“Shoo shoo shoo, you are not a woman. Don’t you think that it would be repulsive if you were to smile at me for an entire day?” Lu Chen snorted. He casually sat on one of the chairs facing the counter and leaned forward.
Old Ma stared at him. He frowned slightly and solemnly asked, “What happened?”
Lu Chen suppressed his voice and spoke in a hushed manner. The voice was so soft that it couldn’t be heard clearly, even in the quiet tavern. Probably, only Old Ma who was at close proximity could have heard those words clearly.
As Old Ma listened, his face suddenly darkened. He sat up straight and pondered for a moment. Then, he glanced at Lu Chen and questioned, “Are you sure you didn’t see wrongly?”
Lu Chen replied matter-of-factly, “That incident that happened in there back then, what else would I have not seen before?”
Old Ma nodded and continued asking in a hushed voice, “How confidential is that secret message?”
Lu Chen frowned. After thinking for a short moment, he replied, “That is quite a weird location. There is a tree with two leaves on the secret message. At most, he would only be of the rank of a ‘xiangzhu‘ in the demonic cult.”
Old Ma’s expressions lightened as he said, “From the looks of it, they don’t seem to be looking for you. Could it be the remnants of the Three Realm Divine Cult sneaking into this location to recruit new members?”
Lu Chen humphed and said, “Isn’t this too coincidental?”
Old Ma nodded, “I got it. I will investigate it thoroughly, so rest easy. However, didn’t the Thousand Autumn Doors kill a hidden remnant of the demonic cult just a few days ago? Perhaps the members of the demonic cult are here for it.”
Lu Chen shrugged, “I hope so. Anyway, be careful about this matter.”
Old Ma replied, “Rest easy.”
Lu Chen stood up and prepared to leave. However, just as he was about to step away, he stopped yet again. He turned around to look at Old Ma, “There’s still another matter. Help me look into it while you’re at it.”
Old Ma inquired, “What is it?”
Lu Chen said, “There is a young scholar who seems to have just arrived at the opposite bank of the stream. He has a handsome face and is skilled in drawing. I have never met that person before. Help me look into the background of that man.”
“Oh”. Old Ma replied, “Got it, it’s just a small matter.”
The sky darkened and there was nothing but silence.
Yet another night arrived and the small village descended into its slumber. It seemed exceptionally cold and lonely under the embrace of the darkness.
Lu Chen lied on his bed in the straw cottage. The interior of the cottage was pitch black.
He closed his eyes, but he couldn’t fall asleep.
In silence, humans tend to recall the past. Such thoughts are not something humans are able to control. Thus, even if it were memories which one wants to forget, it would be dredged up uncontrollably.
Despite that he was not dreaming, the moment the eyes were closed, it felt like a descent into a nightmare that was hard to awake from. Sometimes there were screams of agony, sometimes shrieks of pain, sometimes the cold flash of a sword and sometimes the fearsome and excruciating pain. Of course, the one that dominated over all was the furious dance of the black flames.
He opened his eyes in the darkness and shook his head in an attempt to fling off those hateful memories. Turning around, a wind had started to pick up outside the straw cottage. That was the mountainous breeze which blows down from the mountain. It seemsedto be a little agitated tonight. Lu Chen concentrated for a moment and noticed some distortions in the sound.
A slight and faint distortion.
He stood up, covered himself with a shirt and walked out. Only then did he realise that the clouds seemed exceptionally thick. There were only several stars twinkling in the distant, creating an eerie atmosphere to the night.
The mountainous wind whistled past coldly. Lu Chen turned around and saw a few shadows moving in the darkness. Sha sha sha, faint and bizarre sounds intertwined and traveled along with the wind.
There wasn’t fear or surprise on Lu Chen’s face. He stared silently at the cliff of the mountain. After awhile, his gaze shifted toward the top of the tea mountain.
The weird sounds may have seemed eerie but it was actually just the unique sound of the rustling of the leaves as the mountainous wind blew through the countless Spirit Tea Leaves. In the dark and silent night, it sounded like the wailing of ghosts but there was in fact no meaning behind it.
Lu Chen didn’t bear any fear. He stared at the east foothill at the back of the tea mountain. Then, he mumbled to himself, “Doesn’t seem to be any movements from the swallows tonight?”
He had been living here for the past decade, so he was very familiar with the tea mountain. This included the depression known as the Mourning Ghost Chasm. He had once climbed up to visit it.
That depression wasn’t really small. Looking at it from the top was quite a spectacular sight. There were thousands of swallows or so living by the rock walls. However, Lu Chen didn’t know whether it was the Red-beaked Crimson Feather Swallows that Hong Chuan mentioned today.
In Lu Chen’s impression, that flock of swallows seemed to be normal flying beasts. They weren’t spirit beasts with spirit mark on them. Logically, a disciple of an established sect like Kunlun wouldn’t be interested in this kind of useless material.
Or rather, was there some hidden treasure in the depression that drew the attention of a disciple from a reputable sect like him?
At this point, Lu Chen’s heart wavered. However, he shook his head, deciding not to interfere. For the sake of his safety, he has once looked into the location and he didn’t find any nature’s treasures in there. Besides, even if one did exist in there, it would just be his fate.
Lu Chen had intended to return back to sleep. But, when he pushed the door of the straw cottage, he heard ‘gulong‘, the sound of a deep rumbling from somewhere in the darkness.
The sound wasn’t soft. Although it cannot be considered to be sharp or harsh, it traveled very far in the night. Lu Chen halted instantly and looked toward the source of the sound, only to realise that it was pitch-black. It came from the deep lake at the foot of the mountain.
Lu Chen frowned. He was a little surprised. That deep lake was at the foot of the tea mountain and its depth was hard to measure. Due to the water becoming freezing cold from a depth of 6 chi onwards, a temperature which ordinary people find it hard to bear, there had been no one who had dived into it before.
6 chi -> 2 meter
Throughout all these years, the deep lake had been sitting quietly in the depths of the village. The clear stream originated from the lake and flowed through the village. It had been living harmoniously along with this little mountainous village for countless ages.
Lu Chen deliberated and eventually, he decided to check out the lake. In no time, he arrived at the lake. Widening his eyes to take a better look, he released a ‘hng‘ sound from his mouth after a short moment. From the faint star light, he could see that there was a person floating on the lake.
In the middle of the night, for a person be floating on top of the deep lake, it was indeed quite a frightening sight. At the same time, the wind blew mournfully for a very long time, making the sight even more sinister.
Lu Chen seemed to be oblivious to the sinister atmosphere. Rather, he knitted his eyebrow at the sight of the floating figure. After a short moment, he muttered, “Why does he look so familiar…”
Xiangzhu translates literally to Incense Master. It is similar to the position of a Hall Master (maybe one tier lower, unsure until the structure of the demonic cult is revealed)
Not sure if you all have watch Lu Ding Ji (The Deer and the Cauldron), but the main character Wei Xiaobao is an Incense Master in a sect.
Will change it if a better name appears.