Disorder ruled the world of immortals as the new normal, and Nephrite Major was severely weakened. It was now the weakest of not only the nine majors, but also the ten lands and four immortal seas.
She had no celestial emperor or crippled origin dao immortals, but a great many valuable treasures still. The Nephrite court wouldn’t be able to protect their ancestral vein.
Art and Zither Saint only stayed on as the major’s guardians because of the deal between Art Saint and Zhao Changkong. The late celestial emperor had set Art Saint free, so he would protect Nephrite for a century in return. He would take his leave after that, and Nephrite was certain to be consigned to the same fate as Witherdew Major.
Zhao Changkong had received his heavenly mandate from Zhao Fengyang. After his death, the heavenly mandate had returned to the origin of Nephrite Major, never to be recovered. Even if Nephrite selected a new celestial emperor, it would take the new ruler at least a thousand years to gather the heavenly mandate again.
Destruction was thus made inevitable; the major would be reduced to rubble long before then. Hence, as the seniormost member of the imperial family at present, the imperial uncle had no choice but to hand over the ancestral vein for safekeeping.
However, Lu Yun and Dusk Province would never know peace again after accepting such a reward.
Lu Yun knew full well what the imperial uncle was planning, but this was a proposal he couldn’t decline. It was common knowledge that he had only gotten this far in the world because of Zhao Fengyang’s original support.
“You’re gifting me the ancestral vein?” Lu Yun mentally waved off his sudden flash of killing intent and looked at the old man kneeling before him.
“...yes!” Though slightly shamefaced, the imperial uncle’s gaze flashed with resolution when he dwelled on Nephrite’s impending doom a century later. “I believe the lord of Dusk will be able to protect the ancestral vein and tend to this spark of hope for the major.”
“Fine,” Lu Yun sighed and accepted the sphere of light. “By the way, Chen Xiao and Qing Buyi will return soon.”
He then left the palace with Ashu, while the imperial uncle remained on his knees.
“Imperial Uncle...” The Yue patriarch looked at him and reached out to help him up, but the old man remained kneeling in the direction that Lu Yun had left in.
“Dusk Province has enough troubles as it is. Entrusting the ancestral vein to the province will plunge it in even greater danger.” Downcast, the imperial uncle continued, “However, I have to do this, lest all of us be doomed.”
With the restriction against immortals and the human demon in residence, Dusk Province possessed ample tools to protect the ancestral vein. Still, this development would paint an enormous target on their backs, and Lu Yun would be trapped in his territory. It would be difficult for him to expand his influence or build up his faction.
More importantly, once the new Nephrite celestial emperor refined a heavenly mandate after a thousand years, he would be able to collect the ancestral vein with the mandate.
Lu Yun would be left with nothing after all his efforts.
Art and Zither Saint didn’t have any comments. Their guardianship of Nephrite Major for the next hundred years was just a promise they’d made to Zhao Changkong.
“You’re just going to take this hit for the Nephrite court?” Ashu asked in surprise as he followed Lu Yun. Although he was a holy lord in the underworld, he wasn’t entirely oblivious to the happenings in the world of immortals. There were still means for the mausoleum keepers to keep up to date with the outside world.
“I can use the ancestral vein to help Dusk Province recover its vitality.” Lu Yun nodded. “I would’ve asked to borrow it even if he hadn’t made the offer.” He shrugged; his reaction had been mere smoke and mirrors.
Ashu stared at the youth, dumbfounded.
“You do realize that your gnat-sized Dusk Province will never know peace again after accepting that ancestral vein? You’ve met people from the Purple Firmament already, and races that still thrive in primordial ruins like the fur seals have emerged as well. 
“I’m following you around, but I’m not your servant,” he remarked gravely. “I won’t drive those people away for you.”
He’d sealed off his core essence and, in turn, much of his strength. He was following Lu Yun because of the presence of hell luring him in, and because he was waiting for Lu Yun to perfect the breathing method so that he could automatically breathe in this world on his own.
Lu Yun glanced at Ashu, but didn’t respond. He’d never expected the unpredictable holy lord to actually help him.
He had another secret weapon up his sleeve, and he wouldn’t mind giving everyone a surprise. The new Nephrite celestial emperor was certainly welcome to try and take the ancestral vein back after a thousand years, but it would be Lu Yun’s forever, barring the return of Zhao Fengyang.
Xue Chujiu had been waiting outside Nephrite Palace for his new patron. Lu Yun took him and Ashu to the west after exiting the palace, planning on returning to Dusk Province through the transportation formation there.
An enormous explosion came from the south of Nephrite Major, shaking all of the land.
“Phenomenon of ascension!” Ashu called out, staring at the southern sky in shock.
Expression matching the holy lord’s, Lu Yun saw an enormous green lotus slowly blooming in the air. Its subtle fragrance wafted into Lu Yun’s nose.
“That’s the Chaos Lotus, the top of the ten connate spirit roots! It’s the lotus’ phenomena of ascension!” Ashu soared into the sky, watching the giant lotus from his vantage point thirty thousand meters above the ground.
In addition to Ashu and Lu Yun, everyone in Nephrite Major saw the great lotus as well, taking in the increasingly fragrant scent.
Quite a few cultivators had ascended to immortality over the past few days, thus the general public knew such ascensions were accompanied by unusual manifestations. However, they’d yet to see one big enough to cover the entire major.
“It’s in the Ling Province!” someone shouted. “That’s where the roots of the lotus are!”
Ling Province was the Ling Clan’s territory!
After the former Nephrite celestial emperor executed the clan’s origin dao immortal, they’d moved and settled down elsewhere, later becoming the top clan of Nephrite Major. So the newly ascended immortal came from the Ling Clan!
A great lotus projected into the sky, waves of profound energy oscillating out from it. Ling immortals all took flight to form protective circles around their newest immortal. A few peak arcane dao immortals even brought out connate-grade treasures of the clan to prevent any ambushes from finding their mark.
“That’s… that’s a real manifestation of ascension...” Xue Chujiu stood rooted by Lu Yun, staring at the behemoth of a lotus with defeat written over his face.
His manifestation had extended only fifty kilometers out, and he’d been so proud of himself when the void-ascended immortals he encountered in the East Sea had much less impressive manifestations. Witnessing the lotus was a tremendous blow to his ego.
“Do you know the difference between you two?” Lu Yun clapped Xue Chujiu’s shoulder.
Xue Chujiu looked at him in confusion.
“Foundation,” Lu Yun sighed when he looked at the lotus rooted to the sky. “The snow and moon you conjured were akin to a lotus without roots, while his is tethered to the sky. His foundation is very great. He must be someone like Jiangchen Xie, someone who sensed the existence of the void realm a very long time ago, but sealed himself away until the realm was restored.”
There were many opportunities for void realm cultivators to ascend to immortality after the opening of the celestial master tomb, but they weren’t the only chances. In this world, there was no shortage of primordial tombs containing the dao of their forebearers. Those inheritances had only laid dormant until the void realm was restored.
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That bit about Lu Yun being unable to expand his influence further... I'm sure that plays right into the court's hands. The emperors in this novel aren't that shabby at scheming.