Book 34, The Stone Hellephant Wall, Chapter 26 – Daobirth
“Here we are.” The black-robed man pointed off into the distance. Ji Ning followed his gaze, only to see a Daoist altar hanging in the air with nine pillars above it.
“How odd. This region is enormous, but it is completely empty. This Daoist altar is the only thing here.” Ning was rather puzzled, but he still followed the black-robed man as they flew towards the altar.
Whoosh. As soon as they landed atop the altar, Ning immediately smelled a certain fragrance pervade his nostrils. His mind grew sharper, and even his thinking speed began to quickly skyrocket. This was a marvelous effect that seemed quite similar to the Stone Censer of Reunion.
“This altar has the effect of helping you focus your mind and meditate on the Dao,” the black-robed man said. “An Autarch’s Dao is unfathomably profound and mysterious, after all. It would be extremely difficult for Eternal Emperors to even memorize it without help.”
“Sit here in the lotus position within the center of that circle.” The black-robed man pointed towards a circle that was roughly nine meters in diameter. “Sit in the lotus position there and view the surrounding area. There you shall find the Autarch’s Dao.”
“Yes, senior.” Ning felt his heartrate speed up. There were very, very few things which could make him feel so nervous and so eager. He walked into the circle, sat down in the lotus position, then stared at his surroundings.
“Eh?” Ning turned pale. The vast region around him, which had formerly been empty and devoid of all things, suddenly began to manifest traces and vestiges of a Dao.
Boom! A fiery red bird suddenly appeared in the empty void in front of him, spreading its wings and soaring towards the skies. Its Dao was vast and awe-inspiring, burning through all things and reducing them to ash. Nothing could withstand such a thing! This was a physical manifestation of a Dao.
In the past, Ning had once seen something similar when he had seen Daolord Windsource’s ‘Hundred Streams of the Windsource’. Compared to this firebird manifestation of the Dao, however, it was unfathomably punier. If the visualization of the ‘Hundred Streams of the Windsource’ was like a stream, then the fiery bird was like an endlessly vast sea!
“What’s that?” Ning turned his head slightly to glance towards a different direction. There he saw a pitch-black long saber that was extremely thin and sharp. The blade was aimed towards the heavens, and the saber was so vast that it was on par with that giant fiery bird. Its power was stately and reserved, but the edge of the blade seemed to be brimming with explosive power. This was a Saber Dao which inspired utter terror in Ning, a Dao that was just as capable of annihilating all in its path.
“The Sword Dao?” Next to the ‘Saber Dao’ hanging in the air, Ning also saw a similarly massive sword. This was a strange rapier-like sword that had had no blade at all, just an incredibly sharp tip. This rapier was massive and also pointed straight towards the heavens. This was a Sword Dao that focused on one aspect of the sword to the extreme. Given Ning’s mastery of the Dao of the Sword, he was immediately able to recognize that this ‘Rapier Dao’ was a path that represented the fusion of his Blood Drop stance and his Soleheart stance, and in both the wielder had completely eclipsed Ning’s current level of mastery. It represented an absolutely incomparable level of might.
A giant flaming bird, a long black saber, a rapier, a black mist, a feather, a blood-colored stream, a golden sun, a vast gray sky, a dazzling rainbow… these were the nine manifestations of the Daos that appeared in the vast void. All of these Daos were on par with each other.
“This is…” Ning raised his head to stare towards the skies above him.
In the heavens above him, he saw an incomparably massive hand. The fingers on this hand were extremely slender, while the fingernails were extremely sharp. The hand was formed into a claw-stance! This great claw was filled with an incomparably exalted and absolutely tyrannical aura that filled the heavens themselves. Ning could feel his very truesoul shuddering when he simply looked at the thing. Compared to that single massive hand, the other nine Daos were unfathomably weaker.
If those nine great Daos were like vast oceans, then that great hand was like the countless stars of the cosmos themselves. It truly was incomprehensibly more powerful.
“Do you understand now?” The black-robed man spoke out when he saw Ning raise his head upwards.
“I do not.” Ning suppressed the excitement he felt and halted his viewings. These Dao manifestations were of tremendous benefit to him. “However, this junior can tell that Autarch Bolin’s claw-arts were so powerful as to be completely unfathomable.”
“Ehehe.” The black-robed man laughed, “Long ago, my master Autarch Bolin relied on his claw-arts to become a Hegemon! However, he remained trapped at the Hegemon level for many years, unable to make a breakthrough, and so he began to meditate on other Daos as well. The Dao of Space, the Dao of Time, the Dao of the Sword, the Dao of the Saber, the Dao of Darkness… he mastered nine Daos in total on his own, reaching the Hegemon level in all of them.”
Ning was awestruck upon hearing this. To be able to reach the Hegemon level in a single Dao was already terrifyingly impressive. Autarch Bolin had done that for nine other Daos as well?!
“All Daos are linked; the more Daos he mastered, the deeper Master’s insights into the Dao of the Claw grew. Finally, all of those insights burst forth like water crashing through a shattered dam, and my master reached the Daobirth level, the level where ‘one Dao births many Daos’. He became an Autarch,” the black-robed man explained.
“One Dao births many Daos?” Ning was puzzled.
“Eternal Emperors must gain eternal Daos for themselves. As for Autarchs, they must reach the level where ‘one Dao births many Daos’, what we call the ‘Daobirth’ level,” the black-robed man explained. “At the apex, all Daos are linked together, which is why once you reach the Autarch level you will naturally gain insight into many Daos you had never even trained in before.”
“My master, for example, managed to reach the ‘Daobirth’ level through his Dao of the Claw. He established an alternate universe with the Dao of the Claw as its original prime essence, which then unfolded through the form of countless other Daos,” the black-robed man explained.
Ning now understood. How incredible. Did this mean that once he reached the apex of his Omega Sword Dao, it would be able to give birth to many other Daos, such as the Daos of metal, wood, water, fire, earth, spacetime, darkness, and light? The mere thought of it stunned him. How strong would his Omega Sword Dao have to become, for it to naturally give birth to countless other Daos?
“To go from the Hegemon level to the Autarch level is far, far too difficult,” the black-robed figure said. “Enough. I’ve already told you everything you need to know. Calm your mind and go back to your viewings. Memorize all of this as quickly as you can. That way, even after you leave this place you can still meditate on what you have seen.”
“Alright.” Ning nodded. He did indeed have to memorize all of this, but doing so would be extremely difficult. The Dao of an Autarch was truly inconceivable; just memorizing its appearance was as difficult as asking an ordinary mortal to memorize a language with hundreds of millions of characters. Still, Ning understood that he had to memorize it despite its difficulty, because he couldn’t stay here for the rest of his life. Only by memorizing it would he be able to train in it whenever he wished.
“Senior,” Ning couldn’t help but add, “This junior does have a request.”
“A request?” The black-robed man was puzzled. “Go ahead.”
“This junior has an extremely good friend who is also a supreme Daolord. Can he come out and view this Dao and be guided by it as well?” Ning asked.
This Dao might not be of tremendous use to him in meditating on the Dao, but there was another aspect to it. The path of a cultivation was an extremely long one, and there were many hidden pitfalls and problems which cultivators could fall into. This Dao would serve as a lamp post which would illuminate the path to Autarchy, resolving the questions cultivators would have. Ning and Ninedust were lifelong friends; he naturally wanted to help Ninedust out.
“A supreme Daolord?” The black-robed man chuckled. “Listen, kid… I already told you that I really don’t have any interest in Daolords at all. I’m generally only interested in particularly powerful Eternal Emperors! You, however, are far stronger than other supreme Daolords despite not even having a Universe treasure. This is why I’ve given you a special chance. As for ‘ordinary’ supreme Daolords, they can forget about it.”
“Forget about it?” Ning was rather anxious but he didn’t know what to say to persuade the man.
“It’s not that I’m stingy.” The black-robed man shook his head. “The greatest barrier any and all cultivators shall face is the Daomerge!”
“To advance from Hegemony to Autarchy is perhaps just as difficult as the Daomerge, but at least there isn’t a danger of dying,” the black-robed man said. “But the Daomerge is not only difficult, it is also fatal when failed. If you fail, you are destined to die and your Dao shall vanish.”
“Thus… the cultivator civilization as a whole doesn’t care that much about Daolords. New crops of Daolords arise in every generation, with the previous crop of Daolords having perished. Far, far too few supreme Daolords are able to skyrocket to the Hegemon level of power,” the black-robed man said. “Thus, it really isn’t worth us wasting too much time or energy on supreme Daolords.”
Ning was speechless. He had to admit that the man made sense. To this very day, the Endless Territories only had three Hegemons! One could already imagine how this current crop of supreme Daolords, including Winesage, Dawnstar, the Radiant King, and even Ning himself would eventually perish. For even one Hegemon to emerge from their ranks would be a stroke of incredible luck. The most likely outcome was that all of them would fail and all of them would die.”
“You, however, are a bit special. If you really do succeed in the Daomerge, you will definitely be more powerful than most Hegemons,” the black-robed man said. “That’s the only reason why I’m giving you a chance. There’s no need for me to waste my time on other ‘supreme’ Daolords.”