The hand that Zhao Yunlan had originally used to support Shen Wei abruptly tightened.
Under everyone’s doubtful, nervous, or ambiguous gazes, Shen Wei finally nodded his head.
“The Ghost King used himself as a medium to leak the chaos. I used three old engravings fromthe Houtu Great Seal to blockade it underground.” Shen Wei continued, “Additionally, the smallresort villa was slashed by the Soul-severing Blade, splitting open a wide gap. Right now, it’sprobably leaking a little but it shouldn’t be too serious.”
“Nuwa had already dissipated for some thousands of years. The strength of the old engravingson the Houtu Great Seal is limited. How long can you block it?”
Shen Wei: “It won’t be longer than half a day.”
The surrounding people fell into a deathly silence. Wang Zheng asked quietly: “What exactly isthe Houtu Great Seal?”
Sang Zan gently tugged her and raised a finger next to his lips, indicating that she shouldn’t saymore. Although Sang Zan only understood around 70 to 80 percent of their conversation, hehad helped Zhao Yunlan in looking for the Secret Ancient Records. Through that, he heardsome fragments of the whole story and, by this time, had already guessed a good portion.
Shennong Bowl stared at Shen Wei tightly, continuing to force him with questions: “Then whatdoes Shangxian actually plan to do*?”
Shen Wei calmly met his gaze, turned his hand to grasp Zhao Yunlan’s, and in a tranquil voice,said: “I will do as I promised that year.”
His peaceful and calm attitude stunned Shennong Bowl on the spot. Only after a while did hisgaze land on their clasped hands. His expression changed a few times, but ultimately did notreveal anything and he looked away stiffly. With a slightly unnatural voice, he said: “What can Ido for you?”
Shen Wei’s gaze swept across every person and ghost at the scene. In an even manner, hesaid: “That year Kunlun Jun used the four holy artifacts to seal the four pillars. When the GreatSeal was loosening, the four holy artifacts were forcefully taken out and reappeared in thehuman world. Right now, they’re already all in my hands. I need to reseal the four pillars thathold up the heavens and earth…I hope everyone can help me hold down the front line.”
As Shen Wei was saying this, a huge bagua grid** appeared on the upper side of the antiquatedstreet—it was square, the four corners existing side by side with shaoyin, taiyan, shaoyang, andtaiyin***, pointing to east, south, west, and north respectively.
Then, the thin and long Mountain-River Awl took the lead in jumping out from Shen Wei’s palms.It turned tall and long, vaguely like a precipice in a great snowy mountain, and fell on the BlackTortoise position**** (t/n north). A deafening noise erupted from the Mountain-River Awl and abig sundial plate broke out from within, rumbling to turn to the White Tiger position (t/n west).The Ink Brush of Virtue cut from the Dashen Mu pointed its tip towards the sky, landing on theAzure Dragon position (t/n east). Lastly was the wickless Guardian Lantern. Although it was stilldark without any light, it followed Shen Wei’s guidance to land on the Vermillion Bird position (t/nsouth).
Zhao Yunlan: “Ai, wait, wait. Isn’t the Guardian Lantern in the Yan King Hall?”
Shen Wei: “Earlier, I delayed for a moment and brought it along in passing. The one in Yan KingHall is only a deception.”
After he said this, he seemed a bit abashed in his behavior of conveniently leading the sheepaway (t/n going off with/stealing something) and lowered his head slightly: “It’s a time ofemergency…The method is inappropriate. I am ashamed.”
Zhao Yunlan: “…”
Shen Wei lifted up one of Zhao Yunlan’s hands, and softly said: “It’ll hurts a little.”
After, Zhao Yunlan felt as though something pricked his fingertip and a perfectly round bead ofblood emerged. The drop of blood immediately flew directly into the Guardian Lantern, pullinginto a very thin line.
Then, Shen Wei took off the little pendant from around his neck, the one that he refused toremove no matter what. He opened the bottle and gently poured a little. An extremely tiny sparkflew out from his fingertips, landing on the tall and slender lantern wick created from the threadof blood. From within the Guardian Lantern, a faint light like a firefly’s rose up leisurely.
Shen Wei lowered his head, putting Zhao Yunlan’s injured finger into his mouth.
“Wait, that’s it?“ Zhao Yunlan, “Didn’t that Yan King say he wanted to take out a tube of bloodfrom my heart?”
“The ten fingers are linked to the heart.” Shen Wei said, “The wick of the Guardian Lantern hadalready been lost for some thousands of years. Difu wanted to seek a magic weapon that couldguarantee peace, allowing the Guardian Lantern to burn for many years to come. I only havehalf a day’s time to re-seal the four pillars. One thread is enough.”
As he spoke to here, Shen Wei lifted his head and addressed everyone: “Kunlun Jun, as thesaint of the mountains, further sealed the four pillars. Although I inherited the 36 mountains andrivers, I was born filthy and have no way of actually establishing any connection with the fourholy artifacts.”
He displayed his original appearance: his long hair hanging down, his inborn demonic aura andhis jade-like upright gentlemanly aura mixing together in a strange and contradictory manner.There was an unparalleled sense of elegance that could not be put into words.
Nobody could refuse him.
Wang Zheng and Sang Zan looked at each other, and then walked side by side until they wereunderneath the Mountain-River Awl. Da Qing took the golden bell on his neck into his mouthand turned to walk towards the Brush of Virtue. Lao Li, who was carrying the big bone sticklooked this way and that and finally hung a fish that was fried yellow underneath the bone.Without a word, he followed after Da Qing. Lin Jing took out a 108-bead necklace and stood stillunderneath the Sundial of Reincarnation.
Just as Shennong Bowl was about to go over, Zhao Yunlan suddenly opened his mouth andhalted him: “Ai, um you.”
Occupying Zhao Yunlan’s dad’s body, Shennong Bowl turned his head around: “You?”
“…” Zhao Yunlan, “Don’t take advantage. You really think you’re someone’s dad—lend me astep, I have something to discuss with you.”
Shennong Bowl smiled a bit helplessly and followed Zhao Yunlan to walk to a side: “Please talk,Kunlun Jun.”
Zhao Yunlan leaned against the big pagoda tree and lowered his head to gaze down. It seemedextremely calm beneath the tree, not at all like there was something crazy suppressed…andonly for half a day. His box of cigarettes was already empty. Lifting his hand, he stuck it intoFather Zhao’s pocket, bringing out another box. Without bothering to be polite, he took it forhimself and lit up.
Zhao Yunlan only spoke lowly after a moment of silence: “Actually there is something I wantedto beg of you.”
Shennong Bowl lowly replied: “I don’t dare.”
“Really,” Zhao Yunlan said, “My parents only have me as their one son. I should have originallysupported them until their old age and given them a proper burial, but I didn’t think that I wouldbe out of time. Even if I’m out of time, I don’t want white-haired people to see off black-hairedpeople. Think of a method for me.” (t/n don’t want the old to see the young die)
Shennong Bowl was silent for a while: “I…don’t really understand Kunlun Jun’s meaning.”
Zhao Yunlan: “Don’t pretend like you’re confused. It looks to me like you understand very well.”
Shennong Bowl gave him a deep look: “So, in the end, the Ghost Slayer would only honor hisagreement without a second word because you agreed to die with him?”
“Bullshit,” Zhao Yunlan glanced at him lightly and carelessly breathed out a smoke ring, “Thesetwo things are unrelated. Do you think this master would sell his body?”
Shennong Bowl knew that he slipped up with his remark, lowered his head and was silent forsome time: “I understand.”
Zhao Yunlan stared at his eyes and heard Shennong Bowl say, word for word: “If Kunlun Jun isno longer alive, I will leave your Father’s body and live under the guise of ‘Zhao Yunlan’ for you.Mountain Saint please don’t worry.”
“Live well. Live like ‘Zhao Yunlan’,” Like committing “treason”, Zhao Yunlan patted his dad’sshoulders with force, “The things you should enjoy, enjoy them well. The things you should takecare of, also do them well. I thank you.”
After he spoke, he breathed in deeply twice and extinguished the cigarette that, in his haste, stillhadn’t burned to the end, and passed by Shennong Bowl.
The Medicinal Bowl walked over towards the Sundial of Reincarnation and Lin Jing. ZhaoYunlan stood solitarily beneath the Guardian Lantern.
Zhao Yunlan softly stroked the Guardian Lamp. Its inscription, unevenly carved into the lampbody, was exactly the same as the one on the back of the Guardian Order. He felt a peculiarsensation: this lamp really did seem to be as closely linked with him as flesh with bone, and thepulsating lamp light miraculously matched the beat of his heart, as if there stood two people—heof the millennia past and he of the millennia after, without distinction.
For a moment, an unspeakable sigh welled up in Zhao Yunlan’s heart. So the world was asfickle as the white raiment of clouds turning to gray hounds, as mulberry fields turning to azureseas, and it had long since turned full circle—yet he himself was like a tortoise aged a thousand,ten thousand years, and in spite of everything hadn’t changed in the slightest. This really wasmore than enough faithfulness unto death.
Shen Wei turned his head toward the shopkeeper who kept watch over the dividing boundary ofyin and yang. That old man led along all those present of the night shift personnel from No. 4Bright Avenue, and had them surround the large array. Bountifully wrinkled, he raised his head,humbly brought his fists together as would the ancients, and saluted Shen Wei: “This old thinghas no other use than to protect the dharma for Shangxian.”
Shen Wei nodded. Then he lifted his finger, and stroke by stroke he wrote in the air ancientcharacters from the age of gods and demons. They in themselves seemed to possess power,billowing like waves in the sky; every stroke carried with it sounds of the celestial vault from adistant time. After that, Shen Wei joined his fingers together to form an open palm, and broughtit down with a heavy clap against the whole set of characters. All the strokes fell to pieces andflew toward the positions of the sixiang***** in each corner, falling upon every person’s brow.
In a flash, everyone could hear that spell which had been passed down from the dawn ofprimeval time. Inimitably profound, it stirred in them an irrepressible urge to prostratethemselves in worship which sprang up spontaneously in their hearts.
Finally, Shen Wei glanced to the south, just in time for his gaze to meet Zhao Yunlan’s in midair.He suddenly gave him an extraordinarily light smile, like flowers instantly blooming in spring.
In the pitch blackness of the Yan King Hall, Zhu Hong couldn’t see anything and wanderedabout in a daze. The only light source came faintly from the Dashen Mu branch in her hand thatShen Wei gave her, creating an invisible protective barrier around her body that firmly separatedher from the terrible ghost tribe and the all-consuming chaos outside. Conversely, the small budthat appeared extremely delicate became increasingly green.
All of a sudden, Zhu Hong heard someone call her name anxiously. She turned around and sawSnake Fourth Uncle difficultly leaning against a crevice in the Yan King hall, carefully hidingbeneath a huge scale—Zhu Hong recognized that as the Fuxi scale, one of the sacred objectsof the snake tribe.
He seemed as though he was heavily injured and was unable to even preserve his humanshape, his lower body revealing a dark green snake tail.
When Snake Fourth Uncle saw her, he was initially alarmed. Then, he donned a fierceappearance and spoke harshly: “Why are you here? Why didn’t you leave with Ling Zhu earlier?You don’t want your little life anymore?!”
He glanced at the situation outside and quickly came out from within the stone crevices. Hislong tail curled around Zhu Hong, pulling her into the crevice. With a bloodstain at the corner ofhis mouth, he turned to Zhu Hong, his whole face turning white in anger: “There isn’t anotherchild in the entire tribe who is as absent-minded as you. Don’t you know how dangerous it is,stupid girl? Don’t you know to run?”
Zhu Hong: “I’m worried about Fourth Uncle…”
Snake Fourth Uncle coldly cut her off: “It’s not the turn for a little imp who can’t even fullytransform like you to worry about me.”
As he said this, he scanned Zhu Hong up and down. Finding that she was flawless and intact,without even a bit of broken skin, he was finally able to relax and coldly hummed out: “Your luckis good.”
Zhu Hong lifted the branch from the Dashen Mu: “His Honor, the Ghost Slayer gave this to me.”
Snake Fourth Uncle squinted: “Dashen Mu? How could he just casually give that away? Whatdid he say to you?”
“He said that if these two buds can survive, then I should find a good place to plant them.”
Hearing this, Snake Fourth Uncle’s thoughts took a sharp turn and he suddenly slumped heavilyagainst the stone wall of the Yan King Hall, his brows furrowing tightly: “So it really is that the
Great Seal will break and he is now taking care of what’s to come afterwards…Could the GreatSeal be broken already?”
Zhu Hong’s mind was full of confusion but she didn’t dare interrupt his thoughts. She had nochoice but to stand there silently without questioning him. Only after a while did Snake FourthUncle lowly say to her: “Little girl, dumb luck comes to dumb people—hurry up and take care ofit well.”
Zhu Hong immediately nodded to show agreement. At this time, she suddenly exclaimed “yi”and brought the Dashen Mu branch in front of Snake Fourth Uncle: “Hurry, look.”
They saw a light turquoise color had pushed through the withered and coarse branch at someunknown time, revealing a delicate head—the branch that originally only had two buds grew outa third one!
Zhu Hong said in astonishment: “What’s going on? Shen Wei said that, in many thousands ofyears, that branch had only ever grown these two buds.”
“’Shen Wei’ is someone for you to call?” Snake Fourth Uncle gave her a look, and then saidafter a momentary pause, “Kunlun’s divine tree exists together with the heavens and the earth(t/n it lasts forever); it is the beginning of all life. That year, Nuwa wanted to borrow the branch ofthe divine tree to erect at the entrance of the Profane Land. She harbored murderous intentionsand, as a result, grew a tree that was never alive and already dead…Now this branch issprouting for no reason…perhaps it’s because someone’s intentions have changed.”
Those two were relatively safe in the most dangerous of places. However, Guo Changchengand Chu Shuzhi, who were hanging on the suspension bridge, were practically hanging on tolife by a thread.
Chu Shuzhi made a prompt decision, and, not caring about the movements behind him, directlyreleased the hand pulling the bow. The incantation that spun out incurred a sudden clap ofthunderbolt, crashing down as if it was going to split the sky and piercing through the ghost tribeon Guo Changcheng’s side. He then rapidly turned his head. Within that movement, he used hisarm, which had again turned a grayish blue, to stir up a large curtain of rain. The rain watersolidified into a massive skeleton and dived down in the air.
He only realized after he turned around that the thing behind him was actually not a youchu butthat red-eyed monstrosity of a youth in human skin.
The red-eyed monster was a high-ranking member of the ghost tribe. After it inhaled the chaosof the Profane Land leaking from the cracks in the ground, the whole person…no, the wholeghost seemed to turn the situation around for its own benefit—like switching a bird-hunting guninto a canon. Two inborn Ghost Kings: one had already died, and the other was bound into apartly real God through the immortal tendon. All the high-ranking ghost tribes were fanaticallyeyeing the position, wanting to take over and become the Ghost King of a new generation.
The ghost tribe who would have originally been at a complete loss in the face of Chu Shuzhi’sskeleton only lifted an arm and was able to blockade the big skeleton created from water. With apinch of its fingers, the skeleton once again scattered into water droplets, splashing everywhere.
Following, Chu Shuzhi felt as though a strong force hit his chest, sending his thin body flyingstraight out from the suspension bridge. Underneath him was a cliff over a kilometer high.
Guo Changcheng didn’t think. In that instant, he didn’t know where his bravery came from, nordid he have any what he was thinking, only that he suddenly flipped over from the safety rails.As if it was an act of suicide, he jumped from the bridge and leaped towards Chu Shuzhi. Thewaist satchel that he was originally holding in his arms fell onto the bridge surface, thesoul-bottles scattering across the ground.
Another dull sound, like thunder, rumbled from underground.
The four holy artifacts were linked together by the incomprehensible ancient inscriptions. WithShen Wei as the center, they gradually and smoothly started circulating. Every person whoacted as an anchor for the array could feel the connection between the inscriptions Shen Weipressed into their heart and the four holy artifacts nearby—they were seized with an irresistibleimpulse to silently recite those words that they could neither read nor understand.
Lao Li, who was carrying the big bone, seemed to have been agitated by the ancientinscriptions. Lowering his head, he looked at the laughable yet indescribably serious fat cat andlistened to the ringing stemming from the gently shaking cat bell. Suddenly, he spoke in a lowvoice: “Three hundred years ago, there was a person with an incurable disease on his bones.When it was activated, the pain was such that you couldn’t beg to live…and death wouldn’tcome even if you begged for it. If you think about it in the present time, it was probably bonecancer. My family members burned incense to invite the gods without consulting me…”
Da Qing was abruptly shocked and raised his head in disbelief.
Lao Li already had a head full of white hair and he reached out a shaking hand, wanting to oncemore pet the cat head that he’s petted innumerable times before. However, this time, the blackcat dodged him. This old man, who seemed to have a strange obsession with bones and whowas always little known at No. 4 Bright Ave, seemed to have aged 10 years in the space of amoment. His lips quivered for a moment: “Later, we didn’t manage to invite a god but we invitedin a black cat who loved to eat fried fish. That person’s disease had already been regarded ashopeless and he was unable to go out all day long. Every day, he was utterly bored…so whenhe saw a living, breathing creature, he was thrilled. He treated this black cat as a godsend littlefriend. Not being able to leave the court gate, he felt that he might as well stick together with thecat through the difficulties.”
The edges of Lao Li’s eyes were slightly wet, as if he was about to cry. However, his eyes werealready murky and no tears could escape: “But that person later found out that the black catwasn’t actually an ordinary cat, but a godly cat. It could communicate with Yin and Yang, andcould travel between heaven and hell. One day, the black cat broke into the wine cellar, fell into a jar of wine, got drunk, and shared the secrets of the golden bell around his neck. It said thatthe bell was bestowed by its former master, containing half of his primordial spirit inside. It couldbring the dead back to life and reverse reincarnation…death was at that person’s door and thatperson was so scared of death that he was almost crazy.”
Da Qing said coldly: “And so he cheated the bell from me. Thank you for your blessing, givingme such a good lesson. The stupid cat only realized at that time what it meant to guard itselfagainst others. I heard that in the end you died a natural death on your bed. How was it to livethose few more decades? Did it feel good?”
Lao Li quietly said: “It was like a fishbone stuck in my throat, like maggots stuck to the bone.”(t/n first one indicating that there were words he could not say and he felt awful about it, and thesecond means that there were bad feelings that he could not get rid of)
Da Qing twisted his head around: “That’s a pity—what are you doing mixing into the SpecialInvestigations Department? You even went undercover for several decades. That year, thewell-respected scholar felt wronged in watching over the gates and doing chores for us—I onlyfound my bell recently…at that year when you came in, I already didn’t have anything on mybody that you could scheme for, right?”
Lao Li suddenly bent his knees and dropped into a kneel—Three hundred years later, he begana new cycle of reincarnation, yet carried with him the poison buried within the crevices of hisbones from that life. Guarding the doorway of No. 4 Bright Ave as an inconspicuous doorman,he hoped that every day at the end of work he could feed a few of the little crispy fried fishes tothe black cat who was becoming more and more portly. He thought that this lifetime would belived out like this and the next lifetime would be the same, but the Ancient Brush of Merits wasoverhang high above his head and every bit and piece of his past was lined up…ultimately allboiling over like an explosion within his heart.
Lao Li’s murky tears finally fell. As if the still and silent Ancient Brush of Merits had heardsomething, it abruptly moved—little by little, it turned in a half-circle, exposing its red and blackbrush tip.
Then the sixiang answered as one—
Wood bears fire: the Guardian Lamp suddenly shone bright and clear.
Fire bears metal: the Sundial of Reincarnation was in a sunless state, yet the shadow on topslowly moved on its own.
Metal bears water: the vein lines on the Mountain River Awl started to wander like living things.
The earth was trembling violently, until the trilinear seals on the Houtu Great Seal finallyruptured. Vicious currents from fathoms deep below the Seal broke through the earth andemerged, as if ready to engulf the whole world. The bright lamps and fires of all the cities andvillages were utterly extinguished; the light of the living world was like a frail mirage. With asweep of the north wind there’d be no traces left.
At last, a calm and unhurried voice recited the words of sealing: “With the stone of threelifetimes, seal the white mountains of the west.”
Stone, not yet old but eroded.
Lin Jing and Shennong Bowl simultaneously felt as if the pits of their stomachs had emptied.Just then, an inscription carrying the distinctive gold seal of the true dharma and the breath ofthe descendants of Shennong’s followers plunged into the Sundial of Reincarnation. TheSundial revolved thrice at lightning speed, and faded away in midair.
From the west there came a loud sound, as if a great nail had pushed down through the groundto a place millions of miles deep. The black air shrouding the earth forcibly pushed open a clearand distinct crack; and then the dark turbulence was sent scattering, unexpectedly dissipating toa miraculous degree.
“With the essence of mountains and rivers, seal the black waters of the north.”
Water, not yet cold but frozen.
“With the root of good and evil, seal the jade expanse of the east.”
Body, not yet live but dead.
One by one, the three Hallows faded away within the sixiang bagua grid, till only the GuardianLamp was left in the end.
“With the soul of the god, seal the great fire of the south.”
Everything suddenly transformed upon the sixiang bagua grid: the Four Pillars all rose, as theGuardian Lamp moved to the center. Zhao Yunlan was too late to react as he felt the inscriptionflowing out in a torrent—but the connection between himself and the Guardian Lamp had beensevered.
A pair of hands embraced him from behind. Zhao Yunlan suddenly turned his head back. Atsome point, Shen Wei had appeared behind him unawares, and in the instant he turned hishead Shen Wei kissed him deeply.
It was an intensely tender and lingering kiss, until Zhao Yunlan felt something flowing swiftlyfrom his own heart. He suddenly, violently began to struggle—but the hand that Shen Wei hadclasped around the back of his head was like iron, unable to be thrown off no matter what. ZhaoYunlan’s heart turned ice-cold; from his first acquaintance to later familiarity with ShenWei…even all the trifling bits up until the present flashed before his eyes like flickering lights andpassing shadows, and let him sense with utter clarity a hand that was ruthlessly erasing them,little by little.
Shen Wei’s whole body caught on fire. Only until his long hair and robes were swept up togetherinto the fire did he let go of Zhao Yunlan, who was already unconscious, pushing him away andsending him off through the air to land far away in the arms of an astonished Shennong Bowl.
Finally, he gazed deeply at Zhao Yunlan—after which he was consumed at last by the great fire,never to be seen again.
So it turned out that the person he’d wanted to obtain, by any means necessary, was pushedaway by his own hands in the end.
So it turned out that the promise to live and die together, which he had schemed so hard to gain,was a promise first broken by himself in the end.
“No death, no extinguishment, no godhood”—he really was naturally stupid. For only at the endof the road, in the instant when life and death flashed before him amidst flint sparks andlightning, did he suddenly understand it all.
Shen Wei didn’t know why, but his heart was unexpectedly at ease; all of a sudden, he had thefeeling that he “could now be worthy of him,” but…
It was a pity he’d never see him again.
The hand that Zhao Yunlan had originally used to support Shen Wei abruptly tightened.