Within Weiyang Palace…
The bright moon shone brightly tonight and the winds, mildly chilly. Amidst the bright illumination of the moonlight, all but the brightest of stars were on break tonight. Ning Chen sat atop his bed, meditating on the golden scroll’s cultivation technique.
“Damn, where’s my True Qi?”
His body’s meridian were empty as always and this befuddled him greatly. Seeking to address this concern, he hopped off his bed and immediately rushed off to Qing Ning’s room.
“Sister Qing Ning, are you asleep?”
He raised his voice as he knocked on the door. Judging by the lit interior, she should still be awake.
Within the room, Qing Ning was just about to sleep for the night but was abruptly interrupted by the unwelcome hammering on her door. Her head pounded with every knock on the door, forcing her to receive her untimely guest.
She half-opened her door, blocking it with her body as she curtly greeted him.
“Err, were you about to sleep?”
Upon seeing her white pyjamas, he became slightly embarrassed by his actions. Should he enter the room? That was the question plaguing him right now, after all, it was pretty chilly outside.
Well, I’m a eunuch, what do I have to fear?
As this incident showed, Ning Chen was pretty thick-skinned. He “self-consciously” pushed open the room door and boldly strode in.
“…” She was struck speechless by him, she couldn’t even fathom what his skin was made out of.
“Sister Qing Ning, my True Qi is gone, do you know what’s going on?” Ning Chen sat around the table in the middle of her room and voiced out his concern. He definitely possessed it yesterday so why did it disappear now?
Her body shook slightly as she glanced at him in surprise, all the while wondering what had happened. She knew that his cultivation technique was probably given to him by that woman but, what was shocking was that he actually managed to cultivate True Qi so quickly with that bit of talent of his.
“Cultivation techniques require a great deal of determination in order to cultivate, especially during the initial phase. No matter who it is, they would spend the first three months focused solely on cultivation, cultivating day and night in order to stabilize their True Qi.”
As she said this, her tone changed, “As for you, well I don’t expect anything from you so just cultivate any way you want.”
“…” His heart shattered with a loud clang, breaking into a bunch of tofu bits. This…this was a direct a slap to the face! Such a bully!
“I’m going back to sleep, good bye!” His mood clearly darkened as he stood up and got ready to leave.
“You can see yourself out.” She casually said as she sat at the tableside.
Ning Chen’s halted mid-step, his mind clearly in turmoil as he struggled with his pride. In the end, he obediently went back to his seat and poured her a cup of tea as he ingratiatingly said, “Sister Qing Ning, can’t you tell me more about this cultivation thing?”
Qing Ning took a sip of the tea and said, “What do you wish to hear?”
“What about cultivation ranks? Is there a Golden Pill rank? Or an Origin Embryo? Are there peerless experts who can destroy the heavens and the earth. Can they pluck the stars or shoot down the Sun? Also, will I be able to live forever if I cultivate to a certain stage, also…”
He was dizzy with excitement right now. Amongst the hours spent reading novels, he had always admired the characters in those stories. Right now, he was told that cultivation techniques actually existed and that True Qi was actually real. Does this mean that his grand dream can finally be realized?
“Hey Sister Qing Ning, why aren’t you saying anything? He asked after seeing her silent despite his whole string of questions.
“Are you sure that you’re awake right now?” She blandly said as she glanced at him.
“…” He knew that he just been scorned again.
She put down the teacup in her hand and continued in a resigned tone, “ I don’t know where you get all these nonsense from but I’ve never heard of a thing you said and probably no one else has as well.”
Having his dream shattered made him slightly depressed but that didn’t stop him from pursuing this train of thought, “Then how do you differentiate the experts from the super experts?”
“Houtian and Xiantian.”
“Then which realm are you in?” He asked, curiosity getting the better of him once more.
Mu Chengxue had mentioned that Qing Ning was very strong and had also said that she was stronger than Qing Ning by a bit. Naturally, he had assumed that she was merely bragging. While she hadn’t seen her fight, he had seen Qing Ning in a battle before. Back then, she was mortally wounded and yet was still so formidable.
In comparison, Mu Chengxue had a lacklustre battle report. During the two times she left on a mission, she had abysmal results. The first time, she had to be saved by him while the other, she ended up unconscious in his room and got saved by him in the end.
As he thought about this, he got even more excited. He stared at her expectantly, eagerly awaiting her answer.
While his stare had thrown her off slightly, she still answered him truthfully, “Peak of Houtian.”
“That’s not that great.” He was thoroughly disappointed by what he heard. All this while he had assumed that she was some great Xiantian expert. But if what she said was true, does this mean that Mu Chengxue was a super expert in the Xiantian realm?
But then, she couldn’t even make it in the palace, she constantly got herself injured after all. It looks like no matter how strong you were, you still can’t beat the blade. The Palace has no shortage of men and naturally no shortage of blades to arm them with. In the face of this, no one would be able to get out unscathed.
Seeing his disappointed face ticked her off slightly. She said in a slightly irate tone, “ Do you know how many Xiantian experts there are in this world?”
“How many?” He asked nonchalantly.
Qing Ning calmly raised up five fingers.
“That little?” This time, it was Ning Chen’s turn to be surprised. He had assumed that there were a lot of Xiantians in this world and that the streets were filled with Houtians.
“Did you think that Xiantian was something that could be achieved so easily?” She paused for a moment before continuing, “There are countless practitioners stuck in that gap between Houtian and Xiantian but only five have managed to cross that gap.”
“Where are they located?” He asked out of curiosity.
“The Eternal Night cult has two, Grand Xia and the Mongols have one each while the last belongs to Western Doya Temple in the southwest.”
“Grand Xia only has one?!” Ning Chen was dismayed by what he heard. The Eternal Night Cult actually had two and even that Whatever Temple had one Xiantian. To think that the mighty Grand Xia only had one Xiantian expert, truly annoying…
Qing Ning then introduced the five experts. The five standing at the peak of the martial world are the two hallmasters of the Eternal Night Cult, the abbot of Western Doya Temple, the Headmaster of the Ashen Heaven’s Academy and the Mongol’s Golden Staff Grand Preceptor.
His eyes sparkled as he heard her recount the names of these titans, the admiration and envy clearly written on his name. Such an impressive title…the peak of the martial world…just the title alone garners so much attention.
According to her estimation, Mu Chengxue shouldn’t have reached the realm of Xiantian but she wasn’t that far off either.
“You’ve just begun your cultivation journey so make sure not to skive off. If there’s anything you don’t understand, feel free to ask me.” She told him in a quiet voice. After a round of deliberation, she came to the same conclusion as Mu Chengxue: to teach him cultivation but not the techniques.
As for Ning Chen, he naturally didn’t know of this and was merely thrilled to have found what was in his mind, a great teacher. With a smile as dazzling as the morning sun he thanked her: “Thank you Sister Qing Ning.”
Having received a satisfactory answer, Ning Chen left for his room, a visible spring in his step as he walked away. He was determined to cultivate the technique on the golden scroll, after all even if he couldn’t become the strongest under the heavens, he could at least strengthen his body and then…find a chance to escape.
It had to be said that he definitely wasn’t being ambitious. The main reason for this was that his opponent was simply too immense. Zhang Sun alone was able to render him powerless, forcing him to temporarily abandon his grand ambitions and instead focus solely on escaping.
Grandpa Mao once said, all reactionaries are merely paper tigers, unfortunately for him, Zhang Sun wasn’t a paper tiger but a female tiger.
Seeing him leave, Ning Chen finally revealed a trace of worry on her face.
Truth be told, it wasn’t hard to deduce that the woman Ning Chen brought away that night was the assassin who broke into the Palace twice. However, to put things bluntly, she didn’t give sh** about the life and death about the Xia Emperor. The only person she was concerned about was Zhang Sun and perhaps that kid as well.
However, how long can this matter be kept under wraps? And why did that woman teach him a cultivation technique?
No one was as familiar with Ning Chen’s situation as she was. Just in terms of cultivation potential, his level of talent could be found anywhere on the street, in fact, it was even at the bottom of barrel. Saying that his talent was average was stretching it by a mile.
And yet, this kid who just ten days ago, was a complete novice to the martial path and had been bugging her for lessons, had actually cultivated a strand of True Qi without the guidance of anyone. It was unexpected to say the least.
In this world, practitioners of the martial path weren’t just any old cabbage you could find in a market, instead their situation was akin to education. Everyone could say that they had learnt a subject, but how many could actually claim to be learned?
Simply put, with Ning Chen’s talent, even if he had the greatest teachers helping him, True Qi was something that required at least three months to cultivate, if he were to try to do it himself, that would truly be up to heaven’s will…
Suddenly, a audacious thought occurred to her; what if it was the Book of Heaven? However, she immediately rejected it with a shake of her head. The Book of Heaven had been lost for over a thousand years and each scroll of the book required the person to at least be in the Xiantian realm.
No matter how she looked at it, she just couldn’t figure it out and so she put this matter aside for now after deciding to check on his meridians at the nearest opportunity. As long as the cultivation technique didn’t harm his body, she wouldn’t interfere with his affairs.
If Ning Chen were to know of her thoughts at this moment, he would’ve been scared witless. Just a few days ago in Du An Pharmacy, he had allowed the manager to check his meridians. However, this was because the manager knew that Ning Chen was a new eunuch and so had only undergone purification recently, the fact that his meridians didn’t change much was only to be expected.
However, Qing Ning was different, her martial path had already reached the peak of Houtian, her knowledge of meridians was naturally leagues above the common folk. It wouldn’t take much for her to notice that his eunuch status hadn’t undergone the required processing.
This night was an eventful one but even so, it still passed without much ado.
At the crack of dawn, Qing Ning accompanied Zhang Sun to Revelations Hall. Today was the last day given to Grand Xia to answer Zhenji’s questions and so the court of Grand Xia had already assembled early on.
As usual, the three dukes sat quietly among the officials, calm as a still lake, aloof and not intending to interfere.
In contrast, the expression on the hundred officials were markedly more grave. It wasn’t strange to notice panda eyes mixed into the bunch, with a few having bloodshot eyes as well. Clearly, they didn’t get much sleep over this matter.
While they might not be the brightest, or the most talented, they were definitely loyal.
This massive empire, this invincible dynasty, every inch of its soil was the result of over twenty generations of hard work. From the monarchs, officials, generals, all the way down to the soldiers, each had paid the blood price in order to build this massive empire. No matter what, no one would allow a foreign power to take what was hardwon.
The strength of Grand Xia definitely wasn’t a result of chance, after all, there was no guarantee that each generation would produce a wise monarch, neither was there any that the officials would be wise. However, just based on this loyalty alone, Grand Xia had maintained its invincibility for over a thousand years, its pride for over a thousand years.
With the arrival of the Emperor and his Queen, the Zhenji emissaries were summoned into court. The arrival of both the Emperor and the Queen was a mark of respect for foreign dignitaries. While Grand Xia was a proud empire, it wasn’t an arrogant one; etiquette due was etiquette given.
The Zhenij emissary entered the hall as summoned, at his side was four other companions each wearing a strange yet extravagant outfit of their own. What was common however, was their upturned noses and heads raised as high as the heavens.
The grand hall had been emptied out to make space for the two parties, with the both parties standing on their own sides. At the center, sat the Xia Emperor atop his dragon throne with Zhang Sun sitting slightly below him. Qing Ning stood there quietly behind Zhang Sun, gaping at the Zhenji emissary.
“Emperor Xia, hast thou found an answer to our question?” He said with brimming confidence.
“This emissary will find out in due time, men prepare the banquet.” The Xia Emperor blandly replied.
At that same moment, Qing Ning’s eyebrows twitched. She lowered her head and whispered in Zhang Sun’s ears: “Your Majesty, there’s something going on here, this emissary has brought with him martial practitioners.”
Zhang Sun’s eyes blinked in response, her agile mind grasping the implications immediately.
“Bring Ning Chen over here.”
Qing Ning quietly left excused herself and immediately went off to capture her prey…