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Zhu Xian Chapter 231-240

Chapter 231 - Returning Home

The rain dispersed and the clouds cleared, the dark night finally passed, the sky revealed its first ray of light, quietly spilling into the world.

At Qing Yun Hill Big Bamboo Valley, it was still in tranquility. The disciples although diligent but would not be awake so early. Outside Observed Silence Hall, in-between the eaves’ tiles, there were still last night’s remnant dews, forming water beads, continuously dripping down. In the distant bamboo forest it was still as exuberant, gazing over, at this time within the forest, there was also lingering mountain mist, like a thin veil, gently drifting.

The grand door of the Observed Silence Hall was as usual, wide opened, behind the threshold, above the grey bricks, yellow curtains curled beside the pillars, the long-burning lamp before the San Qing deities statues, was still burning quietly in the morning rays.

The morning breeze with a slight chill, blew over from afar, brushing past the buildings, lightly made a turn in this Silence Observed Hall, again heading to even further places. With the wind, clear pleasant cries of the birds were heard, this was the only sound in this dawn.

This was a very tranquil picture, Taoism celestial paradise, countless of dawn were passed by like this, without any taint of the mortal world unrefined atmosphere. But on this usual morning, it had became different from usual, an unharmonious difference.

A totally soaked figure, knelt before the entrance, head deeply buried in-between the arms, close on the ground. The surrounding earth where he had crouched, were all soaked by the water droplets dripping from his body, and from his body, clothes, water droplets were still dripping.

And six chi away from this person, on the Hall’s grey bricks stone steps, Tian Buyi’s body lay quietly. Although lifeless but he looked extremely peaceful, without any pain shown on his face, as if death to him, was nothing important.

Tian Buyi’s both hands were folded and placed on his chest, his clothes had been tidied and arranged carefully on him. Other than that, his clothes also looked like they were soaked but definitely not as wet as the person kneeling below the stairs, and mud stains were seen everywhere on the clothes, although it looked like someone had gently rubbed and washed but due to the short time, unable to clean it, therefore the stains could still be seen.

However, guessed he would not mind this.

The morning breeze was still blowing, gently swept past the summit of Qing Yun Hill Big Bamboo Valley, blowing past the eaves of Observed Silence Hall, blowing before the Observed Silence Hall. As if feeling the chilly wind, Ghost Li’s body shivered, his body looked to be still weak, just that, he was still kneeling unmoving, facing the grand entrance, head deeply buried.

These was all what he was familiar with, the building hall, the stone steps, deities statues, even the earth that he was kneeling on, the faint fragrance emitting from the mud, were all part of his deeply engraved memories. Not knowing how many times, he had dreamt of returning to the past, again returning to this valley ground, and now that he had returned, his heart was broken. Behind Ghost Li’s figure, passing a long stretch of empty ground, what one would see, would be the paradise that Zhang Xiaofan once had - the kitchen. Ten years had passed, the door created out of two wooden planks, did not look like it had changed, just that it had several more scratches, a few places chipped off, looking even more worn.

The door was left unlocked but soon was pushed opened by a furry hand, accompanied with light [zhi zhi] sounds, Xiao Hui came to the door and lightly jumped in.

Even the arrangements in the kitchen, was still the same, the dining table and chairs, pots and pans and stove, were all in their original positions. Xiao Hui’s eyes peered around, familiarly jumped up the table and then looked right.

As expected, on the right hand side of the table, leaning against the wall, was a huge pile of dried straw, on it was a yellow figure, fast asleep, making [chi chi] sounds from its mouth, it was Xiao Hui’s childhood companion, Da Huang.

Xiao Hui crouched on the table, its tail curled up but did not jump over immediately and hugged its dear friend. It only scratched its head, turned and glanced outside, and then at Da Huang, seemed undecided.

And at this time, Da Huang who was fast asleep with its ears drooped down, eyes still shut but its ears suddenly perked up, as if hearing something then its head moved and opened its eyes.

What it saw, was a familiar figure on the table, Da Huang was surprised but immediately awake, happily jumped up and [wang wang] barked at Xiao Hui, its front paws against the table, eyes full of excitement, tail wagging constantly.

Xiao Hui grinned, seemed to be infected by Da Huang’s mood, hugged Da Huang’s head and smoothed its shiny yellow fur. Da Huang rubbed its head against Xiao Hui and licked its face.

Xiao Hui [zhi zhi] laughed, flipped over and jumped down, Da Huang also came over and after playing for a while, Xiao Hui suddenly recalled something, frowned, patted Da Huang’s head and then pointed outside. Da Huang looked at Xiao Hui, did not comprehend. Xiao Hui [zhi zhi zhi zhi] a few more times, jumped onto Da Huang’s back, Da Huang started to stride and ran out of the kitchen, looked around and soon saw that figure kneeling outside the hall.

And that figure, clearly was also what it was familiar with.

Da Huang couldn’t help but be excited, charged to that figure while barking [wang wang wang], its tail wagging furiously. Soon, it reached that empty ground, neared Ghost Li, and suddenly it stopped.

Its eyes brushed past that figure kneeling outside, saw Tian Buyi’s body quietly lying on top of the steps.

Xiao Hui quietly slipped down, ran to where Ghost Li was, smoothed his head and peered around, then crouched on the ground, tightly against Ghost Li.

Da Huang slowly went over, went up the stairs and came to where Tian Buyi was. It watched his face for a long time, then gently sniffed the body and again at other areas of the body. Its tail, gently wagged, in the end, Da Huang turned its head over, seemed perplexed, came to Tian Buyi’s head, gently pushed Tian Buyi’s face with its head, making quiet [wu wu] sounds.

Tian Buyi did not have any reaction.

Da Huang stared for a long time, did not bark wildly or howl as expected. After the last push at Tian Buyi’s face without any reaction, like giving up, it quietly lay in front of Tian Buyi, both eyes still on him, as if hoping he would suddenly wake up, it placed its head on its paws, ears drooped down, snuggled beside its cold, lifeless master’s body.

The morning breeze, carrying last night’s chill, quietly brushed past. Below the steps, Ghost Li’s body again shivered but he soon again descended into stillness, motionlessly kneeling.

On this chilly morning, time was still quietly passing.

“Ah!” A light cry, Suru woke up startled, her body in cold sweat.

Her hair slightly in disarray, her face haggard, she slowly supported herself off the table, it was at this table that she fell asleep last night.

The shuttered windows was slightly ajar, spilling in the morning rays, Suru stared dazely at the the light for a long time, when her heart finally settled, she made a bitter laugh, turned over and took the small round mirror from the table.

In the mirror, showed her beautiful face, even though due to her pinnings and late nights, she looked haggard but graceful bearing still shown through, mesmerizing.

Her face was still youthful, how about the heart?

She watched herself for a long time, sighed and placed the mirror back, stood up to the window and pushed the windows opened. The morning sunlight poured in, chasing all of the darkness away, refreshing one’s mood. A faint smile appeared on Suru’s face, leaning against the window, stretched lazily.

The feeling of the wind blowing against her face, with some chillness.

She opened the door and walked out.

As the day was still early, she assumed most of the disciples were still in bed, forget it, let them sleep a while more, she would be instructing them to go down the mountain to search for Buyi later, most likely they would be tire out too.

Suru while thinking of that, walked towards the Observed Silence Hall.

The winding corridor slowly stretched out below her feet, outside the corridor, the trimmed bamboos rustled in the wind. For some reason, on a morning like this, Suru discovered that on the usual days, she had mislooked over many things. The paint on the pillars after many years, had wore off. The last time that they refurbished the hall, was when she and Tian Buyi were just married, unknowingly, this corridor had also accompanied her throughout the years, and she herself walking past here every single yet and yet actually did not realize it. When Tian Buyi returns, she must ask him to find a time to refurbish the place again.

And on the thickest bamboo outside the railings, two small swords could still be seen engraved on the bamboo, that was when she was still in just-married bliss, engraved it on the bamboo, wishing their two swords could form a wall, cultivating together. Recalling those times, Tian Buyi even teased her on the drawings, saying them ugly, she pretended to be mad and caused him to panic, after pacifying her for half a day she finally let him off.

The scene, was still clearly in her mind, Suru smiled, her mood lightened. She took in a deep breath of this air with a slightly sweet fragrance, continued to walk. Then, she suddenly thought of, Da Huang was raised by Buyi since young, missing for so many days, she wondered if the disciples took care of it well, if it grown thin, Buyi would start to grumble when he is back. Suru smiled and shook her head, determined to go to the kitchen to check on Da Huang while there was still time. While going through the thoughts and walking, unknowingly, she had arrived at the Observed Silence Hall.

[Dang!]

The first bell in the morning, reverberated from afar, that was Qing Yun sect morning call, also to call upon this new day. The bell chimed deeply, reverberated among the mountains, lingering for long.

Suru’s heart, with this chime, abruptly jumped.

Before the hall, a figure either kneeling or lying, and Da Huang who loved to sleep, for some reason was up so early today, and quietly lying on the stairs, looking listless.

And as if hearing something, Da Huang’s drooping ears moved, turned and glanced at the hall. In the shadows not reached completely by the morning sun, a lady stood there, staring dumbfoundedly over here. Suru’s heart, started to pound, even feeling like it was about to burst, a feeling of breathlessness. That figure lying on the stairs quietly, so familiar that it seemed to engrave deep within her soul, a figure that could never be erased.

But at that moment, praying thousand of times in her heart, she was wrong, that she was mistaken…

Her face as pale as paper, her feet leaded, step by step she walked over, her lips trembling. Da Huang lying beside, watched Suru approaching, its tail wagged gently at her but again placed its head on the ground, a pair of eyes quietly watching its master lying in front.

Finally, she came near where she could no longer avoid. Tian Buyi that familiar face reflecting in her eyes, he seemed to be sleeping, quietly sleeping.

Suru felt the earth spinning, her feet stumbled, collapsed on the ground. Fortunately for her cultivation, she managed to calm her body, even so, her eyes had flashes of darkness, both her legs weak, walked to where Tian Buyi was, fell sitting down. Her trembling hands, slowly touched Tian Buyi’s body, clothes and at his chest, her hands paused, shaking even more violently, then, tears rolled down her eyes, drop by drop, onto his face.

Beside her, Da Huang making [wu wu] mournful howls, rubbed his head beside her legs.

She slowly looked up, looked at that figure kneeling below the steps, and the grey-furred monkey, after a long time, she quietly, chokingly said, “You are...Xiaofan?”

Ghost Li shook, did not look up, on the contrary, his head buried even lower, already on the rough ground, the earth rubbed against his skin, after a while, his trembling voice was heard.

“Yes...disciple…, shi...niang.”

[Translator note: Shiniang is referring to the wife of the teacher, it sounds weird if I put it as teacher’s wife so I decided to use it directly instead] Suru made a sad smile, said, “You don’t have to be like this, you can get up and talk.”

Ghost Li knelt lying on the ground, did not look up, as if he had lost all courage to look at Suru again, quietly said, “Disciple deserved to die, did...did not protect teacher…”  his voice stumbling, as if every word, was a punishment to him.

Suru slowly half-raised Tian Buyi’s body, into her embrace. Her body trembling, not knowing if it was because she felt the coldness from his body, or thinking, to chase this coldness from the body using her own warmth.

“You can get up.” Her voice sounded hollow and dreary, in Ghost Li’s memories, he never once recalled hearing her so weak and helpless, and he felt even more anguish, couldn’t help but rubbed his face in the earth, hoping the pain would ease the pounding pain in his heart.

“If you don’t get up, how are you going to tell me what had happened?” Suru faintly said, her eyes only watching the body in her embrace, as if at this moment, nothing else mattered to her. Da Huang went up, gently rubbed its head against Tian Buyi, whining incessantly.

Ghost Li’s body paused and slowly straightened, looked up and at Suru. That dignified and beautiful lady, even at this anguish moment, seemed not to lose her graceful charm. In the breeze, the sides of her hair gently drifted, against her pale face which was leaning against Tian Buyi’s face.

“You came back, you finally came home…”

This was the last sentence that Ghost Li heard from Suru.

Then, a tightness in his chest, his meridians churning like angry waves, darkness before his eyes, as if his heart which was wound so tightly, like a bow, exploded.

With a [pu tong], like a wood plank crashing onto the floor, he fainted. While he was about to lose his consciousness, in his disordered state, he felt his entire body was being burned but inside his body, it was cold like ice. And indistinctly he could hear a few shouts of anguish and panic, and then the next moment cries and wailings were heard.

Chaotic footsteps were heard everywhere but all towards one direction.

“Shiniang! Shiniang…”

The soundless cry, was the last and also the only thought in Ghost Li’s mind, then, he blacked out.

Chapter 232 - Loved Ones

Sleeping, but not knowing how long this deep sleep had been going, only that in the slumber, the surroundings were all familiar smells, and not knowing how long it had been without having this kind of secure feeling.

Therefore, while being immersed too deeply in the dreams, almost unwilling to be awoken, only deep within the dreams, there was a stabbing pain, which kept lingering and refused to disperse, frequently stabbing in the heart.

Heaving a long sign, Ghost Li slowly awakened. He looked at the room in front of him quietly, feeling like he was in a dream. Back when he was young he lived here and grew up here; the tables, chairs, bed, windows and doors - all were etched in his heart.

Looking at the wall above the bed, the huge ‘Tao’ character still hung there. Only the color and strokes looked faded but every stroke and brush looked the same as what he remembered in his youth; vigorous and forceful. The wooden window frame made a light sound. A gap opened and Xiao Hui jumped in, saw Ghost Li was awake and half-sitting on the bed. Xiao Hui couldn’t help but feel happy, grinning non-stop. He jumped onto the bed in a few leaps.

Ghost Li’s heart moved. This scene was like many years ago; if it was not for his injuries and Xiao Hui’s spiritual eye, he might really think he was in a dream.

That, however, was impossible.

Xiao Hui faced Ghost Li, making a [zhi zhi zhi zhi] sound. Ghost Li looked down and saw Xiao Hui carrying a number of wild fruits in both his paws. Most likely he plucked them from outside and seemed to want to share them with him. Ghost Li shook his head, no. Xiao Hui did not force him; he turned and jumped onto the table, squatted down and then started to eat with huge mouthfuls.

Ghost Li quietly looked at everything in the room and finally at the window Xiao Hui came in from. Some sunlight shone in through the window, making it hard to see the scenery outside clearly. But Ghost Li didn’t need to look; he knew that outside that window was a small yard. There was also a pine tree, a green lawn and a small stone paved path. At the side of the yard there was also a semi-circle arched door. Every grass and tree here had long been etched deeply in his memory, unable to be erased.

The fresh air seemed to have a sweet fragrance. Even the small yard outside seemed to emit a grass fragrance.

In his trance, he seemed to have a feeling of having coming home, but the next moment, a sharp pain hit his heart, waking him up.

Outside the door, footsteps were heard.

Ghost Li’s gaze, turned towards the door. The footsteps soon reached the entrance but the person seemed to hesitate outside the door, and did not immediately push it open.

Ghost Li watched the door. The next moment the door finally opened.

A tall and steady figure stood at the entrance, almost at the same time he also saw Ghost Li had awakened. Both of their eyes met but neither of them spoke. In their eyes, for a moment, there were too many emotions. Whether or not it was because of that, the thousand of words to be said had instead become silence.

Xiao Hui sat on the table, spit out a seed and then glanced at the door, called out [zhi zhi] and then continued to eat.

The man standing at the door sighed. A bitter smile seemed to emerge on his lips. He shook his head, walked in, and looked deeply at Ghost Li

“I haven’t seen you for so many years, should I call you lao qi, or little junior brother?”

Ghost Li’s lips moved. Finally, facing that man, he quietly called out, “Big senior brother…”

Everything on Big Bamboo Valley was still as peaceful as he remembered; a tranquil scene. He didn’t know where the others were.

Song Daren looked in silence at this person. Not so long ago he was once his most favourite youngest disciple. He was also the most useless seventh disciple under his teacher Tian Buyi. Now things were different; people have changed.

In ten years this was their first meeting.

“These  past  years,  how  have  you  been?”  Song  Daren  sat opposite Ghost Li as he asked.

Ghost Li did not reply, only kept quiet. Ten years had already passed by like flowing water. Without realising it it has already been so long. How could he just say “fine”? Song Daren assessed him. That man who once was the young Zhang Xiaofan still looked like what he had at that time, but his face looked to have experience the vicissitudes of life and not knowing since when, he who had been much younger than himself was now already much more highly-skilled; his hair was also indistinctly greying.

Song Daren made a long sigh and asked, “How are you feeling now?”

Ghost Li looked at his wounds. He saw that the torn bandages had been replaced with clean and fresh bandages. Clearly it was his Big Bamboo Valley senior brothers who had done that. His chest was still hurting but comparing to the time before he fell unconscious it was already much better. After a moment of silence, he said,

“I am alright. Thank you, senior brother, for your concern.”

He suddenly seemed to think of something, looked at Song Daren and said, “I...have already turned against Qing Yun. Do you all still accept me as your junior brother?” Song Daren laughed but his laughter had some bitterness.

“Shiniang already told us... when he was still alive teacher said…”

Speaking until here, Song Daren’s eyes turned red, his voice obviously choked. Ghost Li heard it and his body also shook.

Song Daren composed himself and continued on:

“When he was still alive Teacher told Shiniang many times that he had never said to chase you out of Big Bamboo Valley and he had never thought you had committed any wrong ten years ago. Therefore Shiniang instructed us recently, as long as you are still willing, you are still our Qing Yun Hill Big Bamboo Valley lao qi...little junior brother…”

Ghost Li slowly lowered his head, his body trembling. His left hand tightly curled into a ball as he grasped the bedding, his right hand covered his face as he quietly wiped the tears from his eyes. In the room, for the moment it became quiet. After a long time, after seeing Ghost Li slowly became composed, Song Daren’s deep voice again spoke,

“If you are feeling fine then follow me to Observed Silence Hall. Shiniang is there keeping...vigil for teacher. She wants to see you.”

“...yes.”

Walking out of the arched door, what he saw was that familiar circular winding corridor. Song Daren walked ahead without a word, his broad shoulder and back looking like a small mountain.

Ghost Li quietly followed behind. He couldn’t help but recall how when he first came to Big Bamboo Valley he also followed Song Daren and slowly entered into the world of Big Bamboo Valley.

Thinking back to the past, it was like a dream. His gaze slowly came to Song Daren’s waist, then realized there was an additional white cloth. Obviously it was for his mentor Tian Buyi’s passing; a mourning garb.

His face turned solemn and he closed his eyes.

Walking out of the corridor, he could see Observed Silence Hall from afar. What was different from the usual tranquility was incense smoke rising from it. At the same time sobbing and crying sounds were heard.

Song Daren quietly walked toward Observed Silence Hall. After two steps he suddenly sensed something and turned back. Ghost Li was still standing where he was in a daze, looking at Observed Silence Hall.

“What is it?”

For some reason, when he looked at the Observed Silence Hall Ghost Li looked extremely pale. With its incense smoke and sobbing cries, he felt fear, like a child who had committed a mistake and did not dare to face his parents who would be heartbroken.

Song Daren seeming to be able to sense something, sighed and said, “Let’s go.”

He patted his shoulder while speaking. Ghost Li’s body moved, glanced at Song Daren, and then he quietly nodded as he strided up.

As they neared the hall, the incense smoke became thicker, and the sobbing cries clearer, but although there were familiar voices but there was no female cries, neither Suru nor his senior sister Tian Linger who was already married.

Finally, led by Song Daren, he once again stood at the entrance to Observed Silence Hall.

Eight pairs of eyes immediately turned over and stopped on him. Ghost Li’s body trembled as he looked over each and every one. Wu Dayi, Zheng Dali, He Dazhi, Lu Daxin, Du Bishu!

These familiar faces were now all before Ghost Li. Many years ago they were once the ones he loved most and also his most trusted senior brothers.

Their waists, like Song Daren, were tied with the white mourning cloth garb. Their faces all had sorrow. Some already had puffy red eyes. Inside the hall, there was a big iron pot. In it fire was burning and the senior brothers who were standing beside slowly placed paper money into it.

The fire burned, smoke lingered.

Ghost Li stared in a daze. Behind the smoke Tian Buyi quietly lay on a bier. His dirty clothes had already been changed into clean ones, dressed tidily on his body. His face also looked more peaceful. Shiniang Suru right now sat beside Tian Buyi, her hand holding his tightly.

Her face looked to be in anguish but there was no tears. In her hair a small white flower was inserted. It was a wild flower which still had morning dew on it; simple, elegant and beautiful, conveying a few degrees of grief. She only held her husband’s hand tightly, watching Tian Buyi’s face. And his daughter, Tian Ling’er, was not in the hall.

Right now Da Huang, who had been raised since he was young by Tian Buyi, quietly lay beside the bier, his head listlessly on the ground, its usual bouncy spirit totally gone.

After coming to Tian Buyi, Ghost Li’s gaze did not move away again. His footsteps heavy, he walked over slowly, step by step. Song Daren quietly walked beside, took a hemp rope and passed to Ghost Li. Ghost Li looked at him, a grateful expression in his eyes. He nodded and took the rope, quietly saying, “Many thanks.”

Song Daren glanced over at Suru and said, “You go over to Shiniang.”

After saying this he quietly walked back to the disciples, faced Tian Buyi’s corpse and knelt, kowtowed three times. When he looked up his eyes were again red. He turned over and took a pile of paper money from Wu Dayi who was beside him and started to slowly burn them.

Ghost Li looked at the hemp rope in his hands for a long time and then tied it around his waist. The grey-white rope twined around his waist, conveying a few degrees of grief, yet also seemed to cause his heart to once again tie it here.

He quietly walked forward, to the bier and knelt down, kowtowed three times and then turned to Suru.

“Disciple…”  his voice suddenly paused. After a long time, using a deep voice, he again spoke, “Disciple Zhang...Xiaofan, pays respect to Shiniang.”

Behind him, Song Daren and the five Big Bamboo Valley disciples looked over, their expressions complicated, but what was most clear in their expressions was a blood-thicker-than- water kind of joy and intimacy.

A faint look of gratification even revealed itself on Suru’s face. Looking at Ghost Li she nodded and then sorrow brushed past her face as she looked at Tian Buyi and quietly said, “Buyi, did you hear that? This is lao qi. He has returned to kowtow to you.”

Ghost Li knelt at Suru’s feet, unable to speak.

Behind, sobbing sounds were heard.

The incense smoke lingered, drifting. The hall looked somehow surreal. Maybe because its owner was no longer around, this hall looked empty and did not feel crowded even with the number of people around.

After a long time, Song Daren wiped his tears, walked forward,  came  to  Suru  and  quietly  said,  “Shiniang,  please instruct us concerning teacher’s funeral affairs. When should we notify all of the branches’ elders and seniors? I also intend to rush to Longshou Valley to inform Linger junior sister, and let her…”

“This is not urgent!”  Suru suddenly cut off Song Daren’s words, speaking indifferently. Song Daren was shocked, the group of disciples behind him, including Ghost Li, were also stunned. There was only silence in the hall for a moment, not a single sound.

After a while, Song Daren then gathered his courage again and carefully said, “Shiniang, teacher’s demise, disciples all know Shiniang is grieving, it’s just that these affairs...cannot be delayed.”

Suru’s expression did not change. Not only that, she did not even glance at Song Daren. In her eyes, other than glancing at that lao qi who had just came back, there was only Tian Buyi.

Song Daren looked embarrassed, for a moment did not know what to do, turned and looked back at the other disciples kneeling and burning the joss papers but everyone looked at each other, not knowing what to do. And at this time, Suru suddenly spoke,

“Daren.” Song Daren hurriedly replied, “Yes, shiniang, do you have any instructions?”

Suru said, “You and the rest leave the hall for now, without my approval, you are not allowed to come in.”

Song Daren was stunned and stepped back a few steps. The other disciples also glanced over. Song Daren frowned but did not speak. He Dazhi, who was beside him and was the most quick-witted, looked at him and shook his head slightly, anxiety on his face. Song Daren saw it and frowned even tighter.

He had spent countless years with these juniors. Naturally he clearly understood what He Dazhi was worrying about. Compared to the other disciples, he had spent the longest time with Tian Buyi and Suru. No one knew better than him, the deep affection between his teacher and shiniang. If they were not around and Shiniang took things too hard, could it be…

Song Daren turned pale at that thought. No matter what, he could not take another step. And at this moment, Suru glared at them, with a bit of anger said, “What are all of you doing? Could it be that now your teacher is dead, all of you are disregarding me, your shiniang’s words?”

[Pu tong! Pu tong!]

Sounds in succession, other than Ghost Li who was kneeling before Suru, Song Daren and the rest of the disciples all knelt down  and  prostrated,  Song  Daren  hurriedly  said,  “Disciple does not dare, disciple does not dare!”

Suru sighed, deep exhaustion appeared on her face, as if she did not even have the strength to reprimand, she only waved her hand slightly and said, “All of you leave.”

Song Daren and the rest did not dare to defy her words again. Everyone retreated with a bitter face but their hearts were still heavy, not knowing what should be done. Ghost Li kowtowed to Suru and also slowly retreated, however Suru suddenly said,

“Lao qi, you stay. I have something to ask you.” Ghost Li was surprised, stopped, but those behind him were relieved instead. No matter what, as long as someone was with her, it was less likely there would be any incidents. After the sound of a few footsteps, the rest had already left the hall.

In the hall, it turned silent. Only the fire which was devouring the joss paper made crackling sounds.

Ghost Li quietly stood where he was, looked down and did not speak. After some time, Suru was heard sighing and said, “Your teacher has always been sharp tongued but soft hearted. Ten years ago after that unforseen event, he always brooded on it. Although he did not say it but I could tell, he actually felt he had let you down.”

Ghost Li’s eyes turned red, shook his head with force, hurriedly said, his voice choked, “It’s not like that, it is disciple who is unfilial, it’s disciple who has let teacher down…”

Suru’s lips quivered, hearing Ghost Li’s choked voice, it seemed to evoke the anguish in the bottom of her heart, but although her eyes showed her grief she still forced herself to hold on and did not cry. She quietly looked at Tian Buyi, faintly said, “In your teacher’s heart, he never thought of you as a disciple who was thrown out of the door, do you understand?”

Ghost Li dropped his head down and quietly said, “Yes.”

Suru continued, “And since you have also acknowledged him back as your teacher today, later you go over and burn some joss paper for him, for the time being treat it as if you have also fulfilled your filial duty. I guess Buyi would also be happy…”

Ghost Li clenched his teeth tightly, knelt before Tian Buyi’s body, kowtowed three times, tears in his eyes, then he stood up and walked over to the big pot and knelt down. The fire in the pot had burned down much, most likely because after the rest left nobody had fed it. Ghost Li looked to the side and saw a few thick piles of joss paper nearby, all unopened.

Those on Big Bamboo Valley were all cultivated people, most probably joss papers were not even used once in a few hundred years, these must have been prepared at the last minute by Song Daren, bought from the foot of the mountain. Thinking of this, Ghost Li felt anguish again, quietly took out a pile, opened it and started to burn them one by one. Suru sat beside Tian Buyi, quietly watching those flickering, twisting flames, the fire reflected in Ghost Li’s face refracted between sudden light and darkness.

She suddenly asked, “When your teacher passed away, were you beside him?”

Ghost Li’s body trembled and then turned over, still kneeling beside the pot, at the same time facing Suru, he said, “Yes.”

Suru looked deeply at Ghost Li and said, “Yesterday after you were unconscious, I cleaned your wounds and applied medicine. I discovered your chest, where your most severe injury was, in your body there was Scarlet Fire sword energy which was unique to your teacher. The greatest damage to your meridians was also because of that. What had happened?”

Ghost Li’s heart pounded, his palms started to sweat, after a moment,  he  quietly  said,  “Disciple’s  injury  this  time  was indeed caused by teacher’s harsh attack, but…” Speaking till here, he was suddenly felt lost and did not know where to start. The night’s unfortunate events happened so abruptly. Even though he was already experienced with the fights and tussles of the world he was still left in shock. Moreover since his most beloved teacher lost his life in it it was even harder to describe.

Suru humpfed, her eyes stern, coldly said, “Tell me the whole truth.”

Ghost Li did not dare to look at Suru, bowed and then started to speak, from the time where he returned to Grassvillage Temple and encountered the mysterious figure, pursued him and came to the abandoned morgue outside HeYang City, until Tian Buyi’s demise.

Suru’s face turned more and more pale as she listened. Especially at the end, where Tian Buyi lost his life, her face turned white, a pair of hands clutched Tian Buyi’s hand tightly, as if afraid that her husband might leave her again.

At the end, Ghost Li quietly said, “These were the events.
Disciple does not dare to deceive shiniang.” Suru looked away to Tian Buyi, looking deeply at this familiar yet peaceful face. Maybe, in her husband’s heart, he did not have much regret; in his heart all of this was something he should have done!

She breathed in deeply, straightening her body. Although she really wished to continue lying like this, together with her husband, never to care about anything again, but she knew it was not the time yet.

“You  have  really  see  clearly…?”   Suru’s  voice  sounded uncertain.

Ghost Li for a moment did not understand, said, “Shiniang, you mean...?

Suru’s face pale, quietly said, “That mysterious person really is sect head Reverend...Daoxuan senior brother?”

Ghost Li inhaled deeply, determinedly said, “Disciple saw it with his own eyes, even if that person turned into ash, disciple will not be mistaken.” Suru quietly nodded, then again asked slowly, “From what you have said, when Buyi was mentally confused and attacked you, it was Small Bamboo Valley Lu Xueqi who killed him?”

Ghost Li’s body shook greatly, cold sweat immediately dripped down from his forehead but in the end, he clenched his teeth and said, “Yes!”

Suru did not speak, only stared in a daze at Ghost Li, as if in a trance. Then under her stare, Ghost Li’s face expression changed greatly, as if in suffering. After a long time he then quietly said, “That...Lu Xueqi she, she actually did it to save me,  no,  its  disciple…”   suddenly,  his  face  turned  solemn, prostrated  and  quietly  said,  “Shiniang,  no  matter  what mistakes there are, it is all disciple’s fault, that Lu Xueqi she…”

Suru sighed, said, “I remember that among Qing Yun sect disciples over these past years, aren’t you the closest with her? Even when you joined the Evil Sect I heard that she is still thinking about you, even defying Shuiyue senior sister a few times because of you, and even rejected Fenxiang Valley Yun Yilan valley master’s marriage proposal, isn’t that right? Ghost Li lying on the floor, his heart in chaos, he had thousands of words to say but unable to speak even one word. That night, although he clearly knew Lu Xueqi had to make the move in order to save him but because Tian Buyi was, after all, his mentor who raised him up, and moreover one of the most respected and beloved people in his life, and before his eyes, that Tianya sword had pierced through his mentor’s chest...after which, he subconsciously, at his most anguish moment, had pushed Lu Xueqi thousands of miles away.

After the southern border chaos there was once a brief hug, yet in this sleight of fate the chasm was even deeper and broader between them, he could not understand why the heavens must be so cruel!

And before Suru, although Ghost Li had such conflicting thoughts before, but he could not sit by and let Suru misunderstand Lu Xueqi. Although he clearly understood, shiniang had deep affections for his teacher, more than himself, concerning this fact that he himself found hard to accept, how could he expect shiniang to be magnanimous?

Ghost Li was lost for words. The truth was like a sharp and heartless sword; almost everyone who came near it would be hurt by it!

However Suru’s face was as resolute as Ghost Li expected. On the contrary, after the initial grief, her expression slowly turned to contemplation. After a moment, she spoke to Ghost Li, “I remember just now you said, before Buyi passed away his mind briefly came back and recognized you, is that right?”

Ghost Li nodded and said, “Yes.”

Suru said, “Then did he say anything to you?”

Ghost Li thought hard for a moment, quietly said, “After teacher became conscious, he said two sentences to me.”

Suru asked, “What did he say?”

Ghost Li said, “The first sentence that teacher said was rather strange. He only repetitively said three words, ‘Don’t blame her, don’t blame her.’ The second sentence was to instruct disciple to, after teacher passed away, bring his body back to Big Bamboo Valley and hand it over to shiniang, and to tell shiniang…”

Suru’s countenance changed, said, “What did he want you to tell me?”

Ghost  Li’s  quietly  said,  “Teacher’s  final  words  were  for disciple to tell shiniang, shiniang please don’t take it too hard, don’t...don’t do silly things.”

Suru was stunned for words. The tears in her eyes shimmered. Her body wavered, looking like she had lost all strength and was about to collapse. Ghost Li felt anguish and was worried but did not dare to approach, only knelt and kowtowed, “Shiniang please don’t take it too hard!”

After a long time, Suru’s slightly calm voice was heard, “I am fine, you can get up.” Ghost Li then stood up, looked, and saw her face was much calmer, although the pain in her eyes was still evident.

In the hall there was silence again. Ghost Li quietly put a few more joss papers into the fire. At this moment, Suru suddenly said, “Are you full of hatred and dissatisfaction towards Lu Xueqi for killing your teacher?”

Ghost Li was surprised, not knowing what shiniang meant by that, he was unable to answer. But Suru was an intelligent person, in addition she had already looked past the mortal affairs, looking at Ghost Li’s expression, she already roughly knew.

She faintly said, “Do you know, when Buyi, before he left, said the three words to you, ‘Don’t blame her’, do you know what he meant?”

Ghost Li was stunned, said, “What?”

Suru slightly smiled bitterly, and said, “If it’s what I assume, most probably Buyi was willing to be killed by Miss Lu Xueqi.” Ghost Li was shocked, said, “Shiniang, your words…”

Suru let out a long sigh and said, “Forget it. Should not look back at the past but in the end it can’t be dismissed. Our past generation’s secret should not involve you all the junior generations.”  She quietly looked back at Tian Buyi, looked at his peaceful face, as if he was sleeping, and quietly said, “Buyi, you must also want me to tell him this secret, right…?”

Chapter 233 - Blood Omen

Qing Yun Hill, Small Bamboo Valley.

The mountain breeze blew past the lush bamboo forest, creating waves of rustling, reverberated in the deserted quiet forest.

Wenmin looked up at the sky, at the cloudless firmament, a stretch of azure, which gave off a feeling of transparency. She inhaled deeply and felt better, but her footsteps never slowed as she walked the small bamboo forest path. Soon she saw the small bamboo hut that Shuiyue Master meditated in.

She walked to the door, softly knocked and said, “Teacher, I have returned.”

Master Shuiyue’s voice was heard, “Is it Min’er? Come in!”

Wenmin pushed open the door and walked in. The hut was not very big so after entering she saw Master Shuiyue sitting cross-legged on the bed, her eyes closed. She walked to the side and said, “Teacher.”

Master Shuiyue slowly opened her eyes, glanced at her and, seeing that she was alone said, “Why? Didn’t manage to find her?”

Wenmin nodded, said, “No. I have been to Junior-sister Lu’s place twice today but she is not there. I have asked the other sisters but no-one saw her. Could it be that she has something to attend to and left the mountain?”

Master Shuiyue was expressionless as she said, “Xueqi has always been sensible. If she is going to leave the mountain she will notify me. If all of you are unable to find her, it’s most likely  because…”  her  voice  paused,  seemed  to  be  think  of something, then changed the topic and said, “Since you are unable to find her don’t worry about it. Anyway, it’s not anything important, you can go and practise your homework!”

Wenmin nodded in acknowledgement and then bowed to Master Shuiyue before leaving the hut and gently closing the door. After Wenmin’s footsteps outside the hut had gradually faded away, a thoughtful expression slowly surfaced on Master Shuiyue’s calm face. After a long time she quietly sighed.

Sunlight shone in from the window, illuminating this exquisite and simple bamboo hut. Master Shuiyue came down from the bed and walked to the door, opening it and walking out, leaving a stretch of silence in this small space.

The Full-Moon platform was the most secluded place in Small Bamboo Valley. On each clear full moon, the scenery here was the most spectacular. It was said on the night of a full moon the moonlight, reflecting like water off the Full Moon platform, was bright enough to illuminate the entire Small Bamboo Valley mountain range. It was really an amazing scene in the mortal world, and it was also one of Qing Yun Hill’s famous views.

For the past ten years Lu Xueqi, often in the deep of the night, danced with her sword to the moon. Master Shuiyue being Lu Xueqi’s mentor, who raised her up, a teacher like mother, understood Lu Xueqi’s thoughts like no other. After hearing that Wenmin was unable to locate her, and after contemplating, she expected that Lu Xueqi had most likely come to this secluded place.

On the way here the bamboo forest became more luxuriant and, at the same time moving further and further away from the bustling hall and buildings, although Master Shuiyue’s abode was also in a secluded place but walking on this small path, and hearing the bamboos rustlings unceasingly on both sides of the road, she couldn’t help but felt empty in her heart.

She wondered if Lu Xueqi especially liked this place because of this feeling?

Master Shuiyue thought of that quietly in her heart as she walked towards the platform. As expected, she had just stepped onto the platform when she saw that familiar white figure quietly standing on the huge rock jutting out from the cliff. Howling winds could be heard unceasingly from the bottomless abyss as Lu Xueqi’s white clothes flapped and danced in the wind.

Tianya was still in her hand, quietly emitting faint blue rays of propitious energy. Master Shuiyue watched her back. After a period of silence her eyes seeming to contain complicated emotions, constantly glimmering. After a long time she gently coughed.

Lu Xueqi was immediately startled. It was daylight right now and never had any Small Bamboo Valley sisters came to this secluded area. Now there was someone here and that person was right behind her without her realizing it.

She whipped around and saw Master Shuiyue. Lu Xueqi was stunned and quickly drifted down from the rock, came before her teacher and bowed, “Teacher, why did you come here?”

Master Shuiyue ’s eyes contained some tenderness, pulled Lu Xueqi clothes and gently said, “The strong winds here contain a harsh chill. Although you have a high cultivation it is best not to face it for too long, otherwise it would not be good for you.”

Lu Xueqi lowered her head and said, “Disciple understands.
Many thanks for teacher’s concern.” Master Shuiyue glanced at her, let out a breath and said, “Do you hold some grudge against your teacher in your heart?”

Lu Xueqi was shocked and said, “Teacher, why do you say that?”

Master Shuiyue indifferently said, “I told you this secret and allowed you to leave the mountain. Who knows if Heaven is making a fool out of people, but after several obstacles you instead had to go and kill that Big Bamboo Valley Tian teacher uncle who was controlled by Zhu Xian ancient sword. And it had to be in front of that person.”

Lu Xueqi’s expression dimmed but only shook her head slowly,  said,  “Teacher,  don’t  say  it  anymore,  disciple  has already thought about it clearly in her heart. This is Heaven’s will. Teacher herself also did not expect it, and moreover at the last moment on that day, Tian teacher uncle was unable to speak but my heart clearly understood his intention. Tian teacher uncle also wanted me to use that sword.”

Her voice paused, her expression suddenly revealed a desolate look, as if in self-mocking, as if bitterly laughing, she faintly said, “As for me and that person...disciple has never had hope. The sect rules and regulations, with righteousness and justice like a mountain, I myself understand very well. Big Bamboo Valley’s Uncle-teacher Tian was his mentor who brought him up and he has always view him like his father. Now that he is dead by my hand, if it were me, I would not be able to accept it.”

Speaking until here, she quietly looked up, towards Master Shuiyue, smiled bleakly and said, “Teacher, you don’t have to worry for your disciple... I... I have really gotten over it!”

Master Shuiyue felt pain in her heart. With her experienced insight, how could she not tell what Lu Xueqi was feeling right now? It was just that this incident was really unexpected and there was no way to fix it. Although in the past she had been firmly against this relationship but right now at this moment she did not have the heart to be like that.

However, even if she no longer had the heart to dispute it, in the end it made no difference. Master Shuiyue sighed softly, shook her head, and gently said, “Xueqi, don’t be too sad. Don’t neglect your health.” Lu Xueqi forced a smile and quietly said, “Teacher, you came over to this secluded place to look for me. Is there an important matter?”

Master  Shuiyue  nodded  and  said,  “That’s  right,  there  is indeed a matter. Although it is trivial but it looks extremely strange. After pondering about it a few times, I feel you are still the best person.”

Lu Xueqi said, “What is it?”

Master Shuiyue glanced at her and said, “Actually it is still about that secret. Ah right, that day after the unforeseen events, you said you personally sent Ghost Li and Tian Buyi’s body to Big Bamboo Valley, right?”

When Lu Xueqi heard the name, ‘Ghost Li’, her face changed slightly but she nodded her head and firmly said, “Yes, that day he...that person was heavily injured. Although there was no immediate danger to his life but to bring Teacher-uncle Tian’s body back by himself would have been really too strenuous, and it was best not to delay this matter so disciple sent them. But after I sent them to Big Bamboo Valley and saw them landed, I left.”

Master Shuiyue nodded and said, “That’s right, that is the strange thing.”

Lu Xueqi felt surprised, said, “What is it, teacher?”

Master Shuiyue faintly said, “Like what you said, two days ago Tian Buyi’s body has already been delivered to Big Bamboo Valley, but until today not a single piece of distressing news has been heard from Big Bamboo Valley.”

Lu Xueqi was shocked and couldn’t help but frown.

Master Shuiyue clasped her hands behind her back, gazed into the distance and faintly saw Big Bamboo Valley in the clouds far away. After looking at it for a long time she said, “Tian Buyi was, after all, Big Bamboo Valley’s leader. His position is not trivial. Once the news is out, even the sect head Reverend would have to go over to pay his respects. But Big Bamboo Valley has kept the news a secret. Isn’t it a very strange thing?”

She paused, turned and looked at Lu Xueqi, and said, “Other than this, I have already quietly sent someone with an excuse to Long Shou Valley and discovered that Tian Linger is still at Long Shou Valley. She actually knows nothing about her own father’s demise.”

Lu Xueqi was quiet for a long while, then said, “Disciple understands.”

##

Master Shuiyue nodded and said, “You are extremely intelligent. I don’t have to say more. Actually I am not suspecting anything. Suru is, after all, my junior sister. We are like real sisters; it’s not an act we put on for others. I am actually more worried about her, that she might do something silly. But as long as Big Bamboo Valley does not announce the death, it is not appropriate for me as Small Bamboo Valley leader to visit. In addition this matter involves many hidden and intricate details. It is not convenient to tell it to others, so I have to ask you go over one more time.”

Lu Xueqi nodded and said, “Disciple understands. Since it is so, if there are no other matters then disciple will go over now.”

Master  Shuiyue  nodded  and  said,  “That’s  good  too.  Be careful. If there are any unforeseen events, quickly come back and notify me.”

Lu Xueqi acknowledged, bowed to Master Shuiyue and turned. Tianya lit up and she left with the sword, a sharp sound piercing the air. She had already transformed into a blue light, dashing into the sky.

Master Shuiyue watched as Lu Xueqi’s hurriedly disappeared, not at all like her usual calm self. At that moment she knew that although her stubborn infatuated disciple appeared to be strong and claimed to have gotten over it, in her heart she could never do it. After staying silent for a long while, in the end she could only sigh, shake her head, and turn to walk down the platform, walking straight ahead.

Thousands of miles away, Majestic Fox Mountain.

In the icy-cold chamber, with cold chilly air still rising and twirling, that peaceful girl in green was still lying quietly on that ice stone platform.

Youji, with her face veiled, stood alone in the stone chamber watching Biyao for a long time. She softly sighed, feeling very helpless.

Recently there were really too many frustrations in her heart. She was unable to comprehend them, making her heart pained and also gradually perplexed.

First Ghost King seemed to totally changed into another person; from that resolute and decisive Ghost King. Although he was currently still ingenious but his thirst for killing was getting heavier, and in only a few days, because a few matters did not follow his wishes, Ghost King had already killed several of his men, among them even a rather senior Ghost King sect elder.

If it was two years ago Ghost King most likely would only laugh off these small matters. Youji clearly felt that everyone in the Ghost King sect was in fear. Nobody knew when it would be their turn.

And what made Youji’s heart felt more pain was that day where she accidentally encountered Ghost King and Ghost Li fighting. Although it was only a short fight but Youji was not an ordinary disciple, she was one of the four great holy envoys, Scarlet Bird. She clearly saw that, not knowing since when, there was already a deep scar between the two men, and Ghost King’s moves might not have been without an intention to kill.

Her eyes dimmed as she looked at Biyao, who was still quietly sleeping. Even if the reason the two men managed to work together was for this respectful and beautiful girl, but what was it that after these ten years would cause them to arrive at such a state? Youji really could not imagine, if that day really came, what would be the result if the two of them started killing each other? And looking at it now, it might really happen!

“Men! Hmpf! Men!”

Youji hatefully said that, terribly upset. When she looked at Biyao again, this was a child who she had always treated as her own. Everytime she looked at her, she couldn’t help but feel anguish.

Just when she was quietly contemplating alone, the thick door of the room made a deep sound. Someone was opening it from outside.

Youji turned and looked and soon Ghost King’s figure could be seen slowly walking in and couldn’t help but looked dazed.

Ghost King then saw Youji, nodded to her, said, “You are here too.” Youji coldly laughed, stared at Ghost King, but did not speak.

Ghost King frowned. His eyes had a trace of anger. He now seemed to be easily angered, greatly different from what he used to be. It’s just that Youji was, after all, not an ordinary person, especially to his daughter, and therefore Ghost King had always treated her differently. He could only say, “What is it?”

Youji snorted and coldly sneered, “Do you still remember you have a daughter lying here?”

Ghost King frowned, said, “What are you talking about, how can I not remember? I only have this child.”

Youji solemnly said, “Fine then, why don’t you tell me, how long has it been since you last came here to visit Biyao?”

Ghost King was stunned, and for a moment speechless; a guilty look flashed past his eyes. He softened and said, “It is my wrong. Recently the sect has been busy. My mood was not good so I came less frequently.” Youji coldly said, “I really don’t understand. Not only you, even that Ghost Li. What exactly is it? Both of you seem to have changed  a  lot!”  Speaking  until  the  end,  her  voice  became deeper.

Ghost King did not seem to mind Youji’s tone and after hearing the words, ‘Ghost Li’, his face sank. He snorted and said, “The lad fails to see the larger issue. Don’t mention him in front of me!”

Youji saw an indistinct anger in his face and was about to say more but suddenly felt exhausted. For a moment she felt downhearted, and shook her head, saying, “Forget it, forget it. It’s up to you all. Anyway, you’re on your own. I really can’t handle it and don’t want to care about it.”

Speaking, she turned and walked towards the door. Ghost King watched her back frowning, and was about to speak but eventually did not.

As Youji’s hand was about to reach the door, she suddenly paused and, almost at the same time, Ghost King seemed to sense something. Both of his eyes had a sharp glint. An invisible yet abundantly formidable force, like a huge roaring and turbulent tide, rolled past underneath their feet. Ghost King and Youji were both highly cultivated, for a moment their countenances changed.

The difference being that Youji was shocked while Ghost King was both surprised and pleased, his eyes twinkled unceasingly.

Waves after waves of this force rolled past. Slowly, Youji clearly felt the earth beneath was quaking slightly, and slowly increasing in force.

Her face paled; this sudden strange force, powerful beyond imagination, made one panic. It was not something a human could fight against. In her shock she turned back and saw Ghost King’s strange expression. Both of his eyes were bright and piercing, but she did not know what he was thinking. She could only see that there wasn’t much shock on his face.

At this moment, this room which was covered with infinitely thick mountain rock, the indestructible icy chamber, emitted several cracking sounds in succession, as if something had cracked it opened.

This time both Ghost King and Youji’s faces changed greatly.

In their shock, they quickly looked over, on the sturdy rock wall, a few short cracks appeared. And from that, a few small pieces of stones fell. At the same time the earth beneath them shook even more.

Fortunately, however, this strange force, while tearing the sturdy rock walls, seemed to find an avenue to vent. Not long after both of them felt the mysterious force underneath them swiftly weakened and soon disappeared.

Youji stood still for a long while, her brows frowning. If it was not for the few cracks on the walls, she almost would have thought it was just her imagination. But the cracks were like knives, carved realistically onto the sturdy walls.

Youji turned towards Ghost King but, for some reason, Ghost King only glanced at her and turned back to look at Biyao. “You know what this is all about?”

Youji felt a sudden sense of foreboding.

Ghost King slowly shook his head, indifferently said, “I do not know either. Later on I will send someone to survey the terrain carefully, to see if it was an earthquake.”

##

Youji was silent for a moment, then said, “That should not be an earthquake. Within that burst of great force, like a turbulent sea tide, there was clearly a piercingly cold murderous energy. That was definitely not a natural disaster.”

Ghost King was silent, and after a moment said, “I will investigate this matter, you don’t have to worry.”

Youji stared at his back for a long time, her veil moving in the windless air. After a while she did not speak anymore, turned and walked straight, opening the thick door and walking out.

After a rumble the stone door slowly shut. The cold chamber again descended into stillness. Looking at that peaceful, beautiful face, that carried a faint smile, Ghost King’s deep and sharp gaze finally and slowly softened.

He quietly sat beside the stone bed, his eyes only Biyao, an unspoken yearning and anguish in his heart.

And it seemed almost only at this moment, when he was alone with his daughter, he would reveal some weakness.

However, who would know?

Or rather, did even Ghost King himself understand?

Nobody knew. And outside this icy cold chamber, Youji who had only taken a few steps, stopped again, frowned and looked around.

Not knowing if it was because she was inside the sturdy and thick stone room, although she had felt the strange force but the surrounding destruction was not apparent to her. Of course, to be able to create cracks on the extremely sturdy solid walls, this force was something to be reckoned.

And outside the room, what she saw was the aftermath, Ever since Ghost King sect started, in the intersecting tunnels, everywhere was a mess. Pieces of stone could be seen everywhere, urgent shouts were heard, some were groaning in pain.

Obviously, that mysterious force had created a much larger destruction than expected in Majestic Fox Mountain.

And in the chaos, Youji also discovered another strange thing. In these well-ventilated tunnels, not knowing since when, there was a faint lingering smell of blood. One could not tell where this blood stench came from, but it seemed to be everywhere. No matter where she walked to, she could smell this. Although it was not that thick but Youji still felt very uncomfortable. However there were too many troubling matters today; she did not have the energy to look into this.

Her chest felt stuffy. She wanted to dash out of this mountain and take a breath of air outside. As she thought of it, she went ahead and did it.

Youji’s figure soon vanished among the tunnels. However that faint blood stench still seemed to be quietly lingering…

Chapter 234 - Despair

Qing Yun Hill, Small Bamboo Valley.

This was already the third day that Tian Buyi’s body had been sent back by Ghost Li but perplexingly, Suru was still preventing the Big Bamboo Valley disciples from reporting the grievous news to fellow branches. This not only made Song Daren and the rest feel bewildered while grieving; even Ghost Li felt it was strange.

It’s just that nobody dared to bring this matter up with Suru. Suru, keeping vigil over her husband’s body in Observed Silence Hall, which was protected by a Taoism celestial magical weapon, her face of sorrow and grief, was enough to stop them. And as there were only a few people in Big Bamboo Valley, they had always been low-key. If there wasn’t an important matter, no one would come to this secluded summit. Therefore when Big Bamboo Valley held vigil in the Observed Silence Hall for three days, no one in Qing Yun sect actually knew about it.

However on this clear dawn morning, finally an outsider had come, quietly landing at the summit, white clothes like snow, floating celestially. It was Lu Xueqi.

Brilliant faint blue light flashed. Propitious energy gently surrounding it, Tianya Sword quietly shone in her fair hand. Lu Xueqi looked around and only saw lush greenery mountains and rivers. It was peaceful as usual; nothing seemed abnormal. But up ahead, on both sides of the Observed Silence Hall, two white mourning curtains hung, revealing the sorrow in this place.

She quietly glanced at the white curtains, walking towards Observed Silence Hall. It was not long before she discovered Song Daren and the rest in mourning garb, walking out from the hall, and looking slightly strange and at the same time awkward.

When they saw that it was Lu Xueqi, and that she was alone, Song Daren and the rest were visibly relieved.

Lu  Xueqi  cupped  her  hands  in  greeting  and  said,  “Small Bamboo Valley’s Lu Xueqi, greets Song senior brother and various other senior brothers.” Song Daren, Wu Dayi, He Dazhi and the rest did not dare to be negligent. Each returned the gesture, following which Song Daren said with a bitter laugh, “Why did Lu junior sister come over to our place here? It looks like we’ve embarrassed ourselves.”

There was no smile on Lu Xueqi at all. Instead seriousness and sorrow were expressed as she said, “Xueqi did not have any other intention in coming here. I only wished to attend Teacher-Uncle Tian’s memorial service and visit Teacher-Aunt Suru. If the various senior brothers could please please convey this message, Xueqi would be extremely grateful.”

Song Daren and the rest looked at each other, hesitated for a moment, and then Song Daren said, “Junior sister Lu is too polite. Really, you should not be considered as an outsider, right?”

He suddenly paused, saw Lu Xueqi’s face had an inexplicable blush, Song Daren also felt some embarrassment, and laughed to pass it off, saying, ”It’s like this. Shiniang she is not here right now. This morning she went off by herself to the bamboo forest at the rear of the mountain rear.” He sighed, grief revealed on his face as he quietly said, “Shiniang is too grieved over the loss of teacher. This time she even brought teacher’s body, and told us that she is going to bury teacher by herself.”

Lu Xueqi frowned, a trace of uneasiness brushed past her heart. This situation was even stranger than what she had expected before she came over. Putting aside the question of not informing others, but without even notifying her own daughter Tian Linger, Suru was going to bury Tian Buyi by herself?

A thought flashed through her. After a moment of hesitation, she turned to Song Daren and asked, “Then, that person?”

Song Daren was initially lost. But looking at Lu Xueqi’s expression, He Dazhi, who had always been quick-witted, pulled his sleeve and made an expression, and he immediately understood. He hesitated and said, “Little junior brother has also gone to the rear of the mountain.”

Lu Xueqi was surprised and looked up at Song Daren. Song Daren said with a bitter laugh, “Shiniang didn’t allow us to follow. She only called little junior brother to follow along.”

Lu Xueqi was quiet. After a moment she bowed to Song Daren and the rest, then said, “Many thanks senior brothers. Since it is so, I will not further delay all of you. I will come another day to offer my respects to Teacher-Uncle Tian.”

Song Daren and the rest returned the gesture. Song Daren hesitated for a moment and said, “Junior sister Lu, this matter is rather complicated. I hope that you still...”

Without waiting for Song Daren to finish his words, Lu Xueqi already interrupted and said, “I know, senior brother Song, please don’t worry. Xueqi will definitely not mention a word to others.”

Song Daren nodded and did not speak anymore. Lu Xueqi did not speak anymore either, but turned and left.

Watching as that white figure left, Wu Dayi walked up and said, “Big senior brother, I guess she is most likely going to the rear of the mountain. Will this be alright?” He Dazhi indifferently replied, “How would it be only ‘most likely’? Clearly this junior sister Lu is definitely going to the rear of the mountain to take a look. Today her arrival at Big Bamboo Valley is certainly acting on behalf of Small Bamboo Valley Master Shuiyue’s orders. If she doesn’t check out Shiniang’s condition, it will be hard for her to report to Master Shuiyue when she returns.”

Song Daren said, “It is also good that she goes over. These past few days I keep worrying that something might happen because of shiniang, but shiniang refuses to let us follow along and we cannot defy her orders. Although lao qi also went along but we all know that if shiniang asked lao qi to leave, given his character and that he has always respected and revered shiniang, most likely he also will not defy her. Having this Small Bamboo Valley Miss Lu going over to take a look won’t do any harm.”

The rest heard it and all nodded in agreement, then all became silent. Song Daren sighed, turned and walked back to the hall.

At a glance the scenery of the bamboo forest behind the main summit looked similar to Small Bamboo Valley. Everywhere you looked you could see exuberant green bamboos, rustling and swaying with the wind. The sun was setting, shining out a few rays of light in the bamboo forest, onto the ground.

On the thin leaves, numerous crystal beads of water congealed, smooth and shiny, like most precious pearls.

Where Ghost Li was, for a moment he couldn’t help but feel lost. Many years ago, this was where he started his life in Big Bamboo Valley. He could not recall how many dawns and sunsets during which he had swung his knife to cut the trees, covered in sweat, quietly logging the trees in this secluded forest. Thinking back, those years which he once felt as dull were now like a dream. However that tranquility that he once had could never be found again.

The bamboos rustled in waves, the mountain breeze blowing gently just beside the ear.

He sighed in his heart, putting aside that meaningless sentiment, and turned around to look at Suru. Tian Buyi’s body laid not far away. Da Huang still lay beside it. Every since Tian Buyi’s body returned, this dog almost never left Tian Buyi.

Under Tian Buyi’s body there was not a single sheet of bedding. This seemed disrespectful to the deceased but from Ghost Li to Song Daren and even Du Bishu, none of them dared to have the slightest doubt about Suru’s actions.

However, although they would not be suspicious of Suru’s grief but her actions were really bewildering. Ghost Li wanted to ask but right now Suru, who had her back to him, looked as if a wall was there.

At this moment, Suru spoke, “Why, do you have something to tell me?”

Ghost Li was shocked and then hesitated for a moment. Finally he spoke in a careful way, saying, “Shiniang, I have a few words, I do not know if I should say them.” Suru  indifferently  replied,  “Just  say  it.  I  too  know  those words. Most likely it is not only you who is thinking that way.”

Ghost Li stiffened. He guessed that, knowing his shiniang was an exceptionally intelligent figure and seemed like even in her grief over her husband’s demise, it did not affect her wits at all,  Ghost  Li  coughed  and  said,  “Shiniang,  please  pardon disciple for being bold, disciple understands shiniang’s feelings because of teacher’s passing away.”

His words stopped there and Ghost Li involuntarily glanced at Tian Buyi, his heart a spasm of pain, before continuing on, “It’s just that, disciple beseeches shiniang that no matter what, not to take it too hard. Other than that, although shiniang is grieving but for teacher’s funeral affairs it is better to make preparations in the early stage. Furthermore senior sister Linger, whether because of reason or emotions, must be informed to come back and offer her respects to teacher.”

Suru did not turn her head back; did not speak.

Ghost Li felt uneasy, lowered his head slightly and quietly said, “Shiniang, if there are any words which were spoken inappropriately, please do not be offended.”

Suru shook her head, slowly turned around and looked at Ghost Li, saying, “You have not said anything wrong. What you said is correct.”

Ghost Li looked at Suru, surprised. Today Suru dressed up differently from the past few days. Although she was still in mourning garb but her face looked as if there was makeup on, looked like there was more vitality and even revealed more of her mesmerizing beauty.

Ghost Li lowered his head, for a moment at loss at what to say. After a while he said, “Shiniang, disciple still has a matter to speak. May I be as bold as to consult shiniang?”

Suru indifferently replied, ‘You can speak.”

*** Ghost Li said, “Concerning teacher’s demise, both disciple and shiniang are in mourning but concerning teacher’s body, it’s really not appropriate to presumptuously move it, and furthermore to the rear of the mountain.”

Suru suddenly cut in, “Are you lecturing me?”

Ghost Li quickly shook his head and said, “Disciple does not dare!”

Suru glanced at him, but did not speak; her expression slowly turned amicable, as if she thought of something. Suddenly her face showed a mournful expression and said, “Lao qi, do you know how many years your teacher and I have been married?”

****

Ghost Li was surprised. Indistinctly he could feel shiniang’s words contained a deep sorrow, but while knowing it, he did not know how to console her. While worrying about it, he replied, “Disciple does not know.” Suru smiled, turned back, and slowly sat down beside Tian Buyi. Quietly she said, “Actually not only you, even I myself have also forgotten. How long a time in these mountains I spent it together with him, I am contented. How could I think about how many years it has been? He always laughed at me for being silly, said that in the future if our cultivation was not sufficient and we were unable to ascend to the celestial realm and again enter into reincarnation, at that moment of being separated by life and death, he did not know what kind of scene that would be like.”

Her voice gradually became deeper, “I asked him, what he was thinking, and he said he had no other request, but that if he were to leave earlier than me, as a cultivator he did not want any grand funeral, not even a coffin, but to ‘come naturally, leave naturally’, so to speak. He only hoped to be in the mountain ground behind the main summit, that was sufficient for him, so that he could keep watch day and night over the people in the mountain ahead and not be lonely.”

Before she finished, tears were already flowing down her face.

Ghost Li clenched his teeth, unable to speak. Da Huang’s head lifted up slightly, looked at Suru and then crawled down again, its tail wagging slightly.

Suru looked at Tian Buyi for a long time, then suddenly waved her hand and said, “You can go down the mountain now. Come back after an hour!”

Ghost Li was shocked. Feeling somehow reluctant, he called out, “Shiniang”

Suru said, “What is it?”

Ghost Li hesitated. Finally he gathered courage and said, “Shiniang, teacher’s promise which was made with you while he was alive, we disciples naturally do not dare to defy. It’s just that before teacher is buried, shouldn’t we inform senior sister Linger?”

Suru was quiet for a moment, then said, “That’s fine too. Go down and inform Daren. Let him go secretly to Longshou Valley and call Linger over!” Ghost Li nodded, turned and left. When he reached the entrance stairs, he couldn’t help but glance back. Looking at Suru sitting beside Tian Buyi, her lonesome figure, really made one feel sad. His heart felt pain again, and he quickly turned around and did not dare to look again, walking on.

On his journey his mind recalled the scenes from the past few days. Suru did not ask Song Daren and the rest to notify the other Qing Yun sect branches. This was already extremely strange, but even Tian Linger was not allowed to be notified, this was not reasonable. Today, in handling Tian Buyi’s funeral affairs in this way, although Tian Buyi had made an agreement with her but this was too sloppy.

Ghost Li sighed in his heart and shook it off. Actually as a cultivated person, funeral affairs were not important. Flesh, bone and skin, buried in the soil, would also not be a bad thing.

He pondered it like that quietly, not bothering to fly, walking down the mountain path. Without realising it, he had reached halfway down the mountain. When he first came up the mountain, following behind big senior brother Song Daren and little junior sister Tian Linger to the rear of the mountain, it was so difficult to travel on this path. The past memories were so vivid, lingering in his heart.

But he began to wonder... that senior sister Linger, how had she been all these years?

A faint bitter smile on his lips, he shook his head, and then he suddenly stopped, looking ahead surprised.

On the path, a white figure suddenly appeared, standing quietly. In the morning light not a single trace of looking mortal, quietly watching him.

Ghost Li looked at her, both of them looked for a long time but yet had no words to say.

The mountain breeze blew over, ruffled her hair and clothes, moving with the wind. Finally, it was Ghost Li who first spoke, “Why did you come here?”

Lu Xueqi quietly said, “My teacher instructed me to come and pay my respect to Teacher-Aunt Suru.”

Ghost Li nodded quietly, hesitated for a moment, and said, “Shiniang is recovering at the rear of the mountain. It’s just that right now she wishes to be alone and instructed me to come back after an hour.”

Lu Xueqi nodded too, and said, “It’s alright. I will just wait.”

Ghost Li acknowledged and kept quiet. Lu Xueqi seemed at a loss at what to say too. Between the two of them, while it gradually became quieter, although both stood and did not move, the distance seemed to increase.

After a long period, Lu Xueqi softly said, “Are your injuries better?” Ghost Li softly said, “Much better, “ while speaking, he looked up at Lu Xueqi, said, “That day if it was not for you, I might not even be standing here, I should be thanking you.”

Lu Xueqi was surprised, looked at Ghost Li, and said, “That day I... I... that sword...”

Ghost Li suddenly interrupted, and said, “Don’t say it anymore.”

Lu Xueqi’s face dimmed, stopped and looked down.

Ghost Li seemed to be hesitating, and then continued, “Shiniang has talked to me about those matters. She said I have mistaken you. I am sorry.”

Lu Xueqi’s body shook and she looked up. Ghost Li with sorrow on his face, was also looking at her, but even so, he still spoke every word slowly, “Shiniang’s words, I naturally believe them, but teacher was, after all, my mentor who raised and taught me, I know maybe I am too selfish but I hope you can give me some time, I also can...” “I  understand,  I  will  wait  for  you!”   Lu  Xueqi  suddenly interrupted him.

Ghost Li was stunned. He looked up at her: a beautiful lady, biting her lips, tears in her eyes. But in that instant her tensed body seemed to relax, and on her lips a faint smile and gratification.

Looking at that emotional girl, his lips moved. A tenderness suddenly surged from the bottom of his heart. He wanted to smile and say something to her, but who would expect that at this moment, from the bamboo forest on the summit’s behind them, a sound of a dog barking burst out from the distant.

His body suddenly froze.

That was Da Huang. Ever since Tian Buyi’s body was returned, Da Huang had always been quietly beside his master’s body, never barking loudly, but at this moment although it was faint from this distance but it sounded frantic, as if in extremely despair. He had never heard such a sound in several decades. What had exactly happened, that would make Da Huang howl so hysterically?

The worry which had been buried deep inside his heart suddenly gushed out. Ghost Li’s face instantly turned pale. Even his hands started to tremble.

Lu Xueqi was also shocked. She felt bewildered and looking at Ghost Li’s expression, asked in shock, “What is it?”

Ghost Li did not answer but his body trembling, abruptly bellowed, “Shiniang!”

He was already dashing back like lightning towards the bamboo forest.

Lu Xueqi was extremely intelligent. In an instant she vaguely understood. Her face also turned pale, her body trembled. If because of Tian Buyi’s death, Suru in her grief underwent some unfortunate event, she could not imagine how Ghost Li would be, and how they could face each other, she totally could not imagine! Watching that figure flashed back madly, she suddenly felt a never before known sense of helplessness, like a huge shadow shrouded beside her. She wanted to follow but her body and legs seemed to be trapped by an invisible force, unable to move at all. In her heart, she shouted with all her might, “No, no.”

Chapter 235 - No Regrets

Ghost Li’s heart was torn with anxiety as he dashed ahead at full speed. With his current skills, the trees and grass by the side of the path were all flattened in an instant, like a gap cleaved through the middle of the sea. Due to his speed, the wind hitting his face indistinctly felt painful but he did not notice it at all.

Right now in his heart there was only Suru who was at the rear bamboo forest.

Da Huang’s barkings lingered in his ear madly. Ghost Li’s figure creating a sharp piercing sound as he abruptly charged from the foot of the mountain stone stairs up to the sky. While in the air, Ghost Li’s heart suddenly froze, almost involuntarily dropping down.

On the ground, not knowing since when, two human-sized pits had appeared with two piles of soil beside. From the wetness of the soil it must have been dug by Suru earlier on. Thinking about the purpose of these two pits, Ghost Li’s face turned pale, his scalp tingling. Tian Buyi’s body was still lying peacefully in the original spot but Suru, whom Ghost Li was most worried about, was lying on Tian Buyi’s chest, unmoving.

Beside that, Da Huang was facing Suru, barking wildly and incessantly.

Ghost Li’s heart sank. Looking at the slender figure who had just been standing before him a short while ago, he was suddenly afraid to go near and take a look. At this moment, on the stone stairs behind him a pale Lu Xueqi appeared. She stood there at a distance, quietly watching everything.

Ghost Li suppressed his racing heart, softly calling out, “Shiniang?”

Suru did not move; there was no response.

Ghost Li’s slowly approached. Every step seemed to take much effort. Da Huang continued barking. Finally, he came near to Suru and quietly said, “Shiniang… don’t scare me…” A trembling hand touched Suru’s shoulder. Ghost Li clenched his teeth, increased his strength and flipped Suru’s body over. A surprised and slightly smiling face appeared before him.

Suru was smiling. Her lips seemed to have an expression of faint relief on them. Maybe it was because she was with her husband. Her body was still warm, her face peaceful and dignified, only without vitality.

Da Huang was still barking madly but its voice was gradually getting hoarse!

Ghost Li’s legs weakened. He sat on the ground, a moment later his mind blank.

“Shiniang has gone too ”

This was his only cry in his mind, reverberating incessantly in his heart. The next day, the other Qing Yun sect branches received Big Bamboo Valley’s solemn news, that branch leader Tian Buyi and his wife, Suru, had both passed away.

Tian Buyi and his wife’s status within Qing Yun sect was substantial and had always enjoyed prestige. This solemn news shocked the entire Qing Yun sect in an instant. Immediately numerous fellow sect members flew over to mourn. From Longshou Valley Tian Linger rushed back and was all tears before her parents’ spiritual tablets. Most of the other branches’ elders, although all being cultivators, teared up as they turned sentimental; especially Small Bamboo Valley Master Shuiyue, who was the closest to Suru.

In this solemn and sorrowful atmosphere, there was some unusual signs. With Tian Buyi and his wife’s status, all of the other branches came in force. Yet from the eldest branch Tongtian Peak, although most of the senior generation elders came but only the sect head, Qing Yun sect head Reverend Daoxuan, was not seen. This inevitably was seen as an act of contempt against Big Bamboo Valley.

Song Daren and the other disciples came forward to receive their fellow sect disciples and send them away after. They were dressed in mourning garb, their expressions in sorrow, and couldn’t be more respectful, but when they saw Xiao Yicai and his fellow disciples their faces revealed anger, their conversations were also much colder, and Xiao Yicai and the rest were conscious of it and felt it was better not to say much.
Other than smiling bitterly, they could only stand aside and kept quiet.

The incense smoke lingered, the sounds of crying unceasingly. In this mournfulness, it was probably the sadness of loved ones passing away that persisted in the tranquil Big Bamboo Valley summit. After living their lives, not knowing if there was really a spirit after passing away, if there really was, when the loved ones saw all these things happening from the netherworld, what would they feel?

However, most likely Tian Buyi would not show that he was sad!

A figure drifted down from Qing Yun Hill, looking to be in a daze. In the afternoon time, he entered HeYang City alone. People walked up and down the main street. Although it was not the same bustling scene of the past but it could be seen that this city was slowly recovering its vitality. Some passed away during the catastrophe, some fortunately managed to survive. And there were even children who had grown up to be adults; one generation after another, multiplying endlessly.

Ghost Li stood at the start of the street, quietly looking at the crowd. The strangers passed him by like wave after wave, unceasingly. As he stood within the crowd, he was surrounded by many humans, all similar to him, with life, aging, sickness, and death; quietly living in the cycel of reincarnation.

But why must humans live?

Ghost Li suddenly thought like that.

His teacher and Shiniang had both passed away in front of him. After the grief what was left other than numbness was exhaustion. In this lifetime he felt he was always walking on a path that was longer than others, and on this path he was still unable to see the end.

As he woodenly walked, around him the hustle and bustle continued. He could clearly hear voices of those shouting to sell their wares, and if he wished to even the voices of mothers reprimanding their children on another street. It’s just that all of these felt so far away from him. In his trance-like state he felt he did not belong to this world.

Without thinking he walked to a certain area, looked up, and found a restaurant sign that looked familiar. Deep within his heart something moved, and he subconsciously walked in.

The number of customers inside the restaurant was pathetic. Evidently the restaurant’s business had not recovered to its pre-catastrophe period. The waiter received them, smiled and asked, “Customer, are you having a meal or a drink?”

Ghost Li was silent, for a moment he was unable to answer. After leaving Qing Yun Hill, his mind was in a trance, as if nothing excited him. That feeling, with some despair, was like ten years ago when he had witnessed Biyao received that sword for him. But after this ten years, that mania was gone and instead replaced by exhaustion.

“Customer, customer?”

The waiter raised his voice slightly, and Ghost Li woodenly shook his head, walked to a secluded seat by the side and sat down.

The waiter followed over, still smiling and asked, “Customer, what would you like to have?”

“Here…” he slowly spoke, suddenly remembering something from  deep  within  his  memories,  “Here,  do  you  still  have ‘Steamed Mei Fish’?”

The waiter was stunned and then smiled, said, “Customer, you must be a previous customer of our Shanhai’s restaurant. This steamed mei fish was our signature dish initially but now you can’t get it anymore." Ghost Li was surprised, asked, “Why is that?”

The  waiter  shrugged  his  shoulders  and  said,  “Isn’t  it  all because of all those demon beasts? When the monsters occupied this place, everywhere within a several hundred mile radius from here suffered calamity. Even the fish in the river outside the city were all wiped out. Today, not to mention fish that could be served as a dish, it would be rare to even find one you could fry.”

Ghost Li seemed disappointed, his expression for some reason dimmed. The waiter sighed for a while then remembered  his  work,  and  quickly  asked,  “Customer,  why don’t you order some other dishes?”

Ghost Li stared off in a daze and spoke casually, “Forget it, just bring some dishes for wine over.”

The waiter nodded, turned and left. Halfway there, three customers walked in. The waiter was surprised and, secretly thinking to himself that business was actually getting good, went up to receive them. Unexpectedly, after the three people assessed the restaurant, they suddenly saw Ghost Li and one of them called out, the voice seeming to carry a feeling of surprise.

Ghost Li heard the sound, found it familiar, turned to look and was also stunned. As it is said, ‘there is nowhere in the world where people could not meet’; the three people were Zhou Yixian, Xiao Huan and Wild Dog Taoist. The one who called out was Zhou Yixian.

For some reason, when he saw them, Ghost Li felt an inexplicable closeness. Although they were not good friends but right now his heart felt lighter.

Zhou Yixian’s stunned expression in an instant disappeared, replaced by a face full of smiles. He walked over with quick steps, the ‘Immortal Guide’ banner hanging on the bamboo pole in his hand swaying with the movements. When he reached  Ghost  Li,  he  smiled  and  said,  “He  he.  It  is  really unexpected, we meet here again.”

Ghost Li’s lips revealed a faint smile, although it disappeared almost immediately, but he still said, “Senior please sit.” Zhou Yixian nodded and sat down unceremoniously. The waiter  stood  beside,  smiled  and  asked,  “Are  all  of  you together?”

Zhou Yixian rolled his eyes at him, and said, “What nonsense. If we are not together will we sit together?”

The waiter hurriedly nodded, said, “Yes, yes, everyone please have a seat. I will go prepare the dishes. It will be ready immediately.”

Zhou Yixian laughed non-stop, but pulled the waiter over, ordered another seven to eight dishes and also three to four pots of wine. The waiter nodded his head in succession, and quickly went to prepare.

Xiao Huan was not as happy as her grandfather, instead her face was black and rather unpleasant. Especially after Zhou Yixian again pulled the waiter over to order more dishes and wine, she appeared even more gloomy, and almost wanted to speak but in the end bore with it. After the waiter left she could not help but sneer, “Grandpa, you ordered so many dishes. Is it that after you saw your saviour here, you want to give him a proper treat?”

Zhou Yixian’s face sank as angrily replied, “Xiao Huan, what nonsense are you talking about? With the kind of friendship this brother Ghost Li and I have, how can we use these dishes to compare?”

Speaking this, he turned and smiled at Ghost Li and then sighed, shook his head and said, “Look at this HeYang City. After the catastrophe, the people are no longer simple and sincere. No one is willing to read their fortunes. The ways of the world are hard now, ah…”

Xiao Huan’s face changed, glanced at Ghost Li and glared at Zhou Yixian, her face slightly red. Ghost Li seemed not to sense it, only indifferently said, “Yes, senior please don’t worry. I have once received your care for many days. This time please take it as my treat to thank you all.” Xiao Huan’s face immediately turned red but Zhou Yixian was greatly relieved instead. He nodded his head and smiled, “That’s right, that’s right, you are worth teaching!” Wild Dog Taoist looked at Xiao Huan, and again at Ghost Li.
He wanted to speak but stopped himself.

At this moment, the waiter brought some cold dishes up, and also two pots of wine. Zhou Yixian unashamedly took over the pot and poured for everyone. Raising his cup, he said, “We are all wanderers of the world. To be able to meet here, it is really a rare fate. Let’s drink to that!”

After speaking, he tilted his head and drank his all in one shot, and then shook his head slightly, looked like he was rather pleased with the wine. Ghost Li looked at him, his lips moved, not knowing if he smiled but his facial muscle looked extremely stiff. Most probably even if he smiled it would not be shown. He slowly took up his cup, and placed it to his lips. However, the next moment, he suddenly sighed. His sigh contained much helplessness and pain, as if what he was holding was the most bitter thing. Unable to drink, he slowly placed it back to the table.

Xiao Huan couldn’t bear it anymore, shouted back at Zhou Yixian, “What a rare encounter! Somebody saw someone else from far on the main street, shouted noisily and then rushed here to scheme free food and drinks!” Zhou Yixian’s expression did not change, only rolled his eyes at Xiao Huan and said, “Child, your words are unrestrained, your words are unrestrained!”

Ghost Li seemed not to mind Xiao Huan’s words. He looked distracted and occupied with some thoughts. Xiao Huan had known him for many years yet this was the first time she saw him like this. She couldn’t help but feel worried, and asked Ghost Li, “Did something happened?”

Ghost Li was silent for a moment but he did not reply to Xiao Huan, instead spoke to Zhou Yixian, “Senior.”

Zhou Yixian again poured himself another cup of wine.
When he heard that he smiled and said, “What is it?”

Ghost Li’s gaze seemed empty. He quietly said, “I remember ten years ago, when I had just come down from Qing Yun Hill, in this HeYang City you once read my fortunes, right?”

Zhou Yixian and Xiao Huan were surprised. Wild Dog Taoist instead felt puzzled. Naturally he did not know about the past events. Zhou Yixian frowned, thought a moment and then said, “Oh, I still remember a bit. What is it? Why do you suddenly ask about the past?”

Speaking till here, his face suddenly revealed a mysterious expression, he lowered his voice and spoke harshly to Ghost Li, “It couldn’t be that, after ten years, because our readings were not accurate, you intended to get a refund?” “Grandpa!” Xiao Huan scolded Zhou Yixian, looking as if she could not bear it. She pushed Zhou Yixian to the side, and spoke to Ghost Li, “Big brother Ghost Li, do you have any troubling matters? Maybe...you can tell me?”

Ghost Li glanced at Xiao Huan, the tiredness in his eyes revealed a rare tender look but he still gently shook his head, and said, “I am alright, I only wanted to ask Mister a few things.”

Zhou Yixian arranged his clothes, coughed and again that ancient celestial demeanour surfaced. For a moment the small restaurant seemed to be lit up with his presence, dominated by him. “You can speak.” He indifferently said, “Between us, you can say anything. But you still hav to give the fortune fee to me.” He disregarded Xiao Huan’s embarrassed face, facing Ghost Li and blinking his eyes.

Ghost Li smiled faintly, patting consolingly at Xiao Huan who looked like she was going to burst out from being embarrassed, then turned to Zhou Yixian, a perplexed look on his face, and said,  “Senior.  You  have  roamed  the  world  and  have  wide knowledge. I have something which perplexes me. I will like to ask senior, we live our lives for a lifetime, for what purpose?”

Xiao Huan and Wild Dog Taoist were stunned and looked bewilderingly at Ghost Li. Zhou Yixian frowned, his face slowly turning solemn. He did not answer rashly, instead after thinking for a period, he slowly said, “You look different from usual. Have you have encountered some unfortunate event?”

Ghost Li was silent for a moment then quietly said, “My mentor and shiniang passed away few days ago.”

“Ah!”  Xiao  Huan  and  Wild  Dog  Taoist  both  exclaimed  in shock. Zhou Yixian frowned, sighed and quietly said, “Tian Buyi is also gone, it’s a pity.”

Ghost Li was silent. Zhou Yixian closed his eyes and then he was back to normal. “No wonder you looked full of anguish. It is only the separation between life and death, it is part of life, nobody can escape. You are not one of the common folks, why must you wallow in it?”

The anguish on Ghost Li’s face deepened, and said, “But the cause of their demises... actually I also had a part in it!”

Zhou Yixian faintly said, “Even though it is so, when your teacher and shiniang passed away, did they ever blame you?”

Ghost Li’s head slowly dropped, after a long time he slowly said, “No, my debt of gratitude to teacher and shiniang are as weighty as a mountain. Even until the last moment, they were still concerned for me, even took this unworthy unfilial disciple back…” Until the end, his voice was already slightly choked. Xiao Huan, sitting beside Ghost Li looked at him, her eyes also turning red.

Zhou Yixian smiled, a faint glint flowed in his eyes, as if he had jumped out of this mortal world and had seen past the emotions  of  the  world.  “Then  I  ask  you  again,  when  your teacher and shiniang passed away, did they have any regrets or hatred?”

Ghost Li hesitated, slowly shook his head.

Zhou  Yixian  smiled  said,  “Then  this  is  it.  You  should  be happy for them. To die without regrets, isn’t this the best ending for them?”

Ghost Li looked up at Zhou Yixian, his lips moving slightly, his expression confused.

Chapter 236 - Perplexed

Looking down at the city as night fell, although it couldn’t be described as thousands but the numerous tiny dots of lights still gave one a warm feeling.

But to Ghost Li, maybe it was the most unfamiliar place to him?

He watched the scene silently and then turned away. Nobody else stood on these not-very-tall and not-very-strong city walls. The soughing night breeze blew over from the wide wildlands outside HeYang City. It brushed up the city walls, which were battered from the demon beast catastrophe, and then onto Zhou Yixian and him.

For some reason, Xiao Huan and Wild Dog Taoist were not there. Only Zhou Yixian and Ghost Li stood on the city wall at this time of night. Zhou Yixian looked perfectly composed, his hand still holding that bamboo pole and banner, the other hand held a bottle of wine, from which he took a big swig and made a satisfying sigh. “What a good wine,” he said with mirth and then to Ghost Li, “The wine is still warm, do you want some?”

Ghost Li silently shook his head and said, “Senior, you can have it for yourself.”

Zhou Yixian laughed and again took a swig. However after this mouthful, he shook the bottle and flung it down casually. It seemed like there had only been a mouthful left and, feeling bad about it, had tried asking Ghost Li.

On this night the moon was bright and the stars sparse. The moonlight was like water, brightly illuminating the secluded city walls. After drinking, Zhou Yixian looked up at the sky and seemed to be lost in thoughts. For a moment he did not speak. Ghost Li walked up to the wall and his eyes landed on a certain spot on the wall bricks. There was a familiar deep claw gash, and beside the gash even more gashes thickly decorating the bricks.

It was a terrifying sight! “These  are  left  behind  by  the  innumerable  demon  beasts from the calamity.” Not knowing since when, Zhou Yixian had walked over, and faintly spoke.

As they walked along the city wall, this old man who had roamed the world was not cracking jokes as he usually did. Instead, from Ghost Li’s point of view, he looked very compassionate.

Ghost Li stretched out his hand and gently brushed over the deep gashes. It felt sharp against his fingertips; rough and hard. Who knew how many innocent souls had cried out under the claws that made these marks?

He was silent for a long while, before asking, “In HeYang City, were there many innocent commoners killed?”

Zhou Yixian sighed, walked to the side of the wall and looked down. His eyes reflected the lights in the city as he spoke, “Many, although many of them also got an early start and escaped to the north. But at least fifty percent of the commoners lost their lives and died by those beasts.” Ghost Li looked at Zhou Yixian, and suddenly asked, “Senior., those innocent commoners that you speak of, every one of them were human just like us, every one of them were living well, and, perhaps not all but at least ninety percent of them were all harmless to other humans and animals, so then why is it that they have to endure this unexpected disaster? And with the kind of normal life they lived, what caused it?”

Zhou Yixian looked at Ghost Li, his hand on the city wall, and  said,  “Today  you  are  able  to  stand  here,  and  those commoners lost their innocent lives. I ask you, what do you think is the reason?”

Ghost Li was silent for a long time before replying, “I am different from them. I practise Taoism. Even if the demon beasts come, I can avoid it.”

Zhou Yixian nodded, and said, “It is so. You see that everyone’s the same. All have the view of the great realm and great foresight in mind [Translator note: I don’t understand the meaning of the words [乃是从⼤眼光,⼤境界着眼], please let me know if you do], like Tianyin Buddhist Temple saying that everyone is equal, it is this meaning. Actually according to Buddhist sayings, not only humans, even ants and ferocious beasts  are  no  different  from  us.”   He  paused,  smiled  and continued, “However, in this world, how can it be one can just look past emotions? [Translator note: I don’t understand the
meaning of the words [⼜芑能是区区⼀种可以看清的], please let
me know if you do] You have great abilities and powers, and so are able to escape from desperate situations. You have surpassed the common people. Although it is said that everyone is equal, but when you look at the details, we are never equal.”

Ghost Li’s face revealed a perplexed look. He shook his head slowly and said, “I do not wish to surpass the commoners and also do not have the mercy to save the people. Even though I practise the Tao but I don’t have the slightest interest in immortality.”

Zhou Yixian indifferently asked, “Then what is it that you want?”

Ghost  Li  bitterly  laughed,  then  quietly  said,  “This  is  the problem. What do I want? Even I myself do not know.” His face expression changed. The clear moon gradually shifted to the middle of the sky, the moonlight even more brilliant as it shone down from the sky, making his shadow longer.

Zhou Yixian did not speak, only quietly watched Ghost Li. But his gaze was different from usual. Even though standing before him was Ghost Li, the only one in the world who had practised four volumes of [Tian Shu], his skills already reaching an unfathomable level, but right now Zhou Yixian appeared to be greater than him.

His scholarly bearing, his composure, the night breeze brushing past the grey hairs on the sides of his head. Even the bright moonlight seemed to gather quietly by his side.

But Ghost Li did not sense anything different about him. In fact as Zhou Yixian quietly stood before him, he himself was deep in his thoughts.

After a long time, Ghost Li smiled bitterly and said, “Seems like I am really good for nothing. I can’t even comprehend either the reason I am living or what I want.” Zhou Yixian calmly looked at Ghost Li, a faint smile on his lips as he said, “You are wrong, young man.”

Ghost Li was stunned. This was the first time he had heard Zhou Yixian address him as young man, but that was not the important point. After a moment he asked, “Please senior, you said I am wrong, where am I wrong?”

Zhou Yixian indifferently replied, “You think that you are a good-for-nothing because you are unable to comprehend this question. To me, it is the contrary. For you to be able to think of this question, you have already surpassed the others in this world.”

Ghost Li was surprised, asked, “What?”

Zhou Yixian smiled, beckoning him and said, “Come and look.”

Ghost Li walked over to him, followed his finger which pointing to the city. He looked down at HeYang City. Under the moonlight, the spots of tranquil light twinkled unceasingly. Zhou Yixian watched those lights, his gaze also containing mixed feelings. After a period he quietly asked, “What do you see?”

Ghost Li said, “These are all candlelights from numerous commoners houses.”

Zhou  Yixian  nodded  and  said,  “That’s  right,  it  is  the household lights. Each spot of light is like a living person. They are all living in this world. They may be pleased or displeased with their lives but eventually they still have to live on. How many are only living just for the sake of it? Let me tell you, out of this multitude of living beings, there isn’t one in ten thousand who is like you, reflecting on the reason why we are living.”

Ghost Li was speechless, he had never thought like this but to hear it coming from Zhou Yixian, it seemed to be very logical, and he was unable to say anything in response.

Zhou Yixian watched him, his face suddenly revealing a sad look, but it vanished with a flash, and then he sighed, stretched out his hand and patted Ghost Li’s shoulder. Although it could not be said that Ghost Li was taken back, but his mind indeed was in a turmoil. With his current skills and natural defensive reactions, he subconsciously avoided Zhou Yixian’s hand. However the strange thing is that the hand of that obscure and usually sloppy Zhou Yixian could not be avoided by Ghost Li, even with his current cultivation level. Just like that he was patted by Zhou Yixian.

Ghost Li’s mind was really in a shock, but before he could react to it, the words which next came from Zhou Yixian’s mouth made him even more shocked .

“Furthermore, you are the only one in this world who has practised the four volumes of [Tian Shu], how are you the same as others?”

Once the words were spoken, Ghost Li was nonplussed. This matter had always been his secret. In fact, even Lu Xueqi and those Tianyin Temple’s monks, did not know those mysterious inscriptions from the third volume in the Celestial Emperor Treasury and the fourth volume in the Tianyin Temple Wordless Jade Wall were from [Tian Shu]. Only he, from the beginning until now, had practised and so understood that those were [Tian Shu]’s fourth volume. Now at this moment, Zhou Yixian clearly spoke about this secret. How could he not be shocked? For a moment his face was full of disbelief as he stared at Zhou Yixian.

Zhou Yixian smiled faintly and said, “Even though you are shocked, you don’t have to be like this.”

Ghost Li carefully assessed this old man in front of him. After a long time he suddenly smiled, took a step back, arranged his clothes properly and respectfully bowed, “Junior is disrespectful. In the past I slighted senior, but I am still perplexed, I hope senior is able to enlighten me?”

***

Zhou Yixian’s face was calm. Even though in front of him a figure whose name shook the world was being so respectful to him, he seemed not to have the slightest embarrassment about it and only said, “What are you feeling puzzled and confused about? If it is something others could tell you about, with your formless and enigmatic [Tian Shu], how could you not be able to figure it out?” Ghost Li was silent, then slowly said, “Could it be senior is thinking that the matter junior is puzzling over can not actually be solved?”

Zhou Yixian smiled and shook his head.

“Yes. Comprehending it yourself, Buddha is in the heart and not outside the body, this is where [Tian Shu] is similar to Buddhism.”

“And so it is. What is the reason for living? It should be something that you realize for yourself. I can maybe show you the way but I might not say what you want to hear.”

After speaking, he smiled and clasped his hands behind, walked to the side.

Ghost Li was silent again. After a long while, the perplexed expression  remaining  on  his  face,  he  asked,  “Life,  death, separation, leaving. I have only seen these four words throughout my life. I would like to ask senior, is life inherently just suffering?“ Zhou Yixian smiled and said, “Wrong, wrong. All your life your path has been rough, and so you thought that everyone is suffering. Actually it is not so. [Translator note: I don’t
understand the meaning of the words [其实不染], please let me
know if you do]. Let me ask you, do you think your life is hard?”

Ghost Li was surprised. He wanted to speak but stopped. Zhou Yixian was already laughing as he said, “Why, it’s not easy to say it, right? Even if we consider the recent passing away of your teacher and shiniang. Do you think their lives were hard?”

Ghost Li stammered said, “Teacher and shiniang, they...”

Zhou Yixiang solemnly said, “Tian Buyi died a worthy death because he died without regrets and left the world with a smile; your shiniang Suru was deeply in love with your teacher and unwilling to live alone, you thought she committed suicide because she was grieved but you didn’t know that for her soul to be able to be with her husband is her greatest joy?”

Ghost Li was nonplussed, unable to speak. Zhou Yixian indifferently said, “You are in anguish for Tian Buyi and his wife but you didn’t know that they perhaps understood the most and were the ones with the least regrets, and instead judged others by yourself, isn’t this ridiculous?”

Speaking till here, Zhou Yixian suddenly smiled, looked at Ghost Li, and asked, “Are you afraid of death?”

Ghost Li hesitated for a moment, then quietly sighed and said, “I’m afraid.”

Zhou Yixian said, “Oh. Then I must ask you. What are you afraid of? Is it death itself?”

Ghost Li silently shook his head, “Since I am not interested in immortality, naturally I do not care about death. What I am afraid is that after I am dead, I am unable to fulfill my wish.”

Zhou Yixian laughed and said, “Then this is it. Since you can look past life and death, yet in your heart there is something more important than life and death, rather than trying to ask me all manner of questions, why don’t you think what things which are most important to you?”

Ghost Li frowned, his eyes glinting. He seemed to have comprehended something but his face did not show relief. Instead he again sank into contemplation. Zhou Yixian did not disrupt him. He quietly walked to the side, looked up, and watched the clear moon, the moonlight like water spilling down in full.

In the vast wilderness, the night breeze soughing, stars shifting and time passing in the infinite firmament.

He gazed for a long while and suddenly let out a deep sigh.

Ghost Li’s voice was heard from behind, “Senior, do you have something in your heart that you are unable to look past?”

“Me?” Zhou Yixian did not turn, still watching the full moon in the far horizon. After a long while, he faintly said, “Considering that I am still wandering in this world, I must still have thoughts that I can’t get past.”

“Oh, what is it?”

Zhou Yixian smiled and said, “What I can’t see through, is this: reincarnation!”

Qing Yun Hill, Small Bamboo Valley.

There had only ever been females in Small Bamboo Valley, therefore the atmosphere here, compared to the other branches on Qing Yun, had always been quiet and peaceful. Even during the day, there were long hours of tranquility. Only the birds’ cries and fragrances of flowers reverberated in this beautiful valley.

However ever since Master Shuiyue brought her disciples back from the funeral at Big Bamboo Valley, the atmosphere at Small Bamboo Valley contained solemness and suppression within the tranquility. Many of the younger disciples for the first time saw the grief and loneliness that Master Shuiyue was unable to hide, and with her current skills, she should have long ago become unaffected by emotions.

Wenmin had always been the one who understood Master Shuiyue Master the most. She had already told the girls that they should watch themselves, especially not to talk and laugh loudly in order not to provoke their teacher. Under such restrictions Small Bamboo Valley was naturally in a blanket of solemness.

Ever since returning from Big Bamboo Valley, Master Shuiyue locked herself in her bamboo hut. Wenmin gathered her courage and went ahead to greet her teacher but after she did not receive permission to enter, Wenmin somehow started to get worried.

On this day Wenmin had already not seen her teacher for a day and night. Worrying, she went to look for Lu Xueqi. Lu Xueqi did not look to be in a good mood. Initially she was unwilling to go but after Wenmin persisted for a few times, she also became worried and so went with Wenmin. Both of them came to the bamboo forest. Standing before the hut, Wenmin signalled to Lu Xueqi. Lu Xueqi hesitated and walked up, gently knocked on the door and said, “Teacher, disciple Lu Xueqi and senior sister Wen have something to discuss with teacher.”

It was silent in the hut. Nobody answered.

Lu Xueqi and Wenmin looked at each other. Wenmin frowned, becoming even more worried. Actually Master Shuiyue’s character was slightly different from the others; in the past not only had she ignored her disciples, there were also incidents where she had disappeared for several days. But for some reason, after they came back from the funeral, and they knew to a certain degree the reason and cause, they had become more sensitive to her behaviour over these past few days.

Wenmin coughed and slightly raised her voice, “Teacher, this morning senior brother Xiao Yicai sent someone over with a letter. Disciple will bring it in now.” Silence again came from the hut. Wenmin took a deep breath, walked forward and pushed opened the door. Lu Xueqi followed closely behind her.

Both of them entered the hut and looked around. Both of their brows frowned; the hut was not very big and the furniture in it was simple. At a single glance they could not see Master Shuiyue.

Wenmin sighed and said, “Teacher is actually not here. I wonder where she went?”

Lu Xueqi quietly shook her head and said, “Senior sister, we had better go back first, or maybe we will worry too much. Although teacher and Teacher-aunt Suru were very close but at the most she will only be grieved. I guess nothing will happen.”

Wenmin nodded and replied, “That’s all we can only, but I still feel uneasy.”

Lu Xueqi sighed softly. Shaking her head slightly, she turned and walked out. Wenmin looked around the hut again, then took out a letter and put it on the table and walked out too. She closed the hut door, making a light ‘pa’ sound as she did so.

In the hut, silence descended again.

Chapter 237 - Intention to kill

Stepping out from the hut, Wenmin saw Lu Xueqi standing at the side and so walked over and said, “Junior sister, are you going back now?”

Lu  Xueqi  shook  her  head  slightly,  and  said,  “Since  I  am already out, I thought of walking around. Sitting in the room all the time also make me feel frustrated.”

Wenmin nodded and said, “This is also true. Then, be careful by yourself. I will go back first.”

Lu Xueqi nodded and said, “Yes, take care senior sister.”

Wenmin smiled, turned and left. Watching as her figure gradually disappeared into the forest, Lu Xueqi stood where she was and, for a moment did not know where she should go, and so walked around aimlessly.

Deep inside the bamboo forest, everywhere was verdant, the mountain breeze blew past somewhere high up, the bamboo leaves rustled with the wind, making [sha sha] sounds.

On the damp earth, new shoots broke through the earth. One could often see the sharp bamboo heads poking out from the ground, full of vitality.

Somewhere far away, where the bamboo trees were dense, the clear, crisp cries of birds could be heard. Even the surrounding air wafted with a unique bamboo fragrance. Lu Xueqi inhaled deeply. The air here did not carry smells from the mortal world. This was what they, cultivated Taoism practitioners, loved the most. It was also the reason why every cultivated Taoism practitioners stayed far away from the mortals.

It’s just that, although her body was far from the mortal life, but the mortal emotions and feelings seemed to have never left.

She walked aimlessly around like that until, unintentionally, she suddenly realized with a start that she had came to the rear of the mountain again. She made a bitter laugh. Although she did not intend to come here today but perhaps because she had visited here too many times, her legs brought her here on their own.

However since she was already here Lu Xueqi did not turn back. She continued on up the mountain, up the stone stairs. Not far away was the secluded Full-Moon platform.

Right now was daytime. In addition, as Master Shuiyue was not in a good mood these days, not even one disciple came to this secluded place. The surroundings seemed quieter in contrast. Fortunately Lu Xueqi had always been used to such stillness and so continued to walk up. As she did, every grass and tree, every stone and rock, couldn’t have felt more familiar.

Unexpectedly, when she stepped up onto Full-Moon platform she was surprised. Ahead, on the Full-Moon platform, there was someone standing there alone. That person’s robe flapped about, dancing in the mountain wind. The figure’s back was extremely familiar. It was Master Shuiyue, whom she and Wenmin had been unable to locate. Lu Xueqi was stunned, walked up and bowed to her teacher, “Teacher.”

Master Shuiyue was taken back. It seemed she did not realize someone had come up from behind. When she turned around and saw Lu Xueqi, she nodded and said, “Ah it’s Xueqi.”

Lu Xueqi looked up at Master Shuiyue, saw her mentor looking slightly pale, her expression still grieving. But more than that was a feeling of melancholy.

Her heart worrying, she said, “Teacher, the wind is strong here. You must take care of your health.”

Master Shuiyue laughed and said, “You usually stand here for the whole day and yet I don’t see you being affected. Although my old bones cannot be compared to you youngsters but I am still not that weak against the wind.”

Lu  Xueqi  was  taken  back  and  hurriedly  said,  “Teacher, disciple did not have that intention, I am…” Master Shuiyue tiredly waved her hand. A faint, bitter smile was on her lips as she said, “I know, you don’t have to explain.”

Lu Xueqi was silent. She stood beside her teacher and for the moment did not know what to say.

Master Shuiyue did not look like she was intending to speak either. The teacher and the student were, for the moment, silent.

After an unknown amount of time passed, Master Shuiyue gazed ahead and suddenly said, “Do you think that the view at this Full-Moon platform is beautiful?”

Lu Xueqi was stunned for a moment, not knowing the reason for her teacher’s question but she still honestly replied, “It is always said that the best views are usually at the most perilous peaks. Here the rocks jut out dangerously, the precipice is suspended solitarily in the air. Looking up from it, with the sea of clouds like a sea waves, the green mountains as a companion, it is an exceptional scenery.” Master Shuiyue nodded her head. Her eyes misted over slightly, as she said in a slow voice, “Actually many years ago, when your Teacher-aunt Suru was still training at Small Bamboo Valley, she was also like you. She loved the scenery here the most and often sneaked out here to play.”

Lu Xueqi was surprised. She looked up at Master Shuiyue and saw her sighing softly as she continued, “Junior sister Su and I grew up together. Actually, I only joined my mentor Grandmaster Zhenyu’s tutelage one year earlier than her. When we were young we ate at the same table and shared the same bed. We were really like real sisters. Her character was more lively than me but yet she loved to sneak out here alone, and whenever she felt she was wronged, she also came to this Full-Moon platform, sulking by herself.”

The corner of Master Shuiyue’s lips moved slightly, she seemed to be recalling the past events, an expression of amusement but before her smile could fully form, it was replaced by an even deeper vacant expression which contained a feeling of the vicissitudes of life.

“But...ever  since  she  got  married,  she  never  came  here again.” Lu Xueqi quietly listened to her teacher, then quietly said, “Teacher, when Teacher-aunt Su married Big Bamboo Valley Uncle-teacher Tian, were you unpleased?”

Master Shuiyue was stunned and then shook her head, sighed and said, “Tian Buyi…  although he was hot-tempered and his character somehow disagreeable, but he was an ideal spouse for her. For your Teacher-aunt Su to marry him, it was her fortune and also her good sense of judgement.”

Lu Xueqi was rather surprised when she heard this. Everyone knew that Master Shuiyue did not like Tian Buyi, but unexpectedly her view was like this, she couldn’t help but ask, “Then  in  the  past  you  still  treated  Uncle-teacher  Tian  like that…”

Speaking halfway, she suddenly stopped.

Master  Shuiyue  smiled  and  said,  “Still  glaring  at  him, speaking coldly to him, was it?” Lu Xueqi turned red and said, “Disciple does not dare to think that way.”

Master Shuiyue indifferently replied, “The way I treated him was wrong or something to feel bad about. But although I did not get along well with Tian Buyi, to tell the truth, he was not a bad person. In our Qing Yun sect, there wasn’t anyone who could surpass him.”

Master Shuiyue suddenly recalled something, her brows frowning, and said, “Tian Buyi’s eldest disciple is called Song Daren right?”

Lu Xueqi nodded but wondered why her teacher would suddenly enquired about Song Daren and said, “Yes, currently senior brother Song has already taken over the position of leader of Big Bamboo Valley. Teacher, why did you suddenly ask about senior brother Song?”

Shuiyue  Master  was  silent  for  a  while,  then  said,  “That senior sister of yours, Wenmin, is it that she is exchanging flirting glances with this Song Daren?” Lu Xueqi was taken back, for a moment did not know what to say. Wenmin and Song Daren indeed had feelings for each other and most of them knew that. The Small Bamboo Valley disciples usually teased Wenmin about it. However Tian Buyi had once came up and proposed marriage for Song Daren but was flatly rejected by Master Shuiyue, causing Wenmin to be secretly depressed and unhappy for several days. Now with Master Shuiyue sudden question, Lu Xueqi did not know if she
should speak directly or try to conceal the matter for senior sister Wenmin.

Master Shuiyue, given her years of experience, saw through Lu Xueqi’s hesitating, and was able to surmise the answer from it. She shook her head and inhaled deeply.

Lu Xueqi couldn’t help but feel anxious, she was close to Wenmin and although her own love life was unfavourable but she hoped that this senior sister of hers who had cared for her since young would be able to marry well, and so gathered her courage  and  said,  “Teacher,  actually  senior  sister  Wenmin, she…”

Barely speaking a few words, Master Shuiyue indifferently replied, “Forget it, forget it. Find an auspicious day, and just marry Wenmin off.”

Lu Xueqi was stunned. She couldn’t believe her ears. Master Shuiyue glanced at her, smiled and said, “Why? Is it that all of you disciples thought that I am always an old die-hard, refusing to assist in a disciple’s joyous occasion?”

Lu Xueqi was extremely overjoyed for Wenmin. She smiled and quickly said, “Teacher, look what you are saying! How could we disciples ever think like that? I will be the first to thank teacher on behalf of senior sister Wenmin!”

Master Shuiyue saw a rare glimpse of Lu Xueqi’s sincere smile. Her lips moved but it was another sigh. She turned, clasping her hands behind her, facing the sea of clouds and quietly gazed out.

Lu Xueqi overjoyed, but noticing Master Shuiyue’s strange expression, carefully asked, “Teacher, why did you recall this suddenly?” Master Shuiyue was silent for a moment, but instead answered with another question, “Xueqi, you went with me to Big Bamboo Valley. How do you feel about your Teacher-aunt Su death?”

Lu Xueqi turned solemn, and said, “Disciple thinks Teacher- Aunt Su was deeply in love with Teacher-uncle Tian, and so followed him into death. I did not notice any pain on her expression.”

“Yes.” Master Shuiyue gently sighed, looking vacant. After a long while she said, “Actually I do not want you disciples to be troubled by love, hindering your cultivation. But after cultivating for a lifetime, in the end what is the outcome?”

Lu Xueqi did not understand her teacher’s words, and for a moment did not say anything. Master Shuiyue spoke slowly, “Longevity is still only faintly discernible and nothing; after training hard for a lifetime, mostly only in exchange for several hundred years more on worthless activities, your Teacher-aunt Su viewed her hundred years of cultivation and life as nothing. This determination is really so much stronger than me.” Lu Xueqi felt a pain in her heart as she called out, “Teacher…”

“A lifetime of cultivation, cultivating for a lifetime, cultivating and obtaining Tao, yet suppressing human feelings, what is this for?” She sighed and faintly said, “Actually what is Tao? What is obtaining Tao? I have cultivated for a lifetime, yet today and now, I really feel somehow muddled.”

Lu Xueqi standing beside her did not dare to speak. Master Shuiyue stood there silently. After staring vacantly for a long while, she shook her head and seemed as if she did not wish to continue. She turned and walked down the mountain. Lu Xueqi looked at her retreating figure, and called out, “Teacher, where are you going?”

Shuiyue Master paused, and said, “Wenmin’s affair, I have already decided. You can go over and tell her. But…”

Her voice paused, she turned around, and her expression contained tenderness as she looked at Lu Xueqi and said, “As for yourself, Xueqi, have you thought for yourself?” Lu   Xueqi   was   stunned,   said,   “What?”     and   then, comprehending, her face turned pale, slowly revealing a helpless smile, she quietly said, “Teacher, disciple does not have a good life, dares not hope anymore.”

Master Shuiyue watched her own exceptionally delicate and beautiful disciple, saw her white clothes fluttering in the wind, a celestial demeanour, but the sorrow on her face, nobody knew how deep it was.

Master Shuiyue felt an inexplicable pain in her heart and called out, “Xueqi.”

Lu Xueqi looked up, saw Master Shuiyue and heard her faintly saying, “Xueqi, your love life is difficult but yet you do not wish to turn back. Your teacher is also at a loss as to what to say to you. However for the sake of our teacher and disciple relationship, I too do not wish to see you like this. If in the future there is a favourable turn in the rules and regulations here at Qing Yun sect, you have me to lean on; you don't have to worry.” Lu Xueqi’s body shook greatly, involuntarily called out, “Teacher..” yet did not know what to say.

Master Shuiyue smiled at her but sighed again. She turned and left, soon her figure disappeared down the stairs. Only the wind  remained,  indistinctly  carrying  her  words,  “Tell  me world, what is love…?”

Lu Xueqi stood where she was. For a moment her heart was in turmoil. Her stomach churned and she sank into low spirits, but she was unable to think of any conclusion, only that while in that trance, she suddenly recalled: not long ago in that abandoned HeYang City morgue, Tian Buyi seemed to have told her the same thing...

Majestic Fox Mountain, Ghost King Sect.

A slender figure appeared in the tunnels deep within the mountain where Ghost King Sect headquarters were. What was different from the surrounding gloomy grey was that surrounding the figure there seemed to be a dazzling glow, bringing a dash of colour to the suppressed atmosphere. In the tunnel, Ghost King Sect disciples passed by frequently. Almost all were found her attractive but when this lady’s gaze swept out all of them continued walking with quick steps, not daring to have further eye contact. Even in the Ghost King Sect it seemed like she had a special status.

And she really was special, her brows like a drawing, extremely coquettish; even though her seductive charm was slightly less than the nine-tailed celestial fox, hers had more gentleness. But even so, with her past status as HeHuan sect Miao Gongzi, as Jin Pinger boldly walked in to the Ghost King Sect realm, she appeared rather outstanding.

Jin Pinger evidently did not care about the stares of those around her; she was long used to it. At the very end of the demon beast catastrophe, in the Subdue Devil Cave in the southern border ten thousand great mountains, she managed to escape with great difficulty. After returning to the Central Plains she did not tell anyone about the complicated affairs that had occured.

Right now, she had only one direction: Ghost King had asked to see her. There was another tunnel up ahead, and then the tunnel split into three. Jin Pinger stopped, glanced at the tunnel to her left. A glint seemed to flash past her eyes then disappeared, before she strided toward the right tunnel.

The unusual earthquake not long ago caused damage to the Ghost King Sect which could still be seen. On the rock walls, large and small cracks had appeared, and in these maze-like, well ventilated tunnels, it was impossible to wave off a faint stench of blood that still wafted in the air.

Jin Pinger naturally smelled this faint smell of blood, but although she found it strange her face did not reveal it. Right now her status in the Ghost King Sect was different from when she was in the HeHuan sect. Naturally she would not poke her nose in to the matter. However she was secretly shocked by it; with her experience and knowledge she could naturally sense that the stench was very odd.

While she was pondering over it, she had followed the tunnel to where Ghost King resided. She stopped and was about to call out for someone to pass a message when suddenly the stone door opened with a rumble and Ghost King’s laughter was heard from within the residence. “Is it Pinger? Quickly, come in.”

Jin Pinger was surprised but her face revealed only a smile as she replied, “Yes.”, and so walked in.

The stone room was spacious and bright. Although it was not extravagant but it was dignified and imposing. Ghost King was sitting at a table, a large white paper in front of him. The four treasures of the study laid out in front of him [Translator note: writing brush, ink stick, ink slab, paper] made it look like he was practising writing.

Jin Pinger glanced at Ghost King, smiled coquettishly and said, “Sect head is in a good mood today. Why did you suddenly decided to do writing?”

Ghost King looked up at Jin Pinger and smiled. Jin Pinger’s smile suddenly froze. She felt Ghost King’s eyes like two sharp knives stabbing into her. Staring into his eyes, her eyes felt a vague sense of pain. Luckily Ghost King soon quickly looked away. Looking at the paper in his hand, he waved her over and said, “Come over here and look, how is my writing?”

Jin Pinger secretly felt alarmed. In the past, when she had met with Ghost King she never felt like this. How could it be that in a matter of a few days Ghost King’s skills and abilities seemed to have advanced like a thousand miles in a day?

However she was not a careless person. While secretly thinking about it, her face made a smile. She walked over, a fragrance wafted out from her, smiling as she said, “But I am a crude person who doesn’t know anything about writing. Sect head requesting me to take a look is really placing me in a difficult position.”

Ghost King laughed, [he he], but did not make fun of her. He made room for Jin Pinger to stand near the table. She looked down at the paper on the table. What she saw there, on a large sheet of white paper, was a large word written:

Kill! Every stroke of the word was vigorous, the force used great, as if almost breaking out of the paper. It was definitely not as proper as regular script but it also wasn’t as composed as cursive script. While appearing calm and at ease, a feeling of extermination surged out.

Jin Pinger was secretly shocked. She felt a cold pair of eyes looking at her, but Ghost King’s amiable laughter was what she heard, as he said, “Pinger, how do you find the writing?"

Jin Pinger smiling, like a breeze from spring brushing past. As if filling up the room with spring, she said, “Sect head, this word is written so well, even if I practised for ten years, I would not be about to write it like this.”

Ghost King looked indifferently at Jin Pinger. Under his gaze, Jin Pinger felt a chill seeping out from her heart. But the smile on her face was still there, until her facial muscles started to ache from holding the smile. Then Ghost King suddenly looked away.

Jin Pinger secretly let out a sigh of relief. At the same time she was secretly alarmed. Ghost King seemed completely different. A murderous aura like an angry tide pressed over, and looking at him, he did not seem to be concealing it at all.

This was different from his usual demeanour. Could it be that over these past few days something had happened?

While Jin Pinger was pondering this , Ghost King had already spoken again, “Priest, why don’t you come over and take a look too? How is my writing?”

Jin Pinger was surprised again. She turned in shock to see, in the corner of this stone room, another person was there, wearing priest robes, his face solemn. Jin Pinger felt bewildered. When she first entered the room, she had been taken back by Ghost King’s strange aura and was distracted. But for this person to be able to conceal his body presence from her and stand there undetected; he could not be underestimated.

The priest acknowledged and walked over, and looked at the word on the paper. After a long while, he said, “Good word.” Ghost King’s cold gaze was still there but his face was smiling, as he asked, “Why is it good?”

The priest replied, “The strokes and meaning of this word compliment each other. The word itself has the meaning of ‘kill’ revealed in the strokes. This is rarely seen, rarely seen!”

As Ghost King stared at that person the priest’s expression did not change. He slowly stepped back and stood within three chi of Jin Pinger. Ghost King suddenly laughed out loud and said, “Well spoken, well spoken. I fully agree with what priest said.” The priest bowed his head, receiving the compliment.

Jin Pinger couldn’t help but glance at that priest. Ghost King continued, “Pinger, let me introduce you. This is our sect’s consecrated and strong ally, Taoist Cangsong.”

Jin Pinger’s raised both her brows. A sharp glint flashed past her eyes and then she smiled and looked at Cangsong, “I’ve long since heard of you, long since heard of you.” Taoist Cangsong nodded to Jin Pinger, then Ghost King spoke again, “Pinger, this time the reason I summoned you is because something big will soon happen in our holy sect that is rarely seen in a thousand years and I wanted you to come lend a hand.”

Jin Pinger smiled and said, “Sect head please go ahead and instruct me. Pinger will definitely do her best.”

Ghost King laughed and said, “I have already told most of the details to Taoist Cangsong. You can ask him later. Although this matter is not urgent right now but we must act fast. You can both go off and discuss it properly.” Jin Pinger nodded, and together both of them bowed to Ghost King and left.

The stone door closed up slowly. The two of them walked together in the tunnel. For a moment none of them spoke. When they reached the tunnel intersection, Jin Pinger couldn’t help but glance at the left tunnel.

And at this moment Taoist Cangsong spoke, “Vice-sect head Ghost Li has already left the mountain several days ago and is still not back.” Jin Pinger frowned, her eyes turning cold. She looked at Taoist Cangsong, but after saying those words he walked off ahead by himself.

After a moment, Jin Pinger’s face had a mysterious smile.
With a sneer, she followed after him.

Chapter 238 - Sorrow

Each powerful and influential sect in the Central Plains had different political undercurrents and in the middle of this period of intensity, in the southern border thousands of miles away, the commoners in each tribe wordlessly built up their homes again after the catastrophe. Even though this place was hit the hardest, in the big wide world almost nobody remembered it. At least to the wealthy in Central Plains, the southern border wilderness was not worth anything.

At Seven-Mile Cave where the Jin tribe resided, the devastation caused by the demon beasts could be seen everywhere. But above the ruins many new houses were already being built. Up the middle of the mountain that sat behind the tribe, at that mysterious altar entrance, many offerings were being carried in and out. At this point, even though there were many things which needed to be done, it seemed that the ancestors’ blessing on the Jin tribe was considered especially important.

The Jin tribe people worked when the sun was out and rested when the sun set. The days passed by in this way. Looking at the sun coming up daily and at night descending when it set, most of the Jin people returned to their own homes, relaxed their tired bodies, and after having their dinner, under the sky full of stars, gradually fell asleep.

When the night was deep and quiet, a white figure appeared in this village. Like a faint light in the darkness, in the quiet undulating valleys, it had already gone near that altar up the mountain.

At the entrance leading up to the mountain two Jin warriors standing guard. The night breeze suddenly blew over. They only saw a white figure flashed past them like lightning, a faint fragrance like flowers blooming in the night, and couldn’t help but feel confused for a moment.

Behind them a white figure, like an apparition, slowly stepped out from the darkness, appearing at the platform before the altar entrance. Dressed in white, extremely alluring as if the entire starry sky were absorbed by her, who would it be if not Xiao Bai?

She glanced around and again looked into the inky dark cave hole; although it was all black but as Xiao Bai eyes slowly scanned, a faint smile formed on her lips. And then, as if sensing something, she quietly shook her head and sighed softly.

The security here was far worse than she thought. It was totally different from that day when she and Ghost Li had come to see the great shaman. Not to mention the burly warriors at the foot of the mountain, there should have been much more shamans looking after the sacrifices inside the altar. Instead it was this, with almost no defense. It seemed like the catastrophe had really caused heavy damages to the Jin tribe.

Actually it was not only the Jin tribe. Across the whole world, because of that one Beast Deity, an unknown number of innocent people and families had been destroyed or displaced. It was really hard to distinguish between right and wrong in all that had happened as well.

Xiao Bai shook her head slightly, not pondering on it too long. Her body leapt up, turning into a flash of white light, and headed straight in. Most of the interior of the cave was still the same, including the paths. After a certain distance there was a firestick on the wall, just like in the past. What had changed, Xiao Bai realized, was that inside the cave there were much less people. Those peoples’ breathings was slow and steady, meaning they should be asleep.

Xiao Bai couldn’t be bothered worrying about it. Going by memory she flew down the path. With her years of cultivation, those highly-skilled martial artists from the Central Plains probably could not detect her, not to mention these lowly- skilled shamans. After a while she came to the room where the great shaman once stayed.

Xiao Bai stopped, her brows frowning as she looking into the room. Over in the distance she could sense one person there, and this person was not asleep like the others.

In the cave the fire was still burning fiercely. In the darkness, beside the fire, it was hard to make out the features of the stone statue of the Dog Deity. Xiao Bai’s eyes stared at that statue for a moment and then looked away towards the fire.

A young figure sat before the fire, his back facing the entrance. Xiao Bai couldn't see his face and could only guess he was a young man. He was seen facing the fire, drawing different mysterious patterns before him, and at the same time quietly reading something sincerely.

Xiao Bai soundlessly walked near to that man, the firelight gradually illuminating her, and casting a long shadow behind her. She listened to what the man was quietly chanting, the sound reverberating in the cave, as if telling something.

The quiet voice seemed never-ending. From the side, the young man face was sincere, as if he was totally immersed in that illusory world.

A trace of perplexity appeared on Xiao Bai’s face and then she gently sighed. This sound immediately alerted the young man. Startled, he turned around, but before he could move a fair hand flashed past his eyes and then landed behind his head, gently patting him.

The young man’s eyes suddenly flipped; his body trembled and he lost conscious. The mysterious chanting and the reverberation ceased. Xiao Bai looked at that young man’s face, and suddenly smiled as she softly said, “Whether or not the Dog Deity exists, and whether or not that deity will protect your people, I don’t know. But with such a sincere person like you around, I guess the great shaman would feel at peace.”

After speaking, she shook her head slightly, avoiding the young man’s body and the fire, and walked straight over to the statue. All along, the Jin people worshipped the Dog Deity, believing that the deity gave them their new lives, protected and blessed their tribe with survival. Even the shamans in the cave would not dare to approach the deity without reason.

Yet right now Xiao bai stood before this Dog Deity statue.

The statue was carved out of the southern border’s special black stone. The black stone shone in the darkness with an unclear silver glow. Xiao Bai knew the southern border well; naturally she knew that this was not the Dog Deity miracle that many Jin people believed in, it was only a rare type of black stone that contained small silver shavings which resulted in a mysterious beautiful glow. Her eyes right now were not on the Dog Deity. Instead her eyes stopped at the head. This statue was handed down a long time ago. The carving work was skillful, almost lifelike, down to the minutest detail, without any careless spots. If it was not for the obvious texture, it would almost made one think this was a black dog with its mouth slightly ajar.

And in this dog’s head the most glaring spot was within the pair of eyes. They were quietly staring at Xiao Bai as if it were alive.

Xiao Bai suddenly was shocked and stepped back. But her body immediately relaxed. Coming to her senses, she frowned, and again glanced at the deity. She snorted, “So, it actually has this prohibited bewitching spell,” and then she pondered. After a moment, still puzzled, she softly said, “But this is a skill of the Central Plains, why would it appear here?”

She quietly thought, then lightly swung her head, throwing these nonsensical thoughts away. Right now, this was not what she came for. She again looked at the deity, and at last at the pair of eyes. She hesitated and then gently pressed onto the eyes. In the ancient cave, a deep muffled sound could be heard. The sound was not very loud but it was as if the huge room was shaking. The ancient dog statue before Xiao Bai slowly descended in the rumblings, deep into the ground, until the entire statue was concealed except for the head.

Behind the deity, a smooth stone wall appeared. Different from its surroundings, the surface seemed to be coated with a layer of faint dark air, appearing illusory. But this was nothing to Xiao Bai. With a faint smile on her lips she walked up and flung her embroidered robe. Wind came from her hands and brushed past the stone wall, dispersing the black air.

The stone wall suddenly revealed a bit of golden light. In the next moment, another spot, and then spots of golden light suddenly appeared, gushing out like a spring on the wall, forming into diagrams and words. Xiao Bai was not standing very far away and her face reflected the light.

Xiao bai read each line as she stared at the display of mysterious diagrams and words filled with light. Before her was where the last secret of the ancient shaman tribe laid, passed down over numerous generations. Her gaze jumped, at times she paused, at times she was overjoyed, and finally she came to that huge, proud and overbearing fire dragon drawing, which was roaring at the sky.

Xiao Bai inhaled deeply, a faint smile on her lips. Then after confirming everything again, she closed her eyes, as if imprinting all of it in her mind.

When she opened her eyes again she looked over the stone wall and muttered to herself, “Didn’t expect these fellows actually left this here. Could it be they already knew the shaman tribe would be destroyed?”

After speaking, she smiled faintly, and almost couldn’t be bothered with the troubles of the ancient people. But when she turned, her brows suddenly frowned, her eyes froze. At the end of the drawing, under the huge fire dragon, there was still a section of the wall that was different from the rest, covered by a black air.

Xiao Bai felt surprised. She contemplated it but eventually did not wish to let it go. About to investigate, she suddenly whipped around, her eyes going cold as she stared around her. It was empty in the huge cave. Other than the crackling sounds made by the fire, and the unconscious man on the ground, there was nobody.

Xiao Bai brushed past that young man and again carefully glanced around. After confirming there was nothing unusual, she frowned slightly and slowly turned around.

Could it be that she had stayed in this different place for too long and had become too suspicious?

Xiao Bai shook her head. With a bitter laugh she focused herself and then lifted her hand. A light wind blew out but it was much stronger than before. In the next moment, the remaining black air was finally dispersed.

On the stone wall there were indeed a few more rows of words.

Intrigued, Xiao Bai carefully read. The next moment, a mixed surprise on her face, she exclaimed, “So, Spirit Calling skill is here…” As her eyes moved the joy gradually faded to be replaced by a solemn and perplexed expression. At the end, after reading the entire paragraph, she slowly stepped back and the small sections of black air suddenly enveloped the mysterious words, again concealing them.

Xiao Bai looked down and did not speak for a while. After a long time she gently sighed and said, “So it is like this. The ancient shaman tribe was annihilated like this. This… this... what should I do? Should I tell her all these things?”

Suddenly encountering such a difficult problem, for a moment she could not decide what to do.

The black air slowly congregated, and again covered the golden shining words and diagram. Xiao Bai slowly turned around as the deep rumbling sounded out behind her again. The dog deity rose up to its original position, covering up that secret.

In the ancient cave, everything returned to normal. Xiao Bai slowly walked out. She walked very slowly, looking to be deep in thought, but in the next moment her figure eventually disappeared.

Silence, again descended. For a length of time that ancient dog statue sat quietly staring at everything in the cave, her eyes shimmering.

Suddenly, that figure on the ground moved. The young man carefully got up and looked around. Everywhere was quiet. There was no movement. Clearly that mysterious lady had left.

He let out a sigh of relief. His body relaxed. With a bitter laugh, he quietly said, “What a close shave. If not for my tribe’s soul conceal skill, destroying all six senses, I would not be able to deceive her…”

Following which, his eyes became intense as he turned and looked at the statue.

In the Jin tribe they had always feared the spirits. Especially towards this ancient statue, they were even more reverent. For this young man, from young until now, even looking at it was rare, disrespectful according to the rules of the tribe, not to mention touching the statue.

Right now his eyes blazed. His body also started to heat up. He stared at that statue, and the statue seemed to be staring back at him.

Soon after, like a powerful invisible force manipulating him, the young man grit his teeth, and walked step by step towards the statue. The ancient deity’s eyes reflected his approaching figure. It even seemed to contain a trace of distress.

Finally, before the statue, trembling hands were raised. They paused and paused again in the air, but finally they stretched over. The expression on his face was agnony, struggling like being burned by fire, in torture!

In the end, however, that pair of hands did not retreat, but rather touched down onto the pair of eyes.

Instantly the deep rumbling started again. The entire cave trembled, the deity again submerged into the ground, and the mysterious stone wall appeared again.

The young man’s eyes were ablaze. Unable to suppress it anymore, he dashed forward, both hands waving. Immediately the black air dispersed, the golden light appeared again, illuminating his face.

As the ancient words appeared before him he looked drunk, revealing uncontainable delight and satisfaction, even as both of his hands were trembling.

His trembling hands gently touched the words, softly reading every word and drawing. He seemed to stare past it. In his delight, he almost forgot and did not notice the lowest part, where the black air was different from the rest and did not disperse.

The golden words and drawings almost totally occupied his attention. Beside him the dog deity’s eyes still had a deep look. However at this moment, under the reflection of the fire and the golden words, the young man’s figure in the dog deity’s eyes revealed, more than just a trace of distress, something like a deep sorrow.

Chapter 239 - Separation

Below Qing Yun Hill, outside HeYang City, on an ancient wilderness path.

Zhou Yixian was holding the banner in his hand as usual, walking down the ancient path. Walking beside him was Ghost Li, and behind them were Xiao Huan and Wild Dog Taoist.

The four of them walked slowly, making their way further and further from HeYang City behind them. Xiao Huan looked at Ghost Li’s back, her facial expression peculiar. A few times she was about to speak but stopped. Finally, unable to hold back, she walked up to Ghost Li and pulled his sleeve.

Xiao Hui, who sat on his shoulder, was the first to turn around and with a [zhi zhi] sound, it grinned at Xiao Huan. For some reason Xiao Huan turned red under the monkey’s stare. Ghost Li also turned around. He still looked somewhat desolate but compared to the day they met in HeYang City, he looked much better. Looking at Xiao Huan, Ghost Li’s face also revealed a trace of warmth.

“What is it?”

Xiao Huan had just mustered up her courage but this man’s faint smile suddenly caused it to disappear. For a moment she stammered. Zhou Yixian was watching from beside and shook his head. Even Wild Dog Taoist who was standing behind didn’t look too good. The sound of laughter [Zhi zhi. Zhi zhi zhi] was the loudest at this awkward moment, and Xiao Huan blushed even more, glaring at it. But Xiao Hui naturally ignored her. On the contrary, it followed suit, three eyes also glaring back at Xiao Huan.

Xiao Huan stepped back with an exclamation. As the saying goes, it’s hard for two fists to win against four hands. It seemed like the principal applied to eyes also. Even though you are in a staring competition with a monkey, if the monkey has one eye more than you, most likely you will not win.

Xiao Hui was overjoyed, jumping up and almost rolling around on Ghost Li’s shoulder. At the same time it stuck out its tongue at Xiao Huan. Xiao Huan spat at the grey monkey but after that the awkwardness was gone. She coughed and, without looking directly at Ghost Li, her eyes shifting around, she softly said, “Where, where do you intend to go in the future?”

Wild Dog Taoist was standing behind and looked even worse.

Ghost Li looked surprised but did not answer immediately. Instead, he first turned and looked at Zhou Yixian. Zhou Yixian nodded and said, “Yes, I was about to ask you too. What are your plans?”

Ghost Li was silent for a moment before saying, “Honestly, I don’t know either. These past few days I am indebted to senior for his advice. Although I am still grieving over my shiniang’s death but I have also accepted it and gotten over it. I only regret that I was unable to fulfil my filial duties to them earlier…”

Zhou  Yixian  sighed  and  said,  “Saying  this  much,  it  also means that your heart has really not really gotten over it. But humans are not the trees or the grass. Though we sometimes now the reasons but our hearts are not under our control. It’s not your fault either. However the deceased have already gone. Don’t be be too sad, or else if your teacher and shiniang are in the netherworld, they also won’t be happy. You had better think about your future.”

Ghost Li nodded. After a period of silence, a blank expression flashed past his face. With some bitterness he said, “For these ten years, I went from place to place, all because I wanted to save someone. And it was always at the few opportunities I found, through some lack effort at the end, all failed. Looking at the vast world before me, I am really at loss of what to do.”

Zhou Yixian’s countenance slightly changed. His eyes glanced at Xiao Huan, as if hesitating and then faintly said, “Your misfortune regarding that lady Biyao, I have also heard something about it.”

Ghost Li’s body shook. He turned around quickly, and said, “Senior, perhaps you have some solutions…?”  In his agitated state his voice seemed to be trembling. Xiao Huan, feeling bewildered, glanced at Zhou Yixian but saw him coughing softly twice as he replied, “I don’t have a solution either.”

Xiao Huan couldn’t help but asked Ghost Li, “Your… your lady Biyao... what happened?”

Ghost Li was silent, but before he could speak, Zhou Yixian glared at Xiao Huan and sternly said, “You little child! What do you know? Don’t interrupt.

Xiao Huan was surprised. Even though Zhou Yixian did not usually act his age and often joked and quarrelled with her but it was rare for him to be so stern and solemn; for a moment was stunned.

Ghost Li heaved a long sigh, full of a desolate feeling.

A trace of complex emotion flashed past Zhou Yixian’s eyes. Suddenly he waved to Ghost Li and said, “Come over to the side here for a while. I have something to tell you.” After speaking, he left Xiao Huan and Wild Dog Taoist, and walked to the side of the path. Ghost Li slowly walked over, looking bleak. By this time Xiao Huan had regained her senses, and watched them standing a distance away, Zhou Yixian frowning and quietly speaking to Ghost Li, and Ghost Li’s expression gradually changed after listening. First he was surprised and then had a look of hope, but evidently this hope was not very big. His expression gradually turned down again.
As for Zhou Yixian, he was still talking. Looking at the scene, it looked like an elderly master teaching a junior in a long- winded way.

Xiao Huan pursed her mouth. Suddenly an inexplicable fury rose up in her heart. She angrily kicked the stone under her feet. The stone immediately flew up, making a curve in the air and instead hit Wild Dog Taoist’s foot.

Wild Dog Taoist was, for some reason, also in a reverie. He did not notice the stone and was immediately startled awake, his brows frowning.

Xiao Huan looked over and felt somehow embarrassed.
Walked over she softly said, “Priest, are you alright?” Under her glance Wild Dog Taoist immediately shook his head and quietly said, “It’s fine, I am alright.”

Xiao Huan nodded and then again looked at Ghost Li. Her eyes showed her contemplation. Many of emotions were revealed on her face.

Wild Dog Taoist watched her from the side and quietly hung his head.

Suddenly Xiao Huan asked, “Oh right, priest, I would like to ask you something.”

Wild Dog Taoist looked up and asked, “What?”

Xiao Huan frowned and said, “His, his... Biyao lady... what happened to her? Why did big brother Ghost Li looked so troubled?” Wild Dog Taoist hesitated for a moment. To be honest, he was not among the core personnel of the Ghost King sect and had only heard some stories regarding Biyao’s situation. But naturally he was aware of the cause of the incident. However it was a long story, and for a moment he did not know where to start. While he was contemplating, he said, “It’s a long story, I heard that it was ten years ago…”

At this moment he sensed something and stopped. Xiao Huan’s reaction was identical to his. With some surprise, they turned and looked behind them. There on the ancient path, a faint purple light suddenly landed from the sky, like floating duckweed. It was actually Jin Pinger.

Xiao Huan was first shocked and then delighted. She softly cried, “Sister Pinger.” After speaking she ran over. Jin Pinger saw Xiao Huan, and was also full of smiles. She pulled Xiao Huan’s hand and carefully looked at her. Smiled she said, “Good sister, every time I see you, I feel that you are getting more and more beautiful. It really is a new look every day. You must have mesmerized countless guys already.”

Xiao Huan didn’t expect Jin Pinger to say this. Although she already knew this sister was definitely not one of those dignified ladies who following virtues, but she instantly turned red  from  hearing  the  words  and  said,  “What  mesmerizing guys? Really, it is so hard to meet up and you only know how to tease others!”

Jin Pinger’s eyes were full of laughter. She gently pinched Xiao Huan’s delicate face, and said, “Little girl, even I am going to be mesmerized by you soon, you better speak the truth.”

Xiao Huan’s face turned redder but she had always been on good terms with Jin Pinger. On such a rare occasion, she really did not bear to let go and so pulled Jin Pinger’s hands and asked her all sorts of questions. However at times she was still sneaking glances at Ghost Li.

Ghost Li and Zhou Yixian naturally also saw Jin Pinger. Both of them didn’t expect that they would meet her at this place and time. With Ghost Li’s skills he had obviously long detected Jin Pinger’s traces before the rest. He even knew Jin Pinger had landed behind them in the direction of HeYang City. And further ahead towards HeYang City there seemed to be another spiritual energy but the distance was too far, and he could not sense it clearly. ***

But to come with Jin Pinger, most likely it would not be someone from the righteous sect, but someone from the evil sect. With such thought Ghost Li banished the idea of investigating. After chatting with Xiao Huan for a while, Jin Pinger pulled Xiao Huan over in their direction, “Gongzi how are you?”

Jin Pinger’s voice seemed to contain some element of seduction that made one’s bones turn soft upon hearing it. Xiao Huan secretly glanced at Ghost Li but Ghost Li looked expressionless, as if that seductive voice did not work on him at all. For some reason, Xiao Huan’s lips secretly revealed a smile.

Since Jin Pinger came over to say hi, Ghost Li nodded his head and said, “It really is coincidental.”

Jin Pinger smiled and said, “Since we parted at the southern border  it  really  has  been  a  long  time…”  halfway  speaking speaking, she noticed Xiao Hui was making funny faces at her. That day on the southern border, this monkey had made fun of her. Immediately her face turned serious. Xiao Hui, however, was not afraid at all. Looking at her expression, it instead became happier, baring its teeth at Jin Pinger, obviously challenging her.

Jin Pinger was stunned for a moment, then realized and scolded herself for a moment. How could she lose control over a monkey? After giving a hateful glare to Xiao Hui, she turned and ignored it, a smile again returned to her face. Facing Ghost Li, she said, “Speaking of which, that day Gongzi abandoned me, this helpless woman, and disappeared, you were really heartless...”

Ghost Li indifferently replied, “If I did not abandon you, I’m afraid even I would not have been able to walk out of those ten thousand great mountains.”

Jing Pinger with exclaimed with an [ah]. She covered her mouth and laughed, clearly disregarding Ghost Li’s hidden meaning, and said, “Gongzi really knows how to joke.”

Ghost Li stared deeply at her, and said, “But the fact you were able to come out from that Subdue Devil Cave is really unexpected.” A glint flashed past Jin Pinger’s eyes. She smiled and said, “Why? Gongzi doesn’t wish for me to come out?”

Ghost Li smiled faintly, did not nod or shake his head, only turned and spoke to Zhou Yixian, “Senior, we are considered fated. The world is so wide, yet over these ten years we have met a few times. As for what you have said to me just now, whether or not there is a possibility, I will still try it. It is better than without hope.”

Zhou Yixian nodded and said, “It’s good that you know this point. The solution is not orthodox and nobody has tried it before. It’s just that I heard it while I was roaming the world. You’ll be on your own then.”

Ghost Li bowed to Zhou Yixian, and said, “Since it is so, junior will leave now. Let’s meet again if we’re fated to.”

After speaking, he looked as if about to leave, when suddenly a cried was heard, “Wait, wait, you wait!” Ghost Li was startled. He turned and looked at Xiao Huan, who she was standing beside Jin Pinger, looking hesitant, but about to speak yet stopped. Zhou Yixian saw it, shook his head suddenly, and sighed, turned and walked away. “What is it Xiao Huan?” Ghost Li sensed something. His expression also turned warm as he gently asked.

Xiao Huan’s lips moved, as if wanted to say something but eventually did not speak.

Jin Pinger was standing beside holding her hand. At this moment she was frowning. The fair hand she was holding was trembling slightly. She turned and glanced at Xiao Huan, saw that after a while the atmosphere had turned slightly awkward but she was still not speaking.

Jin Pinger sighed softly, pulled Xiao Huan behind her, smiled and said to Ghost Li, “Gongzi where are you going?”

Ghost Li was silent for a moment. His gaze glanced at the slender figure which was blocked by Jin Pinger. His eyes seemed to carry warmth but his voice was cold, and indifferent as he said, “The four seas are my home. Where would I have a fixed place?”

Jin Pinger again asked, “How good to have the four seas as your home, it is really a man’s aspiration. But I would like to ask Gongzi, do you have any worries in your heart?”

Xiao Huan’s body suddenly froze but she did not move. She was still hiding behind Jin Pinger, but Jin Pinger felt that tension. Ghost Li’s voice was heard coldly saying, “No.”

After speaking, he looked deeply at that frozen figure. His lips moved but in the next moment, he concealed that strange expression. He turned and began to walk away but paused for a moment as if hesitating. Eventually, however, he did not turn back. The next moment his body evolved into a grey light, charging up the sky.

The west wind blew along the ancient, lonely wilderness path. The atmosphere for a moment was bleak. Xiao Huan did not speak at all and also did not emerge from behind Jin Pinger. But the hand that was still holding onto Jin Pinger seemed to embed deep into her flesh.

Wild Dog Taoist’s expression was ugly. He stepped forward and wanted to speak but did not. Finally it was Zhou Yixian who coughed, walked up and laughed dryly, “Xiao Huan, this… this… this destiny is decided by the heavens. We should just accept…”

Before he could finish, Jin Pinger suddenly raised her brows, and stared at Zhou Yixian and Wild Dog Taoist. Both of them felt as if their eyes were being burned by fire, and involuntarily stepped back. Jin Pinger snorted, and with a cold face said, “Both of you are no good, quickly go away.”

Zhou Yixian and Wild Dog Taoist looked at each other.

Jin Pinger turned and hugged Xiao Huan. Xiao Huan finally could not take it, and cried out [wa]. Jin Pinger gently patted her back, and softly said, “Silly child, what is there to cry about? I tell you, there is nothing good about men…” While sobbing Xiao Huan replied, “No… he is not, he is a good person.”

Jin Pinger feeling exasperated and amused at the same time, said, “Yes, yes, yes. He is a good person. Look at you! Only a while and your eyes are all red.”  while speaking, she gently wiped the tears from Xiao Huan’s eyes.

Zhou Yixian shook his head and mumbled to himself, “Good fellow! I raised her for several decades and in the end when someone said I am not a good thing nobody spoke up for me, and yet when someone said another person is a good person.. it is really…”

After speaking, Jin Pinger stared at him with a killing glance.
Zhou Yixian immediately swallowed the rest of the words.

That night, as Xiao Huan was not in a good mood the rest of them did not travel far. Initially Jin Pinger was only passing through and discovered Xiao Huan and the others coincidentally. At first she only intended to say her greetings and continued on, but right now she was worried about Xiao Huan and so delayed her departure. However during the night, after Jin Pinger consoled and teased her, Xiao Huan finally smiled again. Jin Pinger again secretly whispered something to her, and while they did know what was said but to Zhou Yixian and Wild Dog Taoist, the fact that seductive Jin Pinger was able to make Xiao Huan’s face turned red and pale, meant it was most likely not anything good.

After a while, Jin Pinger stood up, stretched and said, “Alright, I should leave too.”

As if already expecting her to leave, Xiao Huan did not look surprises but was still evidently reluctant. Pulling Jin Pinger’s hand, she quietly asked, “Sister, when will we meet again?”

Jin Pinger smiled and said, “Don’t worry, in the vast heaven and earth, we two sisters will be destined to meet again.”

Xiao Huan acknowledged with a nod and said, “Then let me send you off.”

Jin Pinger said, “Alright.” Pulling her hand, they walked towards away from the others. Zhou Yixian and Wild Dog Taoist couldn't wait for this woman to leave and so did not obstruct them.

After a distance, the two ladies were again chatting. Jin Pinger  smiled  and  said,  “Alright,  just  send  me  until  here. Otherwise your grandfather will scold me again.”

Xiao Huan nodded, and then suddenly seemed to recall something, hesitated and said, “Sister, I remember you seemed to be with… him in the same sect, right?”

Jin Pinger was surprised, and said, “Yes, why is that?”

Xiao  Huan  quietly  said,  “That…   that  Biyao  lady...  what happened to her? Can you tell me?”

Jin Pinger sighed and said, “Sister, it’s not that I wish to tell you off, but that man is different from the rest. Even if I looked at him in a different light I would still persuade you to forget it. His life is full of problems; if you try to get involved you will only suffer.” Xiao Huan shook her head, and said, “I, I never thought of wanting anything. I only want to know more about him.”

Jin Pinger shook her head slightly, sighed, and after a moment told Xiao Huan about his past in simple terms. Xiao Huan listened and her expression gradually turned ugly. Especially towards the end where Biyao’s spirit was trapped in the HeHuan Bell and Ghost Li was wandering around the world to find a solution to release her spirit, her face was very dark.

Jin Pinger naturally noticed the change but treated it as the feeling of a young girl. She softly said, “Alright, it is roughly like this, sister. Listen to older sister, and don’t be concerned with these things. You still have a long way to go.”  But Xiao Huan seemed to be occupied. Her expression was ugly as she nodded to Jin Pinger and said, “I know.”

After speaking she walked back with quick steps. Jin Pinger was surprised, and soon an argument could be heard in the distance. It seemed Xiao Huan was quarrelling again with Zhou Yixian. Jin Pinger could not help but laugh. Since Xuan Huan could quarrel she guessed that the lass’ mood must already be better. After all she was still young. She shook her head slightly, almost felt as if she were getting old, but soon kicked that damn thought out of her head.

***

Transforming into a purple light, she leapt up and flew away. After an hour she landed above the quiet HeYang City. There was another person standing there, his stature tall and big. Clasping hands behind him and wearing a priest robe, it was Taoist Cangsong.

Jin Pinger smiled coquettishly at him, “Priest, sorry to make you wait so long.”

Taoist Cangsong slowly turned and indifferently said, “You really delayed for a long time.”

Jin Pinger’s expression did not change. She smiled and said, “Anyway, sect head also instructed us to be careful, not to rush to finish it, right?”  Her smile was alluring, a subtle unclear meaning behind it. She gently smiled, “Also, at Qing Yun Hill before, priest, did you have impatience in your heart to go back to your old place again?”

Taoist Cangsong Taoist humphed, but did not speak. He only turned and gazed ahead. Jin Pinger smiled walked to where he was and also gazed into the distance.

Far ahead, that lofty, towering Qing Yun Hill appearing indistinctly among the lingering clouds.

Chapter 240 - Conspiracy

Majestic Fox Mountain, deep inside the Ghost King sect blood pool.

Looking at the Four Divinities Blood Formation in the blood pool, it was slightly different from before. The four huge beasts seemed to have totally lost all their vitality, as if taking their last breaths as they lay in the blood pool. The dark red light that enveloped them also became weak; if one did not look carefully you would almost be unable to see the few trails of spiritual energy constantly being drawn up towards the cauldron.

In contrast, the entire blood pool seemed to receive an the impact of a huge invisible force. On the large fluid surface everywhere seemed to be bubbling, bubbles of fluid constantly breaking up on the surface, emitting deep groans. At the same time, the largely unmoving blood pool started to swirl. Beams of light shone down from the air onto the blood pool, where they touched the fluid surged.

In the air a thick stench of blood permeated. On the cauldron, the remaining area which had the face of the hideous deity was also finally turning the same color as the rest of the ancient cauldron’s body. The entire cauldron now looked as if it had changed completely. It was no longer primitive looking. Instead, after absorbing the huge volume of spiritual energy, the strange power inside this cauldron now seemed to be stimulated.

The cauldron hovered in the air, looking down on everything, as if everything below it was prostrating before it. And in the huge space surrounding the cauldron were the indistinct sounds of thunder and lightning. Resonating with it, the strange light around the cauldron pulsed, as if a human was breathing. It was extremely odd.

An invisible force seemed to be in this vast space, quietly incubating, somewhat like a God which had been asleep for thousands and thousands of years and was about to awaken.

That strange and turbulent force, like a wild wave, raged above the blood pool, wildly slamming against the surrounding rock walls. Watching the strange scene, Ghost King and Mr Ghost stood side by side and did not speak. But clearly there was not a trace of fear or withdrawal from either of them.

After a long time Ghost King laughed out deeply, and said, “It is indeed amazing. The forty-nine days have not yet completed, the Four Divinities Blood Formation have not yet formed, and it already has such power!”

Mr Ghost did not respond immediately. After a moment he said, “Sect head, the strange quake several days ago was indeed caused by this Four Divinities Blood Formation. I failed to protect the formation. Sect head, please punish me.”

Ghost King waved his hand and did not look at Mr Ghost as he  stepped  up,  his  eyes  still  on  the  cauldron.  “It’s  a  small matter, you don’t have to mention it. This formation’s might is too strong, even I did not expect that. It was unavoidable that you made the mistake.”

Mr Ghost hesitated for a moment, and said, “Many thanks for sect head’s magnanimity, it’s just that…” Ghost King turned and asked, “What is it?”

Mr Ghost’s eyes met the Ghost King and was shocked in his heart. He felt the Ghost King’s eyes were unusually piercing. Even with his current level of skills, he felt he was unable to look at him. A few thoughts flashed through his mind but fortunately he had the black veil, so others were unable to interpret his expression. At least his tone was still calm as he said, “As what sect head mentioned, this Four Divinities Blood Formation’s power is extremely strong, and as the formation approaches completion, the spiritual power will only become stronger. Although I have already laid down eighteen prohibiting spells around the pool but honestly, I am not confident myself, especially on the last day when the formation will be completed when it will definitely be earth-shaking, whether or not these prohibiting spells will work. I can’t tell and am only afraid that if we are unprepared at that time, some of the sect disciples outside might be implicated.”

Ghost King sneered, and said, “So then what?”

Mr Ghost held his breath for a moment, looked at Ghost King, and after a moment said, “I am only reminding sect head. If there is a need, you might want to dispatch those lowly-skilled disciples out of the mountain.”

Ghost King’s eyes flashed with a stern glint. He humphed and said, “No need.”

Mr Ghost did not speak.

Ghost King coldly said, “This Heaven and Earth formation gathers the essence of the four spiritual beasts and is nourished by blood. It has the vicious energy of the blood, so that it can open Asura door. Even if there are a few that will be sacrificed, it is not anything serious.”

Mr Ghost nodded his head and said, “Yes, I understand.”

Ghost King laughed [ha ha], his demeanour arrogant. He turned around and inhaled deeply, his eyes again on the cauldron. Staring at the ever-changing cauldron, his eyes started to look intoxicated. And behind him Mr Ghost’s eyes looked as if he was contemplating something. But what his eyes contained was definitely not fanaticism. Instead they expressed cold calm and clarity.

Qing Yun Hill, Long Shou Valley.

Among Qing Yun’s seven branches Long Shou Valley was second only to the lofty Tong Tian Peak. It was tall and steep, towering high in the air. The night the sky was dark and the wind strong. At the back of Long Shou Valley, in a certain secluded forest, a small winding path stretched ahead, meandering through the forest.

Chilly wind blew over. Two figures, one tall and one short, descended from the sky, landing on this small path; it was Taoist Cang Song and Jin Pinger.

****

This place was far from the mountain before them where the disciples resided in the temple building. Rarely would anyone come here and especially this late at night there was no sound of other humans. Taoist Cang Song’s eyes were cold as he glanced at the surroundings. He again looked up at the sky and suddenly snorted.

Jin  Pinger  looked  at  him  with  interest,  and  said,  “Why, priest, do you look like you are extremely infuriated?”

Taoist Cang Song coldly replied, “The disciples are getting more and more useless. What a waste of my effort in the past.”

Jin Pinger looked at him curiously and asked, “What is it?”

Taoist Cang Song snorted. Walking along the small path he coldly replied, “This is an important place, where the Heaven seal is. Although it looks almost the same as other places but the ancestors of every generation have instructed that each branch disciples must guard it with vigilance. Looking at the time it is only between nine and eleven pm, and yet there is already nobody around. They are really a bunch of good-for- nothings!” Jin  Pinger  smiled  and  said,  “Isn’t  it  better  for  us  to accomplish our task? You should be happy.”

Taoist Cang Song again snorted but his face clearly did not show any signs of delight. Instead he was in an extremely ugly mood as he strided ahead.

Jin Pinger followed behind, laughing as she said, “Actually you can’t really blame those Qing Yun sect disciples. From what I know, in a thousand years there weren’t many times when the Qing Yun sect opened the seven mountain ranges Heaven seals, and it was only recently in the demon beast catastrophe, because the beast deity was really too powerful, they had no choice but to open it once. If it was anyone else, with such a long time being unused, and in addition having elders like you are so tight-lipped about such stuff, ordinary disciples would only think it is a common restricted area. For them to be lazy a few times is even expected.”

Her smile alluring, she said to Taoist Cang Song, “Furthermore,  you  have  been  leading  the  way,  and  I  have heard that for the past several decades in Qing Yun Hill, all the trivial and important matters related to defence were decided by you. For those patrolling disciples to be unable to discover us, you can’t really blame, can you?”

Taoist Cang Song was still in a foul mood. To him, every grass and tree on Qing Yun Hill was different from another place. Not so long ago he was the master of this valley.

The thing that had happened in the path, were they really correct?

Taoist Cang Song suddenly shook his head, as if wanted to fling away some thoughts. As he strode ahead, Jin Pinger looked at his back. She seemed to more or less understand his feelings, it’s just that she was obviously not a kind or good person. Her eyes revealed her gloating, her lips were slightly curving up, enhancing her beautiful face. Her steps seemed to be light, following behind Taoist Cang Song, walking deep into the rear mountain of Long Shou Valley.

The path was indeed long, winding around for a long distance. The end was still not in sight, and as the path went in deeper the wild grass beside the path increased, gradually covering the path. Evidently no one had walked here for a long time.

As the path became more and more overgrown with wild grass, Taoist Cang Song’s expression grew uglier, looking almost livid. Jin Pinger did not speak to him, only followed behind. Watching the back of his tall figure, she suddenly felt this man might not just be a betrayer of the Good Faction.

But even though it was so, who would care? If the Taoist Cang Song of today were to be discovered by his former sect, most likely it would be a battle of life and death. Yet only ten years ago he was the figure with the most authority in this, the world’s number one sect. Who would have thought this could happen?

The ups and downs of life, the many twists and turns. Not knowing in the unseen mystical world, whether it was humans that determine it or the heavens that decided. Was that why there was a saying that the heavens are playing with humans?

As Jin Pinger walked she couldn’t help but think about Xiao Huan, that young lady who had a predestined relationship with her. Looking at her young age she seemed to be entangled by love! Thinking about Xiao Huan her expression relaxed, revealing some degrees of warmth. Maybe that lady was the only person she could open her heart to.

Or maybe in the future, if there was a chance, it would be nice to roam the world with Xiao Huan!

Jin Pinger’s lips slowly revealed a faint smile but this smile quickly faded, and she stopped. Taoist Cang Song who was before her also stopped and let out a long sigh. His sigh seemed to be mixed with strange emotions. He slowly said, “This is it, the location of Qing Yun Hill Long Shou Valley Heaven seal.”

The path under their feet finally reached an end, Jin Pinger walked up and was stunned. Her face revealed a trace of bewilderment. She turned and looked at Taoist Cang Song, and said, “What, this is the Heaven seal?”

Taoist Cang Song was expressionless, only indifferently nodded. Displayed before them, was no dazzling celestial divine weapon. It also was not a dignified majestic temple building. Before coming here, Jin Pinger had thought about it many times but no matter what she could not have imagined the legendary Heaven seal would be like this.

Before her, was an ordinary earth pit.

If one were to say there was any difference, it would be that this earth pit was bigger and deeper than other pits, a big earth pit. But looking at the wild vegetation in the earth pit, the collapsed soil, no matter how one looked, it was just only an ordinary earth pit. How would it look like it was connected to the famous Zhu Xian sword formation?

Jin Pinger for the moment still found it hard to accept but Taoist Cang Song had already jumped down. He stood in the pit and beckoned Jin Pinger to come down. Jin Pinger sighed and also leapt down.

When Jin Pinger landed in the pit, she smelled a thick fragrance that only the earth had. She looked up and realized that although the pit was rather deep, looking from the top it did not look that way, it was only when she was inside she realized that it was actually about the depth of one and a half persons.

The soil in the pit was not as firm as the path. It was rather soft, but fortunately there had been no rain for the past few days, so the soil was still dry, although bumps and potholes were unavoidable.

Jin Pinger followed Taoist Cang Song, walking deeper into the pit. The topology here tilted inwards. As they walked in, the surrounding trees and the distant valleys seemed to grow bigger and themselves smaller.

Those strange thoughts played out in Jin Pinger’s mind, making her uncomfortable. But although the pit was rather big, it was not limitless. Soon Taoist Cang Song stopped, Jin Pinger also.

Right now they were in the middle of the pit. A few piles of mud were stacked together, forming a small mound. On top of it a round, three-chi-long and one-chi-wide wooden stick was inserted at an angle. Taoist Cang Song quietly looked at the weather-beaten round stick, and did not speak. A strange glint was in his eyes. In the next moment, without speaking he was about to step forward but at that moment Jin Pinger suddenly called out, “Priest, please wait.”

Taoist Cang Song turned and looked at Jin Pinger, and said, “What is it?”

Jin Pinger said, “Please let me look around.”

Taoist Cang Song was surprised, but did not speak. Jin Pinger instead looked up, and slowly turned around. Right now this was the highest point of Long Shou Valley but the dangerously high area of Long Shou Valley was jutting out towards the sky. There were many places higher than here, not only this place.

Jin Pinger stood in the middle and looked at the high summits toward the east, west and north directions. Looking at them from within this pit, those summits looked slightly tilted, like three fingers about to close in and this spot was right in the middle. Right now the night was dark, the firmament like ink. Jin Pinger looked for a while and felt dizzy, feeling like the sky was about to drop on her.

But she was, after all, not an ordinary person. She looked away and composed herself. Following this her gaze swept past the pit. Her body suddenly drifted up as if it were being supported by the gentle wind, landed on that round, three chi long beam, and then looked around again.

Taoist Cang Song frowned but his eyes contained some admiration.

After a moment, Jin Pinger let out a sigh, clapped her hands and said, “Good thinking, good foresight. Whichever ancestor of your Qing Yun sect found this spiritual spot, it was really unique divine sight. The spiritual energy of the mountain summit all gathers here. And with the three summits together, it does not spill out; but what’s even more impressive is this mysterious thousand-year old piece of wood. It looks blunt but it is inserted right into the weakest spot of this spiritual energy channel pit, as if hitting the fatal point of a snake. With the mysterious wood’s dry and heavy energy, it suppresses the bountiful spiritual energy of this mountain. It is really impressive, really impressive!” She clapped and praised but they were all sincere words. As Taoist Cang Song looked at her his expression subconsciously eased. The next moment he indifferently said, “Observing the energies of the mountain and unearthing this pit was done by our Qing Yun sect founder and teacher, Qing Yunzi. As for laying down this prohibiting mysterious wood, there is no record. Some say it was the founder Qing Yunzi, others say it was founder Qing Ye who founded the Zhu Xian formation.”

Jin Pinger nodded and said, “Actually I did not have any good impression of Qing Yun sect but today I realized that your sect’s ancestors were all talented and outstanding people. I am far from it, it looks like they really deserved their reputation.”

Taoist Cang Song snorted, his face revealing a proud look as he said, “Qing Yun sect has existed for several thousand years, how can it be compared to other meagre and small sects? As for our Qing Yun’s generations of ancestors, naturally they would even be…”

Speaking halfway, his voice suddenly became quieter and at the end, hoarse and inaudible. Jin Pinger quietly leapt down from the stick. Somehow, subconsciously, she too felt sad. She did not wish to look at Taoist Cang Song now. This person who was so deeply proud of Qing Yun, was he the first perpetrator who betrayed Qing Yun?

To such a person, how could it simply be a matter of distinguishing ‘Good vs Evil’?

In the pit, all was silent. Looking from behind, Taoist Cang Song’s figure was upright and straight, still tall and broad. However his expression seemed to conceal something obscure within the stillness and shadows.

After a long time, Taoist Cang Song slowly spoke in a deep voice, “We have delayed for quite a long time. Let’s start.”

Jin Pinger nodded and said, “Please say what we must do.”

The mountain breeze gently blew, the surrounding dense group of trees swayed in the wind. The night sky hovered low, and incessant noises could be heard from within the deep earth pit. After a while they suddenly ceased and then after a deep, muffled groan, something was flew out from the pit, landing heavily on the small path beside it. Under the faint starlight what could be seen was that piece of one thousand-year old mysterious wood!

And after a while, the sound of rustling clothes could be heard. Jin Pinger and Taoist Cang Song leapt up together. Even with their skills they looked rather exhausted. Evidently, to change this spiritual energy channel pit was not that easy.

As Jin Pinger’s breathing calmed down, she frowned and asked Taoist Cang Song, “Since we are here to destroy the Heaven seal, in the event that something happens in the future, Qing Yun sect will not be able to use the seven mountains spiritual energy to assist Zhu Xian sword formation. Why couldn’t we just pull out the thousand-year old mysterious wood and instead had to forcefully change the place where the energy channels converged? Aren’t we doing something unnecessary?”

Taoist Cang Song shook his head as he replied, “This Qing Yun Hill is a propitious place on earth, bountifully full of spiritual energy. It is also because of this that founder Qing Yunzi valued this place. Just pulling out the wood will only cause the spiritual energy to leak out but the spiritual energy in the earth is already abundant in the first place. Second there are three summits gathered here making it even harder for the spiritual energy to leak out. Only by changing the place where the energies converge, moving it away from this tight, Heaven- made, formation of three summits, can we make use of the high altitude and strong winds to slowly disperse it. In the future, if someone wields the Zhu Xian formation, although the spiritual energy of Long Shou Valley will remain so abundant but because it will have been scattered around the mountain and no longer accumulated in one place, that person will not be able to do anything about it.”

Jin Pinger then comprehended, and nodded in agreement. Then she asked, “Now that Long Shou Valley Heaven seal has been destroyed, what about the other six?”

Taoist Cang Song was silent for a moment, then shook his head and said, “We can only destroy at most Sunset Valley, Return of the Wind Valley and Morning Sun Valley heaven seals. As for Tong Tian Peak, Big Bamboo Valley and Small Bamboo Valley, I’m afraid we can do nothing.”

Jin Pinger curiously asked, “What is that so?” Taoist Cang Song indifferently replied, “Tong Tian Peak is Qing Yun’s main branch. Not only will the security will be the tightest, that spiritual energy is also not a trivial matter. When Zhu Xian sword formation is activated, Tong Tian Peak’s spiritual energy has always been the main source and is only assisted by the other six mountains. As the saying goes, if you pull a hair you move the entire body, with any slight change that senior brother of mine, Daoxuan, especially with his profound skills, will know and therefore we cannot touch it.”

He paused and said, “I know of the seal locations in Sunset Valley, Return of the Wind Valley and Morning Sun Valley, and I guess it will not be too difficult. But for Big Bamboo Valley and Small Bamboo Valley, I do not know where the heaven seal locations are.”

Jin Pinger asked again, “Why is that?”

Taoist Cang Song was quiet for a moment, then said, “Small Bamboo Valley has only ever admitted female disciples. It is heavily guarded and the branch leader Master Shuiyue is also an odd character. She will not allow unrelated personnel in, not to mention such an important thing as the heaven seal; as for Big Bamboo Valley, I have never got along well with Tian Buyi and Suru. Tian Buyi is also a prideful person. He doesn’t have many disciples and isn’t outstanding, yet conceals and hides the location, absolutely not letting anyone know where it is.”

Jin Pinger couldn’t help but find it funny but soon frowned and said, “Then if we only destroy four, won’t it be too little?”

Taoist Cang Song shook his head and said, “Not so. From what I know, as long as more than half of the seven energies are affected, the heaven seal prohibiting spells will not work. Because Tong Tian Peak’s energy, the main source, is too strong, and even has malevolent intention, it requires the other six energies to come in to balance it. If only one or two are missing it will still be alright but if four energies were missing at the same time, most likely it would be a question of whether they can wield the Zhu Xian sword formation at all.”

Jin Pinger assessed Taoist Cang Song from top to bottom and suddenly laughed as she said, “Priest you are really farsighted and insightful. Most likely these matters were not just in your mind for a day or two!” Taoist Cang Song’s face turned stern as he looked at Jin Pinger, but she was still smiling, without the slightest intention to look away. After a moment Taoist Cang Song instead looked away. Without speaking, he turned and left the pit.

Jin Pinger looked away. Seeing that the mysterious wood lying quietly beside the path, she smiled and kicked the wood into the grasses, and then followed after Taoist Cang Song.

Behind her, that mysterious enigmatic earth pit, just looked like an ordinary-looking earth pit as usual.

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