Chapter 31: Countdown to the Protagonist’s Return (Revised)
TN: Translated by readerz, shower her with love~
(ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*✲ﾟ*｡⋆♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥
Edit: Some words were missing because comments in Gdoc messed up copy-paste. LOL. It should be fixed now, but let me know if anything’s still missing.
In the blink of an eye, three years passed.
During those three years, except for the times when Liu Qingge helped him clear his meridians of the toxin or Mu Qingfang made medicine for him, Shen Qingqiu assigned some disciples to supervise the training on Qing Jing Peak and spent most of his time roaming around outside.
In his last life he spent most of his time at home playing video games and reading novels. When he was reborn in this place, all of the these computer-related entertainments were gone. Thus, his interest in tourism was ignited. His days were carefree until he suddenly received a message talisman from Yue Qingyuan, summoning him back to Cang Qiong Mountain.
He had been gone such a long time that even his shadow couldn’t be seen, so this time when he returned to the sect, the Qing Jing Peak disciples gathered in front of the sect to welcome their master back. Seeing Shen Qingqiu slowly climbing up, they all cheered and rushed to surround him.
Head disciple Ming Fan was already a tall young man. Although he wasn’t handsome, at least he didn’t look like a sharp-faced monkey with a petty cannon fodder character’s face. Ning Yingying had grown up to become a lovely young maiden with a graceful figure. She had also picked up her own immortal sword from Wan Jian Peak. When she saw Shen Qingqiu, she rushed over and hugged his arm as they walked up.
Although the sweet little girl liked to put her arms around him, Shen Qingqiu couldn’t bear it since Ning Yingying’s body had developed nicely. She was no longer a cute little loli. Her chest occasionally touched him by accident, making Shen Qingqiu’s expressionless face break out in a cold sweat.
This is Luo Binghe’s wife! I wouldn’t dare!
Ning Yingying complained like a spoiled child: “Shizun, you are always away from Qing Jing Peak, your disciples all miss you so much.”
Shen Qingqiu said indulgently: “Your teacher also missed … you.”
Wait, this is not right. You should be thinking of Luo Binghe, not missing a scum villain!
Were the original Shen Qingqiu and Ning Yingying this close? It seemed like Ning Yingying grew up to be a sensible girl. The original Shen Qingqiu probably drooled over her in a one-sided way.
And you, as one of Luo Binghe’s wives, shouldn’t you be broken-hearted, suffering five years of sleepless nights, growing thin from barely being able to choke down food in your grief?
How come, contrary to expectations, you’ve actually grown plump and healthy?
The disciples swarmed around Shen Qingqiu as he made his way to Qiong Ding Peak. There, Yue Qingyuan was waiting outside the hall to welcome him back. The two fellow apprentices entered the hall hand in hand.
Inside the Qiong Ding hall, the Peak Lords had already taken their seats while behind them were one or two of their most direct disciples.
Liu Qingge was the only exception.
That was because traditionally, training at Bai Zhan Peak was like setting a herd of sheep loose in a pasture, free and unrestrained. Every one of them were allowed to practice their skills as they pleased. Apart from occasionally beating up a few disciples, the Peak Lord didn’t teach anything until a disciple could beat him. Then the position of Peak Lord could be handed over to that disciple. So of course he had no direct disciples.
Shen Qingqiu greeted the others then sat down on the Qing Jing Peak’s seat, with Ming Fan and Ning Yingying standing behind him. Opposite him were Qi Qingqi and Liu Mingyan of Xian Shu Peak.
He didn’t know how, but a thought popped up in Shen Qingqiu’s brain: If Luo Binghe were still here, he would be the only one standing behind my chair.
It’s so annoying, please don’t keep popping out to remind me of your existence, protagonist. [waves hand bye-bye]
Yue Qingyuan was the first to speak: “You were all summoned to return to the sect because of an urgent problem. Do any of you know Jinlan City?”
Shang Qinghua said: “Jinlan City? I’ve heard of it. That’s a city in the Central Plains that’s located at the place where two major rivers, the Luo and Heng rivers, meet. There’s a lot of trade going on there and the city is quite prosperous.”
Yue Qingyuan nodded: “Yes. People come from all over to trade at Jinlan City. It’s always been a center of trade but two months ago, Jinlan City closed its gates.”
After a pause, he added: “Not only are the city gates closed, no one is allowed to go in or out and messages cannot be delivered either.”A well-established trading center suddenly closed itself off from the outside. There was definitely something very wrong.
Shen Qingqiu lifted his teacup and blew on the surface of the tea, saying: “Jinlan City is closest to Zhao Hua Temple. They have a lot of dealings with each other. If something happened, the masters of the temple should be aware of any anomalies.”
Yue Qingyuan said: “Yes, twenty days ago, a Jinlan city merchant escaped from the city by waterway and went to Zhao Hua Temple for help.”
He used the word “escape” and it seemed that the situation was very serious. Everyone listened solemnly.
Yue Qingyuan continued: “That merchant was owner of Jinlan city’s top weapon shop. Every year he went to Zhao Hua Temple to light candles and burn incense so many of the monks knew him. When he arrived at Zhao Hua Temple he was all wrapped up in black cloth, with only half of his face exposed. He collapsed at the steps of the temple while he kept repeating that there was a terrible plague in the city. The monks immediately carried him to the hall and reported to the elders. However, by the time the elders came out, it was too late.
Yue Qingyuan said slowly: “That merchant had turned into a skeleton.”Shen Qingqiu was terrified.
He just said that the man was tired when he arrived at the temple doorway, how did he suddenly turn into a skeleton?
Shen Qingqiu said: “Elder martial brother just said the merchant’s body was wrapped in black cloth? From head to toe?”
Yue Qingyuan said: “Exactly. During that time, the monks tried to help him remove the black cloth but he cried out in pain so they dared not pull it off by force.”
Listening to these words, it might have been like tearing his skin off.
Yue Qingyuan went on: “The abbot of Zhao Hua Temple was deeply disturbed. After some discussion, that very night they sent masters Wu Chen, Wu Huan, and Wu Nian to investigate. So far none of them have returned.”
Compared to Shen Qingqiu’s generation, the “Wu” generation were of higher seniority, therefore their cultivation shouldn’t be worse than his.
Shen Qingqiu said in a slightly surprised way: “No one came back?”
Yue Qingyuan a nod solemnly and said: “Huan Hua Palace and Tian Yi Overlook also sent more than 10 disciples. None of them returned either.”
Three of the four great sects had all been dragged down into this mess.
Shen Qingqiu suddenly realized why they had been summoned today.
Sure enough, Yue Qingyuan said: “Our friends sent a message to Cang Qiong Mountain Sect asking for our help. We must certainly send help. This matter is urgent and I fear that some ‘others’ who like to stir up trouble might be behind this. Some of us have to go and some of us to stay behind.”
The “others,” needless to say, referred to the demons. Liu Qingge was the first to speak: “Bai Zhan Peak’s sense of honor will not allow me to shirk this duty. I would like to escort junior martial brother Mu.”
Since the city was suffering from a plague, then the Lord of Qian Cao Peak, Mu Qingfang must be sent to help.
Shen Qingqiu saw that of the two people who wanted to go, one was the person responsible for making his medicine while the other was the one who assisted him in clearing his meridians of the poison. They didn’t have the protagonist’s halo, so anything could happen to them. This was too worrying. What if they should meet with some misfortune? He said: “Qingqiu would like to go with them.”
Yue Qingyuan hesitated: “I intended to ask you to stay behind to protect the sect.”
Shen Qingqiu still didn’t know how to deal with him. All he could do was insist: “Elder brother Sect Master, why do you think I’m so fragile? Even though I am not so talented, if it really is the demons, I know a little about them that will be of help.”
A walking demon encyclopedia – whether it was the original Shen Qingqiu or him, both of them could definitely be given this title. For hundreds of years, Qing Jing Peak had accumulated this knowledge. If the Peak Lord didn’t read all those books then he would be buried behind the back of the bamboo house…Yue Qingyuan considered this and in the end he let him go with Liu Qingge and Mu Qingfang since it would be easy for them to suppress the demon poison in his body. Also, the Lord of Bai Zhan Peak can protect them. It was decided that they would be divided into three groups. Liu, Mu, and Shen would go first to check out what was happening in the city. The second group would stay outside the city and make a move whenever they were needed. The third group would stay behind to protect the Cang Qiong Mountain sect.
The situation was urgent, which meant they couldn’t spare the time to use boats, carriages, and other vehicles. Shen Qingqiu wasn’t used to using just his flying sword to travel and he was a little bit scared of heights, too, but he knew that this time he must match his companions’ speed. Three people set off on their flying swords. After half a day, Shen Qingqiu, with his robes fluttering in the wind, looked down from the clouds and shouted to his fellow sect brothers: “Below us is the place where the Luo and Heng rivers meet!”
From high above, they looked at the two rivers that crossed each other. They looked like two silvery, long, and slender ribbons glittering in the sunlight, as if they were silver scales dancing chaotically.
One of those was the river where Luo Binghe was found floating on an ice floe right after he was born. His surname was based on that river.
The trio chose an open, flat hill as a landing point. From there they could see the upturned eaves of the houses in Jinlan City as well as its closed gates and bridges.
Shen Qingqiu lowered the hand that he had been using to shade his eyes from the sunlight: “Why don’t we fly straight into the city?”
Mu Qingfang explained: “Zhao Hua Temple was asked by Jinlan City to give create a giant formation in the sky. Flying swords or anything with spiritual power that flies over it will be forced to veer off its course.”
As Shen Qingqiu saw at the Immortal Sword Congress, Zhao Hua Temple was very skilled at formations. If they were ranked in second place regarding formations, then no one would dare to to aim for first place. Shen Qingqiu asked no more questions. He thought that if this was not a normal plague, but something spread by someone with ulterior motives who wanted to create mischief, then that person must have openly walked into the city through one of its gates. Since that person couldn’t fly or enter through a gate, there must be another way inside. Just as he had expected, Mu Qingfang, who had been given detailed instructions by Yue Qingyuan, led the other two people into a forest. In the shade of the trees, there came the gurgling sound of water.
The sound of water was coming from a subterranean cave. Mu Qingfang urged his two companions over, saying: “There is an underground river here that leads to the city.”
Shen Qingqiu understood what he was saying: “That weapons merchant escaped from here?”
Mu Qingfang nodded: “Some merchants who make covert business transactions use this place to meet or transport goods. Not many people know this place, but the weapons merchant was good friends with some of the Zhao Hua Temple monks and confided the secret to them.”
The entrance of the cave was full of vines that were chest high. The three Peak Lords had to bend down to go in. After they had walked for a while, Shen Qingqiu’s waist ached but there was finally some space over his head. The gurgling sound of water had turned into the sound of rushing water. Beside the river bed floated a few tattered, solitary ships.
Shen Qingqiu picked a boat that was a little bit better than the others. At least it didn’t leak. With a flick of his fingertips, he lighted the lamp that was hanging from the bow.
There was only one paddle. Shen Qingqiu made an “as you please” gesture and said to Liu Qingge: “We will be moving against the current. The strongest of us will have to row us into the city. Junior brother, please?”
With a black face, Liu Qingge took the slender paddle and began rowing. With each stroke, the boat leaped forward a great distance. The lamp at the bow shook back and forth in confusion.
Shen Qingqiu pulled Mu Qingfang to sit down comfortably. He looked at the water beside the boat and saw a few fishes happily swimming in the river. He said: “The water is clear.”
He had just finished saying this when he saw that there was something bigger following the fish.
It was a corpse drifting face down in the water.
—End Chapter 31—