Chapter 19 Contentment – part 1
Wei WuXian lay on his stomach for the whole night. The first half of the night was spent thinking about what in the world had happened to Lan WangJi during these years, and he only drifted off during the second half. When he opened his eyes the next morning, Lan WangJi had already disappeared into nowhere. On the other hand, he lay on the bed properly, with his arms placed on the sides of his body in a position that made him seem well-behaved.
Wei WuXian immediately took off the blanket that covered him. He dug the fingers of his right hand into his hair. The unexplainable feeling of absurdity and fright still couldn’t be erased from his mind.
At this time, two knocks came from the jingshi’s wooden door. Lan SiZhui’s voice came from outside, “Young Master Mo? Have you waken?”
Wei WuXian, “Why are you calling me so early in the morning?!”
Lan SiZhui, “E-early? … But, it is already nine.”
Everyone of the Lan Sect rose at five and slept at nine in a very systematic manner. Wei WuXian, on the other hand, rose at nine and slept at one in a similarly systematic manner, precisely four hours later than those the Lan Sect. Because he lay on his front for half of the night, his waist and back were both aching. He spoke in an honest tone, “I can’t get up.”
Lan SiZhui, “Uhm, what is wrong, this time?”
Wei WuXian, “What is wrong? I got done by your sect’s HanGuang-Jun.”
Lan JingYi’s angry voice also appeared, “If you continue to speak nonsense like this, you will pay for it. Come out!”
Wei WuXian spoke as if he had been wronged, “Really! He did me for the whole night! I can’t go out. I don’t have the face to see anyone.”
A few juniors stared at each other dumbfoundedly outside the door. People couldn’t go into HanGuang-Jun’s place without permission, so they couldn’t just go inside and drag him out. Lan JingYi raged, “You have no shame at all! HanGuang-Jun is not a cut sleeve. He did you?! I would be more than grateful if you tell me that you did not do him. Get up! Take away that donkey of yours and train it properly. It makes so much noise!”
Hearing his method of transportation being mentioned, Wei WuXian quickly climbed up, “What did you do to my Lil’ Apple?! Don’t touch it. It’s gonna kick you.”
Lan JingYi asked, “What is Lil’Apple?”
Wei WuXian, “My donkey!” Exiting the jingshi, he shooed the juniors to take him to his mount. He was led to a field of grass. The donkey was there, crying nonstop and making a lot of noise. The cries were because it wanted to eat grass, but a few dozens of round, white pompons gathered on the field, making it so that it couldn’t eat.
Wei WuXian was delighted, “So many rabbits! Here, here, let’s put them on a stick and start roasting!”
Lan JingYi fumed with anger, “Killing is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses! Make it shut up, right now. The disciples doing early readings have already come to ask a few times! If this keeps up, we will be scolded to death!”
Wei WuXian fed it the apple that was given to him for breakfast. As he expected, the donkey stopped making noise as it chewed on the apple, crunching its teeth together. Wei WuXian stroked the back of its neck as he thought about the passage tokens on these juniors and pointed at the round rabbits all over the ground, “I really can’t roast them? If I roast them, would I be chased off the mountain?”
Appearing as if he faced an imminent threat, Lan JingYi hastened to block in front of Wei WuXian with his arms stretched wide, “These are HanGuang-Jun’s. We just occasionally help him look after them. You cannot dare to roast them!”
As Wei WuXian heard this, he laughed so hard that he almost fell on the ground. He thought, What an interesting person Lan Zhan is! In the past, he didn’t even accept them when I gave them out for free, but now, he secretly raised a whole bunch. And he said he didn’t want them. Who was he kidding? Oh please, I bet he actually likes this sort of white, fuzzy things. HanGuang-Jun, holding a rabbit while keeping up a straight face. My gosh, I’m gonna die…
However, as he thought of the situation of him lying on top of Lan WangJi last night, his laughter stopped abruptly.
Suddenly, rings of the bell came from the the western side of the Cloud Recesses.
These rings were completely different from the ones that told the time. They were hurried and violent, as if a madman was striking it. With a sudden change in their faces, Lan JingYi and Lan SiZhui both stopped joking around with him, dashing toward the bell at once. Wei WuXian knew that something was wrong and quickly followed.
The sound came from a watchtower.
The watchtower was called the “mingshi”. It was the building the Lan Sect used to summon spirits, with walls made from a special material and incantations carved on them. When the bell of the watchtower started to ring on its own, it only meant one thing—that an accident happened to the people performing the summoning ritual inside.
Outside of the watchtower, more and more of the Lan Sect’s disciples started to crowd around, but nobody dared to go in without careful consideration. The door of the mingshi was black and made of wood. It was tightly locked, only able to be opened from inside. It was not only difficult to violently destroy it from the outside, but it was also forbidden to do so. It was extremely scary for an accident to happen during the spirit summoning ritual, since nobody would know what being it would summon or what would happen if someone broke in. And, ever since the mingshi was built, there were almost no cases where the summoning failed. This made everyone more worried.
Seeing that Lan WangJi didn’t appear, Wei WuXian had a foreboding feeling. If Lan WangJi was still in the Cloud Recesses, he would have hurried over immediately, as he heard the alarming chimes of the bell, unless… Suddenly, the black door bursted open with a bang. A white-clothed disciple rushed outside, staggering and stumbling.
As his legs weren’t steady, he rolled down the stairs as soon as he came out. The door of the mingshi instantly closed again, as if someone angrily slammed it shut.
In confusion, the bystanders quickly helped the disciple up. After he stood up, he immediately fell down again, his face covered in tears beyond his control. He held onto the people around him, “We should have… shouldn’t have summoned…”
Wei WuXian grabbed his hand at once, speaking in a low voice, “Which being’s spirit are you summoning? Who else is inside? Where’s HanGuang-Jun?!”
It seemed as if the disciple had trouble breathing, “HanGuang-Jun told me to run away…”
Before he finished his sentence, dark-red blood gushed out of his nose and mouth. Wei WuXian pushed him into Lan SiZhui’s arms. With the hastily created bamboo flute still by his waist, he went up the stairs in just a few strides. He kicked the mingshi’s door and commanded, “Open!”
The mingshi’s door opened abruptly, as if it was laughing wildly with a gaping mouth. Wei WuXian entered in a flash, and the door closed right behind him. A few disciples followed him in shock, but the door couldn’t be opened again, no matter what. A guest disciple rushed at the door, shock and anger on his face, and blurted out, “Who on Earth was that person?!”
Lan SiZhui held the earlier disciple up and spoke through clenched teeth, “… Come help me first. His qiqiao are bleeding!”
As soon as he entered the mingshi, Wei WuXian felt a dark energy coming over him.
The dark energy seemed like a combination of the energies of resentment, anger, and arrogance, almost visible to the human eye. Surrounded by it, one’s chest would feel a constricted sense of pain. The inside of the mingshi was about ten meters in both length and width. By its corners, a few people lay motionless on the ground. The object of this summoning was set in the center of the array on the ground.
It was nothing else but an arm—the one taken back from Mo Village!
It stood on the ground, as straight as a stick, with the side where it was cut off on the bottom. Four of its fingers were clenched into a fist, yet its index finger pointed toward the sky, as if it was angrily pointing at someone. The steady flow of dark energy that filled the mingshi was emitted by this.
Everyone participating in this spirit summoning ritual had either ran away or passed out. Lan WangJi was the only one still seated properly, at the main position on the east side.
A guqin lay on his side. Although his hand wasn’t on the strings, they continued to vibrate on their own. He appeared to be lost in thought or listening to something, only raising his head as he sensed that someone came in.
Since Lan WangJi’s face was always placid, Wei WuXian had no idea what he was thinking about. Lan QiRen, who was originally responsible for one section of the mingshi, now lay collapsed and unconscious on the side, his qiqiao bleeding like the disciple who escaped the mingshi. Wei WuXian replaced into his position, turning around and stepping toward the far west, directly across of Lan WangJi. He pulled the bamboo flute from beside his waist, and lifted it to his lips.
During the night at Mo Village, Wei WuXian first used the whistling sound to distract it, then Lan WangJi attacked it from afar with notes of the zither. They only suppressed the arm while unintentionally collaborating like this. Lan WangJi met his gaze, a look of understanding on his face. As he raised his right hand, a melody poured out from the guqin. Wei WuXian quickly joined with the flute.
The song that they played was named “Evocation”. It used the corpse, part of the corpse, or loved objected of a deceased person as a medium for the spirit to follow the melody. Usually, only one section was needed for the spirit to appear within the array. Yet, the song had almost ended, but there was no spirit being summoned.
The arm seemed as if it was angered, with veins twitching visibly. The sense of suppression in the air felt heavier. If someone else was guarding the west side, they would have fallen long ago and ended up in the same way as Lan QiRen with their qiqiao bleeding. Wei WuXian was secretly shocked. It was almost impossible that the spirit couldn’t be summoned with Lan WangJi and him playing “Evocation” together, unless… Unless the dead person’s soul was cut apart alongside with his corpse!
It appeared that this good fellow’s death was a bit worse than his. Although his corpse was chomped into more pieces, at least his soul was complete.
Since “Evocation” didn’t work, Lan WangJi’s fingers shifted, and started playing another tune.
This song had a calm melody, different than the sinister, questioning one from before. Its name was “Rest”. Because both of these songs were quite well-known in the cultivation world, it wouldn’t be strange for anyone to know how to play them, and Wei WuXian naturally followed him.
The YiLing Patriarch’s ghost flute, “Chenqing”, was known far and wide. Yet, right now, with his bamboo flute, he purposely played it with many mistakes and short breaths of air, to a point where it was heartbreaking to hear. Lan WangJi had probably never played with someone with such terrible skills before. After a while, he finally couldn’t bear to continue as if nothing was wrong any longer, and raised his head to look at Wei WuXian with an expressionless face.
Wei WuXian thickened his face, pretending that he didn’t see anything, his tune venturing even more off. As he turned around to continue playing, something strange happened behind him. He turned around to look, and was shocked as he saw it. Lan QiRen, who had lost consciousness, actually sat upright again. He pointed at Wei WuXian with a trembling hand, his face covered in blood and rage, and shouted in a hoarse voice, “Stop playing! Get out! Get out now! Stop…”
Before he even finished saying what to stop doing, he spat out a mouthful of blood, and fell down in the same place, sinking into the deep coma yet again.
Lan WangJi, “…”
Wei WuXian gaped.
He knew what followed Lan QiRen’s “stop”— Stop playing! Stop duetting! Stop tainting his favorite disciple WangJi’s guqin notes!
Their guqin and flute duet actually angered Lan QiRen so much that he woke up and fainted again. This showed how horrible it sounded…
Yet, even so, the hand still drooped gradually, under the combined forces of the guqin and the flute. Wei WuXian thought shamelessly, Although it sounds bad, it doesn’t matter as long as it works.
Instantly, after the last echo of the guqin, the doors of the mingshi sprang open, pouring in a flood of sunlight. It was likely that the alarms of the watchtower stopped ringing. All of the disciples who surrounded the mingshi rushed inside, their voices calling “HanGuang-Jun”.
Lan WangJi pressed his hand on the guqin, suppressing the residual sound of the strings’ vibration, and walked over to Lan QiRen to check his pulse. With him leading, the rest of the people soon calmed down. The older seniors laid the bodies of the bleeding few flat on the ground and started to treat them. As they used needles and medicine, another group of disciples carried a large bell over, intending to cage the arm inside. Although it was a bustling scene, everything unfolded in an orderly fashion. Everyone whispered softly, with nobody making loud noises.
A few people worried, “HanGuang-Jun, neither elixirs nor acupuncture work. What should we do?”
With three fingers still set on Lan QiRen’s wrist, Lan WangJi remained silent. Lan QiRen had directed at least eight hundred, if not a thousand, spirit summoning ceremonies before. Of those, a lot included fierce spirits. Seeing even he was harmed by the energy of resentment, it was clear that the amount of resentful energy within this ghost hand was unprecedentedly strong.
Wei WuXian stuck the bamboo flute back beside his waist. He squatted down beside the bronze bell and gently stroked the inscriptions on it. As he was thinking, he suddenly saw a downcast expression on Lan SiZhui’s face, “What’s wrong?”
Lan SiZhui already knew that he wasn’t an ordinary person. After hesitation, he spoke in a low voice, “It is just that I feel slightly guilty.”
Wei WuXian asked, “Guilty for what?”
Lan SiZhui, “This hand was coming for us.”
Wei WuXian smiled, “How do you know?”
Lan SiZhui, “Spirit-attraction flags of different levels are drawn in different ways and have different amounts of power. The spirit-attraction flags we drew at Mo Village had a range of only twenty-five hundred meters in circumference. Yet, this ghost hand has a strong killing intent, feeding on human flesh and bone. If it had been within that range in the beginning, with its level of malice, Mo Village would have been a river of blood since long ago. However, it appeared after we arrived… This means that it must have been set there purposely at that time, by someone with ill intentions.”
Wei WuXian responded, “Your academics are quite strong. That was a great analyzation.”
Lan SiZhui lowered his head, “If so, for the lives lost at Mo Village, we should… we should also be responsible. And, now, we also involved Lan QiRen and the others in this matter…”
After a while of silence, Wei WuXian patted his shoulder, “The one responsible shouldn’t be you guys, but the person who sent out the ghost hand. In this world, there are some things impossible for one to control.”
On the other side, Lan WangJi removed his hand. The people of the Lan Sect hurried to ask, “HanGuang-Jun, how is it?”
Lan WangJi replied, “Trace to its source.”
Wei WuXian, “That’s right. If we trace to its source, find the full corpse of this ghost hand, understand who he really is, then there’d naturally be a way to save them.”
Although Lan JingYi already knew that he definitely wasn’t a lunatic, he still couldn’t help but to speak in a criticizing tone, “You make it sound so simple. The spirit-summoning did not work, and it became this big of a mess. How can we possibly find it?”
Lan WangJi stated, “The northwest.”
Lan SiZhui wondered, “The northwest? HanGuang-Jun, why is it the northwest?”
Wei WuXian, “Hasn’t it already been shown to you guys?”
Lan JingYi was puzzled, “Shown to me? Who? Who showed it? HanGuang-Jun did not.”
Wei WuXian spoke, “It.”
The people suddenly realized that what he was pointing at was the ghost hand!
The arm steadily pointed at one direction. As someone changed its position, it stubbornly turned back around, back to where it originally faced. Nobody had ever seen a situation like this before, and all were shocked. Lan JingYi stammered, “It? What… What is it pointing towards?!”
Wei WuXian replied, “What else can it be pointing towards? It’s either the other parts of its corpse, or the murderer who made him this way.”
Hearing this, a few boys who stood in the northwestern direction quickly shuffled aside. Giving him a look, Lan WangJi slowly rose, speaking to the disciples, “Care for Uncle properly.”
The few nodded, “Okay! Are you going to travel down the mountain?”
Lan WangJi gave a slight nod. Wei WuXian had already stealthily shifted behind him, talking to himself in a loud, cheerful way, “Yes, yes, yes, we can finally get off this mountain and elope together!”
Everyone looked as if they couldn’t bear to watch the scene any longer. The expressions of the older disciples were especially scary, but a few of the boys were already used to it. Lan QiRen’s face seemed to twitch again, as he lay unconscious on the ground. The disciples thought, If he spoke a few more sentences, maybe Mr. Lan would be angered awake again…
Mingshi: This literally translates into “the room of darkness/evil”.
Qiqiao: Qiqiao refers to the seven openings of one’s head, basically eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.
needles: In traditional Chinese medicine, needles and acupuncture are often used to cure sicknesses.