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Ryu’s body was immediately draped by his cloak. Though he felt bad that his impurities had thoroughly sullied its inside lining by now, there wasn’t much he could do about it. He wasn’t confident enough in his own concealment abilities as he had never practiced in such an unorthodox path.

Surprisingly, the two that appeared were both of the Ember Clan. It seemed that this Fuoco and the overseer of The Selection had managed to find each other quite quickly.

This wasn’t much of a surprise, though. High level Clans most definitely had special hidden methods for their members to contact each other covertly. As long as they stumbled upon the massive network of cyclones within that odd world he just exited, finding each other in such a small pocket space wasn’t difficult at all.

“Twelfth Elder, it seems that our luck is quite good.” Fuoco said with a meaningful smile.

“For there to be such a place in this world… Definitely means that we’re one step late still. But, there may be some faint hope. This place has been abandoned for the better part of a year already, so there are only two possibilities… Either this place has already been cleaned out by that person, or we really are lucky.”

In a tacit silence, the two made their way forward toward.

Just as they were about to cross the threshold into the cave, the so-called Twelfth Elder’s expression change.

“Young master Fuoco, stop!”

Fuoco, who had been about to take the final step, tensed, managing to stop himself in the final moment.

“There’s an array formation laid here.” The elder said with a stern expression. “I actually almost didn’t notice… This was laid by an Earth Grade Formation Master at worst.”

Fuoco’s expression changed. Earth Grade Formations were precisely most effective against Divine Vessel and Connecting Heaven Realm experts like them. If Fuoco truly crossed that final barrier unprepared, he would most definitely have suffered greatly.

“Don’t be worried.” The elder smiled. “This is actually good news. Who would lay an array formation down to protect nothing?”

Fuoco collected himself and nodded with a smile.

The greatest danger of formations was that even seeing them was difficult. The best Formation Masters were adept at concealing the arrays they made. Unless one had high attainments in the Mental Realm or special ocular techniques, it was impossible to see the form of a formation. For all intents and purposes, they were invisible.

Still, for this Twelfth Elder to notice didn’t necessarily mean that he had such abilities. Though Formations were hidden from the eyes, it was near impossible to hide their qi fluctuations. Any astute or wizened cultivator would be capable of sensing these minor fluctuations as this elder had.

“How do we proceed forward then, Twelfth Elder?”

“There’s no choice. Neither you or I are Formation Masters, so we can only use force.”

His aura erupted, blazing flames of red pulsing to life around him.

‘Half-Step Immortal Ring Realm.’ Ryu thought with narrowed eyes. For the current him, battling it out with this old man was still a stretch. This was made even more poignant by another point. If the Core Region dared to send him here to oversee The Selection, it meant he could definitely handle the Immortal Ring experts of the Inner Ring.

‘This man is only the Twelfth Elder, hm? It seems the Ember Clan’s foundations are quite deep for the Pedestal Plane…’

Ryu thought back to the father-son pair tucked away in Valor City. It seemed there was a story here that he was unaware of.

The elder began to bombard the formation, sending out dozens of palm strikes in a single breath.

Flashes of the array’s true form flickered, revealing a dome of revolving runes and flickered out of existence every so often.

‘This is a waste of time.’ Ryu thought with disdain. He thought he could take advantage of his concealment to kill more of his enemies, but since he was no match for this elder currently, it was best that he forget it.

By Ryu’s calculations, it would take them about half an hour to completely shatter the formation. That should be enough time for him to gain some benefits.

Ryu’s steps became enigmatic. The elder was clearly controlling his strikes so the backlash of the formation didn’t activate too severely, so Ryu was able to slip between them.

His movement became almost illusory, entering the cave as though he was entering his own home.

Though the elder frowned for a moment, believing that he had sensed something off, he couldn’t find the reason no matter how much he probed.

‘It seems I’ve underestimated the eighth seal.’ Ryu thought to himself. This matter was much easier than he thought. Maybe even Peak Heaven Grade Formations capable of holding off Path Extinction Realm experts were not his match.

Upon entering the cave, a faint hope of Ryu’s became reality. There were more formations within, meaning the Ember Clan pair would definitely be stalled for much longer.

Slipping by them one after another, Ryu finally made his way into a small opening.

It was quite the cozy atmosphere. A light lingering lavender fragrance, a dim candlelight, stacks of jades filled with concepts of formation theory and calculations.

However, what grasped Ryu’s attention the most was the only object that made his Heavenly Pupils throb violently.

It looked like nothing more than a thin mattress crossed with a prayer mat, but it was completely out of place. Anyone who could lay formations to such a level or survive in this pocket space most definitely had no need for sleep anymore. Even Ryu had no need for it anymore after entering the Divine Vessel Realm.

What was more curious was the fact the qi density around this thin mattress was actually so rich. But, this richness didn’t permeate the cave, but rather remained suspended directly above the mattress.

‘Dual cultivation mat?’

After scouring his mind, this was Ryu’s best answer. Experts obviously didn’t need to sleep, but this mattress-like treasure was most definitely a heavenly item for dual cultivating.

Ryu himself had only experienced the deed once, but the invigorating feeling of Elena’s Primordial Yin Qi was still fresh in his mind. As long as one had the appropriate techniques, at least for lower realms that didn’t require much comprehension, dual cultivating would most definitely give twice the benefits for half the effort.

As he looked around the small clearing, Ryu was more certain in his assessment.

For one, the owner of this cave was obviously male. When etching into jades, one must use their qi or Spiritual Qi. The traces of Spiritual Qi Ryu could sense from them clearly tended toward yang. Yet, what was with this lavender smell?

A lone man with a scented candle? It was possible, but just unlikely. So, Ryu believed his conclusion was correct with a 70% likelihood.

Realizing that standing around and observing wasn’t giving him any more information, Ryu took a step forward and grabbed the end of the prayer matt turned dual cultivation mattress, but the result was well out of his expectations.

In that moment, Ryu felt a surge of qi enter his body in an unbridled manner. Any normal person caught unprepared would have likely ruptured a few meridians, but his Chaotic Silk Meridians weren’t just for show.  

Ryu immediately attempted to let go, but it was in that instant that his mind was assaulted next. Images filled his mind… of stars combusting and forming, of planes expanding in creation and crumbling in destruction, of the birth of children and the death of the elderly.

Somehow, Ryu understood that these weren’t just images… They were true occurrences… Not only were they true occurrences but… They were all happening in this very instant!