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Chapter 143: Public Pawn and Hidden Pawn
Everyone could feel the power contained in Duanmu Jingzong’s vital energy explosion.
Even restrained by medicine and other things Baili Suxue may have demanded in order for Duanmu Jingzong to attend the trials, the vital energy cultivation displayed by that explosion was peak realm four. However, it had naturally spilled out due to his body being in danger, and thrown Ding Ning into the air before it could form properly into primal energies.
The difference of a full realm caused Ding Ning to appear like a child in front of an adult in the face of such power.
But how can a child win against an adult?
And yet, the adult had been defeated by the child’s storm of punches, without even the chance to punch back.
Many students inexplicably felt uncomfortable.
They unconsciously put themselves into Duanmu Jingzong’s place. They thought, if they possessed Duanmu Jingzong’s great power but did not even have the chance to display it or swing their sword well, they would feel very uncomfortable.
They felt uncomfortable if they put themselves into Duanmu Jingzong’s position, naturally Duanmu Jingzong, as the actual participant, felt extremely uncomfortable.
This discomfort surpassed the pain he felt in his body. He was still foaming with blood as he shouted. “I will kill you! You used trickery! Next time, you will not be a match for me!”
Ding Ning did not react as he walked back, not even to frown.
Duanmu Jingzong had no place to vent his energy. He became even more uncomfortable and shouted. “To win against me, you forced out all the cold fiendish energy you have. I want to see how you will win now!”
All of the students and teachers watching were shocked. This was the problem Ding Ning was facing.
Ding Ning frowned, stopped and looked at Duanmu Jingzong who had fallen to the ground and had a crazed expression.
“You know so much about me. Your goal in attending the trials is me, and not Li Xixing.”
“You are willing to be someone’s tool. Not the commander but a frontline pawn. What do you have to be angry or displeased about?”
The words were not loud, yet many of the students froze upon hearing them. Some even unconsciously hung their usually proud heads. They all understood the meaning Ding Ning was expressing.
In these famed sword trials, no matter how well they performed, they were just pawns. But Ding Ning was a general. He was fighting for his own will, fighting Palace Attendant Rong and that immaculate shadow behind her. From this point of view, he was a level above them all.
So, while Ding Ning’s words were calm, they could sense the pride within, enough to make them ashamed.
Duanmu Jingzong’s mouth was agape, his expression still… he was speechless.
One of the cultivation teachers turned back to look at the resting camp on the cliffs. He knew that Palace Attendant Rong must be watching the valley.
Duanmu Jingzong was a powerful pawn in the trials. Once the situation was known widely, the cultivators of the world would admire and fear the abilities of the perfect woman in the palace. Yet Ding Ning had so easily defeated this pawn. This invisible slap to the face was very loud.
He reckoned Palace Attendant Rong’s expression would be spectacular right now.
Palace Attendant Rong was watching Duanmu Jingzong and Ding Ning’s figures in the darkness, just as this cultivator thought.
But contrary to his thoughts, Palace Attendant Rong’s expression did not change much from her usual coldness and nobility.
Duanmu Jingzong recovered from his daze. He was extremely narrow-minded and would not have lost his anger just because of Ding Ning’s words. He gritted his teeth and wanted to say more.
But Ding Ning did something stunning.
Ding Ning turned, bowing to Lin Suixin. Then he looked at He Zhaoxi and said, “I want to challenge He Zhaoxi.”
Disbelieving gasps sounded in a wave.
Even Dugu Bai, Yi Xin and the others were shocked.
“Little Sect Brother … you … you.” Zhang Yi could not understand Ding Ning’s intentions and his voice trembled so much he stammered.
“You want to challenge He Zhaoxi now?”
Lin Suixin looked coolly at Ding Ning, a meaningful smile at the corners of his mouth.
Ding Ning nodded and said, “If allowed, I would like fifteen minutes to rest.”
Everyone confirmed they had heard correctly. Ding Ning had just defeated Duanmu Jingzong, and now he was challenging He Zhaoxi to duel him! Just the successive requests to duel was shocking enough. He Zhaoxi had been on Ding Ning’s side from the start.
Yet at this time, Palace Attendant Rong, who had been looking down at the valley, changed expression and showed shock for the first time.
“Why?” He Zhaoxi said when everyone’s gaze gathered on him. He had been extremely low-key among the crowd.
Ding Ning looked at him but did not answer.
But through the gaze, He Zhaoxi knew that Ding Ning felt an answer was unnecessary.
“When did you discover me?” He Zhaoxi was silent for a moment and then asked seriously. He looked at Ding Ning. “If you do not resolve my confusion, I will not agree to fight you.”
As he said this, small gasps sounded. Zhang Yi, Xie Rou and the others looked at He Zhaoxi, quickly paling.
“He is the empress’ hidden pawn?” Jing Liuli took a deep breath and slowly shook her head, saying, “Even I did not see that he is the empress’ hidden pawn.”
Tantai Guanjian felt that saying such words were getting tiresome, but after a moment of thought, he felt that the word best described his emotions at this moment.
“First defeating Duanmu Jingzong and then challenging He Zhaoxi.” Jing Liuli let out a rare laugh and said, “If he does it, he will do it thoroughly… Is he arranging the trials or am I? He wanted to defeat these people one by one?”
On the other side of the mountain valley, Huang Zhenwei grimaced. He sensed his conjecture becoming a reality.
The ruckus in the valley was continuing. Most people had not thought as deep and far as He Zhaoxi and Jing Liuli. They were still reacting to He Zhaoxi’s words.
He Zhaoxi was that hidden pawn!
Everyone had to admit that He Zhaoxi was the best candidate as the hidden pawn, because he was too ordinary and attracted the least attention. Other than his unique mother-son sword, many people did not have much impression of his face.
Even they, who had been watching from the side, had not seen this hidden pawn. How then had Ding Ning, who was within the situation, detected it?
If these questions were not answered, even they would be unable to focus on fighting.
“You are too calm.”
Ding Ning’s voice sounded and the ruckus in the valley disappeared abruptly. “From beginning to end, you were too calm.”
He Zhaoxi frowned deeply. He thought for a moment and said, “Your reason does not convince me. You are also very calm.”
“I am not the same as you,” Ding Ning shook his head and said. “I am calm watching Zhang Yi and Xie Rou because I was certain they would win, because I know what would happen next. But you do not understand me, and do not understand them as well as I do. You do not understand those swords and those sword manuals like I do. Being as calm as I am is abnormal.”
Ding Ning paused and then said slowly, “This calm made the joy you showed after they won appear false. I only saw such a falsity in your eyes.”
He Zhaoxi’s expression darkened and he said mockingly, “During the trials you are in the mood to observe the minute expressions of every person?”
Ding Ning nodded and said, “Because I am not a pawn. Unlike you, I need to pay attention to different things.”
“What a good general!”
He Zhaoxi sighed emotionally and then his hand landed on his sword hilt.
With that, everyone understood he had accepted the duel.
A furious and confused voice sounded.
Zhang Yi looked at He Zhaoxi, his chest violently rising and falling. “You are a student of Green Vine Sword School… White Goat Cave has merged into Green Vine Sword School. If Junior Sect Brother Ding Ning wins, Green Vine Sword School will also gain glory.”
“The summer cicada emerges from the earth, amazes the world with its sound. But who amazes the people is very important.”
He Zhaoxi looked at the emotional Zhang Yi, and then gazed into the distant mountains. He said, “Also, you do not know but I do… just a while ago, a cultivator died in Min Mountain Sword Sect. That person had the surname He.”