The demonized Ancient Tree of Life bellowed and howled when it suddenly realized that the thing it treasured most was slowly making its way out of its body.
It was a large, broken shard of an entire world. After merging with the ancient tree, it’d given rise to an immense inner world inside the tree itself. This shard was the source of the tree’s strength and the fundamental reason why it’d achieved self-awareness. So now that the shard was pulling away, the tree’s mind was overwhelmed by boundless fear and dread.
The fragment of hell broke free of the Ancient Tree of Life and slowly melded into the crystal garden. Yama Kings hovered in the ten directions in the sky above, and a vision of the Yama World materialized behind them. A colossal, majestic formation had suddenly appeared in the firmament.
“What is this…” The world itself shook and all things living wailed in shock. The Formation of the Ten Yama Kings had transformed Dusk Province into a world akin to hell itself!
Its power could be felt even more keenly inside the immortal crystal garden. Vicious cracks crawled over the Ancient Tree of Life, and even as it screeched with defiance, its giant frame inexorably bent down, crushed beneath the weight of the fragment of hell controlled by the formation.
The fragment should have been the tree’s own strength, but it was now the instrument of its demise!
“Take Shenguang with you and leave, I’ll go grab its crystal core!” With a kick, Chen Xiao punted Zhao Shenguang and Qing Buyi out, then streaked into a ray of light and slipped into the tree through the cracks. The imprisoned trio had regained their freedom at long last!
“Be quick about it, my formation can’t last for very long,” Lu Yun’s voice sounded out.
“Hold it for twenty breaths!” Chen Xiao barked. Meanwhile, Lu Feng let out the breath he was holding and hastily escorted Qing Buyi and Zhao Shenguang back to safety.
Though suppressed, the Ancient Tree of Life hadn’t lost all of its ability to move. As such, it still represented an enormous threat.
Transforming from a treant back to a giant tree, the ancient tree stabbed its roots viciously into the garden’s soil and frantically absorbed immortal energy in a last-ditch effort to regain its strength and escape the grand formation above.
As for the fragment of hell previously inside the tree, it’d been fully absorbed by the Formation of the Ten Yama Kings, then decomposed and remolded into the embryo of the Yama World, thereby strengthening the formation as a result.
Alas, this increase in strength was but a transient one.
After all, the formation was born of the kingdom of hell, and its power stemmed from the netherworld. That it could emerge in the living world at all was due to the hell fragment in the tree.
But now that said fragment had been assimilated into the Yama World, the formation could only persist for ten more breaths at most! Moreover, the Gates of the Abyss were broken. While energy from hell could still trickle out of the gates, the amount was far from enough to sustain the formation.
“Raaarrrrghh!” Standing opposite the desolate willow, the demon god began to panic. His giant face shot into the sky and threw itself at the crystal garden, hoping to break the formation and release the Ancient Tree of Life.
But the moment he left the city, a shower of sword light fell from above like rain. The terrible, sharp sword energy sliced down like a tempest aimed squarely at him. With a snarl, the demon spat out a jet-black umbrella from his mouth. Acting as a shield over his head, the umbrella gave him a brief reprieve from the terrible sword onslaught.
The umbrella was a connate treasure. Not only that, it far surpassed ordinary connate treasures and had reached the level of a ‘supreme treasure’ at the very least.
“Stop him.” Lu Yun frowned faintly. If the demon god was allowed inside the crystal garden, the Ancient Tree of Life would indeed regain its freedom.
The Formation of the Ten Yama Kings was waning in power, but thankfully the desolate willow still had energy left to spare. Its giant frame blocked the demon god’s way and slashed at him with branches and leaves as sharp as immortal swords.
Somewhere nearby, another tall humanoid figure strode into being.
The human demon!
Augmenting himself with the power of the restriction, the human demon rained blows on the demon god’s umbrella like a man possessed.
The demon screeched in anger. As if he was suddenly drowning in a quagmire, his movements slowed to a crawl under the influence of an exceedingly powerful restriction. His own life in danger, he no longer had the luxury to think about the Ancient Tree of Life.
A dark-green ray of light erupted from the Ancient Tree of Life and soared toward the clouds. Fist-sized crystal core in his hand, Chen Xiao crawled out of the tree’s insides. One final furious howl came from the tree, its sculpture-like eyes glowering with a belligerence that swiftly faded away.
The giant face on the treetop vanished soon after, and the ancient tree settled down into a towering tree five thousand kilometers tall, quietly rooted in the center of the immortal crystal garden, its violent consciousness gone forever.
At Dusk Province’s northern border, the demon god screamed in fury. Protected by the fiercely shaking umbrella above his head, he charged into the sky.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Lu Yun’s turn was finally here. Spotting a chance to deal a blow to the demon god, he immediately activated the sword formation. The formation’s northern and eastern sword gates shot into the air, transforming into two giant swords and slashing down on their target.
The connate umbrella protecting the demon god ballooned in response. Accompanied by resounding chants of scripture, halos of light as blue as the firmament formed a giant canopy of radiance that stood in the two giant swords’ path.
Two sword-shaped sword gates slammed heavily into the canopy.
What followed chilled everyone to the core. The connate-grade umbrella, a supreme treasure far above ordinary connate treasures, shattered upon impact!
It first disassembled, then exploded into a shower of dust sprinkling across the sky. The demon god stared in stupefaction. Then, with an ear-piercing shriek, he ignited his true spirit and fled Dusk Province with his tail between his legs.
Their work done for now, the four sword gates slowly faded from view and returned to the void.
In the North Sea, two scarlet apes’ fur stood on end at the scene.
“Is this demon god tired of living? Why would he ever dare face the ancestor’s sword formation head-on with a connate treasure?” asked the bewildered Goldenlight. “From what I’ve heard about the period before Emperors Fall, that ancestor felt there were too many connate treasures in the world, so he took four swords with him and went treasure hunting. Every time he found one, he’d smash it to pieces with his swords.”
“That’s only a legend!” Silverlight corrected. “What really happened was that the ancestor forced his way straight into the treasuries of the various clans and races and destroyed all of the connate treasures stashed inside. Oh, he also razed the treasuries themselves while he was at it!”
Goldenlight gaped. How was that any better?
As the Formation of the Ten Yama Kings dispersed, Lu Yun plopped down heavily and gasped for air. “It’s finally done!” The hint of a smile appeared on his lips.
“Here, take this.” Chen Xiao also sat down beside him and casually tossed the fist-sized crystal core into the governor’s lap.
“Bring me ten jars of fine liquor in exchange!” he grumbled. “I’ve been trapped inside that damned tree for four and a half years. Now it’s time for this young master to drink his fill!”