Translated by Rikko of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
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?]
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…]