Over the next hour, Wei Yi was able to learn quite a few things, while Shun Liu Min was able to pretend to understand most of them.
No matter how much the maid tried to connect the various dots presented by both sides in the conversation, she didn’t seem to be able to understand them fully, making her ponder whether they were using some complicated code or if her impression of having an above average mind was just a mistake made long ago, one that had somehow passed until today.
Since she was unable to get much from their talks, she ignored them and focused on her techniques.
Meanwhile, the Ascendant confirmed that the tale shared with her by Luo Lia Kun was accurate, and that they were indeed once Great Earth who split himself and partially shattered his cultivation in order to practise a forbidden skill in the hopes of beating the Greats. As was perhaps rather obvious by their current state, they had not succeeded as well as they would have hoped, and while most of their companions were either captured, killed or lost in some other way, they managed to travel to the Yi District to recover and build up their strength.
They joined the Deadly Martial Colosseum and quickly got into a leadership position and kicked out most of the old guard, who did not enjoy their actions even a little bit but had little choice but to permit them at the time. That was why they were keen not to permit a recurrence of this once the twins left.
As she had come to suspect after learning of their Paradigm of Yin, they very likely had the ability to benefit from forbidden skills focused on yin, which would explain a little about why their cultivation was able to advance quickly after the man she had first fought at the Deadly Martial Colosseum had been defeated by her. It must not have been easy to acquire more, so their cultivation had not changed much.
In the time that Wei Yi had spent in the Kong District, the Greats must have shown themselves coming to the Yi District, prompting Great Light and Great Dark to flee earlier than they would have hoped.
From the knowledge of the combatants of the War of Yin and all of the research that they had completed, they had likely come to know of something to the north, something that would be of great use to them, and left in that direction to search for it. At some point, they were able to confirm the existence of an ancient defensive fortress, as well as some potential methods to interact with it, and thus chose to head towards it in order to potentially obtain a place where they and their last forces could reside peacefully.
That journey brought them to the north, then once they caught sight of the relevant landmarks, they would correct their course, such as what they did earlier in the day when they had encountered the three stones and one atop them.
On the way, they had some interesting encounters, but none of it could really be equated to what they wanted to know about Wei Yi. Just from the reference to the prison, there seemed to only be a single thing that she could have been referencing, which was why they waited patiently to hear what she might have to say. So long as the prison of the Greats was not infallible, they hoped that countless people could be freed from their grasp and returned to the world to act.
She did not tell them anything right away, simply because it would be better to show them instead.
Thus, they travelled north, with the twins of Great Earth saying no further information until Wei Yi would share some with them, leaving neither one with a complete image of the other’s activities in the last year since they had last seen one another.
The rest of the group that they were travelling with appeared to be a small group similar to the Remnants of Yin in that they had once been allied with the forces that went to war against the Greats, but ended up failing and splintering, being found a short time ago hiding in the Ju District by the twins. They seemed to be relatively comfortable with one another, but they did not speak to one another while near Wei Yi or Shun Liu Min, so they weren’t able to learn anything from incidental conversations like that.
Fortunately, the Ascendant hadn’t been interested in learning from them in this manner in the first place, and so she did not ask any more questions once it became clear that they wouldn’t speak.
So long as she had any degree of success with activating the fortress, whatever that meant, and setting up a gateway into the Kong Prison Realm, Great Dark and Great Light would likely be very open with sharing pretty much everything so long as she made even the faintest hint towards being curious about one matter or another. That was how momentous capturing the prison realm from the Greats was, since it would mean not only that everyone inside can go free, but that anyone that is imprisoned afterwards can be released before they age, have children, die, and pass along whatever they have three or four generations down like in the case of Meng Qi and Meng Chu.
Control over the prison realm would likely remain a boon even after it was discovered, since it could then be used openly wherever she wanted to summon armies, move to more advantageous battlefields, and generally make use of the spatial capabilities far more openly than she needed to at the moment.
Only the first generation of the Great Families would have much of a chance to interfere with the prison realm at that point, but so long as the conversion laws of the realm could be externalised and focused on those individuals, even their seventh realm would only hold on for so long until it would be torn away and broken into nothing other than husks that could be defeated as easily as any other regular human, perhaps even more easily due to their presumed lack of regular combat training.
On the topic of cultivation, Wei Yi was able to observe that Great Dark and Great Light alike did have a slight build-up of spiritual will and killing intent within their minds, empowering their spiritual perception by a small degree, but it was effectively limited to the first realm due to the absence of sufficient meridian networks in order to allow for the ascension to the second realm.
As the sun was nearing the horizon, they finally came to a spot of interest.
To the naked eye – and to spiritual perception and even the Third Eye, for that matter – it appeared to be no different than any other spot in the desert, whether one looked at the dunes, the heat, the air or even the amount of effort one needed to raise a foot into the air.
It seemed inconspicuous, but that annoying sensation of similarity and dullness that had been bothering Wei Yi for some time was strongest there, and the moment that she saw this place and relayed that sight to Yi Shi Ming, who had finally become able to relax some time ago due to the Endless Monolith not acting up since the time that the Dao concept was solidified, the spatial spirit’s eyes glistened.
“This is the right place. The sands of the fortress never change, even though it looks like they are in constant motion,” Yi Shi Ming said, “Go to that spot, and then release a vast amount of energy.”
‘What will it do, activate the fortress, like they mentioned?’
“As I said some time ago, my memories are hardly perfect, and Ah Shi Meng had not shared everything in perfect detail or clarity, but so far as I understand it, in order to reveal the fortress once it has been hidden, it must be awakened with a great burst of energy. It might not necessarily be planar energy, given that it should be something that anyone can easily produce in higher realms, but…”
‘I’ll have a look. That spot, right?’ Wei Yi confirmed, then looked to the twins and said, “Stop here. It should be in this area, although I might need a moment to find the exact spot.”
“You are aware… how to active it?”
“More or less. I do not, however, know whether or not it will be safe for everyone to stand around, nor do I know how much energy it will require, so stand a few metres away and pay attention to your surroundings just in case. That includes you, Shun Liu Min,” she said to the maid, then walked forward until she stood over the spot that Yi Shi Ming had mentioned to her. So far as she could tell even with her spiritual perception, there was nothing amiss here, but if this place did hide a great fortress, it would be an absolute miracle of creation, regardless of the method used.
She kneeled down beside that point, feeling the sand a little before she found a spot that seemed harder than the rest, as if she was touching not fine grains and particles but a dense stone instead.
While she couldn’t determine what it actually was, nor whether that was the true sensation of the spot or if it was an illusory feeling while the rest of the sand was true, she didn’t have much she could do beside pouring in her planar energy and hoping for the best, which she did straight away. At first, nothing happened.
However, once almost five percent of her incredibly vast and powerful pool of energy was exhausted, even with the slow regeneration of the nascent rift, she finally sensed something in the ground. It was still highly uncertain and vague, but she was at the very least able to inspect it in order to figure out exactly how much energy was needed, and where she would need to pour it into, as well as how. That process alone took several minutes, during which time the others waited patiently and had surrounded her some time ago, standing in a circle both to prevent anything from charging in and harming her as well as to be able to stop anything dangerous from emerging from the location in which she stood.
A little more scrutiny confirmed that while the object, whatever it was and whatever it was connected to, would be satisfied with planar energy to an extent, she would require a vast amount of it in a state different from what her energy would usually be in.
‘It may not be in that state normally, but when I break through, not only are vast waves of energy released, but it is also momentarily transformed. In a breakthrough to the fourth realm, perhaps with the inclusion of some bloodline cultivation on the side, might be sufficient to fulfil the conditions of this object, and hopefully show what it is so that I don’t have to keep wondering,’ she thought, checking her full planar aperture, ‘I should be able to do this right away.’
She stood up and turned to Great Dark, effectively ignoring his brother’s existence.
“I think that I will require a breakthrough in order to active it. As such, you will need to double your distance,” Wei Yi instructed, sitting down with her legs crossed immediately after.
“A breakthrough? You want to just achieve one out of-”
“How long will you need, and to which realm? Your perfected stages… muddle things…”
“I’ll be getting to the fourth realm for now, and that will involve a perfected stage, then perfected realm, then finally the first stage of the Active Core realm. With my current accumulation of energy, it will be done before sunset, although I cannot guarantee whether or not it will be particularly explosive. I don’t know whether you have heard anything about the Luo District, but if you have, then that massive rupture in the ground was my fault.”
“Rupture… no, I do not believe we’ve had that come to our attention… the Ju District is not one to listen to many tales and rumours…”
“Good. Then, just know that depending on what I do, it is possible for quite a lot of damage to occur for what can be called no good reason. Just remain careful, don’t let Shun Liu Min get hurt, and it should be perfectly fine,” she said, shutting her eyes, “I’ll be getting on with it now, so hush.”
She focused on her dantian and on the energy that had accumulated within it, then on the minimal remains within the planar stone in the prison realm, as well as on the energy all around her, and then took it all in at the full speed permitted to her by the Ascendant’s Path technique, instantly creating a vast vacuum of planar energy around herself that the Planar Continents couldn’t instantly fill.
The pull was so great that the air nearly got dragged along with it, causing Shun Liu Min to lose her footing for a moment before Great Light was able to catch her with his hand, as he didn’t dare to risk using his planar energy. It seemed that the pull would be able to absorb anything within an enormous radius, and if that somehow resulted in his energy being pulled in as well, he could potentially even lose some of his cultivation due to whatever absurd technique she was practising, and that would hardly be ideal whether she was going to be on their side or not.
It should be known that this kind of energy absorption wasn’t entirely foreign to the Planar Continents or even the Western Continent, since certain experts of the seventh realm have been documented to be able to drain vast spaces of energy in seconds, but that was the seventh realm.
Wei Yi was only in the third, and it didn’t even seem to be enough for her as she quickly took out a few planar shards and drained them as well, although their meagre quantity of energy was barely sufficient for her purposes either, so she also made her Endless Monolith absorb the energy of the prison realm in order to be able to benefit from the planar stones that had been added to the central array.
Once the very skies of the prison realm distorted due to the great force acting upon all of the energy in the air that had not yet been claimed or used by the people below, and with everything around her being drained for every drop of planar energy that it would allow, save for the small group of people currently observing her actions, her current realm and stage finally budged.
The previous feeling that she shouldn’t break through did not recur, making her ponder just how much her intuition was able to tell her and where exactly such keen senses could even originate from, but for now she focused strictly on her breakthrough, taking a look at the Truth of the Universe to confirm the method that it recommended before infusing it into her existing work and using them together to prevent her planar pool from bursting before she had just enough energy to reach the perfected stage, as which point she permitted it to progress.
At the same time, she created a series of arrays to float around her with her killing will, manipulating them in order to act upon her bloodline power and rapidly caused it to bubble and heat up within her.
Together with all of the planar energy passing through her system, her bloodline cultivation spiked rapidly even before she decided to go all out and activate Absolute Rupture, at which point she sank into the Realm of Potential for a few moments as to allow these things to occur all at once and at the best efficiency that her body and mind would allow for without the chance for any kind of fluctuation in the process.
With a united set of two fifth realm forms of energy and her current cosmic energy, the first realm of her bloodline cultivation rose with immense speed, and each stage strengthened these same forms of energy, meaning that it was able to develop more quickly. If there was no such thing as realms and only stages that all required similar, linear quantities of energy development and gathering to progress she would have been able to rush into the tens or even hundreds of realms in one ago, attaining effectively limitless amounts of power within only hours, but those were not the laws of the world.
Only techniques were able to skip realms, but as a result, individual stages were far more difficult to attain, especially after the first unnamed stage after Full Success. Whether or not there was some limit to the development of a technique, it was not one that was ever seen due to the sheer difficulty of heading past the First Stage with most techniques.
As a result, her progress with her bloodline power stopped at the ninth stage, wherein the step onto the next realm not only appeared to require far more energy, but was also something that she did not wish to rush as the next realm might have some complexity and requirements to it that couldn’t be met, either sufficiently or at all, by her current method of simply exciting the bloodline power until the hidden power within was invoked. To rush might mean a weaker bloodline power and less potential for growth in the future, which was not ideal or even sufficient if she wanted to stand a reasonable chance of success in the future.
She exited the Realm of Potential the moment that the state it allowed her body to be in was no longer useful, and then focused on her impending planar energy breakthrough.
It was first heralded by the forced appearance of the Endless Monolith’s shadow around herself, the great structure entirely covering her figure as it ruptured the space around her, the glowing and shackled sphere of white energy at its centre settling just above her head, illuminating the desert with its light.
Just as her initial draw of energy, this sight was also a shock to those that saw it, but they had little time to marvel at this entirely different anchor as a vast quantity of energy surged from the centre, into her body and, under her precise control, into her head, hands and feet, merging with the Absolute Rupture in scattering her every minute piece before forcefully reconstructing it to be even more power and efficient. For a moment, her body transformed into the killing will state, splitting her into two distinct halves, the claws on her left hand growing even sharper and more imposing while the finest of irregularities were purged from her right hand, the skin on that whole side becoming even paler and whiter than before.
The last of the mixed light was exhausted then, as she thought that it might be, and a vast quantity of her own planar energy surged out with enough speed and strength to shake the very world.
It flowed almost ceaselessly to form a great sphere around herself or, more accurately, her anchor, but a fraction of that energy surged into the ground beneath her, into an unseen node that hungrily consumed more and more of her planar energy, but was unable to surpass the regeneration of the nascent rift that was able to keep it fed all the while.
Still, this was not sufficient for the object beneath the ground, but it was also not the end.
As the great flowing light grew denser and denser, it transcended fluidity, became solid, and then went even further beyond, being compressed and refined until it gained crystalline properties akin to that of the illusory core that still remained within her body, around the dantian. Through the crystalline gem-like facets of the glowing sphere, the sight of Wei Yi was slowly replaced with that of the stars, countless nebulae and galaxies glowing with great radiance, although something faint could be seen in the distance. Only Great Dark and Great Light were able to see them with any clarity, and they appeared to be a boundless, dense field of chains that covered the rest of the cosmos.
The moment that they saw this, the core burst out with an even greater degree of force and energy, scattering the sand beneath them and, despite only a thin layer seeming to be removed from the ground, it unveiled a layer of stone tiles arranged neatly beside one another beneath their feet.
On the point where Wei Yi sat, just in front of her legs, was a square tile with a complex shape drawn upon it, which was glowing with a violet light that brightened with each passing moment.
They would have continued to watch on, but alongside the revelation of a stone floor beneath them came the surfacing of a number of desert apparitions, all of which rose from the sand near the area which had been revealed, as if the resurgence of the fortress came as a danger to them and forced them to act. All of the forces that surrounded Wei Yi knew that they could do nothing at all to contribute to her final breakthrough, whatever that would look like, and instead turned to face these new threats in order to make it as smooth as possible for her.
Shun Liu Min didn’t hesitate to do the same, for amongst these creatures she was able to sense those in the second and third realms, and it seemed that some were significantly more lacking in intellect that others, for some could only shamble and take the hits from the other fighters while some would actively fight and evade against Great Dark and Great Light’s attacks, although it was futile due to the difference in realms.
The maid grabbed the spear and tossed it into the air, much like Wei Yi had done, barely managing to catch it once it began to descend, gripping the lowest past of it before looking at a nearby easy foe, pulling her hand back, and then bursting out with all of the power that she had.
Although the attack was certainly rather unconventional, it proved its effectiveness as it instantly scattered the second realm foe, leaving naught but its sand core to drop onto the ground while the rest of the sand that had provided a poor facsimile of flesh was thrown into the wind and brought far away from where the entity had stood.
Emboldened by this success, no matter how minor it may have been in this situation, she turned towards one of the more distant foes that was preparing some kind of planar technique. It waved its hands about as more and more energy gathered around it, a small sandstorm surrounding it with an ever-rising density. Quickly confirming that there was no nearby foe that could strike her any time soon, as most of them were dealt with either by Great Dark or the man that had stood on her other side while they were in the circle, she took the spear normally and raised it, bringing it back to aim for a throw.
Then, as her hand thrust forward, a spear made of wood-type liquid planar energy that was compressed by the artefact itself in order to allow it to function at the level of solid energy just for long enough for it to fly towards its foe and land inside of the sand that made up its body. The next moment, it exploded, obliterating the third realm creature. Whatever core had made up its body was thrown far away, and the sand that it was made from joined the sand of the storm that it had been creating.
Meanwhile, Wei Yi was attempting to understand exactly why the core that the perfected realm appeared to be condensing in preparation for the first stage of Active Core was separate from the illusory core, which continued to reside around her dantian.
Typically, a cultivator would naturally possess a single core, and it would remain around the anchor at all times, whether it was within the dantian or outside. This was a significant vulnerability for those in the fourth realm and above, although it could be negated by placing the anchor beside oneself when using it in battle or some other situation that required both power and protection, since the core would defend anything inside of it, even an enemy if a cultivator was careless and slammed down their anchor without checking whether it would be safe to do so.
When the anchor and the core were outside, the dantian could easily be attacked, and when it was inside, it was unable to protect the rest of the body, so to have what appeared to be two cores was highly unusual, since it might allow for her to have advantages of both at the same time, with an anchor on the field to increase the potency of her energy while simultaneously guarding her dantian as usual.
Besides everything that already put her far above the vast majority of cultivators, this would make her far more difficult to finish off, since both her Endless Monolith and her dantian, the two primary sources of a cultivator’s power, would be defended at all times. If one of the cores was damaged and breached, so long as it wasn’t entirely scattered, it could be regathered and rebuilt with little damage so long as it was done with some modicum of skill, which she did have, meaning that her foundation wouldn’t suffer unless she faced an enemy that was far, far above her level.
At that point, she would hardly be able to put up a fight anyway, but the threshold for the overly powerful foe was rising from the sixth realm at this point to the seventh or eighth, depending on the strength of the core that was being manifested at this very moment. She didn’t dream of having absolute immunity from the last two realms since they would have the same ability as she did during the Soul of Cinder state but at all times, meaning that they would be able to throw around any kind of technique they wanted without caring for the costs. At the last two realms, it was very likely that all techniques changed from attempting any semblance of efficiency to instead going all out, delaying the process of technique execution so that it could build up as much force as necessary before taking out any foe in a single strike.
If that was the kind of thing that she needed to face, only the Soul of Cinder state would have a chance of saving her, and even then it would be only for as long as it was able to last, no longer.
Fortunately, to her knowledge, there was not a single entity in the eighth realm anywhere in the Planar Continents, whether on the Western or Northern Continents, so she could be safe for now and worry about those sorts of things when entering the eighth realm was a real possibility, and when she could be reasonably expected to encounter them.
Just before the final wave of the breakthrough, she pushed her spiritual perception out for a moment.
‘It seems that they’re handling themselves well enough for now. The moment that the breakthrough is complete, either the fortress will be out, or I will be able to contribute. Either way, nobody will get hurt,’ Wei Yi thought, before shutting her eyes again.
Then, the great core around her and the illusory Endless Monolith suddenly burst outward, erupting with a vast amount of force that also partially sank into the ground, causing the blue pattern on the ground to finally erupt with energy of its own. All of the sand around her and the group currently engaging in combat surged out, as if an ocean suddenly dropped on the spot where she sat and expanded outwards, carrying all of the sand away while revealing more and more of what truly lay beneath.
A large plaza lined with stone tiles appeared to be in the centre of the space, around which were numerous buildings constructed from similarly smooth cut stone blocks and tiles that resulted in a very specific aesthetic to the buildings, but certainly resulted in them looking very strong and sturdy, especially when any traces of sand disappeared from the area.
The wave of sand being washed away expanded even further, revealing building after building, street after street, but did not always do so by clearing a dune. At times, the thin air itself would be brushed away to reveal some new structure, although a similar amount of sand in dunes was removed to reveal nothing at all. Everything was placed on a flat plane, so that everything could be perfectly seen from one edge of the fortress to the other, and when the wave finally reached an edge, it did not simply fade.
Instead, the wave of sand stopped and rose into the sky, forming a tall barrier of sand that remained in place, with sand constantly rising further before washing outwards, only for more to be picked up and carried in the same manner.
Every creature made of sand was either torn apart or carried away, much to everyone’s pleasant surprise.
As the energy had burst out of her body, it pushed past the bones of her dantian and tore off another fine layer, bringing away a series of purified bones for later usage one again, although she did not have the immediate opportunity to confirm exactly what had changed from the seemingly final purified state that she had achieved a long time ago.
Meanwhile, the great core and illusory anchor sank into Wei Yi’s body and planar aperture, revealing her body in its normal state, with the killing will state having faded and her body having been purged of some of the sand that hat managed to gather upon it.
Without a word, she gathered a large sphere of killing will into her hand, then threw it down into the glowing tile on the ground, instantly spreading it out into the shape of the gateway array to the Kong Prison Realm, linking it to the superstructure of the fortress. Despite the simple appearance, an immense quantity of energy needed to gather in the fortress, and it seemed to have almost been designed specifically to permit for a stable gateway.
Naturally, she made full use of it, letting the portal open behind her as she turned to Great Dark, Great Light and Shun Liu Min.
“This fortress is called Paragon, and I, Wei Yi, claim it for our cause!”
END OF VOLUME 3