The black cat patted Fu Lan heavily and whispered, “Quickly go sit next to the child.”
Fu Lan shook his head and said, “It’s too forward.”
They were sitting at the front, so close to the teacher. He couldn’t fall asleep. The black cat was furious and said, “You fool, do you still want to get married?”
Fu Lan asked in confusion, “Didn’t Xiao Yin say he didn’t want to get married?”
The black cat had no words to say. He was still single until now for a reason. He looked at the two people sitting knee to knee in front of him and stared at Fu Lan with his green eyes wide. Fu Lan was stunned for a moment, but finally tidied up his books and went to sit next to Qi Yin obediently.
Yuan Yin arrived late and began to recite the scriptures eloquently as an old man would. His voice was slow and steady, and he recited the scriptures like singing a song. It was a tone of voice that was as weak as a dying father or a country in peril. Because of Qi Ling Shu, Qi Yin was nervous at first, but he gradually became unable to bear it and started to fall asleep. His head slowly drooped, and he was about to nod off. Suddenly, a cold hand caught him on his forehead. Qi Yin opened his eyes groggily and saw Qi Ling Shu looking at him.
“Listen to the lesson,” he said.
Qi Yin was instantly frightened out of his wits. He sat up straight, not daring to move. Qi Ling Shu said again, “Wake up the one next to you.”
He looked over and saw that Fu Lan had already fallen asleep with his head buried in his arms. Qi Yin poked him, and Fu Lan rubbed his eyes and sat up. After staring blankly for a while, he fell asleep again, leaning against Qi Yin’s shoulder.
Qi Yin: “…”
Yuan Yin silently shook his head, knowing that Feng Huan Mountain was well-known for not learning anything during class, like mud that could not stick to the wall. No one could do anything about it. He knocked on the desk, waking up all the sleepy ones. He turned the page while flicking the paper corner and continued reciting his scriptures.
Qi Ling Shu had learned all these gibberish scriptures. He didn’t need to listen to the lesson. He instead graded the assignments during class. He finally turned to Qi Yin’s assignment. Qi Yin felt nervous. He really didn’t know how to write this thing. He read books all night, poring through words of wisdom, but when it was his turn, he couldn’t write a single sentence. Finally, after struggling to write something, he looked back and felt that it was just a bunch of nonsense that he had concocted in his mind.
Qi Ling Shu held the cinnabar pen tightly, and as he read, his brows furrowed tighter and tighter. When Qi Yin glanced at Qi Ling Shu’s grading sheet, he found that it was already blood-red and messy, simply unbearable to look at. Qi Yin was anxious and thought he might have to rewrite it. Qi Ling Shu had already flipped to the next assignment.
The next one was from Fu Lan, and Qi Ling Shu’s brows furrowed deeper. At first, he thought he had flipped the wrong page, so he turned to the next one. Fu Lan’s was the last one, and there was nothing after it. This guy didn’t write a single character in his paper. He just signed his name on it.
Qi Yin watched this silently and rubbed his forehead, thinking it would be better not to submit anything at all.
Finally, it was the end of class, and there was no class for magic spells today. Qi Yin hurriedly gathered his books and rushed back to the courtyard like a bird out of a cage. He was about to leave with Fu Lan when Qi Ling Shu stopped them and said, “Follow me.”
“Where to?” Qi Yin asked.
“The stone room.”
Qi Ling Shu pulled out two copybooks and handed them to them. “Rewrite the Daoist theory.”
Fu Lan was stunned. “Do I have to rewrite it too?”
“Do you have to watch us write it?” Qi Yin said with a bitter face. “We can write it and bring it to you.”
Qi Ling Shu stood at the door, turned slightly against the light, and his cold gaze fell on Qi Yin, giving him an invisible pressure. He repeated, “Follow. Me. Now.”
Since Qi Yin was already in trouble, he dared not disobey. Several senior brothers and sisters shook their heads and sighed, not knowing which sensitive spot of Qi Ling Shu’s had been touched by Qi Yin, causing him to target him like this. Before leaving, they patted Qi Yin and Fu Lan on the shoulder, telling them to take care of themselves and come back safely.
Fu Lan frowned and asked Qi Yin, “Is he jealous of us?”
As Qi Ling Shu’s face turned dark, Qi Yin quickly covered Fu Lan’s mouth. “Oh, my ancestors, please don’t speak. With every word you speak, my lifespan gets shortened by ten years!”
The two followed Qi Ling Shu all the way. Since it was snowing, the sky was still hazy at noon, and the ground was covered with white snowdrifts. The world was dark and gloomy. Qi Ling Shu walked ahead with his snow-capped sword on his back, his tall figure like a thorn standing out in the desolate world, but also appearing more alone.
After a long walk, they finally arrived at the “stone room,” which was located at the highest point of Contemplation Cliff. It was isolated from everyone else, far away. It was more like a cave than a stone room. The walls were made of thick stone, and they made a loud noise when slapped. It was extremely cold inside, and as soon as they entered, it felt like they were in an ice cave, and their fingertips were trembling.
A stone table was standing on the bluestone floor, and a few stone benches were placed beside it. As soon as they sat down, they felt like they were going to freeze into ice cubes. A stone bed was leaning against the wall, and on the other side of the wall, there were several bookshelves, filled with books and scrolls.
Qi Yin hesitated as he stepped into what used to be Qi Shen Wei’s residence. Qi Shen Wei grew up in Wu Fang. He practiced, studied, reflected, and taught his disciples here. His notes and philosophical writings were placed on the bookshelf, and Qi Yin picked one up. His characters were clear and powerful, and the strokes were as sharp as a sword, with an indescribable aura. What kind of person was he? Qi Yin wondered. He had longed for his father when he was a child, and he was disgusted by him when he grew up. After eighteen years, he finally came to this man’s world, as if it were destined.
Qi Yin slowly exhaled and put the book back, sitting down at the stone table and taking out his brush and ink. Qi Ling Shu silently watched him for a while, then turned to ask Fu Lan, “Why did you hand in a blank sheet of paper?”
Fu Lan remained silent, not daring to speak the truth.
Fu Lan had probably learned his lesson and knew that he would surely be beaten if he told the truth. Qi Yin couldn’t help but feel relieved.
He didn’t want to answer, and Qi Ling Shu couldn’t do anything about it. He softened his tone. “In writing, the first step is to raise doubts, then explore the unknown and explain the obscure. To speak with substance, one must have accumulated experience. You have just entered the door and have never exorcised demons before, so you should seek answers from old examples in the library. Yun Yin, you have too many points of argument, none of which were thoroughly examined. They are too general. I suggest you choose a single point and explore it deeply.”
Qi Yin nodded.
“This is a copy of an ancient book that I transcribed myself. If you want to read it thoroughly, it may take some time. I have marked the important points for you to focus on. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.” Qi Ling Shu pushed the book in front of them, his words full of concern, “Yun Yin, I won’t pursue the matter of you cheating in the competition, but if you refuse to study the Dao properly, what’s the point of coming to Wu Fang? You should think about your own future.”
When did this kid become so talkative? Qi Yin was resentful in his heart, but he couldn’t say anything. He scratched his head and weakly said, “Okay.”
Fu Lan frowned and asked, “Can we not write?”
Qi Ling Shu looked at him silently, and his eyes seemed to freeze like ice.
“… ” Fu Lan picked up the brush silently.
Time passed bit by bit, and snow stopped falling outside. Sunlight pierced through the clouds and shone on the ground like tiger stripes. Qi Ling Shu sat on the stone bed and meditated, while Qi Yin and Fu Lan stared blankly at the white paper, not knowing what to write.
Qi Ling Shu sighed. “There are many differences between humans and demons, such as habits, nine orifices, six viscera, and meridians. How could you not know what to write?”
Writing about habits seemed easier. Qi Yin confirmed his direction and flipped through the book.
After a while, a disciple climbed up the cliff and whispered at the entrance of the cave, “Junior Master, Elder Ku Can is calling for you.”
Qi Ling Shu got up and left. Watching him go, Qi Yin suddenly collapsed and sighed on the table. When that guy was here, it felt like the air itself was freezing, making people sit upright and not dare to act rashly.
Qi Yin hung up his legs, pouted his lips, and held the brush under his nose, flipping through Qi Ling Shu’s copy. This guy’s handwriting was like Qi Shen Wei’s. It was like he learned it directly from Qi Shen Wei. Maybe Qi Shen Wei taught him stroke by stroke by holding his hand.
“Xiao Yin.” Fu Lan put down his pen. “Do you smell it?”
“What smell?” Qi Yin raised his head in confusion, then suddenly his eyes brightened. “Is that little goody-two-shoes hiding food?”
Fu Lan shook his head and sat next to Qi Yin, injecting his spiritual power into Qi Yin’s back. The icy spiritual power flowed through his meridians once again, and his five senses instantly became sensitive and sharp. Even the sunlight shining in could be seen in seven colors. Fu Lan released a small fish, and the blue fish swam silently. Qi Yin’s vision gradually changed in tone.
Blood. The room was full of blood.
In the eyes of the small fish, Qi Yin was horrified to find that the originally spotless walls were covered with dark red stains – on the stone bed, stone table, and even the gaps in the rocks. These bloodstains were cleaned, but they still couldn’t escape the small fish’s eyes.
The bloodstains on the stone walls were splattered. There were several bloody handprints on the ground, and there was a long bloodstain dragging in from outside. It was obvious that someone who was seriously injured was dragged in by force.
“Five smell. Five people,” Fu Lan said. “The five people who disappeared from Wu Fang Mountain died here.”
“Why…” Qi Yin couldn’t believe his eyes. “Why did they die here?”
Fu Lan looked at the bloodstains on the wall and said, “Mortal cultivators practicing Shaman’s Secret Art need to kill people to obtain blood for life extension.”
Qi Yin was dumbfounded. “Are you saying my father also practiced the secret art?”
Fu Lan thought about it and shook his head. “No, it doesn’t need so much blood. The blood is splattered everywhere. It’s wasteful.”
An unnamed fear swept over Qi Yin, creeping up his chest like vines. He felt a headache coming on. What was going on here? Wu Fang Mountain looked proper, but it was strange. Qi Shen Wei was neither alive nor dead. What did that mean?
How much did Qi Ling Shu know? Was he at Wu Fang Mountain when Qi Shen Wei died? Could he…be trusted?
After an hour, Qi Ling Shu returned, and their Daoist theory had been written. Qi Ling Shu checked Qi Yin’s work, frowned for a while, and made several revisions. He forced Qi Yin to pull his hair in frustration before finally letting him pass. He then picked up Fu Lan’s work and glanced at it briefly. A clear expression of shock appeared on his pale face. Qi Yin leaned over to take a look and was also stunned.
Nothing had been written on the paper. Fu Lan had only drawn two diagrams. One was a human body, with each of the six internal organs and nine orifices marked and the complete course of the meridians depicted. The complex lines of the meridians were intertwined, with a kind of terrifying beauty. The other was an animal’s meridian diagram, which looked like a cat’s, with the six internal organs and nine orifices marked, the eight extraordinary meridians, and even the flow of spiritual power drawn clearly.
“Whose meridian diagram did you draw?” Qi Ling Shu asked him.
“Xiao Yin’s and a cat’s,” Fu Lan replied.
“…” Qi Yin’s mood was indescribable. He couldn’t help but look at the crotch of the human meridian diagram. This scholar, Fu Lan, even drew the meridians in that place!
“Why do you know so much about Yun Yin’s body?” Qi Ling Shu asked, somewhat hesitantly.
“I’ve been inside,” Fu Lan said in a flat tone.
Qi Ling Shu’s expression became complicated. “Inside?”
“…” Qi Yin was about to go crazy. He said, “Don’t ask. It’s none of your business!”
After that, he stuffed the book into his bag and turned to leave the cave. Outside, the wind and smoke were vast, the frost was hazy, and below the cliff was an icy abyss. The white misty water was like a scroll of spread-out rice paper, and the dark-colored mountain range on the edge was like ink stains.
“Yun Yin,” Qi Ling Shu called out to him from behind.
Qi Yin stopped in his tracks and heard his chilly voice, “Love hinders the Dao, and homosexuality is not the right way. You… must take care of yourself.”
It was the same sentence again. Qi Yin’s eyelids twitched. How did talking about love affect their business at Wu Fang Mountain? An unnamed anger surged up in his heart. He clenched his fists and turned to say something, but stopped when he saw Qi Ling Shu. He stood on the steps, his brows furrowed, while Qi Yin stood below, silently gazing at him through the smoke and snow.
Qi Yin took a few deep breaths and said, “Have you noticed that the people of Wu Fang Mountain are always meddling in other people’s affairs? If you want to pursue the Dao, that’s your business. As for me, I’m just an ordinary person who tries to make a living as a Daoist. My brother and I haven’t caused any trouble for you. Thank you for your help today, but from now on, my business has nothing to do with you. I won’t see you again.”
With that, he walked away. Qi Ling Shu stood still in the same spot, silent for a long time.
Behind him, Fu Lan picked up his book box and said, “Are you practicing Ye Ku Can’s secret spell?”
“Yes, why?” Qi Ling Shu asked, turning around.
“Don’t practice it. That technique is very dangerous,” Fu Lan said flatly.
Qi Ling Shu paused for a moment, then looked at him coldly. “What do you mean?”
“You are that person’s disciple. Xiao Yin doesn’t want anything to happen to you.”
Before Qi Ling Shu could ask anything, Fu Lan turned and headed down the cliff, his thin figure disappearing step by step into the snow-covered steps and the end of the mountain cliff.