Yin Ci was taken aback. He had actually heard of the term "Cuckoo's Calamity".
Cuckoo birds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, and their hatchlings then become the dominant ones, snatching food from the other chicks.
The legend of the "Cuckoo's Calamity" is more prevalent in remote areas. It is said that an unknown demon creature impregnates human women, and the resulting child is beautiful and lovely, but looks nothing like their parents or siblings. These children often possess astonishing talents and have a much larger appetite than normal people.
According to Yan Qing, the person known as "Ah Si" fits the description perfectly. Ah Si was born in Xizhuang's Su family, his real name being Su Sigou. He had delicate features and soft skin.
It was just that in this remote and impoverished village, the Su family was among the ugliest in the world. Mr. and Mrs. Su looked like a pair of burly, round-waisted brothers, with skin as dark as charcoal and eyebrows thicker than thumbs. Their children were all crooked-toothed and lopsided-lipped, each one an eyesore to behold.
Among them was Su Sigou, who stood out like a white dove in a flock of quails, painfully conspicuous. If he had been born in the city, his parents might have thought him gifted. Even if they had fought, they would have only suspected his mother of infidelity, never considering the possibility of a monster at work.
But in the Su family, this fourth son was not much different from a demon. The village was closed off, and everyone knew each other's roots. Every child was born under the watchful eyes of the villagers, and there was no room for deception.
As Su Sigou grew up day by day, he became more and more delicate. He was born with strong hands and a huge appetite that could rival an adult's. However, because the Su family was poor and disliked this child of unknown origin, they simply let him roam free and scavenge for food in the mountains.
The other villagers also believed that this child was ominous and did not treat Su Sigou kindly. But Su Sigou was born with a lack of common sense and was very good at putting on a brave face despite being treated poorly.
He could even find joy in his own silliness. He spent his days running around, using his strange strength to hunt for food in the mountains, and living a relatively comfortable life.
He even kidnapped a friend - Yan Qing. Yan Qing's father was always angry and only knew how to order his son around. Yan Qing had just come of age and was working hard for money while also serving his father. He was so busy that he couldn't even eat a full meal and was thinner than a wild cat.
As two notorious troublemakers in the village, Su Sigou was particularly curious about Yan Qing. He sneaked around outside Yan Qing's house for two days, and was so agitated by Yan Qing's father that he immediately made him his friend.
Su Sigou was used to foraging in the mountains and was very good at it. Yan Qing relied on him to eat meat, without being driven to an early death by his unreliable father.
"Later, when something happened in our family, we escaped together. If it weren't for Ah Si's familiarity with the mountain roads, I wouldn't have been able to get out alone."
Yan Qing finished his breakfast with a heavy heart and gently put down his chopsticks: "We depended on each other for survival for several years, but we were separated ten years ago. Only he knows that I buried the Mountain Ghost Coin there and only he would leave a note in my window."
"I see. Does this Su Si... cough, Ah Si have any other special abilities?" Shi Jingzhi's eyes were lit up, seeming to be quite interested in the story of the "Cuckoo's Calamity".
Yan Qing was a bit surprised. "No. Besides having a good-looking face, he's just strong. As for his head...how should I put it, Ah Si is the type who won't turn back even if he bumps into a wall, extremely stubborn. But his character is extremely good, he would never actively provoke others."
Shi Jingzhi was too busy inquiring about Ah Si to notice his disciple's increasingly profound gaze.
The way to identify a "Cuckoo's Calamity" was originally ambiguous, with very few folk records. Yin Ci had investigated it before, but it ended without any result. It had nothing to do with geography, constellations, or seasonal factors, and its appearance had no regularity to follow.
But after investigation, he unexpectedly discovered a certain fact.
Every year, there would always be some extraordinary children born, with beautiful appearances and exceptional talents. These people were rare, with only one out of about a million people.
This ratio was quite interesting, similar to the probability of other species producing demonic varieties. Yin Ci simply referred to these people as "demonic talents".
As an orphan, Yin Ci didn't know if his face was given to him by his parents or forced upon him by the heavens. But judging by Shi Jingzhi's reaction, his beautiful master was probably one of these "demonic talents".
Other than people like Yin Ci who've lived extraordinarily long lives, ordinary people would not know about these "demonic talents", and it was normal to be curious about it. Seeing Shi Jingzhi become interested in this mystery, Yin Ci had no intention of stopping him.
The strange phenomenon in Xizhuang, a one-in-a-million "demonic talent". With both of them appearing at the same time, there must be something interesting about this mysterious village.
The three members of the Ku Mountain Sect had searched the village for an hour, but found no new clues, so they turned to search the surrounding area. The wild cats and mice from last night had disappeared, and the village was quiet again, causing Yin Ci to suddenly have a bad feeling.
As people age, their intuition for good things not happening and bad things happening becomes more accurate. Sure enough, as they approached the edge of Xizhuang, they saw two figures in the distance.
The sun was about to rise and there was no snowfall, so their vision was relatively clear. A girl of about ten years old stood in the snow. She wore a brand new red jacket and had two pointed buns on her head, making her look cute and lovely. However, the thing she was holding onto had nothing to do with the word "cute".
At first glance, it looked like a small foal. As the three people got closer, they realized what it really was - a strangely shaped black dog. The black dog was extremely tall and had slender and strong limbs. Its shiny fur wrapped around its knotted muscles. That was still normal, but what was strange was its head.
The dog had no eyes, and its skin on the face and nose were the same, with dozens of nostril-like holes evenly distributed on it. Its mouth was large and long, almost splitting its head in half.
At the moment, it was spewing white steam, revealing its sharp teeth.
Yin Ci saw Shi Jingzhi go from blinking to rubbing his eyes, and then to wanting to pick at his eyeballs. He decisively grabbed his master's wrist.
"Master, I have seen this kind of thing in the mountains. It's a demonic beast, no doubt about it. Judging from its appearance, it's probably a dog demon."
"Ah Ci, according to the books, demonic beasts are the most beautiful amongst their own kind--"
Yin Ci had lived for hundreds of years, but had never seen a demon that met the human standard of "beauty": "Dogs probably have a different aesthetic sense when it comes to their own kind."
Shi Jingzhi fell silent. He slowly turned his head, trying his best to ignore the strange-looking black dog. This time, Yan Qing took the lead and approached the little girl, his face pale as he half-squatted down.
"Little sister, do you know where the people here went?"
"Yes, I know. They went to Yuanxian Village!" The little girl spoke softly. "I'm here to take you to Yuanxian Village."
"They just left like that? Without taking anything?"
The little girl blinked, seeming not to understand the question.
"Yuanxian Village has everything. Why bring unnecessary things? Brother, your eyes are so beautiful. You must have a connection to the immortals."
Yan Qing touched the little girl's head and stepped back. "I've never heard of Yuanxian Village. If there was a village nearby, and Ah Si couldn't possibly not know."
He didn't dare to speak openly in front of the little girl. Fortunately, the master and disciple were quick-witted and could hear the hidden meaning behind his words.
If Yuanxian Village is really a good place, Ah Si wouldn't have left a blood letter.
The little girl didn't seem to be in a hurry, patiently waiting in place. As Shi Jingzhi gestured to leave, the dog demon suddenly barked vigorously.
Fortunately, after going through the Ghost Tomb, Sect Leader Shi remained calm, only stumbling slightly. Yin Ci took the opportunity to support his master and whispered, "Shizun, there are people in the distance."
Earlier, Shi Jingzhi's attention was focused on the dog demon, and he didn't notice the other six presences nearby, besides the red-clothed girl. Yin Ci glanced in their direction and saw the closest one - a person wearing a bulky white robe with white ropes tied all over it, with intricate knots.
He wore a white mask on his face and a high white decorative hat on his head, making him look strange and perfectly blending into the snow. Six others surrounded them, slowly closing in without saying a word.
Shi Jingzhi's tongue felt numb: "Little sister, we have urgent matters to attend to, so we won't be going with you."
"Well then, I'll have to let Ah Huo bite you all." The little girl looked distressed. "Yuanxian Village is a good place, only bad people wouldn't want to go. Right, Ah Huo?"
The dog demon barked a few times cooperatively.
In the next instant, a person in white raised their hand and struck at Shi Jingzhi with great force. The attack lacked any killing intent and wasn't very powerful, but the trajectory was twisted, as if bones and joints were misplaced. Shi Jingzhi barely dodged and his Nuo mask was sent flying.
Yan Qing and the little girl both gasped.
During their time in the Ghost Tomb, Shi Jingzhi basically wore the Nuo mask all the time, only taking it off when he slept. Yan Qing usually went to bed early and had never seen the true face of the Sect Leader.
When Fox Shi revealed his face, the little girl became even happier. "This brother also has an immortal fate! Everyone will definitely like you. Come with me quickly."
Shi Jingzhi glanced at the dog demon and asked straightforwardly, "Is the immortal fate in your realm just based on appearance?"
The little girl shook the dog leash in her hand, and the dog demon obediently squatted in place, drooling a lot. "Yes, the stronger the immortal fate, the more beautiful and powerful the person is! Brother, you must be very powerful."
Shi Jingzhi: "..." I'm just an ordinary person. I was recently beaten up by a fish.
Yin Ci quickly picked out the key point and poked Yan Qing, "That girl doesn't seem to be lying. If the Su family's fourth son really is a 'Cuckoo's Calamity, with that face of his, he's very likely still alive."
Yan Qing's spirits were lifted by this.
Shi Jingzhi also gradually calmed down. He looked at his disciple and servant, "Yuanxian Village, an immortal fate... do you have immortals in your village?"
"Of course we do. We have been serving the immortals for generations."
The little girl pouted, as if Shi Jingzhi had asked a stupid question like "Do people need to eat?".
"Visitors who come to the village never want to leave. It's smelly and desolate outside, and it's cold. It's so annoying... Hey, are you ready? The village has the protection of immortals, but without a guide, no one can find Yuanxian Village."
Yin Ci was always particularly sensitive to stories about immortals. When he heard this, his interest was piqued. Even if Shi Jingzhi didn't want to go, he had to bring his master along.
He cleared his throat and asked, "Little sister, does your village have any spiritual medicine for my master's poor health?"
The little girl seemed to ignore him completely, not even giving him a glance.
...The fake face on the Ghost Skin Suit was indeed quite ordinary, at least not up to the level of having "immortal fate."
Shi Jingzhi moved a few steps and shielded his disciple behind him. Then he put on his brightest smile and asked, "Do you have any spiritual medicine that can cure all illnesses?"
The little girl smiled sweetly, "Yes, we do."
Shi Jingzhi's smile became even more charming, "Let's go to Yuanxian Village and see if we can meet Yan Qing's friend."
Yin Ci and Yan Qing were waiting for this sentence, so how would they object?
At sunrise, the three of them set off. Under the brilliant morning sun, Xizhuang Village still lay quietly in the snow, like a crushed cicada shell.
Six bulky white-robed figures lined up behind the three, leaving two neat rows of footprints. The last white-robed figure seemed to be injured, walking with an extra sway.
His footprints were oozing with pus and blood, as if the one walking wasn't a living creature, but a highly decomposed corpse.
The author has something to say:
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Now the supporting characters are all here (*/ω＼*)
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