Sang Chi Yu held Su Ru Hui and gently put him back into the bed. He couldn’t go out without any clothes on, so he took Su Ru Hui’s coat and draped it over his shoulders, then walked back to his own room barefoot. After closing the door, his rapid heartbeat gradually calmed down. He frowned and looked down at his palm, observing the ice-blue external meridians that extended from his palm like thin tentacles. His external meridians connected with others’ meridians, allowing him to steal their special power. He retracted the meridians into his palm. He closed his eyes, feeling the flow of spiritual power in his body, which seemed a little unstable and had signs of rioting.
Why was this happening? Why did he suddenly turn into a cat?
He tested the Teleportation technique. Suddenly, the technique was activated, and his figure disappeared instantly, reappearing at the other end of the room. He tested the Transformation technique. His eyes and hair turned ink black, and the mirror reflected his stern face. Then, he checked the third technique. Divine Eye was activated, and the scenery changed instantly. Everything became transparent, and the walls and bricks lost their solidity, leaving only a gray-black structure. Through the wall, he saw the front hall outside the door.
The more techniques he used, the more unstable his spiritual power flows became. He dared not use any more techniques. It seemed that his powers should not be used too much. But this still couldn’t explain why he suddenly turned into a cat. Could it be related to the heart core? But when Su Ru Hui had the heart core, he had never turned into a cat before.
Sang Chi Yu furrowed his brows tightly, unable to understand. Could it be that he devoured too many powers, triggering some kind of mechanism in the heart core? This was only his guess. He decided not to devour any new powers temporarily and forcefully removed “Divine Eye” by using his spiritual power.
Removing the power required him to repeatedly wash his meridians with spiritual power, a painful and difficult process. However, Sang Chi Yu had become accustomed to it. He was sweating all over his body after removing the “Divine Eye” power. After changing his clothes, he pushed open the window and looked at the sky. It was about time to go to the guard post for the morning shift. Sang Chi Yu hid Su Ru Hui’s outer robe in the cabinet and took out the Transformation talisman he prepared earlier. The talisman burned, and he once again transformed into the inconspicuous 15-year-old boy, Su Yu.
Su Ru Hui woke up slowly, feeling a soreness in his neck. He rubbed his neck and sat up. After sitting for a while, he suddenly remembered what happened before he passed out. There was a naked man in his room! He shuddered and quickly checked his whole body. Fortunately, there were no signs of being violated. Climbing down from the bed and looking around, he realized that one of his robes was missing, and Sang Bao Bao was also gone. He was extremely shocked. That naked man stole his clothes and his son!
He opened the door and bumped into Su Yu, who was about to knock and wake him up.
“Have you seen anyone suspicious?” Su Ru Hui asked, pulling on Su Yu’s shoulder.
Su Yu calmly shook his head.
“Damn it!” Su Ru Hui cursed.
“What’s wrong?” Su Yu frowned.
Su Ru Hui was so angry that he had a headache. “A naked man sneaked into our house and stole the cat I found last night!” He shivered in the cold wind and hurried into the house. As he put on his coat, he said, “There are all kinds of weird people these days. It’s driving me crazy. I’m going to the police station today and post a wanted notice for that cat thief.”
“…” Su Yu fell silent for a moment. “Do you remember what he looks like?”
Su Ru Hui thought for a moment, but he only remembered that the naked man had silver hair all over his head. “He knocked me out before I had a chance to get a good look at him. He seemed to be an old man in his seventies or eighties. How could he survive the cold weather outside, walking around like that?”
Su Yu’s expression was very complicated.
Su Ru Hui was extremely frustrated, but there was nothing he could do. The person must have run far away by now, and he had to go check in. Su Ru Hui put on his armor, carried his sword and wore his arm guard, and hung his bow and arrows. He was usually very sloppy, but now he looked very handsome and impressive. His tall and straight figure, coupled with his slightly sharp eyebrows and eyes, was somewhere between a man and a boy, with a mature yet youthful spirit, very striking.
Since he was a child, Su Ru Hui had always been the center of attention wherever he went. Even without any magic or a family backing him up, he was still among the best bachelors. Sang Chi Yu stood aside, silently watching him.
He lowered his head to check his outfit and smiled at Su Yu. “How does it look?”
Sang Chi Yu nodded. “Very handsome.”
“Speaking of which, Sang Chi Yu used to wear this outfit too. I wonder how he looked in it,” Su Ru Hui said.
Sang Chi Yu fell silent for a moment and said, “Not as handsome as you.”
Su Ru Hui hugged Su Yu and went out. “You have such a sweet mouth. Come on, I’ll treat you to some sweet pork steamed buns.”
In fact, Sang Chi Yu didn’t like to eat sweet things. Only Su Ru Hui liked to eat meat with added sugar, which was so disgusting. But… it didn’t matter. It was okay to eat it occasionally.
As they headed for the guard post, officials and servants came and went, and the conference hall was packed with people hurrying around. Xia Jing saw Su Ru Hui and waved at him, leading him and Su Yu to the duty room. Xia Jing pushed open the cypress wood door and said, “This used to be Sang Chi Yu’s duty room, but now it’s yours. He didn’t have a lot of stuff, so if you see anything useful, keep it, and if not, just throw it away.” He looked behind Su Ru Hui and saw Su Yu standing silently like a shadow. He smiled and said, “This child is Su Yu, right? He came in with you, and since you two are familiar with each other, he’ll be at your disposal.”
Su Ru Hui thanked him repeatedly, and Xia Jing continued, “Next month is the grand annual court session, where all the aristocratic families from the forty-eight provinces will gather in the border city. We’ve been busy preparing for this, so you should be prepared to work hard and not sleep for several days.”
“It’s no problem. I’m still young and can handle it,” Su Ru Hui said confidently.
Xia Jing patted his shoulder and suddenly changed the subject. “The snow mountain trial lasted for three days and two nights. So where did you spend those two nights? Were you and Su Yu together the whole time?”
“We weren’t together on the first night, but we ran into trouble the next day. Fortunately, this little brother helped me out, and we decided to team up,” Su Ru Hui said modestly. “I don’t have much skill, so I didn’t dare to fight head-on with others. We found a cave to hide in, and stayed there for three days. Please don’t laugh at me, Uncle.”
“I’m not laughing. This kind of dangerous trial requires you to be smart and hide. You two are lucky,” Xia Jing said with a smile.
Su Ru Hui smiled on the surface, but cursed the old dogs of the Secret Sect in his heart. Fortunately, he adopted the strategy of survival, otherwise he would have died without even realizing it. Strange creatures appeared on the snow mountain at night and could even transform into humans. The so-called “winners” on the third day were probably no longer human. Out of more than fifty people, he and Su Yu were the only ones who survived and were still breathing. It made Su Ru Hui’s teeth ache just to think about it.
The Secret Sect recruited both spiritual power users and ordinary people for the trial. The selected spiritual power users were the ones they really wanted to recruit, while the other group of ordinary people was used as bait to lure in the monsters. The Secret Sect knew that the monsters would replace the living, so they sent people into the mountain to give them a chance to do so. The difference in strength between ordinary people and monsters was too great, so the chances of survival were very small.
The final winner of the trial was usually a monster rather than a human, and the sect would set a trap to catch them all. Even if one or two people survived, the sect would have known that the Black Street would take advantage of the situation to infiltrate, and those who survived were likely to be from the Black Street and would be better off dead.
The trial had occurred more than once. Before Su Ru Hui, there were many others. In order to lure these monsters out, the sect has sacrificed many people in the snow mountains. Fortunately, Jiang Que Xie was a nobleman and couldn’t die inexplicably in the snow mountains, so the sect pulled him out to verify his identity. Otherwise Su Ru Hui and those frozen pieces of meat would have had the same fate.
“It’s time.” Xia Jing clapped his hands. “Su Gou, take them to see those things.”
Su Gou appeared under the eaves. He wore white linen clothes, with just the right amount of smile on his face. The curvature of his smile was exactly the same as when Su Ru Hui first met him. Su Ru Hui felt that these people were always looking at him with this creepy smile.
Su Gou bowed and said, “Please follow me, sirs.”
Su Ru Hui had some suspicions, but still pretended to be ignorant. “What are we going to see?”
Xia Jing touched the beard on his lips and said slowly, “You’ll know when you see it.”
Su Gou led the way. Su Ru Hui followed behind him, and Su Yu followed behind Su Ru Hui, like Su Ru Hui’s shadow. Su Ru Hui occasionally turned his head to look at Su Yu, who was still a young man and had not fully grown. He only reached Su Ru Hui’s chest, and followed him around like Su Ru Hui’s little tail. Su Ru Hui couldn’t help but touch his head. He looked up and gave him a questioning look.
“Follow me closely.” Su Ru Hui mouthed to him, still smiling and walking forward.
Su Gou led them into the Abyssal Prison. The other buildings were built upwards, but only the Abyssal Prison was dug downwards. The prisoners held on the surface were of little importance, while the spiritual power users held underground were the ones who needed to be guarded closely. The walls of the prison were carved with star formation runes, and the prison warden of the sect, who had cast the Cage technique, sat above, eating, drinking, sleeping, and suppressing the Abyssal Prison without rest for twelve hours. The gates were made of meteorite iron, and a gate was set every hundred steps. The gates could only be opened from the outside, and once closed, could not be opened from the inside. Every twenty steps, there was a soldier with one hand on his sword and the other on his pants. The sword was equipped with a spirit fire gun that was always loaded.
Su Ru Hui had never been to the Abyssal Prison before. In his previous life, although he was a prisoner, he received the highest level of treatment. Especially because he was unwell, the sect was afraid that he would bring the secret of the Super First-Grade Puppet to the underworld. They provided him with good food and drink, and occasionally sent Sang Chi Yu to accompany him. Although that kid was always unwilling, he stayed outside the Immortal Cave and refused to step inside or say a word.
Unfortunately, those fools didn’t know that Su Ru Hui had no way of creating those puppets. They said Su Ru Hui’s Super First-Grade Puppet was no different from a living being in terms of flesh, skin, mind, and thoughts. In fact, the Super First-Grade Puppet and his fondness for Jiang Xue Ya were complete rumors.
After passing through many strict iron gates, with two finger-wide holes in them, Su Ru Hui saw pairs of sinister eyes watching him as he passed. Su Gou walked steadily all the way to the end of the corridor and stopped at a stone wall, where a locking star formation automatically appeared before him. Su Gou opened the star formation. The circular and intricate halo divided into two, and the gate slowly rose.
A blast of cold air hit them.
Before them was an ice cellar, with many animal carcasses frozen in the ice on either side of the wall. Most of them were incomplete, but some were still intact. Judging from the remaining limbs, many looked strange, such as a giant three-headed dog the size of a bear, frozen in the innermost layer of ice, with its two heads cut off and frozen separately on the other side of the wall.
Su Ru Hui and Su Yu walked along the ice wall, looking up at these strange animals. The system provided a label for them: [Lovely three-headed dog, with three clever brains and the ability to make ‘hehe’ sounds, suitable for cheering up children.]
Su Gou stood on one side and said, “Last month, the remnants of the Frontline Guards returned. Not long after, these soldiers began to show strange symptoms. A colleague of the Dragon Guards saw a military officer walking around with three heads and even asking him if he wanted to have breakfast together. The colleague remained calm and politely refused the invitation of the three-headed officer, and then brought a team of men to capture him on the spot. Later, the Secret Sect found that these soldiers who returned from the Snow Territory were all abnormal. Almost all of them had bodily distortions, either with eight arms or four legs. If you can’t see any difference from their appearance, cutting open their chests and abdomens would reveal that their organs were also strange.”
Sang Chi Yu stopped in front of an ice wall. His eyes slightly widened.
He saw a cat, with short hair and ice-blue eyes, similar to him, but much larger.
“They are not human,” Su Ru Hui said.
Su Gu nodded. “The Secret Sect soon found out that these soldiers who returned from the Snow Territory were not the same people as before. They were counterfeit products, disguised as humans among the crowd. They were able to reorganize their flesh and blood, making their form as close to human as possible. However, their state was not stable. After a long time, they would be unable to control their flesh and blood, and grow extra limbs. More importantly, they were unable to perfectly imitate the complete form of a human from the inside out. Even if their appearance was imitated, the inside was a mess. That’s why yesterday, when the two of you arrived at the guard post, the medical officer checked your meridian acupoints.”
Su Ru Hui asked, “What if some monsters are clever enough to imitate perfectly?”
Su Gou helplessly smiled. “Then we can only wait for them to reveal their true colors.”
“Where did they come from?” Su Ru Hui asked again.
Su Gou shook his head. “The Secret Sect only knows that they come from the depths of the wind and snow. Jiang Gongzi, have you ever seen a map?”
“The forty-eight provinces of Great Jing?” Su Ru Hui shrugged.
“No.” Su Gou’s smile carried a deep meaning. “I mean, outside of the forty-eight provinces.”
“I am ignorant and inexperienced. I have never seen it,” Su Ru Hui said.
“Outside of the forty-eight provinces is a snowy wasteland where the wind and snow rage. The Secret Sect’s exploration of the Snow Territory is very limited. The furthest mining camp is only one hundred miles into the Snow Territory. The Secret Sect doesn’t know what’s in the depths of the Snow Territory or if there is an end to it. These terrible monsters come from the north of Kun Lun, disguising themselves as guards to cross Kun Lun. Their origin is from the depths of the Snow Territory. This is the first time in thousands of years that something has walked out of the Snow Territory,” Su Gou said. “The Secret Sect knows too little about them, only that they are naturally cruel, love to fight, and especially enjoy eating people. The old stories always said that demons lurk in the wind and snow, so a mother would keep her child in her arms to prevent them from venturing into the snow and losing their lives. The Secret Sect was inspired by these legends and named these creatures ‘demons’.”
“Wow, cool!” Su Ru Hui applauded. “Have you ever caught one alive?”
Su Gou nodded and led them through the second gate. There was a meteorite iron cage behind the door, with a binding star formation engraved on the ground, and a man lying in the center of the star formation. The man’s eyes were covered with black cloth, muttering to himself, “I sense it…I sense it…”
“What is he saying?” Su Ru Hui asked.
Su Gou said he didn’t know. “He doesn’t want to communicate with us. Even if we use extreme torture, he remains indifferent.”
Su Gou manipulated a thunder and fire star formation, and spiritual stones filled the star formation. All the dim lights lit up one by one, and lightning and fire flickered among them. The man was burned and convulsed incessantly, but he still gritted his teeth and didn’t make a sound. Su Ru Hui couldn’t bear to watch and asked Su Gou to stop. Su Gou stopped manipulating the star formation, and a blue light appeared on the man’s body. Under his charred skin, his meridians were shining, leaving Su Ru Hui stunned. Sang Chi Yu’s eyes were deep and complicated.
“Why is he glowing?” Su Ru Hui asked.
“The Secret Sect has not yet come up with an accurate answer. For now, they only know that it may be related to self-healing after bodily damage,” came the response.
The blue glow was extremely familiar, and Su Ru Hui’s head began to ache.
He must have seen it somewhere before, but he couldn’t remember.
Su Ru Hui took a few steps forward and stared closely at the man’s glowing body.
“Jiang Gongzi?” Su Gou called out to him.
“The Secret Sect is certain that this is the first time something from the Snow Territory has come to our world?” Su Ru Hui asked.
“Of course,” Su Gou replied.
No, it was not the first time. A voice in Su Ru Hui’s mind spoke up.
He remembered where he had seen this blue light before, when he was a child, on Mount Yi Luo.