After Failing to Influence the Protagonist Chapter 35

Chapter 35 Statue

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Pei Jing looked at the little girl and noticed how soft and delicate her skin was. She wore simple clothes, but what caught his attention were her eyes—completely black, without any white, which was quite unsettling. She tightly gripped her grandfather’s clothes, appearing a bit shy.

Pei Jing pondered for a moment and smiled. “Is she your granddaughter?”

The village chief’s face turned serious. “Are you done yet? If you don’t leave now, I’ll have someone come and chase you away!”

Pei Jing squatted down, facing the little girl. As she saw a stranger, she took a step back.

The young man gave a slight smile, his features exceptionally attractive. “In your opinion, what color am I? gray or white?”

The village chief became furious, quickly pulled his granddaughter towards him, pointed his cane at the ground, and yelled, “Where are all the villagers? Can’t they see how outsiders are bullying us? Hurry and help me drive them out!”

Pei Jing slowly stood up, smiling. “Come on, old man, why are you so hot-tempered? Isn’t it sad to see your granddaughter like this? Would you like me to help her?” He smiled and met the girl’s jet-black eyes. “In your world, it must be gray.”

The girl stood behind her grandfather, peeked out, and softly said in a gentle voice as her grandfather grew more agitated, “It’s gray.” Her voice was unclear and sweet. It carried the innocence of a child, sounding especially pleasant.

Pei Jing smiled warmly at her.

The village chief’s anger suddenly vanished with these words. His eyes widened, turned around in disbelief, and said, “A’ru, did you just speak?”

The young girl, called A’ru, managed to squeeze out a smile for her grandfather.

The village chief turned his head again, his gaze filled with surprise as he looked at Pei Jing.

The young man smiled radiantly.

“I can cure your granddaughter’s illness, but there is one condition.”

On a sunny afternoon, Zhuangyuan Village welcomed unwelcome guests.

Since they couldn’t all squeeze into one household during their stay here, the village chief arranged alternative accommodations for the others. Pei Jing followed him to his house. The village chief’s house was somewhat secluded, nestled deeper in the mountains with dense forest and a chilling dampness. There were many poisonous insects, and the intermittent chirping of birds echoed through the woods.

On the way, Pei Jing naturally didn’t remain idle and bored. He asked about the village chief’s granddaughter, “How did she end up with these eyes?”

The village chief used his cane to strike the nearby grass, scaring away lurking snakes, and said, “She never listens, so it serves her right.”

A’ru pouted.

Pei Jing lowered his head, earnestly looking into the girl’s eyes, and chuckled, “Did she do this to herself? Or was it the doing of a demon?”

The village chief clearly didn’t want to dwell on this matter. “You just focus on curing her. Why bother with all these questions?”

Pei Jing: “Old man, among all the people I’ve met, you’re the most irritable when it comes to seeking help.”

The village chief: “…”

Fortunately, Pei Jing had ulterior motives for coming here, so he maintained a good temper and continued asking, “Why were you initially so insistent on blocking us from entering? Now that I’m inside, I look around and don’t see anything particularly special, right?”

The irritable village chief tried his best to control his temper and muttered, “You came at the wrong time. In just a few days, it will be the Day of Prayer.”

“The Day of Prayer?”

“Yes, it’s the day when we worship the God of Literature. Each household sacrifices chickens and cows to seek blessings for their children’s spring exams in the coming year.”

Pei Jing: “Wow, that’s a great event! Shouldn’t it be more lively with more people?”

The village chief glared at him. “The God of Literature only grants blessings to three or four individuals each year. Why should we give this opportunity to outsiders?”

Pei Jing pretended to be astonished. “Blessings? So the God of Literature here actually manifests?”

The village chief evaded the question. “It’s none of your business, and don’t get any strange ideas.”

Pei Jing: “Oh, alright. Actually, I just came to visit. There’s no one in my family pursuing the imperial examinations.”

After speaking, he felt a gaze and looked down, meeting the gaze of the girl with pure black eyes.

Pei Jing smiled.

The girl appeared somewhat puzzled.

The village chief snorted and finally led him towards his house. The village chief’s house leaned against a large banyan tree, a two-story wooden house with stairs spiraling around the tree trunk. Before even stepping inside, Pei Jing spotted someone squatting in front of the house. It was a fifteen or sixteen-year-old boy, playing with mud on the ground using a wooden stick. Upon hearing the sound, the boy looked up. He had a handsome appearance, but seemed simple-minded.

As soon as he spoke, Pei Jing confirmed his own thoughts.

“Grandfather, sister, you’re back.”

He spoke innocently.

The village chief looked up at the sky in silence, then struck the boy’s hand with his cane. “How many times have I told you not to play with mud!”

The strike was forceful, leaving a red mark on the back of the boy’s hand instantly.

The boy was in pain. He hid behind his sister, looking aggrievedly at his grandfather. “Grandfather, it hurts, it hurts.”

A’ru blinked and turned her head, staring at her brother’s face for a long time.

Then she quickly lowered her head again, shielding her brother behind her, without saying a word.

The village chief looked frustrated, shaking his head without speaking, and led Pei Jing inside. “If you’re capable enough, you can also try curing my grandson’s illness.”

Before entering the house, Pei Jing glanced thoughtfully towards the back. A nine-year-old girl and a sixteen-year-old boy, clearly siblings, but their interaction seemed more like that of an older sister and younger brother. The girl lowered her head, gently blowing on the boy’s wound, while her lowered eyelashes portrayed obedience and tranquility. The boy sniffled, his entire face wrinkling up.

Lighting an oil lamp, the village chief took two cold and hard steamed buns from the stove and placed them on a plate. Sitting at the table, he spoke slowly, “It’s a tragedy, one blind and one simple-minded.” Pei Jing commented, “I can see that your granddaughter is quite sensible, taking care of her brother at such a young age.” The village chief’s hand holding the chopsticks trembled, and then he let out a deep sigh, his smile carrying a hint of bitterness. “Can she not take care of him properly? It’s because of her that her brother turned out this way.”

Pei Jing remained silent, waiting for him to continue.

“The blessings from the deities are a sacred matter. It’s been a long-standing rule that no one is allowed to approach during the process, and those who violate the rule will face punishment. I told her that her brother had been chosen by the God of Literature and was receiving enlightenment in the temple. But she wouldn’t listen. She kept crying and crying, and in the middle of the night, she sneaked out when we weren’t paying attention.”

The elderly man took a sip of wine, his expression displaying a touch of weariness.

“That’s the rule. When the rules are broken, everything falls apart. She must have seen something she shouldn’t have in the temple, so the deities took away her sight. Her brother, as a consequence, became a fool as well.”

Pei Jing found it somewhat amusing in his heart. Deities and their divine retribution—what a sinister deity it must be! Nevertheless, these siblings were indeed pitiful.

The village chief expressionlessly chewed on peanuts, holding the chopsticks. “I’ve scolded and punished her, but in the end, she’s still my own granddaughter. What can I do? Ever since then, A’ru has become like a different person. She used to be a lively and cheerful little girl, but now she doesn’t speak to anyone.”

Pei Jing: “If you trust me, let me spend some time alone with her.”

The village chief played with the remaining peanuts in the plate using his chopsticks. “Go ahead. You’re the only stranger she’s not afraid of that I’ve ever seen. The child likes you, so go and have a chat with her.”

Pei Jing finally had a real conversation with A’ru the next morning. He had no idea what to say to a young child, so he decided to be straightforward and asked, “Can you still remember what happened at the temple that night?”

A’ru, with a water container in her hand, glanced behind him, shook her head, and walked past him.

Behind Pei Jing stood A’ru’s brother, who had just woken up.

A’ru’s brother sounded pitiful as he said, “I’m hungry.”

A’ru replied earnestly, “We’ll be able to eat soon.”

A’ru’s brother pouted, “I’m really hungry right now.”

A’ru said, “Just wait a little longer.”

The village chief returned, carrying a hoe and a few bunches of vegetables in his hands.

Pei Jing watched the two children leave and remarked, “They have a really good relationship.”

The village chief didn’t pay much attention. “They were born from the same mother, so how could their relationship be bad? Since they were little, they’ve been inseparable.”

Pei Jing: “Like minds?”

The village chief frowned. “That’s what it means, I suppose.”

Upon arriving at Zhuangyuan Village, they naturally had to visit the Zhuangyuan Temple. These past few days, the temple was particularly bustling, and the pathway in the valley was almost flattened by the people’s footsteps.

Pei Jing couldn’t find Chu Junyu, so he came to visit with Yu Qinglian first.

Miss Yu Qinglian, pampered and spoiled, couldn’t possibly fall asleep in this kind of environment. Yesterday, she even concealed her presence and searched every household in the village but couldn’t find the place mentioned by Ji Wuduan.

“One room, one courtyard, one jar. Every family has the same layout. Is he playing a trick on me?”

Pei Jing: “I find it strange too. When Shu Yan entered Changtian Realm, I could sense its aura. But after spending a night in this Zhuangyuan Village, I haven’t noticed anything unusual.”

Yu Qinglian tugged at her earlobe and slowly spoke, “Yesterday, I used Soul-Capturing Technique to deceive someone and gathered some information. The people in this village have gone crazy believing in their so-called God of Literature. Every three years, they hold a prayer ceremony to prepare for the imperial examinations in the mortal realm. The prayer ceremony is also strange. They wear masks, circle around the temple’s idol, and those favored by the gods may hear the voice of the deity.”

Pei Jing pondered, “Interesting. I suspect that the immortals in the mortal realm are not the same as the ones we cultivators speak of.”

Yu Qinglian smiled and explained, “The immortals we refer to are those who have ascended and possess the power to destroy the heavens and the earth. The immortals they believe in, on the other hand, are merely idle beings who offer them protection.”

Pei Jing glanced behind and warned her, “Keep your voice down.”

Yu Qinglian chuckled, lowering her head.

The Zhuangyuan Temple had never been renovated. It remained in its dilapidated state from the beginning. The plaque was missing a corner, the walls were peeling off their red paint, and the steps were riddled with cracks. The valley exuded a heavy gloom, and the Zhuangyuan Temple looked quite out of place from a distance. After all, in this deep forested valley, the sudden appearance of such a decrepit and eerie temple naturally sparked curiosity.

And the conclusion drawn by the villagers after much speculation was that this temple was built by immortals.

How adorable.

Just as they were leaving, an elderly woman happened to be walking alongside them. She warmly greeted them, “I can tell you two are newcomers. You must be the few youngsters who arrived yesterday.”

Pei Jing shyly smiled.

The elderly woman continued, “Don’t blame the old village chief for insisting that you leave. In the past, there were also visitors who arrived during our prayer day. However, they were restless and ignorant of the customs, displeasing the God of Literature. Not a single person was chosen that year, and none from our village passed the examinations.”

Pei Jing scratched his head and asked, “I heard from the village chief that the God of Literature selects those who are destined. Can outsiders like us be considered destined individuals?”

The elderly woman, with a good temperament, laughed and replied, “How would I know? There has never been such a precedent before.”

They were nearing the Zhuangyuan Temple.

The elderly woman’s delight was evident on her face. “If this is your first visit, you might be taken aback later. Our God of Literature in the temple is exceptionally handsome.”

Yu Qinglian chuckled in response.

Pei Jing pretended to be surprised and asked, “How handsome is he?”

The elderly woman said, “You’ll see for yourselves.”

They entered the Zhuangyuan Temple. The eaves were dilapidated, and the air was filled with the scent of incense. The lighting was dim, casting a yellowish hue from one side of the valley onto the central area. Instead of a deity, there stood a statue on the altar. It depicted a young scholar holding a book in one hand and a brush in the other. With a head adorned in a headscarf and dressed plainly, his expression changed mysteriously in the interplay of light and shadow. Several people were already kneeling on the cushions inside the temple.

Pei Jing and Yu Qinglian stood at the entrance. The statue lacked any vitality, exuding a cold and damp aura, like a shadowy creature born from moss.

Pei Jing smiled and said to Yu Qinglian, “I think it would be better to worship me instead.”

Yu Qinglian rolled her eyes and retorted, “Why would we worship an illiterate person?”

Pei Jing took a step forward and said, “You’re joking with me. After all, you’re speaking to the number one talent of the Institute of Celestial Ascension.”

The statue was cold and damp.

But what intrigued Pei Jing even more was the world beneath the statue.

It was bustling with activity.

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