Translated by Rikko of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Although every Daoist cultivator present had strong cultivation bases, with the snowstorm forcing their eyes shut and the ambush of demonic cultivators, they were locked in a tight match. At that very moment, the demonic cultivators began to withdraw, scattering away all of a sudden.
They retreated as swiftly as they arrived, seemingly planning on just a short moment of ambush. As everyone heaved a sigh of relief, Gu XuanYan scanned the surroundings hurriedly. His voice was icy, “My senior brother is missing.”
The nearby Ji ChangYun killed one of the remaining demonic cultivators, frowning upon hearing that, “With the snowstorm impairing our vision during the chaotic battle, perhaps something had gone wrong just then.”
Liang Zheng sounded uneasy, “Neither is Junior Qin a Sect Elder nor a chief disciple. So even if the demonic cult had any schemes in mind, they shouldn’t be targeting him.”
Indeed so. Even the easily flustered Liang Zheng had reached the mid Leaving Aperture stage, let alone the various Sect Elders, Ji ChangYun and Gu XuanYan. As compared to the group of cultivators, Zhong Yan was just unremarkable. A vast majority of them didn’t even notice him.
And yet, he was kidnapped.
After letting out a sneer, Gu XuanYan turned towards Liang Zheng and Ji ChangYun, “The demonic cult has retreated, so there should not be any problems on the way back. Brethren, please return to your sects, I will head back to Green Summit once I’ve found my senior brother.”
Right after, he made an incantation gesture and rode his sword, flying toward the north.
Despite the vastness of the icy plains, Gu XuanYan didn’t spend much time to reach his destination; he only took half the time taken to drink a cup of tea1
A palace as white as snow greeted his eyes. When he got closer, he noticed around three to five people standing by the palace gates, which were made of white jade. Every one of them wore black robes and had an intricate red pattern on their foreheads.
Noting he had landed, the group exchanged glances. One of them voiced loudly, “Gu XuanYan, my lord has been waiting for you.”
Gu XuanYan’s tone was as chilly as ice, “Where is my senior brother?”
The leader of the group, a female demonic cultivator, let out a giggle before taking a step forward, nestling up against him. The ringing of the golden bell hanging on her ankle was crisp and melodious. Even the long black robe she wore couldn’t hide her alluring figure. Every word from her was as refreshing as orchids, her voice even more mellow and melodious than any bell.
“Fret not, cultivator. Just follow me to my lord—”
Before she could finish her sentence, a gust of sword energy pierced through her. She lowered her head in bewilderment, eyes as wide as saucers.
Blood spurted out continually from her heart, drenching her clothes.
Due to the speed, no one saw when Gu XuanYan drew his sword out. The remaining demonic cultivators only witness the lady in front of them widening her eyes before collapsing onto the icy ground. In the very next instant, she was reduced into a black mist, dispersed away by the breeze.
Gu XuanYan sheathed his sword, the droplets of blood on his face giving rise to a murderous air around his chilly expression. Instead of wiping the bloodstains away, he eyed the rest of the demonic cultivators as he repeated his previous question, “Where is my senior brother?”
Zhong Yan was still a little foggy in the head when he woke up. Only after regulating his breath with his eyes shut briefly did he open his eyes to survey his surroundings.
In front of him was a room made of stone that was so tiny, a glance was all it took to view it entirely. Nothing much occupied the relatively clean room.
Zhong Yan had no idea if it was just his imagination, but despite being empty of any snow or ice, the room still chilled him more to the bone than the icy plains.
His attempt at circulating his internal energy to block out the cold was to no avail, a telltale sign his powers have been suppressed.
Sitting on the floor, Zhong Yan started to call out the system, which responded instantly.
[Where is this?]
[-Beep- The demonic lord’s stone room]
As he expected, he got caught by the demonic cult. Letting out a vexed sigh, he asked the system, [I’m so dumb, right?]
[Not really.] The system consoled him, [It’s not like you can do anything with such a huge difference in strength. But how did you figure out Gu XuanYan was impersonated that fast?]
Surprisingly, Zhong Yan paused for quite some time before answering, [Even though Gu XuanYan always has revenge in his mind…]
During an emergency, he still doesn’t have the heart to abandon others and flee, all the more so after knowing Green Summit is in danger. No way will he say he will flee.
Although Li YunJi had ulterior motives when he brought Gu XuanYan to Green Summit, Gu XuanYan did live there for almost eight years after all.
To protect his juniors that revered him as their guardian spirit or even a measly tiny plant growing in Green Summit, he would face the threat head on.
Zhong Yan felt the current Gu XuanYan wouldn’t stoop so low as to leave his sect behind in danger just to save himself. Sure enough, Zhong Yan exposed the impersonator with only one trick question.
After remaining silent for quite some time, the system spoke out, [but in the story, Gu XuanYan didn’t give a hoot about anyone in Green Summit.]
Zhong Yan stretched himself for a bit, his tone relaxed, [Well, in the story, any witness of his crime would be obliterated into bits and pieces. And yet here I am, alive and well.]
In the story, Gu XuanYan wouldn’t spend an entire afternoon picking green plums for others, nor would he sneak out the mountains to buy chestnut cakes for anyone.
A change in life trajectory would never happen overnight. Instead, it could only be influenced bit by bit over time.
The doors swung open abruptly as an old man with white hairs on his temples walked in with his back hunched. Upon noticing Zhong Yan leaning up against the wall, he sneered, “Waken up now, kiddo?”
His voice was hoarse and deep, as though a blade had scrapped his throat. Wrinkling his brows, Zhong Yan remained muted. The old man continued, “Never is there any mistakes in my impersonation, so how did you figure it out?”
Of course, no way would Zhong Yan explain to him. Although Zhong Yan shut his eyes and played dead, the old man insisted on getting an answer, “That little rascal, Gu XuanYan, was so cautious; he always had an additional barrier set up outside. Even though I didn’t manage to listen in whenever he talks, I have been shadowing him for quite some time. My impersonation of that rascal’s appearance is perfect if I do say so myself. But somehow, you managed to find out—”
Severely drained of powers, Zhong Yan should know better not to provoke the guy. Nonetheless, a spark of fire somehow ignited in Zhong Yan’s heart when he heard Gu XuanYan being referred to as a ‘rascal’.
He lifted his line of sight, his tone sluggish, “You’re just too old. You already have one foot in the grave, so stop trying to act like a young adult. Go home and raise your grandkids, won’t you?”
Expression darkened, the old man in front of him struck his palm onto Zhong Yan’s chest! With his suppressed powers snuffing out any chances of dodging, Zhong Yan took the strike straight on with his chest.
He was rendered speechless by the pain instantly, feeling as though every single muscle and bone in his body had snapped off
If I manage to survive this, I must stop being such a loudmouth!
The old man had no plans on killing him. Rather, he lifted Zhong Yan and sneered, “The lord has some use for you, so I won’t kill you for now. But when you’re useless to him, I’ll definitely cut off your tongue and limbs! Come with me!”
After getting out of the stone room and passing through a long secret passageway, he brought Zhong Yan to a magnificent hall. Inside the hall were carved railings and pillars. Countless luminous pearls were packed tightly on the dome, lighting up the entire hall as though stars in the sky. A person leaned lazily back in the chair above a flight of steps made of white jade.
A stark contrast to the luxurious decorations of the hall, the guy wore a dark azurite robe empty of any embroidery with ebony coiling up his hair, giving off the appearance of a frail scholar. The chair below him was made of chilly ice instead of white jade.
He had typical facial features on his ghastly pale face, looking no more than forty or fifty. If he stood among a crowd, he probably would look like a common, typical middle-aged man.
The old man who brought Zhong Yan over went away respectfully. Once the guy on the chair had his eyes on Zhong Yan, he straightened his back slightly and asked, “Did you rest well?”
Recognising the guy was the owner of the voice from the icy plains moments ago, Zhong Yan froze.
Cang Luan continued, “I just want to meet up with your Dao partner. Since I can’t go out and my subordinates probably can’t defeat him, my only choice is to invite you here. My sincerest apologies.
Why does this sound so familiar?
Before Zhong Yan could rack his brain to crack the puzzle, Cang Luan stood up abruptly, teleported in front of Zhong Yan in just a blink of an eye and clutched Zhong Yan’s chin. Utterly immobile under the pressure of Cang Luan’s cultivation base, Zhong Yan could only feel Cang Luan raising his hand. A fluid reeking of blood was sent into his mouth before sliding down his throat-
“Don’t worry; It isn’t poisonous. It’s just a bit of blood from my heart.” Cang Luan released him and went back to his chair, his voice as gentle as always. Just as Zhong Yan was about to heave a sigh of relief, Cang Luan added, “Well, if you drink it once per month, you will be fine.”
The speechless Zhong Yan finally figured out which plot point he was at.
In the story, Cang Luan fed Tong Ling blood from his heart. Looking at the girl struggling in his hands, he explained with a tone as gentle as always, “You just have to drink blood from my heart once every month, or else your life will be exhausted, resulting in your death. I just want to meet up with your Dao partner. Since I can’t go out and my subordinates probably can’t defeat him, my only choice is to invite you here. My sincerest apologies.”
When Zhong Yan urged Tong Ling not to enter the Northern Wilderness, little would he know he ended up replacing her in the plot.
What goes around comes around. Zhong Yan let out a sigh before asking, “Who exactly told you Gu XuanYan and I are Dao partners?”
“Isn’t that the case? My subordinate said he saw you two in the middle of the night on the icy plains…” Cang Luan paused for a moment as he revealed a smile, “I envy you youngsters.”
Words failed Zhong Yan as he thought, what the heck is in you guys’ mind?!
A maidservant pushed the door open and entered the hall before falling prostrate on the floor, “My lord, he has arrived.” In the next second, Gu XuanYan barged in.
Once his eyes caught sight of Zhong Yan, Gu XuanYan seemingly sighed in relief before turning towards Cang Luan.
Noticing Gu XuanYan’s presence, Cang Luan straightened his back a little and sighed, “You are finally here.”
Gu XuanYan strode to Zhong Yan’s side, his tone chilly, “I don’t know you.”
Not minding Gu XuanYan’s rudeness, Cang Luan placed his hands on his sleeves as he gave a gentle reply, “But I do. Oh, and your parents too.”
As he detected both Zhong Yan and Gu XuanYan had their eyes on him, he furrowed his brows, seemingly put on a spot.
“I only planned on getting your parent’s Golden Cores then, so I collaborated with Li YunJi and Chun Qin. They will get the Golden Cores for me, and in exchange, I will teach them the ways of demonic cultivation. But never would I know they ended up destroying your clan. My sincerest apologies.”
Although he apologised, there wasn’t even any slightest shift in his tone. During his explanation ‘I actually planned on killing your parents but didn’t know your entire clan would end up killed as a result. Very sorry for that’, his tone was unremorseful, void of any emotions, as though it truly was an insignificant accident.
Zhong Yan lifted his line of sight all of a sudden and drew his sword unconsciously. Only then did he realise, to his surprise, his hands were trembling lightly in a fury, producing fragmented wobbling sounds out of the sword when they came into contact.
A slightly chilled hand reached out from the side abruptly and pressed onto Zhong Yan.
Zhong Yan turned his head, just to see Gu XuanYan staring straight at Cang Luan and asking, “Why?”
Why did you lure me into the Northern Wilderness? Why did you kill my parents? Why did you murder my clan?
Instead of answering, Cang Luan turned his head away as he scanned the hall, throwing a question at them, “What do you two think of my palace?”
Paying no heed to the lack of response, he continued,
“My palace is made of the finest white jade in the world, adorned with golden flight of steps and lightened up by a myriad of luminous pearls. Inside my palace are endless piles of treasures many yearn. In my hundreds of years of ruling the entire Northern Wilderness, no one has ever contended against me.”
Cang Luan sat back on his icy chair, his hand under his chin. “But my life is about to end.”
After snickering, Zhong Yan couldn’t help interjecting, “Go on to your grave then.”
Cang Luan tossed a look at him and smiled, seemingly taking no notice of him, “Demonic cultivation can lengthen life spans but can’t grant immortality. The battle three hundred years ago has injured the foundations of my powers. To slow down my death, I had to depend on the chill of the permanently frozen glaciers in the north most of Northern Wilderness.”
Zhong Yan froze briefly. No wonder even when indoors, he still felt much icier chills penetrating his very bones than when he was in the icy plains.
Cang Luan continued, “Even though this can sustain my life, since hundreds of years ago, I can’t even set foot outside my palace, let alone the northern wilderness. But I ended up finding a new solution.”
Cang Luan’s line of sight shifted to Gu XuanYan.
“I realised absorbing the cultivation bases of Daoist cultivators in the golden core stage can extend my life too.”
Neither gloom nor joy on his face, Gu XuanYan merely sneered, “So that’s why you killed my parents for their golden cores? And now, you are eyeing on mine too?
“No, I do not intend to kill you.” Cang Luan shook his head as he revealed a smile.
“A trace of my powers is in Chun Qin’s bone whistle, granting me perception thousands of li away from where I am. When I saw you killing Chun Qin that night, I had a sudden realisation.”
Cang Luan straightened up slowly, getting up from his chair. A gust of wind blew in from the window, fluttering his robes. He looked down upon Gu XuanYan, who was below the flight of steps.
“I had a realisation. Why extend my life a bit at a time by waiting for those two green-eyed trashes to send me golden cores slowly? It takes too much time.”
Cang Luan’s voice deepened out of the blue, “I need someone who dares to defy the heavenly way, a subordinate who kills without wavering, to get the best of the best powers in the world for me and make me immortal.”
Cang Luan’s voice bounced off the walls of the spacious hall, emitting a wave of low echoes.
With his eyes on Gu XuanYan, Cang Luan slowed down the pace of his talk.
“When you were young, you lived on the streets and were a target of bullying. Even your master who got you into cultivation a few years later ended up duping you. No one in the world truly cares for you, nor would anyone aid you. It’s all because the heavenly way rejects you, just like how they rejected me years ago. Since that’s the case, why don’t we defy our fates together?”
Zhong Yan’s heart sank lower the more Cang Luan spoke.
Despite not having any idea what ‘the best of the best powers in the world’ referred to, Zhong Yan knew Gu XuanYan had always been defying fate in the story.
Cang Luan’s offer was just too tempting. Uncertainty engulfed Zhong Yan instantly as he turned his head towards Gu XuanYan.
Hold your ground! Don’t let me down; I’ve just praised you!
A while later, Gu XuanYan let out a sudden chuckle, “No, we are different.”
He unsheathed his sword instantly.
Receiving such a blatant rejection, Cang Luan let out a sigh, finding it a great pity.
“You can’t beat me.”
Although his voice was light, conclusiveness enshrouded his tone. An earth-shattering pressure plunged a moment later.
After all, Cang Luan was nearly a thousand years old and once were just a step to ruling the entire Great Wilderness. Although he had passed his prime, his frighteningly strong powers were still a force to be reckoned with.
Instead of dodging, he brandished his sword suddenly under the heavy pressure!
A ray of sword light filled with murderous intent whizzed across the air, slashing right at Cang Luan! Immediately, Cang Luan left his chair as he dodged sideways. With a whistle, the sword light split the chair in two, leaving almost three inches thick slash mark on the wall. Dust stirred up instantly; even the luminous pearls on the dome began trembling.
With his sword in hand, Gu XuanYan stood on the same spot and stared at Cang Luan, not even a ripple in his voice, “There’s no harm trying.”