This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter Ninety One: Lonely
The weather had turned cold. Changling’s autumn seemed stronger than the past years, and the wind was colder. The palace attendants of the imperial palace had changed to thin cotton padded jackets. But walking at dawn with lanterns through the palace, their hands were still icy cold.
The empress, Zheng Xiu, sat behind the table in the imperial study, facing the spirit spring shrouded in white energy. She and this spirit spring were a hundred paces apart so her study appeared unusually empty, or rather … lonely.
Ever since she donned the empress crown and sat on the throne of the empress of the Qin Dynasty, she had always been this lonely. Today did not seem to be different from usual.
She sat there in silence, her thoughts and perception rising to the sky. Through the reverse flow of starlight that ordinary people could not sense during the day, she could reach the endless void that could not be seen.
The starlight turned to pale white star fire in her senses and fell through the void. From intangible to tangible, then to nothing, constantly changing. Some starlight finally fell onto the biggest sword in the world. However, before this, there had been a black cloud in her perception which had obscured the starlight falling onto the sword. When the black cloud dissipated, she could no longer sense the existence of the sword.
Many years ago, she believed that Gu Huai was firmly on her and Yuanwu’s side because Gu Huai had to open the lifebond energy of the sword and took in her starlight. This sword merged with her will. As long as Gu Huai’s life energy existed, she could sense the existence of the sword and what had happened to the sword. Yet, she could no longer sense the sword. This meant that his life energy had completely disappeared. He was dead.
Who in the world could kill Gu Huai?
That Tianliang person called Zhan Moke?
All of this was just a moment to her mind, and not important. What was important was that there was one fewer person next to her. Even though the people standing on her side had submitted to her and Yuanwu’s will, or had their own selfish aims, when one’s road grew longer and the people they knew disappeared, the feeling was true loneliness.
A young person dressed in light yellow robes appeared on the path outside her study and stood with his head bowed respectfully. There were many young people in the palace, but other than Huang Zhenwei, no one could be in front of her with this respectful, humble but not timid posture.
The empress returned from her thoughts. She stood up, moved past the spirit spring with white energy, and walked near him.
Hearing her footsteps, Huang Zhenwei, with his head bowed, felt nervous and restrained for the first time. Not because of terror, but because he did not know what kind of emotions he should feel. He did not appear unnatural but he was unprecedentedly unnatural.
“Are you discontent towards my decision concerning your teacher?” the empress asked him calmly without any extra words.
Huang Zhenwei said after a moment of silence, “Yes.”
The empress was not surprised by this bureau chief’s attitude and response. She even had a satisfied look. Then she raised her head slightly, and said, “Do not forget that I was the one who made him your teacher.”
Huang Zhenwei took a deep breath, but did not know how to exhale and answer.
“In reality, your teacher may have been discontent with many of the things I did.” The empress said slowly, “But it was me who had you follow him in the end, so you could understand … no matter what choices he and I made, it was all so the Qin Dynasty can move forward more steadily.”
Huang Zhenwei said after a moment of silence, “I understand.”
The empress looked at him and said after a pause, “You should know the hopes your teacher and I have towards you.”
Huang Zhenwei knew the meaning of her words and said, “Of course, I will make the same choice as my teacher, and put the Qin Dynasty first.”
The satisfaction in the empress’ eyes grew. She said softly, “Your teacher must have passed the City Guarding Sword to you.”
Huang Zhenwei shook his head, and said, “Teacher did not pass the City Guarding Sword to me.”
The empress stilled slightly, and frowned. “No?”
Huang Zhenwei said, “No.”
“He did not want you to also stay on the turrets?” The empress suddenly smiled after a moment, and said, “Maybe he thought the same as me, this Changling needs city walls in the end.”
Huang Zhenwei’s body shook slightly. Then she said, “In this case, you will supervise the city walls, the works will start in the winter.”
Huang Zhenwei realized the meaning of her words, but he was still in disbelief and looked up.
The empress saw the look in his eyes. Her expression was aloof like she was not mortal. She said lightly, “All change must first come from changes in rules and habits. When one’s habits are changed, they will understand that everything can be changed, and will know to accept the will of the dynasty.”
Huang Zhenwei said after a moment of hesitation, “Many people will feel they are trapped.”
“Then they will need to understand restraints more.” The empress smiled, her smile beautifully, without any other emotion. “The greatest use of the city walls are not to fend off enemies, but to divide borders. The people who understand restraints and accept the dynasty’s will can enter. Those who do not will be kept out and be treated differently.”
Huang Zhenwei bowed his head. In everyone’s eyes, he was a true gentleman. When he did not express an opinion, it meant obedience and following.
The empress was even more satisfied. “You will see the glory of the dynasty.”
But that may not be what I want. You let me see my teacher’s choice, and think that Teacher taught me what choice to make. But you do not have known, before Teacher’s death, he had me choose.
She did not know what this young bureau chief was thinking with his head bowed.
“What are you planning to do with this sword?” Shen Xuan looked at Ding Ning and asked.
The mist around the ancestral mountain was slowly fading. The blood scent was still strong, but the blue sky had been cleaned well by the sword essence of the Peerless Wind and Rain Sword, and fresh sunlight finally fell to the bottom of the ancestral mountain.
Wu Lianzi knelt on the ground, calling Ding Ning his teacher, but the latter’s gaze was on the giant Sword Mountain Sword stuck on the slope.
The Sword Mountain Sword was the largest and heaviest in the world. At the same time, the sword was one of the strongest and most powerful swords of Ba Mountain Sword Field as well.
Meeting Ding Ning’s gaze, he knew that Ding Ning did not want to abandon the sword here.
“You take the sword with you.” Ding Ning turned to him and said, “I will tell you how to use the sword and give you the Heaven Replenishing Divine Art to take back to Changling.”
Shen Xuan’s eyebrows raised slightly, he did not thank Ding Ning. Before he said his next word, Ding Ning’s gaze turned to Li Xixing’s rear.
“This is not suited to you,” he looked at what Li Xixing carried and said.
Li Xixing turned around. He had been carrying the strange crystal pillar all this time. The insects living in the crystal pillar had almost killed all the cultivators who had wanted to enter the ancestral mountain before.
Hearing Ding Ning’s words, he was not disappointed and said curiously, “This is really useful?”
“This is Celestial Nether Crystal.” Ding Ning said, “This is like Celestial ore, something that fell from the sky. It is one of the hardest and most unbreakable crystals in the world. Even more importantly, it can make light refract inside before finally emitting out.”
“Make light refract inside for a long time before emitting out?” Li Xixing and Hu Jingjing realized something and stilled.
“Sunlight, and most starlight means warmth and life,” Ding Ning said. “Able to store light means providing warmth and life to somethings.”
Ding Ning looked at Li Xixing and Hu Jingjing. “In the past You Dynasty, this kind of crystal fell from the sky. Back then, it was forged into artifacts, and not something that could let these insects maintain their life and control them.”
Li Xixing finally confirmed who this item should belong to. He took the crystal off and handed it to Hu Jingjing. “Yours.”
Hu Jingjing was a little flattered. But seeing the crystal that did not fit with her size, she could not help but felt aggrieved and said softly, “Can you first help me carry this?”
Li Xixing frowned. But he said nothing, and carried the crystal he had just set down.
Ding Ning looked at the pair, and could not help but smile. Then he turned to Shen Xuan and said softly, “Gu Huai is dead. She will be more lonely. You will be more important when you return to Changling.”
Shen Xuan finally asked what he had wanted to ask. “What about you?”
“Pretend I am dead.”
Ding Ning looked at him, Li Xixing, and the others, including Wu Lianzi who was trying to get up. “So I need all of you to help me act out this play and make people think I am dead.”
Translator Ramblings: The author hinted pretty heavily about this so no one should be surprised Ding Ning is faking his death.