The next morning, the wind had stopped and the snow had ceased.
Yin Ci put on his Ghost Skin Suit and went out to make breakfast. Just as he finished cooking the egg drop soup, the wandering doctor from last night appeared again, his eyes shining brightly and with no trace of his disheveled appearance from the night before.
He approached Yin Ci with a gentle tone, "I am Shi Jingzhi. Last night... cough, cough!"
Before he could finish his sentence, his face turned pale and he pulled out a handkerchief, spitting out a mouthful of blood.
Yin Ci remained silent and moved his bowl of soup away.
Shi Jingzhi seemed unfazed and quickly wiped away the blood, continuing as if nothing had happened, "Thank you for your help last night. I have some burn ointment here, please take it."
Yin Ci nodded and took the ointment.
Shi Jingzhi lingered for a while, his fox-like eyes curved into a smile that even the north wind couldn't resist.
Unfortunately, Yin Ci wasn't falling for it.
He finished his porridge and left.
But someone else was happy to eat it - Madam Li had just received some money and was now fawning over the "Fox Immortal Grandpa" with great enthusiasm.
As Yin Ci was only halfway through his porridge, Madam Li had already gone on a tangent, talking about him: "He's a delivery boy from the mountains, not from my shop. But he's got good skills, just unlucky..."
Shi Jingzhi sat across from them, quietly listening to her rambling and smiling to himself.
"His father passed away a few years ago, and he observed mourning for three years. I told him it's not necessary, he should go work in town early on. He could even cook for me here... But this little brat doesn't listen to his elders. He's already twenty and doesn't even have a match..."
Yin Ci wished she would talk more about his "innocent background" and didn't interrupt her at all.
"I won't hide it from you, last night I was chased by bandits and ran blindly to your place. Now I need to go down the mountain, and if this young man doesn't mind, I would like to pay him to guide me..." Shi Jingzhi looked up at Yin Ci.
"Sure." Yin Ci reached for a side dish with his chopsticks.
"Thank you." Unexpectedly, Shi Jingzhi grabbed his hand with a sincere expression that made Yin Ci's teeth ache, and his palm was hot to the touch.
Yin Ci frowned and subtly pulled his hand away. "No need to be so polite."
Yin Ci thought that Shi Jingzhi was putting on a show of enthusiasm to inquire about the Ear-Cutter.
But to his surprise, after breakfast, Shi Jingzhi didn't ask a single question. Instead, he moved a stool to the door and enjoyed the snow, as if he really came to relax.
Before the two of them went down the mountain, Madam Li called Yin Ci over and sighed as she handed him a bag of steamed buns.
"I made something that doesn't taste good, don't mind it. Ah, you little rascal, you might not come back for three to five years after leaving today - I saw the luggage in your backpack. Even if this didn't happen, you were planning to leave the mountain anyway, right?"
She muttered for a while, then took out a string of money from her pocket and stuffed it into Yin Ci's hand.
"There are many thieves outside, don't let them cheat you... come back to see this old woman when you have time."
Yin Ci took the steamed bun and refused the copper coins. If he wanted to act better, he should shed a few tears, but he couldn't even squeeze out a single drop.
"You're lucky to be able to go down the mountain with the Fox Immortal. But don't covet his fur, be careful of causing trouble." Finally, Madam Li solemnly reminded him, as if she had actually seen the fox tail of Shi Jingzhi before.
Yin Ci sneered. He had caused countless troubles, and this one wouldn't make much of a difference.
Unfortunately, Demon Lord Yin's cunning plans were not able to be put into action.
Just as they left the inn, they were surrounded by ten assassins from the Red Hook Sect.
They had not seen the Ear-Cutter return from his mission the night before, and now they were pursued them relentlessly.
Yin Ci was about to retreat when Shi Jingzhi grabbed him by the waist and expertly fled the scene. The assassins were not to be underestimated, however, and they quickly caught up to the duo.
Despite the lack of a blizzard, the assassins were graceful in their pursuit, while Shi Jingzhi struggled through the snow like a plow.
He huffed and puffed, dragging Yin Ci along with him, who was covered in snow.
It was no wonder that he had lost their shoes the night before.
However, with this unsightly way of escape, he managed to leave all ten assassins behind. Confident that they wouldn't catch up for the time being, Shi Jingzhi released Yin Ci and plopped down into the snow, saying, "They sure are persistent."
Forced to eat snow all the way, Yin Ci was feeling quite unhappy.
"Were those the people who were chasing you yesterday? They were dressed in white and had masks, not like ordinary bandits."
Shi Jingzhi clicked his tongue. "Those were the assassins of the demon cult. I stole some trinkets from them. Speaking of which, when those guys came at us with knives, little brother, you didn't seem scared at all. You're quite brave."
Yin Ci squinted his eyes.
The Red Hook Sect had gone to such lengths, so this person was definitely not simple.
He knew that there were pursuers behind him and still brought along an "ordinary person" like himself. He didn't seem like he was trying to use him as a shield, so there were only two possibilities left.
Either Shi Jingzhi was strong enough to have confidence in protecting himself from assassins, or he was suspicious of him and was testing him. Either way, this person was interesting.
Yin Ci continued to play dumb, "Why did you steal from the demon cult? Are you tired of living?"
Shi Jingzhi wasn't angry, "Well, that thing isn't really theirs... Have you heard of the 'Ghost Tomb'?"
Shi Jingzhi suddenly became more alert and sat up straight, "Then you must have heard of the 'Ling Sect'. The first leader of the Ling Sect was lawless and plundered rare treasures and divine weapons to be buried with him. His tomb is the 'Ghost Tomb'."
Yin Ci nodded. The Ling Sect was the first demon cult a hundred years ago, and the former leader was extremely wicked and appeared frequently in folk stories. It wasn't surprising that the locals knew about it.
Shi Jingzhi continued excitedly, "Last year, when the Ghost Tomb appeared, the martial arts world was in chaos. Everyone wanted a piece of the action. But think about it, if anyone could enter the tomb, it would be overcrowded and explode.
"So, the Golden Jade Gang took charge. The gang leader personally carved 108 jade beads and hid them in various places as a token to allow entry into the tomb. And I stole one of those jade beads. Actually, to reduce competition, every sect collected a fair amount of them, and it was within the rules to snatch them from each other."
Yin Ci interjected, "Isn't it unfair for the Golden Jade Gang to host the event and know where the jade beads are hidden?"
When Yin Ci showed interest in the Ghost Tomb, Shi Jingzhi raised an eyebrow and said, "The Golden Jade Gang can't help with the tomb. They're just a merchant alliance, and their members' martial arts skills are not impressive. They prefer to have gold and silver ready to buy and sell the treasures in the tomb... As long as you get a treasure, you'll be set for life."
Yin Ci calmly replied, "It's better to just sell the jade bead directly for faster money."
Shi Jingzhi was shocked, "That's too boring!"
Seeing his excited expression, Yin Ci knew he must be new to the Jianghu world. This person was indeed related to the Ghost Tomb, but keeping him alive for a few more days wouldn't hurt.
Yin Ci stopped talking and took out a steamed bun to eat.
After a while, Shi Jingzhi brought up the topic again, "Little brother, do you have a destination for this trip down the mountain?"
Here it comes, this kid is dragging him into these dirty waters with a purpose in mind.
"I don't have one. I want to wander around first and find a better place to work," said Yin Ci.
"Then come with me," Shi Jingzhi pleaded. "To be honest, I've been wandering around for so long and haven't had a meal as delicious as last night's. All you need to do is prepare the food, and you can earn two taels of silver per month. And..."
"And what?" Yin Ci asked.
"You have good bones, why not become my disciple? You can learn martial arts from me and improve your health and longevity." Shi Jingzhi smiled warmly, but suddenly coughed up blood.
Yin Ci: "..."
Yin Ci thought to himself, this guy is not only a novice in the martial arts world, but also a swindler. At the age of "twenty," he was already too old to start learning martial arts.
Besides, except for the embarrassing dog-paddle escape, this guy hasn't shown anything worth learning.
He's just trying to deceive ignorant villagers.
Blood sprayed right after he mentioned "health and longevity", and Shi Jingzhi felt embarrassed.
He forced a laugh and quickly wiped away the blood.
Yin Ci didn't pay attention to his awkwardness, his focus was elsewhere - two breaths were approaching.
Yin Ci had already sensed the two assassins lurking nearby for a long time, waiting for them to let their guard down.
According to the style of the Red Hook Sect, the hidden weapons were coming soon. Meanwhile, Shi Jingzhi began to promote himself again: "If you become my disciple, in case anything happens to me, all my wealth will go to you. I also have a small pharmacy worth a lot of silver in Yi City..."
"Okay. But you're not much older than me, I can't kneel to you. If you don't mind that, I can become your disciple."
"Ah?" Shi Jingzhi was taken aback by how straightforward he was, standing there in a daze before coming back to his senses after a while. "I'm seven years older than you, so there's no need to kneel. Just come and have a meal to officially become my disciple."
Seeing the other still in shock, Yin Ci smiled - he had originally planned to sneak into a small sect that could enter the tomb, act low-key, and reap the benefits. Shi Jingzhi was quite eye-catching and could divert other people's attention, making him an excellent cover.
If Shi Jingzhi had the strength to survive under the Red Hook Sect, it wouldn't be bad to follow him. If he died here, he wouldn't have any losses either.
The assassin finally made his move, and several flying knives broke through the air.
Yin Ci's pupils contracted as he carefully observed Shi Jingzhi's reaction. After much hesitation, Shi Jingzhi shifted forward and narrowly missed a flying knife.
"Although it's not my place to say...little brother, taking on a master is a big decision. Don't you want to think about it more?"
Yin Ci replied, "No need."
Several more flying knives were shot their way, one grazing Shi Jingzhi's shoulder. He sighed and stood up, tossing his bloodied cloth to the ground.
"I'll give you one more chance to change your mind. Watch closely." The assassination attempt failed, and the two killers revealed themselves, their long knives glinting in the light.
Shi Jingzhi raised his hand and said, "Wait, let's talk this out."
The killers knew not to underestimate their opponent, having witnessed his strange evasive techniques. They stopped in their tracks and looked at him warily.
"I heard that your sect has a rule. If there is no deep-seated hatred, you will only send assassins thrice. If all three attempts fail, you will give up. The Ear-Cutter last night was the second attempt, so you must be the third group."
"I am just a small person. If you admit defeat, the punishment won't be too severe. Why don't we part ways here?"
One of them couldn't hold back and drew his sword, "What nonsense!"
This time, Shi Jingzhi didn't escape. He grabbed the man's arm and threw him several tens of meters away, directly breaking two white pine trees.
"Your sect doesn't lack jade beads, and competition is a legitimate rule. It's not worth dying for a little pride. In the end, I advise you both to leave now."
With a sweep of his "Cure All With Medicine" flag, Shi Jingzhi made it clear that he was ready to fight with his flagpole. The assassins, undeterred and unconcerned with fairness, charged forward with their swords.
Yin Ci watched with great interest, but found it painful to watch. Shi Jingzhi's moves were completely uncoordinated, swinging his flagpole in a way that could make one cry, as if he were a child who had just started practicing swordplay.
His footwork was also very clumsy, crooked and twisted, not at all convincing.
Interestingly, even though his pole and footwork were as bad as a bowl of water, the assassins were unable to get the upper hand.
After a brief struggle, one of the assassins was fooled by Shi Jingzhi's terrible moves and was caught off guard. It was at this moment that Shi Jingzhi let out a light sigh.
"My apologies." With a swift motion, he swung his hand and lightly tapped the other man's chin. The man's head exploded like a watermelon, scattering red and white all over the ground.
Another assassin was taken aback as the flagpole came whistling towards him, taking off half of his head.
The words "Cure All With Medicine" on the flag were now splattered with blood. The two bodies emitted heat and a strong smell of blood in the cold wind.
Yin Ci furrowed his brow. This man's external martial arts and qinggong* were terrible, but his internal power were like that of a monster. From his previous escape to the current battle, Shi Jingzhi had only used his internal power.
*T/N: refers to a set of techniques used to enhance a martial artist's agility, speed, and lightness of movement.
This was truly shocking.
Internal martial arts were different from external martial arts and could not be mastered through talent or understanding alone. It required years of practice.
Even if one sought guidance from a master, they would only achieve half the results with twice the effort and still not be able to use their internal power freely. The purity and refinement of one's internal power could only be achieved through their own practice.
And yet, he was only twenty-seven years old.
Even the most talented martial arts genius must start from a young age and only focus on cultivating their inner strength - and they must work tirelessly day and night to reach such heights.
However, this approach is meaningless.
It may work against a few assassins from the demon cults, but against top-notch experts, Shi Jingzhi would not gain any advantage.
Who is this person, and where did he come from?
"How was it?" Shi Jingzhi walked up to Yin Ci with his flagpole, a hint of a bitter smile on his face. "I always act this way, do you still want to be my disciple?"
"Of course," Yin Ci's eyes lit up.
... He hadn't had this much fun in a long time.
Shi Jingzhi: Not bad, I got him.
Yin Ci: Not bad, I got him.
———————— "The internal and external martial arts, as well as the qinggong mentioned in the story, are all made up by me. Please don't compare them with the classic settings. (^ρ^)/"
In case you were wondering, the author of this story wants to make it clear that the martial arts skills mentioned in the story are not based on any established tradition or practice. They are purely fictional and should not be compared to any real-life martial arts techniques. So, if you're a martial arts enthusiast, please don't take offense! The author just wants to have some fun with the story. Enjoy! (^ρ^)/
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.