, reason told them that there were no innocent children that could get lost in this kind weather, and still survive,

    "NOW!" The man in white yelled, starting to run out of patience. The sword unsheathed abruptly as he swung with both hands.

    Just as the sharp sword, glistening with killing intent was about to reach her, a white shadow flickered out of nowhere. The man in white fell like a broken kite.

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    The sudden thud slightly shocked Xue'er as she heard the sound of the thud.

    Turning slightly, she could hear growls. The growls, she remembered, belonged exclusively to little shadow. At that moment, Xue'er could feel her heart warm slightly as she looked towards the wounded man who had helplessly clutched his throat. His fingers, stained with blood at his neck, there was an expression of shock as he looked into the emptiness.

    Believing that Xue'er was the one who had mortally wounded his companion, the man in gray also unsheathed his sword, charging towards Xue'er.

    With such an abrupt force aimed towards her, she stilled at the forthcoming blade without the slightest bit of hesitation. There was a bit of mirth in her eyes wondering if this blade might be able to do its job.

    There was this possibility.

    The sound of a low growl emitted from behind the man. He turned around in shock to find that nothing was behind him.

    "Arg!" A groan came from the man's lips. As he too fell onto the snow.

    Their eyes were wide with terror as they clutched at their throats in an effort to keep from bleeding out. Yet all that effort was wasteful, as the crimson blood gushed out freely like that of a punctured animal skin filled with water.

    In their dying breath, the figure turned to look at them. They could see a young girl dressed in thin clothing, those eyes were like that of a night creature, with pupils speckled with crimson. Her face was pale, like that of a corpse and her hand was holding onto a wound that was leaking dark crimson blood that did not resemble that of a living human's.

    Those eyes staring back at them with detachment and indifference, as though she could watch on as the world burned right before her eyes. It was at this moment that they knew, this was not what they were looking for, but it was not far off either.

    Her figure came closer to the dying man in gray. She observed him for a while, seeing that his graying hair and robes were stained with blood. Her watchful eyes glimmering a hint of red. Even if he was on the verge of dying, he could not help but feel a sense of alarm, trying to get away as she neared, after all...

    Those eyes were not human.

    He could see the pain in those eyes of hers as he tried to back away. That was to no avail, as he felt his hands becoming colder. To someone like him, who had practiced the way of energy for so many years, he should not have felt the bitter cold, but now he did.

    "This was only in my speculation, but I now understand." The girl said softly as she gently ran her fingers over her eyelids, a burst of a short, mocking laugh escaped from her lips. She slowly backed away from the man who was arrested in such fear. Her voice was so soft that no one should have heard it. But, perhaps it was the burst of clarity that came before death that the aged man had heard that voice. He stopped struggling to get away, calmly looking directly into hers. His breathing serene as the last drops of blood left his body.

    Once they had died, Xue'er stood over the two, who had just bathed in their own blood, to the point of dying their light-colored clothes red. The wound that was on their necks were quite rough, quite ragged, with the flesh having been ripped by the sharp claws and pointy teeth, but little shadow did get the job done.

    Cut from the same tree they were, but how could they be so different? The man in white had an expression of unwillingness, fear, and abhorrence written all over his face, while the older man had an expression of eternal peace on his face.

    Little shadow, now red and bathed in blood, shook its fur, sending a few droplets of blood onto the pristine white snow.

    Xue'er looked at the snow that was now endowed with a few droplets of true crimson. This scene was like that of an oversaturated brush that spilled paint upon a new piece of paper. It was such a pity for the wasted piece of paper.

    She silently stayed rooted in place, until the snow had blown over to cover the bodies before she decided to leave.
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