There wasn’t even a slight breeze within the temple hall, but as of this moment, Meng Hao felt like there was a gale force wind buffeting his heart, giving rise to waves of shock. Rumbling sounds filled his mind, causing him to feel somewhat dazed.
“No one can say for certain what Paragon Sea Dream’s plan is for the Echelon….” Granny Nine said. Her voice floated like the wind throughout the temple hall.
“However, there is no harm in speculating. Over the years, the Three Great Daoist Societies of the Mountain and Sea Realm have pieced together what we feel is the answer. It is a simple explanation that we think comes close to the truth.
“The Echelon… is a list of Paragons!
“The only people who can join the Echelon are people who qualify to eventually become a Paragon.
“The Echelon was put in place to develop Paragons for the Mountain and Sea Realm!” Granny Nine’s eyes shone with flickering light, and her voice was filled with decisiveness that could sever nails and chop iron.
“After the great catastrophe, no new Paragons appeared within the Mountain and Sea Realm. Even Ksitigarbha, who everyone acknowledges as the most powerful cultivator in the Realm, is not considered a Paragon.
“That might seem normal,” Granny Nine said softly. “After all, to become a Paragon is a very, very difficult thing. However, the truth of the matter is… it defies logic. As for the reasons why such a situation has come to be, perhaps only Paragon Sea Dream knows.”
Meng Hao’s mind trembled.
“That is the origin of the Three Great Daoist Societies and the Echelon.” As she finished talking, she looked at Meng Hao. Godmaster sat next to her, eyes closed, unspeaking.
Ling Yunzi also sat there quietly, sighing inwardly.
Granny Nine then gave Meng Hao a deep look and continued, “As the Nine Seas God World of the Ninth Mountain and Sea, what we can do for you is exert all our power to assist you in entering the Ancient Realm!
“Therefore, we give you authority within all areas of the sect. We will open wide the doors to all of our Daoist magics and all of our resources, and to our utmost ability, make them available to you. However, those things are secondary. The most important thing….
“Is that we will open the Likewind Realm for you!”
As soon as Granny Nine mentioned the Likewind Realm, Ling Yunzi slowly looked up, and Godmaster opened his eyes.
An intense pressure weighed down on the temple as she spoke the name. Apparently, the words themselves contained some shocking power.
Granny Nine lowered her voice and said: “The Likewind Realm is a trial by fire location unique to the Nine Seas God Worlds of the Mountain and Sea Realm.
“All of the Three Great Daoist Societies has their own unique worlds within the Mountain and Sea Realm!
“Each and every one of the various Nine Seas God Worlds, including ours, are qualified to make an appeal to open the Likewind Realm. Over all the years, we have only proposed to do so once, for your Fang Clan’s first generation Patriarch!
“Now, after so many years have passed, we are prepared to open it a second time… for you!”
“Likewind Realm?” Meng Hao said, somewhat taken aback. He could tell that these three Dao Realm experts took the matter very seriously. However, he had never heard of this Likewind Realm before. It was completely foreign to him.
“Before the great catastrophe,” Granny Nine explained wistfully, “there were 3,000 Lower Realms beneath the Paragon Immortal Realm. During the catastrophe, many of those 3,000 Lower Realms rebelled. War broke out… and in the end, almost all of them were destroyed.
“Only 33 Realms remained complete….”
“The Likewind Realm was once one of the 3,000 Lower Realms. It was one of the rebel Realms that was mostly destroyed in the great war. The bit that remained was taken away by Paragon Sea Dream. All who live there now are the descendants of those felon citizens!
“Over the years, after having been continuously groomed and trained for many years, they returned to upholding many of their former traditions. They came to hold the Immortal Realm in reverence and awe, and became the location of the Nine Seas God World’s trial by fire!
“There, you can experience… how utterly supreme the Immortal Realm was in its heyday!”
At this point, a strange gleam appeared in Godmaster’s eyes. Even Ling Yunzi was panting as he contemplated his desire for the glories of the past.
“The reason why the Likewind Realm became a location for a trial by fire, and in fact, the first such location for the Nine Seas God World, is because when the Likewind Realm was shattered, its Essence was thrown into chaos.
“Because of that chaotic state, the area is much easier to analyze. Therefore, to cultivators… it is the perfect location to experience the sensation of Essence.” Granny Nine’s voice seemed to contain a bizarre power as it bored into Meng Hao’s ears, causing his heart to tremble ceaselessly.
“Essence is the door to the Dao Realm,” she continued slowly. “Furthermore, traversing the Ancient Realm… is the process of continually making contact with Essence.
“That is especially true in the Likewind Realm. The World Essence can be absorbed, leading to incredible enlightenment regarding the Essence power!
“As for you personally, you will be able to directly form your Dao Fruit, and use the Essence of that world to directly enter the Ancient Realm!”
When Meng Hao heard all of this, his mind reeled. He had learned about some of the matters of the past from Yi Fazi’s memories. But now that he heard Granny Nine’s explanation, he understood about the Likewind Realm.
It was… one of the worlds of the past!!
Although only half of it remained, it was still a different world!
Meng Hao took a deep breath, and his eyes shone with a strange light. His path to the Ancient Realm had to do with Nirvana Fruits. Now that he knew he could use the Essence of that world to form Dao Fruits, he was also certain that it would be of extreme usefulness in absorbing his Nirvana Fruits.
“The Likewind Realm will be opened for your trial by fire by us here in the Ninth Mountain and Sea. However… the Likewind Realm belongs to all of the Nine Seas God Worlds of the Mountain and Sea Realm. Therefore… when you go in, other Nine Seas God Worlds will also dispatch disciples to enter.
“Obviously, since they are qualified to open the Likewind Realm, they will also have arranged for qualified disciples to enter who… are also in the Echelon!
“As such, when you enter the Likewind Realm for your trial by fire, you will likely encounter… other members of the Echelon from the Mountain and Sea Realm.” As she said these things, her eyes glowed with a brilliant light.
“If you can, kill the other members of the Echelon from the Mountain and Sea Realm. However, if you aren’t able to kill them, don’t forget that protecting your own life is your main priority!”
Meng Hao looked at Granny Nine silently for a moment and then nodded. He understood that the Echelon… was like a brood of magical venomous insects which grew strong by preying on each other. Once you were in the Echelon, only by passing through numerous deadly situations alive, could one become truly powerful.
Currently, the Mountain and Sea Realm needed some extreme power. It needed… a true Paragon!
“Perhaps, what it needs is not just a Paragon,” he thought. “After all, the three great Paragons of yesteryear were only able to preserve a small memorial to the Immortal Realm and thus prevent its complete destruction.
“Perhaps… in order to resolve all of the problems that exist, what is needed… is something that exceeds a Paragon!” Meng Hao took a deep breath, and suddenly, an image appeared in his mind. He saw nine suns dragging an enormous statue. There were also nine butterflies pulling a gigantic coffin.
“Although we have already begun preparations to open the Likewind Realm,” Granny Nine said calmly, “we still need three months to be completely ready.
“During those three months, stay in the sect and prepare fully for the battles you will face…
“The pressure exerted by the Ninth Sea will put a heavy burden on you in terms of cultivation. You need to acclimate yourself to it as quickly as possible. Not only will it help you in the years to come, more importantly… the fact that the Likewind Realm is half destroyed and its Essence is in chaos means that you will find similar pressure there.
“Only by getting used to the pressure of the Ninth Sea will you be able to function normally in the Likewind Realm. If you don’t, every step you take there will be an arduous one.
“In addition, don’t forget about our sect’s golden gate stone steles. Each one of them represents a trial by fire. I hope that you… can participate in every one of them! You must do everything possible to make yourself stronger during these coming three months!
“I hope to see your name on each one of those steles. You are in the Echelon, the second of your kind throughout all the history of the Ninth Mountain and Sea!” Granny Nine waved her hand, sending a bag of holding flying out to hover in front of Meng Hao.
“Inside that bag of holding, you will find the first place prize for our Daoist Societies’ disciple recruitment event!
“There were many rewards, all of which are inside. Of course, the most valuable of all… would be, secondarily, the ancient Immortal artifact, and most of all… Paragon blood!
“Before entering the Likewind Realm, you can use it to… experience what intense power is truly like!
“How far your path stretches out ahead of you depends on your good fortune.” Granny Nine gave Meng Hao a deep look that was clearly filled with hope and anticipation.
Meng Hao took a deep breath as he looked silently at the bag of holding. Finally, his eyes began to shine with a bright light, and he reached out and took the bag. Then he clasped hands and bowed deeply to Granny Nine, to Godmaster, and to Ling Yunzi.
He did not make any promises or utter expressions of thanks. At the moment, anything he said would be meaningless. Only by clasping hands and bowing could he express his sincerity and determination.
Granny Nine’s eyes glowed with praise, and Godmaster nodded. Ling Yunzi already thought well of Meng Hao, and a slight smile could be seen on his face.
“Go,” Granny Nine said, smiling. “That bag of holding also contains a jade slip key to an Immortal’s cave. It is there that you may practice cultivation in the coming three months. There is also an identity command medallion, which you can use to go anywhere in the sect.”
Meng Hao nodded. It was at this point that Godmaster suddenly spoke.
“When the Demonic Cultivator Horde asked for you to return their disciples that you captured, all you had to do was give them back, and the problem would have been resolved. Why be so uncompromising?” The old man’s face was expressionless, but his eyes shone with a profound look.
“If the result of me returning them was a reduction in the hostility shown toward me by the Demonic cultivators, then of course I would have,” explained Meng Hao. “However, that clearly would not have happened. Therefore, why should I return them?!
“I can sell all of those seafood dishes for spirit stones and Immortal jade, or use them as threats.” He smiled.
Godmaster was also smiling as he replied, “You will be safe inside the sect. However, if you go out… you must be extremely cautious. If anything untoward happens, do not hesitate to crush your command medallion. As long as you are within 1,000,000 nautical miles of the sect, I can be there within three breaths of time to provide aid!”
Then he closed his eyes and said no more. Now that he was certain about Meng Hao’s personality, he firmly approved of him.
Meng Hao clasped hands and bowed. He was just about to leave when all of a sudden, he stopped in place and turned back to look at the three old timers.
“Junior wishes to ask a question. What exactly is the reason that the sea beasts attacked me when I entered the Ninth Sea. Furthermore, why did I cause such an uproar among the Demonic cultivators when I arrived at the Nine Seas God World? Why do they hate me so much?
“It almost seemed like the level of their cultivation base didn’t matter; they instantly hated me so much that they couldn’t live under the same sky as me. I really don’t understand. Seniors, can you clear up this matter?” Meng Hao looked at the three old timers expectantly. He truly wished to know the answer to this question!
He just didn’t believe that they didn’t know the answer. Considering their status in the sect, even if they had known nothing at first, a brief inquiry would have made everything clear to them.