ts techniques, but his curiosity and longing for the sect’s history lingered.

“Master, will we still pass on the secret arts of the past?” Lin Shouxi asked.

The leader of the Demon Gate shook his head, “No, those techniques are incompatible with our way of drawing in true energy.
Our sect once lived in accord with the world, simply striving for happiness.
But after our ancestors stumbled upon the fish’s and snake’s books, our purpose shifted.
We had to relinquish our former existence in order to combat the encroaching miasma of the demon’s breath.”

A tinge of remorse laced Lin Shouxi’s sigh, but his master jolted him back to reality.
“Beginning tomorrow, you must unlearn all the spells you’ve acquired over the past three years,” his master ordered.

Lin Shouxi’s preoccupied mind caused him to miss the latter and most crucial part of his master’s statement.

Noticing his pupil’s absentmindedness, the master regarded Lin Shouxi with a glint of curiosity in his eyes.
“Do you not wish to inquire as to why?” he inquired.

“Why?” the youth replied, his voice laced with confusion.

“Simply put,” his master replied enigmatically, “the various techniques you have acquired will coalesce into the ultimate sword technique of the Demon Gate – the revered White Pupil Black Phoenix Sword Scripture.” With a swift motion of his sleeve, he turned on his heel and departed.

The statue of the White Pupil Black Phoenix loomed tall before the mountain gate, a symbol of reverence and worship for the Demon Gate.
The statue, black as a flame and proud as a bird of prey, never lost its ferocity, even as the winds of time blew past it.
Its white pupils shone bright, as if they could peer into the very depths of the universe.

His master recounted forth a legend, passed down through the generations of their sect.
It was said that the founder had beheld a dream where the Black Phoenix, a deity revered and worshiped, had made its presence known.
In this mystical vision, the deity gifted the founder with a sword scripture, a set of nine levels, seemingly elementary yet enigmatic.
Despite the centuries that had transpired, no one had ever succeeded in unlocking its complete and utter might.

“Dragons reign over a hundred scales, and phoenixes rule over ten thousand birds.
Endowed with a scale and bestowed with this sword scripture, you shall undoubtedly become unrivaled in the world.”

On the first day of Lin Shouxi’s sword cultivation, his master encouraged him with these words.

But Lin Shouxi was aware of the journey ahead.
“The higher the technique, the longer the road…” he told his master.
To this, his master replied with a twinkle in his eye, “That’s a saying of the Tao Gate.
Ours is quite the opposite.
Besides, there’s another saying that states that what is short in length may be long in width.”

Lin Shouxi inclined his head in a measured manner, allowing the wisdom imparted to take root within him.
With a blazing resolve, he continued his journey along the path of cultivation.

Because Lin Shouxi was gifted with a rare aptitude, he did not disappoint his master’s belief in him.
In a mere handful of seasons, he had scaled to the pinnacle of the eighth level, outpacing even the most prodigious of his fellow disciple-brothers and sisters.

However, life was not akin to cultivation, and his exceptional talent would not ensure a lifetime of smooth sailing.

The year he turned fourteen, his master passed away, felled by the fatal disease of true energy erosion.
On his deathbed, his master summoned Lin Shouxi to his room and showed him his wrist, where a black and purple stripe, like a leech, clung to his once-strong skin.

“Death has come for me,” his master said calmly.

“Can I do anything?” Lin Shouxi asked, heartbroken.

“Shouxi, you are the disciple I have invested the most effort into, and I called you here today to teach you one final thing,” his master looked at him, speaking gravely and with great emotion.

Lin Shouxi thought that his master was going to teach him some hidden technique, but no, his master simply stood before him, letting him watch as the true energy slowly eroded his body, consuming him before his very eyes.

Lin Shouxi fell to his knees, eyes wide with shock and terror, as he gazed upon his master.
His figure was now a twisted and distorted visage, his skin marred by writhing purplish veins, his bones melted away into grotesque contortions.
The demon of corruption had been awakened within him, devouring him limb by limb, a voracious beast consuming its host.

Lin Shouxi, for the first time, comprehended the full measure of his master’s advanced years.
He reached for his sword, intent on delivering the final mercy, but his master, wracked with suffering, shook his head and emitted a pained moan.

The putrefying flesh, rife with rot and foul sores, was a torment beyond comprehension.
Still, the old man persevered, enduring unspeakable agony, until the sky was cast in shadow and there was a sharp snap, the sound of his eyes tumbling from their sockets and smashing on the ground.
A final, haunting scream sundered the air.

Tears streamed down Lin Shouxi’s face as he clutched his own face in sorrow.
He grasped the sword of his fallen master, “Death’s Proof”, a weapon passed from generation to generation of the Demon Gate’s leaders.
Its ominous name was a testament to their unwavering resolve to meet their end with dignity.

He ran the sword across the palm of his hand.

“The evil dragon will be reborn, inhabiting a human form and bearing an inverse scale in its mouth, to bring misfortune to the common people… Master, you always believed in me, and I shall not let you down,” Lin Shouxi vowed, his eyes fixed on the bloody scar on his hand.
“I will vanquish all wickedness and usher in a new era of prosperity for the world.”


Amidst the raging storm, Mu Shijing silently watched Lin Shouxi labor to his feet, nearly stumbling several times before finally attaining steadiness.
As he went to retrieve his rain-pelted sword from the ground, utilizing the White Pupil Black Phoenix Sword Technique to infuse his limbs with energy and dull the pain of his wounds, her gaze never broke.
Even as he girded himself for battle and began to walk towards the demon, with the tip of his sword leaving a trail of water in its wake, her eyes followed.

Ignoring her persistent gaze, Lin Shouxi raised his head to the demon.

“You are the source of all filth…”

When he suddenly started laughing, Mu Shijing’s voice rose from behind him.

“What are you doing?” she asked him coldly.

Lin Shouxi paused to face her.
“Is this one of the deities you worship?” he asked back, his eyes accusatory.

Mu Shijing’s heart was in chaos.
This was the City of Death, the nexus of all true energy, yet this horrible demon was burning with it.

It shouldn’t have been possible.

How could a deity be such a thing?!

Struggling to come to terms with what she was seeing, Mu Shijing finally spoke up.
“That… that thing is no deity of mine,” she declared, her voice quivering.
“It is a demon! A creature of chaos and destruction that has defiled the pure and unblemished energy granted to us by the gods beyond recognition.”

“A demon…?” Lin Shouxi chuckled softly, as if mocking the idea that gods and demons were distinct entities.

Without another word, he pivoted on his heel and faced the demon head-on.
Blood gushed from his eyes, cascading down his ashen cheeks.
He dashed towards the monster, defying the howling winds, and with a fierce swing of his sword, he vaulted into the air, striking at the demon with all his might.
The blade shimmered like a broken moon, casting a frigid light upon the tumultuous scene.

The moment seemed to still, as the only peer she had in this world was about to be killed.
Mu Shijing felt a pang of loneliness, and the cold laughter of the one whose back was turned to her echoed piercingly in her ears, as an understanding blossomed within.

Mu Shijing lifted her sword from the ground, its blade reflecting her porcelain face like a mirror.
“It’s a demon,” she said.
“My sect has been committed to exterminating these creatures for the past three centuries.
And now that one is right before me, how can I turn a blind eye?”

Her voice was tender and had a touch of sadness and determination in it.

The Tao Gate’s core method began to circulate again.

Pushing down her inner despair and fear, she tightened the grip on her sword and swooped into the pouring rain.

The demon was in front of her, and the girl, like a silverfish desperately spreading its fins, made a leap towards the empty sky.

In this moment, the heirs of the Tao and Demon sects moved as one, their swords pointing in the same direction, glinting like celestial bodies streaking across the heavens.

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