Even though Yuanchu City might be over four kilometres away from Mount Wanyu, the eyes wouldnt perceive it as so because the verdant scenery along the silhouette was visible through the clouds and mist from afar.
While Wanyus royal family edited Ling Peak, nobody could convince a foreigner that there was a human civilisation there at one point because there wasnt a soul in sight or any signs of human civilisation. As for bonfires, there were hardly any. Mount Wanyu remained barren until Shaman Monarch surfaced, proving the mysterious cult to be non-fiction.
The only thing people could know for certain was that the enigmatic Shaman Monarch Palace sat atop Mount Wanyu now. To speak more overtly, everything related to them was shrouded in mystery.
At night, the followers of Shaman Monarch Palace lit up torches along the uneven path to the palace. Rather than using it as a means of lighting the path to the top, though, the purpose of the fires was to deter people from visiting. Nobody dared to challenge the representative of the sun when they were only the suns people. Moreover, besides the guardians hiding along the narrow paths, there were the religious zealots whod kill their parents, spouse or children if they were ordered to.
The end of Shaman Monarch Palaces political reign didnt abate their influence. Instead, it rooted itself deep within the hearts of the people. Baimus Princess Consorts authority prior to being enthroned as Princess Consort was irrefutable evidence of their sustained influence. At the height of their influence, 90% of Nanjiangs population were devout followers of Shaman Monarch Palace. Their guardians were even idols among the people. Alas, the torches visible at nights nowadays only reminded people that Shaman Monarch Palace was only a shell of its former self.
Shaman Monarch Palace needed to make its comeback now more than ever, but they now required a more “direct” existence. A shrine for shamans to enlighten people or read fortunes on every street wasnt enough; a public holiday that reminded people of them once a year wasnt enough. They needed to exist in a form that could exert as much influence as in the past. No matter what form they adopted, no form had more influence than the erstwhile Shaman Monarch Palace.
Nobody could confidently say how much influence Shaman Monarch Palace wielded at current; however, they were aware that Shaman Monarch Palace was slowly rebuilding their faith, rebuilding to the stage where monarchs and influencers had to seek the suns approval (read: Shaman Monarch Palaces approval).
Despite Shaman Monarch Palace having “palace” in its name, said palace was actually built inside a cavern. It would be tough to persuade someone it was Shaman Monarch Palaces based on the interior alone; the only way they could convince someone was if they showed them the faithful followers wholeheartedly kneeling outside.
Feiyi, a healthy state far south of Xiacang Anxis heart, sent a diplomatic envoy to seek permission from Shaman Monarch Palaces Great Spirit Shaman to do business with Western Regions seven states. Notwithstanding the envoy being the younger brother of Feiyis monarch and him being a stand-in for his brother, he was still forced to kneel outside the dark cavern.
The ancient text at the bottom of the vines, which was barely visible under the bean-sized flame, was beyond the educated envoy. Perhaps the language was as quaint as the throne within the cavern. Perhaps everything he saw was organised beforehand, arranged in a way intended to cover past traces. It was scary to think how prudent they had to be and what was the catalyst behind the arrangement…
Rather than the flames suddenly flicking on frightening him, it was the five human visible silhouettes that impelled the envoy to shudder.
There was a dry concave hemisphere around the throne, but the damp stench pervading the air was proof that it was once used. The pool acted as a moat of sorts to distinguish the difference between the four masked guardians around the “moat” and the old man on the throne. Though the elder wore a fancy white robe and hid his face behind his waterfall of white hair, there was no mistake that he was old from the wrinkly skin on his gaunt hands.
The man to the left of the pool thundered, “Where is your salute to His Eminence!”
Great Spirit Shamans profile was a blank slate; one could make a case for him sounding pretentious, and he really didnt give off the same agreeable vibe that stories of him described.
The envoy saluted in the ancient format as required before proceeding to expound the reason for his visit. “… Please grant us permission, Your Eminence.”
It would be understandable for the envoy to feel relieved after finishing what he had to say. Unfortunately, the uncanny atmosphere and silence wouldnt spare him. Merely thinking about the four unmoving guardians made the hairs on the back of his neck stand erect.
“Understood,” the elder finally responded, startling the envoy once again. “So… what about this old ones request”
“This one has brought it as per your request.”
While the envoy didnt understand all the things “Uhm” implied, the thirty-odd followers outside recognised their cue to file into the palace. They bent their knees and raised the infants in their hands overhead as if the children were sacrifices.
The envoy lowered his head. “The thirty infants are less than one month old. All of them are descendants of Feiyis royal family.”
The traditional custom required anyone who wanted an audience with Great Spirit Shaman to bring thirty infants from the royal family short of a month old. Those infants would go on to become foundational members of Shaman Monarch Palace; it wouldnt be surprising if the majority of those kneeling outside were royal family members.
When the elder gently extended his hand forward, a follower carried an infant over to him. The infant wailed out of instinct when the elder poked their face. Even though the envoy couldnt see the elders face or hear his voice, he could sense the elder grin.
“This old one hereby grants Feiyi his approval.”
The envoy could cry a river of joy for not having to go back down the mountain to fetch the prepared chests of gifts.
The followers left the palace with the infants subsequent to the envoys departure. The palace interior remained as dead as always until the elder ordered, “Light.”
The dark cave now was as bright as day.
The guardian to the left waved a hand. “Tributes.”
Thirty followers successively headed up to the edge of the pool to commit an unspeakable sin using the knives they stored in their belts. The infants unleashed hallowing cries, while the hands holding them trembled as the infants blood trickled into the pool. The only person present with the corners of his lips curved up was the elder on the throne.
Only once the infants cries softened did the guardian command, “Stop. Each infants blood needs to be used thrice. We cant let them bleed anymore.”
The followers thereupon bandaged the infants cuts. Another thirty followers came in thereafter and followed the same procedure, except they cut themselves. Never did they moan or speed through the process, treating it as some sort of sacred ritual. Whenever a follower died, theyd be replaced with another follower.
Once the pool was filled to a certain level, the elder undressed and, resembling a wooden puppet on a string, hobbled into the crimson pool. It didnt take long for an inexplicable vitality to restore youth to his bark-like skin.
The thirty infants blood acted as a guide, while the volume of adult blood made up the rest of the volume. Soaking in the blood pool only sustained ones prolonged lifespan, martial skills and physical health for short window. In an ideal world, hed always have access to royal blood, but it wasnt easy to get his hands on royal infants. Consequently, Shaman Monarch Palace demanded infants from the people at fixed intervals.
“Idiots,” the elder asserted in a firm tone. “Establishing trade relations with Western Regions is just making dangerous enemies. The seven states are immeasurably strong, not to mention the Divine Moon Cult. All that greed has blinded him. There is no need for imbeciles. Wood Guardian, record.”
“Ready, Your Eminence.”
“Feiyi needs a new monarch.”
“And the envoy…”
“I heard he brought along twenty chests of valuables.”
The guardian nodded and descended the mountain, understanding what needed to be done.
Great Spirit Shaman never had any reason to leave the mountain. He controlled his cult and the states from his comfortable throne whilst being worshipped. Why go put yourself in danger when you can deal with danger from afar while fools pander to you
A follower reported, “Your Eminence, the virgin net is ready.”
“May His Lordship, The Sun, grant forgiveness.”
Having power in ones hand, yet lacking the physical health to wield it is a crying shame. The elder often felt empty as an old man, unable to find joy in anything. Only when he saw his black hair and young reflection again did he feel alive.
“This old one still needs to live, though.” The “elder” ambled out of the pool, laughing hysterically on his way to the room his followers prepared.-