The Desolate Era - Book 8, Chapter 4 - A Sturdy Base
Meng Roch was completely stunned. Ji Ning? Of course he knew Ji Ning. This was the man who had saved his life. In the Carefree Caverns, he had watched as Ji Ning and another youth were welcomed with great splendor.
“Might I ask who your master, Ji Ning, is?” Roch was somewhat hesitant. Was this the same Ji Ning he knew?
“My master is a formal disciple of the Black-White College.” The tall, skinny, white-robed Cloudship laughed. “When he entered the Black-White College, he consecutively defeated multiple senior fellow disciples, and even several Wanxiang Adepts were defeated by him. Brother Meng Roch, my master has invited you to go; will you go?”
“Go? Of course he’ll go.” The bald Uncle Ming, standing nearby, immediately urged Roch to go. At the same time, he sent Roch mentally, “Rocky, your stroke of good fortune has arrived! That Ji Ning is a monstrous talent and has successfully entered the Black-White College as a formal disciple. The formal disciples of the Black-White College are permitted ten retainer positions, and by the look of things, this youth is one of them. If Ji Ning is inviting you to go…it’s very possible that you’ve received one of those ten positions.”
Roch, hearing this mental transmission, was shocked. One of the ten formal retainerships for a formal disciple? The Black-White College was an incomparably exalted place; it was the most powerful school of the entire Stillwater Commandery, and a place where peerless geniuses gathered! Even the retainers of the peerless geniuses, as long as they worked hard and rendered merits unto the school, would have the chance to learn some truly top-tier Ki Refining techniques. This was far better than being a formal disciple of the Thousand Rivers School.
It must be understood that those extremely large schools were divided into outer court disciples, inner court disciples, main disciples, and the most supreme, core disciples. There were multiple layers of status. In the Black-White College, however, there were only formal disciples and retainers; two layers. Thus, even retainerships were positions that were deeply coveted.
“I’ll have a chance to enter the Black-White College?” Roch’s heart was filled with all sorts of ideas. “Uh, Brother Meng Roch?” Cloudship said with a touch of urgency. “Ah?!” Roch frantically nodded. “Go, go, of course I’ll go.”
The Black-White College. Cloudship and Roch had both transformed into streaks of light and were flying in the air. “Look. That is Darknorth Peak, the place where my master, Ji Ning, resides.” Cloudship pointed towards a distant, elegant mountain peak.
Ever since he passed through the formal gates of the Black-White College, Roch’s mind was filled with all sorts of wild thoughts. He…he had actually entered the Black-White College? The nearby Cloudship really was one of the ten retainers?
Whoosh. The two charged down into the courtyard, quickly landing outside of its gates. The two young gate guards outside the gate all saluted respectfully.
“There is such a thick elemental aura here.” After stepping into the courtyard, Roch could sense an incomparably dense elemental aura presence. “The elemental aura in Stillwater City is already dense enough as it is, but this estate actually has a ki-gathering formation that is operating at all times.”
Roch was now growing rather nervous. Cloudship was leading him through a hallway, and they soon passed through a door, at which point they arrived at a wide, spacious estate. In the center of this estate, there was a fur-clad youth, who had a peerlessly bewitching beauty by his side, waiting on him.
It was already very late at night. The figure of the fur-clad youth seemed quite blurry and unclear.
“Brother Ji Ning!” Roch, upon seeing the fur-clad youth, couldn’t help but blurt these words out. “Rocky!” Ning rose to his feet and walked over.
Roch was rather reserved and nervous right now. This was no longer the same Ji Ning who had come to this city alongside him in search of a school. This was a formal disciple of the Black-White College, the number one school of the entire Stillwater Commandery. And, from what Cloudship said…it seemed as though even in the Black-White College, Ji Ning was quite the standout.
“Don’t be nervous,” Ning laughed, then asked, “Meng Xin and Meng Jun?” “The two of them both entered schools.” Roch said hurriedly, “Both of them are at the early Zifu Stage, and so it was easy for them to join a school. They both entered the Thousand Rivers School.”
When saying this, Roch felt a bit of pain in his heart. He had originally wanted to join the same school as Meng Xin, but unfortunately, his foundation had been damaged and not a single school wanted him.
“The Thousand Rivers School?” Ning nodded slowly. “After becoming a formal disciple of the Black-White College, I have ten retainer positions. I don’t know if you’d be willing to become a retainer under my control?”
Roch’s eyes instantly lit up, and his body began to tremble slightly. “I’m willing!” Roch said hurriedly. Ning laughed. “You’ll only be a retainer in name. The two of us will still treat each other as brothers. Oh, right. There’s something you must understand…the Black-White College has quite a few internal rules.”
“Right.” Roch nodded vigorously. What he was afraid of was that he would have no hope for the future. Since he had already joined the Black-White College, a wide route for his Immortal path had just appeared before him. Naturally, he would exert all possible effort to grow increasingly powerful. He walk would ever-farther along the Immortal path, and in his heart, he murmured to himself: “Little Xin. Wait for me.”
“I…” Roch looked at Ning. His eyes were somewhat red. With a thud, he suddenly fell down to his knees, then kowtowed.
“Rocky!” Ning hurriedly went to pull him up. “Brother Ji Ning, you saved my life, and now you’ve given me my Immortal path back. I, Meng Roch, have nothing to repay you with. So long as you give the order, even if I must climb a mountain of blades or enter a sea of flames, I will charge forward.” Roch looked towards Ning.
Ning laughed. “Rise, rise.” Right at this moment, the nearby Cloudjade actually grumbled, “Given senior apprentice-brother Ji Ning’s talent and power, how can he possibly need your help?”
“Cloudjade.” Ning gave the Cloudjade a glance, then instructed, “Go make the arrangements for some food. Rocky and I are going to have a good chat.” Compared to his other three retainers, Ning felt more well-disposed towards Roch.
“Yes.” Cloudjade turned and immediately departed, but while doing so, she was secretly grumbling to herself. “Yet another hunk of wood!” That Meng Roch fellow, upon entering, had given her just a single glance. She was beginning to question her own seductiveness.
The morning sun rose, spreading its dim light throughout the entire Black-White College. Everything appeared so dreamlike and illusory. Ning was atop a flying boat. Transforming into a streak of light, he flew out of Darknorth Peak. Soon afterwards, he arrived in the air above the mountain of his master, Immortal Diancai.
“Master.” Ning landed in the courtyard, then called out respectfully. “Come in.” Immortal Diancai’s voice transmitted to him from outside. Ning immediately entered, and the servants at the gate naturally did not bar his path.
Within the hall. The black-robed, black-haired Immortal Diancai was seated in the lotus position atop a ‘bed’ of clouds. He looked at Ning, and he felt as though the more he saw him, the more satisfied he was with him. Being able to teach an extremely talented disciple made him feel quite successful as well. Immortal Diancai said in a calm voice, “Ji Ning, how did your three days of meditation go?”
“Your disciple has made considerable gains!” Ning said respectfully. “Mm.” Immortal Diancai nodded slowly, then narrowed his eyes. “Previously, Headmaster Jadesea has already informed you regarding the Great Dao of the Sword, yes?”
Ning nodded. “Yes.”
“The sword,” Immortal Diancai said slowly, “Is a killing tool. It is also the tool which we Immortal cultivators will use in our ascent to the peak, in slaughtering all who would impede our path.”
“The Dao of the Sword is a type of combat-focused Dao. Sword Immortals, in turn, are Immortal cultivators that are extremely skilled in combat.” Immortal Diancai laughed as he looked at Ning. “Do you know…what the Dao of the Sword is?”
Ning was speechless. And then, lost, he shook his head. He had just entered the earliest realm of comprehension regarding this Grand Dao of the Sword, and knew almost nothing at all about it. What is the Dao of the Sword? He really didn’t know how to respond to such a question.
“Some Daos are Daos involving the mysteries underpinning the way in which the world operates. For example, your Rainwater Dao. The Dao of Freezing Ice. The Dao of Mystic Ice. And more! All of them are Daos regarding the profundities of the natural world.”
Ning nodded. These were, indeed, all natural Daos. The techniques one came up with after comprehending these Daos would all be referred to as ‘arts’.
“Arts are a way to apply the Daos. The ‘sword arts’ are that which you generally use when wielding the sword. To reach a level in the sword arts which is so high as to be a Dao of its own….that is what the Dao of the Sword is!” Immortal Diancai looked at Ning. “Thus, the Dao of the Sword is actually a technical Dao, a Dao of applying certain techniques and knacks.”
Ning now understood.
“Not just the Dao of the Sword; the Dao of Taiji is the same. Taiji also involves the application of certain skills and techniques. Taiji, in turn, is also a Grand Dao.”
“When, for example, you began to gain insights into water and fire, you might be able to apply the insights you gained into fire and water through the Dao of Taiji, and the power will exponentially increase.” Immortal Diancai looked at Ji Ning. “The Dao of the Sword which you have chosen as your path, in turns, results in you applying and executing the insights you have gained into the Dao of the Sword.”
Ning nodded his head in understanding. Taiji? Dao of the Sword? The application of a Dao?
“Regardless of whether it is Taiji or the Dao of the Sword, these are all extremely, unfathomably profound Grand Daos. They are extremely hard to comprehend.” Immortal Diancai sighed. “For example, the Dao of the Sword requires one to comprehend and develop one’s sword-heart. The Dao of Taiji also requires one to comprehend and develop one’s Taiji-heart. Both are extremely difficult tasks. But upon embarking on this Grand Dao, one’s future potential will be limitless.”
Ning nodded as he listened.
“Remember!” Immortal Diancai looked at Ning, then said solemnly, “As a Sword Immortal, you must have a supremely sincere heart! Sincere to the sword, and sincere to your own heart. Do you understand?”
Ning nodded solemnly.
“You must always reflect on your actions, and hone your sword-heart. Do not let any dust alight on your sword-heart. You must know, a truly sincere heart is always lustrous!” Immortal Diancai looked at Ji Ning. “You must firmly engrave these words of mine into your heart.”
“Yes. Your disciple will memorize them carefully, and will never dare to forget them,” Ning replied.
“Mm.” Immortal Diancai waved his hand, retrieving a leather scroll which he handed to Ning. Ning accepted it, slightly puzzled. “During these three days,” Immortal Diancai said, “I’ve been carefully considering your earlier performance during the Dao Debates. In the end, I selected thirty-six sword arts manuals for you. Afterwards, when you go to the Dao Repository Vault, go trade for the thirty-six manuals recorded on this leather scroll.”
“Thirty six?” Ning was stunned. “I am to go trade for them?” Although he had just embarked on the path of the Dao of the Sword and had received two thousand black-white pellets…thirty-six sword arts manuals?!
“Don’t worry. These are all Earth-ranked or Heaven-ranked sword arts. In addition, I’m only having you trade for the first scrolls. In total, they will only cost six hundred black-white pellets,” Immortal Diancai said. Only now did Ning let out a sigh of relief. Six hundred black-white pellets was indeed not too great a cost for him.
“Although they are only Earth-ranked and Heaven-ranked sword arts, and although you are only trading for their first scrolls, they will be enough for you to use at the Zifu Disciple level and at the Wanxiang Adept level,” Immortal Diancai said. “These are all sword arts which, if placed within some lesser tribes, would be considered peerless sword arts that serve as the foundation for the entire tribe. Carefully read through these sword arts.”
“The first reason I am having you peruse so many different sword arts is to raise your level of insights into the Dao of the Sword,” Immortal Diancai said with a a laugh. “Second is, the more you see and the more you study, the greater your experiences and understanding will be. In the future, when you are adventuring and battling in the outside world, you’ll be able to advance more quickly and benefit from this study.”
“Understood,” Ning acknowledged.
“Go, then, to the Dao Repository Vault. After today, one day each month, you may come visit me and ask me some of the questions which have mystified you in your day-to-day training,” Immortal Diancai said. “Once I feel your foundation is solid enough, then I’ll permit you to leave the Black-White College and go temper yourself in wandering the outside world. If you stay forever under the protection of your elders, there is no way you’ll be able to become a true Immortal. Only when you live beneath the pounding of the rain and the howling of the wind, when you are tempered by life-and-death battles, will you be reborn into a mighty Immortal who does not fear the Three Calamities and Nine Tribulations.
Ning nodded. “Understood.”