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Going by Zhuning’s words, they traveled by night and rested by day. Sixteen had to use his own resting time to buy something for Zhuning to grind her teeth with, such as bones, corncobs, or his own shoulder pad. He never realized that Zhuning’s teeth were so formidable. In the course of five days, she’d already worn through two shoulder pads. Sometimes, even the slow and dim-witted Sixteen thought of buying her a whetstone and stuffing it into her mouth so she could slow down a bit.
On yet another evening, Sixteen had purchased the items Zhuning needed for her teeth when a hand grabbed him right beneath an inn. He turned around and recognized the two grave robbers who had ran off the other night. Stupefied, he asked, “What, is it?”
“What is it?! I spent five taels of fine silver to buy you to work for me, but a mutt of a slave like you actually took the chance to run off! Follow me back and see how I’ll break your legs!”
Sixteen was dragged two steps away before he suddenly recalled Zhuning’s words and how she’d blow him up. He stilled his steps and stood as steady as Mt. Tai while the two men tried to budge him. “Won’t go.”
When their previously obedient slave suddenly started to rebel, the two men grew furious. One of them took out the leather whip at his side and started beating Sixteen. He was used to getting beaten up, so he didn’t resist. Instead, he stood stock-still and allowed the lashes to leave bloody welts on his skin.
“Who gave you permission to beat him!” a sharp voice cried out from above. Zhuning pushed open the second-story window of the inn and flipped directly down to land in front of Sixteen. A hand caught the whip and viciously tugged, catching its owner off-guard. He staggered forward to kneel in front of Zhuning.
Zhuning crept closer to his face and opened her mouth wide, revealing her sharp white teeth. “I’ll bite you to death!” Her lips were black, her eyes like a cat’s, scaring the man into backing up before crawling away from the scene.
“Monster! It’s a monster!”
The other man had also been frightened, his face turning green at the memory of Zhuning’s expression. Those eyes rolled back into his sockets as he fell down in a dead faint.
Zhuning grabbed Sixteen’s hand as she hopped towards the city gates. “Let’s go, they’re going to lock the gates soon.”
“Zhuning, teeth grinders…” When he was being whipped, he’d dropped his things on the ground. Zhuning didn’t give him any time to pick them up as she led him away. She seemed to be angry and fleeing from something at the same time. When Sixteen turned around, he saw a black-robed Daoist slowly stroll out from the inn. He touched the man who had fainted on the ground, then turned to look at them with a vague expression.
One they left the city gates behind them and entered the forests, Zhuning finally released Sixteen. Right now, only the tip of the sun was peeking over the mountains, infusing the skies in a twilight glow.
Zhuning squatted down and covered her face, closing herself off for a long time before speaking in a weak voice. “The sun…is so beautiful.”
Sixteen gave a start before he realized that jiangshi shouldn’t be exposed to sunlight. This should be Zhuning’s first time seeing the sun since she’d woken up. He looked despondently at Zhuning until she raised her head. Her gaze pierced through the shade of the trees to stare at the multicolored sunset dying the skies. It seemed like her face had been injured by a burn, sporting terrifying red and white splotches.
“The sunlight’s also very warm. I really…want to see it one more time.”
Gazing at Zhuning’s expression, the usually dull-faced Sixteen felt like he’d suddenly been bitten. A strange feeling rose from his heart.
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