A dense white cloud floated in the sky, while a set of chime bells that were shaped with the primitive simplicity stood on the cloud. Among this whole set of chime, the biggest bell was a thousand and five hundred meters tall, while the smallest one was around fifty meters tall. Two Kuafu Family people were standing on the cloud, wearing luxurious clothes with pure golden strikers held in their hands, gently tolling the bells. The beautifully melodious bell rings spread out for tens of thousands of miles.
Surrounding the cloud that was supporting the set of chime bells, and upon a faint, circle-shaped, glowing layer of cloud, tens of large drums made from boa skins were floating. The drumhead of each drum was five-meter in diameter. Over a hundred Kuafu Family people stood beside the drums, beating the drums and letting out deep yet extremely strong and resonant sounds that resounded across the entire sky.
An enormous altar stood on the ground, five-thousand meters tall and twenty miles in radius.
Surrounding the altar was a loop of five-hundred meter wide ditch, with raging flames blazing in it. Numerous Magi of the Magi Palace had been speeding back and forth, pouring baskets of spices into the fire. Visibly, purple-cyan smoke that had a dense aroma puffed up from the fire, transforming into a scented cloud that densely shrouded the entire altar.
From each of east, south, west and north sides, a long stair strode across the blazing ditch and reached directly to the top of the altar.
Emperor Shun was wearing a heavy armor and standing high on top of the altar alone, looking at the sun which was rising slowly from the east. Worn over his armor was a long cloak embroidered with the patterns of mountains, rivers, cities and stars.
Ji Hao and his teammates were wearing formal and luxurious long robes, guided by a Senior Magus of the Magi Palace who was in charge of the etiquette of this great ceremony, walking fast towards the altar from a distance away in a straight line. From all directions, countless people with solemn looks and in luxurious outfits had lined up orderly and were moving towards the altar like black tide water. The ordered, deep footsteps of theirs even made the ground quiver slightly.
High up in the air, over a thousand golden-winged dragons flew across. These flying dragons let out loud and sonorous roars, shattering the clouds in the sky, leaving behind a purely blue sky.
Deep yet strong and resonant shouts rose from every direction. The eyes of Senior Magi of the Magi Palace were as sharp as lightning bolts; they accurately pointed out the position that each person should stand in. The crowd of people which was surging forwards like tidewater quickly quieted down. People settled in their respective positions and raised their heads one after another, looking at Emperor Shun who was standing on the altar.
From such a long distance, and with his sharp sight, Ji Hao still discovered the slight trace of indescribable anxiousness and tiredness hiding under Emperor Shun's solemn and serious look.
It seemed that things weren't going well.
The Chi Ban Mountain war had actually ended after Dishi Yanluo gave the order for retreat. However, Ji Hao had spent that long to escort all those captives back to Pu Ban city, after which, he had lived a quite free and happy life for so many days in the Fine Jade Snow Palace. But it was only until recent couple of days that Emperor Shun and the batch of humankind governors had returned. Apparently, something unbeknown had happened in Chi Ban Mountain.
Ji Hao and the few of his teammates were arranged in the spot closest to the altar. Right beside Ji Hao, tens of meters away, Si Wen Ming, Huaxu Lie, Lie Mountain Kang, and the other few high-level governors had been standing, their faces also tightened.
A little bit further away, Ji Hao also saw Si Xi, Hao Tao, and the other ministers.
What made Ji Hao wonder was that the sense of power released from Si Xi's body seemed to be a little weak and unstable, as if he had just recovered from a serious illness. Ji Hao couldn't understand this because Si Xi didn't take part in the Chi Ban Mountain war. In that case, who had he battled against that made him injured to such an extent?
Si Xi was definitely a powerful being who was above the level of Divine Magus. He possessed the divine power that allowed him to be reborn from a single drop of blood. Judging from his power level and the power vibrations released from his body, which was now unstable and not as strong as before, his injuries could be severe, such that even with the divine power of his, he still couldn't manage to recover within a short span of time.
Did some unknown conflicts happen here in Pu Ban city?
Ji Hao narrowed his eyes, glancing at the other few ministers standing beside Si Xi. He found that Hao Tao seemed to also have injuries on his body, and for the other unknown few middle-aged men, were clearly ministers under Emperor Shun's command similar to Hao Tao, the power vibrations released by them were a bit weak and unstable as well.
Something big had actually happened during these few days.
Ji Hao hid his hands in his sleeves and held his breath, silently standing still. Meanwhile, his spirit power spread out like a giant net, through which he observed the entire scene of this great sky-offering ceremony from high up in the sky.
More people were arriving one after another, all wearing luxurious clothes.
Generally, clothes worn by people who stood in a circle closest to the altar, including Ji Hao himself, were mainly in the color of yellow.
On the south side of the altar, nearly a hundred thousand people were standing together, their clothes mainly in the color of red.
On the north side of the altar, nearly a hundred thousand people wearing black outfits were there.
On the east side were large groups of people with green and cyan colored clothes, while the clothes worn by people standing on the west side were mostly white.
Five sides and five colors, this fit the tradition of colors that existed in Midland and the four wastelands since the ancient eras. So many people wearing similar clothes standing together somehow suddenly generated an unspeakable solemn and sacred atmosphere that then transformed into a heavy pressure, making people feel hard to breathe.
Dong! Following this sudden and thunderous sound, the drums and chime bells on the cloud rang together. Next, a stream of fiery light rose directly into the sky. A sphere of blazing flame walked out from the fiery light, gradually condensing into the figure of Zhu Rong. He was wearing a red robe and was with a solemn look as he landed on the altar. Hands holding a scroll, he reverently saluted to the sky then began singing a melodious ancient sacred song.
Emperor Shun, with a heavy armor, pressed both of his hands on his own chest, kneeled and solemnly saluted to the sky.
In all directions, hundreds of thousands of high-level governors and emissaries from clans of the four wastelands who were invited to join this sky-offering ceremony kneeled like Emperor Shun and saluted to the sky and earth. Many of them had also been mumbling something.
Ji Hao remained silent while simply following the gestures of these people and doing the salute.
This sky-offering ceremony happening in Pu Ban city was a lot more complicated than the ancestral-offering and natural-offering ceremony he did back in Gold Crow Clan; at least more than ten times more processes were added. Ji Hao had no interest in these kinds of things. Therefore, he just did exactly what the others were doing, his moves as stiff as a marionette.
Zhu Rong was the Great Libation, therefore, in this sky-offering ceremony, even Emperor Shun would have to do what he said.
After a complicated series of process, Zhu Rong spread the scroll held in his hands and began reading an oration, that was devoted to the heaven, loudly.
At first, Zhu Rong thanked the protection given by nature itself, ghosts and Gods and the souls of ancestors of human beings, then he began stating the great achievements made by the humankind in the Chi Ban Mountain war. At last, he honored those human warriors who had fallen in the war, prayed that they would keep protecting the humankind after their souls transformed into ghosts or Gods.
Countless people who had come to join this ceremony prayed together. The loud and resonant voices of theirs surged right into the sky along with an immensely great power. Ji Hao faintly sensed that somehow, an unexplainable, mysterious being suddenly appeared high up in the sky and silently absorbed that immense power, which contained the faith of countless human beings.
The scroll held in Zhu Rong's hands started burning. A stream of smoke puffed up into the sky and was swallowed by that mysterious being, after which, magnificent glow shone out of unknown sources, illuminating the entire Pu Ban city.
"Give the offering!" Zhu Rong shouted out. Following his voice, the most bloody part of this sky-offering ceremony began.
Carefully selected large livestock was driven up to the altar one after another, and quickly stabbed and pressed down to the ground by Magi with black robes and stone daggers.
Groups of captured non-humankind warriors were dragged up. Along with their shrill wails and screams, fully armored human warriors chopped them into pieces, their fresh warm blood flowing into the blazing ditch.
Chilly gusts of wind rose from all directions around the altar, and some hazy silhouettes could be faintly seen in the wind. Soon, these mysterious beings began indulging themselves in absorbing the souls of animals and those non-humankind captives, along with the dense scent of blood that had all been offered to them.
Chime: A carillon-like instrument with less than 23 bells is called a chime.