Book 37, Flamewing God, Chapter 23 – Word Spreads
This was completely and utterly unheard of!
Hegemons stood at the very apex of every realmverse and every otherverse. An exalted Hegemon… serve as a retainer to a Daolord? What sort of a joke was this? Everyone felt as though this was an absolute joke which simply wasn’t conceivable.
“Your third eye is about to pop out from all the bulging,” Hegemon Azurefiend said with a frown. “What’s there to be surprised about? Darknorth is extremely strong, second only to Hegemons in power! I had a wager with him, and I lost. I, Azurefiend, am not the sort to welch on my bets. I lost and so I will pay my debt. I have willingly joined Darknorth as his retainer.”
“Y-you…” Hegemon Dawnruler was completely stunned by Hegemon Azurefiend’s words.
“Any other questions?” Hegemon Azurefiend looked at Dawnruler.
“Impressive. Quite impressive.” Hegemon Dawnruler shook his head. “Brother Azurefiend, I’m impressed by your tolerance levels.”
“Cut the crap. Now that I am Daolord Darknorth’s retainer, none of the Hegemons or Emperors heading this way will have any chance of taking the realmship from him. They probably won’t even come,” Azurefiend said. “Darknorth didn’t ask for all that much from you, and he hasn’t put any of you in any actual life-threatening danger at all. Even if you went to ask Realmslord Windgrace to help out… given his personality, he probably wouldn’t intervene over such a minor matter and come help you out.”
“So… just go ahead and pay the price for freedom. Otherwise, you can just keep sitting here.” Azurefiend looked at Dawnruler, who was silent. Dawnruler knew that Azurefiend’s words made a lot of sense.
Azurefiend himself was a Hegemon; he understood Hegemonic thought-processes quite clearly. Realmslord Windgrace was such a transcendental figure that he didn’t get involved in any power squabbles at all. He would only intervene in situations which were truly lethal for the local Hegemons! There was no way he would come here just because Ji Ning was asking these Hegemons and Emperors for a few treasures!
“Darknorth isn’t asking for that much either. The combined amount from all of you Hegemons and Emperors is probably comparable to just the networth of one or two Hegemons,” Hegemon Azurefiend said calmly. “There’s no way Realmslord Windgrace would be so shameless as to come here for such a small amount of treasure.”
“Ugh. Enough, Azurefiend. I’ll accept the conditions.” Hegemon Dawnruler looked at Hegemon Azurefiend, then shook his head. “The price we are paying is nothing. You, however, are the unluckiest bastard out of all of us. If there’s anything you need me to help you out with, just say the word.”
“Don’t even start.” Hegemon Azurefiend’s eyes flashed with cold light. He was an incredibly proud figure who had wandered through countless places. Hegemon Dawnruler’s intentional show of ‘pity’ had rather angered Azurefiend.
“Alright, alright! Calm down. My mistake,” Hegemon Dawnruler said hurriedly. But when he looked at Azurefiend, he couldn’t help but continue to sigh secretly.
An exalted Hegemon serve as a retainer for a Daolord? Word of this would quickly spread with wildfire speed! The Hegemons would all spread this shocking information to their peers, which would then spread even farther away.
Hegemon Dawnruler obediently handed over the requisite treasures. Hegemon Wuye and Hegemon Fogsun had long ago publicized within the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance as to what they would need in order to ferry Hegemons via their realmships. Thus, Ning knew what the price had been.
Ning swore a lifeblood oath as well, ensuring that Hegemon Dawnruler would feel at ease. Hegemon Dawnruler’s greatest worry was that once he began to move, Ning would suddenly activate a mechanism to trap him.
A short while later, Hegemon Oldgem and the Paragon of Swords were staring in astonishment at Ning, Azurefiend, and Whitethaw.
“Brother Azurefiend, you’ve become Daolord Darknorth’s retainer?” As the conversation progressed, the two Hegemons turned to stare at Hegemon Azurefiend in absolute astonishment.
“What’s with all the fuss? Go ask Dawnruler for the details,” Azurefiend barked with a frown. “Hurry up! You two are pretty strong, but with me here it’ll be quite hard for you to defeat all of the mechanisms and traps present.”
“Fine, fine. We’ll pay.” Hegemon Oldgem nodded.
“Impressive, Daolord Darknorth.” The Paragon of Swords glanced at Ning. The two truly were stunned by this. They also understood that with Azurefiend supporting Ning, there was no way they’d be able to fight through the flaming passageways by themselves.
Word quickly spread, causing an utter storm of amazement to sweep through the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance. Many learned the rough details of what had happened; Hegemon Azurefiend had been trapped within the flaming passageways, then had lost a bet to Daolord Darknorth and was thus his retainer for a time.
A realmship had been accumulating power as it was preparing to tear through the Great Dark, but it suddenly came to a halt.
“Gentlemen.” Within the realmship, Hegemon Fogsun turned to stare at the other five Hegemons and the other six Emperors. “You should’ve received word as well that Daolord Darknorth is in control of the flaming passageways of the Jadefire Realm! Hegemon Azurefiend was trapped by him and has now become his retainer. There’s no chance that you’ll be able to win the realmship from him. What are you planning to do next? Shall you still go and try your luck?”
“How could something like this have happened?”
“Hegemon Azurefiend really is a disgrace of a Hegemon. He was so afraid of dying that he chose to go serve a Daolord? How preposterous!”
“I feel rather ‘impressed’ by Azurefiend. I never would’ve been able to force myself to bow my head like that. I would’ve rather died than to swallow such a disgrace.” This was what the Hegemons and Emperors were all saying amongst themselves.
Although they had all paid a price in treasures to board the realmship, and although it had all come to naught, they didn’t feel too disappointed. This had been a free-for-all amongst many Hegemons and Emperors, after all; only one would succeed while the rest would fail. They had long ago mentally prepared themselves for failure. Thus, it didn’t really matter now that they really had ended up empty-handed.
However, they couldn’t help but sigh with commiseration. Hegemon Azurefiend was an extremely powerful Hegemon, far more powerful than the vast majority of them… and yet, he had lowered his head to serve a Daolord as retainer?
Quite a few of them actually began to view Azurefiend with contempt, feeling that he truly was a shameless craven.
“Gentlemen, we need to decide what the next plan of action is,” Hegemon Fogsun said.
“What else can we do? We’ve already paid upfront. Are you going to refund us our treasures?”
“I agree. Brother Fogsun, you should refund us half. We haven’t gotten anything out of this visit,” the five Hegemons and six Emperors all chorused.
“Cut the jokes,” Hegemon Fogsun said hurriedly. “You were all lucky! If you made it in there, you’d probably be threatened and extorted by Daolord Darknorth as well. You’d probably end up paying even more!”
“Haha, enough, enough. Brother Fogsun, we’re already quite close to the Flamedragon Realmverse, while you need to take the other Hegemons and Emperors back from the Flamedragon Realmverse. How about this? Let’s just all head there together and see if there’s a chance for us to meet Daolord Darknorth. All of us are quite curious about him.”
“Hmph. Curious? A Daolord who was actually able to convince a Hegemon to be his retainer… what an audacious fellow.”
“He succeeded, didn’t he?”
“Only because Azurefiend is a coward who fears death! Hmph!” The Hegemons and Emperors continued to discuss this amongst themselves.
“Very well, then, I’ll continue to head towards the Flamedragon Realmverse.” Hegemon Fogsun shook his head and sighed. “What a pity! This was just my second delivery. There were Hegemons and Emperors in two other realmverses who should’ve been in the third delivery. There’s no way they are going to pay me nor. Jeeze, Daolord Darknorth… why did you have to be so hasty? Why couldn’t you have waited until all the Hegemons and Emperors arrived before making your move?”
“This time, the only ones to come out a winner were yourself, Wuye, and Daolord Darknorth.”
“Yes, all the rest of us suffered huge losses.” The Hegemons and Emperors continued to drink, chat, and merrymake amongst themselves.
Word quickly spread. None of the Hegemons and Emperors in the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance harbored any further desires on the realmship. When they had merely found out that Ning was in charge of the flaming passageways, they had still felt hope. After all, Ning would have to hide within the flaming passageways, but a sufficient number of Hegemons working together while backed by powerful Numerancy would be able to calculate his location and then capture him safely.
As they saw it, all they had to do was to stop him in his tracks. An entire host of Hegemons and Emperors would be able to kill this Daolord with ease. Now, however, Hegemon Azurefiend stood by Daolord Darknorth’s side as his retainer. This meant there was now no chance at all for them to win the realmship.
“Azurefiend actually became a Daolord’s retainer.”
“No matter how impressive a Daolord is, he’s still just a Daolord. Azurefiend is a Hegemon!”
“I can’t believe what a coward Azurefiend is.”
“He’s willing to do anything so long as he can stay alive.” This was what everyone was saying.
Emperors felt an intrinsic sort of superiority towards Daolords. Daolords simply didn’t live long enough, and there was a limit to how strong they could become! Hegemons were supreme amongst Emperors… but now, one of them had become a retainer to a Daolord.
Even the likes of Hegemon Brightshore, Hegemon Windrain, and Hegemon Netherlily were stunned by this, despite being very familiar with Ning. As for the Emperors of the Flamedragon Realmverse, they were completely stupefied by these rumors.
These rumors spread across the Sixteen Realmverses Alliance like wildfire, then reached out to spread to even more realmverses. This was considered a fascinating bit of gossip by major powers. As a result, there were now many major powers in distant realmverses who had never visited the Flamedragon Realmverse but who had heard of a Daolord named Darknorth… as well as a Hegemon named Azurefiend who had actually chosen to be a Daolord’s retainer!