In the air above Serpentwing Lake. A tall, willowy, silver-armored woman appeared, standing atop a giant sword.
“Ji Ning!” The silver-armored woman called out in a high voice. Swoosh! A wind suddenly howled forth from Brightheart Lake, and then Ji Ning appeared in midair.
“You are…?” Ji Ning looked at the silver-armored woman.
“My mistress is your ‘senior apprentice-sister Ninelotus’. Per the orders from my mistress, I have come to notify you of something,” the silver-armored woman said. Ning, actually, had already guessed that this woman had something to do with Ninelotus.
“My mistress said that she needs to remain within her clan for a time and won’t be able to come out in the near future. She asks you to wait for her patiently.” The silver-armored woman said in a cold, clear voice, “Mistress also said that the two of you could take this opportunity to consider if the two of you were perhaps too rash in deciding to become Dao-Companions.”
Ning frowned. Ninelotus had gone back to her clan and would not return? And was asking him to consider if they had decided to become Dao-Companions too rashly? What was this supposed to mean?
“I’ve delivered my message.” The silver-armored woman, after finishing, flew away on her giant sword, quickly disappearing into the horizons.
Ning returned to Brightheart Island with a belly full of suspicions. Auutmn Leaf was there by the beach, quietly waiting for him. “What happened, young master?” Autumn Leaf, seeing the restless look on Ning’s face, couldn’t help but ask him.
“That was senior apprentice-sister Ninelotus’ servant, just now,” Ning said with a frown. “She came on orders to deliver a message. Ninelotus won’t be able to leave the clan for a period of time, and also said that I should calm down and think about if we were perhaps too hasty in choosing to be Dao-Companions. What does this mean? Since we’ve already chosen to become Dao-Companions, what’s this about it being ‘too hasty’?”
In both the previous life and this one, Ning’s romantic history, or lack thereof, was completely blank.
“Young master,” Autumn Leaf said hurriedly, “I think these words don’t come from senior apprentice-sister Ninelotus. She treats you with sincerity. I imagine that the high-level members of the Dongyan clan instructed this maidservant to speak those words, so as to make you nervous. If you were to give up on your own, then they would have successfully separated the two of you.”
“Riiiight.” Ning’s eyes lit up. “You are right. This is probably their scheme. The Dongyan clan, in truth, doesn’t quite want to see myself with Ninelotus.”
Autumn Leaf, seeing Ning’s spirit rise, couldn’t help but laugh. So long as Ning was happy, she was happy.
Life went on without Ninelotus for Ning. He continued to live at Serpentwing Lake. He had concluded that the words sent by Ninelotus had come from the Dongyan clan, which was seeking to cause trouble between them! Thus, Ning didn’t question Ninelotus’ dedication at all. Rather, Ning felt absolutely irritated with the Dongyan clan, and truly wanted to find a chance to shock the contemptuous clan. This, Ning was quite industrious in his training at Serpentwing lake.
Every so often, he would go into seclusion to practice his swordplay…
Every so often, he would go to the Raindragon Guard’s branch to take on some missions to chase after and kill criminals or problem-causing Diremonsters…
Every two or three years, he would make a trip into the underwater estate to meditate on the Dao in the Stellar Hall…
And oftentimes, he would just lie there on his boat, letting it drift about on the surface of Serpentwing Lake. These moments were the calmest, most peaceful moments for his soul…
In the blink of an eye, nearly nine years had passed. After having killed many powerful criminals, Ning was now extremely famous.
“It’s a new year.” Ning stood there on his balcony, which was decorated with red lanterns, illuminating the snow that continued to fall down in this dark night.
“Young master, the dinner banquet is ready.” Autumn Leaf walked over. Ning looked sideways towards Autumn Leaf. Although it had been nearly nine years, Autumn Leaf’s appearance looked just as it had in the past. But perhaps because of her innate talent, despite using the many spirit-pills and medicines which Ning had provided, Autumn Leaf remained at the peak of the Xiantian level, and was still yet to establish her Zifu. The primary reason was her lack of comprehension into the Dao, and so Ning would often provide her with personal guidance. With his guidance, Autumn Leaf had begun to advance quite a bit, and most likely in a few more years, she would finally step into the Zifu level.
“Bluestone, however, is much less talented than Autumn Leaf,” Ning sighed to himself. Bluestone was the little brother of Spring Grass, and Ning had once sworn an oath in front of her grave to provide him with good tutelage. Ning truly had gone all out in his efforts, and Bluestone had managed to, just barely, reach the Xiantian level. However, his rate of improvement in comprehending the Dao was far, far too slow.
Bluestone knew that there wasn’t much hope for him, and so he instead asked Ning to take him to Stillwater City. He had always lived at Serpentwing Lake, and had very few life experiences; he wanted to see the legendary Stillwater City.
Ning, taking advantage of a trip to accept a mission for the Raindragon Guard, delivered Bluestone to Northmont Baiwei’s residence in Stillwater City, asking Baiwei to help take care of him.
“Let’s go.” Ning and Autumn Leaf were walking side-by-side in a corridor.
“Young master, the clan has sent another twelve youths over. Including that last time five years ago, as well as that very first time…a total of twenty eight youths have come,” Autumn Leaf said softly. “I feel that the clan is going a bit too far. Young master, you need to spend time on your own training as well. How can you possibly have enough time to guide all of these youths?”
Ning laughed. “These youths are quite weak. Your level of insight into the sword is fairly high now; follow my instructions and go provide them with guidance.”
“Me?” Autumn Leaf was surprised.
“Don’t underestimate yourself,” Ning instructed. “When they break through to the Xiantian level, bring them to see me. Come, let’s go eat dinner together. Tonight will be the eve of the new year.”
The eve of the new year was a day of great celebration. But within the Kou clan, one of the six major hegemons of the Swallow Mountain Region, nobody was laughing or smiling.
The new clan leader of the Kou clan, Kou Huai gently stroked the ancient stone walls in front of him. He stared at each tile and each brick, at the courtyards and the grass. “This is the homeland of our Kou clan…” Kou Huai touched the walls and spoke in a hoarse voice, his eyes red.
Tears streamed down the face of a maiden next to him. “Father, let’s go all out against the Ji clan. This is our foundation, the foundation of our clan. They are going to destroy our foundation, so let’s go all out against them. At worst, both of us shall suffer injuries.”
“What do you know?” Kou Huai shook his head, then raised it, staring at the snow falling from the skies. They felt very cold. “Go all out against the Ji clan? With what? For now, let’s not discuss the most powerful member of the Ji clan, Ji Ning; not a single clan in the Swallow Mountain region is capable of blocking either of those two Wanxiang Diremonsters under his command. Both of those Diremonsters are Godbeasts, and are at the peak of the Wanxiang level! They are far more powerful than ordinary peak Wanxiang Adepts. And Ji Ning himself…he is the true face of terror.”
“Ji Ning.” The maiden gritted her teeth. “I will definitely make the Ji clan regret this.”
“Don’t even think about causing the Ji clan trouble.” Kou Huai shook hi shead. “Those incomparably vile, wicked cultivators and Diremonsters in the Stillwater Commandery region…quite a few of them were killed by him. Amongst them was a particularly notorious and evil practitioner, Adept Poisondove. Adept Poisondove was someone capable of fighting against a Primal Daoist, then escaping with his life. And yet, he ended up dying to Ji Ning. I imagine that soon afterwards, this Ji Ning will become a Primal Daoist himself.”
“So what if a clan with such power takes over the entire Swallow Mountain region? Our Kou clan is so weak; if we don’t move, we’ll just be constantly suppressed by the Ji clan. In the end, we’ll be wiped out. Moving now, on the other hand, gives us a chance to survive and flourish in another place.
“And in addition!”
“It can be said that the Ji clan has already shown us mercy. They have not, at least, embarked on a slaughter against us. They’ve allowed us to continue to stay here.” Kou Huai let out a sigh.
Although they had been forced to hand over their official writs for their city to the Ji clan, which was tantamount to surrendering their base, Kou Huai didn’t feel hatred in his heart. This was because, after any clan produced a supreme expert, they would rapidly consolidate control over their surrounding territory. The Ji clan had Ji Ning, the Whitewater Hound, and the Azure Skysnake; they had complete, overwhelming power, and could’ve swept everyone away.
The Ji clan, however, had not swept anyone away. Instead, they had ‘negotiated’, allowing the various powers to voluntarily submit and decide to move. The Ji clan even gave them some buffer time, allowing them at least three but no more than ten years to depart from the Swallow Mountain region.
“Tomorrow. Tomorrow, we shall leave.” Kou Huai stroked the walls again. “Remember, child. If you are weak, you will have to lower your head. There’s no one else to blame but ourselves, for not being strong enough.”
The maiden nodded. “Tomorrow, I will go to the Thousand Rivers Sect. Father, I will definitely work hard to bring our Kou clan to prominence once more.”
“Alright.” Kou Huai looked at his daughter, his eyes filled with expectations. His daughter, his pride and joy.
However, compared to a monster like Ji Ning, she was far inferior. If his daughter was capable of becoming a Wanxiang Adept, most likely the entire Kou clan would celebrate.
The eve of the new year. The City of Ten Thousand Swords.
Ji Ninefire had already retired; the current Patriarch of the Ji clan was the younger Ji Truekeep!
“The Kou clan and the Blackfire Cult, in the next three days, will depart from their commandery cities,” Truekeep said with a loud laugh. “Once they leave, our Ji clan’s power will have expanded even more.”
“They were quite obedient. They didn’t try to resist.” Ninefire smiled as he spoke.
“The difference in power was too great. They had no desire to fight back at all.” Granny Shadow was very satisfied as well. “Truekeep, once the Kou clan and the Blackfire Cult have left their commandery cities and our Ji clan moves in, then in the Swallow Mountain region…the only remaining powers will be the garrison of the Grand Xia Dynasty and Snowdragon Mountain’s branch, right?
Truekeep nodded. The Grand Xia Dynasty’s garrison would definitely remain. As for the Snowdragon Mountain branch? Although Dong Ziqi and the others had died, Snowdragon Mountain had quickly sent more Zifu Disciples to enter Swallow Mountain, causing the local branch to once more flourish!
“The Swallow Mountain branch of Snowdragon Mountain has the main Snowdragon Mountain sect behind them. Although they aren’t willing to offend our Ji clan, they aren’t so afraid of us as to hand over their territory,” Truekeep said with a sigh. “This will be troublesome. If we were to truly act against the local branch of Snowdragon Mountain, I’m worried that they will send some Wanxiang Adepts over from the main sect.”
Snowdragon Mountain didn’t wish to offend Ji Ning, whose potential was unlimited. But they weren’t actually afraid of him! They didn’t expand their territory in Swallow Mountain, but continued to stubbornly remain within their previous territory. They wouldn’t launch any attacks, but if the Ji clan were to dare to invade, they would show no mercy.
“As soon as we invade, the Swallow Mountain branch will immediately retaliate. The leader of the Swallow Mountain branch of Snowdragon Mountain, Daoist Xu Ke, has said long ago that if our Ji clan were to dare to attack, then they would dare to kill us.” Truekeep continued, “Although during the past nine years, our Ji clan’s power in terms of our Xiantian experts has swelled, it truly wouldn’t be worth it for us to truly fight head on against Snowdragon Mountain. Their foundation is much deeper than ours, and in terms of supreme experts, behind them are Primal Daoists.”
“Let’s not rush to fight them.” Ninefire shook his head. “I’ll go ask Ji Ning about this.”
The local branch of Snowdragon Mountain was a tough bone to chew on. They were the final obstacle preventing the Ji clan from completely dominating Swallow Mountain.