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Chapter 17: Problem
The two powerful cultivators foreign to Qin were killed by Shao Sharen, the best killer of Min Mountain Sword Sect, before they could even use their best skills. During the time, Palace Attendant Rong passed through the rows of military tents into Liang Lian’s main tent, and sat down in front of him.
Liang Lian was drinking medicine.
The medicine in the bowl was as black as ink and looked extremely bitter. Ordinary people would usually want to drain the bowl and then eat a spoonful of sugar. But he expressionlessly sipped it slowly like tea.
Palace Attendant Rong looked coldly at him and said, “The empress is very disappointed in you.”
“I am also very disappointed.”
Liang Lian stopped. He was silent for a moment as he looked at the medicine in the bowl. Then he said, “I thought that I was greedy before, never content, wanting to focus on becoming a marquis, establish myself in Changling, and even get my own land. But after yesterday, I know that all of that is just my extravagant hopes. The Holy One and she wholeheartedly want to make sure people forget the Ba Mountain Sword Field, and ensure that those names will disappear along with the years before the Holy One’s ascension. How could they let someone like me become a marquis?”
“My existence reminds many people of those past matters.” Liang Lian laughed scornfully after a pause. His smile was dark and cold, like the flashing arrowheads as the arrows flew across the battlefield.
“These are just your own personal thoughts.” Palace Attendant Rong looked with an unchanging expression at Liang Lian and said, “While the empress is disappointed in you, she still recognizes your abilities. General Liang, if you are faithful and fulfill your duties, General Liang’s disgraces will be erased from the history books. People will only remember your achievements.”
“The reason the people of Ba Mountain Sword Field disappeared is because they looked too far and not at the present. Now, who would ignore the present for the future?” Liang Lian looked coldly at Palace Attendant Rong. “I only want to know what decree she has you bring.”
Palace Attendant Rong looked at him and said calmly, “The empress will have you lead an army to Nanyue. If possible, she hopes that you will be like the other marquises outside the forts and get enfeoffed in Nanyue.”
Liang Lian’s eyes narrowed slightly. He lifted the bowl and drained his medicine which cut along his throat like a blade. His voice was extremely cold. “Enfeoffed in Nanyue? The empress really has a high opinion of me. Nanyue cultivators have odd tactics, their weather is hard to adapt to, cruelly cold in the winter, torridly hot in the summer, with miasma, snakes and insects. Which of those are not fatal? The speedy cavalry shooting and seal chariots that my army is skilled in is almost useless…”
“The empress is letting you go, not to listen to your suggestions but for you to obey. Relaying to you this information early, is so you can prepare. This represents her respect towards you.” Palace Attendant Rong’s voice was calm but she ruthlessly interrupted Liang Lian. “Having you go to Nanyue is a part of her arrangements. When have you ever seen her let the people useful to the Qin go to die?”
After saying this, she stood up. She did not look at Liang Lian’s expression and turned to leave after bowing deeply to him.
Liang Lian turned his head and looked out through the window of his tent. He could see some roofs in Changling, and was silent for a long time.
For many years in the past, all he wanted to do was climb up. He did not want to be a dog led by a rope tied around his neck. But now in hindsight, when he was following those people, he had not been like a dog when he had been of lowly status.
The carriage cabin was stuffy in summer. There had been the wars to end the Han, Zhao and Wei dynasties as well as the bloody storm in the years before Yuanwu’s ascension. Now, in Changling, the Qin Dynasty and even the entire world, there were few experts like the people of the former Ba Mountain Sword Field who could fight alone against several, and even ten realm sevens. There were not many extremely powerful experts. The person driving his carriage was one of them. So Ding Ning rolled up the curtain, assured, and let the wind enter through the two windows.
Air moved as the curtains were opened. The people on the streets could also see the person inside the carriage.
Just as they drove into the streets of Changling, a middle-aged man in a short robe came over and bowed from a distance. He said respectfully, “Mister Taixu has sent me with a letter.”
The carriage paused slightly. Shao Sharen did not sense any danger so he did not leak any murderousness.
“My people,” Ding Ning said softly towards his back.
Shao Sharen remained silent and nodded minutely. He drove the carriage next to the middle-aged man delivering a letter from Wang Taixu.
The middle-aged man handed in the letter he had been gripping through the window. Then he took two steps back and waited respectfully.
Ding Ning unfolded the letter. As he looked at it, his body suddenly stiffened.
A moment later, he looked up at the middle-aged man outside the window. “I am going directly to Ink Garden. Have Wang Taixu send my aunt to Ink Garden.”
The middle-aged man bowed respectfully and left.
Seeing this middle-aged man’s sincere respect, and the things that the gangster called Wang Taixu and Ding Ning had done in this half hour, Shao Sharen could not help but shake his head. This wineshop youth was not an ordinary person, but the opponents from the sword trials thought of him as one.
He did not voice any of his thoughts. The carriage slowly passed through the streets of Changling and headed towards Ink Garden.
He had seen enough conflicts, and killed enough people. Shao Sharen was asked by Baili Suxue to protect Ding Ning, and kill all those who wanted to kill Ding Ning. He had no interest in participating in a scheme for any of Changling’s factions. When the carriage stopped by the Ink Garden gates, he spoke. “I will wait here for you. Do not worry for me.”
This was what Ding Ning liked to hear the most. He struggled out of the carriage. He looked at this cultivator who had killed his entire life as though he knew nothing else and bowed in thanks.
The tall walls of Ink Garden had been opened. Many shops had been built along the street. Seeing Ding Ning walk out of the carriage, many of the neighbours busy in their shops shouted excitedly and crowded over.
Ding Ning had won the Min Mountain Sword Trials. He fulfilled his promise to Xue Wangxu, and won glory for White Goat Cave. The Qin established their country by war and sword. For these neighbours who had moved here from Falling Parasol, this was naturally a great glory.
Their way of expressing their affection and respect to Ding Ning was extremely simple and direct. The noodle shop owner most familiar with Ding Ning was the loudest. “Ding Ning, next time you come to eat my shop, you eat for free.”
Hearing their shouts, Ding Ning knew where their joy came from. So he shouted. “Of course, without the care of my neighbours, without the daily bowl of noodles, how could I have won!”
The words were like setting off firecrackers at a celebration. Cheers rose again.
Ding Ning smiled and bowed with his hands folded. He patiently talked with the neighbors before he was half carried into the courtyard by them.
The numerous maids that Wang Taixu had arranged for were waiting inside. They sent Ding Ning into the small courtyard that Forefather Zhou had previously resided in.
Inside, a middle-aged man who looked slightly fragile was waiting for him to arrive.
“In the past, you were fragile, now it is my turn.”
Ding Ning could not help but shake his head when he saw this person and sighed softly.
This middle-aged man was naturally Wang Taixu. He looked at Ding Ning’s pale face and smiled.
Then, putting away his smile, he asked directly, “What should I do next?”
He was already the most powerful gangster of Changling. But this power came from the transaction and favors Ding Ning had with the powers of the military. Because Ding Ning won the Min Mountain Sword Trials, his relationship with the military could continue. But now everything had changed.
He did not worry for his own life, but he worried about his people who made a living in Changling.
“Not worse than before, but better.”
Ding Ning lay down on a bamboo chair in front of him. Then he looked at this worried Changling gangster leader. He said seriously, “Zheng Xiu wrote a letter in her own hand to my senior sect brother for him to leave me. She is the person who understands trades and trade-offs the best. So next, she will propose many conditions that will be compensation to me. In the past, you and I were rootless. Now, it is different. We have the support of Min Mountain Sword Sect.”
Ding Ning paused, looked at Wang Taixu and said, “Since she cannot stop me from winning the Min Mountain Sword Sect, what she will do next is to buy me over. Using a useful person is always more useful to her than destroying a person.”
Wang Taixu frowned. He pondered the words carefully and said, “Then we only need to wait?”
“Wait for her arrangements and also Min Mountain Sword Sect’s arrangements. Strictly speaking, you and I both belong to Min Mountain Sword Sect now,” Ding Ning said calmly. “But you must first find out for me where my senior sect brother went.”
Wang Taixu nodded.
“Your letter said that while Bai Shanshui escaped, one of her fellows may have ended up in the Great Floating Water Prison?” Ding Ning asked.
Wang Taixu could not understand why Ding Ning would deliberately mention this matter but he still nodded. “Yes.”
“The people of the Astrology Bureau have gone to Falling Parasol sometimes. Why?”
Ding Ning continued to ask.
Wang Taixu did not answer.
He could hear that the other was speaking to himself. This was not his problem, but Ding Ning’s.