Chapter 243: Guardian

Behind the bronze door of the ancient tomb.

All of the black paper ships on the crimson ocean spontaneously disintegrated. In the last instant of their existence, tremendous relief dawned on the spirit’s faces as they faded out of existence, along with their vessels.

Gone was the serene, otherworldly girl. In her place was a small ball of fire, quietly burning away. Lu Yun silently stood there for a very long time.

“So it’s hope.” He considered the fire. “Living souls create and nurture civilization through the guidance of hope.”

Only with hope could one see a light in the future and possess the motivation to move forward. With a heavy sigh, he tucked the fire away.

The Enneawyrm Coffinbearers and the Nine-Phoenix Casket rested quietly in hell, archaic, striking, and desolate. They faced the boundless darkness of the depths of the netherworld, guarding the patch of tranquility here.

“Nine-headed phoenix… nine-headed phoenix…. Is this phoenix the one that created the phoenix tribe?” Huangqing’s memory had allowed Lu Yun a glimpse into the race’s secrets. In the memories of the tribe, they recalled that the very first phoenix born aeons ago was a nine-headed phoenix that’d later created the phoenix race that was known today.

Likewise, the nine dragons of the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers must be more than mere dragon lords. They were more likely to be draconic ancestors.

Lu Yun approached the giant coffin and lightly knocked on it.

“You’ve swallowed the monster,” he whispered, “but you still have its chains and shackles, don’t you?”

He knew now that the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers and the Nine-Phoenix Casket meant him no harm. The two beings could kill akasha ghosts and the monster sealed deep within hell. It would be easier than swatting a fly for them to kill Lu Yun and take the Tome of Life and Death.

He had an inkling as to what they wanted; they wanted him to become powerful enough to resurrect them!

Thud!

As soon as he finished, the coffin lid inched open, throwing out a black chain that ran eighteen meters long and was hooked to a pair of shackles, along with a tattered piece of clothing. Despite its ragged state and the passage of time, it still retained its original form. It was sturdier than any weapon or clothing Lu Yun had ever seen.

“What is...” Forgoing the chain and manacles, Lu Yun unfolded the shirt and laid it out. There was a strange character on it that he didn’t recognize. Even its intent had faded after years of deterioration, leaving behind only a single symbol.

He connected his consciousness to the Tome of Life and Death and attempted to deduce its meaning.

“Pawn!” After an indeterminate period of time, Lu Yun opened his eyes again and looked down at the character with shock.

Pawn! The lowliest of all soldiers!

“The monster emerging from the darkness exceeded dao immortal realm, yet it was merely a pawn!?” He goggled with disbelief. The thing that the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers had devoured might be even more powerful than Lord Sugato. 

How could it be a pawn?

When the akasha ghost had descended and corrupted the darkness to break the seal, Lu Yun had seen a swarm of the figures. The survivors, after so many aeons of being confined to hell, were… pawns?! How powerful must their commander be?

“Being weak limits my imagination. I have to work harder and become stronger.” With a sigh, Lu Yun carefully put the tattered shirt away before shifting his attention to the chain and manacles.

The chain was pitch black and radiated a dim, black glow. Fastened to it was a pair of shackles that brought to mind the image of a torture device. Cool to the touch, the chains weighed heavily in his hand. As soon as Lu Yun picked them up, the Tome of Life and Death hummed and transmitted information into his mind.

“Soultrapper Chain and Soulrestrainer Shackles! These are instruments used to restrain malicious spirits sentenced to the eighteenth layer of hell! Not even immortal emperors can break free from them. They’ve been refined with the principles of hell.” He took a deep breath, his expression dark.

The akasha ghost had possessed such a chain and manacles as well, and it’d almost taken Lu Yun’s soul from him—the new overlord of hell. Fortunately, akasha ghosts seemed unable to directly materialize in the world of immortals. They could only be summoned by the layout of certain death, or through a vicious ghost born out of endless resentment.

Pushing aside all his unanswered questions, Lu Yun returned to the outside world. Everything was the same from the moment he’d entered hell. Not even the expressions on his companions’ faces had changed. He, on the other hand, had been through a terrible battle.

“How do we destroy the tomb?” Wu Tulong turned to Lu Yun and asked in response to his earlier suggestion. “If we destroy it, whatever lurks behind the bronze door will escape.”

“That’s not necessary now.” Lu Yun shook his head and extended his right hand, unfurling his fingers.

A delicate flame burned quietly in his palm. There seemed to be a slim figure within the fire, looking hopefully toward an unknown future. As soon as the fire appeared, a strange power awoke in the Dao Flower. The shadow of a flower seemed to bloom from it, drawing the fire in.

White light washed over the entire chamber. The Dao Flower remained hovering in the air, seemingly unchanged, but all five of them could discern a pleasing fragrance. They didn’t so much smell it as sense it through the consciousness. They entered a trance, seeing a broken avenue between heaven and earth slowly repairing itself.

“The void realm,” said Qing Han. “The lost realm of the path of cultivation is called the void realm. Void refers to heaven and earth, or the heavenly dao itself. In pursuit of the heavenly dao, cultivators must merge themselves with heaven and earth!”

A white Dao Flower slowly bloomed in Qing Han’s eyes as the missing realm imprinted itself in his mind. He couldn’t resist sitting down cross-legged and immersing himself in the realm. His mind facilitated the repairs and bestowed a burgeoning structure to the new addition of cultivation.

“The first level of the void realm: perceived void.” Mo Qitian followed suit as well and murmured, “After spirit transformation comes glimpsing the void with one’s nascent spirit. One needs to attain an initial understanding of heaven and earth and nurture one’s body with the energy of the world.”

“The second level is unravelled void,” spoke Zi Chen. “After peeking into the void, one is to seek its understanding and unravel its mysteries. Nascent spirit synchronized with heaven and earth, it breathes with the world and moves freely throughout.”

“The third level is returned void.” Wu Tulong entered the same indescribable trance. “The spirit returns to the void as the cultivator becomes one with heaven and earth, forging a new world within themself!”

One after another, Dao Flowers bloomed around them as they murmured information about the rediscovered cultivation realm. The dead cultivation realm within the flower was slowly rejuvenated under their concerted efforts.

Beside them, Lu Yun hadn’t entered the same trance. He saw a white, but blood-stained path leading to somewhere unknown. A black figure emerged from the other end and stalked toward him with great killing intent, radiating the power of the void realm.

“There have been many great geniuses in the world throughout the passage of time. Some figured out on their own that the cultivation path was incomplete and attempted to fix the gap in their own ways.” Lu Yun looked at the approaching black figure emerging from the illusions ahead. “In the end, they all failed, slain by this entity.

“This is the last obstacle in repairing the path.” He raised his hand and manifested the Sugato Sword before walking to the center of the path to block the black figure.

From head to toe, it was covered in black hair. Even its face was obscured by hair. Its hand tightly gripped a sharp axe dripping with blood. Crimson fluid pooled beneath its feet to become small rivulets.

“You shall not pass.” Lu Yun raised his Sugato Sword at the hairy monster. It came to a halt and looked up, raising a pair of steely eyes and boring into Lu Yun with a piercing gaze.

“A nascent spirit realm cultivator dares repair the path of cultivation?” said the monster. It spoke in a language that Lu Yun could understand! A deep, hoarse voice sounded out, like two pieces of wilted wood planks grinding together.

“Ah, not you, but the four behind you.” It’d noticed Qing Han and the three youth sovereigns.

“Not just four.” Lu Yun shook his head. “Seven.”

The unnamed girl, Lu Shenhou, and Dongfang Hao were dead, but they’d died for the restoration of the path. Qing Han and the others carried the hope of seven people, and he was their guardian.

“Go back to where you were, or die,” Lu Yun commanded, his eyes blazing with determination. The Sugato Sword surged with power and isolated the white path.

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etvolare's Thoughts

Here we have it, the fourth realm. I hadn't expected Lu Yun to be the guardian and not the new grandmaster of cultivation. I hope that the girl found peace at last.