Chapter 19 – At The Scroll’s End, the Dagger Appears

[Note – This chapter’s title comes from a Chinese idiom which essentially means ‘true intentions revealed in the end’; it comes from a famous historical story where an assassin attempted to assassinate the Qin Emperor by hiding a dagger within a scroll that the Qin Emperor wanted. The Qin Emperor accepted the scroll and and began to unfurl it, and at the the very bottom/end of the scroll, the dagger appeared; the assassin immediately grabbed the dagger and used it to make the assassination attempt. Thus, the saying ‘at the scroll’s end, the dagger appears’ refers to true intentions being revealed]
His swordplay became so pure that one day, the tips of Ji Ning’s sword-fingers began to glow with that sharp, silvery-white aura. This silvery-white aura caused his sword-fingers to become even sharper and fiercer! They were now sharper and more penetrating than even actual swords!

Within the underwater estate.

The black-robed Ning was currenty asking the giant yellow bear some questions. “Senior bear, do you know what the sharp lights surrounding my fingers are?”

“You don’t know?” The giant bear was puzzled. “You know about heartforce, so how can you not know about…oh, right. Most likely, Patriarch Subhuti was worried that you would set your sights too high, and so he didn’t tell you right away.”

“What do you mean?” Ning asked.

The giant bear explained, “For Sword Immortals, fully mastering the Grand Dao of the Sword isn’t the end of the road. After you completely master the entire Grand Dao of the Sword…you’ll begin to focus on understanding the essence of the sword itself. When using sword-arts, your blade will naturally emit this sort of sharp light. This sort of sharp light is also referred to as ‘swordforce’; generally speaking, peerless Sword Immortals who have thoroughly mastered the Grand Dao of the Sword will begin to slowly discover and cultivate this power. You’ve just barely touched upon it; I imagine you are at the lowest, most basic level of swordforce.”

“Swordforce?” Ning now understood. “So that’s how it is. When I was in Mount Innerheart, I saw some books which made note of the fact that when one completely mastered the Grand Dao of Taiji, one would begin to attune to the very essence of the Taiji itself, at which point a strange type of power would slowly be developed; taiji-force! It seems my swordforce is quite similar to this taiji-force in nature.”

“Right.” The giant bear smiled and nodded.

Ning now completely understood.

Taiji-force, swordforce…generally speaking, those who completely mastered the Grand Daos of Taiji or the Sword would be able to slowly work on controlling this type of power. It could be considered an additional supplement, making one a bit more powerful in battle.

“One of the greatest dangers for Immortal cultivators is being overly ambitious.” Ning let out a sigh.

For example, when he first entered the Black-White College, the Primal Daoists, Loose Immortals, and Earth Immortals wouldn’t even tell him that the Dao was divided up into Heavenly Daos, Grand Daos, and ordinary Daos. This was precisely because they were worried about their disciples being excessively ambitious, resulting in them accomplishing nothing whatsoever! The same was true for Patriarch Subhuti; if he had told Ning about swordforce all along, it might’ve caused Ning to deviate when attuning to the Dao of the Sword, which would actually negatively impact his insights.

“I haven’t even fully mastered the Dao of the Sword yet, but I’ve actually begun to be able to use a slight amount of swordforce already.” Ning laughed in a gratified manner.

“The number of battles you have engaged in during the past ten-plus years was far more than the total number of battles you engaged in before you arrived here in the Nihilum Zone. The Dao of the Sword is an attacking Dao to begin with; if the Dao of the Sword or the Heavenly Daos were present here, I imagine that you would’ve advanced quite astonishingly fast in the Dao of the Sword.” The giant bear added, “Since this place does not have the Dao of the Sword, you haven’t been able to advance in the Dao of the Sword at all…which means you accidentally focused on attuning to the essence of the sword and ended up controlling a tiny thread of swordforce. This can be considered an unexpected benefit for you. I trust that in the future, the fact that you have started your quest for the essence of the sword will be of tremendous help to you in comprehending the Dao of the Sword.”

“Right.” Ning nodded lightly.

……

“Monster. A true monster.”

“No wonder Lu Dongbin felt so certain that he was born to be a peerless Sword Immortal, and even Patriarch Subhuti felt that he was extremely talented in this regard. Even before mastering the Dao of the Sword, he’s already taken control of a tiny amount of swordforce. Clearly, he has an incredibly, unbelievably high level of aptitude towards the sword.”

Within the blurry, void-like region within the underwater estate. The giant yellow bear had told them about his conversation, and the seven Fiendgods all signed in amazement.

However…Ning had only mastered the most basic, elementary level of swordforce at present; there was a limit as to how much it could help him. By comparison, his ruler-level heartforce had helped Ning increase his power much more.

Still…that tiny bit of mastery over swordforce was a testament to the fact that Ning truly was an unbelievable talent as a Sword Immortal.

“No matter how talented he is, it won’t matter unless he can escape this Nihilum Zone.” A muscular man whose entire body was red in color let out a sigh. “To date, the Snaphorn world hasn’t truly gone all out against our young master…but if push comes to shove, then we will be forced to intervene. By then, we will have to deal with the master of the Snaphorn world…and we have no idea as to if we can beat him or not.”

“The real question is, has the master of the Snaphorn world reached the Daofather level yet?”

“If not, he won’t pose a threat.”

“But if he is at the Daofather level…we’ll probably be doomed.”

“We have nowhere to run. Even if we don’t move to rescue our young master, the master of the Snaphorn world will eventually discover the Starseizing Manor. After discovering the Starseizing Manor…if he is at the Daofather level, he’ll definitely be able to find our world. By then…we’d still have to fight him.”

Technically speaking, Ning had yet to become an Empyrean God, and per the orders of Daoist Threelives, they weren’t supposed to save him; they were supposed to leave Ning’s fate up to himself, and if he died they were to go find another successor. Alas…they were now trapped within the Nihilum Zone and unable to depart from it, much less find another successor.

This day, Ning engaged in dozens of battles before coming to a halt, acting as though he needed to replenish his divine power. In reality, Ning still had half of it left; after all, now that he had reached the seventeenth stage of the [Crimsonbright Diagram of the Nine Heavens], his divine power was much thicker than it had been in the past. For the sake of being prepared for all eventualities, he always came to a halt when he only had half of his divine power left.

In turn, the violet-caped warriors always let him replenish his divine power as needed.

As he replenished his energy…three mighty minds were conversing within the darkness of the Void.

“Ever since this human began fighting against our Firstborn, he’s continuously improved his mastery over his heartforce. Less and less of it leaks out, and the ripples it causes are harder and harder to discern. Recently…he’s leaked out no heartforce in his battles whatsoever. Although we can vaguely sense that he is using it, we are unable to sense any of the heartforce ripples now. This poses no use to us in our attempts to develop a heartforce technique at all.” The first Queen Mother’s thoughts held a hint of resentment.

“Two elder sisters, what should we do?” The third Queen Mother asked.

“During this period of time, tens of thousands of battles have been carried out. We’ve developed a few ideas, while you, little sister, have actually managed to coalesce some heartforce. You’ve developed a basic level of skill in heartforce; this can be described as a merit for this human.” The second Queen Mother continued, “However, our elder sister and I have yet to be able to coalesce heartforce, much less figure out a way to apply it.”

“Although I’ve managed to coalesce heartforce, I still need to slowly work away at a method for applying it.” The third Queen Mother’s thoughts held a hint of resentment as well. “If he continues to leak heartforce…a few more centuries of battle should be enough.”

A hundred years, a thousand years…these were very short periods of time for them.

Alas, Ning had only given them eighteen years of ‘bliss’. By now, Ning had very perfect control over his heartforce. When using his sword-arts, his heartforce didn’t leak outwards at all; the Queen Mothers knew that Ning was using heartforce, but there was no way for them to analyze it. After all, the more that leaked out, the more easy it was to analyze.

“But we aren’t able to hypnotize him…and he’d rather die than let us search his memories. Let’s kill him,” the second Queen Mother said.

The third Queen Mother opposed this. “Let’s capture him alive first, then imprison him within our bodies. Let us slowly torment him, slowly torture him…and perhaps one day we’ll be able to search his memories.”

“Capture him and imprison him within third sister’s body.” The first Queen Mother agreed as well.

“Fine.” The second Queen Mother accepted this outcome.

And so…

They gave the order.

The Nihilum Zone. The golden-caped general and violet-caped warriors of the Snaphorn world were all relaxing and chatting amongst themselves. Although they had always felt that letting this alien stay alive wasn’t really in keeping with their nature, and they truly wanted to slaughter him…how could they dare disobey the orders of their Queen Mothers?

Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!

The mind-strands that had been attached to the golden-caped general and the hundreds of violet-caped Firstborn warriors began to transmit orders from the Queen Mother.

“Children, capture this alien right away and send him to our sacred palace.”

Instantly, the bored, golden-caped general and his many violet-caped warriors grew excited, their eyes lighting up.

Perfect.

They were finally going to be allowed to make their act. For the entire First Army to be idle here…the millions of Snaphorn warriors were utterly bored senseless.

“The Queen Mother commands that the alien is to be captured alive and sent to the sacred palace.” The general sent mental messages to each and every one of the violet-caped warriors; after all, the Queen Mothers had only been able to send direct messages to the Firstborn. There were many violet-caped warriors who didn’t know the news yet. “This time…there’s no need for the rest of you to intervene. I’ll handle him myself.”

“Yes.” No one would disobey.

This was because the general hadn’t fought a single time yet!

……

Although Ning was in the middle of replenishing his divine power, with a miniature Solar Star and Lunar Star floating above his head, transmitting energy to him to be converted into divine power…Ning was still keeping a very close watch on his surroundings. However, he didn’t realize that the distant general was about to make his move…but the giant yellow bear did, and immediately warned him: “Ji Ning, that alien general is about to make his move.”

“What?!” Ning was startled awake, instantly opening his eyes.

Torch-light blazed within his eyes.

He immediately saw the golden-caped general charge towards him from ten thousand kilometers away. The golden-caped general had always been Ning’s greatest source of fear…but he had never fought against Ning, not even once. In the past, he had always just watched from far away. In addition, during the past eighteen years, as long as Ning was in the process of replenishing his divine power, the enemy would not act against him.

“General.” Ning sent his divine sense out in a ripple. “After waiting for so many years…it seems you are finally going to make your move.”

“Our warriors have been tempered enough, given how many times they’ve fought you.” The general strode through the void as he spoke. His appearance was identical to that of the other horned warriors, but his eyes were older and wiser, and his invisible aura of power was far more menacing. “Alien…you should forget about resisting. If you do so, you might be able to stay alive.”

“You won’t kill me?” Ning asked.

If he could stay alive somehow, then he would do so, trying to buy as much time as he could.

“Follow me to the Snaphorn world. I won’t kill you,” the general said.

Ning’s heart trembled. To the Snaphorn world? It must be understood that this region of space was simply a part of the Void that was under the control of the Snaphorn world. The true territory of the Snaphorn world was within the Primordial Ruinworld. By comparison, the Nihilum Zone was safer; the Primordial Ruinworld was truly the main headquarters of the enemy. If he entered there…his chances of escape would be even lower. How could Ning possibly go in?

“Impossible.” Ning shook his head, staring at the general.

“Heh heh heh…” The general laughed, but four long whips suddenly appeared in his hands.

“Your resistance is futile.” The general was very calm. His self-confidence came from his overwhelming power. Instantly, his four arms lashed out simultaneously, and the four long black whips lashed out many tens of thousands of meters like four enormous black serpents. They reached Ning in almost an instant.

Ning used two arms to guard in front of him, while the fingers of his other four arms transformed to become three thousand meters long, using sword-arts to block the attacks.

Bang!

Ning was already doing his utmost, siumultaneously using 3% of his heartforce with each strikes of his four sword-fingers. In fact, he was clearly able to block the long black whips…but the whips trembled and somehow arrived in front of Ning’s head.

Although Ning hurriedly moved to block, those four black whips had completely entangled Ning. If the violet-caped warriors could be described as supreme Celestial Immortals, then this golden-caped warrior had already reached the Empyrean God level.

……

Within the misty, void-like region inside the underwater estate.

“That golden-caped general has made his move.” The giant yellow bear had a serious look on his face as he watched what was happening in the outside world. “Ji Ning is fighting back…but he’s already become trapped by the whips.”

“Move.” The red-haired Empyrean God gave the order to their group of seven Fiendgods. “Completely wipe out the entire First Army.”

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