Led by the few white-robed Oracles, Wu Qi finally entered the Secret Palace, but not before repeatedly exhorting the middle-aged Oracle not to harm Ao Buzun and the dragon python sisters, and telling Ao Buzun and the two dragon pythons not to cause trouble when he was not around.
Like Yu Gu's Supreme Tower, the interior of the Secret Palace was dark and gloomy, full of a suffocating repression. Walking along the long corridor, Wu Qi felt that every step he took was like stepping on history, stepping over the river of time. He could not describe his feelings, but felt that everything was unreal like a dream.
Countless patterns were carved on the walls along the way, many of which were tales familiar to Wu Qi. Seeing that he was interested in the carvings, the white-robed Oracles explained the details of the tales to him with gusto.
From the creation of the world by Pangu, the creation of the human race by Empress Wa, to the taming of waters by Yu the Great, the Oracles told him the tales he had heard when he was little. However, they were somehow different from what he knew, with many details that worthed further deliberation.
For example, Pangu, in the story Wu Qi knew, was the first living being, and he created the world because of loneliness. But, Wu Qi was puzzled by the carving he saw here—Pangu stood in a hazy mist, clutching an axe and treading on a huge lotus throne. However, in the mist in the distance were countless figures, all of whom seemed to be watching the spectacle of Pangu opening up the heaven and earth.
And, the discrepancy in the story of Empress Wa was even greater. For all Wu Qi knew, Empress Wa molded figures from the yellow earth and innate water after her image, giving them life and the ability to bear children. But, according to the carving here, the first batch of humans was molded by many Ancient Great Saints using yellow earth, innate water, and the blood essence they took from countless divine beasts and fowls. All Empress Wa did was fuse these figures with countless souls she took out of a strange-looking cauldron.
The Ancient Great Saints molded the figures, and Empress Wa gave them souls.
Somehow, Wu Qi felt that this version was consistent with the records found in some lost ancient books on Earth. It was mentioned in those records that Empress Wa had created the human race together with Ancient High Gods using her divine ability of Seventy-two transformations.
When he heard the Oracles tell him the story of Yu the Great taming the waters, Wu Qi was all the more troubled. In the historical record back on Earth, Yu the Great was the founder of Xia Dynasty, but here he was one of Great Yu's eighteen Emperors of Merit in ancient times. The waters he tamed was not a natural disaster, but the catastrophe caused by some formidable existences from outer domains who had invaded this world created by the Great Saint Pangu.
He was credited with leading Great Yu Dynasty, which had just begun to take shape, and immortals, who were also in their early stages, in the slaughter of the invading existences. After that, in order to suppress some unkillable mighty figures among the invading forces, he took nine dragon veins out of Pangu Continent, which, according to the legends, were the Great Saint Pangu's vertebra; forged them into nine cauldrons, and used them to suppress those fearsome figures.
It was a mind-blowing walk for Wu Qi. He had a vague feeling that these stories, which were so different from the mythology he knew, might be the truth of history. With institutions such as the Secret Palace keeping the records and books for Great Yu since its founding, what these white-robed Oracles told him should be true.
He sighed with emotions while making his way down the corridor with the white-robed Oracles. They passed countless forks, each of which was of the same height, length and brightness, as well as countless traps and spatial barriers. It was so confusing that Wu Qi could not remember the exact way these Oracles had led him through, even with his present level of cultivation base.
With their speed and the various strange devices and teleportation formations along the way, Wu Qi reckoned they must have traveled some tens of thousands of miles after nearly four hours of walking. He was not even sure if he was still in the mountain behind the entrance, because a dozen of the teleportation formations they stepped into gave him a feeling that they had traveled through the void to a very distant place. It made him lose track of where he was by now.
Eventually, Wu Qi saw a warm light ahead, and when they walked out of the dark, repressive tunnel, he found himself standing in front of an ancient, dark yellow bronze door, parted by a small square measuring dozens of miles wide. The place was surrounded by thick rock walls, and brightly lit by thousands of fist-sized pearls socketed on the rock ceiling a mile above the ground.
Countless patterns of the stars were carved on this immense, thousand feet tall bronze door, and dozens of Oracles with black threads facing the edges of their white sleeves could be seen sitting cross-legged in a neat formation before it. They were not breathing, as if they were just some corpses, and Wu Qi could not hear their heartbeats or their blood flow. They should be alive though, having used some queer mystic art to put themselves in a deep slumber that made them look no different from corpses in coffins.
They walked past these Oracles and came before the bronze door. One of the white-robed Oracles reached out his hand and pressed a few stars on the door. As soon as he was done, the door began to rise slowly. A cold air drifted out from behind the door, mixed with a faint scent. Wu Qi took a whiff of it and realized that it was the smell of 'Blue Grass', a plant that was used exclusively to prevent bamboo and wooden slips from rotting.
When he looked up at the slowly rising door, Wu Qi was utterly stunned. A thousand feet high and a hundred feet wide, the thickness of this colossal bronze door was a shocking ten miles! It was literally a bronze pillar lying flat on the ground. In addition to its monstrous size, its surface was spotted with countless runes, and socketed with innumerable turtle shells, gemstones, crystals, and jades. Clearly, these ornaments served as more than just decorations.
The door was opened, but the few white-robed Oracles did not enter. Instead, they gestured Wu Qi to enter alone.
An elderly man in a white robe was already waiting at the other side of the door. He was skinny and stood about nine feet tall, looking like a bamboo pole. Six tiny Supreme Towers were embroidered on his sleeves with black threads, and patterns of stars were sewed on his chest with silver threads. The Supreme Towers represented that he was a Supreme Oracle, and his cultivation base was as strong as a fourth-tier Primordial Immortal. As for the stars on his chest, they indicated that he specialized in celestial phenomena and the Dao of formations, as well as his status as a member of the Yan Tian Palace.
The Polaris amongst the stars on his chest was sewed with pale golden threads, making Wu Qi's pupils constrict on seeing that. He knew Polaris was the most important star of all the stars in the sky, and clearly, the pale golden Polaris on this elderly man's chest represented his status in Yan Tian Palace.
"This is Master Yu Chen, the First Master of Yan Tian Palace." An Oracle next to Wu Qi whispered.
Master Yu Chen? The First Master of Yan Tian Palace? Was he from the Yu Clan? Was he a part of the Yu Clan in Liangzhu? Yu Mu's face suddenly leaped into Wu Qi's mind. He nodded to the few Oracles who led him here, then came before Yu Chen with a blink of his body.
Standing one head taller, Yu Chen looked down at Wu Qi, who was cupping his fist and bowing, and said airily, "Yu Mu is my eighth-generation grandson, Yu Huai is my ninth-generation grandson, and Yu He is my tenth-generation grandson. Are you Tan Lang?"
Wu Qi stared at Yu Chen blankly. Yu Mu, the present head of Yu Clan in Zhong Province, was Yu Chen's eighth-generation grandson?
Wu Qi did not know whether he should be in awe for Yu Chen's incredible seniority, or pity for Yu Mu's junior rank in the Yu Clan. In his impression, Yu Mu was already an extremely old man, but he was only Yu Chen's eighth-generation grandson! The gap between them was simply startling.
Wu Qi bowed respectfully to Yu Chen and said, "This junior, Tan Lang, offers greetings, Master Yu!"
Yu Chen's mouth cracked into a faint smile as he pointed a finger at the bronze door behind Wu Qi, causing it to fall back down silently. After that, he turned and said in a low voice, "Follow me. His Majesty is a little too petty to let you choose only three books of formations at will. Heh, if you do show some talent in the Dao of formations, I can even give you a copy of all the books here!"
He snorted coldly, then clasped his hands behind his back and said loftily, "But, if you are a fool who can't even pass my test, you will not get any benefit from Yan Tian Palace, even with His Majesty's decree!"
Yu Chen wanted to test his knowledge of formation? Wu Qi smiled as he spoke reservedly and carefully, "I'll do as Master Yu bids."
He strode forward right behind Yu Chen. They made their way down the tunnel for hundreds of miles and came to an enormous underground space. About a thousand miles wide and tens of miles high, countless palaces were neatly built in this space. They all looked identical, suspended mid-air according to the position of the stars in the sky, and gradually moving and changing their positions according to the real stars.
All the palaces were of the same size and appearance, and if any strangers came here, they would not be able to find out which one of them was the most important one.
The rock walls enclosing this space were dotted with countless small holes that could only fit one person at a time. White-robed Oracles of varying ages could be seen sitting cross-legged in some of the holes, seemingly calculating something with counting rods and other ancient instruments in their hands.
The spacious space was quiet, with only the occasional crisp sounds produced by the counting rods in those Oracles' hands, and the muffled thuds when they threw down other instruments such as tortoise shells and jade slips.
Apart from the Oracles cultivating in seclusion on the rock walls, beneath the countless palaces suspended mid-air was a large group of Oracles drawing something on the flat ground with jade stones and carving blades. Wu Qi gave them a brief glance, and for a moment, he could not discern how many white-robed Oracles were drawing the diagrams of formations and star map here.
Yu Chen turned to look at Wu Qi and said with a queer smile on his face, "I'll find you three opponents. They are the apprentice Masters of Formations in Yan Tian Palace. If you can defeat them in the Dao of Formations, I'll personally copy all the books in Yan Tian Palace and give them to you!"
He let out a strange laugh, then cocked his head and said, "But, if you lose, I'll beat you out of Yan Tian Palace, from here all the way to the entrance. That'll be the price of wasting my time!"
Wu Qi was slightly taken aback, then he smiled and said, "I'll do as Master Yu bids." Meanwhile, he thought to himself, 'If I can't defeat even the apprentices, I might as well kill myself!'