Chapter 886 The Portal to Divine Providence
Despite appearing just so suddenly, the middle-aged stranger’s heavy and vast presence left Li Mu petrified and suffocated like a prey realizing how its fate was sealed in the face of an apex predator.
Song Yu, whose anger had long vanished because of the farcical conundrum of his name, stared at the stranger with a look of disbelief. “H-How could this be?! You’re not supposed to appear for another year, sir! The prelude of what is to come is only just beginning…”
Nothing came out of his mouth suddenly. He tried and tried to move his jaw, but nothing came out.
The middle-aged stranger, clothed in a tunic of white, looked satisfied as he rubbed his index finger against his thumb after snapping them.
Having a subordinate who could barely govern his own tongue could be tiresome. But the world would once again regain its peaceful serenity if he could just stop talking.
Li Mu did not have to be a genius to realize that Song Yu was being magically silenced.
“Everyone hates chatterboxes,” he mused quietly.
Then he noticed the white-clothed stranger panning his gaze this way and he felt a strange, inexplicable sensation as if the stranger’s eyes were literally crawling all over him, unraveling whatever secrets about him.
“Is that his cultivation discipline?!” Li Mu thought silently.
The stranger turned away, retracting his gaze. To no one in particular, he said, “Come out.”
No one stirred and nothing moved.
The stranger snapped his fingers again.
Something in the air roiled and churned as if the very fabric of Space and Time was being rustled by an invisible hand.
A drop of golden ichor fell to the ground.
The air rippled like a bead of water falling into a quiet and still pond.
The lithe and slender figure of a beautiful woman in yellow swished into appearance. A frosty look etched on her face as a long trickle of golden ichor dribbled from a gash on her left arm, flowing down the length of her svelte hands and down onto the ground.
“Oh, dear! Are you all right?!”
Li Mu was pleased and yet surprised to see her.
It was the lady in yellow.
He was right. She has been secretly trying to keep him safe. But the stranger was just too powerful that no geological advantage could make any difference.
She gave Li Mu a curt look, tacitly indicating for him to remain calm before she deftly took her position in front of him, shielding him from the stranger.
Her left hand came up slowly as her fingers gracefully formed a hand seal before she waved the hand over her wound. The golden ichor on the ground rose and the golden stream that snaked down her arm slowly withdrew as if Time was being turned back until her wounds finally closed and healed.
“How dare you step foot in here, Lazulum! This is the abode of His Majesty the Imperial Lord Dragon Scorpion!” the lady in yellow stared at the white-robed stranger. Despite her placid countenance, anyone could feel her wrath growing like a volcano waiting to erupt.
“Of course. I have to. I need to retrieve what His Majesty the Imperial Lord Void left here,” the middle-aged stranger in white called Lazulum replied with a nonchalant grin.
The response only further infuriated the lady in yellow. “Imperial Lord Void was caught colluding with the Extraterritorial Demons. That is treasonous enough and I’ll call his punishment a fitting reward for what he had done. How dare you come here thinking of retrieving the item! Dream all you want, but I’ll make sure you retreat once His Majesty Dragon Scorpion returns!”
“A leader must have a vision and that is exactly what Dragon Scorpion sorely lacked. That’s why I’ll say he had what fate he currently languishes in coming for him. In contrast, His Majesty the Imperial Lord Void has a foresight that allows him to see farther and broader than anyone else. It’s your antiquated meddling that had caused all this mess, or else, peace would have long been restored to the Battlefield of Chaos,” insisted Lazulum. “What’s more, with so many years elapsed, are you sure that the aging Dragon Scorpion is coming back?”
Some of that sounded rather familiar to Li Mu.
As both the sires of the Ancient Celestial Court and the New Celestial Court respectively, Imperial Lords Dragon Scorpion and Void both had irreconcilable differences due to their ideals.
Li Mu grew more interested in the story.
“What is that item that Imperial Lord Void left here?”
“I’m not here to bandy words with you, Lazulum. There’s no question about your lord’s treason. If you want to retrieve that item, then let’s see if the rumors that you have mastered the Circle of Imperial Majesty are true!”
Golden lines began to spread from under the lady’s feet like quicksilver flowing rapidly in a fixed pattern, reaching across the scaffold, the ground, the walls, and even the air, forming an intricate circular pattern before the entire magical circle gave a bright pulse of glow as if to signify its readiness before it disappeared.
But Li Mu could feel something was activated as if some strange energy was injected into the ground itself. The whole place the whole abandoned parade square had turned palpably and inscrutably different.
“The magic circle that guards the abode of Dragon Scorpion himself, eh? I could never ask for a finer spell than this. A quaint sort of magic that not even I could undo if Dragon Scorpion had the wisdom of leaving a sliver of his spirit to wield it. But you? You’re only a sword maiden serving the Holy Mother of the Jade Pool. What power do you think you wield? How much of the magical circle do you think you’ve mastered?”
The questions came one after another like volleys of cannon fire as the white-clothed Lazulum strode forward menacingly, his gait exuding an air of confidence.
The golden imprints appeared once more on every surface it reached just now, glowing and flashing violently like a beast growing agitated at the approach of an enemy. Then it pounced. The entirety of the magical circle of gold wrapped around Lazulum like a net, trapping him inside.
But with the unnerving steadiness of a mountain, he pushed forward unfazed.
Then Li Mu saw something that he wondered if his eyes were deceiving him. With every step, Lazulum looked as if the entire world was quaking in fear of his advances. It was like he was pushing the whole immortal palace with his sheer presence alone.
The lady in yellow watched his every movement with a grim look on her face that only turned graver at each passing second.
Her hands shot up immediately before her chest, her fingers weaving several hand seals. Golden lights burst from her hands making the silhouette of her fingers resemble the leaves of a lotus, moving against the light with the grace of a harpist strumming her instrument.
Everyone stared at her quietly.
The level of this fight has transcended way beyond their comprehension.
On the surface, both the lady and Lazulum looked like they were equals.
But LI Mu did not fail to notice how the lady’s arms were trembling.
Something exploded somewhere around her hands, resulting in a mist of blood.
Her right pinkie was gone.
Specks of light swirled around her thumb, as chaotic as a flock of frightened birds. It took her a soft grunt and a fling of her hair, where every strand was coated with a pale golden luster, to regain control of the magical circle and keep it steady once again.
The praise came from Lazulum. “I would expect no less from the most beautiful of the Seven Fairies of Dragon Scorpion’s court and the fifth in terms of strength out of the seven. Your grace and your elegance are worthy of praise.”
But that did not stop him from continuing his approach–he had taken another three paces when he was speaking.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
All other fingers on the lady in yellow’s right hand, except for her thumb, all blew up into a scatter of red sticky droplets.
“Go!” she muttered, grimacing at the pain.
The golden light still pouring out of her hand coagulated as one and formed an arrow of light as the lady in yellow used her still-intact hand to perform the hand seals prerequisite to her spell. At her command, the arrow of light shot straight at Lazulum while she used the time to summon a beam of light that descended from the skies and enveloped Li Mu with it, which she used to draw him with her as they both escape from the dais.
Everything happened in the blink of an eye.
The final vestiges of their figures slammed into the wall at the far end of the parade square. Only, instead of smashing a hole through the wall, they melted into the granite structure like liquid and vanished.
“Woof?!” Silly Dog was flabbergasted, “What about me?! If you’re running, why not take me along?!”
“What am I?! Excess baggage?!
Come on! How spiteful are you really, woman?!”
Silly Dog cursed quietly to himself.
Fortunately, no one has the time or interest to shed any attention on a dog.
Without the lady in yellow in control, the golden details of the magical circle hovering in the air were easily seized by Lazulum with just his bare hands like he was grabbing at a bolt of cloth. Then with both hands, he ripped them apart, tearing the magical circle into two before the eldritch golden glow of the enchantment slowly faded into nothing like spider webs crumbling into dust.
Then he stood there, staring at the part of the wall where Li Mu and the lady in yellow had vanished.
“The Central Sky Gate,” he murmured.
The reminiscences of his past came back to visit him like yesterday.
Lazulum raised a finger and he tapped into the air.
The walls around the crowd undulated in tiny, quick waves as if they were made of liquid until the wrinkles slowly unveiled white streaking strands that ran in the air like slender veins of silver flowing in thin gossamer lines. Like on a piece of paper, the lines traced and conjoined each other, forming the design of a doorway.
The scene was bizarre, amazing, and yet inviting; a portal that appeared out of thin air.
The Central Sky Gate, and right behind these doors, the prize of divine providence awaited.
Even Song Yu, whose voice was still magically sealed by Lazulum’s magic, could barely contain his excitement.
The mob of Cultivators from the Clans of Ghost, Cloud, and Mist all slowly swarmed towards the portal with opened-jaw expressions of awe and amazement.
Lazulum took one step forward and magically transported himself to just in front of the portal.
He placed both his hands on the door and pushed. Ancient rune-like glyphs blazed to life on the surface of the door, circling around his hand before more and more light engulfed him. Only then did everyone understand how difficult it must be to open the door, that even for one as powerful and strong as Lazulum, the task was near-impossible enough.
A huge rumble like it came through time from the ancient epochs thundered.
The faint thin outlines of the marked-out doorway slowly bulged.
Blinding light poured from the inside of the door as it slowly cracked open.
Without any hesitation, Lazulum stepped inside.
Song Yu followed closely behind.
Just before Song Yu stepped onto the threshold, the chieftain of the Mist Clan, struggling to rein in his thrill and anticipation, asked loudly, “Lord High God, can we…”
If Song Yu heard him, he definitely betrayed no signs of it. Rather, he just ignored them and brusquely stepped into the portal.
Leaving the rest of the members of the immortal sects there, exchanging dubious and blank stares.
In the eyes of every cultivator who was staring at the door reposed fervent yearning and maddening lust for the prize of divine providence. It was just there, waiting for them at the other side of the door. A real divine providence which was not the usual piffle used to confound and hoodwink the uninitiated.
A glint of silver flashed.
Silly Dog withdrew the battered and badly-damaged ancient god back into its tummy. Then, with breakneck speed like a hare bolting from a trap, he tore towards the door and vanished into the portal as well.
“What in Heaven’s name…
Even the dog has gone in!”
The crowd could barely confess to not feeling impassioned, if not fervid by that.
“We’re going in!”
The chieftain of the Ghost Clan enunciated aloud his decision and he led his men towards the door.
The High Gods could protest all they want, but no amount of dissuasion could change their minds about wanting to get ahold of the prize. That was the Holy Grail of all prizes, the prize of divine providence that only a fool would gladly give up.
That was all the spur the others needed to sway them. What rationale and fear immediately evaporated as the fear that the prize could fall into other hands devoured them all like a beast.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
Everyone turned into streaks of light that raced towards the portal.
The Cultivators all jostled against one another to get inside with every bit of the semblance of mice trying to get off a sinking ship.
With everyone gone, the vast and spacious parade square turned as silent as a crypt.
The remains of the Armored Battalion were all that remained on the flagstones of the parade square, neatly arranged like an army array of the dead under inspection.
Fifteen minutes passed in muted peace.
Until the cascading gallop of hooves could be heard drawing near.
The sounds approached very quickly from far to near.
Basking in blazing glyphs of light, the Cloud Light Saintess made her arrival riding on her chariot, making landfall like a bolt of lightning as her chariot thundered through the gates adorned with a Taotie relief and iron studs.
“Stay away from those skeletons.”
Wang Yanyi’s voice came from inside the carriage.
The morbid bloodstains on the Saintess’s ornate long dress illustrated the grotesque wound she suffered, a dark ghastly wound across her face from left to right that nearly cleaved her head in half. The corners of the hideous incision dangled thin bits of her flesh because of the serrated edge of her assailant’s weapon like squirming worms.
Obeying Wang Yanyi’s request, she deliberately steered her horse away from where the Armored Battalion remains were and stopped by the dais.
“Wait a minute.”
Wang Yanyi said all of a sudden.
He stepped down from the carriage.
Blood speckled his robes, and all of them were his own from the many wounds he endured as if a thousand knives had been driven through him that the very sight of him was too gruesome and grisly to behold. Yet nothing on his serene face indicated any pain.