Eldest Senior Brother scooped up some clean water and wet the handkerchief again before returning to the cave.
Pei Yunshu didn’t know if it was due to the heat, but sweat beads formed on his face. Strands of wet hair clung to his temples, making him appear especially distressed.
Yunjing held the cold, wet handkerchief and wiped the sweat from Yunshu’s face. Just as he finished, Yunwang walked in.
Yunwang looked as if he had just taken a swim. His hair and clothes were soaked, and water dripped from him as he entered the cave. Upon closer inspection, the bloodshot veins in his eyes appeared even more severe.
“Little Junior Brother,” Eldest Senior Brother furrowed his brow and walked toward him, “What happened?”
Yunwang shook his head slowly, glanced at Pei Yunshu lying on the stone bed, and his delicate, long eyelashes trembled slightly. He lowered his gaze and said, “Senior Brother…”
He was still quite young and now looked disheveled, like a homeless kitten, evoking both pity and sympathy.
Eldest Senior Brother brushed away the moisture from his body and took out a thick cloak from his storage bag, draping it over his Little Junior Brother’s shoulders. Then he asked again, “Little Junior Brother, what happened?”
“Senior Brother,” Yunwang pursed his lips, his eyes glistening with tears as he looked at his senior, “Just now, Yunwang went outside to pick some fruits, but unexpectedly encountered a colorful snake. It seemed highly poisonous.”
Eldest Senior Brother’s expression deepened. He asked with concern, “Did it bite you?”
“No,” Yunwang replied with lingering fear, “Fortunately, the overflow heavens beast was nearby and killed the snake, but I was startled and accidentally fell into the pool.”
Yunjing, fearing that he was traumatized, comforted him gently.
Yunwang appeared docile, listening to his senior brother’s words. He glanced at the spot on the stone bed where Eldest Senior Brother had just sat down and lowered his eyes, concealing his emotions.
In a basin of clean water beside the bed, the handkerchief slowly sank to the bottom.
No one approached Pei Yunshu on the bed.
After receiving a message, Yuncheng and Yunman hurried back to the cave. However, as soon as they landed, they sensed that something was amiss inside.
“Junior Brother Yunshu has been sleeping until now, and he’s sweating profusely,” Eldest Senior Brother’s face darkened as he looked at Yuncheng. “He’s also running a fever.”
The fox on the side was frantic. In theory, among all the myriad creatures, the tree spirit’s inner core was already quite gentle, not to mention that the Four Month Snow Tree was forged from the essence of heaven and earth. Its inner core was a sacred object for healing. How could such a treasure have adverse effects when used by a beauty?
Yuncheng sighed, “Don’t crowd around Junior Brother.”
Eldest Senior Brother motioned for his junior brothers to make way for him.
Yuncheng used a purification spell to remove the dirt and dust from himself before sitting by the bed. He took Pei Yunshu’s hand and placed his fingertips on his wrist to check his pulse.
Junior Brother Yunshu’s exposed skin had taken on a faint pink hue, and even his fingertips seemed to carry a delicate blush. Yunman watched with concern and stepped forward, lifting the thin blanket, unfastening Yunshu’s inner robe, and loosening it to let in some cool air from outside.
The cool breeze brushed over Yunshu’s face, lifting his sweat-dampened black hair. His hair swirled gently in the air, and his furrowed brows gradually relaxed.
However, Yuncheng’s brow furrowed deeper and deeper.
His expression was unsettling, and Eldest Senior Brother asked, “Yuncheng, what’s wrong?”
Yuncheng shook his head, released Yunshu’s wrist, and used the back of his hand to test his face. It was burning hot, as if he had a fever.
Yuncheng didn’t stop there; he continued to check Yunshu’s neck and collarbone temperature. When he was about to go further down, Yunwang suddenly spoke from behind, “Second Senior Brother, what are you doing?”
His tone was filled with confusion, as if he didn’t understand why his senior brother was probing under the patient’s clothes.
Yuncheng’s movements didn’t pause, and he gently lifted a corner of Yunshu’s clothing at the waist. He said softly, “Little Junior Brother, I’m naturally treating your Fourth Senior Brother.”
His fingers gently slipped under the clothing, and with just a light touch, everyone could see that Yunshu shivered involuntarily at the cold sensation.
This action was like flipping a switch, and the atmosphere in the cave momentarily became tense. Yuncheng raised an eyebrow slightly, and his cold fingertips lightly brushed over Yunshu’s waist.
The person under his touch flinched again, highly sensitive to the cold.
Second Senior Brother withdrew his hand and smiled, but before he could say anything, something fell from Yunshu’s body. Yuncheng looked down, and it turned out to be a jet-black scale.
He squinted, casually tossing the scale onto the ground.
At that moment, the spiritual energy in the cave suddenly surged.
The surrounding spiritual energy began to surge madly towards Pei Yunshu, forming a vortex of spiritual energy around him.
Outside the cave, even more spiritual power rushed into the cave, condensing into a dense mist that was almost dripping with water. The senior brothers and disciples were startled, and Eldest Senior Brother realized the situation. He said with a solemn expression, “Junior Brother Yunshu is about to form his core.”
Forming the core was undoubtedly a joyous occasion, but Junior Brother Yunshu was forming his core inside the Fox Clan’s secret realm, which they had limited knowledge about. The time it took to form a core could vary greatly, and if disturbed during the process, it could lead to problems.
Yunjing thought for a moment and then addressed his junior brothers, “Second Junior Brother, you and I will protect Fourth Junior Brother. Third Junior Brother, take care of Little Junior Brother. He hasn’t built his foundation yet and can’t withstand such a strong influx of spiritual energy.”
They would protect Pei Yunshu, but they wouldn’t stay in the cramped cave. The group quickly moved outside the cave, on guard for any potential threats.
With everyone gone, Huayue hastily picked up the black flood dragon scale from the ground and hurried to the rock bed’s side.
No one was more anxious than Huayue. He hadn’t expected Pei Yunshu to be forming his core, and now, with the tree spirit’s inner core inside Yunshu’s body, there was a possibility that the core formation process might inadvertently merge the inner core with it.
The fox spirit had a worried expression as he paced around the stone bed, his heart aching for the three-thousand-year-old inner core of the Four Month Snow Tree. He was also concerned that something might go wrong with Yunshu. Just when he lifted his head, he met Yunshu’s open eyes.
Pei Yunshu sat up from the bed. His gaze was clear, but his complexion was pale. After exchanging a glance with Huayue, he couldn’t control the urge and rushed off the bed, stumbling to a corner, where he leaned against the wall and retched.
His black hair hung on the side of his face, and Pei Yunshu was nauseated, but his stomach was empty, and he couldn’t vomit anything.
Huayue was taken aback, cautiously approaching him. With a worried look in his amber eyes, he asked, “Beauty, what’s wrong?”
Around his eyes, the brownish-yellow fur was dampened in a circle, and his current appearance was undeniably pitiful and cute. Pei Yunshu lifted his lips, crouched in front of Huayue, and used his sleeve to wipe away the tears. “Why are you crying?”
The fox was always quite fond of beauty. If it were any other time, having the beauty wipe away his tears would surely make him happy. However, now he had tears like golden beans, falling heavily. “Seeing Beauty in distress makes me sad too.”
Even when crying, he didn’t forget to express his affection.
“If you keep crying, you won’t be beautiful anymore,” Pei Yunshu said. “Your eyes will swell up, and if others see you like this, you won’t look like a peerless beauty anymore.”
The fox’s tears stopped instantly at this reminder. He suddenly remembered something, extended his paw, and handed the black scale to Pei Yunshu.
Pei Yunshu looked at the pure black scale in his hand and smiled.
Huayue’s eyes sparkled with affection as he looked at Yunshu. He raised his paw to cover his face.
For Pei Yunshu, forming the core held a different meaning.
Once he formed the core, he could leave the mountain and explore the vast world, see how the sea was, and experience the high mountains. However, he hadn’t anticipated that he would be forming the core without being able to use spiritual energy.
The surrounding spiritual energy was dense and continuously flowed into Pei Yunshu’s body. However, he couldn’t control this overflowing spiritual energy, and it seemed like his body might burst if this continued.
Wasn’t this situation going to lead to his death?
Huayue raised his paw and lowered his voice as he said, “Beauty, the reason I woke you up is because I’ve found a way to restore your spiritual energy.”
The fox spoke these words, then quickly ran to the corner of the wall. He bit his finger, squeezed a drop of fox blood onto the wall.
The dark-colored stone wall rippled like water, and Huayue smiled at Pei Yunshu. He stepped into the rippling wall first. Pei Yunshu followed behind him.
Behind the stone wall was a small space, and in the center stood a stone sculpture of a fox. Its exquisite carving detailed every hair, and while it resembled a fox, it had an extraordinary air of elegance.
Huayue said, “Beauty, your senior brothers aren’t very considerate. They didn’t let me run around or rest properly. I could only huddle in a corner to survive. But good luck often comes to beautiful people. One day, I accidentally wiped my blood on the wall. Look at what I discovered.”
He pointed at the stone fox sculpture. “There’s a fox. We can treat it as the groom. After bowing to this stone ‘groom,’ you can regain your spiritual energy and proceed to form your Golden core!”
Pei Yunshu was taken aback and asked, “Doesn’t he have to catch the embroidered ball?”
“People and foxes are different,” Huayue replied. “If it were with a person, you would have to follow that powerful cultivator as your groom. But this is the Fox Clan’s secret realm, and I believe our ancestors will favor their own kind. If it’s with a fox, it should be enough to choose any fox.”
Pei Yunshu listened to him and then looked at the stone fox sculpture.
This fox sculpture didn’t represent any particular fox, but its aura was extraordinary. The stone-carved peach blossom eyes were especially lifelike, giving the impression that it had come to life.
If he had to marry a fox to restore spiritual energy, then marrying a piece of stone as their partner might be the best choice.
Time was of the essence; forming the core wouldn’t wait.
Pei Yunshu sighed quietly. He nodded and said, “Alright, let’s do it this way.”
They stood on either side of the stone fox sculpture without any preparations. Only Huayue had some experience. He said, “First bow to heaven and earth.”
Pei Yunshu and Huayue both bent forward. The stone fox sculpture in the middle remained motionless.
Huayue continued, “Second bow to our ancestors.”
With no ancestors to bow to, he quickly said, “Husband and wife bow to each other.”
Pei Yunshu felt nervous, and even Huayue was anxious. It sounded ridiculous to use a piece of stone as a marriage partner.
Pei Yunshu walked in front of the stone fox sculpture and looked into its stone-carved eyes. He silently apologized in his heart before deeply bowing.
When he straightened up, he could already feel the presence of his spiritual energy and physical strength.
He tentatively extended his hand, and a crimson spark ignited in his palm. The firelight illuminated half of his face. This absurd marriage ceremony with a stone partner had actually restored his spiritual energy!
Pei Yunshu was amazed. He looked across at Huayue, who had already transformed into his human form. Huayue took out a mirror and carefully combed his hair.
The surging spiritual energy circulated in Pei Yunshu’s body. Besides the highly active spiritual energy, he also saw a pure white inner core enveloped by the spiritual energy.
The surging spiritual energy was being absorbed by this inner core. Without this, Pei Yunshu might have already exploded.
Pei Yunshu hastily assessed his condition and said to Huayue, “Huayue, I need to leave to form my Golden core.”
Inside the stone wall, there was no spiritual energy, so he couldn’t stay there for long.
Huayue quickly nodded. He put away the handkerchief and mirror, and after expressing gratitude to the stone fox sculpture, they both stepped out of the stone wall.
Before leaving the stone wall, Pei Yunshu glanced back.
The stone fox sculpture had been placed back in its original position, and its stone-carved eyes seemed to meet Pei Yunshu’s gaze. At first glance, it appeared as though the stone fox was looking at Pei Yunshu.
Pei Yunshu suppressed this whimsical thought and, in the next moment, stepped out of the stone wall.
The author has something to say:
Little question mark, do you have many friends?Not fake! There’s no red veil, no wedding attire, and the partner is a stone! It doesn’t count! To protect oneself, it’s not a real wedding ceremony. Even if the partner is incredibly handsome, it doesn’t matter. Jiao Jiao*, don’t feel empty!
* flood dragon
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