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“You said just now that there are eighty-one mountain peaks in Beyond The Heaven, with less than ten left unexplored. But only six sects owned a grotto-heaven?” Meng Qi asked.
Nodding in satisfaction, Ji Wujiong said in a hushed tone, “This is Beyond The Heaven’s greatest secret.”
Meng Qi couldn’t hold back her smile. At this point, she was already certain that Yun Qingyan was Beyond The Heaven’s mysterious owner. To her, Yun Qingyan was unparalleled, and even Ji Wujiong was far below him. Thus, it made no sense for Ji Wujiong to know about Beyond The Heaven’s greatest secret.
“Believe it or not. I don’t care!” Ji Wujiong snorted lightly, but he didn’t look offended. By now, the two of them had settled in the Ruyi Inn. Jingyue City was the second-largest in the Western Realm, and the inn was located in the western part of the city. They had ordered a secluded, independent courtyard for the night. Under the crabapple trees, the polished stone chairs were clean and simple, and the stone table made of a beautiful blue slab had the fragrance of clear tea wafting from it.
As Meng Qi poured tea for both of them, Ji Wujiong’s voice remained low as he continued with a serious tone, “Like this time, with sixteen entry tokens, it’s almost certain six or seven of them have ended up in the hands of the demon race’s royal clans or the nobility.” He spoke solemnly, almost word by word, “In Beyond The Heaven, in addition to the cultivators from the Three Thousand Worlds, there are many demon cultivators who can enter. However, over the years, they have kept to themselves, not liking to trade. Aside from occasionally taking part in the floating island’s auction houses, they rarely go elsewhere.” He paused.
“…” Meng Qi looked up at the black-robed young man, who also looked at her in silence. Pursing her lips lightly, she finally asked, “And then?”
Ji Wujiong snorted softly and opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but upon seeing Meng Qi’s calm expression, he decided against it. He raised his head, gazing at the sky, squinting for a moment, before he slowly continued, “For more than ten thousand years, the Three Realms haven’t seen a single ascension. The number of Great Ascension cultivators is dwindling, and as cultivators of three races begin to decline, internal conflicts are becoming increasingly fierce. Cultivators are starting to act like mundane emperors, vying for power and wealth, becoming addicted to immediate riches and power. The Great Dao is clearly boundless, but it’s as if everyone has been blinded and can’t see it.”
After Ji Wujiong finished speaking, he didn’t continue and fell into silence. He picked up his teacup, took a sip, and gazed silently at Meng Qi. She was listening attentively, propping up her chin with one hand, the sleeves of her blue robe fluttered slightly each time a wind blew. He had grown close to her during the Grand Tournament of the Apricot Forest. He considered taking her as a disciple not only for her outstanding talent but also because of her temperament. In addition, there were other reasons as well.
“And then?” After a while, Meng Qi’s soft voice broke the silence.
Ji Wujiong couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow and smile. When Meng Qi was polite and well-behaved, she was the perfect conversation partner. She didn’t talk too much but knew when to chime in at the right moment, preventing awkward silences. The path of pursuing the Great Dao was long and boundless; sometimes, he wished to have someone like her to accompany him on this lonely journey.
“I got off track. Let’s continue talking about the grotto-heaven of Beyond The Heaven,” Ji Wujiong put down his teacup and focused, “Where did we leave off?”
“Grotto-heavens can be re-owned through the imprint of ownership artifact. They are rich in spiritual aura, suitable for cultivation, and can nurture various spiritual plants and herbs,” Meng Qi said. She was genuinely interested in this topic. In the Three Thousand Worlds, the practice of artifact refining had dwindled for a long time. It was said that in ancient times, there were powerful individuals who could craft spatial artifacts capable of carrying and nurturing spiritual plants and herbs. Unfortunately, that knowledge had been lost a long time ago.
Some spiritual plants and herbs required extremely harsh conditions to grow, and an abundant spiritual aura was just one of the requirements. For example, Phoenix Fruit required the constant presence of a celestial demon phoenix. Similarly, plants like jackdaw grass needed to grow in frigid environments, so they could only be found in the cold Northern Realm. The rumored spatial artifacts for nurturing spiritual plants and herbs could provide these plants with an abundant aura and even incorporate the usage of arrays to alter their growth environment. Meng Qi had seen records of such artifacts in books. Given that grotto-heavens had an incredibly rich spiritual aura, she imagined they might function similarly to these spatial artifacts.
“Do you want one?” Ji Wujiong glanced at Meng Qi, smiling slyly.
“Good things, everyone will want them.” Meng Qi said: “But I heard people say that if you want to explore outside the city boundary of Beyond The Heaven, you need to be at least at the Spirit Severing stage. That’s the minimum level to enter a grotto-heaven.”
“Hmm,” Ji Wujiong nodded, “That’s correct. However, there are other ways. If you can achieve the peak of Nascent Soul stage before the seventh mountain officially opens, I’ll take you to the grotto-heaven.”
“Really?” Meng Qi’s eyes lit up.
“Of course,” Ji Wujiong smiled again, “But whether you can gain recognition and become the new owner of the grotto-heaven will depend on your abilities. As you said, good things are what everyone wants, and I’m quite interested myself.”
“Thank you, Master.” Meng Qi stood up and respectfully bowed to Ji Wujiong.
“Hmph,” He snorted lightly, eyeing her up and down, “When you suddenly being so well-behaved, there must be some conspiracy.”
Meng Qi smiled brightly, her eyebrows and eyes relaxed.
“Hmph.” Ji Wujiong stared, scrutinizing Meng Qi from head to toe, and finally settled his gaze on her smiling eyes. He wasn’t blind; being released from the forest by Lin Yan and returning safely from the Starfallen Sea without losing a single person was something to rejoice about, yet Meng Qi, for some reason, did not look happy. On the contrary, she looked increasingly deep in thought, as if something was bothering her. She still smiled at her friends, but her smile was faint and shallow. Perhaps she hadn’t even noticed it herself, but her brows would unconsciously furrow from time to time, indicating that she was burdened with something.
It hadn’t been long since they knew each other, yet Ji Wujiong understood Meng Qi’s personality. They had fought side by side after all, and it wasn’t exaggerating to say that they had overcome a life-or-death situation together. Thus, he knew the best how stubborn and steadfast this girl could be.
If Meng Qi didn’t want to talk about it, no one could force her to, and once she decided upon something, not even the threat of death could make her change her mind.
So, he was totally caught off guard when Meng Qi suddenly came to him and wanted to become his disciple.
Was he happy? Of course! But more than that, he was surprised and curious. Knowing that Meng Qi wouldn’t tell him the truth, he didn’t bother asking. However, when he looked at Meng Qi and saw a clear joy on her face, he knew she must have a plan, and the grotto-heaven must be able to assist her.
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