Translated by Rikko of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Ever since Zhong Yan transmigrated, he had to prevent Gu XuanYan from killing himself and others; he wished he could keep himself tensed up every single second. Yet once he realized Gu XuanYan almost got him killed, his nerves began to ease up. Perhaps his near-death experience dissolved quite a bit of anxiety from him.
Moreover, oddly enough, Gu XuanYan shared his life story to Zhong Yan. Although not much was said, from Zhong Yan’s recollection of the story, Gu XuanYan had never shared his past with any soul. Zhong Yan felt that maybe, probably, Gu XuanYan wouldn’t think of killing him for the time being. Of course, Gu XuanYan might have only shared his past due to Zhong Yan’s impending death, since dead men would tell no tales…
Still, the heightened defense in all sects took a significant part in lessening Zhong Yan’s worry. After all, being one of Green Summit’s chief disciples, Gu XuanYan would have himself bogged down by matters regarding defense strengthening. He probably had no time to spare on planning schemes.
With loads of free time, Zhong Yan started to try cultivating out of boredom. To his surprise, he ended up reaching the late stage of Essence Condensation, and judging from his progress, he might be elevated to the next level soon. Although, in contrast to all Green Summit’s disciples, such accomplishment wasn’t much, his advancement still delighted him for quite some time. Even Gu XuanYan congratulated him during his routine check on him taking medicine.
That’s right… Despite countless matters at hand, Gu XuanYan still visited him every night and watched him finish his medicine. After this, he would hand over a plum to him. Only after Zhong Yan finished his plum did he return to his quarters. Being fed at a set timing made Zhong Yan feel like he had turned into a pet Gu XuanYan raised… That said, the plums were indeed tasty.
Zhong Yan lifted his gaze towards the flourishing plum tree in front of him. At the back of the mountains were rows and rows of plum trees, forming a plum forest. Clusters of green plums crammed tightly together as they hid beneath the branches and leaves, making a satisfying sight. 1 All disciples were having their afternoon break, leaving him the only one at the back of the mountain.
When Gu XuanYan visited him last night, Zhong Yan couldn’t help asking him to bring a few more green plums the next day. To his dismay, Gu XuanYan lifted his brows as he warned, “Senior Brother, it’s no good to have too much of it.”
Depending on oneself was indeed much better than asking others for help. After Zhong Yan found a tree brimming with green plums, he gathered his internal energy and leapt up. He climbed up the tree in just two to three leaps before sitting on a thick branch. The mouth-watering green plums quenched any bit of thirst.
Just when Zhong Yan popped his fourth plum into his mouth, he heard a familiar voice below the tree, “Isn’t Senior Brother going to share one with me?”
He dropped his head down. Cladded in green robes, Gu XuanYan stood under the tree with his sword, staring at him. Zhong Yan didn’t know when he arrived. Did he get here by sniffing me out or something…? Zhong Yan twitched his lips, “Get them yourself.”
Surprisingly, Gu XuanYan leaped up as well and sat beside him. Since no one was around and he was on the tree, Gu XuanYan’s posture wasn’t as proper as usual. Nonetheless, as compared to Zhong Yan, who had both of his legs dangling in the air, his posture was a lot better.
Gu XuanYan reached out to pluck a green plum. Instead of eating it, he handed it over to Zhong Yan, who took and threw it straight into his mouth. The shadows of leaves fluttered lightly in the breeze. Apart from the occasional chirping from nowhere, the mountain was void of any noise. The summer heat faded under the bright, sparsely clouded sky. The entire afternoon flew by with Gu XuanYan handing over the plucked plums to Zhong Yan.
During dinnertime, Zhong Yan realized his teeth were so weak, he couldn’t even bite down on tofu… Beside him was Gu XuanYan, who poured him a cup of tea, his tone helpless, “Senior Brother, didn’t I tell you not to eat too much?”
Since plums weren’t filling, Zhong Yan’s stomach rumbled in hunger. He couldn’t help complaining, “But I ate all those plums after you gave them to me.”
With a smile in his eyes, Gu XuanYan continued pouring tea. “Senior Brother just doesn’t heed my warnings. A bit of suffering is a must to get that in mind.”
Hear that…? So inhumane. Zhong Yan gave Gu XuanYan the cold shoulder as he sipped on the hot tea to dull his pain. All of a sudden, there were a few knocks on the door before a voice rang out, “Senior Gu, the Sect Leader, and Sect Elders are looking for you.”
Frowning, Gu XuanYan set the cup onto the table, “Senior Brother, I’ll be back soon.”
Go on, go on. Better yet, don’t even come back. Zhong Yan waved his hands as he watched Gu XuanYan leaving. He let out a sigh. [Why do I have a feeling my happy days are coming to an end soon…]
As expected, Gu XuanYan returned at night, handing Zhong Yan an oilpaper-wrapped bag of snacks. Fragrant chestnut cakes that melted in the mouth were revealed once Zhong Yan unwrapped the oil paper. Restraining desires for any kind of luxuries such as expensive outfits; housing; transport and delicacies were all a part of training for Daoist cultivators, let alone the strictly ruled Green Summit. No way would there be snacks made on the premise, so it was a wonder where Gu XuanYan got the chestnut cakes.
Zhong Yan popped one piece of cake into his mouth as he mumbled to the system, [I feel like I’m eating my last meal.]
Only after watching Zhong Yan finish did Gu XuanYan ask, “Does Senior Brother know why the Sect Leader and Sect Elders were looking for me?”
I don’t really want to know…
Brushing aside Zhong Yan’s silence, Gu XuanYan continued, “The day of Elder Chun Qin’s autopsy, Herbal Cloud members found a bone whistle in his body. The bone whistle is an item exclusively used by demonic cultivators to summon their messenger hawks. Since both Master and Chun Qin’s deaths are connected to the demonic cultivators, Herbal Cloud has invited all Daoist sects to gather at the Northern Wilderness to demand an explanation.”
Zhong Yan skimmed through the story in his mind. Indeed, a similar plot point existed in the story, but it occurred a long time later. Gu XuanYan practiced demonic cultivation on the sly and killed several times using methods typical demonic cultivators. Thus, under the assumption that all the havoc Gu XuanYan wrecked were the demonic cultivators’ doing, Daoist sects allied with other schools of cultivation and ventured to Northern Wilderness to carry out a campaign of extermination. However, while Daoist sects demanded an explanation for the deaths, the other school of cultivation’s only objective was to eliminate the demonic cultivators.
Since Gu XuanYan had no ties with demonic cultivation right now, that bone whistle was most certainly Chun Qin’s. In that case, Chun Qin definitely had some connections with demonic cultivators. Perhaps even Li YunJi didn’t stray to the wrong path on his own. After all, practicing demonic cultivation was like playing with fire. He must have had a mentor giving him pointers. Yet, such details were never mentioned in the story.
A splitting headache crushed Zhong Yan, but Gu XuanYan continued his questions, “What does Senior Brother think about this?”
“Nothing. I’ll be staying in Green Summit.” Zhong Yan was rather annoyed. “The Sect Elders and the chief disciples will definitely be the ones in charge of the expedition to the Northern Wilderness. Will there even be a spot for me?”
Gu XuanYan nodded, his tone tranquil, “Indeed so, according to the rules. But I have made a suggestion to the Sect Leader. It would be best if Senior Brother, a witness of Master’s death, managed to point out the culprit there. Such concrete evidence will back up the expedition, putting it in a good light.”
Dread crept into Zhong Yan’s heart that instant.
“So, Sect Leader allowed Senior Brother to tag along.”
Zhong Yan was rendered speechless, any bit of emotion drained from his face. [Not only does Gu XuanYan want to get me killed, but I want to get him killed too. What should I do?]
Despite being a plain, the Northern Wilderness was in perpetual winter, a stark contrast to the Southwest Mountain Forest, which was dominated by mountains. With bitterly cold snow falling all year round and glaciers permanently frozen solid, it was only occupied by demonic cultivators. Unlike other cultivation practices, the demonic cult’s hierarchy leaned towards monarchy. The demonic cultivator with the strongest cultivation base would be elected as the monarch, ruling over the cult. The life of the monarch resembled that of an emperor more than a typical cultivator.
“Low leveled demonic cultivators are usually tasked to patrol the borders of Northern Wilderness. Once an intruder is sighted, they would summon their hawks and send their reports to the Main Palace. But we didn’t even face any deterrence even after entering for quite some time. The Sect Leader and the rest find this suspicious and are a little worried.”
Gu XuanYan and Zhong Yan rode their swords side by side.
Since Gu XuanYan had reached the mid golden core stage a few days ago, he only donned his outer robe while riding his sword along the frozen wasteland. In contrast, Zhong Yan evidently couldn’t handle the cold. Despite a light fur coat wrapped around him, his nose still flushed red from the icy breeze. Gu XuanYan started chuckling mid-conversation as he looked at Zhong Yan, rendering Zhong Yan speechless.
What the fuck are you laughing about? Zhong Yan turned his head away, sweeping a glance behind him. He narrowed his eyes to get a clearer look. “There is a group of people moving towards us, isn’t there?”
Gu XuanYan tilted his head towards Zhong Yan’s line of sight. “They are from Mount Jade Dwelling.”
Although all Daoist sects allied together in the expedition, their arrival time differed. Supposedly, this was due to the distance between the various sects and the Northern Wilderness, but in truth, it was just an excuse for them as they had to determine whether the expedition was worth the risk. The majority of the sects chose to mind their own business and stay out of harm. Less than half of the sects ended up attending, even with the addition of Mount Jade Dwelling, which had just rushed over.
Once Mount Jade Dwelling’s group arrived, every group began to land on the plains. Sect Leaders and Elders of various sects held a meeting in a barrier they cast, while the disciples built a bonfire to stand guard outside. Zhong Yan curled up by the bonfire. Just as he was about to doze off, he got a sudden pat on the back. “Junior Qin!”
When Zhong Yan turned over, he froze for a moment. “Liang Zheng?”
Joy blanketed the hint of shyness on Liang Zheng’s face, “Never did I think I would chance upon Junior Qin after parting ways at the Buddhist hall. I was planning on writing you an invitation letter once I got back to Mount Jade Dwelling, but the incident in the Buddhist hall-” Liang Zheng paused mid-sentence, probably finding it inappropriate to mention the incident now. He changed the subject hastily and pulled over someone from Mount Jade Dwelling’s group. He raised his voice, his tone brimming with pride, “Junior Qin, this right here is Junior Li, Li ChangYun!”
Upon hearing that, Zhong Yan and even Gu XuanYan, who was a few steps away, directed their line of sight to the guy. Cladded in Mount Jade Dwelling’s unique white robes, the guy in front of them appeared even taller and more spotless amidst the vast icy plains. His eyes looked as sharp as the long sword on him.
Neither did Liang Zheng’s prideful tone make him embarrassed or smug, as if he wasn’t the one being mentioned. He only gave Zhong Yan a proper bow, his tone indifferent and monotonous. “Mount Jade Dwelling, Li ChangYun”
Li ChangYun, the main character of the story, was different from the tons of disciples that were chosen due to their aptitude; his parents were Mount Jade Dwelling’s Sect Elders. Born in the sect, he started his training young. Not only was his aptitude exceptional, but he was also just and upright. Everyone came to know him for his eradication of demonic beings when he was seventeen.
He’s way too OP…
After bowing back, Zhong Yan scrutinized Li ChangYun.
Judging from appearance alone, Gu XuanYan looked gentle and patient to others. On the other hand, Li ChangYun was usually empty of any expressions and silent, his mind entirely focused on cultivation. One might find him terrifying at first glance.
Who would have thought the former was the villain while the latter is the hero?
His train of thoughts were cut off once his vision darkened. A unique green bamboo scent lingered on the hand that gently covered his eyes, blocking his view. Gu XuanYan’s tone was as gentle as ever but was slightly low, “Senior Brother, you are being rude.”
Only then did Zhong Yan realize he had been staring at Li ChangYun for quite a while.
- Clusters of Persian Green Plums: