Different Year, Same Thing (Part 10)
Ling Qingshu thrust his sword without hesitation hard enough to undulate his clothing using one of the most advanced techniques of Golden Lotus Divine Sword that he had drilled tirelessly.
“I knew you wanted to hurt me, you wench!”
Ling Qingshu liked subduing girls with force, and an easy win wasn’t stimulating enough.
The only rule Mount Daluo members were expected to adhere to in the sect was respecting the seniority hierarchy, a stipulation that nobody ever dared to challenge. That was why Ming Huayu would always behave primly in his shifu’s presence even though he was the reigning patriarch, which, in other sects, would be considered the individual with the highest standing.
Thanks to her extensive direct training under Hero Shenzhou and her authority to access all learning materials at Mount Daluo, Ming Suwen remained undefeated in the pugilistic thus far, and she demonstrated incredible skill as well as dangerous decisiveness, surprising Ling Qingshu.
Ming Suwen’s flimsy tree branch stood no chance against Ling Qingshu’s ordinary sword he imbued with internal energy. Nevertheless, she swivelled off his striking trajectory four times, sticking riskily close to his blade and then mounted her blistering-fast attack, wearing a poker face.
Ling Qingshu pressed the attack, executing consecutive thrusts and gradually dialling up the speed, depriving Ming Suwen of any chance to offer a counterattack. Ming Suwen easily twisted, bent, shifted her feet and slipped to evade every attack, turning unbridled movements into poetry in motion. Missing over twenty thrusts was unexpected, triggering Ling Qingshu to summon more internal strength, ramping up his power and speed, yet he still couldn’t even touch her clothing. When he glanced at her face, he discovered that he wasn’t going so fast that she couldn’t attack. Instead, she was holding back.
Among the five styles that made up Daluo Five Divine Styles was “Shadow Steps”, a qinggong style that Ming Suwen adopted as her qinggong foundation. She later learnt Ming Huayu’s brainchild, “Heavenly Net Sacred Records,” and Ming Feizhen’s “Night Steps”. As a result, she was better at positioning in combat than the three elites who taught her their skills.
“Why did she lure me out alone when she’s so skilled?!” wondered Ling Qingshu. “You conniving wench!”
Ling Qingshu eventually figured out Ming Suwen wasn’t worried about his six allies, even though they’d be helpful if they worked with him but Xie Duzhe, who wouldn’t just watch her maul him because of his position as a Qilin Guard in the conflict. It was unwise for her to affront the Qilin Guards even if she could mangle all seven of them as it would mean she declared war on the imperial court.
Incensed with Ming Suwen for baiting him into burning himself out, while she hadn’t even broken a sweat, Ling Qingshu switched to his main speciality, Flying Sword Thrust Style, since his current strategy neither worked nor would work. With his new approach, Ling Qingshu was able to predict where she would move next so that he could engineer his winning blow. The abrupt speed boost exceeded her expectations, allowing him to poke a hole in her clothing for the first time. However, his next attacks would seemingly just glide off her skin or shoot through gaps in her strands of hair.
Like an archer firing his arrow from behind a waterfall, Ming Suwen suddenly speared an acupuncture point on Ling Qingshu’s thigh, breaking the rhythm between his hand and leg. She strafed subtly to the side of his blade and swivelled, creating torque to whip him in the face, enhancing it with her internal energy to rock his brains.
Ling Qingshu flowered to keep Ming Suwen away as he circled away from her. Standing with her hands behind her back, smiling as if she was waiting for a disciplined student’s reaction, she asked, “Not bad, hey?”
The blood on Ling Qingshu’s face intensified the savage cackle coming from behind his teeth: “Not bad, indeed. Mount Daluo has very few disciples, but none of them are weaklings, huh? Was that Daluo Ultimate Sword Manual? Beautiful.”
Ming Suwen’s playful lips curved down, her gaze piercing: “What are you talking about?”
“You don’t know? I said, even the women from Mount Daluo sure are admirably skilled.”
Ming Suwen’s reaction was just the thing Ling Qingshu needed after she scratched his face.
Ming Suwen dimpled again: “Ling Clan’s ambitions have grown again, I see. Mount Daluo’s patriarch came to an agreement with the Seven Champion White Princes to keep Night Fortress’ secrets. Only those who swore the oath that day and Night Fortress’ leader present that day knew about it, which means Ling Hanzhong broke the oath.”
“So what? Why do we have to keep any promise to your kind?” The drawn-out conversation gave Ling Qingshu’s leg enough time to recover full functioning, but he continued jibing, “My father never cared for your agreement. After we conquer Night Fortress, perhaps we’ll go for Beiping.”
Ming Suwen restored her smile brimming with confidence and stressed, “Henceforward, Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary is no longer an ally of Mount Daluo. Our patriarch’s promise to Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary is also cancelled as of today.”
“You think Mount Daluo is qualified to make demands of us? You are behind Shaolin and Wudang; if it wasn’t for a decrepit old man who won’t die, you’d be carrying our shoes in Jiangnan. Your useless kind has no place running a faction in Hangzhou. Take this!”
“I’m not interested in taking such a crude sword.”
Ling Qingshu lost track of his target before he could finish his thrust. Feeling a sharp pain shoot up his shoulder, he pivoted around to see Ming Suwen tapping her free hand with the tree branch, simpering at the same time.
“I’m going to murder you!”
“Wrong spot,” chided Ming Suwen, evading and smacking Ling Qingshu again.
“Raise your elbow higher.”
“Keep your core tight.”
“Thrust two inches further.”
“Your horse-riding stance is frail.”
“Your foot placement is wrong.”
Ming Suwen smacked Ling Qingshu each time she pointed out a flaw until his arms were bleeding. He spun and swung wildly, only for her to circle around to his back again.
“Don’t get cocky, you wench!”
“That one was better.”
Ling Qingshu bound forward, powering up his sword with qi each step. Though it lacked the technical intricacy of “Like the Milky Way Descends on the Nine Heavens”, it was more destructive. Executing the third level technique of “Flying Thrust Style” that he had drilled millions of time since childhood, “Flying Three Thousand Inch Descent”, Ling Hangzhong’s favourite technique, using all the momentum he built up from his run up.
The secret to “Flying Three Thousand Inch Descent” was the mental cultivation technique taught in tandem with it, teaching the practitioner to harness their internal energy to their maximum level and trap the sword qi produced. Essentially, they recreated a compression effect for an explosive thrust, consequently producing more force than one’s physical attributes in isolation could produce.
Ming Suwen giggled as she drew a circle in front of her and sundered the air, generating a whistling gale where her stick finished. Said gale drew Ling Qingshu’s thrust upward as if she manipulated space. Because the output of “Flying Three Thousand Inch Descent” exceeded one’s physical limits, there was no means of redirecting the thrust once it was thrown.
Sword heading, at least, seven centimetres off its intended target, Ming Suwen let Ling Qingshu into range then whipped him three times in one fluid combo.
Ling Qingshu floored himself due to his commitment when thrusting, breathing heavily and clothing dishevelled. Ming Suwen didn’t inflict damage to just his exterior; the force of her whips went straight inside, inflicting internal damage that forced him to assuage the pain with qi in order to speak.
“Dal-… Daluo… Empty Palms.”
“No, Vacant Sword. All I did was combine Empty Palms with swordplay. It’s simple, but it inflicts more damage. You just had to go miss so embarrassingly, though, so you don’t get to see yourself in eight pieces.”
“You behave like people entering the pugilistic world for the first time in their life,” ridiculed Ming Suwen, sauntering over to Ling Qingshu, who shut his eyes to regain control of his breathing. “How do you come to the conclusion that Night Fortress shouldn’t be trifled with, but Mount Daluo is fodder? I suppose Ling Hanzhong wouldn’t mind not having to feed such a stupid son.”
Ling Hanzhong crawled to his feet, waddling and groaning. The man with only fifty percent of his energy remaining threw down his sword and raised both hands: “I yield!”
Ming Suwen stopped in her tracks: “What?”
“I surrender. I admit defeat. I will do anything you ask of me, Miss Ming!” sardonically elaborated Ling Qingshu. “Please capture this beast here to console Miss Zhang’s soul in heaven. If you don’t capture me, I will continue harming more people for sure.”
“What are you playing at?” questioned Ming Suwen, pinching her brows together.
“Surrendering, aren’t I? What else should I do after taking such a convincing defeat?”
What’s he plotting? He’s so confident that he sounds crazy. Wait, what’s that smell?
Ming Suwen cast her gaze to the bamboo forest to see over a hundred swordsmen dressed in Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s uniform. She decided to strike before they could, stabbing her sword toward Ling Qingshu’s face. Part way there, she suddenly felt a minor scratch on her skin as four sword qis were aimed her way, forcing her to spin to safety. Had she been a second slower, she would’ve been cut in four as the ground was.
Six of Ling Qingshu’s martial uncles descended from above and stood around him in a folding-fan formation.
“So you had a plan all along. It’s time for me to get going, then.”
Ming Suwen chose to escape since her chances of winning against all of them were thin. When she tried to lift her leg, however, she found her leg reacting clumsily and arms feeling as though weights were hanging off them. Recalling the smell she caught before, she asked, “What did you do?”
“My men didn’t show themselves until now because they were spreading numbvine green smoke in your direction. Did you honestly think I was unaware of the gap between our skill? You think you’re smarter than I am? I was just waiting for the numbing poison we concocted to take effect. If your naughty kind doesn’t lose their ability to fight, how do I take you to heaven?”
“You… had your men on standby the entire time?”
“Hahaha, you must not be aware of your infamy. You made a name for yourself when you fought at Wudang. They call you the most beautiful women in the North’s martial world. I recognised you at first glance. I may not be a coward, but I don’t fight fights I’m not confident I can win. I can’t believe I fooled you so easily.
“The original plan was to seize Night Fortress immediately if negotiations fell apart. Only an idiot wouldn’t set an ambush when facing Mount Daluo. They were on standby in the bamboo to conquer Night Fortress. You walked into the trap and sprung it yourself.”
The disciples in the forest meandered over, ogling Ming Suwen from head to toe. Ling Qingshu squatted down to caress her smooth face.
“Now, let’s see if your husband will come to your rescue. He better hurry; else, you’ll have to seek employment at a brothel after all of us have fun with you. You reckon I’ll become one of the wealthiest around if I sell you to a brothel?”
“… You animal.”
“… I shall show you… what a real animal is.”