Translated by Rikko of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Fortunately, Ji ChangYun didn’t mind and instead, turned towards Gu XuanYan. A short while later, he spoke abruptly, “Gu XuanYan, I’ve heard of you.”
Unsurprised, Gu XuanYan extracted his hands and nodded, “The same goes for me.”
He glanced at Zhong Yan, “Numerous disciples of Green Summit hold high admiration for your great sense of justice and strong cultivation base too.”
The speechless Zhong Yan thought, he still kept what I said in Buddhist Hall in mind? He sure is the personification of pettiness.
Instead of a smile, Ji ChangYun put on a frown as he asked, “Why admire me? You are in the late Golden Core stage and will reach the Lesser Vehicle stage soon. I’m not as strong as you now, so they should be admiring you instead.” After a slight pause, he continued, “But I will be elevated to the next stage soon. I might be able to have a match with you in the near future.”
Ji ChangYun’s tone was solemnly serious, not even a trace of humor could be detected. Yet, his face was as calm as ever, as though he was just having a small talk about the weather instead of inviting Gu XuanYan to a match.
Despite the arctic environment, Liang Zheng broke out in a cold sweat and chimed in hastily, “Junior Gu, my junior brother meant no offense. Please don’t hold it against him… He just loves to invite others to a match…”
Gu XuanYan tossed a smile at Liang Zheng to indicate no offense was taken. When he turned back to Ji ChangYun, he retracted his smile, replacing it with a chilly expression. The tone of his reply was grave, “If that is so, I will be waiting for Brother Ji’s invitation for the match.”
At last, Ji ChangYun nodded in satisfaction before returning to his sect’s group with Liang Zheng following behind him hurriedly. Zhong Yan scrutinized Gu XuanYan cautiously. “Are you seriously going to have a match with him?” You got killed by him in the story, you know?
Instead of answering, Gu XuanYan asked, “Who does Senior Brother think will win if we truly had a match?”
Such a question was akin to the classic dilemma of choosing to save one’s mother or significant other if both were drowning. Noticing Zhong Yan’s hesitation, Gu XuanYan lifted his brows. “Since Senior Brother couldn’t answer, I guess it is a must to have a match with him.”
The bootlicker in Zhong Yan rose inside him in haste, “Of course, I think you will win.”
Gu XuanYan nodded, a slight smile spreading across his face, “When the match comes around, I will live up to Senior Brother’s expectation.”
Why don’t you just tell me straight up you will have a match anyway…?
The arctic plains of the Northern Wilderness were boundless. If an average joe entered it by mistake, they would, no doubt, certainly meet a frozen death in the vast, endless icy wasteland.
Even the crowd of cultivators only managed to reach the first one-third of their destination after spending their entire day sword riding. Moreover, the Demonic Lord’s palace was in the innermost part of the icy plains.
Although the majority of disciples dispatched were chief disciples, those that had reached the Golden Core stage, such as Ji ChangYun and Gu XuanYan, were in the minority. After spending the entire day traveling, they had to take a break.
Since they were on the demonic cult’s territory, traveling during the night would be dangerous. Thus, once the sky darkened, the band of Daoist cultivators halted their journey. The Sect Elders constructed a barrier together while the disciples broke into groups of six or seven and gathered around their bonfire.
Ji ChangYun, Gu XuanYan, Liang Zheng, and Zhong Yan sat as a group. It was the only alternative for the former two, as wherever they went, dead silence would instantly fall on any group nearby. Every single member of the group would cautiously adjust their posture and straighten their back as properly as any student in a class.
The four had no choice but to light their bonfire somewhere further away. After they stared blankly at one another for quite some time, Zhong Yan assumed responsibility of breaking the ice and started the conversation, “Surprisingly, we didn’t chance upon a single demonic cultivator even though we arrived quite some time ago.”
While pouring a cup of hot tea for Zhong Yan to warm his hands, Gu XuanYan added coolly, “The Sect Elders sent them a letter about the incident before entering the Northern Wilderness, but they didn’t reply. Perhaps they are waiting for our arrival.”
Liang Zheng laughed as he scratched his head, “Neither did they intercept nor respond to us… their inaction is unsettling to me.”
Ji ChangYun shifted his line of sight from the shroud of darkness a distance away back to the bonfire. “Like what I said to Master, there are still quite a few unresolved issues surrounding Elder Chun Qin’s death. But Herbal Cloud members had their feelings running high. Since I’m an outsider, it isn’t appropriate for me to speak out.”
Zhong Yan’s heart skipped a beat right then. On the contrary, Gu XuanYan’s hands didn’t even tremble as he poured a cup of water. His only response was lifting his line of sight and asking, a trace of interest in his gaze, “Unresolved issues?”
“When Master and I went to Herbal Cloud to offer condolences, we had the honor of viewing Senior Chun Qin’s body.” Ji ChangYun remained emotionless as he continued, “I feel that the sword technique used, even though hidden by the culprit, seems more like that of a Daoist cultivator.”
Gu XuanYan brows creased, “Does Brother Ji think the culprit is a Daoist cultivator?”
Ji ChangYun nodded and added, “And also in the late Golden Core stage.”
Is this the keen instinct all protagonists possess…? Zhong Yan interrupted hurriedly, “But what about the demonic cultivator’s bone whistle?”
Ji ChangYun started frowning for a bit. “This is just my guess, so it might be wrong. Anyway, it’s best for us to just be on the lookout since we have already entered the Northern Wilderness.”
With the conversation stopping right there, Ji ChangYun began to get up, “I’ll go on and patrol around.”
Just as Zhong Yan was sneaking a peek at Gu XuanYan not long after, both of their eyes met. A chuckle escaped Gu XuanYan as he stood up, “Senior Brother, I’ll patrol around too. Just stay here and don’t leave.”
After this, Gu XuanYan walked out of the barrier towards Ji ChangYun’s direction, vanishing into the night.
Burning with anxiety, Zhong Yan called out to the system in a hurry. [He won’t go on to kill Ji ChangYun, right?]
[Beep. Leaking of anything related to the plot is not allowed.]
[Then let’s use the method from before. I’ll guess and you’ll answer…]
[Don’t get me started on this.] The system sounded exasperated. [I ended up writing a one-thousand-word essay on my mistake just because you exploited the loophole then. Boss has included it on the list of props, two points per question. Do you want to use it, buddy?]
[Is your boss’s surname Zhou…? Is he Zhou the flayer? 1
Too timid to reply, the system let out a beep to express his agreement. The only question Zhong Yan could ask was, [Then I can at least ask which direction Gu XuanYan went, right?]
The system answered right away. [East.]
Zhong Yan got up and dashed to the east. Truthfully, considering the crowd of people there, Zhong Yan felt Gu XuanYan probably wouldn’t strike arbitrarily due to the risk.
However, after walking eastwards for a brief moment, he spotted two figures in front of him, Gu XuanYan and Ji ChangYun. Ji ChangYun’s voice was rather muffled, “I’ll go a bit ahead.”
Under the cover of night, Zhong Yan could detect one figure walking behind the other, the former being Ji ChangYun while the latter being Gu XuanYan.
Just as Zhong Yan was about to call out to them, he witnessed Gu XuanYan unsheathing his sword and striking towards Ji ChangYun’s back!
Swift and ruthless, the sword shortened the distance between its unsuspecting victim to mere inches away in a split second. Although Zhong Yan had no time to yell out a warning, he couldn’t just let Gu XuanYan murder someone right under his nose.
Immediately, he dashed ahead with his sword drawn out before shielding Ji ChangYun’s back, catching the strike with his sword directly!
Surprised not even a sharp clang was emitted from the blades, Zhong Yan lifted his head. His opponent reduced into a mist at that instant and dissipated into the darkness, leaving him alone in the vast icy plains.
Alarm bells blaring in his head, he strode forward with his sword. However, someone pressed down his hand that was wielding the sword. Gu XuanYan’s mirthful voice rang out just a breadth away from his ears, “Senior Brother, fear not. It’s just an illusion.”
He fooled me! Those were the only words left in Zhong Yan’s mind as he swiveled around. Seemingly expecting that from him, Gu XuanYan reached over to unarm him and hurl away his sword. Before Zhong Yan could figure out when Gu XuanYan caught him, he was smashed onto the icy ground too.
The pain from the impact made Zhong Yan inhale sharply. In just a blink of an eye, Gu XuanYan had already leaned down, getting on top of Zhong Yan as he pinned him down.
He let out a chuckle, “Why does Senior Brother think I will kill Ji ChangYun? Just because he found something wrong with Chun Qin’s death?”
Feeling a mixture of pain and chill from his back, Zhong Yan clenched his teeth, “What are you getting at?”
“I’m just curious.” Gu XuanYan lowered his line of sight to Zhong Yan, who was below him, and studied his face, his tone gentle, “I’ll assume Senior Brother saw how Li YunJi died. But how does Senior Brother know I wanted to kill Chun Qin when we went to the Buddhist hall? And that’s probably why you ended up following me closely.”
Gu XuanYan killing Chun Qin and his Master, Li YunJi, should have been his closely kept secret. Yet alarmingly, he just spilled it out casually.
Zhong Yan figured it out right away; Gu XuanYan had never once believed Zhong Yan didn’t witness him killing Li YunJi. And ever since they arrived at the Buddhist hall, Gu XuanYan was already aware of his intent to stop him from killing Chun Qin. He took so long to strike just so Zhong Yan would let it slip.
Great. There I was wearing myself out with the act; it’s just a ploy all along.
Having nothing to lose, Zhong Yan sneered, “I know you are trying to get me killed too!”
To his surprise, Gu XuanYan began chuckling after briefly stunned. His laughter was deep and melodious, seemingly mere inches away from Zhong Yan’s ears due to their proximity.
Gu XuanYan nodded, “Indeed, that was my initial plan. But I changed my mind sometime later. Still, Senior Brother is just too disobedient.”
Gu XuanYan whispered, “Is Senior Brother going to reveal the truth to the Sect Elders?”
He revealed all that just because he thought I’ll betray him? Rage swirled up in Zhong Yan’s head as he rambled, “Yup! You are dead meat!”
Neither did Gu XuanYan panic nor seethe. As though expecting that from Zhong Yan, he reached out his hands to rub Zhong Yan’s neck lightly, his voice soft, “Has Senior Brother forgotten? Senior Brother was also present during Li YunJi’s death and was with me the whole time throughout Chun Qin’s death. Senior Brother even helped me by providing a false alibi.”
Gu XuanYan blinked, joy evident in his tone, “I’ll just tell them they were killed by us, so Senior Brother can keep me company again during the journey to the afterlife.”
As Zhong Yan used every bit of his strength to struggle, his back knocked onto the chilly ground on accident, eliciting a groan from him.
Eyebrows furrowed, Gu XuanYan relaxed his hold a little, allowing Zhong Yan to sit up. He pressed down on Zhong Yan’s nape with his left hand, pushing him onto his shoulder. His right hand crept into Zhong Yan’s outer robes, which had loosened during the struggle.
As he stroked Zhong Yan’s back inch by inch with his chilled fingers through his inner clothes, he whispered apologetically. “Senior Brother, I went a bit too overboard just now. Did I hurt you?”
He seriously has a screw loose…!
As Zhong Yan was two stages lower than Gu XuanYan, he was rendered immobile. The only action he could take to vent his anger was to bite down hard on Gu XuanYan’s shoulder. Due to how brutal the bite was, Zhong Yan detected the scent of blood instantly. Yet Gu XuanYan didn’t even let out a groan. Instead, he patted on Zhong Yan’s nape consolingly.
Just as Zhong Yan was about to bite down again, a voice sounded out from the right suddenly, “Ju- Junior Qin, what are you doing with Junior Gu?!”
Both of them turned around to see Liang Zheng standing a few feet away, utterly dumbfounded.
Not only were the two completely alone in the dead of night, but their clothes were also disheveled.
Liang Zheng grew crimson once he noticed their gazes on him, squeaking, “Since both of you still weren’t back yet, Junior Ji and I went to search for you out of worry… My apologies!”
What the heck is on your mind…? I was just doing my utmost to fight with him!
Before Zhong Yan got the chance to explain, Ji ChangYun came over out of nowhere. Once his line of sight fell onto the two, he froze momentarily and turned to one side immediately. A short while later, he raised his sword to cover Liang Zheng’s eyes, his voice low, “It’s rude to stare.”
- Zhou ChunFu is the villain of the story ‘The Rooster Crows at Midnight’. As his workers work once the rooster crows, he mimicked a rooster crow every midnight to get them working earlier, earning him the nickname Zhou BaPi/Zhou the flayer. More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gao_Yubao#Influence_and_criticism