“It wasn’t until you appeared did This Dao Master have a sliver of hope. Originally… I believed that you’d already perished in a lesser realm. I didn’t expect you would actually be able to return alive.” Yue Congrao’s face was incomparably grave. Xu Yangyi also restrained his state of mind. Yue Congrao said in a heavy voice, “Please dispel my confusion.”
Yue Congrao’s gaze was like fire as it swept over the scroll. Finally, he gritted out a sentence.
“The Holy War is about to arrive.”
“Young fellow, the grounds of the Holy War conceal an immense secret… Why is there a Holy War? It’s Vatican City’s Holy Relic! Have you thought about why… they haven’t taken away this Holy Relic? Why they tolerate an object that can spy upon the secrets of Core Formation to be left here? It must be known that if placed in the outside world that this item is absolutely an important treasure for a nation! And the Pope is moreover one of the few known great Nascent Soul lords in the world.”
“Because…” He took a deep breath. “This Holy Relic… is even stronger than him! More terrible!”
Swoosh… The scroll rolled up. In the next second, Xu Yangyi was enveloped in white light. With an incredible speed, he was rocketing towards the clouds. Yue Congrao’s high-spirited laughter filled his ears.
“Come… Come see the truth behind this supreme treasure.”
“I hope you won’t be so shocked that you become dumb.”
The night wind blew past Xu Yangyi’s ears. How swift was the speed of Core Formation? In the blink of an eye, he was already beyond the highest height that a Foundation Establishment cultivator could break through.
He tightly furrowed his brows. They continued to fly above, going over 5,000 meters in the air. It was the layer of astral winds, also understood by mortals to be the atmosphere. In this place, only Core Formation masters could break though. Once a Foundation Establishment senior reached this region, they could only be shredded apart by raging astral winds until not even their skeleton remained.
No one knew what astral winds were. Only in ancient tomes were there records that one couldn’t soar among the astral winds unless they were Foundation Establishment. Also, countless cultivators had experimented. Of those in the Foundation Establishment realm who wanted to continue flying up, there wasn’t a single one who hadn’t died over 3,000 meters.
As soon as they approached the 3,000-meter mark, the white light surrounding Xu Yangyi’s body became more vigorous. They continued to rocket up, and Xu Yangyi even sensed ceaseless jingling sounds falling in his ear from outside the white light. He seemed to hear numerous blades and swords streaking by.
4,000 meters, 5,000 meters… in a flash they passed through the astral wind layer. Xu Yangyi made a deep sigh of relief. At the very least right now, Yue Congrao didn’t have other thoughts towards him.
However, Yue Congrao’s figure didn’t stop. Instead, he transformed into white light and surged directly to an even higher place.
7,000 meters… 8,000 meters… It wasn’t until they reached 9,000 meters did he finally stop his pace.
Yue Congrao glanced at Xu Yangyi. At this moment, Xu Yangyi’s complexion was pale, yet the demon slayer tightly bit his lips and didn’t say a word. Even though the veins on his neck, temples, and fists were already flushed against his skin.
“Not bad.” Yue Congrao smiled. “While I haven’t stowed away my spiritual pressure, even if I defended you better there would still be a trace amount of power from the astral winds outside. Every thousand meters, the astral winds become a fraction more violent, and here…” He stomped his feet on the empty void beneath him. “The astral winds are already almost double than the 5,000-meter mark. Even with the protection of my qi, cultivators able to withstand it are one among ten thousand.”
He finished speaking and spoke no further. Instead, he faintly looked at the sky. Xu Yangyi meditated for a few seconds, but he didn’t want to avoid Yue Congrao, so he fished out a medicinal pill and took it. After no less than ten minutes passed, a flush of red welled up on his face.
Raising his eyes and gazing ahead, he was immediately surprised.
Under his feet, he could still vaguely see New York City’s outline. The lights were waning, the illumination giving form to a neon sea. But in the sky above, layers of thick and dense black clouds piled atop of each other. It resembled an ocean.
Rumble… The gloomy sound of muffled thunder spread through the clouds, and lightning roamed about like dragons and snakes. From time to time, the pale-white lightning arcing through the air was covered by the black clouds. These black clouds seemed to possess a mind of their own. They ceaselessly rolled, separating the earth and the sky like a heavenly moat.
“Have you ever wondered? The 3,000-meter mark is the astral wind layer. But what is above the astral wind layer?” Yue Congrao said at last after a long time.
Xu Yangyi adjusted his breathing for a short moment and said in a heavy voice, “Is there something else beyond the astral wind layer?”
Yue Congrao didn’t reply, but a small, cold smile hung at the crook of his mouth. Several seconds later, he lightly pat the top of his head, and a golden longspear materialized from the void. It was crafted from pure gold. Vast hordes of snakes coiled on its surface, and twin dragons were harmoniously paired. A rune reflected a golden brilliance all around.
“You should be glad.” He extended his hand and gently waved. A waterfall-like streak of golden qi was faintly visible in front of him. “Not to speak of Foundation Establishment… but not even initial Core Formation can see a scene of this level.”
“Defend yourself. I hope that my daughter won’t become a widow without ever having been married.”
He finished speaking, and all of his spiritual force erupted with a rumble!
Swoosh swoosh swoosh… The surrounding clouds were pushed away little by little. Xu Yangyi quickly felt as if he was in a massive wave in the Yangtze River. He instinctively thought to steady himself, but he was just like a falling leaf in a squall. Not before long, he was rushed away by several hundred meters.
“This… is late Core Formation!” Xu Yangyi exclaimed.
“Daomaster Yue actually has a late Core Formation cultivation! Even among the ten recorded great Core Formation cultivators in China, he’d still rank in the top five! He… was hiding his cultivation last time!”
Before his thought even fell away, his waist suddenly tightened, and a red cord flew over and wrapped around him. Like a kite, he was steadily taken several thousand meters above the black clouds.
Far away, Yue Congrao was crouching slightly. Like tigers and dragons, endless golden qi transformed him into a sun in the black clouds. Absent of the wind, his clothes from head to toe were drumming up by themselves, and his hair rose up. The muscles of his hand holding the longspear swelled up, and his clothes had already burst apart.
“One Horseman Equals A Thousand!”
In the wake of his shout, a streak of golden light like a flood-dragon leaving to the sea illuminated the entire space.
Rumble! Fine golden lightning lingered over the golden light, and the clear sound of a dragon’s cry rang out. The light fired straight across a thousand meters and broke through the clouds to clear way for the moon. With a sonorous hum, the black clouds that the golden light had sunk into actually started to slowly stir.
Xu Yangyi took a deep breath. This was a Dao Master’s might.
There was not one falsehood to say that Yue Congrao had easily overturned rivers and seas.
In Xu Yangyi’s heart, a rare sliver of respect welled up. He respected the might of Core Formation and also the perilous path of bristle and thorn that Core Formation cultivators had to cleave through to reach this step.
Swoosh swoosh swoosh… Several seconds later, the black clouds broke into a hundred-meter-sized crack. Yue Congrao snarled, “Go!” Afterwards, he grabbed onto Xu Yangyi and launched directly inside the crack.
Whoosh whoosh whoosh! 9,000 meters above, Xu Yangyi already felt like blades were approaching him. His skin was surprisingly fissuring apart inch by inch. Not daring to think of anything else, he mobilized all of his qi and shut his eyes. With the entirety of his strength, he resisted the astral winds that had been weakened several times by Yue Congrao.
Like Sun Wukong jumping into the sky, a white light fiercely leaped over the clouds. Yet at this moment, Xu Yangyi quickly sensed… that the astral winds around him had all disappeared!
“This is…” He opened his eyes in shock. The scene reflected in them was a sight that he would never be able to forget for the rest of his life.
He wiped away the blood flowing out from the cuts that riddled his entire body and took in everything before his eyes with astonishment.
The black clouds were below him, but above his head there was a clear sky. Gentle sunlight, from the cotton wadding-like threads of wispy clouds, permeated down. There was no presence of astral wind.
The surging black clouds below were like the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, rolling and flipping ceaselessly and creating the separation of two worlds of night and day. However, this wasn’t what shocked him.
Indeed it wasn’t… Above the white clouds over his head, golden talismans covered the world! They formed an infinite golden grid… No, in this golden color, there was also black, red, and all kinds of colors. This enormous talisman grid encapsulated the entire Earth!
And not too far away, an expanse of splendid violet clouds, like tides and currents, were raising an enormous wave in the sky that was tens of thousands of meters in size!
Kunlun to the west and the Yellow River far, Hangu Pass to the east and violet clouds tall. 
Pure and holy golden brilliance was below him, likewise breaking through the horizon, likewise tens of thousands of meters in size. Faintly audible voices chanting holy songs were lingering in the air.
Xu Yangyi also saw a patch of black qi with a massive vajra within. Its height and size were both unknown.
“What in the world is this?” Even if with his staunch nature, he couldn’t help but now sigh emotionally. Everything in front of him was far beyond imagining. No one could’ve expected that there was actually such a scenery ten thousand meters away from Earth.
“This is the Grand Realm-Protector Array,” Yue Congrao sighed wistfully. “Something unknown for hundreds of years, for even thousands of years. Even to this day it still operates.”
“The violet qi from the east is China’s cultivation world. The black vajra is India. The golden holy light is the West… The national destiny of these cultivation powers serve as a foundation and jointly forge this Grand Realm-Protector Array.” He pointed to a direction. “Look there.”
Xu Yangyi looked over. At the very extremes of his vision, at the visible heart of the great formation… there was unexpectedly a sword!
No, it could be said to be a sword, but it was broken. It was only a hilt.
But… he merely cast his senses a little towards this sword hilt and felt that his spiritual sense was on the verge of destruction.
And in each region that seemed to be a nexus, there was a similar magik treasure. In the sky of the West, there was a withered branch. On this branch, there were several green leaves.
Yue Congrao wordlessly pointed. As soon as Xu Yangyi raised his head, though, he saw that there was something tens of thousands of meters away that was radiating bright light on top of these broken magik treasures.
It didn’t have spiritual pressure or might, but it was in the highest place looking down on all the magik treasures like a monarch. It was the highest peak on the entire Earth.
“That place… perhaps only Nascent Soul Dao Lords can go there.” Endless blazing heart emanated from Yue Congrao’s eyes, and he murmured, “That… is Earth’s Realm Anchor.”
“Realm Anchor?” Xu Yangyi said hesitantly. He’d heard about this in the Clearcloud Realm.
“Correct. Earth is a Greater Thousand Realm, and thus a realm. A realm has a Grand Realm-Protector Array and a Realm Anchor. It’s just…” He took a deep breath and looked away. “A Greater Thousand Realm doesn’t have only one Realm Anchor. Instead, it is according to the orthodoxies of the great cultivators who once appeared in this world. These are called Secondary Realm Anchors. On Earth, there are a total of ten Secondary Realm Anchors.They… are not magik treasures, and they are also not spirit treasures. On the contrary… they are something unknown, above spirit treasures. Even if I approached in vain, I would be instantly annihilated.”
Xu Yangyi nodded deeply. What he’d seen tonight truly did transcend his imagination.
“But have you discovered it?” Yue Congrao sneered, “All the Secondary Realm Anchors are broken.”
“That sword, if I am not mistaken, is the legendary Xuan-Yuan Sword. It oversees China’s national destiny. It is more of a Dragon Vein than a Dragon Vein. If someone can destroy it, China will be exterminated. But such a person absolutely wouldn’t exist.”
Xu Yangyi said, “Then may I ask Dao Master how it was destroyed?”
“This is also something I have pondered countless times, but haven’t found an answer to.” Yue Congrao shook his head. “On Earth, there shouldn’t be something that can destroy it. And yet all the Secondary Realm Anchors are damaged. This… is the actual reason we speculate that Earth entered the End of Days.”
1. This verse is apparently from a late Yuan and early Ming scholar named Hu Kui. Mid 14th century. Kunlun refers to the Kunlun Mountains. Here, Hangu Pass references the eastern pass of the State of Qin during the Warring States period (770-221 BCE). Violet clouds from the east have always been the idea of something good/auspicious.
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