It had been a whole day and night since Han Yuan had gotten to eat or drink anything. One could imagine how hungry he was right now. Upon seeing that the egg that was nearly two Chi1 high, he couldn’t help but swallow and ask eagerly, “W-what is this?”
“No idea.” Yan Zhengming took half a step back as he darted a warning glance at Han Yuan. “Don’t touch it! Things in the Demon Valley cannot be touched rashly. Wipe off your saliva. Come on, let’s go. Master must be anxious.”
Indeed, it was getting dark and perils lurked everywhere in the Demon Valley. Without Lord Beiming escorting them on the way back, the road would only become more dangerous.
Nobody dared to delay, and everyone set off along the way they came. Even the noisiest Han Yuan became mute.
Men of the world valued brotherhood loyalty the most. He’d forever remember the debt he owed his senior brothers.
Seeing they were leaving, the egg didn’t give up. It evaded all those obstacles on the way and chased after them insistently.
Li Yun looked back and shouted, surprise and suspicion in his voice, “Just which monster’s egg is this? Why is it running after us?”
Cheng Qian, who carried the bear spirit’s fang, coldly said, “Maybe it wants to be a boiled egg.”
The egg seemed to understand human language, or perhaps it merely felt the malice from Cheng Qian’s words, as it trembled and hung back for a moment. At last, it slowly turned around, gingerly avoided Cheng Qian, rolled to Yan Zhengming’s feet, and stopped there pathetically.
Yan Zhengming briefly paused and then bypassed it heartlessly. But after a few steps, he couldn’t help looking back. Somehow, he saw an aura of deep disappointment and pitifulness emitting from its bare eggshell.
Therefore, young master Yan ended up stopping once more. After a few moments of indecision, he pointed at Han Yuan and said, “You… Hmm, go pick it up.”
“Ah? Didn’t you tell me not to touch it?” Han Yuan raised his eyebrows and stared in surprise.
Li Yun also didn’t understand, asking, “First Senior Brother, why?”
How should he answer the question?
Yan Zhengming frowned. He couldn’t really say he found that egg pitiable, could he?
Then he had a brainwave and came up with an excuse. He loftily said, “Didn’t Zipeng Zhenren ask us to take the thing on the Celestial Platform back to her? It’s said that demonic cultivators cannot enter that place, so I assume she herself doesn’t know what lies there. We can use this to fool her.”
Having traveled all this way, Li Yun and Cheng Qian were both physically and mentally exhausted, and had forgotten about the deal with Zipeng Zhenren. They both agreed to follow this advice after being reminded.
But at the same time, they felt that their devil-may-care first senior brother was abnormally meticulous this time.
Strangely enough, their journey on the way back had seemed safer than when they’d gone in even without Lord Beiming’s escort. They’d kept their guard up the entire time, yet only met several small lower level monsters rushing by. After many false alarms, they made it back to Zipeng Zhenren’s abode safely.
The giant bird was still lying prone there, though the image hanging over its head had disappeared. They were at a temporary loss about whether she was asleep or dead.
Yan Zhengming turned around to signal his junior brothers to be quiet and walked forward cautiously to reconnoiter—selfishly, he hoped Zipeng Zhenren was dead so that she wouldn’t give them trouble… but he knew that was almost impossible.
All of a sudden, he heard a crack from behind. All of them flinched at the sound. Their eyes roved around and fell on Han Yuan…and the egg in his arms. They saw cracks emerging on the eggshell from the top downwards.
Finally, at the center of the cracks, a piece of eggshell came off. Han Yuan goggled. The thing sticking out of the egg wasn’t a beak, but a hand.
A baby’s hand.
Han Yuan hurriedly placed the egg on the ground, and all four boys gaped at the sight of a baby crawling out of an egg.
It was like a chubby meatball and looked not at all different from a normal human baby at first glance, except that it already had the appearance of a one-year-old mortal infant with two unobtrusive birthmarks on its back.
Han Yuan reached with his muddy hand and poked the egg-born baby. Then he moved his gaze to the part which he shouldn’t be looking at, and made an ill-timed judgment. “It – it’s a girl.”
The little baby fell flat on her face from Han Yuan’s poke. She tried to move her limbs, only to find she wasn’t as mobile as she had been in the egg. Feeling a little upset, she let out a loud bawl.
And made the entire place wobble.
Han Yuan, who was the closest to her, plunked down on the ground and screamed, “What the heck is it?”
“Heavenly Monster,” a weak voice answered him.
Zipeng Zhenren had woken up when they weren’t paying attention. She hung over the giant bird’s head, as vague as a haze, her outline just faintly visible in her ghostly state.
It seemed that she had no extra strength to mind others, and only contemplated the little girl on the ground with mixed emotions. At length, she sighed and said softly, “It is the result of the union between the Monster Queen and a mortal, and should have been executed right after its birth. Soaking herself in human blood, the Queen hacked her way into the Celestial Platform despite the pain of being sliced into pieces and struck by lightning. She died after placing the child there. As it is born with half-human blood, the Celestial Platform’s restriction didn’t apply to it. For a hundred years this egg has not moved, and everyone thought it was stillborn. No one could have dreamed that one day, the calamity of the monster species would descend upon her…”
Han Yuan had been befuddled by her narration, but he accurately seized on the point of it all and exclaimed, “What? The Monster King had been cheated on?”
“You… shut up…!” Yan Zhengming hissed faintly.
Cheng Qian had listened and understood—they had taken out the “THING” from Celestial Platform by accident.
That explained why the Monster King couldn’t get rid of this child even when he had descended and lost his powers—because demonic cultivators were unable to ascend the Celestial Platform.
But…who had taken her out of the Celestial Platform?
“Bring her over; let me have a look,” Zipeng ordered.
Yan Zhengming was immediately alarmed. “What do you want to do with her?”
But after that, he seemed to realize his tone was too blunt and hurried to add even more bluntly, “Senior, this little hen was just born.”
When the wimpish baby cried, Yan Zhengming just hurried away in distaste. But disliking her was one thing, to give her to Zipeng was another—as she described it, this infant was a living green hat2 on the Monster King’s head. Zipeng Zhenren was the Monster King’s servant, so who knew what she would do to this kid?
Whatever background the little thing had, she only pipped moments ago and hadn’t yet done anything good or bad.
So how could others decide her life and death freely when there was nothing to judge?
Zipeng Zhenren didn’t expect that she would be disobeyed; her sickly image became more and more distinct as she turned to Yan Zhengming furiously. “How dare—”
But she was interrupted by the baby girl who had been frightened by the outburst. The baby choked up for a second, and after taking a deep breath she shrieked at the top of her lungs, “Waaah—”
Her bawling was extraordinarily potent. A quake stronger than the one before struck the cave again. Rocks came falling down from above. It looked like Zipeng Zhenren’s abode was about to collapse from the baby’s crying!
Yan Zhengming: “Get moving!”
“What about her?” Han Yuan looked in bewilderment at the wailing baby girl.
Li Yun jumped to dodge a falling stone which just narrowly missed his foot, and said in a panic, “Carry, carry her! She doesn’t even have teeth; you won’t be bitten!”
Han Yuan snatched her up, holding the baby in a strange way. Probably because it was less comfortable to be in his hands than to lie on the ground, the baby’s howl grew even sharper.
In the chaos of flying sand and falling rocks, Han Yuan tripped on the lower hem of his robe; the robe belonged to Li Yun, who was older and taller than him, so the lower hem had been dragging on the ground.
Fortunately, Cheng Qian was sharp-eyed and had quick hands. He grabbed the baby’s leg before she was crushed by Han Yuan, and lifted her upside down like a radish.
The Heavenly Monster was indeed a born jinx. The poor baby almost got herself killed as soon as she was born.
Zipeng Zhenren’s raging voice boomed, “No one’s leaving!”
While speaking, her image dispersed and the giant bird that was originally paralyzed on the ground stood up. It lifted up a foot to stomp them.
Cheng Qian instinctively wanted to resist with the help of his fang. But it was so heavy that there was no way he could use such an unwieldy weapon with one hand while carrying a little girl with the other.
Cheng Qian started to regret abandoning his wooden sword. He didn’t even have enough time to adjust this awkward one-handed hold on the baby’s leg before he was forced to fall back.
The giant bird’s foot was so enormous that it completely filled up Cheng Qian’s sight. There wasn’t any way that he could dodge it, and Li Yun had already run out of his magic water.
Cheng Qian thought he could even feel the talon landing on his head. His scalp constricted, and he felt that his life had already ended.
Nonetheless, the expected agony didn’t come. Cheng Qian looked up, only to see Zipeng Zhenren’s giant talon being held up by a wooden sword.
The wooden sword was less than two Cun wide, exactly what they normally used for practice. The hand holding it was very bony, and all around the wrist were protruding veins.
Cheng Qian had never felt Muchun Zhenren’s pinched figure so stalwart.
Muchun looked at him and smiled. His eyes roved over his disheveled but still alive-and-kicking apprentices, and he muttered in his familiar voice, “You… go first. I’ll be back soon.”
With that, he turned his wrist and deftly pushed Zipeng Zhenren’s claw to the other side, causing it to hit the wall with a loud rumbling sound, shaking the cave more violently.
Cheng Qian hesitated. He was unwilling to go, but Li Yun pushed him and said, “Don’t you believe that master will defeat that old hen? Come on, let’s go.”
This time, even first senior brother didn’t contradict him. Four and a half people ran out of Zipeng Zhenren’s abode, heading back along the steps to leave the way they came. By the time they exited the pond, night had already fallen and the moon had climbed up to the sky.
Cheng Qian loosened the hand he’d used to cover the baby’s mouth and nose while in the water. He laid her aside and breathed a sigh of relief, ending the mutual torture for both him and the whining Heavenly Monster.
None of the four mentioned going back. At this moment, the clean freak forgot about his dirty clothes, and the hungry kid forgot about his hunger. They sat in a huddle by the pond, waiting for Muchun Zhenren’s return.