After leaving the Listening Bamboo courtyard, Xiao San headed to the training ground where he saw Xing Feng kneeling at his spot, his waist still as straight as a rod despite the time that had passed. As he neared him, he told Xing Feng in a low voice, “The chief ordered that Foreman Xing may rise now.”
Xing Feng picked himself up. Numbed from being on his legs for so long, Xing Feng struggled to stand properly and quickly tripped. Xiao San hurried over to help him stand.
Perhaps through coincidence it led to Xin Feng reading his pulse, who frowned as soon as he felt the result. ” The Devouring Gu worm has started to move, you have planted the Gu worm on Slayer May?”
Xiao San nodded, “The chief ordered for it, so I planted it into her with my own hands.”
Trying to keep his tone even, he stopped for a moment before he added, “That Gu worm, will it truly not harm her?”
“Of course it will not harm her, the only one who will be in pain will be you.” Xing Feng turned his attention to him. “You were extremely close to her when you planted it did it feel as if a thousand arrows had pierced your heart?”
Xiao San lowered his head and did not answer. After a short while, Xing Feng started to laugh bitterly,” You will return to your Mistress’ side very soon. As the Gu worm is already planted, the chief will of course not miss this chance to torture you.”
It was not long before Xin Feng words rang true. Xiao San returned to Courtyard Mei, carrying the soul destroyer sword, his face slightly pale, and shadows greeted the area beneath his eyes.
As soon as he saw Wan Mei he spread the rolled up sheepskin scroll and explained to her what the mission was this time. “Mistress, the target for assassination this time is the Right Protectorate of the Blood Lotus religious Sect. You will work with another Heavenly Slayer, Yue Ying. The Right Protectorate is called Lan Ruo. Even our Ghost Eyes are unable to detect the martial arts technique he uses.”
Wan Mei nodded all the way throughout. She clutched his large right hand within hers and rested it onto her cheek.
Immediately he felt the Gu worm gnaw at his heart vessels. He bit the inside of his cheek again and again, in an attempt to distract himself from the pain on his chest. There were so many reasons he could use to let that hand go, forbidding her to hold his hand, but he did not. Instead his fingers traced her cheek, as if nurturing a dream that will break anytime.
3 days passed before they left for their mission. Wan Mei and Yue Ying shared a horse carriage, where the curtains were tightly closed all the way to the destination. It was a long journey.
Yue Ying was a girl of few words. She was a cold beauty who barely uttered a word throughout their excursion together. She did not smile let alone talk.
Their destination was the Lan Zhao city of the Southern Jiang province. Wan Mei and Yue Ying strolled side by side down the street, and quickly realized that blood lotuses were being sold in every corner of every street.
The majority were tiny, carved out of rock, and utilizing some technique, to dye them a scarlet red.
Wan Mei selected a shop and spent three taels of silver on a flower. The owner of the shop clasped his hands and blessed her, “I hope the blood lotus of the wishing pool will protect Miss and wash away the crimes in your past life.”
Wan Mei smiled in reply, and resting it between her hands, she lifted it up and observed it carefully.
The sun shone above her head, and onto the stone flower, producing a small shadow between her brows. It was a small, seven petal lotus flower. At first, it was nothing but a dark shadow lotus reflected onto her brow, except it’s color turned brighter and brighter as if blood had seeped into it. Finally, a scarlet lotus flower blossomed onto the brow of her eyes.
“The blood lotus flower!” Before long, the shopkeeper recognized it’s significance and let out a throaty cry before stumbling over and falling by Wan Mei’s feet. He raised his arms to the skies, whilst touching the blood lotus flower on Wan Mei’s forehead with reverence.
“Heaven has mercy on us! The reincarnation of the blood lotus is here!” he yelled towards the heavens, his voice penetrating through the entire street, halting everyone’s steps.
And so Wan Mei and Yu Ying became the center of the entire street. Circle upon circle of people surrounded them all kneeling before them, with their hands raised to the sky, trying to revere the blood lotus on Wan Mei’s forehead.
“Heaven has mercy on us! The blood lotus has reincarnated!”
That announcement broke the silence of Lan Zhao city, until it reached the undisturbed bloody pool in the east of the city.
Human blood flowed within this dull red body of water where a dim light glistened on it’s surface and surrounded by a whitewashed wall. In the center was a lotus flower, still in the form a of bud.
“Something seems to have occurred,” Lan Ruo who was playing Go by the poolside suddenly said, the hand that was clasping the white Go piece halted in mid air. Worry etching his brow.
“Our Lan Ruo’s sixth sense is never wrong.” You Chan Lang who was his opponent, said with a laugh. Slanting a look at him, she said, “Only did anyone tell you, how good you look in the way you held that Go piece, I keep looking at you, that is why I keep losing.”
Lan Ruo glanced over at her, and patiently maintained his pose. “Lady Left Protectorate, my lady You Chan, if I put this piece here, you’ll lose again. Are you going to regret your move?”
After seeing Wan Mei, Lan Ruo’s first response was to sigh, sighing as he traced the blood lotus flower on her forehead with a finger.
The Nan Jiang (southern Jiang) rumor stated that everyone carried karma from the life before and that the current reincarnation was just to repay the debts from the previous life.
The blood in the pool contained all the blood of the people in the entire Lan Zhao city, after they died, their feet would be removed from their body and threw them in, representing greed, desire, and all the crimes in the world.
It was rumored as long as the lotus flower sits in the center of pool blossoms, then the crimes of everyone will be pardoned. In the next life, they will live in paradise, never having to go through the pain of reincarnation again.
The Blood Lotus religion arose from this, and was revered by everyone in Nan Jiang. Every time there was a change in the leader of the Blood Lotus religion it is rumored that there will be a change in the weather and the next leader would have be born with a birthmark in the shape of a blood lotus.
Only a rumor would always be a rumor. Lan Ruo of course knew this. The so called lotus birthmark it was only a type of Gu sorcery, a technique just to fool the masses.
“Where did your flower come from? Who taught you Gu sorcery?” He pressed his finger on the space between Wan Mei’s brow and sighed softly. “Do you know that what you’re doing is playing with fire. You will lose your life for this.”
The red lotus flower on her brow started to jump under his finger and then left Wan Mei’s brow and formed a small droplet of blood between his fingers.
It was a blood Gu worm. A dead blood Gu worm that was formed after draining a portion of Liu Guang’s blood that was contained with it. Afterwards it was dried and then pounded into a powder. Although the powder was colorless, but once it was rubbed onto the skin of a person, and warmed up, it would produce the color of blood. And become an everlasting mark on the subject’s body.
Wan Mei used it to draw a lotus flower on her forehead and hence became the reincarnation of the blood lotus.
“You are not disciples of our religious sect, yet you know how to utilize the Gu magic of the Sect. I would like to know why?” Lan Ruo swayed that blood droplet on the centre of his palm. The tone of his voice soft and soothing.
His hands were the most beautiful hands Wan Mei had seen in her entire life. All his fingers long and even, each of his movements graceful. But it was this pair of elegant hands that after her silent permission, moved over and pressed her and Yue Ying’s acupoint before gently carrying them in his arms and immersing them within the blood pool.
The blood within the pool was sticky and stifling, and quickly rose to Wan Mei’s chest. Wan Mei let out a cry of surprise, and watched as the red liquid lapping within the pool and that blood lotus slowly blossomed and inside was the face of an evil looking man.
“Even ghosts have lust.” Lan Ruo said slowly by the poolside. Wan Mei and Yue Ying only felt that the pool within the blood grew hotter and hotter and their clothes disappeared within a trace, they were slowly raised into the air, and the blood water that clung onto their soft peaks seemed to have a mind of their own, sucking their nipples like a passionate lover.
Pleasure and fear hit them with clarity. This time both Yue Ying and Wan Mei shrieked, using every strength in their body. “I’ll tell you!” Finally it was Yue Ying who couldn’t stand it anymore. Her body quivering with fear. “We are here to kill you. Someone taught us how to create that blood lotus, said that we could get close to you by doing so,” she confessed, begging for mercy.
Lan Ruo let out a bitter laugh. Using the same pair of graceful hands, with a gentle wave, all the illusions disappeared and Wan Mei discovered she was only seated near the side of the pool. Only her feet were tainted by the blood in the pool; her clothes remain clean and untouched. Everything was simply an illusion; the right protectorate of the Blood Lotus Religious Sect, Lan Ru was most skilled at illusion magic.
Yue Ying’s body was still shaking. For a moment, she felt the world spinning around her, and almost felt head in into the bloody pool. Lan Ruo grabbed hold of her, released her and Wan Mei’s acupoint and in a low voice said, “You may go.”
Surprised, Wan Mei glanced at him, “You’re letting us go? Are you not going to ask us who ordered us to come here?”
Lan Ruo lowered his head, his face still held same gentle expression on his face, but a thread of hair swept past his eyes, shielding the sadness in his eyes. “There are some things where one does not need to know the details,” he stated slowly, “it’s fine as long as one understands deep in the heart.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, other voices could be heard by the poolside. An eight foot giant if a man, his footsteps as loud as thunder led around ten other people who clattered around them.
“This subordinate heard that the blood lotus was reborn. May I ask Right Protectorate, where is the new Sect leader?” The giant clasped his fist (1), his voice was as loud as a clapper striking a bell, shaking the eardrums of everyone around him.
“It is merely a misunderstanding.” Lan Ruo raised his head. “I just asked that girl, she is from the mainland, where it is the custom there to draw flowers on the space between their brows. It is called the art of Hua Tian (2).
The man blinked, and lowered his head to first look at Wan Mei then Yue Ying and asked. “They’re from the mainland? It was a misunderstanding?” His voice was so loud that it was enough to even wake up someone who was deaf. Wan Mei frowned and slowly took two steps back.
It only took those 2 steps and revealed the change on her forehead. A red light shimmered and a red lotus flower burst out from under her skin. Everyone fell silent. It was the first time anger flashed prominently within Lan Ruo’s eyes, his hand shot out and pulled her to face him.
The red lotus flower continued to unfurl on her forehead. Wan Mei looked back at him, a seductive smile hung on her lips.
Illusion magic. It was something she had been experienced with Gong Zi. So how could the Wan Mei now who can control the firefly Gu at ease be affected by the illusion from before?
Whilst Lan Ruo was focused on casting the illusion spell, she was busy doing two things. One was to redraw the blood lotus on her forehead.
“Heaven has mercy on us! The blood lotus has been reincarnated!” The giant led the crowd to kneel before Wan Mei, his voice as loud as a bell, rippling the calm surface of the pool.
Lan Ruo clasped Wan Mei’s hand tightly and a bitter smile etched his face.
What to do? Tell the elders of the sect that the lotus flower was merely a trick? Or let the girl in front of him get what she wished? Before he could make a decision, the pool started to shift again. The solely standing lotus flower on the centre of the pool snapped in half and with a cracking sound fell into the centre of the pool.
That was the second thing Wan Mei did. Summoned up her inner strength to cut the stem of the lotus.
Nobody moved, including Lan Ruo. The expression on his face froze as he helplesslu watched the object of their worship sink to the bottom of the pool, sinking into the pool that represented all the sins of the sect.
Wan Mei went down on their kneels. Her hair flew in the gust of wind, her fingers spread like an unfurling lotus flower and croaked, “Heaven please forgive us. The blood lotus sect wishes to offer this as a sacrifice to atone for our sins.”
Everyone released a sigh of relief, and with the giant as their lead, turned towards Lan Ruo, “Where is the Left Protectorate? Only her blood has enough Yin to be offered as a sacrifice. It is time for her to sacrifice something for the sect!”
Lifting his head, Lan Ruo’s gentle aura suddenly dissipated and released the imposing aura of a leader. His gaze swept through the crowd, “That girl is a monster,” he announced, pointing his finger at Wan Mei’s neck. “I will execute her now, as for the consequences, I will bear them all.”
- Clasped hands: This is done to show respect to the other party. Often this occurs when both parties are either even in social status/power or used as a casual greeting between acquaintances. To greet a superior, you would lower your head and bow as well. Or if you are meeting someone such as the Emperor or Empress, you would go down on your knees and kowtow.
- 花鈿 or Hua Tian: This is a kind of traditional makeup technique where you would draw often butterflies, flowers, or birds on your face, forehead or the space between your brows. Traditionally it was done by women, but during the Sui dynasty, men would also plaster objects on their face too.