Chapter Thirty Six Selection
White Goat Cave was not large, and that small temple at the highest point, like an island among the clouds, was only three hundred meters above the bottom.
Zhang Yi walked and stopped repeatedly as he described the uses of some White Goat Cave buildings and the rules. They only travelled about a half hour before the important Library Cave appeared in front of Ding Ning.
The Library Cave was a crude stone building carved out of the mountain. The only entryway was a rope bridge swaying in the wind.
The boards on the rope bridge were slightly black and gave off the feeling of being unsafe.
The sect uncle in charge of the punishments, Li Daoji, was standing in front of this rope bridge.
Zhang Yi cautiously went forward and greeted him.
Li Daoji nodded and then his stern and authoritative gaze landed on Ding Ning. He looked at Ding Ning and said slowly, “Cultivation is to leave the world and not be disturbed. One should spend their mind and efforts on feeling the primal energies of the universe to cultivate the fastest. So all cultivation sects are separated from the outside world. However, there is also the saying to cultivate is to join the world. Some people will cultivate in the world, and cultivate faster after experiencing more. Even the strongest cultivator cannot escape intrigue and scheming. Joining the world to cultivate means one will not be like the goldfish raised in clear pond waters who is unaccustomed when they join into the raging river. Cave Master said you are a special case, but this, in the end, depends on your cultivation advancement, and whether you qualify.”
Ding Ning looked at his cold eyes and said, “Sect Uncle means I can return to Falling Parasol Alley if I can prove my cultivation will advance fast enough?”
Li Daoji’s brow furrowed slightly. He did not know how much this wine shop youth had understood from his words but he nodded and said clearly, “You can pick and learn from the records in the Library Cave. The cave master will adjust and arrange your residence and cultivation based on your performance in these days.”
Listening to Li Daoji’s words, Ding Ning did not have any special reactions. Yet Zhang Yi, Nangong Caishu, and the other disciples behind him were filled with shock and puzzlement again.
While cultivators all use vital energy to attack the vital energy of others and the theory in the cultivation of vital energy was the same, each cultivator was different in body and had different kinds of energies. Therefore, the methods of cultivating vital energy left by previous generations of cultivators were greatly different and the vital energy that was created would have different attributes.
An extreme example was the True Fire Palace of the Yan Dynasty. Only core disciples qualified to study the Mountain Demon True Fire Art. When their vital energy moved the primal energies of the universe, they could only turn into terrifying true fire. The only female bureau chief of the Qin Dynasty, Ye Celeng, cultivated the Fire Water Divine Art of Heavenly Prime Sword Pavilion which manifested as all kinds of water flows.
Different methods and swordsmanship will have different powers and effects when used against other enemies.
Usually, when a disciple joins the sect, the sect would teach them based on their potential and attributes, give suggestions and help them pick a suitable cultivation method and swordsmanship method.
The selection of the cultivation method was the first step to crossing the river in the darkness, and would determine the cultivator’s life.
White Goat Cave was giving special treatment to Ding Ning by not giving any suggestions and letting Ding Ning pick as he pleased.
Even after Li Daoji left again and disappeared, Zhang Yi still didn’t quite believe this was true. However, he would not go against the decision of the cave master he respected. He crossed the rope bridge and led Ding Ning and the others to the stone building outside the Library Cave. He couldn’t stop himself from warning Ding Ning, “Junior Sect Brother, there are many vital energy methods in the Library cave, some are very powerful, and all are unique. But you must see if they have any shortcomings or are suited to you. You have to carefully think over them.”
The stone door to the cave opened and revealed a flight of stairs going up.
When they walked from the gates to the Library Cave, Nangong Caishu had deliberately maintained a distance from Ding Ning. As she and Ding Ning entered the cave, Nangong Caishu finally could not resist and caught up to Ding Ning to ask her question. “When you did the Flowing Stone Disk test, did you pick one wrong pebble on purpose?”
Ding Ning had not expected she was still thinking about this question. He turned and saw her curious and serious gaze. He couldn’t help but smile.
“You did it on purpose so everyone could see the contrast immediately, right?” Nangong Caishu seemed to see something from his smile. Her heart shook.
“I can quickly take out four, of course I can get all five.” Ding Ning glanced at her and said softly, “I just did not want to spend too much time.”
“From the start, you knew you could definitely pass an entry test like this.” Hearing his answer, Nangong Caishu’s brow furrowed even deeper. She looked suspiciously at Ding Ning. “This matter is too strange. Even if you know you are a genius, you should have this kind of absolute confidence, and then the cave master of White Goat Cave gave you special treatment and let you enter the library cave without any suggestion … able to pass the Flowing Disk and jade soldier test, other than having practiced before with them, are you … the bastard child of the cave master of White Goat Cave?”
Ding Ning had been listening with interest but when he heard her conclusion, he almost tripped.
“Miss Nangong, your imagination is too rich.”
He looked at Nangong Caishu whose eyes were filled with suspicion and said helplessly, “People with imagination such as yours should go to the Astrology Bureau as an investigator.”
“Did you only rely on your talent?” Nangong Caishu’s gaze was still doubtful. She thought as she talked, “Since you are sure you have talent like this, why didn’t you not attend the spring tests of the sects? Each person in Changling knows most sect entry tests do not have any limitations except for Min Mountain Sword Sect and Spirit Void Sword Sect. Anyone of suitable age can attend. Also, based on your performance today, if you did not cheat, you can enter a better sect.”
Ding Ning’s heart sank slightly.
This was a flaw that could attract suspicion. Other people would also have similar questions. He must give a logical explanation.
he frowned slightly, thought, and said, “Cultivation … is not something everyone thinks about. At the start, I did not know I had the potential to become a cultivator until Fang Xiumu saw me, until I encountered Wang Taixu.”
“Fang Xiumu? Fang Xiumu of the Fang Marquessate Establishment?” Nangong Caishu was shocked.
Fang Qilin, one of the three marquessate establishments of the Qin, was old. However, the Fang Marquessate Establishment showed no signs of decline, but was about to surpass other marquessate establishments because Fang Qilin had two sons others could only admire.
One of the sons, Fang Xiang, was similar to Nangong Caishu’s father, a strong general who was stationed at the border towns. The other son, Fang Xiumu, was famed for his love of the sword and nothing else.
While the world did not know what Fang Xiumu’s true cultivation realm was, even ten years ago, many of the powerful people in Changling were sure that Fang Xiumu was the fastest cultivator among everyone in Changling of similar age.
Based on his cultivation breakthrough speed, even the two ministers and Yuanwu Emperor had stated that he was the cultivator with the best hope of reaching realm seven first class among the young cultivators of Changling.
Above realm seven was realm eight, a realm that only a rare few had ever reached in history.
A person who could receive this kind of evaluation from the two ministers and the Holy One was a legend that someone like Nangong Caishu had to look up to.
“Who is Wang Taixu?”
Nangong Caishu breathed deeply to calm herself down as she asked Ding Ning.
“The master of Two Level Tower, one of the gangs.”
Ding Ning looked at Nangong Caishu and said calmly, “Fang Xiumu came to see me, and I learned I had good cultivation potential. But Fang Marquessate Establishment still gave up on me because my health has a troublesome problem… later, I met Wang Taixu who was fighting with other gangs and wanted to take a risk. I decided to gamble and to take his help to join White Goat Cave.”
“Gamble?” Nangong Caishu asked in incomprehension. “What is troublesome about your health?”
Ding Ning looked at her. “My energies too strong. I will die early if I have no special opportunities. Once I start cultivating, I may die even earlier.”
Ding Ning’s words were calm but were like thunder in Nangong Caishu’s ears.
Her breathing stuttered. “Die earlier … how much earlier?”
Ding Ning said, “Maybe in my thirties.”
Nangong Caishu stopped walking.
Her face paled. She could not imagine how a sunny youth like Ding Ning only had a decade or so of life left, and he could discuss this matter so calmly.
“So I am not the bastard of White Goat Cave Master. He is giving me special treatment, maybe because he feels no matter what I cultivate, it may be useless in the end.” Ding Ning looked at her and smiled slightly. He said, “The other possibility is that he wants to see my judgement. Cultivation depends on oneself in the end. He wants to see, based on my intuition, can I pick a manual suited to me, and live a few more years.”
Looking at his smile, Nangong Caishu was silent for a long time. She thought of a saying, some people cultivated for more glory, some cultivated because cultivation was their life.
Ding Ning continued to walk. The stairs came to an end, and a cave that seemed to be immersed in gentle light appeared in front of him.
This was a cave with many ventilation holes.
Many reflective crystals seemed to be set up in those ventilation holes. The gentle rays of light spread to every corner of the cave but blocked the rain so this cave seemed to be frozen in time.
All kinds of books were placed on the shelves around the cave.
There was a narrow stairway in front of him that should lead to the inner cave.
Ding Ning stepped into the Library Cave. Starting from his left, he started to look seriously at the books on each shelf.
Nangong Caishu focused and followed.
As a disciple of Green Vine Sword School, she had the good fortune to enter the libraries of other cultivation places. She needed to take advantage of each second and see more to find something that could help her cultivation greatly. But at this moment, most of her thoughts were gathered on Ding Ning.
She wanted to know immediately what cultivation method Ding Ning would choose in the end.