The man was dressed neatly and wore a black cloth over his eyes. He was a blind man.
"I'm sorry, it's my fault for not paying attention," the blind man apologized profusely while still sitting on the ground.
Yin Ci didn't say anything. He scanned the crowd behind the blind man - there were over ten young people on the other side, including the blind man on the ground. They were all dressed similarly, undoubtedly from the Taiheng Sect.
The Taiheng Sect was one of the top martial arts sects of the righteous path. Its disciples were known for their uprightness and were worthy of being known as the "righteous path of martial arts."
As expected, someone immediately stood up and said, "Young master, are you injured? This blind servant bumped into you, it's because our sect's discipline is not strict enough... Yan Qing, get up quickly!"
"I twisted my ankle," the blind man said.
"I can tell you don't want to go to the Ghost Tomb. You don't have to be on the front lines, we'll pay you five times the monthly salary. No one else can offer you that," said the disciple of Taiheng Sect angrily. "Did you deliberately sprain your ankle? Get up, stop sitting there like that!"
The blind man looked to be around twenty years old, tall with wheat-colored skin and a very handsome face. He stood up shakily, looking pained.
"Alright, I'll do it," said Shi Jingzhi, who had been watching the commotion. He rolled up his sleeves and unfurled the "Cure All With Medicine" banner.
The disciples of Taiheng Sect: "..."
Yin Ci continued to remain silent.
In truth, the disciple was about seventy to eighty percent correct. The blind man did intentionally bump into them, but it wasn't with any malicious intent.
Judging from his movements, he had already twisted his foot before the collision.
It was just that no matter what the blind man tried, his plan could not succeed. Just then, Shi Jingzhi grabbed the man's ankle and injected a large amount of true energy. With a loud crack, the blind man let out a cry of pain.
"It's done, it'll recover within a day," Shi Jingzhi said, wiping his hands.
The blind man's handsome features twisted in anguish, with a hint of sadness between his eyebrows.
Yin Ci couldn't help but feel a little pleased with the situation. The sprain wasn't serious, and it would recover in five or six days.
However, he happened to run into Shi Jingzhi, whose internal strength was as strong as a pound of iron, and he insisted on using true energy to heal the sprain.
Taiheng Sect was after all one of the top sects, and the disciples could easily understand Shi Jingzhi's method of healing him. His face looked a bit unnatural as he said, "Th-thank you so much..."
"Please don't be polite, in a few days we will go to the Ghost Tomb together," said Shi Jingzhi with a smile that couldn't be hidden behind his mask. "I am Shi Jingzhi from the Ku Mountain Sect, and I assume you all are here for the invitation from the Golden Jade Gang."
The disciple was taken aback, clearly not used to such a quick response.
The structure of the Ghost Tomb was complex, and all major sects had explored some of its secrets. Shi Jingzhi made it clear that he wanted to take advantage of the Taiheng Sect, but unfortunately as one of the righteous sects, they were too proud to reject.
"So it's Sect Leader Shi," a cold female voice rang out. She had obviously seen the jade pendant swinging on the flag.
"Indeed," Shi Jingzhi replied with a grin. "I only have one disciple, and the two of us will go lightly, so we won't cause any trouble for you all."
"Senior Sister, look at this..." the disciple who had spoken first looked very frustrated. The girl known as "Senior Sister" nodded her head.
She wore a white dress and had a well-proportioned face that exuded righteousness. Although she couldn't be considered a beauty, she still made people feel good about her.
After sizing up Shi Jingzhi, her gaze lingered on his Nuo mask for a moment. "My sect's people were the ones who caused the trouble, and we received someone's kindness afterwards. If the Sect Leader doesn't mind, you can come with us in a few days."
"Let's go, don't block the entrance." With that, she decisively turned around and walked into the inn.
The group from Taiheng Sect left in single file, and the blind man followed while sighing deeply.
"Good disciple, you did well."
Ignoring the blind man's dissatisfaction, Shi Jingzhi patted Yin Ci's back hard.
"I was planning to wait for the righteous and evil factions to fight it out, and then take advantage of the chaos to catch some wounded and treat them. Who knew I would have the opportunity so soon... What kind of look is that? Even if someone from the Taiheng Sect bumps into something in the tomb, I can still treat them. As the prestigious Ku Mountain Sect faction, we shouldn't be taking advantage of others, right?"
Yin Ci couldn't be bothered to respond to him. "Shizun, what does it mean to 'wait for the invitation from the Golden Jade Gang'?"
"Today, the Golden Jade Gang will begin counting the jade beads, three days of counting and one day of verification. The Ghost Tomb is said to be not far from here, and we can enter the tomb at the latest in five days once we've settled the procedures with the Golden Jade Gang. We are considered early, and other factions will come later. The Shunhe Inn has been reserved, which means the two of us..."
"Can't afford to stay there," Yin Ci smoothly took over the conversation.
Shi Jingzhi chuckled, "Registering a sect is too expensive. As your master, I have to reserve your monthly allowance, which leaves me with little money. Speaking of which, are you going to the tomb with me or not?"
"What difference does it make if I go or not?"
"If you go, then whatever treasures we find, I'll only take one and the rest will be yours. If you don't go, I'll just say you have diarrhea and go alone."
Sure enough, this person's goal was almost certainly the Shi Rou.
Seeing Yin Ci's silence, Shi Jingzhi thought he was hesitant and said, "Don't worry, if you go, I will do everything in my power to protect you. If you don't go, I won't be stingy with you even if I get the money."
Yin Ci deliberately hesitated for a while and said, "Since it's a rare opportunity to see the world, I'll go."
After Yin Ci finished speaking, Shi Jingzhi burst into a smile, his face beaming with joy. Then, he took out a small pill from his medicine box and broke it open with his fingers, revealing a sparkling and translucent jade bead.
"Let's go, let's hand over the jade bead first."
For the next few days, Yin Ci was busy preparing dry rations.
Shi Jingzhi was very picky about the taste and texture of the rations. They had to be filling and delicious, but also vary in flavor.
Other than the nagging Yin Ci into practicing his practicing swordsmanship, Shi Jingzhi was constantly hovering around him in the kitchen the rest of the time.
However, Yin Ci didn't get angry with him. After all, he had been able to hide his true identity for three years, so cooking for just three days was actually quite enjoyable.
Finally, the day of departure arrived.
Shi Jingzhi specially bought two brightly colored thin cotton quilts, claiming that he wanted to bring back some good luck.
Yin Ci carried the quilt embroidered with mandarin ducks playing in the water on his back. Despite having begged for death for many years, a new feeling of despair arose in his heart.
The Taiheng Sect has always kept their promises, even allowing the two of them to ride in the sect's dedicated carriage. After a bumpy ride, the carriage finally stopped in front of a chaotic mountain range.
The road ahead was steep and dangerous, making it impossible for the horses to continue. Everyone got off the carriage.
"I'm Jin Lan, the two of you can come with me," said the Taiheng Sect disciple who had appeared a few days ago. He had an ordinary appearance, but his voice was very loud: "Yan Qing, Yan Qing - what are you doing? Hurry up and catch up!"
The blind man heard the words and followed. He carried a load as heavy as a mountain on his back, but did not use a cane and walked as steadily as ever.
Yin Ci casually scanned the area before turning his attention to the people around him. The Golden Jade Gang had finished counting the jade beads, and these were all the competitors.
Each sect could bring a maximum of thirty people into the tomb, and there weren't as many people as he had imagined.
There were five prominent sects, the first being the "leader of the righteous path," the Taiheng Sect. Nearby, a group of bald-headed monks from the Jianchen Temple stood with them. As they were both on the righteous path, even if they stood together, the atmosphere was peaceful and harmonious.
On the other side stood the Red Hook Sect and the Ling Sect, two demon cults that seemed ready to fight each other.
The Red Hook Sect started as tomb robbers, and the Ghost Tomb was a big piece of fat that they were determined to get. The Ghost Tomb was the tomb of the first leader of the Ling Sect, and although the Ling Sect was now in decline, they couldn't bear to see their ancestor's tomb taken by others.
Even before the tomb was opened, the two sects had already erupted in several small-scale conflicts.
The atmosphere of the last group was quite subtle, emitting a strong sense of disharmony among the crowd of martial artists.
"Those are people from Prince Rong's Manor, on the side of the court," Jin Lan spoke up first when he saw Yin Ci looking over there. "Don't offend them, or you'll just add trouble for our sect."
Shi Jingzhi chuckled at his words. "Of course, even the Taiheng Sect has received a fair share of imperial funding. I know what I'm doing."
Apart from these five major factions, the rest were just a bunch of miscellaneous people, including small sects like the Ku Mountain Sect. These people were craning their necks, eagerly staring at the chaotic mountains, as if they could use their eyes to dig out treasures.
Finally, a temporary wooden platform was set up on the stone surface, and the leader of the Golden Jade Gang appeared.
The leader of the Golden Jade Gang was oily-faced, short and fat, and spoke in a unique and auspicious manner. He mumbled on the platform for a while before finally getting to the point.
"In this tomb, first come, first served. Each sect will work with a few disciples from the Yueshui Bureau to record the list of treasures obtained." He twirled his goatee and added a hint of intimidation to his voice. "If anyone breaks the rules, you all have the right to attack and divide their treasures. Other than that, if anyone wants to play tough, they can do so after leaving this territory."
With that, he waved his chubby hand and said, "Yueshui Bureau disciples, please!"
The disciples of the Yueshui Bureau did not arrive in carriages nor did they gather anywhere. As soon as the leader of the Golden Jade Gang finished speaking, they appeared like ghosts from the mountainous terrain and headed towards the respective sects.
Yin Cí held his breath - not because of anything else, but because the disciples of the Yueshui Bureau were dressed in extremely gaudy and eye-catching colors. They looked like they had just looted a brothel in the countryside and blindly put on whatever they could find.
For a moment, even the demon cults were quiet. Their people were known for being extravagant, but they had never seen anything like this before.
"They're probably afraid of being mistaken for disciples of other sects," the chubby leader of the Golden Jade Gang said, noticing the solemn expressions on the disciples of the Yueshui Bureau. "They used to have good taste."
The disciples of the Yueshui Bureau:"..."
Next to Yin Ci, someone chuckled. "This old geezer talks too much."
Oh, even the Ku Mountain Sect could be considered a sect now, and they had to to be led by a disciple of the Yueshui Bureau.
Yin Ci turned his head and saw a girl in a peach-colored dress and a bright green skirt. Her features were ordinary, but her makeup was exquisite. She wore a small silver whistle around her neck, which added a touch of elegance to her otherwise tacky outfit.
It was well-known that the Yueshui Bureau did not accept female disciples. Yin Ci couldn't help but stare at her for a moment longer.
"Hey there, little brother, have you never seen a beautiful sister before?" The girl approached with a smile, and from her features, it was clear she was indeed a woman.
Yin Ci breathed a sigh of relief. A girl in a red and green dress was always better than a big man in the same attire. The Taiheng Sect had just recruited three strong men in peach-colored satin, and the disciples' faces were all green.
It seemed like she could read his mind, as the girl laughed again. "My name is Shen Zhu. I hope you two can hold your own and not die too quickly. I still want to spend more time in the Ghost Tomb."
Shi Jingzhi remained calm and collected, as if he hadn't heard a thing. His eyes were fixed on the ground, lost in thought.
After entering the mountain, they had been walking for an entire day. Shi Jingzhi had maintained this ghostly expression the entire time.
The Ghost Tomb was built on a dragon vein deep in the mountains, hidden from sight. No one lived in these rugged mountains, and there wasn't even a proper path to follow.
But with the skilled martial arts of various sects and the guidance of the Golden Jade Gang, they managed to arrive at the entrance of the Ghost Tomb just before nightfall.
Nowadays, the entrance to the Ghost Tomb was quite conspicuous.
The Golden Jade Gang had cut down the surrounding pine and cypress trees, laid down blue stones, and built a small square. On the square were stacked one golden thread formation after another, with blazing flames at each corner, creating an eerie and chilling atmosphere.
As they approached the tomb, a musty smell mixed with suffocating blood filled their nostrils.
The Golden Jade Gang had spared no expense this time, and Yin Ci couldn't help but sigh.
The tomb of this demon cult's leader would not be complete without a blood sacrifice and a fierce formation to seal it. To break this formation, one must continuously pour hot and fresh blood day and night, and never give up halfway.
The Golden Jade Gang had brought in a large number of livestock and sent people to slaughter them as they poured blood, finally breaking through the outermost layer of the tomb. Breaking the seal required the effort of hundreds of people, not a job that ordinary tomb robbers could handle.
After breaking the seal, the next step was to change the air. The Ghost Tomb had been sealed for a hundred years, and the tomb passage was filled with poisonous gas.
The Golden Jade Gang specially ignited medicine to adjust the wind and placed a wind-blocking formation in various air passages. Dealing with tombs of this level required the medicine wind to be burned for a total of forty-nine days.
The wind-blocking formation was similar to other formations and required the use of demon blood and flesh to activate, which was another large sum of money.
When the Ghost Tomb first appeared, Yin Ci had explored the situation alone. It was truly impenetrable, and opening the tomb would require a large force.
Otherwise, even the Red Hook Sect would not obediently listen and would have already made a move in secret.
Yin Ci was still pondering the matter of the Ghost Tomb when a call came. Whether out of resentment or guilt, blind Yan Qing hummed like a mosquito, "Taiheng Sect has reserved a spot for you, go rest early. We'll set off at the time when the rooster crows tomorrow, don't oversleep..."
Shi Jingzhi appeared behind Yin Ci at some point and hooked his shoulder. "How could that be? We martial artists always wake up earlier than the roosters..."
Before he could finish his sentence, Yin Ci shook him off and he could only follow with a grimace.
When they arrived at their destination, Yin Ci laid out a satin quilt with a pattern of mandarin ducks playing in water while glancing sideways at Shi Jingzhi.
After they went into the Tomb tomorrow, he would see if this kid dared to take a nap again.
The author has something to say:
There's only one supporting character left who hasn't appeared yet...!
Guess who will join the team now?
I saw someone asking why Yin Ci couldn't find the jade bead at first... Well, he was originally playing the role of a simple mountain villager.
If he had crushed all the medicine pills, Shi Jingzhi would have noticed something was wrong as soon as he woke up.
After he woke up, Shi Jingzhi admitted that he had stolen the jade bead and there was no need for Yin Ci to look for it anymore.
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