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Everyone stood together, looking out into the distance. Row upon row of red bricks and green tiles, shop banners fluttered in the wind, and a wide avenue stretched out underfoot, and crowds filled the market.
Everyone was stunned. They had all been ready to face endless barren lands, or a beautiful chaotic fairyland. No one expected they would see a prosperous and lively town.
It was early in the morning and the red morning glow came in from the east. The faint mist rolled away and the coolness dissipated with the rising sun. The owner of the bun shop lifted the wooden lid of the steamer. The steaming meat buns and white-faced buns filled the air with lingering aromas. As the boss yelled loudly, the innkeeper waved the rag in his hand and draped it over his shoulder as he leaned against the door frame to attract in guests with a bright smile.
Naughty children were chasing behind a caravan, and the old man driving moved the donkey cart forward slowly, his hip flask banging on his waist.
There were a few young people standing at the entrance of a loft signed ‘Wenxiang House’. Guests went in and out, alone or in groups and there were women lying on the railing of the second floor, wearing thin smoky gauze skirts, colourful and blooming like flowers, as their exquisite bodies swayed. Coquettish, beautiful, pure or elegant...they had every type, and each as alluring as the other.
Whenever a man passed by, the women would wave their handkerchiefs and smile, "Come on, mister~"
Opposite Wenxiang House was Ji Mian Hall. Out the front were thirteen or fourteen-year-old boys in white clothes with black hair, red lips and white teeth. They didn't twirl their hair and pose, but just stood quietly, as if they weren't there to sell their bodies to please guests but were clean, like an ink painting.
Wherever you went there was a feeling of ‘come, be happy, take your time’. The two doors faced each other so you can choose to eat any flavour you want.
The impact of the scene was too great, it was like they were in heaven. Lu Shenxing, who had experienced a life longer than most, merely glanced twice. He turned his head and found that Liuyang was also indifferent, and the little guy Jiang Wangchu was staring with shining eyes straight at the bun shop, the temptations of the body were easy to overcome but he was unable to resist the temptation of food.
Although Ning Que looked stupid, he didn't seem to be interested in the women in Wenxiang House, he instead was looking at the young men.
"Do Shixiong, what should we do now?" Everyone was confused, was the ancient secret realm somewhere in the town, or was the town itself a secret realm?
Other sects were in hiding, acting calm and detached. In reality, they also didn't know what was happening and were secretly watching the reactions of others and trying to act accordingly.
The large group of people was very eye-catching. Under close inspection, it could be seen that the 20 people were in different clothes, but it was hard not to make people curious. The locals who passed them by, stopped and pointed. Most were on guard and avoided them, while some of the younger were curious.
"Settle in first."
Lu Shenxing was the first to make a move and took them into an inn. The little innkeeper swiftly wiped down the tables with a rag, his grin almost meeting his ears..
The others outside exchanged glances, before all spreading out with their own thoughts. For a while, several large-scale inns in the town burst into business.
The ten disciples sat down, divided across two tables. Jiang Wangchu took the menu to read through the dishes. He suddenly stopped talking, breathing harder, his small eyes widened, Ning Que stopped pouring tea and asked nervously, "San Shixiong, is something wrong?"
As soon as he came in, Lu Shenxing who was lost in thought, heard loud laughter and was shocked out of his reverie.
Jiang Wangchu excitedly pointed to the menu, "Look, beef with sauce!" He yelled, "Innkeeper, two catties of beef with sauce!"
As the innkeeper left, Jiang Wangchu stretched out his neck and swallowed his saliva, looking like a hungry ghost reborn.
Lu Shenxing's mouth twitched, he must really like beef?
Liuyang hadn't said a word since they had arrived. He was like a dull gourd, with a weak sense of existence. Everyone was used to it. Lu Shenxing suspected that he also thought that this town was unusual, but also couldn't pinpoint the specific reason.
The atmosphere on the table was divided into two levels. Jiang Wangchu and a few disciples were talking and laughing, and Liuyang and Ning Que were all sitting in quiet consternation.
Lu Shenxing called the innkeeper, "Tell me about the Best Town in the World."
The innkeeper sighed with enthusiasm, and after hearing his compliment he was full of pride, "Mister, mustn’t know. Our town used to be called Naoyang City, surrounded by mountains and rivers. Every season is like spring. Many powerful officials, even the emperor, like to visit it privately. The emperor spoke very favourably of our town. When he returned to the palace, he gave it the name of the Best Town in the World."
Naoyang? The pronunciation of the name was confusing. Lu Shenxing put down his chopsticks, "Do you have a lot of sheep here?"
"Has mister never heard of it?" The innkeeper blinked strangely, "Naoyang is a kind of flower. Our town is famous for it. Many outsiders travel a long way just to see flowers."
Several people walked in at the door, and the sharp-eyed innkeeper immediately put on his kindest smile and nodded and bowed to greet him.
Lu Shenxing looked at the other nine people on the table, frowned and asked, "Have any of you heard of that flower?"
"Da Shixiong, there are many kinds of flowers in the world, it’s normal to not have heard of it." One disciple spoke up when he saw no one else was going to answer, he couldn't help thinking that Da Shixiong was thinking too much. He merely said something to fill the gap, so as not to disturb the atmosphere at the table.
There was a noise from a table opposite. The people there were from another sect. When Lu Shenxing looked over, they had already started fighting.
Suddenly there was a shout, "He's dead!"
There was a scream in the inn, and the diners ran out in panic, the tables and chairs were knocked over and wine and vegetables spilled all over the floor. The chaotic scene made Lu Shenxing violently want to kill something, and he was startled by his own killing intent. What happened to his self-control, was he so vulnerable?
"Da Shixiong, the one who died was from Liuyun Sect, his surname was Tie." Ning Que said in Lu Shenxing's ear, "I saw it. He was very arrogant and domineering. He probably butted heads with his classmate and they attacked him out of anger."
Lu Shenxing smelled alcohol, "Did you drink?"
Ning Que had been drinking. He didn't know that it would make his cheeks flush. He chuckled slightly, "Just a sip."
"Someone just died, what happened!" Jiang Wangchu let out a scream, not even eating, and stood next to Lu Shenxing, eyes flickering with his anxiety.
Liuyang raised his head and met Lu Shenxing's eyes, then he moved away calmly, choosing not to ask.
The Liuyun Sect’s head disciple had a grim expression on his face and let others deal with his dead junior.
"I just cursed a bit, I didn't kill him, it wasn't me, it wasn't me..." the man who did it was incoherent, "he said I was an eyesore, he said I couldn't cultivate at all, it was annoying, and I was annoyed."
The man suddenly yelled ferociously, "I just wanted him to shut up!"
When someone says something that you don’t like to hear, you just kill them? The others from his sect shuddered and looked at the disciple like he was a lunatic, it was hard to believe they were the same sect that was just talking and laughing together a moment ago.
The man kept saying that he didn't kill anyone, as if his behavior was beyond his control, to the point of insanity.
Not wanting to watch the excitement and heartbreak any further, Lu Shenxing and the others left the inn and chose not to stay.
The street was still very busy, completely at odds with the depressing scene inside the inn.
"Flowers." Liuyang looked around.
Lu Shenxing looked along his line of sight. There were large black flowers surrounding the corner of a wall. They were quite beautiful and alluring, and as he moved closer he found that their shape was a bit like a lily.
"This is the Yang flower? It's beautiful." Ning Que stretched out his hand, but was pulled back the moment he was about to touch it. There was a cold hum, "Don't touch it!"
He was overwhelmed by the order and nodded blankly.
However, just as Lu Shenxing spoke, another disciple had already touched the flower curiously. He let out a gasp and watched in horror as the flower withered at a speed visible to the naked eye and turned into a pool of black water.
Before anyone could react, the disciple's body had morphed just like the flowers, as his flesh and blood was stripped away and his green face became wrinkled with blinking eyes, and his crumpled skin wrapped his prominent bones.
"Da Shixiong, save me." He slowly stretched out his hand to Lu Shenxing. His voice was dry and bit by bit his whole skeleton melted away, not even leaving blood behind.
The sight made everyone who witnessed it catch their breath, unable to move out of powerlessness and fear.
"Secret realm, this is the secret realm!"
No one knew who yelled, but everyone panicked, moving closer to Lu Shenxing. Their nerves frayed as they began to fall into disarray.
"Don't make a noise." Lu Shenxing frowned.
The two youngest had some talents, but lacked mental fortitude and couldn’t help crying.
"Don't make a noise!" Lu Shenxing's expression was terrifying, and the others recoiled in fear when they saw it. Their emotions had unknowingly become out of their own control. What was going on? Da Shixiong got along with them most days, there was no reason to be scared that he would attack.
Liuyang looked at Lu Shenxing weirdly and seemed to have discovered something. Jiang Wangchu nervously found Ning Que to hide behind, but in doing so saw that Lu Shenxing was holding his hand in a vice grip.
Lu Shenxing's emotions were on the verge of going out of control again. He wasn’t a violent man, but since entering the town, any emotion was being magnified hundreds of times over.
He just wanted to stop Ning Que, but he almost ripped off his hand, if he just moved a little further.
Thinking of how things had gotten out of control in the inn Lu Shenxing took a few deep breaths. The blue veins on the back of the hand that grabbed Ning Que protruded and Ning Que took in a painful breath, but didn’t dare to break free.
"Da Shixiong, you’re making Xiao Shidi’s hand turn red." Jiang Wangchu worriedly reminded him.
Lu Shenxing furrowed his eyebrows deeply, and stayed motionless. He suddenly tightened the corners of his lips, then loosened them and said, "Illusions."
He spoke again, in a full statement, "This isn’t a secret world, it's just an illusion."
His words made everyone feel like they'd fallen from hell into the abyss. This explained why they had appeared in a small town.
How do they get out of the illusion?
You couldn’t see it, hear it, speak it or desire it. Only by overcoming the seven emotions and six desires and being free of all distracting thoughts could you enter the real secret realm.
An illusion could eliminate a large number of people, it was the equivalent to using a large filter.
There were only two words left in Lu Shenxing's mind, floating over him unscrupulously. He’s fucked.
He’s a layman, greedy, jealous, lustful, malicious...there was no shortage of sins, and the little bit of goodness in him, rarely came out.
Lu Shenxing's face was solemn, the more he wanted to be calm, the more impetuous he became.
Knowing that it was an illusion, it was still difficult to restrain one's instincts. It was like trying to lose weight, even if you know what you should do and what you should eat less of, you still go out and eat and drink.
"Da Shixiong, I'm so hungry." Jiang Wangchu swallowed wildly.
"Your hunger, it's an illusion." Lu Shenxing slapped him on the face vigorously, and shouted cruelly, "If you want to stay in this ghost realm forever, go and eat."
Jiang Wangchu pitifully lowered his head and stuffed his arms into his mouth, closing his eyes and shrinking into a ball. Everything is fake and I am not hungry.
Gradually, other sects also discovered that everything was an illusion. They went from easy-going to panicked in half the time to burn a stick of incense.
The five senses could be sealed, but the mind cannot. The first test was already so difficult. Many of them regretted being there in the first place and as time went by, more and more of them began to collapse and give up against the struggle.
"Xiao Shidi, take away my food from me." Jiang Wangchu closed his eyes tightly, his voice was shaking, "Hurry up!"
Ning Que fumbled up and down his body and found a lot of bags. He glanced at Jiang Wangchu with admiration. It was really a skill to be able to squirrel away so much.
After some time, Jiang Wangchu’s figure disappeared, and a strange light flashed across Lu Shenxing’s eyes. The foodie was actually the first of them to leave. He remembered that time when he asked about his wish and he said that he was going to be a great cultivator and become immortal. He thought it was just a joke at the time, but now he thought it might not be impossible.
"San Shixiong did it!"
Jiang Wangchu's departure brought confidence to those who were still struggling to persevere, and everyone encouraged each other.
Although they weren’t sure whether leaving was better than staying, no one wanted to remain in an illusory world.
What was surprising was that Liuyang, who was expected to escape first, was still trapped. As each person left, the coldness on his face grew stronger and stronger, and no one dared to talk to him.
"Don't come near me." Liuyang warned Lu Shenxing in a sharp tone that he had never used before, then he took his sword and left.
Lu Shenxing sneered. It was your own mind that kept you trapped here. Don’t look at me like I was to blame.
Of the twenty people, thirteen fell to their seven emotions and six desires, and gave up. Five of the remaining seven got rid of the illusion, and the other two were still struggling to death.
"Da Shixiong, can't we get out anymore?" Ning Que looked at the crowded street with despair on his face.
Lu Shenxing was silent, he also wanted to know the answer.
A woman carrying a vegetable basket came over and asked fiercely, "What are you doing blocking the road? Let me pass."
Lu Shenxing breathed heavily and squeezed his knuckles, as the woman yelled, "Come on! Move!"
"Da Shixiong, hurry." Ning Que pulled Lu Shenxing's clothes.
Because his emotions were abnormal, it was too difficult to control them when they were amplified to this degree. Lu Shenxing felt like he was a ticking time bomb and the moment of explosion was getting closer and closer.
"Er Shixiong and the others, what if they are in danger?" Ning Que lowered his eyes, feeling a little annoyed. He couldn't overcome his envy of Er Shixiong and of his desire to be with Lu Shenxing.
"Find a place to sleep." Lu Shenxing rubbed his eyebrows. "After you’ve had enough sleep, try to find a way to overcome your distracting thoughts and join them."
Ning Que was taken aback for a moment, what Da Shixiong said seemed very reasonable.