Even though the maneuvers of the brawny man looked profound, in truth, all his attacks were made up of twelve basic movements.
This was similar to how his Heaven's Path Sword Art only had a single move, but through its countless possible transformations, he was able to bring out different moves to handle different situations.
The crux of a battle technique lay in the intent, not the form. As long as the intent was precise, the attack would eventually connect.
Zhang Xuan quickly went through the twelve moves in his head, and he could not help but exclaim in astonishment.
This hammer art was rather similar to the Ascendant Cloud Sword God Formula that he had practiced. The twelve moves had to be executed in a certain order.
Zhang Xuan quickly jotted down the movements in his head and compiled them together with the Heaven's Path Hammer Art. The correct sequence appeared before his eyes, and he quickly moved his hammer in accordance to it.
Barely after making two moves, he felt a different aura rising from the depths of his body. He had reached at an epiphany.
"This is... the Gods' Hammer Intent?" Zhang Xuan's lips twitched.
He did not think that he would comprehend the Gods' Hammer Intent through learning the brawny man's hammer art. Furthermore, just like the Gods' Sword Intent that he had learned previously, it had reached the level of a true god.
After comprehending the Gods' Hammer Intent, the movements of the brawny man before him suddenly became utterly hideous. He noticed all kinds of flaws in the other party's movements, and by exploiting one of them, he was able to subdue the other party within a few strikes.
His surroundings abruptly blurred, and when he came to once more, he was standing before the eight paintings yet again.
Right before his eyes, Zhang Xuan saw the colored painting of the brawny man losing its vibrance, turning into a gray image.
He blinked blankly.
So, the reason the paintings lost their color was because someone had successfully challenged them and comprehended the gods' battle technique harnessed within?
In other words...
"It's said that Kong shi managed to snatch a (God)' character after entering the Hall of Gods, and the founder of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion managed to snatch half a character... Could this be what they mean by it?"
Of the eight paintings, there was one that had turned into a black-and-white portrait, like the painting of the brawny man. At the same time, the painting of the person wielding a sword had lost half of its color.
This was in line with what he had heard so far.
"This also explains why the twelve hammer maneuvers are so similar to the twelve moves of the Ascendant Cloud Sword God Formula." Zhang Xuan widened his eyes in realization.
Most likely, the founder of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion had fought the person in the painting to a draw, so he had only managed to acquire half of the ■神（God), character. Even though he had managed to learn all twelve maneuvers, he had not been able to figure out the correct sequence.
This resulted in the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion being able to produce Semi-Divinity realm cultivators without overcoming the Azure Bridge, just that the number of successful cases was extremely low, incomparable to that of the Ethereal Hall.
"Since I have comprehended the twelve maneuvers of the hammer art, doesn't that mean that I have successfully snatched a •神（God)’ character, just like Kong shi did back then?"
That also meant that the place he was in at the moment was where Kong shi and the founder of the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion had barged into back then!
It was no wonder no one in the Azure, except for those two, had succeeded in the past several thousand years. It was indeed no easy feat to defeat those people in the paintings.
After comprehending the Pathos of Heavens and raising his cultivation to Earthly Semi-Divinity realm, he could be considered the strongest individual on the Forsaken Continent aside from Kong shi!
Despite his strength, he had struggled quite a bit against the brawny man before he was able to achieve victory.
From this, it was apparent just how difficult it was a feat to acquire a _神（God)_ character!
"You have acquired a 1神（God)_ character. You are qualified to proceed."
While Zhang Xuan was deep in thought, the stone staircase descended from above once again, showing a path that led endlessly upward.
Heaving a sigh of relief, Zhang Xuan was just about to step onto the stairs when a thought surfaced in his mind.
"Since I still have time, why don't I take away the battle techniques harnessed in the other paintings?"
Even though he seemed to have taken some time to comprehend the hammer art and defeat the brawny man, in truth, it had only been ten minutes at most. Going by the rate in which the water was dripping down, it had only been a fourth of the total time!
Since he had plenty of time to spare, it went without saying that he should acquire a few more (God)' characters!
After all, he was not the head of one sect but four sects! He could not possibly be biased by imparting the battle technique to only one of the sects, right?
With such thoughts in mind, Zhang Xuan stretched his hand forward to touch the painting depicting a lady holding a sword.
Similar to before, his surroundings warped as he was pulled into the painting.
The next moment, the lady in the painting immediately charged toward him with the sword she had in hand.
In response, Zhang Xuan released his Gods' Sword Intent and began brandishing his sword, too.
Within just three breaths, the enemy had already collapsed onto the white floor, turning into a splatter of ink.
"With this, I have managed to put together the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion's (God)' character," Zhang Xuan murmured with a chuckle.
Countless generations of disciples in the Ascendant Cloud Sword Pavilion had worked themselves to the bone in hopes of completing the half ■神（God)1 character their sect possessed. With this, he would have fulfilled their long-time wish.
After the painting turned gray, Zhang Xuan moved on to the one, which depicted an old man executing a battle technique. Without any hesitation, he reached out and touched the painting.
Five minutes later, he reappeared in the spacious hall, and the painting of the old man had turned gray.
With his prior experience, he knew what he had to do as soon as he entered the painting. As a result, he was much faster than the first time!
His efficiency only continued to rise for the remaining four paintings. It took him less than fifteen minutes in order to clear all of them. Only then did he finally place his foot on the stone staircase and begin heading toward the third floor.
The third floor was extremely spacious as well.
The surroundings were well-lit, and there were no paintings nor formations in sight. If there was one word to describe the area, it would be 'empty'.
Halting his footsteps, Zhang Xuan scanned his surroundings and shouted, "Kong shi, isn't it about time for you to make an appearance?"
Since the other party had set up all of this and baited him in, it should finally be time for the other party to appear.
Just as he had expected, right after he said those words, a tall figure appeared before his eyes.
It was none other than Kong shi!
Glaring at Kong shi with narrowed eyes, Zhang Xuan took out his Tongshang Sword and gripped its handle tightly.
This was the man who had attempted to take his life multiple times in order to acquire his Library of Heaven's Path. Since this man dared appear before him, he would have to return the favor!
However, Zhang Xuan quickly noticed that something was amiss. "What's wrong? Do you not dare face me with your main body?"
He realized that the other party was just a sliver of his will. It was not the main body at all.
Could it be that Kong shi knew that he had already reached the Semi-Divinity realm and feared that he was not a match for him anymore?
Paying no heed to Zhang Xuan's provocation, Kong shi placed his hands behind his back and spoke calmly. "It's formidable that you were able to clear seven paintings on your own. That being said, you'll still have to defeat me in order to obtain the Aura of Divinity and earn the right to become a real god!"
"You want to have a fight?
Seeing that Kong shi was not escaping, Zhang Xuan raised his Tongshang Sword and slashed it furiously. He knew that his opponent would be powerful, so he used the Gods' Sword Intent right from the start.
"I won't take advantage of you either." Kong shi chuckled softly.
He suppressed his Heavenly Semi-Divinity realm cultivation down to Earthly Semi-Divinity realm, the same level as Zhang Xuan.
With a flick of his finger, he took out a sword. It was hard to tell what tier it was, but it emanated an imposing chill. With a swift movement, he charged right up to Zhang Xuan.
His Sword Intent burst forth as though a vigorous dragon.
Just these few moves were enough to tell Zhang Xuan that Kong shi was a true expert. Even though what he was facing was just a sliver of Kong shi's will, the latter's comprehension of swordsmanship was actually beneath his at all. On the contrary, it might even have surpassed his!
Despite being in the same cultivation realm, he was not able to claim an advantageous position!
"How did you become so powerful?" Zhang Xuan muttered in disbelief.
Back then, Kong shi had barely been able to fight on par with his clone.
However, he was already stronger than his clone at the moment, and he had comprehended so many gods' battle techniques too. Under normal circumstances, he should have been able to defeat the other party's will easily. He did not expect that he would face such a tough battle.
"He's also using a type of Heaven's Path Sword Art as well."
Kong shi's swordplay was also aligned with the world around him. Despite its simplicity, the might that it harnessed was not one to look down upon.
Even though the two of them were using Heaven's Path Sword Arts, the natures of their swordsmanship were vastly different from one another. Zhang Xuan's swordsmanship was focused on exploiting the flaws of others, but Kong shi's swordsmanship was able to influence his opponent's swordplay, forcing it to obey his order.
It felt as if his sword was dancing to Kong shi's tune instead.
How was he supposed to win in such a battle?
"Is this the ability of Heavens' Order?" Zhang Xuan felt his heart turning cold.
He had heard Kong shi speaking about his ability before, but the latter did not use it while he was fighting with his clone, so he had not paid it any heed. It was only at this moment that he realized just how frightening that ability was.
It was strikingly similar to Kong Shiyao's bloodline ability, Word of Law.
Even if he managed to find a flaw to exploit, it would be meaningless when his sword was bending to Kong shi's will!
This had already gone past the level of swordsmanship to the laws of the world. Through changing the order of the world, Kong shi was able to maintain an absolute dominion around him, and nothing was able to faze him.
This was a battle that could not be won!
"There's no way I could lose to an opponent who is at the same level as me!" Zhang Xuan bellowed lividly.
Other than his clone, he had never lost to anyone in the same cultivation realm as him.
The person before him was just a sliver of will from Kong shi, so how could he possibly lose?
There was no way he would allow it!
Thus, Zhang Xuan began changing his attacking pattern. While executing his swordsmanship with his right hand, he began launching battle techniques one after another with his left.
It was as if he had split into two people in an instant, one specializing in swordsmanship and the other specializing in battle techniques. Furthermore, both attacks were infused with the Gods' Intent. With such might, he was more than qualified to start his own sect and rule over the entire Forsaken Continent!
Just like that, his fighting prowess doubled.
"Not bad." Kong shi's will nodded with an approving smile.
Following Zhang Xuan's example, he began to execute swordsmanship with his right hand and battle techniques with his left as well. With this, he managed to defend against Zhang Xuan's offense without any trouble.
Seeing this sight, Zhang Xuan felt goosebumps rising all over him.
Was this Kong shi's true strength?
Was the only reason his clone had been able to defeat Kong shi back then because the latter had not fully recovered his strength yet?
Peng peng peng!
After trading over a dozen blows, Zhang Xuan felt that he would eventually fall in defeat. He was still managing to stand his ground, but slowly, he could feel the tides of the battle moving toward Kong shi's side, and this left him feeling deeply anxious.
So, with a narrowed gaze, a vicious glint flashed across his eyes.
It seems like I can only try out my new technique on him...
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