On a winter night, in the barren mountains, snow had been falling all day, burying the mountain path completely.
An old, thin man struggled to move forward, breaking the smooth snow crust into pieces.
The Ear-Cutter regretted taking on this job. He had a bit of a reputation, but now he found himself running around in the freezing cold to catch an unknown thief.
He hadn't even managed to catch the thief, and now his legs were starting to give out.
The thief didn't seem like a skilled fighter, but he had incredible stamina and managed to run for three hundred miles. When they finally caught him, the Ear-Cutter not only wanted to cut off his ear but also wanted to peel off his face.
But as luck would have it, the wind and snow suddenly died down, and a man appeared in front of them.
He was dressed like a hunter, with a hunch in his back and a backpack full of mountain goods and fur. He also had a few plump mountain chickens hanging from his waist.
Ear-Cutter took a few steps forward, trying to get a better look.
The hunter, who was wrapped in coarse cloth covering half of his face, didn't look very old. His long hair was hastily combed and frozen into clumps by the snow. His ears were bright red, indicating a lack of inner strength.
Ear-Cutter was relieved and quickly moved behind the hunter.
"Little brother, is there a store up ahead?" he asked, his eyes still scanning the hunter's ears. The shape of the young hunter's ears was quite good.
"There's an inn under the cliff over there," the young hunter replied calmly, his tone neither warm nor cold. "It's the only one on the mountain."
Ear-Cutter's face lit up with joy, but also became a little fierce.
It was not good to go down the mountain at night, especially with heavy snowfall. If he stayed outside overnight, the little thief would surely turn into frozen meat. It was better to wait for him at the inn.
The little thief was just a little thief, digging his own grave and saving him a lot of trouble.
He could celebrate earlier--the young hunter had beautiful ears, which were worth cutting.
Ear-Cutter grabbed the hunter's shoulder, ready to pull him over and crush his throat.
But before he could even exert any force, the scenery suddenly changed. He looked down and instead of seeing the hunter's chest, he saw his own back.
Ear-Cutter's eyes widened as his decapitated body fell into the snow.
Half an hour later, the innkeeper's wife called out, "Hey, you're finally here!" as she wiped her hands and greeted him. "I'm waiting to cook your game."
The young hunter, Yin Ci, grinned and took the pheasant off his waist. As She cooked the bird, the innkeeper's wife counted the money and said, "As usual, I'll pay extra for your hard work. It's freezing out here, and this soup is all I have to rely on."
The boss lady's surname was Li, and the villagers just called her Madam Li. Madam Li had lost her husband early on and had been running this old inn with her two children ever since.
Her daughter had already married and her son was working in town, leaving only her to run the shop. Fortunately, the inn was located in such a remote and impoverished area that even bandits rarely passed by.
Madam Li was also a robust woman with a booming voice that could be heard for miles around. Over the years, she had never encountered any trouble.
Yin Ci had tried the inn's food once before and quickly understood why the children had run away.
Madam Li's cooking skills were extremely poor, and while the presentation of the food was passable, the taste was strange enough to make even a dog retch. The only reason the inn was still in business was because of the survival instincts of starving guests.
Yin Ci naturally didn't want to eat this kind of food.
He intended to teach Madam Li how to cook, but unexpectedly she was willing to spend money and buy a few dishes from him directly.
So every time he finished delivering the mountain goods, Yin Ci would always stay for an extra night, enjoy two hot meals, and then leave.
Now the wind and snow were howling, and the sky was as dark as the bottom of a pot. Even the old mountain dwellers didn't want to go out.
Madam Li lit a lonely lamp in the front hall and was too lazy to even make the cheapest cakes. She heated up the leftover porridge from breakfast and used it as a meal for her guest.
On the other side, a fat chicken was stewed with several mountain delicacies in a clay pot, and the fragrance was so enticing that it made people's feet soft.
When the time was right, the lid was lifted, revealing the golden chicken oil lying on top of the soup, and the tender chicken meat floating up and down.
On a cold day, paired with freshly boiled noodles, even a god wouldn't turn their nose up on this.
Just as the first bowl of noodles was ready, a creaking sound came from the front hall.
A figure stumbled into the room, barely visible in the dim light.
As they approached, the two could make out the visitor's appearance - dressed like a wandering doctor, with a mask covering their lower face, their clothes covered in mud and torn, and only one boot remaining on their feet.
Gasping for breath, the stranger emitted a steamy heat, having trekked through the snow for miles.
Peering through the mask's holes, the pitiful figure looked at the two, particularly at the bowl in the hands of Madam Li, before collapsing to the ground with a thud.
"Is he dead?" Madam Li exclaimed. "Heaven forbid, don't die in my shop! You, young one, come help me check on him."
Regretfully, Yin Ci put down his spoon.
"Alright, bring a basin of warm water."
As soon as the water arrived, Yin Ci lifted his mask without hesitation and wiped away the dirt on the man's face.
After checking his complexion, he casually took his pulse.
"Exhausted, dehydrated, and starving," he concluded.
However, Madam Li didn't respond. She stared fixedly at the man's face, almost stepping into the water basin.
It was because this unexpected guest was unusually handsome.
He looked like he was under thirty, with no feminine features, but extremely beautiful, to the point where his features had a hint of the supernatural.
Even though Yin Ci was used to seeing beautiful people, he was still taken aback for a moment. Madam Li was even more shocked - in this remote and desolate place, she had hardly seen any handsome young men.
This man's appearance was simply too much for her, and her admiration turned into fear.
"Grandpa Fox Immortal!" Madam Li's voice became sharp.
Without a chance to interject, Yin Ci watched as the woman gritted her teeth and filled a bowl with leftover porridge, gesturing for him to feed it to the man.
"Consider it an offering, consider it an offering," muttered Madam Li, rubbing her palms together quietly.
Yin Ci had only ever read about shape-shifting "fox immortals" in books, and seeing Madam Li nervously fidgeting, he didn't bother explaining further.
He took the bowl of porridge that not even a dog would eat and, with a heart of stone, scooped a spoonful and poked it towards the man's mouth - he had eaten it before and it wouldn't kill anyone anyway.
Unfortunately, the "fox immortal grandpa" was quite discerning. The man weakly gagged twice, turned his head away, and clenched his teeth tightly.
Madam Li, seeing the offering being rejected on the spot, immediately became angry.
"Forget it, drag this fox out, just don't let him die in my house."
As one of the unruly villagers raised in the mountains and rivers, Madam Li's respect for the immortal world was clearly limited.
Yin Ci delicately pointed out the key point, "I saw his money pouch, he should be able to afford a few nights' lodging."
Although Madam Li had a hard heart, she still believed in saving money for her children and couldn't bring herself to commit murder and robbery.
But when she heard there was profit to be made, her nameless anger dissipated in an instant, "Oh my, Mr. Fox Immortal's clothes are so wet, he must be feeling uncomfortable. My son has a few old clothes in the back room, you can use them to wipe him down and change his clothes."
Yin Ci naturally smiled and agreed.
While Madam Li went to get the clothes, Yin Ci stripped the man and wrapped him in a dry animal skin. With a few quick movements, he thoroughly examined the man's belongings.
On the signboard of the itinerant doctor, the four characters "cure all illnesses with medicine" were written in bold and powerful strokes, while the smaller characters below, such as "strong pills" and "bruise ointment," had faded slightly.
The medicine box was old and worn, and Yin Ci sniffed each bottle one by one, only to find that they were all ordinary medicines, without a single bottle of poison.
The bell and the mortar were placed together, showing obvious signs of wear and tear, indicating that they had been used for a long time.
In addition, there was only a money pouch left, containing five strings of coins, with a few pieces of broken silver tightly wrapped in the middle.
Yin Ci couldn't even find a self-defense dagger, let alone any weapons. The only thing he found was a small knife used for cutting medicine, with a blade that was bent.
It was strange.
The man had been running through the snow all night, with thin ice forming on his clothes, but there was not a single patch of frostbite on his skin.
He must be a martial arts expert.
Yin Ci also recognized the Ear-Cutter he had killed earlier - Chen Qu, one of the powerful killers of the Red Hook Sect, who specialized in killing the enemies of the sect.
These two figures braved the blizzard and ascended the mountain, surely not just for a leisurely stroll.
In recent months, a ghost tomb containing treasures had been unearthed, causing a great stir in the martial world. The Red Hook Sect was, after all, the top demonic sect and was currently preoccupied with the tomb, unlikely to have any issues with an unknown figure in the martial world.
Even if one of their elders had run off with a male lover, they wouldn't use a butcher's knife to kill a chicken.
While Yin Ci was lost in thought, the man caught his breath and slowly opened his eyes - a pair of beautiful phoenix eyes with upturned corners, clear amber pupils, and a hint of fox-like charm.
However, his gaze was vacant, and his eerie aura suddenly dissipated.
Yin Ci was still puzzled, so he continued to play the good Samaritan.
He brought over a bowl of chicken soup noodles and offered a spoonful of hot soup to the guest: "You must be cold, have some hot soup."
Perhaps it was hunger that made the man gulp down the hot soup, and suddenly his eyes cleared and then burned as he stared at the bowl. Yin Ci fed him the soup and noodles, watching as his complexion became rosy.
As Madam Li approached with clothes in hand, she was once again dazzled by Yin Ci's beauty and accidentally knocked over the lamp.
Yin Ci quickly blocked the lamp oil and pretended to take a gasp in pain, saying, "Your clean clothes are here, can you dress yourself?"
The man nodded and looked at the burn on Yin Ci's hand.
Yin Ci took the opportunity to point at Madam Li and said, "I'll go rest first. She is the owner of this inn, you can discuss the meal and room fees with her."
With the mountain pass blocked by heavy snow, the man couldn't run away anytime soon.
Yin Ci was just a "hunter who had never seen the world", so if he rushed to talk, it would only seem suspicious.
Madam Li was familiar with his habits, and the bathtub in the guest room was already prepared, with steam rising from the water.
Yin Ci took off his clothes and stepped into the hot water. In the next moment, the rough and dark "skin" peeled off, revealing the cold white underneath.
The Ghost Skin Suit was one of the treasures Yin Ci found in the ancient tomb. It was as thin as a cicada's wings, woven from the silk of ghost silkworms from the Western Regions, and soaked repeatedly in a secret potion to fit perfectly with human skin.
As long as it was handled properly, not only the facial features, but also the skin color, moles, and calluses of the body could be faked, even the body hair was indistinguishable from a real person.
The art of disguise usually only changes the head, neck, hands, and feet, but the Ghost Skin Suit consists of three pieces, with the ends covering the waist, abdomen, and legs, able to cover most of the body.
Unless Yin Ci intentionally ran around naked, there was no possibility of exposure.
Carefully peeling off the Ghost Skin Suit from his face, Yin Ci breathed a sigh of relief. He picked up a bottle of medicine, mixed it with pigment, and draped the Ghost Skin Suit on the edge of a bucket, using a brush to draw the "injuries" caused by lamp oil splatters.
As soon as the medicine touched the skin, it obediently swelled up, forming a few fake blisters.
Yin Ci hummed in satisfaction and then pulled the skin over his head, starting to adjust the facial features.
The air was misty and the light was dim. Just by looking at his movements, he resembled the infamous skin-painting demon.
However, the effect of his work was quite the opposite. The fake face on the Ghost Skin Suit was neither beautiful nor ugly, lacking any distinctive features.
In a crowd, nine out of ten people would not remember it.
But if Madam Li saw Yin Ci without the Ghost Skin Suit, she would probably exclaim, "Grandpa Fox Immortal!"
The man outside had a passionate beauty, while the one in the bathtub leaned towards a more gentle and refined demeanor, making it difficult to choose between them.
Unfortunately, the latter's eyes and eyebrows were full of hostility, and this beautiful jade was akin to a jade cicada in a corpse's mouth, sending shivers down one's spine.
Yin Ci's body was soaking in the hot water, but his mind was unusually cold. He needed to figure out the background of that wandering doctor.
If he was related to the ghost tomb, Yin Ci could spare his life. But if he had no connection, then he could only let him die in the Ku Mountain. Getting involved with the Red Hook Sect too early would only cause unnecessary trouble.
The plan had just taken its first step, and it was best not to deviate from it.
Oh my god, my usual skills are gone! Demon Lord Yin is the first protagonist who hasn't suffered a physical attack in my story!
And even though they are both beautiful people, their looks are not inflated by the plot... There are objective factors that influence their appearance, and most people are just ordinary-looking. As for the world-building, I won't reveal too much for now~
Please don't spoil them too much, I beg you...
This story is completely fictional.
The purchasing power of silver is based on the Tang Dynasty, with 1 wen being equivalent to 5 RMB. 1 liang of silver = 10 qian of silver = 1000 wen of copper, which is approximately equal to 5000 RMB.
In reality, 1 wenqian in the Tang Dynasty seems to be worth around 4 RMB (some say around 10 RMB), and 1 liang of silver in ancient times is worth much more than I imagined...
Repeating the key point of the text:
Please refrain from personal attacks or using insulting language during debates. Let's try to understand each other. Differences in opinions and aesthetics are common, and there's no need to convince each other. It's normal to dislike things that don't suit our taste, so let's respect each other and express ourselves politely (*/ω＼*).
Happy readers make me float like a cloud in the sky. If you enjoy my translations and want to read them more quickly, I'll translate bonus chapters as a thank you for coffee!
Give me feedback at moc.ebircssutol@eyks.