Book 28, Archaeus Region, Chapter 25 – Three Great Leaders
Both Ji Ning and Solewind kept a cautious watch as they advanced through the world of the inner reaches.
“Brother Darknorth, are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Heartlord Solewind suddenly stared at one of the corpses in front of them, a corpse that was seated in the lotus position and emanating an aura of faint golden light. The awesome aura emanating from that corpse was boundlessly majestic, and it would forever be an aura of true eternity. A total of sixteen treasures had been placed before that corpse, and each of the sixteen radiated extraordinary power.
“Are you talking about how the corpses are divided up into three groups?” Ning asked.
“Right.” Heartlord Solewind nodded. “The thirty-five corpses here seem to be divided up into three groups, each of which had a leader. This corpse before us, the one radiating golden light… it is one of the leaders. I have the feeling that he was a Heartforce Cultivator who gained eternity through that path.”
Ning revealed a shocked look. “A Heartforce Cultivator? Are you sure about this?”
“I’m absolutely sure.” Solewind’s eyes were flickering with excitement as he stared at the glowing golden corpse.
Ning couldn’t help but feel truly stunned, because Heartforce Cultivators truly were incredibly rare. The entire Heartforce Palace only had a few Daolords. For a Heartforce Cultivator to become an Eternal Emperor… Ning had never even heard of such a figure. And yet, seated right before him was the corpse of an Eternal Emperor who was a Heartforce Cultivator.
Ning and Solewind couldn’t help but walk towards that seated corpse. Suddenly, a series of invisible ripples swept outwards and brushed past the two of them.
“Eh?” Ning suddenly sensed a powerful force push back at him, making it impossible for him to move forward by a single step.
“It seems as though there are no ties of destiny between this ancient power and myself.” Ning smiled.
Solewind, however, suffered no impediments at all. He glanced at Ning. “Brother Darknorth, although there are thirty-five other corpses here, I’ve already decided that I’m going to choose this one and give it a try.”
“If you’ve made up your mind… all I can say is, be careful.” Ning nodded.
All thirty-five of these ancient powers had peacefully welcomed death, leaving behind all of their treasures and legacies.
If you wanted to acquire them, you would have to overcome the trials and challenges they had laid out! These trials were extremely dangerous, and some were even lethal. Daolord Owlbath had long ago warned them that many entered the inner reaches and then died there, never to return.
“He is one of the three leaders within the inner reaches, and the only Eternal Emperor who was also a Heartforce Cultivator.” Heartlord Solewind stared at the towering, seated figure with a blazing look in his eyes. “No one in the Heartforce Palace has ever been able to become an Eternal Emperor through heartforce. Now that I’ve finally found someone who was able to do this… I’ll risk everything I have. If I can learn some of the techniques this ancient power used, I might have a shot at gaining eternity in the future as well.”
Heartforce Cultivators had the most difficult path of all! The Sword Palace, Spacetime Palace, and other palaces all had cultivators who were able to become Eternal Emperors. The Heartforce Palace was the only palace which had never produced a single one. In fact, the entire concept was unheard of.
And yet… here in the inner reaches of the Genesis Lands of this alternate universe, they had discovered the corpse of a deceased Heartforce Cultivator who had reached that level.
“I’m heading over there.” Solewind looked at Ning. “Be careful.”
“Mm.” Ning nodded.
Heartlord Solewind began to move forwards once more. Whoosh! A rippling wave of spacetime swept past Solewind, causing him to completely disappear.
Ning stood there for a brief moment. Sensing that the powerful barrier in front of him was not going to disappear, he chose to turn and leave. He was still very weak in terms of heartforce; clearly, he didn’t meet the minimum threshold this deceased figure had left behind for those who wished to acquire his treasures.
Ning advanced by himself through the inner reaches. The more he inspected those thirty-five corpses, the more he got the feeling that they did indeed belong to three different factions.
As for the three most powerful corpses, they had auras of incredible might that were absolutely on par with the almighty Hegemon’s.
“The second leader.” Ning stared at an enormous four-legged beast that had a pair of curved horns on its head. Its aura was filled with the intent of endless annihilation, and just looking at the beast made Ning’s heart clench. Even in death, its eyes seemed cold, lofty, and proud. This was a creature who was unwilling to bow its head to anyone. Behind it were five Eternal Emperors that looked like its retainers.
“The third leader.” After walking forwards for a long period of time, Ning raised his head and stared at the third leader. What he saw caused his eyes to light up. This third leader was a sword-wielder!
He saw a towering man standing there, both hands clenched around an enormous greatsword that was a deep blue color. The hilt of the sword was pressed against his chest while the tip leaned against ground. The man himself stood there like the pillar which could hold up an entire world! He had a distant gaze in his dead, peaceful eyes. Anyone who looked at him would get the feeling that he would probably be able to survive even the annihilation of the universe itself.
And yet… this grandmaster of the Dao of the Sword, a man who emanated an incredibly dense and heavy aura of sword-intent… had died here as well.
Behind him stood two other men. One was a white-robed man with a smile on his face who carried three swords on his back; a violet sword, a golden sword, and a white sword. He stood there, emanating an aura of ephemeral grace, and his invisible aura of sword-intent seemed similarly ephemeral.
The other man was dressed in azure armor and had a mask on his face, revealing only a pair of eyes that were filled with hatred. Behind him there were nine enormous blood-colored swords that had been plunged into the earth, and every single sword carried an incredibly powerful aura of murder.
“The greatsword-wielding leader was able to convince two other Eternal Emperors of the Dao of the Sword to stand behind him as they died. The three of them had to be incredibly close friends or family,” Ning mused.
An absolutely overwhelming amount of power could be used to cause other major powers to serve you, much as how the Eternal Emperors of the Brightshore kingdom all served the almighty Hegemon. But when everyone knew that death was certain… continued servitude was no longer contingent on mere power alone.
If you knew you were going to die but still chose to stand behind someone, it most likely meant that you felt tremendous amounts of affection for that person.
“Eh?” Ning’s gaze suddenly shifted to a nearby mountain range, located quite close to the three towering masters of the Dao of the Sword. The entire side of the mountain range had been completely carved flat, and the surface was filled with multiple paintings of that greatsword-wielding man. There were paintings of him in battle, paintings of him smiling, and even paintings of him drinking wine in a leisurely manner.
There were a total of nineteen of these paintings, and Ning could sense the deep emotions that had been infused into every stroke. There was an intense sense of longing and wistfulness in those paintings which hadn’t lessened at all despite the passage of countless years. Clearly, the artist truly missed the greatsword-wielding expert very much.
“Who painted this?” Ning mused. “It seems as though the artist had an extremely close relationship to the deceased.”
“Later, I’ll definitely have to go take a closer look at him.” Ning glanced at the greatsword-wielding expert.
It must be understood that the greatsword-wielding expert was one of the three dead leaders. When Ning looked at him, Ning could sense an aura that was not one whit inferior to that of the almighty Hegemon’s! The two other Eternal Emperors stood directly behind the greatsword-wielder, and the trials the three had left behind were actually linked as well. If Ning moved just a little bit closer, he would be drawn into a danger-filled trial grounds.
Ning had tested things out already. When he moved closer to the corpses, he hadn’t been pushed back by any invisible surges of power… but he knew that if moved any further in that direction, he would immediately be drawn into a world of trials.
“They really did leave behind quite a few treasures.” Ning couldn’t help but sigh.
For one, the greatsword which the leader was leaning on emanated an aura of incredible density and ponderance. Ning felt certain that this sword had to be a Universe treasure! The weapons which the two experts behind him were wielding were comparatively weaker, but they also had other treasures which had been placed next to their corpses.
As for the leader himself, there was a total of twelve treasures which had been placed in front of him.
Thirty-five corpses, three of which belonged to experts of the Dao of the Sword.
Still, Ning was in no rush. He continued his explorations, moving to investigate the other corpses. He even spent a bit of time inspecting the scars of battle, because he was already gaining some insights from what he had seen thus far.
The canyon wind howled through the mountains, carrying with it a mysterious, ancient aura.
“The wind.” Ning stood there in the center of the canyon, eyes shut as he focused on everything around him.
The world here was distorted and shattered, and spacetime itself was in disarray. Ning had entered this world, which was nothing more than something created accidentally due to the battles between those major powers. It wasn’t an actual trial-world, and so it wasn’t that dangerous.
Ning strode through the distorted fields of spacetime, avoiding the most dangerous places as he continuously meditated on everything he saw.
“Is this the nature of spacetime?” Ning murmured softly.
Fire blazed throughout this area. There was the corpse of a major power seated in the lotus position, and everything around him for a million kilometers was bathed in endless flames.
This major power had died long ago, but his Dao was eternal. As a result, it continuously attracted and drew in flames from the surrounding world, causing the conflagration to burn perpetually.
Ning stepped into the flames.
The closer he moved towards that major power, the hotter the flames burned. As Ning walked through the flames, he could sense a hint of an eternal Dao of fire which whispered through the tendrils of fire. Ning was able to learn much as he carefully attuned himself to each flickering flame.
“Fire…” Ning murmured to himself.