“Stay…stay away from me! Don’t you dare come…near me! I’ll…kill you!”
Chu Yue Chan was weakly waving her right arm to keep me at bay. I shook my head and sighed again, not sure how to break the news to her.
“What, you think I’m Yun Che or something? When a woman says no, she clearly means no. I’m not a rapist. I don’t rape people and then pretend that the girls are ‘really’ want it when they’re clearly saying no. that’s just fucking bullshit. I’ll respect your decision. And besides, I have someone I cannot betray, so even if you wanted me to, I wouldn’t have touched you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Yue Chan snapped angrily. Oh, she was pretty lively for a dying person, wasn’t she?
“It means we have no choice…” I began again. I knew what she meant, but I decided not to dwell on that and instead focused on the matter at hand. “…but to let you die.”
The shock of the truth hit Yue Chan and she slumped down, her conflicting emotions raging in her mind. She stared at me pitifully, but her pride and upbringing wouldn’t allow her to reverse her decision and plead me to do it with her.
“Wow, you’re really cold,” Master remarked. “Normally most men would just throw themselves at such a beautiful girl.”
“Rape is wrong.”
“I know, but that doesn’t mean people always choose to do the right thing. Well, at least you’ve sound moral principles and are an upright young man. Must be your upbringing…your parents brought you up really well.”
Master didn’t sound like he was praising me. Probably because he was the evil Heavenly Demon who did whatever he wanted, whether it was murder, plunder or rape, so he was more inclined toward immoral than moral.
But that wasn’t his business. He wasn’t my father, he couldn’t tell me how to behave. If I wanted to be a goody two shoes, that was my prerogative. He would just have to suck it and lament over his fate of finding a righteous disciple.
However, the problem right now was that if I chose not to rape Yue Chan, she would inevitably die. I couldn’t infuse her with qi indefinitely, she would die sooner or later no matter how much qi I pumped into her. If I refused to save her when I had the ability to do so, regardless of the methods, I would still be held responsible for her death.
It was as good as me committing murder.
On the other hand, she wouldn’t be the first person I killed. My hands were already stained with the blood of many foes. Even magical beasts had fallen to my blade. What was one more life? Besides, it was Chu Yue Chan’s life. Whether she chose to live or die, that was her right. And she had clearly chosen the latter.
I shouldn’t be held responsible for her decision.
“Even if you die, huh…”
I chuckled and shook my head. Yue Chan remained silent and glared at me.
“Don’t worry. I’ll contact the Snow Valley Sect and inform them of your valiant struggle against the An Sha Sect and two celestial dragons. I’ll make sure your honorable deeds get known to public. You would like to be buried in your hometown, correct?”
After a long period, Yue Chan nodded silently.
“I should be the one who’s grateful to you.”
I stood over her and saluted before waiting. Master floated down beside me.
“Are you sure about this?”
“You want me to rape her?”
“I didn’t say that. And I guess I agree with you to a certain extent. You have no obligation to save the girl anyway. It’s just that…you went so far, completing two dangerous trials and learning Solar Celestial Dragon Formula just to save her, and now you’re just going to let it go like that? Let all the time and effort protecting her go to waste?”
“I don’t like it, but obviously I don’t have a choice. I’m not going to rape a girl who clearly doesn’t consent to it. That’s just fucking ridiculous.” I rolled my eyes. “Did you think I’m going to be a rapist bastard like Yun Che and attempt to justify the rape with ‘oh, we’ve been together for so long, and nestled in each other’s embrace for five months, there’s no way your true, inner self hates the way I’m hugging you right now and you won’t object to me taking away your chastity!’ or ‘I’ll take responsibility for turning you into a real woman!’ That has to be the most misogynistic and bullshit justification I ever heard. You mean you can only turn into a real woman by losing your virginity? I have never heard such bullshit reasoning in my life!”
“Okay, okay. I get it.”
“Sorry, I get heated up when I hear or read about bastards justifying rape. Castration would be the most fitting punishment for them.”
For some reason, Master’s hands instinctively went to shield his crotch. He probably had some dark past, but given how he was now a ghost, there was little point in me trying to punish him for his past crimes. And it wasn’t as if I wasn’t aware of the atrocities he committed when he was alive.
Yue Chan was no longer paying attention to my banter with Master – she couldn’t hear his ghostly voice in any case. I stood over her body quietly and respectfully, watching over her until the very end.
She deserved that much, at least.
“…you really went and let her die?”
Black Dragon bro sounded astonished. I shrugged.
“What did you expect? She said no. no matter how you twist and turn, she did not consent to it. Any forceful act on my part would be constituted as rape, and I will never be a rapist. I will never rape a girl. I’m sorry, I don’t care if you’re disappointed, or if the existences beyond the fourth wall call me a pussy or complain about how unrealistic I am or label me a herbivorous male or call me gay, I will never rape a girl. That’s my moral principle, and I will not back down or compromise. I don’t care if it saves her life, if she says no, I will not rape her. End of story.”
“Wow, relax, kid. I’m not disappointed. Just surprised. Actually…” Black Dragon bro swiveled his head to stare at Yue Chan’s corpse, which had grown cold. “I’m more surprised that she didn’t back down from her resolve and accept it. I thought that she would prioritize her life over her chastity or purity. That all living beings value their lives over any other thing, including values or beliefs. I guess I’m wrong. Humans think in a different manner, after all.”
“There are some beliefs and values we humans are willing to stand up and die for. If we don’t abide by ethics and selfishly prize our own lives above all other things, then we’ll be nothing more than mindless, uncivilized beasts. Our values are what distinguishes us from wild animals. Well, I’m sure certain species of animals like dragons such as you, dolphins maybe, and other intelligence animals will have some code of conduct or moral values they believe in, but again, isn’t that precisely what makes us more…humane? Well, that’s not the right word. But you know what I mean.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” Black Dragon bro nodded. “And I respect you for standing firm. You may claim to speak for humans, but I assure you, I’ve seen many humans compromise their beliefs and throw away their pride and morals just to selfishly survive. Backstabbing, betraying, killing each other. It isn’t humans as a species who believe in civilization or moral conduct. It’s the individual.”
“Ah…yeah. You’re right, of course.”
I nodded, feeling a bit deflated. I should have known. I couldn’t speak for all humans – I didn’t have the right to do so. I could only speak for myself and my own individual beliefs. I was acting all high and mighty, espousing about how humans were higher than animals, but there were humans who behaved worse than animals, meting out acts of cruelty and greed.
I glanced at Master, who shamelessly shrugged with feigned innocence. Yup, right here I had a perfect example of human scum.
That said, I was still grateful toward him, and also to Black Dragon bro.
“Even though it didn’t work out in the end, I’m still very grateful to you for teaching me, Black Dragon bro.” I bowed deeply. Black Dragon bro chuckled and shook his head.
“Nope, don’t worry about it. I’m glad I could find someone to succeed the Divine Dragon arts. Otherwise they’ll rot here, forgotten and lost.”
“Uh, did you forget that Xiao Zhang and other martial arts have succeeded in learning your Solar Celestial Dragon Formula in one form or another?” Master reminded Black Dragon bro.
“Oh, right. Sorry. I forgot. The years just fly by and…you know. You just don’t keep track of these things. Anyway…” Black Dragon bro turned to me. “I’m excited to see what you’ll do with Solar Celestial Dragon Formula. Will you follow in that other human’s footsteps and create a new martial arts similar to his Blazing Solar Heavenly Shocking Formula? Or will you create a version that is even more powerful than his?”
“Of course he will. With my Heaven and Earth Formula as a base, and with my help, we’ll definitely exceed even the revered Xiao Zhang’s strength!”
Both Black Dragon bro and I stared at Master as he made that proud proclamation. He deflated a little and looked annoyed.
“Never mind.” I sighed and approached Yue Chan’s corpse. “In any case, I’ll have to deliver Chu Yue Chan back to the Snow Valley Sect, but I’ll be back again sometime. I still have lots I want to learn from you, particularly with the Blazing Solar Heavenly Shocking Formula.”
“You’re welcome back anytime, but…”
I raised an eyebrow when I heard the hesitance in Black Dragon bro’s voice. He looked at me somewhat sorrowfully.
“I have a request, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure! Anything for you, Black Dragon bro. Do you need me to find a sword?”
Black Dragon bro blanched at that. Then he snorted and glared at me.
“What use would a human sword be to me? Of course not!”
At least he wasn’t going to rip off Against the Gods for this one…
“Sorry. All right, what’s your request?”
“My daughter is sealed inside this ancestral heaven slaying sword…”
“So it’s about finding a sword after all!” I exploded. Black Dragon bro looked at me and then chuckled with a shake of his head.
“Gotcha. Relax. Of course not. I don’t have a daughter. If I did, and she’s sealed inside a sword, I won’t be isolating myself in here for a thousand years and cultivating, right? No, I would be tearing the world upside down looking for her.”
He had a point there. Still, that joke wasn’t funny. Even if it was to make fun of Against the Gods and its misogynistic elements, I still couldn’t bring myself to find that particular joke funny. It was also a funny coincidence that it was a daughter. What, so I could add her to a harem? There was no way in hell I was going to get a harem.
“Okay. So what now? You want me to turn you into a human girl so that you can follow me out of here?”
“I don’t need to be turned into a human to leave this place!” Black Dragon bro thundered. “And I’m a male, anyway! That’s why you’re referring to me as bro, right!? And you said it yourself, you won’t be getting a harem!”
“Right. I was joking too. So you can joke about Against the Gods but I can’t joke about Ze Tian Ji? Isn’t that double standards?”
Black Dragon bro stared at me worriedly. “With how flat your expression is when you told that joke, I thought you were being serious.”
“You know what…let’s just stop with the jokes and get straight to your request.” I sighed. The existences beyond the fourth wall were getting irritated with how I was dragging this out, so it was best to get to the point. “What do you need me to do?”
“I want you to get inside the Imperial Mausoleum and obtain a scroll for me. One of the five treasures of the ancient Zhou Dynasty – the transmutation scroll. I feel that it contains the answers I seek for my cultivation to prolong my life for another thousand years or so. And it’ll also help me leave this place. Not as a human girl,” he hastily added. “But you have a good point with that suggestion there.”
“Huh? So you’re planning on going out in a human form?”
“Yeah! But obviously I can’t explore the new capital…uh, if it’s not the Great Zhou Dynasty, what’s the current dynasty…?”
“Ling Dynasty of the Jiang’an Empire?” I offered. Black Dragon bro quickly nodded his head.
“Yeah! I want to walk around Jiang’an Empire and see how much things have changed. Obviously I can’t do that in this form. I’ll terrify a lot of people and attract a lot of attention. And given how nobody has disturbed me for over a thousand years, I daresay the descendants of Zhou have forgotten about me completely…assuming that they’re still around.”
“It’s entirely possible that the Zhou lineage has died out,” Master agreed thoughtfully. “We haven’t heard anything about them for a thousand years. The only traces of them lie in history books and ancient records.”
“And historical websites and Wikipedia in the Internet,” I added.
“Internet? Websites?” Black Dragon bro frowned at what seemed like an unfamiliar concept for him. I waved my hand dismisslvely.
“I’ll explain everything when I bring you outside. For now, I’ll go to this…uh, Imperial Mausoleum? And look for that transmutation scroll.”
“It’s the scroll for the technique, Golden Sacred Transmutation,” Black Dragon bro explained. “Of course, if you can find any updated version, that would be fine as well…but I doubt it. Unless you humans have a habit of practicing transmutation techniques – those are usually meant for dragons.”
“There is the Rainbow Butterfly Metamorphsis Technique…or Golden Kirin Sacred Creature Morph. Lots of martial arts that endow the pracititioner with bestial transformations to enhance their combat ability.” Master was musing to himself. “But I think you want a specific one that allows you to morph into a human form, correct?”
“Yeah, that will be hard to find. The Imperial Mausoleum it is.”
“What’s this Imperial Mausoleum you guys are talking about?” I asked, confused. “I don’t think I’ve read about something like that before. Does it even exist?”
I mean, Black Dragon bro was obviously talking about something that existed a thousand years ago. It was highly that it had been destroyed by the ravages of time and no longer existed.
“It does, actually. It’s not very well known, but it’s sort of like the dungeon in fantasy role playing games.” Master was nodding excitedly. “It’ll be an adventure! I don’t know about now, but a decade ago, there would be groups of martial artists gathering to raid dungeons or ancient tombs such as the Imperial Mausoleum for ancient treasures, treasure weapons, valuable technique scrolls and immeasurable riches. Of course, it’s pretty dangerous as these places are often infused with violent qi, inhabited by powerful magical beasts and filled with traps, and countless martial artists have lost their lives in their greed to gather treasure. But that’s exactly why they haven’t been torn down or renovated. Plus they should still have plenty of treasures and stuff up for grabs.”
“Huh…I see. I’ll do my best then.” I scratched my head. “To be honest, I don’t feel comfortable with robbing the dead and stealing treasure from ancient places, but…if I don’t help you out, you’ll be stuck here forever.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure something out even if you aren’t able to return with the Golden Sacred Transmutation scroll. But I’ll definitely reward you if you do.”
“I don’t need rewards,” I replied with a wave of my hands. “Teaching me the Solar Celestial Dragon Formula is already more than I deserve.”
“Nah, it was entertaining and helped me alleviate my boredom for quite a while. Plus I needed to pass down my techniques somehow or they’ll rot in here with me. I know there are other people who already know the Solar Celestial Dragon Formula outside, but I wanted an inheritor who learned it directly from me, not from other dragons or humans. You helped me restore my pride and gave me some satisfaction, so there’s that.”
I glanced at Yue Chan. if I knew I wouldn’t be able to save her in the first place, I wouldn’t have bothered learning Solar Celestial Dragon Formula. Now that I did, I might as well make use of it. I should spend the next two hundred days or so working on combining Heaven and Earth Formula with Solar Celestial Dragon Formula and coming up with a new yuan yang technique that could rival the yuan yin ice techniques I currently wielded.
As if reading my mind, Master added, “With both Yuan Yang and Yuan Yin branches at an equilibrium, your Heaven and Earth Formula will be more powerful than ever before. I daresay you’ll be more than a match for any of the other Heavenly Kings once you’ve managed to succeed in a breakthrough and create a new yuan yang skill.”
“I can’t wait.”
Obviously Master couldn’t detect the sarcasm in my voice, so he nodded in approval. Not bothering to correct his perception, I picked up Yue Chan’s cold corpse and began walking out of the subterranean cavern.
“Thanks for teaching me, Black Dragon bro. I’ll be back.”
“Sure. Don’t worry about the scroll, though. If you can’t get into the Imperial Mausoleum or are unable to find it, then don’t needlessly throw away your life inside that place. It’s pretty…uh, terrifying. Try to avoid fighting the spirits that dwell there.”
“Did you say spirits?” I turned back to gape at him. Black Dragon bro’s enormous head bobbed up and down.
“Yeah. And they’re not beneign spirits like your master…they’ve lost all semblance of self and are no longer sentience, cursed beings doomed to roam the place and feed on other souls. They’re basically mindless ghouls.”
“What is this…a ghost story now?”
Raising my free hand to wave at Black Dragon bro as a farewell, I stepped out of the subterranean cave. By now, more than a week had passed since I had sought shelter in his underground cavern, so I was confident that the An Sha Sect would no longer be roaming the place. I could also detect a few wisps of qi as I neared the exit leading to the open world.
They weren’t the demonic, highly aggressive qi of the An Sha Sect assassins that I sensed over a week ago. They were more…normal.
“Hey!” I quickly departed from the place, waving to the presences that were standing right outside the pond. As I thought, imperial soldiers in uniform were patrolling the place or looking for clues. The nearest sentry jolted up with a start when he heard me, and turned around to see me seemingly emerge from nowhere.
“Where…did you come from?” he gasped. I shook my head and gestured toward Yue Chan.
“She needs help.”
Actually, she didn’t, and even if she was still alive, there was nothing the imperial guardsmen could do to save her. Even then, I placed her down as the imperial guardsmen hurriedly flooded to my location. An officer strode to me even as medics attempted to revive her, but no avail.
“She isn’t just dead…holy throne! Her meridians have snapped and her qi vessels have burst before she died! What the hell happened to her?”
“Chu Yue Chan bravely fought two celestial dragons at the same time,” I informed the medic grimly before the officer could begin his interrogation. The team of medics turned up to stare at me.
“Are you serious!? Two celestial dragons!?”
“It makes sense…investigations showed traces of qi from two different celestial dragons last week.” The officer was nodding. He frowned at me. “And you…you must be Shu Cong, correct? One of the students from Orthodox Academy.”
“Yeah…an exchange student, actually, but yeah.”
“I see. You were missing for over a week. We thought you were killed by the An Sha Sect! But we couldn’t find any traces of your body, so we thought maybe you succeeded in escaping. Seems like you really aren’t a simple kid.”
The officer clapped a hand on my shoulder and smiled. “Well, I’m glad you’re alive…and I know you probably want to rest after such a tiring week or so, but we’ll need you to cooperate with our investigation to find out what really went on here.”
“I’ll be happy to cooperate.”
“Good kid.” The officer turned around and shouted to his subordinates. “Li! Chen! Bring the kid back to the station. Get him food, water, whatever to make him comfortable, let him rest a bit, then we’ll allow the interrogators to do their job. But not before this kid gets fed and some rest, all right?”
Two Imperial Guardsmen hurried over. Before they took me away, one of the medics glanced up at me, his expression grim.
“When did this lady pass away?”
“…a few hours ago. I’m sorry. I was unable to save her.”
I felt a crushing guilt in my heart. Probably I could have saved her if I raped her, but that was just ridiculous. Chu Yue Chan said no. I had to respect her decision. Furthermore, I couldn’t betray Ling Luo Chen or my principles. I was a killer, I had slain people and stained my hands with the blood of both humans and magical beasts. That I could live with. But my conscience would never allow me to rape a girl.
Even if it was to save her life.
Was it worth it? Respecting her wishes and allowing her to retain her chastity, in exchange for her life? For her to retain her purity all the way until her death? What should I have done? Yun Che undoubtedly chose to rape her and then justified his actions. I chose the other route, to respect her choice and allowed her to die pure.
Well, there was no point regretting now. I had made my decision. Yue Chan had made hers, and I had done my part and respected it all the way to the end. I should hold my head up high.
Master, unseen by the Guardsmen, floated beside me. He glanced at me, and then turned away, his expression complicated.
Sensing my mood, the medic mistook my guilt.
“No, you did your best. Actually, I’m surprised you managed to preserve her life for this long even when she was in such a terrible, near-death state. To be honest, no one could have save her. She was beyond healing or recovery. You shouldn’t blame yourself.”
“…come on.” One of the guardsmen – Li? – placed his hand on my shoulder and leaded me reassuringly. “Everything’s over now, kid. You did your best…you did great in surviving and hiding from the enemy. Let’s go fill your stomach. You must be starving.”
“No, I’m just exhausted.” I stifled a yawn and turned away from Yue Chan’s corpse. I couldn’t bear to look at her. Again, I reminded myself that I had made my decision and I had to look forward, not regret over the past. Despite that, I could feel the weight of the events over the entire week hand over me oppressively. “…I hope you don’t mind if I take a nap.”