132 Priestesses of the Goddess Theocracy
Shortly after Yi Ping and his group had ascended the stairs of heavens, they were all taken to their respective guest chambers for attentive care.
The Holy Ascension Sect had always been extremely strict in segregating the opposite sexes within its grounds.
In the grounds of the Holy Ascension Sect, there was a White Verdant Palace. It was the meditating ground for the majority of the female Ascendant Protégés and forbidden to men. The White Verdant Palace was also one of the most beautiful places in the Celestial Realm with many stunning gardens and grandeur palaces.
In a deserted garden courtyard of the inner sanctuary of the Holy Ascension Sect, Yi Ping was lying on top of a tree branch as he looked at the dark dome shape of the Stellar Sanctuary that was enveloped by circular purple lightning in the dark heavens as thunders broke out almost endlessly.
The courtyard was quieter than usual.
It was because most of the celestial practitioners had already gathered or making their way to the Golden Ascension Hall.
The lots for the Stellar Sanctuary would commence in two hour time!
He was unconcerned even when an accidental lightning bolt had strike a nearby tree and set it into flames nor was he bothered by the winds and the incessant small rains.
It was because his heart was heavy with many things!
He muttered, "Xian'Er, Qing'Er…with just three days left to go before the Stellar Sanctuary is opened, I hope that you can recuperate well first."
Unlike Yixian, the Goddess Isa, Lie Qing and Jing'Er, Yi Ping had fully recovered from his internal injuries and he was worried that they would want to enter the perilous Stellar Sanctuary at which few celestial practitioners would return!
Even the Celestial Mistress was stunned at the speed of his recovery. It was because nothing could hasten the recovery of internal injuries but Yi Ping was an exception!
She had accidentally let slip with a soft whisper, "Weird, why is that you have the blood of the Kirin in your veins? It is exactly the same as Han Lin…Is that the reason why my divine pill is working particularly effective on him? Because part of it consists of the Fire Kirin Divine Pill?"
Yi Ping pondered quietly, "Han Lin has also accidentally consumed the Fire Kirin Divine Pill or is poisoned by the blood of the Kirin?"
The Goddess Isa seemed to have known him from somewhere and she was now under the impression that he had ended the life of the Goddess Celestial Alice. What enmity did the Goddess Isa and the Goddess Celestial Alice had with each other?
He adjusted his straw hat as he looked intently at the Stellar Sanctuary. He could not forget the mysterious Maiden Ziyan that he had encountered in the Astronomic Stellar Formation…
"Who is she?"
"Is she really the Goddess Celestial Alice?"
"Why is she in the Astronomic Stellar Formation?"
"Why did she ask me to go to the Stellar Sanctuary?"
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"Why did she leave just like this?"
He began to recall her exact words, "Ziyan is not my real name. I am indeed the Goddess Celestial Alice of the Ninth Heavens, the Goddess Celestial Alice of the Three Known Realms and in the lower realm, I am known as the Goddess Celestial Alice of the Seven Stars. You need not guess further; the Celestial Alice is indeed named after me and I am her true mistress until I have sealed her."
"Maybe she is only pretending to be the Goddess Celestial Alice because she had overheard us?"
He muttered, "But if she is really the Goddess Celestial Alice, why did she want to take her own life?"
Once again he seemed to have heard her gentle voice again, "If you want to find me, you must ascend the Stellar Sanctuary or look for me in the Immortal Realm of the Ninth Heavens. I will be at the Eternal City that is beyond time reckoning. You must come…"
He muttered, "Where is this Eternal City?"
All of a sudden he had a spinning headache as he muttered, "Dragon Maiden Alice…Icy Dragon Maiden…Green Dragon Sacred Sword…Ziyan…Han Lin…"
All of a sudden Yi Ping frozen in place; it was because he had heard a couple of soft steps that was walking in his direction!
The footsteps were extremely light and as though they were afraid of being heard.
But Yi Ping's hearing was now extremely sharp after he had just recovered.
Two beautiful maidens in grey robes were now standing quietly in the courtyard. It seemed that they were waiting for someone.
One of the maidens wore a beautiful fan like headwear. She was dressed in a priestess robe but her headwear was too flamboyant to mark her as priestess.
On the other hand, the other maiden that was standing serenely next to her only had a simple head wear.
They were none other than Lady Snowflake and Maiden Ziyue of the Erudite Sect!
Yi Ping was really surprised to see them again as he thought, "Why are they here? Who are they waiting for?"
It did not take long for his questions to be answered when the Celeste Wind Maiden and Han Lin had walked quietly into the courtyard!
Yi Ping was startled to see them as he immediately thought, "They know each other?"
The Celeste Wind Maiden looked at her surrounding keenly for intruders before she nodded at Han Lin to indicate that it was convenient enough to talk.
Han Lin sniffed the air, "Seems safe enough."
They had failed to detect Yi Ping!
Because Yi Ping had harboured no ill-intentions toward them coupled by his breathing was regulated by the Divine Revelation and the Emptiness Translucent that had caused his spirit to be extremely tranquil, he was able to escape their detections!
Yi Ping had no idea that it was nearly impossible for the Celeste Wind Maiden to miss anyone within three hundred paces of her!
And yet, he did!
As he had become one with this divine sword, he was able to conceal the divine aura of the Celestial Alice as well!
It was said that a sword was a reflection of the practitioner's heart. If the state of mind was calm then so was the heart. And if the heart was as calm as still water then the practitioner would be one with the boundless nature!
And that was exactly the state of divinity that Yi Ping had now!
Yi Ping had no idea how close he was to the Great Emptiness Translucent now. He was now short of a crucial breakthrough to do so. However this crucial breakthrough was also the hardest and could only depend on providence.
Throughout history, there were many practitioners who would be struck at a crucial point and could not advance their state of divinity. Those that finally did often took decades to achieve enlightenment!
If a practitioner wanted to become the strongest and the most skilled, they had to first raise their enlightenment first!
It was because the state of mind and the state of divinity surpassed the physical limits of their body, causing the impossible to be possible!
Lady Snowflake immediately said with a startled expressions as she looked at the Celeste Wind Maiden with a startled expression, "Our respects to the Celestial Priestesses!"
The Celeste Wind Maiden asked coldly, "What is wrong?"
Lady Snowflake smiled weakly, "I am just wondering…"
The Celeste Wind Maiden interrupted, "Such as why my hair has turned to black?"
Both Lady Snowflake and Maiden Ziyue nodded slowly as they simply could not believe their eyes!
The Celeste Wind Maiden explained coldly and her icy demeanor was piercing, "It is all through the grace of the Celestial Mistress. If you are faithful to her, you will be rewarded with rare divine pills that can further your divinity."
Lady Snowflake and Maiden Ziyue exclaimed excitingly, "Yes, yes. We will."
Han Lin laughed jovially, "More than that. We will overcome all the obstacles in the Stellar Sanctuary and eventual ascend as true immortals!"
Lady Snowflake gasped softly, "Is this possible? So many others have failed…"
Han Lin pointed out confidently, "Others may have failed but our Celestial Mistress has almost succeeded. Why do you think that we are here? Maybe you have already heard about it. Our Celestial Mistress is actually the Sagess Ai, one of the seven most powerful ancient celestials!"
Lady Snowflake muttered, "True, true…"
Yi Ping was smiling bitterly to himself, "I can't believe that Lady Snowflake and Maiden Ziyue have actually fallen for that. Even I won't fall for it."
Han Lin added, "You are not supposed to contact us unless it is very important."
Lady Snowflake hesitated for a while before she mustered the courage to say, "The Celestial Mistress has promised to give out a thousand taels of celestium metals and a Divine Dragon Pill…"
Han Lin hummed coldly, "There is news?"
Lady Snowflake smiled alluringly, "I am sure that you know by now that the Lord of the Tranquil City has the Celestial Alice Divine Sword. No one knows that the Immortal Saint of Swords had the Celestial Alice Divine Sword until he lost it to the Lord of the Tranquil City."
Yi Ping was smiling weakly.
It was because he was still unable to get used to being addressed as the Lord of the Tranquil City…
Han Lin hummed aloud as she said, "That is already an open secret. Surely you are not thinking of using such old information to barter with us? Have you forgotten the rules of the Celestial Aiel Sect?"
Lady Snowflake smiled weakly, "We dare not forget. We dare not break protocols to meet in this place if it is for something so trivial. But it is important that we mention to you."
Han Lin said coldly, "Good. If your information is news worthy then you will surely be rewarded. But don't say I didn't warn you first. It has better be good."
The Celeste Wind Maiden hummed coldly in response before she warned icily, "It has better be or else."
Lady Snowflake smiled bitterly, "The Celestial Alice Divine Sword that you have been looking for may not be as important as what I am going to say to you next."
Han Lin yawned, "Oh?"
Lady Snowflake lifted her eyes to say coolly, "That is because we have seen the Goddess Celestial Alice herself!"
Immediately the Celeste Wind Maiden and Han Lin became tense as they looked at each other.
Han Lin quickly regained her composure, "How do you know she is the real Goddess Celestial Alice? There are countless imposters who pretended to be the Goddess Celestial Alice in the past!"
This time, Lady Snowflake smiled mysteriously before she replied, "How do I know if she is the Goddess Celestial Alice? Of course I do know. And I am sure that you know it too. We are all the priestesses of the Goddess Theocracy. In the secret chamber of the Erudite Sect there is a statue of the Goddess Celestial Alice. I am sure that the Celestial Aiel Sect has one too!"
Han Lin and the Celeste Wind Maiden looked at each other again as though they could not believe their ears!
Yi Ping was startled as he thought, "They are all priestesses of the Goddess Theocracy? What is it supposed to mean?"
Lady Snowflake continued, "This same Goddess Celestial Alice has three flower petals on her forehead. Not only that, she even wields the Sacred Sword of the Seven Stars. If she is not the Goddess Celestial Alice then I really do not know who she is!"
She paused briefly before adding, "Moreover, you must have noticed that my level of divinity has increased since the last time that we have met."
That was true. The Celeste Wind Maiden and Han Lin had found it strange too that her level of divinity had suddenly surged!
Lady Snowflake explained, "That is because the Goddess Celestial Alice has rewarded me with a Negative Core Divine Pill!"
The Celeste Wind Maiden and Han Lin immediately gasped with disbelief!
Without entering the Stellar Sanctuary, Lady Snowflake had actually gotten a Negative Core Divine Pill!
It was so precious and so rare that a single Negative Core Divine Pill would immediately spark a major intrigue among the celestial clans for it!
In short, it was an extremely rare celestial treasure that could aid the celestial practitioner to increase their divinity as well as their martial strength!
The Celeste Wind Maiden and Han Lin were envious; there was no doubt about it from the expressions of their eyes!
Yi Ping on the other hand was gasping secretly!
It was because he finally had an idea who Maiden Ziyan was!
It was something that Lady Snowflake had refused to divulge to anyone!
He thought excitedly, "Maiden Ziyan is really the Goddess Celestial Alice? But who is the Goddess Celestial Alice?"
Han Lin smiled weakly, "Where is she now?"
Lady Snowflake replied coolly, "I do not know. She has simply disappeared from here nearly a month ago."
The Celeste Wind Maiden said coldly, "Simply disappeared? From here?"
Han Lin said quietly, "If she is really the Goddess Celestial Alice then no one will be able to stop her from leaving. That is because she is a true immortal practitioner!"
Maiden Ziyue really could not resist her curiosity anymore, "She is really an immortal practitioner? She is really the Eternal Goddess?"
Actually Yi Ping had shared the same curiosity as Maiden Ziyue and he would have jumped down from the tree to ask further but he suppressed the urge as he knew that it was rude to eavesdrop on them.
Maiden Ziyue asked innocently, "If immortal practitioners really exist then shouldn't they be cultivating in the Immortal Realm instead of in the Celestial Realm? I mean the purpose of the Stellar Sanctuary is a trial for all the celestial practitioners here to ascend to the Immortal Realm. Am I right?"
Han Lin smiled bitterly, "Of all people, you shouldn't ask this. Have you forgotten that your place? Have you forgotten that you are a priestess of the Goddess Theocracy?"
Maiden Ziyue raised her hands to bow humbly, "May protégé sister enlightens me!"
Han Lin seemed to have softened a little when she saw the sincerity and innocent in her eyes, "The Eternal Goddess is also known as the Goddess Celestial Alice of the Three Known Realms. Isn't that as good as answering your question already?"
Maiden Ziyue stammered, "You mean that she can move between the three realms? How is that possible? If the immortal practitioners can do that, the natural order of things will be disrupted…"
Maiden Ziyue was a golden celestial and anyone who could reach her level of attainment was an enlightened celestial. So how could she not understand that everything in place must have a counter balance to it?
But if the immortal practitioners were able to descend upon the lower realms then the harmony order in the lower realm would surely be disrupted!
Han Lin replied casually, "You are right but that is only the normal rules for us. For the Eternal Goddess, it is different. Do you understand me?"
Maiden Ziyue shook her head with a weak smile.
Lady Snowflake managed a wryly smile, "I have heard rumours that the Heaveness and the Universal Old Man had secretly been to the lower realm too. And there are also rumours that the Lord of the Tranquil is not a golden celestial when he has ascended to the Celestial Realm. It seems that there is a way to traverse between the realms…"
The Celeste Wind Maiden interrupted coldly, "That is none of our concern. It is the duties of the priestesses of the Goddess Theocracy to carry out the will of the Eternal Goddess and asking questions are not our primary duties."
All of a sudden she asked with a sly smile, "Why don't you ask the Lord of the Tranquil City?"
Lady Snowflake smiled, "I guess not. I really don't want to offend the Ascension Goddess and the Heaveness."
There was a glitter in the eyes of the Celeste Wind Maiden as she muttered softly, "I have almost forgotten about them. The Celestial Fairy, the Ascension Goddess and the Heaveness…even that Lie Qing…I will like to duel with them one day to see who of us is the most outstanding."
Han Lin said jovially, "You want to duel with them to see who is better or you are fighting them for another reason?"
The Celeste Wind Maiden smiled weakly, "Now I know why even the Celestial Mistress can't stand you sometimes. Go away Han Lin!"
But Han Lin turned to say to Lady Snowflake and Maiden Ziyue instead, "Did you hear the edicts of the Celestial Priestess? Go away, she says!"
Lady Snowflake smiled bitterly but she said, "What about the celestium metals and the Divine Dragon Pill?"
Han Lin took out a pouch and tossed it carelessly to her, "This is the Divine Dragon Pill. As for the celestium metals, I will ask someone to deliver to you after we have returned from the Stellar Sanctuary."
Lady Snowflake asked, "What if…"
Han Lin said sharply, "What if we don't return from the Stellar Sanctuary? Is that what you are trying to say?"
Lady Snowflake smiled weakly.
Han Lin continued, "You don't have to worry. It will be delivered to your sect whether we return from the Stellar Sanctuary or not. Now leave."
Lady Snowflake bowed with her hands, "I bide my farewell first. See you later."
With that, she had walked away.
Maiden Ziyue also bowed with her hands, "Farewell to the Celestial Priestesses."
Her eyes were melancholy as she asked quietly, "I have heard that the Lord of the Tranquil City has fought with the Mad Conqueror. Is he well?"
The Celeste Wind Maiden looked sharply at her before she said coldly, "He won't die yet. Why don't you go and ask him yourself?"
Maiden Ziyue was flustered all of a sudden as she quickly said, "Nothing. I have to go now."
And she quickly headed for the northern entrance of the courtyard and vanished from view.
The Celeste Wind Maiden sighed softly, "Yet another maiden that is hopelessly falling for a man that she shouldn't have fallen in the first place."
Han Lin teased jovially, "You are talking about her or yourself?"
The Celeste Wind Maiden sighed softly, "How about you then?"
All of a sudden Han Lin became extremely quiet and she seemed to be looking at a faraway place…
The Celeste Wind Maiden asked, "What is wrong?"
Han Lin smiled coldly, "Nothing. I just thought of something else."
The Celeste Wind Maiden said quietly, "Do you like Yi Ping?"
Yi Ping was stunned that the Celeste Wind Maiden would suddenly mention him!
Han Lin smiled, "So what if I like him? Unlike you who dare not admit it."
The Celeste Wind Maiden became flustered as she stammered, "You…you! That is not true!"
Han Lin smiled with a sly tease, "Oh really? Is this your first lie?"
The Celeste Wind Maiden sighed softly, "What can I do? Even the Goddess Aiel and the Goddess Isa…"
Han Lin whispered with a soft laugh, "You mustn't mention her true name. If she heard us, we are dead. She is an extremely petty Goddess."
The Celeste Wind Maiden broke into a smile, "You know that she is talking with the Lord Supreme now and won't be eavesdropping upon us. Sometimes I don't really understand the relationship between Aiel and you. Han Lin, tell me who you really are. Until today, I didn't know that you have a protégé brother! And what is this Green Dragon Sacred Sword? I have never seen you this upset before."
Han Lin seemed to have a sudden sadness…
The Celeste Wind Maiden asked, "What is it? You should be happy, am I right? You have met a kin. Well. If you don't want to tell me your past, I really don't mind at all. You know me. I am not a nosey parker."
Han Lin sighed softly, "I…my protégé brother Chu Mingfan has changed a lot since we have last met. He isn't like this in the past. He seems to have some agenda for everything that he does."
The Celeste Wind Maiden asked, "Why do you say that? He looks like a highly enlightened celestial practitioner to me. Moreover he is also one of the Ascendant Custodians. If it is not for him, we won't be allowed to move so freely in the grounds of the Holy Ascension Sect!"
Han Lin smiled bitterly as she blurted out, "You really think so? Do you know that the Ancient Celestials have almost annihilated my entire clan?"
The Celeste Wind Maiden had suddenly grown solemn, "Han Lin, are you a Dragon Practitioner?"
Han Lin nodded slowly, "At this point, I don't wish to hide from you anymore. Yes, I am a Dragon Practitioner!"
The Celeste Wind Maiden was stunned as she gasped, "Didn't the Goddess Celestial Alice gives the edict in the past to purge all the Dragon Practitioners?"
Han Lin smiled coldly, "Now you know why it is impossible for my protégé brother to aid the Lord Supreme? It is because he plays a major hand in killing many of my clan!"
The Celeste Wind Maiden asked softly, "Does our mistress knows about it?"
Han Lin nodded slowly.
The Celeste Wind Maiden said solemnly, "Then she is defying the Goddess Celestial Alice openly. She is really bold."
Han Lin replied, "She may appear cold on the outside but inside she is actually a warm person."
The Celeste Wind Maiden said, "Why did she help you? I still find it impossible to believe."
Han Lin smiled bitterly, "That is because I help her fight off the Goddess Isa in the past."
The Celeste Wind Maiden raised her eyebrows, "The two of you can actually fight off the Goddess Isa?"
Han Lin whispered almost audibly, "There is a little help from the Dark Lord of the Chaos Cosmos too."
The Celeste Wind Maiden was startled as she quickly asked, "That is impossible! No one has ever seen him before or knows what he really looks like! Not even the ancient celestial practitioners have ever seen him before!"
Han Lin said bitterly, "We didn't really see him. He warned the Goddess Isa off from a distance. That was how Aiel's nightmare had started when the Goddess Isa began to pursue her."
She had a smile, "Even though I have not seen him face to face but I remember his righteous air and mesmerizing voice to this day…"
All of a sudden she had realized that the Celeste Wind Maiden was staring at her in utter disbelief so she quickly shut up.
The Celeste Wind Maiden said coldly, "Han Lin, who exactly are you? Aiel and you are not any ordinary celestial practitioners. If you are in the same time era as the Dark Lord of the Chaos Cosmos then you shouldn't be possibly be here today and would be dust. It just isn't possibly for any celestial practitioner to live this long unless they can ascend to the Immortal Realm."
Han Lin smiled bitterly, "It is forbidden to speak about it. You have to find it out yourself. But I can only say to you that we are as much as a celestial practitioner as you do and are trying to reach the Immortal Realm. However the way there has been sealed and the only way to ascend to the Immortal Realm is via the Stellar Sanctuary."
The Celeste Wind Maiden sighed coldly, "We have been protégé sisters for so long. Until today did I finally realize how little I have known about you and our Celestial Mistress."
Han Lin whispered, "That is not important right now. The most important thing is that Celestial Alice has been awakened and that means almost all the conditions for unsealing the Stellar Sanctuary has been fulfilled. We must seize this initiative before the Goddess Celestial Alice acts before us!"
The Celeste Wind Maiden was startled, "Act before the Goddess Celestial Alice?"
Han Lin nodded gravely, "She will initiate a calamity upon us all to preserve her own state of immortality…"
All of a sudden there were tears in her eyes, "Just like a long time ago for the Dragon Practitioners and the Ancient Celestials…"
But she quickly composed herself and said to the Celeste Wind Maiden, "Sister Qian'Er, let's go or we are going to be late."
Yi Ping was stunned by their conversations. It was because he was a newly arrival to the Celestial Realm and knew very little of the lore of the Celestial Realm and even the lower realm.
When he had ensured that they had left, he leapt gracefully down from where he was hiding. He sighed softly as he thought, "Maiden Ziyan has a heart of gold. She can't be the Goddess Celestial Alice that Han Lin is mentioning. Or else she won't try to end her life back in the Astronomic Stellar Formation…"
As he walked absent minded into another courtyard, he turned and bumped into a fine looking man with more silver than black hair on his head who shouted at him, "Ping'Er, look where you are going!"
He was startled as he looked intently at this man but he could not recognize him!
The fine looking man growled as he rubbed his chin, "Ping'Er, you don't know who I am?"
Yi Ping asked bewilderingly, "Who are you? I have never seen you before."
He had never seen such a charismatic man before!
The fine looking man roared with laughter, "Ping'Er, I am your protégé master!"
Yi Ping was stunned as he examined him keenly again. Now that he had mentioned it, he did find his voice vague familiar and even the mannerism of his laughter was the same!
He stammered, "You are really my protégé master?"
The fine looking man patted him on his shoulder as he said, "Of course I am. If even you do not recognize me, I wonder if the Sagess Ai is still able to recognize me. I am really handsome when I am young."
Yi Ping stammered, "Protégé master, you have shaved off your long beard?"
The fine looking man rubbed his chin, "Yes it is a pity but it is a noble sacrifice."
In the Celestial Realm, the true celestials almost never age and even the growth rate of their beards were miserable. That was why their beards became a notation of their rankings and seniority in the Celestial Realm. It was considered to be sacrilegious to cut and shave the beards of the true celestials!
Yi Ping rubbed his eyes and he was blinking at the Universal Old Man, "Noble sacrifice?"
The Universal Old Man nodded, "Never mind. You probably won't be able to understand."
Then he patted Yi Ping on his shoulder to laugh merrily, "I bet that you have never seen the face of the Sagess Ai before. Do you know that behind her veil is the most beautiful maiden in the entire Celestial Realm? That captivating eyes of hers and her constant alluring expressions are equal to all your consorts!"
He waved his fingers as he continued, "But she won't reveal herself to anyone. Only I have seen her true self!"
Yi Ping could only smile bitterly as he muttered, "Yes, yes…"
He was suddenly very flustered!
The Universal Old Man looked at Yi Ping before he asked, "What is wrong with your expressions? You don't believe me?"
Yi Ping quickly thought of an excuse, "I dare not. Erm…I am just thinking that the celestial name of my protégé master may not be suitable now."
The Universal Old Man slammed his fist into his palm as he said excitedly, "That is right! You are right! Why didn't I think of this earlier? Lucky you have reminded me…"
But he was soon muttering to himself, "If Ai sees me like this now, she will remember the past and fall for my charms…"