The Desolate Era - Book 14, Chapter 30 - Within the Eastwoods Sect
The two Primal Daoists walked forward, shoulder-to-shoulder. Suddenly, a light flashed in front of them, then a fur-clad youth appeared out of nowhere.
“Who are you?” The faces of the two Primal Daoists changed as they shouted simultaneously.
Boom! An incomparably terrifying majesty swept out from Ji Ning’s body, and space within three thousand meters became completely frozen.
The wind halted. The swaying grass froze mid-sway. The hopping grasshoppers paused mid-jump. The flowing waters of the nearby creek stopped in its tracks. Even the beads of water spraying into the air from the creek just hovered there.
The faces of the two Primal Daoists were completely filled with terror and shock…but they, too, were completely unable to move. When that terrifying Dao Domain descended, they were completely unable to resist at all.
Back when he had been in the Crescent world, Ning had been able to use his Dao Domain to easily render a squad of Flamewing Guards completely helpless. By comparison, these two Primal Daoists were actually slightly weaker than the Flamewing Guards.
“In you go.” Ning waved his hand, and an irresistible force drew those two individuals into his mobile Immortal estate.
Ning swept the surrounding region with his gaze; when making his move, he had been extremely cautious. He had kept his Dao Domain to a radius of merely three thousand meters, not affecting the area beyond this region at all.
Within his mobile Immortal estate.
The two Primal Daoists stared at their surroundings in terror.
“What is this place?”
“Where are we?! This…can this be a mobile Immortal estate?!” The two Primal Daoists, upon viewing their surroundings, could only think of this one possibility.
“Easthill, who was that youth? How is it that he was able to render us completely helpless merely through using his Dao Domain? Can he be a Celestial Immortal?”
“He most likely is on their level.”
These two Primordial Daoists were filled with terror and worry. The enemy’s power was simply too great; they weren’t able to fight back against him at all. Not even the more powerful Loose Immortals of their Eastwoods Sect was capable of using a simple Dao Domain to render them completely helpless; clearly, this youth’s Dao Domain had surpassed that of virtually every single member of the Eastwoods Sect.
“The two of you.” The black-robed Ning appeared.
“Senior, why have you seized the two of us?” One of the two Primal Daoists, a tall, skinny man, hurriedly spoke out.
“Senior, if there’s anything you need from us, just tell us,” the other Primal Daoist, a man with triangular pupils, said quickly.
The black-robed Ning smiled. “It is simple. I want to soul-scour the two of you.”
“Soul-scour?!” The two instantly revealed looks of terror.
Soul-scouring. If one was lucky, one might be able to maintain their ordinary faculties, at most losing a few of their memories. But if one was unlucky…they might be turned into idiots!
“The two of you should know that killing you is effortless for me,” the black-robed Ning said. “I can forcibly soul-scour you, but as you should know, doing that would be quite damaging to you, possibly resulting in the two of you being turned into idiots. Thus…I hope that the two of you will accept it and won’t fight back. That way…your Primal-level souls should be able to maintain normalcy.”
The two Primal Daoists exchanged a glance.
They felt helpless.
Why were they so damn unlucky?
They knew very well that if they were to resist and be forcibly soul-scoured…then things would be even more disastrous for them.
“We accept. Senior, please spare our lives,” the two said.
“Don’t worry. I won’t kill you,” the black-robed Ning said. In truth, based on the intelligence reports which Ning had received from the Heavenly Treasures Mountain, these two had done quite a few evil deeds. Given Ning’s usual temperament, he would’ve killed them long ago…but if he did, then the life-tablets of the two within the Eastwoods Sect would shatter, and the Sect would know that they died. Once that happened, his plan would fail.
The two Primal Daoists closed their eyes.
The black-robed Ning stretched out his hand, placing it atop the head of the tall, skinny Primal Daoist. He immediately used the ‘Thousand Stars Soulscour’ technique; this technique was a soulscouring technique which he had acquired in the Crescent world after killing that evil Patriarch.
Moments later…Ning lowered his hands.
A look of joy appeared within the eyes of the tall, skinny Primal Daoist. “I’m fine. I’m fine!”
“I told you. If you don’t resist at all, your soul will find it easier to maintain its normalcy, and in fact very few memories will be lost.” The black-robed Ning looked towards the other person, the triangle-pupiled Primal Daoist. That Primal Daoist closed his eyes as well, accepting the soulscouring. Ning walked over to him, placing his palm atop his head as well.
At the base of the Eastwoods mountain range.
“So the two of them were so spineless,” Ning mused to himself. Waving his hand, he produced a sack that was filled with the items that had been purchased.
Roughly thirty years ago, the Eastwoods Sect had suffered a calamity. The majority of its tougher figures were all wiped out, while a few who were able to suppress their anger were able to survive. They all hoped for freedom to come. However…the Eastwoods Sect also had some spineless figures who even helped the mysterious power act against their fellow disciples!
Daoist Easthill and Daoist Eastharm were two such spineless figures! They abused their former ‘fellow disciples’, currying favor with the mysterious figures as if they were dogs!
Naturally, this resulted in the two of them being viewed with favor, and they were even allowed to go out and shop.
Although they did their utmost to please, the mysterious power still viewed them as nothing more but dogs. They were absolutely forbidden from going near the most important ‘forbidden region’; in fact, even the Eastwoods sect leader was forbidden from entering it!
“A mysterious power?”
“The leader is a ‘general’? Supposedly at the Celestial Immortal level?”
“A forbidden region?”
After finishing the soulscouring, Ning immediately began to pay attention to this supposed ‘forbidden region’.
The forbidden region was simply too mysterious. After taking over the Eastwoods mountain range, the mysterious power had designed a certain part of it as a ‘forbidden region’, with many people being sent within it. In fact, even that ‘general’ would often go inside.
“Change!” Ning instantly changed, transforming into the appearance of that tall, skinny Primal Daoist – Daoist Easthill.
Ning immediately headed straight towards the entrance to the Eastwoods Sect.
“Daoist Easthill has returned? Where is Daoist Eastharm?” One of the two gate guards asked.
“It has been a long time since Daoist Eastharm returned to his tribe, so he made a side trip this time. I came back first,” Ning said with a smile. Due to the soulscouring, Ning now knew well that these spineless figures were rather trusted, and so they were often allowed to return to their tribes. That way, the spies of the imperial Xia clan wouldn’t notice anything strange about the Eastwoods Sect.
Otherwise…if all of a sudden, no members of the Eastwoods Sect were returning to their clans…in an era like this, when the Three Realms were in a state of turmoil, the imperial Xia clan would definitely investigate.
Ning smiled as he spoke, then walked in. In a very familiar manner, he walked through the various formations. He knew exactly how to bypass them, because of what he had learned through the soulscouring.
Upon ‘returning’ to the Eastwoods Sect and handing over the purchased items, Ning chatted for a while with some of the cultivators of the Eastwoods Sect, then went to the residence of Daoist Easthill.
A mosquito flew out from Daoist Easthill’s residence.
Mosquitos were extremely common; even if one were to wipe out a swathe of them, the next night many more would most likely appear, especially since the Eastwoods Sect was located within a mountain forest. Ning, in the shape of a mosquito, flew closer and closer to the ‘forbidden region’.
The forbidden region was layered with increasingly powerful formations.
The mosquito-Ning was forced to come to a halt outside the formations, landing on the ground.
“Hurry up. Keep in line! We’re about to enter the formation. If you get out of line, you’ll be trapped within the eighteen great formations. I really don’t want to have to go find those guys and ask them to save you.” A group of black-robed figure was flying towards the formation, with the one in the very rear urging them to move faster.
As they walked forward, the foot of one of the black-robed figures was stained with a speck of mud. This mud was the transformed Ning!
Not even Immortal cultivators would constantly use their power to dissipate the dust and mud from their feet with every step; how tiring would that be?! As the group of black-robed figures advanced through the region, carefully passing through all eighteen formations, the bit of ‘mud’ staining one of their feet was also brought through the eighteen formations.
After passing through the formations…they entered the ‘forbidden zone’. There were many roving patrols here.
The mosquito-Ning was flying through the forbidden region.
“This place truly is guarded tightly. What’s going on here?” The mosquito-Ning flew into a gorge with many mosquitos, maintaining the speed of an ordinary mosquito. “The deeper I go into this gorge, the tighter the guard becomes.”
Deep within the gorge, there was a castle.
The castle was covered with a layer of light which not even mosquitos could pass into. The number of black-robed figures patrolling this place was simply astonishing. All of them emanated auras of tremendous power, at least at the Earth Immortal or Loose Immortal level.
“Some of the black-robed figures are merely at the Wanxiang or Primal level…but the ones guarding this castle are all Loose Immortals, and there are more than a hundred of them?” Ning was secretly speechless. More than a hundred Loose Immortals were standing guard outside; the number of true guardians must definitely be even greater.
“This castle…?” The mosquito-Ning landed, staring at the distant castle.
He waited until nightfall, until a group of gray-robed figures came walking out from within the castle.
“Finally, someone came out from the castle. These people have fairly powerful auras; they seem to all be Earth Immortals or Loose Immortals. Heeeey…why are they all…?”
Ning suddenly discovered, to his astonishment, that each of the gray-robed figures had looks of exhaustion on their faces. Their exhaustion was so evident that Ning could sense it from a great distance away.
“They are all Loose Immortals or Earth Immortals; how could they become so tired?” Ning couldn’t believe it; Loose Immortals and Earth Immortals had very strong minds. Only if their mental energy was utterly exhausted would they appear like this.
Mental exhaustion usually wasn’t that important to Immortals. But if it reached a certain level…it could become quite terrifying. For example, if an Immortal, in order to produce a powerful magic treasure, was to work day and night and use up all his blood and effort, he might even perish; this sort of event happened quite often within the Three Realms. Generally speaking, after Immortal cultivators grew tired, they would rest and relax for a time.
“How can they be so exhausted? And it’s not just one or two of them, but an entire group?” Ning was puzzled.
Ning was stupefied!
Towards the back of that squad of gray-robed figures, there was a fairly small, skinny gray-robed figure who woodenly walked forward.
“Junior…junior apprentice-brother?!” Ning stared in disbelief. That gray-robed figure was Ning’s junior apprentice-brother, a person he was incomparably familiar with…it was Mu Northson, who had been missing for more than twenty years!
Years ago, he had found a Dao-compainion and begun to enjoy a happy life. But soon…his Dao-companion perished, and he himself had vanished as well.
The Black-White College had searched for him but was unable to find him!
Ning had never imagined…that here, within the Eastwoods mountain range, he would run into his junior apprentice-brother! Even less did he imagine that his junior apprentice-brother would end up looking like this!
His body, beneath that gray robe, had become even thinner and frailer. He clearly had the aura of a Loose Immortal or Earth Immortal…but Ning could not sense any power at all coming from him. All he could sense was that his junior apprentice-brother was like a sputtering candle that could go out at any moment. His lifeforce was extremely weak, and waves of exhaustion flowed out from him.
The frailness was just a minor matter; what really mattered was that Ning couldn’t sense any vigor at all coming from his junior apprentice-brother. It seemed as though the vigorous, lively youth had completely disappeared, transforming into someone who seemed like an old man that was on the verge of death.
His face was ashen, and his hair was a complete mess. In fact, he even had quite a few white hairs.
“Junior apprentice-brother…” Ning felt that the white hairs were particularly painful for him to see.
For an Earth Immortal or Loose Immortal, there was only one reason a person would develop white hairs, unless they intentionally used a technique to change it; utter mental exhaustion. If one was utterly mentally exhausted, one’s hair might even turn completely white within a single night…or even perish.
“What on earth happened?” Ning was truly stunned.
His memories remained so clear and vivid…
“My name is Mu Northson?” That youthful white-robed youngster had been so full of vigor.
“My name is Ji Ning. I’m sixteen this year. How old are you?”
That was their first meeting. That bashful, youthful figure…Ning remembered it all as if it was yesterday.
“Senior apprentice-brother, I’ll go with you. Going with you and fleeing together is bound to be an exciting life.” When Ning had killed Youngflame Nong, his junior apprentice-brother had shown no hesitation at all; he had been filled with energy and determination, even in the face of life as a refugee.
“What…what in the world has caused junior apprentice-brother to become like this?”
Ning stared at the gray-robed Mu Northson…at the decrepit, exhausted Mu Northson.
The group of gray-robed figures walked past. Mosquitos flew about within the gorge, with one of them flying behind the gray-robed figures.
“You only have two hours to rest,” a black-robed figure barked.
The group of gray-robed figures began to separate, each returning to his own residence. The gray-robed Northson began to move towards his residence, one of the many residences in this area. He pushed open the door, entered, then shut the door.
Within a room in his residence.
Northson sat in front of a wooden desk. He picked up a canteen of water, pouring himself a cup, then began to quietly drink it.
It was quiet. Terrifyingly quiet.
The only sound within the room was that of the quiet gurgling of water. Northson then put the cup down silently, then sat there wordlessly, not saying a single thing. His gaze was straight forward.
Whoosh. Northson suddenly waved his hand, and a blocking formation suddenly appeared within the room. He then waved his hand again, and a wooden figurine appeared. This was the figurine of a woman, and it was very lifelike. Northson stared at th figurine, then placed it on the table. Waving his hand again, he produced another block of wood, then began to carve it with a small knife. He carved in a very slow manner, sending wood chips flying everywhere as the block of wood began to gradually be formed into a woman’s appearance.
Finally, the sculpting was complete.
He placed the wooden sculpture on the desk, then stared at it. Simply stared at it in a daze.
“Junior apprentice-brother!” Suddenly, a voice rang out.
A fur-clad youth appeared within the room.
That familiar voice seemed to summon suppressed memories from deep within the soul of Mu Northson. He raised his head to look…and was suddenly arrested. His entire body became completely frozen. He just stared at the fur-clad youth who was standing there.
Those familiar furs…
That familiar appearance…
That familiar voice…
Those eyes…that gaze…
“Senior, senior apprentice-brother?” A very dry, rusted voice emerged from Northson’s throat, as though it had been a long time since he had spoken.
“Junior apprentice-brother. Junior apprentice-brother!” Ning stared at his junior apprentice-brother, his eyes moist. “What has happened?”
Northson looked at Ning. Stared at him. His tears suddenly came cascading down. He opened his mouth, wanting to cry, but nothing came out. His body just shuddered, his tears continuing to flow.
Ning hurriedly stepped forward, embracing Northson.
“Cry, cry. Let it out. Don’t keep it suppressed in your heart. Let it all come out.” Ning’s own eyes were red as he spoke softly. He could sense the endless pain suppressed within his junior apprentice-brother’s heart. He couldn’t even imagine…he didn’t even want to imagine…what his junior apprentice-brother had experienced over these years. What in the world had caused his junior apprentice-brother, whose Dao-heart had been so strong, to become like this?
Ning could sense his junior apprentice-brother’s body trembling within his arms.
Ning felt as though his own heart was trembling as well!
What had happened?
What had happened!
Why had it ended up this way?
“Let it all come out. Don’t keep it suppressed in your heart. Cry it all out. Your senior apprentice-brother is here. Now that I’m here, it will all come to an end. It will all end,” Ning said, holding his junior apprentice-brother’s shuddering body in his arms. His junior apprentice-brother’s tears flowed onto his clothes, even onto his neck.
Ning could feel his junior apprentice-brother’s tears.
“AHHHH!!!!” An agonized cry finally ripped through the room.
“AHHH….AHHHHHHH!!!!!” Northson’s cries carried a sound of utter desolation and hoarseness. He sobbed furiously, howled agonizingly.
Ning tightly held his beloved friend in his arm, listening to his cries. He could sense the bottomless, endless depths of pain, misery, grief, and despair explode forth from the cries. Ning tightly held his dear brother, his own heart shaking. He felt as though his own heart was being stabbed by knives.
What had happened? That young white-robed youth, the one who could ignore even the threat of death and choose to follow Ning in fleeing across the world…what had changed him so?!
“No matter who did it! No matter who they are…all of them…each of them…every last one of them…they will all die. ALL OF THEM WILL DIE!!!” Ning held his sobbing junior apprentice-brother, his own tears falling down as he swore an oath in his mind.