Translated by Rikko of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Editor: Addis, WagahaiFujoshi
Liang Zheng was nine years old when he entered his sect, an age at which most children were at such a high level of mischief, even pets would’ve despised them.
He was born in an ordinary civilian’s family, whose home was chanced upon by the fourth sect elder of Mount Jade Dwelling, Ting Feng, during his mission of eliminating demons.
Noticing Liang Zheng not only had moderate aptitude but also was obedient and thoughtful, the sect elder asked the young boy if he would be willing to enter his sect and practice Daoist cultivation.
After quite a while of pondering, Liang Zheng responded with a timid nod.
Only after he entered the sect did he find out he was the only disciple under the fourth sect elder’s wings.
The sole reason for the fourth sect elder’s lack of disciples was his mentality.
He believed the conquest to ascension should not be achieved through mere adhering to hard training, but instead visiting everything under the sun to gain awakening.
Thus, after more than a decade did he return to his sect.
Upon taking in Liang Zheng, the sect elder held himself down to teach him for two to three years.
Following which, he presented Liang Zheng with an earnest, emphasized request one day, “My disciple, practice your cultivation well and take good care of my mountain.1 This Master will be leaving the sect and will be back soon enough.”
Yet, not a single shadow of him could be found even after four years had passed.
Fortunately, Liang Zheng was neither arrogant nor willful.
Shy by nature and not fond of causing trouble to others, he lived alone in his Master’s mountain, spending his time studying manuals to gain enlightenment in cultivation.
Unexpectedly, he did not slip into any major pitfalls during his lone training.
In the end, the third sect elder was the one who couldn’t stand watching such poor treatment any longer.
She ranted at that irresponsible junior brother of hers for an entire day while also taking in Liang Zheng to her mountain, getting the boy to practice cultivation together with her disciples.
The third sect elder of Mount Jade Dwelling, who was Ji ChangYun’s mother as well, had the Daoist honorific name of Ting Shuang.
Despite being fourteen at that time, Liang Zheng was at the very least a year or two older than the handful of disciples the Third Sect Elder had.
Moreover, he entered the sect earlier than those disciples too, so he became their senior brother
Upon Liang Zheng’s gaining of a senior brother’s position, the responsibility of showering his junior brothers with care and love rose inside him consciously.
Not only did he grant almost all of his junior brothers’ requests, but he also stepped in personally to settle most of his junior brothers’ problems, giving off the vibe of a mediator.
Every single disciple of Third Sect Elder became prone to looking for him whenever they landed themselves in trouble or when problems cropped up in just a year.
However, Ji ChangYun was an exception.
Ji ChangYun is one year younger than Liang Zheng, but he had already shown outstanding talent in his cultivation practice.
While other disciples were still following their Master’s method of building their foundation day after day via attempting to refine Qi, Ji ChangYun had already started utilizing his Qi to ride his sword.
Although both Ji ChangYun and Liang Zheng didn’t like to chat, Ji ChangYun had a cold disposition, unlike the bashful Liang Zheng.
Besides being endowed with gifted intelligence, he buried himself deeply in diligent training, getting up at the crack of dawn to practice with his sword while only heading back to rest at the late of night.
Nothing seemed to hold more value than training in his mind, nor did he show much interest in any affairs of his fellow disciples.
The third sect elder, his mother that was, did educate him, but upon finding no improvements, she ended up letting him be.
However, Liang Zheng couldn’t.
As a senior brother, he was conscious of his duty of showing care to every single of his junior brothers.
Such awareness flared even stronger when all of the disciples congregated since the thought of Ji ChangYun being alone would arise.
Discomfort welled up in him whenever that happened as it reminded him of the days he spent alone in his Master’s mountain a few years back.
Hence, Liang Zheng would spend every morning refining Qi with his master to build his foundation, following which he would head to Ji ChangYun’s training spot every afternoon.
During his time there, he would watch over Ji ChangYun’s training while also following the method of practising he did in the past, practising from the ways he read from the manuals.
Ji ChangYun’s training place was also his own residence, where within its courtyard stood a ginkgo tree.
Sitting in front of the corridor, Liang Zheng would alternate between looking over at Ji ChangYun for a while and reading his manuals.
Once his eyes got tired from the watching, he would direct them to the tree.
According to the sect elder in charge of the mountain, in spite of the tree’s centuries of age, it still flourished with foliage.
During spring and summer, it would greet the two of them with newly grown greenery of varying shades, casting speckled shadows on them.
In autumn, its branches would be sparse and thin with wind whirling down its leaves, the layer of yellow foliage coiling up from any slight movement of Ji ChangYun’s sword energy.
Once the sun dipped under the mountains, Liang Zheng would shut his manual before calling out to Ji ChangYun, “Junior Brother, it’s time for dinner.”
Despite Ji ChangYun’s seldom replies, Liang Zheng paid no mind as he held his book in his arms while waiting for him to sheath his sword.
Along the journey to the dining hall, Liang Zheng would occasionally summon up the courage to relay to Ji ChangYun about some of the interesting matters from his class, or about the blossoming of the flowering crabapple within the mountain.
The lack of response from Ji ChangYun led to Liang Zheng’s voice growing softer by the minute.
Fortunately, as the route to the dining hall was short, the awkwardness wasn’t too much to bear.
One morning, since it was almost time for class, Liang Zheng set his book on the desk.
Before he could sit down, his two junior brothers dragged him away to a corner of the book shed.
Noticing the anxiousness clouding their faces and the sneakiness in their actions, Liang Zheng couldn’t help asking, “Junior Brothers, what’s the matter?”
After both younger disciples exchanged glances, the older of the two plucked up his courage, “Senior brother, we are in trouble.”
Liang Zheng’s heart skipped a beat. Seeing that even they themselves caught on the mess they were situated in, it must be of a serious degree.
As expected, the young disciple continued, “We couldn’t quite grasp what Master said about the shifting of star mansion within the hidden talisman yesterday, so in the afternoon that day, we went to the Book Collection Pavilion2 and browsed the books there. But then, we accidentally…”
A brief moment of hemming and hawing later, he carried on, “…accidentally tore one of the books.”
All of the books in the Book Collection Pavilion were uniquely rare due to them being the sole existing copy, many of which handwritten by highly ranked Daoist cultivators in the past.
Liang Zheng’s heart sank at the reveal, a chastise escaping him, “How can you be so careless?”
Startled by his tone, the young disciples began pushing the blame onto each other in an instant.
“It’s all your fault. I told you I haven’t finished reading it. and yet you still snatched…”
“Well, you shouldn’t have hog onto it!”
“It’s your fault for taking so long reading it!”
Liang Zheng let out a sigh before meditating out of habit, “Stop with the quarrels. Sect Elder will definitely be using the Hidden Talisman Scripture in the morning today, when the time comes…”
The thought of the Master seething with rage compelled them to shrink their neck, sullenness veiling their faces, “what should we do, Senior brother? We’ve just been reprimanded a few days ago. Now that we got into trouble again, no way will Master let us off lightly.”
Having just reached the young age of ten, they were at a complete loss whenever they landed themselves in hot water, only knowing the option of asking their senior brother for help.
Pity melted Liang Zheng’s heart as he reassured “It’s all right. Just go in for now”
Sure enough, ashen grimness painted the third sect elder’s face upon her arrival.
She slammed the book in her hands onto her desk, her voice stern, “What’s with this?”
Unlike every single disciple in the hall who were all too frightened to utter a word, Liang Zheng took a deep breath and got up, offering a nervous confession. “Third Sect Elder, when I went to the Book Collection Pavilion to read books yesterday, I have accidentally torn the Hidden Talisman Scripture yesterday.”
As all other disciples in the class were directly under her, they referred to her as their Master.
Only Liang Zheng addressed her as a Sect Elder since he already had a master, albeit an unreliable one.
Nonetheless, due to his intelligence and responsible nature, he was well-liked by her.
Upon hearing Liang Zheng’s confession, she directed her line of sight to Liang Zheng, her gaze full of suspicion, “Is it you?”
Liang Zheng forced out a reply, “It is.”
She swept her eyes over to the disciples, tossing another question “Is your Senior Liang Zheng really the one behind this mess?”
No one in the hall answered.
The culprits lowered his head, turmoil tangling their minds; yet they did not dare to voice out anything.
The sect elder withdrew her gaze, letting out a grunt out of disappointed resentment, “In that case, you will follow me to the Disciplinary Hall after class.”
As he just finished practising a set of sword techniques, Ji ChangYun cast a subconscious glimpse at the front of the corridor while retracting his aura, lifting his eyes to the sky right after.
It was past morning.
Ji ChangYun withdrew his line of sight and continued practising with his sword.
Early noon had arrived.
Afternoon had arrived.
Late noon had arrived.
The sun had started crawling down from the sky, indicating the nearing of the evening.
With a rare sight of a slight crease between his brows, Ji ChangYun, for the first time ever, sheathed his sword before the hour was up before heading to the frontal mountain.
Right before reaching the frontal mountain, Ji ChangYun chanced upon a fellow disciple, who couldn’t help asking after being stunned for a short while.
“Senior Ji, aren’t you usually practising with your sword at this time?”
The disciple realized the inappropriateness of his remark the moment it slipped out of the tongue.
Due to the perception everyone had of Ji ChangYun being aloof and reserved, the disciple assumed he wouldn’t give any response.
To his surprise, Ji ChangYun ended up stopping in his tracks and nodded to him.
“My heart is not at peace today, not a suitable state for sword practice.”
While the disciple was still immersed in the shock that ‘Senior Ji really did answer me’, Ji ChangYun paused for a moment before asking, “Have you seen Senior Liang Zheng today?”
Snapped back to reality, he answered in haste, “Yes. Senior Liang Zheng is in the Disciplinary Hall.”
Ji ChangYun’s brows furrowed slightly.
Despite sounding rather grand, the Disciplinary Hall was, in reality, a mere shabby house at the back of the mountains where disciples were punished to self-reflect whenever they made mistakes.
According to Mount Jade Dwelling’s rules, the damaging of the sect’s archives and magic tools was punishable with the copying of the sect’s rules for thirty times.
Upon questioning Liang Zheng once more and seeing him being resolute with his confession, the Third Sect Elder had no choice but to head back.
Although the two culprits of the incident sneaked in with the intention to help, Liang Zheng stopped them due to their handwriting being far off from his.
With that, the two could only keep watch helplessly by Liang Zheng’s side, occasionally asking Liang Zheng if he was thirsty at one moment and asking if he was hungry at the next.
Having a headache from the two’s pestering, Liang Zheng ended up chasing them away with a wave of his hand before continuing copying the sect’s rules quietly alone.
By the time Ji ChangYun pushed the door open and stepped in, Liang Zheng was already on his twenty-second copying.
Not expecting Ji ChangYun, Liang Zheng hurriedly set his brush down, asking, “What brings Junior Brother here?”
Remembering he didn’t go over to watch him practising sword today, he followed up right after with an apology, “I’m sorry, Junior Brother. I had something on today, so I didn’t go over to see you.”
Instead of replying, Ji ChangYun stated, “I heard that Senior Brother has accidentally torn one of the scriptures.”
Liang Zheng pursed his lips, “Yes.”
“When did you do that?”
For some reason, lying to Ji ChangYun swept up waves of nervousness within Liang Zheng.
He subconsciously recalled the point of time his two junior brothers mentioned and stammered, “Yes- yesterday afternoon.”
Ji ChangYun’s tone was calm and flat, “Yesterday afternoon, Senior Brother was watching me practising with my sword.”
Redness blazing across his face, Liang Zheng was rendered speechless for quite some time.
Ji ChangYun asked, “Why did Senior Brother lie?”
Liang Zheng whispered, slightly drained of courage, “The two junior brothers are still young. Besides, they’ve recognized their mistakes.”
Ji ChangYun answered in a chilly voice, “Requesting someone else to take punishment on one’s behalf only means one has not reflected nor recognized any mistakes.
While Liang Zheng was at a loss for words at the remark, Ji ChangYun pointed out, “Senior Brother’s lying is also a violation of the sect’s rules, which is punishable with the copying of the sect rules for twenty times. Doesn’t Senior Brother know this?”
The lecture shamed the speechless Liang Zheng so much so that he wished he could sink through the ground.
After taking a deep breath, Liang Zheng plucked up his courage, “That’s right. So let’s take my current punishment as my punishment for lying.
He continued speaking out, his voice slow, “As a senior brother, I should be held responsible if I didn’t teach my junior brothers well. Besides, when Master returns, I will have to return to Master’s mountain to continue practising cultivation. Who knows how long I can continue being around with my juniors. If I have to take punishment for them, so be it.”
Upon hearing that, Ji ChangYun had a hint of puzzlement coloured on his face, raising a question in slight confusion, “Why go back?”
Liang Zheng froze momentarily, offering a truthful answer once he guessed, in all honesty, Ji ChangYun probably had no idea of the situation, “Junior brother, I have always been studying under Fourth sect elder. I’m only temporarily practising under third sect elder because Master still has not returned from his travels. So, of course, I’ll have to go back to him when Master is back.”
Such had not seemed to cross Ji ChangYun’s mind. Never had he cared about these kinds of information in the past either.
A brief moment of silence later, he turned around and went out.
Once Ji ChangYun left, apprehensiveness began creeping into Liang Zheng’s heart as he wondered if he got pissed off.
Following which, his mind shifted to a rebuke on himself for his previous statement.
In Daoist cultivation, the line dividing one Master’s disciples from the next was strictly uncrossable. Even if all were from the same sect, the division had to be strictly adhered to.
Ting Shuang, the third sect elder, had broken the rule to temporarily take Liang Zheng under her wings only because of his young age.
Crystal clear in his heart about having such exceptions granted to him, Liang Zheng warned himself every single day to, firstly, try not to give the sect elders trouble and, secondly, to take good care of his junior brothers.
Remorse sprung up in him at the thought of that. Why did I say that and upset Junior Brother?
On the contrary, Ji ChangYun did not think too much of it at all and instead, headed to the direction of the dining hall once he stepped out from the door.
Just after walking a small distance away, Ji ChangYun saw two young disciples carrying steamed buns and porridge to the disciplinary hall.
Shock coursed through the two boys the moment they caught sight of Ji ChangYun, prompting them to hide the food behind them in haste.
Ji ChangYun eyed both of them, “This is for Senior Liang.”
Not daring even to utter a word, the two boys nodded their heads. Ji ChangYun’s tone lowered slightly, “Are you the ones who tore the book?”
As Ji ChangYun appeared to be engulfed with solemness all the time, almost every single Mount Jade Dwelling’s disciples feared him, let alone the two young boys who hadn’t even reached ten years old.
The two teary-eyed disciples nodded, void of any courage to even exhale a breath.
A brief silence lingered over Ji ChangYun before he continued, “Copy the sect rules thirty times for the damaging of books and twenty times for deceiving your elders. A total of fifty copies. Give them to me by tomorrow.”
Having to submit fifty copies of the sect rules meant they probably would have to stay up all night.
Still, the two of them nodded their heads repeatedly, fear zipping their mouths tight.
Ji ChangYun took over the food in their hands, “You should get going.”
Carrying a bowl of food, he went back to the Disciplinary Hall.
Inside the house was Liang Zheng.
Due to the assumption of him upsetting his junior brother, he never expected Ji ChangYun to return, much less bring him food.
After freezing for quite some time, Liang Zheng felt mildly moved all of a sudden.
Ji ChangYun furrowed his brows in confusion upon detecting the redness in Liang Zheng’s eyes, “Did you cry?”
His blunt question got straight to the point.
Seemingly not quite understanding why Liang Zheng was crying, he pondered for a moment before adding, “Was I too harsh just now?”
“No.” Liang Zheng twisted his head away in embarrassment before changing the subject, “Junior brother, by bringing food into Disciplinary Hall, you have also violated the sect rules.”
Ji ChangYun nodded before reaching his hand out to get a brush and paper from the desk, his tone as tranquil as water, “Yes, bringing food into the Disciplinary Hall is punishable with the copying of sect rules ten times.”
Following which, he spread the paper and started penning down, his actions rendering Liang Zheng speechless.
Without anything more to say, Liang Zheng ate his meal in silence before lifting his brush to write again.
Similar to him, Ji ChangYun kept his mouth shut as well.
As the autumn wind rustled by outside, a lamp with flames as tiny as a bean stood in the middle of the two inside the house, who sat face to face while they…copied the sect rules.
—A record of the first time Ji ChangYun copied the sect rules
Just as Liang Zheng turned eighteen, that rather heartless Master of his finally came back.
It was the end of the year at that time.
He and Ji ChangYun were sorting through the books in the Book Collection Pavilion, taking inventory of them one by one and filing them away.
As a set of Chinese classics books were still left in the classroom and he had his hands full, he asked Ji ChangYun to get them.
Ji ChangYun had yet to reach the frontal mountain when he noticed someone whizzing from afar with a sword before landing steadily in front of him.
After freezing for a few seconds, he greeted, “Fourth martial uncle.”
Clad in long azurite robes, the man in front of him, Ting Feng, was holding his sword while stroking his beard
Upon detecting Ji ChangYun, he let out a candid laugh, “Long time no see. ChangYun has grown so tall over these years.”
He gave his young martial nephew a once over before adding another compliment, “Your cultivation base has also got stronger.”
His compliments did not elicit any expression from Ji ChangYun, who merely replied with, “Thank you, fourth martial uncle.”
Ting Feng nodded, recalling that this martial nephew of his liked keeping to himself.
Just when he was about to head off, Ji ChangYun took him by surprise as he tossed him an abrupt question right after, “Why did Fourth martial uncle return?”
Ting Feng was at a loss for words, finding inhospitality seeping out from the question.
Nonetheless, as he raised his eyes to meet with Ji ChangYun’s expressionless face, he dismissed it as him being overly sensitive.
Cheeriness bloomed in his reply, “Because I miss all my senior brothers and martial nephews, of course. And to celebrate the New Year too. My little disciple is also all grown up now, so I came back to visit him.”
Ji ChangYun nodded, throwing out a question that rendered Ting Feng speechless yet again, “Then when will Fourth martial Uncle depart again?”
Bafflement swirled within Ting Feng, who had no idea what had he done to offend this martial nephew of his that he had no contact with in the past eight to nine years.
In the end, he simply patted Ji ChangYun’s shoulder while giving a vague reply, “We’ll see. By the way, I heard my disciple has been taken in by my senior sister. Can Martial Nephew take me over to him?”
He stroked his beard again, exhaling a long sigh, “Having been wandering outside the sect, this master misses him very much and wonders what he has grown up to be in the past eight to nine years.”
A momentary silence fell upon Ji ChangYun before he replied, “I have not seen Senior Liang today.”
Draped in an unyielding, honest aura, he remained expressionless despite the short pause before his response.
Ting Feng smiled, not even a hint of suspicion at him, “If that’s so, I will visit my Master and seniors first.”
Once Ji ChangYun saw Ting Feng was gone, he headed back to Book Collection Pavilion.
Still jotting down the register, Liang Zheng froze the moment he noticed his return, “Junior brother sure is fast. Where are the books?
Ji ChangYun paused for a few seconds, “I forgot.”
Liang Zheng went muted at his answer.
Of course, Liang Zheng still ended up meeting his Master that night.
Upon hearing her junior brother was planning to meet his disciple, the third sect elder flooded him with a barrage of reprimands for an hour before ordering someone to bring Liang Zheng over with a wave of her hand.
After Ting Feng stroked Liang Zheng’s head while remarking on his growth in height, he stuffed the bunch of sweets, snacks and clay dolls he got during his travels to his young disciple.
The fact that his disciple had already passed the age of eighteen and abstinence rules of Daoist cultivation seemed to have been utterly wiped off of his mind.
Brimming with a mixture of awkward amusement and disappointment, the third sect elder turned a blind eye to it on account of the day being the new year.
Instead of snubbing away, Liang Zheng was rather touched as he accepted his Master’s well-intended presents.
Once the night descended upon the skies, he picked out some hazelnut cakes, maltose and other snacks of similar variety before sneaking over to Ji ChangYun’s residence.
After knocking on the door and pushing the door open, he found Ji ChangYun writing at his desk under the table lamp’s light.
Liang Zheng strolled over for a look, just to realize Ji ChangYun was copying the sect rules.
Shock blazed through him, “…Junior Ji, did you make an offence?”
Ji ChangYun paused his writing, yet he did not reply.
Deeming it impossible after pondering, Liang Zheng opted not to press on but instead, set the items he had in hand onto the desk as he cracked a smile.
“Master had brought me some snacks from his travels, so I came over to hand you some.
Ji ChangYun commented, “Succumbing to delicacies is punishable with the copying of rules ten times.”
…I knew it, no way will such a person ever commit any offence!!!
Self-confidence blanketed Liang Zheng’s voice, “It is the New Year, so Sect Elder Ting Shuang approved it!”
He pushed the sweets over to his junior brother, his tone relaxed, “Take a bite, junior brother.”
Ji ChangYun kept his mouth shut, gently sending a small piece of maltose to his mouth only after white some time passed.
—A record of the second time Ji ChangYun copied the sect rules( to this day, Liang Zheng still has no idea of the reason)