Book 42, The Five Truncheon Chapters, Chapter 1 - Hawkfang
"Exalt, who in the world is this white-robed Daolord? Why must we sacrifice everything for the sake of killing him?" One of the many Hegemons below the Exalt, a Sithe descendant, couldn't help but ask this question. To this very day, the Sithe descendants had no idea what 'a Daolord who has mastered an Eternal Omega Dao' truly represented for the Sithe. In truth, the Sithe didn't dare to tell their descendants too much either!
In the end, their descendants were native to this Chaosverse and had grown up here. Strictly speaking, it was destined for them to be unable to walk the same path together, and so they were purposefully kept in the dark regarding many things. As a result, they now felt that this was completely incomprehensible and not worth them losing their lives over!
"Right, Exalt! We had thought that killing him would be very easy, but Purgatory was defeated even after we gave it a pair of Apocalypse-class treasures. This Daolord is too powerful! Aside from the three Elder Halls, we don't have any treasures that are superior to the ones we already sent down, but the three Elder Halls are immobile. If we want to proactively attack him, we'll be at a huge disadvantage. Many of us will probably die."
"We can simply keep him exiled in Purgatory and wait for his truesoul to collapse. He'll still die, right? Why is it necessary for us to pay such an enormous price?"
"Why do we have to fight with him to the death?"
"Is such an enormous price truly worth it?" The Sithe descendants voiced their arguments, one by one. The true Sithe were silent. They knew the details behind this, but they didn't dare to expose them! They had been ordered long ago to restrict the amount of contact between them and their descendants, for fear of their descendants learning the 'truth' and losing faith.
"Worth it?" The blue-haired youth, 'Exalt Bowenya', let out a soft sigh from atop his throne. "Yes… I, too, feel that it isn't worth it." Exalt Bowenya stared downwards. "But I've already told you everything I can. The things I have left unsaid, I have done so because I am not permitted to! If I told you the truth, I would be violating Sithe laws and my truesoul would be annihilated."
"All you need to know is this! Our dimension may seem large, but we are nothing more than a small part of the Sithe race and empire. This is nothing more than a small part of Sithe territory." Exalt Bowenya waved a finger, causing an image to appear in midair of the white-robed Daolord. "As for him… he is of grave importance to the entire Sithe civilization. We have to destroy him and then capture his truesoul. This will be an enormous accomplishment for our race! Sacrificing our entire hidden dimension will be worth it, yes. Even if the sacrifice was greater, it would still be worth it."
Everyone below fell silent. The Sithe descendants also knew that they were nothing more than a small part of the massive Sithe empire as a whole.
"If we go against our orders, our entire dimension will be punished and annihilated. All of us, including myself, will be put to death." Exalt Bowenya's voice was glacially cold, and the Hegemons below him all felt an invisible sense of oppression. If they tried to find a way out, the only result would be death.
"There's no way out. We have to kill him. If we kill him, we'll all be rewarded heavily. If we do not… we will all die! If you must blame someone, blame that Daolord for having come to our home," Exalt Bowenya said. "Now… obey my orders."
None of the Hegemons voiced any further complaints. The true Sithe knew that there was no way to avoid this, while the Sithe progeny all knew that shirking back meant death.
"Jonnbech," Exalt Bowenya called out. An extremely muscular four-armed man with curly hair who was three meters tall had been standing close to the front of the throng of Hegemons. He stepped forward and said respectfully, "Exalt."
"Jonnbech, it is now time for war. We are throwing everything we have into this battle against that Daolord. You have past experience with controlling an Elder Hall, and so from this day forth you shall be the controller of the 'Iceland' Elder Hall."
"Understood." Jonnbech was a true Sithe and was second only to the Exalt in power. He had a perfect Dao-heart and was highly venerated amongst the Sithe.
"Hawkfang." Exalt Bowenya's gaze turned towards another man. Instantly, the entire hall began to stir. Some of the true Sithe began to frown, while others remained quite calm. Most of the Sithe progeny, however, grew excited. Hawkfang was a leader amongst the Sithe descendants and extremely powerful.
"Exalt." Hawkfang bowed respectfully. His face was calm, and he was dressed in long black robes. His eyes seemed to contain an endless universe of space and time within them.
Exalt Bowenya couldn't help but secretly sigh to himself when he saw this. Hawkfang was a descendant he held in high regard, and was the son of a friend. The man was extremely talented and had reached Hegemony in a very short period of time. He stood a very good chance of becoming an Autarch in the future! Even the supreme leader of the Sithe paid a great deal of attention to Hawkfang.
Alas, during the Dawn War, Hawkfang's father (another Exalt) died in battle. Ever since then, Hawkfang seemed to have become filled with many thoughts and worries, resulting in him being unable to progress any further in his path of cultivation. The entire Sithe race sighed at the loss.
It must be remembered that if Sithe descendants became what the locals called 'Autarchs', then as natives to this Chaosverse they would gain full control over the power of the local Dao. An extra 'Autarch' on the side of the Sithe would be of enormous assistance to them.
As the supreme leader of the Sithe once said: "Hawkfang simply hasn't experienced enough. The only place he has ever lived is that single small dimension. The death of his father caused his heart to be filled with turmoil. He is unable to perfect his Dao-heart and he no longer has any chance of reaching Autarchy! If he had been able to spend more time wandering the universe, his father's death wouldn't have dealt such a deadly bow to his psyche. Now that a shadow has been cast over his heart, it will be very difficult for him to perfect his Dao-heart!"
He had been such a promising figure, but now he was destined to be mediocre! Still… in this dimension, Hawkfang remained the most talented member of the Sithe descendants, and he had reached Hegemony in a total of six Daos!
"Starting now, Hawkfang, you shall be in control of the same Elder Hall your father controlled - the 'Flameland' Elder Hall," Exalt Bowenya said. "Your father died a glorious death in battle for the sake of the Sithe. I hope you will prove to be as fearless as your father was and destroy this Daolord for the Sithe."
"Understood." Hawkfang remained completely expressionless as he bowed respectfully.
"Jonnbech, Hawkfang, the two of you should immediately go to your respective Elder Halls and take control over them. Once you do so, the three of us shall decide on a strategy for dealing with this Daolord," Exalt Bowenya instructed. "As for the other Hegemons, await your deployment orders."
"Understood." The throng of Hegemons and Emperors all acknowledged the order.
The three Elder Halls were all glowing with white light. One of them was shining brighter than the other two, which were slightly dimmer. They had lain untouched for many years, after all; they were simply functioning on auto-mode.
Whoosh. The black-robed Hawkfang suddenly flew through the air, moving towards the towering, twelve-storied tower which emanated a scorching aura. When he arrived before it, he raised his head and stared upwards, a lost look in his eyes.
"Father," Hawkfang murmured softly. He still clearly remembered his father bringing him here when he was young. This was his father's Daoguard Tower, and they had played together here. Life back then had been truly carefree, and he had been so incredibly talented that he had succeeded in everything he tried. His father had arranged him to experience a few setbacks to temper him, but they barely slowed him down at all. He had reached the Daomerge with incredible speed, then completed it and reached Hegemony.
"It's been so long, but I've come again." Hawkfang reached out to touch the tower. He could still remember that battle clearly.
During the Dawn War, his avatar had accompanied his father in their grand campaign. Towards the end of the war, they had fallen into dire straits. His father had personally destroyed his avatar, not wishing for his avatar to fall into the hands of their cultivator enemies. If the Autarchs managed to capture his avatar, they were completely capable of using karma to slay his true body as well! In contrast, when his father killed his avatar it would have no impact at all. Avatars didn't matter too much to Hegemons, as they could simply remake them after they were destroyed.
In the end, his father had died during that battle. He had died at the hands of a cultivator known as 'Autarch Bolin'.
"The cultivators…" Hawkfang mused to himself, "Am I a Sithe, or am I a cultivator?" Hawkfang shook his head. "Let us fight, then. If you can't even stop someone like me, then you deserve to die. Even if I really am a cultivator, killing some of them in Father's memory isn't that big a deal." He stepped into the tower.
"Young master." A black golem instantly appeared on the first floor of the great tower, and it bowed respectfully: "I've already received orders to hand the entire Daoguard Tower over to you."
"Mm." Hawkfang nodded. He immediately took control over the entire Elder Hall and began to make plans to deal with the white-robed Daolord based on the various tricks and traps the hall contained."
Book 42, The Five Truncheon Chapters, Chapter 2 - Illusion Sword Dao
Hawkfang and Jonnbech quickly familiarized themselves with their respective Elder Halls. After doing so, they went to meet with Exalt Bowenya again. The three met within a quiet side hall and began to discuss their battle plans.
"Exalt, these are all the tools which my 'Iceland' Elder Hall possesses." Jonnbech waved his hand, causing a scroll to appear. This scroll was covered with dense scribbling which recorded the various offensive techniques the Iceland Hall possessed.
"These are all the attacks which the 'Flameland' Elder Hall can use." Hawkfang also produced a scroll which was covered with a complete record of what his hall could do.
Exalt Bowenya carefully inspected both the scrolls. "Huh. My old friends certainly put a great deal of countermeasures inside their Daoguard Towers." Exalt Bowenya chuckled. "My plans for dealing with this Daolord are simple. Let's fight him openly and use the overwhelming power over our three Daoguard Towers to fight and kill him head-on."
"Fight and kill him head-on? How?" Jonnbech asked, while Hawkfang simply listened without saying a word.
"Simple. Our three Daoguard Towers shall use all the long-distance attacks available to us, as well as treasures that are strong enough to pose a threat to him! Everyone else will swarm him as we do so, and we'll wipe him out at the base of the Sacred Mountains," Exalt Bowenya said.
Both Jonnbech and Hawkfang were startled. This was an extremely vicious ploy! They had been planning on setting down layers of traps to slowly whittle away at the Daolord's longevity until he finally died, but Exalt Bowenya had a far crueler plan in mind.
They were going to send all the Hegemons and Emperors to attack while the Daoguard Towers launched virtually all of their attacks from afar! They would literally focus all of their firepower in one massive bombardment, using all of their tricks and traps and offensive powers at the same time. This was indeed likely to result in the Daolord's death, but the maddened Daolord would probably butcher many of the Hegemons and Emperors swarming him. However, Jonnbech and Hawkfang didn't voice any dissent. The Exalt was the final decision-maker, after all.
"What if he doesn't die at the base of the Sacred Mountains?" Hawkfang asked.
"How could he possibly survive that many attacks?" Jonnbech frowned.
"And what if he does?" Hawkfang repeated.
Bowenya smiled coldly. "Then the only things left to us shall be our respective Daoguard Towers. Even if it costs us our very lives, we have to kill him… because if we can't kill him, we will still die."
"My plan is to have 70% of the Hegemons and Emperors take part in the battle at the base of the Sacred Mountains. The remaining 30% of them will be split amongst the three of us. If it really does come down to a series of final battles involving our Daoguard Towers, we'll need their help." Bowenya chuckled. "He's nothing more than a Daolord whose truesoul is crumbling away. Our three towers should be enough to kill him."
Exalt Bowenya gave the order, and the entire Sacred Realm sprinted into motion. An awesome number of Samsara Daolords were teleported away from it, while some of the most supremely talented Daolords were actually given a chance to take part in the fight as well! They were given Sithe weapons and would be sent out as fodder to exhaust that terrifying Daolord in battle.
Rumble… the levitating Realmgate suddenly activated, once more glowing with the same dazzling light that it had emanated for countless years. The Realmgate was a hundred thousand kilometers tall, and it radiated eye-catching splendor.
Ji Ning was seated in the lotus position on the ground. He raised his head to glance at the distant Realmgate. "The Realmgate has been activated. However… I'm in no rush to go there just yet." Ning then shut his eyes again, once more focusing on the Dao of Illusions.
Ever since he had learned of those nine special techniques, he had scoured the memories of all the Hegemons and Emperors he had captured. However, there had been two Hegemons who had extremely powerful Dao-hearts. Ning had been unable to successfully review their memories! Ning was planning to capture more Hegemons during this trip into the Sacred Realm. He had to improve his mastery over the art of illusions, improving it to Hegemony!
Ever since he had mastered the Eternal Omega Sword Dao, he had been able to quickly master other Daos as well. For example, he had long ago reached Hegemony in the Dao of Space and the Dao of Time. Training to Hegemony was quite simple, but fusing them into his Eternal Omega Sword Dao was fairly difficult.
As for the Dao of Illusions? Ning had yet to upgrade it to Hegemony, much less infuse it into his sword-arts.
Time continued to pass on. He was able to reach Hegemony in the Dao of Illusions after merely eighty thousand years. It could be said that Ning was now at a level where he could easily reach Hegemony in any Dao he desired, even complicated Daos such as the Dao of Numerancy or the Dao of Karma. They might take a bit more time, but he could still do it. To Ning, however, there wasn't much of a point to doing so. These Daos were only useful when he infused them into his Eternal Omega Sword Dao.
Time continued to flow on. A hundred million years. A billion years. Ten billion years…
The Sacred Realm had finished making its preparations long ago. The Sithe were waiting for Ning… and they began to grow a bit anxious.
"Why hasn't that Daolord come yet?"
"It has been nearly half a chaos cycle. How much longer does he plan to train for?"
"If this continues, is it possible that he'll just naturally expire and his truesoul will crumble?" The Sithe were all rather worried.
"Don't worry. He won't. The fact that he is still cultivating is proof that he very much wants to stay alive. He wouldn't be willing to just train until his death."
"Let's keep waiting. That's the only choice we have! He's the only living person in all of Purgatory right now. There's no way for us to set up any formations there, and the power of the three Elder Halls would be dramatically weakened if used in Purgatory. We used two Apocalypse-class treasures which were a perfect counter against him, but both failed. There's no point in sending anyone else with any other treasures to Purgatory. Our only choice is to wait."
Ning was simply too powerful. In the end, even the 'perfect counters' against him had failed. Their only chance was to rely on their Daoguard Towers and wait for Ning to come to them. The Daoguard Towers, however, were in the Sacred Realm! Thus, the Sithe had to remain in the Sacred Realm. They wouldn't dare go to Purgatory!
One chaos cycle. Two chaos cycles. Ten chaos cycles. A hundred chaos cycles…
Ning's Primaltwin in the outside world was training as well, paying no heed to the Sithe who were being driven mad with impatience.
Finally, the day came when a small smile appeared in Ning's face. He had been completely absorbed in cultivating for many years now, and today he finally felt the joy of finding the Dao he sought! He slowly opened his eyes, and his gaze seemed to be filled with illusions of the birth and destruction of all things in spacetime.
Boom! A strange surge of power flowed through the Sword Dao Domain around him, causing countless illusions to appear. Countless living beings were born, lived, and fought against each other. Some of them even possessed rudimentary levels of sentience. It could be said that they already had some of the qualities of actual living beings.
"I never would've imagined that when the Dao of Illusions came together with my Eternal Omega Sword Dao, its power would skyrocket by such a great amount. My illusions are beginning to become reality." Ning could sense that the illusory life forms he had created were all 'real'. They had their own sentience and even some rudimentary emotions; the only thing they lacked was a sense of self-awareness.
Ning now felt rather reluctant to bring this illusion to an end. Once he did, it would represent the annihilation of all the living beings within this illusory realm.
"So the guesses of countless cultivators who came before me were correct. If one can reach an incredibly high level in the Dao of Illusions, one truly can turn illusions into reality," Ning mused. "If I can make another breakthrough and upgrade my Omega Dao to Autarchy, I'll probably be able to make everything within my heartworld projection real."
With another thought, Ning gradually cast the illusory world around him into darkness. The countless beings within that world all fell asleep… and then, the illusion came to an end.
Although he was rather unwilling to part with them, he couldn't just spend all his time and energy maintaining that illusory realm.
"Illusions… reality… I imagine there are many cultivators who would rather live in an illusory realm." Ning's Illusion Sword Dao had reached such a level where many cultivators would willingly allow themselves to be captured by it, because it truly did feel extremely real. Only a tiny little bit of difference remained between it and true reality.
Ning's truesoul was affected by the power of his Illusion Sword Dao as well. Reality and illusion intersected repeatedly, resulting in his truesoul feeling more comfortable than ever before. Even the truesoul's crumbling speed was somewhat lessened! Ning's mastery of the Wind Sword Dao and Lightning Sword Dao had been of negligible benefit to his truesoul, but the Illusion Sword Dao was clearly quite helpful.
"For the sake of this Illusion Sword Dao, I spent a total of 185 chaos cycles in training! However, the Illusion Sword Dao has caused my truesoul to slow down its rate of crumbling. As a result, I still have six hundred chaos cycles left." Ning couldn't help but let out an involuntary chuckle. "I guess you really do win some and lose some."
"Now that I have mastered the Illusion Sword Dao, it is time to review the memories of those two Hegemons." Ning once more summoned the two Hegemons he had captured.
As soon as the two Hegemons looked at Ning, they instantly fell into a dazed stupor. Ning's mastery of the Illusion Sword Dao meant only Autarch Stonerule, the master of the Illusion Daobirth Essence, was superior to him in the art of illusions… and only somewhat superior at that. The other Autarchs were all slightly inferior to Ning in this regard! And so, Ning was able to review the memories of the various Hegemons with ease.