This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 67: Heartache
Bureau Chief Ye Celeng of the Astrology Bureau had arrived as had Bureau Chief Chen of the Divinity Bureau. He even saw a carriage from the Fang Marquessate Establishment. Inside should be Fang Xiang who had his cultivation crippled.
There were many other important people mixed in the sea of commoners, including numerous powerful personages from the Min Mountain Sword Sect.
But Mo Shoucheng, who had paid close attention to Ding Ning all this time and never once missed any of Ding Ning’s fights, did not appear. Huang Zhenwei was puzzled. He even started to worry if something had happened to his health.
More and more people flooded the streets close to Ding Ning. The center of Changling seemed to tilt in this direction. Not just because Ding Ning had been the victor of the Min Mountain Sword Trials. Not because there had been a sufficient prelude to this great drama. The key was this was a battle between people of different cultivation realms. Because, in the memories of many Changling cultivators, it had been that person who said there was no difference under realm four.
Now, Ding Ning was realm five, and Palace Attendant Rong was realm six. If a realm five could win against a realm six, this would change everyone’s perception.
The path in front of Ding Ning was completely blocked off. The people holding black umbrellas circled around an empty space in front of the clinic that was usually used to park carriages. As a result, Ding Ning appeared to have enough space around him.
There were unusual shifts in the crowd.
The black umbrellas suddenly separated so a young person who looked slightly older than Ding Ning walked in.
Ding Ning smiled with some warmth and then bowed minutely to that person.
It was Xu Heshan.
After he exchanged bows with Ding Ning, he said seriously, “They are all studying in Min Mountain Sword Sect, so they let me come.”
Hearing these words, Jing Liuli’s eyebrows rose slightly. She knew the “they” that Xu Heshan spoke of were Ding Ning’s group of friends. Xu Heshan was their representative.
While Xu Heshan was the only one who came, when he said such words, this meant that those young people still stood on Ding Ning’s side.
Thunder roared in the sky. The weather was hot and many people were gathered together. Many felt it was sweltering and almost fainted.
Another unusual ripple appeared in the distant crowd. Gasps sounded, making people alert.
A woman wearing the robes of an ordinary peasant walked slowly through the crowd with a cold expression.
Most people did not recognize the woman, but from the gazes and reactions of other people and sensing the unusual presence the woman exuded, everyone knew this woman would be Palace Attendant Rong.
Because of her special status, the meaning of this battle, and the special presence she gave off right now, the people on the two sides unconsciously moved back even though it was already very crowded. The people in front of her parted like the tide and the path appeared even wider.
Most people wanted to see the results of this battle. Yet some were unwilling to see this battle occur.
A middle-aged man dressed in seemingly ordinary clothes did not give way. Looking at Palace Attendant Rong who was walking near him, he nodded slightly and whispered. “Please do not be like this … the empress does not want this.”
“Not want this, then what?”
Palace Attendant Rong looked expressionlessly at the middle-aged man and then walked by him.
The middle-aged man stilled, and did not know the meaning of her words.
Palace Attendant Rong’s cool voice reached his ears. “Wait for him to reach realm six, realm seven and then come to kill me? What I can do then is just wait in the imperial palace and wait for him to kill me one day?”
The middle-aged man could not answer. For him, when Palace Attendant Rong did not turn her head when he mentioned the empress, he could no longer answer.
After that, no one blocked the way.
The streets descended into silence. Even those people who were on the verge of fainting from the heat started to have patience.
Palace Attendant Rong walked to the border of the black umbrellas. The shadow of the black umbrellas covered her face so no one could see the expression on her face.
Then the black umbrellas separated. She walked over and appeared in Ding Ning’s sight.
Ding Ning looked calmly at the incoming Palace Attendant Rong and said coldly, “I challenge you.”
His voice was not loud, but seemed to spread through the nearby streets and make many people tremble.
Palace Attendant Rong slowly lifted her head. She looked silently at Ding Ning. Her lips looked even redder. Then she shook her head, and said, “This time, it is not you challenging me, but me challenging you.”
The crowd breathed heavily. Many people had speculated what the pair would say when they finally met here. No one had made a correct guess.
While many people were still shocked speechless, Ding Ning laughed contentedly. “I accept your challenge.”
Then he put away his smile and looked seriously at Palace Attendant Rong.
Palace Attendant Rong looked at him and her expression suddenly grew odd. She said, “He was not the one to leave behind the words in the tea garden.”
“You mean the white bones?”
Ding Ning glanced coldly at Palace Attendant Rong and said, “Even if he did not leave them, he may have told others.”
“The key is, no one knows what that date represents. What is the meaning in saying these things now?”
Before Palace Attendant Rong spoke, Ding Ning added disdainfully, “As long as you die, everything will finish.”
Palace Attendant Rong laughed. It had been a long time since she had laughed like this, so her smile was exceptionally strange and dismal.
“You think I fear death so I came to fight you?” She shook her head and said softly, “You are wrong. I came to atone for my crimes … since everything is over, there is no meaning. Then the only one to atone for is Zhang Luyang.”
Ding Ning said after a moment of silence, “People will only have such thoughts and think about meaningless matters when they are about to die.”
Palace Attendant Rong’s face became aloof again and gave off a porcelain shine. “I want you to die before me.”
Ding Ning smiled. “You can try.”
“Since it is a battle of life and death, what are you waiting for?” Palace Attendant Rong said slowly, looking up disdainfully at Ding Ning.
She gave off a vital presence. the dust from the stone path under her feet sprayed like a fountain.
This was her choice. She would live for herself today so she needed the battle to start quickly.
A black-robed man wearing a bamboo hat stopped. He was not far from the tea garden where Zhang Luyang had lived.
Ding Ning and Palace Attendant Rong were far from this tea garden right now, but the information he received previously said that he would be able to intercept her here.
But now, the most recent news to reach him told him that something was wrong with his previous information.
At least, there was a large problem with timing.
Even if he had been slightly faster, he could not have intercepted Palace Attendant Rong here.
Who had such capability to change the information passed to him?
“Honestly speaking, fabricating military orders and deliberately delaying the delivery of information is the tactics Zheng Xiu is most skilled in.”
As this black-robed man stopped, a female voice with unique rebelliousness came from the river and reached his ears.
A black sword silently floated around him and moved as though it was alive.
The black-robed man thought. His eyes suddenly lit up under the shadow of the bamboo hat. He said with disbelief, “Bai Shanshui?”
“The Blue Sea Tide Sword is a majestic and elegant sword essence. But you follow Zheng Xiu and you manage to make it like a ghostly dream. Such a pity.”
Bai Shanshui stepped onto the hill and looked down at this man. She shook her head with slight contempt.
This black-robed man broke into laughter. He laughed until the bamboo hat on his head split into countless threads.
“Bai Shanshui, what gives you the confidence to come and challenge me?”
Hearing his words, Bai Shanshui also laughed.
She looked at the handsome man and said, “Really, you should be more concerned why I have come to fight you.”
Xu Fenqin stilled and then laughed. “Life and death are the most important matters. Who cares about anything else now?”
Bai Shanshui looked into the sky with satisfaction and said, “Today, Zheng Xiu will lose her right and left hands in one go. I wonder if she will feel heartache.”