Planning was easy. Actually carrying it out was extremely difficult.
Since Autarch Awakener, master of the Azureflower Estate, had decided that creating ten Archon-level techniques was the trial which Daolords needed to pass, there was no way that it would be easy for Ji Ning to accomplish it. Daolord Featherdress had been an incredibly dazzling Heartforce Cultivator and Daolord, but she had only created a single supreme technique, the [Featherdress Soulthrall Melody]! Ning now needed to do the same, but this would require a sufficiently deep foundation in the art of illusions. If he hadn’t build up enough experience, there would be no way he could possibly create such a technique.
“Illusions…” the white-robed Ning sat there on the stone dais, runes swirling over its surface as time moved a hundred times faster than in the outside world. His eyes were closed as he continued to meditate, with one technique after another flashing through his mind. These were all the various heartforce illusion techniques which the cultivator civilizations and the Sithe civilization had created.
Heartforce was a very mysterious type of energy! It was able to merge with other types of energy and allow one’s power to increase by an explosive level. Ning was merely at the Archon level of enlightenment, but the twelfth stance of the [Heartsword] art allowed him to stand above virtually all other Archons. He was extremely close to the Hegemon level of power. This was what was so marvelous about heartforce! Heartforce illusions, in turn, were extremely common as well.
The cultivators and the Sithe had both created many different types of heartforce illusions.
“Illusions can be used like this?” Ning continuously analyzed and dissected one illusory technique after another. The weakest were at the Archon level, the stronger ones were at the Hegemon level, and a few were even more profound than that. Previously, Ning had merely read through them and memorized them; now, he was truly analyzing them. As his analyses grew deeper and deeper, Ning began to accumulate a steadily deepening foundation in the art of illusions, and his [Dreamstar] art naturally began to slowly improve as well.
Every single illusory art had profound mysteries hidden within them. Even though the stone dais let him remain in a constant prajna-state, it still took Ning an extremely long period of time to fully analyze and dissect every single technique. The easier ones took as little as a million years, while the longest took over a hundred million! And this was with him only analyzing them up to the Archon level; for now, he was completely unable to analyze the more profound mysteries.
In total, it took Ning over fifty-six billion years to finish analyzing all of the illusory arts. If it hadn’t been for the stone dais, it probably would’ve taken him ten thousand times as long!
Next, Ning began to sort out and arrange the various insights he had gained. He began to merge them together, seeking to create an illusory art that belonged to him and him alone! After gaining so many new insights, he immediately concluded that his [Dreamstar] art was far too simple and crude; in fact, Ning felt that there were some fundamental problems with its most basic underpinnings. Thus, he chose to completely start from scratch and create his own illusions.
Another three billion years went by, at which point Ning finished sorting through and merging all of his many insights together into a new illusory art, which he named the [Unfettered Dreamlands].
Within the second hall inside the palace. Atop the stone dais. Ning was still seated in the lotus position, but his demeanor and aura had both somewhat changed. In the past, this white-robed youth’s aura had been stately and reserved, almost like a blade that had been hidden within a sheath; when drawn, his sharpness would be on full display! Now, however, Ning’s aura had become a bit more ephemeral and ghostly. He was like a drifting cloud, a gust of wind, a fluttering leaf, a ray of warm sunlight that broke through the darkness.
Cultivators who saw him would feel a very comfortable feeling, and in their hearts they would naturally feel very well-disposed towards Ning. Even cultivators who had originally been nervous or depressed would feel much more relaxed just by looking at Ning.
“To be free and unfettered… for cultivators, this is far too rare. In my illusions, however, I can find perfect, unfettered freedom.” Ning smiled.
The [Unfettered Dreamlands]… as the name suggested, the crucial parts to it lay in the words ‘unfettered’ and ‘dreamlands’.
‘Dreamlands’ – Ning would set up an artificial world of dreams within the illusions, with Ning being the one to envisage and design the elements within this world! In fact, Ning could even set up a special region within his actual heartworld and use it to simulate the appearance of his ‘dreamlands’. Ning’s goal was to make the dreamlands as real-looking as possible, while also filled with fatal allure. He would then adjust it slightly in accordance with each target.
‘Unfettered’ – This referred to how the goal was to cause the opponent to unconsciously be seduced by the illusions. There were some things that simply couldn’t be forced; only when you managed to lower the natural resistance generated within the depths of your foe’s Dao-heart would you be able to make it more difficult for the foe to escape your illusions.
Think about it; why was it that even the more shallow illusions were often focused on the flaws in people’s hearts? For example, Ning deeply desired to revive his wife, and so illusions targeted at Ning would often conjure up images of Yu Wei and allow Ning to ‘reunite’ with her! This was because Ning wanted to see this more than anything else, making his Dao-heart less resistant to it. If Ning’s Dao-heart was weak, he might succumb to the illusions and be trapped in them for longer, increasing the chances of him dying.
In a battle between experts, a second of slumber could result in death. The words ‘unfettered’ and ‘dreamlands’ served as the nucleus of the [Unfettered Dreamlands], which then transformed into countless arcane and profound illusions.
“Senior,” Ning said.
“Hm?” The distant seated white-robed elder opened his eyes to look at Ning.
“Here is the second technique.” Ning pulled out a jade scroll upon which was recorded the information regarding the heartforce illusion technique which Ning had created, the [Unfettered Dreamlands]. The jade scroll flew over to float in front of the white-robed elder.
The white-robed elder accepted it, inspected it carefully, then nodded. “You spent just over half a chaos cycle and have managed to create an Archon-level illusory art. Not bad, not bad. It seems you might have a chance to actually create the ten necessary techniques.”
Ning explained, “I’ve always been skilled in heartforce, which made analyzing those illusions fairly easy! As for the other Daos… there are some which I’m not skilled in at all. Creating techniques for them shall definitely be far more difficult.”
He was the most highly skilled in the Dao of the Sword. He had already created the fourth stage of the [Omega Sword Dao] before arriving at the Azureflower Estate.
He was just slightly less attuned to heartforce, but thanks to the effects of the stone dais he had been able to create the technique after nearly sixty billion years. However, if you factored in temporal acceleration, he had actually spent over half a chaos cycle! [1. Finally, we have specific information on how long a chaos cycle is! Since we know temporal acceleration was at 100x, this means six trillion years is roughly ‘half a chaos cycle’, meaning a full chaos cycle is ten trillion years!] Finally, he had been able to develop the [Unfettered Dreamlands] technique.
When cultivators calculated their lifespans, they calculated based on the ‘actual’ time they had spent, including all the years spent in accelerated time. By now, Ning had spent more than half a chaos cycle in ‘actual’ time training.
Next, Ning needed to accumulate insights into the Dao of Water and the Dao of Lightning. After that would come the Dao of Fire, and then would be the Daos of Space, Time, Earth, and a few others.
In truth, cultivators generally focused on a single Dao and wouldn’t waste time on multiple other Daos. If you reached an extremely high level in a single Dao, you would gain access to movement techniques, invulnerable forms, defensive abilities, offensive abilities, and more. This was true for all Daos, and so there was no need to diversify. The Ninedust Sectlord, for example, focused exclusively on the Dao of Water.
However… from another perspective, it could be said that training in multiple Daos had its own benefits as well. The differences between the Daos could bring inspiration, as all Daos were linked together!
“With the stone dais helping you, you should be able to do it.” The white-haired elder looked at Ning. “Creating these ten techniques will be of help to you as well. The Daomerge for the Omega Daos is simply too difficult… creating multiple Archon-level techniques will only benefit you, not harm you.”
“Understood.” Ning nodded. He had to admit this was true.
And so, Ning began to focus on analyzing the Dao of Water.
The Dao of Water was a vast Dao which many, many people trained in. Ning began to analyze one technique after another. There were many major powers who had become supreme Daolords thanks to the Dao of Water. Some had become Archons, while a few had become Hegemons! However, everyone had a different interpretation of the Dao of Water, even though the Dao itself was the same.
Alas, Ning felt tremendous regret that despite there being countless techniques pertaining to the Dao of Water, there was no ‘Omega Water Dao’.
Obviously, Ning would need to spend much more time on the Dao of Water than he had on illusions. And so, time slowly flowed on.
In the blink of an eye, Ning had spent over an entire chaos cycle of ‘actual time’ training within the Azureflower Estate… and he was still absorbed in his studies.
Everything was so peaceful and calm. No one in the Flamedragon Realmverse knew that during the past chaos cycle, an utterly terrifying Heartforce Cultivator had arisen.
Ever since the Flamedragon Realmverse had lost its Heartforce Hegemon, it had never given birth to another Eternal Emperor who was also a Heartforce Cultivator. And indeed, it was extremely rare for Eternal Emperors to be Heartforce Cultivators.
Although Ning’s heartforce was quite strong upon him becoming a Daolord of the Fourth Step, allowing him to easily trap a large number of Emperors with illusions during the battle for Silksnow City, his actual skill in illusions was rather low. He had completely relied on his powerful heartforce to gain victory. Ning’s illusions had been completely ineffective against Archon-level opponents.
Now, however… Ning’s weakness in illusions had been addressed. He had truly skyrocketed to a brand new level, the Archon level.
The stability of the Omega Sword Dao ensured that Ning’s heartworld was probably second only to that of a Heartforce Hegemon’s! This made his heartforce indescribably powerful. Now that both his heartforce and his illusory arts had reached incredibly high levels, even a number of the Archons of the Sacred Cities would fall to his illusions. In a life-and-death battle, being trapped in an illusion for even a brief instant would make it so that you lost control over your invulnerable form… and Ning would take advantage of that moment to slay his foe with ease.