This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 4: The Jade Cave and the Horse Stable
At the gates of White Goat Cave, a dozen White Goat Cave teachers who had stayed behind were elated as the group of White Goat Cave people and horses appeared on the mountain paths.
The result of the sword trial festival had reached them. White Goat Cave housed two of the three victors and the newly joined genius Ding Ning had shown exceptional performance. The faces of all the members of White Goat Cave were beaming, and even held hope within.
Ding Ning got off the carriage and could not avoid the greetings and congratulations.
“Where is Su Qin?”
A teacher who did not see Su Qin’s figure but was aware of his crippled left hand asked Li Daoji in a low voice.
Li Daoji replied, “After the sword trial festival ended, he left Green Vine Sword School without a farewell. Since he has not yet returned, it means that he will not return.”
This teacher immediately sighed. “Too sharp an edge, pressurizing, and targeting even a person as docile and gentle as Zhang Yi. He crossed the … pity for his talent.”
“Will you rest in White Goat Cave today, or return to your Falling Parasol Alley home?”
Walking at the front, Xue Wangxu turned slightly and asked as he looked at Ding Ning.
“I have not returned for many days. I think my aunt would be worried for me so I will return to my home in Falling Parasol to rest.” Ding Ning frowned slightly, appearing to think before adding softly. “I was considering talking to you. I grew up in the streets and am used to that kind of place. I am uneasy in a quiet place like White Goat Cave, so I still want to cultivate more outside.”
“Being comfortable and relaxed are the prerequisites of cultivation. The most comfortable place is the best place for cultivation.”
Xue Wangxu did not refuse but as he turned his head, many complicated emotions appeared in his eyes. “First, come along with me.”
Ding Ning calmly followed Xue Wangxu.
“The green suet jade is exceptional. How do you prepare to use it?” Xue Wangxu asked.
“I plan to refine it tonight to avoid any worries,” Ding Ning answered.
Xue Wangxu was silent for a few long seconds. He said, “It is a good plan. While the green suet jade is most effective when performing a breakthrough from realm three to realm four and can help a cultivator get some life bond items in realm six, the future is too uncertain. It is best to only eye the present.”
Ding Ning looked oddly at him. “Cave Master, you seem slightly depressed today, and not as easy going as usual.”
Xue Wangxu laughed. “Really, you can see I have some matters on my mind?”
As they talked, the two walked higher up the carved mountain paths of White Goat Cave. While the two were not quick in their steps, they still had created a distance between them and the White Goat Cave people behind them.
Behind them, all the White Goat Cave members had stopped walking and were looking in shock at them.
Xue Wangxu led Ding Ning to the small temple at the top.
Ever since Du Qingjiao left White Goat Cave, only Li Daoji qualified to enter that small temple. This small temple was the founding site of White Goat Cave and held remarkable significance.
Though Ding Ning was certain that Xue Wangxu was abnormal today, he did not say anything and quietly followed.
The path stopped at the Library Cave.
Xue Wangxu continued to advance and stepped into the air.
Ding Ning did not hesitate. Just like how he had followed previously, he stepped into the empty space.
His body fell slightly.
Then a wave of primal energies of the universe flooded from ahead of him and steadily held him up. An invisible ladder seemed to appear in the sky. He and Xue Wangxu walked among the clouds.
On the mountain path, Li Daoji and the others had increasingly grave expressions.
The furnishings in the small temple were very crude. As the building was carved into the mountain walls, even the light was dim.
Xue Wangxu did not explain and continued to walk until he faced the innermost wall in the temple. He swung the small white jade sword at his waist.
This was the sword of the White Goat Cave’s cave master, and also the key to opening the forbidden grounds.
A pure wave of white energy brushed against the mountain wall. The seemingly smooth wall suddenly dissipated a wave of air. Then it slowly moved to expose the inner cave.
A ball of gentle white light appeared in front of Ding Ning.
He saw that this cave, just a dozen meters in diameter, had walls made from white jade. Carved on the face of the walls were characters and diagrams that recorded some sword manuals.
“The sword manuals in the Library Cave are good, but these are more unique. The Wildfire Sword Manual is more than enough for defense but doesn’t have enough offense.” Xue Wangxu looked at Ding Ning who was calmly looking around. He said, “Your ability to comprehend is exceptional. I will not make suggestions. You can pick one to cultivate.”
Ding Ning nodded. He slowly walked into this cave with white jade walls. He frowned and scanned past every line carved into the jade.
His brows furrowed deeply.
After reading through all the jade walls, he turned to look at Xue Wangxu and with unusual seriousness said, “Then, may I pick two?”
Xue Wangxu stilled slightly.
He did not immediately answer. After gazing at Ding Ning for a few moments, he smiled slightly. “I have only learned one, but if you feel it is of use to you, you can learn all of them, much less two.”
Su Qin stood with a bowed head in front of a tightly closed gate.
Behind the gates were endless layers of grand and deep courtyards.
This was the establishment of Li Lingjun.
After the sword trial festival ended, he left Green Vine Sword School alone. No one knew he came here in the end, to wait with a bowed head.
Looking at his left hand which still did not have any feeling, he jerked the corners of his lips into a smile filled with pain.
His birth was one of poverty so even though he was talented, when he attended the competitions of sects, he was excluded and received many threats.
In White Goat Cave, he was a crane among the chickens. Even the principal of Green Vine Sword School, Di Qingmei, wanted to recruit him. White Goat Cave was a cultivation place the empress paid attention to. If he acted along the empress’ wishes, he would naturally have a wonderful future.
His greatest fear was reliving those days when he was threatened, ostracized, impoverished, again. He wanted to become a person of significance, who could threaten and shun others. Yet the sudden appearance of a wine shop youth, a trial, and a sword strike destroyed everything he had worked for.
Compared to the pain in his heart, he felt nothing from his physical pain.
In an elegant study in the deep courtyard, Li Lingjun looked up at Lu Siche. “That wine shop youth surprised me again.” He said, gently.
Lu Siche was apologetic. “It is my mistake.”
“This has nothing to do with you. No one could have imagined he would perform like this, especially when I have spoken to him in person. I did not connect him to an eccentric like this.” Li Lingjun glanced at Lu Siche. “That Su Qin is still standing outside the gates?”
Lu Siche nodded. “Still waiting.”
With a slight sneer, Li Lingjun said, “What did he say to you? Why does he feel he qualifies to wait for my response?”
Lu Siche calmly said, “When he asked for a meeting, he said that his left hand is crippled but he can circulate his energies and feel the primal energies of the universe. He still has his understanding of sword techniques. These all surpass ordinary cultivators. Even if his right hand cannot perform refined sword techniques, he has reached Vital Energy Realm at such an age. If he reaches realm five one day, the loss of his left hand will no longer be a hindrance once he starts using a flying sword.”
“It is a good notion. If he uses a flying sword, there is no need to use his hand. But when a flying sword is performing a long range attack, it does not have any defensive ability when facing a close combat attack. So, which of the realm five cultivators in Changling does not wield two swords? Or do we have to find an attendant to guard him when he reaches realm five?” Li Lingjun shook his head and slowly said, “To be able to marshal his emotions in such a short time and think of some strategy in addition to his past performance, his personality is overly vicious. Compared to Mo Chen who still fought at the end when he knew it was impossible because I gave him the sword, I admire Mo Chen more. I think the Snow Dandelion Sword you gave already shows value.”
Lu Siche’s thoughts concurred with his master. He said, “Then shall I drive him away?”
Li Lingjun thought for a long moment.
“I have a need for people to use… Let’s first see if he can be educated and of use to me.” He made a decision after several seconds. He looked at Lu Siche and said, “Have him take care of the horses for me and clean the horse stables.”
Su Qin suddenly looked up.
The gates that had been closed for a long time finally opened.
But only a servant girl in blue robes appeared in front of him.
He immediately sensed something and paled.
The blue robed servant girl glanced over him and said as though she was ordering a servant lower in rank to her. Then she turned without even looking at Su Qin outside the gates.
Su Qin took a deep breath and followed.
They passed through many courtyards. The blue robed servant girl took out a handkerchief and covered her nose in disgust as they stopped outside the horse stables.
She turned to look at Su Qin. Looking at the blood and blue yellow medicine seeping out of the bandages on Su Qin’s left hand, her gaze grew disgusted too as though he was as smelly as the excrement in the stables. She clenched her handkerchief tighter and quickly said, “Lord said that you can stay here to help clean the stables and take care of the horses.”
Su Qin’s face grew paler.
He saw the flowing dung inside the stables behind this blue clothed servant girl. He thought of how he would have to cope with these things and endure such humiliation. He was unable to even speak.
“Do you actually want to stay in the establishment? If you do not, then follow me out,” the blue robed servant girl said viciously and then walked away.
Su Qin still did not speak.
The blue robed servant girl’s eyebrows raised. She would about to erupt in anger when Su Qin, unexpectedly, inhaled and walked towards the stables.
He started to carry water and clean the stables.
Translator Ramblings: That was a very quick fall for Su Qin.