Chapter 10: Admitting Defeat
The second day of the competition formally began.
This day was also the seventeen year anniversary of the Manichaens withdrawing from the central plains, so this was both the largest group of disciples gathered together from various sects and the largest competition.
In the fight with the Manichaens, each sect in Jianghu had sustained some form of loss, and so, most hid their skills to bide their time, and there was never an opportunity for the major sects to meet again and mutually compete.
In the morning, the square was packed full of people.
Shangguan Qing and Shen Xiuqi spotted Jiang Ling and the other two in the square.
“Today’s the day.” Shangguan Qing said, looking out at the vast crowd.
Yes, the real test of strength had officially begun.
From the other majors sects, Shen Xiuqi and Shangguan Qing of the Longxi Yueluo Sect, Wu Yue and Leng Ningshuang of the Jiaodong Qiushui Sect, Xu Qiu and Zhang Xiaoshan of the Wuling Qiantian Sect were the outstanding figures amongst the younger disciples.
The disciples of the four sects may have either been brought by an elder, or by their personally attending sect leader.
Qingshan Sect’s Sword Conference had now become a distinguished gathering of Wulin, so each and every disciple was enormously eager to compete.
The second day was not actually completely filled with matches; for the first half of the day, the crowd of disciples would collect in the square and listen to the advice of their seniors.
Elder Yi of the Hall of Discipline represented the four major sects in dumping what Jiang Ling thought was a heap of nonsense on the disciples.
It was those disciples who, before the competition, would make friends and by no means harm each other.
The Sword Conference this year was to strengthen the relationships between sects, not damage them.
Soon afterwards, the disciples drew lots to determine the matches.
Gu Yun and Yun He would both be competing during the afternoon, with Qiushui Sect’s Wu Yue and Qiantian Sect’s Xu Qiu.
Then, Jiang Ling would face Shangguan Qing in the morning tomorrow.
“Jiang Ling-er, I didn’t expect us to be so destined.
It simply must be fate!” Shangguan Qing thought internally that it was the tender concern of the heavens.
She had long wanted to measure herself against Jiang Ling, so the heavens were really smiling down on her.
She hugged Jiang Ling.
“A doomed fate.” Jiang Ling kept calm and slipped out of Shangguan Qing’s grip.
She was not so used to being so intimate with others.
“Tomorrow, you have to go all out.
Don’t go easy on me.”
“Of course, your full effort.
The movements of the martial arts are peerlessly exquisite when performed well.
We can, of course, be circumspect about it, but only exerting oneself to the utmost is the highest regard one can give an opponent.“ Shangguan Qing was suddenly in earnest, catching Jiang Ling off guard.
“…” Jiang Ling did not quite understand.
That day, Gu Yun and Yun He both defeated their respective opponents.
Yun He, of course, was the obviously superior fighter, defeating Xu Qiu in swift order.
Gu Yun’s match was not as easy; after exchanging over one hundred moves, Gu Yun at last captured a slight opening in Wu Yue’s offense, and with the “Qian Shui” sword at Wu Yue’s throat, the match was concluded.
After the fight, Gu Yun took deep breaths: “Tough, too tough.
As we expected, today’s competitors are real martial artists.”
Jiang Ling did not pay too much attention to Gu Yun.
He chattered and chirped like a bird, describing each of his moves with Wu Yue.
Jiang Ling did not listen to a word he said, in her heart fretting over her match with Shangguan Qing the following day.
Judging by her manner,she planned to use most of her force during the match.
Jiang Ling thought over how to lose while saving a bit of face.
Once the time of the match arrived, Jiang Ling grew even more restless.
Shangguan Qing wielded a spear, but was not the Yueluo Sect a sword sect? But it turns out that Shangguan Qing was a spear-wielder! No wonder she had never seen a sword at her hip.
Jiang Ling’s head hurt from the thought.
Shangguan Qing stood on the stage, her red-tasseled spear carried on her back.
The blowing wind tousled her raven-black ponytail and the deep purple hem of her robe, her bearing heroic and courageous.
“Why do you wield a spear.”
“I like it.” As expected of Shangguan Qing, “Jiang Ling-er, watch closely!”
Just as her words had fallen, Shangguan Qing lifted that red-tasseled spear and pointed the spearhead at Jiang Ling.
With the force of a thunderclap, the spearhead whooshed through the air, and within the blink of an eye, arrived before Jiang Ling.
Jiang Ling raised her sword to block, bending at the waist as the speartip slid past her front.
Shangguan Qing kicked up into the air with both legs, her hands gripping the red-tasseled spear raised as she crossed the distance between them, bearing down on Jiang Ling.
Upon seeing these movements, Jiang Ling put her left hand on the ground to support herself as she slanted her body to the side and deflected in a circle, disrupting Shangguan Qing’s thunderstrike-like moves.
The sturdy red-tasseled spear sank into the wooden planks of the stage.
Witnessing this, Jiang Ling turned the edge of her blade, slicing down toward the body of the spear.
Shangguan Qing’s hands loosened, and her left leg pressed down onto the top of the spear, freeing it from the planks.
The red-tasseled spear spun in the air until the spearhead was pointing directly at Jiang Ling’s chest.
Shangguan Qing’s martial arts were indeed exceptional and her powerful movements forced Jiang Ling to constantly be on the defensive.
She had already known her limit before arriving here, and she knew deep down that she could not continue the fight.
The tips of her toes skipped along the ground as she turned her body to dodge the blow.
The red-tasseled spear had already slipped past her front and was level with her body.
Shangguan Qing immediately leapt up onto the body of the spear, kicking Jiang Ling in the chest with the force of the spear behind her.
Jiang Ling saw an opportunity, and with a skillful turn of her feet, she reflected the majority of Shangguan Qing’s force back toward her.
She crossed her arms in front of her chest and made use of Shangguan Qing’s energy to be ‘thrown’ back ten zhang, falling off the stage.
So it was like this.
Liu Qi had a clear view of Jiang Ling’s movements, and he did not know why, but as soon as he had seen the young lady, he had felt a sliver of strangeness in his mind.
This child had a high level of comprehension of the martial arts, but she used these kinds of martial arts moves instead.
Why, exactly, was this the case? Perhaps only Yun Yang knew, but he and Yun Yang had not spoken in many years.
“A Qing, nice skills.” Jiang Ling stood below the stage and saluted.
“Shangguan Qing wins!”
“…” Shangguan Qing regarded Jiang Ling with a deep gaze, her brow creased tensely, then turned and left the stage.
“A Qing!” Jiang Ling sensed something off about Shangguan Qing’s mood, so she followed her.
Shangguan Qing seemed like she had not heard her call and ran further and further away.
She soon reached the square, but the square was empty, as everyone had gathered for the match.
Jiang Ling had no other option but to use her qinggong to follow her.
“A Qing, what’s wrong?” Jiang Ling caught up with Shangguan Qing and pulled on her robes.
“Don’t call me A Qing.
I don’t have a friend like you!” From her appearance, Shangguan Qing was truly infuriated.
“What is wrong?”
“You didn’t need to throw the match.
What meaning is there in that?!”
“I didn’t throw.
I really couldn’t beat you.” Jiang Ling explained.
“You just did.
You obviously didn’t try your best.” As Shangguan Qing spoke, the corners of her eyes revealed unexpected traces of wetness, “This was the biggest disrespect you could’ve shown me!”
Jiang Ling could not help but laugh and say: “Running away is the best I can do.”
You didn’t use any force.”
“Honestly, I can’t use too much internal force.
The little I can utilize is used on qinggong, to run for my life.” Jiang Ling had no choice.
When facing Shangguan Qing like this, she had to reveal the truth.
Shangguan Qing’s eyes widened, her expression one of surprise; surprise regarding Jiang Ling’s revelation, as well as surprise over Jiang Ling telling her about her weak point without holding anything back.
“Is it alright to tell me about this?” Shangguan Qing was in tears, this time out of worry for Jiang Ling.
“It’s nothing between sisters like us.
You’ll have to protect me later, I can’t beat anyone.”
Shangguan Qing promised not to tell anyone of this matter, and she also promised that so long as Shangguan Qing was there, no one would be able to mess with Jiang Ling.
The two of them were on good terms again and returned together to spectate the matches.
Shangguan Qing found Gu Shi as soon as she returned and asked to withdraw from the competition.
Jiang Ling tried to stop her, but Shangguan Qing’s decision was firm.
Shangguan Qing had a very straightforward personality.
For her, things were simple, and her mind would not change once she made a decision.
The match immediately afterwards had nothing to do with Jiang Ling, so she and Shangguan Qing sat on the spectating platform to cheer on the other disciples.
Gu Yun had not expected that, after clawing his way into fourth place, he would directly encounter Yun He.
In his entire life, he had never beaten his shijie, and his time was, of course, no exception.
Yueluo Sect’s Shen Xiuqi defeated Jin Jue and would contend with Yun He for the seat of honor.
In deciding the third place finish, Gu Yun and Jin Jue would have their inevitable confrontation.
That night, the trio sat in the Condensing Heart Courtyard.
Gu Yun sat in front of the table, clenching his fist as he smacked the table once.
“Alright, just give me the opportunity to teach that arrogant scoundrel a lesson.
You saw that when Yueluo’s Shen-shixiong defeated him, he had a defiant look in his eyes, like he wanted to chop Shen-shixiong into pieces.
How pitiful that he’s incapable.
I saw that dejected look all too clearly.”
“Shixiong, though I also want you to teach him a lesson, I watched him for a few matches.
That Jin Jue’s moves are ruthless and vicious.
You must be more careful.”
“You don’t believe in me?”
“Jin Jue even beat the Sect Leader’s second disciple, Yu Qiuyi-shijie, and he was only defeated by Shen Xiuqi after over fifty moves.”
Yun He said: “If A Yun really cannot beat him, you must not stubbornly resist.
That person has an unusual temper, so you need to be cautious.
A win or loss is nothing more than a false reputation.”
When Gu Yun saw that his shijie and shimei were like this, he was, internally, a little unreconciled.
A fighting spirit that did not want to admit defeat rose in his heart.
Tomorrow, he would surely beat Jin Jue.
Jiang Ling sat in her room, peacefully breathing in the night breeze.
Autumn had not yet arrived, and in the cool, refreshing wind, Jiang Ling released the worries of the past few days, her spirits lifting.
In one more day, the Sword Conference would conclude.
She did not know how He Xi’s stock replenishing down the mountain was going, nor did she know if they had brought the magical spices of the west, capable of turning the foul and rotten to rare and ethereal, to do business; if they opened up a market for it, it would surely sell well.
Thoughts of descending the mountain once again floated up in her heart.
The day after tomorrow, she could leave the mountain.
They would go to Mingzhou.
She had heard that Mingzhou was by the sea; Jiang Ling had never seen the sea before.
Afterward, they could go to many other places and see the vast realm of Jianghu.
They could even go to the western regions and see if the women there all looked like He Xi, with those extraordinary eyes.
In these three months after they descended the mountain, Jiang Ling had gained more and more life experience.
She had met many people, including Lady Chu Yue, whose matters continued to weigh on her and made her sink into a melancholy until He Xi had, fortunately, relieved her of it.
She had met He Xi, the first foreigner she had known.
She was unconventional, and she spoke the language of the central plains just as well as the locals did.
She had also met Shangguan Qing, a conversationalist who felt like an old friend from the beginning.
Jiang Ling sat in her room as she reminisced about the past three months.
She discovered that more things had happened in the last three months than her sixteen years of living on Minghe Mountain.
She began to like the Jianghu that was brimming with the unknown.
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