Vastheaven Palace. The Darknorth Estate.
Emperor Solesky, Su Youji, Hegemon Azurefiend, and the Flamewing God were all staring at the sealed gates to Ji Ning’s estate.
Rumble… the gates to the estate swung open, followed by a white-robed youth with a black sheath on his back emerging from within.
Everything seemed so ordinary, as though nothing at all had happened… but Solesky, Azurefiend, and the others all sighed silently. All powerful experts were able to sense the tiny ripples generated by a decaying truesoul. Even though the ripples were incredibly minute, they were constant and continuous. Even though Ning’s truesoul was unfathomably more powerful than an ordinary mortal’s, given enough time it would still be extinguished.
“Master.” Flamewing raised its giant head to stare at Ning rather desperately.
“Darknorth.” Solesky and Azurefiend wanted to say something, but both hesitated. Su Youji’s eyes were completely red, and she was using her Immortal energy to evaporate her tears as soon as they appeared.
“Look at all of you.” Ning laughed. “Everyone who has chosen the path of cultivation knows how difficult a path this is. The Daomerge for an Omega Dao is the most difficult of all! I’ve failed my Daomerge, but I was mentally prepared for that long ago. It is no big deal.”
“Good.” Azurefiend’s eyes lit up and he called out, “Darknorth, you have only trained for a fairly brief period of time, but I must confess that my Dao-heart is inferior to yours. If I had failed my Daomerge, I wouldn’t have been able to endure it. Given my temperament, I probably would’ve gone crazy. Even if I managed to eventually calm down, it would’ve only happened after I vented for an extremely long period of time. I can’t promise anything else, but I’ll definitely continue to serve you. So long as you are alive, I will follow you and be by your side. I’ll also carry out to the absolute best of my ability any tasks you wish me to do in the future.”
“Thank you.” Ning smiled. Some people who were forced to become retainers would feel resentment, but Ning and Azurefiend had known each other for so long that Azurefiend knew what type of person Ning was. Ning was an open, straightforward man who was benevolent to his friends and terrible to his foes. Azurefiend enjoyed his relationship with Ning, and he couldn’t help but feel heartache upon seeing Ning fail the Daomerge. He couldn’t help but sigh at how such a peerless Daolord was about to vanish from this universe.
“Darknorth, your students and fellow disciples are all waiting outside. Shall you…?” Solesky spoke out.
“Don’t worry about them. This can be considered a lesson to them as to how cruel and brutal the Daomerge is,” Ning said with a laugh. “Come, come! All of you, sit and drink with me. We’ll have guests arriving soon.”
“Guests?” Azurefiend and Solesky were briefly startled, but then they immediately understood. The Lonely King and Realmslord Windgrace had been biding their time. Now that Ning had failed the Daomerge, they would probably make their move.
“We’ll drink over here while awaiting our guests.” Ning turned to stare towards the outside, where a number of figures were flying over to Vastheaven Palace. He smiled. “Brother Brightshore, since you’ve arrived, share some wine with us.”
Whoosh. The protective barriers around Vastheaven Palace split apart, allowing Hegemon Brightshore, Hegemon Windrain, Hegemon Netherlily, Daoist Bluestone, Emperor Goldisle, Emperor Blackcloud, and some other Hegemons and Emperors who were on good terms with Ning to fly inside. Everyone knew each other and could be considered friends. Now that Ning had failed the Daomerge, all of them felt great regret and wished to meet with him.
When they saw how the white-robed youth greeted them all with a smile, the Hegemons and Emperors couldn’t help but secretly sigh once more. How many of them would be able to so quickly regain their calm after failing the Daomerge and suffering the most grievous blow a cultivator could possibly suffer? No wonder Daolord Darknorth had reached such impressive heights.
A pity. Such a pity.
His path was that of the Omega Dao. If he had chosen a simpler path, such as fusing multiple Supreme Daos, he probably would’ve already become a Hegemon.
“Let’s not chit-chat too much today. Drink up!” Ning said.
Hegemon Brightshore and the others all understood. An expert like Ning didn’t need the pity of others. “Alright, let’s just eat and drink!”
“Darknorth, don’t blame me if I end up cleaning your entire stock of wine!”
“Drink as much as you like. Our guests will probably interrupt us soon and prevent us from drinking,” Ning teased.
“Guests?” Hegemon Brightshore and the others all quivered. They knew that Ning was referring to Lonely King and Realmslord Windgrace. They couldn’t help but sigh. The only ones present who could truly maintain their uncaring calm were Flamewing and Ning himself.
The Hegemons, Emperors, Su Youji, Pillsaint, and Flamewing all casually sat down alongside each other. Some sat down on the grass, some sat down on the stone bridge, some sat down within the pavilion. Everyone had a wine-laden table before them, and the estate was filled with the sound of jesting and laughing.
Just a short while later, a rumbling sound could be heard. Ning raised his head fractionally, glancing off into the distance. His gaze pierced through the void and allowed him to see a streak of azure light that had just reached the Vastheaven Everworld and making its way over here. This streak of azure light was the bearded, disheveled old ‘Realmslord Windgrace’.
No one aside from Ning noticed the Realmslord’s arrival.
“The Blacksun truly is remarkable. The Hiddenfiend Realmverse and the Flamedragon Realmverse are quite far away, but he was able to arrive in an instant.” Ning couldn’t help but sigh. “The Sithe truly are remarkable.”
Realmslord Windgrace walked through the air within the Vastheaven Everworld, quickly arriving outside Vastheaven Palace. “My young friend Darknorth.” His voice suddenly rang out from outside.
“Realmslord Windgrace has arrived. Come and share a few cups of wine with us,” Ning said. The barriers parted before the Realmslord, giving him a passageway inside. Realmslord Windgrace walked through the skies, following the passageway into Vastheaven Palace.
The Hegemons and Emperors within the Darknorth Estate all rose to their feet. Even the irascible Hegemon Azurefiend rose. The only ones to remain seated were Ning and Flamewing. “Greetings, Realmslord Windgrace,” everyone said respectfully.
When Realmslord Windgrace saw that Ning remained seated, he felt quite intrigued. His face, however, remained completely unruffled.
“Realmslord Windgrace. Please have a seat.” Ning pointed at a table located atop a patch of grass.
“This wine certainly smells nice.” Realmslord Windgrace walked over to the table, then sat down in the lotus position. He picked up the gourd of wine and began to guzzle it down. “Delicious, delicious! Darknorth, my young friend, I hurried here as soon as I heard that you failed the Daomerge. Alas… the Daomerge for an Omega Dao must have been incredibly difficult. The Autarchs once told me that no one has ever been able to succeed in the Daomerge with an Omega Dao.”
The entire area quickly fell silent. The many Hegemons and Emperors no longer dared to say a word. Su Youji and Pillsaint both sensed how oppressive and gloomy the atmosphere had become! For Realmslord Windgrace to immediately raise the topic of Ning failing the Daomerge meant that he had clearly come on business.
“I imagine you already know why I have come here, my young friend Darknorth.” Realmslord Windgrace looked at Ning. “It would be very difficult to convince the Flamewing God to willingly serve me… but if you, his master, agreed to help out then things would be much simpler. I won’t force you to agree; in the end, it will be your own choice. If there’s something you desire from me, you merely need to let me know what you want! I, Windgrace, will definitely do everything within my power to accomplish it. In fact, I can even swear a lifeblood oath on it.”
“Even if you do agree, I won’t take the Flamewing God away immediately. I’ll wait until you die and your Dao vanishes before doing so.” Realmslord Windgrace looked at Ning.
“GWAAAAAAR!” Ning was quite calm, but the happily-eating Flamewing was enraged upon hearing this. It let out a vicious roar as it transformed into its true form of a winged, flame-bathed bear, then moved to charge straight towards Realmslord Windgrace.
“Be good, Flamewing.” Ning’s voice caused Flamewing to come to a sudden halt. It turned to look rather unhappily at Ning. “Maaaaster!”
“Be good. Just keep eating. Don’t worry about this stuff,” Ning said.
“Oh.” Flamewing once more transformed into human form, then sat down and began to eat. Just two mouthfuls in, he once more turned his head to stare at Ning. “Master, the only one I’ll follow is you. I don’t like any of the others.”
“WINDGRACE!!!” A cold, clear voice filled with frigid might suddenly rang out, shaking the skies above Vastheaven Palace.
Ji Ning, Realmslord Windgrace, and the others all turned to look. They saw an enormous rift in spacetime appear in the skies above, with an entire host of figures flying out of it. There were more than fifty of the titanic onyx humanoids, and they were lined up in orderly rows. At their head was a pair of golden humanoids, who stood to each side of a giant, levitating silver throne.
A silver-robed golden humanoid was seated atop the silver throne. He stared downwards at the distant Vastheaven Palace with a cold look in his eyes, and the blood-colored diamond in the middle of his forehead glared like an icy third eye.
Lord Wulf led his four Black Emperors to immediately reunite with the others. Lord Wulf couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief. Thankfully, his Majesty had arrived quite quickly. If he had been just a few minutes slower, things would’ve become troublesome.
“You came quite fast.” Realmslord Windgrace’s voice echoed within the skies above the palace. “And you brought the entire Icepeak Army! It seems you must’ve been waiting outside the Flamedragon Realmverse for quite some time now. But… ‘Lonely’, you should probably know that the soldiers of the Icepeak Army would be throwing their lives away if they got involved in this. You should have them hide and avoid getting involved in this.”
“And who would take their lives? You?” The Lonely King stared down at him from atop his throne.
The Hegemons and Emperors inside Vastheaven Palace, the disciples of Vastheaven Palace, the Eternal Emperors who were watching from within the Vastheaven Everworld… all of them were completely stunned. Nobody dared to make a move.