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Chapter 324 - Return (Part One)
The Sword Pool was in the Garden of Zhou. This was the legend and had at the same time been the speculation of many people over the years.
From one thousand years ago when Zhou Dufu first appeared and shocked the world up until several hundred years ago when he silently disappeared, the warlike and peerless expert had issued numerous challenges to the experts of the entire continent. His outrageous strength and cultivation had been continuously honed through these myriad battles. On his path to obtaining the title of supreme expert under the starry sky, countless people fell under his Halving Blade.
In Luoyang, he faced off against the hero of the realm and countless experts of the Great Zhou and defeated Emperor Taizong. Outside Xuelao City, he faced off against innumerable demon experts and defeated the Demon Lord. In the Mausoleum of Books, he defeated the Pope. At the source of the Red River, he defeated the White Emperor. And there were still many more… it could even be said that if one looked over those several hundred years of history and looked up all the true experts, one would see that they had all once been defeated at his hands.
In reality, besides those legendary battles mentioned above, many of these so-called earthshaking battles did not occur in the human world but in the Garden of Zhou. The Garden of Zhou was Zhou Dufu's miniature world. In these battles, he could have access to many conveniences and even rig the battles. This seemed very unfair, but his opponent had no objection to this, because he was Zhou Dufu. He disdained these types of actions, much less required them. He just did not want any mediocre people to see his battle. His opponents were naturally even more unwilling to have the common people see them lose. Thus, those battles that occurred in the Garden of Zhou had no spectators, and also no recorders. As for the specific details of the battle, besides those present, no one else knew. The only thing the people on the outside knew was the unsurprising outcome.
Countless experts fell under his blade. Some died, some lived, but their swords were all left behind in the Garden of Zhou, forced by that divine Halving Blade, which was ranked second on the Tier of Legendary Weapons, to be left behind.
The swords were absolutely not ordinary. Many were even divine weapons ranked on the Tier of Legendary Weapons. These included the Dragoncry Sword that had been worn on the waist of some prince of the Imperial clan, and the sword called Heaven Shrouding owned by that generation's Mount Li Sword Sect sect master, which was even in the top ten of the Tier of Legendary Weapons. It was said that these famous swords abandoned in the Garden of Zhou had all been thrown into a mountain pool by Zhou Dufu. That mountain pool was the legendary Sword Pool. If the Sword Pool really did exist, it was a monument that Zhou Dufu had set up for himself. Those exceptional swords in the pool were his achievements and glory.
The one thing that all the cultivators who could enter the Garden of Zhou wanted to do was find the Sword Pool. Zhou Dufu's legacy might possibly be very difficult to find, but those swords in the Sword Pool, any one of them was a divine weapon capable of significantly increasing the battle power of any cultivator. Let alone that, if one could inherit the legacy of those experts of the past through their sword, just what kind of significance would that have? How could it not cause people to go mad? And yet, no one had ever found the Sword Pool. No one had even found a sword in the Garden of Zhou. Contrarily, this fact was an affirmation of the rumors of the Sword Pool. Those famous swords that had faded away must be hidden somewhere in the Garden of Zhou.
As time passed, the Sword Pool grew more and more enigmatic, and its place within the hearts of cultivators grew increasingly majestic. It had even surpassed the Garden of Zhou itself, turning into the true legend of the cultivation world. But was it true that no one had ever found a sword in the Garden of Zhou? Then why was it that Qi Jian and Liang Xiaoxiao, once they had entered the Garden of Zhou, had proceeded without hesitation up that river? Why did Zhuang Huanyu go there? Why was Chen Changsheng able to sense that strand of sword intent in the cold pool, and why were the demons waiting to assassinate them on the other side?
Whether it was within the human world or the demon realm, there were already many powers that had faintly discovered some news pertaining to the Sword Pool. Perhaps it was because someone had picked up an ancient sword sheath in a forest by that river many years ago? No, the real reason was that a peerless genius of the Mount Li Sword Sect had once gone up to the cold pool at the end of that river and picked up a sword several hundred years ago.
That peerless genius of the Mount Li Sword Sect was called Su Li.
However, just where was the Sword Pool then? The cold pool passed through the cliff to the large lake on the other side. That lake was connected to the small lake in the plains in front of Sunset Valley. However, between the pool and the lake, there were no swords. If one were simply and crudely to gather up all the clues and draw a line between these points, they would be able to see that this line pointed towards the depths of the plains. Then did this indicate that the legendary Sword Pool was in the plains?
In reality, this was the conclusion of the vast majority of cultivators. Human cultivators and demons had tracked their footsteps all across the Garden of Zhou, and yet after the passage of several hundred years, they still had not managed to find the Sword Pool. Then the most likely possibility was that it was hidden within the plains, because only they had not been investigated. It was a pity that these conclusions could never be confirmed. Everyone who entered the Plains of the Unsetting Sun had never returned. Those people who had never entered the Plains of the Unsetting Sun would never be able to see the true scene inside.
Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, Chen Changsheng and Xu Yourong had entered these plains, and they could see the truth, although they could not relay these true facts to the human world outside the Garden of Zhou. That strand of sword intent had guided them deeper into the plains, as though it wanted to guide them towards finding the truth. Yet when they saw Zhou Dufu's mausoleum, they still did not see any trace of the Sword Pool.
Now that the sword intent was within his body, he was sure that it had its origins from the Sword Pool. He just did not know which famous sword from several hundred years ago this sword intent belonged to, and which famous person owned that sword.
The rain began to pour down harder and harder, causing the wind around the mausoleum to gradually grow more violent. A few leaves from Xu Yourong's wutong tree had previously been shaken down to the ground by Qi and then stuck together by the rain and snow. Now they were rolled up by the massive winds. The leaves were rolled up by the wind and dragged along the floor. They drifted to Chen Changsheng's feet and then floated up and touched a corner of his clothes.
Ching. There was a sharp sound in that instant that even covered up the sound of the wind and rain.
Those leaves had been sliced into countless tiny strands by the shapeless sword intent. Just as they began to dance in the air, they were beaten down by the wind and rain.
Several hundred li out on the divine path, Nanke's small face, which was drenched by the rainwater, seemed to grow paler.
This scene made her even more wary and uneasy because she had never seen such powerful sword intent before. Yes, she silently thought of the word 'never'. Her teacher Black Robe did not use a sword. Her royal father the Demon Lord did not use a sword. The demon advisor also did not use a sword. Still, the demon experts that could use a sword were too many too count, but she still had not...ever...seen such a powerful sword intent. This was just a strand of sword intent showing off its abilities. If the actual sword was still here, just how terrifying would it be? Several hundred years ago, just which peerless expert was the owner of that sword intent to have cultivated the sword to such a stage!?
The rain fell upon the dagger, splashing against the blade and wiping it clean of blood. It shined brightly like a mirror.
As Chen Changsheng gazed at the dagger, his eyes were also bright like a mirror.
In the three thousand scriptures of the Dao, there were many explanations on what sword intent was, but only one explanation was accepted by the Orthodoxy as the traditional definition—sword intent was a sword insight.
A sword insight was not a sword's spiritual sense, nor was it a sword's wisdom, and it was even less so a living soul. Rather, it was the remnants of a message that consisted of a swordsman's combat sense and experience which, after a long time, amassed and became attached to the sword. To use a more understandable but less accurate explanation: a sword insight was a sword's knowledge and experience. The sword insight was the remnants of a message, and it could also be described as the essence of that message. It was the crystallization of combat sense, but it was not something that had a concrete and objective existence. It was impossible to calculate, and even more impossible to imitate. The sensation transmitted back to the spiritual world of a human being was only a feeling.
At the moment, he was feeling exactly this type of feeling.
From this sword intent, he sensed an absolute self-confidence, a supreme ability, and a contempt for heaven and earth. He sensed this sword intent's conflict and even loathing for these plains. He sensed its intense desire for freedom. Of course, the most intense feeling was joy, jumping for joy.
At the very beginning, the person who used the sword was no more, but the sword was still there. Later on, the sword was no more, leaving behind only the sword intent. This strand of sword intent was incapable of leaving these plains. It was trapped, or even imprisoned, within these plains for ages. For several hundred years, it had never thought about escaping. However, it now realized that there was a chance to escape, thus when it met Chen Changsheng, it was like a bird about to leave its cage.
It was just that he did not know that this sword intent's ecstasy did not just come from the possibility of leaving, but also had to do with the joy of seeing an old friend.
That massive and dreadful shadow took up half the sky. The other half of the sky was filled with dark rain clouds. It was already night, and that disc of light at the edge of the plains was dim and lightless. In the midst of the torrential rain, the Mausoleum of Zhou grew even more pitch-black, like a massive black mountain. If Chen Changsheng was not on top of this black mountain at the moment, he would definitely have associated it with the huge obsidian coffin in the mausoleum.
Let's leave together then.
Chen Changsheng turned back to glance at Xu Yourong, then said these words to the sword intent.
She gazed at the rain-soaked divine path, gazed at Nanke.
Nanke was looking at the Southern Cross Sword in her hands. There was a very clear nick on the edge of the sword, a result of their two swords crossing. This sword was certainly not ordinary, as it was a famous sword from this generation's Tier of Legendary Weapons, and yet it was not as good as that unremarkable and ordinary dagger in Chen Changsheng's hands.
Did every sword have an environment in which it was strongest? She woke up from the stupor brought about by the sword intent and the new information related to the Sword Pool with an understanding of many more things. She lifted her head towards the end of the divine path where Chen Changsheng was, her expression once more callous and indifferent.
"So what? That sword intent really is very strong, but in the end, it still ended up the loser against the Halving Blade. You think that you can rely on this sword intent to defeat me? Or do you have some absurd hope that this sword intent can help you leave the Garden of Zhou?"
She said these words to Chen Changsheng and then spread out her arms. A clear light illuminated the rain-soaked mausoleum, and her two wings transformed into streams of light. Her two maids, Hua Cui and Ning Qiu, kneeled down behind her in the rain, not daring to say a word as they lowered their heads. One could faintly see that their faces were pale. The injuries inflicted by that sword intent previously had most likely not been light.
"The sword that this sword intent belongs to has probably already become a piece of scrap metal or even mere dust. This is the only reason why it was able to leave the Sword Pool. As a sword intent with no host, incapable of replenishing itself, just how long could it hold on? Not to mention the fact that sword intent is equivalent to sword insight, and with your cultivation, there's simply no way for you comprehend the sword insight. Without an understanding of swordplay, I'm afraid you won't be able to display even one-thousandth of the full power of that sword intent. Since this is the case, just what makes you believe you can defeat me?"
In the downpour, along with the continuous sound of her still childish voice, Nanke's sword energy slowly but steadily increased, and her Qi gradually grew more berserk.
Chen Changsheng knew that she was not bluffing. If the swordsman's cultivation was strong enough, whether they were meditating in cultivation or fighting, they would be refining their sword intent at every moment. However, if the level of the sword intent was higher than that of the swordsman, then battling would constantly use up the sword intent with no way of replenishing it.
"The most important part is that since I'm no match for you in terms of sword intent, then why do I need to keep competing with you in sword intent?" Saying these words, Nanke lifted up the Southern Cross Sword.
She still stood a hundred zhang away, very far away from Chen Changsheng. She had already put away her two wings, and it seemed that she did not intend to close the distance between the two of them. The most important change was that she lifted her sword with both hands. Her figure was very petite, even slim, while the Southern Cross Sword was broad and long. When she lifted it up with her two hands into the air, it produced a very strange scene. It was just like a small child preparing to play with a giant iron hammer. They struck a clear contrast.
Seeing this scene, Chen Changsheng instantly guessed at how she was going to attack and understood that he had committed a huge oversight.
Since his greatest advantage was the powerful sword intent at his disposal, he should not have let her get too far away.
Different swords had different strengths. One sword had many different sides. Sword intent was only a part of the sword. Besides this, there was also sword energy as well as the amount of true essence attached to the sword. They were both components of the sword that were no less important than sword intent. Nanke's attack intended to take advantage of the influence that distance had on sword intent and force him to fight with sword energy and strength.
A sword glow illuminated the gloomy sky and the rain-soaked mausoleum.
A dark blue sword ray shot out from the Southern Cross Sword. Like a meteorite, it trailed a tail of fire as it slashed towards the end of the divine path at Chen Changsheng.
Chen Changsheng gripped the hilt of his dagger; his fingers were a little white and his lips a little pale, perhaps because of his injuries or because the rain was too cold.
A weak, yet abnormally firm voice came from behind him. "Use the umbrella."
This voice did not come from the sword intent, as sword intents do not speak. The voice came from Xu Yourong. He did not know why she said this, but over the course of their journey, he had realized that her cultivation and especially her foresight far surpassed his. He trusted her invariably. So without any hesitation, not even pausing for thought, he lifted up the Yellow Paper Umbrella.
With his actions, the sword intent entered the Yellow Paper Umbrella.
It was not entering. It was returning.
He did not understand why he felt it, but he felt that this sensation indicated that the sword intent had truly returned. Even the entire world seemed to have felt the sword intent's return. The plains grew incredibly quiet. The monster tide grew restless and countless monsters gave out cries of alarm or anger. Even that dreadful shadow in the sky seemed to grow fainter for an instant.