The golden-robed youth standing before Ji Ning had very gentle eyes.. He looked towards Ning in a very affectionate way, as though he was looking his most beloved lover.
For some reason, Ning felt vaguely threatened as the eighth guardian stared at him. Still, he didn’t say anything. Instead, he turned to look at the enormous sword that was next to him. Sword-arts had already begun to appear on its surface. As he had battled his way past the guardians, the sword-arts he had encountered had become increasingly formidable and had provided more and more insights to Ning.
In fact, Ning could sense that all of these sets of sword-arts were guiding him towards the limits of the Heavenly Daos, as if they were teaching him how to reach and surpass those limits. Although there were many types of sword-arts in the Three Realms, aside from the [Five Treasures] which had surpassed the Heavenly Daos, no sword-arts had inspired him and helped him as much as these ones had.
“The major power who created Undermoon Lake definitely had an extraordinary background. The sword-arts he has left behind have been tremendously beneficial to me, but he’s also done the same for the other Empyrean Gods, some of whom use spears, staves, scimitars, and other weapons. No matter what weapon is used, the Path of Blades will produce a different, matching guardian.” Ning was stunned by the implications.
This further reinforced the truth to Ning that the primordial chaos truly was filled with all possibilities. The Three Realms was nothing more than a single little chaosworld within the infinite primordial chaos.
To sit at the bottom of a well and stare at the tiny portion of sky that was visible and believe it to be the entirety of the heavens…that would truly be a joke.
Since he was weak, he had to work hard and train hard to make himself become strong. Ning celebrated the fact that he had been able to come to Undermoon Lake and become more powerful.
“This sword-art is quite marvelous, quite special…” As Ning watched, a look of veneration appeared in his eyes. “Lingering affection? Longing? The name of this sword-art should be the ‘Longing Sword’.”
The sword-arts were displayed on the sword three times, then vanished.
Two swords appeared in the hands of the golden-robed youth. He lowered his head to look at the swords, his gaze very gentle. In a soft voice, he said, “It’s time to fight.”
“Right.” Ning nodded, a pair of swords appearing in his own hands as well.
The golden-robed youth smiled slightly, a beautiful, intoxicating smile. He then transformed into a gentle breeze, and his sword-light was like a gentle breeze as well. It seemed incomparably soft and harmless, but Ning could sense a tremendous threat emanating from it.
If he hadn’t had the chance to view the complete sword-art three times from start to finish, he probably would’ve been at a huge disadvantage. However, Ning now knew this sword-art, the ‘Longing Sword’, with incomparable clarity, giving him a much better chance of dealing with it. Twin swords in his hands, he sent his own sword-light howling forth at the speed of light, using the ghostly and unpredictable ‘Shadowless’ stance to launch a frenetic series of attacks!
Sometimes, his swords would be tremendously ferocious that they would actually move a bit slower. The fact that his swords alternated being fast and slow made them even more unpredictable.
Clearly, Ning’s sword-arts were far deadlier than they had been when he had first embarked upon the Path of Blades. And indeed, Ning had reaped much from his battles against the seven previous guardians.
“Blood Drop stance.”
His sword-art suddenly transformed into the fastest attack of all, the Blood Drop stance.
However, the enemy’s sword-art was like an endless, bottomless web that completely trapped and tied down Ning’s two swords.
“Longing…” Ning was gaining more and more insights into this set of sword-arts. At the beginning, he had only been able to rely on what he had seen on the giant sword. Now, upon actually fighting against a person identical to himself in all respects who used this sword-art, his insights were different. Ning gained an even better understanding of how some of the killer blows of this sword-art truly worked.
“Compared to it, my [Brightmoon] sword-art isn’t fluid enough.” Ning’s sword-art began to change as well, becoming even more unpredictable and ephemeral.
Shadowless stance, Blood Drop stance. The two joined together into a more perfect whole, and fewer and fewer flaws appeared when he attacked and withdrew.
“Eh?” The golden-robed youth frowned. Instantly, his body blurred for a moment before he manifested three heads and six arms, beginning to assault Ning with six swords.
Ning immediately used [Three Heads, Six Arms] to engage as well.
A streak of sword-light landed upon the golden-robed youth’s neck, knocking his sword aside and forcing him back five steps before he was able to stabilize himself.
The golden-robed youth stared at Ning, then said in a low voice, “Your sword is faster than mine, but the intrinsic essence of your sword-art…it’s a bit inferior to mine. You have passed my challenge, but the ninth guardian’s sword has also reached the limits of the Heavenly Daos, while the essence of his sword-art is also superior to yours.”
“Really? Being stronger than me is a good thing.” Ning grinned.
“Be careful.” The golden-robed youth disappeared into thin air.
Ning let out a sigh of relief. He had finally succeeded.
Not hesitating at all, Ning continued to advance. A short while later, he saw the ninth guardian. Upon seeing him, Ning could sense the essence of utter despair surging towards him.
“That invisible essence and aura is only growing more and more powerful.” Ning couldn’t help but sigh to himself. “I hear that at the fifth stage of swordforce, ‘Sword God’, one doesn’t even have to attack; the invisible sword-intent radiating out from you will be more than enough to force enemies to feel utter despair. The Path of Blades…not only is it guiding me towards a path that surpasses the Heavenly Daos, it’s also guiding me towards the fifth stage of swordforce.”
The eight guardian’s ‘Longing Sword’ already had a hint of that quality to it.
The ninth guardian, just by standing there, was already radiating a strong aura of despair. Clearly, he was even more formidable.
However, compared to someone who had truly reached the fifth stage of swordforce, ‘Sword God’, the ninth guardian was still far, far inferior.
He was nothing more than a guidepost! His mission was to plant a seed in Ning’s heart, a seed which perhaps would eventually take root and grow in the future.
“Look at the sword-art.” The ninth guardian said these words very calmly.
Ning smiled, then looked at the sword-arts on display upon the giant sword nearby. As he watched, his face slowly began to change. Every single stance, every single stroke…it all caught Ning’s full attention, tugging on the deepest, innermost thoughts in his heart. The more he analyzed this sword-art, the more powerfully Ning was affected by it.
In his past life, Ning was tormented by illness. His heart had been filled with resentment. In this life, after being reborn, his father Ji Yichuan and his mother Yuchi Snow had filled Ning’s heart with love, warming it.
Serpentwingn Lake. Ning was lying atop that wooden boat, floating atop the lake.
That instant when Yu Wei had died. He had felt such despair that he himself had nearly died as well. His parents were gone. Even Yu Wei was gone.
It was thanks to his experiences that this sword-art resonated so deeply with him.
This sword-art caused Ning’s heart to be filled with a dark, dreary feeling. Deep in his heart, he was filled with the utmost of despair!
“Senior apprentice-sister isn’t dead yet.”
“Once I leave this place, I’ll be able to save her. Our family can be reunited.” Ning mumbled these words to himself.
The sword-arts had already finished their display on the sword. As for the ninth guardian, he stared at Ning in astonishment, because he could sense the intent radiating from Ning.
“What is the name of this sword-art?” Ning asked.
This was the ninth guardian he had encountered, but this was the first time that Ning had asked for the proper name of a sword-art.
“Mourning,” the ninth guardian said.
“Mourning…mourning…” Ning suddenly let out a laugh. “How appropriate. I’ve mourned in the past…but here and now, I’m filled with hope.” After finishing his words, Ning turned and walked away.
“You aren’t going to fight?” The ninth guardian called out after him in surprise.
“I’m not a match for you right now. Next time I come, I’ll defeat you.” Ning’s figure quickly disappeared into the distant wooden bridge, causing the ninth guardian to gawk in amazement. Still, he didn’t chase after Ning, because the two of them had identical bodies and abilities; if Ning was intent on leaving, there was no way he could even catch up.
“He actually didn’t even fight.” The ninth guardian was completely puzzled. “And just by viewing the sword-art, he felt certain that he was no match for me. For him to make that claim means that he should’ve mastered more than half of that sword-art and discovered the truly formidable aspects to it. But despite all that, he shouldn’t have chosen to completely avoid fighting me…”
“Unless…there’s only one possibility! After viewing the sword-art, his heart was inspired and so he wanted to go back to calm himself down and meditate on his insights.” This was the ninth guardian’s guess.
He knew very well that given how formidable Ning’s protective divine ability was, even if Ning lost the fight he wouldn’t have been in danger of dying. This meant that the only reason Ning would refuse to fight would be if he simply didn’t want to! Why wouldn’t he want to fight? The only explanation was that he was worried that a battle would disrupt his insights!
The guardian’s guess was correct.
This set of sword-arts, the [Mourning] sword-art, had indeed resonated with Ning. In fact, after viewing it three times, Ning had learned most of it! His own heart had been filled with many new insights, and Ning was worried that if the battle became too frenzied, he would lose some of those insights. Thus, he instead decided to give up the fight.
While flying back, Ning continuously reflected on that sword-art.
This was the first set of sword-arts on the Path of Blades that had truly resonated with him. This was because the feelings and emotions the sword-art embodied were feelings that he himself had experienced. He knew those feelings very well, and so he almost instantly understood the nature and the truth of this sword-art! This was a set of sword-arts that was even more perfect than his own [Brightmoon] sword-art.
Kilostar Island. The end of the wooden bridge.
More than two hundred Empyrean Gods were standing there, craning their necks to stare at the bridge while waiting nervously.
“I wonder how many guardians Darknorth made it past.”
“If he’s able to go through nine of them in one try, or even all ten, that would be wonderful.”
“Please don’t let him be so impatient as to beat all ten. As soon as he beats nine, he needs to come back and take us all with him as he challenges the tenth. That’s the ideal.”
All the Empyrean Gods waited eagerly.
Empyrean God Sin and Empyrean God Sealthroat’s chances of succeeding were too low. Right now, their only hope was Ji Ning. All of them chatted amongst themselves about how formidable Ji Ning was and how certain he was to succeed. Right now, their greatest fear was that Ji Ning would only be able to defeat five or six guardians. If that happened, it would be a long, long time before he would be able to successfully challenge the Path of Blades.
“Look!” Suddenly, Empyrean God Roughpeak pointed towards the distance. He had been seated by himself the entire time, quietly staring off into the distance. He had been alone on the snowy island for so long that he had gotten used to being by himself. He still, however, deeply desired to leave this place and so he had been staring unblinkingly towards the bridge. As soon as Ning’s figure had appeared off in the distance, he had been the first to notice.
“It’s Ji Ning.”
“Ji Ning’s coming back.”
All of them grew excited.
As the distant white-robed youth flew across the wooden bridge, all of the Empyrean Gods rose to their feet to welcome him.
Ning landed. Upon seeing the eager looks on the faces of the many Empyrean Gods, he felt an enormous, invisible pressure.
“How did it go?” Empyrean God Sin asked.
“I beat eight of the guardians. For now, I’m not a match for the ninth guardian,” Ning said. He knew very well that every single guardian was capable of perfectly executing their respective sword-arts. Since the ninth guardian was able to perfectly control [Mourning], at present Ning truly wasn’t a match for him.
“You beat eight of them?”
“Two more remain?”
All of the Empyrean Gods present were dazed.
To tell the truth, deep in their hearts, the Empyrean Gods all felt at least slightly disappointed. Beating eight meant that there were still two more to go! Those final two guardians were like a pair of tigers that blocked the road; Ji Ning would probably need quite a bit of time in order to overcome them.
Although they were slightly disappointed, they were still fairly calm. In fact, they all secretly let out sighs of relief. Thank goodness that Ning was more powerful than Greatdream and Ninedawn, at least. Ning’s utter domination of the twenty-plus Empyrean Gods of the Sealmess Gate had stirred all of their imaginations, causing them to fantasize a bit too much about his strength.
“You beat eight of them? Not bad, not bad. Greatdream and Ninedawn only defeated seven of them.”
“Only two left. Soon, you’ll be able to make it out.”
All of the Empyrean Gods said words of encouragement.
Ning naturally knew what all of the Empyrean Gods were hoping for. He immediately explained, “I need some time to meditate and train for a period of time. I’m going to head off now.” After speaking, he immediately transformed into a streak of light and flew away at high speed. He returned to his living region, set down his Immortal estate, then entered it and began to meditate.
He needed time. Time to meditate and go over his insights.
A large number of ideas began to swell like a mental tidalwave. The insights he had gained on the Path had truly excited him. He didn’t have any time at all to waste on chatting with those other Empyrean Gods; what he needed was to meditate and absorb all of these new ideas, nonstop!