Chapter 40 Grasses—Part Eight
If she were another girl of the same age, she would’ve started screaming immediately. However, since A-Qing had feigned being blind for so many years, a lot of people had put down their guard in front of her, believing that she couldn’t see. She was used to seeing the more sickening sides of people, which had hardened her heart. She somehow managed to not make a sound.
Even so, Wei WuXian could feel the numbing stiffness that travelled upward from the bottom of her legs.
Standing amid numerous villagers’ corpses that lay scattered on the ground, Xiao XingChen sheathed his sword and spoke in a solemn voice, “How can it be that there isn’t a single living person inside this village? That all of them are walking corpses?”
Xue Yang smiled, but the voice that came out of his mouth sounded extremely confused, even somewhat pained, “Yeah. Good thing that your sword points at corpse energy on its own. Or else, with just the two of us, it would’ve been very difficult to break through.”
Xiao XingChen, “Let’s examine the village again. If there really isn’t anyone left, then let’s burn these corpses as soon as possible.”
After they walked side-by-side into the distance, some strength finally returned to A-Qing’s legs. She sneaked out from behind the house to where the piles of corpses were and glanced around on the ground. Wei WuXian’s viewpoint oscillated as well.
All of these villagers were killed by sharp, clean pierces through the heart, done by Xiao XingChen’s sword. Suddenly, Wei WuXian saw a few familiar faces.
A few pieces of memory ago, the three of them went outside one day and came upon a few men who had too much free time on their hands, playing dice at a the crossroad of a village. As the three passed the village, the men glanced up and saw a blind man, a blind girl, and a boy who limped, they all laughed and pointed. A-Qing spat at them and brandished her bamboo pole; Xiao XingChen walked passed calmly, as if he didn’t hear anything; Xue Yang even smiled, although his eyes held no trace of any amusement.
A-Qing flipped over quite a few corpses. Opening their eyelids, she saw that all of them had white eyes. Livor mortis had already climbed over some of their faces. She let out a sigh of relief, but Wei WuXian’s heart sunk even lower.
Although they looked a lot like walking corpses, these people were indeed living.
Except that they were under corpse poisoning.
Near the mouths and noses of a few corpses, Wei WuXian could also see leftover traces of a reddish-purple powder. Of course, the ones who’d been under poisoning for a long time were beyond hope since they had already become walking corpses. However, among them, there were still a few who hadn’t been poisoned for long. They’d start to develop traits of corpses that had transformed, such as emitting corpse energy, but they would still be conscious and be able to speak, which meant that they would still be living. If they were helped, they could still be saved like Lan JingYi and the others. One should truly be careful not to accidentally kill them, since it’d be the same as killing a live human.
They should’ve been able to talk, to say who they were, to shout for help. However, the awful thing was that somebody had cut all of their tongues off before this. The corners of all of the corpse’s lips seeped blood, either still warm or already dried.
Although Xiao XingChen couldn’t see, Shuanghua could point out the directions of corpse energy. Because these villagers lost their tongues, they could only make strange howls that was extremely similar to those of walking corpses. Thus, he didn’t doubt at all that the villagers he killed had already died.
It was a maniatic way to kill others without dirtying his own hand, a merciless way to instead dirty the hand that fed him.
A-Qing, however, didn’t understand how this worked. She only knew of the rough process, having heard them sometimes being mentioned by Xiao XingChen. She murmured, “Is the bastard really helping Daozhang?”
Wei WuXian cautioned in silence, Please don’t believe Xue Yang just like this!
Luckily, A-Qing’s intuition was rather sharp. Although her knowledge didn’t allow her to find anything suspicious, her vigilance toward Xue Yang was already deeply rooted in her intuition. She instinctively hated him and refused to settle. And so, whenever Xue Yang went out night-hunting with Xiao XingChen, she’d secretly follow them. Even when they were in the same house, she didn’t lower her guard.
During one night, the winter winds howled outside. The three of them were crammed inside the smaller room, warming up by the old furnace. Xiao XingChen was mending a basket that had a broken strip of bamboo. A-Qing was draped in the only cotton quilt. Wrapping herself as though she was a zongzi, she sat by his shoulder. Xue Yang held his chin with one hand and had nothing to do. Listening to A-Qing pester Xiao XingChen about telling her a story, he was rather annoyed, “Stop being so noisy. I’ll tie your tongue into a knot if you keep on yapping.”
A-Qing didn’t listen to him at all and demanded, “Daozhang, I wanna hear a story!”
Xiao XingChen, “When I was young, nobody told me stories. How would I know how to tell one?”
A-Qing continued the tantrum, and was about to start rolling on the ground when Xiao XingChen finally agreed, “Alright. I’ll tell you a story that happened on a mountain.”
A-Qing, “Once upon a time there was a mountain and on the mountain there was a temple?”
Xiao XingChen, “No. Once upon a time, there was a celestial mountain that nobody knew of. On the mountain, there was an Immortal who reached enlightenment. The Immortal accepted a lot of disciples, but she didn’t let them leave the mountain.”
After hearing the beginning, Wei WuXian understood at once, She’s BaoShan SanRen.
A-Qing, “Why not?”
Xiao XingChen, “The Immortal only hid in the mountain because she couldn’t understand the world outside it. She told her disciples, ‘If you are going to leave the mountain, then there’s no need for you to come back. Don’t bring the disputes of the outside world into the mountain.’”
A-Qing, “Then how can you withstand the boredom? There’d definitely be disciples who want to go outside and play.”
Xiao XingChen, “You’re right. The first disciple who left was very outstanding. When he first left the mountain, due to his mastery over his skills, everyone praised and admired him, and he became a famous cultivator of the righteous path. But afterwards, people don’t know what he went through, but his personality changed drastically, and he suddenly became a villain who killed people without blinking twice. In the end, he died under thousands of swords.”
This was the first disciple of BaoShan SanRen who “didn’t die a peaceful death”—YanLing DaoRen.
What this shibo of Wei WuXian’s went through after leaving the mountain that caused his personality to change so much remained a mystery. It was likely that nobody would ever find out. After Xiao XingChen finished mending the basket, he felt it a few times. He made sure that it wouldn’t hurt the hand, put it down, and continued, “The second disciple was a girl and also very outstanding.”
Wei WuXian’s chest felt warm.
She was ZangSe SanRen.
A-Qing, “Is she pretty?”
Xiao XingChen, “I don’t know. She was said to be really pretty.”
A-Qing, “Then, I know! There must’ve been a lot of people who liked her and wanted to marry her after she left the mountain. And then, she must’ve married a high-ranking official or the leader of a big sect! Heehee.”
Xiao XingChen laughed, “You guessed wrong. She married the servant of the leader of a big sect, and the two lived happily ever after.”
A-Qing, “I don’t like this. How would an outstanding and beautiful cultivator settle on a servant. This story’s so cliche. It’s probably made up by some poor scholar. And then what happened? How was their life like after they lived happily ever after?”
Xiao XingChen, “And then the two of them accidentally lost their lives during a night-hunt.”
A-Qing spat, “What sort of story is this?! She not only married a servant, but they died together! I’m not listening anymore!”
Wei WuXian thought to himself, Good thing that Xiao XingChen didn’t go on and tell her that the two of them gave birth to another big villain that everyone wanted to beat up. Or else, she might be spitting about me.
Xiao XingChen sighed, “This was why I said in the beginning that I don’t know how to tell stories.”
A-Qing, “Then, Daozhang, you must remember the night-hunts you’ve been on, right? I like to hear those! Tell me, what sort of monsters have you fought?”
Xue Yang had been unfocused on the story, listening with his eyes shut. Now, though, his expression grew a bit more serious. His pupils shrunk, and he glanced at Xiao XingChen.
Xiao XingChen, “There really are too many.”
Xue Yang suddenly asked, “Really? Then, Daozhang, did you used to night-hunt alone as well?”
The corners of his lips curled up, indicating that he was up to no good, yet his voice was filled with simple curiosity. After a pause, Xiao XingChen smiled slightly, “No.”
This got A-Qing interested, “Then who else were with you?”
This time, Xiao XingChen’s pause was longer. After a few moments, he answered, “A very good friend of mine.”
An eerie light flashed inside Xue Yang’s eyes and his smile grew larger. It seemed that peeling off Xiao XingChen’s scabs gave him quite a lot of pleasure. A-Qing, on the other hand, was actually curious, “Daozhang, who’s this friend of yours? What sort of person are they?”
Xiao XingChen replied calmly, “A sincere man of noble nature.”
Hearing this, Xue Yang rolled his eyes in contempt. His lips moved faintly, as though he cursed at him. However, he purposely pretended that he was confused, “Then, Daozhang, where’s this friend of yours right now? Why hasn’t he come to find you when you’re already like this?
Wei WuXian, What an insidious knife.
This time, Xiao XingChen didn’t reply. Although A-Qing didn’t know what was going on, she looked as if she also sensed something. Holding her breath, she glared at Xue Yang. She clenched her teeth, as though she wanted to take a bite out of him. After a while of spacing out, Xiao XingChen broke the silence, “Where he is right now, I don’t know either. But, I hope that…”
Before he finished his sentence, he patted A-Qing’s head, “Alright. That’s it for tonight. I really don’t know how to tell stories. It’s quite embarrassing.”
A-Qing replied obediently, “Oh. Okay!”
Yet, Xue Yang suddenly spoke up, “Then how about I tell one?”
A-Qing was just about to feel disappointed. She immediately agreed, “Yes, yes. You tell one.”
Unhurried, Xue Yang began, “Once upon a time, there was a child.”
“The child really liked eating sweet things. But because he had no parents or money, he could rarely eat them. One day, the same as any other day, he was sitting zoned-out on a flight of stairs. Opposite to the stairs, there was a liquor shop. A man sat on a table inside of the shop. As he saw the child, he gestured for him to go over.”
Although this story’s beginning wasn’t that great either, it was definitely a lot better than Xiao XingChen’s cliche one. If A-Qing had a pair of rabbit ears, they must’ve perked up already.
Xue Yang continued, “Being naive and puzzled, the child had nothing to do anyways. He saw someone wave at him, and immediately ran over. The man pointed at a plate of pastries on the table and asked him, ‘Do you want this?’”
“Of course he wanted it. He nodded as fast as he could. So, the man gave the child a piece of paper and said, ‘If you want it, take this to a certain room in a certain place. I’ll give it to you after you take the paper.
“The child was really happy. He could have a plate of pastries if he ran the errand, and he earned the plate of pastries himself.
“He didn’t know how to read, so he just took the paper and went to the place. After he opened the door, a huge, brawny man came out. He took over the paper and looked at it, and he gave the child a slap so hard that his nose started bleeding. The man pulled the child’s hair and asked, ‘Who told you to take such a thing over?’”
The child must’ve been Xue Yang himself.
Wei WuXian could never have imagined that a crafty person like Xue Yang was so honest, so dim-witted when he was young, doing whatever a stranger asked him to do. The things written on the piece of paper definitely wasn’t nice. Most likely, the person at the liquor shop and the brawny man had some conflicts. The former didn’t dare curse at the latter in front of his face, so he told a child on the streets to bring over a humiliating letter instead. Such an act could even be described as perverse.
Xue Yang, “He felt scared and pointed the direction. The man went to the liquor shop, carrying the child by pulling his hair. The other man had long been gone. The leftover pastries on the table had been taken away by the waiters as well. The man was so angry that he threw over quite a few tables before storming out.”
“The child was really frustrated. He ran an errand for someone, got beaten up, and was held by his hair on the way back. His scalp was almost pulled off. Of course he wouldn’t settle without the pastries. So, he asked a waiter with tears in his eyes, ‘Where are my pastries? Where are the pastries that he said will be mine?”
Xue Yang continued as he grinned, “The store was in a mess and the waiter was feeling quite cross. He slapped the child a few times, so hard that his ears were even buzzing, and chased him out the door. He crawled up and walked for a while. Guess what? Coincidentally, he ran into the man that made him take the letter again.”
He stopped at this point. A-Qing was just getting engrossed in the story. She hurried him, “And then? What happened?”
Xue Yang, “What do you think happened? Just a few more slaps and a few more kicks.”
A-Qing, “This was you, right? He liked sweets—it definitely was you! Why were you like this when you were young? If I were you, I would’ve been like ptew, ptew, ptew and spat in his food, and then I’d hit him, and I’d hit him, and I’d hit him…” She danced around, almost hitting Xiao XingChen, who sat by her side.
Xiao XingChen quickly spoke, “Alright, alright. You finished listening to the story. It’s time to sleep.”
Even as A-Qing was carried by him to the coffin, she was still angrily complaining, “Ugh! Your stories make me so mad! One is so boring that it makes me mad, and the other is so annoying that it makes me mad! Jeez, that guy who made him take the letter was so annoying! I’m so frustrated!”
After Xiao XingChen tucked her, he walked a few steps, then asked, “What happened afterward?”
Xue Yang, “Guess. There was no afterward. You didn’t continue telling your story either, did you?”
Xiao XingChen, “No matter what happened afterward, since right now your life is fairly adequate, there’s no need for you to dwell too much on the past.”
Xue Yang, “I’m not dwelling on the past. It’s just that the Little Blind keeps on stealing my candy and even finished them, so now I can’t help but remember the days when I couldn’t have any.”
A-Qing kicked the coffin hard and protested, “Daozhang, don’t listen to him! I didn’t really eat that much!”
Xiao XingChen laughed softly, “Let’s all rest.”
That night, Xue Yang didn’t follow him. Xiao XingChen went out to night-hunt alone. A-Qing lay motionless inside the coffin, but she couldn’t fall asleep.
When the sky began to brighten, Xiao XingChen came back, not making a sound as he entered.
As he passed the coffin, he put his hand inside. A-Qing pretended as if she were asleep, and only opened her eyes again after Xiao XingChen left the coffin home. She saw a small piece of candy beside her straw pillow.
She stuck her head out and looked into the bedroom. Xue Yang wasn’t asleep either. He sat at the table, appearing as if he was thinking about something.
A piece of candy lay silently on the edge of the table.
After the night when they talked at the furnace, Xiao XingChen would give both of them a piece of candy everyday. Of course, A-Qing was quite pleased. Xue Yang expressed neither gratitude nor rejection toward this act, which made A-Qing angry at him for some time.
Xiao XingChen had always been responsible for the three’s meals. Since he was blind, he didn’t know how to select vegetables and was too embarrassed to bargain with others. When he went out alone, it was fine if the vendors were nice, but he sometimes met vendors who purposely took advantage of his blindness. The vegetables that he brought back would be lacking in either quality or quantity. Xiao XingChen didn’t care much himself, or one could say that he didn’t really pay attention to the matter, but A-Qing was often infuriated. In a seething manner, she’d demand to shop for ingredients alongside Xiao XingChen. Unfortunately, even though she could see, she couldn’t express anything. She didn’t dare throw tantrums and knock down the stalls in front of Xiao XingChen either. This was when Xue Yang became useful. With keen eyes and a sharp tongue that came with his delinquent self, if he went outside with them, whenever they wanted to buy something, the first thing he’d do was to shamelessly bargain the price down to a half. If the vendor agreed, he’d bargain even further; if the vendor didn’t, he’d put on a menacing look, and the vendors would start thinking that they were lucky somebody like him would decide to pay at all, hoping for him to leave as soon as possible. Presumably, when he was roaming freely in Kuizhou and Lanling, he probably didn’t have to pay anything for the things he wanted. Now that A-Qing had her anger vented out, out of happiness, she even praised him a few times. And, thanks to the delightful candy everyday, since then, for a short length of time, a delicate peace was maintained between A-Qing and Xue Yang.
However, she could never let down her guard for Xue Yang. The short periods of peace were also often immediately suppressed by multiple doubts and suspicions.
One day, A-Qing was playing on the streets again, pretending to be blind. She had been playing the game for her whole life, and hadn’t grown tired of it even once. As she was knocking her bamboo pole while walking around, suddenly, a voice came from behind her, “Young Maiden, if your eyes can’t see, it’s best if you don’t run so fast.”
It was the voice of a young man, which sounded rather cold. A-Qing turned around to see a tall cultivator who wore black robes, standing a few meters away from her. A sword was carried behind his back while a horsetail whisk was in his arm. With an upright posture and drifting sleeves, he had a proud, aloof air to him.
This man just happened to be Song Lan.
A-Qing tilted her head. Song Lan had already walked over. Putting his whisk over A-Qing’s shoulder, he led her to the side, “There are less people on the side of the road.”
Wei WuXian commented, They really are good friends, aren’t they? Good friends would have to be similar in character.
A-Qing tittered, “A-Qing is very thankful of Daozhang!”
Song Lan took his whisk back and held it in his arms again. He glanced at her, “Don’t play around too much. The dark energy here is quite strong. In the future, be careful not to linger outside.”
Song Lan nodded and continued walking, but A-Qing couldn’t help but turn around to watch him. After he walked for a while, he stopped a passerby, “Excuse me. Has anyone seen a blind cultivator who carries a sword in the area?”
At once, A-Qing started to listen carefully. The passerby replied, “I’m not too sure. Daozhang, you can try asking the people over there.”
Song Lan, “Thank you.”
A-Qing tapped her way over, “Daozhang, why are you searching for the other daozhang?”
Song Lan immediately turned around, “Have you seen him?”
A-Qing, “Maybe I have, but maybe I haven’t.”
Song Lan, “How can I make it so that you’ve seen him?”
A-Qing, “If you answer a few questions for me, then maybe I’ll remember that I have. Are you a friend of the daozhang?”
Song Lan hesitated. He only replied after a few moments, “… Yes.”
Wei WuXian wondered, Why did he hesitate?
A-Qing also felt that his answer was somewhat reluctant. Her suspicion grew again, “Do you really know him? How tall is he? Is he pretty or ugly? What is his sword like?”
Song Lan answered straight away, “His height is similar to mine. His appearance is rather fine. His sword is carved with patterns of frost.”
Seeing that he answered everything correctly and didn’t look like a bad guy, A-Qing responded, “I know where he is. Daozhang, follow me!”
Song Lan had already been travelling in search for his close friend for a few years, and had been disappointed countless times. Now that he finally heard news of him, he couldn’t even believe his ears. He managed with effort, “… Thank… Thank you…”
A-Qing led him until they were near the coffin home, yet Song Lan stopped in his tracks. A-Qing asked, “What’s wrong? Aren’t you gonna go over?”
For some reason, Song Lan’s face was extremely pale. He stared at the door of the coffin home, as if he would rush inside if he could, but was too scared to do so. The aloof look that he had was completely gone. Wei WuXian guessed, Maybe he’s nervous since they haven’t seen each other for so long?
Just as he made up his mind and was about to go in, a lackadaisical figure strolled inside before he could.
As he saw who the figure was, Song Lan’s face instantly went from pale to ashen!
A series of laughter came from the coffin home. A-Qing snorted, “The annoying one is back.”
Song Lan, “Who is he? Why is he here?”
A-Qing whined, “He’s a bastard. He never told us his name, so who knows who he is? He was saved by Daozhang. Now he sticks to Daozhang all the time. He’s such a pain!”
Song Lan’s face switched between being surprised and exasperated. After a moment, he spoke, “Be quiet!”
A-Qing was scared by his expression and obeyed. The two of them silently approached the coffin home, one standing beside the window and the other hiding beneath it. In the coffin home, Xiao XingChen asked, “Whose turn is it today?”
The instant he heard the voice, Song Lan’s hands trembled so much that A-Qing could clearly see it.
Xue Yang, “What if, from now on, we don’t take turns anymore? Let’s change it up.”
Xiao XingChen, “You only spoke up because it’s your turn today, didn’t you? How do you want to change it?”
Xue Yang, “Here. There are two sticks. If you pick the longer one, you don’t have to go; if you pick the shorter one, then you’ll have to go. What do you think?”
After a moment of silence, Xue Yang laughed, “Yours is short. I win. You’re going!”
Xiao XingChen said with reluctance, “Alright. I’ll go.”
He sounded as though he finally stood up and started walking toward the door. Wei WuXian cheered, Great. Come outside, quick. It’s best if Song Lan grabs him and runs as soon as he’s out.
However, before he walked very far, Xue Yang spoke up, “Come back. I’ll go.”
Xiao XingChen, “Why are you willing to go, now?”
Xue Yang stood up as well, “Are you an idiot? I tricked you. I picked the shorter one. It’s just that I’ve been hiding the longest stick behind me, so whichever one you pick, I can take out a longer one. I’m just exploiting the fact that you can’t see.”
He laughed at Xiao XingChen some more and sauntered out, holding a basket in his hand. A-Qing looked up at Song Lan, whose entire body was shaking. She didn’t understand why he was so angry. Song Lan gestured for her to be quiet. Only after the two walked some distance away did Song Lan start asking A-Qing about the details, “This man, when did Xing… when did the daozhang save him?”
His tone was solemn. A-Qing understood that the situation was no joke, and she answered him seriously as well, “It’s been a long time, a couple of years.”
Song Lan, “The daozhang never found out who he is?”
Song Lan, “What has he done during his stay with the daozhang?”
A-Qing, “Joke around, bully me, scare me, and… Oh, he also night-hunts with Daozhang!”
Song Lan frowned, thinking that Xue Yang probably wouldn’t be so nice, “Night-hunt? Night-hunt what things? Do you know?”
A-Qing didn’t dare to be careless. After some thought, she replied, “They used to often night-hunt walking corpses, sometime in the past. Now it’s usually ghosts, animals that behave weirdly, and so on.”
As he inquired into the matter, Song Lan also felt that something was strange, but he couldn’t find any clues. He continued, “Is the daozhang close with him?”
Although she didn’t want to admit it, A-Qing still confessed, “I think that Daozhang is really unhappy when he’s alone… He’s finally got someone who cultivates as well… So, I think he sorta likes listening to the bastard tell jokes.”
Song Lan’s face was clouded with both rage and devastation. Amid the confusion, only one thing was for certain:
He definitely couldn’t tell Xiao XingChen about this!
He cautioned, “Don’t tell the daozhang anything unnecessary.”
As soon as he finished, he went toward the direction that Xue Yang left in. A-Qing asked, “Daozhang, are you going to beat up that bastard?”
Song Lan was already far away from her. Wei WuXian thought, Way more than beat him up. He’s going chop Xue Yang into pieces!
Xue Yang went outside holding the vegetable basket. A-Qing knew which path he’d use if he was going to buy vegetables. Taking a shortcut, she sprinted through a part of a forest, her heart beating faster than ever. After chasing for a while, she finally saw Xue Yang’s figure forward of her. He held a basket in one hand, which was filled with cabbages, carrots, steamed buns, and other food. He walked as he yawned lazily. He had probably finished shopping.
A-Qing had always been good at hiding and eavesdropping. She snuck into a bush beside the forest, moving along with him. Suddenly, Song Lan’s cold voice came from in front of her, “Xue Yang.”
As if someone had poured a bucket of freezing water over his face, or if someone had slapped him awake from a deep sleep, Xue Yang’s expression became scary at once.
Song Lan came out from behind a tree. His sword had already been unsheathed. He held it in his hand, with the tip pointing to the ground.
Xue Yang pretended to be surprised, “Oh, isn’t this Daozhang Song? What a rare guest. You here to get a free meal?”
Song Lan lunged with his sword. Xue Yang immediately shook Jiangzai out of his sleeves, blocked the attack, and backed a few steps. He put the basket under a tree, “You damn cultivator. For once I actually wanted to shop for food, and here you fucking are, spoiling my mood!”
In a fury, Song Lan’s attacks were aiming for fatality. He shouted in a low voice, “Just what in the world are you scheming?! Why have you spent so long near Xiao XingChen?!”
Xue Yang laughed, “And I was wondering why Daozhang Song still had business with me. So you want to ask me about this.”
Song Lan raged, “Tell me! Why would a scum like you be so nice as to help him night-hunt?!”
The wind of the sword brushed against his face. A cut appeared on Xue Yang’s cheek, but he wasn’t surprised at all, “How does Daozhang Song understand me so much?”
One of the two fought with skills learned from a proper sect, while the other fought with experience from committing crimes. It was obvious that Song Lan was more skilled than Xue Yang. His pierced through Xue Yang’s arm, “Tell me!”
If not for how the matter was so alarming that Song Lan must know what was going on, the sword might have pierced through the neck instead of the arm. Although Xue Yang was injured, his expression didn’t change at all, “You really wanna hear it? I’m afraid that you might go mad. Some things shouldn’t be made known.”
Song Lan’s voice was colder than ever, “Xue Yang, my patience is running out!”
With a clang, Xue Yang blocked an attack that was aimed at his eyes. He replied, “Fine, if you’re so keen on hearing it. Do you know what that bestest friend of yours did? He killed a lot of walking corpses. He exercised for the greater good, without asking for anything in return. It’s quite touching, really. Although he dug his eyes out for you and became blind, the good thing was that Shuanghua can point out corpse energy for him. What’s even better? I discovered that if you cut off the tongues of people under corpse poisoning and made it so that they couldn’t speak, Shuanghua couldn’t tell apart living and dead corpses either, so…”
He explained it in an extremely detailed way. Both SongLan’s arm and sword were trembling, “You monster… You vile monster…”
Xue Yang, “Daozhang Song, sometimes I feel like that polite people like you are really at a disadvantage when they’re cursing others, because it’s always those few words being repeated over and over again. There’s absolutely no power or creativity at all. I haven’t used these two words to call others ever since I was seven.”
Song Lan was in a towering rage. He attacked again, this time aiming at his throat, “You imposed upon his blindness and fooled him so terribly!”
The attack was both fast and fatal. Xue Yang managed to dodge it, but it pierced his shoulder nonetheless. As if he couldn’t feel anything, he didn’t even flinch, “His blindness? Daozhang Song, have you forgotten who he dug out his own eyes and became blind for?”
Hearing this, both Song Lan’s face and movements stiffened.
Xue Yang continued, “What position are you in to blame me? A friend of his? Are you shameless enough to say that you’re his friend? Hahahaha, Daozhang Song, do I need to remind you of what you said to Xiao XingChen after I wiped out the Baixue Temple? When he worried about you and wanted to help you, what sort of expression did you face him with? What sort of things did you say?”
Song Lan was in a terrible state of mind, “I! At the time, I…”
Xue Yang cut him short, “At the time, you were upset? You were pained? You were grieving? You didn’t know where to vent your anger? And that was why you took it out on him? To be fair, the reason why I wiped out your temple was precisely because of him. It’s quite understandable why you took it out on him. In fact, it was exactly what I wanted.”
Every sentence was a critical strike!
Both Xue Yang’s speech and attacks quickened. His movements becoming calmer and more difficult to defend, he gradually gained the upper hand, yet Song Lan didn’t notice this at all. Xue Yang added, “Well! Who was the one who said ‘from now on, we won’t need to meet again”? Wasn’t it you, Daozhang Song? He listened to your request and disappeared after he dug out his eyes for you, but why have you come to him now? Isn’t this making it a bit too difficult? Daozhang Xiao XingChen, don’t you agree?”
Hearing this, Song Lan wavered. His attacks hesitated as well!
Being fooled by such a simple trick, it could be seen that Song Lan’s mind and movements were really disrupted by Xue Yang. Taking advantage of such a perfect chance, with a wave of his hand, corpse-poisoning powder rained from above.
Nobody had seen this sort of carefully refined corpse-poisoning powder before, including Song Lan. He accidentally breathed in quite a large amount. Immediately knowing that he was in a bad situation, Song Lan started to cough. However, Xue Yang’s Jiangzai had long been waiting. With a cold flash of the sword’s tip, it shot straight into his mouth!
Instantly, Wei WuXian’s field of vision turned into complete darkness. A-Qing was so scared that she closed her eyes.
But, he knew already. This was when Song Lan’s tongue had been cut off by Jiangzai.
The sounds were terrifying.
A-Qing’s eyes felt warm, but she clenched her teeth tightly, not making a single sound. Her eyes blinked open again. Song Lan managed to keep standing, leaning on his sword. With his other hand, he covered his mouth. Blood seeped incessantly from between his fingers.
With his tongue cut off by Xue Yang’s sudden attack, Song Lan was under so much agony that he couldn’t even walk. Yet, he still pulled his sword from the ground and staggered toward Xue Yang. Xue Yang dodged the attack easily. A bizarre smile was on his face.
The next moment, Wei WuXian saw why he smiled in such a way.
Shuanghua’s silver glare pierced into Song Lan’s chest, then came out from his back.
Song Lan looked down at Shuanghua’s blade, which penetrated his heart, then slowly looked up again. He saw Xiao XingChen, who calmly held the sword.
Xiao XingChen wasn’t at all aware of the situation, “Are you there?”
Song Lan moved his lips soundlessly.
Xue Yang grinned, “I am. Why are you here?”
Xiao XingChen pulled out Shuanghua and returned it to its sheath, “Shuanghua behaved strangely. I followed its guidance and came to see.” He wondered, “We haven’t seen any walking corpses in this area for quite a while, not to mention one that roamed alone. Did it come here from somewhere else?”
Slowly, Song Lan fell to his knees before Xiao XingChen.
Xue Yang glanced down at him, “Probably. It’s making awful noises.”
At such a time, if Song Lan passed his sword to Xiao XingChen’s hands, Xiao XingChen would’ve immediately known who he was. He’d be able to recognize the sword of his closest friend with just a touch.
Yet, Song Lan could no longer do so. Would he pass the sword to Xiao XingChen, tell him who he had just killed with his own hands?
This was precisely what Xue Yang was aiming for, thus he had nothing to fear. He turned to Xiao XingChen, “Let’s go. It’s time to cook dinner. I’m hungry already.”
Xiao XingChen, “Have you bought the vegetables?”
Xue Yang, “Yep. I ran into this thing on my way back. What a bad day.”
Xiao XingChen left first. Xue Yang patted the wounds on his shoulder and arm. He picked up the basket again and, as he passed Song Lan, he smiled and looked down, “No food for you.”
After Xue Yang was long gone and had probably reached the coffin home with Xiao XingChen already, A-Qing finally stood up from behind the bush.
Her legs had both numbed after squatting for so long. Holding her pole, she limped and wobbled to Song Lan, whose kneeling corpse had already stiffened.
Song Lan’s death was far from being peaceful. A-Qing jumped from his widely opened eyes. Then, as she saw the blood that spilled out of his mouth, streaming down his chin, staining the front of his shirt, pooling over the ground, large drops of tears rolled from her eyes.
Although she was scared, A-Qing reached out to close Song Lan’s eyes. She then kneeled in front of him and put her palms together, “Daozhang, please don’t blame me or the other daozhang. If I came out, I’d die anyways, so I had to hide and couldn’t help you. The other daozhang was fooled by that bastard as well. He didn’t do it on purpose. He didn’t know that you were the one he killed!”
She sobbed on, “I’m going back. Please, let your deceased spirit bless me so that I can get Daozhang Xiao XingChen out of there, bless us so that we can escape the demon’s control. I must not let that monster Xue Yang die in peace. I must cut him into pieces so that he never enters reincarnation again!”
After her speech, she kowtowed on the ground three loud times. She wiped her face harshly, stood up, encouraged herself, and walked in the direction of Yi City.
The sky had already darkened when she returned to the coffin home. Xue Yang was peeling apples at the table. Cutting all of the slices into rabbits, he seemed to be a wonderful mood. Anyone who saw him would think that this must be a lively youth. Nobody would be able to imagine what he had just done. Hearing her entrance, Xiao XingChen came out with a plate of cabbage in his hand, “A-Qing, where did you go today? It’s already so late.”
Glancing at her, something suddenly flashed in Xue Yang’s eyes, “What’s wrong? Her eyes are so swollen.”
Xiao XingChen hurried over, “What happened? Did someone bully you?”
Xue Yang, “Bully her? Who’d be able to bully her?”
Although he wore a broad smile, he was clearly growing suspicious. Suddenly, A-Qing threw the bamboo pole onto the ground, and started wailing.
She cried with both tears and a runny nose. Almost hiccuping, she flew into Xiao XingChen’s arms, “Am I ugly? Am I ugly? Daozhang, you have to tell me. Am I really that ugly?”
Xiao XingChen stroked her head, “Of course not. A-Qing is such a pretty girl. Who said that you’re ugly?”
Xue Yang commented with disdain, “You’re so ugly. You’re even uglier when you cry.”
Xiao XingChen chided, “Don’t say that.”
A-Qing cried harder. She stomped her feet, “Well, Daozhang, it’s not like you can see! What’s the use if you say I’m pretty? You’re definitely lying to me! He can see. He said I’m ugly, so I must really be that ugly! Both ugly and blind!”
From all the fuss, both of them naturally believed that some children called her “ugly-pants” or “white-eyed blind girl” when she was outside today, and was feeling frustrated. Xue Yang dismissed, “You came back crying just because they said you’re ugly? Where did your usual unreasonable rudeness go?”
A-Qing, “I’m not rude! Daozhang, do you have any money left?”
With a pause, Xiao XingChen replied in embarrassment, “Uh… I think so.”
Xue Yang interrupted, “I can lend you some.”
A-Qing spat, “You’ve been living and eating with us for so long, and you still call it ‘lending’ if we use some of your money! What a miser! You have no shame! Daozhang, I wanna buy pretty clothes and pretty jewelry. Can you come with me?”
Wei WuXian thought to himself, So she wants to lead Xiao XingChen out of here. But if Xue Yang wants to follow, what should she do?
Xiao XingChen, “Of course I can, but I won’t be able to help you see if they suit you or not.”
Xue Yang interrupted again, “I can help her.”
A-Qing jumped so high that she almost hit Xiao XingChen’s chin, “I don’t care, I don’t care! I only want you! I don’t want him beside me at all. All he’ll say is that I’m ugly! And he’ll call me Little Blind!”
It wasn’t the first time that she acted in such an unreasonable way. The two of them were already used to it. Xue Yang pulled a face at her, while Xiao XingChen agreed, “Alright. How about tomorrow?”
Xue Yang, “If you go tonight, all of the markets will have closed. Where else could you possibly go?”
Having no other choice, A-Qing gave in, “Fine! Then tomorrow it is! It’s a promise!”
Having failed a first attempt, if she still begged to go outside, Xue Yang would definitely be suspicious again. A-Qing could only drop the matter for now and go to the table for dinner. During the previous ruckus, although her performance was the same as before, appearing more than natural, her stomach had been stretched taut throughout. She had been so nervous that, even now, the hand that she held her bowl with was still trembling. Xue Yang was sitting right at her left. As he glanced sideways at her, her legs stiffened again. Since she was too frightened to eat anything, she conveniently pretended that she was too furious to have an appetite. She spat the food out every time she had a bite. Stabbing her bowl, she muttered and cursed, “You damned bitch. You filthy maid. Well I don’t think you’re any better, slut!”
Listening to her curse at the nonexistent “filthy maid”, Xue Yang couldn’t hold himself from rolling his eyes, while Xiao XingChen spoke, “Don’t waste food.”
Xue Yang’s eyes left A-Qing and turned to Xiao XingChen’s face instead. Wei WuXian thought, It could indeed be justified how the little delinquent could imitate Xiao XingChen in such an accurate way. After all, they sat in front of each other every single day. He’d have lots of time to figure it out.
However, Xiao XingChen was not at all aware of the two pairs of eyes that pointed at him. After all, he was the only one in the room who was truly blind.
After they finished, Xiao XingChen cleaned up the bowls and chopsticks, and went in the central chamber again. Unable to sit or stand still, A-Qing wanted to follow him inside, but Xue Yang suddenly called her, “A-Qing.”
A-Qing’s heart immediately skipped a beat. Even Wei WuXian felt the chills that ran from her head down her back.
She responded, “Why did you suddenly call my name?!”
Xue Yang, “Didn’t you say yourself that you didn’t wanna be called Little Blind?”
A-Qing humphed, “People don’t just suddenly act nice to others, unless they’re hiding other intentions! Just what do you want?”
Xue Yang smiled, “Nothing, really. I just want to teach you what you should do the next time others curse at you.”
A-Qing, “Huh. Tell me, then. What should I do?”
Xue Yang, “If someone calls you ugly, then make her even uglier. Cut a few dozens of times on her face so that she’ll never have the guts to go outside again. If someone calls you blind, then carve one end of your pole sharp, and stab once in both of her eyes so that she’ll also be blind. Then, see if she dares to bad mouth you again.”
A-Qing’s blood ran cold. She pretended as if she thought he was frightening her, “You’re scaring me again!”
Xue Yang snorted, “Well, think what you want.”
As he finished, he pushed the plate that held the rabbit-shaped apple slices in front of her, “Eat up.”
Looking at the plate of cute, delicate slices, disgust filled both A-Qing’s and Wei WuXian’s hearts.
The next day, just as they got up, A-Qing pleaded Xiao XingChen to shop for pretty clothes and makeup alongside her. Xue Yang was annoyed, “If you two are gone, then I’d have to buy today’s food again?”
A-Qing, “Why can’t you buy it? Think about how many times Daozhang bought them! You’re the only one who bullies and plays tricks on Daozhang all the time!”
Xue Yang, “Okay, okay. I’ll go buy it. I’ll go right now.”
After he was gone, Xiao XingChen asked, “A-Qing, are you still not ready yet? Can we go now?”
A-Qing only came inside after she made sure that Xue Yang was long gone. She closed the door and asked in a trembling voice, “Daozhang, do you happen to know someone called Xue Yang?”
Temple: The storyline of “Once upon a time there was a mountain and on the mountain there was a temple” is from a classic Chinese children’s rhyme that repeats itself over and over again, often used by adults to get children to sleep.
Enlightenment: This means that she has already gained immortality, what every cultivator is aiming to do.
Shibo: This is similar to a shishu. Whereas shishu refers to one’s parent’s shidi, shibo refers to one’s parent’s shixiong.
Scholar: In Ancient China, there was a time when scholars were heavily frowned upon, especially associated with poorness.