Su Ru Hui returned to the stream with mulberries in his robes and was followed by Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su. Su Ru Hui made a face at them and said, “You two aren’t supposed to be playing with us anymore. Why are you following us?”
“We’re not playing with you. We’re looking for Yu’er,” Zhou Xiao Su retorted.
Zhou Xiao Su walked to the edge of the stream, but she couldn’t find Sang Chi Yu. There was only a wooden basin full of Su Ru Hui’s dirty socks on the ground. Zhou Xiao Su was puzzled and said, “Hey, where’s Yu’er?”
Su Ru Hui was also surprised. “He was just here a moment ago.”
Jiang Xue Ya leaned over to look at the stream. “Did Yu’er accidentally fall into the water and get washed away?”
“Shame on you for jinxing it,” Su Ru Hui exclaimed, noticing the footprints on the ground. There were one big and one small footprint leading down the mountain. Su Ru Hui frowned. “Someone came and took Yu’er away.”
Sang Chi Yu followed Da Long down to the foot of the mountain. They walked on high ridges with fields on both sides. The mountain slopes were dotted with terraces resembling tofu cubes, and farmers buried their heads in the soil. Their skin was as dark as the soil. Sang Chi Yu stood out among them, dressed in pure white, looking like a little immortal who had lost his way in the mortal world. The rural areas were more impoverished than the cities, and their houses were made of stacked stones. Da Long brought Sang Chi Yu to his house, pushed open the fence, and led him into the yard. He pointed to the low stone house and said, “Su Ru Hui is inside.”
“You’re lying. There’s no one inside.” Sang Chi Yu listened carefully but couldn’t hear any voices coming from the house.
Da Long’s expression remained unchanged. “Maybe the village chief took Su Ru Hui away. Let me go and ask where he is. You can go inside and have a cup of tea while you wait for me.”
Sang Chi Yu said, “I’ll go with you.”
“No!” Da Long refused too eagerly, causing Sang Chi Yu to look at him. Da Long felt uneasy looking into those clear eyes. Su Ru Hui hadn’t actually broken his leg; this was the first time he had deceived a child of the nobles, tricking someone of such a different social class. His heart pounded as he looked around and said, “You’ve walked such a long way, aren’t you tired? Even a little bug would be half-dead from walking the mountain road. Don’t you want to rest and have some tea?”
Sang Chi Yu was startled. “I’m tired. I want to have some tea.”
He remembered Dan Tai Jing’s words. He wanted to act like an ordinary person.
Da Long breathed a sigh of relief. He opened the door to the stone house, and forced himself to calm down as he watched Sang Chi Yu step over the threshold and into the dark little room. As soon as Sang Chi Yu was firmly inside, Da Long quickly locked the door. Sang Chi Yu turned his head, and with his ink-black pupils, looked at Da Long. As they met each other’s eyes in the dim light, Da Long inexplicably felt a wave of doubt. He had only just realized that Sang Chi Yu had shown no emotion from the time they walked from the stream to here. It was like he was an emotionless porcelain doll. Da Long thought that maybe he was just naturally slow-witted, and didn’t think much of it. Excitement had already spread through his body, and even his fingertips were trembling.
It’s better that he’s slow, he thought, because then he won’t understand what’s going to happen next.
He waved his hand and cast a spell, causing the water in the large water tank in the corner to fly out and twist into chains, tightly binding Sang Chi Yu. Sang Chi Yu looked down at the chains and furrowed his delicate eyebrows. Da Long comforted him in a soft voice, “Don’t be afraid, little brother. I will treat you well, better than Su Ru Hui does. He made you wash his socks, but I won’t. In the future, there will be many servants serving us. As long as you behave well and sleep with me, then we can show the entire village, and the Secret Sect will have to betroth you to me.”
Da Long kept talking, but Sang Chi Yu couldn’t understand most of it, so he remained silent as usual when faced with something he couldn’t comprehend.
Da Long approached him and said, “Don’t worry, even though you can’t bear children, you have a noble identity, and I won’t make you a concubine. You are my legal wife, and when I take on concubines and have children, the children will belong to you. You nobles have many servants and slaves. When my family takes on that many slaves, I might become the future leader of the Secret Sect. Dan Tai Jing only has you as an apprentice. If I marry you, then I will be the future leader of the Secret Sect!”
The more he thought about it, the more excited he became, and he trembled as he put down Sang Chi Yu’s white hat and unbuttoned his shirt. Sang Chi Yu felt uncomfortable and frowned. “You lied to me. Ru Hui Gege isn’t here.”
“Ru Hui Gege, Ru Hui Gege. Why do you always call him Ru Hui Gege?” Da Long was disgusted with this nickname. “Listen to me. From now on, you’re my woman. If you dare to call him Ru Hui Gege again, I’ll beat you like Zhong Shu beating his wife next door.”
“I want to find Ru Hui Gege.” Sang Chi Yu stood up and prepared to leave.
Da Long became furious and pushed Sang Chi Yu to the ground. Sang Chi Yu’s forehead hit the ground, leaving a big scratch.
“I told you not to call him Ru Hui Gege! Why do you all like him so much? Clearly, I also have a special power that only I possess in this town. Why did Ming Ruo Wu refuse to take me as his disciple? I kneeled and begged him, but he said we’re not fated to be teacher and disciple! We’re both commoners, so why can Su Ru Hui marry Jiang Xue Ya, Zhou Xiao Su, and you?” Da Long grew angrier and angrier. “If I could become Ming Ruo Wu’s disciple, I’ll be ten thousand times stronger than him!”
Sang Chi Yu struggled to get his hand out of the water chain and stubbornly crawled towards the door without saying a word.
“You noble dogs who look down on people.” Da Long grabbed Sang Chi Yu and choked him, his eyes turning red. “I understand now. You look down on me and think I’m lowly. Do you think I’m dirty and smelly, so you don’t want to marry me? You, with your white face. Do you think you’re a god with ice-cold purity? Today, I’ll make you as dirty and smelly as me!”
Da Long tightly choked Sang Chi Yu and pressed his face to the ground. He was so angry that he didn’t realize the water chain was tightening around him. Sang Chi Yu couldn’t speak, and his ribs broke like bamboo chopsticks. He was running out of air in his lungs. His dark eyes gradually lost their luster and became hollow.
Da Long was panting heavily, his anger gradually dissipating as he slowly regained his composure. The little boy lay limp on the ground, like a rag doll. He panicked and pulled Sang Chi Yu up, but Sang Chi Yu’s face was pale and lifeless. He was so startled that he let go of Sang Chi Yu, and the boy collapsed back onto the ground. Da Long tried to prop Sang Chi Yu up, but if he didn’t hold him up forcibly, Sang Chi Yu would slump back down like a sack of flour. Da Long’s heart was beating faster and faster, as he shook Sang Chi Yu desperately, hoping to wake the child up.
After a while, Da Long gradually realized that Sang Chi Yu would never wake up again.
He had killed him. Da Long was beside himself with panic, realizing that he had killed the Grandmaster’s disciple.
When his parents came back home and saw the little boy’s lifeless body on the ground, they almost fainted in shock. Da Long’s father slapped him twice, then smoked two pipes, and made a terrible decision. The father and son carried Sang Chi Yu to the back of the house and dug a hole in the ground with shovels. Da Long’s mother tearfully wrapped the child’s body in a mat and picked up a shovel to help dig.
When they had buried the child, nobody would know that Sang Chi Yu died here.
Halfway through digging the hole, Da Long’s mother turned her head and saw that the mat was empty. The three of them were horrified to see the boy who had supposedly died standing there, expressionless and covered in dirt like a mud doll. Da Long dropped the shovel and muttered, “How… how did he come back to life?”
Da Long’s father said, “Maybe he wasn’t quite dead yet.”
“Is anyone there?” They heard someone shouting outside the fence.
Sang Chi Yu turned his head in that direction, and his dark eyes had a hint of vitality. He hoarsely called out, “Ru Hui Gege.”
“We can’t let them find this child here!” Da Long’s father quickly regained his senses and rushed over to tightly cover Sang Chi Yu’s mouth, while signaling Da Long’s mother with his eyes. She straightened her clothes and put on a smile as she went out to greet the three children outside the fence. The girl looked to be around eleven or twelve years old, while the two younger ones were probably only ten.
“Have you seen a good-looking child wearing a white cloak, about this tall?” The boy gestured to his chest.
“No, I haven’t seen anyone like that.” Da Long’s mother rubbed her hands nervously.
Sang Chi Yu listened to Su Ru Hui’s voice and tried to forcefully remove Da Long’s father’s hand from his mouth. Da Long’s father’s hand was too tight, like a piece of iron soldered to his mouth, and Sang Chi Yu couldn’t pull it off. Perhaps he could kill Da Long’s father using spiritual power, but he remembered what Dan Tai Jing had said, that he must not use Devour.
Once he used that power, they would find out that he was different from others. By then, would Ru Hui Gege still treat him as a little brother or as a wife?
Outside, Su Ru Hui continued to ask, “Please think again. Have you seen him? His footprints are heading towards the town, but there are too many footprints in the town, and I don’t know which direction he went.”
Ru Hui Gege. Ru Hui Gege.
Sang Chi Yu wanted to scream and run out. He dug deep into Da Long’s father’s hand, leaving five deep scratch marks.
“I really haven’t seen anyone like that,” Da Long’s mother said earnestly. “You should go look elsewhere, but be careful not to let any bad people take him away.”
“Okay,” Su Ru Hui said urgently, “then we’ll go look somewhere else. If you see him, please stop him from running around.”
“Definitely, definitely. You should hurry and go look for him,” Da Long’s mother replied.
The sound of Su Ru Hui’s footsteps faded away, and Sang Chi Yu’s eyes widened as tears welled up in them. A strange emotion, like a creeping vine of fear and sadness, rose in his heart. Was he going to die? Would he never see Ru Hui Gege again? A flash of blue light appeared in his meridians, and spiritual power erupted in his body for a moment. He didn’t know where the strength came from, but he forcibly broke free from Da Long’s grip.
Su Ru Hui had not gone far, and he shouted loudly, hoping that Ru Hui Gege could hear him. He opened his mouth to shout, “Gege–“
Just as he was about to call out, a hand suddenly grabbed his hair from behind and slammed his head hard against a rock.
He split his forehead open, and blood flowed out profusely. Da Long’s eyes were bloodshot as he grabbed Sang Chi Yu and smashed his head against the rocks until blood stained the stones. Sang Chi Yu slipped lifelessly to the ground, his ink-black eyes now red with blood.
“I didn’t mean it,” Da Long cried. “I didn’t mean it. It’s your own fault for not listening.”
Da Long’s mother rushed over and exclaimed, “What are you standing there for? Bury him quickly! If the nobles find out, our whole family will be executed!”
Da Long’s father was drenched in cold sweat. “Right, right. We’re done for now. Hurry up and bury him!”
Da Long’s mother squatted down and gathered Sang Chi Yu’s body, feeling guilty but helpless. The child was from a noble family, and if others found out that Da Long had kidnapped him, their whole family would be torn apart.
“Child, we’re sorry. Rest in peace. In your next life, may you be born into a good family and live a peaceful life,” she murmured, touching Sang Chi Yu’s clothes. The silky fabric was something they, as farmers, would never wear in their lifetime. Guilt gave way to greed in her heart. She could alter it and make clothes for her grandson. After all, he was already dead, so keeping the clothes would serve no purpose. Da Long’s mother stripped Sang Chi Yu’s clothes off and left him lying half-naked on a straw mat.
As she lifted her head, holding the clothes, Da Long’s mother suddenly met a pair of emotionless eyes.
Sang Chi Yu’s face was covered in fresh blood, with only a pair of eyes visible that were eerie and ice-blue. He had no expression as he looked at the terrified woman who sat frozen in place. Da Long’s mother covered her mouth, holding back her screams, as she watched the child sit up on his own. It was impossible – he had clearly died. With such a severe head injury and so much blood loss, how could he be alive? The child’s body began to glow with a faint halo, as if there were many fireflies hidden beneath his skin. His skin was so pale and translucent it was almost unbelievable.
“He’s alive…he’s alive…” stuttered Da Long’s mother.
Sang Chi Yu seemed to ignore her words and instead focused on her heart. It was the richest place of blood flow in the human body. His vision suddenly became strange, as he saw the intricate web of blood vessels beneath her skin. The scent of flesh and blood attracted him, making his mouth dry.
He furrowed his brows slightly and said, “I’m so hungry.”
He reached out his hand towards the Da Long’s mother.
“Aaaahh…” came a sharp and tragic scream from the stone house.
In the distance, Su Ru Hui suddenly turned around.
He ran towards the source of the screaming, with Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su chasing after him. He ran back to the house he had visited before, flipped over the fence, and turned to the back of the house. There, he saw the ground covered in blood, with the bodies of a man and a woman lying horizontally on the ground. Sang Chi Yu stood half-naked next to a pit, holding onto the hair of a fourteen-year-old boy. The boy was barely alive, with a large wound in his chest. Sang Chi Yu’s meridians were emitting a cold blue light that flowed slowly, as if a vast starry sky was hidden deep within his body.
“Yu’er…” Su Ru Hui called out to him in a daze.
Sang Chi Yu slowly turned his head, and his icy blue eyes locked onto Su Ru Hui.
Su Ru Hui had never seen such cold eyes before. There was an icy sea in the depths of Sang Chi Yu’s eyes.
Was it a special power gone awry? Su Ru Hui quickly assessed the situation. Ming Ruo Wu was an expert in treating difficult and complicated illnesses. As his disciple, Su Ru Hui had seen many patients who had lost control of their spiritual power and gone insane, eventually dying in a burst of energy.
Su Ru Hui was anxious and called out to Sang Chi Yu in a soft voice, “Yu’er, do you still recognize me?”
“I do,” Sang Chi Yu said.
Su Ru Hui breathed a sigh of relief. If he still recognized people, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Su Ru Hui slowly approached Sang Chi Yu and tried to calm down his spiritual power. “Yu’er, listen to me. Put him down, and I’ll take you home. Come on, breathe with me, take deep breaths.”
Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su finally arrived, both gasping for breath. Zhou Xiao Su saw the mess on the ground and screamed in terror. Jiang Xue Ya noticed Sang Chi Yu’s abnormality and shouted loudly, “A Hui, don’t go near him!”
“It’s okay. Yu’er still recognizes me,” Su Ru Hui said, inching closer to Sang Chi Yu. He held his hand, pried it open, and released the boy’s hair. Sang Chi Yu’s hand was so cold, chilly as if it was dead. Su Ru Hui vaguely guessed that something terrible had happened to Sang Chi Yu. He blamed himself for leaving Yu’er alone by the creek. While shedding tears, he took off his coat and draped it over Sang Chi Yu, helping him button it up one by one.
“Yu’er, it’s okay. I’ll take you home.”
Jiang Xue Ya was so anxious that she was sweating profusely. She gritted her teeth and said, “Su Ru Hui, come back quickly. Don’t go near him. He’s gone crazy! Let’s go find your master first!”
“You go.” Su Ru Hui gently embraced Sang Chi Yu. “I’ll stay here with Yu’er. I left Yu’er alone last time and something happened. I can’t leave him again, and besides, Yu’er still recognizes me.”
“I recognize you.”
Sang Chi Yu raised his head, and in his view, the spiritual power flowing in Su Ru Hui’s body was fully revealed, shining brightly. He couldn’t see Su Ru Hui’s face; he could only see the blood vessels. The desire to prey surged, and his blood boiled. Spiritual power users were more delicious than ordinary people, and he knew this by instinct.
“You are food, and you smell so good,” Sang Chi Yu said softly.
Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su only saw Su Ru Hui’s body stiffen, and then countless bright red blood lines protruded from his back. Something pierced through Su Ru Hui’s body, and blood dripped down in rivulets. Su Ru Hui’s spiritual power surged towards Sang Chi Yu, and in less than ten breaths, Su Ru Hui’s power was completely destroyed.
“Senior Brother!” Zhou Xiao Su screamed in horror.
Su Ru Hui almost fainted from the pain. He looked down and saw numerous ice-blue meridians stretching out from Sang Chi Yu’s palm, like a snake, entering his body. Su Ru Hui was dizzy and realized that Yu’er’s special power was so terrifying. No wonder Yu’er never wanted to show them his special power. Zhou Xiao Su was still screaming, and Su Ru Hui’s eardrums were almost shattered. Su Ru Hui thought that his junior sister was really foolish. Instead of screaming, she should hurry up and find their master.
He hugged Sang Chi Yu with all his strength, so that Sang Chi Yu wouldn’t kill him and go after Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su. Both of them were covered in blood.
“Yu’er, wake up quickly.” Su Ru Hui’s voice became fainter and fainter. “Otherwise, I’m really going to die.”
His hands and feet were getting colder and Su Ru Hui could barely stand. Blood and heat flowed out of his body, and his spiritual power was also dissipating rapidly. As more blood flowed, Zhou Xiao Su ran off to call their master, leaving Jiang Xue Ya watching the two of them. More and more townspeople gathered around, pointing and talking. Sang Chi Yu felt Su Ru Hui’s warm blood soak into his body, and a strange feeling re-emerged, as if his heart had restarted after stopping. Sang Chi Yu’s cold eyes once again gained warmth, and then Su Ru Hui heard Sang Chi Yu’s faint and trembling voice before he fell into a coma: