“Temporal inversion?” Ning instantly realized that the situation was far more dire than he had thought! He had previously believed that after having killed Youngflame Nong, he would have some time before the Youngflame clan discovered him, which would allow him to arrange for his clan, the Ji clan, to escape. But now, it seemed, time was far too tight.
“Everyone, we have no time. I’ll send you all out now. Go to a safe location. Because of me, all of you have been implicated.” In order to save time, Ning began to converse mentally with them.
“Junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning,” Yu Wei sent hurriedly, “You don’t need to worry about our safety; the Grand Xia Dynasty has its rules, and the Youngflame clan cannot simply do what it wishes. As long as we return to the Black-White College, we will be fine; the Grand Xia Dynasty’s laws state that violence is forbidden within its commandery cities. In addition, we weren’t the ones to kill Youngflame Nong, and so the Youngflame clan would have no excuse to act against us. Right now, you need to worry about yourself.”
“You have two main options right now.”
“The first is to flee. Flee to a place where the Youngflame clan cannot reach you and take revenge, such as other lesser or major worlds. Another option would to be to flee straight to the main headquarters of the Raindragon Guard. The Raindragon Guard remains the most powerful military force within the Grand Xia Dynasty; no matter how daring the Youngflame clan is, they wouldn’t dare to act against you while you are with the Raindragon Guard.”
“The second option is to go up against them head-on. Go straight to the imperial capital of the Grand Xia Dynasty; that’s the capital city for the entirety of the Grand Xia Empire, and the most supreme clans and schools of the entire Grand Xia Empire reside there. You can first go to the local Raindragon Guard branch; that place will be absolutely safe. Afterwards, you can participate in the Conclave of Immortal Destiny. Now that you have mastered a Grand Dao Domain, you will definitely be able to perform with brilliant splendor at the Conclave. Given your talent, there will be quite a few powers which will want to draw you into their fold. By then, you can join a power that is opposed to the Youngflame clan.”
“The Youngflame clan is powerful, but if you look at the Grand Xia Dynasty as a whole, you’ll still find a few organizations which are more powerful than them and which hold vast grudges against them. Some of the grudges can be described as ‘mortal enmity’, and there are more than a few; after all, in this vast world which the imperial clan of the Grand Xia Dynasty has unified, it is normal for the largest, most powerful clans, sects, and churches to have their disputes and grudges against each other. For example, the ‘Kindwater’ [1. The character for ‘Kind’, Zhuan, is a reference to mythological Emperor Zhuanxu, one of the legendary Five Emperors of prehistoric China] clan is even more powerful than the Youngflame clan [2. The character for ‘Flame’, Yan, is a reference to mythological Yan Emperor, the Flame Emperor], and these two clans have felt mortal enmity towards each other ever since the Fiendgod Era. After countless generations of struggle, both sides have even lost Celestial Immortals. One leader after another has been assassinated by the other side as well. Given that you’ve killed Youngflame Nong, powers like the Kindwater clan would definitely be willing to pull you into their fold. By relying on powerful clans such as them, you can continue to fight against the Youngflame clan.”
“Two options; one to flee, the other to resist. These are the only two ideas I’m able to come up with in such a short period of time,” Yu Wei sent.
Ning had previously been planning on fleeing. He hadn’t expected that Yu Wei would be able to provide yet another clear path for him.
The Youngflame clan ranked in the top ten clans of the Grand Xia Dynasty… but that meant there were nine other clans on par with them! The more powerful an organization was, the more fights it would get into over resources; this was extremely common.
“As for your clan, the Ji clan,” Yu Wei sent hurriedly, “For now, you can have your clansmen lay low; you can also have some of the elites be sent to Stillwater City or the imperial capital of the Grand Xia Dynasty. Murder and fighting is forbidden in commandery cities; if anyone dares to act in such a way, they will definitely suffer reprisals from the Grand Xia Dynasty.”
“Although the Youngflame clan might be able to arrange for some wanted criminals to go commit suicide attacks… how powerful could these wanted criminals possibly be? These wanted criminals are all completely lawless; the more powerful they are, the less willing they are to do anyone’s bidding, especially those Fiendgods and Loose Immortals. It will be very hard for the Youngflame clan to invite those truly terrifying figures to intervene.”
“The only option is for the Youngflame clan to send its own Loose Immortals out to annihilate your Ji clan. Even if they escape blame by claiming that the Loose Immortal did it of his own free will… that Loose Immortal would definitely die!”
Yu Wei continued, sending mentally, “No matter what, so long as a tribe can save its elites, in the future, it will flourish again. You are the genius which the Ji clan has finally produced after countless years; you need to protect yourself.”
“Thank you, senior apprentice-sister.” Ning had some plans of his own, but upon hearing Yu Wei’s suggestions, he instantly felt as though a bigger picture had been revealed to him, giving him some new ideas as well. And, Ning also had a feeling… as though Yu Wei seemed to have quite a clear understanding of the most powerful, supreme forces of the entire Grand Xia Dynasty.
“Ji Ning,” Ninelotus sent hurriedly, “Come with me. I’ll take you to see the Forefather and have him send you out from this major world of the Grand Xia Dynasty. As for the Ji clan, I’ll come up with a way to protect some of their elites. In the future, when you are more powerful and come back, we can have the Ji clan flourish again.”
“Senior apprentice-brother, are you preparing to flee? I’ll go with you. My master is close to the end of her life; she’s going to enter her final, closed-door meditation. She’s already taught me everything she can. I have nothing holding me back. Going with you and fleeing together is bound to be an exciting life,” Northson sent.
“Junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, protect yourself; only then will you have a chance to turn the tables in the future.” Adept Vastriver looked towards Ning.
Ning laughed. Then, suddenly… Ning’s gaze fell upon Ninelotus. He sent mentally, “Ninelotus.”
“Yes?” Ninelotus looked at Ning.
“I killed Youngflame Nong. Regardless of whether I choose to flee to another world, or if I choose to join another supreme clan or alliance… I’ll be unable to remain within Stillwater Commandery. I’ll be a homeless wanderer… would you be willing to go with me?” Ning looked towards Ninelotus, eyes filled with hope.
“I, I…” Ninelotus hesitated.
She could imagine the path which Ning would walk down in the future. It would be a path of incomparable danger. Should she accompany him on that wandering path?
She felt an impulsive urge to agree. To wander to the edges of the world with Ning, to share life and death together.
But then she thought of her clan. She was the next leader of the Dongyan clan. She couldn’t possibly just go wandering off with Ning to the ends of the earth endlessly. No one could know how long the wandering would last.
“Ninelotus.” Ning could sense her hesitation. He couldn’t help but feel a bit of pain in his heart.
He knew that this request of his was a bit excessive. Only… in this moment, after having embarked on this path, Ning truly wanted for someone to walk it with him. This arduous Immortal path… if someone could share it with him and share its burdens with him… Ning truly hoped that someone would be Ninelotus.
Ninelotus’ eyes filled with tears as she looked at Ning. “Ji Ning, I suddenly understand now. I simply can’t wander the world by your side; I can’t share life and death with you. The Forefather’s words were right. To be Dao-companions… that means to be willing to die for someone. Dao-companions… if Immortals or Buddhas block your path, for the sake of bringing your Dao-companion back, you would be willing to murder Immortals or annihilate Buddhas. But I can’t do it! I truly can’t do it. I have my own path to follow and I… I don’t want to give up my own path for you.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Tears were streaming down Ninelotus’ face.
“No need to say anything further.”
Ning’s eyes were glimmering with unshed tears as well. “It’s my fault for being too greedy. I’m embarking on a path of certain danger, and I’ll definitely be fighting against the Youngflame clan for countless years to come. I went too far in what I asked for. I shouldn’t dare to drag you in and implicate you as well.”
“From now on… you are you.”
“I am me.”
“This Immortal path… it’s enough for me to walk it alone.”
Ning pointed into the distance. Whoosh! Instantly, a watery, rippling pattern appeared, followed by a tunnel. Outside the tunnel was the Skyrove Mountains of the Grand Xia Dynasty’s major world. Ning immediately said, “Senior apprentice-sister Yu Wei, senior apprentice-brother Vastriver, junior apprentice-brother Northson, and Ninelotus… you can leave.”
“Senior apprentice-brother, I told you that I’m going to go adventuring with you. I have nothing holding me back. What the hell do I have to be afraid of?” Northson spoke with great urgency.
“This is an extremely dangerous path I am embarking on, junior apprentice-brother Northson…”
“Do you think I’m too weak for it?” Northson ground his teeth.
“Right. You are too weak. You can’t help me; instead, you’d slow me down.” Ning gritted his own teeth as well as he responded.
The nearby Yu Wei spoke out to urge Northson. “Junior apprentice-brother Northson, don’t be stubborn; this isn’t the time to show your loyalty. Your strength truly is a bit too low.”
Northson looked at Ning, his eyes turning slightly red. “Senior apprentice-brother, after my mother died, I no longer had any kinsmen left. After I joined the school, you became the closest person in my life. Long ago, I started to view you as I would an actual, biological brother. It is true that I am a bit weak, and I know that you said those word because you don’t want me to be pulled into this. I’m not going to say anything else for now, except…”
“When I go back, I’m going to train hard. And if you die, I’ll definitely take revenge for you.”
Ning’s eyes turned red. He hadn’t imagined… he truly hadn’t imagined that Northson, in his heart, viewed Ning as he would a real brother.
“Hahaha, don’t worry. I won’t die that easily.” Tears in his eyes, Ning laughed loudly, then said, “Stop dawdling. Hurry up and leave.”
Ninelotus felt all the more agony in her heart at this moment.
Even Northson had been willing to throw everything away, but her? She truly wanted to do the same, to throw everything away, to discard her clan, to roam the world by Ning’s side. But… she continued to hesitate. She just couldn’t throw it all away.
“I’m sorry.” Tears fell down Ninelotus’ face. “Stay alive. You have to stay alive.” And then, she turned her head and flew through the corridor to the Skyrove Mountains on the other side.
Northson, Yu Wei, and Adept Vastriver all understood. Dao-companions, Dao-companions… what were Dao-companions? Only those who would never abandon each other, even at their most critical moments, could be considered Dao-companions. Ninelotus’ departure, and the words she had just spoken… they caused the three to understand that in the future, most likely Ji Ning and Ninelotus would truly embark on completely separate Immortal paths.
“Be careful,” Northson said.
“Stay alive.” Yu Wei looked at Ning.
“You have to stay alive,” Adept Vastriver instructed as well.
And then, the three flew through the corridor, arriving within the Skyrove Mountains. The corridor then shut.
The Skyrove Mountains.
They had returned to the world of the Grand Xia Dynasty. Ninelotus, Yu Wei, Northson, and Adept Vastriver all turned their heads to stare at the corridor. Through it, they could vaguely make out that solitary, lonely figure within the main hall on the other side.
From today on… Ning was going to have to fight by himself.
Ninelotus stared through the tunnel. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop her tears from continuing to fall.
The choice she had made today was an incomparably agonizing choice for her.
She wasn’t able to abandon her tribe. She had her own dreams. She simply couldn’t make herself discard everything for Ning’s sake.
Yu Wei, Northson, and Adept Vastriver didn’t say anything. This was because they, too, understood how rare it was for there to be a pair of Dao-companions who would truly share life and death together, who would never leave each other, and whose lives would become as one. In fact, many so-called Dao-companions would actually end up hating each other and becoming enemies; it wasn’t uncommon for them to end up fighting over treasures and killing each other.
To truly be together until death parted them… this was far too rare. Ninelotus had too many other things she cared about. She couldn’t throw them all away.
Whoosh. The corridor swung shut, and they could no longer see to the other side.
“Let’s go.” Northson gritted his teeth.
“I’m going back to my clan.”
Ninelotus returned by herself to the Dongyan clan, while Northson, Adept Vastriver, and Yu Wei returned to the Black-White College.
Within the palace.
“From today onwards, I shall traverse my Immortal path alone. It’s for the best, actually. By myself, I’ll be much more carefree,” Ning said with a laugh.
“Master, you still have us.” Little Qing raised her serpentine head and called out to him.
Ning looked towards the Azure Skysnake, then towards Uncle White, who had followed him silently this entire time. He felt a warm feeling in his heart. “Right. I still have you two. Little Qing, Uncle White, let’s go. Let’s go and meet the monsters of this Immortal estate.”