The Palace of the Sword was incredibly large. It was like an enormous island-continent that hovered in the air, filled with countless buildings and radiating a sword-aura that caused Ji Ning to feel speechless.
The Sword Palace had numerous black-armored Daolords on patrol outside of it.
“Fellow Daoist.” A black-armored Daolord sensed Ning’s medallion and immediately flew towards him, then said in a fairly courteous and modest manner, “Is this your first trip to the Sword Palace?”
“Yes.” Ning nodded.
“My name is Fudan. Let me guide the way for you, fellow Daoist.” This black-armored Daolord was courteous to the point of being obsequious. He glanced at Su Youji. Seeing that Su Youji clearly wasn’t a member of the Sword Palace, he didn’t say much to her.
“I am Darknorth,” Ning said.
“Junior apprentice-brother Darknorth, you come to us with an identity medallion on your very first visit. Are you from the Astral Islands?” The black-armored Daolord asked while leading the way.
“Yes.” Ning nodded.”
“A new entrant into our Sword Palace from the Astral Islands. Junior apprentice-brother, you are incredible!” The black-armored Daolord laughed. By now, they had already reached a stone path that was three thousand meters wide. This path led straight towards the main gates of the Sword Palace. Right above the massive gates were two words that were written in a vigorous, bold manner: ‘Sword’ ‘Palace’!
These two words were overflying with so much sword-intent that it filled the entire Sword Palace, then soared upwards into the skies. Even the multiple layers of folded spacetime around the palace were unable to impede it.
Ning felt stunned upon seeing it. These two characters possessed such incredibly dense sword-intent that they could be described as the most terrifying example of calligraphy he had ever seen.
“These two words were left behind by the first Palace Lord of our Sword Palace, Emperor Windsnow,” the black-armored Daolord said. “Junior apprentice-brother Darknorth, have you been informed about the rules one needs to follow in order to establish a new palace?”
“Establish a new palace?” Ning was puzzled. He truly had never heard of such a thing.
The black-armored Daolord Fudan explained, “Long, long ago, the almighty Hegemon established the Brightshore Kingdom and put tremendous time and effort into cultivating his Daolords. Back then, the Twelve Palaces didn’t exist. As the almighty Hegemon put it, one had to be strong enough to be the equal of an Eternal Emperor before one could set up a new palace of one’s own.”
The black-armored Daolord continued, “Emperor Windsnow was the earliest of the major powers of the Brightshore Kingdom. Back when he was merely a Daolord, he was already an utterly dazzling figure who was more than strong enough to match an Eternal Emperor in might. He established the Sword Palace and became its first Palace Lord. Later on, he succeeded in his Daomerge and became an Eternal Emperor, at which point he rewrote the words ‘Sword Palace’ that hung above the palace gates. As the Emperor once said… those two characters contain the essence of the Dao of the Sword which he used to gain eternity.”
Ning nodded slowly.
As more time had passed, more palaces had arisen. By now, the Brightshore Kingdom had a total of twelve palaces.
There eventually were quite a few cultivators who were a match for Eternal Emperors or even capable of slaying them! However, these current twelve palaces encompassed the vast majority of cultivation paths, and thus it had been an extremely long time since a new palace had been established. Ning was a good example. His path was that of the Dao of the Sword, and thus even if he became an Eternal Emperor in the future he would belong to the Sword Palace. There was no need and no point to establishing a new palace.
“That is the Dao of the Sword he used to gain eternity?” Ning raised his head to stare at those characters.
“I don’t understand it,” Su Youji murmured softly.
“Neither do I.” Ning laughed. “The intent and will which this Dao of the Sword embodies isn’t for people like us to comprehend. The difference between it and us is simply too great. Perhaps when we become Daolords of the Third Step or Daolords of the Fourth Step, we can come back and scrutinize the secrets it holds.”
The three continued to advance as they chatted and laughed.
This wide stone path had quite a few other cultivators traversing it as well, all of whom were World-level cultivators. Although they were quite spread out, the path was so long and so wide that Ning estimated that he had seen at least ten thousand people.
“Why did I fail yet again? A hundred chaos cycles, only to fail yet again… ahahaha…”
Wild laughter rang out from afar from a cultivator who seemed to be laughing with tears or crying with laughter. He seemed utterly mad.
“Who is this?” Ning was puzzled.
Daolord Fudan shook his head. “These are all World-level cultivators who seek to pass the trials for joining the Sword Palace. Aside from those like yourself who are given formal invitations, junior apprentice-brother Darknorth, cultivators who wish to join us generally have to undergo multiple layers of trials. All of them are here training, and once they reach a certain level of power they will try out the trials. Alas! Ignore them. After enough time passes, most of them realize that they have no hopes of entering and will leave on their own.”
Ning nodded slowly.
“This path into the palace is known as Sword Road,” Daolord Fudan said. “Aside from those who are taking part in the various trials, most of the visiting World-level cultivators spend their time here on Sword Road. They are forbidden from entering any other part of the Sword Palace.”
They continued to walk forwards through Sword Road. Sword Road was ten thousand kilometers long, and they saw many World-level cultivators along the way. When these cultivators saw Ning, many found it difficult to disguise the envy they felt. For a black-armored Daolord to treat Ning with such courtesy and deference meant that he had to be a formal member of the Sword Palace.
Explosions suddenly rang out from afar.
Ning glanced over with surprise. “Is that a duel?” Upon closer examination, he saw that a red-haired man wielding a greatsword was battling an opponent with six arms. The red-haired man had tousled hair and was standing there in a relaxed fashion as he launched his attacks, while his opponent was fighting back at maximum power with many magic treasures.
Alas, it was like an ant trying to shake a tree. The second person was completely unable to do anything to the red-haired man, but with each strike the red-haired man was able to cause the space around him to oscillate in a manner reminiscent of a beautiful song. Although he was able to force his opponent back repeatedly, his opponent wasn’t injured either.
Ning’s face turned pale as he watched. What terrifying sword-arts. These sword-arts… they were definitely superior to his own! In the Astral Islands, most likely only Bertulu was at a higher level of skill than this man.
“Haha, senior apprentice-brother Wildfire is dueling,” Daolord Fudan said.
“Senior apprentice-brother Wildfire?” Ning was puzzled. Fudan was a Daolord. No matter how badass the red-haired man was, he was still just at the World level. Fudan addressed Ning as ‘junior apprentice-brother’, but addressed this man as ‘senior apprentice-brother Wildfire’?
“Senior apprentice-brother Wildfire is one of the six mighty Swordlords of our Sword Palace,” Daolord Fudan immediately explained.
“Six Swordlords? They are all World-level cultivators, right?” Ning was puzzled.
“The Sword Palace has a total of more than a hundred Samsara Daolords and more than two hundred World-level cultivators,” Daolord Fudan said. “The two hundred-plus World-level cultivators were accumulated over the course of many years. They represent the most powerful experts of the Dao of the Sword which the Brightshore Kingdom has managed to recruit.”
The Brightshore Kingdom was a top-tier power that was on par with the Dao Alliance. Only the most dazzlingly, outstandingly talented World-level sword practitioners were able to join it, and only around two hundred had been granted entry.
“Of these two hundred, only the ones who are acknowledged by the Sword Pagodas are given the title of Swordlord,” Daolord Fudan said. “There are more than two hundred World-level cultivators but just six Swordlords. Although they are merely at the World level, the Sword Palace treats them as they would Daolords. This is because they are generally capable of killing some weaker Daolords of the First Step.”
“Kill Daolords of the First Step?” Ning stared in amazement at the relaxed-looking red-haired man.
A World-level cultivator who could kill a Daolord of the First Step?
Being ‘able to fight’ someone and being ‘able to kill’ someone… these were two completely different concepts.
In the Astral Islands, perhaps only Bertulu in his true form would be capable of killing a Daolord of the First Step. But the Sword Palace actually had six individuals capable of this?
“They could’ve broken through to become Samsara Daolords long ago, but they refused to do so because their sword-arts are still improving.” Daolord Fudan sighed. “Each of them are working on perfecting their sword-arts. They wish to perfect those sword-arts to the absolute maximum possible level before they become Daolords. After all, the more perfect one’s Dao of the Sword is, the stronger one will be as a Daolord.”
Bertulu was a good example of someone who was at such a high level of insight that even without revealing his true form, he was capable of dominating Ning with his two warhammers. Given his profound insights, once he became a Daolord, he would probably be able to match Daolords of the Third Step! Clearly, the six supremely talented Swordlords of the Sword Palace were all people of great ambition.
“My sword-arts are not even enough for me to become a Daolord. This ‘senior apprentice-brother Wildfire’, however, could’ve used his sword-arts to become a Daolord long ago… and he’s only gotten even better since then.” Ning was stunned. “No wonder his sword-arts are so much better than mine.”
Suddenly, the red-haired man’s greatsword suddenly swept out. Boom! Even before it had touched his opponent, invisible layers of spatial energy crashed out and swept his opponent away, sending him flying multiple kilometers.
“Thank you for your guidance, senior apprentice-brother Wildfire.” His opponent hurriedly spoke out to express his thanks. Actually, he had yet to pass the trials of the Sword Palace; for him to address Wildfire as ‘senior apprentice-brother’ was a show of shamelessness, but that was how most of the other World-level cultivators acted as well.
“Please give me some guidance, senior apprentice-brother.” Yet another World-level cultivator stepped forward, then began to use all the techniques he had available to fight Wildfire.
“He’s able to effortlessly crush them with a casual blow.” Ning couldn’t help but sigh. “He is like an old man instructing children. They are all at the World level, and his challengers are extraordinarily strong cultivators who wield Eternal weapons and are comparable to supreme World Gods, but they seem to be absolutely nothing before his might.”
“The Sword Palace has built up tremendous power over the years.” The nearby Daolord Fudan laughed. “Once you enter the Sword Palace, you’ll need to start improving your own skills as well. Still, to reach senior apprentice-brother Wildfire’s level will be very difficult. After all, there are over two hundred World-level cultivators in the Sword Palace, but only six have been given the title of ‘Swordlord’.”