“Hmph, a pack of spirit fragments almost extinguished by hellfire wants to escape from my hands” She Nong snorted and brandished his spear, rushing the prisoners in turn.
Other than the prisoners of the first layer, any other that could survive in the other eight would be great experts of the fourth realm. Though theyd been refined by hellfire for endless eons, the irresistible allure of freedom inspired a prodigious desire for survival.
Caught off guard by the depths of their desperation, She Nong was swept off his feet by their momentum.
“Tianqi!” Lu Yun shouted.
“Yes, master!” Tianqis body ballooned several sizes bigger and he sent out the peak of Mount Tai, turning it into an uncrossable mountain in front of the Gates of the Abyss.
The mountain of the two realms would sever the two!
Upon the towering landmass, the words “Great Peak of the Five Mountains” flashed with bloody radiance and shifted into “Great Peak of the Five Prisons”!
The prisoners that circled around She Nong crashed to a violent halt when they ran into Mount Tai, and were sent flying backward by a flare of bloody light. Mount Tai wasnt just a mountain between two realms of the great wilderness, but the most magnificent divine mountain of the fourth realm, one that could sever yin from yang!
In this case, yin referenced hell and yang referenced the fourth realm. There were five hells in the fourth realm, with the Hadal Hell as the foremost. Mount Tai could suppress all five with its strength alone!
Being the mountain god of Mount Tai, what Tianqi released in the Hadal Hell was far beyond the limits of the fourth realm and unequivocally stopped the prisoners in their tracks.
“Holy, this kids the god of Mount Tai!” She Nong shuddered when he scrambled up from the ground and saw Tianqi summon Mount Tai in a fit of blazing glory.
“Didnt the god of Mount Tai die How is he alive again” He swept a glance over Lu Yun. “If this lord is the master of the god of Mount Tai, wont he be even greater than the legendary mountain god”
She Nong shuddered again and tightened his hand around his spear, howling a war cry as he charged forward. Plainly, Tianqis identity was greater than what Lu Yun understood it to be.
Within the Hadal Hell, the Bridge of Forgetfulness fully released its true might. It was formed from the seepage of this hells energy to begin with, so its spirit could grow in this realm and perfectly control its body.
The bridge and She Nong flanked Tianqi and brought up his rear, scything through the dense horde like two dragons.
Lu Yun stood next to Tianqi, having shrunk himself to be the same size as his disciple. He frowned as he gazed upon the harrowing battle before him.
The prisoners had been weakened to the extreme. They were on par with Tianqi, just barely reaching the threshold for the fourth realm. They would likely regress from their sophisticated existences after a while longer and devolve into the lower life forms of the third realm, nothing else in their future but to wither away and die.
“Tianqi, what crime have they committed to be locked away here, never to see the light of day again” Lu Yun suddenly asked.
“Well…” Tianqi blinked. “I once entered the Hadal Hell after I became master of the human hell, adding some truly wicked beings who were a plague upon life. Those who later betrayed humanity and swore fealty to other races were thrown in here as well.”
“Betrayal is just a matter of perspective and change. These people just wanted to live,” Lu Yun refuted thoughtfully.
“Indeed.” Tianqi nodded. “In their eyes, they did no wrong. But in mine, they committed unforgivable sins. Death would be a blessing to them.”
If one shed the constraints of mortals and ethics, then there was no right or wrong in the matters of the world. Everything was a matter of personal perspective, just like the age old enmity between the chaos creatures and the worlds. Both sides just wanted to survive and protect their own interests.
However, living beings were also no primitive beasts. They possessed civilization, ethics, restrictions, and thus naturally right and wrong, good and evil came into being.
The Sal Tree of Life and Death had grown in hellfire and supported the human dao hell. When later irrigated by civilization, itd turned into the Karmic Tree to determine right from wrong, define good and evil, and pass due judgment!
“Master, are you pitying them You must know that, just like what She Nong said, theyve destroyed countless Hongmeng realms. They carry boundless retribution on their shoulders,” Tianqi quickly said when he saw Lu Yuns expression.
“Sometimes what you see and hear isnt the truth. Su Xiaoxiao was once covered with retribution because she poisoned multiple major worlds.” Lu Yun shook his head lightly. “If there comes a day in which we are defeated… do you think well be imprisoned here as well” he murmured as he watched the prisoners furiously throw themselves against Mount Tai, the Bridge of Forgetfulness, and She Nong in a maddened bid for freedom.
Tianqis eyes widened.
“Theyre not necessarily characters of extreme evil. Maybe theyre just failures. After all, history is written by the victorious. The retribution they bear might be just the result of a different definition of good and evil compared to the victors.” Lu Yun suddenly thought of the history of the world of immortals hed compiled. Though he was an immortal now, he was still human and thus harbored innate prejudices and biases. There was good and evil in his book, and his enemies were all down as villains.
“Master, do you mean to release them back into the fourth realm” Tianqi seemed to understand something when he looked at his masters expression.
“I need to make plans for the future. If there comes a day in which the immortal dao travels through the fourth realm, we need to have a foundation in this world! The two of us wont be able to stir up even a ripple in the fourth realm with our strength alone. We need to gain a foothold here!
“And, what if were defeated This could be another potential avenue of retreat for us.” A crazy thought rose in Lu Yuns mind as he scanned the multitudes of prisoners. He could bring them under his banner and have them fight for him!
If there came a day in which he failed and lost the world of immortals, he could withdraw with everyone in the world and fight for a chance of survival in the fourth realm.
Though he was strong here, he was completely without foundations. Most importantly, he knew nothing of this realm. It wasnt until he saw all of these prisoners that he realized hed been so grossly optimistic before.
If he failed, that could very well be him among the crowd.
“Ive tasted defeat before too…” sighed Tianqi. “In all of our calculations and plans, we never thought that the human dao hell would be destroyed. It is indeed time to plan for the future.”
Lu Yun had always focused on how to succeed, how to win. Hed never considered the possibility that he might fail. Most of the prisoners here existed in a state between life and death. The Spectral Eye revealed the specifics of their information, painting a picture of how stunning their talents had been during development, how domineering they were at their peak, and how inconsolable they were in defeat.
Their life experiences were more wondrous than Lu Yuns, their achievements more glorious, and their defeat more thorough.
Through observation of others could one reflect upon ones own shortcomings. Each of the prisoners in front of them was a mirror for Lu Yun, showing him different kinds of failure and their consequences.
Hed never thought that he was the son of heaven or a favored child of destiny, that hed never run the risk of falling short. He just hadnt had that experience yet. Forming a backup plan was a necessity—he had to pave a way out for those who followed him!
Mount Tai trembled as the words “Great Peak of the Five Hells” flared painfully and dyed all of the Hadal Hell with a crimson light. A sparkling Karmic Tree materialized behind Lu Yun. With his current level of strength, he suppressed all of the beings and existences inside the Hadal Hell. The Tome of Life and Death also glowed with black light in his consciousness.
He was once more the incomparably large giant, so titanic that She Nong was a tiny ant in front of him. The prisoners all cowed on the ground from the force of his terrifying aura.
“If you submit unto me, I shall return you your freedom.” Lu Yuns voice rumbled through the Hadal Hell.
Kneeling on the ground, the prisoners lifted numb expressions to peer at Lu Yun. Some of them had once been stronger than even his current form, but they were all pathetic worms now. All of their confidence, pride, and past glories were nothing when stripped of freedom.
Death wasnt frightening; what was frightening was endless drifting in eternal emptiness, unable to live or die, forever suffering torment.
“I am willing to submit.” Goodwill rose from one, two, three… more and more prisoners and gathered on the Karmic Tree behind Lu Yun.
This was a sign that they were willing to serve Lu Yun. After a hundred breaths, any prisoners that hadnt produced goodwill were turned to dust with the Judgment of Life or Death.
“She Nong, I leave these people to you. I hope that the next time we meet, youll have carved out a territory for me.” Lu Yun pointed at She Nong and sent a karmic fruit into the mans body. An extraordinary treasure such as this fruit condensed the power of goodwill; it would bring great benefits even for a life form of She Nongs level.
“Understood!” Shaking with emotion, he dropped to one knee in front of Lu Yun, fully becoming his new patrons man in this moment.
“Alright, you may all depart.” Lu Yun looked at the remaining prisoners. Their current strength was the same as Tianqi—barely reaching the threshold of the fourth realm.
However, theyd all been great personages in this realm some time in the past. Recovering their past strength was only a matter of time after they returned home.
“Free… Freedom at last.” The skeleton had reassembled itself and looked around blankly when it walked out of the Gates of the Abyss. It couldnt believe that its prolonged nightmare was finally over.
Flesh and blood slowly grew over the bones, forming a handsome young man. He suddenly fell to his knees in the void and howled with tears.
“My life is yours forevermore!” He suddenly turned back and kowtowed to Lu Yun. Hed only submitted earlier because he saw the hope of freedom. But now, he truly gave his loyalty to the master of hell.
All of the prisoners still had nothing to their name, but they had their freedom.
“Thats enough of that.” Lu Yun looked solemnly at them. “I dont care what you do, but you must establish a domain that is completely mine in the fourth realm.”
The prisoners had once observed all of the happenings in hell through the Hadal Hell and naturally understood what Lu Yun planned to do. They immediately gave loud assent.
Lu Yun wasnt worried at all that they might turn traitor. The Karmic Tree had collected all of their goodwill, so hed know at first light if anyone betrayed him.
The Hadal Hell was now empty. There was nothing either alive or dead in its mysterious depths anymore. At its center, its core, could be found a churning sea of hellfire. The Sal Tree of Life and Death had once been rooted here, and Lu Yun had borrowed the sea of hellfire to rampage through the great wilderness.
When both Lu Yun and Tianqi arrived at its shores, it became much more docile than normal.
“What is the secret to the Hadal Hell” Tianqi asked with puzzlement.
Lu Yun smiled, then sighed softly at his disciple. “What kind of existence do you think you are”