Two minutes of cultivation later, Ning Chen had already reached his limit. His back was wet from exertion and pain from his body, particularly his left leg which burned with a spicy and empty sensation. Having no other choice, he began circulating the True Qi around his dantian, slowly channelling it to his left leg. Slowly but surely, the sensation began to lessen.
Seeing him regain his posture, Qing Ning quietly nodded. Circulating one’s True Qi was something that had to be experienced for oneself; there was no point following the footsteps of others as those methods were theirs and theirs alone.
Even now, she wasn’t willing to teach him any skills. The main reason was that she didn’t want him to step onto the path of martial arts. Men were slaves to the Jianghu, once you entered it, there was no turning back. (Jianghu: word for the Pugilistic or Martial world/community of ancient China.)
The body technique she was about to impart to him was the kind that was quick to pick up. Unlike a movement technique, this body technique focused on small movements such as diversions or dodges. Simply put, it was a purely defensive technique.
Naturally, he had some inkling of her well-meaning intentions. This was why he didn’t complain about the pain and suffering but instead trudged on silently.
An hour later, the True Qi within his Qi Ocean had mostly been expended, welcoming a wave of bone-piercing pain that shot through his leg, hotter than he had previously experienced.
Qing Ning watched him silently from the side from start to finish, even after seeing him reach his limit, she still kept her silence.
In the end, he managed to persevere through the trial. It just goes to show that man’s potential was limitless; especially when it involved his survival. Ning Chen knew that every drop of sweat that flowed from his body today increased his chances of surviving tomorrow.
He was afraid of dying, therefore he wasn’t afraid of hardship.
At the same time in Revelations Hall, the Xia Emperor sat atop his dragon throne, quietly brooding. A moment later, a silhouette darted into the hall, as stealthy as the void, silent and without a trace.
“How was it?” The Emperor asked blandly, not one bit surprised by the shadow’s sudden appearance.
“No progress so far.” The Shadow Dragon guardsman replied respectfully.
The Emperor’s brows furrowed. How could this be…
“Your Majesty, despite the repeated attempts by the Heavenly Sciences department and the Craftsman division, they were unable to reproduce the same explosion using those 17 medicinal stones.” The guardsman replied in a grave tone.
The events of this morning had shocked the entire court, an entire passageway had been blasted open, revealing the insides of Zhenqi Palace from one end to the other.
If Grand Xia was able to grasp this heavenly force, there would be nothing in this world that could oppose it.
The Xia Emperor’s slowly closed his eyes as he re-evaluated situation.
Being talented wasn’t wrong but possessing a talent that one shouldn’t possess meant that one shouldn’t exist in this world.
The palace walls were full of eyes and with the Empress protecting him, whether openly or secretly, he couldn’t lay his hands on him. It was at this moment that Xinyu came over to make a request, giving him the perfect chance to send this eunuch out of the palace.
Originally, he wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to get rid of this junior eunuch, but who knew that this heavenly force was so difficult to reverse engineer.
After that round of mulling, he finally settled on a decision and calmly said: “Let them continue with the experiments, as for you, I’ll need you to shadow this marriage entourage, make sure not to let Ning Chen get into trouble.”
The Shadow Dragon Guardsman gave a salute however just as he was about to leave, he paused. “Your Majesty, if there’s any changes?”
A murderous intent flashed across his eyes as he coldly said: “Kill him!”
Such a divine item doesn’t have to end up in Grand Xia’s hands but it definitely mustn’t end up in the hands of others. If need be, it’s better that it vanish entirely so that no one can get it.
The guardsman vanished after he understood the gist of his mission.
In a certain location in the distant west, the surrounding air shimmered like a mirage as the dimensional space shook apart, revealing a flickering, deserted shrine. As the shrine blinked in and out of existence, a domineering aura suddenly descended upon the area, radiating outwards from the shrine. The terrifying pressure practically took on a corporeal form as the earth itself began to tear asunder, spreading its crow’s feet continuously outwards.
“All hail the Martial Monarch.”
“All hail the Martial Monarch.”
Amidst the earth-shaking cheers, the shrine made landfall with a resounding thud. The dimensional ripples quietened down as the heavy, ancient gates of the shrine slowly opened. Peering within, two rows of warriors could be seen kneeling in an orderly fashion, their heads and eyes reverently cast downwards.
A second later, an imposing figure who looked like a god of war straight of out of legends stepped up to the throne within. As he turned around and sat, the heavens itself began to change in response to him.
“Long live the Martial Monarch.”
“Long live the Martial Monarch.”
The monarch has come forth and his generals have responded. A thousand years later, the First Shrine has once again descended onto the mortal realm, putting to shame all the powers in the world.
Monarch Ye Wu proclaimed atop his throne. Immediately, the dimensional space began to ripple once more as a blood Qi rushed into the heavens. An intimidatingly imposing halberd struck the ground the with a thunderous crash; the divine halberd, Heaven’s Desolation, has appeared in the mortal realm once more.
At the same time, in the four corners of the world, the various experts of the world stirred. Within an ordinary building in the Ashen Heaven’s Academy, the headmaster’s body froze for an instant, the brush in his hand halting mid air as his wizened eyes turned towards the west, a troubled look clearly reflected within them.
In the North, within the palace of the Mongol Court, the Grand Preceptor stirred from his mediation and calmly declared to no one in particular, “Inform the military strategist, Monarch Ye Wu has shown himself!”
In the Northwest, within the Western Doya Temple, a shrivelled monk sat there, chanting his scriptures monotonously. Suddenly, his thumbs paused, interrupting the rhythmic turning of his prayer beads. A second later, the turning continued as if nothing had happened.
In the east, in a deserted city near Grand Xia, a sword briefly shivered.
A short moment later, a stunningly elegant lady stepped out. Her enchanting countenance seemingly gave the deserted city a new life as she picked up the sword.
“This sword is known as Oath’s Shadow, from now on, it belongs to you.” A calm voice echoed within the winds of the deserted city.
“You have my thanks Uncle.” Mu Chengxue respectfully replied.
The stirrings under the heavens left as stealthily as they came. Only those standing at the peak, the Xiantian experts, were able to sense the coming of this moment; the commandments of the Eternal Night and the appearance of Sin.
The Eternal Night Cult’s First Shrine had appeared, with it, the peerless Martial Monarch, the legendary expert who possessed the undying body and warlike cravings of a demon.
With the vast empire of Grand Xia at the epicenter, this was bound to be an unavoidable clash of the titans. Under the focused attention of the First Shrine in the west and the Mongols in the north, even Grand Xia would find it hard to withstand the bites of these ferocious tigers and wolves.
However, all these were naturally not known to the Ning Chen who was residing peacefully in Weiyang Palace, and neither did he need to know of them. Whether it was the Martial Monarch or the Eternal Night Cult, they were all entities whose powers were beyond his comprehension. Even if the heavens were to collapse, it would not be up to a weakling like him to support it.
In truth, the body technique Qing Ning had taught him wasn’t in the least bit simple. After all, he had to learn it in just 15 days and whether he was able to accept it or not, he was no genius.
Even though she might seem fierce at times, deep down, Qing Ning was a patient teacher.
15 days was truly a short period of time. Even after those ten plus days, Ning Chen didn’t experience any transformative change. He was still a first-grade beginner and his body technique was barely discernible. However, as they say, the beginning was always the hardest. As a newcomer to the martial path, asking too much of him wasn’t right either.
By now, Grand Xia’s marriage entourage had been prepared and was ready to set off. Clad in their resplendent armor, the palace guards stood at attention in an awe-inspiring procession, 500 horsemen strong.
With a heavy heart, Ning Chen knelt before the door of Zhang Sun’s quarters and kowtowed thrice before leaving.
He had been appointed as the personal attendant of Princess Miaoyu so his reporting time was half a day earlier than usual.
“Your Majesty, he has left.” Within the quarters, a soft sigh could be heard escaping the lips of Qing Ning.
Ever since she became acquainted with Ning Chen, she had learnt the real meaning of rebellious and audacious. Within the entire palace, Ning Chen was the only person who had never knelt to the Xia Emperor, in fact, he didn’t even kneel to the Empress who he had met from the very start.
Zhang Sun calmly looked at the doorway of the hall, not saying a word the entire time. After a long while, she finally broke the silence as she rose to her feet and said: “It’s time for us to leave. Follow this Queen to see off Miaoyu.”
“Yes.” She nodded.
Within the grounds of Revelations hall, in front of its jade-like white stone steps, in front of the grand hall of the Emperor, was the Emperor of Grand Xia.
As he looked down upon the awe-inspiring marriage entourage with a deep calm gaze, he radiated a domineering aura that one would hardly believe came from the most mediocre Emperor in Grand Xia’s thousand years history.
At his flanks were Zhang Sun and Concubine Wan seated beneath a marquee. One was a dignified queen beyond reproach while the other a peerless beauty. Both were formidable women whom the court officials would not dare to look up at.
Gathered at bottom of the stone stairs, beneath the three most influential people in Grand Xia, were the 500 palace guards clad in heavy armor that echoed sonorously as they knelt down, forming a sea of metallic black.
“May His Majesty, the Emperor, live for ten thousand years!”
“May His Majesty, the Emperor, live for ten thousand years!”
As the thunderous chants echoed throughout the courtyard, the Xia Emperor raised his hands, bringing forth a deathly silence as the chanting halted immediately.
“You may set off.” He blandly proclaimed.
At the head of the marriage entourage, an officer covered in a suit of black bellowed. The warhorses neighed as the procession set off, armor clanking and warhorses trotting.
At the side of an opulent carriage was a downcast Ning Chen, head turned and silently stared at Zhang Sun and Qing Ning. This time, it might really be goodbye forever.
He was truly fortunate to have met Zhang Sun right as he entered the palace but this time, he had no choice but to leave.
The entire eastward bound procession stretched further than the eye could see, with its entire length from head to tail, no less than 5 li(2.5km). Behind the 500 palace guards at the head were the palace maids and eunuchs, followed by carriages both big and small.
Ning Chen was situated right at the very center of the procession with the princess’s carriage by his side. Regarding this bride, the masses hardly knew a thing about her and rightly so.
The current Emperor was comparatively lenient towards his brothers as long as they had sufficient self-awareness. Prince Hua was one such brother who immediately relinquished all his official duties to his brother upon his ascension to Emperor. Thanks to his faithful adherence to his role as a contented prince, his household had rarely appeared in the public eye. As such, hardly anyone even knew that he had a daughter.
However, all of these were not of concern to Ning Chen. All he cared about was whether he could escape without anyone noticing. As for the marriage, well there was already so many people escorting her, it shouldn’t matter if he wasn’t there.
Yet when he saw that wizened silhouette appearing behind the procession from time to time, he had no choice but to abandon any such thought.
The figure within the carriage had been silent so far, never speaking a word throughout this entire journey. Whenever the wind blew past the window blinds, he would catch a glimpse of a senior dressed in green, seated cross-legged within the carriage. On his lap was an ordinary looking sword sheathed in its scabbard.
Ning Chen sighed in his heart. He knew that someone so pretentious could only be a swordsman or a con artist. Obviously, he was the former.
It seems like the Xia Emperor had placed great importance on this marriage. Not only did he dispatch 500 palace guards as escorts, he even specially arranged for this expert to guard the princess.
With escape out of the question for now, his thoughts drifted in another direction. Perhaps he could infiltrate the enemy’s camp and find a way to escape from there.
“Senior, are you thirsty?”
“Senior, are you hungry?”
“Senior, have some fruits.”
For the next three days, Ning Chen stuck as close as he possibly could to the old man as his self-appointed pageboy.
His advances were met with silence initially, followed by more silence and until finally, the old man could take it no longer and sent him flying out of the carriage.
Unfortunately for him, he had severely underestimated Ning Chen’s patience, not to mention the unprecedented thickness of his skin.
And so, at the fifth day, the old man finally relented and allowed Ning Chen to continue with his yammering.
As for Ning Chen, he didn’t mind that the old man ignored him, having a carriage to sit in was infinitely better than walking on foot outside. As for the princess, she had never called for him, not even once.
“Senior, your sword is pretty nice, can I have a look at it?”
Having gotten tired of talking, he turned his attention onto the old man’s sword. Curious and seeing that the old man didn’t seem to mind, he reached out to have a look.
At that moment, a flash of steel illuminated the entire carriage in an instant…