Chapter 11: A Failure

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The fifth morning—the final day—ushered in the Sword Conference’s big finale.
The seat of honor would be decided between the disciple of Qingshan Sect’s Yun Yang, Yun He, and the disciple of Yueluo Sect’s Sect Leader Han Yuyang, Shen Xiuqi. 

Han Yuyang did not arrive for the ceremony, instead sending an elder, Han Yuyang’s uncle of the same clan, Han Pengyi.
The elder’s beard and hair were grizzled, the wrinkles on his face as deep as ravines.
He was different from Lu Yi in that he was truly an old man yet young at heart, and he continued to stand straight and full of vitality.
Owing to the fact that he had lived in Xibei in recent years, his skin was tanned from the sun. 

Before the ultimate match, Gu Yun and Jin Jue’s match gathered everyone’s attention. 

A Du stood on the spectating platform, wringing his hands in worry: “Can Gu-shixiong do it?”

“I’m not sure, either.” As she stood on the platform with A Du, Jiang Ling’s palms were sweating. 

Shangguan Qing said: “Your Gu-shixiong is very sharp.
I don’t think he will put himself at a disadvantage.”

“You say that, but last night he looked like…how do I put it, he was acting unusual, like he was thinking of beating Jin Jue.”

Shangguan Qing said, “Oh, it’s good to have a strong fighting spirit.
Be at ease, isn’t your shixiong’s brother, Gu Shi-shixiong, here? He won’t let his younger brother come to harm.”

For the past few days, Han Pengyi had not come to the event area.
Rather, he had constantly been with Lu Yi-zhenren reminiscing about the old days.
His thought was that when people grow old, they love to chase their past memories and always have something to say to others.
Further, he could not look to those good-for-nothings of his own to place high on the list, and he especially did not want to lose face.
As expected, that girl Shangguan Qing had won her contest yet disregarded the advice of others and withdrew, and all of the other disciples had been defeated one by one.
The youth of today ah, always so tuckered out.
Back in his day, the youth had shared the same drive, wishing for nothing more than a few extra shichen per day to practice their martial arts.
It’s just that he had never expected that the simple and reticent Shen Xiuqi would make it to the final match, so he could only go and have a look. 

Elder Yi of the Hall of Discipline saw Han Pengyi arrive, “How rare for us to be graced with your presence, Han-xiong.”

“Isn’t it to come and watch those useless disciples of mine.” Han Pengyi disliked how Elder Yi trained his disciples, punishing them with kneeling or copying books at every turn.
What use did that have? That time would be better used having the erring disciples practice their martial arts. 

“Han-xiong is too modest.” In his mind, Elder Yi criticized: So old, yet you still remember to hit back with a few words.

The first match would be Gu Yun and Jin Jue. 

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Gu Shi stood in the center of the stage.
He motioned for the two to salute, but they remained motionless.
Gu Shi frowned, “Gu Yun, Jin Jue.” His tone carried a trace of anger. 

The two could only give a perfunctory salute, then the match began. 

“Gu-shidi, today, I’ll let you experience the true sword arts of the Qingshan Sect.” Jin Jue lifted a brow, his gaze beyond contemptuous. 

“True sword arts? I’ve heard the Qingshan Sect’s sword arts are among the finest of Wulin.
Then how did they lose to Shen Xiuqi of the Yueluo Sect? Could the sword arts of the Qingshan Sect be all smoke and mirrors, or are your knowledge and skills just subpar?”

“Watch and learn.” Jin Jue tapped two fingers on his scabbard, and with his internal force, the scabbard flew like an arrow leaving the bowstring, streaking across the vast sky toward the space between Gu Yun’s eyebrows.
Gu Yun raised his sword-like eyebrows, slanted his head to dodge the blow, and the scabbard embedded itself directly in the wooden post of the spectating platform not far from Gu Yun’s back.
The shaking of the platform made the spectators unable to stand. 

Shangguan Qing said: “Quite unreasonable.”

Upon seeing this, Jiang Ling grew even more anxious.
The way she looked at Gu Yun was like she wanted to join him in his life-and-death match. 

Gu Yun drew his ‘Qian Shui’ sword as well, dropping his scabbard off the stage and confronting Jin Jue. 

The two of them flew into the air at the same time, the inner force from their clashing swords making the air undulate and ripple.
Gu Yun lowered his body, sweeping Jin Jue’s leg.
Jin Jue leapt up lightly, flipping over Gu Yun as he swiped the edge of his blade across Gu Yun’s mouth, each of his movements ruthless and relentless. 

“His actions are so vicious.” Jiang Ling gripped the railing in both hands!

Gu Yun pressed down with force and agility, sliding about a zhang across the planks and avoiding the impending crisis.
As expected, Jin Jue’s moves were vicious. 

In an instant, Jin Jue had lifted his sword and leapt in front of Gu Yun and slashed downward.
Gu Yun focused his strength and deflected the blow with his ‘Qian Shui’ sword.
Immediately after, Gu Yun tilted his body and used the opportunity to gather force in his palm.
Jin Jue did not avoid it and likewise gathered his internal force and stretched out a hand to meet Gu Yun’s.
The two palms met and they compared internal force. 

Gu Yun was two parts inferior, but his fighting spirit made him grit his teeth and persist, not giving so much as an inch.
They withdrew their palms at the same time and put a distance of two zhang between each other. 

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“Are you really eldest shixiong’s little brother?”

“What?” Gu Yun’s attention was diverted by his abrupt, nonsensical question.
When his attention returned, Jin Jue was once again on the offensive.
Gu Yun had to immediately meet the strike, but after his momentary distraction, Gu Yun was forced to the side of the stage by Jin Jue’s successive attacks and he looked like he was about to fall off the stage.
Gu Yun did all he could to change things around.
He dissolved Jin Jue’s strike and created an opening.
He took the opportunity to use his qinggong, and in the blink of an eye, he landed in the center of the stage. 

The onlookers all let out a breath, but Jin Jue did not give Gu Yun a chance to breathe and was on him in an instant.
In mid-air, he pressed a foot onto Gu Yun’s back and poured internal force into the strike.
Gu Yun only felt the weight equal to that of Mount Tai bearing down onto his back until he could not lift his body, and he fell to the ground.
He made to stand up again, and Jin Jue pressed him down with a foot on his shoulder until he could not get up. 

“I meant, your knowledge and skills have no foundation, but you’re a little better than the other bumpkins on this mountain.” Jin Jue said aggressively, “Eldest shixiong had already earned the seat of honor at your age.
But you? Mediocre and commonplace.
The Gu Family treated you as a treasure back then, but from what I can see, it’s better if the Gu Family only has eldest shixiong as a son.”


“Jin Jue!” Although the people around the stage had not heard Jin Jue’s words clearly, Gu Shi had heard them and reprimanded Jin Jue. 

“Jin Jue wins! He earns third place!” Gu Shi announced the result, then supported Gu Yun to the side of the stage.
Jiang Ling and Yun He had determined the result in one look and hurried over to Gu Yun’s aid. 

“A Yun.” Gu Shi said anxiously. 

“Da-ge, I’m fine, don’t worry about me.

Jiang Ling assisted Gu Yun and saw that he did not look well.
Yun He told Jiang Ling to bring Gu Yun to have his injuries looked over and not worry about her match.
Jiang Ling nodded and brought Gu Yun to rest. 

Halfway back, Gu Yun’s expression turned serious and he spat out a mouthful of blood, scaring Jiang Ling. 

Just then, A Du had run over to see Gu Yun out of worry, and when he saw Gu Yun spit blood, he rushed to support him too, “The Hall of Medicine.
Let’s go to the Hall of Medicine.”

The elder of the Hall of Medicine did not like martial arts.
He had attended the competition at the beginning, to show his support, but he left soon afterward to read medical texts and dry medicine. 

Seeing Jiang Ling and A Du support Gu Yun as they walked in, he wore a surprised expression, “Which lousy disciple landed such a severe blow?”

He rushed forward to take Gu Yun’s pulse.
His channels were fine, and his internal injury was not severe.
He would be well in about two days.
Jiang Ling did not believe him; how could someone be well in a couple of days after spitting blood?

“Little girl, you don’t believe the words of an old man like me?” Elder Sun took out two pills from his medicine bottle and gave them to Gu Yun, “My special ‘dewdrop pills’ are designed to treat internal injuries.”

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A Du affirmed: “Jiang-shijie, you can be at ease.
Elder Sun’s medicines are very effective.”

As it turns out, after Gu Yun took the pills, he looked much better. 

“It’s a shame I didn’t defeat Jin Jue and was taunted by him instead.” Gu Yun was still thinking over his loss to Jin Jue.
Afterward, he would work on his martial arts more. 

“Don’t mention him.” Jiang Ling was annoyed as soon as his name was brought up. 

“So it was Jin Jue, that low-quality disciple.” Elder Sun was also irritated by this disciple.
The majority of the wounded disciples the Hall of Medicine saw to were there because Jin Jue hurt them. 

“Why did the Sect Leader accept a disciple like him?” Jiang Ling did not understand.
She had not seen much of the Sect leader, but from what she could see, while a stickler for the rules, he was not someone who could not distinguish between good and bad people.
Jiang Ling said as much, then immediately felt that she had been rude and hurriedly stopped her sentence. 

Elder Sun did not bother with these kinds of trivialities, “The Sect Leader received the help of Jin Jue’s parents when he was younger.
It was a case of returning a kindness.
But Jin Jue’s character is so unreasonable that he even irritates Elder Yi.”

Over on the competition’s side, the contention for the seat of honor had just commenced. 

Shen Xiuqi was unlike Shangguan Qing, who was independent in thought and action.
He practiced the blade arts of the Yueluo Sect.
He looked like a boor of Xibei, but his martial arts movements were fine, minute, and dexterous.
His blade arts were delicately beautiful; every sweep of his blade generated a breeze.
Yun He had received Yun Yang’s knowledge.
The sword arts of the Qingshan Sect were performed with the grace of a startled swan[1] and the strength of iron beneath the elegance.
The two moved back and forth, each move brilliant. 

“That girl is Yun Yang’s disciple?” Han Pengyi asked. 

“Yes.” Liu Qi answered. 

“Yun Yang’s disciples really outdo others of their generation.
These two disciples placed among the top four.” Han Pengyi smoothed a hand along his beard. 

“I don’t see it.
One was all show and no skill, the first one who lost to your Shangguan.
I don’t know what sort of fallacies she told her, but she convinced Shangguan Qing to withdraw from her later matches.” As soon as he spoke of Jiang Ling, Elder Yi was angered. 

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“So it was her.
Our Shangguan Qing withdrew because of her, a disciple of Yun Yang.
She is a little capable after all hahahaha!” Han Pengyi laughed.
Years ago, he had met a young Yun Yang, who was rather unlike his straight-laced, conforming shixiong, Liu Qi.
He was more like a free and easy wastrel of Jianghu, moving about as he wished.
He was just like his disciples, each with their own strong points. 

“A Ling, I’m doing much better, and A Du’s here.
Go over to shijie.”

“Yes, Jiang-shijie, I’m here.
Quickly go over, or the match will have already finished.”

Jiang Ling saw that Gu Yun was looking healthier, so she could relax a little bit.
She hurried over to the stage. 

When Jiang Ling arrived, she saw Yun He’s long sleeve as she blocked Shen Xiuqi’s left palm.
Her index finger tapped on the acupoint on his arm.
Shen Xiuqi’s internal force was powerful and resisted Yun He’s strike, but it ached bitterly and he retreated a step.
He held his sword backhandedly on his right as it slanted across his body.
Yun He leaned back to avoid his blow, her left foot lifting up to kick his right wrist.
Shen Xiuqi’s sword-wielding hand had been injured, so he could only adjust his posture.
In that instant, Yun He’s ‘Chu Yun’ had already tapped Shen Xiuqi’s shoulder. 

Gu Shi announced, “Yun He wins.”

“Nice skills.” Shen Xiuqi was sincere in his defeat. 

“You as well, Shen-shixiong.”

The competition was successfully concluded.
The Qingshan Sect was bustiling once again and the disciples started preparing to welcome the guests to the celebratory feast. 

Shen Xiuqi was dragged to the Condensing Heart Courtyard by Shangguan Qing for a little gathering.
Gu Yun had already returned from the Hall of Medicine with A Du and was doing much better. 

“Gu Yun, you’re alright.” Shangguan Qing had seen his wane complexion when he had been defeated and was sure that he had been injured. 

“I’m fine, just a small injury.
I’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

“That’s good.
I caught a mountain pig.” Shangguan Qing spared no effort and hauled up the little mountain pig to reward everyone for the day’s efforts.

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