Chapter 8 Arrogance—Part Three
However, after stroking it for a while, Jiang Cheng compelled himself to restrain his hostility.
Although he was displeased, as the leader of a sect, he needed to take more things into consideration, which meant that he couldn’t be as impulsive as Jin Ling. After the fall of the QingheNie Sect, among the Three Great Sects, the LanlingJin Sect and the GusuLan Sect were quite close due to the personal relationship between the two leaders. By leading the YunmengJiang Sect alone, he was already in an isolated situation among the three. HanGuang-Jun, or Lan WangJi, was quite a prestigious cultivator, while his elder brother ZeWu-Jun, or Lan XiChen, was the leader of the GusuLan Sect. The two brothers had always been on good terms with each other. It was best to not openly dispute with Lan WangJi.
Also, Jiang Cheng’s sword, “Sandu,” had never made actual contact with Lan WangJi’s sword, “Bichen,” and it was not yet decidable whose hands would the deer die on. Although he owned the powerful ring, “Zidian,” a family heirloom of his, Lan WangJi’s zither, “Wangji”, was also known for its abilities. The thing that Jiang Cheng hated the most was to be disadvantageous during a fight. Without complete confidence in his success, he would not consider fighting with Lan WangJi.
Jiang Cheng slowly took away his left hand, ceasing to stroke his ring. It seemed as if Lan WangJi was determined to take part in this matter, so it wouldn’t help if he continued to play the antagonist. Jiang Cheng made the decision to, for the time being, owe him a favour, and turned around to see Jin Ling still covering his mouth angrily, “HanGuang-Jun wants to punish you, so just let him do it for this one time. It’s not easy for him, either, to discipline juniors from other clans.”
His tone was sarcastic, but it wasn’t clear who he was mocking. Lan WangJi never fought to win his way with words, and looked as if he didn’t hear anything. Jiang Cheng turned again, his words covered with thorns, “Why are you still standing there? Waiting for the prey to come and throw itself onto your sword? If, today, you don’t catch the creature hunting Dafan Mountain, don’t come to me ever again!”
Jin Ling threw Wei WuXian a tough look, but was too scared to look at Lan WangJi, the person who had silenced him. He put his sword back into its scabbard, saluted the two seniors, and retreated with the bow in his hand. Lan SiZhui spoke, “Sect Leader Jiang, the GusuLan Sect will return the exact number of spirit-binding nets that had been destroyed.”
Jiang Cheng sneered, “No need.” He chose the opposite direction and walked down calmly. The man who had come from the forest followed behind him, pulling a long face because he knew that it’d be impossible to escape a lecture when he returned.
After their figures disappeared, Lan JingYi spoke, “How could the Sect Leader Jiang act like this?” Only afterward, did he remember the Lan Clan’s rule of not talking behind others’ backs. He looked meekly at HanGuang-Jun and shut his mouth. Lan SiZhui smiled softly toward Wei WuXian, “Young Master Mo, we meet again.”
As Wei WuXian pulled the corners of his mouth, Lan WangJi spoke again, “Do your tasks.” The command was simplistic and clear, without any fancy vocabulary for decoration.
The juniors finally remembered the reason behind why they came to Dafan Mountain. They gathered their thoughts and respectfully waited for further instructions. After a moment, Lan WangJi spoke again, “Do what you can. Don’t force anything.”
The voice was deep and alluring. If one was too near, the tip of their heart would tremble. The juniors replied mannerly, afraid to linger for too long, and walked into the depths of the forest. Wei WuXian thought that, undeniably, Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan were extremely different from each other. Even their advice for juniors were the complete opposite. While thinking, he suddenly saw Lan WangJi give an almost unnoticeable nod to him. He was quite surprised.
Ever since a young age, Lan WangJi had been so prim and proper that it was painful to watch. He had always been solemn and stiff, as if he had never been lively before. He couldn’t let a single grain of sand appear in his eyes, which was why he had never approved of Wei WuXian cultivating the dark path. Lan SiZhui had probably informed Lan WangJi of his suspicious behaviour in Mo Village already. Even so, he had nodded in acknowledgement, probably thanking him for helping out the juniors from the Lan Sect. Without thinking, Wei WuXian immediately returned a salute. When he looked up again, Lan WangJi had already disappeared.
After pausing for a second, he turned around to travel down the mountain.
No matter what prey haunted Dafan Mountain, he couldn’t take it. Wei WuXian could fight for it against anyone, except for Jin Ling.
Why did it turn out to be Jin Ling?
With so many disciples in the Jin Sect, he really didn’t expect that the person he met happened to be Jin Ling. If he knew, he definitely wouldn’t mock Jin Ling for “having no mother to teach him.” If someone else had said the same words to Jin Ling, he would teach them about what it means to bring misfortune upon oneself with careless talk. Yet, the person who had said so turned out to be himself.
After standing still for a moment, Wei WuXian raised his hand and gave himself a slap on the face.
The slap was both loud and hard, causing his right cheek to sting. Suddenly, shuffling sounds came from a thicket on the side, and Wei WuXian saw a donkey emerge from within. As he dropped his hand, the donkey actually approached on its own, unlike other times. Wei WuXian pulled on its long ears and forced a smile, “You wanted to save the damsel in distress, but asked me to be the hero to the rescue.”
The donkey whined, just as a wave of cultivators approached from the bottom of the hill. After the four-hundred-or-so spirit-binding nets were destroyed by Lan WangJi’s sword, the hesitant cultivators in Buddha’s Feet all rushed up again. Everyone here was probably Jin Ling’s opponent. Wei WuXian considered for a moment, about whether or not to make them retreat again with force. But, after thinking about it, he ended up silently walking out of the way, letting them pass.
The disciples from different sects, wearing differently colored uniforms, complained as they walked, “Both the Jin Sect and the Jiang Sect spoil Young Master Jin too much. He’s still so young, but he’s already this arrogant and rude. If they let him have the LanlingJin Sect, who knows what chaos would happen? I don’t think we’d even survive.”
Wei WuXian slowed his pace.
A soft-hearted female cultivator sighed, “How can they not spoil him? He lost both his parents at such a young age.”
“Shimei, that’s not how it works. So what, if both his parents died? There are tons who lost both of their parents. If everyone acted like him, then what would happen?”
“I’m surprised that Wei WuXian was cruel enough to harm her. Jin Ling’s mother was Jiang Cheng’s elder sister from birth—the shijie who brought him up.”
“It really was too bad for Jiang YanLi, bringing up a wolf that bites the owner’s hand. Jin ZiXuan had it even worse. Just because he had something to do with Wei WuXian, he ended up like that.”
“Why does Wei WuXian have something to do with everyone…”
“Indeed. Have you heard him being close with anyone other than the mad dogs that he raised? His enemies were everywhere, and he did wrong to everyone. Even with HanGuang-Jun, they were like fire and water, hating each other.”
“Speaking of it, today, if it wasn’t for HanGuang-Jun…”
After walking for a while, the gurgling sounds of a running stream came into Wei WuXian’s ears.
He didn’t hear this when he came up. Wei WuXian finally realized that he walked the wrong path down the mountain, and onto another one that forked off.
Holding the reins of the donkey, he stood beside the running water. The moon could be seen high in the sky. With no branches or leaves on the banks of the stream, fragments of white reflected over the surface. In the reflection, Wei WuXian saw a face, ever-changing from the flow of the water.
He slammed his palm into the water, dissolving the ridiculous features. He lifted his dripping wet palms and wiped away the powder on his face.
A handsome, graceful youth appeared in the reflections of the water. He looked as pure as if he had been cleansed by moonlight, with smooth brows, bright eyes, and lips curving slightly upward. Yet, as he lowered his head to stare at himself, the drops of water hanging from his lashes rolled off, as if they were drops of tears.
It was a young and unfamiliar face, not the YiLing Patriarch who had overturned the world and killed thousands—Wei WuXian.
After taking a few more looks at this face, Wei WuXian wiped his face again and rubbed his eyes. He sat beside the stream with a thud.
It wasn’t as if he couldn’t withstand the words of attack. After all, back when he made the decision, he fully understood the situations that he had to face. Ever since then, he had reminded himself of the YunmengJiang Sect’s motto—do it even if it was impossible.
However, although he thought that his heart was like a stone, in the end, he was still human, not some emotionless grass or plant.
The donkey seemed as if it knew that he wasn’t in a great mood, and for once, it wasn’t being loud out of impatience. A moment of silence passed, and it turned around to leave. Wei WuXian sat by the stream, not responding at all. It turned around to look, throwing its hooves onto the ground, but Wei WuXian still paid no attention to it. The donkey had to come back sulkily, biting and tugging on the corner of Wei WuXian’s collar.
He could choose to go, and he could choose to not go. Seeing that the donkey had went as far as to use his mouth, Wei WuXian decided to follow him. The donkey took him to a few trees and circled around an area of grass. In the grass, there lay a qiankun bag, with a ragged golden net hanging above it. It probably fell off as an unlucky cultivator struggled their way out. Wei WuXian picked up the bag and opened it. There were quite a few items in it, such as gourds of medicinal liquor, talismans, miniature demon-reflecting mirrors, and so on.
He fished around for some time and happened to pull out a talisman. Immediately, a ball of fire appeared in his hand.
The burning item was an gloom-burning talisman, which, like its name, used dark energy as fuel. It would burn automatically if it made contact with dark energy. The more energy there was, the stronger the flame was. It lit up as soon as it was taken out, meaning that there was a spirit not far away from Wei WuXian.
Seeing the light of the fire, Wei WuXian held it to detect the spirit’s direction, watching attentively. When he turned to the east, the fire weakened; when he turned to the west, the fire suddenly intensified. He walked a few steps toward the direction, and saw a white, stooping figure appear under a tree.
The talisman had finished burning, and the ashes fell from his fingertips. An old man was sitting with his back to him, speaking in faint murmurs.
Wei WuXian slowly approached. The words that the old man murmured became clear.
“It hurts, it hurts.”
Wei WuXian asked, “Where does it hurt?”
The old man answered, “Head. My head.”
Wei WuXian replied, “Let me take a look at it.”
He walked a few steps to the side of the old man, and saw a bloodied, large hole on his forehead. This was a ghost, probably killed with a weapon which was smashed onto his head. He was dressed in a burial robe made with fine material and craftsmanship, meaning that he had already been en-coffined and buried properly. This wasn’t the soul that a living human had lost.
However, ghosts like this shouldn’t have appeared on Dafan Mountain.
Wei WuXian did not find an explanation to this implausible scenario. Feeling quite worried, he jumped onto the donkey’s back, slapped it with a shout, and rode toward the direction of where Jin Ling came up the mountain.
Around the area of the ancient tombs, there were a lot of cultivators who wandered around, in hope of a hare crashing into the tree trunk. Somebody dared to hold a spirit-attraction flag, but only attracted a bunch of dark spirits who wept despairingly. Wei WuXian pulled on the reins, scanned around, and asked in a loud, clear voice, “Excuse me and sorry for the interruption, but where did the young masters from the Jin Clan and the Lan Clan go?”
Sure enough, after washing his face, people actually acknowledged him. One cultivator answered, “They left here, for Goddess Temple.”
Wei WuXian spoke, “Goddess Temple?”
The rural clan from back then had sneaked up the mountain again and joined the group of night-hunters, after hearing that all of the deity-binding nets were destroyed. The middle-aged man recognized his clothing and the grimacing donkey, realizing that he was lunatic who’d saved them earlier. He felt quite awkward, and pretended that nothing had happened. Nonetheless, the round-faced girl showed him the path, “Over there. It’s a divine temple in a cave on the mountain.”
Wei WuXian inquired again, “Which deity is the temple built for?”
The round-faced girl spoke, “I, I think it’s a natural stone statue of a goddess.”
Wei WuXian nodded, “Thank you.”
After the conversation, he immediately ran toward the direction of Goddess Temple.
The sluggard’s marriage, lightning that destroyed coffins, the fiance eaten by wolves, the father and daughter losing their souls, the extravagant burial clothes… It was as if a string was being pulled through all of the beads, tying everything into one perfect strand. No wonder the compasses of evil didn’t pick up anything, and the spirit-attraction flags didn’t work either. Everyone had underestimated the creature in Dafan Mountain.
It wasn’t at all what they thought it was!
Sandu: This literally translates to “three types of poison”.
Whose hands would the deer die on: This proverb means that it is impossible to determine who’s more powerful and who will win, if a match happens between the two of them.
Zidian: This literally translates to “purple lightning”.
Wangji: The two Chinese characters of the zither’s name are exactly the same as Lan WangJi’s name. The term is a Daoist phrase that means to “get rid of a heart of deceit”. It usually refers to finding pleasure in tranquility, forgetting about material matters, and being at peace with the world. The name does, indeed, reflect WangJi’s personality (that is, until the uke starts flirting with him).
Lan Zhan: This is Lan WangJi’s birth name. The “Lan” surname means the colour blue, and “Zhan” is an adjective that is often used to describe an azure blue. This also implies that, by calling him with his birth name, Wei WuXian used to be very close with him.
Qiankun bag: Qiankun means “Heaven and Earth”. A qiankun bag is basically a dimensional bag, holding a lot of items although it looks tiny.
Gourds: Ancient Chinese people liked to carry everything around in gourds, from the average liquor to level-enhancing elixirs that help with cultivation.
A hare crashing into the tree trunk: This proverb originated from a story of a farmer who didn’t want to do actual work and waited for a rabbit to kill itself by crashing into a tree. It describes the act of waiting.