He was mistaken!
Tittering on the precipice of death, Wei Wuyin ’s response was delayed yet extremely forceful. He refused the urge to move, to take that next step into the darkness as he anxiously delved into his memories in hopes to retain the little bit of himself that remained.
’W-w-wha-what h-happe-ened? ’ The feeling of his consciousness hanging on the edge was quite strange. There was no pain. There was no feeling of anxiety. There were no alarms to speak of. Yet he knew death was just a single breath away.
Besides King, the three other Astral Souls simultaneously spoke out in hurried panic. Their mixed words were extremely confusing to him who was concentrating on maintaining his sense of self and resisting the urge to traverse the darkness. The jumbled mess offered no help, but he determined one definitive thing from their words: they didn ’t know.
Somehow, his outer shell that had restored itself and reaffirmed his sense of self had started to rapidly deteriorate once again. They hadn ’t even noticed until they felt the threat of dissipating themselves! If it wasn ’t for their alert, he wouldn ’t have noticed it at all.
For now, he had to try to recover once more before anything else. The four Astral Souls helped, sending bits of vivid memories that they recalled that shaped and birthed his individuality.
The day he met Du Ling.
As a young child, he ventured out often as the little lord of the Wei Clan who owned Red Dove City. The entire city respected him and he was quite playful at the time. His clan ’s city had a strict rule of executing criminals in a very public fashion, and a group of criminals from the Bucklion Gang had been recently detained by his older brother and were being executed one by one.
Du Ling was a causality of timing, yet he hadn ’t known that at the time. When Du Ling was given the chance to say his last words, the fear and despair on his face was as obvious as the full moon in a cloudless sky. Facing death, that fear of the end, terrifying exhaustion, and grievance in his heart, his last words were:
”I ’m hungry. ”
The crowd went silent for just a moment before erupting in rambunctious laughter, as expected, when they chastised the fool who was about to lose his head. While the world laughed, those words struck a chord with Wei Wuyin. It allowed him to realize that even in the most dangerous of times, hopelessness and despair flooding the heart, the mind would always desire something else.
It could ’ve been a slip of the tongue. A moment of confusion brought about by fear, but when Wei Wuyin, the child that he was, experienced all of this, it changed his mental image and perception towards everyone forever. Even a criminal about to taste death.
On a whim, he halted Du Ling ’s execution and offered him an apple. He saw Du Ling refuse to eat the apple, so he thought Du Ling wanted something else to eat. Then, they traveled together through it all. After his clan was exterminated, Du Ling never left his side.
His loyalty and trust was unquestionable. While he made mistakes here and there, it wasn ’t too important.
The day he met Su Mei.
After becoming a Core Disciple of the Scarlet Solaris Sect, on his way to pick up Bai Lin, he met Su Mei being abused by the harem she was a part of. Intrigued, he watched as Du Ling pointed out the owner of this harem was an outer disciple who was watching such abuse with delight.
One of the best decisions of his life was descending down and saving her. He pointed out her current circumstance, how she suffered under the watch of her trash of a man, and gave her the same question that he learned from Du Ling.
When asked that question, Su Mei responded with hesitation. In the end, he offered to take her somewhere else to figure it out. Since then, Su Mei had proven that she was hungry, and she was hungry for life more than most. She fought and trained ferociously, becoming his most capable lieutenant.
He learned a truth about humanity that day, and that all that was needed was a desire and a chance to forge something miraculous and outstanding. The question transformed into something profound, containing more meanings than just if the person wanted to eat, but if they wanted more in the face of all struggles.
These memories segwayed into his struggles in the Scarlet Solaris Sect, the schemes, the assassinations, and the challenges that he had to overcome. The allies he made, the enemies that sought after his life, and the pain of cultivating with everything he had.
He felt the sense of accomplishment at every victory he obtain, a feeling of pain at every loss he suffered, and a feeling of satisfaction at every success in his cultivation.
Before long, he had restored nearly thirty percent of his outer shell. With a refreshed sense of self, he calmly asked: ’Did the darkness just act to cleanse my outer shell without cause? I ’m no longer affected by the tortuously vivid memory of Long Chen ’s victory, of my fatal negligence, so how did this happen? ’
”… ” The four Astral Souls still couldn ’t answer. They knew nothing of this Calamity of Hell outside of those few words extracted by Ming Shufeng. Fortunately, Wei Wuyin hadn ’t asked them. He was asking himself.
While his Astral Souls were sentient, intelligent and self-aware, they lacked a critical aspect that could easily be overlooked: they weren ’t very good at learning, deducing, or explaining things. They could cultivate by themselves, a natural instinct of theirs as Spirits of Cultivation, but they couldn ’t train in arts, spells, methods or even concoct alchemical products by themselves.
They weren ’t complete souls, and they lacked this vital aspect. They thrived off what Wei Wuyin already knew or what their Daos were composed of. If Wei Wuyin was ignorant of something, they were similarly ignorant. If they knew of something, then Wei Wuyin already knew of it, but his mind would take a little longer to bring it out.
’Think Wuyin, think. What changed? ’ He hurried his mind to recall all his thoughts prior to the degradation. There wasn ’t much, so he pinpointed a peculiar detail. ’Before their shouts, I was thinking to myself that I would never neglect my cultivation. ’
That was it!
Wei Wuyin ’s silver eyes brightened in the darkness. This trial was based on causing the soul to experience a cleansing induced by regret, but regret didn ’t just manifest in the wallowing of the past, but the willingness to change oneself for the future! While he was aware of the falseness of the memory, it infused him with sufficient regret to induce a change in character, in thinking.
’I ’ll never indiscriminately kill simply because someone wants to harm me or my interests. Killing is an extreme, and solving one ’s every problem with it wasn ’t always the best course of action. I certainly can ’t make it my only solution. I learned this long ago. If I was like this, I would ’ve killed everyone in the Scarlet Solaris Sect that day. I would ’ve upturned everyone ’s lives, slaughtered them and their children, family members, and spouses. To ensure there were no roots left behind.
’I would ’ve destroyed the entire sect! That ’s not me. I no longer cultivate to strive for power, but to strive for freedom and life. ’ A calming sensation enveloped him, as if an invisible pair of hands grasping his throat had loosened its grip.
A cold, vicious mentality was forming within him and it was fueled by regret from his negligence.
’So that ’s how it is. How terrifying! Just being affected by regret through any way is enough to cleanse the outer shell. What type of Calamity of Hell is this? Feels more like a trap. How could one not change their thinking even if they ’ve obtained their awareness?! ’
This Calamity of Hell wasn ’t simple by any means. He had to ensure that he was completely unaffected by the memory, that he stayed true to himself. It was this self of his that was resisting the calamity, so he must not lose it.
”What ’s next? ” Kratos asked. Despite his dignity as a Void Dragon, a being that could enter anywhere and escape everywhere, there was a lingering sensation of unease within its voice. This calamity had given it too many frights and it was the closest that its ever experienced death.
They all knew that if Wei Wuyin lost his soul ’s outer shell, his soul would be whisked away to the River of Souls. They would be forced to go along with it.
’We stay true to ourselves. We continue forward. ’ The urge to move was becoming too much for him to resist. If he continued resisting, he felt that his soul might instantly disperse.
Step. Step. Ste-
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