The Desolate Era - Book 12, Chapter 18 - The Year Ends
Within the world of the Brightmoon Diagram of the Mountains and Rivers.
The hazy glow of the moon shone down upon the land. By the side of a river, Ning was seated in the lotus position, a simple bewildering formation having been laid down long ago.
Streaks of silken sword-light howled about the region. Sword-light criss-crossed everywhere with astonishing power.
Ning had comprehended the seventh stance of the [Three-Foot Sword] – ‘Horizontal Sword Execution’. As a result, he had reached the level of silken sword-light. He had also finally gotten together with Yu Wei, and as a result was in extremely high spirits. His Dao-heart was incomparably pure and comprehended, and his heart was currently calm and peaceful, without a hint of rage or hate poisoning his soul at all.
Generally speaking, after making a breakthrough, one would need to stabilize one’s foundations. Ning was doing this right now, focusing his heart on the Dao of the Sword. Naturally, one thread of enlightenment after another was filling his heart.
“Within the heart, each person has their own desires, their own obsessions.”
“The stronger the obsession, the sharper the sword.”
“What I ask for…”
“Is to be carefree and unrestrained!”
Ning spoke these words silently to himself.
What did it mean to be carefree and unrestrained? It meant to be able to protect those that you loved. It meant being free from the threats of others. It meant having your destiny in your own hands!
“This… is my Dao of the Sword.”
“All those who oppose my Dao shall be slaughtered!”
Ning’s eyes flashed like lightning.
Sword-light flew everywhere in an invincible, dominating fashion. The sword-intent contained within it was so powerful, it had reached a height which Ning had never before reached! Every single Sword Immortal had their own sword-heart. There were evil Sword Immortals, arrogant and solitary Sword Immortals, carefree and unrestrained Sword Immortals… and they all continued to advance in accordance with their own sword-hearts. If they were to hesitate, to be puzzled, to be confused… then their sword-intents would grow weak. Their sword-intents would no longer be pure, and the power of their sword would constantly drop.
“The [Three-Foot Sword] of Immortal Northwalker… it desires to be ‘joyful’. Better to live joyfully for a day, than to live a century while stifled.”
“My [Three-Foot Sword], however, desires to be carefree and unrestrained! To be joyful is only one part of being carefree and unrestrained; to be carefree and unrestrained is to surpass, to surpass the bounds of the Three Realms, to possess invincible power. Only then can one truly do as one pleases.”
Ning understood the difference between himself and Immortal Northwalker.
Immortal Northwalker was a Loose Immortal; it was guaranteed that he would eventually perish under the increasingly powerful Three Calamities and Nine Tribulations. Thus, the sword art of Immortal Northwalker was a sort of savagery that came after a person knew that he was going to die. No matter who opposed him, he would kill, kill, kill! He would exterminate all injustices, exterminate all those who deserve killing. All he asked for was to be joyful. He didn’t give a damn how powerful one’s backer was; he would still slaughter you!
But in reality… precisely because he knew that he was going to die, Immortal Northwalker’s [Three-Foot Sword] was excessively savage. When one went too far into an extreme, one’s sword art would actually lessen in power.
Ning had comprehended profound mysteries of the Dao of the Sword through the [Three-Foot Sword], but his sword-intent was his alone. It formed into a [Three-Foot Sword] that belonged to himself and only himself.
In truth, Immortal Northwalker understood this issue as well. This was why when each time the [Three-Foot Sword] was transmitted to an heir, the heir would form a [Three-Foot Sword] of their own.
Ning wielded the Darknorth swords in his hands. He had the feeling of being one with the sword as he strode forth through the world of the Brightmoon Diagram of the Mountains and Rivers.
“Someone travelling by himself? Let’s go. Surround him.”
Instantly, three figures came howling through the air. One of them executed a secret art, and a dense cluster of crows flew out, quickly and completely surrounding Ning.
Ning… actually just smiled.
Swish! Ning suddenly moved. His entire body crackled with lightning, and he moved forward with the speed of a Roc and the unpredictability of a ghost, constantly darting and flashing about. His sword-light flew through the air, like thin silken strands. Countless crows were instantly sliced apart, transforming into one spike-type magic treasure after another. And then, like a completely unpredictable ghost, he moved to attack those three.
“Who is this?! He’s too fast!”
Although Ning hadn’t used the [Starseizing Hand], [Heavenly Transformation], or [Three Heads, Six Arms], having only executed the [Pentabolt Vajra] and the [Windwing Evasion], just by relying on these two divine abilities he was still able to explode forth with enough speed and power to deal with them. He wasn’t trying to completely crush these people; he was using them to train and refine his sword art.
Sword-light flashed everywhere, beating the three into utterly sorry sights. All they could do was use all their power to try and stay alive as they started to flee.
“He’s too fast, and his sword arts are too formidable.”
“And he’s a Fiendgod Body Refiner, but hasn’t even used the [Heavenly Transformation]. I refuse to believe he doesn’t even know that divine ability!”
Ning continued to stroll forward.
In this final month within the Diagram, he spread out his divine sense with abandon as he searched for opponents, engaging in one battle after another.
Against weaker Ki Refiners, he wouldn’t use the [Heavenly Transformation].
Against tougher foes, he would rely on [Heavenly Transformation].
Against a group of tougher foes… he would use his full power, as well as the [Starseizing Hand]!
In short, Ning was fast, had a savage sword, and was tremendously strong… he wandered the Diagram as he pleased. He didn’t care about how many people joined forces against him; he would kill, kill, kill them all as he continued to roam forward! After all, by now, everyone was in a small squad. If things were like they had been back at the very start, with the possibility of hundreds of people joining forces against him, Ning wouldn’t have dared to be so bold.
But right now…
There were very few still alive!
That being said, the survivors were all true monsters. Ning used them to temper his sword arts; the sword was a weapon of battle, and in battle his sword arts rose in power with great speed. Ning fused both the Dao-Path of Rainwater and the Dao-Path of the Inferno into his Dao of the Sword; it was hard when it needed to be hard and soft when it should be soft. He was now significantly more powerful than back when he had killed Xiamang Qi and Adept Snowfly.
The people in the imperial citadel’s plaza all sighed repeatedly with incomparable amazement. Only two hundred or so individuals were left in the Diagram, and each of them were peerless monsters… but there were still a few that shone with particular splendor.
One of them was Ji Ning!
“Ji Ning’s sword arts are improving at a simply astonishing pace. He’s far more powerful than he was when he first entered the Diagram. Now, in the entire world of the Diagram… he should be one of the most powerful.”
“As I see it, Ji Ning can become number one in this Conclave of Immortal Destiny!”
“He’s only trained for thirty years; how can he be so powerful?!”
“Monster, what a monster!”
“This Ji Ning was born to be a Sword Immortal! After only thirty years, he has already reached such a level; I’ve trained for thirty thousand years, but am inferior to him. What a damn waste of my life!”
“In the entire Conclave, as far as sword arts go…. Ji Ning is definitely number one!”
The individuals who had come from the 3600 commanderies and four seas were all chatting amongst themselves.
There was no question whatsoever that of the hundred thousand-plus who had entered this Conclave, Ning was the number one Sword Immortal! After all, those few who were on his level, such as Xiamang Zishan, Adept Ninedeaths, Adept Blackstone, and the Sloppy Daoist were not Sword Immortals. Sword Immortals were extremely skilled in attacking, and so naturally there were many who believed that Ning would become number one in this tournament.
The main hall of the Skylight Palace.
Patriarch Arcanum seemed to have quite an unpleasant taste in his mouth. Although it was true that the Youngflame clan had the extremely powerful Youngflame Zhan, who was comparable to Xiamang Zishan… in the world of the Diagram, Youngflame Zhan wasn’t as brilliant or as eye-catching as Ji Ning was.
“This Ji Ning…” Patriarch Arcanum ground his teeth.
“The more of a talented monster he is, the more he needs to be eradicated!”
“Hmph. I’ll let you act smugly for now. You are nothing more than a genius in a Conclave. There’s a Conclave every three centuries. I can’t even count how many times a Conclave has gone on… but how many of the winners end up being Celestial Immortals?” Patriarch Arcanum mused silently to himself, “If you can’t become a Celestial Immortal, in the end you’ll never be able to step out onto the grand stage.”
“The Xia Emperor cares deeply about this Conclave, and quite a few Pure Yang True Immortals are watching as well. However, they are doing nothing more than just watching; after all, consider how exalted a status True Immortals have! They are experts of the Three Realms who definitely will not choose apprentices casually. They shouldn’t decide to accept Ji Ning as a disciple, right? So long as the True Immortals don’t take him as an apprentice… once the chance comes, I’ll definitely exterminate him.”
Patriarch Arcanum felt an extremely intense desire to kill.
He had truly felt love for Youngflame Nong, and he truly wanted to avenge him! In addition, the feud between the Youngflame clan and Ning was by now an enormous one; after all, the Youngflame clan had even sent Deathsworn to assassinate him. If Ji Ning truly did spread his wings one day… how could he not desire to take revenge?
Given how much monstrous talent he had displayed in this Conclave… how could Ji Ning be permitted to continue to grow like this?
He had to be eradicated!
But of course… if a Pure Yang True Immortal really did accept Ji Ning as his disciple, then Patriarch Arcanum would have no choice but to swallow this bitter fruit.
“Generally speaking, the number of disciples a Pure Yang True Immortal accepts can be counted on one hand. They definitely will not casually accept new apprentices.” Patriarch Arcanum quietly hoped that none of the True Immortals would suddenly reach out and take on Ji Ning as a disciple. If that happened… he would truly be stupefied.
Ning sat in the lotus position atop the mountain peak.
“The year has ended. The eighty contestants with the most talismans have successfully passed the trial of the Brightmoon Diagram of the Mountains and Rivers.” The voice of the Emperor of the Grand Xia suddenly rang out in the minds of every single person present within the Diagram.
With it, a rumbling sound could be heard…
Rays of golden light shot out to surround Ji Ning, Xiamang Zishan, Adept Ninedeaths, the Sloppy Daoist, and the rest of the eighty. Some were seated in the lotus position, others were walking around, and still others were sleeping. In short, all of their bodies were surrounded by golden light; clearly, the light was meant to let the people in the outside world be able to clearly see who the eighty were.
Swish, swish, swish!
The eighty were all immediately teleported out of the world of the Diagram.
“The 159 of you who remain must engage in the final battle. Only sixteen of you are permitted to remain alive within the world of the Diagram.” The voice of the Emperor of the Grand Xia reverberated in each of their minds… and then all 159 of them were teleported to a vast, spacious grassland.
A grand sealing formation appeared on the grassland, spanning a hundred kilometers.
All 159 of them were locked within the sealing formation.
They all looked towards their fellow contestants.
“Start killing,” boomed the voice of the Emperor of the Grand Xia.
Instantly, the 159 competitors within the grand sealing formation began a berserk, final struggle against each other. This was a very small region of just a hundred kilometers; to people like them, who could move a hundred kilometers with a single movement… and with so many of them present… the battle here was exceptionally fierce and miserable. Many people were forced to voluntarily throw our their talismans and give up.
The clouds in front of the main hall of the Skylight Palace.
Ji Ning and the rest of the eighty all appeared atop the cloud. They looked at each other.
“Eh?” Ning quickly saw quite a few familiar faces; Xiamang Zishan, Cangwu Jiu, Adept Blackstone…
“Senior apprentice-brother.” Ning saw the Sloppy Daoist as well.
“Junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning.” The Sloppy Daoist beamed as well.
“The eighty of you, all stand up!” An attendant wearing a crown spoke out to them coldly: “The other sixteen will appear shortly, at which point the ninety-six of you will jointly follow me to go pay your respects to his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor. This time, some Pure Yang True Immortals of the Three Realms have also arrived to watch. All of you need to know what the rules are; no matter what, you cannot offend or disturb one of the True Immortals.”
The crowned attendant had a pale, beardless face. He had an insidiously cold aura, and Ning and the others could tell from the invisible ripples of power that radiated from the man that this person… was most likely a Celestial Immortal.
This caused Ning and the others to all secretly sigh in amazement.
It was possible that not one of the hundred thousand-plus competitors would become a Celestial Immortal… but this attendant was one. This instantly caused Ning and the others to feel an invisible pressure push down upon them.