"I salute this infinite realm of the thousand worlds, and the bustling living beings within it!"
brief depictions (2 scenes) of ritual self-mutilation! If you need to skip, skip from: 1. "Liu Fei then said, “Bring a jug of water over.”" to "“Now, I imagine we can have an open and sincere discussion,” Li Jinglong said." 2. "Liu Fei stood outside the hall" to "Under Hongjun’s astonished gaze, the neidan shone with light."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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Sunlight streamed over the courtyard. The ghost king turned his head aside in great pain, saying, “Release me.”
Li Jinglong: “...”
“Wow,” the carp yao said. “You finally know how to speak?”
“What is… this place?” The ghost king didn’t stop struggling. Li Jinglong hurried to have Lu Xu take the unconscious Mo Rigen back, even as he himself gripped the Sword of Wisdom, pointing it at the ghost king.
“Who exactly are you?” Li Jinglong asked gravely. “On whose orders did you come here? How do we cure the corpse poison that your subordinates have spread?! Speak!”
Li Jinglong held the Sword of Wisdom, pointing it at the ghost king, and the sword began to glow with light.
“Undo my chains,” the ghost king responded in a low voice. “Only then do you have the right to speak to me.”
His voice was deep and hoarse, and only when he spoke did his chest rise and fall. Hongjun said, “Release him ba.”
Li Jinglong hesitated for a while. The ghost king then said, “With these chains and the pillar alone, you will not be able to hold me. At the very latest, tonight, I will break free. When that time comes, do not blame me for not showing any mercy.”
Li Jinglong responded darkly, “If it wasn’t for Hongjun asking for mercy on your behalf, I wouldn’t let you down, but you should know that I am not afraid of you.”
And saying this, Li Jinglong sheathed the Sword of Wisdom, holding out a hand, and Hongjun handed over his glaive. The Heart Lamp flashed forth from Li Jinglong’s left hand, and the ghost king let out an angry bellow, turning his head away in horror, not daring to look directly at the light. Right after, Li Jinglong flicked his wrist, and with a few dang dangs, he sliced through all of the bonds holding the ghost king’s body down. At that, the ghost king staggered and almost fell face first in front of the two of them.
“First go to see the patients,” Li Jinglong said. “There are too many questions to ask you.”
With that, Hongjun led him through the long corridor. The ghost king’s build was tall and large, and he was even somewhat taller than Li Jinglong. If he didn’t pay attention, he would smack into the windchimes and the carved decorations in the rafters, so he could only duck down from time to time.
“Ghost king,” Hongjun said. “My friends all fell prey to your guys’ corpse poison in the previous battles we had. Can it be cured?”
“Though I was a king in my previous life, in death, I am no longer the king of the corpse ghosts that fell in battle. You can call me Liu Fei or General, either will do,” Liu Fei responded. “As for the true king, there is another.”
“No way!” Hongjun said with horror. “There’s more?!”
“My king is currently still asleep.” Liu Fei walked into Mo Rigen’s room. Lu Xu sat to one side, glancing at Liu Fei every now and then as he let him have the spot in front of the bed. Liu Fei said to Lu Xu, “Thanks.” Lu Xu didn’t understand what that meant. Liu Fei reached out a long, grey-blue index finger, peeling up Mo Rigen’s eyelids to take a glance, before inspecting the scars on his body.
“This was caused by the poison on my subordinates’ blades,” Liu Fei responded. “What about the others?”
Hongjun then brought him to see Geshu Han. At this time, Geshu Han was already on his deathbed, so his room was filled with commanding officers. As soon as they saw Liu Fei, they all shouted, “Yaoguai!”, before they pulled out their blades, ready to fight him to the death. Hongjun, however, tried every method to inform them of the situation, explaining that he was here to cure the illness. After Liu Fei looked over Geshu Han, he said, “This one’s in pretty bad shape, it’s the same poison.”
Hongjun then had him take a look at the old madam. As soon as Liu Fei looked at her, he said, “She was poisoned by the plague god, her condition is different from theirs. As long as she takes medicine, she will get better. Is there anyone else?”
When they returned to the hall, Li Jinglong had already ordered for the soldiers in the barracks to be brought over, and they filled the entire courtyard. After Liu Fei took a circle around, he said at the end, “There is no need to look at any more, they are all the same.”
“Can they be saved?” Hongjun asked nervously.
Liu Fei nodded. It was only then that Hongjun finally let himself relax.
“They must be saved now, otherwise they will not be able to survive the night,” Liu Fei responded. “I’ll go write the medicinal recipe now, and you send people out to gather the ingredients. They must be gathered as soon as possible.”
Right after, Liu Fei drew up the recipe, and on it was listed white arsenic, heartbreak grass, pit viper venom, and other similar lethal toxins. When Hongjun saw the list, he was greatly shaken, and he said, “This…”
“Draw it up,” Li Jinglong said. “If he wants them to die, he doesn’t need to list ingredients of this quality, all he has to do is wait.”
When Hongjun thought about it, he agreed that that was the case, so he sent people off to gather the ingredients. Liu Fei then said, “Bring a jug of water over.”
A little while later, the soldiers carried in a full jug of water. Liu Fei borrowed one of Hongjun’s throwing knives, rolled up his sleeve, and jabbed it into his arm, slicing open his flesh. The inside of the wound was like a rubber tree; inky black blood flowed out, accompanied by a slow, seeping black fog. The blood dripped into the jug, and as soon as a single drop touched the water, it dyed the entire jug of water pitch black.
“After the medicine boils, add a spoonful of ghost king blood to every bowl,” Liu Fei said. “Have all of the people drink it at once, in one go. Tonight, at midnight, the poison will be cured.”
Night fell, and in the general’s estate, large pots had been set up and medicine was currently stewing in them. The entire estate was bright with light from the lamps.
Liu Fei stitched up his wound with a needle. At the end, he couldn’t tie off the knot easily, so Hongjun took it and personally tied the knot for him.
“Now, I imagine we can have an open and sincere discussion,” Li Jinglong said.
“I had such a long dream.” Liu Fei leaned against the front of the bed. He asked, “Is there wine?”
“You’re dead, but you still eat?” the carp yao asked.
“Even as walking corpses, we still need to drink water,” Liu Fei answered easily. “Otherwise we’ll dry out too fast.”
Li Jinglong then commanded people to bring some wine. He poured some out for Liu Fei, saying, “I’ll drink with you, but Hongjun can’t drink.”
“And what kind of a yaoguai are you?” Liu Fei asked, tilting his head to look Hongjun over, some doubt in his gaze. “A phoenix?”
Li Jinglong said, “General Liu, as of today, we are still enemies, not friends. Do not act overly friendly.”
“I’ll go check on the medicine,” Hongjun said in response, before he rose and left.
A faint trace of an odd smile appeared on Liu Fei’s grey-blue face. When he smiled, his expression turned a little rakish, and he answered easily, “I’m no more than a ruffian of a soldier. The world of today has long since changed from when it was my Han family’s territory. Being a human is fine, being a yao is also alright, and hasn’t this general long since given up any intent to fight for an advantage over you all? Why are you all acting hostile towards me?”
“The one who is acting hostile is you,” Li Jinglong said darkly. “Your armies swept across the lands of Saiwai, how domineering was that? Who knows how many citizens you separated from their homes and their belongings, tearing families apart and taking their lives!”
Liu Fei took a sip of wine, focusing his attention on Li Jinglong as he murmured, “Humans live for a mere hundred years, and they will all die in the end. Why be so close-minded?”
“Even if they do not fear death,” Li Jinglong shot back, not giving even an inch, “those who are living always wish to keep living. For them to come to terms with life and death on their own, versus being cut down by a single slash of yours, there is always a difference there, isn’t that right?”
Liu Fei’s eyebrows furrowed slightly as he responded, “These words remind me of an old friend of mine from before.”
Li Jinglong was startled. Liu Fei thought deeply, before saying, “What was he called again, I’ve forgotten, it’s been a while… he was surnamed Li, I think he was called Li Guang. Yes, Li Guang!
Li Jinglong: “...”
Liu Fei: “Twenty years ago, you all still had a poem, and it went ‘If General Fei and the Conqueror of Longcheng were still here, they would not allow the Hu riders to pass the Yin Mountains…’, and it was because I made that life and death promise that I went to serve under the ghost king and joined the garrison at Yadan. Since then, it has been almost nine hundred years.”
Li Jinglong asked in disbelief, “Why?!”
“To guard the Great Wall.” Liu Fei changed his position, slumping casually. His long hair was loose and unbound, and he stared absentmindedly at the wine in his cup as he continued, “I hadn’t expected that, without realizing it, I had such a long dream of a fleeting life…”
At that time, Hongjun returned, sitting down by Li Jinglong’s side. When he heard the second half of that sentence, he couldn’t resist asking, “What did you dream of?”
“I dreamt of my wife,” Liu Fei said, his mind elsewhere. “I imagine that now, she has long since become nothing but white bones, and her soul has already reincarnated into a new body. I dreamt of our first meeting, in the Shanglin Gardens…”
Hongjun suddenly thought of the dream that he himself had, where he had dreamt that he was in a garden filled with blossoms, and when he turned, he had seen a beautiful young lady passing through a long corridor. His eyes had seen Liu Fei’s dreamscape, what exactly was happening here?!
Before Hongjun could give voice to that question, Li Jinglong asked, “Since you were guarding the Great Wall and the area outside the Yumen Pass, why did you attack the citizens of Sainei?”
“I don’t know.” Liu Fei slowly shook his head, saying, “Originally, we awaken once every ten years to head to the Mogao Caves in Shazhou to present ourselves to the Deer God, but I never expected… After waking up this time, two visitors came to the royal mausoleum in Yadan…”
“Wait!” Li Jinglong exclaimed, surprised. “What do you mean, present yourselves to the Deer God?”
At the same time, Liu Fei seemed to sense something, and he lifted his head to look outside the room.
The night sky was like ink, and a few crows’ caws traveled faintly from the distance. Liu Fei said, “It’s also almost the zi hour.”
And saying this, he rose. Just then, there was a soldier who rushed over hurriedly, shouting, “It’s not good! After the great general took that medicine, he-he…”
“Not an issue.” Liu Fei walked out of the doorway.
At this time, the dark clouds parted under a breeze, revealing a bright moon hanging in the sky. It was the fifteenth day of the last month, and the silver light of the full moon scattered over the vast land.
Liu Fei stood outside the hall, wearing a black and red warrior’s robe. The brilliant moonlight shone over him, and he held a wine bowl in his left hand, his right hand undoing the clasps of his shirt, revealing the heavily scarred left side of his torso. On the left side of his chest was a very distinct cut.
He reached his fingers into that cut, and with a pinch of his hands and a tug, there was a clear sound as he tugged out an inky green neidan!
Under Hongjun’s astonished gaze, the neidan shone with light. Immediately, Liu Fei put the neidan to soak in the bowl of wine, and under the glow of the moon, the bowl of wine began to glow with a rippling green light.
“At the beginning of everything, who spread the dao in this world? The heavens and earth had not yet taken shape, so who was there to perceive the spreader of the dao?”
Liu Fei’s posture was casual and relaxed as he raised the bowl a little higher, continuing, “Knowing of the limitless universe and its even more limitless beginning, who can find an external vantage point?”
“Life and death are eternally intertwined; I borrow the power of the heavens and the earth and call upon the thousands and millions of heroic spirits departed to the land below to return to my cup of cloudy wine… go!”
In that instant, the space between the heavens and earth seemed to undergo an extremely strange change. On the foreheads of Mo Rigen and Geshu Han, lying on their beds, and the soldiers on the courtyard on the brink of death, appeared glowing points of light. The light flew through this moonlit night, turning into a silver river that looked like a jade sash!
“Great general --!”
All of the people who had been struck by the corpse poison stopped breathing at the same time.
Hongjun and Li Jinglong watched all of this happen, their hearts filled with shock. In that instant, Hongjun sensed that within Liu Fei’s bowl of wine, there was a mass of powerful energy that surpassed life and death, currently obstructing the power of the spiritual veins of the heavens and the earth! The points of light should have originally flown towards the divine vein, but under the magic of the corpse king’s neidan, they were gathered up and collected within the wine bowl, as if it itself was a vast, magnificent world!
This was the first time that Hongjun had caught a glimpse of the boundary between life and death. This scene was one that perhaps he would never be able to forget for the rest of his life.
Right after, Liu Fei held the bowl in his left hand and dipped the fingers of his right hand into it, before flicking them at the sky.
"I salute these vast heavens, may all the things in the world return to their original forms.”
Then he flicked them towards the great earth.
"I salute the fertile soil of this divine land, may all living things return in silence to their end."
Right after, with an extremely handsome spread of his hands, he sent the entire bowl of wine splashing out with a huala. At the same time, he shouted, “I salute this infinite realm of the thousand worlds, and the bustling living beings within it! Souls, return!”
With a shua, the neidan glowed with a strong light as it spun rapidly, and with another shua, it sent all those thousands of souls scattering out as it spun!
Mo Rigen, who had already stopped breathing, suddenly opened his eyes, and he violently began to gasp for air as if he had been startled awake!
Geshu Han’s chest rose and fell, and his eyes opened.
On the drill grounds, the soldiers let out loud shouts of confusion.
“They’re alive --!”
“They’re awake! They’re awake!”
“They’ve come back to life!”
Hongjun watched, his scalp tingling. He hadn’t known that there was actually such a majestic, mystical magic in the world!
“I will not teach you,” Liu Fei replied, seeming to have long since guessed at what Hongjun wanted to ask. “This magic goes against the will of the heavens, and aside from me and my kin who have been eternally cursed by the world, no one else can use it.”
Saying this, Liu Fei lifted his hand, and with a gesture, his neidan returned to his hand. He placed it back in his chest, before turning and sitting back down on his seat. From the backyard came Lu Xu’s loud cries of joy, and Mo Rigen walked rapidly into the hall. Hongjun let out a loud shout and rushed up to grab Mo Rigen in a hug.
Mo Rigen wasn’t fully recovered from the shock as he looked Liu Fei up and down, but Liu Fei only nodded mildly. Li Jinglong hurried to straighten his martial robe as he said, “You have General Liu to thank.”
Seeing the current situation, Mo Rigen understood that it was Liu Fei who had saved the lives of everyone here, and he said in a quiet voice, “Thanks.”
Liu Fei responded, “This matter arose because of me, so naturally, I should have been the one to take care of it. I caused so much additional trouble for you all in the process, why thank me?”
Mo Rigen hadn’t eaten for several days in a row now, so Hongjun hurried to find someone to bring him food. At this time, the area outside the general’s manor was already a complete mess; Geshu Han had woken, and a fast rider had come with a message that Qin Liang and the vice jiedushi Wang Lun had recovered as well. To avoid any trouble, Li Jinglong proposed moving to the side courtyard to sit and talk around the fire, and he sent for food to be brought there.
After busying themselves for a long while, the soldiers set up a charcoal brazier in the side courtyard and cooked up a whole large pot of meat. Hongjun, Li Jinglong, Mo Rigen, and Lu Xu were already starving, and they each held a bowl and chopsticks in their hand as they huddled by the fire, eating dinner. Liu Fei leaned to one side, drinking wine.
“What year is it now?” Liu Fei asked as a thought suddenly came to him.
“The twelfth year of Tianbao,” Li Jinglong said. “After the last month is over, it’ll be the thirteenth year.”
Liu Fei began to count on his fingers, trying to calculate the years, but he couldn’t figure it out, so he could only wave his hand and let it be. He then said, “If there is no chaos caused by war, then we remain asleep in our coffins. We only awaken once every ten years, on the night of Lidong, when we leave Yadan and make our way through the Yang and Yumen Passes, to deter any Xiongnu looking for trouble.”
Thinking of the words that Liu Fei had spoken before he cast his magic, Li Jinglong asked, “You said… two visitors came that night?”
“Indeed,” Liu Fei said, nodded. “Speaking of it, that was also strange. The entrance to the Yadan Mausoleum of the Officers was sealed tightly, and I do not know how they managed to make their way in…”
When Hongjun heard this, he forgot about eating. Li Jinglong then picked up a piece of meat for him, telling him to eat faster so that he wouldn’t go hungry, before he poured some more wine for Liu Fei. Liu Fei then continued, “These two messengers claimed that they had come on behalf of the yao king…”
“What?!” Upon hearing those words, Hongjun, Li Jinglong, and Mo Rigen were all shaken.
Lu Xu: “???”
“Isn’t the yao king dead already?!” Hongjun asked in disbelief.
“Dead?” Liu Fei responded, splaying out his hand. “I don’t know.”
Hongjun thought, it can’t be my old man, right? But Li Jinglong glanced at Hongjun, and he ventured a guess. “That black jiao is still around, he hasn’t died yet.”
Hongjun immediately understood. Liu Fei thought for a bit, before continuing, “... It wanted me and my king to lead the army of the corpse ghosts that fell in battle and return to Mara.”
“You and your king,” Li Jinglong mused. “Who is your king?”
“My king is a Qin person,” Liu Fei said easily. “He is the very first corpse ghost that fell in battle, and he is the master of all of us. Legend has it that the valiant soldiers of the world who perished for their countries might receive his call upon dying a glorious death, where their bodies will not rot, and they will become soldiers under his command.”
“Where is he.” Mo Rigen felt that after this, there was going to be something that Liu Fei wanted desperately to keep hidden.
“I don’t know,” Liu Fei murmured. “Perhaps he’s still asleep in the Mausoleum of the Officers.”
Everyone fell silent for a moment, each of them thinking of their own matters and drawing their own conclusions. Only Lu Xu kept eating, as if there was no one else present.
“And after that?” Mo Rigen asked.
“After that, naturally they were rejected by my king and I,” Liu Fei responded casually, before he once again fell silent, as if he was recalling the details. None of them disturbed him. Not long after, he continued. “With that, I straightened my clothing and tidied up my appearance, before first passing through Yadan to enter the pass, heading towards the Mogao Caves on a pilgrimage. But just as I was about to arrive at the Mogao Caves…”
“...or perhaps it was while I was on the road. Whatever the case, I cannot remember clearly,” Liu Fei said. “It was then that I began to dream.”
“You had a nightmare,” Mo Rigen said.
“Indeed,” Liu Fei replied.
“What was the explanation for the pilgrimage?” Li Jinglong asked, his brows furrowed. “Why were you heading to the Mogao Caves?”
“Though the corpse ghosts that fell in battle are called ‘yao’,” Liu Fei responded, “I personally believe that the corpse ghosts are of a different kind, and can only be loosely classified as part of the yao tribe.”
After Liu Fei had died, he had lived with the identity of a corpse ghost that fell in battle for nine hundred years, so perhaps he had long since figured out the general state of his own identity. Hongjun didn’t interrupt him either, instead letting Liu Fei continue. “Aside from when the Divine Land is in danger from invading foreigners who plunge the people into misery, a large portion of the remaining months and years, we all are deeply asleep instead of leaving our coffins to do battle.”
Mo Rigen’s breathing stuttered, as if he had thought of something.
“As long as they are deeply asleep, they will need to dream,” Liu Fei said. “And the master of all dreams is, as has been for thousands of years now, the deer god born naturally from the forests, the grasslands, and the desert.”
Mo Rigen asked in a low tone, “The White Deer?”
“The White Deer?” Liu Fei thought for a moment, before replying, “To be more accurate, it should be called the Nine-Colored Deer.”
moon: will mo rigen get a hint? one day, maybe… one day…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.