My Junior Still Hasn’t Killed Me Chapter 1-10

Chapter 1: Transmigration Caused by Slacking

The current cultivation world was divided into five cultivation practices– Daoism, demonic, Buddhism, spiritual arts[1] , and martial arts. The most influential among them was the cultivation practice passed down by Patriarch Lü, Daoist cultivation, which boasted a multitude of sects and disciples all over the world. Only Mount Jade Dwelling and Green Summit were the most famous out of all the sects.

{1. mythical creatures such as spirits practice this cultivation.}

Situated southwest of the Great Wilderness, Green Summit had numerous breath-taking mountains and captivating, high mountaintops. It was founded seven hundred years ago and had four of its sect members ascended, making countless cultivators vying to get there. There were more than three thousand Green Summit disciples, with chief disciples at the top of the hierarchy, followed by Rank One, Two, Three, and Four disciples respectively. All of them were either studying under the sect leader or the three sect elders and trained in various Green Summit's mountains.

Resting on his bed, Zhong Yan recited the plot of the novel in his heart before letting out a frustrated sigh. The nearby Qing You rushed to the bedside as soon as he heard that, "What's the matter, Senior Qin?"

Cultivators sure have sharp ears. Zhong Yan forced a smile in an instant, "Nothing. My wounds just sting a bit."

Qing You sighed as well, "Senior Qin, your injuries are too serious, my heart almost stopped when I came over to treat you just now. You surviving is already a blessing from Patriarch Lü. Please bear with it, Senior Brother. I'm heading out to boil more medicine for you."

Zhong Yan wished he could just tell him, your Senior Qin didn't survive. If he's fast, he probably has already drunk Old Lady Meng's Soup.[2]  However, the moment that thought crossed his mind, an androgynous robotic voice rang out. [Warning; please do not reveal your identity, host.]

{2. In Chinese mythology, all dead souls have to drink this soup to erase their memories before heading to their next life.}

Great, now even his brain was throbbing in pain together with his wounds. Yet again, Zhong Yan lay onto his bed in indignance as he looked on wordlessly at the departing Qing You

Yesterday night, Zhong Yan was still a second-year university student at the end of the term preparing for the end-of-year linear algebra test. While his roommate was pulling an all-nighter revising in the midst of tears, Zhong Yan consoled himself in his heart, how can I study well if I'm not relaxed? With a piece of mind, he clicked on a web novel.

It was a standard wish fulfillment web novel. The main character was from a wealthy family, had perfect looks and personality, and showered with luck. Since young, he believed he should be the savior of civilians. On the other hand, the villain was a nefarious, cold-blooded murderer who wished to take revenge on humanity. Both of them leveled up by defeating monsters and training, before having a final battle at Forbidden Apex. In the end, the evil lost to the good; the villain was killed tragically by the main character. The novel ended right on the night before Zhong Yan's test.

Anguished wailings and enraged barking started flooding into the comment section. All comments had 'Killing the villain off? Over my dead body!' or similar complaints. As it was human nature to have a herd mentality, such comments blanketed the comment section. Some even began writing fanfictions of the villain's second life, which garnered numerous likes. Some fans of the main character started criticizing the fans of the villain of having screwed up ethics, causing a bloodied flame war to break out. Amidst them were a huge bunch of main character and villain shippers who cuddled with one another while trembling tearfully.

It was no wonder the readers got so emotional. After all, the villain was too pitiful. He was born into a family of cultivators. As his parents refused to cooperate with despicable cultivators, the villain's clan was eliminated when he was seven. He only survived because a loyal servant escaped with him, but unfortunately, the servant died right after their successful escape. The villain lived a poverty-stricken life until he was twelve. Due to his exceptional aptitude, the third sect elder of Green Summit picked him out when they met, brought him back, and took him in as a disciple.

Immensely grateful to his Master, the villain worked hard in his training. In just seven years, he had formed a golden core and was promoted to a chief disciple. However, at that time, he inadvertently discovered that his benefactor was actually one of the culprits involved in his clan's murder. Furthermore, as his Master couldn't ascend even after years of training, he had switched to the path of demonic cultivation. His Master only brought him back just so he could kill him for his cultivation base after he formed a golden core.

In a fit of rage, the villain killed his Master. From then on, he walked the path of evil as he searched for every single culprit of his clan's murder to take revenge. During that point of time, not only did he suffer betrayal from his friends in the sect, the girl he loved died tragically due to him. In the end, he became utterly evil, turning his hatred from his enemies to the entire world. He brought disasters to the masses and so, various moral sects sent a punitive expedition against him. The novel concluded with him dying in the hands of the main character.

[Gu XuanYan had no idea exactly how many injuries he sustained, but the blood kept seeping out from his clothes. The blood-stained snowy ground made it an even ghastlier sight. Due to his broken golden core and ruined cultivation base, his mouth was filled with a metallic taste. He knew he was on the verge of death, yet he had no care about it. Lifting his head to the sword-wielding masses, he sneered, "It's merely another round through the cycle of reincarnation; another round of centuries-long training." After using his final bit of strength to utter his last words, he collapsed into the snow.]

...

It was just too devastatingly heartbreaking, wasn't it?! The author had emphasized early on that the novel was centered around the good, with the moral faction as the main character and the villain was just a side character. Nevertheless, Zhong Yan felt the villain's characterization eclipsed the main character sometimes. He couldn't help himself from commenting. [If there is someone who treated Gu XuanYan wholeheartedly, he wouldn't have been driven into a corner and ended up in such a state. Esteemed Author, are you seriously not considering to write an extra to save him? T_T]

Perhaps it was his retribution for not revising or for shamelessly acting cute even though he was an adult guy. When he woke up, he realized he had transmigrated into the novel and became a character named Qin MingXi. Moreover, a robotic voice was in his mind, dragging out every word. [System: 111. Host: Zhong Yan. Mission: Prevent the target from continuing his murdering, change the trajectory of his life, and assist the target in ascending. Current points host possesses: 100.]

Disoriented by the series of unforeseen events, Zhong Yan accepted the mission with a muddled head. After straightening out the plot again, he attempted to communicate with the system. [Why did I transmigrate?]

The system sighed at the question. [Gu XuanYan's fate was actually firmly established—turning his back on the good which resulted in his body perishing. But who'd have thought the grudge you readers had was so strong that it affected the development of this world. There is no choice but to alter the villain's fate.]

Zhong Yan asked. [...So what does that have to do with me? I'm just a weak, pitiful, and helpless university student.]

The system answered with a snail-like pace. [Fate is originally set by the heavens, so a new turning point is needed to alter it. Coincidentally, you commented that the ending would be different if someone treated him wholeheartedly. So, the organization decided to make you that turning point.]

Serves you right for commenting nonsense without thinking, serves you right for reading web novels instead of revising.

Zhong Yan was speechless for a moment. All of a sudden, Qing You, who just went out to boil medicine, entered the room again with a panicked look, "Senior Qin, Sect Leader, and the Sect Elders are here!"

Green Summit Sect consisted of three Sect elders and a Sect leader. It had severely strict rules. Disciples must train in the mountain their masters were in charge of. The Sect Leader and elders rarely met, let alone their respective disciples. However, Sect Leader, Li XunJi, together with two Sect elders and all of the fifteen chief disciples assembled in the bamboo house normal disciples rested in today. That was only because Green Summit's third Sect elder was murdered and Qin MingXi was the only witness of the incident. Zhong Yan had a slight suspicion the system was messing with him by sending him to this part of the plot.

Cladded in a white Daoist robe, the imposing Green Summit's Sect Leader, Li XunJi, sat by the bedside. Both his hair and beard were pale white. As he looked at the person in bed, he questioned in a deep voice, "Did you have a clear view of the hoodlum that killed YunJi?"

Zhong Yan knew he had transmigrated to the time when the villain killed his first victim, starting his path of evil. Nonetheless, he had no idea what character he was playing and didn't know if he should tell the truth. After all, he couldn't find a character inside the novel with the name Qin MingXi in his memory. Seeing the disciple in front of him was silent, the Sect Leader knitted his brows and repeated his question. Zhong Yan had no choice but to drag himself back to reality and deal with the matter at hand.

He stammered, looking helpless and timid, "Sect Leader, just... when this disciple entered to deliver tea and noticed Third Sect Elder collapsed in a pool of blood, someone ambushed this disciple from behind... This disciple fainted even before getting a clearer look."

Upon hearing that, everyone's expression had a subtle change. Some were fearful of the assassin's high cultivation powers, while some displayed their disdain covertly. They began discussing how mediocre Senior Qin's aptitude was. During the twelve years in the sect, the only thing that grew was his age; his cultivation base stayed the same. Apart from training, he could only do menial chores like serving tea every day. However, the incident displayed how weak he was. He couldn't even parry one blow from the culprit, let alone having a close look.

Light snickers filled the room right away. With a scowl revealed on his face, the Sect Leader, at the bedside, was just about to speak when a voice rang out. "Since the assassin came prepared and the sudden realization of Master's death was so shocking, it is normal for Senior Qin to be momentarily unguarded. With how severe his wounds are, it is fortunate that Senior Brother survived. It's best for him to focus on recuperating before recollecting the incident. He will be able to remember some details in due course."

The voice was cool and collected. Zhong Yan raised his head to take a look, only to see a young man who was around twenty years old. His attire was light green, matching the green cloth he used as a hair tie. His stature was as tall and straight as bamboo, his features as attractive as jade, his eyes having a refreshing, boyish look. Noticing Zhong Yan looking at him, the young man lifted the corners of his lips slightly, appearing gentle and respectful.

He was the villain, Gu XuanYan. With such an honorable air around him, there was no way anyone would have guessed how murderous he would be in the future. However, this was expected; not a single soul in the original story suspected him at all until the conclusion. He only revealed himself at the end because he fell into a trap, which cornered him at a cliff. After all, Gu XuanYan's identity was a Green Summit chief disciple and one of the leaders in the expedition against the head of demonic cultivation; everyone listened to his orders obediently. Besides, he would never let anyone survive his killings...

Right when that thought was on Zhong Yan's mind, the system spoke in a faint voice. [But there is a survivor now though.]

Zhong Yan went speechless. Fuck you.

The Sect Leader sighed as he heard Gu XuanYan's reply, "In that case, everyone is dismissed. Let's continue this when your Senior Qin recuperates. Security must be tightened in every mountain in this period of time." After a pause, he gritted his teeth, "Not only did that bastard murder your Third Sect Elder, they broke his golden core too. The Green Summit vows to avenge him!"

Zhong Yan stole a swift glance at Gu XuanYan. He looked as unruffled as ever and even helped the Sect Leader up before giving a gentle reminder to take good care of his body. Zhong Yan found it a pity. He was just born in the wrong era. If you were living in modern times, with your good looks and superb acting, your house would be filled with awards in no time. You will never turn into a villain.

When everyone else headed off, Qing You went up to Zhong Yan to assure him, "Senior, there is no rush. You will remember given time."

Zhong Yan complained internally. Bro, I did remember what happened, but I don't have the guts to spill it out. As he looked at the innocent expression on Qing You's face, the melancholy enshrouding him dissipated, reduced to a simple sentence, "The medicine might be drying up."

Qing You scampered out the door while Zhong Yan rested on the bed again.

[Sure, I can help him with ascension, but at least drop me onto a better point in time. Either when he was still a young, honest boy, so I could save his family and prevent him from turning evil, or when he just realized his Master was his enemy, so I can bring him away. He has already stepped onto the path of evil, how the hell can I save him now?!]

After a rare pause from the system, it replied a little awkwardly. [We aren't all that stable too, the exact period you got dropped off couldn't be determined... Look on the bright side; he only just began to turn evil. If you try your best, you can still lead him back to the right path.]

The transmigration system has bugs like this too? Zhong Yan's vision darkened for a bit. He could only comfort himself that at least he didn't arrive at the end of the novel. The villain probably wouldn't even give a hoot if he ended himself off right there and then.

Zhong Yan asked again. [Just now, you kept warning me not to reveal my identity, scaring me from saying anything more. What personality does my character have? What's his relationship with the vill—with Gu XuanYan?]

The system pulled out its documents. [Qin MingXi, a member of the Sect ever since he was ten, a disciple of Third Sect Elder. Possesses mediocre aptitude, in Elementary Essence Condensation stage, a Rank three disciple. Timid, wimpy, and rarely speaks. As his powers are weak, he will help out in daily menial tasks. He happened to be the one serving tea the night of the incident. As for relationship... the target has never paid any attention to you.]

Zhong Yan tried his best to recollect the novel plot once he heard the details. However, after spending some time scouring his memories for every single character, he admitted defeat. [Why don't I even remember the novel mentioning this character? Is this a new character you guys created?]

[He had been mentioned though.] The system defended itself. [Let me recite it for you—Once Gu XuanYan got an answer about the process of his clan's murder, he killed Li YunJi on the spot and destroyed his golden core. As he was about to leave, he chanced upon a disciple who entered the room to serve tea. In for a penny, in for a pound, Gu XuanYan killed him off too.]

A disciple... a disciple... a disciple...

Zhong Yan seriously had an urge to wail at that moment. In the end, not only was he a side character, he was a background character without even a name; he was only referenced as 'a disciple'! It was futile using such an identity to attempt saving the villain; the villain didn't even know who the heck that character was!

The system consoled him, [That's not true; he definitely remembers you now.]

Oh, right. I'm the sole survivor of his murder. Sorrow overwhelmed Zhong Yan as he gnashed his teeth, [I finally get it.]

The system asked at once, [Get what?]

[You must never slack and read novels before a test; Karma will bite you in the ass!]

Chapter 2: Forced to Go With Gu XuanYan

Daoist cultivators had to undergo seven stages, namely Foundation Establishment, Qi Refinement, Essence Condensation, Leaving Aperture, Golden Core, Lesser Vehicle, and Great Vehicle before they could ascend. After twelve years of training, Qin MingXi was still in the Elementary Essence Condensation stage; his aptitude was too mediocre. Due to his pale complexion and almond-shaped eyes, even though he was already twenty-two, he looked much younger than his age. Moreover, with how wimpy and cowardly he was, it was no wonder his fellow sect members constantly bullied him.

Zhong Yan sat at the table, staring at the bowl of medicine, which was so reflective one could see their silhouette in it. After a long while, he sighed. In the end, the system couldn't help but ask. [You have sighed seven to eight times ever since this morning; what in the world is on your mind?]

Zhong Yan mumbled, [I definitely flunk my linear algebra test...]

The system replied. [You got here around a month ago... and yet this is the thing on your mind? It's alright since you're already dead.]

Zhong Yan's face was empty of expression. [The test results are out today, you know?" After which, he started fretting, "I can't even get a good night's rest. I'm so scared Gu XuanYan will appear by my bed one night and stab me.]

The system had no choice but to reassure him. [Right now, Green Summit has upped their defense; no matter what time of day, disciples are patrolling around. Besides, only the Sect Leader, Sect Elders, and their chief disciples knew you were a witness. He will easily expose himself if he tries to silence you now; Gu XuanYan isn't that dumb.]

Finding the system's reassurance logical, Zhong Yan let out a sigh of relief at once and chugged the bowl of medicine. Before he finished drinking, he heard a voice behind him, "Senior Qin, are you drinking your medicine?

"Cough! Cough! Cough!" Zhong Yan's choking almost strangled away his life and painted his face red. When he turned around, he saw a slightly frowning Gu XuanYan hurrying over to him and patted him on the back while blaming himself, "Since Senior Brother had the door open, I came in. This is all my fault."

A suspicion that Gu XuanYan did it on purpose grew in Zhong Yan's heart. Zhong Yan coughed while waving his hands to show Gu XuanYan he was fine. Once he caught his breath, he asked, "Junior Gu, why are you here?"

Gu XuanYan withdrew his hand, "Hearing Senior Qin is almost recovered, Sect Leader ordered me to bring you to the discussion hall."

So I can expose you? Zhong Yan gave Gu XuanYan a short, obedient answer outwardly before following behind him.

The discussion hall was quite far from Zhong Yan's residence. Since the sect forbade sword riding[1]  on the premises, they had to get there by foot. During the long walk, worry clouded Zhong Yan's heart. He kept commenting to the system, [Hey, if I expose him, he would have to face the Sect Leader and two Sect Elders, who will definitely win a fight against him. If he is locked into a cave by them and has to train for a few years, will he be able to ascend?]

{1. Cultivators are able to travel by standing on their flying swords and riding them in the air like a surfboard}

The system was muted briefly. [Are you sure he won't become more vicious? The first thing on his to-do list after training for ten or so years will be to take revenge against you. Besides, didn't you previously say he should be guided to the right path by sincerity?]

Zhong Yan became embarrassed. [Of course, I know he must be guided to the right path. If I'm just a normal Senior Brother of his, I can still try to reform him bit by bit. With the relationship I have with him now, won't he take the chance to off me if I try to get close to him?]

Having no answers to solve Zhong Yan's problem, the system could only comfort him. [It's alright. Gu XuanYan doesn't know if you had a clear look at him that night too. Just continue faking it.]

What if he just kills me regardless if I've seen him to spare himself any more trouble? Before Zhong Yan could ask that, his head knocked straight into Gu XuanYan's back. Zhong Yan was rendered speechless. Ow! My head must have reddened from the impact!

It was probably the first time Gu XuanYan experienced such an incident; a slight smile grew on his face when he turned around, "Senior Brother, here we are."

Fully aware of how embarrassing he was, Zhong Yan entered the hall with his hand on his forehead. Only the Sect Leader and Sect Elders occupied the hall. Zhong Yan bent down, bowing to them respectfully while Gu XuanYan stood outside the hall. Just when he was about to close the doors, the Sect Leader spoke out slowly, "XuanYan, you are the disciple YunJi was most proud of. You must be distraught by his demise. Stay and listen in too."

Flabbergasted, Zhong Yan swiveled around to look at Gu XuanYan, who froze momentarily before having tears well up his eyes as he muttered, "Yes." After entering the hall, he stood to one side.

Words failed Zhong Yan. Wow, he's good.

Li XunJi let out a cough and eyed Zhong Yan, "MingXi, are you recovering well?"

Zhong Yan gave a hasty reply, "I've almost recovered."

The three elders of the sect exchanged glances before the first Sect Elder, Li WenJi, started questioning, "In that case, how much do you remember about the incident that night?"

Zhong Yan felt Gu XuanYan's line of sight falling on him too. He gritted his teeth, "It was too dark that night. This disciple was completely caught off guard and honestly couldn't have a clear look. Even after trying to jog up memories for a month, this disciple still can't recall anything to mind."

Second Sect Elder flew into a rage, his voice as loud as thunder, "Not even a glance?!"

Li XunJi stared down at Zhong Yan, his eyes deadly serious. Droplets of sweat pelted Zhong Yan's forehead as he hung his head low, not daring even to let out a word. Naturally, from Zhong Yan's reactions, everyone in the hall assumed he was scared stiff. Li XunJi withdrew his stern gaze and sighed deeply, "Can you at least identify which of the five cultivation practices the perpetrator uses?"

Although Qin MingXi's cultivation base wasn't all that good, he was in the Elementary Essence Condensation stage after all. Anyone would know he was feigning it if he didn't even know that. Zhong Yan stammered, "This dumb disciple ... thinks the perpetrator is probably... practicing demonic cultivation."

In the story, Li YunJi kept hitting a wall when he tried to break through the Golden Core stage. Short-sighted, he switched to practicing demonic cultivation. He hoped to steal Gu XuanYan's golden core and instantly rank up, but instead was killed by Gu XuanYan. Gu XuanYan only possessed a Daoist cultivation base, so when Li YunJi died, his demonic aura scattered all over and ended up masking Gu XuanYan's aura.

Not only did Zhong Yan give that answer to cover for Gu XuanYan, but also to lessen Gu XuanYan's suspicion of him. As expected, upon hearing that, the air became so tense, it could be cut with a knife. Li WenJi tossed a look at the Sect Leader and commented, "Indeed, some demonic aura is present in the room."

Knowing about the plot saved the day. After all, who would have thought Green Summit's Sect Leader would practice demonic cultivation. Moreover, although there were countless cultivators under one of the five cultivation practices, some demonic cultivators did roam around to murder and steal cultivation bases. Such a hypothesis was possible.

Zhong Yan was giving himself a pat on the back when Gu XuanYan stepped forward and reported, "A letter from Amoghavajra Buddhist Hall has arrived, stating Sage ShiYin has elevated to the lotus throne and will be heading west to welcome his ista-devata(fav deity) before next month, paying a congratulatory visit is a must." Following which, he laid his eyes on Zhong Yan, the corner of his mouth rising into a smile, "Many will be there to congratulate too; why doesn't Senior Qin accompany me? If we cross paths with the perpetrator, Senior Brother's memories of that night might return."

The Sect Leader and Sect Elders exchanged glances without a word once they heard the suggestion. Shock electrified Zhong Yan. Under the watchful eyes of the various patrolling disciples, the Sect Leader and Sect Elders, it would be dangerously risky for Gu XuanYan to strike. It was a different story if they were outside. For Gu XuanYan, killing Zhong Yan outside the Green Summit would be a piece of cake.

Once that thought crossed Zhong Yan's mind, he kneeled hastily, interjecting before the Sect Leader could reply, "This disciple with mediocre aptitude does not dare to go out and risk shaming Green Summit."

Gu XuanYan assured him, "We're just going to congratulate them. Senior Brother, you need not worry."

Sincerity was written all over Zhong Yan's face, "But Junior Brother, what if we really meet that assassin. Seeing as I'm still alive..."

Gu XuanYan cast a gaze as refreshing as a spring wind at Zhong Yan, "Senior Qin, don't worry. Despite my amateur leveled cultivation base, this Junior Brother will try my very best to protect Senior Brother."

Zhong Yan was utterly stunned by Gu XuanYan's shamelessness. Afraid Gu XuanYan's suspicion would grow if he continued refusing, he kept his mouth shut. At that moment, the Sect Leader finally spoke out, "The two of you must take extra caution during the journey."

Well, case closed; there's no point in continuing. Zhong Yan had gratitude painted all over his face as he looked at Gu XuanYan, "Since Junior Brother said so, this Senior Brother will tag along."

When they exited the discussion hall, Gu XuanYan flashed a glance at Zhong Yan before raising his hand suddenly. Zhong Yan almost jumped out of his skin and took a step back at once. As he glimpsed at Gu XuanYan's hand hanging in the air, he smiled awkwardly, "What might you be doing, Junior Brother?"

Gu XuanYan's tone was gentle, "Senior Brother, your hair has gotten messy."

Zhong Yan arranged his hair immediately, "Hahaha! Perhaps it got messy when I was bowing just then."

After nodding, Gu XuanYan lowered his hand and offered a warm smile, "Senior Qin, thank you for going to the congratulatory visit with me in half a month."

Gu XuanYan left the moment he said his piece, leaving Zhong Yan trembling as he asked the system. [Did he say he would go to the congratulatory visit with me or that he would off me just now...?]

The system was equally shaken. [I have no idea...]

No matter how reluctant Zhong Yan was, the news about him journeying with Gu XuanYan began to circulate in the sect rapidly. Since Li YunJi's death hadn't been announced yet, apart from the Sect Leader, Sect Elders, and chief disciples, the news had numerous sect members dumbfounded. Whenever disciples saw Zhong Yan strolling around at the mountain, they would whisper among themselves.

Zhong Yan paid no attention to the whispers, letting them gossip as much as they liked. However, unsatisfied with just gossiping behind his back, a disciple stopped Zhong Yan in his tracks directly, "Rumor has it that Senior Gu will take you–will take Senior Brother along his trip?"

The boy in front of him was around fifteen or sixteen years old, his eyes brimming with arrogance. The system whispered a reminder. [This is the new disciple Sect Leader just took in, Liang Yi.]

Zhong Yan let out a sigh, "Yes, it's true."

Zhong Yan's answer irritated the young boy even further, "Previously, Senior Gu did congratulatory visits alone. Why is he bringing someone along this time?" After sizing up Zhong Yan, he continued, "Even if he has to bring someone along, there are tons of bright and sharp sect members, but why did you get chosen?

The question had gone a little overboard. No matter how puny Qin MingXi's cultivation base was, he was still his Senior Brother. Zhong Yan raised his head with a smile, "I don't know either. Why doesn't Junior Liang ask Junior Gu about this?"

Having his question thrown back at him surprised the boy, freezing him on the spot. The arrangement was fixed by the Sect Leader and Gu XuanYan. He was unwilling to accept it, but he did not dare to seriously approach Gu XuanYan about it.

Zhong Yan pressed on, ignoring the shocked disciple, "Indeed, sharp-witted sect members are everywhere in the sect. Go on and ask him. With how outstanding Junior Liang is, Junior Gu might just replace me with you..."

Before Zhong Yan could finish his sentence, the system alerted him. [Gu XuanYan is here.]

Zhong Yan zipped up his mouth right away. As expected, Gu XuanYan's voice could be heard behind him, "What are Senior Brother and Junior Brother discussing?"

As Zhong Yan turned around, he saw Gu XuanYan, clad in green, standing behind him. He answered obediently, "Junior Liang got curious about the news of us heading out in a few days, so he came over to ask."

Liang Yi blurted a frantic reply, "That's right; that's right. I just wanted to ask... if there's anything you two Senior Brothers need?"

Gu XuanYan chuckled softly, "Junior Liang is still young; it's normal for him to be curious about outdoor trips." Right when Liang Yi sighed in relief, Gu XuanYan added, "Just remember to be a bit more polite to your Senior Brother in the future. Remember the sect rule, respecting your seniors?"

Although Gu XuanYan's tone was calm and collected, Liang Yi became as docile as a lamb. He lowered his head and mumbled, "Senior Gu, I'm sorry."

The apology left Zhong Yan speechless. You should be apologizing to me.

Gu XuanYan gave Liang Yi a light pat on the shoulder, "Go on."

When Liang Yi went away, Gu XuanYan turned towards Zhong Yan again. Zhong Yan quirked the corners of his mouth upwards instantly, "Thank you for the help, Junior Gu."

Gu XuanYan had a hint of a smile in his eyes, "Senior Qin has the gift of the gab; it's great to know I'm not viewed as a busybody."

Why were his ears so sharp?

While complaining about the system's late alert, Zhong Yan had an obedient look plastered on his face, "Junior Liang is the cream of the crop and is certainly much better suited in going than me. I'm seriously afraid I will shame the sect and Junior Gu too."

Zhong Yan had no idea if Gu XuanYan believed him, but Gu XuanYan curved his eyes into crescents and assured him, "Senior Brother, don't worry. You have me."

... having you around is the thing worrying me the most. Still, Zhong Yan had to act; he buttered him up at once, "I have been plagued with restless sleep recently. But remembering that Junior Brother will be by my side puts my mind at ease."

An awkward silence hung between them. even the system couldn't help quipping, [It's too much, the flattery is too excessive.]

Zhong Yan paid the system no mind and continued focusing his eager eyes on Gu XuanYan. Seemingly dumbstruck by Zhong Yan, a rare silence surrounded Gu XuanYan for a while before he replied, "XuanYan definitely would not let Senior Brother down. It is getting late; please have an early rest, Senior Brother. We will be going off tomorrow."

Zhong Yan's heart was in his mouth when he heard 'going off', but he put on a brave face, "Junior Brother, have a good night rest too."

During his walk back, Zhong Yan asked the system. [Is my flattery really too much just now?]

The system replied, straightforward and unhesitating. [Totally.]

Zhong Yan was momentarily wordless. [This is the art of speaking, you know? If my flattery made the big boss happy, he might just let me off the hook.]

The system pointed out. [The only thing I know is flatterers will always end up...]

Zhong Yan cut the sentence off. [Shut up...]

Chapter 3: Arrival at Amoghavajra Buddhist Hall

They two departed the next day. Due to Gu XuanYan's popularity in the sect, hordes of sect members gathered by the gate to send him off. A cacophony of voices surrounded Gu XuanYan as everyone flocked around him, advising him to take good care of himself and to return soon. More than happy to be in the background, Zhong Yan kept utterly silent.

Despite being encircled, Gu XuanYan didn't even have a hint of annoyance on his face. Only after bidding farewell to the crowd did he turn to face Zhong Yan, who stood as still as a statue at one side, "Senior Brother, let's go."

The famous Buddhist sect in the Great Wilderness, Amoghavajra Buddhist Hall was located in the Amoghavajra mountain at the northern sea, isolated from the rest of the world. Since it was rather far away, the two of them rode their swords. After a long while, they finally reached their destination. The monk in charge of receiving guests had already been waiting by the sea. Once he saw the two of them, he brought his hands together in prayer and chanted, "Amitabha."

Gu XuanYan returned the prayer, "We heard that Sage ShiYin has elevated in the ways of Buddhism, Green Summit's Gu XuanYan and Qin MingXi are here to congratulate him on behalf of our Sect Leader."

The monk kowtowed, "This disciple is Shan Xun. Patron Gu and Patron Qin must be tired after traveling. Please follow me into the temple to rest."

Zhong Yan and Gu XuanYan followed Shan Xun into the hall. Usually, only cultivating monks lived on the island Amoghavajra Buddhist Hall was built on. Due to the congratulation ceremony, a variety of cultivators congregated there. Gu XuanYan asked, "May I ask who else is attending the ceremony?"

After musing for a short while, Shan Xun answered, "Buddhist cultivators of GuanYun Buddhist hall, spirit cultivators of Mount FuLing, martial art cultivators of Grand City, demonic cultivators of the Northern Wilderness, Daoist cultivators of Mount Jade Dwelling and Herbal Cloud and both of you from Green Summit."

Curiosity got the better of Zhong Yan, "Wait. Spirit and demonic cultivators are here too?"

Shan Xun replied, "All cultivators are equal. If kindness is present in them, does their cultivation type matter?"

Zhong Yan's face flushed red while Gu XuanYan took the heat off him in a gentle tone, "Well said, saint. My senior brother has never met any spirit or demonic cultivators as this is the first time he has left the sect. He is just curious and meant no offense."

Zhong Yan let out a sigh of relief before expressing his gratitude to Gu XuanYan in his heart. It would be great if you remained kind all the time. However, in the next second, Gu XuanYan asked again, "May I know the cultivators who came in the name of Mount Jade Dwelling and Herbal Cloud? Being a fellow Daoist cultivator, we should visit them."

"Of course. Mount Jade Dwelling's Patron Liang Zheng and Herbal Cloud's Patron Chun Qin are here."

Zhong Yan's heart sank a little.

He had no idea who Liang Zheng was, nor did the story depict much about him, so Liang Zheng probably wasn't an important character. However, Chun Qin was the sect elder of Herbal Cloud and also one of the culprits responsible for the massacre of Gu XuanYan's clan. He was Gu XuanYan's second victim.

Gu XuanYan had forced out the names of every single perpetrator from Li YunJi before he killed him. Since he dared to kill his master in the sect, he definitely would do the same to Chun Qin if given a chance.
Once that thought crossed Zhong Yan's mind, he raised his head to take a glance at Gu XuanYan, who still wore a smile on his face while thanking the monk.

Gu XuanYan's room was right beside Zhong Yan's. The moment Zhong Yan went into his room, he threw a question to the system right away. [Gu XuanYan's revenge killing isn't considered the same as his maniacal murders further in the story, right?]

The system had a calm tone. [According to our rules, Gu XuanYan is strictly forbidden from killing, no matter who the victim is. Twenty points will be deducted whenever he kills someone. Currently, you have a hundred points. Of course, we may take reasons such as killing out of self-defense into consideration too.]
Zhong Yan got annoyed. [This is just too absurd... What if I have no points left? Does that mean I can go back?]

The system's reply was still cool and collected. [You will end up just like your test.]

Words failed Zhong Yan upon hearing that.

Noticing Zhong Yan had gone speechless, the system consoled him. [Think positive; look how timely you transmigrated. You won't get points deducted for the death of Li YunJi.]

After two rolls on the bed and a punch on the pillow, Zhong Yan finally accepted his fate. [I remember he killed Chun Qin the night before the ceremony in the story, but that was because he chanced upon him in the Buddhist Hall. There wasn't a part about him asking Shan Xun about him, so I have no idea if the story will go as planned.] Zhong Yan knitted his brows and pondered for a moment before shaking his head. [Whatever. Everything should be fine if I stop him from having any chance to find Chun Qin.]

With that idea in mind, Zhong Yan jumped down his bed and knocked on the door of the room next to his. Gu XuanYan raised a slightly quizzical brow when he saw Zhong Yan at the door, "Senior Brother, is there anything I can help you with?"
Zhong Yan grinned, "It's just too boring to stay in the room alone, so I came here to be with Junior Gu."

"Oh?" Gu XuanYan replied, "I thought Senior Qin doesn't like to be with me."

Not sure if any underlying message was hidden in Gu XuanYan's reply, Zhong Yan laughed dryly, "No way. I seriously wish to be closer with Junior Gu."

Zhong Yan somehow pleased Gu XuanYan with his answer; Gu XuanYan chuckled lightly before shifting to a side, "Please come in, Senior Brother."

Zhong Yan entered the room. Although the rooms in the Buddhist hall weren't all that small, their décor was plain and simple. Only a bed and a table and chair set were in the room; there was a partition separating the two. Zhong Yan sat at the table while Gu XuanYan poured him a cup of tea. "Amoghavajra Buddhist Hall's monk fruit tea is famously superb; please give it a try, Senior Brother."
Zhong Yan took the cup of tea and gulped it down before giving Gu XuanYan customary flattery right away, "Not bad indeed."

Gu XuanYan threw the question back at him, "Oh? How so?"

Why do I have to answer a pop quiz here too... Being a hermit who grew up drinking coke, Zhong Yan had no choice but to tough it out, "There's a little sweet aftertaste... oh, and a whiff of bamboo, too."

Upon hearing that, Gu XuanYan froze for a split second, "There isn't any bamboo in monk fruit tea." Something seemed to come to his mind as he continued with a smile, "However, as Green Summit is cold and damp, I will usually light a bit of green bamboo incense to get rid of the dampness. As time passed, my clothes started having a bit of its smell too. The bamboo smell is probably from my clothes." Following that, he asked slowly, "Hasn't Senior Brother smelled it before?"

Fucking hell... After cursing inwardly, Zhong Yan flashed a look of sudden realization, "I see." After which, he took a slightly sheepish look on Gu XuanYan, "This is the first time I noticed the smell. It sure is fragrant."

Both of their eyes locked for a moment before Gu XuanYan took his gaze away, "If Senior Brother likes it, I will send some over when we return to Green Summit. I will be paying a visit to the seniors from Mount Jade Dwelling and Herbal Cloud, Senior Brother..."

Zhong Yan set the cup down hastily, "I'll go with you!"

Mount Jade Dwelling's Liang Zheng resided in the hall opposite them. As he was also a disciple and was relatively young, he was quite shy towards them. Once Gu XuanYan told him the name of his sect, his eyes lit up at once, "So you must be Gu XuanYan." He started explaining himself, seemingly embarrassed at his actions, "I have heard about the proficient Green Summit's chief disciple, Gu XuanYan, who entered the Golden Core stage at the age of eighteen. I finally get the chance to meet you in person today."

Gu XuanYan gave a humble response, "Thank you, but it's just an over-exaggeration. Mount Jade Dwelling is famous for the countless talents it has. As expected, seeing is believing."

Zhong Yan stood by the side, as quiet as a mouse. He murmured in his heart. Wow. Cultivators are so fake too. Out of the blue, an elderly voice boomed out from one side, "What's all the ruckus?"

The three of them turned their heads in unison. The door of the room beside Liang Zheng opened as a white-bearded old man stepped out. With a look of annoyance, he roared again, "What's with the ruckus?!"

Although the trio was chitchatting, they kept their volume low; in no way were they shouting. Still, Liang Zheng bowed and greeted hurriedly, "Elder Chun."

Zhong Yan knew who the old man was right away. Sure enough, Liang Zheng introduced him to them, "This is Herbal Cloud's Elder Chun Qin. They are Green Summit's Junior Gu XuanYan and Junior Qin MingXi."

What a coincidence. Zhong Yan lamented in his heart before moving towards Gu XuanYan hastily, worried Gu XuanYan wouldn't be able to hold himself back from revenge killing right there and then.

After sweeping a glance at Zhong Yan, Gu XuanYan shifted his line of sight back to Chun Qin, "Greetings to Elder Qin, this one is Green Summit's Gu XuanYan."

Zhong Yan followed suit. Chun Qin tossed a look at the two, stopping on Zhong Yan as he started mocking, "Oh my, even a disciple with a mere Essence Condensation rank dares to disgrace the sect by going out. If you were my disciple, I would have expelled you already."

Not a single expression was on Zhong Yan's face; he just treated it as though he wasn't the one being insulted. Chun Qin's line of sight landed on Gu XuanYan next. He began frowning right away, envy flashing across his eyes. At last, he spoke after quite some time, "Good; good. In the Golden Core stage at such a young age. The young sure is to be reckoned with."

Although it was worded appropriately, he spoke it through gritted teeth, hatred almost oozing out of every word. Zhong Yan's heart zinged with unease. On the contrary, Gu XuanYan had a gentle, elegant smile on his face, as if unaware of the old man's tone, "I still have much to learn from Elder Qin."

Despite being in his sixties, Chun Qin was still stuck in the late stage of Golden Core, unable to elevate to Lesser Vehicle. Naturally, jealousy filled his heart to the brim when he saw Gu XuanYan. Fortunately, he didn't know which clan Gu XuanYan belonged to and was mindful to not fight in the Buddhist Hall. He only replied with a scoff before returning to his room with a slam of the door.

Liang Zheng seemingly sighed in relief. With a bitter smile, he consoled both of them in whispers, "Please don't take it to heart. Elder Qin has a bad temper; during the two days here, he has already offended a large majority of the cultivators. When I arrived, I paid him a visit. His attitude then was even worse. Actually, it might be due to my inability to socialize. In truth, Junior ChangYun should be the one attending, but he had something going on all of a sudden..."

Zhong Yan's heart skipped a beat instantly as he cut him off in haste, "ChangYun? You mean Ji ChangYun?"

Liang Zheng was shocked, "Indeed so. Does Junior Qin know Junior Ji?"

Not only do I know him, but I'm also super familiar with his life! He's the main character!

Apart from Gu XuanYan, the only characters Zhong Yan encountered ever since his transmigration were either minor characters or mob characters like him. There were even a series of changes inconsistent with the story. The unexpected mention of the main character finally gave Zhong Yan a feeling he was truly in the web novel's world.

Zhong Yan clutched Liang Zheng's hands, tears almost brimming from his eyes. After quite a while, he finally uttered, "Is your Junior Ji doing well?"

Liang Zheng stammered, "Not-not bad. Is Junior Qin acquainted with Junior Ji's?"

Only then did Zhong Yan notice his excessive keenness; he hurriedly withdrew his hands, "No. I heard Mount Jade Dwelling's Ji ChangYun is accomplished, so I have been admiring him."

Liang Zheng had pride all over his face once he heard Zhong Yan's praise, "No wonder. Our Junior Ji is highly talented, righteous, and is usually..."

Gu XuanYan interrupted abruptly, "Senior Brother, it's time to head back. The monks will be delivering meals soon."

Zhong Yan wanted to ask where Ji ChangYun was, but upon hearing that, he had no choice but to bid Liang Zheng farewell. When the two of them returned to their lodgings, yet again, Zhong Yan shamelessly went into Gu XuanYan's room. Instead of stopping him, Gu XuanYan simply closed the door, "Despite being in Green Summit for years, Senior Brother still knows about other sect's members."

Zhong Yan had no one but himself to blame for being overly excited. He summoned up his courage and explained, "Erm... I only heard of Ji ChangYun from the juniors. Since many praise him, he must be a pleasant person. So, I asked out of curiosity."

Gu XuanYan nodded, neither anger nor joy on his face, and asked once more, "What about me?"

"Huh?"

Gu XuanYan clarified gently, "Many often praise me too. What does Senior Brother think about me?"

You are crazy in my opinion...

Although Zhong Yan was a little disgruntled, he racked his brains for ideas, "Junior Gu has a powerful cultivation base, looks noble and dignified, and is the cream of the crop."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

Gu XuanYan's tone went as cold as ice, "Senior Brother sure has a way with words."

If I do, why do you look so irritated? Zhong Yan truly felt Gu XuanYan had a screw loose, but he still had to sweet-talk him. After thinking momentarily, he added, "Of course, Junior Gu is the best in my heart."

Once he said so, Gu XuanYan's expression eased up.

Zhong Yan was clueless about Gu XuanYan's change of emotions. The only explanation he could come up with was since Gu XuanYan was talented and intelligent, it wasn't strange for him to be prideful too. He probably disliked hearing others being praised in his presence, so his competitive spirit rose.

Tsk tsk tsk, how can a villain be this petty?

Gu XuanYan didn't know an image of him being spiteful and narrow-minded had already been etched in Zhong Yan's mind. As the sky darkened to black, Gu XuanYan lit up the lights and asked, "Is Senior Brother not planning on going back to rest?"

Instantly, Zhong Yan recited the script he prepared in his mind, "Junior Brother, there is a multitude of people staying here; what if the perpetrator is really among us? Since my cultivation base is meager, I doubt I can even cry for help if he decided on silencing me at night. Why don't I share a room with you?"

Gu XuanYan froze for a moment. Before he could reply, the system started making a fuss. [Aren't you afraid he will just stab you in the middle of the night?]

Exasperated, Zhong Yan answered internally. [Duh. But before we depart, Gu XuanYan made a promise in front of the sect elders that he will protect me well. He can't just kill me the day we arrive at the Buddhist hall, right? Besides, I think he wants Chun Qin dead more than me, so I should be able to delay my death sentence.]

The system was at a loss for words. After some time passed, it uttered. [You are so positive.]

Just as Zhong Yan was about to reply, [I'm between the devil and the deep blue sea.] Gu XuanYan accepted his suggestion, "All right then. Sorry for any inconvenience caused, Senior Brother."

Although Zhong Yan appeared to be clear-minded during his conversation with the system, fear still occupied a part of his heart. After getting on the bed, he made a cautious plea, "Junior Brother, please protect me well."

Gu XuanYan let out a light chuckle and blew the lights out. In a split second, the room descended into pure darkness. The only sound audible was Gu XuanYan's voice, his tone as cool as a cucumber, as chilly as ice, "Of course, Senior Brother."

Regret engulfed Zhong Yan the very moment. Why don't I give up on those twenty points? I think it's better for me to go back. However. Gu XuanYan had already got on the bed. He pulled the blanket, whispering, "Senior Brother, good night."

Zhong Yan had no choice but to lay down. After a while, he got a feeling Gu XuanYan had probably fallen asleep. As his restless heart finally calmed down, he couldn't help dozing off slowly.

When the respiration of Zhong Yan stabilized, Gu XuanYan opened his eyes and turned towards him.

Moonlight seeped in through the window. Zhong Yan's face looked ghastly white under the illumination. Gu XuanYan stared at the person sound asleep beside him before reaching his hands out and hooking them around Zhong Yan's neck.

With just a bit more pressure, Gu XuanYan could asphyxiate the dreaming Zhong Yan to death instantly.

Nevertheless, in the end, he only pressed his index finger gently twice on Zhong Yan's green blood vessel. Quite sometime later, he relaxed his hands.

Chapter 4: In a Quick Match

When Zhong Yan woke up the next morning and realized Gu XuanYan wasn't by his side, he hurriedly scanned the surroundings. Seeing Gu XuanYan' s indistinct silhouette behind the partition, Zhong Yan let out a sigh of relief before getting out of bed to dress.

Gu XuanYan was currently brushing his teeth and washing his face. As he noticed Zhong Yan strolling out, he poured him a cup of salted water to rinse his mouth and handed over a folded handkerchief. "Senior Brother, here. Wipe your face."

Zhong Yan wiped his face obediently while sighing emotionally to the system. [Hah... Gu XuanYan really looks like a gentleman.]

Witnessing Zhong Yan almost being strangled to death by that 'gentleman' last night, the system went speechless. Forget it; fortune favors fools.

After both of them had their breakfast, a bell rang out nearby, signaling the ceremony was about to begin.

Through talent and hard work, martial art cultivators elevated bit by bit and rose their ranks. Spiritual and demonic cultivators who walked the right path cultivated by training, while the rest advanced by murdering cultivators and stealing their cultivation bases. Although Buddhist cultivators trained regularly, advancement relied more on a moment of enlightenment. Some couldn't achieve enlightenment even after years of training but might ascend to a Buddha on the spot. After training for a hundred and twelve years, Sage ShiYin finally had a moment of enlightenment and was elevated to the lotus throne.

The ceremony was held outside LuoHan Hall. Sage ShiYin sat in the middle of the lotus throne, meditating. Meanwhile, under the lotus throne were a thousand and eighty chanting monks. Their chants were just like a large bell, solemn, dignified, and serene. All congratulatory cultivators sat down to attend the ceremony.

The ceremony lasted the whole day, so most cultivators had to stay for another night. Zhong Yan and Gu XuanYan sat next to each other as they listened to the chants. In contrast to Gu XuanYan, who appeared serious, Zhong Yan had his mind rowing off elsewhere, debating if he could still use the same excuse to share a bed with Gu XuanYan this night.

As the ceremony ended, everyone dispersed. Both of them were heading towards their lodgings when someone behind them called out, "So the one in front of me is Green Summit's Gu XuanYan?"

Although the voice wasn't loud, it brimmed with mockery. Passerbys, including Zhong Yan and Gu XuanYan, turned towards it, just to see a scrawny guy around his thirties clad in black robes with a red mark in the middle of his eyebrows. He was looking right at the two.

Gu XuanYan gave him a nod. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

The guy had a hint of a smile on his pale white face with a contrastingly bright spark in his eyes[1]  "Of course not; I dare not to. Hearing that Green Summit's Gu XuanYan is intelligent and talented despite being young, this demonic cultivator, Zhu Ping, has come forth to ask for a match with you."[2]

{1. A beight spark in the eyes is a sign of high levels of inner Qi 

2. Literal: This demonic cultivator, Zhu Ping, has come forth to ask for guidance. It usually meant asking for a match.}

Gu XuanYan let out a light chuckle. "Thank you for the praise, senior. However, it might not be convenient to do so today."

While bowing down, Zhu Ping sneered, "May I ask for the reason? Might you, perchance, be afraid?"
Zhong Yan couldn't help interrupting, "It's because there is a ceremony being held today. Are you here to congratulate or to put others in a tight spot?"

His remark had everyone in stitches. Feeling a little insulted, Zhu Ping shot a swift glance to the left.

Following his line of sight, Zhong Yan noticed Chun Qin standing far away in the crowd, as though it had nothing to do with him. Yet, he exuded an air of expectance and confidence.

An inkling that something was going on crept into Zhong Yan's mind. However, before he could work out the full picture, Zhu Ping struck him with his palm while exploding in a mix of fury and embarrassment, "I'm talking to that Gu guy. Who are you to interrupt?!"

The lightning speed of the attack caught Zhong Yan off guard. He instinctively took a few steps back, but his opponent was already in front of him. Oh shit, I'm so dead!!
At that very moment, a sword was shoved in front of Zhong Yan's chest, shielding him from Zhu Ping's palm strike! Although sheathed, the sword shook violently, its vibration even making Zhu Ping back off. Zhong Yan swiveled his head, his eyes landing on the displeased Gu XuanYan, whose voice was chilly. "If that's the case, please allow me to spar with you."[3]

{3. Literal: Please Provide guidance to me as well. It's etiquette to greet like that at the beginning of a match.}

The second Gu XuanYan ended his reply, he unsheathed his sword and charged towards Zhu Ping's Gate of Vitality![4]

{4. The area in the middle of the kidneys.}

The speed of the sword was so swift, the onlookers could only catch sight of the sword's glow. However, Zhu Ping detected a strong killing intent from the strike. Startled, he took a hasty step to the left. Gu XuanYan sneered before plunging his sword towards his opponent's neck!

The sword was enveloped with a menacing aura. At the end of his rope, Zhu Ping gnashed his teeth and launched a palm strike toward Gu XuanYan's chest, trying to drive away from him so that he could catch his breath. Surprisingly, Gu XuanYan didn't even step back. He received the blow squarely before piercing Zhu Ping's left shoulder!

With that, the match's outcome was evident.

Gu XuanYan's voice was empty of emotion as he sheathed his sword. "Forgive my imprudence."

Since Zhu Ping was the one who started the fight, he could say nothing more about his loss. Pathetically injured, he covered his wound while others helped him back to a room. Zhong Yan dashed towards Gu XuanYan, examining him from head to toe. "Are you alright?" Relief washed over Zhong Yan as he saw Gu XuanYan shaking his head, indicating he was fine. "I'll help you over to the room."
However, Gu XuanYan had other plans in mind. "Senior Brother, please wait here for a moment. I'm going to bid farewell to the host. We will be going back to Green Summit tonight."

Zhong Yan froze. "Right now?"

Gu XuanYan explained softly, "After all, the ceremony has ended. Since Senior Brother did not spot Master's murderer here, there is no need to stay. We were brought into the limelight today, so it might not be wise to stick around."

Zhong Yan went speechless. He was just too used to Gu XuanYan's phenomenal acting. Besides, the fight might have been instigated by Chun Qin. Although his goal was to stop Gu XuanYan from killing Chun Qin, he did not want Gu XuanYan to die either. Thus, he nodded. "Alright then."

The two said their goodbyes to everyone in Buddhist Hall. Zhong Yan only dropped in on Liang Zheng after being granted permission from Gu XuanYan. Lament was written all over Liang Zheng's face as he urged Zhong Yan to pay him a visit at Mount Jade Dwelling in the future. After a round of farewells, the sky had darkened. Finally, both of them rode their swords in the direction of Green Summit.

Trailing behind Gu XuanYan, Zhong Yan started a conversation with the system.

[Why did Gu XuanYan decide to leave? Does he think he's unable to strike with me constantly following him around?]

[Maybe.]

[In that case, is my goal complete?]

[Maybe.]

[I'm just a little scared at how things are going so smoothly. He won't just take his anger out on me because he can't get revenge, right?]

[May—]

A spark of fury lit up in Zhong Yan. [Does your organization accept complaints? I feel you are brushing your host off!]

Before the system could even respond, Gu XuanYan swayed out of the blue and fell from his sword!

Shock ran through Zhong Yan's body as he followed Gu XuanYan down. Fortunately, as Gu XuanYan stabilized his footing with his powers before he reached the ground, he merely stumbled for a bit. Zhong Yan rushed over to support him once he landed. "What's wrong? What's wrong?"

Gu XuanYan let out two coughs, his throat was hoarse. "Perhaps the palm strike from the match weakened my powers."

If that's so, why do you act like you're fine? Zhong Yan stammered, "W-w-what should we do then?"

After a glance at Zhong Yan, Gu XuanYan let out a low laugh. "Fear not, Senior Brother. I just need a place to rest for a moment."

The two landed in a dense forest without a single soul in sight. After surveying the surroundings, Zhong Yan had no choice but to help him over to a tree. "Rest here for a bit."

Gu XuanYan leaned on the tree, shutting his eyes with a frown and coughing out occasionally. After quite some time, he opened his eyes, his voice apologetic. "Senior Brother, I'm afraid I can't continue on."

A desolated jungle under the pitch-black night sky was a perfect place for silencing. Zhong Yan heightened his alertness immediately while asking the system. [He won't take this chance to off me, right?]

To his surprise, Gu XuanYan continued in a gentle tone, "Please go back without me, Senior Brother."

He's so thoughtful! Sorry for misunderstanding you. Zhong Yan almost wept tears of joy. Just as he was about to answer with 'I'll be taking my leave then, take care', the system advised icily, [Stay behind.]

Confusion flooded Zhong Yan's mind. [Huh? Are you in your right mind?]

The system gave a serious reply, [Trust me. If you stay, there's an eighty percent chance you will be fine. If you leave, Gu XuanYan will definitely kill you right now.]

Open to the advice, Zhong Yan changed his tune instantly, "Don't say that, Junior Brother. I won't abandon you here."

As expected, not even a hint of surprise was on Gu XuanYan's face when he heard that. Instead, he lifted the corners of his mouth, pleased, "If that is so, I'm sorry for troubling you to stay here overnight with me. Let's go back to the Sect when I'm done regulating my breath tomorrow morning."

Dealing with villains is difficult... I'm so tired.

The system let out a 'hmph'. [Are you still going to lodge a complaint?]

Knowing to yield when needed, Zhong Yan answered hurriedly. [Nope, not at all. I'll write a five-hundred-word compliment for you.]

The two took shelter behind a boulder. While Zhong Yan gathered twigs to kindle a fire, Gu XuanYan cast a barrier to ward off wild beasts. Only after that did they somewhat dozed off.pp

Just as Zhong Yan felt himself snoozing for a bit, he heard Gu XuanYan whispering into his ear, "Senior Brother, wake up."

Zhong Yan forced his eyes open, realizing that the sky had brightened. Beside him was Gu XuanYan, who shockingly had bloodstains on his clothes.

Zhong Yan sat up hurriedly, any bit of sleepiness vanishing into thin air. "What happened?"

Gu XuanYan smiled bitterly. "The palm strike is just too strong. After regulating my breath for the entire night, my condition ended up worsening, and I coughed out blood." After a pause, he continued, "I have a piece of even worse news, does Senior Brother want to know what it is?"

Zhong Yan went speechless for a moment. "How can you joke at a time like this?!"

Gu XuanYan shrugged his shoulders. "My powers are fluctuating too much and probably can't maintain the barrier much longer. Something seems to have detected the stench of blood and is tracking us down."

The second Zhong Yan was about to ask what it was, a sudden, long cry blared out nearby! Following which, the ground started trembling.

Gu XuanYan's voice was low. "Here it comes."

Author's note: If you think Junior Brother didn't strangle Zhong Yan because his heart got soft, you are too naïve~ He is still in the stage of planning's Zhong Yan's death. (Zhong Yan, "Face life with a smile")

Chapter 5: Green Bird Spirit

Just as Zhong Yan was trying to recollect if this was in the story, the quaking grew exponentially stronger, signaling the culprit was nearby. Zhong Yan finally could have a clear look at it—it was a giant ape the height of two men!

The giant ape was covered in white fur. As it lived in the forest, its fur was not only tangled, stained black, and repulsive, but also emitting a rotting corpse-like stench. At the moment, it was panting heavily, thrashing around the forest, dashing towards the two!

The rapid change of events put them in a tight spot.

Before unsheathing his sword and speeding towards the monster, Gu XuanYan hollered, "Senior Brother, step back!"

If the spectators of the match at Buddhist Hall yesterday were around, they would notice Gu XuanYan was currently multiple times faster than when he struck Zhu Ping! He was as quick as lightning, yet as obscure as a fogbow! Even Zhong Yan noticed the ferocity of the attack, which Gu XuanYan seemingly poured all of his powers in. The sword ruthlessly penetrated into the ape's abdomen.

A mournful cry bellowed out from the giant ape the moment it was pierced. It lifted its paws high up in the sky before pummelling them towards Gu XuanYan!

The strong blast of wind from the strike rustled the nearby tree branches. Zhong Yan had his heart in his mouth as he yelled, "Gu XuanYan! Hurry and back away!"

Perhaps due to Gu XuanYan draining all of his powers, even though he took a few steps back after withdrawing his sword, he was still too slow to evade the attack. The giant ape struck heavily on his shoulder!

Instantly, blood spurted out of Gu XuanYan's shoulder, who was hurled seven to eight meters away. He smashed onto the ground, puking out a large mouthful of blood. At that very moment, the giant ape dashed in his direction, its feet just about to stomp on him!

Zhong Yan unsheathed his sword and threw himself in front of Gu XuanYan. Gritting his teeth, he swung his sword towards the ape's chest, avoiding the close call! Although Qin MingXi was only at the Essence Condensation stage, Zhong Yan imbued quite a bit of his powers into the strike. Appearing swift and aggressive, the sword plunged into the giant ape's chest!

Although his attack wasn't as powerful as Gu XuanYan's, it still drew blood. After a howl, the white ape launched his hand in Zhong Yan's direction!

Due to how speedy Zhong Yan dodged, the ape's paw merely whizzed past him. Still, as mighty as a tsunami wave, the air from the slap smacked hard on his chest! Blood began seeping out of the corners of his mouth due to the sudden, sharp pain. Fortunately, the white ape took two hasty steps back as well, putting a three to four meters distance between them. Surprisingly, it didn't dare to charge at them again.
Nonetheless, both of them knew the beast merely hesitated due to the pain; the standstill was just temporary. Blood still pouring profusely from his left shoulder, Gu XuanYan urged hoarsely, "Senior Brother, make a run for it."

Yeah, I want to! But if you die, I'll kick the bucket too!

In a pickle, coupled with the excruciating chest pain, Zhong Yan disregarded how out of character he was as he turned around and shouted, "Shut up!"

Right after, he screamed in his heart, not even taking a glance at Gu XuanYan's expression. [System, what should I do?! We're going to die!]
Zhong Yan didn't expect an answer, but shockingly, the system's voice rang out in his mind, its tone was cool and collected, a stark contrast to the atmosphere. [Want some cheats, bro? One cheat for ten points, fair trade for old and young alike.]

Zhong Yan went speechless. Officially sold cheats? This novel transmigration isn't legit at all!

Nevertheless, he didn't have the luxury of time to mull over that. Charging towards the ape with his sword, he shouted internally, [Give me one!]

Wind began to rise in a split second, the sky darkening into pitch black. The nearby leaves and branches flailed around in unison. Unlike the trembling from the giant ape, the shaking was brutal; it broke countless branches straight away. The term 'branches' probably no longer fit them. As instead of landing on the ground, they were surrounded by a blue sword energy and emitted a low hum reminiscent of a sword. They chased in the direction Zhong Yan's sword pointed instantly, as though thousands of unsheathed swords!

The white ape had no way to escape. As if the sharpest weapons in the world, numerous branches pierced through each and every one of its limbs, its abdomen and chest. Blood drenched its fur in a split second. After a wail, it plunged onto its knees, falling to the ground, which quaked upon impact.
Now's his chance! Zhong Yan disregarded the excruciating chest pain as he forcibly gathered energy from the massive sword energy around him. With a leap, he appeared in front of the white ape and rammed his sword into its throat! The gargantuan ape crashed onto the ground, kicking up dirt.

Drained of energy, Zhong Yan took a look at Gu XuanYan, whose eyes were tightly shut and had seemingly fainted. The system's tone had a hint of arrogance. [Relax, I knocked him out a second before you got the cheat. He will be up soon.]

...A legit transmigration system wouldn't say something like that.

The system added, [Oh right, your points...]

Before collapsing, Zhong Yan waved his hands, [I know. Ten points, right? Just deduct it.] The system stopped the conversation.

The sword energy was too much for Zhong Yan's cultivation base. As he closed his eyes, a wave of sleepiness from the pain and exhaustion swept over him. Nonetheless, he couldn't doze off since Gu XuanYan had not woken up yet. If some random black or yellow ape came over again, the two of them would be able to enjoy each other's company while drinking Old Lady Meng's soup.[1] 

{1. AKA Both of them will die}

Thus, he forced himself up, moved Gu XuanYan under a tree before examining the wound on his shoulder. Only after noticing that it wasn't bleeding did Zhong Yan lean beside him in relief. Attempting to recover a bit more strength, he tried his best to slow down his breathing while remaining immobile. At the moment, only the whooshing sound of wind passing the forest could be heard, along with intermittent footsteps.

Footsteps...? Instantly, Zhong Yan clutched his sword, his eyes wide open. He grumbled inwardly. Did I just jinx myself?!
However, the footsteps were as light as a feather. A while later, a lady poked her head out from a tree, alarmed. "Oh my! There really are two people here!"

With his sword in hand, Zhong Yan lifted his line of sight, directing it to the lady in front of him. Her ink-black hair was fine and thin. Clad in a green, delicate dress, she had a string of turquoise wrapped around her wrist, accentuating her creamy complexion. Her dress reached right above her ankles, revealing her bare feet. A lifelike tattoo of a flying green bird was above her ankle, partially visible from the fluttering of her dress.

As though bestowed with wisdom, Zhong Yan remembered who the lady in front of him was. Knowing he would be rescued from the jaws of death, he cast his sword aside. Only when she got nearer did he start speaking, "Tong Ling, help."

Turquoise bracelet, flying bird tattoo, she must be Tong Ling, a stunning green bird spirit in the story who practiced spiritual cultivation. Also, she was the only person Gu XuanYan fell for in the story.

Tong Ling halted in her tracks, flashing a mystified look towards Zhong Yan, "You know me?"

After nodding, Zhong Yan pointed at Gu XuanYan while forcing words out of his mouth, "You must save him. He is..."

He is your future partner! However, he collapsed before he could finish his sentence.

Tong Ling swiveled around and yelled, her heart almost stopping right then, "Hurry over, you guys!"

Just as she was about to help them up, she realized the guy with his chest covered with blood had opened his eyes. That guy swept a rather emotionless glance at her. Judging from the lack of surprise in his eyes, he probably was conscious ever since he detected her footsteps. In contrast, Tong Ling was bizarrely startled by his gaze and didn't dare to approach him right then.

Gu XuanYan lowered his head, looking at Zhong Yan. Zhong Yan's eyebrows were tightly knitted, appearing restless. Dirt caked his pitiful looking face. Still, his chest rose and fell slightly. It wasn't known what was in Gu XuanYan's mind then, but a second later, he let out a sigh, "Once again, Senior Brother's incredible ability to survive amazes me."

Neither the unconscious Zhong Yan nor Tong Ling, who was a distance away from him, caught his whisper. She only noticed him lifting his head and tossing a sudden smile at her. Unlike his previous chilly gaze, his smile was as light as a spring breeze brushing over a lake. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the refreshing and gentle warmth in his smile could melt a glacier.

Following which, she heard him requesting, "Miss, might I ask you to heal my senior brother?"

It was the next morning when Zhong Yan woke up; the sun had just risen. The pain from Zhong Yan's chest had mostly dissipated. Gu XuanYan sat beside him, his injury bandaged up. Noting he was awake, Gu XuanYan lowered his head, asking softly, "Senior Brother, do you still feel unwell anywhere?"

Zhong Yan straightened himself up, moving his body slightly before shaking his head, "I'm fine."

Gu XuanYan seemingly heaved a sigh of relief. "Senior Brother almost scared the life out of me when Senior Brother shielded me just then." A hint of a smile spread across his face, "But it is surprising that Senior Brother managed to kill that monster."

Zhong Yan had already anticipated the question, replying without any hesitation, "It's a matter of life and death; I merely tried my utmost to fight."

A silence hung between them for quite a bit before Gu XuanYan answered. "Senior Brother is right. During a matter of life and death, one should naturally be a bit more ruthless."

Words failed Zhong Yan. Bro, I'm just talking out of my ass! Please don't try to kill me!

A melodious voice of a lady rang out behind them, "You're awake!" As Zhong Yan turned around, he saw Tong Ling raising the hem of her dress and skipping over to them, still babbling non-stop, "Your junior brother was so worried about you; he stayed by your side for quite some time. I've told him you would be fine. See? You did wake up. But how do you know my name?"

Zhong Yan chuckled, his tone getting mischievous. "Well, all cultivators know Tong Ling, the green bird spirit, is one of the prettiest ladies among the spiritual cultivators."

Tong Ling's eyes sparkled in delight, "Really?"

"Yes." Zhong Yan nodded. After a glance at Gu XuanYan, he tried to raise their affection points for each other. "Junior Brother, don't you think this lady looks good?"

Gu XuanYan lifted his head to take a glimpse, nodded before adding, "Senior Brother looks good too."

His remark rendered Zhong Yan speechless. Are you crazy?

Instead of getting offended, Tong Ling started giggling. The frustration Gu XuanYan oddly had after Zhong Yan praised Tong Ling disappeared once he glanced at Zhong Yan's expression. His tone was gentle. "Senior Brother, I'm sorry. We should be heading back to the Sect."

Reluctance flashed across Tong Ling's eyes, "If so, remember to come over and play when you are free. Aside from me, there are only my tribespeople and beasts that speak different languages in the mountain. It's so boring here."

Zhong Yan replied with a nod. After pondering, he inched towards Tong Ling, warning her softly, "Never go into the demonic cultivators' territory in the Northern Wilderness."

In the story, Tong Ling's life ended there. To threaten Gu XuanYan, the demonic cultivators kidnapped Tong Ling, which led to her tragic death. That was the moment Gu XuanYan turned utterly evil. Zhong Yan's reminder not only served to stop Gu XuanYan from reaching that point, but also because he didn't want to see an energetic girl like her to die tragically. Although he knew the plot was diverting after the series of changes and might not follow the original story, he still wanted to try avoiding it by reminding her.

When reading the story, Zhong Yan treated it as something fictional. Only when he personally stepped into the story did he feel every single character was real and alive.

Despite being clueless about what Zhong Yan said, surprisingly, Tong Ling was mute when she saw the grim look on his face and bobbed her head intensely. Reassured, Zhong Yan rode his sword back to Green Summit together with Gu XuanYan.

The train of events delayed their trip back by a day. Zhong Yan almost wept out of joy the moment his eyes caught the familiar dull tiles and bamboo eaves. The only thing he had in mind was to return to his bed and sleep for three whole days.

However, before they could heave a relieved sigh, someone behind them roared the second they landed, "Who goes there?!"

Both of them turned around, just to see the person in front of them unsheathing their sword. After a closer look at the two, the person sheathed their sword and hurried over, a hint of a whimper in their voice, "Senior Brother, you are finally back! The monks over at the Buddhist hall told us you had gone back a day earlier, but you are still not back after such a long time. All of us were worried sick!"

Gu XuanYan knitted his brows a little, seemingly confused. Still, he answered gently, "We chanced upon a beast during our journey back, so we took a bit of time. There's no need to worry."

"How can we not be worried?!" Urgency was evident in the person's voice, "Senior Brother, didn't you hear? Herbal Cloud's Senior Chun Qin died in the Buddhist Hall on the night of the ceremony!"

The news was like a sudden clasp of thunder, exploding in Zhong Yan's ears. He raised his head at once. "Wait, who died?"

A robotic voice rang out in his mind before he got a reply, [Host: Zhong Yan. Mission: Stop Gu XuanYan from killing Chun Qin. Mission failed. Deduction of twenty points. Usage of items, deduction of ten points. Points remaining: Seventy.]

Zhong Yan could only feel icy tendrils of fear reaching towards him from the back, chilling him to the bone. Any bit of relaxation he had just then vanished into thin air. He subconsciously turned his line of sight to Gu XuanYan, who was right beside him. Gu XuanYan seemed to have been staring at him for quite some time. Seeing him turning his head, he lifted the corners of his lips a little, revealing a light smile.

Author note:

Zhong Yan, "You must save him! He's your future partner!"

Tong Ling, "Nope, no way! This is clearly a BL story!"

Chapter 6: Disappointment

The East Sea had the best night view in the Great Wilderness. The milky white moon hung on the horizon, illuminating the surface of the sea. Waves surged under the moonlight, as though a flood dragon[1]   was churning the waters, its golden scales rising gradually along with it. The vast sea emptied the mind, reverting everything to nothingness. Nonetheless, Chun Qin was in no mood to appreciate the scenery.

{1. According to wiki: Jia Long is a dragon in Chinese mythology, often defined as a "scaled dragon"; it is hornless according to certain scholars, and said to be aquatic or river dwelling.}

In the dead of night, everyone was sound asleep. Situated in the midst of the Buddhist hall, Chun Qin fished out a black bone whistle from his pockets, placed it in his mouth and blew it towards the north. The whistle didn't emit any sound, seemingly broken. Still, instead of getting impatient, he kept the whistle and waited.

Just a moment later, a northern goshawk flew over from the north, landing steadily on his shoulder. Not only did the goshawk have a pair of blood-red eyes and razor-sharp claws, but a faint demonic aura cloaked it. Nevertheless, as if accustomed, he tied a slip of paper onto the goshawk's leg before letting out a sneer, "Let's see how long that Gu guy can live when everything is ready!" He patted the back of the goshawk, "Go."

After shaking its wings, the northern goshawk glided through the night sky, leaving promptly.

Chun Qin watched the bird disappearing into the horizon before heading back to his room. He pushed the door open and made a beeline to the bedside, his eyes sweeping a glance at the sword hanging on the wall. Presently, the hilt of the sword was facing south instead of north, where it was pointing towards originally. He whirled around in a split second and struck the door with his palm!

The doors of the Buddhist hall were made of fir wood, so no way would it be able to withstand a golden core cultivator's palm strike. However, at that very moment, his palm strike was as if it was mud being swept away by waves, not even a single ripple of power came out from it.

This was an Illusory boundary, an illusion formed from one's cultivation base. The higher the cultivator's stage, the nearer the illusory boundary got to real life. With only minute differences from reality, illusory boundaries were almost impossible to detect.

Chun Qin had entered an illusory boundary the moment he set foot into the room. Fuming with rage, he howled, "You scoundrel! Come out right now!"

Fog engulfed the room the instant he finished his sentence. Out of the blue, a long sword emerged and stabbed him right on his chest! Despite stepping back hurriedly, Chun Qin still couldn't dodge the attack. Blood flowed out of the gash instantly. When he saw Gu XuanYan walking out from the fog, his expression changed. "You little rascal! Hadn't you left?!"

"Indeed so. However, there is something stuck in my mind which I wish to ask Senior about." Gu XuanYan had a smile fixed on his face, his tone composed. "It's about an incident that happened twelve years ago."

Rumour had it that Chun Qin's body, found by the monk who delivered the vegetarian breakfast, incurred multiple stab wounds and was left in a horrifying state. Numerous cultivators were still staying in the Buddhist hall then, so the news spread like wildfire. Opinions of the murderer's intent differed wildly. Some proposed that Chun Qin was killed for his cultivation base, while others suggested it might be the works of his enemies.
Green Summit had no choice but to announce Li YunJi's death as well. The news of two highly skilled cultivators being murdered in less than a month apart stirred up the entire cultivation community. Waves of unrest rippled through them, putting everyone on high alert. As details such as the detection of demonic aura in Li YunJi's room were also broadcasted along with the news of his death, the relationship between Daoist and demonic cultivators soured. Quite a few conflicts arose between them, an air of hostility surrounding them.

Of course, that seemingly had nothing to do with Gu XuanYan or Zhong Yan, who were recuperating in Green Summit. "Haven't I told Senior Brother not to go out? See? More injuries are added on now even before Senior Brother's previous wounds are healed! Same goes for Junior Gu. Look at how deep Junior Gu's wounds are. But fortunately, both of you took an earlier trip back and didn't encounter that serial killer..."
Within Green Summit stood a tiny bamboo house, encircled by a forest of bamboo. Under the shade of the house, Qing You kept watch on two medicine pots, fanning the fire while nagging. A breeze scattered the scent of medicine all over. Zhong Yan leaned back on a nearby bamboo chair, a cattail leaf fan covering his face as he remained still. Assuming Zhong Yan had fallen asleep after a glance at him, Qing You mumbled to himself for a short while before shutting up.

In truth, even if Qing You continued blabbering on, his naggings would still fall on deaf ears. With his eyes closed, Zhong Yan rummaged through his mind on their trip to and from the Buddhist hall. What exactly had gone wrong? Searching to no avail, he went on to pester the system.

[Can you at least give me a hint? I don't even know when I lost twenty points. If this goes on, I will have no points left. Seventy points are only enough for three kills.]

The system consoled him. [Don't be so pessimistic. We are actually quite compassionate. Points will only be deducted if Gu XuanYan planned the murder; killing out of self-defense won't be counted.]

[Kay.] Zhong Yan nodded. [If that is so, may I ask if Gu XuanYan has even killed out of self-defense in the story?]

The system was muted instantly.

Zhong Yan flew into a rage. [Every murder he does is intentional! If not, why would he be the villain of the story?]

The system had nothing to come back with. A short silence later, it finally uttered with difficulty, [Although I sympathize with you, we are forbidden from leaking out any plot lines. A warning will be given if the rules are broken, and after three strikes, I will get sacked.]
A brief moment of disappointment later, Zhong Yan had an idea pop in his mind. [What about instead of you, I'm the one asking about the plot and you just correct what I say? To prevent the story from deviating, systems should have to correct the mistakes in hosts' guess of how the story goes. So, this probably isn't leaking of plot lines, right?]

Never hearing such a method before, the system froze briefly. [No... no idea...]

[Let's give it a try then.]

Zhong Yan pursed his lips as he whispered, [Gu XuanYan murdered Chun Qin.]

A short pause later, the system finally gathered the courage to murmur out the answer. [Yes.] After uttering a single word, it went silent instantly.

Both of them seemingly held their breaths as they waited. After a while, Zhong Yan asked softly. [Did you get a warning?]
[Nope... ] The system sighed in heartfelt admiration. [You sure are a genius.]

Zhong Yan let out a heartfelt remark, a weight off of his mind. [Finally found a useful bug out of the bunch of bugs you transmigration systems have!]

The process became convenient once they got around the problem, with one of them guessing and the other correcting him. Nevertheless, since this was still exploitation of a loophole, Zhong Yan didn't dare to make an essay of hypothesis, only picking crucial points.

[Chun Qin died on the night of the ceremony after we left.]

[Yes.]

[Gu XuanYan didn't get any helpers nor used any magic tools. He killed with his own hands.]

[Yes.]

A brief pause later, Zhong Yan took a hesitant guess. [Gu XuanYan was always with me after we left the Buddhist hall.]

The system only answered after a momentary halt. [No.]

Even though a hunch crept on him during his previous guesses, he still uttered out. [No way. Ever since we set foot onto the Buddhist hall, I've stuck myself on him till we get back. We even shared a bed. He never once left my line of-] Zhong Yan cut his sentence off, his face drained of color. Yes, he did, for a moment. Zhong Yan dozed off during a period of time from both of them resting in the forest till they met the white ape! Moreover, he was in a deep slumber. Gu XuanYan was even the one waking him up after detecting the presence of the ape.

Hooked on answering, the system cut Zhong Yan off before he could end his sentence. [No.]

Zhong Yan's heart sank. That explained everything. Gu XuanYan never suffered any severe internal injury after the quick match. He just needed an excuse for leaving early and resting in the middle of the return trip. The moment Zhong Yan was in a deep sleep, Gu XuanYan went back to the Buddhist hall to exact revenge. During the next morning, Gu XuanYan was truly injured, even puking out blood. Both Chun Qin and he were in the Golden Core stage, but Chun Qin was at the peak of the Golden Core stage. Coupled with Chun Qin's experience, Gu XuanYan had to use his all to kill him; being wounded during the fight was inevitable for Gu XuanYan.

This was why Zhong Yan noticed how ghastly pale his face was the next morning since he was indeed heavily injured then. However, Zhong Yan sincerely believed Gu XuanYan, thinking the palm strike from the match hurt his heart meridian so much that he wasn't able to recover even after resting for a night.

Zhong Yan had no idea when Gu XuanYan planned all of that. He might have planned to fake injury when he took the palm strike during the match or when he realized he wasn't able to make a move with Zhong Yan sticking to him like glue. Or perhaps it was even earlier, the moment he heard Chun Qin's name after arriving at the Buddhist hall. Since the outcome was done and dusted, mulling over it was futile. The only image Zhong Yan conjured in his mind was Gu XuanYan riding a few hundred Chinese miles[2]   with his sword to kill Chun Qin that night before returning to his side. He just murdered someone then, his clothes even stained with his victim's blood. Still, he nonchalantly woke him up with a soft, gentle voice, "Senior Brother, wake up."

{2. 500 meters}

Zhong Yan feared Gu XuanYan ever since he got inside the story, afraid he will stab him or murder anyone else. However, never did he have such a deep-rooted fear towards him. The fear wasn't due to Gu XuanYan's strong cultivation base. Instead, it came about from Gu XuanYan's view on murder. Anyone he wanted dead would definitely be killed, no matter the high risk or his victim's cultivation base being mightier than his. They were mere insects in his eyes, their fate determined by him.

Zhong Yan voiced out all of a sudden, [I... want to make my last guess.] Only after a long delay did he continue. [During the next morning... It's true that Gu XuanYan didn't have any energy left to maintain the barrier. He didn't lure the white ape with his scent of blood on purpose.]

An eerie silence engulfed them instantly, leaving only rustling noises from the bamboo leaves in the breeze. During the few seconds of pause from the system, Zhong Yan had already found an answer in his heart. After a bitter laugh, he shut his eyes. [Forget it. You don't have to answer.]

Not only did Gu XuanYan scheme meticulously to kill Chun Qin, in fact, he also added an extra step to kill off Zhong Yan in his plan while he was at it. Zhong Yan's mind went blank momentarily, blanketed by disheartenment...as if!

[I've used ten points just to save him! There's only a total of a hundred points! So, I basically used up ten percent of my life to save him! But the truth is, he was planning on getting me killed then! Fucking shit!]

After spending quite some time listening to Zhong Yan's rants, the system felt sooner or later, it would begin to malfunction if he continued. The system advised weakly, [This is enough. Don't rant too much; staying angry is bad for your health.]

However, fury wasn't the only emotion raging inside Zhong Yan. Somehow, in his heart unknowingly lay a trace of disappointment. This is just like if you had a friend who does bicker frequently with you but is still a great friend in your heart. When the friend told you their birthday was today, although you are reluctant to spend the meager saving you had, you still bought a cake for them. Yet, the only reply you get is, "Haha! It's just a prank, idiot." Who would be able to stop themselves from smashing the cake onto that friend...?

At the moment, Zhong Yan didn't dare to do anything crazy like smashing a cake onto Gu XuanYan's face. Still, regardless of his fear, resentment welled up in him. Although both of them had schemes running through each of their minds, he felt that at least, during a life-or-death crisis, Gu XuanYan told him to back away. Despite being wounded, he still rushed towards the great ape without any bit of hesitation. Thus, he saved Gu XuanYan without a second thought. As it turned out, the guy he saved had been planning to get him killed ever since the beginning. Heh.

By the time Gu XuanYan returned, the sky had already dimmed. The moonlight outside was as white as frost. Just when Zhong Yan continued barraging expletives in his mind at not only Gu XuanYan but his descendants too, he heard someone pushing the door open.

"Senior Brother, I'm coming in." Zhong Yan put an immediate end to his swearing. Still rather pale, Gu XuanYan went over to the bedside and placed his hand on Zhong Yan's forehead, measuring his temperature, before landing his eyes on a bowl of medicine on the table. "Why hasn't Senior Brother drunk the medicine?"

Zhong Yan wasn't able to continue with his act. "It's too hot. I'm waiting for it to cool." After which, he couldn't help asking, "Why did you come here instead of recuperating?"

Sitting in front of the table, Gu XuanYan took a look at him before answering softly, "I wanted to pay Senior Brother a visit."

Zhong Yan eye-rolled inwardly. Wow. Sincere much? "Rest assured, Junior Brother. I won't be dying any time soon."

After a low chuckle, Gu XuanYan spoke all of a sudden, "Senior Brother, I have undergone numerous dangerous encounters, some even life-threatening. But Senior Brother is the first who shielded me." Zhong Yan froze, surprised Gu XuanYan would mention this out of the blue. Gu XuanYan turned towards him to ask, "How old was Senior Brother when you entered Green Summit?"

"Ten."

"Is that so? I was twelve when I entered." Gu XuanYan smiled. "Both of my parents perished when I was seven. With nowhere to go, I spent my days roaming around the Long River City. Sometimes, passers-by would donate food to me out of pity. But sometimes they didn't. When I was unbearably famished, I would steal a few steamed buns from the steamed bun store in the streets."

Zhong Yan felt a twinge in his heart upon listening to the story. Gu XuanYan appeared to notice that as he changed the narrative, "Sometime later, I was brought here by Master and started practicing cultivation. At that time, I was rather young. Once, I asked Master why my parents died and why I was rendered homeless, Master told me it was a trial from the Heavenly Way." After this, he let out a chuckle, "Heavenly Way."

Heavenly Way, a guiding principle every Daoist cultivator worshipped and an existence most cultivators revered. For thousands of years, cultivators conformed to the Heavenly Way as they cultivate, while also prayed for the Heavenly Way's bestowment to let them ascend. However, Gu XuanYan's tone was light and nonchalant when he mentioned it. Zhong Yan even detected a hint of mockery in his tone for a split second.

Zhong Yan remained mute on his bed, his heartbeat as loud as a drum. Yet Gu XuanYan didn't continue his story. Instead, he lifted the bowl of medicine and tasted a spoonful before bringing it to Zhong Yan's bedside, his voice regaining its dew-like gentleness. "Senior Brother, it isn't hot anymore."

Zhong Yan had no choice but to sit up straight and reach his hand out for the bowl. However, Gu XuanYan suddenly withdrew the bowl a little, scooping half a spoonful of medicine directly and sending it towards Zhong Yan's lips.

Zhong Yan was rendered speechless at once. The joints of Gu XuanYan's fingers were distinct; his hands appeared much slenderer when holding onto the jade-like celadon porcelain spoon. After Zhong Yan drooped his head for a glance, he obediently opened his mouth. Gu XuanYan emptied the bowl of medicine by feeding Zhong Yan spoon by spoon.

The moment Zhong Yan finished the last spoonful of medicine, he felt as though a load was off his shoulders. However, Gu XuanYan fished out a green plum out of nowhere and fed it into Zhong Yan's mouth. The sour yet sweet plum was tasty. After a look at the stunned Zhong Yan, Gu XuanYan blinked for a bit, a slightly proud smile spreading across his face. "The plums at the back of the mountains have ripened, so I snuck a few away for Senior Brother."

What more could Zhong Yan say? Zhong Yan could only cry out tearfully in his heart. How great it will be if you were in the modern world. If you were there, I will definitely send you to the best mental hospital to check if you can cure your split personality.

Chapter 7: Green Plums

Ever since Zhong Yan transmigrated, he had to prevent Gu XuanYan from killing him and others; he wished he could keep himself tensed up every single second. Yet once he realized Gu XuanYan almost got him killed, his nerves began to ease up. Perhaps his near-death experience dissolved quite a bit of anxiety from him.

Moreover, oddly enough, Gu XuanYan shared his life story to Zhong Yan. Although not much was said, from Zhong Yan's recollection of the story, Gu XuanYan had never shared his past with any soul. Zhong Yan felt that maybe, probably, Gu XuanYan wouldn't think of killing him for the time being. Of course, Gu XuanYan might have only shared his past due to Zhong Yan's impending death, since dead men would tell no tales...

Still, the heightened defense in all sects took a significant part in lessening Zhong Yan's worry. After all, being one of Green Summit's chief disciples, Gu XuanYan would have himself bogged down by matters regarding defense strengthening. He probably had no time to spare on planning schemes.

With loads of free time, Zhong Yan started to try cultivating out of boredom. To his surprise, he ended up reaching the late stage of Essence Condensation, and judging from his progress, he might be elevated to the next level soon. Although, in contrast to all Green Summit's disciples, such accomplishment wasn't much, his advancement still delighted him for quite some time. Even Gu XuanYan congratulated him during his routine check on him taking medicine.

That's right... Despite countless matters at hand, Gu XuanYan still visited him every night and watched him finish his medicine. After this, he would hand over a plum to him. Only after Zhong Yan finished his plum did he return to his quarters. Being fed at a set timing made Zhong Yan feel like he had turned into a pet Gu XuanYan raised... That said, the plums were indeed tasty.

Zhong Yan lifted his gaze towards the flourishing plum tree in front of him. At the back of the mountains were rows and rows of plum trees, forming a plum forest. Clusters of green plums crammed tightly together as they hid beneath the branches and leaves, making a satisfying sight. [1] All disciples were having their afternoon break, leaving him the only one at the back of the mountain.

{1. Clusters of Persian Green Plums:My Junior Still Hasn

When Gu XuanYan visited him last night, Zhong Yan couldn't help asking him to bring a few more green plums the next day. To his dismay, Gu XuanYan lifted his brows as he warned, "Senior Brother, it's no good to have too much of it."

Depending on oneself was indeed much better than asking others for help. After Zhong Yan found a tree brimming with green plums, he gathered his internal energy and leapt up. He climbed up the tree in just two to three leaps before sitting on a thick branch. The mouth-watering green plums quenched any bit of thirst.

Just when Zhong Yan popped his fourth plum into his mouth, he heard a familiar voice below the tree, "Isn't Senior Brother going to share one with me?"

He dropped his head down. Clad in green robes, Gu XuanYan stood under the tree with his sword, staring at him. Zhong Yan didn't know when he arrived. Did he get here by sniffing me out or something...? Zhong Yan twitched his lips, "Get them yourself."
Surprisingly, Gu XuanYan leaped up as well and sat beside him. Since no one was around and he was on the tree, Gu XuanYan's posture wasn't as proper as usual. Nonetheless, as compared to Zhong Yan, who had both of his legs dangling in the air, his posture was a lot better.

Gu XuanYan reached out to pluck a green plum. Instead of eating it, he handed it over to Zhong Yan, who took and threw it straight into his mouth. The shadows of leaves fluttered lightly in the breeze. Apart from the occasional chirping from nowhere, the mountain was void of any noise. The summer heat faded under the bright, sparsely clouded sky. The entire afternoon flew by with Gu XuanYan handing over the plucked plums to Zhong Yan.

During dinnertime, Zhong Yan realized his teeth were so weak, he couldn't even bite down on tofu... Beside him was Gu XuanYan, who poured him a cup of tea, his tone helpless, "Senior Brother, didn't I tell you not to eat too much?"
Since plums weren't filling, Zhong Yan's stomach rumbled in hunger. He couldn't help complaining, "But I ate all those plums after you gave them to me."

With a smile in his eyes, Gu XuanYan continued pouring tea. "Senior Brother just doesn't heed my warnings. A bit of suffering is a must to get that in mind."

Hear that...? So inhumane. Zhong Yan gave Gu XuanYan the cold shoulder as he sipped on the hot tea to dull his pain. All of a sudden, there were a few knocks on the door before a voice rang out, "Senior Gu, the Sect Leader, and Sect Elders are looking for you."

Frowning, Gu XuanYan set the cup onto the table, "Senior Brother, I'll be back soon."
Go on, go on. Better yet, don't even come back. Zhong Yan waved his hands as he watched Gu XuanYan leaving. He let out a sigh. [Why do I have a feeling my happy days are coming to an end soon...]

As expected, Gu XuanYan returned at night, handing Zhong Yan an oilpaper-wrapped bag of snacks. Fragrant chestnut cakes that melted in the mouth were revealed once Zhong Yan unwrapped the oil paper. Restraining desires for any kind of luxuries such as expensive outfits; housing; transport and delicacies were all a part of training for Daoist cultivators, let alone the strictly ruled Green Summit. No way would there be snacks made on the premise, so it was a wonder where Gu XuanYan got the chestnut cakes.

Zhong Yan popped one piece of cake into his mouth as he mumbled to the system, [I feel like I'm eating my last meal.]

Only after watching Zhong Yan finish did Gu XuanYan ask, "Does Senior Brother know why the Sect Leader and Sect Elders were looking for me?"

I don't really want to know...

Brushing aside Zhong Yan's silence, Gu XuanYan continued, "The day of Elder Chun Qin's autopsy, Herbal Cloud members found a bone whistle in his body. The bone whistle is an item exclusively used by demonic cultivators to summon their messenger hawks. Since both Master and Chun Qin's deaths are connected to the demonic cultivators, Herbal Cloud has invited all Daoist sects to gather at the Northern Wilderness to demand an explanation."

Zhong Yan skimmed through the story in his mind. Indeed, a similar plot point existed in the story, but it occurred a long time later. Gu XuanYan practiced demonic cultivation on the sly and killed several times using methods typical demonic cultivators. Thus, under the assumption that all the havoc Gu XuanYan wrecked were the demonic cultivators' doing, Daoist sects allied with other schools of cultivation and ventured to Northern Wilderness to carry out a campaign of extermination. However, while Daoist sects demanded an explanation for the deaths, the other school of cultivation's only objective was to eliminate the demonic cultivators.
Since Gu XuanYan had no ties with demonic cultivation right now, that bone whistle was most certainly Chun Qin's. In that case, Chun Qin definitely had some connections with demonic cultivators. Perhaps even Li YunJi didn't stray to the wrong path on his own. After all, practicing demonic cultivation was like playing with fire. He must have had a mentor giving him pointers. Yet, such details were never mentioned in the story.

A splitting headache crushed Zhong Yan, but Gu XuanYan continued his questions, "What does Senior Brother think about this?"

"Nothing. I'll be staying in Green Summit." Zhong Yan was rather annoyed. "The Sect Elders and the chief disciples will definitely be the ones in charge of the expedition to the Northern Wilderness. Will there even be a spot for me?"

Gu XuanYan nodded, his tone tranquil, "Indeed so, according to the rules. But I have made a suggestion to the Sect Leader. It would be best if Senior Brother, a witness of Master's death, managed to point out the culprit there. Such concrete evidence will back up the expedition, putting it in a good light."

Dread crept into Zhong Yan's heart that instant.

"So, Sect Leader allowed Senior Brother to tag along."

Zhong Yan was rendered speechless, any bit of emotion drained from his face. [Not only does Gu XuanYan want to get me killed, but I want to get him killed too. What should I do?]

[Calm down...]

Despite being a plain, the Northern Wilderness was in perpetual winter, a stark contrast to the Southwest Mountain Forest, which was dominated by mountains. With bitterly cold snow falling all year round and glaciers permanently frozen solid, it was only occupied by demonic cultivators. Unlike other cultivation practices, the demonic cult's hierarchy leaned towards monarchy. The demonic cultivator with the strongest cultivation base would be elected as the monarch, ruling over the cult. The life of the monarch resembled that of an emperor more than a typical cultivator.

"Low leveled demonic cultivators are usually tasked to patrol the borders of Northern Wilderness. Once an intruder is sighted, they would summon their hawks and send their reports to the Main Palace. But we didn't even face any deterrence even after entering for quite some time. The Sect Leader and the rest find this suspicious and are a little worried."

Gu XuanYan and Zhong Yan rode their swords side by side.

Since Gu XuanYan had reached the mid golden core stage a few days ago, he only donned his outer robe while riding his sword along the frozen wasteland. In contrast, Zhong Yan evidently couldn't handle the cold. Despite a light fur coat wrapped around him, his nose still flushed red from the icy breeze. Gu XuanYan started chuckling mid-conversation as he looked at Zhong Yan, rendering Zhong Yan speechless.

What the fuck are you laughing about? Zhong Yan turned his head away, sweeping a glance behind him. He narrowed his eyes to get a clearer look. "There is a group of people moving towards us, isn't there?"

Gu XuanYan tilted his head towards Zhong Yan's line of sight. "They are from Mount Jade Dwelling."

Although all Daoist sects allied together in the expedition, their arrival time differed. Supposedly, this was due to the distance between the various sects and the Northern Wilderness, but in truth, it was just an excuse for them as they had to determine whether the expedition was worth the risk. The majority of the sects chose to mind their own business and stay out of harm. Less than half of the sects ended up attending, even with the addition of Mount Jade Dwelling, which had just rushed over.

Once Mount Jade Dwelling's group arrived, every group began to land on the plains. Sect Leaders and Elders of various sects held a meeting in a barrier they cast, while the disciples built a bonfire to stand guard outside. Zhong Yan curled up by the bonfire. Just as he was about to doze off, he got a sudden pat on the back. "Junior Qin!"

When Zhong Yan turned over, he froze for a moment. "Liang Zheng?"

Joy blanketed the hint of shyness on Liang Zheng's face, "Never did I think I would chance upon Junior Qin after parting ways at the Buddhist hall. I was planning on writing you an invitation letter once I got back to Mount Jade Dwelling, but the incident in the Buddhist hall-" Liang Zheng paused mid-sentence, probably finding it inappropriate to mention the incident now. He changed the subject hastily and pulled over someone from Mount Jade Dwelling's group. He raised his voice, his tone brimming with pride, "Junior Qin, this right here is Junior Ji, Ji ChangYun!"

Upon hearing that, Zhong Yan and even Gu XuanYan, who was a few steps away, directed their line of sight to the guy. Clad in Mount Jade Dwelling's unique white robes, the guy in front of them appeared even taller and more spotless amidst the vast icy plains. His eyes looked as sharp as the long sword on him.

Neither did Liang Zheng's prideful tone make him embarrassed or smug, as if he wasn't the one being mentioned. He only gave Zhong Yan a proper bow, his tone indifferent and monotonous. "Mount Jade Dwelling, Ji ChangYun"

Ji ChangYun, the main character of the story, was different from the tons of disciples that were chosen due to their aptitude; his parents were Mount Jade Dwelling's Sect Elders. Born in the sect, he started his training young. Not only was his aptitude exceptional, but he was also just and upright. Everyone came to know him for his eradication of demonic beings when he was seventeen.

He's way too OP...

After bowing back, Zhong Yan scrutinized Ji ChangYun.

Judging from appearance alone, Gu XuanYan looked gentle and patient to others. On the other hand, Ji ChangYun was usually empty of any expressions and silent, his mind entirely focused on cultivation. One might find him terrifying at first glance.

Who would have thought the former was the villain while the latter is the hero?

His train of thoughts were cut off once his vision darkened. A unique green bamboo scent lingered on the hand that gently covered his eyes, blocking his view. Gu XuanYan's tone was as gentle as ever but was slightly low, "Senior Brother, you are being rude."

Only then did Zhong Yan realize he had been staring at Ji ChangYun for quite a while.

Chapter 8: Misunderstanding

Fortunately, Ji ChangYun didn't mind and instead, turned towards Gu XuanYan. A short while later, he spoke abruptly, "Gu XuanYan, I've heard of you."

Unsurprised, Gu XuanYan extracted his hands and nodded, "The same goes for me."

He glanced at Zhong Yan, "Numerous disciples of Green Summit hold high admiration for your great sense of justice and strong cultivation base too."

The speechless Zhong Yan thought, he still kept what I said in Buddhist Hall in mind? He sure is the personification of pettiness.

Instead of a smile, Ji ChangYun put on a frown as he asked, "Why admire me? You are in the late Golden Core stage and will reach the Lesser Vehicle stage soon. I'm not as strong as you now, so they should be admiring you instead." After a slight pause, he continued, "But I will be elevated to the next stage soon. I might be able to have a match with you in the near future."

Ji ChangYun's tone was solemnly serious, not even a trace of humor could be detected. Yet, his face was as calm as ever, as though he was just having a small talk about the weather instead of inviting Gu XuanYan to a match.

Despite the arctic environment, Liang Zheng broke out in a cold sweat and chimed in hastily, "Junior Gu, my junior brother meant no offense. Please don't hold it against him... He just loves to invite others to a match..."

Gu XuanYan tossed a smile at Liang Zheng to indicate no offense was taken. When he turned back to Ji ChangYun, he retracted his smile, replacing it with a chilly expression. The tone of his reply was grave, "If that is so, I will be waiting for Brother Ji's invitation for the match."

At last, Ji ChangYun nodded in satisfaction before returning to his sect's group with Liang Zheng following behind him hurriedly. Zhong Yan scrutinized Gu XuanYan cautiously. "Are you seriously going to have a match with him?" You got killed by him in the story, you know?

Instead of answering, Gu XuanYan asked, "Who does Senior Brother think will win if we truly had a match?"

Such a question was akin to the classic dilemma of choosing to save one's mother or significant other if both were drowning. Noticing Zhong Yan's hesitation, Gu XuanYan lifted his brows. "Since Senior Brother couldn't answer, I guess it is a must to have a match with him."

The bootlicker in Zhong Yan rose inside him in haste, "Of course, I think you will win."

Gu XuanYan nodded, a slight smile spreading across his face, "When the match comes around, I will live up to Senior Brother's expectation."
Why don't you just tell me straight up you will have a match anyway...?

The arctic plains of the Northern Wilderness were boundless. If an average joe entered it by mistake, they would, no doubt, certainly meet a frozen death in the vast, endless icy wasteland.

Even the crowd of cultivators only managed to reach the first one-third of their destination after spending their entire day sword riding. Moreover, the Demonic Lord's palace was in the innermost part of the icy plains.

Although the majority of disciples dispatched were chief disciples, those that had reached the Golden Core stage, such as Ji ChangYun and Gu XuanYan, were in the minority. After spending the entire day traveling, they had to take a break.
Since they were on the demonic cult's territory, traveling during the night would be dangerous. Thus, once the sky darkened, the band of Daoist cultivators halted their journey. The Sect Elders constructed a barrier together while the disciples broke into groups of six or seven and gathered around their bonfire.

Ji ChangYun, Gu XuanYan, Liang Zheng, and Zhong Yan sat as a group. It was the only alternative for the former two, as wherever they went, dead silence would instantly fall on any group nearby. Every single member of the group would cautiously adjust their posture and straighten their back as properly as any student in a class.

The four had no choice but to light their bonfire somewhere further away. After they stared blankly at one another for quite some time, Zhong Yan assumed responsibility of breaking the ice and started the conversation, "Surprisingly, we didn't chance upon a single demonic cultivator even though we arrived quite some time ago."

While pouring a cup of hot tea for Zhong Yan to warm his hands, Gu XuanYan added coolly, "The Sect Elders sent them a letter about the incident before entering the Northern Wilderness, but they didn't reply. Perhaps they are waiting for our arrival."
Liang Zheng laughed as he scratched his head, "Neither did they intercept nor respond to us... their inaction is unsettling to me."

Ji ChangYun shifted his line of sight from the shroud of darkness a distance away back to the bonfire. "Like what I said to Master, there are still quite a few unresolved issues surrounding Elder Chun Qin's death. But Herbal Cloud members had their feelings running high. Since I'm an outsider, it isn't appropriate for me to speak out."

Zhong Yan's heart skipped a beat right then. On the contrary, Gu XuanYan's hands didn't even tremble as he poured a cup of water. His only response was lifting his line of sight and asking, a trace of interest in his gaze, "Unresolved issues?"

"When Master and I went to Herbal Cloud to offer condolences, we had the honor of viewing Senior Chun Qin's body." Ji ChangYun remained emotionless as he continued, "I feel that the sword technique used, even though hidden by the culprit, seems more like that of a Daoist cultivator."
Gu XuanYan brows creased, "Does Brother Ji think the culprit is a Daoist cultivator?"

Ji ChangYun nodded and added, "And also in the late Golden Core stage."

Is this the keen instinct all protagonists possess...? Zhong Yan interrupted hurriedly, "But what about the demonic cultivator's bone whistle?"

Ji ChangYun started frowning for a bit. "This is just my guess, so it might be wrong. Anyway, it's best for us to just be on the lookout since we have already entered the Northern Wilderness."

With the conversation stopping right there, Ji ChangYun began to get up, "I'll go on and patrol around."

Just as Zhong Yan was sneaking a peek at Gu XuanYan not long after, both of their eyes met. A chuckle escaped Gu XuanYan as he stood up, "Senior Brother, I'll patrol around too. Just stay here and don't leave."

After this, Gu XuanYan walked out of the barrier towards Ji ChangYun's direction, vanishing into the night.

Burning with anxiety, Zhong Yan called out to the system in a hurry. [He won't go on to kill Ji ChangYun, right?]

[Beep. Leaking of anything related to the plot is not allowed.]

[Then let's use the method from before. I'll guess and you'll answer...]

[Don't get me started on this.] The system sounded exasperated. [I ended up writing a one-thousand-word essay on my mistake just because you exploited the loophole then. Boss has included it on the list of props, two points per question. Do you want to use it, buddy?]

[Is your boss's surname Zhou...? Is he Zhou the flayer?[1]

{Zhou ChunFu is the villain of the story 'The Rooster Crows at Midnight'. As his workers work once the rooster crows, he mimicked a r ooster crow every midnight to get them working earlier, earning him the nickname Zhou BaPi/Zhou the flayer.}

Too timid to reply, the system let out a beep to express his agreement. The only question Zhong Yan could ask was, [Then I can at least ask which direction Gu XuanYan went, right?]

The system answered right away. [East.]

Zhong Yan got up and dashed to the east. Truthfully, considering the crowd of people there, Zhong Yan felt Gu XuanYan probably wouldn't strike arbitrarily due to the risk.

However, after walking eastwards for a brief moment, he spotted two figures in front of him, Gu XuanYan and Ji ChangYun. Ji ChangYun's voice was rather muffled, "I'll go a bit ahead."

Under the cover of night, Zhong Yan could detect one figure walking behind the other, the former being Ji ChangYun while the latter being Gu XuanYan.

Just as Zhong Yan was about to call out to them, he witnessed Gu XuanYan unsheathing his sword and striking towards Ji ChangYun's back!

Swift and ruthless, the sword shortened the distance between its unsuspecting victim to mere inches away in a split second. Although Zhong Yan had no time to yell out a warning, he couldn't just let Gu XuanYan murder someone right under his nose.

Immediately, he dashed ahead with his sword drawn out before shielding Ji ChangYun's back, catching the strike with his sword directly!

Surprised not even a sharp clang was emitted from the blades, Zhong Yan lifted his head. His opponent reduced into a mist at that instant and dissipated into the darkness, leaving him alone in the vast icy plains.

Alarm bells blaring in his head, he strode forward with his sword. However, someone pressed down his hand that was wielding the sword. Gu XuanYan's mirthful voice rang out just a breadth away from his ears, "Senior Brother, fear not. It's just an illusion."

He fooled me! Those were the only words left in Zhong Yan's mind as he swiveled around. Seemingly expecting that from him, Gu XuanYan reached over to unarm him and hurl away his sword. Before Zhong Yan could figure out when Gu XuanYan caught him, he was smashed onto the icy ground too.

The pain from the impact made Zhong Yan inhale sharply. In just a blink of an eye, Gu XuanYan had already leaned down, getting on top of Zhong Yan as he pinned him down.

He let out a chuckle, "Why does Senior Brother think I will kill Ji ChangYun? Just because he found something wrong with Chun Qin's death?"

Feeling a mixture of pain and chill from his back, Zhong Yan clenched his teeth, "What are you getting at?"

"I'm just curious." Gu XuanYan lowered his line of sight to Zhong Yan, who was below him, and studied his face, his tone gentle, "I'll assume Senior Brother saw how Li YunJi died. But how does Senior Brother know I wanted to kill Chun Qin when we went to the Buddhist hall? And that's probably why you ended up following me closely."

Gu XuanYan killing Chun Qin and his Master, Li YunJi, should have been his closely kept secret. Yet alarmingly, he just spilled it out casually.

Zhong Yan figured it out right away; Gu XuanYan had never once believed Zhong Yan didn't witness him killing Li YunJi. And ever since they arrived at the Buddhist hall, Gu XuanYan was already aware of his intent to stop him from killing Chun Qin. He took so long to strike just so Zhong Yan would let it slip.

Great. There I was wearing myself out with the act; it's just a ploy all along.

Having nothing to lose, Zhong Yan sneered, "I know you are trying to get me killed too!"

To his surprise, Gu XuanYan began chuckling after briefly stunned. His laughter was deep and melodious, seemingly mere inches away from Zhong Yan's ears due to their proximity.

Gu XuanYan nodded, "Indeed, that was my initial plan. But I changed my mind sometime later. Still, Senior Brother is just too disobedient."

Gu XuanYan whispered, "Is Senior Brother going to reveal the truth to the Sect Elders?"

He revealed all that just because he thought I'll betray him? Rage swirled up in Zhong Yan's head as he rambled, "Yup! You are dead meat!"

Neither did Gu XuanYan panic nor seethe. As though expecting that from Zhong Yan, he reached out his hands to rub Zhong Yan's neck lightly, his voice soft, "Has Senior Brother forgotten? Senior Brother was also present during Li YunJi's death and was with me the whole time throughout Chun Qin's death. Senior Brother even helped me by providing a false alibi."

Gu XuanYan blinked, joy evident in his tone, "I'll just tell them they were killed by us, so Senior Brother can keep me company again during the journey to the afterlife."

Fuck you!

As Zhong Yan used every bit of his strength to struggle, his back knocked onto the chilly ground on accident, eliciting a groan from him.

Eyebrows furrowed, Gu XuanYan relaxed his hold a little, allowing Zhong Yan to sit up. He pressed down on Zhong Yan's nape with his left hand, pushing him onto his shoulder. His right hand crept into Zhong Yan's outer robes, which had loosened during the struggle.

As he stroked Zhong Yan's back inch by inch with his chilled fingers through his inner clothes, he whispered apologetically. "Senior Brother, I went a bit too overboard just now. Did I hurt you?"

He seriously has a screw loose...!

As Zhong Yan was two stages lower than Gu XuanYan, he was rendered immobile. The only action he could take to vent his anger was to bite down hard on Gu XuanYan's shoulder. Due to how brutal the bite was, Zhong Yan detected the scent of blood instantly. Yet Gu XuanYan didn't even let out a groan. Instead, he patted on Zhong Yan's nape consolingly.

Just as Zhong Yan was about to bite down again, a voice sounded out from the right suddenly, "Ju- Junior Qin, what are you doing with Junior Gu?!"

Both of them turned around to see Liang Zheng standing a few feet away, utterly dumbfounded.

Not only were the two completely alone in the dead of night, but their clothes were also disheveled.

Liang Zheng grew crimson once he noticed their gazes on him, squeaking, "Since both of you still weren't back yet, Junior Ji and I went to search for you out of worry... My apologies!"

What the heck is on your mind...? I was just doing my utmost to fight with him!

Before Zhong Yan got the chance to explain, Ji ChangYun came over out of nowhere. Once his line of sight fell onto the two, he froze momentarily and turned to one side immediately. A short while later, he raised his sword to cover Liang Zheng's eyes, his voice low, "It's rude to stare."

...I...can...explain...

Chapter 9: Demonic Lord

Of course, in the end, Zhong Yan had no idea how he should explain.

You got it all wrong. I was just fighting with Gu XuanYan. Hm? Why did we fight? Well, I just realized he's the culprit for the death of both Li YunJi and Chun Qin. If that's so, why bother demanding the demonic cultivators for an explanation? All of the Sect Elders can just join forces to straight-up kill Gu XuanYan. Job's done; everyone can get back.

No matter if Gu XuanYan kills too many people, gets killed, or tries to kill me sometime later, the outcome is still the same; I'll die. Life is just too hard for me.

A variety of expressions decorated the four's faces as they headed back. Utterly silent the entire walk back, Liang Zheng only summed up his courage when they were reaching the camp, "Junior Qin, don't worry! I will never spill this out!"

In contrast, Ji ChangYun merely gave Gu XuanYan an indifferent stare as he stated calmly, "Having a partner is fine, but you are about to elevate to the next level, so you should be putting your focus on your cultivation right now."

Words failed Zhong Yan as, to his surprise, Gu XuanYan nodded, replying with a smile, "Well said, Brother. I'll take note of that."

Zhong Yan could only applaud Gu XuanYan, who had attained the pinnacle of acting, for keeping a straight face while responding to such advice.

According to the plan, everyone would rest during the icy night. Once they reached the deepest part of the Northern Wilderness the next day, their eyes would be greeted with the one and only palace in the entire snowy plains.

Legends had it that the palace was a few hundred Chinese foot[1]   high, reaching up towards the stars. Its walls were made of white jade while its stairs were built from pure gold, paved with carpets woven from peacocks' feathers.

{1. 1/3 of a meter}

Meticulous carvings were engraved on every pillar and fence. Inside such an extravagant palace lived the Demonic Lord of the Northern Wilderness.

However, at the moment, not a single one of them could see the path ahead, even let alone the luxurious palace.
The chilly night had passed; dawn was just around the corner. Although the sun should be rising then, the sky stayed pitch black, not even lightening up a bit.

Puzzled, the group was clueless as to what was going on. As Zhong Yan lifted his head towards the ink-black sky, he felt a sudden chill on the tip of his nose.

Gu XuanYan brushed off his robes, "It's snowing."

Shortly later, a sudden gust of wind whirled down heaps of snow, piling up into a thick, ankle-deep layer.

A crisscross of whirlwind and snow adorned the sky. However, it was just the beginning of July. Even in the harshly chilly Northern Wilderness, it shouldn't be snowing during such a season. The blast of snow seemed to be both a display of force and scouting.
Clad in green, the white-bearded Sect Elder of Green Summit, Li XuanJi hollered, "This is nothing at all!" Drawing out his sword, he charged towards the horizon.

Accompanied by a sharp sword hum, the azure sword energy streaked across the sky.

Although the flurry of snow stopped, the sky remained dark.

All of a sudden, a sigh sounded out. "Why do people have such bad tempers nowadays?" The soft and weak voice was as light as a cough, seemingly from a frail, middle-aged person.
However, all Sect Elders had a change in expression. The Sect Leader of Herbal Cloud was the first to speak, "Cang Luan?"

Upon hearing that, a jolt of shock ran through every young disciple. Someone whispered out, "That's...the Demonic Lord, Cang Luan?"

It was no wonder a wave of shock rippled through them. The only ones who could still recognize Cang Luan's voice were the various white-haired sect leaders and elders.

Three hundred years ago, the baneful demonic cult went on a rampage, wreaking havoc everywhere. The elders of the five major Daoist Sects teamed up to combat Cang Luan in the icy plains of the Northern Wilderness. Although they heavily injured the Demonic Lord after the battle, their vital energy depleted significantly, inducing their deaths in just ten years. On the other hand, Cang Luan had never set foot outside the Northern Wilderness, utterly silent from the rest of the world.

The Sect Elders present at the moment were as young as the current group of disciples during the battle.
Cang Luan was said to be on the brink of death then, but hundreds of years had passed. Even though it wasn't known how much of his cultivation base had recovered, judging by how he could summon up a storm of snow out of the blue, his powers probably were way stronger than theirs and should not be underestimated.

Herbal Cloud's sect elder took a step forward, pronouncing, "It is not our intention to stir up trouble. We just wanted an explanation for the two Sect Elders' death. May I ask if their sudden deaths are related to the demonic cult?"

The tone of the reply was still amicable, "So that's the reason. Hmm, related? Maybe a little." After coughing twice, Cang Luan continued, "Which is why I had sent my senior subjects over to offer condolences. Judging from the time, they should have arrived Green Summit and Herbal Cloud by now."

A silence hung over everyone right away as the reply changed the various Sect Elders' expressions.
Although most sects had their sect leaders stay behind to keep watch, almost all chief disciples and sect elders had attended the expedition just in case anything happened.

The disciples left in the sects might find it challenging to cope if the entire demonic cult went over. Most importantly, the various sects would not be able to stop the demonic cult from entering the Central Plain thereafter.

Once such a thought crept into the Sect Elders' minds, they began exchanging glances before uttering, "Let's just head back."

A sudden gust of wind blasted over the icy plains at that very moment, twirling up the falling snow. Alarmingly, the snowflakes started to assemble in the whirlwind, shaping into long-limbed, humanoid monsters that charged stumblingly towards the cultivators!

All of them drew the swords and hacked onto the monsters. The sword-energy reduced the snowy beings into powdery snow, which was picked up by the wind yet again.

Amidst the battle, a crowd of skeleton-like demonic cultivators advanced on them from nowhere, their enraged howls hoarse.

Chaos descended upon them in a flash. The moment Zhong Yan sliced a monster in front of him, a red-eyed demonic cultivator plunged over to him from the scattered snow. He dodged sideways immediately.

Just as he was about to attack, a long sword pierced through that demonic cultivator.

When Zhong Yan turned around, his eyes met with the frowning Gu XuanYan, who held his hand while urging in a low voice, "Get going!"

Hand in hand with Zhong Yan, Gu XuanYan whizzed a few hundred meters to the north. Zhong Yan tugged onto him hastily in shock, asking, "What about the others?"

Gu XuanYan whispered, "It's a state of emergency now; they will do fine without us. Senior Brother, just go with me."

"This isn't the way back... It's over there."

"Since the demonic cult has arrived at the sect, I'll bring Senior Brother to somewhere safe.

Zhong Yan went silent and stopped in his tracks. Gu XuanYan swiveled around, a slight crease on his brows, "What's wrong, Senior Brother?"

Zhong Yan feigned a displeased look on his face, "Why are you still calling me 'Senior Brother' when no one is around? Did you forget our relationship?"

After freezing briefly, Gu XuanYan replied gently, "Of course; Senior Brother is my Dao partner."

Yeah right!

Instantly, Zhong Yan lunged his sword towards the person in front of him, catching him off guard. Blood oozed out of the gash on Gu XuanYan's chest. His green robes vanished right away, replaced by a black robe. His face swiftly morphed into an old man with a dull pale complexion.

The red-eyed man sneered as he gave Zhong Yan a death glare. "Taking the harder route, aren't we?"

He drew out a long sword from his back and charged at Zhong Yan!

Having nowhere to dodge in the wilderness, Zhong Yan could only confront him head-on. The vibrations from the clashing swords numbed Zhong Yan's palms for a bit. He swiftly turned his wrist, trying his utmost to counter another attack in passing. However, he detected a strange scent the very moment after his opponent greeted him with a weird laugh.

Shit, he drugged me.

That was the last thought in Zhong Yan's mind as he passed out.

Chapter 10: Confrontation

Although every Daoist cultivator present had strong cultivation bases, with the snowstorm forcing their eyes shut and the ambush of demonic cultivators, they were locked in a tight match. At that very moment, the demonic cultivators began to withdraw, scattering away all of a sudden.

They retreated as swiftly as they arrived, seemingly planning on just a short moment of ambush. As everyone heaved a sigh of relief, Gu XuanYan scanned the surroundings hurriedly. His voice was icy, "My senior brother is missing."

The nearby Ji ChangYun killed one of the remaining demonic cultivators, frowning upon hearing that, "With the snowstorm impairing our vision during the chaotic battle, perhaps something had gone wrong just then."

Liang Zheng sounded uneasy, "Neither is Junior Qin a Sect Elder nor a chief disciple. So even if the demonic cult had any schemes in mind, they shouldn't be targeting him."

Indeed so. Even the easily flustered Liang Zheng had reached the mid Leaving Aperture stage, let alone the various Sect Elders, Ji ChangYun and Gu XuanYan. As compared to the group of cultivators, Zhong Yan was just unremarkable. A vast majority of them didn't even notice him.

And yet, he was kidnapped.

After letting out a sneer, Gu XuanYan turned towards Liang Zheng and Ji ChangYun, "The demonic cult has retreated, so there should not be any problems on the way back. Brethren, please return to your sects, I will head back to Green Summit once I've found my senior brother."

Right after, he made an incantation gesture and rode his sword, flying toward the north.

Despite the vastness of the icy plains, Gu XuanYan didn't spend much time to reach his destination; he only took half the time taken to drink a cup of tea[1]

{1. half of 10-15 minutes}

A palace as white as snow greeted his eyes. When he got closer, he noticed around three to five people standing by the palace gates, which were made of white jade. Every one of them wore black robes and had an intricate red pattern on their foreheads.

Noting he had landed, the group exchanged glances. One of them voiced loudly, "Gu XuanYan, my lord has been waiting for you."

Gu XuanYan's tone was as chilly as ice, "Where is my senior brother?"

The leader of the group, a female demonic cultivator, let out a giggle before taking a step forward, nestling up against him. The ringing of the golden bell hanging on her ankle was crisp and melodious. Even the long black robe she wore couldn't hide her alluring figure. Every word from her was as refreshing as orchids, her voice even more mellow and melodious than any bell.

"Fret not, cultivator. Just follow me to my lord—"

Before she could finish her sentence, a gust of sword energy pierced through her. She lowered her head in bewilderment, eyes as wide as saucers.

Blood spurted out continually from her heart, drenching her clothes.
Due to the speed, no one saw when Gu XuanYan drew his sword out. The remaining demonic cultivators only witness the lady in front of them widening her eyes before collapsing onto the icy ground. In the very next instant, she was reduced into a black mist, dispersed away by the breeze.

Gu XuanYan sheathed his sword, the droplets of blood on his face giving rise to a murderous air around his chilly expression. Instead of wiping the bloodstains away, he eyed the rest of the demonic cultivators as he repeated his previous question, "Where is my senior brother?"

Zhong Yan was still a little foggy in the head when he woke up. Only after regulating his breath with his eyes shut briefly did he open his eyes to survey his surroundings.

In front of him was a room made of stone that was so tiny, a glance was all it took to view it entirely. Nothing much occupied the relatively clean room.
Zhong Yan had no idea if it was just his imagination, but despite being empty of any snow or ice, the room still chilled him more to the bone than the icy plains.

His attempt at circulating his internal energy to block out the cold was to no avail, a telltale sign his powers have been suppressed.

Sitting on the floor, Zhong Yan started to call out the system, which responded instantly.

[Where is this?]

[-Beep- The demonic lord's stone room]

As he expected, he got caught by the demonic cult. Letting out a vexed sigh, he asked the system, [I'm so dumb, right?]

[Not really.] The system consoled him, [It's not like you can do anything with such a huge difference in strength. But how did you figure out Gu XuanYan was impersonated that fast?]
Surprisingly, Zhong Yan paused for quite some time before answering, [Even though Gu XuanYan always has revenge in his mind...]

During an emergency, he still doesn't have the heart to abandon others and flee, all the more so after knowing Green Summit is in danger. No way will he say he will flee.

Although Li YunJi had ulterior motives when he brought Gu XuanYan to Green Summit, Gu XuanYan did live there for almost eight years after all.

To protect his juniors that revered him as their guardian spirit or even a measly tiny plant growing in Green Summit, he would face the threat head on.

Zhong Yan felt the current Gu XuanYan wouldn't stoop so low as to leave his sect behind in danger just to save himself. Sure enough, Zhong Yan exposed the impersonator with only one trick question.

After remaining silent for quite some time, the system spoke out, [but in the story, Gu XuanYan didn't give a hoot about anyone in Green Summit.]
Zhong Yan stretched himself for a bit, his tone relaxed, [Well, in the story, any witness of his crime would be obliterated into bits and pieces. And yet here I am, alive and well.]

In the story, Gu XuanYan wouldn't spend an entire afternoon picking green plums for others, nor would he sneak out the mountains to buy chestnut cakes for anyone.

A change in life trajectory would never happen overnight. Instead, it could only be influenced bit by bit over time.

The doors swung open abruptly as an old man with white hairs on his temples walked in with his back hunched. Upon noticing Zhong Yan leaning up against the wall, he sneered, "Waken up now, kiddo?"

His voice was hoarse and deep, as though a blade had scrapped his throat. Wrinkling his brows, Zhong Yan remained muted. The old man continued, "Never is there any mistakes in my impersonation, so how did you figure it out?"
Of course, no way would Zhong Yan explain to him. Although Zhong Yan shut his eyes and played dead, the old man insisted on getting an answer, "That little rascal, Gu XuanYan, was so cautious; he always had an additional barrier set up outside. Even though I didn't manage to listen in whenever he talks, I have been shadowing him for quite some time. My impersonation of that rascal's appearance is perfect if I do say so myself. But somehow, you managed to find out—"

Severely drained of powers, Zhong Yan should know better not to provoke the guy. Nonetheless, a spark of fire somehow ignited in Zhong Yan's heart when he heard Gu XuanYan being referred to as a 'rascal'.

He lifted his line of sight, his tone sluggish, "You're just too old. You already have one foot in the grave, so stop trying to act like a young adult. Go home and raise your grandkids, won't you?"

Expression darkened, the old man in front of him struck his palm onto Zhong Yan's chest! With his suppressed powers snuffing out any chances of dodging, Zhong Yan took the strike straight on with his chest.

He was rendered speechless by the pain instantly, feeling as though every single muscle and bone in his body had snapped off

If I manage to survive this, I must stop being such a loudmouth!

The old man had no plans on killing him. Rather, he lifted Zhong Yan and sneered, "The lord has some use for you, so I won't kill you for now. But when you're useless to him, I'll definitely cut off your tongue and limbs! Come with me!"

After getting out of the stone room and passing through a long secret passageway, he brought Zhong Yan to a magnificent hall. Inside the hall were carved railings and pillars. Countless luminous pearls were packed tightly on the dome, lighting up the entire hall as though stars in the sky. A person leaned lazily back in the chair above a flight of steps made of white jade.

A stark contrast to the luxurious decorations of the hall, the guy wore a dark azurite robe empty of any embroidery with ebony coiling up his hair, giving off the appearance of a frail scholar. The chair below him was made of chilly ice instead of white jade.

He had typical facial features on his ghastly pale face, looking no more than forty or fifty. If he stood among a crowd, he probably would look like a common, typical middle-aged man.

The old man who brought Zhong Yan over went away respectfully. Once the guy on the chair had his eyes on Zhong Yan, he straightened his back slightly and asked, "Did you rest well?"

Recognising the guy was the owner of the voice from the icy plains moments ago, Zhong Yan froze.

Cang Luan continued, "I just want to meet up with your Dao partner. Since I can't go out and my subordinates probably can't defeat him, my only choice is to invite you here. My sincerest apologies.

Why does this sound so familiar?

Before Zhong Yan could rack his brain to crack the puzzle, Cang Luan stood up abruptly, teleported in front of Zhong Yan in just a blink of an eye and clutched Zhong Yan's chin. Utterly immobile under the pressure of Cang Luan's cultivation base, Zhong Yan could only feel Cang Luan raising his hand. A fluid reeking of blood was sent into his mouth before sliding down his throat-

"Don't worry; It isn't poisonous. It's just a bit of blood from my heart." Cang Luan released him and went back to his chair, his voice as gentle as always. Just as Zhong Yan was about to heave a sigh of relief, Cang Luan added, "Well, if you drink it once per month, you will be fine."

The speechless Zhong Yan finally figured out which plot point he was at.

In the story, Cang Luan fed Tong Ling blood from his heart. Looking at the girl struggling in his hands, he explained with a tone as gentle as always, "You just have to drink blood from my heart once every month, or else your life will be exhausted, resulting in your death. I just want to meet up with your Dao partner. Since I can't go out and my subordinates probably can't defeat him, my only choice is to invite you here. My sincerest apologies."

When Zhong Yan urged Tong Ling not to enter the Northern Wilderness, little would he know he ended up replacing her in the plot.

What goes around comes around. Zhong Yan let out a sigh before asking, "Who exactly told you Gu XuanYan and I are Dao partners?"

"Isn't that the case? My subordinate said he saw you two in the middle of the night on the icy plains..." Cang Luan paused for a moment as he revealed a smile, "I envy you youngsters."

Words failed Zhong Yan as he thought, what the heck is in you guys' mind?!

A maidservant pushed the door open and entered the hall before falling prostrate on the floor, "My lord, he has arrived." In the next second, Gu XuanYan barged in.

Once his eyes caught sight of Zhong Yan, Gu XuanYan seemingly sighed in relief before turning towards Cang Luan.

Noticing Gu XuanYan's presence, Cang Luan straightened his back a little and sighed, "You are finally here."

Gu XuanYan strode to Zhong Yan's side, his tone chilly, "I don't know you."

Not minding Gu XuanYan's rudeness, Cang Luan placed his hands on his sleeves as he gave a gentle reply, "But I do. Oh, and your parents too."

As he detected both Zhong Yan and Gu XuanYan had their eyes on him, he furrowed his brows, seemingly put on a spot.

"I only planned on getting your parent's Golden Cores then, so I collaborated with Li YunJi and Chun Qin. They will get the Golden Cores for me, and in exchange, I will teach them the ways of demonic cultivation. But never would I know they ended up destroying your clan. My sincerest apologies."

Although he apologised, there wasn't even any slightest shift in his tone. During his explanation 'I actually planned on killing your parents but didn't know your entire clan would end up killed as a result. Very sorry for that', his tone was unremorseful, void of any emotions, as though it truly was an insignificant accident.

Zhong Yan lifted his line of sight all of a sudden and drew his sword unconsciously. Only then did he realise, to his surprise, his hands were trembling lightly in a fury, producing fragmented wobbling sounds out of the sword when they came into contact.

A slightly chilled hand reached out from the side abruptly and pressed onto Zhong Yan.

Zhong Yan turned his head, just to see Gu XuanYan staring straight at Cang Luan and asking, "Why?"

Why did you lure me into the Northern Wilderness? Why did you kill my parents? Why did you murder my clan?

Instead of answering, Cang Luan turned his head away as he scanned the hall, throwing a question at them, "What do you two think of my palace?"

Paying no heed to the lack of response, he continued,

"My palace is made of the finest white jade in the world, adorned with golden flight of steps and lightened up by a myriad of luminous pearls. Inside my palace are endless piles of treasures many yearn. In my hundreds of years of ruling the entire Northern Wilderness, no one has ever contended against me."

Cang Luan sat back on his icy chair, his hand under his chin. "But my life is about to end."

After snickering, Zhong Yan couldn't help interjecting, "Go on to your grave then."

Cang Luan tossed a look at him and smiled, seemingly taking no notice of him, "Demonic cultivation can lengthen life spans but can't grant immortality. The battle three hundred years ago has injured the foundations of my powers. To slow down my death, I had to depend on the chill of the permanently frozen glaciers in the north most of Northern Wilderness."

Zhong Yan froze briefly. No wonder even when indoors, he still felt much icier chills penetrating his very bones than when he was in the icy plains.

Cang Luan continued, "Even though this can sustain my life, since hundreds of years ago, I can't even set foot outside my palace, let alone the northern wilderness. But I ended up finding a new solution."

Cang Luan's line of sight shifted to Gu XuanYan.

"I realised absorbing the cultivation bases of Daoist cultivators in the golden core stage can extend my life too."

Neither gloom nor joy on his face, Gu XuanYan merely sneered, "So that's why you killed my parents for their golden cores? And now, you are eyeing on mine too?

"No, I do not intend to kill you." Cang Luan shook his head as he revealed a smile.

"A trace of my powers is in Chun Qin's bone whistle, granting me perception thousands of li away from where I am. When I saw you killing Chun Qin that night, I had a sudden realisation."

Cang Luan straightened up slowly, getting up from his chair. A gust of wind blew in from the window, fluttering his robes. He looked down upon Gu XuanYan, who was below the flight of steps.

"I had a realisation. Why extend my life a bit at a time by waiting for those two green-eyed trashes to send me golden cores slowly? It takes too much time."

Cang Luan's voice deepened out of the blue, "I need someone who dares to defy the heavenly way, a subordinate who kills without wavering, to get the best of the best powers in the world for me and make me immortal."

Cang Luan's voice bounced off the walls of the spacious hall, emitting a wave of low echoes.

With his eyes on Gu XuanYan, Cang Luan slowed down the pace of his talk.

"When you were young, you lived on the streets and were a target of bullying. Even your master who got you into cultivation a few years later ended up duping you. No one in the world truly cares for you, nor would anyone aid you. It's all because the heavenly way rejects you, just like how they rejected me years ago. Since that's the case, why don't we defy our fates together?"

Zhong Yan's heart sank lower the more Cang Luan spoke.

Despite not having any idea what 'the best of the best powers in the world' referred to, Zhong Yan knew Gu XuanYan had always been defying fate in the story.

Cang Luan's offer was just too tempting. Uncertainty engulfed Zhong Yan instantly as he turned his head towards Gu XuanYan.

Hold your ground! Don't let me down; I've just praised you!

A while later, Gu XuanYan let out a sudden chuckle, "No, we are different."

He unsheathed his sword instantly.

Receiving such a blatant rejection, Cang Luan let out a sigh, finding it a great pity.

"You can't beat me."

Although his voice was light, conclusiveness enshrouded his tone. An earth-shattering pressure plunged a moment later.

After all, Cang Luan was nearly a thousand years old and once were just a step to ruling the entire Great Wilderness. Although he had passed his prime, his frighteningly strong powers were still a force to be reckoned with.

Instead of dodging, he brandished his sword suddenly under the heavy pressure!

A ray of sword light filled with murderous intent whizzed across the air, slashing right at Cang Luan! Immediately, Cang Luan left his chair as he dodged sideways. With a whistle, the sword light split the chair in two, leaving almost three inches thick slash mark on the wall. Dust stirred up instantly; even the luminous pearls on the dome began trembling.

With his sword in hand, Gu XuanYan stood on the same spot and stared at Cang Luan, not even a ripple in his voice, "There's no harm trying."
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