He was only fifteen years of age, and yet, he had conquered the eighth realm of alchemy.
Even a three-year-old child understood what such an achievement at the tender age of fifteen implies - incomparable talent and unlimited potential that could ultimately rule the world of Alchemy.
Such a diamond in the rough is evidently of great value to any Clan of prominence. He would become the most highly sought after commodity in the city of Cang Yun.
As he rose to prominence, the mistress of one of the city's four dominant Clans, the Chen Clan, came knocking. Despite the family's best intentions, she turned out to be a spoilt, mean-spirited woman who insisted that Ling Xian came as her servant instead of her guest.
This was out of the question. Under duress, Ling Xian was forced to resort to violence, defeating her guards and sending her into a fit of rage. Her subsequent wrath led her to falsely accuse Ling Xian of making improper advances toward her.
The false accusations led the Chen Clan to turn on Ling Xian and issue a Kill Order.
Ling Xian was no match for an entire Clan of fighters. Piggybacking on the forces of the Winged Blitz, Ling Xian returned to a life of exile.
This life lasted another few years. While on the run from his pursuers, Ling Xian continued practicing alchemy and drafting a plot for revenge.
Eventually, Ling Xian reached the seventh realm of alchemy. After successfully brewing a Foundational Dan, he finally broke the Foundational level of alchemy.
However, he was still only at the infant stage of the Foundational level, not enough to execute his plan of revenge. In the act of desperation, he sacrificed his body to brew and refine the dreaded Dan of the Evil Heart. This Dan allows a cultivator to mature at a terrifying speed, albeit at the expense of irreversible self-harm to one's own body and soul.
But Ling Xian was obsessed with revenge, now the only motivation behind life itself. So he consumed the Dan without hesitation, propelling himself to the top of the Foundational level.
Then he returned to the City of Qing and completed his revenge against the Fangs and Qis.
Nobody was spared. Mutilated corpses laid to waste under his wrath.
Ling Xian raised his eyes to the sky and let out a terrifying laugh that shook the heavens, an agonizing laugh filled with pain and defeat.
His loved ones had been avenged. He would now live only for himself.
Returning to the city of Cang Yun, Ling Xian made the Chen Clan his first stop. Despite the fierce defense the Chens had put up, he finished the woman who tarnished his good name.
The Chens had been defeated in body and will, powerless to retaliate or pursue.
Shortly after, he met by chance a mysterious, elderly man who was on the brink of death. Ling Xian brewed a healing Dan and saved his life. After the man had recovered, Ling Xian learned of his true identity - a Master of alchemy, the Master of one of nine Clans of Yun Zhou, the Qing Yun Zong.
Ling Xian thus became a disciple of Qing Yun Zong. Showcasing his incredible prowess and unparalleled ingenuity, he immediately won over the admiration and adoration of teachers and pupils alike and rose through the ranks to Prefect, unchallenged.
In a skills competition of the Nine Clans, Ling Xian emerged the dominant conqueror in every category. His techniques unsurpassed, his character untainted, his supremacy unquestionable. He was on the fast-track to becoming the next Leader of his Clan.
Anyone who dared challenge him fell at his sword. His legend was immortalized.
It was the most glorious day of his life.
The next few years saw the tides turn on him. The side effects of consuming the Dan of the Evil Heart had gradually taken over his mind and soul. His powers eroded, his character changed, the aura that spelled invincibility faded into oblivion.
The Majestic Blood became diluted, the Eyes of Execution vanished, and the Heaven Shadowing Palm Technique punctured beyond repair.
His dream was washed away along with the powers that defined his golden age of glory.
The disappointment of his elders and the ridicules from his enemies were slowly suffocating him. His fall from the top was a swift one.
Those who were previously suppressed by his talents had all but succeeded in breaking into the Mastery Level of Alchemy, a feat Ling Xian could not achieve even after swallowing 127 golden Dans.
Those were the quiet individuals whose existences were overshadowed by the star that was Ling Xian. Unable to surpass the cleverness and skills of this gifted youth, they pushed themselves to the edge of their abilities to ignite whatever light they had left to simply exist.
However, the tides have turned. Ling Xian's fall from grace gave these previously insignificant souls of the Qing Yun Zong a sudden opportunity to shine. Unleashing the skills they had quietly acquired, everyone emerged to surpass him in ability and stature.
Eventually, Ling Xian cracked under pressure and turned his back on Qing Yun Zong.
The day he left for the unknown, he spiraled into depression. Reminiscing on the dreams he shattered with his own hands, Ling Xian found peace and decided to live out the rest of his life in hiding.
He ventured deep into the forest, away from the swords, the blood, and the evils of society.
He filled days with gardening, landscaping, and winemaking, the life of a most ordinary cultivator. This existence brought him happiness, quietness, and peace.
Nearly a couple decades went by in such peace. Ling Xian had fully turned his back on those tumultuous days of his past.
Flowers blossomed and withered, clouds merged and separated.
Ling Xian had finally experienced enlightenment.
However, just as he had finally submitted himself to a life of obscurity, the appearance of an old enemy knocked his plans off course.
Many moons ago, Ling Xian had come across a man attempting to violate a woman in broad daylight. He foiled the attempt and drove the man away. When the man returned with an entourage to seek revenge, Ling Xian defeated them all and in the process, cut off his arm.
The man had since heard rumors of Ling Xian's fall from grace and, after ten years of searching, finally tracked him down to his hiding place.
But he did not come alone. Instead, he was accompanied by a woman.
This was the woman whose life Ling Xian had saved. Since the rescue, she had wanted to form a partnership with Ling Xian, not out of love, but out of the potential she saw in him.
However, Ling Xian was not fooled by her intentions and rejected her advancement.
Fast forward to today, the woman stood in front of him in the arms of the bandit who tried to violate her, staring at him with contempt and disgust.
Ling Xian instantly understood that it was she who betrayed his whereabouts. He was overcome with a sense of sadness, both by her betrayer and by his own circumstances.
Circumstances filled with sarcasm, irony, and desolation.
Ling Xian stood undeterred as the man's sword headed straight for his chest.
But the sword fell before it reached its target. Ling Xian was unharmed.
A woman in blue suddenly appeared, stopping the sword advancing with her bare fingers.
The next moment, two heads fell swiftly where their bodies had stood a moment ago.
The souls escaped the bodies of the headless enemy and his backstabbing companion.
The women in blue turned towards Ling Xian. Her beauty surpassed that of the moon itself.
She reignited the fire in his heart with one soft whisper.
I can cure you.
Everything he had acquirement through his enlightenment vanished in an instant. Without a moment of hesitation, he followed her to Qing Men, one of seven prominent Clans of Yue Zhou.
Yu Wu Xiu.
This was her name.
Not the most skilled cultivator, but a kind woman with a gentle soul, a woman every man would want to bury in his arms and protect from harm.
She took Ling Xian into her bedroom and presented him her family treasure. The magical artifact expelled the side effects of the Dan of Evil Hearts instantly and restored all powers Ling Xian had previously lost. More importantly, through the rise and fall of his fortune, he had acquired an additional power - the Universal Sight of Honor.
Ling Xian found himself at the top once more, surpassing even the peak of his former glory. He used only a decade to reach the latter stages of the Mastery Level of alchemy, a new record for the Taoism Community. His fighting power was approaching the Original Level.
Two more decades passed. Ling Xian had once again become the unreachable, unconquerable peak adored, admired and envied by all.
During the same time, he had also fallen hopelessly in love with Yu Wu Xiu.
There was no love at first sight, no declaration of everlasting love, no story of a passionate affair. From friendship to love, everything had progressed organically.
But the moment came when the conspiracy, 20 years in the making, was thrown into the limelight.
That day, Ling Xian had planned to go to Heaven's Peak at the Qing Gate to break into the Original Level.
A massive, celebratory crowd arrived to witness his moment of glory.
Conquering the Heaven's Peaks was the last step in a cultivator's quest for entering the realm of immortality. The chances were roughly one in ten thousand.
Attempting to break into the Original Level would invite the Wrath of the Nine Heavens. Thunderbolts would rain down on the challenger and kill those who were ill prepared. But Ling Xian was certain he would survive.
However, as he stepped up to confront the last thunderbolt, Yu Wu Xiu suddenly appeared in front of him. Instantly, thunderbolts vanished, his powers weakened, his weapons lost.
Images of his life flashed across his mind as if everything had been a nightmarish dream, a dream where the two of them had never met.
Ling Xian prayed that this had all been a dream. But sadly, it was everything but.