[If you’re not reading this on chichilations, then you’re reading a stolen copy. Reposts are not allowed anywhere or for any reason!
Links for mobile viewers: Ko-fi Donation — Chichi’s Twitter — Project Index — Digital Version Library
I see all your likes and comments~ Thanks in advance~]
This chapter was suggested by an Advisor Donor.
Cheng Qian cautiously observed Yan Zhengming’s expression. “I know what’s right and wrong in this. I won’t go deep into the Mystic Site, and I won’t touch anything inside it. I just want to go look for the trail the Soul-Devouring Lamp left—“
“Even Tong Ru said that he might not have been able to escape intact going into that place,” Yan Zhengming cut him off. “You feel yourself to be more powerful than him now, as you’re practically able to ascend, yes?”
“There’s that Tang Zhen, too. He was human when he left, then changed into a ghost after a hundred years. You think that you’re more cautious than him, more learned than him, right?”
Cheng Qian’s head hurt. “Senior, just say it. Don’t be so obtuse.”
“Oh, okay.” Yan Zhengming stopped being obtuse, and turned decisive. “That’s impossible.”
Cheng Qian did not speak out against him, merely shutting up and waiting.
Millions of resentful souls sacrificed for spiritual stones — at the end of it all, that had been because of Tong Ru.
Later on, Jiang Peng, secretly floating between life and death for years as he secretly refined the Soul-Devouring Lamp, had been a titled Fuyao disciple.
After establishing the blood oath where he would have to catch the Soul-Devouring Lamp, the demonic dragon Han Yuan, set to guard Nanjiang for like, was also a Fuyao disciple.
For three generations, they had been unable to shake off their relationship with it. They couldn’t stay out of this on account of feelings and logic.
There was no need for him to repeat these events like a rolling wheel. Yan Zhengming knew them by heart.
As expected, a short while later, Yan Zhengming abruptly stood up, then paced around the room like a donkey pulling a grindstone. “Had I known earlier that this sect would be such a bother, I would have rather died than take Master’s Sect Leader Seal from you back then,” he grumbled.
Cheng Qian knew that his thoughts had already turned, so he allowed him to be exasperated without a single comment.
Seeing that no one was answering his trick, the other went purposefully looking to start something. “Are you mute? Speak!”
“I… uh.” Cheng Qian thought for a bit. “I can warm your bed for you tonight?”
Yang Zhengming flew into a rage. “I’m trying to talk to you about serious business! What trash are you thinking about in your head?! Scandalous!”
Looking at his reaction, Cheng Qian felt like a pervert that had just harassed a good woman. He rubbed his nose with quite some awkwardness.
“Go, go, go! Get out, now!”
Cheng Qian silently headed out.
“Stop!” Yan Zhengming was extremely angered by his lack of propriety. Vexed, he wavered between his dignity and material benefits for a long time, then decided to just be real by being shameless. “Who told you to get out?”
Despite him having to rely on his senior for this, he felt that this trashbag was really too hard to attend to.
“It isn’t impossible, but I want to go with you.” Yan Zhengming coughed lightly, getting a bit serious. “In a few days, Han Yuan will go down South with that White Tiger Estate group. Shui Keng, Li Yun… and that cheap disciple of yours will stay behind to keep watch on things.”
“That won’t do,” Cheng Qian answered. “The Wish-Granting Stone is on Fuyao Mountain. If you actually do leave, our second and the rest might not be able to guard it.”
Yan Zhengming furrowed his brows as he mumbled to himself for a short moment. “Then we’ll seal the mountain back up and have them represent the sect as they go out for that demon-slaying trip. That’ll be the same as us going ourselves.”
Cheng Qian was worried about the unknown issue remaining on his soul, which he hadn’t yet dared to speak with Yan Zhengming about for right now. He wanted to act alone, having considered this aspect — the consequences created by Han Yuan’s soul-painting a hundred years ago were really too tragic. He had been been bitten by a snake once, and now feared ropes, having a particular aversion to these curse techniques.
After thinking about it, he made a roundabout excuse. “This needs to be talked about at length. The blood oath was started by Shang Wan’nian, and now he’s dead, while no one knows what the name of the new Estate Lord will be. Even though the oath is in their hands, those disciples might not be able to control Han Yuan, while Bian Xu bears anger; beyond that, looking as his appearance, his cultivation base as clearly stagnated. He probably doesn’t have many years left. Nowadays, there’s not a single person with speaking power in the Central Plains; if you seal up the mountain to go up North with me, then…”
Yan Zhengming silently stared at him.
“Then, even if I have no objections, others might not be willing for it,” he finished calmly.
“Cheng Qian.” Yan Zhengming sneered. “Don’t think that I don’t know what’s in your heart beneath those clothes and that human skin.”
His nicely-worded patience finally came to an end with a frown. “I’m just going on a trip. Are you planning on sticking to me all my life?”
“Yes,” the other answered, “I just want to put you on house arrest here for all time, so what else are you thinking of saying? ‘Even prisoners will have times they can go outside’, right? Right! Prisoners can do that, but not you — got it? That’s what I think! Do you have regrets, now?”
Cheng Qian had quarreled from childhood to adulthood with him, and completely grasped the guy’s special characteristic of being entirely unreasonable and annoying bothersome. He was a bit annoyed, but right when he wanted to open his mouth and retort, he suddenly noticed that Yan Zhengming’s lips were trembling slightly and nearly bloodless. Contained inside his irritable look appeared to be deeply-buried pain, likely age-old scars that were hidden in his bottommost depths by his tough veneer.
Words arrived at the edges of Cheng Qian’s lips, yet he suddenly couldn’t speak them out.
He had to clench his hand that had Hear the Universe hidden, thinking to himself, Can I really trust in this piece of junk?
He was quiet for too long, nearly terrifying Yan Zhengming a little.
Those words of his had been blurted out without passing through his brain first. He himself couldn’t distinguish between which of them had been out of truth or out of anger, but that didn’t inhibit him from already regretting them. Right now, his mind was a momentary blank expanse, unable to think up a way to retrieve what he said for the life of him. “I…”
“Okay,” Cheng Qian suddenly said. “You really want to come with, so let’s go together. I’m just afraid that we’ll need to leave quickly, and return just as fast.”
Yan Zhengming watched him dumbly, not yet returning to his senses.
Cheng Qian’s anger had thoroughly leaked out. He sighed, then beckoned towards the other. “Alright, don’t stare blankly. Come over here.”
Sect Leader Yan, who had just been so enraged that he was nearly ready to bite someone, obediently followed him into the room.
The day after, Yan Zhengming happily declared his own ‘careless’ decision, but Li Yun was suffering.
He hadn’t expected that with a mere shut and open of his eyes, so many things would have happened in great numbers. He was narrowly bowled over from these stories that could be spread out together and made into a picture book.
He looked at their Sect Leader expressionlessly. “So…?”
“You’ll take Nian Dada and Shui Keng to look after Han Yuan on their trip for me. We will return to group up with you all in ten days to half a month, at the most.”
Li Yun sneered. “Right. I’ll bring the disciple, watch the kid, cow a junior brother that’s so savage I’m no match for him at all, and also have to uphold the sect’s reputation, stepping one interfering foot into the business of ‘eliminating demons and defending the Dao’… Sect Leader, do you think I have three heads and six arms?”
“Well, you’ve entered the Dao with Ninth Chain, are cunning in mind, and always pretty competent. I believed that none of that will be an issue for you.”
How kind of him to not be disdainful of his low cultivation base and lack of work ethic! Li Yun wanted to smash that fake praise right onto Yan Zhengming’s face. “Piss off!” he roared in rage. “Whoever wants to do that can do it, but I won’t! You might as well expel me from the sect!”
Li Yun, who lived life year-round in a hell of torment, howled in protest often. Yan Zhengming had long grown accustomed to this, so he simply ignored him, then turned to Shui Keng. She appeared to have not yet mentally recovered from what happened last night, looking wilted and unenergetic.
“Junior sister, come with me,” he said.
Ever since he had started hanging around the Residence of Peace, this was the first time he had taken it upon himself to go out its door. He led her straight to the Hall of Ignorance.
The worn-out, thatched building where Zhenren Muchun had lived was the same as it always was. Daolings would come to clean it every day, its courtyard very tidy. Shui Keng gave him a confused look, not knowing what the meaning of this was.
He pointed at the busted, three-legged wooden table. “Carved under that table are the rules for our Fuyao Sect. When your brothers entered the sect, each of us had to copy them over forty-nine times. As for whether or not these sect rules need to be complied with is something you can figure out for yourself, like that rule about not about not entering the caves and whatnot on the first and fifteenth of the month are for small children that have just entered. You can just copy them twice, then not worry about it any more.”
Upon saying this, he paused a bit, then cleared his throat with a grave expression. “Admitted disciples should have been brought by Master into the Hall of Ignorance and personally bestowed a precept; even though you’ve been admitted for a hundred years, you have never gone through this procedure. Now that Master is gone, I, as your senior, will have no choice but to overstep my bounds…”
Her eyes widened.
Yan Zhengming lowered his eyes to look at her. “You are optimistic by nature, and have no lack of propriety. You don’t overthink about anything, nor do you act too excessively. This is good. If you can put a bit more effort in and have less fanficul daydreams, your cultivation base will improve by a layer.”
She had heard that when Master gave precepts, he would first list one’s shortcomings before granting them, and hadn’t expected that her senior would give her such a high evaluation. She felt somewhat powerless.
“I’ll task you with passing a message along to your fourth brother: ‘Fuyao has walked the path of humanity since time immemorial, and doesn’t need to listen to Heaven’s will.’ Naturally, there is a high need to discuss origin. You should have been born in a bath of blood, but you weren’t. You should have arrived in response to catastrophe, but you’ve grown to this size in peace. Tong Ru wholeheartedly wanted to change the sect’s fate, and Master’s fate. Looking at things now, he appears to have entirely failed, only unintentionally planting aid for you that got you to where you are now. As is evident, some things do not need to be overly held on to — today, I give you the precept of ‘Nature’. I hope that in the future, regardless of whether you’re a high power that can make the yao bow their heads, or just a minor disciple of the sect that amounts to nothing, you will always be candid about everything you are, not holding yourself up too high, nor making yourself suffer. There are three thousand branches to the Great Dao. If you have a broad enough understanding, there will come a day that your own unique route will reach its destination. Got that remembered?”
He was rarely this serious, giving Shui Keng a momentary illusion. She felt that he was akin to an undecaying mountain ridge that always inconspicuously supported from the depths of Fuyao — typically hidden behind mountain-coating glowers and weeds or snow and mud, but in exceedingly rare times, showing calmness and staunchness of a blade unhurried.
She had been raised by her senior brothers; in comparison to her biological father, who was ambiguous in attitude and refusing to acknowledge her, their Sect Leader was more like her father.
Her nose suddenly ached, and she gave a muffled hum. “Okay. Thank you, senior,” she said, muffled.
Unfortunately, before she could be properly moved, she saw Yan Zhengming let out a long sigh. “I’m finally done dealing with you,” he said, both disdainful and brisk. “I’ve always felt you to resemble a wild disciple without undergoing this process, so now you should be domesticated… in a while, you’ll go clean up the Hall of Ignorance. I won’t be here in a few days — you’ll accompany Li Yun in copying the sect rules, so flop about and cause trouble less.”
Alright, then. Their eldest’s goodness would forever be just a flickering shadow, which would then flow far, far away.
Like so, Yan Zhengming sealed Fuyao Mountain, which had only reappeared in the human world for a few days, back up. Everyone prepared to go their separate ways once again.
Calmly, Han Yuan watched the mountain gradually disappear into the Mystic Site, packing as much of the scenery as he could into his mind, because he knew that he would never be coming back.
“Go on,” Yan Zhengming said to them. “See you in Shuzhong in a month.”
Cheng Qian and him flew swiftly on their swords the whole way, not stopping for one second en route. They reached the Extreme North in one day and one night.
Superpowers crossing the border nudged the warning bell hanging above Black Tortoise Hall. The disciples that were guarding the gates that day went out to investigate, but found no one — there was only a faint and narrow trail of frost to be seen in the sky, which instantly melted in midair.
Past the Hall and heading North, there was a large frontier of ice fields with no human habitation. The borderless white made the Heavens and the Earth become one, unreasonably desolate.
They flew over the Extreme North’s ice fields and great abysses for three full days. The air was getting colder and colder, giving Cheng Qian the illusion that he had returned to the ice pool in Mingming Valley. Still, that pool at just been one nook, simply incomparable to the chill of the great, boundless ice fields, as well as their indiscriminate callousness towards all living things. It was like all hopes and lives would be ended here.
After the three days, the ice plane came to an end. An expansive sea abruptly rushed into view — they had finally reached the Sea of Beiming.
Yan Zhengming shook the Stone Seed out of his sleeve. It fell into the stagnant ocean water, then transformed into a ship that towered like a mountain, which sailed by itself with no captain. The lotus brocade and censer-included carved bed in the hold looked familiar, having the same specifications as a land of luxury would.
Cheng Qian went around and admired the ship both inside and out, not knowing what to say to him.
“What are you looking for?” Yan Zhengming asked.
“A songgirl,” Cheng Qian teased with a straight face. “I get the overall feeling that in the very next moment, I’ll be able to hear the cries of warblers, singing out something that you said… what did you call it, again?”
“Shove off. This damned place is going to freeze me to death,” Sect Leader Yan complained without any sort of sincerity, all the while he was wearing soft, embroidered robes and waving a folding fan. “This is all because you went looking for trouble!”
Sect Leader Yan sprawled out on his back on one side of the soft bed, then arrogantly pointed his chin in command. “Why are you still not coming over here and massaging my legs?!”
Used to ignoring his senseless provocations, Cheng Qian leaned against a mast and gazed out at the sea.
It was clearly straight noon right now, yet there was not a glint of light on its surface. It resembled pitch ink, more indescribably black than even the deepest mountain abysses. The sky was on-and-off dark, too. Not one fish was seen in the water, the ocean calm and level. It seemed like a dead zone.
Lined up against this place, the East Sea with its numerous reefs and turbulent waves was practically a babbling brook.
No one knew how deep the Sea of Beiming went. When he looked down into the ocean, he couldn’t resist getting that feeling he had had when young and sticking out his head to look into the Valley of the Heart Demon — he clearly knew the dangers inside it, yet he wanted to probe all the way through it all the more.
“Who is worthy of being crowned with the title of Beiming? All those short-sighted mortals are nothing short of preposterously self-important.”
He had suddenly recalled Tong Ru’s words. When first hearing them, he had believed his martial grandfather to be bitter and self-deprecating; it was not until this moment that he was truly convinced of them.
As genuine night descended, the far and vast sound of wind began to sweep past the ocean’s surface, its wailing like a myriad of phantoms circling about when it passed. The ship that the Stone Seed turned into was a hundred zhang tall, yet when it traversed over this, it looked like a skiff.
Without realizing it, Cheng Qian remained calmly standing on the side of the ship for one whole day and night, having entered meditation without the slightest bit of warning. It was strange to say, but while he had been born narrow-minded, he was particularly bound to the wide sea and empty sky. Every time he meditated, if he wasn’t up in the sky, he was by the sea; this practicing process itself was presumably making up for his lack.
Outside of the East Sea was Beiming. What was outside of Beiming, then?
Human lives did not last as long as the world did. What was the world before it had begun, and what would it be after it decayed?
With their limited bodies, they explored the unlimited realms, entering this extremely narrow road and walking on this path that was foreordained for martyrdom. Was that merely for the sake of mortals’ vain wishes to ascend, thus being all-powerful?
At this moment, Hear the Universe, from where Shang Wan’nian had sealed it in his inner sanctum, subtly resonated with the Sea of Beiming, as if they were faraway echoes passed down from ancient times. In his daze, he heard the bells toll again; Hear the Universe suddenly shone lustrously with brilliant colors, but unfortunately, the force Shang Wan’nian maintained beside his primordial spirit slightly blocked it, and it receded again.
It was unknown how long had passed before he woke up. Upon opening his eyes, he noticed that Yan Zhengming was leaning against the cabin with misty all around him, keeping watch by his saw.
As soon as he saw him, Cheng Qian felt like he had fallen from the heavens to land in the mortal realm, the fondness automatically born in his heart making him smile a bit. “How long has it been?” he asked.
Yan Zhengming raised a hand to wipe the dew off his face for him. “Three days. I’m bored to death.”
“Three days?” Cheng Qian was taken aback, frowning as he took a look around their surroundings. “We don’t even have a map. How are be going to find the Da Xue Mystic Site?”
“Finding a map would be pointless. You wouldn’t be able to understand a sea map, anyways. The Stone Seed doesn’t move with the water’s flow, it’s drawn by areas of dense, pure qi. We’ll roam around and look. Isn’t the rendezvous with them in a month? It won’t take more than a few days to think of something.” Yan Zhengming came in close as he spoke, then languidly reached out and help Cheng Qian by the waist, clinging close. “It’s really quiet here. It feels like we’re the only two left in the whole world.”
Cheng Qian thought meticulously about that scenario, then suddenly trembled in fear. “What? And be the only one left for you to torment? I’d better hurry and off myself.”
Yan Zhengming had a seldom-seen tranquility today. Not lowering himself to his level of being a super wet blanket, he held him even tighter. “When we were in the Valley of the Heart Demon, I thought about this more than once. If we were the last two left in the world, that would be great.”
While he said that, he slightly shut his eyes, feeling that in this very moment, his heart was finally filled up full.
There had always been gaps left in it before this. At times, turmoil had been able to knock a string of fanciful images out; even on Fuyao Mountain, he would occasionally wake up with a start from some irrelevant nightmares.
One day, he had even dreamed that Fuyao was finally back to being the head of ten biggest sects, its limelight growing, and yet there were countless, beautiful female cultivators coming to the mountain in quick succession, seeking Cheng Qian out to become dual cultivation partners with him. He had then woken up out of supreme anger, and only upon seeing Cheng Qian’ s peacefully sleeping face had he realized that that had only been a difficult feeling emitted from the bottom of his heart.
Seeing that Cheng Qian’s earlobe was close to him, he couldn’t resist lightly licking it, then opening his mouth to suck on it, rubbing it with his canines.
The other jolted and elbowed him, a thin layer of red quickly rising up from his neck to his ears. “What are you doing? Do you think this is Fuyao?” he scolded.
Yan Zhengming let him go, laughing lowly. “Others in the past have told me that Sword Spirit Realm is nothing but blades. I didn’t believe them, but now I understand why it’s come to be that each step has one heart demon… humans are never satisfied. Before, I thought that even if it was beside the Yellow Springs or the mouth of the river of forgetfulness, it would be great if I could see you again. After we met again after such a long separation, I then thought that if your heart was like my heart, everything would be fine, even if I never spoke it out for my entire life… now, I’m suddenly not satisfied enough again. Before the name ‘Cheng Qian’, I forever want to add the word ‘my’.”
Despite his heart being warmed by him, Cheng Qian sincerely teased him. “Your own feelings wavering all over the place has to do with your cultivation base not being enough. Don’t blame the Sword Spirit Realm.”
After being silent for a minute, Yan Zhengming stared at him gravely. “Did you actually not hear me pour out my heart to you?”
The other started laughing immediately, which humiliated him into anger, to the point that he struck a pose like he was going to go back into the cabin and sulk. Cheng Qian quickly grabbed his hand while smiling. “Hey, senior, don’t get mad. I wasn’t…”
His voice abruptly cut off as his pupils slightly contracted. All of a sudden, he felt the boat beneath their feet picking up speed — in the next instant, he pulled Yan Zhengming to his side, reached out, and grabbed the mast, the entire Stone Seed-turned-ship bobbing straight up and down at the same time.
He saw that the vast, edgeless Sea of Beiming appeared to split apart down the middle out of nowhere, tearing the whole world into two different parts, creating a huge ‘waterfall’ that was tens of thousands of chi deep…
And, even with such a horrifying scene, there was not a bit of the sound of water to be heard.
There was no time for him the think carefully about this, as the big ship had crossed right over the gap, and flown outwards.
The translator says: The entire fucking sea decided that it didn’t want to see any declarations of love.