The surging black clouds drew closer, muffled thunder roared, and the sky was so dark and gloomy that the snow couldn’t be seen. It was as if the end of the world had arrived.
Nine-fraction Snow Mountains!
He recognized it. This was the place where he was struck to death by lightning in his previous life! And now, he had returned to that moment, experiencing everything that had happened in the illusion!
This was… Heart Fantasy Array!
The green ribbon on his wrist reminded him that the task was to escape from the heart fantasy array. Just for a moment, Jing Yue even wanted to kill himself immediately—at most, he would fail one test. But if he remained, once he couldn’t withstand the heavenly lightning, even in the illusion, his divine consciousness would definitely suffer irreversible damage.
Nonetheless, he considered again. The heavenly lightning in the heart fantasy array was not a real lightning tribulation after all. If he could survive this, the state of his mind would be enhanced by more than a little bit. And if he ran away, the lightning tribulation from his previous life would become a bane of his existence, and who knew if it might turn into a heart demon one day, preventing him from ascension.
He once said—those who prevented one from ascending must die!
If that person was his cowardly self, he must also be killed!
Jing Yue took out the Canglan sword he hadn't seen for thousands of years, and touched the blade of jade-like gloss with affection, his eyes full of tenderness. “Old friend, I really miss you.”
The Canglan sword in the heart fantasy array remained the same as ten thousand years ago. It didn't understand the meaning of Jing Yue's words, but it could feel the master's complex emotions, so it suppressed the fear of the tribulation and touched Jing Yue's shoulder intimately to express comfort.
Jing Yue settled down and looked up at the clouds.
The fierce wind tore at his body, the coercion of the tribulation became stronger and stronger, and Jing Yue quickly took out a few celestial treasures from the Sumeru Ring, arranging them into a protection array.
As soon as the big formation took shape, the first lightning tribulation had already hit!
A bolt of thick lightning struck on his body. Even though the protection array had offset most of its power, Jing Yue was still shaken up by it. A trace of blood spilled from the corner of his mouth, dripped across his pale lower jaw, and landed on the moon-white robe.
Canglan sword trembled anxiously, trying to rush up to resist the second heavenly lightning, but was stopped by Jing Yue.
Just in an instant, the white light pierced through the black fog, reflecting the hill-like snow peaks on the opposite side, and the second lightning descended!
The world shook and the snow peak on the opposite side collapsed with a loud roar. The splattering white snow resembled the clouds of mountains, and the rocks on the snow-capped mountains roll down with snow, forming an avalanche.
Jing Yue smelled the scorching scent and his body felt even more painful as if his blood had been roasted and his internal organs burned into charcoal. His robe was torn into rags, his hair shriveled, and his body was covered with fine wounds. Even the protective array was reduced to half its strength.
The experience of the previous life told him that this formation could at most survive the third strike.
The third lightning was already ten feet thick, like a silver pillar that fell from the sky and slammed heavily on his body. Jing Yue spat a mouthful of blood and the protective array was completely extinguished.
The Canglan sword shrilled angrily and rushed to the sky. Jing Yue hurriedly said, “Come back! Cough, cough…”
In the previous life, Canglan had splintered apart in the fourth lightning. Even if it was just a heart fantasy array this time, Jing Yue didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes!
Although the sword spirit of Canglan sword had self-consciousness, it couldn’t violate the master’s will after all. It paused in the air and returned to Jing Yue in frustration.
Seeing that the fourth lightning was about to fall, the sky looked like a silver dragon dancing wildly. Jing Yue was seriously injured and his spiritual power surged, but he did not shrink back, facing the power of the lightning alone.
Anyhow, he had to try his best, even if it was a fool’s errand, even if there was only a sliver of possibility.
Suddenly, Jing Yue’s soul-mind was in severe pain, and in a daze, he once again saw the last move of Canglan Sword Technique.
It was still a silhouette wielding the long sword slowly, but the posture was smoother than that seen on the day of entering the academy. It was no longer as clumsy as a young child waving a sword, but more like a young man’s swordplay.
The lightning tribulation, the silhouette, and the sword move that he was bound to prevent…
He experienced the same a year ago, but he was the only one in the fantasy formation today and couldn't expect Qin Yanzhi to come and rescue him!
Thinking of Qin Yanzhi, a picture flashed in Jing Yue's mind—Qin Yanzhi stood in front of the sword pavilion and said, “Every move of the sword style has a rhythm. The reason why you are told to practice the seven styles diligently is so that you can integrate the most basic sword moves and form your body's instinctive memory. In this way, not only can you improve your control of the sword style, but also make it easier for you to detect the flaws in the enemy's moves, so that you can counter with one hit.”
The sword style performed by the silhouette was still far from maturity. It seemed full of flaws, but the level of the Canglan Swordplay was too high, while Jing Yue’s aptitude was just average, and he didn’t know where to start.
At this time, the lightning had already poked its head out of the cloud and the silhouette was about to launch that strike.
Jing Yue could only stare fixedly at the silhouette’s movements. With a rumbling thunder, stars appeared in the sky behind the silhouette, blinking and gathering into a river.
Jing Yue's eyes widened suddenly. Among the thousands of stars, there was a star which the light was extremely unstable—it was there!
He shouted, “Canglan!”
The Canglan sword roared as it turned into a blue light and stopped in front of him. Jing Yue stood up under the pressure of the heavenly lightning. His trembling hands could hardly hold the hilt of the sword. He gritted his teeth, channeled all the spiritual energy in his body into his hands, and tried his best to slash!
The sword Qi turned into a huge wave, snow turned into ice wherever it went, mountains froze, and rushed straight towards the silhouette!
The heavenly lightning fell!
At this time, the atmosphere outside the heavenly bamboo was very solemn. Even the sect leader of Green Bamboo Sanctuary and several elders appeared. For a moment, all of them sensed the presence of lightning tribulation but the secret realm was clear. Where did it come from?
Although the terrible energy of the lightning tribulation only appeared for a moment, it still couldn't offset everyone's tension.
Suddenly, an elder said, “Is that Jing-laozu also on the heavenly bamboo?”
Everyone was silent for a moment and another person said, “Is it him again?”
“What exactly did he encounter? Even if it was Daoist-Master Jing Yuan, he can’t be attracting the lightning tribulation every other day, right?”
“Perhaps it has nothing to do with him?”
The speaker's voice became lower, and under the complicated eyes of everyone, he became less confident. Yeah, who else besides Jing Yue? It couldn’t be the heavenly bamboo that needed to overcome the tribulation, right?
Everyone was unsettled, but a blue chicken leaped up to the branch, tilted its neck, and chattered, “Jing-jing is a man bound for great things. This is just one lightning tribulation. Even if it is ten, no… a hundred, a thousand! Jing-jing can also make them disappear while talking and laughing.”
Jing Yue, who was supposed to be talking and laughing, was lying on the ground in a miserable state. The tribulation cloud had disappeared and the sky was clear, but the Nine-fraction Snow Mountain had been razed to the ground, and the place he was in had turned into a deep gorge.
Jing Yue was so tired that he couldn’t move his fingers. The spiritual energy in his body once again degraded to the Foundation Establishment stage, the moon-white robe on his body was restored to the cyan robe before entering the heavenly bamboo formation, and even the Canglan sword was gone.
Everything was restored as before.
No, there was a difference. He moved from the low-level to the mid-level of Foundation Establishment stage, during which he only experienced the heart fantasy array once.
Just now, he pinpointed the flaw in the movement and slashed the silhouette into pieces with a single blow. After that, the lightning tribulation stopped and the teleportation array appeared nearby.
He finally understood that his bane was not the lightning tribulation that struck him to death, but the Canglan sword technique that could not be completed in the previous life.
In this life, he had a little more understanding of Canglan sword technique, and the bane should stay farther away from him.
Since he defeated the silhouette and made some progress in the Canglan sword technique, he finally passed the test of the heart fantasy array.
Jing Yue rested for another half a day and finally mustered enough energy to get up. He immediately sat cross-legged in meditation to stabilize his realm.
This meditation took six days. However, other people in the competition were improving. Thus, his ranking plummeted and fell outside the top 100.
In front of the ranking board, someone said, “Did Jing-laozu encounter a difficult problem? There has been no movement in the past few days.”
“He's only a low-level Foundation Establishment after all. Since he can still remain undefeated, both his strength and luck must be excellent.”
“Isn’t he suspected to be related to the lightning tribulation earlier? If so, how lucky could he be? He’s most probably still trapped in the test.”
“It’s just a suspicion. Now he and Luo Binnan are the only ones who have not defeated, but Luo Binnan is ranked first.”
“Ah! Look… Jing-laozu moved! He… he passed the test!”
After some adjustment, Jing Yue felt that he had recovered more than half his strength. Now, he felt very fortunate for participating in this bamboo-picking event. His gain was simply beyond imagination. At the same time, he was also grateful to Qin Yanzhi for saving him again, even though the other party did not know it.
Jing Yue knew that he had lost a lot of time, so he quickly stepped into the teleportation formation.
After that, the journey went smoothly. All he encountered were children's games of distinguishing the truth, finding differences, guessing riddles, and so on. Therefore, Jing Yue’s progress was very fast, which attracted a burst of surprise from the outside world.
“Tenth! It only took two days for Jing-laozu to progress from more than one hundred to the tenth! It’s terrifying!”
“Oh my, it’s the seventh place now. It’s not even 15 minutes, right?”
“That's because Su Bingqing and Kang Jin, who ranked above him, failed again!”
“Speaking of Kang Jin, he’s also a low-level Foundation Establishment. On the day he entered the academy, he comprehended a Xuan-grade technique and can be considered a prodigy. Unfortunately, Jing-laozu stole all the limelight. It is said that Elder Wei of the Mauve Aurora Sect vomited blood on the spot.”
“It’s all fate… Huh? Jing-laozu advanced another spot again? Are my eyes playing tricks on me?”
“I… I guess my eyes are too.”
They just exchanged a few words!
Everyone was dumbfounded, but a little blue chicken was not, its little wing covering its mouth and laughing.
In the illusory array, Jing Yue met another undefeated contender. It was a man with an ordinary appearance but outstanding eyes. The other party’s eyes were very big, the corners of the eyes were slightly drooping as if smiling all the time, gentle enough to contain everything.
Inexplicably, Jing Yue thought of Ji-ji’s protagonist-face theory.
The protagonist-face arched his hands at him. “Jing-laozu, I’m Luo Binnan from Sword Inscription Sect.”
Jing Yue, “I know you. It’s nice to meet you.”
Luo Binnan, “My shidi Lu Ren offended you a few days ago. He’s young and ignorant, so I’d like to apologize to you on his behalf.”
Jing Yue, “You are too kind. It’s just a spar, so how can he offend me? Besides, I’m not the one who lost.”
Luo Binnan, “…”
This time, the test for both of them was to see who could awaken the sword consciousness of a sword first. It was a common sword and had developed a consciousness, but it was still in a deep sleep.
Jing Yue glanced at Luo Binnan’s sword. It looked like a spiritual sword. Since the opponent was known as a talented swordsman second only to Qin Yanzhi, his sword must have developed a consciousness. However, Jing Yue wondered if he was also like Qin Yanzhi who was willing to spend time even with ordinary swords.
He said, “Please go ahead.”
Luo Binnan, “Laozu, please go ahead.”
Together, the two guided their divine consciousness into the sword.
This time, the test was theoretically more troublesome than Jing Yue’s usual sword recognition practice at the sword pavilion, because he not only had to communicate with the sword, but also compete with Luo Binnan using his divine consciousness. However, when it came to his divine consciousness…
A smile flashed in Jing Yue's eyes, which happened to be caught by Luo Binnan. The latter couldn't help but marvel at his confidence. He was just a low-level Foundation Establishment…
No way! His eyes widened. He was at mid-level! Jing Yue actually advanced during the bamboo-picking event?
How could that be? It was only more than a year since the other party entered the Foundation Establishment stage, right? How could there be such a fast cultivation speed in this world? What exactly did Jing Yue encounter in the formation?
Luo Binnan’s mind was in shambles but he quickly realized that the top priority was the test, so he settled his mind and concentrated on summoning the sword.
But when his divine consciousness touched Jing Yue’s, he realized why the other party was so confident, and he was crushed to the point that there was nothing left! It was as if he faced a cultivator in the Golden Core stage, completely unable to resist!
Such formidable power!
Luo Binnan deeply felt the disparity between the strengths of the two sides and could not help feeling bitter.
Thinking that he was so highly evaluated by the outside world, how could he not have his own pride? He knew Jing-laozu was strong, but he was far better than the opponent in terms of level, so he was not afraid at all.
Besides, even though he thought that Lu Ren had acted improperly, he still felt a sense of disinclination and wanted to fight for his shidi’s dignity. In fact, there was also a hint of unwillingness and jealousy deep in his heart—what right did Jing Yue have to receive guidance from Qin-zhenjun? He was obviously more outstanding, but because he graduated from the academy earlier, and by accident, he missed the opportunity to learn from Qin-zhenjun.
For various reasons, he couldn't wait to beat Jing-laozu.
But he didn't expect Jing Yue to be so strong! So strong that with just one contact, his confidence quickly collapsed, and he was defeated!
Luo Binnan was frightened and uncertain. His expressions changed from being shocked to angry, from confused to aggrieved… In short, it was like being possessed by a dramatic performer.
But Jing Yue was focused on communicating with the sword and didn't pay attention at all.
Perhaps he had the experience of awakening Ku Sheng. This time, his senses were even more acute. As soon as the divine consciousness entered the sword, he knew that the sword and sword consciousness was about to awaken.
Jing Yue breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed that he wouldn’t be delayed at this level for too long. If it took him months to awaken the sword consciousness, even if he won, his ranking might be placed right at the bottom.
After a long time, suddenly, a world of nothingness was instantly illuminated, and a red sun slowly rose on the horizon separating the desert and the sky.
In the magnificent picture, only three sceneries of the sky, desert, and sunrise could be seen, and only three colors of blue, red, and yellow.
It was not monotonous at all, but showcased the grandeur and majesty to the extreme instead!
With the shrill of the sword, Jing Yue learned the name—Dong Sheng.
(TN: Dong Sheng 东升 = East Rising)