Book 35, The Aeonian Race, Chapter 4 – The Strange Planet
Ji Ning needed much more time to ‘digest’ these legacies than Ninedust, because Ninedust had already reached the Verge as a Daolord. All he needed to do was to perfect his Dao and accumulate more experience so as to improve his odds of succeeding at the Daomerge. Ning, however, was different. He was just a Daolord of the Third Step, which meant he needed many more insights. He naturally had to carefully immerse himself in these Hegemonic legacies.
“We really have gained tremendously from this visit.” Ning emerged from his temporal cottage, then stared at the flying tower off in the distance. “Legacies from over three hundred Hegemons… this will be of enormous help to both me and the Three Realms.”
The divine abilities were useless to Ning, but the secrets arts were extremely useful. Although he did have a secret art bestowed by that dead Sword Hegemon from the otherverse, these three hundred-plus Hegemons bestowed far more. In fact, there were four who were focused on the Dao of the Sword! Ning ended up choosing a secret art that suited him the most.
“Once I become a Daolord of the Fourth Step, I’ll simultaneously train in both of these secret arts! Once I use the two of them via my Yin-Yang Sword Domain, they’ll mutually reinforce and support each other…” Ning was quite eager to see what would happen. There was a certain finesse to choosing secret arts, and the more powerful a secret art was the more requirements it had with regards to the level of the wielder’s insights into the Dao.
The nine novessence arts, for example, needed one to be able to perfectly master and merge together nine types of Dao lightning. Ninedust’s Ripplewater art required incredible insight into the Dao of Water. The Sword Hegemon’s secret art and this new secret art which Ning had chosen were both focused on the Dao of the Sword. Both required the wielder to know a great deal regarding that Dao.
“Ninedust,” Ning called out loudly. His voice traversed the flows of space and passed into the ears of the distant Ninedust, who was battling more than a hundred million kilometers off in the distance.
“Haha…” Ninedust hurriedly retreated, pulling away from the Silver Daolord as he glanced backwards. “Darknorth, you finally came out.”
“Judging from the way you just fought, you’ve perfected your ultimate attacks even further. That supremely aggressive staff-stance, you executed with water-like fluidity. This shows that your mastery of the Dao of Water has improved.” Ning flew over like a streak of light, quickly arriving next to Ninedust as he spoke in praise.
“Twenty-five out of those hundreds of Hegemons were skilled in the Dao of Water, allowing me to benefit greatly from their insights. I feel as though my chances at the Daomerge are growing better and better,” Ninedust said smugly. “I feel as though I have a ten percent chance.”
Ten percent. It sounded puny, but Daolords normally had less than a hundredth of a percent at completing the Daomerge!
“Congratulations!” Ning revealed a delighted look. He truly did feel happy for Ninedust. As for himself, although he had gained the Autarch’s Dao-guidance and also reviewed the many legacies of the Hegemons, his path was still that of the Omega Sword Dao; it was a path that was untold times more difficult than the one which Ninedust had chosen! There was a limit to how much benefit these other legacies would be to him. None of those Hegemons had chosen an Omega Dao, and so his chances at the Daomerge still remained as infinitesimally small as ever.
If he failed his Daomerge while Ninedust succeeded, he would ask Ninedust to help take care of the Three Realms. If a Hegemon watched over it, its inhabitants would have a much easier life.
“How about you? You must’ve gained even more insights than me,” Ninedust said.
“I’m not quite there yet, but I feel close to a breakthrough,” Ning said. After distilling the experiences of over three hundred Hegemons, Ning had gained quite a few new insights into his Heavenbreaker stance. He wasn’t too far away from reaching the fourth stage of it.
“That’s enough chatting. I’m gonna go spar a bit against those Silver Daolords.” Ning immediately manifested three heads and six arms, then charged towards the flying tower with six Northbow swords at the ready.
A few moments later, an onyx humanoid standing at the top of the flying tower ordered for three silver Daolords to attack.
“He dares to come again?”
“Kill this Daolord.” The three Silver Daolords charged towards Ning, with Ning coming to a halt close to the outer perimeter and engaging them in a battle there. When he sensed that he wasn’t able to hold on any longer, he would immediately retreat outside of the perimeter. That way, the Silver Daolords would withdraw as well.
Ning and Ninedust both understood what Autarch Bolin’s intentions were. Autarch Bolin had created this world, then had his hundreds of Hegemon retainers leave down their legacies, precisely so that he could ensure the future cultivators would have access to good Immortal techniques, divine abilities, and secret arts.
He had even gone so far as to make simulacra of the Sithe’s Black Emperors and Silver Daolords… all of this was for the sake of improving the combat power of the cultivators!
“He truly poured his heart into this,” Ning sighed with emotion.
“Darknorth! Darknorth!” After several years of battling, Ninedust suddenly called out, “We haven’t paid that flying vessel a visit yet. Shouldn’t we go inside and take a look?”
“Autarch Bolin didn’t say that the vessel held any treasures within it,” Ning said. The stone stele had only mentioned that one could spar against the simulated Sithe and acquire legacies from the Hegemons.
“We should still go take a look. Doing nothing but sparring against Silver Daolords is kind of boring anyhow; by now, I understand every single technique they use,” Ninedust said.
“True. Battling is rather pointless by now.” Ning agreed with this assessment. When fighting against three Silver Daolords, he often found himself unable to hold on and thus was forced to retreat! But this wasn’t due to him being at a lower level of insight; in fact, he was on a higher level than all three of them. The problem was that his foes were incredibly fast and strong, and there was no answer for that. This made sparring against them of limited use to Ning.
“Let’s be careful,” Ning warned.
“It should be fine. Autarch Bolin wouldn’t have set up traps for us,” Ninedust said. Still, he chose to send one of his Emperor-class golems to scout first.
The flying vessel was completely empty inside. There were no traps inside, nor were there any treasures. There was just a line of words left behind on the inner walls:
“The only way to break through from Hegemony and reach Autarchy is to accumulate sufficient experience. Aside from this, there are no other paths.”
This line of words was filled with stately majesty. Clearly, they had been left behind by Autarch Bolin himself.
“Accumulate sufficient experience?” Ning and Ninedust stared at the line of words for a long time.
“Let’s not dwell on it too much. The greatest challenge standing in front of us is the Daomerge.” Ning smiled. “Let’s worry about this after succeeding in the Daomerge.”
“Agreed.” Ninedust nodded. “Oh, right. Darknorth, we’ve spent this entire time in the area around the flying vessel; we haven’t explored the other parts of this world. To tell you the truth, there’s a limit to how much this place is going to be use to us. I’m planning to explore this area a bit; if there’s nothing else here, I’m going to leave! But of course, if you want to dally here a bit longer I can wait on a nearby planet and train there until you are ready to go.”
“This place isn’t of much use to me either.” Ning agreed. “Come, let’s walk around and see what there is to see. After that, we’ll leave.”
This world which the Autarch had created was extremely large. Ning and Ninedust stood within the void above it.
“Heartworld, descend!” With but a thought, Ning send his vast heartworld projection rumbling downwards. It quickly spread out in every direction to encompass the entire planet.
“And?” Ninedust asked.
“The other parts of this world are completely empty and devoid of all things.” Ning pointed off into the distance. “The only exception is over there. The astral river seems to pass through this entire world, and there’s something inside it that radiates an aura of incredible power. Not even my heartworld projection is able to infiltrate it at all.”
“Oh? It seems we need to spend a bit of time looking into this astral river.” Ninedust was filled with excitement.
“Let’s go.” Swoosh! Swoosh! The two immediately entered the astral river and began to fly through it. The flying vessel, the flying tower, and the 318 small planets had been nothing more than a small part of this vast astral river which permeated the enormous world they were in.
“There are countless stars here, but they all seem quite ordinary.” Ninedust was rather disappointed by what he found. By now, they had already been flying for more than three months and had searched through nearly half the astral river.
Far away, there was an enormous planet that was slowly revolving in place, emanating an aura of oppressive majesty. Ning and Ninedust were able to vaguely sense it even from a great distance, causing their eyes to narrow. It must be remembered that all of the other planets were tiny, merely ten thousand kilometers or so in size. The vast planet they could vaguely see off in the distance, however, had to be at least ten billion kilometers in diameter.
“What an enormous planet, and what a powerful aura! So the astral river actually has such a special locale inside of it?” Ning and Ninedust exchanged a glance, then immediately flew towards it. As they moved closer, they were able to see it with increasing clarity.
This planet was quite unique. On one side, it had a blazing red sea of flames that emanated an aura of incredible heat. The flamewaves which roiled that side were actually filled with the ripples of the Dao itself, with every single wave containing an amount of force comparable to a full-strength strike from a Daolord of the Fourth Step. This caused Ning and Ninedust to feel shocked.
The other side of the planet was an endless stream of deep-blue water that emanated an aura of infinite cold. This cold similarly radiated Dao-ripples of equal power to the other side.
“What an unusual planet.” Ning was rather surprised. One side was filled with a sea of flames, the other was filled with an icy sea of water. Both sides emanated the profound mysteries of the Dao. As for the hemispheric intersection where the hot and cold energies met and clashed against each other, an endless dense line of mist appeared.
Deep within the mist, they could vaguely make out the crown of a massive tree, as well as see a few long, skinny, fiery-red fruits hanging from the top.
“Judging from those leaves… that should be one of the eight types of sacred bloodfruit, the ‘omnigeddon bloodfruit’. But… these fruits look rather strange. And, generally speaking, a single omnigeddon bloodfruit tree should have just three fruits per harvest. I can already see roughly six of those fruits sprouting from the crown of the tree, and that’s with the rest of it shrouded by mist.” Ning was puzzled. “Is it some other type of fruit? Ninedust, can you recognize this fruit tree?”