Legacy of the Celestial Hall
From the moment that Xinzi and gals set foot in the Blood Spirit Valley, four pairs of sanguine eyes observed them: the Armored Lion King, Steaming Ape General, Colossal Rooster and a slender figure that sat crossed-legged on a circular stone platform. Dressed in a hooded saffron cloak that kept all but their hands and feet concealed, the figure didn't reveal any energy fluctuation and could have passed for a random eccentric if not for those sanguine eyes.
After giving the figure a deep bow, the Armored Lion King leaped towards his subordinates and whipped his cobra-tail at their buttocks.
"Little King, please be reasonable. We are not Divination Masters. How can we give you information we do not possess?" Within the cloaked figure's den, the Armored Lion King dared not use honorifics such as "This King," and even went as far as to force his subordinates to call him "Little King." Still, annoyed by the perennial loss of face, the Armored Lion King didn't miss an opportunity to vent his frustration on his most reliable subordinates.
The two wept bitter tears, wondering why of all the generals, only they routinely suffered the Lion King's abuse. Thankfully, as the lion whipped and the beasts wailed, the cloaked figure raised its hand—motioning for the Lion King to end his farce—he stopped immediately.
Not paying the beasts more attention, the cloaked figure stared into the ball of fire that displayed Xinzi's every move. "A heretic monk and masterful Formation Master. Could he be a junior from the Black Lotus Temple? No. His cultivation base builds on orthodox practices—a spy, perhaps?" Though Xinzi didn't display his formation skills before the cloaked figure, the ability to see through all details of a fifth-layer Triple-Inlaid Array with one glance hinted at a depth of knowledge that only true masters possessed.
"Master, I volunteer to tear that bastard to shreds. How dare he destroy over 100 of your Blood Spirits in one move? One! At the very least, he should have used 23. Where is the respect? I can't stand it!" Indignant at Xinzi's disrespect, the Armored Lion King stomped his paws. Alas, he wouldn't get any reaction from his boss.
"Two Void Spiritual Roots, one Holy Beast King descendant. Not bad. When did Dongli develop such an abundance of talent? Never mind that. That boy feels...off."
Practitioners could live for centuries, millennia or more, so appearances often didn't mean much in the cultivation world. But unlike most Dongli cultivators, the cloaked figure had no trouble figuring out Xinzi's age: 18.
The cloaked figure didn't believe in transcendent talent. Those whose feats defied logic either stemmed from ancient clans or lucked on fate-changing opportunities. The highborn vs. the blessed—what side did this little monk belong to?
"Can a few Blood Spirits compare to my grand aspiration? I will take care of him. If he can serve my plans, I don't mind putting him to use. If he can't..." The feminine tone lacing the figure's words failed to lessen the baleful aura that rose even as she paused. "Then My Venerable Self doesn't mind adding one more Blood Spirit to the collection."
The Armored Lion King and his goons shivered at the words, bowed and bolted through a nearby teleportation formation.
A careful balance of jogs and teleportation talismans led Xinzi and gals to the deeper reaches of the Blood Spirit Valley. There, instead of a way out, blood-colored sandstorms welcomed them—preventing further progress.
"Now we wait like polite guests for the boss to let us in."
"As if…" the gals started, but barely had the words left that the whirling blood sand scattered—revealing a colorful mountain whose peak challenged the vaults of heaven.
"The Heavens have mercy on my soul. Xinzi, in this life or another, I will never doubt you again," Dong Ling said as she stared slack-jawed and eyes wide-open at the marvelous edifice standing before them. For once, Chun Xu agreed. A cave entrance opened at the mountain's foot, and yet neither Chun Xu nor Dong Ling had the nerve to step forward.
"The Golden Lotus be praised. Who could expect that the Sword Fairy and Young Mistress of our White Immortal sect had so little poise? All my illusions...shattered," Xinzi said in a jesting tone. Throughout the Eastern Continent, few could stumble on the Dream Mountain and keep their backs straight.
"From time immemorial, countless myths have surrounded this place, but one thing is for sure. The last Celestial Grandmaster, the Eunuch Immortal Qiu Meng, erected this mountain in memory of his wife, the Snow Empress: Xue Lin. After the fall of the Celestial Hall and the start of the Great Desolation, legions of experts poured into the Eastern Continent to raid the Dream Mountain—hoping to snatch the Celestial Grandmaster's inheritance. They died—most killed through infighting, while the rest vanished alongside the Dream Mountain. Since then, Blood Spirits have infested this land. And the mountain became a myth."
Even Dong Ling, who cared little for history, knew all there was to about the Dream Mountain. Well, almost.
'Cultivators can be so gullible. The Dream Mountain is just a grave. If it truly concealed the Legacy of the Celestial Hall, would the Central Domain not dispatch troops? All those cultivators likely became food and guards for whoever rules this place. And that person...has what I want.' Xinzi's limbs trembled in excitement.
By now, he'd pretty much confirmed that whoever ruled this place didn't possess an earthshaking cultivation base. And even if they did, they dared not reveal it. For a second, Xinzi studied his partners. The self-proclaimed apostle of depravity, Xinzi didn't mind sinful thoughts, but wouldn't allow madness to ruin his plans and pace. If they lost their mind to the same greed that doomed so many before them, he'd have to revise his booty list. Thankfully, they didn't. Better, both stepped back—clearly taking the full measure of the risk/reward ratio.
Striding past Dong Ling and Chun Xu, Xinzi stepped into the Dream Mountain. Dong Ling believed that Xinzi would never do anything that put their lives—his especially—at significant risk, and rushed after him. Chun Xu however, hesitated. 'That bastard must have been guiding us towards this place. From the start, he didn't want to leave.' At last, the Sword Fairy saw through Xinzi's plot. The truth renewed her confidence, and she dived in. In her rational mind, there was no safer place than being on the Xinzi-side of Xinzi's plots.
Xinzi condensed a fireball to light up the walls and led the way up the Dream Mountain. Large stone murals and inscriptions guided the trio's path—depicting the millennia-long reign of the Celestial Hall, from its founding by Grandmaster Tongtian to its destruction during Qiu Meng's reign. Xinzi, who knew all there was to about the Celestial Hall, didn't care for those. Dong Ling and Chun Xu, however, consumed the knowledge with rapt attention—its content displeased them.
"Didn't dad say that, to save all living things from the Celestial Hall's infernal reign, the August Divinity united the cultivation world in an unprecedented alliance, killed the Celestial Grandmaster, and established the Central Domain? Why are they saying that..." Dong Ling didn't dare finish her words.
Four Continents, a nigh-boundless sea, and one vast dominion at the center of it all, made up the Great Desolation World. Each continent followed a decentralized structure where State Monarchs paid tributes to Province Hegemons, who in turn paid tributes to the continent's Spirit Emperor. The four Spirit Emperors stood at the peak of the Great Desolation World, each infinitely close to the True Immortal realm. Only they could don the dragon robe, and all living things bowed before their names.
Yet, even those preeminent characters had to kneel—kneel before the true masters of the Great Desolation World: the August Divinity of the Central Domain, and the God-Monarch of the Eternal Night Dynasty!
The Great Desolation Word's lives didn't know greater taboo than disrespecting the names of these two entities who could, with a flick of their wrist, eradicate entire countries.
Xinzi didn't chime in, allowing Dong Ling and Chun Xu to choose whether to confront truths that far exceeded their cultivation bases—or accept the blessings of ignorance. The trio crossed a masterfully carved ebony stairway that led up to a spacious hall. There, a cloaked figure awaited.
"The farther back you go, the more unreliable history becomes. But one thing is for sure, for over 100,000 years, the August Divinity of the Taiyang clan and the God-Monarch of the Hengye have been ruling this world. The Celestial Hall was destroyed 10,000 years ago. When did it get the opportunity to plunge the world into an infernal reign....or any reign for that matter?" A feminine voice echoed from the oversized cloak—greeting our trio.