On the island, dewdrops rolled down the long leaves of a clump of weed as it was crushed to the ground. Immediately after that, the head of a lizard stuck out of it.
It was emerald green from head to toe, had stout limbs, and was covered by bumps all over its skin. It was not a big animal—no more than a meter long—but with its razor teeth, sharp claws, and a strong tail, no one was going to underestimate its viciousness.
It probably mutated from a small herbivorous green lizard. The mutation had greatly expanded its choice of food. From carrion and insects to new leaves, stems, and roots, it fed on just about everything.
They weren't great in number and had set up individual territories on the island without disturbing one another.
Now that it was after the early morning hours, the sun was shining warmly. Slowing crawling its way across the meadow, this lizard was aimlessly looking for something to eat. It halted abruptly after a little while and its turbid and vicious pupils contracted suddenly, for right in front of it was a living human being.
Sticking out its long and thin red tongue, the lizard smacked the ground with its tail, ready to attack.
It recognized this person, who had snuck onto the island a couple of days ago and messed with it. The lizard had chased him all the way to the river until he fled into the water.
"Come here! Here! I'm not running away today!"
Supporting his weight with the long sword, Wu You provoked the lizard with his empty hand. He was in fact quite flustered, and his legs were shaking slightly.
The lizard was furious. Flipping its tail, it moved into action and charged forward on its short limbs… well, at a speed one couldn't exactly describe as fast.
'Steady! Steady yourself! I can do this! I can do this with this sword!' Clutching the hilt tightly, Wu You fixed his eyes on the incoming lizard. He even went so far as playing out various attack and defense strategies in his head. As it turned out, when the lizard finally crawled near in a moment, his head went blank, and he could only act on his instinct.
The lizard was still a little distance away when it turned suddenly, and its tail—even longer than its body—swept across the air like an iron whip.
"Aaaah!" Wu You screamed with fright. Without thinking, he drew out the sword and slashed forward to his left.
Blood splashed everywhere as half of the tail flew into the air, then dropped to the ground with a thud, accompanied by a loud wail. The lizard rolled around and convulsed in pain, shaking the grass and trees nearby.
As his adrenaline pumped in, Wu You flushed with excitement and every nerve of his felt stimulated.
He had forgotten about all the fear he had just now and charged at the lizard brandishing his sword. He hacked at it again.
The inky black blade struck the animal at its waist and cut it into halves like a cleaver splitting tofu. Bloody entrails splashed all over the ground.
"Hahaha!" Covered by the lizard blood, Wu You guffawed. "This sword is indeed a treasure, and it is mine! Mine! I'm gonna be famous!"
He was so overwhelmed by this euphoria that he completely missed the wading sound in the river and the rustling of the plants around him.
The story began a month ago, when he was fish-catching on his own. He had swum further out than normally and saw a black object at the bottom of the river.
He thought it to be a big fish, but when he swam closer, he recognized that it was a strange-looking sword.
He was quite smart for his age, and so had kept the sword hidden ever since—he even changed a few hiding places during this time. Then, one day, he realized that the sword was too sharp to be any blade of this world, for it could easily split open any rock or metal.
A million fantasies filled the youngster's mind. He had stumbled upon this sword, so what could it mean? This had to be one of those stories with things like cultivation, strange fate, or a protagonist and his old master that was happening to himself.
He was immediately convinced that he was the chosen one and was about to reach the peak of his life. The lizards on this island were going to be his very first stepping stone!
"You're so awesome. I'm sure you're no mortal sword. Maybe some manual is hidden in you." Turning the black sword in his hands, Wu You said, "Too bad I know so little right now. I can only learn more about you in the future. But don't worry, it won't be too long—"
Before he could finish his muttering, the clusters of grass on either side of him were separated, revealing two other lizards that had been attracted here by the smell of blood.
"There, there are two more…" Wu You's stomach lurched at this, but he comforted himself right away. "That's ok! That's ok! I have my sword!"
Instead of fighting the beasts head on, Wu You fell back slowly, searching for the right moment. The two lizards looked around and gave each other a roar, then the one on the left crawled to the dead lizard and began its feast.
The one on the right turned to Wu You and crawled loudly towards him.
Just then, shots were fired as a dozen men showed up behind Wu You. With a few flashes, the two lizards were killed on the spot.
Wu You was utterly baffled. Before he could react, pain surged up his arms, and he was twisted up to a bundle. "Ah! Who, who are you people?! Don't touch my sword! That's mine! Mine!"
He glared at the person snatching his sword away with bloodshot eyes and struggled violently.
"Yours? Humph! No more than a handful of people in this world has what it takes to claim this sword!" Patting Wu You's cheek gently, Meng Haoze said, "How did all those ideas come from this little head? You should have just handed it to the authorities when you found it. Thanks to you, me and my people have been stationed here for a month! Take him!"
Gutian, Linshui 1
The place was once a giant stone cavern known as Linshui Cave, infested with the plague formed by the breath of a white snake. One day, a person clad in red killed the snake wielding a sword, eliminating the pest for the local people. When the villagers asked who the person was, the person in red said, "I am Chen Jinggu, daughter of Chen Chang of Xiadu down the river."
Hence, the king of Fujian at the time conferred Chen Jinggu with the title of Lady Shunyi, built her a manor, and bestowed upon her a reward of 36 maids and a fief of 300 households of Gutian County.
In the third year of Emperor Mingzong of Later Tang Dynasty's reign, the pregnant Chen Jinggu went to Min River to pray for rain and died, bringing rain to tens of thousands of people. Her manor then became a sacrificial palace, and the imperial court granted her an additional title as Lady Linshui of Supreme Blessing and Kindness, which was also when the Linshui birthplace of the Lüshan Sect was established.
The Lüshan Sect was the most prominent Taoist sect of Fujian; it followed the teachings of Chen Jinggu herself. As Chen Jinggu was a pupil of Celestial Master Xu Xun, the sect honored Xu Xun as "Lord Master".
Skills of Lüshan were known for their toughness and ferocity. Once the fight began, it would not end until one side was killed, regardless of whom the opponents were.
The original abbot of Linshui Palace was Huang Huiguang, who had already joined Qiyun. The current abbot was Cheng Ansong.
After Meng Haoze caught Wu You, he sent the boy to Linshui Palace right away. The monastery and the government had been notified as early as when they first located the target, so as soon as they took action, the relevant personnel arrived at the palace.
Right now, several people had gathered in a secret chamber in the palace, and on the table was that black ancient sword.
Bai Yunsheng was not back from Tianshan yet, so the monastery sent Shi Yunlai instead. Brushing his fingers lightly along the sword, Shi Yunlai sent in a streak of his mental force and kept his eyes closed for quite some time.
"Priest Shi, anything?" Meng Haoze asked as soon as Shi Yunlai opened his eyes.
"This sword has an ancient energy; all its power is kept within. It should be one of the six swords that flew away." Shi Yunlai paused a little before going on. "However, it does not correspond to Junior Brother Bai's sword manual, for there is no killing will of the cold moon in it."
"In your opinion, what sword manual is it for?" asked Meng Haoze.
"May I try it?"
"Of course! Please!"
After that, the others backed away and Shi Yunlai picked up the ancient sword. He activated his spiritual essence and sent it through the sword. Surprisingly, nothing happened. There was no glow or flash of light; the black sword remained as black and silent as a dead abyss.
Frowning slightly, he flipped his wrist into a starting stance, then thrust forward. The blade struck out in a perfectly straight line, sending a soft fluctuation through the air, reminding one of a black fish diving into the water. And then…
The sword disappeared!
"Ah!" Meng Haoze, Huang Huiguang, and Cheng Ansong cried out in unison and pointed at the empty air. "It's gone!"
"No, it isn't!"
Fighting back the astonishment, Shi Yunlai did not stop sending out his spiritual essence and kept thrusting forward.
Like a black fish jumping out of the water, the sword reappeared, looking exactly as it did before, as if what'd happened was only an illusion.
"..." Shi Yunlai put the sword down and pondered for a long moment before saying, "I seemed to have sensed a subtle flow of water and a remarkable feeling of concealment."
"Concealment?" Huang Huiguang winced. "Senior Brother, are you saying that this sword was specially built for killing in concealment?"
"Possibly. This is as much as I could perceive without the actual sword manual. That was not even a fraction of what this sword can do." Sighing, Shi Yunlai said, "Junior Brother Bai had Cold Moon Manual, Layman Gu had Red Sun Devil-smashing Manual, and Laywoman Jiang had a blue light, so I presume that was Blue Sky Whirlwind Manual. The chance should have been rather high, but we don't have a match… So, what are you going to do with it?"
"Um, we have our orders." Meng Haoze was a little embarrassed when he said, "We were instructed that should such things happen, the object must be sent to the capital and put into the hands of the authorities."
"No problem. Since our job here is done, we will be on our way." The look on Shi Yunlai's face was a little hard to describe. Cupping his hands, he left promptly. Huang Huiguang followed suit after giving Cheng Ansong a brief instruction.
The two left the secret chamber to the courtyard outside, where a few members of the BIMAUP were escorting Wu You and waiting for a verdict. Shi Yunlai was going to leave right away, but after glancing at the boy, he approached them.
"Is this the teenager who found the ancient sword?" asked he.
"Yes. This is Wu You, 15, a student. We followed him around for quite a while before we could confirm the target."
"He's just a kid and didn't do much wrong. Don't be too hard on him." Shi Yunlai gave it a nod and left.
The others did not think much of it, but Huang Huiguang knew better. He asked in a low voice, "Senior Brother, what happened to that kid?"
"Even I had difficulty in wielding that ancient sword of Sword Immortal Sect, how do you think it felt to a normal teenager?"
"I noticed that his eyes looked cloudy and confused. Was he not quite himself?"
"That's right. When a normal person obtains that sword, it seems that they are wielding an able weapon, but they are in fact being eaten up by the sword energy. The longer they are with the sword, the more muddled their heads are. The kid will be all right. He just needs some time to recover… let's go. This has nothing to do with us now. The government has its mind on those swords, and we can't take them by force."
Seeing that Huang Huiguang was still eyeing the inner hall, Shi Yunlai patted him on the shoulder.
Huang Huiguang was thickset and had rough facial features. Maybe because of the characteristics of the Lüshan Sect, he had a fierceness to him instead of the out-of-this-world look of other priests.
Turning his head back, Huang Huiguang did not reveal his thoughts as he slowly walked out of the Linshui Palace after Shi Yunlai. He then spoke suddenly, but on a completely irrelevant topic. "Senior Brother, how much do you know about the Lüshan Sect?"
"Very little. Why?" Shi Yunlai found that question very strange.
"In that case, have you heard about this?" For some unknown reason, he began to chant a poem. "Lüshan Mountain used to sit in the middle of the river, and a three-year long spring foreshows its opening.
"It opens every three thousand years, when people get to see Min River clear up.
"Since the beginning of time, those fortunate enough will witness the event, when Lüshan opens to save all the people.
"The prestigious altar sends its message, waiting for the arrival of the sages."
- TL/N: meaning "by the water"