Chapter 352 – Qian Rongzhi’s Recollection
“So… you can’t be happy… I see now.” Black Lotus sighed gently and took pity on her.
Originally, he had thought it was a deeper plan from Gu Yanying, using some kind of artifact to resist the Heart Cleansing Technique of Clear Ripple. However, the answer he received was surprisingly simple. Even the Heart Cleansing Technique of Clear Ripple was unable to wash away her pain that was like pitch-black sludge.
Actually, he had witnessed similar situations in the past, but most people who resisted the technique ended up killing themselves very soon. Even if they continued to live, they would be tortured endlessly by their own pain, becoming no different from zombies, dull and unable to focus. Since they were unable to break free from it, death became their best salvation.
“Then why do you still want to live?”
“Why? Why?” Qian Rongzhi lowered her head and murmured. Suddenly, she smiled and tidied up her hair. “Perhaps it’s just because I refuse to die.”
Having reached this stage, any hard work would be futile. Her fate was in the hands of others. However, she felt no fear at all. Just like what Black Lotus had said, death was not a particularly bad option for her.
Black Lotus said sincerely, “Rongzhi, I really do want you to live…”
“No, don’t even think about that!” The White Lotus Mother screamed.
“Then the issue right now is, what am I supposed to do to let you live? I might not be an Altar Lord anymore, but I can’t disobey the White Lotus Mother’s orders.”
“Black- Lotus- who’s- side- are- you- on?” The White Lotus Mother stressed every single word as she kicked Black Lotus’s calf furiously. Black Lotus laid his hands out helplessly.
Qian Rongzhi raised her head. Through the cracks between the green leaves, sunlight twinkled like stars. Her figure was reflected in the serene stream, standing aloof from the world, as if everything happening right now no longer had anything to do with her.
She had done what she could. The rest was up to fate.
Black Lotus pondered for a while before suddenly smiling. He raised a finger and said, “People always say there is no perfect outcome, but if you look closely, you’ll always be able to find a way.”
Afterwards, he crouched down and said to the White Lotus Mother, “Holy mother, will you be satisfied if you just kill her like this? It’ll basically be salvation for her instead.”
The White Lotus Mother said, “Do you really think I’ll kill her so easily? I will make her go through all the cruel tortures in the world, until she sobs and begs me, until her mind is broken. Then I’ll kill her.”
Qian Rongzhi’s lips curled into a sneer. Sobbing and begging? Mind broken? Do you want me to act it out for you right now?
Black Lotus seemed to grasp the crux of the matter. He smiled. “Yes, cruel torture. Do you still remember that?”
The White Lotus Mother’s face blanked out at the thought of something before smiling viciously. “Yes, we’ll go with that. You’re the clever one.” She took out something from the sumeru ring on her finger and handed it to Black Lotus.
Black Lotus opened his hand at Qian Rongzhi. A translucent piece of amber sat within the palm of his hand. A tiny snake, as thin as a strand of hair, was sealed with the amber. It was incredibly small, but its gorgeous colours were enchanting.
Qian Rongzhi asked, “This is?”
“This comes from the Mist province.”
“A Snake gu?” Qian Rongzhi frowned. The Mist province was also known as the Myriad Mountains. Although Great Xia had already reigned over it for all these years, it was still an uncivilized and undeveloped place. The path of cultivation of savages differed drastically from those practiced in the central lands. The arts of shamanistic gu were one of the strangest methods to kill people in the world. It had made a name for itself.
“You want to kill me with this?”
“I heard from a friend that real gu is not for killing people. Instead, it’s to make living people feel like they’d be better off dead.”
Qian Rongzhi’s eyes lit up. Since it was for making living people feel like they would be better off dead, that meant she could live.
“Though, this gu is called a gu of burden. For the past three hundred years, it was believed to be a gu of death, as no one had ever survived once afflicted by it. They would all die from the agonising pain. Even the most cold-hearted, toughest man would become as frail as a child once they were afflicted by this gu.”
The White Lotus Mother’s smile grew even wider. It was innocent yet cruel. Even Qian Rongzhi experienced chills from it.
Black Lotus continued, “Only afterwards did people discover that this gu did not cause death. It did not even cause any harm at all. All the people who died to the gu died by suicide. If you can endure the pain, you’ll benefit tremendously from it instead. There had even been a cult that had arisen from it, worshipping the snake as their holy snake.”
Qian Rongzhi stepped through the stream and made her way forward. She reached towards the Snake Burden gu without any hesitation at all. Pain? She had always been a very tolerant person.
Black Lotus closed his hand instead. His face sank. “Do you really plan on living like this? Once the gu is planted, it will never go away. It will be bound to you forever, which is why it’s called a burden.”
“I don’t think I have any other choice.” Qian Rongzhi sneered.
Black Lotus stared at her deeply. “I suddenly regret this slightly. If you choose death, I will give you a swift one. You won’t feel any pain at all.”
The White Lotus Mother said unhappily, “Black Lotus!”
Black Lotus bowed seriously. “No matter how unhappy you are with this, I can’t just let you do this. Slaughter and death have always been unavoidable, but humiliation and abuse are not things we should do. If you insist on this, then please kill me first!”
The White Lotus Mother was powerless against him. All she could do was turn around furiously.
Qian Rongzhi smiled. “Thank you for your kind intentions, but if I were in search of a swift death, why would I still come here?”
Black Lotus fell silent for a moment. He opened his hand. “Fine then. I respect your choice, but please listen to the last bit I have to say. According to my knowledge, this snake is not a creature of this world. Instead, it comes from the Hell realm. As a legalist disciple, you should know about this.”
Qian Rongzhi’s eyes narrowed. She obviously knew about this. The legendary Hell realm had a total of eighteen major hells and countless minor hells. It was where all dead souls returned to throughout the trichiliocosm. All their sins would receive a final judgement in the underworld. It was the ultimate representation of law. She also understood very well why the Snake Burden gu did not cause death. The tortures of hell had never been for slaughter, but for punishment.
It was to make even the toughest evildoers feel pain so that they could then repent.
“This snake comes from the Venomous Snake hell. The so-called cruel tortures of the living world is no different from a mere game before the punishments of hell. In other words, you will be living in hell every single day from today onwards.”
Before he had even finished talking, Qian Rongzhi had already snatched up the amber. She brought the amber to the sunlight and raised her beautiful face, looking at the gorgeous, tiny snake in there. She glanced at Black Lotus, and her lips curled up. “Thank you for your kind intentions.”
The amber slid down between her fingers. Under the illumination of sunlight, the snake inside seemed even more enchanting. Suddenly, she opened her eyes, and it fell straight into her mouth.
Within the darkness, cracks appeared on the amber before it shattered all of a sudden. She did not release it. Instead, it broke free from its restraints by itself.
Like a wild beast that had caught the scent of blood, like a gluttonous taotie1 that had seen delicious food, this shameless soul filled with hatred was like its favourite food and a warm bed. It dove in deeply and helplessly.
Qian Rongzhi trembled all over. She immediately dropped to her knees in the stream. The tiny snake that was even more gorgeous than a rainbow swum through her face like a tattoo. It swam under her skin, and it seemed to become slightly larger than when it was in the amber.
She suddenly widened her eyes, falling down limply and kicking up a splash.
An indescribable, even unimaginable, pain moved through her like a snake. She opened her mouth as widely as she could. If she could still let out any sounds, she would definitely be shrieking miserably right now. However, the pain had already seized her body and locked up her throat. All she could let out were pointless choking sounds.
However, every inch of her body moaned. The entirety of her soul wailed.
She had completely underestimated the tortures of hell. She was completely wrong. She was nowhere near as tough as she had imagined herself to be. In just a single moment, she began to feel regret. She was willing to do anything to rid herself of this pain.
Did those souls in hell repent for their past sins every single day and night too?
Although she had widened her eyes to the limit, her vision was a blur. Everything in the surroundings seemed to spin, turning into blurry colours. She could vaguely make out a black shadow that approached her, which said, “Since this is the path you’ve chosen, I wish you a safe journey.”
Black Lotus stood up and said to the White Lotus Mother, who relished Qian Rongzhi’s horrible shape with great interest, “Let’s go!”
The White Lotus Mother said, “Let me watch for a little longer.”
Black Lotus looked at her fiercely, and the White Lotus Mother grumbled, “How stingy!”
When the first wave of pain had passed, the venomous snake that came from hell seemed to have moved around enough. It settled down.
She supported her body and crawled back onto her knees. The sky had already darkened completely. She did her best to tidy her chaotic thoughts. Although her face was sheet-white, she was basically unscathed. The White Lotus Mother had not even touched a single hair on her. It was even better than the best-case scenario she had imagined before.
However, her mind was close to collapsing completely. It was very strange. If a person underwent pain they could not endure, they would fall unconscious or be driven crazy even if they survived. However, she managed to maintain a clear mind the entire time, carefully tasting every moment of pain. Perhaps this was the wonders of the punishments of hell!
Returning to her senses, the first thing she did was grab her own throat. All she needed to do was close her hand gently. Blood would seep out, and she would be free.
Her sharp nails dug through her sheet-white skin. Warm, bright-red blood oozed out. After hesitating for quite a while, she pulled her hand back again and stood up as she tried to stabilise herself. She found a small cave in the mountains and dove in before falling unconscious.
She dreamt of a large snake coloured even more gorgeously swallowing her in a single bite. She woke up again very soon, and the second wave of pain arrived.
Time slipped by with each passing day. When she could move around, she would replenish her food and water before awaiting the next round of pain in utter fear. Yes, fear, unprecedented fear, so much fear that she trembled. Even when she rested, the snake would torture her in a different way, which made her contemplate salvation through death at every single moment.
However, she refused to just go like this. Gradually, she could make some simple movements during the punishment, but it only made the situation even worse. Every single time, she would lose her mind, tempted to dig out the snake from her body. She would rip through every inch of her skin. Fortunately, the bodies of cultivators were powerful, so the wounds would always heal very quickly.
She even came up with a ridiculous idea. If she peeled off her own skin, could she break away from the snake? However, her remaining rationality stopped her. The snake had already merged with her, and if she did something like that, she would die very soon. She could not just die like this!
At this moment, the aura of danger interrupted her recollection.
A daemonic beast that seemed like a wild cat arrived in the cave by following the scent of blood. Its glowing eyes hovered about in the darkness.
It was a daemonic beast that had condensed a daemon core. Perhaps this was the man-eating daemonic beast she had been searching for, but none of that matter anymore. Even if she were in perfect shape, she would not be confident that she could defeat it, but she was extremely frail now. Even moving a single finger was a struggle.
PS: Bows and thanks to fellow “Alias Space” for his donation. Congratulations to the new sect master!
1. A taotie is an evil creature of gluttony within Chinese mythology. It is one of the four perils, along with hundun, qiongqi, and taowu.