Chapter 83: Loyalty—Part Five
Translated by K of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Many people took out talismans to try if they could ignite them with their spiritual powers. Gradually, the talismans in some of the people hands lit up dimly. Hearing the question, they answered, “Two-tenth is back for me.”
“One-tenth for me…”
“They’re recovering so slowly!”
When they set off, they all thought that compared to the siege at Burial Mound thirteen years ago, this one would definitely be more successful, so grand and tragic that it’d be recorded in history. Yet, nobody expected that the number of people who went down the mountain was almost the same as the number who went up. The second ‘siege’ could indeed be recorded in history. However, instead of being its scale or number of deaths, it’d be because it was the most pointless, laughable event of the cultivation world.
Some of the people rejoiced that they escaped death, others lamented about the changing of times. The dozens of sect leaders all gathered together. After some discussion, they agreed to first find a safe place to rest until their spiritual powers had recovered up to eight-tenths so that no more incidents happened on their way back.
Wei WuXian knew at once. The closest ‘safe place’ to Yiling was the area of the YunmengJiang Sect. He asked, “So you intend on going to Lotus Pier next?”
Lan QiRen was vigilant, “Why do you ask?”
Wei WuXian, “Nothing. I just wanted to ask if I could go along.”
Sect Leader Yao warned, “Wei WuXian! You did a good deed today, but those are two separate things. Please understand that it’s impossible for us to associate with you.”
Wei WuXian felt speechless, “Don’t worry, nobody’s making you associate with me. Right now, though, we’re on the same side, aren’t we? The figure who planned the siege on you today has the Stygian Tiger Seal in his hands. Can you deal with it?”
The sect leaders looked at one another. In all honesty, what Wei WuXian said wasn’t wrong. If he was willing to join in, it’d be of great assistance. But people had slandered the YiLing Patriarch’s name for so many years. It’d be a bit embarrassing to have him cooperate with them all at once.
On the other hand, Lan WangJi turned to Lan QiRen, “Uncle, have you received any news about Brother?”
After a moment of silence, Lan QiRen answered, “No.”
Wei WuXian, “Maybe ZeWu-Jun is still under Jin GuangYao’s control as of right now. Mr. Lan, the more people there is, the more help there is. Even if you’re worried about me, at least let HanGuang-Jun participate in your next plans. It’s his brother, after all.”
“…” Lan QiRen’s face was full of fatigue. He turned to Lan WangJi, “Come if you want to.”
The rest of the people immediately looked at Jiang Cheng. Among the three sect leaders of the highest status, Lan QiRen had taken a stand and it didn’t matter if Nie HuaiSang took a stand or not, so now it was all up to Jiang Cheng. At the side, Jiang Cheng was trying out his spiritual powers and testing them on Zidian. Although it switched between bright and dark, at least the light didn’t go out anymore. Purple light reflected against Jiang Cheng’s face, giving it an air of mystery. Everyone knew that Sect Leader Jiang, the one whom Wei WuXian turned against, hated him the most. They all thought that their negotiation would fall through.
Yet, he only let out a bitter laugh, “So you dare go back to Lotus Pier?”
After the short sentence, he stopped talking. Nobody knew what this meant, unsure if he allowed it or not. But when they set off, Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi joined the group, and he didn’t give them a single glance. They took it that he neither allowed it nor didn’t.
When the group arrived at the bottom of the mountain, it was already nighttime. As they returned to the town, the lights had already been blown out, and everything was quiet. Everyone was tired, both in body and in spirit. Even their square arrays looked uneven and disorganized. Fortunately, when they conjured up the energy to count the heads, they realized that there wasn’t a big difference at all. Because most people’s spiritual powers hadn’t recovered yet and couldn’t mount their swords, water paths were the quickest way to get to Lotus Pier. The group, consisting of over a thousand people, then set off toward the pier nearest to Yiling.
However, because of their hurried decision, they couldn’t gather so many boats in such a short amount of time. The sect leaders could only rent all of the boats at the pier, no matter the size, no matter the use. Crowded with the disciples from all those sects, the boats traveled along with the water.
Around a dozen disciples were crammed into the same boat. Almost all of these boys grew up in comfortable environments. They’d never had to ride in such old, broken down fishing boats before, the corners of which were piled up with dirty nets and barrels, emitting the rotten odor of fish as its wooden boards creaked. Winds were high at night. The boats rocked back and forth. A few of the boys from the North were quite seasick. After they tried for a while, they truly couldn’t hold it back any longer. They rushed outside the cabin and retched before they collapsed, dizzy-eyed, on the deck.
One of the boys commented, “Heavens, it’s so shaky that it feels like there’s a storm in my stomach. Hey, SiZhui-xiong, you’re throwing up as well? Aren’t you from Gusu? It’s not like you’re from the North. Why are you even more seasick than I am?!”
Lan SiZhui waved his hand, his face the color of ash, “I… I do not know why either. I have been like this when I ride in boats ever since I was four or five… Maybe I was born this way.”
As he spoke, he felt the revolting feeling come upon him again. He stood up, holding onto the rail. Just as he was about to throw up some more, he suddenly saw a dark silhouette hanging onto the part of the boat below the rail, half of its body submerged inside the river’s water, staring straight at him.
Lan SiZhui was so scared that he immediately gulped back the things he was about to throw up. Just as he pressed down onto the hilt of his sword, he looked carefully and exclaimed, “The Ghost…”
Inside of the cabin, as Jin Ling heard this, he immediately rushed out with his sword, “A ghost? Where? I’ll kill it for you!”
Lan SiZhui, “Not a ghost—the Ghost General!”
All of the boys hurried to the deck and looked in the direction that Lan SiZhui pointed at. As expected, the silhouette clinging to the side of the boat, looking up from below, was none other than the Ghost General, Wen Ning.
Right after they left Burial Mound, Wen Ning had disappeared. Yet, who knew that he was clinging to the fishing boat so quietly. They didn’t know how long he’d been there, either.
Although back on Burial Mound, Wen Ning was fighting alongside them. There were many people then, and lots of seniors as well. In the middle of the night, especially on water, Wen Ning’s strange, sudden appearance still gave the boys a good shock. They stared at him for a few moments.
OuYang ZiZhen was the first one to shrink back, taking a seat on the deck, “Why did the Ghost General come to find us alone?”
Someone mumbled, “So that’s why I felt this boat was going so slowly. A person is hanging on the bottom. It’s so heavy.”
“Why… Why is he clinging there?”
“Definitely not to harm us. Or else, he wouldn’t have protected us back in the day.”
“But there’s no danger right now anymore. Why did he come find us again…”
“JingYi, what are you laughing about?”
Lan JingYi, “Look at him. He is clinging onto the boat without moving at all, almost like a big, oblivious sea turtle!”
Now that he said it, some people felt that he indeed did look like one. But before they began to laugh, OuYang ZiZhen exclaimed, “He’s coming up!”
Just as he said, Wen Ning’s body emerged from the water. Hands grabbing onto a hemp rope hanging off the deck, he began to crawl slowly up. The boys scattered themselves at once. A few of the more timid ones ran in circles on the deck as they panicked, chirping, “He’s coming up, he’s coming up! The Ghost General is coming up!”
Lan JingYi, “What is there to be scared of? It is not like you have not seen him before!”
“What do we do? Should we call someone over?!”
When Wen Ning flipped over the rail, dripping with water as he landed heavily on the deck, the entire boat seemed to shake with his landing. The boys were as nervous as possible, almost all squishing to the other side of the deck. Their hearts raced, but they were too embarrassed to face him with their swords.
Wen Ning stared at Lan SiZhui’s face as he walked toward him. Lan SiZhui noticed that he was here for him. He steadied himself as Wen Ning asked, “Wh-What is your name?”
Lan SiZhui hesitated for a second before he stood up straight and answered, “I am a disciple of the GusuLan Sect. My name is Lan Yuan.”
Wen Ning, “Lan Yuan?” Lan SiZhui nodded. Wen Ning, “Do… Do you know who g-gave you this name?”
Dead people had no expressions, but Lan SiZhui was under the illusion that he thought he saw Wen Ning’s eyes light up.
He also thought that Wen Ning was feeling very excited, so excited that he stammered as he spoke. He himself began to feel excited as well, as though they were about to reveal a secret hidden for years.
Lan SiZhui answered carefully, “My name was of course given by my parents.”
Wen Ning, “Then, are your parents still in good health?”
Lan SiZhui, “My parents passed away when I was at a very young age.”
One of the boys on the side tugged at his sleeve, “SiZhui, don’t say so much. Be careful.”
Wen Ning paused in surprise, “SiZhui? SiZhui is your courtesy name?”
Lan SiZhui, “That is right.”
Wen Ning, “Who gave it to you?”
Lan SiZhui, “HanGuang-Jun did.”
Wen Ning looked down, saying the word ‘SiZhui’ a couple of times in silence. Seeing that he seemed as if he realized something, Lan SiZhui spoke, “Gen-…” He was about to call him General, but he felt that something was weird about it. He changed his wording, “Mr. Wen? Is there anything about my name?”
“Oh,” Wen Ning looked up, gazing at his face, not answering the question, “Y-You really l-look like a distant relative of mine…”
These words really sounded like the things low-level cultivators and foreign disciples said when they wanted to become familiar with the inner disciples. The boys grew more and more confused as to what was going on. Lan SiZhui didn’t know what to respond with, either, “R-Really?”
Wen Ning, “Really!”
He tried as hard as he could to lift the muscles at the sides of his lips, as if he wanted to smile. For something, watching the ‘Ghost General’, a deeply sour sense of familiarity rose up amid Lan SiZhui, along with a blurry thought—he seemed to have seen this face some place, some time ago. It seemed that there was a name that almost broke through some sort of a barrier. If he said the name out loud, many other things would resurface as well, and he’d understand everything.
But at this point, Lan SiZhui saw Jin Ling, who stood at the side.
Jin Ling’s face was dark, extremely dark. Holding his sword hilt, his grip switched back and forth between tight and loose. The veins on the back of hi hand also appeared and disappeared. He finally remembered that the Ghost General Wen Ning, who looked so harmless right now, was the one who killed Jin Ling’s father.
Following his gaze, Wen Ning’s ‘smile’ disappeared as well. He slowly turned to Jin Ling, “Young Master Jin RuLan?”
Jin Ling’s voice was cold, “Who’s that?”
After some silence, Wen Ning changed his wording, “Young Master Jin Ling?”
Jin Ling stared at him dead in the eye, while the other boys stared at Jin Ling, scared that he’d do something out of impulse. Lan SiZhui, “Young Master Jin…”
Jin Ling, “Move to the side. It’s none of your business.”
But Lan SiZhui somehow felt that it definitely wouldn’t be none of his business. He went over and put himself between the two, “Jin Ling, put your sword away fir-”
Jin Ling was feeling tense anyway. His sight being blocked, he couldn’t help but shouted, “Don’t stop me!”
He reached out and pushed. Lan SiZhui was feeling seasick to begin with, his legs feeling wobbly. With the push, he bumped into the rail, almost toppling over and into the dark river. Good thing that Wen Ning got a grip on him and dragged him back. The boys immediately went over to help him, “SiZhui-xiong!”
“Young Master Lan, are you alright? Are you still dizzy?”
Wen Ning saw that Lan SiZhui’s complexion was pale. Anxious, he blurted, “Young Master Jin, come at me. Wen Ning will not resist. But A- Young Master Lan Yuan…”
Lan JingYi had a tolerant personality. He criticized, “Jin Ling, why are you like this?! What did SiZhui do to you!”
“SiZhui-xiong did it for your own good. Not only did you not appreciate it—why did you push him?”
Originally, Jin Ling also felt that he used too much force. He was shocked as well. But as he saw that all of the others went to help Lan SiZhui up, blaming him instead, the scene overlapped with the countless scenes from his past. In these years, because he had no parents, everyone said that he’d been spoiled with no-one to discipline him. He had a bad temper and he wasn’t easy to get along with. He had no close friends around the same age as him, no matter at Koi Tower or at Lotus Pier. His status was supposed to be respected, but he ended up in such an awkward position.
When he was young, no disciples liked to play with him; when he grew older, no disciples liked to follow him. The more he thought about it, the redder his eyes grew. He suddenly raised his voice, “Yes! It’s all my fault! I’m just such a terrible person! So what?!”
The other boys all shuddered, surprised by the roar. After a while of silence, one of the group muttered, “What do you mean? You were the one who started it anyways… Why are you the one scolding us now?”
Jin Ling spoke fiercely, “Are you telling me what to do?! Since when is it your turn to tell me what to do?!”
Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi were on a nearby boat. With the shout, Wei WuXian paused in surprise within the cabin. He hurried outside and looked over across the water. Seeing that Jin Ling held his sword toward others, he asked, “What’s going on?”
Seeing the two, Lan SiZhui felt that no matter what difficulties he faced, he could overcome them no matter what, beaming, “HanGuang-Jun! Senior Wei! Come over here!”