Chapter 10 Arrogance—Part Five
Wen Ning’s head was slightly lowered and his arms hung down, as if he was a marionette waiting for the orders of his master.
His face was pale and delicate, and could be considered handsome in a melancholy sort of way. However, there were no pupils in his eyes, but only a flat cloud of white, along with a number of black, cracking lines which climbed up his face from his neck, so the melancholy turned into a frightening gloom. The lower hem and sleeves of his robe were ragged and torn, showing a pair of wrists that were the same ashen shade as his face, with black cuffs and chains on both his wrists and ankles. The tinkling sound was produced when he dragged the iron chains on the ground. If he stopped moving, everything would be silent again.
It wasn’t hard to guess why all of the cultivators were scared out of their wits. Wei WuXian wasn’t any calmer than any of them either. In fact, the storm in his chest had already crashed over the top of his head.
It wasn’t that Wen Ning shouldn’t be here, but that Wen Ning shouldn’t be in this world at all. He was turned into ashes even before the siege at Luanzang Hill.
Hearing the others call Wen Ning’s name, Jin Ling’s blade, which originally pointed at the direction of the soul-consuming goddess, couldn’t help but to turn toward another direction. Seeing that he was distracted, the soul-consuming goddess gladly extended her arm and picked him up.
As Wei WuXian saw her opened mouth approaching Jin Ling, he didn’t have time to be surprised. He raised the wooden flute again, hands slightly shaking, and therefore, the notes that he played also trembled. Aside from this, the flute was roughly crafted, so the sound produced could be described as coarse and unpleasant to the ear. With two notes, Wen Ning started to move.
Within the blink of an eye, he had already shifted in front of the soul-consuming goddess. Wen Ning used the side of his palm and gave a blow. The soul-consuming goddess’s neck cracked, and although her body didn’t move, her head was twisted around because of the force. She faced the direction of which her back originally faced, but kept on smiling. Wen Ning gave another blow with his hand, and the soul-consuming goddess’s right hand, which was holding Jin Ling, was cleanly cut off.
She bowed her head to look at the wrist which broke off sharply. Instead of turning her head toward the correct direction, her entire body turned around, so that she was facing Wen Ning with her face and her back. Wei WuXian didn’t dare to relax. He took a deep breath and commanded Wen Ning to fight. However, not long had passed, and he became even more shocked.
Low-level corpses were unable to think on their own and needed his orders to lead them. Powerful fierce corpses, on the other hand, were usually delirious or unconscious. Yet, Wen Ning’s case was different—he was created by Wei WuXian, which meant that he could easily be called the strongest fierce corpse in the current world. He was the only one who was capable of thought. Aside from not fearing injuries, fire, the cold, poison, and whatever living humans feared, he was the same as a one.
However, at that moment, Wen Ning clearly wasn’t conscious!
He was both shocked and doubtful as a few cries of alarm came threshing from the crowd. Using both his arms and legs, Wen Ning had secured the soul-consuming goddess on the ground. He picked up a rock which lay on the side, taller than the height of humans, and lifted it above the soul-consuming goddess. He started to slam it onto her with great force. Each strike sounded as loud as thunder, continuing until the stone body of the soul-consuming goddess was pounded to pieces!
Amid the white pile of rocks scattered on the ground, a marble-sized sphere rolled out, radiating a circle of light in the colour of snow. It was the core that condensed in the soul-consuming goddess after she devoured the souls of ten-or-so living people. If it was brought back and handled carefully, some people, who had their souls eaten recently, could be restored back to life. However, at the moment, nobody made any effort to pick up the sphere. The blades which were aimed at the soul-consuming goddess all turned around.
One cultivator shouted at the top of his lungs, “Close in on him!”
Some people replied hesitantly, but more people were indecisive, walking backward slowly. The cultivator shouted again, “Fellow cultivators, we have to block him so that he doesn’t escape. This is Wen Ning we’re facing!”
These words convinced the crowd. What was a mere soul-consuming monster compared to the Ghost General? Although the reason as to his appearance was unknown, it was obvious that killing one thousand soul-consuming spirits couldn’t even compare to capturing one single Wen Ning. After all, this was the most obeying mad dog under the YiLing Patriarch, which bit people without making any noise. If it was captured, they would surely become famous in the cultivation world and quickly rise to success! Their original goal from attending the Dafan Mountain night-hunt was to fight for fairies, beasts, and evil spirits to add to their experiences. With the shouts, it was certain that some people were interested. Yet, the older cultivators who saw with their own eyes how wild Wen Ning was when he broke out were still cautious to make a move. Hence, the person shouted once more, “What are you scared of? It’s not as if the YiLing Patriarch is here right now.”
After another thought, the words made sense to them. What was there to be scared of? His master was already in pieces!
With these remarks, the ring of swords which circled around Wen Ning had suddenly decreased in size. Wen Ning waved his arm, and the black iron chains swept past heavily, hitting the swords so that the directions of their blades slanted off to the side. Right afterward, he took a stride forward and gripped the neck of the person closest to him. With a light pull, he was lifted off the ground. Seeing the situation, Wei WuXian knew that the flute notes were too hurried and abrupt, causing him to develop a killing intent. To stifle it, Wei WuXian calmed his feelings and assuredly played another melody.
The melody had drifted over his mind naturally. It was relaxed and tranquil, contrasting with the bizarre and ear-piercing one from before. Hearing the sound, Wen Ning froze, and slowly turned toward the direction of which the melody came from. Wei WuXian stood in the same spot, staring into his pupil-less eyes.
After a moment, Wen Ning released his hand, throwing the cultivator on the ground. He let down his arms and walked toward Wei WuXian at a slow pace.
His head was lowered and he dragged a large amount of iron chains, even seeming as if he looked dejected. Wei WuXian retreated while playing the flute, guiding him to follow. Walking like this for a short distance, they moved into the forest, when suddenly, Wei WuXian caught the chilly scent of sandalwood.
Immediately after, his back bumped into someone. With an abrupt pain on his wrist, the flute melody had stopped. Wei WuXian thought, oh no, and turned around to look. His sight collided with Lan WangJi’s eyes. They were light-coloured to the point of appearing to be physically cold.
The situation looked unpromising. Lan WangJi had seen him use the flute to control corpses with his own eyes.
Lan WangJi used one hand to steadily grip Wei WuXian. Wen Ning stood still at about two zhang away from them, slowly looking around as if he was searching for the flute melody that had suddenly disappeared. From far into the forest, the light of flames and sound of human voices were spreading. Wei WuXian thought quickly and made his decision at once—so what, if Lan WangJi had seen him do this before? There were tens of thousands of people who knew how to play the flute, and the number of people who imitated the YiLing Patriarch’s method of using it to control corpses could form a sect on their own. He wouldn’t confess no matter what!
He decisively ignored the hand that gripped him and raised his arm to continue playing. This time, the tempo was faster, as if it was urging or scolding. His air was not steady and each note cracked at the end, sounding shrill and harsh. Suddenly, Lan WangJi’s hand tightened, almost causing his wrist to break. Wei WuXian’s fingers loosened from the pain and the wooden flute dropped to the ground.
Fortunately, his orders were clear enough. Wen Ning retreated quickly, disappearing into the dark and gloomy forest without a sound. Wei WuXian feared that Lan WangJi would chase after Wen Ning, so he backhandedly grabbed him instead. But, surprisingly, Lan WangJi never even looked at Wen Ning once, but stared at Wei WuXian the whole time. The two stood face to face, gripping each other’s arms, and stared.
At the same time, Jiang Cheng arrived.
He maintained his patience and waited for the results in Buddha’s Feet, but before he finished a single cup of tea, a disciple ran from the mountain hastily and told him about how powerful and cruel the thing in Dafan Mountain was. Hearing this, his heart jumped and he rushed up here again. He shouted, “A-Ling!”
Jin Ling almost had his soul taken away a moment ago, but he was fine now, and stood on the ground properly, “Uncle!”
Seeing that Jin Ling was safe, Jiang Cheng finally calmed down. Quickly afterward, he scolded angrily, “Didn’t you bring signal firelights with you? Don’t you know to use them when you meet something like this? What are you pretending to be strong for? Scram over here!”
Jin Ling was also angered from not capturing the soul-consuming goddess, “Weren’t you the one who told me that I have to catch it? And, if I don’t catch it, I shouldn’t go see you?”
Jiang Cheng seriously wanted to slap the rotten brat so hard that he went back inside his mother’s stomach. However, he really did say so himself, and he shouldn’t prove himself wrong. He could only turn to the cultivators who lay collapsed on the ground, speaking with satire, “What on Earth could it be, beating you up in such a dignified way?”
Among the cultivators who wore differently-coloured clothing, a bunch were the disguised disciples of the YunmengJiang Sect, ordered by Jiang Cheng to secretly assist Jin Ling, in case he couldn’t overcome the challenge. He was quite the responsible elder, going to such great lengths. One cultivator still hadn’t overcome the shock, “Sect, Sect Leader, it’s… It’s Wen Ning…”
Jiang Cheng thought that he had misheard, “What did you say?”
The person replied, “Wen Ning is back!”
In an instant, shock, disgust, anger, and disbelief all crossed Jiang Cheng’s face.
After a long while passed, he finally spoke bitterly, “The thing was ground to dust in front of everyone long ago, so how can it come back?”
The disciple spoke, “It really is Wen Ning! There’s no way for it to be wrong! My eyes couldn’t have mislooked!” He suddenly pointed to the side, “… He was the one who summoned him!”
Wei WuXian was still in a stalemate with Lan WangJi. Instantly, they were the center of everyone’s attention. Jiang Cheng’s lightning-like gaze also moved toward where he stood.
After a moment, the corners of Jiang Cheng’s lips pulled into a twisted smile. His left hand started to unconsciously stroke the ring again. He spoke softly, “… Well, well. So you’re back?”
He let go of his left hand, and a long whip dangled from it.
The whip was extremely slender. Like its name, it was a streak of purple lightning which sizzled, as if it had just been taken away from a sky full of storm clouds. He held one side of it in his grip. As it was brandished, it seemed to let out rapid slashes of lightning!
Before Wei WuXian moved, Lan WangJi had already placed his zither in front of him. With an assured stroke, it was as if a rock had created thousands of waves in water. The sound of the zither had created countless ripples in the air, colliding with Zidian. The latter waned, and the former waxed.
Jiang Cheng’s considerations of “not rashly fighting with him” and “not displeasing the Lan Clan” were as if they were eaten by dogs. The night sky above Dafan Mountain’s forest was sometimes surging with purple light, and sometimes as bright as daytime; there were sometimes deafening roars of thunder, and sometimes waves of the zither’s notes. The rest of the cultivators quickly retreated into a safe distance away from the scene, standing on the side and watching. They were both frightened to death and staring in awe. After all, rarely did one have the chance to watch two famous cultivators of prominent families combat directly, which was why everyone hoped that the fight was more violent and intense. Among these thoughts, there were also some unspeakable hopes for the relationship between the Lan Clan and the Jiang Clan to fall apart, creating an interesting scenario. On the other hand, Wei WuXian waited for his chance, and suddenly sprinted off.
The crowd was extremely surprised. He hadn’t been hit by the whip yet only because Lan WangJi acted as a barricade in front of him. For him, running away like this was the same as seeking his own death!
Sure enough, as if eyes grew on his back, Jiang Cheng saw that he went outside Lan WangJi’s area of protection, and was determined to grasp the chance. With a slanting crack of his whip, Zidian slashed out with the semblance of a poisonous dragon, precisely landing on the center of his back!
Wei WuXian was almost flung away from the attack of the whip. If not for the donkey blocking him, he would have directly crashed into a tree. However, after the blow, both Lan WangJi and Jiang Cheng stopped, looking quite stunned.
Wei WuXian massaged the back side of his waist, and crawled up with the support of the donkey. He hid behind it and yelled angrily, “How amazing! You really can do anything when you’re from a powerful clan, can’t you? You can even beat up anyone you want! Tsk tsk tsk!”
Lan WangJi, “…”
Jiang Cheng, “…”
He was both shocked and enraged, “What is going on?”
One unique power of “Zidian” was that, if it hit someone who seized another’s body, their soul and physical form would immediately separate. Without any exceptions, the person’s soul would be whipped away from the body. Yet, Wei WuXian was still moving properly and running about after he was hit. The only explanation was that he did not seize this body.
Wei WuXian thought, of course Zidian couldn’t whip out my soul. I didn’t seize anyone’s body, but was forcibly given one!
Bewilderment could be seen on Jiang Cheng’s face as he prepared to whip again, when Lan JingYi suddenly shouted, “Sect Leader Jiang, this should be enough, right? It was Zidian!”
It was absolutely impossible for the first strike to fail and the second to succeed, for a magical weapon of such high level like Zidian. If nothing was taken out, nothing would be taken out; if it wasn’t the seizing of a body, it wouldn’t be the seizing of a body. In fact, the shout made Jiang Cheng, who cared about maintaining his reputation above anything else, unable to make another move.
However, if it wasn’t Wei WuXian, who else could have summoned and controlled Wen Ning?
Even after thinking it over multiple times, Jiang Cheng still couldn’t accept the fact. He pointed at Wei WuXian and scowled, “Who on Earth are you?”
Finally, a meddlesome bystander added a word to the conversation. He coughed, “Sect Leader Jiang, you might have not paid attention to these things so didn’t know about this. Mo XuanYu was the LanlingJin Sect’s… Ahem, he used to be a foreign disciple of the Jin Sect. But, because his spiritual powers were low and he didn’t work hard in his studies, and also had that… He harassed a peer and was thrown out of the LanlingJin Sect. I’ve also heard that he lost his marbles? In my opinion, he was probably bitter from being unable to cultivate using the correct method, he ventured off onto the wrong path. It might not be… the YiLing Patriarch seizing this body.”
Jiang Cheng asked, “That? Which?”
“That… As in that…”
Someone couldn’t help but to comment, “The cut-sleeve penchant!”
Jiang Cheng’s eyebrows twitched. His eyes which stared at Wei WuXian seemed more disgusted than before. There were more comments on the matter, but nobody dared to say them in front of Jiang Cheng.
Although he was infamous, people had to admit that, before the YiLing Patriarch Wei WuXian had betrayed the YunmengJiang Sect, he was known for being a handsome young man and a refined cultivator skilled in the six arts. He ranked the fourth among all of the young masters in the cultivation world, being described as lively and cheerful. On the other hand, the ill-tempered Sect Leader Jiang ranked five, surpassed by him, so most people weren’t so bold as to mention the matter. Wei Ying was a frivolous and wanton person who loved to have tangled ties with pretty girls. Nobody knew how many female cultivators he had troubled with his charms, but it was yet unheard of that he was also attracted to men. Even if he wanted to steal a body and seek revenge… according to Wei Ying’s taste, he definitely wouldn’t have chosen a lunatic cut-sleeve who rode a donkey while eating fruits and painted his face to resemble a hanged ghost!
Someone else muttered, “It’s not him no matter how you look at it… The flute was also played horribly… This is definitely a case of blind imitation, hearing how inferior it sounded.”
During the “Sunshot Campaign,” the YiLing Patriarch stood on the battlefield and played his flute throughout the whole night, controlling the ghost soldiers as if they were a living army. He swept away all obstacles—whether a human or god was standing in front of him, he had defeated them. The sound of his flute was as if it was played by an immortal, absolutely incomparable to the terrible moans made by the abandoned son of the Jin Clan. No matter how horrible Wei WuXian’s character was, it was too insulting to compare them like this.
Wei WuXian felt somewhat offended, … Why don’t you try playing a few notes after ten-or-so years of not practicing, using a lousy flute made with just a few slices and cuts? If it sounds pleasant, I’ll kneel in front of you!
A moment ago, Jiang Cheng was certain that this person was Wei WuXian, and all of the blood in his body started to boil. Yet, now, Zidian was clearly telling him that he wasn’t. Zidian definitely wouldn’t deceive him or make a mistake, so he quickly calmed himself and thought, this doesn’t mean anything. I should first find an excuse to take him back and use every possible method to get information out of him. It’s impossible for him to not confess anything or give himself away. I’ve done things like this in the past anyways. After thinking it through, he made a gesture. The disciples understood his intention and came over.
Wei WuXian hurriedly jumped behind Lan WangJi with the donkey, and exclaimed while holding a hand over his chest, “Ah! What are you going to do to me?”
Lan WangJi gave him a look, putting up with his extremely discourteous, noisy, and exaggerated behaviour.
Seeing that he had no means of moving over, Jiang Cheng spoke, “Second Young Master Lan, are you purposely making it difficult for me?”
Everyone in the cultivation world knew that the young leader of the Jiang Clan watched out for Wei WuXian in an almost crazed manner. He would rather catch the wrong person than let go of any possibility, and took anyone who seemed like they held the soul of Wei WuXian away to the YunmengJiang Sect, inflicting severe torture on his victim. If he wanted to take someone back, the opposition would surely lose half of their life. Lan SiZhui spoke, “Sect Leader Jiang. The evidence is clear—Mo XuanYu’s body was not taken. If so, why should you want to trouble an unimportant person such as him?”
Jiang Cheng replied coldly, “Then, why is Second Young Master Lan going to such great lengths to protect an unimportant person such as him?”
Out of the blue, Wei WuXian made a few sounds of suppressed laughter.
He spoke, “Sect Leader Jiang, umm, I’ll feel very troubled if you keep on bothering me like this.”
Jiang Cheng’s eyebrow twitched again. His instincts told him that this person would definitely not say anything that pleased him.
Wei WuXian spoke, “Thank you for being so enthusiastic. However, your thoughts are quite off. Even if I am attracted to men, I don’t like just any type of man, much less follow anyone who waves at me. For example, I’m not interested in ones like you.”
Wei WuXian was purposely trying to disgust him. Jiang Cheng had always hated being defeated while compared with others, no matter how pointless the comparison was. If anyone said that he wasn’t as good as someone else, he’d be angered and not think about anything else until he won against the person. As expected, Jiang Cheng’s face darkened, “Oh, really? Then, may I ask which type you’re interested in?”
Wei WuXian replied, “Which type? Well, I am very much attracted to people like HanGuang-Jun.”
Lan WangJi could not tolerate this sort of frivolous and foolish joke at all. If he felt disgusted, he would definitely draw a line between them and keep his distance. Disgusting two people at once—this was killing two birds with one stone!
However, as Lan WangJi heard this, he turned around.
His face was emotionless, “Mark your words.”
Wei WuXian, “Hmm?”
Lan WangJi turned back, speaking in a mannerly yet resolute way, “I will take this person back to the Lan Sect.”
Wei WuXian, “…”
Wei WuXian, “…Huh?”
Fierce corpses: From now on, the term fierce corpse will describe the certain type of moving corpse/live corpse instead of a powerful corpse (with fierce being part of the noun instead of an adjective to corpse).
Fairies: This does not refer the Western fairies that fly around fluttering their miniscule wings. These will be further explained in a few chapters, but for a better understanding of the story, a fairy is formed when a living creature gains consciousness. This is sometimes translated as spirit, such as the kitsune spirit in Japanese and Chinese folklore, but the term fairy will be used here, so that it can be distinguished from the evil spirits that also appears often.
Cut-sleeve: This is another term for homosexuality (male-oriented only), originating from the ancient story of a homosexual emperor. When the emperor woke up, one day, his lover was still asleep, with the emperor’s sleeve under him. Therefore, he cut off his sleeve when he left the bed, so that his lover wouldn’t be woken up. This has been left like this because the term “homosexuality” sounds too scientific , while the term “gay” doesn’t have that romantic or poetic feeling to it, and any other terms are somewhat offensive. This will be used as both noun and adjective.
Six arts: Traditionally, the six arts involved rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics (“Wikipedia”). However, it is fine to not interpret this literally and assume that he was skilled in a lot of areas, in general.
Sunshot Campaign: This does not have anything to do with brand names called “Sunshot.” Literally, it means “the campaign to shoot down the sun,” but it has been simplified. The nature of this campaign will be explained later in the story.