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A slight dizziness emerged in Xu Yangyi’s mind. As he opened his eyes, he’d already arrived once more at the initial starting point of the Yellow Springs Path. Of those who were alive… there was him, Fang Cheng, Mao Ba’er, Xuan Chengzi, Quan Ningyue, and Zhao Wuye; the six of them were still awake. The unconscious Li Zongyuan, Yi Old Five, and Sister Nine had been delivered on the floor besides them.
Everyone closed their eyes and meditated. Wei Zhongxian and Xuan Chengzi followed at Xu Yangyi’s side like shadows. Wei Zhongxian’s gaze carried a frosty glint, and he discreetly swept an eye over the surroundings. He lowered his head and murmured, “Master. How about I take action and handle them…”
He had a smile on his face as he lightly dragged a finger over his neck, yet his facial expression was without the slightest change.
Xu Yangyi raised a brow. Wei Zhongxian truly was deserving of being the great and crafty official of that bygone era… Among all those present or perhaps a Foundation Establishment Senior... the total number of lives they had all reaped would fall short in comparison to this old fellow. Those unloyal to Xu Yangyi were to be killed. Those who didn’t follow Xu Yangyi were to be killed. Those who couldn’t be controlled were to be killed. Wei Zhongxian’s title of “Nine Thousand Years” was in no way undeserved. In killing people, regardless of whether or not they were cultivators, there was no question that Wei Zhongxian wouldn’t be mentally burdened one bit.
However, Xu Yangyi didn’t nod immediately. Apart from the Xingtian Legion, both Yi Old Five and Sister Nine were open game on the chopping block. Sister Nine was moreover a person of the Ming Clan. And yet…
He shook his head. He couldn’t kill them. As he called these things to mind… it was unknown how many clans and powers were outside and impatiently waiting for people to come out. If only the Xingtian Legion walked out through those doors… then where did everyone else go? Did they died? How did they die? Why was it that over a thousand people had entered, but only nine had come out alive?
Presently, the Xingtian Legion was too young and inexperienced. They were simply unable to weather such roaring winds and pounding waves. But if those of the Ming Clan, Yi Clan, and the Dao Sect came out together as well, the primary focus wouldn’t be on him, even if the Xingtian Legion had the most people alive.
Cultivation had never merely considered the concept of realm as supreme. For each person, there existed a time when they were weak.
Upon seeing the minor waves of Xu Yangyi’s gaze, Wei Zhongxian quickly cajoled and laughed, “Whatever Master says is what this slave will do. Master’s considerations are superb. The powerful lineages naturally have their own responsibilities. We only need to hide behind them from the coming elements and tribulations.”
The crook of Xu Yangyi’s mouth twitched, and he lowered his voice. “Alter their memories about what they saw inside. I know you can do it. Your identity can’t be revealed in particular. There’s also my business.”
“An enlightened sage is no more than his master.” Wei Zhongxian laughed, tacitly understanding. Following a wave of his hand, he isolated everyone else’s sense of hearing. “In accordance with Master’s command just now, I had already done so when we transferred out. These matters were of His Majesty’s considerations. Apart from the ancestral hall of Dragon-Tiger Mountain’s Zhang Clan, none can remove Celestial Master Zhang’s secret sealing technique… but may I be so bold to state that the best method would be to take Master’s subordinates…”
Wei Zhongxian’s eyes flashed with an ominous glint. Xu Yangyi brushed an eye over the group. Hesitating for a moment, he ultimately shook his head, firm.
“I can’t.” Xu Yangyi sighed deeply and looked towards the top of the cavern. “Everyone has their own path. Erasing a part of their memories about me is the best way to go about it…” His eyes suddenly fell, and he studied Wei Zhongxian. “Am I soft-hearted?”
Wei Zhongxian laughed wryly, not answering.
“Or maybe.” Xu Yangyi stood up, leaned against a wall, and lit a cigarette. “Yes, the most reliable method would be to kill the witnesses and leave behind the ones who passed out and can’t be killed… but I, I have my own path.”
“Even if it’s wrong, I’m willing to fix it again after it brings me pain.” He gazed at his cigarette butt. “I’ll give them a chance. And I’ll leave behind the conscience in my heart.”
Wei Zhongxian spoke no further. Someone as astute as him understood all too well about the word “bottom line”. Not everyone enjoyed passing judgement on others.
In spite of this, he disapproved of Xu Yangyi’s way of handling matters. A general’s merits were achieved through the sacrifice of countless withered bones. Didn’t these people take his master as “countless bones? What other use did they have apart from being “withered”?
Xu Yangyi took a bit of the spicy smoke into his chest. This then caused his mind to shake, pulling him away from his thoughts. He gazed at his left arm. Looking at it for a long time, he didn’t speak. In silence, Wei Zhongxian stood deferentially at his side.
“Commander.” At this time, a woman’s voice softly rang out, “Are you worried about your severed arm?”
At some unknown time, Quan Ningyue had stopped meditating and followed Xu Yangyi’s gaze, her sight landing on his arm. Studying the ugly yet glorious scar for ages, she suddenly laughed, “So now you know what worry is? And here I thought that Commander would always be carefree.”
Xu Yangyi held his cigarette in his mouth and laughed, “If I didn’t do it back then, none of us would be standing here right now.”
“Do you regret it?” Quan Ningyue chuckled and asked. “Limb loss renders a cultivator incapable of performing the most basic seal-forming. Mortals can just buy a walking stick or get a cast… but not us.”
“Without the various meridians in a limb, how can a full qi cycle be performed? How can someone cultivate without cycling qi? Besides, how can seals be formed without a hand? How can one use certain divine abilities that require hand meridians?” She looked into Xu Yangyi’s eyes. “You really didn’t think about this back then?”
Xu Yangyi sighed and extinguished his cigarette butt. “If I said I didn’t regret it, then that would be a lie. But there are some things that you have to do even if you’re well aware that you shouldn’t.”
Quan Ningyue peered deeply at Xu Yangyi’s eyes—such a contemplative expression on a lolita-looking woman was somewhat unbefitting. After a long time, she said nothing. Instead, she stood up and formed a seal with her right hand. In an instant, her left hand slowly opened up like a machine.
Whir… Following a nearly silent mechanical sound, rays of mysterious blue light penetrated through from the opened cracks, little by little. This was her greatest secret. Although it couldn’t be considered a secret anymore after Danxia Temple, this was the first time that Xu Yangyi had viewed Quan Ningyue’s “interior” at close range.
The inside was spread densely with profound talismans… In the next second, the machinery within Quan Ningyue’s arm swiftly revolved, starting to assemble and install. In less than two seconds, her left hand shockingly transformed into a man-sized shield! The shield’s surface was engraved with a powerful and fierce beast. Even Xu Yangyi didn’t clearly see how her arm transformed into a shield.
“This shield contains a divine ability. Its name is Vajra Unbreakable.” Quan Ningyue didn’t look at Xu Yangyi but rather continued to speak, minding after herself. “It can resist three strikes from a half-step Foundation Establishment. At and under late-stage Qi Condensation, this shield can block over 80% of injuries.”
Not waiting for Xu Yangyi to respond, her right hand formed another seal. The front of the shield glimmered with tens of blue rays. As the brilliance disappeared, Quan Ningyue’s left hand, the region below her elbow, had shockingly transformed into a strange longsword!
“This sword is a supreme-grade magik artifact.” Quan Ningyue still didn’t look at Xu Yangyi. She raised her left hand and grunted. An azure light suddenly twinkled, and the water in front of her exploded and roared into a wave that was tens of meters tall.
“It’s not that I can’t equip even better magik treasures, but my ‘fleshly body’ just can’t take it.” Quan Ningyue stowed her gaze and observed her sword pensively. She whispered, “My left hand has a total of three forms. The other one is a cannon. It’s also a supreme-grade magik artifact. Moreover… this magik artifact contains a divine ability called…”
“The Spirit Extermination Cannon.” Xu Yangyi seemed to understand what Quan Ningyue wanted to say and calmly looked at her hand. “You’re saying…”
“My left hand’s design is called ‘The Three Moongazers’. It’s a schematic left behind by a Qing-era Foundation Establishment senior.” Quan Ningyue turned around, pursing her lips as she looked at Xu Yangyi. “My body is weak. But… according to what I know, Master has five schematics in his possession. The best model was bestowed by Ancestor Skybearer. It is known… as the Ketu-Rahu Sword.”
The light of Xu Yangyi’s eyes was already starting to twinkle. He completely understood what Quan Ningyue wanted to say. She hadn’t opted for a blunt explanation but was instead telling Xu Yangyi through practical means that even if his arm had been severed, he was in no way powerless to act!
“Master once allowed me to read the schematics for the Ketu-Rahu Sword. It…” She inhaled deeply. “Is the heartblood of an ancient cultivator’s work… to call it a qilin’s arm is no understatement… Commander.”
Both her hands formed seals at a dizzying pace. Her left hand droned as it activated, yet in this instant, Foundation Establishment qi madly torrented out from it!
Blue runes fluttered like butterflies and lingered over her hand, but both of her hands had shockingly formed a cannon! A thumb-sized light orb was shimmering in her palm. In the wake of this brightening, Xu Yangyi, Quan Ningyue, and even Wei Zhongxian, who was standing with his hands behind his back, lifted their heads in astonishment!
The surrounding qi was like a gale screaming! At this moment, the wind actually solidified! It caused their clothes to wildly dance!
“The Spirit Extermination Cannon… can slay half-step Foundation Establishment.” After several seconds, Quan Ningyue released a pent-up sigh of relief, her forehead wet with cold sweat. Both of her hands automatically disassembled, returning to their original states. She looked gravely at Xu Yangyi. “And the Ketu-Rahu Sword… can fight a true Foundation Establishment Senior!”
“But, the Ketu-Rahu Sword requires an exceedingly powerful constitution. A spiritual sense that transcends that of a genius! Furthermore, the materials are rather precious. In these many years… Master has never found a person that could bear this magik prosthesis. It’s possibly the present cultivation world’s most classical schematic.”
“Its might… is at least ten times greater than the Three Moongazers’s schematics!”
Xu Yangyi nodded with heavy understanding. In this extremely dangerous Danxia Temple journey, he’d realized his greatest flaw. That was his great lack of divine abilities and magik artifacts. Perhaps he was enough against his chosen legionnaires, but confronted with the geniuses of all the noble lineages he was absolutely inadequate!
Danxia Temple was only his beginning. In the future, who knew whether or not he would go to the Dragon Hole? The Heavenly Pit? Kunlun’s Death Valley?
Could it be that the two greater demons, unknown to both sun and sky, were sealing each other every time? Each occasion relying on the contingency that Ming Guangzong had left behind?
“Strength…” He tightly clenched his fists, his thirst towards strength turning hot and firm in his heart once again.
“Master, to tell the truth, this slave has a few words. I am unaware whether or not they should be said,” Wei Zhongxian said discreetly in understanding, peering at his master’s face.
Xu Yangyi curbed his thoughts. While strength was admittedly important, it wasn’t something that could be reached with an increase in speed. He was one to cultivate step by step.
“Please speak, Grandpa Wei…”
“Oh dear~ Master can just address me as your humble servant, but if you truly wish to display your affections, my childhood name was ‘Whitey Brows’. If Master is not disinclined, call me by this name.”
No frickin’ thanks! Xu Yangyi almost spat on the ground. Whitey… Brows? That really fucking was… cringey as hell! Nonetheless… the one who caused him such discomfort was a true Foundation Establishment cultivator… who was also quite possibly much stronger than other Foundation Establishment cultivators…
“I’ll keep on calling you ‘Grandpa Wei’, alright?” There was no way that Wei Zhongxian could be called ‘Whitey Brows’. If this got out and the name of ‘Whitey Brows’ slipped out, everyone would definitely believe that such a picturesque name belonged to a supreme beauty.
And then three seconds later… the peerless enchantress Wei Zhongxian’s old sagging face would emerge…
This scene was too beautiful. He dared not imagine it.
1. “A general’s merits are achieved through the sacrifice of countless withered bones.” Poem from late Tang Poet Cao Song (828-903 CE).
2. Ketu and Rahu are both lunar nodes in Vedic (Indian) astrology. These nodes just happen to be the points when eclipses are possible. Without astronomical/religious connotation, Ketu-Rahu Sword could be very well named “Eclipse Sword”.
3. This nickname is considered quite feminine.
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