This was an enormous palace, but it was completely quiet and soundless. The stillness here had remained unbroken for countless, countless years.
Once Youngflame Nong, Ji Ning, Mu Northson, Xue Hongyi, and the others flew into the palace from within the Goldspirit Halo, all of them let out sighs of relief. They had finally managed to escape and make it inside.
“We finally made it in. That Immortal estate world is simply too terrifying. One group of monstrous Dao-soldiers after another… one feels terrified just looking at them.” Although Ning was no coward, he had felt completely powerless earlier, because the difference in power was simply too great. He would have been completely unable to fight back.
“Senior apprentice-brother.” Northson looked at Ning.
“Hm?” Ning looked back towards him.
“Do you think… we shouldn’t have come here?” Northson muttered, “Earlier, the very first group of merfolk Dao-soldiers we fought against numbered over a thousand. They were able to effortlessly crush us. And then, afterwards, an even more powerful army of more than ten thousand Dao-soldiers appeared… and then the so-called Yaksha Dao-soldier appeared, formed from the monsters of the Witchriver clan. Even that Fiendgod Hydraga was unable to stop them. I feel as though… we are completely useless here.”
Northson was muttering, not sending a mental message. Thus, everyone around him could hear his words. All of them were silent.
It was true. Just now, they had relied on Youngflame Nong’s servant, the Fiendgod, Xiangliu Fang, to do everything. It was the Fiendgod who had killed the leader of the merfolk Dao-soldiers, and it was also the Fiendgod who had gone to block the ten-thousand plus Dao-soldier wave. Ning and the others had only been able to watch.
“Everyone,” Youngflame Nong laughed, “Don’t feel dispirited. There was no way that we could’ve predicted in advance that this Immortal estate woud actually give birth to so many powerful monsters, all of whom possessed Dao-armors. No matter what, however, in the end, we’ve managed to make it inside one of the palaces of the Witchriver Immortal Estate.”
“Only one who has the key to the estate can make it inside; thus, after Immortal Witchriver died, despite the passage of countless years, no other living creatures have ever made it inside this palace. This is an extremely safe place. But of course… some of the safeguards Immortal Witchriver had originally set up might still be functioning. Thus, let’s not rush about rashly. Wait for me to welcome Uncle Fang inside, and then we’ll slowly search through this palace.” Youngflame Nong’s words caused everyone to grow calm once more.
No matter what, given that Immortal Witchriver had died more than a hundred million years ago, there were definitely no living creatures within this palace. Thus, it was certainly safer in here than it was outside.
“Whew.” Northson immediately plopped down, seating himself cross-legged, then staring around and calling out, “Senior apprentice-brother, senior apprentice-sister, let’s all sit down and take a break.”
Ning laughed, then sat down in the lotus position as well.
“That scared me to death.” Little Qing reared her serpentine head, blinking repeatedly. The Whitewater Hound also lay down on the ground.
Yu Wei, Adept Vastriver, Xue Hongyi, Adept Bu You, and the ten Wanxiang Deathsworn all either sat down or remained standing.
With but a thought from Youngflame Nong… whoosh. In the air in front of them, a fist-sized tunnel appeared. Through the void-tunnel, one could see the outside world, where many monstrous Dao-soldiers were currently fighting against a towering Hydraga Fiendgod!
“Uncle Fang!” Youngflame Nong was somewhat worried as well as he watched.
“Master, if that Fiendgod dies outside, we are in big trouble,” Little Qing sent mentally to Ji Ning. “We’d be trapped inside this palace, unable to leave.”
“Don’t jinx us! Hydraga Fiendgods aren’t so easily killed. What’s more… how could the exalted heir to the position of Godplume Duke of the Youngflame clan just be trapped here?” Ning was still quite calm. Even if the heavens were to collapse upon them, they had a ‘big fellow’ ready to prop it back up. This was a trial which the ancient, vast Youngflame clan had prepared for Youngflame Nong. Perhaps Youngflame Nong might fail the test, but it wasn’t too likely that he would simply be trapped here forever.
Ning’s group remained there, within the palace. They knew that this palace was extremely large, and that there were many places within it, but they didn’t dare to barge about wildly. Who knew which safeguards and protective measures left behind by Immortal Witchriver were still active? If they were unlucky and ran into a particularly powerful defensive mechanism… a large number of them might die.
Better to wait. Wait to reunite with the Hydraga Fiendgod.
As Ning’s group quietly waited. Deep within a corridor, in a hidden passageway within the heart of this vast palace.
This passageway was filled with countless, towering statues. At a glance, one would see eighteen grayish-black statues, each of which were in the shape of a legendary Godbeast, the Qiongqi Manticore. They coiled there within the corridor. Countless years had passed in stillness, but as Ning’s group had entered the quiet, silent, ancient palace…
Something seemed to have been activated. The eighteen Qiongqi Manticore statues all began to glow with golden light, a light which constantly flooded into the statues and made them slowly appear more and more real.
“Snap.” The eyes of one of the Qiongqi Manticores suddenly opened. A pair of jade-green, glowing eyes.
“Snap.” “Snap.” “Snap.” “Snap.” “Snap.” “Snap.”
One Qiongqi Manticore after another opened their eyes. Their eyes were filled with nothing but coldness. They all rose to their feet, and even began to spread their wings. They had a body as thick as an ox’s, but were covered with bristling spikes. They also had a pair of giant wings, but the head of a tiger.
These were the most loyal, devoted guards of this palace… the eighteen Qiongqi golems.
Golems were not living creatures, and thus they were truly ageless. Immortal Witchriver’s servants and subordinates had all died of old age, but these golems remained here, standing guard despite the passage of ages, continuing to obey Immortal Witchriver’s order for them to guard this palace.
“Outsiders have entered the Vault of Treasures,” one of the Qiongqi golems rumbled.
“Not Master’s heir either. These outsiders forced their way in through using the key to the estate.”
Some particularly powerful golems possessed sentience and intelligence. For example, when Ning had faced the initial trials of the underwater estate, he had encountered that black-furred golem at the third challenge. That golem had actually been filled with an actual spirit, and thus it was even more intelligent.
“Neither Master, nor Master’s heirs… all invaders must die,” one of the Qiongqi Manticore golems said.
The eighteen Qiongqi golems spoke out in unison.
To truly master the Witchriver Immortal Estate, there were two methods. The first was to possess the key to the estate and then have Immortal Witchriver bestow a transmission incantation. Naturally, in that situation, all of the formations, restrictive spells, and golems would be obedient. The second method was to possess the key to the estate, then find and bind the five cores within the five palaces. After completely binding all five palace cores, then the entire Immortal estate would be bound; this, too, would be complete control.
Youngflame Nong’s trial was to completely control this Immortal estate! But of course, right now, Youngflame Nong was not yet the master of it… which was why the Immortal estate was beginning its counterattacks!
The outermost part of the palace.
Through his void-tunnel, Youngflame Nong was viewing the massive battle going on in the outside part of the Immortal estate. The Hydraga Fiendgod was roaring with rage as blood splattered everywhere; he fought while retreating.
“Faster, faster, faster.” Youngflame Nong was extremely worried. Ning, Northson, Yu Wei, and the others were all standing behind him, watching the battle through the void-tunnel as well.
“Given the strength which the Hydraga Fiendgod has demonstrated, I imagine it will be quite hard for him to make it back here. That Yaksha Dao-soldier formation is simply too powerful,” Yu Wei sent.
“Right. He’s being attacked by two parties right now; one is the massive wave formed from more than ten thousand Dao-soldiers, while the other is the even more powerful Yaksha Dao-soldier formation. Both are more powerful than him…” Adept Vastriver was frowning as he watched as well.
Ninelotus sent mentally, “Given that this Fiendgod, Xiangliu Fang, was assigned to protect Youngflame Nong, he is definitely carrying some treasures. He’s only using those two long awls to battle right now; he hasn’t used any other treasures at all. I imagine that he isn’t in any real danger yet.”
Their group continued to watch the battle through the void-tunnel, while the ten Wanxiang Deathsworn continued to maintain a vigilant watch.
“What’s that?” Ning’s face suddenly changed dramatically, as the space in the surrounding area began to change.
Previously, they were in a hall, but suddenly, their group became trapped in a misty, blurry illusory world. It became extremely hard for them to tell north from south, east from west… they couldn’t even tell up from down.
“Not good.” Youngflame Nong’s face changed as well, and the void-tunnel that had been in front of him disappeared as well.
“A restrictive formation!” Adept Vastriver hurriedly sent mentally, “This palace has a restrictive spell formation which was left behind by Immortal Witchriver. Just now, the restrictive spell formation became activated, and the spell formation covered that hall that we were in just now. Although we are still within the hall, we’ve already become trapped by the formation!”
“The surrounding space has been locked and distorted. Even though I have the key to the Immortal estate, I’m not able to open a tunnel to the outside world either,” Youngflame Nong sent frantically. “Rainbowflame Fairy, Adept Vastriver, Ji Ning… if I’m unable to open a corridor to the outside world, there’s no way for Uncle Fang to come in. It’s up to us now.”
Ning and the others felt their hearts sink. Right. If they were unable to open a corridor to the outside world, then there would be no way for the Fiendgod, Xiangliu Fang, to enter. They had lost their strongest ally.
“Eh?” Ning had a sudden thought. He immediately released his divine sense… but he sensed nothing but a blur. The power of the surrounding restrictive spell had already completely smothered Ning’s divine sense. He couldn’t even sense Mu Northson and the others who were right next to him.
“I have one more bit of news to tell you all. In this formation… divine sense is of no use,” Ning sent mentally.
“What?” Adept Vastriver and the others were shocked. They gave it a try as well, and as they did, their faces changed. “Even divine sense is unable to see through this formation… then this means that this is definitely no ordinary formation.”
Ning’s group began to unconsciously move closer to each other. As for the ten Wanxiang Deathsworn, they immediately joined together into a formation.
“Is there anyone here skilled in breaking formations? Hurry up and break it,” Youngflame Nong sent.
“Uncle White?” Ning sent to the nearby Whitewater Hound. In recent years, he had spent almost all of his energy on the Dao of formations, and he was definitely superior to Ning in this regard.
“This is a very terrifying formation.” The Whitewater Hound shook his head, continuing to analye it. But right at this moment…
Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Out of nowhere, a throng of icy arrows suddenly shot out, each containing awe-inspiring power as they sprang towards Ning’s group, trapped within the formation.
They were too close, and they were too fast.
“BOOM.” A Waterflame Lotus appeared around Ning, but upon being struck by three attacking arrows, it instantly began to shatter and collapse.
“Careful.” Ning’s face completely changed. These arrows were simply far too powerful; just three arrows contained power great enough to shatter his lotus…
Ning now had a premonition. With their group of Wanxiang Adepts being trapped within this terrifying restrictive formation, most likely, a number of them would truly perish.