“How is this possible?” Kilostar stared in astonishment from within his own astral island. The highest astral island, the island within the sixth stratum, was actually descending?
“How can this be?”
“How could Bertulu have lost?”
“Darknorth beat Bertulu? Is this some kind of joke?”
All the other defeated geniuses, be they cultivators, Aeonians, or Aberrants, were all in a state of disbelief. They all knew how powerful Bertulu was, which was why they completely refused to believe that he could’ve been defeated!
Hundreds of thousands of cultivators watched as Bertulu’s island descended from the exalted sixth stratum. All of them were equally stunned.
There were currently two islands that floated within the fifth stratum. Ji Ning was seated within his own island, and he was mumbling to himself. “He lost on purpose? Did he think I’d be really happy once I won? I didn’t even get to see his true form…” Ning didn’t feel any excitement at this ‘victory’, because he knew his opponent had thrown the fight.
“Still… I didn’t expect to get a copy of the heartforce legacy before leaving.” Ning waved his hand, causing that white plume to appear.
The white plume was incredibly beautiful. This single feather was actually formed from 3600 strands of silk. Ning sent his senses into it, discovering the legacy hiding within it.
“Although I didn’t expect to acquire it, being able to learn it is a decent stroke of luck.” Ning immediately swore the oath required of him, allowing an enormous flood of complicated information to flood into his mind.
Although Ning had some talent for the water, lightning, and heartforce, he hadn’t really been planning on spending too much effort on them. There was a limit to how much energy he had, and he had chosen to pour it all into his Dao of the Sword. His advantage in this field was far greater than in the other fields, and he naturally wanted to focus more on it.
As for those other Daos, once he had some more leisure time or once he reached an unbreachable bottleneck in the Dao of the Sword, he would slowly spend some time getting his other Daos up to speed. Daolord Allgod was a good example. Only after becoming a Verge-level Daolord had he chosen to start studying the Dao of the Sword. By then, his overall level of understanding regarding the Dao was so great that he was able to train quite quickly in his secondary or tertiary Daos.
Once Ji Ning became a Verge-level Daolord, he would probably be able to reach the early Daolord level in water in just one day. After that, his training would also proceed quite quickly. It was entirely possible that he’d be able to progress to the Verge in water as well. But of course, if his innate affinity for a Dao was low, training in it would be extremely slow. Daolord Allgod had spent an tremendous amount of effort in order to upgrade his skill in the Dao of the Sword to the early Daolord level, which was why he himself had declared that he simply had no talent for the Dao of the Sword at all.
“I would probably have to spend a hundred times as much effort in training in the Dao of Water in order to make it comparable to my Dao of the Sword, and it wouldn’t even help me that much. If I put all that work into the sword instead, I’ll improve far more.” Ning understood this quite well.
A long period of time passed. Finally, Ning finished memorizing the heartforce legacy. It truly was the top legacy of the ninety-ninety legacies of the Astral Islands, and it contained a correspondingly enormous amount of information.
“So this is what being a true Heartforce Cultivator is all about.” Ning was stupefied.
He finally understood.
Heartforce could be divided into six stages. The first five stages were essentially the stages which Houyi had described.
The first stage was the elementary level. It was extremely hard to reach the first level; if you couldn’t succeed in it, you would have no hope of progressing as a Heartforce Cultivator.
The second stage, ‘iceheart’.
The third stage, ‘ruler’.
The fourth stage, ‘mortal dust’.
Ning had reached the mortal dust level long ago during the Crimsonbright Realmwar. Even though the Endwar and its various battles had an enormous impact on Ning, and he had reached the threshold of the fifth stage after seeing so many of the major powers of the Three Realms die. Alas, he still stubbornly clung on to certain things and was unable to truly let go.
The fifth stage, ‘truth’. This was a very high level of heartforce for most cultivators. To reach this level was extremely difficult! Strength didn’t have much to do it with it. Although many powerful cultivators had gained their power through enormous mental tempering and stress, resulting in them possessing powerful hearts, there were many Aberrants such as Waterwalker who were born with incredible power but who had very weak hearts. Waterwalker hadn’t even reached the elementary stage of heartforce.
The sixth stage, ‘world’. This was the highest level of heartforce!
“After your heartforce reaches the stage of ‘truth’, you will be able to see through the truth of all things. Your heartforce will transform, allowing all your thoughts and desires to coalesce into a sea of consciousness. You will then be able to establish your own heartworld,” Ning murmured softly to himself.
Finally, he understood.
Prior to reaching the sixth stage, heartforce could only be used in fairly crude ways. In the Endless Territories, Old Man Yuan would be considered a Heartforce Cultivator by Elder Gods and Ancestral Immortals, but technically speaking he wasn’t a true Heartforce Cultivator. He was just someone who understood certain heartforce secret arts, but those arts were enough for quite a few Elder Gods and Ancestral Immortals to refer to him as a Heartforce Cultivator.
Actually World-level Heartforce Cultivators were incredibly rare. There was simply no way for someone like Old Man Yuan to rely on heartforce to reach the World level.
Once your heartforce reached the sixth stage, all of your heartforce would pool together within that sea of consciousness. If your heartforce was strong enough, it could affect reality itself, forming a singularity where what was real and what was false would collide. A single grain of sand could become an entire real world.
“Ki Refiners cultivate Immortal ki and the Dao-tree in their bodies will continuously grow taller.
“Fiendgod Body Refiners cultivate divine power and their divine bodies will continuously grow stronger.
“Heartforce Cultivators cultivate their worlds. They need to establish their heartworlds, with their insights into the Dao perfecting those worlds and making them more and more real.”
Ning murmured softly, “Heartforce Cultivators truly are unique.”
These were three completely different paths of cultivation.
By comparison, Heartforce Cultivators didn’t need to gain incredibly profound insights into the Dao. What they needed to do was to slowly build up their heartworlds, allowing their heartworlds to become increasingly like real worlds. Only when their heartworlds became sufficiently stable could they be expanded… but it was possible for heartworlds to become greater than entire territories in size. In fact, they could become greater than a hundred territories!
The larger a heartworld was, the more powerful a Heartforce Cultivator was! This was because all the World energy within this heartworld would be available to the Heartforce Cultivator to command. If the heartworld was the size of a territory, then its ‘heartworld projection’ alone would be able to crush Verge-level Daolords to death, to say nothing of someone like Ning.
“When I fought against Bertulu, he caused the area around us to transform into a world of grassy plains and tall mountains. I thought that was all just an illusion… but it was actually his heartworld projection.” Ning finally understood.
The manifestation of a heartworld projection was a symbol of all the power of an entire world being brought to bear! Even Ning felt constricted and restrained by its power. If it had been an ordinary master-class World God, that person probably would’ve been crushed straight to death! Even Ning was forced to use his Elementum Waterflame Gourd in order to hold on.
The difference in power was simply too great.
Both Fiendgods and Ki Refiners had to pursue increasingly greater heights in the Dao, but Heartforce Cultivators focused on greater stability in their heartworlds. Only with great stability would they be able to expand the size of their heartworld. As a result, Daos that were excessively oriented in a certain direction were actually unsuitable for inclusion in a heartworld! What heartworlds truly needed were highly stable and balanced Daos.
“To make the false real, to make the real false. The goal of Heartforce Cultivators is to make their heartworlds into true worlds, to make that which is illusory into something which is real.”
“Once they reach that level… with but a thought, a Heartforce Cultivator can produce a hundred Eternal weapons within his heartworld, and those Eternal weapons will all be real. He will be able to pull them out and use them in battle. With but a thought, he would be able to produce powerful pills, golems…” Ning was frightened just thinking about it.
Still, according to the heartforce legacy this only happened at the absolute apex of power. In addition, it didn’t contain any instructions on how to actually reach this level.
“I haven’t even reached the fifth stage of heartforce yet.” Ning shook his head, putting away the white plume. He had to reach the sixth stage of heartforce before he would even have his own heartworld. Only then would he be able to use the guidance of this legacy, which would teach him how to quickly and stably expand his own heartworld.
“No wonder there are so few Heartforce Cultivators. To reach the sixth stage of heartforce is impossibly difficult.” Ning shook his head. Even Houyi himself had most likely failed to reach the sixth stage of heartforce. The only person Ning knew of who had reached the sixth stage of heartforce was Bertulu.
One day later, Ning challenged Kilostar.
“Take it.” Ning handed the white plume to Kilostar. “Bertulu asked me to transfer this to you.”
“I knew it. I knew he had to have thrown the fight.” Kilostar looked at Ning. “Oh, right. What weapons did he use?”
“Hammers,” Ning said.
“You actually forced him to use his hammers? Oh! Did you see his true form?” Kilostar was quite curious. Although he was on decent terms with Bertulu, he had never been able to get Bertulu to show his true form.
“No.” Ning shook his head. “Now that I’ve given you this legacy, my business here is done. Kilostar, if you ever want to meet me you can go to the Palace of the Sword.”
“You are leaving? So soon?” Kilostar was quite surprised.
“Yes.” Ning nodded.
“Alright. I’ll be leaving soon as well. You will be in the Sword Palace while I will be in the Saber Palace.” Kilostar nodded. “Let’s see which of us will be the first to become a Samsara Daolord.”
“Alright. Let’s see who makes it first!”
After Ning bid Kilostar farewell, he shattered the talisman which a Daolord of the Sword Palace had given him. The only members of the Twelve Palaces who had come to visit Ning had been from the Sword Palace or the Thunder Palace.