Chapter 1058: The Echelon Reacts!
“Any further pinnacle is still just the Immortal Realm!” Su Yan replied through gritted teeth.
“You don't understand,” said Meng Hao, shaking his head. The mark of the Echelon had appeared on his forehead, sinking deeper into him with each pulsing flicker.
Su Yan looked at the mark silently, her feelings clearly conflicted.
Meng Hao rubbed his forehead, then turned to look at the wreckage of his residence. All of a sudden, he had realized something, something that appeared in his mind after absorbing the Nirvana Fruit completely.
“The word Immortal is extremely profound....” he murmured to himself. He suddenly raised his right hand, within which was a second Nirvana Fruit. He looked at it thoughtfully.
“I can sense that the primary function of the Paragon's blood was to provide true approval of me as part of the League of Demon Sealers. Paragon Sea Dream has her Echelon. However, I am the sole member of Paragon Nine Seals’ Echelon.
“The strengthening of my fleshly body, and the absorption of the Nirvana Fruit were side effects.
“Furthermore, after absorbing one drop of the blood, it wouldn't matter if I absorbed hundreds or thousands more. They wouldn't do anything. Also, I can’t continue to use Paragon's blood to absorb Nirvana Fruits.
“Moreover... using Paragon's blood to do so is a huge waste.” After a moment of thought, he probed his cultivation base to sense how vastly, vastly more powerful he was than before.
A month or so ago, he had been an Immortal Realm Paragon. Now, he was above that, an Immortal Emperor!
The current era had no such thing as an Immortal Emperor. In fact, even in the days of the Immortal World, the Immortal Emperor Realm was something rarely seen, like a level of complete perfection.
It represented a level of profound understanding of the Realm of Immortality.
Meng Hao might have only 123 Immortal meridians, but each and every one had widened and become extremely sturdy. The feeling of power he was experiencing was something he previously could only feel on a temporary basis with the aid of Nirvana Fruit. Now, he was eternally within that Realm.
The Echelon mark on his forehead glittered brightly, and was clearly more firmly implanted. Because of that, he looked completely different than before.
He even had a new strange feeling. If he closed his eyes, he could almost sense that, far out in the vast Mountain and Sea Realm, in other areas, there were... familiar fluctuations.
Those fluctuations were not coming from a specific person. Rather, it came from other people who... were like him! Members of the Echelon!
In total, there were twelve other members of the Echelon!
He was the thirteenth member, and the most recent one to be added. He was also the last member of the Echelon. Before him, there were a total of twelve. These were people from other locations in the Mountain and Sea Realm, whom Paragon Sea Dream had pulled into the Echelon.
Meng Hao had no illusions about how difficult it was to become part of the Echelon, nor how powerful its members were. After seeing the shocking and majestic sight of the first generation Patriarch, he could well imagine how powerful the other members were.
It was only after Meng Hao received the enlightenment of Paragon magic... that he had been able to join the Echelon.
Meng Hao could sense twelve fluctuations, and every one left him with a feeling like that of a Paragon. The level of power caused his heart to sink.
“Now I see. Before, my cultivation base and Realm simply did not qualify me to sense their existence. It is only now that I have reached the proper degree to do so.
“Furthermore, that means that as of this moment, not only can I sense them, they... can also... sense me!” He frowned.
By the time that Meng Hao frowned, the flurry of activity that had resulted from the events the previous month had died down. There were still many people who were paying attention to the situation, but the most tense juncture had passed.
Life went on. The sun and the moon went back into motion, almost as if nothing had happened. However, deep in the hearts of many people, questions still lurked about who the future Lord of the Mountain and Sea Realm was....
In the Eighth Mountain and Sea was a location out in the void that was comprised of a vast field of skeletons that almost looked like puppets. Their eyes flickered with ghost fire as they swirled around. In the very center of all of them was an enormous palace constructed of bones.
Within that palace, a young man in a black robe sat there cross-legged, meditating. He was extremely gaunt, and his face was as pale as death, completely lacking even a trace of color. Furthermore, the flame of his life force was very dim. Suddenly, his eyes opened, and all of the skeletons surrounding the palace dropped down to kowtow. At the same time, a terrifying energy surged out from the young man.
A mark appeared on his forehead, flickering brightly. All of a sudden, he could sense something within the Ninth Mountain and Sea... the fluctuations of the Echelon!
“So, there’s actually a thirteenth member....” he murmured, and a sinister glow like that of blood appeared in his eyes.
At the same time, a massive vortex could be seen in the Fourth Mountain and Sea. A handsome young man in a blue garment sat cross-legged in that vortex, meditating. He was surrounded by ten old men, all of whom were at the peak of the Ancient Realm. Clearly, these men were the Dao Protectors of the younger man.
Roughly 3,000 meters away from him in the vortex was a young woman clad in a simple white gown. Her cultivation base was not in the Immortal Realm, but rather, the Nascent Soul stage. However, there was an aura to her that ensured that, despite being inside the vortex, she wasn’t harmed at all. She sat there, her eyes closed as she practiced cultivation.
Next to the young woman was an old lady who looked like a servant of some sort. She sat there quietly, completely ignoring the young man and his ten Dao Protectors.
After a long moment passed, the young man in blue opened his eyes and looked at the young woman in white. His eyes flickered with a mysterious light, and he suddenly approached her, after which he clasped hands and bowed deeply.
“Miss Xu, we meet again! I, Lin Cong, offer greetings to the 49th Princess of the Underworld!” [1. This might cause some readers to recall what was said by Ksitigarbha in chapter 982.]
The young woman in white opened her eyes and looked at the young man. After giving him a slight smile, she closed her eyes again.
The young man smiled back, seemingly having taken no offense. However, when he turned away, a sinister gleam could be seen deep in his eyes. He was just about to leave when, all of a sudden, an Echelon mark suddenly appeared on his forehead, and he could sense that there was now another member of the Echelon in the Mountain and Sea Realm.
“The Ninth Mountain and Sea huh.... He’s much weaker than any of the others....” Killing intent flickered in the young man’s eyes.
Similar scenes played out one after another in other locations in the other Mountains and Seas. Just as Meng Hao had suspected, the other twelve members of the Echelon were all able to sense him.
Competition was something that came with the status of being in the Echelon itself. Plus, there were also people in the outside world who wanted to kill those Echelon members and take their status for their own. Such an attitude was even stronger among the Echelon members as well.
To them, weak people weren’t qualified to stand among them. Although nobody who was truly weak was allowed to even join the Echelon, any member who didn’t make progress quickly enough would soon be left behind, and eventually eliminated.
On the First Mountain was a young man with ordinary features. However, on his forehead could be seen a third eye. He currently sat in front of a Go board, holding a game piece in his hand, apparently lost in thought.
In front of him was a young woman wearing a long, emerald-green gown. She was so beautiful that it was impossible for anyone to compare to her. She had an alluring figure, and phoenix-like eyes that radiated a vigorous spirit. The wind slowly blew her long black hair, causing a single strand to gently sweep across her chest. The cosmetics she wore added a bit of color to her face, making her cheeks slightly rosy. She was both lithe and tender, and overall, completely attractive.
She was like a butterfly fluttering in the wind, or a fairy floating across the snow. She was the type of woman who, wherever she went, the flowers darkened, the sun and moon dimmed, and all other women somehow looked less beautiful.
She was also surrounded by Immortal qi, which slowly swirled around her, causing her to seem completely extraordinary.
“Elder Brother Chen, it looks like you're going to lose this game too,” she said with a smile. It was a smile that made her consummate beauty even more attractive. The wind that was blowing past seemed unwilling to part with her, and instead, continued to swirl around her.
“The world is like a game of Go,” the man said lightly. “And life is like a dream. Each stone that is played must be played with extreme thought and precision.... Miss Xue’er, you truly deserve to be the number one successor of Immortal Ancient. You’ve experienced the wide world in your long travels, and the gracefulness of every step you take causes lotuses to bloom.” He looked up at the young woman and smiled slightly. [1. The Xue in this young woman’s name is 雪 xuě meaning “snow”]
“Miss Xue’er,” the man said coolly, “among the twelve members of the Echelon, you came to find me first. Then you left to travel across the Mountain and Sea Realm, and now, you’ve come to find me again. It seems like I’m the chosen one.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t find anyone who can beat me at this game. Elder Brother Chen, among all the other members of the Echelon, you are the one who can hold out the longest. Since that’s the case, well....” The young woman lapsed into silence for a moment. Finally, she nodded, and was about to continue speaking when, all of a sudden, her expression flickered.
Simultaneously, the refined young man with whom she was speaking also looked surprised. An Echelon mark appeared on his forehead, and he was suddenly able to sense the fluctuations from Meng Hao in the Ninth Mountain and Sea.
“A new member. Too bad he’s far too weak.” After a moment, the man paid no further attention to Meng Hao. Instead, he looked at the young woman in front of him. Although his expression was placid, inwardly, he was a bit nervous.
The young woman didn't say anything in response. She looked down at the Go board for a moment, then back up at the man. Finally, she stood up and waved her hand, causing the game board to vanish.
“Since a new member of the Echelon has appeared, I’m going to go extend greetings. I want to see if I'm connected to this person by destiny. Elder Brother Chen... if I have no destiny with him, then I’ll come find you again to discuss the Dao.”
“A person that weak... wouldn't it be a waste of your time, Miss Xue'er?” the man said slowly.
“The first time I found you, Elder Brother Chen, you did not have the cultivation base you have now either.” The woman smiled, then turned and made her way off into the distance.
The man she called Elder Brother Chen sat there quietly for a long moment. Finally, a glow of self-confidence appeared in his eyes, which he then closed.
Meng Hao’s debut into the Echelon gave rise to a variety of intense reactions among the other members. At the same time, in the other Daoist Societies in the other eight Mountains and Seas, there were people who suddenly became aware that there was a new member of the Echelon!
A true member of the Echelon was difficult to produce. Someone who wasn’t qualified to remain in the Echelon, and yet received an Echelon mark, would not be accepted. Meng Hao, after successfully absorbing his first Nirvana Fruit, finally... was acknowledged as being a true member of the Echelon. Also... he was now placed within the hearts and minds of the other members.
Currently, Meng Hao was in the Nine Seas God World in the Ninth Mountain and Sea. His eyes glittered, and he muttered to himself. Finally, he put the matter of the Echelon aside, and focused fully on himself.
“An Ancient Realm expert below five extinguished soul lamps would not be a match for me!” he thought, his eyes shining as he looked down at the Nirvana Fruit in his hand.
“I wonder if it would be possible to continue and absorb a second Nirvana Fruit. If I could exceed the power of the Immortal Emperor... I wonder what Realm that would be? The mere thought filled Meng Hao with excitement. He lifted the Nirvana Fruit up and, without any further hesitation, pushed it into his forehead.
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