“He can,” Whitethaw said solemnly. “I have faith in my master.” He knew that Ji Ning had been blessed with tremendous good fortune within the Azureflower Estate, and also that his master had only been training for an extremely short period of time. Ning had a chance to succeed at the Daomerge.
“Bah, I don’t even know why I’m wasting time talking to a golem like you.” Azurefiend shook his head and turned to stare at the distant Ning. “But of course, I personally hope that he succeeds as well. An Emperor who completed the Daomerge with an Omega Dao… how powerful would he become? I can’t even imagine it. He’d probably be far more powerful than even Otherverse Lords. He might even approach the Autarchs themselves in power!”
The distant Ning suddenly sent a hoarse mental message to them: “Whitethaw, Azurefiend, I wish to be alone for a time. Do not disturb me.”
“Yes, Master,” Whitethaw said.
“Some alone time would do you good. Think things over. Cultivation is a way of life; if your Dao-heart is not resolute enough, you won’t be able to make it far along this path, much less master the Omega Dao,” Azurefiend said.
Ning didn’t respond. He simply strode away into the skies. Rumble… the void around him suddenly began to change. The primordial chaos flexed and trembled as a new world began to be born. Mountains rose, rivers appeared, and an indescribably vast sea took shape as well. Earth appeared, forming continents which were then covered with grasslands and marshes. Even cities and forests began to appear, causing the world to becoming increasingly beautiful.
Soon, a completely new world had been created around Ning… the world of the Grand Xia.
All it took was a single thought from Ning and the Grand Xia world was quickly remade.
“Stillwater City.” Ning strode through the skies, surrounded by clouds. He stared off into the distance, where a great city had appeared. This was Stillwater City, a place of many memories for Ning. This Stillwater City even had a Black-White College within it.
“The Dao Debate Palace of the Black-White College.” Ning walked into the Black-White College. It was just as it had been in his memories, except there were no living creatures within it at all. He soon reached the Dao Debate Palace. Ning sat down at the entranceway to the Dao Debate Palace, then picked up a gourd of wine and began to drink, his gaze distant as he stared into the palace.
He still remembered what had happened that year. He had been very young and had joined the Black-White College alongside Mu Northson. He had been a dazzling figure, and had defeated many senior apprentice-brothers during the Dao Debates. In the end, it had been Yu Wei who had intervened and defeated him effortlessly. He still remembered what the wager for their fight had been – a hundred black-white pellets and five kilograms of liquid essence.
“A hundred black-white pellets and five kilograms of liquid essence. Senior apprentice-sister, why is it that the path to our reunion is such a difficult one?!” Ning murmured to himself, then raised his head and drank some more wine. He drank too quickly, causing himself to cough. The wine splattered all over him, but he didn’t care. He wanted to give vent to his pain.
He felt a sense of rage and resentment in his heart, a sense of pain which he had suppressed for too long. Why? He had clearly succeeded and had even seen her coming back to life. When they had shared gazes, he had known that everything was going to be perfect. He was about to embrace her again at long last... but in the end, it had been a failure!
“I’ll keep walking down this path for as long as I must.” Ning stared into the Dao Debate Palace as he murmured to himself. He felt as though he could see those duels he had fought against Yu Wei and the others.
He had never hesitated, never given up. If the Autarch said that this would only be possible if he completed his Daomerge with his Omega Dao and then became an Autarch… then that would be what Ning’s goal would become!
This would be an extremely difficult path to take. Ning wouldn’t shirk back from it, but he did understand how low his chances of success were.
“Perhaps I shall one day collapse on this path.” Ning smiled. “When I collapse, my truesoul will scatter and then return to the prime essences of the Chaosverse. There, the two of us shall be together once more.”
There was still wine left in the gourd, but Ning was already drunk. Not from the wine; from his hopes. Ning rose to his feet and began to walk outside.
Whoooosh. Suddenly, large plumes of snow began to fly through the air. Ning walked through the snow, carrying the wine gourd in one hand while using a Northbow sword to train in sword-arts with the other. It wasn’t an intentional display of sword-arts, it was just a way for his spirit to give vent.
All he wanted to do was to remain drunk. He continued to drink while executing his sword-arts. Ning felt himself growing drunker and drunker.
The vague outline of a person appeared before his eyes. It was Yu Wei. She was as beautiful as ever. It felt as though they were meeting again for the first time.
“Overwhelming sorrow from farewells… but it is naught but one parting of many.” Ning smiled.
Whoosh. Ning’s sword suddenly manifested a blood-colored light that shot out through the skies. He had just unconsciously and naturally executed the thirteenth stance of the [Heartsword], ‘Snowland Blood’.
This sense of overwhelming sorrow, of the heart transcending all mortal concerns… when Ning struck out with his sword, he felt as though his sword was his lover. It was different from the eleventh stance, ‘Teardrop’, or the twelfth stance, ‘Swordtide’. Those were frenzied attacks of overwhelming power. This attack had a sense of melancholy to it, a sense of pain stemming from heartache.
The melancholy had caused him to pour all of his heart into the sword, and thus the thirteenth stance had been mastered.
“Emperor Heartsword… I wonder what sort of mental state you were in when you first created this thirteenth stance of the Heartsword, ‘Snowland Blood’.” Ning smiled as he waved his sword about. “The fourteenth stance of the Heartsword is ‘Remorseless Unto Death’.” Ning raised his head to take another gulp of wine, then let out a loud cry as he struck out with a new, changed streak of sword-light.
When his sword struck out, it became ephemeral and transcendant. It was hard to even see his sword; it was as though the sword itself had vanished. However, a few vague traces could be seen. Those hard-to-see traces were indistinct but completely unblockable. It would continue to advance, and if anyone tried to stand in its path then that person would be slaughtered. The traces of this sword were enough to inspire utter terror in any who saw it.
This was the fourteenth stance of the Heartsword – Remorseless Unto Death.
In the Flamedragon Realmverse, there had only ever been a total of two cultivators who had mastered the fourteenth stance of the [Heartsword] art, including Emperor Heartsword himself. Now, Ning had become the third!
The thirteenth stance of the Heartsword, ‘Snowland Blood’. The fourteenth stance of the Heartsword, ‘Remorseless Unto Death’. These two were on the same general ‘level’. So long as one could learn the thirteenth stance, it wouldn’t take too long for the fourteenth stance to be mastered as well.
Emperor Heartsword’s experiences truly had been remarkable. Although he had different experiences than Ning, they had reached a very similar mental state. Ning felt a similar sense of sorrow and melancholy; he knew that the chances of reversing spacetime and reviving his wife were impossibly low. And yet… he would have no regrets at all for pursuing this path, even in the face of death! No matter how low the chances were, he would still continue on this path.
Ning danced with the sword as snow flew around him. Slowly, the skies turned dark. Ning lay down on the snowy ground and went to sleep. It had been a long, long time since he had slumbered.
The ‘snow’ and the ‘darkness’… these were nothing more than reflections of his mental state. He had created this world, and so its weather was invisibly influenced by his state of mind.
He slept for a long period of time before finally reopening his eyes. By now, a morning sun was rising from the horizon, bathing the world with its warm rays of light. There was some fog, but it was unable to block out the sunlight which pierced through everything as it illuminated the world.
Ning glanced at the gourd and the Northbow sword, both of which lay fallen next to him. He smiled, then picked them up.
“I’ve woken up. The Daomerge, eh?” Ning stared at the distant dawn sun, then murmured to himself: “Then I’ll deal with the Daomerge first! I’ll take things one step at a time. After the Daomerge, I’ll then become an Autarch.”
“Senior apprentice-sister… don’t blame me if I fail.” Ning chuckled, then soared into the skies. Rumble… the Black-White College and the city of Stillwater both began to break apart. The entire Grand Xia began to break apart, quickly dissipating into nothingness.
Ning stared at the two figures waiting for him in the distant void.
“Master,” Whitethaw called out respectfully.
“Darknorth.” Hegemon Azurefiend was slightly startled. He could sense that Daolord Darknorth seemed to have undergone a tremendous transformation. His very aura had changed. In the past, Ning had a certain radiant dynamism to him. He had been a dazzling figure who was filled with hope… but now, his gaze was much calmer and more distant. It was like an endlessly deep sea. There was nothing which could shake his heart.
Reversing spacetime to revive Yu Wei had been a failure. All of that was over now, and he only had one thought in his mind… to continue walking his path of cultivation with no remorse and no regrets, unto death itself.
Either he would succeed in reuniting with Yu Wei, or he would fail and die, reuniting with her in the prime essences of the Chaosverse.
“Azurefiend, do you think I’ll succeed in the Daomerge?” Ning laughed.
Azurefiend was startled upon seeing Ning’s smile. He immediately said, “It’ll be extremely hard… but then again, the number of people who became Daolords of the Fourth Step via an Omega Dao is miniscule. The fact that they failed doesn’t mean you will fail as well, Darknorth.”
“Just so.” Ning laughed.
“But you are too stubborn and attached. Remember what Autarch Titanos said; excessive obsession can result in self-destruction,” Azurefiend said.
Ning nodded and smiled. “But you know, he left out part of the saying. The full saying is, excessive obsession can result in great accomplishments, but it can also result in self-destruction. I have the feeling… that I’m the type who will have great accomplishments."