On the banks of Dusk River.
Dark clouds loomed in the skies, and chilling winds swept across the ground. Violent black waves jumped and leaped through the river, raging with the howling of ghosts and incorporeal things that went bump in the night. Mysterious monsters rose and fell along with the currents.
Everyone believed them to be the evil creatures from the ancient Dusk Tomb, and that only power from the Dusk River Sacrament could seal them.
This was the day of the ritual, the most important day in Dusk Province. All of the prefects, city lords, and heads of major factions were gathered by the river. Sacrificing offerings wasn’t enough; combined prayers and the fervent wishes of the crowd were required to complete a ritual of this magnitude.
“Today is the day of the Dusk River Sacrament that is held every hundred years. It concerns the safety of everyone in Dusk Province.” Feng Li and Lu Yuanhou stood before the altar in loose formal robes, their faces painted with solemn and deferential expressions.
The Lu scion sounded a long whistle. “However, the leader of the province is absent. It seems that His Majesty the Celestial Emperor made the correct decision. Incompetent dolts like Lu Yun shouldn’t hold the position of governor.”
A stocky Li Youcai stood beside Lu Yuanhou and Feng Li, his hands and head lowered respectfully, too intimidated to say a word.
“Prefect of Duskwater.” Feng Li laid his eyes on the man.
“This subordinate is here!” hurried out Li Youcai.
“Strip the titles from the seven city lords under your jurisdiction. If they aren’t going to attend the Dusk River Sacrament, they have no right to be the province’s city lords.” Feng Li didn’t know where they were, but he wasn’t going to miss the chance to capitalize on a mistake. He would be able to plant his own people here once those seven were stripped of their positions.
“Un- understood....” Li Youcai sweated profusely as he accepted his orders. He didn’t dare talk back at a time like this. These two special envoys were people he couldn’t risk offending. The fatty had paid them several visits since regaining consciousness, but he was never allowed into their residences.
“The hour is upon us. Let us begin.” The oration for the Dusk River Sacrament appeared in Lu Yuanhou’s hands, but it was a copy since the original was in Qing Han’s possession.
“Let the ritual commence!” Li Youcai announced at the top of his lungs.
Yin energy thickened beneath the heavens as the altar behind the group activated with a dense black light.
Wanfeng remained unconscious on the altar, while ninety-nine pairs of children that looked roughly four years old had woken up. No one cried or threw a tantrum. All of them docilely sat on the altar and silently awaited their deaths. In other words, something was plainly controlling them.
In the eyes of all the onlookers, the Dusk River Sacrament was a sacred ritual to save everyone in Dusk Province, and it was an honor to become one of the offerings. If the children cried or fretted, it would cast a pall over the sacred ritual.
Lu Yuanhou rose into the air as he chanted the tongue-twisting oration. Once voiced, the words were given a life of their own. They melded into the altar and elicited rippling flames from the structure.
What a shame that Lu Yun is nowhere to be seen, he smirked. If he saw me sacrificing his beloved maid, his cultivation would deviate from sheer anger! If not for fifth uncle’s disapproval, I would’ve delivered Lu Yun to the altar and sacrificed him as well! That denial made him fume with frustration.
Before Lu Yuanhou had left for the province, he received orders to do everything he could to keep Lu Yun under control. If that failed, he was to kill the young governor, leaving only the body intact.
However, in his second attempt against Lu Yun, it was the old freaks in the clan who stopped him.
He’d suffered defeat twice at Lu Yun’s hands. The first time, he suffered the abject humiliation of a thorough beating. The second time, he was scared into not even showing his face. The incidents burned a fiery hole of hatred in his stomach that he couldn’t release.
At least sacrificing Lu Yun’s beloved little maid would bring a twisted sense of satisfaction to his heart.
The Dusk River agitated like boiling water. The rippling flames on the altar enveloped Wanfeng and the ninety-nine children, slowly setting them on fire. Black glyphs flickered in the flames, absorbing their lives and transferring it to the structure beneath them.
As Lu Yuanhou read out the oration, countless figureheads in the province knelt on the ground and bowed down in worship before the altar. Terrifyingly enormous power created a vortex that spanned five kilometers in all directions.
“Here it comes!” Feng Li and Lu Yuanhou perked up with great excitement. A supply of tremendous power rose from the altar and entered their bodies. This was a gift, the feedback from the Dusk River Sacrament.
So this is what the ritual brings to its worshippers. Once I absorb this power, I’ll be able to ascend to the refined spirit realm, refining my spirit with inner fire!
Lu Yuanhou was ecstatic. Considering his cultivation speed, it would’ve taken another three years to refine his spirit. The power the ritual granted him, however, would push him to the next realm with no side effects. In fact, his cultivation would be more stable than if he’d made the breakthrough himself.
I must host all coming Dusk River Sacraments as well!
Lu Yuanhou and Feng Li exchanged a knowing glance. The rush left them hooked; the next occurrence wouldn’t be allowed to slip from their grasp.
A tall wave rose from the wildly agitating river and admitted the entrance of a graceful figure. The power that had wrapped around Feng Li and Lu Yuanhou like a cozy blanket retreated like the tides, and the blazing flames on the altar were slowly extinguished.
The Dusk River Sacrament had been forcefully halted!
“What monster dares disturb the ritual?!” demanded Lu Yuanhou, stopping the oration with a dark expression.
“The ritual I passed down to protect Dusk Province used plants and dogs of hay as offerings. Why dost thou sacrifice lives today?” A reprimand sounded from the river as a young woman with blue hair, blue eyes, and clad in a blue silk dress rose from the water. She stood barefoot on top of the waters, her mere presence calming the violent river around her. She coolly scanned the crowd by the riverbank.
“You are… the Dusk River God!!” Li Youcai shrieked, staring at the girl with fear and disbelief. This was what the river god had looked like when she’d first manifested a thousand years ago!
What was the dead river god doing here?
“Nonsense!” growled a maddened Lu Yuanhou. “The river god is dead! This is an evil spirit born from the river! Men, arrest that witch!”
In that split second, he’d been so close to ascending to the refined spirit realm. Now that the power had vanished without a trace, the breakthrough had slipped through his fingers and become a distant goal once again.
What did the Dusk River Sacrament, or the lives in the province matter to him? All he wanted was the cultivation benefits the ritual would bring him!
“That’s right! It’s high treason to interrupt the ritual! Take that witch!” Feng Li finally recovered from his shock. Whether this river god was real or not, she had to die. The world of immortals didn’t need living gods anymore, and even less a god that people worshipped!