Shamanism was a variation of Wuxi and used to be widely practiced among nomads, its believers spreading across the vast region from outside the Shanhai Pass to the Northwest.
The core of Shamanism was the belief that all things were spiritual. The sun, the moon, the stars, mountains and rivers, water and fire, flowers and trees, and even certain animals were all spiritual beings. It was especially keen on worshipping gods and the ghosts of ancestors, which was the foundation of its teachings.
Shamanism was a general term for numerous divisions, each with its own regional characteristics. Outside the Shanhai Pass, for instance, the region was known for the Changbai 1 Mountains and the Heilong 2 River. Consequently, some clans there worshipped bears. The Northwest, on the other hand, had its plateaus and meadows, and clans there chose to worship snow mountains.
All those inheritances originated from the occult sorcery science of Wuxi times, which attributed great importance to the communication with "spirit".
Xiaozhai was speculating now that Zhang Wei and his men were connected with Shamanism. They were probably the descendants of the lucky survivors of the destroyed Jushi Kingdom.
Of course, these two didn't actually care about those people's actual identity. 'I don't give a damn as long as you leave me alone. Now that you've pissed me off, there're going to be consequences.'
And a lot of consequences, that was, until these people were completely crushed.
After everything was sorted out, Xiaozhai put away the drawing of the ghostly face, while Gu Yu rolled up the cloth on the table—wrapped inside was the stinky dead body. He then activated his mental force and a scarlet glow rose out of his palm, bringing with it an intense burning sensation.
The cloth burst into flames at the touch and was burning more vigorously by the second. Before long, the cloth was all ashes, which he flushed down the toilet, destroying every last bit of it.
"I'm growing very fond of your needles. I think they have great potential." Xiaozhai offered her praise as she watched his move. "Do some research. See if you can change their shape so that they are good for both defense and offense."
"Hm? You mean like this?"
Gu Yu winced, then summoned all seven needles all at once. The seven rays of scarlet light then linked up end to end, forming a short sword. Stretching out his hand, he grabbed the fiery sword and struck at the empty air as if he was wielding a real sword.
The scarlet blade struck down ferociously. The air rippled like water in a pond, raising a wave of scorching blast, which rushed vigorously towards the wall. Xiaozhai moved swiftly, blocking its way, then waved her hands.
In the split of a second, the blast was trapped between her palms by the lightning and soon suppressed.
Immediately after that, Gu Yu let go of the sword, which scattered and reformed. Now there was a hollow round shield floating in front him.
"The Green Jade Needle before could only make physical attacks and there was not much variation to it. The Flaming Cloud Needle now has a magical property to it. It's much more agile."
Gu Yu retrieved the magical instrument and pondered. "If I manage to refine all seventy-two needles, I can indeed use them for offense and defense alike. But that's not changing shape, but moving into different formations. If we really want to make them into other shapes, we'll need another fortunate encounter to upgrade this gear. Oh, speaking of which, where are you in cultivating your mental force?"
"It can be used externally," replied Xiaozhai.
"Just about time…" With that, he fumbled out a big package—in it was the remaining green jade stone. "I've taken more than enough. Any magical instrument you want to refine?"
Xiaozhai gave the stone a look and gave her firmly determined answer. "A hammer!"
"Sis, seriously?" he asked hopelessly.
"I am the Lord of Thunder and of course I have to use a hammer!" Xiaozhai was wearing a solemn look on her face.
'The hell with that! I wasn't born yesterday!'
"It's the Thunder Technique you are cultivating and you can temper it with your own spiritual essence. There's no need to use the fire spiritual essence for refinement. Xiao Qiu should be at the same stage as you, also just able to use it externally… oh my!" He stopped abruptly. "It's New Year today. Shouldn't we give Xiao Qiu a call?"
Xiaozhai blinked and was abashed as she replied, "I have completely forgotten about it."
They had been out for three months and made no contact whatsoever with the poor kid, who was left behind at home. That was not very thoughtful of them at all! Thus, the heartless "parents" took out their phone and sent out a video call request.
It was quite a while when the call finally went through, showing an expressionless little face. Her voice was scarily calm. "Oh, it's you, Brother and Sister."
The couple was feeling guilty and Gu Yu asked first, "Well, what are you doing over there?"
"What did you eat?"
The conversation froze in the air. Xiaozhai shoved her boyfriend aside and took over the phone. "Has anyone come to trade these days?"
"Three came, I accepted one. It was a glossy ganoderma."
"Where did it come from?"
"The Qi Family of the south of Five Ridges. He said the area was particularly good for growing medicinal materials. I talked with him. I think this can be a long-term deal…"
Xiao Qiu was quite serious when talking business. A few words on the subject and Xiaozhai felt the atmosphere softened a little. She then said, "It'll be another while before we head back. With you alone at home…"
"How long is a while?" Long Qiu interrupted.
"April, or March."
Xiaozhai knew at once she had said the wrong words. The girl's face turned expressionless again as she said frigidly, "Ok, I see. I'll hang up if there's nothing else."
The reflection of two shuddering fellows filled the darkened screen. "Sh*t, the kid is angry."
After New Year, Huo Zhou felt all the more like a dead city.
The average temperatures of past years were between -12 to -2 degrees Celsius, but it was higher by as many as ten degrees this year. It did not feel like winter at all.
The owner's family had left, leaving the keys to Gu Yu. Of the entire Grape Valley, they were the only people left.
The government turned a blind eye to this and gave a tacit permission for them to stay. Their mind wasn't on these two anyway. The entire state was operating on full blast, concentrating all energy to support the migration.
The majority of the 700,000 people had left, with only a handful struggling against the tide. Of course, some were genuinely unwilling to part with their hometown, while others only stayed behind to squeeze more money out of this.
Aksun County, Ila Lake Township.
There were eight villages and a little over 10,000 residents in total. Six of the villages had been emptied so far and the remaining two were quite problematic.
Inside a shabby courtyard, a wife was complaining. "We're running out of food and the markets are closed. Let's just move. It's giving me the jitters."
"What are you afraid of? Ten families are still staying in the village. If anything happens, it happens to all of us."
The yellow-teethed man lay on a chair, completely unconcerned.
The wife was on pins and needles. "What if they cut off the water and electricity?"
"Ha! Then I'll have a lie-down outside the township government gate! Don't worry. The last time we talked with them, they were about to give in. This time…"
While the man was lecturing his wife, confident that everything was working out as planned, he paused abruptly, then asked with excitement, "Listen. Do you hear vehicles?"
The woman turned to listen and there was indeed an indistinctive rumbling of vehicles approaching. The husband rose to his feet. "They're here. Let go have a look."
With that, he walked out of the courtyard and looked into the distance on the countryside dirt road.
Dust swirled in the air, blocking most of his sight. When the air was clear again, the front of a big black vehicle came into sight, which was followed closely by a second one, and a third, and fourth… as it turned out, it was a fleet of cars.
The man immediately realized that something was wrong; his legs were shivering a little.
The fleet of cars stopped at the entrance of the village in no time and a team of fully-armored special force filed out. The leader called out, "Take them all!"
There was a response in unison, which had shaken the last bit of confidence out of the man. Two members of team rushed to his side, grabbed his arms with pincer-like hands, then pressed him down.
"What are you doing?"
The half-kneeling, half-standing position he was in was extremely uncomfortable and his head was pressed all the way down. He shouted at the top of his voice, "Why are you arresting me? On what grounds?"
There was a sharp pain on his waist and he choked on his unsaid words.
Meanwhile, villagers were chased out of their neighboring houses in twos and threes, all crying and howling. The police knew perfectly whom they should be dealing with and was only relentless towards the men, but treated women and children appropriately.
"We don't want the money anymore! We will leave now… sob…"
"We want no money, no money, sob…"
The man was escorted towards a truck and seemed to pick up the crying of his wife and children. He struggled and squirmed, crying out as he stumbled on. "Yes, we don't want it any more! We'll move right away!"
Yet no one was paying attention to him.
The team leader stood in the middle of the road with a notebook, crossing out each name as the villagers got on the truck one at a time. In the end, a subordinate officer went up to him. "Captain! There are thirty-seven in total and we've escorted thirty-five!"
"Who are the two absent?" His face darkened.
"Xxx and xxx."
The subordinate spoke two names. "They have ingested pesticide when I went in. They are on they way to the hospital now."
The team leader fell silent. He knew the situation here like the back of his hand. Most of those who stayed were trying to extort money, but the two elderly were an exception.
Both were orphaned and widowed, lived their whole life in the village, and had no family left. They asked for no money and simply did not want to leave. The pesticide must have been prepared beforehand, just for a day like this.
Sadness filled the team leader's heart, yet there was nothing he could do. Sighing, he gave the village a last look, turned around, and got into a vehicle.
Tianzhu Mountain, Qiyun Taoist Monastery.
It was time for breakfast and disciples of Zhengyi and Quanzhen were still sitting in two distinctively seperate groups. They were still eating spiritual rice porridge, only that the porridge was a little thicker now.
After having it for more than half a year, most men had adapted to the effect of spiritual rice and the improvement in their cultivation was obvious. There was no longer a limit now. Eat more if you could take it; stay with the watery porridge if you couldn't.
The canteen was utterly quiet, void of even the clink of spoons touching bowls. Taoist priests did not talk nonsense while eating, but the look on each face was rather hard to describe.
Because of their special status, they were informed of everything going on in the cultivation world, which naturally included Huo Zhuo. The entire monastery knew about it shortly after the abnormality was discovered.
Good God! The abnormality of nature took over an entire city all at once! The scene sounded so interesting that they wanted to see if for themselves. However, they knew that they could do nothing without the adequate ability.
Zhang Shouyang held up his bowl and downed the last bit of his porridge in one gulp, then gestured to his left and right to take his leave.
While he was strolling towards the door, a man rushed in suddenly and almost bumped into him. He steadied himself and saw that it was a young disciple from Qingsong Sect of Quanzhen.
"What's the hurry?" he asked.
"Senior, Senior Brothers…"
The young one did not reply. Instead, he stood there, his eyes shining with excitement. "Senior, Senior Brother Lu announced he is going to enter seclusion. He is going to attempt breaking through to the innate state!"TL/N: literally "long and white" TL/N: "black dragon"