Book 16, The Nihilum Zone, Chapter 2 – Red Dust Tribulations[Note – Red dust is an allegorical Buddhist term that refers to worldly affairs, attachments, and desires. It is often said that in order to achieve Buddhahood, one has to be able to ‘see past the red dust’. ‘Women of the red dust’ is also a phrase that is specifically used to refer to courtesans.]
Stillwater Commandery. Swallow Mountain. Serpentwing Lake. Brightheart Island.
Uncle White, in human form, was seated within a pavilion, moodily drinking wine by himself. Mu Northson was seated as well, leaning against the pavilion railings with his eyes shut. As for Little Qing, she was hugging her knees, seated quietly within a corner of the pavilion.
They were all completely silent.
A long time later…
“Should we tell Autumn Leaf?” Little Qing suddenly said.
“We should not.” Uncle White sighed. “In Autumn Leaf’s heart, my son Ning is…ugh. She wouldn’t be to take the blow. Let’s wait for now. We can tell her that Ning is in secluded meditation.”
“Are we supposed to just keep hiding this from them?” Little Qing asked.
“We can sense that my son Ning is still alive,” Uncle White said. “As long as he is still alive…let’s keep things hidden from Autumn Leaf, as well as all of the Ji clansmen.”
Little Qing nodded gently as well, then said, “Then about about Ji Ning’s master, Immortal Diancai?”
Uncle White hesitated a moment, then said, “Let’s wait. The most terrifying punishment brought by karmic sinflames will arrive on the seventh day. As long as he survives the seventh day, he will have survived the karmic sinflames. If he doesn’t come back after seven days…that means he truly is trapped in some mysterious danger zone located outside the world of the Grand Xia…at which point, we will notify Immortal Diancai.”
“Alright.” Little Qing nodded.
They fell silent once more.
None of them had anything to say. They just waited, quietly.
These seven days posed a huge tribulation for Ning. If he didn’t die within these seven days and withstood the karmic sinflames…he would have overcome this tribulation. However, they didn’t have any idea as to where the Youngflame clan had teleported him to…but given the amount of hatred they felt towards him, they must have sent him to a truly terrifying place.
The banks of a vast, roaring river. There was an azure-robed man seated in the lotus position here. He wielded an Immortal sword in his hands, but the Immortal sword actually had a fishing line hanging down from it; clearly, he was using it to fish.
From high up in the skies, a handsome-looking youth came flying over atop a cloud. He landed on the ground, then bowed respectfully. “My respects to you, Patriarch Lu. Per the Xia Emperor’s orders, this junior has come to send you a message.” A scroll appeared before him, which he respectfully offered with both hands.
“A letter? The Xia Emperor?” Lu Dongbin turned his head to look. He waved his hand, and the scroll flew straight to him. He tapped on it gently, and the scroll unfurled on its own.
Lu Dongbin read through it carefully. His face changed slightly.
“Understood. You can leave now,” Lu Dongbin said calmly.
“Yes.” The handsome youth departed gracefully.
Lu Dongbin, however, began to frown. “Karmic sinflames descended? The Youngflame clan actually used a method like this? Although Ji Ning is indeed talented, he’s trained for less than a century. Will he be able to survive?” Lu Dongbin turned his head to look towards the distance. A golden rune suddenly appeared in his pupils, and instantly his gaze was able to pierce through space, seeing an island that was ten million kilometers away.
At the quiet, secluded island, there was a black-robed maiden seated in the lotus position on a beach.
“This disciple of mine…she keeps her thoughts and secrets guarded quite tightly,” Lu Dongbin mused softly to himself. “That killing intent within her heart…it is even more terrifying than I had predicted it to be. In addition, at the Grand Xia Dynasty, she was hiding her true power the entire time. But…when I went to find Judge Cui to inspect her past lives, everything seemed normal. Although in her previous life, she was a powerful, fiendish figure, a demon whose power was comparable to a Loose Immortal who had lived for a million years…for a person to be powerful in a previous life is a good thing. There’s no need to hide it. When she awakened her memories during the Conclave of Immortal Destiny, given how powerful she was in her previous life…she absolutely could’ve made it to the top three, and perhaps she could’ve even become champion.”
Originally, Lu Dongbin had deeply desired to take on Ji Ning as his disciple, because Ji Ning truly was born to be a Sword Immortal. In addition, he had vaguely sensed some of Ning’s other extraordinary attributes.
As for Yu Wei…
Lu Dongbin had originally felt that Yu Wei was hiding even more secrets. However, he wasn’t certain at first; after taking her on as his disciple and interacting with her for a long period of time, he had naturally been able to discover many flaws in Yu Wei’s façade. In the end, Yu Wei had been forced to admit it: “Master, I was indeed hiding my true strength. This was because I don’t wish for others to know about my past life. I don’t want others to know that in my past life, I was such a vile, demonic figure. I’m tired…so tired. I want this life to be a bit more relaxed.”
Yu Wei clearly knew very well that Lu Dongbin, given his status, could easily investigate her past lives. She no longer maintained her façade before him.
“Was it really just because she wishes for this life to be a bit more ordinary and relaxed?” Lu Dongbin was at such a high level of enlightenment that he was extremely close to the level of the Daofathers! He could vaguely make out the tides and portents of destiny…and he always felt that Yu Wei wasn’t as simple a figure as she made herself to be.
However, he had investigated the Book of Life and Death.
Yu Wei hadn’t lied to him.
Could it be that he was wrong?
“Right now, Yu Wei needs to keep her heart steady and calm. When the time is right, the Celestial Tribulation shall come,” Lu Dongbin mused to himself. “The Celestial Tribulation is incomparably dangerous; in her past life, she failed to overcome it. In this life, it shall be extremely dangerous as well! I can sense that her feelings towards Ji Ning are genuine. If he truly is trapped in a danger zone…if I tell her, her demonheart tribulation will probably become even more terrifying.”
“For now, I won’t tell her. After she overcomes her tribulation, I’ll tell her.”
Lu Dongbin continued to ponder pensively.
Yu Wei sat there in the lotus position at the beach. The seas and the skies were the same color, giving an impression of a infinitely vast firmament. Her heart was extremely calm right now.
She was nurturing her Dao-heart.
She was quietly preparing…
Based on what Patriarch Lu had said, once she overcame her tribulation and became a Celestial Immortal, she would leave his tutelage.
“Junior apprentice-brother, I’ll undergo my tribulation soon. Afterwards, I’ll go seek you out right away.” A hint of a smile played at the corner of Yu Wei’s mouth. Ji Ning was the warmest memory in her heart; when Ji Ning had returned to the Grand Xia, Patriarch Lu had naturally informed her once he had learned of this. However, Yu Wei didn’t have any idea that Ji Ning was currently trapped in a danger zone.
The term ‘Three Realms’ referred to the Heaven Realm, the Netherworld Kingdom, and the Mortal Realm.
The Heaven Realm and the Netherworld Kingdom were extremely vast, while the three thousand major worlds and trillion minor worlds of the Mortal Realm were as countless as the stars of the Milky Way. And beyond all of these realms…there was the vast, limitless Void, an empty region that was even greater than the Three Realms themselves. Within the Void were two supreme stars, the Solar Star and the Lunar Star, as well as many other stars.
Within the infinite Void, there were countless danger zones, including some which would cause even True Immortals and Empyrean Gods to perish. In fact, there were some places which even True Gods and Daofathers would hesitate to venture into, preferring to simply watch them from a distance.
The three thousand major worlds and trillion minor worlds were like tiny little islands or reefs located within the infinite Void. The three thousand major worlds were like large islands, while the trillion minor worlds were reefs. At the very center of the three thousand islands and trillion reefs, there was an enormous ‘continent’ located within the infinite void.
This ‘continent’ was countless times greater than any of the major worlds. There, space and time clashed and twisted against each other…
It truly was a terrifying place. And at the places where the chaotic continent and the empty Void intersected, there were constant waves of void-ripples that spread out.
It was much like how, on a mortal world, where the waters of the ocean met the land, enormous oceanic waves would slam down against the land.
The waves of Void slammed repeatedly against the margins of the vast, chaotic continent…and the constant collisions formed a region of utter annihilation. The Nihilum Zone!
The Nihilum Zome.
A streak of white light suddenly flashed by, transporting a youth to this location.
Pain like he had never experienced before. For mortals, once their level of pain reached a certain threshold, they could actually die from it. As for Immortal cultivators…the terrifying agony brought by the first round of punishments from the karmic sinflames was an agony that was applied directly to their souls. There was no escape, nowhere to hide. The pain of it vastly outstripped the pain of one’s soul being torn apart.
There was a limit to how much pain the body and the soul could take.
The amount of pain the heart could suffer, however, was limitless.
Once the Dao-heart collapsed due to agony, the soul would quickly burnt to ash.
“No. No…” Ning was struggling to stay alive. He was able to remain just barely conscious, but that hint of consciousness was simply too weak; he wasn’t even able to pay any attention to his surroundings.
Finally, the increasing amount of pain reached a peak, a plateau.
Instantly…the pain vanished.
Ning was rather stunned. To go from a peak of pain to no pain at all…this, too, caused Ning’s Dao-heart to tremble.
“This place is…” Ning finally managed to look at his surroundings.
Blackness surrounded him.
Aided by the incomparably dim wisps of light sent forth by the distant Solar Star, Ning was able to just barely see that the darkness arounded him seemed to surge and ebb like flows of water. The void waves…they stretched off into infinity, while Ning was nothing more than a tiny little speck in the midst of a vast, endless void sea.
Rumble…a void wave came sweeping over. Ning felt his entire body tremble; the terrifying power of the wave vastly surpassed the combined power of all the Celestial Immortals of the Youngflame clan.
Ning’s entire world went dark.
“Young master.” An utterly ravishing beauty, dressed in thin, gauzy clothes, was looking straight towards Ning. She gently loosened her clothes, allowing them to slide downwards, half-revealing her body. She then gently licked at one of her fingertips, then used that finger to flick at her her shoulders, causing her clothes to slip down even further. Instantly, her clothes slipped all the way down, revealing her completely bare body. She walked over slowly, her large, limpid eyes staring longingly towards Ning. “Young master, I want it…”
This woman’s appearance was a mixture of the best aspects of Cloudjade, Autumn Leaf, Yu Wei, and Ninelotus’ appearances.
However, she was even more alluring and even more enchanting; she completely aroused Ning’s desire.
Ning remained clear-minded; he knew that this was an illusion created by the descent of the karmic sinflames. This was the second tribulation brought by the sinflames; the ‘lust tribulation’ of the ‘red dust tribulations’. Once one became enmeshed into the illusions, one would truly die. He immediately struck out with his arm, intending to smash the woman before him into dust.
However…Ning suddenly realized that his body had become extremely weak. When his palm struck out, it only carried the amount of power an ordinary mortal would have. The nude beauty stretched her own hand out, immediately catching Ning’s arm. She whispered softly, “Are you shy?” She immediately pressed Ning down to the ground…
When gripped by the throes of lust, one’s Dao-heart could indeed be shaken. Ning was completely unable to fight back; all he could do was strive to maintain his Dao-heart, strive to resist what was happening.
“It seems this humble one’s services weren’t enough. However…this humble one has six sisters who are even better.” The woman lying across Ning’s chest whispered gently into his ears. Instantly, six more beauties appeared in the distance. Each had their own unique charms; truly, beauties like these were almost impossible to encounter the real world. In addition, each were exactly the type of woman which Ning liked the most, and also the type of woman that stirred his lust the most.
He knew that this was all just part of the ‘lust tribulation’.
But…how could the lust tribulation be so easily overcome? It was much like how, in real life, many people knew that drugs were harmful, but upon having tasted it once, they would never be able to abstain from them ever again. By the same principle…a person might know that his soul would be destroyed if he succumbed to lust, but succumbing to lust was a very basic part of human nature. There was no way for a person to completely rid himself of lust; all a person could do was suppress it. However…when one was unable to resist, one would still be repeatedly enticed and aroused by lust.
“Powdered skeletons. All of them are nothing more than skeletons; they are transformed toads that have pustules on their skin. All of them have intentionally transformed into this appearance to deceive me.” Ning repeatedly mumbled these words to himself, continuously and forcibly suppressing his own desires.
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