Chapter 62 Bleak
Ding Ning exchanged a few words with Zhang Yi and Shen Yi before boarding the grey, and almost musty carriage. The old horses knew the route and didn’t even need the guidance of a driver. The two old horses pulled the carriage slowly through the streets of Changling.
In the cabin, Xue Yi sat with his back to Ding Ning. Ding Ning saw the tattoo on his scalp. It looked like a multicolored Earth Womb Bodhisattva with beads in his left hand and a staff in his right as he sat on a lotus platform. The bodhisattva had an expression of benevolence and compassion, but the color and compassion of the tattoo conflicted discomfortingly with Xue Yi’s presence.
The cabin was not sealed so as the carriage swayed, the curtain moved, and cold air would leak in.
Sitting in the innermost part of the cabin, Ding Ning pulled his collar tighter. He looked at the two brown horses between the swaying curtain and tried to find a topic of conversation. “These two old horses are obedient.”
Sitting in front of him, Xue Yi said coldly, “The ones that aren’t have been killed already. After killing enough, there will be some obedient ones that remain. Animals are much easier to control than people. For animals, death is their greatest terror but people are different. Some people can go do something they think it is worthwhile and give up their life.”
Ding Ning’s expression did not change but he made his heart beat slightly faster. He said, “I have never interacted with Official before. Why is Official warning me at the start?”
Xue Yi did not turn around. He only shook his head and said, “Do not think to have any delusions, I am casually lecturing you. Each young cultivator of Changling is a valuable part of the Qin Dynasty’s wealth.”
Ding Ning grew silent and stopped speaking.
Xue Yi was one who would not speak if he did not have to. He allowed the old horses to drag the carriage forward. The carriage travelled for half a day and finally reached the suburbs of Changling and that deathly silently poplar wood.
When they neared that short stone building built near the riverside, Xue Yi spoke again, “When we enter the prison, you have to follow my footsteps. If you make a wrong step, you may die.”
Ding Ning’s expression grew slightly grim but he still did not speak and nodded to indicate his understanding.
Xue Yi gave a soft cold laugh. He only revealed a small part of his presence, but the two tired old horses sank into great terror and started to gallop. In a few moments, they travelled hundreds of feet towards the stone walls of the building that didn’t seem to have a door.
Just before the horses were going to collide with the wall, a sudden wind rose in front of the stone wall. Light twisted, and became a cluster of intangible shadows.
The racing carriage passed through the wall and entered a space of great coldness. The light on the two sides quickly dimmed. Behind this intangible wall made from energy was a flat path. However, there were no windows on the two sides of the stone passageway so was completely dark. The horses’ hooves splashed in the darkness on the path that had at least two feet of water.
This was the Water Shadow Path, the only passageway into the Great Floating Water Prison.
There were at least five different kinds of powerful formations under the shallow water. When Ding Ning scanned with his mental power, he found there were far more than five different kinds of killing intent.
Sensing the coldness in the unfrozen water that was even colder than ice, thinking about that person imprisoned in the deepest part of this prison was always immersed in this bone-chilling water, Ding Ning stopped controlling the beating of his heart and the flow of his energies. He allowed his body to tremble.
With a splash, a burst of water landed on the ground. The carriage finally reached dry land.
This was dry land but the air was extremely dark and humid with a rotting presence coming from between the stone cracks. The two hold horses remained motionless when they stepped onto dry land as their bodies trembled uncontrollably. Someone was waiting like a ghost by the side and led away the two horses, leaving behind Xue Yi and Ding Ning in the carriage.
Xue Yi turned and glanced coldly at Ding Ning.
Ding Ning, who understood his meaning, walked behind him.
Xue Yi started to move, his grey boots leaving behind blurry footprints on the ground.
Ding Ning walked in his footsteps.
The Great Floating Water Prison was the best guarded place in the Qin Dynasty. Even people like Mo Qinggong were only allowed to enter when the person in charge gave permission. In the public’s imagination, the Great Floating Water Prison was many metal prisons immersed in the dark cold water.
But the reality was not so.
In front of Xue Yi and Ding Ning was an enormous mountain valley. There were enormous black stones the size of building standing in this lightless valley. This valley and the enormous stones were not illusions created by formations, but tangible objects which gave off the murderous intent of formations.
Xue Yi led Ding Ning to travel in the shadows of this black mountain and passed through this seemingly calm mountain valley.
After passing through this valley, grey mist started to form ahead of them. Ding Ning could not see what the path ahead looked light. Wild beasts seemed to linger in the grey mist and would charge out at any moment.
Xue Yi wound his way through the grey mist. Some of the paths were curved and uphill as though they were climbing a mountain.
After fifteen minutes, the light of some lanterns appeared in the grey mist.
Underneath the lanterns was a patch of cherry trees. The cherries were the deep purple kind of mountain cherries.
In this underground that never saw the light of day, this cherry forest was blooming inconceivably. The thick and bright purple color seemed to even stain the light of the lanterns so even the light of those lanterns looked light purple.
Ding Ning’s breathing paused slightly and his brow uncontrollably furrowed. He was not pretending to be shocked, but truly nervous. He hadn’t expected Xue Yi to lead him past here today.
This was a true threat to him.
Xue Yi stepped into the purple cherry forest. Ding Ning stepped on his footsteps. With this step, all the flower petals on the surrounding cherry trees left their branches and danced around him and Xue Yi.
This was a stunning scene that could not be described with words. Countless flower petals danced and shone brightly in the air. Yet for Ding Ning, this beautiful picture contained countless dangerous lines.
Just like how Zhang Yi and the others had been with the Painting Remnant Scroll, if his mind accidentally went into any of the lines, these dancing purple cherry flowers would give off some special energies.
He had to look as they walked through the rain of flowers, yet these lines were extremely familiar to him. It was extremely difficult for him to see these lines, but not touch them with his mind at all and pretend he did not see or sense them.
When his mind was slowly being lured away, as he felt terror rise and sweat about to appear on his back, Zhangsun Qianxue’s face flashed through Ding Ning’s mind.
“I need to leave here unharmed.”
“I cannot leave her alone in Changling.”
“I must walk through here.”
These three sentences repeated in Ding Ning’s mind.
Then his mind was thrown into a storm of wind and snow just like how it was during the nights that they cultivated together. His mind grew icy calm.
As Xue Yi walked out of the cherry forest at the front, the dancing purple flower petals flew back to the branches like butterflies. The wild purple cherry forest still looked as though it was in the middle of its flowering, just the same as before.
Ding Ning looked back. Looking at the wild cherry forest, he said coldly inside, Zhangsun Qianxue is my greatest weakness but also my greatest reason in Changling.
Xue Yi continued to advance.
They passed through a stone passageway that seemed to have bottomless abysses on both sides before finally stopping in front of a stone room that looked like a grave. Xue Yi turned to Ding Ning and said flatly, “We are here.”
After saying this, Xue Yi silently left Ding Ning standing alone in front of the stone room. Ding Ning carefully controlled the flow of energies in his body and made his heart beat faster.
“Come in.” A voice came out of the stone room in front of him as though it came from a high place. Because it was too high, it was too cold.
Ding Ning seemed to hesitate and didn’t dare to step.
“Come in. Since Official Shen has said for you to enter, there will be no danger here,” a voice that Ding Ning was familiar with came out.
Ding Ning’s eyes lit up slightly and said, “Official Mo.”
Then he did not hesitate and walked quickly into the stone room.
The thin and tall Shen Xuan looked coldly at Ding Ning who walked through the doorway.
“Sit.” He nodded at a metal chair in front of him for Ding Ning to sit.
Ding Ning glanced at Mo Qinggong who was beside him and sat down on the icy metal chair without a word.
Shen Xuan reached out with a hand. He was so thin and tall that even his hand was longer than ordinary people. So when he reached out, his palm landed on Ding Ning’s head.
Ding Ning was unable to dodge even if he saw it.
Shen Xuan’s fingers tensed slightly as power went through the flesh and bones in Ding Ning’s head before he relaxed.
Undisguised regret and melancholy appeared on his face.
He had been one of the most important people in the ascension of Emperor Yuanwu but he later ended up in charge of the Great Floating Water Prison. In the eyes of the Changling elite, he must have either caused Emperor Yuanwu’s displeasure in some matter, or Emperor Yuanwu did not like using people who had betrayed others.
Yet he knew that he did not come to the Great Floating Water Prison because of a demotion, but because of his own request. This concerned his cultivation.
Where in the world would there be so many powerful cultivators as in the Great Floating Water Prison? Where would there be so many living cultivator bodies for him to freely dissect and study? Also, these people would speak of many cultivation tactics and experiences.
So this Great Floating Water Prison was an enormous treasure hoard.
Due to choosing such a path, in the early years of Yuanwu, his cultivation was less than Ye Celeng and the marquises, but by now, he was stronger than most of them.
Everything was a fallacy, only power was true.
Power was status.
Compared to vital energy and presence, a cultivator’s flesh and bones could not be faked. He only needed a touch to sense the strength of the other’s physical body and the “newness” of the bones. The bone age would be the true age.
When he first noticed Ding Ning’s existence, he thought of this wine shop youth’s astounding rise, and had an astounding thought, or rather hope. If this wine shop youth was that person’s heir … then this cultivation speed, comprehension, and fighting ability would make sense. If this was true, if he could learn some things from this wine shop youth, then his strength and status in Changling would be completely different.
But to his regret and disappointment, there were no problems with this youth. All the responses, and even the true age, said that the possibility was not possible.
This wine shop youth was born three years after that person died. How could he have any connection to that person? He could not have received personal teaching and experiences from that person.
Because he was so disappointed, he became melancholy.
Translator Ramblings: Xue Yi means “blood one” so there should technically be a Blood Two and Blood Three …