The cave had been completely silent, with Ji Ning and the other three retainers completely absorbed in the profound mysteries of the Dao contained within the scars on the wall. Su Youji’s sudden shout startled all four of them, and they turned to look at her as she ran towards Ning, her face filled with excitement.
“What is it, Youji?” Ning rose to his feet and began to walk towards her.
“The white-robed Hegemon was absolutely incredible. He’s just… just…” Su Youji was so excited she could barely speak properly. “Master, you have to test it out for yourself.”
“Of course he was incredible. He was a Hegemon!” Ning looked at her. “When I moved towards him, I could sense the field of illusions surrounding him. That’s why I told you to go to him and meditate there.”
“That’s not it!” Su Youji repeatedly shook her head. “Master, you probably didn’t move too close to the Hegemon’s body, right?”
“I did not.” Ning shook his head. As soon as he sensed the field of illusions start to affect him, he immediately elected to keep a safe distance from it.
“Master, if you had moved closer you would’ve found out for yourself.” Su Youji said quickly, “The closer you are, the more marvelous those illusions are. My master, Feixian the Exalted, was skilled in the arts of charm and control, and she was also incredibly skilled in the art of illusions. Do you know what the apex of mastery over illusions is?”
“The apex?” Ning frowned.
“The apex of illusions… is reality!” Su Youji’s eyes were filled with excitement. “With but a thought, you can create illusions that are as real as reality itself. That represents the utmost apex of mastery over illusions, a level at which even most Eternal Emperors wouldn’t be able to tell the illusions apart from reality and thus would easily die within the dream. I feel certain that this white-robed Hegemon’s mastery over illusions must have reached this level.
Ning’s face paled slightly. The apex of illusions was reality? If you couldn’t even tell the illusions apart from reality, then it really would be easy for you to perish.
“The closer I moved towards him, the more real the illusions became,” Su Youji said. “Although this Hegemon died long ago and these illusions are naturally generated by his corpse, I can tell just how terrifying his mastery over illusions must have been when he was alive. I’m fairly weak, and so I wasn’t able to move much closer to him. You are much stronger than me, Master. I’m sure that once you move close to him, you’ll experience for yourself the illusions which are as real as reality itself. Given that the Hegemon has already died, these illusions shouldn’t prove to be much of a threat to you.”
“Master, you have to go test it out for yourself.” Su Youji looked at Ning eagerly.
“Reality, eh?” Ning felt rather intrigued as well.
“After you experience it personally, you have to describe it for me. I have the feeling that my mastery over illusions is already close to that of my own master, Feixian the Exalted. It would be incredible if I could surpass her in this area!” Su Youji let out a sigh. “Thank goodness these illusions cannot attack people.”
Generally speaking, experts who relied on illusions used them to mystify and trap their opponents, then delivered a mortal strike to slay them! The white-robed Hegemon, however, was dead. His illusions could mystify and entrap them, but there was no mechanism for actually killing them; the Hegemon himself was dead, after all.
“I’ll give it a try.” Ning walked towards the white-robed Hegemon.
As Ning moved closer and closer to the white-robed Hegemon, the illusions slowly began to fill his mind. Reality began to gradually dissipated, replaced by illusions which began to seep into Ning’s mind. However, Ning’s azureflower mist energy had only grown even more pure after he became a Daolord of the Second Step, which meant that his soul was naturally on a higher level than that of most Daolords of the Fourth Step. Given that his heartforce was at the verge of the sixth stage, he really was quite skilled in resisting illusions.
“Impressive.” Ning continued his advance. Reality around him was beginning to fade away, while the illusions were becoming increasingly real. Dazzling women appeared by his side, as did rare magic treasures and vile demons…
“I can actually no longer tell apart what is real and what is not.” Ning remained clear-minded, but he could no longer see any flaws in the illusions. He was now completely surrounded by illusory images, with a group of seductive beauties carrying platters of wine and food towards him.
“Break!” Ning’s Dao-heart could not be shaken by such things, and so he forcibly dispelled the illusions around him. But as he continued to advance towards the white-robed Hegemon’s corpse, the illusions came sweeping towards him once more. This time, they were even more persistent and pervasive.
“If I was in an actual life-or-death battle, illusions on this level would be able to affect me for a brief period of time… and during that brief moment, I would probably be struck and even killed.” Ning was secretly amazed. What terrifying illusions! Thankfully, the white-robed Hegemon was already dead. It didn’t matter how long the illusions were able to trap him for; the only thing that mattered was that he could still awaken from them, given enough time.
“Master is as impressive as always.” Su Youji watched as Ning advanced towards the white-robed Hegemon’s corpse. She couldn’t help but feel rather excited by his progress. “He really is incredible. He’s made it much farther than I did, and is much closer to the Hegemon’s corpse. I already reached my limit much earlier; if I tried to proceed, my will and mind would’ve grown blurry.”
Su Youji knew very well that when surrounded by passive illusions, she could allow herself to be trapped by them but her soul and her mind had to maintain a minimum level of clarity. If she couldn’t even do that, then she would gradually forget who she even was and would be forever trapped in an illusory world, never to escape.
Ning was finding it harder and harder to resist the illusions as well.
“Break. Break. Break!” Ning had to spend two full seconds in order to forcibly dispel the illusions this time. A stunned look was in his eyes. This was absolutely terrifying.
Two full seconds? In a fight at his level, he would’ve died countless times over by now.
“I’m going to keep advancing. I want to see just how powerful these illusions can become.” Ning’s Dao-heart remained unaffected, and his soul and his mind remained quite clear. Even though he was finding it harder and harder to break free from the illusions, he still knew that he was Ji Ning of the Three Realms. So long as his mind was still intact, he could continue advancing. As soon as he felt his mind begin to slip, he would immediately begin to withdraw!
As Ning took another step forward, the surrounding illusions suddenly seemed to explode and transform. The world he was in was a world of singing birds and fragrant flowers. He was in a village within a beautiful mountain valley. The forests had a few villagers within them, and Ning was an ordinary village youth who made his living as a woodcutter…
“This illusion…” Ning was dressed in rough clothes and had a woodcutter’s axe over his shoulders. He stared at his surroundings, puzzled.
Off in the distance was a stream of water that looked clear and refreshing, with a few small fish swimming about in it. He could make out every single scale with perfect clarity.
Next to him was a stalk of bamboo, emanating a fragrant scent. Beneath his feet was a patch of wild grass that was covered in glistening, jewel-like dew.
“Erbao! Erbao!” An old woman’s voice rang out from afar.
“Mom’s calling to me.” This thought suddenly entered Ning’s mind.
“This illusion is absolutely terrifying. I feel as though I’ve been reborn into a new life and a new world.” Ning was stunned. “Everything seems so completely real. The smiles of the villagers, the movements of the fish, the aura of the natural world… everything seems perfectly real.” This really did seem like an actual, real world.
“Break for me!” Ning’s will was roaring loudly. BOOM! The illusory world trembled for a brief moment. The distant woman, the villagers, and even the village dogs all twisted and distorted for a brief instant.
“I said break!” Ning’s will bellowed out again. “Break! Break! Break!” Ning’s will continued to bellow furiously. He was still clear-minded. Although his will was bound and constrained by this illusory world, Ning still had the power to struggle to break free.
Finally, the illusory world shattered into tiny pieces.
“I took eighteen full seconds before I was able to escape?” Ning was rather stunned. He was incredibly strong in terms of resisting illusions, even amongst elite Daolords, but he had still been trapped for nearly twenty seconds before breaking free. This Hegemon was simply terrifying.
“Another step.” Ning took another step forwards. “Hmm. Have I reached the end?” Ning continued to advance, only to find that the power of the illusions had ceased to increase. No matter how further he advanced, the power did no change in the slightest. By now, Ning was less than three meters away from the white-robed Hegemon’s corpse. He was prevented from advancing any further by a formation, but the power of the illusions didn’t increase at all.
“Master, you were able to make it to the Hegemon’s corpse?” The distant Su Youji was rather excited.
“Yes.” Ning nodded. “I’ll meditate for a time. No need to disturb me.”
“Understood.” Su Youji nodded.
Things were actually still quite tough for Ning, because he was being repeatedly swept up into the illusions and forced to repeatedly break free from them. “These illusions were merely created by the Hegemon’s corpse. If he was still alive, how terrifying would his illusions be? And these illusions truly are marvelous. I can’t see any flaws in them whatsoever; they look just the same as reality itself. Fortunately, my soul is strong enough that I can maintain a modicum of clarity.”
Ning sat down in the lotus position, no longer fighting back against the illusions and allowing himself to be swept into that illusory world. “Each time I enter this illusion, I feel as though I’ve been reborn into a new world. I can’t see any flaws in the illusions at all and have to struggle to free myself. This is a good way to temper my Dao-heart and strengthen my mind. Perhaps it will be of assistance to me in breaking through to the sixth stage of heartforce.”
What Ning did not realize was that this white-robed Hegemon had used his ultimate mastery of the Dao of Light to develop his own technique, the ‘Allworld Tribulation’, and then used it to gain eternity for himself! As soon as he broke through to the Eternal level, he became a Hegemon! As a Daolord, he was a terrifyingly strong figure who had merged together two Supreme Daos. After finally mastering his own ultimate Dao, the Allworld Tribulation, he had become a truly terrifying Hegemon.
After he died, his eternal corpse naturally continued to hold some of the power and aura of his Allworld Tribulation within it. When he was still alive, the natural illusions emanating from his body would’ve completely swept Ning into their grasp. He would’ve forgotten himself, forever lost within the illusions.
The remaining power in his corpse was nothing more than a tiny fraction of the true power this Hegemon had once wielded.