Wei Wuxian stayed prostrate all night, pondering over what had happened with Lan Wangji all these years during the first half of the night. He then dozed off in a daze during the latter half. When he woke up the next morning, Lan Wangji was nowhere to be seen, while he lay obediently on the bed with his hands placed by his sides in a proper and well-behaved posture.

Wei Wuxian tossed aside the blanket covering him, burying his right hand’s five fingers in his hair. That absurd and eerie sense of inexplicable feeling still lingered in his heart.

At this moment, the wooden door of the quiet room was lightly tapped twice, and Lan Sizhui’s voice could be heard from outside, “Young Master Mo, are you awake?”

Wei Wuxian replied, “Why are you waking me up so early?!”

Lan Sizhui said, “Early, early?… But it’s already the ninth hour.”

The Lan clan members followed a strict schedule, sleeping during the Mao hour and resting during the Hai hour. Wei Wuxian, on the other hand, slept during the Si hour and rested during the Chou hour, exactly two hours later. After staying prostrate all night and feeling sore and tired, he straightforwardly said, “I can’t get up.”

Lan Sizhui asked, “Um, what’s wrong with you?”

Wei Wuxian said, “What’s wrong with me? I spent the whole night being slept on by your Hanguang-jun!”

Lan Jingyi’s voice also rang out aggressively, “Stop spouting nonsense! We won’t spare you. Come out!”

Wei Wuxian pleaded, “It’s true! He slept on me the whole night! I won’t come out. I’m too embarrassed to face people!”

Several younger disciples exchanged glances outside the door. They couldn’t enter the living quarters of Hanguang-jun without permission. They were at a loss and couldn’t directly go in and drag Wei Wuxian out. Lan Jingyi angrily said, “How shameless! Hanguang-jun isn’t a gay man. He slept with you?! If you don’t come out, I’ll beat you!”

Mentioning his steed, Wei Wuxian quickly got up with a jump. “What did you do to my Little Apple?! Don’t touch it. It might kick you!”

Lan Jingyi asked, “What’s a Little Apple?”

Wei Wuxian replied, “My donkey!” He left the quiet room and was guided by a few younger disciples to find his steed. They led him to a field of grass where the flower-patterned donkey was incessantly braying and causing a ruckus. The reason it was braying was that it wanted to eat the grass, but the grass was covered with dozens of rolling white fluffs, making it impossible for it to graze.

Wei Wuxian happily exclaimed, “So many rabbits! Come, let’s skewer them and roast them!”

Lan Jingyi, in a panic, said, “Cloud Recesses strictly prohibits killing! Quickly make it shut up. The early-risers have already come to ask several times! If we keep this up, we’ll be scolded to death!”

Wei Wuxian fed the apple from his breakfast to the donkey, and as expected, the flower-patterned donkey stopped braying and began chewing on the apple with a clattering sound. Wei Wuxian patted its neck while suggesting the idea of using the disciple tokens they carried on their bodies to control it. He also pointed at the numerous round white rabbits on the ground and said, “Are we really not allowed to roast them? Will we be banished from the mountain if we do?”

Lan Jingyi, feeling like he was facing a great enemy, quickly opened his arms to block Wei Wuxian and said, “This is Hanguang-jun’s possession. We just occasionally help take care of it. How dare you roast them!”

Wei Wuxian, upon hearing this, almost laughed and fell to the ground. He thought to himself, “Lan Zhan is really something! He used to refuse when I offered, but now he secretly keeps a big group of them. He says he doesn’t want them, who is he trying to fool? Spare me, I guess he actually likes these fluffy little things! Hanguang-jun with a straight face holding a bunny, oh my god, I can’t take it anymore…”

But whenever he thought of the scene from last night when he was prostrated on Lan Wangji, he suddenly couldn’t find it funny anymore.

Just then, from the west of Cloud Recesses, came the sound of a bell.

This bell sound was completely different from the sound of the hourly bell. It was urgent and intense, as if a deranged madman was striking it. Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui’s faces changed dramatically, and without caring about teasing Wei Wuxian anymore, they hurriedly left him behind. Wei Wuxian knew something was amiss and quickly followed suit.

The bell sound came from a corner tower.

This corner tower was called the “Dark Room,” and its walls were made of special materials inscribed with spells. It was a building dedicated to summoning spirits in the Lan clan. When the bell on the corner tower rang loudly, it meant that something had happened: an accident had occurred to the person performing the spirit-summoning ritual inside.

Outside the corner tower, more and more Lan clan disciples and students gathered, but no one dared to enter recklessly. The door of the Dark Room was a pitch-black wooden door, tightly locked and only openable from the inside. Breaking in from the outside was not only difficult but also against taboos. An accident during the spirit-summoning ritual was a terrifying occurrence because no one knew what might be summoned, and no one knew what would happen if someone rashly intruded. Moreover, since the establishment of the Dark Room, there had hardly ever been a failure in the spirit-summoning ritual, making people even more anxious.

Wei Wuxian sensed something was amiss when Lan Wangji didn’t appear. If Lan Wangji was still at Cloud Recesses, he should have immediately rushed over upon hearing the alarm bell. Unless… Suddenly, the black door was forcefully pushed open, and a white-robed disciple stumbled out.

He was unsteady on his feet and tumbled down the steps as soon as he emerged. The door of the Dark Room immediately closed on its own, as if angrily slammed shut by someone.

Others quickly rushed to help the disciple up. As soon as he was lifted, he fell down again, uncontrollably bursting into tears, grasping onto someone and saying, “It shouldn’t have… shouldn’t have summoned…”

Wei Wuxian grabbed his hand and said in a deep voice, “What kind of spirit were you summoning? And who else is inside? Where is Hanguang-jun?!”

The disciple seemed to have difficulty breathing and gasped, “Hanguang-jun, let me escape…”

Before he could finish his sentence, fresh crimson blood gushed from his nose and mouth. Wei Wuxian pushed him into Lan Sizhui’s arms, the hastily made bamboo flute still tucked at his waist. He quickly ascended the steps, kicking the door of the Dark Room and shouting, “Open!”

The Dark Room’s door opened wide as if laughing wildly. Wei Wuxian immediately stepped inside, and the door closed tightly behind him. Several disciples were shocked and tried to rush forward, but no matter what they did, the door wouldn’t budge. One guest disciple slammed against the door, shocked and angry, and blurted out, “Who was that just now?!”

Lan Sizhui supported the injured disciple and gritted his teeth, saying, “…Help me first. He’s bleeding from his seven orifices!”

As soon as Wei Wuxian entered the Dark Room, he felt a wave of oppressive darkness looming over him.

This darkness seemed to be a mixture of resentment, anger, and madness, almost visible to the naked eye. It surrounded him, causing a dull pain in his chest. The interior of the Dark Room was more than three zhang wide and long, with several people lying unconscious in the four corners. In the center of the floor, where the summoning array was, stood the target of the ritual.

There was nothing else but an arm, the very one brought back from the Mo Village!

It stood upright like a stick, the cross-section facing the ground, four fingers clenched into a fist, and the index finger pointing to the sky, as if angrily pointing at someone. The pervasive and unending stream of black energy in the Dark Room emanated from it.

Those who participated in the summoning ritual either fled or fell down, except for Lan Wangji, who sat calmly at the eastern seat.

A guqin lay horizontally beside him, his hand not resting on the strings, yet the strings trembled and buzzed on their own. He seemed to be in contemplation or attentively listening to something, and only upon sensing someone intruding did he raise his head.

Lan Wangji’s face remained calm and unreadable, and Wei Wuxian couldn’t discern his thoughts. The previously seated Lan Qiren had already fallen to the side, just like the disciple who had escaped from the Dark Room, bleeding from his seven orifices and unconscious. Wei Wuxian took his place, turning to the western seat, pulling out the bamboo flute from his waist, and holding it to his lips, facing Lan Wangji from a distance.

On that night at the Mo Village, Wei Wuxian first disturbed with his whistle, and Lan Wangji followed with his qin melody from afar. The two inadvertently joined forces to suppress the arm. As their gazes met, Lan Wangji raised his right hand, and a string of notes flowed out, which Wei Wuxian immediately harmonized with his flute.

The melody they played was called “Summoning Spirits.” By using the corpse, a part of the corpse, or a beloved possession of the deceased as a medium, it called forth wandering spirits following the sound. Normally, just one segment of the melody would allow the phantom form of the spirit to appear within the array. However, as the duo reached the end of their performance, no spirits were summoned.

The arm seemed even angrier, its veins bulging, and the oppressive feeling in the air grew heavier. If someone else had been guarding the west, they wouldn’t have been able to escape the fate of bleeding from their seven orifices like Lan Qiren. They would have already collapsed from the strain. Wei Wuxian was secretly shocked: even when he and Lan Wangji played “Summoning Spirits” together, they couldn’t summon any spirits, which was almost impossible. Unless… unless the soul of this deceased person had been severed along with their body!

It seemed this poor fellow was even worse off than him. Although his body had been bitten into pieces, at least his soul was intact.

When “Summoning Spirits” failed, Lan Wangji changed the tune, playing another melody.

This tune was completely different from the eerie and questioning melody before. It was tranquil and peaceful, called “Rest.” Both of these melodies were widely known in the cultivation world, and it was not uncommon for anyone to play them. Wei Wuxian naturally followed along.

The ghost flute of the Yiling Patriarch was called “Chenqing” and was renowned far and wide. Wei Wuxian intentionally played it with many mistakes, lack of breath, and flaws, making it unbearable to listen to. Lan Wangji had probably never performed with someone so terrible before. After playing for a while, he finally couldn’t continue as if nothing had happened, lifting his eyes to Wei Wuxian expressionlessly.

Wei Wuxian, pretending not to see, continued to play, the melody fading into the distance. He turned around, about to resume playing, when suddenly he was startled by something behind him. He turned his head and saw a shocking sight. Lan Qiren, who had lost consciousness, sat up straight, blood streaming from all seven orifices, his face covered in smoke. His trembling hand pointed at Wei Wuxian, his voice hoarse as he exclaimed, “Stop! Go away! Leave!”

Before Lan Qiren could finish his sentence, he spat out a mouthful of blood and collapsed back into a state of near-unconsciousness.

Lan Wangji: “…”

Wei Wuxian was dumbfounded.

He knew what came after Lan Qiren’s “don’t”: Don’t play! Don’t perform together! Don’t taint the sound of his beloved disciple, Wangji’s, qin!

Their performance of the flute and qin had actually startled Lan Qiren awake and then caused him to faint again. It showed just how unbearable it must have been to listen to…

However, despite that, the arm slowly began to droop under the combined suppression of the flute and qin. Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but think, without a hint of shame, that even if it sounded terrible, as long as it was effective, it was fine.

With the final sound of the strings fading, the Dark Room’s door sprang open, allowing sunlight to pour in. It seemed the alarm bell from the watchtower had stopped ringing, and the disciples who had been gathered outside the Dark Room rushed in, all exclaiming “Hanguang-jun.”

Lan Wangji pressed his hand on the strings, silencing the lingering resonance, and rose to check Lan Qiren’s pulse. With him taking the lead, the others quickly regained their composure. Several senior cultivators laid the unconscious bodies of the bleeding disciples flat and began treating them. While some administered acupuncture and medicine, another group of disciples brought forth a bronze bell, intending to enclose the arm within it. Despite the busyness of the scene, everything was orderly and quiet, without any noise or commotion.

Some of them expressed their worries, saying, “Hanguang-jun, the medicine and acupuncture are ineffective. What should we do?”

Lan Wangji remained silent, three fingers still on Lan Qiren’s pulse. Lan Qiren had presided over countless spirit summoning ceremonies, many of which involved fierce and malevolent spirits, and he himself had been injured by their wrathful energy. It was clear just how horrifying the resentment emanating from this ghostly arm was.

Wei Wuxian put the bamboo flute back at his waist and crouched beside the bronze bell, running his fingers over the inscriptions. Lost in thought, he suddenly noticed Lan Sizhui’s despondent expression and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Lan Sizhui hesitated for a moment, knowing that Wei Wuxian was no ordinary person, before whispering, “I feel somewhat guilty.”

Wei Wuxian asked, “Guilty about what?”

Lan Sizhui replied, “This ghostly arm is coming for us.”

Wei Wuxian smiled and asked, “How do you know?”

Lan Sizhui answered, “Different levels of Yin-summoning flags have different drawings and powers. The Yin-summoning flags we used at the Mo Village could only affect a radius of five li. But this ghostly arm has a heavy killing aura and feeds on human flesh and blood. If it had been within that range from the beginning, given its ferocity, the Mo Village would have been a river of blood. However, it only appeared after we arrived… which means it must have been intentionally placed there by someone with malicious intent at that specific time.”

Wei Wuxian remarked, “You’re quite knowledgeable. Your analysis is correct.”

Lan Sizhui lowered his head and said, “If that’s the case, we may be responsible for the deaths at the Mo Village… and now even Lan Xian’s group is in a coma…”

After a moment of silence, Wei Wuxian patted his shoulder and said, “The ones responsible are not you. It’s the person who released the ghostly arm. There are things in this world that are beyond our control.”

Meanwhile, Lan Wangji withdrew his hand, and the Lan family members anxiously asked, “Hanguang-jun, how is he?”

Lan Wangji replied, “We need to trace it back to its origin.”

Wei Wuxian added, “Exactly. If we trace it back to its origin, find the complete body of the ghostly arm, and determine its identity, there will be a way to save everyone.”

Lan Jingyi, although he had realized that Wei Wuxian was definitely not a madman, couldn’t help but speak with a reproachful tone, saying, “You make it sound so simple. We couldn’t summon the spirits, and it’s turned into this mess. Where can we possibly find it?”

Lan Wangji answered, “In the northwest.”

Lan Sizhui asked in surprise, “Northwest? Hanguang-jun, why the northwest?”

Wei Wuxian replied, “Didn’t I already point it out to you?”

Lan Jingyi was puzzled, “You pointed it out? Who? Hanguang-jun didn’t point at anything.”

Wei Wuxian said, “Him.”

Everyone then noticed that he was pointing at the ghostly arm!

The arm remained fixed, pointing in one direction. When someone tried to change its position, it stubbornly turned back, returning to its original direction. Everyone was astonished by this unprecedented occurrence. Lan Jingyi asked, “It? It… What is it pointing at?!”

Wei Wuxian said, “What else could it be pointing at? Either other parts of his body or the culprit who turned him into this.”

Upon hearing this, several young disciples who happened to be standing in the northwest quickly moved away. Lan Wangji glanced at Wei Wuxian and stood up slowly. He addressed the other disciples, saying, “Take care of Uncle.”

They nodded and replied, “Yes! Are you leaving the mountain now?”

Lan Wangji nodded slightly, and Wei Wuxian, who had stealthily moved behind him, happily exclaimed, “Great, great! Finally, we can run away together!”

The faces of the others showed a dreadful expression, especially the senior disciples, while a few of the younger ones seemed somewhat accustomed to such behavior. Only Lan Qiren, lying on the ground, seemed to twitch involuntarily. They all thought, “If this person keeps talking, Lan Wangji might wake up again from sheer frustration.”

※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Author’s Note:

We’re heading down the main storyline now.