While Ning Chen didn’t know what the Heavenly Bible or Divine Pool were, he knew what the Xiantian Pill was. It was a heavenly medicine that all the martial practitioners in this world coveted. It’s said that each pill gave its user a 30% chance to enter the realm of Xiantian.
Such a heaven-defying medicine was naturally an extremely rare treasure with Grand Xia possessing only three pills. Furthermore, it had failed to refine anymore in these past hundred years.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that these three pills were responsible for attracting the majority of the masters currently working for the palace.
Even so, Ning Chen had never once coveted it and so he wasn’t particularly affected by it.
Suddenly, Yue Ling was hit with a wave of violent coughing as she heaved into her hands. Seeing that, the old lady’s face immediately changed as she rushed forward and shoved a pill into the girl’s mouth.
“Missus, the outside winds are too strong for you, we should find a place to stay for the night.”
“Mhm.” Yue Ling nodded, a sickly demeanor still lingering on her face as she did so.
“What ailment does Lady Yue suffer from?” asked Ning Chen out of concern.
“It’s just a sickness I had since birth, it’s nothing to worry about.” She gave a weary smile as she said that.
“In that case, you should have a rest at the Wind’s Terrace.” He gave the multistoried behind him a sweeping glance.
The old lady’s face darkened at his suggestion but just as she tried to speak up, she was silenced by Yue Ling’s hands. “As Young Master says.” Yue Ling answered in a soft voice.
A moment later, the three of them arrived in the inn and booked two rooms, one for Ning Chen and the other for Yue Ling and the old lady.
Returning to their room, the old lady finally couldn’t hold in her displeasure and protested, “Missus, with your lofty status how could you agree to spending the night in this seedy district.”
“He’s able to, why can’t I?”
“He’s a man, besides how could his status compare to Missus” The old lady said in an unrelenting tone.
“Men and women huh, *cough*”
She gave a wry smile; if she really cared about such matters, she wouldn’t have committed all those atrocities. As for status, it was a useful but hateful thing.
The last thing she wanted was to be bound by such a pointless thing even in this foreign country.
“Missy, you should get some rest, we still have to press on at dawn.”
Yue Ling nodded her head and went to bed. She laid down with a weary look on her face, covered herself with a blanket and turned in for the night.
Seeing that, the old lady blew out the lights before quietly sitting atop her bed and meditating.
As midnight arrived, the bustle of the streets finally began to die down. It was then that the night silence was abruptly broken by the crisp chime of a bell; like a silver needle dropping on an icy surface.
Ning Chen’s eyes narrowed as he focused on a black silhouette in the distance, his wariness growing as he did so.
It was the same ghostly aura he saw moments ago. Within it was the ghostly palanquin escorted by the Black and White Ghosts of Impermanence and the Ox-headed and Horse-faced Guards of Hell. With every step they took, the procession inexplicably teleported 30 meters ahead.
Ning Chen’s heart grew uneasy once more as he watched the strange procession pass by, his heart shocked by the implication. Did the supernatural truly exist in this world?
His hands gave the table a forceful slam, propelling his entire body along with his wheelchair out of the room’s window.
As he landed on the snowy ground, he reached out and grabbed the Black Ghost of Impermanence. Yet as his hands came into contact with the ghostly figure, they passed through him without any resistance.
“How could it be.”
His pupils shrank and the True Qi within him stirred. An instant later, his machete swung out in an arc towards the ghostly palanquin.
It slashed the Ox-head Guard of Hell, causing an explosion of flames as it did so. Yet the ghostly palanquin proceeded forward as usual, teleporting 30 meters ahead as if nothing had happened.
“A Feather’s Flight, The One Sword of the Heavens and Earth.”
A swing as swift as a flying crane slashed out at the ghostly palanquin. However before it could hit the palanquin, the Horse-faced Guard of Hell stepped forth and blocked its path. It turned around and gave him an eerie stare that seemed to tug at his soul.
He doubled over onto the ground as he spat out a mouthful of blood, his psyche trembling from the serious blow it received.
“Madman,” derided the old lady who appeared out of the blue beside the teen.
Not paying the old crone any heed, he slammed the ground with his hands and propelled his crippled self back onto his wheelchair and promptly began his slow journey back to the inn.
After that short encounter, he was even more confused than before. Those ghosts and guards weren’t martial practitioners in disguise; so did that mean that the supernatural truly existed?
He violently heaved as a tearing pain shot through his head followed by a bout of lightheadedness that had an indescribable emptiness to it.
“Young Master Ning, that was extremely rash of you.” Yue Ling chided him as she stuffed a pill into his mouth. Awoken by the commotion outside, she had just made her way to the first floor when he entered the inn.
“The situation demanded I do so in order to clear up the doubt in my heart.”
He obediently accepted her help and swallowed the pill in his mouth. A second later, he felt a warming sensation in his head after which the pain subsided significantly.
“I’ve disturbed Lady Yue’s rest.” He lifted his head and apologized in a remorseful tone.
“Mhm.” Yue Ling nodded without say anything more. He definitely disturbed her sleep. An embarrassed look crossed his face as he heard her unabashed answer. Unlike his usual display of shyness, he was genuinely embarrassed by his inconsiderate behavior.
Having wasted enough time, the old lady escorted Yue Ling back to her room to rest while Ning Chen went back to his own as well.
At the break of dawn, he opened up his room’s door to find the pair standing before his room. He knew right away that they were here to say their goodbyes.
“Until next time.”
“Until next time.”
The two bid their farewells without any reluctance and without any sadness. A gentleman’s friendship was as a mountain’s spring, clear and unobtrusive.
“Judging from last night’s exchange, Young Master seems to be a swordsman. In that case, please accept this sword as a gift to celebrate our acquaintance.”
Yue Ling received an ink-black sword from the old lady and bequeathed it with both of her hands.
“I already have a machete.” Ning Chen replied in a soft voice without accepting the gift.
“At the end of the day, a machete isn’t made for fighting.” She insisted before placing the sword in his hands.
This time, he didn’t reject her goodwill and instead accepted the gift with both of his hands. “My thanks.”
“It’s fine. If the fates would allow it, we’ll meet again.” As those words left her mouth, she turned around and left without any reluctance in her steps.
The old lady’s face underwent a gamut of changes as she stared at the pitch black sword in Ning Chen’s hands. In the end, she left without saying a word.
It was a sheathless sword without much of an edge to speak of. Not only that, the sword was so heavy ordinary men could not wield it.
And yet Ning Chen liked it. Without any reason in particular, he simply liked it.
The trip northward was one he still had to undergo, but before that he needed to get a sheath for his new partner. After scouring through the city, he finally found a blacksmith to craft a scabbard that was similarly as black as his sword and just as edgeless.
With that settled, he stowed away his machete and sword, securing it with beef tendons. In a sense, didn’t this make him a blade and swordsman? He mused to himself for a moment.
Naturally no one would answer this question for him. As he resumed his journey northward, his travels took him upstream of the Yue Luo River through the knee-high snow. For Ning Chen, knee-high was enough to cover the majority of the wheelchair’s wheels. Even so, he persisted push by push, never stopping for a second.
As he trudged through the snow, he faintly noticed a set of footprints deeply set into the snow as if whoever left them were in hurry when they passed through this area. Two days later and 15 km in, he finally made his way out of the region just as the sun set.
Having left that mountainous region, his field of vision expanded immensely as the suffocating mountain walls disappeared behind him.
His pupils rapidly shrunk and he focused on the startling scene before him. Right in front of him was a field of corpses atop a bed of crimson snow. Women, children, the elderly; not a single one was spared from the looks of it.
His already foul mood worsened as his anger boiled over from the atrocity laid before him, his eyes reflecting the raging fires within his heart.
His expression grew colder and his knuckles whitened as he continued to push his wheels through the blood stained snow. Mixed within this snow was not only the blood of the deceased but their grievances as well.
The blade wounds on their corpses were scattered roughshod all over with not a single one being the same. Their possessions had been picked clean leaving only the clothes on their back. Without a doubt, this wasn’t the work of a martial practitioner but rather bandits.
Since the founding of Grand Xia a thousand years ago, it had constantly rooted out bandits wherever it could. A hundred years ago, the Emperor had even dispatched a military marquis to suppress these evildoers.
Who could have ever expected that with the advent of the snowstorm and the subsequent road blockages, such an atrocity would happen.
The horse prints in the snow were still fresh which meant that the bandits couldn’t have gotten far. Yet while the bandits had horses with them, Ning Chen had no such luxury; in fact he didn’t even have a pair of working legs.
However, Ning Chen was a stubborn person. He was in the past and still was now even with his crippled legs.
As his continued onwards, his wheels left behind a trace of blood that slowly became fainter as he travelled further.
While the bandits had a headstart on him, that didn’t mean he couldn’t catch up to them. After all, mountain bandits needed to rest and so did their horses. Furthermore with this heavy snow, their horses weren’t that useful anyway. As long as he didn’t rest, he would catch up to them sooner or later.
And so, a day passed by without incident. On the second day, he finally caught sight of a campfire’s faint glow in the midst of the wilderness. Seated around the fire were thirteen men and women. The men had a sturdy look to them while the women, a charming one.
Stacked atop the fire were several objects that gave off a meaty fragrance that drifted off into the distance. Near them were over ten horses tied securely to several trees. Horses were extremely valuable in Grand Xia and thus the mountain bandits made sure to watch over the beasts.
The mechanical rolling of his wheelchair instantly caught the attention of the men and women. Given the remoteness of their campsite, the appearance of a wheelchair-bound teen was anything but normal.
Being a vigilant person, the head of the bandits immediately sensed that something was wrong and reached for his weapon. However, not everyone was as astute as him. One of the women got up from the ground and approached him.
“Little boy what are you doing here? Where are your family members?”
She muttered in a husky voice as her arms curled around him, pulling herself close to his body.
“May I know if you were the ones who murdered those people at Yue Luo River?”
Ning Chen didn’t resist her advances and instead raised his head and gave her a shy smile.
In spite of his shy harmless smile, the girl felt a bone-chilling coldness travel down her spine and subconsciously retreated a step, pulling back the arms she had around him.
“May I know if you were the ones who murdered those people at Yue Luo River?”
Ning Chen asked once more, his smile just as harmless and shy as before.
“Yes, no, no….”
The girl nodded her head at first but immediately noticed that something was wrong. Yet before she could deny the deed, a flash of black ended whatever chance she had of doing so. The girl’s throat gave out a gurgling sound as the words remained within her mouth, drowned by a sea of blood.
The Ink Sword had been stained red; for the first time in his life, Ning Chen had killed a person and yet he didn’t feel the much-talked about sense of guilt. Strange, it was as if what he had done wasn’t even worth mentioning.
As his wheelchair wheeled past her, her body collapsed lifelessly to ground with a thud. While the Ink Sword wasn’t sharp, his stab more than made up for it with its speed. In the space of a breath, the sword pierced through her throat ending her life before she could feel much pain.
Seeing that, the remaining bandits finally realized what was going on and immediately picked up their weapons to defend themselves.
However, these bandits were merely ordinary people. No matter how vicious they were, there was no way they could match up to a fourth-grade Houtian.
His black sword danced mercilessly in the night, ending the lives of another 11 bandits in mere seconds. Knowing that the battle was lost, the bandit chief immediately tried to escape but before he take a step, a machete flew out and penetrated his chest.
It was a cold merciless display that would’ve sent shivers down the spines of anyone watching, had they been alive. All thirteen of the bandits had died, even that charming female bandit.
Ning Chen had never considered himself a merciful person. In fact he had once stated that his motto was “Even if I don’t go to hell, someone else will.”
That wasn’t a play on words. Instead, he meant every single word.
Perhaps, Mu Chengxue and Qing Ning were right not to teach him martial skills. However, he ended up on this road anyway.
Even now, his Ink Sword was still warm from the blood of the bandits. With a quick swish of his sword, he cleaned off the blood with the surrounding snow, cooling it down at the same time.
He knew that he did not regret this…