Time flowed on. In the blink of an eye, more than half a year had passed.
Next to a towering, cloud-piercing mountain peaks. Ji Ning stood atop a cloud, staring upwards towards the sword-art left behind on the mountain wall.
“The [Five Treasures] sword-art truly is a sword-art that has surpassed the limits of the Heavenly Daos. I’m just a tiny bit away, but…I’m unable to completely master the second chapter.” Ning frowned. During this past half year, he had almost completely mastered the entire second chapter at one go, but the final bottleneck had stymied him.
Bottlenecks were terrifying things for cultivators to face. There were many who would be stuck at a bottleneck for countless years without being able to advance! Time alone wouldn’t necessarily suffice for a cultivator to break through a bottleneck; if one could constantly improve, then logically speaking all Celestial Immortals should eventually become True Immortals. Clearly, however, this wasn’t the case. The reason why Ning had been able to break through the final bottleneck and master the complete Dao of the Sword was because he had battled in the Nihilum Zone for eighteen years, and had mastered first level swordforce. This was why things proceeded so smoothly for him.
“This next breakthrough won’t be so easy. What should I do?” Ning frowned. At this point, not even his many clones could help him.
“Standing here like an idiot won’t be of any use. Breakthroughs require luck and destiny.” Ning immediately sent a mental message. “Ninefangs.”
Swoosh! A streak of light flew over, landing atop the cloud. It was the bald old man, Ninefangs. Empyrean God Ninefangs immediately said respectfully, “Manorlord.”
“I wish to travel through the Three Realms,” Ning said.
“Travel through the Three Realms?” Ninefangs was startled. He gave Ning a close look. He had thought that Ning wanted to once more ambush the Seamless Gate…but now, it seemed, that wasn’t the case.
“Let’s go.” Ning immediately led Ninefangs away from Sword Immortal world.
Within a vast world of darkness. The Godking, seated upon his great, levitating throne, immediately received word of Ning’s departure.
“Ji Ning has left Sword Immortal world.” The Godking immediately released his powerful coresense to investigate Ning’s whereabouts. “He’s already gone to…Tigerfang major world.”
After having suffered such severe losses last time, the Seamless Gate would naturally be prepared for a reoccurrence. They wouldn’t succumb to the same trick twice.
The Tigerfang world.
A wooden ship was drifting through a wide river. Atop the wooden ship was a white-robed youth who was drinking wine by himself. Next to him stood an old, respectful, bald-headed servant.
“This Tigerfang world belongs to the mighty Immortal Tigerfang. He rose to sudden prominence during the Primordial Era, and even took part in the war that ended that era. However, he likes to travel alone and does as he pleases, and so he dislikes taking apprentices. There are still two Empyrean Gods who are willing to follow him, and he is quite a powerful figure of the Three Realms.
The Xia Emperor had relied on his experts and his background to unify the Grand Xia. Mighty Immortal Tigerfang, however, had completely relied on his own personal power.
“if I didn’t rely on the Heaven Punisher Formation, I probably wouldn’t be a match for him either,” Ning chuckled. The Three Realms had many Empyrean Gods and True Immortals, the most supreme of which all had formations of their own that were comparable to the Heaven Punisher Formation. In this regard, none of them were able to overcome Ning. But in a purely one-on-one fight…there indeed quite a few who were stronger than Ning. In fact, in his very own school, Mount Innerheart, there were a number of fellow disciples who were superior to him.
Redsnow, Patriarch Lu, Immortal Tigerfang…they were at the very precipice of becoming True Gods or Daofathers. In terms of the Dao or in terms of techniques, they were significantly superior to Ning. Ning had to admit to their superiority in these areas. He simply hadn’t spent enough time cultivating, and his mind had been focused on cultivating his swordforce and heartforce. After all, he simply didn’t have enough time slowly meditate on many Daos in the midst of this great storm.
“Manorlord, be wary of the Seamless Gate,” Ninefangs cautioned mentally.
“Don’t worry,” Ning said. Once they entered the Tigerfang, Ning had immediately sent his heartforce out to cover the entire world.
“The Seamless Gate is currently quite cautious. When I was in Sword Immortal world, there was someone using his coresense to watch over me at all times. They probably knew the moment I left the world. Although Tigerfang world has quite a few bases of the Seamless Gate, only one of them has Empyrean Gods and True Immortals. That base has a total of nineteen. They should’ve just hurried over there a short while ago. If nineteen Empyrean Gods and True Immortals hide behind protective formations…there’s no way for me to breach their defenses at all.” Ning shook his head.
In his heart, however, Ning sighed. He had succeeded in his first ambush, but it would now be far more difficult for him to give the Seamless Gate a few more vicious cuts.
“Come, try again.”
“Tired already? Is this all you have?”
Voices could be heard from far away.
Ning turned to sweep towards that area with his gaze. Far away, there was a village located next to the side of the river. The villagers relied on the river to make their living. Within the village, there was a tall, muscular, fur-clad man who was training a youth in using the sword. The muscular man was calling out repeatedly, “Come on! Hit harder! Hit smarter! Your sword-arts need to be more direct and forceful. All those fancy flourishes are useless!”
Boom! The youth’s sword came chopping down, but he instantly was knocked flying. He landed on the ground, then quickly and grimly clambered to his feet and charged forward again.
Each time they collided, he was knocked flying. Each time he was knocked flying, he rose to his feet. And each time, the tall man continued to berate him.
Ning watched this scene from afar, aboard his boat. He could tell that the man and the youth looked similar; most likely, they were father and son. This scene caused Ning to think of how his own father, Ji Yichuan, had taught him how to use the sword all those years ago. Compared to the tall man, however, Ning’s father’s sword-arts were slightly superior.
Still…in terms of actual power, this man wasn’t any weaker than Ning’s father had been. This was because this man had already reached the Zifu level. His only weakness was that his sword-arts were a bit weaker than Yichuan’s had been.
“This is quite an ordinary little village, but this man is a Zifu Disciple. It seems he’s brought his son here to live in seclusion,” Ning mused.
“If Father was still alive…if I could still train in the sword alongside Father…how wonderful it would be.”
Suddenly, Ning rose to his feet.
“Manorlord!” Ninefangs immediately called out.
Ning took a single step forward.
He instantly appeared next to the tall man and the youth.
Bu Feng stared in astonishment at the white-robed youth who had suddenly appeared. Although he had been training with his son, as a Zifu Disciple he had kept a continuous watch on the surrounding area. He had seen long ago that a wooden boat had appeared a few kilometers away, drifting about on the river, and he had also noticed the white-robed youth who was seated on the boat, drinking wine, but…that youth had suddenly appeared before him in the blink of an eye.
“No spatial ripples. It wasn’t teleportation.” Although Bu Feng was merely a Zifu Disciple, he had come from a major school. “He relied simply on pure speed to instantly arrive here…and the wind around us is still very calm and gentle. Skill like this…not even Primal Daoists can accomplish it.”
“Who are you?” The mud-splattered youth looked towards Ning.
“Yun’er!” Bu Feng barked. The youth was instantly terrified, no longer daring to make a sound.
Ning, however, simply smiled towards the tall man. “Don’t panic. I’ve just come to compete with you in sword-arts.”
“Compete?” Bu Feng was completely flabbergasted. Was this a joke?
“Just come on,” Ning said.
Bu Feng didn’t dare to disobey. This person could probably wipe him out with a single finger! He immediately suppressed all of his other thoughts, focusing entirely on the sword.
“Be careful, then!” A heavy sword suddenly appeared in front of Bu Feng.
Ning reached out with his two hands, and a pair of longswords suddenly manifested in front of him. These longswords had been formed by Ning out of natural energy; at his level, any swords he casually created would be far tougher than Mortal-ranked swords.
Upon seeing this, Bu Feng felt even more stunned and terrified. “What the hell is this senior playing at?” But he didn’t dare to hesitate at all. He immediately activated his Zifu-level ki, sending his heavy sword howling forward like a streak of light as he stabbed towards Ning.
Ning’s twin swords instantly seemed to transform into flowing water as the heavy sword came stabbing towards him. He blocked multiple times in succession, but was still knocked flying backwards. In fact, after he landed on the ground, he actually staggered back a few steps.
“Father seems to be very afraid of this white-robed man, but why is it that he seems so weak?” The mud-splattered youth was puzzled.
“How can this be?!” Bu Feng, however, couldn’t even believed it.
As for Ning, he softly mused to himself, “It seems as though when using Houtian-level strength to execute my sword-arts…even I will find it very difficult to resist the magic treasures of a Zifu Disciple.” He hadn’t used any spells of silence, and so Zifu Disciple Bu Feng was able to hear what he said. Bu Feng couldn’t help but feel speechless; the man had merely used Houtian-level strength to resist the treasures of a Zifu Disciple?
Houtian, Xiantian, Zifu.
The gap between each level was enormous.
“Continue,” Ning instructed.
Bu Feng didn’t dare to disobey. He immediately launched yet another attack. His heavy sword, controlled by his Zifu-level ki, attacked with absolutely savagery. However, although Ning’s sword-arts seemed simple, they went straight to the essence of the sword. In truth, Ning would be able to manifest swordforce from his longswords with but a thought, but if he did that, there was no way this fight could continue. Thus, Ning forcibly kept all of his power suppressed, ensuring that his strength would be no more than that of a Houtian-level expert. This naturally meant that his even the speed of his sword had dropped drastically.
His sword was slow and weak; he had to completely rely on his sword-arts in order to block.
Fortunately, his foe was merely a Zifu Disciple, and Ning’s own understanding of the sword was far greater than his foe’s.
“I didn’t expect that this sudden whim of mine would have actually…” Ning had never experienced something like this before. He kept himself at a Houtian’s strength, with his foe’s heavy sword completely eclipsing Ning’s swords in both speed and power. The end result was that Ning was forced to use every single scrap of skill and talent he had in order to defend.
He had a feeling…that he was improving.
He had found the right path! Through this path, he might be able to break through this bottleneck and reach an even higher level of sword-arts.
“How powerful. How can sword-arts be this marvelous, this miraculous? T-this…this is impossible.” Bu Feng frantically unleashed all the most powerful sword-arts he had, and in fact he even began to use some of the rare, unique flying sword techniques he had learned. That way, the mysterious white-robed youth in front of him would reveal even more sword-arts for him to see.
The sword-arts of this white-robed youth had completely broadened his horizons. It was as though an entire new universe had appeared before him. He discovered, for the first time…that the sword could be used in manners like this!
It was precisely because Ning continued to use a mere Houtian’s speed and strength that a Zifu Disciple like Bu Feng was able to see all these things clearly. However, although he was able to see it clearly, he still felt that it was all unspeakably arcane. Even the simplest of sword-stances caused Bu Feng to feel befuddled, no matter how hard he worked to comprehend it as he continued to unleash more attacks.
And yet, despite that…he could sense that his own insights into the sword were rising nonstop.
“Karmic luck. A tremendous stroke of karmic luck.”
“I, Bu Feng, was forced to flee with my son…but I actually ended up stumbling into such a tremendous stroke of karmic luck. The Dao of the Sword…I can embark upon the Dao of the Sword. I can reach a higher level of understanding, and I’ll be able to quickly become a Wanxiang Adept or even a Primal Daoist. By then, I’ll be able to go back. I’ll rescue my woman. I’ll…” Bu Feng’s heart was filled with wild joy…but he then immediately suppressed all other thoughts.
He focused all of his efforts on attacking Ning, while also doing his very best to memorize some of Ning’s sword-stances. Although these were all techniques which Ning casually came up with and displayed on the spot, to Bu Feng these stances were like a pegasus soaring through the skies in a bold, unconstrained manner. Every single technique was incomparably exquisite.
Ning was a peerless genius of the Dao of the Sword who had long ago mastered it. Right now, his foundation was the [Five Treasures] sword-art, a sword-art which surpassed the limits of the Heavenly Daos themselves. For someone who was studying the art of the sword, even the tiniest part of Ning’s insight was enough to give that person limitless benefits.
“Perhaps…perhaps this is the true essence of the sword. Forget about heartforce…forget about swordforce…forget about all outside sources of power and strength…only then can you truly find what the essence of the sword truly is. The [Five Treasures] sword-art is something which truly guides one towards the very essence of the sword itself. Yes…from today onwards, I shall roam the Three Realms, competing against countless people with the sword.” As a ray of clarity suddenly shone down upon Ning, Ning immediately came to his decision.