Book 43, Final Fate, Chapter 3 - Meeting Autarch Stonerule
Within the realmship. Ji Ning sat in the lotus position, staring at the dazzling prismatic spacetime tunnel as marvelous realmverses flickered past them, but his mind was occupied on the 'Truesoul Everlasting' technique.
"A Truesoul Everlasting... if I can create a technique like this, it would allow even the damage caused by a failed Daomerge to be reversed, with the truesoul being healed." Ning was keenly attuned to the sensations of his truesoul crumbling away.
His Immortal energy, his godsense, his azureflower mist energy... all of it was filled with his truesoul. But now, every speck of his soul was beginning to crack apart, with tiny flakes of it slowly drifting off and disappearing...
"This crumbling is taking part in every part of my truesoul. Not a single inch of it remains intact," Ning mused. "How should I reverse it?"
When Ning had been a Daolord of the Third Step, he had 'died' once but been revived thanks to the Lifeblood Dao-seal. The Lifeblood Dao-seal was filled with a portion of Ning's undamaged truesoul, making revival a simple process. But now that Ning's truesoul had already begun to crumble... there was no known technique which could be used to stop it.
"How to reverse it? How do you reverse that which has already crumbled apart?" Ning mentally reviewed the mysteries of the [Deathless Chapter] while comparing it to his own crumbling process, and as he did so he would occasionally make a few changes and improvements to the chapter.
After five million years of non-stop meditation, Ning finally woke up. "Azurefiend, where are we?" Ning asked.
"We're halfway there. Give us another six million years and we'll reach the Flamedragon Realmverse," Azurefiend's avatar said.
"No need for us to rush. Let's explore the surrounding realms while we are here," Ning said.
"Yes, Master," Azurefiend's avatar said hurriedly. The time he had spent following Ning had shown him far more stunning sights than everything he had experienced in the past. They had captured over two thousand Hegemons and Emperors, fought against a Sithe Daoguard Tower, seen strange creatures which came from beyond the Chaosverse, and more. He had never seen such incredible things in the past! Ning also treated him very well, and he in turn would silently pray: "I hope Master can remain alive forever. That would be wonderful."
So long as Ning remained alive, he would have a powerful backer supporting him.
They continued to wander through the cosmos, visiting the marvelous sights the Chasoverse had to offer as well as the many unique lifeforms it had birthed. Every so often, Ning would enter periods of silent meditation to reflect on what he saw.
A vast planet which was teeming with life.
Ning was seated at the peak of a mountain, silently meditating with Azurefiend's avatar standing guard next to him. Ning had been training here for billions of years now, and ever since he started there had been no creatures who could move near this peak. A maze formation had been established halfway up the mountain, and those who escaped the maze would find themselves back at the base of the mountain.
"Young fellow, the destiny that brought us together must come to an end today. Your future accomplishments will be up to your own efforts. I accepted a total of six disciples before you. If you ever meet them, you'll know it right away. Remember - you must not battle amongst yourselves." Azurefiend's avatar remained by Ning's side, while he had created an incarnation to chat with a youth at the base of the mountain.
"Your disciple understands, Master." The youth's eyes were brimming with tears. The past year he had spent with his master had been a truly transformative one for him.
"Go," Azurefiend's avatar said, then vanished without a trace. The youth repeatedly kowtowed before departing as well.
At the peak of the mountain.
"Azurefiend, you actually took on seven disciples during the years I was training?" Ning's voice rang out.
Azurefiend was badly startled. He turned to glance at Ning, who had already risen to his feet, then let out a deep chortle: "Don't tease me, Master. I was bored and had nothing to do. I spent my time just watching the countless people who lived in this world, and every so often I would find one I liked and take him or her on as a disciple."
"Hahaha! Well, it is time for us to return to the Flamedragon Realmverse," Ning said. "We'll be leaving soon, so go ahead and finish making any arrangements necessary for your disciples."
"No need. I've made those arrangements long ago and have given them everything they should be given. The rest will be up to them. The path of cultivation is a path of self-reliance, after all," Azurefiend said.
"Very well. Let's head off."
Whoosh. The realmship flew away from the snowy peak, and the maze formation which had surrounded it for so many years finally vanished as well, becoming nothing more than a mystery and a legend to this planet.
Ning ended up spending nearly half a chaos cycle on the return trip back to the Three Realms. He had gained quite a few insights into the 'Truesoul Everlasting' technique, but he also gained a better understanding of how difficult it would be.
The crumbling of the truesoul involved countless tiny little flakes disappearing and returning to the Quintessence of the Chaosverse. To reverse this process by seizing those truesoul fragments back from the Quintessence was impossible! Not even Autarchs could succeed in this.
The only other possibility was to use the remaining fragments to somehow remake a complete, undamaged truesoul anew! This was very similar to the concept of 'Blood-Drop Rebirth', wherein Fiendgods who had reached the Zifu Disciple stage of cultivation would be able completely remake their entire bodies from a single drop of blood, if they had enough divine power to do so. This was because that single drop of blood contained the essence and foundation for the entire body! Now, however, Ning was trying to accomplish this with something that was even more fundamental... the truesoul.
His goal was to allow a powerful cultivator whose soul had shattered and whose truesoul was breaking apart to be able to remake the truesoul anew. So long as just one scrap of truesoul was remaining, the cultivator would be able to use the 'Truesoul Everlasting' to recreate the entire truesoul, then reconstitute the spirit and the body.
A very familiar realmverse appeared before them. "We reached the Flamedragon Realmverse." Ning revealed a delighted look from within the realmship. Finally, they had returned. Home was home, and the feeling of being home was unlike any other.
"Eh?" Ning turned to look in a different direction. He could sense through karma that another powerful figure, Autarch Stonerule, was located within the Flamedragon Realmverse.
Just one second later... whoosh! Space rippled around Ning, followed by the dazzlingly handsome Autarch Stonerule appearing.
"Autarch Stonerule." Ning flew out of the realmship to greet him, with Azurefiend's avatar following obediently from behind.
"Darknorth." Autarch Stonerule smiled.
"Why have you come here, Autarch?" Ning asked curiously.
"Because of you, obviously!" Autarch Stonerule said with a laugh. "I've been waiting for quite some time."
"Sorry, sorry. I wasn't in a rush so I took the scenic route while taking the occasional cultivation break," Ning explained. "That's why it took me a while to come back. If I had known you were here, I would've immediately returned."
"I'm just teasing you. I'm not in a rush either," Autarch Stonerule said. "I came here because there are a few things I need to tell you."
"Hm?" Ning looked at Autarch Stonerule.
"All of us have been analyzing the [Five Truncheon Chapters] you gave us. We're in the process of completing the [Daolord Chapter], but as for the most important [Deathless Chapter]... I'm sorry to say we probably won't be able to help you much," Autarch Stonerule said helplessly.
"There's nothing you can do?" Ning felt rather anxious. Although he had made some improvements in recent years, he knew just how difficult it would be to create a 'Truesoul Everlasting' technique. He had been counting on the Autarchs being able to help him out with it.
"We want to help you, but the 'Truesoul Everlasting' technique revolves around reversing the process of a truesoul's decay," Autarch Stonerlue said. "The problem was... all of us Autarchs have perfectly intact truesouls. We've never experienced the crumbling process ourselves! We've seen the truesouls of quite a few failed Daolords break apart, yes, but just watching it as an outsider doesn't really mean much. We don't know what it is like to have the truesoul break apart, so we have no idea where we should even begin to fix it."
"What?" Ning was stunned. The Autarchs had never experienced their truesouls breaking apart, which meant that they were unable to make any headway with regards to the 'Truesoul Everlasting' technique?
"But the Sithe's Lord of Chaos...?" Ning said.
"He's at a much higher level of insight than us, which was why he was able to come up with a 'Truesoul Everlasting' technique," Autarch Stonerule explained. "The six of us are merely on par with you, and we've never truly experienced our truesouls breaking apart. Our chances of being able to reverse the truesoul process via a 'Truesoul Everlasting' technique are extremely slim. I came to tell you this in person because I don't want you to place too much hope on us being able to help you."
Ning nodded. "I understand." This had always been a path which would likely result in failure. Autarch Stonerule's words were a bit discouraging, but Ning was able to accept them calmly.
"But of course, we're still going to keep working at it," Autarch Stonerule said. "There's something else I wanted to discuss with you."
"Something else?" Ning was puzzled.
"The Sithe are desperate to kill you. We believe that the Sithe are paying close attention to whether you are dead or not," Autarch Stonerule said. "That's why I came in person to take a look at the Flamedragon Realmverse. I followed up on quite a few clues, and in the end I managed to find a few Sithe spies."
Autarch Stonerule waved his hand, causing a total of six individuals to appear before him. All of them simply stood there, their gazes vacant. One was a Hegemon, while five were Emperors.
"Spies?" Ning frowned.
"They've infiltrated the Brightshore Kingdom and Vastheaven Palace, hoping to be able to keep track of your status via your heartlamp and similar items," Autarch Stonerule said.