V4C43: The Imperfect Mirror
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With her mind calmed and her gaze returned to normal, although it was still partly tinged with the influence of the other two Dao that had been forced into her head, she was able to concentrate on the strange realm she was in once more.

For the moment, nothing new reappeared to confront her, nor did she see anything changing to the sky, which had returned to a more stable, neutral state, with there being a sun shining down from above and lighting up the palace in bright light. Without all of that, it temporarily looked almost peaceful, since every bit of damage that had been dealt to the world had just been undone and recovered, looking as if this place had not been touched for countless millennia.

‘What is this place, anyway? Nothing here makes that clear, and I just seem to be getting things thrown after me one after another without any explanation,’ Wei Yi thought, calming her racing heart with something other than the Eldritch Dao that still lingered in her memory, ‘That previous person seemed capable of speaking in a reasonable manner with me, but it appears that they were not particularly keen to speak with me. Maybe it was something I had done, or this is all part of something that I do not yet understand, but I am rather concerned that this is not something on the level of the seventh realm.’

Nothing that she had seen yet was necessarily above the seventh realm, since the attacks of the figures she had opposed so far could be achieved with the sixth realm, and the realm itself could have merely been a seventh realm creation, but the sheer quantity of Dao comprehension and the intellect of one of the figures made it rather unlikely to be limited to that.

From what she had seen on the outside of the Bai Ancestral Hall, there were four figures of relevance to the story that belonged to the Bai family, so she was waiting for the appearance of the fourth. The figure at the end, who was presumably the Master of Yi City, might also appear in whatever this place was, but she did not expect his combat techniques to be in any way replicated by this space, as they would be far too powerful for them to be able to repeat unless this place was, in some way, otherworldly. Thus, she would only have the last figure to fight against, and that figure would be the wielder of the ring.

There were two possibilities for this opponent, at least if she was to base her expectations on what she had already experienced within this strange realm. She might encounter a similarly driven and seemingly unintelligent entity as the first two, who were able to respond to her attacks but certainly lacked the ability of the third ancestral figure to actively converse with her. In that case, she might struggle somewhat, with that varying mostly based on the exact methods of her foe, but it should be easy enough to win in the end, obtaining whatever it is that they were hiding, or testing for.

If she came across a second intelligent entity, it would all depend on the intentions of it, as they might be able to create and unleash far stronger methods than she or any of the previous three figures possess. Presumably, had the tentacle-wielding entity gone all out, she could have been able to win.

She would need to rely on the entity having either similar interests to the third, who simply leapt into a realm then let herself be killed, or have a set of techniques that are the natural counter to whatever the next foe will be able to conjure in order to defeat them. Wei Yi wasn’t assuming herself to be weak or incompetent in some way, but she did understand that she had limits, meaning that something in the seventh realm or above would still be able to end her quickly.

It was simply the way in which the gap between realms worked. All of the gains of the fourth realm were equalled by less than three stages of the fifth, the gains of which were similarly equivalent to around three stages of the sixth, with the same situation repeating for it and the seventh realm. She might be powerful enough to fight the fifth realm easily and to be able to challenge the sixth, but when that power gap is added to the spatial capabilities of the seventh realm, the halos that they would possess as well as the boons of the fifth and sixth realm that she did not yet have, everything that she did possess would stand out that much less.

‘So… Where is it? If the Bai ancestors were split equally by gender, then I have seen two figures that seemed feminine, so this one might be male, not that it matters,’ Wei Yi looked around, almost tempted to walk into the palace and see if that figure may be hiding inside of it, ‘The other three had emerged from the palace’s direction, but I am not sure that I am meant to be there yet…’

A few more moments passed, with her scanning everything that she was able to reach with her spiritual perception as to not miss a single detail, and the figure still refused to appear.

She didn’t know what the time difference between this place and the outside world was, given that she couldn’t leap into her prison realm and check it through there, and so she decided to stop hesitating and simply go for it. Just as with all of her actions so far, there had been no explanations provided to her, so even if whoever created this place didn’t want the palace to be seen just yet, they would only have themselves to blame for it.

One step, two steps – nothing seemed to be happening until she was just three away from the palace.

Then, in a place that she was already looking at, a figure suddenly manifested without a single sign of spatial alteration, distortion or even rapid transportation. The entity simply appeared here, staring at her, and with powerful energy circulating all around it.

All of that energy was so dense that it was impossible to see through it, whether with her gaze or spiritual perception, but it was still familiar, for it had a colour of blackened crimson, wherein the colour of red surrounded an overwhelming black which could swallow up the world even without the gluttony and Entropy Dao of the energy wielded by the second ancestral figure that she had dealt with.

Underneath all of that energy, this figure presumably shared the white hair and skin, as well as the red eyes of the Bai Family, but she could not confirm this for herself, nor was that her focus. Just like the previous three, there was a certain connection between her, her possessions, and the figure she now faced. The first might have been wielding a weapon from which her Piercing Needle had originated, the second used a similar looking glove, and the third utilised something not entirely unlike the Eldritch Hold ability as well as the Abyssal Eye, and this one was likely wearing a similar ring.

However, the similarity between the energy it wielded and Obliteration energy was too strange, as it wasn’t just some coincidence in her ownership of several items but something that she had personally created through her own feelings and rage, combining what she understood to manifest the absolute.

‘Is this realm something that was prepared, or is it that everything so far had been set up intentionally to coincide with what I do possess? What is this place supposed to be, and why can I not just be permitted to exit?’ Wei Yi questioned, preparing her own techniques at their full power right away as to not permit whatever this entity was to deal any significant harm to her with an equivalent overwhelming release of sheer might.

Like the last three, the entity before her prepared for combat, raising its hands. On one of its fingers, on the left hand, where Wei Yi wore the signet ring that appeared capable of affecting time itself, the figure wore its own ring that glowed with sheer crimson, piercing the darkness around it and making it stand out significantly.

Whether or not it was actually going to use the time to prepare and strengthen itself, she wasn’t going to let it have any more time that she herself needed. Thus, she shot an Obliteration beam burst quickly.

It struck the figure directly, but it seemed to do nothing at all as it stepped forward, loudly stomping on the ground as it got one step closer to the doorway of the palace. As if bidden by the collision of its foot with the wooden floor, a vast quantity of energy suddenly surged out of the ground, cracking the terrain and stones on the courtyard. Countless fissures formed within the ground, blackened crimson surging from them, with several exploding beneath Wei Yi and forcing her to leap away.

As she added her Mortal World’s Echo to the mix as to evade the surprisingly high geyser of energy, she saw the figure step forward again, more energy surging away from it, with much of it gathering before the two hands of the figure in large spheres of burning crimson.

The figure raised its head, looking at her, then shoved one of these spheres towards her with one hand, then switched to the other as she phased away out of the course of the blazing orb of sheer might. It threw these out one by one, remaining still as it did so, giving the fissures on the ground time to expire and seal right back up, confirming that it did still obey the laws of this strange realm, whatever it, the figure, or the laws themselves were supposed to be. Only once it ran out of spheres to throw at her, with none of them striking her, did it take another step.

‘That was likely better against targets that cannot, or do not, move out of the way, so if I do ever replicate either of these, I should keep that in-’ her thoughts stalled as the next step caused a vast wave of blackened crimson to explode through the top of the palace, concentrating in the sky of this realm into countless miniature stars.

After hanging in place for just a moment, shining brightly and yet dimly as they consumed the light of the sun and sky and plunged the world into darkness, they quickly fell from the sky.

Carrying a fragment of the sun, which had vanished from above them, the blackened crimson stars fell onto the ground in an expanding wave, each one exploding upon the collision with the ground and obliterating the stone tiles on the ground. With a single barrage, they covered most of the courtyard, giving Wei Yi barely any room to evade them, instead forcing her to dash back into the surging energy as it slowly diminished in order to minimize the amount of damage that could be inflicted upon her.

With the increased proximity, she blasted the entity with her energy again, infusing every other form of beam-based attack that she had in her possession within her use of the Obliteration beam in order to guarantee that at least one of her many methods would be able to inflict some harm upon her foe even if the Obliteration beam itself was not one capable of affecting her current foe. It was, after all, surrounded with a great deal of something that was highly akin to that very form of energy, even if she wasn’t able to analyse the very structure of it to go beyond the superficial elements, so she wouldn’t be surprised if even the crystallised state of the Obliteration energy was not as effective as it might have otherwise been.

All of these beams and forms of energy united together, combining the Defiler’s Point Beams, the Humanity Lance, her Dawn Slicing Beam, the Ire energy that could pulse out in a mighty beam, and struck the entity, landing upon it, with most of it being absorbed by the body of the figure and without a single wisp or crystalline mass passing through.

There wasn’t a single mark upon the entity’s body, yet again, but this time Wei Yi could tell that she was indeed having some kind of an effect upon it. The dense barrier of energy around it grew just a little weaker, and while it was hardly enough to make out anything beneath it, nor to be certain whether this will be permanent or not, she was still able to tell that it had decreased in quantity. It did not recover instantly, either, so there was still hope, as faint as that hope might be.

As if in reply to her affront, the figure stepped forward again, gathering some of that energy and projecting it towards its hands, before it placed them close together and thrust them forward, that energy magnifying as it was shot out. One immediately after another, three immense linear bursts of power shot out of it, with only the first managing to hit her as she evaded the very instant that she saw this place repeat the same tactic against her for a second time, except this time through the energy belonging to the entity itself rather than her own.

She was only hit by one of the beams, the first and weakest amongst them, and yet that caved in her ribcage, bones piercing her lungs, heart, stomach and everything else that was within her chest, everything burning with the blackened crimson of her foe’s energy.

Worse was the fact that just like her own Obliteration energy, this was the unity of the elements, of her energy types, and her power, meaning that the remnant effect upon her was not limited to burning, but also to freezing, shock, the cutting of metal and sapping of wood. It interfered with the flow of her blood, the empowering yang and overpowering yin of her physique, the circulation of her thoughts and even her dantian’s perception seemed to stall for a little moment, incapable of handling such a strike.

The entity was also not one that believed in letting downed enemies recover – and why would it, when she would certainly not allow for such a thing – and so it used the additional energy that remained around its fists and shot it out into two continuous beams, each one heading in a completely different direction from Wei Yi.

Even though her thoughts were staggered, she hardly needed to ponder this to understand that this wasn’t some kind of mistake, and that the beams were quickly converging upon her location.

She hastened towards the entity, rather than trying to dodge back, as it was in close proximity that she had the most chances to attack and wound it, or at the very least chip away at the barrier around it, whereas remaining further away only gave it more chances to keep her there and flood the area around her with those strange blackened crimson fissures and geysers of energy, of which the entity might be able to produce an infinite number.

Her body was slower than usual, and thus as the two beams converged behind her, they exploded into an absolutely immense spherical burst of blackened crimson, the outer edge of it striking her back. It torched her robes, the things beneath them, scorching her skin, muscles, blackening her bones and throwing her in the direction of the figure, eliciting a cry of pain to emerge from her mouth.

Although she wasn’t even aware of when her body had been able to produce such a sound, she forced her mental domain to stabilise and unleash all of the energy that was contained within to flood her body, forcing the individual strands of killing will to fill the wounds on her form and attempt to staunch the bleeding or even force it recover as quickly as she could force them to. Her spiritual will was more effective at recovering her wounds, particularly on her right side, so she drove out her killing will in order to direct all of it at the figure, keeping it to herself for as long as she could before that cloud would be sufficient to fully envelop the figure, which was about as tall as she was.

‘Fuck… when the energy pierces everything, it hurts too fucking much…’ the parts of Wei Yi’s mind that could still flow and comment freely managed that series of thoughts, then mentally gasped as the figure tried to take a step forward again.

The last few times that it had happened, the attacks had simply gotten stronger and stronger, so she hardly needed her full mental capability to understand perfectly that this would not be pleasant for her, regardless of what ‘it’ would actually be. So, just as the foot of the figure came back down to the ground once more, she threw out all of the killing intent that she had gathered in front of herself, transforming it mid-flight.

What would have been crimson meeting crimson instantly changed, for the killing intent inverted, shifting into Antithesis energy through which the scorching and overpowering energy of her foe looked calm and still, as if there was nothing dangerous to it at all. As they came into contact with one another, the surging Obliteration energy imitation transformed into that similarly quiet form, continuing to revolve around the figure, but that only allowed it to fully envelop the figure and transform its already mysterious appearance into something entirely opposite.

As a wave of energy, powerful and blinding as it initially was, burst out of the figure upon its foot coming into contact with the ground, all of it was also morphed from an overpowering storm to something peaceful and slow, expanding like a pile of sand that was slowly being added to rather than the mad tide in the furthest reaches of the ocean.

The raging energy that covered the figure calmed and settled down, changing from red and black to a soft white, the figure’s movements slowing down even more than they already were.

There were a few moments of quiet and calm, as the expanding wave merely passed through Wei Yi and stabilised her body, extinguishing the flames, frost and gathered static of electricity that had been placed onto the wounds all over her. It allowed her mind to recover, her body to heal, all of her energies to return to their standard flow and state and to rush throughout her entire being, causing it to radiate with unmistakable might.

Everything about the entity and herself had stabilised, and so there was one thing that would be most effective to quell it, to end its existence and to forcefully push her through to what she hoped to be the end of this experience.

In an instant, a blade appeared within her hand, filled with energy and artefact channels, was surrounded by Obliteration, Ire, yin and yang all at once, empowered with the Martial Aspirant ability and refined and enhanced by the Shaper’s Grasp physique in order to maximise the power of the blade as she quickly brought it down upon the head of the figure.

While every part of the Ire energy’s structure was unstable and not yet focused in the appropriate manner, it lacked much of the combat potential that the technique would typically have, but it would be excellent for sending the barrier of energy into absolute disarray.

The blade crashed upon the stabilised energy atop the figure’s head, and dug right into it, as if it was striking a skull and not energy, but as she further applied her strength and allowed more of the insane storm of energy atop her blade to scatter into the body, bypassing the Antithesis energy and striking directly with the most power that she could possibly manifest in her current stage and realm. After a moment, the blade sank further, and then finally began to fracture and crack with each further instant that she kept it within the head of the entity due to all of the planar energy that she had funnelled into her weapon, since even they weren’t immune to the influence of her cosmic energy.

She did not attempt to step back or get away from her foe in any way, for that would decrease the power of her Antithesis energy and risk giving the entity the chance to escape, so she would rather stand her ground and endure the explosion. Most of it would be localised upon her foe, and the most that she’d suffer would be a few loose shards of crystalline energy.

Up until the last moment, the entity itself did not even appear to be able to move, its body staying entirely still as the soft energy completely overwhelmed it.

The cracks grew and expanded as the surging light shining from within the sword grew brighter and brighter, as if the chains and stars within were also growing and seeking to burst into raw energy to obliterate her foe. For a moment, that growth stopped – only to explosively complete the next moment.

Boundless energy burst out of the shell of the blade, destroying it and colliding with the shell of inverted pseudo-Obliteration energy of the entity into which the weapon had been plunged, instantly blowing apart both that and the Antithesis energy that surrounded it. The sheer power of the explosion threw Wei Yi back by a dozen steps, with her journey being so short due to being thrown right against the stone ground of the courtyard before she could fly too far.

As the entity into which the blade had been plunged had no such convenient escapes, it bore the full brunt of the explosion, the energy shell being split apart and whatever lay beneath being shattered entirely. A vast quantity of the blackened crimson that was now freed from the Antithesis energy burst out, flooding the palace, gathering in an incredibly dense storm that it had likely meant to form before.

Before it could expand to touch Wei Yi, it suddenly soared upward, storming through the palace, blowing it apart, shredding wood, paper and whatever else was inside as it tore out of the roof and flew into the sky, congealing into an enormous sphere. More and more energy was channelled towards it, and the sheer movements of energy caused repeated shockwaves to expand outwards, each burst being larger than the last and thus each one dug out a large portion of the courtyard and what remained of the palace.

It caused a pattern akin to the ripple a droplet of water would create when landing in a pool to manifest, with the peak of each rippling wave being sharp and jagged.

‘Everything that’s gathering up there might be enough to obliterate the entire floating land, but by the looks of it, this violent energy can be stalled by the terrain to an extent,’ Wei Yi observed the particular shape of the land and noted this to herself, ignoring the damage that she had once again sustained as she rose and tried to flee, ‘If I hide behind the furthest and thickest obstacle in the terrain, I should be far safer than just standing here.’

She naturally began to run the very instant that she understood this, but almost as if the gathering star above acted in accordance with it, the sphere grew more quickly until it overwhelmed the brightness and, presumably, even the size of the original sun that lit up this realm, then, soundlessly, fell from above.

It was soundless for only a moment, however, as the sound reached her a moment after it began to fall. The mere sound possessed enough force to shake the ground and tear through some of the thinner waves formed from the earth, but it was naught but a feeble herald for what was to come.

As the star fell, it burst the atmosphere again and again, causing numerous bursts and shockwaves of air again and again. Some more of the waves cracked and were turned into dust, but the part that Wei Yi had chosen to hide behind had already been reinforced repeatedly through the Shaper’s Grasp, taking advantage of each crack that formed within it to piece it all back together and reinforce it further as to correct every single minor flaw within the structure of the barrier as to guarantee her chance of survival. It drained a lot of physique energy, and might make it difficult to fight with it if the entity wasn’t dead, but the other option was certain defeat at best, and death at worst.

The drop was simultaneously fast and slow, for it seemed to travel at an enormous speed and with overwhelming force, but it felt like it took a minute to fall from such a short distance.

Perhaps it was Wei Yi’s mind still being a little slow from the previous barrage of pseudo-Obliteration energy, or maybe it was some warping of space that resulted in this, but either way, it did eventually fall. A vast surge of energy erupted outwards, tearing into the terrain, cracking through it and tearing what remained of the land apart.

 

“- and if you do not get back right now, I will be forced to act against you! No matter what your standards in the Eastern Continent are, we will not allow you to approach the Ancestral Hall!” the Bai family member declared, bringing out a vast quantity of planar energy out of his body to display that he was not kidding about his threats so far, “As we had explained to you upon your arrival, Ancestral Halls are places that you cannot tread!”

“You’re just hiding some demonic cultivators, aren’t you? Some kind of ritual intended to consume the world, perhaps?”

“You dare-”

Both of the arguing groups turned to the Bai Ancestral Hall as a blinding blackened crimson mixed with the stygian green that had overwhelmed the district before this, with the fourth set of eyes igniting upon the side of the hall.

The cracks within the abyssal stone grew, expanding and widening and more and more mixed light emerged from within, each figure on the side shifting further as they raised their hands and heads to the sky. The light ascended with them, clearing from the homes and stores of the residents of the districts, striking the layer that covered the district and forcing it up, as if the light was solid and mighty enough to raise something that had endured the winds for decades. It pushed it higher and higher, until, finally, the combined four distinct shades tore right through.

All of the light, green, red, blackened crimson and silver alike, soared into the sky, and the sheet that covered the Bai District was brought up with it, attempting to fly but being held down by all of the infrastructure around it. While the light itself acted as a beacon, all attention moved to the Bai Ancestral Hall, which now radiated a small yet still distinct quantity of energy unlike the other four.

 

The figure did not reappear, but a series of words that seemed to be spoken, and yet were not, did.

“What is your name?” they asked of Wei Yi, a question that was even simpler and yet stranger than the first two.

Still, she had the answer and wouldn’t hesitate to give it.

“Wei Yi.”

“What is your true name?”

She raised an eyebrow, for this was the first time that she had seen one of these asked her a question for the second time in a row, and one that seemed to be trying to get something different out of her rather than simply accepting whatever she had to say. It was odd enough to make her ponder it for a moment, but she did not intend to change her answer.

“I am Wei Yi.”

“What is your birth name?” the words that she was sure had some sound to them, and yet no voice, asked yet again.

‘Not going to let me get away with this, are you? If this is some kind of intelligent entity asking me this, and not just some prepared set of questions to get those who intend to hide their identities to reveal them with enough pressure, I can guess that it wants the name before I switched it around, but… Would that truly be accurate?’ she considered, for there were a number of ways to look at one’s name as well as identity in general.

At one point, she did have another name, but between then and now, she could almost be said to have experienced rebirth, for her mind and body had all changed to such an extent that even if her parents were alive, they might struggle to recognise her.

Would a name that did not represent her in any way still be correct? Wouldn’t it just be like telling this realm a name that she had once imagined for herself in a dream, or perhaps one that she had used falsely to hide her identity? It did not seem like this would be the kind of thing that would be desired from the series of questions being asked, and she was certainly not keen to bring out her past when it effectively didn’t matter in the slightest. Out of everyone who had heard her past name, who would even remember it now? Even the Greats would be likely to remember her current identity, for it was the one that had dealt them the most severe blow that they must have sustained in their entire history.

For that reason, she concluded that there was only one answer she could provide.

“Wei Yi.”

She wasn’t even sure whether she’d prefer to receive another question along the same vein, or if it would be better to not receive another word, but it turned out to be the latter.

She did not even receive a single Dao comprehension from the figure.

No more questions came to her, but she did find herself reappear within the courtyard of the strange realm, with the palace and every stone restored. She was able to navigate inside, and found that the interior was as simple as she had expected, except that a set of stairs up to the second floor appeared near the middle of the lower room, and she found a card floating right before it.

Since nothing seemed to be happening to the realm, she decided that it would be wise to take the card and take a look at it before proceeding up, as she could sense a number of items of interest to her on the floor above and could grab most of them up with the House of Gold rather quickly.

As she picked up the card and looked at it, her eyes widened, ‘… What?’

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