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    Extra III "Up" A New Chapter in Modernism Across Six Realms

    Another harsh winter arrived.

    Deep in the mountains.

    Invisible spiritual energy wafted through the forest, converging frenziedly towards a single direction when the time was ripe.

    Being secluded mountains, tourists were scarce, and the bushes had likely gone untrimmed for a long while. Amidst the lush foliage, a tiny, neglected shrine hid, forgotten for who knew how long.

    The shrine was diminutive, akin to a roadside altar for the Earth Deity, but within its pavilion sat a mud sculpture of a tiger.

    Weathered by wind and rain, the clay figure was unrecognizable, yet the shape gradually materializing before it revealed its true form—a tiger. The resemblance was uncanny.

    With slender, powerful limbs, a long tail, and snow-white fur without a hint of impurity, save for the regal "king" character on its forehead, it was undeniably a tiger!

    The tiger's form gradually sharpened from a blur, an eerie sight, but eventually, it materialized into a tangible body, standing firmly on the ground.

    It slowly opened its eyes.

    Memories involuntarily returned to that fleeting moment before the collapse of Heaven's Dao, when an unavoidable bolt of lightning struck down.

    In that instant of darkness after being hit, it believed itself to have perished. Yet, here it was, reemerging into the world after an indeterminate slumber.

    The tiger lifted its head to regard Heaven's Dao with a gaze that shimmered with both proud wisdom and compassion. The Four Divine Beasts, human faith, and its own existence were, ultimately, distinct.

    Awakened only for a few blinks of an eye, it already sensed numerous auras approaching from the mountains.

    Sitting regally like a king, the White Tiger observed those dashing through the woods towards it with an emotionless expression—

    rabbits, spotted deer, roe deer, goats, snakes, hedgehogs… ordinary creatures commonly seen in the mortal realm, now gathered intimately. Judging by their appearance, they had all attained spiritual awareness.

    They must have sensed its arrival and come to pay homage to the King of All Beasts, the supreme deity of mankind. In the mortal world, its governance and protection were still needed.

    Sure enough, the fastest roe deer approached, its face aglow with excitement as it opened its mouth.

    The White Tiger looked down at it haughtily, shaking off its lush, silken fur that flowed like premium silk.

    And then, the deer spoke, its voice thick with a rustic accent—

    "Wow, buddy! You've gained sentience too? Are you planning to join us and work in the capital like we do?"

    The White Tiger puffed out its chest. "???"

    ** *****

    With a sullen expression, the White Tiger followed a group of spirits through the forest, listening to their hopeful chatter:

    "Our mountain has great feng shui; quite a few fellow creatures have awakened their intelligence here. Much more capable than those in the neighboring Pockmarked Pit Village."

    "That's right, they can't compare with us! Always showing off! They just got lucky joining the Taicang Sect!"

    "But I heard the Taicang Sect treats its members well. That old Mink from Pockmarked Pit came back for the New Year, and it was using a Hero 10 Max phone! Just because its fur was so smooth, it was chosen to shoot a shampoo commercial right after joining!"

    "Woah! We need to give our best performance this time!"

    The deer spirit said, "Of course. If that old mink could do commercials, we'll definitely do better. Forget about the rest, this new brother with awakened intelligence has even more beautiful fur than that old spirit mink. He'd be more than suitable for a shampoo ad!"

    All the spirits turned to look at the White Tiger.

    Perplexed by their talk of job offers and advertisements, the White Tiger knitted its brows. "What nonsense are you all spouting?"

    Its confusion made the deer demon equally perplexed. "What do you mean by nonsense? Haven't you seen the new advertisement of Taicang Sect?"

    The other demons nodded as well. Ever since the new ad of Taicang Sect aired, it had become a sensation in the mountains over the past year. Many sapient demons would sneak into nearby human villages during prime time to peek through windows.

    White Tiger: "?"

    The deer demon was alarmed. "Don't tell me your job prospect isn't at Taicang Sect?!"

    White Tiger maintained a stern face, feeling like it understood a little bit now. "Taicang Sect? Is that a sect?"

    The deer demon replied, "What else could it be? Taicang Sect is the strongest sect in the Six Realms. Rumor has it that they're about to ring the bell for an IPO soon. It's extremely hard to get in!"

    Half-understanding and half-confused, White Tiger realized that this was about finding food. It immediately countered firmly, "Nonsense! Why would I go to the human world to look for them? They should be the ones seeking me out!"

    Deities looked down upon the world from above; how could they take the initiative to seek out their believers?

    The deer demon stared at it in utter shock. "Holy moly, are you a demon with a college degree?!"

    White Tiger: "?"

    The deer demon was taken aback by his reaction. "Not that? Then could it be that you possess some other advanced, specialized skills?"

    White Tiger: "?"

    Deer Demon: "?"

    "…No," the deer demon said, confused. "What's your educational background?"

    White Tiger: "What's education?"

    Deer Demon: "…"

    The deer demon rolled his eyes dramatically. "Sheesh, with how competitive it is to get hired in Taicang Sect these days, I thought you were really something. Turns out you're just illiterate. How do you have the nerve to think the sect's HR would actively recruit you?"

    White Tiger: "…"

    Even without much common sense, White Tiger knew he had been insulted. He had never expected a mere mortal demon to show such disrespect. Enraged, he retorted, "How dare you! You, a lowly deer demon, speak to the king like that!"

    The deer demon looked utterly bewildered. "King? Bro, don't tell me you don't watch the news? We're in a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, we've long abandoned feudal autocracy. What king? At best, you're just a protected species with a higher status than us. We're all laborers, no hierarchy here. Our demon dignity is equal."

    White Tiger: "?"

    Enraged, the White Tiger's fur bristled uncontrollably. The deer demon, seeing this, panicked and hastily stepped back. "Calm down, calm down! Speak rationally and don't attack. We all have spiritual intelligence; don't think you can escape the law just because you're an endangered species!"

    "I am a divine guardian of this world! Who dares to punish me?!!" The White Tiger roared at the sky. Suddenly, it sensed a chaotic array of auras behind it and turned to look.

    A group of humans dressed in Taoist robes had somehow appeared without notice, all gazing at it with deep emotions.

    "One can indeed sense the abundance of spiritual energy; even a White Tiger has appeared."

    "Little did we expect that Sect Leader Wei would ask us to capture this one on the side."

    The White Tiger met their gazes, coldly dismissing the deer demon. It glanced at the attire of the newcomers. "Humans, are you cultivators?"

    The crowd nodded respectfully. "Yes, Lord White Tiger."

    "So you know who I am." The White Tiger couldn't help but feel arrogant again with such deference shown to it. "Very well, were you summoned by the ruler of the human realm to pay homage and welcome me?"

    The Taoist masters: "..."

    The White Tiger's expression darkened. "Isn't that so? Then why have you come here?!"

    The Daoists spoke with difficulty, "We've come to take you to the Taicang Sect… to find you a job…"

    The White Tiger flew into a rage. "What?! A job?!"

    The surrounding spirits were furious. This damned White Tiger! It had pretended to disdain working at the Taicang Sect, but it had actually already pulled strings behind the scenes! What a scheming bastard!

    But the White Tiger felt deeply insulted. "You dare to tell me to work?! There's no way I'll ever work!"

    It was a deity ruling over the human world; it would never work in its life!

    Seeing this, the Daoists in front revealed helpless expressions. "Patriarch Wei has given his word, and we hope you can cooperate."

    The White Tiger sneered. "Cooperate?! Who does that Wei-surnamed patriarch think he is? Why should I cooperate with him? Just because of you humans who haven't even reached the Foundation Establishment stage?!"

    The Daoists sighed. "If you put it that way, you do have a point."

    "Ha ha ha ha!" The White Tiger shook its fur in disdain. "Pathetic insects with lowly powers, yet you still dare to speak so boldly!"

    With that, he activated his magical powers and soared into the air, casting a disdainful smirk at the group of humans on the ground who were incapable of even chasing after him with sword flight. "We'll see who can stop me!"

    Then, he saw the people in front of him exchange glances and reach for their backs.

    What were they reaching for? A peach wood sword? The White Tiger's sneer intensified. The human notion of magical artifacts and talismans was nothing but a joke to genuine deities.

    It seemed as if Beijing had transformed into an icy realm overnight.

    ******

    At rush hour, it was the time for people to head to work. Countless ordinary individuals emerged from every corner of the city, converging towards the bustling central business district. The streets were packed with pedestrians, causing traffic to come to a standstill, but fortunately, the subway trains were always punctual.

    Well-dressed office workers in thick winter coats poured out of the subway exits, glancing up at the sky and couldn't help but sigh in relief.

    The sky was high and broad, its blue as clear as water, and even the air seemed to be filled with a crisp, sweet scent. After acknowledging each other, colleagues gathered in small groups and headed towards their respective companies, their voices echoing everywhere:

    "What a lovely day it is."

    "Indeed, the app says the air quality is excellent today. Under this sun, even my daily work blues are cured."

    "When I first arrived in the capital, I saw smog every time I stepped out of my house. I wonder when exactly it started to improve."

    "It's been a few years now. In recent years, the government has been actively addressing environmental issues, and the results are quite impressive."

    As they spoke, they heard a news broadcast overhead. They looked up to see a familiar female anchor with a bright smile on her face:

    "Yesterday, the forestry department in City X discovered a wild, pure white variant of a Bengal tiger in the mountains. This type of tiger is also known as the snow tiger or color-changing tiger, due to its snow-white appearance. Prior to this, the species was believed to be extinct in the wild. This is the first time in recent years that humans have encountered one in its natural habitat..."

    The image of the white tiger on the screen was breathtakingly stunning, leaving passersby gasping in awe. The chatter among them intensified:

    "Another rare wild species found?"

    "It must be due to the improvement in the environment. The country has really been making significant efforts to rectify the situation. Just look at the air – the change is visible to the naked eye. A few months ago, the nearly extinct Baiji dolphins reappeared in groups thanks to the improved water quality!"

    "And there have been sightings of marine animals thought to be extinct. When I saw the photos, I almost cried out of relief. It's wonderful that they haven't gone extinct after all."

    As they marveled, they hurried towards their offices, bundling up their coats. As they passed by an extravagantly grand office building, they couldn't help but steal another glance.

    Outside the skyscraper stood a colossal stone monument, inscribed with the majestic calligraphy of "Tai Cang Sect".

    At the entrance, there was still an incense burner filled with burning joss sticks.

    The white-collar workers: "…"

    After so many years, the young professionals in the business district still couldn't adapt to this style. Someone, unable to resist the confusion, asked again,

    "I, I want to ask you, have you seen that new third-generation advertisement from Taicang Sect?"

    His colleague replied in a similarly dazed manner, "…Ah, are you talking about the ad that openly invites all demons, ghosts, and monsters to apply, solving employment issues for the six realms? I saw it."

    The first person to speak shook his head. "No, you're talking about the second generation. The newest third-generation ad promotes their globalization, openly recruiting overseas staff."

    "Uh… Nowadays, isn't global trade encouraged… It's, it's not bad, right?"

    The young people fell silent for a moment before they finally found their voices,

    "What exactly does this company do?"

    "It seems to be doing quite well. I heard they already have over ten chain haunted houses, and they also engage in research and development. They have a good relationship with Ning Tian and often have business transactions."

    "In the heart of the city, they even have a colossal building, reportedly owned privately by their boss. There's no other place in the entire Central Business District that's more luxurious or closer to the subway station than theirs..."

    "But hasn't this incense burner ever attracted the urban management?!"

    "I don't think so? Have you followed Taicang Sect on Weibo? They're almost at ten million followers, and there's been no sign of them being shut down. A few days ago, I saw them posting about possibly going public."

    ".....................Going public?"

    "Okay, okay, turning superstition into a business like this is quite something. I'm going to burn some incense for the Heavenly Sovereign. Anyone wants to join?"

    "Count me in."

    "Me too."

    ********

    Behind the door, the atmosphere inside the Taicang Sect office was entirely different.

    The White Tiger, who had just been mentioned in the news, had been discreetly transported from the parking lot into the elevator. Ignoring the awe it felt toward human technological advancements during the journey, the White Tiger lay helplessly in its cage, frustrated mainly by its treatment.

    Its shiny, round eyes glared indignantly at the Taoist priests beside it, mustering what little strength it had to berate them, "You! You mere mortals, dare to treat a divine being like this! The rulers of this mortal realm know of my descent and yet they do not come to pay homage. Do you know the consequences of blasphemy!"

    The Taoist masters: "..."

    The elevator ascended from the underground parking lot to the first floor, where it paused as figures outside entered.

    The White Tiger, indignant, was about to lash out with more insults when his gaze fell upon the newcomer, causing him to freeze in surprise. "Venerable Agar from... the Western Heavenly Court?!"

    The Buddhist monk, radiating with divine light, who had entered lowered his head and saw him, chuckling. "White Tiger? You've awoken too?"

    The White Tiger stared blankly at the figure before it. Although it hadn't entered the Eastern Heavenly Court, it was still a renowned divine beast in the East and had met many high-ranking deities and buddhas from both the East and West. Wasn't this person right in front of it one of the famous Arhats of the Western Heavenly Court? It clearly remembered that before the collapse of the Heavenly Dao and its own demise by lightning, this person should have already perished!

    The White Tiger momentarily forgot its anger. "Venerable Agartha, so you didn't actually fall back then?"

    The golden-bodied Arhat smiled slightly. "Of course not. Like you, I awoke after the change in Heavenly Dao."

    Only then did the White Tiger realize something. "T-T heavenly Dao..."

    "The Heavenly Dao has already changed," the golden-bodied Arhat said. "Now, there is a new Heavenly Dao."

    The White Tiger opened its mouth, so astonished that it momentarily forgot its weakness. It struggled to sit up in the cage, filled with both sorrow and joy. "There's actually a new Heavenly Dao... A Great Virtuous One has truly emerged in the world? Who is it? What great virtue did they perform?"

    Golden Body Arhat: ".... Before this Heavenly Dao became a deity, their religious name was Venerable Heaven's Enlightenment."

    The Golden Body Arhat on the other side strangely skipped over a question and had an odd expression, but the White Tiger didn't notice. Instead, it laughed in excitement after collapsing back onto the ground. "Excellent! Excellent! As long as the Heavenly Dao stands, there will be a place for us divine beings in this world. There won't be any more chaos like before!"

    Its gaze darkened as it turned to the Daoist priests beside it. "You humans, do you still think that the Heavenly Dao will protect you like it did when it collapsed? Dream on! You show such disrespect to me and dare to summon a mighty divine being to work. When I regain my strength, it'll be the end of your Tai Cang Sect!"

    Golden Body Arhat: "...."

    Daoist Priests: "...."

    The Daoist priests sobbed and bowed to the non-sect deity opposite them. "After all, it's our sect's divine beast... Venerable One, please don't spread this around."

    White Tiger: "????"

    These humans weren't afraid of its threats at all!

    It was utterly shocked. Then, as its gaze shifted, it was surprised to find that the Golden Body Arhat had suddenly moved farther away from it. The Arhat even turned its head, pretending not to see the White Tiger.

    White Tiger: "???"

    Perplexed but eager for social interaction after such a long absence of divine company, it ventured another attempt at conversation, "Oh, Venerable Aga, might I ask why you're here...?"

    As the elevator arrived at its floor, Venerable Aga seemed to have no intention of lingering. With a whoosh, they slipped out the door, walking briskly away while forcing a laugh, "Haha... Of course, I'm here for work."

    White Tiger: "??? ????"

    In that instant, White Tiger felt an existential confusion that it had never experienced before. Then, as the Taoist priests sobbed and pushed it out of the elevator, it turned the corner to witness an even more astonishing sight!

    The spacious lounge on this floor was – incredibly! – filled with gods and buddhas from all walks of life!

    White Tiger: "!!!!!!!!"

    These deities were mostly familiar faces, belonging to the middle tier of both Eastern and Western Heavenly Realms, with a moderate following. They were the first to fall when the Heavenly Dao collapsed.

    Now, with the emergence of the new Heavenly Dao, they had all awoken and gathered here!

    White Tiger felt a sense of awe that surpassed even the heyday of the Heavenly Realms. Back then, the Eastern and Western Realms operated separately, so wherever White Tiger went, it could only see the deities of one realm. How could there be such a convergence of both sides? Not even inter-spiritual conferences could boast such a grand assembly!

    At this moment, these gods and buddhas from different origins were all gathered together, each holding a piece of paper identical to the one the golden arhat had just held, engaged in conversation.

    White Tiger, stunned, asked, "What… are they doing here?"

    The Taoist priests replied, "…Looking for work."

    White Tiger: "?????"

    The Taoist priests, though wearing badges of their respective deities, still instinctively paid homage to the divine beings that originated from them, but their rituals were much simpler, without the grandeur of kneeling prostrations.

    Sigh, any believer who frequently witnessed their deity coming to the human world to argue with Taicang Sect would likely find it hard to maintain such grand displays of devotion.

    Still in disbelief, White Tiger heard the conversation between the true gods and the human Taoist priests up ahead:

    "No need for formalities. Which one is White Tiger?"

    "Yes, Master Wei instructed us to bring it back on our way."

    "Hmm, good. You went to see Xuanwu, right? How is Xuanwu doing?"

    "Everything's fine, just a bit thin. He'll be out in a few months."

    When the Taoist masters returned, White Tiger looked at them in astonishment. "Black Tortoise is also alive? Where has he been? Why hasn't he come to see me?"

    Before the collapse of Heavenly Dao, the divine beasts had a good relationship. When he died, Azure Dragon and all the dragons were killed by Heavenly Dao. As a result, upon awakening, he never imagined that any of his companions could still be alive.

    The Taoist masters replied, "…Lord Black Tortoise is entangled with some troubles and might not be able to meet you for the time being."

    White Tiger exclaimed, "!! What? Is he injured?"

    The Taoist masters answered, "…No, he's doing well."

    They continued, "…He's just in prison."

    White Tiger was utterly confused. "?????"

    Faced with his shocked gaze, the Taoist masters could only solemnly explain, "Due to lawbreaking and involvement in an illicit cult organization, he was sentenced to five years and six months in prison by the Supreme Court. He will be released in another six months."

    White Tiger was speechless.

    Is the human world that terrifying?

    White Tiger paused and couldn't help asking, "What about Azure Dragon and Vermilion Bird?"

    The Taoist priests nodded. "The new Azure Dragon appeared five years ago, and Lord Vermilion Bird awakened a few months ago. You're the last of the Four Divine Beasts to appear."

    White Tiger asked anxiously, "Are they also in prison?"

    "No, not at all!" the Taoist priests replied.

    White Tiger slightly relaxed. That's good, that's good. What would it look like if all four Divine Beasts were locked up by humans? It seemed that Black Tortoise was the only one obedient enough to allow humans to control them. If any other deity were treated with such disrespect, they would probably have caused chaos in the world already.

    The Taoist priests continued, "However, they're both quite busy. Lord Azure Dragon works as a performer in the aquatic exhibit at the Forest Zoo in the capital city."

    White Tiger: "?"

    "When Lord Vermilion Bird first appeared, he accidentally caused a forest fire, resulting in significant losses. Now, to pay off the damages, he's generating electricity by breathing fire at a power plant. He probably won't have time to meet you during workdays."

    White Tiger: "..."

    "Aha!" A Daoist received the call, his face lighting up with joy. "My Lord, Patriarch Wei has asked us to enter first."

    With that, he propelled the bewildered White Tiger toward the office.

    Pushing open the office door, a figure emerged from within. Upon seeing the person, White Tiger's eyes widened in surprise. "Mo Luo!"

    Upon hearing his cry, Mo Luo turned his head. White Tiger grew even more furious. "It's really you! You bunch of demons from the Asura World, what do you want here on Earth now?"

    The ugly-looking Mo Luo glanced at him, then turned to the group of human Daoists. "What's wrong with him?"

    The Daoists apologized repeatedly. "Sorry, sorry, he's new and doesn't understand the rules yet."

    White Tiger: "What are you saying? Do you have any idea who he is? The Asura World has appeared in our realm, chaos will ensue!"

    "Demented," the Mo Luo shot back, tucking a file under his arm and hastening away. "Pfft, people from impoverished regions are truly something. It's the 21st century, and you still cling to species discrimination. You should be grateful we don't discriminate against you."

    Hearing such an insulting term, White Tiger was so enraged that his fur nearly stood on end. He shouted after the Mo Luo, "Who are you calling from an impoverished region?! We, in the Heavenly Realm, remain untainted by the mortal world, while your Asura World is filled with wretchedness!"

    The Mo Luo rolled his eyes, looking even more disdainful. "How much welfare do you receive in the Heavenly Realm every quarter?"

    White Tiger: "?"

    Mo Luo: "Does the Heavenly Court provide you with houses, cars, and household appliances?"

    White Tiger: "?"

    Mo Luo: "I bet none of you celestial deities can even afford a house in the capital."

    White Tiger: "?"

    Mo Luo flashed him a smug grin. "In the Asura World, we offer free education up to doctoral level, and there are bonuses for those who pass high school and university entrance exams. Can your Heavenly Court compete with that? Country bumpkins!"

    White Tiger: "?"

    Looking back, White Tiger noticed that the divine beings from both realms behind him wore expressions of anger they dared not voice.

    Amazed, he couldn't help but confront them after Mo Luo left. "Fine, I can't do anything about it. But why didn't any of you teach him a lesson?"

    The group of deities' faces twitched as they met his gaze, but they eventually turned away in silence.

    They weren't wrong about that.

    The Asura World... was indeed incredibly wealthy.

    It was undoubtedly the most desirable immigration destination among the six realms.

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