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The Sacred Mountain Wan.

The wind carried sand and drove stones, blotting out the sky and covering the sun.

A tremendous cyclone was spreading from an abyss so deep one couldn’t see its bottom. It was like the large bloody mouth of a beast, ready to devour all living things.

Everyone had to use spiritual power or divine weapons to steady themselves. Those with weaker cultivation were immediately blown away by howling winds, leaving no trace. The survivors did their best to see the scene in the chaos.

The sandstorm covered the sky and the earth with dust, and a black mist was rising from the bottom of the abyss like a fountain.

But that fierce black mist, like a beast locked in a cage, could only hit against the bars.

A number of dots and lines formed glowing red circles around the black mist, making it impossible to step over those boundaries.

The red light was weaker than the mist. One moment it was bright, but another moment it seemed dimmer.

However, it never went out completely.

Six people split up the scarlet circle into six sections.

Some of these people made seals with both hands, others used weapons to support the seal. The formation was engulfed in white light and was locked in a stalemate with the black mist.

These six people were all the top masters of the world, the best of the best. Ordinary people could only admire them but could never match their power.

All of the masters were talented enough to ascend and become immortal.

But at that moment, some of them were frowning and some had sweat on their foreheads.

The light hanging in the air in front of them was flickering and flashing.

Several people outside of the circle that were helping to maintain the formation were nervous as well.

“This?Liuhe Zhutian?Formation can’t have any problems, right? How come the light in the southeast corner is a bit weak?”

Liuhe Zhutian: “six compatible ones that brighten the sky”.

“It is probably fine. That is Ren Haishan, the Head of the Kunlun Jian Sect. If he is unable to resist it further, we all are of no use!”

“I hope they will seal the abyss completely, otherwise I am afraid to even imagine the consequences…”

It was a battle for the entire world.

If the barrier around the abyss was shattered, all the demons would? break the seal and come out. The human world would no longer be peaceful.

Only this formation could prevent this from happening, and no one was allowed to make a mistake.



The ground trembled; cliffs toppled.

“What’s happening?”

“Master Ren! On Ren Haishan’s side!”

Those who were struggling to support the barrier saw Ren Haishan’s body suddenly burst into flames and then quickly darken.

In the next moment, he was swallowed by the black mist too quickly for anyone to react.

The Liuhe Zhutian Formation had lost a corner and was on the verge of collapsing.

“It’s bad! Master Dugu can’t support that side either!”

“Sect Master Qi Zhenren’s formation has collapsed!”

The six lights went out one by one.

The red light was also getting weaker.

Finally, there was only one light left, its flames strong and vigorous!

The red light suddenly brightened.

“That is Lord Jiufang’s light!”

“Can he support it?!”

“Quick, let’s go there and help!”

“Secure six positions!”

“It’s too late… Ah!!!”

In an instant the shouts were dispersed by strong gusts of wind!

The black mist suddenly exploded and filled the surroundings, as if countless tentacles quickly spread on the ground. Restraints were lifted, and frightening demons rushed out in disorder.

The sun and the moon became dimmer, and the world lost its colors.

In the black mist, one person still stood, and his light trembled, being the only hope of countless people.

Only one person held the array, using all of his will to withstand the pain and pressure.

It was the longest quarter of an hour in the world.

No one knows how much pressure the man had to endure, who alone supported the barrier meant for six guardians to hold.

No one knows whether he was still sane at that moment.

Jiufang, who was considered to be the strongest cultivator of all, always behaved in bizarre ways. Confucians, Buddhists, Daoists and even demonic sects denounced and criticized him. Many crises and disputes in the world had something to do with him.

But at that moment, no one wanted him dead, they even wished him well.

In the Liuhe Zhutian Formation, only this one was left—

That light suddenly went out!

The darkness blotted out the sky and covered the earth, swallowing everything.

The world was plunged into silence.

Piles of bodies and skeletons disappeared in a flash.

At the battle of the Sacred Mountain Wan, cultivators suffered a disastrous defeat.

The gates of the abyss have been wide open since then. All the demons flew out and spread across the world. The Sacred Mountain Wan became a passage between two realms.

People call this place the Nine Layers of the Abyss.

Fifty years later.

Zhang Mu.

His name and aptitude were just as unremarkable as his sect.

He entered a Daoist sect at the age of ten, and it has been more than twenty years since then. To put it nicely, he always followed the prescribed order and had his feet firmly planted on the ground. Said downright ugly—

he accomplished next to nothing.

His sect’s disciples cultivated Dao and used long spears and double-edged swords as weapons. Zhang Mu chose long spears when he started, but his skills would not evolve past the fifth level, while other disciples with powerful innate talent in his sect had already broken through the eighth level and could sweep away all obstacles with spears and qi.

Zhang Mu knew his weak points, but he was unable to change anything.

Talent is innate, and that is the greatest despair.

If he was satisfied with things as they were,? he would have got married and had a son in two or three years, bought a few?mu?of farmland close to the sect and passed it through the generations. If his children turned out to be gifted, he would have used the benefits of a favorable position and sent them to the sect, so that they would formally become disciples.

Mu: 1/15 of a hectare

But deep in his heart Zhang Mu knew this wasn’t enough for him.

If one was gifted, how would he willingly live like everyone else, burying this talent?

While he was thinking about it, hesitant, two or three years passed.

When his?dashixiong?broke through the ninth level, Zhang Mu finally decided to go for it.

Dashixiong: eldest martial brother.

He bid farewell to his teacher, saying that he wanted to gain experience, left his sect and went to the?Yellow Springs.

Yellow Springs: one of the three realms in the xianxia genre, the land of the dead.

The world of life and the world of death are boundless, and Yin capital ferries the souls of the deceased.

The Yellow Springs are not the final destination of dead souls, but being there is even more dreadful than being dead.

Legend has it that yin and yang are in chaos there, souls of the deceased are aplenty, and the day cannot be told from the night. People who enter this place by mistake face only two options.

They either come and never return, or break through their heart obstructions right on the verge of death and scale new heights.

However, the latter are only a few, and there have not been many in the past hundreds of years, while the former appear one after another.

Some cultivators and ordinary people entered the place by mistake; others, like Zhang Mu, cut off their means of retreat.

Most of them never left the Yellow Springs.

The Ash River flows on the far southwest of the Human realm.

Ashes float on the surface of the river, and no one knows what drifts underwater. The mist does not disperse throughout the year. As a person goes upstream along the river, the fog gets more and more dense, disorienting travellers until they are lost forever.

According to rumors, the source of this river is located in the Yellow Springs.

Zhang Mu was determined to face death and survive. He walked along the river and entered the world of the mist.

Strange dense fog was like a barrier that isolated sunshine and all living things.

When he ran into the first danger, he regretted his decision.

Fortunately, his survival instinct helped him break through the sixth level of his skill at a crucial point, and he managed to save his life.

If one can’t get out, they can only continue to walk ahead.

He himself didn’t know how long he wandered around in the world of primal chaos. From the beginning, he was careful and mindful of the route and threats, which helped him escape mortal dangers. He could only rely on his strong will to survive.

Zhang Mu and his companions were hiding behind a boulder, seeking a short break.

He met his companions in the Yellow Springs. They came from different small sects and were experienced as well.

Some people died midway, some new members joined. Now there were about seven or eight of them.

Half an hour ago, countless demons and vicious spirits started chasing them. Perhaps those creatures coveted human bodies and wanted to seize the opportunity to take control of them. Or maybe they had not tasted the sweetness of human flesh for a long time, and now wanted to eat fine food till they were full. Zhang Mu and the others worked tirelessly, but only managed to drive them away a little bit.

“What should we do? Those things will catch up to us again soon! I don’t want to die here!”

Whispered in Zhang Mu’s ear a female disciple, sobbing.

None of them were highly gifted, and they didn’t draw the attention of the elders in their sects. They could only accept this fate, but they still wanted to survive.

The female disciple didn’t lack good looks, and her admirers from the group immediately tried to console her.

Others were discussing countermeasures in whispers.

Only one person in the group was always silent.

Zhang Mu couldn’t help but look at that person a few more times.

That person was riddled with wounds, hair disheveled, clothes shabby; his face was barely recognizable and his age was unclear.

The travellers avoided him, so Zhang Mu was sitting closer to him than the others.

Zhang Mu didn’t even know his name. He only knew that once they lost their way in a forest of illusions and their group was almost wiped out, it was this person who got them out of danger.

However, this person was only clear-headed from time to time, and not sober most of the time. He didn’t know his name or origin, and had no idea of what was going on. Apart from his knowledge of the place, it could be said he had no skills at all.

Time passed. No one else wanted to associate with him, and they called him mute behind his back.

Only Zhang Mu helped him heal his wounds, and sometimes would say a word or two.

“Daoyou, do you know whether there is another escape route?” Zhang Mu asked.

Daoyou: daoist friend, fellow daoist; fig. friends sharing the same hobby.

He was so messy and dirty that Zhang Mu couldn’t even tell whether the person was a man or a woman, so he called him “daoyou”.

The mute held a graver and a chunk of wood in his hands. He lowered his head and concentrated. He didn’t even hear Zhang Mu.

Zhang Mu waited for a second, didn’t get a response, and helplessly averted his gaze, trying to think of another plan.

Escape: they won’t be able to escape, their group has long since exhausted themselves.

Fight: very likely, they will get rid of a fierce tiger only to attract new predators. In the end, everyone will become a meal for the evil spirits.

Hide: only the winds surround the place, there is no place to hide, where to go?

The vast barren desert in the Yellow Springs seems to be no different from deserts in the human realm, but, in fact, the cold yin wind, that is blowing through caves, is like a sharp blade for?lingchi. The wailings of ghosts and howling of beasts are a hundred times more terrifying than the ones in the Human realm. Even his companions, who have seen a lot, were gritting their teeth, trying to resist the fear.

Lingchi: the death of a thousand cuts, ancient Chinese death penalty.

The ice-cold wind brought wailings of evil spirits.

They were gradually getting closer, quietly following the smell of humans.

“Maybe he is attracting these evil spirits?”

Said someone suddenly.

Zhang Mu raised his head and couldn’t help being stunned: everyone was looking at the person next to him.

“I am just saying, but we have been wandering through the Yellow Springs for so long, and have never seen such ferocious spirits and demons. And only after we took him did these strange things begin to happen!”

“In my opinion, these creatures may not be hunting us! Maybe if he leaves, we will be safer!”

Everyone spoke their mind, and so the destiny of the mute was arranged.

The reason they didn’t draw the final conclusion was that they were waiting for Zhang Mu’s decision, because he had the highest cultivation level among them.

Without Zhang Mu’s command, they still had a trace of doubt.

As though the mute didn’t hear them, he lowered his head to look at his small wooden board, and scratched it with his knife.

The carving resembled a bird.

A thought crossed Zhang Mu’s mind, but he didn’t stop to think about it.

These people were strangers coming together by chance. Although the mute saved their lives, they repaid his kindness by bringing him together with themselves for this long.

Besides, acquaintances in the Yellow Springs were fleeting, and they have long gotten used to separations in their journeys.

Throwing the mute out as bait may allow them to get away unscratched.

Even if they won’t, they can buy more time to run away.

Anyway, they are neither relatives nor friends, so they won’t lose anything.


After all, it is a human life.

The howls, brought by the wind, were getting more and more hideous. Everyone had gone through horrifying fights with evil spirits, and their faces revealed fear.

They had to retreat step by step.

Zhang Mu swallowed unwillingly.

His palms began to sweat, and the place where he held his long spear became slippery.

Zhang Mu looked at the mute.

“Daoyou, you—”

The mute suddenly raised his head.

“I want to go with you.”

He actually spoke.

Zhang Mu wanted to say something, but hesitated. They had no time to speak. He gathered everyone and left, covering the retreat.

The danger came quickly and violently!

Stinking of raw meat qi swept in with whistling ice-cold wind. The vicious spirits and demons rushed in with gray fog and yellow sand, baring fangs and brandishing claws. The first rays of the morning sun flickered in the sky, revealing their sinister figures; at first, they were only faintly visible, but then became clearer and seemed even more dreadful.

As luck would have it, their group could not see clearly through the dim light and dense ghostly fog, and they could only run in the opposite direction of the qi.

Suddenly, a whirlwind gathered in the mist, and fingers stretched out from it like withered claws, grabbing Zhang Mu by his collar from behind.

Zhang Mu felt it, suddenly turned around, and attacked with his spear.

The long spear rotated and advanced forward. Suddenly, a blue light flashed, condensed into a lump, and bloomed in the air.

The blue lotus was tender and beautiful; it bewitched humans’ hearts. But, if you lose yourself admiring its beauty, you will be unknowingly strangled by it!

This was the seventh level of Zhang Mu’s newly comprehended skill.

He has defeated many powerful enemies in the Yellow Springs with this skill.

But he seemed to have forgotten that his enemy was not a living creature, so a beautiful scenery is not enough to distract it.

The barrier formed by the blue lotus was easily broken, and the ferocious demons swooped in. Their bloody mouths were wide open, and a stench filled the whole place.

Zhang Mu had seen his companion being swallowed by such a ghost with his own eyes. After the black qi had engulfed him, there was no skin and flesh left, only a pile of broken bones in disorder. That made his blood freeze.

And at this moment, he was also about to become one of these countless skeletons in the Yellow Springs. Probably even a few years later his soul won’t disperse, unable to ascend to the Heavens or enter the Earth. It will have to stay in the Yellow Springs day after day, becoming a vicious spirit or a demon that devours travelers.


He didn’t want to die!

It was so difficult for him to come here! He will be rewarded for all these trials and tribulations, and eventually escape his fate and stand out among his peers!

He can’t fall here, fail to succeed for lack of a final effort!

Zhang Mu unconsciously opened his eyes, and his body moved by instinct.

At that moment, all his hesitation turned into a selfish desire to survive.

He tightly grabbed the mute by his wrist, immediately turned him around with force, jumped back, using his energy to fly, and let himself fall a few?zhangs?away.

Zhang: 3.3 m.

Don’t blame me, I also want to survive!

That feeling of guilt disappeared in a flash. Zhang Mu gritted his teeth and prepared to retreat.

According to his experience, when these evil spirits devour flesh, they temporarily indulge in the delicious meal and have no time to care about other things. His group can take advantage of this to escape.

However, not long after everyone rushed out, they heard a loud noise behind them. When they turned their heads, they saw flames soaring into the sky; that fire dispersed the dense fog.

In the middle of the flames, a few black humanoid figures rolled and wailed, but Zhang Mu knew that they were definitely not the mute!

Those twisted, weird and tall black mists of human appearance were all evil spirits and demons that had been chasing after them.

And now all these ghosts, demons and evil creatures have been burned to ashes by fire?!

No, this was no ordinary fire!

Zhang Mu and the others behind him were all stunned. They watched the burning golden phoenix rise into the air puffing up its chest, and raising its head high up. It bowled its head and spat fire, drowning all the ghosts in a sea of flames. It was so bright that everyone’s eyes stung at the same moment. Suddenly, bright rays of light flashed, and blazing flames engulfed the sky. Spreading rapidly, not only did they rush to Zhang Mu, but they also caught up to everyone behind him.

Some people who were sharp-sighted and deft wanted to defend themselves with swords, but as soon as someone raised his sword, it was burned to ashes. The strange thing was that although they were inside a raging inferno, they felt no pain. But it was difficult to control limbs, their minds gradually blurred, and finally they sank into deep darkness.

Before Zhang Mu lost his consciousness, he faintly saw a person walking towards them slowly from the flames.

The phoenix landed, and its wings were shining with brilliant lights and vibrant colors, so dazzling they were difficult to describe.

This sight was burning inside everyone’s souls.

He Xiyun was unconscious for a long time, and even thought she had died until she woke up. But she still remembered very well the figure that slowly walked out of the fire. That person was like a returning king or descending god.

Wherever the raging flames went, all demons and monsters would be destroyed, not leaving even a single piece behind.

Am I still alive?

He Xiyun grabbed the ice-cold yellow sand with her hand, let it slip away from her fingers, looked up at the sky and stars, and finally landed her gaze on the stranger sitting not far away. He was obviously bothered by something.

She recalled the last moment before she lost consciousness. She and her companions couldn’t run away, groups of evil spirits and demons attacked them, Zhang Mu brought up the rear, and then—

She lost consciousness.

There was nothing weird in the place she was now, it was not like the Yellow Springs. It seemed to be somewhere in the Human realm.

The sky had pity on her. For how long has she not breathed the air of this world?

“Excuse me, daoyou, may I know your name? Where are we?”

Under the starlight, she looked at him carefully, and felt that even though he was a stranger, he seemed somehow familiar.

“My name is Changming,” said the man slowly, as if he hadn’t spoken for a long time. “As for where we are, I don’t know either.”

He Xiyun immediately remembered this familiar voice and manner of speaking.

“Are you that mute?!”

She accidentally said that nickname aloud.

It turned out that the mute’s name was Changming.

Changming said that those evil spirits are both the end and the beginning.

If they had been swallowed by evil spirits, their remnants would have been scattered, and their souls would have lingered in the Yellow Springs. That was what awaited them.

But they were saved.

Those evil spirits were burned to ashes.? Together with the raging flames, they broke through the barrier surrounding the Yellow Springs. That made it possible for them to survive.

They narrowly escaped by managing to catch this opportunity.

He Xiyun and Changming fled and ended up on the edge of a desert in the Human realm.

And for the other companions, perhaps they escaped by chance and were scattered all over the place like them, or may have missed the moment when the barrier was lifted, and were still staying in that barren world, looking for the next opportunity.

He Xiyun blankly listened to him.

“It seemed like a phoenix rescued us…”

Changming took out a charred chunk of wood, and she could vaguely recognise its original appearance.

He Xiyun was shocked: “Daoyou actually knows the technique of object divinization?!”

Changming didn’t answer, and put aside the charred carving of a phoenix.

Only then did He Xiyun gather her thoughts and cautiously look at him up and down.

He had changed into plain white clothes, and his hair was brushed back.

He had washed his face clean, and his appearance was no longer bad; he was unexpectedly graceful and handsome. Only, the wrinkles between his eyebrows were too deep, as if some former matters pressured his heart; that made He Xiyun’s heart feel heavy too.

But his eyes were completely different from these slanted brows.

Wide and clear, bright and bottomless, as though they could contain the whole world.

He Xiyun looked at him once, but couldn’t help it and took another look.

“Daoxiong?Changming’s name comes from ‘always harbor justice’?”

Daoxiong: elder brother-daoist.

Always harbor justice: ‘常怀光明’, the first character together with the last one form ‘常明’, which is also pronounced ‘Changming’, but has a slightly different meaning (his name is actually ‘长明’, though both essentially mean ‘bright for eternity’).

“It’s ‘changming’ from ‘long nights under a splendid moon’.”

Long nights under a splendid moon: 长夜辉明, a better translation is ‘bright lights of long nights’, but there is an idiom ‘长夜难明’, ‘many nights under a harsh moon’, meaning ‘long years of oppression’, hence we got ‘moon’. Again, the first and the last characters form his name.

“If there is no light from the stars and moon during a long night, how can it be ‘always bright’?”

Always bright: lit. how can it be Changming?

“It is always bright in hearts.”

One question, one answer, comprising much matter in a few words.

He Xiyun seemed to have understood something, but this feeling was fleeting, and she couldn’t catch that thought.

But, on the contrary, Changming slowly regained his ability to speak and began asking questions.

He Xiyun discovered that he seemed to have spent so much time in the Yellow Springs that he had lost the trail of changes in the mortal world.

She recalled how she had thrown Changming out in order to save her life, and couldn’t help but feel nervous.

“Sorry, back then we…”

He Xiyun couldn’t get a single excuse out of her mouth. Her cheeks were burning from panic.

After pondering about this painful experience, she got up and three times kowtowed to him.

“Daoyou saved me twice, and I honestly feel ashamed for biting the hand that feeds me!”

Changming glanced at her indifferently and asked a totally unrelated question.

“Nowadays, is the ruling dynasty in the human world still Hong?”


He Xiyun froze for a second, “Does daoyou mean the Xinghong dynasty? That changed decades ago. Nowadays the whole world is divided into three states: country You, country Luo and Zhaoyue dynasty. Each state holds a territory, balancing each other. In the past few decades, demons have run amok, and the human world is not peaceful and secure. Naturally, the great waves are continuously arising, and people’s minds are in turmoil.”

Changming frowned slightly: “What about the major sects?”

He Xiyun: “Large and small sects stand in great numbers. Sects like the Celestial Abode Shenxiao and the Wanjian Immortal Sect have stood for hundreds of years, daoyou must have heard of them; but some of the sects have recently changed their masters.”

Changming gave a sound of agreement.

He Xiyun: “There are also some sects that have emerged recently, such as the Penglai Island, the Liuyi Sect, the Qingyun School, and the Jianxue Clan. They can probably be regarded as the most influential sects; their masters are powerful. Especially the Jianxue Clan, its master is very moody. When he is unhappy with a person, he simply kills him. But his cultivation level is so high that no one can stop him.”

Changming tilted his head, and his face betrayed his doubts.

“A lot of new masters have appeared recently?”

He Xiyun thought for a while and said: “In the past twenty years, there have indeed been quite a few. Such are the head of the Jianxue Clan, Zhou Keyi, Immortal Master Buku from the Qingyun School, Yi Yezhou from the Penglai Island, Jun Zilan from the Twenty four Mountain Slopes, and the Master of the Nine Layers of the Abyss, Yun Weisi. All of them are outstanding and well-known masters of high level… daoyou Changming, why is your expression so weird?”

“These people you are talking about—”

Several of them seemed to be his disciples.

His rebellious disciples that fell out with him and left him.

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