‘The branch of the Divine Tree! Look! You are now covered with gaping wounds all because of the people you are being together with. But, have they ever had any pity upon you?’
Xuanwu and the Hermit of the Vague Territory stepped into the untamed forest. They broke into the nest of the gorgon. Venomous snakes in the woods attacked the intruders endlessly. The gorgon blamed Xuanwu for helping the people trample upon nature though Xuanwu itself was a beast created by nature. Xuanwu responded by growling but the gorgon did not care much about its response - she just wanted to let out her rage. ‘Trees protect themselves from withering for feelings by being emotionless, don’t they?’
The tortoise stomped through the woods, but its gigantic body was always hindered by the trees. The hermit swung his sword, cutting down any poisonous snakes that leapt towards them out of the shades of trees; Xuanwu whipped its long tail, protecting the hermit from the enemies. Together, they moved forward in slow but steady steps.
“We are here only for the Soul Seed and we mean no harm!”, the Hermit shouted.
‘Naive! After trampling upon my nest, he’s still trying to justify himself!’ What the hermit heard was not the gorgon’s voice but the message she lodged in the breeze transmitted by the leaves. ‘Answer me! Why are you protecting him? Don’t tell me that you have the responsibility to do so, huh?’
The tortoise answered with a deep bellow: Yes, since people inscribed their oaths all over its body and gave it the name of Xuanwu, everything was determined.
In the past, Xuanwu was a branch of the Divine Tree. Whenever the river overflowed, people would tie themselves to it with tree vines. Through these fragile tree vines Xuanwu learned about the helplessness of these people. It reinforced the vines with its power so they would not break and as a result they became part of Xuanwu’s body. People started to settle around it as they realized its power. The short-lived human regarded the branch as immortal and therefore it was worshipped as a deity.
Xuanwu was granted its name and people used its name in oaths, asking it to witness the fulfillment of their oaths with its grains... It stood beside the river and watched all these happened. People’s lives faded quickly like a flower in bloom, living and dying in an instant just to savor the fragrance of the world... Later, Xuanwu turned itself into a giant beast and fended off the Demons. In order to protect people’s belief and prevent them from seeing it withering after it had exhausted all its power, the tortoise hid itself in the bottom of the river, in order to harness power from the earth to recover and prevent the river from overflowing at the same time, until the day it was discovered by an ascetic while it was saving a child. It was forced to appear in front of people again but in a weakened form; yet they still worshiped it and shared their power with it, allowing Xuanwu to regain its previous form.
People stayed with the tortoise in the name of the Hermit of the Vague Territory. In order to grant Xuanwu with “real immortality”, they decided to march deep into the Divine Woodland to obtain the legendary Soul Seed. They found what they sought in the end but the Hermit was badly wounded by the gorgon’s resentful venom. In order to preserve his soul, Xuanwu engulfed the hermit with its snake tail, protecting him in the manner how it used its vines to protect people in the past during floods. It shared the power of the Soul Seed with the hermit, and the two became one.