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Chapter 1

Xu Manman exerted considerable effort to reach the Siyi Sect just before her own burial. That day, the sky was clear and sunny, with a warm breeze carrying the unique fragrance of purple bamboo native to the sect, lifting spirits high. The almanac stated that the day was inauspicious for all things except for burials.

The Siyi sect, typically a serene and blessed land spanning thousands of acres, was now teeming with people, filled with mourning and a heavy atmosphere. This was because it was the day of Daoist Alliance Leader Lian Yue Daozun’s burial, and countless humans and spirits who had benefited from her, as well as Daoist Alliance members who admired and revered her, had traveled great distances to see her off one last time.

Few knew that Lian Yue Daozun’s real name was Xu Manman, the female cultivator who had just entered the mountain gate at this moment. Xu Manman had died seven days prior, having fallen into a trap set by the Blood Sect while investigating the disappearance of refugees and being ambushed by three evil Dharma Aspect cultivators. At the moment of her death, she had intended to self-destruct her Golden Core and perish alongside those evil cultivators. However, they were prepared and interrupted her spell, severing her left arm. The malevolent energy of the Corroding Bone Blade rushed into her body from the severed arm, taking away her last consciousness. She thought her life had ended there, but she unexpectedly awoke in a cave, inexplicably possessing another woman’s body.

Xu Manman, without time to ascertain her current identity, hastily found the nearest state capital and learned of her death. She sighed with relief upon hearing that Immortal Lord Lang Yin had recovered her corpse. The Blood Sect’s evil arts were notoriously cruel, capable of turning powerful cultivators into puppets under their control. Xu Manman feared becoming a Blood Sect puppet, but fortunately, her Uncle Lang Yin had arrived in time to save her body. Xu Manman had rushed back to the Siyi sect today to prevent her disciples from burying her body; she needed to find a way to return to her own body.

Pushing through the crowd, Xu Manman listened to the praises sung by those around her, unable to help but smile, a hint of glee passing through her heart.

“Lian Yue Daozun ruled the cultivation world for just over a hundred years, yet her monumental achievements will shine for millennia, blessing countless generations.”

“Sixty years ago, Lian Yue Daozun saved our Wolf Clan’s young master, resolving our internal conflict. Our Wolf Clan swore eternal allegiance to her. Even though she has fallen, should the Siyi sect need assistance, our clan will do all we can to help!”

“Lian Yue Daozun also has great merit in the Yong Kingdom. Thirty years ago, when Yong Kingdom was struck by plague and helpless, it was Lian Yue Daozun who intervened, saving us from destruction. Though we are thousands of miles from the Siyi sect, we are willing to assist them in any way!”

“If not for Lian Yue Daozun’s investigation into the Blood Sect’s evil cult, she wouldn’t have fallen into their trap and perished. We cultivators vow to eradicate the Blood Sect and avenge her!”

Such a grand spectacle had not been seen for tens of thousands of years and likely wouldn’t be seen again for millions.

Xu Manman, soaking up the accolades, felt her steps grow lighter, as if she might wag her tail if she were a spirit beast. Life, whether long or short, often garners the most love and admiration at its beginning and end, though the person themselves remains unaware. Xu Manman now realizes how delightful it is to attend one’s own funeral.

The main hall of the Siyi sect was named Xianyun Hall, reflecting the aspirations of its past leaders. Before Xu Manman became its head, the Siyi sect was a minor sect within the Daoist Alliance. Through her diligent efforts, it had risen to prominence within a century, becoming the foremost sect of the Dao Alliance and a sacred land of immortals, with disciples growing from a mere handful to several thousand. The humble Xianyun Hall had been renovated several times, now grand and majestic, retaining only the signboard with its elegant, floating characters, personally inscribed by her mentor, Master Nian Yi.

Stepping over the threshold, Xu Manman immediately saw her first disciple, Ning Xi. Ning Xi’s usually gentle and cheerful face was pale; her eyes were bloodshot from weeping, clearly devastated by her master’s death. Despite her sorrow, she calmly managed the funeral, receiving condolences from guests without a single misstep. Xu Manman felt a pang of heartache, her initial joy turning to apprehension. Her death had caused such a commotion; if she were to suddenly come back to life, would it bring more joy or embarrassment? Moreover, her appearance had changed. Would people believe that Lian Yue Daozun had returned in another body? Ning Xi, whom she had raised, surely would believe her, right?

Xu Manman pondered, deliberating how to break the news to Ning Xi. As the person ahead finished their bow, Xu Manman was about to step forward when a soft exclamation behind her caught her attention, followed by a wave of delicate fragrance.

“This is a group of beauty lovers!!” The whispered words reached her ears, and Xu Manman paused, turning to look back.

A graceful, white-clad figure floated past her, followed by eight beautiful women, though in her presence, the others faded into the background.

Recognized as the most beautiful woman in the world, the master of Flower God Palace, Qun Yu Fangzun. Everyone’s eyes were naturally drawn to her; even just her back was captivating and mesmerizing. She was like a goddess from legend, noble and unworldly, untouched by mortal dust, her graceful walk leaving a trail of broken hearts.

As the master of Flower God Palace, one of the seven great forces of the Daoist Alliance, she did not need to queue like others to pay her respects.

Ning Xi, leading the Siyi Sect disciples, stepped forward to greet her arrival.

“Greetings, Palace Master. Forgive us for not welcoming you from afar.”

Ning Xi’s voice was somewhat hoarse.

Qun Yu Fangzun nodded lightly, a hint of melancholy on her flawless face as she turned to look at the Lian Yue Crown before the cold jade coffin. The crown, dazzling and extravagant, was as attention-grabbing and beloved as its owner had been in life.

Qun Yu Fangzun had not had much interaction with Lian Yue Daozun. Their paths in cultivation were different, and they rarely spoke. Qun Yu Fangzun’s path was a unique one focused solely on beauty. Her Dao heart was centered on one word—beauty. Mastering anything to perfection was its own form of Dao. Born with extraordinary talent, her pursuit of beauty led her to create a divine technique called “Flower Beauty Art.”

While the typical six stages of cultivation were Qi Refinement, Body Refinement, Spirit Consolidation, Golden Core, Nascent Soul, and Dharma Aspect, the six stages of the Flower Beauty Art were Orchid Breath, Jade Skin, Ice Heart, Flower Face, Divine Bone, and Beauty Sovereign. Only Qun Yu Fangzun had ever reached the final stage, showcasing her extraordinary abilities.

Qun Yu Fangzun, uninterested in worldly matters, had always respected Lian Yue Daozun, despite their different paths. She moved gracefully, her disciple handing her three lit incense sticks, which she took and solemnly approached the jade coffin, bowing slightly.

“Daozun, may you journey well.”

Her cold voice was like a song under the moon, mesmerizing all who heard it: “The Daoist Alliance will uphold your legacy and eradicate the Blood Sect!”

Ning Xi’s eyes reddened, and she hoarsely thanked, “Thank you, Palace Master.”

Qun Yu Fangzun placed the incense on the burner and then sat to the side. The Daoist Alliance’s seven great forces included the Siyi Sect and Flower God Palace, as well as Xuantian Temple’s head, Ya Sheng Xingzun, Yongxue City Lord, Breaking Moon Jianzun, Xie Zhenliu, and Myriad Thorns Palace’s master, Qian Luo Yaozun.

The absent ones were Lingju Island’s master, Fu Yue Shenzun, and Shen Xiao Sect’s master, Ming Xiao Fazun.

(T/N: Daozun = Dao Venerable

         Fangzun= Beauty Venerable

         Jianzun = Sword Venerable

         Shenzun= Divine Venerable

         Yaozun= Spirit Venerable

         Xingzun= Star Venerable

         Fazun= Dharma Venerable)

It was well known that Fu Yue was a black turtle, renowned for his slowness, so his late arrival was no surprise. However, Ming Xiao Fazun, who was closest to Lian Yue Daozun, was still absent, which was puzzling.

The interrupted mourning ceremony resumed.

Xu Manman, deep in thought, approached her coffin to pay her respects but was suddenly interrupted by another commotion.

Everyone turned curiously towards the entrance, expecting the arrival of either the Lingju Island master or the Shen Xiao Sect master. Instead, a graceful and handsome man appeared.

The man had sword-like eyebrows and starry eyes; his gaze was inherently affectionate. He wore a silver robe that shimmered like fish scales and a purple-gold crown adorned with rare pearls, exuding nobility. Most present did not recognize him, but his extraordinary bearing and numerous attendants commanded respect.

Ning Xi frowned slightly but stepped forward to inquire, “May I ask which sect or residence you hail from?”

The man, holding a folding fan, smiled slightly.

“I am Ao Xiu, the Sea Emperor of the East Sea Water Clan.”

Everyone was astonished, exchanging looks of surprise. The East Sea Water Clan seldom interacted with the outside world, and none had seen the Sea Emperor before. To learn that he was so young and handsome was a revelation.

Ning Xi, puzzled, asked, “Forgive my impertinence, but isn’t the leader of the East Sea Water Clan Ao Cang Shenzun?”

Within the four seas, those titled Shenzun possessed divine bloodlines, and only the Yun Jiao, Di Luan, Fu Yue, and Tun Tian clans still had divine bloodlines.

Ao Xiu, unfazed, smiled and said, “Ao Cang Shenzun is my elder brother. He retired last month, and I am now the Sea Emperor.”

Ao Xiu’s simple statement hinted at countless battles and a sea of corpses, enough to stir anyone’s imagination.

The leader of the East Sea Water Clan, Ao Xiu, possessed the blood of the dragon clan, specifically the Yun Jiao. The dragon clan, known as the kings of all beasts, had been extinct for ten thousand years, leaving the Yun Jiao, with their dragon bloodline, as the rulers of the seas. Water clans formed their own distinct group within the spirit beast clan, rarely venturing onto land. However, the underwater battles were just as fierce as those on land. Dragons were known for their lascivious nature, and the Yun Jiao inherited some of these traits, resulting in countless offspring bearing the surname Ao. Consequently, the struggle for the throne of the Sea Emperor was a relentless bloodbath. Humans found it difficult to venture into the sea, and even Fazun could not stay underwater for long. Therefore, the Siyi Sect had no interactions with the water clans.

Even during the enthronement ceremony of the previous Sea Emperor, Ao Cang, the Siyi Sect only received an invitation and sent a gift. However, the presence of the new Sea Emperor, Ao Xiu, at Lian Yue Daozun’s funeral was quite intriguing.

Ning Xi had never heard her master mention any relationship with Ao Xiu, but seeing him come in peace, she swallowed her questions and, following protocol, led Ao Xiu inside.

Ao Xiu put away his folding fan, picked up a stick of incense, and sighed as he gazed at the cold jade coffin and the dazzling Lian Yue Crown.

“To think we meet again, only to be separated by life and death.”

Ao Xiu’s clear voice turned somber, his deep eyes reflecting the crown’s brilliance.

“If I had known, I would have come to take you away sooner.”

Standing close by, Ning Xi felt a strange unease at his words. She furrowed her brows and discreetly studied Ao Xiu’s profile. The Yun Jiao clan was known for their beauty, and Ao Xiu was exceptionally handsome with a high nose, deep-set eyes, and pupils that shimmered with a blue-green hue, inviting one to fall into their depths.

Could her master have had a romantic relationship with this man?

Ning Xi’s thoughts wandered, and she mentally scolded herself for tarnishing her master’s reputation.

Ao Xiu stood for a moment but did not perform the customary rites, drawing disapproving looks from the crowd.

Before Ning Xi could speak, someone impatiently questioned, “If Ao Xiu Shenzun has come to mourn Lian Yue Daozun, why doesn’t he pay his respects?”

Ao Xiu smiled faintly.

“She and I were Daoist companions, bound by hair. I do not need to follow the rites of a guest.”

Ning Xi was stunned, and Xu Manman felt as if struck by lightning.

His words left the hall in silence.

A moment later, a storm of whispers erupted.

“How is that possible? Lian Yue Daozun never mentioned such a thing!”

“This man claims to be the Sea Emperor and says he is Lian Yue Daozun’s Daoist companion. Is there some conspiracy here?”

People murmured and speculated among themselves.

Even the sect leaders seated nearby were surprised.

Breaking Moon Jianzun, Xie Zhenliu frowned and asked, “Humans and the water clans have no connection. Why is he claiming kinship now?”

Qian Luo Yaozun said, “Among the Seven Great Sects, only Fu Yue Shenzun is closest to the water clans. Perhaps he knows what has been happening with the water clans recently.”

As he spoke, he glanced somewhat ingratiatingly at Qun Yu Fangzun.

“What does Fangzun think?”

Qun Yu Fangzun’s eyes, bright as the moon and stars, were fixed on Ao Xiu, causing Qianluo Yaozun to feel a bit jealous.

Finally, she softly remarked, “Silver clothes go best with white boots.”

“Eh?” Qian Luo Yaozun responded, puzzled.

Even Xie Zhenliu couldn’t help but turn slightly—Qun Yu Fangzun’s focus was indeed unique.

Then Qun Yu Fangzun continued, “The gold threads on the dragon scale robe match the trim on the boots, indicating they are a set. The pearls on the hair crown match the pendant at his waist. His clothes are scented with a thousand-year-old sunken wood fragrance, and his face is adorned with an ice cream lotion.”

The hall was bustling, and Qun Yu Fangzun’s voice was very soft, only audible to those nearby. With each detail she described, the others’ gazes followed her commentary, scrutinizing Ao Xiu.

Finally, Qun Yu Fangzun concluded, “If a beloved one had just passed away, someone grieving deeply wouldn’t have the mind to dress up so meticulously.”

Qian Luo Yaozun was stunned for a moment, then agreed, “Fangzun, your insights are indeed profound!”

Xie Zhenliu nodded slightly—truly, specialization brings mastery. A woman who loves beauty is indeed formidable.

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