He Was Once a King (Part 1)
While Mount Lu was imagined as a secret place tucked away in a mountain range, Broken Imperial Sword Tomb, a place of hope as well as despair, was associated with sandy battlefields, warfare, bloody mantles and always the man who united the Nine Provinces.
He wasn’t some abstract “sword immortal”. Li Dynasty’s Founding Emperor was a real man who proved his skills only a century ago. It would be extremely difficult to find a martial artist, even those with no interests in swordplay, who wasn’t interested in the swordplay he bequeathed to his descendants. For them, Broken Imperial Sword Tomb would be envisioned as a sanctuary for finding the road to the apex of martial arts.
Sword Immortal Grasshouse recruited disciples once every few decades, but nobody outside of Li Clan was permitted into Broken Sword Imperial Tomb for it was the imperial family’s property, not because of the secrecy of Broken Sword. According to the word on the streets, not even Emperor Yuansheng knew the exact location of Broken Sword Imperial Tomb. Some claimed he knew even less than what people assumed.
Ever since Li Dynasty’s progenitor passed away, Broken Sword Imperial Tomb became the imperial family’s top secret, restricted solely to the eldest elder in the clan’s knowledge. Each generation, the elder would choose one Prince to enter the tomb to learn under the condition that they never disclose anything pertaining to it, lest they be punished.
For the above reason, every generation’s Emperor had qualms about Broken Sword Imperial Tomb. Thankfully, it had never been used to threaten any of their rules. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that it would tear apart their rule before a prophecy could.
Every Emperor desired to find out more; however, the elder in charge of guarding the tomb would swiftly end the research whenever they found out someone was prying around. Ironically, the most tyrannical and worst Emperor in their history was the one who came closest to digging up the tomb’s secrets.
The previous Emperor behaving however he pleased in the moment was no secret. The only reasons his actions that could’ve brought ruin to their nation didn’t lead to its demise was the combined efforts of his vassals dissuading him and the pressure his clan gave him. One time, he flared up because he couldn’t have his way and threatened them with his ancestor’s tomb. All of a sudden, his indulgent, spendthrift uncles, who spent more time grabbing women’s buttocks than swords, refused to give him a fraction of an inch. Usually, he could sweet talk them, but they refused to budge when it came to the tomb. He, therefore, banished his usual temper to investigate, subsequently discovering it was their elder who demanded his uncles oppose him.
The paranoid Emperor ordered his men to tail their elder for three months. Because the elder refused to move to the capital, the Emperor surmised it was related to their clan’s top secret. It turned out that Broken Sword Imperial Tomb was located in the capital. Still, nobody knew where exactly it was located in the capital.
The previous Emperor had little interest in martial arts, preferring women, alcohol and fame. Accordingly, he sent his men to investigate but lost motivation after a few months, just as his fickle feelings for women at brothels.
In Emperor Yuansheng’s generation, his elder brother was chosen. In the next generation, Red Prince was elected when he was sixteen years old.
Li Tingzhu was unable to make out the details of the accompanying eunuch’s face owing to the black cloth obstructing his vision during the three day trip on a horse carriage and boat.
There was no sky or earth in the tomb; be it below or above, there were only swords that elite swordsmen had previously wielded until they were snapped and abandoned. There were eight tombs around the field of swords, all of which were constructed from swords. Li Tingzhu didn’t need anyone to tell him the elder resembling an ill patient was his clan elder. He didn’t have evidence to prove his point, but he never doubted the elder sitting in front of the tomb was guarding it.
Life in the tomb was as fulfilling, if not more, than in the imperial palace for there were no rules in the tomb, where servants were masked. Li Tingzhu could explore any nook or cranny of the tomb, including leaving – provided he could find the exit. Nobody made any demands of him. Sometimes, the elder wouldn’t say a word to him for a month. Sometimes, the elder would spare him a pointer or two; it was hard to imagine they were family.
Secrets of Li Clan’s swordplay were carved on the sword tombs. How much someone could learn in the three years they were granted inside hinged on them. On the first day Li Tingzhu arrived in the tomb, the first thing he did was draw a sword.