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Oh boy, lots of sect names! Don't worry, a lot of these will never be mentioned again–it's just for extra flavor/world-building.
Please let me know if any translations could be improved.
Chapter 2 - The First Under the Heavens
Upon hearing these words by Shen Qingxian, these six disciple-grandchildren sect masters all had different thoughts racing through their minds.
Zeng Ziliang: This is bad, this is bad, the Honored Lord knows we planned to discuss the Dao with that Demonic Emperor, he's definitely going to be even more furious!
The group of four people who had raised their hands: Seconded.
As the only one who had consistently opposed attending, Ye Zhan was at this moment immensely pleased with himself: You bunch of trash, just wait for your punishment!
The Honored Lord had asked, so even though they were utterly terrified, they had to say something. Zeng Ziliang could only brace himself: "That demonic… demonic cultivator issued the invitation himself."
Shen Qingxian then asked: "Where is the meeting?"
Zeng Ziliang trembled in fear: "The Fantastical Ashland1 and Astral Sea."
This was the boundary between the righteous path and the demonic cultivators. Walking across the Astral Sea led to the Heavenly Path, crossing the Fantastical Ashland led to the Heart Domain.
Shen Qingxian glanced them over: "By receiving this invitation, you are planning to go attend?"
He finally asked!
As if the executioner's blade hanging above their heads had finally fallen, slicing their necks, fresh blood splattering everywhere!
But since things had progressed to this point, Zeng Ziliang could only honestly take responsibility.
Before Zeng Ziliang could open his mouth, Ye Zhan first rushed to say: "They all plan on going."
He could finally tattletale! This millennium-old great sect master, seen as stern and awe-inspiring by all the younger generations of disciples, at this moment became a seven year old child.
…Though in Shen Qingxian's eyes, these six mighty powers really weren't much different from little children.
Ye Zhan wanted to continue happily "reporting to the authorities", but Shen Qingxian spoke again: "All of you are going?"
"I…" Ye Zhan was just about to show off his loyalty by expressing his steadfast resolve to not go, when Shen Qingxian was already continuing unhurriedly: "Since all of you are going, then I'll go too."
Zeng Ziliang raised his head abruptly: "!"
Ye Zhan almost couldn't catch his breath!
What was going on?
The hearts of these six people drummed with nervousness and apprehension, unable to grasp the deep meaning behind the Honored Lord's words.
Shen Qingxian then asked: "What date is set for the meeting?"
Zeng Ziliang reverently replied: "Seven days from now."
Shen Qingxian was satisfied: "Very well, all of you first go back to prepare."
For those in the cultivation world, seven days was far too tight of a time frame—akin to about a few hours for mortals. As immense "big shots", these disciple-grandchildren needed to arbitrate which of their followers to bring, how to travel there, who should handle the sect's inner affairs after they left… so they definitely needed to properly prepare.
Even after Zeng Ziliang and the others departed from Endless Elegance Mountain, they had not yet revived from their stupor.
"Prepare?" Cheng Jing murmured, "How should we prepare?"
These quiet and simple words ignited the hearts of the other five people.
Zeng Ziliang's eyes darkened and the sweat beads on his forehead trickled down; Ye Zhan's eyes lit up and he clenched his fists, already eager for battle.
At this moment, the six people all believed they understood the Honored Lord's thinking!
Ye Zhan excitedly said: "This is to make those demonic cultivators 'arrive but never leave'!"
Zeng Ziliang was comparatively cautious. He shut his eyes: "Since this is the Honored Lord's intention, we can only do our best to prepare."
No wonder the Honored Lord did not become angry upon hearing they were attending. No wonder the Honored Lord asked whether Gu Jianshen was going.
In seven days, the Fantastical Ashland and Astral Sea would surely become the site of a fierce battle.
Though with the Honored Lord Lianhua present, the Heavenly Path was fearless. No matter how arrogant that Gu Jiuyuan was, he definitely wouldn't be able to take any advantage from the Honored Lord!
The first in the Heavenly Path.
The first in the Heart Domain.
This discussion of the Dao at the Fantastical Ashland and Astral Sea would decide who was the first under the heavens!
"Goodbye." Zeng Ziliang cupped his fist2 and bid farewell to the other five people. With the same hurried expressions on all their faces, the other five people rushed back to their own sects too.
Seven days… was really far too tight of a time frame.
Although they could only surround and watch the battle between these two powers, it was already incredibly dangerous just to stand on the scene! Don't even mention unrealistic actions like trying to help; they wanted to use all their efforts to protect their disciples and themselves, so the fallout wouldn't take their lives!
There was truly too little time!
At Null Direction Sect3, Zeng Ziliang convened the four great elders to open the secret treasury and took out the eternal artifact——the Null Direction Sword!
At Thousand Crane School, Cheng Jing walked into the ancient Ice Valley and awakened the sleeping Divine Beasts!
At Dipped Moon Sect4, Mu Rong took numerous alchemical elixirs and entered closed-door cultivation, aiming to break through the bottleneck to the last layer of his secret technique within this extremely short period of time!
At Star Sign School5….
At Caged Sea Pavillion6….
At Meridian Monastery7….
Within this short period of time, the Six Great Sects of the cultivation world moved together to take out their weapons and treasures, to survive this upcoming timeless battle!
Don't blame the sect masters for their wild imaginations. After all, in comparison to the truth, their conjectures could not be more normal—they could even be called the dictionary definition of normal!
On Endless Elegance Mountain, amidst the wreathing mists, a small peach blossom had absorbed enough spiritual energy to gain consciousness. Stretching its petals, its tender body left the branch and drifted through the air.
Heavenly Listening Hall was the perfect embodiment of elegance. From the cold jade stairs to the blue glazed tiles, every single aspect was refined and free of vulgarities. It was not magnificent or luxuriant, but any who beheld it would feel peace in their hearts and act with upright etiquette.
This small spiritual blossom originally had a mischievous personality, but here it was significantly more cautious and reserved. It followed the trail of spiritual energy to walk forward. Within a large expanse of night orchids, it beheld that eternally captivating and enchanting8 figure.
Upon just glimpsing the side of a face, the small spiritual flower had a moment of enlightenment towards the Great Dao9.
With the passing of a cool breeze, the spiritual flower transformed into a small child kneeling amidst the flowers. His sweet voice was filled with faithful devotion: "My Lord10."
Shen Qingxian briefly glanced him over and said: "In the future, you may be called Su Yu11."
Happiness appeared on the small child's face as he kowtowed: "Thank you for the bestowed name, sir!"
Endless Elegance Mountain was a land abundant in fine spiritual energy, and Shen Qingxian possessed the "Myriad Spirits" constitution. As a result, spiritual creatures here frequently gained consciousness and awakened to the Great Dao.
Shen Qingxian had seen it was a peach blossom spirit and therefore gave it the name Su Yu, originating from the poem "The night rain rests in red peach petals."
Su Yu wanted to go forward to wait upon him, but Shen Qingxian waved him away: "Go rest."
Sorrow appeared on Su Yu's face, but he could only back off and leave.
Since Su Yu had just awakened to the Dao, Shen Qingxian was taking pity on him, out of fear he would miss the window to fully concentrate and polish his understanding.
Of course…Shen Qingxian had his own business to take care of.
After the little peach blossom departed, Shen Qingxian's attention returned to the jade scroll in his hand.
Upon initially reading "First, meet with Gu Jianshen", Shen Qingxian's thinking was about the same as his own disciple-grandchildren. He thought restoring the Heavenly Staircase required “slaying demons to guard the Dao”.
He and Gu Jiuzhou could count as old acquaintances. When they were young, they had even been in the same sect for a very short period of time.
Though at that time, Shen Qingxian had already started to prove himself himself and was cultivating outside. Gu Jiuzhou had stayed at Endless Elegance Mountain for two years, before disappearing without a trace.
Shen Qingxian remembered this because his Shifu had once lamented: "A child blessed by the heavens, a pity he was of a defiant nature."
At the time, Shen Qingxian had not taken this to heart. It was only when his Shifu ascended and the Heart Domain endlessly expanded overnight, did he understand the deep meaning behind those words.
Gu Jiuzhou possessed impressive talent, yet a rebellious nature.
Endless Elegance Mountain cultivated a path that followed the heavens, but his mind was full of questions and doubts, choosing to follow only the desires of his heart.
With this disharmonious Taoist heart, he could likely never succeed in cultivation. Originally, Shen Qingxian had thought he would decline and fall there. He didn't expand that Gu Jiuzhou would take a different approach, his extraordinary skills shining in the Heart Domain.
After that, Shen Qingxian never really met with him. Still, this name was impressed into Shen Qingxian's mind.
Could it be… the will of the heavens was asking him to personally strike down this traitor13?
Just as he was thinking this, another line of words popped up on the jade scroll: "Second, drink and get drunk together with Gu Jianshen."
Shen Qingqiu murmured to himself: Take advantage of his inebriation to kill him?
Without much delay, yet another line of words appeared on the jade scroll: "Third, tour the Fantastical Ashland and Astral Sea together with Gu Jianshen."
Shen Qingxian: Make him sink into the Astral Sea? That is indeed a fitting "final destination."
The jade scroll couldn't resist it any longer, and produced another line of words: "Fourth, do not bear killing intent towards Gu Jianshen."
Shen Qingxian: "……"
After the jade scroll had to send so many lines of text in one breath, it seemed to be tired. The previous constantly flickering light was extinguished in an instant.
Shen Qingxian thought about it some more: Not kill, but convert14.
This time the jade scroll did not produce any more words; it looked to be truly "tired".
Well, it was enough—Shen Qingxian had already obtained what he wanted.
It seemed that as long as the rays of light didn't flicker, it had no way to pry into his thoughts.
Shen Qingxian softly touched the jade scroll, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
Actually having the ability to enter his sea of consciousness… this was indeed an interesting thing.
Restore the Heavenly Staircase?
For the time being, he'll first try it out.
Seven days passed in the blink of an eye. The disciple-grandchildren, disciple-great-grandchildren, and disciple great-great-grandchildren were all ready to go, solemnly arranged into the Heavenly Path's highest fighting strength!
Upon entering the Astral Sea, amidst the glittering light of dawn, all the people present bowed in salute.
Shen Qingxian was still dressed in that simple and plain, peaceful and quiet appearance. Yet his existence covered the Astral Sea's unparalleled brilliance.
No one dared to look at the Honored Lord's features, and there was no need to look. In front of this supreme might, everything else was mere fabrication.
The Astral Sea was luminescent azure in color, while the Fantastical Ashland was a deep black.
On the side of the luminescent azure, a figure in white became the clearest and brightest radiance.
On the side of the deep black, a figure in scarlet became the strongest and most tyrannical existence.
1. 烬(wàng jìn): 妄 = absurd, fantastical, unreasonable; 烬 = cinders, embers, ashes
2. 抱拳 is the traditional Chinese "holding fist" salute among martial artists.
3. 无方宗: 无=none/null; 方 = square/direction/upright
4. 浸月宗: 浸=soak/bathe/dip; 月=moon
5. 象星门: 象星 I believe is akin to star signs?
6. 樊海阁: 樊=cage/fence; 海=sea
7. 子午观: 子午=meridian; 观=Taoist monastery
8. 魂牵梦萦 lit. "drawing in one's soul, winding in one's dreams"
9. 大道 lit. "Great Path" is a Taoist term for the true/correct/ultimate Dao
10. 大人 (dà rén) is a title of respect used towards superiors. I decided to translate it as My Lord for now. (Damn there are so many Chinese terms potentially equivalent to "Lord", it's a nightmare to differentiate them haha)
11. 宿雨(sù yǔ) = night rain
12. First line from the poem <<田园乐·桃红复含宿雨>> [Arcadian Bliss] by the Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei. The full line is "The night rain rests in red peach petals, the morning mist entwines in green long willows."
13. The original term was 逆子 lit. "unfilial son"
14. 皈依 = religious conversion
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