Chapter 162: Bringing Up Old Stories [Volume 3 - The Place Where My Heart Feels At Peace]
The mountain breeze of spring was growing warmer as it brushed softly across the water while carrying a faint scent of flowers.
Qianye twirled the eggshell porcelain cup in his hand as he bathed in the afternoon sunlight. This delicate little thing was pretty, exquisite, and as bright as glass just like the decor and sceneries around him. They were beautiful, but they were completely at odds with his kind of world.
Song Zining poured a new cup of tea for Qianye and asked, “I heard that Duke Wei’s steward had personally sought you out last night to inspect your talents. Did everything go smoothly?”
Qianye nodded, “Steward Wen said that it’s Venus Dawn,” He paused for a moment before giving Song Zining a look that showed that he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, “Is this the idea you came up with that time? Venus Dawn is one of the top three greatest Daybreak origin talents, you know!”
His friend sitting on the opposite side shedded his usual mask of kindness for one that was slightly more mischievous and unrestrained. He said nonchalantly, “You singlehandedly snatched a huge amount of points from Zhao Junhong with just one Eagleshot, and even broke free from that deadly encirclement. It would be strange if you didn’t possess a top-class talent.”
Qianye frowned, “But Steward Wen couldn’t have wanted to kill me because of this talent, can he?”
Song Zining abruptly sat up straight and asked seriously, “What do you mean?”
Qianye explained the ins and outs of the assassination attempt and told him several possibilities that both he and Qiqi had discussed and came up with. Song Zining went through several particulars again and again until he was sure that Steward Wen hadn’t seen the old wound in front of Qianye’s chest. After that, he fell into deep thought.
It was at this moment Qianye recalled a detail he hadn’t told Qiqi and asked in puzzlement, “The hidden force Steward Wen left behind seemed to contain a trace of Darkness origin power. But I must have been mistaken, right? How could a close attendant of Duke Wei’s possibly be affiliated with the dark races?”
“No Champion’s path is like the others. A Champion’s bloodline and origin power would often become extremely complicated due to all kinds of secret arts and strokes of luck. Therefore, it is one thing for one’s origin power to possess darkness elements, and another to fall into darkness.”
A cog turned inside Qianye’s head. Did this mean that he could search for a way to use his blood powers once he reached Champion rank?
By now Song Zining was done thinking as he said slowly, “Steward Wen is an eccentric person. Personally, I don’t think he tried to kill you out of personal grudge. Even a king can be moved by certain benefits, so I think that there’s a higher likelihood that the danger came from Qiqi’s side.”
“Are Qiqi’s brothers and sisters really that capable?”
Song Zining suddenly smiled, “Perhaps they really chose the Song Household route.”
Qianye was caught by surprise, but Song Zining didn’t look like he was joking.
“Qiqi's mother’s family may be just a collateral line of the Song Household, their overall strength is among the better. But because none of their descendants were selected as successor candidates of the Song Household, they chose to form an alliance with my second brother,” Song Zining smiled, “If Qiqi really did become the Yin Family’s matriarch, it would break more than just the family balance. Therefore, her enemies aren’t just the Yin Family successor candidates alone; there are people inside the Song Household who didn’t wish to see her crowned as the matriarch as well.”
Qianye immediately understood a little about what was going on after he mulled over Song Zining’s explanation. He immediately recalled something and asked, “I heard that your relationship with Qiqi isn’t too good. Is it because of a similar reason?”
Song Zining blinked at Qianye once before saying something that surprised him greatly, “Not too good? We’re practically enemies now that the spring hunt is over!”
Qianye was immediately astonished, “Ah?”
Song Zining smiled softly, “Didn’t you notice that Ye Mulan isn’t around? She’s gone back to the Song Family two days ago to receive her punishment.”
To Qianye’s great surprise, his good friend seemed to be taking joy in Ye Mulan’s misfortune. From his perspective, Song Zining was extremely indulgent of Ye Mulan to the point of spoiling her. That was why he was feeling a headache over the past few days on how to resolve the near deadlock that was his relationship with Ye Mulan after he and Song Zining had became acquainted again.
“Your Miss Qiqi wrote a letter of complaint about me right after the spring hunt had ended,” Song Zining knew that Qianye wasn’t very familiar with the complicated relations between aristocratic families, and so he explained, “My paternal great-grandmother is her maternal great-grandmother, and Qiqi’s status is quite special. Therefore, my grandmother cannot discriminate too much no matter how much she loves me, especially considering that her mother’s family and her ally may say something in support of Qiqi.”
Song Zining said cheerfully, “Moreover, I have only obtained fifth place during this spring hunt and lost half of our high-rank bodyguards. Ye Mulan is the commander of the hunting team, so naturally, she was summoned for punishment because she acted on her own initiative,” He smiled, “I can imagine that I’ll also be admonished by the elders once I get back. As for whether I’ll be officially penalized by the family, that depends on the amount of effort Qiqi puts into complaining about me to the Song Household.”
Qianye wasn’t sure how to react hearing what sounded like quite the serious matter being explained in such an easygoing fashion by Zining. He smiled wryly, “I may not know what’s going on in your family, but a demerit would probably affect your successor’s exam, right?” If that really was the case, then Song Zining wasn’t kidding when he said that he and Qiqi were now enemies. Just look at what was going on in the Yin Family while the Yin Family’s successor exam was happening; it was practically an irreconcilable war.
But against his expectations, Song Zining laughed, “It’s not really as serious as you think. How could someone like me swimming at the middle position possibly have the hope of becoming the patriarch? At worst, the demerit will cost me a rank or two.”
Qianye frowned, “But… why did you indulge Ye Mulan? Wouldn’t her actions affect your reputation?”
Song Zining propped his hand with one arm while brushing the teacup with the words “every cloud has a silver lining” and answered carelessly, “It turned out well, didn’t it? Look, this is a case where even I may suffer a demerit as a result, so you can just imagine how much worse that Ye Mulan’s punishment will be; grandma’s displeasure not nevertheless. No matter how much the Song Household may value face and reputation, there’s no way they could accept this engagement if someone like Qiqi were to step up to voice her complaint another one or two times, right?”
Qianye was both astonished and speechless as he stared at his smiling good friend. He didn’t know that Song Zining was also looking to cancel his engagement.
The seventh Song young master’s style was completely different from Qiqi’s. Qiqi tried her damnedest to ruin her own reputation, but Gu Liyu was obvious a persevering man. Even Qianye could see that there was no chance Qiqi could force Gu Liyu to cancel the engagement on his own. On the other hand, Song Zining indulged Ye Mulan and allowed her to do whatever she wanted, so much so that she slowly forgot herself and eventually got into trouble. He was only the “innocent” victim whose reputation was spoiled only because of his fiance. If this situation were to happen a few more times, then no one could convince the Song Household elders to accept the engagement against their will to protect the family’s reputation.
Song Zining smiled, “I’ve gotten into a tiny squabble with Qiqi only because I can’t be bothered to get involved in the successors conflict of two families. Even if you were to serve the Yin Family from now on, you and I won’t be clashing directly, so you don’t need to worry about it too much.”
Qianye shook his head and said, “I was hired by Qiqi through the Hunter’s Association, and that’s all there is to it. This spring hunt is my final mission.”
Song Zining pondered for a moment before answering, “That will be the best decision. The Yin Family forger who did your resume is a real pro, so it is enough to fool everyone for now. But if you stayed by Qiqi’s side at an important position, then they will investigate your background thoroughly until the truth spills out.”
Song Zining paused for a second as an obvious look of hesitation passed through his features. A while later, he looked up to stare at Qianye, “Do you know the story behind the wound on your chest?”
Qianye’s expression changed slightly. The huge scar that stretched from beneath his heart to his belly button was a nightmare that lasted for nearly the entirety of his life in the Yellow Springs. Even if he got used to the torture-like pain eventually, it still impeded his cultivation speed persistently. Even now, Qianye had no idea who had left behind such a terrible wound on his body, and why.
Song Zining sighed once and asked softly, “Did Marshal Lin tell you about this?’
A wave of fluster suddenly came over Qianye, and he took in a deep breath before answering, “I haven’t seen Marshal Lin after I graduated,” He then added, “Marshal Lin had gone to the Western Frontier to quell a rebellion at the time. It sounds like that the battlefield situation over there had not improved despite all this time.”
After listening to his answer quietly, Song Zining asked again, “Did Marshal Lin send someone to inform you about it?”
Qianye was silent.
Song Zining said, “That is the mark of origin power theft. This means that you were born with a talent that’s first class and above, and perhaps there might even be a fully formed origin crystal where your wound was since you were born. Most people have to remove the blocks over their nine origin nodes, concentrate their power into a vortex and reach Champion rank before they could create a crystal. Origin power theft is a taboo in the Empire, and most people wouldn’t even speak of these words. All those who had the ability to do such things are very important people who stand at the summit.”
Qianye listened quietly to Song Zining’s explanations. Although Song Zining had spoken very slowly and with clear pronunciation, it took him a very long time before he finally understood the meaning behind his words. Qianye looked up and stared into the depths of Song Zining’s eyes, asking, “Who are they?”
Song Zining leaned across the table and held Qianye’s shoulder. Then, he answered softly, “The imperial family, the four households, and the few apex experts of the Empire.”
What followed after his after was dead silence.
Qianye sat completely still until a soft pop could be heard. The cup in his hand shattered as thin, sharp fragments bit into his palm. Blood dripped fiercely from his flesh.
Song Zining stared at him before he suddenly said, “The young master of Marquis Bowang told everyone that you are a former childhood companion of his. Unlike most, the Wei Family raise their younger generation by sending them away on a ten year long away journey to hone themselves. Therefore, it is a passable explanation. I know that it’s a lie, however. If we are to look at the time, you and Wei Qiyang had probably entered the army during the same year. However, he is a member of the Broken Winged Angel, and it is known that the Red Scorpion and the Broken Winged Angels are rivals within the army.”
Qianye gave him a wry smile. He finally learned where the great young master had picked up that street ruffian habits of his. He briefly explained how he came to meet Wei Potian.
A hint of understanding passed through Song Zining’s eyes, “Then he must’ve told you about that battle you fought in the Red Scorpions too.”
Qianye sucked in a deep breath before saying with difficulty, “Is it connected to Marshal Lin?”
Song Zining nodded, “All clues start and end at Marshal Lin. Even the files of all the soldiers who were killed in action were sealed by the Marshal Office. If I hadn’t accidentally seen your name in the obituary and thought of investigating it, I wouldn’t even know that you were once a member of the Red Scorpion a few months later.”
“Enough,” Qianye interrupted Song Zining’s words, “I will not believe in any assumptions easily without sure proof.”
Song Zining’s hand on Qianye’s grew heavier for a second. He said calmly, “If you wish to ask about this before Marshal Lin one day, then you must live, Qianye.”
The sunrise and sunset of the Qin Continent continued along its eternal orbit as usual. The only difference was that the mountain breeze was warmer as if signaling the beginning of early summer.
The one on one tournament started the next day at the proving ground on time. Qianye’s fourth-round opponent was the son of a small aristocratic family. This guy left a bit of impression in Qianye’s mind; he seemed to be the tenth place fighter of the spring hunt.Previous Chapter Next Chapter