The Founder of Immortal Cultivation - Chapter 13 - Deer_Partner - 魔道祖师 - 墨香铜臭 | Módào Zǔshī (2024)

Chapter Text

Night Hunt

“Shh! Don’t make a noise—either get out of bed or stay here like a loser,” Weijing hissed in a low whisper, slapping her palm over her little brother’s mouth as his eyes widened.

It was late at night, far past when good little boys and girls were meant to be asleep in bed, but Weijing was not sure whether she was a boy or a girl at all, and she certainly wasn’t good. She slowly released her smothering of De-di, and leaned back as he sat up, peering at her for a moment before nodding abruptly and hopping out of bed.

Well, at least her brother wasn’t a coward, though he really could use some more practice at being stealthy…. His closet drawers were so loud, and although their parents didn’t cultivate anymore, it was clear that at least, at some point in their lives, they’d had the exceptional hearing and finely-tuned sense of awareness that came along with cultivating a golden core. De-di didn’t have a golden core yet, but she’d be damned if she let her little brother grow up without reaching his full potential. (Nevermind that she was already damned for other reasons, as her itchy wrists promptly reminded her at every opportunity!)

Which was why Weijing was bringing him Night Hunting. Because he deserved to see cultivation in action, and also because she desperately wanted to do some cultivation in action herself. Her curse did seem to be a little less angry on days she meditated, or went through sword forms with De-di in secret with the wooden dowel she’d taken from the set of the school’s theater props. Or at least, she thought it felt better. It made her feel better, so even if it was a placebo effect, it was still better than sitting around and waiting to die because she had no idea how to take the final two pieces of Suibian’s revenge.

De-di gave her a nod to show his readiness after he’d noisily clambered into an outfit of black sweats and a black hoody that had a bright orange Underarmor logo on the front. Weijing was also in black athletic gear, but since her usual workout clothes tended to be dark (“like my soul,” she joked with her friends) this wasn’t even an unusual look for her. She opened the door and they padded down the hall, slunk past the shuttered veranda windows, and lurked up to the front door.

Weijing keyed in the alarm code as her brother grabbed their shoes, and then she reset it as they exited.

The air was chilly this time of year, even for California. It didn’t snow here, thank all the ancestors back in China, but it felt almost close. Her friend Val said it was an exceptionally cold winter this year, not that Weijing had anything but the prior year to compare it to. She and De-di moved silently until they made it down the driveway and out of the porch light’s warm glow. Weijing climbed over the wrought-iron front gate with an almost relaxed ease thanks to her cultivation level, landing on the other side lightly only to turn around to help De-di across. He was shorter, smaller, and had barely enough reflexes to dodge a softball despite all their super secret late night training sessions. Fortunately, the gate was meant to deter cars, not people.

De-di landed with a wheeze outside the property, but then grinned at her, face shining in the crisp moonlight. “We are going to get in so much trouble,” he said nervously, still grinning as bright as a moonbeam.

“If we get caught,” Weijing replied, scrunching her nose up and giggling. “It’ll be worth it, though.” She gestured for him to follow down the wide, empty street, past the other gated mansions in the hills above Hollywood, until they reached a corner with a matte gray sedan waiting.

“Get in, losers,” the driver, a latina teen with a crooked smile and perfect cat’s eye makeup teased.

Weijing laughed and shoved her brother in the back seat, climbing in after him.

“Wade,” she said, using her brother’s English name as she closed the door, “this is Val,” she introduced, gesturing towards the driver as the girl pulled a U-turn and started heading down the hill towards West Hollywood. “Shotgun is Luca,” she continued, gesturing to the white boy with soft, curly brown hair and silver studded ears. “And beside you is Sarah, obviously.”

Sarah Park, the half-Korean girl whose parents both worked at Paramount, was the only one of Weijing’s friends that had been to the Li house before. Something about being children of very successful Asian immigrants gave both their parents peace of mind. Or something. At the very least, strict parenting was common ground for the girls, though even Sarah had to agree that the Li matriarch took parental supervision to the next level.

“Oh, wow, you really did bring him,” Sarah said, hiding her grimace only a little.

“What’s up lil’ bro?” Luca asked, twisting round to offer a ring-bedazzled fist bump to the boy. Weide returned it with a poorly-hidden mixture of sullenness and anxiety and the desire to be cool.

“Night hunting builds character,” she returned with a laugh, leaning over to smash her hand all over De-di’s hair. He relaxed somewhat, ungratefully, giving her his usual glower. “And besides, what if I need cultivation support?”

“I don’t even know where we’re going,” De-di complained, folding his arms across his glaringly orange logo. “How am I supposed to support?”

“Oh of course!” Weijing said, leaning forward to grab Luca’s attention. She also needed Val’s, but Val was driving, so whatever. “You guys explain to us why you need help from cultivators. Pretend I don’t know anything, either!”

Sarah giggled a little, and Weijing could practically hear Val rolling her eyes. Luca spun around to face Weijing and Weide with a bit more seriousness.

“So get this: ever since like the old-timey forties or fifties or something, mysterious stuff has been happening in this same Beverly Hills strip. Like a pilot crashed a plane on a perfectly clear day, then a guy got murdered, then there was this crazy car crash. Most recent thing was like ten years ago, but a journalist got shot in her car—she drove into a street light and died. Like, she maybe would’ve lived if she hadn’t entered… the Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle?” Luca was, like most of the kids at their school, a half step away from being a theater kid. He already had the soulful blue eyes, rather pouty lower lip, and incredibly rich Italian parentage—his mother was a former supermodel turned trophy wife and they famously didn’t exactly know where his father’s fortune had come from—but he hadn’t quite mastered the art of suspenseful storytelling.

Even so, De-di gave a proper uncomfortable roll of his shoulders.

Weijing just squinted at her friend. “So, it’s a long history of accidents—not all ending in death—all clustered in one area. And no sightings of the para or supernatural, correct?”

Luca nodded. “Yup.”

Weijing elbowed her brother as Sarah watched, eyes alight in fascination. “So? What does that tell us?”

Weide stared at her flatly like she was the dumbass. “How should I know?”

“We talked about this just the other day, Wade,” Weijing replied with a little annoyance. She lifted her eyes to Sarah. “Any guesses from you?”

Sarah, who was not and would never be a cultivator, nonetheless was a huge fan of fantasy novels, and her most recent binge had dumped her into the wonderful world of xianxia. In particular, Sarah had a thing for danmei, which she still called BL (despite Weijing’s coaching), so the pair had actually bonded over a shared love of a series called Heaven Official’s Blessing.

When Sarah had found out that the new girl at school was in fact a bona fide cultivator, Weijing had been aggressively friended by the normally quiet girl. She’d been shown several iterations of Sarah’s rather impressive fanart, mercilessly forced into the Discord server that Sarah ran, and thrust into a deep fanfiction hell of cultivating boys who have to withstand the dangers of both sex pollens and immortal politicking. If Weijing questioned why she was so drawn to the idea of these two beautiful men sleeping together… well, that was between her and her therapist. Or rather, between herself and no one. Sarah had babbled once that it was pretty normal for even straight girls to be the majority in BL fandoms, not that she was straight. She’d frowned quickly at Weijing and shrugged, adding, “Either.”

So. There was the fact that Weijing had not, for one single moment, passed as straight at her school. By the end of the first week, Val had informed her that her ever-present shroud of chaos was a sure sign of her bisexuality. Luca had just stared at her dead in the eye and asked if she could pick the hottest between trending senior boy Ardent Friche or SportsTok icon Kendall German—and since they were both arguably the most attractive people in the entire school, she’d gasped with a dramatic swoon and nearly shouted, “I am bi!”

Regardless, Weijing had been teaching Sarah bits and pieces about cultivation, even if it was only just to tragically point out that some of the shenanigans that the protagonists of Heaven Official’s Blessing were involved in were—although it made a great story!—not quite realistic.

Sarah frowned at being called on though she looked pleased nonetheless, and shook her head. “It doesn’t seem to be a zombie. There’d be sightings, right? So… a ghost?”

Weijing returned a gesture that was both a shrug and a nod. “Yes, and maybe.” She held up a finger. “It would have to be a particularly strong ghost in order to hang around this long. It’s been what, eighty years?”

Weide finally seemed brave enough to chime in. “But if the ghost has been killing this whole time, won’t it just be getting stronger? That’s more yuanqi, right?”

Weijing grinned. “Yes, we’re definitely going to be on the look out for yuanqi, but who says this is all the work of one ghost? Most ghosts would move on after getting their revenge, right?”

“But when they kill someone, and move on, that leaves a new ghost!” Sarah gasped in delight.

“What is won-chi?” Luca asked from the front seat.

“Resentful energy,” Weijing and Sarah said in perfect unison. They grinned at each other and, seeing their delight, Weide rolled his eyes.

“So, to sum up, we’re expecting this space to be where yuanqi has gathered, and if there is a specific ghost present, it should be of the most recently deceased,” Weijing explained.

“Still doesn’t explain how you think I’m gonna back you up,” De-di complained. “Neither of us have a sword, remember?”

Weijing flashed her little brother a devilish grin. “Oh don’t you worry, little brother, practicing the sword is great fun and all, but all you need is a strong will.” And something to write with.

Val gave a skeptical snort from the driver’s seat. “Well, that’s great news, because we’re here.” She pulled over to the curb and parked, as Luca’s eyes flashed between the two cultivators.

“Do you sense anything? Also, how do you sense anything?” he asked, looking more confused than curious.

“It’s like… uh, Wade, you explain it,” she said quickly, exiting the car. Val was cackling and shaking her head as she joined Weijing on the quiet street.

“So,” Luca said as the rest of the group joined them, “you just ‘feel it’, huh.” He seemed rather unexcited at the explanation.

Weijing waved her hands as if to wave Luca’s questions entirely away. “Shut it, let me concentrate.”

They were still a few hundred yards from the Triangle proper, as Val had already stated she wasn’t going to drive up a street known for vehicular accidents. The moon was high now, the cold clear light filtered through the tall palms within the estates, mixing with the warmer glow from the street lights as they left shadows of spindly bare branches over the sidewalks and yellowed trimmed grass. Dead leaves rattled with the light breeze, and while the low buzz of distant cars never faded, there were stray headlights and taillights along the ends of the street, the usual signs of ordinary people coming and going, even at this late hour.

Weijing took in a deep breath and attempted a half-meditative state, spreading her awareness out to feel for any lingering resentful energy. She’d learned from her after school walks to Paramount Studios with Sarah that Los Angeles was no stranger to resentful energy. Paramount itself was backed up against a graveyard, which was apparently not a problem, though Weijing could feel the quiet corpses in their coffins underground when they passed it. She’d never quite had the nerve to bring it up to her friend, despite their shared love of cultivation knowledge and gay romance. But it would have inevitably lead to other questions, and answers Weijing wasn't ready to talk about. Having friends was nice, after all, and she didn’t want to ruin it by explaining she was a kind of evil ghost herself, that she was a coffin herself for the sleeping power that could wake corpses to her command.

She walked slowly down the sidewalk, her friends quiet behind her. She didn’t feel any corpses nearby, but there was a slithery tendril of yuanqi rolling along the street itself, like a thin fog coalescing at the intersection ahead. She stopped abruptly and turned back to the group following her like obedient little ducklings.

Except, maybe not like obedient ducklings.

“Val!” she gasped, “are you playing Pokémon?”

The girl’s phone indicated there was indeed a Pokéstop nearby, and the girl herself shrugged with a raised eyebrow and a smirk and continued tapping away at her phone. “You wanna catch ghosts, I wanna catch Pokémon. You do your thing and let me do mine.”

Luca snorted as Weijing folded her arms across her chest in a melodramatic huff, and then pouted at her little brother. “De-di, close your eyes and tell me if there’s anyone else on the street with us.”

He gave her an annoyed look but closed his eyes, even as Sarah started hissing in a whisper to Val to get her to put her phone away, which was itself a lesson in futility. Val was a gamer. They were lucky enough she wasn’t home glued to her computer and had agreed to drive them.

But Weijing had her own lesson to impart. Weide had never been exposed to resentful energy—at least, not to a clear lump of it, to Weijing’s knowledge—but she knew he could sense regular spiritual energy well enough to know which part of the house their parents and Auntie Wang occupied when he sat lotus posed in her room. De-di’s brow furrowed, and she could feel the barest thread of qi strain loosely out of his body, like a strand of starlight passing over her skin as he pinched his lips together and reached past her.

Suddenly his eyes opened wide and he took a step back, his qi snapping back into his body. “What…what is that?” he asked in shock, a shiver running through him before he could contain it.

Weijing grinned. “That, little brother, is yuanqi.”

“What just happened?” Luca asked with a petulant frown, while Sarah forgot Val and bounced on the balls of her feet in glee. “There’s really something here? We can do a real exorcism?”

Weijing’s grin faltered at Sarah’s word choice, but she nodded anyway, turning back to point towards the loose amalgamation of yuanqi she’d noticed earlier. “It’s over there, but there’s not much of it. Let’s go take a look!”

“Take a look?” Luca echoed. “Is there even anything to see?”

“Probably not for you,” Weijing acquiesced with an apologetic shrug.

“What does it look like?” Sarah asked, now hovering over her shoulder as they set off at a walk down the sidewalk.

Weijing elbowed her little brother, who was peering into the darkness with an expression of vague unease. He must be learning a lot!

“Er, it looks… black. Like a shadow. It just looks like there’s an extra shadow on the ground,” Weide said hesitantly. He was walking very close to Weijing’s side.

“It’s night time,” Val said with the snort of a skeptic. “Of course it looks dark.” Her phone played a tune, indicating she’d caught a new Pokémon.

Weijing kept her eyes on the darkness as they approached it. It rolled comfortably along the pavement, washing up against a streetlight like the ocean’s waves against a pier. The resentful energy didn’t seem to be actively doing anything, other than hanging around, which was a little bit underwhelming. Still, it meant it was probably a good first Night Hunt for a twelve year old, right? And maybe also for the best that it didn’t seem to be too big or scary of a quarry given that neither of them had any real weapons.

In fact, the only weapons Weijing had at all were a stack of yellow post-it notes and a red sharpie. She couldn’t make proper lingfu by any stretch of the word, but she was used to improvising. If worst came to worst, she always had blood available on her wrists to draw with, and she had not at all forgotten how powerful that magic was. Even now, she felt an odd wistfulness, the faint desire to call upon the resentful energy and twist it into her own power….

“Which shadow is it?” Sarah asked, clearly unable to see the small pool of resentment herself. Her eyes kept flicking between Weijing’s and the area of the pavement where Weijing’s gaze was trained.

“It’s the big one,” Weide answered, his voice doing its best to not rise in a pre-pubescent squeak.

“All of the trees are casting shadows, which one’s the big shadow?” Sarah complained.

Weijing snorted, clearing her own mind and centering her own qi with the movement, and pointed for Sarah’s sake. “Aiyahh, it’s really not that big, De-di. I think it’s a rather small bundle of resentful energy. Which makes sense, I suppose. When’s the last time it killed someone? A decade ago? And before that, it was a fifty year gap?”

“Give or take,” Luca agreed, apparently relieved to be back on a subject he could observe and understand.

“So it’s probably not strong enough to do much, or at least not strong enough yet.” She folded her arms across her chest in thought and then her serious expression transformed into a bit of a wicked grin. “We should take the opportunity to play with it a bit, don’t you think?”

Weide’s face turned ashen in the street lamps, and Sarah turned to her with eager delight. “Can we? I don’t know what that means, but it sounds fun!”

Pleased at having at least one enthusiastic audience member, Weijing beamed as she withdrew her post-its and sharpie from her pockets. “Since we came all this way, we should practice as much cultivation techniques as we can, right? I mean, we could just cleanse the area, but isn’t that too boring? Let’s find out why it’s here in the first place!” She uncapped the red sharpie and scribbled fulu along the borders of the top post-it, prepping the flimsy piece of paper for use before she wrote the more defining string of characters down the center.

“Ooohhh, you’re making talismans?” Sarah gasped in glee, leaning over to watch the ink bleed into ugly blobs on the edges of the paper. It was entirely illegible, the sharpie’s tip too thick and flattened to make delicate strokes on the tiny square of paper. But it was still better than smearing bodily fluids around, and she had to get some kind of points for the colors to be pretty close to the real thing!

Weide grimaced over her elbow. “Is that even going to work?”

“Cultivation is about trial and error sometimes, De-di,” she explained, though she suspected that her statement was not as truthful as she made it out to be. Still, no one else needed to know that her own cultivation style was made up of half-forgotten memories and scraps from a dead girl’s journal!

Her little brother seemed skeptical, but took the first finished talisman that she handed him with only a single hesitant eyeroll. She began scribbling out a second one. “Normally, we’d use actual lingfu paper and chensha, but there’s none of that around so…” She trailed off and shrugged, writing a short command down the center of the post-it. It wasn’t too flashy, just a ward to keep the resentment in place. She passed the second one to Sarah, who looked absurdly happy just to hold it.

“So fake it ’til you make it?” Weide grimaced and shook his head.

Weijing flashed him a grin and stuck out her tongue before concentrating on the third talisman. “Who says I’m faking it?”

Val snorted behind her, and Sarah continued reading over the illegible post-it note as if it were an autograph from Mo Xiang Tong Xiu herself.

“I do,” Weide persisted stubbornly, shaking his post-it note in the chill air. “You don’t know if it’s even gonna work.”

“Nonsense. If I say it’s gonna work, then it’s gonna work.”

“But you didn’t say—”

“Shut up and let me work, De-di,” she huffed, finishing the last sharpie marks.

“Why don’t you have proper supplies, though?” Luca asked suddenly. “I mean, don’t let us stop you from doing you, but aren’t your parents magical too?”

Weijing, Weide, and even Sarah all winced in unison. “Sure, but that doesn’t mean they have lingfu supplies laying around the house.”

Weide snorted so hard he coughed a little. “Understatement of the century. Our parents hate cultivation.”

Val finally tucked her phone away. “What? I thought cultivation was like, a family thing?”

Weijing just laughed, albeit a bit forced and a bit awkwardly, waving her sharpie as if Val’s question were just uncomfortable smoke. “Ahaha, no, no, it’s more like, our parents are really strict, yeah? So they don’t want us learning cultivation because they think it’s dangerous. But, you know how it is—the more they tell us not to, the more we want to do it!”

They laughed a little, and Weijing turned back to the resentment with a shrug. “I mean, if our parents wanted to teach us cultivation, do you really think we’d be sneaking out here in the middle of the night?”

“I’m honestly surprised you did it. We’ve been out almost an hour and you haven’t texted home once yet,” Val returned dryly.

Weide made a wistful grimace. “I think it’s my first time ever being out this long without getting a notification from mom.”

Li Qinglian was known in their circle—and especially well known in Weide’s middle school friend group—for her constant watching and frequent “just checking in!” text messages. The only way that Weijing had been able to convince her mother to let her stay out after school was to agree to sending (at minimum) hourly photos proving she was still with her friends in normal public spaces. Even then, she wasn’t allowed to stay out past 7pm, and most days her curfew was more like 6pm. It was stifling.

“Well, I’m not good at living my life like some caged bird, so let’s get this street cleaned up.”

She ignored the rather sharp look her brother gave her at reference to feeling imprisoned, and instead focused on Sarah’s happy glee as she held her own post-it lingfu with both hands. “Luca, come take this one,” she said, holding out the third lingfu and preparing to start on the fourth and final one.

“What? Why me?” he complained, eyes going wide.

“Uh, because the spell I want to do needs four people, and it’ll have better balance with two boys and two girls,” she explained, and then wiggled the post-it note in front of him.

He stared at her, not at all comprehending. She sighed, and just pressed the sticky side of the note against his chest so she could get to writing the last one.

“This is basic yin and yang stuff, it’s not that complicated,” she said with a roll of her eyes while Val laughed. “Just stand where I tell you to and you’ll be fine.”

“Yin is girl energy and yang is boy energy,” Weide chimed in helpfully. Val laughed harder and Sarah pressed her lips together politely.

“Does it matter if I’m gay?” Luca asked worriedly.

At this, Val stifled a loud snort, and Weijing stopped to blink at her friends. And then, she smirked. “Aiyah… Luca Luca Luca, it’s masculine and feminine energy, not… not top or bottom energy,” she teased, and suddenly Luca’s face went scarlet as Val burst into laughter. Sarah was holding herself together well enough, staring at her little post-it lingfu with one hand stuffed over her mouth, and poor Weide looked offended that he’d had to witness the gross sexual undertones of teenager conversations. “And I gotta be honest,” Weijing said seriously, trying to make herself look as innocent as possible, “I really thought you were a top.”

“Big top ener-GEEEE,” Val whooped maliciously from where she was nearly collapsed on the sidewalk nearby.

Luca looked absolutely mortified. “I didn’t—I never—I just meant, like, is it okay for your magic spell and sh*t!”

“If Sarah’s hobbies are any indication, the gays have more yang energy than is good for them,” Weijing said with a snort, finishing up her final lingfu and gesturing for everyone quiet down. Sarah gasped and although her cheeks turned a little pink, when she dropped her hand from her face she revealed a secretly devilish grin.

“De-di, you stand on the west and I’ll take the east, Sarah, you’ll be north and Luca you’re the south side,” she said, pointing as she gave instructions.

As a group, they moved to surround the pool of resentful energy. The streetlight flickered overhead, the dull fluorescence of it making the pavement look uneven. Weide, as the only other person who could sense the yuanqi, swallowed nervously as he made his way to his assigned location. It really wasn’t that impressive, Weijing thought. Really, their whole game seemed kind of like overkill, but it was fun, and seemed to scratch both the itch of her wrists and the inner itch that screamed at her to just do cultivation. Sarah seemed far too ready for action, holding her lingfu proudly as she firmly took a stance on the northern side of the resentful puddle, and Luca grimaced uncomfortably, catching Weijing’s eye repeatedly for confirmation he was going to the right spot. He looked as if he were worried about stepping on the resentment itself.

Which, she supposed, was probably a fair fear, given that only those with the potential for cultivation or a sensitivity to magical energies could see it. And her friends had never, as they had put it, received any owls. (Apparently Weide had gotten a letter from Ilvermorny when he turned eleven, but obviously their parents had declined.)

“Ok, so on the count of three, we’ll activate the talismans and if I wrote it right, the resentful energy should be drawn out of the road but still contained. Read? On the count of—”

“What do you mean if?!” Weide hissed in alarm.

“How do we activate—” Sarah asked, her forehead wrinkling in confusion.

“Three, two,” Weijing counted down, ignoring their questions entirely, because they had to live a little, right? “One!”

Weide had enough spiritual control to cast a flare of qi in to his post-it note, and Weijing handled the others, which caused the red lines of the sharpie to glow on all four off-brand lingfu. With a bit of an effort, Weijing linked the lingfu together with qi, and a glimmering golden-tinged shield melted into the air between the four of them and the now-boiling pool of resentment.

“It worked!” Weide shouted with relief, eyes shining bright in the reflection of the hazy barrier.

“So cool!” Sarah said in amazement, staring at her post-it note. “It’s actually glowing.”

Weijing raised a hand to flip her hair. “Of course it worked. I made it,” she bragged. She released her post-it note and was almost obscenely pleased to see that it remained hovering in the air, adhered to the nearly-invisible barrier. She was so good at this, after all. A f*cking genius. Across from her, Weide gingerly let go of his lingfu and his mouth dropped open a little as it, too, hung suspended in the air.

“Now, the next step is to try to communicate with the spirit,” Weijing announced, eyeing the resentful energy that was now all nearly sucked up out of the ground, appearing as a black, roiling mass of ink.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Weide mumbled, like the chickensh*t twelve-year-old he was. He seemed to be torn between loving cultivation in action and feeling like they were definitely doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

Which, technically, they probably shouldn’t be just messing around with a resentful being that had killed at least one person and seemed on track to kill again someday. Something in her warned her that liberation, suppression, and elimination weren’t the only ways—weren’t the best ways—but they were also, maybe, the only correct ways? Where had she heard that from? Shouldn’t diversion be the first impulse, or at least come before suppression? Or was that just her instincts as the Modao Zushi, that subtle yet insistent tug of ghostly energies that had taken a deep root in her golden core, whispering to her to keep playing around, keep toying with this prey of hers, keep pushing and exploring the boundaries of accepted cultivation?

She shut down that thought process. She was here to deal with this resentful bubble, which was now starting to take a ghostly-looking humanoid shape, to train her little brother in Night Hunting, and to cultivate properly in order to try to keep Suibian’s curse at bay.

“Oh,” she said suddenly, peering at the yuanqi as a face appeared on it, framed by layers of fluffed hair. “Hello.”

Weide whimpered a little, and Sarah stared as hard as she could into the center of the circle while Luca stared at Weijing, looking pale and shaking his head.

The spirit, on the other hand, seemed to be unable to get into a human form correctly, but it had enough of a face for Weijing to make out silvery eyes, a dark mouth, and pale hair. There was definitely something off about it, though, as the shape of the face kept changing, falling somewhere between male and female, with the mere suggestion of legs underneath a swirling outline of ambiguous torso and arms that ended in wispy not-hands. It stared at Weijing through the barrier, the planes of its face indicating surprise.

“You’re dead, you know,” Weijing said to the ghost, and Luca just shook his head faster, a string of “nope nope nope nope” coming out of his mouth.

The ghost co*cked its head to the side, before suddenly transforming into a picture of feminine horror. A woman with eyes wide, hands out front as if gripping something tightly—a steering wheel!

“Oh! You’re the woman who died here! The car accident!” The ghost gave her a pained expression. “Ah, right, you were shot first. I’m sorry.”

“Ask her who did it!” Sarah gasped, because her studies of cultivation via danmei literature had left her with a good understanding of how to follow these kinds of situations. And apparently an inability to be scared sh*tless in the presence of ghosts, like Luca.

Weijing just raised her eyebrows at the ghost meaningfully, but the ghost looked upset and shook her head.

“I think she doesn’t know,” Weijing said with a sigh.

“Then we need to find out what she’s still doing here. Do we have to solve her murder?” Sarah questioned, finally letting go of her post-it to fold her arms across her chest contemplatively. It was an oddly cute gesture on the small girl who was, despite being the same age as Weijing, only slightly taller than Weide.

“It was officially solved,” Val said from the sidewalk, adding for good measure, “dumbass.”

Weijing hummed in consideration, tapping her chin with a finger, and then frowned. She hummed a longer note, pushing her qi into it, and noticed the very clear reaction as the ghost seemed to solidify with a shudder, a chunky necklace appearing at her throat between the collars of a powersuit.

Weijing had used whistles before, and outright commands, but… something tickled at the edges of her consciousness, like the unimaginably vast ocean lapping gently at the shores of her understanding. Music… there was something she could do with it, right?

Not that she could recall any particular cultivation songs!

Maybe she didn’t have to know the particular songs, though, as long as there was enough qi in the music. After all, couldn’t music be used to sway the emotions of ordinary people? Why should cultivating music be limited to particular songs on traditional Chinese instruments?

For the first time, Weijing wondered if she shouldn’t have joined the school band. But that really wasn’t important right now.

“Hey, what did you say this lady did before she died?” Weijing asked suddenly, turning to Luca, who looked about ready to faint.

“Uh…” the boy replied, clearly afraid to get the answer wrong in front of the actual ghost.

“Ronni Chasen,” Val announced from nearby, and a quick glance confirmed the girl was on her phone. “A Hollywood publicist. She had some old celebrities as clients, but oh, wow, she repped Hans Zimmer?” Val’s eyes went from a bit starry to being narrowed towards Weijing. “Is there really a ghost there?”

Weijing wasn’t entirely sure what a publicist did, but something about the Hans Zimmer name seemed familiar. “Who’s Hans Zimmer?” she asked cluelessly, completely ignoring Val’s other question.

Sarah squeaked in protest and even the ghost gave her a bewildered look. “A composer! He did the Dune soundtrack!” Sarah explained as Val did a very poor rendition of the vaguely familiar vocals from the very confusing desert themed movie that they’d forced her to watch last week in preparation for the upcoming second installment. At least Timothee Chalamet was pretty to look at!

“Also Pirates of the Caribbean,” Luca added.

“How do you not know who Hans Zimmer is?” even Weide had the gall to add, and for that she glowered through the ghost at him.

“Nevermind, I have an idea,” Weijing said, even though the idea itself was barely half-formed and had less shape than the ghost in front of her. But if music had a good effect on this ghost, then why not use music the ghost was familiar with? Wouldn’t they all have better luck getting a ghost laid to rest with soothing music that she’d help create? Or that… she’d helped a different person help create? Whatever—the chain of connection was admittedly a little loose, but it might work anyway!

“What’s a good song by Hans Zimmer?” she asked, turning towards her friends as Sarah’s jaw dropped fully open.

“When has he ever made a bad song?” Sarah choked out.

“Why are you asking?” Weide countered, grimacing.

“You can take your pick from like, anything that’s good. He did the Lion King score, and like Inception, and one of the Batmans,” Val started rattling off, still staring at her phone screen. “But yes, also, why?”

“And that really old movie we watched last month, uh, Gladiator,” Luca added again.

Weijing grinned in triumph. “Yes! Yes I remember it! That one’s perfect!” she returned with enthusiasm, giving Luca a double thumbs up.

This ghost had helped—by doing whatever publicists really did—on a movie in which the main character dies at the end, but moves on to the afterlife do a breathtakingly good musical score. There was possibly no way in which this could fail!

“Help me hum the song!” she encouraged, and all of her friends stared at her, completely dumbfounded.

“No, no cap, why?” Val repeated.

Weijing rolled her eyes and gestured to the silent ghost, who was now twisting to look around at the other people outside the barrier, as if she’d only just become aware of them. There was an oddly hungry look to her silvery eyes, and for a moment Weijing wondered if the ghost’s mouth wasn’t a little bigger than before. Hm. Maybe they’d better wrap this up pretty quickly after all.

“So we can send her off to rest,” Weijing explained, raising a finger into the air like some kind of nerd. “Isn’t that what they do at the end of Gladiator anyway? Send them off in peace to music?”

“I can’t tell if you’re an idiot or you actually know what you’re talking about,” Val complained, but a moment later, after a few taps of her phone, there was a small, tinny note buzzed out from her phone and the soft, trembling of strings indicated that she had queued up the correct song regardless.

Sarah began humming loudly, and Weide humming with much less vigor. Luca, who could not hold a tune to save his life chimed in hesitantly, and Weijing poured as much spiritial energy as she could into her initial humming.

The ghost… transformed. There was no other word for it. Instead of looking like a shadowy specter, the flesh and hair and clothing was colored in, the edges softly glowing. Weijing recalled the movie’s visuals, the fields of warm wheat and the golden hues of the setting sun.

She joined in the vocals as best she could, without knowing the words but following along to the music provided by Val’s phone. Across the circle, she glimpsed Weide’s eyes widen, then squeeze shut as he, too, tried to pour as much qi as he could into the squeaky buzz of his humming. As the melody rose and then fell, Sarah joined her voice to Weijing’s, switching to the harmony as the song continued in a slow, inexorable, yet somehow uplifting chorus.

Tears formed in the ghost’s eyes, as she quirked a smile at the children surrounding her, shaking her head at the strange comfort of it all. She nodded to Val, and as her edges began shimmering in gold that dispersed like its own heavenly special effect, cascading tiny sparkles within the protective barrier, the ghost opened her mouth.

“Thank you,” she said, her voice sounding both like an older woman’s and a young girl’s, her blue eyes clear as she solemnly thanked Weijing.

As the song came to a slower portion, the girls’ voices stuttering out of breath, the ghost shimmered and sighed, the sparkles overtaking her entirely as she silently disappeared among the light.

Weijing blinked and stepped back a little, both her and Weide’s voices falling silent at the same time. Sarah followed a moment later, looking between the two of them as Luca nervously kept humming out of tune.

“Did we do it? Did it work?” Sarah asked, her face appearing cooler in the moonlight now that the golden sparkles had subsided.

Weijing gave her a grin. “It seems we did! Aww, I really wish you could have seen it the way Weide and I see it!” she complained half-heartedly with a laugh. “It was really pretty! She must have like, gone to Heaven or something,” she continued with a shrug, reaching for the floating talisman that still maintained the protective barrier.

“Tell me everything,” Sarah said seriously, marching towards her side, “and then I’ll draw it!”

“What, like we’re our own comic book series now?” Val asked dryly, stopping the music but not putting her phone away. She frowned slightly as the Pokemon theme drifted out in the Gladiator music’s place.

“Haha, if we’re in Sarah’s comics, then Luca needs a boyfriend first,” Weijing teased with a smirk, flouncing towards the boy in question as the makeshift lingfu fluttered to the pavement. She draped an arm around his neck as he made a face and tried to push her off his shoulder.

“Uh… jiejie?” came a small voice, and she turned back around to see her little brother still staring at the ground where the publicist’s last sparkles had fallen. The moonlight pierced through the cold air, blueing the crisp edges of Weide’s dark hair.

Something about the nervous tint to his voice made the empty stretch of road feel even colder.

The five of them suddenly jumped nervously as they were plunged into greater darkness, the streetlamp closest to them abruptly falling dark with a pop.

Jesus!” Luca screamed a little, and instead of throwing off Weijing they were clinging to each other. Luca gave a nervous giggle, and Weijing extricated herself.

Sarah shrieked as another nearby streetlight extinguished with a metallic pop.

“Jiejie,” Weide whined insistently.

Cold energy rolled over Weijing as the streetlights began cracking into darkness along the street, like a dangerous tide was washing over them.

“Nope nope nope, I did not sign up for this,” Luca began, reaching to hang on to Weijing’s arm. She hissed a little as he grabbed her wrist, his fingers landing across the sting of her forever-bleeding curse mark.

“I don’t think she’s gone,” Weide whined again, looking close to tears as he, too, ran over to stand as close as possible to Weijing.

Sarah’s face was shining in the moonlight, looking adventurous rather than afraid, but it was clear she couldn’t feel the foreboding presence that had settled onto the street.

“Is it weird that a bunch of ghastly’s are appearing?” Val asked, and there was the very faintest trace of worry in even her skeptical voice. “I can’t catch any of them, either.”

The temperature dropped several degrees as a chill wind blew down the street, rustling through the browned palms fronds and skittering dead leaves across the pavement. It was, Weijing noted absently, appropriately spooky. They had all subconsciously moved closer together, a clump of the living in the middle of a very empty street.

“What the fuuuuck,” Luca hissed, gripping Weijing’s wrist tighter.

“Is there someone there?” Sarah asked, looking around in all directions, the wind whipping her hair around her face and causing her to tuck her admittedly small jacket tighter around herself.

There definitely was something there, according to Weijing’s senses. But it was an older, wilder, more deep-rooted energy than she had expected. She swallowed, bracing her own spiritual energy against it to warm and protect herself. It was like a whirlwind of resentment, but not quite the same as what she’d expect from yuanqi or the energy that exuded from her own walking corpses, like it was something much older and much more powerful, something that could not be so easily named.

“I don’t think we should be here,” Weide whispered, potentially close to tears. Without a golden core, just activating the talisman and helping sing the ghost to rest would have exhausted him. And fatigue made a cultivator more prone to the ill effects of resentful energy—having used up all the yang, he was open to the chill of the yin.

The wind suddenly swept through them in a burst, scattering the girls’ hair into their eyes and sending the remaining talismans deep into the night.

“Stay close,” Weijing commanded suddenly, dropping to the pavement as she withdrew her sharpie. She hurriedly scrawled several circles, a character for protection, and then, feeling the strange energy rise again in a way that seemed somehow violent, she stabbed her qi into it with a shout and a palm strike.

The barrier flew up just in time, the red-gold of her qi rising like fire as an opaquely black shape smashed against it. Weide jumped into her, clinging to her head and leaning on her shoulder, staring wide-eyed as the barrier was tested again, the smoke coiling around them like a kraken’s tentacles, seeking purchase against the smooth sphere of Weijing’s barrier.

“What’s out there?” Luca whispered in terror, dropping down to crouch beside her. The others followed suit.

“I’m not sure,” Weijing replied, trying to sound the right amount of confident. In truth, she wasn’t scared, because she could remember being in a worse situation before—escaping with three small girls from a sex dungeon definitely counted as worse—but she also didn’t want to sound too arrogant about it. A not-insignificant part of her wanted to try to test herself against the thing out there, in a sort of mano-a-mano resentment battle of wills, but that also felt a little foolish. She co*cked her head, giving Luca a bit of a thoughtful look. “That doesn’t mean I don’t know what to do about it,” she reassured, though she felt Weide lean into her a little harder, probably because he knew better than to believe she already had some kind of well thought-out plan. “It’s not like you’re in any danger, really,” she insisted, and Weide gave her upper arm a squeeze.

“Welp,” said Val, who finally tucked her phone away as she scooted closer as well. “That sounded like a lie, so this officially sucks.” She gestured out to the gleaming barrier, which flared brightly when the entity outside pushed against it. “I mean, the lightshow is cool and all, but this is not how I wanted to go out.”

“I said you’re not in danger!” Weijing complained, huffing and staring down at her hand, with her palm still flat against the center of the quickly-drawn array.

“And I said, that sounded like a lie,” Val returned swiftly.

“I’ve got this under control, it’s normal for a Night Hunt to have something like this happen!”

“How many Night Hunts have you ever been on?” Val countered, and then pointed to Sarah. “And fiction doesn’t count. I mean, how many times have you actually encountered evil ghosts and stuff?”

Weijing’s mind, predictably, pulled a blank.

There was no other precedent she could point to, and it didn’t help that her “this is totally normal” had felt like a very blatant lie as well. She’d expected to tidy up the ghost and then go home triumphant, patting Weide on the back and getting plenty of pats of the back herself. She couldn’t recall any other Night Hunts, though she felt certain that she… well… of course the real Li Weijing had never been on a Night Hunt.

She had been a child. And then a prisoner.

But the evil ghost that inhabited her body now… the restless power of the Modao Zushi… it certainly knew its way around quelling or raising resentment. This spirit had no doubt tasted cultivation in several different flavors, and had the knowledge to back that up.

“Lots of them,” she sputtered, long after the appropriate amount of time had passed. She was acutely aware of how Val and Sarah and Luca and especially Weide were looking at her. Like she was wrong.

But she wasn’t.

“I mean, there’s been so many it’s not like I keep count, you know?” she continued haphazardly.

“Weijing, this is your first Night Hunt, isn’t it?” Sarah asked, wincing slightly.

“It’s not!” she insisted. She knew it wasn’t, but she couldn’t explain that without giving away her most protected secret! If anyone—if anyone knew she wasn’t actually Li Weijing, firstborn child of Jin Yaoshui and Li Qinglian—things would get very bad for her. After all, what kind of monster masqueraded in the skin of a deceased daughter?

And then, from an unexpected source, Weide ground out, “It’s not her first. Do you think I’d let myself get taken out for my first Night Hunt if I wasn’t sure of her experience?”

Weijing sent a silent prayer to the gods for giving her a good little brother. She promised to always look out for him and even do something extra nice for him.

“I’m not buying it,” Val returned, and then they jumped together as the barrier flared up directly in front of Weijing, three times in quick succession, as if… someone was knocking at the door.

Weijing blinked and stared, sending her awareness outside the barrier with some difficulty, and realizing that, during their bickering, the strange energy had coalesced into a birdlike form, though it was a bird nearly of Weijing’s own height. Was that its true form?

She stood up, finally, the barrier flickering in a ring around her friends, and stared into the night.

A great owl stood, ghostly, in the middle of the dark road. Its wings were like the stars, its legs fading into the dark shadows of talons. The luminous, round eyes were at her own eye level, reflecting not just the silvery fluorescence from the next street over and the dark amber flecks of the barrier, but also Li Weijing’s slim form, a poised warrior’s silhouette.

“I think…” she began carefully, pausing a moment to absently twist her lower lip between her teeth, “that there was a reason for the Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle to form in the first place.”

“More than just a string of ghosts perpetuating more ghosts?” Sarah asked with interest, though she was still huddling between Val and Weide. “What is it?”

Weijing shook her head wryly. “I don’t know but I’m pretty sure I’m looking at it.”

“It’s a giant owl,” Weide whispered for the others’ benefit.

“You mean it’s been around since, like, La Brea?” Luca gasped.

Weijing shook her head again, studying the ghost bird as it waited. It was large enough to be a human, and although she supposed owls were known for staring unblinkingly into the night, there was something especially unnerving about this one’s gaze. It didn’t feel like an owl, more like something wearing an owl’s feathers.

It stared at her like it knew her, or perhaps like it could know her, if it wanted to.

“The Gabrieleños,” Val said suddenly in a low whisper, “say the owl is an omen of death.”

“Who are the Gabrieleños?” Weijing asked, her sense of foreboding rising as the owl began slowly walking, its gait more like a man’s than a bird’s, its eyes still trained unerringly on her own.

“The native people of this part of California,” Val continued in a hurried whisper. “They got sh*t on by the Spanish, then the Catholic church, then the American government. Colonization stuff. But they were here first.”

Sarah made a squeaky noise. “Val, please tell me you’re like native-Mexican and not European-Mexican. The rest of us are children of immigrants!”

Weide made a strangled noise. “Does that—that matter? Jie and I were born in China!”

Weijing raised her hand to quell the noise as the owl stopped, shifted, and began pacing the other direction. It fluffed its grayish feathers, the patterns swirling like smoke, and then halted, opening its dark beak as it faced her directly again.

The voice that came out was an old woman’s, in the slow, even, guttural tones of an unfamiliar language.

“If we were in Mexico, a giant owl would be la lechuza, but they aren’t supposed to be invisible,” Val continued breathily. “Jingjing, what’s going on?”

Weijing shook her head, frowning. “I’m sorry,” she said to the ghost of the not-exactly-an-owl, “I can’t understand you.”

“It’s talking?” Luca whined, though Val looked oddly hopeful until Weide doused that tiny spark with a “It’s speaking a native language, not Spanish.”

“Yeah. But I don’t speak… whatever that is,” Weijing ground out in frustration.

The owl-spirit leaned back, closing its beak with a sharp rap.

“Do you speak English?” Weijing tried, gesturing vaguely with her arms.

The spirit looked at her without blinking, and then, without any warning at all, opened its wings and pulled them forward to cover its eyes. A moment later the feathers were as fingers, and the owl pulled its own head clean off.

Weijing stumbled backwards as Weide gave a yelp of surprise.

But where the spirit’s owl head had been was now a human face, sitting atop a human body wearing feathered sleeves and a downy skirt over leathery birdlike legs. The old woman was wrinkled and her hair was gray, her eyes a milky bluish white. She had no teeth, and her moist gums flashed in the starlight as she spoke again.

“Leave,” she croaked.

Weijing stiffened in response, feeling her hand finding Weide’s and holding it tightly.

“Leave this place,” the owl woman said again, her voice deep but somehow like the low moan of a hunting bird.

“Will you kill again?” Weijing asked with a burst of courage she hadn’t exactly known she had.

The ghost woman regarded her with her terrifying blind eyes. “Does a mother dance with the bones of her son?”

Weijing’s stomach twisted.

“In this way, the son lives again.”

Weijing grimaced as the owl-spirit-woman smiled without teeth.

“Who is dancing with your bones?” she asked slowly, the words coming out as clipped as an owl’s screech.

“No one!” she cawed back, images of feathers, black feathers, a woman who was a bird who was screaming high above the shouts and fear of mortal battle. What the f*ck was happening. How did this—this thing—know?! Did it know things that she didn't know? Who was—who was dancing with her bones?

Weijing—the real Weijing—had she taken the little bird bones of the Modao Zushi and crushed them—sacriligeous!—to make her curse? Had this power sprung from the splintery dry portents of oracle bones, scattered across a floor? Weijing felt like she was spinning out of control, like whatever had held her together so far was unraveling, a ribbon being unspooled like a memory witnessed in jarring reverse. She could feel her golden core spinning wildly, the chill of resentful energy seeping into its center. f*ck f*ck, this was—qi deviation?!

She drew in a deep breath, forcing herself to focus, to recenter herself, to look away from the open, silent laugh of the owl-spirit.

“What’s happening?!” Sarah all-but-screamed, as Weide just turned to the spirit.

Her little brother bowed, straight-backed like a head disciple, and shouted to the owl-spirit’s feet.

“We are sorry! For trespassing! We will leave!” he reached behind to grab Weijing’s wrist—the shock of his hand clamping down on her curse mark was enough to jolt her out her brief meditation—and shouted again, this time towards the old woman’s face. “Just leave my sister alone!”

“We each take what we must,” the old woman said, her arms sweeping the bleached-white bone of the owl skull up and over her head. “For every life granted, a life taken. For every bargain struck, a price to be paid. That is the way it has always been.”

Weijing cursed wrists burned. She could tell they were bleeding again, bleeding in a way they hadn’t for some time now.

She hadn’t yet paid for her new life, not in full.

As the skull settled over the old woman’s face, she transformed into the great owl again, her fingers lengthening and multiplying into broad, silent wings, her narrow feet elongating into great talons. Her large, moonlike eyes did not blink.

Weijing slipped out of her brother’s grasp and took his hand, reaching down to drag Luca up by his collar.

“It’s over,” she said, fighting back the sting of both tears and her bleeding wrists. With a shaky breath, she dispelled the barrier. “We’re leaving.”

She turned on her heel, and didn’t look back.

A gust of cold, restless wind flew past, but it made no sound at all. Sarah shivered, and as they tumbled into Val’s car, the streetlights popped back on. One by one.



Li Weijing

courtesan/courtesy name Suibian (Whatever)

The Li Sect’s heir apparent who was kidnapped as a child, now a teenage cultivator who escaped from human trafficking with the power of the Founder of Demonic Cultivation and three other girls. She has no memories and is cursed to seek revenge.

Weapon: sword

Instrument: voice

Li Guangbao

courtesy Qinglian

title Muqin (Mother)

The Li Sect Heir who ran away from the cultivation world after the disappearance of her daughter.

Weapon: none

Instrument: dizi

Jin Jiang

courtesy Yaoshui

title Baba (Dad)

Li Guangbao’s husband and a descendent of Jin Xinghuo, he works for the American branch of Yunshen Entertainment Group as a director for their American assets and a liaison for their American business partners.

Weapon: none

Instrument: none

Li Weide

no courtesy name

English name Wade

Li Weijing’s little brother, six years younger, who does not remember her as he was three years old at the time of her disappearance. Although he is officially the assumed heir to the Li Sect, but has been raised without cultivation and instead fully assimilated as a Californian middle schooler—the kind burdened with the overbearing expectations of strict Chinese parents.

Weapon: none

Instrument: guitar, piano, violin, cello


Sarah Sharpe-Park

A half-Korean teen, the daughter of a director and a stuntman/martial arts star. A talented artist, her fandoms include Supernatural, Stray Kids, Demon Slayer, and Heaven Official’s Blessing. She might be a little bit too much into xianxia since meeting Li Weijing.

Valeria Alvarez

A Mexican-American teen who is very good with tech. In addition to Fortnite and Minecraft, she dabbles in WoW and builds her own desktop setups and knows several programming and coding languages. Her parents met in California, though both are from different regions in Mexico.

Luca Biancci

A child of a producer and an Italian supermodel, he is a shockingly pretty boy and he commonly uses this to his advantage. Close friends with Valeria since early childhood, he is also technologically inclined though he prefers livestreaming his gaming adventures and keeping up with Tiktok trends.

Language Notes (that wouldn't fit in the actual notes section):

While in America, Weijing (and especially Weide) use primarily English. However, Weijing uses Chinese terms for cultivation things, since those are the words she knows. Any time she’s using an English word for a cultivation term, she’s essentially borrowing the word choices from English translations of xianxia novels. I like to specifically think she’s using translations of MXTX’s own words by using the vocabulary of English translations of Heaven Official’s Blessing that Sarah has introduced to her. Please keep in mind that I don’t read Chinese myself so to get these words I can’t actually pick out the words MXTX uses to refer to these concepts in the MDZS universe, which is what I’m aiming for. (I am relying on extensive meta from bilingual and semi-bilingual fans on tumblr, Google Translate, and an online hanzi dictionary. If I am doing it wrong, please let me know!!)

But here’s my quick dictionary for terms I used in this chapter and beyond:

língqì 灵气: spiritual energy, commonly referred to as simply qì 气, though this comes from the character “líng 灵” which means “alert/quick/spirit/departed soul” and “qì 气” which means “air/gas/spirit”<br />
yuànqì 怨气: resentment, with yuan meaning “resent/blame/grievance” and qi the same as the one above<br />
fú 符: talisman, charm, symbol, or tally, used in conjunction with other words for more specific meanings, such as…<br />
fúlù/fúzhuàn 符籙/符箓: Taoist talisman, using “fú 符” and “lù/zhuàn 籙” meaning “Taoist charm/book/records.” (For the second character, it seems the hanzi “spelling” difference is just traditional vs simplified Chinese, so no real difference there EXCEPT I can’t figure out why everywhere but on the MDZS wiki it’s fulu but the MDZS wiki uses fuzhuan. I went with fulu because it’s the form I could actually research and seems most widely accepted. But if anyone can shed light on this for me, I’d appreciate it!)<br />
língfú 灵符: Taoist talisman, made up of the words “líng 灵” as described above for spirit/quick and the talismanic “fú 符.” It seems that this word always refers to the actual paper with writing on it, where fulu is a broader term and can refer to just the talismanic script or symbols used on/in the lingfu.<br />
chénshā 辰砂: cinnabar/vermillion/mercury sulphide, a mineral that was top choice for bright red pigments in China since ancient times, with historical significance as a drug with magical properties though it also is highly toxic. And since I’ve been breaking down words here, “chén 辰” seems to refer to the number 5, the time between 7 and 9 am, dragons, and the planet Mercury. “Shā 砂” seems to have something to do with sand/minerals….?<br />
zhòuzhen 咒: a formation or array, which in MDZS is a spell usually written on the ground (like a magical or alchemical circle). Zhòu 咒 means curse or spell, and zhèn 阵 means array.

The Founder of Immortal Cultivation - Chapter 13 - Deer_Partner - 魔道祖师 - 墨香铜臭 | Módào Zǔshī (2024)


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