Upon the front platform of the Guanyin Pavilion, a young man, drenched in blood, cast a wary glance back at the City of Death as a raging tempest threatened to engulf him.
The wind howled through the air, carrying the stench of death and despair.

Before him loomed the imposing structure of the temple, rising high into the stormy sky with its two towering stories.
Its steeply angled roof was a web of intersecting rafters, resembling the jagged bones of some ancient beast.
The signboard above the entrance was blank, devoid of any characters, adding to the ominous atmosphere.

With quivering fingers, Lin Shouxi pushed the gate open and stumbled into the sanctuary of the pavilion, grateful to find it unlocked.
He leaned heavily against the door, gasping for air as he struggled to quiet the searing agony that ravaged his body.
Though the rain outside had been muted by the pavilion’s walls, he knew that danger still lurked in every corner.

As Lin Shouxi took this moment to catch his breath, he began to reflect on the downfall of his sect.

Though he appeared young, he was the current inheritor of the Demon Gate.
A title that once held great reverence and commanded respect across the realm.
But now, in the wake of the sect’s defeat at the hands of the Tao Gate, his title meant nothing.
His senior brothers and sisters were now prisoners, and he himself had spent the last day fleeing for his life, wounded and alone.

What’s more, despite his best efforts to evade his pursuers, he had been relentlessly pursued from the treacherous Black Cliff to the menacing City of Death.
And to make matters worse, his unyielding hunter was none other than Mu Shijing, a formidable disciple of the Tao Gate, and the only one capable of ending his life.

“Mu Shijing…”

Her name escaped his lips with deliberate slowness, as the words of his elders echoed in his mind.

According to them, both he and Mu Shijing were born in this city fifteen years ago, and were the only survivors of the disaster that had befallen it.

Unfortunately, these two heaven-blessed talents were not destined to be an immortal couple.
From the moment they joined the Demon and Tao sects, their paths were set on a collision course that would lead to a battle of life and death.

Lin Shouxi’s eyes drifted closed, his grip on his sword tightened, the blade’s point touching the earth.

He had always considered himself a killer driven by inspiration, and if fate would grant him but a single moment of triumph, even Mu Shijing, guarded by the impenetrable Myriad Laws List, might fall, struck down by a single fatal blow.

Rain and wind careened into the straight window, a never-ceasing whistle piercing the air.

In a flash, his eyes sprang open.

She had arrived!


Mu Shijing perched atop a Chiwei, her robes billowing in the wind.
Her sword, a gleaming mirror of her tranquil gaze, was her constant companion as she surveyed the tempest-tossed city below.

The City of Death was her birthplace, yet if not for the edict of her sect, she would never have returned to its polluted border.
A place infamous the world over, it teemed with corruption and decay, where even the slightest touch could rot the common person.
Though she donned pure white icy socks as a talisman against evil, her feet still felt a sense of foreboding as they touched the ground.

The city held a certain renown among the cultivator circles, yet upon her arrival, she discovered that it was even more surreal and uncanny than she had ever imagined.

The city gates had been firmly locked by the government for a decade and a half, bound with heavy chains and bolts, forbidding entry to all.
Yet today, as Lin Shouxi sought refuge within its walls, the door mysteriously creaked open, its iron chains and wooden bolts snapping asunder and tumbling to the ground.

Before venturing into the city, the sky was clear and unmarred by clouds.
Yet, as soon as she crossed the threshold, the sky darkened and rain, heavy and relentless, began to pour down.

The city and its surroundings were two entirely distinct realms, a dichotomy beyond compare!

As she tracked Lin Shouxi’s tracks down the streets, smashing down the doors of ancient abodes, the rooms she entered were thick with cobwebs and dust, each one revealing a new and eerie tableau.

In the world, many families would set up statues of revered figures for blessings and protection, and the inhabitants of the City of Death were no different.
Yet, the statues they venerated were not of gods or buddhas… they were twisted and macabre, with heads like octopuses and bodies like serpents, and even the stones used to sculpt them had a texture akin to that of a serpent’s scales.

Could such evil entities truly exist in this world?

From a young age, Mu Shijing had devoted herself to cultivation, paying reverence to the divine and striving for a tranquil and unblemished heart.
However, since entering the city, she couldn’t shake the feeling of a voice whispering secrets of terror in the depths of her mind.
It was as if some sinister revelation was waiting to be uncovered.

The maiden, steeped in contemplation, cast her gaze far beyond.
Despite the downpour of rain, a delicate crimson thread beckoned her forth, guiding her to the location of Lin Shouxi.

Lin Shouxi might have possessed a physique that was unmatched by any other in the world, but Mu Shijing’s senses were second to none.

Her eyes fixed upon the ominous Guanyin Pavilion at the end of the scarlet trail, she took a bounding leap into the tempestuous rain with nimble grace.

The young girl, no more than a mere fifteen summers, parted the veil of raindrops as she hastened along the expansive, bleached avenue, stopping in front of the two-story temple, which rose tall and proud with its two-tiered facade.


The rain fell with relentless fury, pounding upon the earth in a symphony of sound.

As Mu Shijing approached the threshold, Lin Shouxi’s senses were alerted to her presence.

This rival, whom he’d had but a fleeting glimpse of before, now stood but a mere door away!

Despite the Demon Gate’s disbelief in the deities of Taoism and Buddhism, a hushed prayer escaped his lips.
“May the merciful Guanyin Bodhisattva watch over me.”

In the holy halls of the Guanyin Pavilion, the statue of the thousand-armed Guanyin loomed behind him, its peak touching the brilliant ceiling.
He held his sword firmly, the massive shadow cast by the statue enveloping him.
His temples throbbed with pain, his body wracked with torment, yet his sword hand remained steadfast and unyielding.

The weapon he clutched had been his faithful companion for many a year.
In this moment, it seemed to awaken to its master’s intent, its blade retracting like a slumbering black wolf in the shadows.

The cacophony of the pounding rain, the rhythm of his pounding heart, the rise and fall of his breaths, the deadly intent of his sword, and the aura of violence all merged into one, clouding his perception and senses.

With the sky alight with the brilliance of thunder and lightning, the Demon Gate’s mightiest sword technique, the White Pupil Black Phoenix Sword Scripture’, reached its zenith, his mastery soaring to the eighth level in a single bound.
Lin Shouxi’s inner energy surged like a tempest, and with a lightning-quick chop, he shattered the wooden door and burst forth into the rain-lashed night.

The blade shone with a chilling radiance.

In but a heartbeat, the wooden door was reduced to splinters, and the rain was torn asunder by the sword’s energy, soaring skyward to form a cascade of mist.

Within the veil of the falling mist, the ringing of steel echoed across the air, the unmistakable sound of Lin Shouxi’s strike. 

With a deft flick of his wrist, he cleaved the sword that had hung suspended in the air, sending it careening towards the earth below.
It landed with a shuddering thud, embedded in the ground and trembling with the force of the impact.

This was Mu Shijing’s sword, yet its wielder was nowhere to be seen!

“Not good!” Lin Shouxi’s eyes narrowed in alarm.

The lightning had come and gone, but the deafening peal of thunder only now resounded.
And amidst its rumble, another, even more piercing noise echoed forth.

It was the sound of the roof being shattered, rent asunder.

Mu Shijing had left her sword outside, misleading Lin Shouxi with its aura while she herself had taken to the roof.

With her inner energy, she shattered the roof, swooping down from the towering structure like a bird of prey, armed with two shards of azure tiles.

The azure tiles hurtled through the air, slicing towards Lin Shouxi like razor blades.

Taken unawares, Lin Shouxi raised his sword to defend himself.
Though weary, he managed to deflect the two hurtling tiles.

The tiles shattered into dust, and he let out a pained grunt, nearly being thrown out of the Guanyin Pavilion.

Mu Shijing alighted gracefully, her feet touching the ground.
With the inner energy of the Tao Gate collected in her palm, she released it in an instant.

Lin Shouxi attempted to wield his sword, but his grip was torn away and he was unable to maintain hold of it.
He could only raise his left hand and confront her palm head-on.

The two palms met, inner energy erupted with a thunderous noise.

Lin Shouxi stumbled back, taking several steps to regain his footing and his sword as he planted his feet firmly apart.
Though he knew defeat was inevitable, he remained composed and steady.
As the youthful woman advanced, he unleashed an intuitive sword strike, abandoning all his prior sword forms.

The young woman’s visage grew taut as she gazed upon the blade thrusting towards her.
Though it appeared to be a straightforward maneuver, its lethality could not be underestimated.
Yet, fate would have it that she had to parry with her left hand.

With a fierce determination, Mu Shijing stood firm, facing the dangerous sword strike head on.
Her pride as the reigning martial arts master of the world would not allow her to take a step back.
Her jaw clenched, she leaned forward, her left hand outstretched and ready, the ultimate technique of the Tao Gate, the Wondrous Finger, summoned forth.

The metallic clang echoed as steel met flesh, the sword and finger, in a fleeting embrace of mortality.

The skies bellowed with fury as the lightning danced among the clouds, its jagged tendrils illuminating the night.
The wind howled, lifting the fallen strands of hair like ribbons caught in a tempest, as the thunder clapped its applause.

Lin Shouxi’s blade hovered at the brink of her cheek, its gleaming edge but a hair’s breadth from flesh.
Meanwhile, Mu Shijing’s finger, unyielding, stood steadfastly pointed at his own chest.

And in that instant, the outcome was determined.

The young man was cast into the air, hurtling towards the moonlit platform with a thunderous impact, landing amidst the pounding rain.

His right arm, now broken, hung askew.
The raindrops that dared to touch it hissed and boiled away, transformed into wisps of white steam that vanished into the night.

Mu Shijing’s hand withdrew, and she strode forth from the Guanyin Pavilion, her fingers laced behind her in a display of regal grace.

The catastrophic collision of true energy had wrought destruction upon the already fragile eaves, causing them to crumble and fall in a tempest of broken timber and dust.

Mu Shijing remained unaffected by the ruins of the Guanyin Pavilion, her gaze fixed upon Lin Shouxi, who lay still and prone in the rain’s relentless downpour.

To Mu Shijing’s amazement, her peer of the Demon Gate, whom she had thought defeated, had the fortitude to rise up and take a seated position.

Yet that was all the energy he could muster.

“Why did you choose to succumb to the demon?” Mu Shijing queried, her voice calm and steady, as was her custom.

“I was taken in by my master as a child, and he nurtured me as if I were his own kin,” Lin Shouxi replied, a hint of annoyance in his voice, as he thought her question was stupid.
“How could I possibly betray one who had shown me such kindness?”

“Your master has passed, but there is still hope for redemption,” Mu Shijing spoke softly, her words tinged with a hint of compassion for her only equal.
“Surrender to me, and I shall offer you a chance to atone for your sins before the gods of the Tao.
If they find forgiveness in their hearts, and you are willing to abandon your dark path, the Tao Gate may yet show mercy and set you free.”

“I crave life, but not at the cost of your charity,” Lin Shouxi sneered, a bitter laughter on his lips.
“The Demon Gate recognizes no gods, least of all those of your Tao.”

“If you must choose this path,” Mu Shijing sighed softly, her eyes growing distant and inscrutable, “I can only ask if you have any last wishes?”

Lin Shouxi lay huddled in the murky puddle of his own blood, the chill seeping into his bones like slithering worms.
He trembled uncontrollably, his once strong features now drained of color, washed pale by the rain’s relentless downpour.

Through his hazy vision, Lin Shouxi caught a glimpse of those elegant white boots as Mu Shijing drew near.

“What about you?” Lin Shouxi countered.
“Do you harbor any regrets?”

“Pardon?” Mu Shijing queried, her brow furrowed in a delicate frown.

“Will taking my life prove your Tao heart?” Lin Shouxi asked, his voice barely audible.
He longed to lift his gaze, to look upon his adversary one last time, but his weary body refused to obey.
All he could do was cast his eyes downwards, towards the soaked earth.

Mu Shijing understood his question.

As sworn enemies, this fight between them had been a matter of fate.
Yet, it was a final confrontation that had been anything but fair because before Mu Shijing could lay pursuit, he had already been severely injured by her elders.

“My sect did not want me to take any unnecessary risks, and my master would not allow me to endanger the sect’s future,” Mu Shijing explained, her lips pursed.
“This battle won’t prove my Tao heart, but it can prove the legitimacy of the Tao Gate.”

“The legitimacy of the Tao Gate?” Lin Shouxi sneered, gritting his teeth against the pain as he spoke.
“They seek to break your Tao heart by using me as a pawn.
You are too powerful, and once I am gone, the Demon Gate will be utterly destroyed, leaving the Tao Gate unrivaled.
At that point, you will become a threat… Your future won’t be much brighter than mine.”

Mu Shijing did not dispute his words.
She gazed upon the young man as he lay dying, and said, “I grew up in the Tao Gate.
My master nurtured and educated me.
It is a kindness I cannot forget.
Furthermore, for three centuries, the Tao Gate has devoted itself to expelling demons and protecting the Tao.
As the current inheritor, the flame of the Tao burns within me, and I must protect it from extinguishment.”

“Are you trying to convince me or are you trying to convince yourself?” Lin Shouxi sneered.

Mu Shijing remained silent.

She cradled her sword with her delicate fingers, brandishing it before her.

The brilliant shine of the blade was focused at her fingertips.

Lin Shouxi, unable to resist, lifted his head fervently, as if he were trying to etch her face into his memory forever.

Today marked Lin Shouxi’s first encounter with Mu Shijing, though tales of her legend had reached his ears.
It was said that on her visit to the Buddha Gate, she sat and listened as the rector expounded upon the Dharma.
Her comprehension had been so profound that it shattered the Zen minds of countless Buddhist disciples within but a single incense stick’s worth of time.

In Lin Shouxi’s eyes, the young woman from the Tao Gate was even more breathtakingly beautiful than the legends had portrayed.
Yet, in this moment, her beauty was nothing but a harbinger of death, ominous and foreboding.

Another lightning strike split the sky and the world became bright and dark.

Lin Shouxi’s pupils constricted!

As the veil of death descended upon him, his gaze abruptly diverted from Mu Shijing’s face and fixed upon something behind her, a sight even more terror-inducing than death itself.

Mu Shijing shook her head gently, a look of disappointment etched upon her face, “Do you really think I will fall for such a trick?”

Lin Shouxi appeared not to have heeded her words, his gaze empty and devoid of life, as if he had already passed on

As Mu Shijing’s eyes beheld the blood that flowed from the corners of Lin Shouxi’s eyes, a gasp of surprise escaped her lips, and a chill descended upon her neck.

With hesitance in her every step, she slowly swiveled about.

What she saw next rooted her to the spot.

The Guanyin Pavilion had collapsed, yet the statue of Guanyin still stood in the rain-soaked night, its appearance illuminated by the flashing lightning.

But upon closer inspection, Mu Shijing realized that this was not a statue of Guanyin at all.

Mu Shijing felt as though a lance of fire had pierced her eyes, rending her with pain.
A low moan escaped her lips, as she hung her head, unable to bear the searing agony that burned within her gaze.

Yet, even through the haze of agony, the image of the “statue” remained etched upon her mind: a divine figure garbed in a tattered yellow cloak, its visage hidden behind a ghostly mask, and its hand, jagged and bony, reaching forth from its cloak, clutching a seal of ivory.

She didn’t dare to take a closer look, but from her position, she could see the cloak hung suspended, exposing the writhing mass of bloated, scabrous tentacles that writhed and pulsed beneath it.
The stench that wafted from the obscene tendrils was overpowering, filling her nostrils with a noxious reek.

With mounting terror, she beheld that the dingy yellow cloak was festooned with eyes and gaping maws, sending shudders down her spine.
Each eye gleamed with malevolent intent, and each maw gaped hungrily, as though eager to devour all that lay before it.

Of course, a statue alone would hardly be cause for fear, but the truly harrowing aspect was that these nauseating appendages were not statues at all, but instead writhed and squirmed with a life of their own, even as the tempest raged around them.

What manner of being was this?!

Mu Shijing’s body was seized with fear, as a chill ran through her veins and her slender form was wracked with uncontrollable tremors.

Lin Shouxi, his vision briefly clouded, likewise lowered his head.
His master’s words rang true, for there indeed roamed untold horrors in this world.

The realization that this entity had loomed so close, behind him, filled him with a frigid dread that seeped into every fiber of his being.

They must flee, escape from this accursed place!

Whether it be a living entity or not, in this moment, flight was their only thought.
Yet, try as they might, their bodies remained rooted to the spot, frozen in terror, as their minds struggled to break free from the paralyzing grip of fear.

And then, the terror mounted as Lin Shouxi felt an ethereal hand, icy to the touch, trace down his spine, counting each of his vertebrae as it reached his neck.

Nay, that was not a hand!

Lin Shouxi, with great effort, turned his head to gaze upon the source.


That intangible hand was none other than the heavy, encroaching fog.

In the blink of an eye, a massive fog descended upon them, a pale tide that obscured the city and reduced it to a deep chasm obscured by a dense, billowing veil.

In this ‘abyss’, they could sense the presence of unseen and frightening ghosts, their true forms obscured by the fog, yet their crazed howls and shrill cries still echoed through the veil.

Where was this the city of death? This was clearly the vestibule of purgatory!

Despite their gifts and abilities, Lin Shouxi and Mu Shijing were but children, mere fifteen years of age.
Under the relentless onslaught of terror, their hearts, honed by the Tao, teetered on the brink of collapse.

“Do you… remember the stories about the day we were born?” Lin Shouxi croaked, his voice hoarse and strained as he struggled to form each word.

It took a moment before Mu Shijing gave a small nod in response.

Though they had not witnessed the scene themselves, the tragedy of that fateful night was a somber tale, forever imprinted upon the minds of the elders who had seen it.
And for fifteen years, the story had been imparted to all who would listen. 

On the night of Lin Shouxi’s and Mu Shijing’s birth, a mysterious white fog descended upon the city, and the sky was torn asunder by the claws of a demonic presence.
Yellow lightning writhed in the sky, striking the city with ferocity, and rain poured down in sheets, drenching the land in a deluge of sorrow.
When the storm cleared and the morning dawned, the city was left a ghost town, with naught but bodies littering the streets.

The fateful event that had claimed the lives of all save two newborns… now stood before them once again, threatening to repeat its tragedy.

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