PG Chapter 42: Courage

Thank you to Tan and Tensai for the Ko-fis!

Arc Four: Shop Sanmi

Wen Shi unexpectedly had a dream.

It was actually very risky to dream in a cage. If your willpower was a little weaker or if your guard dropped ever so slightly, it was extremely easy to be affected by the cage master’s interference, causing you to sink into the fabricated dreamscape—

You would mistakenly believe that you were a different person, living a different life in the dream.

At a certain moment, the people who were a bit more sensitive would realize that they were dreaming. Although they would be able to struggle awake, they would still be scared half to death. The ones who weren’t as sensitive would think of the dream as reality, never to come out again. Even if the cage was undone, only madness would end up befalling them.

Fortunately, Wen Shi dreamed of himself.

Just like the last time, he was quite young in the dream, because his line of sight was still very low, about as tall as the table.

There wasn’t anything particularly special about the decor in the room. The furniture consisted of a tea table and a low daybed, with an oil lamp on top of the tea table and a footstool in front of the bed. A wooden rectangular wardrobe stood in the corner of the room, and a dried branch hung suspended next to the wardrobe. Other than that, there was nothing else in the neat and tidy space.

The only unusual part about the room was the subtle but natural pine fragrance that permeated it peacefully. However, the instant Wen Shi smelled that scent, he knew that he had returned to Mount Songyun once more.

This wasn’t just a dream; it was also the sudden arrival of a memory from the bygone days.

It was quite strange. Lately, he had been dreaming rather frequently of the past, even though before he wasn’t able to recall the tiniest memory from that time period for so many years. Why did it change now? Was there some triggering factor?

That was the last thought that flashed through Wen Shi’s mind the moment before he entered the dream completely.


It was a certain long night that took place many years ago.

The summit of Mount Songyun was very cold at night. Even though summer had long since descended at the foot of the mountain, causing the residents there to switch to straw mats for bedding, the air on the mountain was still cool enough to make people shiver and stuff their hands into their pockets.

In that slightly chilly atmosphere, being wrapped in a clean blanket that wasn’t too thick or thin generated a warmth that was just right. It should’ve been quite easy to feel sleepy, but Wen Shi just couldn’t fall asleep, because he had entered a cage with Chen Budao earlier that day.

Wen Shi didn’t actually have much courage at all as a child, completely different from the person he would eventually grow up into. But due to his fondness for making sullen faces, and the fact that he would rather be beaten to death than say something if he was feeling sad or scared, it was difficult for the average person to notice his lack of bravery.

Although Zhong Si, Bu Ning, and Zhuang Ye were a few years older than Wen Shi, they had ample experience in being deceived by him. Even after they all eventually became adults, they were still under the belief that their youngest and calmest shidi had been ruthless since childhood, that he had guts bigger than the sky, that he was born to do this line of work.

Zhong Si and the others had actually also gone into the cage with them that day. The cage itself wasn’t all that troublesome; it was complex enough for this group of little disciples to learn a few things, but it wasn’t to the point that they would encounter any dangerous circumstances.

The only drawback was that it was a bit noisy.

Because there were several areas in the cage where demons and monsters had congregated together, this allowed the little disciples to experience what a real evil spirit was like. It scared them so much that all the usual lessons they learned about being “noble and refined” flew right out of their heads. They squeaked and wailed, like a group of tiny voles with wedged tails.

The only one who didn’t make any sound or run around wildly was Wen Shi. From beginning to end, he followed behind Chen Budao and listened to everything he said, nodding silently every once in a while.

When an evil spirit’s head rolled to a stop next to his feet, he merely pursed his lips before he took half a step back, as if he was afraid of getting stains on his clothes. Then, he kicked that thing away from him.

It was a very simple action, but to the young Zhong Si, Bu Ning, and Zhuang Ye, it was still quite shocking.

The “love, hatred, emotions, and grudges” between children were extremely straightforward—if they thought someone was no good, they disliked them. If they thought someone was amazing, they would change their mind in a flash and abandon all their former animosity.

As a result, their admiration for Wen Shi grew to the point of adulation in that cage.

After exiting the cage, they discussed their unusually brave shidi until it was late at night. Since they were afraid of having nightmares, Zhong Si and the rest lumped their bedding into one place. While they said “shidi is definitely sleeping very soundly,” they squeezed together as a group.

Little did they know that even after they had already undergone two dream cycles, that “unusually brave” shidi’s crow-black eyes were still wide open at the top of the mountain.

He had swaddled himself inside his blanket. Since there wasn’t much meat on his bones, he was merely a small ball when he was curled on his side, like a pupa. And just like that, the pupa remained motionless as he stared noiselessly at the dried branch hanging next to the wardrobe.

That was because the only other living creature in the room was standing on the dried branch—the half palm-sized Golden-Winged Dapeng.

Wen Shi’s eyes were very dark, and they were also always deep and unfathomable, so when he stared at someone like this without blinking, it gave off an eerie sort of feeling. The Golden-Winged Dapeng didn’t know what kind of offense it had committed to be looked at by the snowman in such a manner.

Hence, if Wen Shi didn’t move, Lao Mao didn’t dare to move.

If Wen Shi didn’t avert his gaze, Lao Mao also didn’t dare to avert his gaze.

After being stared at for two hours, Lao Mao couldn’t take it any longer. It suspected that this child was trying to torment a bird by keeping it up all night.

The oil lamp on the tea table had remained lit this entire time. The bright yellow flicker of fire burned quietly in the lamp and was reflected in Wen Shi’s eyes, as if they were the luminous lake that sat in the saddle of Mount Songyun.

As an extremely powerful puppet, Lao Mao suddenly had a stroke of inspiration. Lao Mao thought that the snowman must be tormenting it like this because he had forgotten to extinguish the oil lamp earlier that night, so the light was shining in his eyes and preventing him from falling asleep. The cold air was heavy and dense at night, and Wen Shi must not want to leave his blanket due to the chill.

Consequently, in a rare moment of thoughtfulness, Lao Mao flew down from the withered branch and landed on the tea table. It prepared to create a tiny breeze with its wings to blow out the oil lamp.

Right as it spread its wings and was about to flap them, the small lump on the bed moved abruptly—

The snowman blinked once, very lightly, before he finally deigned to reveal a few of his fingers from underneath the blanket. A second later, puppet string shot straight out from his hand and hooked around the mini Golden-Winged Dapeng’s leg, dragging it away from the oil lamp.

Lao Mao was utterly baffled.

First of all, Lao Mao didn’t understand why this child had puppet string wrapped around his hands when he was supposed to be sleeping. Was Wen Shi trying to practice puppetry in his dreams? And second, was this oil lamp some precious object that Lao Mao wasn’t even allowed to flap its wings at?

When Lao Mao saw Wen Shi swiftly yank his hand back underneath the blanket, he thought back to the other two points that he was confused about. At last, a somewhat tentative conjecture popped up in his head: Don’t tell me that this child is feeling scared…

As if he was confirming Lao Mao’s suspicions, Wen Shi’s pitch-black eyes remained open the entire night, and he didn’t sleep at all. It was only when the first glimmer of light broke across the sky, and the sounds of tea cups clinking against each other started coming from his shifu’s room, that he finally buried his face in his blanket and fell asleep completely.

Although Lao Mao was being raised by Wen Shi, it was ultimately still Chen Budao’s puppet. While the child was asleep, it flapped its way next door and immediately reported this discovery to its real master.

A robe was draped over Chen Budao’s shoulders, and he was currently bent at the waist, pouring freshly boiled mountain spring water over sky-blue tea cups. Upon hearing that, he was briefly startled. “He didn’t sleep the whole night?”

Lao Mao chirped, “Precisely.”

However, Chen Budao didn’t have much of a reaction beyond that. He just said, “He’s still young, it’ll get better once he trains some more.”

Chen Budao was always a strict teacher when it came to important matters. No matter how much he indulged or spoiled someone, he wouldn’t be entirely unprincipled. He had his own set of standards in his mind, and though Lao Mao couldn’t quite figure it out, it knew that such a line existed.

Lao Mao thought that Chen Budao would be a bit more stern when it came to something like “being scared.” After all, if someone was truly going to walk down the path of becoming a panguan, they certainly couldn’t be timid.

Except—after less than five days of playing the strict teacher, two bruise-colored patches had appeared on the little disciple’s snow-white skin underneath his eyes, born from his sleepless nights.

“Who left their bamboo bear cub here for me to take care of?” Chen Budao lifted up the snowman’s chin with the crook of his finger and inspected Wen Shi’s face for a moment before he lowered his hand again and asked, “Why do you not sleep at night?”

He knew that Wen Shi liked to keep everything hidden deep down inside of him. Oftentimes, Chen Budao would ask a question even if he was fully aware of the answer, just to lure Wen Shi into speaking.

But the little disciple was more stubborn than anyone else, and he mulishly refused to bring up his fear. Under the pressure of Chen Budao’s question, he fired out tightly, “It’s cold.”

This wasn’t Chen Budao’s first time experiencing his disciple’s obstinance, so he didn’t expose him right away. He merely instructed for a slightly smaller daybed to be placed in his room.

The little disciple came and went numerous times every day. From that point on, whenever he passed by Chen Budao’s room, his jet-black eyes would always shoot a few extra glances at the additional bed, but he would never say anything.

On the contrary, Lao Mao—as a spectator forced to constantly stay up all night with Wen Shi—was the one who was actually about to lose it. Lao Mao was on the verge of just speaking up for him entirely.

This lasted for quite some time until one day, Chen Budao went into a big cage all by himself without bringing along any of the disciples. Although the cage was tricky, it wasn’t much of a problem for him, but considering how many people accidentally entered the cage, it was unavoidable that there were also many people courting death. As he was protecting that group of people, his left hand got a little injured.

It wasn’t actually a big deal; it just looked rather horrifying at first glance. The skin and flesh were withered and suffused with an ashy-green color, and a few strange wounds cut across the muscles and bones.

That night, the little disciple who was usually stubbornly tight-lipped suddenly ran into Chen Budao’s room, his blanket in his arms.

Chen Budao was boiling medicine to soak his hand in. Wen Shi sat right beside him, acting as a supervisor.

Even though he didn’t know how to say anything sweet and cutely clever, he did almost make the Golden-Winged Dapeng’s head go bald with his petting. Lao Mao and Chen Budao both understood the meaning hidden behind this little movement all too well—

Wen Shi wasn’t very happy, and he felt a little bit sad.

However long Chen Budao soaked his hand was however long Wen Shi stared at him. Later on, after Chen Budao had wiped his fingers dry and was getting ready to sleep, Wen Shi’s gaze was still fixed on him—almost as if that hand would turn back into that frightening form so long as he blinked just once.

In the end, Chen Budao patted him and asked with a smile, “Now that you’re done tormenting the bird, you’re here to torment me, is that so?”

Wen Shi: “No.”

Chen Budao: “Go to sleep then.”

Sporting his two dark circles, the little disciple said sullenly, “I’m not tired.”

Although he laid down obediently on his bed, his eyes were still locked on Chen Budao’s hand, which was dangling next to the daybed. He couldn’t stare at the hand for too long before it shook down the hem of its sleeve and covered his eyes. “Close your eyes, go to sleep.”

The nights were truly quite cold on Mount Songyun. Despite the unmistakable soughing of the wind through the pine trees, the peak of the mountain seemed to tower in desolate solitude. Wen Shi was clearly sleeping on the smaller daybed, yet he would always unconsciously shift towards the warmer heat source after he fell into a deep slumber.

All the way until his forehead was pressed against someone else; all the way until he caught the familiar scent of pine wood.

It was hard to tell whether these aged memories from the past were real or illusory. They would sharpen and grow blurry in abrupt spurts, and though they evidently weren’t of anything important, the dream—once started—lasted for a long time. It got to the point where in the end, many other similar scenes began overlapping and forcing themselves into the dream as well. Wen Shi could no longer tell which ones came first and which ones came later, which ones were real and which ones were fake.

But at a certain moment in the dream, a thought suddenly occurred to him: something else seemed to have happened to Chen Budao’s hand later on. The wound was much deeper than before, and the hand’s appearance was also more terrifying, as if it was merely dried skin and bone.

By then, it must’ve been long past Wen Shi’s coming of age, because he was very tall. When he looked at that person’s hand, he no longer needed to tilt his head back or peer up at it anymore. Instead, he only had to lower his gaze.

Eyes downcast, he looked at Chen Budao’s hands concealed underneath the sleeves of his robe. The left one seemed to be all bones as blood trickled and dripped down it, yet the right one was perfectly straight and slender, clean and neat.

The unsullied hand lifted into the air. The movement caused the red outer robe’s sleeve to slip down a little, revealing white garments underneath layered over each other like snow, along with a beautifully sculpted wrist.

He covered Wen Shi’s eyes. “Be good, don’t look at it anymore.”

Wen Shi allowed his hand to remain there for a while. Then, he grabbed ahold of that person’s fingers.

In the last moment of the dream, the other person’s palm covered Wen Shi’s eyes, an expanse of warmth. He couldn’t see anything, but he could smell that familiar pine wood fragrance. There was also puppet string wrapped around Wen Shi’s fingers; half of it was coiled around his own knuckles, while the other half clung to someone else, a tangled and chaotic mess…

And then he woke up, because he really could sense the heat of another person’s body in front of him.

Wen Shi’s eyes shot open, and a thin, pale hand entered his line of sight. For a split second, he was a little unable to differentiate between the dream and reality. He almost thought that he was still lying on that bed on Mount Songyun—even that scent of pine wood seemed to linger on in the air.

The hand swayed once in front of him, as if it was trying to see whether he was awake or not.

Without thinking, Wen Shi reached out and latched onto the other person’s fingertips. The instant their skin touched, Wen Shi gave a start and woke up completely. Only then did he realize that he was still in the cage, lying in a bedroom on the first floor of the Shen residence.

He furrowed his brows and flipped over to sit up. At some unknown point in time, the missing Xie Wen had reappeared, and he was sitting right next to Wen Shi on the same bed.

Xie Wen looked down at his fingers with a somewhat surprised expression on his face.

At that moment, it dawned on Wen Shi just who he had grabbed onto earlier.

He could still feel a phantom of the touch. Wen Shi averted his gaze and pressed his lips together briefly, subconsciously kneading his knuckles with his thumb. He rubbed the back of his neck to clear his head before he finally turned to look at Xie Wen. “Where did you go, and when did you get back?”

Just like that, he skipped ambiguously and vaguely past the topic of him grabbing Xie Wen’s hand.

Xie Wen caressed his fingertips lightly. Then he also looked up and said, “I just returned a second before you woke up. As for where I went, it’s a bit difficult to answer this question.

“You’ll probably have to ask him—” Xie Wen pointed to the side.

Only then did Wen Shi notice that there was someone else on his right.

He glanced over and discovered that it was a young man with an ashen, swollen face. The man wasn’t particularly tall, but he was very thin. From the side, the outline of his body was so faint that he didn’t look like a real person.

The young man sat cross-legged at the head of the bed. He hunched his shoulders up, shrinking himself down so that he became even narrower and smaller, and his fingers scraped over and over against the headboard, producing a scratching noise.

It took him a belated moment to sense Wen Shi’s gaze. As he swiveled his head around, a brittle cracking sound came from his neck. His eyes were like black holes, and streaks of water streamed down from his hair, drenching a large section of the bed in the blink of an eye.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, this should be that tutor, Mr. Li.

There was a patch of dark green on the back of his neck, as if there was moss growing on his body. Wen Shi frowned and reached out with his hand, wanting to take a closer look at it. All of a sudden, he heard Xie Wen ask in a low, deep voice from behind him, “Were you dreaming just now?”

Buy Me a Coffee at

Prev | Table of Contents | Next