LOOG Chapter – 53

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Chapter 53: The Timeless Master

Sunan and Bao both had the same reaction. Their eyes almost instantly glazed over, and without a word, they placed their lamps onto the ground and then sat down cross-legged. In unison, they closed their eyes and began to meditate.

Nine days passed.

At the beginning of the nine days, everything in the cavern remained as dark and silent as before. But then, fluctuations began to roll out from Sunan and Bao, something like vibrations that stirred the blood and Qi of anyone present.

Bao and Sunan’s closest friends and advisers took shifts to stand guard over them.

After nine days, the fluctuations became so intense that the air around Bao and Sunan began to distort. By the eighteenth day, they were surrounded by something that looked like an enormous, shimmering circle.

After the eighteenth day, the circle began to glow, casting light out into the cavern and more fully illuminating the skeletons.

“Where did they come from?” Tie Gangwen asked.

Standing next to him was Liu Jiahui. The two of them were currently sitting cross-legged at the mouth of the cavern.

“You know the legend of the Five Peaks, right?”

“How the five tallest mountains in the realm were created by a specific dragon and phoenix?”

“Exactly.”

“But Mount Fohe isn’t one of those five peaks….”

Lie Jiahui shrugged. “Maybe there are more than five mountains that were created by dragons and phoenixes.”

Tie Gangwen grunted in response.

After twenty-seven days, the distortions surrounding Bao and Sunan seemed to divide into two sections, like two interlocked teardrops.

After thirty-six days, the two divided sections began to slowly rotate in an endless cycle. At the same time, the light shining out from the distortions grew more intense.

On the forty-fifth day, smaller, individuals distortions appeared within each side of the symbol, as if the two sides were beginning to change shape.

After fifty-four days, blurry figures became visible within the sections that made up the symbol.

Deep in the night on the sixty-third day, Liu Jiahui and Tie Gangwen were once again standing guard. Far above them outside of the caves, clouds covered the moon and stars, cloaking everything in complete darkness. Inside the cave, however, the light shining from the symbol was so bright that it made it difficult to look at it for any length of time. However, the figures within each side of the image were now relatively clear.

“I see it now,” Liu Jiahui said.

“See what?”

“The dragon. And the phoenix. Inside that image.”

Tie Gangwen looked over at him. “Don’t tell me it took you this long to figure out that the symbol would be a dragon and a phoenix?”

Liu Jiahui snorted. “Of course I realized it! But you couldn’t see it clearly until just now. How many days has it been?”

“Sixty-three. Do you want to bet how many more days this is going to last?”

“I’m not stupid.”

After seventy-two days, the dragon and the phoenix in the symbol became crystal clear, and the entire cavern began to vibrate.

“You know what this means, right?” Liu Jiahui said.

“What…?” replied Tie Gangwen.

“It’s not going to be long before we have one big sect instead of two smaller ones.”

Tie Gangwen looked over at Liu Jiahui, a thoughtful expression on his face.

On the eve of the eighty-first day, virtually all of the leaders of the sect gathered at the mouth of the cavern. The symbol was now glowing so brightly that it was impossible to look at for more than a second or two. The cavern pulsed with vibrations, and a faint roaring sound could be heard.

When a certain time on the eighty-first day arrived, the dragon and phoenix that made up the symbol separated. The dragon seemed to come alive, swirling through the air down toward Sunan. Although it moved with incredible speed, it simultaneously seemed to slow to a crawl. When the dragon slammed into Sunan’s forehead, intense rumbling sounds filled the cave, and a shockwave blasted out in all directions. An explosion of bright light filled the area as the dragon merged into Sunan’s forehead, and then disappeared.

Simultaneously, the exact same process occurred with Bao and the phoenix. With the graceful flutter of its wings, it shot down into Bao’s forehead, fusing into her within the blink of an eye.

As quickly as that, everything was over. Darkness once again filled the cave.

Bao and Sunan opened their eyes and turned to look at each other. On Sunan’s forehead, the shining symbol of a dragon was slowly fading away, and Bao, of course, had a phoenix symbol.

“Do you understand?” Sunan asked.

“Yes.” Bao reached her right palm out toward Sunan, who extended his left palm to meet hers.

When their hands touched, it was just barely possible to hear a rumbling roar, and a piercing howl.

**

Nearly four months had passed since the discovery of the door deep below Mount Fohe, but nothing eventful had occurred during that time. Sun Mai, Mao Yun, and Wang Tian had not returned, nor had they sent word.

After Sunan and Bao emerged from their extended session of meditation, they didn’t offer any explanation for what had occurred, and when asked directly, they gave cryptic responses.

That only fueled the rumors which filled the camp.

Sunan and Bao didn’t seem to care.

More time passed. Training went on as usual. Every few days, people would show up at the cave, either looking for Ruan, or asking about the two sects which now occupied his former abode. Slowly but surely, the sects were growing.

One day, Li Runfa once again interrupted one of Sunan and Bao’s sparring sessions.

“Someone is asking for you, Chieftess,” he said. Then he lowered his voice. “Thankfully I was the first person he talked to. He said he wanted to speak with Princess Shangguan….”

Bao and Sunan exchanged a glance.

“Did he give his name?” Bao asked.

“Yes, Chieftess. He said he’s an old friend of yours. Gongye Zheng.”

Bao’s eyes brightened. “Gongye Zheng? Take me to him!”

A few minutes later, Sunan and Bao were seated in a small audience chamber across from an elderly man wearing the nondescript clothing of a farmer or craftsman. Despite the clothing, it was impossible for him to change the way he held himself. He sat straight in his chair, with his chin tilted slightly upward, not arrogantly, but in a way that seemed to command power.

“Uncle Gongye,” Bao said, “I almost didn’t recognize you! What are you doing here?” Few people in Yu Zhing had ever noticed Bao or been kind to her, but Gongye Zheng was one of those few. One of the pillars of the Gongye Clan, he had somehow managed to survive the purges of years past, yet simultaneously refrain from being sucked into the sycophantic cliques that catered to the Demon Emperor and his court.

Gongye Zheng smiled. “Yu Zhing has become far too dangerous, Bao’er. I faked my own death and then slipped out of the city under the cover of night.”

Bao sighed. “From what I’ve heard, Yu Zhing only continues to get more and more dangerous as the years pass. Uncle Gongye… how did you know to find me here?”

“Even in Yu Zhing, people are talking about the events of Daolu a few months ago, and the two sects led by Young Dragon Sunan and Fierce Phoenix Bao. There are wanted posters being put up in the major cities of the empire. It didn’t take long for me to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

“Wanted posters?” Bao exclaimed.

“Yes!” Gongye Zheng reached into his robe and pulled out a many-folded piece of paper. After opening it up, he handed it over to Bao.

It was a wanted poster with a picture of herself and Sunan.

“This doesn’t even look like me!” she protested.

“Let me see that,” Sunan said, reaching over to grab the poster. He snorted. “My jaw is definitely not that large!”

Gongye Zheng chuckled. “To be honest, I doubt anyone else knows your true identity, Bao’er. I apologize for speaking your true name to your man earlier. I should have been more careful.”

“Don’t worry, Li Runfa is quite circumspect. Uncle Gongye, what exactly are you doing here? Do you… want to join us?”

Gongye Zheng shook his head. “I’m just passing through. I plan to leave this part of the world far behind me. I’m going to Naqan, where the Demon Emperor is nothing more than a story told to children to scare them into behaving. I’ve always wanted to lay eyes on the Huo Sea. I heard a story once that when you watch the sun set over the ocean, you can see a blue flash of light that brings you luck for the rest of your life.

“Bao’er, word of your camp here is spreading. If I heard about it, you can be sure that the Demon Emperor knows you’re here. I worry that you’re not safe here.”

Bao nodded. “I know, Ungle Gongye. We don’t plan to stay here for long.”

Gongye Zheng sighed. “I can sense in my bones that great change is coming. First there was the Battle of Daolu, and then the Uprising of Xuanlu. I have the feeling that more such incidents will occur. Perhaps the Demon Emperor’s days truly are numbered.”

“Uprising of Xuanlu?” Sunan asked. “What happened in Xuanlu?”

“You haven’t heard yet? A great revolt occurred, led by the Timeless Master, a man named Li Buwei. It all centered around an execution planned by the city magistrate. A young woman was accused of cursing the Demon Emperor publically, and was sentenced to death. That young woman was Qixia the Butterfly, a very popular singer and dancer in the city. The incident caused widespread anger, and just as the sentence was about to be carried out, a band of masked men broke onto the scene, killing the Demon Emperor’s soldiers and saving the young girl.

“It’s hard to say what the truth is, but according the stories I heard, more than half the city rose up to support the revolt. Maybe the event was planned in advance, or maybe it was spontaneous. Half of the Demon Emperor’s soldiers were killed, and the others were expelled from the city. Armies were sent from both Huisheng and Yu Zhing to restore order. In the end, Li Buwei and Qixia the Butterfly fled, although nobody knows to where.” Gongye Zheng shook his head.

“I’m not sure how Li Buwei managed to fight so effectively against the Demon Emperor. If the tales are to be believed, he seemed to have foreknowledge of everything the soldiers were about to do. There are even whispers that he can see into the future. I suppose that’s why people took to calling him the Timeless Master.

“According to the rumors, powerful martial artists are rising up all over the empire, people who can fight with superhuman strength and speed. Perhaps Li Buwei is one of them. Perhaps you are too, Bao’er…?” Gongye Zheng looked at Bao with a strange gleam flickering in his eyes.

Bao smiled. “Times are changing, Uncle Gongye, that is a fact.”

He nodded.

“Lord Gongye,” Sunan said, “it’s getting late. Would you care to dine with us? I would love to hear more stories about these martial heroes.”

“Of course, Sect Leader Sunan. I have many stories to tell!”

**

“Did you say Li Buwei?” the Bone General growled.

The soldier nodded.

The Bone General’s hand clenched into a fist. “You’re dismissed,” he said. The soldier hurried out.

“Who is Li Buwei?” the Golden Immortal asked.

“In your language ‘buwei’ means nothing, but in the language of the King of the Pure Ones, it is very significant. I can’t be sure, but…” The Bone General trailed off. Brows furrowed, he looked off into the distance, clearly lost in thought.

A long moment passed.

Finally the Bone General rose to his feet. “I must speak in person to the King of the Pure Ones.”

“But our plan…?”

“Will continue as we have discussed. The reinforcements will be here soon, led by one of my top agents, a man named Geng Long. After he arrives, begin making the preparations. I will return after I speak to the King of the Pure Ones. Fear not, Golden Immortal, we will crush Sunan and Bao. A little uprising led by this ‘Li Buwei’ will do nothing to stop that.”

Get behind the scenes info and material for your Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate session at the Bedrock Blog. This time, there is a very interesting plot element revealed that will never be mentioned in the narrative of the story. Definitely check it out!

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