The dimensional gate appeared to be rather ordinary. But as a traveler within, Jiang Chen felt an unbidden sense of wonder. He found himself landing in a completely separate patch of space.
The place looked like a residence, though a rather empty one. A lone obelisk stood in the most eye-catching place, a slate wall not far behind it.
Jiang Chen stood before the obelisk, which slowly began to glow with a faint light. The light scattered in a sedate manner, making the surface of the obelisk as smooth as a mirror.
In the next moment, a figure flickered into existence upon it.
“O ye of future generations… if you have come before this obelisk, you share a fated destiny with me. I am Pei Xing, a veteran and survivor of the ancient demon-sealing war. I came to Myriad Abyss Island, but did not wish to commingle with those cowards. I stumbled upon this deserted island and made a home for myself here…”
Jiang Chen was slack-jawed at the discovery of this information.
Just as he thought, Winterdraw had its own origin story. However, it wasn’t a run-of-the-mill story. The first master of Winterdraw had, in fact, been a cultivator who’d participated in the ancient demon-sealing war! Senior Pei Xing had been unwilling to live alongside the deserters of the war he’d fought so hard in. That was why he’d created a home for himself on the then-wild island.
This was how Winterdraw Island had come into being.
“My life’s knowledge is split thus: seventy percent in formations, thirty percent in the martial arts. I was one of the three masters responsible for the Great Formation of Heavenly Soul Confinement. I worked alongside two masters from the Earth Bodhisattva Sect and the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect…”
Jiang Chen was even more bewildered. He hadn’t expected such illustrious history from Winterdraw’s ancient master. One of the three masters behind the Great Formation of Heavenly Soul Confinement! He’d borne a third of the responsibility for the construction and planning of the formation.
The other two in the same role had been representatives from the two most famous ancient formation sects. Pei Xing on the other hand, appeared independent. Someone who’d been on the same level as two of the greatest formation sects was more than worthy of Jiang Chen’s respect.
“No wonder there were formations strewn about everywhere on the way here. Restrictions upon restrictions, each linked to the next. They were pretty hard to keep up with! But considering their creator, it makes sense.” Jiang Chen breathed out in admiration when he realized the truth.
“I poured my heart and soul into refining this obelisk. It protects the land’s fortunes and feng shui. All of Winterdraw’s formations are beholden to it. Whoever obtains this obelisk… obtains the island.”
Following this, images flickered upon the obelisk’s surface that showed how to refine and utilize to control the island’s restrictions. Only excitement remained in Jiang Chen’s heart.
“Just when I thought I’d come to a dead end, a new path reveals itself before me.” He wanted to crow with laughter. “I can’t believe Senior Pei Xing’s Winterdraw Island would hold a secret like this!”
It was clear that no one before him had trespassed. No one had understood the formations or entered the dimensional gate. Which meant of course, that no one before now had seen the obelisk.
Jiang Chen was the first man lucky enough to enter this place after Pei Xing’s creation of the obelisk. The young lord seemed to always have had an affinity with formations.
He’d received the Ancient Crimson formation heritage, including everything within its forbidden grounds.
Though he hadn’t found the site of the Earth Bodhisattva Sect, he’d obtained its crowning treasure.
And now, he had gotten his hands on Senior Pei Xing’s heritage.
Jiang Chen memorized the steps required to refine the obelisk. Finally, the figure upon the obelisk sighed. “I was too heavily injured in the ancient demon-sealing war. It’s hopeless for me to attain any breakthroughs to greater heights. Alas and alack! I’ve nothing to leave behind, besides this Obelisk of Containment. Aside from that, there is an airboat I used to use. All that I’ve learned in my life is contained in that vessel. After you pull the obelisk up out of the earth, the floor will crumble below you. You may find that vehicle beneath.”
How fortuitous! Senior Pei Xing had left him an airboat as well. This was invaluable considering his present circumstances. Jiang Chen was exuberant. He realized that he could finally break free of his shackles and escape from Winterdraw.
It was at this moment that the surface of the obelisk emitted another bright light. The image on it turned to the world outside. The three mid empyrean experts had reached the stony formation’s outskirts via following his trail. Kuang Han was in the lead.
“Those three wily bastards! They’re hounding me far too closely! I must’ve left traces of my consciousness and energy as I made my jumps. How would they’ve understood these formations’ mysteries so easily otherwise?”
Jiang Chen didn’t believe it possible. So what if these three men were mid empyrean realm? He had plenty of reason to disdain their formation skills. He solidly maintained that the trio had followed him inside rather than using their own skills.
This was a bit regrettable, but there was nothing to be done. He’d been nearly perfect, but he hadn’t been able to avoid leaving no traces whatsoever during his jumps through the formations. Unless he surpassed those three in strength, it was difficult for him to remain untraceable with so little time.
Thankfully, they were very conservative about the way they were proceeding. They walked to and fro outside the formation of stones without barging in.
“This formation is very odd. What think you, Daoist Kuang Han?”
The other two now saw Kuang Han as the de facto leader of the expedition.
The man who had been asked the question glowered. “That kid is the odd one. Every time we think he’s out of options, he manages to escape from our clutches yet again.”
“Is he using his concealing talisman again?” asked Xue Yi.
“Perhaps.” Kuang Han gritted his teeth. “But where could he possibly hide in this small a space?”
“Shall I try him again with my Demonhowl Zither?”
“No. This place is too strange. If your song triggers the formation here, we’ll be in a great deal of trouble. It’s better not to risk anything at the core of all these formations. This may be an opportunity of sorts for us! I didn’t expect a place as insignificant as Winterdraw to hide so great a secret as this.” Kuang Han paced slowly around the stones, scrutinizing their details.
Xue Yi backed off uncertainly at Kuang Han’s opposition.
Within the residence, Jiang Chen began to refine the Obelisk of Containment as quickly as possible according to Senior Pei Xing’s instructions.
Refining the obelisk meant taking it away from the core of the formations. Once it was removed, all of the formations on Winterdraw would lose their effects.
“The three of them are already outside. When I refine the obelisk, the dimensional formation that places me here will fail as well. Perhaps I may directly come face to face with them for a moment. But according to the senior’s instructions, the space here will collapse upon itself when that occurs. I will be dropped underground into the airboat called Starfate. I hope the senior hasn’t deceived me…” Jiang Chen had no other choice.
Thankfully, Pei Xing hadn’t placed any particularly difficult problem in the process. As a master of formations himself, Jiang Chen had a superb advantage. This allowed him to be quite efficient in the refinement of the treasure.
In no time at all, he was eighty percent done. His attention was occasionally split in order to monitor any changes in the circumstances outside. He had to guard against the trio entering the same gate that he had entered. That would put them right here.
Outside, Kuang Han and company searched all about, but to no avail. However, Kuang Han did begin to find a few clues that led him into the boulder formation. The peculiarly constructed gate was suspended in midair before them.
“This is where the trail ends.” Kuang Han gazed at the cryptic passage above him, lost in thought.
“Can this be an actual doorway that leads to somewhere?” Xuan Zan guessed.
“It must be a dimensional gate, but it’s hard to say whether we’ll find safety or disaster beyond.” Xue Yi had an opinion as well.
Kuang Han glanced at his companions. “We don’t have another way forward, you two. Either we enter or we return. What do you think we should do?”
“If we return now, won’t everything have been for nothing?” Xuan Zan didn’t sound accepting of that option. “We’ll have wasted our time. Even Winterdraw’s fools will laugh at us. I won’t suffer that indignity!”
Xue Yi gnashed his teeth as well. “Daoist Xuan Zan is correct. We three houses will lose all our face if we go back now!”
Kuang Han chuckled. “Then, you mean to…?”
“We’re going in!” Xuan Zan was absolutely certain. “If not you, then I will go alone! Although if there’s anything good inside, it’ll be mine as well.”
“What an absurd notion. I’m going too.” Xue Yi volunteered.
“If we’re of the same mind,” Kuang Han sighed, “then we shall embark together. Whether blessing or curse, we’ll shoulder it together!”
“Alright!” The trio nodded, exchanging a mutual look of understanding, then readied to charge into the dimensional gate.
It was at this moment that the fabric of space before them shivered violently. In the next moment, all of the boulders suddenly crumbled. It was as if the plane that had supported them had also been demolished.
The astounding tumult shook both heaven and earth. Apocalypse seemed to descend. Everywhere the eye could see, countless lights soared away from the formations. Rocks toppled left and right. All order seemed to disappear in that moment.
Even men as experienced as mid empyrean experts were left agape at this incredible sight. For a few moments, they completely forgot about their decision. They leaned on each other in a triangular formation for the sake of self-defence.
Boulders toppled all around them, smashing into the earth before their feet. The men were buried in the ruins. Thankfully, the three were too skillful to be fundamentally hurt despite being buried. They used their methods to escape.
The area above was now empty. Aside from a spreading destruction, where was there a shadow of anything?