Chapter 52 Courage—Part Two
Lan WangJi stared straight at the front, “Nothing.”
Wei WuXian, “We’re already familiar with each other, aren’t we? How cold—you don’t even bother giving me a single look. Your leg really is fine?”
Lan WangJi, “We are not familiar.”
Wei WuXian turned around and walked facing the back, determined on making Lan WangJi look at his face, “Don’t force yourself if it’s not fine. Is your leg hurt or broken? When did it happen?”
Just as he was about to say, ‘do you want me to carry you’, a fragrant breeze suddenly wafted around his nose. Wei WuXian turned around and looked to the side. His eyes immediately lit up.
Seeing that he had stopped talking abruptly, Lan WangJi followed his gaze. He saw about half a dozen girls walking together. The one in the center wore a layer of chiffon over her coat of pale scarlet. As wind blew across, the chiffon swayed. Her figure looked exceptionally good from the back.
This figure was what Wei WuXian had been looking at.
One of the girls laughed, “MianMian, your perfume sachet truly is something special. After I wore it, bugs really did stop coming over. The scent is nice too. I seem to feel much more awake after I smell it.”
The voice of the girl called MianMian was indeed soft and sweet, “Inside of the sachet is filled with minced medicinal plants. It can be useful in quite a lot of ways. I’ve still got a few here. Do any of you want one?”
Wei WuXian swept over like a foreboding gust of wind, “MianMian, save me one too.”
The girl was surprised. She didn’t expect to hear a stranger’s voice barge in so suddenly. Turning around, she revealed a fair face, which frowned slightly as she asked, “Who are you? Why do you call me MianMian as well?”
Wei WuXian grinned, “I heard all of them call you MianMian, so I thought that it’s your name. What, it’s not?”
Lan WangJi watched them coldly. Seeing that he was at it again, Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes with emphasis.
MianMian’s cheeks flushed, “You can’t call me that!”
Wei WuXian, “Why not? How about this: if you tell me your name, I won’t call you MianMian anymore. What do you think?”
MianMian, “Why do I have to tell you just because you asked? Before you ask for somebody else’s name, you should tell them your name first, shouldn’t you?”
Wei WuXian, “Sure, if you want my name. Remember, my name is ‘YuanDao’.”
MianMian silently pronounced the name ‘YuanDao’ a few times. She couldn’t remember if the young master of any sect had such a name. But, judging from the boy’s air and appearance, she didn’t think he was the average disciple. Looking at the teasing smile at the corners of Wei WuXian’s lips, she didn’t know what was going on.
Suddenly, Lan WangJi’s low voice came from beside them, “A play on words.”
She realized at once that it had been taken from the poetry line ‘its ceaseless bounds yearn for miles and miles on’ and he was making fun of her. She stomped her feet in spite, “Who’s yearning for you? You have no face!”
The girls collapsed into a laughing mess, chirping, “Wei WuXian, you really have no face!”
“I’ve never seen someone as annoying as you!”
“Let me tell you, she’s called…”
MianMian dragged them away and turned to leave, “Let’s go, let’s go! You can’t tell it to him.”
Wei WuXian shouted from behind, “You can go, but give me a sachet, won’t you?! You’re ignoring me? You don’t want to? If you don’t, I’ll find other people and ask for your name. There must be someone out there who’s willing to tell me…”
Before he finished, a perfume sachet flew over from in front of him. It landed right in the middle of his chest. With an ‘ouch’, Wei WuXian pretended as though his heart hurt, spinning the sachet around his hand with its ribbons around his finger. Even as he walked back to Lan WangJi, he was still spinning the sachet around, grinning. Watching Lan WangJi’s expression grow colder, he asked, “What? You’re looking at me like that again. Right, where were we again? Let’s continue. How about I carry you on my back?”
Lan WangJi looked at him quietly, “Do you behave in such a frivolous way towards everyone?”
Wei WuXian thought for a second, “I think so?”
Lan WangJi looked at the ground. He only replied a moment later, “How impudent!”
He spoke the two words through clenched teeth, along with some strange hatred. He didn’t even deem it worthy to give Wei WuXian another glare. Lan WangJi strained to speed up and walk faster. Seeing that he was forcing himself again, Wei WuXian hurried, “Fine. You don’t have to walk this fast. I’ll just go.”
Combining three strides into two, he quickly caught up to Jiang Cheng.
Yet, Jiang Cheng didn’t give him any good looks either. He spoke menacingly, “You’re so ridiculous!”
Wei WuXian, “It’s not like you’re Lan Zhan or anything, so why do you say ridiculous like he does? His face today is worse than how it used to be. What’s wrong with his leg?”
Jiang Cheng spoke in a sour voice, “You still have the time to pay attention to him? Why don’t you pay attention to yourself!? I don’t know what tricks that idiot Wen Chao is planning this time, making us search for some cave entrance here in Dusk-Creek Mountain. Hopefully it’s not like last time when he made us circle up and be shields of flesh.”
One of the disciples beside them whispered, “Of course his face isn’t so great. Last month, the Cloud Recesses was burnt down. You didn’t know yet, did you?”
Hearing this, Wei WuXian jolted, “Burnt down?!”
In the past few days, Jiang Cheng had heard too many of these stories, so he wasn’t as surprised as Wei WuXian was, “By the Wen Sect’s people?”
The disciple, “You can say that. You can also say… that the Lan Sect itself burnt everything down. The eldest son of the Wen Sect, Wen Xu, went to Gusu. He accused the Lan Sect’s leader of something and forced the Lan Sect’s people to burn down their own residence! It was given pretty names like cleaning up the place so that it’s reborn from the firelight. Most of the Cloud Recesses and its surrounding forest has been burnt down. Just like that, the hundreds of years old paradise had been destroyed. The leader of the Lan Sect was heavily injured. We don’t even know if he’s still alive. Well, well…”
Wei WuXian, “Is Lan Zhan’s leg related to this?”
The disciple, “Of course. The first place that Wen Xu ordered them to burn down was the Library Pavilion. He declared that he’ll teach anyone who wasn’t willing to do it a lesson. Lan WangJi refused. He was attacked by Wen Xu’s people and they broke one of his legs. It hadn’t even been healed yet, and he was dragged out here again. Who knows what they’re trying to do?!”
Wei WuXian thought carefully. Within these days, aside from being scolded by Wen Chao, Lan WangJi really didn’t walk around much. He had always been either standing or sitting, saying nothing at all. He was someone who valued proper conduct beyond anything, so naturally he didn’t let anyone see that his leg had been injured.
Seeing that he seemed like he wanted to go over to Lan WangJi again, Jiang Cheng pulled Wei WuXian away, “What’s wrong with you, now?! You still dare provoke him? You really are digging your own grave!”
Wei WuXian, “I’m not going to provoke him. Look at his leg. He’s been on the go for so many days—the state of his injury must’ve worsened. It became noticeable probably only because he really couldn’t hide it any longer. If he walks on like this, it’s likely that he won’t ever be able to use his leg again. I’m gonna carry him.”
Jiang Cheng pulled him even closer, “It’s not as if you’re familiar with him! Don’t you see how much he hates you? You’re going to carry him? He probably doesn’t even want you a step closer to him.”
Wei WuXian, “It’s alright if he hates me—I don’t hate him. I’ll get him onto my back the second I get hold of him. Could he possibly choke me to death while on my back?”
Jiang Cheng warned, “We aren’t even able to care for ourselves; how do we have the time to care about the trivialities of others?”
Wei WuXian, “First, this isn’t a triviality. Second, things like this, somebody will have to care about them, sooner or later!”
As the two argued with lowered voices, one of the Wen Sect’s servants came over and scolded, “Don’t talk amongst yourselves. Watch what you do!”
After the servant came and went, a dainty girl approached them. Her name was Wang LingJiao. She was one of the servants that Wen Chao kept by his side. Exactly how she served him, though, everyone knew without the need of explaining. She used to be a maid of Wen Chao’s principal wife. Since she had quite the look, she got into his bed after exchanging a few looks with her mistress. As one’s position elevates, those around them receive blessings as well. In the world of cultivation, a certain ‘YingchuanWang Sect’ had also appeared.
Since her spiritual power was weak, she couldn’t use upper-level swords, which was why she held a long branding iron in her hand. All of the Wen Sect’s servants had one of these branding irons. Without the need to be heated, it gave a painful brand to whomever it touched.
Holding it in her hand, Wang LingJiao scolded pompously, “Young Master Wen told you to search for the entrance, so what are you doing, whispering to each other?”
At such a time, even a mere maid who had earned her position by crawling into another’s bed sheets could bloat with such arrogance before them. They weren’t sure whether to laugh or frown.
Suddenly, somebody shouted from the side, “Found it!”
Wang LingJiao didn’t have the time to pay them any more attention. Having rushed over, she took a look at it, then beamed, “Young Master Wen! They found it! The entrance!”
It was a hole in the ground, hidden quite well beneath an old banyan tree with a trunk as large as the hug of three men. The first reason as to why they couldn’t find it was that entrance was rather small, not even five feet in width, and the second that the thick, tangled roots and vines weaved a firm web, blocking the entrance. Above it, there was also a layer of leaves and branches, mud and stone, and thus it was almost unnoticeable.
Pushing aside the rotten leaves and mud, cutting away the roots, and the dark, eerie hole had been revealed.
The entrance led to deep underground. The cold air plunged into everyone’s face, sending chills down their back. Nothing was heard of the pebble that had been tossed inside. It was as though it had sunk into the sea.
Wen Chao was ecstatic, “This must be it! Quick, everyone, get down there!”
Jin ZiXuan couldn’t hold it any longer. He spoke coldly, “You brought us here, saying that we’ll be hunting a beast. Then, if I may ask, what sort of a beast is it? Informing us beforehand would allow us to cooperate with more efficiency so that we wouldn’t be as confused as last time.”
Wen Chao, “Inform you?”
He stood up, first pointing at Jin ZiXuan and then at himself, “Just how many times do I have to make myself clear for you to remember? Don’t get it wrong. You are only the cultivators who serve me. I’m the one who gives the orders. I don’t need others to tell me their suggestions. I am the only one who directs the battle and commands the troops. I am also the only one who can conquer the beast!”
He spoke the words ‘only one’ with great emphasis. The lofty voice and arrogant tone evoked both laughter and hatred within the ones who listened. Wang LingJiao scolded, “Didn’t you hear what Young Master Wen said? Get down there, quick!”
Jin ZiXuan was standing at the very front. Holding back his anger, he lifted the hem of his robe, grabbed one of the thickest vines, and jumped without any hesitation into the endless hole.
This time, Wei WuXian could relate to his feelings on a profound level. No matter what creatures haunted this cave, facing them would be much more comfortable than facing Wen Chao and the others. If he let this hell of a pair damage his eyes any longer, he was afraid that he really might choose to perish alongside them!
The people following Jin ZiXuan entered the hole one by one.
Since the group of forcibly gathered disciples had their swords taken away, they could only crawl down slowly. The vines grew along the wall of the hole. The were quite sturdy, thick as the wrists of young children. Clinging to it, Wei WuXian silently calculated how deep they were going as he lowered himself at a leisurely pace.
His feet finally touched the ground after sliding down for almost thirty feet.
Wen Chao shouted a few things from above ground. Having ensured that it was safe underground, he flew easily down, sword under his feet, Wang LingJiao in his arms. A while after, the disciples and servants also landed one by one.
Jiang Cheng whispered, “Hopefully the prey he wants to hunt this time won’t be anything too difficult. I don’t know if there are any other exits here. If the ghoul or beast flips out inside of here, such a long vine might break in half and it’d be hard for us to even run away.”
The rest of the group was thinking the same thing. They couldn’t help but look up at the small, white spot that was the entrance. Everyone was worried.
Wen Chao leaped off his sword, “What are you doing just standing there? Do you need me to teach you what to do? Go!”
The group of the boys were chased into the depths of the cave.
Since they needed to scout the path at the front, Wen Chao ordered his servants to provide them with a few torches. The ceiling of the cave was both high and broad, unreachable by the light of the torches. Wei WuXian paid attention to the echoes. He felt that the deeper they went, the more spacious the echoes sounded. It was likely that they were already more than a hundred feet below ground.
The people at the front maintained high alert. They didn’t know how long had passed when they had finally arrived before a deep pool of water.
Even if the pool was above ground, it’d be considered a vast lake. The water was eerily black. Stone islets of all sizes were also protruding from the surface.
And there was no other path before them.
But, even though the path was at an end, they still hadn’t found the prey of their night-hunt. They didn’t even know what exactly it was. Everyone’s heart was filled with uncertainty, still stiffly maintaining their vigilance.
As he hadn’t seen the beast that he was expecting, Wen Chao also felt irritated. After cursing a few words, he suddenly had an ‘idea’, “Find somebody, hang them up, and let out some blood to lure the thing out.”
Beasts usually craved blood more than anything. It’d definitely be lured out by the scent of the blood and the immobile human being hanging mid-air!
Wang LingJie answered and immediately pointed to a girl. She ordered, “How about her?”
The girl was the one who gave out perfume sachets on their way here, ‘MianMian’. Suddenly having been chosen, her mind went completely blank. Although this choice of Wang LingJiao’s appeared random, she’d actually been planning it for a long time. Most of the people that the sects sent here were boys. Thus, toward the few girls, Wen Chao couldn’t help but pay more attention, especially MianMian. She looked fair and had been harrassed a few times by Wen Chao, though could only suffer in silence. Yet, Wang LingJiao had seen and loathed everything.
MianMian realized that she really was the one who had been chosen. With a face brimming with fear, she staggered a few steps back. Seeing that this girl was the one Wang LingJiao chose, Wen Chao remembered that he never had the chance to have her yet and felt that it’d be a pity, “This one? How about someone else?”
Wang LingJiao looked as though she’d been wronged, “Why someone else? I choose this one. Don’t tell me that you’ll miss her?”
She let loose her coquetry, and Wen Chao was over the moon with delight, half of his heart having already melted. Then, turning to look at the way MianMian dressed, he was certain that she wasn’t part of the sect’s clan. She was at most a disciple, so she’d surely be the perfect bait, as even if she was gone the sect wouldn’t come pester him, “Nonsense. Why would you think that I’ll miss her? Do whatever you want. Everything is up to JiaoJiao!”
MianMian knew that if she was hung up, she probably wouldn’t be able to come back down alive. She tried to run away, but wherever she fled, the people dispersed around her. Just as Wei WuXian twitched, Jiang Cheng held him firmly down. MianMian suddenly noticed that two people remained still. She hid behind their backs at once, shivering.
The two were Jin ZiXuan and Lan WangJi.
As the Wen Sect’s servants that were about to tie MianMian up saw that the two didn’t intend on moving, they shouted, “Move to the side!”
Lan WangJi was silent with indifference.
Seeing that the situation wasn’t good, Wen Chao warned, “Why are you standing there? You can’t understand human speech? Or do you want to save the damsel in distress?”
Jin ZiXuan lifted his brows, “Is that enough? It wasn’t enough for people to be flesh shields for you, and now you want live humans to bleed for you to use as bait?!”
Wei WuXian found this somewhat surprising, So Jin ZiXuan really does have some nerve.
Wen Chao pointed at them, “Are you rebelling against me? Let me warn you, I’ve been tolerating you for a very long time. Right now, hang the brat up with your own hands! Or else none of the people from your sects can expect to return!”
Jin ZiXuan sneered and refused to budge. Lan WangJi also looked as though he had heard nothing, so motionless that he seemed to be meditating.
However, one of the GusuLan Sect’s disciples on the side had been trembling as he listened to Wen Chao’s threatening words. He finally couldn’t hold it any longer as he rushed over, grabbing MianMian, and prepared to tie her up. Lan WangJi’s brows stiffened. He immediately struck the disciple to the side.
Although he didn’t say anything, the way he looked at the disciple was more than imposing. What such a look meant was clear to everyone—it truly is a shame that the GusuLan Sect has taught a disciple like you!
The disciple’s shoulders quivered as he backed off slowly, unable to face the others’ eyes. Wei WuXian whispered to Jiang Cheng, “Uh-oh. Judging from Lan Zhan’s personality, this won’t go well.”
Jiang Cheng clenched his fists as well.
In such a situation, it was almost impossible to care for oneself only and hope that no blood would be lost!
Wen Chao was enraged, shouting, “How dare you! Kill them!”
A few of the Wen Sect’s disciples unsheathed their swords, rushing toward Lan WangJi and Jin ZiXuan. The ‘Core-melting Hand’, Wen ZhuLiu, stood behind Wen Chao with his hands folded behind him. He never attacked, as though he thought that he didn’t need to do so. He was right, seeing that the two boys were at a loss in terms of both weaponry and sheer numbers. Even more, after the past days of being constantly on the move, they were in quite a bad state, not to mention that Lan WangJi had been injured. They definitely wouldn’t be able to last long. Watching his subordinates fight with the two, Wen Chao looked as if his mood was much better. He spat, “Talking back to me—what did you think you are? People like you really do deserve to be killed.”
A grinning voice came from the side, “That’s right. All those who oppress others and do evil relying on the power of their clan should be killed. Not only that, they should be beheaded for tens of thousands to revile so that those to come would beware.”
Hearing this, Wen Chao spun around, “What did you say?”
Wei WuXian pretended to be surprised, “Do you need me to repeat it? Sure. All those who oppress others and do evil relying on the power of their clan should be killed. Not only that, they should be beheaded for tens of thousands to revile so that those to come would beware. You heard it this time?”
Hearing this, Wen ZhuLiu seemed to ponder as he glanced at Wei WuXian. Wen Chao erupted, “How dare you say such absurd, outrageous, and pretentious words!”
Wei WuXian first lifted the corners of his mouth with a ‘pfft’, then immediately burst into unbridled laughter.
Under everyone’s shocked eyes, he laughed so hard that he was out of breath, clutching Jiang Cheng’s shoulder as he spoke, “Absurd? Outrageous? I’d say you’re the one who’s all of those! Wen Chao, do you know who was the one that said those words? I’m sure you don’t, do you? Let me tell you. This was said by the most, most, most famous cultivator of your sect, the one who founded the entire thing, Wen Mao. You dared say that one of your ancestor’s remarks are absurd and outrageous? Well said, very well said! Ahahahahaha…”
Within the Quintessence of the Wen Sect that had been given out, even the most ordinary of smalltalk comments could be analyzed over and over, their deep meanings boasted with exceptional extravagance. Let alone memorizing it well, Wei WuXian felt disgusted after just flipping through its pages. However, he found this quote of Wen Mao’s quite ironic, which was why he could recall it with ease.
Wen Chao’s complexion switched between red and white. Wei WuXian added, “Right, what was the accusation given to those who insult famous cultivators of the Wen Sect again? How should they be punished? I remember that it was execution, right? Yes, very well, you can go die now.”
Wen Chao couldn’t hold himself back any longer, unsheathing his sword and lunging at Wei WuXian. With that, he lunged out of Wen ZhuLiu’s range of protection.
Wen ZhuLiu had always been used to defending against the attacks of others. He had never expected Wen Chao to leave by his own will. Facing the sudden difficulty, he somehow couldn’t react in time. On the other hand, as Wei WuXian provoked Wen Chao, he was precisely waiting for the moment of uncontrollable rage. The smile by his lips didn’t falter at all as he attacked with the speed of lightning. In a split second, he had snatched the sword and reversed the situation, subduing Wen Chao with just one move!
One hand gripping Wen Chao, he leaped a few times and landed on one of the islets above the pool, keeping his distance from Wen ZhuLiu. With his other hand he pressed the sword onto Wen Chao’s neck, warning, “Nobody move. If you’re not careful, I might just decide to let some blood out of your Young Master Wen!”
Wen Chao screeched, “Stop moving! Stop moving!”
The disciples surrounding Lan WangJi and Jin ZiXuan finally ceased their attacks. Wei WuXian shouted, “Core-melting Hand, you’re not moving either! You know how the temper of the Wen Sect’s leader is. Your master is in my hand. If he loses just one drop of blood, then not one of the people here should hope to live on, including you!”
Wen ZhuLiu put his arms down as Wei WuXian had expected. Seeing that the situation was under control, Wei WuXian was about to speak when he suddenly felt that the entire ground below him had trembled.
He was on guard at once, “Jiang Cheng! Is it an earthquake?”
They were currently inside of an underground cave. If an earthquake or a landslide happened, it’d be extremely terrifying whether their entrance was blocked or they were buried alive. Yet, Jiang Cheng replied, “No!”
But Wei WuXian felt that the shaking of the ground had intensified. The blade almost touched Wen Chao’s throat quite a couple of times, making him scream. Jiang Cheng immediately shouted, “It’s not an earthquake—what’s moving is the thing under your feet!!!”
Wei WuXian had noticed as well. It wasn’t that the ground was trembling, but that the islet that he landed on. Not only was it trembling, it was also rising and rising. The area above the surface of the water grew larger and larger.
He had finally realized. This wasn’t an islet, but a large creature that had been hidden within the depths of the pool—right now, he was standing on the shell behind the back the beast!
MianMian: Mian means ‘soft’, but can also mean ‘ceaseless”.
Its ceaseless bounds yearn for miles and miles on: Here, Wei WuXian is making a pun with reference to a famous poem about a vast field of grass. Mianmian refers to the ceaseless bounds of the grass while yuandao refers to ‘a long distance’.
Wen Xu: Xu means ‘rising sun’.
Wang LingJiao: Wang is not only one of the most common surnames in China but also one of the surnames that are considered the least poetic. Ling means ‘vivacious” or ‘spiritual’ while Jiao means delicate. When put together, this is a very ‘unsophisticated’ name, compared to the other names in the story.
JiaoJiao: This is Wang LingJiao’s nickname.