The Skyrove Mountains were vast and endless, covering an expanse of more than a hundred thousand kilometers.
“The Witchriver Immortal Estate is hidden within these mountains. Even if one was to rely on divine sense to search for it, it would take weeks.” Youngflame Nong had a hint of anticipation in his eyes. “However, I have the key to the estate; so long as we draw close to it, I’ll be able to sense it. Everyone, make your preparations; after we enter the Immortal estate, things will truly grow dangerous.”
The nearby Immortal cultivators all nodded.
“We are finally going to go in.” Mu Northson’s eyes were shining.
“Right. The abode of a Celestial Immortal.” Ning felt quite eager as well.
“Ji Ning.” The nearby Ninelotus stealthily sent him a message.
Ning turned to look at Ninelotus, revealing a smile. He sent back, “Senior apprentice-sister, what’s this about? Why are you sending me a mental message?”
“After entering the Immortal estate, you need to reveal your prowess, and also actively move to be more friendly to young master Youngflame. To be able to meet him is a rare opportunity; if you let it slip, it’ll be hard to gain it again in the future,” Ninelotus instructed. “You wasted both of the past two days. After entering the Immortal estate, you can’t continue to be so remiss.”
Ning frowned. “Senior apprentice-sister!”
“Don’t be angry,” Ninelotus said. “I know your temper; you don’t like to flatter others, but I’m not asking you to do that. I’m just asking you to be a bit more friendly… Ji Ning, you should know that you are far more powerful than Xue Hongyi, but during the past two days on the warship, Xue Hongyi often engaged young master Youngflame in conversation, and he has a much closer relationship to him than you do, as of right now. You always just stand there, not saying a thing… this is really…”
“Senior apprentice-sister, I…” Ning wanted to explain.
“Let me finish.” Ninelotus looked at Ji Ning. “Relationship-building… the reason why it is called relationship-building is because you need to build up a relationship between the two of you, which is accomplished through interacting with each other. That’s the only way you can build up a relationship with him. Don’t think that just because you helped him out that you’ll have much of a relationship; that’s just a favor, nothing more.”
“When a favor is used up, it’s gone. But a relationship is long-lasting!”
“You are arrogant and aloof by nature; you don’t like to flatter others. But young master Youngflame is even more arrogant than you! As a result, the two of you barely interact with each other. Let me ask you this; if you were young master Youngflame… how much of a relationship would you feel that you have with a person who won’t even talk to you? Even if this person helped you, I imagine that you wouldn’t care too much about him.”
Ning was stunned. Ninelotus’ words did indeed have merit to them.
“Human relationships can be divided into several categories; strangers, familiar faces, friends, close friends, and lifelong friends,” Ninelotus said. “You’ve only said one or two things to each other; to be honest, you and young master Youngflame can’t even be considered ‘familiar faces’; you continue to be strangers to each other. As for Xue Hongyi, he often chats with young master Youngflame. Afterwards, he is going to risk his life for him. Perhaps they might end up becoming friends.”
“After you enter the Immortal estate, perhaps you might end up rendering more merits...”
“But in young master Youngflame’s heart, he’ll feel closer to Xue Hongyi, not you. Right now, because young master Youngflame needs your help for this trial, he’s fairly courteous to you. But after he completes it, and especially after he becomes the next Godplume Duke… I imagine that he wouldn’t even be bothered to cast you a single glance. If you ask him to help out, if it’s a small matter, he might nod and return the favor, but if what you ask is too troublesome, he might not even receive you. Even an Immortal might find it hard to meet with the new Godplume Duke.” Ninelotus looked at Ning.
“Senior apprentice-sister, I admit that your words have merit,” Ning sent back. “Favors, once repaid, are gone. Relationships are indeed long-lasting.”
“However… you are you, and I am me.”
“I don’t like to go and intentionally try to befriend someone. Let everything happen naturally,” Ning sent. “If I can become friends with young master Youngflame, that will naturally be a good thing. But if we cannot be friends, that’s fine as well.”
“A fortuitous encounter! That’s what this is, and you have to seize it!” Ninelotus sent urgently, “How many major figures will you run into in your life? If you miss this chance, it’ll be gone.”
“In taking the Immortal path, one will have to rely on one’s self.” Ning shook his head.
“But if someone helps you out at a critical moment, you’ll be able to move farther on your Immortal path,” Ninelotus sent.
“Senior apprentice-sister, if I were to intentionally go and befriend or ingratiate myself to someone, it will only impact my Dao-heart… in the end, it would be a loss,” Ning said.
“You…” Ninelotus was furious.
“Everyone has their own Dao. Senior apprentice-sister, there’s no need for you to try and force things,” Ning said. “Senior apprentice-sister… I’ve never tried to force you to do anything. I hope you won’t try to force me to do anything either. This is the second time now!”
Ninelotus was stunned. Right. Not too long ago, the two had squabbled at Brightheart Island over the matter of differentiation of statuses. That was the very first squabble the two had ever had.
“I’m just trying to help you accomplish greater things in the future.” Ninelotus’ eyes were turning slightly red.
“Alright, alright.” Ning took Ninelotus by the hand, smiling towards her.
The nearby Yu Wei, noticing that Ji Ning and Ninelotus were holding hands, frowned very slightly. And then, she turned her head, staring towards the distant, vast mountains outside the ship.
“How is Ji Ning so lucky?” Xue Hongyi glanced from the corner of his eyes at the hand-holding Ji Ning and Ninelotus, then cursed to himself, “This trip of young master Youngflame to the Immortal estate clearly didn’t have anything to do with Ji Ning, but now he’s been invited to participate as well. In addition, he actually ended up becoming Dao-companions with Dongyan Yun.”
Xue Hongyi, at first, had no idea about Ninelotus’ background. However, over the course of the past two days on the ship together, Youngflame Nong had chatted with Ninelotus, and from their conversations, Xue Hongyi had learned… that Ninelotus was actually the next leader of the Dongyan clan. Instantly, Xue Hongyi felt incomparably jealous!
“That brat from the Ji clan ended up reaching such a level…” Xue Hongyi couldn’t help but feel envy in his heart.
When news had spread of Ning defeating Daoist Snowplume, Xue Hongyi could scarcely believe it. He couldn’t believe that the little punk who he could’ve obliterated with ease a few years ago had become even more powerful than him.
And now, Ji Ning had also gotten to know Youngflame Nong, and had become Dao-companions with Ninelotus…
“I really hope this Ji Ning will die in the Witchriver Immortal Estate!” Xue Hongyi mused secretly to himself.
The ship flew through the air above the Skyrove Mountains for the amount of time needed to boil a kettle of tea. Suddenly, the azure-robed Youngflame Nong’s eyes lit up as he stared downwards. “The Immortal estate is directly below us. Everyone, follow me inside.”
“We’ve found the Immortal estate?”
“Right below us?”
The experts, previously still chatting casually, all focused their attention below.
The warship shot downwards, quickly gliding past the mountain peaks and flying into an extremely deep gorge.
The ancient warship came to a halt in the air before one of the cliff walls.
“Wait for me to unlock the Immortal estate first.” Youngflame Nong produced a golden talisman in his hand. He pointed it towards the distant cliff, then used his elemental ki to activate the talisman. Rumble… the golden talisman instantly emitted a hazy golden pillar of light which illuminated the stone wall. The surface of the stone wall immediately began to twist and change, soon revealing an enormous, rippling, watery surface.
“Go in.” Youngflame Nong revealed a look of delight.
The warship flew directly in, passing through the watery, rippling surface, then disappearing within it. Immediately afterwards, the rippling surface disappeared as well. The stone wall remained a stone wall, with nothing special about it at all.
Ning’s group, aboard the warship, flew through the watery surface, then saw the scene in front of them rapidly change.
“This is…?” Ji Ning and the others aboard the warship saw the area around them be filled with a connected range of mountains. The mountain peaks were dreary and cold, as though nothing could thrive on them. As for the ground, it was a lifeless desert.
The Skyrove Mountains was a living, thriving mountain range. But upon entering this Immortal estate… what they saw was this desolate desert and the mountains above it.
From far away, a series of loud, earthshaking sounds rang out. The sounds rang out from a distant mountain peak, the most towering of the mountains present. The top of the mountain was completely covered by white patches. These white objects were Diremonsters, dressed in snowy white armor, which were clustered together, forming the various white patches.
These snowy white armored Diremonsters all had enormous fish-like tails and human bodies; their faces were covered with scales.
The countless Diremonsters all turned their heads in unison towards Ji Ning’s group, because the ripple caused by the warship passing through the watery surface had been detected by them.
“They are humans!”
The thousand-plus merfolk, who were in the midst of training, all called out in shock. How many years had it been? Ever since their ancestors had been trapped within here, unable to escape, they had bred countless generations of descendants. The entirety of this Immortal estate world was filled with monsters; there wasn’t even a single human present. In fact, the late Immortal Witchriver himself was born a monster!
“Eh?” The leader of the training Diremonsters, an alluring-looking female merfolk with a naked upper body, was stunned… but then, her shrill voice bellowed out, “Humans! Humans have entered the Immortal estate! They definitely have the key to the estate… quick, quick, seize it from them, seize the key of the estate!”
“Follow me and kill them!” The female merfolk immediately manifested a set of golden armor over her.
As she charged towards the sky, the thousand snowy-white armored merfolk Diremonsters all followed from behind. The runes on the Dao-armors they were wearing all began to glow as well.
Rumble… these thousand Diremonsters suddenly formed into an enormously massive, sky-filling wave. This vast, endless wave rolled forward, smashing towards Youngflame Nong and his group, aboard the distant warship.
“Once we seize the key to the estate, we’ll be able to escape. Take it!” The female merfolk bellowed mentally, causing the other merfolk Diremonsters behind her to bellow with fury as well.
The mountain peak was only a few dozen kilometers away from Ning’s group. Precisely because of how close it was, these merfolk Diremonsters were able to immediately ascertain that they were humans! This was the very first time this unfathomably ancient Immortal estate had humans appear within it.
A few dozen kilometers… it only took a few breaths to traverse this!
Aboard the warship, Youngflame Nong, Ji Ning, Xue Hongyi, and the others were all stunned.
“Monstrous Dao-soldiers!” They were all shocked. They had all seen, from far away, that there were quite a few Wanxiang Diremonsters amongst the crowd of beasts, and that female merfolk leader was very possibly a Primal Diremonster! Even the weakest monster in the group was at the Zifu level. And with all of them also being Dao-soldiers…
“These Dao-armors must have been left behind by Immortal Witchriver for building up an army of Dao-soldiers.” Ning and the others all realized that they were in for quite a bit of trouble now.