PG Chapter 77: Cleansing the soul

Thank you to Ycaiah for the Ko-fi!

Arc Five: Grave of the Common Folk

The words slipped out unconsciously. Wen Shi only realized what he had said after the fact, but by then, it was too late to take back.

He didn’t know what kind of expression he was wearing at that instant. Perhaps his brows were furrowed slightly; perhaps there was a faint trace of self-deprecation and vexation; perhaps it seemed as if he was purely waiting for an answer.

Xie Wen looked at him for a very long time.

For a moment, it seemed like he was about to say something, because he repeated quietly, “Such as…”

But after uttering those two words, he fell silent again. Quite some time passed before he opened his mouth once more.

“Such as: I wanted to see how long it would take for you to finally remember that you had a shifu, and I wanted to hear if you had anything ill to say of me that couldn’t be said to my face.”

At this point, he had already changed his tone of voice, and he pressed his fingers gently against Wen Shi’s shoulder.

By the time Wen Shi realized what was happening, their positions had already been switched. The path was still extremely narrow beyond the curve, but he was in the front now, with Xie Wen behind him.

There was nothing particularly unusual or notable about Xie Wen’s answer, yet the prolonged silence that had preceded it made it sound like a lie.

Wen Shi wanted to glance back at Xie Wen’s expression, but he knew that even if he turned around now, he wouldn’t be able to discern anything from it.

And so he simply angled his head to the side before he continued forward along the path.

After a few steps, he said, “I have nothing ill to say of you that can’t be said to your face.”

Xie Wen followed after him. Quite a while later, he finally responded with a laugh, “That’s true.”

That was true…

Of all the things Wen Shi truly couldn’t tell Xie Wen, not a single one was something bad.

Shidi.” Bu Ning’s voice traveled over to them.

Wen Shi looked up to see that Bu Ning had stopped on a stone platform some distance ahead of them. Gazing in Wen Shi’s direction, Bu Ning suddenly asked, “What is the matter?”

Taken aback, Wen Shi caught up to him in a few large strides. “What?”

Bu Ning studied him. “Just now, you looked a little…”

“A little what?”

A little lonely.

The words circled in Bu Ning’s mouth, but he didn’t end up uttering them aloud, because those emotions had vanished from Wen Shi as soon as he looked up, just like the insensate stones and rotten wood that were covered completely by a heavy snowfall.

“Never mind.” Bu Ning shook his head.

Wen Shi was a bit puzzled. Just as he was about to question Bu Ning further, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye.

He turned his head in vacant shock. From that point on, he couldn’t tear his eyes away again—

That was a vast, boundless wasteland, shrouded in a concentrated mass of black mist, like a body of water with no end in sight.

The platform they were currently standing on faced that place directly.

Even though the two places clearly weren’t far from one another, they seemed like two different worlds.

The mountain behind them was lush and full of life. It was covered densely in lichen, and it overflowed with vines; old pine trees of indeterminable age were entrenched in the crevices.

Meanwhile, the land in front of them was utterly barren underneath the black mist. As far as the eye could see, there wasn’t a single sign of life to be found.

It seemed as if the two realms were separated by a transparent barrier. Although the black mist roiled and scattered like flowing clouds, never once did it cross that invisible border. Every time it passed the stone platform, it would veer and change course.

Xie Wen halted abruptly behind Wen Shi. His gaze was also focused on that unending expanse of black mist, and his brows were knitted tightly together.

Lao Mao and Xia Qiao, who were following closely behind them, also wore expressions filled with disbelief, but Zhang Lan and Zhang Yalin were the only ones who said anything. In quiet alarm, they blurted out, “A cage vortex!”

However, they quickly realized something, and they amended, “No, that’s not it.”

At first glance, there was quite a bit of similarity between this place and a cage vortex, as both were areas permeated with indissoluble black mist. But this wasn’t the same kind of cage vortex that they had dealt with in the past. This was much larger than a cage vortex, and the black mist was much more concentrated, almost like a gathering of numerous vortices…

At that moment, a thought flashed through Zhang Lan’s mind—

The source.

Immediately after, fear raced through her at the implications of that word. She felt increasingly terrified the more she thought about it, so she went silent.

It didn’t matter if this was a cage vortex or not. Either way, it was something that should not have appeared on Mount Songyun.

Wen Shi had never witnessed such a scene on Mount Songyun before. Frowning, he asked lowly, “Where is this?”

Bu Ning lowered his eyes. Cast from underneath thin eyelids, his gaze landed somewhere amidst the black mist; it wasn’t clear what exactly he was looking at through the murk.

“Unrecognizable now, is it not?” Bu Ning pointed into the depths of the black mist. “Lake Qingxin is over there.”

Wen Shi’s eyes widened. Almost blankly, he stared into the endless darkness.

“Lake Qingxin?” he said hoarsely. “You mean this… is Lake Qingxin?”

“Yes.” Bu Ning pointed at the platform underneath their feet and said, “This platform is the one that faced Lake Qingxin directly. You used to practice puppetry with our eldest shixiong here, in front of Lake Qingxin, and Zhong Si also used to draw talismans here. Sometimes, when shifu returned from the outside world, he would also pass through here…”

As Bu Ning spoke, images flashed one after another through Wen Shi’s mind, as clear as if they had happened yesterday.

He still remembered the countless fish that used to live in Lake Qingxin. Before every summer thunderstorm, the saddle of the mountain would become humid and stifling, and the lithe fish would jump through the surface of the lake, sparking ripples that overlapped in rings.

There was a period in which Zhuang Ye had trouble wielding his puppet string stably. During that time, he would frequently invite Wen Shi to that very platform. With the jumping fish as their targets, they would practice from the moment the sky turned overcast all the way until the rain started to fall.

Their puppet string was cast very gently; no force was added, as they were simply practicing control. The string would flick against the fish with no more weight than a raindrop, and it was only enough to make the fish thrash their tails briefly.

On the other hand, Zhong Si was the one who could never behave himself—he would often come over in the middle of the session to interfere. Since he didn’t have the guts to cause Wen Shi any trouble, he would direct it all at their eldest shixiong instead. As soon as Zhuang Haohao cast his puppet string, Zhong Si would secretly use a talisman behind his back.

Consequently, the fish would always twist ever so slightly to the side right before they could be struck by a puppet string.

Because of that, Zhuang Haohao’s success rate was always very tragic, especially compared to Wen Shi’s one hundred percent accuracy. This often caused Zhuang Haohao to start doubting his entire existence.

But he didn’t really have any competitive spirit in him. After a moment of confusion, he would always smile broadly and say, “Shidi is indeed impressive. I still have far to go.”

In turn, Wen Shi would make his puppet string change direction at the very last second and drag Zhong Si out of wherever he was hiding, tied up like a cocoon. Then, he would haul him over to their eldest shixiong to apologize and make amends.

However, that frequently ended with their eldest shixiong being duped and taken advantage of by Zhong Si once more—and he would even agree amicably to whatever Zhong Si said afterwards.

Out of the countless times Wen Shi went down the mountain with Chen Budao, this was the path they took the most often. It had a bit more vitality compared to the other path, thanks to the presence of the vast lake.

The wind would brush past the leaves in a murmur; the sound of the rain was also a murmur.

Those were the noises they listened to every time they passed through this place. It felt as if a lifetime had gone by just like that, accompanied by those sounds.

Chen Budao once told him the reason he had chosen to settle on Mount Songyun. It was because of the lake, which contained an abundance of spiritual energy that was capable of soothing and calming one’s spiritual consciousness.

All of Wen Shi’s memories regarding Lake Qingxin were peaceful and beautiful.

Never once could he have imagined that the lake would one day look like this.

“How did this happen?” At the same time, Wen Shi extended his hand to test the situation.

The moment his fingers drew near the black mist, something seemed to reverberate through his mind, as if it had been struck mercilessly by an extremely heavy weight.

Immediately after, a violent gale roared to life!

He heard something he had not heard in a long time: the simultaneous wailing of innumerable ghosts.

He could see nothing but darkness, like someone had abruptly extinguished all the lights. Countless sharp blades were hidden within the wind—it was shockingly painful when it scraped past his body.

Out of instinct, he touched the places that had been slashed open, but there were no wounds to be found, as if the pain wasn’t physical and existed only in his memories.

Once that realization dawned on him, the darkness in his vision faded away slowly.

Wen Shi heard Bu Ning speak from next to him. “This is where Zhong Si and Zhuang Ye are.”

“What did you just say?” By turning his head, Wen Shi finally managed to break free from the darkness and phantom pain.

Even so, remnants of the sensation still lingered, making his face seem extremely pale.

“That day…” Bu Ning paused.

Wen Shi asked subconsciously, “Which day?”

Bu Ning remained silent.

But Wen Shi abruptly understood…

The day that Chen Budao was sealed away.

The instant he realized that, even the tiny bit of color left in his lips drained away completely.

As he turned to look at Xie Wen, he heard Bu Ning say slowly, “That day, Zhong Si and our eldest shixiong were the ones who suffered the most damage to their spiritual consciousnesses…”

Bu Ning had been a little further away because he was controlling the array. As a result, he had been slightly less injured.

All panguan knew that if a cage master’s grievances were too strong and too ingrained during the process of undoing a cage, the destructive black mist would exceed the bounds of what could be endured, and it would corrode and contaminate anyone in the general vicinity.

Back then, Chen Budao’s situation had been equivalent to hundreds upon thousands of uncontrollable cage masters being combined into one person: him.

So even though the sealing was ultimately successful, the residual malevolent energy still ended up affecting the people nearby.

Zhong Si and Zhuang Ye were the closest in terms of proximity, and they had also reacted the quickest, choosing to completely absorb all of the black mist that had escaped.

But they were already extremely weak by then. Their spiritual consciousnesses were mostly depleted, and they no longer had the energy to neutralize such an undiluted concentration of mortal grievances.

In order to avoid corroding or contaminating even more innocents—and because they knew they wouldn’t be able to last much longer—they used a “gate” that Bu Ning had opened with an array to retreat back to Mount Songyun.

As the mortal saying went: fallen leaves return to the roots eventually.

They did the work of ferriers, while clearing the karmic debt in the mortal realm. They thought that they had long since left behind all the transient attachments of the mundane world, but in the end, even they couldn’t escape the truth of that mortal saying…

When they had nowhere else to hide, they would still wish to return home.

Bu Ning said, “I drew a protective barrier around the village at the bottom of the mountain and created an array that would conceal Mount Songyun in its entirety, so as to avoid affecting even more people. After that, we tried every method we possibly could, but we were still unable to dissolve the malevolent energy. As a result, we had no choice but to seal ourselves away as well.”

As he finished speaking, Wen Shi saw Xie Wen close his eyes.

He stood at the edge of the platform, draped in red, facing the abyss-like black mist that knew no bounds or depths. Within the mist laid the disciples that he had once watched grow up.

They had waited a thousand years, trapped and bound to this place.

Wen Shi didn’t even dare to imagine the emotions that must’ve been coursing through Xie Wen at that moment.

“Did you use the Soul Cleansing Array?” he asked Bu Ning.

It was clearly a very simple question, yet his voice was hoarse to the point of being nearly inaudible.

Back when he had first mastered the Soul Cleansing Array, he had told his fellow disciples about it immediately after, so they could also use it in times of need.

But none of them carried a burden like his. Bu Ning and the rest were fully capable of dispersing the aftermath of a typical cage.

In the end, the only person who truly kept using the Soul Cleansing Array as a means of scouring themselves clean was Wen Shi himself.

He had lost count of the number of times he had entered that array. It started when he was nineteen, and it lasted until the end of that era. He went in again and again, slowly dissolving those worldly bonds until there was almost nothing left.

The black mist in front of them now was nearly identical to the worldly bonds he used to carry within him all those years ago. If they had used the Soul Cleansing Array, it should’ve been able to scour the black mist away.

So why did it still turn out like this?

To Wen Shi’s surprise, Bu Ning said, “We used it, but it did not work.”

Wen Shi: “How is that possible?”

Clearly, he had used it for all those years…

Bu Ning said, “I once attempted to gain a deeper understanding of that array. It does not simply dissolve mortal grievances—after all, those are the things left behind by countless people in this world. How could they just vanish completely? There will always have to be a place to undertake them. However, I could not find that place.”

Arrays made little sense to Wen Shi; he had mastered the Soul Cleansing Array through sheer force of will.

This was his first time discovering the reason behind the Soul Cleansing Array’s effectiveness, and he suddenly froze in place.

“I used to think that place was Mount Songyun, perhaps even Lake Qingxin. I eventually realized it was not.” Bu Ning said in a low voice, “But regardless of where that place is, it has most likely already been destroyed. It can no longer receive any new malevolent energy, which is why… the Soul Cleansing Array has never once come to life, even though it has been here all along.

“Look—” As Bu Ning spoke, he reached out to touch the edge of the sealing array.

At that moment, the black mist just happened to change the pattern of its flow. Through its gaps, they faintly saw several spots on the barren wasteland glimmer with golden light.

Like the feeble flame of a candle, those lights flickered out as soon as they lit up.

For the sake of corroboration, Bu Ning cast a handful of round stones into the black mist to awaken the array, in an attempt to use it once more.

There was an extremely crisp clink each time a stone collided against another one. And with every collision, Wen Shi’s eyelashes also trembled lightly.

Bu Ning said something else, but he didn’t hear any of it. Instead, his attention was focused fully on the possibility that had suddenly flashed through his mind.

When the last array stone was struck and awoken, the previously extinguished flames quivered abruptly—and ignited anew.

Once upon a time, this Soul Cleansing Array was the recipient of all of Wen Shi’s foolish desires and worldly bonds; of all of his inescapable nightmares; of all of his suffering and burdens. Now, after a thousand-year silence, it suddenly churned to life again without the slightest warning.

Out of nowhere, the drifting black mist seemed to gain an unexpected sense of direction. Like coiling, writhing dragons buoyed by Mount Songyun’s wind…

Everything surged towards Xie Wen.

Yan: Let the knifing commence!🔪

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6 thoughts on “PG Chapter 77: Cleansing the soul




    now excuse me while I howl cry and roll in the pool of my own tears

    (Thank you for the update, stay safe and healthy!)


    1. katieo1982

      Whoah, you’re spoiling us with such a quick update, thank you 🙂
      So poor Wen Shi, who had not wanted to burden Xie Wen and thought the array would help, actually was siphoning the resentment towards Xie Wen. No wonder he’s wary about that guy tricking him … I get it that Xie Wen was being a good caring shifu in doing this, but I can’t help feeling bad for Wen Shi more than for him.


  2. Maya

    Awww Rereading the chapters shows the bonds between these 5, more clear and beautiful as well as painful

    Thanks for the quick updates! Much appreciated


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