The ancient powers watched the images of the battle from their position in the dark abyss.
“He’s infused an attacking sword-art into a defensive domain, but managed to keep the essence of his domain intact.” A partially bald man let out a laugh. “Although Darknorth isn’t a match for Bertulu, he’s still quite a rare talent. Once he enters our Palace of the Sword, we’ll give him some good training. Perhaps a miracle will happen and he will be able to be Bertulu’s equal in the future.”
“Has this kid even chosen your Sword Palace yet? Even if he has, should really be so shameless in praising him? His sword-arts aren’t bad and have reached incredible heights in terms of defensiveness, but for him to be Bertulu’s match in the future? Haha, how many Bertulus do you think our Brightshore Kingdom will give rise to?”
“Daolord Woodflower, you are going a bit too far in your praise.”
“Well, Woodflower belongs to the Sword Palace. It isn’t surprising for him to praise someone else who will be in his palace.”
“I do have to admit that Darknorth’s defensive abilities are quite excellent.”
The ancient powers all gave their own opinions as they watched Ning and Bertulu continue to furiously battle against each other.
It was as though the world itself was breaking apart. Space had been shattered and distorted, and each of those two warhammers carried enough power to cause this entire world to tremble. Ning had to use three or four swords to block each attack; for him to use just a single sword was no longer enough.
“Although he is skilled in using heavy warhammers, I imagine he only has two of these Eternal warhammers.” Ning was able to hang on with some difficulty.
Actually, it was with quite a bit of difficulty.
Bertulu was most skilled in hammer-arts, and he sent his attacks forward in an open, straightforward, and awe-inspiring display of power! Ning was being completely crushed in this fight, and he was only able to just barely survive because his newly developed Unicorn Domain allowed him to perfectly execute every strike and avoid facing the power of each hammer head on.
“His hammer-art is so profound that I can’t even understand it. Although the golden-robed emperor in the Mirrorsnow Painting also had an open and straightforward fighting style, there is obviously an enormous difference between the two of them!” Ning couldn’t help but sigh. If the golden-robed emperor was described as a child who had just learned to walk, then Bertulu was a valiant warrior who bounded to and fro with the fierceness of a tiger.
Fortunately, Ning had infused his Astral stance into this Unicorn’s Domain. Otherwise, if he was merely relying on the Unicorn’s Heart stance, he would have been completely unable to withstand this assault.
“You are actually still able to hold on?” Bertulu was slightly startled as well. He then called out, “Watch out, Darknorth!”
“Eh?” Ning’s face tightened slightly.
The world around him suddenly changed.
Previously, he had been on an oceanic island that was surrounded by an endless sea. Although the island had begun to crumble from the effects of their fight, the endless waters of the sea hadn’t changed.
However, Ning now realized to his astonishment that the world around him had completely changed. It had become a world of rolling plains and towering mountains, and at the very peak of one mountain there was a sacred shrine that glowed with breathtaking light, allowing the great plains to bask in its radiance.
As for Ning and Bertulu, they were battling within the plains.
Yuchi Snow and Ji Yichuan both appeared. They were staring at Ning, eyes filled with joy.
“Junior apprentice-brother.” Yu Wei appeared as well.
A surge of invisible power had been applied to Ning’s truesoul, pulling his deepest desires and most sacred memories out from the bottom of his heart. Ning’s heart was forever occupied with his longing for his father, his mother, and for Yu Wei. They had been the most important people in his life, and he deeply desired to one day rescue Yu Wei and allow their family of three to reunite.
“Break!” Ning continued to battle furiously against Bertulu, not allowing any of this to affect him in the slightest. He let out a furious roar, causing Yuchi Snow, Ji Yichuan, and Yu Wei to all vanish.
“He actually wasn’t affected by it.” Bertulu was a bit surprised.
“What a powerful heartforce illusion. Eh?” Ning’s face turned slightly pale as he realized that he was still surrounded by rolling plains and towering mountains.
Ever since the Endwar of the Three Realms, Ning’s Dao-heart had continuously risen and grown more powerful. As he mastered the Heartsword stance, his own heartforce had reached the threshold of the fifth stage of heartforce. The problem was that he was still just a hair away from making that breakthrough. Although his heartforce was quite strong, it was nothing compared to Bertulu’s heartforce illusions.
However, Ning’s strongest aspect was his truesoul! His truesoul was bathed in the power of the azureflower mist energy, causing it to be comparable to that of a Daolord of the First Step.
Anyone who wished to successfully bewilder Ning would have to overwhelm his truesoul with a heartforce technique or some other secret art. Take Eternal Emperors for example. Eternal Emperors might go insane or berserk in some instances, but to shake their truesouls would be almost impossibly hard. Ning’s truesoul was incredibly powerful, and he had decently strong heartforce as well. This was why he had been able to withstand the illusions just now.
“Come forth! As Bertulu continued to battle against Ning, he suddenly let out a loud shout.
The plains around them suddenly split apart. Many long chains began to fly out from within the crevices and spin towards Ning.
“More illusions? Break!” Ning willed his powerful truesoul and mighty will to cause all these things to dissipate.
“Haha, illusions? You underestimate us Heartforce Cultivators. What is illusory is real, what is real is illusory.” Bertulu shook his head. “What you are seeing is all real.”
Ning had no time to do anything else. Swoosh! A crimson-black gourd suddenly appeared next to him, then released two streaks of lightning that shot out like dragons. One streak of lightning caused dark stormclouds to gather as it shot out, with the other causing crimson clouds of flame to appear around it. The two swept out against the surroundings, incinerating and shattering the chains that had sought to bind Ning. Alas, the chains reformed after being broken apart and continued to attack Ning in an endless stream.
The two streaks of Dao lightning destroyed everything in the surrounding area, and Ning was like the god of lightning himself. Even Bertulu, who had been fighting Ning in close combat, was impacted by the lightning.
“Omnipresence.” Bertulu said this word calmly.
Instantly, golden light began to emanate from every single part of the plains. Endless streams of golden light surrounded Ning, constricting him and slowing him down. The two streaks of Dao lightly furiously hammered down upon the light, but it was omnipresent and inescapable.
“Attack!” Ning took direct control over the two streaks of Dao lightning, sending them sweeping out against everything around him in a net.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The warhammers continued their dance, causing the earth to shake and the mountains to tremble.
Ning’s swords continuously formed Unicorn’s Domains, allowing him to defend with some difficulty. Thankfully, Ning had the azureflower mist energy supporting him, giving him the strength to withstand his foe.
“Let’s stop here.” Bertulu suddenly retreated.
The rolling plains and towering mountains around them all vanished, as did the shrine atop the mountain. The surrounding area returned to its normal, ‘real’ appearance. The island had long ago been completely reduced to rubble. The two were standing in the middle of the air, surrounded by the endless waves of the ocean.
“Stop?” Ning was slightly surprised.
Even though he had taken out his Elementum Waterflame Gourd, he still found it extremely hard to hold on. He could sense that defeat might come at any moment, but he had continued to do his best to delay the inevitable for as long as he could.
“I admit defeat,” Bertulu suddenly said in a loud voice.
“You admit what?” Ning was stunned. His foe’s hammer-arts were incredibly, incredibly profound. In addition, Ning could sense that Bertulu hadn’t really been going all-out in the fight; he had simply been fighting in a fairly casual, relaxed matter. Despite that, Ning had been able to sense that he was going to lose soon, if for no other reason than the fact that he was perpetually on the defense and unable to launch any attacks of his own.
“I promised Kilostar that I would transfer this heartforce legacy over to him.” Bertulu suddenly produced a single white feather. “This duel was my final duel. After this, I will be leaving the Astral Islands. Before leaving, I wanted to hand this heartforce legacy over to you. After you learn it, challenge Kilostar and transfer it to him.”
As he spoke, he sent the white plume flying towards Ning.
“…Oh.” Ning accepted the plume blankly. This white plume was the heartforce legacy that was ranked number one amongst the ninety-nine legacies. It had been in Bertulu’s hands all this time.
“But you obviously were stronger than me…” Ning stared at Bertulu.
“There’s no need for me to be so stubborn about a mere duel in the Astral Islands.” Bertulu laughed calmly.
“But… you are an Aberrant! You haven’t even revealed your true form.” Ning couldn’t help but argue back.
He had battled against quite a few Aberrants in recent years. He knew that these Aberrants had all used shapeshifting techniques to take a humanoid form. Cultivators were generally humanoids, and they were the most numerous living creatures in all the Endless Territories. However, Aberrants who were in human form were often only able to unleash perhaps ten to twenty percent of their true power. Once they revealed their true forms, they would become far more powerful.
If they also possessed powerful innate abilities, they would become even more freakishly strong once they assumed their true forms.
“My true form?” Bertulu laughed as he glanced at Ning. “I’ve never shown my true form in the Astral Islands.”
“Exit,” Bertulu called out. Instantly, spacetime twisted around him and caused him to vanish.
Ning just stood there blankly, that white plume in his hands. He had won, right? Then why did he feel so pissed off? He hadn’t even had the chance to see Bertulu’s true form.
The bottom of the dark abyss. The ancient powers were still watching.
“I once saw Bertulu’s true form. The first time I saw him, I misidentified him as an Ancient cultivator.” Daolord Thousand Waves let out a loud laugh. “This kid has never used his true body in any of his duels in the Astral Islands. Each time, he’s only used his human form.”
“Given the level of his insights, if he uses his true form he would probably be able to slay Daolords of the First Step right now.”
“He should be at the absolute maximum level of power, theoretical or otherwise, for any World-level cultivator.”
Ancient cultivators as well as the Brightshore Imperials represented the ultimate heights of racial power. They were very rare in number, but they possessed utterly unearthly levels of power. Waterwalker was an Aberrant who was comparable to Ancient cultivators in power, while Bertulu possessed similarly strong innate gifts. If he truly did reveal his true body, he would instantly become more than ten times as powerful!
“Alright. Bertulu has already decided to leave the Astral Islands.” The white-bearded elder laughed merrily. “It will be up to the two of you to convince him to join either the Palace of Radiance or the Palace of Heartforce.”
Laughing, the white-bearded old man turned and walked away, disappearing into the darkness.
“Time to go.”
“Daolord Thousand Waves, the Heartforce Palace really does need more Daolords! We don’t have enough!”
The many Daolords quickly flew out of the dark abyss and towards the astral islands in the sky.