2021, China, Mingshui Province, Panshan City.
In a progressively modernizing society, the ancient industry of auctioneering was already becoming increasingly scarce. Nonetheless, Mingshui Province had an ancient auction house and all of it was crafted from wood. At the top was a mottled room with the three words of Golden Dipper Hall inscribed, yet this place had towered in the city’s heart for over a century.
It was night, already twelve o’clock, but the inside was still bright with lantern light. Several late-comers walked in, somewhat drunk, yet all they saw was an old man wearing a dragon-phoenix Tang suit, who was working an abacus. After they shot a few looks at the man in rapt interest, they discovered everything was covered with a layer of gauze and left in discontent.
Chink… An abacus bead was pushed forward, and the fifty-year-old man raised his head. Aided by his circular glasses, he looked at all the workers who were sweeping and suppressing their excitement, his voice hoarse, “Be careful! There’s still ten minutes! All of you will be seeing people that you would’ve never met! If any one of you slips up, you can all get lost!”
No one spoke, but looking carefully at every one of them, each person’s face carried an abnormal flush. Although they were sweeping the floor, their gazes never left the entrance!
Sizzle… At this time, a white misty qi halo twinkled in the sky above the Golden Dipper Hall. Comparable to fog and muslin, it seemed to isolate the world into two extremes. In an instant, regardless of what would appear here, outsiders would be left unknowing.
One could see flowers in fog, and a full moon in water, yet none were any the wiser as to what would emerge from the mist.
At the same time, the melodious whinny of a horse rang out at the door, as if it had waited for a long time. The fifty-year-old man didn’t decline in the slightest, his silhouette like the wind. In the next second, he appeared at the entrance, and all the employees bowed together to the floor simultaneously. The man said brightly, “Deputy Hallmaster Jin Zhenshan of the Golden Dipper Hall welcomes Fellow Daoist’s arrival!”
He easily stowed his Foundation Establishment spiritual pressure. Tonight was destined to be a night engraved and recorded in the ancient chronicles of history. It was bound to be a splendid night. It was also bound to be a night of the Golden Dipper Hall’s prosperity! Spirit stones would fill the auction like oceans, yet there wasn’t one person who spoke. The Golden Dipper Hall’s board of directors had unanimously passed this. He was moreover unwilling to intimidate the younger generation of the great powers because of his Foundation Establishment spiritual pressure.
Even a subtle aspect needed to be constantly perfected. That was because he understood very well that all who were coming tonight were apex clans, first-rate powers! Yet this thread was insufficient; it was basically unknown that the Dao of Pills had shown its face again to the cultivation world!
The Nangong Demon Clan and Xuanyuan Demon Clan reportedly had two half-step Core Formation undyings set out three days ago. The CSIB’s Deputy Minister Yang Qingshan and the Featherwood Guard’s Deputy Director Mou Zishan were two old monsters that had already disappeared for an unknown number of years. They had long since crossed the line of half-step Core Formation, and it was heard that they had appeared at Panshan City’s Kempinski Grand Hotel...
It was a mystery as to the amount of long-hidden cultivators, dragons converging at the four oceans. Perhaps… there was even a chance that there were unknown Core Formation ancestors secret to the world. Because of this news, these cultivators had emerged once more in the world!
The thoughts and feelings within his heart were endless, and Jin Zhenshan lifted his eyes to look. Across was a pure-black ancient carriage, but it wasn’t at all a box carriage. Instead, it was completely open sail. Beneath a several-meter-sized royal canopy, a red curtain drew the faintly discernible outlines of three silhouettes within. Nonetheless, they were simply vague.
He sucked in deeply yet wasn’t of the slightest mind to spy with his spiritual sense… because he had discovered that the thin curtain was engraved with countless seals on the surface!
This… was a magik treasure! Not a magik artifact! A magik treasure! Only the middle stage of Foundation Establishment and above possessed the qi to employ magik treasures. However, the quantity of magik treasures weren’t many, and top-quality magik treasures were even rarer! From this curtain, he sensed that it was able to affect spiritual sense via a wave of piercing pain!
Swoosh… A mulberry leaf flew out from the curtain, and a voice so old that it seemed to originate from someone who had come alive from a coffin hoarsely echoed. The voice appeared to be laughing, yet it caused one’s back to shudder. “This Throne… Cough, cough… shouldn’t be late…”
Jin Zhenshan came to welcome them, merely glancing. He immediately paid homage in great etiquette. “The mulberry leaf and the Heaven Worm. So it is the Ming Demon Clan’s Clan Master that has graced us with his presence. The Golden Dipper Hall is unable to bear the honor of this privilege!”
Meanwhile, the building behind him suddenly erupted with a burst of golden radiance. Countless talismans sparkled, and the space in front of Jin Zhenshan followingly distorted. After a brief moment, a ten-meter-sized spatial crack formed.
“The Coiling Dragon Space Splitter Formation?” An old woman’s voice rang out from the carriage. In the same vein, her voice was old like a corpse. “A formation claimed to be capable of creating an independent space… The Golden Dipper Hall has laid down hard-earned capital, eh…”
She didn’t require Jin Zhenshan’s answer at all. At the front of the carriage, a copper man was seated. At this moment, he swung his horse whip, and four copper horses neighed, directly galloping into the crack.
Jin Zhenshan was unable to restrain himself from shivering. Seeing that the carriage had completely entered, he then let loose a sigh.
“Deputy Hall Master…” Just as the mood relaxed by a hair, a trembling voice rang out from behind him. An employee said shakily, “That was the Ming Clan? I heard that they were good enough to rank fifth among the demons? That spiritual pressure just now… was really too horrible!”
Jin Zhenshan wiped away at his cold sweat. In order for no scandal to come about from this night, the so-called employees were all managers of each province’s branch hall! Every one of them were at the initial stage of Foundation Establishment and beyond! He glanced at the rest. Almost everyone was lightly patting their chests, repeatedly sighing in relief.
Such a hellish coldness, an icy-cold aura akin to a nighttime grave, caused one to suffer from head to toe upon a mere illumination of its face.
“That’s right…” Jin Zhenshan picked up a teacup with both hands but didn’t drink from it. Suddenly, everyone’s faces turned grave!
Hoo… Hoo… The rising and falling of tides. In Jin Zhenshan’s amazement, he lifted his head to look at the sky out of reflex. At this very instant, the clouds in the sky moved. It was not a natural movement. Instead, it was like they were alive! They had transformed into tides! Even the moonlight began to grow fuzzy!
“This is…” Jin Zhenshan’s legs went soft, and his lips dried in a flash. He didn’t expect that the one coming would be so swift!
“A worldly anomaly… A worldly anomaly!” The eyes of an employee behind him stared at the phenomenon. After a brief moment, he repressed his excitement and controlled the hoarseness of his voice. “This is a worldly anomaly!”
“Core Formation emerges! World anomaly follows!”
“Which ancestor is this?
“A Dao Master! This is a Dao Master?! Heavens!”
“I’m actually able to see a Core Formation ancestor in a year of my life?! T-T-This is too exciting!”
No one had anticipated it would be so swift! No one had imagined it would be so sudden! The specifications of the Xingtian Legion’s auction and Xu Yangyi’s Dao of Pills were great, but it was in this that one would miss the greater picture, to catch a glimpse of a leopard’s spot through a bamboo tube!
The first arrival was one of the Five Great Demon Clans, the Ming Clan. The second… was a Core Formation ancestor!
“Respectful greetings, Ancestor!”
“Respectful greetings, Ancestor!!!”
“Respectful greetings, Ancestor!!!!”
Swoosh swoosh swoosh! Without a sliver of hesitation, everyone immediately fell to their knees! Only Jin Zhenshan half-raised his head. Their bodies unable to tolerate this display, everyone else was trembling—unknown to whether it was due to excitement or fear—stooping over in unison!
The noiseless wind brought a sky filled with ethereal light. In the blink of an eye, the venue had transformed into an ocean of brilliance. In this ocean, there existed a man, unhurried in his approach.
“Respectful greetings, Ancestor!!!” Jin Zhenshan’s eyes were red, and he hoarsely shouted again. To be able to personally have an audience with a Core Formation ancestor, what an honor this was! But afterwards, he stared somewhat blankly ahead.
It was a normal man wearing glasses and a suit. He was even carrying a briefcase and had a school badge on his chest that said “Shanghai Secondary Middle School”. He carried the wisp of a tranquil and casual smile and slowly came over.
“Sir! Sir! You aren’t…” Jin Zhenshan subconsciously jumped up, but he then continued to kneel down, trembling even more. You aren’t any one of the ten Core Formation greats!!!
Jin Zhenshan’s heart almost leaped out! He’d pondered the possibility of secret Core Formation cultivators in the world, yet he hadn’t expected… there truly was one! Both the man’s dress and bearing were normal, but worldly anomaly and Core Formation spiritual pressure couldn’t be faked in the slightest! This teacher-looking person could kill him ten thousand times with a little finger!
There truly is! There actually really is! China doesn’t only have ten Core Formation cultivators! This isn’t the limit! In his heart, he frantically turned about. This time… eleven Core Formation masters have congregated… No! No! Maybe, maybe there are also other hidden Core Formation ancestors!
“This Dao Master is Yue Congrao,” the man said leisurely. “I don’t have an invitation, but may I enter and observe?”
“Sure you… Please! Please, sir! Allow Junior to guide the way for you!” Jin Zhenshan’s head touched the ground, and he yelled with extreme excitement. However, his words simply weren’t finished, because in the next second another similarly terrible spiritual force consumed the world. It stormed forth from the four directions and eight reaches!
At this instant, light ceased to shine. At this instant, shadows seemed to have been imprisoned. At this instant, not a sound was heard. Everyone’s ability to speak had been plundered in their entireties. Yue Congrao’s brow faintly raised, and he gently extended a finger. Manifold runes sparked at his fingertip, and he said with a dull tone, “Break.”
A Dao-Master domain! Only a Dao Master was capable of breaking it!
Crack! It seemed a noiseless mirror shattered all around. Jin Zhenshan discovered in alarm that he was able to talk again. However, he didn’t have time to speak, because an employee behind him had already yelled out warblingly, “Respectful greetings, Flowing Light Imprisoning Shadow! Daomaster Ancientpine graces the Golden Dipper Hall with his presence! The Golden Dipper Hall cannot bear the honor of this privilege!”
Boom! The sky had become a tide of clouds moments ago because of Yue Congrao. All of a sudden, they scattered, and a tremendous shadow was immediately cast on the ground!
“This is…” Jin Zhenshan’s heart was on the verge of jumping out, his gaze sluggishly looking at the sky. “This is… T-This is a C-C-Core Formation imperial palace…”
Beneath moonlight, a tremendous creature’s shadow covered the sky and blotted out the sun! It was a tortoise. Countless prismatic clouds curled around its four feet. On its back, it carried a magnificent palace. Akin to the Vast Lunar Palace, the construct floated into view above the night clouds! 
It was a dazzling sight like shining gold and jade. The moonlight reflected on its surface glittered with an expanse of flowing light and teeming color. As large as a full seven or eight normal stadiums, the palace was several hundred meters wide and tall. Like a deity traversing the cosmos, it disdained all below the heavens. Down below, each person besides Yue Congrao was completely dumbfounded.
“Daomaster Ancientpine’s celestial palace…” A cultivator felt their throat dry. “If T-This T-Throne could go there one day and make pilgrimage… t-t-then this life wouldn’t have been in vain…”
“It’s not a living creature… It’s the largest mecharune beast crafted from tens of thousands of heavenly treasures… It’s an almighty magik treasure that can transport several hundred sects… In the magik treasure ranking, it’s third place…”
Endless lights made the construct in the sky appear to be in daylight. Resembling the most magnificent spacecraft in a youth’s dream, the palace left one reluctant to shift their eyes away from it.
“200 years ago in one of the eight deadlands, did This Dao Master meet Fellow Daoist a hundred meters underwater at the Dragon Hole?” Amidst terrible shock, a god-like voice entered everyone’s ears.
None dared to answer. Everyone knew who it was being questioned.
“Not at all.” Yue Congrao laughed freely and transformed into a cool breeze, advancing into the spatial crack.
There was no further sound. A thousand meters above in the sky, in an immense and spacious palace, there was an old man. His brows and beard was white, and he was wearing a Daoist robe. He wore his hair in a top knot and had a gown decorated with the Eight Trigrams and the Yin-Yang draped on his shoulders. He bore an immortal wind and the Dao was engraved into his bones. He exclaimed in a quiet voice, “Tonight… of those who truly should’ve come and those who shouldn’t… all have come…”
1. Vast Lunar Palace is my take on the name of a palace in legend. In Chinese, the moon goddess is named Chang’e. After she drank an immortality elixir, she ascended to the moon and built a palace. In Chinese, this palace, 广寒宫, can be directly translated as “Wide Cold Palace”. In myth, Chang’e was wife to the archer Hou Yi.