It was now the dead of night and yet whether it was within the palace or without, there were still a number of people who weren’t asleep. Duke Taishi, Zhang Sun, Qing Ning, the Eldest Prince, all of them had their eyes focused on the Zhiming Estate and all of those eyes were filled with the same emotion: worry.
Thus it was in such an atmosphere of unease that the night dragged on. No one knew for sure how this night would turn out.
Marquis Zhiming’s Manor. Those were the four words carved in bright red onto the placard hung strikingly above the manor’s gate. Under the illumination of the moon, its crimson hue seemed to resemble a blood red instead.
Seated within his room, Ning Chen’s expression contained a faint hint of worry as he continued mulling over the issue. Till now he still couldn’t figure out what the Xia Emperor was plotting.
As the night grew darker, the lights within the manor started to flicker out. Suddenly, the faint sounds of footsteps echoed from the outside of the door. They had a rushed quality to them as if they were up to something.
Standing up, he reached for the room doors and opened it just in time to see a girl dressed in a maid’s outfit rushing off towards the east with a candle in hand.
Seeing that, he couldn’t help but frown. Exactly where was she going at this time of night?
However, with little Ming Yue still inside the room, he didn’t dare to leave her alone so he merely shut the door and after giving it a little more thought, tossed it out of his mind.
That servant didn’t exude any True Qi so she wasn’t really a threat to him either way. It’s not like everyone in this world was able to hide their cultivation level like Fan Lingyue. One Lady Strategist was enough; there’s no way a second would appear.
Little Ming Yue was currently tossing and turning about on the bed trying to fall asleep. Not long after however, she sat up and in a slightly wronged tone, said: “The candlelight’s too bright, I can’t sleep.”
Hearing that, Ning Chen paused in surprise for a second. He was so preoccupied by that matter that he ended up forgetting to turn off the lights.
He immediately rose to feet but just as he was about to blow out the candle, his body suddenly shuddered and his face paled.
“Candle fire, SH*T!”
He had been too careless just now! With the moonlight so bright outside, why would that maid even need to carry a candle with her. Wasn’t that just pointless?
In this world, of the things that needed fire, there was one substance he so happened to be intimately familiar with!
It was a thought that barely lasted an instant after which he disappeared in a flash and sprinted out of the room with little Ming Yue in his arms. Without wasting a single word on explanations, he immediately ran for the exit of the manor.
However, he was still a step too late.
An instant later, a thunderous explosion rocked the Imperial City. It was an explosion that sounded as if the nine heavens themselves sent down a heavenly punishment to strike the manor. Immediately, the entire capital was awakened by the ear-piercing explosion.
At that, Qing Ning and Duke Taishi whom had been observing the manor till now all had the same reaction on their faces and minds: how could this be!
Back at Revelations Hall, the Xia Emperor threw his back in maniacal laughter as he revelled in the sight of that sudden explosion of light.
“Pei Old Dog, the gift we sent, how was it?”
As he said that, his grin grew even wider and all that more maniacal. While those fellows at the Heavenly Craftsman Division weren’t able to deduce the exact formula in the end, they still managed to concoct something explosive.
So what if its power wasn’t up to par? What he had was men and taels. Most of all, he had time! He had the entire Zhiming Estate’s foundations packed to the brim with explosives long before he handed it over to Ning Chen just for this very moment.
Amidst the blinding flash of light, Ning Chen sprinted away from the shockwaves with little Ming Yue secured under his arms. After 10 zhang, he finally came to a stop after which he promptly spat out a gout of fresh blood.
“Xia Rui, you old cretin!” He bellowed in the direction of the imperial palace as he watched over a hundred servants behind him get burnt to ashes in an instant. As he did so, a murderous glint crossed his eyes.
At that same moment, three immense presences appeared outside of the explosion. Each of them were either in the realm of Late Ninth-grade or Peak Ninth-grade. These were the three commanders of the shadow dragons.
Back at Revelations Hall, the Emperor’s maniacal laughter finally stopped after which he flatly said, “Pei Old Dog, we want you check out the situation over there, if they aren’t up to the task, kill him yourself.”
The old eunuch respectfully bowed and swiftly transformed into a ray of light before rushing towards the ruined manor.
Within Taishi Manor, the duke immediately rose to his feet but just as he was about to leave, he found his path blocked by Duke Xiyu.
“Duke Xiyu, you!”
“The Xia Emperor has decreed that you stay behind, old friend. I apologize in advance.” With that, he closed the fan in his hands and rushed at the Confucian duke with palm extended.
With no other choice left, the Confucian head ignited his majestic Qi and faced off against the head of the court. *boom* The two clashed but both ended up evenly matched.
At the side, Duke Qinwu had just arrived as well but chose to help neither side and merely sighed.
Outside of Weiyang Palace, the forbidden guards rushed onto the scene and swiftly surrounded the palace. At that, the heads of the forbidden guards stepped forth to blockade entrance and promptly blocked Qing Ning from leaving.
Seeing that, Zhang Sun’s face had soured immeasurably as her rage threatened to spill over. Has the Xia Emperor gone mad!?
As of right now, the entire Zhiming Estate was engulfed in a roaring conflagration. Standing in front of all that was the lone figure of Ning Chen as he piggybacked little Ming Yue.
With a crisp tearing sound, he tore off a portion of his garments and tied the little girl to his body.
Today, whether it was life or death, she mustn’t leave his side.
“Are you afraid?” He turned around and asked in a gentle tone.
“No.” She shook her head.
“Good, then let’s fight our way out of this, together.”
Drawing out the Ink Sword, he promptly took a step forward.
Immediately, the three heads of the shadow dragons rushed out to surround the teen, eyes cold and filled with an undisguised murderous intent.
Seeing that, he immediately struck first knowing that a prolonged battle didn’t favor him at all especially given how much damage that explosion had inflicted on him.
Sword piercing through the air, he dove at one of the shadow dragons without any warning.
In this match where an eighth-grade peak faced off against a late ninth-grade, there wasn’t even a need to consider how this battle would turn out especially since it was a three versus one where each had a realm advantage over Ning Chen.
With a bang, sword and halberd clashed against each other and churned up a vast dust storm. Beneath the two of them, the stone slabs began to crack under the overwhelming shockwaves and in the process, threw up a smoke screen of soil.
Yet barely a move into the two man’s fight, Ning Chen had to make an emergency dodge outwards to avoid the blade and sword rushing towards him from his back. Sword and blade barely grazing his skin, Ning Chen managed to pull himself three zhang away from his previous spot.
However, his relief was only short lived as the three shadow dragons immediately rushed forward to surround him once more. Auras surging by the second, the might of a ninth-grade peak and two late ninth-grades were unquestionably burned into his mind. Feeling the pressure, Ning Chen’s face grew grimer. At the best of times, he could at most handle a single expert of that level and now that he was clearly injured, there was basically no way he could win.
At the very least however, he was able to suss out their might from that initial clash. The halberd wielding shadow dragon was without a doubt a ninth-grade peak while the other two lagged slightly behind.
With such odds, there wasn’t a chance in hell he could win. Xia Rui that old cretin, he had probably dispatched the three strongest shadow dragons in order to kill him.
Ning Chen knew that he mustn’t tarry any longer and that the most important thing right now was to fight his way out of this death trap.
With that in mind, he returned his Ink Sword to its sheath with a flip of his palm, drew forth the bow, Maimed. Curved like a crescent moon, he swiftly fired off three arrows in succession all towards that halberd wielding shadow dragon.
Like a streaming comet, they rushed towards the man, each brighter than the other and each scarier than the other. The shadow dragon frowned in concentration. Not daring to show any conceitedness, he raised his halberd high into the heavens and with a forceful swing, rent the heavens in half.
Immediately, the air exploded with a thunderous boom and even the formidable head commander of the shadow dragons had to retreat ten paces in the face of the resulting shockwaves.
It was at that moment that the Ink Sword surfaced once more in a snowy burst and rushed at the sword wielding shadow dragon commander.
An astonishing stab born of a million changes condensed into one, dove at the commander with an unbelievable speed.
Seeing that, the second commander immediately balked and tried to deflect the move with his own. However, such a frightening move wasn’t one to be blocked so easily. Tearing into his flesh, the powerful force of Ning Chen’s sword sent the man retreating backwards over multiple steps.
Shoulder completely penetrated, he couldn’t help but spit out a mouthful of blood. However, now was his chance. Bearing the burning pain through gritted teeth, he immediately struck out with a palm strike towards the teen’s chest.
At that same time, the third commander went in for the kill with his blade drawn.
Ning Chen braced himself for the incoming palm strike which pushed him back three entire steps during which he made sure to pull out the Ink Sword. Promptly flipping his left palm, he activated the golden Qi whirlpool within himself and caused a burst of dark yellow light. Immediately, the air was blanketed in a pall of dense earth Qi that destabilized the third commander and caused a brief but fatal stutter within his moves.
“Waves of the World Converge Eastward.”
In the instant Ning Chen swapped skills, his body surged with a veritable tidal wave of blue Qi and coalesced behind a powerful palm strike towards the third commander.
*bang* The third commander barely managed to pull his blade back in time to deflect the move but succeeded in the end. While he ended being forced back several paces, he didn’t suffer much damage.
Thanks to that abrupt change of skills, Ning Chen wasn’t able to channel much Qi behind the strike so it didn’t have that much power behind it.
However, that was enough.
There was finally only one opponent left standing before him. Sword stirring, he readied his final move. Around him, the tidal waves roared to life but were instantaneously parted with an astonishing slash that reached to the heavens themselves.
“A Sword to Part the Infinite Waves.”
A move to stun the world blasted forth with a roar. In that instant, Ning Chen’s third whirlpool dried up and dimmed.
Faced with the colossal force of that move, the second commander was thrown backwards with a deafening bang and as he flew through the air, he spat out a trail of blood.
Seeing that, Ning Chen immediately kicked off with his feet and tried to escape. However, just as he did so, a wizened hand burst through the air from a distance away and sealed off his escape route in an instant.
Ning Chen immediately made an emergency retreat backward and returned once more to that encirclement.
That damned eunuch, he actually came. Where was Duke Taishi, why hasn’t he come to fulfill his promise?
Heart sinking in an instant, Ning Chen knew that this battle most likely wouldn’t end well for him. His strength was simply too weak to handle a head on confrontation with a Xiantian.
As for Eunuch Pei, he struck out once more with a flash of his body, all the while never saying a single word.
Seeing that, Ning Chen’s eyes narrowed as he tried to draw forth his True Qi once more. Suddenly, he was struck with a sense of weakness after which his body began to stagger.
Back at Revelations Hall, the Xia Emperor quietly sat down in front of the resplendent hall and gazed at the ongoing fire with an arrogant smile on his face tinged with a hint of madness.
And yet something happened next which no one could have ever expected. Sticking out from his chest was a shiny blade that pierced through his back without a single sound or sign.
Head stiffly turning around, the shock in his eyes was apparent for all to see the moment he laid eyes on his assailant, “Western Palace, it’s you!”
“Your Majesty, you’ve let your guard down!” Declared Concubine Wan or rather Qing Wuheng. As she said that in a soft voice, she shoved the longsword in her hands another three inches forward and caused another burst of blood.
“To think it was really you!” Just as he said that, the Xia Emperor violently heaved and vomited a mouthful of blood. He had truly erred in his judgement this time. Previously he had suspected the Western Palace of duplicity and even suspected that the Wan Yunshang was the mastermind behind Grand Xia’s recent internal strife. However, ever since Prince Yue was put down, he had temporarily suppressed that thought.
Who would have thought that right at the very end, it was someone beside him who betrayed him.
“You’ve practised the martial arts before?” He asked with a cough of blood.
“They’ve been destroyed long ago, how else could I come close to you.” As she said that, a sigh crossed her eyes. She had waited nearly ten years for this one moment.
“Haha, laughable, how laughable.”
With that, he suddenly spun around and stamped his palm down onto her heart region. A pained grunt echoed through the night and with that, the most beautiful woman in the world was blown away with a resounding bang.
Shock ran through her eyes for the last time after which they slowly dimmed amidst a shower of blue silk. A ploy to win a heart, backed by calculations after calculations and yet at the very end, who would have expected such an outcome: neither had ever opened their hearts up to the other.
Not willing to spare her another look, he slowly limped forward, step after bloody step. Dragging his dying body forward, he slowly and stubbornly reached for his dragon throne.
High above the towering flight of stairs, what was once a display of majesty was now fraught with difficulty and blood. As he clutched at his bleeding heart, each step he took was unimaginably hard and came with an unavoidable pause.
A long while later, that stubborn silhouette finally managed to reach his dragon throne and in the very next instant, an unending and maddened laughter washed over the entire Revelations Hall.
He was the Xia Emperor, the Xia Emperor who was never wrong!