He pushed open the door to the courtyard. This was a very large courtyard, with grapes, willow trees, apple trees, and other types of trees within it. However, because it was winter, it naturally appeared a bit desolate.
Upon entering, Ji Ning felt as though this was the residence of an ordinary mortal.
Soon, Ning locked his gaze upon a distant gray-robed youth. The gray-robed youth’s head was raised, and he was looking at a willow tree. “It’s been a long time since I’ve returned to the Grand Xia…but this courtyard is still laid out the same way it was in the past. It hasn’t changed at all. Hunchmont…thank you.”
“This is the only place you like to stay in, elder brother. I naturally had to keep it in good shape,” Celestial Immortal Hunchmont said.
The gray-robed youth turned his head to look at them.
Ning and Immortal Diancai were both startled. The gaze of this gray-robed youth was as deep and penetrating as the waters of an icy pool. His aura was extremely profound. Although the two knew very little about him, both Ning and Immortal Diancai could feel…that if they were to fight, they probably would be far from being a match for this figure.
“It seems he is a supreme figure amongst Celestial Immortals,” Ning mused to himself. There could be huge differences in power amongst Celestial Immortals, much like how Ning, despite being merely a Void-level Earth Immortals, could effortless sweep groups of Loose Immortals and Earth Immortals with his power.
“Greetings to you, senior Unity,” Ning said.
“Greetings to you, fellow Daoist Unity,” Immortal Diancai said.
Ning was still technically at the Void-level, after all; since he was unwilling to reveal his status as a Daofather’s disciple, he naturally addressed Celestial Immortals the way most ordinary Void-level Earth Immortals would; as ‘senior’.
“Diancai? Ji Ning?” The gray-robed youth looked at the two of them, a hint of a smile on his face. He then casually pointed at nearby wooden chairs. “Sit.” With a gesture from his hand, all the dust disappeared from the chairs.
The gray-robed youth was the first to sit down. He even produced a tea kettle and teacups, pouring each of them a cup. “This is green tea. You can drink it after boiling it; it is a fairly common refreshment in many major worlds. However, it’s a bit rarer in our world of the Grand Xia. Have a taste. I personally planted this tea tree and personally collected the tea leaves.”
Ning and Immortal Diancai were both rather startled. They immediately tasted it.
Ning could sense a thick aroma waft into his mouth and spread throughout his entire body, the flavor limitless. “Good tea.”
“Ji Ning, you like to drink tea as well?” The gray-robed youth asked curiously.
Ning was startled. He hurriedly replied, “I occasionally drink it.”
In truth, just now Ning was unconsciously drawing from his tea-drinking experiences from his past life on Earth.
“Tea is quite flavorful. I took on many masters to study this art, to study various types of tea trees, how to plant tea trees, how to select the right soil, and use the proper type of water…” The gray-robed youth laughed. “Haha, enough of that. I’m happy to talk about this all day, but I imagine that you would be bored senseless by it.”
Immortal Diancai asked curiously, “Fellow Daoist Unity, you’ve taken on many masters?”
“All mortals,” the gray-robed youth laughed.
Immortal Diancai and Ji Ning both felt startled; a Celestial Immortal who was willing to take on a mortal as a master? Not just anyone could do something like this!
“I invited the two of you over for a nice chat,” the gray-robed youth said with a laugh. “A storm is about to befall the Three Realms, and the world of the Grand Xia is naturally not going to be able to avoid it. In addition, there are some hidden powers who are making use of this storm to cause waves of their own. In truth…ever since the Milky Way War, I’ve been living the life of an ordinary mortal. I’ve been quite relaxed…but this can no longer continue.”
“The life of an ordinary mortal?” Immortal Diancai frowned.
“If you wish to live a longer live, then you need to avoid being stained by karma,” the gray-robed youth said with a laugh. “What is karma? If you have a friend, and your friend falls into danger, you will naturally go help him; this is karma! If someone like me always hides within a minor world of mortals and doesn’t interact with any Celestial Immortals, with all my friends and enemies believing me to be dead…then they naturally won’t come bother me. This can be considered ‘severing karma’.”
“I live a carefree life. Naturally, I’m able to live a long, long life.” The gray-robed youth looked towards Immortal Diancai, then laughed, “After this storm ends, fellow Daoist Diancai, you should also set up a ‘false death’ then hide yourself in a minor world of mortals. You can live for trillions of years and still probably wouldn’t perish…unless, of course, you encounter yet another storm like this one, which no one will be able to avoid.”
Ning and Immortal Diancai were speechless upon hearing this.
They understood…that this was indeed a fine way to ‘live a long life’. However, not everyone had this sort of willpower, to go live the life of a mortal despite being an exalted Celestial Immortal.
“Senior Unity, you say that no one will be able to avoid this coming storm?” Ning hurriedly asked.
“Perhaps the truly exalted Daofathers will remain safe,” the gray-robed youth said, “But for Celestial Immortals like us, and perhaps even for True Immortals and Empyrean Gods, I wager…it will be hard to avoid this storm. Based on what I know, this storm is about to envelop the entire Three Realms. A small place like our Stillwater Commandery has also been thrown into chaos. For example, the rise of the Blood God Church!”
“Senior, you should be able to eradicate the Blood God Church, right?” Ning asked.
“Eradicating them would naturally be easy. If I made a trip, they would be immediately wiped out. But if I did that, then the Northmont clan of Stillwater will most likely be viewed as a dangerous source of trouble for that hidden power,” the gray-robed youth said. “Thus…we shall simply continue the low-level struggle against them. We’ll slowly play with the Blood God Church. The biggest benefit of going with the flow is that when the true storm comes, we’ll all be able to join together to fight side-by-side.”
Immortal Diancai asked, “A hidden power? Which power?”
“I don’t know either. I imagine you, Diancai, also know that the Grand Xia Dynasty is currently in a state of great chaos. Clearly, the various evil or berserk clans and sects now all have hidden supporters,” the gray-robed youth said. “In fact, I suspect…that some marquises have already thrown their support to the hidden power.”
“The marquises have changed their loyalties?!” Ning and Diancai were both shocked.
“The waters are far too muddy right now. No one knows exactly what is going on. Not even the Xia Emperor dares to truly exert his power right now. Everyone is building up their power, waiting quietly to fight,” the gray-robed youth said. “It is the Xia Emperor’s job to deal with the hidden power; as for us, all we need to do is survive. To allow our clans and sects to survive! Thus, I hope that both of you, Ji Ning and fellow Daoist Diancai, shall stand together alongside myself and Hunchmont. If we join forces…we’ll be able to protect the Black-White College, protect Swallow Mountain, and protect the Northmont clan of Stillwater.”
Ning and Immortal Diancai exchanged a glance.
Both of them nodded, agreeing to this alliance.
One chopstick is easily broken. A bundle of chopsticks are hard to break!
Because the Black-White College had a long-standing relationship with the Northmont clan, Ning and his master naturally decided to fight on their side and ally with them!
“I wonder if you two seniors are aware…of any powers within the world of the Grand Xia who are skilled in the Ba-Serpent Formation?” Ning asked.
“Ba-Serpent Formation?” Looks of puzzlement appeared on the faces of the gray-robed youth and Hunchmont.
“There are some powers in the Three Realms that are skilled in the Ba-Serpent Formation, but as for the world of the Grand Xia…I truly haven’t heard of any.” The gray-robed youth shook his head. “Hunchmont, have you heard anything? You are often here at the Grand Xia; you should know more than me.”
“I haven’t heard of anything either. The Ba-Serpent Formation is no ordinary formation.” Celestial Immortal Hunchmont shook his head as well.
The next dawn.
Ji Ning arrived at the Heavenly Treasures Mountain of Stillwtaer City. One of the Diremonster Immortals of the Mountain, a Celestial Fox Immortal, personally came to greet him. She was the highest-ranking member of this branch of the Heavenly Treasures Mountain.
“Fellow Daoist Ji Ning, might I ask why you have come to my Heavenly Treasures Mountain?” The Celestial Fox Immortal was astonishingly alluring, and her bewitching body was sinuous and curvaceous beneath the gauze she wore.
Ning said, “I wish to investigate regarding a technique known as the Ba-Serpent Formation.”
“Ba-Serpent Formation?” The Celestial Fox Immortal was startled. “Alright. Fellow Daoist Ji Ning, wait a moment. I’ll go look.”
“Alright.” Ning nodded.
He ended up waiting nearly a full hour.
Ning stared in astonishment as a silver-haired man suddenly appeared before him.
When he had gone to the imperial capital of the Grand Xia to sell off that arrow, he had encountered this individual, ‘Skyfox’. The reason why many of the branches of the Heavenly Treasures Mountain of the Grand Xia Dynasty were all managed by Celestial Foxes was precisely because the main Heavenly Treasures Mountain was established by this individual, Patriarch Skyfox – the silver-haired man before him.
“Fellow Daoist Ji Ning, you wish to learn about the Ba-Serpent Formation?” The silver-haired man looked towards Ning.
“Senior Skyfox, why have you come to Stillwater?” Ning asked, surprised.
The silver-haired man laughed. Ever since the Xia Emperor had become convinced that Ning had a huge background, the Heavenly Treasures Mountain had naturally elevated Ning’s status in their eyes to an extremely high level. He was given more latitude than even most Celestial Immortal Patriarchs. When he made an intelligence request, this request was instantly relayed to the main headquarters, and once the main headquarters knew, Patriarch Skyfox had personally hurried to Stillwater.
“I know that you wish to learn of the Ba-Serpent Formation, and so I came,” the silver-haired man said.
“Does this involve something major?” Ning asked, surprised.
“Yes.” The silver-haired man nodded. “Very major. This intelligence report is very precious as well. The Heavenly Treasures Mountain wouldn’t even give this report to most Celestial Immortals…but the Xia Emperor views you with great favor, and so we can give it to you.”
Hearing that the Xia Emperor viewed himself with favor, Ning couldn’t help but say in a rather helpless way, “The Xia Emperor isn’t angry at me for not accepting Sword Immortal Evergreen as my master?”
“Your choice of a master is primarily your own affair. No matter what, you are still a member of the world of the Grand Xia; you are one of our own. How could the Xia Emperor be such a petty person?” The silver-haired man laughed.
Ning instantly felt relieved. He could tell that clearly, the Xia Emperor wished to befriend him.
“The Ba-Serpent Formation…?” Ning looked at him.
“The Ba-Serpent Formation. In the entire world of the Grand Xia, there is only a single power that knows how to execute it: Bloodcloud Hall,” the silver-haired man said.
“Bloodcloud Hall?” Ning was puzzled; he had never heard of it before.
“This is a very secretive assassin’s guild; the number one assassin’s guild of the Grand Xia.” The silver-haired man waved his hand, delivering a thick tome towards Ning. “There are a series of intelligence reports here regarding Bloodcloud Hall, as well as the links between them and some other hidden powers. All of these hidden powers, including Bloodcloud Hall, belong to a single mastermind, the great foe of the Grand Xia.”
Ning was startled.
Almost all of the information regarding the powers serving this enemy mastermind had been recorded down in this book. This sort of intelligence report was indeed priceless; the Xia Emperor was actually willing to let him see it?
“What, don’t you want to read it? This is a detailed report that came at a price of countless lives. Although we aren’t able to completely uncover the face of the enemy mastermind…we can vaguely make him out now.” The silver-haired man continued to hold out that thick tome.
Ning laughed, then stretched his hand out and accepted it.