Reverend Ecstasy

Holy Ho

Holy Ho

As Xinzi suppressed Arctic Bearworms and crushed Dong Hui's moot rebellion, within a dormitory of the White Immortal sect's outer court, Xia Hu sat in meditation. Colossal waves of Spiritual Qi coiled his form, establishing a pressure that reduced Foundation Building experts to irrelevant lifeforms.     

Most outer court disciples lived in dormitories, handling petty chores for minor pay or contribution points which they then traded for scant resources. Only exceptional talents such as Xinzi or aristocratic disciples like Rong Suishan and Dong Ling could occupy their own land and avoid the onerous outer disciple work schedule. Following his meteoric rise, Xia Hu could have applied for better lodging but refused to let go of the dormitory—a constant reminder of all he went through to stand at the summit of the outer court.     

Regardless, his previous roommates didn't dare to share the place with him and transferred to other dorms. With secrets to keep to himself, Xia Hu naturally welcomed the change. But as he pushed his cultivation base to another level, a series of light footsteps alerted his acute senses—pulling him out of his meditation. By the time the wooden door opened, Xia Hu's sharp eyes had locked on the intruder. A slender form came into view, and he softened immediately. "It's you? Didn't you say that you wanted nothing to do with me until I figured it out?" Xia Hu said in a mellow tone that contrasted with the words' probing tone.     

Her steps as graceful as a rising swan, the slender form ambled in, revealing a picture of saint perfection that words couldn't do justice to. Standing at over 1.7 meters, the woman wore the plain white dress of outer disciples and let her dark-brown hair cascade at her back. From her phoenix eyes to her dainty feet, all seemed carved without mistake—by a divine craftsman summoned by the highest god to cause unrest in the world of men. Her skin glowed with a supernatural luster that contrasted with her brown eyes while her leer-provoking curves stood out despite her Daoist garb. Alas, if such a riveting figure could ensnare hardened men and pluck devout souls, the horrifying Sword Qi oozing her form dispelled the charm—reminding even the boldest that the tiniest transgression would result in a brutal death.     

The White Immortal sect's Sword Fairy—Chun Xu—thus made her entrance. "I figured that you'd get outwitted by the unholy monk. At the end of the day, I can't bear letting you destroy yourself," Chun Xu said in a poised and straightforward tone.     

Xia Hu's eyes narrowed at this woman for whom his heart beat erratically, not knowing how to handle the bind she put him into. "I don't understand. Three years ago you and I met Xinzi at the annual tribute fair, and by the end of the day, we'd made a pledge of brotherhood. That's how well we hit it off. Later, Dong Ling joined the band, and though she will never admit it, she too is fond of him. When even Dong Ling can enjoy his company, why is it that you, the most rational person I know, now want me to murder him?" Xia Hu laid his thoughts bare.     

Chun Xu most disliked the men that gawked like drooling retards upon meeting her. So when Xinzi, the prodigious monk, greeted her with a poised smile and wit laced in polite humor, she immediately took him as a friend. But as the years passed, the relationship devolved into a mess of snide and distance—all by Chun Xu's will. If Xia Hu told Xinzi that the reason why he'd offended Chun Xu was that he didn't want to lop his head off, perhaps even the enlightened monk would have lost it.     

"Three years ago was three years ago. Now is now. Since the person is not the same, why must I give him the same treatment?" Chun Xu said, but only made Xia Hu more confused. Sensing her childhood sweetheart's doubt, the Sword Fairy carried on.     

"If you had to describe him on our first meeting, what would you have said?"     

"Flawless. As a monk, the definition of holiness. And as a man, a beacon of reliance and entertainment."     

"And now?"     

"A foul-mouthed bastard. A very sleek and entertaining one that I'd pay to see scolding folks, but a foul-mouthed bastard all the same." Though he knew that this wasn't the time to praise Xinzi's vicious tongue, Xia Hu couldn't help but blurt out his true thoughts. Surprisingly, Chun Xu nodded in approval.     

"Indeed, and that is where the problem starts. Lianist enlightenment builds on the mind and soul. As the Black Lotus temple proved, a Lianist monk doesn't have to pursue righteousness. But once he stops being consistent with himself, his enlightenment level either crumbles or experiences a meteoric rise. Xinzi is a far cry from the monk he used to be. So why is it that his Lianist progression speed has remained constant? There is only one explanation. The Clear Heart monastery's Xinzi was fake, a mask setup to cheat Abbot Qingxin and his monks."     

'This is sophistry at its finest. In a place where prayers and religious restraint are the daily schedule, how could he reveal his true self? If you offend him, why should he not humble you? If you treat him with courtesy, why should he spit in your face? Xinzi has not changed. His environment did. On the contrary, it's you who has been getting stranger.' Xia Hu thought, but not as clever-tongued as either Xinzi or Chun Xu, he didn't know how to organize those thoughts in a sensible rebuttal. Still, reading in his frowning look that Xia Hu didn't buy her piece, Chun Xu pressed on.     

"Everything before he joined our sect seems too flawless. A six-year-old beggar rescued from starvation by a wandering monk, who later turns into the province's most promising Lianist practitioner. As if that wasn't enough, his Formation attainments put seniors to shame, and despite all this baggage, his cultivation speed remains excellent. In fact, if not for Lianism and Formation practices dulling his pace, Xinzi's cultivation base would be above mine. If he had half the good fortune that you did, don't even mention competing; it would be a miracle if you could stay within 1,000 feet of his achievements. How long before you expose your secrets to him. Once such a man plots against you, big brother Xia, can you survive?" Chun Xu battered Xia Hu with cold facts.     

Though the world praised her as the Sword Fairy, Chun Xu knew that in cultivation or temperament, she didn't deserve the title. A petty, ruthless and unscrupulous thug with a senseless devotion to Xia Hu, once she realized that Xinzi's physique constantly attracted hers, she resented him. Only one Void Spiritual Root appeared each 1,000 year cycle. There was no recorded occurrence of two born in the same era, so only Chun Xu and Xinzi knew of the potent attraction and compatibility they shared. Whether she gave in or not, if this knowledge reached Xia Hu's ears, their relationship wouldn't survive it. Add to that the constant shameful desires, and though she didn't despise Xinzi—quite the contrary, in fact—she had to drive him as far away from Xia Hu and her as possible. And if for that she had to twist truth and falsehood, so be it.     

Though skeptical at first, the more Xia Hu listened, the more convinced he became that while Chun Xu likely hid a selfish motive, her words didn't lack truths. Xinzi and he were too close. One day he'd learn about his secrets. If he couldn't trust him unconditionally, what would the consequences be? Still...     

"To say nothing of an evil plot. Without Xinzi, I might not have lived long enough to grow into the current me. Unless he joins the Yin-Yang Controller competition—and he won't—I will never turn my back on him." Chun Xu later murdered all those that oppressed him, but if Xinzi didn't appear in time to beat them black and blue, Xia Hu might not have survived the jealousy of the outer and inner court disciples that idolized the Sword Fairy. Little did he know that these words were precisely what the vixen had been leading him to—her lips curled into an enchanting smile.     

"Oh? But what if I tell you that he's planning for it as we speak?"     

"Hmm?" Xia Hu's forehead creased, his gaze grew sharper, and the atmosphere shifted to match his furrowed brows. Seeing her words take hold, Chun Xu dealt the final blow.     

"The Liberation temple closed its doors until further notice. No one knows what goes on in there and no one dares to care because at Xinzi's back stand the great elders that neither disciples nor elders can afford to offend. However, what we all know is that Xinzi's wealth stems from the temple's donations. Why would he close shop now, out of the blue, and with no explanation to his donors? This can only mean that he is preparing for a major event but would rather not have the news leak." Chun Xu stressed the critical part. And while this wasn't the only reasonable explanation, it was the only one Xia Hu needed to hear—his hands shook uncontrollably.     

"According to my sword maids' investigation, several disciples witnessed Xinzi stepping into the Ice-Fire cave—likely looking for Cultivation Oddities to absorb and empower his Void Spiritual Root. If he can find a potent one...well, let me just say that for me, the Yin-Yang Sword Array, and more precisely the cultivation method it stems from, is a matter of life and death. I will not withdraw." Chun Xu let the insinuation corrode Xia Hu's mind—thereby putting the nail in the coffin of his fragilized spirit.     

Needing no more goading, the swordmaster stood up. His cultivation base erupted in full force, making even Chun Xu's eyes widen at its depth.     

"I really want to see what this good little brother of mine is up to." Sensing the killing intent in Xia Hu's words, Chun Xu beamed.     

"Let's find out," she said, and the two left for the Ice-Fire cave.     

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