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Ryu appeared in a world of grey fog and stars. Though the laws that governed this world seemed normal, and he could still stand on Little Rock’s broad back without issue, he suddenly realized that it was difficult to tell which way was up and which way was down.

‘Is this a hidden world within the Mortal Qi Mountain? What kind of space is this?’

It obviously wasn’t often that Ryu ran into something he couldn’t make heads or tails of. As an Origin Grade Ruin Master, his scope of knowledge was beyond comprehension to most. There were many that spent millions, even billions to trillions of years of their lives completely focused on the Ruin Master craft that couldn’t touch the end of Ryu’s robes in the subject. Yet, here he was, completely befuddled.

‘The Origin Grade can truly not be the pinnacle…’ Ryu thought to himself.

The Origin Grade represented the peak of many things. Whether it be techniques, treasures, or professions, all their absolute heights were marked by this moniker. Yet, Ryu was finding more and more lately that he was lacking.

Still, it wasn’t as though he was completely without clues.

‘This space is neither a Small nor True Realm. It isn’t the Void either. The closest comparison I have to this place is the Inner World of my Heavenly Pupils…’

Every child born with Heavenly Pupils was birthed with an Inner World. It was because of this Inner World that Ryu was able to carry over treasures from his last life, something he hadn’t expected to happen. With every seal Ryu broke, his Inner World grew larger. It was already quite expansive now, stretching hundreds of meters in height, length and width already. In all likelihood, by the time all 999 seals were broken, it may very well become as expansive as a Realm. Though, it was currently still a bland space with grey-black walls.

This aside, the Inner World of Ryu’s Heavenly Pupils had many characteristics similar to this grey fog filled world.

For one, it was difficult to orient direction. Secondly, there didn’t seem to be any substance to the world. Even particles that floated in the air normally were nowhere to be sensed. And, most importantly, there was no qi.

How could a place with mystery revolving around its odd qi concentration patterns have no qi? Ryu had no idea… Or maybe this was just another layer to the puzzle.

There was another analogous comparison to this space as well. Spatial rings also had very similar characteristics…

“You…! Die!”

Just as Ryu was lost in his thoughts, it seemed others had followed him in. However, this individual was a no name elder of one of the lesser Clans. After all, it wasn’t just the five Core Clans taking part in this Selection. It seemed this person who appeared from thin air wanted to take credit for Ryu’s death.

In response to this sudden attack, Ryu nonchalantly held up the Zu Clan female elder’s limp body, forcing the attacking man to change the direction of his assault.

How could he dare to be the one to take the life of a Zu? Even if he was ten times braver and more masochistic he wouldn’t dare.

Unfortunately, this sealed his fate.

Just as the trajectory of his attack changed, a glistening glaive peaked out from behind the female elder’s half nude body and pierced through the man’s chest.

This should have been the end of it all, but what happened next caused Ryu’s eyes to narrow.

The corpse dissipated into a grey dust, blowing in astral winds. In but a moment, his ashes melded with the grey fog, becoming completely indistinguishable.

‘This…’ Ryu’s brows furrowed.

There were too many disjointed matters related to this place.

First there was the odd cultivation treasure of the Zu Clan Elder that catalyzed these matters to begin with. After making him into a corpse puppet, Ryu had completely ignored this so-called treasure. On his Shrine Plane, there were too many such heavenly gifts that could significantly speed up cultivation in these lower realms. They simply weren’t special to Ryu, on top of the fact they could ruin one’s foundation.

Second, there was the Realm Heart formation of the Mortal Qi Small Realm. Such an event was simply too rare. Even if Ryu was bashed over the head to death, he wouldn’t believe that these matters were unrelated. How could they be?

It was already well known that the existence of that Small Realm was tied to and never left this mountain. If it could have been moved without losing its special characteristics, the Core Region would have long since snatched this resource for themselves.

Third, Ryu still remembered that odd encounter with the beast suffering Qi Infestation. Though that beast had benefited by awakening a hidden Earth Grade Talent within its bloodline, it had also lost all of its intelligence and thus had an inability to learn and adapt, causing these benefits to practically go to waste.

Then there was the odd movements of the Zu and Basteel Clan. Ryu still had no idea why they had ventured into the Small Realm. Maybe the Zu Clan was looking for him, but what of the Basteel Clan? It can’t be that they so blatantly broke the rules because of Little Nemesis, right?

Clearly those two Clans had sensed something was off… That was the only explanation for why his grandfather would have entered the Small Realm when the Basteel Clan clearly had other more powerful individuals to send to The Selection.

‘Such a space… It can’t be I broke into it with a swing of my halberd, right? Or was it that this space pulled me in…?’

Ailsa had remained silent all of this time. She could obviously hear Ryu’s thoughts, but she seemed to have nothing to supplement. In fact, her strength was so weak currently that she couldn’t use her deduction abilities to guide Ryu currently. She was much too spent.

‘Not a Small Realm, not a True Realm, not a Legacy Realm… Just endless grey space… Just what is this place?’

‘Little Ryu…’

Ailsa’s voice caught Ryu’s attention immediately.

‘I know what this space is. In the Sprite Realm, we have a similar place… Our relationship with our Protector Spirit is much closer as Faeries tend to have a stronger connection with the Heavens…’

‘You mean?’

‘This place should be related to Shrine Mountain. It’s likely not the main core of your Shrine Realm’s Protector Spirit, but it is most definitely one of its many veins…’

‘Just what does that mean?’

‘Protector Spirits are responsible for maintaining the Laws of a Realm. In a sense, they must cultivate too, though their process is much different… Everything from the Cycle of Reincarnation to the Rebirths of your Realm is handled by Shrine Mountain.

‘Every Protector Spirit has its own special quirks and characteristics… Your Shrine Realm happens to have these so-called Shrines. These Shrines actually represent the kindness of your Protector Spirit. They are its choice to share its Dao comprehensions with you all, allowing you to progress at greater speeds through higher realms…’

‘I see… So this space likely houses a portion of Shrine Mountain’s comprehension…’

‘This matter isn’t so simple either… The fact that you were able to enter this space so easily either means Shrine Mountain allowed you in, or your Protector Spirit is greatly weakened. And, considering that fool who just attacked you, I highly doubt it was the former…’

Ryu’s jaw clenched. ‘What does it mean for a Protector Spirit to weaken…?’

Ryu’s mind flashed with thoughts of several months ago. When he heard that they were now calling this True Realm the Martial God Realm, he flared with anger. Could these matters be related?

‘…’ Ailsa remained silent for a moment, biting her lip. ‘… The weakening of a Protector Spirit cuts off higher cultivation Realms for those born within its purview… The death of a Protector Spirit cuts off the existence of all born from it… With its death, none born under its wing will experience Reincarnation. It’s death in its truest sense.’