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 Chapter 1: Prologue

Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -

Along the Witch's River, a single boat floated gently forward, yet no boatman was in sight.

Two people were on board the boat: A middle-aged Daoist who had a full head of white hair and a girl of about twelve or thirteen, whose beauty was already evident. The evening mist enveloped them as the bright moon glowed overhead.

"Look! That's King Feather Mountain with its magnificently tall peaks and clear waters. Behind the foggy terrain are mountains that resemble dragons and stretch on for thousands of miles!" exclaimed the middle-aged Daoist.

"Dark Altar Sect owns Hidden Millet Mountain, and is renowned across the world. Generation after generation of masters were produced there. And now, master Xie has the good fortune of inheriting both the King Feather Mountain and his teacher's title: 'Shrouded Enigma'. He will finally become a True Sovereign, which means his mortal body will become saintly, he will become an immortal. This event is a rare occurrence. That's why we're here, to attend the biggest gathering in the world," said the middle-aged Daoist, tears falling down his cheeks.

The young girl replied, "Teacher, you're upset again. Since ancient times, Daoist masters could live up to a thousand years old, but how many actually became immortals? There's a destiny for everyone and one day we too shall find our paradise, become human deities and live long fulfilling lives. Besides, being upset will do you no good, so, stop it, Teacher!"

Just as she had finished speaking, the boat reached the shore. The middle-aged man wiped his tears and smiled before proceeding ashore.

The moon shone brightly, and the night sky was peaceful and serene. In contrast, the foot of the mountain was bustling with activity. People were setting up stalls, selling items they no longer needed, or trading for spiritual pills and magic stones.

There were several female Daoists crowding around stalls, looking at jewellery and ornaments, picking some out for purchase.

"These people may either be rogue cultivators or disciples of small insignificant sects that have come to join in on the celebrations. However, most of them would not be permitted up the mountain. Let's not bother ourselves with them and head straight up."

The mountain range extended endlessly beyond what their eyes could see, and you could often see Daoist disciples guarding these areas. They all donned the same traditional blue robe tied with a golden crane belt. As several Daoist visitors drew closer to the disciples standing guard, they took out their invitations, which were either red or white, and handed it over to the guards.

When the middle-aged Daoist handed over his red-colored invitation, the guard at the entrance didn't dare show any disrespect, bowing and exclaiming, "It's Master Li! Please enter."

Comparatively, when receiving the white-colored invitation, the guard just showed a smile and said, "Thank you for coming, visitor. Only one guest is permitted."

After crossing the entrance, they passed through different mountains. There would occasionally be clouds floating by, as though the mountain immortals were welcoming them.

As they were walking, Master Li pointed out to his disciple, "Look, those are members of the Paradise Sect."

Although the roads along the mountains were long and winding, the palace built right at the peak was still visible from there. It had hundreds of towers, each surrounded by flower gardens. The one right in the middle stood most prominently. Many lanterns surrounded it, with one almost every few steps, resembling a sky full stars from afar.

The wind carried the happy welcoming sounds of instruments and jovial singing as hundreds of Daoists walked in briskly. Some were talking; others were pretending to sleep. There were even some engaged in discussions about the Dao.

"Thousands of Daoists attaining enlightenment-how glorious!" the middle aged Daoist praised endlessly.

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- Dao Palace: Underground Corridor

The majestic hallway was nine metres in height, and fifteen metres in width. A pair of Daoists walked across the corridor through a black door at the end. The door covered in golden nails on both sides opened slowly.

Behind the door stood two huge statues in full body armour and golden spears with the gusto of fearsome warriors. They had formidable, murderous auras about them.

The Daoist walking in front wore a silk robe and a traditional cap. He had long hair tied up into a bun and looked no more than seventeen or eighteen. A man around twenty years of age, followed closely behind, looking very deferential to the one in front.

"The True Sovereign, Shrouded Enigma, has arrived."

At a glance, a stone table with metal cuffs was used to restrain a man was visible. A faint fire on the brink of being extinguished glowed below the table. Although he had not been burnt, a look of anguish was evident on his face. His lips were chapped and dry. The blood on his body trickled drop by drop into the fire. As it did, red sparks burst forth and formed runes, which imprinted itself onto the body of the restrained man.

These runes were a bright ember, circling the strokes of the writings. Upon closer inspection, these writings appeared to be lines of intelligible words:

"Defying Dark Altar Sect's laws, showing open defiance towards the sect leader, trespassing on King Feather Mountain, resisting arrest, acting disgracefully!"

Using Dao Arts, the chains shackling the man were transfigured into poisonous snakes. These snakes were constantly tormenting the accused. As soon as the numerous cuts on his body began to heal, it was ripped open again by the snakes, causing blood to gush out.

At this point, the person who was to attain immortality, young master Xie, arrived, much to the delight of the crowd. As if he sensed it, the accused also raised his head from the stone table to look young master Xie.

"Pei Zi Yun!" a Daoist shouted, "You're still being stubborn?"

"Song Zhi!"

"Xie Cheng Dong!"

As young master Xie entered the prison, Pei Zi Yun, whom raised his head, never would have imagined that the person accompanying the former would be Song Zhi from Free Cloud Sect. This was the same person who had looked after him, the same person who swore to him that he would revive Free Cloud Sect. But shortly after learning of his secret, Song Zhi was also the person who sold him out to the Black Altar Sect, despite being his own trusted senior brother.

The three men exchanged glances, young master Xie wearing a look of playful cheerfulness.

"Pei Zi Yun, Ye Su'er has already left for Hidden Millet Mountain,1" Song Zhi said coldly, "Today, young master Xie will attain enlightenment-your death draws near."

Pei Zi Yun lifted his head as huge beads of sweat formed at his forehead. His eyes bloodshot, he glared at the two men before him. With much difficulty, he finally managed to speak, "I shouldn't have trusted you, you gave away my secret..."

"Hmph, that's your bad luck!" Song Zhi roared with laughter, "You had a spiritual gift, yet didn't inform your masters; that only goes to show how disloyal you are.

"Anyway, even if you had listened to your masters, this day next year would still be your death anniversary!

"Oh right, let's not speak of anniversaries. With a destroyed body and soul, what need will there be for memorials?" Song Zhi spoke through gritted teeth; his hatred for Pei Zi Yun was intense and unrelenting.

Bam!

Just as those words were spoken, the sky became darker and the wind blew harder. Thick black clouds gathered across the sky, dividing the expanse. In an instant, these dark clouds enveloped the entire night sky.

Young master Xie, who was exuding an aura of arrogance and complacency suddenly put his fan away and removed his playful expression, replacing it with a chilliness in his eyes, "Alright Song Zhi, return to the main hall and host the grand meeting!"

Noticing the abrupt change in young master Xie's demeanour, he left swiftly without a word.

After a moment of silence, young master Xie sneered and said, "Pei Zi Yun, you're indeed blessed by the heavens. Today is actually the day the Dao Laws would be passed, and the skies should be clear. But since you're going to die, it became overcast with clouds.

"Look at this!" young master Xie pointed at the Plum Blossom in between his eyebrows, "This gift can also be called the 'Plum Blossom theft', as it can steal innate gifts.

"This spiritual gift that even the ancient records have no account of was originally yours. After taking it from you, I've become the first Daoist to achieve immortality in less than ten years."

After hearing this, the blood-soaked criminal raised his head and began to struggle against his shackles.

"Pei Zi Yun, you're such a worthless person. You had a gift like this and wasted ten years, especially the first five years, doing nothing. I don't believe you're ignorant of its existence, yet you barely used it!

"Ye Su'er, who has a huge destiny waiting for her, was your childhood sweetheart, yet you lost her too.

"Your teacher was an elder of Free Cloud Sect who taught in Snail Village for three years. All you had to do was show some signs of your gift, and you could have been admitted there, but you let him down.

"Ten years of wasted time, your entire village was annihilated. Ye Su'er has left you, and merely to gain entrance into Free Cloud Sect, you took five to six years. However, when you did, you caused them to decline. Look! Even your beloved senior brother has to rely on me instead of you.

"You are such a failure!"

As young master Xie spoke, he inched nearer and nearer Pei Zi Yun. He bent down till he was almost whispering into the latter's ear.

The bloodied Pei Zi Yun fiercely struggled and glared at this evil man before him, his heart burning with rage so intense; it almost surged out from within.

"Your own woman, you were unable to keep by your side. Your own sect, you were unable to defend. You weren't even able to retain possession of your own innate spiritual gift." Young master Xie laughed, "Just for an insignificant theft, you willingly swore to sell it to me. Do you know how stupid you are?

"If it could be taken forcefully, then it's just a worthless inanimate object.

"I'm about to become immortal, and you can only sit here in jail struggling and wailing." Looking down on Pei Zi Yun's expression, young master Xie started laughing again. Deciding to torment him no further, he frowned and said, "Look, my time to attain enlightenment has come."

In the spiritual realm, spiritual energy began surging violently and a ray of Dao Light descended from the heavens.

Many of the people gathered at the foot of mountain gasped in shock. Even the Daoist elders, who were leading the procession, became astonished when they noticed the ray of Dao Light.

This was immortal enlightenment descending from heaven, a step taken to unify the heaven and the earth, to fuse the sun and the moon.

"Aaah!" young master Xie exclaimed as the spiritual ray descended from the heavens onto his body. Millions of stars fell onto the empty ground below, as gold sparks fell like rain. The entire jail cell was illuminated. Suddenly, Pei Zi Yun began to laugh, his expression frenzied.

"What are you laughing about?" Young master Xie straightened up as a look of unease spread across his face.

"I'm incompetent, but I've indeed discovered my Plum Blossom gift long ago. I was, however, stupidly afraid of it, because it could take away anyone's hard earned knowledge and Dao Arts just like that, that's unfair.

"Heaven freely gives and does not take, yet willingly suffers the blame of others.2 That's why my mother died in extreme poverty, why I had to ask Ye Su'er to leave me, why my teachers were destroyed, and why I'm in such a situation.

"But, I've spent seven years in jail, reflecting in agony over these mistakes-do you think I haven't learned?

"Do you know why I had to suffer just to wait for this moment?

"Do you really think I would still be afraid of death and beg for my life, at this point?" Pei Zi Yun said coldly. All of a sudden, a booming roar sounded. The skies laden with dark clouds parted and made way for a flash of lightning that illuminated the entire night sky. Pei Zi Yun's body started undergoing a transformation. A multitude of stars showered upon him and entered every orifice of his body. Second by second, he seemed to be growing at an inconceivable speed.

"No, this is impossible! You don't have the ability to absorb spiritual energy! Besides, you've already sworn to transfer your Plum Blossom, how can there be remnants of it left?"

"What I've transferred was just the flower, but the roots are still there.

"Yes, your restraint on me is horrifying. All the energy I absorb will be extracted by you. However, this time, I did not absorb energy for myself.

"I did it for that.3

"Obviously ordinary energy would not be able to activate the roots, but you just had to humiliate me while gaining your enlightenment-I've waited for this opportunity."

As Pei Zi Yun's body continued to absorb the stars, trickles of blood rays started to leak out and black strings formed all over him. The strings expanded rapidly with each passing second.

"Young master Xie, there can be no flower without the roots. Watch me vow to take away everything from you..." Pei Zi Yun's body started to split open inch by inch as flesh and blood became indistinguishable, and yet there he was, still laughing in maniacal frenzy.

"No!" Young Master Xie stopped hesitating, and with a wave of his hand, and a flash of his sword, severed Pei Zi Yun's head. The head soared towards to sky as fresh blood gushed out. Just as the head was in mid-air, the look of anger and craze was replaced by an expressionless stare, looking right at the sky.

"The one who bears the same name and will inherit everything from me, undo all my regrets!"

Boom! A roar of thunder echoed across the mountains, shaking the ground beneath before a flash of blinding light was emitted, and all that remained was a mushroom cloud.

[1] Literal and metaphorical sense that she had left him for another man ie; the person who had acquired Hidden Millet mountain and thus, was at his stronghold.

[2] Chinese proverb meaning bad things can happen to good people.

[3] He meant he collected the energy for the Plum Blossom/to activate its roots.

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