Book 16, The Nihilum Zone, Chapter 23 – The Return
There were white clouds in the skies. A spatial vortex suddenly appeared within them, followed by an old man in Daoist robes emerging alongside a youth.
Ji Ning looked downwards.
He immediately saw Mount Innerheart…and he was even able to see the many disciples of the Mount Innerheart League, living their peaceful lives there.
“Let’s go.” Subhuti led Ning in flying downwards. They quickly arrived at the most central area of Mount Innerheart – the Tristar Crescent Abode, that seemingly ordinary-looking Daoist monastery. This was the place where Patriarch Subhuti normally trained in; disciples like Ning and the others wouldn’t dare to go disturb him without cause.
Within the Daoist monastery.
Subhuti landed, then took a high seat in the lotus position.
Ning respectfully bowed. “If it hadn’t been for your aid, Master, your disciple would have most likely never been able to return to the Three Realms. Your disciple feels ashamed for having forced you to exert yourself, Master.”
Subhuti laughed. “Sit.”
Ning selected a prayer mat and sat down beneath him.
“How did the karmic sinflames taste?” Subhuti asked.
“I don’t wish to experience them again,” Ning said. “The karmic sinflames are now ever-present around me. Although the burning sensation is agonizing…I can endure it. The descent of the karmic sinflames…although it was a tribulation for me, I gained quite a bit from it.”
“Fortune and calamity ride together,” Subhuti said with a laugh. “What level has your heartforce reached?”
“The third level,” Ning said.
Subhuti nodded and smiled. “I noticed that when you were fighting those aliens, your application of heartforce through your sword-fingers had reached a level where none of it leaked out whatsoever. It seems you’ve also developed an actual technique for applying heartforce through your fingers.”
“I did indeed learn a few things from my eighteen years of battle,” Ning said.
“Do you know why those aliens did not kill you, and instead chose to battle with you for eighteen years?” Subhuti asked.
Ning was startled. He shook his head. “Those aliens said that they were going to use me for target practice to train their warriors, but…I keep on having the feeling that this was perhaps not the actual reason.”
Subhuti nodded gently. “Your feelings were correct. You are in control of heartforce, and also know a way to apply it. Heartforce…it is an extremely mysterious type of power, one which even True Gods and Daofathers ponder on. There are five levels of heartforce. Although it is very weak in the early stages, as you go farther along this path and rise in levels, it will undergo an utterly earth-shaking transformation! The third level of heartforce is already quite astonishing. By using your third level heartforce, you have already reached the minimum threshold of an Empyrean God in power.”
Ning understood this to be true.
The first level was fairly weak; the amount of benefit it brought was almost negligible. The second level represented a clear, explosive increase in power…and the third level allowed one’s previous level of power to skyrocketed. The fourth level was the level of the most powerful divine archers of the Three Realms, and as for the fifth level…it was the level of the long-vanished Houyi.
“Heartforce is very powerful. If you can reach the fifth level, then even as a mere Empyrean God, you would have the combat power of a Daofather or a True God.” Subhuti looked at Ning. “The peak power of heartforce is far greater than your [Starseizing Hand]. You must not be lazy in making use of your talent for heartforce.”
“Your disciple understands.” Ning nodded.
But how could the fifth level of heartforce be so easily accomplished?
The only one who was publicly known within the Three Realms to have reached this level was Houyi. Perhaps some supreme Daofathers or True Gods might have secretly reached this level without telling anyone or using it…but still, one could clearly tell that reaching the fifth level was unbelievably hard.
“The reason why the aliens of the Snaphorn world did not kill you was precisely because the mind and thought-strands of the masters of the Snaphorn world had descended upon the bodies of those warriors. Through battling with you repeatedly, they would be able to sense the ripples of your application of heartforce in detail, and thus be able to develop a heartforce technique,” Subhuti said. “I imagine that the past eighteen years have brought insights to the owner of the Snaphorn world! Heartforce…it is a technique which is unique to our Three Realms. It absolutely cannot be taught to outsiders.”
“They have insights into it? It can’t be taught to outsiders?” Ning was shocked. “I…”
“I’ve already annihilated the entire Snaphorn world, and the masters of the Snaphorn world are dead. Even if they did come up with a bit of information on heartforce, it is of no use now,” Subhuti said.
Ning let out a sigh of relief…and then stared in amazement.
The Snaphorn world had been annihilated?
This entire time, from rescuing him to bringing him back to Mount Innerheart, his master had been by his side. Somehow, without Ning even having the faintest clue about it, he had annihilated the entire Snaphorn world, including even its masters? Ning had been able to tell from the battle between the seven Empyrean Gods and the three Queen Mother clones that the masters of the Snaphorn world had to be very strong.
“My master truly is unfathomable,” Ning secretly mused to himself.
“Right. That Dao-companion of yours, that Yu Wei,” Subhuti said, “She’s already overcome her tribulation and become a Celestial Immortal. Did you know about this?”
“Senior apprentice-sister became a Celestial Immortal?” Ning was both delighted and surprised.
He was surprised because his senior apprentice-sister had actually become a Celestial Immortal before him. Before she had left to go accompany Patriarch Lu, her power as displayed within the Conclave of Immortal Destiny hadn’t been particularly eye-catching. Who would’ve thought that in just a few short decades, she would’ve become a Celestial Immortal, even before Ning himself had?
“When is your Primaltwin going to undergo the Celestial Tribulation?” Subhuti asked. The questions which any master cared the most about were naturally the ones related to the disciple’s tribulation. This was the most difficult calamity for any Immortal cultivator to face.
“Very soon,” Ning said.
“You need to ponder on the application of heartforce to your Immortal swords,” Subhuti said. “Your experiences and background are all quite extraordinary. Even though your Primaltwin is a Ki Refiner…the power of this tribulation will definitely be significant. If you can completely apply your heartforce to your Immortal swords, your power shall be greatly improved. I trust that your chances of overcoming your tribulation shall thus be much greater. The technique you’ve developed during the past eighteen years is for applying heartforce to your sword-fingers. There isn’t a huge difference between your sword-fingers and your swords…I trust you can make it work.”
“Yes.” Ning understood that his master was expressing concern and care for him.
And indeed…his Primaltwin could also use heartforce when executing the [Greater Thousand Swords Formation], at which point his power would rise by a shocking amount. This would indeed give him a much better chance at overcoming his tribulation.
“Your disciple shall definitely first develop a way to apply heartforce through physical swords before attempting the tribulation,” Ning said.
“As for your true body…ideally, you should only attempt the tribulation to become an Empyrean God after you have completely mastered the Grand Dao of the Sword,” Subhuti added.
“Complete mastery?” Ning was stunned.
Although he was at a very high level in the Dao of the Sword, he was still quite a ways off from completely mastering it. In addition…generally speaking, the closer one was to mastery, the harder it would be to break through the next bottleneck.
“You are capable of wielding swordforce; it can be said that you have already touched upon what the essence of the sword is. You should be completely capable of mastering the Dao of the Sword at the void-level, which will give you a decent chance.” Subhuti looked solemnly at Ning. “I’m not too worried about your Primaltwin’s tribulation. But your true body’s tribulation…you have to be careful, careful, careful!”
Ning felt pressure as well. He nodded lightly. Right…
Upon returning to the Three Realms, Ning’s subconscious premonitions had grown strong once again. Just discussing his true body’s tribulation instantly caused Ning to feel nervousness in his heart. He knew that this was Fate’s way of warning him in secret. The Three Realms occasionally gave birth to truly peerless, monstrous geniuses who were blessed by the distilled virtues of the universe, but the more of a genius one was, the more terrifying one’s Celestial Tribulation would be. If he could overcome it, he would soar to the heavens in a single leap, becoming a mover and shaker of the Three Realms. But…the vast majority would end up perishing to the Celestial Tribulation!
“Little bear!” Subhuti suddenly called out.
The giant yellow bear suddenly appeared next to Ning. The giant yellow bear respectfully fell to his knees and said, “This little bear greets you, Daofather.”
“Let the other seven come out,” Subhuti instructed.
“Yes.” The giant yellow bear didn’t dare to disobey.
Ning’s heart clenched. Ning was extremely curious about those seven Empyrean Gods; after all, back in the Wargod Hall of the underwater estate, it had been a clone of Empyrean God Redsnow, formed from a drop of Redsnow’s blood, who had served to test Ning. In addition, when he encountered danger just now, it had been the seven of them who had intervened to rescue him.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
Seven figures appeared out of nowhere, all in human form. In truth…they had all changed their appearances; after all, as Fiendgods, their true forms were quite enormous. They all looked quite odd, but Pangu, Nuwa, and many other supreme powers all looked quite humanoid, which was why Fiendgods like to take on the appearance of humans. In fact…in secret, many Fiendgods speculated that the reason why humans had such astonishing potential was because Nuwa had used ‘Pangu’ as the blueprint for creating humanity.
“Greetings to you, Old Patriarch.” All seven Empyrean Gods saluted reverently.
“Thank you, Old Patriarch, for saving our lives.” Empyrean God Redsnow was the first to respectfully offer his thanks.
“Even if I hadn’t gone, you would’ve been able to stay alive,” Subhuti said with a laugh. “You could’ve simply returned to the Starseizing Manor and your own world within it, bringing Ji Ning inside and hiding him within it. In a true battle, you wouldn’t be able to defeat the Snaphorn world, but if you were to rely on the formations protecting your own world, you would’ve been able to withstand them.”
“But the three of them were Daofathers…” Empyrean God Redsnow was amazed. The other six Empyrean Gods were amazed as well.
Returning to the world of Threelives and relying on its formations to resist the foes; this was their final option. However…Daofathers had utterly astonishing levels of power. In addition, there were three of them this time! They didn’t believe they had the power to fight back against such a force.
However…given who Patriarch Subhuti was, if he said they could do it, he definitely had a reason for saying so.
“Three Daofathers? You give too much credit to those three little worms.” Subhuti shook his head. “Those creatures are not of the Three Realms, and you know nothing at all about them; they simply cannot be judged so easily, just by using the power levels of the Three Realms.”
All seven Empyrean Gods were now curious, as was Ji Ning.
“In the Snaphorn world, there were a total of eighteen golden-caped warriors; in your eyes, you viewed them as being eighteen Empyrean Gods, yes?” Patriarch Subhuti explained, “But in reality, all of the horned warriors of that race have a weakness; once the cores in their body are destroyed, they will die.”
“Consider the Immortals of our Three Realms. Although their physical bodies are fairly weak, they can control magic treasures at a long distance. There’s no need for them to fight in close combat as well. As for the Empyrean Gods and True Gods who do fight in close combat…they have no weaknesses at all,” Subhuti said. “These aliens, however, are only capable of close combat, and they all have a weakness; the core.”
“As for those three little worms…their true combat power wasn’t that formidable. They were merely at the peak of the Empyrean God level. Their strength lies in giving birth; their childbearing abilities are quite astonishing.” Subhuti sighed. “During that great, calamitous war…there were more than ten thousand of those little worms. They gave birth to countless warriors, all of whom were able to fuse together into one body…you’d kill one batch and another would come. Under the control of their master, those myriad little worms caused the Three Realms to suffer heavy casualties.”
Ning said, stunned, “More than ten thousand? Master…did you just say they have a ‘master’?”
What in the world had happened during that great war?
“These little worms shared a common master,” Subhuti sighed. “A person who was far more powerful than even myself. Only Mother Nuwa was able to suppress him. Fortunately…that demon has long since perished.”
“Redsnow…you are just one step away from becoming a True God and having a Daofather’s power. Train hard and reach that level as soon as you can.” Subhuti looked towards Empyrean God Redsnow.
“Redsnow understands,” the Empyrean God said respectfully.
“I imagine you and Ning have some things to say to each other.” Subhuti chuckled. “Alright…you can all go back to the world of the Grand Xia now. If you want to chat, go ahead.”
Subhuti waved his hand, and yet another spatial vortex appeared in front of him.
Ning bowed respectfully, as did the seven Empyrean Gods, and then they all entered the spatial vortex. They departed from Mount Innerheart, heading back to the world of the Grand Xia.
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