PG Chapter 75: Huge gamble

Thank you to Somebody, N, MsReea, and ElisaYu for the Ko-fis!

Arc Five: Grave of the Common Folk

Zhou Xu?

Bu Ning?

Wen Shi had never once imagined that the two of them might be connected in some way, even though there were many characteristics about Zhou Xu that were also shared by Bu Ning.

They were similarly clairvoyant by nature. A random sentence they uttered without thinking was often more accurate than the results someone else had spent quite a bit of time divining.

Their souls were similarly unstable, so they were easily led astray and possessed, and they faced much more risk than the average person did inside a cage. That was the reason why Bu Ning specialized in arrays, and it also seemed to be the reason why Zhang Biling didn’t allow Zhou Xu to enter any cages.

When ordinary people emerged from a cage, everything they experienced would become a dream, and they wouldn’t be able to recall it again. Every so often, they might get a feeling of deja vu, but that was all.

Yet Zhou Xu remembered everything that happened in the cage extremely well.

Zhou Xu had been present in every cage that Wen Shi had entered since emerging from the Gate of Oblivion, excluding Shen Qiao’s. It was almost as if the will of some mysterious higher power was at work, making them destined to encounter one another.

But Wen Shi still found it difficult to believe, because Zhou Xu and Bu Ning were entirely too different…

“This is… Bu Ning?” As a myriad of emotions washed through him, he tilted his head in astonishment, subconsciously seeking an answer from the person next to him. It seemed as if a single nod from that person was enough to conclude and settle anything and everything.

It was only after the question slipped unthinkingly out of his mouth that he realized something: he was acting too natural about it all.

As a result, he was met with Lao Mao’s astounded gaze.

Immediately, the Golden-Winged Dapeng widened his eyes and almost flapped his wings out of shock.

Lao Mao stared incredulously at him for quite a while before his gaze shifted towards Xie Wen. Mouth opening and closing, he said, “He—”

Stupefied, it took him some time to squeeze out a faint question. “It seems like he—figured everything out a long time ago?”

Lao Mao originally thought that he was going to receive a similarly surprised response from Xie Wen, but unexpectedly, the other person simply looked at Wen Shi and didn’t say anything.

They were a mere step apart from each other, and their gazes collided in the silence, causing something complicated and indecipherable to settle around them.

A moment later, Xie Wen finally replied to Lao Mao with an “mn.

The atmosphere became a little strange. Everyone kneeling on the floor couldn’t help but glance over at them.

They didn’t understand what was going on; meanwhile, Lao Mao was about to lose his mind.

Because there was something just as odd about Xie Wen’s attitude.

“You already knew???” Lao Mao did his best to keep quiet, but he couldn’t conceal the way his voice cracked on the word “you.”

He was so shocked that he forgot to use “Boss” when addressing Xie Wen.

He found out who you were, and didn’t say anything.

You knew that he found out, and also didn’t say anything.

Lao Mao almost confused himself trying to puzzle it out inside his head. Despite his bewilderment, he could still sense that there was more to it than that.

But in the end, he was just a puppet, and he couldn’t comprehend the emotions and desires that comprised the essence of mortal life. It was true that he was somewhat sharper than other puppets—somewhat more human-like, somewhat stronger—but even so, he had no way of fully understanding the origin of whatever “more” was at play.

All he could do was brace his hands against his waist and stare at his boss in an attempt to peer into the depths of his soul.

Xie Wen stopped paying attention to him. Instead, he turned his head and pointed at the stone statue and Zhou Xu, who were both sitting cross-legged on either side of the yin-yang symbol. He said to Wen Shi, “What does this look like to you?”

He was still cloaked in the reflection from the past: long hair, red robes, and a snow-white collar. As he spoke, his well-defined jawline created an outline that was beautiful and sharp.

For a moment, Wen Shi was stunned by the sight of him, but he snapped out of it abruptly when the other person pointed at Zhou Xu, causing him to hastily redirect his own gaze.

This time, he finally noticed the unusual part about the statue and Zhou Xu—

They sat back-to-back in the lotus position, heads lowered, stabilizing the center of the array. It was extremely similar to a slightly amended “北” character, and it was identical to Bu Ning’s symbol from all those years ago.

He remembered what Bu Ning had once told him: “This symbol is not the character for ‘north.’ It is one that I created, and it will have some affinity with me in the future.”

At the time, Zhong Si was leaning against the stone table, carelessly tossing and catching pine nuts that he had pilfered from somewhere on the mountain. Zhuang Ye was rewrapping the leftover stones that hadn’t been chosen; he was saying that some of the stones were indeed quite spiritual, so they should be given to the outer disciples to use. Wen Shi was done resting, and he leaped down from the old tree, hand braced against a branch. The Golden-Winged Dapeng took flight from his shoulder and made a circle among the pine trees.

After putting away the symbol-engraved round stones into a cloth bag that was then stored into his sleeve, Bu Ning continued to gaze at Mount Songyun in its afternoon tranquility, lost in thought for a long while.

Wen Shi lifted his hand, which served as a perch for the Dapeng. As he walked past Bu Ning, he patted him and asked, “What’s the matter?”

That caused Bu Ning to finally snap out of it. He stood upright with his hands tucked into his sleeves, and a long moment passed before he shook his head and smiled. “It just feels too wonderful, our time spent on the mountain.”

He was still quite young back then, but he would often act in a rather melancholy way. He was much more reserved and mild-mannered than most other people his age, almost excessively so.

Sometimes, Zhong Si would be a little too loose with his tongue, and he would pester Bu Ning by relentlessly calling him an “old man,” provoking Bu Ning to the point of drawing up his robes so that he could kick Zhong Si. Only then would Zhong Si retreat and say, “This is the only time you act like a youth.”

So as soon as Bu Ning spoke, Wen Shi and the others knew what the matter was.

Zhuang Ye said, “What did you foresee now?”

Wen Shi stopped walking and cast a glance at the top of the mountain. “Does it have to do with Mount Songyun?”

Zhong Si was the exception. He reached out and hooked an arm around each of his fellow disciples. “Who cares about all that? Don’t you remember what shifu said before? How are you supposed to live if you’re always worrying about the state of the future—if it’s good or bad, happy or sorrowful?”

He said to Wen Shi, “Come, this shixiong will treat you to some liquor—ah, no, to some tea. That was a slip of the tongue just now. I misspoke, so don’t tell shifu.”

Then he winked at Zhuang Ye and said, “Eldest shixiong, you’re in charge of the bill.”

Finally, he told Bu Ning, “Great Immortal, how about you divine this for us instead: which teahouse at the foot of the mountain will save us the most money today?”

After that, amidst a chaotic din of admonishment, Bu Ning laughed and didn’t mention anything else.

As Wen Shi looked at Zhou Xu, who was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the array, he was suddenly overcome with the urge to see that often melancholic shixiong of his again; to ask him if he had foreseen something long in advance, if he had predicted the scene that was taking place at that very moment.

Right as that thought flashed through his mind, the wind swept the ashes next to Zhou Xu’s feet into the grooves of the yin-yang symbol. Golden light streaked through the grooves like streams of water, as if someone was outlining the symbol with brushstrokes.

When the light reached the end, Zhou Xu—whose head had been lowered the entire time—suddenly moved.

Hunching forward, he rubbed his eyes with his palms, like someone who had fallen into a deep slumber for too long and was now waking from it abruptly.

Perhaps it had happened after the portrait scroll burned to ashes: he was veiled in a reflection from the past. He wore a long sky-blue garment, and his long hair was pinned up using a branch broken off from elsewhere on the mountain. The ends of his hair cascaded downward, and because he was bent forward, it spread like ink across the back of his slender shoulders. Even his facial features had altered a little.

Zhang Lan and Zhang Yalin—both still prostrated on the floor—were stunned.

They subconsciously called out “Xiao Xu,” causing the person sitting in the center of the array to sweep a look in their direction.

He wasn’t fully awake yet, nor was he accustomed to the light filtering in from the cavern’s entrance. As a result, his eyes were half-narrowed, and his expression contained some confusion and disorientation.

But even so, his innately peaceful and calm nature couldn’t be concealed.

A mere shift of his eyes was enough to establish a drastically different aura.

Perhaps they still weren’t willing to believe it before this, because they felt like the teenager they had watched grow up was poles apart from an ancestor of arrays like Bu Ning, and it was impossible for the two of them to be related in any way. But now, even they were starting to believe it, more or less.

After all, the current Zhou Xu was truly… much too different.

He seemed more like a reclusive mountain-dweller who had long since left society; who had fallen into a thousand-year slumber, only to awaken from his dreams at that instant.

In the end, Wen Shi and Xie Wen were the ones who actually pulled the Zhang siblings out of their stunned state.

Zhou Xu… or rather, Bu Ning looked up in Wen Shi and Xie Wen’s direction. A flash of astonishment flitted through his eyes, but it was swiftly replaced by a swirl of deep emotion.

In that moment, too much was contained in his eyes, so much so that they even grew damp for a brief second and glimmered with the light streaming in from outside the cavern.

He furrowed his brows and tilted his head back as he blinked forcefully several times in a row. Then, he let out a very light laugh.

But that laugh sounded more like a sigh—a sigh containing the weight of a thousand years.

He pushed himself to his feet; even his height seemed to have increased under the effect of the reflection. Facing Xie Wen, he bent forward respectfully and gave a deep bow, hands cupped in front of him, as he greeted, “Shifu…”

His voice was extremely hoarse. On one hand, that was rather similar to Zhou Xu, but on the other hand, it sounded like the voice of someone who hadn’t spoken in too long. As a result, there were too many things left unsaid bottled up in his throat, and he didn’t know where to begin.

He paused and thought for a long moment, but in the end, he chose to summarize his emotions simply. “A thousand years… feels like nothing more than a dream.”

Gazing at his figure, Wen Shi also found himself at a sudden loss for words.

After quite a while, Wen Shi finally opened his mouth and asked lowly, “Did you have someone keeping watch over this place the entire time?”

Bu Ning still hadn’t straightened up from his bow, and his voice was a little muffled. Wen Shi knew that the reason this emotionally sensitive shixiong of his didn’t dare to stand upright was because his eyes had most likely already grown red.

A long time passed before Bu Ning replied, “That wasn’t it. We were here all along.”

“We?” Startled, Wen Shi shot a swift look at Xie Wen before he asked Bu Ning, “What do you mean by ‘we’? Are you saying…”

“There’s also Zhong Si and Zhuang Ye. Both of them are here,” Bu Ning said. “When I created this array all those years ago, I did so because I suddenly had a feeling that perhaps we would encounter a reunion of old friends a millennium later. I didn’t expect…”

I didn’t expect it to occur under these circumstances—should it be considered a misfortune or a blessing?

Back in the days of his youthful ignorance, he was often immensely pleased by his naturally clairvoyant constitution. He believed that it was a gift from the heavens, as it meant that he was an extremely unique individual among the sea of humanity; it meant that he could accomplish great things, shoulder heavy responsibility, and leave his mark in the annals of history.

However, he would eventually come to realize that perhaps it wasn’t a gift after all. At least, it wasn’t purely one.

Everyone proclaimed that all beings were impermanent, that all beings experienced suffering, but it was likely that very few people learned the truth of that sooner or better than him.

When he was a child, back before he knew how to close off his spiritual meridians, he would often foresee someone’s impending doom as he spoke to them.

Sometimes his vision would be filled with blood. Other times, it would be images of death.

He couldn’t differentiate between what was real and what wasn’t, and he would frequently react with alarm or fright the instant the scenes appeared before his eyes. As those incidents increased in number, many people began calling him “crazy”—he could start acting mad at any moment.

For a long period of time, he was trapped in a state of muddled confusion. It was almost as if he really had gone crazy, because so many people were saying it.

Eventually, for the sake of not incurring so much revulsion, he taught himself how to “conform.” If other children said that something was a ghost, he would say the same; if other children said that something was an immortal, he would also say the same. Even if what he saw was actually completely different, he wouldn’t say anything.

He slowly smothered his abilities to blend in with the crowd.

Until he was sent to Mount Songyun.

His shifu was an immortal in his eyes, and if he was capable of becoming an immortal’s disciple, then he wasn’t so unsightly after all. At first, he continued with the behaviors he had picked up before arriving on the mountain and went blindly along with what everyone else said. Then one day, Chen Budao told him: If this truly is how you are, why come here at all?

After that, he learned how to coexist harmoniously with his spiritual constitution.

He began to study divination and arrays earnestly, and he did his best to wield his talents effectively, so he could no longer be considered a madman who startled at every turn.

He was gentle and courteous, modest and forgiving. He was capable of predicting whether some events would be auspicious or inauspicious, and there was even a time when he thought that he could comprehend heavenly law.

But he would eventually discover that heavenly law was ultimately fickle in nature. Just because he could foresee one thing didn’t mean that he would be able to foresee what came afterwards. Just because he could stop one incident didn’t mean that it wouldn’t trigger another one that was even more troublesome, convoluted, and unbearable.

As time passed, that caused his fellow disciples to teasingly refer to him as a “melancholic.”

It was true that he was frequently melancholic.

Those predisposed to clairvoyance often found themselves suffering, because they would be able to predict parts of the future earlier than others would. No matter how lively the banquet, its end was inescapable; no matter how prosperous the pagoda, its desolation was unavoidable. All things underwent a cycle, and all things came to an end.

So he was always suffering.

Sometimes, as he was conversing with his fellow disciples, he would suddenly sink into an unjustified sadness. Even though he saw them every day, yearning would sweep over him abruptly.

It was then that he knew: perhaps their ends would not be kind.

He even foresaw lonely souls and dried bones, but he didn’t know who left them behind.

When he was young, he would always try to inform Wen Shi and the others upon foreseeing a disaster. At the same time, he would attempt to make them avoid a certain person, event, or path.

But there were too many people and paths in the mundane world. Avoiding one sometimes meant racing straight towards something else that was even worse, and there was no way of knowing if the worst-case scenario was caused precisely by that avoidance.

He ended up learning that lesson the hard way after he almost got his fellow disciples involved in several troublesome situations. From that point on, he stopped informing them.

Instead, he would hide it in his heart and digest the bitter moments all by himself, after which he would furtively create a few backup plans.

One year during the winter, there was an extremely cold night on the mountain. He and Zhong Si sat around a little clay stove, using melted snow to brew tea. Firewood crackled and burned in the stove while the melted snow gurgled and boiled.

He huddled closer to the stove and rubbed his hands together to warm himself up as dense white steam drifted out of the small hole in the stove lid. Zhong Si was in the middle of saying something, and his head was thrown back in uproarious laughter. Wen Shi, who happened to be passing by, braced his leg against Zhong Si briefly in support, but he still ended up toppling onto the ground.

Surrounded by that lively atmosphere, Bu Ning suddenly had a vision. In it, he heard someone say: Long ago, there was a mountain called Songyun, and it was inhabited by several figures from the past. However, those people have since become names scarcely mentioned in books, and that same mountain is nowhere to be found.

Thus were the vicissitudes of life, the past dissipating into smoke.

He was filled with sorrow from witnessing the inevitability of change. Then he saw Mount Songyun, but it had a different appearance from the past.

For some unknown reason, black mist covered Lake Qingxin, which was nestled in the dip of the mountain. It resembled a murky swamp, and several waxen figures laid within the mist. Even though he couldn’t discern their identities, he still felt a chill run through his heart.

He also saw a cavern on the far side of the mountain, the one he frequently meditated and ruminated in.

He sat cross-legged in the cavern, just like he always did. Five portraits were hung on the wall, one for each of the disciples and their shifu. Array spirits that he had never seen before surrounded him, and he was completely immobilized…

As if he was trapped in that place, unable to be liberated.

But then one day, the mouth of the cavern suddenly brightened, like someone had parted the densely packed vines covering the entrance. Afterwards, a person ducked down and entered the cave.

As the vines were brushed aside, a gust of wind swirled in from outside.

Upon sensing that much-awaited burst of vitality, he opened his eyes abruptly. At that moment, he somehow knew that it had been a thousand years, and he was about to encounter a reunion born from a long separation and the evanescence of life.

After witnessing that vision, he created an array in the cavern.

He hoped that there would never be a use for the array, but the heavens loved to toy with him, and all the worst-case scenarios turned into reality. On the day of his imminent death, the array slowly churned to life.

He could no longer remember what day, month, or year that was.

All he could remember was Mount Songyun and the way dark clouds shrouded its peak, the way every plant had withered, as if it was a place of ghosts.

Whirring, his array raised a barrier and hid away the place that they once considered home. The twelve mountain-like array spirits sat and formed a circle, guarding the concealed area.

Meanwhile, in the cavern where he could no longer see a sky full of stars, he sat with his head lowered and split his soul into two.

One half was sent into the cycle of reincarnation; the other half was left behind to support the giant array.

Everything was as the vision foretold.

There was only one difference: he didn’t know if an old friend truly would part the curtain of hanging vines a thousand years later and allow the cavern to see the light of day once more.

With life or death as his stakes, he took a huge gamble.

He gambled that he would be able to sit numbly in that lightless cavern as countless years passed him by, and…

Await the arrival of the wind.

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7 thoughts on “PG Chapter 75: Huge gamble

  1. BU NIIIIIING 😭😭😭😭


    One half was sent into the cycle of reincarnation; the other half was left behind to support the giant array.



    Liked by 1 person

  2. ShadowFish

    Thank you for your hard work ♡˖꒰ᵕ༚ᵕ⑅꒱
    Reading this story is like savouring a fine wine, a little bit of time passes and each chapter gets more flavourful x

    I admire Bu Ning’s strength, he did so much for the people who matter to him. So sad but beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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