Escorted by a chorus of respectful calls, Ji Ning arrived at the entrance to the Tristar Crescent Abode. Holding a broom in his hands, he began to personally sweep the mountain paths.
Sweep. Sweep. The fallen leaves on the ground were all being swept away.
“The Patriarch is personally sweeping the mountain paths? Isn’t that the trial for the first level of the Divinities Palace?”
“The Patriarch can enter even the ninth level whenever he pleases, to say nothing of the first. He defeats the ninth golem with utter ease.”
“But the Patriarch truly is sweeping the paths personally. Are we seeing things?”
“Maybe…maybe the Patriarch is meditating on something.”
The two Dao-novitiates who were guarding the entrance stared in amazement as they watched Ning personally sweep the mountain roads. They stealthily sent mental messages to each other regarding this. News quickly began to spread, and soon all of the disciples of Mount Innerheart came to know of it.
Ning was very calm. He kept his head lowered, focusing on his broom. Each sweep of the broom felt like a cleansing sweep against his soul as well.
He swept each of the mountain steps, one at a time. His sweeping speed wasn’t too fast; he seemed to be enjoying this sweeping process.
He only finished his labors late in the afternoon.
“Oh, I’m done?” Only now did Ning come back to his senses. He straightened his back, then murmured softly to himself, “It seems as though when Master set trials such as sweeping the path and weeding the mountain, he had certain other things in mind as well.”
“Apprentice.” A voice suddenly rang out by Ning’s ears.
Ning was momentarily startled, but then hurriedly responded, “Master!”
Despite having been on the mountain for so many years, Ning had never before received a direct mental message from his master like this.
“After you learn the [Torch Dragon’s Eye], come to my place,” the voice rang out again.
“Yes, master,” Ning replied respectfully.
Ning quickly moved up the mountain, heart filled with questions. Why was his master summoning him? This was extremely rare. Could it be…that he was going to leave his master’s tutelage soon?
Ning went to the Three Realms Palace and acquired the full copy of the [Torch Dragon’s Eye].
To date, the three major techniques which Ning had learned from the Three Realms Palace were the [Eight-Nine Arcane Art], [Houyi’s Archery], and [Torch Dragon’s Eye].
The process of being transmitted the information regarding the [Torch Dragon’s Eye] took a full day. The next day, Ning regained his faculty of mind. Only then did he head towards the Daoist monastery of Patriarch Subhuti.
The two Dao-novitiates at the entrance to the monastery both called out respectfully. One of the two, Clearwater, also added, “Uncle-master, the Patriarch has sent word that you are to be allowed direct entry.”
Ning nodded, smiled, then passed in.
Within the Daoist monastery.
There was a prayer mat within an open region with a skinny old man dressed in loose Daoist robes seated atop it. The old man’s hair was completely white, but he didn’t seem decrepit at all; rather, Ning felt as though this person had reached the level of infinite eternity. In addition, he also could sense a boundless life-force coming from this person. Ning couldn’t help but feel his own spirit completely calming down, thanks to his master’s simple presence.
“Master.” Ning walked in, then called out respectfully.
“Sit,” the Old Patriarch said.
Ning immediately sat down on a prayer mat in the lotus position, awaiting instruction.
The Old Patriarch looked at Ning, then said slowly, “How long have you spent on Mount Innerheart?”
“It has already been more than thirty years and five…this year shall be the thirty-sixth,” Ning said respectfully.
“Which abilities have you learned?” The Old Patriarch asked.
“Your disciple has learned the [Eight-Nine Arcane Art] and reached the Third Cycle! I’ve just reached a basic level of skill in [Houyi’s Archery]. I have also trained in the [Torch Dragon’s Eye] and reached the second stage of innate torch-light! In the past thirty-plus years, your disciple has primarily focused on swordplay; I’ve already mastered the ninth stance of the [Three-Foot Sword], and have learned other, more powerful sword-arts as well,” Ning said respectfully.
The Old Patriarch nodded. “You have many abilities now; it can be said that you are a completely different person compared to when you first came up the mountain. At your current level…remaining on Mount Innerheart will no longer help you as much as before. What you need to do now is go temper yourself within the real world, so as to prepare for your upcoming Celestial Tribulation. Given your abilities, and given that you have the legacy of brother Threelives…your Celestial Tribulation will surely be extraordinary. It will be very, very difficult.”
“Your disciple shall remember to be cautious.” Ning was enlightened. So indeed, it was as he had expected…it was time for him to leave his master’s tutelage.
“It is time for you to leave now.” The Old Patriarch looked at Ning. “I once said that when you left my tutelage, I would give you two great gifts.”
Ning instantly felt intrigued.
“After you entered my tutelage, I often watched you, appraising your comprehension ability, your talent, your habits…all for the sake of developing a completely unique evasion divine ability for you, known as the [Obscuring Wind of the Nine Heavens],” the Old Patriarch said.
Ning was overjoyed. This had been created just for him?!
Ning was badly in need of an evasive ability right now. He had been preparing to ‘settle’ for an evasive technique from the Divinities Palace if he couldn’t find a good one, but unexpectedly his master had been preparing this for him the entire time, developing an evasive divine ability that was completely suited for Ning.
“You are a human, after all; if you are to train in any other evasive abilities, it will be hard for you to reach the peak in them. Even if I gave you the [Wings of the Garuda], from which your Windwing Evasion ability originates, you will never be able to reach the level which the great Roc did,” the Old Patriarch explained. “The ‘best’ skill is the one most-suited to you. This technique, the [Obscuring Wind of the Nine Heavens], when trained to the utmost peak…although it might not be as good as perfect mastery over [Wings of the Garuda], it isn’t that far off. You will be able to move 90,000 kilometers in a single movement.” [1. Alas, this isn’t quite as fast as Sun Wukong’s ‘somersault cloud’, which allowed him to move 108,000 kilometers in a single somersault.]
“90,000 kilometers in a single movement?” Ning was extremely delighted. 90,000 kilometers…this was an astonishing speed!
“This is the evasive divine ability I prepared for you. In the future, when you have your own insights, perhaps you’ll be able to further perfect it, allowing you to move even faster. That, however, shall be up to you,” the Old Patriarch said.
An evasive ability which Patriarch Subhuti had personally developed…most likely it would be hard for Ning to improve on, even after he became an Empyrean God. Improving it…that would be a very, very distant task.
“I can see that in the future, you shall be a Sword Immortal. But any truly formidable Sword Immortal needs a powerful sword-formation,” the Old Patriarch said. “The so-called [Heavenraker] sword formation, in truth, was used by Daofather Heavenrake as something he could teach his disciples. Even I don’t know what his most formidable and profound sword-arts…Daofather Heavenrake keeps them hidden as his secret weapons for keeping himself alive.”
“Your [Lesser Thousand Swords Formation] relies on using many treasures, relying on superiority of numbers; when combined with an appropriate sword-art, it is indeed capable of unleashing tremendous power. Both the Daoist Path and the Buddhist Sangha have similar types of techniques that rely on overwhelming numbers. Using your [Lesser Thousand Swords Formation] as the foundation, I have distilled the essence of the best Daoist and Buddhist techniques of this nature and developed a new sword-formation technique for you. I have given it the name, [Greater Thousand Swords Formation],” the Old Patriarch said. “If you have enough treasures, the power of this [Greater Thousand Swords Formation] will be absolutely astonishing. It can be described as one of the supreme sword-formations of the Three Realms.”
“Thank you, Master!” Ning was both excited and overjoyed. The [Obscuring Wind of the Nine Heavens] evasive technique, the [Greater Thousand Swords Formation] sword-formation technique…his master had personally designed both for him.
What Ning did not realize…
Was that Patriarch Subhuti was truly very diligent in teaching his students. Despite the passage of countless ages, the total number of students he had taken on was quite low, but he whole-heartedly focused on every single one he took on, especially during the early periods when they had first entered his tutelage. Although it seemed as though Ning hadn’t had the chance to meet with his master many times, in reality Patriarch Subhuti had been constantly monitoring Ning. Then, based on Ning’s own traits and characteristics, the Old Patriarch had tested out and developed these techniques in a completely separate world.
The [Obscuring Wind of the Nine Heavens], for example; Patriarch Subhuti had spent hundreds of thousands of years developing it.
By comparison, the [Greater Thousand Swords Formation] was easier; after all, this sort of formation simply centered around massive numbers of treasures. Patriarch Subhuti had only spent a thousand years to develop it.
In this other world, the flow of time was different. This was why Patriarch was able to bring out these two techniques now.
“Step forward,” the Old Patriarch instructed.
Ning hurriedly stepped forward, walking in front of the Old Patriarch. The Old Patriarch tapped Ning on the center of his forehead.
Instantly, a large amount of information flooded into Ning’s brain.
By the time Ning recovered, the [Obscuring Wind of the Nine Heavens] and the [Greater Thousand Swords Formation] had been firmly imprinted into his mind.
“Alright. It is time to leave,” the Old Patriarch said.
“Master,” Ning said respectfully. “Your disiciple also wishes to meditate on the secrets of the lotus. I wish to make a trip to the Divinities Palace and acquire a few manuals on lotus techniques.”
The Old Patriarch waved his hand and a bamboo book appeared within it. He handed it to Ning. “This is a set of lotus techniques I acquired by accident. The mysteries within it are unfathomably profound, and will be more than enough for you to meditate on. You can carry it with you.”
“Thank you, Master.” It was one surprise for Ning after another. Ning hurriedly added, “Your disciple has an apprentice, Bluecliff Xiaoyu, who has just arrived on the mountain and only been here a few years. She is still quite weak; your disciple would like to let her remain here at Mount Innerheart for now…”
The Old Patriarch nodded. “Then let her remain here and train quietly on the mountain. When the day comes that she can defeat the ninth golem, I will let her leave and send her to your Grand Xia world.”
Only now did Ning feel completely relaxed. Everything had been arranged for.
“Alright. Time to leave the mountain,” the Old Patriarch instructed. “Remember this: Without my permission, you are not to say that you are my disciple. Otherwise…do not blame your master for showing you no mercy. Only when I summon you back can you return to Mount Innerheart.”
“Yes,” Ning said respectfully.
“The Three Realms are now filled with secret, turbulent undercurrents. Even I, your master, might perish. You must be careful. You are not to be too rash and cause a disaster for yourself,” the Old Patriarch said.
Ning instantly felt his heart shake. What? The Three Realms were filled with secret, turbulent undercurrents? Even his master might perish? Then how was someone like him, a junior fellow who wasn’t even a Celestial Immortal, supposed to make it?
The Old Patriarch waved his sleeve. “Be it fortune or calamity…you shall bring it to yourself, and have no one else to blame or to thank. Now, go!”
Ning respectfully fell to his knees, pressing his head down to the ground and kowtowing heavily nine times. “Your disciple is leaving now. Master, take care!”
His master had indeed spent considerable effort on his behalf. Both the [Obscuring Wind of the Nine Heavens] and the [Greater Thousand Swords Formation] were truly supreme techniques of the Three Realms. Even Daofathers weren’t capable of casually creating techniques on this level. Although his master hadn’t spelled it out, Ning could imagine how much enormous effort his master must’ve gone into in order to develop these techniques.
Ning would naturally engrave his memory of this kindness into his heart.
In addition, the thirty-plus years he had spent on Mount Innerheart had been the most peaceful years of his life, the years when he had truly, firmly established his foundation. After leaving the mountain, it would be as his master said; given how the Three Realms were filled with dangerous undercurrents, it would probably be hard for him to find such peace again.
After Ning left, another person appeared within the Daoist monastery. It was the second apprentice, Crazy Ji.
“Master.” Crazy Ji watched as Ning walked away, then sighed, “This junior apprentice-brother of mine truly is a man of deep emotions.”
“Unfortunately, he was born at the wrong time.” The Old Patriarch shook his head. “When most of you were growing up, I was able to protect you. But he will be growing up in an era when a great tribulation is descending upon the Three Realms. The Three Realms are already filled with many dangerous undercurrents…and this tribulation may prove to be even more terrifying than the one that shattered Pangu’s World.”
“What?!” Crazy Ji’s face instantly changed.
“Nuwa has left long ago, entering the endless primordial chaos. Despite the passages of countless years, she has never returned,” the Old Patriarch said. “When Nuwa was present, the Three Realms were finally settled down and the Six Paths of Reincarnation were established. The Celestial Court was created to manage the Three Realms, and the Daofathers and True Gods all separated into their respective territories. But with Nuwa gone…with the Six Paths of Reincarnation destroyed…with the Celestial Court only a court in name…with the Three Realms filled by dangerous undercurrents…I fear that this tribulation…”
The Old Patriarch shook his head.
Crazy Ji began to worry.
“But in times of tribulation, a person can bring either fortune or calamity upon himself. If it is calamity, only he himself can save himself,” the Old Patriarch said. “Everyone, including you and the others, all need to be careful. I imagine that a large number of True Gods and Daofathers shall die during this tribulation…and if even half of the Empyrean Gods and True Immortals survive, they should count their blessings. If you are faced with danger, I may not be able to protect you.”
“Your disciple shall remember and be cautious,” Crazy Ji said respectfully.
Ning led Little Qing and Uncle White out of Mount Innerheart.
On the path to Mount Innerheart. Bluecliff Xiaoyu fell to her knees, pressing her forehead against the ground. “Your disciple shall definitely train hard. After I reach the ninth floor of the Divinities Palace, I will immediately head for the world of the Grand Xia to reunite with you, Master.”
Ning nodded and smiled. He then led Little Qing and Uncle White to fly out of Mount Innerheart.
They arrived in the sky-void, and as they did, a void tunnel appeared. This was a void-tunnel which Patriarch Subhuti had personally opened for them.
Ning, Little Qing, and Uncle White flew directly into it.
Swoosh! They all disappeared, and the void-tunnel closed behind them.
“Master!” Xiaoyu knelt there, tears streaming uncontrollably down her face. “I will definitely go to the Grand Xia world and meet you there.”