The black vessel finally came to a halt outside the star. Ji Ning and the Ninedust Sectlord stood on the prow of the vessel, able to see the planet clearly.
"What a beautiful star," Ning praised. The planet was protected by layers of defenses, almost like the yolk of an egg being protected by a shell.
"But also dangerous," the Ninedust Sectlord warned solemnly.
"Let's go." Ning glanced at the Ninedust Sectlord, who did not respond. Whoosh! The black vessel began a slow advance, soon arriving in front of the first barrier protecting the star.
This was a gaseous barrier that was pitch-black in color and extremely solid. When the black vessel sought to advance through it, the two could both sense the first barrier resisting the vessel mightily. The black vessel had to use all of its power in order to just barely advance through the barrier, crackling all the way. After advancing for roughly a hundred thousand kilometers, they left the region of black mist and appeared in front of a region of deep azure mist.
"I imagine that most Daolords of the Fourth Step wouldn't be able to make it past this," Ning said softly. "If my judgment is correct, there's no way this protective membrane could've been naturally created. It has to have been man-made."
"Agreed. Nine out of ten says it was created by a major power that vastly outstrips us in might." The Ninedust Sectlord nodded.
Swoosh! The vessel continued to advance, passing through one layer of gas after another. There were nine of these gas layers, and they were colored black, deep azure, azure, light azure… the colors continuously lightened until the final layer, which was composed of completely white mist.
By now, the white mist posed almost negligibly low levels of resistance for the black vessel. Starting from the azure layer, a few special lifeforms began to appear. They lived within the gas itself, and were like gaseous entities. They could transform into any shape, with some being strong and others being weak. The most powerful were roughly on par with Daolords of the Fourth Step, while the weakest were on par with ordinary World-level cultivators.
Whoosh. After passing through the ninth layer of mist, Ning and the Ninedust Sectlord saw a brand new open world appear in front of them. This was a vast and beautiful world, filled with cities, villages, and many ordinary mortals as well.
"So this place actually holds living creatures." Ning let out a moved sigh. "The endless primordial chaos truly is filled with endless marvels. Life can survive in even a dangerous place like this."
"I suspect that the major power who created those nine layers of protective mist did so for the sake of these mortals." The Ninedust Sectlord carefully sent out his senses, then said in a soft voice, "This region is filled with invisible laws, preventing ordinary cultivators from beingn able to fly at all. Only Daolords are able to fly here."
"The skies are sealed?" Ning frowned. "Can it be that this planet holds an Eternal Emperor within it?"
Upon gaining eternity, your very words became edicts of law. You could issue certain edicts that all within a certain region had to follow! However, sufficiently powerful Daolords were capable of completely ignoring these edicts. It must be understood that certain supremely powerful Daolords were capable of suppressing even the might of the prime essences of the Dao, located at the heart of the universe. In comparison, mere edicts issued by Eternal Emperors were nothing.
"Right. This place might have an ancestor of my Ancient race." The Ninedust Sectlord swept the area with his gaze. "Darknorth, I'm sure you've sensed it as well. This vast world gives me an incredibly strong sense of danger. If we aren't careful, we could easily die here."
A total of eight strange-looking four-legged beasts were pulling a giant carriage through the grassy plains directly below Ning. Surrounding the carriage there were three hundred valiant knights, all of whom were advancing at high speeds. The carriage was protected by formations which faintly flickered around it, ensuring it didn't bump or jostle at all.
The carriage itself was thirty meters long and twenty-four meters wide. Within the carriage sat a young man who was casually dressed in sleek silk clothes, as well as two bewitching women who were cuddling against him while feeding him.
The youth casually ran his hands across the two women, toying with them. His eyes, however, had a faraway look in them.
"Your Highness, Dragonwing City is up ahead. Should we pay a visit to the governor?" The voice of a knight rang out from outside the carriage. Although their lord had already informed them as to which experts they would visit on this journey, the young master wasn't the type to just do as he was told. There were two experts who he had declined to meet with thus far.
"The governor of Dragonwing is one of my seniors and has always treated me very well. We certainly must visit him," the youth chuckled.
"Acknowledged," the knight said from outside.
The youth inside the carriage caressed one of the women by his side, a dreamy look in his eyes. He murmured softly, "So this is the path which Father has arranged for me? I can already see what the rest of my life will be like. I really am not happy with it."
Whoosh. Whoosh. Suddenly, two figures appeared out of nowhere. One was a white-robed youth who bore a black sheath on his back, while the second was an icy-faced man. However, neither the two women in the carriage nor the noble youth noticed them at all. The youth remained lost in his thoughts and pensively pondering his own future.
"This kid is one of the highest status figures without a million kilometers of this place. He actually has three Elder Gods and five Ancestral Immortals guarding him, while he himself is also an Elder God. And, judging from the way they address him, he should be a prince of some sort," the Ninedust Sectlord said. "He probably knows more about this world than most. Darknorth, shall you do the honors or shall I?"
"I'll ask," Ning said with a smile.
No one in the area was able to overhear their conversation. They were simply beings on completely different levels of existence. Although Ning had merely been an Elder God when he left the Three Realms, he could now wipe out untold multitudes of Elder Gods and Ancestral Immortals with but a single breath.
The two of them remained quite cautious. They didn't randomly start sending their godsense out to investigate, as this world was simply too dangerous for them. It must be understood that not even those innumerable flaming creatures dared to approach this region. If they were too rash, they'd probably die here. Thus, caution was the best decision. This was a principle which all Daolords followed when they were out adventuring.
Both Ning and the Ninedust Sectlord stood at the very precipice of power amongst Daolords; they could be considered second-tier Daolords of the Fourth Step by now, comparable to ordinary Eternal Emperors in might. They naturally had to be cautious. The stronger you were, the more careful you had to be.
In a place deep within the underground of this world. This was a place where ancient formations could be seen everywhere.
Roughly 190 million kilometers below the ground, there was a beautiful underground palace. The palace was extremely quiet, and although a few Elder Gods and Ancestral Immortals and even World Gods could be seen walking through it, they were all silent and solemn. None of them dared to speak too loudly, as they felt a natural sense of dread.
Within an ancient, quiet room inside the underground palace. A white-robed old man was seated in the lotus position, his aura comparable to that of a Daolord of the Fourth Step. In front of him was an enormous mirror.
The mirror contained within it images of a black vessel flying through layers of misty barriers before finally descending upon the vast world up above. This scene was playing on a loop over and over within the mirror.
"Elder." Suddnely, a violet-robed man walked over from afar, emanating the aura of a Daolord of the Second Step. He called out respectfully to the old man, but when he accidentally saw the images being played in the mirror his face turned ashen. He stuttered, "A-a-are those Prophets?"
"Yes." The white-robed elder let out a sigh. "Prophets! After a million chaos cycles, yet another group of Prophets have descended upon our world."
"Prophets have descended? Prophets?!" The violet-robed man was shocked and panicked. "B-but… what should we do? Elder, what should we do?"
The white-robed elder waved his hand, causing a black tome to appear before him. The tome opened on its own, and it was filled with the history of this continent.
"Don't panic." The white-robed elder said softly, "In the ancient annals of our continent, it is said that Prophets have descended on three separate occasions! The first Prophet taught us cultivation, allowing us to escape our fetters of ignorance and enter the era of Immortal cultivation. This was the First Era of our continent. The second Prophet did even more; he established a foundation for us, setting up the nine sky barriers to protect us and thus ensure that those flamefiends wouldn't dare to encroach upon our territory. These days, only the most crazed of flamefiends would dare to attack, and they no longer pose much of a threat. As a result, our homeland was able to grow truly powerful. This was the Second Era."
"But the third Prophet and the Third Era he brought…" The violet-robed man said nervously, "That was the darkest era of our history."
The white-robed elder nodded. The descent of the third Prophet… that Prophet had simply been too greedy, and he had caused a huge war.
"The third time, we were ultimately forced to unleash the power of the Eighteen Heavens and Hells Mutual Apocalypse Formation. We summoned the enormous power inherent within this land and in the end were able to slay that Prophet… but countless living beings in our world were slain as well, with just the few who hid within the sacred lands surviving." The violet-robed man was extremely nervous. That battle had been a dire one. The entire world had been completely devastated! It had taken them a million chaos cycles to recover to their current state.
"Whether this is a blessing or a catastrophe, we still have to face it," the white-robed elder said. "No matter what, the descent of the Prophets means that the Fourth Era has already begun. Inkmind, the task of making initial contact with those two Prophets shall be yours."
Within the carriage. Ji Ning and the Ninedust Sectlord watched as the youth continued to toy with his maids.
Whoosh. Suddenly, both of the maids fainted soundlessly.
"Eh?" The youth's face suddenly paled as he stared sideways. Two figures were standing right next to him, staring back at him. One was a white-robed youth who bore a black sword sheath on his back, while the other was a grim-looking man. The white-robed youth had a peaceful aura, and he most likely wasn't an evil man, but the faint baleful aura surrounding the grim-looking man made the youth feel a bit nervous.
He was very confident in his own abilities, and knew himself to be virtually invincible below the World level. However, these two powerful strangers someone managed to enter his carriage without him noticing, and his two maids had silently fainted.
"Seniors." The youth hurriedly rose to his feet and bowed.
"I have some questions for you, kid," Ning said.
"Please go ahead, senior," the youth said immediately.
"Introduce yourself first." Ning's voice carried a strange, magical power to it that compelled the youth to speak. My name is Skywind. I'm the ninth young master of Skyfiend City, and the governor of the city is my father. I've come on my father's orders to travel to the Eastvoid Sword Pavilion to become apprenticed to Swordmaster Eastvoid."
Skywind was shocked as the words came out of his mouth. Why was it that he couldn't control his own words?
"Is this 'Swordmaster Eastvoid' a World-level expert or a Samsara Daolord?" Ning asked. The nearby Ninedust Sectlord listened attentively as well.
Given that the aura of danger emanating from this planet, they felt it necessary that they be low-key in all their actions, which was why they hadn't acted too brashly. They didn't know what type of temper the most supreme figure on this planet had; if they accidentally offended and made an enemy out of that person, they could well die if their judgment of this planet's danger was correct.
They had already suffered more than enough at the hands of the endless flaming creatures in the endless stone passageways.
"Just a World level, of course." A look of terror was in young master Skywind's eyes as he heard himself speak uncontrollably. Why was it that he was answering every single question posed? "Samsara Daolords only exist in the legends, and it is incredibly hard to trade or track them down. How could I possibly take one on as my mastery? Swordmaster Eastvoid is nothing more than an extremely than an extremely famous expert of the Dao of the Sword. He's virtually invincible against other World-level experts, and even my father is far from being a match for him. My father went to tremendous lengths in order to convince him to accept me as his disciple. However, I have to first reach the Eastvoid Sword Pavilion and personally pass a few tests before being admitted.
Ning and the Ninedust Sectlord exchanged glances. World level? To them, even most Daolords of the Third Step or Fourth Step could be annihilated with a casual wave, much less World-level cultivators. Both were comparable to ordinary Eternal Emperors in power, after all.
"Then do you know where the Samsara Daolords are?" Ning continued to question him. The stronger one was, the more one would know. Most likely, the local Samsara Daolords would know more regarding the secrets of this planet.
"I don't know. How could someone like me possibly be aware of what the Samsara Daolords are doing?" Young master Skywind explained, "Perhaps some of the most elite World-level cultivators would know a few things."
Ning continued to ask questions, while young master Skywind continued to respond automatically. The latter was at the verge of tears; no matter what the former asked, he was somehow forced to automatically answer with the utmost of truth. This feeling instilled terror in him. He was repeatedly reminded as to how powerless he was in the face of this white-robed, sword-carrying youth.
After a long period of time passed.
"What do you think?" Ning glanced at the Ninedust Sectlord.
"This will be a bit troublesome. From the sound of things this planet should indeed have Samsara Daolords, and several of them at that," the Ninedust Sectlord said. "In the Endless Territories, our Daolords will usually establish their own sects. Here, however, the Daolords all seem to be in hiding."
"Right. Let's go find someone higher ranked than this 'Skywind' kid," Ning said.
"That's our only choice." The Ninedust Sectlord nodded.
Both of them were quite patient. They would rather spend ten extra days quietly investigating this planet than to blunder rashly into a fight. As the saying went, only when you understood both yourself and your enemies would you be the victor in all your battles. This planet was quite possibly an ancestral site left behind by an ancestor of the Ancient cultivators, after all; they couldn't be too rash here.
"I have more questions for you." Ning looked at young master Skywind.
"Please go ahead, senior," young master Skywind said hurriedly. He had been completely unable to overhear the conversation between Ning and the Ninedust Sectlord. He knew the situation he was in and was behaving quite obediently.
"Who in this general area would possibly have information regarding where the Samsara Daolords are?" Ning asked.
"In this general area, the highest-ranked figure would be the governor of Dragonwing City. He governs this entire region, and all of the countless living beings here prostrate themselves before him. He's on very good terms with my father, and has been alive for an extremely long period of time. He surely knows a thousand times more than what I know; he might know where the Samsara Daolords hide." Young master Skywind continued to speak uncontrollably, "I was planning to go pay a visit to him, as he helped out quite a bit and was instrumental in me being able to join the Eastvoid Sword Pavilion."
Ning chuckled. "Good. Then we'll accompany you and visit the governor of Dragonwing."
And so, Ning and the Ninedust Sectlord both remained within the carriage. Young master Skywind naturally offered all the fine food and wine he had available. The two maids had awoken by now, and they didn't dare to say athing; they naturally understood that they had encountered two important personages.
"Glug. Ah, it's rare for me to have a chance to relax like this." The Ninedust Sectlord drank some fine wine, then let out a relaxed sigh. "It feels like it has been ages since I had the chance to rest a bit. I wasn't able to relax at all back in those stone passageways."
"Yes, a relaxed life is the best life of all." Ning had also been driven to the point of near-lunacy by the flaming creatures, but he was now feeling quite relaxed as well. Suddenly, Ning's gaze turned towards the inner walls of the carriage. The walls had some scars carved into them, and Ning was able to see right away that these were sword-arts scars.
The Ninedust Sectlord noticed Ning glancing at the walls, and he followed Ning's gaze. When he saw the sword-scars on the walls, he let out a laugh. "How could someone be so shameless as to put such crude sword-arts on display?"
The nearby young master Skywind instantly began to blush with embarrassment.
"Everyone knows how amazing my young master's sword-arts are. Young master Skywind's sword-arts are famed throughout the lands. It was these sword-arts that resulted in him being allowed to enter the Eastvoid Sword Pavilion," one of the maids couldn't help but argue, her face flushed.
Young master Skywind buried his face in his hands. Oh my god, you stupid woman… why did you have to say anything.
"This little girl is pretty devoted to you." The Ninedust Sectlord chuckled as he looked at the maid. "She's clearly terrified, but she still wanted to speak up on your behalf. But I must tell you, I was speaking the truth. Your sword-arts truly are crude and ungainly. Hell, forget about your young master's sword-arts; even that so-called Swordmaster Eastvoid's sword-arts are unspeakably crude. In terms of sword-arts, the gentleman right in front of you is a true grandmaster of the Dao of the Sword. No, not me! Stop looking at me. I'm talking about this fellow Daoist right here. Can't you tell he has a sword scabbard on his back? You should be able to tell right away that he's a swordsman."
Ning couldn't help but let out a surprised snort of laughter.
"That 'Swordmaster Eastvoid' or whatever he's called… everything he knows about the Dao of the Sword could probably fit within my friend's toenails." The Ninedust Sectlord was clearly in a wonderful mood and so he spoke in a rather casual manner.
Young master Skywind immediately turned his gaze towards Ning, his eyes scorching with eagerness. He was a sword fanatic who was completely devoted to the sword. This was why he had reached such a high level in sword-arts and had become famous in this region. He hadn't left those sword-scars in the carriage to show off on purpose; rather, even in this carriage he would often ponder on his sword-arts. When he sometimes had an epiphany, he would carve it into the walls.
"Ninedust, you are bragging a bit much," Ning said.
"I'm doing no such thing. I'm just telling the truth. That East-whatever, he's a mere World-level cultivator. How could he even know even know as much as 0.01% of what you know regarding the sword?" The Ninedust Sectlord said hurriedly, "I've never met anyone with stronger sword-arts than you at your level."
As the Ninedust Sectlord saw it, Ning was a Daolord of the Third Step who had truly earth-shaking sword-arts. Once he broke through to become a Daolord of the Fourth Step, he would probably be on par with Palace Lord Dawnstar. In truth, however, Ning's sword-arts could be fairly described as without peer in all the Endless Territories, because his Dao was that of the Omega Sword Dao!
"Senior…" Young master Skywind looked rather eagerly at Ning.
"You little rascal." Ning glanced at the carriage walls, then nodded. "I can vaguely see a total of thirty-six sword-stances within those carvings. You are fairly impressive for an Elder God… but there is still area for improvement. You can actually fuse these thirty-six stances into just three stances."
Ning pointed at the carriage walls in a very serious manner, and three more sword-scars instantly appeared on them. All three pulsed with sword-intent, but very ordinary sword-intent. Ning was just providing guidance, after all; he was teaching the kid the basics of fusing sword-arts together.
"In fact, you can also fuse them into one stance." Ning pointed again, causing a fourth streak of sword-intent to appear on the walls. This one was extraordinarily powerful, and it was infused with a hint of Ning's own Omega Sword Dao.
"Right." The nearby Ninedust Sectlord nodded. "Kid, today is the luckiest day in your life. My friend has just created a brand new sword-art based on your original one. We ate your food and drank your wine, but we don't want to owe you anything. If you can fully master just one of those first three stances, you'll be able to reach the World level. As for the final one? If you can master it, you'll be invincible amongst World-level experts."
Young master Skywind stared at the walls of the carriage, completely spellbound.