“If you deem this old man worthy, just call me ‘fellow Daoist’,” Old Man Yuan said with a smile.
“Fellow Daoist Yuan.” Ji Ning nodded.
The mood between the two was quite subtle and difficult to explain.
The campaign against the Primordial Ruinworld had already concluded. The Three Realms was in the midst of the war for karmic luck, and this war was almost over; the Endwar was going to arrive soon! And yet, Old Man Yuan still had not chosen to stand alongside the Nuwa Alliance. To tell the truth…even Ji Ning felt that Old Man Yuan was being a bit too selfish.
“First, have a bit of this wine this old man brought.” As Old Man Yuan spoke, he reached out with his hand, intending to grasp the wine flask. Ning, however, grabbed it first and smiled at him. “Let me pour.”
Ning poured two full cups of wine. Old Man Yuan lifted up his cup, taking a small sip. “I still remember how young and inexperienced you were. I never would’ve thought that in less than a thousand years, you would’ve reached your current level of power. The Seamless Gate truly views you as one of their major headaches, but they don’t have any method of getting rid of you.”
“The Seamless Gate isn’t that powerful.” Ning looked at Old Man Yuan. “In fact…from the surface, it would seem as though they are weaker than our side. If that’s true…fellow Daoist Yuan, why are you still unwilling to join our side? My master Subhuti as well as many other major powers in the Nuwa Alliance were born alongside you from the primordial chaos, fellow Daoist Yuan. They are your brothers, and all of you roamed the Pangu Chaosworld together.”
“Yes, they were and are my lifelong friends.” Old Man Yuan nodded slowly. “But for the sake of my greater Dao, I’m willing to sacrifice all I have.”
“Your ‘greater Dao’?” Ning looked at him.
“My greater Dao exists in the vast expanse of space outside of this place.” Old Man Yuan smiled. “The Three Realms is just merely a single small chaosworld; the outside world holds many more chaosworlds. World Gods and Chaos Immortals? The vast expanse outside the Three Realms holds many of them. That is the world which I truly belong to. To risk my life in a civil war in such a fashion is too pointless.”
“So you are just going to watch as your old friends die one by one?” Ning asked.
“So what if I do?” Old Man Yuan was quite calm.
Ning immediately understood that other major powers such as Patriarch Subhuti had most likely tried to persuade Old Man Yuan using the same words. Old Man Yuan remained unpersuaded; clearly, to convince him would be no easy feat.
“In my homeland, we have a saying: ‘Houses of silver and gold aren’t as good as a doghouse of your own.’” Ning laughed. “Although this phrase is quite crude, its meaning is quite simple. It might be true that the world outside holds more major powers, karmic legacies, techniques, and divine abilities. The alien Outsiders that invaded the Three Realms might have been been nothing more than minor figures. But…”
“But no matter how we weak we are in the Three Realms, this is our doghouse. This is our home!”
“If we can’t protect our home.”
“If we can’t protect our friends and brothers.”
“What’s the point of even cultivating?” Ning shook his head.
Old Man Yuan looked at Ning. “Your words are somewhat reasonable, but as far as I’m concerned, reaching new heights is what truly matters. When mortals embark on the Immortal path, some will end up slaying their parents or their loved ones in under to better understand their own heart! If I was a mortal who was training to become an Immortal cultivator, I might very well do the same. Do you understand?”
Ning sighed in his heart.
To kill one’s father, mother, wife, and children to understand one’s own Dao-heart…in Ning’s eyes, this was a path of evil. If one was without love and feelings, wouldn’t that just be the same as being a zombie?
“Those who travel on different paths cannot make plans together.” Ning lifted up his cup of wine. “Years ago, fellow Daoist Yuan, you bestowed the [Heart Sutra] upon me. I have nothing which I can use to repay you. All I can do is offer you this toast.”
“A toast from Sword Immortal Darknorth? I certainly have to accept it!” Old Man Yuan raised his own cup as well.
The two both drank.
After putting down his wine cup, Ji Ning looked at Old Man Yuan. Old Man Yuan couldn’t help but sigh to himself upon sensing that faint, sharp aura surrounding Ji Ning. He could sense the tremendous threat which Ji Ning posed him.
“Might I ask why you have sought me out, fellow Daoist Yuan?” Ning asked.
“Does there have to be a reason? Can’t we just share some wine and enjoy a chat about the old days?” Old Man Yuan laughed.
“Chat about the old days? Well, we’ve drank our wine and had our chat. I need to go back and and cook some fish soup.” Ning rose to his feet as he spoke, reaching towards the fish bucket and the fishing pole which had been placed at the helm of the boat.
“I actually do have something to discuss with you,” Old Man Yuan said.
Ning came to a halt and was about to turn around, but suddenly…
A strange, unfathomable ripple of power instantly invaded Ning’s body, surging towards his soul in a massive wave.
“Heartforce.” Ning instantly understood.
There was no way his own heartforce could defend against that tremendous wave of invading heartforce power. They were on completely different levels.
“Fifth stage heartforce! Old Man Yuan has reached the fifth stage of heartforce. He just launched a sneak attack against me.” Ning was tremendously shocked. In the Three Realms, it was common knowledge that the only person who had reached the fifth stage of heartforce was Houyi. However, this clearly was not the case. Old Man Yuan was extremely accomplished in heartforce; the [Heart Sutra] he had bestowed unto Ning had thoroughly convinced Ning of his formidable prowess in this field. Only today, however, did he realize that Old Man Yuan had actually reached the fifth stage of heartforce!
Old Man Yuan’s heartforce flooded through Ning’s body!
Ning’s own heartforce couldn’t defend against it at all, resulting in the invading heartforce delving straight towards Ning’s soul!
“Heartforce soul-lock!” Ning had been maintaining this secret art the entire time.
Heartforce soul-lock was a type of defensive technique that joined one’s soul and one’s heartforce together. It was like a series of extremely complicated ‘chains’ that locked them together, making it difficult for an outside force to break through them!
When adventuring through the primordial chaos, one would often encounter natural illusions and evil spells that were aimed at the soul. Possessing a secret art that could protect the soul was extremely important. Thus, World God Northrest had imparted the ‘heartforce soul-lock’ technique unto Ning! Ning’s soul was nourished by his half-step Elder God body, resulting in it becoming tremendously powerful. Now that his soul had been joined together with his fourth-stage heartforce into a series of complicated interlocking chains, it was incredibly durable and nearly impregnable.
Boom! The valiant power of Old Man Yuan’s fifth-stage heartforce collided violently against the heartforce soul-lock technique.
Outside Ning’s body.
Space in the surrounding area had come to a sudden halt. The waters of the river had calmed, with not even the tiniest ripple or wave being visible. It was as though everything had frozen solid. Even the fish within the fish bucket at the front of the boat had frozen.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
The wooden boat suddenly blew apart. The wooden bucket blew apart, with the fish inside the bucket being completely disintegrated into dust. In fact, even the surrounding waters of the river were instantly vaporized…
Although heartforce was ephemeral and invisible, fifth-stage heartforce was simply too terrifyingly powerful. However, it was as though Old Man Yuan’s heartforce had rammed into a steel board! The defensive prowess of the heartforce soul-lock technique was simply too formidable, and it completely defended against Old Man Yuan’s attack. The resulting spiritual collision actually manifested as an enormous shockwave in the ‘real’ world, causing everything within ninety meters to be utterly vaporized. Outside this range, however, nothing was damaged whatsoever.
“How is this possible?!” Old Man Yuan revealed a look of shock. This was the technique which he was the most confident in, but it had failed spectacularly from the very start.
Ning just turned his head to look at him, a hint of pain in his eyes.
“Fellow Daoist Yuan, you truly disappoint me.”
His voice echoed by Old Man Yuan’s ears.
A dazzling streak of sword-light suddenly descended. Ning didn’t hesitate at all, immediately pulling out and striking down with Violetjewel while using the most inscrutable, mysterious stance he knew: Shadowless.
“Go.” A horsetail whisk appeared in Old Man Yuan’s hands. He flicked it outwards, causing countless strands of hair to swirl around the sword-light, blocking it as he hurriedly retreated.
“You hid your true power quite well.” As soon as they exchanged blows, Ning discovered that Old Man Yuan definitely had the power of an overlord-class figure.
Everyone believed him to merely be ‘close’ to the overlord level, but that was something which had been established a long, long time ago. In his attack against Ning, Old Man Yuan had first revealed his fifth-stage heartforce, then managed to block Ning’s sword-light with his own horsetail whisk. Although a soft weapon like this was a natural counter to Ning’s fierce sword-strikes, Old Man Yuan had still unquestionably shown himself to be an overlord-class figure.
Whoosh. A figure suddenly flashed into existence next to Old Man Yuan. It was an azure-haired, red-robed man.
“The Lord of All Fiends!”
Ning was completely shocked by the Lord of All Fiend’s speed. He had actually appeared without any warning whatsoever!
“Don’t even think about leaving!” Ning thrust out with his sword, striking like a thunderclap. This was the fastest stance he had, the Blood Drop Stance. He stabbed directly towards Old Man Yuan, but the azure-haired, red-robed Lord of All Fiends gracefully flew forward at the same time. As he did, every inch of space around him began to change and blur.
Ning’s sword-arts had exceeded the limits of the Heavenly Daos, and he was using the fastest stance he had, the Blood Drop Stance. And yet…
Ning stared, wide-eyed, as he realized that his sword couldn’t keep up with the Lord of All Fiend’s flying speed!
The Lord of All Fiends and Old Man Yuan disappeared from Ning’s field of vision.
The Allfiend world.
The Lord of All Fiends appeared within a palace with Old Man Yuan in tow. Within the hall were Keeper Everwood, Daomother Devilhand, and the black-robed Godking. All three turned to look at him.
“I failed.” Old Man Yuan shook his head. “He just became a True God; logically speaking, he would need to spend a long period of time allowing his soul to be strengthened by his new body. I had thought that his soul would be fairly weak, making him an easy target. I was hoping to capture him and use him as proof of my loyalty, but…ugh. I suppose I really have grown old.”
“Ji Ning is already an established power. It won’t be that easy to deal with him. In truth, there was no need for you to bring some ‘proof of your loyalty’. I believe you.” The Lord of All Fiends looked at Old Man Yuan.