Chapter 18 – Eighteen Stormy Years

Ji Ning’s breakthrough to the seventeenth stage of the [Crimsonbright Diagram of the Nine Heavens] didn’t cause too much of a disturbance; in fact, the nearby soldiers of the First Army of the Snaphorn world didn’t even realize that he had made a breakthrough. This was how the [Crimsonbright Diagram of the Nine Heavens] worked; only when one made a major breakthrough to a new level would the Solar Star and the Lunar Star transmit Solar Truefire and Lunar Truewater. Lesser breakthroughs caused a much smaller disturbance.

Whooooosh. Within Ning’s divine body, the increasingly pure Crimsonbright divine power began to transform into tiny little rivers that flowed through his veins, causing his divine body to grow even stronger.

The seventeenth stage!

This was the limit of power for his true body, before it underwent the Celestial Tribulation; if he dared to raise himself to the eighteenth stage, then the tribulation would descend at a moment’s notice afterwards. Although he now controlled heartforce and felt more confident in his chances…he was still surrounded by karmic sinflames and was a tremendous sinner. Most likely, the power of his Celestial Tribulation would be even more terrifying. If he could survive here and leave this place, the Nihilum Zone…Ning couldn’t even imagine what the scene of his tribulation would be like.

“I’m the sole heir of the [Starseizing Hand], the disciple of Patriarch Subhuti, a Fiendgod Body Refiner, and surrounded by karmic sinflames.” Ning truly couldn’t imagine it.

It was quite common for ordinary Fiendgod Body Refiners to undergo nine nine-sets of thunder tribulation. Upon overcoming the Celestial Tribulation, they would have become Empyrean Gods!

And he…he was no ordinary Fiendgod.

“I heard that some particularly monstrous geniuses amongst Ki Refiners will also encounter nine nine-sets of thunder tribulation,” Ning mused to himself. “I, on the other hand, am a Fiendgod Body Refiner. My Celestial Tribulation…”

To this very day, no one had ever fully understood which elements were taken into account in determining the power of the Celestial Tribulation. However, there were many past precedences; for example, Lu Dongbin was a Ki Refiner who had undergone nine nine-sets as a Ki Refiner.

Ordinary Fiendgods would often have to undergo nine complete nine-sets of thunder tribulation.

As for some truly monstrous geniuses, the most elite of the Fiendgods of the entire Three Realms…their backgrounds were so extraordinary that their tribulations were not like ordinary tribulations. Ning had the feeling…that he would probably be treated as one of the most peerless of Fiendgods of the Three Realms in this regard.

“Forget about that for now…I have so many enemies to battle, and I don’t have to hold anything back as I train in heartforce. I can’t waste this opportunity.” Ning opened his eyes, halting his cultivation.

“It seems he’s recovered. It’s my turn this time!” A muscular, violet-caped warrior roared with laughter, four giant warhammers in his four arms. Leaping through space, he charged towards Ning.

……

Although he was in a dire situation…since there was nowhere to run, Ning didn’t think about anything, completely focusing on battle. As he gained more experience with the application of heartforce, Ning’s power began to rise continuously. The more heartforce his sword-fingers were able to unleash, the more powerful his blows would become. This caused the violet-caped warriors to feel unspeakable misery.

After the twelfth year, which is to say after Ning broke through to the seventeenth stage, more than half the violet-caped warriors were at a disadvantage when fighting Ning.

As his control over heartforce grew increasingly powerful, Ning began to be able to suppress one violet-caped warrior after another. However, the difference in power wasn’t that great; they were more than capable of staying alive.

By the fifteenth year, Ning was confident in being able to kill in battle some of the enemies who matched up poorly against him, but he did not kill them. He was afraid that if he did kill the violet-caped warriors, they would be enraged; that wouldn’t be worth it! The most important thing for him right now was to delay; ideally, he would delay for a few decades or a century. The more time passed, the better the chances that his master, Patriarch Subhuti, would be able to find him.

By the sixteenth year, Ning was able to use up nearly a twentieth of his heartforce in a single blow of his sword-fingers. This was him using full power in a single hand; there was no way he could reach this level when using all six arms.

By the seventeenth year, Ning was able to use up a sixteenth of his heartforce in one stroke.

By the eighteenth year, Ning was able to use up a fifteenth of his heartforce in one stroke! By now, his application of heartforce was perfect, in that not a single bit of his heartforce was wasted or leaked out to the outside world. Ning could no longer come up with any way to further improve it. Although it was still a bit inferior compared to the amount of heartforce he could use when using [Houyi’s Archery]…there naturally were some differences between close combat and archery.

Aside from mastering the application of heartforce, Ning had also grown even more formidable in sword-arts.

Within the Nihilum Zone, there were no Daos to disturb him, allowing Ning to focus even more purely attuning with his sword-arts, causing him to just barely touch upon the true essence of the sword.

Ning had been fighting this entire time within the Nihilum Zone. His life was a very calm one…but within the distant Three Realms, the world of the Grand Xia was no longer calm.

Stillwater City. The Black-White College.

Night.

Within a mountain of the Black-White College, a black-robed maiden was seated opposite a black-haired, black-robed man. Both were quietly, pensively drinking wine.

“The Seamless Gate has grow more and more bold.” Immortal Diancai’s eyes were filled with anger…but he then shook his head and sighed. “However, they are indeed formidable. They were actually able to cause the Northmont clan of Stillwater to fracture internally. So many high-level members of the Northmont clan actually desired to throw their support to the Seamless Gate…but fortunately senior Unity was enraged and moved to slaughter them.”

Just two hours ago, this very day, Celestial Immortal Unity had struck out in rage, wiping out more than half of the Void-level experts of the Northmont clan! All the traitors were killed!

“After senior Unity made his move, the Seamless Gate sent a diplomatic note; if he doesn’t throw his support to the Seamless Gate, then they shall become mortal enemies.” Immortal Diancai looked at Yu Wei. “Yu Wei, what do you think we should do?”

“It doesn’t really matter what we think; the one which the Seamless Gate truly cares about is senior Unity. According to the stories, senior Unity has power comparable to that of a Pure Yang True Immortal,” Yu Wei said. “And this is precisely the reason why the Seamless Gate has spent so much effort on our Stillwater Commandery; they want to pull senior Unity over to their side.”

“The Seamless Gate truly has spent quite a bit of effort on us. The other commanderies might be in a state of chaos, but they aren’t nearly as bad as our Stillwater Commandery is. Still…senior Unity truly is resolute and decisive. The Northmont clan had fractured to the point where nearly half wanted to surrender to the Seamless Gate; even Celestial Immortal Hunchmont ended up being abducted by the Seamless Gate! He actually slaughtered more than half of his Void-level kinsmen. Even if it meant Hunchmont’s death, he still insisted on standing by the side of the Xia Emperor.” Diancai sighed. “Now that the Seamless Gate has sent that diplomatic note…a disaster is about to befall Stillwater Commandery.”

When he thought about this disaster…Immortal Diancai thought of Ji Ning.

That disciple of his who had wrought so many miracles.

That peerless disciple of his who had assaulted the headquarters of the Youngflame clan, slaughtered two mighty Celestial Immortals, and was capable of resisting karmic sinflames.

“I wonder how Ji Ning is doing. It has been eighteen years, but he still hasn’t returned.” A hint of urgency was in Immortal Diancai’s eyes.

“Eighteen years.” Yu Wei looked at the bright moon in the night sky, her heart filled with countless thoughts.

Junior apprentice-brother…

When will you return?

“It’s better for him to return later; he might be able to dodge this storm.” Immortal Diancai was still angry. “The Seamless Gate is acting with such wild abandon, and senior Unity continues to stand by the side of the Xia Emperor, but the Xia Emperor hasn’t even come to help out.”

“The entirety of the Grand Xia is in a state of chaos. Every area is asking for his help. How is he supposed to accomplish it all?” Yu Wei sighed. “In addition..how do you know, uncle-master, that the Xia Emperor hasn’t been helping out in secret?”

……

It had only been eighteen years…but the situation of the Grand Xia was more than a hundred times worse than it had been when Ning was present.

When Ning had been present, although the various commanderies throughout the Grand Xia all saw some disturbances, on the whole things were still fairly calm. But soon after Ning slaughtered the two Celestial Immortals of the Youngflame clan, a series of Celestial Immortals began to perish throughout the world of the Grand Xia. It was either done by the Seamless Gate, or by the Xia Emperor in his furious reprisals.

All sorts of battles were carried out in secret!

One Celestial Immortal after another perished!

The Grand Xia’s various marquisdoms, supreme clans, and major sects also began to engage in reprisal killings!

The storm was growing more and more violent. Even the number one assassin’s guild of the Grand Xia, ‘Bloodcloud Hall’, had revealed its true face. It struck out time and time again, assaulting and killing some of the tougher foes of the Seamless Gate!

Nine years ago…

A dangerous situation had appeared within one of the headquarters of the Northmont clan; even Loose Immortals who went to investigate would perish. Celestial Immortal Hunchmont and Yu Wei had gone together to investigate; logically speaking, if they joined forces, the two of them should be able to escape from any danger without problems. However…the Seamless Gate had actually paid an enormous price to trap them there. Yu Wei, by using an escape technique which Patriarch Lu had bequeathed unto her, had been lucky enough to escape…but Celestial Immortal Hunchmont had been captured alive!

By the time Sword Immortal Unity learned of this, it was too late; Celestial Immortal Hunchmont had been sent off to the ‘Fifth World.’

In fact, it was the capture of Celestial Immortal Hunchmont that truly caused the Seamless Gate and Stillwater Commandery to begin fighting.

“Everyone in the Three Realms believes me to be dead, but the Seamless Gate actually knew that I am alive.” Sword Immortal Unity had a bad feeling as well; the Seamless Gate was even harder to deal with than he had expected. They used all sorts of methods to try and influence Sword Immortal Unity, be it through tribes, territory, or other methods.

However…given that Sword Immortal Unity had the mental fortitude to hide himself away for so many years, how could the Seamless Gate possibly change his mind so easily as this?

You want to seduce the kinsmen that I favor?

Seduce away the Void-level Earth Immortals that I wanted to teach?

Fine. All traitors…die!

Hunchmont? If you want to kill him, then kill him, Seamless Gate!

Sword Immortal Unity seemed to be without any weaknesses whatsoever. Over the course of nine years, they had engaged in several major battles, and even Yu Wei and Immortal Diancai had encountered grave danger. At the same time…the news that Yu Wei had become a Celestial Immortal finally began to spread out, and her strength became publicly acknowledged. However…when assaulted by the Seamless Gate, Yu Wei and Immortal Diancai received aid from Sword Immortal Unity as well!

Unity was indeed incredibly powerful.

He, all by himself…had forced thirty-six Celestial Immortals of the Seamless Gate to flee in disarray! This was what it meant to have power close to a Pure Yang True Immortal’s!

Ever since Sword Immortal Unity had revealed his sharpness, not even the Youngflame clan had dared to cause trouble in Stillwater Commandery any longer. Although Immortal Venomfreak was also quite famous for his power…his strength lay in his cunning, in subertfuge, and in his many clones. As for Unity, known as the Supreme Sword Immortal, he had truly astonishing close combat power.

……

Within the Nihilum Zone.

“The sword…so it is as simple and pure as this.” Ning was currently battling against one of the violet-caped warriors. His sword-fingers dimly glowed with a sharp, silvery-white shine. Clang! Clang! Clang! Ning’s sword-fingers collided with the foe’s greataxe, but actually knocked it flying back.

His sword-fingers now glowed with that sharp, silvery-white light…

This was the other thing Ning had gained during these eighteen years of battle, aside from learning how to use heartforce!

These eighteen years had resulted in hundreds of more battles than Ning had experienced in all his previous decades of life combined! This was because all of his time was spent either replenishing his divine power or fighting. Repeated battles. Endless battles! And there were no Daos present; in fact, not even the Dao of the Sword was present to influence him. Ning didn’t have to think about what was the best way to summon the most amount of natural energy.

He didn’t have to consider these things; all he had to think about was honing his instincts and using them to apply his sword-arts in battle.

And so…Ning’s sword-arts had become more and more pure.

They guided to the very essence of swordplay itself!

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