Ji Ning stared off into the distance, where he could vaguely see quite a few figures seated in the lotus position within those ancient, enormous Sword Pagodas.
“All members of the Sword Palace are permitted to come here and meditate,” Daolord Fudan said. “Even we black-armored Daolords are permitted.”
“I’m going to take a look.” Ning walked forwards.
The Sword Pagodas were tall and erect, with each emanating a completely different sword-intent. It was as though mighty sword practitioners were standing right next to Ning! As Ning walked through the ancient Forest of Sword Pagodas, he felt as though he was walking through a sea of time. As Ning stared at the mighty sword-arts and sword-intents which the ancient powers had left behind, he couldn’t help but feel utterly stunned.
These were his predecessors, ancient masters of the Dao of the Sword.
The Sword Pagodas had more than just sword-arts. Many also had a few tiny words carved into them.
Ning’s gaze turned towards one particular Sword Pagoda. The sword-arts inscribed within this Sword Pagoda were quite similar to his own [Nameless] sword-art. They belonged to the same general style of swordsmanship, and they were similarly exalted and profound. As for the sword-intent, it was awe-inspiringly profound and seemed to encompass all things.
Daolord Everstarter. After joining our Sword Palace, he received the acknowledgment of the Sword Pagodas while still at the World level and became one of our Swordlords. He had a modest disposition and liked to teach his juniors and those weaker than him. He treated the Sword Palace as his home and rarely went out adventuring. Silently and without any fanfare, he reached the Fourth Step as a Daolord. However, because the Ancient cultivators went too far in their actions, Daolord Everstarter ventured forth all by himself and unvealed his utterly terrifying sword-arts, defeating three other Verge-level Daolords who were Ancient cultivators. In fact, he even defeated an Ancient cultivator who was an Eternal Emperor.”
“This battle brought him tremendous fame, and he became acknowledged as the number one Daolord of the Endless Territories in his time. Afterwards, as he prepared for his Daomerge, he began to travel to many different places. Ever since then, we have received no word of him. We do not know if he is alive or dead.
Ning was speechless.
This Daolord defeated an Eternal Emperor who was an Ancient cultivator?
Ning knew very little about the Ancient cultivators. All he knew was that they were incredibly, terrifyingly powerful. Only the most supreme of Aberrants were comparable to Ancient cultivators. Eternal Emperors who were Ancient cultivators were definitely far more powerful than ordinary Eternal Emperors. A Daolord had actually defeated one of them? No wonder he was publicly acclaimed as the number one Daolord in his time.
This feat was far more impressive than Daolord Allgod’s feat of attacking and pursuing Emperor Melobo.
“No one knows if Daolord Everstarter is still alive or not.” Suddenly, a voice rang out.
Ning was startled. Someone had appeared behind him without him even noticing?
He hurriedly turned and looked backwards, only to see that a golden-armored, tousled-hair, and rather decadent-looking man had appeared behind him.
“Greetings, senior apprentice-brother.” Upon seeing the suit of golden armor, Ning immediately addressed the man with respect.
There were no ‘masters’ or ‘apprentices’ here in the Sword Palace, only brothers and sisters.
At this moment, Daolord Fudan hurriedly ran over and said with great respect, “Greetings, Lord Woodflower.”
“Lord?” Ning was stunned.
“Junior apprentice-brother Darknorth, Daolord Woodflower is a Vice Palace Lord of our Sword Palace.” Daolord Fudan sent a hurried mental message to Ning.
Although Ning didn’t know the names of the various Daolords in the Sword Palace, he knew the general rules of the Twelve Palaces. The strongest member in every single palace was given the title of Palace Lord. Vice Palace Lords were the next most powerful! But of course, there were exceptions such as the Palace of Radiance, which had two powerful Daolords who were roughly on par with each other, which was why both were referred to as Palace Lord. Thus, the Radiant Palace had two Palace Lords.
Generally speaking, Palace Lords and Vice Palace Lords had the power to battle against Eternal Emperors. This was especially true in a place like the Sword Palace, which focused on combat.
“Greetings, Palace Lord,” Ning said hurriedly.
“Simply address me as senior apprentice-brother Woodflower.” The decadent-looking man chuckled. “I watched the battle between you and Bertulu. You aren’t bad at all. Actually, your sword-arts are quite similar to those of Daolord Everstarter. If he is still alive, he should be an Eternal Emperor by now. Given how strong he was as a Daolord, as an Eternal Emperor he would probably be alive to this very day and might be willing to give you some personal pointers.”
A Daolord who was able to defeat an Eternal Emperor of the Ancients and who was acknowledged as the undisputed number one Daolord of the Endless Territories of his time… if he was to become an Eternal Emperor, killing him would be almost impossible.
“Senior apprentice-brother Woodflower,” Ning said hurriedly, “Can it be that he doesn’t have an avatar here? Why is it that we don’t know if he is alive or not?”
When Ning had entered Undermoon Lake, he had been quite weak, but his clones in the outside world could sense if he was alive or dead. Once his clones in Undermoon Lake perished, he would be able to recreate the clones in the outside world. This was an easy way to judge if he was dead or not.
Daolords, however, would generally leave avatars in their homes when they were entering dangerous regions. If not, they would leave behind other special techniques or spells. Generally speaking, it wasn’t too hard to know what was happening or if they were still alive.
“The primordial chaos is vast and endless. Even the almighty Hegemon, who is older than the Twelve Palaces, wouldn’t dare claim that he knows everything which happens within it,” Lord Woodflower explained. “In the endless primordial chaos, there are indeed some places which will result in you being completely cut off from the outside world once you enter. There would be no way whatsoever to ascertain if you were alive or not.”
“Given that we have heard no word from him in countless years, it is very likely that he is dead. However, there’s no way to verify it, and so we generally will list these elders as ‘status unknown’ rather than ‘deceased’ on their Sword Pagodas,” Lord Woodflower explained.
After chatting a bit about Daolord Everstarter, Lord Woodflower said, “Darknorth, as a new member of the Sword Palace, you are able to choose a single divine ability, secret art, or legacy from the Pavilion of Mysteries. But of course, some Daolords restricted their legacies, only permitting juniors who passed the trials they set down to make use of those legacies. Generally speaking, the more valuable a legacy, the more common this practice is.”
Ning naturally understood this principle. His Mirrorsnow Paintings had trials as well. Actually procuring all four paintings was a major trial in and of itself, and of course he had to defeat the four experts within the four paintings.
“I’ll go take a look first,” Ning said.
“I’ll lead the way.” Lord Woodflower waved his hand, sending a surge of Immortal energy to surround Ning.
Sword-light flickered around them, resulting in them disappearing into the skies.
Daolord Fudan raised his head to watch them leave, a look of envy in his eyes. He murmured softly, “Lord Woodflower is quite nice to him. It seems he views Darknorth with great favor.” As he spoke, he walked back to the outskirts of the Forest of Sword Pagodas.
“Who was that person who just flew away with my master?” Su Youji immediately asked.
“That was Lord Woodflower of our Sword Palace. Although he behaves in a very casual, laid-back manner, he’s a very discerning man. It isn’t easy to attract his attention. It seems he quite likes your master,” Daolord Fudan said. “Let us wait for him here.”
“Alright.” Su Youji smiled. The better Ning’s live here was, the happier she would be. She felt absolutely delighted by this.
The Pavilion of Mysteries was located at the top of a mountain, surrounded by clouds and mist.
A streak of sword-light flickered and descended in front of the pavilion. Daolord Woodflower and Ji Ning both appeared once more.
“That was fast.” Ning was secretly shocked.
“Greetings, Vice Palace Lord.” Suddenly, a fiery red golem at the entrance to the pavilion rose to its feet and called out respectfully. Its entire body was made from magic treasures; a simple glance was enough to tell that it wasn’t an actual living creature.
“Swordthree, I’m going to take this new arrival of ours, junior apprentice-brother Darknorth, in for a look.” Daolord Woodflower smiled towards Ning. “This is Swordthree, the overseer of the Pavilion of Mysteries. He’s been guarding this place for an extremely long period of time, much longer than any of our Daolords have been alive. He is ranked the third most powerful golem in the Sword Palace, and so we just call him Swordthree. You can call him the same.”
“Swordthree,” Ning said hurriedly.
“Darknorth.” The fiery golem cracked a friendly smile towards Ning.
“Follow me inside.” Lord Woodflower led Ning inwards.
Within this bamboo hall, there were a series of jade slips. There were also stone steles, statues, books, paintings, leaves, wine gourds, and all sorts of other items. They all looked quite ordinary, as though this was a flea market filled with many miscellaneous objects.
“This place holds many divine abilities and secret arts,” Lord Woodflower said. “All Twelve Palaces share more or less the same divine abilities and secret arts. Our legacies, however, belong to us alone.”
Lord Woodflower continued, “There are differences amongst the legacies. Some are more profound, some are less. Some were left behind by fairly ordinary Daolords, some were left behind by awe-inspiringly powerful Daolords who were as strong as Eternal Emperors, and some were left behind by actual Eternal Emperors. There’s no need to pass any trials to use the divine abilities or secret arts; all you need to do is choose one and you will be able to train in it. Legacies, however, generally come attached with trials and conditions.”
“The legacies left behind by Eternal Emperors are the most valuable. Here within this bamboo hall, there are five legacies that were left behind by Eternal Emperors.” Lord Woodflower explained, “Here in the Sword Palace, we have an additional requirement. World-level cultivators have to become acknowledged as ‘Swordlords’ by the Sword Pagodas before they are qualified to select a legacy left behind by an Eternal Emperor… but of course, they still need to pass the trials which the Eternal Emperor set down.”
Ning said with surprise, “Don’t some of those freakishly powerful Daolords possess sword-arts that equal the sword-arts of Eternal Emperors? Why is it that the legacies of the Eternal Emperors are so much harder to obtain?”
“Anyone who was able to become an Eternal Emperor had already perfected his Dao of the Sword to a level where it could gain eternity,” Lord Woodflower explained. “These legacies will give you experience that will help guide you to eternity. Over the course of countless years, we have seen several freakishly strong Daolords in every single generation. However, very few of them are ever able to become actual Eternal Emperors.”
Lord Woodflower continued, “Based on the rough numbers we have for the Endless Territories, less than one in a hundred thousand Daolords shall become an Eternal Emperor. Although our Sword Palace is assisted by the almighty Hegemon and selects only the cream of the crop, the elites of the elites, we’ve only given birth to a total of three Eternal Emperors since the establishment of the kingdom.”
Lord Woodflower shook his head. “Of the three Eternal Emperors… one perished, while the other two were solitary figures who went off wandering by themselves.” Lord Woodflower let out a sigh. “Our ratio of Daolords to Eternal Emperors is actually fairly high. The Dao Alliance has a much lower ratio than the Twelve Palaces.”
Ning was speechless. At present, the Sword Palace didn’t even have a single Eternal Emperor?
“It’s simply too hard for a new Eternal Emperor to be born. Even if one is born… they live far too long and easily grow bored, and so they often delight in exploring places which no one has ever been before. Sometimes, they never come back.” Lord Woodflower continued, “As for the freakishly strong Daolords… after they fail their Daomerge, they know that they shall die and so they will often go out and try to find chances to slay Eternal Emperors belonging to enemy organizations.”
“Although there aren’t that many freakishly strong Daolords, there’s usually a few in every generation. Although Eternal Emperors are untouched by the ravages of time, they can still perish through other means,” Lord Woodflower explained. “But of course, there are always differences. Take our almighty Hegemon. He’s actually an Eternal Emperor, but he’s just far, far too powerful. As a result, he’s still alive to this very day. Even though he occasionally abducts World-level cultivators who belong to other organizations, they just ignore it and pretend not to see it.”
Ning let out a sigh.
What sad, sad fates these Eternal Emperors had. They were incredibly rare in number, but the freakishly strong Daolords who failed their Daomerge would often target them in suicidal attacks. Daolord Allgod was a good example. After he failed his Daomerge, he attempted to chase down and kill Emperor Melobo.
Far too many Eternal Emperors disappeared while adventuring, were slain by Daolords, or went into hiding. Only truly almighty figures like the Hegemon were capable of staying alive.
“As a result, there are very few legacies that were left behind by Eternal Emperors. Even the weakest Eternal Emperor’s sword-arts are comparable to the sword-arts of supreme Daolords, and they contain a hint of eternity…” Lord Woodflower looked at Ning. “I’m sure you know this, but cultivators must find and walk their own paths. After becoming a Daolord, you must develop a sword-art all your own. These so-called ‘legacies’ are mainly valuable because they will help guide you in that.”
“By now, you should understand why the legacies left behind by Eternal Emperors are so rare and valuable,” Lord Woodflower said. “I urge you to do your best to acquire one of them if you can. But of course, it is up to you. What do you want? A divine ability, a secret art, or a legacy? What will you choose?”
“What will I choose?” Ning began to ponder this question.