For ten years, he had experienced the ups and downs of life like an ordinary person.
He struggled to make ends meet at the end of each month, indulged in late-night drinks during the World Cup and savored spicy crayfish. He enjoyed the bustling atmosphere of the university town, where the air was filled with the aroma of grilled skewers and spicy hot pot. He lived life to the fullest, like a tourist in this world.
But before all of this, he had to be careful not to accidentally write traditional characters. He had to be cautious when interacting with his "family" and secretly observe and imitate the behavior of other young people. He learned how to play games, keep up with the latest trends, crack jokes, and smoke. He regularly updated his slang dictionary.
And even before that, he was born and raised in the chaotic depths of the Chiyuan altar. Suddenly, Sheng Lingyuan realized something and was startled. At the same time, in Xuan Ji's sea of consciousness, a violent white light, like the fire of the Vermilion Bird, burst out and forced him to quickly retreat. Xuan Ji broke free from his shackles and the fiery long chain flew out of his palm, smashing towards Sheng Lingyuan's head.
Xuan Ji's mind stirred and his killing intent arose.
The white light and black mist fiercely collided with each other.
At the same time, a thunderbolt struck, shaking the thirty-plus layers of windows with a rustling sound.
Both of them suddenly came to their senses - they were in a high-rise building in the bustling city!
The two suddenly separated.
Xuan Ji leaned against the floor-to-ceiling window while Sheng Lingyuan pressed his hand against the hotel room door. Their reactions were surprisingly synchronized as two almost identical talismans, one black and one white, fell onto the door and window, wrapping around half of the room and connecting to form a Tai Chi ball that sealed off the entire space from the outside world.
There was a deafening roar inside the room. Sheng Lingyuan's face turned pale, and Xuan Ji tilted his head slightly, a thin line of blood trickling from his ear. The barrier they had erected together suddenly dissipated, and just then, a tourist rushing to catch a red-eye flight rolled their luggage past the room, completely unaware of what had just happened behind the thin wooden door.
At the Chiyuan altar, led by Dao Yi, all the weapon spirits gathered near the stone forest. Under Dao Yi's command, these scraps of metal and broken bronze struggled to form a formation, attempting to protect the stone tablets that had already been shattered into two pieces. The blood-like eerie moonlight peeked out from the mountaintop and spilled onto the altar hidden deep in the Chiyuan.
With a "crack," to Dao Yi's horror, the third stone tablet disintegrated into dust in an instant, without any warning.
The connection between Xuan Ji and Sheng Lingyuan's consciousness was severed.
The two stood facing each other, one by the door and the other by the window, less than ten meters apart. The hotel room had already been reduced to ruins by the shockwave.
"It is an honor to be in your presence, Your Majesty," said Xuan Ji, breaking the silence with deliberate enunciation. "I believed the person who can end the chaos in the Nine Provinces is a hero, but now it seems more like you're a scoundrel."
As the white light faded, Sheng Lingyuan's pupils dilated once again.
His almost stunned expression disappeared, replaced by a slight smile as he said, "I am truly sorry for that."
Xuan Ji's ears were ringing from the earlier explosion, and now they were buzzing incessantly. His head began to spin, and it was already deep into the night.
The hotel was almost fully occupied, with not less than eight hundred mortals inside. Even the great heavenly demon knew better than to engage in a fight here, and it was not suitable for a life-and-death battle.
Xuan Ji stood there silently for a moment, then without a word, he picked up his takeout bag and walked out the door. With great elegance, Sheng Lingyuan stepped aside to let the door open. As they passed each other, his meaningful gaze remained fixed on Xuan Ji until the little demon's presence disappeared into the elevator.
Only then did he suppress his smile and raise his hand, causing a black mist to spread throughout the messy room. The mist separated into small strands and seeped into the broken furniture, causing the shattered wood and glass to come to life and spontaneously gather together. In no time, everything was restored to its original state, and not a single flaw could be found even upon check-out.
The black mist dutifully repaired the furniture and then dissipated as if it had never existed. However, outside the room, half of the hotel's ornamental plants suddenly withered away, and a cricket that had been resting on a flowerpot suddenly stopped moving. With a gust of wind, it turned into a pile of dust.
Sheng Lingyuan relaxed his shoulders and leaned against the door, looking up at the buzzing air conditioning vent. He still wanted to block it. Finally, he learned about the origin of the little demon... It was really a long and messy story.
According to historical records, the Nine Provinces War was launched by Emperor Ping, Sheng Jun. As the initiator, this person has only played two roles in the stories compiled in later generations: a greedy and ambitious person, or a clueless fool.
But in fact, a war that can last for a long time and cause great suffering to living beings cannot be blamed on a single mortal. This matter involves ancient secret history, which the younger generation today knows nothing about...
Three thousand years ago, Chiyuan was not called "Chiyuan", but "Nanming Valley", which was the habitat of the Vermilion Bird clan, a divine bird. The divine Vermilion Bird held a special status. On one hand, it was highly respected among the demon clan, and on the other hand, it was revered by the human race as the guardian deity of the southern land. Strictly speaking, it was a member of the demon clan, but it enjoyed the treatment of a god. For generations, it had temples dedicated to it and was ranked among the Four Saints.
Legend has it that there is a magma-filled border in the Nanming Valley, with extremely high temperatures. Except for the Firebird, no living creature can approach it, making it an insurmountable barrier. The human and demon races were separated by this barrier, living their own lives.
The origin of the great battle can be traced back to a natural disaster. Before the first Battle of Pingyuan, there was a massive earthquake in the Nanming Valley. It was said that the earthquake turned the entire valley upside down, with strong tremors felt as far north as the capital and as far south as the demon city.
Afterwards, strange phenomena occurred frequently. In the winter of that year, the snow in the demon city was more than two inches thicker than usual. The following year, even in April when the rest of the world was in full bloom, the willows in the demon realm remained barren.
By the third year, even the temperature in the Nanming Valley had dropped, and the demon realm was losing a significant amount of spiritual energy for unknown reasons.
Unlike humans, demons cannot survive by simply planting crops in the ground. For some of the more noble demon tribes, having offspring was already difficult. Due to the drastic changes in the climate and the loss of spiritual energy in the demon realm, the number of young demons born that year decreased sharply, with over 40% of demon infants being stillborn.
As the temperature dropped in Nanming Valley, the raging fire became less intense. Many demon tribes showcased their unique skills and crossed the barrier, hoping to migrate to the human territory for a better life. However, humans faced the same problem - they didn't need "spiritual energy," but they still needed to eat. With sudden climate change, famine was inevitable.
When everyone was living a prosperous life, outsiders were welcomed as "friends from afar." But when everyone was struggling to make ends meet, outsiders became unwelcome "uninvited guests." Moreover, humans and demons had huge differences and had been isolated from each other for thousands of years. It was only natural for conflicts to arise.
The divine Vermilion Bird was caught in the middle of the two tribes in Nanming Valley, torn between two worlds. The leader of the Vermilion Bird clan had no choice but to take action. With both sides constantly engaging in battles that could lead to a full-blown war, he had to "invite" the clan's fire elementals to forcefully ignite the Nanming Valley, separating the human and demon clans.
However, at this very moment, the power-hungry Emperor Ping did something despicable, which is why he is often blamed for the chaos that ensued in the Nine Provinces. He formed a "Pacification Army" made up of human cultivators and targeted the demons who had crossed the Nanming Valley and were unable to return due to the blockade. With his superior numbers, he mercilessly slaughtered and hunted these demons, even declaring, "Any demon who sets foot in the royal territory will be executed."
The demon king was enraged, and the demon capital was in turmoil. The eighty-one demon tribes were filled with a burning desire for battle. The Vermilion Bird clan, perhaps feeling entitled due to their popularity, believed themselves to be gods. Despite this, they still attempted to mediate between the human and demon clans, refusing to yield.
At the time, the demon king was a ruthless character with no moral boundaries. He was blocked by the "gods" in Nanming Valley and pretended to submit, setting a trap during a visit and wiping out the entire Vermilion Bird clan in what became known as the "Slaughter of the Gods."
With the collapse of the clan, the chaotic era of demons and monsters began.
That day, the blood of the divine bird stained Nanming Valley red. The demon king seized the power of the Chiyuan, and the first battle of Pingyuan broke out, resulting in the deaths of 100,000 humans and demons, including the Emperor. From then on, Nanming Valley became a human purgatory, renamed "Chiyuan".
Even after the great battle ended with the fall of the demon king, the furious flames of the Chiyuan continued to burn. The reason why the divine bird clan was chosen to guard the Chiyuan was because it was said that the underground fire in Chiyuan was actually the source of "demonic energy".
Whoever controlled Chiyuan would have the power to control the demons. If Chiyuan was not controlled, the fire and demonic energy would spread to all living beings. Except for humans who were born with unblocked seven apertures, all other races would be enslaved by the demonic energy, and war would inevitably break out. Whether this was true or not, even the Emperor himself couldn't say for sure.
Throughout history, whenever something bad happened, it was either blamed on the gods not protecting them or on ghosts and monsters deceiving people.
However, it was true that Chiyuan could enhance the combat power of all creatures except for humans. This was the reason why the human race was powerless when the demon king took control of Chiyuan.
If the human race was not favored by the heavens and earth, what could they do?
As the Emperor of mankind, it was only natural for him to move mountains and fill seas - after he had pacified the four corners of the world, he set out to extinguish the Chiyuan fire. He dug up the ancestral tomb of the divine Vermilion Bird and unearthed several bones that the Chiyuan fire could not burn. Using a secret method that greatly harmed himself, he carved thirty-six fire-sealing orders and sealed them within the Chiyuan.
These orders were born from the bones of the divine bird and had been soaking in the heart of the world for many years, eventually giving birth to spirits.
That little demon was probably one of the spirits born from the fire-sealing orders.
Thirty-six fire-sealing orders, thirty-six "Nanming Fire-keepers" for three thousand years, every time the Chiyuan was in turmoil, one of the orders would sacrifice itself to suppress it.
If this could also be considered a "clan"...
Then the Nanming Fire-keepers were a clan that he had created with his own hands, born only to be sacrificed. No wonder they wouldn't let him rest in peace - turns out he was their creditor. However, Sheng Lingyuan was born into a poor family and was used to things not going his way. He didn't care about this little "creditor" and wasn't bothered by the thought of his body being desecrated. He found the situation somewhat amusing.
Suddenly, he laughed and felt a sharp pain in his chest. It was as if something that didn't belong to him was stuck there and couldn't be removed. What could it be?
Sheng Lingyuan furrowed his brow and pressed his fingers against his chest. He quickly reached in, but couldn't grasp anything. He vaguely felt like he knew what it was, but after thinking for a moment, he couldn't remember.
"I must be getting old," the emperor sighed and rubbed his temples. "My memory is failing me...this is not good!"
Suddenly, he remembered something and lifted his head abruptly. Xuan Ji stepped out of the building and waited for the staff to prepare his new room. He lit a cigarette at the entrance and felt a bit nauseous, perhaps due to the aftermath of having his brain scrambled.
Uncontrollable images kept flashing through his mind - either rivers of blood or mountains of corpses, ruins or scorched earth. He couldn't remember where he had seen these scenes, maybe in some movie fragments. He rubbed his temples and exhaled a long puff of smoke into the chilly night air.
When Sheng Lingyuan sealed Aluojin, Xuan Ji had actually wanted to suggest destroying the body, just to be safe since it was said that demons never truly die. But when he saw the blood that the other person coughed up while covering up the coffin, he couldn't bring himself to say it out loud.
Perhaps his filter for the emperor in history was too thick, leading to some illogical expectations. In fact, when you think about it calmly, achieving great things and using despicable means are not necessarily conflicting.
Some people being widowed and lonely is a tragedy of fate, while others simply deserve it. People like Sheng Lingyuan, who is nothing but despicable, are better off being worshipped in history books and don't need to form deep relationships in the mortal world.
Xuan Ji is a person with stable emotions and a very open-minded attitude. When faced with a problem, he will first try to solve it. If he finds that the problem cannot be solved, he will solve his own attitude - finding a good posture to lie down and accept it.
He won't lose himself in great joy, nor will he hold onto great anger for more than a cigarette's worth of time. But today, for some reason, the more he smoked, the more restless he became, and the ringing in his ears grew louder. Tar and nicotine were indeed toxic and harmful substances that briefly rushed into his respiratory tract, causing him to suddenly feel suffocated.
Xuan Ji's vision blurred, and he had a hallucination that he was in the midst of a sea of fire, facing the Chiyuan altar, his eyes covered in blood. He could vaguely see outside the flames, and the Dao Yi were anxiously shouting something at him.
He couldn't hear them, nor did he want to listen. He carefully took out his life sword from his back - the sword that always followed his heart's desire, painless and itchless.
But the moment he drew the sword, he felt as if he had dug out his own heart, and an indescribable despair flooded into his empty back. He fell to his knees, as if his bones had been taken away.
"This time it's been 232 years," he knelt on the ground, muttering to himself, trying his best to lift the corners of his mouth. "It's probably the longest I've ever persisted...but the Nirvana Stone broke...I really..." He couldn't catch his breath, the choked sound in his throat turning into a sharp tremble, yet he still tried to maintain a smile. "I really can't go on anymore, I'm sorry, I'm really...useless...I'm sorry..."
Xuan Ji realized that he seemed to be talking to the sword.
Whose perspective is this?
Wait, 232 years...this number seems familiar.
Xuan Ji's mind quickly turned, suddenly remembering that the oldest ancestor on the thirty or so ancestral tablets next to the Chiyuan Altar had lived exactly 232 years!
Is this a coincidence, or... In the next moment, in his hallucination, he heard the sound of his bones shattering. Suddenly, a clear bird chirping broke through the flames. Xuan Ji swayed violently.
Xuan Ji turned his head in confusion and stared at the person pulling him for a moment before reluctantly recognizing the local receptionist who had arranged their stay. The receptionist had probably rushed over in a hurry, with sweat on his forehead and a phone in his hand. The WeChat notifications on the phone were constantly popping up. It turned out that the bird chirping that had made him shudder just now was a notification sound.
The receptionist had come in a hurry and didn't notice that Xuan Ji's face was off. "I was just about to go upstairs to find you, but I didn't expect to run into you here. Hurry, Director Xiao is looking for you, it's urgent!"
As he spoke, a phone call came in on the receptionist's phone. He quickly answered it and shoved the screen to Xuan Ji's ear. "It's me," Xuan Ji responded slowly, his mind still foggy. A long string of words came through the phone, and he finally began to regain his senses.
His bewildered gaze refocused as he asked, "What?"
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