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Xu Yangyi placed his hand on her shoulder and laughed as he made a shushing gesture. “Why?”
“Commander… my duties are different from yours. You’re in charge of fighting and I’m in charge of developing connections! And answering these missions! Me and Fellow Daoist… Mao, do these things! There’s one task included that we HAVE to be knowledgeable about and that’s to be familiar with a majority of China’s secret tales! Especially these famous figures! This can determine a secret realm’s truthfulness and danger level! And credibility!”
Her eyes were shining, and her voice wavered. “You probably don’t know… but before the Nation’s Founding, there was a nameless temple at the side of Wuhou Shrine in Xichuan’s Rongcheng Provincial Capital! That temple was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but not by people! Because people were unable to tear it down at all!”
“No matter how it was smashed—even gasoline to burn it down—it wasn’t ruined in the slightest! Back then, the Rongcheng City Government was terribly scared. It just so happened… at that time, Daomaster Titanspirit had exited seclusion. He didn’t care for this matter, but he visited this temple through a combination of various factors! After he glanced at it, he personally erased a stele in the temple! This event has a complete record in Rongcheng’s M-Files! That’s right… It was seven years ago! Seven years ago, I helped the CSIB arrange each province’s M-Files and did a once over!”
Xu Yangyi immediately followed through and asked, “Why?”
“Because…” Peony’s bosom heaved up and down violently. “The enshrined stele within the temple had a row of names… This matter is known to almost all of Xichuan’s cultivation managers! First was Jiang Shang and then Sun Bin. 500 years before, it was Zhuge Liang. 500 years later, it was Liu Bowen!”
“In other words… these four people… were in fact the same person! Reincarnation! Starting from Jiang Shang! When he was born, his root and bones were very much odd, so to seek perfection, he recultivated as Sun Bin, a genius with talents as high as the heavens. Unexpectedly, a calamity appeared in his life. Pang Juan snapped off his legs. Without any choice, he recultivated again as Zhuge Liang, that’s why Zhuge Liang loved to sit in wheelchairs. But Zhuge Liang tired himself working for Liu Bei, and setting fire to the Rattan Armor Army then wounded his karmic virtue. Helpless, he cultivated a final lifetime. His virtuous achievements came to perfect fruition, and THAT was Senior Liu Bowen!”
“Among the people, there’s a saying that the Three Kingdoms had Zhuge Liang, but Liu Bowen united all of Jiangshan. Commander, if my guess isn’t wrong, then the last painting is definitely Liu Bowen!”
These murals carved out a legend. A legend passed down in China for ages. However, for it to be carved here, carved in Danxia Temple, it was bound to be extraordinary!
The reason for Peony’s intense delight… was in the case that Sun Bin, Zhuge Liang, and Liu Bowen were indeed the same person! If the veracity of this legend could be authenticated, the cultivation world’s history would be pushed back by at least several centuries! It would directly enter the fringes of the Desolate Flood legend! The body of the ancient legends!
She dared not believe this was true, but… this place was Danxia Temple! The Eight Great Deadlands! For it to be carved here, it certainly held its own significance! It absolutely wasn’t for decoration!
Her voice not yet fallen, Xu Yangyi’s finger was already placed at her lips, and he made a shushing motion. She even exhaled so that her breath caressed the rough finger in front of her. Her complexion blushed faintly, and she pursed her lips and lowered her head. She said a little embarrassedly, “W-What’s up?”
“There are a total of over 1,800 murals here.” Xu Yangyi stood up and looked at the unbroken chain of surrounding wall carvings with rapt attention. He said gruffly, “Have you counted them? There are 230 paintings from the Godseal Annals. Sun Bin has 207 paintings. Zhuge Liang...” He followed and looked over, his voice flat. “Did we consider the number of images?”
Peony nodded robotically and some idea seemed to rise up in her heart, yet it was momentarily out of reach. She followed Xu Yangyi’s pace in doubt and walked ahead.
Arriving at a corner, Xu Yangyi halted in step. His eyes faintly glimmered. “This one is ‘The Stars Falling on Wuzhang Plains’, the 212th painting. Add this on, and we’re already at over 600 wall carvings. Peony, I’ll remind you again. There are 1,800 wall carvings here. What is 1,800 minus 600?”
Fairly dazed, Peony replied, “1,200…”
“I’ll ask you again. How many murals do you guess that Liu Bowen should have now?”
“Over 200, right… because all the ones before are… N-No! That’s not right! That’s wrong!!” Peony came to a sudden realization and screeched, “In t-that c-case, this is the middle! What are these thousand-something wall carvings in the middle?! More… There’s more! There’s one more story!”
“Yes…” A small, excited smile emerged at the crook of Xu Yangyi’s mouth. “Jiang Shang was first and Sun Bin was later. Five centuries before, there was Zhuge Liang. Five centuries later, there was Liu Bowen. But now, there’s one more person here!”
“And who could it be?” Xu Yangyi sucked in deeply. “In history, there are these Four Greats, but each of them only take up about 200 mural lengths. As for this person, he occupies half of these 1,800 wall carvings. Who do you think it is?”
Peony was left completely dumbstruck, but in her heart that dreadful guess just now caused her entire body to tremble in excitement! This folk legend… was being carved here! Furthermore… there was still another story!
As the dust settled, who was it? Capable of vying against Jiang Ziya, Sun Bin, Zhuge Liang, and Liu Bowen to obtain half of the murals! Which one of these four weren’t illustrious sages, only emerging once every five centuries?! Yet there was actually someone who had a mural length that exceeded all four of their collective sums!
“We’ll know the answer very soon…” Xu Yangyi’s gaze brushed over an image far ahead. However, a strange event occurred. That painting… He was unable to see it clearly! It was almost a hop away, yet he couldn’t see it at all. By chance, the lighting at the corner ahead was a bit dark. He vaguely saw… a painted umbrella?
He took a deep breath. For the same reason, he simply didn’t feel that the story carved in this place was to decorate the tunnel. Anything capable of being carved in one of the Eight Great Deadlands was undoubtedly not simple!
Especially… if that place below in his memories was real. Would that colossal demon, the pyramidion among the apex of cultivators, be so idle to do such a thing? Could it be that it was even an artist?
“Commander! Look here, sir!” At this time, Peony’s voice was heard from behind. It seemed as if she had discovered something new again and was excited to no end.
Xu Yangyi pondered as he roughly sized things up, slowly turning his body. Yet at this time, he came to a fierce halt! A bead of cold sweat dripped down from his forehead. Overall… they had looked at 600 wall carvings! Thus, they had delved at least 600 meters into the tunnel! To his surprise, he had unwittingly walked 600 meters!
Swoosh… A chilling wind seemed to confirm his thoughts and noiselessly scraped the inside of the passage. As if it had penetrated his clothes and blew through his body, it caused him to grow cold from head to toe! Because at this moment, the eidetic memory gifted from the pill spirit… was completely exhibiting itself by every single drop and bit! 600 meters… The Zhao Clan had warned: After 600 meters, you’ll immediately enter the Yellow Springs Path!
“Commander?” Peony’s puzzled voice was heard from behind, and a jade hand softly grabbed onto his clothes. “Hurry and look! Here! Its amazing!
Xu Yangyi’s hand captured the iron chain in the air without the slightest hesitation. He didn’t turn his head, his voice cold. “Who are you?”
“Commander?” Peony was stunned and continued to pull at him. Her level of strength carelessly increased. “S-Sir, look quickly!”
Xu Yangyi didn’t utter a word and suddenly closed his eyes. With all of his strength, he charged ahead by three meters! He and Peony… It wasn’t the current “Peony” at his back. Instead, amidst unwittingness, he and the true Peony had already walked into the Yellow Springs Path! At this instant, he felt a heavy, cold sweat drench his palm!
It was too bizarre.
The human eye couldn’t only just see things directly facing it. In fact, the angle captured by it was rather wide. To use a proverb, apart from a focal position, other regions were “peripheral light at the corner of the eyes”.
As for his peripheral light, he was very certain that Peony hadn’t shifted down! She hadn’t moved back! However, just before him, as he had turned his body for less than a hundredth of a second, Peony had already changed.
Like so, it allowed him to determine that Peony’s hand… was still tightly clutching as his clothes, but at the same time her voice had already transformed into a shriek. “LOOK! HURRY AND LOOK! TAKE A PEEK! LOOK QUICKLY, COMMANDER!”
Even now, the voice had went from Peony’s to a neutral voice, neither male nor female. Ultimately… it purely became a terrible man’s voice! The Yellow Springs Path… At this very moment, even Xu Yangyi felt the back of his hand rise with goose bumps. Narrowing his eyes, he glanced at his elbow—Peony’s hand was set there, but once he looked, he snapped his eyes closed!
A woman… with hollowed eye sockets, a removed chin, and disheveled hair was being taken by his hand as he walked. While she walked, she screeched with her utmost effort. “TAKE A LOOK, COMMANDER!”
Yet her form… was clearly and obviously Peony’s! At that twinkling, Xu Yangyi really did wish to turn his head and see whether or not she was still alive. “No…” Forthwith, he steadied his heart. “Right now… there’s no way I can turn my head back!”
“Yi…” At this time, a warm and soft voice rang out. The voice caused his eyelids to stir abruptly and almost open. In reflex, his body circled back, nearly turning over! In his memories… this was his mother’s voice!
“Little Yi, where are you headed off?!” At the same time, a dignified male voice echoed, “Come back, I’ll drive you to school.”
Xu Yangyi’s lips moved and his Adam’s apple trembled a few good times. He tightly closed his eyes, his heart teeming with bitterness. A short remark evoked countless years of emotion deeply hidden in his dreams.
A soft hand stroked and caressed his hair. The woman’s gentle voice conveyed a wistful trace, ringing out at his ear side. “You’ve grown so much… Come, turn around, let mother take a look… take a look if my darling baby boy became handsome...”
A line of pure tears quietly trickled out from his eyes. Xu Yangyi tightened his grip on the iron chain in his hand, yet this hand was shaking as if it was caught in a tempestuous wind. A glance, a brief glimpse would be fine! He didn’t turn his head, but… he could see… the appearance of his father’s and mother’s hands in his memories...
Even if it was fantasy.
In the darkness that wasn’t too shadowy, he noiselessly opened his eyes. “I’m crying…?” He extended his hand and wiped his tears, somewhat shocked, and put up a ghost of a bitter smile on his lips. “How many years has it been…”
Yet in the next second, he jolted awake! The hand petting his hair was already stroking his face now! However, it was in no way a human hand!
Instead, it was a monstrous hand with white hair sprouting all over and black fingernails that were a full half an inch long! In the tunnel, the flickering light found his silhouette, but behind him… was nothing!
There was only the white-haired hand, absent of origin, stroking his hair!
1. Wuhou Temple means “Martial Marquis Temple”. One of Zhuge Liang’s titles.
2. Rattan Armor Army was a group of barbarians fought by Zhuge Liang during his Southern Expedition. These barbarians used an extremely hard armor made from vine, which was impervious to cutting/water. So, Zhuge Liang just burned them all down. Pang Juan (died 342 BCE) is one of the main figures in Sun Bin’s story. He and Sun Bin studied military strategy under the same master, but he later betrayed Sun Bin. He was a general for the State of Wei.
3. “Ancient” The term used here is specifically referring to Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
4. “Stars Falling on Wuzhang Plains” This scene is in some part a depiction of Zhuge Liang’s final days. Falling seriously, ill he died here at the age of 53.
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