This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 21: We Must Be Grateful
Early in the morning, at the usual time, Ding Ning opened the wine shop doors and walked out with his usual porcelain bowl. But after taking a step, he seemed to have thought of something and went back into the shop to bring out another bowl. Then he headed to his usual breakfast noodle shop.
Small icicles were hanging off the eaves on both sides. The noodle shop was too small to fit any tables, so a tent had been built at the door and some cloth hung up to block the wind. The white steam swirled inside the tent. While it could not drive away the cold, it seemed warm.
From a distance Ding Ning saw Xue Wangxu sitting there and ran over. Seeing Xue Wangxu without a bowl in front of him, in line with his expectation, he couldn’t resist laughing.
“Owner, a bowl of red chili oil noodles.” Xue Wangxu smiled and called out loudly.
Ding Ning also asked for the same dish. When the noodles were served, he came over with the two bowls and handed one to Xue Wangxu.
The two buried their heads and ate. They looked at each other’s slightly sweating foreheads. Ding Ning asked, “You came so early today. Where are you preparing to go?”
Xue Wangxu took a moment before he replied. “I am going to the northern base of the Tiger-Wolf Army.”
Ding Ning was silent for a moment. “Who are you looking for?”
“General Liang,” Xue Wangxu said, truthfully.
Ding Ning’s brows furrowed slightly. His gaze unconsciously landed on the Last Flower Sword by his side.
He increasingly felt that this remnant sword was like a thread that tangled more matters and things together. Perhaps, this was like a curse … before this sword had appeared, many things were distant to him. Even if he had been scheming some things all this time and asking about some matters before, when this sword appeared, many favors and grudges surfaced, and he could not break free.
Was this destiny?
Was it not that he was too rushed and the time had truly arrived?
Looking at his odd expression, Xue Wangxu asked, “What is it?”
Ding Ning looked up and asked in a whisper, “The empress’ wishes? You went to ask her for her opinion last night?”
Xue Wangxu stilled slightly but still nodded.
“I greatly anticipate your performance at the Min Mountain Sword Trials. I want to see if you will win. That would truly be glorious. Living a few more or less years isn’t as important as my face. But for this … I had to ask for her opinion.”
Pausing slightly, Xue Wangxu continued warmly. “Originally, she did not want you to know these are her arrangements. For me, I also do not want you to know that she has arranged this because she is correct. If you have hatred towards her and some people in court, it will not be good for your future growth in Changling. But I know you are too smart. Even if I do not tell you, you would be able to guess it.”
As he listened, Ding Ning did not express any opinions of the empress. He only said, “Regardless of why she is discontented with Liang Lian, if Liang Lian is only a realm six cultivator, she would not have needed to work with such twists and turns.”
“So, Liang Lian has certainly reached realm seven.”
“You will die. She wants me to see you die with my own eyes … she probably wants you to find an excuse so you must challenge Liang Lian. That way, even if I hate, I will just hate Liang Lian. It is alright if subjects hate each other because they are just blades of the Qin Dynasty, the private property of His Majesty. They can restrain each other.”
After he had spoken, Ding Ning was silent for a moment. “I knew she was cold-hearted but not this much.”
Xue Wangxu had been listening calmly the entire time. At this moment, he shook his head and said, “You are still too smart.”
“In terms of understanding the art of power, the country bumpkins of Zhushan District are lesser than you, and even the majority of people in Changling cannot compare. But if you are truly smart, you should know it is best you pretend to not see these things.”
He looked into Ding Ning’s eyes and deepened his tone as he warned with unusual seriousness. “Even if you feel a thread of hate towards her and court, you have to pretend it doesn’t exist.”
“Because this at least represents an attitude of submission,” Ding Ning said, in a cold voice. “Right now, she and His Majesty do not care whether the cultivators of the Qin have their own thoughts, they only care whether we submit or not.”
“A powerful dynasty must abandon the interests and thoughts of some people. We are only a few. To be honest, the people of the Qin Dynasty are living in peace. His Majesty is the strongest and wisest emperor in the history of the Qin.” Xue Wangxu smiled slightly and said, “As long as you can understand. Even if her thoughts are cold-hearted, our request of being able to finish watching the Min Mountain Sword Trials is fulfilled. For this, we should be grateful to her.”
Ding Ning was silent.
Xue Wangxu seemed to hear his thoughts and laughed. “In reality, you should change your thinking. I have earned the wrath of an enemy I cannot match. This enemy gave me room to choose and enough time. Also, I promise I will not pass this time in pain. This way, you will not feel that her wanting you to watch me slowly die is a cruel matter. At least, you can see a fight between realm sevens in person. This could be of use to you in your future cultivation,” he said, warmly.
“You are correct.”
Ding Ning put away the two bowls and his expression returned to normal. But his heart was unusually cold. He ruminated slowly, pity that she thought so, pity that even without these events, I cannot forgive her cold-heartedness.
The morning light grew thicker, but the sky above Changling grew even darker as it started to snow again. This time, it was not flurries, but feathery with large snowflakes.
Liang Lian was walking on the training field of the Tiger-Wolf Army. His military boots creaked on the fallen snow. The sight of the Tiger-Wolf army chariots that were practicing their charges and different formations meticulously on a nearby training field, brought him much satisfaction.
But at this moment, he sensed an odd presence.
This was a presence enough to attract the attention of any cultivator in Changling. This presence pulled at the primal energies of the universe in the camp as well as the descending large snowflakes. It slowly gathered into a large banner in the sky.
Feeling the snow flag that had formed in the air, Liang Lian’s brows furrowed. Without hesitation, he walked steadily over the snow and out of the camp.
As he walked, many cultivators in the camp felt the oddness. They walked out of their tents and looked in shock outside the camp at the snow and wind.
A large yellow canvas umbrella slowly floated through the snow and wind. This umbrella was very large and had a large and a small figure under it. The snow did not stick to the umbrella surface when it landed and floated upwards. There seemed to be a reflection of light above the umbrella in the shape of a large banner.
Looking at Liang Lian who walked out of the camp gates, the white-haired old person under the umbrella smiled peacefully. He said, “General Liang Lian, I am going to challenge you.”
Liang Lian looked silently at Xue Wangxu and Ding Ning under their umbrella. His eyes had originally held some confusion, but when he heard these words, he immediately understood many things.
The surging snow and wind split in front of him as though they were terrified. His figure suddenly became clear in the snow and wind. Then he reached out with his hand and gripped behind him.
All the cultivators who came out of the camp saw his signal and immediately stopped from walking out of the gates.
“Alright!” Then he nodded at Xue Wangxu and coolly said, “I accept your challenge.”
Ding Ning looked at Liang Lian within the snow and wind.
He was sure that Song Shenshu was correct. He did not say anything and wordlessly retreated.
Liang Lian’s gaze suddenly fell on Ding Ning. He seemed to have recalled something. “Your student is interesting,” he said, expressionlessly.
Xue Wangxu smiled slightly and said, “In the future, he will need General Liang’s patronage.”
Liang Lian did not answer. His gaze moved away from Ding Ning. Then his body seemed to expand as though a mountain of iron had appeared in front of the camp gates.
Xue Wangxu smiled and said, “General, please prepare to receive my sword.”
The moment he spoke, many flying snowflakes in front of him were attracted by the primal energies of the universe. Surging out of his body they formed threads of ice in the snow and wind. Each of these ice threads was a seal line.
Liang Lian’s cold face suddenly turned grave. Abruptly, he looked up.
Extremely high in the air, that faint banner suddenly changed. Countless threads of ice and flowing snow had formed an enormous snow sword.
Translator Ramblings: Xue Wangxu is trying to make a good path for Ding Ning.