Chapter 91: Ink Sword

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In this world, ninth-grade experts weren’t just some cabbage you found randomly along the streets, ninth-grade experts under the age of 35 even less so.

In the past, he always felt that ninth-grade experts weren’t worth that much, just taking a quick around, he was able to find one easily and each of them seemed even younger than the other. It only was later on that he understood something, it wasn’t that there were too many geniuses, it was that there were too many geniuses in the imperial palace.

As the world’s no.1 empire, there was naturally no lack of geniuses in the imperial palace.

In fact, ever since he left the palace, this situation promptly disappeared thus it stood to reason that, in this world, there were more ordinary people than prodigies.

However, the Mongol Horde was no Grand Xia, whether in terms of numbers of experts or level of said experts. The ninth-grade experts in the Qing family were all older than 50 and it had to be said that they were there only because of Qing’s concerted recruitment efforts.

For the younger generation to produce a ninth-grade was just too difficult, the Qing family didn’t have such a genius and neither did the rest of the aristocratic families, at least till now anyway. No one could’ve ever expected that it would be the least conspicuous of the families, the Xiao family, who would manage to hire a ninth-grade expert.

Qing and Xiao had always been on bad terms, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that none of the ten great aristocratic families got along with each other.

Now that the Xiao family had a ninth-grade, that didn’t bode well for the others at all.

Ning Chen felt helpless in that regard and despised them greatly for their good fortune. Both families were competing with the same conditions of external aid so why did he have to be one with the bad luck.

With the tournament day so close, the atmosphere in the royal capital had grown noticeably tenser. Seven days later, the vast desert city finally welcomed the arrival of its most important annual event.

Leading the Qing family was the disciplinary hall’s Elder Fa. Next to him was Qing Wushuang who came along as well to spectate. As for the other two participants from Qing, both were disciples from outside of the family. One was a seventh-grade and the other was an eighth grade.

Ning Chen on the other hand, was just as lackadaisical as always. Sitting atop his wheelchair, he hummed a little ditty, nose turned towards the sky and arrogance just as high.

Elder Fa wasn’t a talkative person, as long as no one went overboard with their conduct, he tended not to interfere too much. As for Qing Wushuang, she adopted an even more aloof attitude of “out of sight and out of mind”. As they proceeded along, she maintained her position at the forefront without ever turning around.

The other two participants had already seen Ning Chen in action so they knew that this fellow wasn’t as rash or silly as he seemed. Naturally, they weren’t willing to offend him.

Thus, Ning Chen ended up as the overlord of their tiny entourage, the kind of person who the crowd watched.

The palace of the Mongolian Horde was located in the most central position of the royal capital. While its ostentatiousness wasn’t on the same scale as Grand Xia, it had a unique architecture style. With its undulating landscape, the palace painted a unique scene of its own amidst this giant backdrop of yellow.

Of the ten families, the Qing family wasn’t the strongest but neither was it the weakest, at least it seemed so on the surface.

The strongest family was, without a doubt, the Ming family of the imperial household. In second place was the Yang family who possessed an influential position in the military that mustn’t be underestimated.

Compared to that, the Qing family’s presence seemed rather lacking.

However, this year was an exception for the Qing family because it fielded a clown.

The Qing family had always kept a low profile. However with that hideous wheelchair bound young man leading their participants, their presence ended up garnering a lot of attention. To be fair, with the way Ning Chen kept his nose perpetually upturned as if he was the greatest in the world, it was hard not to be noticed by others.

With regards to this moron, everyone merely scoffed in their hearts and did nothing more.

When cultivating the martial path, one’s state of mind was even more important than one’s talents. A person with such a despicable personality would never accomplish much along the martial path, not unless the sun rose from the west.

Naturally, they weren’t trying to make a jibe at the Grand Preceptor. The Grand Preceptor was in a league of his own and couldn’t be compared to ordinary mortals.

In front of the royal hall, the ten aristocratic families had already taken up their respective positions. Qing was located on the center right of the first row. At the head of the other families was the Ming imperial household.

Next to them was the Yang family while the Xiao family was situated right at the back.

Quietly seated above them all in his dragon throne was the Great Khan of the Mongolian Empire. While this child emperor seemed young on the surface, he was already beginning to exude the aura of future monarch.

Looking up at the little Great Khan, Ning Chen’s eyes couldn’t help but narrow. So this was the son of the previous Great Khan who Fan Lingyue took great lengths to raise to the throne. Just based on first impressions alone, he seemed a little weak. Even if he tried his best to maintain the aura of a Great Khan, there just seemed to be something lacking within him.

However, Ning Chen trusted Fan Lingyue, just like he trusted himself. This little emperor will grow to be a pretty good emperor.

Unfortunately, he was the Great Khan of the Mongols.

Grand Xia and the Mongols would never be able to co-exist peacefully because of the simple fact that they had southward ambitions and standing right in the way of these ambitions was Grand Xia. The rivalry between these two dynasties was one of territory. Unless the Mongols abandoned their ambitions, the flames of war would never die down.

The fact that the Mongols produced a Fan Lingyue had to be Grand Xia’s greatest misfortune.

“Let the tournament begin.”

It was at that moment that the little Great Khan announced the start of the tournament. His voice sounded soft and had the soprano-like qualities of a child. In fact, he almost sounded like a girl.

Other than the Yang and Ming family, each family fielded three young experts of their own. Adding that to the 8 experts fielded by the Yang and Ming families, there were a total of 32 contestants.

The rules of the competition were simple. They would draw lots in successive order to determine the order of their elimination matches. This would continue until the top four participants were decided after which it would be a round robin to decide the top three.

First up was Ning Chen. His opponent was merely a sixth-grade fighter and was even a girl. Without a doubt, this had to be luckiest draw ever for him.

As for the Qing family, they weren’t that lucky. Their eighth-grade fighter was paired with a seventh-grade and their seventh-grade was paired up with an eighth. Most likely, one of them was about to be eliminated soon.

At that, Ning Chen’s smile grew even more radiant. As he did so, the scars on his face twitched grotesquely to the point where those around him wanted to distance themselves as far as possible.

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Wheelchair clacking noisily in noisily in the background, Ning Chen wheeled himself to the center of the tournament grounds and with a resounding thud, stabbed his heavy sword into the ground. Looking at the lady in front of him, he laughed uproariously as he yelled, “Come on then, this Little Master will give you a handicap of two legs.”

“Ptui!”

Those present couldn’t help but spit in their hearts. This man’s skin was so thick it was basically invincible. If you’re that great, why don’t you keep that handicap instead.

On the other hand, the lady seemed to be the more affable type albeit slightly nervous. Instead of getting angry, she actually thanked him in a stammering voice.

Truly, this was a comical sight to behold. Outside of those two, the other members from the ten families were exasperated by what they saw. Were these two even planning to fight, why did it feel like there wasn’t going to be a fight at all.

Needless to say, the match proceeded as expected. Nothing of note happened and the thick skin man won after exchanging a bunch of blows with the girl.

“Hah, what a tiring fight for Little Master.” At that, Ning Chen put on a show of panting heavily as he walked back to the Qing family.

“Make sure not to show any mercy in the next fight.” Qing Wuyou flatly stated.

“Oh my, you even managed to see through that?” Exclaimed Ning Chen in feigned shock.

“Don’t think for a second that everyone else is fool. Whether or not you went easy on her was easy to discern with just one glance.”

“Sigh, this Little Master’s just too much of a ladies’ man.” He sighed while shaking his head.

Having said all that, Qing Wushuang no longer pursued the matter. Speaking for even a second longer made her body uncomfortable. However, as long as he was able to win, it didn’t matter how he did it.

Other than that infuriating opener of a match, the remaining matches proceeded uneventfully. As expected, the seventh-grade of the Qing family was eliminated and the eighth-grade advanced. Counting in Ning Chen, the Qing family had two participants who advanced. It wasn’t a great showing but neither was it a bad one.

For the second round, Ning Chen’s match was scheduled somewhere in the middle and his opponent was a seventh-grade. The result was of that match was as follows: he barely managed to advance again.

The eighth grade of the Qing family advanced as well. In fact, he won rather handily seeing as the majority of the contestants were seventh-grades after all.

For the third round, Ning Chen’s opponent was another seventh-grade. After duking it out for what felt like half a day, he barely managed to eke out an victory by half a move. Immediately, the crowd booed and hissed at him him furiously.

This time, the eighth-grade of the Qing family was eliminated

With that, the top four fighters had been decided. Ming, Yang and Xiao each won a spot in the rankings with the last spot going to the fortunate, thick skin man, Ning Chen.

However, now that the top four fighters had been decided, his luck had finally come to an end. Right off the bat, he was matched up against the ninth-grade of the Xiao family.

Thus, Ning Chen admitted defeat.

Once more, the crowd hissed, booed and cursed at him. Being a bunch of hot-blooded youths, they would’ve probably suffocated themselves to death if they didn’t vent their anger at this disagreeable fellow now.

Because that ninth-grade won without having to fight, he smoothly proceeded to the next round. However, because those in the top four had to fight three matches each, the outcome still wasn’t set in stone.

On the other side, the match between the two eighth-grades of Yang and Ming was much more heated. Both fighters were at the peak of eighth-grade, the kind where they might step into the ninth-grade at any moment. Naturally, they were evenly matched and neither side dared to hold back in their attacks. In the end, both parties were injured but the stronger Ming family managed to win with the difference of one move.

The eighth-grade from the Yang family had basically been crippled in that fight. The last strike he took damaged his Qi Ocean and destroyed his cultivation as a whole. While it was difficult to say if the expert from Ming had done this on purpose, the Yang family’s defeat was basically a done deal.

And just like that, Ning Chen was guaranteed a spot in the top three without having to do a thing. With regards to that, even Ning Chen was stunned by this turn of events and didn’t know how to react.

Without an opponent to fight, Ning Chen got away with a bye in his next round. On the other side, the Ming family’s eighth grade squared off against the Xiao family’s ninth-grade.

In a fight between a eighth and ninth-grade however, there wasn’t much doubt as to who would win. The Xiao family quickly emerged victorious and the Ming family’s expert lost.

And then, Ning Chen admitted defeat once more…

At that, the crowds erupted. A barrage of curses and hisses flew at the scarred fighter from all around. Was this even a competition anymore, what he did was disgusting!

Even the Qing family felt embarrassed right now; they had gained a spot in the top three for sure, but it was truly a disgraceful process.

However, who was Ning Chen? He was the man whose skin was so thick it could deflect a blade. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me. So what if they cursed at him, he just wasn’t going to fight.

“Will the champion, runner-up and second runner-up step forward to receive their awards.”

It was at that moment that the eunuch beside the little Great Khan stepped forward and announced the awards ceremony in his high-pitched, grating voice. Instantly, the entire scene fell silent.

Finally, it was time. Ning Chen grinned as he thought to himself.

Wheelchair clacking, Ning Chen wheeled himself to the left while the Xiao family took the center and the Ming family took the right. The three of them proceeded in such a fashion up the stairs till they were three zhang (10m) away from the Great Khan.

“This lowly one is known as Bai Yutang, may I request for Your Majesty to bear witness to a certain matter?” Ning Chen grinned broadly as he looked at the Great Khan.

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“Speak.” The little Great Khan answered with practised ease.

“The second young missus of the Qing family once promised this one that as long as he took the position of champion, she would marry this one. Will Your Majesty bear witness to this?” As he enunciated each word, the grin on his face grew ever broader and the scars twitched even more.

Ning Chen made no attempts to lower his volume so everyone present heard his words. Yet in the midst of their confusion, a flash of black sliced across the air and before they knew it, blood had backed up on the throats of the Xiao family’s ninth-grade and the Ming family’s eighth-grade.

It was a slash that came without notice. Encased in frost and covered in blood, it was a flash of steel that was as beautiful as it was deadly. No one was even able to discern when he struck and that included the two who died.

To think that someone would even consider fighting at the feet of the son of heaven!

“Now that both of them are dead, am I the champion?”

At that, Ning Chen laughed, voice tinged with madness and Ink Sword dripping with blood. Throughout the tournament grounds, everyone was shocked by the bloody scene that played out before them…

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