When giving his disciple a thorough scrub, Shi Jingzhi's emotions were quite complex.
He claimed to have no intention of punishing his disciple, but that was far from the truth. Shi Jingzhi had mastered the perfect amount of force, ensuring that he wouldn't actually injure Yin Ci, but also wouldn't be too gentle and turn the scrubbing into a mere back rub. The disciple was like a shrimp in a pot, gradually turning pink under his touch.
As he scrubbed, Shi Jingzhi was also searching for any injuries.
In the forbidden area, he had once touched a piece of living flesh that was like sticky glue, instantly adhering to his fingertips. If he hadn't pulled away in time, he would have lost a layer of skin.
Yin Ci had fallen into that same area, so he must have sustained some injuries. But his disciple's back was completely smooth, without even a trace of an old scar. After scrubbing for a while, Shi Jingzhi only managed to uncover some strange, thin skin that was stuck to the flesh.
Based on Yin Ci's explanation, this was probably a fragment of the Ghost Skin Suit.
Yin Ci had once stripped down in the Ghost Tomb to prove it, and the coverage of the Ghost Skin Suit must be quite extensive. His disciple couldn't possibly have the ridiculous ability to regenerate - if there were such a convenient technique, how could Yin Ci have suffered damage to his meridians?
Yin Ci was unscathed, most likely thanks to the Ghost Skin Suit.
Truly a family heirloom, not to mention its incredibly lifelike disguise effect, it can even withstand the living flesh. It's a shame to lose it. If it weren't so rare, Shi Jingzhi himself would want one. This thing is much more impressive than the Nuo mask.
Lost in thought, Shi Jingzhi was brought back to reality by Yin Ci's words.
"I am a living person, not an object. Shizun, you don't have to be so blindly obsessed."
Is there a difference? Shi Jingzhi was stunned.
People are nothing more than creatures that can speak and move. This was the case for others, and also for him. Sensing his confusion, Yin Ci turned around and grabbed Shi Jingzhi's long hair, pulling his face closer.
Amidst the mist, the other's eyes were like two cold stars. Shi Jingzhi didn't like being scrutinized like this, and he felt a piercing sensation in his confusion.
So he took a closer look.
With this closer look, Shi Jingzhi realized that things were not going well.
His plan was originally simple and perfect - to choose a disciple and pretend to be the person the other party expected. As long as he could make the disciple genuinely admire and respect him from the bottom of his heart, he would have experienced a 'worldly attachments' and tasted the bond of the mortal world's desires.
To prevent Yin Ci from becoming suspicious, Shi Jingzhi didn't want to immediately cater to his preferences. He had planned to gradually build up to it, but now he couldn't even see Yin Ci's desires.
Although only in his twenties, Yin Ci's eyes were like dry wells, lacking any sharpness or anticipation. He seemed to dislike everything and want nothing.
Without any expectations, Shi Jingzhi couldn't play the role of the "ideal master" in Yin Ci's heart and could only continue to be himself.
But he didn't even know what "himself" was like, so how could he get closer to Yin Ci?
Suddenly, Shi Jingzhi felt a bit panicked.
He had happily taken on a disciple, hoping to form a bond with him. But after just a few attempts, he realized that the seed he had planted was dead. Oh no, he had just finished scrubbing this person, what if he had turned Yin Ci against him instead!
Shi Jingzhi wanted to say some kind words to salvage his image as a gentle master. However, without any expectations to guide him, his mind was like a rusty machine, completely blank.
Of course, good things won't just drop from the heavens into a person's lap. The disciple he randomly picked up was not an easy one to handle, with a handsome appearance and skills in both martial arts and cooking.
Fortunately, Yan Qing appeared just in time to help him out of the predicament.
When he heard that this place was related to Yan Budu, Shi Jingzhi didn't bother to think about anything else. He pressed down on Yin Ci a bit and dipped him into the medicinal water and brushed at him a few times, considering it both treatment and a lesson.
Yin Ci's temper was also brushed away under this treatment, he silently put on his clothes and followed behind.
The sun was setting, casting a layer of orange-red over the courtyard. Yin Ci who had been brushed into a reddish-pink was no longer as eye-catching when covered in the glow of the setting sun.
There was a small stone table in the courtyard, and Su Si was placing dishes on it, some of which were leftovers and others were poorly made. Nearby, Lord Bai walked with his head held high, surveying the area, and the surroundings were relatively quiet.
"You're here?" Su Si finished setting down the last dish and wiped his hands on his clothes. He looked at Yin Ci with more caution than admiration.
Yin Ci was more concerned about the strange scene than Su Si's attitude. Why was it that after finding Yan Budu, these two fellows still had the leisure to set up a formal dinner? Su Si aside, even Yan Qing had been staring at his own toes the whole time, clearly feeling guilty.
After sleeping for a whole day, both master and disciple were truly hungry. But Fox Shi was having trouble eating due to having been fed by his talented disciple. He tremblingly picked up a piece of overcooked vegetable, his eyes filled with despair.
He turned his head and looked pitifully at Yin Ci.
With his master's gaze fixed on him, Su Si scrutinizing him from time to time, and Yan Qing secretly glancing at him, Yin Ci was annoyed by all the attention and stood up directly.
"You two can brainstorm for a bit on what to say. This isn't enough food, I'll go add a couple more dishes."
Shi Jingzhi slowly put down his chopsticks and had a look of deep contemplation on his face. "Mm, let's wait for Ah Ci to come back before we eat."
For some reason, after the small flurry of activity at the table, Yan Qing gradually calmed down. He silently nibbled on his cake while going over the events of last night in his head. Yin Ci didn't guess wrongly, it was difficult to explain everything in just a few sentences.
Let's go back to the night before.
Outside the forbidden area.
Yan Qing saw the master and disciple enter the forbidden area one after the other and was a bit stunned. "Ah Si, do you know where the goddess lives?"
Su Si, without a smile on his face for once, lowered his head in thought for a moment. "I do, follow me back for a bit and I'll bring Lord Bai along."
Su Si's residence was a distance away from the forbidden area, and at the moment, there was no one inside. The sound of Lord Bai eating vegetables could be heard from outside the window. Yan Qing walked ahead, looking around left and right. He had just opened the door when-
Taking advantage of Yan Qing's gaze towards the interior, Su Si swiftly chopped down with his hand. But Yan Qing was already prepared and caught his wrist, and both their hands froze in mid-air.
Time seemed to stand still.
"...You've improved," Su Si smiled, as if he had only intended to pat Yan Qing's shoulder.
Yan Qing wasn't buying it. "You wanted to knock me out, and then what?"
"Since you've guessed it, why bother asking me?"
In the dim night, Su Si's face was hidden in the shadows, and his smile seemed just as elusive.
Yan Qing let go of his hand. "Ah Si, I've been meaning to say this. We're not nine years old anymore. You don't have to treat me like I'm still nine."
Su Si's enthusiastic expression faded a bit as he looked steadily at Yan Qing.
"If we miss this opportunity, it will be too late. Even if the master and disciple manage to get out of the forbidden area, they may not be able to find any clues, and they might not even make it out alive... Let them attract the attention of the goddess, while I interrogate a villager and find a way out."
He paused for a moment. "Knowing your personality, you naturally won't agree, so I'll have to knock you out first."
"But Sect Leader Shi once saved my life," Yan Qing stood quietly in place. "If they have the same idea as you, they could have sent me into the forbidden area as bait and found a way to escape."
Whether through coercion or temptation, they would definite manage to find suitable guides, especially naive children like Yin Deng or gentle women like Sister Mian who cherished their families. As for what would happen to the guides after they left, that was not the concern of the escapees.
It was indeed the simplest solution.
Su Si casually remarked, "They were foolish. Whether the villagers knew or not, we were the ones who were deceived from the beginning."
Yan Qing asked, "Then why didn't you run away earlier?"
Su Si was taken aback and remained silent.
Yan Qing let out a sigh. No matter how familiar and enthusiastic Su Si appeared, the past was already gone. They had escaped twelve years ago and separated ten years ago. How many decades does a mortal have in their lifetime?
Long ago, they too stood under the starry sky.
[You see, I told you I could make it out! I don't want the name Su Sigou anymore. You've read books, why don't you help me come up with a new name?]
[Isn't that practically the same?]
[It's not the 'Si' from 'Sigou', but the 'Si' from 'unrestrained'. I also want to change my name...I'll change it to 'Yan Qing'. Ah Si, let me down, I'll write it out for you to see.]
Su Si wiped the sweat from his face and crouched down to release the skinny child from his back. Yan Qing picked up a stick and drew a symbol in the dirt with great solemnity.
Su Si couldn't read many characters, and when he saw the complex strokes of the character "Si," he became frustrated.
[Why are there so many strokes? I don't want this one!]
Ignoring him, Yan Qing continued to draw in the dirt.
[I want to change it to this 'Yan.' It's pronounced the same as 'Yan,' even you won't get it wrong.]
Su Si looked left and right, up and down, and only recognized the characted for "three" in the word "Yan". His eyes lit up mischievously as he thought of something:
[I can be called Su Si, and you can call me Ah Si. Then I'll call you San-zi*. Doesn't that sound like we're brothers?]
*T/N: The character for 'three' is pronounced as 'San'.
Su Si burst into laughter at his own joke.
After he finished laughing, his eyes sparkled as he asked:
[San-zi, since we've run away today and no one is going to stop us, what do you want to do in the future?]
[I don't know...if I had to say, I just want to live a peaceful life and not be controlled by anyone because of these eyes of mine.]
[Pah, how unambitious! I want to be a hero - riding a big horse, wielding a long sword. It would be even better if I could be from the Taiheng Sect, their clothes are the best looking]
[Big horses are expensive, and so are long swords.] Yan Qing honestly pointed out. [It takes a lot of money to travel around the jianghu, everyone in the Taiheng Sect comes from wealthy families.]
Su Si's confident words hadn't been finished yet, and were choked back by this little chick-like follower. He thought for a long time but couldn't come up with a good idea to make money, so he could only stubbornly say, [I don't care, I just want to become a great hero.]
Yan Qing pondered and said: [When I find a good job, I'll help you save money. Just...just treat it as my way of repaying you for all these years.]
Su Si was very touched, but he still had to say a few more words: [Why are you always talking about repaying debts? You're so stingy.]
[Because no one else has any reason to be good to me. If someone is good to me, I have to remember it.]
[Ah, San-zi, if you keep this up, you'll be cheated sooner or later.]
Who would have thought that ten years later, the first person to cheat him would be Su Si himself.
With a swift move, Su Si saved Yin Deng and as a former member of Taiheng, Yan Qing knew the technique it all too well. He didn't know if the disciples of Ku Mountain Sect had noticed, but he kept silent and didn't expose it in public.
Even now, Yan Qing still didn't know if keeping this secret was right or wrong.
Su Si probably realized his negligence too. Now that they were the only two left, there were things that they both wanted to say but neither wanted to be the first to speak.
They were once the closest thing to "family" in the world, and this intimacy was too precious. Even if it was fake, no one wanted to break it.
For a moment, Yan Qing suddenly understood Su Si's behavior. If they hadn't reunited in this crisis, they might have both covered up their wounds and pretended that time had never passed.
Even though he knew that old friends' hearts could change easily, and there were plenty of people who played games with emotions, even a fake home was better than none, and they could all pretend they still had one.
"Alright then. I can take my time, but I don't want you to die here. That's not what I want."
Finally, Su Si let out a sigh. He stopped looking at Yan Qing and stood up to grab Lord Bai: "I admit, I'm not a good person and I can't be a hero. After all these years of wandering in the jianghu, I've learned at least one thing. You were right, horses are expensive, and so are swords...especially the desire to become a hero."
"Sixty-seven taels of silver."
"I've saved up sixty-seven taels of silver," Yan Qing said calmly. "I've been waiting for you all these years at Taiheng, and saving up at the same time. When we get out of here, you can use it to buy a horse and a sword."
Su Si tightened his arm, causing Lord Bai to cry out in pain, "Are you crazy?"
"I don't know what happened to you in the past ten years, but just based on the way you saved Yin Deng, I trust you."
Yan Qing's face was serious, so serious that it was hard to argue with him.
"Besides, even if you really became a heartless scoundrel, you wouldn't be thinking of other ways to leave after being trapped here for so long."
This time, Su Si was stunned for a long time.
He seemed to want to say something sarcastic, but swallowed it back with difficulty. Gradually, his feigned enthusiasm faded away, revealing a hint of genuine nostalgia.
Finally, he suddenly laughed, showing a glimpse of his past self.
Su Si clicked his tongue and spoke in a much lighter tone, "You haven't changed a bit, still so foolish. Alright, 67 taels of silver, consider it as if you hired me. I'll go with you."
"Mm. But, Ah Si, you have to tell me first... when did you join the Red Hook Sect, and why are you hiding now?"
Su Si's smile froze.
After a moment, he sighed deeply and looked up at the sky. "You really figured it out, San-zi. Can you be slightly more foolish?"
"Taiheng is still trying to keep the Red Hook Sect under control. Even though I was just a servant, I have also seen the Red Hook Sect's techniques."
"Let me make it clear, I am not a member of the Red Hook Sect anymore. They said I had good talent, and since I had no parents, they forced me to become a damn killer. I secretly learned their skills and ran away, but they hate me so much that they are chasing me everywhere."
As he spoke, he squinted his eyes and concealed all the bloody twists and turns under his smile.
Yan Qing: "..."
He suddenly felt that the Ku Mountain Sect and the Red Hook Sect were in unavoidable conflicts, and Su Si being able to run into them was like a family reunion.
"Let's go to the goddess' place first, bring me there."
"Sure. That'll be 67 taels, you said it."
"Also, you need to explain your identity to Sect Leader Shi," Yan Qing earnestly suggested, adding a comforting remark. "Don't worry, Sect Leader Shi has already made an enemy of the Dark Blood Witch, so you adding on to it won't make much difference."
"...Tsk, that old witch, she really won't give up," Su Si grumbled, clearly not comforted.
The goddess's house was in the center of the village, with a large courtyard and an elegant exterior that stood out.
As they talked, Su Si lost all restraint. He ruthlessly knocked out the village guards at the gate. Unfortunately, their luck ran out there. The goddess had set up various large and small formations around her room, and they could only break the smaller ones.
When they finally reached the goddess's bedroom, the two of them stared at each other, struggling to take a step forward.
Even Lord Bai raised his voice and honked twice, full of warning. The two of them didn't want to come all this way for nothing, so they started rummaging around in the outer hall. To their surprise, they actually found something.
There were records of outsiders in Yuanxian Village, which were kept together with those of ordinary villagers. Since there weren't many outsiders, the records were thin. Yan Qing cautiously opened it, feeling like he had to read it.
A record from 107 years ago suddenly appeared before his eyes.
[In the deep autumn, the true immortal brought an outsider here. The outsider's name was Yan Budu, with a strong immortal fate and naturally red eyes. He was difficult to get along with, cruel and violent, and intentionally destroyed the demon tree, which angered the villagers."
[Yan Budu stayed here for three days, then left with the true immortal and never returned.]
107 years ago was exactly the year that Yan Budu disappeared.
The author has something to say:
The seed of Demon Lord Yin refused to sprout even in death, while old Shi farmer shed bitter tears.
Fox: How could this be? I just knew that after something good happens, something bad would turn up, wuwu.
Demon Lord: (lying peacefully in the soil, too lazy to even turn over.)
Happy readers make me float like a cloud in the sky. If you enjoy my translations and want to read them more quickly, I'll translate bonus chapters as a thank you for coffee!
Give me feedback at moc.ebircssutol@eyks.