Su Si had a way with dealing with the villagers. He remained calm and collected, never showing any signs of surprise or fear, and even managed to joke and tease Yin Deng into happiness.
Once they had collected the clothes and closed the door, Su Si's expression turned serious. "It seems like they really like Sect Leader Shi. I've been in this village for almost half a month and I've never heard anyone mention it before."
Shi Jingzhi furrowed his brow. "I've never heard of such a thing. Little Brother Su, have you encountered any other strange occurrences during your time here?"
"Believe me, this is not a good place," Su Si played with his knife absentmindedly. "The weather, the temperature, the wind and humidity, nothing has changed in the past half month. And what's even more frightening is that they haven't asked me to do anything."
Upon hearing this, Yan Qing's expression became increasingly perplexed.
Su Si casually tossed his knife onto the table and grabbed Yan Qing's face with both hands. "San-zi, we lived together for two years. I should have taken you out more often. There's no such thing as a pie that falls from heaven into your mouth. There are only those who forcefully take a wife, not a father!"
Shi Jingzhi explained to smooth things over. "Forcing someone to stay and not letting them leave, without any financial or sexual motives, can only lead to death."
Yan Qing suddenly understood.
"The Taiheng Sect is clean and upright. I don't know if it's a good or bad thing, but it's made my children stupid." Su Si let go of Yan Qing's face and sighed with worry.
The group had limited information and couldn't come up with any long-term plans. After chatting for a while, it was time for lunch.
Shi Jingzhi had a glorious battle record this time, and Yin Ci delivered a table full of fish.
Su Si didn't touch his chopsticks: "San-zi, can you still go back to Taiheng? According to what you said, it seems that Senior Shi is not angry with you. How about changing your identity... Both of you, I'm not saying that Ku Mountain Sect is not good. It's just that you can see that my brother is a block of wood and can't withstand the wind and waves."
Yan Qing lowered his eyes: "I'm afraid I can't go back."
Su Si shook his head and swayed: "Forget it, forget it, if you can't go back, then don't. When I become a great hero, I'll cover for you. How about this, when we leave here, you come with me..."
Seeing that both the master and disciple were eating, Su Si finally picked up a piece of fish with his chopsticks and put it in his mouth.
"I'll go with you." After swallowing the fish, Su Si changed his tone seriously. "Being pragmatic is important, even for a great hero. Sect Leader Shi, does Ku Mountain Sect still need people?"
Shi Jingzhi: "..."
Shi Jingzhi said, "To be honest, I'm broke."
"What money, don't worry about it. I have some silver on hand, so it's fine as long as there's food," Su Si said with enthusiasm.
Yin Ci glanced at Lord Bai and suddenly interjected, "Brother Su, what can you do?"
"Since Shizun isn't taking any more disciples, you can only be our servant. Yan Qingshan is good at miscellaneous tasks, I can hunt and cook. What about you, Brother Su?"
Su Si scratched his head for a moment and said, "I'll lend you Lord Bai, won't that work."
Yin Ci thought to himself, "Hook, line, and sinker. If that goose demon really has amazing intuition, it'll be useful in finding the Shi Rou."
As he thought this, he turned his head and glanced at Shi Jingzhi, but to his surprise, his cheap master was looking at him with such gentle eyes that it gave him goosebumps.
Yin Ci almost choked on his fish soup.
"Ah Ci, take it slow," Shi Jingzhi patted his back.
Shi Jingzhi still favored his disciple more than he was cautious of him.
Before entering the Ghost Tomb, he had Shen Zhu thoroughly check everyone's identity. Along the way, Shi Jingzhi was afraid but also secretly observed each person. If someone had assumed a fake identity, he should have noticed. But he didn't.
He had also fought with the person in white. From his bone structure, the person in white was only about twenty years old. After three levels, there were only a few dozen people left, and the possibilities had become smaller. He still hadn't found him.
The only person he didn't investigate thoroughly was Yin Ci. He tried to probe Yin Ci repeatedly, but Yin Ci remained unmoved like a mountain, and Shi Jingzhi couldn't come to a conclusion.
So he came up with a compromise - he pasted a layer of paper between the two of them and put the matter aside.
"Never ask about past matters," he had said, so whether Yin Ci was the person in white or not, it wouldn't harm their relationship.
Apart from all of this, Yin Ci was a perfect disciple - thoughtful, considerate, and skilled in cooking. Most people would feel resentful if they were caught up in such strange events, but Yin Ci had no complaints. Instead, he even bared his thorns at Su Si, who wanted to join them.
Suddenly, Shi Jingzhi thought of the cat he had secretly raised when he was young.
That cat had a strong sense of territory and was keen on hissing at anything unfamiliar. Apart from that, it was good at being petted. As for this cat before him, whether it was good or evil didn't seem so important now.
Lost in thought, Shi Jingzhi burned his tongue on a fish ball. Before he could even speak, Yin Ci handed him a glass of cold water.
If meeting him on Ku Mountain was fate, then fate was being kind to him this time.
After a satisfying meal, Shi Jingzhi pulled out his pure silver bamboo flagpole and compared it to the cold silk cloth. He sighed.
Su Si was eager to prove his usefulness. Before he even finished swallowing the fish in his mouth, he was already speaking enthusiastically: "Sect Leader Shi, what's troubling you?"
"My previous flag broke, and I want to make a new one. If I go to the banquet tonight with just a bamboo pole, people will be suspicious," replied Shi Jingzhi.
Shi Jingzhi dipped his hand in the ashes from the stove and wrote the four bold characters "Cure All With Medicine," but then fell into despair.
"There must be an embroiderer in this village. But I don't trust anyone out there, and it's not convenient to talk to outsiders. Do you have any ideas, Brother Su?" asked Shi Jingzhi.
"We do have needles and thread here... but San-zi can only do some basic patchwork and can't do embroidery. Why don't you bring a kitchen knife with you later, Sect Leader Shi? You can just keep it in your pocket," suggested Su Si.
But doesn't that make things even more suspicious? Shi Jingzhi shook his head firmly.
After finishing the fish soup, Su Si let out a big burp and said, "Well, I guess I can't do anything about it. There are four big men here, who would have the time to embroider?"
Yin Ci, with a straight face, replied, "I can."
Su Si: "...You can both cook and embroider. Brother, are you really his disciple, and not his wife?"
Yin Ci didn't bother with this junior and lazily said, "I just happen to know a little."
He didn't particularly enjoy it, but he was simply bored and had tried all sorts of crafts to pass the time. Even if Shi Jingzhi wanted a sugar sculpture now, he could easily whip up a zodiac animal on the spot.
Yin Ci paid no attention to his stunned master and took the bamboo pole and fabric, carefully sewing the flag. In no time, the flag took shape and was even more exquisite than before.
Shi Jingzhi was deeply moved: "Ah Ci, if you were a daughter, with just this skill, you could definitely marry into a good family."
Yin Ci lifted his eyelids coldly: "Master, what characters do you want to embroider on this flag? Let me think, how about 'Kill All With Medicine'?"
Shi Jingzhi immediately fell silent and didn't dare to say another word.
In less than half an hour, the flag was embroidered. Yin Ci's needlework was fine and neat, the characters on the flag were clear and full, and the fabric was taut. Shi Jingzhi hung the sect leader's jade pendant on it and rubbed his face against the flag, obviously delighted.
Su Si looked at Yan Qing: "San-zi, I thought you liked doing household chores enough, but there are people in this world who are even more crazy than you... You can't admit defeat!"
Yan Qing: "???"
As the three of them were making a fool of themselves, Yin Ci sneaked up to Lord Bai, attempting to touch him. If this goose demon had strong intuition, perhaps it could help him find a way out of this dead end. Although he despised this animal, it was necessary to establish a good relationship.
Little did he know, Lord Bai widened his round, black eyes and slowly raised his two fleshy antennae on his head. He opened his mouth and revealed his fine, dense teeth, glaring at Yin Ci.
Undeterred, Yin Ci continued to reach out his hand - he had conquered countless demons, did this thing really dare to resist him?
As it turned out, it did.
Lord Bai slowly bit down on Yin Ci's hand and twisted it with force. It stared at him with unyielding strength, as if it was demonstrating its power. Helpless, Yin Ci had to pry open the goose's mouth and retrieve his hand.
Oh well, there's always tomorrow.
Nightfall quickly descended.
The four of them changed into ordinary village clothes and followed Yin Deng to the banquet. Considering the occasion, Lord Bai was likely to be mistaken for an additional dish, so they had to leave him at home to guard the house.
The banquet was held in an open space on the side of the village, with round tables set up. The four of them and the four of Yin Deng's family sat at one table, with plenty of delicious dishes and laughter all around. If they didn't know someone had died, this scene would be no different from a countryside wedding.
The four of them had eaten a lot for lunch, so now they weren't using their chopsticks much. Yin Deng thought they were just being reserved.
She put down the small spoon she was using to feed her little sister and smiled at Shi Jingzhi, saying, "Brother, from now on, the whole village is one big family. Don't be so formal."
"It's true, this feast is partly for you. The village hasn't had new guests in a long time, so everyone is very happy," Yin Deng's mother added in a gentle voice. "The goddess will come out tonight, and that's a big deal."
"The goddess?" asked Shi Jingzhi.
"The village's immortal!" Yin Deng said excitedly. "Mummy said that the goddess has been here for over fifty years and doesn't usually see people. But if a child is born in the village or a new person comes from outside, she will come out to greet them."
Yin Ci was happily wielding his chopsticks. Everyone at the banquet treated him like he was invisible, so he was more at ease than Shi Jingzhi, who was the center of attention. He could look around freely.
As scheduled, the goddess appeared after the feast.
The goddess was extremely beautiful, looking like she was under thirty years old. She wore a casually styled light green robe, her black hair loosely tied up in a bun, and a jade hairpin swayed with her steps.
She walked through the lively banquet, and the smoke around her instantly dissipated by half. The villagers dared not touch the goddess, only showing reverence and infatuation in their eyes.
Yin Ci didn't feel anything special about her.
The goddess stopped in front of Shi Jingzhi and carefully examined him, showing a satisfied expression. But before she could speak, a woman rushed over from the side.
She hurriedly knelt down, holding onto the goddess's clothes and stuttered, "Goddess, could you make an exception and let Old Liu come back to accompany me for two more years? I know ascending to immortality is a good thing, but, but..."
"Aunt Liu, what are you doing!" Yin Deng's father scolded in a low voice, "The spiritual elixir cannot be used by ordinary people, have you forgotten the rules?"
Aunt Liu was middle-aged, but she still had a youthful sorrow in her eyes: "Old Liu left too soon. I suddenly said I wanted to drink meat soup at noon, and he went to cut it..."
Yin Deng couldn't understand the grief in her words: "But that was Uncle Liu's own carelessness, and besides, ascending to immortality is not a bad thing."
Aunt Liu just cried.
The goddess was not angry, and she gently helped Aunt Liu up: "After all, it is a separation of life and death, and it is normal not to be used to it. The banquet is too noisy, so you should go home and rest for a while."
The goddess had a gentle and compassionate temperament like a Bodhisattva. Looking at her face, Aunt Liu gradually stopped crying and nodded blankly.
She got up, bowed to the goddess, and walked back unsteadily. But halfway through, she suddenly fell to the ground, with a deep cut in her palm.
Shi Jingzhi instinctively reached for his medicine box.
"Don't bother, she's going to ascend to immortality anyway," Yin Deng exclaimed loudly.
Aunt Liu shrank on the ground, seemingly unaware of what was happening. A large amount of fresh blood gushed from her palm and seeped into the soil.
Ignoring everything else, Shi Jingzhi stood up and went over to bandage her wounds. Aunt Liu was like a lifeless puppet, motionless as Shi Jingzhi cleaned and applied ointment to her wounds.
"Aunt Liu, go home and prepare yourself. You don't have much time left," someone nearby said to her.
"She'll come with us, I'll treat her," Shi Jingzhi interrupted. "This injury is not that serious, it shouldn't be fatal."
The goddess watched with interest, "Very well, everyone needs to adapt, so let him go. In a few days, he will surely come to find me."
Yin Ci stared at the goddess, sensing something vaguely.
In that brief moment, he sensed the power of a technique emanating from the goddess. Aunt Liu's fall was not accidental, but rather a deliberate act by the goddess.
Shi Jingzhi's behavior also surprised him.
Although his master could not be considered evil, he was not overflowing with kindness either. Shi Jingzhi had already reached his limit in treating Aunt Liu's wounds, so there was no reason to take her back. However, this made it convenient for Yin Ci - if he could find out the secret of the villagers' easy deaths, he might be able to experiment on himself.
"Yan Qing, carry Aunt Liu on your back, we're leaving," said Shi Jingzhi.
"Shizun, why do we have to take her back?"
Shi Jingzhi looked at Yin Ci with a burning gaze and whispered, "You know that my health is not good."
"Aunt Liu's pulse is somewhat similar to mine."
Yin Ci: It's a fox, how delightful! Let's keep it and pet it.
Shi Jingzhi: It's a cat, how delightful! Let's keep it and pet it.
After some time passes...
Yin Ci: Turn back into your original form!
Shi Jingzhi: You turn back first!
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