For the past few days, Shi Jingzhi could fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. But today, he tossed and turned in his bunk, unable to catch his breath.
With such a big person flipping like a pancake next to him, Yin Ci couldn't close his eyes either.
After flipping ninety-nine times, Shi Jingzhi asked knowingly, "Ah Ci, have you fallen asleep?"
Yin Ci felt that if he were fifty years younger, he would have strangled this annoying guy instead of letting him roll around like a feather next to him. Fortunately, their destination was within reach, and Demon Lord Yin's mood was still okay.
He answered calmly, "No, I haven't."
"Hmm." Shi Jingzhi fell silent again for a while, then asked, "Are you really going with me tomorrow?"
Yin Ci took a deep breath. What kind of medicine was this guy selling in his gourd?
"After entering the Ghost Tomb, the various sects should not cause trouble. However, the Ghost Tomb is dangerous. Even with me protecting you, there is no guarantee that you won't get hurt if you haven't mastered your footwork. Otherwise, why don't you just stay behind..."
Yin Ci listened with wide eyes. He had come specifically to enter the tomb, and Shi Jingzhi had agreed eagerly at first. Who knows why he suddenly changed his mind.
"You can stay on the surface and have food and drink. The Golden Jade Gang has slaughtered so many cows and sheep, there will definitely be meat for every meal in the coming days. When I bring the treasure up, then you can..." Shi Jingzhi continued to nag.
Yin Ci interrupted him decisively, "If that's the case, Shizun can just disallow me from entering the tomb, why keep asking?"
Shi Jingzhi was immediately silenced.
Yin Ci sneered inwardly. As an ordinary person, he was useless underground, but Shi Jingzhi had seemed particularly pleased with the idea of his "disciple being willing to enter the tomb".
Perhaps Shi Jingzhi just wanted someone to boost his courage, or maybe he wanted a human shield in a critical moment, or even wanted to use Yin Ci as reserve food in case of emergency... Although Yin Ci knew there was something fishy going on, he couldn't be bothered to care.
For other sects, the Ghost Tomb might be a dangerous trial. But for him, it was at most a time-killing game. Anyway, he couldn't die, and if he did, he would gain instead.
That guy surnamed Shi must have some guilty reason for tossing and turning. As soon as Yin Ci bluntly asked him, Shi Jingzhi instantly became tight-lipped and didn't even turn over.
Yin Ci was satisfied and closed his eyes, but unfortunately, just as he was about to fall asleep, he was hit back by a sentence from Shi Jingzhi.
"Because you are my disciple. As a master, it is my duty to give you more experience," Shi Jingzhi said with a hint of grievance. "And the surroundings are full of strangers. I also want you to accompany me. I admit that this idea is embarrassing. But this tomb..."
It seemed like sleep was impossible now, so Yin Ci sat up.
"As long as Shizun is willing to protect me, that's enough. If Shizun can come out alive, then I definitely can too. If Shizun can't come out, then I will accompany Shizun in death."
Shi Jingzhi was touched and shuddered, "Ah Ci, don't say that. Your master's willpower is not strong enough."
"Shizun has shown me kindness. When we met at Mount Ku, it was fate. Even if there are difficulties in the tomb, Shizun has good fortune and can turn bad luck into good. Besides, where in the world are there opportunities without risks?" Yin Ci continued to persuade.
As Shi Jingzhi watched the performance, his eyes grew red and he looked at the stubborn young man with a hint of affection.
"I'll bring you in, I'll bring you in," he said. Yin Ci lay down contentedly and pulled the blanket over himself.
"In fact, this time I'm going to the Ghost Tomb to seek the elixir of life," Shi Jingzhi said.
You don't have to open up to me, I just want to rest.
Yin Ci turned over in anger and sadness, but his mind had become alert. He had to keep listening.
"I've always been sickly since I was young, and everyone said I couldn't be saved. My family gradually stopped caring for me. This time, I'm looking for a chance at life in the Ghost Tomb. But rumors are just rumors, and there may not really be an elixir of life. Even if we don't find it, like you said... well, at least we've seen the world and gained some experience."
Yin Ci was now completely awake, and asked, "Since your home is in Yi City, why don't we go to the Immortal Summoning Conference?"
"You even know about the Immortal Summoning Ceremony?" There were too many people around, so Shi Jingzhi even slept with his Nuo mask on. He lay on his side, facing Yin Ci, with several red marks pressed onto his face.
"I do. My grandfather told me that there's even a nursery rhyme about it in the city. It goes like this... At the Immortal Summoning Ceremony, we summon the immortal gods, soaring to the heavens and becoming immortal ourselves..."
According to common sense, if there were monsters in the world, there must also be immortals. However, Yin Ci had searched high and low, but couldn't even find a single whisker of an immortal.
The people at the Immortal Summoning Ceremony were the closest to "immortals". The ceremony was held every ten years in Yi City, and the entrance token was worth a fortune. If one caught the eye of an immortal, they could receive a jar of immortal wine, to get eternal youth.
Yin Ci had obtained immortal wine in the past, more than a single jar's worth. He had experimented with them in various ways, but still couldn't manage to kill himself. That stuff looked like some kind of special medicinal wine, perhaps it could cure Shi Jingzhi's illness.
"My family helped me get a few sips, but it was no use," Shi Jingzhi's voice was a bit bitter. "Maybe it's fate...I just want to struggle a bit longer.
"There are only a few sects that practice immortality, and they only know how to use demons to make formation symbols. I've searched a few places, but no one has achieved immortality."
'Indeed,' Yin Ci thought to himself. The two of them were seeking opposite things, but ultimately both of them had found nothing.
"It will get better," he casually reassured Shi Jingzhi, who had spoken from the heart.
"Hopefully," sighed Shi Jingzhi, "I haven't talked to anyone about this before. It feels refreshing to open up, Ah Ci..."
Yin Ci pulled the covers over his head, this guy wasn't done yet!
Shi Jingzhi lowered his voice and reached over to pat his head through the red silk quilt.
"Don't worry, I'll take good care of you."
Under the quilt embroidered with mandarin ducks playing in water, Yin Ci felt that this statement didn't quite sit right with him*. But sleepiness took over and he didn't feel like arguing about it.
*T/N: Mandarin ducks also represent couples, so it sounds like a husband telling his wife that he'll take care of her.
The heat from the sunlight couldn't suppress the cold air in the Ghost Tomb, and the blue stone slabs were as cold as ice. Hardly anyone could sleep soundly.
The next morning, the Golden Jade Gang specially made delicious beef soup and oily pastries, even the monks from Jianchen Temple were given some thick mushroom porridge. Shi Jingzhi sipped on the hot soup and for once, didn't touch his dry rations.
The people from Prince Rong's Manor didn't show up, and they probably took care of their own meals.
After a satisfying meal, the group followed the sunrise into the Ghost Tomb. The tomb's entrance had been carefully cleaned by the Golden Jade Gang, but the thick stench of blood lingered.
As soon as they stepped inside, the warmth from the food dissipated, leaving only bone-chilling coldness.
"It's ridiculous that Yan Budu would bury himself in such a haunted place and still hope to become immortal...he's practically possessed," someone muttered under their breath.
As if in response, a low laughter echoed through the dark tomb. In the next moment, the lamps in the tomb all lit up, emitting an eerie blue flame that seemed to invite them with sinister intentions.
The disciples of the Taiheng Sect drew their swords, while the monks from the Jianchen Temple bowed their heads and recited Buddhist scriptures.
Shi Jingzhi shuddered from head to toe. "I've got goosebumps," he exclaimed.
Yin Ci remained calm. "Just shake it off."
Shi Jingzhi exclaimed, "I knew bringing you here was the right decision! You're such a brave disciple."
Yin Ci thought of teasing him and responded with ill intentions, "Shizun, if I were you, I would plug up the bell. Grandfather said that demons and monsters are easily attracted by sound..."
"Nonsense! This bell is made of pure silver and can ward off evil!" Shi Jingzhi grumbled as he frantically stuffed scraps of paper into the bell.
The members of the Taiheng Sect witnessed this embarrassing behavior but pretended not to see.
Jin Lan led Yan Qing over and said, "Sect Leader Shi, please come this way."
Shi Jingzhi gazed longingly at the blind Yan Qing, not bothering to hide his envy, and Yin Ci couldn't help but want to laugh.
The tomb passage was neither too long nor too short, and had already been carefully explored. The major sects were well prepared, and even the smaller ones knew to follow suit and there were no incidents along the way.
When they arrived at the main entrance of the Ghost Tomb, a few people in the back became quite anxious and dared to push past the larger sects, squeezing towards the tomb gate.
The tomb gate was covered in densely packed talismans, each stroke soaked in an ominous dark red. The three people had a vacant look in their eyes and instead of stopping, they headed straight for the stone door--
The Taiheng Sect and the Jianchen Temple both made a move, stopping the two people behind them. Unfortunately, the distance was too short and the one in the lead rushed too fast, crashing solidly into the door.
There was no sound of impact, but the person's body slowly melted into the tomb gate, accompanied by the flipping of ribs, splattering of blood, and an inaudible scream.
The two people who were stopped suddenly came to their senses and instantly wet their pants.
"Thank you all so much," a skinny man squeezed his way through the crowd. "That's my servant. Perhaps he was too relaxed just now and lost his mind."
Yin Ci recognized the skinny man. He was the head of the Changle Sect, who always brought four servants with him wherever he went, even if it meant wasting the spots for the Ghost Tomb this time.
If it weren't for Shi Jingzhi showing up halfway, this old man would have been Yin Ci's target.
Yin Ci turned around calmly and tried to touch the talisman on the door.
But before he could take a step, he suddenly felt a strong force behind him - Shi Jingzhi's bell had somehow hooked onto Yin Ci's waist, firmly holding him in place.
...This kid was shaking so badly just now, but now his movements are steady.
"Shizun, I'm still sober," Yin Ci said.
"Mm." Shi Jingzhi didn't shake this time. He was carefully examining the tomb door. The person from earlier had been completely devoured, leaving no trace on the door.
"Utterly despicable," Jin Lan muttered under his breath. "See that? That's how the members of the demon cults are."
"I didn't see anything," Yan Qing replied.
Jin Lan rolled his eyes and turned to Yin Ci and Shi Jingzhi. "Anyway, you two better not act recklessly. Follow us closely when we go down to the second level. Be careful not to die without even knowing how you died."
A few steps away, the Red Hook Sect had already taken out a pile of iron tools and were carefully prying open the door. The Ling Sect held the scrolls of their teachings and pinched their noses in disgust. The two major orthodox sects were not idle either, activating the protective formation they had purchased at great cost to defend themselves on the side.
Despite the various conflicts and disagreements, all the major sects had sent their elites and everyone remained calm and composed. If they were to start fighting before even entering the door, they would only be a laughingstock to outsiders.
Yin Ci turned his body and the silver bell behind him fell to the ground. Shi Jingzhi took a deep breath and bent down to pick it up.
As everyone was busy and with the recent death, the tomb passage fell into silence.
Suddenly, Shi Jingzhi let out a loud "Ah!" and the echo reverberated endlessly. The Red Hook Sect disciples who were prying open the door stopped and glared angrily at him.
Shi Jingzhi pretended not to notice and held a silver bell in one hand while tremblingly pointing to the ground with the other, "Are those footprints?"
The tomb passage was dimly lit, especially on the side of the tomb door where a thick layer of dust had accumulated on the ground. Yin Ci crouched down and brought the fire starter closer, illuminating a few faint footprints.
Those footprints were stained with old blood and were incomplete, imprinted on the stone slabs. Covered by dust, they were indistinguishable from ordinary stains.
Yin Ci had only realised that there were old bloodstains, and was deliberately leading Shi Jingzhi to investigate, but who would have thought that this little guy had such sharp eyes and could immediately recognize the true nature of the bloodstains.
His Shizun, Shi Jingzhi, was truly an outstanding bird that had flown out of the nest. The bird that had just appeared was in a bad mood, its feathers almost standing on end.
"These are definitely footprints, made by a grown man... and he was walking barefoot with blood on his feet, heading outwards!" it exclaimed.
"The guest is correct, these bloodstained footprints have been here for over a hundred years," agreed the monk from Jianchen Temple.
Jin Lan gasped, "A hundred years ago... could it be that Yan Budu really faked his death?"
Just then, the tomb door creaked open slowly, revealing a thick darkness inside, like a void.
The author has something to say:
Yin Ci: "No worries, this Ghost Tomb is younger than me."
Shi Jingzhi: "Turns out this ghost story is right beside me!"
The fox spirit master, along with the fake-skinned disciple, the Liaozhai master and disciple*.
*T/N: Means that they are as strange as the characters from the "Liaozhai Zhiyi" (Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio). (×
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