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Literature / Desolate Era

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Desolate Era, aka Mang Huang Ji, is a Web Serial Novel written by xianxia author I Eat Tomatoes. It does not share the setting of any of his other works, despite the frequent misinformation from those who read machine translations. The translation into English was started by IEatWatermelons and later picked up and successfully finished by Ren Wo Xing.

Fate had never been kind to Ji Ning. Wracked by illnesses and infirm his entire life on Earth, Ning knew early on that he would die as a teenager. What he didn’t know was that there really was such a thing as life after death, and that the universe was a far larger place than he thought. A lucky twist of fate (one of the few in Ning’s life) meant that Ning was reborn into a world of Immortals and monsters, of Ki Refiners and powerful Fiendgods, a world where Dynasties lasted for millions of years. A world which is both greater…and yet also smaller…than he ever could imagine. He would have the opportunity to join them, and in this life, Ning swore to himself, he would never let himself be weak again! The Era he was born into was a Desolate one, but Ning would make it his era.


This story provides examples of:

  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Practiced by majority of high-powered beings in regards to struggles of people in lower power tiers, at least as far as those outside their fiefdoms are concerned. Flamedragon Realmverse is home to six organizations that are tied in a web of friendships and proclaimed vendettas, but despite three of them having immensely powerful Hegemons, they mostly just let ordinary members of roughly similar power levels duke it out versus each other. When mystical fruits of Crimsonwave Temple are brought out, leaders of all six gather together to trade, equally, without even trying to exclude any of the organizations out. Even Aeonians, whose I'm a Humanitarian cultivation practices put them in opposition to Ning's primary allegiance of Dao Alliance, get a fair share of trading. Silksnow Palace, organization comprised of absolutely worst villains of the Realmverse that casually slaughter billions and trillions of mortals for cultivation practices or just for fun, have won ownership of a Sacred City fair and square so Dao Alliance allowed them to prosper in peace... But neither they shed much tears when Ji Ning slaughters them. At the very top of cultivation hierarchy, Autarchs allow entire Realmverses die by natural phenomenon of primordial chaos, because it is all just a cycle of death and rebirth, all obeying internal workings of the grander Chaosverse.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower:
    • Staple of the genre and acknowledged in universe: it is not uncommon for a cultivator being put in dire straits to attain breakthroughs in the Dao and turn the tables. Unusually for most works in the genre, here it also works for characters other than the protagonist.
    • Immortal Diancai when facing his Celestial Tribulation. He faces seven nine-sets of thunder, already more than anyone expected for him. He pulls out all stops, using a Dangerous Forbidden Technique and even a second set of swords to just barely deflect the last bolt... Only for the clouds to gather again, with power far exceeding the last. As he looks up, facing and accepting death with only consolation being able to meet with his beloved companion in the afterlife, this despair catalyzes his understanding of Five Elements Sword art. He uses it to disperse all nine final bolts with minimal effort.
    • During the Conclave of Immortal Destiny, Ji Ning and Yu Wei team up and fight together, although the latter is weaker of the pair for most of it. Once they encounter a much stronger team, she nearly dies but it stimulates her to unlock full memories of her past life and immediately combine past and present Daos for a massive power boost, saving her life. Unfortunately, she was already poisoned and thus has to quit the tournament and seek healing.
    • When villainous Arroyo and Fukai compete for the access to the treasures of Daolord Allgod's estate, each are pitted against another's underling. Fukai's servant Buxin almost manages to put Arroyo on the ropes, but the latter undergoes a breakthrough, launching his power beyond both his current opponent's and Fukai's as well. Fukai then tries to invoke the same in his next duel, refusing to use some of his treasures in order to challenge himself, but he can't manage to make an advancement. Unfortunately for them, Ji Ning has also earned rewards during the same trial, and uses them to reach a level even further beyond both of them and all their treasures.
  • A Boy and His X:
    • Ji Ning and Uncle White, a Whitewater Hound. Although this Godbeast originally was the spirit-beast of Ning's father, Yichuan, he had also been a constant presence for Ning starting even before the latter's birth.
    • During the adventure in Gaol Mountains he also runs into the Azure Skysnake that he formed a Friendly Rivalry back in Swallow Mountain. He saves her life and she becomes his follower as well.
    • Much later on, he manages to tame Flamewing, a Chaos Primordial, creature capable of devouring entire realmverses. Unlike the above examples, Flamewing is actually more powerful than Ji Ning and becomes the main fighting force of his group for the next couple volumes.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Within organizations, one's standing in the hierarchy often depends directly on how strong one is compared to others. A new member may be referred to by others as "senior" after displaying their strength. This also extends to the authority of the organizations themselves. A group's authority within the world is directly determined by the immortal practitioners behind it. The Raindragon Guard, for instance, is an ancient army of immortal practitioners that none of the powers would easily cross.
  • Bishōnen Line: Monstrous beasts gain the ability to take human form upon reaching a certain level of power. Most Diremonsters are able to do this at the Xiantian level, but inherently more powerful beasts (such as Uncle White, a Godbeast) can not do so until they reach a higher level. However, they are at their strongest in their original form.
  • Blood Brothers: Ji Ning and Ninedust/Redwater. They start off as enemies, but swear an oath and become brothers and Fire-Forged Friends. During several story arcs, they are essentially Bash Brothers fighting side by side, combining their unique strengths and talents to overcome dangers of the Terror Starsea. Even later on after Ning pulls far ahead in power, he is still willing to risk his life and dedicate thousands of chaos cycles of effort to free his brother from trouble.
  • Born-Again Immortality: Part of the setting, slightly varied if magical means were involved.
    • For regular deaths within the Three Realms, the soul goes to the underworld, where they get judged, serve punishment if needed, and then get their memories wiped and sent out to reincarnate. At the start of the novel, Ji Ning having earned a bunch of karmic merit was going to be incarnated as an already-magical creature in one of the heavenly realms.
    • For cultivators, they usually incarnate while keeping some of their talent and soon restart their cultivation as a Child Prodigy. As they advance, they start unlocking memories of their past life, eventually culminating in full reemergence, and merging of the knowledge and Daos of multiple lifetimes. Ning, as he didn't have any cultivation knowledge from his past life, was going to have Nuwa Visualization Technique implanted in him to be unlocked by 16 years old instead.
    • However as the novel starts, that overarching system gets broken by a calamity. Ning skips taking a drink that wipes his memory, but has to run into reincarnation path into a regular mortal rather than a xiantian immortal. As a payoff, he immediately has access to the Visualization Technique and starts training the power of his soul as an infant.
    • Later we find out that the calamity resulted in individual worlds of Three Realms setting up their own local reincarnation cycles. Xia Emperor tries to track down Ning's parents but turns out their souls were shattered by evildoers refining demonic treasures. This leaves them with only their truesouls, which descended into cosmic depths of the Three Realms Chaosworld and only a World God level figure could extract them from there. It takes Ning a very, very long time to get there.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Although it does not happen every time, it is not uncommon to see people call out the name of their special technique when they execute it.
  • Can't Catch Up: Such is the eventual fate of every companion and ally Ji Ning makes.
    • During the trial of Crimsonbright Diagram he's fighting side by side with Yu Wei but after she is knocked out of the tournament he pulls ahead by quite a lot. After both Ning and Yu Wei leave to study under powerful mentors, she returns as a Celestial Immortal while Ning is still at the Earth Immortal level, he is vastly more powerful than she is. Even Celestial Immortal Unity, hailed as immensely powerful and the founding pillar of the clan controlling their homeland, is much weaker than Ji Ning.
    • At World level of power, Ning joins with three other topmost geniuses of Twelve Palaces on a journey into an Otherverse. They all start at roughly equal power level, with Ning ranked second, and all grow during their trip. All four advance to Daolord level afterwards and go their separate ways. However at two occasions, as news of Ning's exploits spread, the novel shows their perspectives, power progress and reactions. Prince Greatjoy and Heartlord Solewind take the news in stride and laugh, while Firelord Watersurge gets very vocally upset by how far he is falling behind.
    • Eventually at Daolord Level, after several volumes worth of adventuring side by side, Ninedust decides to stop adventuring together due to sheer power disparity - anything strong to challenge Ning would be a hopeless battle for him, while anything suitable for him is meaningless for Ning. Same goes for all of Ning's retainers, and he lets them go have their own adventures as well.
  • Child Prodigy: Given the stiff competition, being one of these is practically necessary to get anywhere as you really need to start young. Reincarnated immortals get a free ride - even with their direct memories initially locked out by the reincarnation, they still find it extremely easy to relearn the basics of the Dao. Ji Ning himself was a special case - he didn't lose his memories at all, but he never had any cultivator memories in the first place. However, he had a gift of Nuwa's Painting Visualization Technique which allowed him to start strengthening his soul immediately after birth, leading to him progressing in comprehension of the Dao very quickly. He easily defeated all other contestants among his clan's younger generation (even others hailed as prodigies in their own right), and soon easily eclipsed even the elders.
  • Clone Army:
    • Being able to split into multiple bodies is a basic ability of Fiendgod Body Refiners, however it comes with a heavy downside of splitting the user's power between the bodies. The overall effect is noted to be nearly useless in combat against equal foes as they would be able to easily crush the split bodies and is usually only attempted as a last-ditch escape attempt.
    • On the other hand, there exist techniques that build on the concept properly. They are extremely rare, and require very expensive and rare materials to practice, but eventually allow splitting into bodies each as powerful as the original was, and even merging the clones back into one, much more powerful than the original. A 12 body technique is a tightly kept treasure by higher-ups of the Pangu's Realm, 18 body technique is a unique treasure from a whole another world that requires resources normally not available at all in that world, and while they have records of a 1000 body technique, the requirement to practice it at the lowest level is consumption of an entire Chaosworld as a material.
    • Youngflame Freak was only able to uncover a portion of the 18-body technique, and practiced it to the first level. It allowed him immense survivability at the cost of power - which he compensated for by using the other partial technique from the stele to raise an army of bugbeasts. Ning masters the second level of technique, getting both his original and his primaltwin bodies to split into clones, for a total of 36 full-power bodies, but third level remains beyond him. He later pairs it with another technique that allows him to fuse clones together, permanently. It loses out on versatility of switching between being a One-Man Army and an actual army, but he merges together 17 for the powerboost regardless. 18th is left as a backup in case his primary body gets killed, so he can rebuild the clones and re-merge them together. Final tally is just 4 bodies and only one going out and having adventures.
    • Eventually, Ning runs into a guy that practiced the 1000 bodies version to its full potential. Despite his own immensely powerful abilities, he instantly loses. Thankfully they are trapped in a training ground set up by a higher power so he doesn't end up killed, but even after making a couple leaps in power due to training, the most he can reach is a stalemate.
  • Cloning Blues: Averted. Clones are pretty much always created using the original's soul, meaning there is a real time connection between the original and the clone. They are one soul, networked and connected to any number of bodies (see Clone Army above). There is a range limitation on the connection, it usually vastly exceeds a person's ability to travel that far based on their own efforts. But even if they get sent into an alternate universe or a locked dimension by somebody vastly more powerful, upon returning from it their bodies easily reconnect and merge their memories. Ning goes through the experience twice at different points.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Came into play at several points during the conflict between the Seamless Gate and Nuwa's Alliance.
    • Keeper of Everwood was noted as having made a lot of friends among the Nuwa's side, but in the end chose to stand with the Seamless as his native side.
    • Old Man Yuan started the opposite way, being a native of Nuwa's world but having friends on both sides and initially refusing to join either. He confided in Subhuti that he was going join Seamless only to scam them for techniques and then leave the entire Chaosworld to travel the universe outside but haven't actually fulfilled that idea. In the end, all that was a multi-layered ruse as he was possessed by a powerful Outsider who wanted to kill everybody involved and take over their entire world.
    • Yuan also offered to accept Ji Ning as an apprentice but Subhuti refused to let him in fear of such a conflict arising. Turns out, he was much more than right to worry - first act of Yuan upon joining the Seamless was to try assassinating Ji Ning.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Like so many modern Xianxia novels, often at the center of every other story arc. Ji Ning can be seen going through abandoned manors, estates, palaces, mines, mountains, graveyards, mausoleums, gardens, miscellaneous isolated pocket dimension worlds, and yes, prisons.
  • Elemental Powers: The elements are represented among the Daos that are the source of immortals' abilities. Ji Ning's first insights were into the Dao of Rainwater and the Dao of the Inferno. Each underlay his combat abilities, but he also combined them to produce his Waterflame Lotus.
  • Energy Economy: Trade can be conducted with elemental essence, the liquified form of energy that immortal practitioners consume to advance to the next stage. Later as the powerscale advances and amounts of essence used per exchange begin to exceed millions of kilograms, Immortal Pills and then Great Firmanent Pills replace it. At even higher levels, Chaos Nectar and Chaos Crystals take over.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: on multiple levels
    • In general for cultivators, understanding and strengthening their heart is very important as it helps them to master the Dao and control their magic and treasures. It comes in under a direct test during Celestial Tribulation (and other occasional heavenly tribulations) where the cultivator is sent into an illusory world and must resist getting trapped in it.
    • Then there is the Heartforce. In the Three Realms there is only one fully structured teaching method for it - Hoyui's Archery. It guides students through the stages of heartforce and how to imbue it into arrows, giving them tremendous power at the cost of being very limited in ammunition as every shot uses a big chunk of mental reserves. His ultimate technique is a straight up self-sacrifice for an arrow of immense power. Ji Ning eventually figures alternative application of heartforce to his fingers for hand to hand strikes and Old Man Yuan passes him his notes on other applications which he focuses on mastering applying it to his soul.
    • Outside of Three Realms, Heartforce blossomed into an entire parallel cultivation path with its practitioners holding mastery of illusion and even mind control if the power disparity is great enough. They even have their own analogue to World level of cultivation - Heartworld, that they can project outside in order to trap people in or to apply energy pressure field. Practice of fusing heartforce with attacks returns later on, with Timedream and Winesage slowly infecting their illusions unto the opponent through weapon clashes while Ning himself once again focuses on applying it for raw power.
    • Later on of the novel, it is revealed that complete mastery of the Heart and heartforce, and fusing it into the cultivator's primary Dao is necessary to ascend to Eternal Emperor level with an Omega Dao. Ning was too late to figure that out, resulting in his failure.
  • Ki Manipulation: Nearly everything that immortal practitioners do depends upon this. It affects their speed and strength, their attacks, the construction of items, and the ability to sense their surroundings. When one accumulates sufficient elemental energy, they can advance to the next stage.
  • Flight: After reaching sufficient strength, immortal practitioners may begin using magic to fly. Some practitioners below that stage are shown flying on the back of their bird-type spirit-beasts.
  • Initiation Ceremony: The official initiation for the Black-White College involves the new members being presented in front of the school and being asked by one of the masters to become their disciple. The unofficial initiation happens afterwards in the Dao Debate Palace when the senior disciples challenging them in a sparring match. The new disciples are thoroughly beaten and lose some of their in-College currency and elemental essence (which is necessary to advance to the next stage). The spoken reason is to temper the new disciples' pride by demonstrating that they have entered a world where they are not longer the greatest genius in the group. The unspoken reason is because all of the senior disciples had been embarrassed in this manner when they joined, and now it is their turn to embarrass another.
  • Karma Meter: After one, typically a Primal Daoist, has opened their Celestial Eye, they can perceive people's aura. Good karma produces an aura of golden light and bad karma produces one of bloody, vile light. However, auras only appear around those people that perform the most good or the most evil deeds. Ji Ning, for instance, was reincarnated for his exceptional karma on Earth but only has a faint, clear aura.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard:
    • The Fiendgod Refiners are basically this - they study the Dao just as the squishy wizard-like Ki Refiners do, but apply it through physical arts rather than spells. There is personal variation of course, with how much of their power is derived from Dao and how much from their body cultivation and divine abilities. Ji Ning oscillates over this balance through early phases of his journey - sometimes his magical treasures and soul power are his main tools, sometimes they fall behind his physical prowess.
    • Reaching Daolord level erases the difference between Fiendgod and Ki Refining, joining everybody into this. Heartforce cultivators however add a bit more wizardy aspect with their illusions and world projections. Of the prominent ones, Timedream has more lean into the heartforce aspect, while Winesage and Ning are more about using it as a supplement to physical prowess.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: This turns out to be the finale of the Endwar of the Three Realms. Nuwa's side leaders started out with suspicion that denizens of the Primordial Ruinworld were going to try and sweep in the aftermath of Nuwa's vs Seamless conflict, and thus send forces to wipe them out ahead of time, only to find out they have already joined with the Seamless... And later discover that they have been taken over by another Outsider force led by Godfiend Witherspike, who indeed harbors designs to take out both weakened sides. Only for that plan to get blindsided as well by another party in Mindlord of the Blacklotus Empire who immediately after revealing himself and his powers inflicts heavy casualties on both Nuwa and Seamless and scares Witherspike into fleeing.
  • Long-Lived: As an immortal practitioner rises through the stages of power, their lifespan becomes longer and longer. Only upon reaching the highest stages can they become true immortals.
  • Master Swordsman: Swordplay is a common method of fighting that can be augmented by a large number of techniques and formations. A small number of people, however, are able to comprehend the Dao of the Sword and become Sword Immortals; even smaller is the number of Sword Immortals that can fully comprehend of Dao of the Sword.
  • Ninja School: The Black-White College, and likely the other schools for immortal practitioners. After one is admitted, one of the College's masters takes them on as a disciple to guide them. Techniques, skills, items, and other resources are gained by spending "black-white pellets". These pellets are a given to advancing to the next stage, comprehending new Daos, or accomplishing certain other goals.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond:
    • Applies to most creatures born from primordial chaos as while they may be just normal or even simply weak children by the marks of their own species, to cultivators they are massively powerful monsters. The trial of Astral Islands was based on plucking a large amount of World level cultivators from around the entire realmverse and sticking them into a tournament. One of the most powerful contestants turned out to be a being made out of pure water and thus invulnerable to all harm. Everybody else thought that it was playing up Obfuscating Stupidity but Bertulu's Heartforce talents proved to him that it really was a newborn of its species that knew nothing about the world around it.
    • Showcased again with the Brightshore prince that Ning and some fellow cultivators escort on an adventure. The quartet of them are near the absolute cream of the crop for World Level cultivators, and the prince can match their power in combat... But because he is just a young chaosbeast that was picked up and trained by the Hegemon since youth, when it comes to trials based on willpower and strength of heart, he loses out miserably.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Pretty much everybody in cultivation world has both a birthname and a Daoist Title which they selected after passing the basic cultivation levels and it is the latter that they more commonly use. Ji Ning's is "Darknorth" and while he often introduces himself using both, a lot of characters stick to Darknorth. His friend Ninedust has an extra levels of nicknaming going - his name of Ninedust comes from him usurping a leadership position of Ninedust Sect. He only did it to participate in the sect's rivalry with another sect which held something he needed. Once he gets it, he never even thinks about going back to the sect, instead going on adventuring with Ji Ning, but keeps using the name out of habit. His actual title of "Redwater" comes up much later and is mentioned exactly twice in the entire novel.
  • Power Levels: Immortal practitioners are divided into stages (Houtian, Xiantian, Zifu, Wanxiang, Primordial, Void, and Celestial Immortal). With each level, the person's lifespan extends, their body undergoes enhancements, and they become able to use more powerful abilities and items. Although these stages tend to determine the abilities that one can have, they are also sub-divided into early, middle, late, and peak based upon how much elemental energy the practitioner has accumulated.
    Celestial Immortal is the milestone for being able to travel between worlds and having a lifespan not troubled by constant heaven-sent calamities. Within the Three Realms, Empyrean God was thought to be a higher stage of cultivation than Celestial, but eventually it is shown to be the same tier, its just that the available cultivation methods were too weak, downgrading all Ki Refiners.
    Past that level, cultivation continues as True God/True Immortal, Ancestor God/Ancestor Immortal, World God/Chaos Immortal, Dao Lord, Eternal Emperor (with exceptionally powerful ones being known as Hegemons) and finally Autarch (or Supreme Sovereign in some earlier fantranslations). Omega Dao Emperors break the scale as Autarchs just consider them on the same tier as themselves, and Omega Dao Autarch is an existence too unique to be placed within a category.
  • Rank Inflation: pops up with the Daos used for passing from World God/Chaos Immortal level to Daolord level. There are ordinary dao that can vary in strength, then there are "Ultimate Daos" that are massively more powerful and guarantee a great deal more power as a Daolord. More power yet is available from mastery of several Ultimate Daos and "perfectly" fusing them together. Two or three most of the time, and even the few that went higher weren't all that much more powerful. Ning discovers that those fusions aren't quite perfect as they still lack a lot of aspects of the overarching Dao and that results in great difficulty in merging them. As for himself, his five Ultimate Daos merge together instantly and easily. Yet, he feels that something is missing and spends several millions of years mulling over it. Eventual result is the realization that the separation and merging isn't real and that there is one singular overarching Dao of the Sword, which is dubbed as a Supreme or Omega Dao (depending on translation) and launches his power beyond comprehension of his compatriots.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Ji Ning rescues a character not from a gutter, but a never-ending fighting tournament held by a powerful being to weed out particularly strong and talented cultivators to serve his empire. This character remembers the good deed and later serves Ji Ning as one of his followers.
  • Renowned Selective Mentor: In the Black-White College, Immortal Diancai has sworn that he will only accept an disciple that has communed with the sword-intent that Immortal Northwalker left in the college. As Northwalker was a peerless Sword Immortal, members of the College take this to mean that Diancai will never take a disciple.
  • Spirit Cultivation Genre: It's an isekai cultivator story. Ji Ning dies and is reborn in a world of immortals and demigods, and resolves to gain power and fame that he was always denied in his first life.
  • Teleportation: Individuals may teleport using one-time-use Dao-seals or talismans, but there are also larger, permanent teleportation arrays controlled by the largest powers.
  • Talking Weapon: Starting around the Immortal level, all weapons and treasures have a spirit. These spirits do not start off as independent beings, but over time can cultivate and become so. Ie. Blackheaven and the Starseizer Manor spirit. In the story, they are usually most talkative when they are first introduced. The two spirits Ning meets in the Underwater Manor being exceptions.
  • Time Abyss:
    • All Celestial Immortals and up beings that didn't just grow to that level in the story. Within the Three Realms, most ancient figures have lived for over a "Chaos Cycle", a timeframe that isn't stated clearly but insinuated to be on the scale of trillions to millions of trillions of years.
    • Prisoners trapped within the otherworldly stone stele Ning finds have them beat - while it wasn't a particularly eventful existence for them, the thing has spent about five Chaos cycles drifting through the inter-dimensional void before landing in Pangu's Chaosworld. Some of them are on the brink of mental breakdown from the experience, only vague hope of release and return to their clans and families of other immortals holding them together. Unfortunately, Ning's arrival and news of the stele being gone far away from their native realm of Pangaea they figure out that their world was destroyed and commit suicide. Others are pretty happy to hear that the World Gods that imprisoned them are probably dead too and try to suss out if Ning can release them.
    • Once Ning travels outside his native Chaosworld, we find out that a Chaos Cycle is about how long a Chaosworld can naturally last, and he starts running into figures that have lived much, much longer than that. This sets up a new bar for real immortality - only by becoming an Eternal Emperor one can live past 108'000 Chaos Cycles. Ning isn't too worried because to his mind of only a hundred thousand years old this is eternity.
    • And of course once he starts mingling with Eternal Emperors and Hegemons, they show up as being many orders of magnitude older than the 108'000 Cycles baseline. One particular thing is noted that travel between Realmverses without a Realmship can take tens of millions of Chaos Cycles drifting through the void, but some of them still go for it.
  • Time to Unlock More True Potential:
    • While he has access to the Underwater Estate for some really nice training facilities and powerful challenges, it only gave Ji Ning one direct technique. Given that he has already completely eclipsed everybody in his native clan, he then moves to Stilwater Commandery City to join a school to obtain access to good cultivation techniques. He gets a lot more than he expected, joining Black-White College, inheriting technique of one of its ancient immortals and earning direct tutelage from a living one.
    • After getting treasures and libraries of the Witchriver Immortal Estate, he inverts this - most of those techniques are not useful for him, so he gives them out to his clan, setting up a library for generations to come. Clan elders muse on setting up necessary trials for accessing it.
    • Ji Ning himself then seeks out tutelage from Daofather Crimsonbright by competing in the Immortal Conclave of Grand Xia world. Despite excellent showing, Crimsonbright doesn't select him as a personal disciple, which leaves him open to offer by Daofather Subhuti, who is an even greater specialist at teaching and rising of impeccable geniuses. Subhuti offers him some lessons to start with for free, a vast library to pick from that each comes with challenges for specific techniques, and promises a parting gift of a couple techniques specifically tailored for Ning.
    • After his return from Subhuti's domain, Ning does the inversion again, passing some techniques he acquired during his adventures to his clan, the Black-White College and even directly to his previous master Diancai.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: As part of reaching the 'Zifu' stage, the immortal practitioner forms a mystical space (the Zifu Violet Palace) within their body. This space is used to store accumulated elemental ki, magical treasures, and other special items. When one is killed, or has this space otherwise destroyed, all of the items that were stored within appear around their body.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • On his trip to Stillwater City, Ning runs into a trio of youths from Meng clan getting assaulted by a pair of bandit cultivators. Meng Roch decides to use a forbidden technique to give the other two a chance to escape before Ning arrives to save them. Afterwards, Meng Jun immediately discards Roch despite his near-sacrifice and tries to rope Meng Xin into a relationship (being well aware that Xin and Roch had a liking to each other). He doesn't stop at just that, trying to beg Ning for some free treasures, and also discounting him as not worth the effort when he refuses. He comes to eventually regret his decisions when he runs into Ning in the city again and finds out Ning was friends with a high-ranking noble in the city, as well as Ning's outstanding power. Roch gets a little payoff when Ning accepts him as his follower into the Black-White College as well, rubbing more salt into Xin's missed chance.
    • Youngflame Nong recruits a group of students from Black-White College as well as a few other cultivators to assist him in exploring the Witchriver Immortal Estate. Inside the estate, while tools provided by his clan did a lot of heavy lifting, he still needed to rely on the recruited help to endure the less dangerous but still deadly trials. He repays them by trying to use Yu Wei as entertainment and then outright attempting to kill Ji Ning when he found out about his ancestry. Even the pawn that sold Ning's secret out gets that treatment as he's forced to try and kill Ning in a duel first - something he stood no chance at.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind:
    • The Youngflame Clan on the whole. While they have escalated their threats, they only had a fixed amount of them. Initially, they were a threat of certain doom, focing Ning to hide in the capital city, so only assassins of more limited power would be willing to take a suicide mission - and even then the one they sent puts him on the ropes and he barely survives. After return from Subhuti's school, they ambush him with a handful of Celestial Immortals, the highest-ranked members of the clan. They are a threat but he manages to fend them off. When he attacks one of their bases, all nine Celestials of the clan show up, but Ning's continued growth even throughout the battle allows him to keep an upper hand, forcing them to trick and entrap him with a double-blow of a celestial tribulation and the clan's most powerful treasure. And the next time, when he returns from Nihilum Zone where they teleported him, they know they are so outmatched, their leader has no choice but to take the entire clan and run away to another world.
    • Archon Silksnow. First he attacks Ning and Ninedust and they are massively outmatched. Ning barely holds on and calls for Hegemon Brightshore to resque him. Silksnow sees Brightshore coming and quickly kills Ning with a one-use Hegemon level treasure. Ning survives through his use of a Lifeblood Talisman, but experience allows him to advance to Fourth Step Omega Daolord, and quickly after that to come after Silksnow. He barges into his base, confronts him and all twenty plus of his underlings... And slaughters most of them, shrugging off two Hegemon treasures in the process.
    • Inverted with the Sidhe. They were thought to be contained within a sealed region and unable to grow, but they were both able to get more reinforcements from their own dimension as well as slip out and set up bases outside of containment. The reignited war was much more threatening than the first time they tried despite the defenders' own growth in power and number.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Jiu Chen aka Ninedust (九塵). A Daolord Ning initially battles but later becomes friendly rivals with. They often compare their abilities and playfully snipe at each other over differences.
  • When You Snatch the Pebble:
    • While training in Black-White College, Ji Ning must demonstrate his mastery in swordplay and his understanding of the Dao before Immortal Diancai, his master, allows him to leave the Black-White College for some adventuring in the outside world.
    • Subhuti also follows this principle, whisking Ning off to his personal dimension for training and only allowing him to return to Grand Xia after mastering enough divine abilities. Ning is free to pick which ones he wants, but every one of them comes with a unique trial to requisition it from the library, and that's before the challenge of actually studying the technique.
    • Undermoon Lake turns out to be not just a weird location, but an automated training ground. Any fiendgods challenging it must pass through several tiers of battles with demons of varying power levels in order to earn rewards of treasures and eventually some very powerful techniques that surpass the standards of the entire Three Realms chaosworld.
    • Same goes for the Astral Islands of the Brightshore Kingdom. The "pebble" in this case is a collection of pieces of many powerful techniques disseminated between all contestants. Once you gather one full technique you are allowed to leave. Ning ends up helping two other cultivators out by giving up a fully collected technique before sticking around to improve himself some more.
  • Wizard Duel: Happens whenever Ki Refiners get in a fight. You can expect phoenix shaped fireballs, thrown mountain ranges, telekinetically controlled Wuxia weapons, and other bizarre Chinese mythology, Daoist and Buddhist inspired magics.
  • Weak, but Skilled:
    • Overall combat power here is derived from a couple sources - the cultivation level being the "strength" and mastery of the Dao being the "skill". Ji Ning is pretty much always ahead of the cultivation curve thanks to his Dao, but it is also common enough for others. Black-White College outright makes it their principle to stay on lower cultivation level for longer than the minimal requirement to create a solid foundation for further growth, resulting in everybody there following this trope.
    • By the later stages of the novel however, the power of immortal energy is noted to become vastly inferior compared to the mastery of the Dao. Daolords using special techniques to empower their energy hundreds of times only achieve a fractional increase in their overall combat strength. In the finale, a new type of cultivation energy created by Ning is quickly adopted by all Autarchs, but despite it being hundreds of thousands times more powerful than old cultivation energy, they only get thirty percent powerboost out of it.
    • Back in Three Realms, all "Overlord" level figures are a unique example of weakness compensated by skill. They all are Ki Refiners of Daofather level, which would theoretically be on the same level as Elder Gods. But because they have very weak cultivation techniques for that path, their energy is merely on the level of a stage lower True Gods. The Overlord figures however compensate for that by their mastery of the Dao allowing them to reach basic level of Elder Gods.
  • Willfully Weak: During one of this training periods, Ji Ning goes around many worlds of Three Realms while suppressing his power level to near-nothing in order to test his sword-arts against as many different styles as possible. Everybody he meets he would be able to crush instantly, and he even has to hold back his skill in addition to raw power to remain competitive, but this all-encompassing training regime allows him to set up a foundation for later mastery of the Grand Dao of the Sword.
  • Yellow Lightning, Blue Lightning: Late-stage lightning bolts during Celestial Tribulation go through several colors as they get progressively more powerful. While Immortal Diancai's and Ji Ning's Primaltwin's first half don't get color descriptors, starting from seventieth bolt of Ning's tribulation they are described as violet. Seventy-third shows hints of white which then grow more prominent until the last, eighty-first, bolt is described as pure white, filled with holiness and sanctity. Ning's second tribulation, undergone with his true fiendgod body to become Empyrean, is immensely more powerful and basically picks off where the first one stopped. Starting with violet-white right off the bat, it goes to pure white by the ninth, and then starts adding gold. The final bolt reaches the pinnacle of power possible for tribulation (as noted by several observing ancient figures that lived from the very beginning of the Three Realms), pure gold and is called "Pure Yang Goldlight Thunder".
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: After Yu Wei's first death, one of Ning's main driving motivations from that point on is to rescue or revive her. But every time he reaches a new milestone that he thought would allow him to do so, it turns out the mission is ever harder.