A deafening bang detonated in the air as black smoke wafted over all of Center Province. Mount Exalted was nowhere in sight, and neither were the two celestial palaces anywhere to be found.
The world grieved for the deaths of the two celestial emperors.
Unlike Zhao Changkong or Tuoba Jie,  the Exalted and Truespirit rulers had truly grasped what it meant to be a celestial emperor before their deaths, thereby gaining the recognition of their heavenly mandates. They’d been celestial emperors in the finest sense, and the land itself mourned their passing. The immortal dao trembled, and all beings far and wide wept with sorrow.
“I didn’t expect it to be the Truespirit celestial emperor…” Outside Center Province, Lu Yun stood on the peak of a mountain and silently gazed upon where Mount Exalted had once towered into the clouds.
“They died a meaningful death… Once Mount Exalted rose into the void, it would’ve become a land of demons and progressively gnawed away at the world of immortals,” Qing Yu said softly.
“You’re right.” Lu Yun nodded. “Thankfully for us all, both of them were true celestial emperors.”
Only celestial emperors would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the world. No other powerhouses would do anything remotely similar. Instead, they’d be the first to flee when their lives were in danger, and would never stay to fight to the bitter end.
Lu Yun was no exception, either. He wasn’t a villain, but neither was he anything close to a white knight of shining chivalry. Everything he did was for his own sake; such was human nature.
“To think that my Death Spike would end up destroying not only the Exalted Immortal Sect, but also all of Exalted Major…” Lu Yun’s head hung low, his face wan.
The Exalted celestial emperor was dead, and the Exalted Immortal Sect destroyed. Although formidable clans still remained in Exalted Major, the major’s main pillars had collapsed. Sooner or later, Exalted Major would fall into the hands of another faction. After all, it didn’t have powerful guardians like Art and Zither Saints.
“Exalted Major won’t be destroyed. She still has some crippled origin dao immortals left, so any would-be invaders would pay a heavy price,” Qing Yu consoled. “This doesn’t have anything to do with your Death Spike. The events of today were destined to happen ever since the demon possessed the divine emperor’s true spirit.”
Without Lu Yun, Ge Yanxia would’ve freed the demon god on her first try. With that, all of Exalted Major would’ve become a demonic land, its denizens condemned to a cruel fate. Present circumstances were the best one could hope for, and they had nothing to do with his Death Spike.
“The next ruler of Exalted Major should be Zhao Wushuang… she has the makings of a celestial emperor. Perhaps she’ll grow into the greatest empress of the nine majors.” With a nod, Lu Yun pushed his negative thoughts aside.
“True.” Qing Yu nodded as well. “Let’s go back. There are many things waiting for us in Dusk Province.”
Lu Yun had finally obtained the supreme treasure below Mount Exalted, but for some reason, whenever he thought of the two celestial emperors’ final sacrifice and ramming their palaces straight into Mount Exalted, he couldn’t help but fall into momentary despondency.
For his part, Ge Long briefly emerged and fused the tiny formation diagram beneath Dusken soil. Then he’d hauled a dragon vein out of thin air and placed it on top of the diagram, securing it in place.
A somber sword aura instantly engulfed all of Dusk Province, but dispersed as fast as it’d appeared, as if those living in the province had suffered a second’s worth of mass hallucination.
During this period of time, Dusk Province’s coffers were flung wide open and spilled forth a torrent of immortal crystals. The bounty for House Donglin had begun to bear fruit.
Naturally, many tried to cheat their way to a reward. They offered limbs severed from still-living Donglin immortals, or perhaps heads and nascent spirits belonging to unrelated parties.
But as the master of the Tome of Life and Death and possessing a nascent spirit modeled after the six paths of reincarnation, it was child’s play for Lu Yun to examine the lineage of the deceased. As a result, all who resorted to skulduggery were expelled after a good beating for their nonsense.
Not only had House Donglin suffered serious casualties in recent days, but the people of Exalted Major also hated them to the bone. They’d all heard the stone spirit drone on and on about “I, Dongling Taihuang” and what he’d do, leading them to believe that Donglin Taihuang had been the originator of the dreadful stone spirit.
But even if Lu Yun was positively throwing money out the window, he earned it back even faster!
After the matter of the bounty, the thirteen trading guilds of the world had partnered to create a merchant alliance. Headquartered right in the great city at the center of Dusk Province, the masters of the thirteen trading guilds jointly presided over the alliance.
As for the great city, it’d been baptized as… Dao City!
The name set the entire world ablaze. The scope of Lu Yun’s ambitions was finally on full display. Everything he brought out, be it cultivation methods, combat arts, crystal cannons, and even fortress ships, sold out like hot cakes.
As a result, the streets of Dao City bursted at the seams with people.
“Dao City? Well well, Lu Yun is quite the brazen one.” A young man clad in blue stood in front of Dao City’s gates and looked at the giant signboard over the gates, perusing it with a sneer. “Why don’t they rename Dusk Province as Dao Province while they’re at it?
“Lu Yun has quite a high opinion of himself, it seems. Let’s go see him for ourselves!” Stepping forward proudly, the young man’s four followers hastily followed suit.
Dao City was a vast city divided into two districts—an inner and outer one. The outer district was open to the public, while the inner district was arranged like a sect and remained concealed by formations.
Between the two districts towered a tall building where Lu Yun currently resided. At this moment, Zhao Zhicheng was standing in front of him with a face full of frustration and giving voice to endless grievances.
Wanfeng stood next to Lu Yun, a faint smile on her lips as she looked at her master. By now, she’d reached peak true immortal realm and was close to setting foot into the next realm, becoming a void-ascended empyrean immortal. She was one of his most trusted confidants and entrusted with heavy responsibilities as the city lord of Dao City.
Thanks to her great strength and her ironfisted rule, she’d become an influential figure in Dusk Province and the entire world at large. In fact, even the thirteen masters of the merchant guilds treated her with extreme deference.
But in Lu Yun’s presence, she remained a biddable girl, as if she were still the little naive maid from before.
“The Exalted celestial emperor sacrificed himself for the entire world. I respect him from the bottom of my heart.” Lu Yun smiled at Zhao Zhicheng. “If there are clans from Exalted Major who wish to surrender to Dusk Province, I will assign an entire city to them as long as they toe the line.”
“Many thanks, milord!” Eyes sparkling, Zhao Zhicheng made a hasty bow. At long last, he felt like he could contribute something to Exalted Major’s cause.
“That reminds me,” Lu Yun added after a short pause. “If someone tells you to become the next Exalted celestial emperor, would you do it?”
“Ah?” Zhao Zhicheng shook his head vehemently, frightened by the question. “This humble servant is your man, milord. Although Exalted Major is dear to my heart, I would never dream of betraying you!”
“Alright, you are dismissed.” Lu Yun nodded faintly.
With a sigh of relief, Zhao Zhichen slowly stepped back.
“Milord, there’s someone outside calling himself ‘Sir Yu’ who requests an audience! He says he comes from Yellow Springs Land,” one of the servants urgently reported after Zhao Zhicheng’s departure.
“Sir Yu? From Yellow Springs Land?” Lu Yun blinked. “Heh, he’s finally here.”
His eyes narrowed into slits. “Have him come in.”
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