Book 16, The Nihilum Zone, Chapter 3 – Iceheart
Although he did his best to visualize these seven beauties as skeletons, or as transformed toads and other abominations…deep in his heart, Ji Ning knew that they weren’t toads. They were part of the ‘red dust tribulation’ which the karmic sinflames had brought; they were created from his own heart, and they weren’t actually disgusting. This caused Ning to unconsciously be drawn further and further into lust.
“Hold, hold, hold…” Ning was repeatedly suppressing his own lusts.
But as time flowed on, the amount of lust he felt was increasing nonstop.
Ning suddenly came to his senses. He thought about a legend he had read about on Earth, a legend about Yu the Great taming the floods. “Rather than dam it all up, he spread it out in channels. How can lust possibly be forcibly suppressed? The red dust tribulation…the red dust tribulation…according to the records of Mount Innerheart, in order to overcome a red dust tribulation, one has to both enter the red dust as well as emerge from the red dust.” 1
“But if I allow myself to enter the red dust…if I succumb to it, what then?”
“What should I do?”
All sorts of thoughts began to war with each other in Ning’s heart.
The more one knew, the harder it was to deal with the red dust tribulation. In addition…‘knowing’ was one thing, being able to actually ‘do’ was another thing.
“No matter what…”
“My heart cannot succumb.”
“This is nothing more than my baptism through the red dust.”
Ning didn’t dare to relax his vigilance in the slightest.
Actually…Ning had actually made the correct decision. This was because ordinary cultivators, when being tested by a red dust tribulation, would generally be able to first allow themselves to succumb for a long period of time. Afterwards, when the day came for them to suddenly be enlightened and emerge from the red dust, their Dao-hearts would naturally be strengthened tremendously. Ning’s situation, however, was different! His ‘red dust tribulation’ came from the descent of karmic sinflames; he absolutely couldn’t allow himself to succumb to them at all.
Time flowed on.
Lust. Gluttony. Rage. Avarice. Love. Hate…
Within the red dust tribulation, all the desires one could feel when trapped within the mortal world, the world of red dust, would be amplified to an extreme.
Lust – The most soul-stirringly beautiful women would appear.
Gluttony – Unimaginably delicious delicacies, delicacies that would cause your soul to quiver.
Rage – All sorts of arguments, jealousies, disputes…as well as the joy and jubilation that came after violent conquest.
Love – Parental love, spousal love, romantic love, brotherly love, master-disciple love…the word ‘love’ truly did involve many things that people were willing to die for.
Hate – Towering, earth-shattering hatred and resentment that filled every inch of one’s heart. Hatred that not even the waters of the four seas could wash away…boundless hatred and a desire to kill one’s foes…
At first, Ning did his best to suppress all of the desires of the red dust, trying to push them away from him. This, however, caused Ning’s heart to feel increasingly tired. But slowly…Ning began to understand.
“Let these enticements come as they may. My heart abides.”
“This…this is nothing more but a mortal, fleshly coil.”
Ning completely separated the innermost part of his heart from the outside world.
He let his lust soar to the skies. He let himself feel excitement, rage, hatred, joy, disappointment, grief, happiness…Ning no longer suppressed any of it, allowing the feelings to invade every part of his entire body. Ning’s heart, however, transcended it all. It was like a bystander, simply watching everything and keeping an eye on everything.
“One’s true heart…one’s fleshly body…?” Ning slowly began to understand…and he thought of [Houyi’s Archery].
The reason why [Houyi’s Archery] was able to rank amongst the top ten divine abilities of the universe and was considered comparable to the [Starseizing Hand], but the actual application of it was even more complicated. It had higher requirements with regards to skill, it required extremely good bows and arrows…and it only allowed for very, very few shots. However…its power was truly ridiculous as well.
At the peak of its power, [Houyi’s Archery] was even more terrifying than the [Starseizing Hand] at its peak! Even Houyi, a divine archer of the Primordial Era, would only be able to shoot out ten or so arrows at maximum power before growing exhausted. The power of those arrows, however, was truly terrifying.
In addition, the application of divine power was just one part of [Houyi’s Archery]. The true reason why it was dominant throughout the Three Realms and became acknowledged as the number one archery technique was thanks to…heartforce!
Heartforce was a source of power that was invisible, formless, but incomparably mysterious and miraculous.
This was a force that was completely outside the types of power which Immortals and Fiendgods could normally control. Elemental ki, Immortal power, and divine power were all visible to the naked eye…but heartforce was invisible. In fact, unless one was using it to support something like archery, heartforce alone was completely unable to injure anyone.
However, it was precisely this energy, ‘heartforce’, which allowed divine archers to become truly terrifying figures. Houyi was the most powerful of the divine archers, and the [Houyi’s Archery] technique which he developed was able to strengthen the application of heartforce to a truly frightening level. This was why this technique was such an unearthly, powerful one.
Heartforce, invisible and formless…
And yet, it allowed one to reach astonishing levels of power. In the Primordial World, not even True Gods or Daofathers would willingly become enemies with Houyi. He was truly an incomparably terrifying man amongst the True Gods and Daofathers, a legendary divine archer even in an age of legends.[Houyi’s Archery] clearly differentiated heartforce into multiple levels.
The first level of heartforce could be considered the ‘basic’ level, the level which Ning had currently reached. If one could truly apply heartforce to one’s arrows and cause one’s arrows to be able to strike unerringly at a distance of ten thousand kilometers, one had reached the basic level.
Ning had spent many years training archery painstakingly at Mount Innerheart before reaching the basic level. Generally speaking, upon reaching the basic level, one could already be considered as having entered the ranks of the ‘divine archers’ and be viewed as one of them, having reached a level that was as far above the other archers of the Three Realms as the heavens were above the earth. If one didn’t understand heartforce, one would never be able to become a true ‘divine archer’. Only by understanding heartforce could one’s archery become truly terrifying.
The second level of heartforce was known as ‘iceheart’!
This meant that one’s inner heart had completely transcended the body. It would no longer be shaken or bedazzled by foreign influences. The waters of one’s inner heart would have frozen into a cube of ice; there would no longer be any ripples within it! Once one’s heart reached this level, one’s ‘heartforce’ would begin to qualitatively evolve and also increase in power tremendously.
“So, under the pressure of the sinflames of karma…I had unknowingly reached the level of ‘iceheart’, improving my heartforce.” Ning felt a calm joy in his heart. “It truly is as others have said; so long as one can survive the descent of karmic sinflames, one’s Dao-heart will undergo a qualitative change, and one will increase in power dramatically.”
The descent of karmic sinflames was a portent for three great tribulations, each more powerful than the last.
Ning had just experienced the second round of tribulations, the ‘red dust tribulations’, resulting in him reaching the iceheart level of heartforce. From this, one could see that that although karmic sinflames truly did represent a tremendous tribulation…disaster and fortune came in a pair. If one survived this tribulation, one would reap certain rewards.
However, very few Immortal cultivators would willingly allow karmic sinflames to surround them. After all, once they did, even if one did survive the three rounds of karmic tribulations, in the future, the karmic sinflames would perpetually blaze around their bodies. One would constantly suffer from the agony of being burnt by karmic sinflames! Although the pain wouldn’t be as agonizing as during the three rounds of tribulations, to be constantly burnt alive…unless it was absolutely necessary, who would willingly endure such a thing?
In addition, it was extremely difficult for one to lower one’s level of sin by enough to drop back down to the level of being surrounded by a ‘bloody aura of sin’.
Karmic virtue, karmic sin. It was hard to gain karmic virtue, but karmic sin came with ease!
Killing mortals was a tremendous sin; doing so would allow one to effortlessly accrue an enormous amount of sin…
But it was far, far harder to acquire karmic virtue. For example, after Ning had killed that evil Patriarch and many evil Diremonsters that had been surrounded by the bloody light of sin, and after when he had taken on a disciple who had whole-heartedly devoted herself to him, he had only just barely been able to upgrade his level of karmic virtue to being surrounded by golden karmic light. The range of his aura of golden karmic light had been extremely small as well! To reach the legendary level of karmic virtue where one’s body would be surrounded by a rainbow of light would be unfathomably more difficult!
And in fact…sometimes, one might do evil, even with the best of intentions. Karmic virtue was something which even figures as possible as True Gods or Daofathers were unable to completely understand the rules of. Although saving figures of karmic virtue and killing sinners did seem to be virtuous acts, and although ninety-nine out of a hundred such actions would result in an increase in karmic virtue…there would always be one who would instead be condemned as a sinner.
For one to go from the level of having karmic sinflames to having a bloody aura of sin was comparable in difficulty to increasing from having a golden aura of karmic virtue to a holy rainbow-colored aura.
Thus…once one became bathed in karmic sinflames, it was virtually guaranteed that one would never, ever be able to escape from them.
To be eternally burnt by karmic sinflames…who would be willing to suffer such a thing?
“Is there anything else?”
For a time, Ning had transcended everything; it was as though he had been seated upon an imperial throne, as though he had unified the world, as though no one would disobey his orders.
But suddenly…everything in front of him disappeared.
The scene before him transformed. He now saw a very ordinary courtyard, within which was a woman who was carrying an infant. Another woman was next to her, teasing the infant. In the center of the courtyard, there was a muscular man who was slicing animal meat.
“Eh?” Ning suddenly realized that he had become that infant.
“What’s going on?” When Ning realized that he had taken on the role of the infant, he was puzzled; during all of the previous tribulations, he had always remained in his own body.
But as time went on…Ning slowly began to understand.
He had become the infant. The infant slowly grew up, becoming a toddler. All the toddlers received the same type of tutelage within the clan…but given how young he was, how could he possibly not be restless? Only after even more time passed did he slowly begin to study hard. And at eight years of age…his father went out hunting in the mountains, never to return.
He began to grow up, because he was the only man in the family. Under the tutelage of his mother and his second matron, he began to work hard. 2
His mother and his second matron, in order to ensure that he would receive good tutelage within the clan, suffered countless hardships.
He swore an oath to himself…
He would definitely let his mother and his second mother live a good life.
“Luo Jun, at the age of sixteen, you were able to train to the peak of the Houtian level; you have quite a bit of potential. What you need to do now is experience life-and-death dangers. If you can break through to the Xiantian level…then the lives of your mother and your second matron will be much better.” A middle-aged man smiled at him. “At that time…you’ll truly become acknowledged as a member of the Youngflame clan.”
“Right.” The youth’s eyes were filled with desire.
However…Ning, whose soul was riding with the youth, felt increasingly worried and uneasy.
Just as the youth had finished a dangerous adventure and had returned to his city, a green-haired Immortal had suddenly appeared in the skies above the city.
“Everyone in the city is to be evacuated,” the green-haired Immortal ordered, his voice echoing everywhere.
Within the courtyard, the youth and his two mothers both raised their heads to look. They felt puzzled and mystified; evacuated? How?
Moments later, they could feel space twisting around them…and they then appeared in a different dimension.
“So many people?” The youth felt as though they were surrounded by an endless sea of people.
“Luo Jun, what…what’s going on?” His two mothers were both panicking.
“Don’t worry. This is a technique of Immortals,” the youth said confidently. “There are countless clansmen here; we’ll know what’s going on soon.”
Not too long later…
They were once more teleported away. This time, even more people were here.
“This time…it must be when Old Demon Windraiser put everyone together?” Ning could vaguely sense what was going to happen, and he felt dread in his heart. After having spent more than ten years alongside the youth, Ning sympathized with him as he would for himself. He knew how honest and good this youth was…and he knew how deep the love was between this youth and his two mothers.
He already knew what was in the youth’s future. He didn’t wish to believe that this future would come true.
The dimension exploded.
- Yu the Great, Da Yu, was a legendary Emperor and founder of the Xia Dynasty in Chinese history. According to legends, he ‘tamed’ the Yellow River and its constant flooding problems by creating a system of irrigation canals as well as dredging the riverbeds, allowing Chinese civilization to flourish along the Yellow River. ↩
- Second matron here, as a term, means his father married two different women; polygamy was legal in ancient China, and the children would refer to their father’s wives in order of seniority as ‘first matron’, ‘second matron’, etc., with the birth mother being simply ‘mother’. ↩