Warnings: Extreme violence, gore, death of mob characters
Mo Xi growled in fury, “You aren’t mentally incapacitated at all!”
“You didn’t let me eat.” Gu Mang punctuated each word with a pause, loud and firm. “I. AM. HUNGRY!”
The firelight flared, and Gu Mang’s hand fell to cast the spell–Murong Lian’s pupils contracted abruptly!
Before one could react, right at this critical moment, a sand shield suddenly erupted from the ground. The resulting currents knocked Murong Lian over, blocking the endless flames Gu Mang was hurling at him.
Murong Lian coughed as he crawled to his feet, composure lost. He furiously swiped at the dust on his face once, whipped his head around, and saw Mo Xi standing a short distance away, maintaining the protective boundary.
“…” Murong Lian dusted the mud off himself, and asked darkly, “You tripped me on purpose?”
Mo Xi said, “Stand back, you can’t beat him.”
Murong Lian parted his thin lips, about to speak, only to hear an ominous splitting sound. In an instant, that thick protective wall splintered into pieces! Amidst the sand and soil cascading all around them, a dagger wreathed in dark energy broke through, penetrating the last barrier that was the half-transparent shield, and headed swiftly for Murong Lian!
This dagger was–
A cold fist gripped Mo Xi’s heart.
This was…this was that Liao demonic weapon that Gu Mang had summoned on the battleship on Dongting Lake, and stabbed him in the heart with!
But demonic weapons were the same as heavenly weapons–both required Gu Mang to recite a spell to summon them! Logically speaking, after Gu Mang had lost his memory, he should no longer have been able to summon this killer blade, much less with his shattered spiritual core. Yet, why could he do so now….?!
Before he could complete the thought, the dagger had already breached his defenses, poised to kill like a bolt of lightning.
Familiar with Gu Mang’s tactics, Mo Xi whipped his head around and shouted at Murong Lian, “Dodge to the left!!”
Murong Lian froze momentarily. This dagger was thrust to the left; he should duck to the right, so why did Mo Xi tell him to dodge to the left?
And it was precisely this second of hesitation that left him with no room to duck away; that dagger sailed straight-on to the right, but at the last moment, veered abruptly to the left like a devious snake! Just as it seemed like the dagger was about to injure Murong Lian, Mo Xi appeared like a shadow, and shoved Murong Lian away.
The dagger sunk into his stomach below the ribs, warm blood splattering!!
At once, the expressions of those in the crowd changed. “Xihe-Jun!”
“Xihe-Jun, how are you feeling?!”
But Mo Xi couldn’t even hear their voices at all.
He exhaled, his hand landing on the grip of the dagger. With a tug, he yanked the dagger out just like that, and blood dripped onto the ground instantly.
He raised his dark and heavy gaze, looking towards the distance. Amidst the storm of sand and rock, Gu Mang was still expelling intense spiritual energy. It was as if the wind from the battlefield years ago was barrelling by his ear once more, accompanying Gu Mang’s cruel gaze, and the sharp blade that was dripping blood in his hand.
Back then, Gu Mang had said to him–
“As a general or a soldier, or as a human being, you can’t be too sentimental.”
“As an end to our brotherly act, this is the last thing that I can teach you.”
All of a sudden, Mo Xi couldn’t hold back his urge to laugh, but what came after laughter was deep hatred. Hahaha, he had almost died once at Gu Mang’s hand in the past, how could this small abdominal wound compare?! Mo Xi ground his molars tightly and straightened his imposing figure. A fierce, stormy crimson gathered in his palm as he walked towards Gu Mang, one step after another.
Gu Mang evidently sensed the murderous aura on him; when Mo Xi drew close, the spiritual energy around him erupted once again. But Mo Xi swatted away his light array with a single palm, blasting it to smithereens.
The cultivators fighting alongside him were aghast. “Ai! Too, too scary…”
“The Mo bloodline is truly powerful…”
Still, someone else murmured, “But if Xihe-Jun can fight so well, how did he get stabbed in the heart by Gu Mang all those years ago?”
Upon hearing this last sentence, Murong Lian narrowed his eyes slightly, regarding these two opposing men, deep in thought.
Over on this side, Gu Mang intended to land another killing blow, but even before he could complete the sigil, he heard Mo Xi roar, “Shuairan! Come!!”
Echoing his words, a scarlet snake-like whip screeched as it burst through the air.
Mo Xi scrunched his nose, his expression changing as he growled, “Gu Mang! Did you really think that I’d never fight you in this lifetime?”
As soon as he finished speaking, Shuairan hurtled towards Gu Mang quick as lightning–sparks flying, the snake-like whip tore through the wind and snow, snapping harshly! Failing to dodge in time, Gu Mang’s shoulder was hit, and blood spurted from it instantly. Looking at his own wound, Gu Mang’s muddled brain seemed to clear a little. He shook his head, unconsciously retreating a step.
“Stay where you are!”
“Where else can you go.” His gravelly voice rang, and Shuairan trussed Gu Mang up entirely! Mo Xi uncurled the hand pressing on his own wound, the hand fully bloodied, and then abruptly–seized Gu Mang’s throat!
Mo Xi growled in fury, “You aren’t mentally incapacitated at all!”
“You’re still able to summon this demonic weapon! You remember the spell, you’re still accustomed to your fighting style from before, you clearly remember everything!”
Strangled, Gu Mang was unable to speak. His pale face slowly flushed red, his fingers twitching strenuously.
Mo Xi ground his teeth. “Speak! What are you plotting, by returning to Chonghua?!”
Gu Mang raised his arm, covering Mo Xi’s fingers on his throat with his trembling own. Blue eyes met black ones. There was endless fire in the black eyes, but the blue eyes were wet–Gu Mang couldn’t breathe, and it was as though he was going to die like this, strangled to death.
Mo Xi seethed, “Speak!”
All around, the faces of the crowd were fearful, and did not dare to speak out. But right at this moment, the hurried beating of horse hooves drew close from a distance, and someone shouted,
“Xihe-Jun! Have mercy!
“Yuu–” The female palace official who had hurried here jerked on the reins of her spiritual horse, jumped down, and knelt on the snowy ground, white fog puffing out of her mouth in bursts. “Xihe-Jun, may you have mercy on him!”
Then she bowed to Mo Xi and Murong Lian respectively:
“Wangshu-Jun, Xihe-Jun, the Emperor has gotten wind of this news, and specially sent this subordinate to arrest the felon Gu Mang!”
At this point, Mo Xi did not have eyes for any other person, all words falling on his deaf ears.
In the end, it was Murong Lian who turned around to ask, “Why? Where are you bringing him to?”
“Answering Wangshu-Jun, the Emperor has ordered me to bring him directly to the Chonghua Palace. After hearing about this, he summoned the top medical official within our borders who is currently in the Hall, waiting to diagnose Gu Mang a second time.”
As she spoke, she took one look at the hand Mo Xi was grabbing Gu Mang with, and immediately added, “This is a grave matter, you must not kill him of your own volition!”
Mo Xi didn’t even look at her, still glaring at Gu Mang’s face. “……”
The female official knew that he had a vicious, brutal temperament, his actions unpredictable in a moment of rashness, and couldn’t help but remind him, “Xihe-Jun!”
Mo Xi still did not make a sound, as if he was expending much effort to suppress something. After a good while, he released his fingers abruptly, letting Gu Mang collapse to his knees in the snow. He turned around instead, looking at the dying wind and snow in front of him.
The female official could finally heave a sigh of relief, and bowed again. “Many thanks to Xihe-Jun’s understanding and cooperation.”
In the heavy snow, Mo Xi stood with his back to the crowd, arms crossed, silent.
But just as the female official went to haul Gu Mang up from his knees, he tilted his head slightly, his voice low as he said, “Hold on.”
“What instructions does Xihe-Jun have?”
Mo Xi said, “I’ll go with you.”
“…” The female official was taken aback for a moment, then said, “When Shennong Terrace examines the patient, there usually can’t be too many high-levelled cultivators there. This is to prevent spiritual energy interference. Even if you come, you have to wait outside the Hall…”
“Sure.” Mo Xi still didn’t turn around, his tone scarily forceful, grinding his words out, “I’ll wait outside!”
Since he had said so, the female official was unable to say anything else. Gu Mang was brought back to the Chonghua palace by the female official, and Mo Xi followed a step behind.
After about two hours, the palace suddenly released its messenger snowy owls, urgently summoning all key officials for a hearing.
It just so happened to be late at night, and almost all key officials were dragged out of their beds by this edict. The most unfortunate of them all was Elder Yu of Chengtian Terrace, who was currently seeking pleasure in a brothel in the north of the city. Just as he drew close to the critical moment, a fat bird suddenly made a crater in the window, crying loudly, “Wahwahwah! The Emperor has his orders! The Emperor has his orders! The Emperor has his orders! All first-ranked officials are to speedily gather at the Hall of Supreme Harmony to hear Gu Mang’s case!”
Elder Yu wilted1[t/n: His dick, if it wasn’t clear.] instantly, cursing as he got up to dress, “Wasn’t his case closed long ago?! Why is there a problem all of a sudden?”
“Aiyo, don’t be angry, my lord.” The wanton woman in a state of undress got up from the mat and helped him dress. “Since the Emperor has summoned you urgently, he must have his reasons.”
“What kind of bullshit reasons! He just doesn’t want to let people rest at night!”
The woman extended a soft and delicate hand to press it lightly against his lips, smiling lazily, “My lord can’t speak so casually, he should be mindful of listening ears in the walls.”
“What do I have to be scared of? I’m only griping about it in front of you.” Elder Yu rolled his eyes. “This current Emperor does whatever he wants, and has already summoned us in the middle of the night more than a couple of times. He’s young and virile, but does he think of us sacks of old bones, who can’t survive such exhaustion?”
The woman purred softly, “What is my lord saying. Here, you’re so vigorous every round, making me feel so much pleasure, teehee, if you’re a sack of old bones, what am I.”
These words could not be any falser, making it sound almost as if Elder Yu hadn’t just wilted earlier. But Elder Yu was appropriately appeased, pinching her powdered cheek as he chortled, then kissed her neck and said, “I’m going, I’m going. Little sweetheart, I’ll come look for you again tomorrow.”
The woman tittered as she saw him off, naturally acting as if she couldn’t bear to see him leave. But once the door closed, her face fell immediately, as she derided, “Old fart, with a flaccid spearhead, looking like a dead toad soaked in sewage. If you weren’t rich, this old lady wouldn’t even bother with you.”
Once she finished mocking him, she ducked behind the screen for a reinvigorating wash, put on a change of clean clothes, and then sat at her dresser to refresh her makeup.
She had served in this brothel for many years, and had lost her youthful beauty a long time ago. But her skills were good, and she was willing to put up with a lot, willing to serve even the most perverted of clients with her best; she never revealed the slightest hint of her discomfort to her patrons, and so many older regulars still loved to call upon her.
“The hearts of those young girls are too fickle. They don’t say it, but you can tell from their eyes, Yu-Niang2[玉娘: Jade Maiden. It’s a different “yu” from Elder Yu (虞)], you’re still the best, always so sincere.”
Every time she heard lechers like Elder Yu tell her things like that, she was scoffing internally.
She wasn’t sincere; it was just that after earning her living in a place like this for more than ten years, her face had long since accumulated a thick mask of makeup that she could never remove, and she had cultivated her techniques to perfection. Every coquettish glance, every smile, even if she was sick of it and detested it deeply, she would never let them spot the slightest hint of her true emotions.
Otherwise, how could she compete with those young and tender bodies?
Facing the bronze mirror, she carefully relined the lips that Elder Yu had kissed the colour off of, took a piece of lipstick paper, and applied a sticky red to them. Then she sat and waited for her second customer of the night to enter.
She didn’t wait long before the yellow sandalwood carved door creaked open.
Yu-Niang hastily put on her warmest smile, lifting her head to greet her guest coquettishly, “Gongzi, you…” Her words cut off abruptly upon seeing the visitor’s face; a beat later, her bright red lips parted, as she emitted a bloodcurdling scream, “Ah–!!”
Standing in front of her door, was a blood-drenched man!
This man was bandaged all over, his eyes bloodshot, his hands stained entirely crimson. One of the fingernails on his left hand was buried into a sticky eyeball. He glanced at her, and said hoarsely,
After he spoke, the man walked in slowly, raised his hand, and stuffed the eyeball into his mouth whole, chewing twice before he swallowed.
Upon eating this eyeball, it was as if he had received an elixir of life, his face producing an expression of great relief. He licked his lips, his eyes slowly turning in this direction to look at the deathly pale Yu-Niang, and said,
“Bring a pot of tea.”
Seeing that Yu-Niang did not move, his tone grew impatient. “Bring me a pot of tea!”
Bring tea, her foot!
Terrified, Yu-Niang fell from her stool with a thump, shivering from fear all over. She wanted to back away, but her limbs were frozen and did not listen to her command, only trembled.
She trembled for a while, then screeched like a madwoman, stumbling as she tried to get up to run out of the room, “Help! Help me–there’s a ghost…there’s a ghost!!”
She thought of Elder Yu, who had just left; this time, she truly believed from the bottom of her heart that Elder Yu was towering, mighty, and capable, hysterically yelling, “Elder!! Elder Yu!!!”
The door opened as she collided against it with a crash, and she staggered outside.
Come to think of it, it was strange: the man who ate the eyeball stood unmoving, as if he didn’t care about letting her sprint out madly. His bloodstained lips parted, revealing a cruel mouth of white teeth, and chuckled coldly.
Yu-Niang ran to the stairs, saw the situation downstairs, and her legs gave way. She fell with a thud, unable to get up again.
From the ground floor…to the wooden steps…unbeknownst to her up till now, had been strewn with corpses…
There were only three to four prostitutes left surrounded and trapped in the middle of the brothel’s main hall, all of them terrified to bits, huddled together, their beautiful faces tear-stained.
The first-ranked key official–Chengtian Terrace’s Elder Yu was in fact lying underneath a table downstairs as a corpse . All that was left of his eyes were two bloody holes.
Yu-Niang shook her head furiously. “…No….no……”
Why did the imperial guard not notice something amiss, when such a large disturbance had occurred?
H-how did she not hear anyone outside screaming or wailing, when she was in her room just a wall away?
As if gleaning her thoughts, a voice behind her said languidly, “In this world, Chonghua is not the only country with its own secret techniques. If I don’t want others to hear anything, I have many ways to accomplish that.”
The sound of his footsteps was menacing.
That bandaged man walked out of the shadows, holding a teapot patterned with birds and peonies. He raised his head, poured most of it into his mouth in a gurgling stream, then smacked his lips and casually chucked the teapot.
It shattered to dust with a crash!
“You don’t have to be afraid. I won’t kill you for the time being.” The man walked over leisurely, grabbed her hair, and yanked her along as he walked slowly down the steps, throwing her towards the four lucky survivors. Then, he pulled up a chair, and sat down unhurriedly in front of them, his bloodshot eyes surveying them.
He was silent for half a beat, before he suddenly said, “You girls. Consider one another’s faces carefully, I’ll give you the duration it takes for a joss stick to burn down to do so.”
When he finished speaking, he lifted a hand, and slammed the front door of the brothel shut remotely from a distance.
Then he waved a hand, and three corpses rose from the sea of dead bodies. Elder Yu was one of them. They wobbled and lurched, shuffling towards the centre of the main hall.
Among these women, Yu-Niang was the only one who could still speak; the others looked like their souls had fled from terror.
“Are you trying to ask, what am I intending to do?”
The man helped her finish her sentence, then chortled coldly, “Didn’t I say? I’m giving you the duration it takes for a joss stick to burn down to closely examine one another’s face.”
“Afterwards?” The man stroked his chin inattentively, considering, silent for a while.
As if this question, which could not have been simpler, had him stumped.
At this moment, the three corpses which he had raised were already closing in. The eyeless Elder Yu extended a hand to pull at Yu-Niang’s arm. Yu-Niang screamed like she was on the verge of a meltdown, “No! Don’t touch me!! Don’t touch me!!!”
“You’ve scared the lady?” The man asked lazily, turning to look at Elder Yu. “Old fart, how are you still handsy when dead.”
Elder Yu lifted his head and emitted a croaking sound, as if he was mournfully trying to explain something to the man.
But the man only snorted twice and raised a hand. A gust of dark energy shot out, striking Elder Yu in the forehead; in an instant, Elder Yu crumpled to the floor, spasming, and melted into a pool of blood.
“So long-winded. One grows to find it annoying.”
The other two corpses seem to have sensed it, their steps stiffening further, their movements more careful. They shuffled over slowly, finally moving six chairs over, gingerly positioned them by the few brothel girls, then bowed.
The man said, “Please sit.”
–If it weren’t for the blood drenching him head to toe and the sins he’d just committed, his tone could be considered polite.
“What, do you need someone to help you there?”
Though the girls had all lost their wits from fright, they did actually absorb every word said–it was only that they were all frozen, and only reacted after a long while. Immediately scrambling to their feet by themselves, each one of them sat on the chairs, unwilling to let the bandaged man or those two corpses touch them no matter what.
Yu Niang sobbed, “Who, who…are you…actually?”
“No hurry,” the man said. “When you have done as I’ve instructed, and answered a few questions of mine, I’ll naturally let you know.”
He paused, then said, “Oh. Yes. By the way, let me remind you girls: don’t count on anyone to come rescue you. I’ve cast a boundary spell on the door, no one will be able to notice anything amiss for a good while.”
After saying this, he slowly turned his head, gazing at the tightly-shut main entrance of the brothel. Then he licked his lips, the crimson in his eyes darkening, and let loose a joyous laugh. “So, we’ll start?”
It was truly as this bandaged man said, or perhaps it was because Luomei Garden Villa had already occupied the attention of the imperial guard for tonight–or even perhaps it was his secret technique that was truly formidable, that such a serious matter occurring in the north of the city could still go undetected for a good period of time.
It was currently peaceful in the palace of Chonghua.
First-ranked cultivators assuming various key positions came streaming to the foot of the imperial steps. Mo Xi had already waiting outside for long; when Murong Lian came, he chose not to stand anywhere else, purposely choosing a spot that put him shoulder-to-shoulder with Mo Xi, and stood like so outside of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
In the wind and snow, Mo Xi’s side profile appeared even more cold and stern. Murong Lian glanced at him twice, turned his gaze to look straight ahead, and mocked lightly,
“Xihe-Jun, you actually kept waiting here in this heavy snow?”
Mo Xi didn’t make a sound, silently letting the snow thinly cover his shoulder. Murong Lian paused for a while; when he did not receive a response from Mo Xi, he said,
“Speaking of which, let me ask about something. The reason you were so angry outside Luomei Garden Villa previously, was it because you felt that Gu Mang isn’t actually mentally incapcitated.”
Mo Xi shut his eyes, a dark expression faintly creeping onto his face. “……”
Yet Murong Lian was simply tactless, and continued to be arrogant. “But based on my understanding of you, I really suspect this: if no one had stopped you, would you have truly strangled him to death?”
“To him, you feel–”
Mo Xi whipped his head around, and growled, “Murong Lian, have you had enough of being annoying?!”
The snowy night was tranquil, and in front of the Hall, they had to be properly solemn–Xihe-Jun’s sudden outburst startled all the cultivators on scene. As one, they stuck their necks out to peek over to where the two men were standing.
Having lost face, Murong Lian’s cheeks turned blotchy with colour. Just as he was about to say something, at this moment, the red lacquer carved door opened, and a messenger came out, bowing to these important officials.
“Esteemed ones, the Emperor has extended an invitation.”
Murong Lian ground his teeth, and muttered, “The one surnamed Mo3[姓墨的: It’s a very Chinese thing to indicate people by just their family name when you’re pissed at them.], just you wait!”
Irate, Mo Xi stepped forward, the dagger hanging by his waist flashing, and left Murong Lian behind.