Zhaoqing suddenly disappeared, like she’d never been there, as soon as the demon god gave voice to his shock. Liu Chen whirled around frantically, but saw nothing but a man in cyan robes—Yin Qingran.
Hell trembled as its laws blared. The Tome of Life and Death materialized and took a position in the sky, radiating black light down onto the ground.
Legions of akasha ghosts wailed in terror as ten giant palaces loomed out of the void and descended upon the patch of civilization in hell, coming down for a firm landing.
Great ripples oscillated from the ten palaces and destroyed the roaming legions of invaders. Yuying, Feinie, Aoxue, Xuanxi, Huangqing, Su Xiaoxiao, Cangyin, Xingzi, Luli, and Zhaoqing all manifested replicas and sent them into the giant palaces.
The Ten Halls.
Earth’s myths regarding hell contained mentions of the Yama Kings of the Ten Halls, and the ten Envoys of Samsara precisely filled those spots! Now that they’d taken their positions, a connate cultivation method emerged in their consciousness: the Invincible Yama Method!
With the evolution of hell, the ten envoys were now Lu Yun’s Yama Kings, and a true kingdom of the netherworld was beginning to take shape!
“The kingdom of the netherworld sits upon the eighteen levels of hell to keep them in check. It rules over the realm of the dead, while the Yama Kings of the Ten Halls are its overseers!
“According to the myths of Earth, the true master of hell is the Heavenly Taiyin, also known as the Great Emperor of the Eastern Peak, He Who is Equal to Heaven. Is that the case in this world, and was that being a great emperor of the human race?” Lu Yun lowered his head and fell into deep thought.
There was nothing else for him to do at the moment but quietly watch hell evolve, like he were an outsider completely removed from the proceedings. However, he could clearly feel his strength in hell—in his kingdom—growing stronger and stronger.
“Was the Great Emperor of the Eastern Peak in charge of hell back in the era of human dao? If the Yama Kings of the Ten Halls are real, then what does that make me? Someone like the great emperor? But… based on what the myths say, his control over hell seems inferior to mine.” While in a trance, Lu Yun acquired information about the great emperor from the Tome of Life and Death, including his combat arts and techniques.
Though they were incredibly powerful, they still belonged to a great emperor who had lost, and subsequently been killed in, the battle of Emperors Fall—in other words, a loser. Lu Yun might reference them and extract the essence from the dross, but he wouldn’t view them as treasures that shouldn’t be tampered with. Otherwise, he would only retread the fallen emperor’s path!
His was a path of bold advancement and progress.
The Method of Life and Death and the Invincible Yama Method were two cultivation methods provided by the Tome of Life and Death. They were connate methods tailor-made for their owners, rather than something passed down from the past.
Hell continued trembling as its kingdom took shape, and the netherworld as Lu Yun had known it all along collected into one single layer and moved beneath that kingdom, forming a prison-like minor world and the first of seventeen other faint worlds.
“Eighteen levels of hell? To be in charge of all the reincarnations of the multiverse and pass judgment based on one’s karma?” Lu Yun looked down at the Karmic Tree manifesting above his palm.
Now he understood from where the Karmic Tree derived its name. It would enable him to establish the wheel of reincarnation, determine good from evil, and pass judgment over life and death!
“No!” Lu Yun’s eyes shone with resolution. “All living souls are free. The cycle of life and death mustn’t be controlled by a single individual!”
He was suddenly reminded of how humans had controlled the life and death of all worlds when they owned hell, and how they’d dictated reincarnation of all beings. In the end, every living soul rebelled and the universe itself ostracized the human race. They’d almost gone extinct as a result!
Lu Yun wouldn’t allow that to happen again.
Men had their own wants and needs, which inevitably led to corruption. Such a great responsibility would only bring disaster to everything between heaven and earth if grasped in the hands of a single living soul.
Those thoughts prompted Lu Yun to wave a hand and send the Tome of Life and Death shaking. The first level of hell shattered and reintegrated itself with the kingdom of the netherworld, forming a whole, complete world.
“The laws of nature will determine good from evil and preside over the judgment of reincarnation… I will just be me.” Lu Yun cracked a smile, noticing how his nascent spirit had become purer at that moment, and that his cultivation had somehow made a great leap forward. Even the Tome of Life and Death enveloped him in a radiant, blinding light.
It seemed he’d finally gained its approval.
By the dried riverbanks of the Yellow Springs, Hell Flowers swayed in the breeze as living souls popped out from them. Life bustled in the netherworld.
“Who says there can’t be sunlight in hell?” Lu Yun sent out the Divine Fire Bead with a wave of his hand, which then melted into the Cosmic Sea in the sky.
Soft sunlight washed over hell. The pure yang energy within the Divine Fire Bead was insulated by the Cosmic Sea, so the only thing cascading down to the land below was a cold light imbued with yin energy.
Also known as the realm of dead, the netherworld was the counterpart to the world of living. What nourished the outside world would be anathema to hell, if not processed in some way. Meanwhile, the living souls born out of Hell Flowers pitched in to aid her evolution. They’d retained their memories of life, imparting to them true senses of the self.
“Congratulations, milord! Felicitations, milord!” Ge Long ran up to Lu Yun, dancing with joy and excitement. He hadn’t expected Lu Yun to be man enough to forgo control over reincarnation, thereby gaining the approval of the Tome of Life and Death.
If Lu Yun had accepted the power and turned hell into the eighteen levels of the human dao era, he would’ve become nothing more than another Great Emperor of the Eastern Peak. Now, however, Ge Long didn’t dare speculate what his future might look like.
Great Emperor of the Eastern Peak?
Perhaps all of the Yama Kings under Lu Yun’s command would become such great personages.
“Just what are you?” Lu Yun stared at Ge Long and observed him closely: frail figure, hunched back, and an ever present humble smile.
“This old servant is your servant, milord!” Ge Long pointed at the Tome of Life and Death in the air. His name was written on the very first page of the book.
Rolling his eyes, Lu Yun decided against pushing for an answer. He cast his eyes to the edge of his kingdom; the dark void still persisted beyond the light, and the four strange coffins acted as a line of defense.
“Will you tell me where the treasure is now?” Lu Yun said, changing the subject.
Ge Long pointed at Zhaoqing. “She knows!”
Lu Yun had attempted to read her memories, but something had sealed them away and denied him access. It was the simplest seal of time… Zhaoqing had been dead for too long.
“This servant knows where the treasure is, master.” Zhaoqing smiled. “Please follow me!”
!! Does this mean Lu Yun is more powerful than the book now? He'll stop getting brainwashed? (Reminder: my pet theory is that the book keeps brainwashing him into forgetting about Ge Long. It's nudged him in the right direction re. Qing Yu before.)
Did the book see itself as a babysitter before? Hell, is the book sentient in some way?