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Chapter 41: Book of Talents
The Divinity Bureau carriage carrying Ding Ning and Shen Yi slowly drove back to Falling Parasol.
In the alley adorned with lanterns, people were waiting for him.
Ding Ning saw Nangong Caishu, Xie Changsheng and Xu Heshan respectfully sitting next to Xue Wangxu and talking with him.
Seeing Ding Ning descend the carriage, Xie Changsheng was the first to stand up. Heexcitedly said, “Brother-in-law, you’ve returned?”
Then he looked at Shen Yi who came down after Ding Ning. Xie Changsheng stilled. “How come you are here?”
Shen Yi looked at Xie Changsheng with a conflicted expression.
“Do not call me this. You know that I do not like it.” Ding Ning looked calmly at Xie Changsheng and said, “Shen Yi is a new disciple of White Goat Cave. Right now, he is my junior sect brother.”
Now it was Xie Changsheng’s turn to have a conflicted expression. He said, “How can this be, he has intentions towards my sister.”
Ding Ning frowned and said, “Then I can matchmake them.”
Shen Yi’s eyes widened. He looked in joy at Ding Ning. “Senior Sect Brother Ding Ning, is this true?”
Xie Changsheng said angrily, “Why are you happy? You know my sister’s temper.”
Shen Yi stilled. His eyes dimmed and he felt depressed.
“All you know is nonsense, and you are still so childish in front of Cave Master Xu.” Nangong Caishu reprimanded Xie Changsheng. She looked at the departing Divinity Bureau carriage and asked Ding Ning,” How come a Divinity Bureau carriage was used to transport you after the occurrence of such a major event?”
At Nangong Caishu’s words, Ding Ning knew that Xue Wangxu must have told them about what happened in Fish Market. He nodded and said, “That is Mo Qinggong’s care for me. The Divinity Bureau carriage bringing me back is telling others that the Divinity Bureau is already interfering, and the people who are against me should pull back. The Divinity Bureau is investigating my assassins. I think it will not be so simple.”
“This may be a conflict of the court that has pulled you in. Be careful,” Xu Heshan said, seriously in a lowered voice.
He and Nangong Caishu came from prestigious families and their judgement went deeper than ordinary people.
Ding Ning nodded, feeling his goodwill.
“But you are really not simple. Two realm fives and one realm four … if this was anyone else, they would be dead.” Xie Changsheng had admired Ding Ning since the sword trial festival and he looked at Ding Ning with even more reverence now. “When the news spreads, your position on the Sword Conference Book of Talents will not be seventy two. You will definitely rise a great amount.”
“Why are you visiting today?” Ding Ning frowned slightly and said, “What is the Sword Conference Book of Talents?”
“Of course we visit friends in the new year. Even if you are not my brother-in-law now, you should not be so unreasonable.”
Xie Changsheng casually took out a thin book and handed it to Ding Ning. He said, “After a month or so, copies of this thing will be everywhere and it would not be valuable. But this is the first edition and I spent great effort.”
Nangong Caishu smiled slightly and said, “This Sword Conference Book of Talents is a review of all the young geniuses from the cultivation places that can attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials and those who have received a recommendation as created by the Hongyang Academy.”
“This is akin to a ranking of strength. There is something like this?” A shocked Shen Yi asked in disbelief. “Xie Changsheng said seventy two just now. Has the Hongyang Academy ranked Ding Ning seventy two only, is this accurate?”
Nangong Caishu explained, “The Hongyang Academy is not a cultivation place, but a subordinate office of the Bureau of Commerce. They deal with accounting, especially of the registration of the Qin cultivators and their positions. They even investigate and account for the newest situation of cultivators who are not in cultivation places and record information. Right now, they have limited this to all the young geniuses that may attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials. They have created this book for their authority. Of course, this is only an evaluation of cultivation and swordsmanship. It does not consider whether some may be better in battle.”
Shen Yi paled.
He admitted that he was far from Ding Ning. Even though this was just a general evaluable …there were so many experts in Changling?
Zhang Yi came out with steeped tea. He had heard Nangong Caishu answer Shen Yi and looked at Shen Yi’s pale face. He could not help but comfort. “Little Sect Brother, Changling is large, and has many people, many more than Guanzhong.”
Shen Yi did not speak. He was lost in thoughts. If even Ding Ning was ranked seventy second right now, then who was the most outstanding young talent as ranked by the people of Hongyang Academy?
Zhang Yi was also very curious. He first poured a cup of hot tea for Xue Wangxu to warm his hand and then looked at the thin book in Ding Ning’s hands. He asked, “Who is ranked first? Is it Dugu Bai of the Dugu Marquessate Establishment?”
Dugu Bai, the son that Dugu Marquessate Establishment’s Dugu Liangsheng raised with primal energies of the universe and battle energy as medicine and the heavenly path was famous in Changling. Last year, all the cultivation places in Changling had heard that he had returned from the Gobi and was preparing to participate in this year’s Min Mountain Sword Trials.
“I originally thought it was Dugu Bai but when I opened it was not,” Xie Changsheng winked and said smugly when he heard Zhang Yi.
“Then who is it?”
Even Xue Wangxu stilled slightly and looked at the thin book in Ding Ning’s hands.
In his view, this young child of the Dugu Marquessate Establishment who had definitely reached realm four should be first.
Ding Ning sat next to Xue Wangxu and flipped open the first page with a serious expression. Since he had decided to be the victor of the Min Mountain Sword Trials, and bring Xue Wangxu the most glory, then everyone in this small book was his opponent. He had also heard quite a lot about Dugu Bai. Even if he took out his hidden power, with his cultivation what it was at present, Dugu Bai was an extremely dangerous threat to him.
Now, Dugu Bai was not first. This meant that there would be other factors in the Min Mountain Sword Trials that he would not want.
“The first: Lie Yinghong.”
The moment Ding Ning saw this name, he stilled slightly. This was definitely a rare name.
Zhang Yi’s eyes widened. He had never heard of this name.
He could not help but scan the page.
“Predicted cultivation: realm four second class.”
“Cultivation place: Overseas islands.”
This thin talent book did not give too much information. It only recorded these three things about each cultivator.
The islands overseas- this meant the subordinate island countries that frequently produced and traded spirit medicines with the Qin Dynasty. These island countries were poor and after centuries of trade, their life was controlled by the Qin Dynasty. While they had cultivators, they would rarely travel to Changling. This was likely the first time someone was attending the Min Mountain Sword Trials. Also, this person received great attention from Hongyang Academy and was ranked first.
Ding Ning frowned slightly and looked up at Xie Changsheng, Nangong Caishu and the others. “This person is a recommendation?”
Hearing these words, Zhang Yi came back from his shock. He immediately felt that Ding Ning had grabbed the crux of the matter. For a cultivator from an overseas subordinate country to attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials, he most likely had a strong support.
Hearing Ding Ning’s question, Xie Changsheng was slightly proud. He said softly, “I investigated. I am unsure but it is likely to be people of Jiaodong Commandery.”
Ding Ning’s expression darkened slightly.
Zhang Yi also changed expression. “Members of the empress’ family?”
The Jiaodong Commandery was a large commandery of the Qin Dynasty that bordered the sea. Everyone in the Qin Dynasty knew that while the empress Zheng Xiu was from Zheng, she became the empress due to two factors. First, her cultivation, beauty and intelligence. The other important reason was because her paternal family, the Zheng Family, had astounding power in the Jiaodong Commandery.
In reality, before Emperor Yuanwu ascended the throne, while the Jiaodong Commandery was the territory of the Qin Dynasty in name, it was more a country under the rule of the Zheng Family. The powerful Zheng Family even had some secret agreements with the Qi Dynasty before Emperor Yuanwu ascended the throne.
A major reason Emperor Yuanwu ascended the throne came from the support of the powerful Zheng family. The earliest armored fleets of the Qin Dynasty all belonged to the Zheng Family. Back then, the Zheng Family already had the ability to dominate the seas.
“The Hongyang Academy is full of old pedants. They would not give the empress face.” Xie Changsheng looked at Ding Ning and said seriously, “So this Lie Yinghong must be strong, and have astounding accomplishments overseas. You have to be careful.”
Ding Ning nodded and flipped to the second page.
The name on the second page was still not Dugu Bai’s name.
“Second place, Yi Haoran. Predicted cultivation: realm four second class. Cultivation place: The establishment of Li Lingjun.”
This young talent’s history was clear at a glance.
Thinking back to his encounter during the sword trial festival, Ding Ning’s eyes turned cold. He said in a slightly disdainful tone, “Li Lingjun is really methodical, and always has people to use. The powerful of Changling are really open-minded now to let people of Li Lingjun’s establishment attend the Min Mountain Sword Trials.”
Nangong Caishu looked at him. She hesitated and said softly, “Li Lingjun has a high probability of returning to the Chu Dynasty and taking the throne … so some of the Changling powerful may have reached an agreement with him. This should only be a small part of the transaction between important people.”
Zhang Yi frowned slightly.
The power struggles between the powerful people at court were too complicated. People who had not reached such heights would not understand. So he had no interest in those things and only wanted to know if the third person was Dugu Bai.
However, when Ding Ning flipped to the third page, the name was still not Dugu Bai, but a name that was unexpected to Ding Ning and Xue Wangxu.
Translator Ramblings: What’s a tournament without preliminary rankings?