Shi Jingzhi stretched out his wrist generously and said, "The jade pendant? Take a look, feel free."
Yin Ci pretended to grab the pendant, pressing the back of his hand against Shi Jingzhi's wrist, and once again checked his pulse. Now that Shi Jingzhi had eaten and rested, he could examine him more carefully.
After a while, Yin Ci's expression changed slightly.
"The material and craftsmanship are both excellent. It's worth at least ten taels of silver if sold separately," Shi Jingzhi sighed, "Have you seen enough? I... cough!" He really remembered to turn around and cough up blood.
Yin Ci withdrew his hand and turned his back.
"I've seen enough, go to sleep."
Shi Jingzhi grumbled a few times, cleaned up the blood-stained cloth, and his breathing quickly stabilized.
Yin Ci opened his eyes slightly, staring at the darkness in the room. It was unlikely that Shi Jingzhi was a master of martial arts in disguise.
He had not lied about his age, which was exactly twenty-seven. What was even more interesting was that his pulse was extremely strange. No matter how you looked at it, his body was already at the end of its rope - if he did nothing, Shi Jingzhi could only live for another year at most.
But he didn't seem like a dying man.
Yin Ci had lived for over three hundred years and had read through countless medical books in search of a way to end his life. He compared Shi Jingzhi's symptoms one by one, but couldn't find an answer.
Apart from his physical meridians on the verge of collapse, this person could even be considered healthy.
Without finding the cause of the illness, there was naturally no way to use medicine.
No wonder Shi Jingzhi was unwilling to part with the jade bead. This kid was basically eyeing the Shi Rou in the tomb. There was no cure in this world, so it was normal to pin his hopes on legendary objects.
Yin Ci closed his eyes, feeling a sense of relief in his chest. Since Shi Jingzhi didn't have much time left to live... why not play along with his game in the Ku Mountain Sect?
If the Shi Rou truly existed, it would surely be within his grasp. Once the dust settled on the Ghost Tomb matter, Shi Jingzhi wouldn't have many days left to live, and Yin Ci could even let loose in front of him without worrying about the aftermath.
The next morning, Shi Jingzhi woke up to find that his disciple wasn't as obedient as before. As his master, Shi Jingzhi woke up early to teach him martial arts, but Yin Ci was shaken awake a few times before reluctantly opening his eyes, even with a hint of killing intent in his gaze.
Shi Jingzhi threatened, "If you don't get up now, I'll spit blood on your face."
Yin Ci slowly got up, his tone not as obedient as before, "It's only the hour of the Tiger."
"You're not young anymore, you must work twice as hard to make up for this weakness," said Shi Jingzhi without hesitation, as he reached out and began to unbutton Yin Ci's jacket. "Take it off, take it off."
Yin Ci slowly turned his head and tightened his collar. "Master, are you really a fox spirit?"
Shi Jingzhi scoffed. "What nonsense. Hurry up and take off your jacket, I'll help you with your meridians and make learning internal skills twice as effective."
Yin Ci finally nodded and slowly took off his jacket.
Shi Jingzhi reached out and carefully examined Yin Ci's back. It was tight and beautiful, exuding the vitality of youth, with skin color that matched his neck and arms perfectly. He only saw a few thin scars and didn't notice any unnatural seams.
Was he just being paranoid?
Shi Jingzhi shook his head and placed his palm on Yin Ci's back. Shi Jingzhi knew that doing the dog-paddle in the snow was embarrassing. He had planned to show off his skills and help his disciple adjust his meridians, in order to gain some prestige.
But to his surprise, every burst of true energy he sent in disappeared without a trace. After standing there dumbfounded for a while, he stubbornly tried a few more times, but still got no response from Yin Ci's meridians.
Shi Jingzhi was stunned.
He had finally managed to trick an honest disciple, only to find out that he was a leaky one!
But he couldn't just pretend that nothing had happened and let Yin Ci go back to sleep. He sweated profusely for a while, then pushed Yin Ci's head back when he tried to turn over.
"Master, is there something wrong with my body?" Yin Ci spoke up first.
"Ah, it isn't quite suitable for practicing inner strength," replied Shi Jingzhi with a mysterious air. "It's no matter, I'll help you adjust your training direction...I'm hungry, you make breakfast first, and it'll be even more effective to learn after you've eaten your fill."
Yin Ci glanced at the stars outside the window, her expression gradually becoming complex.
Shi Jingzhi said, "No whining allowed. We martial artists should wake up earlier than the roosters."
"...Fine," Yin Ci said. To be honest, he was slightly surprised.
Shi Jingzhi was only skilled in inner strength, but Yin Ci's meridians were damaged and he couldn't practice internal energy at all. If he couldn't learn anything, there would be no master-disciple relationship. Even if he was truly ignorant, he wouldn't accept Shi Jingzhi's teachings.
According to common sense, Shi Jingzhi should have taken on another disciple and let himself be a leisurely chef. But instead, he not only didn't tell the truth, but also had the appearance of wanting to go down a path to the bitter end.
As Yin Ci was thinking, he tidied up the ingredients leftover from yesterday and made some white jade soup*, and also heated up two meat buns on the side.
*T/N: A type of sweet soup or pudding made with a combination of mung bean starch and water.
Just then, Shi Jingzhi sneaked into the courtyard with his flag in his hand like a thief. Yin Ci happened to have nothing to do and secretly watched him.
The man waved his flagpole and began to demonstrate some sword skills. After watching a few moves, Yin Ci's expression gradually became serious.
It was the knife skills of the Red Hook Sect's assassins, to be precise, the knife skills of two assassins attacking Shi Jingzhi. Shi Jingzhi repeatedly demonstrated with the flagpole, from awkward to smooth, and even deconstructed the moves and extracted three moves.
Judging from his movements, Shi Jingzhi was indeed not familiar with knife and sword skills, lacking the seasoned experience engraved in his bones, relying on his intelligence.
He imitated the assassins' footwork and then raised his head, with a little more confidence in his demeanor.
Yin Ci remained silent. This kid was obviously trying to learn on the spot and bluff his way through. But then again, with such talent, how did the "Yi City Shi Family" make a mistake in judging his abilities?
Breakfast was served. Shi Jingzhi held a meat bun and gestured, "I have chosen three knife techniques and a set of footwork for you, but your muscles and bones are not yet developed. Go squat in a horse stance for two hours first. When your foundation is solid, I will teach you."
Yin Ci's face remained unchanged, "Yes. But..."
"I don't like knives. I want to use a sword."
Shi Jingzhi frowned, "Young people shouldn't be so picky! Go squat in your horse stance."
Yin Ci asked, "Does the knife technique have a name?"
Shi Jingzhi glanced at the jade and white jade soup on the table, "This knife technique is called 'White Jade Azure Knife'. Remember it well."
Basically a tofu vegetable knife, right?
"I hope my master can teach me more," he added with a dry cough.
"I'll demonstrate the horse stance for you later, and then you can squat on your own," Shi Jingzhi smiled. "I'm going to take a nap now."
...Maybe I should just kill this kid, Yin Ci thought calmly.
Of course, the rebellious Demon Lord Yin wouldn't listen. When Shi Jingzhi fell asleep, he found a comfortable spot in the courtyard and closed his eyes to rest. Soon after, Aunt Zhang got up and was startled by Yin Ci in the yard.
"They say old people don't sleep much, but you young people wake up earlier than me," she said kindly, perhaps influenced by her good impression of this fake grandson.
"I warmed up some cabbage and tofu soup on the stove. Auntie, have a bowl," Yin Ci smiled and spoke more plainly about the dish.
"It's okay, now is the auspicious time. I'll first stick the door gods on. The other day, it rained heavily and the paintings were all damaged... Oh, this side is a bit high..."
Seeing Aunt Zhang looking at him eagerly, Yin Ci could only continue to act like a good grandson: "I'll do it."
"I heard from Little Shi that you came from the mountains," Aunt Zhang took a sip of hot soup, and her wrinkles seemed to melt in the steam. "Do you also stick door gods in your hometown?"
"No, we don't."
"It's still better to stick them. With the protection of the two gods, no evil spirits can invade," the old woman said piously.
Yin Ci unfolded the door god paintings. There were two paintings, one depicting a rough and bold general with a face as fierce as a leopard and ringed eyes, and the other depicting a graceful and wise civil official with white hair like a crane.
The colors were bright, the brushstrokes were exaggerated, and the characters were vividly portrayed. At first glance, they were of great value.
"That's the founding pair of our nation, the immortal beings who descended from the stars," Aunt Zhang said, thinking that Yin Ci was interested in the door gods painting. "Is the painting good? If you want, I can go buy two for you at noon. I know the painter and can get you a discount. You can each carry one with you for protection against evil spirits..."
Yin Ci politely declined, "Thank you, Aunt Zhang. We're in a hurry and afraid we might get them dirty or wrinkled, which would be disrespectful to the immortals."
Aunt Zhang closed her mouth regretfully and continued to drink her soup.
When Shi Jingzhi woke up again, the sun was already high in the sky. Without any embarrassment, he kindly asked Yin Ci, "Have you finished your horse stance and squats?"
Before Yin Ci could answer, Shi Jingzhi reached out and poked him in the lower back. Yin Ci didn't dodge and took the poke. "Good job, you're still standing. Looks like you didn't slack off," praised Shi Jingzhi, then turned to Aunt Zhang. "Did you change your door god painting? It looks really fancy."
The old lady was very happy. "Yes, and it was your disciple who helped me put it up."
"Ah Ci may not recognize them, but that general is Sun Wang, the Marquis of Lie'an, and the old man is He Cheng'an, the National Teacher. Together, they are known as the founding heroes - they basically established the foundation of Dayun," explained Shi Jingzhi.
Seeing that the old lady was in good spirits, he continued,"When the founding emperor passed away, the crown prince was still young, so the Marquis of Lie'an served as regent for ten years, fighting wars everywhere and completely stabilizing Dayun, without touching a single bit of imperial power.
"As for the National Teacher...when Dayun was just established, there were two years of consecutive droughts and widespread epidemics. He sacrificed himself to the heavens. Even today, Dayun's territory still enjoys good weather and has not seen any disasters since."
"These two are both remarkable figures who have contributed greatly to our country's prosperity. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say they are like immortals who have descended to earth. But, if you ask me..."
Yin Ci stuffed a steamed bun into Shi Jingzhi's mouth to silence him. "Shizun, I hate listening to history. It gives me a headache."
Shi Jingzhi ate the bun at a steady pace and wiped his mouth. "Alright then, I'll take you out to play."
They played for the entire day. As the sun began to set, Shi Jingzhi didn't return to Aunt Zhang's place.
Instead, he led Yin Ci to a luxurious inn called "Shunhe Inn". The inn was decorated with grandeur and elegance, and even had a door god painting on the door, with gold foil and gold thread outlining the image, making it more intricate than the one at Aunt Zhang's house.
Yin Ci glanced at it for a moment before turning away indifferently. But as he turned, he collided with a stranger behind him.
The impact between the two was not strong, at most causing a stumble. But unexpectedly, the other person let out a groan and sat down on the ground, looking quite injured.
Yin Ci asked, "......?"
The author has something to say:
Perhaps this is what they call "bumping into a fated enemy".
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