A mixture of fear and stress could be seen on the faces of everyone that was currently present there. It was not just because of the dead mercenary, but because of the mercenary company that he belonged to. The Ashen Cloak mercenary company was considered to be the strongest mercenary company.
Although it was not the biggest one, it did have the largest amount of cultivators in it than any other mercenary company. Their elite teams were considered to be the best and had the highest success rate than any other mercenary company.
They were also the only mercenary company that actually had the backing of a Nascent soul realm cultivator. No one knew who this backer was, but they knew better than to offend them. Because of this, even the cultivation sects were respectful to them and actually employed them in certain matters.
An elite team of mercenaries usually had around seven people, all of whom were cultivators. Some of them were even led personally by the higher-ups of the mercenary company. These were people who were actually core condensation realm cultivators themselves.
Exactly because of this, everyone was afraid. Teng Xiaolian and his team knew that they perhaps had the same strength as that of this team. But if even this team had died, they could not help but imagine if the same would happen to them.
But even still, they knew that they could not just let this go and would have to investigate it. The mercenaries had their own code of conduct, which they followed. They would help out their comrades if the need so arose and inform their higher-ups.
Their current situation was already stressful, as most of the higher-ups were on missions, while the others would take a long time to respond. Thus all they could rely on right now was themselves.
“We have to investigate this.” Hao Xiao was the first one to break the silence.
“Are you sure it would be wise?” Hong Luo spoke.
Teng Xiaolian and the others gritted their teeth in hesitation. They knew that while they were afraid, if they didn’t investigate this and went against their code, they would lose all their respect and reputation.
For a mercenary, if there was something that was above money, it was their respect and reputation. For it was this very thing that allowed them to receive jobs. It was also because of this that they were trusted and employed. If they lost it, there would be nothing they could do.
“We will wait till the morning and see if Zhou Ye wakes up. We will have to talk to him and get to know what exactly happened. Unless we do that there is no point in further discussing this.” Teng Xiaolian spoke.
After saying this, Teng Xiaolian looked around and made sure that everyone understood his words. Seeing that no one seem to be objecting, he nodded his head.
Lin Mu could see the benefit in waiting till the morning, thus he had nothing to say. And besides this, he had not said that he was going to take part in their investigation. It was fine for him to save Zhou Ye, but he was not going to help them unless he got something in return.
Teng Xiaolian looked at Hong Luo and then at Lin Mu. He let out a breath before speaking.
“Brother Lin Mu, if it comes to it, will you be willing to help us? Fear not, we will ensure that proper remuneration is paid to you.”
Hong Lou’s eyes lit up a little bit, and he turned to Lin Mu as well.
“Yes, brother Lin Mu, we need your help. We don’t have many people and if you help us, I’m sure the Ashen Cloak mercenary company will rightfully compensate you for your effort.” Hong Luo spoke.
Lin Mu looked at the two men in silence and did not speak. Instead, he was talking with senior Xukong in his mind.
“What do you think, senior?” Lin Mu asked.
“Hmm, if they are willing to give you resources, you can indeed help them. But you should first get information from Zhou Ye first. He should awaken in the morning. While he won’t be fully healed, he shouldn’t have any problem talking.” Xukong answered.
Lin Mu inwardly nodded before thinking of his response.
“I would be willing to help, but only if it’s something within my capabilities. Zhou Ye will wake up in the morning, we will decide after talking with him.” Lin Mu replied to the two men.
Neither Teng Xiaolian nor Hong Luo were dissatisfied with his answer and knew that it was acceptable. In fact, Teng Xiaolian preferred that they do this in this way. He had not forgotten about Lin Mu’s background, thus if it was indeed something extremely dangerous, he himself would reject Lin Mu’s help.
“That is acceptable. Anyway, we don’t have to wait long for the morning. The sun should be up in four more hours.” Teng Xiaolian replied.
“Hopefully, Zhou Ye would be awake by then.” Hong Luo added.
Everyone nodded in tacit understanding and decided to wait. The man in question Zhou Ye had already been taking by a couple of the common mercenaries to a tent so that he could rest and be taken care of.
“Brother Lin Mu, you must have used up quite a lot of your spirit qi. I offer that you rest in a tent, we will handle your post and keep a lookout.” Hong Luo suggested.
Lin Mu thought for a second before deciding.
“I will take you up on that.” Lin Mu replied while nodding.
Hong Luo gestured to nearby mercenaries that were standing guard and called them.
“Guide brother Lin Mu to a proper tent for resting.” He ordered.
“Yes, sir!” The mercenaries replied.
Then, under the guidance of the two mercenaries, Lin Mu reached a tent. The tent was as large as Hong Lou’s and he had no problem standing upright. There was a bed kept in the corner and a lamp hung in the center of the tent. The rest of the tent was empty unlike Hong Lou’s which was littered with their valuable supplies.
Lin Mu entered the tent and closed its flap, while the two mercenaries who had escorted him stood guard outside its entrance. Lin Mu went ahead and sat down on the bed and let out a sigh.
“I certainly did not expect that this would be happening tonight.” Lin Mu muttered.
Lin Mu was in fact not tired at all. He had barely used a hundred wisps of spirit qi, thus was not as exhausted as the others had thought. But since Hong Luo had offered him this, he decided he may as well cultivate.
“The workings of fate are hidden by the heaven’s will. Most people would be in the same position.” Xukong spoke in a mysterious tone.
Lin Mu heard senior Xukong’s words but did not respond. He was instead thinking of the injuries on the dead mercenary. While he had not seen it for much longer than a couple of seconds, he could still feel a strange feeling.
“There was something strange with the dead mercenary Senior.” Lin Mu spoke.
“Oh? In what way?” Xukong questioned.
“I can’t exactly place my finger on it. It’s as if it’s unnatural or perhaps abnormal, it makes me feel a little repulsed as well.” Lin Mu spoke.
“That is is indeed strange. You should perhaps take a closer look, maybe I can guess what it is.” Xukong suggested.
Lin Mu raised his brows in thought and then nodded.
“Yes, Senior. Let’s check it out.” Lin Mu replied and then stood up.
He opened the flap of the tent and saw the two mercenaries turning to him.
“Did you need anything, sir?” They respectfully asked.
“Show me the way to the dead Ashen cloak mercenary.” Lin Mu replied.
“Yes, sir. Please follow us.” They spoke.
Lin Mu nodded and followed them to the tent where the body was placed in. He reached there in two minutes and saw that Teng Xiaolian was already there. He turned around and looked at Lin Mu, who was approaching.
Seeing the look in Teng Xiaolian’s face, Lin Mu knew that he was questioning his purpose in coming here.
“I’m here to take a closer look. I wanted to see if I can find a clue or something.” Lin Mu spoke before Teng Xiaolian could.
He nodded his head and gestured for Lin Mu to follow him. Teng Xiaolian moved the flap of the tent aside and walked in, with Lin Mu following behind him. A plain wooden table was placed in the tent on which the dead body of the mercenary was placed.
A sheet was covering the body, which was then lifted by Teng Xiaolian. As soon as the sheet was lifted, Lin Mu could finally see the body. The head of the body was decapitated by a strong attack, which left behind deep claw marks in the neck. It was as if the beast pierced the man’s and then forcefully pulled up the head, separating it.
There were multiple grievous and gruesome injuries on the body, most of which were dripping with blood, though most of them had already stopped. Still, from the wetness of the blood and the fact, there was no stench, one could tell that the body was not that old.
“He most likely died yesterday and probably took a lot of injuries before he was killed.” Teng Xiaolian informed.
Lin Mu went closer and used his spirit sense. As soon as his spirit sense touched the body, he could feel a faint presence hiding within it. A repulsive feeling arose within Lin Mu’s heart as he felt it.
“Senior…” Lin Mu spoke in his mind.
“I can feel it too, this is certainly not normal. Try probing deeper.” Xukong spoke.
Teng Xiaolian understood what Lin Mu was doing and did not interfere nor disturb him. He just patiently stood at the side.
Lin Mu spread his spirit sense over the entire body and scanned it from the head to the toe. Only when it reached the dead man’s abdomen did Lin Mu find something. It was as if there was a barrier placed on it and it was restricting him.
Lin Mu pushed with his spirit sense and could not do it.
“Use the severing heart sutra.” Xukong suggested after feeling something.
Lin Mu nodded and started chanting the severing heart sutra in a low voice. While chanting the severing heart sutra he tried to pierce the barrier again. This time he was halted for a moment before, with a pop, the barrier broke.
Then suddenly, an inhuman screech sounded in the tent and spread outside it. Teng Xiaolian had to cover his ears. If one was to look at him right now, one would see that he was covered in sweat.
The screech lasted for five seconds before the repulsive presence started intensifying. In the next moment, a dark black smoky aura that was visible to the eyes started emanating from the corpse. The aura formed an irregular figure in the air that had bone spurs and skulls embedded in its body.