This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 19: Who Can Be Immortal
“You don’t like women?”
Ding Ning looked suspiciously at Xue Wangxu inside the carriage cabin. “Or is something wrong with your health?”
“What do you children know!”
Seeing Ding Ning was still tirelessly discussing this problem with him, Xue Wangxu grew slightly irritated.
Ding Ning was stubborn as a mule. “Then why?”
“Just not interested.”
Xue Wangxu looked at Ding Ning and couldn’t even be irritated. “Beautiful wine and song is naturally a pleasing thing. But most are just common rouge and powder. After seeing many, they are not interesting anymore,” he said, helplessly.
Instantly, Ding Ning looked as though he was re-evaluating Xue Wangxu.
“Do not look at me with such a gaze.” Xue Wangxu said with slight bitterness, “Who hasn’t been young once? Especially when one is stuck at a certain realm and has no breakthroughs for many years. When there is no progress, one is embittered and finds a place to drink. This is normal. But after too much fun, you will find it is not interesting. People have emotions and cannot escape them in life. For me, even the most beautiful woman pouring wine for me cannot compare to the true pleasure. It is better to not do things that are lacking.”
Ding Ning frowned slightly. He mused, looked at Xue Wangxu and solemnly asked, “You have been in Changling for this long, you have never encountered a woman you fell in love with?”
Xue Wangxu suddenly grew silent.
Many breaths later, he smiled slightly and said, “Of course I have. I will go see her when I return to Changling.”
The carriage advanced on the path back to Changling.
Perhaps, he had finally managed to use that sword strike he had accumulated for so long, or he was simply tired after fighting Feng Qianzhuo with all his power; in the next dozen days, Xue Wangxu’s words were fewer. The time that he spent resting with his eyes closed increased.
They switched wheels several times and the carriage was covered in dust when they finally drove inside the walls of Changling near evening.
When the dusty carriage moved slowly through the criss-crossing straight streets of Changling and stopped at a certain place, Ding Ning showed a rare lack of calm.
He lifted the window curtain in disbelief. Looking at the building outside, in a shocked admiration he said, “The woman you like is from here?”
Even a palace or a pleasure brothel would not shock him so much.
He knew this place!
This yellow and brick courtyard was one of the rare temples in Changling, and this was a popular one.
Did Xue Wangxu have such taste to like a nun?
“What are you thinking!”
With just a glance, Xue Wangxu could see what Ding Ning thought at this moment. He shouted and slapped Ding Ning, almost pushing him out of the cabin.
“Come off the carriage with me.”
Xue Wangxu rolled his eyes at Ding Ning and left the carriage first to enter this temple.
There were several old ginkgo trees planted outside the main hall of the temple. They had dense tree crowns and trunks, so thick that several people were needed to circle it.
On either side were two life release ponds.
Xue Wangxu stopped next to the left life release pond.
Ding Ning came over in puzzlement. He saw several fat red carp swimming and many turtles on the rocks in the pond.
Before he spoke, Xue Wangxu pointed with a finger. A pure wave of vital energy stabbed into the pond like a sword and exploded near the bottom of the pond.
Something the size of a small millstone suddenly floated up.
Ding Ning finally noticed that this was an old turtle of unknown age. The shell was so dark it was the color of slate. It had been knocked unconscious by Xue Wangxu’s wave of vital energy.
Xue Wangxu reached out to grab the old turtle and flashed out before the people in the temple paid attention.
Ding Ning looked at the water by his feet and did not react immediately.
He quickly went to the gate and saw Xue Wangxu about to board the carriage. He did not understand at all. “What are you doing?”
Xue Wangxu threw the old turtle into the cabin and sat down. He said, “Of course, cook it.”
Ding Ning stilled again. He looked back at the life release pond. “If you are not joking … is this good?”
Xue Wangxu looked coolly at him and said, “Get on.”
Ding Ning still failed to understand.
He knew there must be a reason for the matters he did not understand. So he stopped thinking and followed to watch.
The carriage stopped in front of a restaurant.
This restaurant was not large, but its business appeared to be well. Under Xue Wangxu’s orders, the restaurant kitchen cooked this old turtle. A clay pot the size of a head was placed in front of Xue Wangxu and Ding Ning.
Xue Wangxu still did not explain. He calmly raised his chopsticks and ate meat.
Ding Ning did not ask. He ate meat and drank soup.
Disregarding the old turtle’s origins, the chef of this small restaurant had some skills. He had first tenderized the old turtle’s meat so that it was not tough after being cooked, just chewy and delicious.
Much time had been spent on cooking this old turtle.
Xue Wangxu called for many bottles of carved flower wine. He and Ding Ning ate the entire pot of old turtle. When they walked out of the restaurant, it was already deep into the night, and cold.
But Xue Wangxu showed no intention of resting here. He ordered the man who had been helping drive carriages for White Goat Cave to return. Then he put his hands behind his back and slowly moved through the streets of Changling.
Ding Ning silently followed him to walk in the dark winter night of Changling.
They passed through a dozen streets, and many fields. Xue Wangxu stopped next to a mound. In front of the mound was a small pond.
On the mound was a grave marker.
Ding Ning came to a sudden realization. He took a deep breath and looked at Xue Wangxu.
Xue Wangxu’s face was unusually red but his expression was more serene than at any other time.
“This is the woman I loved the most. But in my youth, before I could speak, she had someone she loved. At the time, me and my senior sect brother only cared about cultivating and missed many things. But if I had a chance to choose again, I might not speak up at that time. While she married an ordinary businessman, she lived happily in Changling. Even I would have not been able to make her happier.”
Xue Wangxu smiled slightly and turned to look at Ding Ning. He said, “I thought about that old turtle since young. Back then, when I saw this green turtle by the pond, I suddenly thought, what would it taste like? But since it had been put into the life release pond and I was too embarrassed to steal it to try.”
“I was young then. I had many thoughts that would be interesting or fun if I had seen them through. But I am too old now. Many people and things have long gone. Even if I do not want to have any regrets, and do all I wanted to do before, there are not many things that I can do now for various reasons. Only this old turtle was here, and it will no longer be here after today.”
“Now that I think about it, the present Changling is like a pond to me. I am an old turtle trapped in this pond. It is not very interesting.”
Xue Wangxu laughed. He looked at Ding Ning and turned back to the grave. He said, “However, I did something I wanted to do since long. The old turtle tasted very good and I came to see her. I am truly happy.”
Hearing Xue Wangxu repeatedly say these things he wouldn’t usually say in a disorderly manner, Ding Ning shook his head slightly. “Since these are happy things, do not speak so gravely. Do not say it as though you have finished taking care of your affairs, and want me to see you off,” he asked, with a frown.
“People will always grow old. Who can be immortal?”
Xue Wangxu turned around and began to leave. His expression grew serious as he slowly said, “Other people might not know the tactics of the empress, but my senior sect brother and I understand them well. From when my senior sect brother and I refused her to when we split the White Goat Cave spirit vein into three to being forced to merge, it took less than a fortnight. We have used a dozen days to return to Changling from Zhushan District … there is not much time left.”
“I did not know she was so cold-hearted before.” Ding Ning whispered, his head low.
Xue Wangxu did not know the true meaning in Ding Ning’s words. He looked at Ding Ning with a pitiful gaze and softly said, “You should know that the higher the position in Changling, the colder it is. People who are of high status will naturally be colder and crueler.”
Ding Ning silently followed behind him.
Seeing the faint shadow in the darkness land on him, he slowly said, “Remember what you promised me. You will see me bring you true glory at the Min Mountain Sword Trials.”
Xue Wangxu stopped and turned around. He solemnly said, “I will do my best.”
Ding Ning took a deep breath and looked towards the distant Changling.
In this moment, his gaze was very strange.
He clearly was not as tall as those unchanging structures, but he seemed to be looking at Changling from a great height.
Translator Ramblings: I wonder if I should go back to chapter one and preface this translation with “There’s a lot of foundation building. Takes a while to get exciting.”