“All of you, look at the second stone stele. That small turtle...It has appeared again!”
“First again… Just who is that turtle? That turtle has already attained first place on two consecutive steles!”
“Sister Zhou can’t even hold on to eight different records! It has already dropped to seven!”
The surrounding disciples instantly burst into an uproar as countless exclamations resounded. Amongst the crowd, a particular young girl’s voice cut through the chatter with a loud cheer.
“You can do it, little turtle!”
That girl was Hou Xiaomei. Previously under Bai Xiaochun’s “guidance”, she had already begun to worship this small turtle. At that moment, when she suddenly saw the little turtle appear in the first place on the second stele, her admiration immediately reached its peak. In her heart, the position of the turtle had already been elevated beyond that of Zhou Xinqi.
Waves of heated clamour rose and fell in quick succession. In the end, everyone at the scene exchanged exclamations of surprise. After all, this small turtle was really too famous and at this moment, he was proclaiming that he would continue challenging Zhou Xinqi’s standing through his actions.
Some people had even begun anticipating that perhaps not too long after this, the small turtle would surpass Zhou Xinqi on every one of those ten stone steles.
Bai Xiaochun, who stood within the crowd, could still feel the lingering depression from earlier. But at the same time, there was also a hint of pride secretly swelling inside of him. Only, it was a pity that nobody else knew of his identity.
“Hmph. There will definitely come a day when I reveal myself as the master turtle in a place with more than ten thousand spectators!” Bai Xiaochun swore to himself in his heart.
But even after consoling himself with that promise, he was still unsatisfied, so he also participated in the shouting. From time to time, you could hear his shrill voice leading the loud chatter permeating the surroundings.
“Oh my god, who is he? We should all start worshipping him!”
“The idol of ten thousand people! Master turtle is undefeatable!”
Under the influence of Bai Xiaochun’s strained high-pitched cries, the discussion of the surrounding disciples gradually increased in intensity. It seemed as if waves of loud clamouring would arise once again. But at this moment, a cold ‘hmph’ could be heard. Following that, a person’s figure leapt out from the crowd and landed on a wooden hut.
“Never let me know who this damned turtle is. If I ever find out who you are, I’ll definitely make you regret stealing Junior Sister Zhou’s limelight!” The one who spoke was a young man.He had a dark expression on over his face and his icy-cold voice resonated in all directions.
“That’s right! The turtle should be concealed in the crowd right now. I will definitely find you!” Another voice rose. It belonged to another youth who leapt onto the wooden hut and coldly scanned the crowd. He especially focused on the area around Bai Xiaochun whose shrill voice was very obvious. Although the youth did not believe that Bai Xiaochun was the turtle, his gaze towards Bai Xiaochun was still unkind.
Soon, this type of figures showed up one after another as a total of seven to eight people appeared. Each and every one of them was radiating a powerful cultivation level. Among them, the strongest that appeared actually appeared to be at the seventh level of Qi Condensation.
These people were precisely the leaders of Zhou Xinqi’s fan club. Upon their appearance, the surrounding audience immediately stopped their discussions and gradually fell silent. Only, their hearts remained uncomfortable. The more they looked at these few people, the more they felt disdain for them.
Although the audience supported Zhou Xinqi, this kind of goodwill was ultimately limited to Zhou Xinqi alone. Moreover, everyone was clear on the fact that this kind of event, where a person challenged Zhou Xinqi relying on nothing but his own talents, was worthy of great respect.
When Bai Xiaochun sensed the youth glaring at him, his heart wavered. But because he was surrounded by so many people, he realized that they wouldn’t risk angering the crowd. So, he raised his head and glared right back with a - “Come and beat me if you dare, I’ll fight you to death” - expression on his face.
Just as the atmosphere stiffened, a rainbow streak rapidly closed in from afar. Within this rainbow streak, there was an alluring figure - it was precisely Zhou Xinqi.
“It’s Sister Zhou.”
“Sister Zhou is coming.” The stiff atmosphere on the ground instantly shattered. When those outer sect disciples spotted Zhou Xinqi, they immediately smiled.
Those seven or eight admirers immediately restrained their auras. One by one, they revealed what they considered a relaxed expression as they cupped their hands towards Zhou Xinqi.
The reasons Zhou Xinqi had come here this time was firstly, because she had heard of the rankings on the second stele, and secondly, because of some other matters. When she came closer and scanned the surroundings, she immediately noticed the awkward atmosphere. With another glance, she could instantly guess the reason behind this awkwardness. Gazing towards those seven or eight admirers, a sense of unhappiness and disgust was visible in her eyes.
“Does my, Zhou Xinqi’s business, require inteference from other people? After all, the fact that a prodigious disciple has appeared on my Scented Cloud Mountain is good news for our sect. If something like this happens again, don’t blame me for being impolite to you.” Zhou Xinqi spoke with an icy voice which was as sharp as the edge of a sword. This caused the seven or eight admirers’ faces to instantly pale. Though their countenance was bitter, they dared not say anything.
“This junior Brother who has surpassed me on the first and second stone steles of herbs, perhaps you are in the crowd. If you do not want to show yourself, then dont, you are free to do as you wish.” Zhou Xinqi’s tone was disinterested and infused with a faint sense of arrogance. She raised her head to glance at the small turtle on the second stone stele. Then, once again gazing at the crowd as she tried to suppress the dissatisfaction in her heart.
Upon hearing these words, the surrounding disciples burst into cheers for Zhou Xinqi. Most of them felt that Zhou Xinqi, the one they supported, was their Scented Cloud Mountain’s sole prodigy.
Within the crowd, Bai Xiaochun silently thought that it was no wonder why she was deemed a prodigy. That speech had been delivered beautifully. He had naturally heard the arrogance in the other party’s voice and lamented not showing himself, not because he didn’t want to, but because of Zhou Xinqi’s admirers.
“The reason I have come today is because there is another thing I hope my fellow sect disciples can help me with.” Zhou Xinqi’s expression was serene as she gazed at the audience, her tone bland.
The moment these words left her mouth, the surrounding people instantly became enthusiastic. Their expressions showed that they were attentive, and had all eagerly perked up their ears to listen.
“Recently, things have not been peaceful on the Scented Cloud Mountain. Master Li Qinghou’s Spirit Tailed Chickens have been disappearing in large numbers. Since the respected ancestor is still away, he might not care much for this matter. But as his disciple, I must take responsibility. I hope that everyone can work together to help me catch this chicken thief. If anyone is able to catch the thief, I am willing to reward you with a treasured jade tablet!” As Zhou Xinqi spoke, she retrieved a piece of green jade from her robes. This jade tablet glowed with a soft light and appeared to be extraordinary.
“This object possesses a certain defensive ability. It is something I fortuitously obtained a few years ago.” Zhou Xinqi’s voice resonated. Every disciple at the scene instantly looked towards the piece of jade and soon, an enthusiastic look had appeared on everyone’s faces as they pledged their assistance one after another.
“Don’t worry Sister Zhou! We’ll definitely give that chicken thief no place to hide!”
“To dare to steal the chickens of an ancestor, this chicken thief has some guts. I will definitely be alert when it comes to this matter!” Voices rang out in succession. Soon, everyone in the crowd had promised to help. This was especially the case for Zhou Xinqi’s admirers whose eyes shone with ferocity, their passion-filled voices were resonating in the air.
Bai Xiaochun who stood within the crowd was dumbfounded. When he gazed at the people around him who were so zealous that they seemed to have been injected with chicken blood, he felt a cold chill run down his spine.
But he was unsatisfied! Just thinking about the severe hunger that accompanied cultivation of the Unending Longevity Technique made him feel ill. Sweat accumulated on his forehead. Various ideas flew through his mind before suddenly, his eyes lit up. He cut his way through the crowd and afterwards, he suddenly patted his chest as his voice echoed loudly.
“Sister Zhou, I, Bai Xiaochun will complete your task to catch this chicken thief even if I have to climb a mountain of knives and descend to the bottom of a pot of oil!” His shrill voice gave out his location clearly. He even rushed out of the crowd and stood right in front.
His sudden secession from the crowd instantly drew the attention of the audience. Especially given the thumping noises originating from the violent patting of his chest, this act was enough to put even Zhou Xinqi’s admirers to shame. As a matter of fact, even Zhou Xinqi involuntarily glanced at him.
When she saw the support her fellow sect disciple had for her, Zhou Xinqi’s face broke into a smile and she nodded her head slightly. Just as she was preparing to leave, she once again heard that high-pitched voice penetrate the clamour and ring out.
“Sister Zhou, I have a suggestion. Why don’t we form a small thief-catching team? With cooperative efforts, we can definitely nab that despicable thief and protect our ancestor’s Spirit Tailed Chickens!” Bai Xiaochun’s expression was filled with a sense of justice. His demeanor implied that he would sacrifice everything to accomplish the task set by Sister Zhou.
Zhou Xinqi was momentarily nonplussed. When the surrounding people heard Bai Xiaochun’s words, many of them felt that his idea was not bad. One by one, they voiced their approval.
“That’s also possible. But my main focus is still on cultivation. With regards to this, do what you wish.” Zhou Xinqi nodded her head before looking at Bai Xiaochun once again. She felt that although this disciple looked rather amateurish, he was dressed cleanly and appeared innocent and obedient. Most importantly, his pious support had given her a good impression and she even smiled slightly at Bai Xiaochun.
“Since this kind-hearted disciple has come up with this suggestion, then all of you should form a small team to catch the thief. I have with me ten ribbons that’ll serve as the keepsakes for the representative of this group.” As she spoke, she retrieved ten blue ribbons from her storage pouch. With a gentle wave, these ten ribbons flew towards Bai Xiaochun and landed in his hands.
“Sister Zhou, don’t worry! You can count on me!” Bai Xiaochun puffed out his chest as he held the ribbons tightly. The expression on expression on his face was that of “For the ancestor’s Spirit Tailed Chickens, nothing will stop me, not even a cruel death.”
A hint of praise was revealed in Zhou Xinqi’s eyes. She thought to herself that such responsible little disciples were already few in number. Only after commiting Bai Xiaochun’s obedient appearance to memory did she turn around and leave.
When they saw Zhou Xinqi gaze at Bai Xiaochun with newfound respect, her admirers were all discontent as they regretted that they had not thought of this idea to ingratiate themselves with her.
After Zhou Xinqi left, those disciples in charge of rearing Spirit Tailed Chickens hurriedly walked out and thanked the audience, especially Bai Xiaochun. Bai Xiaochun stuck out his chest and harshly denounced the chicken thief. Towards the end, all of the chicken-rearing disciples had been moved. Under Bai Xiaochun’s command, the thief-catching team which consisted of several disciples, whose cultivations were inferior to his, was finally formed.
On his way home, Bai Xiaochun wiped the perspiration from his forehead and heaved a long sigh.
“Just now was really too dangerous! I almost lost all of my future meals. It’s fortunate that I, Bai Xiaochun, am so smart and astute. Heh heh.” When Bai Xiaochun thought of this, he felt proud again. Humming a small tune, he returned to his yard and glanced at the Spirit Winter Bamboos. The speed of growth of these spirit bamboos were terrifying. As of now, they had already grown to almost one zhang tall and were as thick as a person’s calves. Their appearance was quite startling.
(ED note: one zhang is equal to 3.58 meters, or 3.645 yards)
That night, dark clouds smothered the sky and an inky darkness enveloped the surroundings. Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes, awakening from meditation as he licked his lips.
“Under the dark moon and the towering skies, I seem to be hungry once again…”