In the blink of an eye, nine days passed.
The more than ten thousand Celestial Immortals remained seated in the lotus position within the main hall of the Skylight Palace. Around each of them hovered bloody runic seals. The same was true for Ji Ning; there were many bloody runes swirling around him, each of which contained a shocking battle-intent. However, it seemed as though those runes were lacking in something. They continuously circled around Ning…and finally, after Ning manifested yet another rune, all of the bloody runes connected to each other, forming a complete whole as their warlike aura skyrocketed in power.
“Success.” Ning opened his eyes, looking at the hovering runes. “This Heaven Punisher Formation is truly mysterious and profound; it actually took me nine full days. However, it truly is a grand formation that is perfectly suited for combination attacks; it truly lives up to its reputation as a formation created by True God Xingtian, known as the Primordial Wargod.”
Xingtian was often referred to as the Primordial Wargod. He delighted in battle. When he made his breakthrough to become a True God, it was when his head had been chopped off and he had transformed his nipples into eyes and his belly button into his mouth, then continued to fight. From this, one could tell how savage and how warlike Xingtian was.
Ning looked at his surroundings. Immortal Diancai and Yu Wei were both meditating, but Celestial Immortal Unity’s seat was empty.
“Unity has already mastered it?” Ning rose to his feet as well. The Skylight Palace was currently quite silent; everyone was busy meditating. As for the Xia Emperor and the other five True Immortals and Empyrean Gods, they had left for now; the Xia Emperor and the others couldn’t just sit there and do nothing for half a month, after all. Ning moved towards the outside of the main palace, soon seeing the Celestial Immortals floating on the clouds outside, chatting and laughing amongst themselves. Ning saw a total of sixty individuals; apparently, these were the ones who had succeeded in learning the technique.
If one had a very high level of comprehension abilities, one would be capable of learning the Heaven Punisher Formation. But of course, if one had a very high level of insight into the Dao or an extremely deep level of insight into formations, one could also learn it in an incredibly short period of time.
“Fellow Daoist Darknorth.”
“Fellow Daoist Darknorth mastered it as well?”
“The reason why we were able to learn it so quickly was because we’ve lived for trillions of years. Fellow Daoist Darknorth’s comprehension abilities are truly staggering,” the other Celestial Immortals laughed and praised.
Ning smiled in acknowledgmenet. These sixty Celestial Immortals were elites; in fact, quite a few were comparable to Celestial Immortal Unity.
“Ji Ning.” Unity walked over as well. “I just finished learning it a short while ago; you were just a hair slower than me. It seems you’ll be one of my major foes when it comes to competing for the commander positions.”
“Don’t praise me, fellow Daoist Unity.” Ning shook his head. “The world of the Grand Xia is filled with crouching tigers and hidden dragons; it won’t be easy to rank in the top nine out of more than ten thousand Celestial Immortals. Oh, right; there’s something I need to speak to the Xia Emperor about.”
“Go.” Unity nodded.
Ning immediately walked towards a nearby attendant, asking him to carry a message for him.
“I’ll go notify the Xia Emperor right away. Immortal Darknorth, please wait a moment.” The attendant immediately departed to go report to the Xia Emperor.
A side palace.
The Xia Emperor was seated by himself before a table that was covered with a map of the entire Grand Xia. The Xia Emperor was staring intently at the map as the black-robed Ning walked in.
“There you are.” The Xia Emperor raised his head.
“Respectful greetings to you, Imperial Majesty.” Ning bowed.
“No need to stand on such ceremony in private,” the Xia Emperor said with a laugh. “You asked to see me in private; is there something you need?”
Ning immediately said, “Ji Ning has a boon to request, Imperial Majesty.”
“Speak,” the Xia Emperor said.
Ning said, “Ji Ning knows that the Three Realms are currently in a state of chaos, and so all Loose Immortals and Celestial Immortals must take part in the battle. However…I would like to ask you, your Imperial Majesty, to help me and allow my Dao-companion, Yu Wei, to refrain from taking part in battle.”
“Refrain from taking part in battle? But…” The Xia Emperor frowned. “Why?”
“My Dao-companion is pregnant,” Ning explained. “If she takes too heavy a blow during a battle…she might be able to recover, as a Celestial Immortal, but the baby in her body might…”
The Xia Emperor instantly laughed. “So the Rainbowflame Fairy is pregnant? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Very few people know about it; after all, it’s just a pregnancy,” Ning said. Ning hadn’t made a big fuss about this, primarily because he was worried that others would take aim at Yu Wei. Thus, only the closest people to them knew about this matter. However, after Ning’s Primaltwin’s tribulation, his master Subhuti had told him that so long as he told a second person about his secrets, there was a chance the Seamless Gate would find out. Thus, Ning understood that most likely the Seamless Gate already knew about Yu Wei’s pregnancy; this naturally made him feel even more cautious.
“Don’t worry. Since she’s pregnant, we naturally won’t ask the Rainbowflame Fairy to take part in battle,” the Xia Emperor said. “However…after she finishes giving birth, she still has to take part in the war. No one can easily escape the flames of war.”
“I understand.” Ning nodded.
Right at this moment, someone came in from outside.
As though sensing the person, Ning glanced backwards. He immediately said, “Respectful greetings to you, senior Dongyan.” The newcomer was True Immortal Dongyan.
True Immortal Dongyan laughed. “I heard, Ji Ning, that you had woken up from your meditations, and so I wanted to chat with you. I didn’t expect you to be here with his Imperial Majesty.”
“Might I ask what you wish of me, senior?” Ning asked.
“I simply wish to ask you to help me with something,” True Immortal Dongyan said.
“Help you?” Ning was surprised. “Senior, you are far more powerful than me.”
True Immortal Dongyan shook his head. “What use is that? In the face of this great storm, even major powers might fall. I was thinking…in the event of my death, I would like to ask you, Ji Ning, to help me out a little in taking care of and protecting Ninelotus. You don’t have to personally watch over her and protect her, just…help arrange for her protection. All I ask is that she be able to stay alive and safe.”
Ning was startled. Ninelotus?
Ning had severed his relationship with Ninelotus long ago. However…within the demonheart world, the two of them had been together for thirty thousand years. This had a significant impact on Ning.
“If I have the power to protect her, I naturally will. Ninelotus is my senior apprentice-sister, after all,” Ning said.
“All I need are these words from you, Ji Ning.” True Immortal Dongyan sighed.
“Dongyan, you are far too cautious,” the Xia Emperor said. “You became a Pure Yang True Immortal long ago, but always misguided others about it through your Primaltwin. Now that the storm has come and you are unable to avoid it, you’ve already sent all of your clansmen to your master’s place…and yet, you still want to ask Ji Ning to help out as well?”
Ning was instantly surprised by these words. So the real Dongyan Forefather had become a Pure Yang True Immortal long ago. The Celestial Immortal everyone had met…had merely been a Primaltwin?
“If one’s power is revealed, then one will die all the quicker when the storm comes.” True Immortal Dongyan shook his head. “Right, Xiamang. Of the eleven thousand Celestial Immortals…I imagine some are traitors for the Seamless Gate. If a traitor becomes one of the nine commanders…”
Ning nodded, looking towards the Xia Emperor as well.
“Of course there are traitors. That’s obvious…but what can you do about it?” The Xia Emperor shook his head. “The traitors are far too hard to discern; they can even swear oaths to the Dao of the Heavens without being punished for breaking them. Many have made it all the way to the sides of our Daofathers. I imagine that the traitors we’ve uncovered only make up a small portion of all the traitors.”
“They’ve made it to the sides of our Daofathers? They won’t be punished for violating oaths to the Dao of the Heavens?” Ning was shocked.
The Xia Emperor looked towards Ning, then nodded. “Right. You are still quite weak; your main goal right now is to train to prepare for the Empyrean Tribulation and become an Empyrean God. Thus, there are many things which your master has probably not informed you about. Once you do become an Empyrean God, you’ll know all these things. The Seamless Gate…their abilities are beyond what you can imagine. The Seamless Gate, the Seamless Gate…in terms of their intelligence abilities and their infiltrating abilities…they truly do leave no seam untouched!”
Ning shivered. Puzzled, he asked, “But why is it that they can violate oaths to the Dao of the Heavens? That makes no sense.”
“Why doesn’t it make sense? Daofathers have all mastered Heavenly Daos and are in control of them; oaths to the Dao of the Heavens are useless when made by them,” the Xia Emperor said. “Since oaths to the Dao of the Heavens are useless when made by Daofathers…naturally, there are others for whom they are useless as well. However, not just anyone is capable of this…but clearly, the Seamless Gate is!”
“They are able to know of every single Celestial Tribulation.”
“They are able to ignore oaths to the Dao of the Heavens.”
“They even number amongst their ranks disciples of the leaders of the Daoist Path and the Buddhist Sangha!” The Xia Emperor sighed. “The two leaders of the Daoist Path and the Buddhist Sangha possess unfathomable abilities; they were able to detect some flaws and identify some traitors. However…those ones they found most likely only make up a tiny fraction of the total number of traitors.”
The Xia Emperor sighed again. “Thus…this is a true ‘tribulation’ for the Three Realms!”
Even people like his master, Subhuti, were behaving with the utmost caution. The Seamless Gate…it was far too mysterious, and its abilities were far too unfathomable. In fact, Ning had the feeling that it was as though the Seamless Gate was in control of the laws of Heaven and Earth! They were able to locate any Celestial Tribulation, and oaths to the Dao of the Heavens was useless to them…
“I will naturally be very, very cautious in choosing the nine commanders,” the Xia Emperor said. “No matter what, I cannot let one of those positions enter the hands of a traitor. However…although there might be a few traitors amongst the eleven thousand, the chances of one of them becoming the top nine are quite low. I’ll be extremely careful in my investigations, and if I detect anything out-of-place at all, I’ll immediately apprehend them.”
Soon, the fifteen days given to the Celestial Immortals to meditate on the Heaven Punisher Formation came to an end.
The Skylight Palace. The main hall.
The Xia Emperor was seated high up on his throne, staring down at his subjects. Smiling, he said, “Fellow Immortals, the fifteen days have passed. I trust that you have all mastered at least the ‘advanced scroll’ of the Heaven Punisher Formation.”
All the Celestial Immortals present laughed.
The Heaven Punisher Formation was divided into the ‘basic’ level, the ‘advanced’ level, and the ‘complete’ level.
The basic level was for Loose Immortals to learn. It was very simple, and even Loose Immortals would only need a single day to learn it.
Learning the ‘advanced’ level was a bit tougher, but for Celestial Immortals…even the slowest of them would only need two days to master it.
Mastering the complete Heaven Punisher Formation, however, was thousands of times more difficult.
“Those of you who have mastered the complete Heaven Punisher Formation, come to the center of the palace,” the Xia Emperor said.
One person after another began to rise to their feet.
Ji Ning and Celestial Immortal Unity rose to their feet as well, walking to the center. An entire group of Celestial Immortals now stood at the heart of the palace.
“A total of 359.” The Xia Emperor laughed. “If there was one more, we would have a perfect 360 degree circle. Still…perfection is rare in this world. My 359 fellow Immortals…I’d like to ask you to make your preparations now. In two hours, I will have each of you attempt to command a thousand Celestial Immortals and a hundred thousand Loose Immortals in assuming the Heaven Punisher Formation. I’ll test the power of the Heaven Punisher Formations you command, and the most powerful nine will become the nine commanders.”
A short while later.
The imperial plaza below the palace. More than a million Loose Immortals were gathered here; one truly could see no end to them.
By now, the Loose Immortals had all parted, allowing for an empty area with a circumference of a thousand kilometers appear amongst them. At the edges around this empty area, there stood more than eleven thousand Celestial Immortals as well as the Xia Emperor.
“One thousand Celestial Immortals, a hundred thousand Loose Immortals, enter the field!” The Xia Emperor ordered.
The pre-selected Celestial Immortals and Loose Immortals flew into the empty field in an awe-inspiring manner.
“Fellow Immortal Northstar shall be the first one,” the Xia Emperor said.
Celestial Immortal Northstar immediately said respectfully, “Yes.” He stepped into the empty region, and as he did, a blurry aura of light instantly covered the field, forming into an enormous grand sealing formation.