“Explain why you decided to release me and demanded I dress up as you.”
Though the expressions weren’t perfect, it was negligible in the grand scheme of things. Ming Feizhen released Mountain Monster out of the blue and told her to go absorb their essence and collect their flesh, disguise herself as him and rendezvous in the mountain.
“Oi, say something! You expect me to beg you?!”
“Relax. I wouldn’t know what to say even if you did beg me. I’m surprised you behaved and didn’t flee.”
“Don’t give me that sarcasm. Your conscious in me would attack me if I did, wouldn’t it?” Mountain Monster did try to flee and experienced the mental attack firsthand. A boar took advantage of her weakened state to attack her in mountains, further fuelling her rage. She continued, “Oi, I’m talking to you!”
“I want to help you. I have a job for you. Complete it and I’ll provide you with a degree of freedom. It’s a win-win deal.”
“… Don’t play guessing games with me. Make it explicit.”
“To keep it simple… My identity is under scrutiny. I have to split myself up for another job. I don’t want my identity to be exposed. That’s where you come in.”
“It sounds… as though you’re not the one helping me, but I’m the one helping you.”
“No, if you help me, I’ll provide you with freedom.”
“You just said a degree of freedom.”
“Staying vigilant, I see. You’re right. I can’t just let you leave; however, I promise to let you move about freely in my vicinity.” The way Ming Feizhen looked at his spitting image was the same way a schemer would: “I’ll tell everyone you escaped tomorrow morning, and then I’ll let you be yourself as a constable under me. That’ll provide you with enough freedom.”
“That’s the same as still being detained! I want absolute freedom! I want out of here, and I never want to see you again.”
“You think I was born yesterday? The moment I let you go, you’ll go assemble your forces to come back and annihilate us,” Ming Feizhen pointed out, amused. “I don’t know your character too well, but I’m not stupid. This is the best offer I can give you. You decide whether you take it up or not. If you don’t accept, go back into the chest.”
After a long and hard think, an evil smile came to Mountain Monster’s lips: “Master Ming, you must desperately want to hide your identity, huh? The fact that you’re making this offer proves that you’re cornered. Either you release me and remove the conscious in me, or I won’t help you with anything.”
“… Don’t push the envelope.”
River Monster simpered: “I guess you can wait to see everything crumble, then. It takes a lot of energy for me to disguise myself as stupid you.”
“I said, don’t push the envelope.”
River Monster’s simper stiffened. She tried to scowl. Unfortunately, she could barely budge her lips.
“You… used that technique again?”
“It’s Night Net Celestial Silk’s Shadow King String. You remember the technique that caught you last time, right?”
“You… plan to use this technique to fool them? It won’t work. Where would you hide? Do you want them to see two Ming Feizhen’s?”
Ming Feizhen reciprocated the smile: “I can control my target from over three hundred and thirty-three metres away using Shadow King String, so you don’t need to worry on my behalf.”
“I won’t… say a word. I won’t help you.”
“I don’t need your help.” Ming Feizhen extended his left hand, revealing fifty or so barely-visible silk threads he manipulated using his true qi: “Controlling movement is called Shadow Puppetry. Controlling facial expressions and voices is called…”
“… String. Show,” drawled River Monster, in a clunky voice resembling Ming Feizhen’s. “You intend to use String Show to fool them?!”
“It might not work on others, but it’s perfect on you. Your Blood Fiend Silkworm Transformation Art allows you to imitate anyone’s voice unlike others.”
“Using String Show, I can make my puppet utter six words or less in one go. Sometimes I can get more than eight. Keep up with me. I think this’ll work perfectly. What do you think?”
River Monster was speechless.
Manipulating a living human via threads was an idea Ming Feizhen invented; using true qi to manipulate people was something the unorthodox sects utilised in the past. In comparison to River Monster’s seduction skills, it wasn’t that innovative or profound. The ability to control the target merely required time to hone. The most difficult hurdle to get over wasn’t the deftness or complexity but supplying a constant influx of true qi for the puppet.
Manipulating a living human being to perform simple habits required an A-grade adept to use every fibre of his being. Trying to perform actions on top of controlling facial expressions and voices was a different beast all together. Nobody had an infinite supply of internal energy. Otherwise, there’d already be someone peerless without having to waste time getting technical.
What are you thinking? Why do you want to use this method? Who do you think you are? One of the Supreme Ten Saints? A Divine Realm adept?
“We don’t have a feud between us. I never wanted to heckle you for anything besides the ambush on Shen Yiren. I can’t do as I please right now, and this is important. If you don’t help, I’ll have to make you cooperate.”
“Big Brother Ming?”
Ming Feizhen pushed Su Xiao over to Mountain Monster as soon as Su Xiao regained awareness. Ming Feizhen then immediately used his Eclipse to hide his presence and stayed over a hundred and sixty-five metres away to control Mountain Monster.
Ming Feizhen had Mountain Monster mingle with his allies while he did only what was needed to keep everyone safe from a distance. When Abels put Su Xiao’s life in jeopardy, he had no choice but to intervene. The contest with Abels was merely an unpredicted and unwanted event.
Back to the present.
“It’s probably for the best that we could resolve the debacle with that. Abels is acting weird. You must know why,” Ming Feizhen stated, grinning ever so faintly. “I forgot I haven’t undone your seal.”
Ming Feizhen pulled off the flesh and essence to reveal a blood-drained face. Mountain Monster was still her pretty self, but she had grown quite a bit taller and thinner. Mountain Monster trembled and breathed as gently as she could. Her reaction wasn’t surprising to Ming Feizhen, apparently.
“Why are you shaking so intensely? Isn’t your disguise a nice way to stay warm in this cold weather?”
Mountain Monster couldn’t find it in her to play along with Ming Feizhen’s joke. She needed time to recover her ability to speak, albeit still shaken. She stuttered, “Y-you could use me to treat someone and defeat my master using just String Show.”
Mountain Monster wouldn’t have been able to perform the hand movements Ming Feizhen had her perform on Tie Hanyi even in her real body. When Ming Feizhen fought Abels using her, she could feel the tremendous supply of internal energy gushing into her body.
“Y-you’re stronger than one of the Supreme Ten Saints…”
“I never beat your master. He was holding back,” expressed Ming Feizhen, whilst thinking, “Not that I wasn’t.”
Mountain Monster didn’t process anything Ming Feizhen said. Even when he lifted her out of her disguise from her armpits, she didn’t resist or show hostility.
“It’s all over and done with now. Have a rest.”
“… No, wh-who exactly are you?”
The question stumped Ming Feizhen. His smile wasn’t intended to deride her. Instead, it seemed as though he was trying to mask how he genuinely felt.
“… If only I could answer you.”
Mountain Monster felt that was the closest she ever got to the real Ming Feizhen. The person she wanted to kill most changed.
“I also want to know who exactly I am.”
The argent moon highlighted the loneliness and desire for belonging on Ming Feizhen’s face.