Editor(s): juurensha, namio
“It’s not necessarily the same person,” Chen Xing said, pacing inside the room. “Maybe it’s just someone with the same name? Xiang Shu…”
Xiang Shu was greatly disquieted. He subconsciously crumpled the scroll in his hand as his forehead beaded with sweat. If his mother was someone from 300 years ago, then what was he?! The two people looked at each other. Chen Xing saw the unsettled look in Xiang Shu’s eyes; he had brought up the possibility that there were two people with the same name as a way to calm Xiang Shu, but both of them knew that that person could very well be Xiang Shu’s mother.
The imprint in the Yin Yang Mirror, the origins of the bamboo slip concerning the Acala Blade, the fate of the Dinghai Pearl, all of these seemingly unrelated riddles were finally in this one moment successfully connected together, via the personage of a renowned female Han exorcist.
And this woman, it was very likely that she was Xiang Shu’s mother!
“In here?” Feng Qianjun’s voice asked.
Xiang Shu and Chen Xing were startled by this and simultaneously let out loud shouts.
Feng Qianjun also started shouting wildly outside, and as the three of them all wildly shouted, Xiao Shan watched them calmly.
Around midnight, Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan had gone searching for their missing companions. First Chen Xing had left with that youth, then Xiang Shu had left as well, but the two of them had never come back. Feng Qianjun stayed with Xiao Shan in the room, the two of them engaging in a staring contest. No matter what Feng Qianjun asked, Xiao Shan ignored him. The atmosphere within this large manor was also quite creepy. It reminded Feng Qianjun of a ghost story he had heard from an old man when he was young: as the storm raged outside the borrowed room, trusted companions disappeared one after the other. The similarities made it really too terrifying.
“Don’t scare people!” Chen Xing said.
“It was you two scaring people, alright!” Feng Qianjun angrily replied. “Leaving for that long, midnight has long since passed and you two still hadn’t returned!”
Xiao Shan entered the room and stared around curiously. Chen Xing breathed rapidly. Xiang Shu’s expression couldn’t look any uglier than it already was. Feng Qianjun asked, “What did you guys find? Let me see?”
Chen Xing explained the events to Feng Qianjun. When he spoke of Xiang Yuyan’s identity, he originally wanted to connect it to Xiang Shu’s, but he didn’t and chose to swallow it down - but Xiang Shu revealed it instead. “She is my mother.”
Feng Qianjun also understood the impossibility of that statement and shakily said, “Your mother lived until she was over 300? Wow, this… this is very incredible. Exorcists, en, can exorcists all live this long?”
Legends spoke of cultivators who had really lived to two or three hundred years of age, or those who had lifespans equivalent to that of the heavens and the earth, but legends were just that - legends. No one had seen someone like that, and to use this as an explanation barely even made sense.
Xiang Shu recalled his memories of his mother and said, “She didn’t seem like a 300 year old person.”
People who had lived that long would definitely have differences between their inner temperament and their outer appearance. For example, an 80-year-old person, even if they had the features of a 20-year-old, would, through their words and actions, show that they were much older than they looked.
“And what exactly is the Luohun Bell?” Feng Qianjun asked suspiciously.
“An artifact.” Chen Xing recalled the details and said, “It can collect the two hun of yao, humans, and beasts.”
Feng Qianjun: “Then wouldn’t they die after that?”
Chen Xing waved his hands around as he explained, “Humans and other living creatures have three hun: the spiritual, earth, and human hun. If the spiritual hun is lost, the person will die; the earth hun mainly controls external emotions and connections, while the third human hun controls your memories. Aside from the spiritual hun, if the other two hun are lost, a person would not immediately die. If we have more time then I’ll explain it to you clearly… Xiao Shan! Don’t randomly touch things!”
Xiao Shan wasn’t tall enough, or maybe he just was bored and wanted to see the items at the very top of the bookcase, or maybe he just wanted to cause a bit of a commotion to announce that he was still here. He reached up with a claw, pulling down the entire bookcase. The entire room was filled with dust as Chen Xing hurriedly motioned for Xiao Shan to come over to where he was. Xiao Shan was visibly displeased, pushing aside Chen Xing, continually pointing at his own ears, and then pointing again at the back door that had appeared after the bookcase toppled over.
Chen Xing: “?”
Xiao Shan lifted his foot and kicked the door open, motioning for him to follow.
Chen Xing: “What’s wrong?”
Behind the door was a small alley leading to the Xiang manor’s back flower garden. This small path had not been maintained for almost a hundred years, so it was overgrown with weeds. It was almost two-thirty in the morning, and everything was silent around them. The moon peeked out from the black clouds, casting its light over the wild shrubs and overgrown weeds.
“Did you hear something?” Chen Xing asked.
Xiao Shan didn’t make a sound, but Chen Xing knew that his hearing was far superior to both Xiang Shu’s and Feng Qianjun’s. Xiao Shan then used his claws to pull aside the weeds blocking the path. Feng Qianjun said, “I’ll go first.”
Chen Xing glanced at Xiang Shu inquiringly, asking him if he was staying here or coming with them.
Xiang Shu closed the scroll and rose. Feng Qianjun turned his sword around; the blade of the sword still held traces of resentment. Chen Xing glanced at it briefly: clearly, despite their several encounters, the resentment on the sword still hadn’t fully dissipated.
The dead shrubbery that blocked the road, once cleared out and pushed to the two sides, now revealed the secret path they once hid, and on the gentle breeze came an old woman’s voice that faded in and out, “Stay here… Stay here… Don’t go…”
“Female… Is it a female ghost?”
Listening to that voice, Chen Xing got goosebumps and looked over at Feng Qianjun. But instead, Xiang Shu put a hand on his shoulder, bypassed Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan, and walked into the depths of the garden.
“Don’t go… stay here…” that old woman’s voice mournfully said. “Don’t go…”
A gust of wind blew by, and the dark clouds once again covered up the light of the moon. Listening to that voice, Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun felt the hairs on the napes of their necks stand up. Chen Xing grabbed Xiang Shu’s hand, his own feigned bravery towards ghosts immediately vanishing like fog under the sun, saying, “What about we first… first go back? We’ll come back during the day?”
“What are you afraid of?” Xiang Shu frowned as he asked. At the same time, he tightly grasped Chen Xing’s hand, interlocking their fingers, before saying, “You’re not scared of drought fiends, but you’re scared of ghosts?”
Chen Xing mumbled, “Mostly it’s because it’s so late in the night and we can’t see anything. It’s too scary ah ah ah ---”
“Heart Lamp!” Xiang Shu squeezed his hand, and the pressure of his large warm hand had Chen Xing slowly calming down.
Chen Xing trembled even as he wielded the Heart Lamp in one hand, which lit up the surroundings with a bright white light. The light shone over a rockery, bleaching it of its color, and off the swing hanging from the tree next to it. The swing slowly swayed back and forth in the wind, creaking gently, which lent an additional element of horror to the already hair-raising scene.
When the Heart Lamp shone on it, that voice increased in volume, as if it had been influenced by the light.
“Do not go! Stay here!” the old woman’s voice loudly said.
Feng Qianjun and Chen Xing immediately felt their souls leave their bodies. Chen Xing hurriedly hid behind Xiang Shu’s body as Xiang Shu stopped in his tracks. Only Xiao Shan cautiously walked towards the rockery.
“Don’t go…” that voice moaned again.
Xiao Shan tilted his head, pointing his claws towards the rockery; the voice was coming from the ground underneath the swing.
Xiang Shu said towards Chen Xing, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll go check.”
The four of them stopped in front of the rockery, and as Xiao Shan used his dragon claws to dig at the mud a few times, from below the earth the voice spoke without stopping, “Stay… You must stay here…”
Feng Qianjun also felt a little uneasy and said, “I say, what about waiting until daylight to continue digging? Little brother! Quickly stop!”
Chen Xing said, “It’s very late at night, what would we do if we dug out a dead person!”
In Chen Xing’s brain, there had already emerged the possibility that in the ground below, there was an old woman who had been buried alive, so her resentful spirit hadn’t dissipated. He didn’t dare take another look, but Xiang Shu rolled up his sleeves and began digging, and with Xiao Shan’s help, they had dug less than a chi deep when with a “dong” sound, they hit something metallic.
This time Feng Qianjun and Chen Xing felt their souls leave their bodies at the same time, and Feng Qianjun immediately cried out: “I’ll leave first - !”
“It’s not a coffin!” Xiang Shu said impatiently.
Following that, Xiao Shan pulled out a square copper box about a handspan in size from the soil.
Chen Xing: “????”
Feng Qianjun, after seeing it wasn’t a body, finally let loose a sigh of relief. Chen Xing also finally wasn’t afraid anymore. Then they heard, once again, that old crone’s voice coming from inside the box: “Stay… stay…”
“What is this?” Chen Xing was much better and, taking the box, saw that there was a copper lock on top. Xiao Shan put it on a rock by the rockery, and with a swipe of his claws broke the lock.
Chen Xing motioned for everyone to back up a bit before moving forward to open the box.
“Suddenly, you’re not afraid?” Xiang Shu watched Chen Xing incredulously.
Chen Xing: “It’s not a ghost… so it’s fine.”
Feng Qianjun hugged his own arms, saying, “What if there’s a ghost living inside?”
Chen Xing: “Then… Once I see something tangible, I’m no longer afraid. I’ll open it to take a look, but you all should be careful.”
Feng Qianjun said, “Let me.”
Feng Qianjun used the tip of his saber to gently lift the edge of the box, in case there were any hidden traps. After opening the box, the lid flipped up, and with a “pa” sound, it sprung open as the inside of the box emitted a faint light.
Inside there was a single withered blossom, and on its petals a single glowing butterfly perched delicately. It gently flapped its wings, and that faint blue light was being emitted from its wings.
From the butterfly, there came a weak voice: “Stay…”
Chen Xing: “???”
Everyone furrowed their brows upon seeing this spectacle. Xiang Shu then asked, “What is this?”
Chen Xing: “I don’t know. Let’s take it back to study it? Xiao Shan, don’t randomly disturb it!”
Xiao Shan had taken off his claws and moved forward to catch that butterfly. Xiang Shu immediately grabbed his wrist, yet that glowing butterfly kept gently fluttering its wings, flying out of the box, scattering glowing dust around the spectators while flying slowly upwards in a spiral.
“It wants to fly away!” Feng Qianjun said.
In response, Xiang Shu stretched out his hand and pinched the butterfly’s wing with two fingers, not letting it escape, but in the moment of its capture, the butterfly dissolved into glowing powder and disappeared. The entire dark garden lit up in that moment, with every dead shrub and weed in the area regaining its life energy. The yard was filled with the sound of flowing water as countless memories came flying at them, and they were suddenly transported back to the Xiang estate of 300 years ago.
moon: … pining… graphic depictions of handholding… is this a slowburn 100k+ fic now is that what’s happening
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.