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Chapter 37: Military Assassination
From Changling to the northwest, the grass grew yellower and drier. Many of the Imperial Guard soldiers looked at Ding Ning’s back with eyes full of puzzlement.
Earlier, at the start of this march, most soldiers in the Imperial Guard had great respect for Ding Ning. The highest commander in the army, Guo Feng, even made Ding Ning a military counsellor.
In the many armies of the Qin, many orders from a counsellor would become the order the entire army would follow. From the departure from Changling to now, all of the orders the army carried out came from Ding Ning’s mouth.
But in the views of these soldiers, Ding Ning had not displayed anything astounding, and would make many incomprehensible moves.
Just like now. They had passed the valley where an ambush could be most easily set up. Ahead was a large flat plain and in their sight, there were only scattered farming villages. Yet Ding Ning ordered them to stop, and for a long time now.
But the highest commander of the army, Guo Feng, did not think much about this. He knew how many astounding matters Ding Ning had done in these seemingly peaceful days.
“You are certain they will act here?” He looked at the flat plain ahead, and asked Ding Ning solemnly.
“These are some cultivators from Flowing Sand Sect. Hiding in a place like this is the same as anywhere else. They are just wary of the seal weapons in the army.”
Ding Ning turned to glance at him and nodded, saying, “Even more importantly, past this plain, we will reach the border city. They feel that there are no more opportunities after this. They are already having some conflict, so they will definitely act here.”
Guo Feng could not understand how Ding Ning determined a conflict had arisen among the cultivators who Ding Ning had discovered a few days ago. But since his decisions had not been incorrect before, he still chose to believe him.
“Why are we forced to face battle?” Standing next to Ding Ning, Nangong Caishu frowned deeply, looking grave as she asked solemnly.
“Some enemies are not eternal.”
Ding Ning turned to glance at her and slowly said, “Some enemies only come because of orders. If they cannot accomplish their orders or they are coincidentally missed, these people may not be your future enemies, and you may not encounter them in future battles. Some assassins will not act when they are detected. Avoid battles you can avoid. You can preserve your strength as best as possible. Our orders are to first reach the place we should go, and not destroy all enemies along the way as best we can.”
After a pause, he glanced at Nangong Caishu and said, “Even more importantly, people will die in every battle … especially when many cultivators are facing an army.”
Nangong Caishu took a deep breath and unconsciously turned to look at the soldiers behind her. She understood Ding Ning’s efforts in the past days, and felt she had learned many things from his sparse words.
“If purposefully leaving behind clues and warnings cannot frighten them to retreat and only cause some conflict, there are only two possibilities.”
“One is they have received an order of death and cannot return, the other, they may only use this army as a test or to wear off some power with the true experts coming later.” Ding Ning said slowly and then looked seriously at Guo Feng. “Regardless of which possibility, I think I want to take complete control of this army now.”
Guo Feng smiled and said coldly, “Since you know this concerns the lives of my brothers and still dare to make such a request, I give this army to you.”
“I have stayed here so long and told them we have prepared. If they are still here, then we cannot avoid battle.”
Ding Ning looked down slightly. He sensed a familiar feeling but he did not like this feeling.
Multiple orders were issued. The army, waiting silently for a long time, started to move. Because the orders were very strange, it was slightly confusing for a while.
But Ding Ning was not in a hurry. So he waited until the army quieted again before he indicated for an advance.
Multiple messengers came next to him at Guo Feng’s order, and guaranteed his orders would be issued as soon as possible.
There was still an hour until evening and the weather was cool. A breeze gently blew at the army, and it was extremely comfortable being bathed in the sunlight.
There were only the last few border cities before Yin Mountain. There were no roads in the wilderness. The chariot wheels pressed over the grasses, the armor of the soldiers brushed with the grasses and gave off strange rustling sounds.
Ding Ning was in the second chariot from the front. He kept on looking around with a frown. He seemed to be listening intently to the sounds in the wind. Suddenly, his hand rose up, and the flesh at the edges of his fingers appeared red in the sunlight.
The messengers and all the soldiers were all familiar with this hand motion. Yet to avoid people not reacting in time, multiple messengers shouted immediately.
When everyone suddenly stopped walking, the moment the world quiet, some sounds clearly came from the grass and reached everyone’s ears.
There were grasses spraying out due to sword energies. Above a yellow wave of energy, green and yellow pieces of grass flew upwards like a yellow and green scaled serpent was moving rapidly through the grass!
All the soldiers who had not understood Ding Ning’s previous action reacted.
Below the grass and even in the cracks of the soil, many pairs of eyes were watching this army. Suddenly seeing this sword light, flames of anger appeared in these eyes.
The fury of these cultivators came from the fact their fellow had taken the lead. But they could not deny since they had already started, and the momentary inattention of this army when they were distracted by the flying sword was the best chance to attack.
In this moment, below the grass, there was the fine sound of water flowing. Seeing that flying sword, many soldiers were unusually furious, but Ding Ning’s expression did not change.
“Bows! Serene Fire! Moon Blade!” He shouted three names in a quick succession.
At the same time, the numerous messengers around him made three hand gestures. In this instant, the air behind the army was torn apart by golden light and primal energies of the universe.
Hundreds of metallic lights fell down like meteors.
After the meteors were dozens of seemingly heavy crescent moons … these crescent moons were more than ten feet long. They gave terrifying roars the moment they landed. They exploded along their seal lines and sprayed metal blades more than two feet long.
Appearing last in the air were hundreds of flowing green fires.
As the fires fell down, they caused the grass pieces in the air and the dried grass on the ground to combust.
There was a sea of flames. The area behind the Imperial Guard fifty to a hundred paces away was a sea of fire.
When the first group of arrows gave off screams as they were shot out of the ballistas. The grass below this army fifty paces away boiled, and furious shouts of shock sounded.
Four cultivators charged out of the ground. Sword lights danced around them and managed to knock away the arrows. Yet in the next moment, the bodies of the four cultivators endured terrifying wounds coming from the spinning crescent moon blades. The green flowing fire continued to fall and passed through their bodies as they scattered and flew away.
Seeing this scene, and the four cultivators whose bodies were torn apart by the fire, these soldiers were extremely shocked.
“Why is it like this?” A cultivator at the front of the army shouted in incomprehension. He saw the flying sword flying wildly towards Ding Ning suddenly change direction and fall towards Ding Ning’s left.
A clear ring sounded. A flying sword flashing with azure light flew upwards.
This silent flying sword was forcibly flicked out of the grass by that previously wild flying sword.