It was a dull and mindless three days of practicing but yet within those three days, he had gained more than ever before.
Ning Chen hadn’t noticed yet but ever since he stepped into the second-grade, the wounds on his body healed a lot faster.
Ever since he had undergone treatment using the palace’s Golden Injuries Balm, the arrow wound on his left chest was significantly less painful. The stab wound the old senior had given him had also basically closed up.
Truth be told, this wasn’t the first time he had heard of this mysterious balm produced by the palace. However, he simply didn’t have the chance to ask about it.
Of course, while the balm could only be described as miraculous, the main reason why he was able to practice was that his wounds had only been on his left side while he had been practising with his right hand. If not for that, even the balm would be useless under his relentless swinging and stabbing.
With regards to his training method and progress, Xia Miaoyu, the sword master and the 400 guardsman had all bore witness to it and yet never once interrupted him.
Diligent yet stupid. That was Xia Miaoyu’s rating.
Diligent yet barely passable. The sword master’s view was slightly different than hers.
Diligent, extremely diligent. That was the view of the majority of the guardsman.
Xia Miaoyu was a genius of the martial path and naturally did not look too well upon his meagre progress. The sword master was no genius but had dedicated his life to hard work and diligence; to him Ning Chen’s progress was barely acceptable. As for the guardsman, they weren’t at the level of those two experts and were merely there to watch the show.
However, no matter who it was, no one denied the fact that he was diligent, very diligent, extremely diligent.
On the third night, the sword master picked up his ancient sword and brought Ning Chen away from the camp. It was half past midnight by the time the duo got back. As he sat there meditating, Ning Chen’s face was noticeably paler than before he left.
As for the sword master, he went back to his tent to rest for the first time since the ambush, his face bearing the scars of fatigue.
Thankfully, no one chose to attack them this night!
No one knew where the pair went or what they did. The only two who did were either meditating or resting for the night, their faces not much better than the other.
By the fourth day, their rushing had finally brought them a sliver of hope. As they stood atop the mountain road peering forward, the sight of a city situated within a vast plain greeted them, filling the soldiers with a renewed sense of vigor.
That was the Stone’s Pass, the city guarded by the Marquis Buyi one of the ten military marquis of Grand Xia.
Marquis Buyi was a legendary figure within Grand Xia having guarded Stone’s Pass for sixteen years during which he never once set foot in the Imperial City. When he had risen to fame, the majority of the soldiers in the military had just been born and thus barely knew a thing about this military marquis.
However, everyone knew that Marquis Buyi didn’t inherit his position, instead he had climbed up step by step from a foot soldier all the way up to his current position. The words Buyi were bestowed upon him as a recognition of his perseverance and his humble origins.
The ten military marquis of Grand Xia were all legends in their own right, whether it was military strategy or martial prowess, they all stood at the top of each field. In the long history of Grand Xia, there were countless marquis and yet there had only ever been ten military marquis at one time.
They were the peak of military might in the empire and guarded the fortunes of Grand Xia. Each marquis was a source of major pressure on the countries surrounding their territory.
The biggest reason why the Zhang Sun clan was able to produce an Empress was due to the fact that they had two military marquis in their clan.
Of the ten, Marquis Qinghe was the military marquis christened by the previous Emperor and given the task for guarding the northwestern frontier. Marquis Bei was tasked with guarding the northern territories which entailed defending against the Mongols. Marquis Buyi was tasked with guarding the northeast and acting as a deterrent against Zhenji.
As for the most difficult frontier, the west, this momentous task was given to Marquis Xueyi alone. His mission, to guard against the Eternal Night Cult.
In the southwest, Grand Xia had stationed a military marquis in lieu of the frighteningly strong Western Doya Temple.
In the untamed south, Grand Xia sent out Marquis Jiyu to guard against the the unpredictable attacks of the barbarians, forcing them into seclusion.
As for southeast, a military marquis was stationed there as well in order to deter a country that was even more shameless than Zhenji.
As for the relatively peaceful eastern frontier, no one knew the exact reason why but Grand Xia had decided to dispatch a military marquis to guard that region as well.
Of the ten marquis, eight were stationed outside of the Imperial City. Only two marquis were an exception to this norm, the first being Marquis Taiping who had just taken on the mantle of marquis. The other was the head of the ten military marquis, the military god of Grand Xia, Marquis Kaixuan.
The name Kaixuan only had one simple meaning to the people of the Divine Continent: undefeatable!
Together, the ten military marquis were the banner of Grand Xia’s invincibility and formed the backbone of the people’s faith in Grand Xia. Thus, when the marriage entourage laid eyes on Stone’s Pass, the heavy burden on their shoulders was instantly lifted.
And yet, they seemed to have forgotten that they were still on the mountain road; Stone’s Pass might’ve seemed near but in actuality, there was still a long way to go for them.
As the morning sun rose over the hills, the cold darkness of night was replaced by the warm embrace of dawn. Gone with the darkness were their anxiety, worries and even their vigilance. They had all forgotten the real reason why they were rushing. It was to avoid a certain individual.
The first sight that greeted them as they turned their heads back to the road was the devil himself, the Divine Child, strolling towards them.
It had to be said that Jun Shaoqing, in every way, lived up to his title of Divine Child. With sun’s radiant rays at his back, his arrival almost seemed like a deity descending upon the land, smothering those present with an unbearable pressure.
What was despair? Despair was when hope seemed so near and yet so far at the same time.
After ten days of rushing, what was to be their promised sanctuary ended up being denied to them right at the very edge of safety.
The sole exception was the Zhenji emissary whose grin was stretched as wide as his face would allow, within that smile was a perverse sense of delight at their impending doom. Even if it meant dying along with the entourage, he wanted the Divine Child to slaughter everyone present.
The world didn’t know much about this Divine Child. All the masses knew was that he was strong, unbelievably, illogically strong. As recent events had proven, he was every bit as strong as the rumors said.
Despite not being in the realm of Xiantain, he had caused a change in the heavens and had even utilized its energies to such a frightening degree.
It was even said that this generation’s Divine Child had the legendary divine body of the Eternal Night.
Whether or not these terrifying rumors were true, the current Divine Child was absurdly strong.
Against an expert at the peak of ninth-grade, only another ninth-grade peak expert would suffice. Within the entourage, only Xia Miaoyu and the sword master had the qualifications to stand against this monster within a human’s skin.
And yet after last night’s events, the sword master’s sword was no longer in its peak condition.
With the treacherous mountain road behind and a sheer cliff to the side, there was nowhere to run for the entourage. Perhaps the two ninth-grade experts might be able to survive the fall, however everyone else would not stand a chance.
On this mountain road that wasn’t particularly wide, the entourage came face to face with their greatest adversary.
The cold, expressionless gaze of the Divine Child zeroed in on the princess, he was here for the Scroll of Life and nothing else.
The princess returned his gaze with an equally resolute stare that gave no ground. Whether as the daughter of a prince or as the princess of Grand Xia, she had no reason to back down. 
Having dominated the continent for over a thousand years, the men and women of Grand Xia were all proud, from the lowly peasants all the way up to the nobility.
The three experts stood there silently in a stalemate, none of them saying a word as they watched and waited.
This must’ve been where the phrase “when the conversation gets disagreeable, to say one word more was a waste of breath” originated from.
In the end, it was the sword master who made the first move. As the weakest of the trio, he knew that he had to create a chance for the princess to strike.
It was a flawless stab taken to the limits of speed. Even space itself couldn’t react before the sword had pierced a hole in it.
Ning Chen’s pupils shrunk as saw the fearsome display of sword mastery. He had taken the senior’s stab before but compared to what he saw now, that stab was nothing but child’s play.
And yet, this seemingly unbeatable strike was caught was ease by the Divine Child’s fingers. A split second later, the ground beneath the two men tore apart in an instant, sending a wave of dust billowing outwards up to 10 zhang (3.333 meters, 10.9 feet) away.
His stab had been stopped but yet the sword master showed no signs of faltering, instead he turned the sword with a forceful twist of his wrists, sending the sword’s edge forward another 10 cm.
Having lost his hold over the sword, Jun Shaoqing calmly sidestepped the incoming strike and with a flick of his fingers, deflected the oncoming sword. Without giving the old senior a chance to recover, he immediately focused his Qi onto a finger and stabbed towards the old man’s Qi Ocean.
It was at this moment that the figure of Xia Miaoyu flickered into view. Amidst the fluttering snowflakes, a slender arm tore mercilessly through the air as it reached for the heart of Jun Shaoqing.
A light sigh of praise escaped the lips of the Divine Child as his eyes showed a hint of surprise within them. With a swift step backwards, he dodged her oncoming palm, choosing not to face her attack head on.
The very next second, the sword master’s blade made its appearance once more in a flurry of reckless slashes. Each slash showed his resolve to create a chance for the princess as he rushed forward, paying no heed to his defenses.
Xia Miaoyu coldly accepted his aid, not at all intending to help the old senior as she seized every possible chance created by the old man to deal a decisive blow to the Divine Child.
The combined efforts of these two experts with one being ruthless towards himself and the other being ruthless towards others, forced the Divine Child to repeatedly retreat.
He said as he caught the sword master’s sword with one hand while blocking the princess’s palm with the other.
“Experts of Grand Xia, you’ve given me cause to take notice.”
With a wave of his hand, the surrounding air erupted as his True Qi gushed outwards knocking the two experts away.
From that hand dripped the blood of the Divine Child. This was the first time he had bled since the battle started.
Jun Shaoqing held his right hand aloft, calling forth a lightning storm of black thunderbolts that rocked the very heavens and earth.
Seeing him prepare to unleash his ultimate skill, the silhouette of the sword master disappeared in an instant flickering back into existence in front of the Divine Child with his sword aimed directly at the man’s chest.
Jun Shaoqing’s looked at the sword with furrowed eyebrows as he caught it squarely between the two fingers of his left hand. And yet with all his combat experience, he had never once thought the princess was lurking right behind the old man.
With a forceful strike of her palm, the combined force of the two experts broke through the binding of his fingers in an instant driving the ancient sword right into the chest of the Divine Child.
The Divine Child grunted as the burning pain radiating from his chest. Suppressing the pain, he lowered his right hand directing a thunderbolt earthwards right into the two experts, sending them flying backwards in an instant as they spat out a mouthful of blood.
The ancient sword stabbed into the ground, beside it, the sword master knelt on one knee. As he stabilized himself, he spat out another mouthful of blood having sustained a major injury from that exchange.
On the other side, Xia Miaoyu forced out a mouthful of blood as well. However, despite her pale countenance, her condition wasn’t as dire as the sword master’s.
Strong. Terrifyingly strong. It was a strength that instilled despair into its opponents.
An instant later, the figure of the Divine Child appeared before the sword master, his palm descending right towards the head of the old man. Xia Miaoyu desperately wanted to save him and yet it was too late, all she could do was watch with her very own eyes as the palm descended.
It was in this desperate hour that a black blade rushed forth. It was a stab that was ever so weak, ever so immature and yet resolute in its aim of stabbing the son of God.
Qing Ning had once said that as long as one didn’t enter into the realm of Xiantian, the body was unable to transform and become impervious to mortal weapons.
Jun Shaoqing was without a doubt strong, but he wasn’t a Xiantian, and so, this stab however weak it was, was something he couldn’t ignore.
“Hmph, you’re courting death.”
A cold glint flashed across his eyes as he diverted his palm strike towards the owner of the black iron sword.
The sword shattered in an explosion of steel and blood as its owner was knocked several meters away. Yet, several meters away was a sheer cliff.
During that split second, Xia Miaoyu rushed towards the sword master and with a flicker, retreated ten steps away with the sword master safely secured in her arms.
Seeing this, Ning Chen smiled a satisfied smile. A radiant smile, washed in blood like a peony blooming, as he flew backwards through the air.
The old coot’s favor; he had returned it.
The rescued sword master watched the smiling boy plummet like a severed kite down the sheer cliff, his wizened eyes rapidly contracting as a crushing force gripped his heart.
He reached forth to catch the boy but it was too late…
His psyche shook causing him to spit out another mouthful of blood, the crimson droplets falling down into the abyss as he stood there helpless, unable to save the boy.
Footnotes: TL: In this case, the sentence should’ve been “whether as a princess or as a princess…” however that sounds strange and so daughter of a prince was used instead.
In English, the daughter of a prince would still be a princess which makes the term particularly confusing in this case as princess could mean 郡主(junzhu) or 公主 (gongzhu) with the two having different meanings depending on the era.
Depending on which dynasty the term is used in, 郡主(junzhu or just Princess(A) for convenience’ sake) could be mean several things.
In the Tang dynasty, Princess(A) 郡主 refers to the daughter of the crown prince (the successor to the throne). Whereas in the later dynasties, Song, Liao, Ming and Qing, the term Princess(A) 郡主 could refer to either the daughter crown prince (successor) or the daughter of a prince(亲王/brother of the current Emperor).
During the Song Dynasty, the title of Princess(A) was also conferred onto the daughter of a meritorious official.
As for 公主 (Gongzhu or Princess(B) from now on), this title only refers to the daughter of the Emperor.
During the Liao Dynasty, the daughters of the imperial household would first be conferred the title of Princess(A) after which they will be conferred the title of Princess(B) upon assuming an official role.
As a bonus:
During the Qing Dynasty up till Emperor Huang Taiji, the term 格格 (ge ge or Princess(C) from now on) was also used to refer to the daughter of an Emperor though this practise was halted once Huang Taiji ascended, with the title being reverted to Princess(B).
If you’ve ever watched My Fair Princess( Princess Returning Pearl, Princess Pearl, Return of Pearl Princess, Huan Zhu Ge Ge, etc.) [All of these names refer to the same show, they aren’t sequels.], the term Ge Ge is used in the show incorrectly given the timeline of the show which was set in the 1700s.
By then, the official term for an Emperor’s daughter had reverted back to Gong Zhu or Princess(B). Although, in less official settings, the family members of the princess could refer to her as Ge Ge or Princess(C).