This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 1: The Impossible Possibility
In the cold wind, the carriage wheels crushed the dried leaves into finer pieces, only to leave them drifting on the streets in its wake. This carriage, with its cabin wrapped in thick black cotton cloth, closely travelled towards a relay station in the suburbs of Changling.
Several swordsmen from the Warden’s Office stood around the relay station, an uncharacteristic set up. In civvies yet carrying the black longswords of the army, they looked at the incoming carriage and invariably frowned.
They were clear on who was in this carriage. At the thoughts of how this very person had managed to survive the cruel slaughter of that night, and the intentions they harboured today; they were wary and anxious.
Amidst silence, the carriage stopped at the door to the relay station.
Dressed in a black brocade robe, Wang Taixu stepped out of the cabin. He pulled his collar tight, as though he was cold. He nodded politely towards these swordsmen and then stepped into the relay station.
Yu Gu stood with his hands behind his back as he gazed at the plum blossoms outside the window. His grey and white hair was neatly combed. Even if he wore the most ordinary of clothing, one look at his forbidding bearing right now, would suffice to quickly discern that this was a veteran general, hardened to steel by blades and men.
“You should not have come.”
This important official of the Warden’s Office slowly turned around after Wang Taixu walked from behind him. He looked coldly and with pride, at Wang Taixu, and said, “You are extremely lucky to have survived a night like that. You should enjoy the rest of your life.”
Wang Taixu looked at this powerful official, shook his head and said, “General Yu, you are wrong. I did not survive that night because of luck but because many died for me.”
Yu Gu’s face turned slightly cold.
Wang Taixu coughed softly and retrieved some files from his sleeve and held them in front of Yu Gu.
Yu Gu knew what was recorded in those files. He did not accept them immediately and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Wang Taixu smiled and softly said, “In the eyes of many important people, us little fish and shrimps in the streets can be crushed to death at will and be washed away by the rain. But each of my dead brothers had a family, old and young. If I do nothing, my heart will not rest, and there is no meaning in living.”
Yu Gu glanced at him and took the files. He slowly opened them, and his face turned colder as he read.
“We have many more incriminating evidence on other officials too. How many officials that make a living in Changling have clandestine businesses and desist surreptitious money?” Wang Taixu looked calmly at Yu Gu. “Originally, we do not interact with each other. I do not care about other people’s paths, but one of you crossed the border.”
Yu Gu gathered the files with a cold smile and threw it into the fire basin. “Speak your conditions.”
Wang Taixu looked calmly at him and said, “Your Warden’s Office’s is only able to determine the business of transport and the forge in Changling.”
Yu Gu laughed in disdain.
He did not deign to answer Wang Taixu.
Just the Warden’s Office’s transport business of the numerous warehouses was worth countless silver each year. The mining of copper and the manufacturing of armor, the smithing of blades … how much profit was contained in all this? This was a lion opening its mouth so wide that its mouth would split apart.
Wang Taixu did not say anymore. He coughed softly and stood to bid farewell.
When he was already a dozen steps away, Yu Gu looked coldly at his back and coolly said , “Even if you do not care for your life, even if many people can die for you, be mindful of your status. You feel your demand is plausible?”
At these words, Wang Taixu turned back. A thread of a sincere smile appeared on his pale face.
“A wine shop youth who also escaped the assassination attempt by your military experts. You know better than I do what kind of opponent he killed. You should also know that he has not cultivated for long.”
He looked at Yu Gu with a slight smile and slowly said, “On the way here, I received the news that he won in the sword trial festival of Green Vine Sword School and White Goat Cave, one of the top three. If someone said that a wine shop youth was able to avoid such an assassination attempt a month ago, and have such stunning advancement, who would feel it is possible?”
“Since this is possible, then what I do is not impossible.”
After speaking, Wang Taixu turned determinedly and did not look at how Warden’s Office official behind him was feeling.
A swordsman in his thirties walked out of the side door next to Yu Gu and bowed to him. Looking at the distant carriage, he asked, “General, should we kill him?”
Yu Gu, who had by now recovered, shook his head. “A negotiation is one side stating a high price and the other slowly bringing it down. Wang Taixu’s attitude in this meeting shows that he knows where the boundaries lie. He did not ask for more deaths, only asked for more benefits in Changling to settle this matter. This way, he and his subordinates will have a firmer foundation in Changling and will be safer.”
“Also, our Warden’s Office has enough matters already. If something else were to occur, many above us might not be able to keep their positions.”
Yu Gu considered for a moment, eyeing the solemn swordsman awaiting his command. “Go investigate this youth Ding Ning. If he really is like what Wang Taixu said, then he is a talent.”
In Green Vine Sword School, Li Daoji, Duanmu Lian, Xue Wangxu, and Di Qingmei … the elite of Green Vine Sword School and White Goat Cave waited on the mountain path to meet the three winners.
Zhang Yi led the trio. When he reached the group, he offered a calm bow. Ding Ning and Nangong Caishu followed suit.
Their greetings were returned.
Ding Ning looked up at Li Daoji who had a stern face and expressed gratitude. “Sect Uncle Li Daoji, thank you for your sword.”
Li Daoji raised an eyebrow. He seemed to feel that Ding Ning had no need to thank him. After a momentary hesitation, he said, “You did well, you did not waste this sword.”
“Most importantly, I did not waste your goodwill.” Ding Ning smiled and turned to look at Xue Wangxu who was caressing his beard and smiling. “Thank you Cave Master Xue for the special treatment and allowing me to cultivate with the spirit vein.”
“This is a reward you deserve. You do not have to thank me. If you want to thank someone, thank Principal Di. The green suet jade he will gift you will be of greater use.” Xue Wangxu cast a glance of satisfaction at Nangong Caishu and then spoke to Ding Ning.
Ding Ning seemed to notice something in his and Di Qingmei’s demeanour. He bowed with a smile and thanked Di Qingmei. “Thank you, Principal Di.”
Di Qingmei’s expression was the most unnatural but he still returned the bow sincerely. “I am very satisfied with having students like you.” He said, softly.
Most of the students who were spectating were still present on the viewing platform. Seeing this necessary ceremony come to an end, they gathered around.
Xie Changsheng, who was about the same age as Ding Ning, was the first to reach Ding Ning’s side. “Your performance was so enjoyable. I have to admit that my sister has better eyesight than I do.” He said, with admiration,
“Do not call me Brother-in-law.” Ding Ning felt awkward.
“Do not mess around!”
Xie Rou sighed and walked in front of Ding Ning to bow. “Will you attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials next year?” She asked, with her head lowered.
Ding Ning did not understand her intentions of asking this question. He hesitated. “Possibly.”
“Then I will do my best to enter the Min Mountain Sword Trials as well.” Xie Rou said softly.
Xie Changsheng stilled. “Sister, do you want to win the Min Mountain Sword Trials with him and secure a chance to study in Min Mountain Sword Sect together?”
Xie Rou did not answer but the flush that appeared on her white neck betrayed her thoughts.
“Take it slow, feelings form over time. This is good.” Xie Changsheng said as he rubbed his nose.
“Do not have any hopes for me.” As he spoke, Ding Ning’s gaze landed on the Last Flower sword on his side and his expression turned cold and hard. He took a step away and coldly said, “Nangong Caishu knows the reason.”
Xu Heshan, Xie Changsheng and the others looked with incomprehension at Nangong Caishu. Shock spread in Xie Changsheng’s eyes. “Nangong Caishu, did you and he develop amorous feelings after studying together for a night in the library cave and got engaged privately?”
“Do not be so childish!”
Nangong Caishu’s expression darkened. She looked at Ding Ning’s back and knew that Ding Ning had given her permission to tell these people the reason. She took a deep breath. “There is a problem with his body. He has the rare excessive yang body. If he has no special opportunities, when we reach our prime, his body would have already deteriorated.” She said, softly.
Xie Changsheng was stunned. He had nothing but admiration towards Ding Ning’s performance. So, at this moment, he couldn’t even make a joke.
“Even if he has such a physiological problem, I will not change my decision.” Xie Rou bit her lip. “I will do my best to help him.”
“I have already researched. People like this, with too much energy, age faster, and usually cannot be healed. But Min Mountain Sword Sect is not an ordinary sect. Maybe people in a sect like this will have a solution.”
Nangong Caishu looked at the siblings. She nodded and said, “If you really want a solution, then do your best to help him win the Min Mountain Sword Trials.”
“That is too hard.” Xu Heshan shook his head worriedly.
The Min Mountain Sword Trials would be during the summer of next year. There was only the better half of a year from now to then. Even if Ding Ning had such cultivation speed and performed like this, his confidence came to naught when he recalled the performances of those freaks in the Min Mountain Sword Trials of the past.
“He is fighting for his life. We will do our best,” Nangong Caishu nodded and said solemnly.
“Alright, we will do our best at the Min Mountain Sword Trials!”
Xie Changsheng, Xu Heshan, and Xie Rou clapped their hands together.
Clapping together for someone else’s victory was an amusing thing.
But this matter concerned someone’s life and it was also to make something that seemed impossible possible. The mood at this moment was unusually grave.
Translator Ramblings: Now we are on volume 2. Wang Taixu is probably more interesting in this chapter with the city politics.