“They are,” Qing Shi said. “Wu Fang Mountain speculates that perhaps there is some residual great shaman formation in Ba Mountain, and some people’s divine consciousness are not strong enough and have been isolated. They searched for four days, and the number of disappeared divine consciousness approached half, but they still gained nothing. Once the divine consciousness completely disappears, they can no longer communicate with Wu Fang Mountain. As a precaution, Wu Fang Mountain decided to return. Since there was no need to search, Elder Zong Lan ordered everyone to ride their swords. But they found that even the sword riding spell was ineffective. In that mountain, all spells could not be cast.”
“Is there a barrier?”
“Wu Fang Mountain also suspects so, but they searched for a long time and didn’t find a way to break it. Helpless, they had to walk back. Fortunately, there was a sound when the compass pointer rotated, and they judged the direction by touching and the sound of the pointer. The team became increasingly silent, and everyone understood that they had been inside for so long and had encountered strange events one after another, so their mood must be very bad. Every day, in addition to reporting their number, Elder Zong Lan also tried to boost morale by talking during breaks, but he couldn’t encourage everyone. On the last day, only Elder Zong Lan’s divine consciousness remained in the Dawn Mirror. Based on their route, they were already close to the edge of Ba Mountain. However, an accident happened.”
“Before this, they were all connected by ropes, with distance between them. Daoists do not eat or drink, and most of them are reclusive and independent, not fond of touching others. This was especially true for those from Wu Fang Mountain. So, even after traveling together for more than ten days, they rarely touched each other. It was not until that day when Zong Lan communicated through his divine sense with Dawn Mirror and said that his bag fell to the ground. When he looked down to retrieve it, he accidentally touched his companion next to him. He said that the person’s body was stiff and cold, already dead. Zong Lan tried to talk to him, but his companion either remained silent or answered briefly. Zong Lan finally said that he thought there were no living people around him anymore.”
Qi Yin was stunned and exclaimed, “What? Are all the people he’s been with dead? How can dead people talk?”
Qing Shi shook his head and said, “I don’t know. No one knows what happened to them. Perhaps some monsters have occupied their bodies and are imitating their speech. Perhaps they themselves do not know that they are already dead. Zong Lan felt that the danger was imminent and that he would not live long. He left his last words and cut the rope to continue his journey. Those things did not follow him anymore, but until his divine sense disappeared, the mirror did not see him leave Ba Mountain, and he never returned to Wu Fang Mountain.”
“Until now, you still don’t know what happened there?” Qi Yin asked.
Qing Shi shook his head.
This matter sounded mysterious. Qi Yin felt that it did not sound true no matter how he listened to it. Looking up at Qing Shi, he still had that calm and composed look. Could he be making up a story to entertain him?
Qi Yin asked, “There are too many strange things. That place is white during the day and black at night, and it’s in the mountains with no trees? They walk blindly with their eyes open; won’t they bump into things? When people die, don’t they stink? Can’t they smell it?”
Qing Shi laughed and said, “The problem lies precisely in this. After Wu Fang recalled that incident, there were many oddities and mysteries. How could they walk unobstructed through the forest in the mountains? How could they not hear the wind blowing down the leaves? How could they not see the pouring rain at night? But at that time, neither the twelve people nor Wu Fang Mountain noticed anything strange, and let them delve deeper into Ba Mountain.”
Qi Yin listened in a daze and still could not fully accept it. Maybe there was a powerful monster lurking in the shadows there, and it might be the White Deer that ate human livers. It’s just that these Daoists had low cultivation levels and couldn’t beat it, so they made up a bunch of excuses to cover it up.
Qi Yin scratched his head and asked, “What does this have to do with my brother?”
Qing Shi looked at him and said, “The Ba Mountains are mysterious and once you enter, there’s no turning back. For many years, no demons dared to approach it. Therefore, some injured or separated small demons would rest outside of the Ba Mountains. There are few demons and also few natural enemies, so they can get some breathing space. Eighteen years ago, an injured water snake demon settled at the edge of the Ba Mountains, in the white mist. It saw a child walking out of the mist, which was the first time the southern demon clan saw something coming out of the white mist.”
“…” Qi Yin said, “Please don’t tell me that child was my brother.”
Qing Shi smiled meaningfully. “Unfortunately, it was him. This is the first legend about Fu Lan. Of course, it’s just a legend, and no one knows if it’s true or false.”
“Master, you’re overthinking,” Qi Yin tried to defend Fu Lan. “This Fu Lan is not the same as that Fu Lan. My brother is a simple and lovely little fool, who just happens to share the same name as the Pig King. As for his breed, there are many strange things in the world that we have not seen before. Maybe my brother is a god, don’t you think?”
Qing Shi rolled up his sleeves and looked at the green mountains outside the cliff. The reddish sun looked like a dim paper-cutting, hanging in the blue sky. He smiled and said, “You’re right, he’s a good child. I’ve been alive for more than forty years and it’s the first time I’ve seen such a child. Even Yuan Wei doesn’t have such eyes.”
Hearing Qi Shen Wei’s Dao name, Qi Yin’s movement paused.
“The spell that Yun Lan used is probably from the Ba Mountains. To be honest, I’m not curious about what exactly is in the southern region. The world is vast, and how can humans fathom it all? Unfortunately, few people know this truth.” Qing Shi turned his head and looked at Qi Yin against the light. “Xiao Yin, there are two kinds of words in this world that are the least trustworthy: legends and rumors. Unfortunately, these are also the words that most people believe. Whether he is Fu Lan or not doesn’t depend on you, but on the world. My disciple, remember that Yun Lan’s identity is known to you and me, and to Feng Huan, but not to outsiders.”
The sunlight shone on Qing Shi’s plump and pale face. Qi Yin could see a kind and benevolent light in his narrow eyes.
Qi Yin remained silent for a while, struggling to stand up with the help of the chair. He bowed respectfully and said, “Disciple will remember.”
The moon was like a round flower, stuck on the treetops. Qi Yin walked back slowly, holding his wound. Suddenly, he thought of something, turned back, and walked to the back of the thatched cottage. He asked through the small window, “Hey, Yun Zhi.”
Yun Zhi stuck his head out from inside. “What’s up?”
“You didn’t tell other senior brothers and sisters about my brother and Lord Cat, did you?”
“Don’t worry, I didn’t say anything.”
Qi Yin nodded and hesitated for a while before asking, “Is my father’s relationship with Master good?”
Yun Zhi was clearly stunned. He leaned on the window sill and smiled. “Yes, they were good friends. Twenty years ago, they teamed up to slay demons and were known as the ‘two gentlemen of the immortal mountain’. Unfortunately, time doesn’t spare anyone. Our master has grown fatter and few people know that he was once a handsome man.”
There was silence. Yun Zhi looked at Qi Yin, who stood in the moonlight with his black hair covering his eyes, unable to tell what expression was on his face. After waiting for a while, Qi Yin smiled. “Okay, I understand.”
Qi Yin walked away, his thin figure disappearing into the vast darkness along the bluestone steps. Qing Ming leaned against the wall, crossing his arms. “Why did you tell him? What if he runs away?”
Yun Zhi tapped on the window frame. “He didn’t ask, ‘What’s the relationship between my father and Master?’, he asked, ‘Is the relationship between my father and Master good?’ He had already guessed it, so what’s the point of hiding it? Besides…” Yun Zhi smiled. “I think he cares a lot about Master Qi.”
“At the end of the year, there will be a Daoist debate in Luo Tian. This little guy was pressured by that little demon, and he had a moment of inspiration. He barely passed the threshold, but he’s still a half-assed disciple.” Qing Ming scratched his ear. “Does your master really want him to go to Luo Tian?”
“Of course he does.” Yun Zhi looked out of the window and smiled leisurely. He remembered the look in Qi Yin’s eyes when he rode his sword to save Fu Lan from Lan Xian’er’s attack. “Don’t underestimate my little junior brother. Although he looks like a stray dog on ordinary days, once he goes mad, he becomes a mad dog.”
Under the eaves of the tiled house hung a red lantern, a long line of them. Senior brothers and sisters were squatting on the steps, rinsing their mouths and washing their faces. When they saw him, they greeted him loudly. Qi Yin responded one by one and strode along the muddy road back to his and Fu Lan’s little house. He closed the door and put on the latch. Fu Lan pasted a talisman and lit it up, and the room was illuminated with a bright orange glow, like a piece of transparent amber. They were insects in the amber, small and thin.
Fu Lan saw Qi Yin come back and carried the medicine box over to help him change the bandage and apply medicine.
His spiritual power had restored most of Qi Yin’s injuries, but it couldn’t make them completely heal. There was still a large wound in his chest, as if the shell of his heart had been broken and something could crawl inside.
Fu Lan lowered his eyebrows and touched his wound with his slightly cold fingertips, which felt a bit painful. Qi Yin remembered the child who came out of the mist Qing Shi told him about. He scratched his head, and said, “Brother, Master told me something about you.”
Fu Lan looked up at him.
“The words those Daoists said,” the black cat sauntered over and jumped onto the bed in one go, “just listen with your left ear and let it out with your right ear. Did he say that the fool loves killing innocent people, being arrogant and domineering, and bullying men and women?”
“No, he didn’t,” Qi Yin said, “he said my brother came from a man-eating place called Ba Mountain Temple.”