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In spite of Wen Kexing’s tragic, powerless appearance, the Scorpion still stood two zhang apart from him, beaming and clucking his tongue. “How unexpected, how unexpected.”
Wen Kexing was still able to force out a smile. “What’s unexpected?” he asked lightly.
The Scorpion shook his head. “Ghost Master, no matter how impressive and capable one is, when they fall into such a plight… who can say how the ways of the world go for certain?”
The other sucked in a breath that only seemed to reach his chest, making his answer very feeble. “How wrong you are, Brother Scorpion. I’ve been the Ghost Master for eight years, yet have never had one day of peaceful sleep. What’s so ‘impressive’ there?”
The Scorpion pondered this, then nodded. “You’re right. People like us don’t get the happy, worry-free lives that commonfolk do.”
Looking at this extraordinary, uncommon man, Wen Kexing smiled. “I dare not compare myself to your world-encompassing ability, Brother Scorpion. Me being unable to sleep well was only because I was afraid that someone else would kill me. Now… there’s finally no need for me to be scared anymore.”
“That’s true,” the Scorpion said with a nod. “You’re about to die, so there’s naturally no need for you to fear death.”
“Lao Meng… you killed him?” Wen Kexing suddenly asked.
The man laughed mockingly. “If I didn’t kill him, wouldn’t I just be waiting around for him to kill me first, then? That was your devoted old servant, Ghost Master, but he still wholeheartedly wanted you to die. Why trouble yourself with keeping him on your mind?”
Wen Kexing nodded at that. “How many… are left alive in the Valley?”
The Scorpion felt that this guy had way too many hang-ups, but replied anyways. “Do you need to ask? Zhao got rid of half, and the remaining half of the injured ranks inevitably fell into my hands. How unthinkable of you to be so magnanimous. You have no time to look after yourself, yet are still worried over the lives and deaths of the Valley’s people. Out of successive generations of Ghost Masters… you really are the most affectionate and loyal one.”
Wen Kexing silently laughed. His expression was somewhat bizarre, but he still sounded calm. “Evil Ghosts on the verge of death are still Ghosts. They likely weren’t easy to deal with.”
“There are those amongst my men that are suicide warriors,” the Scorpion answered, not concerned in the least. “A couple hundred of them dying isn’t much. Nor do I care.”
“Okay,” Wen Kexing said, shutting his eyes. “You’re very driven and bold in style, Brother Scorpion. You deserve to be the formidable figure of a generation… ah, Lao Meng. The most tragic thing about him is none other than the fact that despite clearly being on the board, he still believed himself to be the one holding the pawns. Laughable, isn’t it?”
His lips could barely be seen to move on those last few words, which were almost difficult to hear. Seeing this, the Scorpion looked to be reassured, and he stepped forward a bit. “Of course. You’re someone that’s open-minded, Ghost Master… hand me your hook.”
As soon as he put his hand out, someone placed a weapon onto it. He restrained his grin as he looked at Wen Kexing, who was leaning against a tree and already finding it challenging to move. “Someone like you should be done in by my own hands. Using another for this would be rather rude.”
While he spoke, he raised the hook horizontally across his chest, then slowly came forwards. “Please go on ahead to Yellow Spring Road, Ghost Master.”
He then raised the hook up high. Wen Kexing opened his pitch-black eyes, gazing at him calmly; there looked to be pools of stagnant water inside them. It was like the one that was going to die was not him.
All of sudden, the Scorpion felt a strong gale attacking him from the side. Its intent to kill was much too prominent, and all of his hairs were made to stand on end from that murderous aura. With a loud shout, he hefted the hook even higher to obstruct it. The new arrival was a black-clothed man dressed as a Poisonous Scorpion, yet with no mask, and the flexible sword he held dodged past the hook to unshakably wind around the Scorpion’s arm — the man screamed as said arm was swept up, after which it fell clean away from him.
The few Poisonous Scorpions behind him promptly and obediently came forth in reaction. All that was heard was a spell of clanging noises, and seen was an eye-dazzling display. In a wink’s time, the dust settled; one stood alone while several laid, and every one of the latter was missing their weapon-wielding arm, whether they were even alive or not.
Wen Kexing got a clear view of the newcomer, only to sigh. “Idiot,” he whispered. “Why did you come here?”
Zhou Zishu shot him a glance out of the corner of his eye, smiling coldly. “I came to collect your corpse, you loon.”
The Great Shaman’s medicine had suppressed the Seven Acupunctures nails, and Zhou Zishu’s skill was now reinstated to about ninety-percent of its peak period. Even if he fought alone and out in the open, there was no way the Scorpion would be his match, to say nothing of what he had just done being classified as a sneak attack.
Zhou Zishu turned to him, the tip of his Baiyi sword slightly hanging, voice slightly harsh. “You dare act against who’s mine?”
Wen Kexing stared blankly at the back that was blocking his sight. His fingers that were dangling down to the ground faintly began to tremble.
The Scorpion’s complexion was paling from the pain, but he squeezed out a smile anyways. “Ah… it’s you, Brother Zhou,” he managed. “I didn’t know that you would be gracing us with your presence. My mistake.”
He looked eerily at the two, then waved his hand. “An expert has arrived, so we won’t be inviting ridicule for ourselves. For us, the green hills never change, and the clear water runs forever — retreat!”
The few still-living Scorpions scrambled up and swiftly followed after him as he drew back. Zhou Zishu didn’t give chase, merely turning around to look at Wen Kexing.
The latter’s eyes flashed, but he smiled. “You should still be careful about…”
Before he could finish, Zhou Zishu’s pupils shrank. His body whirled around, and Baiyi turned into a pretty pattern of afterimages. It struck something with a ding, following which a muffled grunt came from the forest in back; he shook his head with a sigh. “Using the same trick twice on the same person… do these Scorpions do anything other than the same old stuff? From that alone, how are they on par with Four Seasons Manor at all?”
Wen Kexing stared at him for a minute, entranced, then began to smile, reaching a hand up high to grab the air.
Zhou Zishu frowned. “What are you doing?”
“There’s… light around you,” Wen Kexing whispered. “I’m catching it so I can see.”
Zhou Zishu raised a brow slightly. Crossing his arms in front of his chest, he leaned against the trunk of a big tree. “Actually… Xue Fang isn’t even around, is he?”
Wen Kexing kept grinning. He looked at his own fingers obsessively, then loosened them a little, as if something might leak out of his completely empty palm. His voice was still extremely quiet, and his breaths were like fine silk, as if they could be cut off at any time. “You could tell.”
“What about the real key?”
“Lost, since I threw it off the top of the mountain,” Wen Kexing answered slowly, narrowing his eyes.
Zhou Zishu nodded, suddenly not knowing how to react. With no key, there was no point in having the Lapis Armor, and everyone that had fought to the death on Fengya, ultimately fighting themselves into corpses, had not known unto death that what they were fighting over was actually just a pile of junk.
“It took me three years to secretly foster Sun Ding,” Wen Kexing softly went on. “How else could such a braindead moron be a rival to the Hanged Ghost and Ghost of Impermanence?”
“After that, you lured the Hanged Ghost into stealing the key when their fight was getting white-hot.”
Wen Kexing laughed. “I didn’t have it, yet they all wanted it… thirty years ago, evil Ghosts of all sizes began to long for the arsenal. The Lapis Armor belonged to the five major clans while the Ghosts weren’t yet established, so they didn’t dare to act too rashly, only able to get things going with the key,” he explained in a whisper.
Then, he turned his head away and coughed twice, which brought some traces of blood out with them. He gently wiped them off of his face before continuing. “Back in the day, Madam Rong gave the key to my dad. They all thought that only three had been present, then. Madam Rong died, and Long Que safeguarded the secret to his grave… if things actually had been like that, the world would have been very peaceful, wouldn’t it?”
“There was a fourth?” Zhou Zishu creased his brow, following which he had a quick realization. “Was it Zhao Jing? He… didn’t have any real power back then, so since he was unable to talk about this with people from righteous sects, he secretly joined up with Ghost Valley?”
“Eh, probably… they’re all dead now, in any case.” Wen Kexing let out a cold laugh, remaining silent for a long time before he took a deep breath. “It’s ridiculous that Madam Rong and the rest never ended up telling my dad what exactly the key they gave him was, all for the sake of keeping their secret. He only saw it as something important that could never be thrown out, which was why he took my mom to hide out in a small mountain village for a full ten years… alas, on the year that I was nine, something unfortunate happened in that village. An owl—“
“Enough,” Zhou Zishu interrupted. After a minute of quiet, he softened his tone. “That’s enough. It’s already been so many years, you don’t need to…”
“My parents believed that they were implicating the villagers,” the other went on regardless. “They wanted to fight until the bitter end, and simply sent me away the night of. I wasn’t worried and didn’t know my own weight, so I snuck back. I saw…”
He sighed, slowly raising his head to gaze at the vague, dim sky. “I saw… my dad’s body, cut into two pieces. My mom was collapsed to the side. Her hair was in disarray, her clothes weren’t their original color anymore, her face had been mutilated, her nose had been cut off, the outline of her features was unseeable, and a staff had pierced her through her chest and out her back, passing right under her shoulder blades. Do you know how I recognized her?”
Zhou Zishu watched him without a word.
“I liked pretty people when I was young, and thought that my mom was the most beautiful person in the world. I liked to cling to her and tell her to carry me, so I got used to seeing her shoulder blades. Even when I die, I won’t forget that.”
“That’s how the key landed in Ghost Valley’s hands, but… how did you…?”
“Me?” Wen Kexing raised his brows, then suddenly started to laugh. The more he laughed, the louder he got, until a whimper-like noise finally came out of his throat. It was unclear whether he was actually laughing, or sobbing. “Me? I stumbled several times on my journey there, and came to look like a filthy mud monkey long before that. The second those evil Ghosts noticed me, I believed that I was going to die, and stood there stupefied. One came over and grabbed me, but then I subconsciously bit him, making him yell and say, ‘It’s a little lunatic.’ The people surrounding me laughed. One woman said that she wanted to peel my skin off to turn it into a human-leather coat when she got back. I was horribly scared… so I thought up a solution.”
Zhou Zishu’s throat bobbed slightly, brow slightly creased, yet he still said nothing.
It had already gotten late in the day. There was utter silence all around. Wen Kexing coughed a few more times, then continued. “I… right under all their watching eyes, I walked over, laid on my stomach, and bit mouthful after mouthful off of my dad’s corpse. He wasn’t easy to chew through, and it took a long time to tear pieces off, then swallow his flesh down into my stomach… and I put a little thought into my head; was I not made of his blood to begin with? As they watched, they slowly quit laughing. Ultimately, the man I had bitten was in charge, and he said that I had been born a Ghost, so I shouldn’t remain in the human world. After that, he brought me back with him to Ghost Valley.”
Zhou Zishu leaned down, then placed a hand on the side of Wen Kexing’s face. Perhaps due to blood loss, the man’s eyes were slightly unfocused, and his skin was freezing; upon feeling warmth, he unconsciously tilted his head to nuzzle into his palm. “I’ve been here for a full twenty years,” he said, breathless. “For the first twelve, I desperately survived, desperately climbed upwards, desperately… for the next eight, I had finally climbed to the top, and prepared for my main event.”
“You secretly aided Sun Ding, forced the Hanged Ghost into dire straits, baited him into stealing the key, tailed him, killed him, and then disposed of both his corpse and the key,” Zhou Zishu picked up. “This created the veneer that he had fled, thus making Ghost Valley come out in full force to hunt him down. You watched Sun Ding and Lao Meng each harbor their own motives, watched them—“
“In this world,” Wen Kexing cut him off, “there is only one thing that can destroy evil spirits… and it’s the human heart.”
He abruptly turned his head to the side and coughed like his lungs were splitting open, inner breath turbid, the sensation of suffocation accordingly inundating him. Suddenly, a hand was pressed against the center of his back, and a soft current of internal force spread throughout his meridians and channels instantaneously, faintly clearing up his consciousness.
Seeing him slowly pass this breath, Zhou Zishu instantly curbed his efforts. “You’re out of strength, but your wound is more serious in comparison. It needs to be wrapped up to staunch the bleeding, else I’ll be too afraid to help you set your internal force into motion.”
Then, he looked into Wen Kexing’s eyes. “I’ll ask you this; do you want to live?”
The other watched him in silence for a very, very long time. “Will you… leave me?”
Smiling lightly, Zhou Zishu shook his head.
Like his life depended on it, Wen Kexing clenched his jaw, grabbed his hand, and forcibly propped himself up. “Live… why wouldn’t I want to live? Why couldn’t I live?! All those shameless, vile people of the world get to live, so why… why can’t I…? I have to…”
He could no longer easily get his breath back, body swaying as he panted nonstop. Zhou Zishu sighed, sealed up his main acupoints, then picked him up in his arms, going off the mountain.
He brought the blood-covered man to that small town. It took no less than two days for Wen Kexing to awaken, where he could barely manage take in some food and drink. After a few more days, Zhou Zishu hired a carriage to bring them to Luoyang, but, right before they set out, they happened to run into Gao Xiaolian and Zhang Chengling.
The latter was still in shock. As soon as he saw him, he immediately threw himself at him and cried painfully, sobbing and hiccuping. “Shifu… Brother Cao, he…”
Gao Xiaolian’s eyes were red, as well. Zhou Zishu sighed. “I know,” he gently said, and placed his palm on top of the other’s head to soothe him.
Immediately after that, Zhang Chengling bust out another sentence: “Shifu… I-I killed someone, too… I killed someone…”
Zhou Zishu’s hand froze. Wen Kexing, who was reclined inside the carriage, also shifted his gaze over, looking at the little devil in astonishment.
Gao Xiaolian clenched her fists. “I had my part in that, too. Don’t cry — that guy was a villain! He deserved to be killed! We got lost on Fengya Mountain, then came across a man dressed in gaudy clothes. After following him for a bit, we learned that he was actually the boss of the Poisonous Scorpions. For some reason, though, his arm had been cut off, and he looked to have been hit with poisoned needles…”
Zhou Zishu looked pleased, while Wen Kexing couldn’t resist letting out hushed laughter. “After that, the guy seemed like he couldn’t keep his Scorpions under control,” Zhang Chengling supplemented, “and they f-fought each other…”
“You two used the confusion to eliminate the Scorpion?” Wen Kexing quietly asked.
Zhang Chengling made a stalling noise, feeling that even if the other party had been a bad guy, his own act of using another’s crisis was also very despicable.
The man laughed out loud — this was what it was to have a guardian deity watching over you.
Afterwards, Gao Xiaolian dried her tears and said farewell to them, heading back for Gao Manor. After enduring all sorts of trials, the girl had grown up over the span of a night. Zhang Chengling went with Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing to Luoyang, and after joining up with Lord Seventh and the Great Shaman, the ashes of Rong Xuan and Madam Rong were brought up Changming.
Following a month of recuperation, the Great Shaman began to remove the nails from Zhou Zishu, re-connecting his meridians.
Heavy snow fell from the Heavens on Changming that day. Wen Kexing stood outside the room, seeming to be mentally calm even as he heard cries coming from inside. Lord Seventh pat him on the shoulder all of a sudden. “Don’t worry, okay? If it was anyone else, there would be only a thirty-percent certainty, but it’s Zishu. Nothing will go wrong.”
Wen Kexing turned his head to look at him.
Lord Seventh smiled. “Since he was able to bear with putting the nails in himself way back when, why would he be scared when they’re pulled out? He’s…”
His succeeding words disintegrated, but a small smile was on his face, as if he was reminiscing about something.
Lord Seventh appeared to have an odd charisma that made one stand by his side, then calm down in his wake. Even so, Wen Kexing’s calm lasted only a short moment, after which he turned away and left. This prettyboy really does look like a huli jing, he thought to himself. I need to be on guard.
This action completely mystified Lord Seventh himself.
After being in a total coma for three months, Zhou Zishu woke up at last. He felt like an entire set of heavy shackles had been unburdened from him, his entire body becoming lighter, sans his right hand — that was being gripped tightly by someone who was apparently exhausted, as he was leaning to the side for a doze.
Zhou Zishu was momentarily distracted, thinking of the events that had led to this point just as if they were from a lifetime ago.
In the end, however, he simply stared at their entwined hands for a while, smiling gently. Yesterday, he had died when he had gone to bed, then awoken as someone new the next. The years that had passed were for nothing other than awaiting someone like this, who could stay with him both morning and night, holding his hand.
The translator says: Well, well, well. The first translated chapter of FW was posted in 2018, and here we are on the final one, in 2021. That’s a lot of years. Hope the wait was worth it, hohoho. Thanks for all the support from everyone that donated, as well as the Donors! ‘Twas fun.
I have no intention of making digital versions of this one, because I didn’t personally translate it in its entirety. One day, I might come back and do my own version of this from scratch (since, all things considered, I did do its predecessor, Lord Seventh), but that wouldn’t be for a very, very, very long time. I’d prefer to concentrate on novels that haven’t been completed yet for right now. Until then, aside from some inconsistencies between translators (the second’s Four Seasons Manor vs. the first’s… *gets magnifying glass* “””Si Ji Holdings”””), there’s nothing wrong with what’s now available.
By the way, there’s four extras after this. jjwxc only has one, but there are more. Don’t ask me why.