Volume 1 Chapter 5: Secret Battle
The Monolithic Snake’s draconic transformation failed within sight of success. The instant its neidan shattered, thousands of golden specks showered the entire area. No one had imagined that that one of those golden specks would fly away into the distance.
The golden speck penetrated through countless forests before finally landing. A golden pearl with a lustre that seized the eyes tumbled to Chen Nan’s feet. He had clearly watched all this happen. Excitedly, he crouched down and collected the golden pearl. The golden pearl’s splendour flowed and produced an auspicious and peaceful radiance, freeing his mind entirely from worries. Chen Nan could be said to have profound knowledge pertaining to the legends of dragons. The golden pearl before his eyes was not an unknown secret to him.
Although the Monolithic Snake failed its draconic transformation, when all was said and done, it still reached the state of being a demi-dragon. Its body contained tremendous power. Half of the stored power had the attributes of a snake; the other half had the attributes of a dragon. When the neidan shattered, the snake portion dissipated, but the concentrated dragon portion remained. The pure dragon essence coalesced to form a Dragon Pearl.
“A Dragon Pearl! This is really a Dragon Pearl!” Chen Nan exclaimed in surprise.
Although the Dragon Pearl wasn’t very bulky, it held the pure essence and tremendous power of a dragon. This was indeed a priceless treasure.
Chen Nan was very well-versed in the function of this pearl. Within the span of two hours, the Dragon Pearl would activate. If it were to be swallowed in this time—and one were capable of withstanding the tremendous draconic attack deposited within—then one could absorb 30% to 40% of the essence of the Dragon Pearl, thereby attaining supreme power throughout their body. If no person or creature swallowed the Dragon Pearl in this two hour timeframe, it would begin to rapidly lose its lustre. The tremendous draconic power was all concentrated in the pearl’s nucleus. The Dragon Pearl’s outer shell was incomparably hard; weapons that were below the level of immortal treasures were virtually unable to do any damage to it. This also meant that the tremendous draconic power stored within the Dragon Pearl couldn’t be as easily absorbed as one would wish.
Ten thousand years ago, Chen Nan’s family had decided to turn him into a powerful practitioner, but no matter how much he had cultivated, he hadn’t improved. His pathetic power was the origin of his suffering. All along, he thirsted for incredible power. Although an opportunity had appeared before him, he hesitated. However, he wasn’t afraid of being unable to withstand the backlash containing tremendous draconic power and blowing himself up. At this moment, he recalled a conversation he once had with his father.
Chen Zhan said, “Perhaps divine treasures have the capacity to allow someone to obtain formidable power and become an exceptional expert, but there are definitely repercussions. When one receives the power that they’ve yearned for in their dreams, they’ll also forever lose their qualifications to become the very strongest. Power that comes externally hinders and restrains one’s development; they’ll never be capable of breaking through this restraint.”
Chen Nan replied, “But even if one can’t become the very strongest, becoming an exceptional expert is already pretty good.”
Chen Zhan explained, “If one has the capability of withstanding the tremendous spiritual attack from a divine treasure, then they are not ordinary. Besides requiring an excellent constitution, one must also have an unyielding heart. How could this kind of person endure the torment of never being able to fulfil their dreams for a lifetime? In the end, they’ll only cause themselves ruin.”
Chen Nan asked, “Never? Isn’t this too extreme?”
Chen Zhan said, “The strong aren’t afraid of loneliness. They’re only afraid of being stuck and not moving forward on their path to power.”
Even if Chen Nan didn’t fully agree with the point of view of his father Chen Zhan, he felt that there must be a justification for this.
“If I swallow this, maybe I’ll instantly become a powerful practitioner, or maybe my body will immediately explode and I’ll die. But regardless of the outcome, I’ll still lose the qualifications to become the very strongest.”
Chen Nan laughed at himself. “For someone like me whose progress in martial arts has stagnated, maybe taking this Dragon Pearl is my best option. After all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a carp to leap through the dragon gate1.”
“Could heaven possibly grant me charity?”
Chen Nan lowered his head and looked at the flowing splendour of the Dragon Pearl in his possession. He hesitated for a long time. Finally, he exclaimed, “Indeed, I’m truly unwilling! I, Chen Nan, don’t need ‘charity’!”
Remembering past events, Chen Nan felt some sense of loss.
Before he was sixteen years old, he was once acclaimed by others as a genius in practicing martial arts. His martial arts cultivation progressed a thousand li in a single day. Among his peers, he was fit to be given the title as ‘the best’. But afterwards, his nightmare began. His cultivation wouldn’t improve no matter how diligent he was, so much that the Mahayana of his ancestral profound skill dropped from the second Chongtian down to the rank of first Chongtian. Each and every one of his peers surpassed him. He was beyond pained in his heart. His bitterness and agony reached an excessive level. Perhaps such a huge decline in his martial arts cultivation was related to some ‘external reasons’, but this was just his vague conjecture. Still, his suffering did nothing to help him ascertain the truth.
After the halo of being a genius slipped away from him, the sound of constant taunting and ridicule followed him closely, but he was unable to say a thing in return. The public opinion of the outside world, the mission set forth by his clan… The immense pressure was like a heavy mountain pressing down on his heart. His powerlessness resulted in him regarding himself as a nobody, undeserving of being born into that kind of prestigious family.
From the time when he was sixteen years old until he was twenty years old, he grew tired of living, to the extent that he’d go over ways of suicide in his mind. During this time, his heart was full of loss. But a certain kind of conviction was hidden in the deepest crevices of his heart all along. He was firmly convinced that there would be a day he’d finally be able to have a breakthrough and overcome his restraints, smashing the barrier that continuously obstructed him from improving upon his cultivation. This was the relentless power of cultivating his ancestral profound skill.
After his rebirth ten thousand years later, Chen Nan’s martial cultivation remained at a standstill, but the heavy pressure from his clan had completely vanished. After going through a year of readjustments, he already assimilated into modern society. He already liberated himself from all that pain and suffering, recovering his former nature.
“Perhaps today I missed a chance that’s hard to come across even in a thousand years, but I won’t regret it!”
The originally flowing splendour of the Dragon Pearl gradually dulled, until the radiance completely died. Its colour changed from golden to a dark green, becoming an ordinary pearl.
Chen Nan carefully put away the Dragon Pearl and followed the road back. He didn’t want to stop and rest anywhere, fearing the little demonic princess would catch up and come annoy him again. He scaled a high mountain and gazed into the distance. The princess’s party was still at the mouth of the volcano. He let out a long breath of air and said, “Hu~ I finally managed to escape from the nightmare of the little demon.”
Chen Nan already travelled three days away from the mountain before he came to an embarrassing realization: he was lost. The never-ending mountain range was boundless. If he couldn’t find a way back, he’d have no other choice but to live as a savage in the mountains.
A thread of light smoke ascended up into the sky in spirals from a distant mountainous forest. Chen Nan was jubilant as he went onwards in search. When the light smoke was a hundred zhang away, he stopped. He didn’t dare to advance rudely and impetuously. If by any chance it was the princess’s group, then he’d die without a proper burial site.
But good luck seemed to always avoid Chen Nan. On the third day in the afternoon, he was following the group of people not too closely and not too slowly when the figures of seven or eight people suddenly appeared from all sides around him, encircling him. From their penetrating glares, one could see that every one of them was an expert. Chilling cold murderous qi emanated from their bodies. One could imagine that everyone here had experienced the battles of life and death.
All the people in front retreated a few steps. Altogether, there were twenty or so people. They were led by a young man. He appeared to be quite handsome. His body emanated domineering aggressiveness. He examined Chen Nan and frowned. “Who are you? Why are you sneakily following us?”
Chen Nan explained, “I’m a lost huntsman. I wanted to follow you so that I’d be able to leave this mountain.”
“A hunter dares to enter the depths of this mountain range?”
“I was hunting a white deer when I unwittingly charged here. In the end, I couldn’t find the way back.”
The young noble faced a tall, sturdy, big man standing at the side and instructed, “You. Go.”
Seeing the young noble command his subordinate in that manner showed that he was someone who was used to giving orders. Chen Nan guessed that this young noble was someone who held great influence.
The big man wielded in his hand a large sword, both broad and long. After going over to Chen Nan, he chopped down towards him. Chen Nan hastily ducked out of the way towards the side, leaving the big man’s sword to chop empty space. When the second sword strike was dispatched, the blade produced a light cyan radiance, stabbing towards Chen Nan’s stomach.
Chen Nan shouted in his mind, “No way, tangible sword qi! This is a grandmaster level expert! How could this kind of person be willing to serve as another’s subordinate?”
Despite his shock, he managed to dodge the strike just in time.
The light cyan blade hacked a shallow ditch into the ground.
Chen Nan felt that something was amiss. The might of tangible sword qi couldn’t possibly be this puny. Even ordinary sword qi was much stronger than this, by quite a lot at that.
“Could it be western battle qi?” He took a careful look at the big man’s sword handling, reaffirming his assumption.
The big man viciously chopped towards him again. Chen Nan met the big man head on in battle. Vital qi received battle qi. The light cyan blade caused Chen Nan to enter a danger zone.
The young noble standing at the side sneered. “Ordinary hunters have good martial arts like yours? If you keep refusing to tell the truth, then you’ll be left without a burial site after ten moves.”
Chen Nan hurriedly yelled, “Stop, I’ll speak.”
The young noble clapped his hands and ordered, “Stop.”
The big man sheathed his sword and said to Chen Nan, “Yes. Boy, you can actually receive over twenty of my moves.”
Chen Nan used the language of the continent ten thousand years ago to sigh, “No matter the age, it’s the strong that are respected. After my martial cultivation deteriorated, I was doomed to go through all kinds of unhappy experiences. A tiger that falls to an equal playing field is bullied by a dog!”
He quickly contemplated before saying, “Young noble, if I say I’m a hunter who has learned martial arts, you definitely won’t believe me, but I can give you proof.”
The young noble asked, “You have proof?”
“I’m a hunter. It’s only natural that I have the skills of a huntsman as proof.” Chen Nan kneeled over and scratched at the ground, exposing a handful of sandy soil. He gave it a sniff and said, “I dare to say that I’m certain that within a circumference of three li, other than a female tiger, there are no other large wild animals.”
“Oh, are you sure you’re certain?” the young noble asked.
“Good. Yang Chong, go bring a few men with you and take a look around the vicinity.”
A young man answered, “Yes.” He guided a few men and entered the depths of the forest to look around.
In the time it takes to drink a cup of tea, the roar of a tiger could be heard coming from the distance. A few men soon returned, towing a dead tiger back with them.
The young man took a glance at the dead tiger, gave an unenthusiastic laugh, and said, “Well, it seems you really are a hunter, but I’m still somewhat in doubt. From here, it takes three days moving at a quick pace to leave. Don’t tell me that you chased a white deer for three days and three nights?” With that said, the young man’s tone turned cold. He shouted, “Grab him and tie him up for me.”
Several experts rushed forwards and pressed their sharp blades at various vital points on Chen Nan’s body. If he wished to put up a resistance by his lonesome against this many experts, then no doubt he’d be like an ant uselessly trying to shake a tree, so he didn’t struggle. He gave a bitter laugh in his heart. He just recently escaped from the evil clutches of the princess, but now he was already the captive of someone else.
One of the young noble’s subordinates said, “Th-Third Master, why tie him up? Instead, we can directly kill him and just leave it be.”
Even before the words ‘Third Master’ wore spoken, Chen Nan already thought he had a certain ‘flavour’ to him. Now, he was even more certain that that man was by no means ordinary.
The young noble said, “Detain him first. I sense that this individual isn’t ordinary. Before he was attacked, I actually didn’t recognize him as a martial artist.”
Chen Nan began his second time living as a captive, but this time, his ‘treatment’ was clearly much better than the first. At the very least, no one treated him as their own personal property and made him ‘convey his feelings of excitement’. This group of people were vigorously disciplined; they didn’t speak too many superfluous words. Only that young noble would occasionally quietly say a few sentences to those beside him.
Two days later, Chen Nan couldn’t help but lament his miraculous fate. He unexpectedly got to meet the princess again. Now, only ten people remained in the princess’s party. During the confrontation with the Monolithic Snake, they lost in total four imperial guards and two magi-in-training. The few survivors remaining suffered serious injuries and had not yet healed.
When the princess saw the young noble and his group, she stammered in alarm and slightly puckered her brows, but in a flash, she displayed her splendid smile. “Tianyuan Continent is truly too small. It’s hard to imagine that we’d encounter each other here, Your Highness the Third Prince.”
A smiling expression was evident across the young noble’s whole face. “Right. I also didn’t expect to see Your Highness Princess Yu here.”
The princess laughed. “For what reason did the Third Prince leave his comfortable life in the Empire of Baiyue and come to our Empire of Chu’s border? Are you serving as an ambassador to our country? As an ambassador to our country, it doesn’t seem like you’d need to run so deep into the mountains.”
The nearby Chen Nan could hear this all very clearly. He couldn’t help but sigh. For a while now, he’d been in these boundless mountains. Unexpectedly, he’d encounter both a princess and a prince.
The Third Prince said, “Princess Yu’s words are still so sharp. The title of ‘intruding upon another country’s borders as he wishes’ is a label that I cannot bear. If I recall correctly, the zone in the middle of Tianyuan Continent—this mountain range—shouldn’t be considered the territory of any nation.”
The princess replied, “Your Highness the Third Prince has thousands of matters to attend to a day, why would you run to this place for no cause and no reason? After all, this place is encroaching on the borders of my Empire of Chu; I can’t help but have misgivings in my heart.”
The Third Prince laughed, “Hehe, Princess Yu is too anxious. Actually, I specifically came to pay a visit to this place with the main goal of gathering news about the mythical qilin that has apparently appeared in this Luofeng Mountain Range. I wish to try my luck and see if I can’t get a glimpse of a mythical animal of legends.”
The princess said, “Oh, so it’s like this. I didn’t expect news to spread this quickly. Even the Third Prince from the distant Empire of Baiyue is aware.”
The Third Prince said, “A legendary qilin has graced us with its divine presence. The appearance of a mythical beast naturally shocks the world. This matter has already caused the continent lots of commotion.”
The princess sighed, “Ai! I really want to see for myself what kind of beast a qilin is. It’s a pity I won’t have the opportunity.”
Surprised, The Third Prince asked, “Your Highness the princess, why do you say such a thing?”
“When we were travelling to the Luofeng Mountain Range, we came across my teacher on the way. He said it’s too dangerous there and stubbornly drove me back. I’m so disappointed!” The princess was extremely angry.
A bright light flashed across the Third Prince’s eyes. He said, “Don’t tell me it’s Elder Zhuge Chengfeng.”
“It’s precisely that old fogey.”
“Elder Zhuge’s name moves the world. His martial cultivation reaches the level of sainthood. He’s the senior—the number one expert—that I revere the most.”
“Is that right? If you let that old fogey here that, he’d definitely be joyous. I can’t say for sure, but maybe he’d be willing to accept you as his disciple.”
“If it’s really as you say, then it’s what I seek but fail to obtain.”
The princess smiled. “Maybe this old fogey can already hear you, but is debating whether or not to actually take you in as his disciple.”
A bewildered look flashed across the Third Prince’s face. He laughed, “Hehe, how could that be? Isn’t Elder Zhuge hurrying towards the Luofeng Mountain Range? Even if senior’s martial arts is godly, isn’t it impossible to hear words several hundred kilometers away?
The princess panted with rage. “This old fogey isn’t sure that I’ll return to the palace; he’s scared I’ll sneak back. He’s been following me all along.”
“Oh, apparently senior really loves you dearly, afraid that you’ll come across a mishap.” The Third Prince smiled.
“Clearly he doesn’t trust me.”
The Third Prince took a look at the princess’s imperial guards and said, “Princess Yu, did your subordinates suffer injures? Why are all their expressions so deathly pale?”
“That’s right. When we were on the road to the Luofeng Mountain Range, we had a run in with an ancient giant. Fortunately, old fogey immediately hurried over. Otherwise, it would’ve really been too dangerous.” A trace of lingering fear remained on the princess’s face.
“Truly fortunate! En, beasts are constantly on the prowl in this mountain range. Without some experts to protect you, you really can’t travel safely. How about this, I’ll escort you guys out of the mountain.” The Third Prince had a sincere expression.
A cold light flashed across the princess’s eyes, but she merely smiled. “Thank you Your Highness the Third Prince, but we won’t trouble you. My old, crafty teacher will look after us well.”
“Your Highness Princess Yu, there’s no need to be so courteous with me. Having had the chance to bump into you, extra feelings and reasons are useless. Regarding this matter, I must escort Your Highness safely. Moreover, Elder Zhuge is not necessarily following you all the way.”
“I appreciate Third Prince’s kindness, but we truly don’t require your escort. This is already the edge of the mountain range; there are almost no beasts here.”
“That won’t do. I must escort you out. Otherwise, my heart will be restless.”
The princess didn’t decline further. With a grateful look, she said, “Then I’ll have to thank you for your trouble, Third Prince.”
“Princess Yu, you’re too courteous.”
Chen Nan saw this all unfold very clearly. He secretly sighed. From the scheming that had just conspired, these two were obviously worthy of being born into royal families. In this short amount of time, they already finished a ‘battle of minds’.
The princess, leading her imperial guards who were currently seriously injured, felt rather uneasy after meeting with the Third Prince of the Empire of Baiyue. She wasn’t convinced that this was a chance encounter. The biggest possibility was that her counterpart had been stationed here waiting for her for a long time. For the purpose of self-preservation, she took an overbearing attitude and took the initiative to attack first, making the Third Prince unsure of her actual situation. After that, the topic of Zhuge Chengfeng was inadvertently raised, resulting in the Third Prince feeling rather apprehensive. However, the Third Prince was absolutely not an ordinary contemporary. Although he was left a bit bewildered, he didn’t cower. Rather, he wanted to follow her, trying to make inquiries into her real situation. These two could speak ‘a mouthful of lies’, ‘only talking rubbish’.
The Third Prince and the princess moved their respective parties together out of the mountain. Chen Nan walked behind the troops, secretly glad. Luckily, the Third Prince was bothering the princess, causing her to be unable to notice him hiding behind the troops. But a good thing doesn’t last forever. The little demon’s subordinates, her imperial guards, were quick to discover him, a bound captive. One of the guards dashed to the front and whispered a few things into the little demon’s ears.
At that time, Chen Nan felt darkness shroud the earth. The sky began to lose its colour.
Excitement was evident across the princess’s whole face. She gleefully laughed and walked over to Chen Nan. This was definitely the first time she had expressed her true emotions since encountering the Third Prince, but Chen Nan would rather see her phony smile instead. He didn’t want to see a true, heart-felt smile from her at this time.
He shouted loudly in his heart, “Demons of the netherworld, hurry and collect your offspring!”
At first, the Third Prince didn’t understand why the princess of the Empire of Chu would suddenly become so excited. He couldn’t help but inwardly suspect that Zhuge Chengfeng was nearby. Afterwards, he followed the princess’s line of sight and finally found the ‘root’ of the princess’s excitement. To his surprise, it was their captive from the day before yesterday.
The Third Prince was startled. He began to carelessly guess what the identity of Chen Nan was. With a cough, he said, “From the beginning, this person sneakily followed us. Afterwards, he was captured by my subordinates. Your Highness the princess, do you recognize this person?”
“I recognize him. Of course I recognize him.” The princess gnashed her teeth. “He’s a little eunuch I brought with me from my palace. Originally, he was meant to serve me, but I didn’t expect he’d be the first to flee when we encountered an ancient giant. Little Plum, you didn’t expect to see me again so soon, right?”
For him to become known as a palace eunuch, Chen Nan was simply dazed.
The princess very fiercely stared at him. Her meaning couldn’t be clearer: she was threatening him and threatening him again to make him cooperate.
When one is underneath the eaves, they have no choice but to bow their head. Chen Nan hesitated, but for lack of a better option, said, “Your Highness the princess, please punish me.”
The Third Prince smiled. “So it’s Princess Yu’s slave. Your Highness, please punish him as you wish.” With that, he turned around and left.
“Heiheihei~!” The princess looked at Chen Nan, a smiling expression on her face.
Chen Nan’s body turned cold. He lowered his voice and said, “Your Highness the princess, let’s make a business deal.”
The princess recalled Chen Nan’s previous obscenities. The anger caused her body to shudder. She shrewdly said, “Make a business deal with me? Why? You must be dreaming.”
“Zhuge Chengfeng isn’t actually here and the Third Prince wants to deal with you,” Chen Nan quickly wrote out on the princess’s palm.
The princess moved her palm away and carefully looked him up and down. She said, “It seems that I truly underestimated you. I didn’t expect you smelly thief to have some brains. But—my heart isn’t in the best of moods right now. Let’s delay the business deal. Right now, I want to vent my anger!”
“Ah~!” The sound of Chen Nan’s miserable screams echoed throughout the forest. Sometimes, his screams were mixed with the sounds of the little demonic princess’s laughter. The distant Third Prince and his party looked at each other in dismay. They gained some unwanted insights into the rumoured little witch.
The bright full moon was suspended in the horizon. Bright moonlight, like immaculate feathers, covered a wide expanse of the forest. The night breeze blew gently, carrying with it the delicate fragrance of flowers and plants. The entire mountainous forest was shrouded under a rain of moonlight. Gazing into the distance, it was silent, hazy, harmonious, and serene.
Chen Nan, with a bloody nose and a swollen face, and the princess were currently exchanging ideas with low voices in a tent. The two of them already ascertained that the chance meeting with the Third Prince and his party in the forest was absolutely not incidental. This was all premeditated. These people have been stationed here waiting for a long time on the exit road.
The princess said, “At first, my intuition told me that they want to harm me. But I don’t understand why they have this kind of motive.”
Chen Nan asked, “How is the relationship between the Empire of Baiyue and the Empire of Chu?”
The princess answered, “For the past few years, the relationship between the two nations could be considered pretty good. No unpleasant matters have arisen.”
“This is strange. If it’s like this, why would they want to harm princess?” Chen Nan pondered for a moment. He smiled and said, “I understand. They want to plunder you here.”
“Drop dead.” The princess gave Chen Nan a ferocious beating.
Chen Nan swallowed his pain and said in a low voice, “Am I not helping Your Highness the princess analyze the situation? How could Your Highness the princess get this emotional? Besides, it’s not like this can’t be a possibility.”
“You don’t have to consider this aspect. Anyone who knows the Third Prince knows that he doesn’t live a dissipated lifestyle.”
Chen Nan said, “Maybe… Maybe he wants Your Highness the princess to serve as a gift for someone else.”
Hearing Chen Nan compare her to a gift, the little demonic princess angrily glowered at him with round eyes. She coldly said, “You degenerate. The words you say are way too vulgar. Don’t you know who you’re talking to?” But she quickly calmed down shortly after. She muttered to herself irresolutely, “The possibility is nearly zero.”
“This is strange. Other than Your Highness the princess, what else is capable of making the Third Prince take a risk out of desperation? Wait a minute…”
Chen Nan and the princess called out together. They both simultaneously came to realize the truth.
“On that day when Your Highness the princess used Houyi Bow to shoot the Monolithic Snake, the golden arrow streaked across the vast sky. It must’ve been seen by the Third Prince.”
“No wonder this guy kept stealing glances at the case on my back. To go as far as to plot and steal Houyi Bow, our nation’s treasure, he really deserves to die.” The princess clenched her little fists and said, “Degenerate, you still haven’t come up with a plan yet?”
“You can’t blame me for this too. The cleverest housewife can’t cook without rice. Your Highness the princess, your guards are already seriously hurt. Right now, we can’t use soldiers, what can I possibly do? I think we should directly give Houyi Bow to the Third Prince and leave it at that. This is called having a clear view of things… Heihei.” Seeing a cold sneer begin to form at the corner of the little demonic princess’s mouth, Chen Nan quickly stopped talking, forcing a smile.
“You degenerate, you boast so shamelessly during the daytime saying you want to strike a business deal with me. In the end, you didn’t help at all. Heihei, this is also alright; I can sort you out without any misgivings now. You don’t know how exhausting it was looking for you these past two days. I’ve been itching to immediately strip off your skin.”
Seeing the princess’s sinister smile, Chen Nan couldn’t refrain from breaking out into a cold shudder. “Your Highness the princess, at that time, I didn’t intend to peep at you… bathing…”
Hearing these words, the princess’s two eyes practically spouted fire. “Ah! Degenerate, you deserve death! You still dare talk about… I’ll kill you!”
1 龍門/dragon gate; a mythical gate where a carp can transform into a dragon.