Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Chapter 196 - Decisions


Southern border, Ten Thousands Great Mountains.

Before the vast Black Forest which Ghost Li and Jin PingEr had just traversed, stood a dozen people. Most of whom were FenXiang Valley’s elite disciples, led by Li Xun, among them there were two outsiders, Lu XueQi and Zeng ShuShu from Qing Yun sect. As for WenMin who were with them earlier on, unexpectedly was missing.

Amongst this delegation, many of them looked slightly exhausted, obviously although they were cultivated disciples but entering deep into the unfathomable and dangerous Ten Thousands Great Mountains, was still not an easy feat for them. Only the leader Li Xun, as well as Lu XueQi and Zeng ShuShu, who were all well skilled, looked like their usual selves.  
Unfortunately, staring at that dark and mysterious forest in front of them, could not cheer anyone up.

Above this stretch of black forest, the highly toxic miasma had risen, it was clear that traveling by the sky was not possible. With the Black Forest vast perimeter, it would be challenging to go around the forest, in addition Li Xun who had taken the role as the guide had been very clear, that in accordance to the legends by the southern border natives, the Beast Deity’s lair was in the Subdue Devil ancient cave just behind this Dark Forest.

This forest, walking through it seemed to be their only path!

A light blue light exuded from Tian Ya celestial sword, gently flickering in Lu XueQi’s hand, contrasting against her snow white and lonely figure. Without WenMin, not only did she rarely spoke to Li Xun and the FenXiang Valley’s disciples, even Zeng ShuShu from the same sect, she also rarely took notice of.

Throughout the journey, the barren hills and wild rivers, poisonous insects and ferocious beasts, all of which would have terrified most people, to her, it was often either ignoring them or striking them down with her sword. No one knew what her deepest inner thoughts were.

Li Xun did not know, and neither did Zeng ShuShu. Li Xun coughed discreetly towards Zeng ShuShu and asked in a low voice, “Umm, Zeng senior brother, may I ask what is Lu senior sister brooding over in silence all day?”

Zeng ShuShu was non-plussed, smiled wryly, “Li senior brother, I think you have asked the wrong person!”

Li Xun glanced at him, after a long time shook his head and also made a wry laugh.

At the moment everyone was worn out from the day and were resting to prepare for the journey through the Black Forest, Lu XueQi stood alone, far away on a rock, surveying the distant hills. Behind her, frequently there were many stares, intentionally or unintentionally lingering onto that delicate back figure.

Li Xun and Zeng ShuShu stood aside, the former pondered and muttered to himself for a bit, before saying grimly, “Zeng senior brother, we better invite Lu junior sister to come over and discuss our next steps carefully, is it good?”

Zeng ShuShu nodded his head and agreed, “That is a good idea.” He then turned around and walked to Lu XueQi, spoke to her in a low voice, Lu XueQi remained expressionless, listening to Zeng ShuShu, she then looked at Li Xun, Li Xun forced a small smile, feeling awkward.      

In a short while, Lu XueQi and Zeng ShuShu walked over together. Li Xun coughed once and started the conversation, “It’s like this, once we have crossed this section of Black Forest, we will be close to the lair of the Beast Deity. We…”

“Li senior brother!” Suddenly, Lu XueQi called Li Xun, interrupting his words.     

Li Xun was startled, since entering the Ten Thousands Great Mountains, it could be said that this was the first time Lu XueQi spoke to him, in surprise, he asked, “What is it?”     

Lu XueQi looked at him, her eyes faintly glinting, said, “For the past few days, I have something that I don’t understand, and will like to ask Li senior brother.”     

Li Xun nodded his head and said, “Lu junior sister, please go ahead.”    

Lu XueQi’s expression did not soften from Li Xun's politeness, still asked in an icy manner, “In the past, what we heard from FenXiang Valley, are all saying that this Ten Thousands Great Mountains is an extremely dangerous place, even you all rarely enter too. However, for some reason, on the way here, Lu senior brother you seemed to be very familiar with this place, couldn’t it be that you have been here before? And, the Beast Deity’s tracks are extremely furtive, not to mention how hidden the location of the lair is, how would FenXiang Valley be so well informed and know such things?”

Li Xun’s expression remain unchanged in the face of Lu XueQi's interrogation, as if he was prepared. He smiled and responded, “Lu junior sister, as I have told you earlier, in the past us FenXiang Valley indeed did not pay attention to the existence of this Ten Thousands Great Mountains, but when the catastrophe of demon beasts happened, it was only natural that we started paying attention to this place. As for the lair of the Beast Deity, it is discovered when our disciples pursued the remnants of the demon beasts, at the sacrifice of many of our best!”

Zeng ShuShu and Lu XueQi frowned simultaneously, it was clear that this empty elaborated story did not convince them, but looking at him speaking so confidently, they were unable to directly refute the story and so could only remained silent.

Li Xun smiled, looked at the two of them, and said, “Speaking of which reminded me, that senior sister WenMin from your honourable sect, before we were about to enter the Ten Thousands Great Mountains, suddenly had to return so abruptly to QingYun sect?”

Surprised, Zeng ShuShu couldn’t help but glanced at Lu XueQi before replying with a smile, “Didn’t we inform Li senior brother earlier, something urgent came up and senior sister WenMin had no choice but to return.”

Standing by the side, Lu XueQi slightly cast her eyes downward, and did not speak. The reason WenMin had to rush back to QingYun sect, not even Zeng ShuShu was not too clear about it, actually to say it, naturally it was because of that day in the Mountain River Hall, when Yun YiLan abruptly asked the one question about the ‘Zhu Xian Ancient Sword’.

Not knowing the truth, Zeng ShuShu treated it as a joke and had forgotten about it, but after Lu XueQi and WenMin discussed, decided that it was no trivial matter and in the end decided that WenMin would rush back to QingYun Mountain and report the news to the various elders and teacher uncles, so as to be prepared for a change in situation. After all, to the QingYun sect and the rest of the world, the significance of ‘Zhu Xian Ancient Sword’ was too important. And FenXiang Valley who previously always had good relations with QingYun sect, and its leader Yun YiLan, the unexpected show this time, subtly revealed some stirrings which were worrying.

However, the matter of the Beast Deity was also very important, and cannot be given up. So after deliberations, WenMin would return back to the QingYun Mountain, and Lu XueQi with Zeng ShuShu would remain. But in their minds, FenXiang Valley this rich and powerful sect, at present seemed to be revealing its odd behaviours.

At present, Li Xun and Zeng ShuShu had already been discussing for a while, making detailed plans for matters that required attention once they have entered the Black Forest. Through this conversation, Zeng ShuShu learned many new unheard information about the Black Forest, a real-opener to him, nodded continuously while engrossed in the conversation.

Lu XueQi listened along, for some reason, felt slightly frustrated, stood up again and walk to the side, gazing off towards the horizon. In the distance, faint outlines of huge undulating mountains, shaped the landscape under the wide blue sky, while cold wind whistled past them.   

Who knows, what would be waiting for them ahead?     

Qing Yun Mountain, Big Bamboo Valley.     

Early this day, at the first glimmer of light, while the Big Bamboo Valley disciples were not yet awake, light footsteps echoed from the Observed Silence Hall. Contrary to his normal habits, Tian BuYi walked out, already dressed.   

The dawn’s light illuminated his grave expression, the shadows formed by his frown hinted at the heavy thoughts in his mind. SuRu followed from behind, and one could not tell if the couple woke up early or if they had not been able to sleep all night.   

SuRu’s face was lined with concern, as she walked out of Observed Silence Hall, she first looked at the disciples dormitory, saw that it peaceful as expected, spoke in a low voice, “BuYi, I still think what you are about to do is not right, we should discuss it further!”

Tian BuYi’s face solemn, his eyebrows never seemed to relax once, replied in a deep voice, “This matter can no longer be delayed, ever since we came back from the Founders Ancestral Hall, Reverend DaoXuan senior brother’s condition has been getting worse. Yesterday the news from Tong Tian Peak, heard that he actually laid hands on Fan elder and Xiao YiCai who went to persuade him.”

SuRu surprised, said, “What, why would sect head senior brother fight, how are the both of them, what provoked sect head senior brother, was he hurt?”

Tian BuYi grunted and said, “What else would they fight about, naturally when they noticed DaoXuan senior brother behaving strangely, they went forward to advise. I heard that DaoXuan senior brother was cordial at first, but I am unsure what caused the argument, with one palm strike, he immediately seriously injured Fan senior brother, luckily that kid Xiao YiCai was quick-witted enough and managed to escape in time.”

SuRu startled, frowned and asked, “Xiao YiCai was actually alright?”     

Tian BuYi clasped his hands behind and pondered for a moment before saying, “He has always been smart, and he had been following DaoXuan senior brother for so many years, more or less he knows him better than most. Most likely he realised early that something was amiss and took the opportunity, therefore managed to get away in time. But it was also fortunate that he was quick-witted, he could then save Fan senior brother and and treated him, or who knows what would have happened!”

SuRu was silent for a long while, uncertainty and concern mixed in her expression, “He, he has already changed until like this, why do you still insist on visiting him?”     

Tian BuYi took a deep breath, and said, “It doesn’t matter that others don’t understand, don’t tell me you don’t understand why too?”

SuRu quietly said, “But he ... Sect head senior brother right now has been possessed by the demons, no one knows what he is actually thinking any more, and he is so highly skilled, far stronger and better skilled than you and I, now that you taking the risk by going, I’m afraid that, that…”

Towards the end, her voice dropped increasingly lower until it was barely above a whisper and she stopped, evidently unwilling to give voice to her fear.

Tian BuYi released a heavy sigh, turned around to gaze at SuRu and stretched out his hand to gently hold her delicate hands, and said gently, “We have been married for so many years, of course I know what you are worrying about. With you worrying like that for me, even if something were to happen to me, it doesn’t matter anymore…”

SuRu frowned and interrupted him exclaiming, “What nonsense are you saying!”     

Tian BuYi nodded his head, and after a moment, continued, “As you know, Zhu Xian Ancient Sword’s secret is Qing Yun sect’s highest classified, and initially only the sect head knew of this. However at that Wildlands battle, I, Zeng ShuChang and the rest following Wan JianYi senior brother into the decisive battle of thousand miles ChangSha, chanced upon this secret by coincidence. Afterwards, we stood in the Founders Ancestral Hall and in front of the Qing Yun ancestral shrines made a solemn vow, never to reveal this secret to anyone for the rest of our lives.”

SuRu sighed and said,”‘Why are you mentioning this again, I was there that day and made the vow as well, how could I not remember?”
Tian BuYi awe-inspiringly said, “Ever since Qing Ye founder left a commandment tablet written personally, generations of our ancestors had warned repeatedly that the Zhu Xian Ancient Sword cannot be used lightly. In Qing Ye founder’s tablet, it even more clearly state that the soul of the ancient sword is extremely terrible and vicious, and if the welder is not of strong mind and stable foundations, they will fall into the devil’s path. Now that DaoXuan senior brother is showing those various signs, wouldn’t it be proving exactly what the forefathers predicted to happen!”  

SuRu bowed her head and was silent for a long while.     

Tian BuYi raised his head to gaze at the brightening sky, in the distance the early morning mountain fog surrounded the summits, where the clouds shrouded, lofty towering Tong Tian Peak could be seen indistinctly.

“Over the years, DaoXuan senior brother spared no effort, reorganized Qing Yun sect and made it prospered, till today we are able to regard the world with disdain, lead the world’s Good Faction.” Tian BuYi’s voice changed,suddenly turned heavy with emotions, “I remember thinking, that if Wan JianYi senior brother takes the position of sect head, I guessed he wouldn’t be as good as DaoXuan senior brother.”

SuRu trembled and whispered, “BuYi…” but lost her voice as she hesitated to finish what she wanted to say.  

Tian BuYi clasped his hands behind, looking frustrated and said, “In these many years, even though I am still secretly making offering to Wan senior brother’s memorial tablet, but to DaoXuan senior brother, honestly, I was feeling more and more admiration, although we argued mostly but as to how he handled matters and his conduct, I have nothing to say, even if ten years ago, when he used the Zhu Xian Ancient Sword to strike lao qi…”

“BuYi, stop talking!” SuRu suddenly shouted, for some reason, as she stared at Tian BuYi, her eyes turned red.

Tian BuYi’s face muscles twitched, and tried to force a smile, but it only revealed his heart ache, “In this world, only you understand me. That war ten years ago, I, I…” He released a long sigh, and said, “I still miss lao qi! Amongst the disciples, even though he was the most displeasing to the eye, but I still… alas!”

In the wake of his long sigh, the two of them fell silent. After a while, Tian BuYi smiled bitterly and said, “After that day, I was once deeply resentful towards DaoXuan senior brother, lao qi is brought up by me, those decades, wouldn’t I have known what kind of a person he is? If there is any wrongdoing, it would also be me to teach him, who knows maybe we would be able to turn the situation around. But with that strike, he he, before lao qi, BiYao was first struck to death, and then that is just great, lao qi who didn’t rebel, would also have to rebel. With his stubborn temper, his entire life is destroyed with that sword strike.”

“However, in the past few years, when I reflected at times, recalled this matter, I once thought, if I was in DaoXuan senior brother’s position, that sword strike, would I have struck, or not?”

SuRu looked at her husband, said nothing, but gently grasped his hand and patted his palm, offering silent comfort.

Tian BuYi smiled faintly, looked at SuRu, smiled and said, “If it were me, I’m afraid in the end I would still have delivered that strike.”

As if she already knew the answer, SuRu lowered her head and said nothing.

Tian BuYi fell silent, staring at the direction of the distant TongTian Peak.     

After a long while, SuRu said abruptly, “Since your mind has been decided, why don’t I accompany you to visit DaoXuan senior brother!”

Tian BuYi shook his head and said, “It would be better if you don’t go, it would be hard to talk with so many people. DaoXuan senior brother turning into what he is today, is all because of what he did it for the good of humankind and Qing Yun sect. If I didn’t know, that would have been it, but I have been privy to the secret and I cannot now in good conscience sit idly by and do nothing. I have to go and see if there’s any chance of help for him. Only hope that DaoXuan senior brother with his deep cultivation, will be able to wake from the vicious currents. Otherwise…”

He ended abruptly.      

SuRu looked at him, smiled suddenly, wiping away the sadness and grief on her face, replacing it with a tender loving expression, gently said, “Alright, that’s enough.”     

Tian BuYi and SuRu had been together for a long time, both understood each other perfectly, at this moment, he just gazed at SuRu for a long while, saying nothing, only nodded his head. The next moment, he turned, flung his sleeves, red lights started to flash out.  

Watching as his red celestial sword was on the verge of travel, SuRu was suddenly behind him, again called out, “BuYi…” Although the tone was soft, it was filled with love and tenderness, and it was conveyed in those two short words.

Tian BuYi turned back to look at his wife, and saw the reluctance on SuRu’s face and the tears in her eyes. After a long moment, Tian BuYi smiled and waved. His lips twitched but he said nothing, turned and wielded the red celestial sword, with a shout, leapt into the air.

That scarlet flash of light, swept across the horizon and into the clouds. At first the clouds billowed and made way but soon shrouded from all directions, gradually submerging his silhouette.  

Only SuRu was left, staring at the sky in a daze. She stood there for a long time, until dewdrops formed on her hair, the pearls sparkling in the sun as it falls quietly onto the ground.   

4 comments: