3:27 – Karma – VII
Mu Tian’s severed arm stained the ground crimson as blood continued to leak from its wound.
Xinxin stifled her scream, but couldn’t help scrambling back. Her emotions were flurried, shifting between guilt, disgust, and fear. Guilt because she had likely caused Mu Tian’s death. Disgust because the arm was still moving somewhat. And fear because she didn’t know what to do.
The streets of Heavenspan were becoming noisy. Whether because of Xinxin’s scream or the ensuing chaos, the people of the city were finally waking up and stepping outside to see what was happening. And when they did, screams and shouts continued where Xinxin left off.
The din helped Xinxin focus. She jumped to her feet and brushed off her dress before spurring her mind to figure out what to do next.
The lightning storm over the central palace continued to crackle. If anything, it was getting larger. Perhaps because of that, the powerful experts that had been heading away from it ignored Xinxin, even after the fight that had just occurred.
That meant she had some time. She didn’t have to worry about fighting at that moment.
Then… if Mu Tian was gone and she was alone, what should she do? Run? Where to? She didn’t have any major plans- No. She did. Xinxin had just forgotten for a bit since Mu Tian distracted her.
“Sifu.” Xinxin turned to face the central palace. “This is because of you, isn’t it?”
Her Sifu. The one who saved her, taught her, abandoned her… complicated emotions churned in her heart as she thought about him. However, those emotions all led to the same decision.
“I need to find him.”
Find him and hear the truth from his own words. Why he killed her clan. Why he helped her. Why he abandoned her. Why he left behind that manual and letter… and why he was chasing after that mysterious woman.
Xinxin nodded, her path now clear… mentally. Physically, the streets had become flooded with people running away. Despite how the sun had just risen not long ago, the chaos in the city had caused the people to panic. Men and women, young and old, ran down the street towards Xinxin and the checkout.
She quickly moved to the side to avoid them, and then started making her way deeper into the city.
And then the scent of blood filled the air.
Xinxin’s eyes widened and she spun around to see what was going on.
At the entryway to the checkpoint, an elderly woman lay slumped on the ground, a pool of blood spreading beneath her. Standing in front of that woman was the same guard that had led Xinxin and Mu Tian inside Heavenspan. His spear was held at his side, the tip gleaming with freshly spilled blood.
“M-Monster! What are you doing?!”
A man shouted and pointed at the guard.
The guard’s response was to spin his spear and toss it. Lightning crackled, along with white light, and the man who called out was turned into a pile of ash.
Gasps and screams filled the streets.
The guard straightened himself after throwing his spear and then said, “Orders. No one is to leave the city unobserved.”
Another man stepped forward. He seemed to be from a martial sect, wearing a black robe with a crest embroidering it and a sheathed sword at his side. The man drew his blade and then flared his cultivation base. From the energy, he seemed to be at the Core Formation Stage. “A mere guard dares to prevent us from leaving?”
“Orders. No one is to leave the city undisturbed.” The guard repeated his words. But then there was an echo. At least there seemed to be. But then the guard was joined by others, each armed with weapons flaring with light and crackling with energy. The entire force that had been stationed at the checkpoint began emerging.
The man’s eyes grew wide and he took a step back. “H-Hold on a minute-“
“ORDERS. NO ONE IS TO LEAVE THE CITY UNDISTURBED.”
A chorus of voices joined as one. When those words were said, guards stepped forward to attack. With all of the martial techniques and energy being emitted, the crowd of people would be turned to dust in an instant.
That was their fate. The misfortune for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Argh! Sifu better not leave while I’m doing this!”
…Xinxin couldn’t help but run out to stop it.
Chaos. Bloodshed. Massacre.
The nameless man closed his eyes and sorted through the memories of the Saints that he had slain. Especially that Bai Wei. As the oldest and most powerful among the Bai experts, his memories were the most useful in answering his questions.
“…So the White Tiger was dying, huh? Not only that, but the other beasts as well. The pillars maintaining this realm are on the verge of death… That would explain why that bird folded so easily when I saw it last.”
It was interesting information, although it made him curious as to whether it was because of his presence, or if it was bound to happen regardless.
The nameless man… Nowun opened his eyes.
White lightning crackled around him, its intense light bright enough to rival the sun. At the same time, the White Tiger’s aura flared, giving the impression that it was going to descend from the heavens.
Nowun was floating in the sky above the central palace. Using the White Tiger Roar had blown it apart, leaving behind the swarm of lightning that still shrouded him. Below, Nowun could see the Bai Clan running around in a panic. Yet, the guards he had left behind were doing as he instructed, slaughtering anyone that tried to leave.
“Hm…” Nowun cast his gaze across the horizon. “A few managed to escape, but they aren’t too important.”
Around three or so of the Bai Clan’s Saints had managed to evade the White Tiger Roar, but they were among the weaker Saints. It would be a trifling matter to end them… but Nowun got what he wanted.
Flexing his right hand caused the white lightning to pulse in time with it. A single thought allowed Nowun to direct it where he wished, like a tame kitten eager to please.
“It was inevitable, huh?”
Maybe since the White Tiger had been left behind by that goddess to watch over the ‘realm’ they were in, it had contained a spark of divinity, the same as what the goddess had burned into his soul in the first place to grant him his ‘skills’. And with that spark, processed with the ‘cultivation techniques’ that Nowun had learned… he was ready.
But… “A little extra preparation never hurt.”
There were three divine beasts left, as well as the Yellow Emperor.
Things would get troublesome if he stayed in the current time, so he decided to start back at the beginning. He couldn’t bridge the gap quite yet between waking up in Xia Dynasty and Asifant, but a few years time was plenty.
Like that, Nowun closed his eyes, preparing to time leap back to when that disciple of his first found him. Only now he would leave her behind, severing the karma between them for good. That One Tin guy seemed capable enough, despite his disciple’s misgivings.
As a favor though, he might as well resolve the issue about her mother and the Zhan Clan’s plan to rally against the heavens to get her back. Any chance he got to ruin that Goddess’s script was one he wouldn’t miss.
Just as Nowun gathered up his memories to recall the past… reality suddenly shuddered.
A myriad of lights and attacks surged across the checkpoint’s doorway and out to the crowd of people standing in the middle of the street.
In the brief moment before the crowd was wiped out, Xinxin jumped out in front of it. Since she moved on impulse, she didn’t have a plan or a weapon to defend herself. However, she trusted in the capabilities of the foundation her Sifu had laid in her dantian, the powerful black core that devoured any energy she came into contact with. Not only that, but the fact that the sword that Bai Yuyan stabbed her with didn’t pierce her clothes, let alone her skin, gave Xinxin the confidence that she would survive.
Blinding light filled Xinxin’s vision as she stood before the crowd. Behind her, she could hear gasps of surprise and horror. However, she didn’t pay attention to that. She couldn’t afford to.
A wall of light, filled with spears, swords, and countless other weapons. If any of those got past her, people would die. Therefore, before that could happen, she had to direct them all to herself. Focus all the attacks upon her body, and then somehow disassemble and neutralize the force behind them.
She could do it.
Xinxin activated her spiritual sense and locked on to every attack moving her way. At the same time, she rotated her cultivation base and allowed the dark core in her dantian to go wild, releasing its attractive force.
Intense focus and determination caused the attacks to converge on her, just like Xinxin wanted. However, she had underestimated the deluge of power behind the attacks.
She lost her breath. Every blood vessel in her body expanded as her meridians desperately tried to channel the energy towards her dantian. Fortunately, the dark core didn’t seem to have a limit on how much it could absorb. However, the experience reminded Xinxin of the time that her Sifu forced her to eat that pill.
Her body felt like it was burning, indescribable pain welling up in every pore of her body down to her bones. Yet, a comforting was spreading as well, numbing the pain and quenching the flames.
After what seemed like an eternity to Xinxin, it was done. Or so she believed. Just as the last drop of energy entered the dark core, something else did as well. A hint of indiscernible power. Like a drop of clear poison in a glass of water, it was absorbed by the dark core…
And then everything went black.
A forest with gray mist obscuring the skies. Chaotic darkness devouring anything and everything to refine itself. Karma spun on itself over and over again as time continuously returned to the origin. A powerless soul that slowly gained strength through facing a beast that could end civilization overnight.
A barrage of scenes, images, sensations.
Xinxin saw a beautiful young woman with golden hair and pointed ears. She saw a dragon of pure darkness, driven mad with grief. She saw a world in ruins, an ancient forest burned to the ground. She saw a woman with honey-colored hair and jaded green eyes. She saw that same woman, but with a calmer gaze and hidden feelings.
She felt the apathy of a nameless man. She felt an all-powerful force slowly creep into his soul and try to claim it. She felt how he resolved that by fragmenting his very soul.
She remembered the fury he felt as he realized the truth. She remembered the resolve he had to kill the gentle young woman with golden hair that he originally saved.
She remembered the anguish he felt as he obtained the power to govern the world, only to give up his longest companion in exchange.
And then she heard a voice.
Now isn’t this an interesting development? I knew that it was a good idea to send that Wang Tian back another time.