Chapter 14: Clarity

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Flakes of snow began to fall outside, sporadically drifting into the carriage, as the carriage traveled across Chunfan City.

Xiao Fuxuan used the handle of his sword to loosen the ropes tying the curtains.

The curtain was made with a thick layer of thick felt, completely blocking out what little daylight had shone in from outside.
Immediately, the inside of the carriage dimmed.
The Hua Sect’s carriage had everything inside, including neatly folded blankets, and there even seemed to be some incense made of spiritual medicine placed inside the earthenware.

Wu Xingxue had the handwarmer he brought down from the boat.
He was leaning sideways against the side of the carriage, and he liked this warm yet dark environment.
It made him feel relaxed and sleepy.

Holding the handwarmer, he seemed to be sleeping.
But his eyes were only half-closed.
From the thin opening, he was looking at the tall man standing beside the carriage door.

***

It was just as Yi Wusheng had guessed – Wu Xingxue had already known.

The first time he clearly noticed that something about himself was off was on Peach Blossom Island.
A-Yao charged into the room, screaming and crying.
His hand that reached out to grab at him was being blocked by Xiao Fuxuan.
In that split second, he saw A-Yao’s eyes.

A lunatic’s eyes were always muddled and unclear, with no focal point.
But an image of those two eyes opened wide in terror, staring at him from across the windowsill, had suddenly flashed across his mind.

It was as if he had seen this somewhere before.

So he asked the attending disciple who he was.

The disciple replied, “He’s A-Yao.
He’s gone insane because of Wu Xingxue.”

It was hard to describe how he felt at that moment.
He could only remember that he fell silent for a bit, then subconsciously turned his head to look at Xiao Fuxuan.

He didn’t know why he looked at Xiao Fuxuan either.

Maybe it was because he was hoping someone could tell him that he wasn’t that Devil Lord, and that what happened just now was because of the remaining spirits of the original owner of the body.
Or maybe… he just wanted to know if he really was Wu Xingxue, what kind of reaction Xiao Fuxuan would have had. 

Back in Que City, he remembered that there was an elder who once told him that he was a quick-witted child, that he never revealed his true thoughts on his face.

However, he wished that at certain times, he could be a bit dumber.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t.

Back when he was in Hua Sect’s guest room and the little disciple was using a soul-checking talisman to test him, he had all sorts of thoughts emerge in his head.
His body subconsciously told him to switch to the other hand.

He didn’t know why either, nor what would happen if he switched his hands.
But everything seemed to happen naturally, as if this was what he had always done.

Because he couldn’t explain why, he could only lightly tease the disciple.

After that, his thoughts have always wandered.

In his head, he kept telling him “maybe it’s the remaining spirits of the original owner,” but in his mouth, he asked Xiao Fuxuan what kind of person Wu Xingxue was.

In fact, the moment he asked that, he already knew in his heart, but he just didn’t want to admit it.

Until he met Yi Wusheng.

Until Yi Wusheng was grabbing the bottom of his robes, just like Yi Wuqi from back then, struggling and begging him to kill him.

And until he saw the Dream Bell.

….

He was finally forced to believe that there was no such place as “Que City” in this world.

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From the moment he used his powers and pulled A-Yao into the air, he used A-Yao’s hand to pull out Yi Wusheng’s sword, piercing the sword into Yi Wusheng’s heart with one strike…

He was still the same Wu Xingxue.

In Que City’s never-ending carriages and horses, the sounds of clopping hooves on the broad and open roads, the common people who noisily came and went, those spring banquets, deep winter Hundred Man Hunts, and the flower bells and the birds of his manor… they were all nothing but a man-made fantasy.

He hid in that fantasy for 25 years before finally opening his eyes again.

But he still couldn’t remember anything.

He only vaguely remembered hearing the ring of a bell.
As for who had shaken the bell, why he had slept for 25 years, what happened before he heard the bell, and what he needed to do after waking up, he knew absolutely nothing.

The only solution to undo everything seemed to be the Dream Bell.

That was why he came onto Yi Wusheng’s carriage.

He knew clearly in his heart why he wanted to come along, but as for why Xiao Fuxuan also came, he was curious about that as well.

Before, Wu Xingxue could understand very well Xiao Fuxuan’s actions and reactions.
After all, at the time, he had repeated over and over that he was a soul who had entered someone else’s body, and eventually, he even tricked himself into believing it.
Despite the fact that Xiao Fuxuan was the Celestial Immortal, and despite how sure he said he was, some uncertainty would more or less still remain in his heart.

Since he wasn’t sure, then he couldn’t act unreasonably, treating a mortal with the same methods he would do to the Devil Lord.
It was completely normal for Xiao Fuxuan to be conflicted at the time.

But this time, the situation was different.

Wu Xingxue had learned the truth about everything.

And after seeing Yi Wusheng’s reaction just now, Xiao Fuxuan probably knew about it too.

But if he knew already, then why did he prevent Yi Wusheng from exposing the truth?

Was it to protect Yi Wusheng? Or was it because he didn’t want to scare the Devil Lord away?

Or was it… for some other reason?

***

Holding tightly to his handwarmer, Wu Xingxue looked quietly at Xiao Fuxuan inside the dim carriage.

He moved his hands along the edges of the hand warmer, then gently rubbed his warm fingertips, trying to circulate his internal energy. 

As there was almost no light and the carriage was very big and spacious, even the tiniest sound could be clearly heard.
Thus, when he curled his fingers, an extremely soft clanging noise sounded in the carriage. 

“What was that noise?” Yi Wusheng asked quietly while holding the paper.
He, who was sitting across from Wu Xingxue, straightened his body right after being startled by the noise.

Wu Xingxue gave an “oh” in his head, then called, “Xiao Fuxuan.”

The tall figure beside the door moved a bit.

After a moment, Xiao Fuxuan’s deep and low voice came, “Speak.”

“Can you remove these chains from my body?” asked Wu Xingxue.

Across from him, Yi Wusheng suddenly froze.

Xiao Fuxuan: “…”

I would be better off dead.

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This was what Yi Wusheng was thinking right now.

Just now, he almost blurted out: chains? I don’t see any chains.

Fortunately, he reacted in time—those were the Heavenly Chains used to imprison the devils of the Northern Frontiers, representing punishment from the heavens.

It was said that they were nailed into a devil’s body, one chain for every crime he committed.
They could not be seen by ordinary people, and only their sounds could be heard.

It was also said that devils could use their lives and bodies to atone for their sins.
For each sin they repent for, a single chain would be removed.

But obviously, before any one of those chains could be removed, the nailed Devil Lord had already perished.

Wu Xingxue might be the first devil to ask “Can you remove my chains” in the same tone as “I’m hungry, ya got food?”

Such a statement should sound absurd in normal circumstances.

But Yi Wusheng hadn’t heard a reply from Xiao Fuxuan for a long time.
Finally, he decided to open his eyelids slightly and peek at the Celestial Immortal in charge of the Northern Frontiers.

He said in his head: There’s no way you would dare remove them.

There wasn’t much light in the carriage, and so Xiao Fuxuan’s expression couldn’t be seen.

Wu Xingxue could feel that he’d raised his eyes and looked toward him.

Although it was said that these chains couldn’t be seen by anyone, at some point, Wu Xingxue suspected that Xiao Fuxuan could see them.
His gaze seemed to sweep past the places where he had been locked by the chains, one by one.

It was just that his surroundings were too dark, so he couldn’t see clearly.

He only knew that Xiao Fuxuan was silent for a very long time before speaking, “I can’t remove them.”

His voice was low but not so cold anymore.

Wu Xingxue nodded and changed his posture.
The sound of chains came again.
After a moment, he hazily replied, “Oh… I see.”

“Then forget it.”

He was still rubbing his handwarmer, and he was having a lot of trouble trying to navigate his internal energy.
Maybe it was because he hadn’t used them in too long and he wasn’t used to them yet.
After a while, he moved slightly again.

“Does it hurt a lot?” Xiao Fuxuan’s low voice suddenly sounded.

Wu Xingxue was stunned, then replied, “No.”

“Then why do you keep moving.”

Wu Xingxue looked at his figure and said, “The chains sounded before, and that’s how you knew I was moving.
But this time the chains didn’t make any noise.
How could you still tell that I moved?”

“……”

Xiao Fuxuan was silent for a bit before replying, “They are making noise.”

Wu Xingxue: “Oh.”

……

Yi Wusheng couldn’t stand it anymore.

He just could not believe the bizarre conversation between the Devil Lord and the Celestial Immortal.

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Just as he was about to continue to play dead, he suddenly heard the Devil Lord ask him, “How much longer until we arrive at the Valley of Great Sorrow?”

Yi Wusheng got poked by Xiao Fuxuan’s sword.
.
He helplessly opened his eyes, knowing that he could no longer play dead.

Right, some immortals very rarely traveled through the mortal world in carriages, so it would indeed be difficult for them to answer such a question.

“It’s still very far.” replied Yi Wusheng as he held onto the paper, “And after those incidents in the Valley of Great Sorrow that year, many sects implanted restriction barriers.” Ordinary people’s horses will take at least a month to cross it.
The Hua Sect’s spiritual horses could avoid some of the restrictions, maybe three days.

He truly could no longer stand being stared at by the gazes of both a devil and an immortal in this type of darkness anymore, so he raised his hand and brushed a gold rivet on the carriage wall.

The next second, a flicker of flame from a lamp lit the carriage.

The lamps inside the Hua Sect’s carriages were all specially made, with spiritual pills and medicinal powders melted inside the lamp oil.
Not only could they withstand strong winds, but they could also ward off some weak devils and ghosts.

There were all types of living spirits in the world, many of which ordinary people feared.

Today, the most fierce devils all originate from people cultivating the diabolic path.
They “arose from the living.”

Those who “arose from dead souls” were considered beings of the yin world.

Most of the devils in the world reside in Zhaoye City.
Yin beings were different; they liked deserted places, which one would hardly ever go to.
The more desolate and uninhabited a place was, the more likely it was to come across them there.

On the way to the Valley of Great Sorrow, one would find many Yin beings.
Some had been starving for ages, and they could smell the scent of the living from across tens of kilometers.
To eat them, they would often sneakily cling onto the backs of the travelers, or onto the top or bottom of their carriages.

Before, the Valley of Great Sorrow was an unavoidable path between a few major cities.
Cultivation sect disciples who wished to go to the Eternal Sea for spiritual materials must also go through here.

In order to prevent getting caught up by those yin beings in the middle of their journey, each of the cultivation sects would place a few of these special filth-repelling lamps in their carriages.

It was a habit for Yi Wusheng to turn on the lights.

But as soon as he lit it, he saw Wu Xingxue across from him turn his face away.
His eyes were half squinted, as if he very much disliked this type of light.

“……”

Oh right, this lamp warded against yin beings and devils.

And the Devil Lord was sitting right across from him.

Yi Wusheng’s fingers stiffened, not knowing if he should beg for help in advance.
He silently glanced at the Celestial Immortal.

He saw that the Celestial Immortal frowned, then looked at the glass lampshade on the wall of the car.

The words “filth-repelling” were written on the lampshade.
His gaze swept across those two words, then expressionlessly, he took his eyes off of them.

The next second, the light went out with a “puff”.

Perfect.

The carriage returned to its previous darkness.

Yi Wusheng nervously gripped that half-broken paper.
His lips that were sealed beneath the black cloth moved a bit, but he ultimately didn’t say a word, curling up in resignation.
He thought: “Welp, it is what it is.”

The devil sitting in front of him went silent for some reason.

The carriage was quiet for a long time.

After another long time, Yi Wusheng heard Wu Xingxue say, “When we pass the outskirts of the city, can we stop to pick two people up?”

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Yi Wusheng said in his head: “Certainly, certainly! I wouldn’t dare to say no.”

“Who?” he asked.

“The people who traveled with me before, I guess my household subordinates?” Wu Xingxue answered.

Yi Wusheng: “……”

Household…

Subordinates…

Who could the subordinates of Wu Xingxue be?

This must mean I’ll run into two more devils T_T

***

While Yi Wusheng was sigh-ing in his head, on the outskirts of Chunfan City, Ning Huaishan and One-Arm squatted on the mountain rocks with their arms crossed.

Not far away, at the exit of the city, there were sword-carrying disciples from the Hua Sect hurriedly coming and going, sticking something on the two divine statues.
It looks like a warning sign from a distance.

Ning Huaishan felt nauseous just by seeing the divine statues.
So he didn’t want to approach them at first.

But his curiosity won in the end.
He slowly approached it, and then tried to read what was on the warning from a far distance.

An official statement was on the notice, very wordy.
It could be summarized in two sentences:

Two righteous paladins helped to solve a great crisis on Peach Blossom Island.

These two, as well as our sect elder, Yi Wusheng, are now headed to the Valley of Great Sorrow; no one shall stop them when exiting the city.

There are also two portraits attached to the notice.

The portrait drawing skills of the Hua Sect were truly extraordinary.
One could easily tell just by looking at their Ancestor Hua Xin’s portrait.
So as for these two portraits, anyone with eyes would recognize who they were.

Ning Huaishan looked strangely at the portraits, then he nudged One-arm, “Don’t they look sort of familiar? Their clothes too?”

One-arm showed no expression.
Then, after a long time, he said with a scratchy voice, “Yes, it looks like our City Lord and his puppet.”

Ning Huaishan stared at the two words “righteous paladins” with an even stranger look, asking, “Is the Hua Sect crazy, or are we just blind?”

“Hard to tell,” replied One-arm.

The two looked at each other for a long time.
One-arm finally spoke, “I was about to say it earlier.
Do you think there’s something off with our City Lord?”

Ning Huaishan didn’t reply.

After a while, One-arm continued, “The more I think about it, the more suspicious I get.
How about you?” 

Ning Huaishan finally spoke after a long time, “So?”

“If he’s an imposter, then I definitely wouldn’t let him leave in one piece; this arm of mine, who am I supposed to get it back from?”

Ning Huaishan thought about it, then licked the tips of his teeth and waved his hand, “Just wait!”

“After he comes out, let’s scare him.”

“If he’s really an imposter, then we’ll make him beg for mercy.”

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