There was a whole army coming for him. Wei Wuxian knew full well that he was completely backed into a corner. Any attempt at escaping was beyond impossible now. He was going to die. He was going to die alone and surrounded by the hateful gazes of these cultivators demanding for his head.
No matter where he looked, familiar and unfamiliar faces gazed back at him, disgust, repulsion, hatred, and anger flashing on their faces. He looked over to the sea of cultivators dressed in white, searching for a familiar stone-faced man with golden eyes. He wondered if Lan Zhan had also participated in the siege, fulling knowing that the righteous Hanguang-Jun hated his guts. Why wouldn't he?
After all, Wei Wuxian had tread the dark path which went against the principles of the Lan clan who believed in cultivating the righteous path and dissociating with the evil.
He tried to find the man to no avail. If Wei Wuxian was going to die here, then he would rather die by the Second Jade's hands.
He didn't know why, but the very thought of dying by Lan Zhan's hands felt peaceful. It was as if he would die by Second Master Lan's hands, then he would feel that his death would be not be meaningless at all.
Instead of the Second Jade, his eyes made contact with Lan Xichen, whose was face grim with an indiscernible expression. Beside him, Lan Qiren's face was red with poorly concealed fury, eyes shimmering with abhorrent disgust. That was no surprise. Old Man Lan always seemed to hold a grudge against him.
Then there was Jin Guangshan, his eyes glinting with an all too familiar greed that Wei Wuxian was well associated with. Disgusting.
At the front of the group stood Jiang Cheng, face black with murderous anger.
Ah, was that it? He was going to die today, and by the hands of his martial younger brother. When he saw Jiang Cheng, a surge of hope had filled his heart - maybe, maybe Jiang Cheng would at least spare the Wen Remnants knowing full well that they were all innocents - but one look at the other male's face shattered all his hopes. What was he even thinking? Of course Jiang Cheng would never do something like that. The Zidian wielder was a narrow-minded person. Once his mind was made up on something, he never backed down. He was adamant to accomplish the task no matter what.
Taking large strides, Jiang Cheng plunged Sandu into his stomach, right where the surgery had been conducted. It was an old wound, yet Wei Wuxian found himself wincing at the sharp pain in his stomach, as the sharp edge of the sword cut through his flesh and innards. He looked up and met his brother's hateful glare.
"Wei. Wuxian. Go. To. Hell." Each word was punctuated out slowly, dripping with spiteful venom. Jiang Cheng pushed his sword deeper, causing Wei Wuxian to spat out a mouthful of blood. Around them, the cheers erupted from the surrounding army of cultivators.
"Yeah! Make the bastard pay!"
"A dog who bites the hand that feeds him! It was because of this demon Lotus Pier was burnt down!"
"Sect Leader Jiang, you go!"
"Wei Wuxian, you killed A-Jie. It was because of you my parents died! A-Niang was right all along. You bring nothing but trouble and disgrace to our sect! A-Die treated you like his own son, and this is how you repay them?! By bringing about death and destruction to the YunmengJiang Sect?! Wei Wuxian, you ungrateful son of a servant!"
That's right, Wei Wuxian looked at his martial brother in remorse. It's my fault that Shijie died. I killed Jin Zixuan, and Jin Ling is now an orphan. Wen Ning and Wen Qing gave up their lives for my sake. I really am a horrible person, huh?
Wei Wuxian looked at Jiang Cheng for the last time, before ordering one of the corpses to get him far away. Jiang Cheng was roughly pushed back. His back collided with an unnamed disciple as they helped him to regain his footing. Wei Wuxian took out the Stygian Tiger Seal as the cultivators' faces turned white in horror.
"I-It's the Stygian Tiger Seal!"
"Somebody stop him!"
"Get that seal from him!"
That voice. It could only belong to the ugliest, most disgusting, most perverted, uncultured swine of the cultivation world: Jin Guangshan.
Wei Wuxian locked gazes with the Jin Leader and smiled crudely. You are never going to get your hands on this seal. I will destroy it even if it costs my life.
A dangerous weapon like this should never fall into the hands of a slimeball like Jin Guangshan. He would make sure of it.
"Wei Wuxian, don't!"
He barely registered Jiang Cheng's yell as he crushed the amulet in his hands. A blast of resentful energy violently burst out of the seal, the backlash throwing many people off guard. Those with low cultivation were flung away like ragdolls, their bodies ungracefully landing meters away from where they were originally standing.
The fierce corpses' growling stopped, their heads snapping towards their master, and like a switch being flipped, they directed their sanguinity towards the demonic cultivator.
The astounded cultivators could only gape as the horde of fierce corpses lunged for Wei Wuxian, the nearest one grabbing his ankle, and making the latter lose his balance. Soon, the entire army had surrounded him, each wanting to take a bite out of the Yiling Patriarch.
"Wha-!? I-Is this what I am seeing...is it r-really happening?!" A no-name cultivator whispered, disbelief clearly written all over his face.
Jiang Cheng was entirely frozen in horror and shock. And then, his senses were overridden by uncontrollable rage.
That bastard can't die just like that! If Wei Wuxian was going to die, then it would be by Jiang Cheng's hands. Zidian lashed out wildly, taking out the nearest fierce corpse and sending it flying away.
Meanwhile, buried under the smelly corpses, Wei Wuxian could only blink in confusion. Something was not right. Despite having his body get crushed under the weight of the fierce corpses, none where attempting to eat him.
'Huh? Wait what!?'
"Oh hello there~" Wei Wuxian stiffened, his whole body going cold at the voice. He did not know who that voice belonged to, but that voice had always haunted him. The owner of that voice was the most sinister, most sadistic, and had made numerous attempts at forcefully taking over his body. When Wei Wuxian had destroyed the seal, all the resentful spirits had cursed him, eagerly chanting for the corpses to tear him apart. All but one voice had wished for his ultimate death. If this guy was speaking up now when he had been silent all along, something told Wei Wuxian that this one was up to no good.
'What do you want?'
"Say, are you really planning to throw away everything you have worked so hard for?"
'Elaborate.' Wei Wuxian forced out calmly, despite having a sinking feeling as to where this conversation was going.
"Are you going to let these weaklings trample your home and kill every single person whom you hold dear? You spent three years, secluding yourself in Burial Mounds. Despite facing so many hardships, you found a family that you cared about, and they in turn, returned the favor. You planted radishes, bargained with the shopkeepers, and had dinner together. Here, in this wretched mountain, you survived. You created fond memories here, ones which were way better than those you in Lotus Pier."
'Are you fucking joking?! Lotus Pier was my home! I very much enjoyed staying there, thank you very much. The memories I created there, I will forever cherish them in my heart!'
"The only good thing about your 'home' was your Shijie and the Shidis who were devoted to you. Would you really call getting whipped almost thrice in a week a 'fond memory'?"
Wei Wuxian felt as if he was being pierced by a thousand arrows. Was getting whipped by Zidian 'fond'? No, absolutely not. It was utter hell. But! Then again Shijie was always there to nurse his wounds. She was always there with a genuine smile, kind words, and of course, the delight of Wei Wuxian: Lotus Root and Pork Rib Soup.
Her gentle hands would wipe away the blood, her sweet voice was so soothing that any and all pain was forgotten immediately. He loved her. He truly did.
Even after knowing he was the cause of Jin Zixuan's death, she had not looked at him with disgust or hatred, only understanding and forgiving.
Why? He just couldn't get it. Why would she even forgive him after what he had done to her? He had made her a widow. And then, it was entirely his fault that she died.
The spark of purple caught his eye as a fierce corpse was sent flying away to the side.
"Look at that, Wei Wuxian. Look at the man whom you call your 'brother'. You sacrificed your golden core and gave up your cultivation, turned to a darker path, yet he so casually tosses you away, as if your existence no longers hold value. Yes, that's right. For him, for YunmengJiang Sect, you have always been a servant's son. You were meant to serve only them, you were to commit your loyalty only towards them. Anyone else who received your full devetion were considered 'unworthy of deserving it'. For them, those people were conceived as a threat. Do you get what I am trying to say?"
'I don't regret giving away my golden core. If I were to do it again, then I would gladly do so. Jiang Cheng needed it more than I. Besides I had a debt to repay to the Jiangs for taking me. If not for Uncle Jiang, I would have died on the streets. I was able to cultivate a golden core, able to wield a sword and experience the thrill of flying. Had I not done the Golden Core transplant, then YunmengJiang Sect would have been doomed. It's because of Jiang Cheng that the sect is still standing. He was efficiently able to rebuild Lotus Pier without my help. That itself is enough to assure me that it was worth sacrificing my Golden Core and reputation for.'
For a while there was silence. Then, a sharp bark of laughter vibrated in his ears.
"Foolish human! Are you all mortals idiots without a sense of self-preservation?! I can now see how you landed in a dog's breakfast-"
'Hey! Don't mention dogs!'
"- you are a self-sacrificing idiot, boy. You never complain, and take whatever is offered to you, good or bad, without raising your voice. You were whipped by the Jiang Matriarch just for being better than her son. Is it not unfair? You, after all, should know that human beings have no control over their abilities and weaknesses. The former Jiang Sect Leader even asked you to give up your life for Jiang Wanyin, not even asking you to take care of yourself or stay safe. This just goes to show that he never saw you. He only saw Cangse Sanren, your mother, the woman he loved and continued to do so even after they were both married, even after he produced two children. This just shows your worth. In other words, you were always meant to be a human shield for the Jiang Sect."
'You think I would believe such bullshit?!' Wei Wuxian became angry. 'Those were just rumors! Madam Yu just misunderstood the friendship between my parents and Uncle Jiang.'
The voice sounded highly amused. "Boy, people don't just gossip for the sake of it. Yes, rumors are more often consisted of fabricated cock and bull story, but sometimes they also hold steadfast truth. If Jiang Fengmian did not like your mother, then he would have put his foot down and tell everyone to quit spreading false information. But, he didn't~ What do you have to say about that, A-Xian?"
'Don't call me that. You and I are not familiar with each other for you to call me so intimately. As for your question, why would Uncle Jiang waste his breath and energy to stop something that has already been circulated widely. People talk. It's in their nature. They want to get rid of their boredom. Do you think even if Uncle Jiang denied being in love with my mother , it would shift their perspective immediately? No, it wouldn't. So, stop trying to convince me otherwise. You must take me for a fool if you truly thought I was going to fall for such cheap deception.'
There was a pregnant pause, the atmosphere around them tense. Wei Wuxian barely registered as to what was even going on outside of the temporary sort-of barrier that he was caged in.
"I will be frank. I saw your memories."
"I saw your memories," the voice chuckled full of mirth. "I wonder though, why would you respect a woman like Yu Ziyuan? Can't you see she hated you so much? Even when you tried to reason with her, you tried to make her aware of the incoming danger posed by the Wens, what did she do? Belittle you and wave off your concern, because of course, a servant's son's opinion is equivalent to a child's nonsensical babbling. When Lotus Pier fell, she pinned all the blame on you saying that you dragged the Wens towards Lotus Pier."
'What does it have to do with the Wens and me being blamed?' Wei Wuxian's tone was icy and threating, challenging the stranger to continue his bogus.
"Do tell me, was it really you who brought the Wens to Lotus Pier? 'Come, come, attack my home! You are free to do so'."
'That was a lame joke.'
The stranger laughed loudly, dark amusement evident in his titter.
"All jokes aside. You haven't answered my question yet."
A beat passed by, before Wei Wuxian said, voice so, so soft. '...No.'
"That's right. Shall I tell you something, kid? You repent when you truly make a mistake. Why shoulder blame for something you haven't even caused? I really pisses me off when I am blamed for a cause I do not even know, let alone participate in it."
'Are you telling the truth or are you just cooking up some good pickup lines out of nowhere?'
"HAHAHA!!! Kid, you really are something else, no? I ain't cooking pickup lines. I'm terrible at them anyway. What I'm telling ya is from my experience. Before my death. Before I was a mortal, just like you and those assholes out there calling for your head."
"WEI WUXIAN, YOU BASTARD!!! DON'T YOU DARE DIE! YOU STILL HAVE A LOT TO EXPLAIN!" Jiang Cheng's roar thundered amidst the loud growling of the fierce corpses, and the numerous cheers from the cultivators.
"Don't worry, A-Xian. So long as I am here, he won't be able to get to us."
'Why are you doing this? What do you even want from me?'
"What do I want? That's a good question. I am just enjoying all the hypocrisy and drama unfold before my eyes. I will be quite honest, I was disappointed. Humans do not change. They will never change. Perhaps, it was naïve of me to think that the next generation would not follow their predecessor's footsteps. I was really hoping for a brighter future. Peh. It looks like history is going to repeat itself once more."
'You - what even happened to you?' Wei Wuxian could feel the curiosity getting to him. This person, whoever he was, was quite dangerous, and yet there was also something about him - his past especially - that made the young demonic cultivator wonder what kind of life the man had exactly led. He said history was repeating itself. Does that mean the stranger had a life similar to his? Was he too shunned and backstabbed by the rest of the cultivation world?
Wei Wuxian did not know, but his gears were turning rapidly.
"Are you planning to die here today?"
The stranger - no man's voice - interrupted his train of thought. It took him a while to process the query.
'Yes. I guess it's only karma that I die being ripped to shreds by my own creation. I killed Shijie and Jin Zixuan, Jin Ling is now an orphan, and Jiang Cheng is hurting. It's fair, is it not?'
The man went eerily silent. Wei Wuxian felt quite nervous. He did not know why, but the man's silence was killing him slowly.
"Have you wondered," the man said after a while, his voice strangely blank and devoid of any emotion, "what exactly would happen to these Wens whom you have been protecting all this time? Was it not agreed that if Wen Ning and Wen Qing handed themselves over, the rest of the Wens and you would be pardoned for the crime of killing Jin Zixuan and all the Jin cultivators at Qiongqi Path?"
Wei Wuxian, for the umpteenth time that day felt his resolve crumble. For the first time, in so many years, Wei Wuxian could do nothing but to stare blankly, words refusing to come out of his mouth.
"Jiang Wanyin, despite knowing that Wen Ning and Wen Qing saved his and your lives, at the risk of being found out that they were hiding fugitives, refused to repay the debt. And when you do in his stead, he calls you ungrateful and someone with a hero-complex. He knows that the Wen Remnants consist of nothing but the elderly, civilians, non-cultivators and a toddler who was unfortunate to be swept up in this whole mess, and yet he agreed to lay a siege upon you. He saw that his sister had sacrificed her life for you, and yet he decided to turn around and spit on her sacrifice. He deliberately wants to hurt you, hurt your family. If you don't call this behavior selfish and self-centered, then what do you call it?"
"Did you honestly think that if they spot the Wen toddler, they will spare his life. Ha. No. What they will do? They will immediately kill him without remorse. Never let it be said that a four-year old has got nothing to do with the atrocities the adults of his clan has committed."
Wei Wuxian felt the guilt descending down upon him with full force. His eyes closed, and his mind's eye, he saw them - the Wen Remnants and A-Yuan, their bodies dyed crimson, large stabbing wounds visible to the naked eye. He saw the bodies being piled up and thrown into the blood pool without any regard to at least calm the resentful spirits.
"Even if you hold regrets, even if you want to die, then why not at least think of those Wens whom you protected. For them, you let your reputation be blackened and dragged down, you allowed these hypocrites to spat on your name and vilify your actions. You were called a 'hero' during the Sunshot Campaign. But after the war was over, you became the 'villain'. Why? Because these self-righteous pigs wanted a scapegoat to gossip about. And who better than the man who turned to demonic path?
"Are you truly so selfish that you would let the last of your family be massacred? Are you going to let these filthy beasts kill a four-year old? You may have hidden him inside the trunk of a tree, but what if someone finds his hideout? What do you think will happen then? Wei Wuxian, the choice is yours. You either die with shedload of regrets, or you live with little regrets, knowing full well that you were at least able to save the ones who truly cared about you. They are your family, are they not? Even though none of you share the same blood link, family is more about true bonds than blood-relation. Wei Wuxian, why I am exactly telling you this is because I don't want you to make the same mistake as I did."
"I don't want you to make the same mistake as I did." The words repeated themselves over and over again in his head, echoing loudly to the point that his ears hurt, and he wanted nothing more to slam his palms over them and shut out the grating voice.
Idly he recalled a promise he made under the bright night sky lit up by hundreds of dazzling lanterns.
"I, Wei Wuxian, of YunmengJiang Sect, wish to continue to upholding justice and following the path of righteousness, and to also live a life without regrets."
He saw A-Yuan, his sweet little radish - his son - staring up at him with cold, dead lifeless eyes. A-Yuan, who was born into a cursed clan. A-Yuan, who deserved the whole world, whose childhood should have been filled with laughter and joy, surrounded by other children and making friends, dwelling in a luxurious house, free from all the hate and strife of this world. A-Yuan, who deserved to grow up and see the beauty of the world; despite its bleakness, there was still something precious and beautiful on this planet. A-Yuan, whose lifespan did not deserve to be cut short.
The Wen Remnants - they were all innocent and guiltless. They were the reason why he still felt alive, and warm. They were the reason why even in the bleakest of times, he was still able to let a genuine smile, and crack jokes.
They were the sole reason why he hadn't succumbed to his grief and madness of hearing the resentful voices in his head yet.
Wei Wuxian closed his eyes. This was the hardest decision he had ever made. But, he did not regret it. Silently, he sent a prayer to Shijie, asking her to forgive him for what he was about to do now. There was no looking back.
That was it. He was not going to let this bastards snatch his family away from him. He was not going to risk A-Yuan's life. He was dead tired, the last strings of his patience snapping.
Wei Wuxian had made his choice.
"Good. Very good. Now you sleep, A-Xian. Leave the rest to us. To me."
"What's going on?" Nie Mingjue scowled impatiently as he watched the young Jiang Sect Leader continue to hack apart corpses, tearing his way towards his shixiong with a wild ferocity.
"I don't know," Sect Leader Yao said. "But I would like confirmation on whether Wei Wuxian is dead or not."
Murmurs of agreement was heard.
A sudden, powerful gust of explosion sent Jiang Cheng flying away, meters behind the sea of cultivators. He landed with a loud thud, the sound of broken bones echoing unpleasantly in the still silence.
"Hey," Sect Leader He whispered. "What on earth was that?"
As if eager to clear his confusion, the smoke cleared, revealing multiple glowing eyes.
"Look!" Sect Leader Ouyang cried out in alarm. Following his gaze, the sea of cultivators were filled with cold dread as the Yiling Patriarch, in all his glory, stood still, eyes glowing crimson, the other half of the Stygian Tiger Amulet in his palm. Tendrils of black energy seeped out from the artifact, and the boogeyman of the cultivation world was bathed in shadows. At that moment, he clearly represented the paragon of evil, and at once, all the cultivators almost went weak on their knees.
Hair swaying wildly, and a slight smirk plastered on his face, Wei Wuxian pulled out the other half of the Seal that was unmarred. The corpses that had been attacking their master stopped dead in their tracks, and then turned around, facing the cultivators.
The air was thick with tension, the cultivators looking at Wei Wuxian in pure terror, while the latter smiled darkly, his mouth moving to form the words:
"Let's play a game, shall we?"
And then chaos broke out.
The fierce corpses lunged at the army of cultivators, and they in turn, screamed and tried to cut down the undead in fruitless endeavor. No matter how many fierce corpses were cut down, new ones would remmerged from the ground. Even with their spiritual energy, there was only so much the cultivators could do. Once their spiritual energy was drained, they were as good as dead.
The screams, growls and sound of clashing metals echoed across the Luangzang Hill.
All the while, the man in black and red watched with open fascination and a delighted look crossed on his face.
He had finally enacted his revenge.