Shi Jingzhi was completely stunned. He wasn't the only one taken aback; even the Dark Blood Witch didn't expect Yin Ci to be so straightforward. She was frozen for a moment before turning her gaze to Yin Ci.
"Are you admitting that your Ku Mountain Sect stole the treasure? Or are you really the one in white?" she asked.
Yin Ci didn't answer immediately.
He looked like a newborn calf, fearless and bold, as he let go of Shi Jingzhi's hand and stepped forward to stand in front of his cheap master.
"I used to live in the mountains and didn't know any of you. But I know that you are all famous and knowledgeable people. You can tell that my master's reaction is genuine. He had no idea about the treasure."
Even though Shi Jingzhi was cunning, he was only twenty-seven years old and lacked much experience. Faced with such a great upheaval, he couldn't deceive the likes of the venerable monk Juehui and the Dark Blood Witch, who were his elders.
But he was different.
Having crawled and struggled in the mortal world for hundreds of years, Yin Ci could disguise not only his breathing, heartbeat, and facial expression, but even his cold sweat.
Sure enough, after observing Shi Jingzhi for a long time, Master Juehui nodded to Shi Zhongyu and both of them relaxed a bit - since Shi Jingzhi had not done anything unjust, they could openly protect him.
Even if they only protected him alone. The gaze of the Dark Blood Witch was as sharp as an owl's, and she cackled strangely: "So what if Sect Leader Shi didn't know? Whether it's the master breaking the rules or the disciple committing taboos, the rules of the Ku Mountain Sect have been broken... Of course, if Sect Leader Shi is willing to expel this person from the sect and let everyone deal with it, I can spare Ku Mountain Sect the trouble."
Yin Ci was not surprised.
He even had a faint expectation - would Shi Jingzhi abandon him without even listening to the reason, just to protect themselves?
But unexpectedly, Shi Jingzhi didn't hesitate at all: "Ah Ci has a gentle personality and is not a person who is greedy and unrighteous. Since he hid it from me, he must have his reasons. Why not listen to his explanation first?"
Yin Ci glanced at him, and although Shi Jingzhi's hair was standing on end, his tone was quite firm.
Yin Ci deliberately made a frightened expression: "This Buddhist bead was definitely given to me by that person in white. I was too nervous before and didn't even notice it. I only found it in my pocket yesterday."
"I don't have good eyesight and can't tell if this is the Buddhist bead everyone is looking for. I only just confirmed it."
Shi Zhongyu asked, "Why didn't you report it?"
Yin Ci smiled bitterly, "Even if I tell the truth, would anyone believe me if it really was the Buddhist bead? I don't even know that person in white, but he just happened to give me the bead? If Grandmother wants to say that the Ku Mountain Sect is colluding with the person in white, we won't be able to refute it. If you want to add blame, what can we do?"
"There's always a way out," Shi Jingzhi whispered.
Yin Ci pulled the corners of his mouth at him, then unexpectedly knelt down on one knee and kowtowed deeply to Dark Blood Witch.
They heard a "tearing" sound. Yin Ci tore off his sect clothes, revealing a white inner garment. As soon as everyone saw the garment, they held their breath.
On the inner garment was written a crooked line of blood characters, the bloodstains long dried up - "On the second day of breaking the human-shaped coffin, a Buddhist bead was found in the pocket of the garment."
Yin Ci looked sincere and said, "If Shizun had known beforehand, no matter what I do now, Grandmother could say it was Shizun's orders - but now that my Grandmother has seen it and Shizun is completely unaware, it was all done by me alone."
"To prove that I have no intention of hiding anything, on the day I found the Buddhist bead, I wrote a blood message on my garment. When we left the tomb, the Golden Jade Gang will check our clothes, and I won't be able to hide it even if I wanted to... You are all experts, surely you can tell the age of bloodstains."
Shi Zhongyu suddenly realized, "Little Brother Yin, are you afraid of implicating the Sect Leader Shi?"
The Taiheng Sect really came through and everything went according to Yin Ci's plan. When he decided to "play a little longer," he had already planned this escape route.
Yin Ci looked up and said, "That's right. It woud have been good if the Buddhist bead was fake. But even if it was real, I can't just give it away and harm someone else."
"Whether I report to the Yueshui Bureau or secretly tell Shizun, it could implicate him. That's why I came up with this terrible idea."
Yin Ci's tone was gentle and convincing, but he wasn't speaking his true thoughts.
After speaking, he turned to the Dark Blood Witch and added a subtle hint, "Grandmother, Shizun did offend the Red Hook Sect before. It's natural for you to dislike him, but this matter really has nothing to do with him. As for earlier, when you asked if I was the one in white..."
Yin Ci rolled up his sleeves and pulled his blood-stained clothes down to his waist, revealing his upper body wrapped in the Ghost Skin Suit.
"Shizun saw the face of the person in white clothes, and as a monk, he would not lie. Master Monk, do you remember what he looked like?"
The monk folded his hands together, "That person had skin as white as jade, a face that was otherworldly, and was clearly not an ordinary person. There is not even a slight resemblance to this young benefactor here."
Yin Ci's body was tight and lean, with a thin waist. The Ghost Skin Suit made his skin dull and rough, covered in small scars. At first glance, he looked like a beautiful and lively wild animal. Unfortunately, he had nothing to do with being "white as jade with an otherworldly face."
"I grew up in the mountains since I was young, and I am now twenty years old. I just finished three years of mourning for my father and was brought down the mountain by Shizun. If you want to investigate, go ahead. Granny, how could a poor mountain dweller like me have any connection with that skilled person in white clothes?"
The Dark Blood Witch was at a loss for words, her face slightly annoyed: "Ku Mountain Sect, Ku Mountain Sect...what a fox's den."
The Red Hook Sect valued their lineage, but they couldn't match the shamelessness of the Ling Sect. Although the Dark Blood Witch was shrewd, she was also someone who followed her own rules.
She couldn't bring herself to punish Yin Ci severely under the pretext of "respecting teachers and valuing education."
Yin Ci took a deep breath and pulled out his trump card that he had prepared long ago: "I understand the rules. Even if it's for the sake of the sect, if I make a mistake, it's still a mistake. I have a proposal, I don't know if everyone can accept it..."
Zheng Fengdao snorted, "Spit it out quickly."
"This Buddhist bead will be temporarily entrusted to Jianchen Temple for safekeeping. When we reach the surface, we can use it to create several maps, with each of us having one. As for me...Grandmother, you can hit me once, as long as I can keep my life, I don't mind."
When Shi Jingzhi heard the first half of the sentence, he didn't react much.
But when the second half came out, he became anxious: "Ah Ci, what nonsense are you talking about?!"
He wanted to rush over, but was firmly held back by Shi Zhongyu: "We're all here, the Dark Blood Witch wouldn't dare to kill anyone on the spot... Sect Leader Shi, stay calm!"
"I only hope that Grandmother won't make things difficult for our master." Yin Ci lowered his head and continued.
Dark Blood Witch coldly said, "If I strike you with my palm, your meridians will be damaged and you'll become a cripple. Your master only used you as a pawn, whether he wants you back or not is another matter. Even so, are you willing?"
Yin Ci shrank back at first, but then trembled and said, "No matter what, Shizun has shown me kindness."
"Good boy," Dark Blood Witch's tone was complicated, "Alright, I'll strike you, the little fox, and won't touch the big one."
Without waiting for anyone to react, she struck Yin Ci's chest with a palm. He was immediately pushed back more than ten steps, crashing hard into the wall and spitting out a mouthful of blood.
He tried to stand up a few times but failed, appearing weak and helpless.
Meanwhile, Shi Jingzhi forcefully pushed away Shi Zhongyu's arm, his eyes almost blazing with anger.
"What's the matter? Your disciple finally managed to save you, and now you want to come and die?" The Dark Blood Witch stopped in her tracks.
Shi Jingzhi spoke again, his voice filled with a chilling sense of menace. "I dare not. But I will remember what happened today."
With that, he rushed to Yin Ci's side, took off his coat, and covered him with it. He then carefully took out a medicine box and began to feed him medicine.
"When we get out of this tomb, I'll settle the score with you," gritted Shi Jingzhi through his teeth. "What if she crippled you, leaving you with broken hands and feet? What will you do then?"
"What do you mean 'then'? Will Master not want me anymore?" replied Yin Ci with a low chuckle.
Shi Jingzhi's hand shook, spilling half of the medicine. "Nonsense! I would never stoop to such despicable acts. Don't think about things that aren't even possible."
Yin Ci smiled softly.
Losing hands and feet was only a physical injury, and there was still a chance for recovery. But the Red Hook Sect was a demon cult, and the Black Blood Witch was not known for her mercy.
She would surely use her Red Serpent Hand, which could sever a person's meridians, rendering them completely useless. Unfortunately for her, Yin Ci's meridians had long been destroyed, leaving him with holes like a sieve and no practical use.
Having the Black Blood Witch take action was advantageous because there would be no visible injuries, making it less suspicious.
As for the internal injury... Shi Jingzhi investigated it immediately, just as Yin Ci's injury had not fully healed. From then on, Yin Ci only needed to act convincingly and let Shi Jingzhi check on him again in a few days.
In order to make his acting more realistic, Yin Ci struggled to swallow some medicine - Shi Jingzhi's medicine was incredibly bitter, making his throat feel sour.
"Shizun, please don't feed me anymore. My chest hurts and I can't drink anymore," he complained, spitting out some of the medicine.
Shi Jingzhi's gaze was complicated as he took back the medicine bowl and slowly drank some himself.
Suddenly, Yin Ci had a foreboding feeling.
Sure enough, in the next moment, Shi Jingzhi grabbed his hair and pressed his lips onto Yin Ci's. His strength was terrifying, and he instinctively struggled but was pushed back down.
Demon Lord Yin was used to teasing others, but had never been played with like this before. Yin Ci originally wanted to push away Shi Jingzhi, but there were people watching nearby, so he had to continue acting and obediently let Shi Jingzhi hold down the medicine.
...This kid really has a strong sense of revenge.
Yin Ci gritted his teeth reflexively, but his master took advantage of the opportunity and even used his tongue, scaring him into quickly opening his mouth and swallowing all the medicine.
After feeding the medicine, Shi Jingzhi wiped his mouth coldly and silently placed in the Buddhist beads.
His righteous aura was so strong that no one could say anything. Yan Qing, who had been watching the whole time, was stunned and slowly sat down, hugging his knees and pretending to be a potted plant.
Yin Ci sat in place, his mouth full of the bitter taste of medicine. It seemed that his plan wasn't so perfect after all, and he pursed his lips expressionlessly.
The barrier instantly rose up, and the ground shook as the floor slowly rose. Everyone stared at the ceiling with vigilance, afraid that Yan Budu might have left some tricks behind. Fortunately, this time they were safe and sound, and the stone slab had sent them back to a familiar place - the entrance of the first floor.
The wounded who had stayed on the first floor were guarding their luggage, huddled against the wall, with a look of horror on their faces.
The group divided the Buddhist beads and the barrier finally disappeared. According to the agreement, Shi Jingzhi took a Buddhist bead to Jianchen Temple and then carried his "seriously injured" disciple to the door.
Compared to when they left, there were eight big characters added to the door, in brownish-red color and bold handwriting, as if written in blood.
At the first sight of those characters, Zheng Fengdao respectfully knelt down and kowtowed deeply.
"'Tired bones build towers, disdain to ride the wind'..." Shi Jingzhi whispered, looking at Yan Qing. "Is this Yan Budu's message? Yan Qing, what does he mean?"
Yan Qing's face remained expressionless: "I really don't know anything."
Yin Ci didn't understand either, but he knew the other meaning behind these eight words.
Yan Budu left a message at the exit of the Ghost Tomb, and there was only one possibility -
"Yan Budu is really not in the tomb." Dark Blood Witch spoke up, "This just got interesting."
"Sect Leader, we...we haven't found a way to crack this door." The members of the Red Hook Sect crowded around Dark Blood Witch, relieved that she had returned safely. "We beg your help."
"At this point, Yan Budu wouldn't set up anything too difficult. If the Buddhist beads were lost here, how could they cause chaos in the world? Get out of the way, let me take a look."
She circled the door for a long time, then suddenly burst out laughing.
"What a clever Yan Budu, no wonder I couldn't see anything suspicious before. The blood characters were actually a hint. Everyone, just walk straight out."
Jin Lan shuddered as he recalled the tragic fate of the Changle Sect members.
"This door is a man-eater!" he exclaimed.
"Is that so? Then why didn't it eat those 'bloody characters'? I saw it myself, the word was deeply engraved into the door and the bloodstains were still fresh. This door can be penetrated by flesh and blood, and I doubt any other tool can break it," replied the Dark Blood Witch, tapping her cane on the ground next to her followers.
"Here, you, go and take a look. Remember to cover your clothes with true energy and don't touch the door when you come out. And make some noise when you're out," she instructed the obedient follower.
The man nodded and walked confidently towards the door. But as soon as he touched the surface, he sank into it like he was being swallowed by quicksand. He didn't struggle or scream, and the waiting crowd heard no sound from the other side even after a long time.
"Hmm, it seems there's more to the door than meets the eye. No matter, this old woman knows Yan Budu's character well. Boys, let's go."
"Wait a moment, Red Hook Sect Leader," suddenly spoke Master Juehui.
"What?" asked Dark Blood Witch without any courtesy.
Juehui took out his three Buddhist beads and placed them together with the one given to him by Yin Ci earlier.
"Does your sect still have glutinous rice wine?" he asked.
"...What do you mean, monk?" Dark Blood Witch was puzzled.
"Amitabha. The Buddhist beads are ominous objects, and our temple has no intention of getting involved in any disputes. Let's make rubbings of the four beads here. Once they're done, I'll destroy them myself," explained Master Juehui.
Yan Qing was shocked. "Sect Leader, you said 'if it can be given away, it can be taken back'... Do you know that Master Juehui would do this?"
"Mm. The monks don't care about immortality. They retrieved the 'Woodless Sutra' and achieved their goal. They definitely don't want to see chaos in the martial arts world," said Shi Jingzhi absentmindedly. "They may not be able to control other major sects, but at least they can manage themselves."
"But..." Yan Qing interjected.
"Ah Ci gave out the Buddhist bead from the person in white robes. The Jianchen Temple got four, and the other sects each got two. With this public distribution, everyone now has three-sevenths of the map, which saves a lot of trouble," he turned his head to look at Yin Ci on his shoulder. "I just didn't expect Ah Ci to come up with a similar idea. Ah Ci, you and the monks seem to get along well."
Yin Ci hummed twice and continued to feign injury with his eyes closed.
Shi Jingzhi and him did think alike. He did intend to influence Master Juehui with his proposal. Now, Yin Ci had to say something foolish and pretend to be innocent.
However, the taste of the medicinal soup made him reluctant to open his mouth. Not to mention, Shi Jingzhi's touch still lingered on his lips. So Yin Ci remained silent and began to think of ways to play a trick on him.
Meanwhile, Yan Qing continued to obsess over the situation. "I don't understand. You already knew, yet you still gave the Buddhist beads from the human-shaped coffin to the monk? Isn't that just giving everyone a freebie?"
"We didn't have many Buddhist beads on hand, and if everyone was focused on fighting over them, we would definitely be targeted. But if we had enough maps, everyone would be more concerned about the possibility of a carpet search by the major sects, and would be less focused on dealing with us."
On the side of the Ku Mountain Sect, there was a lot of chatter, while on the other side, the Master Juehui had already finished deciphering the treasure map and began distributing it.
Once every representative had received their copy, Master Juehui held the four Buddhist beads in his palm and crushed them into powder.
After the dust settled, Master Juehui let out a long sigh.
"Is it all over? I'll be leaving first." The Dark Blood Witch waved her hand and instructed the disciples to protect their belongings with their true energy before leading the way through the gate.
As the Red Hook Sect left, there was still silence outside the gate, not even the sound of footsteps could be heard.
Shi Jingzhi took a few deep breaths and said, "Let's go too."
Yan Qing tensed up in fear, but Shi Jingzhi grabbed the back of his collar and dragged him forward. "Don't worry, even if someone has to have an accident, it won't be you."
As Shi Jingzhi spoke, his warm internal energy enveloped Yin Ci once again. Yin Ci simply buried his nose in his master's shoulder and closed his eyes.
The judgment of Dark Blood Witch was not wrong.
However, the "other side of the door" no longer existed. The tomb passage was filled with soft limbs of monsters, and their slippery bodies pushed them towards the exit. In no time, the three of them were pushed out by the monsters and fell outside with a loud thud.
They opened their eyes.
A certain gray-red monster filled the tunnel, its limbs twisted together, covered in mucus, and as thick as thighs. Those who couldn't enter the tomb on the first day were probably squeezed to death by this thing.
Yan Qing silently took out his will and tore it to pieces. Shi Jingzhi sat on the ground, frantically shaking off the mucus on his body, almost shaking his head off.
Yin Ci looked up at the sky - he hadn't looked at the blue sky carefully for too long, and almost forgot how refreshing it could be.
Yan Budu may have stumbled upon an opportunity to find the elixir of life. With the map in their possession, which holds three-sevenths of the clues, they were ready to play this treasure hunt game with the other major sects. All they had to do was enjoy the process and take the treasure in the end.
No matter if the clues ultimately led to the Shi Rou, at least for the next year, he wouldn't be bored for the next year. They didn't have to wait long before the other sects were also thrown out by the monster. Once everyone had left, the monster let out a sharp scream, retracting back into the dark tomb passage.
The Ghost Tomb was sealed once again. However, the legend of the Shi Rou, which had been passed down for centuries, did not fade away with it. It seemed to be gaining momentum.
The group of people scattered on the square in front of the tomb. The Golden Jade Gang provided dry clothes, hot water, hand towels, and sweet porridge.
While everyone cleaned themselves up, the Golden Jade Gang sorted out the list of treasures. Apart from the Ku Mountain Sect, all the other sects returned with a full load of treasures. Countless valuable items were available for trade.
In the designated area of the Golden Jade Gang, there were no conflicts among the members of the various sects. They maintained a tacit understanding and waited for the Golden Jade Gang to inspect and purchase the treasures before immediately reselling them to those who wanted them.
Those who did not want to buy or sell had already packed their treasures and planned a safe return route. The cold square suddenly became lively, with a faint similarity to a market.
"We don't have much to offer, so we won't stay here. We'll go to the rest area first. Please help us pass on the message to the Golden Jade Gang," Shi Jingzhi bowed to Shen Zhu.
The disciples of the Golden Jade Gang gathered around, one of them saying, "Sect Leader Shi, you can't sell but you can still buy! We just received a large shipment of divine weapons, and our leader has hired experts to maintain and repair them. They're practically brand new."
Shi Jingzhi slowly pulled out a golden hairpin, his eyes filled with sadness. "This is all I have."
The Golden Jade Gang disciple's smile froze. "This...Uh, is that the Hanging Shadow Sword? We all worked on that one together. We could offer a fair price for it."
Shi Jingzhi shook his head. "No, this was a gift for my disciple. I can't just sell it."
Yan Qing watched as Sect Leader Shi struggled with his decision, then handed over his own backpack. "Sect Leader, take this."
"When we were in Paperman Street, Senior Shi asked me to collect some jewels as compensation for our hard work. Take half of them."
Shi Jingzhi was shocked. "I can't accept this."
"If Sect Leader Shi hadn't protected me, I would have died down there. The remaining half, I will have someone deliver it to Senior Shi... Thank you both for saving my life," said Yan Qing.
Shi Jingzhi was moved to tears, "Good, good. Yan Qing, I will increase your monthly allowance to 800 wen!"
Yan Qing's face looked numb.
Taking advantage of his injured status, Yin Ci was being carried on Shi Jingzhi's back. He cleared his throat and asked, "Shizun, what about me?"
Shi Jingzhi replied, "Ah Ci, after going through so much, you and I are like father and son. What's mine is yours, why bother with such trivial matters?"
Yin Ci thought to himself, "What nonsense, who's the father and who's the son?"
Shi Jingzhi knew that Yin Ci's meridians were already damaged, and the palm strike from the Dark Blood Witch only added some internal injuries. With proper care, he would recover.
However, since his disciple liked being carried, he would carry him.
He signaled to Shen Zhu with his eyes to step back, then walked towards the depths of the market. Yan Qing was an overly fair person and the silly kid didn't take too many jewels when Shi Zhongyu asked him to. Shi Jingzhi stared longingly at the divine weapons, emitting a small whimper from his throat.
Yin Ci was lying comfortably, but was annoyed by Shi Jingzhi's grumbling. He bit his master's ear and said, "Shizun, Yan Budu lives luxuriously, even his daily necessities are top-notch. Your flag is broken, why not go over there and see if there are any alternative materials..."
Before Yin Ci could finish his sentence, Shi Jingzhi pushed him to the ground and rushed out.
Yin Ci asked, "What?"
Yan Qing sympathetically patted him on the back and said, "Brother, it's not easy."
Yin Ci gritted his teeth and said, "It's okay."
Half an hour later, Shi Jingzhi happily returned with a pile of things in his arms.
"Ah Ci is right, the daily necessities buried with the dead are all treasures... This bamboo pole made of pure silver, taken from a burial fan, is much sturdier than ordinary swords. Have you seen this piece of cloth? It's made of cold silk and hemp, which is used to wrap divine weapons and is impervious to water and fire. The texture is amazing."
Sect Leader Shi had on a happy expression, as if he wanted to hug and kiss them.
Seeing the deadpan faces of Yin Ci and Yan Qing, Shi Jingzhi revealed a mysterious smile.
"These are for you... Here! This is a self-defense sword for Yan Qing. It may not be a famous sword, but it's something that came out of the Ghost Tomb and is stronger than 90% of the weapons on the market. Yan Qing, you will manage the remaining money and arrange for your future food and daily necessities."
Yan Qing took the money bag and sword, remained silent for a long time, and finally showed a shallow smile.
"Next is Ah Ci - I've bought a scabbard made of agarwood for you, painted black to match your Hanging Shadow Sword," said Shi Jingzhi. He carefully sheathed the sword and handed it over to Yin Ci. "The sharp edge can hurt you, so be careful... I traded my golden hairpin for this scabbard. From now on, I'll never ask about your past matters."
Yin Ci was taken aback.
Shi Jingzhi gently patted his head and said, "Let's just be a good master and disciple, okay?" His tone was gentle and his smile unchanged, but there was a hint of hidden caution and a touch of sadness in his eyes.
Yin Ci pretended not to understand, but replied with a half-truth, "What are you saying, Shizun? As long as you don't kick me out, you'll always be my master."
Shi Jingzhi's smile brightened a bit: "Mm."
He then proudly took out two exquisite sugar cakes and said, "Look, these are high-end snacks sold by the Golden Jade Gang. You two have been waiting for so long, let's eat some before we go."
But as he spoke, he didn't take a single bite himself. Instead, he pulled out a leftover biscuit from his bag and gobbled it up.
Yin Ci paused in his nibbling and asked, "Master, aren't you going to eat?"
"I already ate."
Liar. There was still some demonic slime on Shi Jingzhi's body, and there wasn't any on even a crumb of the cake. He was probably trying to save money and didn't want to buy anything for himself.
They say life is short, and this guy's life is especially short. Why treat himself like this?
Yin Ci offered him a piece of the snack, saying, "I don't like sweet things, Shizun, you can have it."
Shi Jingzhi solemnly accepted it and said, "To have a good disciple like you, is truly a blessing from heaven."
However, when he picked up the snack, his movements were slightly stiff.
He ate with elegance, savoring every bite and seeming lost in the pleasure of it. The stiffness that had momentarily gripped him was now gone, and Yin Ci couldn't find anything else amiss. He gave up trying to figure it out.
He took the leftover biscuit from Shi Jingzhi and chewed it casually. Despite having been left for a few days in the cold tomb, it still tasted fresh and delicious.
Yin Ci was used to his own cooking and quickly finished his cake. But Shi Jingzhi and Yan Qing were like two snails, eating slowly and chatting as they went.
Savouring a piece of cake, Shi Jingzhi asked with a muffled voice, "Do you know the origin of the Hanging Shadow Sword?"
Yan Qing licked the crumbs from his palm and shook his head.
"Have you heard of Zhuang Wufeng? He was a master swordsmith a hundred years ago, and he personally crafted the Guanwu Sword that lay within the human-shaped coffin. In his later years, he forged the Hanging Shadow Sword and added Wushu ore to the blade - Wushu ore is extremely lightweight and can disperse true energy. Nowadays, Wushu ore is hard to come by and is priceless."
Yan Qing was impressed and asked, "So this sword must be very valuable, right?"
Shi Jingzhi awkwardly chuckled, "Well, Wushu ore is usually used to make armor. Wushu soft armor can disperse incoming true energy and is a treasure for self-defense. When Wushu ore is used to forge a sword, the user's own sword moves cannot carry true energy, making it suitable for Ah Ci."
Yan Qing asked, "But like Wushu armor, can it also block the enemy's internal energy?"
Yin Ci interjected coldly, "It depends on whether it can withstand it. The enemy won't go after the sword, they'll be chasing after the sword's owner to beat them up."
"Then, what about melting it down to make armor?"
He shook his head, "There isn't enough Wushu ore in the sword. If we use it to make armor, it won't even cover the back of our hands."
Yan Qing racked his brain, "This sword can break through internal energy, so it can at least be used for assassination."
Shi Jingzhi's face was full of kindness, "Master Zhuang also thought so, but unfortunately the assassins didn't buy it - their poison can seal throats easily, there's no need for extra tricks. The sword is a good sword, but unfortunately, he couldn't find a buyer and was so angry that he named it 'Hanging Shadow Sword'... he probably thought 'Lonely Sword' wasn't elegant enough."
Yin Ci suddenly realized - no wonder he recognized this sword, Zhuang Wufeng had also tried to sell it to him before.
What did he say at the time?
It seemed like, "Even if I don't have internal energy, I can still use a top-notch sword. This sword is at most a decoration, whoever uses it is foolish."
Karma is clear, and retribution is inevitable. Even as the leader of the demon cult, one cannot escape his own crow's mouth.
Yin Ci silently held onto his Lonely Sword, letting out a quiet sigh.
Zhuang Wufeng's skills were at least reliable, and he had long since moved past the stage of relying solely on weapons. He would have to make do with what he had.
The three members of the Ku Mountain Sect spent a few days idling at the makeshift market. With the help of Shi Jingzhi's soup, Yin Ci was no longer "weak" and gradually returned to his normal self.
However, peace was short-lived.
The Golden Jade Gang had made a fortune and acquired a large number of treasures, preparing to transport them out of the mountains for a high price. This was the last night of revelry, with decorations and celebrations everywhere in red.
But as the day of the Buddhist beads' appearance drew near, what was once a joyous occasion in the eyes of the martial arts world gradually turned into a bloody scene.
That night, Dark Blood Witch was waiting in her tent, analysing the treasure map for clues. She heard a faint sound outside and immediately threw the papers on the table into the fire pit.
"Who's there?" she shouted sternly, but the nearby disciples didn't react.
Then, she saw someone in white.
"Shh," Yin Ci raised a finger.
Dark Blood Witch's eyes widened, and her murderous intent suddenly faded. "You're the one in white?... You look exactly like the portrait of the former leader. Who are you?" Her lips trembled a few times. "What's your background?"
Yin Ci smiled faintly. "I'm from the Su family."
"That's impossible!" Dark Blood Witch insisted. "If the former leader had descendants, our sect couldn't possibly not know!"
"He didn't want you to know, and he had his reasons," Yin Ci replied.
Yin Ci casually took the cane from her and waved it around a few times. As the leader of the Red Hook Sect, the Dark Blood Witch could definitely tell...
"Sweeping Bone Sword Technique...so you're the successor of the former Sect Leader. No wonder you've hidden so perfectly, leaving me clueless." the Dark Blood Witch said hoarsely, "I apologize for forcing you to reveal yourself in the tomb."
After speaking, she grabbed her left wrist with her right hand, intending to break it, but was stopped by Yin Ci's cane. "Ignorance is not a crime. I entered the tomb secretly beforehand, and you're the leader of the Holy Sect, so it's normal to be cautious." Yin Ci said slowly, "Since you didn't find me, let's just let it go. I don't want to torture an old lady."
"If you wanted to enter the tomb, why not join the Holy Sect? I could have provided you with any position as a cover, besides being the Sect Leader." the Dark Blood Witch suggested.
Yin Ci raised an eyebrow, "I don't want to ride on the coattails of my ancestors. Alright, now that you know my identity, tell your people not to pry around, it's making me unhappy."
"Also, the affairs of the sect are numerous. Even if the Ghost Tomb is important, the Sect Leader shouldn't personally attend."
"I have already chosen a successor and am cultivating them within the sect."
"I see." Yin Ci nodded and turned to leave.
"Young friend, please wait!" Dark Blood Witch coughed twice, "Don't you want to see the Buddhist treasure map?"
"At this point, you still want to test me?" Yin Ci didn't turn around, his voice mixed with a hint of laughter. "I'm not interested in that thing. I didn't take it in the tomb, and I won't take it now."
He threw the cane back.
"I wanted to give you a chance to take the bead, but I ended up giving it to a disciple of the Ku Mountain Sect. Who knew that kid was so stubborn and refused to report it to protect his sect."
The wrinkles on the face of the Dark Blood Witch moved slightly, "I am stubborn and failed to create a scene to win the treasure, wasting the hard work of the young friend."
Yin Ci smiled, "Nonsense, if you are willing to abide by the rules of your ancestors, I am more than happy... Is there anything else you want to ask?"
The Dark Blood Witch lowered her head, "Take care, young friend."
Yin Ci left the tent, quickly put on the Ghost Skin Suit, and returned to the area of the Ku Mountain Sect.
He had just cleared up the relationship between the "Man in White Robes" and the "Ku Mountain Sect", and felt refreshed.
The tent of the Ku Mountain Sect was far inferior to that of Dark Blood Witch, cramped and with a slight draft. The scene inside the tent was the same as when he left.
Yan Qing was honestly holding a blanket, curled up in a corner. Shi Jingzhi was also asleep, frowning as if he had a nightmare.
Yin Ci had only just lay down next to Shi Jingzhi when the latter suddenly turned over and draped his arm over Yin Ci's waist.
Yin Ci: "..."
He contemplated how to remove the arm, but then noticed Shi Jingzhi's relaxed expression and improved complexion.
What was going on with this guy?
"Ah Ci," Shi Jingzhi muttered, exerting some force with his arm and opening his mouth. "Don't leave... Master will treat you well..."
Yin Ci stopped moving and patiently listened.
"If you go, Master will have to spend time catching another... another obedient..." He mumbled the last part and swallowed it down just in time.
After a moment, Yin Ci snorted and firmly pushed away Shi Jingzhi's arm, tucking it back into his blanket. Shi Jingzhi slept soundly, completely unaware of what had just happened.
Before the sun rose the next day, Shi Jingzhi woke up. He danced around with his newly acquired pure silver pole, poking Yin Ci and Yan Qing awake.
Yin Ci didn't hold back: "Is Shizun hungry again?" It was exactly the hour of the tiger*, who knows how this lazy bum managed to wake up so punctually.
Shi Jingzhi replied, "Am I someone who lacks dignity? Get up, we need to escape."
Yan Qing yawned, "But we haven't even left the territory of the Golden Jade Gang yet..."
"Do you still want to leave with them? The major sects have people waiting outside, we're like rats hiding among the beasts, everyone wants to catch us. You two shouldn't wear sect uniforms, I bought a few old servant clothes, put them on."
Yan Qing obediently changed into the clothes and asked, "Does Sect Leader have to wear a mask all the time?"
The Nuo mask is much more eye-catching than the sect uniform.
"No, they will definitely be watching the groups of three. Ah Ci, you need to look calm and collected, just put something on your face to disguise yourself. Yan Qing, hunch over and squint your eyes, and add a fake beard. Later, I will hide in a box, and you two can carry the box and sneak into the Golden Jade Gang. We can take advantage of the opportunity to leave the mountain."
Yan Qing had followed the Taiheng Sect for ten years and was used to following orderly processes, so he was a bit stunned for a moment. Yin Ci, on the other hand, accepted the plan well: "We should listen to Shizun's words, it seems like he has a destination in mind."
"Before you two woke up, I analysed our treasure map. We will follow the Golden Jade Gang to Qizhou, then head west to Yongsheng." Shi Jingzhi shook the paper in his hand. "Yongsheng is marked on the map, and there might be clues over there."
"Wait a minute, Qizhou and Yongsheng are separated by the Zongwu Mountain, we can't cross it. Shouldn't we be heading north?" Yan Qing asked.
"Other sects would think the same, so we must climb the Zongwu Mountain," Shi Jingzhi said excitedly. "Yan Budu specifically drew this mountain, there must be a deeper meaning to it."
Yan Qing's gaze drifted off again. "This mountain will probably take us over a month to climb..."
Yin Ci interjected at the right moment, "Shizun, aren't you afraid that other sects will get there first?"
"Yan Budu's clues are not that easy to decipher. Besides, we'll travel light and have enough stamina to climb it in just over ten days."
Before leaving, Shi Jingzhi sneakily left a lamp and arranged the bedding to look like a person. The three of them joined the bottom-tier members of the Golden Jade Gang - the servants who worked endlessly to transport goods and were now half asleep.
They smoothly made their way through, until they left the territory of the Golden Jade Gang. The members of the Golden Jade Gang were taking a break when a Nine-Ring Blade flew through the air and stabbed straight into a large box.
The group had been transporting everyday items and had let their guard down. They were caught off guard by the sudden attack and were left bewildered.
Who would risk angering the Golden Jade Gang just to steal pots and pans?
The two people in charge of the box didn't run for their lives. Instead, they picked up the box and ran towards the outskirts of the group. The sun had not yet risen and it was still dark outside, and the surroundings were dim. The two of them and the box disappeared quickly.
"What did those two carry? Weren't we just transporting junk?"
"What are you saying, even if it was really treasure, would they bear to just stab the blade in..."
"Even if there was something valuable, it was probably just a mistake made by the logistics team... Let's forget about it and hurry up. We don't want to get caught up in this mess."
The attacker didn't go after the servants. He sneered and leaped over the grass, chasing after the two servants carrying the boxes.
"Is the Sect Leader dead?" Yan Qing panted.
"No, he's fine. If the attacker had really stabbed him just now, we would have heard him scream," Yin Ci replied, matching his footsteps.
Yan Qing: "..."
He asked, "Why do we still have to carry him? Can't we all run together?"
Yin Ci explained concisely, "The blade belongs to Zheng Fengdao. We definitely can't escape—"
Before he could finish his sentence, the Nine-Ring Blade was snatched away. Zheng Fengdao landed in front of the two, and his fierce aura was as chilling as a bone-piercing cold wind, making them feel cold even from seven or eight steps away.
The box moved and cracked open. Shi Jingzhi gasped for air and revealed his head. His mask was crooked, and he had a pair of pants on his head.
Zheng Fengdao ignored his appearance and said, "Sect Leader Shi, hand over the Buddhist beads. You have caused a lot of trouble for the Red Hook Sect's old witch, so just for this, I can spare your lives."
Shi Jingzhi stood up straight and asked, "What if I don't hand them over?"
Zheng Fengdao laughed heartily, "What if you don't? Let me settle the account of Elder Lu with you."
"Lu Fengxi was killed by the person in white robes, what does it have to do with my Ku Mountain Sect?"
"He was killed when your disciple was present, so it counts as your disciple killing him." Zheng Fengdao drew his sword, the bloodstains on it still not wiped clean.
Shi Jingzhi: "..."
Yin Ci cleared his throat and said, "My grandfather said not to reason with people from the demon cult. Shizun, this big brother must be very powerful to make the Black Blood Witch eat a loss. What should we do?"
This was the truth. Zheng Fengdao was much stronger than Lu Fengxi, and at this stage, he could probably take on five Shi Jingzhi's.
Zheng Fengdao was pleased with the flattery and said, "Wow, this kid is quite sensible. Here's the deal, Sect Leader Shi. If you don't hand over the Buddhist beads, I'll kill your servant first, and then your disciple later. So, have you thought of an answer yet?"
Yan Qing: "?!"
Yin Ci became interested again. How would Shi Jingzhi resolve this situation? Would he make a move and flee, or...
Shi Jingzhi's face turned ugly, revealing the panic he felt when he was being trapped by the Dark Blood Witch.
"I've thought of an answer," he said with difficulty.
The author has something to say:
"Hello everyone, it seems like there's a misunderstanding about the fox's current abilities... His combat power is currently in the single digits, having spent over twenty years in the palace and only training his internal energy. He would surely lose to the countless experienced martial artists in the jianghu if he were to face them in actual combat.
But his potential for growth is terrifyingly high. Check!
And he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Check!
And it's true that the fox is being raised by the Demon Lord Yin into a trouble-maker. Check!
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