Half a minute earlier…
"Something happened to the Flooding Sea!"
Seeing how the black entrance before them was shaking ceaselessly, the faces of the Cloud Dragon Monarch and the others warped in shock.
All this while, they had assumed that the Flood of Spiritual Energy had become part of the natural cycle of the Firmament, a phenomenon that would come without fail every decade. Only upon seeing this did they realize that it was something that could collapse and vanish.
Once it disappeared, the Firmament would lose its final pillar of support. The spiritual energy of the Firmament would drain without stop till everything finally dried up, leaving behind nothing but a dead, desolate world.
The present God Monarchs raised their hands and channeled their powers into the black hole right before their eyes. They were hoping to use their powers to delay the collapse of the Flooding Sea.
But barely after hanging on for a while, a massive tear suddenly appeared on the seal on the dimension fissure, causing spiritual energy that had just returned to the Firmament to be swallowed by the dimension fissure once more.
The tear continued to grow larger and larger, inching its way across the entire dimension fissure at a steady pace.
"First and foremost, we should stabilize the Firmament!" the Cloud Dragon Monarch bellowed.
They knew that this was not the time for them to be competing with one another. It was the time for them to protect the Firmament and their home.
So, seven pulses of energy surged toward the dimension fissure, where the spiritual energy was escaping, to reseal it. Through sealing the dimension fissure, they were able to stabilize the state of the Firmament for the time being.
However, the condition of the Firmament had already been badly shaken, and the receding of the spiritual energy into the dimension fissure could not be undone.
The earth shuddered and the stars in the sky dimmed, looking as if they would fall at any moment. Countless buildings crumbled to the ground.
It looked as if the end had come.
"The Firmament is coming to an end…"
"I thought that this day would come, but I didn't know it would come so quickly…"
"Don't bother running anymore. If the Firmament collapses, there'll be nowhere safe no matter where we escape to…"
In cities all over the Firmament, countless cultivators were staring at the sky with desolate looks on their faces.
Ever since spiritual energy began receding from the environment more than forty years ago, they had known deep inside that it was only a matter of time before the situation escalated into something beyond their control. They just did not expect it to come so soon.
"Let's just wait and see. If the Nine God Monarchs can save the Firmament, we might stand a chance. Otherwise, the only fate that awaits all of us is death. There's no need to feel so conflicted about this…" a high-tier God looking at the panicked crowd said.
Before he could finish his words, a voice suddenly echoed in the depths of their hearts, as if the will of the world had seeped into his body. "Today, I shall be a God Monarch!"
"God Monarch? Someone has managed to make a breakthrough… It's God Monarch Zhang Xuan!"
"Isn't Zhang Xuan that apothecary? How did he manage to become a God Monarch?"
"Indeed, that's him! Back then, when the Heaven Subjugation Monarch became a God Monarch, I also heard a voice like that…"
Everyone was taken aback by such a turn of events.
In Twilight City, after hearing the voice that sounded in his mind, Mo Yun laoshi's mouth fell open as he muttered in absolute shock, "God Monarch Zhang Xuan…"
A month ago, when he first met the other party, he had been extremely weak, only a God realm primary stage. Who would have thought that he would become a God Monarch within a single month, reaching the very zenith of the Firmament?
"He became a God Monarch?"
The teapot that Qi Ling-er was holding fell to the ground, but she did not even notice that.
She had known all along that the young man was no ordinary person, and she was convinced that he would grow stronger and stronger and eventually become a powerhouse of the Firmament. But she did not think that he would actually become a God Monarch, and at such a swift pace at that…
"As expected of the Conferred God King of the Nine Skies. Just like the Heaven Subjugation Monarch, he really managed to make a breakthrough in the Flooding Sea," Fairy Linglong said with a conflicted look on her face.
The Flooding Sea had completely collapsed, but in the depths of the darkness, a young man stood imposingly in the sky. His face reflected the lofty look of an individual who towered over the world.
It was the same young man whom she had seen back on the moon.
When she first met the young man in the Sky of Linglong, she had intended to kill him over the issue regarding Baiye Qinghong. Back then, she could not have imagined that a few days later, he would actually transcend the level of a Conferred God King to become a God Monarch like her!
Furthermore, as a Conferred God King of the Nine Skies, it was likely that the strength he wielded as a God Monarch was superior to the rest of them.
"It's no wonder the Deathless Monarch acknowledged him as his master, and God Monarch Lingxi fell heads over heels for him… He's indeed an extraordinary individual!"
She had always prided herself for her sharp eye, but it seemed like she still was not as far-sighted as those two.
"The cultivators whom we have taken in are all his direct disciples. Though he was born a mortal, he carries the air of a true monarch. Just like the Heaven Subjugation Monarch, his ascension to the top might have been inevitable from the very start…"
The Cloud Dragon Monarch, God Monarch Zhuoyang, and the others sighed deeply.
They had been thinking that they could suppress the Conferred God King of the Nine Skies to prevent his ascension, but it seemed like their efforts had been futile from the start. There was no way they could have defied the will of the Nine Skies.
"He didn't make use of the Primordial Golden Lotus of the Nine Skies for his breakthrough!" Demon Monarch Qiankun suddenly exclaimed.
Those words startled everyone.
They had subconsciously assumed that the young man's breakthrough had something to do with the Primordial Golden Lotus of the Nine Skies as, in their opinion, only such an artifact could allow one to overcome that final bottleneck.
They had been so preoccupied with dealing with the destruction of the Flooding Sea that they did not notice the blossomed lotus amid the void.
The lotus had an ephemeral appearance that looked as if it had been carefully chiseled from a piece of jade, and its beauty held great temptation even for the God Monarchs.
"If he hasn't used it, it means that we still stand a chance. If we can obtain it and use it for ourselves, we'll surely be able to raise our cultivation!" God Monarch Fumeng exclaimed.
The Primordial Golden Lotus of the Nine Skies represented an opportunity for them to overcome their current self and possibly become an existence on par with God Monarch Lingxi. It would have been one thing if Zhang Xuan had consumed it, but upon realizing that it was still intact, there was no way they could continue holding themselves back.
"Zhang Xuan has only just made a breakthrough, and he's still in the midst of reinforcing his cultivation. He won't be able to assimilate that treasure anytime soon… It's mine then!"
Without any hesitation, God Monarch Fumeng rushed right toward the Primordial Golden Lotus of the Nine Skies to claim it for himself.
"Hold it right there. It's mine!" Demon Monarch Qiankun shouted as he quickly dashed over.
The Acheron God Monarch, Cloud Dragon Monarch, Fairy Linglong, and God Monarch Zhuoyang immediately followed suit.
No one was willing to miss this precious opportunity!
All sorts of forces swiftly gathered in the air, forming bursts of energies that flew toward each of the six God Monarchs.
The God Monarchs were trying to slow down their rivals so that they could reach the lotus before anyone else and rise to a position of unparalleled power.
But before any of the six God Monarchs could reach the lotus, a powerful barrier suddenly formed around the lotus, blocking them. Following that, before everyone's astonished gaze, the lotus began to glow brilliantly as nine bursts of light irradiated the Firmament.
It was as if another sun had risen in the sky.
Peng peng peng peng peng peng!
The sudden outburst of light from the lotus knocked back the six God Monarchs, forcing them to retreat several steps simultaneously, and the impact left their faces pale.
It was clear from this clash that the lotus possessed strength at least comparable to them.
With incredulous looks on their faces, the lotus before their eyes began to morph into the form of a young man. The young man cracked his neck leisurely before turning to look at Zhang Xuan with an exasperated look on his face.
"To think that you managed to make a breakthrough before me… How am I to show off like this?" he muttered in annoyance.
Then, he raised his head and declared, "I am a God Monarch like this damned ass here!"
"Two God Monarchs?"
"Is this really happening? Two God Monarchs actually appeared one after another…"
"No, that isn't it. It's only one… Haven't you realized that he is Zhang Xuan's clone?"
"His clone also became a God Monarch?"
The Cloud Dragon Monarch, Fairy Linglong, and the others grew ever more frenzied.
God Monarchs were the strongest existences in the world, and for the longest of time, there had only been the Nine God Monarchs in the Firmament. Everyone had believed that it would remain that way till the end of time, all the way till the Heaven Subjugation Monarch appeared.
It was then that everyone had realized that it was possible to cultivate to the level of a God Monarch.
Nevertheless, the nine of them had remained confident that their positions were unshakeable, till…
On this very day, two God Monarchs ascended one after another, and they were even in a master-clone relationship. What the heck was happening?
When did it become so easy to become a God Monarch?
More importantly, the first declaration that one made upon becoming a God Monarch was the best opportunity to build up one's reputation. But for some reason, this clone of Zhang Xuan seemed to appear exceptionally frustrated because it had lost to its main body and was not able to brag about its accomplishment…
The heck? You are a God Monarch!
We are lofty existences that have transcended mortality! Can you at least play your part as one of us instead of pulling down our reputation? You are making us look like ruffians on the street!
Not only were the God Monarchs stunned, everyone in the Firmament was taken aback.
They had never thought that the day would come when they heard a God Monarch hurling vulgarities!
Besides… why were so many God Monarchs popping up as if they were bamboo shoots after a rain? It really felt like the prestige that came with the title was slowly degrading over time.
"An individual of two God Monarchs, the Conferred God King of the Nine Skies. This is my master!" Little Chick cried out hearteningly.
As expected of his master, he was always cool no matter where he was!
Meanwhile, oblivious to his clone's narcissism and everyone else's shock, the real Zhang Xuan exhaled a mouthful of turbid air.
He had thought that he was doomed, but in the final moment, he had successfully comprehended a God Monarch realm sword art and slain the Epitome Monarch Pill, thus resulting in his ascension as a God Monarch.
He had come so close to death, but he had managed to overcome the crisis.
Zhang Xuan closed his eyes and perceived the raging energy flowing through his body as he clenched his fists tightly in agitation. He felt very different from how he had before.
In his current state, he felt like he held the entire world in his control. With a thought, he could make the world crumble.
"Somehow, I am two times stronger than I expected. It must be due to the influence of my clone…"
With the breakthrough of his clone as well, his two severed souls had successfully become God Monarchs. As a result of that, his physical body, soul, and zhenqi far exceeded those of the other God Monarchs, reaching an unfathomable level.
While Zhang Xuan was in the midst of exploring the newfound strength in his body, the sky suddenly grew dark. Ominous clouds swarmed in, and it felt like the cloak of night had been cast over the Firmament.
The dimension fissure that the God Monarchs had sealed with difficulty began expanding once more, and it felt like the Firmament would fall apart under this ordeal.
"It's the Monarch Heavenly Tribulation…" Zhang Xuan narrowed his eyes.
When one's cultivation finally reached a level that the world could no longer withstand, a tribulation would fall upon one. This was similar to the Ancient Sage Ordeal of the Master Teacher Continent and the Semi-Divinity Ordeal of the Azure.
In the Firmament, this was known as the Monarch Heavenly Tribulation.
One who wanted to become a God Monarch had to overcome this tribulation.
"Isn't this Monarch Heavenly Tribulation way too big?" Fairy Linglong asked with quivering lips.
"His tribulation looks as if it wields the force to tear apart the entire Firmament. How frightening… Not even the Heaven Subjugation Monarch's tribulation back then was this powerful," the Cloud Dragon Monarch muttered to himself.
"Back then, the Heaven Subjugation Monarch became a God Monarch by himself whereas Zhang Xuan made a breakthrough together with his clone, resulting in his prowess being doubled. Naturally, the tribulation he has to face is several times more powerful as well," Demon Monarch Qiankun remarked with a bitter smile.
It was both a good thing and a bad thing that Zhang Xuan and his clone had made a breakthrough simultaneously to become God Monarchs.
The good thing was that his strength had doubled, granting him the fighting prowess to stand on par with the strongest God Monarch even though he had only just made a breakthrough.
But the bad thing was that the cultivation ordeal he had to overcome would be extraordinarily powerful as well.
He could lose his life shortly after his breakthrough.
Watching as more and more destructive energies gathered above him, ready to lay waste to him, Zhang Xuan smiled.
"The tribulation sure looks terrifying, but it means nothing to me."
Under normal circumstances, it was impossible for a person who had just become a God Monarch to overcome such a powerful lightning tribulation.
However, it was a different case for Zhang Xuan.
He had already comprehended a God Monarch realm sword art, allowing him to summon a force far beyond one's imagination. With the power at his disposal, this mere lightning tribulation did not pose a threat to him.
Zhang Xuan took out the Crimson Heaven Sword and slashed it right toward the lightning tribulation above him.
This single attack created a brilliance that pierced through the darkness shrouding the Firmament, blinding everyone's sight for an instant.
The ominous clouds that loomed in the sky were vanquished.
With a single strike, he had overcome the Monarch Heavenly Tribulation!
With the end of the tribulation, Zhang Xuan heard fabric ripping echoing around him. Turning his head, he realized that the dimension fissure in the sky above the Flooding Sea had grown even larger.
Be it the collapse of the Flooding Sea or the Monarch Heavenly Tribulation, the Firmament had suffered heavy impacts one after another in swift succession, causing its very foundation to be rattled.
It had already gone beyond the tipping point of what the Firmament itself was able to repair, and right now, it was starting to progress toward a fate of destruction.
With a flick of his finger, Zhang Xuan poured his zhenqi into the dimension fissure, hoping to forcefully close it up, but the effects were minuscule.
It was just like how, once a mirror was cracked, even the strongest glue would not be able to repair it to how it was.
Seeing how the dimension fissure was continuing to grow, Zhang Xuan turned to Little Chick and asked, "Are there any other ways out of this?"
No matter what, Little Chick was still a God Monarch who had lived since ancient times. He might just have a solution in mind.
"I don't know what we can do either…" Little Chick shook his head bitterly.
Earlier, when the six God Monarchs vied for the Primordial Golden Lotus of the Nine Skies, he had remained behind to keep the expansion of the dimension fissure under control, but he was unable to hold it back even after pushing himself to his limits.
"There's no way out of this anymore…"
Just as Zhang Xuan was at an utter loss as to what to do, a composed voice echoed beside him. Glancing over, Zhang Xuan saw Luo Ruoxin standing right next to him with a deep frown.
Knowing that she was the one who knew the most about the current situation, he asked, "What is happening to the Firmament right now? My earlier slash might not have been weak, but it shouldn't have resulted in it becoming tattered like that…"
He knew that the situation was not looking good for them, but it had not been so bad that it was irresolvable earlier. Yet, shortly after his breakthrough, it felt like the condition of the Firmament had suddenly deteriorated, reaching a state of hopelessness.
Hearing Zhang Xuan's question, Luo Ruoxin shook her head and sighed. "The Firmament is like an ancient relic that has reached its limit. It was no longer able to support the birth of any strong powers, but the sudden ascension of you and your clone sapped away the final slivers of its foundation…"
"Sapped away its foundation?" Zhang Xuan frowned in incomprehension.
"As the heavens have been fragmented, the ability of the Firmament to regulate itself has been slowly eroding. In its current state, it is unable to withstand the breakthrough of new God Monarchs," Lo Ruoxin further explained.
"So, if I didn't make a breakthrough to the God Monarch realm, the Firmament might still have been able to survive for a long while?" Zhang Xuan asked.
Did he make a fatal mistake?
"Of course not. Even if you haven't made a breakthrough, the Firmament still wouldn't have been able to survive to the end of the next month. If the Firmament is to have any chance of surviving this ordeal at all, you needed to make a breakthrough eventually…" Luo Ruoxin sighed deeply.
"Wait a moment, the Firmament wouldn't have survived to the end of the next month?" Zhang Xuan narrowed his eyes in shock.
The other God Monarchs were dumbstruck as well.
Clearly, they were unaware of this matter.
If the Firmament collapsed, everything would be over. Their pursuit of power and prestige would have all been for naught, and their effort thus far would have become nothing more than a joke.
"Do you know where the Flooding Sea came from?" Luo Ruoxin asked as she pointed to the shattered Flooding Sea.
The Cloud Dragon Monarch interjected into the conversation at this point. "It seems to have appeared fifty years ago, when the disaster of Spirit Origin Royal City occurred and the Deathless Monarch suddenly disappeared from the Firmament…"
Fifty years was not even the lifespan of an ordinary mortal, but to the immemorial Firmament, it had changed by so much within this short period of time.
"Indeed, the Flooding Sea first appeared during that period. Look at the entrance of the Flooding Sea, doesn't it look like a huge hole that has been torn away from the Firmament?" Luo Ruoxin asked once more.
"It does." Zhang Xuan nodded.
He had noticed this when he first arrived before the Flooding Sea. It looked as if someone had forcefully torn an irreparable hole in the sky of the Firmament, but he had swiftly put the thought aside as he did not think that someone would have the ability to do that.
After all, the Firmament had the ability to restore any instabilities in its space. It was for that reason that most dimension rifts that were created by cultivators closed soon enough, posing no threat to the Firmament at all.
It was hard to imagine what could have happened in order to create such a lasting mark on the Firmament.
"It was torn by a person." Luo Ruoxin shook her head as she explained with a grim look.
Everyone froze in place.
Every single one of them present had the ability to create dimension rifts, but those would close soon enough due to the laws of the Firmament.
Yet, the dimension fissure had appeared above the Flooding Sea fifty years ago but still had not closed. Not only so, it even continued to expand over time…
They could not begin to imagine how powerful the person who had done this was.
Could he be even more formidable than them, the God Monarchs of the Firmament?
If that was really the case, where could that person have come from, and why would he make a move on the Firmament?
While everyone was shocked by the revelation, Zhang Xuan suddenly recalled the massive palm print that he had seen in the Flooding Sea. He had harbored similar doubts earlier, but he did not dare believe it back then.
Could it really have been the case?
"Fifty years ago, a palm suddenly descended from the sky and tore a massive hole in the Firmament." Luo Ruoxin revealed what she knew about the incident fifty years ago without hiding anything. "Huge swathes of land were devoured by the dimension fissure that was formed as a result of the hole, creating what eventually came to be known as the Flooding Sea. The Deathless Monarch of the Sky of Spirit Origin was one of those who tried to fight against the palm, and he eventually ended up getting killed by it, and Spirit Origin Royal City ended up being struck into chaotic space as well!
"In fact, the heavens of the Firmament also ended up being fragmented into three pieces that very day. Of those three pieces, Heavens' Order and Heavens' Imperfections fell through the cracks of space and flowed through the chaotic space for countless years. Eventually, those two pieces fell into the hands of the Heaven Subjugation Monarch and Zhang Xuan."
Hearing those words, Zhang Xuan's body shuddered.
It seemed like his guess had been spot-on.
But who had launched the palm strike against the Firmament? How did the person gain such power?
"I don't know where the palm came from or why it would attack the Firmament. However, what I do know is that the palm strike wields strength beyond what we, the God Monarchs, are capable of opposing," Luo Ruoxin said with a hint of fear in her voice. "And to make things worse, that person's attack carries malignant energy that harnesses the power to neutralize the heavens."
"This…" Zhang Xuan suddenly recalled the gray currents of malignant energy that he had seen in the abyss beneath Spirit Origin Royal City. It had the ability to neutralize the Heaven's Path zhenqi to form a brilliant green light before vanishing from sight.
And he had found the very same malignant energy in the Flooding Sea.
If such was the power that lingered in the dimension fissure, it would explain why the Firmament had not been able to seal the anomaly.
It was similar to how a wound would never heal if one applied a layer of chili paste over it instead of leaving it be.
Unable to be closed, the dimension fissure continued to sap spiritual energy from the Firmament relentlessly, causing it to grow weaker and weaker.
"With the fragmentation of the heavens and the gradual depletion of spiritual energy from the Firmament, it's already a miracle that we have been able to last through the past fifty years. Based on my estimates, the Firmament would have collapsed within the next month after this Flood of Spiritual Energy. However, due to you and your clone's simultaneous breakthrough, as well as that powerful sword art that you executed to overcome the Monarch Heavenly Tribulation, the deadline ended up being brought forward," Luo Ruoxin said.
Even though it would hasten the doom of the Firmament, Zhang Xuan had to make this breakthrough by hook or by crook.
He needed to become a God Monarch for the fragment of the heavens that he possessed to fully mature. Only then would they stand a chance at reversing the fate of the Firmament.
Otherwise, what they would be doing was just delaying the inevitable.
"What do we do now?" Zhang Xuan asked Luo Ruoxin anxiously.
She had been preparing for this moment for the past fifty years, so if anyone had a plan to resolve the situation, it could only be her.
"There are two solutions. First, we can rid the malignant energy that has been neutralizing the power of the heavens. Second, we can repair the heavens to make it whole again," Luo Ruoxin replied.
Zhang Xuan pondered over those two solutions for a moment before asking, "How can we get rid of the malignant energy that has been neutralizing the power of the heavens?"
He had encountered it back when he was in the abyss beneath Spirit Origin Royal City, and the malignant energy had formed a massive gray wall over there. If he wanted to clear away the malignant energy there, he would need an unimaginable amount of Heaven's Path zhenqi.
Furthermore, given the point that they had reached, could they really avert the destruction of the Firmament just by neutralizing the malignant energy?
"I have a strong feeling that over the past fifty years, the malignant energy has already developed its own consciousness and transmogrified into the form of a human. Otherwise, the dimension fissure above the Flooding Sea wouldn't have grown so quickly. If we wish to resolve the problem, we'll have to slay the consciousness of the malignant energy in order to halt the destruction. Then, all we have to do is put the fragments of the heavens together once more in order to save the Firmament," Luo Ruoxin said after pondering for a moment.
"Transmogrified into a human?" Zhang Xuan was stunned.
Was it possible for that malignant energy to transmogrify into a human?
"That's right." Luo Ruoxin nodded. "I have never met it before, so I can't really say for sure. It's just conjecture on my part, but I believe that the possibility of that happening is very high."
"I see. Assuming that your conjecture is correct, how powerful do you think it is? Also, do you have any idea where it might be?" Zhang Xuan asked.
These were the questions that he was the most concerned about.
If it was still not too strong, as long as they pooled their powers together, they might still stand a chance.
"I don't know for sure, but I don't think that we'll be a match for it. Even with the strength of me, the eight God Monarchs, you, and your clone, our chances of winning against it will be slim at most," Luo Ruoxin said. "You also know that it has the strength to tear apart the fabric of the Firmament and has left us utterly helpless for the past fifty years."
Zhang Xuan clenched his fists tightly upon hearing those words.
Indeed. If it was that easy to deal with it, they would not have been at a loss as to what to do for so many years.
"You mentioned putting the fragments of the heavens together earlier… You are referring to the War of the Heavens, right?" Zhang Xuan asked with a hint of trepidation to his voice.
"Indeed. Both you and Kong shi carry a fragment of the heavens in your bodies. In order to make the heavens whole again, we have to…" Luo Ruoxin's voice slowly trailed off near the end as she began trembling a little.
She could not bring herself to say those words out loud.
It was an inevitable fate, but she was reluctant to face it.
"I understand…" Zhang Xuan nodded with a wry smile. "It's fine. You should just kill me. You have already obtained Kong shi's Heavens' Order, and now that I am a God Monarch, I can join the War of the Heavens…"
"Since it's the War of the Heavens, how can it be that simple? If we could solve the situation by having one of us sacrifice ourselves, I would rather be the one who is killed!" Luo Ruoxin shook her head and sighed. "In the War of the Heavens, you don't gain the eligibility just by becoming a God Monarch. Rather, you have to prove yourself first. The first condition to do so is to gain the acknowledgement of the Nine Skies."
"Acknowledgement of the Nine Skies? But aren't I already the Conferred God King of the Nine Skies… Ah! You mean… challenging the Nine God Monarchs?" Zhang Xuan asked.
Based on what Kong shi had done, it seemed like there were two ways to gain the acknowledgement of the Nine Skies. One was to become a Conferred God King of the Nine Skies, and the other was to defeat the Nine God Monarchs and receive their acknowledgement.
He had managed to become the Conferred God King of the Nine Skies, but becoming the God Monarch of the Nine Skies was much more troublesome than that. Otherwise, Kong shi would not have had to go around challenging the Nine God Monarchs one after another just to receive their acknowledgement.
Luo Ruoxin nodded to acknowledge Zhang Xuan's words.
Meanwhile, Demon Monarch Qiankun and the others, who had been listening from the sidelines, suddenly felt a cold chill run down their spines as a piercing gaze slowly fell on them.
Are we going to be pummeled yet again?
Who the hell is the one who came up with such darned rules for the War of the Heavens?
We are bystanders! Innocent bystanders!
It's like a person venting their anger on their own cat after being beaten up by someone else… What did the cat ever do to you?
Make some sense, won't you?
While those God Monarchs were shuddering in fear, Zhang Xuan's lips curled up as he said, "Come at me together then!"
With a dual breakthrough to God Monarch with his clone and his God Monarch realm sword art, he no longer feared any of the God Monarchs.
He might have been slightly lacking compared to Kong shi when he was at his peak, but against this bunch of fellows, he was definitely more than capable of dealing with them.
Some of the God Monarchs burst into tears.
Bruh! I know that you want to flaunt your new strength, but you don't need to do this, right?
It was already embarrassing enough for them to be defeated one by one, but that fellow wanted to pummel them as a group…
Do you think that we have no dignity at all?
We are God Monarchs! You shouldn't do this to us!
Their faces reddened as they were conflicted over what they should do. Accepting the challenge was not an option, but rejecting the challenge would be equally humiliating.
In this instant, they were at a loss as to what they should do.
"There's no need for us to fight. I admit defeat!" Little Chick said.
Since the young man as his master, there was no shame in him admitting defeat.
"This…" Seeing that the Deathless Monarch had admitted defeat, the others also looked at one another in hesitation. A moment later, they sighed deeply and said, "We admit defeat as well…"
What else could they do?
It would only be more humiliating if they were forced to surrender under his fists.
Zhang Xuan and his clone were both God Monarchs, and he even had a God Monarch tamed beast that he could bring into battle as well. It was obviously a battle that they could not possibly win!
They would be facing three powerful God Monarchs simultaneously!
More importantly, they had seen how the young man sliced through the Monarch Heavenly Tribulation with a single slash of his sword. The might of that sword art was at the level where they could only barely block it with their powers put together, so there was no way they would be willing to face him individually.
With their pride, they could not stoop to the level of getting into a collaborative formation to deal with an enemy.
"This…" Luo Ruoxin's eyebrows twitched at the sight before her.
Back when Kong shi challenged them, he would present his name scroll to them and make an appointment beforehand. All the formalities were done properly; even when one side lost the battle, it did not feel as humiliating due to how ceremonial it was.
Yet, Zhang Xuan simply walked up to them and told them to come at him all at once.
You must not think much of God Monarchs at all, huh?
The moment that the Cloud Dragon Monarch, Acheron God Monarch, God Monarch Fumeng, Demon Monarch Qiankun, God Monarch Zhuoyang, Fairy Linglong, and the Deathless Monarch admitted their defeat, the Seals of Supreme Monarch that they carried released a burst of power that shrouded Zhang Xuan, bestowing him with the acknowledgement of those seven Skies.
With these acknowledgements, he had gained the ability to tap into the Anima of Yearning of the cultivators in those seven Skies.
"Hmm? That doesn't seem right. It's not seven but eight Skies… I have already received the acknowledgement of eight Skies?" Zhang Xuan was taken aback.
He could feel a sense of intimacy with eight Skies in the Firmament rather than seven.
Had the God Monarch of the Sword Hut also acknowledged him at some point?
"It's the Crimson Heaven Sword, the Sacred Sword of the Sky of Heavenly Sword. By giving it to you, it means that the Sky of Heavenly Sword has acknowledged your strength and your potential," Luo Ruoxin said.
Those words made Zhang Xuan nod in realization.
The God Monarch of the Sword Hut had mentioned that he had spent decades trying to forge this sword. Given so, even if the sword was not the Seal of Supreme Monarch, it also carried a similar significance to it.
Zhang Xuan turned to the young lady before him and asked, "Now that I have received the acknowledgements from the other eight Skies, am I eligible to participate in the War of the Heavens?"
Kong shi had challenged Luo Ruoxin only after defeating the other Eight God Monarchs and receiving their acknowledgement.
Luo Ruoxin lowered her head slightly as she quietly asked, "Are you certain about this?"
"Yes, I am certain about this," Zhang Xuan said.
Glancing at the Firmament beneath him, he could see that chaos had spread everywhere. Out of desperation, cultivators had started killing one another to vie for the limited resources. Not even the God Kings were able to calm the chaos.
He could delay the fight a little more if he wanted to, but every moment wasted would mean more deaths.
He might not be selfless, but he was not willing to bear the burden of so many lives.
He already knew that this fight was inevitable, so it was meaningless to delay it any longer.
"Let's begin then…" Luo Ruoxin took a deep breath before whipping out her sword.
She felt indignant and reluctant, but her feelings would not make a difference.
Ever since she accepted his confession, their fate had been sealed. They could not escape from it, and there was no changing it.
Their relationship was doomed to end in a tragedy.
"Yes, let's begin," Zhang Xuan replied with a smile.
They drove their cultivation to their limits as they prepared for the final showdown.
Just as they were about to make their move, an overwhelming energy suddenly burst forth from above.
Boom boom boom!
The dimension fissure above them grew even larger than before, and the black entrance of the Flooding Sea began to revolve slowly, forming a black hole to devour all beings in the world.
Be it spiritual energy, land, or life, everything was being sucked into it before dissipating amid a shimmer of green light.
"This is bad. The consciousness behind the malignant energy has made a move," Luo Ruoxin exclaimed with a grim look.
"The consciousness behind the malignant energy?" Zhang Xuan repeated as he turned his gaze over as well.
Earlier, Luo Ruoxin had mentioned that it was highly likely that the malignant energy that could neutralize his Heaven's Path zhenqi had already gained consciousness, allowing it to transmogrify into a human-shaped monster.
From the sound of it, it seemed like it was going to appear before him.
Hong long long!
As the black hole devoured more and more things, the space in the Firmament began to distort.
Those who were close to the black hole, Ao Feng and the other Conferred God Kings, could hardly stand their ground against the powerful suction force coming from it at all.
Zhang Xuan quickly channeled his energy into his Crimson Heaven Sword before slashing it toward the black hole.
However, it stopped right before the entrance of the black hole before dissipating.
"It's too strong…" Zhang Xuan widened his eyes in shock.
This was an attack that had allowed him to dispel the Monarch Heavenly Tribulation earlier, yet it could not do anything to the black hole. Just how powerful could that transmogrified being be?
"It's coming out!" Luo Ruoxin exclaimed as she drove her zhenqi to her limits, preparing herself to make a move if needed.
Along with her words, a black silhouette began walking out of the revolving black hole. Everything that stood in its way, no matter how powerful it was, would be disintegrated into dust before disappearing amid a shimmer of green light.
"It's the malignant energy…" Zhang Xuan felt his heart turning cold.
Having faced the malignant energy before, he knew how frightening it was. It possessed the power to neutralize even his powerful Heaven's Path zhenqi without any issues. Before it, the strongest artifacts in the Firmament swiftly corroded into nothing at all.
Upon walking out of the black hole, the black silhouette looked around him before his lips curved into a gentle smile. "Zhang shi, long time no see…"
Zhang Xuan's body stiffened upon seeing the true face of the black silhouette. "How can that be?"
The person who had appeared before him, the consciousness of the malignant energy that could neutralize his Heaven's Path zhenqi, turned out to be a familiar face to him… Vicious!
He quickly turned his attention toward his Book of Heaven's Path, only to realize that it was completely empty. Vicious, who should have been imprisoned there, had vanished without a trace.
And he did not notice a thing at all!
He clearly remembered that the other party had still been around when he entered the Flooding Sea, so when in the world did he disappear and grow so powerful?
Seeing through Zhang Xuan's doubts, Vicious smiled a little to himself. "You look confused. You must be wondering how I managed to leave the Book of Heaven's Path even though I should have been suppressed by its force."
That only made Zhang Xuan further narrow his eyes.
"The Book of Heaven's Path is indeed very scary, but you have neglected the fact that the golden page you have sealed me with only possesses the power of the Master Teacher Continent's heavens," Vicious said. "When my cultivation rose to Pseudo Immortal realm in the Azure, I was able to break free from the seal easily. I chose to remain in the Book of Heaven's Path of my own volition. Would you like to fathom a guess as to why?"
Zhang Xuan's heart skipped a beat upon hearing those words.
He had indeed neglected such a possibility.
As he ascended through the worlds, his Library of Heaven's Path had gotten proportionately stronger.
When he was still on the Master Teacher Continent, his golden page only wielded the ability to slay Ancient Sages. When he rose to the Azure, his golden page was able to deal with High Immortals with ease.
In the Firmament, the golden page was able to subdue any enemies beneath the God Monarch realm.
From that, it could be seen that the prowess of the golden page was dependent on the world he was in.
Vicious had been following him since his time at the Master Teacher Continent, and when they entered the Flooding Sea, the other party's cultivation had already reached the God King realm.
With such strength, how could the golden page formed on the Master Teacher Continent possibly continue restraining it?
It should have been obvious, but he had neglected such a simple fact!
"I told you that my body is suited to the Firmament, so I have been able to cultivate faster ever since arriving in the Firmament," Vicious said. "However, I didn't grow by absorbing the spiritual energy of the Firmament but the malignant energy that is destroying it! This is especially so when you brought me into the depths of the abyss. I realized that I could absorb it and grow swiftly… Of course, just the malignant energy in the abyss wasn't enough for me to make a complete transformation. The Flooding Sea was the key that allowed me to truly spread my wings!
"The Flooding Sea was an area that was free of the Firmament and its heavens' restraints, so the Book of Heaven's Path couldn't suppress me any longer. While you were searching for the Epitome Monarch Pill, I discreetly escaped to absorb the malignant energy, and eventually, I came to possess powers far exceeding any of you!
"I was also the one who led the Epitome Monarch Pill to where the Monarch Spirit Grass was. How else do you think it was able to reach a medicinal herb that it was unable to gather over the past few decades so suddenly?"
Those words made Zhang Xuan widen his eyes in realization.
He had been thinking that it was weird how the Epitome Monarch Pill did not devour the Monarch Spirit Grass even though it had been wanting to make a breakthrough to the God Monarch realm in order to escape the Flooding Sea. It was too much of a coincidence for it to have only found the Monarch Spirit Grass after encountering him.
It turned out that someone had helped it!
After all, the area where the Monarch Spirit Grass grew was extremely chaotic and fraught with danger. Zhang Xuan had only managed to enter the area by tapping into Luo Qiqi's unique abilities as the Dimension Silencer. Otherwise, there was no way he could have even come close to it.
Given so, it should have been even more impossible for the Epitome Monarch Pill to approach the Monarch Spirit Grass!
"I am the great Vicious who once dominated the world," Vicious roared furiously. "Back then, Kong shi schemed against me and nearly caused my death, and you forced me to bow down to you as your servant and ordered me around as if I was your dog. It'll be hard for me to quell the rage burning in my heart if I don't rip you into shreds…"
He was a being who had ruled over the Master Teacher Continent tens of thousands of years ago, and it had not been easy for him to come back to life. Yet, he had been subdued by a mere junior and forced to obey his command. It was inevitable that he felt resentful for it.
But due to his circumstances, he could only lower his head and tolerate it till he finally had enough power to turn the tables.
"You aren't the consciousness born within the malignant energy… Instead, you took control of it, huh?" Zhang Xuan finally came to realize what was going on.
Most likely, Vicious had somehow managed to absorb the malignant energy and turn it into his own strength.
"You are still as sharp as ever. We of the Spirit Tribe originated from the Gods of Spirit Origin Royal City. But fifty years ago, a hand thrust us into chaotic space, forcing us out of the Firmament. I thought that I would be able to return to the Firmament with my own strength, but who could have known that the darned malignant energy would continue to plague us, slowly devouring our strength!" Vicious gritted his teeth in anger.
"Back then, I thought that if I could somehow turn this power into mine, I would be unstoppable… But even after I conquered the Master Teacher Continent, I was unable to figure out a way to do so.
"It was only during Kong shi's ascension to power that I finally understood it. The malignant energy is an antithesis to the zhenqi we cultivate. It's impossible for any cultivator to tap into that power… unless I give up on my own cultivation and start anew!
"So, I willingly died at the hands of Kong shi. Otherwise, given the strength of that brat back then, do you think that he could really have killed me?"
Zhang Xuan fell silent.
He had read through the records of the Master Teacher Continent, but there were no books that detailed how Kong shi managed to kill Vicious. Most books simply described the battle to be a gruesome one that lasted days.
And when he had asked Vicious about it, the latter had kept repeating that he did not remember a thing at all.
Could that really be true? Did Vicious really allow Kong shi to kill him of his own accord?
And his only motive for that was to give up on his cultivation and start anew so that he could absorb the malignant energy?
That could very well be true.
Even if Vicious had been continuously weakened by the malignant energy, it was unlikely for a God like him to have been killed by Kong shi.
Perhaps… even Kong shi had been duped by Vicious' act.
"Since you are also from the Firmament, shouldn't you help to prevent the collapse of the Firmament instead of controlling the black hole to hasten the destruction? What do you stand to gain from the Firmament's destruction?" Zhang Xuan asked.
He knew that Vicious was intentionally stalling for time in order to gain more power so as to gain a decisive advantage, but he could not help but ask about the other party's true goal.
If the Firmament was destroyed, everything would be gone. All that would be left was emptiness. What did Vicious stand to gain from such an outcome?
"So what if I am from the Firmament? Back then, when we were thrust into the chaotic space, what did those God Monarchs do? Nothing at all! They left us to despair in the lower worlds as our cultivation was slowly nibbled away by the malignant energy. This corrupted system of the Firmament should have been long torn apart and rebuilt!" Vicious sneered coldly.
How many times had he prayed to the Spirit God to save them and bring them back to the Firmament? Yet, all he received was silence and disappointment.
It was at that moment that he realized that it was futile to rely on others. If he wanted to survive, he had to grow strong enough to save himself.
So, he devised a way to absorb and cultivate the malignant energy so that he could rise to the very top of the world, and his efforts did not fail him!
He had finally succeeded!
"Enough, I have said all that should be said. Now that your curiosity has been satisfied, you can die!"
With a cold sneer, Vicious released his massive power, and innumerable dimension rifts opened all around the place, threatening to tear Zhang Xuan apart.
"One last question. We should have sealed a Soul Contract with one another, and there should have been no way for you to liberate yourself from it. How did you do it?" Zhang Xuan asked.
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