Stranger Danger

Chapter 10: Why Don’t You Guess?



Chapter 10: Why Don’t You Guess?

Bang!

The earth beneath Fang Nianshui erupted as he shot toward the escaping human skin like an arrow. He was still in the air when he swung his long saber and—

Shred!

—sliced the Stranger in half just like that.

A wisp of black qi so miniscule and faint it was almost invisible slipped out of the severed skin, but Fang Nianshui merely let out an imperious hmph and turned his wrist. Fast and deadly, the horizontal sweep easily caught up with the black qi and shattered it before it could go anywhere.

“What on earth is this thing?” Fang Nianshui murmured to himself as he bent down to inspect the human skin.

“Watch out!”

Suddenly, Ye Qing screamed out in warning before swinging his saber straight at Fang Nianshui. He could literally feel the wind whipping against his hair.

Fang Nianshui’s first thought was that Ye Qing was trying to kill him, but then he felt nothing when he heard a rip noise that definitely sounded like something was being torn apart. He spun around just in time to see Ye Qing cutting a human skin in half and destroying its black qi in just one strike. The young man’s execution was just as squeaky clean as his.

Fang Nianshui would’ve been shocked for a while longer, but then he heard more rustling noises coming from all around them. He immediately readied his weapon and watched his surroundings warily. Not a moment too soon, six human skins rushed out from the farms and surrounded them in the blink of an eye.

Just how many people has it killed? Ye Qing thought with a deep frown on his face. It wasn’t easy to identify someone when they were just skin, but he could still tell that the human skins blocking their way were all villagers from August Hill Village.

“I trust you to handle yourself, Ye Qing!” Fang Nianshui encouraged before charging toward the three human skins closest to him.

Ye Qing narrowed his eyes for a moment. Then, he pounced toward the other three human skins.

The human skins weren’t too strong, to be honest. They looked scary, but even Ye Qing was able to carve up the first human skin that ran up to him in one strike. The same strike had crushed the black qi possessing the human skin as well.

Next, Ye Qing shuffled his feet and twisted his waist to one side. His posture looked awkward, but it allowed him to dodge another human skin’s attack and sweep out with his saber. The second human skin was also destroyed just like that.

Unfortunately, that was the end of his flawless performance. The third human skin had managed to maneuver behind him and lashed out.

Although Ye Qing possessed a gargantuan amount of strength, he had never learned any footwork or movement technique in his life. He could only watch as the human skin’s arms landed squarely against his shoulders.

Boom!

His shirt yoke was shredded into a million pieces, and his shoulder blades caved in like they had just been struck by a gigantic hammer. The human skin’s own arms had exploded into bits, which showed just how powerful the blow was.

“Die!”

Ye Qing did not waver, however. He didn’t even budge an inch from his position as he calmly reversed his grip on his saber and lashed out. Just like that, the final human skin on the battlefield was dead.

Or was it?

“Ye Qing, watch out!”

Suddenly, Ye Qing heard a warning cry that drove every cell in his body into overdrive. He immediately turned his head as far to the right as possible. An ordinary person would have broken their neck trying to do this, but Ye Qing was an adept Reforged. His flexibility and sturdiness had long since exceeded what was considered normal a while ago, so he was fine.

The next moment, Ye Qing felt a terrible force smashing viciously into his shoulder. He could hear his bones snapping as his shoulder and his elbow became bent at an odd angle.

“Hgg!” Ye Qing gasped both in pain and fear. If his reaction was just a little slower, the attack likely would have struck him in the head. The consequences would’ve been unimaginable, assuming that his head didn’t straight up explode like a watermelon.

As expected, Ye Qing looked up to find a human skin floating in front of him. It was about to dish out another blow when Ye Qing let out a hmphed loudly before executing a back roll and lashing out with his saber at the same time. He was able to slice the human skin in half before it could reach him.

It was only then Fang Nianshui’s voice came, “Are you alright, Ye Qing!? Hang on! I’m coming to help you now!”

Instead of running over to Fang Nianshui, Ye Qing took two steps away from him and watched the hunter warily. He sneered while dragging a limp arm, “Help me? No, I’m pretty sure you’re coming to kill me!”

At the distance, Fang Nianshui skidded to a stop and paused for a good few seconds as if he was trying to digest the absurdity he just heard. Then, he asked with a look of utter confusion, “Did you hit your head or something, Ye Qing? I don’t get what you’re saying.”

Ye Qing’s tone grew even more scornful. “I haven’t hit my head, and neither have you, so let’s stop pretending and cut to the chase already, shall we?”

“...”

“You’re the assassin Chen Zheng sent to kill me, am I right?”

At first, Fang Nianshui looked completely flabbergasted at Ye Qing’s accusation. But when a few seconds passed, and Ye Qing’s expression remained firm and unwavering, he finally dropped his mask and asked curiously, “I’m surprised. You’re not as dumb as you look after all. I must ask though: how did you find out?”

“Not even going to defend yourself? Well, I suppose you’re not that type of person,” commented Ye Qing with a raised eyebrow before continuing, “It’s simple. During yesterday’s expedition, I couldn’t help but notice that you were giving me looks every now and then while you were explaining things. We live in the same village, and we see each other all the time even before I joined your squad. So what possible reason do you have to sneak glances at me like I’m your secret crush? It couldn’t be because I’m so much more handsome than you, right?”

“Two, when the Echo Caterpillar took control of Zhou Nian and attacked us, you could’ve stepped in and saved me and Li Er. Instead, you just stood by and did nothing at all. That was a little too much even if I pretend that you were trying to give us a lesson in independence or something. Of course, I now know for certain that you were trying to use Zhou Nian to kill me!”

“Third, I was leading the way while we were returning to the village yesterday, and the whole time I could feel you burning a hole in my back. There was even a hint of killing intent. You would’ve acted then if we hadn’t run into other watchmen squads, wouldn’t you?”

Ye Qing sucked in a deep breath before launching into the last part of his analysis, “Of course, these are just guesses on my part. I could just have an overactive imagination. But then, you proved me wrong by ‘letting slip’ that human skin just now.”

“These human skins may possess enormous strength, but they’re also slow and very fragile. If I, someone who has never learned any saber art or movement technique before could defeat three of them on my own, how is it possible for ‘the most skilled and experienced hunter’ in August Village to screw up so badly that one of them managed to escape you? Even if you’re ugly as sin, that’s a little too much, don’t you think?”

“A splendid analysis!” Fang Nianshui started slow-clapping while looking incredibly impressed. “I still have a question though. If you’ve suspected me since yesterday, then why did you save me just now?”

Ye Qing chuckled. “I’ve already told you, I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining things until you proved me true. Also, I would rather believe that there are more good people than there are bad people in this world. Unfortunately, I was wrong!”

Fang Nianshui let out a wistful sigh. “That got me in the heart, Ye Qing! I’m almost having second thoughts now! In fact, how about this: I’ll let you live if you tell me your secret?”

“Secret? What secret?” Ye Qing frowned. He did not know exactly what Fang Nianshui was referring to. Was he referring to the Annon Sutra, his hidden strength, or his very unusual blood?

A knowing smirk spread across the hunter’s face. “You’re not an initiate Reforged who just started practicing the ‘Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation’, are you? You’re a journeyman Reforged!”

Ye Qing did not bat an eyelid. “Really? What makes you say that?”

Fang Nianshui spread his arms wide. “If you’re not a journeyman Reforged, there is no way you could’ve survived the Bloodsucking Mosquitoes or these human skin Strangers. They might not be especially deadly, but they’re still as strong as an ox. If you really are an initiate Reforged, you couldn’t have defeated three of them on your own.”

“Oh, I almost forgot. You were clearly bitten by the Bloodsucking Mosquitoes yesterday, but your skin looks as good as new, meaning that you’ve made a full recovery after just one night of rest. How is this possible if you don’t have a journeyman Reforged’s vigor and vitality?”

Ye Qing tilted his head in confusion. “Weren’t you the one who gave me a spirit snake ointment yesterday?”

“Sure, but you didn’t use them, did you?” declared Fang Nianshui with surprising confidence.

“Well, yes. But how did you know?”

An evil smirk crossed Fang Nianshui’s lips then. “If you had, I wouldn’t be seeing you today.”

Ye Qing put two and two together and exclaimed in shock, “You… poisoned the spirit snake ointment?”

Thank goodness he was suspicious of Fang Nianshui since yesterday, and he never thought of using the spirit snake ointment since he had the dragon-serpent runes. Otherwise, the consequences would have been unthinkable.

Truly, one should always guard against the harm others might do to them!

“That’s right.” Fang Nianshui readily admitted his crime. “My turn to ask another question. How did you go from a complete nobody to journeyman Reforged in just seven to eight days? It had taken me more than half a year to reach the same level. Is it some sort of medicine? Unknown cultivation art? Or a Strange Artifact?” Visjt n𝒐velbin(.)c𝒐m for new updates

Ye Qing chuckled. “You’re a good guesser, aren’t you? Why don’t you guess?”

Fang Nianshui grinned savagely in response to Ye Qing’s provocation, “If I have to guess, it’s gotta be a Strange Artifact or, hmm, I know! A Strange Artifact. It's how you were able to swiftly increase your strength while still appearing 'ordinary' to everyone, am I right?”

Ye Qing chuckled again but did not say anything. His response was ambiguous, but Fang Nianshui believed he was right because the absence of denial itself was an implicit admission. So, he offered, “I’ll let you live if you’ll give me your Strange Artifact. What do you say?”

Ye Qing barked out a laugh before shaking his head decisively. “Absolutely not.”

Fang Nianshui was surprised by how vehement he sounded. “Why not?”

Ye Qing sneered, “Because you had never planned on letting me live, duh. If you really wanted to deal with me, you’d never have allowed that human skin Stranger to target my head.”

If he really was a journeyman Reforged, the blow to the head would’ve killed him without question. The hunter would never have done that if he was planning to cut a deal with him.

“Tsk, tsk. I take back my words. You are far smarter than I gave you credit for,” Fang Nianshui sounded impressed, but his tone steadily grew darker as he spoke. “It’s too bad that smart people also have the tendency to die before their time. I cannot let you live now even if Chen Zheng had suddenly decided to change his mind.”

Ye Qing shrugged noncommittally before asking, “Aren’t you worried that I might have hidden my ‘Strange Artifact’ somewhere? That killing me would lose you the means to find it?”

Fang Nianshui let out a cold chuckle. “Why are you acting dumb right after I praised your intelligence? One of the functions of your Strange Artifact is to disguise your presence. Naturally, you must carry it with you at all times. Once I've killed you, the Strange Artifact would naturally fall into my hands.”

"Even if I'm wrong, I only need to search your house to get it. How big is your house, and how much furniture do you have? You could’ve dug a well underneath your bed to hide it, and I’m still going to find it eventually. This is my golden opportunity, and no one can take it away from me—you, or the heavens themselves!”

“So, kid… are you prepared to go to the afterlife?”

“I must admit that most of your guesses are correct. You, too, are smarter than I gave you credit for.”

Ye Qing let out a sigh before slowly lifting his head. Then, he cracked a grin as sunny as the sky above their heads and declared, "Too bad for you, you got one thing wrong. I… am not a journeyman Reforged!”


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