When Han Qinglei, the Echelon cultivator from the Eighth Mountain, gained enlightenment of 100 Essences, a bright beam of light rose up from the temple in the middle of the crowded central battlefield with its millions of soldiers.
Colors flashed in the sky, and once again, the images of mountains and statues appeared up above. This time, another of the statues collapsed, to be replaced by the image of Han Qinglei.
“Han Qinglei of the Eighth Nation has broken the previous record, gaining enlightenment of 100 Essences, and shall be rewarded with a blessing of qi flow!”
As the ancient voice echoed out, red light erupted up from the Eighth Nation’s pagoda. It exceeded 300 meters and rapidly approached 450 meters. At the same time, the Eighth Nation’s qi flow increased, ensuring that the Mountain of National Aura’s defenses were increased to a terrifying degree.
Currently, the cultivators from the other nations were shaken. All eyes turned toward the Eighth Nation as Han Qinglei’s name became the second to rock the entire Windswept Realm!
Meanwhile, near the central temple, the red light shining from the Ninth Nation’s pagoda was growing increasingly weak. The overall strength of the Ninth Nation was weakening, and Mount Whiteseal’s defenses were substantially reduced.
Meng Hao’s contemplation of enlightenment was going worse than ever, and he was incapable of stopping. He was now on his 98th Essence, and the enlightenment was slow in coming. All the while, he had to be very wary of the powerful influence of the Windswept Realm itself, which tried to incite his desires and lead him astray.
As the qi flow of the Ninth Nation faded, the influence of the Windswept Realm increased. Fan Dong’er and the others could sense this. Most importantly, the desires in their hearts grew more intense. If they couldn’t understand the reason behind it, they would merely grow more frenzied, more lost. However, those who eventually reached an understanding of what was happening were terrified.
That was especially true of Fan Dong’er. She coughed up a mouthful of blood in the middle of her Immortal’s cave, and her face revealed traces of panic. She had been the first among the group to sense the massive change in her inward desires, which was why she had chosen to go into secluded meditation in an attempt to gain control. As of this moment, however, the opposite was happening; she was on the verge of losing control.
As for Bei Yu, she sat in the middle of the sea of flowers, seemingly completely entranced. From the look of it, her entire body was in the process of merging into the sea of flowers, as if she herself were turning into a blossom among the sea of flowers!
At the same time, a bright beam containing countless bones shot through the air above the Eighth Nation at top speed. A day later, it reached the border between the Eighth and Ninth Nations. Without the slightest hesitation, Han Qinglei shot across the border, laughing maniacally as he burst into the Ninth Nation.
He wore a black robe, and was very gaunt; the murderous aura which surrounded him erupted explosively.
In almost the exact moment that he entered the Ninth Nation, Mount Whiteseal shook violently, and the defensive pressure of the Ninth Nation increased dramatically.
However, such pressure did nothing to Han Qinglei. Laughing uproariously, he shot out over the lands, a bright beam of light surrounded by innumerable illusory white bones. Shrill screams could be heard echoing out from the bones as he sped forward; the sky dimmed and winds swirled.
Black clouds spread out across the skies of the Ninth Nation, and all the lands were cast into shadow.
The murderous aura which erupted off of Han Qinglei was like a tempest as he shot toward Meng Hao!
As he passed along, the earth quaked, and all cultivators and living creatures in the Ninth Nation shook. From their perspective, the previously bright and sunny day had instantly turned as dark as night.
“Meng Hao, you’re DEAD!” he shouted, his voice echoing out as he increased his speed. He was like a lightning bolt that rapidly drew closer to Mount Whiteseal.
As he neared, the Ninth Nation’s National Aura dissipated even more rapidly, and the pressure grew more intense. Fan Dong’er once again coughed up a mouthful of blood, and suddenly looked off into the distance.
“What’s happening? What caused the influence to increase so much, and so quickly?!” She gritted her teeth and flew out of her Immortal’s cave. When she looked up into the air, her face flickered as she saw the roiling black clouds off in the distance.
Inside of those black clouds were countless bones, speeding toward the capital city, and the Ninth Nation’s Mountain of National Aura, Mount Whiteseal!
Fan Dong’er wasn’t the only shocked one. Bei Yu sat in the sea of flowers, an expression of struggle on her face. She forced her eyes open, and a tremor ran through her as she looked around. Then she started to struggle even harder.
In another area, in the Immortal jade mine, mad laughter rang out. It was a laughter of satisfaction and joy as the young cultivator from the Nine Seas God World was completely lost inside of himself. As he looked around, all he saw was endless Immortal jade.
“Wealth like this will make my cultivation base vastly more powerful!!”
As for the burly body cultivator and the other Demonic cultivators on the central temple battlefield, all of them were shaken inwardly, and their desires stirred to mad heights.
Heaven wished them dead, but first, it would drive them mad! 1
In the time it takes an incense stick to burn, the roiling black clouds sped from the border of the Ninth Nation all the way to Mount Whiteseal. The clouds acted like flesh, and the countless bones formed together into what looked like real bone structures. The entire thing transformed into a huge black fist!
It was fully 300 meters wide, shooting down from the sky toward Mount Whiteseal in a deadly strike!
“Time to die, Meng Hao!” he howled, voice sinister and full of killing intent. Everything shook as the fist descended toward the mountaintop, and Meng Hao, sitting there cross-legged by the statue.
By this point, Meng Hao had just gained enlightenment of the 99th Essence, and was very close to completing the entire process of the first stage. All he needed was one more Essence, and yet, because of the fading of the Ninth Nation’s National Aura, the enlightenment was very difficult and slow in the coming.
Rumbling could be heard as the fist smashed down toward Mount Whiteseal. All of a sudden, the statue began to glow, sending out a protective shield that covered the entire mountain, Meng Hao included.
The huge pitch-black fist slammed into the shield, causing a deafening boom to echo out. Colors flashed, and the lands trembled. Intense ripples spread out, along with cracking sounds, as a huge crack appeared in the shield. It quickly repaired itself, but based on the speed with which it did so, it was obvious that the shield would only hold out for so long.
The fist shattered into fragments, but it was, after all, just formed from clouds and some bones. Han Qinglei appeared, then transformed into a black bolt of lightning which smashed into the shield.
“OPEN UP!!” he roared. Although he was gaunt, he radiated terrifying energy. His cultivation base was only in the Immortal Realm, but he was capable of rocking the Ancient Realm!
An intense power radiated out from him… causing countless bolts of lightning to spring up. Shockingly, they rapidly transformed into nine Lightning Dragons.
Mount Whiteseal shook, but Meng Hao remained there with his eyes closed tightly. He could not halt his enlightenment before it was complete, and he was focusing his mind in an attempt to speed it up as much as possible.
“Give up!” Han Qinglei roared. “You’ll die today, and the Ninth Nation’s World Seal will be mine! I’m also going to wipe out your Echelon qualifications!
“I, Han Qinglei, was the first to reach a full 100 Essences! I can kill anybody, but the main reason I’m picking you is because you’re surnamed Meng!
“After you die, remember to tell your ancestors that the person who killed you was Qinglei of the Han Clan!”
It was at this point that, all of a sudden, Fan Dong’er appeared in midair. Killing intent swirled in her eyes, and the wave of her hand caused numerous imprints of magical items to appear on her body.They rapidly expanded, as the hundreds of magical symbols grew to the size of a small mountain.
The sight was monumentally shocking.
Fan Dong’er had no choice but to show up. She knew that if she didn’t, and the attack against Mount Whiteseal succeeded, the World Seal would be taken away. The result would be that she could no longer resist the influence of the Windswept Realm without any National Aura.
She could also see that Meng Hao was at a critical juncture, and wouldn’t be able to do anything, so she had no choice but to interfere, for her own sake.
“If I can just buy enough time, Meng Hao will come out eventually. This guy might be powerful, and might be in the Echelon, but Meng Hao is too!” Gritting her teeth, Fan Dong’er closed in and attacked Han Qinglei.
Han Qinglei’s eyes flashed as he caught sight of Fan Dong’er, and he smiled.
“You think a bit too much of yourself,” he said, his voice booming like thunder. “I think I need to show you why people like you… don’t even qualify to fight the Echelon!” He waved his right index finger, sending four roaring Lightning Dragons toward Fan Dong’er.
Simultaneously, rumbling sounds could be heard as Bei Yu, no longer in the middle of the sea of flowers, also closed in at high speed. One of her eyes was confused and vacant, but the other was clear, and even before she was close, she shouted out, causing invisible divine sense power to coalesce into a needle, which stabbed viciously toward Han Qinglei.
Han Qinglei’s face flickered, and he waved his left hand, sending four more Lightning Dragons charging out. The fifth, he caused to self-detonate, borrowing the explosive power to fight back against the power of Bei Yu’s divine sense.
“How amusing. Two beauties have teamed up to fight me. I almost don’t have the heart to say so, but I can tell you that I look forward to flaying the two of you alive and revealing your true beauty; your white bones. How entrancing that will be!” Han Qinglei’s eyes gleamed with a bloodthirsty light, and he licked his lips. Suddenly, a flash could be seen as he… transformed into three people!
One was his true form, the other two were clones!
All three licked their lips simultaneously. One attacked the shield, and the other two split up to handle Fan Dong’er and Bei Yu respectively. As explosions filled the air, expressions of disbelief appeared on the faces of Fan Dong’er and Bei Yu. Despite the fact that they were both fighting mere clones of Han Qinglei, to the two of them, it felt like they were fighting someone… vastly more powerful than them!
“Is everyone in the Echelon this strong….?” thought Fan Dong’er. Shaken, she looked over at Meng Hao sitting there cross-legged in meditation.
“Hurry it up, Meng Hao!!”
This quote “Heaven wished them dead, but first, it would drive them mad!” is very similar to a quote from western literature. However, after a bit of research, it seems to actually be a reference to something said by Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty. None of this is really relevant to the plot of ISSTH, but since I did all the research I figured I would share the results ↩