“My fate is in your hands?” Hegemon Azurefiend stared past the void cage imprisoning him: “If my guess is correct, this is nothing more than an immaterial cage of barriers. It can at most capture me, not kill me. So long as I continually assault it, I’ll be able to deplete its power. I refuse to believe that a single mechanism can give birth to a permanent force-cage of such power.”
Ji Ning nodded slowly. “Impressive deductions, Hegemon. Your words were correct; if you were to fight back, this void cage wouldn’t be sustained for too long. But… didn’t you think that the Sithe would have taken this into consideration?”
“Hrm?” Hegemon Azurefiend looked at Ning.
“With but a thought, I can create a void link between this cage and the prison regions,” Ning explained. “I’ll send you off to be imprisoned there! You should know just how deadly the Jadefire Realm’s prison region is.”
Hegemon Azurefiend was a man who had seen many things. He knew that the Sithe wouldn’t be so foolish as to expect such a void cage to perpetually trap their foes; it was entirely possible that there really was a mechanism by which one could be sent through a void link off into the prison regions!
“The prison regions? The prisons are rather damaged, and the entire region as a whole has been breached. It isn’t nearly as dangerous as it once was.” Hegemon Azurefiend laughed coldly, “Given my power, with enough time I should be able to escape. Even if I’m not able to escape immediately, I’ll be able to ask other major powers for succor. You won’t be able to threaten me.”
“You are wrong. There are differences even amongst prisons. There are seven central prisons in particular,” Ning explained, “And although three of them have crumbled apart, four of them remain in perfect shape. I’ll send you into one of those four. Forget about you, not even Otherverse Lords who are trapped within would stand any chance at escape.”
Hegemon Azurefiend’s face tightened. He had read the intelligence reports regarding the Jadefire Realm and knew of the seven central prisons. Given how badly damaged the prison regions were in general, they really wouldn’t necessarily be capable of holding back an Otherverse Lord. Ning claiming otherwise was probably just a boast… but imprisoning a Hegemon was entirely possible.
“Have you decided?” Ning asked. “Being my retainer isn’t exactly embarrassing! Don’t worry, I won’t make this public. I’ll tell everyone else that the two of us are extremely close friends who have known each other forever, which is why you chose to help me.”
“And who do you think would believe that?” Hegemon Azurefiend said coldly, “Who in the world would believe that? Everyone knows I came to the Jadefire Realm because I want your realmship, and everyone knows the type of person I am. Give up the realmship and instead become friends with you, then going so far as to fight to protect you? Do you really think those Hegemons are absolute imbeciles? Even a genuine imbecile would be able to tell that I was forced to become your retainer.”
Seeing this, Ning frowned. “Then what do you propose?”
“Being a retainer for a puny Daolord like yourself would be the greatest humiliation of my life. There’s no way I would accept.” Hegemon Azurefiend shook his head, his words completely uncompromising.
Ning felt a bit troubled. He didn’t expect that the temperamental Hegemon Azurefiend would actually care so much about face that he would discard even his life.
“How about this? Ten thousand chaos cycles!” Ning said.
“Hmph.” Hegemon Azurefiend shook his head.
Ning’s gaze grew cold. “A thousand chaos cycles. This is my last offer! I only need you to serve me for a thousand chaos cycles. To a Hegemon like yourself, this is an extremely brief period of time. I’ve already shown mercy to you, considering that you came to try and steal my treasures. If you refuse even my offer of a thousand chaos cycles… hmph.”
In truth, a thousand chaos cycles really was the final offer Ning was willing to make. This was because his Primaltwin was consistently using the Autarch’s stone dais within the Azureflower Estate while under the effects of 100x temporal acceleration. Thus, a thousand chaos cycles for his true body would become equivalent to over 100,000 chaos cycles for his Primaltwin… or in other words, time for the Daomerge. Regardless of whether he succeeded or failed in his Daomerge, Hegemon Azurefiend would no longer be of much use.
“Give me an answer.” Ning looked at him.
Hegemon Azurefiend could sense the killing intentions rise in the Daolord before him, but this only caused him to laugh: “Hahaha! I never thought that I, Azurefiend, would be put in such dire straights by a Daolord.”
“I, Azurefiend, have roamed for countless ages and have lived for countless years. I’ve killed as I pleased and plundered as I pleased. Lower my head before a puny Daolord and become his retainer? I’d rather die!” Hegemon Azurefiend glared at Ning. “Plus… you aren’t even capable of killing me. Go ahead and lock me up. Go ahead and send me into the most central prisons within the Jadefire Realm! When the time comes, I’ll pay an incredible price to Realmslord Windgrace and have him personally use the Blacksun to attack the prison and break me out.”
Ning’s face tightened. Realmslord Windgrace? The Blacksun was a truly terrifying weapon the Sithe had left behind from the Dawn War! Normally, it could be used to briefly create spacetime conduit that allowed for instantaneous travel to incredibly distant places, but it also had more savage abilities. It could be used to attack! Once the accumulated energies were unleashed via the Blacksun, the power would be so great that even Otherverse Lords might perish before it.
Realmslord Windgrace was both an Otherverse Lord and in charge of the Blacksun. Thus, he possessed a transcendent status even amongst his peers in the Chaosverse.
The foundation of the Jadefire Realm had already been wrecked, causing it to be dramatically weakened, whereas the Blacksun was undamaged. If Realmslord Windgrace really did come, he’d probably be capable of breaching the core jails and rescuing Hegemon Azurefiend.
“I hear that the price needed to establish a spacetime conduit via the Blacksun is absolutely enormous,” Ning said. “None of the Hegemons or Emperors chose to make such a request in order to have a better chance at the realmship! To have Realmslord Windgrace come here in person and use the Blacksun to breach a core prison to rescue you is probably going to cost even more than just creating a spacetime conduit. Are you sure you can pay such a price?”
“I cannot.” Hegemon Azurefiend’s gaze was cold while his voice was growling: “But I’d be willing to serve him as a servant in recompense!”
“As a servant?” Ning laughed. “You’d rather be a servant to Realmslord Windgrace than be a retainer for a mere thousand chaos cycles to a Daolord like myself. It makes sense. Realmslord Windgrace is an exalted figure, while I’m nothing but a mere Daolord… but Azurefiend, are you sure he even needs a servant like you?”
“If he doesn’t want a servant like me, then in the future I’ll wander through other dangerous regions to acquire treasures and slowly repay him,” Hegemon Azurefiend said. “Based on my understanding of his temperament, he should probably accept such an offer! Even if he really isn’t willing to come rescue me, I’d rather remained trapped here within the prisons.”
“Once the Yin-Yang Samsara Wheels reach this place, you’ll perish,” Ning said.
“If I die, I die. I, Azurefiend, have roamed the Chaosverse and have seen everything there is to see. Although I do not welcome death, I welcome humiliation even less! Daolords are as puny as meaningless as ants. How dare one of you even think to have me, Azurefiend, serve you as a retainer?” Hegemon Azurefiend looked at Ning mockingly. “Laughable. Laughable!”
Ning stared at the icy-faced Hegemon Azurefiend from outside the cage. In his heart, he couldn’t help but sigh. His greatest worry had never been whether or not he would be able to capture a Hegemon. His greatest worry was… would he be able to convince the Hegemon to submit?
“You called me as a weak as an ant?” Ning said. “Do you really look down on Daolords that much?”
“What, do you think you are strong? All you could do was to trick and trap me thanks to your control over a few mechanisms. If it wasn’t for the terrifying traps the Sithe left behind in the Jadefire Realm, do you think you really would have the chance to boast like this before me? I’d crush you into dust with one claw.” Hegemon Azurefiend’s eyes glowed with savage light. “All you can do is hide outside the cage and brag from a position of safety. How laughable.”
Ning shook his head. “You underestimate Daolords too much.”
“Oh? I heard you managed to force Archon Silksnow into committing suicide, right? You probably trapped him in another one of these mechanisms.” Hegemon Azurefiend truly was filled with rage towards the Daolord before him. This puny Daolord was insulting him from outside the cage! How long had it been since a Daolord had ever dared to behave like this before him?
“How about this, Azurefiend? Let’s have a little bet,” Ning said.
“A bet?” Azurefiend looked at Ning. “What bet.”
“I’ll enter the void cage and have a fight against you,” Ning said. “I’ll rely on my own real power to fight against you, and I’ll give you an hour. If you cannot beat me in that hour, you’ll have lost. You’ll have to accept the results of our wager and become my retainer!”
“You are willing to come inside to spar against me?” Hegemon Azurefiend’s eyes lit up. He had been thoroughly infuriated ages ago, but the void cage made it so that he wasn’t able to injure Ning in the slightest. That was the only reason why he had managed to hold onto his temper and waste so much tie talking instead. Now, upon hearing that this puny Daolord was being so reckless and foolish as to come on inside, he was instantly delighted.
“Fine, I’ll take that bet! But I don’t need an hour. Just stand in front of me and rely on your own power to survive for ten seconds. Do that, and you’ll have won!” Hegemon Azurefiend’s eyes turned red with bloodlust. He truly did not believe that an exalted Hegemon like him, highly-ranked even amongst other Hegemons, would be unable to annihilate a puny Daolord like Darknorth.
“Agreed. No backing out?” Ning said.
“I’d rather die than break my word! Just don’t regret dying by my hands, you brat.” Hegemon Azurefiend licked his lips, his eyes flashing with blood light.
Whoosh. With a flicker, Ning flew past the invisible walls and inside the void cage.