“Missing?” Ji Ning’s heart trembled. He hurriedly asked, “Since when did he get a Dao-companion? Who is his Dao-companion? And this ‘disappearing’ that happened twenty-plus years ago; are there no clues about it at all? Can’t we ask the Heavenly Treasures Mountain to help out?”
Upon seeing now nervous Ning was, Immortal Diancai immediately explained, “After you became the champion of the Conclave, some of the disciples of the Black-White College that were outside returned here. Mu Northson returned to Stillwater City as well, spending most of his time training in his art of cconstructs. Occasionally, he would gather with Northmont Baiwei as well as some of the other members of the younger generation here in Stillwater City. During one of these gatherings, he met with a female disciple of the Thousand Rivers School, ‘Adept Yuxia’. Soon after they met, they grew to be quite close and ended up becoming Dao-companions.”
“These two Dao-companions had very deep feelings for each other, and quite a few members of the younger generation here in Stillwater City envied them. They were a celebrated couple.”
“But after a period of time, both he and his Dao-companion vanished. Generally speaking, when disciples of the Black-White College go out adventuring, they will inform people within the College, or leave behind a message of some sort. But neither Mu Northson nor Adept Yuxia left any messages; they just vanished.”
“The Black-White College looked into this matter; we even asked the Northmont clan of Stillwater to help out, as well as the Heavenly Treasures Mountain. However, we were still unable to find any traces of them.”
“They seemed to have completely vanished from this world!”
Hearing his master’s words, Ning grew even more panicked. He said hurriedly, “Can it be that there have been traces of them in the past twenty-plus years?”
“None.” Immortal Diancai shook his head.
Ning was really worried now. It didn’t add up. This made no sense at all. Northson wasn’t the unreliable sort. Northson was a true lifelong friend for Ning, and friends with others besides! If he truly did have to leave because of an important reason, he would’ve left a message for Ning at least.
“During the past twenty-plus years, even the number one intelligence organization in the world, the Heavenly Treasures Mountain, wasn’t able to find any trace of him at all,” Immortal Diancai said. “Northson’s parents died long ago; he had no other kin. Adept Yuxia, however, did have a tribe behind her, with both parents and elders; both of her parents are alive, but they don’t have any news of her either.”
“However…don’t panic,” Immortal Diancai said.
“His life-tablet?” Ning immediately asked. Given how long Northson had been missing for, he was very possibly dead.
“Mu Northson’s life-tablet remains intact…but his Dao-companion’s has shattered,” Immortal Diancai said. “Neither of them left behind any messages before disappearing; they should’ve both met an unusual circumstance. However…Northson has remained alive during the past twenty-plus years. He probably won’t die that easily.”
Ning was worried now.
Northson’s Dao-companion had perished! This meant that their disappearance involved a matter of great danger!
“Since he’s alive, my best guess is that he is trapped in a special area that he can’t leave for now,” Immortal Diancai said.
“Right.” Ning nodded.
No matter what, he had to find out a way to investigate.
“Go and rest for now. I’m going back into my closed-door meditation,” Immortal Diancai said. “The three sword-arts manuals you gave me have inspired me significantly; if there’s nothing important, don’t bother me. I’m going to be in seclusion for an extended period of time. Most likely, once this seclusion ends, I will begin my Celestial Tribulation.”
“That fast?” Ning hadn’t expected his master to be in such a rush even after he had given his master those three sword-arts tomes.
“I believe these three sword-arts tomes will be enough to allow my sword techniques to rise to a higher level in a short period of time. However…the reason I can rise to a higher level in such a short time is because of all of my accumulated experiences over the past years! If I want to rise any further, however, I’ll probably need another century, or perhaps even longer…and I have the feeling that I can’t wait that long!” Immortal Diancai said softly, “That sense of pressure and threat which my subconscious can sense…it is telling me that I cannot afford to waste any time.”
Ning nodded solemnly.
After separating from his master, Ning returned to the Darknorth Peak, the place within the Black-White College which was reserved for him.
A sumptuous feast had been prepared within a courtyard inside Darknorth Peak.
While Ning had been chatting with Immortal Diancai, he had instructed the Whitewater Hound and Little Qing to go back to Darknorth Peak.
“Senior apprentice-brother.” Three figures within the hall bowed reverently. A short little figure fell to his knees. “I pay my respects to you, elder.”
Ning swept them with his gaze.
One of the three was Meng Roch, who looked as honest as always but now seemed even more muscular than before. Next to him was a tall, skinny youth with a deep gaze; this was Cloudship, who was now far calmer and more stable than he had been before. Finally, there was a woman dressed in black gauze, whose gaze remained as charismatic and alluring as before; Cloudjade, who had been so young and fresh. She was holding the hand of a child in her own.
“Eh?” Ning’s gaze fell upon the child.
“Senior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, this is my child, Cloudease,” Cloudjade said nervously.
“We haven’t met for a few decades…to think you have a child now!” Ning laughed, then nodded. “Meng Roch, it seems you are quite talented as a Fiendgod Body Refiner; you’ve already trained to the Wanxiang level. Cloudship, you have done well too.”
As he spoke, Ning sat down. “Come, all of you, sit,” Ning said with a laugh. Immediately, all the others sat down as well.
“Years ago, when we heard that you became the champion of the Conclave of Immortal Destiny, and that your Primaltwin had killed a Loose Immortal, all of us were filled with veneration and admiration. Now, we’ve finally met you again, senior apprentice-brother Ji Ning,” Cloudship laughed.
Ning nodded calmly. “Right. Have you been well, these past years? Weifang, Forgard, Nethersun; where are they?”
He had taken on a total of six retainers. They were Meng Roch, Cloudship, Cloudjade, Weifang, Forgard, and Nethersun.
“Should I…or should…” Cloudship looked towards Roch and Cloudjade.
“Big brother, why don’t you tell him,” Cloudjade said. Roch nodded as well.
Cloudship looked towards Ning, then said, “Senior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, you have left Darknorth Peak for nearly forty years. Ever since you left, the six of us trained diligently. Meng Roch is extremely talented as a Fiendgod Body Refiner, and so focused on that, rarely leaving the College. Nethersun, Forgard, Weifang, and myself would often go out and adventure.”
“Forgard was originally very powerful, but his potential was limited, and he improved very slowly. Roughly ten years ago, when adventuring, he was killed by another peak Zifu Disciple,” Cloudship said.
Ning immediately sighed.
He had been a loyal guard of Northmont Baiwei. He had appeared quite simple and honest, and Ning originally had high expectations for him. However…after getting to know him, Ning had realized that Forgard had slowly begun to change after entering the Black-White College, causing Ning to feel rather disappointed. And now, unexpectedly, he had ended up dying.
“Weifang was extremely talented, even more so than the rest of us,” Cloudship said. “However…he became Dao-companions with a female cultivator of the Hundred Flowers Fairyland. There ended up being some disputes between him and that female cultivator, and in the end, a senior apprentice-brother of that female cultivator actually killed him.”
“What?!” Ning was shocked.
He had heard long ago that some Dao-companions would grow to hate each other, betray each other, and even fight against each other. But he really didn’t expect that this would happen to one of his six retainers!
“Nethersun?” Ning asked. “Is he dead too?”
“Nethersun left long ago. He went back to his homeland. Based on what he said to us when he left, he probably won’t come back in the future. He will probably stay back at his homeland and protect it,” Cloudship said.
Ning nodded gently.
“Cloudjade became Dao-companions with a young master of the Eastriver clan, Eastriver Bluecloud,” Cloudship said, and as he did, he instantly grew so angry he began to grind his teeth. “Eastriver Bluecloud was a rare genius, and he even became a member of our Black-White College. Because he also likes to train in the sword, others often flattered him as the ‘second Immortal Darknorth’. However, compared to you, senior apprentice-brother, he is unfathomably inferior.”
Ning drank his wine, listening.
“Both I and my little sister misjudged him. He came from a large clan, after all, and was quite young; after he entered the Black-White College, especially after he started hanging around with some of the other young masters of Stillwater City, he changed. He began to buy quite a few female slaves to play with, and he even started to hit and curse at my little sister. Enraged, she separated from him, then brought little Cloudease back to Darknorth Peak. Eastriver Bluecloud even wanted to cause her some trouble, but thanks to your reputation, senior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, he didn’t dare to act too rashly,” Cloudship said.
Cloudjade sat there, eyes red. She said softly, “I’ve embarrassed myself before you, senior apprentice-brother.”
Cloudjade truly was an extremely alluring beauty. When she had first entered the Black-White College, Ning’s own subordinates including Weifang, Nethersun, and Forgard had all pursued and courted her. There were quite a few ordinary disciples within the Black-White College who had courted her, but she had her sights set higher and had taken an interest in none of them.
Who would’ve thought that in the end, she would end up choosing a talented young master of the Eastriver clan, Eastriver Bluecloud, a formal disciple of the Black-White College?
In the end…this had been her aftermath.
“Brother Meng Roch has become the most formidable of us,” Cloudship said. “Brother Meng Roch is extremely talented as a Fiendgod Body Refiner, and in fact Immortal Fivecraze took a liking to him and took him on as a disciple, making him a formal disciple of the Black-White College. He has his own mountain peak now, but he’s always continued to live here, not moving away.”
“Oh?” Ning looked towards Roch with surprise, then laughed. “You’ve become a formal disciple? Old brother Fivecraze has exceptionally astute judgment; since he’s taken a liking to you, it must mean that your future truly is limitless.”
“If it hadn’t been for you, senior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, helping me enter the Black-White College so many years ago…I don’t know where I would be right now,” Roch said honestly.
Ning nodded. Roch didn’t show the slightest bit of arrogance; it seemed as though of his six retainers, Roch was the only one who was particularly impressive.
“That’s the other five. As for me…” Cloudship chortled. “Only after training for many years did I discover that I actually like the art of constructs.”
Ning let out a sigh.
Two died. One returned home. Cloudship was low-key, while the devilishly alluring Cloudjade was now a single mother. Only Roch, who had originally been the weakest of the six, had suddenly soared in status, becoming a formal disciple of the Black-White College.
Ji Ning had returned to the Black-White College. When he was strolling outside with Immortal Diancai, many disciples of the Black-White College saw him. News of this quickly spread, and the Heavenly Treasures Mountain naturally learned of this as well.
“The champion of the Conclave of Immortal Destiny, Ji Ning, has once more returned to the Black-White College after a thirty-year disappearance.”
“Spread the word.”
More than a thousand Immortal cultivators were sending out intelligence reports.
There were many, many people who were paying attention to Ji Ning in the Grand Xia world. Aside from the likes of Ninelotus, Princess Xiyue, and the Youngflame clan, there were also many hidden powers that had long ago turned their attention to Ji Ning, the champion of the Conclave who had so mysteriously vanished! After all…everyone knew how extraordinary that Conclave had been.
That was a Conclave where two participants had been chosen by Daofathers to become personal disciples! Ji Ning had been the champion of that Conclave, but he hadn’t become a member of Daofather Crimsonbright’s league; instead, he had vanished without a trace.