A Martial Odyssey Book 3: The Stellar Sanctuary – Chapter 5

The Great Ascetic Heavenly King

They were now facing a tall imposing steep cliff.

Yi Ping sighed softly, “It seems that we have taken a wrong turn.”

The golden Kirin cub bellowed aloud as though it was agreeing with him. 

Yi Ping looked quietly at the group of heavenly maidens, the Universal Old Man and Old Venerable Vanquishing Sage who were all nodding in agreement. 

Han Lin said, “If that old man did not keep pestering me and making such a big din, we would not have taken the wrong turn!”

Old Venerable Vanquishing Sage said angrily, “You still haven’t returned the Green Dragon Sacred Sword to me!” 

Han Lin protested weakly, “It is not that I did not try to return it to you…”

She had thrown the Green Dragon Sacred Sword on the ground when Old Venerable Vanquishing Sage had asked for it but he had failed to pull it; it seemed that the Green Dragon Sacred Sword refused to acknowledge him as its master anymore! 

The Goddess Aiel heaved a soft sigh, “Since the divine sword has picked Han Lin as its mistress then we can only respect its choice. There is really nothing left for us to do.”

Old Venerable Vanquishing Sage muttered, “Xiaoci, you are on her side?”

The Goddess Aiel flashed him an annoyance look before saying exasperatingly, “Yes I am on her side. It is not because I am her protégé mistress. It is not because I am siding with her. Look at you, you are an eminent celestial practitioner yet you can’t handle a little loss?”

Old Venerable Vanquishing Sage protested weakly, “But Xiaoci…”

The Goddess Aiel said sternly, “No but. As Ascendant Custodian of the Holy Ascension Sect, I command you to keep quiet.”

The Universal Old Man began to laugh jovially, “You seem to have made Ai upset.”

Lady Winter Plum was looking at the Universal Old Man quietly. She was the protégé mistress of the Three Plum Sect and had traveled together with the celestial practitioners of the Holy Ascension Sect as they made their way through the Stellar Sanctuary. 

She had traveled with four of her most beloved and cherished protégés. All of them were intelligent and kind hearted maidens that had followed her for centuries. 

Their sudden deaths had saddened her greatly and until now she had not come to terms with their demises yet. She really did not expect that Chu Mingfan who styled himself as the Reverend Sacred Sage would be so despicable! 

She had actually taken a liking to him!

He was a dashing scholarly celestial practitioner and had a reputation as one of the eight original founders of the Holy Ascension Sect. Not only that, his martial strength was said to be on par with the Lord Supreme and he was the second highest ranking Ascendant of the Holy Ascension Sect. 

In his company were Old Reverend Vanquishing Sage, the Ascension Goddess, the Eclipse Heaven Goddess, the Axis Heaven Goddess and the Fiery Phoenix. All of them were highly attained celestial practitioners from the Holy Ascension Sect and he was their leader!

Therefore it was not surprising that she had been impressed by him!

Because she was with these highly attained celestials, their venture into the Stellar Sanctuary proved to be quick and the trials were overcome quickly.

When they had reached the vast plains of the Stellar Sanctuary, Chu Mingfan had suggested that she followed him to recon the woods ahead. 

Not knowing his true purpose, she had agreed readily. 

But when she had reached the dense woods, Chu Mingfan had suddenly turned around and forced her to lean against a tree.

She was startled but before she could ask further, he had suddenly kissed her on her lips. 

But because she had taken a liking for Chu Mingfan, she only managed a weak protest. 

Chu Mingfan muttered softly to her, “You are so beautiful.”

Before she had realized it, Chu Mingfan had loosened her silken knots that fastened her skirt and had slipped her long silk robe to the ground.

She was alarmed but she was unable to free herself from his aromatic kisses. 

She started to struggle again when Chu Mingfan had slipped his hands into her body lingerie but her body was burning so hot that she could not muster any strength! 

Chu Mingfan whispered gently to her as he stripped her naked, “You are like a heavenly fairy. You are so desirable. Today, I will make you mine.”

And that day, Chu Mingfan had made her his. 

But just when she was anticipating with delight on their further exploits in the Stellar Sanctuary, Chu Mingfan had revealed his true intentions and committed treachery against their group!

She was stunned by his betrayal and how he had made sport out of her! 

Chu Mingfan had made it clear to them that he was only interested in obliterating the best celestial practitioners of the Pangu Race and his ultimate aim was to obtain the divine swords of the Holy Ascension Sect for his ‘true master.’

But who his ‘true master’ was, he did not make it known to them. 

Since then, she had learnt a painful lesson that would etch deeply into her memories forever. 

The Universal Old Man had said quietly to her, “Be strong. The path to true enlightenment is still long!”

At this moment she was quietly looking at the Universal Old Man. It was because she had recognized him as the mysterious celestial practitioner that was with the Heaveness who had once encouraged her with the same words when she was just an ordinary celestial practitioner in the Mortal Realm. 

The Universal Old Man did not seem to have recognized her but she had recognized him despite his beardless look now. It was because he had a distinct mannerism that had left upon her a deep impression. 

She thought, “Can’t he tell that the Sagess Ai or should I call her the Goddess Aiel now, quite obviously she seems to have eyes only for Yi Ping? But why is he so persistent? He is not as blind and dumb as he appears to be but why?”

Old Venerable Vanquishing Sage began to panic as he called out gently to the Goddess Aiel, “Xiaoci, don’t be upset alright? I will keep my mouth shut.”

The Goddess Aiel seemed to be appeased a little as she said, “I guess that we have to find another route now.”

Yi Ping nodded as he said gently while looking at all the maidens, “We just have to find another route. I remember that there is a fork not far from here. Shall we go?”

Yang Min immediately gave a quick smile as she looked lovingly at Yi Ping, “I remember that there is a small creek there as well.” 

Yunzi smiled to her, “I remember as well!”

Yang Min was also smiling when she was looking at Yunzi.

All the maidens were chatting happily and looking at Yi Ping at the same time!

Yi Ping was looking at them awkwardly especially but he was also secretly delighted to be reunited with all of them again. It was because he had been through several perilous exploits with all of them and in his dreams it was constantly replayed! 

Shui Yixian, Lie Qing, Lele as Revelation Star, Luminous Star, Melody Star…

Xiao Youxue, Dugu Yunzi as the Endor Vixen Fairy, Celestial Ocean Heavenly Maiden…

Ji Lingfeng, Shen Xingyue as the Heaveness, Dark Enchantress…

Shui Yu’Er, Shui Mei’Er as the Eclipse Heaven Goddess and the Axis Heaven Goddess…

And in the Celestial Realm, he had met Shi Shi, Ye Yin the Ascension Goddess, Jing’Er, Han Lin, Yang Min, the Goddess Aiel, the Goddess Isa and the Goddess of Mercy!

And right now they were all looking at him affectionately! 

Yu’Er suddenly asked shyly, “Other than the mark on your forehead, why is that you seem to be so different now? Maybe different is not the word or rather, your mannerism now resembles someone I know a long time ago.”

Mei’Er nodded as she chipped in with a delighted smile, “The White Sage! You have finally remembered!”

Even Shen Xingyue was intrigued. She had meant to ask this privately for quite some time but did not have a chance to do so. But now since Yu’Er had initiated it, she decided to ask as well. “You are really the White Sage?”

Yi Ping looked at Yu’Er, Mei’Er and Xingyue with a gentle look before he nodded awkwardly; it was because he had remembered vividly how the three of them had fought over him with disastrous results!

In the past when Yu’Er and Mei’Er were the Eclipse Heaven Goddess and the Axis Heaven Goddess, they were secretly smitten with the White Sage when he had visited the Ascension Sect. The White Sage may be a junior celestial practitioner but he had impressed upon them with his profound wisdom. 

However, they were too shy to initiate contact with him and could only admire him from a distant. After all they were highly eminent celestial practitioners and it was impossible for them to have relationship with anyone. Moreover it was unthinkable for them to hinder the White Sage ascension to the Celestial Realm by blogging him down with troubles of the heart!

They could only secretly wish him the best with their most heartfelt affections. That was their purest love for him!

But today they were reunited with him again and by an unlikely destiny, they were now his consorts!

Yu’Er as the Eclipse Heaven Goddess was musing in delight how irony it had been, “If that is my destiny that I will be married to him then so be it!”

Mei’Er as the Axis Heaven Goddess was also contemplating, “I am so happy! If I were to choose again, I will surely choose this life over my previous life! Master Yi Ping…”

Shen Xingyue was looking dreamily at Yi Ping as she muttered, “So you have remembered now…”

Yi Ping sighed softly as he nodded gently, “I am sorry. I have always wanted to say sorry to you…”

Shen Xingyue began to laugh but at the same time she was also sobbing uncontrollable, “You should! You owe me so much! You have actually run away from our wedding to become a priest. I hate you with all my heart!”

Ye Yin was startled. 

It was because she had heard that Shen Xingyue who was known previously as the Dark Enchanter had a fiancé who had abandoned her on her wedding day, leaving her humiliated and heartbroken at his unfaithfulness. 

She had never expected that her fiancé was actually the White Sage!

All of a sudden a thought struck her, “The White Sage…the Dark Enchantress…surely it is not a coincidence at all…”

There was a beaming tear in her eyes as she sighed softly, “I didn’t know that my little protégé sister has such an unhappy past. I used to dislike her because I have thought that she would be my greatest rival…”

She took a glance at Lie Qing who was watching quietly as she thought, “Hm, Lie Qing so it is you that is destined to be my greatest rival. Just how strong are you? If one of us will die then will it be me? Will Yi Ping grieves more for me or for you?”

All of a sudden Lingfeng clapped as she looked at Yi Ping coldly, “If you are really my grand protégé then surely you can remember what I have taught you? You can still remember the initial rites of our sect?”

Yi Ping smiled weakly before he recited, “Respect for the Way is virtue, the Way creates all things and shapes all things with virtue, the Way is separable and inseparable, having no beginning and end, ever omnipresent…”

He paused briefly before continuing, “Seek the Way, stay away from vanity and arrogant, do not seek reputation or fame, refrain from indulgence in music, lust and food, speaks true words, help those in need, be generous with your possessions, protect the weak, rescue those in crisis, assist those in poverty, give without expecting reciprocation…”

Lingfeng gasped as she quickly covered her mouth and there was beaming tears in her eyes!

Yi Ping continued, “All living things live and die under Heavens but only the Way is eternal. It is the Way that carries man’s heart. That is also the initial intricacy heart formula of the Emptiness Translucence…”

He glanced at the Universal Old Man before taking a look at Lingfeng, “In the past, I don’t understand why my two protégé masters refuse to tell me who they are and why they had to leave. But now I do now. I do know now…”

Lingfeng smiled alluringly, “That is enough. I don’t want you to say it aloud or else I will surely kick you hard.”

The Universal Old Man looked at Lingfeng blankly, “My Heaveness, can you explain to me? I don’t quite get it.”

The Goddess Aiel whispered softly to him, “You unromantic oaf! It doesn’t matter if you are able to understand or not. It is strictly between the two of them!”

The Universal Old Man began to rub his chin, “Oh?”

Lingfeng turned away shyly and no one could see her face except for her back as she said with trembling voice, “It doesn’t matter anymore. We are man and wife now! All the things, all the emotions that I had felt that it was impossible for me to experience in the past…uh never mind…I am content now!” 

Yi Ping rubbed his nose as he called after her, “Lingfeng…”

Lingfeng said quietly without turning back, “I still prefer the Yi Ping that I know…”

Lele had suddenly tiptoed in front of Yi Ping as she encircled him quickly as she lifted her eyes to inspect him before smiling nervously, “Really, you are the White Sage? You remember everything?”

Yi Ping looked beguilingly at Lele as he sighed softly, “I am such a fool. Among the three sisters, only you have memories of the past…”

Lele gasped, “You know?”

He glanced at Yixian and Lie Qing who were both looking lovingly at him before looking at Lele again, “You may have hidden it well but the expressions of your eyes have betrayed you.”

Lele said melancholy, “As if I want to remember the past!”

She looked at Yixian before she said melancholy, “My sister sacrificed her everything, all her attainment for me…I don’t want to fight with her over you anymore. Do you know how grief my heart is when I have recalled my past memories and know what she had done for me?”

Yi Ping took a tumbling step toward Yixian as he muttered, “Yunxiao…Revelation Star…Xian’Er, I have let you down…”

Yixian shook her head gently with a smile, “You have done so much for me already. I have nothing more to ask. We should really cherish what we have now and not dwell in the past.”

Yi Ping was filled with gratitude for her and his eyes were beaming.

He turned to look at Lie Qing, “Qing’Er, I don’t know how many times you have saved me…thank you!”

Lie Qing laughed softly, “You must remember it always in your heart or else I would be upset!”

Yi Ping turned to look at Youxue and Yunzi, before looking at the rest of the maidens again, “Let’s go! This is not the end yet!”

Yunzi asked all of a sudden, “What about Maiden Ziyan? Or shall we call her the Goddess Celestial Alice?”

Yi Ping said quietly as he looked at the lofty mountains, “She is somewhere on the top. I will surely find her and stop her from further killings.”

Yunzi looked at the Goddess Isa and the Goddess of Mercy before she said quietly, “Maybe she doesn’t want to show up because of them. So what if you are able to find her? Do you think that the Goddess Isa and the Goddess of Mercy will let her off?”

The Goddess Isa scoffed uncomfortably, “If she is willing to apologize to me and kneel before me, I may consider letting her off.”

The Goddess of Mercy thought to herself, “Isa, Isa don’t be so hasty to speak your mind first. Can’t you tell that this Maiden Yunzi is trying to sound you out first?”

She quickly said, “Maiden Yunzi, you must know that we are not here to make enemies out of the Goddess Theocracy or the Goddess Celestial Alice. The fact remains that we have intentionally broken the sacred transgression of the Goddess Theocracy and the punishment for this sacred transgression is death. Not even the Goddess Celestial Alice herself can change this edict because she has invoked the name of the Great God Pangu.”

The Goddess Isa mused, “Right, right. It is not like Alice will spare us either. Either way, a fight between us is inevitable.” 

Yi Ping muttered, “I rather not. She had saved Ye Yin, Xingyue, Yu’Er, Mei’Er and had brought Yunzi to me. Maybe she doesn’t want to fight us…”

The Goddess Isa interrupted with a smile as she eyed the Goddess of Mercy, “Maybe she is afraid of us! She obviously knows that she is not a match for us!”

The Goddess of Mercy smiled weakly as she thought, “She is still as conceit as ever. No wonder I can never get along with her.”

She said with sarcasm, “Or maybe she is waiting to be reunited with the Goddess Asura and the rest of the Goddess Theocracy. If they join hand in hand then they may not lose to us.”

The Goddess Isa looked at her as she thought, “No wonder I dislike her so much. She is ever so sarcastic.”

Yu’Er, Mei’Er and Ye Yin who were gifted with empathy skills were all smiling weakly. It was because they could sense that the Goddess Isa and the Goddess of Mercy were anything but temporary allies; they were just co-operating because they had a common interest!

Lie Qing sighed softly, “This Goddess Isa is not as subtle as the Goddess of Mercy. In fact, she is a terrible bad actress. Or rather, she totally lacks any tact. I am beginning to like her. This Goddess of Mercy on the other hand adapts rather quickly. She is a much more dangerous opponent. What is her true intention? I hope that I am mistaken about her but friends and foes are hard to tell especially when this ‘new friend’ just dropped from the sky. I would rather put my faith on that Goddess Celestial Alice than this Goddess of Mercy.”

When she recalled the Goddess Asura, she thought. “I don’t trust that Goddess Asura either.”

Just as Yi Ping was sighing how he could resolve their feuds, the Goddess Isa said melancholy to him. “Ping’Er, are you on my side or not?”

Yi Ping smiled weakly, “Yes surely…”

The Goddess Isa snapped her fingers as she proclaimed happily, “Then you have agreed to help me against the Goddess Celestial Alice?”

Yi Ping smiled bitterly, “That is not what I have meant. I will rather that there will be no fighting.” 

The Goddess Isa responded angrily by unsheathing her divine sword threatening, “You still don’t get it at all!”

Everyone began to turn ashen as they panicky surrounded the Goddess Isa so as to pacify her! 

The Universal Old Man panicky said, “Cool it first. I am sure Yi Ping will surely help you…”

Yi Ping panicky said, “I mean surely there is a better solution than fighting…” 

Lie Qing sighed softly to herself, “Ping’Er, how are you going to rein her in the future given her fiery temper? This is one maiden that won’t be pacified by mere words.”

The Goddess Isa thrust her divine sword into the ground with a thunderous impact as she said coldly, “I hope so!…”

But before she could continue further, the entire ground began to shake violently as though an earthquake had struck the vicinity!

She was startled as she panicky said, “I didn’t do anything! Not me!”

Lele said unhappily, “All of things, you have to start an earthquake! Are you thinking of getting us all killed?”

Yang Min interrupted her by pointing at the impassable cliff earlier, “Look everyone!”

The impassable cliff was crumbling right before their very eyes, revealing the shape of a gigantic sitting long beard man and between his legs was a large archway!

Yi Ping was astonished as he watched, “What is that?”

The Goddess of Mercy smiled, “What a lucky find. It seems that we have found one of the hidden entrances that will bring us closer to the top!”

Yi Ping was startled, “There is a shortcut to the top?”

The Goddess Aiel and Lingfeng began to giggle.

Lingfeng looked at Yi Ping with a solemn expression, “Do you really think it is possible for us to climb hundreds of mountains in such a short time? Don’t forget that we are inside the Stellar Sanctuary and everything that you are seeing is actually part illusion and part formation.” 

Yi Ping gasped with a sudden realization, “That is right! I should have thought of that earlier. The outlines of the mountains are just the surface of the Stellar Sanctuary!”

Lele clapped her hands, “So what are we waiting for? Let’s us go immediately!”

The Goddess Isa said unhappily, “I refuse.”

Yi Ping was startled as he looked at her, “What is wrong?”

The Goddess of Mercy growled softly, “I refuse to as well!”

Yi Ping was stunned! 

Lele demanded to know immediately, “What is wrong with the two of you? We should make haste immediately but the two of you are hindering us!”

Lingfeng said coolly, “Such a shortcut is an extremely rare find here. If we don’t enter via this way, there is no promise that we can find another entrance anytime soon.”

Han Lin added mischievously, “Maybe they are afraid.”

The Goddess Aiel smiled weakly, “Han Lin…”

Yi Ping sighed softly as he turned to ask the Goddess Isa and the Goddess of Mercy, “What is wrong?”

The Goddess Isa became flustered, “Why don’t you ask the Goddess of Mercy?”

But when Yi Ping looked at the Goddess of Mercy, she was looking shyly away!

Yi Ping stammered, “What is wrong?”

All the others except for the Goddess Aiel were equally puzzled too!

Old Reverend Vanquisher Sage muttered, “This is indeed a golden opportunity. What is wrong with both of you?”

The Goddess Aiel sighed softly as she shook her head, “Don’t worry. They are just mindful of their dignity to walk between the legs of someone. After all, they are two of the highest ranking immortals in the Immortal Realm.”

When she had said that, several of the maidens including the Universal Old Man and Old Reverend Vanquisher Sage were all laughing jovially! 

All of a sudden Yi Ping said quietly as he looked at the surroundings, “Who is there?” 

There was a deep resounding laughter, “It seems that I have been discovered. Alas, I have already tried my best to suppress my laughter…”

The Goddess of Mercy, the Goddess Isa, Yixian, Lingfeng, Ye Yin were all startled; there was an intruder nearby and yet he had escaped their notice? 

A wrinkled old man with a white plum fan had suddenly appeared.

He was not tall and was slightly shorter than most of the maidens so he had to gaze at everyone by lifting his head slightly.

At the sight of this wrinkled old man, the Goddess Aiel, the Goddess Isa and the Goddess of Mercy had turned completely pale!

The Goddess Aiel quickly said, “Be careful!” 

The Goddess of Mercy warned quickly, “Be wary. He is an immortal practitioner!” 

She added coldly to the wrinkled old man, “You are still not dead yet?”

The wizened old man hummed coldly, “Obviously not. Not until all my enemies are dead first of course.” 

The Goddess Isa asked, “You are here to to be done with all of us?” 

The wizened old man seemingly looked at Lele and Han Lin before muttering, “I have seen an auspicious celestial omen earlier that got my curiosity. The Green Dragon Sacred Sword is an immortal sword of the Jade Emperor. So you are his successor?” 

He pointed at Han Lin and Lele, “Come with me if you want to preserve your lives. Do you know that you are in the company of wolves?”

Han Lin replied coldly, “Weird! Just because you have asked me to follow you, do you think that I will? I say, you are the wolf!”

Lele yawned softly, “Han Lin, I agree with you! I am the Joyful Goddess of the Celestial Palace. Do you dare to exchange a few strokes with me?”

The Goddess Isa immediately said, “Maiden Huan Le, this is not advisable!” 

The wizened old man seemed to be surprised by the hostility of Han Lin and Lele as he raised his eyebrows, “They are all your friends?”

Yi Ping immediately readied a defensive posture as he interrupted, “Senior, I am Yi Ping. Who are you?”

Yixian, Lele, Lie Qing, Ye Yin, Mei’Er, Yu’Er, Lady Winter Plum, Shen Xingyue, the Celeste Wind Maiden, Jing’Er, Shi Shi, Youxue, Yunzi, Yang Min, Han Lin, the Universal Old Man and Old Reverend Vanquisher Sage had all immediately readied a defensive stance too!

The Goddess Aiel was trembling with fear!

The Universal Old Man said to the Goddess Aiel, “Ai, he is only one. We don’t have to be afraid of him!”

Old Reverend Vanquisher Sage was puzzled too, “Xiaoci, what is wrong?”

The Goddess Aiel whispered fearfully, “He is one of the seven Heavenly Kings of the Jade Emperor. He is who we call the Great Ascetic Heavenly King…”

The wizened old man snapped his fingers to say, “I prefer to be known simply as Yun Dingzhong…”

Yi Ping was immediately on his guard; it was because when the wizened old man had snapped his fingers, he could feel a wavering energy force passing through to him!

He quickly mustered his Absolute Equilibrium Force to counteract this force on the sly as he thought, “His martial force seems to be the same as my Absolute Equilibrium Force?”

Just as everyone was mustering their martial strength to put up resistance against the martial display of the wizened old man, he had suddenly vanished from view by echoing, “If it is the other Heavenly Kings then you may not be as fortunate. I suggest that you have better go under the legs of that statue, the sooner the better before I have decided to change my mind!” 

The Goddess Isa immediately turned around as she dragged Yi Ping along with her, “Quick! There is no time to lose anymore!”

Yi Ping was forced to march to the archway with her! 

The Goddess of Mercy was already at the archway as she warned everyone, “What are you all waiting for? Do you think that these immortals will not lust after your divine weapons? Do you really think he is being merciful? Once he gets rid of the other immortals in this vicinity, you bet he will be after us!” 

Lie Qing muttered weakly, “Just a few moments ago, they would rather die than enter that archway…”