Book 20, Jindan Upgrade, Chapter 27 – The Final Challenge: The Path of Blades
“How strong is the guardian of this ‘Path of Blades’? Anything special to watch out for?” Ji Ning asked.
This was the final challenge. Ning understood that the guardian definitely had to be a terrifyingly strong figure.
Empyrean God Sin and Empyrean God Sealthroat exchanged a glance, then they both laughed. Sin then turned to Ning. “The foe you will encounter on the Path of Blades…is yourself!”
“Myself?” Ning was flabbergasted.
“Right.” Sin explained, “When you challenge the Path of Blades, the enemy that appears will look exactly like you and have the exact same divine body, the exact same divine abilities, the exact same Immortal energy…the exact same everything. In fact, if you use sword-arts, he’ll choose to use sword-arts as well. The only difference is…the sword-arts that he uses will be the sword-arts of Undermoon Lake.”
Ning felt shocked. His greatest advantage was that his Pure Yang Jindan had reached the second tier…but on the Path of Blades, this would give him no advantage at all!
“On the Path of Blades, you will strictly be competing in pure combat techniques,” Sealthroat explained with a sigh. “I would compete in spear-arts, while you will be competing in sword-arts! Only if your sword-arts are sufficiently profound will you be able to defeat your foes. In addition, on the Path of Blades, there will be a total of ten such opponents. All of them will have the same divine body and same abilities as you, but the sword-arts they use will be different. The later guardians will have increasingly profound sword-arts.”
“The Path of Blades…it has ten guardians that are akin to ten of you. Only by defeating these ten copies of yourself will you be able to reach the fifth island and leave Undermoon Lake,” Empyrean God Sealthroat said.
Ning nodded slowly. Defeat himself? Ten increasingly powerful versions of himself?
He now understood how difficult it would be to traverse the Path of Blades. Ning no longer felt that confident in his ability to defeat it. The reason why he was much more powerful than the other Empyrean Gods was thanks to his Jindan and his [Eight-Nine Arcane Art], but now both advantages had been stripped for him. If this was purely a competition of sword-arts…
Fortunately, the hundred years he had spent battling in Demon Icepass had resulted in his sword-arts improving dramatically! And after reaching Kilostar Island, he had trained for another ten-plus days, resulting in him getting the vague sense that he was closing in on complete mastery of the [Five Treasures], with his sword-arts reaching the speed of light.
“What level of sword-arts will be necessary to overcome the Path of Blades?” Ning no longer felt confident.
“Brother Darknorth, you are the one who the demon king said has the highest chances of surviving and leaving Undermoon Lake. All of us will be watching you with hope,” Empyrean God Tyranodragon said with a laugh.
“If you can leave, we’ll be able to leave as well.”
“If brother Darknorth wishes to leave, it won’t prove to be too difficult a task!”
More than two hundred Empyrean Gods were here, gathered around a campfire that was currently being used to roast skinned animals. They all looked towards Ning with scorching gazes, because in their heart, this ‘Empyrean God Darknorth’ stood the highest chances of succeeding out of them all. All of them had been trapped here for far, far too long; in their innermost hearts, they deeply desired to be able to leave this place.
“Alright, alright! Don’t give Darknorth too much pressure.” Empyrean God Feiyou boomed out, “Do you really think Undermoon Lake is so easily escaped from? Let Darknorth take things slowly.”
“Right. We won’t rush him. We’ve been waiting for so long already; another ten thousand years or even another million years is nothing.”
“I’m personally in no rush, but the outside world is in a state of chaos. The earlier we can leave, the better. If we take too long, the war might have ended already. If we go out early, at least we’ll be able to help out a bit.”
The commotion continued unabated. As for Sealthroat and Sin, the two Empyrean Gods had reached Ning’s side. Sealthroat said softly, “Darknorth, to tell you the truth, this Path of Blades…Sin and I have been challenging it for many, many years. No matter how hard I try, I’m unable to overcome the seventh opponent, while Sin has been stymied by the sixth opponent. Each of the ten guardians is more powerful than the last, and I have four more remaining before I can leave, while Sin has five! Our chances of improving are quite minute…”
“It’s true.” Sin let out a sigh as well. “I’ve only defeated half of the ten guardians; five more are left! I truly have no confidence in myself anymore. In truth, Ninedawn stood a very good chance. He had already reached the eighth guardian, with only two more to go after beating that one. But alas, he ended up dying in the hands of Greatdream. Greatdream was more formidable than the two of us as well; he had already reached the eighth of the guardians as well.”
Ning nodded. He could sense that Sin and Sealthroat no longer had enough faith in themselves.
“I don’t know how long it would take for the two of us to leave on our own.” Sealthroat looked at Ning. “These two hundred Empyrean Gods have entrusted their hopes to us, but the two of us can’t do it. It’s all up to you.”
“Darknorth, it really is up to you.” Sin looked at Ning as well.
“I can only promise to do my best. I’m not certain that I can succeed either,” Ning said.
“Oh, right…” Sealthroat advised, “Remember, if you are able to defeat the ninth guardian, immediately withdraw and come back to Kilostar Island.”
“Why?” Ning was stunned.
“Because if you can defeat all ten guardians in one go, you’ll immediately be sent towards the fifth island,” Sealthroat said hurriedly. “But what of the two hundred Empyrean Gods over here? They are all waiting for you to lead them out of this place. If you can defeat the ninth guardian, you should take them all with you when you go challenge the tenth guardian.”
“Right, right, right! It’s said that Jueming gained a sudden insight when challenging the Path of Blades, and so made it all the way past the final three guardians without giving anyone advance notice. He immediately left without being able to take a single Empyrean God with him.” Sin said angrily, “Jueming was too selfish!”
“Perhaps it wasn’t his fault,” Sealthroat said. “It’s possible that he was so excited by his sudden insight that he lost track of how many guardians he had defeated. He just continued to fight until they were all gone…and by then, there was no way back for him!”
“Hmph.” Sin just let out a contemptuous snort. Clearly, he nursed quite the grudge against Jueming.
“There’s no point in saying all these things.” Sealthroat smiled as he looked towards Ning. “Darknorth, the two of us can’t do it. It really is up to you.”
“Tomorrow, give it a good shot. But of course, don’t actually go through all ten stages at once. Hold back a little,” Sin said with a laugh.
“If I can defeat nine of the guardians, I would return and celebrate.” Ning shook his head. He didn’t feel confident.
The next day. More than two hundred Empyrean Gods ushered Ning towards the edge of Kilostar Island.
“Darknorth, be careful.”
“Come back after beaing nine of them.”
“Darknorth, staying alive is what really matters. Don’t end up losing your life!”
The Empyrean Gods all gave him their various instructions and exhortations. In the past, there truly had been a number of Empyrean Gods who had died on the Path of Blades. Ning, however, wasn’t worried. The Empyrean Gods would encounter guardians that were identical to them, which meant that when they fought against their doppelgangers, a single successful blow on either side might destroy the other. Things were different for Ning.
When he faced off against a guardian, both of them would be protected by the [Eight-Nine Arcane Art]. This meant that neither of them would be capable of killing the other. This meant that the Path of Blades was actually the safest challenge of all for him. However, although it was safe, to actually defeat all ten guardians…this would be a very, very hard task.
“I’ll go now.” Ning waved at them, then stepped onto the floating wooden bridge by himself.
More than two hundred Empyrean Gods watched as Ning walked through the wooden bridge and vanished into the distant Path of Blades.
“The Three Realms have been swept into a storm. I really want to get out as soon as possible.”
“It’s all up to Darknorth.”
The Empyrean Gods all began to grow nervous. Prior to this, they had all been joking around loudly with each other, but that was just for the sake of keeping the mood relaxed. Now that Ning had actually gone forward to challenge the Path of Blades, all the Empyrean Gods felt the pressure.
If Ji Ning was only capable of defeating five or six of the guardians, then it would probably be difficult for him to succeed within the next ten million years.
The eyes of the Empyrean Gods were filled with hope, desire, nervousness, and uneasiness.
They weren’t afraid of death, but they simply couldn’t stand knowing that their masters, brothers, loved ones, and family members were facing a terrible war while they were living safe lives here at Kilostar Island. They wanted to leave. They truly wanted to leave!
The long wooden bridge led directly towards the Path of Blades.
The Path of Blades was filled with enormous upright swords, spears, sabres, and other edged weapons. They were planted into the ground and pointed upwards towards the heavens.
A white-robed youth suddenly came to a halt midway through the path…because in front of him had just appeared a golden-robed youth that looked just like him.
“Is that me?” Ning was slightly startled.
“I’m the first guardian. Take a look at that sword over there.” The golden-robed youth pointed towards a nearby sword that was at least thirty thousand meters tall. Phantom illusions actually began to appear on the surface of the sword, illusions of a humanoid that was executing a complete set of profound sword-arts, going from simple to profound, from start to finish.
“The sword-arts that appeared on that sword are the sword-arts that I will use.” The golden-robed youth looked at Ning. “You can view these sword-arts three times. After doing so, the sword-arts will vanish and we shall fight.”
“Oh?” Ning felt delight. This really was an unexpected surprise. He was actually being given a chance to view the opponent’s sword-arts? Sin and Sealthroat hadn’t told him of this. Most likely, the two had wanted to give him a pleasant surprise. There was no point telling him in advance, after all, and letting him find out on the spot would bring a bit of joy.
Ning carefully stared at the enormous sword that had been plunged into the endless ice around them. The sword-arts appearing on the sword were continuously being displayed. Three sessions took nearly twelve full hours, at which point in time it all came to a halt.
“What a curious sword-art.” Although Ning sighed in approval, he didn’t panic in the slightest, because this first guardian’s sword-art posed no threat to him at all.
“Done?” The golden-robed youth asked.
“Yes.” Ning nodded.
“Then receive my attacks.” The golden-robed youth’s body suddenly blurred, manifesting a total of three heads and six arms. Six swords appeared in his hands as well as he pounced towards Ning.
A strange feeling was in Ning’s heart, because this sort of battle tactic was quite similar to his own, and this person looked identical to him.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! His sword-art moved at the speed of light, and it was overwhelming superior. Although Ning’s opponent had increased his power with the [Starseizing Hand], his sword was still knocked flying by Ning’s sword-light chop. However, thanks to the [Eight-Nine Arcane Art], the doppelganger’s body was completely unharmed.
“Your sword-art is far superior to mine.” The golden-robed youth landed on the wooden bridge and nodded. “I am thoroughly convinced by my defeat.”
Whoosh. The golden-robed youth disappeared into thin air.
Ning continued to advance forwards, making his way deeper into the Path of Blades. Each time he encountered a new guardian, a nearby sword would begin to display a set of sword-arts for him to view. Each time after he viewed the sword-arts, Ning would feel somewhat inspired, and he was able to further perfect his [Brightmoon] sword-art. However, his [Brightmoon] sword-art was already incredibly powerful, as it had incorporated the essence of the [Five Treasures] within it. Sword-light that struck at light speed was incredibly formidable. The word ‘fast’, all by itself, could be superior to countless tricks and techniques.
Ning was able to battle all the way to the eighth guardian on his first try.
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