A couple of days ago, a bunch of intern disciples went to visit the scientific research base and passed White Crane Hollick on their way back.
What happened was like this… Li Suchun had built himself a shed and was refining the corpse at the time. Good God. The iron corpse had its mask off and with its pale face, sharp fangs, and the ferocious demeanor, the kids went all screaming and jumping around like sacred chickens. He He was the only exception, who seemed to have formed a great interest in the young man and would often pop in for a visit.
Despite the delight he felt inside, Li Suchun would not let it show. He had always been living alone and now that a loli fell on his doorstep, he habitually changed into his haughty attitude.
"Why are you here again?" he asked coldly.
"The classes are over and I just slipped away." He He found her way to the shed, acting like a familiar friend, and looked around. "Where is your iron corpse?"
"Do zombies sleep as well?"
"We are active in daytime and sleep at night. They sleep during the day and get up at night. It's the some thing."
Dangling her short little legs, He He seemed not minding his smell at all. She suddenly asked, "Brother Chun, can Corpse-refining Technique bring back the dead?"
"No. All we can control is a dead body." Li Suchun paused a little and added, "But if a corpse can be refined into the silver or golden grade, they will then have self-awareness. Maybe the memories of when they were alive can be brought back."
"What if the person is cremated?"
Cremated? Frowning, Li Suchun said, "Then there's nothing I can do. Maybe the cultivators with expertize in spirits and souls know something about that."
He He nodded and went quiet for a while before asking, "In that case, do you think ghosts exist?"
"I have never seen one, but I believe there are ghosts!" Li Suchun sounded very certain.
"Yes, so do I!" She was even more certain.
He had a dead master and she a dead grandfather. Both were orphans who had lost the closest person in the world. Probably because of this connection, the two formed a natural bound.
The little girl stayed on and even had her lunch there. Seeing that it was almost one o'clock, she waved her goodbye. "Brother Chun, I need to go back to my class. I'll come to see you tomorrow."
Without realizing it, Li Suchun raised his hand and was going to wave back. He immediately straightened his face and smacked down his left hand with his right, then replied indifferently, "Mhm!"
Covering her mouth to conceal a grin, the little girl ran to the shuttle cart.
Halfway there, she halted abruptly and looked into a direction suspiciously. To the left of the road above a low mound, a streak of black smoke seemed to be rising.
She rubbed her eyes and looked at it again. Nothing strange happened this time.
"Uncle Driver, please wait a moment!" she called out to the driver and summoned up her courage to approach the spot in little strides. Once there, she realized it was an ancient well. She could not tell how long it had been there, only that it was extremely timeworn.
The outer wall of the well was built by stones and about a meter in diameter. The interior was overgrown with thorns and grass. There was still water inside, but she could not tell how deep it was. Probably because of the shade and dimness, the water seemed to be of a light inky color.
Pursing her lips, He He tried to recall what the priest had told them. The name White Crane Hollick was mentioned, but what, what was it about?
She smacked her head and remembered.
In the first year of the reign of Emperor Wu of Liang, there came a priest. No one knew where he came from nor what his name was. Because he often travelled on the back of a white crane, he was given the honorable title of Priest White Crane.
One day, he arrived at Tianzhu Mountain. Impressed by the majestic look of the mountain and the curling clouds, he wanted to build his lodging and cultivate here. However, an eminent monk by the name of Baozhi was also attracted here by the fame of the mountain and wanted to take up the mountain to build Buddhist temples.
The two disputed over the issue and reported to the throne for a decision. Hence, Emperor Wu ordered them to compete with their skills.
Priest White Crane: I will use the white crane as my representative. My Taoist palace will be constructed at the spot the bird lands.
Baozhi: I will set the boundary with my staff. The spot the staff hit the ground will be where I build my temple.
Each then did what they could and the priest obtained the east side of the mountain, where he built the White Crane Palace, while Baozhi got the west side, where he built the Valley Temple.
Legend had it that the day when the White Crane Palace was completed, Emperor Wu himself arrived at the temple to offer his congratulations. To show his gratitude towards the imperial favor, the priest drew a dragon on the east side and a phoenix on the west of the tall wall in the great hall. He then took the blade himself to remove the liver of the dragon and the gallbladder of the phoenix, making them into a dish that went with the liquor.
Later, he drilled a well in front of the palace and called it White Crane Spring. Its depth remained unknown and it would neither dry up from sustaining droughts nor fill up from longlasting rain. The well remained where it was until this day. The government sent experts to examine it when Tianzhu Mountain was developed, but found nothing unusual.
But why now...
He He swallowed and lay prone by the edge of the well. As soon as she moved closer, a sinister cold wind swept at her little face, making her shudder.
She drew back right away, then found a stone and threw it into the water.
The stone fell down without making any sound. The surface of the water felt more like a strange film, which the stone went through and seemed to have fallen into a bottomless pit.
She was an intelligent girl. Jumping to her feet, she ran back first, yelling, "Brother Chun, there's something wrong with that well, please guard it!"
She then ran forward and hopped onto the cart. "Uncle, back to the mountain, please! Quickly!"
Sanping, a secret chamber.
Slouching on a low bed, Yu Lanzhu wore nothing but a half see-through white veil, her perfect body only partially hidden by it. She looked like a wrapped candy, emanating waves upon waves of refreshing yet cloying scent.
Standing in front of her were four able-bodied men, but all had their heads lowered, daring not even to peek once.
Supporting her cheek with a hand, Yu Lanzhu suddenly exhaled a mouthful of white mist, which drifted slowly in the air and separated into four streaks, each wrapping around one of the four men.
As frightened as they were, the four did not dare to even move a finger and stood as tamed as lambs to the slaughter. All they were capable of was to watch the white mist circling around them. With every circle the mist turned, their face lost some color and their spirits sagged.
About twenty seconds passed when Yu Lanzhu inhaled lightly, at which the four streaks fused into one again and went back into her mouth.
"Thank you, Archmage!"
"Thank you, Archmage!"
The four felt as if they had just escaped death and knelt down with gratitude.
"Teehee, it's the first time for you all. Did you really think I was going to eat you?"
With her energy refilled, Yu Lanzhu was satiated. She chuckled. "Once a member of the divine sect, you're all family. Plenty of benefits are waiting for you. Now, go to Nalan and get your rewards."
"Yes!" The shaken four retreated.
As soon as the door to the secret chamber was closed, Yu Lanzhu suddenly let out an indolent moan and rolled around on the bed. Her cheeks looked fresher than the spring flowers and her face radiated. A satisfaction was oozing out of every cell of hers.
She couldn't help it, for that was the way she was whenever she finished feeding.
The cultivation method of the northeast Shamanism was rather unique. One had to practice with the spirit of a beast first. Once fused with the spirit of a beast, one would refine themselves. To refine one's own self, one had to absorb the power of faith to gradually strengthen the mind. It was said that once the perfection was reached, one could become immortal.
Without the power of faith, one had to make do by sucking the energy of living people, or the beast spirit would go mad and turn on its master.
The four branches each had its own heritage and the one the Northeast followed was a relatively orthodox one. Based on the thousand-year practice of their ancestors, foxes, snakes, hedgehogs, weasels, and rats were five animals most easy to fuse with.
You heard it right! They were none other than the so-called "home-protecting fairies"!
This practice followed a rather peculiar path. In the early phases, it was a rather unorthodox practice, but after gathering enough followers and setting up a shrine of one's own, it transformed into an orthodox thing. One had to help the people to accumulate enough merit to atone for their sins, or they would be punished by thunder tribulations.
The previous archmage dropped dead because something went wrong during the fusing with the beast spirit. Extremely talented, Yu Lanzhu also had a matching ambition. She risked her life with the same process and succeeded, which was why she became the archmage.
While Yu Lanzhu was getting lost in the deep end, the door was suddenly pushed open and in came a woman with a cold face. She was Nalan, her good friend for many years and now her right hand and confidant.
"Gosh, poor me! I have to entrust my life to someone like them! Only if you were here to see—it's a waste of my spit just to talk to them."
She was all pettish and played the spoiled child, during which time Nalan kept her poker face. "The government's striking out earlier has destroyed quite a few business big shots. It hit us hard and we've lost quite some funding since. They were only small clans, but to us, they were the solution to our urgent needs."
"I know, I know, you don't have to go all serious with me… Sigh, it all comes down to the fact that they are a bunch of good-for-nothings. If only they could all be as capable as you!"
Reaching out with her tapering finger, she stroked Nalan's cheek gently. "Those dumb*sses of the Northwest had it coming. Monan and Mobei are the smarter ones. They hid their strength and moved everything underground. That's more like a permanent solution.
With the great drought all over the country, it's a good opportunity for us to gather strength. Pass down my orders: mages should develop followers following my example. Remember, keep it quiet! That stupid Wanyan made such a scene last time that the government is now putting the Northeast under special surveillance. They mustn't blow it."
Nalan nodded, than asked, "What about Liaodong?"
"They can go to Liaodong, but leave Shengtian in peace. We can't afford to mess with those two."
Da'an Village, early morning.
Zhang Jintong left home early and arrived at his farmland. The sun had yet to rise but the heat was already rolling in the air.
He entered the shed and seeing that no one was around, he took out some candles and fruit, then lay them neatly on the ground. He knelt down and murmured, "Lord Fox Fairy, please hear me out! If it was really you that saved me yesterday, please come out… I, I really don't know what to do. If it goes on like this, I have no choice but kill myself. If you can help me out this time, I will do everything to repay you, even as your cattle in the next life!"
After that, he kowtowed three times, his forehead banging the ground loudly.
He did not rise to his feet right away, but pricked up his ears and listened, hoping for a miracle. Five minutes passed and all was as silent as before. Zhang Jingui was dazed for a moment before smiled bitterly. "Sigh, I'm really an old fool now. There can't be—"
He stopped talking right away.
He heard it right! There was a strange sound somewhere between the shriek of a woman and the wailing of a baby.
Zhang Jingui stumbled to his feet and scrambled out of the shed. The white fox had indeed showed up again with something at its feet.
"Lord, Lord Fox Fairy?" he stuttered with excitement.
The white fox made no sound, but only lowered its head and nudged the thing forward.
"Is, is it for me?"
Picking it up gingerly, Zhang Jingui realized it was a verdant jade bracelet. He knew nothing about the quality of jade, but this one was cool to the touch and translucent in color. It had to be of top quality.
The old man clutched the bracelet so tight and blood veins on his hand were bulging. He then fell to his knees. "This is a miracle of the Fox Fairy! Thank you, Lord Fox Fairy!"
Tears ran down his old face and he almost lost control of himself.
Just then, a majestic, deep, and androgynous voice rang out in his head. "Do not mention it to anyone. Now, go!"
Zhang Jingui looked up abruptly, the tears on his cheeks not yet dry. But he saw no one. The white fox was gone.