Chapter 7 - The Ghostly Huangquan Road?

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The only words Gu Suihan could barely make out on the bottom half of the plaque he had found near the entrance to the secret realm were the words for water and road.1(
Legend has it that there's a road called the Yellow Spring Road (Huangquan Road), which leads to the Forgotten River (Wangchuan River) (similar to the idea of the Lethe River). Over the river there's a bridge called the Helpless Bridge (Naihe Bridge), at one end of the bridge sits a crimson stone called the Three-life Stone (Sansheng Stone). When two people die, they take this route to reincarnation. If they carve their name on the Three-life Stone together while they pass the stone, they are to be predestined to be together in their future life. But, before their rebirth they will be given a Mengpo Soup (where Mengpo refers to some old lady who makes the soup) to drink and thereby their memory of past life are obliterated. The red spider lilies (Lyroris Radiata) are said to be planted all over the place.]

“Such a sinister looking place and a stone plaque. Why does this look so much like the way Huangquan Road is usually described?” He stroked his chin and murmured to himself, “Could Naihe Bridge and the Sansheng Stone be along the road ahead too?”

According to legend, if you wanted to be reincarnated, you had to walk along Huangquan Road, look at the Sansheng Stone, pick a red spider lily, cross Naihe Bridge and drink Mengpo’s Soup before you could get to your next life.

But some powerful cultivators knew that this legend was actually all real. And even more of them knew that this was like a nail that Buddhism had forcibly wedged into Daoism’s door, a method of taking away the power it had from the faith of its believers.

Why else would it be so troublesome to reincarnate? The six realms of reincarnation weren’t like a computer. It wasn’t going to show a blue screen of death after too many reincarnations.

But Gu Suihan was thinking about something else. This world was definitely connected in a big way to the Earth he had originally come from. Also, those few scenes he had seen in history were beginning to make a little sense.

“Let me see if Mengpo exists here then.” His eyes glinted as he narrowed them. The stone sign for Huangquan Road was already broken. This secret realm was in pretty terrible shape, but one could also deduce that the person who created it might have actually seen what Hell looks like. Perhaps, it was also in shambles and was just as run down.

At that moment, he felt like he had found another piece of thread in the huge ball of yarn he had. He had finally arrived at a rough idea of all the things that had stumped him for years.

He put those thoughts aside and finally went to look carefully at the place that was supposed to test his heart for the way that was in front of him. As he took a step forward, his shoes came down on the scattered bones on the ground and made creaking and crunching noises.

When he did that, it was as if he had flipped a trapdoor switch. The bloodied dry bones that were scattered everywhere slowly began to tremble.

“A Dry Bones Spectral Formation, a Hell’s Demons Formation,” said Gu Suihan calmly as he looked at the scene before him. “It’s not bad, but it’s a pity that whoever set up this formation is not very well versed in formations, so this is like someone who looks at a tiger but ends up drawing a cat. Not very impressive.”

If the Seven Kill Sect elder sitting outside this secret realm right now heard such words, he would probably have a mental breakdown. This was something that he had created with everything he possessed. Not only could it be used to create and refine puppets2 as well as imprison cultivators, but it could also serve as a private cultivation spot. This had been very hard for him to achieve, and many fellow cultivators had been extremely envious of his achievements. But to Gu Suihan, it was just “not bad”.

Shortly after Gu Suihan gave his scathing review, the dry bones on the ground suddenly flew up and charged at Gu Suihan at high speed, as if they were controlled by an external force. The countless bones quickly put themselves together into a bunch of very strange looking creatures – some had three heads and no legs, some with six arms and three legs. The combinations were endless.

“These things don’t have Soul Fire3?” Gu Suihan was a little surprised when he looked carefully at the aggressive and horrifying creatures coming for him. “How did something like this end up in the hands of someone who doesn’t even know how to do this right?”

Most items connected to the dark arts would also be intertwined with souls. Given the secret realm he was in, if these creatures were given Soul Fire, they would be at least ten times more powerful. If you threw in a few sentient dead soldier souls, then even a Foundation Establishment cultivator would end up dead. An Origin Core cultivator would have to be mentally prepared before making an attack.

Gu Suihan had forgotten one thing. This secret realm was only meant as a test for potential disciples. They weren’t going to make it a deadly experience.

Since these things had no Soul Fire, Gu Suihan’s plans were dashed. He had initially thought of using some method to forcibly snatch the Soul Fire from these skeletons in order to nourish his own damaged soul. It wasn’t going to be enough to help his soul recover fully, but a little was better than nothing.

“Since you’re not that formidable, I’m not going to waste time here.” Gu Suihan frowned and kicked the nearest monster to him aside, using the force from his kick to propel him forward. He wasn’t moving very quickly, but he was very confident and in control of the whole situation. Countless monsters tried to attack him, but Gu Suihan dodged every single one of them, sometimes using the opposing force to help him run even faster.

But that couldn’t be helped. In his previous life, his cultivation journey had been a tough one. Before his Master died, he had just successfully reached the Foundation Establishment stage. In order to reach higher levels, he had no choice but to think of every possible way of snatching, robbing and even killing. He had done every evil deed under the sun in order to attain a power close to an immortal.

So, while Gu Suihan could claim to be an amateur in many things, the one thing he was definitely an expert at was running away, committing murder, plotting against others and escaping on foot. These things were so deeply ingrained in him, he never forgot how to do these things.

As for these soulless and brainless skeletons, he didn’t care for them at all.

He had a rough idea of how this so-called test of one’s heart for the Way was all about. It was meant to scare you, confuse you and force you to face your fears.

In that case, the next stage was probably a delusionary formation, thought Gu Suihan as he continued to move forward swiftly and smoothly like a fish in water.

About ten minutes later, the massive numbers of monsters thinned out and only a few stragglers were left wandering about aimlessly. The previous filthy and lifeless ground suddenly bloomed with red spider lilies in random places.

But of course, even though these flowers looked like red spider lilies, Gu Suihan plucked one, looked at it, then casually threw it aside. These weren’t red spider lilies.

The red spider lilies that grew in hell were supposed to be able to help you to remember your previous lifetime and the lifetime you just ended after eating it. It could also help to activate your Spiritual Root.

But the best effect it had was that you could mix it with other Spiritual Herbs and refine it into a Life Enlightening Soul Cleansing Pill. If you ate this pill while gathering your soul4(
Hun and Po (魂魄 húnpò) – the dualistic components of a soul. Hun is the spiritual, intelligent, and Yang component of the soul. Po is the physical/corporeal, animalistic, and Yin component of the soul. Upon death, the Hun component goes to the afterlife, while the Po component remains and rots away in the corpse. In Daoism, the soul is said to consist of three Hun and seven Po (三魂七魄).
Gotta catch ‘em all.], it would lower the difficulty by at least 30%, so it was considered an item that could work wonders.

But the flowers here were just angel’s trumpets, flowers with hallucinogenic effects. Besides being used by beginner cultivators to delude their enemies, it was good for almost nothing else. In fact, even ordinary folk used a bit of this to make illegal hallucinogenic drugs.

“How stingy!” grumbled Gu Suihan angrily. His plans to use the things in this realm to strengthen himself had been foiled twice in a row and it put him in a foul mood.

But the next thing he saw nearly made him lose his temper. I thought I was supposed to see the Sansheng Stone and water beneath the Naihe Bridge, he thought. What the hell is this?!

Gu Suihan looked at the rundown wooden bridge ahead of him, the completely dry riverbed below it and the ugly rock next to it and couldn’t help but curse.

To be fair, the person who created this secret realm did a good job of making the atmosphere really terrifying and creepy. An ordinary person would probably have been frightened out of his wits.

But who was Gu Suihan? Gu Suihan was someone who had nearly attained immortality back in the day. Even though cultivation was on the decline, he had stolen many items that were valuable to his cultivation journey. He had never seen such a pathetic and stingy set up in his life.

“Questioning Your Past Formation and Spiritual Root Awakening Illusion Formation.” Gu Suihan’s eyes were bloodshot, and he spat hard as he snapped, “What is this garbage? It’s just a lousy formation to make a person enter into a dreamlike state! And a formation to make one become deluded about themselves! Some test of the heart this is!”

This time, Gu Suihan didn’t even have any curiosity left in him. He stepped onto the bridge and entered the first formation about his past, breaking the formation instantly as he sliced an apparition of his dead Master without hesitation.

After that, he kicked the rock that had the words “Sansheng Stone” on it and something seemed to appear in his heart.

A voice suddenly called out to him from inside, “You. Why do you want to cultivate the Truth?”

Of course, it’s because…

Gu Suihan nearly let slip his answer but snapped out of his daze almost instantly. He stared straight at the plain looking rock and said, “What are you?”

“I’m the one inside your heart to…”

“Go to hell.” Gu Suihan smacked his palm against the rock and the rock made terrifying screechy noises. “I can’t believe a spirit that a secret realm just produced knows how to act all mysterious and godlike.”

“How…how did you know that?” The voice was very surprised. This person didn’t have any Qi at all and as far as the voice could tell, this person’s Spiritual Root had not been awakened either. In short, this boy was just an ordinary human. How did he know so much?

“Why not?” Gu Suihan scoffed frostily. “And you even asked me why I’m cultivating the Truth. If I told you, would you even understand?”

Gu Suihan suddenly narrowed his eyes and said, “No, you’re not a spirit from this secret realm. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so weak. Besides, why are you hiding on this lousy rock?”

His voice suddenly grew hostile, “You’d better come clean with me. What are you?”

The rock suddenly stopped speaking, as if it was truly a non-living thing.

“Tsk, playing dead?” Gu Suihan wasn’t going to just let things go like that. He pulled out the dagger he carried with him all the time. Several Daoist scriptures were carved into the handle, while the jagged edged blade gleamed a greenish color. There were four indentations along the blade that were meant for collecting blood. It was clear that this thing was not something that any ordinary person would come up with. Only an asshole who constantly plotted against others like Gu Suihan would have thought of this.

Gu Suihan had spent several thousand pieces of gold to get this from a secret black market. That black market specialized in selling items from cultivators. Gu Suihan had managed to buy this mostly because the stall owner didn’t know that this was actually a piece of Blood Marked Steel5 and was simply selling it as an abandoned sword. Gu Suihan brought it back, removed some impurities and turned it into a dagger.

Even though it wasn’t some magic weapon or spiritual item, this was a practically indestructible and formidable weapon for someone who hadn’t reached the Foundation Establishment stage yet. He had also specially coated it with the poison from Soul Breaking Grass. The poison didn’t make a difference when killing an ordinary person but stabbing this into an unsuspecting cultivator would seal up the other party’s Qi instantly, making him revert to an ordinary person for that moment. It was a low level but extremely effective weapon.

The Clacker’s Shaman Store

Today’s snack recommendation: Lime Black Pepper Potato Chips I take a bit of issue with the “delectable crunch” in their description, because the seal on these packets are not always the best. But the slight sour and spicy taste makes you forget the crapload of salt in it. MSG: ****

  1. The Chinese folk religion’s idea of what happens after one dies.<br/>Traditionally, the start of Huangquan Road is marked with a stone plaque that is written vertically. The words for Huangquan Road are 黄泉路, so presumably the 黄 and the top part of 泉 were broken off, leaving him with just 水 (which means water) and 路 (which is road).<br/>Adapted from: [Legend of the Three Life Stone ↩️

  2. Puppets. Usually refers to some technique of mind control over people or items. ↩️

  3. Soul Fire. This refers to a dead thing’s ‘soul’, so if a dead animal or human has Soul Fire, it will possess low level sentience. Usually this is something that the necromancer gives the dead things. ↩️

  4. Gathering your soul.<br/>[Other Miscellaneous Terms ↩️

  5. Blood Marked Steel. I can’t find a lot of information on this, but it seems that blood is mixed into the ore and it’s a special magic steel. ↩️

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