Book 42, The Five Truncheon Chapters, Chapter 7 - Pity
Exalt Bowenya instructed, "Go ahead and cancel the formations."
"Understood," Hawkfang said. The formation which sealed the spacetime continuum around Ji Ning was under the control of his Flameland Elder Hall. The sealed continuum quickly dissipated, allowing the region at the base of the distant Sacred Mountains to go back to normal and reveal Daolord Darknorth at its center.
"Ahahaha! Sithe Exalt, do you have any other tricks up your sleeve?" Ning called out loudly from the base of the Sacred Mountains.
From afar, it looked as though his truesoul was crumbling quite quickly.
"His truesoul has crumbled to the point where he is on the verge of death. I'm amazed at how calm he is." Jonnbech stared downwards from his Elder Hall to the base of the Sacred Mountains, then let out a sigh: "Truly impressive."
"If I was in his position, I'd probably have gone completely berserk by now," Hawkfang's incarnation agreed.
Exalt Bowenya stared from afar, his forehead creased in a frown. "Do you think Daolord Darknorth's truesoul is truly crumbling that fast? Or is it perhaps a deception?"
"A deception?" The avatars of the Hegemons, Hawkfang, and Jonnbech all stared at him in surprise. They had all reached incredibly high levels of insight. To deceive them would be nearly impossible! They had never encountered something like this after becoming Hegemons and Emperors.
"You haven't experienced enough. The things you see, the things you sense… it can all be a lie. Even your own intuition can be deceived." Exalt Bowenya looked at the distant Ning. "We've lost the first battle, just like that. I can't help but feel that something is wrong. If Daolord Darknorth was extremely skilled in the Dao of Illusions, he would be able to put on a show which none of you could see through."
"A show?" Hawkfang and Jonnbech spoke out at the same time. Both were shocked.
"That's just one possibility. It's also possible that he really is at the verge of death." Exalt Bowenya narrowed his eyes. Unlike these Hegemons and Emperors, when he lived in his own Chaosverse he was an actual Autarch, and his opponents were also Autarchs! In fact, he had even met someone who was even more powerful than the Autarchs. He was much more experienced and knew just how terrifying the Dao of Illusions could be.
Exalt Bowenya said calmly, "I'm just saying that this is a possibility. You have to be wary of it during our upcoming battles."
"What should we do next?" Hawkfang and Jonnbech looked at Exalt Bowenya.
"What can we do? Use our Daoguard Towers to fight back against him as best we can," Exalt Bowenya said.
Their Daoguard Towers had already used up virtually all of their many long-distance offensive treasures in the first battle. Exalt Dowenya's goal had been to focus-fire everything on Ning and destroy him in their first engagement. However, they had already lost that critical battle. As a result, they now had far fewer resources available to him. The only things left were the Daoguard Towers themselves!
Boom! Ning suddenly soared into the skies, then landed down upon the peak of a distant mountain. He then sat down in the lotus position, establishing a Sword Dao Domain that completely separated him from the world beyond. A region of one billion kilometers transformed into a blurry field of light, preventing Exalt Bowenya and the others from seeing anything else.
"He's started to train again?"
"He's about to die. He's still training?"
Everyone, even Exalt Bowenya, felt their hearts clench. When Ning had first entered Purgatory, he had done the same thing. He sat down in the lotus and meditated until he mastered his Wind Sword Dao. After defeating the first castle, he had then entered another lengthy training session which had concluded with his mastery of the Storm Sword Dao! And after breaking through the spacetime formation, he had trained for over a hundred chaos cycles before mastering the Illusion Sword Dao.
Each time Ning concluded a battle, he would begin a training session… and each time, the training session would be quite long. Now that Ning had finished his first big battle in the Sacred Realm, he actually started to train once again. Exalt Bowenya and the others had no idea as to how they should respond!
Ning sat there in the lotus position at a peak below the Sacred Mountains, his Sword Dao Domain severing this peak from the world around him.
"Time to continue." Ning summoned another Sithe Hegemon and began to flip through his memories. Time continued to flow on. Each Hegemon consumed quite a bit of time, ranging from four hours to as long as five days!
Whoosh. Ning willed a Sithe descendant to appear before him. This one was fairly handsome but quite skinny. When he saw Ning, a shocked look appeared on his face. "Daolord Darknorth!" Next, a maddened and hateful look appeared in his eyes.
"Not good." Ning sensed a bit of danger. He hurriedly retreated while taking out a large astral treasure and placing it before him.
BOOM! The skinny Emperor suddenly exploded, causing a terrifying surge of power to blast outwards. This explosion was on par with the might of the Blazesun Ruler, and it smashed directly onto the astral treasure in front of Ning. The treasure was smashed it backwards and sent flying more than ten million kilometers before Ning managed to regain control over it and bring it back.
"He actually detonated a treasure he was carrying on him to launch one final attack. He knew that his chances of killing me were slim, but he was still willing to sacrifice his life?" Ning shook his head, murmuring softly to himself. He had clearly seen the maddened, hateful look in that Sithe man's eyes; the man had truly viewed him as a hated foe! Ning, however, didn't feel any enmity towards them. Strictly speaking, the 'Sithe descendants' were actually natives to this Chaosverse who had been born and bred here, just like Ning himself.
Another half-month went by. Ning continued to summon Sithe descendants and flip through their memories. On this day, he summoned at female Emperor. She was similarly startled when she saw Ning appear before her, then moved to self-detonate without hesitate.
"Freeze." This time, Ning moved much more decisively. Previously, he would chat a bit with his prisoners to shake their willpower. This time, he instantly sent a tendril of the sword-intent from h is Illusion Sword Dao into her body.
The maddened look quickly disappeared from the crazed female Emperor eyes and was replaced by a lost look. Ning shook his head, his mood poor. He began to scan the female Emperor's memories.
This woman was known as Empress Gracevoid. Her path of cultivation had been one filled with setbacks. She had originally been a mortal physician, but a stroke of karmic luck had set her upon the path of cultivation. Her heart was filled with kindness and benevolence, and she chose the Daoist title 'Gracevoid' because her clan's apothecary shop had been named the 'Gracevoid Hall'. The title 'Fairy Gracevoid' or 'Daoist Gracevoid' had accompanied her as she had progressed up the path of cultivation.
She bore love for all life, including even the grass and the plants. Her heart was filled with love for everyone, but most of all she loved the homeland where she had been born and bred.
However… this battle against Ning was a battle which could not be avoided. One side had to die! The Sithe viewed the cultivators as their mortal enemies, and Exalt Bowenya himself had stated that if they lost, this dimension would still end up being annihilated by that cultivator Daolord! Her homeland would be completely destroyed. Empress Gracevoid couldn't accept this, and so she swore she would kill this demon known as 'Daolord Darknorth'! She would be willing to pay any price needed to accomplish this.
"The greater the love, the deeper the hate." Ning let out a sigh. "Hand over all of your treasures," Ning said, and the illusion-trapped Empress obediently handed over all of her treasures.
Ning didn't really care about the treasures themselves, of course. His worry was that this Empress would once more attempt to commit suicide! "Now wake up," Ning said softly.
The Empress trembled slightly, regaining her clarity of mind. When she saw Ning, she once more prepared to launch a desperate assault… but then, she realized she had no treasures on her at all. If she simply tried to self-detonate herself, the resulting blast wouldn't be enough to threaten even a mere Hegemon, to say nothing of this terrifying Daolord.
"Why must you act like this upon seeing me?" Ning shook his head. "Another Emperor tried to do the same earlier. I was a bit slower and wasn't able to save him."
"There's no need to shed crocodile tears," the Empress said angrily. "You cultivators are our mortal enemies. Once we lose the war, our home will be finished!"
"I, Daolord Darknorth, swear on my very life itself that even if I do gain victory in the Sacred Realm, I'll leave without harming any of the six mortal realms here," Ning swore.
The Empress was stunned. There was no way to falsify a lifeblood oath.
"I never wanted to destroy your world," Ning said. "And you aren't even true Sithe. Technically speaking, you belong to the same 'race' as me. The Sithe are the outsiders, not us."
"Huh?!" The Empress couldn't believe it.
"N-no… I'm a Sithe descendant. There's no question about that!" the Empress argued.
"Even so, you are fundamentally different from them on an intrinsic level. Haven't you noticed yet? They treat you as nothing more than a pawn." Ning felt pity for these Sithe progeny. He held both Empress Gracevoid and the man who had self-detonated in high regard, even though they all wanted him dead.
Book 42, The Five Truncheon Chapters, Chapter 8 - Battle to the Death
"Different?" The Empress fell silent. As an Eternal Empress, she was no fool; she had realized long ago that there were some differences between the Sithe descendants and the true Sithe! Over the course of many years, the Hegemons and Emperors within this hidden dimension had slowly diverged into two main camps. The first was led by the true Sithe, while the second was led by the Sithe descendants. There were indeed some true Sithe who held their descendants in contempt. Exalt Bowenya ensured that they didn't go too far and that conflict didn't erupt, but everyone could sense the tension.
Still other Sithe managed to hide their contempt, but the more powerful descendants could still sense it. This infuriated them all the more, which was why they ended up following Hawkfang and setting up their own camp.
"We train in divine power and Immortal energy, but they train in a completely different type of energy," the Empress said softly. "We might both be 'Hegemons', but our side completely surpasses them in power. When we strike, the mighty power of the Dao flows through us… but they are dramatically weakened and don't have the power of the Dao behind them."
"We descendants know all these things, and we have many suspicions, but… but without a doubt, they are our ancestors." An anxious look appeared in the Empress' eyes. "Hawkfang, for example. His father was one of the Exalts. We might have some quarrels with them, but we are definitely their children and grandchildren. There's no question about this at all… and so without a doubt, we are Sithe."
"Wrong." Ning shook his head. "The power of the Dao comes from the power of the primordial chaos, which is omnipresent. They have been rejected by it, which is why they are unable to summon the power of the Dao… and only the true Sithe will be rejected!"
"You, however, are part of our Chaosverse. You are completely different types of lifeforms from them. In this battle… ugh. I have to admit, you Sithe progeny are placed in a rather awkward situation." Ning shook his head. "You'll only be truly free once this war comes to an end."
The female Empress had the vague feeling that Daolord Darknorth was not lying to her. "I understand." This was her only response. She said nothing further.
"Go then." Ning waved his hand, sending her back into his estate-world.
Ning continued to rifle through the memories of the Hegemons and Emperors. None of the true Sithe attempted to self-detonate, because they all knew the truth! This was an invasion, while they were the invaders and had lost. They did, however, feel some degree of resentment towards Ning. They were unhappy that Ning had come here and disturbed their tranquil lives, embroiling them into a deadly war once more.
As for the Sithe progeny? Nearly 10% of them attempted to self-detonate or launch some other type of attack! They were willing to sacrifice anything for their homes. As a result, Ning immediately captured them with his illusions when he summoned them, then rifled through their memories to know what they were intending. That way, they didn't have a chance to attack Ning.
"Poor bastards. They'll be in a rather awkward position until the day that this war ends." Even if they wanted to join the cultivators… could the cultivators trust them? Of course not! The mighty cultivator civilizations didn't need a few extra Hegemons or Emperors. They would probably first put them in internment camps somewhere else, not letting them take part in the war to come!
"Once our Chaosverse gains a controller, there will be no more invaders. Only then would our Chaosverse be strong and confident enough to welcome the Sithe descendants without needing to worry about them." Although Ning felt mixed emotions about them, his decisions would not be impacted by those emotions. He knew that this was just one of many sad stories that came as a result of this clash of civilizations.
If they lost this war, all cultivator civilizations in this Chaosverse would be brought to an end. That would be a true apocalypse! Thus, Ning wouldn't show any mercy at all to the true Sithe. He killed almost all of them after flipping through their memories, sparingly only those few who Ning felt were quite benevolent in nature and had been forced to take part in this war against their will.
Ten years later. On this day, Ning finally finished reviewing the memories of the 2800+ Hegemons and Emperors he had captured.
"Nothing!" Ning frowned. He had expected this result, but he still felt quite disappointed. Everyone who had ever learned the nine special techniques had been forced to swear lifeblood oaths not to transmit them to any others. There was no way to review the techniques at all.
"Exalt Bowenya, perhaps?" Ning rose to his feet, staring at the three glowing Daoguard Towers off in the distance. "Judging from the memories I reviewed, he should be the one in control of this entire hidden dimension! He seems to have some sort of connection to the Sithe heartlands, as the orders to the Sithe are sent via him."
"But the heart of the Sithelands have been sealed off long ago. How is it that they are still connected to the outside world?" Ning frowned.
During the Dawn War, the Autarchs had commanded countless cultivators to assault and defeat the Sithe. They had occupied the outer perimeter of the Sithelands, then completely sealed away the heartland regions! But this hidden dimension… not only had the Autarchs been unable to discover it, it was even in contact with the Sithe heartlands.
"I wonder if the experts within the Sithe heartlands have a way to escape or not." Ning was beginning to feel a bit of worry. Being in contact was one thing, but if the Sithe army was somehow able to slip out without anyone noticing… that would be a serious problem!
"Time to go to war." Ning rose to his feet, then turned and stared at the three distant Daoguard Towers. He took a single step forwards, quickly soaring into the skies towards the Daoguard Towers. His Sword Dao Domain continuously expanded, while he maintained the illusion of his truesoul crumbling at incredible speeds. He looked just like a Daolord who was on the verge of death.
"He's coming." Exalt Bowenya and the incarnations of Hawkfang and Jonnbech were gathered together. The other Hegemons and Emperors had retreated; it was now up to the three of them to carry out this battle.
"Bowenya!" Ning's voice echoed throughout the heavens as he flew towards the Daoguard Tower located at the very rear.
"He's actually headed straight for my Daoguard tower?" Exalt Bowenya frowned.
"Exalt, what should we do?" Hawkfang and Jonnbech were both rather anxious. Previously, they had been hoping that that Ning would attack their Elder Halls first. The Elder Halls were all Exalt-class Daoguard Towers, and each was filled with countless dangers. They had clung onto the hope that Ning would actually charge inside their Daoguard Towers… but Ning had completely ignored them!
This was because Ning could vaguely sense that the central control mechanisms for this entire hidden dimension were located within the rear Elder Hall.
"If he's heading straight for me," Exalt Bowenya said coldly, "Then just go ahead and give him a proper greeting. Hawkfang, you go first. If you fail, Jonnbech will follow you."
"Understood," Hawkfang said respectfully.
"Don't worry. Although I suspect Daolord Darknorth might be feigning weakness, as a Daolord he probably hasn't been training long enough to reach such a ridiculously high level in the Dao of Illusions! If his injuries are real, then he should be at the verge of death. It'll be easy for you to kill him," Exalt Bowenya said.
By now, Ning was already very close to the Daoguard Tower in the back. Suddenly, a rumbling sound could be heard. The three towering Daoguard Towers were located on the peaks of three separate mountains. The sound of explosions suddenly emanated from one of them, causing the earth to shake as it began to separate from the mountains beneath it.
"What?!" Ning turned to glance at the distant Daoguard Tower, watching in shock as it slowly separated from the mountain beneath it. "Daoguard Towers are incredibly hard to establish. They were actually willing to discard the foundation for that tower?"
Daoguard Towers were extremely stable after being constructed. Daoguard Towers were extremely powerful, partially because of the treasures they held, but also because of the extremely complicated formations governing their foundations. These formations allowed them to draw large amounts of energy through the earth, ensuring that the Daoguard Tower could function indefinitely!
The complex formations also allowed them to maintain control over an extremely wide region, making that region part of their territory. The technique they had used to trap Ning within that sealed spacetime continuum during the previous battle was just one example of that control. Now, however, the three Daoguard Towers had already exhausted all of their long-range attacks. Their only option was to use the towers themselves to fight.
When the situation was truly dire, or when a tower's owner was determined to battle to the death, some truly berserk actions could be taken. For example, when Ning had rescued the Paragon of Pills, the controller of that tower had actually allowed the tower itself to crumble in order to release the terrifying being trapped beneath it.
Every single Daoguard Tower was the home base for a powerful Sithe expert. If they were truly driven to the brink, they could separate the Daoguard Tower from the foundation, choosing to either flee or battle with the foe to the end.