Chapter 22: Sea of Stars
The moment the topic of the key’s fragments was brought up, Xu Xingzhi felt as though his head was going to explode.
He pointed to himself. “You want to take me along?”
Meng Chongguang leaned closer with fervent eyes. “Senior Brother doesn’t want to be with Chongguang?”
In the first place, Xu Xingzhi was the one who created Meng Chongguang, and with the addition of the interactions he’d had with him in the past few days, Xu Xingzhi had an even clearer understanding of how Meng Chongguang operated.
——This was a man who must get his own way. Obedience and consolation would elicit gratification but once even the slightest hint of disobedience was perceived, there was a good chance that he might go berserk.
Xu Xingzhi was afraid that if he’d responded saying that he “didn’t want to”, he might be choked to death with a silver chain on the spot. The culprit would even cry and ask him why he didn’t want to even as he was strangling him with the chain.
However, it was true that he had no desire to look for the key’s fragments. Firstly, he didn’t want to see Meng Chongguang obtain the key’s fragments while he was so powerless in this scenario. Secondly, he was afraid that there might be too many unknown variables in the wilderness that before he could even find a way to escape from here, he would be dead first.
Xu Xingzhi made an attempt to refuse him. “I’m just going to drag you down in my present condition.”
Meng Chongguang’s smile was extremely sweet. He pulled Xu Xingzhi’s sleeves with both his hands and said softly, “It doesn’t matter. Chongguang is willing to be dragged down by Senior Brother.”
Xu Xingzhi’s heart was struck and he even felt like he fell into a trance momentarily.
Although Xu Xingzhi knew that the person in front of him was a cold-blooded demon who could murder without blinking an eye, he was still the pure and coquettish youth in the original owner’s memories.
“I can only feel at ease if Senior Brother comes with me.” Meng Chongguang laid down on the edge of the bed. He gently and carefully adjusted Xu Xingzhi’s sash. “Jiu Zhideng and his people already know that Senior Brother is here. He refused to expunge the vile intentions he holds toward Senior Brother. He will certainly attempt all ways to capture Senior Brother, so Senior Brother cannot be left behind.”
This was actually a substantial reason. Xu Xingzhi was about to nod his head when he heard Meng Chongguang continue, “…I will not let Senior Brother fall into the hands of anyone else.”
When he thought of how he would have to leave one day in the future, Xu Xingzhi then probed, “What if I leave?”
Meng Chongguang’s expression instantly grew cold. “Where is Senior Brother trying to go? Who are you looking for?”
This matter was hanging in the balance, and it would always be a sore point of contention between them.
Xu Xingzhi’s heart was chaotic. “If I want to leave, will you kill me?”
After a long silence, Meng Chongguang whispered, “…It seems that Senior Brother still hasn’t forgiven Chongguang.”
Xu Xingzhi thought that it was only natural. The original owner bore the crime of murdering his master and the pain of having his immortal bones removed. Wouldn’t it be too fake for him and Meng Chongguang to mend their friendship when he had only been in the wilderness for two days? The original owner was certainly not some Guanyin.
Xu Xingzhi said, “Let’s not discuss this matter any further for now. Give me an answer. If I help you get out of the wilderness, I want to go to a place where no one can possibly find me in return. So, will you send me there?”
Meng Chongguang didn’t speak, but the sash in his hands had slightly changed shape.
Half joking and half serious, Xu Xingzhi said, “Not willing? Will you kill me at then, or will you cut off my feet?”
“I will not hurt Senior Brother.” Meng Chongguang said softly, “…I would rather burn myself than hurt Senior Brother in any way.”
Xu Xingzhi was speechless.
What sort of answer was this?
He originally wanted to try his luck. Who cared about Meng Chongguang and his promise. He would send himself to the real world after getting out of the wilderness. In exchange, he would tell him where the key’s fragments were located.
But after thinking about it carefully, Xu Xingzhi found that oils had permeated his brain.
With Meng Chongguang’s wolf cub-like nature, even if he readily agreed with him right now, when it was time for him to leave, Meng Chongguang probably would bind him up and chain him away in the little black room and Xu Xingzhi couldn’t even dare to show the least bit of his temper then.
The atmosphere was stagnant for a moment.
After a while, Xu Xingzhi heaved a sigh and said, “Nevermind.”
This “nevermind” wasn’t just spoken for Meng Chongguang to hear, but it was also intended for Xu Xingzhi himself.
Who asked him to seek iniquity and penned Meng Chongguang, this character, out?
Meng Chongguang was also aware that the topic wouldn’t cultivate any good will between them, so he took the initiative to flip this page over.
His fingers carefully climbed up along the sash and finally, hooked around Xu Xingzhi’s pinky. He pitifully expressed his goodwill.
It was true that Meng Chongguang was born with a soul-stirring appearance that even the heavens were appreciative of. Xu Xingzhi’s heart melted instantly even though he’d only taken a glance.
He had reason to believe that if Meng Chongguang went around begging for food with this face of his, he would be able to make a fortune solely based on it.
The stiff atmosphere dissolved a little bit, and Meng Chongguang spoke up, “If Senior Brother has gotten sufficient sleep, come with me to enjoy the breeze outside.”
After helping Xu Xingzhi remove the chains, Meng Chongguang led him out of the tower.
Xu Xingzhi who was just about to step out of the tower was absent-minded. He was still considering whether he should tell Meng Chongguang about the whereabouts of the key’s fragments when he casually glanced up and was startled by the wonderful scenery laid before his sight.
The originally gloomy sky had been completely scattered with stars. Starlight twinkled in the vast sky and the ocean of illumination was effusive, the quiet and cold courtyard was akin to mist1 and running water2, burying more than half of the vicinity’s mountain summit.
A magnificent sea of stars had captured the dark and cloudless sky nearby.
Xu Xingzhi thought that he was hallucinating so he blinked to verify that what chanced upon his sight wasn’t an illusion.
Xu Xingzhi was shocked and delighted. “What is this?”
Meng Chongguang couldn’t restrain himself from showing a proud expression. “This is what I’ve made for Senior Brother.”
Xu Xingzhi: “…How did you do this…”
Meng Chongguang replied very casually, “The wilderness might be barren, but some spirit stones can still be produced.”
Hearing this, Xu Xingzhi’s expression changed slightly.
Before Xu Xingzhi entered the wilderness, he had a wide range of interests. He had read many books of heretical opinions, and then combined with the original owner’s memories, he knew that spirit stones were essential for cultivation. It needed the spiritual energy of heaven and earth, a raw stone of hundred years and pure dew to nourish it. A spirit stone would only be produced when these three factors were united.
It was already difficult to find an ordinary quality spirit stone. A dozen of them were sufficient for an ordinary cultivator to expedite up his cultivation process and a first-rate spirit stone was even rarer and more precious.
The rarity of a spirit stone was usually ascertained by its brightness. A spirit stone would only considered a first-rate stone if it were crystalline in clarity and luminous. The dimmer the stone looked, the less value it had.
In the mortal world, a piece of first-rate spirit stone was enough to be the treasure of an antiques shop. Even if thousands of gold ingots were used as payment for it, it would still be hard to purchase it. Needless to say, there were also countless wealthy mortals scrambling for it. They wanted to absorb the spiritual energy and extend their lifespan too.
As a prison for exiled evildoers, the wilderness had existed for thousands of years, but its skylight was insufficient where rain and snow arrived in excess here. Just based on these two factors, it was already very difficult to produce good spirit stones, not to mention, this was a place entrenched with tigers and wolves, where beasts and ghosts could move unhindered. There were monsters guarding every mountain, making it difficult to enter them.
Yet Meng Chongguang created a vast stretch of star-filled sky around the tower with those first-rate spirit stones.
Meng Chongguang asked him with a little intention to obtain his favorable impression, “Senior Brother, do you like it?”
Xu Xingzhi only felt that the scintillating multitude of ‘stars’ shining on his body gave him an incomparable warmth. It wasn’t just the stars’ radiance that was cast down, but also pure spiritual energy.
Perhaps this boundless starlight would just naturally induce the stargazers to develop an illusion, because Xu Xingzhi felt an astonishing sensation of his meridians being smoothed out with beads circulating within them.
It took some time for him to return to his senses and once he did, he turned to look at Meng Chongguang who was brimming with anticipation.
Xu Xingzhi said, “Very good. It’s very beautiful.”
Meng Chongguang clenched his hand and raised it with the intention to hold Xu Xingzhi’s hand, but he stopped halfway through. Instead, he held his sleeve and shook it coquettishly. “As long as Senior Brother likes it.”
Xu Xingzhi: “…Why made you do this?”
Meng Chongguang looked at Xu Xingzhi. The starlight had fallen in his eyes and was twinkling within them. It was so beautiful that it made one lose his voice. “Didn’t Senior Brother want to see the stars?”
Xu Xingzhi: “…”
Only then did he remember that before they discovered Jiu Zhideng’s men who were spying on them, he had complained to Meng Chongguang about the absence of a sun and moon in the wilderness’s sky, making it look too monotonous.
…It was simply something that he had blurted out casually but he received a sky of stars in return instead.
Xu Xingzhi was well aware that this starry sky didn’t belong to him, and he was ashamed to receive this gift. However, it was still hard for him to conceal his fondness in the face of this spectacular river of stars.
Moreover, when Xu Xingzhi thought of Meng Chongguang, who had made great efforts to collect these spirit stones, he could only think of a little squirrel who was very happy when it was collecting its food.
He could not help chuckling and saying, “Why did you do this? It was merely a sentence I said.”
“I remember every single word Senior Brother’s ever said—” Meng Chongguang patted his chest like he had saved Xu Xingzhi’s last spoken sentences in it. “—I have not forgotten any of them.”
Xu Xingzhi was speechless. He could only imitate the original owner based on his memory and stroked his head. “I’m not worth your effort.”
“You are worth it.”
Meng Chongguang didn’t think deeply about the connotation behind Xu Xingzhi’s words. He looked at Xu Xingzhi seriously and said, “Senior Brother, I really want to exchange bodies with you and let Senior Brother walk in my body so that you can see how good you are in my eyes.”
Xu Xingzhi’s heartstrings trembled slightly and he raised his head to look at the sky. He could not help feeling thousands of emotions for this father and son relationship, but at the same time, he also had more misgivings about what had happened in those years.
When Meng Chongguang saw how Xu Xingzhi had diverted his attention to the stars and was ignoring him, his original expression of a puppy trying to take credit for its achievement gradually disappeared like his smile did. “…Senior Brother, are the stars beautiful?”
Xu Xingzhi: “They’re beautiful.”
Meng Chongguang grew aggrieved. “…Senior Brother, you once taught me that the delight in admiring the scenery is not as important as that of accompanying the companions who came with you.”
Even in the real world, Xu Xingzhi had never seen such a vast collection of stars before, and he casually responded, “Oh, is that so?”
Meng Chongguang: “…”
However, now that Meng Chongguang had mentioned, Xu Xingzhi really remembered something. “Where are Zhou Beinan and the rest? Zhou Wang too. Tell them to come out here and have a look.”
“They’ve seen enough.” Meng Chongguang sounded very unhappy. “I asked them to go back to their room to enjoy it by themselves.”
Xu Xingzhi hummed in agreement, “That’s good. Ah Wang grew up in the wilderness, I don’t think she has ever seen such splendid starlight.”
Meng Chongguang grit his teeth secretly and looked up at the stars in the sky for a while. When he spoke again, there was actually a wisp of demonic energy fused into his voice. “…Senior Brother, do you want to see an even nicer starlight?”
Xu Xingzhi: “…En?”
Without waiting for him to come back to his senses, he heard a burst of explosions reverberating in his ears as if there were mountain ghosts weeping secretly. Xu Xingzhi watched helplessly as the original spirit stones that were swimming in the velvety night sky oozed with a lava red glow.
The starry sky exploded, and numerous stars fell from above. In mid-air, those spirit stones turned into countless pieces of glittering fragments. They fell one after another, each sketching out a milky meteor tail arc in the sky.
It was not until the first wave of fragments floated onto Xu Xingzhi’s palm that he realized what Meng Chongguang had done.
“…Meng Chongguang?” Xu Xingzhi inconceivably called out, “Did you blow up those spirit stones? Those are spirit stones ah!”
But Meng Chongguang donned on an innocent expression. “I know.”
Even if he wasn’t the original owner, Xu Xingzhi still had the impulse to hit him on his head and teach him how to conduct himself. “You are a wastrel!”
Meng Chongguang remained stationary, and what’s worse, he became even more insolent. With a slight movement of his finger, the starry sky exploded like fireworks. The raining stars fell one after another and when they were about to reach the ground, those larger pieces of spirit stones’ fragments heated up into a luminous pomegranate red. Finally, they landed on the surface of the blue creek and white stone, and with a hiss, they disappeared without a trace.
Meng Chongguang turned to look at Xu Xingzhi and said seriously, “I don’t like it when Senior Brother looks at something for too long.”
Xu Xingzhi: “…”
Meng Chongguang’s expression was sincere and lovely, so even if he said anything absurd, there was a strange sense credibility pervading one’s senses. “…Senior Brother only needs to look at me forever.”
Xu Xingzhi was speechless for a long while and could only lament, “…What a waste. “
…In reality, this was equivalent to using thousands of gold ingots to play skip stones on water.
Meng Chongguang smiled. “If Senior Brother still wants to see the stars, I will go and put them on again.”
Xu Xingzhi immediately dissuaded him, “Enough, enough. Don’t do that anymore. What if you decide to blow them up again?”
“Senior Brother, you don’t have to worry about this,” Meng Chongguang said, “I can let Senior Brother watch as many times as he wants. As long as it’s something Senior Brother desires, Chongguang will obtain it, regardless of anything.”
…These words were indeed true.
The decorative items in Xu Xingzhi’s room couldn’t be found in the wilderness, especially that broad carved wooden bed. The patterns on the side must have been carved by someone.
In the memory of the original owner, except for the original owner, only Meng Chongguang had slept in that bed before.
With the degree it reflected the original bed, it only proved that Meng Chongguang had studied the bed thousands of times when the original owner wasn’t aware, such that even the direction of the inclination of the carved lotus’s stamen was almost identical to the original.
…Xu Xingzhi was suddenly a little envious of the original owner of this body.
In order to disperse this strange feeling, he looked up to the sky again.
The priceless spirit stones were still still falling one by one. The pure spiritual energy that had been dispersed settled down and covered the tower completely. The entire of Xu Xingzhi’s body was soaked in this abundance of spiritual energy. Even the folding fan held in his left hand gleamed with a layer of warm light.
Who knew how long it took for the residual brightness of these spirit stones to disappear in the air, leaving only the hazy cold moon to glow and emit heat.
Xu Xingzhi waited for the starlight to dissipate before he moved slightly to ease his body’s soreness.
He said to Meng Chongguang, “When shall we leave?”
Up until this point, he still had no idea how long he had slept in the room.
It’s been a few hours since Jiu Zhideng’s scouts had been caught. If they do not leave now, they might encounter the pursuers sent by him.
Knowing Xu Xingzhi’s worries, Meng Chongguang took his hand and said, “It’s fine. Senior Brother, as long as you get enough sleep. If anyone dares to come, I will…”
In the middle of the conversation, Meng Chongguang suddenly stopped talking and his face showed surprise.
His finger happened to be pressing on a major acupuncture point in Xu Xingzhi’s wrist and couldn’t be removed.
A moment later, Meng Chongguang raised his eyes in stupefaction. “…Senior Brother?”
“What is it?” Xu Xingzhi could hear the strangeness in Meng Chongguang’s voice. “What’s the matter?”
Meng Chongguang clutched onto his wrist so tightly that it caused Xu Xingzhi to inhale sharply. “Senior Brother, are you hiding something from me?”