Chapter 23 – Stone Stele

The enormous black stone stele was 299 meters tall, and it emanated an aura of majesty that was so faint, it could only be sensed from less than 300 meters away. The aura, however, had an exalted quality about it. Ji Ning only saw two enormous, strange characters carved into the face of the stone stele facing him, while the other side was filled with countless strange characters that were clustered as densely as ants.

“These characters…?” Ning examined them carefully. “I’ve never seen these characters before. It seems as though the Three Realms doesn’t have a language like this.”

Ning had never seen them before, but was certain that these were characters from a language, because they were actually quite similar to the characters of the human race. The two enormous characters on the front, in particular…Ning could almost sense what they meant.

“Let me try with coresense first.” Ning willed his coresense to surge forward.

“This…?” Ning stared at the stone stele in surprise. “How can this be? Impossible. Why is it that my coresense sees nothing at all? It’s as though nothing is there.”

“Can it be that this stone stele is covered with a restrictive spell that blocks out coresense?” Ning pondered for a moment. “Let me try with heartforce.”

Heartforce was invisible, undetectable, and extremely formidable.

Instantly, his true body in the outside world sent its powerful heartforce into the underwater estate to cover the stone stele. This caused Ning’s face to truly change, because he discovered…that all his heartforce found nothing whatsoever. It was as though the stone stele didn’t even exist.

“But, but…” Ning stretched his hand out to touch the stone stele. The stone was icy cold, and its surface was very rough. “This stone stele is clearly right in front of me. How can it be that not even heartforce can detect it?”

“This is an extraordinary item. In fact…it isn’t even of the Three Realms.”

This thought instantly flashed past Ning’s mind.

The two enormous characters engraved on the stone stele…the countless tiny characters on the back of the stele…the unique runes engraved on other parts of it…clearly, someone had created this item! The stone stele’s aura was so powerful that the creator had to at least be on the level of the Buddhist and Daoist leaders. In fact, he might be even more powerful.

For heartforce to be unable to discover the stone stele when one could see it with the naked eye and touch it with the hand…Ning had never, ever heard of such a strange item. Such an item shouldn’t be able to exist within the Three Realms.

Then…

It had to have come from the primordial chaos outside the Three Realms! Ever since the most ancient of days, the unique items found within the primordial chaos were generally referred to as Chaos treasures. They were either used as ingredients for forging treasures, or used as treasures themselves. When used as treasures, they would become far more powerful than Protocosmic spirit-treasures, and so they would be titled ‘Chaos treasures’.

Where and how were Chaos treasures born? Hard to say. The primordial chaos did indeed give birth to Chaos treasures, but the terrifying golems that the ‘Lord of All Things’ had created were definitely no weaker than any Chaos treasure. Thus, the Three Realms had suspected for some time now that some of the more powerful Outsiders were perhaps capable of creating artifacts that rivaled Chaos treasures in might.

“Can this be a Chaos treasure?” A thought flashed through Ning’s mind.

Whoosh!

Instantly, a figure appeared. Ning’s true body descended upon the clone, merging into it. As for the outside world…Ning left a small amount of his divine power there, in the form of yet another clone.

“Neither coresense not heartforce can detect it. That leaves just divine power and Immortal energy” Ning picked up the stone stele, then gently placed it down within the very center of the hall. Previously, he had thought this to simply be a treasure which Youngflame Freak had acquired by luck; he didn’t think it could possibly be particularly powerful. But now, it seemed, this stone stele had a weighty background to it.

Not even coresense or heartforce could detect it. Most likely, the other major powers of the Three Realms didn’t even know that it existed.

“Youngflame Freak. Oh, Youngflame Freak. For a Celestial Immortal like you to have been in possession of a treasure like this…if it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted to gain revenge for my mother and for junior apprentice-brother Northson, I probably wouldn’t have been able to acquire something like this. This should be an item from the primordial chaos…I wonder if it is a Chaos treasure?” Ning felt a certain itchiness in his heart. If this really was a Chaos treasure, this would be a tremendous stroke of luck for him.

But of course, not all items from the primordial chaos were particularly valuable. For example, when first testing out the Heaven Punisher, Ning had been able to shatter apart ‘chaos goldstone’. Shennong located many different medicinal herbs within the primordial chaos, but their value was far, far lower than that of a Chaos treasure.

“Let me try to bind it first.” Ning sat down in the lotus position, placing his hand atop the giant stone stele. The stone stele was nearly 300 meters tall and nearly 30 meters thick. The divine power within Ning’s body instantly flooded into the stone stele.

“Eh? Not a Chaos treasure?” As soon as Ning sent his divine power into it, he realized something was wrong. There was no way to bind this treasure. Ning knew exactly how it felt to bind a treasure, even a Protocosmic one, but when his divine power flooded into this treasure, he found the insides to be empty. There was nothing at all for him to bind.

However, when his divine power flooded into the two massive characters at the front of the stone stele, a ripple of information was transmitted straight into Ning’s mind.

“Seventeen.” Ning instantly understood what the enormous characters meant.

“Those two words mean ‘seventeen’. What does that mean? Can it mean that there are many of these stone steles, and that this is the seventeenth?” Ning guessed. “Right; there are many other characters at the back.”

Swoosh!

Ning’s body blurred, then he appeared in the lotus position to one side of the stone stele. He began to pour a large amount of divine power into the stele. As his divine power flooded into it, it quickly began to interact with the countless characters on the other side of the stone stele. As it did, Ning could sense a tremendous, invisible force resisting his own power; clearly, to forcibly scan and understand the information contained within those countless characters was beyond what his capabilities.

“Wait.” Ning came to a halt. “The front side only has two characters, whereas the back side has at least a million. Two characters didn’t give me much pressure, and I was able to understand them right away, but a million is far more than what I can handle.”

The stone stele was nearly three hundred meters tall, and its rear was filled with those tiny, worm-like scribbles. As best as Ning could tell, there was roughly 1.2 million of them.

“Let’s start from the top and proceed slowly.”

Ning immediately began to attempt to fill up a few characters with his divine power.

“This is so slow.” Ning immediately found the process to be quite taxing. Despite that, a good amount of information began to fill Ning’s mind.

“[Taowu Eighteen Fiendgods]…” An extremely ancient technique immediately began to be transmitted into Ning’s mind. As Ning’s divine power filled each character, more and more information regarding this technique entered his mind. Soon, he completely memorized this entire technique.

“It…it’s actually a cultivation technique.” Ning stared at the stone stele in astonishment. “And this is just a small part of the top.”

The characters on the stone stele were divided into seven major regions. The first region had this technique, the [Taowu Eighteen Fiendgods].

“What a powerful technique. It actually allows you to divide into eighteen different bodies.” Ning let out a sigh. “Although Fiendgods can divide into many different clones, once the clone dies, the part of the soul within it will die as well. This will result in the soul fragmenting, and when too much of the soul is destroyed, you will die.”

“But this technique…upon mastering the first level, you’ll be able to perfectly divide the soul into eighteen different spawns. Although each spawn will have less than a tenth of the power of the original body, they are all capable of surviving on their own. In addition, if the other seventeen are destroyed, the final spawn will slowly be able to recreate the other spawns.”

“Once you reach the second level of this technique, the eighteen spawns will all have the same level of power as the original body.”

“If you master the third level…the eighteen spawns can merge back into the original body at any point in time, and the original body can also divide into those eighteen spawns. When they merge into the original body, the power of the original body will explosively increase.” Ning sighed in amazement.

If he mastered this technique, it would be as though there were eighteen Ji Ning’s. Even if he chose to use his original body to fight by itself, his power would still exponentially increase.

How monstrous a technique was this?!

“It seems that this is the technique which Youngflame Freak used, and that he was only able to train to the first level of this technique.” Ning immediately understood. “I had thought that he trained in a secret art like the Bloodshadow Incarnation…but it seems he’s actually training in this unfathomably profound technique.”

The Three Realms had powerful techniques of its own. The Bloodshadow Incarnation, for example, guaranteed that so long a single incarnation remained alive, the others would come back to life as well. However, true experts would rarely use this technique, because the power of each incarnation would drop dramatically; it was better to keep the true body at maximum power instead! Everyone believed that Youngflame Freak had trained in this technique because he was a coward who feared death, but who would’ve thought that he actually was in possession of a technique like this [Taowu Eighteen Fiendgods]? The relative weakness of his bodies was only due to the fact that he had merely trained to the first level.

“Where did this technique come from?” Ning let out a sigh of amazement. “Still…it will be very hard to truly master this technique.”

There were detailed notes regarding this technique. It was easy to gain a basic level of skill in the technique and master the first stage, but the second stage was thousands of times more difficult. As for the third stage? It would be easier to ascend to the heavens than to master it. It required both talent and luck.

It must be understood that even Daoist Three Purities was only capable of dividing himself into the Three Pure Ones. As for the Lord Buddha, he only had his five major clones! The second level of this technique immediately allowed for the creation of eighteen clones that were as strong as the original. This…this was absolutely unearthly.

“Let’s see what the second technique holds.”

Ning once more filled the stele with his divine power. Instantly, the information pertaining to the second technique began to leak into his mind.

The second technique was named the [Nine Bug Solutions].

This was an extremely mysterious and marvelous method for cultivating bug-type beasts. Ning now understood why Youngflame Freak had been able to cultivate and rear such powerful bugs. Everyone in the Three Realms thought that Youngflame Freak had received a particular expert’s legacy, as there were quite a number of experts who specialized in rearing powerful bug-type beasts. Since Youngflame Freak’s skills in raising bugs wasn’t excessively amazing, no one paid much attention to him.

But what the outside world didn’t know was that the issue was that Youngflame Freak was too weak and didn’t have access to enough treasures and materials, which was why he didn’t have the chance to rear any powerful bugs at all.

“This technique needs an enormous amount of time and effort. It doesn’t suit me.” Ning immediately gave up on the technique.

“Time for the third technique.” Ning slowly began to notice that the further down he read, the more taxing it became, as the resistive force which filled the stele seemed to grow in power. What Ning didn’t realize was that Youngflame Freak himself had only been able to acquire parts of the first technique and second technique. He had been completely unable to gain access to any of the other parts.

He was merely a Celestial Immortal, after all.

Youngflame Freak treated this stone stele as his most valued treasure. He cared about it far more than the Worldhold Pagoda, and was extremely careful about it. The reason he had kept it hidden with him in the Winterherald world was because it was a ‘safe’ place where he was extremely low-key. By contrast, he was still willing to keep the Worldhold Pagoda in the Grand Xia…but who would’ve thought that Ji Ning would end up acquiring it?

“Every single technique is marvelous.” Ning could sense that his divine power was finding it harder and harder to ‘read’ the meaning of the characters. By the time he reached the fifth technique, he was completely unable to make any more progress.

“Let me try with my Pure Yang energy.” Unwilling to give up, Ning immediately tested out his Pure Yang energy, flooding the stone stele with it.

Whoooooosh!

Ning discovered, to his utter amazement, that the Pure Yang energy was clearly much more effective in reading the characters on the stone stele.

“I might just be able to acquire all seven of these techniques.” Ning instantly felt a certain eagerness in his heart. In fact, he had a feeling…that once he learned all seven techniques, he would perhaps know where this stone stele came from.

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