Stranger Danger

Chapter 4: Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation



Chapter 4: Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation

Rip!

The villager beneath Ye Qing ripped off a chunk of flesh from his arm and elicited a pained groan, but instead of fear, the intense pain had brought out his inner aggression instead. Eyes turning bloodshot with fury, Ye Qing raised his rock and brought it down on the villager’s head again!

Pssh!

There was a disgusting crunch as the villager’s skull caved inward, spewing blood and brain matter everywhere. However, the villager continued to bite and tear away at the young man like he couldn’t feel any pain whatsoever. Furious, Ye Qing jammed his wounded left arm into the villager’s throat and redoubled his efforts, whaling away at the bastard’s head like they were sworn enemies.

At first, the villager’s struggles were fierce and unrelenting. Eventually though, it weakened more and more until he ceased moving entirely. Still, Ye Qing dared not relax the pressure and continued to smash the villager’s head with relentless ferocity.

“Enough, enough! He’s already dead!” A gentle voice suddenly broke out behind Ye Qing. “You’re going to turn his head into mush at this rate.”

Caught completely off guard, Ye Qing jumped to his feet and spun around to face the speaker. When he saw who it was, he let out an audible sigh of relief before launching into a hasty explanation, “Granny Xia, this isn’t what it looks like. I—”

Granny Xia interrupted him before he could finish, “I’m not blaming you. This poor man has been contaminated by the blood qi and turned into a Red Walker who knows naught but to attack the living. I would’ve killed him even if you'd spared his life.” Ch𝒆êck out l𝒂t𝒆st 𝒏𝒐v𝒆l𝒔 on nov𝒆l/bin(.)c𝒐m

As she was speaking, Lin Hu and Chen Zheng were running around the village and eliminating every Red Walker they came across. Although the mindless creatures were immune to pain, they were unable to put up even a token resistance against the two martial artists. It took them just a dozen breaths to wipe out every last Red Walker in the village and paint the streets red.

“You’re Ye Rong’s boy, aren’t you?” Granny Xia asked in a kind voice.

“That’s right. My name is Ye Qing!” Ye Rong was his father’s name.

Granny Xia let out a sorrowful sigh. “Ye Rong. Oh, Ye Rong. I still remember holding him in my arms when he was a wee little boy. It’s truly a shame that he’s no longer with us. By the way, you’re eighteen this year, aren’t you?”

Ye Qing’s face grew saddened as well. “That I am, Granny Xia.”

Granny Xia stretched her wrinkled skin into a smile. “I’m glad to see you’ve grown into a fine man. Anyway, I shan’t delay you any longer. The village isn’t safe yet, and you look like you could use some rest. Don’t come out again until the coast is clear.”

Ye Qing nodded strongly. “I will, Granny Xia. Thank you, and goodbye!”

He gave her a wave before throwing away his rock and running off in haste.

After Ye Qing was gone, Granny Xia circled around the haystack he was hiding in a moment ago and wondered, “Strange. I’m sure I felt a potent presence in this direction. Why is it gone now?”

A short while later, she shook her head and chuckled self-derisively. “I guess it’s just my imagination. I am an old lady now.”

It was at this moment Lin Hu and Chen Zheng walked up to Granny Xia. They had taken out every Red Walker in the village. “It’s done, Granny Xia. What do we do now?”

Granny Xia’s tone turned heavy and solemn. “The sarcophagus is the one entombed in Jade Dragon Lake, no? Despite its fearsome power, it was never a problem for us because it does not go beyond the lake. One might even say it’s perfectly harmless as long as you do not enter its domain.

“Unfortunately, that isn’t the case anymore. If not for the Heavens’ Eye, I doubt that anyone would’ve lived to tell the tale. There is no way we can suppress this Stranger, so I suggest that we report this to the Pacification Bureau in Anyang and request their assistance as soon as possible.”

Lin Hu and Chen Zheng agreed immediately. “You won’t hear an objection from us.”

Granny Xia nodded before continuing, “One more thing. The Heavens’ Eye has used up all of its power to repel the Stranger, and it will be three months at least before it recovers. In other words, August Hill Village will not have an ace in the hole until then. We must be ready for anything.”

“Worry not, Granny Xia. We understand,” Lin Hu and Chen Zheng replied solemnly.

The Heavens’ Eye was the national relic of Chu. It was said to possess limitless power and the ability to keep vigil over the entire realm, suppressing any and all Strangers that fell within its watchful gaze. Of course, the ancient mirror hung in front of August Hill Village was not the genuine article. It was just an imitation that contained a sliver of the Heavens’ Eye power. Not only that, it took months to recharge every time it was used up.

Every prefecture, commandery, county and village in Chu owned an imitation of the Heavens’ Eye. It was to be used only in times of great crisis. Although August Hill Village had managed to overcome their crisis, it had also cost them their greatest trump card. It was a terrible loss to say the least.

“I’m going back to make the report now. I trust that the two of you can handle the aftermath?” Granny Xia asked.

“No worries, Granny Xia. Just leave it to us.”

After the old woman was gone, Chen Zheng shot Lin Hu an enigmatic smile and asked, “I heard you recruited Ye Qing into the watchmen, brother Lin?”

.

Lin Hu replied stiffly and mockingly, “You are very well-informed, brother Chen!”

Chen Zheng did not take offense though. He continued to wear a sunny grin on his face as he explained, “Please don’t misunderstand. I just happened to hear about it in passing.”

“...”

“You and I are two of the only three martial artists of August Hill Village, brother Lin. Hundreds of lives are counting on us to ensure their survival in this harsh world. Therefore, I beseech you not to spoil our good relationship over an insignificant matter. That will not benefit you, me, or August Hill Village, don’t you agree?”

“Hrmph. You don’t get to tell me what I can or cannot do!”

Lin Hu knew that Chen Zheng was warning him to stay out of his feud with Ye Qing, of course. He had even laid bare the consequences that would follow should he ignore his warning.

The worst part of it was that he couldn’t say that he disagreed with Chen Zheng.

Chen Zheng laughed. “Of course I don’t, brother Lin. I’m just giving you advice, is all. I will be happy enough if you will sit on it.”

That was all he said before he turned away to leave.

A displeased Lin Hu glared daggers at Chen Zheng’s back. “In that case, I have some advice for you as well, brother Chen. Ye Qing is a member of the watchmen now. You best not do something that’ll cross the line!”

“What was it you said again just now? You don’t get to tell me what I can or cannot do either,” Chen Zheng responded without looking back. A sneer crossed his lips as he stared at the floor of corpses beneath him,

“Do you truly believe you’re safe just because you’ve joined the watchmen and attached yourself to Lin Hu, Ye Qing? How naive. You were dead from the moment I made up my mind to kill you!”

“Life is cheap. The only one we can rely on is ourselves.”

“Unfortunately for you, Ye Qing, you do not possess the power to change your fate!”

……

Ye Qing had no idea about the conversation that took place between Lin Hu and Chen Zheng. The second he returned home, he immediately snatched the teapot on the table and took two long gulps directly from the spout. It wasn’t until the cool, bitter tang of tea had permeated his entire mouth that he finally began to calm down.

It couldn’t be helped. Today had been a shocking day in more ways than one. Although he already knew from his host’s memories that this world was exceedingly dangerous, he still wasn’t prepared for the sea of blood, the Stranger in the sarcophagus, or the Heavens’ Eye at all. The world was just so exciting and dangerous he could die, literally.

“This world is just too hostile. I need to get stronger as soon as possible.”

A bitter smile spread across Ye Qing’s lips. If it wasn’t for the Annon Sutra, the blood qi might have contaminated him enough to turn into a Red Walker already. Furthermore, he had already joined the watchmen. Once his injuries were healed, he would have to join them on expeditions and fight against all kinds of Strangers. Without strength, he was as defenseless as a babe before those things.

That was why he needed to grow stronger. It was either that, or die.

When Ye Qing felt that he had rested enough, he grabbed two cornbreads from the kitchen and swallowed them with some cold water. He didn’t need to be full; he just needed to have enough strength to perform what was to come. After pulling a chair over to the entrance and taking a seat, he began reading the “Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation” he had received from Lin Hu.

Sunlight pierced through the thick clouds and cast a weak glow on the young man’s youthful but resolute countenance. At that moment, he almost looked like he was glowing.

“I see. The first step to cultivation is the Body Tempering stage!”

It took Ye Qing about an incense stick to pour through the entire manual from start to finish. According to the text, all warriors must begin their cultivation journey by tempering their body, also known as the Body Tempering stage. Warriors at this stage were known as Reforged. First, they must temper their limbs. Next, they must temper their torso. Then, they would temper their skin, and finally, they would temper their internal organs. They must start small before they could move onto the big, and they must complete the externals first before moving onto the internals. It was the proper way to activate one's strength and vigor. If the warrior was successful, then their skin would harden, their flesh and bone would become strong, their vigor would be unending, and their strength would be extraordinary.

The “Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation” was precisely what Ye Qing needed to begin his cultivation journey; a Body Tempering stage cultivation art. At first glance the cultivation art only had seven forms, but each form was made up of seven minor variations. In other words, there was a total of forty-nine forms in the “Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation”. As a whole, they represented a harmonious cycle that tempered the body, strengthened the muscles and bones, and enlarged the strength and vigor.

“Let’s start with the first form!”

Without further ado, Ye Qing rose to his feet and began emulating the first illustration on the paper. It wasn’t easy though. Almost as soon as he twisted his body into the correct position, he started hearing strange pops and screeches that sounded like his bones cracking, and his muscles rubbing viciously against one another. It only got worse as he moved on from one minor variation to another. Despite the blood draining away from his face and large beads of sweat forming on his forehead, he forced himself to ignore the pain and soldiered on.

When Ye Qing finally went through all seven minor variations of the first form, he was drenched in sweat like he had just crawled out of a river. His clothes were completely soaked through, and there wasn’t a single part of his body—his internal organs, his bones, his muscles, and even his skin—that wasn’t on fire. There was also an undercurrent of numbness.

Ye Qing tried practicing the second form after completing the first, but he immediately felt like he was being crushed and molded by a giant hand. The pain had climbed to a new crescendo, and blood was starting to leak out of his pores again. If someone were to pass by his house right now, they might just mistake him as another Red Walker.

“Huff… huff… Dammit, this body is just too weak.” Ye Qing hurriedly stopped his training before letting out a long sigh.

At first glance, the “Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation” looked fairly easy to practice. In reality, each form, each minor variation affected the skin, the muscles, the bones, the arteries and veins, and even the internal organs in its entirety. When a warrior had gone through all forty-nine forms and completed a full cycle, they would have tempered every part of their body one time.

With enough practice, the warrior would discover that their bodily functions and organs were much better than before. If they managed to reach the adept level, then their skin would become as tough as iron, their muscles and bones would turn as hard as steel; their vigor rivaling that of a tiger’s, and their strength comparable to that of a fiery stallion.

Unfortunately, Ye Qing’s body was just too weak to withstand the tempering effects of the “Seven Forms of Demon Subjugation”, not to mention that he was still recovering from his injuries. Forget completing a full cycle, he couldn’t even begin the second form without feeling like he was about to tear himself apart. He could only take it one step at a time.

In fact, Ye Qing wasn’t the only one who found themselves in the same predicament. Most of the villagers could only practice the cultivation art slowly and methodically as well.

“No, this isn’t going to work!”

Ye Qing didn’t mind slow and steady, but he just didn’t have enough time. At this rate, it would take him two or three months to complete a full cycle without collapsing, and over a full year to reach the adept level and become an adept Reforged. He would probably be dead by then.

Ye Qing sighed wistfully. “If only I have one of those miraculous medicines that can swiftly replenish both strength and vigor…”

According to the manual, the practitioner was strongly encouraged to consume strength and/or vigor replenishing medicines so as to shorten their recovery time and hasten their progress. The problem was, he didn’t have any!

Suddenly, Ye Qing perked up and looked down at his shirt. “Wait. Why don’t I ask the Annon Sutra about this? Maybe it has a solution to offer?”


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