Chapter 79: Loyalty—Part One
Translated by K of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The bloodbath of Nightless City, legendarily, was a bloody battle in which the YiLing Patriarch, Wei WuXian, slaughtered over three thousand people during the night of the pledge conference on his own.
Some said that it was five thousand as well. No matter three or five, one thing was for sure—in that night, the ruins of Nightless City became a gory hell in Wei WuXian’s hands.
And the murderer, even under everyone’s attacks, managed to return to Burial Mound unscathed. Nobody knew how exactly he did it.
Due to this battle, the cultivation world was quite badly wounded. And since this was the case, after nearly three months of conserving energy and scheming plans, the Four Great Sects were finally able to successfully pull off a siege on the demon’s den, Burial Mound, returning the word ‘massacre’ to the Wen Sect’s remnants and the maddened YiLing Patriarch.
Wei WuXian looked at the cultivators before the Demon-Slaughtering Cave. Their expressions were the absolute same as those of the cultivators from the night of the pledge conference, pouring their wine on the ground as they took the pledge to scatter the ashes of the Wen Sect’s remnants and him. Some were the survivors of that night, others were the descendents of those cultivators, but even more were ‘persons of justice’ who held the same beliefs as them.
Yi WeiChun, the middle aged cultivator who proclaimed to have had his legs cut off by him and had to wear wooden prosthetics from then on, spoke up again, “The debts of blood you owe three thousand people will never be repaid, not even if you die a million times!”
Wei WuXian interrupted him, “Three thousand people? There were indeed three thousand cultivators present that night at Nightless City, but so too were the leaders the sects and many of their elites. With all of them present, could I have really killed all of the three thousand people? Are you thinking too highly of me, or are you looking down on them?”
He was only stating a simple fact calmly, but the cultivator felt as if he was scorned, fuming, “What do you think we’re talking about here? How could there be bargaining to debts of blood?”
Wei WuXian, “It’s not that I want to bargain about such a thing, but that I don’t want my charges to be doubled just because of some words from another. I won’t shoulder what I didn’t do.”
Someone spoke, “What you didn’t do? What is there that you didn’t do?”
Wei WuXian, “For example, I’m not the one who cut ChiFeng-Zun apart. I’m not the one who forced Madam Jin to take her own life at Koi Tower. I’m not the one who controls all of those corpses you ran into when you rushed up the mountain either.”
Su She smiled, “Patriarch YiLing, I’ve always heard that you’re arrogant, yet now you’re being so humble. If not you, I really can’t think of anyone in this world who can control so many fierce corpses, putting up such a good fight with us.”
Wei WuXian, “You really can’t think of anyone? Anyone can do it if they have the Tiger Seal.”
Su She, “Isn’t the Tiger Seal one of your weapons?”
Wei WuXian, “Now it’s time to ask just whom it is that treasures it so much. It’s like Wen Ning. Back then, some certain sects or so were scared to death of the Ghost General. They said they’d kill him on the surface, but behind their backs they hid him for over ten years. How strange. Who was the one that said his ashes had been scattered back then?”
In unison, everyone looked across at the LanlingJin Sect’s disciples who were present. After all, the LanlingJin Sect’s leader was the one who held complete responsibility over the matter, proclaiming with solemnity that the two leaders of the Wen Sect’s remnants had been burned, and even scattering the ashes in Nightless City.
Su She immediately replied, “You really don’t have to make up stories.”
Suddenly, strange rustlings and rumbles sounded amid the forests again.
Lan QiShen, “Be careful, everyone! The second wave of corpses is here!”
Hearing this, half of the group went forth to deal with it, while the other half still pointed the tips of their swords alarmingly at the ‘mob’ in front of the Demon-Slaughtering Cave.
Wei WuXian, “I said, already, that these corpses aren’t under my control. If you have the time to look at me, perhaps you should look at them instead.”
There were quite a few famed cultivator present, as well as some sect leaders and seniors. To deal with a group of fierce corpses was nothing difficult. With the sounds of the guqin and the sword glares flying everywhere, nobody had the spare time to care about what went on here.
With a wave of his whip, Jiang Cheng slashed three corpses into pieces before he turned around to Jin Ling, “Jin Ling! Do you want your legs or not?!”
What he meant was that he’d break Jin Ling’s legs if he still refused to come back. However, such a threat was something that Jin Ling had heard over and over again. He’d never done it for real. And thus, he glanced at Jiang Cheng, but still didn’t move. Jiang Cheng cursed, retrieving Zidian with a twist of his wrist, as though to wrap it around Jin Ling and drag him back by force. Yet, the purple light glowing on Zidian’s body suddenly dimmed. A moment later, it went out.
Immediately, the long whip became a silver ring and wrapped itself around his ring finger. Jiang Cheng paused in astonishment. He’d never been in a situation where Zidian morphed back on its own. He was still staring at his palm when two drops of blood splattered on the center of it.
Jiang Cheng lifted his hand and wiped to see a handful of red. Jin Ling exclaimed, “Uncle!”
A few shouts of surprise came from within the crowd battling with the corpses as well. Over there, most of the sword glares had dimmed, and two scarlet streaks of blood hung on over half of the people’s faces. Nosebleeds. For some, blood trickled from both their noses and their mouths!
One of the sword cultivators exclaimed, “What’s happening?!”
“My spiritual powers are gone!”
“Shixiong, come help for a bit! Something happened over here!”
Bichen was unsheathed, killing the corpse that chased after the cultivator shouting for help. However, the distressed calls grew in number, rising and falling. The crowd gathered slowly as well, retreating in the direction of the Demon-Slaughtering Cave.
Right now, the cultivators who were prepared to have a grand battle up at Burial Mound had suddenly lost their spiritual powers. Not only had the sword glares disappeared and the talismans failed, even the melodies of the GusuLan Sect’s and the MolingSu Sect’s disciples had become ordinary sounds, losing the exorcising abilities.
The situation was reversed!
Lan WangJi took off the guqin from his back. The vibration of the strings echoed skyward. However, no matter how adept he was at Sound of Vanquish, he was nonetheless alone. Wen Ning leaped out of the Cave and helped him chase the corpses away, at the same time having to endure in silence the kicks and punches coming from these cultivators. Fortunately, he was unable to feel pain, and thus wasn’t affected.
Amid the pandemonium, Lan SiZhui suddenly rushed out and shouted, “Everyone, come here, come inside the Demon-Slaughtering Cave. There is a large array on the ground of the cave. It is missing some parts, but it should work if it is mended. It should be able to manage for a while!”
A few of the cultivators who had gone mad with killing wanted to go in as soon as they heard it. Su She, however, shouted in a louder voice, “Nobody go in! It must be a trap! There must be even greater dangers lying inside for us!”
Hearing his shouts, the people suddenly realized, hesitating as to whether or not to go. With a wave of his hand, Wei WuXian let down a rain of talismans, “Dying outside is dying, dying inside is dying too. You’re dying anyways, and you can at least put it off a bit if you come inside. Why are you hurrying all these people to die sooner?”
Although his words made quite a lot of sense, because he was the one saying them, the people were even more scared to go in. Still hesitating, the continued their hard fight with the fierce corpses. Others were able to manage for a while with their spiritual powers stripped away, but Nie HuaiSang couldn’t. Everyone knew that he was both timid and untalented. He wasn’t ambitious either, and didn’t work hard as a cultivator. He was caught off-guard by the sudden change of events and didn’t receive any wounds only from his personal guards’ protection.
Seeing that the corpses grew larger and larger in number with no end in sight, he hurried, “Are you all going to go in or not? If you don’t, I’ll go in first. Excuse my absence. Quick, quick, quick—everyone, come in!”
Before he even finished speaking, Nie HuaiSang led the QingheNie Sect’s disciples into the Demon-Slaughtering Cave with quick decisiveness. He really was as anxious as a dog that had lost its owner, as scared as a fish that had escaped the net. Others were immediately shocked speechless by his straightforwardness.
At this point, OuYang ZiZhen shouted as well, “Dad, stop killing them! Trust me, come in! We just went in the cave sometime ago. There aren’t any traps inside!”
A few of the other boys shouted as well, “Yeah, there really is a big array on the ground!”
Jin Ling, “Uncle, come in!”
Jiang Cheng lunged with Sandu, which had lost its glare as well, threatening, “You can shut up!”
After his shout, however, blood dripped down from his mouth and nose again. Jin Ling dashed down the stairs and began to drag him toward the Cave.
Right now, having lost his spiritual powers and spent half the day fighting, Jiang Cheng was exhausted, and somehow successfully pulled into the cave by Jin Ling. The Jiang Sect’s cultivators hurried to follow their leader too.
At the same time, Nie HuaiSang’s beaming voice echoed from within the empty cave, “Everyone, come in! It’s quite big inside! Could a senior come in and help mend the array on the ground? I can’t! I don’t know how to mend it!”
Hearing his last sentence, three large words appeared in everyone’s mind, “Good-for-nothing!”
Lan WangJi’s fingers didn’t leave the strings of his guqin as he looked up, “Uncle!”
In the first place, Lan QiRen didn’t want to go inside the Cave. He’d rather battle here outside until his last moment. Yet, right now, he wasn’t alone. He was responsible for many Lan Sect cultivators and the Jin Sect cultivators who’d been left to his command. The main force of the battle wasn’t him, either. He didn’t want to ignore the lives of these disciples, willing to catch any hope that there was.
He didn’t look at Lan WangJi, raising his sword and ordering, “Proceed with caution!”
Until now, the LanlingJin Sect, the GusuLan Sect, the QingheNie Sect, and the YunmengJiang Sect had all gone inside already. With them in the lead, the rest of the people immediately decided not to continue the struggle either. If there really was some beast or demon within the cave, there were four tall pillars blocking it for them. They hastened inside as well. In the end, the MolingSu Sect’s people were the only ones who hadn’t moved.
Wei WuXian, “Huh? Sect Leader Su, aren’t you going in? Very well, then you can stay outside. But everyone’s out of spiritual powers, right? If you stay outside, won’t you been seeking your own death? Such commendable courage.”
Su She gave Wei WuXian a sideway glance. Although his darkened face twitched uncontrollably, he led his disciples inside as well.
The Demon-Slaughtering Cave successfully held all of the over a thousand people. The breaths and whispers of these people echoed endlessly within the main area of the cave. Lan QiRen approached Nie HuaiSang as soon as he entered and went to examine the smeared parts of the array on the ground under his eager, expectant gaze. The array was indeed quite old. At once, he cut his palm open and mended the array with his blood. Wen Ning guarded the stairs, throwing away the corpses that were the nearest. As soon as the array was mended, the corpses seemed as though they were blocked out by an invisible barrier, temporarily unable to come in.
Wei WuXian waited until Lan WangJi put his guqin away before walking into the Cave with him. As the cultivators who had just let out sighs of relief saw the two walk down the stairs, one in black and the other in white, they became worried once more.
Nobody expected that this would be the case. They were supposed to be here to join in a siege on the YiLing Patriarch, yet now it seemed like they were the ones facing a siege. They even had to hide in the YiLing Patriarch’s cave to live on just a bit longer. Lan QiRen finished mending the array on the ground and stood before the crowd, blocking the two’s path. He held his chin high, almost wanting to block them with his arms, as if he’d fight Wei WuXian until the end of his life if he dared make a move.
Lan WangJi, “… Uncle.”
The sense of disappointment hadn’t left Lan QiRen’s heart yet. As of the moment, he still didn’t want to look at the disciple whom he was so proud of, having taught him throughout all those years. He only looked at Wei WuXian, speaking coldly, “Just what do you intend on doing?”
Wei WuXian sat down on the stairs, “Nothing. But since you’re here already, why not have a chat…”
Yi WeiChun shouted, “There’s nothing for us to chat about with you!”
Wei WuXian, “How could there be nothing to chat about? I’m not buying it—don’t you want to know how you’ve suddenly lost your spiritual powers? From the bottom of my heart, I’m not so powerful as to have done something to all of you without anyone noticing.”
Just as Yi WeiChun spat, he heard Nie HuaiSang respond, “Yeah, I think he makes a lot of sense.”
Everyone glared at him.
Wei WuXian continued, “I’m guessing that before you came here for the siege, you didn’t have the time to gather up and have a meal together, so you shouldn’t be under any sort of poison.”
Lan SiZhui, “It is definitely not poison. I have never heard of a poison that could dissolve one’s spiritual powers so suddenly. Or else, it would definitely be sought after by many cultivators at high prices, and the rumors would be an uproar.”
Many medics were among the cultivators who came. They grabbed a few people and felt for their pauses. The people asked, “How is it? How is it? Is the disappearance of our spiritual powers temporary or permanent?!”
The question immediately attracted the attention of many people. They didn’t have the spare time to take precautions against Wei WuXian any longer. After all, if their spiritual powers had disappeared forever, eternally, they’d be more-or-less useless. That’d definitely be a more agonizing end than dying here.
The medics had a short discussion before they spoke, “Everyone, your golden cores are unharmed. There’s no need to worry! It should be temporary.”
Hearing that it was temporary, Jiang Cheng finally let out a secret sigh of relief. He took over the handkerchief that Jin Ling was passing to him and wiped off the blood on his face. He began, “Temporary? How long is temporary? When should we recover?”
One of the medics, “… I’m afraid… at least four hours.”
Jiang Cheng’s face was terrifyingly dark, “Four hours?!”
Everyone looked up, glancing at the crowd of fierce corpses surrounding the Cave so tightly that not even a drop of water could pass through. The number wasn’t any less than the living people who came today. Every one of them stared straight at the inside of the Cave, where human heads bobbed up and down and yang energy churned. They weren’t even willing to step half a foot away, squirming back and forth, shoulder to shoulder outside, as though they’d come in at any moment. The odor of rotting flesh was more than overwhelming.
Their spiritual powers would only be able to recover in at least four hours? They didn’t even know if the fragmented array on the ground, unused for years and temporarily patched up, could last for four hours!
Besides, the YiLing Patriarch was in the same space as they were right now. Although they didn’t know why he hadn’t made a move yet, maybe he was going to annihilate them like a cat catching mice, after he was done scaring them and toying with them. Despite this, nobody knew if Wei WuXian would suddenly flip out.
Their gazes landed on Wei WuXian once again. Wei WuXian, “I said already that there’s no need for you to look at me. Inside of this cave, there are only two groups of people whose spiritual powers remain. HanGuang-Jun and I form one group; the children who’ve been brought up the mountain a few days ago form the other. It’s not inaccurate if I described the rest of the people as absolutely powerless, is it? If I wanted to do anything to you, would the children be able to stop me?”
Su She snorted, “Stop with the nonsense. If you want to kill us, so be it. Anyone who makes a single noise doesn’t deserve to be called hero. Don’t expect that anyone would beg for your pity either.”
With his words, many of the people began to hesitate. Among the thousand people, only around twenty were here for vengeance. The rest only participated thoughtlessly when they heard that there’d be a siege. One could say that they were only bystanders of justice, only here because of their own sense of morality. These only wanted to go along the flow of the main groups in the lead. To be able to kill a few of Wei WuXian’s corpse-dogs would be quite a prestigious act. But if they were really asked to pay the price, not many people would want to join.
Wei WuXian glanced at him, “I’m sorry, but I have to ask—who are you?”
He called Su She’s name back when they were outside the cave, yet now he was asking again. It was clearly on purpose. The veins popped slightly from Su She’s forehead. He was about to speak when Lan JingYi chirped in, his voice loud, “And so? It is not poison, and so?”
Wei WuXian immediately forgot about Su She, “And so, people wouldn’t lose their spiritual powers with no reason, after all. There had to be a method and a particular moment. Before you went up Burial Mound or on your way here, there must’ve been either something that all of you made contact with or something that all of you did. The children were brought here a few days back, so the timing is off, while HanGuang-Jun and I didn’t use the same mountain path as you did, so the location is off. Would anyone like to think about what you all did?”
Amid the deafening silence, someone responded helplessly, “What we all did? When we went up Burial Mound, we all drank water, didn’t we? I can’t remember, I don’t know.”
Who would respond to Wei WuXian at such an untimely manner, do whatever he said and think whatever said? The only one would be that ‘head-shaker’, Nie HuaiSang. Somebody couldn’t help but comment, “Nobody drank anything on our way up the mountain! Who’d dare drink the water on a mountain of corpses?!”
Nie HuaiSang took another guess, “Then have we all inhaled the fog in the mountains?”
If there really was anything strange about the fog, it’d be a plausible explanation. Somebody immediately agreed, “That’s possible!”
Yet, Jin Ling immediately replied, “It’s impossible. Fog is thicker at the top of mountains, but we’ve already been tied up at the top for two entire days. Our spiritual powers are still here, aren’t they?”
Su She seemed as if he really couldn’t take it any longer, “Enough, isn’t it? So you’ve really started to talk with him. Is it fun, getting so carried away by him? He…”
Suddenly, his expression changed drastically. His words stopped mid-sentence. Wei WuXian, “Go on. Why don’t you continue?”
All of the MolingSu Sect’s disciples stood up, “Sect Leader!”
“Sect Leader, what’s wrong?!”
Su She threw off the disciple who came to help him. He raised his arm. First, he pointed at Wei WuXian, and then straight at Lan WangJi. The disciple closest to him fumed, “Wei WuXian, what hex did you perform this time?!”
Lan SiZhui, “It is not a hex! It is… It is…”
Lan WangJi, who sat all prim and proper on the side, lay the fingers of his right hand over the guqin, halting the vibrations of the seven strings. The disciples chattering with excitement all suddenly turned into ducks whose necks had been gripped, their noises coming to an abrupt stop.
All of the Lan Sect’s people who were present commented in silence—this was the silencing spell of the GusuLan Sect…