After hearing about Aunt Liu's appearance, Yan Qing remained silent for a long time.
He was only in his early twenties and was not good at expressing his emotions. However, Yin Ci could tell what he was thinking - this place was worse than the Ghost Tomb.
At least in the Ghost Tomb, the killing intent and malice were openly displayed. In the picturesque Yuanxian Village, there were deformed corpses buried under the flowers, with half-rotten hands exposed.
Yan Qing was struggling to come up with a solution and subconsciously looked towards Shi Jingzhi.
Finally, Shi Jingzhi remembered his duty as the sect leader. He frowned for a moment before coming up with a not-so-ideal idea: "The village entrance ceremony is during the full moon, which is still some time away. It's not very realistic to find someone to take us out, so why don't we search for the villagers of Xizhuang again? Maybe someone has stayed behind in Yuanxian Village..."
Su Si said, "That's true, we could also help Brother Yin find a match at the same time. Better safe than sorry."
Shi Jingzhi's fox tail was stepped on again. "I won't allow it, that's my disciple! I mean, we can't waste time on this. Let's focus on finding clues. I promise to bring you all out of here."
Yin Ci patted his master's arm and nodded obediently, but his mind wandered off.
Earlier, when the villagers came to visit, Yin Ci had confirmed something.
Those "with an immortal fate" are likely to be demonic talents, which makes sense to screen by appearance. Following this logic, the villagers are also likely to be demonic talents.
The problem is, can such a large number of demonic talents really be gathered from a ratio of one in a million people? On the other hand, Yin Ci has seen many demonic talents, and normal demonic talents do not have all sorts of restrictions like the "Three-Day Injury", or age more slowly than ordinary people.
He couldn't figure out the reason for the existence of the Yuanxian Village for now.
The answer is probably in that forbidden area, including the potential new method of death that he has been looking for.
As if on the same wavelength, Shi Jingzhi paced around the room and suddenly his eyes lit up, "Let's not look for people today, let's go to the funeral."
Yan Qing was surprised, "What funeral?"
"Aunt Liu passed away, and we have some relationship with her. The villagers seem to like me, so I'll go ask them. Anyway, we are also considered half-villagers, and we have a reason in our hands. Can they still stop us?"
As he spoke, he became more convinced: "The villagers will leave the body in the forbidden area. We can just go in with them openly and have a good look at it."
Yin Ci was extremely relieved. This master was really useful.
He immediately looked at Shi Jingzhi with admiration and smoothed the fur of Fox Shi.
To prove he came with good intentions, Shi Jingzhi dressed up before they set off, almost putting flowers in his hair. Su Si and Yan Qing squeezing him from the left and right, they squeezed this attractive fox to the front, while Yin Ci who coulnd't contribute to the view hid at the back.
The four of them arrived at the center of the village like this. Along the way, Shi Jingzhi was hit by many flowers* and almost had fruit thrown at his head by the men and women of Yuanxian Village. He dodged and smiled, but it was really unbearable.
*T/N: Some areas have a tradition where people throw flowers at those who are popular or attractive during parades.
Yin Ci continued to observe leisurely while biting on fruit.
Today was another sunny day, with flowers in full bloom and a gentle spring breeze. It was no different from yesterday. The funeral procession was easy to spot, as everyone was dressed in bright red, visible from miles away.
Sect Leader Shi put on a charming face and exuded an air of otherworldliness, even more so than the goddess herself. The villagers were powerless against his charm, and Sect Leader Shi was skilled at fooling people. After some persuasion, he managed to convince the leader to let them accompany Aunt Liu.
"You keeping Aunt Liu company on this journey, can be counted as fate," the leader said, still a bit dazed. "I'll have clothes prepared for you. Go change quickly."
Sect Leader Shi smiled warmly and said, "Thank you, brother. We'll be back soon."
It seemed that the news of Su Si's "female identity" had already spread. He was given a bright red skirt, and his face looked bitter. But in the end, he put it on and tied up his hair.
The other three were much faster.
While waiting for Su Si, Shi Jingzhi glanced at his disciple and suddenly felt that the discrimination in Yuanxian Village was completely unreasonable.
The red clothes worn for the funeral were very close-fitting, and anyone could see clearly that Yin Ci had an excellent figure. His body was neither bloated nor skinny, with long and strong limbs, and his lines were beautifully tucked into his narrow waist, as if carved from the most exquisite mold.
His temperament was also good.
Although his disciple was wearing red clothes, he seemed to be in a cold abyss. This calmness could always make him feel at ease, even if there was no reason for it.
He thought to himself that his chosen disciple was truly worthy. He didn't say anything bad about him, so how could other people who were basically a bunch of stray dogs look down on him?
Su Si tied up a convenient and stylish bun and the group once again blended into the funeral procession.
In the middle of the procession, they saw Aunt Liu again. Aunt Liu's eyes were tightly closed, and her mouth seemed to have been smeared with something, showing a strange smile. She was dressed in a brand new red satin dress, with her limbs bound by branches and the branches controlled by others, making her stumble along with the procession.
Her chest still rose and fell, and her joints were not stiff. At first glance, Aunt Liu was just a living person with a slightly unsteady gait.
The music was deafening, but it was unclear whether she heard it or not.
Red paper fluttered in the air, and she looked like a strangely dressed bride. Shi Jingzhi slowly approached Aunt Liu and discreetly touched her arm. Aunt Liu still had body temperature, but her flesh was soft and felt like there was a large bundle of cotton under her skin.
But she didn't look like she had the signs of decay and discoloration.
Shi Jingzhi furrowed his brow, then pinched Yin Ci's arm to compare and make sure it wasn't just his imagination.
Things were getting more and more bizarre.
However, the sound of the suona was so loud that it made people's eardrums ache. Shi Jingzhi couldn't communicate with his disciple and had to continue marching with the rest.
The forbidden area was in the center of the village, and there was a large tree at the entrance. Children from the village gathered around the tree, curious about the funeral procession.
This tree had been alive for many years and may have become a demon. It wasn't particularly tall, but the trunk was extremely thick, and thirty people couldn't even wrap their arms around it. Near the roots of the tree was a gate-like structure, and the familiar black dog demon was sleeping at the entrance. When it saw the procession coming, it whimpered a few times and moved aside.
Walking through the tree gate, a huge pit could be seen at a glance.
The pit was very wide, almost the size of a whole house. It was also terrifyingly deep, and the bottom couldn't be seen at a glance. The pit was surrounded by spiral stone steps covered in moss, and the edges were lined with rotten ropes, making it look unsafe.
The funeral procession swayed down the path.
The sound of the suona echoed hollowly against the stone walls, and the red clothing blended into the shadows.
The warm body of Aunt Liu was surrounded by the crowd as they moved forward. As the procession went deeper, the decaying ropes swayed back and forth, and an indescribably strange smell emanated from the depths of the pit.
The warm atmosphere of Yuanxian Village was completely gone, replaced by an endless sense of eeriness. When they reached a certain depth, Shi Jingzhi's footsteps began to hesitate.
The funeral procession held torches, but the flickering flames made it difficult to see. However, with each fleeting glimpse, he could piece together a rough picture of the scene in his mind.
A multitude of white-robed monsters hung on the walls of the pit. Looking closely, it seemed as if countless large cocoons were stuck to the stones. The chains that held them swayed gently, as if keeping time with a mournful melody.
The smell of moisture grew stronger, mixed with the scent of fresh raw meat and a faint hint of excrement.
The stone steps were completely engulfed in darkness, but they felt increasingly sticky. Something seemed to have adhered to them, and with each step, a sweet and pungent pus-like substance was stirred up.
The walls of the pit were dug out to form rows of small, neatly arranged rooms. These stone chambers were exquisitely structured, appearing ancient, as if they were the work of craftsmen from a thousand years ago.
Suddenly, Shi Jingzhi had a strange thought. This place didn't seem like a cemetery, but more like some kind of twisted prison.
The group stopped at a certain level of the pit. Not by choice, but the stone steps just ended here, with a bottomless pit below.
"Let's leave it here, next to Old Liu," someone whispered.
People carefully moved on the narrow steps, making way for Aunt Liu. Two villagers helped her into a small room and laid her down gently. There were several men's clothes scattered around her, damp and almost blending in with the dark stone floor.
"Shouldn't she be buried with Uncle Liu?" Shi Jingzhi asked in a low voice.
"Uncle Liu has already become an immortal, this is his little room. Look, his clothes are still here," someone explained quietly.
Yin Ci shifted slightly. Just one night, and the body disappeared?
He scanned the narrow stone chamber with his gaze, but found nothing amiss. So he quietly stepped back and looked towards the bottomless pit. A breeze blew up from below, carrying with it an indescribable smell that had grown even stronger.
The walls of the pit were uneven, but even if he jumped down, he could climb back up. It would be better to pretend to slip and fall like this...
Shi Jingzhi had come over without him noticing and grabbed his wrist. "Ah Ci, it's very dark here. Don't wander around and be careful not to fall."
Yin Ci replied, "...Okay."
Shi Jingzhi continued to ask, tightening his grip on Yin Ci's wrist. "Can everyone ascend to immortality this quickly?"
"It varies from person to person. It's hard to say. Few people ascend to immortality in succession, and it's rare for everyone to come down."
"What about the people from Xizhuang?" Yin Ci asked, following up. As soon as he spoke, almost everyone turned to look at him with dim and unclear eyes.
"Shizun, it's okay. They won't do anything to you. Fellow villagers, I have no ill intentions. I'm just curious about how I would be 'handled' in this situation."
"The goddess said before that those people are accumulating immortal fate in the pit." The voice of Sister Mian, the mother of Yin Deng, sounded. "There is a small world there, just like how you entered here from the altar, they go to the other side from the bottom of the well."
Shi Jingzhi tightened his grip on Yin Ci's wrist.
"The goddess is merciful, even in the face of sinners, she..." Sister Mian wanted to continue.
"Little Mian, you've said enough. Talking too much about the affairs of the immortals can be dangerous," the leader of the procession interrupted her. "This brother doesn't necessarily have to accumulate his immortal fate down below. Who knows, maybe some girl will take a liking to him."
His words became more and more hesitant, and by the end, he didn't even believe them himself.
Shi Jingzhi snorted coldly, a hint of anger in his voice, forgetting his fear.
"Ah Ci, let's go back."
Sister Mian's heart went soft, and she hurried over, whispering, "My daughter brought you in, so you're considered a lucky person from my family. There's still someone in the village who needs to find a marriage partner, and you can go with him. That way, you'll have a companion and won't be too anxious."
Yin Ci suddenly stopped in his tracks. "There's someone else?"
The dim light of the fire couldn't hide the hesitation on Sister Mian's face, which he could still see clearly.
"...Yes, there is one more person. His name is Bai Wei, originally from Xizhuang. He has been staying indoors for the past half month. If he can't find a spouse, he won't be able to continue living in the village."
Shi Jingzhi became wary and said, "Sister, from what you're saying, going to 'gather immortal fate' doesn't seem like a good thing."
Sister Mian opened her mouth but ultimately squeezed out a dry sentence, "Yuanxian Village is better than the one below, that's for sure. Bai Wei also has some fate with us, sigh..."
She sighed softly and squeezed to the front of the line, clearly not intending to continue talking with them.
Just as Shi Jingzhi was about to catch up, Yan Qing patted his arm and lowered his voice, "Sect Leader, I know Bai Wei. Let's go back and talk first."
Leaving the damp giant well and stepping back into the sunlight, it really felt like ascending to heaven. Unfortunately, no one was willing to waste time on sentimentality - although they didn't find anything significant in the forbidden area, it was not a waste of effort as they found a survivor from Xizhuang Village.
The three of them didn't even return to their lodgings. Only Su Si hurried back to change into men's clothing and dragged Lord Bai out with him.
When Su Si returned to the team, he had a goose feather stuck to his head and Lord Bai was still twisting his arm vigorously. Su Si seemed to have no sense of pain as he took out fresh cabbage leaves that he had prepared in advance and said, "Lord Bai, help us find someone."
Only then did Lord Bai relax his grip and gave Su Si a sour and pungent look, scrutinizing him seriously.
"Help me find someone," Su Si coaxed it carefully, "help us find Bai Wei, okay? He's at least half of your family."
Yin Ci doubted that the goose could understand human language - it chomped on leaves then tried to attack Su Si's thigh like a cruel tormentor. Only when Su Si was gasping for air from the pain did the goose finally let go and walk away with a huff.
"Follow it!" Su Si made a quick decision.
Lord Bai led the group, tottering around for almost half an hour until they arrived at the southwest corner of the village where only a few scattered houses remained. Their destination was in sight. Suddenly, the goose turned around and plunged into a nearby pond.
"There aren't many houses, so let's search them one by one," Su Si was clearly accustomed to this treatment. "It's just..."
He nervously glanced at the goose's butt and lowered his voice, "It's just a goose, it doesn't have much of a brain."
"Bai Wei is the son of the teacher, and I used to work for the teacher. He's four or five years older than me, but he's a decent person. At least he didn't avoid me because of my ghost eye," Yan Qing spoke while searching through the area.
"He has a handsome appearance and is very good at telling stories, which was very popular among the village girls."
They even didn't mind the bad luck of the ghost eye and let Yan Qing, who worked at the school, deliver small gifts to Bai Wei. Yan Qing earned some leftover food as a delivery fee, and his impression of Bai Wei improved a lot.
However, when the crowd pushed open Bai Wei's door, they didn't see a charming and talented scholar, but a living skeleton.
Bai Wei's courtyard was in a mess, with torn pages scattered everywhere. The owner of the courtyard sat there in a daze, covered in dust, with only his two eyes still clean.
With such an appearance, it was already good enough if he didn't scare others away, let alone win the affection of young girls.
At first glance, Yan Qing didn't dare to recognize him, but it was Bai Wei who recognized them first. There was no other reason, Yan Qing's red pupils were too distinctive.
"The Yan family's boy," Bai Wei's lips trembled, "...you're not dead yet."
Then he withdrew his gaze and muttered to himself, "When a person is about to die, even illusions come out..."
Uncertain, Su Si spoke up, "Bai Wei, is it really you?"
Bai Wei scrutinized Su Si for a moment, his gaze lingering on the tear mole on his face. "It's the Cuckoo's Calamity, it seems like I'm really hallucinationg...what about you, are you the immortal here to pick me up? Can fox immortals also do that?"
Shi Jingzhi: "..."
"I'm sorry, I'm human," he finally replied.
Then he strode forward, checked Bai Wei's pulse, and opened his medicine box. "This person is very weak and hasn't eaten or drunk anything for a long time. Here, open your mouth. This is honey."
Bai Wei shook his head and turned away. "I have no appetite."
"Oh," Shi Jingzhi said simply.
He forcefully pressed on Bai Wei's acupoint and poured the bottle of honey into his mouth, then gave him a bowl of water.
"You want to die, I won't stop you. But we just got here and still want to leave - from the look on your face, it seems like you know something. If you're willing to help, I can help you die more peacefully."
Upon hearing this, Bai Wei suddenly tensed up, grabbing onto Shi Jingzhi's collar with a terrifying strength. "I don't want to die, who said I want to die? I just want to save Ah Lu, save our child. Or at least see them one more time, I..."
He struggled to catch his breath, as if the thought was burning him. "I..."
"Take your time," Yan Qing comforted. "Don't rush, there are no villagers here."
Yin Ci silently revealed his fake face, proving that Yan Qing's words were not false.
Bai Wei struggled to get up and broke off a piece of dry cake from the table, forcing himself to swallow it. He looked at the four of them and asked, "Xizhuang... are there no more people left from Xizhuang?"
"That's their own fault, their own fault!... But then again, haven't I also caused harm? If it weren't for me, everyone could have lived well."
He laughed and cried at the same time, his eyes filled with dangerous madness.
"You came at just the right time. I was planning to go to the goddess tomorrow and ask her to send me 'accumulate an immortal fate'."
Fox Shi: Why does everyone think my disciple can't find a partner? Alright, I'll marry him myself.
Demon Lord Yin: ?
Demon Lord Yin, his face can be hidden, but his body cannot, what a pity, what a pity (?).
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