After taking the talisman, Ning turned to stare at the gorge before him. He was the only person present within it.
“So I was separated from senior apprentice-sister Yu Wei and eldest apprentice-brother Sloppy, just like that. It makes sense. The Grand Xia Emperor won’t let us so easily join forces. In addition, per the rules, the more talismans you acquire, the better a chance you would have of passing this trial. If I don’t kill others, others will still try to kill me. In this trial… I will have to kill!” Ning made up his mind on what to do, but suddenly, his ears twitched.
A faint ripple of power swept out.
With a swoosh, Ning immediately flew to the very top of the nearby mountain, stealthily looking towards the source of the ripples. In the distant wilderness, eight men and women were separately using magic treasures and techniques against each other. It was an utter clash of attacks, causing the color of the sky to change. These were all peerless geniuses from various places of the Grand Xia Empire, all of whom had the pride innate to all geniuses. How could they easily admit defeat?
However, one of the young women quickly began to weaken slightly, and the other seven immediately began to focus their attacks on her. That woman, dressed in violet, immediately sent out her divine sense to scan the nearby 300 kilometers, then hurriedly sent mentally, “Everyone, let’s stop fighting. There are a total of 103 Wanxiang Adepts who are hidden in the surrounding area. If we keep fighting like this, we are going to get ambushed by others.”
“What?! 103?!” The other seven were badly frightened.
None of them knew exactly how large this world within the Brightmoon Diagram of the Mountains and Rivers was; they thought that a short battle wouldn’t attract too much attention. Who would have imagined that 103 individuals would come? Although they were very self-confident, they knew that all the participants in this Conclave were formidable and could not be underestimated.
After the violet-robed maiden sent out her divine sense, the other Wanxiang Adepts all sent out their own divine senses to investigate in succession. Some of them were reincarnated Immortals, while others had been at the Wanxiang level for far too long, and so their soul had also reached the divine sense level. A few also have supreme visualization techniques. In short, they did a scan, and they were all shocked by what they found.
“A fur-clad youth? That’s Ji Ning! Ji Ning, up there on the mountain! He’s the one who killed a Loose Immortal.”
“Ji Ning is atop that mountain.”
“Ji Ning is ranked in the top hundred for this Conclave. Let’s join forces to wipe him out first.” The divine senses joined together as they began to converse through it.
Since they had decided to attend this Conclave, they had naturally purchased intelligence reports from the Heavenly Treasures Mountain. Ever since Ning’s Primaltwin had killed Immortal Floatcloud, his fame had skyrocketed. Even the Heavenly Treasures Mountain had come to believe that Ning’s Primaltwin, despite being only at the peak Primal level, was capable of killing supreme Loose Immortals. This meant that Ning was superior to Loose Immortal Floatcloud in terms of the Dao and in terms of techniques; naturally, this caused Ning to become quite famous.
“Let’s join forces and wipe him out.”
These Wanxiang Adepts quickly came to the same conclusion. They howled through the air, flying towards the mountain top where Ning was standing. More than a hundred figures suddenly flew out, moving at astonishing speeds like thunderbolts or swift gales.
Ning was badly startled.
“These individuals are all heroic talents in their own locales, but they don’t seem to care about their bearing at all.” Ning was helpless; he had watched those eight fight, and none of them were easy to deal with. He was confident in being able to deal with eight, but more than a hundred? That was suicide!
“Time to go.” Ning waved his arm, and a ship-type treasure appeared before him. Ning immediately jumped into it. Swoosh! The ship instantly transformed into a streak of black light, disappearing without a trace into the distance.
“Ji Ning ran quite quickly.”
“He killed Youngflame Nong, then a Loose Immortal. It is said that he is valued by King Yan as well. He really has quite a few treasures, and he really was able to run quite fast.” The hundred-plus men and women in the air felt helpless as well. Unless they had already completely encircled him, if someone like Ning who was clearly more powerful than them wished to flee, it would be hard for them to stop him.
They quickly began to stare vigilantly against each other, stealthily pulling apart.
Nobody wanted to suddenly start a giant, chaotic battle of over a hundred people. They were confident in their ability to handle a wild battle with seven or eight people, but a wild battle with over a hundred… once a person was trapped, there would be no way to escape.
“Time to go.”
“This is going to be troublesome. More than a hundred thousand people, all of whom are crafty and cautious. To be able to survive to the very end and become one of the final ninety-six… that is going to be very difficult.”
“Power alone won’t be enough. Even the most powerful competitor, when surrounded and attacked by a hundred in a formation, will have no option but death.”
The people all quickly departed.
As for Ning… only after his ship had fled more than several thousand kilometers and entered a large mountain did Ning reappear.
“To overcome the trial of the Diagram… power is just one aspect of it. This is also a trial of the mind, a trial of intelligence.” Ning quickly understood this. Everyone was a Wanxiang Adept, after all, and everyone was a supreme talent. They had all essentially reached the limit of what was possible for a Wanxiang Adept to accomplish; to be able to improve any further would be incredibly difficult.
The average person here was at least comparable to an ordinary peak Primal Daoist! If a hundred people joined together in a formation, then they would definitely be comparable to a supreme Loose Immortal!
“I have to be careful and cautious… and also ruthless. I need to seize any opportunities and to kill at high speed. I can’t let myself be surrounded.” Ning nodded to himself.
In the plaza below, the delegates from the 3600 commanderies and the four seas all raised their heads and watched, extremely nervous.
Previously, they had all felt that their own disciples were quite formidable, but as they watched… they realized that every single person was crafty and capable. There were more than ten thousand who had reached the twelfth level of the [Crimsonbright Diagram of the Nine Heavens]! There were even more who had cultivated earthfire or dire-ice to the first grade. None of them were easy to deal with.
“Why is it that I suddenly feel as though senior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, senior apprentice-sister Yu Wei, and eldest apprentice-brother are all in a lot of danger?” Northson blinked.
“Right.” Adept Vastriver shook his head. “As I see it… I imagine that most likely, more than half of these individuals are reincarnated Immortals.”
The Whitewater Hound and Little Qing just stared fixedly at the skies, paying attention to Ning the entire time. Wherever Ning ran to, their gazes would turn to.
The atmosphere within the main hall of the Skylight Palace, by contrast, was much more relaxed.
The black-robed Emperor sat there. He took a sip from the wineglass he was holding, then said with a smile, “This Conclave shall initially proceed within the Brightmoon Diagram of the Mountains and Rivers for a year. This is just the beginning; the most exciting parts will come later.”
The Celestial Immortals seated below him were all chatting and laughing as well.
“That little fellow isn’t bad. He actually killed someone, then scared someone into throwing their talisman away. Who is that little fellow?”
“I don’t recognize him.”
“Never seen him.”
The Celestial Immortals chatted and laughed, but as they watched, they saw that the likes of the long-famous ‘Xiamang Zishan’, ‘Cangwu Jiu’, ‘Adept Woodpass’, and others had yet to truly put on an awe-inspiring display. Instead, they suffered repeated attacks by groups of others and were often put in quite sorry positions. To the contrary, it was the figures that they had never heard about and who were heretofore unknown who were suddenly revealing their terrifying power.
“A cataclysm of the Three Realms truly does cause heroes to gather.” The black-robed Emperor was quite satisfied. “I imagine that many formidable figures who no one had ever known about in the past are going to display their truly shocking power.”
Right at this moment…
Suddenly, a clear voice rang out. “Fellow Daoist Xiamang, I come uninvited; are you willing to welcome me, fellow Daoist?”
The black-robed Emperor’s face changed slightly, and the thousand Celestial Immortals seated below him all quieted down as well. From the mists and clouds outside, eight figures suddenly appeared, each of whom had different appearances. There was a dissolute, handsome man who was dressed in an azure Daoist robe; there was a middle-aged Buddhist who was dressed in yellow robes; there was an old man who was riding an old bull; there was a muscular, golden-eyed man who was dressed in dragon robes…
All eight of them had marvelous, unfathomable, profound auras about them.
The eight caused the thousand Celestial Immortals to secretly feel as though their hearts were trembling. As for the Grand Xia Emperor, he immediately arose from his throne and walked down.
“Fellow Daoists, why is it that you’ve decided to come to my Grand Xia?” The black-robed Emperor laughed, “Come, come, come, come and sit!” He waved a hand, and on the two sides next to his throne, eight more seats and tables appeared. Immortal fruit and nectar appeared atop the tables as well, and they were far better than the fare provided to the Celestial Immortals.
“Why we came to your Grand Xia? Fellow Daoist Xiamang, can it be that you don’t know?” The leader of the group, an azure-robed man who carried an Immortal sword on his back, laughed in a hearty manner. “The Three Realms are currently filled with dangerous hidden undercurrents. Most likely, a great cataclysm is coming. This is precisely the point in time when heroic figures will emerge into the world. Your Grand Xia is one of the most highly ranked of the three thousand major worlds in terms of karmic luck; perhaps one of the peerless figures of the future will be born here. That is why I, Lu Dongbin, have shamelessly come here. You won’t mind, will you, fellow Daoist Xiamang?” [1. Lu Dongbin is one of the most famous Immortals in Chinese mythology, and he is reputed to lead an entire group known as the Eight Immortals, although these eight are not them. From this point on in the story, a lot of ‘real’ Chinese mythology is going to be incorporated. I will do my best to point it out when it occurs via footnotes.]
Although his voice echoed loudly, none of the nearby Celestial Immortals could hear anything.
“Senior apprentice-brother Xiamang, my own major world just concluded a Conclave of Immortal Destiny, and so Eastflower paid a visit to my place, then insisted on pulling me here as well.” The muscular, golden-eyed man who was dressed in dragon robes spoke in a resigned manner.
“Sovereign Hao, since you knew how shameless this Lu Dongbin is, you truly should have stopped him.” The Xia Emperor spoke with resignation.
“As for myself, this old man is just here to watch the fun. Don’t worry, don’t worry; I’m not here to try and snatch some of the geniuses from your major world,” the old man riding the old bull laughed merrily.
“I’m just here to watch the fun as well.”
“I’m just wandering about.”
They all spoke out.
This caused the Xia Emperor to feel exceptionally resigned; the individuals in front of him were all awe-inspiringly famous and influential figures of the Three Realms. For example, there was Lu Dongbin, the leader of the Eight Immortals of the High Caves. Lu Dongbin was the reincarnation of Emperor Eastflower, and back when he had been Emperor Eastflower, he had apprenticed himself to a major power. After reincarnating and becoming Lu Dongbin, he had apprenticed himself to a second major power.
Behind him, a single person, stood two major powers. What’s more, Lu Dongbin had merged the strong points from both schools, infusing them into his Dao of the Sword. He was known in the Three Realms to be frighteningly powerful… and he was a famous, awe-inspiring Sword Immortal! Even amongst Pure Yang True Immortals, he was ranked towards the very front.
However, Lu Dongbin was utterly shameless, had a weird temper, liked to play tricks on people, and cursed or giggled as he pleased… and he often liked to wander about the mortal realms, leaving behind quite a few legacies in many of the worlds he passed through.
“And you, Mahasthamaprapta? Why have you, a member of the Buddhist way, come here?” The Xia Emperor’s gaze fell upon the yellow-robed Buddhist. Followers of the Daoist path felt a certain degree of disliking towards followers of the Buddhist path. [1. Mahasthamaprapta is a bodhisattva of wisdom; his name means ‘great strength’.]
The male Buddhist had a smile on his face that made others feel calm. Clasping his palms together in a prayer, he said, “I’m just here to take a look.”
The Xia Emperor was helpless.
Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, the Bodhisattva of Great Strength, was someone who had an extremely high status amongst those of the Buddhist path. He was someone who had followed Lord Buddha for a long period of time, and was also someone comparable to a Pure Yang True Immortal. In addition, he had an extremely good temperament, always having a smile on his face whenever he met anyone. In the face of such a truly kind, amiable individual… there was no way the Xia Emperor could shoo him off.
“Everyone, take your seats. Why are you all standing? Others will think that the Xia clan doesn’t understand how to treat guests.” The Xia Emperor said, rather impolitely, “But everyone, please understand this; I’m not the only person paying attention to this Conclave of Immortal Destiny of the Grand Xia. Even my venerable Master is paying close attention to it as well. Thus, the only one who can choose a disciple must be my venerable Master.”
“We naturally won’t fight with the Daofather over a disciple. Xiamang, stop worrying. After you have made your picks, if I take a fancy to one of the remaining individuals, there won’t be any problems if I choose him, right?” Lu Dongbin had been the first to plop his butt down on the seat, then had picked up a bottle of Immortal nectar and started to drink. His eyes instantly lit up.
“Hey, this is good wine. Not bad! Your Xiamang clan truly lives up to its reputation as being of the lineage of the imperial Xia clan of the Primordial Era. You have so much fine wine, and it’s even better than the Celestial Court’s. What’s the name of this wine?” As he spoke, Lu Dongbin’s eyes began to spin as he turned to stare at the massive Brightmoon Diagram of the Mountains and Rivers, carefully inspecting each of the young men and women within it.