The pain and despair that he had suppressed for so many years all came howling out with his cries. Slowly, Mu Northson regained his faculties and let go of Ji Ning. “Senior apprentice-brother, I’m fine now. I wasn’t able to control myself just now; I made a fool of myself in front of you.”
“We’re brothers; why say such things?” Ning looked towards Northson. “Junior apprentice-brother, tell me – what happened?!”
“Nothing.” Northson shook his head. “What was to happen already has.”
Northson looked at Ning. “Senior apprentice-brother, how did you get here? This is a forbidden region that is tightly guarded; not even Celestial Immortals can barge their way inside.”
Ning looked at his tired, downtrodden junior apprentice-brother. He felt pain in his heart; at a time like this, his junior apprentice-brother was actually refusing to say anything. Ning immediately said, “I know this is a forbidden region. I also know…that this is the Flamedoor Commandery’s Eastwoods mountain range. Given my abilities, if I want to enter this place, no one will be able to find out. Junior apprentice-brother, tell me…what has happened?!”
“No need to ask.” Northson shook his head.
“If I was faced with this situation, wouldn’t you ask?” Ning rebutted.
Northson was startled. It was true. They were like brothers; if Ning was in such a dire situation, Northson wouldn’t be able to ignore it.
“Tell me,” Ning said earnestly.
“Senior apprentice-brother.” Northson looked at Ning. “Telling you would be harming you. I’ve already been damned; I don’t want you to be damned as well.”
Ning understood that this must certainly involve an important matter; the number of Loose Immortals around that castle was enough to tell Ning that the amount of power that had been gathered here in the Eastwoods mountain range alone was on the same level as the power available to the Northmont clan of Stillwater; in fact, it might even be greater. As for the great power behind this place…
“Junior apprentice-brother, don’t underestimate me. You know very well that this is a forbidden region which is not easily entered, but I still managed to make it in. I’m no longer the same person I was,” Ning said earnestly. “After the Conclave of Immortal Destiny, I joined a Daofather’s school and became the Daofather’s disciple.”
The Old Patriarch had only forbidden Ning from saying that he was his disciple; so long as Ning didn’t say the words ‘Patriarch Subhuti’, he wouldn’t be violating his master’s orders.
“What?!” Northson was stunned.
“I’ve trained for thirty-plus years and my power has increased greatly. I finally managed to obtain permission from Master to return to the Grand Xia.” Ning looked at Northson. “Even if I truly do encounter any danger, my master will intervene and rescue me. The world of the Grand Xia currently truly is filled with dangerous undercurrents, and there is even a hidden power that is capable of fighting against the Grand Xia Emperor himself. But if my master was to intervene, he would be able to save my life with utter ease…and thus, there is nothing for you to worry about.”
Northson was dazed.
“You don’t believe me? Take a look!” Ning waved his hand. Instantly, one top-grade Immortal-ranked flying sword after another appeared, clustered together in a tight pile. Because they all had to be kept within this room, they were all piled on top of one another.
“These…” Northson could sense the power of these top-grade Immortal-ranked flying swords.
“You should be capable of recognizing these for what they are by now,” Ning said.
“Top-grade Immortal-ranked flying swords?” Northson guessed.
“Yes.” Ning nodded. “There are a thousand here.”
Northson’s throat clenched. Even though he was here in this forbidden region where he had seen a fraction of the true strength of this mysterious power…he was still stunned by Ji Ning! Top-grade Immortal-ranked flying swords…every single one of them was extremely valuable. A set of a thousand was utterly inconceivable!
“After I left my master’s tutelage, my master gifted them to me.” Ning looked at Northson. “In addition, I was able to easily enter this forbidden region. Do you believe me now?”
Northson was beginning to be moved.
“Take a look at this.” Ning’s body flickered.
Swish. He transformed into another Mu Northson, dressed in the same gray robes, with the same exhausted complexion and some white hairs on his head.
“But, but…” Northson stared in disbelief at Ning. “Even the aura is absolutely identical…even the amount of karmic virtue is the same! This cannot be!”
“Why can’t it be? Change again!”
Ning then transformed into Immortal Fivecraze, then into the Fiendgod Xiangliu Fang, then into Youngflame Nong, then into Celestial Immortal King Yan…
He quickly transformed into more than ten figures the two both recognized before changing back into his normal appearance.
“Are you still worried about me?” Ning looked at Northson.
“I believe you when you say that you took on a Daofather as your master. I’ve never even heard of a transformation ability like this one.” Northson nodded, then said in a low voice, “I know that you, senior apprentice-brother, definitely wish to understand everything which happened. Fine…I’ll talk.”
Ning let out a sigh of relief.
Northson sat down. “We still have slightly less than an hour…so I’ll start from when I met Yu Xia. Years ago, in Stillwater City, I met Yu Xia. She was a disciple of the Thousand Rivers Sect, but was filled with curiosity towards the Dao of Constructs. But naturally, her ability in the Dao of Constructs was far inferior to mine.”
After the death of his master, Northson could be considered the number one expert in the Dao of Constructs within the Black-White College! This was because there were very few people within the College who trained in this Dao, and also because he truly did have a high amount of talent within this Dao.
“Yu Xia would often ask me for guidance, and I’d give her advice.” A hint of a smile appeared on Northson’s face. “After a long time…the two of us ended up together, becoming Dao-companions. Those were the happiest days of my life; I felt carefree and without any worries. Alongside my Dao-companion, I continued to study the Dao of Formations in a content, relaxed manner.”
“Yu Xia and I lived in an out-of-the-way place, atop a wild prairie. We built a house next to a lake, and we lived a peaceful life there.”
“I wish so deeply…”
“…to have been able to live there forever.”
Northson shut his eyes. “But then…that day came. A group of black-robed men arrived, all of them Loose Immortals, and formidable ones at that. Yu Xia was merely a Wanxiang Adept, while I had just broken through to become a Primal Daoist. The two of us were completely unable to fight back.”
“I was captured. Yu Xia was killed. After she died, her soul wasn’t permitted to be reborn; rather, it was captured as well.”
Ning’s pupils shrank.
Even after Yu Xia died, her soul had still been captured?
“I was brought here,” Northson said. “Brought here, to this forbidden region. The people in this region ordered me to help them build constructs.”
“Build constructs?” Ning instantly understood. “Those other gray-robed figures…they were also brought here because they were skilled in the Dao of Constructs?”
“Right. There are more than one hundred grandmasters of the Dao of Constructs in this area,” Northson said. “They’ve all been brought here. I suspect that the Eastwoods mountain range is a gathering point for the mysterious power behind this place, for more than a hundred nearby commanderies.”
Ning frowned. “One of the gathering points? You know of other gathering points?”
“I have some guesses,” Northson said. “During these years, I’ve seen seven generals come to this place. ‘General’ is a fairly high rank here, and all of them were at the Celestial Immortal level. The Eastwoods mountain range has a general who is permanently stationed here, but on multiple occasions there have been other generals who escorted deliveries of treasures to this place. In total, I’ve seen twelve different generals!”
Ning was secretly startled.
Twelve Celestial Immortals? And this was just the tip of the iceberg!
“They are asking you to create constructs?” Ning asked. “What sort of construct?”
“An extremely large one.” A look of disbelief was in Northson’s eyes. “This power has an extremely deep level of understanding regarding the Dao of Constructs; their understanding, compared to the secret arts recorded down within our Black-White College regarding the Dao of Constructs, must be billions or even trillions of times greater!”
Ning was rather stunned upon hearing this.
Billions? Trillions?! This was too insane.
“Don’t think I’m just talking,” Northson immediately said. “I feel that I am an extremely talented person with regards to the Dao of Constructs, but when I first came, they taught me some construct-creation methods that they felt were fairly low-level. When creating the constructs, I was inspired by the mysteries and profoundness of them, causing my level of insight into the Dao of Constructs to rapidly increase.”
“As my level of insight increased, they began to let me create increasingly more powerful constructs. They also bestowed liquefied elemental essence upon me, allowing me to reach the Void level and become an Earth Immortal.”
“Now, within this forbidden region, I can be ranked amongst the top hundred grandmasters of the Dao of Constructs,” Northson said. “Right now, the other grandmasters and myself are currently working together to forge an incomparably massive construct. It should be the most powerful Fiendgod Golem this forbidden region is producing.”
“Grandmaster of the Dao of Constructs?” Ning could hardly believe it. His junior apprentice-brother had advanced so quickly?
“Senior apprentice-brother…you have no idea what life here has been like,” Northson said. “They squeeze every single drop of usable energy out of you, forcing you to go all out to construct new constructs! But every single powerful construct expands our horizons as well. As for the most powerful Fiendgod Golem we are currently creating…that’s even more terrifying.”
“How terrifying?” Ning asked.
“Below the level of True Immortals or Empyrean Gods…it is all but invincible,” Northson said seriously. “If a Celestial Immortal was controlling it, not even ten or a hundred Celestial Immortals fighting together would be able to stop it.”
Ning was incomparably shocked.
“Don’t be so shocked. The slightly weaker golems which the other grandmasters and myself have been constructing, when controlled by Loose Immortals, all have the combat power of Celestial Immortals.” Northson sighed, “You have no idea what a deep level of understanding of the Dao of Constructs this organization has. Those construct formation-diagrams are incomparably profound; in terms of better understanding the Dao of Constructs, every single diagram is like a supreme treasure to us. And here, I’ve already seen more than a thousand such construct formation-diagrams…”
Ning nodded gently. “So this forbidden region is being used to produce constructs…but can it be that everyone is just willing to work here?”
“How can we be ‘willing’?” Northson said with grief, “Nobody is ‘willing’. Creating these top-tier golems is extremely difficult, and it uses up a tremendous amount of our mental energy. And yet, we are still having the life squeezed out of us; the amount of time for rest we have been given is growing less and less.”
“We all hate them for kidnapping us, and in fact many wish to die. I originally wanted to die as well.”
“But…Yu Xia’s soul is in their hands,” Northson said. “If I diligently work to create golems, I can go visit her once a month and speak with her. But if I dare to commit suicide…once I die, they will torment her soul for thousands on thousands of years, never giving her a chance to be reborn.”
Ning couldn’t help but shiver. Never be given the chance to be reborn?
“I do not dare kill myself.” Northson laughed bitterly. “Their general, however, has voluntarily sworn an oath to the Dao of the Heavens that if we stay here and peacefully build these constructs, within a thousand years we will be granted our freedom, and the soul of our loved one will be released as well.”
A thousand years?
Ning understood now. In one hand, a big stick; in the other hand, a carrot. Although the people here were being tormented and exhausted, they still saw hope, and so they were able to endure.