DESDWinterJerkReturns

Book 37, Flamewing God, Chapter 23 – Word Spreads

This was completely and utterly unheard of!

Hegemons stood at the very apex of every realmverse and every otherverse. An exalted Hegemon… serve as a retainer to a Daolord? What sort of a joke was this? Everyone felt as though this was an absolute joke which simply wasn’t conceivable.

“Your third eye is about to pop out from all the bulging,” Hegemon Azurefiend said with a frown. “What’s there to be surprised about? Darknorth is extremely strong, second only to Hegemons in power! I had a wager with him, and I lost. I, Azurefiend, am not the sort to welch on my bets. I lost and so I will pay my debt. I have willingly joined Darknorth as his retainer.”

“Y-you…” Hegemon Dawnruler was completely stunned by Hegemon Azurefiend’s words.

“Any other questions?” Hegemon Azurefiend looked at Dawnruler.

“Impressive. Quite impressive.” Hegemon Dawnruler shook his head. “Brother Azurefiend, I’m impressed by your tolerance levels.”

“Cut the crap. Now that I am Daolord Darknorth’s retainer, none of the Hegemons or Emperors heading this way will have any chance of taking the realmship from him. They probably won’t even come,” Azurefiend said. “Darknorth didn’t ask for all that much from you, and he hasn’t put any of you in any actual life-threatening danger at all. Even if you went to ask Realmslord Windgrace to help out… given his personality, he probably wouldn’t intervene over such a minor matter and come help you out.”

“So… just go ahead and pay the price for freedom. Otherwise, you can just keep sitting here.” Azurefiend looked at Dawnruler, who was silent. Dawnruler knew that Azurefiend’s words made a lot of sense.

Azurefiend himself was a Hegemon; he understood Hegemonic thought-processes quite clearly. Realmslord Windgrace was such a transcendental figure that he didn’t get involved in any power squabbles at all. He would only intervene in situations which were truly lethal for the local Hegemons! There was no way he would come here just because Ji Ning was asking these Hegemons and Emperors for a few treasures!

“Darknorth isn’t asking for that much either. The combined amount from all of you Hegemons and Emperors is probably comparable to just the networth of one or two Hegemons,” Hegemon Azurefiend said calmly. “There’s no way Realmslord Windgrace would be so shameless as to come here for such a small amount of treasure.”

“Ugh. Enough, Azurefiend. I’ll accept the conditions.” Hegemon Dawnruler looked at Hegemon Azurefiend, then shook his head. “The price we are paying is nothing. You, however, are the unluckiest bastard out of all of us. If there’s anything you need me to help you out with, just say the word.”

“Don’t even start.” Hegemon Azurefiend’s eyes flashed with cold light. He was an incredibly proud figure who had wandered through countless places. Hegemon Dawnruler’s intentional show of ‘pity’ had rather angered Azurefiend.

“Alright, alright! Calm down. My mistake,” Hegemon Dawnruler said hurriedly. But when he looked at Azurefiend, he couldn’t help but continue to sigh secretly.

An exalted Hegemon serve as a retainer for a Daolord? Word of this would quickly spread with wildfire speed! The Hegemons would all spread this shocking information to their peers, which would then spread even farther away.

……

Hegemon Dawnruler obediently handed over the requisite treasures. Hegemon Wuye and Hegemon Fogsun had long ago publicized within the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance as to what they would need in order to ferry Hegemons via their realmships. Thus, Ning knew what the price had been.

Ning swore a lifeblood oath as well, ensuring that Hegemon Dawnruler would feel at ease. Hegemon Dawnruler’s greatest worry was that once he began to move, Ning would suddenly activate a mechanism to trap him.

……

A short while later, Hegemon Oldgem and the Paragon of Swords were staring in astonishment at Ning, Azurefiend, and Whitethaw.

“Brother Azurefiend, you’ve become Daolord Darknorth’s retainer?” As the conversation progressed, the two Hegemons turned to stare at Hegemon Azurefiend in absolute astonishment.

“What’s with all the fuss? Go ask Dawnruler for the details,” Azurefiend barked with a frown. “Hurry up! You two are pretty strong, but with me here it’ll be quite hard for you to defeat all of the mechanisms and traps present.”

“Fine, fine. We’ll pay.” Hegemon Oldgem nodded.

“Impressive, Daolord Darknorth.” The Paragon of Swords glanced at Ning. The two truly were stunned by this. They also understood that with Azurefiend supporting Ning, there was no way they’d be able to fight through the flaming passageways by themselves.

……

Word quickly spread, causing an utter storm of amazement to sweep through the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance. Many learned the rough details of what had happened; Hegemon Azurefiend had been trapped within the flaming passageways, then had lost a bet to Daolord Darknorth and was thus his retainer for a time.

Whoosh.

A realmship had been accumulating power as it was preparing to tear through the Great Dark, but it suddenly came to a halt.

“Gentlemen.” Within the realmship, Hegemon Fogsun turned to stare at the other five Hegemons and the other six Emperors. “You should’ve received word as well that Daolord Darknorth is in control of the flaming passageways of the Jadefire Realm! Hegemon Azurefiend was trapped by him and has now become his retainer. There’s no chance that you’ll be able to win the realmship from him. What are you planning to do next? Shall you still go and try your luck?”

“How could something like this have happened?”

“Hegemon Azurefiend really is a disgrace of a Hegemon. He was so afraid of dying that he chose to go serve a Daolord? How preposterous!”

“I feel rather ‘impressed’ by Azurefiend. I never would’ve been able to force myself to bow my head like that. I would’ve rather died than to swallow such a disgrace.” This was what the Hegemons and Emperors were all saying amongst themselves.

Although they had all paid a price in treasures to board the realmship, and although it had all come to naught, they didn’t feel too disappointed. This had been a free-for-all amongst many Hegemons and Emperors, after all; only one would succeed while the rest would fail. They had long ago mentally prepared themselves for failure. Thus, it didn’t really matter now that they really had ended up empty-handed.

However, they couldn’t help but sigh with commiseration. Hegemon Azurefiend was an extremely powerful Hegemon, far more powerful than the vast majority of them… and yet, he had lowered his head to serve a Daolord as retainer?

Quite a few of them actually began to view Azurefiend with contempt, feeling that he truly was a shameless craven.

“Gentlemen, we need to decide what the next plan of action is,” Hegemon Fogsun said.

“What else can we do? We’ve already paid upfront. Are you going to refund us our treasures?”

“I agree. Brother Fogsun, you should refund us half. We haven’t gotten anything out of this visit,” the five Hegemons and six Emperors all chorused.

“Cut the jokes,” Hegemon Fogsun said hurriedly. “You were all lucky! If you made it in there, you’d probably be threatened and extorted by Daolord Darknorth as well. You’d probably end up paying even more!”

“Haha, enough, enough. Brother Fogsun, we’re already quite close to the Flamedragon Realmverse, while you need to take the other Hegemons and Emperors back from the Flamedragon Realmverse. How about this? Let’s just all head there together and see if there’s a chance for us to meet Daolord Darknorth. All of us are quite curious about him.”

“Hmph. Curious? A Daolord who was actually able to convince a Hegemon to be his retainer… what an audacious fellow.”

“He succeeded, didn’t he?”

“Only because Azurefiend is a coward who fears death! Hmph!” The Hegemons and Emperors continued to discuss this amongst themselves.

“Very well, then, I’ll continue to head towards the Flamedragon Realmverse.” Hegemon Fogsun shook his head and sighed. “What a pity! This was just my second delivery. There were Hegemons and Emperors in two other realmverses who should’ve been in the third delivery. There’s no way they are going to pay me nor. Jeeze, Daolord Darknorth… why did you have to be so hasty? Why couldn’t you have waited until all the Hegemons and Emperors arrived before making your move?”

“This time, the only ones to come out a winner were yourself, Wuye, and Daolord Darknorth.”

“Yes, all the rest of us suffered huge losses.” The Hegemons and Emperors continued to drink, chat, and merrymake amongst themselves.

……

Word quickly spread. None of the Hegemons and Emperors in the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance harbored any further desires on the realmship. When they had merely found out that Ning was in charge of the flaming passageways, they had still felt hope. After all, Ning would have to hide within the flaming passageways, but a sufficient number of Hegemons working together while backed by powerful Numerancy would be able to calculate his location and then capture him safely.

As they saw it, all they had to do was to stop him in his tracks. An entire host of Hegemons and Emperors would be able to kill this Daolord with ease. Now, however, Hegemon Azurefiend stood by Daolord Darknorth’s side as his retainer. This meant there was now no chance at all for them to win the realmship.

“Azurefiend actually became a Daolord’s retainer.”

“No matter how impressive a Daolord is, he’s still just a Daolord. Azurefiend is a Hegemon!”

“I can’t believe what a coward Azurefiend is.”

“He’s willing to do anything so long as he can stay alive.” This was what everyone was saying.

Emperors felt an intrinsic sort of superiority towards Daolords. Daolords simply didn’t live long enough, and there was a limit to how strong they could become! Hegemons were supreme amongst Emperors… but now, one of them had become a retainer to a Daolord.

Even the likes of Hegemon Brightshore, Hegemon Windrain, and Hegemon Netherlily were stunned by this, despite being very familiar with Ning. As for the Emperors of the Flamedragon Realmverse, they were completely stupefied by these rumors.

These rumors spread across the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance like wildfire, then reached out to spread to even more realmverses. This was considered a fascinating bit of gossip by major powers. As a result, there were now many major powers in distant realmverses who had never visited the Flamedragon Realmverse but who had heard of a Daolord named Darknorth… as well as a Hegemon named Azurefiend who had actually chosen to be a Daolord’s retainer!


Book 37, Flamewing God, Chapter 24 – Meeting Winterflame Again

Ji Ning continued to lead Hegemon Azurefiend and Protector Whitethaw through the flaming passageways via his realmship, entering ‘negotiations’ with one trapped Hegemon and Emperor after another. Each flaming passageway was extremely long, while the Hegemons were all scattered in various places. As a result, it would take months to fully sweep through all of them.

“Hmph. Those fools.” Hegemon Azurefiend sat within the realmship, drinking some wine. A dark look had long ago appeared on his face. “All of them are saying that I’m afraid of death. Ugh…”

Hegemon Azurefiend didn’t even know how he was supposed to refute these rumors. Was he supposed to commit suicide to show that he wasn’t afraid of death? That would be truly idiotic.

“Brother Azurefiend, why bother with them?” Ning smiled. “If a dog bites you, are you really going to bite back? Just let them jabber.”

In truth, Ning felt a bit awkward about all this, because the person Hegemon Azurefiend was serving as himself! There was no way he could simply ‘give up’ a Hegemonic retainer, and so all he could do was just try and console the Hegemon as best he could.

“Yes, they are nothing more than dogs. I shouldn’t waste my time with them.” Hegemon Azurefiend lifted his head up to drink some wine, only to realize that his cup was empty. An awkward look appeared on his face. Clearly, he was so focused on what everyone in the outside world was saying about him that he hadn’t even noticed he was out of wine.

Seeing this, Ning grinned. “Let me fill that up for you.”

Hegemon Azurefiend watched as Ning poured the wine. He couldn’t help but stroke his pointed, ape-like jaw as he murmured, “I’ve been alive for many years. I don’t care about what those weaker cultivators say, but the Hegemons who are on par with me… I can’t help but care! I’ve made a fool of myself in front of you, Darknorth. My Dao-heart still is not strong enough.”

“So long as we are alive, there will be things we care about. Otherwise, we’d be nothing more than zombies.” Ning smiled. “Caring about face is quite normal.”

“Darknorth, there’s something I hope you can do for me.” Hegemon Azurefiend looked at Ning.

“Oh? Tell me what it is. I’ll do my absolute best,” Ning said immediately.

“I hope… that you will succeed in the Daomerge!” Azurefiend looked at Ning, a hint of eagerness in his eyes. Ning couldn’t help but feel slightly stunned by this. “If you succeed in the Daomerge, your Omega Dao will ensure that you vastly surpass the level of Hegemons. You will reach a level which I cannot even imagine. When that happens, I will only feel proud for having served someone like yourself as a retainer.”

Ning finally smiled. “Thank you for your kind words. I’ll absolutely do my best.”

The Daomerge… in truth, Ning was finally daring to feel a bit of optimism regarding it, primarily because the Autarch’s stone dais truly was shockingly effective with regards to meditation. He also had the countless techniques of the Sithe and the cultivator civilizations which the Autarch had left behind, giving him a much deeper foundation and level of understanding. Once he created ten Archon-class techniques, he would then gain another treasure the Autarch had left behind which would be of tremendous assistance to cultivators partaking in the Daomerge.

Thus… although it would be extremely difficult for a Daolord of the Fourth Step to succeed in the Daomerge with an Omega Dao, at least he now had a chance. If he really was able to succeed in the Daomerge, what new heights would he reach?

……

The Hegemons and Emperors all obediently handed their treasures over. In the end, even the group of Hegemons led by the Numerancy-focused Hegemon Blackwood chose to bow their heads and hand over the treasures. Hegemon Blackwood’s divinations had told them that it would be impossible for their group to securely leave this place with Hegemon Azurefiend causing trouble for them.

The Hegemons made certain requests of Ning as well. In exchange for handing over their treasures, they all wanted Ning to swear oaths guaranteeing their safety. They wanted to make sure that Ning couldn’t suddenly backstab them as they began to leave. Ning, in turn, asked the fleeing Hegemons and Emperors to swear oaths not to come back in the future for revenge.

Both sides swore the relevant oaths. Only then did each feel faith in the other.

In the blink of an eye, more than two months had gone by.

“Just one Hegemon left,” Ning said.

“There’s one more left? Who?” Azurefiend asked.

“Winterflame.” Ning grinned.

“Hegemon Winterflame?” Azurefiend nodded slowly. “He’s an extremely shameless fellow, but he’s quite strong. He’ll be hard to deal with.”

Ning sent the realmship towards the direction of Hegemon Winterflame. While flying over, Azurefiend suddenly realized that something was wrong: “Darknorth, why are we going backwards? Aren’t we going to meet Winterflame?”

“Yes, we’re moving straight towards him right now,” Ning said. “Winterflame is located at the very end of this passageway, right after that turn in the corridor!”

“What? He’s right there? But we went past here earlier. Why didn’t we go speak to him and instead moved around him? That was unnecessary.” Azurefiend was puzzled. He didn’t really care about having ‘wasted’ a day or two, but this entire time Ning had ‘swept’ through the Hegemons and Emperors using the most direct paths possible. Why had they wasted a day or two on Hegemon Winterflame?

“Because he’s different from the other Hegemons and Emperors,” Ning said coldly.

“What, is there a feud between the two of you?” Hegemon Azurefiend could sense a hint of anger emanating from Ning.

Ning nodded. “He once assaulted my avatar and tried to abduct my clan, ‘Vastheaven Palace’, to use its disciples as hostages against me.”

“Hmph. Winterflame lives up to his reputation. As shameless as ever, I see.” Hegemon Azurefiend let out a cold snort, then frowned: “If I had a way to help you get rid of him, I would, but he’s a Hegemon who can transform into countless flames. So long as his invulnerable flamebody is active, my attacks will be of no use against him.”

“We might not be able to kill him, but we can’t let him off easily,” Ning said.

……

The flaming passageways. The handsome, pale-skinned Hegemon Winterflame was frowning slightly, his skin so crystalline that one could see the vessels beneath them. “Damn. Daolord Darknorth actually managed to reverse the situation! Not only did he take control over the mechanisms in the flaming passageways, he even managed to onvince that idiot Azurefiend to be his retainer. The Hegemons and Emperors have all given up on fighting for that realmship.” Hegemon Winterflame frowned, his heart filled with resentment: “What should I do? What are my options? The flaming passageways are filled with dangers. I can’t move at all.”

“Forget it. I’ll bow my head and just endure it for now. Escape is the most pressing issue,” Hegemon Winterflame mused silently. “A pity that Daolord Darknorth is going to profit by it.”

Whoosh. An ancient, rather damaged-looking realmship suddenly flew towards him from afar. “Here they are.” Hegemon Winterflame raised his head to stare towards the realmship.

The realmship came to a halt, and three figures emerged from it. They were Ji Ning, Hegemon Azurefiend, and Protector Whitethaw.

“Hmph.” Hegemon Winterflame suppressed his anger and said coldly, “Daolord Darknorth, you really are quite impressive. All these Hegemons came attacking, but in the end you cleared the board! You even convinced one of them to become your retainer. I have to admit some admiration for you. Here are the treasures you requested. I can give them to you, but I need you to swear an oath not to attack me while I leave the Jadefire Realm. I must be allowed to leave in peace.” Hegemon Winterflame held out a bracelet as he looked at Ning.

“Hegemon Winterflame. We meet again.” Ning finally spoke out in a leisurely voice.

“Meet again?” Hegemon Winterflame was briefly startled before his face went blank and hard.

“I told you that we’d meet again here in the Jadefire Realm.” Ning smiled. “I’ve always been a person who keeps his word. I’ve had you on my mind for quite some time now, ever since you attempted to take away all of Vastheaven Palace to try and threaten me.”

Hegemon Winterflame growled, “What do you want?”

“The other Hegemons only needed to pay a minor figure in treasure, but you are different,” Ning said. “I won’t claim your life. However, if you wish me to let me go then you must give me all the treasures you are currently carrying.”

“You won’t claim my life? As if you could.” Hegemon Winterflame was rather angry. In terms of raw power, most likely only Otherverse Lords had any chance of slaying him.

“You can choose to refuse.” Ning looked at him.

“You…!” Hegemon Winterflame stared hard at Ning. “You ask too much. Half! I’ll give you half of the countless treasures I’ve accumulated over the aeons.” He was legendary for his shamelessness, but it was this very shamelessness that had allowed to build up such a prodigious stockpile of treasures.

“Either accept my offer or decline it,” Ning said coldly.

“You…!” Hegemon Winterflame was so furious, his teeth hurt from all the clenching. Still… when he considered his situation, he realized that all the other Hegemons and Emperors had fled. The Jadefire Realm was simply too dangerous; the only person in all the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance who would be able to come here to save him was Realmslord Windgrace. But not only did Realmslord Windgrace rarely intervene in matters like this, the Realmslord didn’t even like him. The two weren’t on very good terms.

“Fine! Take them!!!” Hegemon Winterflame had a rather savage look on his face as the bracelet in his hand trembled slightly. Clearly, he had just moved many treasures into that bracelet.

“I already told you… I want ALL of your treasures.” Ning looked at him. “The armor that you are wearing and the Universe weapon you are wielding… give them to me as well.”