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The passage wasn’t wide. Only two people were allowed to walk side by side. Yet just as he entered, Xu Yangyi’s eyes immediately caught sight something.
A mural! From here at the beginning to the end, the passage was filled with murals! He was dazed but promptly felt something was amiss! This location… was the entrance. Light was absolutely shining. And yet, these murals… He simply didn’t see them from the outside!
The engraving of these murals was rather delicate, in a typical ancient Chinese freehand painting style, curvaceous and moreover colored. It was unknown whose hand it originated from. Each painting was a long picture-scroll, but apart from paintings, there wasn’t even a single character.
“Wait a moment.” Xu Yangyi raised his hand and everyone stopped. He came over to the side of the first mural and looked it up and down. This mural, or perhaps it could be said that it was a wall carving, was roughly a meter. In other words… if the 1,800-meter distance was calculated accordingly, there were perhaps close to 2,000 wall carvings inside the passage!
Xu Yangyi carefully studied the wall carving. On the entire carving was a scenery. A tremendous lake with willow trees at the side stirring gently in the wind. An old man with a full head of white hair was wearing a conical bamboo hat on his back. He was fishing in the lake. There wasn’t anything peculiar.
“Fellow Daoist Xu.” Upon seeing Xu Yangyi’s expression, Zhao Wuye, whose complexion was slightly better, wasn’t baffled and turned his head. “These paintings are nothing strange. At the start, we were the same as Fellow Daoist. Likewise, we believed these paintings concealed some secret. Before the Yellow Springs Path we researched for many long years. In the end, we discovered that these were only normal wall carvings. There’s never been anything a little strange about them. The sole thing that might be somewhat weird is…” he paused, “that the era is a little odd.”
“Era?” Xu Yangyi used his hand to gently console the old man and asked calmly.
“Yes, there just isn’t anything that can be made out from these wall carvings, but… their era is High Tang… It should probably be the reigning era of Heavenly Empress Wu Zhao.”
“What does that era represent?” Fang Cheng turned his head back and questioned.
Probably in order to liven up the mood before entering the Yellow Springs Path, Zhao Wuye calmly used his sweat-covered hand to wipe away at his perspiration and laughed with the gentlest voice that he could muster. “It still can’t be seen for now, but allow this old man to leave you in suspense. There are a total of 1,812 of these murals. Over 900 of them are located in the Yellow Springs Path, but… I believe that with Fellow Daoist Xu’s wisdom, you’ll certainly discover where the problem lies upon seeing the 600th mural and the last.”
Xu Yangyi nodded yet didn’t leave. He instead stretched out his hand and lightly rapped the stone wall. “It’s solid.”
A wisp of admiration flickered through Zhao Wuye’s eyes. Nowadays, such a careful person… wasn’t often seen anymore. Only this kind of person could live for a long time and arrive at a supreme position. In this wink of time, the earth master had already decided in his heart that if he left, he would use his full strength to make friends with the Xingtian Legion and Xu Yangyi.
“Not only is this place solid, but the sides are entirely as well” Cementing this thought in his mind, Zhao Wuye presented with even more detail. “This conclusion was born from the sacrifice of countless disciples. The entire passage is air-tight. It already existed in the past. It’s just that it was found by the Zhao Clan’s Dragon-Vein masters. When it was excavated, the inside already looked like this.”
“Who dug it out?” Xu Yangyi asked insipidly. His hand gently stroked the wall carving. “And who carved it?”
“I don’t know,” Zhao Wuye sighed. “The Eight Great Deadlands in themselves are a massive riddle.”
Xu Yangyi finally collected his gaze and grabbed the iron chain. “Let’s go.”
Sixteen people faced towards the inside of the cave and walked in a step at a time. They didn’t walk quickly because Xu Yangyi wanted to study the wall carvings bit by bit.
“This was a battle to seal gods.” After he walked for roughly twenty-plus meters and saw over twenty murals, he looked at a wall carving that was a full three to four meters long and said certainly, “The man’s characteristic was too obvious; he couldn’t admit his wrongs.”
He quietly snapped and a blaze filled the air at his fingertips. As the lighting was dimmest between the two taps, he couldn’t see clearly. It wasn’t until the fire started to burn that he saw everything in full view.
Two sides of men and horses confronted each other. The man on the left had a long beard fluttering in the wind and a head of gray hair. He was saddled on an extremely odd creature that had horns like a deer, a face like a horse, hooves like an ox, and a tail like a donkey. In nearly an instant, Xu Yangyi was positive of this man’s identity.
Jiang Shang, Jiang Ziya, Grand Duke Jiang, the Hopeful Grand Duke. He was mounted on a beast that was amalgamated from four things. Behind him was the three-eyed Erlang, the three-headed, six-armed Nezha, the bird-headed Leizhenzi… With everything in total order and such an outstanding symbolization, it was simply impossible for error to be acknowledged.
On the right was a person that Xu Yangyi wasn’t familiar with at all, but a majority of them were demons! He vaguely recognized the shadows of Meishan’s Seven Devils and even saw the Three Demons of Xuan Yuan: Prime Ancestress Su Daji—the nine-tailed demon fox, Wang Guiren—the jade-pipa fae, and Hu Ximei—the nine-headed pheasant. Following them was a sea of demons that blotted out the sky and concealed the earth.
“From here, we’ve entered the demon history of ancient Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing." At his side, a voice rang out. Peony had walked over at some unknown time and eagerly studied the images with interest as she explained, “The ones before this belonged to the history of ancient legends. After the later Qing dynasty, we began to head into modern demon history. At the same time, demon history is also cultivation history. But it should now be called Cultivation Civilization.”
Xu Yangyi nodded. “What’s different between ancient demons and modern demons?”
“The greatest difference is that they’re stronger,” Peony replied without the slightest hesitation. “Ancient demon bloodlines are pure, and their realms extremely high. That time was an era where true Core Formation walked the entire Earth and Nascent Soul were numerous like dogs. These old deified monsters could only charge through and break enemy lines. Those after these realms could be called generals… Take a look at the Three Demons of Xuan Yuan at the lead. Their realms transcend Nascent Soul by at least four or five levels… To be capable of battling against Erlang and these true immortals, even if they’re not demon-immortals, they’re still crossing the edge of calamity.”
Xu Yangyi nodded and continued to walk ahead, and Peony also swiftly followed. However, no one whatsoever saw… that after they walked by, the eyes of all the carvings actually moved! As if their gazes were solid, the murals all stared at the direction they had departed.
It was quiet, silent as before. And yet, the wall carvings were still wall carvings. Apart from the transformation of their glances, there wasn’t a ghost of a change.
Xu Yangyi walked at the end, and Peony looked at each mural. However, at the 230th mural, his brows began to wrinkle. It was the painting of a prison. In the painting, a middle-aged man was lying on the ground and covered in blood, but… he had no legs! He and Peony looked at each other in dismay. They were unable to make sense of the meaning in this image!
The man was a mortal. Those who cultivated absolutely wouldn’t use such a troublesome killing method, but instead directly exterminate the spiritual sense. Nonetheless, a cultivator’s greatest punishment was in no way the severing of legs, but the destruction of the qi sea! To go from a towering cultivator to falling once more to a mortal. There was almost no cultivator able to bear such pain.
“The painting jump is too fast…” Xu Yangyi rubbed his pale chin and mused pensively. “The previous paintings implied that the seal of gods was completed. It’s nothing strange that the context of sealing gods appears in the Eight Great Deadlands. If said the Desolate Flood era truly existed, then it’s demonkind’s origin. As for the Godseal era, if it truly existed, they… are the primogenitors of demonkind’s flourishing development.”
“Starting from Godseal, the demons have appeared to diversify, but in any historical text of the modern cultivation world, the true history of cultivation all begins in the Qin dynasty. The Godseal wall carvings here might even be saying that demons once existed below Danxia Temple. They yearn for the legendary ancestors carved on these walls. But why did it suddenly jump to a mortal?”
“I-I think I know who he is…” At this time, Peony’s voice was heard. Xu Yangyi raised his head and glanced. The other was already unable to restrain herself from rushing forward and looking at a few more murals. She pointed at a mural in shock and said, “Commander, come take a look at this one…”
He immediately walked over. It was the image of a horse race. In the painting, there were six horses running, but the three people watching were all alike. The other two didn’t need to be mentioned, but one of them was a man who was sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a high crown.
“This painting is used to represent the scenery of horse racing. In ancient times, many paintings expressed it like this…” Peony affirmed, “But out of all horse-racing sceneries, this image is the most famous. Its also the earliest use of ‘strategy versus theory’ in researchable history…”
“Tian Ji’s Horse Race?” Xu Yangyi heard the three words of “strategy versus theory” and already knew. He studied the wall carving, somewhat surprised. “You say that one of these three is Duke Qi. Tian Ji. So the one sitting on the wheelchair is… Sun Bin?”
“Not just that!” Peony turned her head, and her eyes twinkled. “The first painting! Do you remember the first painting, Commander?! That was the removal of the kneecaps! So it’s Sun Bin! These paintings… are all telling Sun Bin’s story!”
“From Godseal to Sun Bin?” Although Xu Yangyi realized this fact, he felt it all to be winding smoke and misty fog. “The extent of this jump is a little too much.”
They became slower and slower. Even now, they had fell back to the end of the procession. However, it couldn’t be helped but recognized that the duo had a strong interest in these wall carvings.
As they looked at painting after painting, they confirmed again that it was Sun Bin! They saw the Battle of Guiling and the Battle of Maling… The short length of the wall carvings all recounted Sun Bin’s entire life. However, as they looked upon the paintings after the 400th mural, they were stunned again!
The Battle of Redcliff…
“T-This…” Peony stared with wide eyes, her tongue tied. “H-How could it jump from Sun Bin to the Three Kingdoms?”
Chaotic clouds break the sky and stormy waves beat the shore. Raging conflagration blazes on the river surface, countless ships burn down in the waters.
In the second painting, there was a bearded man, who had a feather fan and wore a silk headdress, standing among seven oil lanterns… Those who read books would know that this scene was Zhuge Liang praying for the eastern wind!
“I got it!” Silent, after an unknown passage of time, Peony jumped up all of a sudden and cried out in alarm, “I know! I know what this is saying!”
“Redcliff.” Xu Yangyi nodded and laughed, but his arm was grabbed by Peony. Her face was glowing in excitement. “C-Commander! When we get to the last one! When we get to the last one! I bet! The last wall carving is one of Liu Bowen!”
1. Two things of note here. High Tang era is considered the golden era of Tang Poetry. Historians consider this to be roughly 700-760 CE. Heavenly Empress Wu Zhao is otherwise named as Wu Zetian (624-705 CE). She is the only recognized empress regnant of China in 2000 years.
2. I want to talk about some of these figures. I have mentioned Jiang Ziya and Nezha in the past, so I will be talking about Erlang and Leizhenzi. Erlang is known as the “Divine Immortal of Purity and Decency”. As the characters in his name suggest, Leizhenzi is known as the God of Thunder (the characters Lei and Zhen are lightning and thunder respectively).
3. More info: Meishan’s Seven Devils are the demons: White Ape, Pig, Ox, Dog, Sheep, Snake, and Centipede. Characters in a book known as Investiture of the Gods. Dated and published back to the 16th century. The Three Demons of Xuan Yuan are from the same book. The only “historical” one is Su Daji who was the empress of the Shang dynasty, said to be a cruel woman.
4. Desolate Flood era is otherwise known as the “Great Flood” that dates backs to the 3rd millennium BCE. It is an event treated both historically and mythologically. Regardless, the Great Flood is said to have devastated much of China.
5. Duke Qi/Tian Ji are the same person. Ancient Chinese people love having tons of different names. He was a general for the State of Qi (4th century BCE). Tian Ji’s Horse Race is an old Chinese story where Tian Ji races three horses against his king’s horses. Tian Ji pairs up his horses in a way that he wins ⅔ races against the king. (bad horse vs good horse, okay horse vs bad horse, good horse vs okay horse) Strategy is from Sun Bin, alleged descendant of Sun Wu (Sun Tzu - author of the Art of War). If you have time, read Sun Bin’s story. It is actually crazy. In general, I try to do all the research, but the story is too much and you’re better off reading it on wikipedia.
6. Battle of Redcliff takes places during Three Kingdoms era. It is the defeat of Cao Cao by the Kingdom of Wu.
7. I am unsure if I have mentioned this in the past, but this is where the term “delivery of the eastern wind” or some variation of it in this book comes from. The story originates from the Three Kingdoms era when Zhou Yu notices that the wind is not in his favor for a fire attack on Cao Cao’s fleet. Instead, he might burn down his own ships. Zhuge Liang prays for the eastern wind to aid them and it does come to the rescue. More background info: Zhuge Liang (181-234 CE) was one of the most accomplished strategist in China’s history for the State of Shu.
8. Liu Bowen (1311-1375 CE) Claimed as the “Chinese Nostradamus”, a divine seer. He served as an advisor to Zhu Yuanzhang who was the founder of the Ming dynasty.
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