Bai Wei had been hungry for who knows how long, and his speech was all over the place. It seemed like he hadn't had a proper rest in ages.
Shi Jingzhi didn't rush to ask him questions, but instead let him go to sleep first.
Out of respect for their past relationship, Yan Qing cleaned up the courtyard and the house, making it finally look like a place where people lived.
Perhaps it had been too long since he had seen his own kind, but Bai Wei slept especially deeply today. It wasn't until the sun was setting that he woke up again. This time, he had a bit of an appetite and managed to force down some food.
Even after a good meal and rest, Bai Wei still looked like a skeleton, but the light in his eyes was even brighter.
Yin Ci recognized that it wasn't the light of someone fighting for survival. When a person is at their wit's end and only has one last thread of hope, their gaze will be like this.
"This all started a year ago," he began.
Bai Wei was skilled at telling stories, but when it came to his own story, his tone became dry. "My father was sick, so I went to the mountains to find medicine. It was then that I met Ah Lu... She was playing in the woods, and I had never seen such a beautiful girl before. I thought I had encountered a mountain ghost."
As one of the few literate people in the village, Bai Wei had a sense of pride and a somewhat unrealistic romanticism. When he saw the woman, he didn't run away, but instead approached her to chat.
After talking for a while, Bai Wei could see Ah Lu's character. She was delicate in her thoughts, pure in her personality, and had a charm that was lacking in the village girls.
Bai Wei was a charming storyteller and had a good understanding of the world. As they continued to meet in secret, their feelings for each other grew stronger. Eventually, they became a couple, just like in the tales of gods and monsters.
However, their journey as a couple was not an easy one.
Until they became husband and wife, Bai Wei also didn't know where Ah Lu had come from. Ah Lu remained tight-lipped about her origins and only urged Bai Wei to follow her.
But Bai Wei's father was still alive and deeply attached to their hometown, refusing to die anywhere else. He strongly opposed the idea of leaving.
Bai Wei's decision to marry Ah Lu despite her unknown origins already angered his father, and he dared not say a word.
"So, I made a deal with her," Bai Wei said with a smile that was almost like crying. "We agreed to put up with the situation for a while. Once my father passes away, I will follow her."
Yan Qing was confused. "Never mind the fact that most women marry into their husband's family and stay with him, even if you're willing to follow her, it would just be a wait of a few years, how could it..."
How could it possibly lead to the disappearance of the village?
"You still don't know yet? That makes sense, the goddess wouldn't tell you now. Once you become a resident of Yuanxian Village, you can learn the secrets of coming and going as you please. But if you leave the village for more than three days, you will... lose consciousness and fall into a coma."
He insisted on not using words like "die" or "ascend into an immortal".
"Father refused to move out of Xizhuang Village, so Ah Lu had to stay at home for two days and then disappear into the mountains for a day. In this way, she managed to get by. She did well and would occasionally bring back some gold and jade from the mountains to supplement the family's income. I didn't want to burden her, so I worked hard to save up for the future, so that when we go to 'Yuanxian Village' together, no one will look down on her."
"As for the people of Xizhuang Village, I told them that she is a fairy immortal who had descended to earth. Humans and gods should not be together, and she will have to return to heaven every other day."
Even Yan Qing did not ask any further questions this time.
He and Su Si were born in Xizhuang, and they knew the character of the villagers very well. The people of Xizhuang were not heinous criminals, they were just ordinary poor people - they had both admirable simplicity and the viciousness that comes with ignorance and simplicity.
According to Bai Wei's account, the truth was not far from what they had guessed.
The young men in the village were the first to have twisted thoughts.
Bai Wei, with his handsome appearance and literacy skills, was already an anomaly in the village. Now that he had married a wife who was like an immortal, and with the two of them inseparable and their family flourishing, others became envious.
Bai Wei was not even a lazy man, but instead worked even harder, making them even more frustrated.
Since Bai Wei was able to find such an immortal fairy wife on the mountain, they could do the same. Bai Wei was just a little more daring and lucky. As for women, their hair may be long but their knowledge may be short. As long as they could be found, they could certainly be brought home as wives.
With such foolish thoughts, they began to secretly follow Ah Lu. Ah Lu returned to the heavens every two days, and there was not just one immortal fairy there. As long as they could find the way to the heavens, why worry about not being able to marry an immortal fairy wife?
At first, Ah Lu was very cautious. When she entered the forest, she rode on the back of a black dog demon. The black dog demon ran incredibly fast and didn't leave any room for anyone to follow.
Later, Ah Lu became pregnant and her belly grew bigger every day, so she had to switch to riding a sturdy red leopard.
With a pregnant woman on its back, the red leopard dared not run too fast. Finally, one day, two hunters secretly followed behind Ah Lu all the way to the end. The next day, Ah Lu returned to Xizhuang Village without knowing that the two hunters had disappeared and were missing.
The two families in Xizhuang lost their sons, so how could they just let it go?
They gathered their relatives and blocked the entrance of Bai Wei, demanding that Ah Lu give an explanation.
"What kind of fairy is she? I think she's a mountain spirit who tricked my son into the mountains and ate him!"
"Eaxctly, she's pregnant, and she must not unable to resist eating people."
"Having to go back into the mountains after two days, isn't it because she can't hide her true form anymore? Let's stay here and block her, and see what kind of person his wife really is."
The people crouched outside the Bai family's door, tightly gripping their hoes and machetes. Ah Lu had a vague idea of what was happening, but she was afraid of angering the gods and bringing punishment upon her family, so she dared not reveal the location of the "heavens".
All she could do was cry.
Bai Wei knelt outside, hoarse from repeatedly reasoning with the villagers.
Ah Lu really didn't know anything, and she really had to go back. My elderly father is on the verge of death and needed to see a doctor...
Please, I'm begging you.
"I gave them all the money I've saved up over the years, and I don't even know how many times I've kowtowed to them. I only ask that they let Ah Lu go back to the mountain and let the doctor come in to see my father. Whatever they want, I'll do it...but even after taking the money, they still insist on Ah Lu being handed over.
"The people were stuck outside. Ah Lu, who was pregnant, dared not leave the house and couldn't return in time. The village doctor was afraid of trouble and refused to come in."
"In the end, my father passed away, and she fell asleep."
Bai Wei clenched his fists.
After that, things were quite simple.
The goddess of Yuanxian Village arrived with two children and a cart full of gold. She suddenly appeared in the village and announced that she had come to take Ah Lu, who had been "sleeping", back with her. The villagers of Xizhuang had won.
They had discovered the immortal realm and were all qualified to ascend to immortality. The hunters who had disappeared earlier was also in the immortal realm, waiting for them.
She distributed the gold to the people and spoke gently, "I'm very busy, and time is limited. You don't need to bring anything, just follow me."
It's unclear whether she used some kind of magic, but the goddess's words had an almost terrifying persuasiveness.
They no longer wondered why they had offended the goddess, yet the goddess wanted to reward them. There were many such stories of gods and monsters, and perhaps the heavens had their own rules, and they were just lucky.
But in just half a day, there was not a single person left in the village. In order to please the goddess in front of them, the villagers didn't take anything, afraid they wouldn't make it to the immortal realm.
But Bai Wei didn't want the immortal realm. He silently buried his father and then stayed by his "sleeping" wife's side, feeling helpless. She still had breath and warmth.
Maybe everything could still be saved. When they returned home, she would wake up, right?
On that day, all the villagers from Xizhuang Village came to Yuanxian Village. The goddess had instructed them in advance that every household in Yuanxian Village should stay indoors and let her lead the villagers into the forbidden area.
When the villagers from Xizhuang Village saw this paradise-like place, they didn't suspect anything and obediently entered through the tree door.
They never came out again.
Bai Wei stayed by his wife's side, unwilling to leave. Even though they had returned to their hometown, she still slept soundly. A little girl ran up to her, pouting and shaking Ah Lu.
"Sister, sister! Why did you ascend to immortality so early? Didn't we agree to wait for me to grow up?"
"Yin Deng, go back," Sister Mian wiped her eyes and forced a smile. "Child... your name is Bai Wei, right? Let go. Ah Lu has already left."
"My daughter has already left."
"It's very strange, isn't it?" Bai Wei nervously stared at the four of them.
"She clearly still had a heartbeat, how could she have died? On the first day, I wanted to go to the forbidden area to find her, but Sister Mian... no, my mother, kept stopping me. Now that the deadline given by the goddess is approaching, even if she wants to stop me, she can't."
"If she were alive, what would you do?" asked Shi Jingzhi calmly and plainly.
He was not immersed in the tragedy like Yan Qing, nor was he silent like Yin Ci and Su Si. As soon as Bai Wei finished speaking, Shi Jingzhi smoothly continued the conversation.
Yin Ci was a little surprised. He thought that with Shi Jingzhi's sensitive nature, he would not be able to hold back his tears. Who would have thought that Shi Jingzhi was so calm, almost cold.
Bai Wei also did not expect Shi Jingzhi's reaction. He was at a loss for words for a moment, saying, "Wh-what?"
"You put on an act as though you neither want to live nor die, clamoring to accumulate immortal fate. Even if the goddess sends you to some inexplicable place, just being able to see the forbidden area is enough... Whether or not you can see your wife, even if she's left alone sleeping. Is that what you mean by fulfilling your wish with just one trip?"
Bai Wei hesitated, "I..."
"Actually, don't you also believe she's dead?" Shi Jingzhi's face remained expressionless.
He did have a strikingly handsome face that seemed almost unreal, and when he didn't make any expressions, it emitted a sense of terror that was "not of our kind."
Like some kind of evil spirit draped in exquisite human skin.
Bai Wei stared intently at Shi Jingzhi's eyes and couldn't help but take a half step back.
"What else can I do?" His voice was dry and hoarse. "I have no other options."
"I can't understand why you're reckless enough to gamble with your life, but too weak to take another chance," she said.
"It's easy for you to say! If it were you--"
"If it were me, I would first try to figure out why the goddess appeared only after Ah Lu's 'death'. If she loves her people so much that she's willing to destroy the entire Xizhuang Village, why didn't she intervene earlier? Before, the goddess had caught the ones from Xizhuang Village who had gone to spy, and soon after Ah Lu didn't return on time. She couldn't guess Ah Lu's situation?"
Bai Wei was stunned. He had never thought about this question before.
The goddess had been in power in the village for over fifty years, with the appearance of a young woman but the aura of a mountain range. It was hard for people to doubt her.
"Maybe the goddess... maybe she has other reasons," Bai Wei said, as if in a dream.
"Do you actually want to see your wife or not?" Shi Jingzhi pressed on step by step.
Bai Weihuan's scattered gaze gradually cleared, and he stared at Shi Jingzhi for a moment before bowing deeply. "Thank you for your guidance."
"That's more like it."
Shi Jingzhi looked quite satisfied, patting Bai Wei's shoulder with a hint of threat in his tone. "If my beloved is taken away, even if it's a real immortal on the other side, I will do everything in my power to teach them a lesson."
Yin Ci frowned slightly.
Shi Jingzhi was not just talking big. That air of madness was quietly emerging between his words, but was quickly suppressed by his cheap master.
"Please help me." Bai Wei used hot water to heat up the cake, then wolfed it down. "Help me find out what happened to Ah Lu, help me find Ah Lu's body... I want to live. If she's alive, I'll save her. If she's dead, I'll bury her properly and offer daily prayers."
"As an exchange, I, Bai Wei, will be your servant and do whatever you ask of me."
Su Si also dropped his carefree attitude and furrowed his brows. "If you want to find your wife, you'll have to stay in the forbidden area for a while, won't you? How long did we stay in the funeral procession? Half an hour? An hour? Is that enough time to find someone?"
Shi Jingzhi smiled slightly. "Brother Bai still needs to go to 'accumulate an immortal fate', as long as he doesn't truly accumulate it then it's fine."
Bai Wei was a little confused, with the cake stuck in his throat. "What do you mean?"
"There are three possibilities for the forbidden area. One is as Sister Mian said, there is another small world inside. The second is that the people of Xizhuang Village are imprisoned at the bottom of the forbidden area... to be honest, both possibilities are unlikely.
"Xizhuang Village is already in a harsh environment, and the former is just adding unnecessary for them. But if the latter was true, someone should be sending food regularly to the forbidden area."
Shi Jingzhi rubbed his chin.
"The third possibility, the so-called 'accumulating immortal fate,' is actually dying at the forbidden area. The goddess doesn't seem like someone who would do it herself. She probably has the white-clothed monsters do it for her, or just throws people to their death."
Bai Wei: "..." He had just been encouraged by this person, and now he was being asked to die again?
"The villagers of Xizhuang Village still have to hold a funeral, and if any traces are found, it will be troublesome. Even if she wants to take action, she won't do it above the forbidden area. At this time, Bai Wei will need our help."
Shi Jingzhi turned to Bai Wei.
"We will provide you with the equipment to climb the walls. If she wants to kill you or let the white-clothed monsters bring you down to kill you, you have to escape halfway and hang on the walls for a while. When you receive our signal, climb up and search for your wife's stone room."
"If she personally takes you to the bottom of the forbidden area, you have to plead with her and try to make her leave first, and then you can 'live or die on your own'. When she leaves the forbidden area, you can climb up to search.
"When you come up, we will be waiting at the exit. You have to hide for a few days and then we will find a chance to escape together."
"So, you mean I won't encounter much trouble?"
"No," Shi Jingzhi raised his eyebrows. "In case you don't escape in time, or if the truth of the matter exceeds expectations, you could end up dead on the spot. But with our help, you at least have a fifty percent chance of surviving and slowly searching for your wife."
Bai Wei remained silent for a moment.
Then he took a deep breath and spoke calmly, "What do you gain from helping me?"
"I'm curious about the situation in Yuanxian Village and want to get a clear understanding. As the saying goes, 'know thyself, know thy enemy, a hundred battles, a hundred victories,'"
Yan Qing nodded in agreement. Su Si, on the other hand, looked elsewhere, lost in thought. When he realized that Yin Ci was looking at him, he suddenly snapped out of it and put on a carefree smile.
For the rest of the time, everyone busied themselves preparing the tools.
In order to prevent the goddess from suspecting, Bai Wei couldn't bring too many things with him. Shi Jingzhi gave him a small bottle of pills that could stimulate his strength, and also pierced several acupoints to ensure that Bai Wei's joints were flexible enough to not accidentally kill himself.
Finally, Shi Jingzhi dug out a small bottle from the bottom of the medicine box and poured out two withered little things - "These are Connected Thoughts Beans, created from demon grass, usually used to sense the patient's condition. Soak them in your blood, and we'll each take one."
Shi Jingzhi explained to Bai Wei, "The two beans are connected. If we roast one with fire, the other will also heat up. We'll use that as a signal, so you'll know for sure that the goddess has left. If you die down there, the beans on this side will turn to dust, and we'll know that something has happened to you and won't wait outside anymore."
Bai Wei solemnly took the beans from Sect Leader Shi: "I understand. Sect Leader Shi, I will definitely not give up on my life easily."
Afterwards, Bai Wei rested for two more days and practiced using iron claws to hook onto the rock wall. After eating Yin Ci's specially made meals for two days, his cheeks finally became full and no longer looked like a skeleton.
The madness in his eyes lost its sharpness and turned into a rock-solid determination.
Yin Ci was a little envious of Bai Wei. If it weren't for Shi Jingzhi keeping a close eye on him, he would have wanted to go down and take a look himself.
Unfortunately, Yuanxian Village was very strange, and Shi Jingzhi was extremely vigilant. He could even count how many times Yin Ci turned over at night. Even if Yin Ci claimed to want to stay on watch all night, Shi Jingzhi would sit up and wait, afraid that his disciple would be captured by some unknown monster.
Yin Ci was at a loss on whether to laugh or cry.
The journey ahead was long and treacherous, and for now, Shi Jingzhi still needed his protection. He couldn't reveal his true identity just yet.
So, he had to play the role of a normal person with a strong will to survive, and stick close to Shi Jingzhi.
But if fate gave him a chance to break free, he would seize it without hesitation.
Little did Yin Ci know, that opportunity would come sooner than he expected.
The author has something to say:
Demon Lord Yin, if you think this fox is really a soft fox, you'll be in for a surprise.
Oh, you're destined to be surprised.
Yin Ci: Testing the limits of danger repeatedly.jpg
Shi Jingzhi: No, you don't want to.jpg
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