"Is what we did really the right thing?"
HIstory lesson incoming...
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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Lu Ying transformed into his human form and arrived in front of the stone tower together with Chong Ming.
"This kind of tower is called 'Xingluo,'" Lu Ying faintly said, "and similar to the earth veins below the ground, these Xingluo towers correspond to the heaven veins. It was many years ago when Xuanyuan-shi ordered the human race's master craftsmen to build them based on the corresponding positions of the stars on the ground. In ancient times, magical artifacts were put inside each tower in order to draw in the spiritual qi of heaven and earth, which would irradiate the earth with the force of life. It would also bless and protect the human world with good weather, as well as give people plentiful, abundant harvest of all kinds."
"Ah." Chen Xing had never heard of this before. Lu Ying had really lived for a long, long time; he was just like a living ancient book.
Chong Ming let out an "en" before saying, "There were a total of 108 Xingluo towers in the Divine Land. It was the greed of you humans that had caused a fight over the 108 magical artifacts inside the towers hundreds of years ago, and the Xingluo towers have ceased functioning properly ever since."
After thinking for a moment, Lu Ying said, "For example, the Yin Yang Mirrors, the Zheng Drum, and so on, are all ancient magical artifacts that were once stored inside the Xingluo towers."
"Afterward, they were all destroyed by the flames of war caused by the infighting between you humans. Adding in the fact that a wide area would also get affected with each destroyed tower, nowadays, they are already unable to function as before," Chong Ming added.
"Oi, oi," Chen Xing said in full sincerity, "that's enough. Stop insinuating 'you humans.' I know we're in the wrong, okay?"
After a moment of thought, Chen Xing continued, "Later on, because of their unique capability of drawing the heaven veins in, exorcists used them to create defensive walls. I understand."
Xiang Shu asked, "There's a magical artifact inside? Open it up and take a look?"
Chen Xing said, "Here I go ba."
Chen Xing, replicating the way that he had opened the other stone tower, pressed his hands on the door as he tried to draw in the spiritual qi of heaven and earth to inject into the engraved pattern.
Lu Ying said after carefully examining it for a moment, "Look at the pattern on it."
This Xingluo tower, which clearly had already been rebored before, had a dragon-shaped pattern winding around its body. Chong Ming said, "Use a different approach. Try to employ the dragon power on Shulü Kong's body."
Xiang Shu rolled up his sleeve before attempting to press his hand on the tower. However, since he didn't know how to utilize his dragon power, Chen Xing activated the Heart Lamp and, holding Xiang Shu's hand, assisted him in making use of his mana. At this moment, the tattoo on Xiang Shu's right arm started to glow brightly, character by character. Under the Heart Lamp's guidance, the stirred-up dragon power was thus injected into the tower.
A loud rumble rang out, and the stone tower was wide open.
Layers upon layers of bricks whirled around as they distanced themselves away. Everyone simultaneously froze when they saw the newly-revealed altar in the center.
There was no magical artifact on the altar; in its place was instead a skeleton of a man who was sitting cross-legged with his long hair scattered loose. Perching on the Lihun flower he held in his hand was a tiny glowing butterfly.
Chen Xing cried out in surprise. Lu Ying, who knew what had happened with just a glance, raised his hand and lit up the Light of Dreams, which spread all around to form a barrier. Taking a flight out of the flower, that butterfly flapped its bright wings and fluttered about. Chen Xing reached out his hand to catch it, but the butterfly avoided him. Xiao Shan and Chong Ming also did the same, yet the butterfly just kept circling around with no desire to land. Until finally, Xiang Shu subconsciously stretched out his hand.
The butterfly landed between Xiang Shu's fingers.
Lu Ying commanded the light to gather toward the butterfly with a turn of his hand, causing the butterfly to transform into light motes that scattered after letting out a soft sound. Immediately afterward, the world around them changed its appearance to a boundless sea of flowers bathed in sunshine!
"You've come at last, Yuyan," a voice sounded.
Chen Xing had heard this voice before. At the Xiang family's place in Kuaiji! Inside the memory left behind by Xiang Yuyan!
The skeleton inside the stone tower actually returned to his former appearance following that, turning back into a refined old man dressed in a Han robe that came down from the altar.
Chen Xing immediately took a step back, but Xiang Shu held him by the hand.
"It’s a dream of a departing soul," Chong Ming said, "no need to be nervous."
Lu Ying nodded. "Yes, it's a memory left behind by this skeleton while he was alive for the later generations."
Chen Xing, recognizing the man's features, said in a trembling voice, "Zhang Liu."
"Zhang Liu?" Xiang Shu frowned; he only felt as if this name was extremely familiar.
Zhang Liu's appearance was not of his young self that had been seen in Xiang Yuyan's memory. In this memory, he had shockingly turned very, very old, appearing to already have one foot in the grave as his life was nearing its end.
He was unable to see any of the people currently there. He walked down the altar step by step, but nevertheless still looked as steady as before.
"I guess that after you arrived 300 years in the future, you may no longer remember the agreement that we had made at the beginning," Zhang Liu mused as he stroked his beard. "Therefore, I'm leaving this memory behind before I die in the hopes that it can solve your confusion. You have the Dinghai Pearl, after all. The chance brought by fate might even be able to open your way to this Xingluo tower."
"Otherwise..." Zhang Liu turned around and sighed as his gaze lingered on the far-end of the intoxicatingly beautiful spring field. "As you had once said: just let all of these be buried deep in the ground ba.
"So, where do I start ne?" Zhang Liu turned back, this time facing Xiao Shan, and passed through his body. Under everyone's watchful eyes, he faced the sky as he flicked his sleeve and said, "Yuyan, you perhaps already have no recollection as to why we had set down this path in the first place. In that case, let us start from the very beginning ba."
The field of blooming flowers, its appearance changing once more, suddenly morphed into Chang'an City's grand scenery during the Han Dynasty.
"During the Zhenghe Era, a fangshi named Wang Hai arrived before His Majesty," Zhang Liu said in a low voice, "and triggered a great upheaval that affected all levels of society not long after that. It was only 37 years after Wei Qing's expedition to Longcheng...
"...when Liu Che ordered a thorough investigation of Chang'an strange and unnatural phenomena, which eventually led to exorcists massacring one another," Zhang Liu continued. "In the end, Crown Prince Liu Ju died amidst this turmoil of witchcraft, and Empress Wei committed suicide. There was also infighting among colleagues within the Exorcism Department, with survivors not even reaching around a tenth. We were totally scattered ever since."
Chen Xing's breath hitched. Zhang Liu sighed before passing through him and Xiang Shu as he continued, "This Wang Hai, who had incited that witchcraft disaster, took over the new Exorcism Department. After the chaos finally subsided, I had no better option but to escape from Chang'an while taking some magical artifacts along with me. After that, I tried to investigate Wang Hai's origins in many ways, and unexpectedly learned a shocking secret..."
The scenery around them transformed again, this time to a gruesome battlefield painted with blood and a river of corpses.
"It has already been more than 500 years since the Chu-Han Contention where Gaozu and the Xiang family were vying for control of the Central Plains. People say that 'the Divine Land, long united, must divide, and long divided, must unite.' Wars and massacres are bound to be born in this land every hundred or perhaps some hundred years.
"Humanity's craving to vie against one another is endless and knows no bounds; even those of the same tribe show absolutely no mercy when fighting each other. Like the giant cycle of reincarnation where everything that happens can be traced back to the source, we can trace this back to the Qin Dynasty, to the Warring States period when seven states contended for supremacy, or even all the way back to the Battle of Muye when a group of immortals killed each other —— the bloodshed never ended. It's like there is a curse that always coexists with the Divine Land since time immemorial. Are we all born with merciless blood similar to those of wild beasts flowing inside our bodies?
"No... perhaps what human beings do is even crueler than wild beasts and yaos. When all is said and done), yaos and beasts will stop their bloodbath after getting what they need to survive," Zhang Liu unhurriedly said. "After years and years of investigation, I finally found where the thing now engraved in our bones originated from.
"This is a curse of a devil god that permeated the earth with his torso, blood, and even his hun and po after a great war happened in the distant past..." Zhang Liu continued.
"Chiyou," Chen Xing murmured.
"The name of this devil god is Chiyou," Zhang Liu said. "The blood left by the Deity of War has long turned into a part of us that can't be discarded. Even exorcists who claimed to be able to 'pry into the heavenly dao and harness magical power' are incapable of escaping its influence. Generations after generations have caused the devil god's blood to become deeply rooted and nourished the world with its innate nature to kill, which resulted in people harboring the mutual urge to frame, betray, and contain malice, envy, hatred, fury, enmity... the list goes on and on."
Zhang Liu, lowering his voice, then continued, "At that time, after Xuanyuan-shi had dismembered Devil God Chiyou's corpse, he buried parts of his body in seven places in the Divine Land. This, however, has instead turned him into the real deity manipulating the earth through the ages. His blood, the one that caused us to kill each other, condenses resentment that won't disperse for a long, long time. His hun and po look everywhere for a suitable vessel to reincarnate into, transforming into Mara that will descend to earth each time he reincarnates every thousand years. The exorcists only know that they have to exorcise 'devils,' but they never know why this 'devil' was born in the first place; but the whole truth is clear now, 'devils' are the resentment Chiyou left behind in the world. Unfortunately, we discovered it too late, and no matter what we do now, we are incapable of completely purify the devil god's blood..."
"And so, you finally thought of an idea," Chen Xing whispered.
"If we are to thoroughly eliminate the devil god's blood, let alone Mara, that has penetrated millions upon millions of mortal bodies in the world for several thousand years and will continue to do so for several millennia to come," Zhang Liu said, unperturbed, "how difficult will that be? But then, I thought of the one and only possible way. Legend has it that when the huge dragon Zhuyin's life came to an end, it fell to Mt. Carosha together with its dragon pearl, which gave me an idea... that if we could use the Dinghai Pearl to return to the Battle of Banquan 3,000 years ago and activate the Ten Thousand Spirits Array using the boundless spiritual qi of heaven and earth to completely eradicate Chiyou's body and burn away his devil blood, only then would the human world achieve a long-lasting peace.
"However, to completely eradicate the Deity of War," Zhang Liu added, "I would need both the divine weapon that Acala had created for the human race, as well as the Xiang family who inherits and is able to control the divine sword's power. Because of that, after looking for the Dinghai Pearl, I went to find you, Yuyan.
"More than a hundred years have passed, and during this period, the Exorcism Department was like a prairie after getting burned by a wildfire, glowing with new life. At that time, Wang Hai had already become the new great exorcist," continued Zhang Liu. "Furthermore, he was also inciting the Han and Hu exorcists to oppose one another as to generate more resentment in hopes for Chiyou to be reborn."
Xiang Shu slightly tightened his grasp on Chen Xing. As ten fingers interlocking one another, Chen Xing only felt that Xiang Shu's palm was full of sweat.
Zhang Liu flicked his sleeves. "Thus, we used the Dinghai Pearl to collect in all of the spiritual qi of heaven and earth. There have been no more exorcists ever since; it's the Silence of All Magic. When you and I arrived in front of Yique, we laid down the Timeless Tide Array and planned to bring the Dinghai Pearl back to 3,000 years ago."
And then, with one motion from Zhang Liu, the surrounding scenery distorted into the mirage realm inside the veil of light of Mt. Longmen's Yique where everybody present now stood on the Taiji Wheel. Xiang Yuyan slowly walked to the Yin side of the wheel, while Zhang Liu moved to the Yang side. The two stopped on both ends of the Taiji Wheel.
Xiang Yuyan's chest moved up and down as she said in a low voice, "Liu-ge... I have one more thing to say."
Zhang Liu smiled while raising his eyebrows. Xiang Yuyan said, "After we leave, we won't be able to return."
Zhang Liu nodded. "You're not wrong. We will have to stay 3,000 years in the past."
Xiang Yuyan mused silently for a moment before suddenly saying, "It's just, along the way, I always have this thought... Liu-ge.
"We... what we are about to do," Xiang Yuyan murmured, "is it really the right thing?"
Zhang Liu was stunned.
"Why do you say that?" Zhang Liu frowned.
Xiang Yuyan: "Eliminating the Devil God and purifying all of his blood in the world so the earth no longer has them... to rid humans of the worst evil in their hearts... I... maybe... I always wonder, what kind of place would that be if there was no evil in this world?"
The dense fog started to spread around the mirage realm and gradually turned into resentment. As the world changed abruptly, that abundant resentment converged toward the center of the Taiji Wheel.
"People of ancient times carried with them the genuine and benevolent nature from the time when Nüwa created man," Wang Ziye's voice suddenly echoed inside the mirage realm. "But have you two ever thought that it was my lord who had added this nature inside humans in order to let the world become more powerful?"
"Wang Hai?" Zhang Liu said in a heavy tone.
Xiang Yuyan suddenly raised her head and looked at Wang Hai.
"Yuyan," Wang Ziye said in a clear voice, "you have done well. It is thanks to you who have brought me to this place."
"No," Xiang Yuyan sternly said, "when did you follow me?! I didn't betray you, Liu-ge!"
Wang Ziye's voice turned dark. "The Silence of All Magic came one night and caused the Chang'an Exorcism Department to thoroughly fall apart. I have waited for hundreds of years, originally thinking that you, Zhang Liu, would one day come and issue a written challenge to me. Unexpectedly, I narrowly missed the golden opportunity."
Zhang Liu replied no more. With a flick of his sleeve, he coldly said, "As this fight cannot be avoided, please instruct me!"
Wang Ziye released an overflowing amount of resentment while Zhang Liu activated the Dinghai Pearl, causing mountains to crumble in an instant as an earth-shattering explosion occurred inside the mirage realm.
"You were influenced by Wang Hai's resentment." Zhang Liu flicked his sleeve again, causing their surroundings to return to its original scene of the sea of flowers on the prairie, and continued to explain, "I can't blame you, because it was I who was careless and underestimated enemy. In order to contain your Xiang family, Wang Hai used his great exorcist's identity to deceive your paternal grandmother into making you take a drop of the devil god's blood when you were young. He didn't trigger it in advance only because he didn't want me to arouse my vigilance.
"Because the Acala Blade is, in the end, the only divine weapon that can restrain Chiyou," explained Zhang Liu. "Wang Hai lacks the power to take away the Acala Blade, so he could only use the devil god's blood to monitor you and influence you. Inside the Timeless Tide Array, you attacked me.
"The Timeless Tide Array was destroyed at that time, not even working a tenth of its full capability. Because you attacked me without warning under Wang Hai's control, I was left with no choice but to activate the Dinghai Pearl. After the Timeless Tide Array started to operate, I sealed the Dinghai Pearl inside your body to help you resist the erosion caused by the devil god's blood, while simultaneously bringing you out of the current world.
"Fortunately, I have already sealed the Acala Blade inside the Yin Yang Mirrors. Even if the said magical artifact were to be snatched by Wang Hai, he wouldn't be able to damage the Acala Blade..."
Xiang Shu: "......"
Chen Xing was totally out of words and just looked as Zhang Liu flicked his sleeve one more time to reveal the final scene. Hurricanes whirled all over the place as the ancient tidal array collapsed. Zhang Liu grasped Xiang Yuyan's hand, but as they were about to be drawn inside the hurricane and leave the world, Wang Ziye raised the resentment-filled Luohun Bell.
A "dang" sound thus echoed.
"Liu-ge!" Xiang Yuyan's soul, the one which stored her memories, was immediately pulled out and put inside the Luohun Bell. Her pupils slightly dilated as she subconsciously let go of Zhang Liu's hand.
Zhang Liu, realizing that Xiang Yuyan had already lost her memories, immediately used the secret sound-transmitting art to say one final word to her.
"Carosha's Xingluo tower..."
When she turned her head, Zhang Liu had already been sucked inside the tide of time. Not a moment later, Xiang Yuyan too disappeared.
"That ancient tidal array brought me to more than 200 years in the future," Zhang Liu stated. "This is the only way to escape from Wang Hai's surveillance, as he wouldn't have known where we are; we could be in 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 years in between. As long as we are in a different period than him, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack, as there would be no way for him to find us.
"However, you and I also lost contact with each other amidst that tide of time." Zhang Liu revoked the last scenery and went back to sit down before the altar. He looked up, smiling helplessly as he said, "Although, according to my conjecture, the gap shouldn't have been too long. I inquired after Wang Hai again after arriving in this world and found that he had also disappeared. Perhaps, the Silence of All Magic also restricted his actions and handicapped him in many ways.
"But the world after losing all of its magic also seemed to have changed into something different. There are no more exorcists, and also no more yaos. During the several months I spent traveling north to Carosha, I learned that I was currently in the first year of Yongkang. Since then, the human world has gone through numerous chaos of war and has now regained its prosperity. The borders between tribes shifted and are now thriving, while common people live and work in peace with an abundance of food.
"I will just wait for you to arrive, for us to rendezvous. Although from the moment the ancient tidal array was launched, you have forgotten about the past matters because of the Luohun Bell, you must've still remembered what I said about Carosha's Xingluo tower...
"But I, unfortunately, still forgot about one thing... I've already lived in this world for more than 200 years before this. Now with all of the magic gone, I am no longer capable of absorbing the spiritual qi of heaven and earth to prolong my life. Furthermore, I have to rely on the Dinghai Pearl that you hold to release the said qi...
"I really am stuck in a trap of my own making." Zhang Liu shook his head and smiled, full of regrets. "In just a short period of a year, after a cycle of four seasons, my body has aged at a rapid speed. Liu-ge may not be able to wait for you, Yuyan."
Zhang Liu looked up. While his hair had turned all white and his complexion had grown old, his bright eyes were still as clear as a child's.
"People will one day die, there is nothing to fear. I should not resent my death, but unfortunately, I still have a lingering obsession. I don't know why, but in these final days, Liu-ge suddenly recalled what you had said before." Zhang Liu's eyes contained a perplexed expression. "Is what we did really the right thing?"
"All right, that's it!" Zhang Liu got up. "I originally wanted to thank you for your hard work, because after learning all of this, you will have to shoulder this heavy responsibility alone; to retrieve the Yin Yang Mirror, take out the Acala Blade, then use the power of the Dinghai Pearl inside your body to go back to 3,000 years ago to finally complete our unfinished business. Now...
"...everything is up to you." Zhang Liu slowly murmured as he walked back to the altar. "During this year, Liu-ge has occasionally thought that maybe, you were right after all.
"That being the case, since this is really handing the fate of the Divine Land to one person," smiling, Zhang Liu said, "how they wish to do it, and what path will the Divine Land follow then on, who could be blamed for it ne?"
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.