“W-was that Hegemon Brightshore?” Only now did Su Youji dare to speak.
“Yes.” Ji Ning nodded.
“Master, just now, you said Archon Silksnow…” Su Youji had overheard quite a bit and now knew much of the story.
Ning immediately instructed, “You cannot make this information public, nor can you reveal the fact that I came back to life thanks to a Dao-seal! Once Archon Silksnow finds out… given his temperament, there’s no way he’ll let this matter rest. Although Hegemon Brightshore promised to help out, for him to assist me once is already giving me great face. In the end, I’ll have to rely on my own skills to deal with Archon Silksnow.”
“But we’re talking about Archon Silksnow! T-this…” Su Youji was extremely worried. No matter how powerful her master was, he was still just a Daolord. How was he supposed to fight against one of the eight awesome lords of the Sacred Cities, Archon Silksnow?
“That’s not for you to worry about,” Ning instructed. He then waved his hand, causing a silver-robed man to appear next to him. It was the Ninedust Sectlord.
“Darknorth.” When Ninedust saw Ning, he immediately revealed a look of delight. “You are unharmed? Thank goodness. I was worried about something happening to you.”
“Haha, you were worried about something happening to me and you being unable to escape, right?” Ning teased.
“You jackass, I really was worried about you,” Ninedust said, feigning anger.
Ning chuckled, then let out a sigh: “Your worries weren’t unfounded. I really did end up being killed by Archon Silksnow.”
“What? You died?!” Ninedust was shocked.
“I once acquired a special treasure which can allow a Daolord to be brought back to life.” Ning didn’t hide what actually happened as he pointed to the surrounding area. “Look, we’re already in Vastheaven Palace! As for you? It was technically Hegemon Brightshore who intervened and rescued you.”
Ninedust started to understand. Moments later, he let out a chuckle. “Hegemon Brightshore? He’s always been filled with enmity towards us Ancient cultivators; there’s no way he would’ve gone out of his way to save me. I imagine he intervened because of you. When it comes down to it, the person I owe a debt to is still you.” Clearly, the long-running feud between the Brightshore Kingdom and the Ancient cultivators made it so that Ninedust didn’t feel any goodwill towards Hegemon Brightshore.
“Oh, right. There’s something I want to make clear to you,” Ninedust said, his face suddenly turning solemn.
“What is it?” Ning asked.
Ninedust glanced at the nearby Su Youji. Suddenly, he used his Immortal energy to form a barrier that completely blocked them off from the outside world.
Ninedust had mixed emotions on his face when he said, “Darknorth, we’ve experience life and death on numerous occasions together. At the beginning, we were on par in terms of power… and even later on, you were only slightly more powerful than me. Slowly, though, you’ve become more and more powerful. When we were in the Autarch’s estate-world within the Aeonian Kingdom, I could do nothing but watch when you fought against the flame beasts and the sea dragons. Later on, I could only watch when you battled against Archon Silksnow. More and more, I can sense how great the gap between us has become.”
Ning was stunned.
“Slowly, without me even realizing it, you have completely surpassed me in power. Even if we were to keep adventuring together, it really wouldn’t work out. A good test for me would be far too easy for you, while an adventure suitable for you would be absolutely lethal to me.” Ninedust sighed. “If this continues… it won’t be good for either of us.”
Ning nodded slowly. He understood what Ninedust was saying, but… were the two of them, lifelong brothers, about to separate?
“I have used a Voidsea Jadeseal and gained guidance from an Autarch’s Dao, then studied over three hundred Hegemonic legacies. Thanks to all of these fortuitous encounters, I can sense that my chances at the Daomerge are getting better and better.” Ninedust’s eyes blazed with eagerness. “That’s why I can’t let myself just come to a halt. I have to keep adventuring and keep testing myself, so that I can improve my Daomerge chances.”
“Either I’ll succeed in the Daomerge, or I’ll die in my adventures. Darknorth!” Ninedust looked towards Ning. “Let us part ways here. You have your cultivation path to walk, and I have my Daomerge path to embark on…”
Ning was silent for a long moment. Finally, he nodded. “Very well. My avatar shall continue to reside here at Vastheaven Palace. If you need anything, you can simply send word here.”
“It’ll be just as easy for you to reach me. You merely need to send word to the Palace of Ancient Truth,” Ninedust said. “The Palace of Ancient Truth has branches throughout all eight of the Sacred Cities of the Dao Alliance. In truth, we Ancient cultivators are behind it. Once you send a message to the Palace of Ancient Truth, it’ll naturally send word to the Ancient cultivators and my avatar will immediately be notified.”
Ninedust had a very complex look on his face, but he forced a wide smile: “Darknorth, where do you plan to go adventuring next? Deep into the Terror Starsea, or…?”
“I’m in no rush for now. I’m going to quietly meditate for a period of time. I was just slain by Archon Silksnow slew me and then brought back to life by that Dao-seal, after all. This process of death and rebirth… it caused me to gain many new insights which I wish to meditate on,” Ning said.
“Understood.” Ninedust took a deep breath, then said solemnly: “Brother, I’m going to leave now. Be careful, and be especially wary of that Archon Silksnow fellow. He’s definitely not going to give up, if only for the sake of acquiring that realmship part.”
Ning looked at Ninedust. He knew that once they parted today, it was possible that they would never see each other ever again. “You also need to be careful on your adventures. Make sure you don’t die an early death. I believe in you. You’ll definitely succeed in your Daomerge!” Ning said.
“Haha, right. I’ll definitely succeed in my Daomerge. In fact, both of us will! Haha. I’m leaving now. No need to show me off!” Ninedust immediately flew into the skies.
Ning raised his head, watching as the barriers in the sky automatically parted and let Ninedust leave. A streak of light shot through the skies, followed by a dimensional ripple appearing off in the distance. The streak of light flew into the ripple, then disappeared without a trace.
Ning continued to watch silently, head upraised. “Take care.” After a long moment, Ning finally murmured these final words.
“Master,” Su Youji said. She hadn’t been able to hear any of that conversation due to the barrier of Immortal energy which Ninedust had set up.
“It’s fine.” Ning was feeling rather frustrated and disheartened. Indeed, he had his own path of cultivation to walk, as did Ninedust. Ninedust wanted to focus on the Daomerge, after all.
As for Ning himself, his chances at the Daomerge were still too slim. Voidsea Jadeseals were of little to no use to him, while the Hegemonic legacies were only useful as references. None of those Hegemons had Daos that were as complex as Ning’s Omega Sword Dao, after all! Even the Autarch’s Dao was merely of use as a guidepost, as the Autarch had not embarked upon an Omega Dao as a Daolord.
“For now, my goal should be to become a Daolord of the Fourth Step as soon as possible. Once I reach that level, I’ll be qualified to fight against my foes… and I’ll even have a chance to acquire enough treasures to ask an Autarch to reverse spacetime and revive my wife.”
“Ninedust’s goal, however, is the Daomerge. I hope he succeeds in it.”
The first thing Ning did in the upcoming days was to visit Emperor Solesky. Emperor Solesky had immediately noticed when Ning had allowed Ninedust to leave, after all, and so Ning had to advise Emperor Solesky that he absolutely cannot divulge the fact that Ning’s true body was at Vastheaven Palace.
Soon, after half a month, a Daolord of the Brightshore Kingdom came delivering treasures.
That very day. Vastheaven Palace. Darknorth’s estate.
“I’m planning to go out wandering for a bit. Right now, the only ones who know that I am at Vastheaven Palace are you, big brother Solesky, and the two of you. You absolutely must not reveal this information; otherwise, a calamity shall descend upon us.” Ning glanced at Emperor Solesky, Su Youji, and Pillsaint.
“Don’t worry.” Emperor Solesky nodded.
“Master, I wish to go by your side,” Su Youji said immediately. Pillsaint opened his mouth, wanting to agree.
“No need,” Ning interrupted. “I’m just going to search for new insights and meditate on the Dao. Travelling alone will be better.”
Su Youji and Pillsaint could only nod.
“I’m leaving now. If there’s anything you wish to tell me, you can simply inform my avatar.” After finishing his words, Ning took a single step forwards and disappeared gracefully, passing through Vastheaven Palace’s barriers and vanishing within the skies.
Vastheaven Palace was located within the Vastheaven Everworld, which as an everworld was naturally an incredibly gigantic place. Countless living beings were here, and there were some places where experts were as common as the clouds. There were even a few Ancestral Immortals and even Chaos Immortals who arose from this place! There were other places that, due to special geography, only had mortals and had no cultivators whatsoever.
Whoosh. Ning strode slowly through the everworld. Although there were quite a few dangerous places within it, given how strong Ning was there really was nothing within it which could pose a threat to him. In fact, even the Emperor who had originally established this everworld was significantly weaker than the current Ning!
“This region is quite interesting.” Ning stared off into the distance at a vast region which was hundreds of millions of kilometers in size. This was a region that was completely surrounded by a titanic, barren marsh. As a result, it was completely separated from the outside world. This was a land of ordinary mortals, and even the most supreme of cultivators were at most at the Celestial Immortal level. There was simply no way for them to pass through the great marsh and reach the outside world, and so it was a self-contained realm unto itself.
The desolate marsh had probably been naturally formed when the everworld was first created. Not even some of the weaker Daolords were capable of traversing it.
“Seven kingdoms fighting for supremacy.” Ning stared at the vast land, then nodded slightly. “Countless living beings are dying at any given moment in this place. Very well then… this shall be the place! Here, I shall search for the secrets of mortality, the secrets of life and death.”