Chapter 27: Heart of Benevolence and Righteousness
When they were about to enter into the territory of the Tiger Leaping Stream, Xu Xingzhi suggested that they should not take him and Tao Xian, the two pieces of baggage who weren’t proficient in magic, together with them. Instead, they could be arranged to wait in a hidden place and wait for Meng Chongguang and the rest to come back.
Meng Chongguang clearly stated where he stood on this, “I will be wherever my senior brother will be.”
Qu Chi repeated, “I will be wherever Tao Xian is.”
These two were their major fighters, and if they wished to seize the key fragment from the ghost king, they couldn’t risk lacking either one of them in the team.
And the difficulty in persuading Meng Chongguang and Qu Chi was almost on par; one was a fool while the other was a madman; both of them were obstinate in their own rights.
Xu Xingzhi could only raise his hands and surrender. “Fine, take it that I never say anything.”
Other than the thick fog hanging over the Tiger Leaping Stream, it was also a place with numerous saltwater lakes. The air was extremely salty and had a fishy stench. The closer one got to the destination, the greyer the ground seemed to become. In the vast land of saline soil, no vegetation grew while all living things had withered. Dried bones that were a mixture of both human and animal bones could be seen everywhere. Those bones had all dried up completely and could be crushed into oblivion with the slightest step.
Xu Xingzhi didn’t have anything to do when the group rested, so he took a branch and wrote with it on the cracked limestone, “Xu Xingzhi was here.”
At this, he raised his branch for a moment and asked Zhou Beinan, “What is the reign title of this year?”
He didn’t know whether he could get out of the wilderness, and whether “Knowledge of the World” would forcibly pull him away from this body and throw him back to the real world after realising that he was a good-for-nothing, and then go on to find a reliable person to kill Meng Chongguang. Hence, he wanted to at least leave some marks to prove that he had come here.
Zhou Beinan leaned on his ghost spear. “You are asking us about the reign title when you came in much later than us?”
Xu Xingzhi urged him, “Why do you have so much nonsense to spare? Just tell me.” He proceeded to turn to Meng Chongguang, “Do you still remember?”
Meng Chongguang hesitatingly shook his head. “I don’t remember.”
Zhou Beinan scratched his head. “If the child emperor was still in power when we came in, this year would be the 16th year of Tianding.”
Xu Xingzhi’s fingers paused. “…Hmm?”
Coincidentally, it was also the 16th year of Tianding in his real world.
As he didn’t want to arouse any suspicion, he had intentionally asked Zhou Beinan which year it was in the wilderness, but he didn’t expect to get such an answer.
But on second thought, Xu Xingzhi was relieved.
He was the author of the storybook. It wasn’t an incomprehensible thing for the time calendar in the book to be the same as his world.
As he wrote out the characters “16th years of Tianding”, Yuan Ruzhou’s brows knitted together. “The fog is getting thicker. Senior Brother Xu, Chongguang, we’d better hurry up and resume our journey.”
Xu Xingzhi put aside the branch and slid the folding fan into his waistband. He then stood up and patted his bottom when Meng Chongguang grabbed his left hand.
Meng Chongguang said, “Senior Brother, I will hold you, be careful not to fall.”
Xu Xingzhi gratefully caressed Meng Chongguang’s head with his right hand. “Thank you.”
Meng Chongguang squinted comfortably. “More.”
Xu Xingzhi: “…”
The rest of them: “…”
Xu Xingzhi: “Don’t play a fool.”
Meng Chongguang obstinately said, “…I want more.”
…He had no choice, this old demon was practically a house cat.
Xu XingZhi heaved a sigh and instructed the others, “Turn your heads away.”
After all, Meng Chongguang was the boss of this gang, how would it be if everyone saw his spoiled and childish act?
Xu Xingzhi stroked Meng Chongguang’s head a good few times, he even followed his request to caress his chin and neck which eventually coaxed this old demon to move.
Meng Chongguang held Xu Xingzhi’s hand and walked ahead of the group in an extremely good mood. The rest followed behind them, feeling speechless for the moment.
Other than the oblivious Qu Chi and Zhou Wang, the rest of the group were all inextricably bogged down by the sickening sweetness and couldn’t free themselves from this situation.
The pathway ahead was getting narrower and the fog was so thick that it could almost be gripped. With the stagnant white fog, the prowling lofty mountains, and the rock walls that surrounded them like a group of beasts lying in wait; even without revealing their fangs or making a sound, it was inexplicably terrifying.
Zhou Wang wanted to release a trace of spiritual power to observe if there were any abnormal changes in the vicinity, but when she was about to stimulate her core to do so, Yuan Ruzhou, who was behind her held her wrist, indicating that she should not expose herself.
At this point, the group of people arrived at a place where the path between the lofty rocky walls had become so narrow that it formed “a strip of the sky”.
This pathway was so narrow, it’s width was around one and a half-length of an adult man’s shoulder, so there was no way they could walk side by side through there.
So they simply held each other’s hands and formed a line to enter that abnormally narrowed passage.
Meng Chongguang who was in front ended up blocking the rays of light coming from the other side with his body. Xu Xingzhi was practically basking in darkness and couldn’t see anything. He wasn’t careful and ended up stepping on a stone which caused him to miss his step.
He had just stabilised his footing when the person in front of him reminded him, ”Senior Brother Qu, be careful.”
Hearing that weak and feminine voice, Xu Xingzhi’s throat tightened and he immediately grabbed the person in front of him.
Xu Xingzhi felt a chill in his heart as he felt an overly slim hand. “Tao Xian?”
The person whom he grabbed turned around.
Through the glimmer of light from the front entrance when he turned back, it was truly Tao Xian’s face that Xu Xingzhi saw.
“…Senior Brother Xu?” Tao Xian finally realised something was wrong, “Wasn’t you in front? It’s clearly Senior Brother Qu that I have been holding all along…”
Xu Xingzhi remembered that Meng Chongguang was the first to enter this narrow passage and he had been following closely behind him. How could it be that at this time, the leader was replaced by Tao Xian?
Before Xu Xingzhi responded, he thought of another thing, and a shiver ran down his spine.
…If Tao Xian was holding his left hand, then who was holding his right hand now?
Moreover, since Tao Xian, who was walking in front of him, had been unable to detect the abnormality after such a long time, then… who was holding Tao Xian’s other hand?
In a split second, Xu Xingzhi clenched his teeth and ruthlessly twisted his right wrist hard, and his rosewood hand detached from his broken wrist.
His left hand reached to his waist as he snapped, “Stick close to the wall!”
Although Tao Xian was scared out of his wits, he was at least obedient. At the command of Xu Xingzhi, he immediately pressed himself onto the stone wall on one side.
Xu Xingzhi used the dagger given to him by “Knowledge of the World”. He quickly stepped close to the empty place in front of Tao Xian and mercilessly stabbed at the darkness!
A woman’s howl sharply swept across Xu Xingzhi’s eardrums as if there were fingernails in it!
Xu Xingzhi shook his sleeves. “Hold onto me! Run!”
Stunned, Tao Xian saw the plain white sleeve floating in front of him. He grabbed onto Xu Xingzhi like he was grasping onto a lifejacket and rushed with Xu Xingzhi in the dark.
Behind them, the shrill cry of ghosts exploded, and wasps chased after their footsteps and swarmed at them.
The exit was also shrinking. The hole that could hold one and a half people was gradually reduced to being around the width of a person, but they could still see it narrowing further!
Xu Xingzhi pulled Tao Xian all the way to the exit. Tao Xian had been experiencing consecutive frights, he was less than one meter away from the outside when one of his legs gave up on him and he fell forward!
Xu Xingzhi cursed and was forced to go back. He grabbed Tao Xian’s collar with his left hand and dragged his slim body to the front sideway. Then he kicked him on his back, sending him out of the crack that only half a person could pass through!
Xu Xingzhi himself dropped to the floor and rolled out of the crevice. Eventually, he got out with a dirtied face.
When he looked back, he saw that the strip of the sky had disappeared completely in the fog. What remained on the ground were large fragments of bones crushed to pieces.
He did not know where the rest had been sent to after being engulfed by the treacherous strip of the sky, but only Tao Xian and Xu Xingzhi were left here.
Tao Xian was sprawled on the ground with clear footprints on his back.
Xu Xingzhi felt a little guilty and brushed the footprints off his back. “How are you?”
Tao Xian wiped his face messily and got up. “Thank you very much, Senior Brother Xu, if it wasn’t…”
“Zhou Wang must have learned to talk so much from you.” Xu Xingzhi interrupted his nonsense. He turned the dagger to the other side with his left hand and held it, “This is not the time to chatter. Let’s not go any further, but wait for them here.”
Tao Xian leaned against Xu Xingzhi’s arm with pale lips. “Where have they all gone? What happened to Senior Brother Qu?”
Xu Xingzhi comforted him. “Don’t worry. Even if we died here three hundred times over, he’ll still be fine.”
…This kind of comfort made Tao Xian shiver.
Xu Xingzhi was on guard against the surging fog around him. He pretended to be relaxed and said, “You are really unlucky. Why did you end up forming a pair with me?”
Tao Xian said, “… Senior Brother Xu, I…”
Xu Xingzhi raised his sleeve and guarded Tao Xian behind him as he looked alertly around. With a steady voice, he said, “But you can rest assured, I promise that you will never die before I die.”
Tao Xian had tears in his eyes.
Through the thick fog, he could still vaguely see the liquid falling from Xu Xingzhi’s right sleeves, accompanied by dripping sounds.
… Xu Xingzhi’s right wrist was abraded by the dislocated wooden hand.
Tao Xian’s voice trembled. “Senior Brother, your hand…”
Xu Xingzhi got the wrong idea. “What? Are you afraid that I can’t protect you because I’m disabled?”
He raised his good left hand and shook it in front of Tao Xian. “I don’t have too many hands, but one is enough.”
As soon as Xu Xingzhi’s voice sounded, he saw several will-o-wisps floating in front of him like the lanterns lit in the ghost city. Each one of them was the size of a person’s head, and they were bobbing up and down like a fish.
Xu Xingzhi clenched the dagger and sighed in his heart.
“Knowledge of the World” gave himself this dagger to kill Meng Chongguang. In the end, the first time he used the dagger was to protect Meng Chongguang, and the second time was to protect Meng Chongguang’s subordinates.
… I’m truly a deviation traitor.
But what about it?
Xu Xingzhi did everything he wanted to do and that would never change.
In a moment, the will-o-wisps had rushed over to the two people and surrounded them.
From a distant place, a faint ghostly voice indiscernible of gender came, “People of the wilderness, if you want to see the ghost king, you need to answer three questions. Answer wrongly, we will dig out your heart; lie, we will dig out your heart; try to escape, we will dig out your heart!”
Xu Xingzhi asked, “Do the both of us need to answer the questions?”
The ghostly voice smiled strangely. “One person is fine.”
Xu Xingzhi frowned slightly, held his breath for a moment, and said without thinking too much into it, “Ask.”
Tao Xian pulled Xu Xingzhi’s clothes in a panic. “…Senior Brother?”
Xu Xingzhi’s head leaned back slightly and whispered. “If we don’t answer, do you think we could just turn around and leave now? Do you think these things are some kind of vegetarians?”
Tao Xian was nervous. “But if the ghost king deliberately creates difficulties and makes some problems that we can’t answer…”
Xu Xingzhi said, “Answering wrongly is always better than refusing and dying immediately. Let’s listen and observe the situation first.”
A shadow loomed three feet away from Xu Xingzhi. “First of all, what is this young master’s age?”
Xu Xingzhi: “…”
Tao Xian: “…”
Xu Xingzhi now suspected that the ghost king came to choose his son-in-law or husband. The essence of the ghost king was similar to that of throwing an embroidered ball from a high platform, but his way was more bloody.
The collapse of the path just now was used to test whether they were healthy or nimble. Those who were inflexible and slow in their reaction were already lying there in different parts.
As for the present three questions, they were only questions asked during a face-to-face matchmaking interview.
After Xu Xingzhi answered based on the original owner’s age, the shadow asked again, “The second question, what’s your hobby?”
Xu Xingzhi: “…”
These two questions, one worse than the other, was like a mother-in-law questioning her son-in-law who was coming to visit.
Xu Xingzhi replied, “I don’t have any bad habits except for watching beauties. Gambling, drinking and whoring, I don’t do any of that.”
Seeing that the first two questions were so simple, Tao Xian looked relaxed.
The shadow smiled for a moment. “The third question…Young master, if there was to be only one person alive between you and the young master beside you, how would you choose?”
Xu Xingzhi was stunned and looked back at Tao Xian.
Tao Xian’s face that had just regained some colour instantaneously became as pale as a ghost. He took a step backwards, and the indistinct shape of his Adam’s apple rolled up and down.
Xu Xingzhi turned to Tao Xian, and the dagger in his hand shook twice.
The shadow said again, “Young master, please don’t hesitate, tell us your answer with action.”
Xu Xingzhi approached Tao Xian in silence. This dagger in his hand shone a beautiful blossom of light.
Tao Xian sat on the ground with despair all over his face. “Senior Brother Xu, I beg you…”
Xu Xingzhi moved his neck. “Tao Xian, don’t blame me.”
Behind Xu Xingzhi, a pair of dried hands akin to deadwood were quietly closing onto his back. Its nails that were sharp as a knife brushed Xu Xingzhi’s clothes.
Xu Xingzhi sneered. “…This is my answer.”
He raised the dagger, and with a turn of his hands, he stabbed the dagger right into the skeleton’s head!
The skeleton had seen countless brutal scenes of companions killing each other. Obviously, it didn’t expect such a change. After being stabbed by that dagger flickering in divine light in its forehead, it tumbled two steps back, before spreading its hands and roaring to the sky. Not long after, its body distorted and it screamed as it scattered into ashes.
Xu Xingzhi turned around and faced the skeleton’s soul that had been forced to scatter. He picked up the dagger that had fallen on the ground and gave his answer happily, “Go to hell.”
At the same time, Tao Xian’s frightened expression faded as he struggled to get up from the ground.
Although he was timid, he believed in Xu Xingzhi all along. After getting Xu Xingzhi’s promise just now, he would not be suspicious of him any more. Hence, when he met Xu Xingzhi’s meaningful gaze, he immediately understood to cooperate with Xu Xingzhi to stage a play to reduce the monster’s vigilance.
The two of them did not dare to stay too long in this area, and under the frenzied pursuit of those will-o-wisps, they ran into the depths of the thick fog.
Tao Xian panted as he ran. “Senior Brother, their intention wasn’t to ask questions! They just want our hearts! I saw the monster behind you just now– he wanted to take your heart!”
Xu Xingzhi clenched his teeth.
Firstly, they asked about their age, followed by their hobbies, and up until that point, they tested their physical states. How could it be to find a suitable husband or son-in-law? It was to find a suitable heart vessel!
No matter whether they answer correctly or wrongly, whether they would have killed their companions or not, they would still end up having their chests cut open and having their hearts taken away!
Xu Xingzhi was about to say something but abruptly halted his footstep.
The thick fog suddenly dispersed, and what appeared in front of them was the interior of a palace made of stones. All the stone carvings were meticulous and picturesque, and the majority of the decorations were figures that looked extremely lifelike. Xu Xingzhi did not dare to think about what was hidden in the lifelike figurines.
An elegant man with a deeply penetrating gaze was seated on a high platform. With long uncombed hair and crossed legs, he glanced lazily at the two people below who suddenly broke into his palace. The smile on the corner of his lips inexplicably reminded people of a terrifying venomous snake flicking its red tongue.
“That’s absolutely correct.”
The man’s tone of voice was just like the person himself, indolent like a lazing cat. He glanced at Xu Xingzhi and said gently, “In so many years, you are the only one who has entered my illusion without killing your companion in order to answer the third question. I like your benevolence and righteous heart. Dedicate it to me, okay?”
This chapter has been edited by Fingerguns
and hmmm, the next two chapters are quite lengthy, I hope I won’t take too long to finish them! We shall see about it~