Xiao Chen could not help but regret telling Xiao Bai about the Nine Layers of Purgatory. He frowned and said, “Don’t mention this matter. If the two of them still don’t show up today, I will get Bai Lang to help me search for them.”
“Hahaha! Brother Xiao, there is no need to send someone to search for us. The two of us have been here for the past three days.”
Carefree laughter resounded. At a table in Xiao Chen’s dead angle, two cultivators wearing black cloaks revealed themselves and came to Xiao Chen’s table. They were Yuan Xu and Kong Yuan.
Xiao Chen raised his eyebrows. He immediately took note of the black cloaks and tried to sense them with his Spiritual Sense. Unexpectedly, he could not pick up any traces of them with his mind.
Strange, I wonder what kind of cloak these are. These two must have been relying on these cloaks to avoid my Spiritual Sense for the past three days.
“Brother Xiao still seems to be treating Shichen as a kid. Don’t be in a rush to reject her yet,” Yuan Xu said with some dissatisfaction after greeting Xiao Chen, picking up a wine cup, and draining it in one go.
Xiao Chen felt somewhat confused; he could not quite understand what Yuan Xu meant.
Kong Yuan revealed a bitter smile and said, “Perhaps you do not know of this. In the past few years, Shichen has suffered many things, enduring much bitterness and going through many life-and-death situations, no less than what Yuan Xu and I have gone through, all for your sake.”
“Don’t speak about it. Elder Brother Xiao Chen, they are just messing around. There is no need to take them seriously!” Xiao Bai said as she revealed an anxious expression and quickly tried to wave their words away.
Yuan Xu asked coldly, “Why not speak about it? Do you think that it is so easy to be the Spirit Fox King’s adoptive daughter? The competition in the Spirit Fox Race numbers in the thousands. To stand out, one would face a lot of killing and fighting. A mistake could mean the difference between life and death.
“Even after she became the Spirit Fox King’s adoptive daughter, her position is not stable. She will have to fight for the Spirit Fox Race and work to become the next Fiend King. The amount of sweat and blood put in is a hundred—a thousand—times more than before.
“All this is for the sake for chasing after a certain someone’s shadow. She put in so much effort time after time, just to keep up with a certain person. Every time she heard news of a certain person, she would dance with joy for a while. Every time she heard that this certain person offended someone, she would clench her teeth and redouble her efforts in cultivating.
“Perhaps that certain someone still thinks that being the Spirit Fox King’s adoptive daughter is like being a princess, receiving the respect of everyone and enjoying boundless fortune.
“However, how could there be such a thing as a free lunch? This is especially so when our Fiend Race grows weaker every year.”
Kong Yuan’s face sank. He could tell that Yuan Xu’s emotions were somewhat unstable at the moment. He said sullenly, “Yuan Xu, Shichen already told you not to speak of it. Did you not hear her?”
Yuan Xu realized that he misspoke. He drank some wine and held his tongue.
Xiao Bai revealed a smile and said, “Hehe! Elder Brother Xiao Chen, it is not as exaggerated and scary as Big Brother Yuan Xu says. My adoptive father is very nice to Xiao Bai. Xiao Bai did everything willingly.”
Xiao Chen’s heart surged with emotions. He could not speak for a long time.
Unexpectedly, through the many years after this girl’s parents took her away in the lower realm, she had been working so hard.
Xiao Bai said seriously and sincerely, “I still have the Spirit Fox King’s will clone; I have not used it yet. This time, I really can help Elder Brother Xiao Chen. I dearly want to meet Elder Sister Ao Jiao as well. I want to see the day the Lunar Shadow Saber is unsheathed again.”
Xiao Chen looked at Xiao Bai’s expression. A certain perspective that he had held for a long time started to change slowly. He said, “Let’s not talk about that first. Xiao Bai, come with me for a while. I have some things to speak to you about alone.”
Soon after, only Yuan Xu and Kong Yuan were left at the table. The atmosphere was somewhat dour.
Kong Yuan took a sip of wine and asked, “Yuan Xu, others may not know, but do you really not know about the pressure that comes with the words ‘Azure Emperor’s descendant’? Do you know what kind of danger comes with acknowledging those three words?
“By not meeting with Shichen, Xiao Chen probably wants to use time to wear down her reliance on him. He does not want the danger that befalls him to implicate his friends and family.
“How is it that when you speak of it, everything sounds different? You are not normally like that!”
Yuan Xu revealed a warm smile on his gorgeous and charming face. The earlier dissatisfaction and resentment were nowhere in sight. “You blockhead, do you think that with Shichen’s dedication, time can wear off her reliance on Xiao Chen?”
“That is definitely impossible!”
“That is enough already, then. Given this, we might as well make Xiao Chen truly accept Shichen, granting her a status.”
After Kong Yuan heard that suggestion, he laughed out loud despite himself. However, he did not know whether he was laughing at himself or Yuan Xu. “How pitiful! The prettiest man in the Fiend Race has a day where he becomes the matchmaker.”
After a while, Xiao Chen returned with Xiao Bai. The smile on her face hinted at happiness as well as some disappointment.
Kong Yuan muttered to himself, wondering whether Yuan Xu’s incitement was effective or not.
After some discussion, the four decided to make their way to the Nine Layers of Purgatory. Then, they all separated to make their own preparations.
The next day, when the four regathered, they set out on their journey to the Nine Layers of Purgatory.
The Nine Layers of Purgatory was a forbidden land that everyone in the Kunlun Continent knew about. Its fame was even greater than that of the Primal Chaos Domain’s Heavenly Ruin Wasteland, at least equal to that of the Savage Battlefield.
Before the six paths of reincarnation broke, this was the underworld during the Immortal Epoch. It mainly managed the cycle of reincarnation in the world.
Rumor said that during that time, if one did not become immortal, they would end up in the cycle of reincarnation forever. They would be judged based on their deeds—good and evil—and be reincarnated accordingly.
Those who were evil became animals. Those who were extremely vicious and evil ended up in hell, sinking into that place forever and enduring all sorts of cruel torture, not even getting the chance to be animals.
Those who were good would reincarnate as humans, possibly becoming wealthy or nobles. Those who were very virtuous could even end up in heaven, reborn as spiritual beings and nourished by nature; they would become heavenly soldiers.
However, the Immortal Epoch ended and the Martial Epoch began. The cycle no longer continued; hell no longer existed. Only the Nine Layers of Purgatory remained.
The facts of the past became legends. Then, they later became myths.
In the current epoch, the cycle no longer continued. There was no one immortal in the world. Everyone would only be able to live one lifetime. No one believed in accruing virtue.
Seven days later, Xiao Chen used the Freedom Wings and brought the group to the foot of a tall mountain in the Ghost Domain.
This mountain was known as Mount Tai. Just the middle of the mountain was already shrouded in clouds. There was no way of telling how tall it was. It had a radius of more than fifty kilometers, very vast and majestic.
The surroundings of the mountain were gloomy and sinister. Wandering spirits and feral ghosts roamed the place, making occasional appearances.
The four did not find these strange. The Ghost Domain might lack many things but not wandering spirits and feral ghosts. The four were already used to these by now.
Although the cycle no longer existed, after one died, the soul still existed.
A physical body that lost its soul would not last long naturally. This was so even for someone as strong as a Martial Emperor, who was bright and resplendent, able to grab stars and seize the moon.
Likewise, a soul would not last long. It would dissipate and vanish.
However, the Ghost Race had secret techniques to nab souls. They could refine the souls of the dead into all sorts of spirits, using them as slaves.
As a result, one would not be at peace after they died; hence the other races’ hatred and fear of the Ghost Race. It was just like the Corpse Race stealing corpses. If not for their strength, these races would have been exterminated long ago.
A large turbid river gushed down from the top of the mountain to its foot and surged to the land. This river was the famous Underworld River. It was also known as the River of Death, Yellow Springs, or the River of Helplessness.
However, it had not been entire for millennia. When the cycle broke, the same naturally happened to the Underworld River, just like the Profound River, which had fragmented into many segments.
All sorts of strange powers were lost. If one continued to walk downstream, one would reach the Nine Layers of Purgatory.
Many cultivators gathered at the riverside. Aside from Ghost Race cultivators, there were cultivators of the other races in large numbers. There were also several black boats floating on the turbid water.
Kong Yuan looked at the tall mountain and said, “So this is the legendary Mount Tai? I heard that if we follow the river upstream, we can reach the summit. Above that is the Southern Heavenly Gate, which opens to the Immortal Realm.”
Xiao Bai nodded and said, “I once heard Adoptive Father speak of it. There is indeed a gate at the summit. The world behind that gate is indeed the Immortal Realm. However, it is already a broken world. Even Sovereign Martial Emperors would not be able to survive there for long.”
Yuan Xu glanced at Xiao Chen and said rather meaningfully, “This is only a guess. As for what it is like, exactly, only those who have gone in would know. Unfortunately, it seems like only the Azure Emperor entered and came out since ancient times.”
Xiao Chen did not show too much concern over this. He smiled and said, “Don’t look at me. My Xiao Clan does not have any ancient records of what the Azure Emperor saw in there.”
Kong Yuan said, “Let’s not speak about this for now. We should go to the ferry crossing. After it is dark, those Ghost Race boatmen will stop receiving people.”
Although the Nine Layers of Purgatory was a forbidden land, it gave rise to most of the Yin-attributed flames in the world, aside from the Death Qi and the evil spirits that the Ghost Race enjoyed here.
The experts of the various races would frequently go to the Nine Layers of Purgatory to seek Yin-attributed flames.
Aside from Yin-attributed flames, there were also several ice-attributed natural treasures that could exist only in the Nine Layers of Purgatory.
The forbidden land might be dangerous. However, there would always be powerful and courageous people who dared to seek wealth amid the danger.
There were also some cultivators who would come here for experiential training, to see if they could gain any comprehension from dancing on the border of life and death. If they were lucky and found something—perhaps a treasure from the Immortal Epoch—they would strike it big.
The four quickly advanced. After a while, they arrived at the ferry crossing.
Cultivators thronged the ferry crossing. Originally, Xiao Chen did not care much for these people. However, when he casually glanced around, he discovered a group sporting a familiar uniform.
Xiao Chen tried to recall and finally place it. This group was probably people of the Medicine God Valley.
Mister Qin, who had died at his hands, and the two Medicine God Valley cultivators who sought trouble for him in Leisure Feather City had worn similar robes.
Xiao Chen frowned slightly. He had not expected to meet the Medicine God Valley’s people here. Since he killed their grandmaster Alchemist, there would be no reconciliation with them.
The Alchemists of the Medicine God Valley were not strong themselves, but they had multifarious connections. From what Xiao Chen could see, the strongest people in the group there were not from the Medicine God Valley. With one glance, he could tell that they were invited helpers.
Of which, one of them seemed to have already reached great grandmaster-level Martial Sage.
That person was probably here to help the Medicine God Valley’s people subdue a Yin-attributed flame. According to the Alchemy of the Martial Epoch, several Medicinal Pills required different flames for their refinement.
Fortunately, this group of people already boarded. They were currently traveling on the turbid yellow waters and moving towards the Nine Layers of Purgatory.
Kong Yuan stepped forward and called over a ferry. After he paid a large number of Astral Coins, the boatman wearing a conical bamboo hat happily started the boat up.
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