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Chapter 71: There Are No Free Advantages
He Zhaoxi did not say another word.
Regardless of an opponent’s strength and cultivation, some opponents were deserving of due respect.
Looking at Ding Ning, he once again raised his sword and solemnly said, “Please!”
Ding Ning also raised the Last Flower remnant sword and with a slight smile, said, “Please!”
He Zhaoxi looked at Ding Ning who did not want to attack first, then at his sword remnant sword. He frowned.
In the next moment, he nodded and said, “Alright.”
As he spoke, he started to move. He charged in a straight line towards Ding Ning, his body like a stone flung out of a catapult. He roared through space and once again created a terrifying wind.
The yellow fallen leaves flew to form a wall in front of him. He followed this wall that flew towards Ding Ning and swung his sword. He had used up his vital energy so when he swung his sword, no lines of fire were kindled. But due to the speed of his swing, his blow still had terrifying power.
The straight blade in his hand curved due to his speed. At the moment the curved blade straightened with a pop, the power released and landed on the dried leaves in front of him.
The disorderly flying leaves suddenly grew heavy. In the next moment, they hissed as they shot towards Ding Ning like arrows.
He Zhaoxi took a deep breath. His movements suddenly grew gentle. His long sword moved from a swing into a stab, its tip hid among the flying dried leaves.
Many students on the viewing platform had complicated expressions as they watched the leaves form a wall and then turn into arrows by a sword strike before He Zhaoxi’s sword tip hid within the leaves.
The collective thought was that if it were them, they might not be able to withstand He Zhaoxi’s attack.
Ding Ning continuously retreated, his remnant sword raised to shield his eyes. He ignored the flying leaves, and allowed them to hit his body, and even scrape bloody wounds on his face.
But when the sword tip was close to his left shoulder, his sword came down hard.
His blow parried the flexible yellow longsword, sparks flying from their point of contact.
Several pairs of eyes lit up on the viewing platform. They hadn’t expected Ding Ning to accurately parry this blow with so many flying leaves obscuring his view.
He Zhaoxi’s breathing paused slightly.
Feeling the impact of power passing back from his sword, his brow creased slightly. Without any hesitation, his body once again moved as though he was going to leap forward. He pressed with all of his weight.
At this time, the edges of his yellow longsword and Ding Ning’s remnant sword were just half an inch apart. So, there was no pause or dodging. The two swords crossed again with a clamour.
Ding Ning let out a muffled grunt. Clearly, he could not withstand this force. His right arm suddenly swung backwards. In a flash, he fell back multiple steps as if hit by a charging horse.
He Zhaoxi took a step.
Just one stride, he had covered the distance of Ding Ning’s retreat. His hand was still unusually steady as the yellow longsword was swung again.
The edges of his sword tore at the air. The sword was able to move quickly through the air but when it came near Ding Ning’s body, the sword twisted and the blade once again curved.
With a snap, He Zhaoxi swung his sword like he was swinging a hammer to hit Ding Ning’s body.
Numerous white flowers immediately bloomed on Ding Ning’s inky green sword. He frowned and maintained the output of physical energy as he blocked in front of him.
An ear-piercing metallic ring sounded.
His sword accurately blocked He Zhaoxi’s blade but the powerful force still caused his remnant sword to bounce back to aim at his own chest.
As Ding Ning had originally been retreating, his feet now left the ground as though he was hit by a large rock. Under everybody’s gaze, he flew backwards in a sorry state.
When his feet landed on the ground once again, a stream of blood came out of his lips and flowed down his pale skin.
“There are no free advantages in the world!”
At the scene below, Xie Changsheng couldn’t help but shout furiously from the viewing platform.
He Zhaoxi was no ordinary student. He clearly possessed more skills and richer combat experience. With his tactic of using pure force, Ding Ning’s understanding of the Wildfire Sword was quite ineffective.
He Zhaoxi could easily attack even before Ding Ning recovered. Ding Ning had no time to react or use refined sword forms.
Xie Changsheng could imagine Ding Ning’s wrists hurting from each block to He Zhaoxi’s sword. His arms should be numb and painful. He would not be able to recover quickly.
“There are no free advantages in the world.”
As Xie Changsheng expressed his thoughts, there was one other who thought the same., A middle-aged man sitting on a bench in a street shop drinking noodle soup and spoke disdainfully to a young man next to him.
This middle-aged man with a dignified look and slightly red complexion had a thick yellow bamboo carry pole by his feet. His clothes were also that of an ordinary labourer, and even his straw sandals were dirty and worn out. However, his true identity was the manhunt commissioner Qin Xuan. In the Divinity Bureau, he was slightly lower in rank than the evil hounds like Mo Qinggong; but his experience was equal to Mo Qinggong and the others. Consequently, in the Divinity Bureau, he could make most people heed, and not have to worry about most others.
The young person sitting next to him, Meng Tianfang, was “fresh meat” that had only just arrived at the Divinity Bureau. He came from a relatively good sect in Changling, but after entering the Divinity Bureau, this person had to call him Master, and follow his orders and teachings.
Youths who had managed to enter the Divinity Bureau were truly hard-working, quick to learn, clever, and extremely observant; except for those that came with special backgrounds. Qin Xuan’s words had a profound effect on Meng Tianfang..
They sat facing Lion Alley. This was an unusually busy and prosperous place in Changling. At one end of the alley was the Jiujiang Commandery Meeting Hall and at the other was the Shangdang Commandery Meeting Hall. Between them were shops that sold antiques and artworks.
The Qin Dynasty had already created forty three commanderies and commanded an unprecedented number of officials. Changling was also unprecedented in its size, vast and magnificent. Some people who came from remote commanderies to Changling to attend to matters, frequently had no place to start and got fooled by locals in this unfamiliar place. Some merchant businesses led the way in creating meeting halls for locals.
These meeting halls were places for rest, and also for people from the commanderies to find others in Changling to help, and make friends. So, usually, these places were always bustling with carriages and horses.
Ever since Emperor Yuanwu had ascended the throne, the Qin Dynasty had been at peace for more than a decade, and every person could be clothed and well-fed. Some nobility started to take care with the food they ate and the items they used. The price of calligraphy, paintings, antiques, and furniture had increased in price.
What had elicited Qin Xuan’s words was a transaction.
One non-local businessman had purchased a jade scepter for a hundred taels of silvers from a street merchant who claimed that the scepter was from the You Dynasty. If this really was a scepter from the You Dynasty, it would cost at least one thousand taels of silver. The merchants on this Changling street had been in business for many years. They would not sell at such a low price. But from the happy face of the foreign businessman, he was clearly not going to take this counterfeit and sell it on his return. His obvious joy was because he thought he had keen eyes and managed to strike a great bargain and at such a low price.
Even if Qin Xuan did not know much about antiques, he was certain that something like this could not happen. This person was clearly overwhelmed and blinded by greed.
Qin Xuan drained the noodle soup and looked disdainfully at the blithe foreign businessman. Suddenly, his demeanour turned strange.
The young Divinity Bureau official next to him detected something and became nervous. He whispered, “Master, what is it?”
“The Changling Guard.”
Qin Xuan looked oddly at the other end of the alley as though in response but also like he was speaking to himself. “Why is the Changling Guard here?”
Meng Tianfang, the young Divinity Bureau official, was puzzled and followed Qin Xuan’s line of sight. He saw dozens of Changling guards dressed in mail armor pass through another alley and head towards a procession of carriages. That caravan had just left the gates of the Jiujiang Commandery Meeting Hall.
Meng Tianfang’s mein immediately turned odd. He felt those Changling Guards were about to inspect that train of carriages. But Changling’s investigations were performed by the Divinity Bureau and Astrology Bureau. If they had to seal off places and set up inspection points, they would rely on the Tiger-Wolf Army that was stationed in Changling.
The Changling Guards belonged to the Warden’s Office just like the Tiger-Wolf Army but their duties were usually limited to guarding and patrolling certain places such as the offices of some bureaus, some marquessate establishments, the imperial palace perimeters and the tombs of past kings.
Of course, they could randomly inspect suspicious people and act when facing certain criminals. But on the chessboard of Changling, the Changling Guards was a relatively useless piece. For example, dogs could go catch mice at home, but it was the cats who were responsible for catching mice. It would seem odd if the dog guarding the door went to another place to catch mice.
More importantly, Meng Tianfang and Qin Xuan were keeping an eye on this place because they knew there was a cultivator, a “great rebel”, hiding in this Jiujiang Commandery Meeting Hall.
Translator Ramblings: Competition between different government ministries … someone is overreaching.