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Chapter 64: Deadlock
His heart feeling cold, the middle-aged man in black robes left. Before the Deer Mountain Conference, the mistress of the palace already had control of some matters in Changling. Now, this minor matter caused him to clearly recognize that she would be even stricter towards the Changling cultivators in the future.
“Let General Liang come in.” The beauty called after the retreating middle-aged official.
Steady footsteps sounded in the silent courtyard. An indescribable murderousness filled this room. The military boots crossed the doorway, and Liang Lian appeared before this beautiful palace attendant.
When he walked into this study, Liang Lian did not bow, only lifted his head; his expression as cold as water.
“You probably feel very displeased right now.”
The beautiful palace attendant’s aloofness quickly turned into coldness. Her gaze moved past Liang Lian’s upright figure into the blue sky behind the window lattice. “Usually, it is the empress seeing you in person. Today, it is me meeting you, and I had you wait for me. Also, I can tell you, if you cannot bring any satisfactory results, it will always be me meeting you in the future.”
Liang Lian thought of the perfect face of the empress in the palace. A hint of disdain appeared on the corners of his lips. “When is she preparing to drive me out of Changling?”
The beautiful palace attendant moved her gaze back to him and said, “After the Min Mountain Sword Trials.”
“After the Deer Mountain Conference, she has no more patience, as expected.” Liang Lian shook his head, said nothing else and turned to leave.
The beautiful palace attendant’s expression did not change at all. She quietly added, “The Min Mountain Sword Trials will be held early, in ten days’ time.”
Liang Lian was crossing the doorsill when he heard her words. He frowned slightly, his foot paused in the air.
“The Min Mountain Sword Sect will open their mountain in ten days.”
The middle-aged official in black robes who had left the study before Liang Lian was already in the carriage waiting for him. When he put down the curtain, he spoke to a young official standing respectfully by the side.
The morning wind was cool, but the Zhou Family Ink Garden, which should have been quiet, was bustling and boisterous.
There were at least five groups of workmen busy around a wall being torn down. The households that originally lived in Falling Parasol were moving things into the garden. Some of the clothes that had been stored for many years were finally exposed to the sunlight and spread all over the garden. Many were worried as well as happy as they talked around their chosen houses. They discussed what they had to add. Should they add a stove to this exquisite house? Those patched blankets were too shabby compared to the large carved beds.
Some of the neighbours from the surroundings also came over to spectate. They admired this Ink Garden that was so difficult to access in the past. At the same time, they told others where the nearest market was, where the wells they could use to wash their rice and vegetables were, where the ponds were …
“The Zhou Family Ink Garden was so aloof in the past. It could be said to be a cultivation place. This wineshop youth has only moved in for a few days, but wants to change it into a market. Such a great joke.”
In a private second-floor room of a nearby teahouse, a middle-aged man in plain clothes said with slight disdain, “Zheng Xiu had probably not expected this wineshop youth would use this kind of joke to express his dissatisfaction.”
“So the Min Mountain Sword Sect will open their mountain in ten days?” A black robed man next to him sneered. “If it really is just to get revenge on this wineshop youth, and not to give him enough time to prepare, then it will be a joke for everyone.”
This man in black robes had a handsome face and looked very young. However, there was a tinge of white in his eyebrows. He did not give off a dangerous presence, but people could still sense he was extremely dangerous.
The middle-aged man in plain robes turned and looked at the black robed man. He slowly said, “This is foreseeable … before the Deer Mountain Conference, the powers that displeased her could live in peace in Changling. But after she and Yuanwu completed everything they wanted to do before and after the Deer Mountain Conference, it will not be a problem if they dispelase her or not. She will choose those who will be the future pillars of the Qin and those she has to eliminate.”
The black robed man smiled coldly and said, “So this is Zheng Xiu deliberately making a joke with everyone in the dynasty. She wants to see who will disobey. The Deer Mountain Conference was Yuanwu fighting the strongest of the world. This Min Mountain Sword Trials will be her wanting to completely take care of all internal matters.”
The middle-aged man in plain robes said emotionally, “This wineshop youth’s eyes are clear. He used such a method to express his dissatisfaction to her. Regardless, even if we do not interfere, just Li Lingjun and the empress’ intentions will mean he cannot go far in the Min Mountain Sword Trials, much less enter the top three.”
“Since Zheng Xiu has made such a joke, then everyone should come play.”
The man in black robes looked at Ink Garden where the black and white lights had gone out. He said coolly, “I bet that this youth will enter the top three.”
Ordering the Min Mountain Sword Trials to be suddenly held earlier did not symbolize that the empress of the Qin was petty-minded, or that the palace attendant working on her behalf was petty-minded to hold a grudge against a wineshop youth. This represented a kind of wilfulness, or rather, a kind of dominance.
In the twelfth year of Yuanwu, at the intersection of spring and summer after the Deer Mountain Conference ended, the emperor and empress who had rested for many years, finally showed their power once again, even though they were already absolute in power after they had established themselves.
In the small courtyard that Forefather Zhou had previously lived in, Ding Ning looked at Wang Taixu whose face was now ruddy and asked with a frown, “The news is true?”
Wang Taixu looked at him and said, “Just as true as can be.”
Ding Ning said after a moment of silence, “Help me prepare a carriage. I need to return immediately to White Goat Cave.”
“What are you preparing to do?”
After Wang Taixu left, Zhangsun Qianxue appeared behind Ding Ning, her cool voice filled with rare seriousness.
“Dozens of days suddenly become ten days. With normal methods, you definitely do not have the time to increase your cultivation from realm three second class to first class. Since Zheng Xiu has clearly expressed her opinion, if you do not reach realm three first class, you should not be able to win the Min Mountain Sword Trials. If you cannot win, you cannot enter the Min Mountain Sword Sect to learn the method you need, and you will die soon.”
“But if you use extraordinary means and increase your cultivation to realm three first class during this brief time … your secret will likely be exposed. At that time, you will also die.”
“Regardless of your choice, this seems to be a deadlock. I cannot understand. I want to know, what are you going to do by returning to White Goat Cave?” Zhangsun Qianxue’s eyelashes fluttered as she looked at Ding Ning and asked.
“I will not expose the Nine Death Silkworm.”
“This is not a dead end … Everyone thinks that I cultivate the Explanation of the Spirit Source Way, but in reality, what I obtained from White Goat Cave’s library cave was the Three Corpses Nonself Consciousness Sutra.”
As Zhang Yi drove the carriage, it started galloping towards White Goat Cave.
“Little Sect Brother…”
The wind messed up Zhang Yi’s hair and also his mind, causing him to make a mistake again, and speak according to his habit.
“This is nothing.”
Ding Ning raised his head slightly from within the carriage, his eyes half-lidded. He thought and said, “The cave master is not in good health. From another perspective, the earlier the Min Mountain Sword Trials the better it is.”
Zhang Yi stilled. He felt something blocking his throat and was unable to speak. A moment later, he nodded and said softly, “How much confidence do you have?”
“Seventy percent,” Ding Ning thought seriously and said.
“Seventy percent?” Zhang Yi shouted in shock.
Because he could hear that Ding Ning was not joking, he was truly stunned. Only he, Shen Yi, and Xue Wangxu knew that what Ding Ning wanted to do in the Min Mountain Sword Trials wasn’t to reach the top ten or top three, but to be the winner!
Ding Ning nodded calmly and said in self-mockery, “I’ve already bet my life. If I cannot trade that for seventy percent, then I am too weak…”
White Goat Cave was quiet. After talking briefly with a sect uncle, Zhang Yi and Ding Ning sprinted up the mountain path. Zhang Yi stopped outside the library cave while Ding Ning continued and finally reached the grass huts in the valley.
Just like usual, Ding Ning sat down on one of the meditation mats in the grass hut. He calmly closed his eyes, and almost instantly reached the internal perception state.
Unlike his usual cultivation, the moment he started, Ding Ning’s presence grew violent.
The sound of silkworms sounded inside his body like these little silkworms had been starved for a long time. They all moved towards the lower part of his body, doing their best to tear and chew new leaves to devour into their bellies.
A pale white light appeared under his body.
With a poof, instantly, the meditation mat that had been woven from an unknown spirit grass was torn into countless pieces.
The spirit energy, that had originally been releasing slowly, became a raging flow in this moment and flooded into his body.
At the same time, his tightly closed right hand seemed to have turned transparent, emitting countless sparks.
His fingers were slowly pushed open by a strange power.
The pure white Human Sovereign Jade Annulus floated in his palm. The numerous stars revolving around it formed paths like it was its own world.
Ding Ning’s body shook slightly. His body gave off five successive sounds, as though five locks had been opened. His presence increased in ferocity!
His face became sickly red. Then threads of five-colored light came out of his skin, growing stronger as though the air around him was bursting into flame!
Translator Ramblings: This chapter felt like a series of snapshots … the training cutscenes before the climax.