As if conscious of all of this, a black array emerged under Xu Yangyi. In a fleeting moment, not a shadow of him was seen any longer.
A faint dizziness appeared before him. Having been transferred a few times, he knew that this was a forced transference. A splendid palace hall had already emerged in front of his eyes. Ancient in both style and air, the hall was so quiet that a falling needle could be heard. Beyond the ten-odd large coiling dragon pillars, there was a black throne. His Master-Ancestor Ancientpine was seated upright on it.
“Disciple greets Master-Ancestor.”
Xu Yangyi formed a fist with his hand respectfully and saluted. Ancientpine only made a slight nod. He didn’t respond. Measuring Xu Yangyi for a long while, he said, “Your qi sea is not in your dantian?”
Xu Yangyi pursed his lips. No matter what, this point couldn’t be concealed. Thousandedge had made a large hole in Xu Yangyi’s dantian even though he’d restrained his spiritual pressure. Xu Yangyi could fool some cultivators, such as Thousandedge, but concerning Great Circle Foundation Establishment and half-step Core Formation, or perhaps say, his own master-ancestor, a Core Formation Dao Master, he absolutely couldn’t keep this in the dark.
Xu Yangyi was pondering how to answer, yet Ancientpine shook his head. “Don’t use empty words to deceive me.
“Your Master-Ancestor is in no way a greedy and immoderate person. Each has their own destiny and each has their own path. Even if you possess good fortune, that good fortune is still yours. Although I can seize it forcibly, it will leave behind hidden damages in my heart. To reach such a realm as This Dao Master’s, such conduct on the contrary does not make up for the losses in gains.”
In his heart, Xu Yangyi released a long sigh of relief. Before he knew what something was, he would search everywhere for its truth. Because regardless of any destiny, anything he didn’t know about and used would make him feel uncertain in heart. Nonetheless, he had long since become aware. He was absolutely unwilling to expose his secret under another’s sight.
Fortunately… Ancientpine also didn’t know that he held an Animus Armament in hand, the only one in 5,000 years.
Silence. In front of the world’s apex, a Core Formation ancestor, Xu Yangyi wouldn’t speak casually. Ancientpine also seemed to be considering something but didn’t speak straightaway. After spending no less than several minutes in contemplation, Ancientpine murmured, “Each system has its own reward system.”
“For example, the CSIB employs the similar mortal ‘performance’. Heavens Law uses course credits. The Bountiful Treasures Pavilion uses stock. And we, the Featherwood Guard, since centuries ago, use merit.”
“To those who provide service, there is achievement. For those who make merit, there is contribution. Honor and glory is only taken on horseback, thou truly is a great hero. There is no phrase more fitting than to the most dangerous, the Featherwood Guard.” 
Xu Yangyi quietly listened. He was quite the stranger to this phrase. Likewise, Thousandedge never spoke much about other rules.
As if he saw Xu Yangyi’s doubts, Ancientpine laughed in a moment of rareness. “Are you unfamiliar? Yes, this cannot be used by those not at Foundation Establishment. This is because an A-rank Legion of the Featherwood Guard is all comprised of Foundation Establishment or above. You are an A-rank Legion seed. Achievements for B-rank and C-rank Qi Condensation legions is nothing more than the opening of pill-elixirs and talisman discounts. But at Foundation Establishment…”
His voice turned. “Then… according to merit value, a corresponding treasury can be entered and a magik treasure selected.”
“Magik treasure?” Xu Yangyi’s gaze twinkled, and he respectfully formed a fist with his hand and asked.
“Indeed, a magik treasure,” Ancientpine confirmed. “Have you thought about why I have placed you in Longsu Province this time?”
“This place will inevitably become a strategic location struggled for by numerous powers. Even a couple apex clans might join the fray. You really think… those slain geniuses in the secret realm are these clans’ true strength?”
Not waiting for Xu Yangyi to answer, Daomaster Ancientpine said lowly, “Remember well, to these so-called apex clans, a lone person is nothing more than their tiniest branch. You still haven’t faced the real clans. When they all mobilize, it is a terrible machine of slaughter. Even I fear the consequences of these apex clans.”
“I think highly of you,” Ancientpine said bluntly. To him, there wasn’t too much to be afraid of in this world. “But the more I favor, the more you will be tempered. In Longsu Province, you are branch master. You lead the Featherwood Guard. All together, there are two A-rank, five B-rank, and twenty C-rank legions in Longsu Province. In total, there is a thousand people. All of them are yours to manage.”
“You must stand firm and dig your feet in Longsu Province.”
Black qi soared from Daomaster Ancientpine’s seven apertures. Xu Yangyi raised his head and looked at the other face-to-face. After ages, he said heavily, “Disciple surely won’t let down Master-Ancestor’s great expectations.”
After several seconds, Ancientpine drew back his gaze. “I will remind you, if you do not stand steady, you will not leave this opportunity alive. I will also not interfere. The throne of Core Formation does not require the useless below it.” Pausing, he said faintly, “Would you… blame Master-Ancestor?”
“No.” Xu Yangyi shook his head and laughed, “Anyone who succeeds absolutely can’t do it alone. Without my own power, cultivators, and mortals searching for heavenly treasures and all kinds of destinies for me, I can’t kick open the great door of Core Formation. How can one’s life by temporary; how could one have so much time?”
Ancientpine nodded praisingly and lifted his chin, indicating for Xu Yangyi to continue speaking.
Xu Yangyi arranged his thoughts and followed, “Ancestor Floatingcloud is a special case, but after he achieved Core Formation, he immediately embraced the rich and imposing Qin Imperial Court. Other high-level cultivators are like spiders spitting silk, operating in each region and belonging to one’s own power. This opportunity seems dangerous but is in fact very precious.”
Ancientpine smiled as he nodded, “For you to think about this satisfies me.”
Xu Yangyi understood very well. That wasn’t to mention that according to what he knew, if the Northwest King, Floating Light Imprisoning Shadow, Ancestor Ancientpine, and also his master-ancestor, didn’t nod to all cultivation supplies leading from the western border provinces to the country’s west, any who dared to step out of the nation’s border would have their clan annihilated. It was solely recorded that Daomaster Ancientpine had personally exterminated no less than five Great Circle Foundation Establishment clans.
Wealth, scripture, companions, and land. Wealth ranked first. Xu Yangyi still didn’t know how many spirit stones he required as fuel for truly activating the Eternal Alchemy Canon after Foundation Establishment. Presently, he needed to expand his power.
This was Daomaster Ancientpine’s nurture in treating him as a Core Formation master’s disciple. Else not, others wouldn’t want Ancientpine to grant him such a seemingly fatal opportunity.
He would either be defeated, his halberd henceforth sinking into the sand, or raise his fame in the future cultivation paradise Longsu Province! Xu Yangyi would completely settle himself on the throne of branch master! He would make a foundation belonging to him!
He clearly heard Ancientpine say that these thousand people were all his to manage, BUT it wasn’t that all of them would “listen” to his command. There was a completely different meaning in this lack of character.
“In addition, I’ll tell you of an interesting matter…” Ancientpine studied Xu Yangyi’s face and finally reminded, “Moments ago, a total of eleven sound-transmitting paper cranes flew out. Among them, they comprise Xijiang Province’s An, De, and Ti Demon Clans, Xichuan’s Baili Clan, and several other first-rate powers.”
Xu Yangyi nodded, not speaking further.
Longsu Province… who held the highest position? And what of the most fitting path for the other clans to use, especially for the demon clans, to rise to a first-grade clan?
It could only be the Xingtian Legion!
Not to speak of slaying Xu Yangyi himself, even plundering a Featherwood Guard branch treasury was an immense harvest! This… was a gold mountain on a stove!
“The Cultivation Court has always turned a blind eye to the struggle of the human and demon clans… thus, I grant you achievement privileges only permitted to late Foundation Establishment. Relying on this privilege, you may choose a magik treasure from the Featherwood Guard’s treasury.” He said with seemingly deep meaning, “You have to… choose well…”
“Good.” Neither lightly nor heavily, Daomaster Ancientpine mentioned a few more things. Afterwards, he said no more. To him, he had seen many, many geniuses and also trained many Core Formation seeds. Nonetheless, in the end, of those who were able to stay alive until this step… there were zero! So, even if Xu Yangyi’s talents were better, he would keep watching step by step.
The mere branch master of a Featherwood Guard branch, this was only the first step… If Xu Yangyi wanted to achieve Core Formation, he needed to first overcome the great barrier of Foundation Establishment!
“I am somewhat tired. Speak… of your experiences within Danxia Temple. Afterwards, my assistant will go exchange your merits.”
Xu Yangyi nodded and gave an account of the outline that he’d prepared earlier.
After no less than an hour passed, he then left the palace. Just as he exited, he saw a spirited youth, the late stage of Qi Condensation like him. After catching sight of Xu Yangyi, the other immediately cupped his hands and laughed, “Congratulations, Branchmaster Xu, so young but promoted to branch master. This is unprecedented in history. I’ve already received Ancestor’s notification. Please follow me, Branch Master.”
Xu Yangyi was indifferent, following the youth towards the side of the palace. Yet he was none the wiser that currently within the palace, Daomaster Ancientpine, who said that he was tired, wasn’t resting. Instead, his head was leaning against his hand. He seemed to be deep in thought.
“Old coot.” In the desolate palace, a robust masculine voice suddenly echoed. “Your disciple is quite devious. There were many parts heard that seemed to be normal, but with our vision, it simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.”
“And what of it?” Ancientpine’s complexion was undisturbed. “Water that is too clear has no fish, those who are too probing have no disciples. The information he brought that we needed the most is already sufficient.”
“Yeah…” The hearty male voice sighed and lamented, “This Dao Master never expected… that the Xiaoqing and Fahai of legend were actually trapped in Danxia Temple’s depths… To think that such a massive secret realm was created from their strength… It’s hard to imagine the level of this secret realm.”
“For the time being, they have no way to escape. This is the best and most important news to the entire cultivation world.” Ancientpine’s brows deeply furrowed. “But this is not what I am worried about.”
“Fellow Daoist Titanspirit…” Ancientpine stood up, his expression grave. “Do you remember what Fellow Daoist Hiddenscent’s prime arcane effort is called?”
The room was silent. In the next second, Daomaster Titanspirit’s startled cry rang out, “Azure Lotus… Immortal Art?!”
“That’s right…” A wisp of cold light flickered through Daomaster Ancientpine’s eyes. “And do you remember… on that day when Danxia Temple’s heavenbound door opened, a burst of Core Formation spiritual pressure passed through from the Forbidden Palace? Fellow Daoist Hiddenscent didn’t know why her foundation had received great shock?”
“You’re saying…” Daomaster Titanspirt coldly gasped and said incredulously, “Fellow Daoist Hiddenscent, she…”
“Since there is a Xiaoqing, why can there not be a Hiddenscent?” Ancientpine chuckled coldly, “Unexpected, unexpected… We consider ourselves to be at the peak of the Core Formation realm, but she is nothing more than an incarnation.”
Silence. After ages, Ancientpine sighed, “Merely the rash conjectures of an old man. Furthermore, even if Fellow Daoist Hiddenscent is not human, how can we do as we please? I think… I’m going to have to make a journey to the Cultivation Court.”
“After all… the only person closest to that mysterious realm is the Upper President, the Chinese government’s deathsworn.”
Silence reigned again. A couple seconds later, Titanspirit began to laugh. “Then what of your inexperienced disciple? You’re putting him to roast on this fire? You know… if this land is conquered, it is enough to serve as a Core Formation master’s Dao sanctum. According to what I know, there are already three first-rate clans preparing to rise to the power of an apex clan. They’ve decided to set out here.”
He chuckled, “With your disciple being such a fat, juicy sheep and such a great target to advance themselves and establish their might, why would they even have to find anyone else? Have you already moved out Longsu Province’s vault? Hey, you old coot, if you think that you don’t like your disciple, how about giving him to me? I like him a lot.”
“Dream on.” Ancientpine’s departing figure halted in step, and the crook of his mouth curved. “Move? Why would it have to be moved?”
“If he cannot defend his own wealth and property, then he doesn’t even have to think about settling in on the position of branch master.”
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