“It won’t work.” Lu Yun shook his head in resignation after studying the glyphs. “They’ve been branded by the nascent spirits of the cultivators who owned them. Although the cultivators are dead, the brands remain, albeit in a dim, inactive state.”
“Then we’ll have to enter the city for the Life Glyphs.” Qing Han nodded worriedly.
“The good thing is my Shapeshifting art can fool even the nine celestial emperors… I’m curious, though, what’ve you done to disguise yourself? I haven’t been able to see your true form all this time...” Lu Yun gave Qing Han a onceover.
“It’s the power of starstones,” Qing Han shot him a glare and responded after a brief pause, his tone uneasy. “The starstones draw upon the power of the stars in the sky to create a shapeshifting barrer around me. Since the power belongs to nature, very few can see through it.”
Lu Yun didn’t dig further after that. As someone living his second life, he understood where Qing Han was coming from. She dwelled on too many concerns, but he wasn’t the impatient sort. Some things were worth waiting for. 
Qing Han sighed in relief after Lu Yun dropped the issue. For some reason, she was reminded of the time Lu Yun treated her with the Poison Fiend.
“Oh? It’s the two bumpkins. They returned in one piece!” Cultivators who had witnessed Lu Yun and Qing Han leave with the old man were rather surprised to see them return.
“Yi Tianling didn’t kill them?”
“Why would he kill us?” Lu Yun asked, his head cocked and lips curved into a mocking smile.
“Um...” the man awkwardly fell silent. Many knew what Yi Tianling was doing, but none of them had ever thought to warn the cultivators he’d preyed on.
“Come on.” Qing Han grabbed Lu Yun and walked away; none of these people were worth their time.
Now he knew what the half-smile on Lu Yun’s face had meant when he’d heard about the True Sovereign Meet. It might have been organized for a good purpose, but the execution… left a great deal to be desired.
Three years ago, Lu Yun and the others had planned the Sovereign Meet to promote the exchange of information amid friendly sparring. It would allow cultivators of all levels to test their knowledge and improve themselves together.
This Sovereign Meet, however, had much higher stakes. Great rewards could be won, and there was an ancient secret realm to be explored. By now, many cultivators had forgotten the original motivation for the gathering. The importance of the journey itself had fallen by the wayside, replaced by a drive for rewards and unknown opportunities.
All of the other cultivators were their obstacles or stepping stones, and everyone wanted nothing more than to weed out the competition.
There were two days until the Sovereign Meet commenced, but the organizers were still handing out Life Glyphs.
It was the first ever Sovereign Meet, so it was only natural that preparations would be lacking and the great factions in the world devoid of sufficient experience in holding such an event. Therefore, the registration process—namely, the process of requesting a Life Glyph—would only come to an end two hours before the event commenced.
Not only were the cultivators in a frenzy in and around Destiny City, but the organizers were constantly bustling back and forth in a flurry of action as well.
“What an impressive city!” Outside the city, Lu Yun scanned the feng shui out of habit.
“Five dragons on the ground form four dragons, four dragons soar into the sky to become five dragons. This is a layout of the nine emperors!” A chill went down Lu Yun’s spine. “Is the city lord trying to become the immortal emperor of the world?”
“What?” Qing Han gaped at Lu Yun.
By definition, a celestial emperor ruled over only one of the twenty-four facets, so, theoretically speaking, there should be twenty-four celestial emperors ruling over the nine majors, ten lands, four immortal seas, and the central world.
Meanwhile, there could be only one immortal emperor, and they would be the emperor of all immortals.
Back in the Primordial Era, there had been just one immortal emperor. Other immortals who reached that level would be called a great emperor or an imperial lord, Empress Myrtlestar being one example. She could rival the immortal emperor, but her official title at court was the Great Empress of the East or the Imperial Lady of the East.
There had been no immortal emperor since the war of immortals a hundred thousand years ago. Even the divines who’d ruled over the world called themselves divine emperors rather than immortal emperors. However, Lu Yun had just said the city lord was trying to become the next immortal emperor!
That was too much for Qing Han to believe. Empress Myrtlestar was also silent within the scroll.
“Seal off the scroll, Qing Han,” she eventually said. “You will be on your own in the coming battle. Neither Azure Dragon nor I will be able to help you.”
“Eh?” Qing Han blinked.
“I believe there’s a standalone minor world on Lu Yun as well. Such things won’t be of any help during the Sovereign Meet,” Empress Myrtlestar said. “The two of you should be prepared.”
“This is a sparring match between peers.” Lu Yun smiled, having received the transmission as well. “We won’t be facing shameless old freaks. You don’t have to offer us any help, ma’am.”
“I am no ma’am.” Empress Myrtlestar scowled darkly. Though she was an imperial lady from the ancient times, she was as youthful and lively as a sixteen year old girl. The ‘ma’am’ honorific was hardly appropriate for her.
Qing Han smothered a laugh at Lu Yun’s embarrassment. The empress meant to imply that the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals might be exposed, so they had to keep the treasure hidden.
With the medicines Su Xiaoxiao and Xingzi had refined, Qing Han’s fatal poison had been further suppressed. He should be fine now, even without the scroll.
After another round of scouting, Qing Han and Lu Yun entered the city.
“Heavens… what’s going on here? Is this… a zoo?” Lu Yun gaped with shock as he set foot in the city. From the outside, the city measured a thousand kilometers across and bristled with a dense arrangement of buildings. However, it was ten times larger on the inside.
Lu Yun activated his Spectral Eye, which could allow him to see a thousand kilometers into the distance, yet he still couldn’t see the edge of the city.
What was even more mind-boggling were the various immortal beasts and the occasional rare divine beast roaming about in the city. Flying avians screeched through the air and land animals prowled the earth. Various predatory animals were stalking about everywhere. Lu Yun even saw a few divine sharks swimming through the air as they moved about the streets.
Although there were many human cultivators and immortals as well, it was impossible not to notice the beasts and marine animals.
“They’re monster spirit cultivators,” Qing Han slapped his forehead and explained with a wry smile. “Scarlet Ape has set up a monster spirit sacred land, with Levitating Island as the foundation. It’s urged all monster spirits to assume their natural form, claiming that ‘the dao of the monster spirits is greater than that of humans’, and that they shouldn’t imitate human form. The reports were sent to your desk, but you haven’t read them yet.”
Lu Yun had been busy studying the supplemental paths and the Great Formation of Heavenly Spirits and Earthly Demons. Thus, he hadn’t spared any attention for the news. That was why Qing Han wasn’t surprised at all, while Lu Yun was in for a good shock.
“How dare humans point and stare at brave monster spirit warriors?!” A silverback gorilla came out of nowhere with a snarl and swung a giant rod at Qing Han’s head.
We've suddenly entered Sea World lol. ROFL at Lu Yun ma'am-ing Empress Myrtlestar -- you really put your foot in your mouth, dude.
And, I really liked the aside about how this Sovereign Meet has been completely warped from its original intentions. Originally held to better the entire world and advance society, it's now just another typical smash and grab.