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Chapter Fifty-Three: Timing
At this time, the small boat that was downstream stopped. The bow of the boat stopped in the grasses by the shallow shore.
In the drizzling rain, Pan Ruoye, who had been quiet in the cabin walked out to the stern of the ship, and waited for his arrival. The faint mist coming off the surface of the river added a hazy and dreamy color. Dressed in yellow robes, she looked like a celestial of the water.
The yellow-robed cultivator coming down on the boat stood by the bow. The man and woman on the two boats coming together, if painted by an artist, would seem like a couple reuniting after a long time. But the pair of calm people on the boats knew that their meeting today, only one person would leave here alive.
“In reality, I do not like to kill people. I always feel that killing people would carry some of one’s own emotions. If it is not hatred, it would be the other having caused displeasure, or the other is disliked upon first glance.”
The yellow-robed cultivator’s boat was near the center of the water. His frown relaxed, and he looked at Pan Ruoye. He spoke without any opening, like they were familiar. “When I started to cultivate as a child, I could not understand the stories and some of the matters recorded in the history books. Both sides would want to waste time speaking. But when I grew up and started to kill people, I started to understand…killing people is not a pleasant matter. Talking can ease this kind of unpleasantness, especially when facing an enemy that one has never encountered before. If one killed a stranger immediately, facing the cold corpse left behind would feel like chewing wax, empty and cold. So, what to say?”
After saying this, the yellow-robed cultivator bowed to Pan Ruoye and added, “This one is Zheng Jingcheng.”
“I know who you are.”
Pan Ruoye looked at the yellow-robed cultivator like she was looking at someone familiar and said, “The best assassin of Jiaodong Commandery, one of the four cultivators what Zheng Xiu is most wary of. When the Qin Dynasty’s fleet started to discover sea routes, many of the powerful cultivators on the islands were killed by your assassinations. In terms of military achievements, yours are not any less than Liang Lian. You are the most cautious in your actions, and do not ignore anything that will hinder you. You followed me all this way, and you are talking to me right now because you do not want any shadow to affect your attacking me.”
“You are very honest.” Zheng Jingcheng pressed his lips together, and then said, “Because you understand the empress and Jiaodong Commandery too much, you are ranked second on the list of those who have to die. But I do not understand. You know my intentions, and in the several days that I followed you, why did you not take a chance to attack first? With your cultivation, you could have found a chance where you had the advantage.”
Pan Ruoye did not respond for a long time. When she spoke again, her expression was cold. “Because I was thinking.”
Zheng Jingcheng naturally asked, “Thinking about what?”
“I was thinking, if I switched positions with Zheng Xiu and encountered a situation like this, if I were Zheng Xiu, what would I do,” Pan Ruoye said coldly. “I thought it through. If I were not guilty, no matter if the other believed or not, I would try to explain. But I did not receive the person she sent coming to explain, but a person coming to kill instead.”
“So I did not attack first. This could be said to be waiting. I waited to see if she would do anything, and stop you from killing me.” Pan Ruoye sneered. She looked in the direction where Shen Xuan and Zheng Bainiao had been fighting, and said after a pause, “In the end, the killing started, but I did not get her explanation. This means that some of my speculations were correct. She knows that the truth cannot be concealed, and is borrowing your hand to eliminate me.”
Zheng Jingcheng listened intently to her words. His expression did not change, and even held a hint of sympathy. “Your speculations are likely correct.”
“You want to talk more with me because your emotions were affected. Clearly, your assassination of someone in Changling failed. But even now, when you have said so much to me, and you are certain that I have no path left to walk, I fear that our talk will not be of benefit to your attempt, and will affect your emotions and confidence.” Pan Ruoye looked at the most cautious Jiaodong Commandery cultivator and smiled coldly. “Jiaodong Commandery cultivators like you, compared to us, always lack something.”
Zheng Jingcheng’s brows rose. He said solemnly, “What?”
Pan Ruoye looked at him and slowly said, “The first time Zheng Xiu and I met, before she took me into Changling, I was in a mountain village outside the Ba Mountain. This was when the army and Ba Mountain Sword Field were fighting. A troop of bandits fled past our village, and plundered multiple villages nearby, including mine. Almost everyone in the village was killed. Only those small children who could hide in the corners managed to survive. Of the children who lived, I was one of the smallest and weakest. To fight for some of the remaining food, those children killed each other like wolves, but I was the one to survive in the end.”
“Now that I think about it, it was too much of a coincidence. Why did her palace maid appear at such a good time, why only when I was the only one left?” Pan Ruoye smiled. “Many of you Jiaodong Commandery cultivators are like this. There is an innate difference between us. From when you start to cultivate, you know you will encounter things like this, you have a long time to conquer your terror, and prepare. But we are different… we suddenly encountered those things, we encountered such a situation of despair without any preparation. So you do not have our innate courage. The wolves that were raised after birth by dogs are not the same as born wolves.”
Zheng Jingcheng frowned.
But Pan Ruoye did not give him time to speak, and continued. “You wanted to find the best chance, and wear down my spirits. But in a desperate situation, my courage is aroused. More importantly, in these few days, I have been considering some of the sword moves.”
Zheng Jingcheng’s expression suddenly froze.
Pan Ruoye looked at him and said, “I was comprehending some of the sword moves from the Chen King Sword Manual. Now, it is about enough. So our talk did not eliminate your bad emotions, and has made you even more unconfident.”
Pan Ruoye looked at the silent Zheng Jingcheng, her calm eyes turning to a stormy ocean, full of killing intent. “This is the chance I was waiting for.”