Jia Mo

Jia Mo (Marrying the Devil) Chapter 42 – Forbidden Forest (1)

Qi Yin rushed down the cliff and headed straight for the library. Qing He and Yun Zhi were sitting across from each other on a small table. The two rogues, Qing Ming and Yun Zhi, never paid attention to any etiquette, with one slouching and the other leaning. Only Qing He was kneeling on a cushion, slowly making tea. The white porcelain lotus petal tea cup was emitting a faint white smoke, and the man’s fingertips on the cup’s rim looked even more transparent.

Fasting included abstinence from food and drink, including tea and water. However, Feng Huan Mountain led the way in breaking the rules. Qi Yin lifted the curtain and ran in, sitting cross-legged opposite Qing He. “There’s something I need to tell you guys.”

“Just in time, I have something to tell you too.” Yun Zhi sat up and put his hand on Qi Yin’s shoulder. “Your cousin didn’t go home; he’s missing.”

“So he’s really missing!” Qi Yin was a little panicked. Yao Xiao Shan was the only son of the Yao family, and if anything happened to him, his aunt and uncle would never be able to rest in peace. Besides, there was the old lady in Wu Tang. What should they do?

Qi Yin frowned and said, “My brother and I found a lot of blood in the stone room on the cliff. The blood was washed away, but the smell was still there. Five different kinds of blood. It just happened to be five people.”

He didn’t mention his brother’s little fish technique, which his brother said was the transformation of divine awareness. But that little fish could hear, see, smell, and even perform some spells, far more than what an average Daoist’s divine awareness could do. Besides, it was the witchcraft of Ba Mountain Temple, and it was better for fewer people to know.

Qing Ming grabbed a handful of peanuts and chewed them loudly. “Wu Fang is indeed fishy.”

“From the looks of it, the recent disappearance of the disciples of immortal sects is likely to be related to Wu Fang.” Qing He lowered his eyes and pondered. “Tomorrow, the pig demon will be moved, and twenty disciples will be escorting them, all under the hands of the four elders on the upper four peaks. They will open a teleportation formation with a talisman at the Execution Cliff and go directly to the southern Forbidden Forest. You two and Yun Lan should prepare tonight and sneak under the Execution Cliff tomorrow. I will disguise the three of you as Ling Xi, Ling Mu, and Ling Jun, Yuan Yin’s disciples. Find an excuse to join the escort team and sneak into the Forbidden Forest.”

“If we disappeared inexplicably, will we be suspected?” Qi Yin expressed his concern.

“No, it’s not unusual for people of Feng Huan Mountain to skip class.” Qing Ming waved his hand dismissively. “I will use your names to buy three prostitutes at Wan’e Pavilion in Jin Xi Town to cover for you. Even if they really investigate Wan’e Pavilion, the three of you will probably just be kicked out of the sect.”

Qi Yin felt depressed. A senior brother taking his junior brothers to consort with prostitutes was a huge scandal. If this news reached that guy Qi Ling Shu’s ears, he would probably look down on him even more.

Qing He took out a Qiankun Bag and poured out three silver-inlaid glass mirrors. “Since you don’t have spiritual awareness, we’ll use Dawn Mirrors to communicate. This is a sub-mirror of my Dawn Mirror, which can transmit messages to anywhere in the world. You must carry it with you at all times. I also made some demon-expelling sachets containing wormwood, which demons dislike. They can ensure that you travel through the Forbidden Forest unimpeded. There’s a sword-restraining spell in the Forbidden Forest, so you can only travel on foot. It will take about an hour and a half from the entrance of the Forbidden Forest to Elder Yuan Wei’s tomb, and it will take another half an hour to excavate the tomb and restore the grave. Altogether, it will take three and a half hours. You need to communicate with us every half hour and report your location.”

Qi Yin curiously flipped the glass mirror over and nodded in agreement.

“Your only task this time is to bring Elder Yuan Wei out, dead or alive. Once you find him, return immediately, without delay,” Qing He said slowly. “However, don’t be too nervous. The only enemies you may face are demons in the Forbidden Forest and the disciples of Wu Fang who may discover your tracks and pursue you from behind. Both of these enemies are easy to deal with.”

With his brother by his side, Qi Yin was indeed confident.

Qing He lifted his teacup and smiled. “Have a safe journey.”

The snow started to fall again. Under the deep black sky, the snowflakes were as light as white down. Fu Lan was earnestly sweeping the snow. He was an honest man. Wu Fang had said to sweep three thousand steps, so he silently counted and remembered in his heart. He wouldn’t sweep the next step until he couldn’t see any snow or ash on the current step. He liked sweeping the snow because the sound of snow falling was very quiet, as if the heavens and earth were whispering to him, saying things that only gods could understand.

The black cat followed him, occasionally rolling around in the snowdrifts. They swept slowly and unconsciously climbed up to the Execution Cliff. Zhu Ming Cang was lying bored in the cage, counting the stars. He wore a large lock around his neck, connected by chains as thick as two arms to two large marble pillars on the cliff.

He caught sight of Fu Lan and sat up with a start. “Fu Lan… no, Your Majesty, I knew you would come to rescue me!”

Without raising his head, Fu Lan continued to silently sweep the snow. The black cat sauntered over, hummed, and said, “Don’t be so self-absorbed. Who wants to save you, you foolish pig?”

As soon as Zhu Ming Cang saw the cat, he gritted his teeth and said, “Fat cat, what did you say!? If you’re not going to save me, then why did you come here?”

The black cat raised his chin towards Fu Lan. “‘Don’t you have eyes?”

“Sweeping snow…” Zhu Ming Cang was so angry that he almost fainted. “Fu Lan, you are the lord of demons, yet you are sweeping the streets for mortals here! Do you have no shame? At the beginning of April, you jumped into Jia Ling River without a word, and I lost ten pounds trying to find you. But here you are sweeping snow!”

“What are you talking about?” The black cat sneered. “You were the one who tried to start a war between humans and demons. Don’t use yourself as an excuse.”

“You damn cat.” Zhu Ming Cang also sneered. “I thought you came to Wu Fang with a plan, and I went to great lengths to help you hide your tracks. Those damn Daoist priests gave me the Five Thunder Punishment, and I endured it without speaking a word. And then you guys…” Zhu Ming Cang looked at Fu Lan, who was sweeping the street like a little servant girl, and he almost exploded with anger. “Fu Lan, have you lost your mind? You ran all the way to Wu Fang just to sweep the streets!”

Fu Lan continued to ignore him. This was how he had always been, like a stubborn gourd that couldn’t be opened. Zhu Ming Cang was so angry that he was panting. He had always said that those who were not of his kind must have different hearts. Fu Lan was neither a demon nor a human, and was therefore unreliable. But the short-sighted people in the southern region were impressed by his power, and they pushed him to the throne, hoping that he would defend the southern region and put an end to internal conflicts and external invasions.

In the end, Fu Lan had slaughtered the Abyssal Dragon, and Zhu Ming Cang had to swallow his pride and follow the crowd. This was the first time in the southern region that they had a common emperor. In the past, each group ruled their own territory, and there were constant disputes. It seemed that they were about to unify the southern region, following the example of human kingdoms, but who knew that this guy, who looked so handsome, was actually a real fool.

He still remembered the first imperial court held by the 28 tribal leaders of the southern region. Fu Lan sat on the Dragon Bone Throne as the leaders proposed to establish demon officials and demon servants, as well as to raise a demon army and seize the human realm. The southern region would then enjoy peace and would no longer be afraid of external enemies. However, the narrow-minded and short-sighted rats from Liang Mountain only wanted to rest and live comfortably, unwilling to invade the human realm. The two sides fell into dispute. When Fu Lan was supposed to make a decision, everyone found that he had fallen asleep on the table.

He slept and slept, only knowing to sleep day after day. The imperial court lasted for three days, and this fool slept for three days straight. As a result, no major decision was made, and even the alliance was not formed. The various tribes remained as divided as before, each crowning an emperor of their own, only treating Fu Lan as a mud figurine on the kitchen stove.

“Fu Lan!” Zhu Ming Cang gritted his teeth and said, “As the demon lord, shouldn’t you make the revival of the southern region your lifelong goal?”

Fu Lan finally reacted, turning around with a calm gaze. “That is not my wish.”

“What is it then? Is it to have demon concubines and witches in the palace, or to revel in the pleasures of the flesh every night?”

Fu Lan shook his head gently and looked up at the falling snow. The air was cold, and his nose was red. He remembered many years ago in a small village by Wu River, where he would often sit under the wide eaves with his puppy, wrapped in a big cotton quilt, cuddling the black cat, and waiting for A Fu, who worked in the fields, to come home. It was also snowing heavily back then, covering the world in white. Whenever he thought of his puppy, his gaze would become gentle and warm. He said softly, “My wish is to raise my little brother to be healthy and happy.”

“Little brother?” Zhu Ming Cang looked puzzled. “Aren’t you a monster born from a crack in a rock? Where did you get a little brother?”

The black cat glanced at him askew, and Fu Lan finished sweeping the snow before hugging the broom and heading outside. Zhu Ming Cang saw him leaving and suddenly thought of something. He pounded on the railing and shouted in a low voice, “Hey, you! You travelled around visiting old temples before you came to the southern region, right? Weren’t you looking for a miracle all this time? There’s a miracle under the Ice Sea Abyss. Go and see it! This information should be enough to save the lives of the group of demons in the Forbidden Forest!”

The snow was still falling, but Fu Lan stopped walking. Zhu Ming Cang had just breathed a sigh of relief when Fu Lan’s expressionless face suddenly appeared in front of him. Zhu Ming Cang was taken aback, and suddenly felt a pain in his neck as Fu Lan tightly gripped him. This man looked thin, but had great strength and he almost couldn’t breathe. Fu Lan looked at him with emotionless black eyes. “Are you lying to me?”

“I wouldn’t dare to lie to you when you hold the fate of the demons in the Forbidden Forest,” Zhu Ming Cang said as he tightly held Fu Lan’s wrist. “When Ye Ku Can first arrived at Wu Fang, he modified the boundary array. When the array was being changed, there was a gap, and some of my brothers escaped from inside. They told me that the river water flowing out of the Ice Sea Abyss often had stones with strange characters carved on them. Those stones were very similar to those found in Ba Mountain. Fu Lan, haven’t you always wanted to know what kind of creature you are? You just need to go down to the Ice Sea Abyss to take a look. If there is nothing there, you can come back. But if there is something, you’d better find a way to rescue our demon brothers!”

Fu Lan looked at him for a while and finally said nothing. He picked up the black cat and left. Zhu Ming Cang held his throat and pounded the ground angrily. “One day I will surpass you in cultivation and stuff your silly head into your pants!” He imagined what it would be like to take Fu Lan’s head off and put it in his pants, and the anger in his chest subsided somewhat.

In the distance, the sound of a quiet guqin could be heard again. Fu Lan stepped up onto the suspended steps and looked down at the vast darkness.

“Are you really going?” the black cat asked, squatting beside him.

“I am,” he said.

“Aren’t you taking the puppy with you?”

“Xiao Yin is too weak and will be troublesome,” Fu Lan said.

“That’s true. The miracle is dangerous and you also have to break through the boundary array.” The black cat scratched his nose. “Then write a note for him and say that we will be back soon.”

Fu Lan took out paper and pen from his Qiankun bag, wrote a note, rolled it up, put it in a bamboo tube, and handed it to the black cat. The black cat took the tube and left, returning after a while. Fu Lan put down the broom, picked up the black cat, and whispered, “We’re going to jump now.”

His body arched backwards, his ink-like hair scattered like smoke, and he fell into the endless night like a lonely and brilliant shooting star.

Jia Mo (Marrying the Devil) Chapter 41 – Ling Shu (2)

The black cat patted Fu Lan heavily and whispered, “Quickly go sit next to the child.”

Fu Lan shook his head and said, “It’s too forward.”

They were sitting at the front, so close to the teacher. He couldn’t fall asleep. The black cat was furious and said, “You fool, do you still want to get married?”

Fu Lan asked in confusion, “Didn’t Xiao Yin say he didn’t want to get married?”

The black cat had no words to say. He was still single until now for a reason. He looked at the two people sitting knee to knee in front of him and stared at Fu Lan with his green eyes wide. Fu Lan was stunned for a moment, but finally tidied up his books and went to sit next to Qi Yin obediently.

Yuan Yin arrived late and began to recite the scriptures eloquently as an old man would. His voice was slow and steady, and he recited the scriptures like singing a song. It was a tone of voice that was as weak as a dying father or a country in peril. Because of Qi Ling Shu, Qi Yin was nervous at first, but he gradually became unable to bear it and started to fall asleep. His head slowly drooped, and he was about to nod off. Suddenly, a cold hand caught him on his forehead. Qi Yin opened his eyes groggily and saw Qi Ling Shu looking at him.

“Listen to the lesson,” he said.

Qi Yin was instantly frightened out of his wits. He sat up straight, not daring to move. Qi Ling Shu said again, “Wake up the one next to you.”

He looked over and saw that Fu Lan had already fallen asleep with his head buried in his arms. Qi Yin poked him, and Fu Lan rubbed his eyes and sat up. After staring blankly for a while, he fell asleep again, leaning against Qi Yin’s shoulder.

Qi Yin: “…”

Yuan Yin silently shook his head, knowing that Feng Huan Mountain was well-known for not learning anything during class, like mud that could not stick to the wall. No one could do anything about it. He knocked on the desk, waking up all the sleepy ones. He turned the page while flicking the paper corner and continued reciting his scriptures.

Qi Ling Shu had learned all these gibberish scriptures. He didn’t need to listen to the lesson. He instead graded the assignments during class. He finally turned to Qi Yin’s assignment. Qi Yin felt nervous. He really didn’t know how to write this thing. He read books all night, poring through words of wisdom, but when it was his turn, he couldn’t write a single sentence. Finally, after struggling to write something, he looked back and felt that it was just a bunch of nonsense that he had concocted in his mind.

Qi Ling Shu held the cinnabar pen tightly, and as he read, his brows furrowed tighter and tighter. When Qi Yin glanced at Qi Ling Shu’s grading sheet, he found that it was already blood-red and messy, simply unbearable to look at. Qi Yin was anxious and thought he might have to rewrite it. Qi Ling Shu had already flipped to the next assignment.

The next one was from Fu Lan, and Qi Ling Shu’s brows furrowed deeper. At first, he thought he had flipped the wrong page, so he turned to the next one. Fu Lan’s was the last one, and there was nothing after it. This guy didn’t write a single character in his paper. He just signed his name on it.

Qi Yin watched this silently and rubbed his forehead, thinking it would be better not to submit anything at all.

Finally, it was the end of class, and there was no class for magic spells today. Qi Yin hurriedly gathered his books and rushed back to the courtyard like a bird out of a cage. He was about to leave with Fu Lan when Qi Ling Shu stopped them and said, “Follow me.”

“Where to?” Qi Yin asked.

“The stone room.”


Qi Ling Shu pulled out two copybooks and handed them to them. “Rewrite the Daoist theory.”

Fu Lan was stunned. “Do I have to rewrite it too?”

“Do you have to watch us write it?” Qi Yin said with a bitter face. “We can write it and bring it to you.”

Qi Ling Shu stood at the door, turned slightly against the light, and his cold gaze fell on Qi Yin, giving him an invisible pressure. He repeated, “Follow. Me. Now.”

Since Qi Yin was already in trouble, he dared not disobey. Several senior brothers and sisters shook their heads and sighed, not knowing which sensitive spot of Qi Ling Shu’s had been touched by Qi Yin, causing him to target him like this. Before leaving, they patted Qi Yin and Fu Lan on the shoulder, telling them to take care of themselves and come back safely.

Fu Lan frowned and asked Qi Yin, “Is he jealous of us?”

As Qi Ling Shu’s face turned dark, Qi Yin quickly covered Fu Lan’s mouth. “Oh, my ancestors, please don’t speak. With every word you speak, my lifespan gets shortened by ten years!”

The two followed Qi Ling Shu all the way. Since it was snowing, the sky was still hazy at noon, and the ground was covered with white snowdrifts. The world was dark and gloomy. Qi Ling Shu walked ahead with his snow-capped sword on his back, his tall figure like a thorn standing out in the desolate world, but also appearing more alone.

After a long walk, they finally arrived at the “stone room,” which was located at the highest point of Contemplation Cliff. It was isolated from everyone else, far away. It was more like a cave than a stone room. The walls were made of thick stone, and they made a loud noise when slapped. It was extremely cold inside, and as soon as they entered, it felt like they were in an ice cave, and their fingertips were trembling.

A stone table was standing on the bluestone floor, and a few stone benches were placed beside it. As soon as they sat down, they felt like they were going to freeze into ice cubes. A stone bed was leaning against the wall, and on the other side of the wall, there were several bookshelves, filled with books and scrolls.

Qi Yin hesitated as he stepped into what used to be Qi Shen Wei’s residence. Qi Shen Wei grew up in Wu Fang. He practiced, studied, reflected, and taught his disciples here. His notes and philosophical writings were placed on the bookshelf, and Qi Yin picked one up. His characters were clear and powerful, and the strokes were as sharp as a sword, with an indescribable aura. What kind of person was he? Qi Yin wondered. He had longed for his father when he was a child, and he was disgusted by him when he grew up. After eighteen years, he finally came to this man’s world, as if it were destined.

Qi Yin slowly exhaled and put the book back, sitting down at the stone table and taking out his brush and ink. Qi Ling Shu silently watched him for a while, then turned to ask Fu Lan, “Why did you hand in a blank sheet of paper?”

Fu Lan remained silent, not daring to speak the truth.

Fu Lan had probably learned his lesson and knew that he would surely be beaten if he told the truth. Qi Yin couldn’t help but feel relieved.

He didn’t want to answer, and Qi Ling Shu couldn’t do anything about it. He softened his tone. “In writing, the first step is to raise doubts, then explore the unknown and explain the obscure. To speak with substance, one must have accumulated experience. You have just entered the door and have never exorcised demons before, so you should seek answers from old examples in the library. Yun Yin, you have too many points of argument, none of which were thoroughly examined. They are too general. I suggest you choose a single point and explore it deeply.”

Qi Yin nodded.

“This is a copy of an ancient book that I transcribed myself. If you want to read it thoroughly, it may take some time. I have marked the important points for you to focus on. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.” Qi Ling Shu pushed the book in front of them, his words full of concern, “Yun Yin, I won’t pursue the matter of you cheating in the competition, but if you refuse to study the Dao properly, what’s the point of coming to Wu Fang? You should think about your own future.”

When did this kid become so talkative? Qi Yin was resentful in his heart, but he couldn’t say anything. He scratched his head and weakly said, “Okay.”

Fu Lan frowned and asked, “Can we not write?”

Qi Ling Shu looked at him silently, and his eyes seemed to freeze like ice.

“… ” Fu Lan picked up the brush silently.

Time passed bit by bit, and snow stopped falling outside. Sunlight pierced through the clouds and shone on the ground like tiger stripes. Qi Ling Shu sat on the stone bed and meditated, while Qi Yin and Fu Lan stared blankly at the white paper, not knowing what to write.

Qi Ling Shu sighed. “There are many differences between humans and demons, such as habits, nine orifices, six viscera, and meridians. How could you not know what to write?”

Writing about habits seemed easier. Qi Yin confirmed his direction and flipped through the book.

After a while, a disciple climbed up the cliff and whispered at the entrance of the cave, “Junior Master, Elder Ku Can is calling for you.”

Qi Ling Shu got up and left. Watching him go, Qi Yin suddenly collapsed and sighed on the table. When that guy was here, it felt like the air itself was freezing, making people sit upright and not dare to act rashly.

Qi Yin hung up his legs, pouted his lips, and held the brush under his nose, flipping through Qi Ling Shu’s copy. This guy’s handwriting was like Qi Shen Wei’s. It was like he learned it directly from Qi Shen Wei. Maybe Qi Shen Wei taught him stroke by stroke by holding his hand.

“Xiao Yin.” Fu Lan put down his pen. “Do you smell it?”

“What smell?” Qi Yin raised his head in confusion, then suddenly his eyes brightened. “Is that little goody-two-shoes hiding food?”

Fu Lan shook his head and sat next to Qi Yin, injecting his spiritual power into Qi Yin’s back. The icy spiritual power flowed through his meridians once again, and his five senses instantly became sensitive and sharp. Even the sunlight shining in could be seen in seven colors. Fu Lan released a small fish, and the blue fish swam silently. Qi Yin’s vision gradually changed in tone.

Blood. The room was full of blood.

In the eyes of the small fish, Qi Yin was horrified to find that the originally spotless walls were covered with dark red stains – on the stone bed, stone table, and even the gaps in the rocks. These bloodstains were cleaned, but they still couldn’t escape the small fish’s eyes.

The bloodstains on the stone walls were splattered. There were several bloody handprints on the ground, and there was a long bloodstain dragging in from outside. It was obvious that someone who was seriously injured was dragged in by force.

“Five smell. Five people,” Fu Lan said. “The five people who disappeared from Wu Fang Mountain died here.”

“Why…” Qi Yin couldn’t believe his eyes. “Why did they die here?”

Fu Lan looked at the bloodstains on the wall and said, “Mortal cultivators practicing Shaman’s Secret Art need to kill people to obtain blood for life extension.”

Qi Yin was dumbfounded. “Are you saying my father also practiced the secret art?”

Fu Lan thought about it and shook his head. “No, it doesn’t need so much blood. The blood is splattered everywhere. It’s wasteful.”

An unnamed fear swept over Qi Yin, creeping up his chest like vines. He felt a headache coming on. What was going on here? Wu Fang Mountain looked proper, but it was strange. Qi Shen Wei was neither alive nor dead. What did that mean?

How much did Qi Ling Shu know? Was he at Wu Fang Mountain when Qi Shen Wei died? Could he…be trusted?

After an hour, Qi Ling Shu returned, and their Daoist theory had been written. Qi Ling Shu checked Qi Yin’s work, frowned for a while, and made several revisions. He forced Qi Yin to pull his hair in frustration before finally letting him pass. He then picked up Fu Lan’s work and glanced at it briefly. A clear expression of shock appeared on his pale face. Qi Yin leaned over to take a look and was also stunned.

Nothing had been written on the paper. Fu Lan had only drawn two diagrams. One was a human body, with each of the six internal organs and nine orifices marked and the complete course of the meridians depicted. The complex lines of the meridians were intertwined, with a kind of terrifying beauty. The other was an animal’s meridian diagram, which looked like a cat’s, with the six internal organs and nine orifices marked, the eight extraordinary meridians, and even the flow of spiritual power drawn clearly.

“Whose meridian diagram did you draw?” Qi Ling Shu asked him.

“Xiao Yin’s and a cat’s,” Fu Lan replied.

“…” Qi Yin’s mood was indescribable. He couldn’t help but look at the crotch of the human meridian diagram. This scholar, Fu Lan, even drew the meridians in that place!

“Why do you know so much about Yun Yin’s body?” Qi Ling Shu asked, somewhat hesitantly.

“I’ve been inside,” Fu Lan said in a flat tone.

Qi Ling Shu’s expression became complicated. “Inside?”

“…” Qi Yin was about to go crazy. He said, “Don’t ask. It’s none of your business!”

After that, he stuffed the book into his bag and turned to leave the cave. Outside, the wind and smoke were vast, the frost was hazy, and below the cliff was an icy abyss. The white misty water was like a scroll of spread-out rice paper, and the dark-colored mountain range on the edge was like ink stains.

“Yun Yin,” Qi Ling Shu called out to him from behind.

Qi Yin stopped in his tracks and heard his chilly voice, “Love hinders the Dao, and homosexuality is not the right way. You… must take care of yourself.”

It was the same sentence again. Qi Yin’s eyelids twitched. How did talking about love affect their business at Wu Fang Mountain? An unnamed anger surged up in his heart. He clenched his fists and turned to say something, but stopped when he saw Qi Ling Shu. He stood on the steps, his brows furrowed, while Qi Yin stood below, silently gazing at him through the smoke and snow.

Qi Yin took a few deep breaths and said, “Have you noticed that the people of Wu Fang Mountain are always meddling in other people’s affairs? If you want to pursue the Dao, that’s your business. As for me, I’m just an ordinary person who tries to make a living as a Daoist. My brother and I haven’t caused any trouble for you. Thank you for your help today, but from now on, my business has nothing to do with you. I won’t see you again.”

With that, he walked away. Qi Ling Shu stood still in the same spot, silent for a long time.

Behind him, Fu Lan picked up his book box and said, “Are you practicing Ye Ku Can’s secret spell?”

“Yes, why?” Qi Ling Shu asked, turning around.

“Don’t practice it. That technique is very dangerous,” Fu Lan said flatly.

Qi Ling Shu paused for a moment, then looked at him coldly. “What do you mean?”

“You are that person’s disciple. Xiao Yin doesn’t want anything to happen to you.”

Before Qi Ling Shu could ask anything, Fu Lan turned and headed down the cliff, his thin figure disappearing step by step into the snow-covered steps and the end of the mountain cliff.

Jia Mo (Marrying the Devil) Chapter 40 – Ling Shu (1)

At dusk, the punishment finally ended. Fu Lan supported Qi Yin to go to the hot spring. The hot spring of Wu Fang was called Jing Quan, which was the place where Yao Xiao Shan stole Qi Ling Shu’s clothes while using Qi Yin’s identity. After going south, passing through a row of small courtyards and a path covered with snow, they arrived.

Lord Cat was afraid of water, so he went back by himself, leaving only Fu Lan and Qi Yin. They could see the milky white mist from afar. When they touched the water with their fingers, it was hot. The hot spring was very big. There were winter plums planted on the banks and rocks inside, allowing people to lean on them. In the middle was a man-made mountain, naturally separating the men and women areas. Unfortunately, there were no eggs, otherwise they could cook and eat them.

Qi Yin took off his clothes and jumped into the water excitedly. It was dusk, but there were not many people inside, which made Qi Yin happy. He turned his head to look at Fu Lan, who was taking off his clothes one by one in a refined manner. After taking off his outer robe embroidered with cloud and water patterns, he revealed his plain undershirt. He lowered his eyes and untied his belt. The collar fell down from his shoulder, and those impeccable and tight muscles were slowly unfolding in front of Qi Yin’s eyes, like a secret scroll.

There was a moment of blankness in his mind and a handful of fire in his heart, slowly burning up, making him blush. Qi Yin suddenly realized that he couldn’t take a bath with Fu Lan, and he became nervous.

He watched as the man walked into the water and stepped closer to him. The water’s vapor enveloped Fu Lan’s tranquil eyes. He was silent, like a quiet gardenia. Qi Yin’s face turned red, and he unconsciously stepped back, his back against the uneven rocks, and the friction made his back muscles sore.

Fu Lan frowned when he saw him stepping back. “Xiao Yin?”

Qi Yin pretended to be calm, dryly up pulling the corners of his mouth, “Uh, brother, don’t come over here for now.”

“Why?” Fu Lan was stunned.

What else could it be? Qi Yin felt that his meridians were blocked, and he had the symptoms of qi deviation. His heart was like a boiling pot, thumping and jumping. He was afraid to touch Fu Lan. This hot spring was so warm, and Fu Lan’s hands must be soft and smooth. He remembered those pale hands, which were terrifyingly sharp when they were stained with blood, but when he washed his hands and cooked soup for him, they were soft and tender like a flower petal.

The part that was unique to men had a tendency to rise. He was afraid that once Fu Lan approached him, he would become hard.

“Damn it, I’m not even human!” On one hand, Qi Yin felt like a beast. On the other hand, he felt sorry for Fu Lan. Fu Lan was such an innocent baby who didn’t understand the ways of the world. And yet, he had such dirty thoughts about him!

Fu Lan frowned at him for a while, then suddenly walked over and looked like he was about to squat down. If he squatted down, he would be facing Qi Yin’s private area! Qi Yin was startled and hastily moved towards the edge, yelling, “What are you doing!”

Fu Lan was obviously startled by him and was stunned for a while. “I’ll help you massage your knee.”

“No, no!” Qi Yin moved away from him, found a place to sit down, and stammered, “Brother, men don’t touch each other. You can’t do that.”

Rejected twice in a row, Fu Lan was a little confused. He remembered their childhood, when he took care of all of the puppy’s needs – brushing his teeth, washing his face, washing his butt, humming lullabies, and taking a bath every other day. The puppy was mischievous and always splashed water in the tub, making him and the cat all wet. Later, Fu Lan learned his lesson and took off his clothes to shower with him. He remembered that at that time, the snow was falling outside, charcoal fire was burning brightly in the room, and he was rubbing the puppy’s back to produce fine white foam. The puppy sat in his arms, blowing bubbles, and laughed, the happiest child in the world.

But now, the puppy was sitting far away from him, resisting his approach. Fu Lan lowered his eyes and obediently stayed on one side of the rock. The distance between the two was just enough for an adult man to lie down, and the vapor was steaming between them as they fell into a long silence.

Qi Yin felt embarrassed and tried to think of something to say. After thinking for a while, he stuttered, “Um, the weather is really nice today, and the vapor is really thick, haha!”

After speaking, Qi Yin felt like slapping himself. What kind of nonsense was that? He should have just kept quiet.

There was no response from Fu Lan. Qi Yin couldn’t help turning his head to look at him. Fu Lan was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed, as silent as a statue, and like a deity who couldn’t be approached. When this man didn’t speak, he always felt like he would disappear from the world in the next moment. Qi Yin suddenly had an impulse to walk towards him, to hold his hand, as if doing so would pull him into the noisy world.

“Xiao Yin.” Suddenly, Fu Lan spoke up.

Qi Yin was startled and said, “Brother?”

Fu Lan furrowed his brows. “Do you have a heart condition?”

“What?” Qi Yin was confused. “No, why do you ask?”

Through the misty steam, Fu Lan looked over at him with a hazy gaze. “Sometimes your heart suddenly beats faster. It has happened many times.”

Qi Yin fell silent. Heblowered his head and said dejectedly, “Brother, that’s not a heart disease.”

Fu Lan was puzzled for a moment, then suddenly remembered the words Qi Yin taught him on the steps of Feng Huan Mountain – when someone met the person they liked, their heart would beat faster. Fu Lan asked softly, “Do you like someone?”

Qi Yin’s mind went blank for a moment. This fool suddenly became so clever? He felt like a child who had been caught hiding candy and panicked, trying to think of something to explain. But before he could say anything, Fu Lan asked again in a gentle voice, “The person you like, do they not like you back?”

Qi Yin: “…”

In an instant, all romantic thoughts disappeared, and Qi Yin slumped over to sit next to Fu Lan. Seeing Qi Yin approach him, Fu Lan was pleasantly surprised and handed him a gourd ladle to scoop water. Qi Yin poured the water on himself one spoonful at a time and said, “Brother, when you have time, I’ll teach you how to talk properly.”

Fu Lan obediently nodded. His mouth was indeed too clumsy and he needed to learn.

Qi Yin continued, “Also, the list of handsome gentlemen of the immortal mountains will be out soon. These days, don’t hang around in front of Qi Ling Shu.”

“Why?” Fu Lan asked in confusion.

Qi Yin let out a heavy sigh. “With your looks and figure, once the list is out, you’ll definitely knock him off his top spot. Moreover, until the list is updated, all the girls will be chasing after you. When the list is updated, the girls who used to chase after him will chase after you instead. He might not like that.” He spoke as if he understood it all. “It’s human nature.”

Fu Lan nodded in confusion. Qi Yin wanted to pat his shoulder but hesitated when he was about to touch his bare shoulder. He awkwardly raised his hand and turned to pretend to look at the scenery. The hot spring was so big, with rugged rocks everywhere. Qi Yin was curious and wandered around touching and looking. When he turned around a large rock, he suddenly saw a blurry figure in front of him through the steam.

Could it be…?

The man turned around, revealing a face as cold as ice and snow with indifferent eyes.

Qi Yin felt like he had turned to stone. He wished he could find a place to hide. “What a coincidence, hahaha! Senior Brother, you’re here to bathe too.”

This guy didn’t need to be announced. His presence was enough to scare people away. No wonder there was no one here at this time. Qi Yin realized too late that it was because of him.

“Real name,” Qi Ling Shu said coldly.

This guy spoke like a hammer, hitting right on the head. Qi Yin didn’t react at first. “Huh?”

“Not asking you,” Qi Ling Shu said.

Qi Yin turned his head and saw Fu Lan, who was as stunned as he was.

“This junior brother, you just called him ‘Xiao Yin’. May I ask what his real name is?” Qi Ling Shu asked Fu Lan.

Qi Yin was shocked. This guy must be suspicious. How did he guess that he was Qi Yin just from a nickname? Qi Yin felt anxious and nervously laughed. “Why don’t you ask me my real name? My name is…”

“Shut up,” Qi Ling Shu interrupted him, staring at Fu Lan. “Junior brother, please answer truthfully.”

Qi Yin panicked. Fu Lan couldn’t lie. He would be exposed!

“Puppy,” Fu Lan answered calmly. “He is my younger brother, called Puppy.”

Qi Ling Shu fell silent. Qi Yin breathed a sigh of relief. He secretly gave Fu Lan a thumbs up.

“My brother and I came from the countryside, people in the countryside have nicknames, and no proper names.” Qi Yin rubbed his hands and smiled.

Qi Ling Shu ignored him. The three of them stared at each other in silence.

After a while, Qi Ling Shu finally spoke up, “Please turn around.”

Qi Yin and Fu Lan obediently did so, facing the giant rock wall. There was a rushing sound behind them. Presumably Qi Ling Shu had left the hot spring and was getting dressed. After a while, there was a “thank you” from the other side, followed by the sound of footsteps gradually fading away. When they turned back, Qi Ling Shu was nowhere to be seen.

The next day, Qi Yin submitted his assignments, which he had stayed up all night to finish, and was punished to kneel. He had no choice but to study hard at night, climbing up and down the Purple Library ancient books. He found a seat, lowered his head, and placed the books on the desk one by one. He then took out pen, ink, paper, and inkstone. Someone sat down beside him, their white clothes draped around their knees, like a cool inch of moonlight. Suddenly, a large area of seats emptied out around him, and the other students fled as if they had seen a ghost. Qi Yin lifted his head slowly and saw Qi Ling Shu’s cold profile.

He gathered everyone’s assignments together and began to review them one by one with a red pen, not even sparing a glance at Qi Yin.

Qi Yin stiffly collected his books back into his book box, ready to sneak away. Suddenly, a hand pressed down on his shoulder with a strong force. He couldn’t move at all. He turned his head slowly and saw Qi Ling Shu.

“Sit here,” Qi Ling Shu said without looking up.

Yun Zhi who was in the back seat was stunned, staring at Qi Ling Shu and Qi Yin without blinking. He asked Fu Lan, who was still in a daze. “When did the little junior brother offend Qi Ling Shu?”

Fu Lan shook his head in confusion.

Qi Yin tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Senior Martial Uncle, how come you have time to visit?”

“I am of the same generation as you. You should call me Senior Martial Brother.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” Qi Yin said with difficulty. “I’ll still call you Senior Martial Uncle.”

Qi Ling Shu was silent for a moment, turning his head to look at him. His eyes seemed to have been covered in snow for ten thousand years, so cold that it couldn’t melt.

He spoke slowly and clearly, “Call me Senior Martial Brother.”

Qi Yin mournfully replied, “Okay, Senior Martial Brother.”