Chapter 26 Malice—Part Four
Lan WangJi, “The details, please.”
Sitting down, his polite words were almost as powerful as a threat. Nie HuaiSang finally started his explanation.
He began, “HanGuang-Jun, you know that we, the Nie Sect, are different from the other sects. Because our sect’s founder was a butcher, the other sects cultivate using swords, while our sect, on the other hand, cultivates using sabers.”
This was known by everyone and was by no means a secret. Even the sect motif of the QingheNie Sect was the vicious head of a beast that resembled a dog or a pig. Nie HuaiSang continued, “Because our cultivation method was different from those of the other sects’ and our founder was originally a butcher, it was only natural for blood to be shed. The sabers of our past sect leaders were all heavy with hostile energy and killing intent. Almost every single sect leader met a sudden death from a qi deviation explosion. Their irritable tempers also had a lot to do with this.”
Wei WuXian raised a brow, “Now, this is getting quite close to demonic cultivation.”
Nie HuaiSang quickly defended, “It’s different! Demonic cultivation is only demonic cultivation because it uses human lives. But, instead of human lives, our sect’s sabers use the lives of those evil spirits and beasts. Throughout their whole lives, they’ve been killing such things, so if they aren’t able to kill them any longer, they’d cause trouble and disrupt the sect. A saber spirit only deems one person as its master, allowing nobody else to use it. It’s not like we later generations can melt the sabers. First, it’d be disrespectful to the ancestors; second, it’s possible that even melting them won’t solve the problem.”
Wei WuXian commented, “Quite full of themselves, aren’t they?”
Nie HuaiSang, “Indeed. The sabers who fought and cultivated alongside our ancestors are indeed in a position to be full of themselves.”
He continued, “As the generations went on, the sect leaders had higher levels of cultivation, and the problem also worsened. That is, until the sixth sect leader came up with a solution.”
Wei WuXian asked, “To build the Man-Eating Castle?”
Nie HuaiSang, “No, no. Although they are connected, this solution only appeared later. The sixth sect leader did this: he built two coffins for his father’s and his grandfather’s sabers, then dug a tomb. Inside the tomb, instead of any valuable treasures, he put hundreds of corpses that were about to transform.”
Lan WangJi frowned slightly. Nie HuaiSang immediately blurted, “HanGuang-Jun, I can explain! They weren’t killed by our sect’s people! We had to gather them from place to place! We also bought a bunch of them at high prices. The sixth sect leader said that, if the saber spirits wanted to fight with evil beings, then give them evil beings for them to fight forever. The pre-transformation corpses were buried along with the sword-containing coffins, like they were burial goods for the saber spirits. The saber spirits would suppress the transformation of the corpses and, at the same time, the corpses would calm the sword spirits’ desire and fury. The situation would go on as they were, with the two sides keeping each other in check. Only by this method did the future generations attain peace.”
Wei WuXian asked again, “Then why was a stone castle built afterward? Why were the corpses buried inside the walls? And, didn’t you say that it did eat a few people?”
Nie HuaiSang answered, “These questions are actually the same question. I guess… you can say that it did eat people. But it wasn’t on purpose!!! Our sixth sect leader constructed the saber tomb in such a way that it looked like the average tomb, and the future generations followed how he did it. But, about fifty years ago, the tomb was dug up by some grave robbers.”
Wei WuXian made an “oh” sound. He silently exclaimed, What a case of waking the sleeping lion.
Nie HuaiSang, “For an event as big as building a tomb, no matter how cautious and discreet one can be, it’s impossible for everything to stay hidden. The grave robbers pried into the matter and firmly believed that there was a huge tomb from past dynasties in the Xinglu Ridge. They planned this out a long time ago and came prepared. Among the unruly group of people, there were actually one or two who had true skills, allowing the mob to locate the orientation, pass the maze array, and find our saber tomb. They’ve seen enough dead people in their lives, so, after digging a hole and entering the tomb, they weren’t really scared of the corpses. But they searched everywhere for gold and treasures, breathing next to the corpses, and, even worse, they were youthful men in the prime of their lives, filled with yang energy. Remember, the corpses lying inside were all about to transform!
“It wasn’t hard to figure out what happened. Ten-or-so corpses transformed immediately.
“However, these grave robbers weren’t average people. With a complete set of tools, they actually managed to somehow kill the walking corpses once more. After the fight, there was flesh and blood all over the ground. They finally realized that the tomb was dangerous and got ready to leave. But, just as they were leaving, they were eaten!
“The number of corpses put in the tomb was strictly controlled. It was neither more, neither less, just enough to be at a balance with the saber spirits. It would’ve been fine if the grave robbers caused just the transformation, since, after they left, the saber spirits would’ve suppressed the transformation again. But, with the chaos they caused, the corpses were all cut to pieces, and so there were suddenly a few less corpses than it began with. For the saber tomb to ensure that there were enough fierce corpses and sword spirits to suppress each other, it… it could only… close itself off and trap them inside the tomb for the group to make up for the shortage they had caused.
“Since the saber tomb was destroyed, the sect leader at that time began to think of different methods. He chose another spot on the Xinglu Ridge and built a saber hall instead of a saber tomb. In case grave robbers came again, he hid the corpses inside the walls in disguise.
“The sword hall was the rumored ‘Man-Eating Castle’. When the grave robbers came to Qinghe, they pretended to be hunters. They never returned after going into the Xinglu Ridge and left no corpses behind, so people started to say that they were devoured by a monster in the ridge. Then, after the stone castles were built, before the new maze array was set up, a passerby accidentally came upon it again. Luckily, no doors were built on the castles, so he couldn’t venture inside. But, after leaving the ridge, he told everyone that there were a group of strange, white castles in the Xinglu Ridge and that the man-eating monster must have dwelled there. We thought that it’d be beneficial for the rumors to spread so that nobody dared to go near the area, so we exaggerated a bit and created the legend of the ‘Man-Eating Castle’. But it really can eat humans!”
Nie HuaiSang took out a handkerchief and a white stone the size of a garlic head from within his sleeves. He used the handkerchief to wipe away sweat and passed the white stone over, “The two of you can take a look at this.”
Wei WuXian took the stone. After having a better look at it, he found something white that protruded from the stone. It looked like… the bone of a human’s finger.
He immediately realized what was going on. Nie HuaiSang finished wiping his sweat and continued, “That… Young Master Jin… somehow made an explosion that created a hole in the wall. To be able to break such a thick wall must have meant that he also carried a lot of spiritual tools on him—but wait, that’s not the point… What I’m saying is that the area he blew up just happened to be the earliest saber hall we built in the Xinglu Ridge. Back then, we didn’t think of using stone bricks on the both sides and filling the center with soil to prevent yang energy from going in, so that they can’t easily transform. We simply put the corpses inside. So, when Young Master Jin made the opening, he didn’t realize that he also destroyed a skeleton that was buried inside. Before long, he was sucked into the walls of the castle, in place of the corpse that he blew up… Every so often, I go to the Xinglu Ridge to check things out. Today, when I went, I found this. Just as I picked up the stone, a dog came after me. Ah… The sword hall is pretty much our ancestral tomb. I really…”
The more Nie HuaiSang talked, the more miserable he felt, “Most cultivators know that this is our area, so they’d never night-hunt around Qinghe. Who knew that…”
Who knew that he had such bad luck. First, the disobedient Jin Ling had his mind set on the Xinglu Ridge, and then the two in search of where the ghost hand pointed, Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian, came as well. He spoke again, “HanGuang-Jun and you… I already said that you mustn’t tell anyone else about this. Or else…”
Or else, seeing from the QingheNie Sect’s half-dead situation right now, if this was released to the public, Nie HuaiSang would become a sinner, a disgrace to his ancestors even if he died. It was only natural that he’d rather be the secret laughingstock of all the sects instead of focusing on cultivation or daring to sharpen his saber’s blade. If his cultivation reached a certain level, he would gradually become more irritable and, in the end, die with anger the same way that his brother and ancestors died. Even after his death, his sword would haunt the living and disrupt the peace of the whole sect. If so, being a worthless person even seemed better.
It was quite an unsolvable problem. Ever since the founder of the Nie Sect, this had been the same. Surely it didn’t mean that the future generations would have to deny the path and basis that the founder forged? All of the cultivation sects were skilled in different areas. Similar to how the GusuLan Sect was skilled at music, the violence and power of the QingheNie Sect’s saber spirits were how it outshone the other sects. If it abandoned its founder’s ideal and started anew in search of a different path, who knew how many years it’d take, or if it’d even succeed or not. Moreover, Nie HuaiSang would never dare to betray the Nie Sect and cultivate a different path. Because of this, his only choice was to be a good-for-nothing.
If he weren’t a sect leader and spent his whole life the same way as he did back in the Cloud Recesses, fooling around for entire days, he’d certainly be in a more comfortable position than he was now. But, since his brother had passed away already, no matter how hard it was for him, he’d still have to take the responsibility on his shoulders and stumble forward.
Nie HuaiSang left after telling them again and again not to say anything, and Wei WuXian blanked out for a while. Suddenly, he felt Lan WangJi walk over. Lan WangJi kneeled with a single leg in front of him, then proceeded to roll up his trousers with an earnest face. He hurriedly spoke, “Wait, again?”
Lan WangJi, “We will remove the Curse Mark first.”
Within one day, HanGuang-Jun had kneeled in such a way so many times in front of him. Although Lan WangJi looked quite serious, he really couldn’t bear to look at the scene. Wei WuXian spoke, “I’ll do it myself.” Quickly rolling up the trouser legs, he could see that the Curse Mark covered the entire lower half of his leg, passed his knees, and climbed onto the upper half. Wei WuXian took a glance at it, “It’s already passed my thighs.”
Lan WangJi turned his head away and did not answer. Wei WuXian found it quite odd, “Lan Zhan?”
Transform: This refers to the turning of a normal corpse to a “walking corpse” or “fierce corpse”. If anyone calls this process “zombify” or these corpses “zombies” (such as the translator of Daomu Biji), I will send knives to their house.
Sleeves: In Ancient Chinese clothing, there were openings inside of sleeves for storing things.