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Chapter 7: Circumstances Create Tyrants
It had already snowed in in Changling, but snow had just reached Guanzhong.
Morning: Guanzhong, Qishan.
In a vast field, a youth was practicing the sword. His sword was purple like Su Qin’s, yet the seal scripts on the surface were golden.
A golden bolt of thunder suddenly appeared as he slashed his sword in the cold air. This golden thunder landed in front of him. Yellow earth sprayed outwards and clumps of grass started to burn.
This youth turned around, determined and solemn.
He put away his sword and said in a cool voice to a slightly plump middle-aged man sitting on the cow cart nearby. “I still want to go to Changling.”
The middle-aged man he called Uncle Jin sighed softly. “For Xie Rou?”
“I do not blame Xie Rou. While she knows that I fell in love with her at first sight, we have no engagement.” This youth looked in the direction of Changling. “I originally felt that the Sky Thunder Sword was stronger than many Changling sword manuals and I did not need to go to Changling to study. But now I think that was a mistake. Changling doesn’t just have cultivation manuals, but also many spectacles. I will challenge that Ding Ning. I believe, if I am able to defeat Ding Ning, Xie Rou will change her mind.”
A slight smile appeared on the middle-aged man’s lips. “If that is the case, then we will travel today. Otherwise, if it also snows in Guanzhong, travel will be difficult.”
The training fields of Changling’s Warden’s Office had accumulated snow knuckle deep.
Into a training field surrounded by the banners of the Tiger-Wolf Army, Yu Gu walked alone.
At the center of the field was a tall and broad old man dressed in metal. Yu Gu’s presence was sharp but could not compare to this one.
This old man stood there, frostily, like he was in command of tens of thousands.
Yu Gu walked next to him and bent slightly to listen.
“We need to finish our negotiation with that street tyrant of Changling as soon as possible.” The metal clad man did not turn back. In a roaring voice, he said, “Our bottom line will be the transport of the Changling warehouses, and the manufacturing of armor.”
Yu Gu’s pupils contracted in disbelief. “General, just a street thug, not a tyrant. Will we give in too much in agreeing to such conditions?” He said, in a cold voice.
“Circumstances create tyrants. He is a tyrant for being able to encounter this chance,” the old man said, gravely. “The Divinity Bureau is already taking advantage to investigate the Warden’s Office. The empress has stated that she wants to move Fang Xiang to command the Warden’s Office. If this matter will not end soon, more scandals will be exposed … you should understand the consequences.”
Yu Gu’s expression immediately grew ugly.
He and the people of the Warden’s Office were naturally loyal to the Qin Dynasty and to His Majesty the Yuanwu Emperor. But His Majesty could not rely completely on one person. When the Yuanwu Emperor ascended the throne, he had been compelled to rely heavily on the empress’ family. In the last decade, the two ministers and the bureaus had done their best to change this situation. His Majesty the Emperor was wise, and as his control of the Qin Dynasty grew, he increasingly did not need to rely on any faction. The Qin Dynasty would grow stronger, and their advance, more powerful.
This was not just a matter concerning the futures of the members of the Warden’s Office.
“I know what to do.” Yu Gu took a deep breath and said, “I will take care of this matter as soon as possible.”
Just as he wanted to turn and leave, he heard the old man.
“The street people have their own ways of doing things. They have many ways of learning things that we cannot imagine. The Divinity Bureau is afraid of the responsibility and have been pressurizing us. When you and this street tyrant talk, have him help investigate who is using the Changling Guards.”
This morning, Ding Ning woke up as usual, helped Zhangsun Qianxue make porridge, and then went to a nearby shop with a crude bowl to get noodles. He was pondering over what kind of topping he would have today, when he walked in front of the steamy and fragrant shop and stopped.
An old man with white hair was holding a bowl and smiling at this. It was Xue Wangxu.
“Why are you here?”
Ding Ning looked at this smug old man in surprise.
“I want to take you to a place.” Xue Wangxu sipped the noodle soup and replied with a smile. “No wonder you people here like to come to this shop to eat noodles. This is very good, and even the peppers are strong. But why do you bring your own bowl?”
Ding Ning looked at him and hesitantly asked, “You really want me to tell you the reason?”
Xue Wangxu looked oddly at him and then at the crude porcelain bowl. “Is it more delicious if you eat from this bowl?”
Ding Ning looked at him with sympathy. “No. While this shop’s noodles are delicious, I know the dishwasher … he does not wash the bowls well, and he likes to pick his nose during washing.”
Xue Wangxu stilled. He looked at his remaining noodles with an unusually spectacular face.
“If you still want to eat, I can lend a bowl to you,” Ding Ning said.
Xue Wangxu shook his head. “Never mind. Some things are just a whim and aren’t the same once the whim has passed.”
Ding Ning walked into the shop and put the bowl beside the pot. After a thought, he requested red soup[^1], sour and spicy cabbage, and meat slices with his noodles. As he watched the meat and the peppers cook in the wok, he asked, “Where are you taking me?”
Xue Wangxu said, “We are going to Zhushan District in the Ba Commandery.”
Ding Ning stilled. “Why are we going so far?”
“There is a very popular festival there. We will make it in time if we go now. It is very interesting.”
The thin meat slices and the red oil chilis had been stir-fried together. Pickled white cabbage was then added, and after a few tosses, it was poured over the white noodles.
Ding Ning did not immediately take the bowl of noodles. He frowned. Just like how Li Daoji had lectured Xue Wangxu last night, he softly said, “Can you not use such a poor excuse? Even the greatest interest cannot compel you to go as far to visit a festival when it is snowing.”
“Eat noodles, eat noodles.” Xue Wangxu pointed at Ding Ning’s bowl and reminded. Then he said, “I am going to get something.”
Ding Ning picked up the bowl and sat down opposite him. “What is it?”
Xue Wangxu glanced at him and said, “To treat your illness.”
Ding Ning started to eat the noodles. When he finished the steaming noodles, he looked up and said, “Fang Xiumu told me nothing can treat my illness unless I can join Min Mountain Sword Sect and fathom the Heaven Replenishing Divine Art.”
“This is the true reason that you had Wang Taixu arrange for you to join White Goat Cave? White Goat Cave and Green Vine Sword School merged, and we possess the right to attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials.” Xue Wangxu looked calmly at Ding Ning’s eyes and said, “Fang Xiumu is correct but nothing is absolute. You are also too weak for attending the Min Mountain Sword Trials coming year. Based on the past years, most of the disciples that the sects recommend to attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials will have at least Vital Energy Realm second-class cultivation, and sometimes, freaks that reach Energy Fusing Realm will also appear.”
“You are smarter than Zhang Yi and others. You should understand that the students who attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials are not just from the ordinary cultivation places, there are also members of nobility and prestigious families.” After a momentary pause, he continued. “They are scarier than the students of ordinary cultivation places.” Many of them do have the ability to pass the tests of Min Mountain Sword Sect, but they need a certain amount of time for family training. In the first few years of cultivation, their families can give them more resources, and they can cultivate faster. For those nobility and prestigious families, Min Mountain Sword Sect is not the only route, but only a strong aid in their cultivation journey.”
“I was aware of all that you have just said when I joined White Goat Cave.” Ding Ning glanced at the Cave Master, and with a frown said, “But I also know that Baishu District of the Ba Commandery is not an ordinary place.”
Xue Wangxu glanced at him and asked, “Doesn’t it just have a lot of Zheng people?”
Ding Ning looked back at him and said, “You know well that it doesn’t just have many Zheng people.”
Xue Wangxu’s embarrassment turned to anger. He said, “I am the cave master of White Goat Cave, your teacher. I am telling you to come with me, are you coming?”
“You misunderstood me.” Ding Ning looked at his trembling white beard and said, “I really want to go to that place, but I worry about your safety when you go.”
Xue Wangxu’s frown relaxed. He looked scornfully at Ding Ning. “I am about to die of old age. Will you not allow me to get a moment of glory before my death?”
Ding Ning took a deep breath.
He looked up. Facing the white snow on top of the noodle shop, and after a moment of silence, he softly said, “A momentary pleasure is not glory. But if a student from White Goat Cave wins the Min Mountain Sword Trials, it will be a slap to many a face … is that enough glory for you?
“Of course.” Xue Wangxu laughed happily. “If there is such a day, even if I die of old age, I think I will die with a smile.”
Ding Ning turned to look at him. He shook his head. “I meant that even if you will die of old age, you should not die so quickly. You need to live longer.”
Xue Wangxu stilled and then laughed like a child. He reached to pat Ding Ning and said, “Deal!”
[^1] Red soup is made from red dates, tofu, and pork.
Translator Ramblings: Poor Xue Wangxu. His noodles …