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He had just undergone an intense battle in the sword mark space, but it was actually only a clash of minds. The actual passage of time was completely unlike what he seemed to experience; less than a second had passed in the actual world.
After completing the first match, Lin Huang was in no hurry to choose his second target. Instead, he summarized his experience from the first match.
“As I expected, be it in terms of their Sword Dao or sword skills, my opponents in the sword marks are all the best of their peers. At the very least, they’re as strong as four-star geniuses, and they’re as talented as the average Protoss.
“The depth of the sword mark should have nothing to do with the opponent’s power. It might only be due to the nature of their Sword Dao and their personalities.
“Still, I could clear the first round by bulldozing through my opponent’s skills. That means that these trials don’t have any battle completion requirements. It doesn’t matter what I do as long as I win. I don’t have to tailor my solution to my opponent’s individual styles.
“Nevertheless, it’ll be harder to bulldoze through my opponents as I go on. After all, my Sword Dao and combat level have been forcefully suppressed to match theirs, so we’re competing in terms of our Sword Dao mastery, combat experience, and combat mindsets.
“In the battles to follow, it would be best if I could find a solution to every one of my opponents’ skills. That’s also a way to accumulate combat experience and train my combat thought processes. After all, it’s a battle in the consciousness, so even if it takes me a fortnight to win, only an instant would’ve passed in the world outside. I won’t waste any time.”
After he sorted everything out, Lin Huang raised his eyes to look at the marks on the wall.
The hairline mark he had passed earlier no longer emanated any hints of a Sword Dao.
He quickly settled on his second target.
It was an extremely deep mark, as though someone had stabbed their sword tip right into the wall. It was at least twenty to thirty centimeters deep.
After he touched it with his Telekinesis, Lin Huang’s consciousness was once more pulled into the sword mark space.
This time, Lin Huang’s opponent was a man with an extremely sharp aura, as though he was himself an unsheathed sword.
This man attacked with his sword extremely quickly, and he was very good at stabbing too.
This battle lasted for more than half an hour in the sword mark space before Lin Huang managed to kill him.
It was not that the opponent was strong enough to match Lin Huang for half an hour. Lin Huang simply figured that he had quite a few stabbing sword moves too, so he spent most of the battle secretly learning his opponent’s Sword Dao techniques.
At the end of the battle, Lin Huang did indeed learn quite a lot. After all, the opponent specialized in this.
That was Lin Huang did in every subsequent match with a Sword Dao that intrigued him. He let his opponent use their sword skills and Sword Dao to the extreme, picking up the bits that suited him.
Thankfully, every time Lin Huang’s consciousness returned to his body after every battle, the weariness he felt in his mind would instantly vanish.
This was probably also a special effect that Swordfiend Abyss provided for the participants.
After every match, Lin Huang did not really need to rest for too long, but he still closed his eyes to recover for a while, digesting everything he had learned from the earlier battle before jumping into the next one.
That was why he spent almost four hours to complete the thousand-odd Nuance-level matches.
When he completed the last Nuance trial, Lin Huang vaguely felt as though his Sword Dao had increased just a sliver after a long plateau.
Although the change was extremely minute, it had to be noted that his Sword Dao was at level-6 now. Even an increase that small did not come easy.
He spent another half an hour to close his eyes and digest all he had learned over those thousand-odd fights. Finally, Lin Huang opened his eyes and looked at the level-2 Consonance sword marks.
He swept his gaze across the walls. There were slightly fewer Consonance sword marks than there had been Nuance ones, numbering up to slightly over eight hundred.
Lin Huang randomly chose one and reached his Telekinesis toward it.
The next instant, his consciousness was pulled into the sword mark space once more.
Unlike previously, Lin Huang could feel that suppressed Sword Dao had been unsealed somewhat, but only to the extent of a complete-stage level-2 Consonance cultivator.
Some of the sword skills he could not use during the Nuance level had also been unlocked after his Sword Dao level increased.
Lin Huang could even clearly feel that his sword skills’ potency had increased accordingly as well.
With the experience from more than a thousand Nuance-level battles earlier, Lin Huang felt even more comfortable now with the new round of matches.
Just as before, he chose the same slow and steady approach. Whenever he encountered a sword skill that piqued his interest, he would allow his opponent to flaunt all their skills before killing them.
The eight hundred matches there took Lin Huang another three and a half hours.
Actually, the battles did not take him too much time. He spent more time trying to digest the battles afterward.
Nevertheless, the time he spent was worth it.
Upon completing the Consonance trials, Lin Huang could clearly feel his Sword Dao improving again.
For the next stage, level-3 Illumination, there were only slightly over six hundred marks.
For level-4 Oblivion, there were only slightly over four hundred marks.
For level-5 Void Breaker, there were only two hundred and eighty marks.
As the levels increased, it was clear that Great Heaven’s criteria grew stricter.
By the time he reached level-5, every one of Lin Huang’s battles took over three hours. Some even took more than six hours. On one hand, his opponents grew stronger, but on the other hand, they showed more skills as well, so the battles became even more beneficial to Lin Huang.
Thankfully, it did not matter how long he spent in the sword mark spaces. That had no effect on the passage of time outside.
However, Lin Huang spent more time digesting his post-battle thoughts as well.
The level-5 fights had taken him two days and two nights to digest it all.
After the two days’ digestion, Lin Huang could clearly feel his level-6 Sword Dao approaching the final complete stage.
“I’m so close to being a complete-stage Deity!” Lin Huang looked at the remaining sword marks on the wall, his eyes shining. There were a hundred and twenty-one marks there emanating the level-6 aura. “Mu Sword Dao will probably reach the complete stage before I complete the level-6 trials.”
Lin Huang was growing ever more ecstatic. He had even temporarily forgotten all about his final aim upon completing these trials, losing himself in the process of the trials themselves.
He looked around at the hundred and twenty-one sword marks, and soon Lin Huang settled on one of them.
It was a line from a poem that said, “This gold-engraved sword in a hilt of jade shall, through the curtains, the night illuminate.” (Note: from a patriotic poem by Southern Song poet, Lu You.)
“Interesting. You’ll be first, then.”
Lin Huang grinned and reached his Telekinesis toward it.
When his body was formed inside the sword mark space, Lin Huang finally felt free of the oppression he suffered earlier.
His Sword Dao was completely unleashed now, and all his sword skills and Sword Dao methods were completely unlocked. Even his combat level was back to the grade-9 imperial-level.
Just as Lin Huang was wondering what kind of an opponent he would face, a pop-up suddenly appeared before him.
“The participant’s cultivation route is unique. Despite your being only imperial-level at the moment, the Divine Power in your body is almost equal to that of a destiny-level rank-9 (rank-9 virtual god level). Hence, all the Sword Dao users will have their combat powers adjusted to destiny-level rank-9.
“Alright…” Lin Huang did not have any objections to that.
If the opponent was an imperial palace-level like he was, he would probably kill them all with one slash. It would be even easier than the level-5 fights earlier.
Before this, his power had been restricted to match his opponents’, but now it was finally time for the others to stoop to his level instead.
The level-6 Sword Dao Deity was completely unlike the first five levels. There was a huge barrier between them.
Level-6 Sword Dao would only increase evidently when he mastered mythical-level sword skills. Even pseudo-mythical-level sword skills had a limited effect on his improvement.
That was why very few sword cultivators below virtual god-level could reach level-6. Those who were below virtual god-level did not have Divine Power in their bodies, so they could not cultivate mythical-level sword skills.
Of course, that did not mean that it was impossible for sword cultivators below virtual god-level to increase their Sword Dao to level-6. There were powerhouses who mastered enough sword skills below mythical level, after which they grinded a little and slowly broke past the limits of level-5 Sword Dao.
Nevertheless, this method was not possible without mastering almost ten thousand different sword skills.
That went far beyond merely learning the skills. They had to merge them completely and digest these sword skills inside out, until their mastery was so complete that there was nothing else to be done.
That was why there were very few sword cultivators below virtual god level who managed to reach level-6. Even once they reached level-6, it would be nearly impossible for them to improve even further.
Lin Huang had a cheat code on his side, so he could already use Divine Power at imperial palace level. He had also mastered more than ten mythical-level sword skills and several hundred pseudo-mythical-level sword skills.
By now, he had also experienced several thousand battles between sword cultivators in Swordfiend Abyss, and only then did he approach the complete stage of level-6 Sword Dao.
Any other imperial palace-level would not even dream of learning mythical-level sword skills. Even buying a pseudo-mythical-level sword skill that did not require Divine Power to use would probably cost them far more than they could afford.
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