Chapter 50: Judge
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
Cross Town, Li Mansion
The lights from the lanterns were dazzling. There were more than ten people holding weapons as they searched the entire yard for the perpetrator.
Hu Ban, a disciple from Holy Jail Sect rushed down as soon as he heard the news. Before long, he was standing at the spot where the stable boy had been knocked unconscious. Checking against the inventory list, he realized that the stable was indeed one horse short. The back door to the yard had also been left open. He walked towards the back door and found that there were horse trails leading away from it.
"This murderer had killed Li Wen Jing before stealing a horse and escaping on that horse!" Hu Ban concluded in anger. He retrieved a horsewhip and stepped over to the still-unconscious stable boy. With a swift action, he brought the whip down onto the man. The stable boy immediately woke up and shouted in apparent pain, before jumping up to his feet. Dried blood covered his left temple. He then shouted in confusion, "Men, come. A horse has been stolen!"
"Idiot!" Hu Ban was even more enraged as he took the whip repeatedly to the exposed flesh of the stable boy. In a clockwork fashion, he swung the whip high up before bringing it down upon the stable boy with a crack, splitting his skin open. The stable boy roared in pain. Hu Ban then said coldly, "Why aren't you informing the monastery of what's happened?"
"Yes sir!" It was early in the morning, the dew in the grass has yet to be dried up, and the sun had only just risen, but there was already someone running towards the monastery urgently.
Li Mansion was very close to the monastery, and he reached in no time. There was a huge locust tree outside the entrance of the monastery, and the pavement leading to the entrance was paved with limestones. Along the pavement were patches of grass grown on both sides.
The door of the monastery was painted in a deep shade of red, with 2 lanterns hanging from each side. There was a golden signboard which wrote "Golden Rooster Monastery". The man dashed into the monastery, using the door knocker to alert someone to his presence.
The door knocker acted like a bell of sorts and was made of bronze. If someone used a considerable amount of strength, it will produce a sharp, shrill sound that can reach long distances. A twelve or thirteen year old young Daoist opened the door, with hazy eyes and a head full of messy hair. He yawned and asked, "Who is it, it's still so early, why have you knocked on the door?"
"Something bad has happened. I come from Li Mansion. My master had been murdered."
"Shouldn't you inform the authorities, why have you come here of all places?" This little Daoist's role was just to wait on people, and did not know about matters like these. However, he had occasionally seen servants from Li Mansion and knew that this household was rather rich since their contributions to this monastery was in substantial amounts of silver. He still found is strange that something had happened to Master Li and yet he's here instead of reporting it to the officials.
He decided to ignore the uniqueness of this situation and walked in to inform his seniors. This monastery was very tidy. Right in front of the main hall was a statue of a Dao Sovereign, and several distinguished paintings were hung around the walls. There was a huge canopy where many other statues of deities could be found.
The little Daoist trudged through the inner sanctuary and knocked on the door. A man answered, "It's so early in the morning and you're disturbing me. What is it?"
The little Daoist then replied, "Leader, the big household of Li had a misfortune befall them. It's been said that Master Li has been murdered last night. They've come for you to assist them. One of their servants is at the door, should I let him in?"
"What? Master Li has been murdered?" The Daoist from within stood up.
The little Daoist paused and thought to himself for some time. There was no other Li Mansion in this town. There was only one Li Mansion, and the master was called Li Wen Jing. He then said, "Leader, there's no other big Li household in this town."
"Call your two senior brothers and tell them what's happened. I have to go to Li Mansion right away!" The leader instructed. Before long, a woman said, "Be careful, brother Xu."
It's been said that monasteries are differentiated into two different types, Offspring monasteries and forest monasteries. Offspring monasteries refer to rich monasteries which accept disciples from rich households. Forest monasteries refer to monasteries in which Daoists do not get married and pass their leadership to the next most capable person. This monastery was an offspring monastery, and thus they were allowed to wed. He knew that the voice he just heard belonged to his teacher's wife. Since he had received instructions from his teacher, he immediately turned around to leave without hesitation.
The monastery leader's expression was crestfallen as he looked up at the overcast sky. This monastery belonged to Holy Jail Sect. Li Wen Jing was an outer circle disciple and did not live here, but had his own mansion within the town.
Since Zhang Jie Yu had already began cultivating, his chances of becoming a High Scholar are rather slim, although not completely null, hence he decided to try anyway. He had brought several men along with him to the capital. After the examinations, he had some free time. Li Wen Jing had returned to his mansion then. Who would've expected him to be slaughtered in such an undignified fashion.
This little Daoist was careful. He did not know much about matters of the Holy Jail Sect and had not been instructed to follow his leader. The monastery leader carried his magical weapon, a longsword and brought three Daoists with him as they accompanied the servant back.
Once they had entered the Li Mansion, they saw several Daoists weeping in the courtyard. There were a few ladies, who looked extremely beautiful with their fair skins wailing as well, although they gave off the impression that they were trying to charm someone with their cries.
Seeing the scene before him, he felt an intense heat in his chest. This was a huge matter. The Li Mansion had some protective enchantments surrounding it. Li Wen Jing too had learnt some Dao Arts. Were he in danger, he would've signalled for help, and wouldn't have been killed easily. It was extremely unexpected that he should die just like that.
He stepped forward to enquire more details of this grisly death. The woman he approached pointed at the bed as he glanced over at it. The Daoist man saw the body of his fellow younger brother, whom he had spoken to and joked with only yesterday. The corpse's expression was that of panic and anger, his lips were opened, as if he was trying to say something just before he died. It was indeed Li Wen Jing.
The body had been covered by the quilt on the bed. The Daoist cast his glance down and in a swift motion, pulled the quilt away. He saw the wound on Li Wen Jing's chest, straight through his heart. He further inspected the corpse and determined that there wasn't any other wounds.
"This was done by a professional and highly skilled killer. One stab straight through the heart. The exit wound was small, yet it pierced through clean and deep." The Daoist gave off a gloomy expression before fiercely instructing, "You guys, check if the enchantments around the courtyard have been broken. Tell me of their status."
"Yes!" The three disciples acknowledged. This Daoist had a cold expression, as if he hid emotions beneath a layer of frost, "Madam, can you explain clearly what had happened last night?"
The ladies face turned red as she detailed everything that had happened. When the Daoist heard this, he had an a clear understanding of what had happened, 'It seems like my younger brother had a naked party and sent all his guards and servants away. The moment he stepped into the courtyard, he was murdered.'
The Daoist man had some misgiving and asked further, "Madam, where did my younger brother perish?"
The lady then stood up gracefully and led the Daoist away. She brought him to a spot on the corridor, where splatters of blood were still visible. She then pointed to a pool of blood just further up, where it had already congealed.
He checked the blood before calling the servants over. He questioned all of them in detail. None of them had seen anything suspicious. Only the stable boy had seen a shadow before he passed out. He then called the stable boy over for questioning.
The stable boy was covered in whip marks and hurriedly knelt to the ground in fear, "Monastery leader, the night was dark. I heard a sound coming and saw a faint shadow. The moment I saw his shadow I was hit in the head by a flying object. The horse was stolen by him as well."
'He managed to knock the stable boy out without killing him. Not only is he a trained professional, he is also not an evil person.' The Daoist thought to himself. At this point, the three disciples he had sent to check on the protective spells returned and reported their findings, "Teacher, the enchantments around the yard had not been damaged. It seems like a person with Dao Arts and fighting techniques sneaked past the protective spells and killed uncle Li."
The Daoist paced several steps, his heart heavy with suspicion. It was even possible that someone from inside had betrayed him.
'Although brother Li was an outer circle disciple, he was a good advisor. He was placed in charge of this region's secular affairs. In fact, he was more important than many Inner Circle Disciples.'
'Now that he's dead, this region's affairs would inevitably be affected. It looks like I have to descend to the underworld and search for my younger brother's soul. I shall then ask him personally who murdered him.' The Daoist bit down on his teeth and reaffirmed his decision, 'It's just that there is a gap between Yin and Yang. There is also a deity in charge of the underworld, and I have to pay a price just by going down.'
He thought to himself as he entered the room before ordering everyone within, "All of you, leave. Now!"
When everyone had left the room, he looked at the corpse of Li Wen Jing lying on the bed, "Brother Li, the both of us joined this sect together. It's just that I've cultivated diligently, and you were proficient in handling secular affairs. You were intelligent and was capable in assisting young master Zhang in his affairs. You wielded huge influence, yet were unfamiliar with the ways of Dao and did not open the gates of heaven to receive powers. That's how you got killed this way, by a simple sword."
He felt an intense wave of regret sweep over him, "Without opening the gates of heavens, you could not cultivate up till Spirit Immortal status, and are now just a normal soul."
Hearing these words, the two disciples behind the Daoist felt some sorrow wash over them. The regretful tone of the Daoist disappeared in a flash, which turned into authoritativeness. He then ordered, "Defend me with protective enchantments, I shall go down into the underworld and find out who was the one who murdered your uncle Li."
"Yes!" The two young Daoist agreed as they drew their swords and prepared to protect their teacher.
The Daoist retrieved 3 joss sticks and placed them within the incense burner. Just as he placed them, smoke bellowed from the burner, enveloping the Daoist. He took the burner and allowed the smoke to cover Li Wen Jing as well. He then stood down, crossed his legs and closed his eyes.
Within a second, a beam of light hovered over the Daoist's head, before completely disappearing.
"Teacher's soul has left his body." The two young Daoists gave a look of envy. This was him entering his spirit immortal form.
When he first looked up, it was misty and grey. A few seconds later, a bright white light materialized and showered the Daoist man in lucent beams, protecting him, while the rest of his surroundings was still covered in grey smoke.
"The Ying wind is here." At this point a gust of strong Ying wind blew onto him, and into the light. He looked into the distance and could see the Ying mountains. There were skeletons in the shape of humans walking about. From time to time, the Daoist man would see strange looking monsters appear and completely devour the walking human skeletons. However, these monsters would not dare to approach the Daoist man, but observed him from a distance, as if they were afraid of him, and disappointed that they can't eat him as well.
He was on a big plot of flat land. Occasionally, there would be a beam of light descending onto this land. Once the beam of light touches the ground, there would be changes to the place it landed on.
"When an incense descends, it transforms into a small paradise land for the recipients of the incense. This must be what an ancestral temple and burning incense does for the people of the underworld."
A thin sliver of smoke and the smell of incense was leading this Daoist. It must've been the Spirit Tracing Incense that he had burned when he was still in the mortal world, guiding the Daoist to his destination.
He kept walking on until he reached a city. He could see faint white light gushing towards it. There were several guards patrolling the area. He stopped walking and said, "Ey, when the souls of normal people reach the underworld, nobody will be interested in them. However, when us cultivators appear here, we will attract special attention. It seems like brother Li's soul had followed the other souls into the city, and he's being taken into custody by Deity Cheng Huang."
Regular folks have always thought that when they die, they will enter the city of the underworld and remain there but that's not true. They will be restrained where they land in the underworld, and delivered to the Deity Cheng Huang. Deity Cheng Huang will then judge them based on their deeds and determine where they end up. They can be punished to roam the underworld for all eternity, or even worse be sent into hell. They can also be sent back to their homes and receive to receive sacrifices given to them via an ancestral temple.
This place was near the underworld city. He followed the trail left by the wisp of smoke, leading towards the city. It is certain that brother Li had been captured and thrown into the city. The Daoist man turned into a beam of divine light, about to enter the city when a loud voice from within the city boomed out, "What audacity Daoist man. This is the kingdom of Deity Cheng Huang, do not trespass!"
The Daoist man had been blocked from entering the city by a man dressed in a bailiff outfit. He had twenty soldiers behind him.
The Daoist man gave a bow and threw over a golden title. The bailiff of the underworld pick it up and take a look, "Oh, you have permission to enter the city. Please forgive me. Enter!"
The Daoist man turned into a beam of divine light once more and passed through the city gates effortlessly.
"Every sect has their own relation with the underworld. Naturally, we, the Holy Jail Sect have our own arrangements with them as well." The Daoist man walked past while looking down. Although it seems like he had no respect for anything in his way, it was the opposite. He did not look around out of respect for the dead around him.
In this world, Huang Bo of the County and Cheng Huang of the Prefecture are deities of importance.
He entered a mansion, which was grey in colour. The entrance was very wide and there was a fire burning in front of the entrance. His fire burned fiercely, yet had a very eerie look to it. It made the blood of any normal person turn cold in fear. At this point a person dressed as an official came out and smiled, "It seems like it's my Daoist friend from Holy Jail Sect. Please enter. I'm very fond of good food and love drinking wine. Since my Daoist friend has come all the way here, please do not hesitate to have some drinks with me."
The official laughed. His entire being was covered in white light. He led the way into the hall, where there was a table in the middle. A wave of his hand and several wine glasses floated onto the table.