Sunday, 17 June 2018

Chapter 237 - Intention to kill

Stepping out from the hut, Wenmin saw Lu Xueqi standing at the side and so walked over and said, “Junior sister, are you going back now?”

Lu Xueqi shook her head slightly, and said, “Since I am already out, I thought of walking around. Sitting in the room all the time also make me feel frustrated.”

Wenmin nodded and said, “This is also true. Then, be careful by yourself. I will go back first.”

Lu Xueqi nodded and said, “Yes, take care senior sister.”

Wenmin smiled, turned and left. Watching as her figure gradually disappeared into the forest, Lu Xueqi stood where she was and, for a moment did not know where she should go, and so walked around aimlessly.

Deep inside the bamboo forest, everywhere was verdant, the mountain breeze blew past somewhere high up, the bamboo leaves rustled with the wind, making [sha sha] sounds.

On the damp earth, new shoots broke through the earth. One could often see the sharp bamboo heads poking out from the ground, full of vitality.

Somewhere far away, where the bamboo trees were dense, the clear, crisp cries of birds could be heard. Even the surrounding air wafted with a unique bamboo fragrance. Lu Xueqi inhaled deeply. The air here did not carry smells from the mortal world. This was what they, cultivated Taoism practitioners, loved the most. It was also the reason why every cultivated Taoism practitioners stayed far away from the mortals.

It’s just that, although her body was far from the mortal life, but the mortal emotions and feelings seemed to have never left.

She walked aimlessly around like that until, unintentionally, she suddenly realized with a start that she had came to the rear of the mountain again. She made a bitter laugh. Although she did not intend to come here today but perhaps because she had visited here too many times, her legs brought her here on their own.

However since she was already here Lu Xueqi did not turn back. She continued on up the mountain, up the stone stairs. Not far away was the secluded Full-Moon platform.

Right now was daytime. In addition, as Master Shuiyue was not in a good mood these days, not even one disciple came to this secluded place. The surroundings seemed quieter in contrast. Fortunately Lu Xueqi had always been used to such stillness and so continued to walk up. As she did, every grass and tree, every stone and rock, couldn’t have felt more familiar.

Unexpectedly, when she stepped up onto Full-Moon platform she was surprised. Ahead, on the Full-Moon platform, there was someone standing there alone. That person’s robe flapped about, dancing in the mountain wind. The figure’s back was extremely familiar. It was Master Shuiyue, whom she and Wenmin had been unable to locate.

Lu Xueqi was stunned, walked up and bowed to her teacher, “Teacher.”

Master Shuiyue was taken back. It seemed she did not realize someone had come up from behind. When she turned around and saw Lu Xueqi, she nodded and said, “Ah it’s Xueqi.”

Lu Xueqi looked up at Master Shuiyue, saw her mentor looking slightly pale, her expression still grieving. But more than that was a feeling of melancholy.

Her heart worrying, she said, “Teacher, the wind is strong here. You must take care of your health.”

Master Shuiyue laughed and said, “You usually stand here for the whole day and yet I don’t see you being affected. Although my old bones cannot be compared to you youngsters but I am still not that weak against the wind.”

Lu Xueqi was taken back and hurriedly said, “Teacher, disciple did not have that intention, I am…”

Master Shuiyue tiredly waved her hand. A faint, bitter smile was on her lips as she said, “I know, you don’t have to explain.”

Lu Xueqi was silent. She stood beside her teacher and for the moment did not know what to say.

Master Shuiyue did not look like she was intending to speak either. The teacher and the student were, for the moment, silent.

After an unknown amount of time passed, Master Shuiyue gazed ahead and suddenly said, “Do you think that the view at this Full-Moon platform is beautiful?”

Lu Xueqi was stunned for a moment, not knowing the reason for her teacher’s question but she still honestly replied, “It is always said that the best views are usually at the most perilous peaks. Here the rocks jut out dangerously, the precipice is suspended solitarily in the air. Looking up from it, with the sea of clouds like a sea waves, the green mountains as a companion, it is an exceptional scenery.”

Master Shuiyue nodded her head. Her eyes misted over slightly, as she said in a slow voice, “Actually many years ago, when your Teacher-aunt Suru was still training at Small Bamboo Valley, she was also like you. She loved the scenery here the most and often sneaked out here to play.”

Lu Xueqi was surprised. She looked up at Master Shuiyue and saw her sighing softly as she continued, “Junior sister Su and I grew up together. Actually, I only joined my mentor Grandmaster Zhenyu’s tutelage one year earlier than her. When we were young we ate at the same table and shared the same bed. We were really like real sisters. Her character was more lively than me but yet she loved to sneak out here alone, and whenever she felt she was wronged, she also came to this Full-Moon platform, sulking by herself.”

The corner of Master Shuiyue’s lips moved slightly, she seemed to be recalling the past events, an  expression of amusement but before her smile could fully form, it was replaced by an even deeper vacant expression which contained a feeling of the vicissitudes of life.    

“But...ever since she got married, she never came here again.”

Lu Xueqi quietly listened to her teacher, then quietly said, “Teacher, when Teacher-aunt Su married Big Bamboo Valley Uncle-teacher Tian, were you unpleased?”

Master Shuiyue was stunned and then shook her head, sighed and said, “Tian Buyi… although he was hot-tempered and his character somehow disagreeable, but he was an ideal spouse for her. For your Teacher-aunt Su to marry him, it was her fortune and also her good sense of judgement.”

Lu Xueqi was rather surprised when she heard this. Everyone knew that Master Shuiyue did not like Tian Buyi, but unexpectedly her view was like this, she couldn’t help but ask, “Then in the past you still treated Uncle-teacher Tian like that…”

Speaking halfway, she suddenly stopped.

Master Shuiyue smiled and said, “Still glaring at him, speaking coldly to him, was it?”

Lu Xueqi turned red and said, “Disciple does not dare to think that way.”

Master Shuiyue indifferently replied, “The way I treated him was wrong or something to feel bad about. But although I did not get along well with Tian Buyi, to tell the truth, he was not a bad person. In our Qing Yun sect, there wasn’t anyone who could surpass him.”

Master Shuiyue suddenly recalled something, her brows frowning, and said, “Tian Buyi’s eldest disciple is called Song Daren right?”

Lu Xueqi nodded but wondered why her teacher would suddenly enquired about Song Daren and said, “Yes, currently senior brother Song has already taken over the position of leader of Big Bamboo Valley. Teacher, why did you suddenly ask about senior brother Song?”

Shuiyue Master was silent for a while, then said, “That senior sister of yours, Wenmin, is it that she is exchanging flirting glances with this Song Daren?”

Lu Xueqi was taken back, for a moment did not know what to say. Wenmin and Song Daren indeed had feelings for each other and most of them knew that. The Small Bamboo Valley disciples usually teased Wenmin about it. However Tian Buyi had once came up and proposed marriage for Song Daren but was flatly rejected by Master Shuiyue, causing Wenmin to be secretly depressed and unhappy for several days. Now with Master Shuiyue sudden question, Lu Xueqi did not know if she should speak directly or try to conceal the matter for senior sister Wenmin.

Master Shuiyue, given her years of experience, saw through Lu Xueqi’s hesitating, and was able to surmise the answer from it. She shook her head and inhaled deeply.

Lu Xueqi couldn’t help but feel anxious, she was close to Wenmin and although her own love life was unfavourable but she hoped that this senior sister of hers who had cared for her since young would be able to marry well, and so gathered her courage and said, “Teacher, actually senior sister Wenmin, she…”

Barely speaking a few words, Master Shuiyue indifferently replied, “Forget it, forget it. Find an auspicious day, and just marry Wenmin off.”

Lu Xueqi was stunned. She couldn’t believe her ears. Master Shuiyue glanced at her, smiled and said, “Why? Is it that all of you disciples thought that I am always an old die-hard, refusing to assist in a disciple’s joyous occasion?”

Lu Xueqi was extremely overjoyed for Wenmin. She smiled and quickly said, “Teacher, look what you are saying! How could we disciples ever think like that? I will be the first to thank teacher on behalf of senior sister Wenmin!”

Master Shuiyue saw a rare glimpse of Lu Xueqi’s sincere smile. Her lips moved but it was another sigh. She turned, clasping her hands behind her, facing the sea of clouds and quietly gazed out.

Lu Xueqi overjoyed, but noticing Master Shuiyue’s strange expression, carefully asked, “Teacher, why did you recall this suddenly?”

Master Shuiyue was silent for a moment, but instead answered with another question, “Xueqi, you went with me to Big Bamboo Valley. How do you feel about your Teacher-aunt Su death?”

Lu Xueqi turned solemn, and said, “Disciple thinks Teacher-Aunt Su was deeply in love with Teacher-uncle Tian, and so followed him into death. I did not notice any pain on her expression.”

“Yes.” Master Shuiyue gently sighed, looking vacant. After a long while she said, “Actually I do not want you disciples to be troubled by love, hindering your cultivation. But after cultivating for a lifetime, in the end what is the outcome?”

Lu Xueqi did not understand her teacher’s words, and for a moment did not say anything. Master Shuiyue spoke slowly, “Longevity is still only faintly discernible and nothing; after training hard for a lifetime, mostly only in exchange for several hundred years more on worthless activities, your Teacher-aunt Su viewed her hundred years of cultivation and life as nothing. This determination is really so much stronger than me.”

Lu Xueqi felt a pain in her heart as she called out, “Teacher…”

“A lifetime of cultivation, cultivating for a lifetime, cultivating and obtaining Tao, yet suppressing  human feelings, what is this for?” She sighed and faintly said, “Actually what is Tao? What is obtaining Tao? I have cultivated for a lifetime, yet today and now, I really feel somehow muddled.”

Lu Xueqi standing beside her did not dare to speak. Master Shuiyue stood there silently. After staring vacantly for a long while, she shook her head and seemed as if she did not wish to continue. She turned and walked down the mountain. Lu Xueqi looked at her retreating figure, and called out, “Teacher, where are you going?”

Shuiyue Master paused, and said, “Wenmin’s affair, I have already decided. You can go over and tell her. But…”

Her voice paused, she turned around, and her expression contained tenderness as she looked at Lu Xueqi and said, “As for yourself, Xueqi, have you thought for yourself?”

Lu Xueqi was stunned, said, “What?” and then, comprehending, her face turned pale, slowly revealing a helpless smile, she quietly said, “Teacher, disciple does not have a good life, dares not hope anymore.”

Master Shuiyue watched her own exceptionally delicate and beautiful disciple, saw her white clothes fluttering in the wind, a celestial demeanour, but the sorrow on her face, nobody knew how deep it was.

Master Shuiyue felt an inexplicable pain in her heart and called out, “Xueqi.”

Lu Xueqi looked up, saw Master Shuiyue and heard her faintly saying, “Xueqi, your love life is difficult but yet you do not wish to turn back. Your teacher is also at a loss as to what to say to you. However for the sake of our teacher and disciple relationship, I too do not wish to see you like this. If in the future there is a favourable turn in the rules and regulations here at Qing Yun sect, you have me to lean on; you don't have to worry.”

Lu Xueqi’s body shook greatly, involuntarily called out, “Teacher..” yet did not know what to say.

Master Shuiyue smiled at her but sighed again. She turned and left, soon her figure disappeared down the stairs. Only the wind remained, indistinctly carrying her words, “Tell me world, what is love…?”

Lu Xueqi stood where she was. For a moment her heart was in turmoil. Her stomach churned and she sank into low spirits, but she was unable to think of any conclusion, only that while in that trance, she suddenly recalled: not long ago in that abandoned HeYang City morgue, Tian Buyi seemed to have told her the same thing...

Majestic Fox Mountain, Ghost King Sect.

A slender figure appeared in the tunnels deep within the mountain where Ghost King Sect headquarters were. What was different from the surrounding gloomy grey was that surrounding the figure there seemed to be a dazzling glow, bringing a dash of colour to the suppressed atmosphere.

In the tunnel, Ghost King Sect disciples passed by frequently. Almost all were found her attractive but when this lady’s gaze swept out all of them continued walking with quick steps, not daring to have further eye contact. Even in the Ghost King Sect it seemed like she had a special status.

And she really was special, her brows like a drawing, extremely coquettish; even though her seductive charm was slightly less than the nine-tailed celestial fox, hers had more gentleness. But even so, with her past status as HeHuan sect Miao Gongzi, as Jin Pinger boldly walked in to the Ghost King Sect realm, she appeared rather outstanding.

Jin Pinger evidently did not care about the stares of those around her; she was long used to it. At the very end of the demon beast catastrophe, in the Subdue Devil Cave in the southern border ten thousand great mountains, she managed to escape with great difficulty. After returning to the Central Plains she did not tell anyone about the complicated affairs that had occured.

Right now, she had only one direction: Ghost King had asked to see her.

There was another tunnel up ahead, and then the tunnel split into three. Jin Pinger stopped, glanced at the tunnel to her left. A glint seemed to flash past her eyes then disappeared, before she strided toward the right tunnel.

The unusual earthquake not long ago caused damage to the Ghost King Sect which could still be seen. On the rock walls, large and small cracks had appeared, and in these maze-like, well ventilated tunnels, it was impossible to wave off a faint stench of blood that still wafted in the air.

Jin Pinger naturally smelled this faint smell of blood, but although she found it strange her face did not reveal it. Right now her status in the Ghost King Sect was different from when she was in the HeHuan sect. Naturally she would not poke her nose in to the matter. However she was secretly shocked by it; with her experience and knowledge she could naturally sense that the stench was very odd.

While she was pondering over it, she had followed the tunnel to where Ghost King resided. She stopped and was about to call out for someone to pass a message when suddenly the stone door opened with a rumble and Ghost King’s laughter was heard from within the residence.

“Is it Pinger? Quickly, come in.”

Jin Pinger was surprised but her face revealed only a smile as she replied, “Yes.”, and so walked in.

The stone room was spacious and bright. Although it was not extravagant but it was dignified and imposing. Ghost King was sitting at a table, a large white paper in front of him. The four treasures of the study laid out in front of him [Translator note: writing brush, ink stick, ink slab, paper] made it look like he was practising writing.

Jin Pinger glanced at Ghost King, smiled coquettishly and said, “Sect head is in a good mood today. Why did you suddenly decided to do writing?”

Ghost King looked up at Jin Pinger and smiled. Jin Pinger’s smile suddenly froze. She felt Ghost King’s eyes like two sharp knives stabbing into her. Staring into his eyes, her eyes felt a vague sense of pain.

Luckily Ghost King soon quickly looked away. Looking at the paper in his hand, he waved her over and said, “Come over here and look, how is my writing?”

Jin Pinger secretly felt alarmed. In the past, when she had met with Ghost King she never felt like this. How could it be that in a matter of a few days Ghost King’s skills and abilities seemed to have advanced like a thousand miles in a day?

However she was not a careless person. While secretly thinking about it, her face made a smile. She walked over, a fragrance wafted out from her, smiling as she said, “But I am a crude person who doesn’t know anything about writing. Sect head requesting me to take a look is really placing me in a difficult position.”

Ghost King laughed, [he he], but did not make fun of her. He made room for Jin Pinger to stand near the table. She looked down at the paper on the table. What she saw there, on a large sheet of white paper, was a large word written:

Kill!

Every stroke of the word was vigorous, the force used great, as if almost breaking out of the paper. It was definitely not as proper as regular script but it also wasn’t as composed as cursive script. While appearing calm and at ease, a feeling of extermination surged out.

Jin Pinger was secretly shocked. She felt a cold pair of eyes looking at her, but Ghost King’s amiable laughter was what she heard, as he said, “Pinger, how do you find the writing?"

Jin Pinger smiling, like a breeze from spring brushing past. As if filling up the room with spring, she said, “Sect head, this word is written so well, even if I practised for ten years, I would not be about to write it like this.”

Ghost King looked indifferently at Jin Pinger. Under his gaze, Jin Pinger felt a chill seeping out from her heart. But the smile on her face was still there, until her facial muscles started to ache from holding the smile. Then Ghost King suddenly looked away.

Jin Pinger secretly let out a sigh of relief. At the same time she was secretly alarmed. Ghost King seemed completely different. A murderous aura like an angry tide pressed over, and looking at him, he did not seem to be concealing it at all.

This was different from his usual demeanour. Could it be that over these past few days something had happened?

While Jin Pinger was pondering this , Ghost King had already spoken again, “Priest, why don’t you come over and take a look too? How is my writing?”

Jin Pinger was surprised again. She turned in shock to see, in the corner of this stone room, another person was there, wearing priest robes, his face solemn. Jin Pinger felt bewildered. When she first entered the room, she had been taken back by Ghost King’s strange aura and was distracted. But for this person to be able to conceal his body presence from her and stand there undetected; he could not be underestimated.

The priest acknowledged and walked over, and looked at the word on the paper. After a long while, he said, “Good word.”

Ghost King’s cold gaze was still there but his face was smiling, as he asked, “Why is it good?”

The priest replied, “The strokes and meaning of this word compliment each other. The word itself has the meaning of ‘kill’ revealed in the strokes. This is rarely seen, rarely seen!”

As Ghost King stared at that person the priest’s expression did not change. He slowly stepped back and stood within three chi of Jin Pinger. Ghost King suddenly laughed out loud and said, “Well spoken, well spoken. I fully agree with what priest said.” The priest bowed his head, receiving the compliment.

Jin Pinger couldn’t help but glance at that priest. Ghost King continued, “Pinger, let me introduce you. This is our sect’s consecrated and strong ally, Taoist Cangsong.”

Jin Pinger’s raised both her brows. A sharp glint flashed past her eyes and then she smiled and looked at Cangsong, “I’ve long since heard of you, long since heard of you.”

Taoist Cangsong nodded to Jin Pinger, then Ghost King spoke again, “Pinger, this time the reason I summoned you is because something big will soon happen in our holy sect that is rarely seen in a thousand years and I wanted you to come lend a hand.”

Jin Pinger smiled and said, “Sect head please go ahead and instruct me. Pinger will definitely do her best.”

Ghost King laughed and said, “I have already told most of the details to Taoist Cangsong. You can ask him later. Although this matter is not urgent right now but we must act fast. You can both go off and discuss it properly.” Jin Pinger nodded, and together both of them bowed to Ghost King and left.

The stone door closed up slowly. The two of them walked together in the tunnel. For a moment none of them spoke. When they reached the tunnel intersection, Jin Pinger couldn’t help but glance at the left tunnel.

And at this moment Taoist Cangsong spoke, “Vice-sect head Ghost Li has already left the mountain several days ago and is still not back.”

Jin Pinger frowned, her eyes turning cold. She looked at Taoist Cangsong, but after saying those words he walked off ahead by himself.

After a moment, Jin Pinger’s face had a mysterious smile. With a sneer, she followed after him.

Edited by metal.carratt

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