The Twelve Palaces were tightly connected to the Brightshore Imperials, and so there were spacetime transfer arrays linking the palaces to the territory of the Imperials.
Spacetime twisted around Ji Ning. Once everything went still, he swept the area with his gaze. “So this is the imperial palace?”
Although all twelve of the palaces of the Brightshore Kingdom were extremely large and covered with many formations, the true center of the kingdom remained the imperial palace! Before Ning was an utterly, breathtakingly large palace that was as white as snow, with gold, black, and blue accents covering parts of it.
Just looking at the imperial palace, Ning sensed an aura of incredible presence and might. He felt as though he was looking up at the stars themselves.
“I heard that the Imperials generally live here in the imperial palace. I wonder how many defenses the almighty Hegemon had placed around his headquarters,” Ning mused.
Ning emerged from the array and began to walk towards the palace gates of the enormous imperial palace.
There were no people before the palace at all, just two gray statues. One was of a humanoid wielding a spear, the second was of a dragon-like creature that was coiled around itself.
“Halt.” The humanoid statue suddenly spoke out in a grating voice as it stared at Ning.
“Whaaaat?!” Ning was badly startled. “Its alive?!”
He could now be considered a powerful expert. After unleashing his Yin-Yang Sword Domain, he was a match for most Daolords of the Second Step, and thus he had extremely keen senses towards life and the aura of life. He would be able to easily detect the aura of a tiny mosquito from a million kilometers away! However, his senses were clearly telling him that this statue before him was nothing more than an ordinary statue, an inert hunk of rock. How, then, was it speaking?
“Have you come to see the Hegemon?” The gray humanoid statue was almost as tall as the palace gates, and it stared down at Ning.
“Yes.” Ning nodded. Although his senses were still telling him that this statue was an inert hunk of rock, he couldn’t help but feel an inexplicable hint of fear.
“Enter after all four have arrived,” the gray humanoid statue said coldly.
Ning had no choice but to stand there and wait quietly. After enough time passed to brew a kettle of tea, the nearby spacetime transfer array once more lit up. Once the light subsided, a skinny bald youth dressed in loose red robes had appeared within it. The youth’s face was covered with strange divine red tattoos that seemed to extrude an aura of special charm. Ning only had to glance at them to feel that they were exerting an effect upon him.
“I am Solewind.” The bald, red-robed youth strolled forwards, then smiled. “Greetings, Swordlord Darknorth.”
“Heartlord Solewind.” Ning greeted the man. The Heartforce Palace had very few cultivators, and the only World-level cultivator acknowledged by the ancient pagodas was Heartlord Solewind. Ning had heard of this man long ago. This was no dabbler like Bertulu; this was a man who had truly poured all of his effort into being a Heartforce Cultivator, and his abilities were truly unfathomable.
“Swordlord Darknorth, you actually made it farther into the Silvercloud World’s great altar than I did.” Heartlord Solewind smiled in a gentle, warm fashion. “I heard that you were abducted by the almighty Hegemon to our Brightshore Kingdom roughly two thousand years ago. For you to reach such a level of power in such a short period of time… Solewind truly admires you.”
Ning was instantly speechless. The man even knew about him having been abducted by the almighty Hegemon two thousand years ago? News had certainly spread quite fast!
“No need to feel surprised, Swordlord Darknorth. It was one of my elder brothers in the Heartforce Palace who informed me of this,” Heartlord Solewind said with a laugh. “The Heartforce Palace has very few cultivators within it, and we all treat each other as we would our actual siblings. We hold nothing back from each other.”
Ning suddenly remembered that the entire Heartforce Palace held less than ten Samsara Daolords! Most of those Samsara Daolords were out wandering the primordial chaos, leaving no more than two or three who actually resided within the palace itself. Compared to the other eleven palaces, the Heartforce Palace really did have pitifully few members. Ning could fully understand how this would result in them treating each other as they would actual siblings.
“Swordlord Darknorth, if you wish you can simply address me as Solewind.” Heartlord Solewind smiled.
“Then you can address me as Darknorth, brother Solewind,” Ning said. In his heart, he couldn’t help but feel astonished. Why was it that a simple smile from Solewind caused Ning to have such a good impression of him? His voice alone was enough to make it impossible for others to hate him!
The spacetime transfer array once more lit up, and momens later a youth dressed in deep blue robes emerged. He had a cold, forbidding face, and he emanated an aura of baleful energy. As soon as he emerged he saw Ning and Solewind, and he immediately called out, “Greetings, Heartlord Solewind and Swordlord Darknorth.”
“Are you Waterlord Firesurge? No need to stand on such ceremony. You can simply address us as Solewind and Darknorth,” Heartlord Solewind said, and Ning nodded.
“I was lucky enough to be ranked number four, but I fear I’ll need your help in the future.” Although the blue-robed youth had a cold and forboding aura, his words were quite courteous and respectful. Both Solewind and Ning felt quite kindly disposed towards him.
No matter what, they were all members of the Twelve Palaces who had sworn lifeblood oaths not to attack each other. Given that they were ranked in the top four, all of them would clearly be extraordinary figures in the future. So long as they were able to survive, they would all become major powers who would shock the rest of the primordial chaos. It was natural for them to wish to befriend each other.
The three chatted idly for a time, slowly growing more familiar with each other’s personalities and traits.
Finally, the last member arrived.
This was a man dressed in black imperial robes who wore a royal crown. His skin was as clear as jade, and his eyes were as deep as the abyss between the stars. Even the likes of Ji Ning, Firesurge, and Solewind couldn’t help but mentally sigh in amazement. In terms of appearance and aura, at least, this ‘Prince Greatjoy’ was definitely number one amongst the four.
“So the three of you have already arrived? Please pardon me for having arrived late. Greatjoy feels quite ashamed at having made you wait.” Prince Greatjoy was as courteous as the stories said he was… but of course the stories also said that deep down, he was actually quite a berserk fellow.
“We just arrived a short while ago.”
“Brother Greatjoy, you ranked number one in this trial. I imagine that you are probably on par with Bertulu and Eastcult.”
The four began to casually chat amongst themselves. Although they were all quite relaxed, none of them dared to underestimate any of the other three, as they were all quite close in power. They belonged to the same general level of strength, even though there were differences with regards to how far they had made it in the Silvercloud World. If they were to get into an actual fight, it was hard to say who would win. In addition, the trial of the Silvercloud World was a trial where many sources of outside help were banned, such as Dao-seals or golems. Given how extraordinary they all were, all of them had clearly experienced tremendous strokes of karmic luck in the past!
“The Hegemon has summoned the four of you. Go on inside.” The giant humanoid statue stared down at the four tiny dots below it as it spoke in a cold voice.
“The two statues standing in front of the imperial palace are the two great guardians of the imperial palace,” Heartlord Solewind sent mentally. “I heard that long ago, during the era when the almighty Hegemon was first establishing his reputation, he led these two great guardians into battle and slew countless major powers with them.”
“Oh?” Ning, Greatjoy, and Firesurge both listened attentively.
The members of the Heartforce Palace shared a particularly close relationship with each other, and so Heartlord Solewind knew many more secrets than most members of the other palaces.
Although Ning was quite intrigued about the history of these two giant statues, he didn’t pay them too much mind as he entered the imperial palace.
Once they stepped past the gates and saw the towering palace, the four of them could sense spacetime twisting around them as they were teleported away once more.
They had been brought to a region filled with empty space with a few chaos stars sprinkled throughout it.
Ning and the others all stared at their surroundings as they appeared in this place.
“What is this place?” All four of them were rather puzzled. This region was simply too silent, as still as a pool of water. The primordial chaos should generally be filled with many types of voidstorms and chaos waves, and it would generally be filled with boundless amounts of chaos energy! However, the empty region they were in was utterly enormous and completely devoid of primordial chaos.
The void before them suddenly parted like a curtain of water as an incomparably massive behemoth suddenly appeared. This behemoth had two enormous eyes that were like blazing stars, but it gazed towards Ning and the other three in a very gentle manner. When it spoke, its voice was similarly gentle, but it echoed throughout every single inch of this region. “Greetings, my four young fellows.”
Greatjoy, Solewind, Firesurge, and Ning were all shocked.
Ning couldn’t help but think back to the scene of him and the other World-level cultivators being swallowed up by the head of an enormous behemoth, then being teleported to the Brightshore Kingdom.
“Greetings, Hegemon.” Ning and the other three all bowed respectfully. There was no need to kneel or kowtow; the Hegemon generally treated the members of the Twelve Palaces quite well.
“You four young fellows have earned a rare opportunity for yourselves,” the towering behemoth said. “You shall head out alongside a member of my Imperials known as Skyfire Brightshore, and then you shall enter the Archaeus region of an alternate universe. This region is one of the most legendary locations of this alternate universe, and it is filled with many dangers. It is also, however, filled with many opportunities. I’ve chosen the four of you because I hope that you will help my young clansman, Skyfire Brightshore, as much as you can and give him a better chance at surviving. But of course, I will reward you heavily for the services you have rendered to myself and Skyfire.”