As he watched the woodcutter depart, Ji Ning grew increasingly puzzled. “When the arrow flies…this part I understand. But ‘the heart flies with it’…what does that mean?”
Twang! Twang! Twang!
Ning pulled his bow, testing out a few more arrows, growing increasingly puzzled as he did.
“Little master.” The black-robed man appeared once more, face full of excitement. “Your eldest apprentice-brother said, ‘When the arrow flies, the heart flies with it.’ I think I somewhat understand.”
“Oh?” Ning revealed an expectant look on his face.
The black-robed youth immediately explained, “I’ve gone through many masters and watched many of them train in archery, as well as watched them train their successors and descendants in archery. I remember often hearing them say something; ‘You need to put your heart into it. Put your heart into the arrow.’ When I was guiding you, I didn’t think of these words, because I thought they were just casual words of encouragement, but now…it seems those words must have some special meaning.”
Ning was an extremely intelligent person. This guidance from the black-robed youth didn’t clearly point at what was necessary, but Ning now already had his own ideas.
To use the heart?
To put the heart into the arrow?
When the arrow flies? The heart flies with it?
“My guess is that ‘the heart flies with it’ means exactly that; having your heart and mind fly along with the arrow,” the black-robed youth said. “This ‘heart’ is most likely a reference to a sort of invisible force.”
Ning listened to the black-robed youth, thinking to himself at the same time. He had shot out tens of thousands of arrows every day for nearly a year; thus, he was familiar with all the technical tricks to it. Actually, Ning had already vaguely touched upon the level of having the heart fly with the arrow, but no one had been able to guide him to actually breaking through to it.
Ning once more nocked an arrow to his bow.
In this instant, his heart became one with the Heavens and the Earth…and his will began to fill the arrow.
Soon, Ning managed to brush against the level of ‘forgetting the self’; although his heart had become one with the Heavens and the Earth, everything around him seemed vague and blurry, as his heart and will were focused completely on his arrow.
A thunderous twanging sound. The arrow shot through the air, and Ning’s invisible will was fused into it. In fact, he had an extremely strange feeling; he felt as though he himself had transformed into an arrow! As the arrow shot through the skies, as it pierced through the trees, Ning felt as though it was he himself who was shooting through the trees. This sort of feeling, where his mind and heart were one with the arrow, was quite strange and marvelous…
However, after the arrow flew for a hundred kilometers, that sort of invisible connection between his heart and the arrow dissipated; Ning was no longer able to maintain the wondrous feeling of him having transformed into an arrow.
The arrow finally plunged deep into the target that was ten thousand kilometers away…but of course, it was still quite a bit off from the heart of the target.
“That’s the feeling! Right. That’s the feeling.” Ning began to laugh loudly out of excitement as he jubilantly lifted the bow up with energy. “Right. When the arrow flies, the heart flies with it. I felt as though I had transformed into an arrow myself…this was a wondrous feeling, and in that state, I felt as though I was able to control the direction of the arrow.”
“I’ll try again.”
Ning once again nocked an arrow and drew his bow. Twang! The arrow shot through the skies, and Ning once more felt as though he were an arrow, with his heart focused upon the arrow.
Change directions! Change directions!
While flying through the air, the arrow suddenly began to change directions. Although the magnitude of the change was very small, as Ning repeatedly strove to influence it, the arrow began to arc outwards and fly even farther, before finally overshooting the target by thousands of kilometers.
“When the arrow flies, the heart flies with it…”
“This is the feeling. However, I’m only able to maintain this state for a hundred kilometers; any farther, and my will dissipates and becomes unable to maintain contact with the arrow.” Ning nodded to himself. This sort of invisible, formless feeling of his will being one with the arrow was a strange, subtle thing. However…there was indeed such a thing as a power forged from heart, from will.
That ancient Fiendgod corpse of the previous owner of the Rahu Bow was proof of it. Despite having died so long ago, the remnant, vestigial will of death and killing still was enough to cause Ning’s heart to quiver.
Strictly speaking, the ancient Fiendgod’s soul had been destroyed long ago…so where did that invisible will and intent come from?
This was what ‘heart’ was all about.
It was an invisible force! The power of the heart! It was different from divine power, elemental ki, and soul power. It was an extremely illusory, difficult-to-detect sort of power, but it did indeed exist. A truly divine archer would have to be able to master this power, the power of heart; only by mastering it could one become one of the formidable divine archers of the three realms. And this was just one of the prerequisites!
“Use the heart.”
“The heart flies with the arrow!”
Ning began to train.
He knew very well that given how firm his Dao-heart was, the power of his heart should logically be quite formidable. However, he was still only able to keep his heart merged with the arrow for a distance of a hundred kilometers. The reason for this was…his heart was not sincere enough! His heart was supremely sincere towards the Dao of the Sword, but it was not yet sincere enough to the Dao of Archery.
Only with sincerity would the power of the heart grow!
Fortunately, thanks to his three years of painstaking training, Ning had established a solid foundation, and as Ning’s attitude towards the bow had changed and as his feelings towards the Dao of Archery grew increasingly resolute, the power of his heart had grown increasingly strong. In the legends, there were some truly formidable figures who, no matter what they trained in, were able to maintain a supremely loyal heart to whatever they focused on. By doing so, they were able to improve at a truly astonishing rate.
The power of the heart was sometimes even more important than raw talent or comprehension.
A thousand kilometers.
Two thousand kilometers.
Three thousand kilometers.
As the days passed, the connection between Ning’s heart and his arrow became increasingly strong.
“Wow! Little master, when you draw the bow, you now have a certain aura…an aura that only the divine archers of the Primordial Era used to have!” The black-robed man watched excitedly from one side.
When one had a heart that was supremely loyal to the bow, there would be a difference that would be very hard for most to detect, even if the difference was magnified ten thousand-fold. However, that innate charisma really did make an impact. The Rahu Bow, which had passed through the hands of quite a few divine archers, was definitely able to tell the difference.
The arrow plunged straight into the heart of the target.
Ning, however, maintained his calm as he continued to shoot arrows. Ning was now able to hit the target dead-center every so often, and even when he didn’t, he was still definitely able to hit the target. To be able to occasionally hit the target dead-center from a distance of ten thousand kilometers, with trees and boulders blocking the way, while using nothing but raw physical strength was already a truly astounding feat…but unfortunately, passing the trial required one to accomplish this feat ten times in a row.
Five thousand kilometers. Six thousand kilometers…
Ning’s heart was able to ride with the arrow for increasingly long periods of time. Under this sort of training, Ning’s Dao-heart was actually beginning to grow even more powerful, and his eyes were beginning to grow increasingly bright! When he drew his bow…anything he stared at would feel as though a God of Death was staring at them from afar, causing a sort of inexplicable, nameless terror!
This was the sort of mental, psychological sensation of threat which only a true divine archer was able to impose upon the minds of his foes.
Ning’s own heart was like an arrow, seeking to stab itself into the enemy’s own heart. The enemy would subconsciously sense this and feel terrified!
Eight thousand kilometers. Nine thousand kilometers…
Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish!
An arrow struck straight into the heart of the target. So did a second arrow. A third. A fourth…Ning shot out a hundred arrows, and each and every one of them struck the target dead-center. The inch-thick heart of the target was completely filled with a tight cluster of arrows now.
“Whew.” From ten thousand kilometers away, Ning let out a sigh.
This sort of state, where his heart rode with the arrow, consumed a tremendous amount of mental stamina with each arrow. Shooting out a hundred arrows in a row in this state caused an extremely nauseous feeling of exhaustion! If Ning was simply shooting out arrows without using the power of his heart, he wouldn’t feel the slightest bit tired after shooting out even ten thousand. But it was very, very exhausting to be in the state where ‘when the arrow flies, the heart flies with it!’
However…the power of the arrows in this state was truly tremendous, and the arrows were also much more accurate!
“Little master, you succeeded. You succeeded!” The black-robed youth was very excited.
“Thank you, Rahu Bow.” Ning smiled in gratitude. Over the past three years, although he did study some of the secret archery manuals of the Divinities Palace, what truly made the distance was the guidance of the Rahu Bow! The Rahu Bow had watched many divine archers grow up; although he himself was not a divine archer, he had still been able to provide Ning with a shockingly significant amount of help.
If it hadn’t been for the Rahu Bow, even ten years probably wouldn’t have been enough for Ning to complete this trial.
“Heh heh, little master, only after you become a true divine archer can I, the Rahu Bow, truly show off my own illustriousness.” The black-robed youth was extremely excited. “If you, little master, truly wish to show your gratitude towards me, then just procure a good bowstring for me.”
“Right.” Ning nodded and smiled. “Of course.”
He had a number of poorer-quality bowstrings. After all, he could remove the bowstring from the violet greatbow he was currently using and use it for the Rahu Bow. However…this bow was far too weak. The Rahu Bow was a top-grade Protocosmic spirit-treasure; Ning really did have to procure a good bowstring for it!
Mount Innerheart. The Tristar Crescent Abode. Outside the fairly small Three Divinities Palace. Crazy Ji continued to snore there as he always did.
“Second senior apprentice-brother.” Ning walked over.
Crazy Ji didn’t even open his eyes as he mumbled, “The complete copy of [Houyi’s Archery] is on the table. Go take it yourself.”
“Thank you, second senior apprentice-brother.”
Ning immediately stepped inside. Floating above the abridged versions was a very eye-catching furled bamboo book. It was indeed the complete copy of [Houyi’s Archery]. Ning walked over, immediately filling it with his divine sense.
A large amount of information instantly began to flood into Ning’s soul.
A long, long time later. The sun had both risen and fallen. By the time the dawn was just arriving, as half of the distant Golden Crow could be seen peeking out from the distant horizon, Ning woke up.
“What a powerful archery technique,” Ning murmured to himself.
He was stunned. Truly, completely stunned.
According to the description of [Houyi’s Archery], if it was truly trained to the limit, to the level of the mighty primordial divinity Houyi who had created this divine ability…the power of the arrows would be truly terrifying, to the point of being above even the Sixth Cycle of the [Starseizing Hand]!
If a True God were to reach the peak of this divine ability, then with a single arrow, the True God would be able to heavily injure or even kill other True Gods!
But there was a reason why the complete mastery of [Houyi’s Archery] was so ridiculously powerful.
Number one: The amount of mental energy this supreme archery technique used up was simply enormous. At the level of perfect mastery, even a True God would probably only be able to fire three, four, or five arrows before becoming utterly mentally drained and unable to fire off another arrow. Ning’s [Starseizing Hand], however, could be used continuously without worry of using up any mental power.
Number two: This archery technique had extremely high requirements with regards to both the bow and the arrow. Especially the arrow! It must be understood that at full power, [Houyi’s Archery] was mighty enough to annihilate a True God with a single arrow; to be able to compress this much power into a single arrow, the arrow had to be of tremendous quality, as it would otherwise collapse and break apart.
Thus, in order to execute this technique, one not only needed a good bow, one also needed some specially-prepared arrows that were incredibly powerful!
A superb bow. Superb arrows. And just a few shots before utter exhaustion!
Slightly poorer archery arts could allow for a hundred shots, while even poorer archery arts could easily allow for ten thousand shots. This was a testament to how truly draining this supreme archery technique was when it came to the power of the heart.
“The power of this archery art…although the number of times it can be used in succession is low, it truly is without question one of the top ten divine abilities created since Pangu established the universe!” Ning felt endless admiration towards this divine ability, as well as the number one God of the Bow of the Three Realms, Houyi.
Ning then stepped forward and picked up the abridged copy of the [Torch Dragon’s Eye].