I'm dead.

What a way to go.

I was supposed to be a genius back in the Earthen Plane, my strength and intellect were unrivalled garnering respect from all around me.

I reached the prestigious rank of Master at my Heaven Sect at the young age of twenty where most people at that rank were well past their eighties. The praises and attention stoked my ego so much that I got too overconfident, thinking I could easily step foot into the higher Spiritual Plane without any consequences.

I ascended too soon, too rashly and paid the price for it. I was able to step foot into the higher realm at the cost of crippling all my meridians and utterly destroying my Cultivation Point, lowering my strength to nothing more than a non-Practitioner mortal.

It would have been fine if I could return to the Earthen plane where I was still known and respected, but in this Spiritual plane where no one knew me nor cared to know me, I was trampled on like the miserable insect I had become.

Without strength to fight back against these bullying scoundrels, I could only seek refuge in the Spiritual Royal Family Sect by offering my services. But even there, I still faced constant ridicule and thrashing just because I could not fight back.

Lady Luck smiled on me still as even without my profound strength, my intellect was still respectable enough to obtain a position as an archivist in the Royal Archives where many secrets of the Practitioner World was kept. In there, I managed to secretly memorise multitudes of cultivation techniques, combat manuals, alongside hoarding a plethora of alchemical recipes and various other knowledge.

It was there that I learned of a possible pill that could restore my meridians and repair my Cultivation Point.

Unfortunately, more knowledge does not equate to more wisdom as I had been too focused on reversing my crippled state to care about anything else.

One of the pill's ingredients was only found in the Cloud Plane which should have been impossible for a non-Practitioner or a Practitioner with crippled meridians like myself could ascend to. But I had been determined to restore myself at any price and had resorted to using forbidden techniques to force my way through to the next plane.

What I hadn't known then was the Dark quarks I forcefully imbued myself with disintegrated my Quark Veins which rendered the pill entirely ineffective. Even worse was the fact that since my Cultivation Point was destroyed, the Dark quarks I had imbued myself with completely dissipated, landing me back at square one.

I was thus left completely defenceless in this extremely hazardous plane where the weakest being could kill me just by sneezing in my general direction.

That was actually how I died.

Ok not really, but close.

A Primordial Divine Dragon had somehow taken an interest in me, landed in front of me and did something that might have been a sneeze. The Elemental Quarks it exuded from that action instantly overwhelmed my mortal self and I spontaneously combusted on the spot.

I still deserve some credit for surviving there for about two years, though those two years were something that I never ever want to experience again.

Being the plaything and test subject of that maniacal Practitioner was not something I would wish anyone to be subjected to, not even my worst enemy.

Still, death by dragon sneeze should be an achievement somewhere.

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Ah~~ I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it's still all for naught. I regret not taking my time to enjoy life while I could, instead of struggling so hard like I had in this life. If I could go back and redo everything, I would really like to just take it easy and do things at my own pace.

Now that I think about it, how am I still cognizant about my state of being? Unless being stuck forever in a state of unconscious consciousness is what lies after death? That would have been a very interesting subject to study, if only I still had the Elemental Quarks to do so.

I wonder... If I had imbued Astral, Spirit and Space quarks into a body following the Immortal Projection Cultivation Technique, maybe I could replicate this state for myself or the soul in question?

Oh, this might even confirm the theory that souls are indeed a thing instead of just fragmented memories of the dead. I guess the spirits of the old geezers I met might actually be more than just the howlings of the departed after all.

But that also brings along the question of why those souls didn't seem as cognizant of their state as I currently am? Is it because of age or some other fac--

*KONG* *KONG*

"The biennial student selection of Heaven Sect will begin soon! Will all Elders and Masters involved please proceed to the Grand Hall!"

*KONG* *KONG*

"The biennial student selection of Heaven Sect will begin soon! Will all Elders and Masters involved please proceed to the Grand Hall!"

*KONG* *KONG*

I opened my eyes with a start.

The first thing I saw was an eerily familiar ceiling that I hadn't seen in the past decade and a half.

It took me a few seconds to recognise it as my room back when I was a Master at Heaven Sect.

I blinked a few times while ignoring whoever was still shouting and banging the gong outside.

Slowly, I sat up on my bed, trying to get a grasp on what was going on.

Looking around the room, I confirmed where I thought I was. It was indeed the room I had resided in for the seven years I was a Master at Heaven Sect.

Judging by the content of the shouting outside and the lack of scrolls and various other artifacts I had managed to gather over the years, this should be my second year as a Master in Heaven Sect, making me twenty-two.

Looking down at my hands, I confirmed the youthfulness and unmarked skin of my hands. The hands I had been so used to seeing was full of scars and scabs, all received from the trampling, tortures, and struggles I had to endure after I ascended from the Earthen plane.

I immediately tried circulating my Elemental Quarks, a tear finding its way to the corner of my eye when I realised my Cultivation Point and meridians were completely fine.

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Shaking my head to recover, I immediately started analyzing my situation.

My memories of what had occurred were too vivid to dismiss as a dream or imagination. The cultivation arts, recipes and knowledge I had gained from it were also a testament to the fact that everything I experienced was real.

So this can be ruled to either transmigration or time travel.

I had no artifacts on me that could cause this phenomenon, nor had I the Elemental Quarks to cause this phenomenon myself.

That means someone else caused this recently before my supposed death by sneeze.

It can't be that person right?

That maniacal Practitioner had always continuously thrashed me with a giant stick called 'truck-kun', constantly claiming that it would allow me to awaken in another world or something. Every time I was beaten unconscious, my consciousness actually did travel to another realm full of towering buildings and metal carriages. I would spend some time wandering there before a long metal carriage would ram into me, sending me back into my body.

Then there was that time I was used as a test subject by that same demented monster for some new cultivation technique involving Astral and Light quarks. I remember seeing stars and some weird blue colored rectangular box floating in front of me. There was a sign on top of it but I only managed to catch a glimpse of the word 'Police' before I was dragged back to reality.

Oh, there was also that incident where I was used by that damn crazy psycho as a shield to block a curse by another Practitioner, which resulted in me being teleported to another realm of existence. I had a weird vision of seeing six different colored stones revolving around me that seemed to give off infinite power before I blacked out, waking up back in my realm again.

No, definitely not possible. No way that crazy lunatic could have a hand in something like this.

Must be the Dragon.

Yep, that settles it, the Dragon must have caused this.

How? I have no idea, I was definitely not in the state to analyze the Elemental Quarks involved in that sneeze while I was literally being burned into nothingness. But I surmise it must be that dragon sneeze that caused this phenomenon.

How am I so calm about this? Well, if you had to struggle like I did to survive in those hellish places for more than a decade, you gain the uncanny ability to adapt to and take advantage of any situation as fast as possible.

Throwing my worries out the window, I stood up from the bed with clenched fists. Since I was offered a second chance, there's no way I'm not going to make use of it! I'm going to live an easy and relaxing life at my own pace!

No more rushing to be the strongest! The higher Planes are crap anyway! Earthen Plane is the best to relax! Everyone is trying to backstab and kill each other in the higher Planes to get stronger, totally unlike the Earthen Plane where Practitioners are more laid back and more concerned about what to eat for dinner rather than how to exploit their fellows, at least in my eyes.

Screw those puffed-up self-important Sect Masters and whatever godly Primordial beings that exist in this universe, I'm going to live the life I want after being your plaything for all those years! Just you watch! I'll wake up late every day, train when I feel like it, travel the world at a relaxed pace without a care in the--

A gentle knock on my door brought me out of my musings.

"Master Lin? Are you ready to go yet?" A voice asked from beyond my door.

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Eh? That voice… "Elder Qing? Yeah, I'll be ready in a bit."

"Heh, this is your first time participating as a Master right? It's still early so you can still take your time, I'll wait for you at the courtyard."

"Oh, ok then. Sure er… Just going to change my clothes and I'll be out in a bit."

"Alright then," Footsteps echoed away from my door.

No doubt about whether this is real, I remember Elder Qing also came to call me during the student selection back then. I had refused to participate in the selection that time though, thinking it was a waste of time.

He was my teacher when I first joined the Sect before I showed my genius talents as a Practitioner. The Sect realised I could progress more on my own than under a tutor and gave me freedom to learn as I willed though Elder Qing remained as my mentor throughout my time in the Sect.

There was no jealousy when I advanced to the rank of Master above him. In fact, he had admitted he felt pride in having a hand in guiding me, no matter how insignificant his role might have been.

I had almost forgotten these kinds of people existed.

On the Spiritual Plane and Cloud Plane, everyone only cared for themselves.

Some commoner insulted your family and has better talent than you? Hire assassins to kill them before they can get stronger than you.

Some talentless cripple is marrying the prettiest girl in your city? Poison them on the night before their wedding to stop that.

Someone about to obtain the strongest treasure in the known universe? Betray them just before they get their hands on it so you can have it for yourself.

Don't even get me started on the Planes beyond that. I was lucky enough not to reach there but I have heard that it was just as bad if not worse than these two Planes.

Yeah, not going to miss any of that drama. I want an easy life now after all.

No wait, I just remembered hearing that not long after I left the Earthen Plane, some kind of disaster happened that rendered more than ninety percent of it uninhabitable.

Apparently a Practitioner had somehow summoned Divine Lightning storms that burned most of the world to ash. How someone on the Earthen Plane obtained that power I had no idea. Not even I could achieve that back when I was a Master.

Well shit... Guess I have to make some contingency plans after all, but nothing will stop me from trying to live the easy life still! I have an estimated five years before that happened anyway!

I stretched before proceeding to wash myself with a bucket of water I summoned with my Water quark and heated with my Fire quark.

I had to spend some time to refamiliarise myself with circulating my Elemental Quarks after missing them for so long. You never know how to appreciate what you have until you lose them.

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And to think I had to manually draw water from wells and heat it up with firewood after I crippled myself back then. Then again, having to learn how to do all the things I always depended my Elemental Quarks on was still an interesting experience, disregarding the dire situation I was in.

Refreshed with a new change of clothes, I am now prepared to begin my plans of living an easy life!

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