Estranged - Chapter 26

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Chapter 26. Do all rogue cultivators conceal such talents nowadays?!

The violent tempest gradually calmed down.

Black clouds scattered, but the sky was still dark; in the far distance, where the vast sea met the sky, bright rays were shining. All the vast lit water surface was deserted, and only their broken ship was sailing the sea.

This ship wasn’t small, and even had an upper deck. The carvings could be seen on the upper deck’s shutters, but they were so old that the window paper had long since rotted: the wood could not last for too long if the ship is roving around seas day after day.

The hull of the ship was careening to the sides, as if it could sink to the bottom of the sea any moment. The noise of waves lapping against the sides of their boat kept coming rhythmically, making completely exhausted people on the boat feel drowsy.

Everything was unusually calm, but wrong all around anyway.

Obviously, it was a sea, but it was called the Weak Waters.

The Seventh Layer of the Abyss was so vast, but only the two of them were there. Since every layer of the Abyss had an owner, there must have been one here too; but where was this person?

Changming couldn’t be sure whether everything he saw around him was an illusion or the reality.

He looked at the Golden Glass Beads Staff in his hand.

In the past few illusions he had visited, this Buddhist cane wasn’t with him. Could it be that he had already left the Mirror Lake for good?

The Nine Layers of the Abyss was fathomless and miraculous indeed, no wonder it enjoyed equal fame with the Yellow Springs.

While it was said that one could die hopelessly at each step in the Yellow Springs, the Nine Layers of the Abyss were a place of exceptional beauty concealing mortal dangers.

One moment, it would make people breathless with fear, but the next moment it could make them leap into the gentle and intimate embrace of death willingly.

Creak, creak.

Rather weird sounds, not quite irritating, were coming from the depths of the ship’s hold.

As if a rat was gnawing on wood, or some old construction elements of the boat were groaning under its weight.

Changming wasn’t used to remaining idle, so, after sitting for some time to recover some energy, he got up and went towards the hold.

But Yun Hai grabbed his arm.

Yun Hai said: “I will go first, you follow me.”

After some thought, he added one line: “I have never been there either.”

Changming gave no comments. When he saw Yun Hai enter the hold first, he only thought that it was really strange.

Was it still his wicked disciple with a new personality who spared no efforts to give him a hard time?

Changming wanted to say something, but said nothing in the end.

The two of them, one following the other, entered the hold.

The musty odour assaulted their senses. The shining gold beads of the Buddhist staff illuminated the corners of the hold.

There were some bones, spider webs, broken furniture, and dried up leftovers on the table, which had long since gotten mildewed.

Wherever they went, slabs under their feet made creaking sounds, echoing the noise that kept coming from the dark depths.

Yun Hai’s first reaction was to grab his long sword that came out of nowhere, and swing it in the direction of the hold. The turbulent sword qi blew up the place, lighting up the dark nooks in passing. Several dozens of rats scattered in every direction, squeaking.

The creaking noise from before actually went down.

Changming bent over to look at the spider web.

Under the light of the gold beads, the spider web almost seemed to have a green luster.

He snapped his fingers once, and a strong gust of wind made the web swing, but it didn’t tear it as he expected.

“What are you looking at?”

“The web. The spiders that spun it weren’t ordinary. Who is the owner of this place?”

“Fu Xiaoshan. It is said that his mother is a demon, and his father is a human, so half his blood vessels are demonic. But the Seventh Layer, the Weak Sea, is not very famous among the Nine Layers of the Abyss, because Fu Xiaoshan rarely appears on public occasions.”

Changming: “It seems that there are many half-bloods in the Nine Layers of the Abyss?”

Yun Hai hummed in agreement: “They are not welcome outside, while, on the contrary, the Nine Layers of the Abyss is a paradise for them. It is said that Fu Xiaoshan was infatuated with a woman, and wanted to leave this place and live with her. But something unforeseen happened, and the woman died; after that, he didn’t go out and even took the position of the Weak Water’s owner.”

There were some white balls scattered near the spider web, smooth and round like pearls.

And, when the wind blew, these balls rolled to the sides, just like pearls.

Changming used the staff as a lantern to light the balls. They were really bright, lustrous, and lovely.

Changming lowered his head to examine them, at the same time asking a question: “Demonic qi lingers in the Nine Layers of the Abyss, so those who are able to bear it and become the final victors are mostly people with demonic blood?”

Yun Hai: “No, it’s because they have no place outside the Nine Layers of the Abyss. The world is big, but it belongs to humans, not to other species.”

Changming’s stretched hand stopped halfway.

“Daoyou Yun Hai, after we’ve met on the seashore, you’ve been full of sarcastic remarks. It’s the first time I hear you talking like that. Now you really remind me of that old friend I’ve mentioned.”

“What kind of person is that old friend of yours?”

It was also the first time Yun Hai asked him a question.

Earlier, he used to refute Changming’s words, and refused to admit that he had similarities with Yun Weisi.

Changming said: “There are many diligent people in the world, but those who are both talented and diligent are rare. What happens seldom, he was able to concentrate on one thing, and could devote all his energy to his goal. If nothing fortuitous happened, his cultivation should not be lower than mine. His aptitude was the best among my four disciples, and he followed me the longest.”

Yun Hai: “Then why did you expel him from your sect?”

“I didn’t expel him. Rather, I banished myself from the sect and left Daoism.”

Changming was talking indifferently.

“Every person walks their own path, and disciples are not obligated to follow their shifus. He could cultivate without any distractions, and reached great heights. But my ambitions were high. I wanted to integrate many schools of philosophy and find my own school. Since people with different principles are bound to separate, in the end, we parted and went our own ways.”

Yun Hai: “But you fell out.”

Changming spoke so much that his throat itched. He coughed.

“It’s another story.”

Yun Hai: “Do you regret it?”

Changming laughed: “In this life, I never regret my actions.”

But what he did lament…

Creak, creak.

They stopped talking.

This time, the noise came not from where they were, but from the hold at the level below.

Yun Hai stepped on the ladder first, and Changming followed behind.

Darkness. Pitch-black, impenetrable darkness.

It was as if the Buddhist cane gold beads’ illumination range was restricted, and it wasn’t as bright as before, only lighting up the scope of one cun around the beads, and even Yun Hai’s figure in front of him blended with the darkness.

One cun: 3 ⅓ cm.

This place is strange.

These words appeared in their minds simultaneously.

Yun Hai squinted his eyes and slowed down.

It was quiet around, as if the darkness could even absorb their breaths and steps.

“Daoyou Yun Hai.”

Changming wanted to draw his attention to a possible formation under their feet, but he received no answer.

“Daoyou Yun Hai?”

He stopped completely and started listening, trying to determine his position.

But no sound of movement could be discerned in the absolute silence.

But the more peaceful, the more unusual it was.

A hand suddenly came from behind, falling on Changming’s shoulder soundlessly.

Changming abruptly stepped forward and turned back, swinging his staff at the other.

He hit the target precisely, but his opponent counterattacked with his palm. The cane bounced back to Changming, while the other person retreated back with a groan.

“The Golden Glass Beads Staff?” That person questioned.

Changming: “Daoyou Chen?”

“Daoyou Changming?!” Chen Ting was pleasantly surprised and changed his tone at once.

He came closer. When he was a very short distance away, Changming raised the cane, and saw that it was Chen Ting indeed.

“How did you come here?” Chen Ting was not only pleasantly surprised, but also a bit excited.

“Daoyou Yun Hai and I came down here from the deck,” Changming said.

Chen Ting was suspicious of his words: “What deck?”

Changming asked in reply: “Where did you come from?”

Chen Ting smiled bitterly: “It’s a long story.”

After Yun Hai leaped into the Mirror Lake, taking Changming with him, the others began arguing over the positions.

The disciple from the Celestial Abode Shenxiao thought Xu Jingxian to be one of Yun Hai’s gang that made He Qingmo’s sacrifice go to waste. He said that demonic cultivators are just demonic cultivators after all, and one can never rely on them.

Xu Jingxian was the dignified master of Lingbo Peak, and could stir up all kinds of troubles outside the Nine Layers of the Abyss. How could she tolerate such words coming from a young fellow on whom the smell of his mother’s milk had not yet dried? She attacked him without a second thought, sending that person flying right into the Mirror Lake.

Everything was in a total disorder. Guan Xiachang didn’t dare raise her hand to strike Xu Jingxian, and only turned around to run down the bridge. Chen Ting saw that the latter’s eyes were still bloodshot with murderous intentions, and she wanted to chase after Guan Xiachang to kill her, so he could only bar her way and get into a violent fight with her on the Rainbow Bridge. The scorching sea of flames under the bridge was boiling in tremendous billows and immense waves, and a giant dragon with three horns blasted off from it all of a sudden, striking the both of them. Chen Ting could only join hands with her for a short time to hold out against the furious dragon. During the fight, a heavy wave swept them away.

“I arrived in a nameless country, where every official from feudal lords to administrators was a woman, and only unimportant odd jobs had positions for men. I lost my cultivation and had no strength to even tie a chicken, so I could only run away from that place. It was really absurd… After that, my hideout was discovered by them, and they threw me into jail. When I woke up from that dream, I was already here.”

Chen Ting didn’t go into details, as if some things were too embarrassing to mention, and Changming didn’t interrogate him.

Everyone encountered different illusions.

Some cultivators sank into them and had no way to come out, and for those people the illusion world became the real one, as they couldn’t tell the difference. Buddhists call it: “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form; dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows are like a morning dew, like the stroke of a lightning”.

Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form: from the Heart Sutra. “All things are empty of intrinsic existence and nature”.

Dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows are like a morning dew, like the stroke of a lightning: from the Diamond Sutra. “Shatter illusions with wisdom”. Actually, the sutra is: “All things contrived are like dream, illusion, bubble, shadow, and as dewdrop or lightning, they should be regarded as such.” (link)

Even though he was with Changming now, he still couldn’t be sure he had managed to escape the illusions’ shackles completely.

The one who could mix all these illusions and dreams, their creator, should have been a genius in formations and the Art of Illusions. Not only did he manage to master all these techniques, but even succeeded in binding them to the landforms of the Sacred Mountain Wan, making full use of the border between the Human World and Demon World lying within. That made the Mirror Lake of the Nine Layers of the Abyss an extremely mysterious place.

There was indeed a person like this in Changming’s memories, but he had died a long time ago, under his own formation.

Creak, creak.

The darkness didn’t let them determine the source of the echoing sound, making them feel uneasy.

Chen Ting immediately stopped talking to listen carefully.

He heard Changming’s breath nearby, and that calmed him down a bit.

He wasn’t afraid of this place, but he was an experienced person, and felt that having a companion was always a good thing.

In his opinion, even though Changming’s cultivation was lost, when it came to deriving plans or deciding on actions, he was at least more reliable than the eccentric and arrogant He Qingmo or Xu Jingxian from a demonic clan.

Chen Ting squeezed the long sword in his hand.

This was the only spiritual tool he hadn’t lost while wandering through the countless dreams and illusions, because this sword was bound to his soul since he had entered his sect. Every inner disciple of the Wanjian Immortal Clan had a sword like this, a heart sword. The stronger their natural aptitude, the higher their cultivation level, and the deeper their spiritual powers were, the more formidable their heart sword became.

The sword in his hands was hot. It was warning Chen Ting about a danger ahead of him.

Chen Ting stood still.

He wasn’t a green and inexperienced young fellow, and was quite a patient person. He could wait until his enemy would step out from the darkness without rushing forward thoughtlessly.

He felt that Changming was sharing his opinion. The latter even slowed down the same way on purpose, concealing his breath.

Chen Ting was pleased: he was not mistaken in his judgement.

Creak, creak.

Chen Ting closed his eyes, listening attentively to discern the location.

The source of the sound was getting closer.

Slowly drawing close to them.

Was it a large rat, an insect, or something else?

Chen Ting tried to tell the shape of their opponent from its movements.

In his understanding, that should have been a mantis.

There were many evil spirits in the Nine Layers of the Abyss, as well as many monsters. No matter how atrocious this thing was, Chen Ting, being a disciple from a famous sect, was mentally prepared for anything, and would never scream in terror like a usual person.

He opened his eyes abruptly!

The sword was vigorously glowing, illuminating three chi around its body.

Three chi: one meter.

He saw two hands.

Two hands of a woman.

Slender, fair-skinned, and delicate.

The fingers were thin and graceful as willow leaves in the spring.

This pair of hands shouldn’t have appeared in a place like this.

The nails on these fingers were pretty long. Every time they stretched forward, they would leave deep crevices in floor slabs.

Creak, creak.

The noise came precisely from the nails scratching the wood floor.

Resembling the sound of rats gnawing on the wood.

Without even thinking, Chen Ting attacked it with his sword!

These fair-skinned beautiful hands swiftly evaded his blow, and the fingernails left the floor at once, rushing right at Chen Ting!

Chen Ting dodged to the side. His glowing sword lunged forward three times, cutting through the thick darkness and lighting the scene behind these hands.

There was a woman with dishevelled hair, completely naked, scrambling on the floor.

But there was only the upper part of her body left.

She was tightly wrapped in the thick white cobweb threads below her waist, and these threads were attached to the abdomen of a giant colorful spider.

Chen Ting was aghast.

What shocked him was not the size or queerness of the spider, but the fact that this woman who he had thought to be a victim captured by the spider, under a closer observation, was actually fused together with it. Her lower body was the threads, and she wasn’t a victim seized by the yao spider, but rather a part of it.

Yao: a shapeshifting demon that has cultivated a human shape.

Chen Ting’s breath became deeper, and he drew his sword to attack again with no hesitation. When defeating bandits, start with their chief; he struck the giant spider first!

When defeating bandits, start with their chief: one should start with the most important aspects in every task.

The bursting sword qi stung his eyes. The giant spider, which had already raised its scythe-like leg to smash him, seemed to fear the light, and took a few steps back.

Chen Ting hit the spider and the woman with his glowing sword several times, and the woman hissed instead of screaming, retreating back with the spider. Chen Ting chased them closely, but suddenly felt something was wrong: the yao withdrew only after one strike, and everything was going way too smoothly, as if it was a trap.

White silky threads were slowly and silently gathering around from all corners, sticking to his clothes and hair.

These cobweb threads were almost transparent, and hard to notice in the darkness. Chen Ting didn’t manage to see them immediately as well; by the time he did, he had already stuck to them firmly, and couldn’t move freely. These threads were exceedingly strong, and even the flames of a fire talisman that Chen Ting used couldn’t burn them.

“Daoyou Changming!”

He couldn’t help but call out for help, while cutting off the threads from his body with his shining sword.

But these threads could not be easily eliminated. Each time the sword cut them, they would quickly stick to him again afterwards, so he couldn’t leave it and deal with the spider.

Using this chance, the woman turned her long nails towards his head, and attacked him!

The giant spider noticed his predicament too, and got closer, followed by its bloody stench.

Amidst the sword rays, Chen Ting could clearly see a flickering blue spider leg above his head.

Changming didn’t answer.

Chen Ting couldn’t help but lose all hope, thinking that he would surely perish this time.

Ah!!!

A terrified scream sounded.

However, the one yelling was not Chen Ting, but the woman whose nails should have stabbed him any moment now.

The Buddhist cane hit the woman on the spider ruthlessly, and the force of the thrust was too strong for the spider to withstand, so it had to retreat together with the woman.

Chen Ting saw Changming.

The latter immediately hid in a safe place nearby, concealing his breath and waiting for the spider to concentrate all its attention on Chen Ting again, in order to strike it.

“Sword, come.”

Changming said, stretching his hand.

Chen Ting’s Guyue Sword trembled, as if in a reply, and swiftly flew into Changming’s hand!

The sword was shining brightly!

The Buddhist cane in one hand, and the sword in the other.

This Chen Ting’s Guyue Sword was not a usual spiritual weapon. His shizu personally bestowed it upon Chen Ting, and it had been following him for decades. It had gained its spiritual powers, and wouldn’t submit to just anyone.

Shizu: the teacher’s teacher.

But Changming could not only handle it, the Guyue Sword even followed his every demand obediently, as if it was his belonging and fulfilled his every wish.

Chen Ting was staring at this in mute astonishment.

He looked at this “disloyal to its master” Guyue Sword for a while, completely forgetting that he was still captured by the cobweb threads.

In a moment, Chen Ting thought of another problem. Changming could control the Golden Glass Beads Staff, which should have indicated that he was originally from a Buddhist sect. But Daoists never got along with Buddhists, so how could this person order a Daoist sword around?

Do all rogue cultivators conceal such talents nowadays?!

The author has something to say:

A small theatre unrelated to the main text:

Chen Ting: What have I missed?! Are all rogue cultivators so formidable nowadays??

Xu Jingxian: A-ha, what surprises you now, surprised me 800 years ago.

He Xiyun: A-ha, what surprises you now, surprised me 800 years ago.

Tn:

800 years ago: forever ago. This exact number comes from old tales about Old Pen Zu. He was a Daoist saint; according to the legend, he lived for more than 800 years. I’ve read two versions: the first one is that he was supposed to die at a young age, but the Eight Immortals of Daoism gave him 100 years each; the second one is that he made a delicious dish for the Heaven Emperor, and the latter simply prolonged his life.

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