The imperial palace of the Brightshore Kingdom.
The almighty Hegemon stared at the sixty-seven images hovering in the air next to the thirteen thrones. He said softly, “A thousand years has concluded.”
The twelve golden-armored powers who had been chatting idly, meditating with eyes closed, or silently drinking wine all came alert.
“Hegemon, how shall you choose the most powerful ones?” The twelve golden-armored powers all looked at the almighty Hegemon.
These World-level cultivators who had been acknowledged by the ancient pagodas were all incredible figures who possessed varied skills. What was the fairest way to choose the ‘best’ four?
The almighty Hegemon gently stroked his snow-white beard, then smiled. “Let them challenge the Daolord Cloudworld. They will have three days! The four who make it the farthest in the Daolord Cloudworld shall gain this opportunity.”
“Challenge the Daolord Cloudworld?” The twelve instantly understood.
Ji Ning was seated in the lotus position within his spacetime acceleration cottage, still located in the ancient Forest of Sword Pagodas within the Sword Palace.
“Darknorth, come to me right away.” A voice rang out in Ning’s mind.
“Eh?” Ning opened his eyes. Dim flickers of sharp light could be seen within them. “A thousand years has concluded. It seems it is time for the actual challenge.”
Ning’s sword-arts were now far more formidable than when he had first developed the Reincarnation stance or the Cosmic Heart stance. His sword-arts were actually still continuing to improve, and he hadn’t encountered any bottlenecks yet. Alas, he simply didn’t have enough time! The almighty Hegemon had only given him a thousand years.
Whoosh. Ning put away his spacetime acceleration treasure, then flew out of the Forest of Sword Pagodas and towards Lord Woodflower’s palace.
Lord Woodflower was seated in the lotus position atop a golden-red prayer mat. In front of him were seven similarly seated cultivators. There was one who looked like a child, one who looked like a youngster, one who looked like a youth, and even an old man. They all had completely different auras of the Sword Dao. A cultivator’s age or mentality couldn’t be judged by their appearances. At this level, there were some cultivators who reached an elderly age before suddenly shining with brilliance and embarking upon the path of cultivation.
“A thousand years has concluded.” Lord Woodflower swept Ning and the others with his gaze. “The seven of you are the only ones within our Sword Palace have been acknowledged by our ancient pagodas. Right now, in the Twelve Palaces there are a total of sixty-seven individuals on your level, yourselves included. All of you will be fighting for this opportunity.
“Sixty-seven challengers, only four spots.
“The almighty Hegemon has already sent word for you to go and challenge the Daolord Cloudworld. You must complete your attempt within three days, and the final four who make it farthest into the Cloudworld shall be the ones to win this opportunity,” Lord Woodflower said.
Ji Ning, Swordlord Wildfire, Swordlord Graceless, and the others all became more alert. They were all going to do their absolute best, and indeed training in the Dao of the Sword itself was training in a path of no return.
“In the Twelve Palaces, the World-level cultivators of the Saber Palace are the strongest, while the Heartforce Palace and the Spacetime Palace also have immeasurably deep roots.” Lord Woodflower’s gaze fell upon the seven Swordlords once more. “I hope that our Sword Palace can gain at least one of the slots. It would be a damn shame if we gained nothing at all from this.”
“Understood.” Ning and the others were all very solemn. They weren’t angered or offended by Lord Woodflower’s words. Given their achievements, all of them were extraordinary figures who knew the importance of respecting their opponents. The other competitors had all been acknowledged by the ancient pagodas as well. Some were Aberrants, and some had experienced tremendous strokes of karmic luck. None could be belittled or underestimated.
“I can only do my best.” Ning’s heart was firm with the resolve to do battle and test himself against these other acknowledged World-level opponents. Although the battle hadn’t started yet, Ning was already beginning to feel excitement and energy coursing through his veins.
“Palace Lord Dawnstar is the undisputed most powerful Daolord of the Twelve Palaces. Even if we factor in all the other organizations of the Endless Territories, he would be ranked the second most powerful Daolord. He personally tutored all of you for many years. If only one of you gains a slot, even I will feel ashamed on your behalf.” Daolord Yinwind’s voice was filled with icy arrogance. This was his natural, innate disposition.
When he was a young mortal, he had been kidnapped and dragged into an incredibly powerful but evil sect, filled with all sorts of viledoers and evil men. But of course, this was something that happened long ago, and by now a simple breath from him would be enough to wipe out that evil sect. He was now a Deputy Palace Lord of the Saber Palace, and his name and reputation held tremendous influence within the Endless Territories.”
“Don’t worry, Lord Yinwind.”
“Forget two, let’s try for all four!”
The Saberlords of the Saber Palace were brimming with confidence.
The sixty-seven waiting World-level challengers all received word from their respective elders. Some headed for the Daolord Cloudworld immediately, while some calmed themselves and planned on making the challenge on the final day.
The trials of the Daolord Cloudworld could actually be completed quite quickly. Generally speaking, half a day was enough.
The Heartforce Palace.
The Palace of the Heart was extremely quiet. There were pitifully few cultivators at either the World level or the Daolord level, and only one of them had been acknowledged by the Heart Pagodas: Heartlord Solewind.
“I’m the only one taking part in the Heart Palace. How lonely.” A bald, red-vested youth whose face was covered with strange, crimson divine tattoos smiled as he murmured to himself, “Little sister, just watch and see how your big brother takes on the Daolord Cloudworld.”
He strolled forward in a relaxed manner, and with each step he took a fiery divine crow would manifest beneath his feet. The line between reality and illusions was blurred around him. Clearly, he was training even when he was just walking. He was an incredibly famous figure in the Twelve Palaces, not because he had accomplished any special feats, simply because he was a member of the Palace of the Heart! Although the Heart Palace had pitifully few members, every single member was frighteningly strong.
Bertulu focused on the Dao of Light, using heartforce as a support skill. Heartlord Solewind, however, had truly focused all of his efforts on his skills as a Heartforce Cultivator. His accomplishments in this area vastly outstripped Bertulu’s, who had only reached the utter apex of power at the World level in the Dao of Light.
“The almighty Hegemon personally gave me pointers in the past. As for this opportunity he is offering… I, Greatjoy, shall definitely grasp it.” This was a youth who was dressed in strange black imperial robes and who wore a crown on his head. He was the most powerful World-level expert in the Palace of Spacetime, and he referred to himself as Prince Greatjoy. Although on the surface he was rather calm and stately when interacting with others, he was actually an extremely wild, berserk man.
“The Daolord Cloudworld, eh? Hmph.” Prince Greatjoy flew out of the Spacetime Palace and headed straight towards the Daolord Cloudworld.
More than half of the World-level experts immediately flew towards their Daolord Cloudworld as soon as they received the news. Every single one of the Twelve Palaces had their own Daolord Cloudworld, and the difficulty level in each was identical.
Ning descended into the Armaments Gorge of the Sword Palace.
“Darknorth.” The two guardians of the gorge, Swordfive and Swordsix, both looked at Ning.
“Swordfive. Swordsix.” Ning said in a rather humble manner, “I’ve been acknowledged by the Sword Pagodas. I believe I now have the chance to choose a single treasure from the Armaments Gorge, so long as it doesn’t cost more than a million cubes of chaos nectar. Right?”
“Right.” Swordfive nodded. “The Sword Palace has always been very generous towards World-level cultivators who are acknowledged by the Sword Pagodas.”
“Swordfive, can you follow me inside?” Ning asked.
“I can.” Swordfive nodded. He surmised that Ning probably wanted to carry out a major business transaction. There was no other reason for Ning to ask him to go in.
The Armaments Gorge was filled with countless treasures, but Ning went straight towards one of the corners in the far back.
There was a seemingly ordinary black bottle placed atop one of the tables in the back. This black bottle, however, was priced at 1.5 million cubes of chaos nectar! This bottle was a magic treasure known as the ‘Godwater Flagon of the Seven Flags’, and it contained seven different types of Dao water. These seven types of Dao water could be used to form an enormous formation known as the Seven Flags Formation which could easily annihilate almost any opponent.
“Can I take this flagon?” Ning asked.
Swordfive slowly shook his head. “You aren’t permitted to choose anything worth more than a million cubes. If you insist on choosing this item, you have to pay an extra five hundred thousand cubes.”
“Done.” Ning nodded.
There were quite a few treasures in the Armaments Gorge which involved Dao water, and most of them were treasures which were forged out of Dao water. The Godwater Flagon of the Seven Flags was the most suitable choice for Ning.
“Need anything else?” Swordfive had heard that Ning had sold off a Bloodfire Cloudfruit for 1.8 million cubes.
“I need some Dao lightning as well.” Ning grinned.
Ning departed from the Armaments Gorge, then transformed into a streak of light that flew back towards his own Immortal estate.
“Master.” Su Youji and World God Pillsaint both came out to greet him.
“No one is allowed to disturb me. No matter who comes, they are not permitted to see me.” Ning gave them some instructions, then went into his private room.
Ning sat down in the lotus position within this private room, then placed a black bottle, an azure cauldron, and a grey gourd next to him.
This time, he had purchased seven types of Dao water and five types of Dao lightning. He had paid 2.1 million cubes of chaos nectar for them! Factoring in the million cubes of credit which the Sword Palace had bestowed upon him, he actually had used up more than three million cubes!
“With these items, I should now be able to make myself much more powerful.” Ning was quite calm as he summoned the technique for creating the [Novessence Thunder] and the [Novessence Water] into his mind.