Even though thousands of people were walking on it, the Golden Bridge didn’t look packed at all, due to its considerable width. Wang Lu was walking without a care behind the uneasy crowd, cheerfully talking with his pageboy.
The procession was quite distinguished, with more than half of the attendees from eminent families. But at the foot of the Spirit Blade Mountain, everyone would keep quiet out of fear. It was a difficult task to keep one’s composure – very few acted carefree. But Wang Lu’s spectacular performance when he appeared made him especially eye-catching.
While most people were hesitating, there was someone already coming for Wang Lu, easily saying hi to him, with a tone of familiarity.
“Hey, I haven’t seen you lately.”
Wang Lu was in the middle of having a pleasant conversation with his pageboy, hence this person’s interjection suddenly stupefied him. He turned around and immediately said, “Do you owe me money?”
The man became stupefied too. “Uh… I don’t think so?”
“Well then, do I have to talk to you?”
“Then why did you talk to me? Simply trying to strike up a conversation?”
“Who the hell are you?”
The boy forced a smile, “Now I know why people say that prominent people tend to have short memories…” He cupped his hands together and said, “I am Hai Yun Fan from the Cloud Region. We met in the lobby at the Ru Family Inn a week ago.”
Wang Lu knitted his brows, trying to recall who he was. “Oh, you were the young man who asked me about the tasks… Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Not really. I’m just curious as to why you’re not as concerned and worried like everyone else here. I really want to know how you’re pulling this act off.”
Wang Lu laughed, “So, you’re looking to me for advice again? That’s no good. A qualified adventurer should feel honoured to explore by themselves. What’s the point in chewing sugar canes that have been chewed by other people already?”
Hai Yun Fan’s eyes lit up. “Does that mean you actually know some tricks for walking on this bridge?”
“How’s that even possible? I haven’t read the strategy guide.”
Wang Lu became serious. “It’s all about strength. If you’re strong enough, then why would you need to care about tactics and tricks? For me, the road to immortality will be plain sailing.”
Wang Lu’s confident and courageous words really surprised Hai Yun Fan, and moved him to gaze at the sky. Wang Lu looked up with him. The sky was bright and scattered with floating clouds. There were no birds in the sky, which made Wang Lu wonder what exactly Hai Yun Fan was gazing at.
Hai Yun Fan sighed. “I was looking for thunderbolts. Bragging at the foot of the Spirit Blade Mountain, I wouldn’t be surprised if you got struck by one.”
Wang Lu laughed. “Your name is Hai Yun Fan right? Don’t worry, I’ll remember you this time. Don’t worry. I’ll protect you when we get into the sect.”
“Very kind of you to say so.” Hai Yun Fan cupped his hands together again, and started walking next to Wang Lu, with Wang Lu’s pageboy conscientiously walking behind them.
Wang Lu didn’t mind him at all. He asked, “If I remember correctly, you were born into a powerful family right?”
“I mean, your dad is very powerful.”
“Kind of. He’s the emperor of the Cloud Mountain Empire.”
“Oh my god. Then don’t you have three thousand stepmothers?”
“Anyway, why did you give up royalty to come here?”
Hai Yun Fan laughed. “Power and influence in the mortal world is not as fascinating to me anymore compared to the wonder of the immortal world. As for Xiuxian, it is indeed easy for me to get into some normal sects because of my family’s power. In the Cloud Mountain Empire, the White Dragon Temple and Benevolent Cloud Mountain are both fourth-rate sects in the Ten Thousand Celestial Alliance.” His smile turned satiric. “But fourth-rate sects are nothing compared to the five top sects in the Alliance, let alone…”
Hai Yunfan had another glance at the sky. “There are no sects that can actually touch the immortal world other than the five great sects. Among the ten thousand sects in the Alliance, only these five sects mastered their way to immortality. If I’ve decided to enter the Xiuxian world, I will definitely be a real immortal. Otherwise, I’d rather live a comfortable life as an emperor.”
Wang Lu looked surprised. “You sure know a lot.”
Hai Yun Fan smiled. “Of course. I gathered a lot of information before I chose to embark on this journey. And the information isn’t a secret anyway. I’m probably more prepared compared to a certain someone.”
Wang Lu shrugged and smiled, saying to himself inwardly, “Well I didn’t prepare at all. A spectacular life is all about taking exams without any preparations. Who gives a shit?”
They walked side by side. The Golden Bridge wound its way up and was quite steep, but neither Wang Lu nor Hai Yun Fan felt tired. They gradually moved forward in their procession.
Staring at the young men they passed, Hai Yunfan said, “Well, before this Celestial Gathering held by the Spirit Blade Mountain, the five great sects had never selected disciples from such a great number of people. Even the Celestial Gathering would be held once in a while with many limits in place. So this gathering is really something.”
Wang Lu looked around and said, “Yeah, there are so many high-ranking princelings, enough to hold a Grand Haitian Banquet.”
“Well, these are people who possess more than just an eminent position. As far as I know, more than eighty percent of them have natural spirit bases.”
The pageboy, Wang Zhong, was also astonished. “How do you know that?”
Hai Yun Fan laughed. “Don’t underestimate me. Even though I’m a crowned prince, I know the names of most people here… After all, who would have the guts to come to the Spirit Blade Mountain without genuine skills and preparation? Among the five great sects, the Spirit Blade Mountain and Mount Kunlun are famous for sticking to traditional conventions. The Spirit Blade is even more obstinate than Kunlun. Thus, there aren’t any artificial spirit bases in the sect so far. The only thing any ordinary person could get from here is humiliation.”
While Hai Yun Fan was talking, Wang Lu did not seem worried, but his pageboy was looking awful. He thought of the spirit base development medicine in his bag.
Hai Yun Fan laughed again. “However, the Spirit Blade Sect only restricted candidates to ages twelve or under on this Celestial Gathering, but mentioned nothing about spirit bases. Maybe they’ve changed their mind? Although the remaining twenty percent of people here are just trying out their luck, I think they’ll fail eventually.”
The three had already been walking on the bridge for quite some time as they were talking. The clouds were getting dense around them, and the Spirit River Town behind was becoming all the more smaller and distant. The pageboy was following closely to Wang Lu and Hai Yunfan, not even daring to look down.
The Golden Bridge still looked endless. Clouds enveloped the front, and all they could see were tired young men resting along the way. Without realising, they had already made it to the front of the procession.
Wang Lu sighed. “Those princelings are so weak. Already tired after such a short distance? Looks like they abandoned themselves to wine and women at such a young age.”
It was just a normal joke, but Hai Yun Fan looked surprised.
The pageboy Wang Zhong complained. “Young Master, I feel really tired. I can barely keep moving.”
Wang Lu’s brows knitted. “You always ate so much meat and fish. Why are you as useless as those loafers? Come on, you just carried a lunch box.”
Wang Zhong became upset. “It’s not like that. This road is very strange. I didn’t walk for too long, but it’s made me feel so tired to the point of breathlessness.”
“Then use your skin to breathe. Never mind. Give me the bags.”
Wang Lu sighed as he took the bags from Wang Zhong, carrying it on his back effortlessly.
“That’s weird. Why do I feel like it’s even easier than walking on level ground?”
“Young Master, you were always exceptional…”
While the two were walking, they did not notice Hai Yun Fan staring at them in awe.
Wang Zhong felt much easier without the bags, and thus continued to follow his young master in their ascension. Clouds had now completely enveloped their surroundings. Even the brilliancy of the Golden Bridge was partly covered. Most people had been left behind, and of the few that were ahead of the three, many were out of breath from walking.
By now, Wang Lu had also realised that something was off. “Can this road absorb people’s semen? Could it be that those who lose their virginity would feel more and more tired while walking? So Wang Zhong, when did you lose your virginity?”
“No I didn’t!”
“Why are you sweating a lot then?”
“So you actually lost it. Good for you.”
The pageboy almost knelt down. “Young Master, please stop…”
Hai Yun Fan laughed while he was watching their banter. He said to Wang Lu, “You and your pageboy are not ordinary people. You’ve been walking for a long time.”
“You call this ‘not ordinary’? These people are worse than pigs if they can’t even walk on a bridge. And this guy needed his young master to carry the bags for him. Who’s the young master now?”
Hai Yun Fan shook his head. “Your standards are too high… Anyways, it’s been great accompanying you two. But all good things must come to an end. Here I must bid you two farewell.”
“Why? What happened?”
Wang Lu widened his eyes, feeling disappointed. Hai Yun Fan wasn’t the only one enjoying the company. It was the first time Wang Lu had found another friend after he’d been living in the Wang Family Village for more than ten years. When he said he would protect Hai Yun Fan, he wasn’t completely joking.
Although he was just a countryman and Hai Yun Fan was a noble prince, Wang Lu saw him as a friend.
Hai Yun Fan nodded to Wang Lu kindly, and explained, “It’s nothing. I just don’t feel like I should keep walking. Being here is already enough for me.”
Wang Lu still didn’t understand.
“You don’t have to understand me. I’ve found my place.”
Then Hai Yunfan moved close to Wang Lu’s ear and whispered. “Be careful of your pageboy. Although his name means ‘loyalty’, he is not as loyal as you think.”
A gust of wind blew at the same time, which made Wang Lu close his eyes and ask, “What did you just say?”
But when he turned around, Hai Yun Fan had already disappeared. Wang Zhong didn’t pick up on what Hai Yun Fan said either.
The clouds around then were becoming more dense – they could only see as far as five metres. Wang Lu said, “Could it be that he already became an immortal?”
“Never mind. Let’s go… I don’t know when we’ll reach the end.”
They did not walk too far this time.
It was not because they reached the end, or that Wang Lu felt run down. The pageboy just couldn’t keep walking.
Although all the bags were carried on Wang Lu’s back, the pageboy was still getting more and more tired, and eventually fell on the ground and couldn’t get up.
“Young Master, can you please walk by yourself? I am incapable of walking any further.”
“That’s why I told you not to come with me at the beginning. Now you’re giving me such a face…” Wang Lu shook his head when he looked at the nearly paralysed Wang Zhong. “I can’t leave you here alone. I’ll have a rest with you. We were so close to catching up with the people ahead… I don’t know if there are any benefits in being first, but it sounds like quite an achievement in itself.”
Wang Lu felt ashamed and didn’t say anything. He stopped talking, putting the bags on the ground. As he sat down, all the clouds around them disappeared and the golden radiance grew dim. A lush valley had suddenly appeared around them.
Astonished, Wang Lu marvelled at the dramatic change in scenery.
“Did… Did we travel through time and space?”