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Chapter 2: The Story of the Past
“You are too cold to them.”
Li Daoji appeared in front of Ding Ning. He glanced at Xie Changsheng, Xie Rou and the others in the distance. Then he looked with his usual nonchalance at Ding Ning. He slowly said , “Do not misunderstand. What I mean is, even if you do not like Xie Rou’s actions, you do not have to treat them with such coldness and crudeness.”
Ding Ning was silent for a moment.
Li Daoji waited patiently.
Ding Ning looked at the broken sword at his waist and slowly, in a soft voice said, “Sect Uncle Li Daoji sought this remnant sword for me, you should know the story concerning this sword.”
Li Daoji’s brows furrowed. “You know the story of this sword?”
“Before the Yuanwu Emperor ascended the throne, our Qin Dynasty had a famed cultivation place called the Ba Mountain Sword Field.”
With a calm demeanour and a light voice, Ding Ning continued as if narrating a story. “In many stories, the Ba Mountain Sword Field was held in a higher regard than Min Mountain Sword Sect and Spirit Void Sword Sect. Many of the cultivators who helped the Qin Dynasty vanquish the three dynasties and played a decisive role in the Yuanwu Emperor’s ascension to the throne came from the Ba Mountain Sword Field.
“But there was a great change before the Yuanwu Emperor ascended. Overnight, numerous cultivators who were once loyal to the Qin Dynasty turned rebels, and some of them were of high status. Even the Yuanwu Emperor had to admit they exuded great influence over the future of the entire Qin Dynasty. Yan Xinlan of the Ba Mountain Sword Field was one such.
“If only she had spoken the words that the Yuanwu Emperor wanted to hear and publicly expressed her stance, she would have been able to live. Ba Mountain Sword Field would have continued to exist, and even gained a higher standing than Min Mountain Sword Trials and Spirit Void Sword Sect, today.”
“But she chose to wield her sword at the Yuanwu Emperor to evince that she would rather break than bend.”
At Ding Ning’s words, Li Daoji’s expression grew unnatural.
In the end, he could not contain himself. “What do young children know? Many of these events happened before you were born. Since you know several stories, you should know that many cannot be mentioned. Also, what do these stories have to do with how you treat them now?!”
“Xie Rou’s personality is very similar to the master of this Last Flower sword. I do not dislike her, I even admire her. You know my situation better than anyone.” Ding Ning looked straight at him and said, “You know that I have offended an important person in the military. Even Li Lingjun is targeting me. My physiological condition has determined that I need to quickly climb higher in Changling. I do not know how many people I will offend. I will risk my life to do some things because I have a goal. But I cannot pull them to do the same things as me.”
“You worry that Xie Rou would have the same fate as the master of the Last Flower sword?” Li Daoji said disdainfully, “You think too far.”
Ding Ning shook his head. “If people do not think long term, they must have short term worries.”
Li Daoji stopped trying to persuade Ding Ning and turned to leave.
But after several steps, he stopped and turned to look at Ding Ning. He said, “You cited the story of the Last Flower sword’s master … but do you know what the master of the Last Flower sword thought? How do you know if she would be happy or not? Rather than reach a high position by old age, perhaps, she is happier dying in battle with her sword broken. Not many can live with no regrets, but she might have done it.”
Ding Ning was silent.
In these years that he was in Changling, he had seen many people he usually would not pay attention to. He had seen many different kinds of people he had never seen before. Hawkers and runners, fishermen, farmers, slaves, and prisoners of war … many of the immigrants who came from the Wei, Han and Zhao dynasties who were slowly blending into Changling and becoming people of the Qin Dynasty. While some remembered their former country, the people who were on the outskirts and the people who had completely forgotten their country wanted to obtain a similar status as the Changling people. Even when they climbed high were being ostracized.
He had learned many things from these people and also how to look at matters from their perspectives. He admitted that Li Daoji’s words were correct, but he was sure that if Li Daoji knew what kind of great rebellious heart beat in his chest, he would no longer say what he just had.
No matter how admirable and exception the legendary First Mister Zhao of the Sword Furnace and Bai Shanshui of Cloud Water Palace were, who would urge people to be friends with great rebels like them?
It was easy for later generations to clearly see and judge matters in hindsight.
In the past when the Qin Dynasty fought the Han, Zhao and Wei dynasties, the situation changed at every moment. Tens of thousands of swordsmen would die in a battle and thousands of cultivators would fall. No one could predict the results.
But now that the Han, Zhao and Wei were destroyed, these history books that came later, were mostly in agreement on why they had been defeated.
In the mainstream histories of the present, or rather the authoritative records, the Han Dynasty was destroyed primarily because of the failure to move their capital. The Han Dynasty which once had dominated through relying on some pill sects, originally had their capital at Yangdi. But advisors of the Qin Dynasty used various methods to indoctrinate ideas into Emperor Ai of Han1. They described a beautiful scene and led him to believe that for the Han Dynasty to possess greater power, they had to move their capital to Luoyi.
At that time, moving the capital to Luoyi seemed to bring great benefits. Luoyi had the Xiao Mountain to the left. The jade valleys of the Xiao Mountain were rich in spirit energy and the best place to cultivate in the world. If many sects moved to the jade valley, they could provide more powerful cultivators for the dynasty. To the right of Luoyi was a thousand miles of the Gan and Shu lands that were fertile and abundant in grain.
But many people and nobility did not migrate when the capital moved. This move infringed on their interests, creating a rift with Emperor Ai of Han. After the capital moved, many new factions rose to divide the new capital which mitigated the power of the dynasty before it was ultimately destroyed.
The destruction of the Wei happened by the hands of two different major events. One was the spirit canal plan. Manipulated by some conspiracies, the Wei Dynasty gathered countless master craftsman as they wanted to build an enormous man-made canal that could absorb the energies of the world. The construction of this spirit canal consumed numerous resources of the dynasty and the country grew weak. The other matter was the hegemony of the Wei Cloud Water Palace. At a certain time, many astounding powerful cultivators from Cloud Water Palace appeared. The Wei King relied increasingly on the Cloud Water Palace and the resources tipped towards them. In the end, this resulted in the dominion of the Cloud Water Palace, and to the decline and eventual loss of many cultivation sects.
The destruction of Zhao was the classic application of sowing discord among the enemy. At the most important time in the war between the Qin Dynasty and the Zhao dynasty, the Qin Dynasty successfully made the Zhao King believe the Zhao Sword Furnace was in cahoots with the Qin Dynasty to depose him. So he killed the strongest grandmaster of the Zhao Dynasty, and forged that sword of the Zhao Sword Furnace.
With their threat obliterated, the Qin Dynasty’s armies marched undaunted. They destroyed the Zhao Dynasty in less than three months.
For many in the Qin Dynasty that had won the war in the end, the destruction of the three dynasties still held many aspects worthy of study and reflection.
In the fast-changing battle, no one knew how many great people were exerting their power, how many conspiracies and schemes were advancing at the same time. It was for the future to see which were truly efficacious.
The dynasties were all wary after the Wei Cloud Water Palace became dominant and caused the decline in other pill sects, subsequently attenuating the power of the country.
At present, the Yuanwu Emperor had more control than any other past emperor of the Qin Dynasty in Changling. The group that he, the empress, and the two prime ministers had formed, controlled all the nobility and prestigious families in the Qin Dynasty. However, the central imperial court still deliberately maintained a distance from most of the cultivation places compelling them to maintain the conditions from the founding times. Other than providing some protection and support, they just allowed those places to grow naturally like weeds.
The destruction of the Wei dynasty told the later generations that regardless of how weak a sect appeared, if they maintained the same state that had existed at their founding, if they kept the essence of that sect, then this sect might, at a certain time or due to a certain person, suddenly grow stronger and prosper many years later.
The cultivators that a powerful sect produced and were of great use to the entire dynasty could not compare in numbers to the total number of the intermediate and small sects.
So all the dynasties did their best to make sure all the sects in their dynasty could last for a long time after the death of the Wei Dynasty. Events like White Goat Cave joining Green Vine Sword School were actually rare.
Most sects were deliberately left in their original state. So cultivators who were in clean places cut off from the rest of the world in their mountains, only had to ponder over their cultivation advancement.
For Green Vine Sword School, the three day sword trial festival was akin to shutting themselves off from Changling for three days.
So at this time, while the sword trial festival finished and the results and some of the events had spread, Ding Ning, as he walked along the mountain path, was oblivious to the many earth-shaking events that had occurred in Changling.
Translator Ramblings: Finally, some more “plot development” compared to all the fighting. We’re veering off into fantasy territory on why the Wei and Han were conquered by the Qin but Wikipedia has very good articles on those so I won’t go into the differences.
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 12 “Fear of Defeat”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 11 “Yin River Fire”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 10 “Splashes”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 9 “The Path Forward”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Five Chapter 8 “If I Return”
- This is not the historical Emperor Ai of Han, which is the dynasty that came after the Qin. But both of them have the character “ai” (哀) in their title, meaning lamentable. ↩