“He isn’t a living person, he’s only a sword spirit!”
The chill within the cave was heavy and dense, suffused with a heavy scent of rouge mingled with the stink of rotting corpses. The floor was littered with fragments of human bone and cloth; in the corner, there were even some unconsumed human hearts and eyes piled in a shallow white porcelain dish. Yet, together with this sinister scene was the heap of soft crimson sheets and cushions in the depths of the cave, draped with curtains of gold patterned with colorful butterflies.
Within the curtains, a woman in clothes so tattered that they could not cover her body was curled up in a ball and weeping brokenly. Her state of mind was already very muddled; she did not give the slightest reaction even when intruders had entered the cave.
Yue Chenqing was shocked. “Why is this rapist a woman?”
Just as Yue Chenqing said this, a hand suddenly shot out of the soft pile of red cushions and sheets, and grabbed that maiden roughly! Before she could scream, that hand dragged her into the red waves. A man with pale skin rose from the sheets in quick order, pinned her down, and viciously captured that maiden’s lips in a biting kiss before their eyes.
In the blink of an eye, it was like that maiden’s soul had been sucked away from her. Her hand drooped, slack, empty eyes opened wide. She was dead…
After that man had absorbed her soul, he raised his head–
This man had a lean, scholarly face. His eyes were long and elegant, and his face was slightly sunken under the cheekbones. A few tresses of long, raven-black hair hung by his face. He looked extraordinarily thin.
It was he who was the true rapist.
There were a few beats of silence.
Mo Xi said, “…It’s you.”
The man lapped his moist lips, and smiled. “Xihe-Jun has met me before?”
They had met before.
Many years ago, on the battlefield along the Northern Frontier, Mo Xi had been deep in a treacherous situation all alone. Surrounded by the demon wolves trained by the Liao Kingdom, he had been unable to free himself. At that moment, a young cultivator in green robes had arrived with his sword. His technique was transcendentally agile and peerlessly brilliant; joining forces with Mo Xi, whom he had never met in his life, he fought back the thousand-strong horde of demon wolves with him.
Before the green-robed cultivator had left, Mo Xi had wanted to retain him, in order to thank him. Yet, that cultivator had only turned his head back and smiled, eyes gentle. The green ribbon holding his hair up whipped noisily in the wind.
“I happened to pass by. Helping out was no inconvenience.”
The laugh lines that formed on his face were faint. “This matter is not worth Sir’s remembrance.”
As pure as first snow, the righteous grandmaster of the sword.
–That was the Li Qingqian Mo Xi had once personally met.
Due to this, although they had discovered many Water Parting Sword marks on the corpses after the Hongyan Brothel incident, Mo Xi still could not be sure before meeting the person himself.
On the other hand, Murong Lian had once seen Li Qingqian’s portrait in the Heroes’ Magazine, and clearly recognised him at this moment. After startling for a bit, he said in a harsh voice, “Why is it you?”
“Who else did you think I was?” Li Qingqian rose. Carelessly kicking Maiden Lan’s limp corpse off to the side, he said mockingly, “That escaped cook?”
He chuckled coldly. “That useless trash is no more than a pawn in my hands. If he had even half of my ability, would he have remained locked up by you for so many years?”
When it came to backhanded snarking, Murong Lian would never admit defeat. After getting over his surprise, the corner of his mouth lifted in a sneer, and he said, “Keke, now that’s odd. Li Qingqian of the Water Parting Sword is a heroic master whose name moves the people, and has an honest reputation of being virtuous. But upon meeting him today, I see that he’s nothing more than a rapist who likes to suck blood and living essence out of people, or eat their flesh and tear out their hearts. It’s been really eye-opening for this lord, how amazing, how amazing.”
Yet, after these words were uttered and before Li Qingqian could reply, Yue Chenqing suddenly paused and said, “That’s not right?”
“What’s not right?”
Yue Chenqing said, “He’s not Li Qingqian. He’s, he’s obviously a…”
He hesitated for a moment, as though he wasn’t so sure of his own judgement as well, but eventually continued, “He isn’t a living person, he’s only a sword spirit!”
Once he said these words, the shallow smile across Li Qingqian’s face froze.
Slowly, he shifted his eyes, gaze landing on Yue Chenqing. The smile on his face had yet to fade completely at this moment, but the savagery in his eyes was out for blood.
Involuntarily, Yue Chenqing shrunk back in fear, shuffling to hide behind Mo Xi. Instead, Li Qingqian showed his teeth and chuckled sinisterly. “This little brother here does not reveal his true capabilities on the surface. May I ask for your name?”
“I, I, I’m Yue…”
“What are you replying him for!?” Mo Xi raised his long leg and kicked him hard, raging, “Do you think you’re still a student of the cultivation academy, who must answer whenever he’s asked a question?!”
Yue Chenqing shook his head like a pellet drum, hastily opening his mouth to correct, “I’m not Yue–”
Li Qingqian raised his head, his bright red robes hanging open, and laughed, interrupting him. “That’s enough. All I need to know is that your surname is Yue. The Yue clan of Chonghua is the top relicsmithing aristocratic clan among the Nine Provinces and twenty-eight countries. No wonder you, a little brat, saw through the flaws that these two honoured officials Wangshu and Xihe didn’t spot.”
On the battlefield, Yue Chenqing liked to hide at the back; at this moment, with only three people and an additional bamboo soldier in the cave, he was suddenly the focus of attention. Inevitably, he was extremely jittery, quivering like a common quail.
“I, I, I…”
Kicking him was one thing; after kicking him, Mo Xi still pulled Yue Chenqing back and shielded him behind himself. Tilting his face back slightly, he asked, “He’s the one who exchanged blows with you in the tavern?”
“Why were you not able to tell that he was a sword spirit then?”
“At the time, I only felt that there was a familiar smell on him…” Yue Chenqing mumbled, “Xihe-Jun, do you still remember? I told you that before. Now that I recall, it was the aura of a sword spirit, but…”
“But I intentionally suppressed it then.” Li Qingqian picked up the topic of conversation, and chuckled coldly. “Plus, this Younger Yue-gongzi had only countered a few of my moves. He’s young, and probably hasn’t mastered all of the Yue clan’s tricks of verifying relicsmithed artefacts. That’s why at that moment, he wasn’t able to think of an answer.”
He paused, lapped at his lips, and said, “Although, Younger Yue-gongzi, I feel that the lesson your family elders need to impart to you most isn’t one on relicsmithing, but something else.”
Dumbly, Yue Chenqing said, “Ah?”
“That is, for some things, even if you know about them, it’s best to…” Before he had completed his sentence, he rose into the air, summoned an iron sword, and dove at Yue Chenqing as he gritted out the last four words, “pretend that you don’t–!”
As he watched the tip of the blade advance nearer, Yue Chenqing wailed, “Xihe-Jun, save me!”
Shoving Yue Chenqing to Murong Lian, Mo Xi went forth to meet the attack. In a flash of red, Shuairan had morphed into a long blade, and collided with Li Qingqian’s with a clang.
Sword spirit…sword spirit…
So this was the truth!
No wonder there had been some wounds on those corpses made by demonic energy, and others by an ordinary blade. Usually, a malicious spirit would not use weapons to injure. Often, they could not retain a clear state of mind either, so writing on the wall was impossible. However, if it was a sword spirit, everything was explained.
On the mainland of the Nine Provinces, in order to make their weapons more mighty and versatile, some relicsmiths would sacrifice living humans to the sword on top of the ordinary infusion of a spirit. Still, this method was too cruel, and the twenty countries of which Chonghua was the capital had long outlawed this sort of sword smithing. Today, it was mainly the Liao Kingdom that used this technique most often.
When a spirit entered a weapon, it could sink into eternal sleep and never wake again. Conversely, its obsession could be one difficult to disperse, and it could slowly regather its human form. A sword spirit that had reconstructed its human form was nearly identical in behaviour and mannerisms to a living person, save for the thick demonic energy on him. As maintaining this form required large amounts of spiritual energy, if one’s cultivation was insufficient, he could only rely on eating the heart and flesh of cultivators, absorbing the souls of the weak to achieve his goals like Li Qingqian was doing.
These sword spirits which took on a human form were often very robust, each and every attack of theirs stronger than it had been before. However, they also had a very fatal weakness–this was also the reason why Li Qingqian had been so furious after Yue Chenqing had exposed him, and hungered to kill Yue Chenqing–
Their original vessel could not land in their enemies’ hands.
In other words, as long as they obtained the weapon that served as the sword spirit’s true vessel, either to contain with a seal or to destroy it–no matter how strong the sword spirit was, it could only surrender!
Evidently, Murong Lian had thought of this too. While Mo Xi and the sword spirit were entangled in battle, he took the chance to drag Yue Chenqing aside and ask him, “You said that this Li Qingqian is a sword spirit. Do you have any ways to find his original vessel?”
“I’ll try!” While he spoke, Yue Chenqing closed his eyes, constructing a formation sigil with both hands. After a while, he opened his eyes, and turned to look at Murong Lian with a slack expression.
Murong Lian asked curiously, “What are you looking at me like that for?”
“…” Yue Chenqing said in some disbelief, “Murong-dage…his original vessel, his original vessel is on your body!”
“What nonsense are you spouting!” A pipe rapped on Yue Chenqing’s skull with a thump. Murong Lian seethed, “You dare to say that I’m in cahoots with that Liao Kingdom lapdog?”
“I don’t, I don’t! I’m only saying that his original vessel is, is–”
“It isn’t with me!”
Murong Lian forced his head down crossly. “Try again!”
Yue Chenqing could only try again, but at the end of each of the three or four attempts, he always opened his eyes and looked piteously at Murong Lian, not even daring to utter a single word. Murong Lian’s face was slightly green. His lips were trembling. He wanted to smoke some Rapture to calm his emotions, but upon recalling how he had used his pipe to stab a female corpse in the mouth while battling her, he instantly felt disgusted, and repeatedly wiped that pipe on Yue Chenqing’s clothes many times.
As he wiped, he suddenly thought of something. His expression froze, and the movement of his hands gradually slowed.
“Hold on.” He muttered, “…It really could…possibly be with me.”
He glanced at Li Qingqian, whose sword energy was breaking through the clouds above, and Mo Xi. Seeing that Li Qingqian could not possibly slip past Mo Xi to come over to where they were for a good while, he hastily dragged Yue Chenqing with him, with the intention of taking cover behind the mountain rock. Li Qingqian was not stupid; spying their actions from the corner of his eye, he humphed and turned the point of his sword, attempting to chase after them.
However, he had only glided a few feet out when he heard Mo Xi’s deep and cold voice command from behind him, “Shuairan, spirit form!”
Silently shocked, Li Qingqian heard the sound of an explosion behind him. Red light illuminated the entire cave into a sea of fire. A snake spirit as tall as three men slithered out of the burning crimson swiftly, and charged at Li Qingqian to block his path. Turning his head back, Li Qingqian raged, “Mo Xi, don’t push my boundaries! Others might not know about the scandal between you and that Gu person, but I know them very well! I know everything you’ve said and done to him in the Luomei Garden Villa after your return! If you stop me again, I will destroy your virtuous reputation completely!”
Unexpectedly, Mo Xi merely glanced at him coldly. Holding in hand the leather whip that spiritually resonated with Shuairan, he cracked it, and uttered a single word. “Attack.”
Shuairan lunged at Li Qingqian.
Li Qingqian shouted, “Mo! Do you really not care that I reveal things?!”
“Do I care about what you reveal?” Mo Xi narrowed his eyes, his expression one of scorn. “Will anyone believe what you say?”
But Li Qingqian knew that Mo Xi’s words were not false. Since his youth, Mo-gongzi had always been austerely unsullied and proper, and would never carry out perverse affairs. Faced with good-looking men, or gentle and lovely women, he was wholly uninterested in them regardless. Li Qingqian feared that Gu Mang was this man’s sole stain and only scandal in this entire world. A demonic spirit himself, even if he could narrate the affair eloquently and with clear detail, who would believe him? And even if they believed him, what could they do?
At present, he gritted his teeth, whirled around, and clashed with Shuairan.
The bamboo soldier ran around, clicking, wanting to help. Mo Xi glanced at Gu Mang, who was still tied on it and deep in sleep. With a wave of his hand, he created a protective boundary, and caged him within it.
The bamboo soldier: “Da-da-da! A-da!!”
Mo Xi said, “Stay in there, and don’t move.”
The bamboo soldier seemed to feel melancholic at its own inability to contribute; its head drooped, and pulled Gu Mang’s down with it. After a while, it stretched its arms wide, straightened its waist in dejection, and started to mimic the posture of a strawman1[liyou’s comment: T-Posing to (assert dominance)].
Behind the stone forest.
Yue Chenqing squatted on the ground, staring wide-eyed and slack-jawed at the pile of shrunken, miniature weapons before him. Sabres, swords, sticks, and whips–every sort of weapon was present–the size of a fingernail were tumbling out in a shower from Murong Lian’s qiankun pouch as he shook it.
“These were all confiscated from the captives in the Luomei Garden Villa.” Murong Lian said, “Though their owners have been rid of their golden cores, their weapons might not be willing to change owners, and have great resentful energy.”
Yue Chenqing exclaimed in shock, “Murong-dage, bringing so many owner-less heavenly weapons by your side is very dangerous. If their spirit forms surface, that’ll be a disaster!”
Murong Lian rolled his eyes at him, treating Yue Chenqing’s goodwill as donkey liver: he disregarded it entirely. “I’m not a fool. This qiankun pouch was made by your great grandfather when he was still alive, there’s his seal on it. Never mind a few hundred weapons, it’ll be able to withstand a few thousand weapons all the same. Moreover, I already let your dad remove the spirits of all these weapons and suppress them in the clear spring in Luomei Garden Villa, and even reared forty-nine2[Literally translated, it’s “seven-seven forty nine”: in Buddhism, after death, a soul goes through seven stages before reincarnation. The period of 49 days during then is meant for scriptures to be chanted and rites to be performed so they can reincarnate into a better life.] spirit-suppressing gold koi in the pond. That’s not even mentioning that Luomei Garden Villa itself has boundaries in place to stop evil spirits from escaping. Usually…”
At this point, he paused abruptly.
As though he had suddenly thought of something, his expression gradually grew more unpleasant, and he murmured, “Now I understand…”
“Murong-dage, what did you understand?”
Murong Lian said, “I understand how the sword spirit Li Qingqian escaped from the Luomei Garden Villa.”
The author has something to say:
I’ve updated earlier today hahaha! I won’t impose on people watching the CCTV New Year’s Gala! I’ve drunk too much, and I’m still having dinner outside and can’t use my computer! So I can’t edit the ‘Thanks to…’, I’ll do them tomorrow! Hahahaha! There’s no mini-theatre today, but there’s smut! The smut directly follows from chapter 29; actually, when I wrote it, there was originally smut, but I read it once through and thought there was no need to post smut so early on, and deleted it at the last minute. Today’s New Year’s Eve, so I’ve posted the scrapped smut in chapter 293[seal: so basically that giant chunk of nsfw in ch29 wasn’t there when she first posted lmao] on 肉乎乎大魔王4[this is her weibo username if you’d like to check it out!] as a New Year’s bonus, everyone can go the same old place on Weibo to have their reunion dinner, hahaha! Additionally, I won’t reply to comments today, my brain is muddled hahaha! I will give out red packets on Weibo! If anyone is interested, you can go and collect it hahahaha! Me! The big meat king! Forever loves! Silly-willy5[She literally says 傻(dumb)屌(cock).] names! Loves the little cuties who keep up with the updates! Wahahahaha!!!