Chapter 16 Refinement—Part Six
In order to defend himself if ol’ fuddy-duddy and lil’ fuddy-duddy came to drag him out of his bed in the middle of the night, Wei WuXian slept while clinging on to his sword. Yet, the night went smoothly. On the second day, Nie HuaiSang came to him with an overjoyed expression, “Wei-xiong, you really struck it lucky. The old man went to our sect’s Discussion Conference last night, so we don’t have classes for a few days!”
Now that the old one is gone, the young one can be easily taken care of! Wei WuXian quickly climbed up, beaming as he put on his boots, “A lucky strike, indeed, almost as if Heaven is blessing me with its clouds.”
Jiang Cheng stood on the side, carefully cleaning his sword, and threw cold water on this notion, “When he comes back, you’re still gonna get your punishment.”
Wei WuXian responded, “Why would a living person worry about what happens after they die? I’ll just live freely as long as possible. Let’s go. I refuse to believe that I can’t find any pheasants on this mountain of the Lan Sect.”
The three walked together, passing through the reception room of the Cloud Recesses. Suddenly, Wei WuXian stopped in his tracks and exclaimed, “There are two lil’ fuddy… Lan Zhan-s!”
A few people walked out of the room. Of the two youths at the front, both looked as if they were carved out of ice and jade, both wore the same snow-white robes, and both had sword tassels which swayed in the breeze, alongside ribbons on their clothes. The only differences were their ambiences and facial expressions. Wei WuXian could tell at once that, if the one with a stern face was Lan WangJi, the gentle one must be the other Jade of the Lan Sect—ZeWu-Jun, Lan XiChen.
As Lan WangJi saw Wei WuXian, he scrunched his brows, giving him a glare in an almost “glowering” fashion. As if he would be tainted if he looked a moment longer, he moved his gaze away and stared into the distance. On the other hand, Lan XiChen smiled, “And you are…?”
Jiang Cheng showed his respect with a salute, “Jiang WanYin of Yunmeng.”
Wei WuXian followed, “Wei WuXian of Yunmeng.”
Lan XiChen returned the salute. Nie HuaiSang whispered in the volume of a gnat, “Brother XiChen.”
Lan XiChen turned to him, “HuaiSang, a while ago, as I returned from Qinghe, your brother asked of your studies. How is it? This year, will you be able to pass?”
Nie HuaiSang replied, “Generally speaking, yes…” He seemed like a wilted cucumber, looking at Wei WuXian in a helpless way. Wei WuXian grinned, “ZeWu-Jun, what are you two going out for?”
Lan XiChen, “To exterminate a water ghoul. We were short of hands, so I came back to find WangJi.”
Lan WangJi spoke coldly, “Brother, we do not need to engage in small talk. This matter permits no delay; it is time for us to depart.”
Wei WuXian hurried, “Wait, wait, wait. I know how to catch water ghouls. ZeWu-Jun, why don’t you take us along?”
Lan XiChen smiled without words. Lan WangJi declared, “It is against the rules.”
Wei WuXian, “How is it against the rules? We used to catch water ghouls all the time in Yunmeng. Besides, we don’t have classes these days anyways.”
Yunmeng was abundant in lakes and water, so it teemed with water ghouls. It was true that people of the Jiang Sect were adept at this, and Jiang Cheng also wanted to make up for the face which the YunmengJiang Sect lost during this stay at the Lan Sect, “That’s right. ZeWu-Jun, we’d definitely be of help.”
“It is not necessary. The GusuLan Sect is also…” Before Lan WangJi finished talking, Lan XiChen spoke while smiling, “Sure, then. Many thanks for your help. Do some preparations, and we can depart together. HuaiSang, are you coming as well?”
Nie HuaiSang also wanted to join in, but he had been reminded of his older brother as he met Lan XiChen. Cringing silently, he didn’t dare to have fun, “I’ll pass and go back so that I can review…” With this act, he hoped that Lan XiChen would put in some good words for him to his brother. Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng went back to their rooms to prepare.
Lan WangJi looked at them from behind, his brows knitted with confusion, “Brother, why did you decide to bring them? Exterminating ghouls is not suited for joking around.”
Lan XiChen answered, “The head disciple and only son of Sect Leader Jiang are quite well-known in Yunmeng. It is likely that they know more than joking around.”
Although Lan WangJi didn’t express his opinion, the phrase “I beg to differ” was written all over his face.
Lan XiChen spoke again, “And, also, you wish for him to go as well, do you not?”
Lan WangJi was stunned.
Lan XiChen, “I only agreed because you looked as if you wanted the head disciple of Sect Leader Jiang to come with you.”
A silence fell upon them, as if the air was frozen solid.
Only after a while did Lan WangJi finally respond, speaking with great difficulty, “There was no such thing.”
He wanted to defend himself further, but Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng already grabbed their swords and headed over, so Lan WangJi had to shut his mouth. The group mounted their swords and set off.
The place where the water ghouls haunted was named Caiyi Town, about ten kilometers away from the Cloud Recesses.
Caiyi Town was connected with paths of water. It was either a net of rivers densely covering the town, or dwellings packed on either sides of the web-like water paths. The houses had white walls and grey roofs, and the rivers were filled with boats of baskets and people. On the banks, they sold flowers, fruits, bamboo crafts, pastries, tea, and silk.
Gusu was in the Jiangnan area, and all the voices one could hear were soft and gentle. As two boats crashed into each other, and a few jars of rice wine were spilled, even the arguments of the two boatmen sounded like chirps of the oriole. Although Yunmeng had many lakes, there weren’t a lot of small towns with so much water. Wei WuXian found it quite interesting. He bought two jars of rice wine and gave one to Jiang Cheng, “Gusu people talk in such a sugary way. How is this arguing? If they see how Yunmeng people argue, they might be scared to death… Why are you looking at me, Lan Zhan? It’s not that I’m too stingy to buy you any—aren’t people from your sect prohibited from drinking alcohol?”
Having only stayed for a short time, the group boarded ten-or-so narrow boats, and rowed toward where the water ghouls gathered. Gradually, the number of houses on the banks decreased, and the river path became quieter as well. Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng each had a boat, competing who could row faster while listening to events in the area that concerned water ghouls.
This water path led to a large lake ahead of them, named Biling Lake. Caiyi Town hadn’t been haunted by water ghouls ever since tens of years ago, yet, for the past few months, people had started to fall into this path and Biling Lake. Boats which carried goods also sunk without any reasons. A few days ago, Lan XiChen casted a few nets over this area. He expected to catch one or two water ghouls, but got about a dozen instead. He cleaned the corpses and carried them to a nearby part of the town, only to find that some corpses were not familiar to any of the local people, and remained unclaimed. Yesterday, he set up the net formation again, and caught quite a few again.
Wei WuXian spoke, “It doesn’t seem like that the corpses drowned somewhere else and floated here either. Water ghouls are picky about their area. Most of the time, the only place they settle on is the place they drowned at, and they usually don’t leave there.”
Lan XiChen nodded, “That is correct. This was why I thought that it was no trivial matter, and asked WangJi to come along, in case something happens.”
Wei WuXian asked, “ZeWu-Jun, water ghouls are really clever. If we use the boats and take our time like this, isn’t it possible that they’ll hide underwater and not come out? Won’t we have to keep on searching forever? What if we can’t find them?”
Lan WangJi replied, “We will wait until we find them. After all, we do what we must.”
Wei WuXian, “Just by using nets?”
Lan XiChen, “That is right. Does the YunmengJiang Sect have other methods?”
Wei WuXian smiled but didn’t respond. Of course, the YunmengJiang Sect used nets as well. But, because he was a good swimmer, he had always jumped into the river and dragged water ghouls out. However, this method was too dangerous; he definitely couldn’t do it in front of the Lan Sect’s people. If it travelled into Lan QiRen’s ears, he would definitely face another lecture. He switched the topic, “It’d be great if there’s something that can attract the water ghouls like a fishing bait. Or something that can point out their directions, like a compass.”
Jiang Cheng spoke, “Look down at the water and concentrate on finding them. You’re letting your imagination run again.”
Wei WuXian, “Cultivation and riding on swords also used to be just imagination!”
As he looked down, he happened to be able to see the bottom of the boat which Lan WangJi was on. An idea flashed across his head, and he shouted, “Lan Zhan, look at me!”
At the moment, Lan WangJi was keeping a sharp lookout. As he heard the words, he looked up, only to see Wei WuXian’s bamboo paddle sweep up a splash of water and strike it toward him. With a tap of his foot, Lan WangJi lightly hopped onto another boat, dodging the spray. He was quite angered, thinking to himself that, sure enough, Wei WuXian was here to fool around, “Pathetic!”
However, Wei WuXian kicked the side of the boat which he was standing on, and tipped it over using the bamboo paddle. On the bottom of the boat, there were three water ghouls with swelling faces and ashen skin, tightly clinging onto the wooden boards!
A disciple who stood nearby immediately suppressed the three. Lan XiChen smiled, “Young Master Wei, how did you know that they were below the boats?”
Wei WuXian knocked on the side of the boat, “Simple! The displacement of water was wrong. He was the only person who stood on the boat, yet the displacement was greater than those of boats that carried two people. There must have been something on the bottom.”
Lan XiChen praised him, “You are experienced indeed.”
Wei WuXian’s paddle lightly glided through the water, and the boat’s speed quickened, so that he was right next to Lan WangJi’s boat. He spoke, “Lan Zhan, I didn’t splash water on you on purpose. Water ghouls are really clever. If I said it out loud, they would’ve heard it and got away. Hey, don’t ignore me. Why don’t you look at me, Second Young Master Lan?”
Lan WangJi finally condescended and gave him a glance, “Why did you come?”
Wei WuXian spoke with sincerity, “I’m here to apologize to you. Last night was my fault. I was wrong.”
Lan WangJi’s countenance was slightly dark, most likely because he still didn’t forget how Wei WuXian “apologized” to him. Wei WuXian asked although he knew the answer, “Why do you look so gloomy? Don’t worry. Today, I’m really here to help.”
Jiang Cheng couldn’t watch the scene any longer, “If you want to help, then stop chattering and come here!”
A disciple shouted, “The net moved!”
Sure enough, the ropes of the net started to wobble. Wei WuXian beamed, “It’s here, it’s here!”
Thick, long hair formed veils of black satin, surging and swelling around the boats. Amid them, pairs of ghastly hands gripped onto the sides. Lan WangJi backhandedly drew his sword, Bichen, and severed ten-or-so wrists on the left of the boat, leaving only palms with fingers digging deep into the wood. As he was about to cut the ones on the right, a red light flashed past, and Wei WuXian’s sword was already back in its sheath.
The strange shifts of the water had ceased, and the net also became still once more. Although, a few moments ago, Wei WuXian’s sword attacked at an extremely fast speed, Lan WangJi could already tell that the sword he carried was of very high quality. He asked with a serious face, “What is the name of this sword?”
Wei WuXian answered, “Suibian.”
Lan WangJi stared at him. Wei WuXian thought that he didn’t hear properly, so he repeated it again, “Suibian.”
Lan WangJi frowned and refused, “This sword has a spirit. Calling it as one pleases is disrespectful.”
Wei WuXian let out a sigh, “Think outside the box, won’t you? I wasn’t asking you to call it whatever you wanted to, but the name of my sword just happens to be ‘Suibian’. Here, look.” As he spoke, he passed the sword over for Lan WangJi to see the characters on the sword. Surrounded by lines and patterns, two ancient characters were carved onto the sheath. It was “Suibian”, indeed.
For a few moments, Lan WangJi was at a loss for words.
Wei WuXian showed his consideration, “You don’t need to talk. I know that you definitely want to ask me why it’s called this name. Everyone asks if it has some special meaning to it. Actually, there’s no special meaning at all. It was just that, when Uncle Jiang gave me the sword and asked me what I wanted to call it, I came up with more than twenty names, but wasn’t satisfied with any of them. I thought that I could let Uncle Jiang give it a name, so I answered, ‘Whatever!’ But, who knew that, after the sword had been forged and taken out, these two characters were on it. Uncle Jiang said, ‘If this is the case, then why not let this sword be named Suibian?’ To be honest, this name isn’t bad either, right?”
Finally, Lan WangJi spoke through his gritted teeth, “… Ridiculous!”
Wei WuXian carried his sword on his shoulder, “You’re such a boring person. Don’t you see how fun this name is? It’s especially good at tricking serious ones like you, and it works every single time. Haha!”
At the same time, from within the virid lake, a long shadow darted around the small boat. After Jiang Cheng finished the water ghouls on his side, he was still watching out for any that they had missed. Seeing the shadow, he immediately yelled, “It’s coming again!”
Cultivators have the ability to use their swords to hover in the air as a way to travel. It usually uses spiritual energy and is one of the things a cultivator learns in their earlier stages. They just stand on the sword (as if it’s a skateboard).
The word suibian in Chinese means “whatever”.