"Adventurer, congratulations on waking up in your final moment and escaping your fantasy - The Lost Century. "
Back inside the Hidden Territory, the Spirit's voice broke the silence. Ling Xian opened his eyes and was greeted by an exquisite, ethereal vision.
A woman of splendid beauty floated in midair. Dressed in white, she exuded a charm that shamed any earthly woman and an allure that shamed any heavenly creature.
But her gaze was cold and her demeanor icy, as if she would freeze anything that came near.
Their eyes met. Still bewitched by her beauty, Ling Xian made a polite inquisition, "You are the Spirit of the Hidden Territory?"
"Ehem… not her, that would be me."
Another voice sounded in the vicinity. Ling Xian followed the voice and saw a middle-aged man lying beneath the beautiful woman. His face was ghostly white, his eyes deprived of life. He was lying on the floor as if physically bound by the power of the woman above.
"If you are the Spirit of the Hidden Territory, then who is she?" Ling Xian was startled. However, he suddenly recalled the news regarding the awakening of the second Immortal. Inspecting the woman once more, he carefully asked, "You… are you the Keeper of Land and Sea?
"You could call me that." The woman nodded gently, her emotion unchanged. Ling Xian felt an enormous force overcome him. The presence of this woman froze time in its tracks.
Keeper of Land and Sea - a name that defines history and not the other way around!
These four simple words came crashing down as if a violent hailstorm. The air froze.
Her presence took command and wrestled the light and life away from the Sun.
"You…you are the legendary Keeper of Land and Sea?" The Spirit trapped in the body of the man exclaimed in awe, star-struck.
The Spirit had existed for millennia. Even though he had always been confined to the Hidden Territory, he had been deeply engaged in the history of the Taoism Community. The Spirit was therefore profoundly aware of the significance of her presence above him.
The Keeper of Land and Sea was undoubtedly the most stunning of all legends.
Her wisdom celebrated as the history's keeper;
And courage that made the mountains and valley weep;
Her beauty lit up the Cosmos as the hours and years stopped;
The life of a hero was lonely at the top.
These plain verses most brilliantly captured the impact of her existence.
The Spirit was nearly frightened to death. He could not believe his eyes and ears. A legend of mythical proportions who went to sleep over 200,000 years ago was now floating in front of him, and with whom he had just been engaged in a battle!
The Spirit no longer felt shame in his embarrassing defeat and confinement earlier, now that he knew this woman was the legendary Keeper of Land and Sea.
Naturally, there was no shame in being defeated at her hands.
The Spirit was suddenly emptied of all his pain. The Spirit forced an awkward laugh and began showering the woman with flattery, "The Queen of myth, I did not recognize you, please forgive me for the earlier disturbance."
The Keeper of Land and Sea threw him a stern glance as she faded into the air. Before entering the Painting of the Nine Immortals, she turned and said in an unforgiving voice which echoed throughout the dark universe long after her figure vanished.
"Ling Xian, show no mercy."
The Spirit froze. Ling Xian beamed in excitement.
He understood the meaning of her instruction. She was encouraging him to blackmail the Spirit for all the hardships Ling Xian had had to endure while completing his last task.
Ling Xian couldn't help but smile at the terrified face of the man. "Tell me everything about this Fantasy Territory," he demanded.
"Of course," the Spirit relented. "This Territory was born of natural formation. It is a time-shifting dreamland. Like its title suggests, anyone who steps into it must experience a decade of his life. If by the end of the decade, the challenger still does not realize he is living in a fantasy, he will be parted from his soul and disappear into oblivion."
Ling Xian felt a lightning of terror strike down his spine. He hadn't realized how much danger he had been in until now."
The Territory had wiped out all memories of the Painting of Nine Immortals. He never once doubted the reality of the fantasy. If he hadn't opened, by chance, the
"You dare send me to such a dangerous place?! How do you intend to compensate me for that?" Ling Xian was overcome by anger.
"Brother, listen to me," the Spirit reacted instantly, sweat beading on his forehead.
Under normal circumstances, a young cultivator in training who dared speak to him in such manner would be long dead by now. However, he didn't have a choice this time, not because he was afraid of Ling Xian, but because he dared not offend the Keeper of Land and Sea - The Untainted.
An hour ago, the Untainted had woken from her deep sleep and sensed that Ling Xian, the Keeper of the Painting of Nine Immortals, was in trouble. So she casually raised her hand, plucked the Spirit out of the Territory and confined him under her feet. Then, she demanded that Ling Xian was to be released at once, or she would destroy the entire Territory.
The Spirit was the Keeper of the Hidden Territory, but he could not control the Fantasy Territory, which was self-sustained. There was nothing he could do but pray that Ling Xian emerged out of his own fantasy alive.
Fortunately for the Spirit, Ling Xian succeeded in breaking out of the Fantasy.
Therefore, hatred was not the only feeling the Spirit had towards Ling Xian. He also felt a hint of gratitude.
"Speak quickly then, I don't have time for this." Ling Xian frowned irritably.
"Yes, yes," the Spirit forced out a grin and continued, "You had experienced such darkness and pain inside the Fantasy, but think from a different angle, you have grown a hundred years. You just experienced life as no one your age has. Don't you think that's a blessing?"
"That is not completely out of order." Ling Xian pondered a moment and deep down, agreed wholeheartedly with what the Spirit had said. He had indeed been rewarded handsomely.
First, he accumulated a hundred years' worth of experience. The rise and fall of fame and fortune, the warmth and pain of love and life, he had not been defeated.
Resilience is the most important quality of cultivation. A tumultuous life was exactly what Ling Xian needed to forge an iron will.
Walking away unscathed from the Lost Century had given him the test of time which cannot be bought or exchanged for anything in life.
This alone was enough to drive any cultivator mad with desire.
Secondly, nothing that occurred inside the Fantasy Territory was real except for the techniques he had acquired and perfected through this imagined life. Inside, Ling Xian was one step away from the Original Level of Alchemy. This was the equivalent of breaking out of the sixth realm of Alchemy in the outside world.
Every step of how he achieved this had been inked into his memory. The only thing he had to do now was to replicate that process.
Repeat everything he had just done, and he would become supreme.
The Ceramic Ceiling no longer applied to him!
What a defiant concept!
Unless one was willing to desecrate his body or swallow a large amount of powerful Dans, there were no shortcuts to bypassing the steps in the natural progression of alchemist training, regardless of one's talent and ingenuity.
The Ceramic Ceiling was a limitation that has given cultivators through the generations unlimited amount of grief. After progressing to a certain point, if a Ceramic Ceiling appeared, their journey stopped. Regardless of how much Qi one absorbs, there was no breaking the Ceramic Ceiling.
Unless the cultivator possessed incredible will or was directed by a distinguished Elder.
From training to peaking, there are numerous Ceramic Ceilings along the journey. Countless cultivators have been halted in their tracks and forever defeated.
But Ling Xian will never encounter a Ceramic Ceiling.
If this news had ever gotten out, perhaps it would result in a catastrophic revolution.
There was a third, even more unbelievable, advantage Ling Xian had. However, he does not know yet, so it shan't be revealed here.
"You have positioned it very well. Yes, it was a treacherous journey and my sufferings were immense, but this experience has indeed yielded a tremendous reward.
By now, Ling Xian had returned to his youthful appearance, no long a shattered, crippling old man. But having just experienced a century of joy and grief, his eyes no longer sparked the curiosity and naiveté of an innocent youth.
Fixing his gaze upon the Spirit of the Hidden Territory, Ling Xian smiled. "According to you, not only should I not punish you, I should actually reward you."
"Well… that is not necessary. I only ask that you spare me." The Spirit was overjoyed, believing that Ling Xian would not persist with blackmailing him.
"In your dreams!"
The words were spoken in a thunderous roar.
"I nearly died in there. You could have given me a hint that it wasn't real. Instead, you did the opposite and lied about returning me home. I believed you wholeheartedly. Without you, I could have deduced that none of it was real and I wouldn't have suffered so much!" Ling Xian barked at the human form.
"Spirit of the Hidden Territory, if you don't give me a satisfactory explanation today, I'll destroy all of this, destroy you."