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Chapter 13

The white robe man aka the Desolate Old Man whispered in Jiang Le’s ears, “After I have castrated you, you can cultivate in peace. Maybe you can even learn a skill or two divine skills that only a eunuch would be able to learn!”

Jiang Le could only stare at him coldly for this white robe man was entirely solemn and he was aiming at his crouch now!

The white robe man rubbed his nose and smile, “This will be a clean cut and you don’t even need to take off your pant. You ought to be grateful to me…”

Jiang Le struggled to muster the remaining of his strength to deliver his sword finger at the white robe man but before he could hit him, the white robe man had swung the Divine Gallantry and Jiang Le was screaming out in pain in his crouch area!

He could only mutter incoherently toward the end of his scream, “You will regret not killing me. I will not forget about this vendetta…”

The white robe man grinned as he watched Jiang Le passed out, “You’re a eunuch now.”

“Isn’t this a little too much, turning him into a eunuch?” A gently and beautiful voice was heard and an alluring maiden had stepped coolly from behind the cover of a tree.

The white robe man growled unhappily, “Are you here to interfere with my plans?”

This alluring maiden hummed coldly, “Even if I have ten lives, I won’t dare to! For you are the Desolate Old Man and Grandmaster of the Six Realms Sect!”

The white robe man said, “Are you are saying that if you got more lives, you would dare to try?”

The alluring maiden gave a gentle smile before she walked to the white robe man and then all of a sudden, she had raised her foot to kick him!

But the white robe man seemed to have anticipated the attack and had moved his body aside.

The alluring maiden laughed gently before she raised her hands as she sent hundreds of beaming needles at him. In a blink of an eye, she had made a dozen hand gestures!

The white robe man was startled as he quickly swung his sword several times, deflecting the needles!

The alluring maiden asked, “So what do you think of my technique versus his Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike?”

The white robe man lowered his sword to say, “I must say that it is really fast. One of the fastest swordplay that I have ever seen. To think that at such a young age, he has already mustered to the sword energies level. Moreover, he is able to muster his sword energies at such a short notice. With such a masterful sword art and such an epitome sword technique in his hands, he has plenty of potential. Moreover, his Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike can still be better.”

The alluring maiden raised her eyebrows, “Is that so? Are you looking to fight him again?”

The white robe man nodded lightly as he dropped the Divine Gallantry that was in his hands, “Maybe.”

The alluring maiden smiled, “Maybe only? You mean that even if he trains for a hundred year, he isn’t your match? You’re so insolent nowadays. Let me ask you. This maiden here, is she your new spoil of war?”

The white robe man smiled awkwardly before he turned around and vanished into the forest, “With you around, I dare not claim any spoil of war. Since you are so insistent on protecting them today, I will let them go this time.”

The alluring maiden chuckled and shouted in the direction where he had vanished, “Then I should express my little thanks. But never say I didn’t warn you, there are some dangerous monstrous beasts in that direction…”

All of a sudden there was a monstrous roar in the thick canopy of the forest and a scream was heard from the white robe man…

The alluring maiden looked at the unconscious Jiang Le and Xue Ji before she smiled wryly, “So what have we here. A eunuch and a lovely maiden. What a pity for this Jiang Le for he has to live with it now.”

Suddenly she was smiling, “So they are finally here. What’s takes them this long?”

In the next instant, Qingshuang and Xia Ji had flashed next to her and had attacked her!

Xue Ji shouted angrily, “How dare you attack the protégés of the Tranquil Palace!”

Qingshuang flashed her sword, “Who are you?”

The alluring maiden flurried her sleeves and deflected the sword attacks that were directed at her as she took a glance at Qingshuang, “You are at the Seventh Sense Level? Interesting.”

Qingshuang was startled as she took several quick steps back, “You’re a celestial practitioner?”

The alluring maiden did not reply her and instead, she was smiling and displaying one finger stance after one another against Xia Ji!

Xia Ji was breathing softly as she took several steps back as well, “She’s strong. I can’t seem to place a hit on her even though she isn’t armed.”

The alluring maiden asked, “What? You are not playing with me anymore?”

Qingshuang had turned ashen as she whispered to Xia Ji, “I have never seen any martial exponent as deadly as her. She is just toying with us.”

Xia Ji and Qingshuang were extremely solemn and they were taking quick glances at each other.

Qingshuang said quietly, “We can’t perish here at the same time. Xia Ji, run at the first opportunity. I think I will still be able hold her off for a while.”

Xia Ji said immediately, “But…”

Qingshuang interrupted coldly, “No but. Now go!”

As she leapt forward, she had also pushed Xia Ji backward!

The alluring maiden hummed coldly as she flashed past Qingshuang and was next to Xia Ji. Before Xia Ji could react, she was struck by a tremendous windforce and she was floored onto the ground!

Qingshuang was startled as she quickly displayed the Windchaser sword technique followed by the Crescent Moonlight Cut as she flashed between Xia Ji and the alluring maiden.

The alluring maiden stepped aside as she blocked the attacking sword strokes with her fingers!

All of a sudden Qingshuang displayed a torrent of raining strokes and the fingers of the alluring maiden turned red with her blood!

The alluring maiden took several steps backward as she said unhappily, “It seems that I am the foolhardy one that attempt to fight someone this skilled with my mere fingers. I have almost lost my fingers!”

Qingshuang lifted Xia Ji up and said to the alluring maiden, “You still got a chance to flee while you are able to…”

Xia Ji cried out all a sudden, “Her fingers!…”

Even Qingshuang was startled for the wounds that were on the alluring maiden had completely healed!

They cried out at the same time, “Is this the…golden…”

The alluring maiden smiled, “That’s right. I have already mastered the Golden Invincible Body. Not only that, my celestial divinity is also much higher than you.”

Qingshuang asked coolly, “Who are you and what do you want?”

The alluring maiden smiled, “I don’t feel like telling who I am because you have attacked me so recklessly. When I am here, they are already in this state. You didn’t discern if I am foe or friend before attacking me. This doesn’t sound right at all.”

Xia Ji said coldly, “We don’t believe your crap on anything. Even if you are not a foe, you are still a celestial practitioner and can’t be trusted.”

The alluring maiden lit an alluring smile, “Fine, fine. To prove that I have no ill-intention, I am making a leave now. But oh, you have better comfort your little brother Jiang Le when he wakes up. Just in case, you do not know, the man earlier had just castrated him. That is none of my doing and business.”

Then she threw a silver token on the ground and said coolly, “This is the silver tablet of the Righteous Heaven Clan. Your clan is thereby invited to send its representatives before mid-autumn. I like this Jiang Le so please send him to us.”

Qingshuang was startled as she looked at Xia Ji. Who had not heard of the Righteous Heaven Clan? It is the most powerful leading celestial clan that is above the six major celestial clans. No celestial practitioners dare to trespass into their mountain domain of the Prime Mountains unless they were invited.

And every 60 years, they would give out their silver tokens to the various celestial clans to reveal the celestial secrets of the Righteous Heaven Clan to those that have the silver tokens. These protégés would then practice their celestial cultivation in the Righteous Heaven Clan until they could overcome their Emotion state of divinity.

Qingshuang asked, “You are really from the Righteous Heaven Clan?”

But the alluring maiden had already vanished from sight!

Xia Ji lowered her glance and said quietly, “The Righteous Heaven Clan only accept celestial protégés that are in the Divine State of Emotion and below. But our Jiang Le here hasn’t even overcome his divine calamity yet. Surely we can’t send him there? He is only courting his own death.”

Qingshuang said, “Let’s look at them first. Luckily she isn’t a dark celestial practitioner or I cannot imagine the consequences.”

Xia Ji nodded and called out to her protégé sister, “Xue’Er, are you alright? Please wake up…”

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Chapter 12

After a while later, Jiang Le was alone with Xue Ji as they strolled side by side in the mountain forests.

Jiang Le turned around and asked Xue Ji gently, “Senior Protégé Sister, you are afraid that I may escape so you are following me?”

Xue Ji answered with an alluring smile, “You have the mark of our sect on you. Even if you have wings, we will still be able to hunt you down. So don’t worry about it. You can try though.”

Jiang Le smiled as he paused in his tracks, “We’re in the open now and not in the Tranquil Palace anymore. Do you know that Swift Wind happens to be my fraternity name?”

Xue Ji laughed softly, “I really do not know! So you want to try escaping from me?”

Jiang Le grinned at her, “Nay. With such a lovely protégé sister that is alone with me now, I will be a fool to even try to escape, am I right? Maybe my dear Xue Ji will be the one that that will try to escape from a lecher like me.”

Xue Ji sighed softly, “Who is your dear? Mind your words. Do you know that how much attainment it will cost you if you do fall in love and have sexual relations? Therefore I will advise you to exercise some restraint and show a little respect for me, all for your wellbeing sake.”

She flashed Jiang Le a dangerous look, “Moreover, your martial skills are not as good as mine. Don’t say you wanna to lift your fingers on me, you won’t even have an opportunity to even touch me!”

But all of a sudden, she exclaimed aloud. “Who is there? Come out of your hiding…”

Before she could finish, she was knocked down on the ground by a windforce!

Jiang Le was startled as he caught sight of a shadow moving fast between them.

And then the shadow threw him a strike and Jiang Le parried with his scabbard just in the nick of time!

And in front of Jiang Le was a white robe man.

Jiang Le was startled by the sudden appearance of the white robe man for he had never seen anyone that could move as swift and as charismatic as him.

He asked slowly as he held onto the Divine Gallantry, “Who…are you?”

He knew that the white robe man was a dangerous foe because he was able to knock down Xue Ji with a single strike and he dare not be careless!

The white robe man smiled, “Good. You can block my attack with such a short notice. Impressive!”

Jiang Le clenched his fists and said coldly, “We have met before? You are that masked assailant that have ambushed me and caused me to fall down the cliff?”

The white robe man smiled broadly, “Alas, you are indeed smart. Then I shall reveal to you that I am also the one that had sent you that invitation.”

Jiang Le was immediately tensed up and said coldly, “Who are you and what do you want?”

The white robe man replied coolly, “Don’t you want to know what the highest level of swordplay is?”

Jiang Le growled, “You are baiting me.”

The white robe man said, “Am I right to say so, Huangfu Chuiyuan? You have defeated dozens of topnotch swordsmen in recent years. Your real name is Jiang Le but in the martial fraternity, you are known as Huangfu Chuiyuan. At least to them, you are pretty honest.”

Jiang Le smiled bitterly, “It seems that you have already known so much about me. I was a little careless that day and…”

The white robe man interrupted, “If you have not been in an intercourse with your lover that night and that you think that with the Divine Gallantry in your hands, you’re still able to defeat me?”

Jiang Le smiled as he unsheathed his divine sword, “With or without the Divine Gallantry, it is the same to me. Very soon, you will be a dead man. Your name and the name of your clan?”

The white robe man replied, “You may address me as the Desolate Old Man of the Six Realms Sect.”

Jiang Le smiled coldly, “You’re not so old yet you call yourself an old man.”

The white robe man smiled, “It is because that makes an interesting and respectful title. Don’t you agree?”

Jiang Le nodded, “I don’t disagree.”

The white robe man laughed, “That’s good. Say, let’s have our life and death duel right away. If you are able to win then I will let this beautiful maiden of yours go. If I am able to win then I will castrate you. What do you think?”

Jiang Le replied coldly, “If I am able to win then you will be dead. Whether you will let anyone go, is of no consequences.”

The white robe man grinned, “If I am able to win then don’t you think that it is considered your blessing to have witnessed a swordplay that is stronger than your Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike?”

Jiang Le hummed coldly, “You will regret it. However I do agree with your challenge. So where is your sword?”

The white robe man lifted his right hand forward, “I have no need of a sword. So Huangfu Chuiyuan, let me witness your Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike! Why don’t I let you have the benefit of the first strike?”

Jiang Le hummed coldly as he raised his sword in a flurrying display. In the next instant, an explosive amount of sword energies were imbued in his sword and he had flashed next to the white robe man, “If it is death wish that you have wished upon, I have no choice but to grant you!…”

The white robe man stared with his eyes in wonderment, “So this is the Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike…it is indeed extraordinary…”

Jiang Le said, “I didn’t want to display it. But only worthy opponents are able to witness my Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike…”

But to his utter surprise, the white robe man had deflected the tip of his sword with just his fingers and he was suddenly struck by a palm force on his chest that flung him backward!

Jiang Le coughed out blood as he turned ashen, “This is impossible. No one can see through my Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike. Especially not the first time…his reactions are just too supernatural….”

He was shocked because this white robe man had just defended and counter attacked against his Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike. His chest was supposedly to be his best defended position. No one could possibly have struck him in that position while the beaming sword energies of the Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike was in full display!

Jiang Le dropped his sword as his internal injuries seized him, “You have won. To think that there is someone that can break my sword technique so easily…Xue Ji, I am so sorry…”

The white robe man laughed jovially as he picked up the Divine Gallantry, “So your woman is now mine. And so tonight, I will use your divine sword to castrate you. You don’t have to feel sad because once you have embarked on the path of divinity, you won’t need this unnecessary part of your body anymore lest it destroys your hard earned attainment.”

Jiang Le did not question why he was able to pick his divine sword with such ease when not even Qingshuang was able to do so. But he had turned completely white when he had heard that this white robe man had intended to castrate him on the spot. For the very first time he was praying very hard that Qingshuang and Xia Ji would be here to aid him.

But a sudden thought struck him, “No! If they are here then they may come to harm as well…”

The white robe man said coldly as he raised the reflective blade of the Divine Gallantry, “This time, you won’t be as lucky as the last time.”

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Chapter 11

Qingshuang, Xue Ji and Xia Ji were taking Jiang Le at an astonishing pace up the mountains. As a matter of fact, they had been traveling for a day now but the distance that they had covered was akin to three days.

Luckily for Jiang Le, his swiftness movement skill was not weak so he followed them.

But when they had taken a turn to the right side of the lofty mountains, Jiang Le was alarmed as he quickly said, “You seem to know the way petty well? However, do you know that we are now encroaching upon the territory of the Thunder Herald Sect? They are a nasty batch of unorthodox cultists and won’t take too kindly to any intruders. I will suggest that we head another way before we are found out.”

Qingshuang took a soft glance at Jiang Le, seemingly smiling behind her veil before whispering. “In any case, it is too late. They are already here!”

There were thunderous flashes of light exploding around them as more than a hundred men wielding swords and sabres surrounded them.

A middle-age bearded man roared thunderously, “Do you think that you can intrude the domain of the Thunder Herald Sect just like this?”

Jiang Le hastily spoke, “Wait! We bear no ill-intention and is just passing by…”

Qingshuang interrupted as she lifted her eyes at the middle-age bearded man, “We are here to subjugate the Thunder Herald Sect. And who may you be?”

Jiang Le was stunned and he nearly coughed, “What? You didn’t tell me? This isn’t a time for jokes. Let’s us quickly apologize and leave.”

The middle-age bearded man roared with laughter, “You don’t know who I am? And you are here to subjugate our clan? This is so laughable.”

A demure maiden who was next to him began to wave her sword threatening, “Father, they are too insolent. Why don’t we just kill them with our thunder flashing bombs rather than waste our time talking to them?”

The middle-age bearded man laughed as he waved his daughter aside, “No hurry. I am Meng Qihuo, the Grandmaster of the Thunder Herald Sect. Just who are you guys and whose orders are you on? And who is the leader of your group?”

Qingshuang immediately said coldly, “Only a mere forty years had passed and have the Thunder Herald Sect forgotten the Tranquil Palace so readily?”

At the mention of the Tranquil Palace, Meng Qihuo began to turn ashen as he asked quietly, “You’re from the Tranquil Palace? Any proof?”

The demure maiden whispered impatiently, “Father, you don’t have to be so polite to them…”

Meng Qihuo shouted, “Shut up!”

The demure maiden was shocked for her father had never shouted at her before!

Qingshuang flashed out a gold and silver tablet, “Do you recognize the token of the Tranquil Palace? Are the present leadership of the Thunder Herald Sect so insolent to the Tranquil Palace?”

Meng Qihuo quickly shouted as he kneeled down, pulling his daughter onto the ground as well. “Kneel! Kneel!”

There were confusions as the protégés of the Thunder Herald Sect began to kneel onto the ground.

Meng Qihuo said respectfully, “Please forgive us for our insolences and we mean no disrespect. Even if I have a ten heads, I wouldn’t dare to offend the Sacred Messengers of the Tranquil Palace.”

Qingshuang nodded, “Good. At least you have not forgotten who the master and who the servant.”

Meng Qihuo muttered humbly, “Yes, yes…”

Jiang Le was surprised for he had not expected the powerful Thunder Herald Sect to be so obedient!

Qingshuang said, “Rise. Dismiss all the others and let’s have a little talk.”

Meng Qihuo nodded and gave a great shout, “Dismiss! I don’t want to see any of you!”

The demure maiden gasped, “Father…”

Meng Qihuo pushed her away, “Go quickly. I don’t want to repeat. Go!”

The demure maiden nodded and was gone.

Seeing that everyone was gone now, Meng Qihuo asked. “May I know what brings the esteemed Sacred Messengers here today?

Qingshuang replied, “Which are leading martial clans of the martial fraternity now?”

Jiang Le almost choked as he laughed and interrupted, “Oh well, you can ask me. Why did you have to come all the way to ask him that?”

Qingshuang smiled coldly, “That is my business and not yours.”

Meng Qihuo looked at the two Sacred Messengers cautiously but he decided to reply to the veiled maiden that was asking the question. That was because it was obvious that she was the leader of this group. So he answered, “The three most prominent martial clans are the Universal Truth Clan, the Sacred Sword Manor and the Ironblood Sect.”

Qingshuang growled softly and asked, “The Sacred Sword Manor? I have never heard of this clan before.”

Meng Qihuo smiled awkwardly, “It is a newly arising prominent martial clan. It is said that the swordplay of the Sacred Sword Manor is ranked within the top five swordplay of the martial fraternity. In fact, in recent years the young master of the Sacred Sword Manor, Huangfu Chuiyuan is said to have defeated sword master after one another from numerous prominent sword clans.”

Qingshuang muttered softly, “The Sacred Sword Manor? Interesting. What are his sword styles like? Any special techniques?”

Meng Qihuo replied, “Accordingly to the martial hearsay, it has light resemble to the styles of Swallow Slash and the Tang quickdraw techniques. Their sword techniques are the Masterstroke Style and the Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike.”

Qingshuang hummed coldly, “Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike? What an insolent name. What is it like?”

Meng Qihuo said wryly, “I have really no idea. The few people that have seen this extraordinary technique are no longer alive or are keeping mum about it. All I can say is that it is rumored to be extremely swift…”

Jiang Le yawned softly, “And extremely deadly. Is that so?”

Xue Ji giggled as she winked at Jiang Le, “Someone here isn’t too impressed!”

Jiang Le laughed as he tapped his sword scabbard, “Who cares a heck for any Masterstrokes and the Sacred Heaven Beyond Strike.”

Meng Qihuo smiled bitterly as he looked at Jiang Le, “I am sure that the Sacred Messengers are unequalled in the martial fraternity…”

Qingshuang interrupted coldly, “Stop your flattering.”

She turned around and said coldly to Jiang Le, “Can you please go away if you are not interested?”

Jiang Le laughed as he turned around, “If that’s your wish then so be it.”

Xue JI winked at Xia Ji before she laughed softly, “I am going to follow him. Just in case, he decides to run away.”

Xia Ji giggled softly, “I dare him to run away unless he does not value his life!”

Jiang Le shrugged his shoulder and laughed off her remarks, “Whatever. Don’t be so mean, my senior protégé sisters.”


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Chapter 10

The morning sun felt warm and comforting.

Jiang Le was delighted as he shouted excitedly, “We are out of the valley at long last! Woohoo, finally!”

He had no idea how long they had been traveling through the winding passages of the desolate valley but when they had finally ascended to the top, he was joyous.

Qingshuang, Xue Ji and Xia Ji looked at him and were amused.

Jiang Le shouted excitedly, “This is freedom!”

Xia Ji hummed coldly and threw her bundle to him, “Hey junior protégé, carry this.”

Jiang Le blinked and said, “This isn’t mine…”

But before he could finish what was in his mind, Xue Ji and Qingshuang had both thrown their bundles at him, forcing him to catch it. “What…does this mean…”

Qingshuang smiled gently, “That means that you are to be our carrier, junior protégé.”

Xue Ji gave him a little nudge and laughed merrily, “Great hero Jiang Le, this will be your first major heroic task in the martial fraternity. So, do it well.”

Jiang Le muttered as he gathered the three bundles in his arms, “Whatever.”

He sniffed at Qingshuang’s bundle and thought, “It is so fragrant. I wonder what her undergarment look like?”

Xue Ji interrupted his thoughts and chuckled, “What are you doing? Don’t just stand there. Are you unwilling to help me to carry my little bundle?”

Jiang Le reacted quickly and laughed jovially, “For my senior protégé sister Xue Ji, I am the most willing of course!”

Xue Ji clapped her hands as she smiled enchantingly, “My good protégé junior brother! It is so good to have a protégé junior brother. I feel so bad for troubling you!”

“Not at all, not at all!” Jiang Le laughed awkwardly, feeling a little shy that the mesmerizing Xue Ji was showering him with affectionate attention.

Xia Ji giggled, “Thank you my good protégé junior brother!”

Jiang Le laughed jovially, “We are all from the same protégé clan. This is really nothing at all. I am a strong man and I am glad to be of some services.”

Qingshuang muttered sarcastically, “Maybe that is the only service that he can be of good use. When troubles come, we may even have to protect him. I hope he stays out of trouble.”

Jiang Le was abashed as he replied almost incoherently, “I am not that useless you know and you can depend on me to protect you. So just sit back and relax while I do the job.”

Xue Ji grabbed his arm and nodded delightfully, “Brother Jiang Le, you’re so great. Your protégé sister Xue’Er is not afraid anymore.”

Xia Ji grabbed his other arm and nodded eagerly, “Same here, Brother Jiang Le! With you around, Xia’Er is not scared as well!”

Jiang Le quickly patted his chest, “Count on me, protégé sisters!”

Qingshuang flashed her displeasure, “At this rate, it’ll take us forever to get to our destination. Stop flattering him and don’t get to close to him.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “You sound like I am some monster.”

Qingshuang hummed coldly, “Not some monster but a demon, a lecherous demon.”

Jiang Le grinned and cast a wry look at her, “If I am a demon then you’re a demoness. A demon and a demoness, we are so compatible!”

Qingshuang gave him an annoyed look but she was soon smiling, “Very soon you will know what a demoness I am.”

She turned to Xue Ji and Xia JI, saying. “We are outside now and we should veil ourselves accordingly lest we would attract unwanted attention.”

Xue Ji and Xia Ji were suddenly quiet and obediently veiled their faces!

This was not a request but a command!

Jiang Le mused and said coolly, “With three such enticing maidens here, it is really hard not to attract any attention. But rest assures that I will be here to protect all of you in our travels.”

Qingshuang hummed coldly, “You only have to look out for yourself. I don’t want to be the one saving you.”

But she quickly softened her eyes and said, “Jiang Le.”

Jiang Le was a little startled by her expressions and answered, “Yes?”

She said softly, “This is the time of troubles and the Heavens Calamity will soon befall upon us. Do you have any idea how perilous our situation is? The dark celestial practitioners are not what your level of competency is able to deal with. They are ruthless and vicious…”

Jiang Le muttered, “Oh?…”

She looked at him and said sternly, “They will rip your heart from your beating body, eat your heart and drink your blood. They have red eyes and may be easy to identify. But once they have reached the Crisis Level, their red eyes will vanish and you will no longer be able to discern their true self. So be on your guard at all times. The dark celestial practitioners have eyes and ears everywhere, do you understand and is aware of the dangers that we will be in?”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “You are just trying to scare me.”

She answered coolly, “Our enemies are all super exponents and some are even supernatural exponents. At your present level it is too unfathomable for you to even comprehend until it is too late. Our mission is to quickly investigate the place that you have mentioned and retreated back to the safe haven of the Tranquil Palace. In the case when we are really discovered by the dark celestial practitioners and cannot defeat them, we shouldn’t go back to the Tranquil Palace anymore. When needed, we will take our own lives to safeguard the Tranquil Palace!”

Jiang Le was slightly disturbed by her solemn words because it did not sound like she was kidding with him.

Then she turned around and said softly, almost inaudibly. “Even if I would to perish, I will not let you perish. That’s because you may represent the last hope of the Eternal Virtue Sect. You do not need to question why because many years later, you will be able to understand that our sacrifices are a necessary.”

Jiang Le stole a look at Xue Ji and Xia Ji; they too, were deadly solemn and their smiles had already vanished from their countenances.

All of a sudden Jiang Le roared with laughter and broke the deadly atmosphere, “I don’t need protection. I am good enough on my own. I can protect myself better than you think. Dark celestial practitioners or not, I am not afraid. What is most important now is to find some great wines and bottoms up!”

Then he took several strides to the east as he beats his chest, “What are you all waiting for? Come, let’s us be on our way and appreciate the scenery!”

Qingshuang replied coolly as she walked to another direction, “That is the wrong way. We should go in this direction.”

Jiang Le turned around and said, “I recognized the surrounding hills and the position of the sun. I can’t be wrong for sure…”

Qingshuang smiled mysteriously, “Except that we have something to do first before we’re headed to the place that you’ve mentioned.”

Jiang Le groaned softly as he walked to her, “Whatever you say. But don’t blame me for not warning you first that that is the wrong way.”

Xue Ji tapped Jiang Le and smiled, “Brother Jiang Le, we do have a little business to attend first.”

Just as Jiang Le was about to ask what the business was, Xia Ji tugged him on his sleeve and laughed softly. “Soon you will know. Brother Jiang Le, why don’t you tell us more about the martial fraternity and your adventures first? Which are the most prominent sects at the moment and what are most earthshaking things that had happened in the past 20 years?”

Jiang Le laughed aloud as he said, “There is no one that knows more about the martial fraternity than me. Oh well, where should we start?…”

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Chapter 9

That very night, Jiang Le was pondering in his bed chamber the events of the past few days.

Who had sent him that unknown invitation and who was that masked assailant that had ambushed him soon after?

He had thought that he was dead for sure after falling down the steep cliff and stumbled into the sacred grounds of the Tranquil Palace where he encountered a group of mysterious maidens that identified themselves as the protégés of the Eternal Virtue Sect?

He had never heard of their sect nor a place called the Tranquil Palace and yet he was now one of them!

“Forcing to join them in any case is the exact word,” he muttered to himself.

But not before he could pass their celestial trials which almost took his life!

He unsheathed the Celestial Gallantry and stared at the shining reflection, “These mysterious maidens who claimed to be celestial practitioners and their unfathomable martial skills…every one of them is equaled to a super exponent of the martial fraternity. Even I am not their match and I have regarded myself as one of the top tier martial expert. Now who is the frog in the well…”

He heaved a soft sigh, “And this Qingshuang the Verdant Scarlet Fairy, she is really interesting. Her mannerism looks like an old friend of mine…”

Even now he could still feel a soft tingling on his face as he recalled how she had slapped him when they had first met as she smiled gently, “You deserve a slap because you are too stupid to realize the situation that you are in. You ought to be begging for mercy and pleading for your pathetic existence.”

And there was his new protégé mistress Yueling and her two other protégé sisters, Xia Ji and Xue Ji.

They had threatened to forever confine him to the Tranquil Palace but now Yueling had suddenly said that he was allowed to go to the outside world and to retrieve the sword that he had mentioned, although that sword may be just a fragment of a dream and not his exact memories.

He wished that the past few days had been a dream though it was not the case. His wounds had miraculously healed and his vigor has increased tremendously ever since he had taken the Sacred Dragon Blood Divine Pill.

He muttered, “So I am a celestial practitioner now? And that at the first light of dawn, the Verdant Scarlet Fairy and I are to set off at once.”

“You’re afraid to travel with me?”

Jiang Le was startled as he jumped out of his bed and saw that it was the Verdant Scarlet Fairy!

Why didn’t he hear her coming?

He stammered, “Of course I’m not! Why should I?”

Qingshuang smiled gently, “Then why aren’t you sleeping yet?”

Jiang Le growled softly, “That’s because I have many things in my mind that is perplexing to me. How long have you been eavesdropping on me? ”

Qingshuang sat down and poured herself a cup of water as she said coolly, “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on you but you are muttering to yourself ceaselessly and I don’t particular like it when someone is constantly putting my name in his mouth.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “That doesn’t mean that you’re not eavesdropping on me.”

Qingshuang lifted her phoenix eyes and looked at Jiang Le, slightly startled by his reply before she replied coolly, “If you have not been muttering my name then you will not have known that I have been eavesdropping and if you have not known then it doesn’t count as eavesdropping.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “My Protégé Aunt, please spare me your warped logic. I surrender!”

Qingshuang lit a smile, “Finally you have decided to be respectfully to me.  Well then you shall be forgiven.”

Jiang Le asked, “My respectfully Protégé Aunt, what brings your honor presence late in the night? Surely you’re not thinking of chatting or drinking with me?”

Qingshuang gave a soft chuckle, “Naturally not and it’s isn’t that late yet. I have come tell you that there is a change of plan. Xue Ji and Xia Ji will be traveling with us as well.”

Jiang Le’s eyes beamed with delight, “This is really good news. With three ladies then the journey won’t be so bored..”

Qingshuang interrupted as she glanced at him coldly, “So you think that it will be boring with me around?”

Jiang Le smiled, “Of course not. I am afraid that you won’t be safe around me.”

Qingshuang looked at him and said, “Oh?”

Jiang Le laughed and blew the side of her ear gently and said, “I am a man and you are a tempting woman. You may not have the desires in your heart but I have not yet overcome my mortal desires. So do you think that you will be safe with me?”

Qingshuang’s ears had redden and her eyes looked a little confused as she stammered, “You dare?! I am your Protégé Aunt!”

Jiang Le laughed softly, “I’ll be stupid to let such a desirable lady be my Protégé Aunt. In my eyes, you are only fit to be my lover. If I have a choice then this is what I will be choosing.”

Qingshuang was flustered as she got up hastily and reached for the entrance, saying. “This is so outrageous. I’ll let your Protégé Mistress know and see that you got your due sect punishments!”

Just as she was about to walk off, her left hand were caught by Jiang Le who said. “Wait!”

Qingshuang shot him a cold stare and said, “So you are afraid now?”

Jiang Le was suddenly solemn, “I’m not and I know that you are only making an empty threat.”

Qingshuang said coldly, “Then what do you want? Let go of my hand now.”

Jiang Le loosened his grip on her as he managed a weak smile, “Pardon my rudeness. Since you are already here, can we have a little chat?”

Qingshuang replied coldly, “Then end your frivolous remarks.”

Jiang Le gave a wry smile, “Alright, alright. Please have a seat.”

Qingshuang did not take the seat but asked instead, “I am not interested in any chat. Quickly pour out what is in your stomach.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly as he looked blankly at her, “You know, I don’t even know if I can trust you. I don’t even know if you guys are fooling me and telling me that you are centuries old and are celestial practitioners. I have seen all these fantastic things but I don’t even trust my eyes now. For all I know, these could be illusions that you have setup for me. So what exactly are you? How can I trust you?”

Qingshuang sat down as she looked at him, “That’s a lot of questions and I think I help myself to a seat first.”

She said softly, “You’re confused by your new identify. You are asking if you are able to trust us but let me ask you, why should we trust you in the first place?”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “That is my question. Why are you asking me the same question?”

She replied with a soft sigh, “That’s because we don’t know your background and who you are. For all we know, you may be a spy sent to us by our enemies. This is our place and you are a stranger. Why should we trust a stranger? We are cautious of you and that’s the norm. Do you think that you ought to be the one that is supposed to gain our trust first and not the other way? You may think that we have a grand design in place for you so that is why we are confining you. You’re so wrong. You have disturbed our peaceful meditation and we have never wanted to do anything with you in the first place. You have thought too highly of yourself and suspect that we have a plot in waiting for you. If you mistrust us then why should we trust you as well?”

Jiang Le was startled as he murmured, “That’s right. You don’t know my background…”

But he quickly composed himself to say, “No wait. I do have some renown in the martial fraternity. It is not difficult to find out who I am…”

Qingshuang interrupted coldly, “Except that I can crush you like a little ant anytime and forgo all the tricks. Do you think that your puny skills can be shown off in front of me…”

Jiang Le smiled weakly and said, “Maybe I deserve another slap because I am too stupid to realize my current situation. I should be begging for mercy and pleading for my pathetic existence from you.

This caused Qingshuang to chuckle softly and tiny tears should be seen from the brim of her eyes, “Maybe you are not so stupid after all so I won’t give you a slap.”

Jiang Le suddenly found his Protégé Aunt to be really adorable and he cursed the fact that she was his Protégé Aunt.

Jiang Le laughed and said, “I am not that pathetic. I have a renowned reputation in the martial fraternity…”

Qingshuang rose up as she interrupted him, “Quit your boasting and get a good night rest. Don’t blame us if you are unable to keep pace with us.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “Farewell my Protégé Aunt.”

He heaved a soft sigh as he jumped into his bed as he thought, “Jiang Le, Jiang Le. Maybe you ought to murmur only in your mind next time. Hmm, tomorrow is a great day, Maybe it is a real chance to escape from my confinement. Maybe I should really escape. I cannot imagine staying in such a place for years.”

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Chapter 8

Jiang Le stared at the Celestial Mirror Pool and began to count the stars. The stars were not always in the same position but were constantly moving, making it difficult for him to remember.

He thought, “If I try to remember all 1080 stars, it will be difficult to remember their exact positions. But if I try to remember one star and its position, it is not difficult because it may be moving but it always returns to the same position after a while. After I remember one star position then I will move on to the next.”

He took a glance at the four maidens but they were had their eyes closed and he could not even hear their breathing sounds. Their mastery of the breathing techniques was astonishing on the master level!

He returned to the Celestial Mirror Pool and began to follow his plan. But after a while, he was sighing miserable. “By the time I am watching the hundredth star; I have already forgotten the pattern of the previous stars except those at the start. This is really a test of my mental endurance and focus. The more I rush myself to remember, the faster I will forget. To remember these stars, just memory alone is not enough. I ought to relax my mind first and retry again.”

Others would try until they were exhausted mentally. But Jiang Le was different. He always had his own bright way of approaching problems from another angle and he was not one to give up easily. He had always been patience because he knew that a wandering pugilist like him that had no influential background would find it hard to survive in the intrigues of the martial fraternity.

So he started by counting the stars as he thought, “Is that really 1080 stars? It will be hard to count since the stars are not stationery but let see how it goes from here.”

By the time he had counted the three hundredth stars, he was thinking. “Why is that the more I have counted, I have found these stars patterns to be so vaguely familiar?”

When he had finished counting all 1080 stars, he was smiling because he did not even miss a single star even though his eyes were burdened with fatigue from seeing too many stars!

He was also nervous at the same time as he stared at the Celestial Mirror Pool, thinking. “If these stars are the constellations of the heavens then there must a pattern. Why is that I feel that these stars so closely resemble the intricate formula of the swordplay…”

All of a sudden he jumped up as he stood and stared at the Celestial Mirror Pool as the images of all the patterns of the stars flashed into his mind!

He muttered almost incoherent, “I can remember!”

He turned around and said, “Can I go to the Celestial Revealing Pool now?”

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy was the first to open her eyes and speak, “It is barely even half a day and you are giving up so soon?”

Jiang Le smiled weakly as he took a quick glance at Yue Ling. Even though she appeared to be composed but from her solemn expression eyes, she seemed to be expressing her disappointment at him.

Yue Ling nodded lightly and said softly, “Do you need more time? You have only this one chance.”

Jiang Le smiled even more weakly as he firmly said, “No need my protégé teacher. I am done.”

Even Xia Ji and Xue Ji were looking at him with a disappointing look but he was firm so he walked to the Celestial Revealing Pool on his own.

Yue Ling said with a soft sigh as she walked next to him, “Since you have decided then so be it. I hope that you know what you are doing. This concerns your divine fate and this testing is the basis of your confidence level in your future trials.”

Jiang Le nodded weakly as the Verdant Scarlet Fairy, Qingshuang, Xue Ji and Xia Ji had also gathered near him.

Yue Ling said gently, “Now put your hands into the pool and the reflections of your memories will surface.”

Jiang Le looked at the dark pool and thought, “Isn’t it too surreal to be true? Can this pool really reveal the number of stars that I have remembered? Never mind that first, let’s try.”

As he was about to put forth his hands, he was thinking with fond memories. “I have remembered seeing my protégé teacher lying naked in the pool. What a good sight…”

As his hands were in the pool, the black reflection of the black pool disappeared and a reflection of his naked protégé teacher was lying on a pool of water. And in the scene, he was caressing her bosom…

Jiang Le was so startled that he quickly pulled his hands out of the pool and he was flushing so red that he was speechless!

Yue Ling’s ears were completed red as she said coldly, “So is that what you are thinking when you are supposed to be meditating on your divine test?”

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy, Xue Ji and Xia Ji were all averting their eyes and their ears were all red as well.

Xue Ji was muttering incoherently, “I didn’t see anything…”

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy had lost her usual cool composure and was saying weakly, “He, he…he is really a lecher!…”

As for Xia Ji, her flushes were redder than the others and she was speechless!

Jiang Le was stammering, “No, let me…explain…I was checking for heartbeat…that isn’t what you are all thinking…”

He panicky thought, “It is over. Jiang Le, Jiang Le! What are you thinking? Curse you! You can’t explain yourself anymore…”

Yue Ling seemed to have tears in her eyes as she said coldly, “I am so disappointed in you!…”

At the same time Jiang Le had put his hand into the black pool again. He did not know how to explain himself out of this awkward situation!

Instantly the reflection of the black pool turned into the starry heavens and mirrored exactly the same as the Celestial Mirror Pool.

Yue Ling, the Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang, Xue Ji and Xia Ji were all stunned for it mirrored exactly all the 1080 stars and even their swirling positions without missing a single movement!

They were all looking at Jiang Le with unbelievable eyes.

Xia Ji who had flushed the most was the first to ask, “How did you do it? This is impossible! No one is able to do it except a Celestial!”

Even Yue Ling was looking at Jiang Le in astonishment, “You can really remember the positions of the stars? How did you do it?”

How did Jiang Le accomplish this was the question that was in everyone’s mind!

Jiang Le was glad that he now got everyone distracted from what was happening earlier. He quickly said, “I have seen the positions of these celestial stars before. I can only remember a third of it in the past but now everything starts to come back to me.”

Yue Ling asked with a startled surprise, “Where have you seen it?”

Jiang Le was trying to contain his excitement, “In the secret chamber where I told you about…when I was just a kid…”

Even the Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang could not contain her excitement, “What secret chamber?”

Xue Ji shook her head as she kept muttering, “It is impossible. Impossible, impossible, even for a celestial practitioner to remember all the positions of the stars…”

Xia Ji was staring blankly at Jiang Le, not knowing what to say and she was blinking her eyes nonstop.

Jiang Le laughed softly, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are you all looking at me like this?”

Yue Ling looked at Jiang Le intently, “If you have known what you have done, you will be stunned as well. Do you know that hundreds of thousands of celestial initiates and practitioners alike have spent all their lives trying to unravel the mysteries of the celestial stars and yet it elude them. Every hundredth star contains a hidden star formation that will shift its position from the last point while the last eighty stars each contain an intricate star celestial formation each and it can contain 6400 changes.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “Lucky you did not tell me earlier or I would really be freaked out.”

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang was trembling, “He is really a genius. No, not even a genius can visualize the entire map of the celestial stars. He is not mortal…”

Yue Ling said quietly, “You are the first person to ever remember the entire celestial star map. Your future may be boundless. How did you do that?”

Jiang Le heaved a soft sigh, “I don’t know. I just remember. When I was just a kid, I was drawn to a levitating sword in a secret chamber. There are many stars within the sword and I was mesmerized by it. However I have long forgotten about it until I see the same celestial stars pattern again.”

Yue Ling asked, “Where is that sword now?”

Jiang Le shook his head, “I don’t know. I told you I was orphan after that tragedy.”

Yue Ling said solemnly, “That heavenly relic may not be an ordinary divine sword. It may even be a celestial sword or an immortal sword. We must find it.”

Jiang Le asked, “Find it?”

Yue Ling nodded and said quietly, “No matter what the cost is, we have to find it before the other celestial practitioners. If it is already in their hands then we must seize it.”

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Chapter 7

Jiang Le followed his protégé teacher to another winding passage before entering a spacious hall. It had an aura of grandeur and he was awestruck by the beautiful walls, the pools and the yellow curtains that were there.

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang, Xue Ji and Xia Ji were already waiting in the hall when they had approached.

He was a little afraid of the Verdant Scarlet Fairy as she had slapped him real hard the first time but as soon as he caught sight of their enchanting figures, he was thinking as he looked at their perked bosoms. “Let bygones be bygones. We are one protégé clan and we have to get along for many years to come.”

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy said aloud, “I have thought that we should give an appropriate welcome to our new protégé but it seems that he has plenty of disturbing thoughts.”

Xia Ji smiled sweetly, “Dirty thoughts I suppose,”

Xue Ji laughed softly, “Oh really?”

Jiang Le smiled as he quickly bowed with his hands, “My respects to Protégé Aunt and Sisters!” But he was actually thinking, “Terrible, is this the start of my misery? They may be beautiful but they all have thorns, sharp thorns!”

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang asked with a amuse smile, “Are you ready for the testing?”

Jiang Le nodded slowly as he took in a deep breath and proclaimed loudly, “I am ready!”

Yue Ling walked to a crystal clear pool and gently tugged him along, “Did you see this large pool? This is the Celestial Mirror Pool.”

Jiang Le nodded slowly as he stared at the crystal clear. As he looked into the pool, he noticed that shiny dots began to surface in the pool. He was slightly startled because there were no lightings around!

Yue Ling explained, seemingly reading his mind. “There are 1080 stars in this pool. These represent the 360 visible stars and the 720 hidden stars that form our celestial constellations. You have to remember the movement and location of each of the stars. This will test your aptitude and your mental focus. You have to be very serious about this for this determines your self-confidence level in your long journey as a celestial practitioner. Do you have any questions?”

Jiang Le took a look at the rapid moving shining dots in the reflection of the pool and asked, “How much time do I have to remember and after I have remembered, how do I tell you if I remember?”

Yue Ling said unhurriedly as she pointed out to a black pool that was behind her, “That is the Celestial Revealing Pool. All you have to do is to concentrate and put both your hands inside and your memory will reveal inside it.”

Jiang Le was astonished, not believing what he was hearing. He had wanted to interrupt but thought that it was wiser not to say anything.

Yue Ling continued, “You have three days to meditate in front of the Celestial Mirror Pool. However, you may give up at any point of the time. During this period, you are required to fast so if you need any food or water now, you may request for it. At any point of time, you can choose to go to the Celestial Revealing Pool for your final testing.”

She paused for a while before she looked intently at Jiang Le, “I hope that you will take this test seriously. Because I have already accepted into the Tranquil Palace as a protégé, you will not fail the testing. You will need to remember at least a hundred stars in order to be accepted as our clan protégé. I hope that you use as much time and endure as much as possible.”

When she was looking at Jiang Le, he could feel his heart pounding hard and he managed a weak smile, “I will not fail. After all, I am regarded as a genius in the martial fraternity…”

Yue Ling interrupted with a resigned soft sigh, “Pride will only get into your celestial way. In order to reach a new divine state, you must cast away all your past glory and achievement.”

Though her words were simple, it pierced through Jiang Le’s heart as he looked intently at her. He thought, “My protégé teacher is so sincere and she wishes for me to do well. I should not fail her. After all, I am a genius.. no, I am not a genius. I am just a mortal trying to be immortal. Only when you are an immortal then it is not too late to declare yourself a genius!”

He asked with a grin as he looked at the Verdant Scarlet Fairy, Xue Ji and Xia Ji, “I got it now. Just wondering, I wonder how good is good? I am sure that my fellow protégé seniors are much better than me.”

The Verdant Scarlet Fairy noted the sarcasm in his remarks but she was smiling, “I can only remember six hundred and thirty of the positions of the stars.”

Xue Ji smiled gently and said, “Alas, I can only remember three hundred of the star positions. I am really not that good.”

Xia Ji smiled weakly, “I can only manage two hundred and seventy of the star positions.”

Yue Ling said simply, “Eight hundred and ten. Do you have any more questions or require some food?”

Jiang Le shook his head, “No more questions. I am good for now so I like to take the test now.”

As soon he had said that, he was startled to see his Protégé Teacher Yueling, the Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang, Xue Ji and Xia Ji had already positioned themselves in a meditating pose!

He asked, “You are not leaving?”

Yue Ling had already closed her eyes as she said softly, “We will fast with you as well. When you are ready then we will end our meditation.”

Jiang Le was startled and he was feeling remorse as he thought, “If I starve myself for 3 days then they are going to starve for 3 days as well?”

He sighed softly as he began to sit down in front of the Celestial Mirror Pool and began to count the stars in the reflection of the pool.

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Chapter 6

Yue Ling said quietly, “Your first lesson is to remember the intricacy formula of the celestial practice by heart. Genesis, Enlighten, Emotion, Transverse, Seventh Sense, Crisis, Ascend.”

“Genesis is the beginning of your celestial beginning. This is the stage when all your senses will be heightened. You have overcome the limitation of life and death, you are not yet an immortal but you will cease to age. Only one in ten celestial protégés will be able to survive their encounter with the Divine Calamity and reach this stage.”

“Enlighten is the second of the celestial stage and is the only stage that the Divine Calamity won’t descend upon you. You have awakened and your body is half-celestial. No matter how grievous your wounds are, as long as you have one vital breath left, you won’t die so easily. However If you are unable to realize the true enlightenment and reach the Emotion Stage in time, you will be disintegrated into dust when it is time up.”

“If your first Divine Calamity is your first major heavenly tribulation then the Emotion Stage will be your second major heavenly tribulation that you have to overcome. Only one in ten of the celestial practitioners will be able to overcome this stage. This is also the stage where most of the celestial practitioners lose control of the demon of their hearts and become dark celestial practitioners.”

“The Transverse Level is the harmonizing of your energy levels as one. Even before you have reached this stage, you must be wary for whatever qi energy techniques that you have learnt previously may prove to be your downfall. Only one in three of the celestial practitioners survive to overcome the last level of the Transverse Stage. Your two protégé sisters Xue Ji and Xia Ji are at the early stage of the Transverse Level.”

“The Seventh Sense is the pinnacle level of all your innate senses, alertness and reflexes. Unless you wish to court your own death, you must be careful to avoid celestial practitioners from this level onward. My protégé sister Qingshuang is at the Intermediate Seventh Sense Level. ”

“Next is the Crisis Stage…”

She was melancholy and with a soft sigh, “Should I succeed in my Divine Calamity then I would have reached the Intermediate Crisis Level. The Divine Alma Pearl has preserved my life…”

She paused for a while before continuing, “I have already used it for the third time. Alas, I am too weak. The Crisis Level is also called the Transmigration Crisis. It is where your third major heavenly tribulation will occur. When you have successfully reached the Crisis Level, your eyes will lose its dim and turn gray as the darkness before the dawn…”

Jiang Le thought with a sudden realization, “No wonder her eyes are gray!”

“Only one in ten of the celestial practitioners will ever survive this stage and this stage is many times harder than the other levels.”

“Should the Crisis Level be overcome then the eyes of the celestial practitioner will turn golden and they will reach the Ascend Level. The Ascend Level has only one stage because that is already the final stage and they cannot remain in the mortal realm for too long lest it affects the balance of the heavens and the earth. At this point, they would soon ascend to the Celestial Realm.”

Jiang Le had already turned pale as he listened on. He had thought that as a celestial practitioner, he was supposed to gain immortality but it seemed that what awaits him is eventually death! What are the odds of ascending to the heavens?”

Yue Ling seemed to hear his thoughts and said gently, “Now do you realize how much hardship and hard work that you have to put as a celestial practitioner?”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “It seems harder than I expect. I have thought that I can be an immortal simply by joining a celestial clan and be a celestial practitioner.”

Yue Ling nodded at his honesty, “Once you are a celestial practitioner, you will be constantly racing against time to reach one level after the next level. It is because you can only remain in each stage for 60 years. A full celestial divinity level consists of 180 years. If you fail to reach the next stage, you will be destroyed by the Divine Calamity. The only exception is the Ascend Level celestial practitioners; they can only remain in the mortal realm for 60 days.”

Jiang Le muttered, “60 years to a stage, 180 years to a level. There are seven celestial stages minus one, so that’s six, 180 years multiple by 6 is 1080 years, that’s the time that I have…”

Yue Ling said quietly as she made a prediction rapidly with her fingers, “Jiang Le, your Divine Calamity will be forthcoming in less than six month time. You must be prepared for it.”

Jiang Le was startled as he jumped out, “So soon?! I don’t even know what I should do!”

He had returned to the lesson earlier as he muttered out, “Only one in ten of the celestial protégés will be able to survive their first encounter with the Divine Calamity and reach the Genesis Stage…”

Yue Ling whispered softly, “Do not be afraid. Don’t forget we still have the Divine Alma Pearl and you are the master of the Celestial Gallantry. It is rare for a celestial practitioner to possess a divine sword and your divine sword will increase your odds in overcoming your Divine Calamity.”

Jiang Le asked, “Protégé teacher, you don’t have a divine sword? Why can’t you use the Celestial Gallantry?”

Yue Ling shook her head, “It is the only heavenly relic and divine sword that we got. That’s because the divine sword chooses its own master. You have seen its earlier form? In our hands, it is just a heavy broken sword but in your hands it has transfigured into its true form.”

Jiang Le nodded slowly as he slowly recalled the scene when he had first seen the Celestial Gallantry, “It’s a heavy sword but why is that it is able to levitate on its own?”

Yue Ling replied, “I cannot explain fully. The heavenly relics originate from the heavens or…”

She was melancholy as she said, “Or can be created when a celestial practitioner fails the final stage of the Crisis Level. Who knows, maybe my remains will be turned into a heavenly relic when my end comes. In either case, it seems that a mysterious force is pulling it towards the heavens where it should be. Maybe when we are able to ascend to the heavens then we will be able to fully understand the mysteries of the heavens.”

Jiang Le was still fascinated by the past scene of the levitating heavenly relic as he seemed to be trying to recall something.

All of a sudden he shouted excitingly, “I have previously seen another one of the heavenly relic. I have almost forgotten about it.”

Yue Ling was startled, “You have seen it before? Impossible!”

Jiang Le said as he narrowed his brows to recall, “When I was very young, I have seen it in a secret chamber. I remember seeing a broken sword hovering in the air exactly like when I have seen the Celestial Gallantry and I have reached out to touch it.”

Yue Ling blinked at Jiang Le, “Serious?”

Jiang Le laughed jovially, “Really. After my adventure into the secret chamber was discovered, my father and grandfather gave me dozens of whippings. They made me sworn never to tell anyone and forced me to forget what I have seen. Only when I have seen the hovering heavenly relic again, did I recall my childhood memories. I don’t even know if that is dream as it happens such a long time ago.”

Yue Ling said quietly, “You have sworn to your close relations never to reveal to anyone about the heavenly relic but you have told me. So how about your oath that you’ve made earlier?”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “Surely you don’t think that a five year old would be able to know the meaning of an oath at that time? I will definitely uphold my oaths, after all I have now grown up.”

She nodded with a soft sigh, “Jiang Le, you must always remember that our oaths are sacred. All celestial practitioners hold their oaths sacred. If you fail to honor your oaths then your Divine Calamity will destroy you, do you understand? A celestial practitioner never promises lightly. Got it?”

Jiang Le nodded, “Protégé teacher, I will heed your teachings.”

Yue Ling nodded as she said, “Your close relations may be celestial practitioners as well. Do you know? If so then I should never have accepted you into the Tranquil Palace in the first place.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly and there was sadness in his expressions, “I don’t know if my parents and close relations are celestial practitioners or not. I am an orphan now for my entire clan was massacred when I am eight. I have only survived because my aunt had carried me and had thrown herself into the dry well…she had used her body to shelter me…”

His voice was hoarse and he was trembling as he brought back the painful memories, “She told me before she closed her eyes, Jiang Le, if you want to live then you must keep quiet for three days, if you still got the strength, you must use all your strength to climb up the well, you must avenge your family, they are demons and they are the devourer of hearts, their eyes are red and their fingernails are purple.”

He gave an anguish outcry, “Father, mother! My brother and sister! My beloved aunt! Until today, I have not found the whereabouts of these demons!”

“They are the dark celestial practitioners. They consume the hearts of mortals to sustain their life and consume the hearts of the other celestial practitioners to advance their dark celestial practice. The purple fingernails are the insignia of the Seven Malevolent Sect. They are a major dark celestial clan. Forget about your revenge. You will only be courting your own death!” Yue Ling said quietly. She did not know how to comfort him and only stating matter of fact.

Jiang Le looked at Yue Ling with a weird expression, “The Seven Malevolent Sect…the Seven Malevolent Sect…dark celestial practitioners…finally I have a clue now. Father, mother, I have finally found your killers!”

He grabbed Yue Ling’s shoulders and said haltingly, “Protégé teacher! Aren’t you my protégé teacher now? Help me to take my vendetta!”

Yue Ling pushed Jiang Le flurrying away with her sleeves, “Child, the Seven Malevolent Sect is stronger than us. Their protégé grandmaster the Old Venerable Sage Sha Moshen is rumored to be at the late stage of the Crisis Level. Moreover I have no idea where the location of the Seven Malevolent Sect is!”

Jiang Le was startled, “You don’t know?”

Yue Ling nodded gently, “Very few celestial clans will reveal their whereabouts or they will soon be the targets of the other celestial clans.”

Jiang Le looked extremely disappointed…

Yue Ling comforted him gently, “Though that may be the case but it doesn’t mean we cannot fight them at the first opportunity. This is allowed by our celestial sect rule.”

Jiang Le blinked at his protégé teacher, not understanding.

She smiled, “We are the orthodox celestial practitioners. Since time immemorial, we have been fighting against the dark celestial practitioners and vice versa. It is also your duty to slay the dark celestial practitioners.”

Jiang Le muttered, “I can…then I can have my vendetta?”

She nodded, “But you must be stronger than you are currently at. Or else you will be of little help when the confrontation between good and evil occurs.”

Jiang Le nodded excitingly and swore in his heart, “I must be strong. I must be stronger than anyone else!”

Yue Ling looked intently at Jiang Le as she thought, “Good and evil is but a thin line. If you are not careful and are blinded by hatred then you will be the same as the dark celestial practitioners that you have hated. I hope that I am wrong in this.”

Jiang Le was spirited again as he asked, “So how many celestial clans are there?”

Yue Ling smiled gently, “I have no idea as well. Maybe a hundred or so.”

Jiang Le was startled, “This many?”

“Most are quite secretive and we won’t know exactly how many. The current celestial fraternity is dominated by the six major celestial clans, the Seven Malevolent Sect, the Celestial Palace, the Quad Aegis Protégé Clan, the Iron Pioneer Sect, the Ancient Swords Clan and the Mohism Canon Clan. The balance between good and evil is at its thinnest now. Only the Iron Pioneer Sect, the Mohism Canon Clan and the Ancient Swords Clan are orthodox celestial clans.”

Jiang Le asked, “We are allied with them then?”

Yue Ling shook her head, “Even if they are orthodox celestial clans, you must not trust them nowadays. The Quad Aegis Protégé Clan used to be an orthodox celestial clan but is now a dark celestial clan. It is better that we keep our distance and practice our celestial arts on our own.”

Jiang Le nodded.

She continued, “Of the six major celestial clans, the most dominating is the Seven Malevolent Sect. But you should be wary of the Celestial Palace as well. The martial fraternity has long been infiltrated by these two dark celestial clans. That is another reason why we do not accept a protégé from the martial fraternity.”

She turned around all of a sudden and said, “Follow me.”

Jiang Le was startled, “Where?”

She smiled gently, “Don’t you want to learn some celestial arts? Don’t you want to find out more on your divine potential? We are going to the testing hall. The others are waiting there for us.”

Jiang Le stared after her as he recited slowly, “My divine potential?”

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Chapter 5:

Just as Jiang Le was still staring at the dragon’s gigantic skeleton remains, Yueling had quietly walked to its tail portion and had taken a tiny bone fragment. She proceeded to grind it into powder before mixing it into a wine cup.

With a soft sigh, she proceeded to take out a red pill and dropped it into the wine cup, “You have no idea how fortunate you are. This is the Sacred Dragon Blood Divine Pill, a precious celestial treasure of the Tranquil Palace. Now it will be given to you. Gulp it down.”

Jiang Le was startled, “What is it?”

Yue Ling replied, “Do you want to improve your internal strength? Then drink it.”

Jiang Le almost jumped out as he said excitingly, “Your meaning, my internal strength will increase after drinking this? I have only heard of miraculous herbs and pills that can improve internal energy cultivation but I have never seen any. Surely it is not real…”

Without hesitating, he grabbed the wine cup and gulped down every single drop.

Immediately he was feeling hot and full of energy!

Yue Ling gently placed her hands on his back, “Don’t move. I am helping you to dissipate your vital energies throughout your body or you will surely die.”

Jiang Le was perspiring already as the internal heat swelled from within him. He jokingly said, “Alas, it is really my lucky day. Say, how much do you think my internal strength will Improve?”

Yue Ling answered coolly, “One period.”

Jiang Le was stunned. One period means sixty years of internal strength!

Sixty years of internal strength cultivation could propel anyone to a super exponent!

“This is not real?” Jiang Le was blinking his eyes nonstop dreamily.

All of a sudden he felt like grabbing his protégé teacher and kissed her foot. Moreover she was such an alluring maiden! And even grabbing her to bed…

But he soon shook his head as he thought, “I mustn’t have these awful thoughts. She is my protégé teacher and it is taboo for such a relationship. Jiang Le, are you such a beast for repaying kindness with evil? You have prided yourself as an iron blood man!”

His thoughts quickly returned to reality, “Who are they? If they can get one period of internal strength this easily then they must all be super exponents and they can easily dominate the martial fraternity. But why didn’t they? Are they really a true celestial clan?”

Yue Ling heaved a soft sigh, “It is done. Continue to circulate your internal energies for a little while.”

Jiang Le nodded as he took a deep breath. He felt so light yet he was seemingly so energetic and full of strength, “I feel like I am reborn again!”

Yue Ling nodded gently as she seated herself, “That’s good. Now I shall tell you the origin of our celestial clan.”

She heaved soft sigh and said, “Listen and pay heed. Our celestial clan was found thousands of years ago and is an ancient order. The founder was the Lady of the Tranquil Mists and this dragon skeleton remain was her dragon and steed. She was a Dragon Practitioner, the last of her kind who was able to tame and communicate with the Dragon Kind. She had found the Tranquil Palace to aid the potential celestial practitioners to ascend to the Celestial Realm.”

Jiang Le was muttering, “Thousands of years old? Hold! This doesn’t sound right. Aren’t you just…”

Yue Ling interrupted softly, “Aren’t I the 24th protégé grandmaster? Jiang Le, do you know how old I am? I am already eight hundred years old!”

Jiang Le was shocked, “Are you an Immortal or a Fox Vixen Fairy. No one can live this long!”

Yue Ling firmly said, “We are celestial practitioners. We are able to overcome the limitations of life and death. From now on, you are one of us. However for that to happen first, you have to overcome your Divine Calamity first before you can begin your celestial practice.”

Jiang Le muttered, “What Divine Calamity?”

Yue Ling answered, “That is part of your heavenly tribulations that will obstruct you from being a Celestial and your ascension to the Celestial Realm!”

Jiang Le asked, “What is it like? Is it deadly?”

Yue ling said, “You have witnessed it already.”

Jiang Le was puzzled, “Have I?”

She took a melancholy look at him, “That day when we have first met. I was facing my Divine Calamity.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly at that and he quickly muttered, “Well, it doesn’t look so deadly.”

Yue Ling replied with sorrowful eyes, “You are wrong. You will die if you fail to overcome your Divine Calamity.”

Jiang Le was startled, “I will die?”

Yue Ling nodded, “Yes. But once you have overcome your first Divine Calamity, you can begin your celestial practice at the Lower Genesis. There are seven celestial divinity to overcome in order to transcend to the Celestial Realm; Genesis, Enlighten, Emotion, Transverse, Seventh Sense, Crisis and Ascend. There are three tiers to each of the celestial divinity; lower, middle and upper. There will be heavenly tribulations that awaited you at every stage. This will be a long journey for you before you can ascend.”

She looked at Jiang Le and asked gently, “Have all these sink into you?”

Jiang Le was muttering nonstop, “Overcome my Divine Calamity, Genesis Stage, be a celestial practitioner, eight hundred years, Immortality…”

He bowed to the ground earnestly, “Protégé teacher, protégé mistress! What must I do to experience my first Divine Calamity? What must I do to be a celestial practitioner? What must I do to attain the Genesis Stage? Please enlighten me!”

Yue Ling nodded in approval as she said gently, “The celestial arts of the Tranquil Palace will be imparted to you. I have already given you the Sacred Dragon Blood Divine Pill so you should have already reached the pinnacle level of mortals. All you need is a trigger point for your Divine Calamity.”

She took out a blue pearl and looked intently at it, “This is the Divine Alma Pearl, the most sacred treasure of the Tranquil Pearl. It’s a precious divine treasure that our first founder had left behind. Do you know how precious this is?”

Jiang Le had recognized it. When he had first seen his protégé teacher, it was clutched tightly in her hands. At that time his mind was occupied by something else…

Yue Ling groaned softly, “Why are your ears so red? What are you thinking?”

Jiang Le turned even redder as he quickly said, “Nothing. It is just that Protégé Teacher you are really just too beautiful.”

Yue Ling was startled by his reply. She quickly regained her composure and chided him gently, “You mustn’t have any thoughts for me, is that understood? I am your protégé teacher and moreover the protégé mistress of the Tranquil Palace. I forgive you this once.”

She quickly returned to the Divine Alma Pearl and it up, saying dreamily, “Naturally you won’t be able to comprehend how precious this is because you are not a celestial practitioner. Listen Jiang Le, you must safeguard the whereabouts of this Divine Alma Pearl and never divulge to any one that is not from the Tranquil Palace of its existence. Can you make an oath?”

Jiang Le nodded and lifted his hand, “To the Heavens I swear, I shall tell none about it or else I will be destroyed by the Heavens!”

Yue Ling nodded and said quietly, “This Divine Alma Pearl contains the essence of the Universal Force, the most powerful force in the entire universe. It is able to give insight of the Divine Calamities to the celestial practitioner and help to avert the worst possibilities. However it cannot be used more than three times by each practitioner. I have already used it for the third time and that is the time when you have first seen me.”

Her eyes were full of melancholy as she continued, “I can no longer use the Divine Alma Pearl anymore…”

When Jiang Le saw her sorrowful expression, he was heartache so he said loudly. “Protégé teacher, you don’t have to be so sad. I, Jiang Le will find you another one!”

Yue Ling smiled, “I am afraid that it will be quite impossible. Moreover even if you found one, it is futile as this limit is still restricted by the power of the Divine Calamities. There used to be two others, so I know.”

Jiang Le asked, “Used to be?”

Yue Ling nodded, “This is the only Divine Alma Pearl that is left now. One was consumed when our founder first ascended to the heavens and the other was destroyed by a Divine Calamity.”

Jiang Le asked curiously, “It can be destroyed by the Divine Calamity? Then how do you use it?”

Yue Ling looked intently at him before saying, “The willpower of the celestial practitioner is particular important. If your will is weak then the Divine Alma Pearl will be destroyed as well. In order to gain the insight from the Divine Calamity, you must be able to survive its furies with sheer willpower and strength. Only then can the Divine Alma Pearl protects you and preserve your life should you fail the Divine Calamity.”

She paused before saying quietly, “You can be destroyed but not the Divine Alma Pearl, do you understand? The fate of the Tranquil Palace depends on this last remaining Divine Alma Pearl. You still have no idea how precious it is. If you fail your Divine Calamity, the Divine Alma Pearl will protect you if your will is strong enough. Nothing is more precious than life itself to the celestial practitioners. Do you know now?”

Jiang Le nodded and said slowly, “Nothing is more precious than life itself…”

How would he not know? All this while, all his life, he had been trying to live and fighting to keep his life!

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Chapter 4:

“Where am I? I just have a bad dream?” That was Jiang Le first thought when he opened his eyes with terrible sore joints all over his body. He was lying on a stone bed and the room was dim.

“You have awakened?”

Jiang Le almost jumped up and he quickly turned around to see Yue Ling who had positioning herself in a meditating prose!

Yue Ling smiled gently, “You are not dreaming. You are a protégé of the Tranquil Palace.”

Jiang Le was ashen as his wobbling headache returned as he muttered. “It’s not just a bad dream, it is a terrible nightmare that is real!”

Yue Ling looked at him and said with a quiet melancholy, “You ought to address me as your protégé mistress from now.” She hesitated a little before saying, “Is it really such a nightmare for you?”

When Jiang Le saw her sudden quiet expressions, his anger dissipated and he answered coolly, “My respects to protégé mistress then. I do have a right to be unhappy, am I right? After all, you have toyed around with me and I have nearly lost my life. Moreover I don’t know what diabolic plans that you have planned further for me.”

Yue Ling nodded gently, “You’re right. It is true that I want to take your life earlier but no longer now.”

Jiang Le smiled, “I’m glad that you realized that it is just so petty to kill me for just trespassing.”

Yue Ling stared at him and she appeared to be flushing for her ears had turned rosy red, “You have seen what you shouldn’t have seen and you have touched where you shouldn’t have touched!”

This time it was Jiang Le who was flushing as he protested weakly, “I am just trying to help you, to revive you. I am just trying to be a good guy…”

Yue Ling interrupt as she rose up, “That’s enough. You are a protégé of the Tranquil Palace now. Come with me to pay your respects to your protégé grandmasters.”

Jiang Le found himself following her and admiring her back view, probing. “You, you are really not taking my life anymore?”

Yue Ling answered casually without turning back or slowing down her pace, “I have plenty of opportunities when you are down. Therefore you should be rest assured of your well-being.”

Jiang Le thought with a weak smile, “I am not a naïve and inexperienced greenhorn. The intrigues of the martial fraternity are many. Only Heavens know if you just toying with me. I am in a strange place and surround by strange people. I need to be extra cautious. Since I am not their match, I should seize the chance to escape when I can. But the thing is, this group of people is so skillful yet I have never heard of their names or this Tranquil Palace. Are they using an alias?”

Yue Ling stopped in her tracks all of a sudden and said coldly, “Don’t court your own disaster so readily and put aside your mistrust. It is better for you and for your future attainment. You will soon know that we are the only ones that you can trust. But for that to happen, you should prove that you are worthy of trust first. You are the master of the Celestial Gallantry and you have a divine destiny that is awaiting you.”

Jiang Le was startled as he thought, “She can read my thoughts?!”

Yue Ling said quietly, “Your emotions have betrayed you. It isn’t because I can read your mind.”

Jiang Le was even more startled, breaking into cold sweat as he thought. “She did not even turn around. How did she even read my emotions?”

Yue Ling said as she hastened her steps, “Follow me!”

Jiang Le smiled weakly as he hastened his steps. But at the same time, he was secretly looking at his surroundings and making a mind map. He was in a walled passage and it was clean of dirt. It could only mean that this passage was frequently visited and swept. He was not an ordinary pugilist that admitted so readily to his fate and he would find an opportunity to regain his freedom at the first possible option.

As they continued to hasten their steps, Yue Ling said coolly. “There are more than three hundred rooms in the Tranquil Palace. Exactly how many, I do not know as well. Some are small while some are large. If you are not careful, you will be lost easily. Many of the rooms and secret passages are in disrepair as our numbers have dwindled over the years. You are free to explore the Tranquil Palace in your free time but there will be certain areas that will be forbidden from you. As for your meals, I will deliver to you. In my absence, someone else will deliver in my place.”

Jiang Le smiled weakly, “Protégé mistress, you are too esteemed. You can simply order your underlings to do this mundane job. I can also go to the kitchen on my own. After all, I am pretty much a good cook myself…”

Yue Ling interrupted coolly, “You are forbidden to go to the kitchen. Also…”

Suddenly she turned around and looked at him sternly, “In our celestial clan, there is no underling here.”

Jiang Le was startled by her sudden stare and he found himself petrified on the spot. Somehow no matter how much he tried to muster his strength, he simply could not move and he found himself staring at her gray piercing eyes!

She said coldly, “The Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang is my protégé sister. In terms of seniority, we are on the same level. Xue Ji and Xia Ji is my junior. As for you, you are Xue Ji and Xia Ji junior. You are to address Xue Ji and Xia Ji as your senior protégé sisters and Qingshuang as your protégé aunt while I am your protégé teacher. Is that understood?”

Jiang Le nodded as he broke into cold sweat!

What was going on? It was like a spell was cast upon him and causing him to be immobilized!

Yue Ling said nonchalantly as she snapped her fingers, “Good!”

All of a sudden Jiang Le was breathing hard and he had regained control of his limbs!

He muttered, “What did you do to me? Is this some kind of a spell?”

Yue Ling reply coolly, “It is only because your state of divinity is too low. Come with me.”

Jiang Le nodded as he looked at her with a perplexed look. All of a sudden he was thinking, “Maybe I can make use of my bad situation? Obviously their martial skills are superior. If I can only learn a feat or two then I can evaluate my status in the martial fraternity and earn the respect of the pugilist heroes!”

With this in his mind, he began to follow her hastily.

It was not long before they reached the end of a passage.

Jiang Le was feeling lost after walking in the dim darkness and through the multiple forks of the winding passages. He thought, “Why doesn’t she use a torch?”

Yue Ling pushed a brick into the wall and then the brick wall that was in front of them was opened, revealing an opening.

Yue Ling said quietly, “Come.”

Jiang Le nodded and found himself in a large chamber and there were several tablets in front of them!

Yue Ling whispered respectfully, “These are the tablets of our past protégé grandmasters. Hurry and kneel.”

Jiang Le did as he was told.

Yue Ling said solemnly, “Good. Bow three times.”

Jiang Le did as he was told and bowed thrice, saying as he bowed. “Your protégé Jiang Le pays my respects to all the protégé grandmasters!”

As he bowed for the last time, he noticed that Yue Ling was also kneeling next to him as she said respectfully, “Yueling is here to pay my respect to my benevolent grandmasters! Today, we have a new protégé Jiang Le. He has the divine destiny to revive the Celestial Gallantry and has become the new master of our heritage divine sword. Therefore Yueling can only accept him into the Tranquil Palace and is forced to break the celestial rule of not accepting anyone from the martial fraternity!”

She got up and said to Jiang Le, “Now it is your turn to pay your three bows of discipleship to your protégé teacher.”

Jiang Le nodded and bowed immediately, “My respects to protégé teacher!”

Yue Ling nodded, “Your first bow is to obey the celestial rules of the Tranquil Palace. Second bow, you must be respectful to your elders and to your fellow protégés. Third bow to the heavens and the earth, honor your oaths and never betray your protégé clan.”

She sighed softly as she poured a flask of wine on the floor, “I, Zuo Yueling, twenty-forth protégé grandmaster of the Tranquil Palace hereby accepts Jiang Le as a celestial protégé of the Tranquil Palace and bestowed upon him the Celestial Gallantry as his divine sword. You may rise now.”

As Jiang Le got up, Yue Ling had opened another walled secret passage before saying quietly. “Jiang Le, I am going to reveal to you your divine destiny and the history of our celestial clan.”

Jiang Le was amused as he secretly mused, “I am just a vagabond swordsman. What divine destiny will I have? She is probably going to talk endlessly about the glory of her clan and the renowned deeds of the former grandmasters whose names I can’t be bothered to remember…”

All of a sudden his jaws dropped as he stepped into the secret passage. What he was witnessing stunned him; a gigantic skeleton bony remains of a dragon stood looming over him!

“What is that?” He stammered in disbelief.

Yue Ling answered coolly with beaming eyes, “This is the secret of the Tranquil Palace. From now on, you will be initialized into the celestial secrets of our celestial clan. You will soon realize that how close you are to immortality.”

Jiang Le was too awestruck as he gasped, “The celestial secrets of our celestial clan… immortality? But this? Is it really a dragon?”

Yue Ling nodded, “It is real.”

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