Translated by Rikko of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
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.
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. [No.] 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.]
[Gu XuanYan didn’t get any helpers nor used any magic tools. He killed with his own hands.]
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.”
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?”
“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.
- According to wiki: Jiao 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. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiaolong
- 500 meters