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Chapter 5: Fierce Sword
At night, the curtain of darkness seemed unable to support the precipitation of winter, and white snowflakes finally descended from the sky.
The black cotton cloth covering the carriage waiting silently at the gates of White Goat Cave was gradually dyed white.
Ding Ning came out of the White Goat Cave gates.
He had no umbrella. When he walked to the front of the carriage, he bowed to Jing Mozong, who still wore grey robes. Then he patted his clothes and brushed off the snow in his hair before lifting the heavy quilted black curtain to enter the carriage.
“You are really weak. 1”
Ding Ning could not help the remark when he saw Wang Taixu wearing a huge fox fur robe looking as though he was under a pile of fox skins.
“I will regain my strength after this winter, by spring.” The slight smile on Wang Taixu made him look even more like a cunning old fox. “Why did you want to see me today?”
The cabin trembled slightly as Jing Mozong started to drive.
Ding Ning pulled over a cushion to lean against and said, “I heard something major happened in the last few days in Changling.”
“You mean Bai Shanshui?” Wang Taixu glanced at him, nodded and said, “Perhaps you learned of it today. Changling is in an uproar. Supposedly, the two prime ministers and the empress are unusually angry. Many of Changling’s officials have been discharged and exiled. The ripples of this event will be vast, especially when Bai Shanshui sang such wanton words when fighting, and he successfully escaped as well.”
Ding Ning thought for a moment and said, “Bai Shanshui fought, but no one around him was able to stop him escaping Changling … do you know the inside story?”
Wang Taixu said, “The Changling Guards were pursuing items stolen from the imperial tomb and managed to force out Fan Zhuo and Bai Shanshui. Fan Zhuo was in the merchant caravan being investigated. He thought he could not conceal his powerful cultivator status so he attacked and created an escape route for Bai Shanshui. The Changling Guard was surrounding that merchant caravan at the start. It was sheer coincidence. Otherwise, I fear we would not have known of this.”
Ding Ning frowned and said, “Someone in Changling deliberately let Bai Shanshui go. However, I heard that Bai Shanshui killed his way out of the city from the Jiujiang Commandery Meeting Hall and fled onto the Wei River. He should be much stronger than Zhao Zhan.”
Wang Taixu smiled slightly and said, “Bai Shanshui and Fourth Mister Zhao are equally renowned. You wanted to meet me today just to discuss the cultivation of Bai Shanshui?”
Ding Ning glanced at him and said, “What are you doing?”
Wang Taixu’s expression grew stern. “Actually, I wanted to hear your thoughts on what I should do in the short term. Other people do not know, but I know very well the reason I could survive the fight with Jinlintang was because of your plan,” he said, seriously.
“When he took you into White Goat Cave, Xue Wangxu had said that it is impossible to get more people to pay with their lives for your brothers. I think you will not do such stupid things.” Ding Ning looked at him and said, “If I am you, I will use this time to pressure the military and get more benefits. Especially at this time when the empress and the two prime ministers are enraged by the matter of Bai Shanshui. The people of the military must want to settle this matter and will not do anything over the line. You have survived an assassination attempt and are prepared. They should know that even if they kill you, some of your subordinates will immediately leak their matters.”
“I really admire you. I feel more and more that while those legendary eccentrics can surpass you in terms of cultivation speed, they cannot possess such a broad vision as you.” Wang Taixu looked emotionally at Ding Ning. “I have given the Warden’s Office a great headache. I want the warehouse and mine business.”
“It is good to aim high.”
Ding Ning was silent for a moment. “You did not choose to leave Changling but chose to advance. This means that you still want to fight those powerful people who killed your brothers.”
“People that dared to control Jinlintang to do such things and send so many cultivators to kill me that night are either generals, princes, or marquesses.” Wang Taixu coughed softly. “Of course I cannot move people like that. My brothers were like my limbs. Even if I am willing to cut my limbs to trade for them, they cannot be revived. I hope that one day, I can make those people who killed my brothers pay some of their well-deserved price.”
“Since you have already done so, I want to ask for your help on a matter,” Ding Ning was looking down and as he softly stated.
This was undoubtedly not in line with Ding Ning’s initial attitude.
At the start, Ding Ning had not wanted to have too many ties with Two Level Tower. This matter should be very important to Ding Ning. Otherwise, he would not have spoken so seriously.
Consequently, Wang Taixu felt slightly strange. “What matter?”
Ding Ning slowly said, “In the last stages of your discussion with the Warden’s Office, see if you can obtain some business related to the prison.”
Wang Taixu stilled slightly. “Business related to the prison?”
Ding Ning nodded. “It would be best if it were a business that would require going in and out of the prison and have constant contact with the people who manage the prison.”
Wang Taixu glanced at him and said, “I will do my best.”
Ding Ning frowned slightly .”Do you not feel that my request is strange? You won’t ask me why?”
“You reached Energy Refinement in a month, and won in a competition like the sword trial festival. You are someone who will do great things in the future.” Wang Taixu laughed. “Since we are all people who will do great things, none of the things we do are strange.”
The snow-covered carriage passed into the alley and stopped in front of the unnamed wine shop door.
Ding Ning got off the carriage and waved his hand in farewell to Jing Mozong and Wang Taixu.
Pushing open the half-open door, he saw Zhangsun Qianxue waiting with a small oil lamp for him just like usual. The steam coming from the food on the table seemed as though it had just come out of the bamboo steamer.
Ding Ning saw that Zhangsun Qianxue had changed into a new jacket. While this was a common style on the street, even the most ordinary adornments became especially beautiful and lively on her.
So when he sat down, he could not help but say, “Other people are beautiful because of their adornments, you make adornments more beautiful.”
Zhangsun Qianxue did not care for his words. “Why did you come back in Wang Taixu’s carriage again?” she asked coldly.
“Because I have a matter I need his help with,” Ding Ning said as he started to eat.
Zhangsun Qianxue did not ask anymore. This was an agreement she and Ding Ning had formed naturally over many years.
“You really won the sword trial festival?” she asked neutrally. Seeing Ding Ning enjoying the food, she picked up a sweet rice cake and slowly ate, something she had never done before.
Ding Ning made a sound of acknowledgement. He pulled a wooden box out of his sleeve and handed it to Zhangsun Qianxue.
Zhangsun Qianxue did not need to look to know that the content of the wooden box would be the green suet jade so important to her.
She did not immediately take the wooden box. She looked at Ding Ning and slowly said, “Thank you.”
Ding Ning casually said, “There is no need for thanks between us.”
“This is not like the previous times … you should know, after last time’s ordeal and this green suet jade, my sword will stabilize, and I will not rely much on you in the future. If it is me, I may not give this green suet jade to you,” Zhangsun Qianxue said coolly.
“It doesn’t matter.” Ding Ning looked up at her and licked the corners of his lips. He said, “Because I never thought to rely on you to do anything in these years.”
Zhangsun Qianxue frowned.
Other than matters of cultivation, she rarely considered other matters; but she was not stupid. She quickly realized that while she had great power compared to ordinary cultivators, Ding Ning really had not relied on her for anything in these years. He never even had her fight once to protect him.
Ding Ning did not say anything.
“You will sleep by yourself tonight.”
Zhangsun Qianxue inexplicably stopped talking. She took the wooden box and walked into the courtyard. “I owe you a favor.”
Ding Ning smiled bitterly.
Snow fell on Zhangsun Qianxue’s flawless face as she passed through the courtyard into the bedroom. Feeling the cold from the snow, Zhangsun Qianxue increasingly felt that the grievances and favors in this Changling were too complicated.
She stopped thinking and flushed the chaotic thoughts from her mind so that her mind became a blank sheet once again.
Just like how she usually cultivated, she laid down on the table.
The green suet jade in the wood box gave off a gentle light and also exuded a peaceful faint fragrance. A thread of vital energy came out of her finger to shatter this green suet jade. All of the powder entered her as she breathed.
When her spirit thought sank into her energy sea and touched the blue sword in the jade palace, that sword grew restless and savage like a trapped giant dragon. It gave off a fierce presence as though it would pierce through her jade palace and then cut its way out of her energy sea and her body.
Waves of green energy came out of her body and sank into her energy sea.
The light green energy, emitting a soft halo, flowed into the jade palace and the fierce blue sword.
The fierce blue sword slowly grew calm and started to accept the presence of her jade palace.
Her spirit thought started to slowly merge into one with the sword.
In the darkness, a line of faint blue flames flashed on her forehead as though it was a small blue sword.
Translator Ramblings: Ding Ning never rests.
- Sword Dynasty Volume Two Chapter 35 “A Banquet”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Two Chapter 34 “The Last Daughter of the Shang Family”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Two Chapter 33 “Resolve Worries”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Two Chapter 32 “Gamble”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Two Chapter 31 “A New Storm”
- The “xu” in Wang Taixu’s name means can mean weak, fragile or empty. The “tai” character means “great” or “very.” ↩