In a shallow ditch close to the entrance of the cavern lay a dozen newly built stone graves. There were no name plates and they were made of rubble crudely piled up together.
Gu Yu unplugged a gourd. Holding up his sleeve in one hand while pouring with the other, he splashed the amber-colored spiritual liquor around the graves, adding a ceremonial taste to this primitive and rough memorial ritual.
"Of the Seniors' name and the sects you belonged to, I know nothing. What I do know is, you all faced death bravely thousands of years ago. From where you lie in peace today, I hope you will be relieved to see the brilliant world as it is…"
After the brief speech, Gu Yu found a long stone and wiped across the surface. As stone powder rustled down, the stone was smooth and even. He then carved three large words with his finger: Zhen Mo 1 Valley.
He then placed it upright at the entrance of the ditch and called out, "Let's go!"
Long Qiu followed, lovely as she always was. She was constantly looking back at the shallow ditch and the sealed entrance. The battle was still fresh in her memory, yet they were already on their way back. For a moment there, she felt dazed.
With the obliteration of the archmage and his men, the Ghostly Bug resumed its dormancy at the bottom of the pool. The big one was unparalleled in its strength and Gu Yu was fully aware that he was no match for it.
With the current cultivation environment, the mere existence of this thing was a system bug. Releasing it would be like unleashing a max level player into the novice village.
Therefore, they had no other choice but inform the government, making it someone else's problem. Although Gu Yu did not think the government would know how to deal with this thing, either. Bombing the place could easily cause an eruption of Flaming Mountain and should the fire spiritual essence go wild again, well, that would be quite a handful...
They had found over twenty skeletons in the underground cavern. The Shamanic ones they tossed right away and the rest they buried. Apart from the three objects from the archmage, they had found another two jade slips, making it five in total.
To be honest, Gu Yu and Xiao Qiu had never expected to run into such wretched business before embarking on this trip.
Neither stopping the Ghostly Bug from coming out nor exterminating most of the combat crew of the northwest branch meant much to them. From a pragmatic aspect, those five objects were much more valuable.
"Oh my gosh, you're finally out!"
Yang Di trotted out of the army outpost of Huagou Town as if he was going to hug Gu Yu. His arms were halfway outstretched when he came to his senses and ran swiftly to Gu Yu with an ingratiating smile. "I told them you would be all right. See? Nothing has happened to you, right?"
"What are you doing here instead of staying in the town?" Gu Yu was surprised to see him here.
"That lousy place sucks! They don't even have karaoke there. Plus, you've gone in and I have to wait on you around the clock!"
Gu Yu could not be bothered to reply Yang Di's sweet talk and only asked, "Anything happened while we were away?"
"Nothing major. Only that those big birds came again. Luckily, the army was prepared and defeated the birds."
Gu Yu was taken by surprise. That was rather frequent. Maybe this would become a regular activity now.
The three hopped onto the jeep and soon returned to the town. The soldiers were all eyeing them with an excitement hard to describe, as if they were all fighting back their impulse to ask for gossip.
The senior colonel even came out to greet them himself with a grin. "Mr. Gu, Miss Long, you must be tired from the trip! I've had dishes set out for you to welcome you back."
"Haha, you're too considerate."
The two accepted the invitation willingly. Their menu on the mountain had consisted of chaff pancakes and spiritual wine—a most unconventional diet, that was.
Hence, everyone gathered in the canteen and ate. Only after several rounds of drinking and much savoring of the dishes did the senior colonel asked tentatively, "So, Mr. Gu, any changes inside?"
"The environment has been recovering rapidly. Animals and plants have already shown up and the fire spiritual essence was very stable. I don't think it will break out again any time soon. I've taken some samples back with me, you can study them."
"Thanks so much!"
It would be a merit attributed to him; naturally, the senior colonel was happy to hear that. He reciprocated right away. "Regarding the information sharing plan you suggested earlier, I've handed in the report and the superiors have given their official reply together with some preliminary suggestions."
With that, he passed over a file.
Gu Yu took it and saw a line written across the file cover, which read "Construction Plan of Cultivation Information-sharing Platform".
Gu Yu was secretly full of derision. The authorities would always be the authorities. An old dog simply could not alter its way of barking. Every time he saw such gibberish-dressed-in-uniform, he would feel his headache coming back.
"Well, Mr. Gu… Are there any other discoveries other than the animals and plants?" The senior colonel posed another question.
"Let me put things into order and we'll talk tomorrow."
"I see. No problem!"
The senior colonel was a smart man. Form the way Gu Yu put it, he immediately realized there was something much more complicated and closed the subject.
After dinner, it was getting quite late and the two were brought to their rooms.
It was Xiao Qiu's first field trip and she was already involved in such a major event. Once she relaxed after coming back, fatigue caught up and she went to bed early. Gu Yu sat by a lamp in his own room, took out the five objects, and arranged them in a line.
One delicate human skin scroll: 10 cm in height and slightly yellowed.
One immaculate bone plate as white as jade: square-shaped, about the size of two mahjong pieces, and with a ghostly face carved on it.
A round jade plate, glittering and translucent like ice and inscribed with a Yin-Yang fish and cloud patterns.
And two jade slips of the same slender shape.
He picked up the scroll first and unfolded it. The page was thickly covered with ancient texts, illustration of mountains and terrains, as well as drawings of human bodies.
"Sigh, slacker students suck at everything."
He heaved a sigh, carefully took pictures of the scroll, and sent them to his girlfriend for translation.
He then picked up the bone plate and tentatively inserted a streak of spiritual essence. Immediately after that, the bone plate started giving off heat in waves, apparently appalled by his act.
He pulled the spiritual essence out right away. Instead, he separated a streak of his mental force and carefully worked his way in. It worked this time. In the bone plate was an occult skill known by the archmage alone, which was that curious ability of switching between physical and shadow form called "Shadow-switching Technique".
Gu Yu recalled his battle against the archmage. The fellow had disappeared into the thin air and shot out of the eyes of the ghostly face as a red beam, which could attack one's mind directly.
Had it not been for his own mighty mind power, he would not have been able to defeat the man.
"The light turns into shadow and the shadow turns back to light. It can even make mental attacks. That was quite something…" Gu Yu murmured to himself. Suddenly, his face lit up. He could try to integrate it into his conjuring skill and see how that would go.
'Tsk, tsk, tsk!'
Old Gu grew interested in that idea. He carefully put the bone plate away and picked up the jade plate.
He probed with his mental power again. Boom! A sea of information rushed into his mind, muddling his head. He took it in little by little and only opened his eyes after a long time.
Systematically speaking, what was recorded inside could be summarized into a scripture, which was called "Book on the State of Mind of Black Bead".
According to the passage "On Nature" of "Zhuangzi", "The Yellow Emperor lost his black bead when he was travelling in the north of Chishui River. He sent Lizhu to find it for him, but Lizhu failed. The emperor then sent Xiangwang, who retrieved the bead for him."
The black bead represented the "Dao" of Taoism. However, as the teachings were divided in later years, Waidan division rendered the term as mercury only, whereas Neidan practitioners used it to refer to "Neidan".
From what was recorded in the jade plate, the black bead here was interpreted in its earliest meaning. In plain terms, the title meant "my lessons learned during cultivation".
The owner of the jade plate was called Yue Zhenzi, a cultivator from the Tang Dynasty. He was by no means a famous figure, but his master was known far and wide: the renowned Celestial Master of his time, Ye Fashan!TL/N: meaning "subdue the devil