Chapter 306: Commencement

 Chapter 306: Commencement [Volume 5 – A Distance Within Reach]

The blade possessed no other special abilities apart from being especially heavy and sturdy. However, after a detailed observation, Qianye found the craftsmanship to be excellent and it was incomparably comfortable to wield.

How could a sword with such exquisite design and craftsmanship have only “East Peak” as a special characteristic? Even if this “East Peak” was an upgrade version of the “Sturdy” characteristic, it still didn’t feel very fair. With such good quality materials, this blade could hold at least four or five more origin arrays.

Could this be a half-finished product? That was likely the only explanation for now, but how could the Song clan keep a half-finished product in their armory? However, he felt somewhat unsure after recalling Elder Lu’s implicit words that day.

After familiarizing himself with the nature of the sword, Qianye tossed the sheath to one side and stepped forth to perform a simple one-handed thrust. East Peak moved like the wind and brushed past a dummy.

After which, Qianye thrust, slashed, swept, and cut through the air, sometimes holding the blade in both hands and at times in one. But the cutting edge of East Peak began to emit faint sounds of wind and thunder as Qianye struck with increasing speed—it also became progressively difficult to control.

Finally, Qianye lost control while switching from a cut to a thrust. His wrist trembled as the East Peak scratched one of the steel dummies. The lower half of this mannequin didn’t move in the slightest, but its upper half suddenly collapsed into a pile of scrap metal!

Qianye continued practicing. At this moment, East Peak’s thrusts were as graceful as the wind, and a faintly discernible shadow flickered around its edge. The densely packed steel dummies would creak, groan, and crumple into a mass of scrap metal if they were grazed by the blade.

The greater half of the dummies in the field had been destroyed after an entire hour of training. Only then did Qianye sheathe the sword and moved to the side of the field for a rest. He brought out the sword technique book he had copied from the Song clan depository and began to read in earnest. Additionally, he compared the information therein with the insights he had gained from personal practice.

That basic-level sword technique book mostly described methods related to force application and sword strikes, which happened to suit Qianye’s current needs. He had rarely used heavy weapons before back in Yellow Springs and Red Scorpion. Now, with the growth of his physique and strength, ordinary weapons were gradually becoming less handy for him. Sometimes, he would even have to snatch werewolf and arachne weapons on the battlefield, and he had to fight according to instinct all this time.

It was said that one strong warrior could beat ten skilled warriors—that could also be considered a strategy, but one would eventually become exhausted. Presently, Qianye’s destructive power had increased, but he needed to refine his skills.

Qianye closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment. Once the servants had swapped out a new batch of steel dummies, he once again carried his sword down to the field. Another hour passed by in a flash—this time, he had destroyed 21 out of 50 steel dummies, three less than the previous round.

Qianye rested for half an hour before continuing once again. Out of the third batch of 50 dummies, only 19 were destroyed; two less than the last round.

16 dummies were destroyed in his fourth round, and 11 on the fifth.

By the time the midnight bell rang, there wasn’t a single light in the drill grounds. One could only hear the indistinct sound of wind and thunder as Qianye practiced in the dark—it had been over an hour since any dummy was destroyed.

During the following days, Qianye continued to temper his sword skills day and night. Occasionally, he would head to the Song clan depository to read. He didn’t learn any new sword techniques and only polished the basic stances repeatedly.

This was the way Yellow Springs honed the path of killing—the focus was on extreme simplicity and extreme ferocity.

As his training progressed, the number of steel dummies in the drill grounds progressively increased in number. At last, the space between them was only enough for Qianye to squeeze through sideways. Even so, the number of mannequin casualty only decreased in a straight line. In the end, not a single dummy was destroyed for an entire afternoon, and the vague sound of wind and thunder was no longer audible when Qianye swung his sword.

During these few days, Song Zining almost didn't cultivate at all. He ran everywhere, engaging in secret discussions and who knows just how many hidden deals he had made.

The day of Duchess An’s birthday celebration arrived in the blink of an eye.

That day, the entire cloud mountain was decorated anew and full of jubilation. One would need to be a character of considerable importance to even show one’s face momentarily at the birthday feast. Not to mention guest warriors like Qianye, even Song clan descendants born of concubines and side branches had no right to enter the Enlightenment Manor. Attending the banquet was even further out of the question.

Song Zining brought his followers with the surname Song to attend the banquet, while Qianye and Gao Junyi remained in the external courtyard to cultivate.

There was no problem between the two. At first, Gao Junyi seemed somewhat dissatisfied that Song Zining had given the other guest warrior position to Qianye instead of his sworn brothers.

As such, under Gao Junyi’s half-jest-half-provocation, Qianye took him on in a round of virtual combat.

Gao Junyi wasn’t yet totally convinced when the two emerged from the fighting room, but his view toward Qianye had changed greatly. Under the origin power suppression of virtual combat, that which was put to the test was their combat instinct and fighting experience. Gao Junyi immediately understood that although Qianye looked young, he was a veteran of a hundred wars and a master of killing techniques.

It was just that Gao Junyi had no idea that Qianye wasn’t fighting seriously at all.

The next day after the celebration proper came the Song clan’s decennial examination.

The first category of the great martial arts contest would span three days. The venue was a drill grounds just outside of the Enlightenment Manor which was big enough to allow an entire private army regiment to train at the same time.

This event, to the competitors, was both an honor and an opportunity. If one could enter the old ancestor’s discerning eyes, his future prospects would rise to the skies.

Arrangements had been made on the inspection platform in the drill grounds and over a dozen awe-inspiring elders were already seated therein. Almost all of the Song clan’s elders had gathered here and at their center was an empty cushion—obviously, that was Duchess An’s seat.

All participating Song clan descendants and guest warriors were lined up under the platform. At nine o’clock sharp, an elderly silver-haired woman walked onto the stage with the support of a number of ladies and took her seat, trembling all the while.

This was the first time Qianye had seen this legendary Duchess An. She was already so old that the years seemed to have condensed on her body. She possessed a benevolent appearance and was no different from an ordinary grandmother.

Duchess An’s gaze swept over those under the stage, her eyes squinting as if she couldn’t see very clearly. She then smiled and said, “Good, good! These are good children. I can see they’re not bad just by looking at them. Zining, come up, come up!”

Song Zining seemed already used to such a treatment—he leapt onto the stage under countless fiery gazes and performed a formal greeting.

Duchess An held Song Zining’s hand and said to Clan Lord Song Zhongnian beside her with a smile, “Among all your grandchildren, I like Zining the best. He’s well bred, talented, and simply delightful to talk to!”

All the elders responded with smiles, but those under the stage couldn’t help but reveal odd expressions. What reasons were those?! Additionally, these talents being praised by the old ancestor weren’t of the martial dao, but miscellaneous arts like painting and calligraphy.

Duchess An cared not about what others thought and immediately removed the jasper thumb ring from her hand and pushed it into Song Zining’s own.

Paying no particular attention, Song Zining calmly put the ring on his hand. That was a grade-six defensive armament. Although it could only be used once, it was powerful enough to block an all-out attack from a champion. Duchess An had never before concealed her favor toward Song Zining, and this time, she had once again made people speechless.

Qianye, who was under the stage, broke into a frown. He had always heard that the Song clan’s old ancestor favored Song Zining, but he felt that something was off after seeing it personally today. Could she be making enemies for Song Zining without any good reason? Without waiting for him to think further, an elder stood up on the stage and began to announce the roster for the first round.

There were 24 Song clan descendants participating in the exam, and there were 48 guest warriors. Among them, the guest warriors would have to fight a number of rounds first and decide on the top 16. Then they would meet the 16 lower ranked Song clan descendants in an elimination match until only eight were left. Together with the eight higher-ranked Song clan descendants, they would then form the top-sixteen participants of this martial examination. In the end, they would confront each other two by two until the respective first places were decided.

Every contestant would accumulate points according to their rank, and the sum of the Song clan descendant and his guest warriors’ scores would decide the first place of this examination.

The drill ground was divided into four sites which would allow four confrontations to commence at the same time. Apart from high explosive weapons like origin grenades and handheld origin canons, there was no limit on the types of weapons. There was also no limit on life and death.

According to the rules, sixteen guest warriors would be vacant during the first round. Neither Qianye nor Gao Junyi drew vacant lots—with every successor using various methods to influence the fight roster, this kind of advantage naturally wouldn’t fall to Song Zining.

It was obvious that the successors had invested great effort to rope people in—the first batch of guest warriors were all experienced veterans. Not only were they fierce and ruthless, but their combat strength had also far surpassed that of a standard rank-nine fighter. These were all ferocious people who could easily suppress those at the same level.

Additionally, the fights were especially intense. There was no friendship to speak of between the guest warriors, and thus no one had the intention to leave any space for the opponent. Almost every match would end with blood.

Gao Junyi’s name came up in the second batch of four matches.

In this batch, the longest battle lasted for almost an hour. Gao Junyi was indeed a genuine talent—he had defeated his opponent in less than half an hour’s time, however, he had also paid a certain price in the form of a near bone-deep cut on his left arm.

Gen Junyi raised his head and said with a smile as he passed Qianye on his way back, “Little fellow, don’t lose Seventh Young Master’s face in a while.” It was already enough to boast after winning the first round since none of the participating guest warriors were ordinary.

Qianye only laughed. Song Zining, on the other hand, was all smiles as he gave Gao Junyi some praise.

It was at this time that the elder presiding over the examination announced An Renyi’s name. Qianye got up and walked toward the arena after casually picking up the East Peak leaning against his seat.

Just as Qianye had taken his position at the center of the arena, Duchess An suddenly opened her eyes from atop the stage and shot him an ambiguous glance.

Qianye, who was silently waiting for the competition to begin, was suddenly overcome by an inexplicable feeling. Feeling a pair of eyes were watching him attentively from the dark, he subconsciously turned toward the high platform. However, the Song clan old ancestor had long since closed her eyes and once again resumed her resting state.

No one on the stage noticed that short moment where Duchess An opened her eyes. No one was surprised about the ancestor nodding off either because, to this duchess who had advanced to the divine champion level over forty years ago, such fights between the younger generation were like kids swinging swords before an adult—there wasn’t anything of interest to speak of. Perhaps she would pay some attention when the Song clan descendants took the stage.

But, although Duchess An had her eyes closed, no one on or below the stage dared slack off. With the ancestor’s cultivation, nothing in these grounds could hide from her perception even if she was nine parts asleep and only one part awake.

“Ninth battle, Du Dahai vs. An Renyi, begin! Tenth Battle, Cao Junping vs. Gu Xiaohui…” The bell indicating the commencement of the fights was rung as soon as the elder finished speaking.

At this moment, Qianye finally focused his attention on the enemy. Standing on the other end of the arena was a burly red-faced man with a sinister scar on his left cheek.

Qianye glanced at him and said with a smile, “You must be one of Song Ziqi’s men?”

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-Legion-'s Thoughts

4/7 of the week! Here comes the battle ^_^

TL: Legion 

ED: Moxie

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