Wounds and Turn to the Dark Side
Ming Feizhen lifted a big jug of wine up to drink from, stopping every two mouthfuls to compliment its flavour. When the annoyed Great Spirit Shaman was ready to kill Ming Feizhen and had the procedure drawn out, Ming Feizhen suddenly said, “Ninety-eight years ago, a young boy was born in Heisina Tribe, outside of Nieyao,” then pointed to Gewu. “Long-story short, you’re the boy.”
Rather than be swayed over the extremely condensed story, Gewu was more curious where Ming Feizhen gained the knowledge from.
“After I linked up with Heisina Tribe in the Central Plain, I purchased information on Heisina Tribe from a contact of mine. It was pricey, and I’ll have to sort payment out sooner or later, but that’s a story for another day. When I went over the information, I discovered an interesting story about someone called Wuge, who lived over ninety years ago.
“He was dealt a rough hand. Not only was he born a Heisina, but, when he was eight, someone murdered his family. He then left Nieyao and joined a shrine under a different name, starting at the bottom until he became a cleric… You haven’t forgotten the story, have you?”
Gewu never could forget his past or his lifeless reflection in the creek he passed by after striding out of the inferno no differently to a zombie. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even consciously leave the scene of the arson. He went through thorny mountains, desolate wilds and flourishing cities, eating if there was food available and starving if there wasn’t until he fell sick. By the time he woke up again, he found himself in a quaint shrine.
When the cleric asked for his name, he instinctively reversed his name to Gewu because nobody with the Heisina surname was allowed to desecrate a shrine with their “cursed” presence. The cleric didn’t pry into his past, nor did he ask for payment for the bowl of soup or his time. All he did was teach the boy to say, “Thank you.”
The cleric raised him henceforward, teaching him about Shaman Monarch faith. Just because Heisina Tribe was forbidden from interacting with gods and spirits, it didn’t mean they kept them at arm’s length. To the contrary, they always left over food for their ancestors’ spirits and the divine sun even if it meant they’d starve, believing they just happened to be the ones abandoned.
Looking back, those days were the happiest days in Gewu’s life. He was blessed with the privilege to learn something new daily, meet new people and things, and he was even close to the cleric’s beautiful daughter. Gifted with the intellect and health of a Heisina, Gewu gradually rose in rank.
Alas, no amount of joy could erase Gewu’s wrathful feelings reserved for the culprit behind his family’s demise. His enemy’s appearance was so vividly etched in his mind that he could draw it off by heart. Because he wasn’t satisfied with bad karma befalling his nemesis, he sought the tutelage of a martial artist. He thought he had ended that tragic part of his life when he killed all of those involved in his parents’ death and could focus on serving as the shrine’s cleric, but he was wrong.
On the night of Gewu’s wedding five years later, a group of people raided the shrine, killing his wife and teacher in the chaos. Livid, Gewu, as a mighty Heisina, murdered everyone he came across until there was only one individual left. When he was about to deal the last blow, he identified the last one: the man was the son of the very man responsible for his parents’ death. When he took his revenge, Gewu only killed those who had a hand in his family’s death.
Gewu kowtowed to the two most important people of his life, howling. He couldn’t fathom why the nefarious fate wouldn’t spare him. Why did his parents have to be killed? Why did he have to suffer? Why did his wife and teacher have to be killed? Why did he have to suffer time and time again?
When Gewu asked the man why they had to kill his wife and teacher, the man gave an unforgettable grin and answer: “You’re a filthy Heisina… Do I need a reason to kill a dog?”
Gewu beheaded the villain and threw the head aside, deeming it unworthy of another glance.
From that day onwards, gods ceased to exist in Gewu’s world. He came to see value in another goal, deciding he would kill even gods if they were to get in the way of the hope he believed would eventually descend. To this day, his opinion hadn’t changed.
Reliving the memories abated Gewu’s anger somewhat, bringing to his eyes a sense of “transcendence” from one still stuck in the mortal world’s conventions.
“It’s been a long time. Those who remember Heisina Wuge are already dead. Well, nobody remembered him in the first place.”
Thanks to recollecting himself, Gewu was able to think properly again. He presumed Ming Feizhen learnt of his past from records of enemies he didn’t vanquish. If Ming Feizhen was to extrapolate from what information was available, he certainly could’ve reached the conclusion.
There was nobody left from Gewu’s active years to verify Ming Feizhen’s inference. Even if he was to place an enquiry with those who knew Gewu from his younger days, Ming Feizhen wouldn’t learn anything new. Time didn’t just erase Gewu’s warmth; it also ushered in a new world.
“If you intend to blackmail me with that story, you’re not very wise. You’re done with your drivel. It’s my turn to question you now. Who are you? What do you want?”
Ming Feizhen had another drink. “Hahaha, my name is Zhong Ning. I hail from the Central Plain.”
“Zhong Ning… One of the four most depraved perverts of the Central Plain?”
“Don’t worry about that. I came here for Nieyao. I believe you know what resides within.”
“Hoho, so you’re here for Nieyao, huh? What do you mean by ‘what resides within’?”
“I can see the fangs behind the smile. You’re trying to find out who sent me and then silence me, no? Let’s not play these games, shall we?” Ming Feizhen took another swig of wine. “You know as well as I do what presides over Nieyao. Nobody has caught the monster that has made Nanjiang its shelter for centuries.” Ming Feizhen stopped to burp, then continued, “Nanjiang’s people have no idea what it is, and I can’t care less what they think it is. It’s your business. Thing is, that monster must go, or disaster will befall the human realm if it’s released.”
“… What do you want?”
“Simple.” Ming Feizhen sat up and placed the jug onto the throne. “I want to vanquish it. I’ve brought over a thousand soldiers and more adepts than you can count to that end.”
“What do you want my help with?”
“Three months.” Ming Feizhen held up three fingers. “I want you to pause whatever plans you have on your agenda, including your designs for Baimu and Wanyu, for three months. I will be using the two states during your three month intermission.”
“Kuku… Kukuku, I was thinking you were some bold hero, but you’re just an imbecile. You think I’d acquiesce? You think your knowledge is enough to blackmail me? Or did you think your little army would scare me?”
Shaman Monarch Palace’s reputation overshadowed Gewu’s martial prowess. Howbeit, should a man who could reverse aging in a nation that concentrated on training physical attributes be underestimated?
Gewu slammed his hand down, smashing a dent in the ground ten metres deep, dust devouring the two of them. The rumbling sounds prompted people in the guest building to take a peek outside, and they could see the crater from the mountain.
“I built Shaman Monarch Palace with my own hands. I’ve seen plenty of young and brave heroes. I’ve fought plenty of adepts, and none of them ever beat me. Moyan Luohou has even bowed his head to me. Your blackmail is baseless hearsay. Your army, hah, I can mobilise tens of thousands of soldiers with a single command. All eleven states’ Kings take orders from me. If I duel you, I’d crush you with one hand. The man before you is the man who led Shaman Monarch Palace to glory, Great Spirit Shaman who commands Xiacang Anxi’s eleven states. Show some sincerity, insolent brat!”
“… I had no idea… you had so many men at your beck and call. Why didn’t you say so sooner, man?”
He doesn’t look scared witless. Did I scare him crazy?
“Your assumption is wrong, though.” Ming Feizhen got to his feet and pointed his black weapon to the ether. “The thought of blackmailing anyone never crossed my mind.”
Like a demon out of a dark abyss, the descending black weapon generated a maelstrom. As the wind blew by Gewu’s aching ears, he could nigh see “violence”. The cliff outside the guest building crumbled into fragments, creating the impression that the mountain was falling apart. There was a deep slash mark on the surface of the cliff that only a monster beyond human comprehension could’ve carved there.
Gewu didn’t fossilise because he lost his consciousness but because his mind hadn’t had time to manufacture an excuse. His brain hadn’t even processed what just transpired.
“I never intended to blackmail you with the story or threaten you with military might. I only told you about them to show my sincerity. The benefit you get out of complying is, I won’t give you grief. I imagine that’s the greatest boon you could ask for.”
Gewu slowly looked over his shoulder.
There’s always that one person at the end of all your annoyance. He’s the cause of all your problems. He’s the physical manifestation of your unease. No matter how you struggle, he’s there to step on your head when you think you’ve made it. That’s called fear and despair.
He’s… in that realm…
Gewu heard himself swallow in his head. Upon seeing the crowd checking what just happened, he made a decision – perhaps subconsciously. Only when he had time to reflect later did he figure out he went wrong when he compelled Ming Feizhen to make a statement.
Gewu dropped onto his knees to offer Ming Feizhen the highest salute for a monarch. Using enough internal energy for everyone on the mountain to hear, he cried, “This old one humbly welcomes you back!”
“Welcome back, Your Majesty Shaman Monarch!”
There wasn’t anyone or anything with ears on Mount Wanyu that didn’t hear the earnest words.
Ming Feizhen returned to the throne and yawned. “I’ll be in your care for the next three months, Ol’ Ge.”
IMPORTANT: Read featured comment in regards to rescheduling of release schedule.