Looking at the clouds below his feet which were freezing into waves around the icy peak, Yan Liren was deep in thought. “I thought that it was because I did not polish the three primeval swords enough that I failed to unite with the swords and wield them freely. Now that I think of it, I wasn’t interested in polishing them with my heart and will at all. So, I was short of commitment!”
“Judging from the erosion on your fourth sword, you must’ve carried it for more than fifty years,” Li Yao said. “Before you rose to fame, you kept it with you. It must’ve been given to you by someone special and irreplaceable, right?”
Yan Liren’s eyes were deep, as if he were dwelling in memories of a long time ago. There was no telling whether it was delight or sorrow on his face when he mumbled, “It was indeed someone very special who gave the sword to me.
“As you can see, I am a natural dwarf. When I was young, nobody had any hope for me. They believed that my accomplishments would be limited however hard I tried.
“She was the only one who believed in me and supported me. After I was deprived of any training resources, she secretly shared her medicines and Heavenly Materials and Earthly Treasures with me. She also bought me this sword with all her belongings.
“Did you notice the flamboyant decorations on the sheath? Hehe. She wasn’t a person who understood swords. She thought that the more spectacular a sword appeared, the more powerful it would be. This sword cost her almost everything. She was certainly charged much more than she should’ve been!
“I remember that when she offered the sword to me, I was at the lowest point on my path of training. I was so depressed that I even considered abandoning the sword arts and working as an ordinary disciple who dealt with mundane affairs!
“She was much nobler than me at that time. I was both surprised and delighted to see the sword, but I did not have enough self-esteem to pick up the sword. Out of nowhere, I asked her, what would happen if I could not achieve anything or become a world-famous swordsman despite her trust?”
In the blowing, freezing wind, Yan Liren’s voice was mixed with weird magnetism. Li Yao could not help but feel hooked by the story. He asked, “How did she reply?”
Yan Liren smiled. He took out the immaculate short sword that Li Yao had crafted and stabbed it into a random crevice. Then, he unsheathed the damaged old sword from his waist and held it in his arms. Looking at the world below the clouds, he casually said, “She smiled… in a very silly way and said that it didn’t matter. She said that she didn’t give me the sword because she wanted me to be a great swordsman but because she liked to see me wielding my sword.”
Li Yao acknowledged his story with a long ‘oh’.
“After becoming Cultivators at the level of you and me, as long as we find a suitable technique, it is not entirely undoable for us to twist the shape of our bones and flesh and therefore change our appearance completely.”
Looking at the volatile clouds in the cloud, Yan Liren continued. “The Purple Pole Sword Sect has already gone through the trouble of searching for Cultivation arts that can alter the body. They found quite a few secret arts that can extend one’s height and limbs.
“Although the secret arts are not enough to turn me into a tall, magnificent-looking man, they are certainly enough to make me look like a normal person.
“I know that, although they never say it explicitly, they always consider me to be too much of an eyesore as a signage for the sect. A swordsman should look gracious and otherworldly. How can one be as hideous as I am?
“However, if what she liked was how I wield my sword in my current appearance, why would I bother to change my appearance just because of some irrelevant people’s opinions?”
“Understood!” Li Yao took a long breath and said sincerely, “Thanks for your candor, Brother Yan. I know how the sword should be renewed now. However, it will take a long time and cannot be hurried. You must not be impatient, Brother Yan!”
“It doesn’t matter.” Yan Liren smiled causally. “Take your time, Fellow Cultivator Spiritual Vulture. Not just a year and a half, even ten or twenty years are fine with me.”
“Why?” Li Yao was dazed. Pondering for a moment, he asked, “Do you not want your sword to be renewed as soon as possible?”
Frowning, Yan Liren said, “It will certainly be great if the sword can be renewed sooner.
“However, my sword arts are already incredible and marvelous as they are right now. If I have a sword that integrates with me perfectly, won’t I really be invincible in the world?”
“… Cough, cough. Cough, cough, cough, cough. What’s bad about being invincible?”
“Being invincible will be too lonely.” Yan Liren sighed. “With my ability today, there are fewer than ten people in the entire world who deserve my full attention and most perfect attack. They will be fewer still if I start killing them.
“I really can’t bear to kill them!
“However, however reluctant I am, I will kill all of them someday. Even Wu Suiyun and Meng Chixin, the two dominating Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators, will be found by me. Their body together with their soul will be completely slain by me!
“Now that you are helping me to forge the sword, the day will come much sooner than I expected!
“After all the experts in the world have been executed by my sword, who shall I wield my perfect sword against?”
“…” Li Yao.
“Heavens, heavens, why are you so unfair!” Yan Liren suddenly leapt at and cursed toward the infinite sky furiously. “Why—why did I have to be born so strong? Why did you allow me to train myself to an invincible level so easily while making everybody in the small world hens and hares instead of giving more experts to me so that I can kill them all?
“Why? Why exactly?”
Like a crazy devil, Yan Liren triggered his invisible sword auras and launched them into the sky, which ripped apart narrow and long fractures in the clouds. Pale traces lingered in the sky!
“… B—Brother Yan, don’t get too excited. Have you ever thought that there might be a vaster world other than the one we are living in, where plenty of worthy experts are waiting to be challenged by you?”
“Are you referring to the deities’ realm?”
After his catharsis, Yan Liren gradually calmed down. He turned around to look at Li Yao but shook his head with disapproval. “For tens of thousands of years, rumors among the Cultivators have said that, as long as you advance to beyond the Divinity Transformation Stage, with the most mysterious secret arts, you will be able to break the void, ascend into the deities’ realm, and become immortal deities!
“However, where exactly is the so-called ‘deities’ realm’?
“I have read a lot of ancient notes. Tens of thousands of years ago, the spiritual energy of the Ancient Sages Sector was far denser that it is right now. There were many experts above the Divinity Transformation Stage, many of whom had marched out of the Ancient Sages Sector and into the sea of stars, looking for the ‘deities’ realm’!
“However, most of the super experts above the Divinity Transformation Stage never returned and simply vanished into the unpredictable sea of stars!
“According to the experts who luckily escaped back to the Ancient Sages Sector, there was not a deities’ realm outside of the Ancient Sages Sector. Instead, it was a place of absolute emptiness and darkness without air, life, or resources. The darkness also knew no destination. It was like an ocean that nobody could get through!
“If anyone rushed into it, they would also end up as a dry corpse in the darkness after all the resources and spiritual energy were exhausted during the prolonged flight!
“That’s how the super experts who once dominated the Ancient Sages Sector were killed!
“I read the notes of a Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivator from the Great Chu Dynasty twenty thousand years ago.
“The Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivator was an aristocrat of the Great Chu Dynasty. He was ambitious enough to collect resources, prepare magical equipment, and accumulate spiritual energy for a hundred years, all for the purpose of breaking out of the ‘black ocean’ that surrounded the Ancient Sages Sector in search of the deities’ realm!
“He drifted for thirty years in the dark sea of stars. He thought that he had arrived where none had ever arrived before, when he accidentally discovered a boat that was a hundred times more precise than the one that he had prepared, as well as a vivid body inside the boat.
“After examining the items left on the body, he discovered that the body was a famous Cultivator in the Void Refining Stage who raised and destroyed quite a few dynasties fifty thousand years ago!
“Even a great Cultivator in the Void Refining Stage, with a boat a hundred times more precise than his, died miserably on the quest for the deities’ realm!
“The aristocrat of the Great Chu Dynasty, who was at the peak of the Divinity Transformation Stage, was so frustrated that he nearly went mentally deranged. He lost all his courage to keep searching for the deities’ realm. Finally, after another decade, he fled back to the Ancient Sages Sector!
“Hehe. Many ordinary people believe that the erratic stars in the sky are the residences of the deities. In fact, the boundless stars we see are just glittering remnants floating in the dark ocean!”
“The quest to the deities’ realm is long and unpredictable. Where exactly is the so-called deities’ realm, and how can we reach there?
Li Yao thought of something and said, “There’s need to be pessimistic, Brother Yan. Since everybody knows of the ‘deities’ realm’, it can’t be groundless, right? Perhaps, the deities’ realm does exist, but we cannot reach there by rushing the outward without stopping. We may need to resort to certain… magical equipment, like portals, in order to be teleported to the place!”
Yan Liren eyed Li Yao in a very weird way before saying, “Interesting. Your theory is somewhat similar to Wang Xi’s theory.”
Li Yao’s heart nearly skipped a bit, as he lost his calmness and exclaimed, “Say what?”
“Wang Xi once asked me whether or not I feel that the Ancient Sages Sect is a lone island surrounded by an ocean of darkness, or just a bottomless well, and that our so-called ‘unparalleled experts’ are merely a bunch of frogs that can never jump out of the well however hard we try!”
Yan Liren smiled and said, “Then, Wang Xi said that, perhaps for a hundred thousand years, we have been resorting to a wrong approach. This well is too deep for us to jump out, but if we dig a hole through the wall of the well, we may be able to crawl out through that hole!”