Estranged - Chapter 15

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Chapter 15. Are you still a man?

Obviously, Yun Hai stopped talking.

The thunderous noise drew the attention of the three of them, including Yun Hai.

The more vigorous the flames got, the bigger they grew; explosions sounded in the distance, and the noise inside the city walls was getting louder.

Xu Jingxian: “What on earth is going on!”

Of course, no one answered this question. Xu Jingxian herself felt that she would not receive an answer, but couldn’t resist asking anyway.

In the world of cultivation, a crisis is also an opportunity. Even if a person was highly gifted, that didn’t mean that they would sail with the wind up to the sky in their cultivation; it was still required for them to pull chestnuts out of the fire, risking their life on each step to raise their level. Although Xu Jingxian occupied the position of Peak Master, the Jianxue Clan was never a peaceful place where people were ready to compromise, so she also had to fight her way through up to the top.

Sail with the wind up to the sky: smooth sailing—everything is going smoothly; reach clouds light on one’s feet—meteoric rise (of a career).

Pulling chestnuts out of the fire, risking their life on each step: to pull chestnuts out of the fire—to be a cat’s paw; nine deaths and one life—a slim chance of surviving.

But the situation ahead of them was unclear, and to rush there without understanding the circumstances would be a reckless decision.

Having received no answer, she cursed silently, but suddenly heard Changming’s words: “It looks like we have to enter Seven Star Rivers City.”

Xu Jingxian turned her head, puzzled, and couldn’t help but take half a step back.

From the depths of the thick fog, a vague grey air mass was crawling towards them slowly, as if the grey mists were a living creature, shadows that were gaining a corporeal form.

The creature had no ears, eyes, lips, nose or tongue, and its limbs were just hollow shapes. It was walking slowly, but the distance to the creature was short, and soon it was only a couple of zhangs away.

Zhang: 3.33 m.

Xu Jingxian bent down, picked up a piece of burning firewood, and threw it in the direction of this gray qi mass. The fire drew an arch in the air, and the log fell right on the grey anthropomorphic shadow.

They heard a rustling sound, and the gray mist was dispersed by the fire. But just when Xu Jingxian thought she had vanquished these strange creatures, the grey fog, swarming like insects, reassembled again, turned back into a human shape and continued moving towards them, even faster than before.

“What is this!”

Xu Jingxian believed that she had seen and experienced a lot in her life, but she had never seen such a bizarre monster.

Like a human yet not, like a ghost yet not, and not like the usual evil spirit at all.

“This is a firefly maggot. It is said that this is the soul of a person who died tragically,  possessed by a parasite; others say that grievances of cultivators who died unjustly coagulate and gain a shape. They are not afraid of water or fire and can devour anything. They are seldom seen in the Nine Layers of the Abyss.”

A firefly maggot: the ‘maggot’ part actually has two meanings: 1. a cadaveric worm; 2. (in Daoism) a demon that dwells in the human body and waits for the person to make a mistake, and then every 60 years goes to the Heaven Emperor to speak maliciously of people.

Yun Hai’s voice sounded, now a bit more serious.

Xu Jingxian: “Seldom seen, yet we run into one!”

The three of them were retreating while speaking. Changming’s steps were heavy and a bit slow; he couldn’t keep up with his companions and risked being caught by the grey mist any second. Xu Jingxian sent her thin silk to wrap itself around his waist to carry him.

This was not a sudden act of benevolence. She was a stranger in the unfamiliar Nine Layers of the Abyss, and only Changming knew something about this place. Although he was frail, he had a basic understanding of the situation, so naturally Xu Jingxian couldn’t just leave him behind calmly and watch him die in this place.

“Why are you so useless!”

Even though she chose to help him, she still had to complain.

If this continued, they would really be forced to enter Seven Star Rivers.

There was an abnormal monster in front of them and chaotic flames behind. Xu Jingxian couldn’t believe such bad luck and didn’t want to succumb to the circumstances. She grabbed Changming and threw him to the side with one hand, raising the other; the long thin silk fabric flew from her hand towards the grey mist!

The thin silk was light as a feather, almost weightless. But at that moment, it was straight and sharp like a sword, and they even heard the sound of it piercing the air; vigorous purple rays accompanied the silk. This attack might be able to stop even some skilled masters.

“Stop!”

Changming wanted to stop her, but he was too late.

The next moment the violet rays crashed together with the grey fog. Just like before, the latter scattered around and quickly assembled back, “devouring” the thin silk!

Xu Jingxian was astonished. She wanted to command the thin silk to return to her sleeve, but realized that a part of it was “devoured”, while the grey mists were getting closer, following the remaining half of the silk.

Yun Hai moved in the twinkling of an eye.

He didn’t catch Xu Jingxian, but raised his hand to cut the thin silk half an inch away from her fingertips, shouting,

“Retreat!”

Just when this word sounded, Xu Jingxian, having no time to mourn her treasured silk, grabbed Changming and rushed towards Seven Star Rivers. Changming felt that his wrist was gripped tightly, and he didn’t even need to make any efforts as his body flew forwards beyond his control. The scenery was quickly left behind. Xu Jingxian’s speed of fleeing for her life was impressive, showing that she might have used her secret escape techniques.

Changming understood why she was so frightened. Although her thin silk could not be compared to the muslin from the Donghai Sea, it was still a valuable and rare material. The grey mist could easily “devour” the thin silk shrouded in her spiritual powers, and Xu Jingxian felt that her body was not at all as sturdy as the silk.

Only then did she realize that Yun Hai’s words were not an exaggeration.

After all, many demons like these lurked in the Nine Layers of the Abyss!

They were getting closer to the clamour and rays of light.

They saw the towering majestic city walls in the bright light.

The town gates were closed tightly, but this did not pose a problem for Xu Jingxian. Carrying Changming, she flew into the town and landed on the southeast corner of a building’s roof. She turned back, saw that the grey fog wasn’t following them, and only then let out a sigh.

“Are you still a man? So useless! If I knew earlier, I would have left you to yourself!”

Changming’s mouth twitched.

It was “Ming-lang” and “Ming-lang” all the time earlier as she followed him around, inquiring about everything, and now it turned into “are you still a man”.

He knew very well that since he had matched his powers with Zhou Keyi a few days before, although he had tricked his third disciple, he nevertheless suffered severe internal injuries. If he could spare his nerves, he tried to do so as much as possible.

Besides, just a few words wouldn’t hurt him anyway.

Therefore, he didn’t take it seriously, let Xu Jingxian complain about the same thing again, waited for her to finish, and only then asked: “What about daoyou Yun Hai?”

Xu Jingxian looked left and right, but didn’t see Yun Hai. Just when she thought he was either unable to escape or was running late, she heard a voice.

“I’m here.”

Yun Hai appeared in front of them out of nowhere.

“Yun-lang has a very profound knowledge in cultivation, yet I was unable to measure your skills; to have eyes but fail to recognize Mount Tai indeed!”

To have eyes but fail to recognize Mount Tai: to fail to recognize sb’s great talent.

Xu Jingxian was startled in her heart, and was partly flattering, partly probing him.

Yun Hai didn’t answer and only smiled.

This person is even more slippery than Changming, and doesn’t speak a word, Xu Jingxian thought.

She suddenly exclaimed: “Those demonic creatures didn’t follow us here!”

Yun Hai: “Probably because of Seven Star Rivers.”

Xu Jingxian: “What do you mean?”

Yun Hai: “Seven Star Rivers is the first layer of the Nine Layers of the Abyss. Entering it actually means entering the first layer of the formation, so there must be something formidable about it that can keep the maggots at bay. Otherwise, they would have devastated the city a long time ago.”

While the two of them were talking, Changming was looking around.

The roof was a good position to overlook the ground below, and he was observing the town from a height.

Although the houses inside the city had grey walls and black tiles, the architecture resembled that in the Human Realm. Fires broke out all over the town, sounds of fights were coming one after another, and figures of cultivators engaged in battles could be seen everywhere.

Sure enough, the chaos in Seven Star Rivers had already reached the point where it was impossible to ignore.

Even though Xu Jingxian had long since prepared herself, she couldn’t help but stare blankly at this.

She saw two cultivators fighting not far away. Their silhouettes moved up and down in flashes, and their skills were already on the same level as those of great masters. Though it is said that only remarkable people can enter the Nine Layers of the Abyss, the power of these cultivators made Xu Jingxian uneasy.

If the cultivators in the First Layer of the Abyss were so formidable, how powerful were the people from the second and other layers?

“We should find a more secure position, this place…”

Is too dangerous, as it’s easy to become a target while occupying the high grounds.

But before she could finish her words, the two figures in the distance suddenly flew up to engage in a hand-to-hand fight. The spiritual powers that followed them shook the ground. Dark clouds gathered in the sky, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, attracting the attention of everyone in the town at once.

One person was holding a long thin staff, the tip of which had golden glass-like pearls with eight-petal lotuses engraved on them. It was so dazzlingly bright that it could outshine the sun and the moon.

The other person was holding a short thick whip with distinct scales on it. Dark red lights were floating around it like ominous scarlet stars.

The two of them were ready to start a fight in the air.

When the first bolt of lightning struck, they moved.

The short whip was not as a disadvantage as some might think. The whip owner could actually move faster than the person with the staff. In the blink of an eye, the red lights of the whip flew towards the head of the staff owner, and the bald head of the latter reflected the light; if one was not looking closely, they might think that his head was faintly glowing.

Xu Jingxian was surprised.

“This bald head seems to be quite familiar, could I have seen it before?”

“His name is Bei Shu.” Yun Hai said.

Xu Jingxian: “That disciple abandoned by the Qingyun School?”

Yun Hai: “Right. Years ago, he lost a battle against the School Master. People say he suddenly turned hostile to the Qingyun School right after that and left it beneath the gaze of many eyes. A lot of people waited for the Qingyun School to chase and kill him, but he disappeared many years ago unexpectedly. It turns out he has come here.”

Changming: “Who is the Master of the Qingyun School now?”

Yun Hai: “Buddhist monk Buku. His lay name is Sun Buku.”

Changming: …

Yun Hai: “Does Daoyou Changming know him?”

Changming: “I’ve heard a lot.”

Yun Hai laughed and continued talking: “When this Buku had just taken the position of Master of the Qingyun School, he immediately ordered people to kill Bei Shu. Bei Shu is rather fortunate to be here. Even if the Qingyun School wants him dead, they won’t be able to kill him easily.”

Xu Jingxian: “What about the other person?”

Yun Hai: “The other person’s ears are a bit longer than a common person should have, so he must be of demon blood.”

The fighting people were moving extremely fast, but Xu Jingxian, after having watched them with rapt attention, noticed that the ears of the whip wielder were indeed different, a bit more pointed. It seemed that the man wanted to hide this fact by letting his hair down. Only when he moved could she see the truth.

Xu Jingxian had once heard about cultivators with demonic blood, but it was her first time seeing one with her own eyes. Upon hearing these words, she couldn’t help but linger her gaze on the owner of the short whip for a long time. His attacks were quick and forceful, as powerful as Bei Shu’s. Except for the fact that his features were a little deep and his hair was not black, he looked like a usual cultivator. If Yun Hai hadn’t drawn her attention to his ears, she wouldn’t have noticed these small details.

The owner of the whip did not only have abundant spiritual powers, but also was a very strong person physically. Bei Shu used all his strength to swing his staff, but the other stopped him with his short whip and unexpectedly did not yield an inch; in the end, it was Bei Shu who had to retreat several dozens of meters.

The two of them had a world-shaking battle near the central spire of Seven Star Rivers, and their surging spiritual powers formed a cyclone that spread around, turning everything on its way into broken pieces.

The author has something to say:

A small theatre not related to the main text:

Xu Jingxian: Are you even a man?

Changming: When you want something, I’m Ming-lang, and when I am of no help, you start doubting whether I am a man?

Xu Jingxian: He-he, don’t talk nonsense, or Yun Hai will misunderstand us. When have I ever called you Ming-lang?

Changming: …

Yun Hai: Then can I call you Ming-lang as well?

Changming, Xu Jingxian: …

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