A hoarse voice sounded from the fifth row.
Fu Lan silently looked over, the killing intent in his eyes slowly dissipating.
There sat a stooped figure, and everyone heard him say slowly and deliberately, “This demon is under a curse. If we forcefully read his soul, he will explode and die. This demon has at least two hundred years of cultivation. Once he explodes, we will all be affected.”
Everyone was shocked. “No wonder he refused to answer. He was planning to take us down with him!”
Yuan Yin nodded lightly towards the figure. “We’re safe thanks to Senior Ku Can’s discovery of this scheme. Otherwise the consequences would have been unimaginable.”
“Who is Senior Ku Can?” Qi Yin whispered to Yun Zhi. “Why is his Dao name different from others?”
“He’s not originally from Wu Fang Mountain. He was a wild Daoist from some deserted mountain. He was recruited by Wu Fang at the end of last year and became the Elder of Spells here,” Yun Zhi said. “This old man is very powerful. Wu Fang Mountain has twelve elders divided into four upper and eight lower seats. He was immediately appointed as one of the upper seats. He created a set of powerful Ku Can secret spells that are said to be able to move mountains and lift boulders with ease. He teaches the spell classes we take. I asked about him from the people at Wu Fang Mountain. They said his classes are quite easy and he only tests us on small spells like freezing and fire breathing, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
On the other side, the pig demon sneered. “I didn’t expect that the Wu Fang faction would have another great Daoist. I thought we could set off some fireworks and let everyone enjoy the blood and flesh together.”
Yuan Yin shook his head. “This wicked beast is incorrigible. It’s too late today. We’ll have to reconsider another day.”
Without getting any information, the disciples of Wu Fang Mountain came in and took the pig demon away. Everyone dispersed and left the secret chamber. As soon as they came out of the darkness and saw the light, Qi Yin’s eyes were dazzled. He couldn’t help but turn his head and look back at the secret chamber. Several elders of Wu Fang were gathered on the steps, probably discussing how to deal with the pig. Qi Ling Shu was kneeling alone on the side, with a lonely back, his white clothes were touched by the shadows and made him look gray, like a lone goose.
They said that Qi Yin was similar to Qi Shen Wei in appearance, while Qi Ling Shu was similar to him from deep in his bones. Qi Yin couldn’t help but wonder if his father, the bastard immortal whom he had never met, looked like this too? Living in seclusion, being alone, his wife and children a burden to him. Only one person could sit on a sword. How could a whole family sit on it?
“What’s the deal with the missing people from Wu Fang Mountain? Do they have any connections to Yuan Wei?” Ye Qing Ming pondered with his sleeves tucked in.
Yun Zhi shook his head. “I don’t know, but the blood compass points in the direction of Wu Fang’s vicinity, specifically the Forbidden Forest, which is where Uncle Qi’s tomb is located.”
“Why did Wu Fang bury my dad in a forbidden forest?” Qi Yin asked.
Yun Zhi said: “The rules of Wu Fang Mountain are that after death, everyone is buried in the forbidden area, which means they must still suppress demons even after death.”
Ye Qing Ming rubbed his chin and said, “Could it be that Wu Fang didn’t even know that Yuan Wei was still alive and buried him unknowingly?”
“Now we have too little information, so anything we say is just speculation,” Yun Zhi replied. “Fourth Martial Uncle, leave your spiritual sense in my Master’s Dawn Mirror and ask him to send someone to check if Yao Xiao Shan has returned home to Wu Tang.”
Qi Yin was startled. “Do you suspect that my cousin is missing too?”
Yun Zhi shrugged. “Don’t worry too much. I just have some doubts.”
“Okay.” Ye Qing Ming patted Qi Yin’s shoulder. “I’ll go discuss with Qing He and see when we can explore the forbidden area in Wu Fang Mountain. The forbidden area in Wu Fang Mountain is different from Feng Huan. The demons here are not as peaceful as those in our area. We need to plan carefully. But I’m not too worried. Yuan Wei has been neither dead nor alive for so long, so he can wait a little longer.”
After speaking, he lifted his robes and walked towards the scripture hall, humming “dong-dang-dang” with the demeanor of a fool. Qi Yin looked at him with a depressed expression. Could they really rely on this kind of person? One day, he would visit the Elder of Medicine who broke Qing He’s disciple’s leg instead of curing it to see how low Feng Huan’s bottom line really was.
The three of them walked side by side back. Yun Zhi patted Fu Lan’s shoulder and said, “The competition is tomorrow. We all have to participate. Junior Brother Hei doesn’t need to be reminded, but I’ll remind you. Don’t use your real skills in the match. A few moves are enough. Nowadays, the way of the Dao is declining, and many sects are in chaos. Unlike us, Wu Fang is still proud of their cultivator status.”
Qi Yin was speechless. This person’s face was really thick.
Fu Lan nodded in confusion, but Yun Zhi still worriedly reminded, “After you find out who your opponent is, remember to ask about their background. For example, if it’s a girl, you need to find out if she has a sugar daddy.”
“A sugar daddy?” Fu Lan asked.
“They’re very protective of their girls,” Yun Zhi said. “If you encounter such a person, don’t fight them. We can’t afford to offend anyone in Wu Fang.”
Qi Yin was surprised and exclaimed, “Are people still into this kind of thing?”
“You two can be in a same-sex relationship. Why can’t others have sugar daddies?” Yun Zhi said with a smirk. This made Qi Yin angry and he wanted to hit him. Yun Zhi took a step back and walked away slowly while waving his hand. “See you later, junior brother!”
When they arrived at their lodging, they did not enter. Qi Yin pulled Fu Lan to a secluded spot under a plum blossom tree and asked, “Brother, are you really not going to save that pig demon?”
Before Fu Lan could answer, a black cat suddenly jumped down from the wall. “That pig cannot be saved,” the black cat said.
Qi Yin was startled. “Lord Cat, can you please announce yourself before showing up next time?”
Fu Lan bent down and picked up the cat, who held onto him with its two front paws. “Xiao Yin, do you know why it pretended to be me and caused trouble in the human world?”
How could he know? Qi Yin thought for a moment, but then remembered the demon’s fearless behavior. “Is it trying to start a war between humans and demons?”
“You’re halfway correct.” The black cat sighed. “To be precise, it wants your brother to take action. Since the Ninth Abyss War, the demon race has declined while humans have prospered. Half of the reason for this is due to the war between two races of demons – yao (1) and (mo). The other half is due to the fool.”
Fu Lan silently listened, while Qi Yin looked at the black cat’s indifferent expression and asked, “Because my brother ignores politics?”
The black cat nodded. “There are 28 demon tribes in southern Jiang, some advocating for war while others for peace. The war hawks value the fool’s strong magical powers and urge him to fight against the human world. Zhu Ming Zang is one of them. The peace doves question the fool’s identity as neither demon nor human and prefer to treat your brother as the mascot of southern Jiang. With your brother and the demon sword, the demons can’t fight amongst themselves.”
“The demon sword?” Qi Yin frowned.
“A sword that was forged from the bones of a demonic dragon,” Fu Lan explained. “I’ve placed it at the entrance of the Ninth Abyss.”
“There’s a barrier around the demonic sword, so yao and mo can’t fight amongst themselves,” the black cat said.
No wonder Fu Lan had never drawn his sword before. Qi Yin suddenly realized, “So that pig has been stealing my brother’s identity to wreak havoc everywhere, trying to incite conflict between humans and demons. If the immortal mountain can’t tolerate it anymore and attacks the Southern Territory, my brother will have no choice but to take action.”
“That’s right, so it’s best for it to die here. If it dies, even if the pig demon clan wants revenge, they won’t be able to convince the other factions. At least there will still be peace between the Southern Territory and the human world,” the black cat said with a worried tone. “Sigh, bearing the title of the demon lord, we can’t kill demons unless it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise, we would have killed that trouble-making pig long ago.”
Qi Yin sighed quietly. He didn’t understand the Southern Territory, but he could guess that being its leader was not easy. He initially thought Fu Lan was just a figurehead, but it turned out there were so many troubles. The key issue was not whether to fight or make peace, but that Fu Lan was not fit to be the leader at all.
This fool… Qi Yin looked up at Fu Lan’s dark eyes, thinking of him tying his sleeves to cook, do laundry, and deliver clothes to his fellow disciples. Such a gentle and quiet young man was more suited to be a diligent househusband, Qi Yin’s brother, rather than the ruler of demons or the leader of the Southern Territory.
“Can’t you abdicate? Give the position to another powerful demon. After all, they are suspicious and believe in ‘if it’s not from our race, it must have ill intentions’, right?”
The black cat was taken aback, its green eyes suddenly becoming deep and quiet, as if shrouded in a layer of gloomy fog.
“No,” the black cat said softly. “There are no powerful demons with more than 300 years of cultivation left in the Southern Territory. They all died in that twelve-year-long war, their bodies lying in the ink marshes of the Ninth Abyss and the wilderness… never to return home.”
Fu Lan also lowered his eyes, sharing a memory with the black cat of the most cruel and intense time of their lives. The mo clan invaded the yao clan. Wave after wave of reinforcements were sent to the front lines, but it still took the yao clan two whole years to push the battle lines back to the Ninth Abyss.
There were times of truce, but more often there was fighting. The battles lasted too long, and many demons lost their self-healing abilities. They began to eat the bodies of their dead comrades, sucking fresh blood from the soil to speed up their recovery. Fu Lan still remembered the nauseating taste of blood filling his mouth, the rivers of blood that reached his ankles, and the vast, pale bones of demons scattered across the flowing wilderness, piled up at the foot of the pitch-black abyssal mountains.
“Xiao Yin,” Fu Lan said softly, “war is cruel, and many lives are lost. I hope you live a peaceful life and never experience war.”
This was the first time Qi Yin saw such sorrow on their faces. Feeling a faint ache in his heart, he asked softly, “Is the mo clan very strong?”
“Very strong,” Fu Lan said slowly. “Their lifespans are longer than both humans and the yao clan. Humans live for decades, yao for centuries, but the lifespan of a mo can reach a thousand years. Some mo possess human bodies, some feed on human brain matter, and others manipulate people’s minds, causing them to kill each other…” Fu Lan looked up. “Xiao Yin, if one day you encounter a mo and I’m not by your side, the first thing you should do is tell it that you are my brother. If it still wants to kill you…”
“What should I do?” Qi Yin asked nervously.
Fu Lan stared at him and said, “I will avenge you.”
In the evening, the results of the lottery for the competition came out. Qi Yin and Fu Lan, both newcomers, were to compete first against other newcomers. Qi Yin was quite calm, as he didn’t even know the sword-controlling technique and would admit defeat after a few moves. As a member of Feng Huan Mountain, he was not afraid of losing face for his sect. Fu Lan had nothing to worry about either; his opponent was named “Xin Xiao Xiao,” obviously a girl. He could have a casual exchange with her and might even win her heart with his handsome face.
Late at night, it was time to rest. The stars hung low, and the wintersweet outside the moonlit window was in full bloom, casting sparse shadows on the white window gauze. Later, the sound of a zither echoed from somewhere, its melodious and lingering notes like a gentle breeze stirring the waters of a pond.
All the disciples went to bed after washing up. It was their first time sleeping in a large shared bed. Qi Yin felt a little uncomfortable lying next to Fu Lan, turning to face Yun Zhi’s direction. Fu Lan also climbed into bed after a while, lying down behind Qi Yin. Their arms touched, and through the thin layer of silk, Qi Yin could feel Fu Lan’s warm skin.
After a long while, everyone had fallen asleep, with steady breathing filling the air. Occasionally, there were quiet hums as people dreamt. Qi Yin could also hear Lord Cat snoring, and the lingering sound of the zither outside the window. There was no movement from behind, and Qi Yin slowly turned to face Fu Lan. The moonlight shone through the window, illuminating Fu Lan’s peaceful features, his straight nose, and thin lips.
I wonder if those demons are heartbroken to see someone like him become Southern Jiang’s demon lord. According to the black cat, when they returned to Southern Jiang after the war, there was much work to be done but Fu Lan kept disappearing, which made it impossible to push forward any political plans. Later, in order to keep Fu Lan from running away, various tribes offered up demon concubines to fill his harem, and the Ninth Abyss tribe even offered up two witches. The demon concubines and witches must have crystal-clear skin, plump breasts, and long and fair thighs. His brother was really lucky. It was a pity that the peach blossom landed on him in vain. A group of concubines chased after Fu Lan, demanding to have sex with him, but he ran and jumped into the surging Jia Ling River.
Qi Yin laughed silently as he propped up his head and lightly tapped Fu Lan’s forehead with his finger, then stroked his nose bridge.
“Big idiot,” he said.
Just as he was about to pull his hand back, Fu Lan opened his eyes, and the two of them were face to face in the clear moonlight.
“…” Qi Yin fell silent for a moment and said, “Brother, you’re pretending to be asleep?”
“I was sleeping,” Fu Lan replied honestly, “but you woke me up.”
“Is that so?” Qi Yin pretended to be calm as he withdrew his hand. “I don’t believe you.”
“It’s not safe here. I can’t fall asleep,” Fu Lan argued in a low voice.
“What’s not safe? Did you notice anything suspicious?” Qi Yin asked.
Fu Lan shook his head. “It’s just a feeling.”
Qi Yin didn’t say anything more, and the two of them fell into silence, looking into each other’s eyes.
After watching Qi Yin for a while, Fu Lan suddenly closed his eyes and took Qi Yin’s hand, placing it on his own face.
“I’m asleep now. You can touch me,” he said.
1. Yao – generally refers to any kind of demonic or otherworldly creature in Chinese mythology. They are often depicted as animals, such as foxes, snakes, or tigers, that have the ability to transform into human form. They are known for their cunning and trickery, and are often associated with seduction, deception, and mischief. However, not all yao are evil, and some are depicted as benevolent beings who help humans.
2. Mo – refers specifically to evil spirits in Chinese mythology. They are often associated with black magic, possession, and spiritual corruption. Mo are said to have a powerful and malevolent presence that can harm humans, and they are often portrayed as the enemies of gods and humans alike.