The Nine Heavens; they rest on a sea of cloud, along with the Wind and Thunder Platform. In the distance, lies a sliver of sky.
This is the Three Higher Heavens on the Continent of The Nine Heavens. This is the Wind and Thunder Platform, one of the most treacherous regions in The Nine Heavens. Here, nothing can shield you from the rage of shrieking gales or the fury of roaring thunder; the only exit is a sliver of sky in the distance.
At that particular moment, a foul, miserable fog covered the entire platform.
"Chu Yang, give up the Nine Tribulations Sword! We will spare your life if you do so!"
"Chu Yang, your death is at hand; you should just hand over the Nine Tribulations Sword. At least then we can ensure that you die a painless death!"
"Chu Yang, the highest ranked sword is completely wasted on you. It's been so many years, but you still show no improvement. Just hand it over."
All around, a burst of deafening shouts could be heard.
At the centre of the platform was a large, slightly protruding rock. Chu Yang, dressed in black, covered in blood and hair dishevelled, sat on that rock. However, he had a look of indifference, and his eyes were calm and sturdy, like a boulder. On that rock, he sat up as straight as a javelin.
Like the sword he was wielding, he was filled with undying determination, even though he was already mortally injured!
At his feet, within a radius of several thousand feet, the ground was covered in disembodied limbs and unrecognisable corpses, drenched in fresh, dripping blood.
The expert fighters surrounding him continued their threatening cries, but none were eager to clash with Chu Yang. Looking at them, Chu Yang laughed mockingly at them, a laughter filled with arrogance and disdain.
Looking at these experts, who were shouting but waiting for another fighter to rush into battle, Chu Yang smiled cynically, and in his eyes were a cold look of arrogance and disdain. Despite being swamped by an army of experts and completed cornered with no hopes of survival, Chu Yang did not cease his prideful attitude.
The expert fighters were no fools. Although Chu Yang was already at death's door, none were rushing into battle with him because he could still unleash an attack which would ensure both him and his opponent would perish. They were waiting for a reckless fighter amongst them to stupidly charge to his death, but unfortunately, none of them were that reckless. As such, they were at an impasse, and could not make any move against Chu Yang.
"These people, and their dense brains; they will never be worthy of being my enemy - even if they had higher levels of martial cultivation or larger numbers, or could kill me a million times!"
Chu Yang slowly sat down, a cynical look still on his face. He remained silent, but his mind started to fill with questions. "How did they find out that I had the Nine Tribulations Sword?" He had spent three years investigating whether there was a fragment of the Nine Tribulations Sword at the Wind and Thunder Platform. He finally arrived at the Three Higher Heavens after facing countless obstacles and risking his life in a journey which only had a one-in-ten survival rate. But why did they ambush him only after he arrived at the Three Higher Heavens?
It was only his fifth day at the Three Higher Heavens. Furthermore, the ambush came just as he found the Wind and Thunder Platform! Not to mention that Chu Yang had been known to be extremely secretive, so who would have figured out his plans?
Obviously, someone understood Chu Yang's habits very well. Even though Chu Yang charged forward more than ten times, he was blocked and pushed back every single time. Furthermore, every single escape route he chose led to a dead end. Under normal circumstances, Chu Yang would have definitely found a path to freedom. Who exactly was this enemy who was so familiar with Chu Yang's actions? This question tormented Chu Yang endlessly.
The blade of the Nine Tribulations Sword gleamed brilliantly, reflecting the bright sunlight and creating a vibrant rainbow in the sky. All the experts felt their hearts racing, eager to obtain the godly sword. For the sword was a Higher Ancient Godly Item, ranked highest in the Continent of the Nine Heavens! Whoever obtained the sword would be practically undefeatable! Not only that, legends told of greater powers which the sword wielded:
"The Nine Tribulations of the Nine Heavens - one sword to decimate the universe, and one sword to reign supreme for a thousand years and more. The Nine Tribulations of the Nine Heavens - exceed the Heavens beyond the Nine Heavens!"
This was what remained of the ancient ballad about the godly sword, passed down from generations ago - so many generations ago that its origins have been long forgotten. The sword itself was practically a legend. No one thought that the Nine Tribulations Sword actually existed, and no one imagined that it would appear in front of their very eyes.
Chu Yang also had his doubts about the Nine Tribulations Sword. Yes, he did obtain the sword and find of its five fragments. But, somewhat disappointingly, he discovered that the Nine Tribulations Sword did not seem to be as powerful as he had thought it would be. Furthermore, there was always a large gap between him and the sword; no matter how much fresh blood he poured over it or how much sincerity he put into it, there seemed to be no effect. Why was that so? Why? Why?!
All of his emotions abandoned just for this divine sword! He had forsaken his emotions and immersed in the sword; from the Way of the Sword, he began immersing himself in the Way of Martial Arts, and from there he began to seek the Way of the Heavens. As a result, he led a lonely existence, filled with violence and killing. Even so, in the end, he could not master the Nine Tribulations Sword, and by extension the Art of the Nine Heavens.
Had he made a wrong choice? Was the path that he took a mistake? Or could it be that… his lack of emotion was not strong enough to placate the Nine Tribulations Sword?
An emotionless swordsman. How could a swordsman with emotions call himself a swordsman? The Way of the Sword, Martial Arts and the Heavens all lacked emotion. But why… why were his emotions wavering right as he was about to die?
Oh, Nine Tribulations Sword, what exactly do you want from me?!
Seeing how eager the experts were to obtain the Nine Tribulations Sword, Chu Yang bitterly thought, "You guys know that this sword can grant you invincibility, but do you know how much I have sacrificed, just to obtain this sword?"
"I have nothing left anymore."
In Chu Yang's mind, a graceful figure, dressed in red, began to emerge, slowly becoming clearer and clearer. The figure raised her sleeves slightly, swaying in the wind, while a melody began to play in the background. All the while, the figure continued to dance, moving with the grace of a swan on water, almost dreamily...
Chu Yang's eyes suddenly lost their sharp, cold look. Instead, sorrow and loss began to fill them.
In the meantime, blood continued to pour from his body, and Chu Yang felt his energy draining quickly. He had pursued Martial Arts his entire life. Entering a relationship, breaking it off, abandoning his feelings. He thought that if he were to die, his one regret would be that he did not manage to achieve the martial domain level of superiority he had pursued while he was alive. However, instead, a figure which he thought he had abandoned in the deepest chasm of his mind began to emerge in his consciousness.
That beautiful figure was clad in flowing, abundantly red clothing. Every action she took was light and graceful; a turn of her head to look back at him, a curl of her body in her dance which would never end… Chu Yang's began to sing in his mind. Every time the figure turned to face him, he caught her gaze, and it was a gaze filled with passion, strong but graceful, vast as the ocean.
The figure was Mo Qing Wu, who Chu Yang had once loved, but also broken up with.
"I guess I never really did break off that relationship…" Chu Yang muttered under his breath, the edges of his mouth curling into the slightest sorrowful smile.
Remorse began to rise in his mind; like fog on a rainy day, it thoroughly enveloped his soul. He lost control of his emotions and thoughts - not that he wanted to rein them in.
"Qing Wu! If I died now, would I meet you?"
"Qing Wu, did you know? When I began practicing the Three Tribulations of Emotional Destruction Slash and had to leave you, I really regretted it…"
Chu Yang was filled with an unbearable sense of loss.
"Everyone! We should attack him together now! We can slowly negotiate the ownership of the Nine Tribulations Sword later on, but we continue to dawdle and he recovers, we will suffer even greater losses!" One of the experts shouted suddenly. The surrounding experts cried in agreement and raised their weapons, moving towards Chu Yang while cornering him.
Meanwhile, Chu Yang remained seated, unmoving as if in a trance. He seemed to be looking at something in front of him. As if filled with a dark desolation which had existed since the ancient times, the strains of hair which were soaked in blood began to float above his forehead.
In his mind, Mo Qing Wu's dancing grew more and more intense, shifting into a blur of red shadows. The blur rose into the sky, weaving itself into a tapestry of red silk, vast and boundless. At that moment, a graceful but sorrowful voice began singing.
"A lifetime is not a graceful dance,
For a dance is a life of sorrow.
I will dance for you in this life,
And sorrow may I be, I will dance my whole life!"
That was Mo Qing Wu's pledge of love, a short poem that she had written. He could still remember the moment when he left Mo Qing Wu. Her eyes filled with tears, and her gaze drowned in a heavy sorrow. She… she had known for a long time that he was just using her emotions to practice his martial arts. However, like a moth drawn to candlelight, she could not resist surrendering her heart to him, allowing him to set her fragile heart aflame as he pleased.
Ah, that pure-hearted girl… As Chu Yang yearned for her, a wave of bitterness swept across his heart. Only at the end of his life did he realise how precious his feelings for her were... but alas, he could no longer return to the way things were.
He could still remember the last time he saw Mo Qing Wu. It was when he rejected her for the final time. She was returning home with a broken heart and defeated spirit, but was attacked on the way back. Like the fragrance of a rose diffuses into the air after it dies, she passed away.
Although Chu Yang had rushed over upon receiving the news, he had been too late, only managing to see her in her final moments. He later killed the entire clan of Mo Qing Wu's attackers, sparing not even their animals! But the beautiful Mo Qing Wu would not return to life.
With her dying breath, Mo Qing Wu lay in his arms and said, "Chu Yang, if there is another life… if we meet again... I hope… that you will take a closer look … at me… don't I look nicer ... than a sword?"
"Chu Yang, to be able to die like this… in your embrace… I have no regrets …" Those were her final words.
Oh, Qing Wu, you did have regrets, didn't you? Otherwise, why were there tears welling up in your eyes? As she took her last breath, two small teardrops flowed from her eyes down her clear face… she had forced herself to smile even as she was dying, just to keep from hurting Chu Yang's feelings… that was how wretched she…
Two teardrops, that was all it took to shatter his heart. From then on, it would never recover.
Floating gently in a dream,
As demons dance in bloodstained seas and mountains of corpses.
A man does not doubt the sparring swords within a thousand Li,
Together forever, in Life and through Death, unto the Highest Heaven!
This was a poem written by Xue Lei Han, the highest-ranked scholar under the Heavens, in response to Mo Qing Wu's undying feelings for Chu Yang.
"Now, Qing Wu, you are already at the Highest Heaven, but I'm still here in the Mortal Realm... but soon, I'll be with you forever in Life and through Death… even after generations and generations!"
Chu Yang was fully absorbed in his thoughts, and the edges of his lips, usually cold and hard, began to curve into the slightest bittersweet smile. His blood-stained hair began the float in the wind…
"Qing Wu, wait for me!"
"Qing Wu, if there is another life, I'd rather not practice the Way of the Sword or aim to reach whatever pinnacle. I wouldn't choose revenge; I'd choose you! Now I know, in this world, there was never anything more worthy of my pursuit than your satisfied smile!"
The graceful dance and music in his consciousness grew faint, as did Mo Qing Wu's already ethereal voice. "Sorrow may I be… I will dance for you in this life… through the generations… Even if my heart is broken a million times… it will never change… Even if I died a thousand times … I will not resent you… I will not…"
"Shua!" A golden blade sliced through the wind and flew towards Chu Yang. Still in a trance, Chu Yang effortlessly deflected the blow with his sword. In his mind, he was still struggling to catch Mo Qing Wu's fading voice. "I'm already about to die… Ah, Qing Wu, let me hear more of your sweet voice before I go."
"No resentment... Qing Wu, you should've resent me, but you didn't. Right now... I really resent myself! I regret everything!"
The sabres and swords continued to fly at Chu Yang, and blood spurted forth from fresh wounds. Slowly, the pain began to spread across his entire body, until it finally roused him from the song and dance in his mind!
Chu Yang shouted furiously! He stood up suddenly, his long black hair flying in all directions. His hair-band broke and he broke into a feverish rampage!
"Even at the end, you guys still have to interrupt our reunion! You deserve nothing less than death!"
"Peng!" A sword managed to pierce into Chu Yang's chest. He felt a brief pain and turned his head down. With a soft clang, the jade pendant which hung around Chu Yang's neck shattered into pieces. The "Wu" character in the centre of the pendant began to crack as well.
Chu Yang hurriedly reached out and grabbed the fragments of the pendant. Suddenly, his rampage intensified!
That was the only keepsake he had from Qing Wu!
"I'll kill all of you!" Chu Yang lifted his head, murderous intent overflowing from his fiery eyes. He let out a frenzied cry, and the Nine Tribulations Sword suddenly trembled violently, giving off a blinding light. It looked as if lightning from the Nine Heavens had merged to form a single ray of light!
"Peng, peng, pang, pang!" The blades of the weapons surrounding him broke neatly into two pieces.
The expert fighters quickly retreated and looked at the broken weapons in fear. They broke out into a cold sweat, for they never imagined that a single attack from the Nine Tribulations Sword could be this powerful!
They had estimated that Chu Yang was already close to dying and that it was the right moment to make a move. Every one of them was secretly plotting how they would obtain the Nine Tribulations Sword and escape with it after Chu Yang's death. Just as they were absorbed in such thoughts, Chu Yang had suddenly executed the powerful attack. The power of the sword was overwhelming and greatly surpassed their expectations!
Chu Yang's body was covered in blood, and he stood upright, wielding the godly sword. His icy gaze swept over every single fighter before him. When faced with his steely gaze, all the fighters trembled uncontrollably. For within those eyes, they could only see bottomless despair, endless grief, unyielding anger, and… unbridled murderous rage!
After Chu Yang looked over every single fighter, he asked softly, "So, you all want the Nine Tribulations Sword, right?"
Without waiting for an answer, he laughed coldly, and said, "Alright then! I'll let you guys take a look at the Nine Tribulations Sword!"
Chu Yang leap into the air suddenly!
Despite already being dealt numerous fatal injuries, Chu Yang actually leapt! As he leapt, the blood from his wounds splattered all around, like a bloody whirlwind, but Chu Yang remained indifferent to his injuries. With a stern face, he shouted coldly.
"Nine Tribulations Sword, a few rays of chilling light will illuminate ten thousand Zhang!"
Again, the sword trembled violently, and like pure white silk, a single, brilliant ray morphed into an arc and flew towards his enemies. Behind the arc, ten million rays of chilling light charged forward! Those rays of light seemed as if they brought Heaven and Earth's most ancient desolation with them…
Nine Tribulations Sword! The Nine Heavens' sword techniques! The First Sword!
The Nine Heavens was the name of the continent. Since time immemorial, no sword techniques had ever used those three words in its name. However, only the Nine Tribulations Sword's techniques used the "The Nine Heavens" in its name!
For generations, those sword techniques have been the only set!
Even though Chu Yang could not perfectly manipulate the Nine Tribulations Sword's sword techniques' power in their entirety, he had already perceived those few sword techniques for a long time. As such, although they were not as great as he imagined they would be, they exceeded all other sword techniques.
The expert fighters instinctively knew that the Nine Tribulations Sword's techniques were not trivial, and accordingly displayed their secret abilities, hoping to shield against just that single attack. However, all of their bodies quaked violently at impact, and all felt their weapons slipping from their grasp.
"Nine Tribulations Sword, kill all under the Heavens!"
Even though the first wave had yet to completely descend upon the expert fighters, the second wave was already coming! Rays of light surged forth, like an unstoppable tide of uncontrollable murderous intent, spreading across the sky and covering the earth. Screams of agony rose from all around, and at least ten experts, each of whom was fully capable of subduing a large group of people, had suffered severe injuries despite trying their best to deflect the attack. It was all they could do to hurriedly retreat.
At that point, every fighter thought, mistakenly, that Chu Yang had, miraculously, fully recovered from his injuries, and was at his peak condition!
They did not know that the true reason for Chu Yang's sudden reinvigoration was that they had interrupted his thoughts and distracted him from his memories of Mo Qing Wu's singing and dancing, thoroughly antagonising him. This spurred him to exert his full potential - the strength of his bittersweet life, and the wrath of his shattered soul - which greatly exceeded his peak condition in life.
At that moment, every single person had a misconception: The Chu Yang of that moment was absolutely uninjured! He was definitely at his peak condition!
"Nine Tribulations Sword, gather the clouds and the winds, and make way for His Majesty!"
Chu Yang cackled loudly, almost ominously. As the Nine Tribulations Sword rippled through the air, the silhouette of a large, magnificent crown began to appear! It exerted a mighty pressure which spread through the air. Meanwhile, sharp rays of light continued coming from the sword. Wherever the rays of light struck, a chorus of screams would fill the air, and blood would spurt from all directions. Like overripe fruit, heads would roll from the necks of the fighters.
"As His Majesty descends, I will kill as I please; I will take, and I will destroy, as I wish!"
"Nine Tribulations Sword! Sever the uncontrollable emotions of the guest in the Mortal World!"
"Nine Tribulations Sword! An everlasting aroma will come forth from a bloody sea and carcass-covered mountain!"
As Chu Yang executed those three strokes one after another, the already blood-stained ground began to resemble a slaughterhouse! Within seconds, all the fighters surrounding him fell to the ground, lying in a pool of their own blood.
Chu Yang took a few unsteady steps before falling to the ground. With deep disdain in his eyes, he looked upon the surrounding earth. Within tens of zhang, there was no one left standing! The experts, once powerful and immensely talented, were left completely powerless before the overwhelming power of the Nine Tribulations Sword.
"The gall of you to even want the Nine Tribulations Sword… are you even worthy of it?!"
However, after his rampage, Chu Yang was also at death's door!
"Qing Wu, now no one can disturb our meeting, whether it's in the Heavens or the Mortal Realm!" Leaning on his sword for support, Chu Yang stood up, gasping. His eyes were fluttering closed, and he was trying to picture Qing Wu's song and dance in his mind. However, they would not come.
Chu Yang opened his eyes and muttered in a low voice. "Why, Qing Wu… Why are you not there?"
In the distance, three rays of light rose into the sky from three directions, carrying with them the three golden silhouettes. Majestic and brilliant, the three figures had a powerful presence which left one overwhelmed. They were the phantoms of the golden light - the three Martial Artist Kings!
Chu Yang's eyes widened at the sight, and he laughed bitterly to himself while he looked on helplessly. His heart sank. He never imagined that his true enemy would appear at that very moment!
Chu Yang was a Revered Martial Artist, only one level away from the rank of King. However, that one level was like the distance between the Heavens and the Earth!
The three Martial Artist Kings, what a stir he had caused!
"Such swordsmanship; no wonder they call you the Poisonous Sword Revered Martial Artist! But, this is not a place where you, a mere Revered Martial Artist, can display such atrocious behaviour!" One of the men said in a gentle voice, " It's just a pity that I can't fight you fair and square. What a pity!"
As he finished the sentence, the two remaining Kings joined him. The three Kings were all dressed in wide robes with billowing sleeves which fluttered in the wind. They had a calm countenance and appeared very elegant and smart.
Chu Yang's gaze began to blur a little. "The three Martial Artist Kings… are you guys also after the Nine Tribulations Sword?"
"No, not exactly. Our objective is to kill you!" The three Kings smiled at the same time. "But, taking the sword isn't exactly a loss, is it! It's such a fantastic coincidence!"
Chu Yang flashed a cold, hard smile. He straightened his back, and said, "Well, that's a pity. Because you obviously don't understand the sword and you'll never get it!"
Chu Yang's gaze shifted slightly, giving off a fatalistic resolution.
Although he did not have the strength to fight anymore, he was still able to execute one last move!
He would be destroyed, as would the Nine Tribulations Sword! But most of all, the enemy would be destroyed!
The sword glimmered. With all his strength, Chu Yang took the sword, pointed it at himself, and thrust it into his own chest! With cold, hard eyes, he looked at the three Kings and shouted, "With the blood that runs through my heart, ten thousand tribulations will collapse! As the master of the Nine Tribulations Sword, all will reverse"
This was the only sword technique which he was able to perfectly and fully execute. When he first saw the sword verse, he had instinctively known that this would be the only one he would be able to perfect. However, it required him to sacrifice his life! Who would dare to use such a technique?
The Nine Tribulations Sword began to give off a violent flare as if it contained the sun. A sudden explosion of keen sword energy launched Chu Yang's body into the air!
This was the Nine Tribulations Sword's ultimate technique - to use his own blood and soul to excite the sword's soul! That was the ultimate move which would decimate even opponents who were much stronger than him!
It was the Nine Tribulations Sword's soul killing and destroying everything, on its own accord!
"Careful!" The three Martial Artist Kings were taken aback by Chu Yang's move and rapidly retreated. Gone was the calm and graceful elegance they initially had; instead, on their faces were panicked looks and worried faces. They had not expected that Chu Yang would actually be capable of executing the ultimate move!
"Hong!" A gleaming ray of light emerged from the sword and rose into the sky, lighting it up and turning it a silvery color.
The three Kings, not even prepared to defend themselves or process what had happened to them, simply turned to ashes. Even the golden silhouettes which emanated from their bodies remained in the air. However, they had already been thoroughly destroyed.
That single attack from the soul of the Nine Tribulations Sword had destroyed more than just the three Martial Artist Kings. It had decimated the Heavens and the Earth.
As if he found the entire situation humorous, Chu Yang smiled. Was this the secret behind the invincibility of the Nine Tribulations Sword? If so, how ironic that this is the most highly ranked godly item on the continent?
In his heart, Chu Yang felt that there were still more secrets behind the Nine Tribulations Sword. However, it was already too late to further investigate the sword...
Chu Yang sighed. While he was still in the air, his eyes happened to chance upon someone who should not have been present. In the distance, a man dressed in white was looking at the situation in astonishment.
"Mo Tian Ji?!" Chu Yang eyes widened, and he finally realised who had been plotting the ambush against him, and intercepting his every move, however secretive he had been.
It was him. The God of the Abacus and Ghost of Calculations, Mo Tian Ji. No wonder Chu Yang had suffered such a miserable defeat!
Chu Yang wanted to laugh but did not in the end. He had no strength left, and it was too late to think of…
His body fell from the sky, a drifting leaf in late autumn. "Qing Wu, if there is another life, let us dance under the skies!" As he muttered to himself, his face had a faint, warm smile.
If he could not avoid death, then he would embrace it! At least, on the other side, his beloved was waiting for him.
From above, snow started to fall, covering the reddish ground in a silver blanket. On the snow-covered ground, a graceful figure clad in red began to dance, as if welcoming Chu Yang. He could not make out her face, but her gaze seemed devoid of both regret and resentment. It was clear and passionate and her movements were lithe, yet filled with passion. It was in contrast to the melancholic, cold dance of the highest Heavens and the deepest crevices of the Earth…
Meanwhile, the tip of the Nine Tribulations Sword, still plunged straight through Chu Yang's chest, started shining magnificently. Chu Yang closed his eyes. He thought he heard a fleeting voice. The voice was weary but joyful, as if it had seen something it had been waiting an eternity for. Softly, it said, "... the Nine Tribulations have become devoid of life and death; all is calm. The azure skies will mend themselves. But why should you look forward to a next life… Ai, it has finally come..."
The words seemed to contain multitudes of changes, a lifetime of vagaries and vicissitudes, which it could not control...
Suddenly, from within Chu Yang's chest, a ray of light shot out into the sky, where it pulsated repeatedly before scattering and forming dazzling rainbows all across the sky, illuminating all the Heavens and the Earth. Those who saw the scene widened their eyes in surprise!
And then, just as suddenly as it came, it rose into the Highest Heaven and disappeared without a trace.
On the Wind and Thunder Platform, the winds whimpered, as if lamenting the loss of a precious friend. It was as if the winds were repeating what Chu Yang had said, "If there is another life... if there really is another life... let us dance… under… the… skies…"