After chatting for a long period of time and finishing all the wine, everyone prepared to retire to their own residences. Ji Ning hurriedly advised Empyrean God Roughpeak, “Senior apprentice-brother Roughpeak, there’s a stone stele located right at the entrance to Volcano Island. The stone stele contains the representation of Snowfiend displaying the intricacies of his staff-technique in detail. You can go take a look.”
“Oh?” Roughpeak’s eyes lit up.
“Roughpeak, you haven’t taken a look yet?”
“Hurry up and take a look. That stone stele really is quite interesting.”
“Yes, hurry up and take a look!”
The Dragon Gods all laughed and urged him to go take a look.
“Fine. I’ll go take a look right now.” Roughpeak immediately headed out towards the stone stele by himself.
“My friend Darknorth, there are plenty of palaces here. Just pick one as you see fit. Since you’ve just arrived, it’s guaranteed that you won’t suffer any attacks for the next thousand years,” Empyrean God Witherdragon said.
“Alright.” Ning nodded, then casually chose a palace to temporarily reside in.
Two days later.
Roughpeak returned from his trip to the stone stele, once more reuniting with the Seven Dragon Gods.
“How did it go? That stone stele is quite nice, right?” Empyrean God Owldragon laughed.
“It really is quite something, but my path isn’t the Dao of Taiji. Alas…I was trapped on the snowy island for more than a hundred million years because my attacks are too weak.” Roughpeak let out a sigh. “My agility techniques ensured that not even Snowfiend could kill me, but what of it? My attacks are too weak; Snowfiend completely refused to acknowledge me. He wouldn’t let me pass him no matter what! It was all thanks to junior apprentice-brother Darknorth.”
“And where is our friend Darknorth?” Witherdragon asked.
“He’s still training,” Voidragon replied. “I saw him meditating so I didn’t disturb him.”
“Darknorth truly is hard-working.” Blackdragon asked, “Roughpeak, how strong is our friend Darknorth? The seven of us have been trapped here for far, far too long. We’ve been here since the Primordial Era and really can’t take it any longer. If Darknorth is strong enough, we’d be willing to ask him to help lead us out of here. We no longer harbor any false illusions regarding the treasures of Undermoon Lake.”
“How strong is he?” Roughpeak shook his head. “I’ve seen him fight. He’s skilled in swordplay and quite formidable, but he’s only reached the third stage of swordforce. His divine abilities should be quite powerful, though. He spent several days travelling from the snowy island to Volcano Island. I imagine that he must’ve fought against Snowfiend for a long period of time, resulting in Snowfiend acknowledging his power and letting him pass.”
“Third-stage swordforce?” Witherdragon shook his head. “A pity. Although he can be considered an expert of the Dao of the Sword, it won’t be enough against the Purgatory God.”
“Well, let’s keep waiting.”
All of them were rather disappointed.
“I’m already satisfied at having been able to make it out of the first island to Volcano Island. In truth, my decision to follow junior apprentice-brother Darknorth was a gamble. When I saw him fight, I didn’t have much faith in him…but in the end, my gamble paid off. Honestly, there’s no need to be depressed; perhaps after million years or so, junior apprentice-brother Darknorth will suddenly advance in strength and we’ll be able to make yet another gamble,” Roughpeak said.
“Hopefully.” The Seven Dragon Gods all sighed.
They had been hoping that someone would be able to come here and help them out, but Roughpeak had actually been carried here by Ning; there was no hope to be found from him at all. As for Ning himself…he had been just barely able to make it into Volcano Island. The chance that he would be able to progress further was quite remote.
Within a quiet, secluded palace. Ning was seated in the lotus position here, completely silent. His other clone was within his Immortal estate, and both of them were meditating on the [Five Treasures].
His earlier breakthrough had allowed him to completely master the third chapter of the [Five Treasures], and so he was now able to begin training in the final, fourth chapter of the [Five Treasures]. This final chapter caused Ning to feel even more amazed and how unfathomably marvelous the [Five Treasures] sword-art was.
Ning knew very well that Undermoon Lake would not be an easy place to conquer. He had only been able to reach Volcano Island; how incredibly difficult would the next few islands be? Thus, he had to do everything he could to grow stronger.
Time slowly flowed on.
In the blink of an eye, more than half a year had gone past. During this past half-year, Ning’s two clones finished nearly half of the fourth chapter of the [Five Treasures] sword-art. Now, however, they found it difficult to advance any further whatsoever. Thus, Ning decided to completely halt his meditations on it and turn his attention towards perfecting his [Brightmoon] sword-art. He had yet to improve the [Brightmoon] sword-art after reaching the fourth stage of swordforce.
Perfecting [Brightmoon] was, by comparison, an easier task than mastering the fourth chapter of the [Five Treasures]. In fact, over the course of perfecting it, Ning occasionally gained insights that allowed him to once more ruminate on the fourth chapter.
After one year and three months had passed since Ning’s arrival at Volcano Island…Ning finally opened his eyes.
“My [Brightmoon] sword-art has reached the apex of perfection possible for me at present.” Ning rose to his feet, a smile on his face. “If I was to meet Snowfiend again, I’d probably be able to easily defeat him with just a single body.”
Swordforce was highly well-suited for combat to begin with.
Ning’s [Brightmoon] sword-art had been based off of the essence of the [Five Treasures] sword-art, a technique which surpassed the limits set by the Heavenly Daos. Its power was naturally staggering, and in attack power it was now completely capable of suppressing Snowfiend. Once Ning used [Three Heads, Six Arms] and fought against Snowfiend’s two arms with six arms…he would absolutely be able to dominate and defeat Snowfiend.
“It’s been quite some time since I’ve spoken to Roughpeak and the Seven Dragon Gods.” Ning felt rather embarrassed. During this year, he had spent all of his time in meditating. He immediately left his palace to go meet with the Seven Dragon Gods.
A short while later, the Seven Dragon Gods, Roughpeak, and Ning all gathered together once more.
“It’s very unlikely that the eight of us will be able to advance any further, and so we often gather together. But you, junior apprentice-brother Darknorth…you end up going into seclusion for a full year in one training session! You remind of me myself when I first entered Undermoon Lake,” Roughpeak said with a laugh.
“I’m embarrassed,” Ning said.
“Oh, right.” Ning looked at the other eight. “I’m preparing to go test the next guardian and see if I can reach the next island?”
The Seven Dragon Gods and Roughpeak all glanced at each other.
Witherdragon said, “Brother Darknorth, do you know that there are treasures on the third island? If you can make it there, you can acquire treasures.”
“Treasures?” Ning’s eyes lit up.
“The sea yaksha, Snowfiend, and Purgatory God – these are three of the guardians which the creator of Undermoon Lake left behind. If you can make it past the three of them, you’ll be able to acquire treasures. And of course, the fourth and fifth islands all have treasures as well.” Witherdragon looked at Ning. “But…do you think those treasures are so easily acquired? You can probably guess at how powerful the Purgatory God is.”
Ning immediately began to listen carefully. Only by understanding both one’s self and one’s enemies would one be able to win all battles.
“On the other side of Volcano Island, you’ll be able to see yet another floating wooden bridge. This floating wooden bridge will pass through an endless sea of fire…and within the sea of fire lives a Fiendgod known as the Purgatory God.” Witherdragon continued, “The Purgatory God is formed by countless flames that gather together. He wields a pair of halberds, and he is incredibly powerful, close to a True God in might. Although he flies quite slowly, his twin halberds attack at an utterly incredible speed. His infiniforce has even reached the fourth stage! Compared to Snowfiend, he’s stronger, has faster attacks, and is even more skilled. When those twin halberds of his start to chop about…he’s an utter nightmare.”
Ning was secretly shocked by what he heard. Even stronger and even faster than Snowfiend? This meant that this Purgatory God’s underlying foundation was superior to Snowfiend’s!
“The seven of us know exactly how powerful he is. Honestly, we hope for your success, as that way we’d be able to follow you through, but…” Witherdragon shook his head. “He’s far too powerful. If you aren’t strong enough, you will likely die.”
“The seven of you entered long ago during the Primordial Era.” Puzzled, Ning said, “If you wanted to follow a powerful Empyrean God to the next island, you probably could’ve done so long ago. You should’ve run into quite a few by now.”
“Right.” Voidragon, the only female of the seven, nodded. She said in a clear voice, “Your words are correct. From the Primordial Era to the present day, we’ve encountered more than ten who we were absolutely certain had the power to pass through. However, all of them came a long, long time ago. When the seven of us work together, even when the Purgatory God attacks the island he is unable to do anything to us. We were patient enough to keep waiting and training, hoping that we’d be able to break through by relying on our own power.”
“However…roughly thirty million years ago, the Purgatory God told us that we have almost spent an entire chaos cycle in Undermoon Lake. After a hundred million years, he would use his full power to wipe us all out.” Voidragon’s gaze turned dim. “Only then did we realize that there was a limit to the amount of time which Undermoon Lake gave us.”
“If the Purgatory God really was to attack at full-power and press us nonstop…our divine power would rapidly deplete, and when we use it all up, we’ll die. We’ve never heard of the term ‘chaos cycle’ before, but we understand that it has to be a period of time which the major power that created this world uses.”
“A chaos cycle?” Ning was startled. A chaos cycle had already passed since the Primordial Era?
Ning had felt all along that Undermoon Lake was a place that was meant to cultivate Empyrean Gods through particularly ruthless methods. However, a chaos cycle was enough; if one wasn’t able to make any real breakthroughs in an entire chaos cycle, they generally wouldn’t be able to make any more breakthroughs at all.
“We only have seventy million years left.” Tyranodragon’s deep, sonorous voice boomed out. “We absolutely aren’t willing to just admit defeat. We want to keep living, so our only hope right now is to find a powerful Empyrean God who can bring us along with him. But alas, no such figure has appeared recently.”
Ning nodded. During the past ten million years, he had been the only person to even enter.
“Although we truly wish to leave this place and aren’t willing to just die here…Ji Ning, you really are not yet strong enough.” Tyranodragon continued, “Please don’t blame me for saying something unpleasant, but the Purgatory God truly is incredibly powerful. Your third-stage swordforce…it’s far from being enough. You don’t have much of a chance to make it past him. To make it past him, you generally have to reach the fourth stage of thunderforce, taiji-force, infiniforce, heartforce, etc.; you have to reach the fourth stage to have any hope of succeeding.”
“And of course, if you are particularly skilled in a battle-type force, such as swordforce or saberforce, you’ll be completely capable of succeeding.”
Tyranodragon looked at Ning. “Brother Darknorth, you should wait until you have at least a decent chance before making the attempt. Otherwise…you’ll be gambling with your life. If you are lucky, you might escape, but if you aren’t, you’ll die there.”
“Junior apprentice-brother Darknorth, it’s best if you wait patiently for some time. You aren’t like us; a long path still lies ahead of you,” Roughpeak said. “Honestly, I’m already quite content with being able to see Volcano Island.”
Ning was speechless.
Why did they believe him to be at the third stage of swordforce?