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Chapter 53: The Price of A Life
In the dark night, the Wuzhi cavalry that had suffered serious losses did not retreat too far. They only moved to a meadow where they could barely make out Guyu Pass’s shadow in the darkness.
As the hoofbeats of the entire cavalry stopped tapping the ground, one rider appeared abnormal. At this moment, only this horse was moving, and in the next moment, multiple horses surrounded this rider.
A strong Wuzhi commander carrying an enormous curved blade and wearing a tiger robe shouted in fury as he looked at this rider.
Facing the angry question from this general half a head taller, the rider dressed in ordinary robes and a black cloth over his face looked back calmly and said, “Why what?”
This response immediately caused the strong Wuzhi commander’s eyes to burn in anger.
“Why pay that kind of price to assassinate that youth?” He gritted through his teeth in a cold voice. “Why retreat immediately? You should understand, even if the assassination succeeds, us cultivators cannot return, then what? Still want to retreat?”
These horses, long trained and almost one with their owner, could only make such sounds when their riders’ hands changed tension. The sounds meant all these riders wanted to question this person.
Clearly, if this rider did not furnish a satisfactory answer, he would be reduced to flesh and bones on the ground as a tribute to those Wuzhi soldiers who had died due to his orders.
Yet this rider with the black cloth over his face and what was clearly not a Wuzhi accent did not care. He coldly raised his head and looked towards the mountain slope. “Before you question me, you all first have to understand one thing. It’s not me who wanted to be the Wuzhi leader, but your Wanyan queen who invited me to be the leader. And even your General Yelu agrees. So do not suspect that I have other goals in leading. You suspect me, you suspect your Wanyan queen and your General Yelu.”
His words and tone were very rude, evoking a louder wave of whines. Yet while the riders’ hands were unnaturally tense, the expression changed.
“You are angry now only because you do not know who that youth is.” This rider’s gaze fell onto the strong Wuzhi commander and his tone became unusually gentle. “The lives of those cultivators, and many more, cannot compare to that youth’s life.”
A familiar opening word, yet the strong Wuzhi commander had bowed his head already to show respect and a wish for guidance.
“Because that youth is Ding Ning, the victor of the Qin Dynasty Min Mountain Sword Trials. Purely to this battle, he represented Min Mountain Sword Sect. Your General Yelu is not personally leading because of him, so the people of Min Mountain Sword Sect would not participate in this battle.”
The rider said coolly, “For the greater situation which you may not understand, if our entire army can be traded for his death, it is worth it because until now, he is the fastest person in the world, and also the person with the greatest comprehension. The previous genius of the Qin Dynasty could only be his student.”
Min Mountain Sword Sect, General Yelu … the words were like lightning that struck the surrounding riders, causing them to shudder.
Heavy breathing sounded like the horse whines.
“People like him, even without the protection of Min Mountain Sword Sect’s cultivators, will not easily die. I do not believe the Qin Dynasty would let someone like him die easily. At least, based on my understanding of Yuanwu and Zheng Xiu, they will use these so-called experts as best as they can if they can be controlled, they will let them burn out before letting them die.” This rider did not care about the changes in expression of these people and continued slowly with irony. “I created a likely chance to kill this youth because I wanted to see what powerful cultivators are behind this youth … I had not expected this youth to be so strong, and that young person beside him to be this strong.”
“Your knowledge is too sparse. You do not know that this youth, other than his terrifying advancement, has great judgement and perception. I am certain that he is the most terrifying opponent I have met as a commander up until now.”
“In a sense, whether we can complete the mission and keep these tens of thousands of Qin soldiers on the plains depends on whether we can kill this youth. If we can kill him, it means this army has no more trump cards. If we cannot, then we can only give up on our mission, return, and try to kill as many Qin soldiers as we can.”
These Wuzhi people knew what kind of price they had paid to force these tens of thousands of Qin soldiers to scatter like stray dogs. It was almost unbelievable to hear that they would give up on the last siege just because of a youth. Yet as the rider explained, even the low ranking soldiers who only knew fighting knew that this was likely the cruel truth.
“Then why do you not send us all in?” The strong Wuzhi commander had long lost his anger. He bowed his head humbly and said, “We do not fear death.”
“I know you do not fear death.” The rider looked seriously at him and said, “But as a commander, you do not need to consider a matter of life and death, but whether this is useful for victory. If you cannot kill him, and all five thousand cavalry are killed here, you will not win, and the tens of thousands of Qin soldiers can return to Yin Mountain.”
“Then what should we do next?” The Wuzhi commander raised his head and asked helplessly, his mouth wide like a fish about to die.
“Wait.” The rider said calmly, “I have already sent a message to the main army for them to send enough powerful cultivators. We will attempt to kill the youth. If not possible, we will retreat.”
All the Wuzhi riders did not know when this rider had sent the message and by what means, but they naturally believed that this rider spoke the truth now.
On the slope in the darkness, Ding Ning did not talk with the Imperial Guard Army commanders and Guyu Pass’s commanders. He sat down next to Zhangsun Qianxue’s carriage.
“You have come twice now. I just reminded you that those two were unusual, but I have nothing else to tell you. What do you want to do?” Zhangsun Qianxue’s cool voice reached Ding Ning’s ears when he passed in the food box and charcoal basin that a soldier had delivered.
Ding Ning hesitated and then said seriously, “I do not want you to act.”
Zhangsun Qianxue said, “Why should I act?”
Ding Ning put the charcoal basin at the head of the carriage and said, “Because I want to gamble. The commander from the formation just now wants to try killing me … Being reactive and waiting for someone’s next step is forever the stupidest idea. I want to see if I can kill the commander first.”
Zhangsun Qianxue did not speak.
Ding Ning looked up and took a deep breath. He said softly, “Do not be angry. You know I understand Zheng Xiu too well. She definitely arranged for people to follow me … Her people will only appear if I truly encounter death. I want to force out her people. Otherwise, we will never be safe and escape her sight.”
The carriage was silent for many moments and then Zhangsun Qianxue’s icy voice sounded. “I will not act.”
Ding Ning was silent for a moment and stood up to walk slowly down the slope. He watched the brightening moon in the night sky, and thought, using one lifetime to understand and see a person clearly cost too much.
Translator Ramblings: Ding Ning just cannot stop scheming.