Fresh blood spurted out along the sword, Gong Wei staggered half a step backward and fell to the ground.
A crisp clang sounded, and the poisoned dagger slipped out from his hand and fell to his feet.
“Chief!” “Lord Xu?” “What is happening, what-“
The crowd on the Immortal Ascension Platform shuffled forward quickly but their terrified expression could no longer be clearly seen. Gong Wei laid on the ground and looked towards the bloodstained sword. The sword’s hilt which had three engraved words “Bu Nai He” was held in a death grip by a slender but strong hand with distinct rippling of tendons on the knuckles. It was a terrifying sight. 1Note: Bu Nai He/不奈何 could also be directly translated to “No Way Out”. I’ll probably be using it interchangeably.
As his gaze moved up the arm, there was Xu Shuangtze with his lofty and perennially stiff face:
“…… You want to kill me?”
Gong Wei shut his eyes and rapidly gasped, then opened his eyes again to behold the snow capped mountains and forest in the distance.
Xu Shuangtze’s voice seemed a little louder, but perhaps because he was close, and the words he spoke seemed to be articulated with emphasis from between his teeth:
Gong Wei did not respond. The cold which had set in due the rapid blood loss had paralyzed his senses, and even his vision was now blurred. In a trance, he heard a heated clamor in the distance, and several other sect leaders rushed forward simultaneously and forcefully attempted to channel their spiritual power to prolong his life. Yet that did not help.
Xu Shuangtze had attained the highest realm of cultivation and was the world’s most formidable man. There was none who could survive under his sword named “No Way Out”.
“…… I’m sorry.” Gong Wei forced out a smile when he could, blood continued to gush from the corners of the mouth, the laugh lines on his pale face were evocative: “I’m sorry, you …… you look……”
“Don’t move!” “Lord Gong!” “Don’t move!”
Gong Wei went on as if he was deaf to the surrounding cries, he gasped and lifted his hand. In the direction he pointed, there was the winter mountains and forest and it was a land of gray and white solitude. The cold wind whistled and blew over the mountains and a sea of pine trees before disappearing into the distant horizon.
“Look, peach blossoms.”
— Xu Shuangtze’s face, perhaps even his breath, seemed to be frozen still.
In that instant, Gong Wei’s right eye pupil strangely illuminated a bright red glow and from the tip of his slender finger flew out of a million scarlet petals. It looked as if they were glittering butterflies fluttering in the wind, swept from the white jade platform down to the earth which was blanketed by the harsh winter.
In a flash, it was as if spring was returned to earth. The mountains, rivers, fields and peach blossom forests were lush and in full bloom, scarlet clouds of exceptional brilliance spread across the horizon and reflected in everyone’s frightened eyes:
“This …… what is this?!” “Illusion, illusion magic!”
“You will never be able to ascend in this lifetime.” Gong Wei laid in a pool of his own blood, grinning with his eyes curved and looking at Xu Shuangtze, but every word he spoke was terribly clear: “Your cultivation in this life …… will end here.”
He could no longer see Xu Shuangtze’s expression. Casting the terrifyingly powerful illusion of Heaven and Earth had drained every last ounce of his spiritual power. Gong Wei’s hand fell back to the ground, under the sky strewn with fluttering peach blossom petals, he closed his eyes for the last time and fell into an everlasting slumber.
In the final scene of his life, he remembered that Xu Shuangtze got down, reached his hand towards his throat. But he did not know what had happened after his death.
In the beginning of the 28th year of Taiyi’s reign, during the Immortal Ascension Ceremony, the Chief of the Immortal Alliance’s Court of Justice, Gong Wei, armed with a sharp blade, attempted to assassinate Canyang Sect leader, Xu Shuangtze. He was slain by his target’s sword in the end.
The news spread to every corner of the earth and the world was shaken.
Sixteen years later.
“–Shidi” “Shidi is awake!” “Quickly call for Dashixiong!” 2Note: Shidi refers to a junior disciple, Dashixiong or Shixiong refers to a senior disciple. Fellow disciples can also be referred to as brother or sister.
There was complete chaos around him, like countless chickens clucking at the top of their voices. The noise tore into Gong Wei’s temples giving him a sudden throbbing pain.
His first thought was: Dashixiong? My Dashixiong is here?
But he quickly realized something was amiss, because in the Immortal Alliance, other than the chief disciple Ying Kai, there could not be so many people of greater seniority to address him as Shidi.
Gong Wei barely opened his eyes and the first thing he felt was pain – it was as though all his limbs and bones had been broken and pieced back together. This was the classic aftermath of losing control during cultivation practice.
The pain made him dizzy and blurred his vision and it took a long while for everything to become clear. The first thing which appeared in his vision field were the plain white bed curtains. Then, it was a small, simple but tidy room. A man who couldn’t have been twenty, with neatly bunned up hair and a sword, stepped forward from a group of 5 to 6 teenagers and asked: “How are you doing, Shidi? Quickly lie down! Don’t move too much!”
…… it sounded much like the last angry cry he heard before his death telling him not to move, this uncanny coincidence gave him a sense of familiarity……
Gong Wei light headedly laid back down, only to see that Dashixiong instructed several teenagers to stand guard outside the door. Then, he grabbed one of his hands to carefully feel for his pulse and was subsequently overwhelmed with relief: “Shidi’s spirit pulse is weak but he is out of critical condition. This is really good news!”
Who am I?
Where am I?
Am I not already dead?
“Shidi, you must remember, the journey to immortality is the most treacherous of all risks. If you go off the rails again in your practice, loss of your cultivation is the least of your worries because you may even die! –Ah, I know that you must be too sad right now, but the annulment of your marriage with Yuchi Xiao is a done deal! Shidi must let this go. Your bloodline is not your choice, nor is it your fault, not to mention that you only have half of the Mei demon bloodline. Even if you are pureblooded Mei demon, we will not change our opinion of you, let alone have any contempt……”
Gong Wei who was just lying down like a stiff corpse suddenly heard something absurd: “Hold on a minute!”
Dashixiong turned a deaf ear, probably because he was too focused on repeating what he had rehearsed countless times while Gong Wei was unconscious. His speech sounded both passionate and wise: “Although since ancient times, Mei demons have never cultivated a golden elixir, but Shidi you are at least half human, so there must be hope! As long as you are willing to work hard, we all believe that you will be able to attain immortality! We will await your success with pride. We …… Shidi! What’s wrong with you? Are you unwell again? Somebody help!!!” 3Note: To cultivate a golden elixir means reaching a higher stage of cultivation practice.
Gong Wei who was in a deathly state just a moment ago sat up in wave of shock, pulling Dashixiong closer, an undisguised stupor reflected in his eyes: “Mei demon?!”
Dashixiong grew more fearful than he was: “Shidi! Have you lost your memory?”
It was only until half an hour later, when Gong Wei finally relied on the bits and pieces of information from conversations and the scattered memories left by this body’s original owner to make out his current situation.
The body’s owner was known as Xiang Xiaoyuan, a junior disciple who had just built up his foundation in cultivation practice. He had mediocre talent and a low level of cultivation, yet he was surprisingly famous in the sect.
But because he had a learning disability.
For most disciples who have spiritual potential, it is exceedingly common for them to have an above average level of intellect. Therefore, a disciple like Xiaoyuan was one in a million.
Sixteen years ago, disciples who were on duty found him at the foot of the mountain as a baby in a swaddle. He had a high fever, breathed faintly and couldn’t even cry. Other than a note with just eight characters of his Four Pillars of Destiny, there was nothing left on him. 4Note: Four Pillars of Destiny refers to a person’s birth year, month, day and hour. Each has 2 characters assigned giving it a total of 8 characters. It is a concept used to divine a person’s destiny.
The clan elders hired physicians and tirelessly fed him medicine for half a month before his fever subsided. However, it did cause some damage to his brain and consequently, his intellect. Since then, everyone believed that this was the main culprit for turning him into a slow learner.
Xiang Xiaoyuan learnt to speak only at the age of six or seven and barely built his foundation in cultivation practice at the age of thirteen or fourteen. As of present, he was unable to cultivate a golden elixir which was regarded as an entrance test to a formal discipleship. So he remained as an unofficial disciple of the sect.
However, it would also be false to say that the child was without merits. For example, he was obedient, diligent and no matter how challenging the training was, he would earnestly attempt to complete it, never complaining about hardship or fatigue. There were no elders in the sect who did not like him; but there was one detrimental behavioural vice which could not be made up by every single one of his merits combined.
He liked to look at pretty girls.