However, this was the new year celebration; Ninefire and the others didn’t immediately go disturb Ning. They waited until the sixteenth day of the month before heading towards Serpentwing Lake.
Serpentwing Lake. Brightheart Island. Within a study.
Ning was standing in front of a desk, holding a writing brush and writing some characters. Autumn Leaf, by his side, was helping him grind the ink. Brush-calligraphy was something Ning had taken a liking to in recent years, and it was also one of the ways in which Ning trained his heart and also trained his sword.
With every single stroke of the brush, sword-light seemed to flash out in a dominating manner. Ji Ning’s signature…it verily emanated an almighty sword-intent.
“The sword-intent in young master’s signature has become increasingly powerful.” Autumn Leaf secretly sighed in amazement, “The young master personally instructed me in all of my sword training, and I am at the peak of the Xiantian level…but when I look at these words, I feel my heart tremble, as though I’m completely powerless. In recent years, his sword-intent has grown increasingly astonishing.”
Nobody knew exactly how powerful Ning had grown during these past nine years, but when Ning had occasionally taken on missions for the Raindragon Guard and revealed his power a few times, he had completely stunned all onlookers. His most successful battle was definitely his execution of Adept Poisondove.
It must be understood that evil cultivators whose bodies were surrounded by sin were usually far stronger in battle than similarly ranked cultivators. In turn, Daoist Poisondove was one of the most superb cultivators amongst the ranks of evil cultivators. He was capable of successfully escaping from the attacks of Primal Daoists…but he wasn’t able to escape from Ji Ning! From this, the outside world was able to guess…that Ning’s power must have truly reached a formidable level.
However, only Autumn Leaf, who had the most direct access to Ning, was able to gain a fairly accurate level of insight.
“The sword-intent in the young master’s calligraphy has only grown stronger and stronger, at an astonishing rate. Compared to three years ago…it seems to have changed in a qualitative way. There’s no point to even comparing him to where he was nine years ago.” Autumn Leaf secretly shook her head.
“I’m done.” Ning put down his brush, then said with a laugh, “Autumn Leaf, go ahead and incinerate this.”
“Yes, young master,” Autumn Leaf replied obediently. From the very beginning, Ning had always instructed her to burn his writings. At first, Autumn Leaf had been rather reluctant, and she had even said, “Young master, this is such fine calligraphy…I can even feel the sword-intent surging within the characters. If you were to leave this set of calligraphy within the clan to allow the juniors to view it, it would be wonderful.”
But Ning had explained, “I’ll be writing every day. After a few years, how many scrolls will I have written on? In addition, these examples of calligraphy are just casual writing samples; they have no keepsake value. Every year, I’ll leave behind one special set of calligraphy, to be stored within the clan. As for the others, burn them all.”
After Ning gave these instructions, Autumn Leaf no longer argued with him.
“Young master, young master.” A voice suddenly rang out from outside. Ning raised his head to look.
Autumn Leaf also walked out, then asked, “What is it?” The messenger maidservant called out hurriedly, “The Patriarch and the others came. They are waiting in the guest hall.”
“Uncle Truekeep?” Laughing, Ning instructed, “Then I’ll come right now.”
“Help me tidy these things.” Ning glanced at Autumn Leaf, who nodded. Autumn Leaf would generally be the one to personally take care of and store Ning’s personal belongings; other maids and servants were forbidden from touching them. In particular, Ning’s calligraphy with sword-intent…mere Houtian warriors might literally be frightened to death by the sword-intent emanating from them!
Even normal Xiantian lifeforms would be terrified to the point of paralysis. Autumn Leaf trained under Ning and had an exceedingly high level of expertise in swordplay, and yet…usually, even she felt her heart quiver.
In the guest hall.
Ning, dressed in furs, smiled as he walked in. Upon seeing Truekeep, Ninefire, Granny Shadow, and Ah Xing in the living room, he couldn’t help but say with an astonished laugh, “I thought it was just Uncle Truekeep. I didn’t imagine that the Elder Patriarch and the rest of you came as well. For all four of you to come…this must be about something major.”
“Is it indeed,” Truekeep nodded.
“Speak, what is it?” Ning sat down.
Ninefire and Truekeep exchanged a glance, then nodded slightly. Truekeep said, “Ji Ning, you know that with your help, our Ji clan’s power has grown explosively. Naturally, we’ve begun to expand.”
Ning nodded. Any clan, upon growing powerful, would expand! He had gone to the local branch of the Raindragon Guard and traded for some techniques, which he was permitted to transfer to his clan. It must be understood that some Ki Refining techniques were possessed by virtually all large clans, and thus the Raindragon Guard would permit these techniques to be passed down to a Guard’s clan. However, the price in karmic merit points would be much higher. The reason Ning had repeatedly gone to take missions was precisely due to this.
Aside from techniques, Ning had also acquired liquefied elemental essences, spirit-pills, and various other things. With those things and his tutelage, the Ji clan’s ranks of Zifu Disciples had swollen to more than ten. Three of them had left Swallow Mountain, and had joined various sects.
“The Kou clan, the Riverbank clan, and the other clans have been friends with our Ji clan for many years,” Truekeep said with a sigh. “However, this matter involves the strength and success of our clan; our Ji clan doesn’t need to be too merciful. That’s why we asked them to voluntarily migrate out of Swallow Mountain.”
Ning nodded. He knew about these matters and wasn’t surprised by them. The Dongyan clan, for example, took up a mountain range of hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, comparable to more than a hundred Swallow Mountains! Snowdragon Mountain, in turn, had also taken up an extremely large territory as their headquarters! But of course, the Black-White College focused on a small group of elites, and so didn’t need a large territory.
However, the Black-White College was a school; it could recruit elites from the outside world. Major tribes and clans, however, felt more trust towards their own descendants. In order for the tribe to flourish, there was naturally a need for increasingly large amounts of space.
“Currently, in the Swallow Mountain region, only that branch of Snowdragon Mountain has refused to leave,” Truekeep said. “The other powers have all left. As for Snowdragon Mountain, they have the main sect behind him; clearly, they are prepared to do battle at a moment’s notice. If our Ji clan dares to invade, then they will dare to attack. Our Ji clan has accumulated quite a bit of power in recent years, but reinforcements arrive from the main Snowdragon Mountain sect in an unending stream. If we truly were to fight them…the Ji clan would find it quite difficult.”
Ning understood. Frowning, he said, “This local branch…are they truly so impertinent as to not know when their time is up?”
“They’ve correctly calculated that our Ji clan doesn’t dare fight with them head on, I imagine. They event sent me an envoy, saying that they won’t expand their territory, but that they also wouldn’t leave. Their attitude was quite resolute.” Truekeep gritted his teeth. “Hmph. Come to think of it, when our Ji clan was weak, Dong Ziqi led the Swallow Mountain branch of Snowdragon Mountain to try and force our Ji clan to leave, threatening us with annihilation. Now, however, they see that you, Ji Ning, are not an easy person to deal with…and so they say they won’t expand? It isn’t that they won’t expand, it is that they don’t have the strength to!”
For someone who was weak to say they wouldn’t expand their territory was nothing more than empty self-praise. When the Swallow Mountain branch of Snowdragon Mountain had been powerful, hadn’t they been constantly, slowly expanding their territory? They had been an outside force that had shoved their way into Swallow Mountain, becoming the most powerful local organization.
“Ji Ning, what do you think our Ji clan should do in response?” Truekeep looked towards Ning. “Our decision today will impact the entire clan. We can’t be the slightest bit negligent.”
“The Swallow Mountain branch of Snowdragon Mountain truly doesn’t know its limits. A puny little branch…dares to act like this?” Ji Ning frowned, then said, “I’ll send a letter. Uncle Truekeep, send someone to deliver it to the Snowdragon Mountain branch. However, after the letter is rolled up, it absolutely must not be opened. I’ll set a restrictive spell over it.”
“Alright.” Truekeep nodded. Ning immediately took out leather parchment and began to write a letter.
Ninefire, Granny Shadow, Truekeep, and the old servant Ah Xing watched from the side. When they saw what Ning wrote, their faces couldn’t help but change.
“Is…is this perhaps, going a bit far?” Ninefire said, worried.
“Don’t worry,” Ning said calmly. “Snowdragon Mountain does not concern me.”
Nine years. Ning knew exactly how powerful he had grown in these nine years. In just three years after joining the Black-White College, he had mastered the first two stances of the [Three-Foot Sword]. Nine more years had passed, and in the underwater estate…Ning had successfully challenged and overcome the fourth level of the Wargod Hall, acquiring yet another magic treasure. Ning’s power, compared to nine years ago, was unfathomably greater.
“Charge into Snowdragon Mountain? That’s their headquarters; I can’t imagine how many secrets and spells they have hidden in that place. Even Immortals would be wary of charging in; my power isn’t enough for now. But outside Snowdragon Mountain…without the support of the spells and formations located in the mountain, those Primal Daoists of Snowdragon Mountain are not enough to cause me concern,” Ning mused to himself.
Snowdragon Mountain had powerful backers, yes; its backer was the Northmont clan of Stillwater Commandery! Generally speaking, all of the major powers within Stillwater Commandery would ally themselves with the Northmont clan of Stillwater, or with the Raindragon Guard!
But Ning, in turn, had backers of his own! In fact, his relationship with the Northmont clan of Stillwater Commandery was even closer than Snowdragon Mountain’s…and he also had his master, Immortal Diancai!
That very night. Snowdragon City of Swallow Mountain. This was the only commandery city which the local branch now controlled. As for the other two…the Ji clan had acquired both official writs when Dong Ziqi and the others had died. Now that the Ji clan was so strong, they were easily able to take over those two cities.
Snowdragon City, however, was like a nail, sticking up in the wilderness, firmly fixed into the Swallow Mountain region.
“A messenger from the Ji clan?”
“Hmph, this puny Ji clan…they only relied on that Ji Ning in order to grow strong. How old is Ji Ning? Although his potential is astonishing, it’s quite possible that he might die on his Immortal path one day. I don’t even know how many so-called ‘geniuses’ died in such a manner,” a silver-haired elder said, an ugly look on his face.
His name was ‘Xu Fang’; he was the custodian of Snowdragon City. The Swallow Mountain branch of Snowdragon Mountain, in turn, was under the control of Xu Ke. The ‘Xu’ clan was a fairly powerful clan which belonged to Snowdragon Mountain; it had quite a few Wanxiang Adepts. However, Adept Xu Li had died in that battle. This had enraged the Xu clan, and when Snowdragon Mountain’s main sect had begun to make preparations for sending reinforcements to Snowdragon Mountain, the Xu clan had volunteered its services bravely.
However, Ji Ning’s rate of improvement had been simply too shocking. The true leader of the Xu clan, Adept Xu Ke, had been so terrified that he had fled back to the main sect, leaving behind the Zifu Disciple, ‘Xu Fang’, to control matters here.
After all, for Ji Ning, killing a Wanxiang Adept was as easy as killing a chicken. Naturally, Adept Xu Ke didn’t dare take the risk of being present. Xu Fang would only send a message to the main sect and Adept Xu for major matters.
“Xu Fang, this is the letter my young master has written to you.” A tall, muscular old man spoke out in a cold voice.
They were in the main hall. Xu Fang was seated on his throne, while next to him was three Zifu Disciples.
“Your young master?” Xu Fang couldn’t be bothered to rebuke this man for his lack of courtesy; he was badly frightened by the two words, ‘young master’. The ‘young master’ who was writing to him…was the legendary Ji Ning of Serpentwing Lake!
The three Zifu Disciples within the hall were all petrified as well. They could be disdainful in front of Ji Truekeep and the others, but as for the legendary Ji Ning of Serpentwing Lake…they felt terror from the bottom of their hearts.
“Catch.” The elder of the Ji clan tossed the scroll over towards them. Xu Fang caught it, and the three Zifu Disciples next to him moved towards him as well.
He unfurled the scroll. As he did, the first thing they noticed was the sword-intent which flooded towards them from the characters atop it. It caused their hearts to tremble and their legs to turn weak.
“Xu clan, of the Swallow Mountain branch of Snowdragon Mountain. I give you ten days to get the f*ck out of Swallow Mountain. If after ten days you have yet to move, then don’t blame me for showing no mercy with my sword.” It was quite a casual letter, but it was filled with an absolutely dominating aura! Normally, the Ji clan and the Snowdragon Mountain branch would tussle back and forth, but they would never get into a real fight. Ji Ning’s letter, however, showed no sign of compromise at all.
They had to leave in ten days. Otherwise…he would attack!
“This…this…” Xu Fang stared, then said with fury, “This shows no respect for our Snowdragon Mountain at all. Quick, report this to the main sect! Report this to the main sect!!!”
As soon as his words came out…
Whoosh. The restrictive spells on the parchment, summoning natural fire, instantly caused the parchment to begin to blaze, transforming it into gray ash.