“Although there are many people who are unwilling to accept this, the difference in power is too great.” The Xia Emperor shook his head. “The Seamless Gate has a Daofather golem on their side, while we were going to rely on Shennong’s medicine to win the battle, but…well, now we shall simply wait for the Daofather to give us our final orders.”
Ji Ning nodded gently.
“It’s my fault,” Ning said calmly.
“This isn’t your fault. You couldn’t have imagined that Yu Wei belongs to the Seamless Gate. There’s no need for you to overthink things. I’ve been outside and have prevented quite a few from coming in to bother you; this was on the Daofather’s personal instructions. The Daofather still views you as being extremely important.” The Xia Emperor looked towards Ji Ning.
The Xia Emperor suddenly remembered something. He immediately said, “Right, you should be unable to use your Immortal energy right now, right? I’ll give you ten drops of the antidote.”
“Give me a hundred,” Ning said.
“A hundred?” The Xia Emperor looked towards Ning with surprise. “You…”
Ning didn’t explain. What would be the point of explaining that he had become a Pure Yang True Immortal? His Heaven Punisher was still at the same level of power that it always was; it wouldn’t be able to change the outcome of the battle at all. It was best not to give them any false hopes.
“Fine. Take it.” The Xia Emperor took out a jade bottle and a large gourd. Drops of liquid flew out from the gourd and into the jade bottle. After a hundred drops were absorbed, he handed it to Ning.
Ning accepted it, then began to go towards the outside.
“Isn’t that Commander Ji Ning?”
“That’s Immortal Darknorth, Ji Ning!”
“I heard that his Dao-companion was a spy for the Seamless Gate!”
“Yes, I heard the same. We were at the cusp of victory, but this Ji Ning guy placed too must faith in his Dao-companion, giving her the chance to destroy Shennong’s medicine, and our hopes for victory along with it. We’ve fought for so long…so many of us have died…and it was all for nothing. Immortal Darknorth was far too careless…and he was far too trusting of his Dao-companion!”
“Fellow Daoist Wangxiu, you go too far! A Dao-companion is the most important companion anyone will have on their Immortal path. Both Dao-companions will support each other and assist each other. How many would be suspicious of their Dao-companions? If they were, they wouldn’t have become Dao-companions to begin with!”
“Poor Immortal Darknorth, to be betrayed by his Dao-companion like that.”
“Yeah, poor bastard.”
As Ning walked through the Eight Dragons Cloudcity and passed by the various military camps, the various Immortals within those camps all looked at Ning and whispered amongst themselves. With the story being told and retold, the truth had long since become rather blurred…but the countless Immortals and Fiendgods continued to discuss it, as this was what had caused them to lose this entire Realmwar.”
“I heard that Yu Wei took advantage of Immortal Darknorth’s trust to destroy Shennong’s medicine. Immortal Darknorth was so enraged and hearbroken that he personally wiped out Yu Wei, shattering her very soul.”
“Right, I heard the same, that Immortal Darknorth personally killed that traitor.”
“It’s all that damned traitor’s fault.”
As Ning continued to walk through the city, his ears began to twitch and a hint of grief appeared in his eyes. He knew that once the story began to spread, this would become a popular version. He hadn’t killed his senior apprentice-sister; she had shattered her own soul, because she no longer wanted to be under the control of the Seamless Gate. But now, she was suffering endless torment and torture within the Infinity Hells. Although it was the Godking who was doing this…it was true that Ning had decided to leave her there.
After walking for a long time…
Ning arrived at the city walls of the Eight Dragons Cloudcity. He sat down atop the city walls, all by his lonesome as he quietly stared at the utterly devastated battlefield beyond the walls. He also saw the vast, dark citadel of the Seamless City, hovering in the sky in the distance.
The Seamless City. The Eight Dragons Cloudcity. They continued to face each other. Clearly…this great war hadn’t truly ended yet.
“Ji Ning?” As soon as True Immortal Dongyan walked out from his palace, he could see that that solitary figure seated atop the city walls. He could sense how withered, how haggard Ji Ning was right now. He didn’t have the boundless vitality that he had in the past. In the past, Ji Ning always had a smile on his face, and his eyes were always bright. Right now, however…Ji Ning was like a mountain glacier that had been built up over thousands of years, filled with an infinitely cold and desolate aura.
“Ji Ning is man of deep emotions, and he cares deeply about love.” Someone else walked to Dongyan’s side; it was True Immortal Cloudust, who let out a sigh. “This word, ‘love’…it is absolutely ravaging.”
“Yes.” True Immortal Dongyan nodded. “To be betrayed by his most beloved Dao-companion…a blow like this…ugh, there’s nothing we can do to help him. Right, fellow Daoist Cloudust…is there any chance left for our Crimsonbright Realm to win?”
True Immortal Cloudust was the follower of Human Emperor Shennong; he should have access to detailed intelligence.
True Immortal Cloudust shook his head. “There’s almost no hope. Given the current state of the battle…the only chance we have is if we summon some of the most famous and powerful Empyrean Gods and True Immortals of the Three Realms. But these figures are needed everywhere, either to cow certain enemies or to deal with major threats. If we send them here, it’ll have an impact on our force disposition across the entire Three Realms. In the end, the Crimsonbright Realm is just one of the weaker Realms, after all.”
“It is a bit weak…but we’ve been fighting for years and have suffered countless casualties.” True Immortal Dongyan didn’t want to accept this.
All of the Empyrean Gods and True Immortals of the Crimsonbright Realm naturally felt strong ties towards their homeland. Nobody wanted for their homeland to be occupied by the Seamless Gate.
“For now, just wait. The Daofather has already gone to speak with the Human Emperor.” True Immortal Cloudust continued, “Let’s see if the Human Emperor has any ideas…but my feeling is that if the Human Emperor had any ideas, he would’ve reached out long ago.”
True Immortal Dongyan nodded.
“Alas…if Shennong’s medicine hadn’t been destroyed…if Ji Ning hadn’t given it to Yu Wei…” True Immortal Cloudust sighed.
True Immortal Dongyan sighed and shook his head. “Ji Ning trusted his Dao-companion too much.”
Given the current state of the war, almost all of the Empyrean Gods and True Immortals of the Grand Xia had lost their hope. Quite a few of them had been so furious with Ji Ning as to curse him aloud, but slowly they all began to calm down. They no longer blamed Ji Ning…because they knew that Ji Ning himself certainly hadn’t hoped for this to happen!
“Where’s Ji Ning?”
“He’s still there atop the walls.”
“It’s been days. He hasn’t even moved from the walls at all. I wonder what he’s looking at?”
The Empyrean Gods and True Immortals were chatting amongst themselves.
“The Human Emperor has already sent word. There’s nothing he can do. That medicine is too difficult to create; even the Human Emperor was only able to send some more of the antidote over to allow our Immortals to recover.”
“The Human Emperor has given up?”
“He’s actually given up…”
“My brothers all died in battle…was it all for nothing?”
“My Skysong clan’s Heaven Punisher was destroyed. We had twelve Celestial Immortals in our ranks, but I was the only one lucky enough to survive. I had thought that after our grand victory, I would spend some time having our clan rest and rebuild. But now…”
The Crimsonbright Realm was their home. Their foundation. The place where countless generations of their clan members had toiled over, shedding blood and sweat. They were willing to die for their homeland; they were even willing to accept the deaths of their brothers, masters, and disciples if it meant winning this battle. It would all be worth it! But…they weren’t going to be able to win. They were going to lose!
Ning was by himself atop the city walls.
“Ji Ning.” The red-haired Empyrean God Redsnow had arrived. He gently patted Ning on the shoulders. “Bestir yourself. This is nothing more than one of many pitfalls you shall encounter on your Immortal path.”
“I understand.” Ning nodded.
“Once you move past it…you will see that the seas and the skies remain as vast as they ever were.” Empyrean God Redsnow looked at Ning, hope in his eyes.
“Just give me a little more time to think things over,” Ning said softly.
“Alright.” Empyrean God Redsnow didn’t try to force things. He knew very well what sort of a person Ji Ning was. That was why he liked Ji Ning so much, supporting him and believing him to be the most suitable successor to the Starseizing Manor! Only a man who cared deeply about relationships would win the trust of his comrades. Selfish individuals like Sword Immortal Evergreen…how many would truly be willing to trust and befriend him?
However, people who cared deeply about relationships would also be deeply wounded by them.
In fact, even some of the major powers of the Three Realms had been deeply wounded in their relationships…and despite the passage of countless eras, they remained unable to truly heal from those wounds.
Empyrean God Redsnow left.
“Move past it?” Ning murmured to himself, “How can I move past it?”
Ning had felt tremendous despair when he saw Yu Wei die.
But now that he knew that Yu Wei wasn’t dead…he was momentarily overjoyed, then forced to make a choice. He had chosen to personally consign Yu Wei to the Infinity Hells. This caused Ning to feel even greater heartbreak.
Although his body remained in the mortal world, his heart had already entered Hell.
Ning wanted to force them all down, to suppress them, to move past it all…but how could he possibly suppress them all?
“I confidently viewed myself as a favored son of heaven, as a formidably talented figure. But I was wrong. I was wrong. She’s now suffering endless torment in the Infinity Hells, but there’s nothing I can do. Not a damn thing.” Ning stared at the desolate landscape, which had long ago become utterly ruined and ravaged by the wars between the Immortals and Fiendgods. “I’m just like this landscape here. Like the grass atop the ground. In the face of the Immortals and Fiendgods who do battle…the only thing the grass can do is be trampled upon and destroyed, because it can’t fight back at all.”
“I’m still puny and weak.”
“Formidably talented? No matter how talented I am, it will be a long, long time before I can possibly be a match for the Godking. In the here and now…I remain very weak. Faced with the Godking’s power, all I could do was to let it all happen. I wasn’t able to stop him, to push back at all.”
The utter despair he felt…what he witnessed first-hand was what caused it to be etched into his bones and imprinted into his soul.
The Godking made Ji Ning choose.
Ji Ning had no choice but to choose!
He could only watch as the Godking sent Yu Wei into the Infinity Hells! The only thing he could do was to kneel down and hope that he could move the Godking with his words…but alas, it was useless.
He was powerless!
Everything was under the Godking’s control. The only thing Ning could do was accept it all.
Ning stared at the wild grass atop the ravaged landscape. He felt like he was the grass; there was nothing he could do but be trampled upon, be broken, be attacked, be destroyed…the only thing he could do was to accept it!
As Ning was staring at the grass vacantly…
Ning’s heart suddenly became completely calm, empty, and ephemeral.
The countless strands of grass…the dust…it seemed to spread into Ning’s very heart, and Ning’s heart itself was expanding as well to accommodate them. In fact, even the skies themselves seemed to extend into Ning’s heart. Slowly, the entirety of Whitepole Commandery was contained within Ning’s heart, which continued to grow and grow…
His heart was endlessly vast. As vast as Heaven and Earth, all of which was contained within his heart.
Ning’s heart had reached out to encompass all 3600 commanderies. In fact, it reached out to cover even the vast and massive seas. The entire world of the Grand Xia, protected by the planar membrane, was like a giant oval spheroid…and the entire vast spheroid had already become one with Ning’s heart.
In fact, his heart was still trying to continue to expand, to stretch out to the vast, vacant Void itself.
It was a powerful, innate desire of his heart.
Ning sat there atop the city walls. He said softly to himself, “Though I come from the mortal dust, my heart still soars towards the heavens.”