After the master and disciple had woken Yan Qing and Su Si up, the four of them walked out of the ruins. As soon as they appeared, they were surrounded by villagers, making it impossible to move.
To verify the authenticity of the Twin Roots, someone took out their blood bottle and poured wine into it. As soon as the wine entered the bottle, the person fell to the ground with a loud thud, emitting a strong smell of alcohol.
With this live example, coupled with Sister Mian and Yin Deng as witnesses, Shi Jingzhi spent half the night and managed to persuade the villagers to calm down.
With the commotion settled, the sun had risen.
Fox Shi was desperate to escape, so he played a trick. He pushed Yan Qing forward and diverted the villagers' attention to "Yan Qing, who had saved all the blood bottles".
Poor Yan Qing had been low-key for many years and had never seen met a situation before. He was immediately turned into a blushing fool by the villagers, and his face was almost the same color as his eyes.
The people of Yuanxian Village did not know the evil reputation of Yan Budu and were confused by Shi Jingzhi's persuasion, making their attack even more fierce. Yan Qing couldn't resist and had to use Su Si as a shield. Su Si was an old hand at dealing with the market and immediately got into character, shouting and screaming to distract the villagers.
While the villagers were distracted by the two servants, Shi Jingzhi grabbed his disciple and slipped away.
The two of them headed straight for the forbidden area of the demon tree.
They didn't find any information about Yan Budu in the goddess's bedroom. According to the records, Yan Budu was disliked by the villagers because he intentionally destroyed the demon tree, but it still remained. This was the only clue left.
No one was watching, so Shi Jingzhi dropped his pretense of being an immortal. He rolled up his sleeves and climbed the tree haphazardly. Yin Ci couldn't bear to watch and also jumped onto the demon tree, lifting his monkey-like master to a higher place.
Shi Jingzhi couldn't hide his envy in his eyes and said, "Ah Ci, you have such good qinggong*, teach me some."
*T/N: Light-body techniques that allow someone to move lightly, in a way that negates the force of gravity on them.
Yin Ci didn't want this person to die easily, so he already had the thought ot teaching him in his mind. However, since they had already established a master-disciple relationship, whether Shi Jingzhi was willing or not was another matter.
In the end, he didn't even have to ask, as Shi Jingzhi brought it up himself.
Yin Ci chuckled and said, "Shizun, shouldn't you be calling me Shizun instead?"
When Shi Jingzhi raised his eyebrows, he spoke confidently, "As a teacher, one should pass on knowledge and dispel ignorance. Even if I can't teaching, I can still preach to resolve ignorance. Besides, there is a saying that 'one shouldn't be ashamed to ask questions'..."
Yin Ci felt like pushing the fox off the tree, but he held back.
"Preach to resolve ignorance?" He couldn't hide the teasing tone in his voice.
Shi Jingzhi looked at him, and his not-so-serious expression gradually disappeared. "Yes, preach to resolve ignorance."
Yin Ci also restrained his smile.
Seeing Shi Jingzhi's expression, he thought of the phrase "I won't let you down."
Under the Ghost Tomb, Shi Jingzhi had also said "I won't let you down." At that time, Yin Ci only felt that this person was sincere but unreliable, and his words seemed like he was talking to himself.
As the wind died down just now, the tone in Shi Jingzhi's words became less affectionate, instead becoming almost like a promise.
The demon tree was wide, but the two stood steady. The scent of the forbidden land mixed with the fresh smell of leaves, and there was a faint hint of incense from the altar.
When Yin Ci spoke again, he had lost all his playful tone. He was genuinely curious, "What ignorance does Shizun think I have, that needs to be resolved by someone else?"
"As a master, I am good at reading people. Mortals wear their emotions on their faces, and their desires are revealed in their actions. I took in Yan Qing because he has a pure heart. I kept Su Si... although he wavers between good and evil, he is loyal."
Shi Jingzhi took a few steps forward, revealing his master-like demeanor.
"Ah Ci, I still believe you are an honest person, but why don't you want anything?"
Yin Ci's heart tightened slightly, not because of Shi Jingzhi's imposing "heaven and earth are merciless" aura, but because of his sincere tone. With just a short sentence, it pierced his heart and caused a twinge of pain.
After a hundred years of vicissitudes, love and hate, and emotional entanglements, it all ended without any resolution. Besides "wanting to die," he couldn't think of any other wishes.
"Perhaps it's because I'm too bored. I envy Shizun, who always jokes about being beyond salvation and never runs out of fun."
Yin Ci said this with a sarcastic tone, but Shi Jingzhi laughed. He once again assumed an imposing posture of a monkey king, hugging a high tree branch and beckoning to Yin Ci with his finger. "Ah Ci, come up here."
Yin Ci: "..." For the first time, he realized that his cheap master was naturally gifted in leaving him speechless.
This person not only had exceptional talent, but also an inexplicable degree of ridiculousness that was rarely found even in a century. The tree branches were narrow and crowded, and they could only hang like monkeys when they climbed up. Did Shi Jingzhi's heart condition finally affect his mental state?
"Come up," Shi Jingzhi beckoned again.
"No." Yin Ci refused.
"This is your master's order." Yin Ci took a deep breath and climbed up the tree branch. Unlike Shi Jingzhi, who lazily clung to the tree, Yin Ci stood lightly on the branch like a bird.
The branch was not thick, but it held two adult men, bending dangerously.
"Alright, what's Shizun's next order?" Yin Ci poked Shi Jingzhi, who was clinging to the branch.
Shi Jingzhi raised his eyes and said, "If Ah Ci leaves Yuanxian Village, you wouldn't come back, right? And even if you came back, you wouldn't come to this spot."
"If I hadn't called you up here, 'this place' would have been a place you would never have reached in your lifetime. Even if you could live for a hundred years, it would still be the same," said Shi Jingzhi.
Shi Jingzhi carefully adjusted his posture and swayed on the tree branch.
"Isn't it interesting? These small corners, even if they are close by, most people take them for granted. But even though the scenery here is ordinary, it can still be considered unique in the world."
As the sun rose, the surroundings were bathed in a golden light like a blaze of fire. Shi Jingzhi gazed at the rising sun, his joy overflowing.
For some reason, Yin Ci's remaining hostility suddenly dissipated. He stared at Shi Jingzhi, who was enjoying himself, and felt a hint of bitter longing in his heart.
Some people just have this kind of talent, even if they sink to the bottom of a deep abyss, they can still dig up some unrealistic hope at the bottom. Yin Ci almost hated this innocence, yet he wanted to hold it up, so it wouldn't fall into the mud too soon.
It seemed that in doing so, he himself could also borrow that glimmer of light, and not live too difficult a life.
Yin Ci stood silently for a while, then sat down beside Shi Jingzhi.
Shi Jingzhi's tone became more cheerful: "It is said that Yan Budu got his hands on the Shi Rou before he disappeared, and he happened to have been here. There are not only spiritual elixirs that can cure all diseases here, but also talk of immortals. How could it not be related to the Shi Rou?"
Yin Ci just looked at him and said, "Mm."
"Moreover, since I came here, I haven't vomited any blood, and my pulse is similar to that of the locals. My strange illness must be related to the immortals here. The ancient formation, the use of flesh statues, and the traces of real immortals. There are so many mysteries to solve. If you continue to follow me, I guarantee you won't be bored... Maybe after walking for a while, you will discover what you want."
In fact, what he wanted was Shi Jingzhi's golden fire, but since the golden fire needed to burn for a long time, Shi Jingzhi must cooperate with him. This matter cannot be rushed.
Shi Jingzhi didn't know his disciple's thoughts and continued on his own, "So, does this count as solving your... Ah!"
His footing was unstable, and he slipped off the tree branch. Yin Ci quickly caught his master and sighed, "Let's just say you solved one or two percent of my ignorance."
"Ah Ci, don't move."
"The Hanging Shadow Sword, lend it to me."
The fox swayed in the air, pointing the sword at the tree bark. Twisted and cracked, the bark was shaved off, revealing a line of vigorous characters - "Do you see this? If you did, go find the Bald Donkey."
Shi Jingzhi and Yin Ci: "..."
"It's Yan Budu's handwriting, just like the one in the Ghost Tomb," said Shi Jingzhi, with a tone of impatience and no elegance.
"Jianchen Temple is west of Yongsheng. It's not strange to pass by here if we want to go directly from Ling Sect," said Yin Ci.
With the new clue, Yin Ci's faint sadness disappeared instantly, and his tone became firm again.
"If there's any sect that's least interested in the Shi Rou, it's the Jianchen Temple. Yet Yan Budu chose to hide the clue there. He's really...tch."
Shi Jingzhi suddenly realized something, and said: "I have something to do at the Jianchen Temple, this will kill two birds with one stone. Let's rest for a moment and then hit the road."
The two finally climbed down from the tree, landing right in front of the tree gate. The remaining sunlight was still burning, and a charred smell wafted out from inside the gate.
Shi Jingzhi turned around and said inexplicably, "Bai Wei didn't have to die."
Yin Ci stopped in his tracks. "He clearly said he wouldn't give up his life, but in the end, he threw himself into the flesh statue. Even if he was protecting Yin Deng, he didn't know how long he could hold on when he made that decision."
"Maybe he just couldn't bear to see his loved one in pain and didn't know what to do," Yin Ci answered smoothly.
He had seen this kind of situation too many times. But Shi Jingzhi's situation was special, and Yin Ci didn't expect his master to understand much.
As expected, Shi Jingzhi shook his head and said, "If I were him, I would never act so recklessly."
With that, he turned and walked away without looking back at the forbidden area. However, Yin Ci continued to stare at the tree gate, not following immediately.
He thought again of that eerie dream.
Perhaps the fragmented pain was unconsciously transmitted by the flesh statue. After the intense fire, did the crying voices stop?
And the him that had lost his human face in the dream, what was it?
Shi Jingzhi was right. As they continued on their journey, it became increasingly dark and mysterious, and certainly not boring.
A few days later, the people of Yuanxian Village silently packed up their belongings and headed towards the small bridge at the entrance. They each took their blood bottles, carefully sealed them, and hung them on their chests like treasures.
Yin Deng's arm was still disabled, and she walked with one hand holding the dog demon, taking three steps and turning her head back.
"Why do we have to move houses?"
"The immortal said we must leave this place early and establish relationships with people outside the mountain. Even if bad people come to retaliate, they won't dare to be too blatant." Sister Mian squatted down and whispered to her.
"But sister only left for three days and died outside." The concept was too complicated for Yin Deng to understand. Just equating "ascending to immortality" with "death" took all her strength.
"It's okay, you have Daddy and Mummy with you."
"Then can I still see my sister?"
Yin Deng looked up, her eyes swollen like peaches.
"I dreamt of her yesterday, she waved to me. Will I never see her again?"
Sister Mian didn't answer. She lifted the little girl onto the dog's back and touched her head again.
"Let's go," she said. "Xizhuang is close to Yuanxian Village. If Ah Lu wants to see you, she won't have trouble finding you there."
The four members of the Ku Mountain Sect stood at the front of the group, with Su Si still holding onto the white goose who had lost a lot of feathers. Despite the goose demon's keen intuition, he barely escaped the wind blades with his life and lost countless feathers in the process.
They were finally leaving.
The warm breeze and fresh flowers were left behind as the people performed their ancestral rituals, silently entering the bridge cave and emerging from the shrine. The mountain was now quiet, with snowflakes falling just like when they arrived.
As soon as they left the shrine, the four members of the Ku Mountain Sect split up. Yan Qing seemed to be worried and kept looking back, almost getting choked by Su Si. The master and disciple endured the cold without their coats, trying to look like ethereal immortals in their white clothes.
As they left the sight of the crowd, Shi Jingzhi was still doing alright, but Yin Ci's lips had turned blue.
Shi Jingzhi wrapped his disciple in a cotton coat and exhaled a big cloud of white vapor. "Damn, I forgot it's winter outside."
"I saw a man and a woman waving at us near the woods just now," Yan Qing rubbed his frozen red nose. "Didn't all the people from Yuanxian Village leave?"
Su Si didn't care. "Maybe you saw wrong."
"Shh, don't talk about these strange things," Sect Leader Shi couldn't sit still anymore. "Anyway, let's go down the mountain first. I need to find something to hold the spiritual elixir. It's freezing cold, and even the jadeite will crack."
He took out a piece of spiritual elixir jadeite from his chest and carefully examined it - then let out an anguished scream.
The verdant liquid inside the jade turned into a murky soil yellow, and the jade now looked like a lump of mud. The sect leader was so angry that he spat out a mouthful of blood.
The illusion was shattered, and everything returned to how it was before.
Yin Ci sympathetically patted his master's back to comfort him, but it wasn't just his master who was like this.
In the distance, the signal fireworks of the Ling Sect suddenly rose, exploding into a red mist.
Shi Jingzhi wiped the blood from his mouth and spoke bitterly, "...Yan Qing, your family has come."
The people of the Ling Sect were exceedingly calculative, and Zheng Fengdao seemed to have made up his mind to wipe the floor with them. Now that Su Si had joined them, it was just nice, he could turn them into four rags*.
*T/N: instead of wiping the floor with them, it literally translates to using them as bedposts...with four bedposts, it's just enough to prop up his bed with.
Well, they have no choice but to run.
Yin Ci lifted his master, while Su Si held onto Yan Qing. The two of them, who were skilled in qingging, swiftly fled through the snow.
At least the Jianchen Temple is a safe destination.
Hopefully Yan Budu has really hidden clues there, instead of playing tricks on people using his inexplicable obsession with monks.
The author has something to say:
Yan Budu, everyone has noticed your obsession with monks. What will happen now?
...And upon closer inspection, it seems that cats are indeed less resistant to the cold than foxes (?)
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