Book 31, Starflow River, Chapter 9 – The Second Danger
“Darknorth!” As the Ninedust Sectlord dodged behind Daolord Laya, he discovered to his amazement that Ji Ning wasn’t doing the same. He knew very well that Ning was roughly on the same level of power as him. If he didn’t dare to take it head-on, how was it that Darknorth did? But there was nothing he could do except worry; the final attack of the lightning guardian was already descending upon them.
BOOM! The enormous hand descended upon them like the firmament of heaven itself. This strike contained the full force the lightning guardian was capable of mustering, and it had been reinforced by the wards of the palace itself.
Rings of white light appeared around Daolord Laya and the Ninedust Sectlord, allowing them to endure and withstand the strike.
Whoosh. The lightning guardian withdrew his palm, then glanced at the three and smiled. “I didn’t expect that one of you would be able to endure my palm through his own power. It seems you have quite an impressive protective divine ability, young fellow. One more trial awaits you, set down by my master. I hope you all survive it.”
The lightning guardian took a single step, then dispersed into countless streaks of lightning that quickly scattered in each direction. No more was the path in front of them blocked off by any lightning at all.
“Impressive, Darknorth. You actually took it head-on.” The Ninedust Sectlord walked over to Ning.
“According to my racial records, only the most supreme of Daolords can endure such a blow head-on. I’m impressed, Darknorth.” Daolord Laya truly was amazed. The power of that strike was far beyond what ordinary Eternal Emperors were capable of; that was a full-power strike from the lightning guardian which was reinforced by the palace’s formations!
“Eh, I simply have a decent protective divine ability. My entire body is still numb from that strike, though. My legs are about to give out underneath me.” Ning’s legs really were wobbling, but he laughed. “If that lightning giant launched multiple attacks against me, I wouldn’t have been able to endure it.”
“Just like that, I used up a boneseal which one of our Emperor’s personally made for me.” Daolord Laya laughed, “If there were multiple attacks, no number of boneseals would’ve been able to protect me.”
Ning couldn’t help but sigh in amazement as well. His divine body was close to but not quite on par with a low-grade Eternal weapon. He had mainly relied on his Hegemon armor to endure this hit. Alas, the treasures he needed to upgrade his protective divine ability were simply too rare and hard to find. He did acquire Dragonfish Ki, but he needed to find the rest as well. He needed to upgrade his divine body to make it a middle-grade Eternal treasure as quickly as possible.
Ning, Ninedust, and Daolord Laya followed the winding hallways of the palace. The Thundersouth Palace was extremely large and quite beautiful. Every so often, they would see a few flickers of Eternal lightning swimming about them, but those lightning streaks all kept a long distance away from them. Clearly, now that they had survived the first trial the Eternal lightning would no longer cause any trouble for them.
“Halt!” Daolord Laya suddenly called out.
“Eh?” Ning and Ninedust came to a halt. In front of them was a lake that emanated an aura of freezing energy, and a faint layer of cold mist could be seen on its surface. There was a crooked wooden bridge which passed through the entire lake.
“The wooden bridge up ahead is the second dangerous trial which we will face in Thundersouth Palace, and the last one which could be life-threatening to us,” Daolord Laya said somberly. “This one is even more dangerous than the first one.”
“More dangerous?” Ning and Ninedust were both startled. Ninedust couldn’t help but frown. “You were already forced to use up an Emperor’s boneseal to survive the first one. Now you are telling me that this one is worse?”
“Yes.” Daolord Laya said somberly, “Quite a few of the more powerful Daolords of my race have visited Thundersouth Palace in their time. Each was given a single boneseal, but nearly half still ended up perishing here! It must be understood that there are two dangerous areas here. If you use up the boneseal during the first danger, you’d definitely survive it… and so the ones who didn’t all perished here.”
Ning and Ninedust felt their hearts clench. Nearly half of the Daolords had perished here?
“Still, I’m confident in my chances.” Daolord Laya smiled. “The Emperor said that I have better than a 70% chance of surviving. Don’t worry at all, gentlemen. I’ll go up there and give the wooden bridge a try. If I really am so unlucky as to die here, then you can simply leave. The invisibility formation my race set up is only directed outwards, not inwards.”
“Brother Laya, what is so dangerous about the wooden bridge?” Ning asked.
“Once you step onto the wooden bridge, you’ll be trapped within an illusory realm,” Daolord Laya said somberly. “A very terrifying one! If you allow yourself to be led astray and accidentally fall into the waters of the lake, then you’ll die without question.”
“I’m planning to use the illusions here to temper my Dao-heart. My chances of making it are extremely high; if I can strengthen my Dao-heart, it’ll be of help to me in my Daomerge in the future.” Daolord Laya had a resolute look in his eyes. He was preparing for the Daomerge. No matter what, he was determined to embark on this path.
“Illusions?” Ninedust blinked.
“A terrifying illusory realm?” Ning stared blankly at Daolord Laya. “And your chances of surviving it are roughly 70%?”
“…What’s with the strange looks on your faces?” Daolord Laya immediately said, “The Emperor felt that my chances were high, but there’s still a chance that I might fail. I can’t give up a chance like this to temper my Dao-heart. Don’t worry, so long as I can make it across safely, I’ll come back and help you across as well. Otherwise, the two of you would fall into the lake.”
Ning and Ninedust blinked again.
“You hear that, Darknorth? The second trial consists of illusions.” Ninedust laughed.
“And to think that I was feeling really nervous just now. Jeeze.” Ning shook his head and chuckled as well.
“What’s with the two of you?” Daolord Laya was puzzled.
The Ninedust Sectlord began to roar with laughter. “Brother Lay, let me give you a formal introduction of our friend Daolord Darknorth.”
“A formal introduction? An introduction of what?” Daolord Laya still didn’t understand.
“Brother Darknorth is exceedingly skilled in sword-arts, but you know that already. He also trains as a Heartforce Cultivator and is an extremely accomplished one.” The Ninedust Sectlord said smugly, “Just now, you were talking about helping a powerful Heartforce Cultivator survive deadly illusions… hah! I laughed so hard my teeth nearly fell out.”
Daolord Laya stared blankly. “A Heartforce Cultivator?” Heartforce Cultivators were pitifully raer; the Brightshore Kingdom was one of the six great powers of the Endless Territories, but it still had less than ten of them, and this was after the almighty Brightshore Hegemon had scoured the Endless Territories for talented World-level experts! The Starflow race naturally had even fewer Heartforce Cultivators. They had more than ten powerful Verge-level Daolords in this era, but not a single Heartforce Cultivator!
“Brother Laya…” Ning chuckled as well. With at hought, he summoned his heartworld projection and brought it down upon the area around them.
“A heartworld projection? Darknorth, you…” Moments later, Daolord Laya started to laugh as well. “Haha, I really made a fool of myself just now, didn’t I? Illusions really are nothing to brother Darknorth. Even if the master of the Thundersouth Palace personally cast his illusions over him, I suspect he still wouldn’t be phased in the slightest.”
Ning laughed. This really was the case. Only someone incredibly skilled in illusions would have a chance at affecting him; for example, an Eternal Emperor who was also a Heartforce Cultivator would be able to trap Ning within illusions. As for Hegemons who occasionally trained in illusions? Those illusions wouldn’t be able to affect powerful Daolords who were Heartforce Cultivators.
But of course, Hegemons wouldn’t need to go to that trouble. The almighty Brightshore Hegemon, for example, could use his mastery over spacetime to wipe out Ning with ease. But if he was to use illusions instead… Heartforce Cultivators really would have very little to fear. Ning’s best guess was that the master of Thundersouth Palace had been primarily focused on the Dao of Lightning.
“Darknorth, I do have one request,” Daolord Laya said.
“If there’s anything you need, just let me know,” Ning said.
“I want to borrow this opportunity to temper my Dao-heart. Supposedly, the illusions are very effective for that,” Daolord Laya said. “If I’m in any danger, please lend me a hand and ensure that I don’t fall into the lake.”
“Easily done.” Ning nodded.
Daolord Laya nodded back at him, then walked onto the wooden bridge. He came to an immediate halt after doing so, staying there for a full hour without moving at all.
Ning and Ninedust both waited patiently. Roughly one hour later, Daolord Laya’s gaze turned clear. A serious expression on his face, he began to carefully advance. However, without even realizing it he began to walk towards the edges of the wooden bridge. He clearly was walking askew, but he himself didn’t realize it. He walked closer and closer towards the lake and its white frozen mist, which seemed ready to reach out and swallow him alive.
“Careful.” Ning reached out with his arm, expanding it by dozens of meters. As his arm reached through the illusions, they immediately began to surge through it and begin to attempt to ensorcere his mind. But it was like the waters of a well splashing against the well’s stones; they had no affect at all. Ning was completely unmoved, and so he latched onto Daolord Laya by the back, then pulled him straight out.
Daolord Laya was stunned as he was pulled out of the wood bridge. “What’s going on?” He was stunned and couldn’t believe it. He turned to look at Ning. “My mind was clear. I had completely shaken off the effects of the illusions.”
“Shaken off? If it wasn’t for Darknorth, you would’ve walked straight into the lake by now,” the Ninedust Sectlord snickered.