Different Year, Same Thing (Part 13)
Xuanyuan Scarlet Sword was a moniker attached to Xuanyun Sanctuary’s leader, Ling Xuezhao, a man in his twenties often dismissed upon first impression due to his thin physique and pale face. The “scarlet sword” part in his moniker was a reference to him having killed enough unorthodox sects’ members to build a big sect out of. Folks claimed they could smell blood coming from his sword at all times. Therefore, they, and factually, didn’t classify him as a heroic swordsman. Ever since he peaked as a swordsman at twenty-five years of age, they called him “Exterminator” in reference to the corpses littering the world in his wake. Some straight up called him “Slaughter Demon”.
Ling Xuezhao’s definition of swordsmanship was to purge evil, shedding blood every time he unsheathed his sword. When it came to swordplay, he cared naught for aesthetics, power, pragmatism or agility; his sole focus was, “It’s good as long as the means are achieved.” He deemed all other components to be superfluous, much to the chagrin of other swordsman who pursued a different ideal of swordsmanship.
During the battle at Lawless Cliff, Ling Xuezhao single-handedly cut down three of Demon Sect’s great guardians and over a hundred others, hence his promotion to Xuanyuan Sanctuary’s leader, one of the youngest men to ever be instated as a sanctuary leader in Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s history.
By no means was Ling Xuezhao the first to pursue a path of bloody swordsmanship or the last, but he was the only current one. Regardless of the comments surrounding him or the fact that he would never be viewed as a true swordsman – not that he cared – nobody could deny that he was the greatest genius swordsman Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary had seen in the last decade.
Give him a sword, and he would learn how to wield it in no time. As a matter of act, he never learnt from any renowned mentor or concerned himself with learning lauded swordplays. Give him an opponent, and he would instinctively figure out how to kill them.
In terms of creativity within Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary, nobody came close to Heavenly Realisation Sanctuary’s leader, Ling Cong, a youth who carried the “Ling” surname, yet never learnt a single technique from Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s styles.
Twenty-five years ago, Ling Clan didn’t favour elder children over younger children. Thanks to the stipulation that only disciples qualified for patriarch candidacy, Ling Hanzhong was instated instead of his younger twin brother. In order to succeed the clan, he even gave his invitation to train at Sword Immortal Grasshouse away, preferring to chase authority. He knew just as well as others did that he didn’t want to spend two decades in there and then have his position revoked.
Ling Hanzhong gave his twin brother, who had just as much aptitude for swordplay as he did, the chance to train at Sword Immortal Grasshouse so that his brother could help him consolidate power and expand later on. Since his brother had the luxury to devote all his resources to training, he quickly surpassed his elder brother. Everything proceeded according to plan until his brother fell for a maiden from Sky Palace, igniting the story of star-crossed lovers after their initially bumpy meeting.
Although Ling Hanzhong didn’t spoil his younger brother until the latter was incorrigible as Ling Qingshu, his brother was competitive. The couple held a wedding ceremony in secret and returned to Mount Lu as a family of three, their child already six months old.
There was no way in hell Ling Hanzhong would accept his sister-in-law given the animosity between them and the four unorthodox factions. From his perspective, she would bring ruin to his brother. To let his brother have his way, Ling Hanzhong planned to pry Sky Palace’s secrets from his sister-in-law and decimate a few of their branches so that he could justify his brother marrying her down the road when other orthodox sects queried them. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out as he envisioned.
Ling Hanzhong tried the carrot-and-stick method. Nevertheless, his sister-in-law was steadfast in her loyalty to her sect. Exasperated, he started to oppose the marriage and set out to exile her from Ling Clan. In the end, though, he didn’t want his brother to be heartbroken. Accordingly, he drugged his brother and hired several courtesans to sleep with his brother then deliberately set up his sister-in-law so that she’d “accidentally” catch her husband having an affair.
An envoy from Sky Palace lying in wait at the foot of Mount Lu killed Ling Hanzhong’s sister-in-law, someone Sky Palace judged as a traitor, in cold blood when she sped out of Ling Clan. By the time Ling Hanzhong’s brother woke from his slumber and discovered what transpired… He raced down the mountain to find his son still alive next to his wife’s cold body. Ling Hanzhong’s brother ended his life on the spot, going after his wife but leaving behind his son.
Ling Cong grew up as Ling Hanzhong’s nephew, but people didn’t know how they should treat him. As for Ling Hanzhong, he never put his nephew through any hardships as he was genuinely sorry. Sadly, Ling Cong grew up with mental issues; he still couldn’t speak at five years of age and couldn’t learn even basic swordplay at seven. Scratch that. He couldn’t even write his name. It took him another three years to scribble his name in barely legible font. Ling Hanzhong surmised Ling Cong’s stunted intelligence was a consequence of him suffering a concussion when his mother dropped him upon death, a fact he could neither ever prove nor disprove. Having his own children to take care off took up his time, resulting in him leaving Ling Cong to his own devices.
Perhaps it was all the physical activity that Ling Cong loved to partake in within the mountains that led to his developed physique. He had travelled all of Mount Lu before he was twelve years old with his companions – beasts in the mountain.
The next year, Ling Cong sneaked into Heavenly Realisation Sanctuary during a thunderstorm, when everybody else had fled the scene. Not even he recalled how many times lightning struck him. Anyhow, they assumed his was dead upon finding him and, therefore, buried him. All of a sudden, he opened his eyes, freaking everyone out with his black appearance and white eyes.
Ever since the incident, Ling Cong was a new man, able to speak without stuttering, able to think as per “normal” people and discovered his physical attributes had been amplified. One day, he smacked a dangerous wild beast and reduced the thing to charcoal. It was then that he realised he had a secret power – the power to zap people with an electric element inside him.
At the usual tournament Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary often held as per tradition, Ling Cong swept the floor with disciples who used to look down on him, becoming the youngest sanctuary leader in Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s history.
Although Ling Cong technically wielded a sword, he never actually used a weapon. Ling Cong mastered “Lightning Sword Character Style”, a style that’s secret was the natural lightning imbued in his body and weapons. Since nobody else was ever struck and gained the ability to utilise lightning, it became a style exclusive to him.
Murong Song, leader of Pinaceae Sanctuary, was renowned within Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary for his mastery over the sect’s styles, therefore deservingly the leader of the twenty-one outer court sanctuaries.
Murong Song wasn’t blessed with an aptitude for swordplay. Because his mind wasn’t flexible, he simply ploughed through everything with sheer willpower and effort. By the same account, his mastery of Pinaceae Swordplay and physical stats that had everyone green with envy were the product of effort.
Pinaceae Swordplay, Mount Lu Sword Sanctuary’s most freestyle swordplay, consisted of eighteen moves that didn’t need to follow any order. That was why mastery of it required the practitioner to be able to flow and improvise. Due to Murong Song’s rigid thinking and textbook approach to things, it’d stand to reason that it’d be impossible for him to master it. Nonetheless, thanks to his persistent efforts, internal strength and solid swordplay foundation, he successfully modified the style’s intended usage. Instead of flowing, he used the style orthodoxly and in reverse each time he attacked. That, needless to say, meant it cost him more energy to use.
Normally, nobody had any issues with Murong Song’s version of Pinaceae Swordplay. It became an issue when he imparted it as the authentic version to others within Pinaceae Sanctuary, alas. Without a formation as solid as his, it was difficult to learn his version of it. As a result of his teachings, the authentic style vanished into the depths of a forgotten history.
Ling Xuezhao, Ling Cong and Murong Song were all present in Hangzhou for the big, ruthless operation, raising Ling Hanzhong’s morale to the sky. Ling Hangzhong expected a repeat of their conquest of Changzhou; however, a curve ball was thrown their way, more precisely, a young man.
Aforementioned young man lazed on a rock in the same fashion his long white hair was splayed out in the sunlight, one hand holding his charcoal stick, the other golden sweets. As he chewed leisurely, he conveyed, “I just bought a pancake from you three days ago. I never thought this is how we’d meet again.”
Ming Feizhen gazed at his now empty hand as though it was displaying the life of the once blissful family at the foot of Mount Chenghuang.
“Ol’ Zhang, I remember I… forgot to pay you three days ago, again.”
Ming Feizhen sat up, eyes gleaming red.