Reverend Ecstasy

In a Body Bag

In a Body Bag

"Didn't they forbid the disciples from killing each other? Good! Can someone explain to me why my little brother's corpse now hangs on the ground?" The six disciples whose death Xinzi witnessed were but the first in a series of gruesome accidents. Well, accident becomes an unreliable description when the event happens more often than raining spirit stones at an aristocratic courtesan's first-time sale. In a flash, 37 disciples fell under the stampede of flaming boulders—making their relatives sink into rage and grief.     

"Where did you see disciples killing disciples? No one said anything about the formation being harmless. The cultivation road is heartless. Death and treachery run amok. How can a controlled environment produce elite cultivators? You taking your safety for granted doesn't mean that we have to ensure it. If you're dissatisfied, step up and fight? I will give you all an opportunity to avenge your brethren."     

Guang Fanghu's belligerent voice startled the dead disciples' complaining kin who—scattered among thousands of rambling spectators—didn't expect the yang patriarch to notice them. Meanwhile, Lord Hanxing, who controlled the formation and carried half the blame for these deaths, lowered his head and closed his eyes—acting as if none of this had anything to do with him.      

Disciples may not have the right to kill, but that rule didn't apply to the formation, which could harvest unprepared lives with no warning. The news spread like wildfire, warning countless disciples of the mental fortitude their superiors now required of them.     

Of the 226 remaining male disciples, regardless of their background or dispositions, none dared wallow in fear and uncertainty anymore. The innate thirst for survival that animated all lifeforms took over, forcing subordinates to give up incompetent masters and assemble more reliable hunting squads. The weakest leaders became foot soldiers, battles broke out for shelter and rumored opportunities. But even as the disciples learned to face the specter of death, Xinzi walked towards the fallen six's gored remains, gazing at them with a mix of interest and disappointment.      

'More fragile than a wooden stick, yet as mesmerizing as the starry sky. Human life is like a firefly—incandescent in the grip of death.' Xinzi's thoughts trailed off. The monk had carried these thoughts for years now, using them as key ingredients of his enlightenment in Indulgence. There was a poetic thrill to vulnerability. A thrill, a fascination, that immortals such as Xinzi struggled to resist.     

Even if 100 flaming rocks rammed into him, only Xinzi's body would break down. His Divine Soul would hold strong—enabling him to turn the remains of his mortal shell into food for his weakened soul and blast all feeble lifeforms into ashes through the might of his true form. If in ancient times, mortal bodies were merely convenient tools that Divine Spirits used to communicate with their servants without the usual burning accident, over time, from Sun to Night Spirits, more and more divines became enamored with the complex array of emotions and desires these bodies provided them with. The last God-Monarch of the Eternal Night epitomized this dangerous habit—and because of it—the world's number one expert was no longer surnamed Hengye.     

'Hengye Zhen, my Zhen'er, you...are different.' Xinzi recalled the leader's words, and for once hoped that she was right. She wasn't. He too couldn't resist the magnetic pull that life had over him. He too wished to hoist it up by the throat and indulge in its scent. To let it drown his senses and shove him into that very same pit of...     

A rattle of paced footsteps harassed Xinzi's thoughts, forcing him to pause and face the source. Racing knives whistled across the air, aiming to turn Xinzi into a blood-squirting porcupine. Spinning 360, Xinzi let the knives graze his cheeks and monastic robes, caught six mid-air, and hurled them back to their senders. Metallic clangs and grating cracks spread throughout the volcanic valley. Dark steam clouded the average man's vision, but through his Spiritual Sense, Xinzi spotted a band of 17 men rush past and encircle him. Five bled from their shoulders, one half an inch from his heart. Strangely, the severe injuries didn't seem to affect the men, who faced Xinzi with confidence.     

"Ooooh, terrible aim. They don't teach you the fundamentals of knife throwing in the Clear Heart monastery? How then did you become such a gifted backstabber? Or maybe you are just trying to avoid the murder charge? I guess that's to be expected from a monk." A voice came from the formation's core, spreading through omni-dimensional wavelengths. Xinzi recognized that tone, and his lips curled up.     

"Sixth prince? Aren't you being too rash? At this point in time, our priority is to secure shelter from the volcanic hazards, then compete for the scattered insight. But you're going for me...first?" Xinzi canted his head to the left, puzzled by Shui Haoyang's words and move. At a glance, these disciples came prepared for a desperate fight and took drugs to ensure that they could shrug off all pain.     

The sixth prince of Dongli, due to his status as the queen's son and his outstanding cultivation talent, Shui Haoyang had the strongest claim to the crown. Though he'd yet to break through to the Foundation Building stage, his limelight eclipsed that of the eldest prince, who currently served as an inner disciple of the White Immortal sect.     

Abbot Qingxin often led harvest rituals for the Dongli royals, so Xinzi was familiar with most of them—some on a more personal level. A fit and handsome young man stepped out of the dark steam clouds—staring at Xinzi with undisguised killing intent.     

"You don't know why I want your head? Xinzi, Xinzi. It is one thing to be a predatory vermin. But at the very least, shouldn't you keep tabs on your victims?" Shui Haoyang said and stepped forward. The 16 disciples at his side aligned to form two sets of Eight Trigrams Arrays. Their spiritual senses connected to their respective array disks, and Shui Haoyang's smile stretched into a manic grin.     

"Xinzi, when you left the Clear Heart monastery for the White Immortal sect, your reputation as an Enlightened Monk fooled many, including my sister and me. For the sake of the little relationship we had, I did my best to help you fit in. But within days, you'd founded your own temple and started luring besotted souls astray!     

My sister was one of them! Because you, Haoyue went insane, became a nun, and holed herself up in the Nameless Sword mountain—wasting her Water Spirit Root on inferior techniques! But still I had to endure...because you are Xinzi—the White Immortal sect's golden ticket towards Yanzhou domination. Bastard monk! You ruined my sister's purity, potential and future! And yet you get to enjoy a full and prosperous life? Today, if I don't use this opportunity to slice you into 10,000 pieces, I am not worthy of being her big brother!"     

Shui Haoyang turned red—going off in a wild tirade of rage and resentment. The sight of his pure and lovely sister returning from Xinzi's temple with a pale and despondent look still haunted him at night. His blood boiled, and his eyes went bloodshot. Clearly, the sixth prince had fallen prey to his Heart Demon, and had been going through cultivation deviation for some time already. How did he conceal it from his friends and elders? Xinzi couldn't consider these now.     

"You are getting your facts twisted around. Despite her weaker cultivation base, I wanted to take Shui Haoyue in as my first initiate. She agreed, we had a good time, and then suddenly she wanted me to marry her. At the end of the day, I am an ordained monk. How can you expect me to candidly marry the Dongli state's princess—especially when she can't tolerate my other donors? It's really not worth the beating my master would give me." Xinzi replied with disarming candor.     

"Nonsense! My sister was such a pure and innocent girl, how could she agree to your debauched cult games? You must have forced her!" The words were like knives twisting into Shui Haoyang's ears. Not content with destroying all of his sisters' prospects, Xinzi didn't hesitate to smear her reputation. How hateful could one monk get?     

Shui Haoyang's hands flashed in incantation gestures, and the array disks underneath his subordinates glowed, connecting to one another to unleash the White Immortal sect's iconic Eight Trigrams Array. Surprisingly, Shui Haoyang managed to cast and maintain two formations at the same time—a magnificent feat.     

"A yellow-grade Formation Master?" Since the goons adopted the Eight Trigrams Array, Xinzi knew that a formation master lay in their rank. However, he'd not expected Haoyang to be that master. And who could blame him? The man never revealed such an ability till now, and Xinzi didn't care much for him.     

Our monk raised his right hand. Golden runes shot out, latching on the array disks and energy screens composing the Eight Trigrams double array. The disciples didn't have the time to probe the runes that their array disks lost all luster, their energy screens broke down, and their formations collapsed.     

At the very center of this abrupt collapse, the disciples flew out and crashed in various directions—spitting blood along the way. Shui Haoyang reeled back, stupor replaced his rage, and as his mind grew chaotic, Xinzi appeared before him.      

"With thousands to witness my deeds, I will of course not kill you—or anyone else for that matter. I still have clout to build up and ladies to convert to the grand creed of liberation. But since there is no reasoning with you…" Xinzi placed his bandaged hand on Shui Haoyang's forehead. All blood left the Dongli prince's brain, and his mind went blank.     

"I will just put you in a body bag," Xinzi said. Shui Haoyang fell face-first, trapped in a comatose state. Tapping his storage ring, Xinzi pulled out a flexible body bag, wrapped it around Shui Haoyang, and hoisted him into the air—gazing at the distance for a bittersweet instant before hurling the Dongli prince out of the Yin-Yang Smelting Trial!     

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