Exalt Bowenya instructed, “Go ahead and cancel the formations.”
“Understood,” Hawkfang said. The formation which sealed the spacetime continuum around Ji Ning was under the control of his Flameland Elder Hall. The sealed continuum quickly dissipated, allowing the region at the base of the distant Sacred Mountains to go back to normal and reveal Daolord Darknorth at its center.
“Ahahaha! Sithe Exalt, do you have any other tricks up your sleeve?” Ning called out loudly from the base of the Sacred Mountains.
From afar, it looked as though his truesoul was crumbling quite quickly.
“His truesoul has crumbled to the point where he is on the verge of death. I’m amazed at how calm he is.” Jonnbech stared downwards from his Elder Hall to the base of the Sacred Mountains, then let out a sigh: “Truly impressive.”
“If I was in his position, I’d probably have gone completely berserk by now,” Hawkfang’s incarnation agreed.
Exalt Bowenya stared from afar, his forehead creased in a frown. “Do you think Daolord Darknorth’s truesoul is truly crumbling that fast? Or is it perhaps a deception?”
“A deception?” The avatars of the Hegemons, Hawkfang, and Jonnbech all stared at him in surprise. They had all reached incredibly high levels of insight. To deceive them would be nearly impossible! They had never encountered something like this after becoming Hegemons and Emperors.
“You haven’t experienced enough. The things you see, the things you sense… it can all be a lie. Even your own intuition can be deceived.” Exalt Bowenya looked at the distant Ning. “We’ve lost the first battle, just like that. I can’t help but feel that something is wrong. If Daolord Darknorth was extremely skilled in the Dao of Illusions, he would be able to put on a show which none of you could see through.”
“A show?” Hawkfang and Jonnbech spoke out at the same time. Both were shocked.
“That’s just one possibility. It’s also possible that he really is at the verge of death.” Exalt Bowenya narrowed his eyes. Unlike these Hegemons and Emperors, when he lived in his own Chaosverse he was an actual Autarch, and his opponents were also Autarchs! In fact, he had even met someone who was even more powerful than the Autarchs. He was much more experienced and knew just how terrifying the Dao of Illusions could be.
Exalt Bowenya said calmly, “I’m just saying that this is a possibility. You have to be wary of it during our upcoming battles.”
“What should we do next?” Hawkfang and Jonnbech looked at Exalt Bowenya.
“What can we do? Use our Daoguard Towers to fight back against him as best we can,” Exalt Bowenya said.
Their Daoguard Towers had already used up virtually all of their many long-distance offensive treasures in the first battle. Exalt Bowenya’s goal had been to focus-fire everything on Ning and destroy him in their first engagement. However, they had already lost that critical battle. As a result, they now had far fewer resources available to them. The only things left were the Daoguard Towers themselves!
Boom! Ning suddenly soared into the skies, then landed down upon the peak of a distant mountain. He then sat down in the lotus position, establishing a Sword Dao Domain that completely separated him from the world beyond. A region of one billion kilometers transformed into a blurry field of light, preventing Exalt Bowenya and the others from seeing anything else.
“He’s started to train again?”
“He’s about to die. He’s still training?”
Everyone, even Exalt Bowenya, felt their hearts clench. When Ning had first entered Purgatory, he had done the same thing. He sat down in the lotus position and meditated until he mastered his Wind Sword Dao. After defeating the first castle, he had then entered another lengthy training session which had concluded with his mastery of the Storm Sword Dao! And after breaking through the spacetime formation, he had trained for over a hundred chaos cycles before mastering the Illusion Sword Dao.
Each time Ning concluded a battle, he would begin a training session… and each time, the training session would be quite long. Now that Ning had finished his first big battle in the Sacred Realm, he actually started to train once again. Exalt Bowenya and the others had no idea as to how they should respond!
Ning sat there in the lotus position at a peak below the Sacred Mountains, his Sword Dao Domain severing this peak from the world around him.
“Time to continue.” Ning summoned another Sithe Hegemon and began to flip through his memories. Time continued to flow on. Each Hegemon consumed quite a bit of time, ranging from four hours to as long as five days!
Whoosh. Ning willed a Sithe descendant to appear before him. This one was fairly handsome but quite skinny. When he saw Ning, a shocked look appeared on his face. “Daolord Darknorth!” Next, a maddened and hateful look appeared in his eyes.
“Not good.” Ning sensed a bit of danger. He hurriedly retreated while taking out a large astral treasure and placing it before him.
BOOM! The skinny Emperor suddenly exploded, causing a terrifying surge of power to blast outwards. This explosion was on par with the might of the Blazesun Ruler, and it smashed directly onto the astral treasure in front of Ning. The treasure was smashed backwards and sent flying more than ten million kilometers before Ning managed to regain control over it and bring it back.
“He actually detonated a treasure he was carrying on him to launch one final attack. He knew that his chances of killing me were slim, but he was still willing to sacrifice his life?” Ning shook his head, murmuring softly to himself. He had clearly seen the maddened, hateful look in that Sithe man’s eyes; the man had truly viewed him as a hated foe! Ning, however, didn’t feel any enmity towards them. Strictly speaking, the ‘Sithe descendants’ were actually natives to this Chaosverse who had been born and bred here, just like Ning himself.
Another half-month went by. Ning continued to summon Sithe descendants and flip through their memories. On this day, he summoned a female Emperor. She was similarly startled when she saw Ning appear before her, then moved to self-detonate without hesitate.
“Freeze.” This time, Ning moved much more decisively. Previously, he would chat a bit with his prisoners to shake their willpower. This time, he instantly sent a tendril of the sword-intent from his Illusion Sword Dao into her body.
The maddened look quickly disappeared from the crazed female Emperor eyes and was replaced by a lost look. Ning shook his head, his mood poor. He began to scan the female Emperor’s memories.
This woman was known as Empress Gracevoid. Her path of cultivation had been one filled with setbacks. She had originally been a mortal physician, but a stroke of karmic luck had set her upon the path of cultivation. Her heart was filled with kindness and benevolence, and she chose the Daoist title ‘Gracevoid’ because her clan’s apothecary shop had been named the ‘Gracevoid Hall’. The title ‘Fairy Gracevoid’ or ‘Daoist Gracevoid’ had accompanied her as she had progressed up the path of cultivation.
She bore love for all life, including even the grass and the plants. Her heart was filled with love for everyone, but most of all she loved the homeland where she had been born and bred.
However… this battle against Ning was a battle which could not be avoided. One side had to die! The Sithe viewed the cultivators as their mortal enemies, and Exalt Bowenya himself had stated that if they lost, this dimension would still end up being annihilated by that cultivator Daolord! Her homeland would be completely destroyed. Empress Gracevoid couldn’t accept this, and so she swore she would kill this demon known as ‘Daolord Darknorth’! She would be willing to pay any price needed to accomplish this.
“The greater the love, the deeper the hate.” Ning let out a sigh. “Hand over all of your treasures,” Ning said, and the illusion-trapped Empress obediently handed over all of her treasures.
Ning didn’t really care about the treasures themselves, of course. His worry was that this Empress would once more attempt to commit suicide! “Now wake up,” Ning said softly.
The Empress trembled slightly, regaining her clarity of mind. When she saw Ning, she once more prepared to launch a desperate assault… but then, she realized she had no treasures on her at all. If she simply tried to self-detonate herself, the resulting blast wouldn’t be enough to threaten even a mere Hegemon, to say nothing of this terrifying Daolord.
“Why must you act like this upon seeing me?” Ning shook his head. “Another Emperor tried to do the same earlier. I was a bit slower and wasn’t able to save him.”
“There’s no need to shed crocodile tears,” the Empress said angrily. “You cultivators are our mortal enemies. Once we lose the war, our home will be finished!”
“I, Daolord Darknorth, swear on my very life itself that even if I do gain victory in the Sacred Realm, I’ll leave without harming any of the six mortal realms here,” Ning swore.
The Empress was stunned. There was no way to falsify a lifeblood oath.
“I never wanted to destroy your world,” Ning said. “And you aren’t even true Sithe. Technically speaking, you belong to the same ‘race’ as me. The Sithe are the outsiders, not us.”
“Huh?!” The Empress couldn’t believe it.
“N-no… I’m a Sithe descendant. There’s no question about that!” the Empress argued.
“Even so, you are fundamentally different from them on an intrinsic level. Haven’t you noticed yet? They treat you as nothing more than a pawn.” Ning felt pity for these Sithe progeny. He held both Empress Gracevoid and the man who had self-detonated in high regard, even though they all wanted him dead.