Chapter 274: The Abyss

The four Qing immortals got quite a distance away before they realized something was awry.

“Hold on, stop!” Qing Quan came to a skidding halt. He turned his head, clearly irked.

“What is it?” another dao immortal stopped to ask.

“Wellspring is a dao immortal who has picked three aether dao fruits. A real detonation of his life sphere would’ve severely injured me and even the three of you! But I’m perfectly fine right now… we’ve been tricked!” Qing Quan said through gritted teeth. The other immortals looked at each other, stunned by the statement. “The power back there was fierce and destructive, but it was firmly concentrated, not at all what an otherkind’s self-destruction should be like!

“Let us return!” Qing Quan glided across the sky on a beam of sword light. His three peers shouted angrily before following suit.

Alas, the place where they’d fought previously was completely calm. It was as if nothing had happened there at all. No signs of devastation from a life sphere detonation existed, with only the traces of a battle between five dao immortals remaining.

Clearly, the scene Wellspring had made just now was merely smoke and mirrors.

“They won’t have gotten far. After them!” The four immortals split off in separate directions, taking pursuit against an imagined enemy.

……

Wellspring’s vitality was burning away. He was going as fast as he could. Stream after stream of seawater gathered behind him, wrapping up the skiff in a swift current that carried it along.

Suddenly, he came to a stop. His face was deathly pale, having sustained grievous injuries in the fight against the four Qing immortals. The exhaustion that was accumulated from burning his lifeforce to flee had only worsened his condition.

“A little bit further and you’ll be out of Nephrite Major. The North Sea monster court rules the waters ahead, so this is as far as I can take you,” he said helplessly.

“Thank you for saving us, Senior Well. Please feel free to leave us here,” Lu Yun hurriedly responded. He’d expected the Qing Clan’s interference, but not their ulterior motive to kill a dao immortal from the Skandha Range.  

“Young lord!” Wellspring grew deadly serious. “Though you are a Lu and have admitted to as much before the public, you must still beware of your clan!”

Lu Yun blinked.

“Do you remember those who came to Dusk Province before, wanting to turn you into a puppet? The Lu Clan is under the control of their ilk now.” Wellspring’s voice grew cold. Although he usually led a quiet life, the otherkind was no stranger to violence. His nickname as a demon was well-deserved, as he’d slaughtered at least one clan that’d crossed him in his time.

In other words, he was not a good person.

Though he didn’t pay much mind to the outside world after secluding himself, he had heard tangential rumors about Lu Yun and his clan. Moreover, the heads of the Skandha Range were a network of contacts and info all on their own. They weren’t omnipotent, certainly, but they knew far more than one would expect.

“The reason Mauve Peace Paradise fell to the Jin Clan and Lu Daoling lost after being attacked by mysterious experts… was because he was sold out by those people. In fact, it’s their existence that caused the Lu Clan’s near destruction a hundred years ago. So as I’ve said, be careful.”

Lu Yun sobered up, then nodded lightly. Dusk Province was still accepting those from the Lu and Chen Clans. The former was a very large clan that had maintained its numbers in spite of several calamities, its bloodline plentiful still.

“Due to personal reasons, I cannot enter the North Sea monster court’s jurisdiction myself. What comes next is up to you.” Wellspring took two orbs of light from himself, handing them to Lu Yun and Qing Han. “These are two uses of my aether dao immortal power. They’ll be able to block an attack from a cultivator of the same level. I hope the young lords can make good use of them.

“Farewell!” Saying this, he disappeared into the waves.

The youths absorbed the light into themselves, then saluted gratefully with cupped fists in his direction of departure.

Despite Wellspring’s honorific, Lu Yun didn’t dare settle too comfortably into that mantle. After the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers entered hell, the Skandha Range’s desolate willow had pledged fealty to Lu Yun.

But the Range had never placed any bonds or restrictions on the otherkind cultivators or villains who came from there. The only reason it was called a sacred land of evil was a voluntary gesture from its alumni.

A hundred thousand years ago, the ancient immortals’ great war had destroyed both the world and the path of cultivation. Even the immortals who hadn’t participated in it had lost their power and returned to mortality, forced to walk the path of cultivation while assailed by sickness and the looming specter of death.

Cultivation was an arduous process, filled with peril every step of the way. It took hundreds—nay, thousands of years for the path to be cleared. Only then had cultivation begun again for most.  

All kinds of ferocious monsters and beasts were born in the process. Zombies and ghosts within the ancient tombs rioted from time to time, and the particularly talented divines rose to enslave the races. There was an exception to all that though: the Skandha Range.

The desolate willow there had always been a peerless immortal. After the ancient immortals’ war, it was the strongest, and only, peerless immortal in the world for a time.

Despite that, the willow had never attempted any conquest or domination. Instead, it’d taken root in the deepest part of the Skandha Range, silently protecting the unknown under its guardianship.

Those who fled to the Skandha Range were taken under the old, lonely willow’s boughs… and like that, its inhabitants multiplied.

Because the desolate willow was an otherkind, those attracted to it also tended to be otherkind. In those days, even the divine court dared not easily offend the Skandha Range.

Though the old desolate willow was still only a peerless immortal, it nevertheless commanded considerable respect. Many among the first to attain immortality after the great war were alive still, the willow’s kindness toward them unforgotten.  

If they showed themselves in the world, no one, save the nine celestial emperors, could possibly match their strength. However, the old monsters worked hard to repress their cultivation. They didn’t want to risk breaking through to where the celestial emperors were, where the blood-soaked white path awaited them.

Plenty of immortals had reached the realm of the celestial emperors before, but when their cultivation peaked and reached the threshold, they always died under mysterious circumstances.

……

Lu Yun didn’t summon his fortress ship here as it was too telling for him to do so. The fortress ship’s quality wasn’t the only reason; it also belonged to the Ling Clan, foremost clan of Nephrite Major.

The group was out of Nephrite Major now and ambient qi was very sparse here, barely better than the Dusk Province of yesteryear. The skiff drifted along the waves, adding two more passengers to its number. Aoxue and Beigong Yu had come out. Aoxue was able to sense where the ancient North Sea dragon tomb was through her blood, while Beigong Yu was a local head honcho. As the only kunpeng in the world of immortals, he’d been born in the North Sea.

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