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Ryu felt his heart freeze over, but he quickly recollected himself. This was definitely no normal level of problematic matter.

The matter of reincarnation was deeply ingrained into the culture of every True Realm. The Cycles of Life, Death, and Reincarnation didn’t need to be further explained, their importance was obvious by their titles alone.

If Reincarnation was cut off, there would obviously be no Life, there could only be Death. It was the equivalent of the passing of a World.

Even with this said, Ryu knew that Ailsa had held back in her words… Though everyone claimed that a connection to the Heavens insisted in them all, this was just the human way of overinflating their own importance. While many truly believed one’s Mental Realm and Dantian acted as bridges to the Heavens, the reality was that they acted as bridges to one’s Protector Spirit which was the true bridge.

With the death of a Protector Spirit, the path to cultivation would be cut off… permanently for all.

Ryu no longer had to worry about this matter due to his Realm Heart. In the future, if he slowly grew its strength, he would naturally be capable of reaching the pinnacle of cultivation even without a Protector Spirit. However, this was a matter that would devastate the remainder of the Shrine Plane. And somehow… Ryu was absolutely certain that this wasn’t occurring naturally.

He thought back to matters he had shoved to the back of his mind long ago… Just who were these Martial Gods? Why had Ryu never heard of them before? How could individuals with enough power to cripple his Tatsuya Clan exist without his knowledge?

There were too many things he didn’t have answers to. Even to now, he was still baffled by the scene he saw on the day of his death… Those odd movements in the Stars of Fate that triggered his [Intuition]…

Was there really someone in existence capable of moving Fate to their whim? Was this person Ryu’s true enemy all along?

‘Ailsa, I can’t ignore this matter. I had severed ties with the Tor Clan, but with the death of my grandfather… I can’t allow their bloodline to fall into obscurity anymore. And, even without this debt of gratitude I must repay… my Tatsuya Clan… Granny Miriam’s little sister… I can’t leave them to suffer this Fate.’

Ryu had already decided to help, but he had no idea what to do. In the grey, endless space, there didn’t seem to be any obvious path forward.

He had come here seeking treasures, only to be the only witness to a conspiracy with unfathomable roots.

Though it was a massive leap in logic, Ryu’s mind was spinning at unbelievable speeds. Though his Shrine Realm was near the pinnacle Realms of their Cosmos, it still wasn’t the very best. Though their Shrines were quite unique, there were plenty of other Realms with treasures and Holy Lands just as mysterious and enigmatic.

What did all of this mean? It meant that there definitely wasn’t anything exceptionally unique or special about Ryu’s Shrine Realm. So… Why would they be chosen of all Realms…? Unless… They weren’t the only target to begin with!

‘Little Ryu, you should be able to navigate this space even better than I. Another benefit of the Realm Heart is subtle comprehension. Truthfully, for most who fuse with a Realm Heart, their comprehension abilities skyrocket to godly levels. However, you won’t notice this benefit much only due to the fact your comprehension is at inconceivable heights to begin with thanks to the Origin Flame and your Heavenly Pupils.

‘Still, where you will see this benefit most is in your instincts. You have a keen sensitivity to the Heavens only special beasts and Faeries have currently, and that sensitivity is even more potent when its related to matters of other Realms Hearts and Protector Spirits.

‘Though it’s a bit cheesy, listening to your heart is your best option right now.’

Ryu calmly accepted Ailsa’s words. He was quite grateful for her guidance though he didn’t always express it.

Soon, he fell into a Meditative State. The crippled Zu Clan Elder couldn’t help but shudder in disbelief as she watched this scene to the side. Since when was it so easy to enter such a state? But why did she feel that this most definitely wasn’t Ryu’s first time?

The moment Ryu slipped from the first State of Meditation, to Breath of Earth, and even into Breath of Heaven, the female elder almost fainted from shock. These matters really were things Ryu did every day. But he had forgotten how shocking they were long ago.

One had to remember that Ryu entering just Breath of Earth was enough to shock a party filled with the topmost experts of the Shrine Plane back during his birthday. If it was enough to shock those of the Shrine Plane, how could a mere Connecting Heaven Realm expert of the Pedestal Plane withstand such stimulation?

Suddenly, under Ryu’s urging, Little Rock who had been fluttering aimlessly began to fly with purpose once more. Though it wasn’t particularly fast, it was most definitely far better than the past.

It seemed like only a few flaps of his gorgeous, silver-plated wings, but the scenery had already changed greatly.

The bland grey fog suddenly concentrated into numerous vortexes that looked no different from countless roads. However, these roads all formed a massive sphere of fog in the center. However, this was no normal sphere by any stretch of the imagination. The moment Ryu laid eyes on it, he felt his heart constrict.

He felt the vastitudes of creation itself within this sphere…

Thinking back to the death of the man from before, Ryu suddenly understood. When that man died, he disappeared into bland grey ash and melded into the world around him… Could it be that this place was actually so important? Could this be the root of the Shrine Realm’s Cycle of Reincarnation?

Feeling the faint agitation in his bloodline, Ryu knew he was correct. However, it was impossible for this to be the true root… In all likelihood, this was only a small portion. Maybe it was only a very small part of the path.

If this was the true core, there was no way Ryu would be able to stand here no matter how weak Shrine Mountain had become.

“Qi~ Qi~!”

Ryu’s thoughts were snapped awake by Little Rock’s sudden sonorous calls.

Ryu frowned. It seemed Little Rock had sensed several figures appearing. Luckily, these individuals floated quite a distance from Ryu and had only made it here by sheer luck. In addition, without understanding the situation, they didn’t dare to move rashly.

‘Little Ryu, since this is a portion of Shrine Mountain’s inner workings, it’s likely connected in ways we couldn’t imagine. A single step might very well bring you to the Lowest Mortal Plane, or even the highest Shrine Plane… Maybe the real treasure to be found here is actually access to a region of the Shrine Realm that isn’t normally so easily accessed…’

Ryu’s gaze sharpened at these words. As a Ruin Master, there were of course numerous places of this caliber he could think of… Holy Cultivation Sites that only opened in cycles of thousands to even tens of thousands of years, dangerous Death Zones that were nearly impossible to transverse by normal means, Ryu was even aware of pockets of space that were normally closed to the outside world and only occasionally wafted fluctuations that confirmed their existence…

These so-called pockets of space were different from Small Realms. Though, they might be more similar to the Mortal Qi Small Realm than one might think.

The current Shrine Realm had six Planes. Three mortal and three Immortal. However, when were real life things ever so clear cut? The Shrine Realm had many incomplete Planes as well that were only occasionally accessible.

Space was a very complex thing in the martial world. True Realms, Small Realms, Planes of Existences, Planes, Pockets of Space, Legacy Worlds… They were all different things with extremely similar roots. However, there were still clear divisions between them.

Ailsa’s eyes shone. ‘This is likely the main crux of the Mortal Qi Small Realm mystery. If I had to guess… I believe the Mortal Qi Small Realm attached itself to Mortal Qi Mountain realizing after sensing a weakened access point to Shrine Mountain’s true form here. It must have already been close to forming a Realm Heart to begin it, or else it would have never been able to make this instinctual decision…

‘But, I also believe that this symbiotic relationship became beneficial to Shrine Mountain as well. If it was able to snatch this infant Small Realm’s Realm Heart, it could likely strengthen itself for a time, albeit marginally. It might have even tried to make that Small Realm into its own Plane.

‘Protector Spirits have their own intelligence. It would definitely want to hide this matter from those individuals who put it in this state to begin with, so instead of using one of its main Planes to siphon this energy, it likely used one of its Pocket Spaces instead! I wouldn’t be surprised if this Pocket Space was the closest to becoming this Shrine Realm’s next mature Plane.’

‘A secretly developing Plane…’

‘But what’s curious is that Shrine Mountain did nothing as you essentially took away one of its lifelines. Could it be my deduction is wrong…?’

Ryu frowned. He felt he had to follow this to the end. Something was definitely pulling him…

Ryu urged Little Rock forward. In an instant, they were swept up into a vortex. Ryu had no choice but to pull the female elder and Little Rock into the Incubator, allowing himself to spin uncontrollably into the sphere of grey.

In that moment, he felt he lost consciousness. He had no idea how much time had passed, but when he awoke, he found himself in a lush forest not unlike the endless greenery that surrounded Mortal Qi Mountain.

But, Ryu could feel this place was different.  

Firstly, the gravity was much weaker, only about half as much as it should be. Secondly, the air seemed thinner, but this wasn’t the whole story. It was more accurately that the air was just as dense, but rather than the oxygen content was far lower than it should be. This immediately negated the ease the drop in gravitational strength brought. Thirdly, the qi he was decidedly turbulent. Even with Ryu’s talent, he found it difficult to manipulate, and even more difficult to absorb.

‘This place… from my understanding, its makeup is no different from the early Ancient Beast Era…!’

Ryu’s frown deepened. Of the nine Eras, the Ancient Beast Era was only third. A denomination of trillions of years likely didn’t do how far back such a time was justice.

It was then Ryu understood. This place must be one of the Shrine Realm’s incomplete Planes. Its place along the timeline of Evolution was far less advanced than their current Planes!