Ji Ning and the others were all intrigued. In truth, they had all suspected long ago that the reason why the almighty Hegemon had chosen the four of them from the Twelve Palaces was to have them assist Skyfire Brightshore. However, the reason why the Twelve Palaces had been on such good terms with the Brightshore Imperials for so long was precisely because they treated each other as equals. Ning and the others were all extraordinary figures, and they wouldn’t be expected to risk their lives for the Imperials without being compensated at all.
“Once you return from the alternate universe, I’ll speak with Skyfire Brightshore. The more assistance you provided to him, the greater our gratitude shall be,” the towering behemoth said.
“Do not worry, Hegemon. We will definitely do everything we can.”
“Since we are travelling together, we shall definitely do our best to support each other.”
All of them spoke out in unison.
They all knew that since the Hegemon said he would ‘reward them heavily’, the rewards for this mission would definitely be extraordinary. The Hegemon was someone who had stood at the very top of the Endless Territories for countless years, after all. He had existed for even longer than the Brightshore Kingdom itself had existed.
A ‘heavy reward’ from someone like him was indeed more than enough to convince Ning and the others to do their absolute utmost in protecting Skyfire Brightshore in his journey to the alternate universe.
“Good.” The towering behemoth nodded slightly.
Yet another spacetime vortex appeared next to Ning’s group. Moments later, a strange beast bathed in blazing flames suddenly emerged.
“Skyfire.” The towering behemoth nodded.
“Hegemon.” The blazing beast immediately transformed into the shape of a fiery-haired youth who wore a suit of azure armor.
“It shall be the five of you who will travel to the alternate universe,” the towering behemoth said.
The fiery-haired youth swept the four with his gaze, closely scrutinizing them. He then cracked a smile. “My name is Skyfire Brightshore, but you can just call me Skyfire. I heard from the Hegemon that none of the four chosen ones are weaker than I am. Once we go to the alternate universe, I’ll have to trouble you to help me out.”
Although Skyfire Brightshore was an incredibly talented member of the race of Brightshore Imperials, he was still just a new member who had been brought back just a short while ago. Ning and the others had all developed at least one Supreme Dao and were comparable to Daolords of the Second Step. Indeed, all of them were somewhat more powerful than Skyfire Brightshore. But of course, this was only true if they factored in their ‘normal’ combat power. There was no way to calculate the power of any trump cards or single-use items which they were keeping hidden up their sleeves.
“Hegemon, where is this ‘Archaeus region’ and what is this ‘alternate universe’?” Prince Greatjoy asked. He was nothing more than an honorary disciple of the almighty Hegemon, and he wasn’t truly qualified to address the Hegemon as ‘Master’. According to the almighty Hegemon’s rules, only his personal disciples were qualified to call him ‘Master’.
“The alternate universe?” The towering behemoth smiled as it saw the looks of eagerness appear on the faces of Ning and the others. “By now, all of you should have sensed that the Endless Territories have certain prime essences within it. There is a prime essence of fire, a prime essence of water, a prime essence of the sword, a prime essence of space, a prime essence of time…”
Ning and the others nodded. Everyone could sense the prime essences. However, attuning to the prime essences was only able to help one advance to the level of full mastery as a World-level cultivator. As for the more profound mysteries, the prime essences kept them bottled up internally and emanated none of them at all. Supposedly, not even Eternal Emperors could enter the prime essences and train in those mysteries. Thus, Samsara Daolords had to find and develop a Dao which suited themselves, one slow step at a time.
“The vast region which is covered by the power of the prime essences is known as a ‘universe’,” the almighty Hegemon said. “An ‘alternate universe’ naturally refers to a place which has completely different prime essences.”
“What?!” Ning and the others were all stunned. Different prime essences?
The Three Realms, the Badlands Territory, the Brightshore Kingdom… Ning had been able to sense the prime essence of the sword in all these places. The prime essence of the sword was unchanging, and the vast Endless Territories were nothing more than a part of an enormous universe! But now, it seemed as though he was going to head off into a completely different universe?
“Do not worry. The outermost layers of the prime essences of this alternate universe, such as the prime essence of water, the prime essence of time, the prime essence of the sword, etc., are all the same as ours. Only the inner layers differ,” the almighty Hegemon said. “Thus, your power shall not be impacted whatsoever.”
“Has anyone ever been to this place?” Waterlord Firesurge couldn’t help but ask.
“None.” The almighty Hegemon shook his head.
Ning and the others were instantly rendered speechless.
“Long ago, as I attuned myself to the nature of spacetime, I was able to dimly sense the traces of an alternate universe that was quite close to our own universe, and so I opened a transversal conduit between our two universe,” the towering behemoth said. “However, the transversal conduit is rather weak, because it is constantly being disrupted by the differing laws of our two universes. Thus, only those below the Daolord level of power are able to enter it.
“Thus, once you head off into this alternate universe, you absolutely must not allow yourselves to break through to the Daolord level. If you do break through, you will never be able to return. You will have to forever stay within that alternate universe,” the towering behemoth instructed.
Ning and the others nodded. So due to the different laws of the two universes, there was no way for Daolords to pass through this transversal conduit.
“However, World-level cultivators can pass through this conduit with no danger whatsoever,” the towering behemoth said. “Just a few days ago, I sent one of my World-level servants through the dimension conduit to do some exploring, then brought him back safely. Over the course of countless years, I’ve also managed to capture quite a few World-level cultivators of the alternate universe and bring them to ours.”
“Capture?” Ning and the others were secretly speechless. The almighty Hegemon was unable to go personally, but was still able to capture people?
“Thus, this transversal conduit is completely safe,” the towering behemoth said. “Given how strong you are, I trust that you will not encounter much danger when you journey through the territories of the alternate universe. The true trial will begin once you reach their Archaeus region!”
Ning and the other four listened attentively. Not even Skyfire Brightshore knew much about this ‘Archaeus region’.
“The Archaeus region is the most mysterious region in this alternate universe. It takes up an extremely vast region of space, so vast that I imagine there are very few cultivators who even know how large it truly is. Supposedly, there are many Daolords and even Eternal Emperors who seclude themselves throughout the Archaeus region.” The towering behemoth laughed. “This Archaeus region is so vast that it is most likely as large as our entire Endless Territories.”
“What?!” Ning and the others were all speechless.
They had originally thought that this Archaeus region would be some sort of secret world or location. Now, it seemed, it was a place that was almost as vast as their entire Endless Territories.
“That place is the core of that entire alternate universe, the place where the alternate universe sprang from. Countless cultivators in that universe dream of entering the Archaeus region, because everyone who manages to survive their journey through it will return completely transformed,” the towering behemoth said. “However… if you barge into the Archaeus region, you will immediately be assaulted and annihilated by the full force of the entire Archaeus region itself. You’ll be instantly reduced to dust and your truesoul vaporized.”
Ning and the others were truly at a loss for words. If the entire region was the size of the Endless Territories… how terrifying would an attack launched with the full might of that region be?
“That place is the core of the entire alternate universe, after all.” The towering behemoth continued, “Everyone who wishes to enter the place has to first bind an Archaeus medallion. After doing so, you’ll be able to enter it safely and won’t be expelled by the power of the region.”
“Archaeus medallions are extremely rare. I sent my will into the alternate universe and spread it across an extremely wide area, then kidnapped the World-level cultivators who passed through the area. It took me countless years to accumulate just a few Archaeus medallions,” the towering behemoth said. “Here are the five Archaeus medallions. Take them and bind them.”
Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh.
Five streaks of light appeared out of nowhere and flew towards Ning and the other four.
The Archaeus medallions were dark-red disc-shaped medallions that were covered with ancient, complicated runes. Ning and the others didn’t understand the runes, but could sense that they came from a long time ago, in a universe that was far, far away. They all bound the medallions.
“Hegemon.” Ning spoke out. “Will we be permitted to bring our retainers and servants into the alternate universe? Are they allowed to enter the Archaeus region?”
The others all looked at the Hegemon, because they all had retainers and servants as well.
“Anyone below the Daolord level can make use of the transversal conduit,” the almighty Hegemon said. “As for the Archaeus region… they will have to perpetually hide within your estate-world treasures, and they can’t let any of their auras leak out at all. If they reveal themselves within the Archaeus region, they’ll suffer an immediate attack from the power of the region. However, if they continuously hide without coming out they will be safe.”
Ning and the others now understood. They would not be able to leave the estate-worlds or even sent out their aura or godsense. If that was the case, there was no real point to bringing them.
“But of course, if you were able to acquire more Archaeus medallions, you could gift them to your retainers and servants. They would then be qualified to enter the Archaeus region as well,” the almighty Hegemon suddenly said. “Still, I urge you to be more low-key when you enter the Archaeus region, as it holds quite a few truly powerful Daolords.”
“Here is a star map of the alternate universe. It includes all the markers you need to travel from the transversal conduit’s exit to the Archaeus region, as well as some information regarding this universe. Remember, you are not to reveal this to others.” As the almighty Hegemon spoke, he bestowed five sets of star maps upon them.
“Understood.” Ning and the other four accepted the maps.
“Make your preparations. Three days from now, we shall meet again outside the imperial palace,” the almighty Hegemon instructed.
Ning returned to the Sword Palace, then met with World God Pillsaint and Su Youji.
“A tremendous opportunity has been made available to me. I’ll be heading to an extremely dangerous place. If you follow me, there’s a slim chance that you’ll gain some karmic fortune from it as well. But of course, when I die you will die as well,” Ning said. “Shall you follow me or will you remain here in the Sword Palace?”
“I’ll follow you, Master.” Su Youji didn’t hesitate at all.
“I’m not allowed to learn any of the techniques or secret arts of the Twelve Palaces. Of course I’ll follow you, Master!” Pillsaint agreed.
Ning nodded slowly upon seeing this. He couldn’t promise them anything. He hadn’t even visited this alternate universe before, after all.
Three days later, Ji Ning, Solewind, Firesurge, Greatjoy, and Skyfire Brightjoy all gathered together before the gates of the imperial palace.
“Everyone.” The gray humanoid statue suddenly walked towards Ning and the other four. “I shall escort the five of you to the transversal conduit.”