Volume 1 Chapter 1: Ancient Tombs of Gods
Throughout the boundless and desolate universe, black sky and yellow earth condensed… even if one was freed from the six realms of samsara, they would find it difficult to avoid the upheaval of heaven and earth…
Shenmo Cemetery was located at the center of Tianyuan Continent. Excluding the burial sites of the strongest of humankind and other various top ranked practitioner beings, at every grave was buried an ancient god or devil. This place could be considered as the resting site of gods and devils.
The fragrance of fresh flowers wafted from the velvet carpet of grass in the cemetery. If the cemetery didn’t have the scattered forest of stone tablets, it could be thought of as a garden. Towering snow maple trees surrounded the cemetery. It has been said that these trees—unique to Shenmo Cemetery—specialized in dissipating the spiritual qi of the gods and devils.
The deep verdant foliage of the snow maple tree softly swayed with the breeze as if reminiscing the glorious days of old. Immaculate snow white petals drifted in the air like snowflakes. These were the tears of deities expressing their past grievances.
The city of the dead’s daytime and nighttime had sharply contrasting sceneries.
Dense mist of immortal qi radiated holiness throughout every inch of the cemetery during the day; it was apparent how formidable the ancient gods and devils were. Even the Western Angel could be seen dancing and the Eastern Fairy could be heard singing. The entire cemetery carried a certain divine atmosphere.
If daytime was the paradise of gods, then nighttime was the land of devils.
When the sun set in the west and the curtain of night fell, dark devil qi erupted from the graves, even causing the stellar light of the moon and stars to lose their luminescence and the heaven and earth to become bleak. At this time, legendary demonic illusions could be seen: evil illusory shadows engaging in wanton massacre in the cemetery. The shrill wails of ancient evil spirits could be heard. Just the mere sound of these howls was enough to cause indescribable head pains.
Both divine and terrible, Shenmo Cemetery served as the sacred place where practitioners from both eastern and western Tianyuan Continent could congregate and worship. During the day, people could be seen paying homage. Even at night certain special practitioners could be seen mourning: Eastern Rushing Corpse, Western Undead Mage…
Only at sunset was the cemetery peaceful without a hint of sound.
The time of sunset had once again arrived; the time for the scenery to once again alternate. The sunset’s brilliant afterglow rendered Shenmo Cemetery solemn and somewhat peculiar.
Every gravesite was carefully taken care of. Every gravesite had an assortment of flesh flowers in front of it.
At the side of a group of especially exalted tombs was a low, small grave. This small grave was not at all conspicuous and was without fresh flowers; just a simple, small mound of earth. The elements had long ago eroded this nameless, forgotten grave in the corner.
In the sunset’s afterglow, the exalted tombs appeared even more grandiose, while the nameless grave appeared even more unremarkable. However, an unusual event began at this moment: cracks slowly appeared on the small grave. Soil began to tumble off its top.
A pale hand stretched out from the middle of the grave, followed by another. Two hands had erupted out and gripped the edges of the grave. The confused face of a young man slowly emerged from the grave. His long disheveled long hair was moist and caked with dirt. His clothes were tattered and pressed tightly against his body. Other than his incredibly pale complexion, he appeared perfectly ordinary, like the kind of person that no one would ever notice.
“What is this place? How am I here?” the boy muttered to himself. Seeing the tombs in front of him, he grew even more confused.
Suddenly, he took notice of some inscriptions at the side of a tomb beside him. At this time, if someone were to see this boy focusing on the ancient writing inscribed on the tomb, they would definitely be startled. Even the old scholars of the Ancient Culture Research Organization could only bitterly shake their heads and sigh when faced with this kind of ancient writing.
As soon as he finished reading the inscriptions, the boy’s expression dramatically changed and he frightfully exclaimed, “Eastern Martial God Zhan Wuji’s Tomb? This… is this real? Is this really that all-powerful legendary figure who criss-crossed the three worlds and six realms unhindered, Zhan Wuji? Could it be that… even gods can’t escape death?”
Beside him was another divine tomb which again caused him to recoil in shock. “Western Warrior God Kai Sa’s Tomb, Kai Sa? Could it be that Western God who wore the golden armor and wielded the holy golden sword?”
As if he had just thought of something, he turned his head to look in all directions. Every exalted tomb stood tall and upright and appeared especially dazzling in the sunset.
“Eastern Xiuxianist Fairy Mu Dan’s Tomb, Western Wise Goddess Na Si’s Tomb, Eastern Martial Immortal Li Changfeng’s Tomb, Eastern Xiumoist Ao Cangtian’s Tomb, Western Great Devil Emperor Lu Xifa’s Tomb…”
“Heavens! What is this world? Could it be that… those old deities have already died and… have been buried here?” The youth’s expression became miserable, an indescribable look on his face.
“But… the deities of eastern Xianhuan Continent and western Mohuan Continent… how could they be buried here together?”
Suddenly, the youth noticed the small grave at his feet and froze momentarily. Cold sweat seeped through his tattered clothes as if he had sunk into an icehouse.
“I… I crawled out… from this grave…” His eyes dulled and his mind blanked, as if his soul was spirited away. Lifelessly, he fell softly onto the ground.
“I’m Chen Nan, I already… died, but… I’ve revived…”
After a while, Chen Nan’s dull eyes gradually showed signs of life, revealing an astonished look on his face. “Heavens! What happened?! Since I’ve already died, how could I crawl back out from the grave?!”
“Could it be that heaven wants this useless person to continue living a mediocre life?!” After his surprise, other than confusion, pain could be seen on his face. He shut his eyes and cradled his head.
He clearly remembered how he was defeated and killed in a duel, however at this moment…
Memories resurfaced in his mind one after another. That previous memory, that forgotten memory, that unforgettable memory… it truly pained his heart with regret!
The world was as boundless as before, the grass and flowers were just as fragrant as before, but his heart unceasingly swayed to and fro.
After a long time, Chen Nan rose up off the ground and took a look at the cemetery around him. Finally, his eyes landed on that group of exalted tombs. He slowly calmed from his astonishment.
“The hardest golden tombstones are clearly etched with thousands of years of vicissitude. The deep blue sea changes into mulberry fields1; so many years have already gone by. Haha… a dream for the ages!” sighed Chen Nan.
Looking at the forest of stone tablets, his heart swelled with uncertainty.
“Howling Heavenly Tiger Xiao Zhen’s Tomb, Three-Headed Devilish Dragon Gai Rui’s Tomb, Martial Sage Liang Feng’s Tomb, Heavenly Knight Ao Tuoli’s Tomb… other than gods and devils, I can see some powerful humans and a few other strange practitioners.”
“What the hell happened ten thousand years ago? How did these so-called immortal gods and devils die? How could the deities of Xianhuan Continent and Mohuan Continent be buried here together? Why the hell am I buried here?”
A slight breeze blew through his unruly long hair… and through his unruly, lonely heart.
Chen Nan cried to the heavens, “Who can tell me what the hell has happened?”
No one answered him.
Countless petals from the distant snow maple trees drifted and scattered through the sky. The falling blossoms were like a rain of tears—the departed deities were weeping!
“Gods die, devils die, but I still live… Heaven, why do you let me crawl back out from my grave? What do I do now?”
The sun was setting beyond the western hills2. The sunset’s afterglow dyed half the sky crimson. The clouds tumbled passed the gilt edge of the horizon.
Chen Nan collected his thoughts. He knew some things in life were just uncontrollable, and he only had the ability to move forward one step at a time.
He delicately filled in the small grave at his feet with dirt. Afterwards, he began to leave the cemetery. Passing through the dense spiritual qi in the snow maple forest, he couldn’t help but be stupefied. Never before had he seen trees with such a great affinity for absorbing spiritual qi. He inwardly suspected that during the years he spent ‘sleeping’, a new species of tree had emerged.
Whenever the immaculately white flower petals drifted passed Chen Nan’s face, he would temporarily become disorientated as his dust-laden memories slowly resurfaced. This was the season for flowers to fall…
He recalled from his heart ‘her’…
“The deep blue sea changes into mulberry fields; the human world ebbs and flows… ai!” Shaking his head, Chen Nan took large strides away from the forest.
By the time he left the snow maple forest, the sun was setting passed the horizon. The once calm Shenmo Cemetery was no longer tranquil. Dark devil qi leapt out from the graves and unceasing darkness began to envelope the entire cemetery.
Chen Nan could barely make out the sound of a growl from behind him, but he paid it no mind; after sunset, of course beasts would come out to prowl. Stretching his muscles, he said to himself, “Ten thousand years, but my body isn’t rusty yet.” He knew that his own martial ability wasn’t too good, but it was probably sufficient to deal with any old beast.
Not too far from the snow maple forest were three thatched cottages. A man as emaciated as a fowl stood at one of the doors. He had a thick beard and a face carved with wrinkles, evidence of his hardships.
Bafflement surged from Chen Nan’s heart; this was the first person he’s seen since his revival. He felt a hint of friendliness, a hint of loss, and a hint of confusion…
When he was born ten thousand years ago, his parents were the ones who had welcomed him. After his revival ten thousand years later, he was met with this old man.
“How will my parents and this old man compare with one another?” he said mockingly at himself.
The old man propped himself upright with a crutch and shakily made his way towards Chen Nan. It was a frightful scene as it seemed like a mere gust of wind would blow him off his feet.
Chen Nan hastily moved forward to support the old man, but the old man waved him off, signaling him to relax. With a reproving tone, the old man spoke a few sentences, but Chen Nan couldn’t understand a single word.
That incomprehensible voice immediately froze his heart as he realized ten thousand years have passed; the language of his age had already been discarded by history.
He had originally hoped that the old man could explain the current world to him, but the apparent language barrier quickly dashed his hopes.
Chen Nan’s stiff countenance caused the old man to soften his tone, but seeing the loss on Chen Nan’s face, the old man frowned and pulled Chen Nan towards the cottages.
The stupefied Chen Nan followed the old man. His intuition told him that the old man was without malicious intent, but because of the language barrier, he could only feign ignorance.
After leading Chen Nan to the cottages, the old man pointed at a bucket on the ground and at a water well not too far away. Then, he entered one of the cottages.
“Having me fetch water? Could it be that he wants me here as a laborer?” Chen Nan secretly suspected.
But when the old man reappeared from the cottage, Chen Nan knew he was wrong about him. In the hands of the old man was a set of new clothing. Obviously he wanted Chen Nan to change.
Seeing the light smile on the old man’s face, Chen Nan’s face reddened. He was dressed in rags with disheveled hair and a filthy body.
Dejection flashed in Chen Nan’s heart. Ten thousand years ago, how could he be this poverty-stricken? He silently lifted the bucket and headed towards the well.
Using his vital qi and a bit of effort, the tattered clothes on his body completely disintegrated onto the ground.
These used to be his divine silk clothes! Time really is ruthless. Even his treasured impenetrable clothing couldn’t avoid the test of time!
Ice cold well water cleansed his body of filth, but it couldn’t cleanse the agony in his heart.
“What should I do? I can’t understand the modern language, so I can’t communicate with anyone. How the hell will I survive in this world?!”
Chen Nan filled out the old man’s clothes very well. To show his gratitude, he went up to the old man in front of the thatched cottage and gave him a warm smile.
The smell of cooked rice soon wafted through the air. The old man slowly went up to the hearth and beckoned Chen Nan to follow.
Chen Nan lifted up the bowl of congee that the old man handed to him and sighed in his heart, “Ten thousand years. Who would’ve thought that I would be able to sit at a dining table again? The world is truly hard to predict!”
His stomach was completely empty and wasn’t suited to eat any oily food; a bowl of congee was perfect. After dinner, the sky was already dim. Chen Nan followed the old man into the cottage. The old man lit a candle, illuminating the entire cottage with a warm glow.
The cottage was simply furnished: a wooden bed, a handful of chairs, and a desk.
The desk was spotless. Ten or so books were placed neatly on top, but Chen Nan couldn’t recognize the writing on any of the books’ covers. After ten thousand years, the common language had changed beyond recognition, giving Chen Nan a sense of loss.
After the old man went into another room, Chen Nan reclined in a chair. Countless thoughts and feelings were rushing through his mind, but he was not one bit happy.
Although he had originally been from an illustrious family ten thousand years ago, he himself was merely mediocre. His life had been one of immense pressure. He was fed up with the pain and had long ago grown tired of that kind of life. If not for his inability to quell the worry in his heart, he did not think death was necessarily a relief.
The god of destiny makes fools of the people; ten thousand years later, he would unexpectedly continue his life. Although he had finally broken away from that heavy stress, everything had already changed…
Chen Nan felt agonized beyond compare. The spirits of his family and friends had already gone to the netherworld. His close female confidante had also gone back into the yellow earth. Now that he has been left to live alone in this world, he no longer felt any joy in life.
He laughed at himself. “Is it really I who has broken free from history, or is it history that has abandoned me?”
The candle went out with a final flicker of a spark, leaving the cottage completely dark.
Outside the window, the stars shone and the night was especially serene, but Chen Nan tossed and turned on his bed, unable to sleep.
Using his ancestral profound skill, he forced his heart to calm down. He wanted to see if his power was still the same after ten thousand years.
His vital qi flowed like small streams within his body. After ten thousand years, his strength had not changed one bit.
Through the painstaking use of his profound skill, his senses immediately sharpened. He faintly heard the sounds of wretched roars coming from the direction of the cemetery. These sorrowful roars were truly hair-raising!
“There’s this many beasts? This old man is so old, yet he watches over the graves by himself. This really is too dangerous!”
Chen Nan didn’t know that at this time, the old man had already returned to Shenmo Cemetery with a basket of fragrant snow maple flowers in hand. In the face of those demonic illusions and illusory shadows, the old man paid no mind. He placed a cluster of pure white jade-like flower petals in front of every grave. His devotion was extraordinary.
Because Chen Nan’s ‘former residence’—the small grave—was now empty, the once protruding mound of dirt had caved in. The grave was almost completely gone. Only a very slight bulge remained.
The old man quivered as he moved towards the small grave and cried out, “Ai! Who told you not to have a tombstone? I’m afraid from now on you’ll be forgotten by the people. Actually, this isn’t too bad. Less glory, but it’s quieter. No one will disturb you now. Return to where you once came.”
With these words, the old man slowly squatted and stretched out his hands, carefully flattening the remaining mound of dirt. The small grave completely disappeared. Ten or so petals floated down, leaving behind their scent.
The first thread of sunshine shone in through the window in the early morning. Chen Nan opened his drowsy eyes and said to himself, “Weird, why didn’t father send someone to make me practice today? Oh, right, he’s already entered the realm of immortals; he can’t harass me to cultivate anymore.”
Suddenly, he noticed the simple furnishings of the cottage and abruptly sat up. After a while, he muttered, “Turns out this is all real. Ten thousand years have quickly gone by!”
He lightly pushed open the cottage door and arrived at a courtyard. He breathed in the refreshing morning smell of fresh flowers and grass. A faint mist flowed and ebbed around the forest. Birds unafraid of people jumped up and about in the trees, tactfully chirping. Chen Nan closed his eyes, letting his heart take in this harmonious scene.
“You’re awake?” The old man’s voice came from behind.
Chen Nan couldn’t understand his words and could only return a smile.
After eating breakfast, Chen Nan pointed into the distance at the end of a winding road and signaled to the old man that he was leaving. Before he left, Chen Nan kowtowed deeply to the old man.
He arrived at a small town after some time. Because of his ordinary appearance and clothes, no one paid particular attention to him.
At this time, Chen Nan was both happy and worried. Happy because this was the start of his new life, but worried because he couldn’t understand a single word of the modern language.
To his amazement, Chen Nan found that other than those black-haired, black-eyed, a hundred surnamed3 people like himself, people had blonde hair and green eyes, red hair and blue eyes, blue hair and black eyes…
“It seems like too many things happened during these ten thousand years. I better hurry and blend into this society.”
Suddenly, Chen Nan felt a chill run up his spine and his heart froze. Relying on his intuition, he knew he was under the scrutiny of an expert.
From afar, a fifty year old Daoist priest shook his head at the sight of Chen Nan’s back and exclaimed, “Strange. Just now I clearly felt that this kid had a peculiar aura. Why is it that when I carefully examined him, it went away?”
Not until the Daoist priest walked away did Chen Nan dare to turn his head to look. He could only see the silhouette of his back, which calmly radiated the elegance of an enlightened immortal.
Chen Nan recalled the words of his father: “Chen Nan, you must remember! Wanderers who are capable of seeing through the aura technique of our ancestral profound skill are not simple. If they aren’t a genuine expert from a martial sect, then they’re an enlightened Daoist. You must be especially careful!”
“He’s a Daoist! This kind of person rarely meddles with worldly affairs, right?” Chen Nan deeply understood that this kind of person was truly terrifying. Even advanced martial experts didn’t dare make enemies of them.
His father’s words rang through his mind. “…reforming the mortal body, concentrating the fundamental essences of life, until their longevity rivals that of the heaven and earth and the sun and moon; this is Daoists’ ultimate goal, and it’s also the realm of immortals. We martial artists follow a path that goes against heaven’s will in order to try and reach the legendary realm of immortals. In the eyes of many, the path of us martial artists is inferior to that of Daoists’, but…”
His father spoke no more, but Chen Nan clearly understood. Martial artists really can’t compare with Daoists, and his father was the best example of this, even though those successful Daoists had treated him like an equal.
With this in mind, Chen Nan’s heart stirred. “I don’t know if father reached his ultimate goal of entering the realm of immortals, but if he did… maybe one day father and son can meet once more.”
But once he recalled that forest of gods’ and devils’ tombstones in the cemetery, he panicked in his heart.
“If father had entered the realm of immortals, maybe he also couldn’t avoid…”
He immediately became forlorn.
Pedestrians on the street came and went. The calls of buying and selling and the lively hustle and bustle of the market surrounded Chen Nan, but he felt incomparably lonely. He felt discarded by the world. History had ruthlessly abandoned him.
“I’ve always been mediocre. Since I’ve been dead for so long, why would I crawl back out from the tombs of gods?”
A large black cloud floated through the sky causing the color of the sky to immediately darken.
With a boom of thunder, the shops at the sides of the street quickly shut their doors and the pedestrians hurried along. Soon, the busy street was cold and desolate, leaving behind only a solitary figure at the street’s center.
With a flash of lightning and another clap of thunder, heavy rain poured down. Ice cold rain water penetrated Chen Nan’s clothes. He felt his body chill, but what chilled even more was his heart. The desolation and cold in his heart was unmatched.
“Heaven and earth are so vast, but where’s my home?”
Between heaven and earth was a curtain of rain. A lonesome figure remained unmoving on the street. The downpour pummeled his body.
Ten thousand years ago, Chen Nan had come from a martial family. In the field of cultivating martial arts, he had been blessed with the upmost talent. Everyone thought highly of him. However, a nightmare had soon begun. The cultivation of his ancestral profound skill didn’t advance, but rather, it declined. His Mahayana actually dropped from the second Chongtian back down to the level of the first Chongtian.
Back then, his father had already stood at the pinnacle of the martial way. With this kind of family, it was inevitable that he was being observed from all directions. Chen Nan had obviously faced tremendous pressure.
During those drab days, cold scorns, heated insults… they replaced the pressure that was once blasted at him from all around. It left him at an utter loss of what course to follow.
However, there was one person who had believed in him, believed that he would definitely have great achievements one day. Recalling ‘her’, Chen Nan grew depressed. An indescribable sorrow boiled in his heart.
“Yu Xin, did you know? My biggest regret is never telling you those three words: ‘I love you’.”
How easy time flies by; rosy cheeks easily turn old4.
The never-ending pain in Chen Nan’s heart was Yu Xin, his life’s biggest regret.
In a state of frenzy, Chen Nan staggered down an alleyway and felt his lungs were about to burst.
A spurt of blood shot out of his mouth onto the muddy ground.
“Yu Xin…” His vision became dark as he lost consciousness.
1 滄海桑田/deep blue sea changes into mulberry fields; meaning ‘the world is quickly changing’.
2 日薄西山/the sun is setting beyond the western hills; can also mean ‘nearing one’s death/end’.
3 百姓/hundred surnames; referring to someone with a typical Chinese surname.
4 紅顏易老/rosy cheeks easily turn old; meaning ‘beauty is fragile’.