Zhao Ge Chapter 11-20

Chapter 11

Chapter Eleven, Praise of a Hundred Miles, Herd to the East Tome. (朝歌百⾥, 牧之东陵)
When Bai Li Shu came to, he smelled the faint aroma of sandalwood.

When he smelled this scent famed for being able to soothe the nerves, Bai Li Shu had a few guesses as to what kind of place he was in. He got up and looked around to observe this room. In the room neither big nor small, blue water cloud patterns were present all around, no different from the needlework on that man’s garments he saw on the third floor of the library.

Thinking back, the pattern on the man’s clothing really wasn’t some ordinary embroidery.

If it was as he surmised, that water cloud pattern was a magic script used to inhibit that person.

Bai Li Shu brushed his sleeves.

He knew who that person was now.

The number of elders in Jiu Xuan Sect were numerous, but during these days when Bai Li Shu was reading over record books of the sect, he discovered that several hundred years ago, Jiu Xuan Sect’s elders once had held an bloody battle with an almighty being whose conduct was nefarious, where both sides each took damage. In the end, Jiu Xuan Sect’s sect leader took action and had that almighty person suppressed underneath Jiu Xuan’s Han[1] Range.

In the end, the traces of where that person went was not known to others, and the old books did not give much of an account either, as though there was some other secret within.

Fifty years later, in the Sect Record· Service Book Number Nine, there was one line that simply mentioned, “Tian You[2], third year, a misdoer sneaked into the library, hence to be burned by the fires of Ye[3].”

And before this, from the sect’s member compendium that Bai Li Shu read over, there was no elder that previously cultivated the fires of Ye, and furthermore, no elder who could burn a person with the Ye fire in the library and not bring disaster to the old books. Of the people who would match with this kind of ability, was only one person, and that was the almighty being that was suppressed down under Jiu Xuan’s Han Range by the sect leader, the one that held an impressively ominous title several hundred years ago——

Wen Ren Jiu.

As the ordeal that would appear when cultivators went through an emotional trial that made people change colours upon hearing it, the fires of Ye’s terror was widely known among people. Throughout the ages, the number of people able to take the fires of Ye and use it for themselves were no more than a few people, and Wen Ren Jiu was one of those outstanding people.

However……

Bai Li Shu’s gaze swept through the room’s water cloud pattern and Xing Shen[4] wooden furniture.

The fire of Ye looked to be not all that easy to control. It seemed that the nefarious conduct of Wen Ren Jiu back then and the easily impatient state of mind in the present day could not break away its ties with the fire of Ye. “You’re awake.” Just as Bai Li Shu finished looking around the room, Wen Ren Jiu came in from the outside. It seemed that almost entering possession for him was not that much of a big deal, and looked to be no different that when he first saw him.

“This disciple greets Elder.”    Bai Li Shu retracted his gaze, and paid his respects towards Wen Ren Jiu according to etiquette.

When he saw the youth’s indifferent expression, and an usual tone of speech in greeting, Wen Ren Jiu slightly knitted his brows. At the time Bai Li Shu lost consciousness, he had inspected Bai Li Shu’s condition, and knew of how terrible the person’s body was at the moment. And yet from Bai Li Shu’s present conduct and words, it instead made people unable to see even a single trace of torment brought about by the illness.

This degree of character…… Was truly terrifying.
“I[5] am not an elder of Jiu Xuan Sect, there is no need to bow to me.” While the marvel towards Bai Li Shu’s character passed through quickly inside his mind, Wen Ren Jiu turned to the side and did not accept Bai Li Shu’s courtesy.

Bai Li Shu did not show a surprised expression either, as though the idea that someone who was not an elder of Jiu Xuan Sect showing up in an important area of the sect was an extremely normal situation. He stood up straight, and looked towards Wen Ren Jiu with a calm gaze, “Since that is the case…… Then what will Senior do for the final decision?”

“Final decision? What do you mean?”    The flame between Wen Ren Jiu’s brows jumped, and its colour grew more flamboyant.

“This lowly one is ill-fated, whose spirit would return to the Western Paradise at any time. This one would not dare to trouble senior. ” Bai Li Shu spoke neither fast nor slow. His tone was particularly light[6], just like the person he mentioned who would possibly die at any point was not himself. Wen Ren Jiu’s expression slightly changed. These words no doubt indicated that Bai Li Shu already knew he had once bore an killing intent
—— only, at that time, Bai Li Shu was clearly was still unconscious.

“There is no need for Senior to be surprised.” Bai Li Shu slowly smiled. This smile carried with it the shadows of the capital’s Young Lord Bai Li—— self-important, estranged, restrained and appropriate, from which one would be unable to make out even a single emotion.         “For Bai Li to still be able to perfectly stand here and converse with you at present, is all thanks to Senior’s contributing aid.”

Wen Ren Jiu retracted the warm smile from his face, and stared at the tall and straight figure of the youth standing in front of him.      The youth spoke of words that conveyed thanks, but the smile on his face did not reach the bottom of his eyes, three-parts graceful and seven-parts alienating. It was clear that the two’s cultivation were extremely far apart, yet the youth faintly had the upper hand. Bai Li Shu’s tone was neither hasty nor slow, yet in its formlessness, it gave people a kind of pressure that made them not dare to act without careful thought.

He had a kind of intuition.

—— If he took action at this moment, even if he were able to kill Bai Li Shu, he himself would definitely not have a good time.

Wen Ren Jiu firmly focused on the slightly smiling youth for quite a while, then lightly let out a sigh,“I see that on the contrary, Jiu Xuan Sect produces perverts[7] with each generation.”

He no longer tried to guess how exactly Bai Li Shu knew that he had once held killing intent towards him, or the cause as to why he would give him a feeling if he had took action, he would not gain any advantage. This youth bearing the identity of Jiu Xuan Sect’s eldest apprentice brother was comparatively far much more formidable than he had thought.

“The problem of your body’s disorderly primordial energy, I’ve already solved for you.” Wen Ren Jiu flipped his hand and took out a small, fine, jade box from his ring[8] and gave it to him, “As for the others, there is nothing I can also do. Perhaps this item will be of a small benefit to you.”

“Thank you, Senior.” Bai Li Shu did not decline at all.

The two had extreme tacit understanding. From beginning to the end, no one made mention of the origin of this matter—— that prompt on the inky-morning wood.

When leaving, Bai Li Shu heard Wen Ren Jiu’s neither high nor low voice come from the back, “My surname is Wen Ren, given name Jiu. time, you can just directly call me by my name.”

Bai Li Shu’s steps gave a slight pause.

“My surname is Bai Li, given name…… Shu.” At the moment before he stepped out the door, he softly said this.

—— From today on, your surname is Bai Li, given name, Shu.
—— The lineage of Bai Li will be handed over to you now. —— Bring them……

As he stood outside the library, sunlight fell onto Bai Li Shu. He looked up, closed his eyes, and as for what kind of feelings were inside his heart, only he himself knew.

Bai Li, Bai Li.   The one whose praises reaches a hundred miles, herd those to the East Tomb[8].

In this realm of cultivation, there would be no longer a second Bai Li of the East Tomb.

[1] 寒- frosty, cold.

[2] 天佑三年- literally reads as heaven bless [for these] three years. But in context, it does not make sense. Thus, the ‘heaven bless’ portion is likely the name of a certain period. [3] 业⽕- in the teachings of Buddhism, it is said that evil deeds harms the body like fire. A fire that burns sinners in the netherworld, so to speak.
[4] 醒神⽊- literally translated as, wood that wakes up the mind.
[5] To note- Wen Ren Jiu uses a direct form of addressing himself here, devoid of expression of what he is to Bai Li Shu, a notable contrast to how Bai Li Shu speaks to Wen Ren Jiu (addressing himself as one in the lower position, calling him senior etc, a form of polite speech. It is considered rude to use direct forms if one is not particularly close, or when speaking with someone of a higher seniority than you.).

[6] ⻛轻云淡- literally, breezy winds and thin/light clouds. It is typically used to describe good weather.

[7] 妖孽- This has been explained before in Engraved in Bone, but this specific term possesses several interpretations. Either directly being the evildoer, or being associated with the misfortune (indirectly the cause). Used to also refer to demons/evil spirits, or anything are beyond human imagination/capability, hence, inhuman and therefore unlucky. Also uses to refer to someone of exceeding (inhuman) beauty. Or, a metaphor for being perverted, whether it’s referring to someone who is particularly into women/men, or someone/their ability so beyond the person’s normal comprehension (again, going back to being inhumane, irregular), which is what I’ve decided is most appropriate when considering, for example, how Wen Ren Jiu finds Bai Li Shu’s attitude in spite of constantly being at death’s edge a perversion. What Wen Ren Jiu here might be referring to that the sect is known for producing geniuses, but when you carefully think of it, it’s simply a nicer way to saying they produce monsters or perverts- all is simply up to how the person sees those ‘geniuses’.

[8] 纳戒- or, also known as 空间戒指 in separate novels, an inter-spatial ring. The first term refers to the ring’s ability to accept, or receive items into it, hence ‘ring that accepts’ whereas the second term describes how there is dimension the ring connects to. The first term is more widely used because it’s less characters to write out (or at least, of all the cultivation novels I’ve read, they prefer to use this term compared a four character one).

[9] 朝歌百⾥,牧之东陵 – 朝歌 (Zhao Ge, Chao Ge?), also the title of this novel, can either be either interpreted as Zhao Ge, the famous ancient
merchant city, or translated as Sun/Morning Song (based on a drama/series of this exact same name that is translated as such) should you interpret the ‘朝’ as zhao (morning, sun), and not chao (government, court, dynasty, or, towards x). However, if you choose the latter, ‘ 歌’ can be chosen to be interpreted as not only song, but chant, or to praise someone or something. For now, I’ve chosen to interpret the above first half of the line as (⼈们)朝
(他)歌(颂)(有)百⾥(远) if we choose to use ‘hundred miles’ instead of Bai
Li the name or clan. Coincidentally, this was also how the merchant city
came to its name, as it was known far and wide for being home to a wonderful life. As for the second half, 牧 is to tend, to herd and by its
nature, leads/rules. Now, 之 can be used in a variety of ways, either as a
replacement in place of him/her/it/them etc., or ‘go to’, ‘leave towards’. But
this isn’t all that important because the line is still translated the same either way you go- to lead them towards the east tomb. Another way of interpretation of the line that I came across is if you were to interpret Zhao Ge as the place, hence, 朝歌(的)百⾥, it gives us this translation- The Bai
Li [clan] of Zhao Ge, leads those to the East Tomb, or rules over the tombs
to the east. In my translation, I made it clear that the praises are in reference to a person, but another way of seeing it is to praise a place, hence- [a place] praised a hundred miles far, guides those to [that place of praise,] the East Tombs. The question would then become, what lies in Zhao Ge? Or, what is in the East Tomb?

Chapter 12

Chapter Twelve, the Immortal Ascends Through the Clouds, and Observes the Sea’s Blueness From Above. (仙⼈凌云, 俯观海苍)
The original host’s cave-dwelling was not far from Jiu Xuan’s main peak, positioned on top of a lone leaning summit to its rear left.

The summit was named Qing Hua. With stones erected several hundred zhang[1], its appearance seemed to be formed by being cut, and the cliff-sides were extremely steep, with only the stone steps winding within the clouds, circling upwards. The cave-dwelling was located at the end of the stone steps, as though to be floating on top of the clouds, distant and indistinct, just like an immortal.

After coming out of Wen Ren Jiu’s place, Bai Li Shu directly returned to his own cave-dwelling.

He took out the jade box Wen Ren Jiu gave him, but did not immediately open it, and instead slightly pondered over it.

At this moment in time, the condition of the primordial energy inside his body was much better compared to when he first came to, and he temporarily did not need to worry about the risk of the primordial energy turning chaotic and entering possession once again.

But in the end, this kind of situation was unstable.

These days, he read up on many things in the library pavilion, integrated it with the original host’s own investigations, and finally had a few ideas on how to solve his body’s serious illness.

The comparatively smooth and steady way was to be like how it was originally, to continuously cultivate, and use cultivation to suppress the illness. The remaining methods instead could only use “without destruction, there cannot be construction, arrange for death, then be reborn” and “good luck is hard to find, and the opportunity to live can not be conjectured” to describe it.

Of which, one of the ways was to gather the several spiritual medicines of the heavens and earth that were on the verge of being a legend.

Within his rapidly changing train of thought, Bai Li Shu looked towards the jade box in his hands.

The box was not big. The entire body of it was lustrous, and its colours were close to a reddish-black, with a smooth opening into its contents. When holding it in ones palm, there would be a mildly cold feeling. It was a first-rate jade, and its ability in preserving medicine was extremely excellent.

Bai Li Shu gently stroked the jade box, and had a few guesses as to what item was inside the box.

When he pushed open the lid, the wave of a weak, pleasant scent filled inside the room, and made people’s mind invigorated. A white, jade- like rare flower quietly laid inside the box. Its petals were like phoenix feathers, fluttering about like it could fly.

“The White Emperor returns, and leaves Wu Dong[2], whereas the common hibiscus departs, then collects at the phoenix tree[3].”

Bai Li Shu slowly recited this while the finger tips lightly stroked over the flower petals. The instant the fingertips touched the flower petals, the originally succinct, white, jade-like flower petals suddenly let out a pretty light, as though a flame ignited from the base of the petal, and the entire flower changed into a magnificent flame-red colour in a moments time.

All the more like a fanning phoenix’s wing. As expected, it was the Emperor Magnolia[4].
Bai Li Shu shut the lid, let down his eyelashes, and quietly pondered.

The original host’s sickness was extremely complicated, and could be said that there were several hard-to-detect and extraordinary illnesses mingled into one body. Were a normal person to contract one type, it would be enough to make them want to die more than live. Of the most severe, none would be worse than the innate dormant poison carried within the channels[5].

This kind of dormant poison was unable to be forced out using primordial energy, and could only be used to slightly suppress it. And at the time the primordial energy circulated within the channels, this kind of dormant poison instead would also damage the channel.

To suppress the poison, one must draw on primordial energy, but when primordial energy circulated, it would stimulate the dormant poison. And in the case the poison were to destroy the channel, one must use primordial energy to mend it.

A deadlock-like circumstance.

Fortunately, the original host’s cultivation was considerably high, so his primordial energy could still stabilize the poison by a portion.

After reading over numerous ancient scrolls at the library, Bai Li Shu decided to first solve the body’s dormant poison, then subsequently think about the others.

In the 《 Three Emperors’ Handbook· Rare Objects Chapter 》recorded a method in resolving the dormant poison: gather the flowers raised near the energy of each of the five elements, combine them into a congealed pill, ingest it, break down, then re-establish afterwards.

The so-called flowers raised near the five elements referred to the legend of five types of extremely rarely seen, extremely hard-to-find, most valuable treasures raised within the world’s main vein of each of the five elements.

Perhaps it felt that gathering these five spiritual flowers was practically impossible, so in the handbook, a line of remark was written with a joking tone after this description, “How the sun turns west, and waters flow towards the top, just like that.”

—— Like the sun coming out from the west, water flowing towards the high end, the difficulty in gathering these five spiritual flowers was just like that.

And the spiritual flower born in one of the five elements, fire, was the Emperor Magnolia.

“Instead, it becomes a debt of gratitude.”    To be able to take out this kind of treasure close to the legends, he was afraid Wen Ren Jiu’s identity should be furthermore pondered over.

After packing up the Emperor Magnolia, Bai Li Shu took out a roll of yellow silk fabric from his inter-spacial ring and laid it on top of the table. With a whisk of the sleeve, on the silk fabric that originally had nothing, ink marks dense and light, unveiled itself, and the lines ended up outlining a Map of Mountains and Rivers(country).

This map was particularly detailed, quite obvious that it was not something an ordinary person could obtain.

Combining the materials acquired these days from the library with the information from the jade tablet he read that day in the Assignment Hall together, Bai Li Shu first marked out all the preliminary spots and refined areas he obtained after analysis. Very quickly, the map was sprinkled in bits and pieces of ice-blue lights. If one were to look at it for the first time, it would seem as though someone laid down a jumbled up board of chess on the map.

In neither a hurried nor impatient fashion, Bai Li Shu took the few unrelated points and erased them one by one, and soon afterwords, carefully observed this completely labelled map, and sunk into a deep thought.

With roughly about an incenses’ time[6], Bai Li Shu suddenly reached out his hand, and his fingertips pointed at several areas of the map. Where the fingertip touched, that place’s light would be several parts more brighter.

“Zha Ling Place, Fu Lun City, E Ling, Long He, Mei Province…… Chu Province…… Han Zhong Prefecture……[7]”

Following his voice, the map’s seven points slowly connected together, and in the end, and formed the shape of the seven-star Big Dipper.

“As expected.”

As Bai Li Shu muttered, his fingertips lightly stroked across Chu Province and Han Zhong Prefecture where the opening of the spoon was, went north and took five times the distance between these two places, and in the end, the finger stopped at one place——

Guang Han Prefecture. The place where Mausoleum of Ten Million resided.

Bai Li Shu’s pale-white fingertips slowly touched the words of Guang Han Prefecture on top of the map, and the corners of the colourless lips from prolonged illness passed through a sliver of an extremely faint smile.

“On the river of enchanting cranes, with a wave of vapour and haze, the common realm’s Peng Lai, Mausoleum of Ten Million.” “It is as expected.” ——“Senior Bai Li, do you have time?” Just as Bai Li Shu packed the country map away, he suddenly received a transmission from Shen Chang Ge.

His movements slightly gave pause, and thought back to the sect market that Shen Chang Ge mentioned a few days ago. He instantly let out his spiritual insight, and discovered that Shen Chang Ge was waiting right outside the cave-dwelling.

Shen Chang Ge stood atop Qing Hua peak, slightly nervously waiting for Bai Li Shu’s reply.

A restriction existed on Qing Hua’s peak, where one was not allowed to go around flying in the sky—— but in truth, in the cultivation realm, if one were to arbitrarily fly around within the range of someone else’s cave-dwelling, it would be no different from a provocation.

When Shen Chang Ge came up along the stone steps, he faintly had a kind of feeling that he returned back to the time he first entered the sect
—— immortals would go up by ascending clouds, and look down to observe sea’s blueness[8].

For the large part of the sect’s disciples, Eldest Brother was like that immortal above the clouds, so far one would be unable to reach him.

Shen Chang Ge recalled at a time before this, the few times he saw Bai Li Shu.

The first time, he saw Bai Li Shu walk down from Qing Hua peak within the clouds and mist. His white clothes fluttered about, and bore an expression of indifference. The second time, was at the journey towards the secret territory five years ago. The youth of chilly features drew his sword out from its sheath, and with one strike, froze over the Fourteen Provinces.

[1] 丈- unit of land measurement in Chinese, where one zhang is roughly 10 feet, or 3.3 meters going by metric. [2] 芜东- separately translates as the grassland, and east. Is it suppose to be the grassland to the east? Nope.

[3] 梧桐- or wu tong (as it rhymes with Wu Dong), the Chinese parasol tree. All terms are interchangeable, but do note the other names in future chapters.

[4] 帝华兰- obviously a fictional flower. The 帝华 portion of the name is actually a term used to refer to the capital. But when interpreted separately, you get Emperor, Magnificent, and either one of these plants: the orchid (兰
花 ), thoroughwort ( 兰 草 ), or the lily magnolia ( ⽊ 兰 ). From the description, the flower should be close to the lily magnolia in consideration
for its petals.

[5] 经脉- passageways in which vital energy flows (rather than blood).

[6] Roughly half an hours time.

[7] Cross-referencing with google and baidu reveals that a majority of these places are based on real life places, if not, a place that once existed in an older time. Zha Ling Place and E Ling (扎陵邬, 鄂陵) should be based
on the two sister lakes located at the source of the famous Yellow River,
whereas Long He is the name of an ancient city (now part of the Songpan county in Sichuan according to baidu). Nearby, southwest border of the Sichuan basin is Mei Province (which still exists today). Following that, Chu Province (Huai An as of today). Han Zhong Prefecture today is known as Hanzhong city.
[8] 仙⼈凌云上,俯⾸观海苍- the full line that the title is worded from. This one is fairly easy to decipher. The 海 and 苍 , however, can be
interpreted a bit differently. 海 is commonly used to refer to the sea. However, it is also often used to describe a large amount of things, for example, ⼈海 is translated as a sea of people, or, a large amount of people. 苍, on the other hand, is not only a colour (largely green, blue, or ashy grey/white, black, all really depends), but is paired to create old-aged people (苍⽼), or the common people (苍⽣). While I translate the second half of the line as observing the blue of the sea, in context, it would make more sense to translate it into a sea of common people, but usual writing
conventions would indicate it be written as 苍海 rather than 海苍, but that only makes people think to a blue sea more than a sea of people. We’ll just say that the blue sea is what is read on the surface, while it really means a sea of mortals.

Chapter 13

Chapter Thirteen, the Sect Market, Living So Noisily. (宗门会市, 活得喧哗)

That was probably the appearance of what an immortal should have.

To hang one’s eyes down and watch as the blue seas turn to mulberry fields[1], and turn their hands to flip over the world and the human realm.

For the first time, Shen Chang Ge grew a yearning towards immortals. But unfortunately, after that first time, when Bai Li Shu returned to Jiu Xuan Sect, he once again entered a state of isolation. If one were to carefully count, Bai Li Shu had joined Jiu Xuan sect for nineteen years, of which, eight to nine-tenths of the time was in isolation.

A large majority of the Jiu Xuan sect’s disciples bore a state of “heard of the name, have not seen the face” towards this eldest disciple brother of widespread fame.

Within the numerous thoughts, the shut door opened, and a thin youth in a white robe came out from within.

“You have waited long.”      Bai Li Shu slightly nodded his head, and said in a light tone.

Shen Qing Yi hurriedly shook his head, “It was I who came early.
Senior, shall we go now?” “Let’s go then.” Bai Li Shu waved the sleeve of his robe, and the door behind him closed up without a sound. He glanced at Shen Chang Ge, hinting at him to take the lead.

Shen Chang Ge also foresaw this. With Senior Bai Li’s nature of constantly being in isolation, not knowing where the market was couldn’t be any more natural.

With Shen Chang Ge’s status, he did not yet have the qualifications to walk side-by-side with Jiu Xuan sect’s eldest disciple brother. Although Bai Li Shu looked to be indifferent and uncaring for these things, Shen Chang Ge still fell half a step behind him, and introduced Jiu Xuan’s sect market as they walked.

In truth, each peak and range had its own small-scale market that was open every day. However, the one that Shen Chang Ge invited Bai Li Shu to this time was the entire sect’s market, open once every month, in a long and narrow flat valley located at the bordering area between Xuan Shuang[2] peak and Xuan Ce peak.

Xuan Shuang Peak…… Xuan Ce Peak……

Bai Li Shu was not surprised that the market would sit between the border of these two places.

The business dealings of the secular world as well as the dynasties’ tributes[3] to the sect were always handled by Xuan Shuang Peak, while Xuan Ce Peak was the sect’s most keenest ears- over two-thirds of the Assignment Hall’s tasks used information and level evaluation supplied by Xuan Ce Peak.

“Normally, each peak’s representative disciple would head towards the sect market……” Shen Chang Ge went on and on, and suddenly paused. The relationship between the disciples of each peak and range was not exactly very harmonious. There were many who were just like him and He Zhou, finding each other to be eyesores. Thus, this sect market-in-name, was actually a time of private competition between each peak and range’s disciples. And each peak and range’s representative eldest disciple each were owners of high pride and arrogance. Now that Bai Li Shu was going, that group of people would probably not stay still.

Bai Li Shu indifferently looked at him, “No need to think too
much.”

He was just like that day when he agreed at the Assignment Hall to
take back the《Three Ancient Emperor’s Painting》. He had a calm tone, a voice from which one could not hear out even a bit of emotion, yet would clearly let people have a feeling that he himself already had definitive plan for everything.

Shen Chang Ge was stunned for a moment, then subsequently laughed, “This disciple brother overthought it. Senior Bai Li would naturally not worry about these things.”       That group of bastards in the sect were only just geniuses was after all. Senior Bai Li, however, was a person of demonic talent[4].

Bai Li Shu took in Shen Chang Ge’s intentions deep inside, slightly lowered his gaze, and quietly looked at his pale white hands without any colour of blood, with the blue veins on the back of his almost-transparent hands looking to be extremely apparent. Under the skin and flesh, within the muscles and vessels with blood trickling through, the dormant poison would meticulously spread outwards at each and every moment, as though a blade akin to a thin piece of paper cutting away silently.

He moved his hand and gathered the pale white fingertips back inside the sleeve.

Although it was said that the valley area the sect market was at was long and narrow, the space was not exactly small, and was approximately as big as a mortal realm’s small city. At the valley entrance stood a limestone rock, which read, “A thousand golds[5] is hard to ask for in a thoughts’ time. Those that one is destined with are naturally as far-reaching as the Heaven is to the Earth.” The handwriting was unrestrained and elegant. Beyond the entrance, arrangements of spirit pagoda trees lined up in several hundred rows. In wall-less houses and underneath each of the trees, little shops would be set up, and all the disciples would be there, each holding items needed for cultivation and making transactions with each other.

The moment they stepped into the market, the noise of people’s voices came in like a blow to the face, and made Bai Li Shu slightly stunned for a second.

He suddenly recalled the scenery of the temple fair a servant spoke of that he heard by chance one time, “Walking close to others heels, people’s voices were like a boiling cauldron, while the gong and drum made a lot of noise, the vehicles and horses all pushed and squeezed by.”       In the room filled with a dim sandalwood scent that flushed out the strong smell of medicine, he laid in the sickbed, and quietly listened to the servants beneath the window talk about the noise and excitement of the temple fair, analyzing the changes of a trade route while the look of all the tourists happily passing by slowly appeared in front of his eyes. Those people would discuss the months and farming, yet did not know that at a place far away, there was a trade route on the verge of being cut off, and also did not know that once the route was broken, the market’s price of tea would soon fall down a couple taels of money.

They lived ignorantly, yet were lively and animated.

At present, it turned into him personally stepping into this noise and bustle instead.

“Senior, we’ve arrived.”       Bai Li Shu’s strange look only lasted for an instant, so Shen Chang Ge did not yet sense it.

Bai Li Shu responded in a low voice, retracted his thoughts, then walked in.

He originally did not come to this market to buy or sell things, and so did not walk all that fast throughout the trip. Shen Chang Ge was delighted that Bai Li Shu walked slow, and followed behind him all throughout, then would occasionally use a low voice to explain some of the market’s rules. Because it was a trade between disciples to begin with, there weren’t many actual rare treasures, but the items were good for its practicality.

The two did not think much of it, and hardly realized that the people who saw this scene each were very much stupefied inside.

“Senior Brother, isn’t that person Senior Shen?” Under a comparatively short spirit pagoda tree, a Xuan Ce disciple dressed in grey that looked to be a few parts slacking trembled with a start, and reached out his hand to pull at the youth dozing off by his side.

On the waist of the youth called his “Senior Brother” hung a sign symbolizing the inner-sect’s disciple, and the cuff of his robe were embroidered with trumpet birds. When he heard say the little disciple brother say this, his eyelids did not raise up in the slightest, and said in a dragged out tone, “It’s just Senior Shen, so what. What matter is it to us? Stinking brat, don’t go slacking off, and go back to watching the shop. ”

“That’s not it, with Senior Shen’s lofty[6] nature, how could he……” The grey-clothed disciple couldn’t find half a word to describe it in a short period of time, “Aye aye aye, Senior Brother, have you ever seen Senior Shen acting as a guide for someone? And all manners of…… En…… being busy[7]?”

“En?!” The youth rolled off, and suddenly climbed up with an expression of doubt on his face.      “Brat, did your brain get knocked cold by Qian range’s people for you to start saying such crazy talk? Guiding? Busy? Shen Chang Ge?”

“You look for yourself!” The grey-clothed disciple did not really believe his own eyes either, and simply pointed to a place to let the sluggish youth see for himself.

When he looked towards the direction the grey-clothed disciple pointed to, the youth rubbed his eyes, and after a half a day, only one sentence came out, “Has the sun come out from the west?” They only saw at a place diagonal to them, that face that always brought with it a fake smile, who considered himself quite highly, with a mouth so vicious and a heart even more cruel, the Qian range’s representative eldest disciple currently turning his head quietly saying something to a white-clothed youth. Swearing upon the reputation of Xuan Ce Peak, this time, Shen Chang Ge’s smile on his face was definitely sincere.

“Not right!” The youth suddenly realized something, and firmly stared at the very thin youth standing by Shen Chang Ge’s side.
“That is…… That is……”

[1] 沧海桑⽥- From blue seas to mulberry fields, then from mulberry fields to big seas. An idiom for big changes in the world (over time). Note
that the blue sea, 沧海 is not the same as the ‘blue sea'(海苍) in a previous chapter, despite 沧 and 苍 being pronounced the same and sharing the same meaning when used in reference to colours and seas.

[2] ⽞霜- The Shuang character means frost, or is used in place of the colour white.

[3] The exact term here is 贡赋 (instead of a regular 贡献), which is used to refer to tribute of both land and troop supplies in ancient China.

[4] The terms used here are 天才 and 妖孽之才 in contrast. Aside from a more positive connotation from being called simply a genius, a prodigy, gifted, the 天 character, when translated separately will bring about an
association with Heaven. Hence, by addressing Bai Li Shu not as a ‘genius’,
Shen Qing Yi here refers to Bai Li Shu’s talents as something completely in a different realm, inhuman, or a perversion (as I translated in a previous chapter). Beyond what one envisions as a genius.

[5] 千⾦- in a literal translation, it is a thousand golds, or, a lot of money. It is also often used as a respectful way to refer to someone else’s daughter. Both interpretations are valid in context. [6] The exact phrase used here is, with eyes as high as the highest peak.

[7] 忙前忙后- as the words describe, busy at the front and busy at the back. Or, in more proper English, take care of everything.

Chapter 14

Chapter Fourteen, a Few Pointers, From the Country’s Beauty. (指点⼀
⼆, 天下美⾊)
“Senior Brother?” The grey-clothed disciple looked at him in surprise. Regarding his own Senior Brother’s personality, he still understood a few things. Even if it was Shen Chang Ge, with his temperament, the most he’d do was probably let Senior Brother laugh two times and give a few taunts, far unlike this extremely shocked look.
But speaking of which……

The grey-clothed disciple could not help but take another look at the white-clothed youth standing beside Shen Chang Ge. From his angle, he could only see the youth’s profile, but solely from the profile alone, it was enough to make people unable to move away their eyes, like a modest gentleman, as though an immortal within a painting. Don’t mention Shen Chang Ge, if it was another person, anyone would be willing to do their utmost best to please this person.

“It’s Senior Bai Li.” The lazy youth burst out in profanities and cursed out, and said a bit of a disbelief.

Senior Bai Li?

The grey-clothed disciple also became stunned.

As though subconsciously, the grey-clothed disciple recalled Ye Qiu Sheng’s words, “From beyond the Heavens comes a sword from the Immortal Beyond Heaven. Should the secular world have this guest, they must see to them.” Eldest Brother, Immortal Beyond Heaven, these two terms represented a person who approached being a legend within Jiu Xuan sect. They had cultivated for ten and some years and reached the boundary of a Half-God, and in the journey to the secret territory five years ago, shocked the country with one strike.

Wait a minute! The grey-clothed disciple abruptly became startled. He really saw Senior Bai Li!

“You watch over here.” The youth that first came to waved his sleeve and instructed. With a lift of the foot, he was about to walk in Bai Li Shu’s direction, but after walking not even two steps out, he once again turned back, suppressed his voice and gave the grey-clothed disciple some instructions.

The youth did not care for what kind of reaction the grey-clothed disciple had after listening, and just immediately left.

The grey-clothed disciple left in his original spot instantly turned into something particularly hard to describe—— three-parts helpless, four- parts in despair, one-part as expected, and two-parts troubled.

After hesitating for a moment, the grey-clothed disciple still took out a communication talisman, and with the price of one hundred spirit stones, separately transmitted the news of Senior Bai Li appearing at the sect market to those few senior brothers and sisters who he could not offend within the Jiu Xuan sect—— pray to the ancestral forefathers and masters, that Senior Bai Li would not find out he was doing this.

Just as he was thinking this, the grey-clothed disciple who had his head down while sending out the news did not discover that the white- clothed youth standing beneath the spiritual pagoda tree randomly swept a glance towards his direction.

“Senior Bai Li, the market is ordered according to the disciple’s strength. The trading area for the inner-sect’s core disciples typically is a bit further in. Should we directly head there?” Shen Chang Ge noticed that throughout the journey, Bai Li Shu did not purchase anything, and thus spoke out and asked.

With the way he looked at it, these items within the surrounding area were certainly nothing worth caring for.

“Senior Shen seems to be good health since last. It’s such a rare opportunity that the Senior Shen with eyes so high up would unexpectedly come upon our market. To have you here, is truly an honour.”        Just at this time, an indolent voice sounded, following which a youth with trumpet bird embroidery, with a flask of wine hanging from the waist walked over. His medium-length hair was tied to the back of the head randomly with a cord, his brows rose up, and looked to have a bit of an air of a ruffian.

When he saw the incoming person, Shen Chang Ge folded up the fan, narrowed down his eyes, and with a spurious smile, said, “Brother Qin does everything personally as ever. Guarding this market every single day is truly laborious, so how could Senior I dare trouble you.”

“Much thanks to Senior for these kind feelings.” The youth loudly laughed. Although he addressed Shen Chang Ge as a senior, within his words, it did not seem to be all that respectful. After greeting Shen Chang Ge, he bowed towards Bai Li Shu, “This lowly one is Qin Jiu[1]. Greetings to Eldest Brother.”

“Brother Qin.”     Bai Li Shu slightly nodded his head. Before Qin Jiu came over, he already knew knew this person’s identity. By name, he was only Xuan Ce Peak’s ordinary inner-sect disciple, but in truth, he was the unofficial successor to the position of Xuan Ce Peak’s master. Only, now that Qin Jiu had come over, it appears that the following stroll around this market would not seem to be as peaceful.

Bai Li Shu took a look at the grey-clothed disciple, and thought without a care.

“For Senior Bai Li to seldom come to the sect market this once, why not let me lead the way for Senior?” Qin Jiu said with a smile and a bit of a look of familiarity, “Just now, Senior Shen had said it too. I don’t dare say anything about other stuff, but to find another person that’s more familiar with the market in Jiu Xuan sect, I’m afraid is not possible.”

“No need for Brother to be so hard-working.” Bai Li Shu pointed to an item in a store where they were at, and indifferently asked, “How much for this item?”

The place they were standing at was a small shop of Xuan Shuang Peak’s official disciple. Long at the time Bai Li Shu came over, this ordinary Xuan Shuang Peak female disciple already turned panicked. The word that Jiu Xuan Sect’s eldest disciple brother was the number one beauty of the country spread throughout the cultivation world. When she first entered the sect and heard of this, she even thought it was hilarious- to think that the Nine Provinces Private Bank would actually be stupid to this kind of extent, and actually pick a man to be its top candidate for a nice and proper Twelve Volumes of Beauty Records.

At that time, the senior sister who told her this saw that she did not believe it, and could not help but shake her head, then said, if you just take a look at Senior Bai Li, you would understand. But unfortunately, at that time, the people who sought to be companions with Senior were too many, and afterwards, the Nine Provinces Private Bank had to have the image of Senior erased from the Twelve Volumes of Beauty Records.

At that time when she heard it, she was rather dubious. But up until today, when the snow white-clothed youth passed through the noise, and came out of from within the crowd, she then understood- this world really had the existence of an immortal from beyond Heaven.

A chilly voice like an icy spring resounded, and the face of the female disciple who was spellbound and stunned for a long time instantly turned all red, and bewilderingly took a look towards the item Bai Li Shu pointed to. That was a scroll of the mortal realm’s common customs handbook that was also randomly placed there as a filler. She did not think that it would be taken a fancy to by Senior Bai Li, and spoke in a stutter in the moment, “That is…… that is a filler……” The female disciple rapidly looked at Bai Li Shu’s face, mustered up all her courage and said, “If Senior would like it, it is free.”

Qin Jiu raised his eyebrow and took a look at this female disciple, then took a look at Bai Li Shu again.     Eh, how is it that he doesn’t have this kind of treatment of not needing to pay when buying things?

“Much thanks.” Bai Li Shu took up the handbook, placed a few spirit stones at the little shop, and softly said.

“Does Senior have an interest towards these kinds of irrelevant fields?” Qin Jiu drew close and took a look at the handbook in Bai Li Shu’s hands, and asked with a smile, “Speaking of which, Brother here also has many of them, but unfortunately, had not been able to sell them. Senior why don’t you take a bit of pity on Brother here, and take them in? I’ll guarantee I won’t make a single penny from Senior.”

Shen Chang Ge sneered, “Who doesn’t know that Xuan Ce’s Brother Qin loves wealth like his life the most. How is it that you had a change of personality today instead?”

“Those words can’t be said like that.” After having his unsavoury past teared off by Shen Chang Ge in front of Senior, Qin Jiu wasn’t angry either, “A gentleman is to love wealth, and to attain it is an accomplishment. Is Senior Bai Li not like that as well? Naturally, one cannot take things lightly and be impolite. Besides……”

Qin Jiu switched the topic of the conversation, and said in an not-so- serious manner, “Was there not a time when someone brought out at thousand golds to be for an audience with Senior? If one were to calculate it, it is I who earned, to be able to see Senior for such a long time without paying up a single coin.”

“You are the sect’s eldest disciple brother, yet your face can’t even be seen. Bai Li Shu, you’ve become the sect’s eldest disciple brother quite leisurely enough.” Just as Qin Jiu finished speaking, someone took over the conversation with a gloomy and cold tone. Bai Li Shu raised his eyes to take a look. A tall youth dressed in a black robe with sleeves of fire embroidered on it came out from within the valley area. The socket of his eyes were deeply caved in, his expression in low spirits, and the aura to him was especially chilly and shady.

“Don’t know if Eldest Brother has any free time today to give a few pointers here and there for this brother?”          The youth raised his eyes, and had a grin. When he smiled, there was not even a slight bit of sunniness to it, and on the contrary, was even more cold, just like a venomous snake.

[1] 秦九 nothing in particular to note about this name that hasn’t been explained in previous footnotes. The ‘Jiu’ is the same character for nine. Also share the same pronunciation as wine/alcohol.

Chapter 15

Chapter Fifteen, A Blade of Demon Eyes, Jackdaw Like a Sabre. (妖瞳之刃, 寒鸦如⼑)
When the black-robed youth said this, the surroundings immediately turned into sounds of whispers.

Qin Jiu raised his eyebrows, and smiled, “Senior Li Xin[1] truly is full of excitement. However, Senior Bai Li and I still have a deal that is not complete. Don’t know if Senior here can just wait for a moment.”

His face was smiling, but inside, multiple thoughts quickly passed through.

Though this Li Xin was not Li[2] Range’s representative eldest disciple, Jiu Xuan sect publicly recognized that his strength was higher than Li Range’s representative disciple by not only one level. A few days ago, he even almost stepped into the boundary of a Half-God, so the difference between his and Bai Li Shu’s cultivation could not be considered to be too big.

When he instructed his junior to have the news of Senior Bai Li sold out, Qin Jiu already figured that the other peak and range’s core disciples would come forward for a challenge. To tell the truth, of those who were able to become the sect’s core disciples, which one wasn’t a genius, and who wasn’t full of high pride. How would they be willing to have some person younger than them by a whole chunk come out of nowhere halfway through and press the top of their own heads for ten and some years. In this Jiu Xuan Sect, those who wanted to test Bai Li Shu’s true strength, were more than plenty.

Only, Qin Jiu did not think that the first one to make his move was this moody half-lunatic, Li Xin.

If it were anyone else, no matter who won or lost, it would have nothing to do with him. But if this bastard Half-crazy Li[3] used his true strength, then wasn’t his market going to to be stricken with misfortune?

Careless. Truly, too careless.

When he recalled the reputation of “Half crazy, half deranged Li with a pair of blades, when killing people, would hurt three-tenths of his own self”, Qin Jiu regretted it so much even his intestines turned blue.

Without yet having found another person to stop this competition of measuring up strength called giving pointers, Qin Jiu heard Bai Li Shu to his side calmly respond, “Brother, please.” The voice was cold and cheerless, unable to tell if it was joyful or angry.

Qin Jiu thought back to the last time after Li Xin fought at the open martial field, how that primordial energy of unique property corroded multiple big holes into the martial stage, and following it, how many spirit stones Xuan Ce Peak had to put together into repairing the stage…… and today he had to even add in a Bai Li Shu…… There and then, Qin Jiu only felt his eyes go dark.

The martial stage was located in the center of the market, in the most flat area of the valley bordering between Xuan Shuang Peak and Xuan Ce Peak. This was also the two peaks’ one small, small convergence point where spiritual energy tended to collect. The sect elders took this lingering spiritual energy here and had it restricted by a spell formation, bound just under the stage. Since then, when the disciples within the sect went up the stage to fight, the aftermath would not spread to its surroundings.

The area the martial field took up was quite wide, and split into differing big and small ones, tall and short, various pieces, scattered into clusters in a lotus formation. In the center-most martial stage, the area was the widest, and was tallest off the ground. Each stage had spell formations inscribed onto them, with magic scripts circulating around, outstandingly archaic and abstruse.

It would appear that the sect had put in a lot of thought for this competition area.

For something like a private competition between disciples within the sect, the sect would always maintain an attitude of tacit acknowledgement, and even a stance of encouragement. As a sect with a long-established lineage, to maintain its own aloof position, the strength of the disciples within the sect could only be the strongest of the strong. And rivalry was originally a type of method used for stimulating advancement.

Those who knew humiliation, would rise up like polished jade. And those who attain victory, would be watchful like navigating a boat.

He casually thought of this as he stepped forward towards the tall
stage.

On the other side, Li Xin sneered once. When his figure moved, it
would be like black crows sweeping by. In a flash, he had long already stepped onto the center of the martial stage before Bai Li Shu, and watched from up high as Bai Li Shu walked up each step in a neither fast nor slow manner. With a tone full of cynicism, “Senior, please do advise kindly.”

Both parties stood firmly in their positions on the tall stage. To the side, the eyelids of the Xuan Ce Peak elder presiding over things jumped, withdrew from the martial stage, activated the magic formation, and announced the start with a loud voice.

Li Xin looked towards Bai Li Shu, and instead saw the very thin youth in a dress of white clothing naturally put both his hands to the side. His features were cold, and aura completely contained. He quietly stood on the stage without moving, as though having no intention whatsoever to make a move. —— Not worth even making a move?

Li Xin sneered, flipped his hand and pulled out a pair of blades from his waist.

They were two long and narrow, slightly curved ancient sabres. The colour of the blade’s body and lustre was dark, with a few lines of long grooves of blood. On the hilt of the sabres each were embedded with a bead that seemed jade-like, but unlike jade, like metal, yet was not metal. The edge of the blade seemed to be wrapped in a layer of grey aura, sombre and dark, and brought with it a kind of scent of deathly stillness that would make people uncomfortable.

This pair of ancient blades were called—— Demon Eyes.

Once the pair of blades came out of its sheath, it was as though there were faint mourns of spirits and cries of demons in the atmosphere. Li Xin’s primordial energy poured into the pair of blades, then that pair of beads on top of the hilts abruptly lit up, and turned out to be a pair of pretty-looking, abnormal, bloody and cold eyes.

“To flash Demon Eyes as soon as he comes up, he’s really going all out.”         Qin Jiu took down the flask of wine from his waist, swayed it, and said to himself.

One half of Half-crazy Li’s name came from that pair of blades. At first, though the conduct of Li Xin who was only just a normal inner-sect disciple was more severe and resolute compared to others, it was not to the point of warranting being called “Half-crazy”. However, during a time he carried out a sect assignment, Li Xin who had met with a surprise attack was driven into a corner, and was forced to enter the nest of a Half-God boundary demonic beast.

That Half-God demonic beast carried an ancient bloodline in its body, whose name was “Gui[4]”.

In the《Three Emperors’ Handbook· Odd Beasts Chapter》writes: in the veins of the Earth is a demon, with an attribute of Yin(moon), that lives on by eating evil aura, connected to the netherworld. Its name is Gui, with remarkable ability, normal people should not rashly be in contact with it.

They did not know exactly what kind of method Li Xin used. Not only did he kill the Gui demon of Half-God cultivation, but he had also refined its pair of demon eyes that could connect with the netherworld, and used it as his life-tied weapon. It was precisely from that time on that Li Xin’s strength advanced with great speed[5], and became Li range’s true representative eldest disciple.

Perhaps he had been influenced within the process of refining the demon eyes, but since then, Li Xin’s personality became more and more gloomy and cold. He became more and more vicious when duelling with people, and did not leave a way of retreat—— not only did he not give the opponent a way of escape, but he also did not give himself a way to retreat. It was due to this that there would be the saying of “when killing people, he would hurt three-tenths of his own self”.

At present, Half-crazy Li was still like that, not leaving any leeway around. His pair of blades shook out of its sheath, and once primordial energy poured within Demon Eyes, he bent over and rushed forward, with the blades slightly held within the spacious sleeve. On the edge of the sabre, the misty grey aura solidified as though metal, and the air was cut up by the blade’s drive, letting out a tearing sound. Demon Eyes’ red light in the black spacious sleeve seemed like a pair of scavenging crow’s eyes flashing by the dense dark clouds.

The martial stage was three miles in length, where Bai Li Shu and Li Xin each stood at one end. But at this moment, in an instant, Li Xin had already drawn close, and the air pressure brought about by the rapid pace made an intense sound.

At the time when there was still a slight distance from Bai Li Shu, the pair of blades held with an under-grip in Li Xin’s sleeve positioned one at the front and back, and moved forward with a diagonal cut. The grey-coloured crisscrossed crescent-moon shapes covering the blade shot out with breaking speed, sombre to the point of penetrating the bone. That was evil aura that had been solidified to its extremest point. When an opponent dodged these two terrifying strikes of evil spirit, Li Xin who would be close to the back would long already come in with his blades.

This attack was named “Sly Swallow”.

At this time, all the core disciples who rushed to the martial stage used their undivided attention to watch Bai Li Shu’s reaction.

The fame of the genius that was Bai Li Shu had spread far and wide for a long time already, but those who had actually seen him make a move numbered not too many. So as for how strong he was exactly, in reality, was not known to many people. Those with Li Xin’s kind of strength among Jiu Xuan sect’s disciples were quite few, so letting him test Bai Li Shu’s true strength could not be any more fitting.

When the crisscrossed gloomy evil aura came right in the face, the youth in white clothing like snow quietly watched, with his eyes in a sunken calmness.

[1] 厉歆- The Xin character means to envy, admire. The surname Li, means either strict and rigorous, or grim.

[2] 离脉- Not the same Li as Li Xin’s Li, but most likely is the reference to the Li portion of the Eight Diagram/Yin Yang symbol, representing fire. (hence why Li Range’s members bear fire embroidery)

[3] 厉半疯- or, Li Ban Feng, if I end up forgetting. Or, Half-mad, half- lunatic.

[4] 诡- to mean sly, or crafty.
[5] ⼀⽇千⾥- literally, to reach a thousand miles in a day.

Chapter 16

Chapter Sixteen, Anticipate the Enemy to Go First, Then Calculate to the Point of Leaving Nothing. (料敌先机, 算⽆遗漏)
Sly Swallow’s crescent-shaped evil aura flew up high in the sky. Not only all the disciples beneath the stage, but even Li Xin on top of the stage was paying attention to Bai Li Shu’s reaction.

Under everyone’s attentive gaze, Bai Li Shu moved. He did not retreat but instead moved forward, and welcomed the two crescents of evil aura coming head on with one step—— is he mad? When they saw Bai Li Shu still empty-handed, this was pretty much what everyone thought. To take it on like this isn’t all much different from killing himself.

And then, in the next moment, everyone widened their eyes in disbelief.

—— It missed!

The youth in snow-white clothing very normally took one step- not one more, not one less. The two swift and fierce strikes of evil aura roared, flashed by closely to his side, and heavily hit the top the stage, cutting out two long and deep ravines—— this was a field that had been added with the protection of magic formations, with the floor’s hardness far exceeding everyone’s imagination.

Yet these two strikes fell through. That one step Bai Li Shu took just happened to step onto the one sole area of the very few openings of the two strikes. The pair of blades’ strike had a slight difference when made, and hence the evil aura would pass by with one in the front and back, and form a crossed pattern within the air. This was originally the strong point of Li Xin’s attack, yet at present, Bai Li Shu stepped into the gap between the two strikes that pretty much could not be found, and very easily dodged it.

The two strikes of evil aura wrapped with a shocking momentum flew close to the youth, yet did not even bring a portion of his sleeve up.

When Bai Li Shu dodged the two strikes of evil aura, Li Xin had already arrived.

His wrists turned, and the two blades’ sharp glimmer transformed. In an instant, it was as though the pair of blades formed into one, and turned into a line of thunder and cut down on a diagonal to the upper left. This was Sly Swallow’s true killer move. Using the extremely corrosive attribute of the evil aura that surrounded the blade, force the enemy to enter a parrying state, then within the time the other person blocked it, close in the distance. After the enemy blocked the evil aura, just when the old strength left and new strength had not yet come to, he would already be close, and the pair of blades combined into one would come in with the momentum of a thunderbolt and directly take the other person’s life.

When the combined blade cut down, Li Xin’s eyes abruptly contracted.

A quiet and cold aura flashed past his side, and the youth with indifferent features brushed past his shoulder.

After taking the first step, Bai Li Shu slightly turned his body, and at the moment before Li Xin waved his blade, he freely took a step towards the left. As though he had long already seen Li Xin’s blade’s trajectory, after taking a step out, Li Xin’s two blades once again passed by his body without a single error.

How is it possible? What is going on? While doubts passed through his mind, Li Xin suddenly turned around, and the blades that had originally missed its target then forcefully changed directions midair, then horizontally cut towards Bai Li Shu who brushed past his side.

But there was no feeling of effort as usual.

The instant the pair of blades cut sideways, Bai Li Shu had already left and stepped back. As before, it was one single step, not more, not less, yet it wedged into the half arch in the momentum of the blade’s most weakest point, and took the ever most slightest distance to avoid it.

……

All was a span of silence in the martial stage.

The flask of wine in Qin Jiu’s hand who originally could still sway his flask was held up in midair, without having taken a drink for a long time. Not only him, pretty much all the core disciples were the same. Their expressions were filled with a heaviness.

The situation up the stage exhibited a few parts of eeriness to it.

All this time, the very thin white-clothed youth remained the same as the beginning, with a self-contained aura, and his two hands empty. Faced against each of Li Xin’s attacks, he would only use a single step. The movement was not exactly fast, so each step allowed for everyone to see it clearly. But persistently, each of those steps would create the most slightest distance to completely avoid Li Xin’s fierce offence.

Moving like idly strolling through a courtyard.

This was practically the first duel that made people feel fear on their backs. Each of Li Xin’s strikes, the range, the trajectory of them, how much could be taken, were all foreseen by the other person long ago.

From the beginning of the competition until now, Li Xin who possessed the strength equal to Jiu Xuan sect’s core disciples had not even once landed a single strike. The Demon Eyes blades bearing a dark and obscure lustre struck out more and more faster, and the grey and obscure primordial energy flooded the entire martial stage, like the surface of a sea within stormy winds and rain, dreary and dark. Yet the person he faced still bore an expression of indifference, and his white robe was not even dyed in a single speck of dust.

“Is that it?”

As another strike missed, Li Xin’s breathing already turned particularly heavy. He gripped Demon Eyes writhing in violent aura, with a shadowy expression. Just at this time, Bai Li Shu’s voice indifferently transmitted, no different from the coldness and desolation from the very beginning, from which one would be unable to distinguish if it was joyful or angry. Li Xin raised his eyes to look, and saw that the youth in white was quietly standing just like the beginning, his eyebrows held in snow, apathetic and calm.

This kind of feeling of powerlessness…… Truly…… Made people angry!
Li Xin suddenly grinned and laughed, and his eyes enveloped in a veiled sunken air of death. His voice cracked like a night owl hoarsely laughing.

“Is that it?!”         Just as he said that, the Gui demon eyes on the hilts of the blades in his hand suddenly turned from a crimson-red to one similar to a ghost fire’s firefly-blue colour. The mourns of the spirits and demonic cries that appeared in the very beginning when he drew out his blade exploded and no longer veiled itself, and the square space on the martial stage suddenly completely darkened. Cold air turned thick, as though the gates of the ghost opening, and death came rushing straight in the face.

“Not good…… that’s the territory of death. To think he actually really succeeded in that sentiment.” Beneath the stage, Qin Jiu’s expression suddenly changed. Within the《Three Emperors’ Handbook· Odd Beasts Chapter》in the comments on the Gui demon, the most important, and most vague was the one line on being “connected to the netherworld”. The Gui demon was born within the veins of the earth, the place with the most Yin aura. Day after day, year after year, this kind of demonic thing had an ability that was different from others—— being able to communicate with the netherworld.

A being of the netherworld, also called the underworld, and the domain of the deceased[1].

It was rumoured that the key to the Gui demon being able to connect with the netherworld was within its pair of eyes that held its demonic soul. In theory, those who obtain the demonic eyes of the Gui demon, had a set rate of being able to understand the conception of death, and from that, create a “domain” filled with the aura of death at the Half-God stage.
The so-called domain, was a method of attack unique to those at the Half- God stage.

To combine spiritual insight and primordial energy as one, and temporarily control a space, then shape it into a territory belonging to oneself.

Within this “domain”, the person who released the domain would receive a terrifying boost to their strength, and could become an extremely big obstruction to the opponent.

The conception that a “domain” embodied determined this “domain’s” level and strength. And as everyone publicly accepted it, death was definitely one of the most difficult and strongest conceptions to understand.

Cultivators pillaged the heavens and earth for their own use, but what they sought, was only to just avoid death and pursue a long life.

Countless cultivators of immortality endure hundred and thousands of years of miserable cultivation just to escape death and seek eternal life. From this, one would know the horrors of this one simple word of “death”. To understand it naturally was a difficulty upon difficulty. But once they succeeded in its understanding, the power obtained would be imaginable.

Qin Jiu slowly put down his flask of wine.

It was no wonder that even though Li Xin clearly knew Bai Li Shu long already broke through the Half-God boundary, he still dared to be the first to challenge him. Turned out that he already realized a “domain” that belonged to himself. Breaking through to the Half-God level was just in front of his eyes. And once Li Xin breaks into the Half-God stage, he was afraid the Li range would not sit still. No wonder Li range’s elder would be so rushed to compel the sect leader. So it was like that.

Qin Jiu rapidly connected the information he obtained these few days, and revealed an enlightened expression.

Just at the moment he was in deep thought, Li Xin’s domain had already completely unfold. The domain containing the aura of death enveloped the entire stage, and at this time and moment, in this space, Bai Li Shu had no way of escape.

Li Xin did not attack at the first opportunity, but gripped the pair of blades in his hands. The two blades were seen to be fused into one, then the demon eyes on the hilt turned into orchid-colour flame winding around the body of the blade. Li Xin then raised his eyes to look toward the youth in white who did not have any change in expression within the dark and dim domain of death.

“The blade’s name is……” “Gui!”

Just as he said this, Li Xin moved his blade in a horizontal line. The body of the blade smoothly moved in a straight line, and the sound of wind howled within the domain. The one blade turned into tens of thousands, then, the cage of the blade-filled sky moved towards the quietly standing Bai Li Shu.

With nowhere to escape. [1] The differences between each term that refers to the under/netherworld/hell is much more stark in Chinese. The first ‘netherworld’ 幽冥, is formed from the words that are defined as ghostly,
dark, and dim. The second term, ⻩泉, however, is literally translated as the yellow spring, derived from the saying of how the sky is black and earth is
yellow (天地⽞⻩). Hence, in hell that is located underneath the ground, the spring water that is mixed with the earth is yellow.

Chapter 17

Chapter Seventeen, Spirit, Oh, Spirit, to What Place Do You Return to. (魂兮魄兮, 归者何兮)
Inside Li Xin’s “domain”, the sound of wind was shrill and bitter, sorrowful like ghosts crying. Held within the ghostly howls and demonic cries, was the sound of the blade’s edge cutting apart the air. Bai Li Shu hung down his eyes, and the long eyelashes covered up his emotions, and also covered up the shower of blades that filled the sky.

He did not look, but listened.

What Li Xin let out, was one blade, and one blade only. Li Xin condensed his own realized “domain” into that one blade, and the blade enclosed with the idea of “death” carried the same kind of strength as the entire “domain”. This was the true face of the shower of blades that covered this sky.

The ways to break apart this were many, but for Bai Li Shu, there was only one.

Just only one.

Other than Bai Li Shu himself, no one knew the extent of how terrible his body was already—— to be burdened with series of illnesses, with a dormant poison biting into the bones. The body of peak Half-God cultivation was pretty much all used to suppress the symptoms and allow him to be on top of the prolonging struggle into death. Within Li Xin’s perception, his breath(aura) was contained, but that was because at this time and moment, he was not even at the level of a healthy mortal at all.

Faced with Li Xin’s strike, as long as he returned an attack, then it would mean a result of the dormant poison breaking out, and tendons and vessels thoroughly breaking. And if so much as a sliver of Li Xin’s attack fell in the right spot, that also meant the primordial energy going into disorder, and the symptoms that were being forcefully suppressed would then counter at once, meaning sudden death on the spot.

The whim and calmness in Qin Jiu and others’ eyes was only a false impression. Each step he took just now, were all from a prediction obtained through the result of many calculations that would not tolerate a slip up.

At present, the amount of primordial energy that he was able to barely use was only a small portion of a microscopic amount.

This small bit of primordial energy only allowed him to dodge once.

—— He must avoid the “Gui’s” true body.

As long as he avoided it, he would have a way of breaking the
domain.

A myriad of blades continued to press close, but Bai Li Shu’s heart was like dead waters, without a wave nor a ripple.

Within the shroud of spiritual insight, the world’s sounds separated one by one: the sound of wind sweeping up clothes, sounds of heavy breathing, the sound of leaves drifting, as well as——

Bai Li Shu opened his eyes.

—— The sound of the edge of a blade vibrating.

The Demon Eyes that combined from two to one into “Gui” struck out sideways. Li Xin panted, and firmly watched the emaciated youth. That person still quietly stood, with their eyes and face hanging down. —— Was he insane or did he want to die?

The split second of uncertainty flashing by his mind was dispelled, because Li Xin finally saw Bai Li Shu’s eyes. At the instant the blade was about to hit the body, the very thin youth raised his eyes.

No joy nor sorrow, like an ancient well, sealed in cold ice.

In the next moment, Li Xin had completely lost track of Bai Li Shu within his own “domain”.

Li Xin had made a fatal mistake.

He should have not tried to go against Bai Li Shu using a “domain” constructed from the understanding of death. Because in regards to death, Bai Li Shu’s comprehension definitely exceeded him by a hundred times.

The death that Li Xin induced was far too fierce, and far too overbearing. It brought about a kind of tension like dark clouds that pushed the sea around, violent waves that were drawn high, and rubble that startled the reefs.

But death was not limited to just that.

That was a transient, split second of death. Surfaced at the top, it could not yet thoroughly experience the terror of death. And Bai Li Shu, instead authentically accompanied death for more than twenty years.

Although his past life was short, lasting twenty one years, not one year was not enveloped under the shadows of death. Death and him were as though the bone being invaded by maggots[1], like the shadow following the figure[2], something that could not be rid of.

Compared to the kind of death that did not have a moment it did not permeate into one’s breath, Li Xin’s conception of death of superficial understanding was only so-so.

What was a conception? So to speak: to startle people with momentum, to seize the soul with intention, to frighten and astonish an enemy soul, to put weight on one’s mind, and in the end, move the heavens and the earth, and mark out a space as one’s own territory.

This was actually a double-edged sword.

If the opponent’s understanding of this conception far exceeded the owner’s “domain”, then there could absolutely be a possibility of reversing positions, snatching the position of the one leading.

Only, within such a big realm, this kind of situation in reality happened far too little, so little to the point pretty much everyone forgot that there was even the existence of this possibility.

And thus, when he saw Bai Li Shu’s traces disappear in his own “domain”, Li Xin’s eyes rapidly contracted in an instant.

Beneath the martial stage, everyone who did not get shrouded by Li Xin’s “domain” all saw another situation instead——

In the instant the myriad of blades were about to hit, the youth that had hung his eyes down and silently stood until now had finally moved. He relaxed his robe and widened his sleeves. Within the domain of death that covered the skies and earth, he was like an immortal riding a crane, rising up as though he was floating. Everyone only heard a distant and indistinct sound that seemed to come from the horizon,

“Spirit, oh spirit, who has restrained you?” “Where did the dead go, where the living go to cry sorrowfully!”

Like a priest from an extremely distant time as far as the primordial world[3] that knelt before a strange figure, his sound crossed through the primordial world and the north star, and came in from stepping through realms, kowtowing and questioning the puzzling riddle of sickness and death,

—— Oh, spirit! Who is the one who had you restricted? And who is the one who took you away? Where has the dead spirits that moved so fleetingly gone to! The living it had left are in distress and heartbroken! Bai Li Shu’s voice swayed, bearing a vast kind of dreariness that covered the entire space of the domain. While he recited, the shower of blades that filled the skies suddenly turned as though they were bogged down by a marsh, slow like turtles moving.

“Return, return, for I will be like the shadows.”       “Come, come, for time does not rest.”

The priest strenuously inquiring finally obtained an answer coming from the deepest parts of hell[4], from the deity that gathered lives, a towering existence:

—— Come with me to return to underworld, and I will soon follow you like a shadow, making you restless day and night. Quickly head towards the Ninth Hell, otherwise, I will make you unable to retire peacefully each and every moment!

The tone of his voice suddenly shifted, fierce and abnormal. The slowly moving rain of blades completely stopped mid-air, and in the next moment, under everyone’s attentive watch, completely shattered and burst into a mass array of stars.

“The gates to the Ninth Hell open, Not a slow and clumsy spirit
left!”

——The big gates connected to the Ninth Hell had long already
opened, how dare the slow-witted spirits of the mortal world disobey me!

Bai Li Shu’s tone grew more and more louder, and in the very end, it was no longer a chant, but a detached god bringing down an undeniable order.

Then, the “domain” constructed from the barely Half-God strength collapsed with a loud crash!

At this time, the realization born from the understanding of death that formed the backbone of the “domain” had run against its owner’s will, and obeyed another person who had a much higher understanding of death. The formation pattern inscribed on top of the martial stage erupted in a flash of light, and the spiritual housing that the sect’s mightiest put down, at the most critical moment[5], absorbed the enormous impact that exploded out after the “domain” shattered.

The disciples who stood by the martial stage only felt an unceasing buzz in their ears.

After having the “domain” formed from the combination of spiritual insight and primordial energy forcefully taken control of and shattered, a spurt of blood shot out from Li Xin’s mouth. He propped against the Demon Eyes that split back into two and half-knelt to the ground.

The front of his eyes went black, and his consciousness was on the verge of being hazy. In a trance, Li Xin heard footsteps that were neither fast nor slow.

He strenuously raised his head to look.

Bai Li Shu who was dressed in white brushed past his shoulders, and his sleeves fluttered about, with not a thread of black hair in disorder.

The Immortal Beyond Heaven, Bai Li Shu.

When he suddenly recalled this name, Li Xin bitterly laughed.

[1] 跗⾻之蛆 (or 附⾻之疽)- an idiom for a hostile power hard to be rid of, that had infiltrated to the deepest parts.

[2] 如影随形- an expression for being inseparable (as a shadow is to its physical body)

[3] 鸿蒙- a time in which the world was simply just a ball of chaotic primordial energy. The beginning of before the universe was conceived, so to speak. Similar, if not close, to what we call before the Big Bang. [4] 九幽- Just as there is a ninth heaven, there is a equal and opposite ninth level underground… figuratively. Again, as mentioned in the first
chapter, the number carries the implication of being the ‘most’, hence, the lowest floor of hell, or the highest reaches of the sky.

[5] 千钧⼀发- when the last strand/thread still held onto a thousand jun(old measurement of weight)

Chapter 18

Chapter Eighteen, A Hanging River Flowed Backwards, Outside Yan Men Prefecture. (悬河倒流, 雁门郡外)
On the martial stage, the half-knelt Li Xin propped against Demon Eyes and stood up with a sway. Not even two steps in, he fell to the ground with a sound of a heavy thud. As for the outer-sect elder to the side, after seeming to have just being woken up from a dream, they announced Bai Li Shu’s victory in a loud voice, and hurriedly directed the disciples to have Li Xin brought down.

Qin Jiu put down the flask of wine in his hand that he did not take a single sip from.

He had a clear understanding of Li Xin’s strength. Faced against Li Xin, Qin Jiu himself calculated that his chances of winning were no more than fifty-fifty, and definitely could not be as leisurely and whimsical as Bai Li Shu had been. This was a battle of a complete and thorough bulldozing, where Li Xin was just like an ordinary person challenging an immortal in a vain attempt. Even with each and every attack equal to his full force, all could be described as ants vigorously rising up.

The final “domain” that erupted out that was said to be an attack with all of one’s power, might as well be called a struggle out of desperation.      —— And then, the immortal lightly swayed their sleeve, and broke it like randomly flicking dust off the surface, then subsequently left while adrift. Was this was the Immortal Beyond Heaven’s actual strength?
Terrifying, as expected.

After a long breath, the cold winds in the valley blew, and made him realize that he had already let out a body of cold sweat.

As he swept his gaze all around, Qin Jiu saw heavy expressions on many familiar faces. He let out a laugh. Bai Li Shu fought too seldomly , and also rarely appeared in front of people. In these years, there were quite many people who cast their eyes on Jiu Xuan Sect’s position of eldest disciple, but after this battle, there would probably be quite a few people who would have to reconsider again.

He was only afraid that after this day passed, the good reputation of Jiu Xuan’s Bai Li using one strike to shake the country would once again have another stroke added to it.

Qin Jiu swayed the wine flask, and neither fast nor slowly walked toward his little shop from before. He raised his neck, and noisily took a gulp of wine. When the hard liquor called “Red Ghost” entered his throat, it was just like a ball of knives barrelling down between his abdomen and chest.

The surrounding Jiu Xuan Sect disciples one after another stepped aside to make a path for the casual and frivolous Qin Jiu.

When Qin Jiu walked away, he passed by Shen Chang Ge. Shen Chang Ge had slightly lowered his head, and was thinking about something. On his face, was no usual smile that looked like a mask, and his aura faintly had a few parts of downcast to it. Through the side, Qin Jiu glanced at him for a bit, and let out a sneer.

Qian Range. Unlike the Li Peak’s steep and fierceness, the main peak of Jiu Xuan’s Qian Range that symbolized Heaven in the Eight Diagram looked to be peaceful. Floating clouds were bright and light, and tended to bring about a great and upright feeling to it. The fresh breezes blew from time to time, and the houses were built according to the star’s moving path, following the course of nature[1]. Shen Chang Ge sat inside his own room, and came faced with an embroidered square rice paper, as though deliberating something. He pulled his sleeve half-way up, and lifted up the wolf hair brush.

The embroidered paper that was produced in Jin Tang’s KuiProvince[2] exclusively used by the imperial family was white in colour like snow, and pliable like brocade. When one finely looked at it, one could see there was a natural grain to it made from an unpassed technique, where those patterns cleverly formed buds of plum blossoms. Within the common realm, this kind of paper was hard to obtain even with money. Due to the process in producing it being intricate, in a year, they would only produce a mere ten batches, all used as a tribute to the imperial family.

And seven-tenths of those instead were then used to pay tribute by the imperial family to Jiu Xuan Sect located to the north-east area of Jin Tang that bordered with the country Chen.

Shen Chang Ge muttered to himself for a long time, and when he finally put his brush down to the paper, he slowly wrote:

“Spirit, oh Spirit, who has restrained you? Where did the dead go, where the living go to cry sorrowfully……”

Were those words that Bai Li Shu chanted, used to break Li Xin’s “domain” that day.

“The gates to the Ninth Hell open, not a slow and clumsy spirit left……” He read aloud in a low voice. After writing the last word, he paused, wrote another two lines in slightly smaller characters on the paper, then stopped writing.

After he finished writing, Shen Chang Ge blew a whistle.

A bird about the size of the palm flew up from the bookshelf to his back, and lightly stopped by his left hand.

Shen Chang Ge stroked this spiritual bird that looked to be no different from a regular trumpet bird, “I’ll need you to go work hard for another trip again.”

The spiritual bird chirped two sounds, and affectionately pecked at him twice.

As he watched the spirit bird fly through the skies, Shen Chang Ge took up folding fan he placed by his left hand.

This was the Yin Yang Fan that had made Shen Chang Ge famous. The frame of the fan was made from Tian Dong Re wood[3] had a texture that felt jade-like, but unlike jade, was like metal, but unlike metal. When it entered the hands, it would feel extremely warm. Normally, this fan looked to be no different from the folding fans the amorous lords of the secular realm had, but just by relying on this folding fan that looked to be thin and weak, a few days ago, Shen Chang Ge had fought with Xuan Li Peak’s He Zhou on even footing.

Those who belittled this folding fan, for the most part, the wild grass on their graves were already grown tall.

“Don’t know when we head to the Medicine Valley, if I’d be able to settle with that last-named He again.” Shen Chang Ge smiled, and opened the folding fan.

On the surface of the fan, the black and Tai Qi design slowly
rotated.

After competing with Li Xin on the market’s martial stage, the
reputation of Jiu Xuan Sect’s Bai Li Shu’s turned comparatively better than ever, and the name of Jiu Xuan Sect’s number one genius was once again stabilized.

The matter of Bai Li Shu using a much higher understanding of the conception to break through Li Xin’s “domain” transmitted to even the ears of Li range’s Elder Qin. And the Elder Qin who was making a pill at the time had his inner fire jumped, and the cauldron of good pill medicine turned into scrap right then and there. Due to this, in the following period of time, Elder Qin would chew out the disciples with the wrath of thunder every day, and made all the disciples of the Li Range suffer unspeakably.

That was up until a few days later, when Li Xin who was Elder Qin’s self-taught disciple broke through the Half-God phase, that the Li Range’s disciples were then rescued from the abyss of misery[4].

However, these all had no relation with Bai Li Shu.

Per Sect Leader Yi He Ping’s instructions, in a few days time, he would be taking Jiu Xuan’s disciples to leave for the Medicine Valley.

On the surface, Bai Li Shu was going there to give his congratulations to the Medicine Valley Master for his birthday, but in reality, it was to find the Valley Master to seek treatment.

These days, Bai Li Shu carefully looked through the many notes and handbooks that Qin Jiu had someone sent over. Theses notes and handbooks had no connection to cultivation, what was recorded were mostly the local conditions and customs of various places. These were typically disdained by those who cultivated, no wonder Qin Jiu would smile and say to “take pity on this Brother, and take them in.”         Bai Li Shu lowly coughed a few times.

That day, although he had broken Li Xin’s “domain” through the conception’s understanding in the very end, in reality, Bai Li Shu himself was no better off than Li Xin. After all, these past few days, he just entered possession, and his inner energy was unstable. In the final moments when he broke the domain, his spiritual insight moved and primordial energy circulated, and made him almost unable to suppress the dormant poison.

But in the end, he did not calculate wrong.

“The Xuan river[5] flowed backwards……” The yellow page stopped between the pale-white fingers. Bai Li Shu focused on a single line, a description that was not too attracting, and sunk into a deep thought. It was a brief record that read, “Spring, Yan Men[6] Prefecture rapidly turned warm, and the Xuan River flowed backwards, destroying city walls within ten miles. People thought it was the earthworm turning over[7], shocking everyone.”

After focusing for quite a long while, the corners of Bai Li Shu’s bloodless lips passed through a sliver of a weak smile.

He closed up the scrollbook, draped his long robe, and stood up.

If there were no mishaps, on this trip to the Medicine Valley, there could be something to harvest.
[1] 道法⾃然- naturally, in accordance to the principles of Taoism.
[2] 夔 (Kui) also, the name of a one-legged monster in Chinese legends.

[3] 天冬若- 天冬 (Tian Dong) is the name of what the English refer to as the Chinese asparagus, a certain medicinal plant, whereas 若 (Ruo), is actually ‘as though’. So when you read 若⽊ (Ruo wood), it can be read, as though wood. When put all together, it can be interpreted as a Chinese asparagus that is like wood. The 若 should be read as ‘re’, for ‘highest wisdom’, achieved through some intuition of sorts in Buddhist principles. I
swear, online dictionaries cannot compare to physical dictionaries even after 20 years.

[4] ⽔深⽕热- literally, [in] deep waters and hot fires, or, water [is] deep, fire [is] hot.

[5] 悬河- literally translated as a hanging/suspended river. This is an actual term used to describe a river whose river bed is actually higher than its two piers, or above ground. The term can also be used to refer to waterfalls, or in context of speaking/writing, very fluid. However, this is the name of the river, and not actually an above-ground river as the term means, but it is good to keep this in mind for later chapters. [6] 雁门郡- it’s roughly translated as, gates of the wild goose. May or may not bear relation with a place called Yan Men Pass (雁门关).
[7] Earthquake.

Chapter 19

Chapter Nineteen, the Black-Plumed Light Vessel, and the Stairs That Connect to Heaven. (⻘⽻光⾈, 通天之阶)
Four days later, on the Retaining Immortal Platform.

Those who were going this time were respectively from Qian Range, Li Range, Xuan Ce Peak, Xuan Li Peak, Xuan Xiao[1] Peak, and Xuan Shuang Peak, these six branches of people. Of those who went, not one was an elder, but were instead all disciples.     This was the arrogance Jiu Xuan Sect had as the Eight Sect’s number one sect. Although the Medicine Valley was also a large sect, in the end, they were unable to even squeeze into the ranks of the Eight Immortal Sects. Since Jiu Xuan Sect went forward to congratulate as the head of the Eight Immortal Sects, naturally, there was no need to send out even a single elder.

Everyone stood on the Retaining Immortal Platform waiting for Bai Li Shu’s arrival.

This Retaining Immortal Platform was located to the left side of Jiu Xuan Sect’s main gate. To the right, was a long, long stone staircase steeply extending downwards. The flight of stairs spanned many steps, and with one look, one would not know how many there were. This stair’s name was “Connecting [to] Heaven”.

“The stairs connecting to heaven number ninety thousand. At its very end, one can find the gates to immortality.” was said in mention of this Connecting Heaven Staircase. When the sect recruited disciples, those people who wanted to enter Jiu Xuan Sect would have to first walk up this Connecting Heaven Staircase step by step. Only those who have walked through this several ten thousand step-long staircase, would then have the qualifications to take on Jiu Xuan Sect’s following assessment.

Qin Jiu leaned against the railing of the Retaining Immortal Platform, shook the flask of wine in his hand, and looked down on the Connecting Heaven Staircase that was coiled up by the clouds and fog.

Although it was said that the captain was Bai Li Shu, in reality, each range and peak had its own leader.

On the trip this time, Qin Jiu was considered to be the pillar of Xuan Ce’s disciples.

“Back when I first climbed this Connecting Heaven Staircase, I nearly fell off when I climbed halfway up.” Qin Jiu took a drink, turned his head and said to a swordsman with a grave look holding a longsword to the side.

That swordsman wore a blue-based and water cloud-patterned robe with Kun[2] patterns on the cuffs, and between their eyebrows, a river- shaped[3] wrinkle was apparent. With one look, one would know they were a very reserved[4] person. This person’s name was Chu Zhi Yuan[5], one of Xuan Xiao Peak’s core disciples. On the trip this time, the Xuan Xiao Peak disciples would be led by him.

Upon hearing Qin Jiu suddenly speak up about the matter of climbing the Connecting Heaven Staircase that year, Chu Zhi Yuan also looked toward the stairs, “I remember that you started a fight with someone on the stairs.”

Qin Jiu laughed out loud, “I didn’t think you would also remember that. What a pity, that blockhead who fought with me on the stairs in the end fell short of a step, and could not climb up.” “On the contrary, I do know of a person who didn’t even walk a single step of the Connecting Heaven Staircase, who still entered Jiu Xuan Sect.” Someone abruptly chimed in from the side.

Qin Jiu raised his eyebrows, and looked in the direction of the person who said that.

The person who said it was a woman wearing a deep-blue robe. The hair that merely hung down to the shoulder was not tied up, but casually dispersed. She looked to be different to ordinary girls- her features were extremely valiant, her figure was also particularly tall, and her speech and movements would always bring about a sliver of an aggressive spirit.

“Jun Wan Bai[6].” Qin Jiu raised his eyebrows, “How is it up to you to lead Xuan Shuang Peak this time? Were you actually willing to leave that Bai Zhang Tan[7] a single step now?”

Jun Wan Bai coldly laughed, and her gaze sharply looked towards another corner, “I’ve heard that after someone underwent Eldest Brother’s suggestion, they reached a breakthrough, so I thought it through. The time I’ve been stuck in the early stages of conception is already not short any more, so I’m borrowing this chance to come to ask for consultation as well.”

Following her line of sight, in robes of black, the gloomy and grave Li Xin lead Li Range’s disciples and stood by not far away.

Qin Jiu shrugged his shoulders, not surprised at all at the present circumstances.

However……

He looked towards the Connecting Heaven Staircase. What Jun Wan Bai said was not wrong at all. From the time Jiu Xuan Sect formed up until now, there was only one person who had never walked up these ninety thousand steps connecting to Heaven even half a step, yet became Jiu Xuan Sect’s disciple, and was even Jiu Xuan Sect’s eldest disciple brother. And that person was—— Bai Li Shu.

Nineteen years ago, when Yi He Ping suddenly brought back a still young Bai Li Shu to Jiu Xuan sect, all the almighty beings who isolated within the sect stopped cultivating one after another, and all of the sect’s important people held a private discussion for three days.

Three days later, Yi He Ping took in Bai Li Shu as his disciple, and directly announced him as Jiu Xuan Sect’s eldest disciple brother.

This one announcement caught all of Jiu Xuan sect’s core disciples completely off guard.

It could be said that Bai Li Shu was an irregularity everyone didn’t imagine to exist, and this was the reason why a definite large part of the core disciples faintly bore hostility towards Bai Li Shu.

“If Sister Jun wants to find someone to compete with, why go find Senior Bai Li.” Shen Chang Ge who led the Qian Range’s disciples in wait to the side swayed his folding fan, with a smile on his face, “This certain Shen has quite a fair bit of free time, and would not mind accompanying Sister to exchange a few blows for a change. If Sister cannot beat even me, then there is no need……”

He paused, with a smile still on his face, yet the words from his mouth had not left any mercy.

“No need to find Senior Bai Li to invite self-humiliation.”

“If you want a fight, then let’s go fight. Last-named Shen, you really think you weigh that many jin or liang[8]?” Jun Wan Bai’s long eyebrows raised a bit. Her eyes had a bit of a ferocious look to them, and did not even yield half a step to him.

Qin Jiu retreated two steps back, in desire to see the world in disorder[9], and gave out the area for these two. Soon, the Yin Yang Tai Qi diagram on Shen Chang Ge’s folding fan suddenly rotated, and Jun Wan Bai’s deep-blue long robe violently resounded, with the hand that was hidden in the sleeve indistinctly appearing with a cold light. Then, Chu Zhi Yuan who held a longsword to the side wrinkled his eyebrows, and lowered his voice, “That’s enough. Senior Bai Li is going to come soon.”

And as coincidence would have it, just when Chu Zhi Yuan mentioned Bai Li Shu, the rest of the surrounding disciples quietly said aloud, “Senior has arrived”, with the excitement unconcealed in their voices.

Of the disciples on top of the Retaining Immortal Platform, there were quite a few who did not go to the market that day. To say it more strictly, this should be the first time they saw Senior Bai Li of widespread fame. At this time, everyone could not help but be excited.

When he heard that Bai Li Shu arrived, Shen Chang Ge sneered once, then closed up the folding fan, and returned to his original spot. Jun Wan Bai let out a cold snort, and also retreated back one step. The deep- blue robe returned to its original appearance, and the clothing settled back to its body.

The few people raised their heads to look, and as expected, saw a youth in white, lightly flying onto the Retaining Immortal Platform.

Quite a few of the disciples who met Bai Li Shu for the first time unconsciously held their breaths- for Bai Li Shu to be recorded by the Nine Provinces Private Bank into the Twelve Beauty Records as the number one was definitely not a false note.

The youth dressed in white came by stepping through the morning light. Their features were refined and unrivalled, and as expected, it was the elegance only an immortal from beyond Heaven could have.

When Bai Li Shu flew onto the Retaining Immortal Platform, his gaze very quickly swept by everyone. After confirming everyone had gathered, he waved his sleeve, and a flying spiritual tool came out. Under everyone’s gaze, very quickly along with the wind, it turned into a flying vessel with a three-story pavilion on the top. The flying vessel’s main body looked to be constructed out of a type of rare black wood, light and graceful.

The Black-Plumed Light[10] Vessel.

A famous, first-rate flying spiritual tool.

“Let’s go.” Bai Li Shu indifferently said, then entered the flying vessel first.

From the looks of it, he had no intention to be acquainted with each and every one of the few core disciples at all.

Jun Wan Bai’s face turned cold. After a sneer, she flung her sleeve and followed Bai Li Shu to become the second one to enter the flying vessel.
[1] ⽞霄- The Xiao means clouds, or, the skies or heaven.
[2] 鲲- a gigantic legendary fish/sea monster that can also fly.

[3] 川- just imagine these lines between the eyebrows.
[4] 不苟⾔笑- literally, upright in their speech and manner.
[5] 楚之远- Chu, as in clear( 清楚), or suffering ( 苦楚). 之 itself can mean to leave. 远 means to be far/remote/distant etc, or to keep far away
from x. Together, will mean to move far away, or a distant suffering. As a joke, if you replace 楚 with 处 that carries the same pronunciation, it means to live far away, or to get along… far away (in other words, they don’t).
[6] 君 晚 ⽩ - Last name Jun, either to mean, gentleman, or the monarch/ruler. Wan (晚) can either be used to refer to a younger generation (晚辈), or simply as the night/evening, or being late. Bai (⽩), apart from the colour white, can mean pure, plain, or in vain, wasted, or, to explain or confess (表⽩) or to come clean. Late to confess?
[7] 百丈潭- Last name Bai, for one hundred, or ‘very’. The zhang is a measuring unit for land. Then you have Tan, which means a deep
pool/small lake. A hundred zhang wide lake? First with Bai Li, now Bai Zhang. I swear I don’t make things up.

[8] One ‘jin’ is approximately one kilogram, whereas one ‘liang’ is approximately fifty grams. In other words, ‘how much do you weigh that makes you think you have any power/say?’, or ‘how much are you worth’.

[9] 唯恐天下不乱- literally, only in fear that the world/country would not be in chaos.

[10] Light, not as in the weight, but light as in the light source. A ray of brightness.

Chapter 20

The flying vessel that was created in the image of a divine bird flew within the layer of clouds, light and graceful, going far away. A famous poet of Jin Tang Dynasty, He Feng Ji[1], once saw the scenery of the Black-plumed Light Vessel passing by the clouds from the Star Picking Tower, and made the comment, “The black birds are not seen turning into lone boats, with its layer of feathers gracefully crossing through the Nine Provinces.”

The Black-plumed Light Vessel had a building on top of it, segmented into three stories. After boarding the vessel, all the disciples broke up into their respective levels and rooms to rest.

Bai Li Shu resided in the lone pavilion on the topmost floor.

He had the map of the country taken out and spread out on top of the table. Jiu Xuan Sect was located on the common border between the Jin Tang dynasty and South Chen[2] dynasty, where Fen River’s main vein and its branch extended into and crossed into Dong Yong Prefecture. This trip to the north needed to stop for a rest at Bing Province, Ding Province, Dong Yan Province, and An Province[3], these four places respectively. These four provinces all were each set up with a Qing Ming[4] tower.

The so-called Qing Ming tower was twenty-eight stories, tall with each floor in parallel with a constellation. A flying spiritual tool such as the Black-plumed Light Vessel flying through the layers of clouds would completely rely on the Qing Ming towers constructed on the ground to establish its position. Within the territory of the twelve dynasties, each province would set up its own Qing Ming tower, however, these Qing Ming towers were mostly constructed with the help of the Eight Immortal Sects, and in the very end, were also left to the sects as well as the dynasty’s officials to guard together.

When each flying vessel would pass by a province or prefecture with a Qing Ming tower, they must come down from the vessel and enter the tower to register, or offenders would be ordered an arrest.

Yan Men Prefecture was within Bing Province, located at the southeast corner.

Bai Li Shu’s pale and colourless fingertips stroked the symbols of the Qing Ming towers on top of the map of the country, and lowered down his eyelashes. After quietly thinking for a while, he quietly recited the words he saw at the library that day, “Three thousand paths exhausts one’s entire life, the mortal realm has no attachment for the unrestrained immortal.”

The mortal realm has no attachment……
Sure enough, in this way, that freedom belonged to the immortal.

He let out a sigh, put away the map, then pushed open the door to go out.

On the Black-plumed Light Vessel, perhaps it was due to having an eldest disciple brother that pretty much only existed in the legends present, the Jiu Xuan Sect disciples seemed to be much more excited than usual, and would walk around one or two circles around the flying vessel from time to time. However, several days passed, yet everyone no longer saw this eldest brother even once. The other person was constantly isolated in the lone pavilion in the top floor and did not come out.

On one hand, the group of Jiu Xuan disciples felt it was a pity, and on the other also felt it was as expected, and thus gradually thinned out. Those who should cultivate went to cultivate, those who should comprehend concepts went to comprehend them.

Jun Wan Bai let out a long sigh, and retreated from meditation[5] with a cold face.

She spread out her hands, vacantly tightened them for a bit as though wanting to catch some extremely profound thing—— and failing again.
The conception she chose to realize was a bit unique. At first, Master also tried convincing her to choose something else, only it was her who persisted in having it her own way. At present, as Master had expected, she was blocked halfway on the conception, and still was at the rudimentary stage for a very long time.

“Exactly……”
Jun Wan Bai stood up, draped the deep-blue coloured robe on her body, and opened the door.
“What is impermanence?”

Jun Wan Bai’s room was on the second floor, where the few leaders of each peak and range all resided in. She walked out along the long corridor of starwood, and since Shen Chang Ge, Qin Jiu and the others were all apparently in a state of meditation or cultivation, the doors to the rooms on both sides of the corridor were shut tight, so quiet it was unexpected.

As the footsteps landed, the sound was particularly distinct.

Jun Wan Bai exited the storied pavilion and walked towards the flying vessel’s bow side. Once she left the formation that covered over the vessel’s pavilion, a strong cold wind blew right into her face. However, to this peak Primary Dan[6] cultivator, this little bit of wind was not much. She walked straight along the path, and headed towards the front.

When she walked to the head of the vessel to the deck, Jun Wan Bai stopped her steps in a startle.

There was already someone on the deck.

At the head of the ship’s railing stood a tall and thin figure. This was Bai Li Shu who did not come out these few days.

Bai Li Shu stood with his back to her. The Black-plumed Light Vessel flew by the layer of clouds, covering him within the obscurity. The strong gales brought his sleeves fluttering up, and seemed to able to ride the winds away at any time, yet also looked like a solitary sword splitting up the wind that came in from the front, unwavering and unmoving.

Jun Wan Bai suddenly discovered that the Immortal Beyond Heaven who shook the Nine Provinces with a single sword was extremely thin.

The figure of their back was just like a single stalk of green bamboo.

As though having perceived Jun Wan Bai’s arrival, the youth that had his back to her turned his head to look at her.

He only randomly turned his head to look, yet Jun Wan Bai unconsciously held her breath.

As the vessel crossed within the clouds, the white fog covered Bai Li Shu into a haze, but that pair of eyes made people hard to forget with a single look.
That person’s eyes were quiet and deep, yet faintly held a keenness to it that could look past everything. By looking at that pair of eyes, one would only feel like they were walking on the surface of a lake frozen over a large area. One’s own shadow would be reflected on the lake’s cold ice quite clearly, but when they lowered their head to look, they would instead forever not clearly see as to what exactly what was at the bottom of the lake.

“Senior Bai Li is in quite the mood.”
Jun Wan Bai stabilized her emotions, and walked up front with big steps, with her looks faintly carrying a bit of a provocation.
“These few days, our brothers and sisters could not even see Senior once no matter what. Looks like I am extremely lucky, to come out by a coincidence and be able to even see Senior once.”

As though Bai Li Shu did not hear out the taunting within Jun Wan Bai’s words, he calmly greeted her, “Sister Jun.”

Although Jun Wan Bai and that bastard He Zhou did not get along, in certain areas, they were, however, the same.
Jun Wan Bai actually saw Bai Li Shu a few times. What she hated the most was this person’s constant expression of apathy no matter at what time, bringing about an aura of distance and loftiness. This time when Bai Li Shu came out of isolation, he still looked exactly the same as that year.

No, it was not exactly the same.

But even more intensified.

Jun Wan Bai could perceptively feel it. Bai Li Shu’s aura was even more and more apathetic, and there was even a kind of alienation that seeped out from inside the bones.

Even though everyone was Jiu Xuan’s disciples, on what basis could this person always use an appearance of indifferently looking at them from above standing from an extremely tall and distant place? Just like this moment, even if this person called her “Sister Jun”, his tone was calm to the point of not having any feelings to it.

The hand under Jun Wan Bai’s sleeve could not help but grip tightly. She raised her eyebrows, and sneered, “To think that Eldest Brother actually knows my name, should I say I feel quite indebted to the honour?”

“No need.”
Bai Li Shu brushed his sleeve, and directly walked by Jun Wan Bai.

The thin young man hung down his head and brushed past her shoulders- this scene was particularly familiar. Jun Wan Bai recalled the time when the sect leader first brought back Bai Li Shu who was still a youth, she thought it was the sect leader’s friend’s disciple, and prepared to go over to take care of them. The result was the same as today- the other person bore a cold expression and brushed past by her shoulders.

Jun Wan Bai lowered her head, her hands turned over, and a pair of slender and thin, translucent swords of bone slipped out.
She gripped them with a back hand, abruptly turned, and swung her swords toward the white-clothed youth who passed by the shoulder in a cutting motion. The speed of this strike was so fast that the bone swords drew out a warped trail in midair.

And then, as though the other person’s back grew with eyes, at the instant her pair of blades were drawn, they lightly passed through, not much, not less, and used the slightest distance to evade Jun Wan Bai’s attack.

Once the attack missed, the two hands that Jun Wan Bai used to hold the bone swords dropped down.

She could not clearly say what exact kind of feeling she bore to have drawn out the swords, but after the swords missed, she suddenly lost all the rage to move the swords again.

Thus, she emotionlessly watched as the youth’s back figure and the clouds and fog covering the flying vessel turn into one.

After a long time, Jun Wan Bai turned her head to look at the position Bai Li Shu stood at before.

She walked two steps, similarly stood before the railings, and lowered her head to look down.

Under the dense clouds, were the big and small cities the Black-plumed Light Vessel passed through. The cities were countless, with the mortals just like ants, living in anxiety.

[1] His name is literally ‘what style or season’. Not an important character that will show up later, but a funny name to note.
[2]南陈王朝- Chen, to mean old. Coincidentally also the name of an old dynasty located to the south.
[3] 东雍郡- Dong Yong/’East Harmony’ Prefecture.
并(Bing), to mean combined, merged. In most sentences, however, is something to ascertain the point of reference. e.g. ‘Actually a Province’.
定 (Ding) other than meaning calm, stable, also means to be certain, definite. ‘Definitely a Province.’
东燕州- Eastern Swallow Province.
安州 – An, for peaceful, or stable.
[4] 青冥- in reference to either the blue sky, or the celestial territory. A place that is far, distant, and blue.
[5] 道心通明- Illumination of the taoist heart, if literally translated. I’m actually not quite sure what this is, but judging from the term we’ll just call it a form of meditation.
[6] 元丹- or origin pill.

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