Book 42, The Five Truncheon Chapters, Chapter 15 - Deadlock
Crunch. Crunch. Clack!
Within a gorge inside the Sacred Realm. Ji Ning was standing next to the Iceland Elder Hall, using his Sword Dao Domain to break it apart and deconstruct it. The Iceland Elder Hall was devoid of all power, and so he was able to break it apart quite quickly.
"Daolord Darknorth, why are you wasting time breaking apart a useless Daoguard Tower? Is it perhaps because of how pathetically impoverished all you cultivators are? During the last war we fought against you cultivators, your kind did the same thing in frantically scavenging for any scraps you could find." The heavens echoed with a cold, mocking laugh.
"I'm in no rush," Ning murmured calmly.
"Hmph. Then go ahead and keep on breaking it apart," the icy voice replied coldly.
That was exactly what Ning did. He continued to break the Daoguard Tower apart piece-by-piece, and he carefully scrutinized every inch of it. This was the first time he had a chance to inspect an Exalt-class Daoguard Tower up close! His next action was to enter Exalt Bowenya's Elder Hall. Given that all Daoguard Towers shared certain commonalities in construction, deconstructing and inspecting this one was a form of preparation for him.
As the saying goes, if you knew yourself and knew your enemies, you would be blessed with victory in all of your battles. The deconstruction of the Iceland Elder Hall was part of Ning efforts to know his enemies.
"A pity that the Flameland Elder Hall was virtually annihilated," Ning mused to himself.
Twenty-six days went past in the blink of an eye before Ning had finally finished carefully tearing apart the entire Iceland Elder Hall. During this process, he had also discovered a strange beast which had been slumbering deep within a prison inside the tower. Ning had used his Sword Dao Domain to pick up the sleeping beast, toss it far away, and then use illusions to mask his own location.
As for what happened once the beast woke up? Ning really didn't give a damn.
He had considered drawing it away into his own estate-world, but the creature was too overwhelmingly powerful. Ordinary estate-worlds wouldn't be able to contain its might! It would probably be able to tear through Ning's estate-worlds with ease. Yes, some of the Sithe treasures Ning had might be able to contain it, but Ning didn't want to go through the trouble of doing so. An insane beast was of little value to him.
"Hm." Ning stood within that empty gorge, the Iceland Elder Hall having been completely deconstructed and then put away within an estate-world.
"Exalt-class Daoguard Towers truly are marvelously built up. They require an utterly inconceivable amount of expertise with regards to manipulating space and time. I wager that the blueprints for Exalt-class Daoguard Towers were created by the Sithe Lord of Chaos." Ning was secretly shocked by what he had found. The Iceland Elder Hall had been devoid of all power, and so many of its powerful functions had become inert and hidden… and yet, Ning was still able to see how incredibly powerful and complex it was based on how it had been created.
"Now what should I do? Given my current level of power, if I actually tried to barge my way inside one of these things, my chances would be quite low." Ning was quite worried. He had never entered a Daoguard Tower before! Now, however, if he wanted to leave this place he would have to pass through the center of this hidden dimension… and that center was located within that Daoguard Tower! He had to enter it… but if he did, he would be in incredible danger.
Ning transformed into a streak of light as he quickly flew towards that final remaining Elder Hall.
Exalt Bowenya stood within that Elder Hall, staring intently at the streak of light flying towards him. He murmured softly, "He's coming. Good. My only fear was that you wouldn't come."
A hint of a cold smile appeared on Bowenya's face. "Get ready, everyone. Once Daolord Darknorth enters the tower, you'll be responsible for manning your stations and killing him."
"Understood." The hundreds of Hegemons and Emperors were all ready for this. Some were berserk, some were filled with hate, and some were filled with desire for glory. They had already sacrificed far too much to kill this terrifying Daolord.
Whoosh. The distant Ning suddenly landed on the peak of a mountain less than a billion kilometers away from the tower. A wine-laden table appeared in front of him as he sat down in the lotus position.
"Eh?" Bowenya was flabbergasted.
"Why isn't he coming?" The Hegemons and Emperors behind him all grew worried.
"Bowenya." Between mouthfuls of food and wine, Ning chuckled: "Did you really take me for a fool? This is an Exalt-class Daoguard Tower which has you, an Exalt, in command. You also have hundreds of Hegemons serving as your deathsworn! I'm not so bored with life as to go barging into your Daoguard Tower."
"So what are you saying?" Bowenya's voice rang out.
"Not much. I'm simply not planning to go inside, that's all," Ning said. "Even if I do end up dying, you can forget about swallowing away my truesoul fragments."
Ning knew that if he died at the hands of the Sithe, his truesoul would be devoured instead of returning to the prime essences of the Chaosverse.
Bowenya blinked, while the Hegemons and Emperors behind him grew anxious. "Exalt, what should we do?" "If he doesn't come in, what can we do? He's too powerful. He managed to deal with both of the previous Elder Halls when they moved to attack him!" "Right, w-what should we do?" They were all panicked.
Exalt Bowenya barked, "Shut up!" Instantly, the Elder Hall fell silent. He then frowned and stared at the distant Ning, then said in a cold voice: "Daolord Darknorth! I admire you for your strength. If I fought you in solo combat, I would probably be defeated by you with ease. I have no chance of defeating you if I exit this tower."
"I failed my Daomerge. My truesoul has been crumbling this entire time." Ning sat at the peak of that distant mountain, sipping his wine and smiling. "You are still a Sithe Exalt, after all. It won't be easy for me to kill you, and my lifespan will be dramatically lessened by battling you. Perhaps my truesoul will crumble to the point of collapsing during our battle, in which case you would have won. If you fight, you stand a chance at winning."
"If I come out and fight you, I have a greater-than 90% chance of dying," Bowenya said. "and you, Daolord Darknorth, must know that although killing me won't be easy due to how tough my body is, capturing me would be much simpler. Hmph. I've encountered Omega Emperors before in my own homeland."
Ning raised an eyebrow. It was true. Killing Bowenya would be fairly difficult, as his body and truesoul were both on the Autarch level! It was only because he was a foreign invader that this Chaosverse rejected him and suppressed his power to the level of the Blazesun Ruler. To kill him would take many blows… but simply capturing him would be easier. Ning had already mastered the Space Sword Dao; he could use a blow to wrap Exalt Bowenya within layers of space and then imprison him.
Ning had many different Sword Daos. The Space Sword Dao would be the easiest one for capturing Bowenya.
"That's why I won't go out and fight you," Bowneya continued. "Either you come inside, or I'll just watch you die from afar."
"Watch me die? Then you won't have the chance to be rewarded for this." Ning smirked. "You prepared so many plots to kill me, all for the sake of exhausting me and slaying me so you can swallow up my truesoul. If I just die naturally, you won't get my truesoul."
"My life is more valuable than any reward. The rewards for killing you are great enough that I would be willing to risk my life if I felt my chances were good… but given how slim my chances would be, I won't be so foolish as to go out and fight you. You are indeed very powerful; my only chance lies in battling within the Daoguard Tower," Bowenya said. "You were able to use your illusions to defeat the many other traps and treasures I threw your way. Now, only my Daoguard Tower remains. If you come inside, I'll battle you to the death. If you do not, you can just die outside."
Bowenya remained quite calm and focused. He cared intensely about staying alive. He could calmly, emotionlessly watch as over 2,800 Hegemons and Emperors perished, including Hawkfang and Jonnbech, but himself? He wasn't going to throw his life away. He would rather abandon his chance at glory than to risk himself.
Whoosh. Ning transformed into a streak of light and flew towards the Daoguard Tower.
"He's coming." Bowenya and the others began to grow excited. The gates to this Elder Hall were wide open. Ning was on par with the Autarchs in power; to him, whether or not the gates were open was really meaningless. He could simply teleport inside even a completely sealed-off castle.
Ning quickly flew next to the Elder Hall. He stared upwards at the towering, twelve-story tower, then reached out with his right hand and gently pressed it against against the surface of the Daoguard Tower. The surface felt rather cool to the touch. Thanks to his mastery over the Metal Sword Dao and the Earth Sword Dao, Ning could sense some of the internal underpinnings of the tower without even having to enter it.
"As I expected, the most dangerous part of an Exalt-class Daoguard Tower lies in the Dao of Spacetime." Ning secretly frowned. When he had torn apart the Iceland Elder Hall, he had come to this conclusion. He was hoping that perhaps Exalt Bowenya's Daoguard Tower was different… but in truth, the situation was essentially the same.
The Daoguard Tower looked like a single entity, but it was actually composed of many different spacetime continuums that were fitted together in extremely marvelous ways. This required an extreme level of mastery of the Dao of Spacetime. If Ning entered, he would need to traverse a veritable maze of spacetime continuums and would probably die midway through.
"If I also managed to master the Time Sword Dao and then merged it together with my Space Sword Dao into the Spacetime Sword Dao, I would be completely confident in my chances," Ning mused. "Unfortunately, it took me thousands of chaos cycles just to master the Space Sword Dao. The Time Sword Dao is even more difficult. It will probably take me over ten thousand chaos cycles."
Ning had spend the majority of his three thousand chaos cycles of wandering on the Space Sword Dao, which was why he had been able to master it after entering the Sithelands.
The Space Sword Dao was more difficult than all five of the Five Elements Sword Daos combined. The Time Sword Dao was even more difficult than that!
"I don't have enough time, but if I go inside while simply relying on the Space Sword Dao, I'm not sure I'll make it out again." Ning hesitated.