At night, at a barren area outside Tongguan County, 6,000 people were gathered on an endless loess plain to spend the night out in the open.
A gust of wind blew by; in early summer, it still felt chilly in the middle of the night. Those from the 16 Hu tribes were already falling asleep one after another. Wolves could be heard howling in the distant mountains, and the shadows of the mountains and rivers were like a gigantic curtain.
The Big Dipper hung high up in the night sky. The starry river on a summer night appeared as if light particles had spilled across the sky, and they were all shimmering brilliantly.
On the ground, Chen Xing was wrapped in a blanket as he stared at the campfire in a daze.
Ever since leaving Ahfang Palace, Xiang Shu has been silent. None of his subordinates would come to disturb the three of them either and just started a bonfire under the lone tree in the wilderness. It was even less likely for anyone to try and cotton up to Xiang Shu. Only Chen Xing, Xiang Shu, and Feng Qianjun sat by themselves quietly.
Feng Qianjun lifted the cloth covering the corpse, revealing the sagging body of his elder brother, Feng Qianyi. He piled up a stack of firewood beside the Tong river and set fire to his elder brother’s corpse.
The fire blazed brightly as it swallowed Feng Qianyi’s body. His legs were amputated below his knees. His long-term use of a wheelchair resulted in the atrophy of his limbs, and now they looked just like that of a child’s. A gust of wind blew, and the ashes scattered into the sky. Chen Xing could vaguely see a dim trace of light that kept rising, and it rose into the sky that was as brilliant as a starry river.
Xiang Shu looked up; he saw expansive, dazzling light bands overlapping in the galaxy, like a massive river that was streaming through the night sky.
“Do you see it?” Chen Xing asked.
Xiang Shu’s brows slightly furrowed.
“Divine Vein,” Chen Xing said, “The final destination of all ‘Dao’s in the world. Laozi once said, what is supersensible is termed ‘Dao’, while what is sensible is called qi. All things that live in the human world would leave the form of qi one day and return to the Great Dao.”
Xiang Shu said, “That’s the spiritual Qi of heaven and earth?”
“No,” Chen Xing said, “Divine and Earth Veins are rivers of a higher level than that of spiritual Qi.”
After his elder brother’s corpse turned into ashes, Feng Qianjun stored them in a box and went back to the other two. He wiped a small jade plaque and turned it over to study it under the light of the campfire. A few words were written on it: Great Han Exorcist Feng.
“The largest stronghold of Xifeng Bank was in Luoyang.” Feng Qianjun said, “When my Dage took over the family business with my father, I was learning how to audit. From the time when I was seven until sixteen, I would only see my Dage once every two to three years.”
Chen Xing was wrapped in a blanket and kept silent. He knew that at this time, Feng Qianjun needed to talk to relieve the distress he felt.
Feng Qianjun continued, “Luoyang was still under the ‘Yan State’ established by the Murong clan back then.”
Xifeng Bank had established an industry in Luoyang -- a renowned capital in the world -- with a wealth equivalent to that of an entire nation, and they were also waiting for the opportunity to welcome the Jin army back and recover the country they lost.
Later on, Fu Jian had sent people to take down Great Yan, and the city fell within a night. The imperial Murong clan members were all taken prisoner, and they surrendered to Fu Jian. In addition, it was precisely because of this war that Feng Qianyi had fled with his family in a hurry. However, the situation then was in great turmoil; his family’s soldiers died in battle, his wife was killed by soldiers, and both his children died in the war. His legs were also crushed by a war chariot.
When Feng Qianjun heard of the grievous news, he immediately headed north to search for his older brother’s whereabouts, and he finally found him several years later in Chang’an.
Feng Qianyi didn’t mention much about the past and had just told him simply that this was something they had to face on their path to greatness. Since Great Yan had fallen, their next target was Fu Jian. And since the Murong clan were also ministers of their fallen nation, they could instead try cozying up to them and use them as necessary.
“I still remember the day I first met Qinghe,” Feng Qianjun said in a daze, “She and her younger brother, Murong Chong, were confined deep in the palace. Gege dispatched me to deliver some jewelry we had bought to her. Murong Chong didn’t like to talk, but she was elated and asked me what my name was……asked me if Luoyang’s peonies had bloomed and a lot about the things in the north……”
“……after the demise of the Great Yan State, I hadn’t return to Luoyang for three years, so I could only fabricate some lies to deceive her.” Feng Qianjun snapped out of his daze and forced himself to smile at Chen Xing, then continued, “When I went home and told my Dage, he just said, “No matter if it’s Luoyang, Guanzhong, Youzhou, or Yongzhou, they are all places that belong to us Hans. What face do the Xianbei people have to regard Luoyang as their hometown?”
Listening up to this point, Xiang Shu got up and left, leaving the two Hans some space for their conversation.
Feng Qianjun smiled helplessly, “But the Great Yan’s Murong clan was destroyed by a Han. Wang Meng took orders from Fu Jian; that war was won, which plunged the people of the four passes into misery. They despise Wang Meng because he became Fu Jian’s official. Tianchi, do you hate them?”
Chen Xing recalled his father’s death, then looked into the distance at Xiang Shu, who was lying on the ground and leaning on a piece of rock.
“Before he died, my father said that no matter if you’re a Hu or a Han,” Chen Xing slowly said, “We’re all dwellers of this grand Divine Land. When the Five Barbarians moved south, many ended up dead or wounded, and innocent people died in the war. However, when was it not the same during the War of the Eight Princes in the Jin Dynasty? Gentry Han who fled south still had the idea of taking revenge, but for the soldiers and people who died during the chaos of the Eight Princes, where would they go to find someone to reason with?”
“Ultimately, it boils down to two words -- ‘stop war’. Chen Xing sighed, “Moreover, if the root of this drought fiend chaos isn’t eradicated, by the time there’s a massive outbreak, neither the Hus nor Hans would have to continue fighting anymore. The outcome will all be the same: death.”
Feng Qianjun remained silent. He looked down at the Senluo sabre in hand, hefting it like he was weighing it.
“Do you plan to head north with the Great Chanyu?” Feng Qianjun asked.
“I don’t know.” Chen Xing appeared anxious, “Time’s running out. I still don’t have a clue as to why silence fell on all magic. At the very least, in the next three years, I have to reclaim the lost mana for everyone. After that, even if I were to be unconcerned or pay no heed, there would at least be some people then who can fight the Lord who Feng Qianyi was talking about. We definitely aren’t the only two exorcists in this world, there must be others who have obtained this inheritance……”
Chen Xing had gotten the first clue, which was related to the Dinghai Pearl. Although he wasn’t clear of the inside story yet, but according to the records, in the year after silence fell on all magic, the Dinghai Pearl had still contained powerful magic powers, so it must all be related somehow.
It’s just that, the world is so vast, so where should he go to look for it?
Feng Qianjun said, “Leave investigating the drought fiends to me ba. Tomorrow morning, Yuxiong will set out.”
Chen Xing, “Where are you going?”
Feng Qianjun said, “Perhaps I’ll sneak back to Chang’an, or make a trip to Luoyang, or search for the tombs of the Eight Princes. I’ll investigate the people my Dage came into contact with before he died, and how he obtained the knack to controlling resentment. You just need to focus on searching for your Dinghai Pearl.”
Chen Xing immediately said, “Feng Dage, this matter can’t be rushed……”
Feng Qianjun pondered, “I can sort of control the Senluo sabre, albeit in another manner.”
Chen Xing also hadn’t expected that a magic weapon that was once driven by the spiritual Qi of heaven and earth would now absorb resentment and be used like that. It was as if fate dictated for darkness to counter darkness. The thorns everywhere, black vines and withered tree yaos now played a powerful role instead. Also, because of activating the historical Senluo Wanxiang arts, awakening the mountains, seas, tree men, and leading all those flourishing life forms, Feng Qianjun’s identity had undergone a thorough change.
He had turned into a dark Exorcist.
However, it would surely deal great harm to one’s body to recklessly draw on resentment and forcibly activate the Senluo sabre through this method repeatedly. Chen Xing reminded Feng Qianjun of this over and over again, and Feng Qianjun explained, “Don’t worry. It’s impossible to use magic in a place without resentment.”
That’s true. The prerequisite for Feng Qianjun to wield the Senluo sabre and summon the withered tree yaos and bloodthirsty vines was to be in a place where resentment was aplenty. As long as there weren’t a lot of people who died in the surroundings, the sabre would lack the power of resentment, and there would be no way of activating it.
“Give me a bit more time,” Chen Xing answered, “Let me think through it properly.”
Feng Qianjun saw that he couldn’t convince Chen Xing, so he nodded and gestured for him to rest first. Chen Xing wanted to sleep under the tree just like that, but Feng Qianjun nudged him and asked him to go to Xiang Shu.
So Chen Xing crossed through the open space and went to where Xiang Shu was. Xiang Shu didn’t say a word. Both his eyes were shut. Coarse crowing could be heard in the distance, and Xiang Shu woke up at once. A little fear and panic could be seen in his gaze as he looked at the place where a group of crows flew by.
Chen Xing observed Xiang Shu curiously, but he saw that Xiang Shu had resumed his calm very quickly, so he whispered, “I have to go find the Dinghai Pearl, but the terrible thing is that all the records taken out of the Yin Yang Mirror recording where it is are all gone.”
“I know that place,” Xiang Shu said, “Follow me.”
Chen Xing, “!!!”
The map drawn on the last page was called “Daze”. Chen Xing had come up with many conjectures -- maybe it was Yunmeng Daze, but that place only existed in legends, and no one knew where its exact location was now.
“Is it in the south?” Chen Xing asked.
Xiang Shu didn’t answer. He moved aside a little to make some space for Chen Xing.
So Chen Xing leaned over, and Xiang Shu continued, “Let’s go back to Chi Le Chuan first. There are a lot of things that require the support of the tribe.”
Chen Xing calculated the time; when he left Mt. Hua, he still had four years. Now that the Divine Land was ushering in summer, he only had three years left, so time was rather tight. But he didn’t rush Xiang Shu and just nodded.
Late at night, it was incredibly quiet on the plains. Xiang Shu suddenly opened his eyes and looked out into the distance.
Feng Qianjun had already gotten up from where he was under the tree. With the ashes of his older brother, he flipped onto a horse, and when he wound around the periphery of their temporary campsite, he raised his hand and waved at Xiang Shu.
Xiang Shu closed his eyes again, and Feng Qianjun slipped into the twilight.
At the zi period, blood red light could be seen everywhere in Huanmo Palace.
A massive heart as large as a house was suspended in mid air, and it was bobbing up and down slowly. Tons of blood vessels wound around that strange, giant heart, and it spread to all corners of this fantastical demonic palace.
Thousands of blood vessels penetrated the walls; they drew resentment from the earth to nourish themselves. The radiance of the Earth Vein was being refined into an endless purplish black air that was injected into the heart through the blood vessels.
A scholar who wore a mask and was dressed in a black robe held Princess Qinghe’s corpse bridal style and slowly walked into the palace.
“This mortal,” a hoarse voice emitted from the heart, “Was actually this immune to control.”
The scholar said, “Feng Qianyi was too eager for revenge, and his array was broken by the one who holds the Heart Lamp, so our plans got disrupted.”
The voice in the heart burst into fury, “Foolish to the extreme! Burying in vain the demonic troops we gave you that took a lot of effort to train!”
The scholar answered, “Feng Qianyi was already been burned to ashes, so that can be considered his punishment. My Lord, please calm down. There will always be humans to use. In the Ancient Chi Le Covenant, there are still 100,000 herdsmen, so there will always be enough to fill this gap. But that Shulü Kong……”
After a brief moment of silence, the scholar said leisurely, “The number one warrior beyond the Great Wall……even if he was chosen as the exorcist’s Protector, he shouldn’t be so outrageously strong. It really is strange, why did the Heart Lamp choose him?”
“He’s but a mortal,” the heart slowly said, “He’ll still be limited no matter how strong he is, why would you need to fear him?”
The scholar answered respectfully, “My Lord may not know this, but although there is a limit to the number of people in the Chi Le Chuan that’s part of the Covenant outside the Great Wall, they are still a force that can not be underestimated. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have needed to go to so much trouble in the past years. If we can snare Shulü Kong and use him for our endeavours, it would surely save us a lot of unnecessary trouble.”
“That is not something you should worry about right now; how should the Ten Thousand Spirits Array be dealt with?” the hoarse voice of the heart rang out, “After lying dormant for so many years, Zhen would definitely not let all our efforts go to waste just because of this one accident. If we were to consider Zhou Yi as well, the exorcists have already killed two of your subordinates!”
The scholar said, “Now that Fu Jian has ruined the Great Wall by himself and banished Shulü Kong, Chang’an will not be a threat in the short term. We are still in the dark. Chen Xing has already followed Shulü Kong to flee beyond the Great Wall, so presumably, he will not return to the Central Plains for the time being. I’ll send Zhou Zhen over now and get rid of them both, then they would no longer be able to affect the resurrection of our Lord. Of course, now that silence has fallen on all magic, only the Heart Lamp is still of some use. Even if we were to just leave them be, it wouldn’t stir up much waves……my Lord.”
The scholar placed Princess Qinghe on the altar right below the massive heart and pleaded, “Please bestow a new life upon this girl. After this, the Ten Thousand Spirits Array in Chang’an must rely on her.”
The heart sneered. It clotted a bit of blood that slowly trickled down the walls of its membrane, and with a soft plop, it dropped onto Princess Qinghe’s corpse. The corpse shone with a reddish glow and resentment curled around her.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.