“My name is Luo Qing.” The silver-robed maiden stared at the Azure Skysnake.
The Azure Skysnake replied, “My name is Ji Qingqing.”
And then, they began to laugh and chat amongst themselves. These two ‘Qingqings’ grew quite close to each other. From this day forward, Ninelotus and Luo Qing began to temporarily live at Brightheart Island.
Only at nightfall did the snowfall come to a halt. In the sword-training terrace of Brightheart Island.
“Young master.” Ji Mo was incomparably respectful, and his eyes were filled with anticipation and eagerness. “Please provide me with some guidance.”
Ning stood with hands clasped behind his back, not too far away. With but a thought, he instantly created multiple waterflame swords out of nowhere through his elemental ki. These waterflame swords were incomparably fierce, and they began to swirl around Ji Mo. Ji Mo’s face changed…although Ning had merely activated the power of the natural world, it was still enough to cause a Xiantian lifeform to be in tremendous danger.
“Condense.” Ning’s eyes flashed as he looked at the manifestations of sword-ki. The many waterflame swords in midair quickly condensed into a single, massive lotus of sword-ki that was many tens of meters in diameter. The sword-ki had formed into a blooming lotus which had completely surrounded Ji Mo.
“Ji Mo,” Ning said. “This lotus of sword-ki contains some elementary tricks and knacks of the sword. There are a total of ninety one lotus petals that are revolving around you, each of which has a different type of sword-ki…what you need to do is destroy all of the lotus petals. Only after you destroy all of the lotus petals can you be said to have truly gained a basic level of expertise in the sword.”
“Can it be that I can’t be said to have reached even a basic level of expertise? But I reached the ‘one with the world’ level long ago,” Ji Mo couldn’t refrain from saying.
“You haven’t even gained a hint of the True Meaning of the Dao; how can you be considered to have reached a basic level of expertise?” Ning shook his head, then sat down nearby, leisurely pouring himself a cup of wine. While drinking some of this wine that Autumn Leaf had specially prepared, he pondered on the fourth stance of the [Three-Foot Sword].
Right at this moment…
“Junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning.” From afar, a woman walked over; it was Ninelotus and Luo Qing. In terms of appearance, they were absolutely the most beautiful women here at Brightheart Lake, and in terms of aura? They were disciples of the Black-White College! Luo Qing’s aura was quite unique, while Ninelotus was an incomparably dazzling figure even within the Black-White College who had drawn quite a few suitors.
Ning turned to glance at them, then hurriedly rose to his feet. “Senior apprentice-sisters Ninelotus and Luo Qing.”
“You are training your clan members?” Ninelotus glanced with interest towards the enormous lotus of sword-ki, as well as Ji Mo, who was striving to attack the lotus petals from the center of the lotus.
“A lotus?” The nearby Luo Qing laughed in surprise. “You were actually able to form a lotus of sword-ki by activating the energy of nature. It seems as though you are quite formidable in the mysteries of the lotus, junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning.”
Ning shook his head. “I just learned a few things and developed a protective technique, the Waterflame Lotus…which is why I have a few simple insights into the lotus.”
The lotus flower…its very existence was filled with countless mysteries. In the Three Realms, there were many major powers who would seat themselves on thrones of lotus flowers, or have protective lotus-treasures, or use lotus-related techniques.
“Senior apprentice-sister Ninelotus has comprehended many things pertaining to the lotus as well,” Luo Qing hurriedly said. Ninelotus shook her head. “A bit less than junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning,” she said.
“Artificial modesty!” Luo Qing frowned, then let out a smirk. “In terms of swordplay, it’s true that you cannot compare to junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, but in terms of the lotus…senior apprentice-sister Ninelotus, you were born into the Dongyan clan, which is referred to as the Freshlotus Tribe …and the secret manual which brought your tribe to prominence is the ‘Fresh Lotus Manual’! In terms of the lotus, I imagine that none of us third-generation disciples of the Black-White College can compare to you.”
Ning looked towards Ninelotus in surprise. The Dongyan clan? He had read various intelligence reports regarding the major powers of the Stillwater Commandery region. The Dongyan clan was an extremely powerful clan. Although it wasn’t ranked amongst the eight major powers of Stillwater Commandery, the actual power of the Dongyan clan was actually superior to the likes of the Black-White College, the Skysplitter Sword Sect, the Eastriver clan, the Dragonhunter clan, and the other four! This was because the Dongyan clan’s roots were actually in another place, the Highwater Commandery.
The Dongyan clan’s roots were from the Highwater Commandery, but they were located in multiple other commandery cities. It could be said that the Dongyan clan stretched across three entire commanderies! It was a truly ancient and powerful clan. It was only because it was generally considered a power of the Highwater Commandery that it was not ranked amongst the eight great powers of Stillwater Commandery. But in terms of total power, in Stillwater Commandery, most likely only the Northmont clan or the local Raindragon Guards surpassed them.
“No wonder senior apprentice-sister Ninelotus has such an extraordinary aura and demeanor, and was so unique even in the Black-White College.” Ning sighed in amazement to himself. “So she’s from such an ancient clan, the Dongyan clan. The genius disciples of such an ancient, deeply rooted clan…they truly are extraordinary.”
“So you come from the Dongyan clan. The Dongyan clan’s ‘Fresh Lotus Manual’ has long been famous throughout the world,” Ning said with a laugh. “I do have a few questions; might you be willing to answer them, senior apprentice-sister?”
“Junior apprentice-brother, please go ahead and ask them. If I can answer them, of course I will; if I’m not able to, then please don’t blame me,” Ninelotus replied. Ning was secretly elated; Ninelotus was from the Dongyan clan, and she most likely had an extremely deep level of understanding regarding the secrets of the lotus flower.
“I once self-created a technique, the Waterflame Lotus...” Ning immediately began to ask questions. Stretching his hand out, he immediately caused a small Waterflame Lotus to bloom out of nowhere atop his palm and began to discuss some questions he had.
“Junior apprentice-brother, actually, you’ve gained a very deep level of insight already. However, you’ve never truly realized the ways in which the various elements of this technique interact with each other.” A fresh, azure lotus appeared within Ninelotus’ palm as well. She lightly tapped just one of the petals, and one petal after another instantly began to open, like a real lotus flower beginning to bloom. In fact, one could even see the dew atop the petals.
Ning’s eyes began to shine as he listened.
“However, junior apprentice-brother, this Waterflame Lotus of yours…” Ninelotus began to ask questions of her own.
“Actually, the secrets within are quite simple…” Ning began to explain.
The two both possessed extraordinarily strong Dao-hearts, and were quite resolute in pursuing their Immortal paths. Once they became absorbed in discussing the Dao, they naturally began to ignore everything else.
The two of them…one was a truly monstrous genius of the Dao of the Sword, who had the support of the underwater estate and who had gained quite a few insights into the lotus. As for the other, she came from the massive, mighty Dongyan clan, and had meditated on the Fresh Lotus Manual, and was even more impressive with regards to the secrets of the lotus. As the two of them discussed their insights into the Dao, they stirred insights in each other, and both of them improved.
This was the reason why Immortal cultivators delighted in discussing the Dao with others who were on the same level. If they were to truly discuss the insights they had gained without holding anything back, then as they discussed the Dao together, both would gain tremendously.
The Waterflame Lotus was a supportive technique Ning had personally developed, and so there was no need for him to withhold any of its secrets. As for Ninelotus, she knew exactly what she could say, as the Dongyan clan was an incredibly majestic clan which had strict rules on what its disciples could and could not say when discussing the Dao. Ninelotus only revealed a few of the profound mysteries that could not be considered the true secrets of the clan, but this was already enough to cause Ning to feel incomparably delighted and overjoyed.
“The two are chatting quite happily to each other.” The nearby Luo Qing felt helpless; while absorbed into their discussions of the Dao, Ji Ning and Ninelotus paid no attention to her whatsoever.
“Hmph.” She sat there next to them, picking up the vessel of wine that had previously belonged to Ning and beginning to drink it.
An entire night was spent in a discussion on the Dao. Autumn Leaf and the others didn’t dare disturb them. But by nightfall the second day, as the sun was about to disappear…
“What?! The two of you are still here?!” A silver-robed Luo Qing walked past, staring at them and shouting. As she did, Ning and Ninelotus instantly ‘woke up’. They immediately realized that a night and a day had passed.
“This junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning truly is brimming with talented. Although this Waterflame Lotus technique of his isn’t that profound, he’s gained so many insights from it.” Ninelotus began to feel even more admiring of him now. She had joined the Black-White College a long time ago, but as soon as Ning had joined, he had debated many senior fellow disciples in the Dao Debates. If she had engaged in a Dao Debate with Ning back then, she definitely would’ve been defeated.
Back then, Ninelotus had begun to admire Ji Ning. Now that she saw that Ning had so many insights into the lotus, which she herself specialized in, she grew all the more admiring.
“Senior apprentice-sister Ninelotus has truly treated me well. She’s told me so many secrets.” Ning felt secretly grateful; after all, these techniques were not to be casually taught to others. Although she wasn’t explicit about them, the pointers that she gave caused Ning to instantly comprehend. If it hadn’t been for her guidance, he probably would’ve needed a much, much longer period of time to understand some of the things he had learned today.
“Junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning, we’ve discussed the Dao for very long, and I’ve benefited greatly from it. I’m going to go back and meditate,” Ninelotus said, rising to her feet. As she did, she took the nearby Luo Qing’s hand and walked together to their residences.
Ning watched as Ninelotus left. Thinking back to the night and day they had spent discussing the Dao, he couldn’t help but feel a strange feeling in his heart. He felt as though…he and Ninelotus were quite suited for each other.
“Eh?” Ning turned his head. The lotus of sword-ki which he had generated previously was still active. As for Ji Mo, who was within the lotus, his face was pale, and his eyes were completely bloodshot. Clearly, he had been striving an entire day and night to break the formation, and he was utterly exhausted.
“…I ended up making Ji Mo spend an entire day and night here.” Ning willed the lotus to dissipate.
Whoosh. The lotus of sword-ki instantly disappeared into thin air.
“Petals? Petals?!” Ji Mo hurriedly stared around him, his eyes terrifyingly bloodshot.
“Ji Mo.” Ning felt guilty, but he still called out in a high voice, “You’ve spent an entire day and night on breaking through this formaton; it seems you are rather tired. Go back and get some rest. Tomorrow, you may come back again and once more attempt to break this lotus sword-ki formation.”
After speaking, Ning turned and left. Ji Mo stared, stunned, for a moment, then began to worry. “I spent an entire day and night here without being able to break through the sword-ki lotus…did this cause young master Ji Ning to feel angry with me?”
Time flowed on.
Ninelotus and Ning both gained significantly from their discussions on the Dao; naturally, they were quite delighted to continue. Every three or five days, they would engage in a discussion on the Dao. In the blink of an eye, more than three months had passed in leisure.
Within a private, secluded room within Brightheart Island. This was Luo Qing and Ninelotus’ room. Luo Qing and Ninelotus were currently seated next to a black stone table which was as smooth as jade. Atop the table was fruit and wine.
“Senior apprentice-sister,” Luo Qing said, “We’ve spent three months here. Isn’t it time to leave? We came out to go adventuring, but the only place we’ve gone to is this place, Serpentwing Lake. We haven’t gone anywhere else.”
“No rush,” Ninelotus said. “Let’s spend a few more days here. During the past three months, my lotus techniques have improved considerably, even more so than in the past three years. Junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning truly is formidable; he always has so many new and original insights.”
“We still aren’t leaving?” Luo Qing stared, then gave Ninelotus a weighing glance. She stared carefully at Ninelotus, as though trying to find any warts or blemishes on her face.
“What are you looking at? Why are you staring at me like that?” Ninelotus frowned slightly.
“Senior apprentice-sister, I wonder…have you taken a fancy to Ji Ning, and wish for him to be your Dao-companion?” Luo Qing asked the question directly.
Ninelotus was stunned. Despite always being so composed, she suddenly felt rather embarrassed.