The enforcer was dumbfounded. What did he mean by that? Was he trying to piss more people off? He did not have to cooperate with him like this, right?
Sure enough, many people’s expressions changed at those words. The enforcer suddenly became agitated and said self-righteously, “Laozu, we should take the safety of our disciples as the top priority. Maybe we can even save one or two people if we enter the hidden realm now. Don’t worry, no matter how tough the ferocious beasts, they were no more than level-2. We can handle it.”
Jing Yue observed all the expressions of the crowd. Ignoring the enforcer, he said instead, “You said that your companions are either dead or injured, but do you see any injuries now?”
Everyone was startled. Some of the injured disciples looked at their previous wounds subconsciously and found that their bodies were intact and there was no pain! It was just that when they came out, their emotions were in such turmoil that they did not notice it!
Moreover, everyone looked neat and tidy. How would it seem that they have suffered?
Jing Yue, “If your injuries are not real, how could your companions be truly dead?”
Could it be that everything was just an illusion?
No, impossible! Zhao Feichen refuted that possibility. Everything that happened in the hidden realm was so real—the physical pain, the heart torment, he saw his friends die in front of him, and even the blood was warm!
Zhao Feichen was just about to speak when he saw another light from the teleportation array. When the light faded, crowds of disciples appeared outside the array sprawled around haphazardly, and that sight instantly filled his vision.
Zhao Feichen saw Wang Xiu in the crowd at a glance and his mind buzzed as he rushed over frantically. As soon as he stood still, he saw the other party returning to his senses and said, “Am I… in the netherworld? Feichen, why are you here too?”
After that, his eyes darkened. “Does this mean that you’re dead too?”
Zhao Feichen's mouth twitched and could not help the sting in his nose. He choked, “No, we’re both fine.”
People started waking up one after another. Zhao Feichen also saw Liu Li and Yuan Qing'er. No matter how stupid he was, he finally understood that everything that happened in the secret realm was unreal. Neither he nor his friends were gone.
“Where is this? Aren’t I already bitten to death by a ferocious beast?”
“Why do I still see you even when I’m dead? You’re so persistent!”
“Is this what the afterlife looks like? It looks exactly like Frostcloud Sect. Could it be that the netherworld that everyone sees is the place that he yearns most in his heart? In that case, why aren’t I on Whitefog Summit?”
Bro, you just exposed yourself.
For a while, all sorts of unusual conversations were endless.
“Enough!” Zhao Feichen could not help interrupting at this moment. “You’re not dead at all! Don’t you notice Laozu standing there?”
Everyone stared at Jing Yue in confusion, but they only saw him smiling cheerfully, his intense aura had dissipated a lot, and he finally looked like an ordinary boy in his early teens.
Jing Yue, “The Mini-mountain hidden realm all of you have experienced are merely illusions created by Yi Ye-laozu with his divine consciousness, and that illusion can also control your divine consciousness. If you are injured in the illusion, your divine consciousness will convey pain, so you’d feel that everything is very real. If you died in the illusion, you just lose consciousness temporarily.”
All the enforcers and disciples on the scene finally came to a realization.
Suddenly, someone exclaimed in shock, “In that case, is my divine consciousness harmed?”
Jing Yue, “Why don’t you give it a try?”
The man tentatively released his divine consciousness and actually found that it was a little stronger than before. His eyes widened in disbelief.
Jing Yue, “This illusion will not damage the divine consciousness, but can hone the strength of your divine consciousness instead. You must have noticed the benefits. Of course, this method is effective occasionally, but in the long run, it might cause memory scarring on your divine consciousness.”
Some people who initially thought they may have found a way to cultivate their divine consciousness were gloating before, but they were disappointed after hearing Jing Yue’s words.
Another person quipped, “So, Yi Ye-laozu is training us deliberately.”
Some enforcers who were not in the loop sighed, “This method is really unheard of. To create such a realistic illusion, I wonder how powerful Yi Ye-laozu’s divine consciousness must be.”
Only the two leading enforcers just now turned pale and dared not utter another word.
Jing Yue retracted his smile, swept his gaze over them coldly, and turned the conversation around. “However, the illusion is indeed derived from the Mini-mountain hidden realm. In other words, the two dimensions are the same parallel space.”
What did that mean? They could not understand a word.
Seeing everyone’s blank expressions, Jing Yue said, “If Yi Ye-laozu did not create the illusionary realm, you’ll enter the real Mini-mountain hidden realm, and you’ll truly experience all the changes that happened in the realm, such as injury and death.”
The connotation of this explanation was very informative. Someone cautiously probed, “What Laozu is trying to say is… there is indeed someone who did something to the Mini-mountain hidden realm?”
“We’d have to ask this person then!”
With a wave of Jing Yue’s sleeve, a man was suddenly flung out of thin air.
Many enforcers recognized that person. It was none other than Enforcer Zhao, the guardian of the Mini-mountain hidden realm.
However, the attention of the disciples seemed a bit skewed.
“That… isn’t that the Qiankun Sleeve technique that can only be practiced at Golden Core level and above?”
The outer gates disciples looked at Jing Yue with shining eyes. “The Laozu is really talented. He’d mastered this technique during the Qi Refining stage!”
Jing Yue, “…”
To draw out the people behind the scenes, he sealed Enforcer Zhao’s five senses with Yi Ye’s assistance and threw him into the Sumeru Ring, where he lied unconscious in the spirit mine for the past two days. That flick of the sleeve just now was purely a habitual movement.
Qiankun Sleeve? That doesn’t exist.
However, wouldn’t it be strange if he tried to explain it seriously now?
Therefore, Jing Yue could only employ the Smiling Technique.
“Jing-jing, you can do it! Initially, I was very disappointed in this selection process. None of the disciples here can make the mark. But this time, your pretentious display is very successful. I’ll give you 101 points for it! I’m not afraid that you’ll be too arrogant with an extra point!” Blue phoenix praised.
Endure! For the sake of Ji-ji's great contribution this time.
The reason why Jing Yue was able to be a ‘divine prophet’ this time was because he had been on guard against schemers since he entered the inner gates. So he asked blue phoenix, a master at eavesdropping, to hang around the enforcers and wardens. Blue phoenix happily accepted this task and executed it perfectly.
Furthermore, he was the one who assimilated the Mini-mountain hidden realm, so naturally, he knew the changes that happened within.
He already found out the plans of these people a long time ago. The reason why he did not do anything about it was that he wanted to take some severe action, and also to let the disciples witness for themselves how harmful the factional struggle was, not only to Frostcloud Sect but also to every disciple.
Jing Yue gathered his thoughts and scrutinized the two enforcers that belonged to the Primary faction.
After seeing Enforcer Zhao, the two knew that the matter had been exposed, and the blood from their faces drained away completely.
They glanced at each other in horror but quickly averted their gazes away again. They could only hope that Enforcer Zhao would keep his mouth shut, perhaps then there could still be an opportunity to turn things around.
However, things did not go as planned.
As soon as Enforcer Zhao woke up, he faced the indifferent dark eyes of the new patriarch.
In that instant, the last fragment of his memory flashed in his mind—he was caught red-handed by Patriarch Yi Ye.
Fear immediately swept away all the strength and courage from Enforcer Zhao and he just sprawled on the ground pathetically, spilling the beans about the truth.
He said that he was originally a member of a noble family and was fortunate enough to join Frostcloud Sect. After more than a hundred years, however, his cultivation remained stagnant at the Foundation Establishment stage, and he was eventually sent to guard the Mini-mountain hidden realm.
He knew that he had no chance to attain the Golden Core stage. Seeing that there was not much time left, and in order to preserve the family’s interests, he could only place his hopes on the next generation. Nevertheless, the junior that he looked upon favorably had been taken to the dungeons by the enforcer from the Law Enforcement Hall last time and lost his life.
His heart was in immense pain, but the talents in his family had dwindled to almost nothing, leaving only a junior with a 4-elemental spiritual root, which was the most complex and the most redundant of all. With such a low potential, it was almost impossible to pass the sect assessment, so he begged the high-ranking officials of the Noble faction for help to clear it. However, the Noble faction was already frightened by Jing Yue and dared not act rashly for a while, so they refused without second thought.
He was unwilling to give up and continued to pester repeatedly, so much that the other party was finally annoyed and even cursed him with harsh words, saying that the members of his family were untalented trash and that Frostcloud Sect was not a scrap collector.
Those words made him hate the other party, but he resented Jing Yue even more. He believed that Jing Yue was the main cause of all this, but what could he do about it?
At the brink of desperation, someone approached him to make a deal with him. After the task was completed, he only had to commit suicide, and that would leave a way out for his next generation.
He pondered over it. By sacrificing him alone, he could protect the entire family and still add obstacles to Jing Yue and the Noble faction, so why not?
Therefore, on the day before the selection, he went according to the plan and used his authority to sprinkle the drug prepared by the other party in the stream of the hidden realm. In the next seven days, this drug could double the strength and also increase the aggressiveness of the ferocious beasts.
“Laozu, this matter has nothing to do with us!”
After hearing Enforcer Zhao’s narrative, several enforcers from the Noble faction could not wait to kill him. At the same time, they were worried that Jing Yue would be angry and got so scared they fell on their knees to beg for mercy.
Jing Yue waved his arms and asked, “Who instructed you?”
Enforcer Zhao hesitated for a moment, but thought that since Laozu already caught him red-handed, he most probably already knew the cause and consequences, so why bother to keep that a secret and further implicate himself?
Hence, he said, “Those people refused to reveal their identities at first, but at my insistence, they had no choice but to show their faces.”
He propped his body up slightly, raised one finger, and pointed to Jing Yue’s back, “It’s Enforcer Luo and Enforcer Liao.”
“We are innocent!”
The legs of Enforcers Luo and Liao turned to jelly and they subconsciously called out for grievances, but in their hearts, they could already guess the outcome. The matter had already progressed this far, let alone them, even the Shizun behind them would probably not escape.
There seemed to be a storm in their minds muddling their logical thinking and they could hardly say a word of protest. Cold sweat drenched their backs, making them feel as if they had fallen into an ice cellar, their teeth rattling from the chill.
Amid the confusion, they vaguely heard the Laozu ask, “Enforcer Zhao, if you’d successfully completed your task, do you know how many outer gates disciples would be sacrificed? And how much damage would it cause to the sect?”
Enforcer Zhao was silent for a moment before he whispered, “When the time is ripe, I’ll indicate to you that something has happened in the Mini-mountain hidden realm. As long as the rescue team is sent out immediately, only a small number of disciples will be sacrificed. Moreover, this is only an inner selection process and doesn’t affect the foundation of the sect.”
As soon as those words were uttered, the crowd exploded!
One enforcer was so angry that he kicked Enforcer Zhao. For a cultivator to be using his fists and legs, it goes to show that all reason was lost.
This kick did not hurt Enforcer Zhao in the slightest but it broke his last psychological defense. He knew that his sins were unforgivable, but he clung to the last straw of hope and said, “Laozu, now that the crime is done, I’m ashamed to ask for forgiveness, but I beg that my family is not implicated. They are all innocent.”
Having said that, he poked a finger between his eyebrows and twisted hard, destroying the spiritual dais and severing the foundation of his cultivation.
As he hovered between the state of life and death, Enforcer Zhao’s thoughts drifted back to his youth.
“Da Lang, the Zhao family is originally top-tiered. If not for the traitor in the clan that killed the family head, your father, and several elders, how could we fall to such dire straits?”
“Da Lang, you’re the most talented person in the clan. The revival of the Zhao family is on your shoulders now.”
“Da Lang, this mother heard that you went to play in the garden today. The gardeners are really ignorant and dare to hinder your cultivation. This mother has sold them off already.”
“Da Lang, the lass from the Chen family is just a mundane woman. How can she be worthy of you? Once you succeed in your cultivation, all the young ladies from noble families will line up and wait for you to marry them. Listen to your mother and don’t see her again. Otherwise, don’t blame your mother for being rude to her.”
“Da Lang, why is your cultivation progress so slow? You didn’t put your heart into your cultivation!”
“Da Lang! Do you want to watch the Zhao family fall?”
Unbeknownst to him, such ‘family responsibility’ became the shackles of his life. From the moment he took it on, the outcome had been determined.
Sure enough, the reason he had been unable to break through all these years was that he was obsessed with too much, and he had lost his heart for cultivation.
Unfortunately, he realized it too late.
A stream of blood fell from between the eyebrows and slid over Enforcer Zhao’s slightly aged face. Very soon, he drew his last breath.
In the ensuing silence, Jing Yue suddenly said, “Elders, please show yourselves.”
As soon as his voice fell, the figures of two Amethyst Abode cultivators gradually emerged. They were both the elders of the Law Enforcement Hall. Now, they bowed their greetings to Jing Yue respectfully, “Laozu.”
Jing Yue, “Take them away and interrogate thoroughly. If they still resist, you may search their souls. Every single person that’s involved in this matter must not be allowed to escape.”
Everyone shuddered when they heard that their souls would be searched. Enforcers Luo and Liao slumped weakly, letting the two Amethyst Abode cultivators put the spiritual energy suppressing stones on them.
So, why did Jing Yue specifically invite the Law Enforcement Hall? This was going to be a private and non-compliant interrogation session, so how could he do it personally?
When the area gradually became quiet again, everyone was still in a daze. They were shocked by the madness of some people, or rather, they could not believe that people could go to such lengths.
Jing Yue, “It’s not surprising. Humans have desires after all, but with such temperament, how could one ever achieve the Great Dao? Despite that, more people possess magnanimous and benevolent spirits, and that is the true disposition that a cultivator should possess.”
After a while, an enforcer cautiously asked, “Laozu, what should we do next?”
Jing Yue, “Since it’s the inner gates selection process, of course we have to select the disciples to enter the inner gates.”
The enforcer was taken aback before he guessed Jing Yue’s meaning. “Do we make arrangements for them to re-enter the Mini-mountain hidden realm?”
Jing Yue, “They carried the memory stone with them, right?”
Enforcer, “Can it be used in the illusion as well?”
Jing Yue, “Of course. I wouldn’t dream of wasting the disciples’ time otherwise.”
When the disciples heard this, they took out their memory stones to look at it.
Sure enough, everything that happened in the hidden realm was clearly recorded on the stone, including the injuries and deaths they suffered. Looking back at the visions again, although they still felt the fear, they could also view their shortcomings more objectively.
Everyone was overjoyed and the enforcers were also relieved.
Since they had to go through a set of cumbersome procedures for the internal selection process, the final results could only be announced the next day. Therefore, the enforcers ordered the outer gates disciples to hand in the memory stone and then left with Jing Yue.
Looking at Jing Yue's fading back, Zhao Feichen was envious. He only hoped that one day he would be as cool and domineering as his Laozu.
He glanced at Wang Xiu subconsciously and the other person happened to be looking at him too. Their gazes collided and both understood each other's ambitions.
The inner gates—they must enter the doors!
One day later, the results of the Inner Gates Selection were announced, and both Zhao Feichen and Wang Xiu were on the list.
This time, the inner gates had selected more than 900 disciples, and the numbers far surpassed any selection process that was done in the past. At the brink of life and death, many people have shown extraordinary character and potential.
While everyone was delighted, they also heard the news that some Golden Core Zhenren and several enforcers were executed.
While shocked, they also saw the determination of the sect—in order to maintain the rules set by the new patriarch, they could even give up on Golden Core Zhenren without hesitation.
None of the factions dared to protest, and Jing Yue had the final say in everything. Gradually, the inner gates was transformed under Jing Yue’s hands, like an airtight iron bucket.
Under Jing Yue’s influence, the disciples gradually moved away from factional struggles and also became accustomed to training without external assistance. Because the Laozu said that these things do more harm than good, the disciples trusted him almost blindingly, to the point it nearly became a belief.
Most importantly, the inner gates currently provided the most relaxed and equal cultivation environment to everyone. The disciples no longer had to compete for cultivation resources, nor worry that they would be abandoned if their progress fell behind. In that case, why should they damage their foundation in pursuit of shortcuts?
The inner gates finally welcomed peace and prosperity unseen in the past thousands of years. Many disciples that were seen to only have mediocre talents back then have made breakthroughs one after another, and the number of Foundation Establishment cultivators has also increased by several times.
Since the inner gates that was viewed as the bridge of the sect had already seen such positive changes, the situation between the core disciples and the outer gates naturally improved greatly too.
Nonetheless, outsiders were not aware of such changes.
However, the Frostcloud Sect was renowned. Before long, they would prove to the entire cultivation world—
The glory and authority of the First Cultivation School, even if it fades for a moment, would be resolute and immovable ultimately!
Author’s Notes: Mini theater
Enforcers Luo & Liao: We object! We want to appeal!
Elder of the Law Enforcement Hall: You’re caught red-handed in the act! How dare you call injustice!
Enforcer Luo: It’s Laozu who lured us with the bait and made us engage in illegal activities!
Enforcer Liao: That’s right. He could have stopped us, intimidated us, or influenced us, but he ruined our chance to be a good person.
Elder of the Enforcement Hall: Laozu, in this case…
Jing-jing: It makes sense, so let’s kill them all.