Chapter 1: The Immortal

In the early spring, the weather was still cold. The night wind howled through the mountain forests, sweeping into the main hall of a half-destroyed Taoist temple, but it stumbled against the lively atmosphere inside.

In the center of the hall, a blazing bonfire roared, surrounded by over a dozen men drinking and eating meat, laughing and sweating profusely, making for a very lively scene.

Among them was a dark-faced man sitting in the first seat below the head position, his voice the loudest. He took a swig of strong liquor and, emboldened by the alcohol, shouted, “With Brother Xuanqing here, our business this year is worth ten years’ worth. This year’s situation is even better than last year. We’ll be making money hand over fist in no time!”

The hall resounded with agreement, the atmosphere becoming even more enthusiastic. The dark-faced man laughed heartily, took another gulp from his gourd, and turned to see that the “Brother Xuanqing” he had just praised seemed not to have heard his flattery. Xuanqing maintained his usual pose, draped in a yellow Taoist robe, his eyelids half-closed as he formed a Taoist gesture, appearing profoundly mysterious.

The dark-faced man inwardly cursed but outwardly put on a respectful face, greeting, “Brother?”

Upon hearing someone call him, Xuanqing opened his eyes. His hair and beard were black, his skin was shiny, and his demeanor was calm and dignified. He replied slowly, “What is it?”

The dark-faced man grinned obsequiously, “Brother, are we still offering tribute to Old Lu this year?”

Xuanqing glanced at him, “Who else in the manor could speak for us besides Steward Lu?”

The dark-faced man shook his head vigorously, “In my opinion, that Lu guy is the hardest to deal with. We’d be better off finding Chang Family’s eldest. He manages the shrimp beard grass area. If we get on his good side, even common goods can fetch top prices. Where else can you find such a good deal?”

Xuanqing glanced at him sideways and sneered, “Don’t you have any sense? That Chang Rong always has large profits, his heart has long been greedy. If you want to offer him tribute, how much will it take to satisfy him? Besides, he has a few regular clients who split the profits with him every year, making quick and steady money. For us outsiders, he doesn’t even bother to look at us…”

At this point, Xuanqing paused, then asked, “Have you found a way?”

“No, no, I just saw that Brother was having a hard time dealing with that Lu guy and couldn’t stand it…”

Saying these self-disgusting words, the dark-faced man retracted his head, cursing in his heart, “Bullshit, you’re just hoping that Lu guy will give you some pointers, damn it, you even called him godfather, why not sell your mother too?”

He hated this leader for taking his original position but also feared this man’s advanced cultivation, which was already the pinnacle of mortal cultivation, with exquisite talismanic skills, killing him would be as easy as killing a chicken.

While the two were scheming, someone burst in from outside, shouting, “There’s business!”

Everyone in the hall perked up. In such cold weather, could this be the start of this year’s profits?

Xuanqing remained calm, thinking for a moment, then squinted and asked, “What’s the situation?”

The lookout outside was rubbing his hands and blowing on them. Hearing this, he bent over and said, “A solo traveler, walking steadily, couldn’t see anything else.”

Xuanqing was somewhat displeased, glancing at the man but seeing he was respectful, let it go and stroked his beard in thought, “Dare to travel alone on a moonless windy night, he’s either brave or capable… Hei, give him a surprise, listen for the sound.”

“Alright!”

The dark-faced man grinned, looked around, and everyone else placed their weapons within reach, ready to react if things went south. Only Xuanqing resumed his mysterious posture, and the hall fell silent.

Though called a Taoist temple, it was more like a solitary hut, resembling a small shrine. Soon, the people in the hall heard footsteps outside. The hall door was knocked on, and the newcomer’s voice was polite and low, “Is it convenient inside?”

The people inside were less polite, the dark-faced man shouted roughly, “Who’s there!”

“Nighttime herb picker, looking for a place to rest.”

The dark-faced man pulled a face, and the others sighed. From their experience, this was at most a small fry, maybe fattening up someday, but no gain tonight.

Seeing their laziness, Xuanqing’s eyes snapped open, the dark-faced man shivered and laughed, “Herb picking? More like grass cutting… come in!”

The person outside thanked and pushed the door open. The mountain wind blew in with him, making the bonfire flicker, everyone looked over and was stunned.

The dark-faced man reacted fastest, drawing out his words with a laugh, “Oh, a fellow cultivator… and a pretty boy!”

This comment brought laughter, the earlier tension dissipated.

The newcomer indeed looked like a handsome Taoist, seemingly young, with moon-like face and red lips, white teeth, and delicate skin. His high stature, with a sword slung over his shoulder, habitually hunched, looking very timid. He froze at the sight of the rough men, appearing as if he wanted to leave.

The dark-faced man saw this, sure he was a newbie with no profit, but knowing Xuanqing’s ruthless policy, he signaled his companions to play along, “Since you’re a fellow cultivator, come greet Immortal Xuanqing. He has great powers, a little blessing from him could last you a lifetime!”

“Zheng Da, why so much noise?”

Since the handsome Taoist entered, Xuanqing spoke for the first time. Though he still appeared aloof, his words silenced everyone, exuding a commanding presence.

Now it was Xuanqing’s turn to shine.

Seeing the rough men silenced, the handsome Taoist relaxed, showing respect as he stepped forward, saluting, “Wanderer Yu Ci, greets Immortal Xuanqing.”

Xuanqing opened his eyes, scanned Yu Ci, then closed them again, speaking evenly, “Young Taoist, are you here to gather shrimp beard grass?”

Yu Ci nodded, “Yes.”

“Money stirs hearts. The Bai Ri Fu may have no ill intentions, but Tianlie Valley is dangerous, you mortals should know your limits.”

Yu Ci was puzzled, then respectfully asked, “Please, Immortal, enlighten me.”

Xuanqing was satisfied with his attitude, smiling, “A teachable youth. To act wisely, you must plan first. Have you been to Tianlie Valley before? Do you know its dangers?”

“Tianlie Valley is a thousand miles away, I haven’t been. I’ve heard it’s treacherous, full of wild beasts. Shrimp beard grass grows on cliffside trees, blending with branches, only visible in strong winds, hard to find… The Bai Ri Fu official also warned it can’t be picked with metal or stored in wood, so they gave me a stone box.”

Xuanqing stroked his beard, “You know some, but you missed the most crucial part.”

He suddenly grew serious, “Do you know what lies beneath Tianlie Valley?”

“No.”

“Of course not. Few know. Only because of my skills did I dare explore it. Below the clouds, in the dark depths, lies not of this world but directly connected to the underworld, full of demons and monsters!”

Yu Ci’s eyes widened, finding it hard to believe.

Not hiding his thoughts, Xuanqing saw it, smiled, and produced a spherical object, showing Yu Ci.

Through the flickering flames, Yu Ci squinted, realizing it was a head!

Treated specially, the fist-sized head was gray-green, with complete features, sharp fangs, a high forehead, and blood-red eyes.

“This is a trophy from the underworld. Don’t be fooled by its size; originally, it was the size of a millstone, its body as large as this temple…”

Yu Ci’s expression changed, and Xuanqing, pleased, put the head away, speaking more gently, “Demons rarely climb up, thanks to the ‘Two Realms Monument’ and protective formations, enough to keep them at bay.”

Yu Ci sighed in relief, but Xuanqing warned, “No defense is perfect. Some escape up the valley. I see you’re skilled, but you’d be in danger if you encountered them.”

Yu Ci could only ask, “Please guide me, Immortal.”

Xuanqing sighed, “Tianlie Valley is dangerous, but your determination is admirable. I’ll give you a protective talisman.”

He flicked his sleeve, a talisman floated to Yu Ci, who caught it, examining it briefly before Xuanqing continued, “Gathering a thousand shrimp beard grass isn’t easy. Though you have the talisman, it’s not foolproof. Unfortunately, I have other matters… My men will also gather herbs there, join them for mutual support.”

Yu Ci glanced at the men, who now smiled awkwardly, then focused on the talisman. A bright yellow paper with a red “Quiet” character, emitting a cool feeling. He thought, “A calming spell?”

Xuanqing, curious, signaled his men to be alert, replying, “Good eye…”

Before he finished, he nearly bit his tongue. The men, shocked, struggled to maintain friendly faces as Yu Ci drew a glowing green symbol mid-air.

The floating character was similar to Xuanqing’s

 talisman but clearer and more detailed, and moved rhythmically, creating a series of profound echoes.

Everyone fell silent, even the fire seemed stilled. The silence grew heavy, bringing drowsiness, as Yu Ci’s movements caused the green light to move like living.

A dark-faced man drew his sword, but an unseen force blocked it.

The scene went silent, only the movements of Yu Ci’s hands continuing.

He looked up, eyes flashing with green light, and said softly, “Now, all of you… sleep.”

Everyone’s eyelids drooped, the atmosphere grew heavier, and soon they all fell to the ground, unconscious.

As they slept, the green light dissipated, Yu Ci exhaled, and the Taoist robes’ formality disappeared, replaced by casual clothes, the face a mask, hiding a sharp and confident expression, then left quietly.

The moonlight outside was bright, Yu Ci stepping into the night, a silent guardian.


Author: Here ends the first chapter of our story. As darkness surrounds, a mysterious figure embarks on a journey amidst hidden dangers and deception. What awaits in the treacherous Tianlie Valley? Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Goblin: For a long time, I have wanted to work on a pure xianxia novel which will have a true atmosphere of the cultivation world, and the various mysteries that come with it. I wanted to work on a novel with wording and sentence structure that will suit my taste, which leans more towards the classics. I believe this novel meets all the criterias. This is purely a passion project. Maybe not for everyone, but for the few who will enjoy it.

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