“The theory behind this spell is to infuse spiritual energy to forcefully enhance the recipient’s self-healing ability and repair wounds. Therefore, it can only be used on those who are dying but not yet dead. If the person has already passed away, even this spell would be useless,” explained Ye Ku Can. “However, using this spell is not simple. The caster must be familiar with the recipient’s meridians, six organs, and nine apertures. If the spiritual energy flows the wrong way, the recipient’s meridians will be severed. If the spiritual energy is too much, the recipient’s six organs will burst under the pressure. If the spiritual energy is too little, the spell won’t take effect.”
It’s unexpected that this spell is so complicated. Qi Yin thought his brother was invincible, able to reverse life and death with ease. It seemed that even in the dream world, his brother took a huge risk and walked right up to the gate of death. Qi Yin shuddered at the thought and wrote on the paper, “Brother, this spell is so difficult. Did I almost die because of it?”
Fu Lan was surprised for a moment and replied with his spiritual awareness, “Is it difficult? I thought it was simple.”
Qi Yin: “…”
“The flow of spiritual power is easy to control. I have entered your body many times and it is not unfamiliar to me.” Fu Lan’s voice was gentle. “Xiao Yin, I understand your body as well as I understand my own. There was no room for mistakes.”
It was then that Qi Yin remembered that Fu Lan had indeed entered his body many times, injecting spiritual power into his eight meridians every time they merged into a fish. He remembered the feeling, as if there was a slow and icy stream flowing through his body, while his soul drifted in the mist.
However, he suddenly felt a bit strange. The word “enter” sounded too ambiguous, as if they had done something that couldn’t be spoken of. Qi Yin blushed and quickly turned his head to focus on the lesson.
“There is only one spell, which I have practiced over ten thousand times. Otherwise, I would not be able to achieve precise control of my spiritual power. Children, diligence is the key to cultivation. No matter which spell you practice, you must study hard and practice diligently,” said Ye Ku Can.
Suddenly, Fu Lan said, “Xiao Yin, find a way to get him to attack you.”
“What?” Qi Yin thought he had misheard him.
Yun Zhi said beside them, “Your brother wants to see if Ye Ku Can’s technique is really the same as his.”
How the hell were they going to do that? Qi Yin felt a headache coming on.
They were about to finish class when Qi Yin raised his hand and shouted, “Teacher, I have a question.”
Ye Ku Can raised his hand, indicating for him to ask. Qi Yin hesitated before standing up and stammering, “Um, teacher, you just said that the Revival spell is very difficult to use. If one is even slightly careless, the recipient will die. And you also said that you have practiced it over ten thousand times. May I ask, did you practice with small animals like this poor little rabbit every time, like you did today? Doesn’t that mean you have killed more than ten thousand rabbits?”
Ye Ku Can obviously didn’t expect Qi Yin to ask such a question. He was stunned and silent for a while before saying, “To cultivate spells, there must be sacrifices…”
“Daoists are compassionate,” said Qi Yin, putting on a pained expression. “Even though rabbits are small, they are still living beings. How can an elder of Wu Fang like you, with high standards in the Dao, do such inhumane things?”
The people in the room began to whisper among themselves. A girl nodded and sobbed. “The little rabbits are so cute. How could the elder kill them?”
“Elder!” Qi Yin accused, “I have heard of your creation of secret spells, and I had great admiration for you. But now I realize that you are such a heartless person. Today it was a rabbit. Who knows if tomorrow you will kill cats, and the day after, pigs, cows, dogs, and sheep? Later, you might even use people for your practice. How cruel!”
Ye Ku Can’s eyes narrowed, and he slammed his hand on the table. “Nonsense!”
“You are angry!” Qi Yin trembled as he pointed at him. “You are angry! If it weren’t for me stepping on your sore spot, why would you be so furious? Could it be…you really have killed people?”
Ye Ku Can clenched his fists tightly, and his eyes, like burning embers, glared at Qi Yin. Qi Yin continued to talk, and the girls in the audience were agitated and frightened.
“You impudent child!” Ye Ku Can shouted, and sharp ice thorns grew from his withered fingertips. He spread his hands toward Qi Yin, and the air instantly froze. The whole pavilion felt like an ice cave, and dense white smoke condensed with a crackling sound. The ice thorns, each the size of a bowl, flew toward Qi Yin, their sharpness piercing.
The cold air rushed toward him, and Qi Yin’s hair stood on end. Without thinking, he crossed his arms over his head and face.
At the same time, Fu Lan’s right hand touched Qi Yin’s back, and a cold spiritual power entered Qi Yin’s meridians. He whispered softly, “Block it.”
A ripple of light suddenly appeared in front of him, and a barrier opened up. All the ice thorns smashed into the barrier, shattered into countless pieces, and fell onto the black lacquer table.
Everyone in the pavilion was stunned. The ice shards clinked on the ground, and the air was still cold. Qi Yin, with lingering fear, looked up and met Qi Ling Shu’s gaze. It was the first time he had seen the man’s face clearly as he looked straight into his eyes.
He was a man made of ice and snow, and he looked at Qi Yin with cold disgust in his eyes.
Qi Yin put down his hands in confusion, but Qi Ling Shu had already turned his head.
Clearly realizing that he had overreacted, Ye Ku Can huffed and left with the iron cage in his hand. Qi Yin was almost scared to death and sat back in his seat, clutching his chest.
As Ye Ku Can left, the room suddenly became noisy, with some girls shedding tears and saying, “I didn’t expect Elder Ku Can to be such a person!”
“Yeah, yeah! If he can’t win an argument, he just hits people. He really scared me just now.”
Xin Xiao Xiao, who was sitting in the front row, ran over to ask Fu Lan, “Lan Gege, did he scare you? Are you okay?”
Why didn’t anyone care about him? Qi Yin was speechless. He was the one who got scared the most, okay?
This wasn’t a good place to talk, so he couldn’t ask how Fu Lan’s experiment had gone. Qi Yin buried himself in his books, and just as he finished packing them up, he looked up to find Qi Ling Shu standing in front of him.
Qi Yin was startled and fell back on his chair. Was this guy here to comfort him?
Qi Ling Shu lowered his eyes. His pupils were pale, like lustrous glass beads surrounded by a faint halo.
He asked, “You were the one who lost in the first match on the first day of the sword competition?”
This guy’s face seemed to be carved out of ancient ice and had no expression. Just sitting in front of him, Qi Yin was freezing all over. Fu Lan didn’t know what had happened and just stared at him blankly, holding the black cat.
Although it was embarrassing, Qi Yin had to admit it. He scratched his head and said, “Yes.”
“You cheated in the competition,” Qi Ling Shu said.
“Your name will be removed from the list and you will be sent to the disciplinary hall.”
Several disciples in white immediately stepped forward and took hold of Qi Yin. He was bewildered. “What’s going on? How did I cheat in the competition?”
Qi Ling Shu did not explain and walked ahead without turning back. Fu Lan was at a loss and could only follow along. However, Yun Zhi could see what had happened at a glance and said with a complex expression, “Just now, you blocked Ye Ku Can’s attack. Your spiritual power is so strong that you wouldn’t have lost to a beginner disciple. That guy thinks you cheated in the competition.”
Qi Yin almost wanted to spit blood. He was taken all the way to the disciplinary hall, where snow covered the ground, and several stout pine trees stood nearby with needles covered in snow. A large lotus leaf fish tank was placed below the stairs, with symbols painted on the rim to keep the water inside at a constant temperature and prevent it from freezing. Several golden and red small fish swam inside.
The man inside timidly walked out, and upon closer look, it was the same guy who made a deal with Qing Ming. Qi Ling Shu asked in a frigid tone, “Junior Brother Ling Zhuo, is this the disciple you bought with the sect’s funds?”
Ling Zhuo was surprised to see Qi Yin and looked at Yun Zhi, clearly unsure what was going on. Yun Zhi covered his face with his sleeve in silence.
It seemed that this idiot had been caught embezzling the sect’s funds, but he hadn’t revealed Qing Ming and Yun Zhi’s involvement. All Qi Ling Shu knew was that he had bought a disciple to participate in the fake competition. Qi Yin felt helpless, but it didn’t matter; he was already at the bottom of the rankings, so it wouldn’t make any difference whether he was punished or not. If he were to be made to sweep the floor, he would just accompany his brother. Fed up with everything, Qi Yin said, “It was me. What do you want to do? I’ll follow along.”
Yun Zhi secretly blinked at him in gratitude, but Qi Yin glared at him with eyes that screamed “bastard.”
Qi Ling Shu said, “First offense. Two hours of kneeling.”
Qi Yin’s vision turned black; did this mean he had to kneel until dusk in this frigid snowy weather?
“Ling Zhuo knowingly committed the offense. Expelled from the inner sect,” Qi Ling Shu declared.
Ling Zhuo walked away dejectedly, and Yun Zhi pleaded, “Junior Martial Uncle, my junior brother has been weak since he was young. Your magnanimity would be much appreciated.”
Qi Ling Shu coldly looked at him and said, “Add half an hour of kneeling.”
Qi Yin was speechless.
“Junior Martial Uncle, you don’t have to be so heartless!” Yun Zhi winked at him. “Don’t you remember when Senior Martial Uncle Qi Shen Wei brought you to Feng Huan when you were young, and you followed me shouting ‘Big Brother Yun Zhi’? We have a bond since we were kids. Can’t you go easy on him?”
Qi Ling Shu’s expression changed, and Qi Yin saw him showing emotion on his face for the first time. Qi Ling Shu gritted his teeth and said, “Another half-hour of kneeling!” before turning and leaving.
“What the hell is going on?” Qi Yin cried with a mournful face, kneeling on the snowy ground, his knees freezing and hurting.
Yun Zhi crouched in front of him, feeling embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Junior Brother.”
“…Do you have a problem with him?” Qi Yin asked in distress.
“Ah, I didn’t expect this kid to hold a grudge like this.” Yun Zhi rubbed his sleeve and continued, “He likes cleanliness, you know.”
Qi Ling Shu’s clothes, shoes, and socks were always immaculate. Qi Yin nodded in agreement.
“Last time during the competition, a junior sister from Zhong Gu Mountain invited me for a moonlit drinking session. Who would have thought that we would run into Qi Ling Shu, who had just returned from his demon-slaying mission. Being the gentleman that I am, I let the junior sister run away first, and stayed behind to face him. Without saying a word, Qi Ling Shu wanted to take me to the disciplinary hall.”
“Did you resist?” Qi Yin asked.
“No.” Yun Zhi chuckled with some embarrassment. “I had a bit too much to drink and accidentally vomited on him. In the end, he had to escort me back to my courtyard.”
This was a major incident, and now Yun Zhi, this fool, wanted him to intercede on his behalf? Qi Yin was so angry that he felt like vomiting blood. “You scoundrel. Do you know what your specialty is?”
“Is it charming women?” Yun Zhi asked.
“It’s deceiving your father (1)!” Qi Yin roared in anger.
Yun Zhi left after being scolded, and in the end, only Fu Lan remained sitting next to him, cross-legged.
“Brother, you can go rest now. I don’t need you to accompany me,” Qi Yin said.
Fu Lan hesitated for a moment, nodded, and then stood up and left.
He left too decisively, and Qi Yin was momentarily stunned, staring at his back.
How could he just leave like that?
The daylight gradually faded, and everything became gray and gloomy again. Little ice crystals fell from the sky, and Qi Yin looked up to see snowflakes gently falling from the center of the sky, the entire gray dome reflecting in his pitch-black eyes. Suddenly, he had the illusion that he was the only person left in the world.
Qi Yin couldn’t help feeling a bit resentful. That Fu Lan. He was his beloved little brother, wasn’t he? Hmph. Qi Yin picked up a dry twig and idly poked at the snowflakes on the ground. It was very cold in the snowy field, and his nose was runny after kneeling for a while. Just as he was getting bored, a plump black thing fell into his arms, and a blue floral cotton quilt covered his head.
Qi Yin was taken aback. Fu Lan sat down beside him with his legs crossed, his arm wrapped around Qi Yin’s back. He pulled over a corner of the quilt, wrapping the two of them up together.
This guy… Qi Yin stared at him in a daze. It turned out that he didn’t leave. He just went back to get the quilt.
The warmth made Qi Yin feel comfortable, and the black cat found a nice spot to curl up. Fu Lan rubbed Qi Yin’s hand and blew on it with his mouth. Qi Yin felt content, and moved a bit closer to Fu Lan. Suddenly, he remembered the matter of Ye Ku Can, and asked in a low voice, “How did your experiment go? What kind of technique did that old man use?”
The black cat sniffed. “That old guy really knows how to flatter himself. Him practicing this spell is so ridiculous that it makes me laugh.”
“What kind of spell is it?” asked Qi Yin.
“It’s the spell of the ancient great shamans, called the ‘Shaman’s Secret Art.’ Fifty years ago, the Daoist priests of Zong Ming were wracking their brains trying to enter the temple to search for this. One spell might be doubtful, but two spells confirm it.” The black cat said, “That ‘Revival Spell’ and ‘Iceberg Killing Spell’ are definitely Shaman’s Secret Arts. Your brother is born with the talent for this spell, and he is one of a kind, recorded in the temple’s scriptures. We haven’t been back to the temple for a long time. Perhaps Ye Ku Can used some method to enter the temple through the white mist.”
“This spell is so powerful.” Qi Yin was eager to try it. “Can I learn it?”
“No,” said Fu Lan.
“Why not?” Qi Yin frowned. He couldn’t learn it if it wasn’t powerful, and he couldn’t learn it if it was powerful.
“You’ll end up like him, turning into a skeleton,” Fu Lan whispered.
Qi Yin was taken aback, and the black cat explained, “Shaman’s Secret Arts cannot be learned by ordinary people. They say Ye Ku Can turned into that half-dead, half-alive creature after years of hard practice. He’s lying to you guys. That’s the side effects of practicing the Shaman’s Secret Art.”
“He’s about to die, Xiao Yin,” Fu Lan said softly.
This spell was so dangerous. Did the old man know? Qi Yin felt a little sorry for the old man and asked, “Brother, are you a shaman? Why can you practice this thing? What exactly is a shaman? Aren’t they human?”
“The shaman is a status. In ancient times, those who devoted their lives to the gods and were recognized by them, whether they were human, yao, or mo, could become a shaman. There was a specific ritual to become a shaman, but it is no longer known today, and there is no record of it in Ba Mountain Temple. Yu Ji Xian was the first shaman recorded in ancient books. Shaman magic grants the ability to understand life and death, fortunes and misfortunes. Powerful shamans are the closest existence to the gods in the world.” The black cat looked at Fu Lan and said, “Your brother has not experienced the ritual of becoming a shaman, and I cannot determine whether he is a shaman or not.”
“So the ceremony is important? It’s not just a formality?”
“No.” The black cat shook his head. “The ceremony is a way to inherit power. The great ancient shamans received divine power through the ceremony and communicated with the gods through it. Nowadays, the ceremony has become just a formality, mostly because the key steps have been lost. Drawing symbols and chanting spells are all part of the ceremony. In Ba Mountain, if you enter the temple without performing the bathing and incense-burning ceremony, you will be cursed by the gods.”
Qi Yin sighed at the fastidiousness of the White Deer God.
“What about that old man who trespassed in the temple? Are you going to do anything about it?”
Fu Lan shook his head. “The white mist allowed him to enter, which means that the gods allowed him to enter.”
“Never mind him,” the black cat said with an air of nonchalance. “He’s going to die soon anyway. Mortals always love to seek death. Let me teach you a lesson, kid. Don’t go where you shouldn’t, don’t practice what you shouldn’t. Being born in this world, it’s your duty to have respect and reverence for your life. If you cross the line, you’ll only bring about your own destruction.”
In the secret chamber, beams of sunlight as thick as a bowl streamed in, falling onto a darkened small table and the shoulders two people sitting across from each other. Dust danced in the sunlight, trembling and swirling like countless tiny ants. Yuan Ji meditated with his eyes closed. On the opposite side, a thin and frail old man in black brushed through strands of gray-white herbs with his fingers and exhaled a puff of smoke. “The class of six hexagrams is over,” he said.
Yuan Ji opened his eyes. “Is the result the same as before?”
“Not bad,” said Ye Ku Can. “Let’s keep looking. You should let the disciples of the four halls go all out.”
“I know,” said Yuan Ji.
“Today, a kid said that I practiced killing to improve my cultivation. Although it’s a wild guess, it was surprisingly accurate,” Ye Ku Can said darkly. “You should kill him.”
“Killing him would be admitting that you do practice killing for cultivation, Elder Ye.” Yuan Ji laughed, his smile sharp under the darkened sunlight. “Why don’t you pass on the Shaman’s Secret Art to Ling Shu? He’s a clever child and the most suitable candidate. I remember our agreement was that Wu Fang would provide you with life-prolonging elixirs periodically, and in return, you would teach him everything you know. Yet you’ve been holding back. If that’s the case, I might as well send my disciples to find that person.”
“You won’t find him,” Ye Ku Can said coldly. “Since I was granted Shaman’s Secret Art, that person has disappeared without a trace. Even I can’t find him. As for Qi Ling Shu, he’s just like his master, with eyes that don’t tolerate any dirt. He’s of high moral character. Or to put it bluntly, he’s a piece of crap in a cesspool who can’t think outside the box. He would never practice killing to improve his cultivation.”
“He’s a genius like Yuan Wei and is the hope of our sect. His techniques must not fall behind.”
“If you want him to become like me, I’ll go find him now,” Ye Ku Can said.
Yuan Ji lowered his eyes, a sad expression on his gaunt face. Nowadays, Daoism was declining, and the three thousand sects were falling apart. Even Feng Huan Mountain, which was once flourishing, had become so shabby that none of the disciples could bear to look at it. The ancient scriptures recorded that the great shamans of ancient times could reach the sky and the earth, and could do anything. Even the Daoists of olden times could travel thousands of miles in a day. But now, the techniques were declining rapidly, and not one of the new disciples could cultivate divine consciousness.
Could they just let Wu Fang deteriorate into that shabby state like Feng Huan Mountain? If they wanted to restore Daoism, how could there be no sacrifices?
He closed his eyes and sighed. “Let’s go tomorrow. At this time, he should be bathing in the springs.”
1. Deceiving your father – in China, when people get angry, they like to refer to themselves as the other person’s father