Chapter 3 - Four Divinities Cavern
Back in his room, Xu Qi sat on his bedside pondering over his imminent contact with the world outside of the Xu Clan.
For Xu Qi, this world did not seem to offer any advantages. The only thing that puzzled him was that he never saw any metals like iron, gold, silver, and copper. The materials used to forge weapons for cultivators were mainly rare, quality woods, with all kinds of gemstones embedded to augment their might, which also happened to be the currency used here.
Gemstones were classified into four grades to dictate their value, being top, high, mid, and low-grade. A high-grade gemstone could be exchanged for 10,000 mid-grade gemstones or 100,000 low-grade gemstones. On the other hand, top-grade gemstones were used to barter for items that couldn’t be valued monetarily and were most commonly used by cultivators to forge their own weapons. The price for an exceptional weapon in an auction house would be astronomical, which it was a very rare occurrence for them to appear.
“Could it be that I’ll have to fabricate a story around the weapon?” Such thoughts suddenly found their way into Xu Qi’s mind.
“Forget it; I don’t have any resources. It’s time to visit that place again anyway,” Xu Qi muttered.
Xu Qi sat cross-legged by the bedside. He raised both hands to chest level and formed some weird signs. Suddenly, a 7-coloured aurora appeared in front of his bed, pulling Xu Qi into it and vanishing from the room.
When Xu Qi reopened his eyes, he found himself back in the strange place he discovered a year ago. He stood up and looked towards the stone door in front, with the simple, yet dignified words indicating “Four Divinities Cavern.” Gazing at these letters reminded him of the experience when he first came here.
A year ago, Xu Qi was sitting on his bed daydreaming. Various things kept emerging in his mind: visions of a few sentences, a painting, and a small, black box made of unknown material. It took some time before Xu Qi made out what the sentences were: “Deity of the East: Meng Zhang, Deity of the West: Jian Bing, Deity of the South: Ling Guang, Deity of the North: Zhi Ming. Only when the fated lord appears will the four return to their rightful place. ---- Unworthy disciple of Lady Nuxi, Venerable Ziyan.”
Xu Qi’s forehead filled with black lines1 after reading the sentences, What are these?! They don’t make any sense. Who’d ever heard of those so-called deities, Lady Nuxi, or even Venerable Ziyan? He then turned his attention to the painting. It depicted a person sitting cross-legged, performing strange hand signs from top to bottom, and they were all marked in sequence. Xu Qi copied the motions accordingly, but nothing happened. Looking closely at the painting, Xu Qi noticed a sentence that read, “Horns and legs of the Demon Ox all turn to Nothingness”.2
A “Bang!” resonated in his mind. Following which, the strange small, black box slowly started opening itself, emitting seven different colored rays of light. Xu Qi felt his consciousness being pulled into the black box. The rays of light covered his body, and he gradually disappeared from where he sat.
Cough cough cough. “Where is this place?” Xu Qi opened his eyes and realized he was sitting on the ground, surrounded by stone walls on all sides. An ancient stone door stood ahead, indicating the words “Four Divinities Cavern.”
Xu Qi made his way before the door; two iron hoop handles dangled on them. He attempted multiple times to reach the handles with his small stature by jumping, missing by just a little each time. He was exhausted soon enough and sat on the ground to rest. Xu Qi began to take a proper look at the surrounding walls and discovered, “Hm? There’re words written here.” He noticed some words were written on the stone wall next to the door, “Ziyan be mine name. I was a disciple to Lady Nuxi by fortune. Hereupon her will, I stand guard to this demonic cavern. Feeling such a duty is beneath me; this was the seed of misfortune. I gave my life in repentance, waiting to guide the fated one. Step thrice to thy left of the door; a chance encounter awaits thee.”
“Move three steps to the left? What if I activate a trap and die? The heck is this… four divinities cavern… Four Divinities? Aren’t they the Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Vermillion Bird, and Black Tortoise? Could this be their cavern? It can’t be; I’ve never heard of anyone subduing them.” Xu Qi decided to confirm for himself, totally underestimating what he’d just seen. Xu Qi once again walked to the stone door. He took three steps to the left, but nothing abnormal happened.
“Lies! There’s nothing!” Xu Qi cursed. Then he took another step forward. Suddenly, he found himself rising. He looked down and realized the stone he stood on grew out of the floor’s surface. He jumped down from the stone in a hurry and noticed it was not a stone, but a box resembling a stone. Xu Qi had to pull on the loop attached to the case with all his strength before it opened. The box contained a bronze ring, a bottle of medicine and a silk fabric. It turned out my three steps covered too little distance compared to an adult! Xu Qi thought and reached for the fabric.
Xu Qi suddenly felt pain in his finger as he touched the fabric. Fresh blood welled. It felt like something had pricked him, and his blood seeped into the cloth. Then, the silk fabric immediately became a streak of white light and entered the bronze ring.
A ray of green light flashed, and a fist-sized humanoid emerged from the ring.
“Someone is here at last! He’s someone from above!3 …why is it a child…” the light entity exclaimed, looking at Xu Qi.
The latter stared wide-eyed. The former was an elder, giving off the vibe of a seasoned Daoist. Xu Qi clasped his hands and greeted him, despite being shocked, “Senior, please pardon my disturbance; may I inquire why you are trapped here? Also, what exactly is this cavern?”
“No worries. I am not trapped here; I made the choice to remain here. Since you’ve managed to reach this place and awaken my spirit remnant, you must be the fated one. I should introduce you to this place, but I don’t have much time left,” The elder sighed.
He looked towards the stone door, saying, “My Daoist name is Venerable Ziyan, the guardian of this cavern. I was instructed by my master to guard the Four Divinities Cavern. However, my carelessness caused the great battle afterward, which almost released the four within. In the end, I had to stake my 10,000 years of cultivation to keep them in check.”
10,000 years of cultivation? What kind of old freak is this? Xu Qi’s mouth twitched as he thought.
“Senior, who on earth is imprisoned in there? And what about the four deities Meng Zhang, Jiao Bing, Ling Guang, and Zhi Ming?” Xu Qi questioned in confusion.
“Who? No one said humans were imprisoned here, and you don’t even know about the Four Deities? Then again, few people know their names. They are referred to by mortals as the Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Vermillion Bird, and Black Tortoise. Now, does that ring a bell?” Venerable Ziyan looked at Xu Qi with anticipation.
“Ah! The four mythical beasts!” Xu Qi’s brain buzzed; he knew what the Four Divinities represented. Although it came from the mouth of Venerable Ziyan, he couldn’t accept it.
“Bah! What mythical beasts? They are trash beasts at best!” Venerable Ziyan obviously had some disagreement with Xu Qi’s phrasing.
“That, uhh… Senior, I’m just a mortal. I’m not too sure about this. Everyone calls them that; please forgive me.” The embarrassed Xu Qi hurriedly apologized, as he was unclear of whether Venerable Ziyan would squish him to death with just his spirit remnant’s power. He didn’t dare offend him; it was best to be careful.
Seeing as the elder didn’t reply, Xu Qi asked further “Senior, sorry to offend, but please forgive my poor knowledge. I have never heard of your great name, nor senior’s exceptional master Lady Nuxi. I hope you can enlighten me.”
At the mention of Lady Nuxi, Venerable Ziyan instantly lit up and answered, “My esteemed master is the authority of all creation. The mother of heavens and the earth of her time; the emergence of humans was the fruit of her creation. She was subsequently revered as Goddess Nuwa by the mortals after they prospered. As for me, I’m just a named disciple of hers, a nobody.”
“Damn! Nuwa?! Lady Nuxi is Nuwa? Such are the woes of being uncultured. It’s no wonder the Four Divinities were captured. She was precisely the one who subdued them according to the legends! This old fellow even claims to be a nobody. Who isn’t omnipotent as a disciple of Nuwa?” Xu Qi smiled bitterly.
“Brat, our meeting can be considered fate between us. I know although your physical body is that of a child’s, your soul is an adult’s from that4 place. Now, as I’m about to disappear, I’ll present to you some good luck. Get the medicinal bottle and ingest one of the pills later. It’ll reform your bones and meridians. Take my ring, as well. It contains items you’ll need. When you open this cavern in the future, the items in the ring will aid you in subduing the four trash beasts,” Venerable Ziyan rambled on.
“Me… subdue them? Are you kidding me? Not to mention the Four Divinities, it’ll be hard work just to subdue a rabbit,” Xu Qi pouted.
Venerable Ziyan seemed to realize Xu Qi’s worries and answered, “The items stored within the ring will assist you in subduing them, but you must remember to capture them one by one. Never delude yourself into taking on all four at once. Another issue to take note of is to not treat them as your tamed beasts, but as your friends. You will not gain much, otherwise.
“Senior, why do I get the feeling you can’t wait for me to capture them? Could it be you can’t keep them in check for much longer?” Xu Qi rolled his eyes in doubt. There was no free lunch in this world!
Cough, cough. “Brat, it is true I can’t continue to guard the cavern with the state I’m in. However, getting the four of them on your side would mean you would be unstoppable in this world. This is great news for you,” Venerable Ziyan replied and flushed in embarrassment after being exposed.
“Senior, it’s not that I’m doubting you, but I can’t possibly have blind faith in you being Goddess Nuwa’s disciple. I can’t go in stupidly, then proceed to die like a fool. You’ve got to show some sincerity.” Xu Qi was already planning to extort him, saying whatever came to his mind.
“Brat, why are you speaking so tactfully? Aren’t you just trying to make me hand you benefits?. You are belittling this old man too much. Ingest a pill from the medicinal bottle,” Venerable Ziyan refused to say anything more.
Xu Qi picked up the bottle immediately after hearing his words. He opened the bottle and turned it upside down. Xu Qi intended to gulp down over twenty of the black colored pellets that poured out.
“Eat them all if you wish to die, brat,” Seeing his actions, Venerable Ziyan immediately spoke to stop Xu Qi.
“Senior, it’s been so many years. I’m afraid they’ve lost their efficacy. Is there an expiration date on these? What should I do if I get an upset stomach.” Xu Qi rolled his eyes, immediately questioning.
Hearing Xu Qi’s words, Venerable Ziyan rolled his eyes in response, “Brat, these are the Celestial Core Pills, bestowed to me by my master! You’re treating them as common-grade items?”
“From Goddess Nuwa? I’ll eat them!” Xu Qi immediately grabbed a pill and threw it into his mouth upon hearing that Nuwa refined them.
“This damn brat” Venerable Ziyan chuckled, watching Xu Qi ingest the pill.
“Doesn’t taste bad.” Soon, Xu Qi felt his whole body ache. It hurt so bad; he started twitching, “I’m done for. Damned old fellow tricked me!” Those were the last words of Xu Qi before he lost consciousness from the pain.
1: Black lines on the forehead - something like this https://www.google.com.sg/search?q=anime+speechless&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJweje6rLWAhXLRo8KHWzhCksQ_AUICigB&biw=1536&bih=735#imgrc=3pgTuXIdWqjklM:
2: 角奎鬼牛皆为虚 – Horns and Legs of the Demon Ox all turn to Nothingness --- actual words refer to five of the twenty-eight Chinese constellation that bode ill. The twenty-eight constellations are split into four groups of the four divinities. The first four words here each belong to a different group, in the order of Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Vermillion Bird and Black Tortoise, and the last word 虚 belongs to the Black Tortoise. Not sure if it will mean anything in the future.
3: Not specified as to what “above” means. Probably referring to his world before turning into a child.
4: Same as 3.