Bai Wei's "accumulation of immortal fate" began in the middle of the night.
Most people held reverence for the goddess, but were indifferent to the people of Xizhuang Village. Only Yin Deng and Sister Mian came to see her off. Yin Deng's father stayed at home to take care of his youngest daughter who couldn't even speak yet.
According to the customs of Yuanxian Village, they were Bai Wei's final "fate".
The goddess stood at the entrance of the tree gate, with a white-clothed monster on either side. The huge demon tree behind her cast a huge shadow, and its twisted branches spread out in all directions, like the gates of the underworld.
She reached out to Bai Wei, her face still full of pity. "Have you thought this through?"
Bai Wei pursed his lips and turned to look at the two women behind him, trying to find a trace of Ah Lu in their faces.
"Don't go," Sister Mian shook her head slowly. "I know my daughter, Ah Lu, will be heartbroken."
Yin Deng looked at her mother in confusion. "Isn't ascending to immortality a good thing? Brother can go down and accumulate immortal fate, and when he has enough, he can see Sister again."
Sister Mian tightened her hand on Yin Deng's back. "Yin Deng, do you miss Ah Lu?"
"Of course, I think about her every day."
"Your mother does too...compared to ascending to immortality and enjoying the blessings, your mother would rather have you stay by her side."
"The goddess said that we will all ascend to immortality sooner or later, and then we can see each other again."
The little girl proudly lifted her head. "When that time comes, I'll tell Sister that I've missed her for so long! I still need her to tie my hair."
The goddess remained silent, with a face full of a loving smile.
As Sister Mian furrowed her brows, a hint of sadness showed on her face. She stopped talking and held her daughter tightly.
Bai Wei knelt in front of her, solemnly kowtowing: "When Ah Lu and I got married, we only paid respects to heaven and earth, and didn't have the chance to pay respects to you... Now it's time to make up for it. Mother, please accept my bow."
After speaking, he stood up and walked towards the tree gate without looking back.
"I really like this brother," Yin Deng whispered, "Mummy, can I go with him to see my sister?"
"Yin Deng, let's go home." Sister Mian didn't answer, just painfully chewed on this short sentence. "Let's go home."
It is said that for ascending to heaven after practicing hard on earth, once you leave the mortal world, you will never return. Who can tell what is true or false?
In this world, people only talk about the vastness of life and death. As soon as the goddess entered the forbidden area, the four members of the Ku Mountain Sect quietly approached.
Shi Jingzhi remained silent for a long time before finally exhaling slowly, "The more I hear about this ascension to immortality, the more ominous it sounds. I can't believe the people of Yuanxian Village can endure it."
"They don't have a choice," Yin Ci said, standing next to him. "Anyone who has sent away several loved ones with their own hands wouldn't dare to say that ascension to immortality isn't a good thing."
"Now it all depends on Bai Wei," Shi Jingzhi murmured. "I hope he can hold on and find his wife. Ah Lu must not disappear like Old Liu..."
"Yes," Yin Ci agreed, staring at the nearby tree gate, itching to move.
Unfortunately, Fox Shi's claws had hooked onto his waistband, making it difficult for him to move away.
They waited patiently, transforming into two night cats hiding under the eaves.
The Connected Thoughts Bean in Shi Jingzhi's palm remained motionless, indicating that Bai Wei should be fine, but the goddess had yet to emerge.
Strange, does the 'accumulation of immortal fate' really take this long? Or are they just being suspicious of the goddess's kind nature, and there really is a small world beneath the forbidden ground?
After an hour, the goddess finally emerged from the forbidden ground with a gentle smile on her face, leaving the master-disciple pair unsure of her emotions.
The Connected Thoughts Bean still lay quietly, showing no signs of change.
Suddenly, Shi Jingzhi's spirit was shaken. He stretched his legs and lit a small cluster of Yang fire with his fingertips, gently roasting the bean. The Yang fire was extremely hot, and if Bai Wei was still alive, he would definitely receive the signal.
Finally, the sky grew dark and the demon tree rustled in the darkness.
The black dog demon yawned and lay still at the entrance, like a pool of black ink. The moon slowly moved across the sky, and it was already the middle of the night.
Yin Ci leaned his head on his master's shoulder and fell asleep soundly.
Shi Jingzhi opened his palm and stared at the Connected Thoughts Bean in his hand, as if trying to ignite it with his gaze.
Time had never passed so unbearably.
After about two hours, Yan Qing hesitated to speak up: "Sect Leader, about this bean..."
"The bean is definitely fine. We agreed to wait, so we will continue to wait. It's still some time before dawn, and no one will...hmm?"
In this world, it seems that the more you hope for something, the more likely it is to go wrong.
A small red figure approached the tree gate, walking unsteadily, resembling a corpse in a funeral procession. The black dog demon perked up its ears warily, hesitating to reveal its sharp teeth to the person in front of it.
Yin Ci was startled by the hostility and instantly opened his eyes: "Is that Yin Deng?"
But Su Si's actions were faster than all of them.
Yan Qing's legs were numb from crouching, and before he could regain his senses, Su Si had already leaped out of his hiding place. He flashed in front of the black dog demon, snatched Yin Deng back with a swift and beautiful movement, and landed with the little girl in his arms.
After landing, a hint of regret slowly appeared on Su Si's face.
"This little girl sleepwalks." He put Yin Deng down and pretended that nothing had happened. "It's nothing, don't wake her up. How about this, I'll leave for a while and take her back to Sister Mian's place."
Yan Qing stared at him fixedly, his gaze complex.
"...No objections? Alright then, you guys handle the important matters, I'll take off first."
Su Si lifted the little girl on his back and ran off without looking back, lacking the grace and elegance he had just displayed. Yan Qing's expression darkened slightly as he watched the two of them until Su Si's figure disappeared into the night.
However, Shi Jingzhi was not surprised at all. Yin Ci also didn't mention anything, pretending not to understand what had just happened.
Aside from occasional slip-ups and exaggerations, Su Si's acting skills were decent. However, Su Si had overlooked a major premise - if he really was the "butcher" he claimed to be, no matter how knowledgeable he was, he wouldn't be able to live peacefully in Yuanxian Village for half a month.
He had seen the white-clothed monsters early on and was living here alone, bound and restricted. No matter how brave Su Si was compared to ordinary people, this environment was enough to make him feel a bit scared.
Although Su Si acted tough, he didn't show any fear in his every move.
This kid must have some tricks up his sleeve. The ten years he spent separated from Yan Qing couldn't have been as simple as he claimed.
...Unfortunately, Su Si's lack of experience couldn't sustain this act. Not to mention fooling the 300-year-old Demon Lord Yin Ci, Su Si might not even be able to fool Shi Jingzhi, who is only a few years older than him.
However, as fellow wanderers, both master and disciple were not foolish enough to provoke internal strife during this sensitive period.
Since Su Si was willing to act, they were happy to play along. After all, they were all used to acting, and at least Su Si's affection for Yan Qing was genuine, so he wouldn't be a hindrance to them.
There was already a window paper between them, and even if the four people from the Ku Mountain Sect were all wrapped up like window paper lanterns, it didn't seem to matter much.
As these thoughts crossed his mind, Yin Ci couldn't help but glance over at Shi Jingzhi.
With him as his cheap master, and including himself, the Ku Mountain Sect had a total of four people, three of whom had unknown backgrounds. Only Yan Qing's background was clear, but given his status, it was more reassuring to have someone with an unknown background.
Yin Ci wondered if Shi Jingzhi had consulted a fortune teller, as the Eight Characters he was born with were surely full of problems.
Just as dawn was approaching and their plan was about to fall apart, Shi Jingzhi suddenly trembled.
Yin Ci shook off his drowsiness and asked, "Is something wrong with Brother Bai?"
"...I don't know," Shi Jingzhi replied with a complicated tone, opening his palm to reveal the Connected Thoughts Bean. The Connected Thoughts Bean had not turned to ashes and remained a bright red color, but it had shriveled up into a small, lifeless lump.
Not to mention Shi Jingzhi, even Yin Ci did not recognize this reaction.
Despite everything, Shi Jingzhi refused to give up hope. He waited until the break of dawn, but even Su Si had not returned.
If they waited any longer, the villagers would start their daily activities.
The three members of the Ku Mountain Sect crouched on the roof for the entire night. No matter how good their martial arts skills, their blood flow would be poor, and even Yin Ci was starting to feel numbness in his legs.
At this moment, all it would take was a bamboo pole to knock them down like sitting ducks.
Sect Leader Shi didn't want to be seen as a suspicious character. He led the retreat, grumbling and groaning as he rolled off the roof. His movements were awkward, like a slippery dumpling escaping from chopsticks.
The three of them slunk back to their lodgings, where Su Si was waiting with breakfast already prepared.
When he saw only three figures, he was taken aback.
"Is Bai Wei dead?" he asked.
"I don't know," Shi Jingzhi repeated dejectedly, tossing the shriveled bean onto the table.
Su Si pursed his lips and changed the subject: "Last night, I brought Yin Deng home and Sister Mian accompanied me all the way. I didn't dare to go back to the forbidden area. And now, all the food on the table was sent by her... I just said that Yin Deng was wandering around the village, and I happened to be up late and sent her home on the way."
He deliberately avoided mentioning the issue of his agile movements last night, it seems he has made up his mind to cover it up.
Yan Qing didn't ask any further: "Sect Leader, what should we do next?"
"At least Bai Wei has proven one thing. The area under the forbidden area is not simple, it's worse than we imagined. Before we figure out the truth, no one should act on their own."
Shi Jing rubbed his legs, showing a bit of fatigue.
Yin Ci understood his meaning.
That goddess herself may not be very strong, but her strength lies in having an unknown method. Just to enter and exit this place, one must go through a spell formation. If one goes astray, even the strongest person will be doomed.
Yin Ci himself wasn't out of solutions, he just needed to bide his time and stumble around until he found a way out. But the process was boring and he might miss out on the Shi Rou outside. It just wasn't worth it.
Suddenly, it seemed like they had hit a dead end. The group could only wait patiently for the village entrance ceremony and then rush in to try and find a way out.
What a pain.
It would be better to play a little trick tonight and let this cheap master fall into a dead sleep so he could jump off the cliff in the forbidden area. The bottom of the forbidden area wasn't very big, and even if there was a maze, it wasn't too complicated and wouldn't waste too much time.
Yin Ci was inspired by the idea of using a dreamwalking disorder tonight. With the example of Yin Deng, even if he spoke nonsense to explain afterwards, it wouldn't seem too unbelievable.
Once he had made up his mind, Yin Ci climbed onto the bed obediently and began to catch up on his sleep. After all, he had stayed up all night last night and would have to stay awake tonight. He couldn't afford to doze off in the forbidden area.
After finishing breakfast, Yin Ci didn't bother his exhausted master anymore. He yawned and climbed into bed, pulling the covers over himself and falling asleep.
Who would have thought that he would actually have a dream?
Yin Ci hadn't dreamt in nearly a hundred years and almost couldn't distinguish between the dream and reality. He stood still in the dream for a long time, realizing that his thoughts were scattered and the surroundings were hazy, before gradually coming to his senses.
Perhaps it was true that thoughts during the day lead to dreams at night, as he dreamt of the big demon tree in the forbidden area.
The demon tree had lost all its leaves, withered and blackened, standing on the snowy plain. The nearby houses had disappeared, and the dog demon guarding the tree gate was reduced to a scattered pile of bones.
In his dream, Yin Ci was not wearing a Ghost Skin Suit. He was dressed in the same white outfit from the Ghost Tomb, and he walked barefoot on the snow without feeling any cold.
It seemed that he really longed to visit this forbidden place, even in his dreams.
Yin Ci chuckled to himself as he stepped on the bones of the dog demon and resolutely entered the tree gate.
Inside the demon tree, there was no longer a huge deep well, and the dark tree hole had become a clean and spacious spiritual hall.
Yin Ci couldn't help but slow down.
The decorations in the hall were ordinary, and the pale soul-calling banners swayed gently. In the center of the hall, there was a huge and unparalleled coffin, with the lid placed aside and covered in unknown vines.
There was no corpse inside the coffin, only a shattered statue of a god.
The statue was made of clay and painted with bright colors. Now that it was broken into hundreds of pieces, despite there being no blood visible on the cut surface, there was a hint of indescribable bloodiness.
One of the pieces was a fragment of the head, with a vivid giant eye staring directly at Yin Ci.
The coffin was filled with broken fragments, and there was a person on top of them.
The woman had long disheveled hair, wearing a red dress with a high bulge in her abdomen. She knelt on the broken pieces of the statue, covering her face with both hands, crying bitterly.
Yin Ci listened carefully, and only felt a headache coming on. There was only one woman in the mourning hall, but her crying sounded like it came from millions of people, with voices of men, women, and children mixed together, coming out of the woman's mouth.
It seemed that countless invisible hands were pulling Yin Ci, forcing him to walk towards the direction of the coffin.
Unable to use martial arts in his dream, Yin Ci could only be dragged by those hands all the way to the woman. The woman seemed to have sensed something and slowly stopped her tears, lifting her head up.
She was very young, with features somewhat resembling Sister Mian, but with a youthful charm that Sister Mian lacked.
However, there was something off about her eyes.
Her eye rims were red, and her eyeballs kept turning - the woman's eyes were filled with countless pupils, leaving no white in sight. They varied in depth and jostled for position, like bubbles on the surface of boiling water.
It was as if countless people's pupils were squeezed together, seen through a single pair of eyes.
"It's not you!" After recognizing Yin Ci, she let out a scream of extreme terror, trembling hard. "I don't want you, stay away!"
This was the first time Yin Ci had been defeated with this face, and he instinctively touched his own face, but couldn't feel his features.
His face disappeared, covered by countless root-like things that pressed against him. They stretched forward haphazardly, rough and cold to the touch. Despite retaining his vision, he couldn't see these things that were so close to him.
"Don't come any closer!" The woman seemed to be under immense pressure, crying and holding her head.
The shattered fragments of the statue beneath her emitted a soft cracking sound as they broke further.
She grabbed a piece of the broken statue and hurled it at Yin Ci without a second thought.
"Stay away from us!" She shouted with a thousand voices. "Get out of here!"
Yin Ci tried to explain, but the stone hit him square in the forehead, causing a very real pain. He suddenly woke up, his back covered in a thin layer of sweat.
It was truly a strange dream.
When Shi Jingzhi heard the noise and came to investigate, he was startled by Yin Ci's appearance.
"Ah Ci, you..." Shi Jingzhi handed him a hot towel, hesitating to speak. "You usually sleep quite soundly, how did you bump your head like this today?"
Yin Ci slowly touched his forehead and took a deep breath. The dream had left him with a bruise, but luckily he had recovered quickly enough that Shi Jingzhi didn't suspect anything.
"I had a nightmare," he answered softly.
No matter what secrets were hidden, he was determined to uncover them tonight.
The next day, Yin Ci stuck close to Shi Jingzhi, never leaving his side and behaving so obediently it was almost scary. Even though Shi Jingzhi was extremely nervous, he gradually relaxed his guard thanks to Yin Ci's behavior.
Unfortunately, Yin Ci's plan to jump off the cliff had yet to be put into action, and a new complication suddenly arose.
Not long after nightfall, a sudden commotion erupted outside. Sister Mian urgently knocked on their door, tears streaking down her face.
"Have you seen Yin Deng? She's gone missing."
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