Book 40, The Five Autarchs, Chapter 5 – The Castle
If Ji Ning wished to, he could’ve used his sword to tear through spacetime and let him exit the entire Blazesun Domain! However, as one of the Eight Domains, there were many places within the Blazesun Domain which were extremely hard to traverse via a spacetime warp; to forcibly tear through via the Dao of the Sword would require an enormous amount of energy. Ji Ning wasn’t willing to waste his lifespan on something like this. He was able to sense that there was something strange happening in spacetime nearby, and so he chose the exit tunnel to be placed there.
Whoosh. Ning vanished from the Earthfire Continent and followed the sword-formed spacetime tunnel to arrive at an extremely distant place within the Blazefire Domain. “Eh?” Ning swept the area with his gaze, slightly surprised: “I sensed from afar that the spacetime continuum here was quite unique. So this is what this place looks like?”
Ning was currently standing in empty space, facing a distant dimensional whirlpool. Battered bits of debris were flying out of the whirlpool, including some shattered pieces of golden metal, strange mechanical parts, and even an enormous but tattered-looking castle. These bits and fragments were all flying out of the whirlpool, while the whirlpool itself was starting to spin more slowly, almost as though space was going back to normal.
“It seems my luck isn’t bad. I managed to find a Sithe trove after just a single teleport,” Ning laughed. Ning waved his hand, releasing Nuwa, Su Youji, Patriarch Treewind, Imperator Jade Rainbow, the Flamewing God, and the others. As soon as this awesome group of experts appeared, they began to scan their surroundings. They quickly noticed the dimensional whirlpool and were duly astonished by it and the Sithe treasures floating out of it.
“A Sithe treasure trove?”
“There’s actually a treasure trove here?”
“And, by the looks of it, it looks like it just appeared.” Patriarch Treewind and the others were all quite stunned.
As for Ning, he laughed. “I heard that otherverses and Sithe treasuries will often appear out of nowhere within the Eight Domains. Is that so?”
“It is.” Patriarch Treewind nodded. “When wandering through the Blazesun Domain, you’ll occasionally stumble across an otherverse which has no owners in it, and Sithe caches will sometimes appear out of nowhere as well. However, the ones we find have usually been floating around in the Blazesun Domain for quite some time. I’ve only heard stories about actually seeing them appear from dimensional whirlpools; this is my first time witnessing it in person.”
“Otherverses are created by Autarchs,” Ning said, “But the Sithe caches were left behind from the Dawn War. Why would they appear here out of nowhere?”
“The Autarchs are probably behind this for some reason.” Patriarch Treewind, Imperator Jade Rainbow, and the others who were familiar with the Blazesun Domain all shook their heads.
Ning continued to ponder this question. The giant, battered-looking castle off in the distance was in a more-or-less complete shape, but it had clearly experienced the ravages of battle. Otherwise, why would it be riddled with so many ‘wounds’? But it had been an extremely long period of time since the Dawn War had ended. Why had it and all these other treasures suddenly appeared now? Ning had only sensed that something strange was happening in spacetime in this location while he himself was warping through spacetime, which was why he had exited here.
Over the years, there had been other instances in the Eight Domains where Sithe treasure caches had appeared out of nowhere. In fact, even Nuwa had somehow vanished from the Three Realms and then appeared in the Blazesun Domain!
And the otherverses… those were personally hand-crafted by the Autarchs. Why would they appear here as well?
“Master, we have an entire Sithe treasury in front of us!” Hegemon Azurefiend was rather excited.
“Darknorth.” Nuwa remained quite calm, and she immediately asked, “Are the eight Domain Rulers still in pursuit of us?”
Ning laughed. “Don’t worry, they aren’t able to track us down at all. However… I really don’t understand what the eight of them were thinking. I still can’t believe all eight of them joined forces…”
“They probably have plans of their own.” Nuwa felt quite frustrated as well. Anyone faced with all eight Domain Rulers at once would feel a sense of tremendous pressure.
“They can keep searching if they want. I have no desire to waste my time on them.” Ning didn’t wish to waste any of his vital energy; otherwise, if he truly went all-out, he’d be able to dominate all eight of them. All they would be able to do would be to endure his attacks as best as they could, relying on their innate gifts; if they managed to tank the hits, they would live, but if they failed they would perish! Ning himself felt that if he was lucky, he would at most be able to kill one of the eight if all eight joined forces.
But why? What was the point? Ning naturally preferred to stay far, far away from the eight of them.
“Master, let’s go take a look at those floating Sithe treasures.” Flamewing stared quite curiously at the distant castle and the other relics floating in space.
“Darknorth?” Nuwa looked at Ning as well. She, too, felt curious about this treasure cache.
“Daolord.” All the others were also intrigued, but as they saw it, since Ning had discovered this cache its contents would naturally belong to him.
“Go ahead and take a look.” Ning laughed. “Just be careful. Don’t just rummage through things blindly; there might be traps hidden there.”
“Don’t worry, Daolord. We’ll be careful.”
“Master, I’m going to go take a look as well.” Not even Su Youji could refrain from taking a look. All of them flew towards the Sithe cache, with only Protector Whitethaw continuing to solemnly stand guard over Ning.
By now, the dimensional vortex had already vanished, allowing space to go back to normal. Ning didn’t really care that much about the Sithe treasury; he was already close to the Autarchs in power! Why would he care about Sithe treasures or armaments?
“What did I just see earlier, though?” Ning pondered by himself, his mind thinking back to the Earthfire Continent and the sneak-attack the imprisoned Sithe Exalt had launched against him. “It’s completely impossible, but I can’t explain it any other way…”
To this very moment, Ning still felt quite stunned by the implications. This was also part of the reason why he had no interest in exploring the Sithe treasure cache.
“I definitely wasn’t seeing things. That imprisoned Sithe Exalt… it had definitely reached the Autarch level of insight!” Ning was shaking inside. That Sithe Autarch had probably reached Hegemony in the Dao of Bewilderment, but the twin claw attacks he had launched against Ning had been incomparably profound. Ning hadn’t been able to disturb it or shake it at all with his Sword Dao domain.
Other cultivators might not be able to tell, but Ning had already reached a level of insight which was comparable to that of the Autarchs, and had also received guidance from legacies left behind by Autarch Awakener and Autarch Bolin. That brief moment of combat was enough for Ning to ascertain that the Sithe Exalt, Dauber, had definitely employed Autarchy-level mysteries in launching his twin claw attacks!
“The Autarch level of insight… that means he should be an Autarch!” Ning simply didn’t understand. “B-but… he ended up being imprisoned, just like that?”
“If he really was an Autarch, it would be incredibly easy for him and his peers to capture the Flamewing God… but instead, three of them had to work together to accomplish this.
“In fact, the Sithe once had multiple Exalts. If the Sithe Exalts truly were Autarchs, they would’ve been able to overwhelm the cultivator civilizations with ease… but instead, their performance in combat proved that they were inferior to our Autarchs.
“And when Exalt Dauber battled against me… I could sense that although he had reached an incredibly high level of insight, the power of his attacks were vastly inferior to mine.”
Ning truly was puzzled. He felt certain that Sithe Exalt Dauber had reached the Autarch level of insight, but the amount of power the Exalt had unleashed in battle was much lower than that level; at most, it was on par with the Blazesun Ruler’s. Ning had only been forced to use a tiny bit of his energy, and a single backwards step had allowed him to dodge the attack with ease. Clearly, Ning had completely outstripped the Exalt in power.
“How odd. There’s no way I was wrong; he has to be at the Autarch level in insight, but for some reason he’s only able to unleash a fraction of their power.” Ning mused to himself, “It felt as though his techniques were only able to employ a tiny amount of the power of the Dao.”
For major powers, the power of the Dao was paramount. The higher a level of insight you reached, the more important the power of your Dao. Ning, for example, was able to form a Sword Dao domain with just a thought. He didn’t even need to use up any of his own energy, but the domain would be filled with streaks of sword-light that were comparable to full-strength strikes from Otherverse Lords! This was the power of the Dao, not Ning’s own internal power! When he himself fought in battle and used his sword-arts, his sword-arts were so profound that they were capable of unleashing many marvelous effects. This happened because he would use a fraction of his own energy to fully command the power of the Dao and unleash even more devastating amounts of might.
But… the Sithe Exalt was completely different. Ning could tell that he had clearly reached the Autarch level of insight into the Dao, but his techniques were only able to unleash a fraction of the Dao’s power. As a result, the overall power of his attacks was merely at the Blazesun Ruler’s level.
“So what’s the reason for this? As far as I can tell, he should be an Autarch… but he’s dramatically weaker than the Autarchs. Or perhaps these Sithe Exalts are pseudo-Autarchs? Perhaps they have inherently flawed Daos, which is why they are unable to unleash much power from them?”
Ning was filled with many questions. Why did these Exalts have such a high level of insight into the Dao? Were they truly Autarchs, or were they pseudo-Autarchs? Why was it that the true Autarchs did not kill them and instead chose to torture them forever?
“I imagine only the Autarchs know the answer to these questions,” Ning mused.
“Darknorth! Hurry over here!” Nuwa suddenly called out from nearby that distant, levitating castle.