This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 20: Cold Hearted
“You are really fine?”
At the entrance to Falling Parasol, Ding Ning cast a suspicious eye at Xue Wangxu.
“Of course, I am fine. You will return home every day after cultivating in White Goat Cave. You’ve been gone for a long time. You aren’t going in now that you are at your door? Also, even if you want to keep me company, you have to give me some private time,” Xue Wangxu said, softly and warmly.
Ding Ning thought about this but did not leave immediately.
“Do not look as though you think you won’t see me past this night.” Xue Wangxu said, feeling a headache coming. “I will indeed be fine.”
Ding Ning nodded and calmly said, “Remember what you promised me.”
“Will I lie to a child like you at an age like mine?”
Exasperatedly, Xue Wangxu waved his hand for Ding Ning to go away.
Ding Ning bowed silently.
Xue Wangxu did not look at Ding Ning and turned to leave.
The moon was high up in the sky. Xue Wangxu did not return to White Goat Cave. Instead, he followed the straight paths towards the center of Changling.
The center of Changling was the imperial palace.
In the cold night, the earthy yellow palace walls did not seem mighty. There were no obvious guards on the wall towers. However, the moment he stepped onto a bridge and in the perimeter of the imperial palace, a Taoist in blue robes appeared out of thin air and landed in front of Xue Wangxu.
“White Goat Cave Xue Wangxu asks for an audience with Her Highness the Empress.” As he spoke softly, Xue Wangxu calmly bowed to this blue-robed Taoist.
Seeking an audience with the empress late in the night like this, when the palace gates were closed, was very inappropriate. However, the blue-robed Taoist only raised his eyebrows, nodded, and said, “Elder Xue, please wait for a moment, I will go report.”
His tone carried a tinge of genuine respect.
Any cultivator who had surpassed realm seven was worthy of respect by all cultivators, and qualified to make a request like this.
The blue-robed Taoist took to the air. As Xue Wangxu stood in front of the empty palace, he seemed lonely.
The blue-robed Taoist did not make him wait for long. Or rather, that woman who was in a cold and lonely position did not need to act authoritative.
In a few moments, the blue-robed Taoist flew back in front of him. “The empress has granted permission. Follow me.”
They did not walk through one of the side gates. The heavy main gates of the imperial palace opened slightly for the blue-robed Taoist and Xue Wangxu to pass through.
The empress was not in her usual place, the study. She stood on the stone path lined on both sides by copper statues. Two beautiful female attendants stood behind her. But just like always, her bright beauty outshone any woman that stood with her.
Wordlessly, she looked at Xue Wangxu, her beautiful eyes showing no emotion.
The moment Xue Wangxu saw her, he couldn’t help but narrow his eyes slightly.
Because she was too perfect, she appeared unreal. Because she was too bright, she burned the eye.
Xue Wangxu stopped thirty paces from her. Then he bowed deeply and said, “Greetings to Your Highness.”
The empress looked coolly over the white-haired Xue Wangxu. Her perfect face still showed no emotion. “You may rise.”
Xue Wangxu nodded.
He did not express his intentions for arriving. He maintained his humble posture with his head held low, but his body changed strangely as though countless things that belonged in his body were about to fly out of his body and into the sky.
At this moment, the empress looked calmly at him.
Xue Wangxu stopped, his unusual presence had completely disappeared.
The empress’ perfect eyes finally showed a hint of emotion. “A cultivator like you holds your cultivation higher than your life. Without your cultivation, what will you do with your life?” she asked in bewilderment.
Xue Wangxu was calm. “I want to see next year’s Min Mountain Sword Trials… Empress, please allow this.”
“You are measured in your conduct. Changling is so large, will I be unable to tolerate you?” The empress did not hesitate as she looked at him and slowly said, “I naturally will agree to your requests, but I do not want you to ask in such a manner. You must do something for me.”
Xue Wangxu was slightly surprised and said, “What?”
The empress looked calmly at him and said, “Give Liang Lian a lesson for me.”
Xue Wangxu did not lift his head. He frowned slightly and waited for a response.
The empress slowly said, “With the youth that has been following you for these days.”
Xue Wangxu suddenly shook. Cold rose in his heart. He suddenly looked up at the empress’ perfect features and asked, “Why?”
They gave simple answers to each other but they could completely understand each other’s meaning.
At Xue Wangxu’s question, the empress said, “Because the youth has performed well up to now. I have the same attitude towards all cultivators of Qin. I hope that all cultivators will put the Qin first. An experience when young may determine this person’s life. Even I feel that youth’s performance is exceptional. In the future, he may become a useful person to the Qin, so I do not hope that he will have any biased opinions of me, and the imperial palace.”
“Simply, I hope he does not hate me.”
The empress looked at the copper statues on the two sides and spoke with undisguised indifference. “I do not want him to feel that you destroyed your own cultivation for the chance to live to next year’s Min Mountain Sword Trials. But I also want him to be awed and know the rules, so I want you to take him along.”
Xue Wangxu looked at her perfect and emotionless face. He knew the matter could not be reversed and took a deep breath. He nodded solemnly. “I have neglected this. The empress’ arrangements are the best for him.”
The empress did not say anything else. She turned and walked towards the study.
Xue Wangxu looked at her perfect back and couldn’t help but think, so you are more cold-hearted than I have imagined.
The empress seemed to hear Xue Wangxu’s thoughts but did not care. She knew that many thought she was cold-hearted. But ruling a country was a cruel matter to start with.
Only cold-hearted laws would impose iron order.
Zhangsun Qianxue silently sat in her bedclothes on her bed. Looking at Ding Ning who had finished washing and dressed in clean clothing, she asked, “What did you do to Feng Qianzhuo?”
Ding Ning, who had been waiting for her to state whether they would do paired cultivation or if he would return to his own bed, stilled. “Why would you ask this question?” he said curiously.
“Because I greatly dislike Feng Qianzhuo.” Zhangsun Qianxue glanced at Ding Ning, indicating he could return to his bed. “When Emperor Yuanwu led his army personally to attack Ba Mountain Sword Field, Feng Qianzhuo was among the first Ba Mountain Sword Field disciples to surrender. If he surrenders, so what? It is nothing even if he told some secrets and formations of Ba Mountain Sword Field. Everyone had different thoughts about the internal conflict of the Qin Dynasty. But when he flipped sides, he said many false things to slander Ba Mountain Sword Field. Those words are dirty to the ears,” she said coldly.
“But when those words spread afar, others will believe them.” Ding Ning sneered and said, “However, he paid a price this time. Xue Wangxu got him with a blow. Even if he heals, his cultivation will fall greatly. With the internal wounds he won’t live for long.”
Zhangsun Qianxue did not seem satisfied with this result. She thought and said, “I will go and kill him after some time?”
Ding Ning frowned and said, “We just went to Zhushan District. You will go and kill him now. Aren’t you luring all suspicious gazes to me?”
Zhangsun Qianxue frowned. At these words, she felt that this was not good either.
“There are so many people to kill, how can we kill them at the same time?” Ding Ning muttered. He suddenly thought of something and he turned grave.
He opened his mouth to speak but his eyes were hesitant.
Zhangsun Qianxue did not look at him but could feel his emotions. With slight displeasure she said, “Speak.”
“There is someone you can kill, and he might have something I want,” Ding Ning said after a moment of thought.
“Who is it?”
Solemnly, Ding Ning said, “Nangong Shang.”
Zhangsun Qianxue thought for a long time before recollecting this name. “A disciple of the Ba Mountain Sword Field sword armory?”
Ding Ning nodded. “You should dislike him more than Feng Qianzhuo. He didn’t just steal many of Ba Mountain Sword Field’s famed swords beforehand, he also damaged two important Ba Mountain Sword Field formations and spoke many disgusting things.”
Ding Ning paused and then added softly. “Even more importantly, he is in Changling.”
With a smidgen of happiness, Zhangsun Qianxue said, “Where in Changling is he?”
“Just like Xue Wangxu, you have hid for a long time. Also, your sword has just formed. If you do not use your sword, it will be detrimental to your future cultivation. You might have problems. This is why I decided to tell you. Even if you are avenging, killing someone is not something to be happy about.” Ding Ning looked at Zhangsun Qianxue’s beautiful figure through the cloth hangings and slowly said, “You have to first promise me that you will be absolutely safe and not let anyone find that you went there.”
Zhangsun Qianxue was slightly impatient and said irritably, “I do not like using my mind. Just arrange it.”
Ding Ning nodded and said, “Alright, I will find Wang Taixu and make arrangements tomorrow.”
Zhangsun Qianxue thought of some other matters and said coolly, “Wang Taixu came to find you a few days ago, and said that he has managed to do what you hoped he could do.”
Ding Ning’s body trembled slightly. His eyes were filled with surprised joy.
“Nangong Shang has something you need?” Zhangsun Qianxue glanced at him and asked, “Something of Ba Mountain Sword Field?”
“Not of Ba Mountain Sword Field. Some pill recipes of the Nangong Family.” Ding Ning softly explained. “The Nangong Family was responsible for the medicinal food of Ba Mountain Sword Field previously. I want their Five Goat Pill recipe.”
Translator Ramblings: Xue Wangxu is really good at looking like everything is fine.