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Nightfall - Chapter 553

Published at 13th of November 2018 03:26:43 PM


Chapter 553

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Chapter 553: Blunders by the Stream and I Don't Want to Miss It



Translator: Transn Editor: Transn

Under the effects of the talisman array, the black horse carriage traveled along the mountain path silently and easily as if it was ushered along by the wind. There were many horses grazing on the grassy slopes by the stream. They hid the sounds of the Big Black Horse's clopping hooves. The dozens of cultivators under the large tree did not notice Ning Que and Sangsang' arrival.

The girl standing at the bamboo walls noticed, though. She had already entered the Knowing Destiny State and was very aware of the slight changes in the Qi of Heaven and Earth around her. Furthermore, she was the most gifted Talisman Master in the world and was now a Divine Talisman Master. How could she not notice the talisman aura that the black horse carriage gave off? Or perhaps, she had been looking out at the mountain path silently all this while in the hopes of seeing someone.

Joy appeared in the girl's eyes when she saw the black horse carriage pulling up in the distance. Then, her eyes grew dull and listless before evolving into serenity. She slowly walked up in that direction.

There were many people silently observing the girl on the stone plains by the brook. This included many cultivators, and the nobleman they surrounded. As the girl took off from the green bamboo wall and walked toward the black horse carriage, their gazes flickered in confusion.

Some of them wondered who was in the black carriage, to be able to make the world-renowned Calligraphy Addict move from her spot and welcome them. Some of the smarter ones, and those who were familiar with the Tang Empire had already guessed the truth. Their faces were painted with shock.

Ning Que had not noticed the expressions and reactions of the cultivators under the tree. He only looked at the girl quietly heading towards him. He watched as she got closer; he watched her face, which he had not seen in a long while and rarely thought of, but had not forgotten. As her face grew clearer with her approaching, he began to grow more and more nervous.

The girl had slimmed down a lot, but she was still as beautiful and captivating. He looked at her slender and fine, black eyebrows, her eyes which were as clear as the autumn lake and her long and thick lashes. Her thin red lips were tightly pursed and her hair cascaded behind her back like a waterfall. Her long white dress was like a dandelion, which fluttered as she moved. Her simple, but clean cloth shoes would show outside of her dress and then float back under it like leaves being blown by the wind. She seemed not to have changed at all.

In the past six months, Ning Que would often receive letters from the Great River Kingdom. The letters seemed to carry the scent of the Ink Lake; written with a delicate script, they were about mundane life and never about relationships.

He would pass the letters to Sangsang or throw them away after reading them. He would also reply to them, but he rarely wrote much and would more often send calligraphy works that he was satisfied with.

After confirming that he would come to the Lanke Temple to participate in the Yue Laan Hungry Ghost Festival, Ning Que had once considered that the Calligraphy Addict would definitely be invited. Furthermore, she might actually turn up. He had often pondered over how their reunion would be like. He thought about what she might say and what he should say. However, the more he thought about it, the more confused, nervous and helpless he felt. So he decided not to think about it and even forget the whole incident until she appeared before his eyes again by the mountain brook.

Ning Que did not know what to do as he looked at the slowly approaching girl. He hoped that a sound would emerge from the horse carriage behind him. He hoped to hear Sangsang pretend to cough, or even the slight rustle of her clothes so that he could calm down and make his expression more indifferent.

Mo Shanshan approached the horse carriage. The Big Black Horse realized that she was the beautiful lady owner he had first acknowledged and liked very much. He dipped his head and whinnied, seemingly overjoyed.

Mo Shanshan gave him a small smile and patted him on the head. The Big Black Horse attempted to wriggle his entire big head under her palms and butted her warmly. He looked really ridiculous.

Ning Que patted his back, silently warning him not to get overly excited and lose his composure. He was also warning himself at the same time.

Sangsang did not make a sound in the horse carriage.

But Ning Que had already calmed down quite a bit. He put his hands together and greeted Mo Shanshan with a bow.

Mo Shanshan returned the greeting and saluted the black horse carriage. She said calmly, "Greetings, Lady of Light."





Sangsang's voice finally drifted from the horse carriage as she replied, "Greetings, Hill Master."

The first greetings of both girls were both serene and courteous. Ning Que listened to Sangsang's calm and warm voice and was speechless. Her tone was like that of the bigwigs in West-Hill Divine Palace.

Just as he was at a loss on what to do, Sangsang's voice rang from the horse carriage once more. "Young master, I am a little tired. I wish to rest in the horse carriage."

Ning Que understood that she was giving him a chance to speak with Mo Shanshan alone. After a moment of silence, he hummed in agreement and walked up to Mo Shanshan. He said, "Shall we walk to the stream and look around?"

The Big Black Horse kicked his hind legs lightly as it watched the retreating backs of the young man and woman walking towards the mountain stream. It neighed and thought to himself that they were indeed an inborn pair. Of course, Sangsang was great, but why didn't that stupid Ning Que take them both? If humans needed to marry if they wanted women, then he could just marry the two of them. The fellow looked rather accomplished, would anyone dare to stop him? The Big Black Horse thought to himself, that he had had a female companion in the southern military camp, but he had not shirked away when he saw the beautiful white horse in the Wilderness and went up to her. You really needed courage to love indeed...

Just as the Big Black Horse was ridiculing Ning Que, feeling that he was quite pathetic and wanted to spur him on out of pity, Sangsang suddenly asked him something.

Sangsang asked, "Do you know Miss Shanshan well?"

The Big Black Horse froze and knew that Sangsang had seen how intimately he had behaved with Mo Shanshan. He suddenly grew terrified.

As Master Ning's beast and as a pet in the Old Brush Pen Shop and Yanming Lake, he was more aware than anyone that the woman of the house was the one in charge. This had nothing to do with Sangsang's identity as the West-Hill Divine Palace's Lady of Light. The world had been like that even when she was a handmaiden.

In such a situation, the Big Black Horse knew that he would only seem like he was covering something up no matter how he tried to explain. He might die a terrible death. So, he smiled at the horse carriage and wagged his tail, trying to look like an idiot and butter up to Sangsang.

...

...

There were many horses grazing on the grassy slopes by the stream. They probably belonged to the cultivators who had come to visit the mountains. Not far away there were some wild mountain goats playing. The two parties remained silent, and all was fine.

Ning Que and Mo Shanshan came to the stream silently. However, the atmosphere hanging around them was not as peaceful as that on the grass slope. While nothing happened, not all was fine. There was an awkward and uneasy tension between the two.

However, the silence had to be broken. If Mo Shanshan had to make the first move, even Senior Brother from the Academy would mock him for years once he found out no matter how much of a pacifist he was. Furthermore, it wouldn't be very manly of him. So Ning Que looked at her and asked, "How have you been in the past year?"

The two had exchanged letters over the past years. Even though they wrote about everyday things, they would still mention how they were doing. Was there any need for Ning Que to ask? Ning Que had asked such a question in a serious tone after a long silence. This could only prove that his brain wasn't performing very well.

"I have been writing, cultivating and have broken through a realm."


Mo Shanshan did not smile nor was annoyed. She answered calmly and seriously. Her expression was serious and her gaze focused when she spoke; it made the simple answer feel like a ritual.

Then, she smiled and asked, "How about you? You didn't mention much in your letters."

"Same here. I have been writing, cultivating and have broken through a realm."

After a pause, Ning Que smiled bitterly, "And I've killed a few people while doing that."

Mo Shanshan looked into his eyes seriously when she heard that. She ascertained that her perception earlier was indeed right, and said happily, "When did you break through? This is indeed worthy of congratulations."

Ning Que looked at her and gave her a slight smile. He said, "You have already become a Divine Talisman Master in the Spring. I am lagging behind you by quite a lot, what's there to be happy about? Now that I think of it, the letter that you left behind before leaving Chang'an had a lot of predictions. I am still crawling up the mountain stream with difficulty while you have already seen the magnificent river."

Mo Shanshan smiled slightly and said, "But you have now seen the scenery at the peak."

"Yes, the scenery here is good indeed."

Ning Que shifted his gaze from the foot of the cliff to the peaks of the Wa Mountain.

Mo Shanshan suddenly thought of the thing that had worried her the most after they parted. She asked, "I was shocked to hear that you wanted to battle with Xia Hou. No one in the Great River Kingdom, including my teacher, thought you would win."

Ning Que looked into her beautiful eyes and asked, "What about you?"

Mo Shanshan contemplated for a moment before saying, "Even though I didn't have a reason to think that you would win, I thought, for some reason, that nothing would happen to you even if you had lost. At least you wouldn't die."

Ning Que felt curious and asked, "You have that much confidence in me?"

Mo Shanshan smiled when she heard that and said, "That year when we left the Front Gate of the Devil's Doctrine, Ye Hongyu had told me, in the hanging basket, that shameless people like you usually live long lives."

Was this what it meant by pests living for a millennium? Ning Que said somewhat heatedly, "I don't like listening to slander like this. She might be the Great Divine Priest of Judgment now, but I will still cause her trouble if she forces me to."

Mo Shanshan did not bring up the matter again. She asked, "How do you feel, having defeated Xia Hou?"

"How I feel after defeating my enemy isn't important. Even if I can't defeat my enemy, it is alright if I can kill him. So you should ask me, how does it feel to kill Xia Hou..." Just like how he had on their journey in the Wilderness, Ning Que began to lecture her about cold-blooded realities and his thoughts about battle tactics. He said, "There was this split second of mad joy, and then, after that came exhaustion and loss. Finally, these all became tranquility from getting what I wanted."

Mo Shanshan listened quietly. She looked at the faint scar on his face and his shallow dimples. She was slightly distracted as she thought of the fierce battle on the winter lake that she heard about. She felt that there were many terrifying things hidden beneath his calm exterior. Her heart twinged, and she felt that his dimples were filled with blood.

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"I only knew that you had such a bitter childhood after the truth behind the incident spread to the Great River."

She said with a trembling voice, unable to hide her pity for him.

Ning Que did not want to talk about this anymore. He looked at her slimmer face and teased, "The flesh on your face has disappeared. It seems that life has been difficult for you over the past two years."

He had wanted to make a joke to dispell the depressing atmosphere. But he knew that something was wrong once he said that.

She was the Calligraphy Addict doted upon by the Master of Calligraphy and respected by her peers. She had broken through and entered the Knowing Destiny State in Spring, becoming the rare young Divine Talisman Master. Her life was smooth-sailing and perfect. What else other than relationship problems could cause her to worry and become haggard?

An ordinary woman would start crying when hearing that. She would even get angry. At the very least, she would give the man a strained smile to make him feel guilty.

Mo Shanshan was not an ordinary girl. So she just smiled and did not say anything.

Ning Que gave her a grateful look and said, "I have thought that the Lanke Temple would definitely invite you to the Yue Laan Hungry Ghost Festival. However, the envoys of different countries had to discuss about the Desolate Men heading south and other cultivators may be worried about the rumors of the Underworld Invasion. According to your temperament, you probably wouldn't come unless you wanted the guidance of Master Qishan. However, you are now a Divine Talisman Master in the Knowing Destiny State and you have to find your own way. Why would you need someone to solve your doubts?"

He knew that he had committed another blunder once the words left his lips. Of course, the Calligraphy Addict did not need Elder Qishan to solve her doubts about cultivation or Talisman Taoism. She didn't need to ask about her life, so of course what she needed to ask about was...

No matter how great Mo Shanshan was, she was still a girl. She could not help feeling ashamed and angry after Ning Que's questions. She looked at him and asked, "Then why are you here? Are you here to steal the Buddhist scriptures of the Lanke Temple?"

Ning Que knew that he had committed a blunder and did not dare to return the jibe. He answered honestly, "This is a grand festival in the cultivation world. The Academy needed someone show their respects and since I have represented the Academy in entering the human realm, I had to make this trip."

Then, his eyes darkened and he said, "The most important thing is, my Sangsang is ill again. Not even Teacher could do anything about it this time. However, my teacher said that the Lanke Temple could possibly heal her, so I brought her here."

Mo Shanshan and Ning Que had kept each other company in their journey through the Wilderness, especially while they were heading north. They would, of course, talk about the people and things around them. She would talk about her peers from the Black Ink Garden while Ning Que talked about her peers from the Academy and his comrades in the City of Wei. However, he spent most of his time talking about his handmaiden and also about how they had depended on each other as children. He had also mentioned the handmaiden's illness.

Mo Shanshan had heard Ning Que say "my Sangsang" several times. She had also seen the Chicken Soup Calligraphy, so she knew how important Sangsang was to Ning Que even before Ning Que had realized it. That was why even though she had only seen Sangsang twice and had spoken less than ten sentences to her, she was very familiar with Sangsang. She even felt a little connection with Sangsang once you eliminated some people and some things from the equation.

She worriedly looked at the black horse carriage in the distance when she heard that Sangsang was gravely ill. However, she did not say anything.

Ning Que could see that she was genuinely worried, and his heart softened. Then, he felt guilty for being a worthless man. It was indeed ludicrous that a beautiful and kind girl would fall in love with him.

...


...

"What's happening over there?"

He looked at the crowd gathered under the tree and pointed at an old monk in yellow robes who was setting down chess pieces on the stone platform.

Mo Shanshan had not expected him to be unaware of the rules in the cultivation world even though he had already arrived at Wa Mountain. She explained, "Many cultivators hope to have the chance to meet Master Qishan and have him solve their doubts. That is why every time he leaves his cottage, many cultivators, especially those who do not belong to a sect, would rush to the Wa Mountain. This is the sacred ground of the Buddhism Sect, so they can't make it as noisy as a wet market. Furthermore, the master can't choose amongst hundreds and thousands for those he is fated to meet. So the Lanke Temple had set a rule many years ago that only the cultivator who can win three rounds of chess can go to the cave and win the right to be chosen by Master Qishan."

Ning Que looked at the crowd under the tree and frowned. He asked, "So for this obstacle, we can only cross the bridge if we defeat that old monk?"

Mo Shanshan nodded. She said, "Conversing at a forum in the Wa Mountain is an elegant pastime that is well-known in the cultivation world. It is said that there would be three games of chess. The first is to solve the game, the second is to play a match and the third is to set the game."

Ning Que asked, "Do we have to win all three games to get to the cottage?"

Mo Shanshan said, "The last time Master Qishan chose someone was a matter of decades ago, and I'm not very clear about specifics. However, the master is a Buddhist monk and he wouldn't judge solely based on victory. If those who have come to visit can demonstrate wisdom or other qualities in the game, they would be chosen by the master. However, three games must be played."

Ning Que asked, "Why?"

Mo Shanshan said confusedly, "Because these are the rules."

Ning Que shook his head and said, "But rules are dead, and we are alive."

He said it solemnly. However, Mo Shanshan smiled and said, "You can't play chess?"

Ning Que said awkwardly, "I prefer to fight for victory with my sword. I dislike spending my energy on the chessboard."

Mo Shanshan said worriedly, "Then what are you going to do?"

Ning Que smiled and said, "What else can I do? I will tear down this place if I have to, who would dare stop me? But... you have to help me if these monks are so dumb to go against the Academy."

Mo Shanshan looked at Ning Que, who said that laughingly. She finally saw his persistence and knew that he would not give up if he did not attain his goal. Her heart ached and softened.

She knew that since the matter concerned Sangsang's life, then Ning Que would definitely split every difficulty and obstacle before him with his blade, even if it was Haotian.

It made her jealous.

And she really liked it.
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