Tianming had entered an elegant, rather plain courtyard with nothing but a stone table and stone chairs. It was a rather common furnishing for courtyards, without anything noteworthy, though there were heavenly patterns carved all over the place that formed a picture with varying effects.
Tianming stepped into the courtyard and walked along a cobblestone path. After walking around five hundred meters, he arrived at a stone building, outside of which stood a woman, who was obviously the palace lord. Tianming had to admit that he didn't quite believe she was the palace lord when he first set eyes on her; she seemed gentle and plain and looked to be in her forties, neither old nor young. Her long hair was tied together and hung down to her waist. She wore a loose grey robe and had very slight wrinkles at the corner of her eyes, which made her seem a little frail.
She was gently smiling when Tianming arrived; the smile made him feel really comfortable and welcome. She looked a little like Wei Jing had before. It felt like he had returned to the days when he would finish cultivating, only to find his mother waiting outside their home for his return with a smile.
Someone so gentle and simple was the last thing people would imagine when thinking about the palace lord of Decimo Dao Palace, a person who stood in the highest echelons of the Theocracy. In fact, Tianming knew she was an empyrean saint, and was actually around two hundred years old. She was easily among the most senior in the dao palace. She was called Weisheng Yunxi, the aunt of the Sky Hall King, Weisheng Yumo.
"Tianming, come here," she said, waving her hand. The sunlight that touched her skin gave her a slight orange glow.
"Palace Lord," he said as he prepared to bow and formally greet her, though she stopped him before he could.
"There's no need. Just sit here."
"Okay." He nodded and sat down on a stone chair beside her.
"Tianming, this is your prize for taking first place in the Earth Ranking," she said without dallying, taking out three jade boxes from her spatial ring. The jade boxes exuded dense spiritual energy. There were many saintly heavenly patterns on them, which was a sign they were made of heavenly spirit ore. For something to be stored in jade boxes that precious, the items within were no doubt really valuable as well.
"Thank you, Palace Lord." Even Tianming had to be docile when dealing with such an agreeable and gentle senior. Despite easily being the most boisterous and rude person in the Decimo Dao Palace, he made sure to behave as politely as he could now. Though, after his expression of gratitude, he unceremoniously took the three boxes and kept them in his spatial ring.
"Won't you even look at what kind of manna it is?" Weisheng Yunxi asked.
"My mother taught me that I shouldn't open gifts from seniors right in front of them," he said.
"You had a good upbringing indeed."
"That's right," he agreed, nodding.
"But then, that means I wouldn't be able to see the surprised look on your face when you find the hidden gift I added," she said, still maintaining her gentle smile.
"A hidden gift?"
"That's right. It's quite troublesome when you think about it. Even as the palace lord, I had to wait until you claimed the first rank before even being able to give you something. Otherwise, there’d be many in the dao palace that’d endlessly quibble over it."
Given that six of the ten halls were in the Theocrats' control, everything had to be done according to regulations. Even a personal favor from the palace lord would be sure to inspire envy from the Jiangs and the rest, who would in turn cause a commotion among the rest of the disciples. But now that Tianming had taken the first rank on the Earth Ranking and deserved an empyrean manna, the others would have to shut up and bear with it.
"Palace Lord, might I ask what you have given me?"
"Three mid grade empyrean manna."
"What?!" Tianming felt that he had hit the jackpot. Empyrean manna was among the most precious treasures in the Theocracy. They weren't created spontaneously by nature; instead, they were formed from celestial manna that had absorbed spiritual energy for millennia. Yet it would be hard for anyone to find even one celestial manna every thousand years.
There were three levels of empyrean manna, namely, low, middle, and high grade. Most of the ones in the Theocracy were considered low grade. The middle grade ones, on the other hand, were incredibly rare items.
How hard would it have been for him to obtain three mid grade empyrean manna that had existed on the Flameyellow Continent for three thousand years? It wasn't something that could be easily made in that time either. A place with unique natural characteristics had to be used to cultivate the manna.
High grade empyrean manna could allow lifebound beasts to evolve to ninety stars and above, nearing the legendary hundred-star saint beasts. Something like that was greatly desired, but never found throughout history. Whether it had shown up before or not wasn't something anyone knew. In other words, middle grade empyrean manna was the best resource one could currently lay their hands on.
"Tianming, I promised to reward a disciple with empyrean manna after they took first rank, but I never said what grade it would be. Don't worry. If others bother you for this, that would only give me a good reason to take care of them." Though she wasn't young, by any measure, there was a hint of playfulness in her words.
"Palace Lord, I can't possibly accept this."
"If you don't want it, return it." She stretched her hand out.
"Stop! Thank you, Palace Lord, I’ll put them to good use and won’t let you down," he said, clutching his spatial ring tight.
"You're quite the drama king."
In truth, Tianming felt rather shocked by this. He knew that even ten low grade empyrean manna wouldn't be worth as much as even a single middle grade empyrean manna. The moment he successfully used them, few in the Theocracy would be able to claim to have better lifebound beasts than him. It was far better than what others had imagined the reward for the one to claim the first rank in the Earth Ranking would be.
"Palace Lord, to be honest, I'm still rather shocked. Isn't this too precious?"
"It isn't. Since times of yore, treasures have been given to deserving paragons and fateful persons. You’re definitely deserving of such gifts, so don't overthink it."
"It's that simple?"
"If you feel bad about it, make sure you work hard to pay me back for it once you get stronger."
"No problem. I’ll definitely serve the dao palace with my life!"
"You speak rather frankly, much like your dad. Back then, we were master and disciple."
"Master and disciple?"
No wonder she was so nice to him. Given her relationship with Li Muyang, and the Li Saint Clan's ties with the dao palace, as well as Tianming's innate potential, she was willing to give him these treasures.
"Palace Lord, can you tell me what kind of person he used to be?"
"People are incredibly complex. You can't just sum up a person with a few words. You'll find out when you meet him in the future."
"However, I can tell you that he's a righteous man. He definitely won't disappoint you."
"I believe he is."
"Let me see the Grand-Orient Sword, Tianming."
"Alright." He took out the sword and handed it to her.
She traced her finger over the patterns on the sword. At that moment, Tianming realized that her eyes were a little glazed over.
"Palace Master, your eyes...."
"I was burned by Voidfire before, and lost my sight."
"Can’t they be healed?" She had behaved so naturally that it had never occurred to him that she was blind. Normally, most cases of blindness could be healed.
"It can't. Voidfire is a spirit hazard that contains a hundred saintly heavenly patterns. There's nothing in existence that can nullify it."
"Who did this?"
"He's already dead."
"Was it Autarch Qian?"
It seemed like the Ancient Theocrats and the dao palace had their fair share of conflicts.
"Tianming, I heard you managed to split the sword in two, right?"
"Go back and do more research on it. This is an artifact of the gods. If we are able to unearth more effects that can match the Cyclic Mirror or Evil Suppression Pillar, you’ll definitely become a legend. Your stepfather, Li Wudi, should be able to match the elites in the Divine Capital after his year of rapid growth ends. His potential is endless. But while you have fewer bane-rings, you possess this treasure and cultivate fast. There’s a chance you'll achieve even more than him."
"The disciple overtakes the master. It’ll be too easy for me to surpass him."
"Your personality is rather like Li Wudi's. Your birth father was much more humble." When she finished speaking, she stood up. "Let's go."
"Where to, Palace Lord?"
"You don't have a wind-type Heavenly Will, so you've almost reached mastery of the Shenxiao Sword Art. Come with me to the Nature Arts Hall. I'll recommend a battle art for you."
"Thank you, Palace Lord! I really feel bad for all this...."
"Why don't we forget it then?"
"Oh, no, I can't make the palace lord recant anything, or else your credibility will be called into question."
"Need me to escort you?"
"My eyes may no longer see, but my heart does."
"But I didn't say you couldn't lead me there," she said, stretching out her hand.
"Okay!" After getting so much from her, he would even be willing to give her a piggyback ride.
"I can tell that your body's physical traits are strong. It can be compared to a lifebound beast's. We have a rather unique battle art that doesn't have a normal classification, but could be as powerful as an empyrean saint battle art. I’d like you to give it a try."
"An empyrean saint battle art? Wouldn't that be too complex? I’m worried I might fail." There were few in the Theocracy who could execute even simplified empyrean battle arts.
"This one isn't heavy on comprehension, but only requires a strong physical body and the propensity for pain and hardship. It's said that those of the Li Saint Clan possess such qualities. That's why only Li Shenxiao managed to train it to the level of the Thousand-Demise Sword."
"It's him again! Why's he spoken of everywhere? He's a specter that keeps on haunting me!"
"You fool, is that how you should talk about your ancestor?" she said, giving his head a knock.
"I'm fine. I have a good relationship with him, so he won’t mind. Not to mention, he sponged a lot of wine from me, you know."Previous Chapter Next Chapter