Chapter 15 – Dugu Zhuo[1]

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Dugu Zhuo had experienced many abrupt changes throughout his life and soon steadied his emotions.
“Where is that child?” he asked the old monk.
“How should we contact the Qingtian Sect?”

“Let’s see…” The old monk somehow brought out a wooden fish[2] and started beating it rhythmically.
“This poor monk is in the mood for tofu.
Widow Yang at the village gate makes the best tofu.
Would you young heroes buy some for this monk tomorrow morning?”

“Oh, come on!” Aotian said.
“You’re giving us an item collection task at the best part?” He had been listening excitedly to the main storyline, and now that he’d suddenly been assigned a task, he went over and grabbed the monk’s robe.

The moment he touched the monk’s lapel, the monk tapped the wooden fish, which released a ring of light that pushed Aotian away.

The old monk continued to beat the wooden fish while reciting sutras, with an act of “don’t bother me if you don’t have the tofu.”

“Guess we can’t complete this task at night,” Ye Zhou said, glancing at the clock.
“It’s almost 11, so I have to leave now.
Should we meet at 9 tomorrow morning?”

“I should get to bed too,” Qingyue said.
“Staying up late would be bad for my complexion.
I don’t have classes tomorrow, so I can play the whole day.”

After each member of the group said they could play tomorrow and agreed to the 9 am meeting time, Ye Zhou logged off.

Aotian and Qingyue went off to find their demon and yao friends, in order to see if they had found anything, so they exited Dugu Zhuo’s party and left.

After Jet Black had become a monk and gotten a rosary to protect himself, he could now move freely within every major Buddhist temple, so he decided to cultivate by bathing in moonlight on the temple’s roof.

Soon, everyone had gone their own ways, leaving Dugu Zhuo alone and no longer in a party.

Dugu Zhuo sat next to the old monk and asked, “Great master, why have I come to this world?”

The old monk kept tapping the wooden fish.
“If you want to offer incense, you may line up at Tanye Temple every day starting at Chenshi.”

“Are you the monk who was healing the people during the day?” Dugu Zhuo asked.

“There is an herb-collecting monk in the mountains behind the temple,” the monk said.
“Spirits who wish to heal the people can find him to be taken to the healing booth.”

Most spirits spawned in the back mountains and could move around within the earth, so it should be easy for them to find the herb collector.

“That child… is he named Xiao Bao[3]?” Dugu Zhuo asked again. 

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“Have you bought the tofu yet?” the monk said.
“This old monk is too hungry to have the energy to speak.”

No matter what Dugu Zhuo asked, the monk only had these three answers, giving tips to the humans and spirits and requesting tofu.

This wasn’t the Grandmaster Tanji who had suddenly appeared before Dugu Zhuo earlier today, just an ordinary NPC.

The NPCs in Nine Heavens were too realistic, and had always given Dugu Zhuo the illusion that they were all real people.
Only now, when faced with the monk’s mechanical, rote, and unchanging responses, did he really realize that he was in a false world.

There seemed to be a soundproofing array within the Tanye Temple.
Inside the main hall, they could hear no sounds from the back courtyard or the Karmic Forest, and no matter how loudly the monk beat the wooden fish, the sound only echoed within the room.

Dugu Zhuo craned his neck up to the Buddha statue above him, and suddenly said, “When I was young, I didn’t have a name, so my mother always called me Xiao Bao.”

He hadn’t even known his surname, and only upon arriving at Qingtian Sect had he known that his father was named Dugu.

Dugu Yue had named him Dugu Zhuo, Zhuo as in impure, a name that was supposed to sum up his entire life.

Back then, he didn’t know what the name meant, only blindly following Ye Zhou to get his name registered within the sect roster.

Ye Zhou drew a drop of blood from his fingertip, dipped a spiritual brush in it, and wrote down “Dugu Zhuo[4]” on the roster. 

The ten-year-old Dugu Zhuo couldn’t read, but he recognized that the character Ye Zhou had written down for Zhuo was different.
He yelled at Ye Zhou without any manners, “You wrote my name wrong! You jerk!”

He also wanted to insult him.
He had grown up in the countryside, and though he couldn’t read a single word, he was well versed in insults.

Ye Zhou had placed an index finger against Dugu Zhuo’s lips and said quietly, “Silence.”

Ye Zhou’s finger was cold.
Dugu Zhuo suddenly found himself unable to spit any of the insults that were on his tongue.
He watched powerlessly as Ye Zhou set the jade slip containing his mistaken name before the memorial tablets of Qingtian Sect’s generations of sect leaders, lit an incense stick, and handed it to Dugu Zhuo.

“Do not use foul language before the ancestral leaders of the sect,” Ye Zhou said lightly.
“You may speak if you are willing to speak properly.
If you want to curse, your mouth can simply remain shut.”

Unable to insult him, Dugu Zhuo held the incense and kowtowed three times before the ancestral tablets, then left grumpily.

Dugu Zhuo couldn’t speak for a whole year after that.

Only when he learned to read, learned morality, and understood the difference between the two characters, did he realize what kind of a name Ye Zhou had given him.

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“Thank you, master,” was the first thing he said to Ye Zhou.

Ye Zhou had said unfeelingly, “I’m not your master.”

— “Ye Zhou was right.
He wasn’t my master,” Dugu Zhuo said to the ignorant monk.
“Even though he had been the one who led me to the Dao, he still wasn’t my master.”

“If you want to find a master, you must reach level 15 and obtain an invitation from the Buddhist agency at Xuanyang City in order to enter the Buddhist sects,” the old monk answered according to keywords.

Only because he knew the monk understood nothing, did Dugu Zhuo speak of these past matters.

“Now, Ye Zhou has become my master, which is perfect.” Dugu Zhuo smiled slightly.
“At the moment of the Pillar of Heaven’s collapse, his shattered soul arrived to this world.
Great master, why would his soul be here? Did my original world let him down so much?”

Upon hearing the words “Pillar of Heaven”, the old monk stopped moving.
He put down his wooden fish, looking blank for a second.
After looking around at his surroundings, he said to Dugu Zhuo, “Amitabha, benefactor, have you appeared in this poor monk’s dreams again?”

Dugu Zhuo was stunned for a moment.
He looked at the monk.
“Grandmaster Tanji.”

“That is me,” said the old monk, now Grandmaster Tanji.

As Dugu Zhuo watched, the template features of the Nine Heavens monk gradually changed into those of Grandmaster Tanji.

This was real!

He didn’t know how, but he had “pulled” the monk from his original world into the VR game’s world.

“The spiritual energy is so plentiful within my dreams,” the old monk said, rubbing his shoulders.
“Is this the world that this poor monk hopes to see?”

“Do you know where you are?” Dugu Zhuo asked.

“Tanye Temple, right?” The old monk looked up to the Buddha statue.
“This statue looks exactly like the one I commissioned.”

Tanji struck up a conversation with Dugu Zhuo.
Apparently, after their meeting at the healing booth, five months had passed for Tanji.

He had been renovating the temple with his disciple all this time, finding a craftsman to create a Buddha statue, begging everywhere for resources to fix the temple, and even hiring a few wandering refugees to clear the nearby land for farming.
Since this was a Buddhist temple and Tanji was a high-ranking monk, he was given a piece of land, which he all gave to the helpers aside from a portion large enough for the monks in the temple to be self-sufficient.

He had also visited the spirit cultivators nearby who were nearly bursting from the over-abundant natural spiritual energy, and asked for their help in setting up a charity healing booth.

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A few years ago, spiritual energy was sparse within the lower heavens, fought over by the six races, so the spiritual cultivators, born as natural treasures favored by heaven and earth, would offer incredible boosts to the other races.
After the collapse of the Pillar of Heaven, the nine layers of heaven merged with earth, replenishing the spiritual energy.
Anyone could collect all the spiritual energy they wanted with a little cultivation, so spiritual cultivators were no longer coveted.

After all, one would have to fight with a spiritual cultivator in order to obtain them, so it was more worthwhile to spend that time cultivating.

Spiritual cultivators didn’t need to cultivate, as spiritual energy would enter their bodies automatically, but with too much spiritual energy that they couldn’t convert to inner essence, they all felt overstuffed.

A ginseng that Tanji had found was so thick it resembled a tree stump, and when it saw Tanji approach, it clumsily struggled to move its body, having lost its original speed and nimbleness.

Tanji was quickly able to open his healing booth, and after five months, a bustling small town had grown around Tanye Temple, in stark contrast to the original desolate land.

“Not everything has been good,” Tanji said.
“A few avaricious yao have come recently, coveting human vital essence.
The residents of the town have become plump and healthy under the nurturing of the spiritual cultivators, which is exactly to the yaos’ tastes.
We’ve already lost a few youths, which is currently troubling me.”

“So much time has passed already?” Dugu Zhuo said doubtfully.

He had been searching for ten years, and the PC game had also lasted for ten years.
He’d thought that time was the same between the two worlds, but he had only been here for five hours, yet over there, five months had already passed.

“Has it been much time?” Tanji said.

“Two and a half shichen have passed here,” Dugu Zhuo said, automatically converting to the time system Grandmaster Tanji was familiar with.

Grandmaster Tanji thought some and said, “Sir Dugu, time in a dream can change freely.
An instant can feel like a lifetime, or several shichen can pass in an instant.”

“If you explain this as a dream, then time can change without any rhyme or reason,” Dugu Zhuo said.

“When does the world remain unchanging? This poor monk has reincarnated for ten lifetimes and seen all of the mortal world.
Sometimes, a hundred years can seem like a day, if your routine remains unchanged for a century.
Sometimes in the span of one year, the dynasty has changed three or five times.
Sometimes, one day feels like an entire lifetime.
Is time not something so unfathomable?”

“Makes sense,” Dugu Zhuo said.

Since the system could assign him as a player based on the playerbase’s perception, Grandmaster Tanji might as well judge the flow of time based on his own perception.
Dugu Zhuo had been in the game world for only five hours, but the experience had felt longer than ten years.

“Does Sir Dugu have any insights on the trouble with the yao?” Grandmaster Tanji asked.

“The six races intermingle within the world, and the Heavenly Dao favors humanity, the other races having always stood in opposition to them.
This is difficult to solve, unless…”

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“Unless what?” Tanji asked.

“Unless the realm were divided.
Since the human race has a world where they are chief, the yao must also have their world where they are chief and so on, each staying within their own territory and not encroaching on any other,” Dugu Zhuo said.

Tanji shook his head.
“That would be difficult.
This monk doesn’t possess such cosmic power.”

“I know,” Dugu Zhuo said.
“It was just idle talk.”

Tanji looked at Dugu Zhuo, though.
“This poor monk may not, but Sir Dugu might.
Legends say the twin swords of creation were formed from the axe Pangu[5] used to split heaven and earth, so they have the ability to divide the world.
In this world, perhaps only Sir Dugu can accomplish this division of the realms.”

“The twin swords are already—”

Before Dugu Zhuo could finish talking, Tanji abruptly vanished.
The old monk picked up the wooden fish again and started lightly tapping on it.
Light came from outside, the night having already passed.

Dugu Zhuo went outside to look at the sun.
It was already Chenshi.

It seemed like he and Tanji had once again entered a separate space in between the two worlds, or perhaps a dreamscape.

In a single conversation, the night had gone by.

the author actually said in their first author’s note that they originally named dugu zhuo 独孤浊, but they didn’t like the way it looked because the characters were too similar lol

thank you all for reading!

Please support the original author over on jjwxc

zhuo is written differently, 浊, same pronunciation.
it means impure 

a wooden percussion instrument beaten to keep timing during prayers and such 

小宝 little treasure.
a baby’s pet name 

the current spelling now.
zhuo as in outstanding 

the creator deity of chinese myth.
he was born when the cosmos was formless chaos and split it apart, separating the sky and earth 

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