Home Post 2901-chapter-15


Chapter 15

Qingwu Prefecture, Lingbei Town.

The young man in blue clothes squatted on a bench, his face filled with worry as he stared intently at the compass on the wooden table.

The compass was only palm-sized, with a tiny red dot at the tip of its needle. Normally, this red dot would quietly hover, standing out as the only distinct color on the bronze surface.

But now, the needle spun around the compass, and the red dot had turned into a wavering line, looking quite alarming.

“How can this be?” The young man in blue frowned deeply.

“The Demon-Hunting Compass was just serviced last month. There’s no way it could be malfunctioning. So why can’t it pinpoint the demon’s location?”

“Huang Li, stop staring at it. You won’t figure out anything by just looking at it,” someone muttered from the bed, their voice drowsy.

“The sect has already sent a message. An inner sect disciple has taken the mission.”

The blue-clad youth named Huang Li sighed dejectedly, “Oh. Ah Kou, when do you think we’ll be able to draw Qi into our bodies, ascend the cloud ladder, and truly become inner disciples of Kunwu?”

Ah Kou’s voice sounded even more lethargic.

“Why are you like Cheng Luocen, always dreaming of cultivating immortality every day? Isn’t life now good enough? We have food to eat, a place to sleep, and money every month, and our families are close by. If you really want to cultivate immortality, I think you’d be better off dreaming about it while asleep.”

The flickering candle was gently swayed by the wind coming through the window.

Huang Li, reminded by Ah Kou’s words, waited until Ah Kou’s eyes were fully closed and his breathing became steady before he quietly wrapped up two dry cakes. He then opened the door and placed them next to a young boy sleeping in the alley beside the door.

After Huang Li went out, the spinning compass suddenly paused for a moment.

The quivering red dot on the needle tip lightly trembled and then pointed towards the sleeping Ah Kou. After a brief stop, it started spinning rapidly again, like an incessant stream of light or the red thread dancing under a seamstress’s hand.

The taste of the three-sweet bowl was indeed excellent. Yu Xizhi drank three cups of bitter buckwheat tea before the sweet and greasy taste was somewhat suppressed. By the time she activated the teleportation talisman and arrived at Lingbei Town, a hint of that sweet taste still lingered in her mouth.

Yu Xizhi glanced at Xie Junzhi, who, in front of her, had finished off the entire three-sweet bowl and now seemed completely unfazed by the sweetness.

… He must really love sweets.

There were no cultivation sects near Lingbei Town, so the spiritual energy here was not very dense. Instead, because it was close to the Siyou River, the air was very humid.

It was afternoon, and the sun cast its slanting rays down. People coming and going wore wide-brimmed hats to shield themselves from the sun, with sweat and moisture clinging to their skin. The smell of seafood mixed with the damp air, and the shopkeepers’ calls had a touch of afternoon lethargy, while only the shouts from the riverside docks remained clear and crisp.

Kunwu Mountain Sect was always domineering in its actions. Setting up a post in Lingbei Town without any intention of concealing it, they had opened a silk shop right opposite the Lingbei Town magistrate’s office. Everyone could see the sect’s emblem of a flying sword prominently displayed on the shop’s sign.The flying sword emblem was well known throughout the continent.

Those in the know could immediately recognize this as a property of the Kunwu Mountain Sect. Those with even more detailed knowledge could accurately recount that this property was donated by a former local lord of Lingbei Town when one of his descendants joined the Kunwu Mountain Sect.

True to its reputation as the number one sect in the world, Kunwu Mountain Sect offered protection to this lord and shared the profits from the property equally with his family, demonstrating an almost divine generosity.

Aside from the silk shop in Lingbei Town, there were numerous Kunwu shops throughout Yuanchen obtained in a similar manner, ranging from cosmetics and fine fabrics to butcher shops and blacksmiths.

“Is it this one?” Yu Xizhi stood at the entrance, touching the embossed flying sword emblem on the doorframe before lifting the curtain and stepping inside.

Huang Li and Ah Kou were busy with their abacuses. Upon seeing Yu Xizhi’s Taoist robe, their faces lit up with joy.

Huang Li was the first to greet them. “Are you the little immortals from the sect?”

Yu Xizhi and Xie Junzhi presented their task plaques for verification.

Huang Li turned over a compass, inserted the plaques into its back, and a white light scanned over them.

When nothing unusual happened, Huang Li visibly relaxed. “Please come inside, little immortals. Take a rest for now. Later, I’ll ask you to follow me. The Kunwu taoist robes are too conspicuous, and they might…”

His gaze lingered for a moment on the small yellow flowers on the hem of Yu Xizhi’s skirt before he finished with difficulty, “…alert the enemy.”

After saying this, he instinctively glanced at the edge of Xie Junzhi’s robe, only to find it even cleaner and whiter than Yu Xizhi’s, pristine like untouched snow.

Huang Li: …

Are these two really novices?!

But this place is definitely not a beginner’s village…

Huang Li couldn’t voice his concerns.

Seeing the shabby little twig in Yu Xizhi’s hair, he increasingly felt that these two unfortunate kids were probably being ostracized by the inner sect, which was why they ended up with this task.

Demon-catching missions with clear objectives were usually the simplest. However, they had been here for many days without even seeing a shadow of the demon, suggesting numerous complications.

Yet the little immortals were here, and Huang Li sighed inwardly.

With limited authority and words, he decided to silently resolve that if danger arose, he, being familiar with the area, would do his best to protect them.

He hoped things wouldn’t turn out as he feared.

Since this silk shop was located near the town magistrate’s office, it was naturally the largest shop in Lingbei Town. Yu Xizhi felt overwhelmed by the selection, watching helplessly as Xie Junzhi went in and out, changing from one white embroidered robe to another while she was still choosing.

Xie Junzhi wasn’t in a hurry. He rested his chin in his hand, watching her. Yu Xizhi felt his gaze, her fingers pausing on a light yellow dress.

“This color is nice,” Xie Junzhi said slowly, as if sensing her hesitation. “Maybe you should try it on.”

Yu Xizhi had a peculiar trait.

She disliked it when others made decisions for her.

If Xie Junzhi had said “Try it on” or used a more forceful tone, she might not have even glanced at him. However, his gentle and soft tone sounded like he was merely offering a suggestion, leaving the decision entirely to her.

Yu Xizhi found this tone irresistible. She responded softly and quickly changed. When she emerged, the girl in the bronze mirror had smiling eyes, looking charming and adorable. Her fair skin suited the bright color perfectly, making her appear less like an immortal cultivator and more like a young lady from a wealthy family out on an excursion.

—But since this outfit was specifically designed for sect members, it naturally had its own unique features. For example, it was slightly shorter than typical ruqun (traditional Chinese attire), and while it looked like a skirt, it was actually convenient-to-move-in culottes. Even the material was made from special soft silk that could resist ordinary blade cuts.

It was indeed impressive.

Huang Li also brought out a box of jade hairpin artifacts, but as Yu Xizhi raised her hand, she remembered the finicky little twig in her hair and politely declined with a smile.

Only then did Huang Li begin to explain the situation in detail.

“The compass started acting strangely one morning a week ago, and I was the first to notice it,” Huang Li said, carefully applying a soundproofing talisman before speaking.

“I’ve been carrying the compass around Lingbei Town this entire time, but it keeps spinning irregularly. Even though it was just serviced, it should be functioning correctly. So far, we haven’t pinpointed the source of the demonic energy and have no idea what kind of demon is causing the trouble.”

As Huang Li spoke, he handed over the compass.

Sure enough, the crimson needle was spinning around the compass, forming a dazzling red circle.

Yu Xizhi, seeing such a compass for the first time, found it interesting and asked, “Can I take a look?”

Huang Li handed her the compass, and Yu Xizhi cradled it in her palms. She couldn’t resist trying to touch the needle with her finger but found it blocked by a natural force field, unable to make contact. She reluctantly withdrew her hand.

“The Demon-Hunting Compass has a secret spell on it,” Xie Junzhi said, casually taking the compass from her.

His long fingers intentionally covered the entire compass, including the frantic trembling and almost insane spinning of the needle that occurred the moment he touched it. When he moved his hand away, the compass returned to its normal state: “It’s to prevent people like you from poking at it.”

Yu Xizhi watched as Xie Junzhi unconsciously scratched at the compass with his finger, thinking that he couldn’t resist either. She didn’t call him out on it and asked, “So what should we do now?”

“What do you mean, ‘what should we do’?” Xie Junzhi widened his eyes in surprise. “Weren’t you the one who accepted the task?”

As Yu Xizhi and Xie Junzhi’s gazes met, Yu Xizhi quickly grasped his meaning.

—This ancestor was probably tired of staying on the mountain and came down for a stroll, supervising her task’s progress. He might offer some pointers, possibly helping her break through a barrier at a critical moment, but Yu Xizhi shouldn’t rely on him to complete the task. At most, he was a life-saving backup, and perhaps a one-time use at that.

Effort must come from oneself; shortcuts were not to be relied upon.

There are no difficult tasks, only brave Zhizhi.

According to the ancestor, she was already in the late stage of Qi refining.

Back when Yu Si was in the late stage of Qi refining, the little flowers on his robe hem were almost embroidered fully. There was no reason why, for her, late-stage Qi refining should be just a mere display.

—Of course, Yu Xizhi always felt that as soon as this ancestor opened his mouth, he would reveal everything. It was as if speaking with him would shatter the illusion, making the efforts of fellow disciples in practicing swordsmanship and understanding the Dao seem like a joke. So, even though she knocked down the swords of the twin brothers at the noodle shop entrance that day, Yu Xizhi still had some doubts about her own realm.

To see if she was truly capable, she’d have to test how fast her sword could slay the demon.

While these two were having their unspoken exchange, Huang Li watched them secretly.

First, he was astonished that Yu Xizhi had never seen a Demon-Hunting Compass before, and then, after hearing their conversation, he felt a sense of resignation. Internally, he lit a candle for himself and became visibly dejected.

Truly, they were complete novices on their first mission.

This was going to end badly.

Huang Li decided he should pray that these two wouldn’t find the demon at all, and he would just have to use a talisman to call for Kunwu’s support.

Huang Li’s wish was simple and sincere, but Yu Xizhi had no intention of letting him get his way.

She stowed her sword case into her qiankun bag and draped a veil over her face, then leisurely strolled outside, looking exactly like a wealthy young lady sneaking out without her maidservant.

—And with the handsome boy in white following her, they looked like they were sneaking out for a secret romantic rendezvous.

Lingbei Town wasn’t very large. Yu Xizhi asked Huang Li for a map and refused his offer to guide her. By the time night was beginning to fall, she had walked through the entire town.

Just as Huang Li had said, the compass behaved as if it were broken, trembling constantly in her hand, never stopping for a moment.

Yu Xizhi finally stopped by the banks of the Siyou River.

The water flowed turbulently, making the river wide and deep. The riverbanks and the buildings near the river showed marks from annual floods. By now, it was dusk, and the boatmen at the dock were hauling in their lines, dragging the day’s catch from the river onto the shore.

Yu Xizhi watched these catches intently.

Various species of fish native to the Siyou River flapped their tails in the nets. The river loaches looked delicious and plump, and the river clams were large and full… As she watched, Yu Xizhi couldn’t help but swallow a bit of saliva. She secretly pinched herself to stay focused, reminding herself not to get distracted by thoughts of food.

A soft laugh came from behind her.

Xie Junzhi, who had been silently following her, squatted down beside her, completely disregarding his image. “Are you choosing dinner?”

For a moment, Yu Xizhi felt guilty, but she quickly composed herself and said seriously, “The Demon-Hunting Compass isn’t broken. It only means that demonic energy is everywhere. Everything has a source. Since the demonic energy is overflowing and continuous, we must find this source.”

“So you think the demon might be hiding among these fish and shrimp?”

Xie Junzhi propped his chin on one hand.

“Well, they’re not that bad. Maybe these river delicacies are the descendants of the demon clan, which is why they look so delicious?” Yu Xizhi speculated wildly. She took a few steps forward and called out, “Uncle, how much for these clams? Is there a discount if I buy more?”

Xie Junzhi watched as she chatted with the boatmen, undeterred by the mud on their clothes. She asked prices, buying a fish here and half a pound of clams there, until she had a small basket of river produce. She then happily waved him over. When he approached, he discovered that somehow she had managed to persuade a boatman to invite them to his home for freshly cooked river food.

The boatman’s surname was Liu. Although his home was simple, Mrs. Liu was an excellent cook, and the sound of sizzling and the enticing aroma wafted from behind the poorly fitting door.

After a couple of drinks, Boatman Liu began to chat more freely: “I can tell you’re from out of town. You don’t know the best way to cook our river food, so let my wife show you. Us boatmen spend all day on the river, rarely seeing anyone. It’s nice you didn’t mind our humble home and came over. Look, even the neighbors’ kids are curious.”

Sure enough, some children were peeking in, curious about why Boatman Liu was being so generous today.

“Is Uncle Liu’s family suddenly rich, like Old Man Cao’s family?”

“Your Uncle Liu just had guests today,” Liu’s wife replied with a smile.

“There’s no such good luck as Old Man Cao’s, where you dig up treasures with just a random scoop. There aren’t that many treasures to be found in the world.”

The children looked eagerly at the steamed fish in the pot.

“But my mom said Old Man Cao really does find treasures with just one scoop, like there’s gold everywhere in our Lingbei Town. My dad went with him yesterday, but when he hit a stone and cracked the hoe, my mom beat him up when he got back.”

Liu’s wife chuckled, and the other children joined in.

Yu Xizhi listened intently, twiddling her fingers, curious. “Is this Old Man Cao really that lucky?”

“It’s just something that happened these past few days. Old Man Cao must have stumbled upon some good luck. The day before, he was fishing with us on the river as usual, but the next day, he went off somewhere else in his boat. When he came back in the evening, goodness me!”

Boatman Liu leaned in, his eyes sparkling. “He came back with a gold bar! A real, genuine gold bar! We even bit it; it’s real gold! The bank verified it too and said it’s definitely gold!”

“Did Old Man Cao say where he found it?” Yu Xizhi refilled Liu’s cup with wine, her eyes deepening.

—She did want to ask these boatmen if there had been any recent strange occurrences by the river, but she hadn’t expected to glean so much information without even asking.

As the Kunwu Mountain Sect’s Demon Subjugation Manual clearly stated: anomalies in objects must be demonic.

Old Man Cao’s inexplicable treasure-digging experience was definitely suspicious.

Boatman Liu downed his drink.

“There’s no way he’d tell us something like that. But after that day, Old Man Cao was running all over town. Heard he even went out of town a few times, don’t know what he was up to. He only took his son with him each time. Every time he came back, his clothes were bulging with something good, but we don’t know where it came from.”

“That’s strange. Where does this Old Man Cao live? I’d like to go see where he dug up his treasures.”

Yu Xizhi leaned in, listening intently and looking every bit like a curious young girl.

As they spoke, Liu’s wife brought out the freshly steamed fish, filling the shabby little house with a delicious aroma. Boatman Liu waited for Yu Xizhi to take the first bite before speaking up.

“Ah, if it was a week ago, he was living next door to us. But now, he’s bought a big mansion and moved to the wealthy street in the east of town.”

Boatman Liu sighed.

Yu Xizhi smiled as she listened to Liu the boatman’s tipsy ramblings. After Liu’s wife brought in all the river produce and they finished eating, and as Liu’s wife helped Liu inside to rest, Yu Xizhi left a small handful of silver on the table before heading to the courtyard. She gestured with the demon-hunting compass a couple of times before looking around.

“Hmm… Next door, is it the left or the right side?”

She glanced left and right at the locked doors, both equally dilapidated, before quietly returning. She picked one side at random and climbed over.

Xie Junzhi watched Yu Xizhi’s swift and decisive movements, his face gradually showing a hint of puzzlement.

In no time, Yu Xizhi returned amid the chaos and Xie Junzhi’s puzzled gaze. She blushed slightly. “I guessed wrong; there’s someone over there. It looks like Old Man Cao lives on the other side.”

Only then did Xie Junzhi follow her, climbing over the wall on the other side. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity, he asked, “Why did you need to guess in the first place?”

Yu Xizhi turned back. “How else would I know which side was empty?”

Xie Junzhi hesitated before asking, “What about your divine sense?”

Yu Xizhi: …?

Oh, right, where is my divine sense?

After a moment, the hesitant voice of the young girl echoed in the deserted courtyard: “Um, excuse me, is the Advanced Masterclass in the Grandmaster’s curriculum, including the wonderful uses of divine consciousness ?”

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