author: Yi Shi Si Zhou (一十四洲）
Ling Baoqing turned around to comfort her companions. Li Jimao and Li Yamao wanted to console them, but were unable to. On the contrary, they were once again scolded with a few weepy cries of “Don’t jinx our Young Miss!”
The two leaned on a tree beside them, thinking of their village that had been trapped for ten years. They looked like they were about to shatter and then burst into sad tears as well. Old Mister Zhou was affected by them and let out a long, heavy sigh. He too was utterly sorrowful.
For a moment, it was as if Lin Shu had been dropped into the middle of a funeral service. He stood there and silently accompanied them for a while. Organizing his thoughts into a sentence, he asked Ling Baoqing, “How did you get in?”
Ling Baoqing wiped her eyes and gave him a once-over. It was probably because his present appearance was truly unflattering, so even though her manner toward Li Jimao and Li Yamao could still be considered polite, her manner towards him was not. She wrinkled her nose and harshly said, “By walking, of course.”
No, that wasn’t what I meant…
Lin Shu became aware that there might be a big problem with the way he expressed his words. He paused and once again rearranged his words. “You…… How did you recognize different directions?”
These girls’ claims did not make sense; they said that the directions were unclear in the thick fog, but they also said they had been gradually approaching Minzhou City Gate before they were separated.
Ling Baoqing finally understood what he meant and replied, “Naturally, although the few of us can’t compare, our Young Miss has seen more of the world and has a higher level of understanding. She can read the qi of the stars and navigate by that, hence moving freely.”
Lin Shu, expressionless: “……”
Ling Baoqing shouted, “This—you little beggar, don’t tell me you have some kind of objection to our Young Miss?!”
First, Li Jimao shouted “Sister Fairy” and was criticized as a “shameless, vile man,” and now, like him, he was also being criticized without any warning for no reason at all.
Lin Shu didn’t have any desire to speak, but the gaze of this Ling Baoqing-xiaojie was so incredibly aggressive and menacing that his entire body felt uncomfortable and he could only open his mouth to speak. “You shouldn’t go.”
Lin Shu felt that anyone with any self-awareness and knowledge of her own limitations should know to stay put in one place and obediently wait for the person whom she had been separated from to find her since she couldn’t tell one direction from another and the other person could. She shouldn’t just wander all over the place.
Knowing she was in the wrong, Ling Baoqing was flustered and exasperated. “When did it become your turn to give orders, you little beggar?!”
Lin Shu didn’t pay her any attention.
After Ling Baoqing finished spluttering, her arrogance subsided and she said, “It’s not that we don’t understand; we just panicked for a moment.”
However, with that tetchy, proud temperament of hers, her haughty demeanor naturally would not just go away like that. The next moment, she was again bold and confident that she was in the right. “No matter what, if we can’t find Young Miss, sooner or later we’ll be trapped here and won’t be able to save you either.”
Lin Shu didn’t spare them another glance.
He had heard that for the most part, people who used sabers were irascible and violent. Sure enough, these people proved it to be true. As they said, if the upper beam were not straight, the lower beam would be crooked. Who knew what kind of supreme, apex ruffian that young miss of theirs was, to produce this group of small hooligans.
Ling Baoqing and the rest of her party were disinclined to take notice of this dirty little beggar and started to discuss feasible actions to take.
“Do we have anyone who brought any phoenix butterflies?”
“It’s pitch-black. Even if someone had brought one, we wouldn’t have been able to see it anyway.”
“The compass is useless, too. It’s been turning around and pointing randomly.”
They sat cross-legged on the ground. They had been discussing for a long time when someone finally slapped her forehead. “A lesser star spell formation! If we draw a star array and mark off the Northern Dipper, wouldn’t this allow us to sense the directions like Young Miss?”
Ling Baoqing exulted, “Baojing-meimei is absolutely right!”
The ‘absolutely right’ Baojing-meimei said, “Baochen-jiejie, I remember you took classes in fuzhou creation this year. Can you draw one for us?”
The ‘fuzhou-studying’ Baochen-jiejie responded, “Shit! I followed Young Miss to practice saber-skills every day at that time. I skipped eight out of the ten classes. I can’t draw it.”
Standing to the side, Li Yamao couldn’t help but let out a giggle. Even though Li Jimao immediately clapped a hand over his mouth, he couldn’t escape another good scolding from the girls.
After yelling at Li Yamao, they came to a total deadlock. They looked at each other wordlessly and could only sigh.
After sighing, Lin Shu silently opened his mouth in the suffocating silence.
“……I can draw it.”
The girls simultaneously turned their heads and looked at him, examining him closely, disbelief written all over their faces.
If someone were to say Old Mister Zhou the erhu player could draw, it would still be slightly believable, but this little beggar, with his dirty face and disheveled hair? It was a fantasy comparable to The Arabian Nights.
“You? Where did you learn spell arrays? In your dreams?” Ling Baoqing asked waspishly.
Lin Shu didn’t say anything.
Ling Baoqing looked him up and down a few times. She took talisman paper, a brush, and cinnabar ink out of the purse she carried,stood up, and walked to him. “This……”
She paused. Failing to identify a more appropriate term of address, she only said, “Come try.”
Lin Shu said honestly, “I don’t have any spiritual power.”
“You!” Ling Baoqing again exploded, “Are you toying with us?”
Any other person would have already started arguing with her early on in their conversation, but when Lin Shu didn’t want to say anything, he was just like a bottle gourd whose mouth had been sawn off or a cricket whose wings had been plucked out. He didn’t take any notice of her and instead said to Ling Baochen, “Transfer some to me.”
Ling Baochen complied with his words and put her hand on his shoulder. She started to pour spiritual energy into his body.
Lin Shu’s originally extremely unsuitable-for-the-cultivating meridians were forcefully flooded until they spilled over with spiritual energy, just like a torrential river spilling into small, dried out channels. His entire arm throbbed as if it was going to shatter and he almost vomited blood. Ling Baochen’s hand on his shoulder also made him feel sick.
But if they wanted to leave, he had to draw the talisman. He could only brace himself and endure. He dipped the brush in the cinnabar ink and drew it out.
Ling Baochen let out a soft ‘yi’ in surprise. “That really seems like it.”
Who knew that this little beggar actually had some skills. Ling Baoqing’s face reddened as she began to speak, but then she hesitated. She averted her eyes and didn’t look at him.
The star spell formation could be used for stargazing and was not at all an abstruse spell formation. Lin Shu was halfway done with the drawing when he was suddenly struck by the thought that the spiritual energy used by the people here was the same as the spiritual energy he had once used. The star spell array was the same as the one he had once studied—perhaps it was the same world, just at a different time.
The traditions passed down by his sect were said to have a profound and ancient origin. He didn’t know whether they could be found here as well.
One talisman had been completed and Ling Baochen finally let go. Lin Shu felt more than half-dead.
Ling Baochen took the paper amulet and used spiritual energy to awaken it. Upon seeing the glistening, shining ink, she dripped a few drops of blood on it. After closing her eyes and extending her awareness for a moment, she said, “I’ve got it!”
The young women were overjoyed. They gathered around her and prepared for immediate departure.
“Unfortunately, my spiritual power isn’t very compatible with his. I can’t use the talisman freely or easily. The spiritual array isn’t stable and can just barely hold for half of a shichen.” Ling Baochen’s expression was reluctant and slightly embarrassed.
The girls gathered around Lin Shu again, their intentions obvious. They wanted Lin Shu to set out together with them so he could draw another talisman after the current one lost its effectiveness.
Ling Baoqing said, “Oi!” She looked awkward, as if she wanted to say something, perhaps an apology.
Lin Shu didn’t know how to respond, so he completely ignored her and only silently followed.
At this point, if he wanted to get out, he had no choice but to follow them.
The two brothers Li Jimao and Li Yamao volunteered to join them. With the two of them holding torches aloft for illumination, they had freed up the hands of two young women. This strategy would ensure their success when encountering evil entities—the more hands free to fight, the more likely they were to win.
As a result, the girls defended the perimeter while Lin Shu, Li Jimao, and Li Yamao were crowded together on the inside. The party set out towards Minzhou City. On the way, they encountered countless reanimated corpses and evil ghosts. Their saber skills were exquisite and although their cultivation base was not high, they were able to get through the daunting experience by relying on their deep, tacit understanding of each other.
When it was safe, Li Yamao could not stand the silence and always struck up conversations with the girls. Among them, Ling Baojing was the youngest and had the best temper. She actually didn’t treat him harshly or viciously and talked with him. As they talked, Lin Shu was able to learn the whole story of the Phoenix Heights from their conversation.
This was a women-only sect and accepted the world’s desperate orphan girls. If they had any aptitude for practicing martial arts and cultivation, they could be inducted into the manor’s Phoenix-Style Saber Form. If not, they could go to one of the many shops under the manor’s name, such as silk shops and depositories. The Phoenix Heights saber technique was powerful and renowned in the Jianghu. Its businesses could be found all over the realm. They also enjoyed a deep friendship and high status with other sects, so no one dared to bully them.
Having said this, Ling Baojing smiled and fell silent.
“Baojing-meimei is shy,” Ling Baochen laughed. She continued explaining in a voice both crisp and fast, yet extremely sweet-sounding. “Everyone in our Phoenix Heights sect is as close as family and are of the same breath and branches. Therefore, everyone in the Jianghu respects us…… But there’s also another reason. Just because many of our sect sisters have married into numerous large sects, those vile men always say that Phoenix Heights is the mother-in-law of the whole Jianghu. If you offended Phoenix Heights, even if you didn’t insult your own wife, you have invariably insulted your shixiong or shidi’s wife, or the wife of your master, or your disciple’s wife, or your older brother’s wife, or your younger brother’s wife, and so on. Because of this, in the entire Jianghu, the only sect one cannot afford to offend is Phoenix Heights.”
Saying this, the girls all laughed together. They were all around fourteen or fifteen. Although their temperaments were not very good, they were still innocent and unaffected. Now that they had a sense of the right direction, they had relaxed quite a bit and naturally exhibited such a cute, vivacious display. The young women drew Li Yamao’s direct gaze, and he began to laugh along with them.
He laughed as he walked, but then came to a sudden stop.
“This……” He sprang aside, his voice trembling as one of his hands reached up to his head. The light from the torch illuminated a patch of foul black blood.
The girls all let out an “Ah!” and drew out their sabers to prepare for battle. They all dispersed and cleared out from the area in their center.
The black blood dripped down unceasingly from above and fell in front of them.
Li Jimao raised the torch. Lin Shu raised his head to look.
He still had not yet figured out the situation when he heard a very light laugh, followed by the sound of a voice.
“It appears you’re actually quite capable.”
This voice was extremely melodic and carried with it a sense of uncertain distance and coldness. It was faintly discernible, as if coming from within a mist, and brought to mind a breeze rustling through the pines on top of a mountain. The voice had the power to momentarily entrance the listener. Unexpectedly, one was unable to distinguish whether it was masculine or feminine.
However, the girls started to cheer and shouted out: “Young Miss!”
At this point, Lin Shu finally saw that there was a person standing at the very end of one of the dead branches at the top of the tree.
The light cast by the fire was limited. Only a silhouette could be made out, their appearance indistinct.
This person was in the midst of darkness and surrounded by a horde of demons, but it was as if they were leisurely sitting in their own courtyard. They were slowly wiping their saber as from its blade, black blood trickled down slowly like water. It was a ghastly sight.
That was precisely the “Young Miss” the girls had spoken of.
The Young Miss sheathed her saber and floated down from the treetop. She landed right in front of them.
Li Jimao and Li Yamao gasped.
Lin Shu also looked to their front.
Now they finally understood that Ling Baoqing’s description of the Young Miss’s appearance had not been blind lip service.
The Young Miss wore a veil, with the line of her jaw and the lower half of her face indistinct and faint from behind the gauze. That only made her eyes more noticeable, with her fine brows and phoenix eyes. Her intelligent, shining eyes missed nothing and she glowed with health and vigor. She was so beautiful it was almost unbearable, the kind of beauty that made one unable to look directly at her.
Ling Baoqing and the rest of the girls all wore sturdy duanda—valiant and formidable-looking. The Young Miss was about the same age as them, but she was outfitted in a very different style. She wore complicated, elegant red robes, with sleeves that gently fluttered when she walked. It painted an extremely pretty picture.
The girls clustered around her, their voices overlapping as they asked how Young Miss had found them, whether Young Miss had sustained any injuries, what happened with that corpse king, and so on. Yet although their tone was eager, they stood no closer than three feet away from her and did not crowd close. It was apparent that they loved and respected their Young Miss.
However, the Young Miss did not answer them. Her icy gaze swept across Lin Shu, Li Jimao, and Li Yamao and she asked, “Who are they?”
Ling Baojing sketched out their experiences that night. She had just explained how they had met Lin Shu and Old Mister Zhou when the Young Miss frowned and interrupted her, eyes filled with revulsion. “Too dirty. Throw it out.”
The ‘it’ she spoke of was Lin Shu.
After all, you couldn’t expect a simpleton that spent his days burrowing into various nooks and crannies to be too clean. Even though Lin Shu really wanted to clean this new body of his, in all the rush, there was simply no way to do so.
Ling Baochen hurriedly spoke out on Lin Shu’s behalf and said that he had been a tremendous help to them.
The Young Miss let out an “oh” and looked at Lin Shu. She coldly said, “Since that’s the case, I’ll just give him a beating.”
Lin Shu: “……”
The Young Miss’s hand was on the hilt of her saber and the corners of her eyes twitched, as if she was trying to suppress the urge to draw her saber and kill someone. She said to him, “If you want to come with us, get yourself cleaned up. If you dirty my eyes again, I’ll have no choice but to flay the skin off you.”
Lin Shu: “???”
The master of this group of little hooligans from Phoenix Heights was indeed an even more unreasonable boss ruffian.
Where could he go to find water to clean himself on a barren mountain in the middle of the night?
The author has something to say:
The voice of society: throw it out, beat it up, flay off your skin.
Hi, all! It’s Lanlan. I haven’t set an update schedule for this story and I don’t think I am going to, either. Just rest assured I will post at least one update a week and will definitely post more as my schedule allows. Real life is going to be quite hectic for me in the foreseeable future, but I will try my best to push those updates out as I want to give all of you out there the opportunity to enjoy this story as much as I do