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Beneath the Firmament

  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Author: uncleZ
  • Chapters: 36
  • Status: Completed
  • Age Rating: 18+
  • 👁 72
  • ⭐ 7.5
  • 💬 1

Annotation

When a mysterious ghost-faced jade pendant falls from the sky, an ordinary senior college student with a passion for the arts finds himself entangled in a realm of divine enigma. Straddling the blurred line between reality and fantasy, he navigates a world rife with bloodshed and carnage. In the world of ninjas, he is an unrivaled Shura; in the maritime dominions of the New World, he is the demon who commands all. Even as Super Saiyans regard him as a formidable adversary, mortals whisper his moniker, "The Reaper." The name Xiao Nuo becomes a legend, stirring waves in the hearts of people. Follow Xiao Nuo's journey as he tears through the veils of illusion with unwavering hands, ascending step by step to the zenith of the heavens, until he stands at the pinnacle of the world. It is a voyage that transcends limits, until at last, he wields the power of the infinite - mastering the infinite.

Chapter 1 The Realm of the Divine

Time: June 20th, 2010, 0:36 AM

Location: Northeast Province, Beibing City, Huaxia Country

The dark night sky was dotted with twinkling stars. The torrential rain forecasted for the day had just fallen its last few drops, leaving a crisp chill in the air.

In the deep of night, barely a soul would be at leisure to wander at this hour, as the downpour had rendered even the streets sparse of vehicles. Xiao Nuo stood alone on the damp road, having waited futilely for a taxi for ten full minutes. Aside from the occasional drunkard passing by, not a single cab came.

"Alas," he sighed resignedly.

"Looks like I'll have to walk home."

Shaking his head in resignation, he heaved a rueful sigh at his woeful fate.

While lamenting his miserable luck inwardly, Xiao Nuo also felt a flicker of relief that his dwelling wasn't far. Reaching into the single-strap bag emblazoned with a check mark, he casually pulled out a coat to ward off the chill. Bathed under the pale moonlight, his lonesome silhouette stretched long across the ground.

Xiao Nuo. Male. Twenty-two years old. Orphan.

A fourth-year student at a third-rate university in Beibing City, soon to graduate.

Although the prevalent adage in the high-pressure job market of Huaxia Country stated that "graduation equals unemployment," for Xiao Nuo, who had to worry about finances ever since losing his government subsidy upon university acceptance, graduation was far from unemployment. After all, he had already found a job, or rather, a part-time position since four years ago.

Daily wages: 800 yuan.

Work hours: Four hours.

To put it simply, his main duty could be described as a sparring partner, though Xiao Nuo preferred the term "human punching bag."

In those four hours of work each day, Xiao Nuo had to accompany all kinds of sparring partners as they practiced wrestling. And his clients were almost invariably over two meters tall, weighing between 85 to 90 kilograms, with physiques that could rival professional bodybuilders - burly, barrel-chested hunks.

Xiao Nuo still vividly recalled that on his very first day at this job, after putting on copious protective gear only to be slammed onto the rubber mat for the second time by a brawny man, he had wanted to quit then and there. But to his chagrin, when he had accepted this job, Xiao Nuo had signed a contract with the boss whom he had never even met. Either he worked here for six years, or he paid an astronomical penalty fee.

Bound by this unequal treaty, Xiao Nuo could only grit his teeth and see through this job, for he only had himself to blame for not reading the fine print, completely blinded by the generous wages when he had signed the contract. But having learned his lesson the hard way, from then on Xiao Nuo would ponder the pros and cons meticulously before every decision, to avoid being duped again.

At first, each day of sparring was agonizing torture for Xiao Nuo, being slammed onto the mat countless times without an iota of strength to fight back. But with his tenacious life force and adaptability, it only took him half a year to get used to this job, even growing fond of it.

Not only did this job provide Xiao Nuo with income, it also honed his physique.

From repeatedly serving as a "human punching bag," Xiao Nuo not only learned how to minimize the pain from attacks, his body's resilience against blows had also become much stronger than average. On top of that, Xiao Nuo would occasionally pick up some wrestling moves while sparring. It was no exaggeration to say that now Xiao Nuo could handle a couple of local ruffians with ease, not letting them get anywhere near him.

"Tap."

"Hmm?"

A crisp sound entered Xiao Nuo's ears, seizing his attention. Under the dim surrounding lights, he vaguely discerned something glinting faintly ahead of him. Prompted by curiosity, Xiao Nuo walked over to pick up the object. To his surprise, it turned out to be a jade pendant that had fallen from who knows where.

"Heh," he murmured with a wry smile, "You've been abandoned too, huh?"

Clutching the pendant in his hand, Xiao Nuo suddenly felt a profound sense of kinship with it, as though it was fated to belong to him, which was why it had landed right in front of him for him to find.

Unable to discern the pendant's appearance clearly in the dark surroundings, Xiao Nuo tentatively pocketed it, thinking to examine it properly once home. He then resumed treading the deserted streets towards his modest abode.

Beibing City Welcome Gardens, Building 2, Unit 603.

This was Xiao Nuo's current place of residence, about a thirty minutes' walk from his university and twenty minutes on foot from his workplace.

Having just finished his daily sparring session, Xiao Nuo was already exhausted. The additional walk home made his legs tremble uncontrollably. Haphazardly tossing his bag aside, he headed straight for the bedroom, where his routine first order of business upon entering was to switch on the computer before hitting the bathroom to check his injuries from today's session.

"Hiss-" he couldn't help sucking in a breath as he peeled off his top.

As the shirt came off, exposing his physique that could make countless girls squeal, Xiao Nuo's brows knitted at the large patch of bruising that greeted his eyes.

"This guy today sure went all out," he muttered.

After examining that his injuries didn't warrant a hospital visit, Xiao Nuo deftly applied some medicinal wine, gritting his teeth against the stinging pain. He then returned to his computer and sat down, the familiar clacking of the keyboard sounding as he put on his favorite music. A glint of anticipation flashed through his eyes before he clicked to open his most frequented website with the mouse.

"One Piece, discontinued."

"Naruto, discontinued."

"Sigh..."

"Those guys Oda and Kishimoto are too irresponsible. Is Dragon Ball by nostalgic Toriyama the only one left?"

Xiao Nuo sighed resignedly as he closed the webpages. Watching movies and anime to unwind was his favorite pastime. Today was supposed to be the update day for the popular Japanese manga Naruto and One Piece that he had been looking forward to all day, eager to read his beloved comics then have a good sleep afterwards.

Who would have thought the sudden hiatus would dash his plans, putting him in an even fouler mood. Just then, Xiao Nuo suddenly recalled the jade pendant he had picked up on the way home. Reaching into his pocket, he took it out and examined it closely.

The pendant was a pale green, about two centimeters squared with a rectangular shape. What caught Xiao Nuo's attention most was the lifelike, ferocious ghost face carved into it. As he focused on the image, he vaguely saw the ghastly eyes of the ghost face inexplicably blink at him.

"Snap!"

Even someone as unflappable as Xiao Nuo couldn't help shuddering at this bizarre occurrence. The pendant slipped from his grasp and clattered onto the desk in front of his computer.

But even stranger things followed.

The roaring ghost face on the fallen pendant blinked again, emanating an eerie green glow that illuminated the surroundings with a deathly chill. And the moment it emitted that bizarre radiance, the song playing from the computer speakers cut off abruptly, sending an uncanny shudder through Xiao Nuo as his eyes widened instinctively.

"Do you wish to know the meaning of life? To truly live?"

The voice was metallic and devoid of emotion, yet it contained an indescribable allure that compelled Xiao Nuo to pick up the pendant glowing with that ghastly green light. At the same time, a dialog box had inexplicably popped up on his computer screen.

"Do you wish to know the meaning of life? To truly live?"

"yes" or "no"

Dumbstruck, Xiao Nuo stood frozen for a good while, too shocked by this series of bizarre events to react. But as he collected himself, the corners of his lips curved up slightly as he chuckled and said, "What a silly question, yet I quite like it. Why not give it a try?"

With his finger on the mouse, he smoothly moved the cursor over "yes." Taking a deep breath, Xiao Nuo's eyes sharpened as he lightly clicked the left button. Abruptly, a piercing flash seared across the computer screen, paining his eyes. He reflexively shut them, still feeling a lingering sting in his eyeballs even after closing them.

Was it a second? Or a year?

Xiao Nuo felt as though the entire world had frozen in that moment. His senses conveyed an odd feeling, as if there was a transparent film in front of him. Though his eyes were tightly shut and all was dark, he felt a sensation akin to breaking through or shattering some kind of barrier.

This sudden feeling arising in his heart made Xiao Nuo involuntarily take a step back. But in that single step, the texture under his feet had changed as well. It was no longer the hard floor of his bedroom, but rather something soft and sticky like cement, or even the visceral innards of an animal.

"You've arrived," an icy voice sounded in the darkness, the same metallic tone as the one that had echoed in Xiao Nuo's mind earlier.

Hearing someone address him, Xiao Nuo immediately rubbed his eyes and waited a good while before slowly opening them. But the instant he did, he froze once more, for the scene before him was no longer his bedroom. What greeted his sight was an unimaginably gigantic bronze gate.

The gate glowed with an eerie yellow light, sharp fangs neatly lining its edges as if ready to devour him whole the next second. Easily over a hundred meters tall, the imposing gate towered like Mount Tai, filling Xiao Nuo with tremendous awe and the urge to kneel down in worship as he craned his neck up at it.

After taking in the sight of the massive gate, Xiao Nuo's gaze lowered to the source of the cold voice.

A figure sat below the gate.

No, "person" was not the right term to describe it.

Though Xiao Nuo could make out its silhouette, no matter how hard he tried, he could not discern its features, only that it sat silently there. At the same time, he sensed its gaze fixed upon him, or rather, the strange pendant in his hand.

"You've arrived," came the metallic words from its mouth, making Xiao Nuo startle slightly. After a long pause, he gradually collected himself, focusing his sight on the dark figure before him. Frowning, he asked, "What is this place?"

"The Divine Realm," replied the icy shadow.

"I see, the Divine Realm," Xiao Nuo murmured, still perplexed. After some thought, he continued, "Since I've arrived here and met you, I suppose you won't let me leave easily?"

"Correct," the figure answered succinctly. "Anyone who enters the Divine Realm must complete the tasks assigned by it."

"From today onward, you are Divine Realm entrant number 1628638."

"Heh, just as I thought," Xiao Nuo said with a wry chuckle and shake of his head.

It was hard to fathom someone still capable of laughing after such a bizarre, uncanny experience. But that was just the kind of person Xiao Nuo was - calm and collected when abandoned by his parents and pressured by society. He felt there was nothing left that could shake him anymore. After the laugh, he suddenly asked again, "So what are the benefits of joining this so-called Divine Realm and becoming your number 1628638?"

Clearly, this was the shadow's first time encountering someone entering the Divine Realm yet remaining so composed, even inquiring about compensation like a job interview. After a brief silence, it answered flatly, "Very well. If you can complete the tasks decreed by the Divine Realm and deliver twenty Secret Silver Medals to me, you may make one request."

"Any request?"

"Interesting."

Xiao Nuo took a deep breath, lowering his head as if to hide his expression. After pondering briefly, he tentatively asked, "Any request - does that mean things modern science cannot achieve, or even fathom?"

"Like helping me find someone, or reviving someone who's died?"

"Yes," came the terse yet firm reply, as if Xiao Nuo was not the first to ask this. The corners of his lips lifted further upon receiving this affirmative answer. Stepping forward, he said to the figure, "In that case, I'll join your Divine Realm."

"Very well, step inside," said the shadow after a brief glance at Xiao Nuo. Suddenly extending a finger, it flicked lightly. At once, the massive gate behind it emitted a faint glow before sliding open with a whoosh, as if it had been open all along.

Beyond the now gaping entrance, all Xiao Nuo could see was pitch-blackness, the interior completely obscured. But this only piqued his interest more, even making his entire body tremble slightly with excitement. Striding forward, just as he was about to cross the threshold, the metallic voice sounded again in his ears.

"A tip for you."

"Remember, survive with your own strength."

"Ah-"

Hearing these cryptic words, Xiao Nuo's footsteps froze abruptly. But in that instant, a powerful suction force erupted from within the gate, catching him completely off guard. He was s*ck*d inside before he could react, his whole body enveloped by strange energies. Searing pain tore through every fiber of his being. Then all he saw was darkness as he lost consciousness.

Chapter 2 First Entry and Crisis

Cold and Damp

When Xiao Nuo opened his eyes, he found himself in a dilapidated, ramshackle room. Beneath the sagging, cracked ceiling, the crumbling walls were so feeble they barely obstructed the wind. But as his gaze fell upon himself and then the floor beneath him, his brows couldn't help but raise slightly in surprise. He realized to his astonishment that the flooring consisted of tatami mats.

"Firstly, my injuries seem to have completely healed," he murmured pensively.

"Secondly, these antiquated, old-fashioned tatami mats aren't prevalent or widespread in Huaxia Country, but if it were the island nation across the sea instead..."

"Hmm..."

Xiao Nuo did not hurry to arise or get up from his recumbent position, instead closing his eyes ruminatively to mentally go over and connect everything he knew so far, piecing together the fragments in his mind. As the musty, moldy dampness of the tatami mats wafted into hi

Heroes

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