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Chapter 67: A True Great Rebel
When Ding Ning swung the remnant sword, unappealing as though he was chopping wood, both sides of the armored lizard’s neck slit open. Its body and forelimbs slowed, and in the end, the entire head stopped moving as it almost fell off.
Ding Ning was fiercely panting. Limited by cultivation, his arms were starting to feel sore. With the expenditure of his physical energy, he had started to feel the exhaustion.
But he was well-aware he had no time to linger. Looking at the gory armored lizard, he bent down, and used the Last Flower sword in his hand like a crowbar to pry the scales on the armored lizard’s back before he carefully started to cut meat.
Killing a beast like this and cutting its flesh was something very distant to him. So he couldn’t help but feel slightly disgusted. More importantly, the organs of the armored lizard, especially its digestive pouch, contained toxins that could make cultivators ill along with other foul things. Consequently, he had to control the penetration of his sword so he would not cut into the organs as he cut the flesh.
A student from White Cloud Monastery like Xie Changsheng recovered from his shock as he watched Ding Ning carefully cut meat. He couldn’t help but whisper “He seems to understand quite a lot.”
Xu Heshan took a deep breath and slowly said, “There are many books in the alleys.”
Gu Xichun’s eyebrows rose again as his eyes narrowed. He was clear that Xu Heshan was using these words to strike at him.
This was an old saying of the Qin Dynasty with a dual meaning.
One was that people born in ordinary streets and alleys rarely had a chance to become cultivators. So, most of them could only study, and try to make a living by becoming advisors.
The other was that those born in streets and alleys had a harder time in becoming a cultivator compared to noblities. So those that wanted to become cultivators would desire cultivation knowledge to a greater extent. They were so desirous they would read any book they could find on cultivation.
So many cultivators who came from the streets and alleys often knew more. Once they became cultivators, they would treasure each opportunity more than others, work harder, and usually have greater accomplishments.
“He started too late.” Gu Xichun thought and then felt that arguing about Ding Ning who was far in status from him was lowering his own status. So he calmed down in the end.
His words were quite just so all the surrounding students agreed with him and fell silent.
With the talent Ding Ning displayed now, even if he would have been born in an ordinary noble family, he would have started cultivating seven or eight years ago and the family would have done their best to give him everything that could help him.
Yet, he had only experienced a month of cultivation at this age. So even if he possessed a stunning talent for cultivation, he was very far behind He Zhaoxi, Gu Xichun, and even Nangong Caishu. Perhaps, this distance of seven years would cause him to fall behind in all future competitions and he would never be able to catch up.
Xu Heshan knew this was reality and could not bicker. He too sank into silence. But he thought this was unjust, so he felt even more depressed and his face grew uglier.
“He started late, but when ordinary people like us are walking, he is running with all his might.” A clear female voice, with indescribable power, sounded at this time.
Xie Rou had spoke up. Her gaze did not leave Ding Ning.
Ding Ning had finished slicing meat from the back of the armored lizard at this time. The meat on the armored lizard’s back was the thickest, the roughest, and the worst to eat. However, it was the cleanest and safest.
After treating the two pieces of meat he cut and squeezing out some blood, Ding Ning used cloth and vines to put the meat on his back. Because time was already tight for Ding Ning, he started to sprint with large strides towards the area with the four columns of smoke. The two pieces of meat together weighed just slightly over five pounds. But Ding Ning was weaker than most cultivators, and had just survived two fierce battles. He had yet to recover his breath from killing this armored lizard and cutting the meat and thus running was laborious.
Even the people on the viewing platform could see that Ding Ning’s hands and legs were shaking slightly. They could see that his chest was rising fiercely as though it was about to snap. His searing breaths and the hot air rising off his body formed layers of white mist around his form.
At this time, all the White Goat Cave and Green Vine Sword School disciples who had not been eliminated at the entrance area were far ahead of Ding Ning. Some of them who had the smooth sailing were at the border of the smoke area and about to enter.
Ding Ning was almost alone and behind.
Everybody on the viewing platform could easily see that with his running speed, if there were no surprises, he could barely make it to the designated area just before noon.
Even so, his unusually arduous yet tenacious and serene sprinting frame moved the others. They could feel he possessed a power and resolve that many were bereft of.
Light spread on Xie Rou’s face. Her eyes contained a brilliance almost as bright as the noon sun. She too was among the few who were moved. Yet, the radiance in her eyes stirred more fellow spectators.
Ding Ning was running. He was racing against time, pursuing with the young talents of White Goat Cave and Green Vine Sword School who had already reached the area. His body was almost at its limit. There seemed to be a fire burning in his chest as he breathed.
Nonetheless, his gaze was always calm and cold as he looked into the distance.
What Xie Rou and the many on the viewing platform did not know was that his pursuit had more meaning … he was in pursuit of his life, the powerful and great cultivators of Changling, those marquises, the empress and the two ministers. And also, that powerful Emperor who had reached realm eight, who had the rivers and mountains of the entire dynasty at his feet.
As Ding Ning struggled in his run, a man in yellow python-patterned robes stood with hands behind his back on the sparring field of a military camp, casting a frosty gaze towards the faraway streets of Changling.
Because Changling was too large and the end was not within sights, it appeared boundless.
This man had a radiant complexion emanating a luster like topaz. His forehead was wide, eyes contained immense eminence, as though he could hold the entire military camp in his palm at any moment.
He was the general of the Northern Tiger-Wolf Army, Liang Lian.
At this time, a black-robed advisor in his forties stood at his side.
Compared to the cultivator who lamented “an accomplishment built on ten thousand lives”, this retainer wore a weathered face under grizzled hair.
“Do you really feel I have to do this?” Liang Lian looked into the endless distance as he asked the advisor standing respectfully beside him.
“General, you have to do this,” the black-robed advisor said, softly and nodded.
Liang Lian turned to look at him and said, “Using weapons from the general armory for private purposes, and some tactics to grab resources to support ourselves from the gangsters of Changling will only gain displeasure from the empress and Holy One, even if we were to fail. However, letting off someone like Bai Shanshui, being unable to get hold of Lonely Mountain Sword Hoard, and attempting to conspire with Bai Shanshui; in truth is to rebel. The Holy One will be angry. I do not know how many heads will fall.”
The black-robed advisor’s demeanor did not change. He respectfully and softly, said, “General, you know better than I of your endeavors to establish yourself in Changling … you are like Bureau Chief Ye. The reason you have been able to live well and prosperous is because your swords are mighty enough, you are able and strong.”
Liang Lian shook his head. “I am not like Ye Celeng.”
The black-robed advisor shook his head in response. “You have connections to that person, and since you betrayed that person, the Holy One feels that you may possibly betray him. Thereby, he does not trust you like those three marquises. Also, you should not be without worry because you work for the empress. If we are to comply with the thoughts of the empress and nobility and let Bureau Chief Ye die Ye to obtain the Lonely Mountain Sword Hoard for her and the Holy One, Bureau Chief Ye’s present path will, eventually, be your path.”
Liang Lian’s expression did not change. He remained silent.
” When people like Bureau Chief Ye and and Bai Shanshui grow fewer, Changling will be safer; but you will be even more unsafe. So you cannot let such people die easily. Your foothold always comes from your own strength. If you are strong enough, even if you are not not ennobled, you can always command an area outside the passes.”
The black-robed advisor slowly raised his head and slowly yet determinedly, said, “We climbed out of the piles of dead outside the passes … when the two of us were the only ones that were left alive in the city, we were not afraid. We managed to climb to a position like this. So many people have already died. General, are you afraid now? Everything we did in the past was so that we can control our own paths. This is something you have always taught me.”
Liang Lian was silent for a long time.
The autumn wind carried up yellow sand from the sparring field which blew onto him and the black-robed advisor.
His expression grew warm. He nodded and said, “Yes!”
Translator Ramblings: Social class and inequality exist in this fantasy world. Ding Ning’s probably not very bothered by this since he actually started his plan early so this is really a group of “rich kids” lamenting about the “poor kid.”