"If those people who died could come back to life, how nice would it be?"
Editor(s): namio, juurensha
It was early spring, and the roads that led to Luoyang were still covered with snow and ice. When the cold spells in later spring came, they would be out in the open country where it was much colder than Jiankang, and the cold would be much harder to bear. Choosing this time to go north was not a good idea, but Sima Yao had reminded them that they had no more time.
Everywhere the snow was melting, and the chill of spring was slowing the plans of the Jin. They moved in starts and stops, as there were also several literary officials with them, and Xiang Shu and the others had no way to leave the diplomatic envoys behind like that time in Saiwai where they were hurrying along. Amongst the envoys, there was even one who couldn’t lift a single finger to help, and his sole ability was to slip his enemies sleeping drugs: Xie An.
But why did this lofty minister of a country want to go with the exorcists to Luoyang?!
Xie An and several literary officials were sitting by the side of the road warming themselves by the fire, while Xiang Shu and Feng Qianjun sat silently in front of it, staring into space. Feng Qianjun’s expression was gloomy. Experiencing the blows of having both Princess Qinghe and Gu Qing die in the span of two short years had greatly affected his life. Fate seemed to be filled with ill-will towards him, and he had been cruelly deprived of even this last hope in his miserable existence.
“However chilly the cold snaps of the Central Plains get, they still won’t be able to compare to those of Saiwai,” Xie An said. “To the Great Chanyu, this must be nothing.”
Xiang Shu didn’t correct Xie An’s form of address, but said calmly, “Actually, Chi Le Chuan’s winters aren’t colder than those of the Central Plains’. First, due to the fact that the Yin Mountains block the wind, and second, where there are a lot of people, there are also a lot of cows and sheep, not like the area to the north of the Yangtze River.”
As far as the eye could see, the region between Jiankang and Luoyang was filled with almost hundred-li long stretches of deserted landscape with no trace of human habitation, filled with a desolate chill.
The diplomatic envoy group that the Jin had sent out, aside from Xie An, had another powerful member, a martial official named Huan Yi. He was the nephew of General Huan Xuan of Zhennan, and he was Sima Zhao’s Jianwei Commander of his guard.
Huan Yi didn’t speak or smile, choosing merely to stare at Xiang Shu quietly. They were like two statues, and there was only Xie An on this journey who didn’t have any troubles weighing him down, and he did his best to keep the atmosphere lively as he said to Huan Yi, “In the coming days, if we have a chance, you should go properly have fun in Saiwai.”
Huan Yi let out an indifferent “wu”. Xie An added, “When the Great Chanyu meets Murong Chong, do you have any handle on how to persuade him?”
“No,” Xiang Shu responded easily. “I’ll do what you all do: when there’s an opportunity, I’ll act.”
The Jin envoy group in reality had already made another set of preparations. Or it would be more accurate to say that Xie An and Huan Yi had undertaken the greatest responsibility of the Han regime to the south of the Yangtze -- the goal of this Jin envoy group’s journey was very complex. On the surface, their goal was to initiate peace talks with the Great Qin that Fu Jian represented and postpone the threat of troops invading Shou County, but in secret they hoped to reach a deal with Murong Chong, inciting internal conflict amongst the Xianbei people and the Di people in the north. And the second layer below that was to provide support for Chen Xing as the exorcist to completely get rid of Wang Ziye.
They also brought Sima Wei out with them, locking him up in a horse-cart made out of steel. Chen Xing couldn’t describe why he would come to this decision, but he always felt that when they arrived at Luoyang, perhaps Sima Wei would be of use. After all, he was the only “person” who had seen Chiyou’s heart with his own two eyes.
Xie An sat in front of the fire, turning his head to look not too far in the distance, saying, “Where is little Tianchi-shidi? I’ll go take a look. You guys keep discussing things and get a little closer with each other.”
Xiang Shu: “…”
Feng Qianjun: "..."
Huan Yi: “...”
Along the way, during periods of rest, Xie An would take things into his own hands and go find Chen Xing, but Huan Yi, Feng Qianjun, and Xiang Shu would just sit like this, as if they were three chunks of wood, none of them saying anything to each other. Xiang Shu was currently feeling gloomy, while Feng Qianjun had just lost his loved one, so he didn’t want to say anything. Huan Yi didn’t want to have overly many connections with the exorcists at all, and so the area by the fire was filled with silence.
Chen Xing had found a mass grave directly to the north of this unnamed village, and the pit was filled with bleached white bones that had been gnawed on by wild animals. In the beginning, the Jin army and the Qin army had fought a battle here, and the Xianbei people had captured over a hundred of the people in the village, with the original intention of burying them alive.However, they hadn’t expected the Jin army to arrive, so the Xianbei people could only use their blades and slaughter all of the people instead, before pushing them into the pit and calling it done. And afterwards the Jin army rushed over, but they had no way to save them; the war situation was critical, and there was no time for them to put away their swords and deal with the innocent victims, so they went north to confront the Xianbei people in a long, drawn-out stalemate.
Until the last moments of this nameless village’s deceased, the help they had waited for had never arrived, so when they died, their hearts must have been filled with despair. In the pit an ample amount of resentment had collected. Chen Xing and Xiao Shan came to stand in front of the pit, testing out using resentment to power Cangqiong Yilie’s keen edge that could break through everything to open up that Dinghai Pearl in his hand.
“Try it?” Chen Xing only felt that his body was stuck in the midst of resentful energy and was extremely uncomfortable, but under these unusual circumstances, they could only use this kind of method.
Xiao Shan bowed his body, his two hands with claws crossed in front of him, collecting the resentment in the pit. Chen Xing lifted his right hand to the side, the light of the Heart Lamp shining from his palm; if Xiao Shan was infected by the resentment, he could at any point exorcise it.
Right after, Xiao Shan’s eyes flashed with a bloody light.
Cangqiong Yilie swung out, suddenly exploding outwards. Xie An had just arrived, and he couldn’t help but be extremely startled as he shouted, “Be careful ah!”
Two streaks of invincible claw light shot out in a cross, but with a “clang” they were blocked by the Dinghai Pearl. Behind it, more than half of the mass grave had collapsed in on itself, and stray rocks rolled down the slope.
The Dinghai Pearl that had been placed by the side of the pit was wholly unaffected. Chen Xing’s experiment had once again failed.
One ke later, everyone gathered in front of the fire, looking at this dragon pearl.
“Cangqiong Yilie is made from dragon claws,” Xiang Shu said in an unconcerned manner. “The Dinghai Pearl is a dragon pearl, you said so yourself before.”
Chen Xing frowned. “Then, right now, we’ve walked right into a dead end. We’ve gotten the Dinghai Pearl, yet there is no way we can break it.”
Huan Yi had heard the general series of events, and he took the Dinghai Pearl, studying it from all directions for a while before handing it to Xie An, saying, “Inside this thing is really the spiritual qi of the entire world?”
They only saw the pearl looking plain and unnoticeable, bland and grey, appearing nothing like any sort of artifact.
Xie An answered, “It must be, we went through so many hardships to find it.”
Feng Qianjun finally opened his mouth, asking, “Is there anything that is the natural enemy of dragons? Have you guys thought about it from this angle yet?”
Chen Xing answered, matter-of-factly, “Dragons don’t have natural enemies.”
Xiang Shu thought deeply for a moment, before suddenly saying, “Are there any other methods?”
Chen Xing said, “What methods?”
But it was as if Xiang Shu himself hadn’t understood it, and he shook his head. Xie An sat for a little while longer, drinking his tea, before he said, “Let’s continue on the journey ba, if we travel fast today, we might be able to arrive at Shou county before nightfall.”
The envoy group presently got up and continued onwards, following along the military path that was filled with the remnants of the battle. When the sky grew fully dark, they had arrived at the north-eastern side of Shou county. Black clouds covered the moon, and in this pitch-black darkness, the path curved around many mountains, and it was difficult to traverse. The line of people held up their torches, almost getting lost several times, before finally Xiang Shu said, “Come with me, I know that there’s a disused village here.”
“How do you know that?” Chen Xing said suspiciously.
Xiang Shu didn’t respond. He led the group around a small hill, and as expected, they arrived at a village that had fallen into disrepair. This place was still within the Jin country territory, but one day more to the north, and they would enter the realm of the Qin people. It had been like this for many years now. The two countries of Qin and Jin had had many small-scale conflicts, so the residents in the northern parts of Shou county had long since completely left the area.
The group, headed by Xie An, settled down for a temporary rest. After dinner Chen Xing went to search everywhere, but he didn’t see Xiang Shu, so he could only go back into the room and lie down. In the dark, dilapidated bedroom, Feng Qianjun’s voice came from the bed.
“You got in the wrong bed,” Feng Qianjun said in the darkness.
“I didn’t,” Chen Xing said good-naturedly. “I’m accompanying you to sleep for a little bit.” And saying this, he laid down on the bed fully clothed, and Feng Qianjun scooted over a little towards the inside, as a light sigh came to Chen Xing’s ears.
After all, they both understood the matter at hand but weren’t willing to speak it out loud. Chen Xing was afraid that Feng Qianjun would fall into despair because of Gu Qing’s death, and Feng Qianjun was very clear that along this journey Chen Xing had been constantly watching over him. But it was just that in front of many people, there were some words that were not easy to say.
The Heart Lamp shone from Chen Xing’s palm as he gently pressed it against the back of Feng Qianjun’s hand, saying quietly, “Feng-dage, you’re alright ba?”
Feng Qianjun was silent for a long while, before pulling his hand away, answering in a small voice, “Don’t use your mana, otherwise Xiang-xiongdi is going to get mad at you again.”
“What are you thinking about?” Chen Xing asked. “Are you thinking about Gu Qing?”
Feng Qianjun shook his head and answered, “Remember when we first met in Mai City and became companions on our way to Chang’an?”
“En.” Chen Xing fell into reminiscing. Two years ago, on that journey they had also searched everywhere for disused villages that had been destroyed by the fires of war to rest in, so this felt a bit familiar to them. Time passed so quickly.
“Dage began to practice martial arts the year he turned eight,” Feng Qianjun answered. “I became a disciple under Teacher Liu Jing’s instruction, learning how to use the saber was to protect Senluo Wanxiang, protect the Feng family, protect those… who needed me to protect them.”
Chen Xing thought about it, before saying, “Liu Jing?”
He was not very familiar with the various names of the martial artists in the Central Plains. Feng Qianjun nodded and said, “A master of the blade, but now he’s already gone to Dongying. To tell you the truth, dage’s innate talent has always been low, and it took me fourteen years of training for me to be considered as having finished my apprenticeship.”
Chen Xing said self-deprecatingly, “Your martial skills are this strong, and you’re still considered to be lacking innate talent?”
Feng Qianjun smiled bitterly. “Compared to Xiang-xiongdi, I must confess, there are huge differences between people. Anyways, it’s not important… Two years ago, before I met you, it was just when dage had finished his training, and I was filled with aspirations as I went to Chang’an.”
“Xiang Shu’s martial skills can’t be described with regular logic; in the whole world there is only one him,” Chen Xing said. “Now I feel, more and more so, that the Heart Lamp directed me to find him for a reason.”
“En, you two are pretty well-matched. When I think about that period of time when we journeyed to Chang’an together,” Feng Qianjun murmured. “We feared neither heaven nor earth, it was such a good time. Who knew that in the blink of an eye, everything would have disappeared, and it came to an end so quickly, leaving behind not even one whit for me. I thought that upon returning to Jiangnan, everything would be able to start anew, but I never thought that even Qing’er would leave just like this.”
Outside of the dilapidated house, the dark clouds dissipated, revealing a clear night sky and a rounded bright moon, its silver light shining over the land.
Chen Xing murmured, “Sometimes I can’t help but think, if those people who died could come back to life, how nice that would be? Dad, Mom, Shifu, King Akele… Xiang Shu also said that sometimes he wishes that this banquet would never end, but it has already ended, so what can we do?”
Feng Qianjun interrupted him. “These thoughts of yours are very dangerous, little Tianchi. Perhaps it was exactly because of those same thoughts that Wang Ziye was infected by resentment.”
Chen Xing sucked in a breath. Sometimes he couldn’t help but admit, he saw his own life and death as very light, but the death of others weighed heavily on him. Giving up his own life willingly, that was something that he had no choice on, but in the end, he only hoped that everyone else would be well and live happily. If he died and the others were also not able to escape this disaster, he would have regrets in his heart.
And so in essence, at the bottom of it, Chen Xing felt that he himself was not a person who took matters lightly.
Feng Qianjun said, “Iuppiter has entered your life, right? You’re the only lamp in the human realm, their only hope of turning bad luck into good fortune, and dage feels more and more now that, truly, there are many things that only you can do.”
Just as Chen Xing was about to explain, Feng Qianjun continued. “But I always felt that, perhaps there was also some lone star that entered my life, and perhaps that also determined my fate that for my entire life, I would be all alone in the world. Qinghe, Gu Qing, my brother… if I hadn’t come to their sides, would they not have died?”
Chen Xing said, “How can you say this? Feng-dage, none of this is your fault.”
Chen Xing sat up, watching Feng Qianjun as he said, “I originally also blamed the misfortunes of many people on myself, but Xiang Shu told me that life and death are things that cannot be avoided. You must understand that no matter if you are there or not…”
“Alright.” Feng Qianjun began to smile, and he reached a hand out to pinch Chen Xing’s face as he sighed, “You’ve lain here for less than one ke, and I’ve already heard you bring up Xiang Shu quite a few times. Go, go see him ba.”
Chen Xing said, “Why would I care about where he is…” Just as he was about to lay down, Feng Qianjun nudged him again, saying, “Dage is alright, I’m able to find my way out. You go ba, go, don’t make me take another beating tomorrow.”
Chen Xing could only get up and leave the dilapidated house, coming to the side of the small creek. He saw that Xiang Shu was standing in front of the waterfall on the slope, washing something.
“It’s the fifteenth day of the first month.” Chen Xing stopped behind Xiang Shu, lifting his head to look towards the sky. The dark clouds had dissipated, and the round moon was like a jade platter, shining brightly over the land. Looking down from the slope, on the desolate plains north of the Yangtze River, resentment could already be faintly seen, currently sending out bursts of black energy from the surface of the earth towards the sky.
“The further north we go, the more dense the resentment is,” Chen Xing said.
“You can also see it.” Xiang Shu turned his head to look down at the land at the foot of the mountain, saying, “I thought that only I could see it.”
Chen Xing said, “Among the mortals now, there are only the two of us who have mana who can see the changes within the mountains and the rivers.”
“Mortals, saints,” Xiang Shu said, “The outside mountains and rivers, the inside mountains and rivers.”
Xiang Shu suddenly let out a sigh, stowing away that thing he was washing under the waterfall. Chen Xing sat on the rock, shoulder to shoulder with Xiang Shu, watching the creek water as he asked, “What did you want to say during the day?”
“Nothing,” Xiang Shu said easily.
Chen Xing said, “You must have had many things you wanted to say.”
Xiang Shu answered, “Even if I said it, you wouldn’t pay attention to it.”
Chen Xing said a little helplessly, “How would I not mind? As long as it’s related to the Dinghai Pearl, as long as you say it…”
Xiang Shu responded, “Then what if it’s unrelated?”
Chen Xing couldn’t help but say, “I remember that there was one night where the moon was also like this.”
“The fifteenth day of the second month two years ago.” Xiang Shu watched the foot of the mountain as he said absentmindedly, “That was when we two first met. You had me become your Protector, and you were rejected by me.”
Chen Xing said, “Why do I always feel that, even though we’ve known each other for two years, after this long, you’re still the same as you were before, you haven’t changed at all. Sometimes you’re even worse than you were when we first met.”
Xiang Shu replied, “I’ve said many things more than once now. You just haven’t understood, or it would be better to say, you pretend that you haven’t understood.”
Chen Xing: “...”
Chen Xing turned his head to look at Xiang Shu, but Xiang Shu didn’t look at him, avoiding his gaze.
“What did I pretend to not understand?” Chen Xing asked, confused.
“Nothing. If I knew that you were going to use this kind of method to defeat Shi Hai,” Xiang Shu said to himself, “then I wouldn’t have left Chi Le Chuan to chase you down south.”
Chen Xing shot back, “Then I would only die even faster. After being brought back by Sima Wei, at this point in time I would have already become Chiyou’s vessel.”
Xiang Shu answered, “You have the protection of Iuppiter; your luck has always been good.”
Chen Xing, “You clearly don’t think of it that way…”
Xiang Shu suddenly spoke. “If you want to break the Dinghai Pearl, I have another way.”
Chen Xing’s train of thought was derailed by Xiang Shu’s sentence, and he immediately said, “What way? I knew that you had an idea!”
“Return it to Wang Ziye,” Xiang Shu said. “Let the resentment pollute it.”
“You’ve gone insane!” Chen Xing said. “We finally got it after so much difficulty, how could we do that!”
Xiang Shu: “Wang Ziye wants to sculpt the Dinghai Pearl into Chiyou’s new vessel, so he is bound to use resentment to refine it. When we fight the final battle, we’ll pour the Heart Lamp into the Acala Blade, letting me use all of the power, borrowing the exorcising effect of the Heart Lamp to deliver a shattering blow to the Dinghai Pearl.”
Chen Xing: “!!!”
Xiang Shu’s words elicited another scene in Chen Xing’s mind. Zhuyin was the dragon that had already existed when the sky and the earth split, and on this earth there were no more artifacts that could break the dragon pearl it had left behind. But if they used resentment to refine it, once the Dinghai Pearl became a resentful artifact, then the combined power of the Acala Blade and the Heart Lamp could deal it a merciless blow. Borrowing the suppressing power that the Heart Lamp had towards “devils”, was the only way to destroy it!
“This is too risky,” Chen Xing mumbled. “Too crazy.”
Xiang Shu raised his eyebrows and made a hand gesture, meaning, I knew you wouldn’t accept this plan.
Chen Xing got up and paced for a few steps at the side, before saying, “But this is wholly possible. Actually along the journey I was constantly suspecting why Wang Ziye was so invested in that “door” in the Longmen Mountains.”
Xiang Shu, “En.”
Chen Xing said, “Maybe over there is the sacrificial altar where your mother and Zhang Liu wanted to return to, three thousand years earlier, to cast their spell.”
Xiang Shu, “Maybe.”
Chen Xing: “I guess that Wang Ziye also doesn’t know how to use the Dinghai Pearl, and perhaps he has never actually gotten it in his grasp and had a good look at it. This plan is far too wild, but it can work. If we return the Dinghai Pearl to him, I’m guessing that he’ll use resentment to refine it. It will take some time to do so, and in that time, he won’t be able to split his attention… and that gives us more opportunities, so the best time would be the instant when Chiyou begins to transfer his souls to the Dinghai Pearl…”
Xiang Shu: “But to let me use the Acala Blade to completely shatter the Dinghai Pearl, you will inevitably…”
“No worries,” Chen Xing mumbled. “I will burn the Heart Lamp to its maximum power to cooperate with you.”
Xiang Shu turned his head to shoot a look at Chen Xing, saying, “At that time, maybe you won’t survive past that.”
Chen Xing nodded and said, “Yes.”
Chen Xing naturally knew what the meaning behind Xiang Shu’s words implied: after Wang Ziye used resentment to refine the Dinghai Pearl, at the earliest chance they found, they would meld together his own three hun and seven po and the Acala Blade, breaking the Dinghai Pearl.
Chiyou would still be in the midst of transferring souls when he would be destroyed by Xiang Shu, and with the explosion of the Dinghai Pearl, all of the spiritual qi of the heavens and earth would be released, returning back to the human realm. At that time, resentment would become less important, as the abundant spiritual qi in the environment would naturally begin to purify the resentment, entering into a wholly new cycle.
“I can do it, only, how will we let Wang Ziye not become alert to our plans and give the Dinghai Pearl back into his hands?” Chen Xing furrowed his brows. “Even a little carelessness will arouse his suspicion… Xiang Shu?”
Xiang Shu didn’t wait for Chen Xing to finish, rising and walking away. Chen Xing stared dumbly at Xiang Shu’s back profile, letting out another sigh, before he suddenly remembered Xiang Shu’s sentence.
“What did I pretend to not understand?” Chen Xing asked himself.
moon: feng-dage… www
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