Despite maximum effort, the little mystical turtle’s distance-covered can be measured in inches. As it neared shore and water, a mischievous child would chase it from behind and place the helpless mystical turtle back into the pond. Living a tranquil but lonely life of self-cultivation, the child remained fun-loving and thus, he constantly ignored his master’s instructions to the contrary and went exploring in the watery villages alone.
The practitioners were concerned he would get into trouble one day, but unfortunately, they were unable to keep him in control. Not long afterwards, the child inadvertently fell into the river when he wanted to measure the water’s depth. Thankfully, the child was saved by the mystical turtle through this; a Xian destiny bond was created between the two.
The practitioners recognized that the mystical turtle was an ancient mythological beast and therefore, brought it onto shore to help it cultivate its pneuma. For the child, the silver lining of falling into the water turned out to be the company of the mystical turtle. The child now viewed the turtle as his beloved playmate; the child carried the little turtle in his arms on adventures and when they were home, he would silently watch as the turtle determinedly climbed towards the riverside.
Child: Oh God of the River, can you please tell me where the river water comes from?
Mystical Turtle: ...
Child: You eat so little, is that really enough?
Mystical Turtle: ...
Child: Is your tail snake poop?
Mystical Turtle: ...
Child: Come on, talk to me.
Child: If you do, I promise to place you back in the river, okay?
The mystical turtle never did speak to the child although sometimes, it would take a peek at the child behind him; other times, after the child had talked non-stop for a long time, it would retreat back into its shell and not start to crawl again until the child stopped talking. Yet this time, it was once again picked up by the child when it had just reached the shore and despite its struggles, the distance between it and the river grew.
Their struggle is never-ending: the child does not want to lose his important playmate and so he would always bring the turtle back to the pond. Yet, the mystical turtle must return to the depths to prevent the flooding that plagues the inhabitants of the shoreline. The mystical turtle had wanted to burn the child’s hands with its godly powers on several occasions, but it could not bear itself to harm a child it had once saved.
After several months, the mystical turtle became increasingly inactive. Not only did it stop crawling towards the river, it also ignored everyone. It stayed unmoving in a little pool beneath a tree with its tail, which is actually a snake, lying on its back. It would only move when the child flipped it over like a toy and even then, its struggle was dispirited.
The child was guilt-ridden at the sight of this; thus, he brought prawns from the river to its pond and picked flowers from the shore with which he bordered the pool. Basically everyday, the child would think of a myriad of ways to satisfy the mystical turtle so it would stay with him, and not try to return to the river.
Yet, despite all of the child’s efforts, the mystical turtle did not respond. It would retreat into its shell time after time when the child spoke to it, and would ignore everything the child did. Finally, the child could not hold back his tears. With the mystical turtle in arm, he ran to the river with tears coming down his cheek. On the way, joy filled up the mystical turtle but upon reaching the shore, the child simply looked at the rushing waters of the river and made no effort to release the mystical turtle.
Child: Little turtle, I know you feel this is my fault.
Child: Do you really want to return to the river that badly?
Child: Fine, so be it.
The mystical turtle waited for the child to finish. It believed that when the child ran out of tears, he would throw it back into the river. It did not expect him to raise it over its head and leap into the rushing river.
The young lord is drowning!
Help Xuanwu gather enough earth elements to lift the child back to the surface.
Fortunately, the child floated on the surface with the power of the earth elements.
A resounding slap landed on the face of the child; yet, with his lungs recently filled with water and yet to fully catch his breath, the child could not cry even if he wanted to.
Practitioner: Like I have always said:
Practitioner: Once you recover from your injuries, you would forget the pain.
Practitioner: If you do not know how to swim, then don’t go near the river.
Child: I just...
Child: wanted to return to the river with the little turtle.
Practitioner: Xuanwu was the Sacred Wood from the Divine Tree.
Practitioner: It stabilizes the waters and has lived in the depths of the river since antiquity.
Practitioner: You, on other hand, had attempted to learn swimming multiple times...
Practitioner: ...and failed.
In the previous instance, the child had nearly drowned. It had taken the mystical turtle every bit of strength it had to drag the child back to shore using its weak forelimbs. It had returned to the river where it bellowed in misery. If the practitioner had not heard the cries in time, the child would have died by now.
The child had nearly drowned twice now, and on both occasions, he survived only because of the mystical turtle’s intervention. This enraged the practitioner. Not only did the child disobey his instructions, he was also careless with his life. Furthermore, even the mystical turtle which was summoned out of the river after extensive efforts was now gone, having retreated back to the watery depths.
After the slap, the practitioner picked up the child and turned to leave. Yet, the child grabbed the moist soil of the shore and started crying again. The practitioner was stronger than the child and lifted him onto his shoulders. The child gazed longing at the river and waved.
Child: Goodbye, little turtle. I will learn how to swim.
Child: Goodbye, little turtle. I will come back for you. I promise...
Mystical Turtle: ...
The next day, when the practitioner went to wake up the child, he found the child lying in bed uninterested in any activities or food, little different from how the mystical turtle had behaved. Having no alternative, the practitioner went alone to cultivate his pneuma, leaving the child by himself. The child did not enjoy his loneliness but suddenly heard a knock at the door. Thinking there was a visitor, he went to open it only to find no one there. He closed the door and returned to bed.
Soon afterwards, he heard another knock at the door, and again, he opened the door. To his surprise, he found the mystical turtle outside, knocking the wooden door with its shell. The sight gave the child immense joy and he immediately pulled the mystical turtle into his chest. Seeing that the child was fine, the mystical turtle felt great relief and, despite some reluctance, allowed the child to play with him. It never insisted upon a return to the river again.
As the child matured, he cultivated his pneuma alongside the mystical turtle and the practitioner. While the mystical turtle had regained a fair amount of its godly powers, the child also learned a number of spells. However, with the loss of the mythological beast, the river was left alone and began flooding. Not long after the child reached his adolescence, the flood cascaded over the dyke and reached his village home.
Young Practitioner: Master, there is a large group of Demons outside.
Practitioner: Xuanwu has lived on the land the last several years.
Practitioner: It did not have time to exercise its control over water.
Practitioner: Now, with the Demon army attacking in the wake of the flood,
Practitioner: it is our responsibility to resist them on its behalf.
Young Practitioner: Yes, master. I have learnt quite a bit over these last years.
Practitioner: Then summon your courage and annihilate them by Xuanwu’s side.
In the past, Xuanwu protected Humans from the watery depths.
Now, it trained with the Sage of the North. The Demons took advantage of the dyke’s collapse to launch an invasion.
Adventurer, help the two friends fight the Demons.
After the flooding, Xuanwu received permission from the practitioner to return home and resume his training. The practitioner himself stayed by the turtle, hoping to learn from it. Whenever surges in water level came, Xuanwu would always ready itself for a response on the riverbed. Its tail moved in the currents as its powerful forelimbs moved rocks and wood alike to guide the river’s flow.
Upon seeing this, the practitioner realized that Xuanwu had always watched over the flow of the river to prevent flooding; thus, he aided Xuanwu’s endeavor and the experience furthered his understanding of nature — something he passed on to his apprentice. From then on, the practitioner and his apprentice stayed with Xuanwu and tended the river’s flow. This helped Xuanwu’s relationship with Humans grow. It would now come to the shore to bathe in the sunlight and enjoy Human company, while allowing people to clean its back of algae.
However, good times does not last. As the war between Gods and Demons spread to the outlying regions of the village, the shorelines were ravaged by soldiers from the three sides. The practitioner realized that his endeavors in water control cannot truly protect the people by the shore and therefore, he decided to personally repel the hostilities. On the day of his departure, he left Xuanwu by his young apprentice’s side, and bade his apprentice to defend the village with the power of Xuanwu.
Practitioner: You have grown up, my young apprentice.
Practitioner: I cannot stay by your side forever and teach you Taoist spells.
Young Practitioner: Master, what should I do after you have left...
Practitioner: Xuanwu is an ancient mythological beast.
Practitioner: It has existed since the first skirmishes of the war between Gods and Demons.
Practitioner: Xuanwu has drained its godly powers in eons in attempt to control the waters.
Practitioner: But the rewards are little worth the effort.
Practitioner: Xuwanwu is already exhausted.
Practitioner: Although we have trained with it over the past years,
Practitioner: we were unable to restore the mythological beast’s powers.
Practitioner: I know you have adored it since you were young.
Practitioner: Even if I leave, I will let Xuanwu stay by your side.
Practitioner: Then the two of you can take care of each other.
Practitioner: You shall succeed to the title of Sage of the North.
The Young Sage: Master, when Xuanwu and I have successfully tamed the river,
The Young Sage: we will catch up to you.
When the practitioner left, the young Sage innovated. Changing the approach, he stopped using Xuanwu’s powers to forcibly hold the waters back; rather, he headed into the mountains diverting streams into the sea, and widened waterways where the current was fast. During the years it took, he passed by his home village but did not enter, instead choosing to focus upon taming the river. After some years of strenuous effort working with the river, he and Xuanwu finally succeeded. As he packed and prepared for his return to his village, the color of the water slowly changed, but the Sage did not notice.
The Young Sage: Wow, it took me so much effort to return to the village, but there is no one here.
The Young Sage: I wonder where everyone is.
Gnome Garroter: Child, you are so big now.
The Young Sage: Who are you?
Gnome Garroter: Me? I am the master of this village.
The Young Sage: Cut the crap; where are the villagers?
Gnome Garroter: Go to the shore and see for yourself.
Gnome Garroter: Didn’t you see the water change color when you were returning from downstream?
The Young Sage: How could you? What did these innocent villagers ever do to you?
Gnome Garroter: Nothing! It was you I have a grudge against.
Gnome Garroter: You guided the water into my original turf.
Xuanwu had regained much of its godly powers after years of training alongside the Sage of the North. With his single strike, it knocked down a millennium-old fir. The snake elf leapt from the falling tree onto another with little concern. Because of the fertile soil and abundant rainfall, the trees here all grew to great heights with their canopies touching the clouds. A river twisted alongside the edge of the woods, forming a perfect habitat for the snake elf.
In the forest, the Sage of the North could only fight the snake elf to a draw even with help from Xuanwu. Despite, or perhaps because of, its immense size and strength, its movements in the forest was severely restricted. While its attacks could shake giant trees, it was unable to hit the thin slithering body of a snake. Its shell shielded it from sword and arrow, but could not repel the petrifying beams fired by the snake. Thankfully, Xuanwu’s body was protected by its godly powers and the snake elf could not completely disable Xuanwu, and instead only slowed it down.
Medusa the Dreaded: Haha, you are just a human’s plaything; that is why you are so useless.
Xuanwu the Divine Lord: ...
Xuanwu the Sage of the North: We are here only in search of the mystical seed.
Xuanwu the Sage of the North: We have no intention of bothering anyone.
Medusa the Dreaded: You useless beast, you short-lived useless beast!
Medusa the Dreaded: Xuanwu, I’ve never thought you’d end up as a child’s mount.
Xuanwu cried out in protest of the snake elf’s many accusations; its tail seemed to stare at her with both familiarity and hostility. The Sage of the North could guess what Xuanwu was saying, although the exact words were unknown to him. However, he realized that in the past, humans had carved their vows onto the shell of the mystical turtle, and the endowment of the name Xuanwu was to serve as the consecration. The patterns on Xuanwu’s back was to stand testament to the rise and fall of the village. Xuanwu took on the role and had defended the village for millennia.
It had thought its recent collaboration with the Sage of the North to tame the waters would mean the fulfillment of its vow; it could not have anticipated that the village would be conquered by monsters and the villagers’ corpses tossed into the river.
When the Sgae of the North headed to the fields of battle where Gods and Demons warred, the shore was already devoid of human presences. He realized the frightening nature of the human calamity as it dawned upon him that his many years of work had become meaningless. The Sage of the North wanted to seek stronger power that could resist all sources of evil. He journeyed to the Divine Forest in search of the mystical seed which could fully restore Xuanwu’s godly powers. Unfortunately, they now faced the hindrance set by the snake elf.
Medusa the Dreaded: What is it to you the length of a human lifespan is?
Medusa the Dreaded: My refusal to give you the mystical seed is to save you from wasting your energy.
Medusa the Dreaded: Child, if you truly want to help Xuanwu, you should kill yourself.
Medusa the Dreaded: Or else, Xuanwu would have to repay his debt to you...
Medusa the Dreaded: ...at the cost of another myriad years of pneuma cultivation.
Medusa the Dreaded: I will bring you to the mystical seed if it means that much to you.
Medusa the Dreaded: After all, the lifespan of Humans would still not extend past a century.
The snake elf brought Xuanwu and the Sage into a deep cave. The oil lamps hanging on the wall provided just enough light to see an altar. The Sage of the North took the mystical seed from the altar for Xuanwu to consume. While he muttered the incantation, he thought back to the hardships he had shared with Xuanwu:
Xuanwu the Sage of the North: It is said that in the beginning of time,
Xuanwu the Sage of the North: mountains peaked and rivers ran while the yin-yang pneuma ran through all.
Xuanwu the Sage of the North: One principle dictated the universal meaning.
Xuanwu the Sage of the North: In the pneuma, one must search for harmony.
Xuanwu the Sage of the North: And in the principle, one must reach for intricacy.
Suddenly, the snake elf opened its eyes taking advantage of the Sage’s distracted state, shot a beam of green flowers at him. The Sage was instantly left unmoving on the floor.
Medusa the Dreaded: The child is dying; let’s see what you will fight for now?
With that said, the snake elf vanished into the depths of the cave. Xuanwu was left alone with the Sage who was now turning into stone. To save the Sage, Xuanwu, through its snake tail, swallowed him and the mystical seed together in the nick of time. From then on, the Sage and Xuanwu took in the power of the mystical seed and merged into one, with his life and that of Xuanwu’s becoming one.