The Three Realms. Allclans Palace.
Graceful Peacock was narrating the entire story to the major powers present. “We were trapped in Earthmoan Mountain, and both Luwu and Windfate were heavily wounded. We were just about finished, but Darknorth…fellow Daoist Darknorth had been carefully scrutinizing everything from inside our formation, and he finally was able to see through the illusions of Earthmoan Mountain and see the truth. He walked out of our formation, then blocked several invisible attacks of Earthmoan Mountain as he led us to safety.”
“He blocked those attacks?” Exalted Celestial Thundergod asked, “Graceful Peacock, didn’t you say that the attacks of Earthmoan Mountain are extremely powerful? Empress Xi was just barely able to defend against those attacks, thanks to the protective formation, but she was still wounded. Ji Ning walked out of the formation, and THEN blocked those attacks?”
“Right.” Graceful Peacock nodded, her eyes sparkling as she smiled. “Fellow Daoist Darknorth is one of the most peerless figures to ever exist, ever since Pangu established Heaven and Earth. He has already reached the fifth stage of swordforce.”
“The fifth stage?” Exalted Celestial Thundergod was incredulous. “How is that possible?”
The entire palace became a hubbub of commotion.
Anyone and everyone who could reach the fifth stage of swordforce would become one of the most elite Daofathers alive. Someone like Ji Ning, who also knew the [Five Treasures] sword-art, would be even more terrifying.
“Is that true?”
“He hasn’t even trained for a thousand years, right?” The major powers were all discussing this in hushed voices.
Lord Tathagata the Buddha, seated on high, spoke out. “It is indeed so.”
Exalted Celestial Thundergod was now truly dazed. He could no longer say a word.
“Ahahaha!” Daofather Subhuti, also seated on high, started to laugh.
Next to him was Daoist Three Purities, who laughed as well. “Subhuti, you knew all along?”
Subhuti just smugly stroked his beard.
“My junior apprentice-brother truly is formidable.” Houyi laughed as well. “We have gained yet another mighty general for the Endwar.”
Exalted Celestial Thundergod was filled with many mixed emotions. He was an aloof, arrogant figure, and he originally had not held Ji Ning in any regard. Ji Ning’s performance at the Deerchaser world, though…it had caused Thundergod to feel rather upset. Still, he was able to console himself that the kid had relied on the Rahu Formation and the Envoy of All Things. The kid’s true power was still quite weak.
But now, the ‘kid’ had fifth-stage swordforce and sword-arts that surpassed the limits of the Heavenly Daos. This meant that Ji Ning was now, indisputably, the number one Sword Immortal of the Three Realms!
“Subhuti.” Finally, Thundergod spoke out. “Congratulations.”
Subhuti looked at Thundergod and chortled. “This old Daoist loves to put on airs and keep people guessing. I hope you aren’t too angry with me, Thundergod.”
“How could I be? Our Nuwa Alliance has gained yet another powerful general. I couldn’t be happier!” Thundergod replied honestly.
Although Thundergod was a stubborn, solitary, and arrogant figure, his loyalty to the Nuwa Alliance was absolutely beyond reproach. In the end…it had been Subhuti’s dear old friend, Old Man Yuan, a figure far more powerful than Thundergod, who had ended up vacillating between the two sides. To this very day, he still had yet to join the Nuwa Alliance.
“My old friend…I truly don’t wish to end up in a fight to the death against you,” Subhuti murmured to himself.
This was a damaged, badly ravaged planet, but there were two major powers present here.
An old man with a red nose was seated in the lotus position in front of a thatched cottage. Before him was a small table, and across from him sat the white-bearded Subhuti. This was one of Subhuti’s incarnations.
“Congratulations. Your disciple actually reached the fifth stage of swordforce.” The red-nosed elder sighed with emotion. “A pity, such a pity. I knew all along that Ji Ning’s potential was extraordinarily. I really wanted to take him on as my disciple, but you refused to accept.”
“I didn’t actually refuse you,” Subhuti said. “I told you; so long as you joined our side, you could immediately take on Ji Ning as your disciple. But you refused to accept.”
“I still cannot accept.” Old Man Yuan shook his head.
Subhuti let out a cold laugh. “We’ve been fighting against the Seamless Gate for so long now. You should be able to tell that our differences are completely irreconcilable. At a time like this…you continue to waver! You said all those pompous things about ‘not wanting to see all your old friends die, one by one’…but your actions now are causing even more of our old friends to die! Your words are complete bullshit!”
“Yes.” Old Man Yuan nodded, a distant look in his eyes. “I admit that I said those things for the sake of saving face. All of those things I said were lies.”
Subhuti just looked at him.
He felt pain in his heart.
They had all emerged together from the primordial chaos as ignorant, wide-eyed newborns. They had all supported each other, discussed the Dao together, advanced together on the path of cultivation. They were so close to each other that they were like actual brothers. Some of them had ended up dying in the chaotic wars of the Primordial Era, while others had died in the war that had ended that era. Daoist Threelives, for example, had already perished.
Not many were still alive…but this old friend of his, ‘Old Man Yuan’, had actually refused to stand alongside them at such a critical hour.
“You finally admit to it,” Subhuti said icily.
“Yes.” Old Man Yuan shook his head. “Ever since the Primordial Era, we have suffered incursions from alien Outsiders. When we killed them, we gained some of their techniques and some of their records regarding the infinite primordial chaos. I came to understand that this place of ours is nothing more than a single chaosworld. The primordial chaos is a far vaster universe. When I learned this, I became filled with the desire to travel far away, to see more things.”
“We ‘True Gods’ who were born from the primordial chaos were nothing more than local bumpkins who were born to this region. How can we be considered ‘major powers’? We simply relied on the power we gained at birth.” Old Man Yuan shook his head. “In the endless primordial chaos, the true ‘major powers’ are the World Gods and Chaos Immortals. They are capable of easily wiping out our entire world.”
“Nuwa saw the truth long ago. The Three Realms was too small a place to contain her, and so she left to enter the vaster world outside of it.”
“I want to journey through that vast world as well.” Old Man Yuan’s eyes were filled with desire. “But I’m not strong enough yet. Those alien Outsiders, the Lord of All Things…I learned that even someone as formidable as the Lord of All Things was nothing more than a minor figure in the primordial chaos. There are many who are far more powerful than him. As for Rahu, he was an even more irrelevant figure.”
“I have to become more powerful.”
“A war for the Three Realms? A struggle between the Nuwa Alliance and the Seamless Gate? I’ve never cared about such things. Your visions are far too narrow…your gazes are focused on the Three Realms, but my gaze is focused on the endless primordial chaos.” Old Man Yuan shook his head. “I’ve never even considered risking my life in some squabble here in the Three Realms.”
“I want to leave this place. I want to become even more powerful.”
“Because I was born into the Three Realms, I wasn’t able to acquire any good techniques. I had no opportunities. Once I leave, I might be able to become a World God or a Chaos Immortal,” Old Man Yuan said eagerly. “That’s what I truly want. That’s what I truly desire!”
Subhuti continued to stare at him coldly. “Selfish! True, compared to the vast primordial chaos, the Three Realms is a very small place, and we are indeed nothing more than local bumpkins…but this is our home! The Three Realms is our home. All of us were born here, and we were all like brothers. They are now in mortal danger, but you are just going to stand by and watch? For the sake of becoming a so-called World God or Chaos Immortal, you are just going to watch as your old friends go off to fight? Go off to die?”
“I never thought that my old friend Yuan would end up like this.” Subhuti shook his head.
“Ahahaha…” Old Man Yuan actually began to laugh, laugh so hard that his beard shook. He then looked towards Subhuti with a dagger-sharp gaze. “Yes, I am selfish. The path of cultivation is a selfish path to begin with. If I’m going to walk this path, of course I need to treasure my own life. Of course I have to seize every opportunity I can find to become more powerful. Am I supposed to foolishly stand alongside the rest of you and risk everything?”
“You don’t possess any transcendental qualities. Neither we nor the Seamless Gate will permit you to remain unaligned.” Although Subhuti felt sorrow in his heart, he still tried to dissuade Old Man Yuan.
“I’ll do everything I can to get as much as I can from the Seamless Gate,” Old Man Yuan said calmly. “Don’t worry. Before the Endwar begins, I’ll leave the Three Realms and enter the endless primordial chaos. I’ll take my old friends with me, and together we shall adventure through it. As for what happens to you and the Seamless Gate? I won’t get involved.”
“Leave?” Subhuti was surprised.
“Right.” Old Man Yuan laughed coldly. “What, did you actually think that I would really fight on behalf of the Seamless Gate? No; neither your side nor the Seamless Gate is worth me risking my life for.”
“Good. Very good indeed.” Subhuti laughed hard, as though he had heard an incredibly funny joke. “During my [Dream of the Three Realms], I can see countless mortals change…but now, I see that the hearts of Fiendgods can change as well. You’ve changed. You’ve changed far, far too much compared to the Yuan who was born alongside me from within the primordial chaos.”
“Back then, I was just a newborn. I was born with mastery over a Grand Dao, but aside from that I knew nothing at all. Back then, we were too simple and naïve.” Old Man Yuan shook his head. “As far as I’m concerned, my brothers and friends are of secondary importance. My path of cultivation is of paramount importance.”
Subhuti gave Old Man Yuan a long, deep look, then disappeared into thin air.
As for Old Man Yuan, he just continued to sit there quietly. He lifted up one of the wine cups and took a small sip from it. “Once I become a World God and look back, all of this will be nothing more than a memory.”