Acting with one accord, the three mice avoided Cheng Qian who was covered in blood. Then two of them charged towards Yan Zhengming, and the the other ran to the front of Li Yun.
Li Yun was just like a passerby. He searched all over his body only to find that he had spent the whole day being upset and even forgot to bring any weapon with him… although it wouldn’t necessarily be helpful even if he had brought one.
In a flurry, Li Yun plucked the colorful feather off his collar and used it as a weapon against the mouse spirit.
Since Zipeng Zhenren was an almighty being among monsters, even her feather had an out of the ordinary deterrent force. The mouse obviously cringed upon seeing it, moving around Li Yun with its shifty eyes goggled, weighing up whether he was bluffing or a real threat.
Li Yun was scared by the mouse’s movement and, unfortunately, got a cramp in his thigh. But he knew there was no room to display the slightest amount of timidity, so he had to put up with it, which happened to make him appear more threatening.
Thankfully, Cheng Qian soon came to his aid with his fang.
It didn’t take much effort for Cheng Qian to recover from killing. He thought that it would be a shocking and paralyzing feeling, yet it turned out that he didn’t feel like that at all.
When he held the bloody sharp tooth, Cheng Qian was extremely calm, as if he had only cut a cabbage just now. His impassive face made him look like a life-claiming ghost.
Cheng Qian quickly noticed that this mouse spirit dreaded him, not the other way around. As he advanced, the mouse backed, even if its teeth were bared to intimidate him.
While the enemy’s confidence decreased, Cheng Qian’s increased. He even got bolder instead of recoiling. Realising its intimidation didn’t work, the mouse confirmed that its opponent was not a guy to mess with and turned tail hurriedly.
Every being in the universe had intelligence and it was no easy task to cultivate. It had finally evolved into a spirit after much trouble, wouldn’t it cherish its life?
Seeing that their fellow fled, the other two mice followed suit for precaution, even though they didn’t figure out what happened.
This small handful of mice spirits scurried away helter-skelter.
Li Yun sank down on the ground. He finally earned himself a break to have the leg cramps go.
Nevertheless, just as they started to breathe after defeating the first wave of enemies, a strange sound came from behind into Yan Zhengming’s ears. Cheng Qian seemed to notice something and cried from a distance, “DANGER!”
With a flash, Yan Zhengming flung himself forward and exerted the first move of the second form, “Cycle”.1
He swung his sword fiercely, which hit some sharp weapon with a clash. And therewith sounded a gritty howl.
Yan Zhengming retreated awkwardly pinching the hilt of his sword. He spun to see a huge lynx nimbly landing several steps away from him and turning into a semi-humanoid form – that monster was hefty and had almost changed to a human shape, except the claws. It grinned weirdly, scarlet tongue licking its lips.
No wonder the mice spirits ran away so fast. While the mice hunted, the lynx was lurking behind!
Young master Yan was just a nice plump mouthful of soft flesh in the lynx’s eyes. It scraped its toe tips against the ground, and in the next moment lunged for Yan Zhengming at a lightning speed. Its trenchant claws were nearly invulnerable. Not even fur was hurt when it clashed with the sword.
The lynx pressed its claw and the sword was pushed down by the brute force.
Yan Zhengming tripped on something and teetered down, which was to the lynx’s great delight. It immediately changed back to its beast form and pressed its claw on him with its mouth wide open.
Li Yun and Cheng Qian were standing far away, and the fight between Yan Zhengming and the lynx happened so suddenly that it was impossible to go aid him in time.
Li Yun reached into his bosom and before he clearly saw what he fished out, he pitched it at the lynx spirit recklessly.
Cheng Qian caught sight of his move from the corner of his eyes and shouted, “Second Senior Brother, don’t…”
But it was too late. The porcelain bottle had hit the lynx’s head accurately. The whole bottle of water came spilling over its body and turned the lynx with shiny fur into a large lumpy toad.
For a second, even the lynx itself was dumbfounded.
The lynx was astonished and incensed. It wanted to roar, only to let out a lazy croak. The lynx couldn’t help sticking out its slender tongue, which made it freak out and forget how to stick it back.
The tongue hung in front of the toad’s chest and skimmed young master Yan’s soft neck. Despite having just narrowly escaped death, young master Yan went mad there and then and let out an inhuman bellow, “Li Yun, you piss me off!”
Forthwith, he kicked the huge toad over as though he suddenly gained infinite strength, and riddled the lynx spirit frantically like a raging shrewish woman.
Apparently, the lynx in a toad’s shape no longer had steely claws. Before it learned to jump with toad’s legs, it was stabbed through by Yan Zhengming’s embittered sword. After thrashing about hysterically, the lynx got back to its original appearance and died. It lay there still, eyes wide open.
But the perpetrator, young master Yan himself looked like he wished to be dead instead. Yan Zhengming couldn’t stop thinking about that lick and several times, he put the sword around his neck with the intention of committing suicide.
Cheng Qian and Li Yun helped “Beggar’s Han Yuan” up and shattered the dried mud off his body, exposing his mud-mottled nude with an awful stench. Cheng Qian looked him up and down and turned to embarrassedly report his find to first senior brother.
“First Senior Brother, aren’t you curious about whether little junior brother hasn’t changed clothes or bathed since the day he played with the toad?” Said Cheng Qian. “I know it now. He didn’t bathe.”
Yan Zhengming: “…”
He put away his sword, face void of emotion, thinking that Han Yuan was the one supposed to kill himself.
Han Yuan sobbed with tears of joy, “Senior Brothers… Xiao-Qian…”
He attempted to give them a reunion hug, sadly none of his senior brothers would like to get close to a beggar covered with smelly mud in his birthday suit, and all dispersed.
As Yan Zhengming tried hard to forget about his sullied neck, he spluttered and pointed at Han Yuan, “If you don’t want to return to be expelled, copy those scriptures for a lifetime!”
Han Yuan dared not answer back and only kept his eyes roving, seeking to find an ally. At last, his look for help rested on Cheng Qian.
However, Cheng Qian didn’t answer his look. He wiped the blood off his face with his only sleeve left. Feeling thirsty and hungry, he was too tired to put an act, so he said out of his natural character, “Junior Brother, before cultivating, you’d better enhance your brain.”
Han Yuan stared at his “temperate, kind, courteous, restrained, and magnanimous” little senior brother in astonishment. In one day, he suffered both a physical and mental major injury. Ultimately it was Li Yun who helped him out. Shaking the tablet, he suggested, “Senior Brother, I think we should go to the Celestial Platform first.”
Yan Zhengming humphed and took the initiative to move. After some consideration, Li Yun took his outer robe off and gave it to Han Yuan, lest disciples of Fuyao sect earned themselves a reputation as exhibitionists in the Demon Valley.
The Celestial Platform wasn’t very far from the Mirror Valley. Soon enough, a strong bloody smell drifted over along the wind. A pall of black fog billowed from the tablet in Li Yun’s hand, outlining an amorphous humanoid figure which was a real blast from the past for Cheng Qian.
He had dreamed of this person!
Han Yuan was scared out of his wits and screeched, “Oh, fuck! What is this?”
No reply was given. The mysterious shadow levitated upright in midair with a solemn atmosphere. Despite his hazy face, Cheng Qian felt awe-inspiring calmness in him as if he was prepared to sacrifice himself.
He couldn’t help but ask, “Senior, you… are you Lord Beiming?”
“Beiming?” He chuckled and said softly, “Who deserves the title of Beiming? That’s merely an arrogant title given by some short-sighted people.”
Cheng Qian turned his words over in mind and reached their implied meaning – that was an acknowledgement.
But wasn’t “Lord Beiming” a legendary archdevil? How come he housed in a tablet?
Did he house in the tablet or actually embed himself in master’s charm?
Could it be that master’s charm summons neither water nor lightning, but summons the archdevil?
Was there… such a charm in the world?
Cheng Qian felt utterly clueless about what was happening. He only now realized that his knowledge of the cultivation world was so little, that he couldn’t even give a simple guess at what were all those incredible things.
Thanks to Lord Beiming’s escort, monsters either couldn’t see them or fled at the their mere sight – it’s possible to assume that the thrilling scene where they battled the mice and lynx spirits, was probably regarded by this almighty being as “a scuffle between kids and mice”, so he didn’t intend to help.
Maybe that mouse spirit which made Li Yun’s leg cramp with terror was, in this senior’s eyes, no different from a real mouse.
The Celestial Platform was a sacrificial altar located on the bottom of Demon Valley, rising up incongruously.
The platform was bare and empty, as monsters cannot come close, while its surroundings had become hell.
As they had witnessed this scene in the Mirror Valley and hence were mentally prepared, only Han Yuan was flabbergasted.
It was not until then, that Han Yuan realised what place he had intruded into, and what risk his senior brothers took to rescue him. The reason why he was still alive and kicking was simply that those monsters were tied up in fighting against each other and had no time to care about him.
Abruptly, the tablet fissured in Li Yun’s hand. After some light glittered along the strokes of charms, it returned to stillness. Then Lord Beiming suddenly detached himself from the shackles of the tablet, and the black mist veiling him cleared up, revealing a lanky man dressed in a jet black robe fluttering in the wind like the feathers of a raven. His pale hands were hanging out, and an archaic ring could be dimly seen on his finger.
Only his face was still hidden behind the black mist, merely exposing Lord Beiming’s jaw, which was as pale as his hands.
Cheng Qian somehow felt an indefinable sense of kinship, but before he could have a better view of him, a burning light glared across his body, and in the next moment, he turned into a cloud of black mist and whooshed toward the platform getting out of sight, leaving a gentle “go back as soon as possible”.
Cheng Qian suddenly developed a strange feeling – he was not coming back.
“I know it!” Exclaimed Li Yun, the master of all erratic tricks, “I know it! The golden light on his body is an invisible charm!”
Yan Zhengming looked spellbound by the scene. He murmured, “Running water, curling smoke and fleeting cloud can all make invisible charms. But… can it also be carved on a human’s body?”
“That’s definitely not a human.” Said Li Yun decisively. “It’s a soul. I’ve read from an anecdote, that there was once a demonic almighty being who was a grandmaster at charms. He was able to carve invisible charms on people’s three spiritual souls and seven corporeal souls2. He had left invisible charms on many people’s souls so that life after life, they would never get rid of his control. I bet Lord Beiming has such means too…”
“Li Yun!” Yan Zhengming was finally revived. Noticing Han Yuan and Cheng Qian were breathlessly listening to his talk about demonic cultivators, he immediately cried him down. “Shut up! – Let’s go.”
The whole Celestial Platform was shrouded in a black fog that insulated the spot of massacre from its surroundings. Standing on the hilltop beside it, they were totally oblivious to the bloody smell and battle cry from inside.
Out of the blue, a cluster of flames illuminated a corner of the fog-veiled Celestial Platform, whereupon it spread sideways at an incredible speed.
Yan Zhengming felt a twinge in his heart and shouted out, “Close your eyes!”
Everyone followed his order subconsciously. But the strong light seemed to bake their eyes through the eyelids and it looked like the entire world was dragged into a sea of fire.
For ages, the blazing light didn’t die down. Only the black fog surrounding the Celestial Platform seemed indestructible, not evanescing a bit.
Cheng Qian was the first to tentatively open his eyes. He was still dazzled and could barely see a thing only after a couple of blinks.
He saw an egg in front of them… slowly rolling towards them.
- Cycle: it basically means to go around and begin again, just like the cycle of seasons. I have a bad naming sense, so I can’t think of a better to put it. Do you readers have any suggestion?
- Three spiritual souls and seven corporeal souls: see here.