149 The First Immortals
Tall pine like trees lined the mountain slopes below the lofty white heavens. The scenic views as Yi Ping and his group made their first ascend were breathtaking beautiful!
The drifting lofty white heavens, evergreen landscape below and the endless mountains ascending in front of them one after the other were beautiful to behold!
But no one was in a mood to admire the breathtaking sceneries!
It was because at this moment they had all been captivated by the Goddess of Mercy as she explained the brief history of the immortals and why they were here.
The Goddess of Mercy said gently, "That is how the conflicts between the Zen and Arhat Practitioners had escalated into a full blown conflict."
She sighed softly, "The Great Lord Ahoha had led us against the Goddess Theocracy Sect and her allies. At the start of the campaign, we managed to gain grounds from the Second to the Sixth Heavens. At first, it may seem that we are winning but in the end, the tide slowly turned against us and Great Lord Ahoha met his demise. We have not only lost, we have lost really badly and in order to broker for a truce, we are forbidden to intervene in the Immortal Realm for ten millennium years. Ten long millennium years…"
Han Lin asked curiously, "Huh? Why is that so? Since you have gained grounds in five of the Heavens?"
The Goddess Isa smiled demurely as she explained, "While they have gained grounds in five of the Heavens, it doesn't mean that these five Heavens are wholly in their control. But of course, the most important battleground is still in the First Heavens and that is the domain that the Goddess Theocracy Sect exerted its strongest influence."
Han Lin asked again, "Why is that the First Heavens is the most important battleground?"
The Goddess Aiel laughed softly, "Han Lin, you really have a lot of questions."
Han Lin laughed softly as she blinked her eyes at the rest of the group, "You know, I am asking on behalf of the rest. I am sure that they are curious as well."
The Universal Old Man laughed aloud as he touched his chin; he had forgotten that he had shaved his beard. He quickly said, "That is right. We are really curious to know everything that we can learn about the Immortal Realm."
Yi Ping rubbed his nose as he added too, "That is right…"
The Goddess Aiel laughed softly, "But it seems that Yi Ping is not really that interested."
Yi Ping sighed softly as he replied melancholy, "I am just saddened that so many have perished in this needless war."
Everyone began to look at Yi Ping quietly as one by one, they nodded quietly…
Yixian smiled gently as she said to him, "Ping'Er, don't be sad. It is all in the past. There is nothing we can do."
Yi Ping sighed again as he nodded.
Lie Qing smiled mesmerizing, "It seems that the Immortal Realm is not any different from the Martial Fraternity. No matter. If that is the rule then we must play by the rules!"
Youxue stole a look at Yi Ping as she smiled enthralling, "We must not be discouraged and should look forward. It is really not easy for us to reach this point at all. After all that we have been through, we are giving it all up? Life and death may be predestined but if our resolve is not strong, we will not have any fighting chance at all against these powerful immortal practitioners!"
Lingfeng knew that Yi Ping was secretly worried for them. As she looked at him, her eyes began to water.
As Yi Ping looked at Youxue, he was reminded that Youxue had suffered more than any of the maidens that he had known. The burdens and the fugitive life that she had led was not something that anyone, not even himself would be able to endure.
Yi Ping had noticed her enthralling eyes immediately and he quickly looked away. But as he looked away, he noticed that Lingfeng's alluring eyes were looking at him!
Not only Lingfeng was looking at him, Yang Min, Jing'Er, Shi Shi, Lele, the Celeste Wind Maiden, Lie Qing, Yixian, the Goddess Aiel, the Goddess Isa and Han Lin were all looking intently at him!
Yi Ping quickly pretended to show interest by asking the Goddess Aiel, "Aiel, it seems that the First Heavens plays a crucial role. Why is that so?"
The Goddess Aiel laughed softly as she continued, "It is because the First Heavens is where most of the immortal practitioners congregated. Even if we add up all the immortal practitioners from the Second Heavens to the Ninth Heavens, it is not even one tenth of the numbers in the First Heavens!"
Yang Min was clearly startled, "Then how many practitioners are there in the First Heavens alone?"
The Goddess Aiel laughed, "No one really knows but it should be around one million."
Everyone was stunned at the numbers!
Lele asked curiously, "Then doesn't that make the First Heavens a really crowded place?"
The Goddess Aiel shook her head, "It is even more desolate than the Celestial Realm. You can't imagine how vast the First Heavens is and how many millenniums the last immortal war had been waging."
All of a sudden Yi Ping asked, "It seems to me that the immortal practitioners that are in the First Heavens are weaker than the rest of the immortal practitioners of the other Heavens but yet they play such a crucial role. Isn't that an irony? Maybe the Jade Emperor is right? The mortals from the lower realm may one day be greater than the immortal practitioners in the Immortal Realm?"
The Goddess of Mercy was startled as she looked at Yi Ping. For all her infinite wisdom she had never really thought of that and had dismissed the prophecy of the Jade Emperor!
The Goddess Isa was also startled as she looked curiously at Yi Ping before she said, "Maybe."
Yi Ping said, "It seems that the number of immortal practitioners that are in the Immortal Realm will never increase?"
The Goddess Isa nodded slowly, "That is right."
Yi Ping asked again, "So that means that the number of immortal practitioners have decreased considerably by now?"
Again the Goddess Isa nodded quietly.
Yi Ping asked, "And now many of the more capable immortal practitioners are heading here to seek the secrets of the Stellar Sanctuary. And quite a few may have already met their demise?"
The Goddess Isa nodded slowly again.
Yi Ping sighed melancholy, "The only way for the number of immortal practitioners to increase is for the celestial practitioners to become immortal practitioners. But that doesn't seem to be happening. It seems that the current Immortals are not willing to help the celestial practitioners to become immortal practitioners…"
The Goddess Aiel said quietly, "Not at all. There are many other immortals, including the Goddess Celestial Alice that advocate for the enlightenment of the mortals. But the path to true enlightenment is really so difficult that words cannot describe it. That is why there are also many immortals that have long given up for the mortals to attain true enlightenment and to join us."
The Goddess of Mercy said, "That is why it is impossible for the mortals to replace us. That is the main reason why we have refused to believe the prophecy of the Jade Emperor as the universal truth."
Yi Ping began to ponder again before he asked, "This Jade Emperor…who is he? I happen to know one Jade Emperor that is in the Mortal Realm."
At this the Goddess of Mercy turned very pale before she muttered, "Let hope that they are not the same. But…"
She stole a glance at Lele coldly, "Good sister, you still hasn't explained to me where you learn your Celestial Force from?"
She looked a little melancholy before she asked again, "I have paid a heavy price with my internal strength…"
Lie Qing, Youxue and Lingfeng almost choked when they had heard it. They really did not know whether to laugh or cry!
It was because they had quietly observed the changes in the Goddess of Mercy over the past few days. In no time she had shed away her haughty self and had quickly learnt several subtle tactics from the rest of the maidens.
It was obvious that she was trying to get Yi Ping's sympathy!
Yi Ping was sighing, "Alas! It is wrong to steal the internal strength of others."
Indeed Yi Ping had fallen for it!
Even the Universal Old Man was shaking his head as he sighed softly, "What a pity!"
Yang Min raised her eyebrows as she thought ruefully, "Just because a beautiful maiden intentionally shed a little tear, it is really unbelievable that so many worldly wise men will actually fall for it. Or is it because some men never learn?"
Even Han Lin was smiling weakly for everyone could see that the Goddess of Mercy was pretending to be melancholy. Everyone except for Yi Ping and the Universal Old Man!
The Goddess of Mercy continued to add, "You must know that I am such an eminent immortal practitioner. To lose my internal strength…"
Lele stammered out, "Well, that is enough. You are even more irritating than me! You only lost a little of your internal strength. This doesn't affect your techniques and fighting strength at all. You really think that I do not know that the Goddess Asura and you have not even displayed your utmost martial strength? Or else I will drain just this meagre amount of your internal strength!"
The Goddess of Mercy flashed Lele an annoyed look but she hesitated to raise her hands against her because she had noticed that Yixian, Lie Qing and Youxue had all stepped protective around Lele!
Yixian said gently, "The Goddess of Mercy? If you want to get along with us, shouldn't you at the very least tell us your name?"
The Goddess of Mercy lifted her eyes to look at Yixian.
She began to sigh softly. She had already learnt that this Yixian was Yi Ping's rightful wife. She had been secretly observing her for a few days and her magnanimity did not seem to be an act.
The Goddess of Mercy replied quietly, "You are Yixian?"
She was stating the obvious!
But Yixian smiled gently at her and replied gently, "Yes, that is my common name."
The Goddess of Mercy nodded as she said, "I know you as Ishtar in the past. It seems…that you have changed so much."
Slowly she glanced over to look at Yi Ping as she lit a beautiful smile.
Yi Ping was startled when she had suddenly smiled at him!
And he wondered why as he thought, "Why did she suddenly smile at me?"
The Goddess of Mercy soon answered his question as she looked at him, "Yes, the Goddess of Mercy is my immortal title. As for my name, it is…"
Her eyes lit up as she looked at Yi Ping before saying shyly, "…it is Gusu Xiang. Xiang as in fragrance. Pardon my rudeness. I have forgotten to introduce myself. It will really look bad for the groom not to know his bride name. Am I right?"
The Goddess Isa was stunned at the chic shyness of the Goddess of Mercy. She could hardly believe that this was the Goddess of Mercy herself and that an imposter had actually taken her place!
Even the Goddess Aiel was stunned as she thought, "Is she really the Goddess of Mercy? I don't believe my eyes…"
The Goddess of Mercy proceeded to say, "Yi Ping? You are not happy to know my name?"
Yi Ping was already quite embarrassed by now because he had noticed that all the other maidens were quietly looking at him and waiting to see his response!
He quickly bowed with his hands to say, "I am happy. Really happy…" he began to hesitate a little because he was thinking what to say next.
The Goddess of Mercy appeared to be hurt and Yi Ping could feel it immediately due to his divine attainment in the Great Emptiness Translucence!
This caused him to be even more awkward!
The Goddess of Mercy asked hurtfully, "Then why didn't you call my name?"
Her sudden plea struck Yi Ping like a thunderbolt!
Yi Ping began to stammer, "Maiden Gusu…"
Again the Goddess of Mercy appeared to be hurt as she displayed a hurtful expression as she muttered, "You don't have to be so polite. It is too polite."
Yi Ping quickly stammered out, "Maiden Xiang…"
Again the Goddess of Mercy looked at him hurtfully!
Yi Ping was all flustered by now and he had broken into cold sweat. It was because the looks that everyone had given him and from the melancholy looks of the Goddess of Mercy that was upon him; it appeared to him that time seemed to have suddenly frozen in place. Every moment seemed like an eternity to him!
He stammered again, "Xiang'Er…"
The Goddess of Mercy seemed to have been pacified and she returned a delighted look at him. It seemed like the darkness had suddenly been lifted and Yi Ping was suddenly breathing normally again!
She smiled shyly, "Ping'Er…"
Lele was about to say something when Lingfeng interrupted unhappy, "Humph! The two of you seem to have forgotten about the rest of us? If you have any mushy words to say, find a private place to do so!"
Lele smiled, "It seems that Sister Lingfeng is envious!"
Lingfeng shot an amused look at her, "Yes I am envy but speaks for yourself first!"
Lele laughed softly, "I didn't start it first."
She pointed at Yi Ping and the Goddess of Mercy, "They did!"
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All of a sudden the Goddess of Mercy appeared to be solemn as she asked, "But truly, are we not sisters now? I have already shared what I know but shouldn't you tell me more about the Jade Emperor that you know?"
Yi Ping looked at Lele before he said, "I will but may I know why you seem to fear this Jade Emperor? I really do not think that they are the same person."
The Goddess of Mercy took a quick glance at the Goddess Aiel and the Goddess Isa who nodded gently at her before she said quietly, "Every realm must have a dominant ruler, am I right to say so? Just like all the clans also have their principal leaders."
Yi Ping nodded.
The Goddess of Mercy hesitatingly, "So the Jade Emperor was actually the ruler of the Immortal Realm in the past and all the immortals had to pay homage to him. He was very ancient and is the first generation immortal. Do you know that even the Goddess Celestial Alice and most of the most powerful immortals in the Immortal Realm are only considered second generation immortals?"
Lingfeng, the Universal Old Man, Shi Shi, Jing'Er, Han Lin, Yang Min and the Celeste Wind Maiden were all exchanging astonished look!
This was news to them and they made a mental note to remember it. The celestial practitioners in the Celestial Realm knew very little about the immortals.
The Universal Old Man interrupted curiously, "Then there must be other first generation immortals too, am I right?"
The Goddess of Mercy nodded as she replied, "However, these first generation immortals are few in numbers. Excluding the Jade Emperor, they numbered exactly thirty-three! However their states of divinities are all much greater than the rest of the second generation immortals and they are capable of several divine practices that seemed impossible to attain for most of the immortals."
She looked at Lele before saying, "For example, uncanny divinations and of course the accursed Celestial Force Divine Skill!"
She began to sigh melancholy, "That is why I have my own reasons to suspect that the Jade Emperor that you have known in the realm below is the one and the same!"
The Goddess Isa nodded as she said quietly, "The Goddess of Mercy is right. The Celestial Force is an immortal skill and exceedingly powerful."
Yi Ping asked, "But since the Jade Emperor is the ruler of the Immortal Realm why is he in the Mortal Realm now? This makes no sense?"
The Goddess Isa said quietly, "If the Jade Emperor did not meet with his demise then there is a chance that he has sought refuge in the Mortal Realm to recuperate."
The Goddess of Mercy nodded with a soft sigh, "That is only logical. It is because most immortals are not able to descend to the Mortal Realm and he has an advantage there…"
The Goddess Aiel continued for her, "…he will be able to cultivate a hundred times faster than anyone of us!"
The Universal Old Man was mystified as he asked, "But the Mortal Realm isn't a good training ground. The spiritual force there isn't as fulfilling as the Celestial Realm or the Immortal Realm for sure. Moreover if he stays there, his state of divinity will surely be stuck!"
The Goddess of Mercy smirked coldly, "Don't be too sure about that first. If you are the Jade Emperor and you have already reached the highest state of divinity, will you care much about attaining a new state of divinity?"
The Universal Old Man stammered, "Oh well…maybe not but still it doesn't make any sense!"
The Goddess Isa offered a suggestion, "What if his goal is to cultivate his internal strength or to gather the heavenly relics in the Mortal Realm?"
The Universal Old Man shook his head as he looked at Lingfeng, "My Heaveness, what do you think? It doesn't make any sense to me. Only in the upper realm and with a breakthrough in a higher state of divinity can our skills and strength be improved. It makes no sense to stay in the lower realm. We are there for a long time; not only did our cultivation did not improved, our state of divinity seem to decline as well. Maybe it is because we don't have any worthy opponents there. And you…even…"
There was a glitter of watery teary in Lingfeng's eyes as she replied melancholy, "…and I have even taken my own life. Is that what you want to say?"
Yi Ping murmured, "Lingfeng…"
Lingfeng smiled alluringly at Yi Ping, "But I am content now. I have experienced what is mortal suffering and what is…"
Yixian and Lie Qing stammered out, "…love…"
Lingfeng nodded at them as she smiled, "And because of what I have experienced and learnt, I have advanced my divinity. Isn't it a good thing?"
Lie Qing looked at Yi Ping as she said, "I have never thought that I will be able to experience a breakthrough in my Invincible Divine Force until I met Yi Ping…"
Yixian had a shimmering tear in her eyes that even her Emotionless Rhyme could not suppress as she muttered coarsely, "I have never thought that I will pull through my Divine Calamity either and advanced my martial skills to a new level."
Yi Ping muttered, "Everyone…"
The Universal Old Man smiled weakly, "I think we have better discussed about the Jade Emperor. What exactly happens in the Immortal Realm in the past?"
The Goddess Isa hesitated as she looked at the Goddess Aiel and the Goddess of Mercy before saying quietly, "A long time ago, the Jade Emperor made a divination that one day the mortals will inherit the mantle of the Great God Pangu. Afterwards, he made several divine interventions at the detrimental of his own attainment to help the mortals attain awareness of the Heavens above. Naturally this did not go too well with the rest of the immortals who believe that the Jade Emperor is damaging the interest of the immortals."
She looked at the Heaveness, the Universal Old Man and Han Lin, "The Ancient Celestials, the Dragon Practitioners, they are the first generation celestial practitioners that the Jade Emperor has helped."
Han Lin was startled, "The mysterious immortal practitioner that has given us the Green Dragon Divine Sword is the Jade Emperor?!"
The Goddess Isa nodded, "Indeed! The Green Dragon Divine Sword is an immortal sword of the Jade Emperor. There is no doubt about this."
Han Lin began to shiver as she muttered tearfully, "Finally…I have learnt his great name! I have not let my elders down…I know his great name now…"
Han Lin shot the Goddess Isa, the Goddess Aiel and the Goddess of Mercy a bloodshot look, "And because of his interventions, the rest of the immortals took up arms against him?"
The Goddess of Mercy replied, "You must know that everything must be in perfect harmony. The Jade Emperor and his seven Heavenly Kings failed to keep the harmony and invited self-destruction. The Dragon Practitioners fail to cultivate their self and invited their own self-destruction."
Han Lin hummed coldly, "So you are saying that might makes right and the victors are the righteous side?"
The Goddess of Mercy replied, "What else."
Han Lin stepped forward as she raised her hands, "You! You…"
Yi Ping said gently to her, "Han Lin, be pacified alright? I am sure Maiden Xiang…Xiang'Er did not mean it."
The Goddess of Mercy began to fluster as she thought, "He is calling…my name! So sweet!"
Even Han Lin was looking docile at Yi Ping!
Yi Ping said, "It is all in the past. Let's don't dwell too much on it, alright?"
Han Lin and the Goddess of Mercy nodded quietly to him without looking at each other.
Lele yawned softly, "Grandpa isn't an immortal practitioner. I am sure of it. Or else he won't be constantly thinking about the Celestial Realm."
Yi Ping said gently to her, "Lele maybe you have been too close to your grandpa and is blinded to the obvious. Your grandpa has never been to the Celestial Realm but he seems to know quite a lot about the upper realms. I wonder why. Also…"
Lele asked curiously, "What do you mean?"
Yi Ping sighed softly as he looked at Yixian, Lie Qing, Youxue and Lingfeng as he asked, "Do you all remember what the eyes' colour of the Jade Emperor is?"
It was because they had seen the Jade Emperor previously!
Lele yawned softly, "Crimson naturally!"
Yixian and Lie Qing looked at each curiously. It was because Lele was right!
Youxue's eyes began to shine and even Lingfeng had a startled expression!
It was because they had remembered that the eyes of the Jade Emperor were black when they had first met him but it had changed to crimson when Lele arrived on the scene!
Youxue and Lingfeng immediately exchanged knowing glances!
At that time Yunzi had said to them, "His eyes are not crimson and his hair isn't completely silver. Yet he claims to be the Jade Emperor. How do we know if it is true?"
Yi Ping had asked quite bluntly, "Why aren't your eyes crimson? Are you a Dark Celestial? Are all of you Dark Celestials?"
The Jade Emperor laughed, "Practitioners of the internal martial arts are able to suppress their internal strength and even their state of divinity. Therefore this is not a real surprise at all."
The Jade Emperor added a smile after noticing Yi Ping's expression, "Am I a Dark Celestial? What do you really think?"
But Shen Xingyue had expressed doubts and had told them her views on it much later. It was because it was easier said than done. Even though her Divine Rejuvenation Force was an epitome internal skill, it was unlike the absorbing skill of the Celestial Force which could suppress even the practitioner's own martial strength. Moreover, to be able to do so was an indication of the practitioner's level. Even for the Celestial Liege and Lele, they were not able to accomplish that.
Youxue muttered softly, "Come to think of it now, it now makes perfectly sense now. Why anyone would want to suppress their own internal strength? Isn't that already telling us that it is weird?"
Lingfeng was muttering, "To think that we are all smart people but we have all miss the most obvious. At that time, Sister Xingyue is the most powerful celestial practitioner that is with us. She is an Ascend Level Celestial and yet Lele's grandpa took only one stroke to defeat her…"
At that time Shen Xingyue was moving at a startling speed against the Celestial Liege but she was interrupted by the Jade Emperor who had moved with even startling speed than her!
Yi Ping asked, "Xingyue's speed is legendary. Who can intervene in her attacks and defeat her at the same time with just a single stroke?"
Yixian, Lie Qing, Youxue and Lingfeng nodded slowly because they now see the obvious!
Lie Qing smiled weakly, "We have all forgotten that Sister Xingyue is an Ascend Level Celestial and her most astonishing martial skill is her speed."
The Celeste Wind Maiden smiled, "When I got the chance, I will want to duel with her. I wonder who is better."
Lele laughed softly, "Let me know please. It will be interesting to know the outcome."
Yi Ping said exasperatingly, "Lele, I rather not let it happen."
Lingfeng smiled bitterly as she said all of a sudden, "Then we can conclude that the Jade Emperor that we know is the one and the same as the immortal that they know?"
The Goddess of Mercy said quietly, "Who else knows the Celestial Force?"
Yi Ping nodded, "Lele's grandpa may be pretending that he doesn't know anything about the Celestial Realm but at the same time he seems to know a lot too. Isn't that a contradiction?"
Yi Ping had remembered very clearly that the Jade Emperor had said to Lele just before they had departed for the Celestial Realm, "This is not shameful. The Virtuous Palace is renowned for their swordplay. In the upper realm, there are many powerful opponents. So be careful. Don't forget to refine your sword techniques or else even if you have a divine sword in your hand, it is just a useless toy."
Lele asked, "Really but…"
Yi Ping shook his head as he sighed softly, "There are no other explanations!"
Lele took a sly look at Yi Ping before saying, "Ping'Er then I think you are really in trouble!"
Yi Ping was startled, "Huh? I am in trouble?"
Lele answered solemnly as she winked at him, "Yes you are. It is because you have stolen my Grandpa's Heavenly Relics."
Yi Ping was stunned as he looked at Lele blankly, "As though you don't have a hand?"
Lele laughed jovially as she winked playfully at him, "Do you think that my grandpa will bear to punish me?"
All of a sudden the small Kirin cub who everyone had almost forgotten began to rumble excitingly as it began to run in circles around Yi Ping!
Yi Ping was startled, "What is it? What is it that you are trying to tell me?"
Lele said playfully, "Maybe it is hungry, that is all!"
The Goddess of Mercy and the Goddess Isa were alarmed; they were scanning their surroundings warily!