“Ashu…” Holy King Atrophy’s forehead smoothed out from a slight frown. “He is the strongest holy lord of the underworld and bears the potential to become a holy king. But since you are willing to be the fourth, fellow daoist, we will pressure him no further.”
Lu Yun inclined his head; hidden off to the side and not daring to show himself all this time, Ashu could finally heave a long sigh of relief. He really didn’t want to stay in the underworld—or it might be more accurate to say that none of the living dead wanted to remain in a world of perpetual darkness. The only ones who retained their clarity of thought and willingly guarded the underworld was the three holy kings.
Time passed by slowly. The Blood Sea returned to calm and immortals all over the world silently focused on Qing Yu. She was now in the skies over Dusk Province, the Central World floating in front of her as a ball of light the size of a thumb.
Qing Yu had ascended to immortality.
There was no heavenly tribulation, no tribulation beast, and no phenomenon of ascension. She’d become an immortal in a very matter-of-fact manner, as if that outcome was the most natural and given thing in the world.
A ray of resplendent immortal light circled around her, imparting an incomparably sacred air to the dao sovereign. The immortal dao resonated and the world of immortals trembled. For some reason, a most peculiar feeling blossomed in everyone’s hearts, as if… the world had become a bit more sturdy.
Having been split asunder, it’d been glued into one piece by the four great oceans. But now, the broken world seemed to come together as one whole and form a true world of immortals.
A dark red door hovered quietly in a patch of unknown void. Nine great figures sat cross-legged on the ground in front of it, doggedly supporting the door drenched with blood.
Corpses in imperial robes lay scattered around them. Some of them were whole and others ripped to pieces, their features indistinguishable. These were the successive generations of past celestial emperors. Innumerable bodies of dead divines lay even further out beyond the initial ring of celestial emperors. They all wielded sharp weapons and faced the door, as if ready to assemble into formation and charge at enemies on a moment’s notice.
“The doors to the world of immortals are about to open.” A striking figure beneath the door turned around to look at the previous crop of celestial emperors. He possessed four heads, eight arms, and was clad in golden armor. He looked the same as an origin divine of the legends.
“My life force is spent and I have strength no more… It is up to you now.” Fresh blood welled out of all four of his mouths. “My… my poor divine race… We took on the mission of protecting the world when everything teetered on a knife’s edge, but received only the title of the world’s sinners after standing faithful for twenty thousand years…”
The divine tilted his head to the sky and heaved a long sigh before breathing out his last and toppling to the ground. For a moment, the light of blood on the door shone even brighter and dyed the skies a brilliant scarlet.
“Everyone, how much longer can we hold out?” Zhao Fengyang asked, his voice deep and raspy, like two pieces of withered wood rubbing against each other.
“Seventy years,” someone else answered. “I will be at the end of my rope in seventy years. Even if I don’t die, I won’t be able to protect the door any longer.”
“Seventy years…” Zhao Fengyang sighed. “I’d thought we were the strongest cohort of celestial emperors over the past eighty thousand years, but who would’ve thought that we’d only last seventy years!
“May the latest generation comprehend the true benevolence of our positions after seventy years and come replace us then.”
The dust settled on everything. Holy King Atrophy returned to the underworld with Violetshade and Xing Chen. Everything returned to normal in the world of immortals, as if nothing had happened at all.
However, everyone knew full well that great things were afoot. Qing Yu was an immortal now and had refined the Central World, becoming its mistress. As such, the thing that everyone was afraid of would soon come to pass.
The sacred land of Dusk Province!
Lu Yun no longer had any other concerns tying him down, so his next course of action was naturally to build his sacred land. This was now an incontrovertible truth set in stone.
“I hadn’t thought that things would turn out like this,” murmured Empress Myrtlestar next to Qing Yu. “Violetshade coming back to life and taking my past self to the underworld to be a holy king… and I… I truly revived as well.”
She walked out of the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals as a real life from, soul fragment no longer. Having reformed her soul and utilized the projection of the Dao Flower for her body, she was a connate dao constitution in name and form.
Though her true spirit was immensely powerful in her reborn body, the cultivation of her past life had departed with Violetshade and her past body. Empress Myrtlestar now was just an ordinary mortal without any experience in cultivation whatsoever, the purest of uncut jade.
“You and Violetshade have both severed your ties with the Empress Myrtlestar of your past lives. You are no longer that renowned empress.”
Myrtlestar nodded. “I was not the Great Empress of the East to begin with. I only filled in for the position after the previous great emperor fell in battle.
“I am a new me, so we need no longer mention the title of the Imperial Lady of the East.” She opened her palm, allowing the faintly sparkling Imperial Star to slowly rise from her palm.
The violet starstone abruptly vanished into the air.
In the process of receiving a holy king’s legacy, Violetshade started as the Imperial Star landed before her.
“For the good of all!” The three preexisting holy kings—Holy Kings Atrophy, Antiquity, and Desolation—of the underworld applauded loudly when they saw the arrival of the starstone.
“You will be the first among holy kings after receiving the Imperial Star, fellow daoist,” Holy King Atrophy laughed heartily.
Holy King Violetshade nodded silently, then glanced at Xing Chen next to her. “I know where the spleen is.”
“No hurry.” Xing Chen shook his head. “I’ve just obtained the kidneys and haven’t fully refined them yet. I’d be biting off more than I can chew if I took the spleen now. We can take a look at them when I’ve fully assimilated the kidneys.
“Instead, I would like to know the truth of what happened a hundred thousand years ago.” He turned to Holy King Atrophy.
“What happened a hundred thousand years ago?” The holy king shook his head. “We don’t know who they were either. We counted eighteen holy kings a hundred thousand years ago, and only the three of us are left after that great war.”
“And what about now? The underworld is still devouring the world of immortals.”
“Such has been the law of the universe, established since the dawn of time,” answered the foremost holy king, Desolation. “As the underworld devours the world of immortals, so does the world of immortals devour the underworld.”
He waved a hand and projected a portrait of yin-yang fish in the air. “This is the relationship between the underworld and the world outside of it.”
Xing Chen blinked, staring at the picture of the white fish biting the tail of the black fish, and the black fish biting the white fish as well. He finally nodded in the end.
“However, there was once a heavenly boundary separating the underworld from the rest and all operated in accordance with the law. That boundary is on the verge of collapse…” Holy King Desolation sighed; his two peers were equally resigned.
“Is this world really the underworld in lieu of hell?” Xing Chen murmured to himself.