Jing Yue took a deep breath and pulled Qin Yanzhi's hand away. He turned around and said with a smile, “Yanzhi has a point. The back is very important. We must take good care of it.”
Qin Yanzhi frowned and couldn’t help but feel a foreboding.
Sure enough, the other party said, “From today onwards, I won't cooperate with you in learning that set of dual cultivation technique. Let’s focus on taking care of our backs.”
Qin Yanzhi, “…”
Qin Yanzhi really wanted to make a rescue but Jing Yue walked away without giving him a chance.
The passage was full of twists and turns. When they finally reached the end, they found that the exit was blocked by a big rock.
There were restrictions on the stone, which prevented normal people from moving it. Thus, it was finally Wei Zhentu's turn to take the stage.
Jing Yue waited for him to break the spell, while Qin Yanzhi next to him hesitated to speak, and the blue phoenix was still immersed in the sadness of his ‘disgrace’. Only Xue Ming stared blankly at Wei Zhentu.
The other party's side profile was very handsome, with long eyebrows reaching his hairline and a straight nose. Even the serious look on his face at this time was quite different from usual.
Everything should be unfamiliar to him but he couldn’t help feeling that this scene was very familiar as if it happened a long time ago.
Xue Ming suddenly felt a burst of pain in his head, and the chaotic memory fragments impacted his soul. He clutched his head and couldn't help but groan, attracting the attention of others.
Wei Zhentu quickly stopped what he was doing, stepped forward to support Xue Ming, and asked anxiously, “What's wrong with you?”
Xue Ming half leaned against him, shaking his head feebly, trying to say that he was fine. But when the words reached his lips, he remembered that he was still practicing the silent meditation, so he opened a pair of big misty eyes and looked at the other party innocently.
Even the blue phoenix caught on to his scheme, let alone Wei Zhentu. The latter knew that Xue Ming just didn't want to talk to him and felt upset. Seeing that the other party was fine, he said, “It's good that you’re fine. Take care of yourself.”
He continued to break the restriction, but Xue Ming suddenly felt a little uncomfortable when he left his embrace.
That feeling was hard to describe. Xue Ming thought about it and decided to recite the scriptures.
When the restriction was broken, the scene before everyone’s eyes cleared up. Green mountains, clear waters, and the faint scent of sandalwood lingered in their noses.
As soon as they passed the restriction, the robes on their bodies dried without casting any spells. They looked at each other, and Wei Zhentu said, “This should be a restricted and closed space without any influence from the outside world.”
Jing Yue, “Great Master Kong Miao said that our trip is not dangerous, but I think it's quite weird here, so we better be careful.”
They walked along the mountain road. On one side was a chiseled cliff, and on the other side was a deep valley. When they reached halfway up the mountain, sporadic potholes began to appear on the cliff, each occupied by a foot-high stone Buddha statue, but without exception, these Buddha statues had no heads.
The higher they went, the more holes and Buddha statues appeared, but still not a single Buddha head. Everyone felt weird, but the blue phoenix cheered up when he saw that he had the opportunity to say something, “Each statue represents a disciple of Ten Thousand Buddha Temple. These disciples died in one day, so the statues lost their heads.”
Wei Zhentu also heard about the Ten Thousand Buddha Temple on the way here, and said in surprise, “Are you saying the disciples were beheaded?”
The blue phoenix glared at him. “How would I know? I wasn’t the one who killed them.”
Wei Zhentu, “Aren’t you omniscient and omnipotent?”
The blue phoenix was at a loss for words, and it took him a long time to think of a reason to regain his dignity, “Some insignificant things are not worthy of my attention. Everything I know are big things of the various worlds, important things!”
Wei Zhentu, “Oh.”
The blue phoenix was very angry. He couldn’t help feeling that this response was insulting him!
They climbed over six mountains in a row and finally came to the gate of Ten Thousand Buddha Temple. Just from the appearance, the mountain gate didn’t look aged at all. On the contrary, it seemed that someone cleaned it quite often, but how could there be living people in the ruins?
Jing Yue stood on guard and stepped into the mountain gate cautiously.
As soon as he entered the mountain gate, he saw a huge incense burner with green smoke curling up, shrouding the hundreds of halls before them in a hazy mist.
Jing Yue, “Why is the incense burner still burning here? Aren't all the disciples in the temple dead?”
Qin Yanzhi, “Even if they didn't die at that time, after all these years, there shouldn't be any traces of people left.”
It was a pity that even the blue phoenix couldn't answer their questions. Several people searched around the incense burner, but they couldn't find any clues.
Jing Yue looked up and around the main hall closest to them. For now, they could only enter the hall first.
The heavy door of the main hall was closed tightly, and several people approached step by step. But just halfway there, Qin Yanzhi suddenly said, “There’s someone.”
“Who?” Jing Yue asked reflexively and looked around but there was no one in sight.
“D-D-Don’t talk nonsense.” The blue phoenix hid in Jing Yue's arms and shivered, terrified by Qin Yanzhi's words. “There’s no way someone is here!”
Qin Yanzhi pointed to a small pathway next to the main hall. “It’s true. I saw someone passing by there.”
He was worried about a trap so he didn’t give chase recklessly.
Several people looked at each other, wondering if it was better to enter the hall or give chase through the pathway.
At this moment, the door of the main hall opened with a creak!
Everyone looked at the dark hall. The sun was shining brightly but everyone's heart was gloomy and cold.
Jing Yue looked over intently and saw a huge Buddha statue in the hall. A row of wooden ladders went around the statue and extended to the back but there was no sight of anyone in the hall either.
Who opened the door?
Was it the wind? But there was no wind at this time.
Finally, Jing Yue made up his mind. “Y-Yanzhi and I will enter. Wei-daoyou and Master Xue Ming can wait outside the hall.”
Wei Zhentu, “I disagree. This place is very strange. If we separate, the risk will be greater.”
Jing Yue thought about it and felt that Wei Zhentu's worries were justified so he said, “Then let's go in together, and be careful.”
Everyone was tense, but they walked around the hall and found nothing. In the end, their eyes fell on the wooden ladder.
Before they could go up, they suddenly heard a strange noise upstairs.
Tock, tock, tock…
Qin Yanzhi pulled out Taiqing in a flash, raised his head slightly, and shouted, “Who’s there?!”
No one answered in the dark, and the thumping sound continued.
Wei Zhentu, “What’s that sound?”
Jing Yue, “It seems to be…”
“It’s wooden fish!”
The person who answered was Xue Ming. At this moment, he’d forgotten all about practicing the silent meditation. “It’s the sound of knocking on wooden fish. I won’t be mistaken!”
The other three looked solemn, and no one argued with him about the silent meditation. After a long time, Jing Yue stepped on the wooden ladder with one foot.
As several people climbed the stairs one after another, the wooden ladder creaked from the weight, which echoed in the hall menacingly.
Their footsteps became quicker while climbing the stairs. When Jing Yue turned around the corner and got behind the Buddha statue, he suddenly stopped.
“What…” Xue Ming asked subconsciously, and his eyes widened. Human heads were neatly arranged on the wooden floor, and each head had a white bone floating above it.
Tock, tock, tock…
That was the sound of bones hitting the heads, but each human head carried a compassionate smile.
“Aaahhh!” the blue phoenix was so frightened that he grabbed Jing Yue's clothes, turned his head, and didn't dare to look. “Jing-jing, there are ghosts! This place is haunted!”
“Don’t be afraid.” Jing Yue patted the blue phoenix's trembling body. “They have disappeared.”
And they did. When the blue phoenix screamed, the human heads and bones disappeared from everyone's sight in an instant. The floor was now empty except for a few colorful Buddha statues of different shapes, which seemed to be watching the trespassers.
“I-Is it a demonic method?” Xue Ming asked tremblingly. “But I don’t feel any demonic energy.”
Wei Zhentu, “It’s an illusion.”
He stepped up the wooden ladder and swiped his hand over the area where the human heads were placed. About a dozen heads appeared on the floor with a dozen white bones scattered nearby.
Wei Zhentu, “These things are real, but we saw another scene.”
They went upstairs and looked around carefully, not even missing the corners, but apart from these bones, they didn't find anything.
They had no choice but to leave the main hall and walk to the pathway that Qin Yanzhi mentioned earlier. On one side of the road was the majestic temple, and on the other side was a vermilion wall.
When they reached the end of the pathway, they saw an empty and wide platform. As soon as they stepped on the platform, many monks appeared in front of them out of thin air. These monks were half-clothed, doing the same actions as the portraits carved on the rock wall in the passage. Their expressions were either excited or in pain, lewd or intoxicated, but everything was only a visual impact, without the slightest sound.
With the sound of the sword, Mini Canglan Sword flew out and stabbed the monks.
Before the sword arrived, the monks disappeared in an instant as if they felt threatened, just like when they appeared, without a trace.
Mini Canglan Sword returned to Jing Yue's hands. He thought for a while and said, “Someone must be controlling the illusion, whether a person, object, or formation. We need to stop wasting time on the illusion and find the controller behind it instead.”
Wei Zhentu, “These illusions haven't harmed us yet, but seem to be guiding us. What’s their purpose?”
Jing Yue lowered his head and asked the blue phoenix, “Ji-ji, did Shi Zhen really kill all the disciples in the temple back then, leaving no survivors?”
The blue phoenix was completely buried in his clothes. Even if Jing Yue talked to him, he didn't dare to raise his head, he just said in a muffled voice, “It’s true! Ji-ji can show you!”
With that said, the surrounding scene changed drastically.
They were in a temple with a Buddha statue right in front. A monk in white robes sat in front of the Buddha with his back to them.
The blue phoenix, “This is a scene in Ji-ji's vast sea of consciousness, which I can manifest. You’re just spectators here and won’t have any influence on what actually happened.”
Jing Yue looked at the blue phoenix with admiration. “I didn't expect you to have such an ability.”
Hearing Jing-jing’s praise, the blue phoenix wasn’t afraid of ghosts anymore. He popped his head out and said, “Is this very amazing?”
To the blue phoenix clan, this was simply a natural instinct, just like eating and drinking to mortals, so he had never taken it seriously or shown it to outsiders.
Jing Yue, “Simply unheard of.”
Seeing other people nodding their heads, the blue phoenix trembled, feeling a little sad having missed so many chances to show off.
Hmph! When they leave this place, he must let Jing-jing see his knowledge reserve. He could also share with Jing-jing those BL novels and movies from other alternate worlds!
At this time, Jing Yue's attention was already on the monk. He stepped forward and gradually saw the monk's handsome side profile.
When he walked in front of the monk, he saw a smile on his lips as he slowly opened his eyes.
His eyes contained all the complexities of human nature but they disappeared in an instant, leaving only acceptance.
“I see. I get it now,” the monk whispered.
With that said, a tear fell from his right eye down his cheek, which was wisdom and compassion.
<Lan Ji-ji’s Renaming Tale>
Ji-ji: Jing-jing, I’ve taken on a human form. Calling me Ji-ji seems a little understated.
Jing-jing: What do you want to be called?
Ji-ji pondered deeply for three days and three nights.
Ji-ji: Jing-jing, I’ve decided!
Jing-jing: Tell me.
Ji-ji: Aisin-Gioro Phoenix Meizi Jing Ji.
(TN: Aisin-Gioro is a Manchu surname, and one of the most famous bearers is Emperor Qian Long. Phoenix is romanized and should read Fei Ni Ke Si. I think Meizi 美子 refers to ‘pretty boy’ in this context.)