The little girl led the three of them into the mountains, circling around in the woods.
Who knew how many times they had retraced the same steps. The group from Ku Mountain Sect followed silently, the thick snow making it quite exhausting to walk, but the girl stepped lightly on the snow's crust, as if walking on flat ground.
When she got tired, she jumped onto the back of the dog demon and rode it. "My name is Yin Deng," the little girl hummed a tune happily. "I brought two good guests this time. Dad and Mom will definitely praise me."
Yan Qing took a few steps forward and asked, "Besides the people from Xizhuang, have you seen any other 'guests' recently?"
Yin Deng turned around and tilted her head, thinking for a while. "No, I'm not the only guide. Do you want to find someone you know? When we get to the village, I'll help you ask Mom."
Yin Ci was not favoured by Yin Deng and walked at the back of the group. He observed his surroundings carefully, feeling a slight discomfort in his chest.
There were unfamiliar spells laid out nearby, with a very faint aura but a strong sense of oppression. Ordinary people who walked here would probably feel uneasy or fearful and instinctively stay away.
The scale of the spells was terrifying, and Yin Ci tried to sense their boundaries but couldn't find any. He couldn't help but glance at Shi Jingzhi a few times.
Although this master was picked up at random, he was quite lucky - Yin Ci had seen many new and exciting things in the less than a month since they met.
It was really good.
Shi Jingzhi had a deep internal strength and was not affected by the spells, but Yan Qing was not so lucky.
He had been in the spells for too long and felt dizzy, vomiting several times in a row, but he didn't complain at all. Yin Ci regarded him as the benchmark of "ordinary people". Yan Qing vomited three times, so he followed along and vomited twice. Shi Jingzhi had a look of emptiness that saw through the world, moving forward amidst the alternating retching of the two.
The three of them walked from sunrise to sunset.
No one questioned the little girl's words anymore - with this treacherous route, not even monkeys living in the mountains could have found it after swinging around for a hundred plus years.
They finally stopped in the middle of a dense forest, where a shrine stood.
The shrine was not large, with an ancient style and very clean, standing out from the surrounding mountains and forests. It looked as if it had been lifted from the city and moved here.
There was no signboard hanging, and the door was tightly closed.
Yin Deng jumped down from the dog's back, struggling to tiptoe and knocked on the door three times.
As they walked, Shi Jingzhi found himself at the back of the group. He rubbed his hands together to warm them up and glanced to the side. A plump sparrow was perched on a branch, weighing it down.
He shook his head at the bird and made a gesture with his hand. The sparrow tilted its head to look at him before flying away with difficulty.
Just then, the door to the shrine slowly creaked open. Inside, the scene was one of desolation. There were no candles or offerings, not even a statue. The altar was empty, with only a frayed curtain hanging down.
As the group entered the shrine, the door closed behind them on its own. They climbed up onto the altar and walked towards the wall behind it.
Shi Jingzhi rubbed his eyes in disbelief - the red wooden board that had sealed off the altar before was now replaced by a passage. The passage was short, but the warm breeze blowing from the other side made them feel refreshed. As they crossed the passage, their view suddenly opened up, and the three members of the Ku Mountain Sect stopped in their tracks.
Yin Deng twirled around, gesturing with her short arms and a smug expression: "See, isn't it pretty?"
"No," Yin Ci thought to himself, "Shi Jingzhi is probably scared stiff."
Despite the freezing weather outside, it felt like a warm spring day here. The sky was crystal clear blue, without a single cloud or snowflake in sight. Beautiful wildflowers were everywhere, filling the air with a delicate fragrance.
The fields were lush and green, and the houses were neat and tidy. The roads were paved with stones and looked as clean as if they had just been washed.
The men and women passing by were not necessarily as beautiful as celestial beings, but they all had rosy complexions and attractive features. Looking back, there was no longer a tunnel behind them, only a small stone bridge standing on the dry ground.
The long tunnel they had just walked through had turned into a short bridge in the blink of an eye. On the other side of the bridge, there was a vast expanse of spring scenery, without any shrines or forests in sight.
If one were to visit during the spring or summer, this place would indeed seem like a fairyland. However, braving the severe cold to come here made this place feel more like a fantasy world.
Shi Jingzhi had already experienced the "Dream Bubble Illusion" of the Ghost Tomb and had suffered enough. He cautiously kept a straight face, without any hint of admiration in his expression.
Yin Deng was even more displeased with their lack of respect. She pouted and turned her head, throwing herself into the arms of the woman behind her, saying, "Mommy, Mommy, I brought two good guests!"
The woman was quite beautiful, with a plump and round figure. She lifted her head and smiled at Shi Jingzhi, saying, "Sir, why don't you change into some warmer clothes? It will be hot later."
Then she patted Yin Deng's head and said, "Go find your father and ask him to pick out two pieces of clothing."
Yin Deng cheered and led the dog demon away without looking back. "Sister Mian, these three...two people are my friends. Let me take care of them. It's easier since I'm the only one in my house," a voice came from behind the crowd.
The three turned around abruptly. A young man sat on the edge of the stone bridge, with an innocent smile on his face. He had a pair of willow leaf eyes and a small black mole under his right eye. His features were delicate and lively, not as detached as the disciples of the Ku Mountain Sect, making people want to get close to him.
"Ah Si!" Yan Qing shouted in surprise. Ah Si politely bowed to him, without responding, and continued to look at the woman.
"Sister Mian, I'll take them away first," he said.
Sister Mian smiled and said, "Alright. If the guest can't fit into your clothes, just tell me and I'll alter them for you."
As Ah Si turned around to lead the three of them, he maintained a smiling face but an indifferent attitude and didn't answer any questions. It seemed like Yan Qing was about to explode, when they finally arrived at Ah Si's residence.
The room was spacious and clean, big enough for four people to live in. The furniture was simple and antique, with polished wooden surfaces. However, the beds were messy, clothes were scattered everywhere, and there was even a meat cleaver stuck in the table.
Ah Si entered the room, closed the door, and looked around cautiously. When he confirmed that there was no one around, he grabbed Yan Qing by the collar and lifted him off the ground, despite Yan Qing being a tall man of eight feet.
"Didn't I tell you to run?" Ah Si's gentle demeanor disappeared, replaced by anger. "Is this what you call running? Running straight into the thief's den? Huh?"
"I was worried about you..." Yan Qing said dazedly.
"You bastard! I can fight better than you, and I can't even run away. You want to die with me? And now you..." Ah Si glanced at the two disciples of the Ku Mountain Sect, smiled politely, then turned his face and continued to scowl.
"You even dragged two innocent people down with you? They had nothing to do with this!"
Shi Jingzhi quickly explained, "Little brother, it was cold outside, so we stayed in the house overnight. That's why we're late, not because Yan Qing encouraged us. He even told us about you yesterday. You're the famous Su Sigou, right...?"
Little did they know, this only made things worse.
"You told them my name is Su Sigou?! You gave me a new name, did you eat it up and forget about it?"
"Su Si, Si Si please let go first," Yan Qing said in a gentle tone. "Everyone, this is my friend, Su Si. It's the 'Si' from the word 'unrestrained'. When I changed my surname, I also helped him change his name at the same time."
Su Si finally released his grip, and Yan Qing rubbed his neck, letting out a sigh of relief.
"You've gotten stronger since we last met, and you're even taller than me," Su Si finally spoke, his eyes slightly red. "That's great."
Yan Qing's expression softened. "I went to Taiheng, and you never came. I thought maybe something happened to you..."
Su Si shook his head, his smile becoming more genuine. "Let's not talk about that. It's just good to see each other again. Come here, San-zi, give me a hug."
As the two young friends embraced tightly after a long separation, Shi Jingzhi looked on with envy. "That's so nice. I wish I had friends like that."
Yin Ci broke off half a piece of smoked meat and handed it to his master, saying, "It's not like we're also reuniting after a long time apart, so please enjoy the meat, Shizun."
Shi Jingzhi sadly began to gnaw on the meat.
"I may have offended you earlier, and since we were being watched, I couldn't show too much enthusiasm," Su Si finally calmed down after properly reuniting with Yan Qing. "Who are these two?"
"I am Shi Jingzhi of the Ku Mountain Sect, and this is my disciple Yin Ci. Yan Qing is currently serving as a servant in our sect."
Su Si nodded and said, "I'm Su Si, without a sect or a school, and I only know some self-defense skills."
"I pretended to like it here and have been living here for almost half a month without any trouble. With the appearance of Sect Leader Shi and San-zi, there shouldn't be any problems for now, but it's hard to say for this brother Yin... What I'm about to say is all true, so please stay calm."
Su Si's story was a bit more worldly than Yan Qing's.
Ten years ago, Su Si became separated from Yan Qing and ended up in an unfamiliar place. At first, he was tricked into doing manual labor because of his strong arms, and then he was bought by a wealthy family to be a servant because of his good looks.
When the wealthy family was robbed, he joined a group of bandits and lived aimlessly for a few years. Later, the gang disbanded and Su Si, now without any identity, became a beggar on the streets. In short, he had encountered all kinds of lowly people.
Fortunately, Su Si had learned the trade of a butcher and Yan Qing had forced him to learn some characters. A butcher in Yongsheng City was willing to take him in, and he finally settled down. Once he had saved up enough money, he began to venture out, and ten years had already passed.
To prove his identity, Su Si pointed to the knife inserted in the table. The meat cleaver glinted with a cold light, its rough wooden handle soaked in blood and oil, emitting a faint smell of pork.
Yin Ci's gaze paused for a moment. He always felt that this knife looked familiar, but considering how plain it was, he withdrew his gaze and continued listening to Su Si's story.
Su Si chose Xizhuang as his first stop. He decided to go back to the village and see if Yan Qing had taken the Mountain Ghost Coin. As a result, he fell into the same situation as the Ku Mountain Sect and was blocked by the people of Yuanxian Village as soon as he left the village.
Su Si was crazier than them. He wasn't afraid of the dog and directly drew his knife, fighting with the white-robed monsters.
"I stabbed one of them in the sole of his foot and cut his neck. His Achilles tendon should have been severed, but he was still able to move normally." Su Si rubbed his chin. "It was then that I saw what was wrapped in the white cloth robes."
Shi Jingzhi sat up slowly. "What was in the robes?"
"There's definitely something in there that's not human. Through the fabric, I saw chunks of meat that looked like organs... Who has organs growing on their legs these days? I stabbed it pretty hard with my knife, but it didn't even make a sound. Is that normal?"
"It doesn't feel pain and there are so many of them. I knew I couldn't win, so I made a request - to go to San-zi's house and dig up something. There's no one else in the village, so they let me go."
He grabbed a glass of water and downed most of it, cursing a few times.
"San-zi might not even come back to dig up the Ghost Mountain Coin, but you know what they say - better safe than sorry. I didn't know how long they would be guarding the village, so I left a note... And then you! I got caught and you came right after, sigh..."
Su Si slammed his head onto the table, making a loud noise.
Yan Qing had nothing to say, so he just patted his back.
Shi Jingzhi had been scared so much that he gradually got used to it: "We are hiding from people, everything is just an accident. It's fortunate to have someone trustworthy here."
Yin Ci remained silent.
Trustworthy person? He didn't think so, and Shi Jingzhi might not have been sincere either.
Along the way, he did smell the stench of pus and blood from the white-robed man...the white-robed monster. He smelled it, and the Fox Shi wouldn't have missed it either.
Su Si said he injured the white-robed monster, which was probably not a lie.
However, the white-robed monster was able to knock Shi Jingzhi's mask off. Did Su Si, a butcher, really have the ability to injure it?
But after meeting Yan Qing, Su Si's emotions didn't seem faked, so he could observe a little more.
Yan Qing obviously trusted Su Si unconditionally, and his focus was elsewhere.
"Ah Si, will the villagers be able to eavesdrop on our discussion here?"
Su Si slapped his head, "No, no, I have a helper. Come, let me introduce you to my ally. I owe my survival to it."
Before anyone could react, Su Si opened the window and stuck his head out, "Lord Bai, Lord Bai - it's time to eat!"
In an instant, a snow-white thing smashed in. The thing knocked Su Si to the ground, with its two feet stepping on his face, and arrogantly looked down upon the world. Then it flapped its wings and let out two loud cries.
It looked like a goose, but much fatter than an ordinary one, with a particularly plump lump on its beak. Unlike ordinary geese, it had two antennae-like things on its head, about the length of a human index finger, covered with short feathers, hanging softly.
Yin Ci was momentarily confused, "A goose?"
"A goose demon." Su Si sprung up agilely.
"If used correctly, it's stronger than any other demon in Yuanxian Village."
Yan Qing really isn't a pet (...). The pet officially appears in this chapter!
The unit with a single-digit combat power, Fox Shi, watch out.
Demon Lord Yin announces a no-prize guessing game: Lord Bai = how many times of Fox Shi?
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