Book 42, The Five Truncheon Chapters, Chapter 5 - Exhaust Him!
Ji Ning remained quite calm, because this entire time he had the feeling that this sealed continuum had not finished revealing all of the dangers hidden within it. Although none of these dangers were truly lethal, if he didn't handle them correctly he would pay a heavy price for it.
Inside the brightest of the three Elder Halls in this hidden dimension. Exalt Bowenya was looking nervously at the images in the air before him. The images were displaying the chaotic battle going on within the sealed spacetime continuum. Explosions were occurring everywhere as energy blasted about willy-nilly. Even though he was in control of the Sacred Realm, he wasn't able to clearly see what was going on in the battle. Clearly, a chaotic and terrifying war was going on, with all three Exalt-class Daoguard Towers focusing their long-distance firepower against Daolord Darknorth, with all the Hegemons working to assist the towers!
"What's the situation?" Exalt Bowenya barked coldly. He was able to get a vague sense of what was going on from watching the images, and it seemed as though his side held the advantage. They had surrounded Daolord Darknorth and were blasting him with attacks.
"Exalt." More than twenty avatars belonging to the battling Hegemons and Emperors were gathered next to him. True Sithe did not have avatars, as they were constantly being rejected and suppressed by this Chaosverse. It was impossible for them to use their godsense to keep and maintain an avatar.
In contrast, the Sithe descendants were native to this Chaosverse. They all had avatars. Clearly, then, the avatars located next to Exalt Bowenya all belonged to the Sithe progeny. These avatars belonged to the various squads who had been assigned to take part in this battle. Through them, the Exalt was able to quickly issue new orders as well as be updated how the battle was progressing.
"Exalt, don't worry. We have an absolute advantage in this battle. We're definitely going to win," a horned man said excitedly. "The astral chains have completely countered Daolord Darknorth's advantages. Each time, he is forced to use his sword-arts to defend against us. He's constantly using up energy, and his truesoul is crumbling at an increasing pace while we are sending more and more people into the sealed continuum to assault him. He'll only be able to capture or kill one of two of us within a short period of time.
This sealed continuum was a hundred billion kilometers in size. Ning moved much more slowly due to all of the attacks raining down on him, and he was using up a lot of energy. As a result, he had to slowly move from Emperor to Emperor as he captured them.
"With our grand formation having been established, he won't have any chance at all of capturing anyone from our team of thirty-five Hegemons and Emperors," a black-robed elder said confidently.
"He's already used his sword-arts at least ten times by now, and this is just the beginning! We have many tools remaining that we haven't even used yet."
"Exalt, let us use all the tools we have at our disposal."
"Exalt, let us take part in the battle as well!"
"Alright." Exalt Bowenya revealed a look of delight. "Hah! I knew it. He's not going to pull anything unexpected out of his sleeves."
The Exalt was no fool. Each plan he had used against Ning had a very high chance of success. In Purgatory, the Apocalypse-class castle would've stood a good chance of exhausting Ning to death, if it hadn't been for Ning's Storm Sword Dao allowing Ning to move much faster than anyone had anticipated.
As for the spacetime formation, the only reason why Ning had survived it was because the Apocalypse-class castle had bought him an extra hour of time to gain insight into a few of the formation's mysteries. As a result, he had launched eighteen strikes and broke through that formation.
After these past two failures, the Sithe Exalt was actually beginning to lose confidence in himself. This time, however, everything was progressing smoothly in accordance with plan. This caused him to feel quite delighted.
"This attack is much more powerful than the two previous attacks in Purgatory combined." An expectant look was in Exalt Dowenya's eyes. "We have three Daoguard Towers working together to rain attacks on him, after all, and we also have a large group of Hegemons and Emperors going all-out against him. Even if we can't kill him head-on, we can exhaust him to death."
"Send in the Bloodfiend Maze Formation as well," Exalt Dowenya ordered.
"Understood!" Two of the Sithe descendants next to him immediately acknowledged the order respectively, then sent their squad of fifty-two Hegemons into battle as well.
"Have all eighteen of the Death Attendants enter as well!" Exalt Dowenya commanded.
Just a short while later… "Exalt, Daolord Darknorth is completely helpless against the Death Attendants. All he can do is rely on his speed to dodge. The more he dodges, the more awkward his movements become. We're landing more and more attacks from the astral chain formations and the other formations, and he's forced to use more and more sword-arts to defend."
"His truesoul is beginning to crumble faster and faster."
"Exalt, we're definitely going to win!" All of the avatars of the Sithe taking part in the battle were extremely confident.
"Hahaha, I knew…!" Exalt Dowenya let out a laugh as he prepared to issue his final orders, but then he suddenly hesitated. He asked, "How many of our Hegemons and Emperors have been captured or killed?"
"Around sixty-five of them were taken or slain," a black-robed elder said. Their formation was in control of the entire battlefield, allowing them to know the casualties they had suffered.
"Quite heavy." Exalt Dowenya couldn't help but smile, even as he said these words. Even if all the Hegemons died, it would be worth it if they killed Daolord Darknorth. Right now, just twenty percent or so had perished!
"Yes, our casualties are indeed quite heavy, but Daolord Darknorth is extremely important to the entire Sithe race. If we can kill him, it will all be worth it." The Hegemons and Emperors were brimming with the desire to do battle. They had known long ago that this would be a calamitous battle, but at least the situation was better than they had expected, even though more and more Hegemons and Emperors were being slain.
"If that's the case, then send in the final two formation squads as well. All remaining Hegemons and Emperors, use your respective treasures to assist. Don't let Daolord Darknorth focus his attention on any one area in particular," Exalt Bowenya said.
"Yes." Instantly, a large number of Hegemons and Emperors charged forth. This final wave included an enormous number of Emperors; there had to be over two thousand of them!
In truth, there was a limit to how many Hegemons could be used by the three Daoguard Towers. At most, eight hundred Hegemons was enough! More than two thousand of the other Hegemons were simply there to obscure Ning's vision and to distract him. After all, Ning would continuously counter-attack and either kill or capture these Hegemons! If he managed to kill someone who was in control of a Daoguard Tower treasure, the impact would be significant, but if he only managed to kill one of the screeners, it would have no impact on the Sithe combat power.
Of course, even though these Emperors were merely a screening force, they were also provided with formations and Sithe treasures to slow Ning down.
"It seems I'll be able to deal with Daolord Darknorth just by sacrificing a few Hegemons and Emperors." Exalt Bowenya smiled broadly.
Time continued to tick past, second after second.
"We've already lost more than ninety Hegemons and Emperors."
"Daolord Darknorth has used his sword-arts over forty times by now."
"He managed to capture another thirty Hegemons and Emperors, but most of them were useless pawns. It won't affect our combat power much. By now, he's used his sword-arts over fifty times!"
The battle grew increasingly ferocious.
"He's already captured over two hundred Hegemons and should have used his sword-arts at least eighty times by now. His truesoul is crumbling quite rapidly." The avatars continued to make detailed combat reports to the Exalt.
"Over twenty Hegemons belonging to the Iceland Astral Chains have been captured. The formation has been destroyed!" Suddenly, this new report came out. The astral chain formations could still be maintained after suffering light casualties, but at a certain point it would still break apart.
"Keep fighting! Daolord Darknorth won't be able to last much longer," Exalt Dowenya said calmly. "He's used his sword-arts many times… even if he didn't go full-force for most of them, it should still have exhausted him tremendously."
As time continued to flow on, three more of the major formations were breached as well. By now, Ning had either killed or captured over five hundred Hegemons and Emperors, and had used his sword-arts over 180 times.
"Almost. Almost!" Exalt Dowenya was waiting eagerly. "We're going to win." Each strike would consume a significant amount of Daolord Darknorth's vitality, even if the strikes were not full-force. Based on his calculations, the Daolord would die after a total of around two hundred strikes."
"We've lost over six hundred Hegemons and Emperors, while he's already used his sword-arts more than two hundred times. We still have over two thousand people left, but we only have three formations remaining. Daolord Darknorth is quite clever; he's been focusing his efforts on the Hegemons who are in control of the formations."
"Hold nothing back!" Exalt Dowenya ordered coldly. "He'll be dying any moment now, while we have over two thousand Hegemons and Emperors left. We'll be able to exhaust him to death!"
But… for some reason, the closer they came to success, the more uneasy Exalt Dowenya suddenly began to feel. He shook his head, forcing down that uneasy feeling and reassuring himself that it had appeared because he wanted to win too badly.
"Over seven hundred Hegemons and Emperors have been captured, while we only have two main formations remaining; the other formations aren't important and are just meant to screen the real ones. Daolord Darknorth hasn't died yet!"
"Over eight hundred have been captured. He's used his sword-arts over 250 times, but he still hasn't died! We only have one main formation left."
"Why hasn't he died yet?!" Exalt Dowenya was growing increasingly nervous and impatient.
"Exalt!" Suddenly, half of the remaining avatars turned completely ashen. One of them said frantically, "Exalt, we've been counter-trapped!"
"Counter-trapped?!" The Exalt was completely dumbfounded.
Book 42, The Five Truncheon Chapters, Chapter 6 - Putting On a Show
Exalt Bowenya's face tightened. He murmured softly to himself, "Is he actually exhausted, or was he just pretending?"
He was beginning to feel some suspicions. The battle had progressed far too smoothly, causing him to feel a hint of unease deep inside. Each time, however, he had reassured himself that he was simply overthinking things! Upon hearing the remaining Hegemons cry that they had been counter-trapped? Exalt Bowenya's intuition, tempered by countless years of adventuring and battle, screamed that something was seriously wrong with this battle.
"Are all of you trapped?" Exalt Bowenya asked.
"We're all trapped. This entire place is filled with black fog. I can't see the other Hegemons and Emperors."
"We've been trapped as well."
"We're trapped." The various avatars of the Hegemons and Emperors all spoke out frantically, causing Exalt Bowenya to feel increasingly uneasy about this.
Within the sealed spacetime continuum of a hundred billion kilometers.
Ning stood there in midair, relaxed and at his ease. Hundreds of millions of kilometers away, some magic treasures and formations continued to rain down attacks upon a second white-robed Daolord Darknorth. This second Daolord Darknorth was doing his best to dodge and evade while using his Water Sword Dao, Storm Sword Dao, and other techniques, with his truesoul at the brink of collapse.
"What is real is false. What is false is real." Ning murmured softly, "None of these Hegemons are able to see through my Illusion Sword Dao. I'm able to toy with them with ease." Ever since he had been trapped within this sealed continuum, his 'frenzied fighting' and his 'crumbling truesoul' had all been falsified by his Illusion Sword Dao!
Ning's Sword Dao Domain was able to spread out to a distance of one billion kilometers! With but a thought, he caused this entire region to be transformed into an illusory realm. At Ning's current level of insight, the illusory beings within his domain had gained a basic level of sentience, emotions, and intelligence! This was an absolutely terrifying concept. In comparison, simply faking a battle scene within this domain was incredibly simple. The Hegemons and Emperors only saw what Ning wished for them to see!
If Ning was able to use his Omega Sword Dao to become an Autarch, his illusory domain would reach the level of being able to manifest reality itself. By then, his 'illusions' would be real on both the surface and inside. He could create an 'illusion' of a Universe treasure, and it would become a genuine Universe treasure. If he created the illusion of an expert, they would become real experts! But of course, this would require him to constantly consume a large amount of power.
Even now, the beings created by his illusions possessed intelligence, emotions, and sentience. Ning's 'Illusion Sword Dao' had become one of his killer techniques. In a battle against an Autarch, it would be somewhat effective but wouldn't necessarily be the determining factor… but against mere Hegemons and Emperors? The Illusion Sword Dao could toy with them with ease! However, it took Ning time to capture those Hegemons and break their formations, which is why he had continued to put on a show and buy more time.
"Master. We've already taken control of this formation," Azurefiend's avatar reported.
"Good." Ning revealed a delighted look, then waved his hand. A formation-base which was ten million kilometers long suddenly appeared next to him. Azurefiend's avatar, the Paragon of Pills, Lord Annihilation, Hegemon Tia, and Hegemon Flameleft were jointly controlling this grand formation, which was one of the many formations which Ning had taken away. He had let his team choose from the available formations and find one which they could use.
"Assemble the formation and use it to cover everything within a hundred billion kilometers," Ning immediately ordered. "Trap them all. Let none escape!"
"Leave it to us." Azurefiend, Lord Annihilation, and the others were all quite excited. Capture two thousand Hegemons at one blow? They had never done or even seen anything like this before! All of them felt both eagerness and nervousness.
Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. A large amount of black fog spread out from within the formation. It almost instantly covered the entire sealed continuum, spreading out to a distance of a hundred billion kilometers. This formation had been meant to deal with Ning. It only had a minor effect on him, but it was perfect for dealing with these Hegemons and Emperors.
"I can't see anything!"
"What a terrifying aura of darkness. I've been suppressed!"
"I can't see anything either."
"I can't resist it."
"We've been completely trapped."
"We've been trapped as well!" The two thousand remaining Hegemons and Emperors were all beginning to panic, because Ning had already dealt with the most powerful formations earlier. The remaining Hegemons had just a single powerful formation left, but it was an attack-type formation that couldn't affect this grand darkness formation at all!
Once the darkness spread out, almost 99% of the Hegemons and Emperors were completely paralyzed. The rest were able to fight back a bit thanks to the treasures they possessed, but there were only around ten or so in total. They wouldn't be able to make much of a difference.
"Time to bring it to an end." Ning immediately began to fly towards those remaining Hegemons. His Sword Dao Domain quickly spread out to cover them, completely suppressing them and making it impossible for them to move. With but a thought, Ning drew all the Hegemons into his estate-world and imprisoned them in separate parts of it!
Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. Soon, all of the Hegemons and Emperors within the sealed continuum had been drawn away.
"Impressive, Darknorth. I never would've dared to imagine a result like this." The Paragon of Pills was incomparably excited, while the nearby Azurefiend, Lord Annihilation, Tia, and Flameleft were stunned as well.
"Now that I've taken part in such a great undertaking, I can die with no regrets. I imagine my old friends wouldn't even believe me when I tell them about this," Hegemon Flameleft sighed with shock.
"More than two thousand Hegemons and Emperors!" Azurefiend sighed as well.
Ning nodded. "More than two thousand eight hundred, to be precise. However, it was all thanks to you helping out. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to activate that formation on my own."
"All we did was use that formation in a very simple manner, nothing else." Lord Annihilation said hurriedly, "In the end, it was all thanks to your unearthly power, Daolord Darknorth. You dealt with the biggest problems, allowing us to sweep up the scattered remnants."
"Stop flattering me," Ning said with a laugh. "Go ahead and enter my estate-world. This was merely our first battle in the Sacred Realm. It is far too early to be celebrating."
"With you by our side, Daolord, we'll definitely make it out alive." Lord Annihilation continued his flattery.
"Be careful, Darknorth." The Paragon of Pills looked at him.
The sealed spacetime continuum was now completely empty. The only person left within this region of a hundred billion kilometers was Ji Ning!
"Now that was a fine show we put on." Ning couldn't help but grin when he thought about what had happened just now. In order to make the performance seem as realistic as possible, he even used up a few of his Sithe treasures, allowing them to take blows meant for him and then explode in dramatic fashion. He actually made use of them as well, as the fragments would clearly be real even after flying out of the range of his Sword Dao Domain.
Illusions… reality… Ning was now an absolute grandmaster in blending the two together, and so all of the Hegemons and Emperors fell into his grasp.
"I'll scan their memories first." He had captured most of them alive, sparing even the many true Sithe he had captured, all for the sake of finding those nine special techniques. This was something which would have an impact on his own chances of survival!
He waved his hand, causing a true Sithe Hegemon to appear before him.
"Daolord Darknorth?" The Sithe Hegemon stared at Ning, shocked. He then gritted his teeth and said, "W-what do you want?"
Ning continued to maintain his Illusion Sword Dao Domain. To the Sithe, it looked as though Ning's truesoul was crumbling away rapidly. It looked as though Ning was at the very verge of death.
"Do you want to live, or do you want to die?" Ning asked.
"Live? Die?" The Sithe Hegemon was stunned. Who would choose death if life was an option? But as he hesitated, Ning secretly lured his mind into the illusory realm, causing a dazed look to appear in his eyes. Ning then began to flip through the memories of this Sithe Hegemon.
"He also swore a lifeblood oath not to reveal anything?" Ning's face tightened. "The Sithe truly are cautious. Even the true Sithe were forced to swear lifeblood oaths."
He wasn't able to find the nine techniques, and so he turned his attention to the Hegemon's other memories, carefully viewing them in the hopes of finding something useful.
Within the brightest Elder Hall. Exalt Dowenya stood silently on his feet, with the avatars of his servants by his side. All of their true bodies had been captured alive! Clearly, they had already lost the first battle. All the Hegemons and Emperors had been captured, with a tiny fraction having been killed.
"Exalt." Two figures appeared next to him. It was the incarnations of Hawkfang and Jonnbech.
It was fairly easy for such high-level cultivators to use divine power to manifest incarnations. So long as the incarnations remained fairly close to their true bodies, the incarnations could be maintained with ease! Hawkfang and Jonnbech's true bodies were both located in the other two Elder Halls, which were quite close. As a result, it was easy for them to maintain incarnations here.
However, incarnations formed via divine power were all extremely weak, negligibly weak when compared to their true bodies! In contrast, avatars were different. Avatars could come close to true bodies in power, with some able to reach 70% or even 80%.
"What should we do next?" Jonnbech's incarnation asked.