“Stop running! You, Miao brat, you can’t run from me! I, your father, demand that you stop this instant!”
Three young men, each carrying long blades, ran in the same direction along the dark and strange trail that lay between the mountains. Every so often, they waved their blades threateningly at the man running just ahead of them, signaling him to stop.
Their threats were useless, since the man wouldn’t even halt in his tracks. In fact, he started to quicken his pace, moving faster than before.
The young man, wielding a butcher’s knife, ignored their calls as he ran. While sprinting, he looked back and loudly yelled, “Mad dogs! Can’t you see what kind of place this is? You’re all f*cking nuts!”
It would be crazy if he stopped. His life would be in jeopardy. A snapping sound could be heard from the places he trod on as he ran as fast as his legs could carry him, black patches of grass turning to flying dust in his wake.
All around him, the grass, the trees and all the plants were colored black.
They weren’t purposely dyed black, nor was it a naturally organic color. They were all carbonized, which had caused them to turn black. Nobody knew what their original state looked like a hundred thousand years ago, and neither would anyone know what would become of them a hundred thousand years later. In this place, it was as if time had stopped completely. The plants, akin to blackened, life-like statues, were shrouded and concealed within a white mist.
This place, similar to the netherworld, was known as the Boundless Secular World. Legend has it that a hundred thousand years ago, a hundred thousand celestial troops and generals travelled far across the Heavens, giving chase to the Great Devil, with the sole intent to kill. In the midst of their pursuit, they eventually arrived at this location. Unfortunately, the Great Devil was too strong, leaving the celestial troops and generals no choice but to finally lay out the Ultimate Deathly Strike Formation. With this last move, they altogether perished, taking the Great Devil with them.
For the better part of a hundred thousand years, the white mist took on a perpetually treacherous and frightening shade of blood-red. This blood mist appeared menacing, seeming to devour everything in its path. Human, spirits and gods alike didn’t dare to trespass this place,and so the mist prevented any living creature from going further.
But once every thousand years, the Ultimate Deathly Strike Formation would leave one side of its vaporous net open. When the blood mist turned back to being white in color, mortals were able to go in for a glimpse of whatever mystery was occurring within. However, demons and devils and all other non-human living beings were not able to enter arbitrarily, or else they would dissolve into a pool of black water just from touching the strange dense mist. Not even the strongest cultivator could withstand the erosion of the mist. Overall, it was extremely strange and no one could figure out the reason for this phenomenon.
However, these were the burial grounds of the Immortal Devil. It was obvious that the treasured items guarded by the Immortal Devil were also buried in the same spot. This piece of news attracted a large number of cultivators to lust after them. Not only that, the area was abundantly rich in an immortal herb called the Glorious Star, a divine healing medicine revered as a priceless treasure by many cultivators.
Every one thousand years, cultivators began to grow restless whenever the time arrived for the Boundless Secular World to open its ‘gates’ once more. Since they weren’t able to enter, the cultivators resorted to luring in mortals with promises of riches in exchange for their help in obtaining the items they sought. It didn’t matter who it was, so long as they could find the Immortal Devil’s treasures or the Glorious Star immortal herb, they would be accepted unconditionally into their School of Immortals.
But a certain kind of monster dwelled here. Legend has it that the monster guarded the Immortal Devil’s tomb. It was bloodthirsty in nature and killed as if the lives of others were trifling matters.
Nobody would dare risk their own lives to come here unless they were either desperate or were fugitives, since ascending to immortality would require at least a life to enjoy!
Miao Yi wasn’t a desperate man, nor was he a fugitive. He was only seventeen years of age, and wasn’t considered as too young or too old. It was viewed as a normal sight for the locals to get married and have children at his age.
He had his eyes set on the Li Family’s beautiful daughter, who owned a tofu store right in front of his butcher stall. And so he sent a matchmaker over to propose. Once Old Li, the tofu store’s owner, understood what was going on, he instantly threw the matchmaker out of his house. The two families lived close by, just across the street, so why wouldn’t they know each other? A butcher kid with no money and status, with two young burdens to raise, would dare to even dream of marrying his daughter?
Even if the matchmaker’s words were persuasive enough to raise the dead, it was all futile. Old Li’s wife yelled angrily for quite some time out in the streets, her words impossible to avoid as she flung insults along the lines of a toad wishing to eat swan meat.
He would have been better off not proposing. Afterwards, Old Li was constantly wary around Miao Yi, guarding against him as if he were a thief. Since then, he never once allowed his daughter, who had grown up with Miao Yi ever since infancy, to meet with him again, fearing that Miao Yi would abduct her without warning. The two families had completely cut off ties with each other. Indeed, neighbors always were this quick to turn against each other.
Honestly, Miao Yi didn’t even like Old Li’s daughter all that much. His family’s financial condition didn’t exactly put him in the mood to be concerned with love affairs. He was only complying to society’s local customs. So it wouldn’t be a big deal if the marriage didn’t end up happening. However, after this whole matter, he came to understand a certain truth.
His foster parents had treated Miao Yi with kindness. Before they passed away, they left behind a son and daughter under his care. Miao Yi didn’t want his siblings to wind up with the same fate as him. And as luck would have it, the Boundless Secular World had lifted its seal, and so he entered its domain with the intention of securing a better future for his siblings.
But not long after entering, who would have thought that he’d be instantly targeted by his old enemy, Huang Cheng, accompanied by his lackeys. Upon sighting them, he had no choice but to make his escape without doing anything, swearing as he went.
The dense mist lightly swirled through the surroundings. Those who came to take their chances could be seen scattered amongst the thick fog, all turning their heads to stare in shock at the four people giving chase. None of them expected such young fellows, not yet fully grown, would dare to make such a scene in this dangerous place.
“That brat’s zodiac must be a dog! He can really run! Boss, I can’t keep up any longer. Let’s rest!”
Zhao Xingwu, second of the Zhao brothers, panted to catch his breath.
His older brother, Zhao Xingkui, also shouted at Huang Cheng, “That’s right, Boss, let’s rest.”
Huang Cheng, too, couldn’t keep running. He gasped for air as he placed his hand on a large boulder to support himself, with the Zhao brothers resting to the side.
Miao Yi was dead tired. Seeing that nobody was chasing him anymore, he also braced himself onto a large boulder and turned to sit down, his mouth wide-open as he breathed heavily. He pointed at the three men and shook his head. “Huang Cheng, are you insane? Take a look at where you are before you go around stirring up trouble. Do you really want to die that badly?”
Huang Cheng tapped his long blade against the boulder twice before directing it towards Miao Yi. “You should blame it on yourself, trying to rise above your station. You’re merely a pig butcher and yet you dream to ascend to immortality? You even dare to aspire above my Huang Clan? I, your father, have come here today to eliminate all future nuisances!”
His father was the widely-known Huang, the Head Guard serving under the City Lord of Changfeng City. Miao Yi’s home was situated in an area that fell under his jurisdiction. From a young age, both Miao Yi and himself had never seen eye to eye, with Miao Yi always gaining the upper hand. But as it was only a child’s quarrel, it wouldn’t look good if his father abused his authority to intimidate Miao Yi, otherwise the entire neighborhood would drown you in their spit.
He was immediately shocked to find out Miao Yi wanted to take his chances in the Boundless Secular World. With his family background, even he was unable to suppress Miao Yi. So if Miao Yi were to become an Immortal, wouldn’t that make his current situation even more terrible?
Even if he ended up beaten to death, he couldn’t allow Miao Yi to surpass him. And so he gathered two of his lackeys, with murder on his mind!
Miao Yi kept glancing at the gleaming blades held in their hands, heaving heavily as he asked, “You seriously intend to kill me?”
The three men gave menacing smiles. Huang Cheng looked around and spoke with a cynical air, “This isn’t the city, so it’s not unusual for people to die out here. Who would be able to figure out the culprit?”
Miao Yi was shocked. As kids, they had gotten into harmless fights, but the most they had done was badly bruise each other. It had never escalated to the point of murder. After all, their city’s laws weren’t for decorational purposes.
“You’re f*cking mad! Since you braved all this way to kill me, why do you even need to be scared that I’ll become immortal?” Miao Yi exclaimed in disbelief as he pointed at their surroundings.
The clear meaning of his words was simple to understand; since they had dared to venture into this place, they had the opportunity to find its treasures. They could present the treasures to the Immortal for themselves to have a chance to become one as well. Why did they need to be threatened by the thought of him doing so?
“Che!” Huang Cheng grunted in disdain as he took in his surroundings, looking resolute.
In spite of his arrogance and ignorance of the area, he had wanted to do this. The handmaiden his father had gifted to the Immortal had gotten hold of some insider information, severely warning him not to meddle in Miao Yi’s affairs. As to what she meant by ‘affairs’, she would not reveal a single word.
It was because of this big sister’s role, staying by the Immortal’s side as a handmaiden, which had helped his father secure the position as Head Guard.
“Be good! Stop fooling around, hurry up and go home.” Miao Yi waved his hand at them, carrying his butcher knife as he stood up, turned and left.
Huang Cheng was stunned, but in a flash became furious. That brat was treating him like a kid! He waved his blade and shouted, “Stop right there!”
“Catch me if you can. You’re well aware of how dangerous it is inside, so come if you don’t fear death.”
Having said that, Miao Yi strode down his own path, too lazy to bother himself with them anymore.
Huang Cheng looked around him and realized they had already journeyed too deep inside. It would be dangerous if they ventured further in.
Their initial plan was to trail Miao Yi from behind and into this area, with the intention of ambushing him. But the grass in this awful place was all carbonized. A snapping sound was heard as they walked, so they were found out by Miao Yi before they could even get close to him. As a result, they had made it this far by accident.
“Great, run then, Miao brat. If you have the guts, run as far as you can. A monk may run but the temple always remains. Anyway, you still have two little kids back home. Dealing with them later on would be the same as dealing with you.”
Huang Cheng didn’t dare to head in any further, so he acted like a ruffian, behaving shamelessly while throwing threats at Miao Yi.
After saying that, Miao stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned his body around. The man was right in his words; it reminded him that if by chance he couldn’t return, these bastards would definitely bully the heck out of his younger siblings.
Seeing that the threat was effective, Zhao Xingkui, with a perverted expression, made the situation even worse as he said, “That little sister of his is a beautiful girl with fair and smooth skin. If you rip all her clothes off...”
Yet, Zhao Xingkui spoke even more perverted words, even adding some lewd actions. Miao Yi was enraged and pointed his knife towards the three, as he gnashed his teeth and said, “You are all courting death!”
Huang Cheng waved at Miao Yi in a playful manner and said, “If you have the guts, don’t run. Come to us! I’ll wait for you right here. Indeed, I am here to court death. Come! Come kill me!”
Miao Yi stifled his anger and stared at the three with an expressionless face. He did not charge forward to fight desperately. Instead, he tightly closed his mouth.
Normally, he would fight them. Since he had butchered pigs from a young age, he had the strength. Things like fighting against three people at the same time wouldn’t be anything new. However, this time, all three of them had blades in their hands, while he himself was not exactly invincible against blades and spears. If he was stabbed, that wouldn’t be a joke. Giving his life to three bastards was not worth it.
Seeing no reaction from him, the three men whistled and cheered, all the while insulting Miao Yi as a good-for-nothing, a spineless coward for thinking he could scare them.
However, Miao Yi turned his eyes to the other adventurers that were approaching. Among the adventurers, there was a big, sturdy man with a long saber in his hand, revealing a fierce pair of eyes, akin to those of a hawk or a wolf. One glance, and one would know that this man was not a virtuous crop.
Miao Yi’s lips curled, as he coldly laughed. When they neared him, he suddenly waved his blade and shouted, “Hand over the immortal herb!”
Huang Cheng and the other two froze for a second, thinking that Miao Yi had gone mad. Immediately, they noticed something was wrong. They realized that those people passing by them had also stopped, and were staring at them with indecipherable expressions.Those strange eyes sent a chill down the three men’s hearts.
Seeing that the three were just young, inexperienced fellows, someone moved a step forward in approach. He did not care whether it was real or fake, he intended to make sure of it for himself.
“Don’t listen to his gibberish. We don’t have the immortal herb. We are just here to get even with him. We are not even here to gather the immortal herb,” Huang Cheng hastily explained.
However, these words had to be more credible. Coming to this place, one where you could lose your life, just to get even with somebody... What a joke! Did these kids think that they were all idiots?