Book 31, Starflow River, Chapter 10 – Ji Ning’s Illusions
“How is this possible? I could clearly sense that I was quite awake. I wasn’t…” Daolord Laya’s voice slowly trailed off. Moments later, he let out a low sigh. “What a terrifying illusion. It actually was able to seep into my soul without me even realizing it. The things that I thought I saw were actually all illusory. My Dao-heart still isn’t strong enough, allowing my soul and truesoul to be infiltrated without me knowing it.”
“Haha, it seems you are fairly weak. Let me show you what I have up my sleeves.” The Ninedust Sectlord laughed as he walked towards the floating wooden bridge. After taking two steps, he turned to look at Ji Ning. “Darknorth, if I also end up walking astray you need to grab me.”
“Of course.” Ning nodded.
“But of course, I’m convinced that my Dao-heart will render me invulnerable.” Ninedust briskly walked forwards and stepped onto the floating wooden bridge. As soon as he did so, he too suddenly came to a halt and stopped moving.
He stood there for over two hours without moving. “Hmph.” A hint of a smile appeared on the Ninedust Sectlord’s face. “What a formidable illusion. However, in the end I was able to break it.” He began to walk forwards as well, but he actually began to turn and move straight towards the waters of the lake.
Ning was badly startled by his sudden movements. Fortunately, Ning had kept a close eye on him. Ning immediately stretched his arm out by dozens of meters, latching onto the Ninedust Sectlord’s silver robes and grabbed him back.
“Why the hell did you grab me? I was perfectly fine.” The Ninedust Sectlord looked at Ning.
“Calm down and think it over again.” Ning didn’t even try to explain.
“I’m sure I didn’t…” The Ninedust Sectlord’s voice trailed off as well. Clearly, he was just now slowly shaking off the effects of the illusion. Moments later, an astonished look appeared on his face. “That was absolutely terrifying. I’ve never encountered an illusion like that. I was trapped by the illusion, and I really did shake its effects off, but… it continued to slowly seep into my soul and truesoul, affecting both.”
“Right.” The nearby Daolord Laya concurred, “This is different from ordinary illusions. It looks dangerous, but all that is just for the sake of allowing it to disguise its soul-seeping abilities.”
“Mm. You were able to last for an hour before having your soul infiltrated.” Ning then looked towards the Ninedust Sectlord. “Ninedust, you lasted for two hours before being infiltrated. It seems your Dao-heart is slightly tougher than brother Laya’s.”
“But still not strong enough.” The Ninedust Sectlord shook his head. “I nearly died.”
“I nearly died as well.” Laya shivered with fear.
“Darknorth, I want to try it again. The way in which this illusion seeps into the soul and truesoul truly is an excellent way for one to temper one’s Dao-heart,” the Ninedust Sectlord said immediately. “I can’t give up a chance like this. Help keep an eye on me and make sure I don’t walk into the lake.”
“I wish to give it a try as well, Darknorth. Give me a hand.” Daolord Laya also wanted to rely on this opportunity to temper his Dao-heart.
They had a Heartforce Cultivator watching over them. What had they to fear? And so, the two of them both stepped onto the wooden bridge… and once again they eventually began to walk towards the water of the lake like idiots. In the end, Ning had to drag them back again and again.
“This illusion really is something special.” Ning himself walked onto the bridge, then sat down in the lotus position and allowed the illusions to invade his soul as he began to analyze them.
His heartforce was maintained and nurtured by the power of his absolutely enormous heartworld, one which was comparable to an entire territory in size. There was simply no way an illusion on this level could shake such powerful heartforce, giving Ning the opportunity to closely study from it.
During the past three hundred millennia within the Starflow River area, Ning had often spent time analyzing Daolord Featherdress’ [Dreamworld] technique while researching the Dreamdust runes he had encountered in Dreamdust Way. He was still fairly weak in the art of illusions compared to other Heartforce Cultivators at the same level of power, but he could still be considered a grandmaster in this area when compared to others. The illusory power of this wooden bridge was actually close to that of the [Dreamworld] technique, but of course it was far from being a match for the Dreamdust runes. The Dreamdust runes were comparable to Ning’s azureflower seal in profundity, and the illusions of this wooden bridge were far from being a match for it, making it easier for Ning to analyze and study it.
With but a thought, Ning caused time to accelerate a hundred times faster than normal in the area around him. Given his current level of power, it was easy for him to use his heartworld projection to accelerate time around him.
In truth, many powerful Daolords were capable of this, including the likes of Daolord Solesky. Even a number of Immortals and Fiendgods in the Three Realms were capable of this; for example, the ‘Bridge of Despair’ in the Underworld Kingdom had this function. However, causing time to accelerate a hundred times faster than normal for himself was extremely difficult, simply because he was extremely powerful. Generally speaking, only a powerful Daolord could accelerate time by that much.
Time continued to flow on. After spending more than thirty years, the Ninedust Sectlord finally managed to completely traverse the wooden bridge. Daolord Laya actually took eight hundred years before accomplishing the same.
“I thought that we had already spent quite some time there. Who would’ve thought that Darknorth would spend even more time than us?” The Ninedust Sectlord stood at the other side of the bridge, waiting helplessly as he looked at Ning.
“Let’s just keep waiting,” Daolord Laya laughed. The reason why Ning was staying at the bridge for so long was because he was analyzing and researching its various illusions. It must be remembered that Ning had rescued Ninedust and Laya on multiple occasions already, and so the two of them now waited for him without complaint. In truth, for Daolords even a wait of ten thousand years was nothing.
After nine thousand years had gone past, Ning finally rose to stand up on the bridge once more. “Interesting.” Ning revealed a smile. “The [Dreamworld], the Dreamdust runes, and the illusions of this bridge… in the end, it was the illusions of the bridge that helped me out the most.”
The [Dreamworld] really didn’t suit him very well at all, as it was primarily tailored for Daolord Featherdress’ rather soft and insidious approach. The Dreamdust runes were simply too profound, almost unfathomably so. The bridge illusions were close to the [Dreamworld] illusions in power, but had been created by the master of this palace, the Thundersouth Hegemon. Although the Thundersouth Hegemon’s strongest Dao lay in thunder and he wasn’t particularly skilled in illusions, he was still close to Daolord Featherdress in ability. More importantly, his style was closer to Ning’s own style.
“To use a powerful illusion to attract the enemy’s attention while catching them offguard and infiltrating their souls… and to lead them astray just as they are feeling confident about having defeated the illusions. What a nasty technique.” Ning laughed. “My own illusions have finally started to take shape, thanks to learning some of the tricks of the wooden bridge.”
“Since my illusionary arts have gradually taken form in the Starflow Realm, then let them be called… the [Dreamstar] arts.” Ning was quite pleased. Now that he had developed his [Dreamstar] illusions, they would be of great use to him in battle.
The [Heartforce Eradicator] was simply too brutish; either the opponent resisted it or died outright! If the opponent resisted it and was able to maintain mental clarity against it, the [Heartforce Eradicator] would have no effect at all.
The [Dreamstar] art, however, was able to have a constant impact on the enemy in battle. So long as the enemy was slowed down or distracted even slightly, Ning would have the chance to gain victory.
“The [Dreamstar] still needs further perfecting. If I can learn a bit more from the Dreamdust runes, I might become a figure like Daolord Featherdress, capable of using heartforce abilities to become the most powerful Daolord of my generation.” Ning knew that he was still far off from this goal; his technique was weaker than even the [Dreamworld] technique, to say nothing of Daolord Featherdress’ most powerful technique, the [Featherdress Soulthrall Song].
“Darknorth, you finally stood up.” The Ninedust Sectlord called out to him from the far end of the bridge, “Hurry up. We wanted to go exploring this place years ago, since we know that there’s no more danger inside. The only thing waiting for us is fortune and treasure, but we decided to wait for you instead. Now that’s brotherhood for you, eh?”
“Sure, I guess.” Ning strode towards them atop the wooden bridge. “But I saved you and grabbed you back from the brink of death more than ten thousand times. Now that’s real brotherhood, am I right?”
“Yeah, but did you have to do it in a way where you kept on grabbing me by the neck?” the Ninedust Sectlord groused.
“You sure are picky about how you want your life to be saved,” Ning said.
The nearby Daolord Laya watched as Ning and Ninedust bickered and jested. He knew that his relationship with Ning hadn’t reached such a level yet; the latter two had experienced multiple life-and-death experiences, after all.
The group departed the wooden bridge area. “Based on my race’s records, there shouldn’t be much danger left in the following area,” Daolord Laya said. “However, that’s only assuming we aren’t greedy, whatever that means.”
Whoosh. Suddenly, the tendrils of Eternal lightning off in the distance all began to gather together off in the distance. Soon, an enormous lightning giant was standing in front of them once more. The lightning guardian stared at them, then revealed a smile. “I didn’t expect there would be a Heartforce Cultivator in your ranks. Excellent. Your name is Darknorth, yes?”
“Darknorth greets you, milord Guardian,” Ning said respectfully.
“You were able to take my third strike head-on, and the illusions were unable to affect you as well. Mm. You are permitted to choose any one treasure from the Thundersouth Palace. Remember, you are only allowed to take one. As for the two of you, you aren’t’allowed to take any treasures at all,” the lightning guardian said. “Remember, don’t be greedy. Greed leads to death!”
Ning raised his eyebrows. So this was what ‘don’t be greedy’ meant.
“Kid, before my master went off to take part in the great war, he left four of these palaces behind scattered throughout the Terror Starsea. If you can pass the trials of all four, a truly large fortune will await you.” The lightning guardian smiled mysteriously, then dissipated into countless streaks of Eternal lightning that fled off into every direction.
Ning was stunned, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry. The four palaces were scattered throughout the Terror Starsea? Perhaps during the Dawn War, the Terror Starsea wasn’t very dangerous yet, but it was now a place where even Hegemons wouldn’t dare tread. How could he possibly go out and search for the other three palaces?
“You are actually only allowed to choose one treasure? The two of us aren’t allowed to choose any?” The Ninedust Sectlord glared at Ning.
“Haha! Remember how you won some treasures in that cave, but I ended up with nothing at all?” Ning smirked. The Ancient ancestor had left nothing for him at all. “What comes around, goes around. This time, it’s your turn to leave empty-handed.”