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Chapter 41: Determined
The voice had come from the porter-like cultivator. He still appeared to be wiping his sweat and did not look like he was talking to them at all.
Jing Liuli saw this cultivator who was acting oddly and her eyebrows slowly lifted. Just as she was about to speak, Ding Ning’s voice sounded behind her.
“Do not ask or care, just listen.”
Jing Liuli’s gaze flashed. She did not speak and kept driving the carriage forward.
“In other words, many of her weaknesses are pretend. Her cat will die before you reach her courtyard. She ordered it to be killed.”
“She and Her Majesty the Empress are just as cruel. This cruelty is not just towards other people, it is also towards themselves.”
“She will treat her old lover the same. Even if you torture her old lover in front of her, there is no use. People like her only love themselves.”
“In this world, in this Changling, she only fears one, Her Majesty the Empress. Her only weakness is the empress… if you want to defeat her, you must find her disloyalty towards Her Majesty the Empress, even if it is faked. If matters like this are exposed, she will become more terrified. She will worry that your revelations will cause the empress to be displeased with her. She will agree to fight you in hope of stopping the occurrence.”
Jing Liuli’s frown deepened.
The porter-like cultivator’s voice finally stopped after the carriage left the alley. Jing Liuli said softly, “This person seems to make a lot of sense.”
Ding Ning nodded and said in the same low volume, “A lot of sense, and they are not an ordinary person. They know a lot, even that Palace Attendant Rong has an old lover.”
Jing Liuli thought of this and her gaze darkened. She said, “Can you guess who this person is?”
Ding Ning said calmly, “It is very likely that he is the same as this palace attendant, someone close to the empress.”
Jing Liuli turned her head to look gravely at Ding Ning. “How did you judge that?”
“The matter of the Palace Attendant Rong’s old love is deeply hidden. Even the Min Mountain Sword Sect did not know of it. Only the Astrology Bureau knew. In all of Changling, only the Divinity Bureau and the people close to the empress would know as much as the Astrology Bureau.”
Ding Ning glanced at her, indicating for her to focus on driving. He said slowly, “Also, you did not notice his tone and address… Each time he mentioned Zheng Xiu, he called her Her Majesty the Empress, and his tone was extremely respectful. The people of the Divinity Bureau are always cautious and will not cause trouble, much less contact me and Min Mountain Sword Sect. Yuanwu and Zheng Xiu’s greatest taboo is the members of the Divinity Bureau and Astrology Bureau working together with the people they supervise. If someone from the Divinity Bureau dares to do something like this, they will not be as respectful in tone or address.”
Jing Liuli said after a moment of silence, “I have many things to learn from you. But if he is someone close to the empress, why will he help you against Palace Attendant Rong. Is this a trap?”
“We will know once we try.” Ding Ning saw her humble attitude and laughed. He said, “As to someone around the empress helping me against Palace Attendant Rong, I do not know why. I cannot know everything.”
Jing Liuli thought and then nodded in agreement. She asked, “Palace Attendant Rong has been like the empress’ shadow in these last few years. How could she have been disloyal to the empress? If so, why would not that person tell us clearly if he wants to help us?”
“Maybe it is just a suspicion and not confirmed. But if there is something suspicious, it can be found.” Ding Ning looked at Jing Liuli and said, “The other even spoke directly about her old lover. He believes that we, with our capabilities, already know this. So maybe he feels that he does not need to mention it. We can find out, and it will not be hard to make something out of nothing.”
“There is one thing he is very right about which reminds me,” Ding Ning said seriously after a pause, “her greatest fear comes from Zheng Xiu. She will only be in the greatest of terrors if it is something related to Zheng Xiu. Even more importantly, Zheng Xiu loves herself the most. She is the most familiar with Zheng Xiu, so she will be even more terrified.”
Jing Liuli turned to glance at Ding Ning and said, “You seem to understand the empress very well.”
Ding Ning said calmly, “I have heard enough stories, and my eldest sect brother Zhang Yi is somewhere unknown.”
The carriage approached Palace Attendant Rong’s residence.
A clear cat scream sounded.
In Palace Attendant Rong’s courtyard, the attendant who usually served her was holding a pair of scissors, trembling all over and on the verge of tears.
There was blood splashed on her front. On the ground, a cat with blue fur had not yet died and was still convulsing.
Like in many other mornings, Zhang Yi woke up at the rooster’s first crow. He got up without any delay, dressed, folded his blanket, and started to wash.
Even in the inn, he was meticulous. A gentleman’s conduct was not in material objects, but their minds.
Some things he was puzzled by. From the Qin to the Yan, no one had arranged his journey, so he had to follow the horse caravan around the Chu-Yan border. After reaching the Yan, even in the border village, there was someone waiting to greet him, arranging his shelter and food until he reached the Yan capital.
Now, there was a carriage waiting outside the inn doors. This carriage would take him to Celestial Seal Sect today.
In the clearing in front of Celestial Seal Sect, there were many young candidates recommended by the different Yan cultivation places gathered under the sunlight.
The Yan cultivation places were not as concentrated as in the Qin Dynasty, so most of the candidates were dusty.
Celestial Seal Sect was publicly recognized as the strongest sect in the Yan. In the wider world, this sect had an important position. For many years, at least seven or eight out of every ten most famous cultivators in Yan came out of the Celestial Seal Sect.
After a simple breakfast, the carriage carried Zhang Yi to the gates of Celestial Seal Sect. Seeing the seemingly crude grass huts on the mountain, and then the writing of many powerful Yan cultivators and emperors outside the gates, he felt reverent and even ashamed.
His sword path seemed to not fit with the seal path of this Celestial Seal Sect.
More than half of the students he could see were immersed in the writing on the wall, yet he just felt the presence of those characters were too distant, like they were floating in the sky.
He did not just worry if he could keep up with these young geniuses of the Yan after entering Celestial Seal Sect. He even started to worry if he could pass the examination of Celestial Seal Sect.
As to Celestial Seal Sect’s exams being held at this time, he subconsciously thought it was a coincidence.
Yet none of the dusty candidates had the same thoughts as him. These candidates had come here half a month ago.
The exams of Celestial Seal Sect had been delayed for a fortnight for unknown reasons.
He, like the other candidates, seemed to be ignored by everyone from Celestial Seal Sect, yet all of his whereabouts were constantly being reported into a grass hut in Celestial Seal Sect.
There were three old people in the hut. One of them was the old man he had taken care of in the caravan.
“Senior Sect Brother, you really have decided to take him on as a student?”
Hearing the other old person’s question, this senior shook his head and said, “Junior Sect Brother, you have asked this three times already.”
The old man who had a clear face and hair that seemed to shine with blue energy shook his head. “I ask at three different times, thinking that you may have changed your mind.”
The old man sighed softly and did not respond.
This was determination.
The other old person with white eyebrows slowly raised his eyebrows and moved to speak.
“Senior Sect Brother Yuan, you are the most skilled in the path of balance and harmony. You know that everything needs to be balanced. Yet this balance and harmony has nothing to do with the favors one may owe.”
The old man looked at the man with white-eyebrows and said softly, looking at the sunlight outside the hut, “Because all of this cannot stop true affection.”
“I really like this Changling youth’s character,” the old man said patiently. “This is the true reason I want to take him on.”
The man with white eyebrows smiled helplessly and said, “Junior Sect Brother, you are the master of the sect. Since you are determined, we need to say nothing more.”
The old man smiled contentedly and said, “Gentlemen are like jade, not divided by region or group. A person like this will not fail our efforts.”
In the sunlight, the other two old men accepted this old man’s true affections and were also infected by the joy.
Outside the gates of Celestial Seal Sect, bird cries attracted the attention of Zhang Yi, who could not immerse himself into the ink marks on the walls. He looked up curiously and saw many magpies flying over.