For once (maybe the first time in hundreds of years or even more time), Feng Xin and Mu Qing agreed on one thing: they were worried about Xie Lian. It wasn’t as if they would admit it out loud, not alone and especially not in the presence of the other. However, somehow the two of them had reunited on the Human Realm to go to Ghost City.
Feng Xin had never gone to that horrendous and despicable city, nor thought that one day he would willingly go in the company of Mu Qing. Although he liked to think they weren’t alike, the fact that he had found his former friend on the door of Puqi shrine hoping to talk with Xie Lian was a low blow. The worst part had arrived later when Mu Qing had suggested while rolling his eyes about the possibility of Xie Lian being in Ghost City, the all known Crimson Rain’s territory.
Despite it was probable, Feng Xin had insisted on waiting, unwilling to admit he was right. In the end, he reluctantly agreed. And that was how they entered the city together, though they were three feet away. Nobody could tell they were together despite they were clearly alive surrounded by monsters and ghosts. As expected, they brought a lot of attention.
Hua Cheng appeared one hour later. During that time, they had destroyed three market stalls, fought against the pig ghost, the crowd, and each other.
“Congrats, you are worse than the War God.” Hua Cheng clapped his hands with a grin that didn’t reach his eye. “At this rate, Heaven will be indebted to me.”
“Crimson Rain,” Mu Qing hissed. “Don’t say nonsense. We are here to...”
He never ended the phrase. Although in general Feng Xin loved when someone shut him up, today he couldn’t smile. Mostly because his face has changed. Feng Xin blinked, confused. Suddenly, Hua Cheng was taller than him and the crowd they defeated was laughing. When he shouted at them, instead of words, he barked.
And, where Mu Qing used to be, now was a cat above a pile of clothes.
The cat rolled his eyes.
Hua Cheng grabbed Meow Qing by the neck and lifted him up so they could face each other. The cat tried to scratch him, but the calamity laughed while he extended his arm so the animal couldn’t reach him. “Be a good cat and don’t bother Gege.” With a mischievous smirk, he released him.
It turned out to be true that cats always fell on their feet, because, despite the surprise, Meow Qing landed fairly well. Canfeng Xin barked to catch Crimson Rain's attention, but the Ghost King ignored him and left them without giving them an explanation of how they could return to their human bodies. When he tried to follow him, the ghosts stopped him. Some of them mocked while they intended to pet him, however, three bites and one amputation changed their mind.
That didn’t mean that the crowd left them alone. They kept coming, some to enjoy the spectacle, others with the intention to cook them. The ghost pig led that group.
Next to Canfeng Xin, Meow Qing pulled out the nails and hissed. It wasn’t very scary, but rather a bit adorable.
The battle was imminent and, for once, Canfeng Xin didn’t have the winning hand. In fact, their defeat seemed very likely. When, along with the pride, he had lost all hope, the crowd retreated. A man dressed in green hiding half of his face behind an elegant fan took a step toward them, followed by Pei Su and two strange ghosts.
Shi Qingxuan?! Canfeng Xin thought. He never imagined he could be relieved to see the Wind Master, especially after what happened on Banyue, but his presence was a miracle.
The cat meowed, showing some recognition too. That caught the man’s attention, who approached. There was something odd in the way he moved with pride and disdain. Shi Qingxuan didn’t have a cold gaze capable of frightening all the ghosts and made them leave.
However, what made Canfeng Xin realize that the man wasn’t the Wind Master was the absence of Ming Yi.
Green Leaves Dismember Limbs!!
“Woof!” He tried to warn the cat.
But it was too late. The infamous calamity grabbed Meow Qing. He did it with unexpected tenderness, however, that didn’t change the fact that he ignored the god’s effort to be released. Neither that, when Shen Qingqiu turned around followed by his companions, it was a kidnapping.
“Master, what are you going to do with this cute cat?” One of the ghosts, a young girl, asked.
“Since those barbarians wanted to kill him, I don’t have another option than keep it. I’m sure Crimson Rain won’t care. And if he does, even better.”
“Master is so gentle!”
No, he’s a kidnapper and a killer!! Canfeng Xin wanted to scream, but he could only bark.
“And what about the dog, Shizun?” Asked the other ghost, one with too many similarities with a snake.
“I don’t like dogs. Leave it.”
And they left without giving Canfeng Xin the opportunity to follow them.
Feeling completely useless as he hadn't felt in eight hundred years, Canfeng Xin ran in circles, too anxious to stay still. He couldn’t use his spiritual energy, not to connect into the communication array nor to return to normality. He couldn’t do anything.
Despite his desperation, the world around him didn’t stop. Recovered from the fear at Green Leaves, some ghost approached again talking about how delicious would be a soup with a goddog .
Aware that he couldn’t win, Canfeng Xin growled before running away. Although he wasn’t very big, he was able to move very fast. And he ran like a coward until he got completely lost in the unfamiliar city.
Damn it , he thought. He couldn’t go back to the heavens without help and there wasn’t any god nearby… right?
Canfeng Xin stopped on his track so abruptly that he almost hit a ghost. Now, he was a dog and, while it had a lot of disadvantages, it must have a few benefits. For example, the fact that dogs had a good nose. He lowered his head and concentrated to feel the different scents. Although mostly belonged to dead people, he caught a few filled with the spiritual energy that could only come from a god.
Finally, with a direction, Canfeng Xin followed the strongest scent although it converged with another filled with resentful energy similar to Hua Cheng and Shen Qingqiu’s. The chance that there were three Ghost Kings in the city at the same time was so unlikely that he decided to not think about it too much. He couldn’t be so unlucky.
His hearing was also better, so he caught fragments of conversations while he advanced. He ignored most of them, but one made him speed up the pace.
“Lan Zhan! I didn’t expect you would come to Ghost City for me,” said a man with a cheerful tone.
“Did you like my surprise at the Mid-Autumn Festival?”
“Really? That’s so great!! My night was also awesome. I saw all the plays with Dage and we laughed so much. And we also went to save Shen Qingqiu! Well, Dage saved him, but I collaborated!! I mean, someone had to convince him. Do you think that Shen Qingqiu will be grateful? Maybe he even stops seeing me as a nuisance.”
“Anyway, that’s in the past. Now we should focus on finding the last parts of our friend...” A bamboo stick hit the floor. “And A-Qing’s friend. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten him...AHHHHHHH LAN ZHAN!!”
Canfeng Xin barked, relieved to recognize Lan Wangji. It was hard to not know him after what happened at the Mid-Autumn Festival. However, what he didn’t expect was that one of the ghosts who accompanied him (clearly another calamity) would jump into Lan Wangji’s arms and start screaming with fear.
Astonished by that reaction, Canfeng Xin approached the god very slowly. He didn’t expect that Lan Wangji would unsheathe his sword and pointed to Canfeng Xin.
What are you doing? Canfeng Xin tried to say. I’m a dog… I mean, a god. Lan Wangji!!
And Lan Wangji decided to defend the calamity. His always blank expression now showed a cold fury. Feeling threatened, Canfeng Xin turned around, too scared to look back.
I don’t need him, he thought, still uncomfortable. Now that I know I can catch a god’s scent, I can find Mu Qing.
Filled with determination and a sparkle of optimism, Canfeng Xin ran until he left the horrendous city behind. He feared that if he stood there for much longer, he would eventually find even Black Water.
Outside, without all the market stalls of food, ghosts, and humans, Canfeng Xin found it easier to recognize Meow Qing’s scent. Maybe it was because they knew each other for hundreds of years, but his scent stood up in contrast with other familiar but weak scents.
Although now he was a dog, he continued being a god under his skin. For that reason, he was able to run miles without getting tired nor feeling hungry. However, as much as he advanced, he still sensed Meow Qing’s scent so far. Soon, he had to accept the fact that he could need days to reach his destination, maybe even a week. And he didn’t know if Meow Qing could survive for so long trapped by Green Leaves.
For that reason, when he noticed a different and strong scent way nearer than Meow Qing’s, he decided to change his route. As he was getting closer, he sped up. He had the feeling that it belonged to Jiang Cheng and, although he never liked the god, the Thunder Master was a close friend of Meow Qing. His only friend, in fact. If there was someone out there who would help him save Meow Qing, it was Jiang Cheng.
The Thunder Master wasn’t alone. He was in the street of a small village walking with his niece and a dog. The last was the first to sense his presence. He barked to alarm his owner, however, Jiang Cheng was the one who paid him attention.
I’m Feng Xin! Mu Qing was kidnapped, he needs your help! He tried to say. Of course, it didn’t work.
Jiang Cheng knelt down and, unexpectedly, petted his head. He usually had the same expression as if he had bitten a lemon, while other times he was just angry. Now his expression was one that Canfeng Xin had never witnessed. There wasn’t any trace of fury nor disdain. It was softer and his eyes reflected a tenderness he wasn’t used to seeing in his face.
“Are you lost, buddy?” Jiang Cheng asked with the same tone other people used with babies.
Who are you and what did you do with Jiang Cheng??!!
As a spiritual dog, Fairy approached tensed, sensing he wasn’t a normal dog. And, if Fairy knew, Jiang Cheng should also suspect it… right?!
“Uncle...” Jin Ling muttered. “You can’t adopt another...”
A single look from Jiang Cheng was enough to shut him up.