‘Even if she is your servant, but didn’t you risk your life digging her out of dead body piles? Didn’t people say you guys live and support each other? Even if she is your maid, don’t you think she is a little too young for the extreme physical labors? How did a man of young age like you have such a lazy habit and not do anything yourself?’
Perhaps triggered by haunted child memory, the personal maid had a bad impression of Ning Que using the maid to do physical labor. The personal maid of the noble pushed open the fence’s entrance and walk straight in. Landing her eyes on the old book Ning Que was reading and scoffed, “ I thought you are reading some ancient philosophical work, making you lose sense of all your surroundings, but it is just a regular meditation book that is overflowing throughout the market. A lowlife like you wish to Xiu Xing?*”
Ning Que sat up from the chair and straighten his back, curiously looking at the lady in fancy clothing and peeked at the embarrassed general, stopped and explains, “Unfortunately only this book was available on the market so I bought it out of curiosity, I have no extravagant wishes to Xiu Xing..”
Clearly the maid did not expect the young man to answer so freely, and couldn’t find a reply to his explanation. She turned and looked toward the young girl who is dumping out the furnace ash, and spoke unhappily, “How does the powerful Tang empire breed a man like you.”
Ning Que wrinkled his eyebrows confusingly, and saw the maid’s eyes were on Sang Sang, who is holding the rag cleaning the windows. He realized the reason for the maid’s piercing speech and smiled. “From the look of it, you are older than me. Well… you can treat me as a little boy instead of a man.“
Perhaps the maid hadn’t seen anyone who is as shameless as the youngster in front of her. Her fists started to clinch together and her anger was about to burst out, but when her eyes land on the writings on the muddy earth next to the bamboo chair, she lost all of her thoughts and forgot what she was about to say.
In the best military camp of Wei city, the elder in the dirty rope is resting with his eyes closed. The general is bowing while he was talking to the noble guest in the camp. His humble attitudes contain an expression of deep surprise.
“You are not satisfied with the guide I chose?” he asked confusingly, “For what reason?”
The noble guest rebuked strongly, “I asked for a guide with experience and ability, not a lazy youngster whose head is full of wishful dreams Xiu Xing and has no strength to even catch a chicken.”
Ma Shi Xiang coughed lightly and explained quietly, “To my acknowledgement, although Ning Que is young as he is, he did obtain some barbarians heads in the last few years, it should not be a problem…….to catch a few chicken.
Tang Empire used strength and warfare to conquer and rose in power. They treated military honor and achievements above all else. Although the nobel guest in the camp is from an extremely high background, she has shamed the honor of the military so Ma Shi Xiang defended Ning Que by refuting the guest’s rebuke.
The cold voice behind the camp was silent for a moment, and spoke again unhappily, “The ability to kill makes a good guide?”
Ma Shi Xiang’s replied even more humbly, “Out of three hundred soldiers in Wei city, Ning Que is definitely not the one who killed the most enemy. However I can swear with my life – no matter how harsh and extreme the situation or battle, the last person standing….. Will be Ning Que.
Then Ma Shi Xiang rose his head, smiling, “Due to his contribution, he was awarded a recommendation letter from the military. He works hard himself, passed the first exam half a year ago. This trip to the capital, he will be reporting to the Academy.“
After hearing the word ‘Academy’, the noble guest in the camp was in a complete silence and never spoke again.
After Ma Shi Xiang left the camp, the elder in the old robe slowly opened his eyes. The old and
calm pupils shined with interest, he looked at the camp and smiled warmly, “A soldier in a small and isolated town like this got into the Academy? That’s quite surprising. If so, then letting him be the guide is not a bad idea since his characteristics and ability is probably the best of the best.”
“Even if I left the empire for a year, I would have never expected that the Academy are accepting such brute.”
Although her tone still showed distaste towards Ning Que, but her actual attitude had changed. At least the noble guest didn’t reject him to be the guide of the group anymore. Only needing a mention of name to change the idea of a noble person, this simple placed named Academy is for sure not simple at all.
The elder brought up another topic he was confused about, “Earlier I went to see the words Ning Que wrote on the ground, he was copying the third chapter of Extreme Sense. His penmanship was simple yet lively, although he only used a tree branch, the words on the muddy floor contains a sense of sharpness, piercing almost like a blade. Clearly he mastered the Military Calligraphy…… I do wonder how he practices, and who his teacher is.”
“That little soldier only had a small insight. It may seem unique at first, but now thinking it through he was only writing in some weird way. Mastered? at best he can only become a ghostwriter.” The noble replied indifferently.
The elder shook his head, “The highlight is exactly what you said, ‘unique’. I’m not an expert at calligraphy, but looking at his strokes of writing I can sense an element of metal and stone. This element rarely exists among calligraphists, perhaps a charmist***.”
“Are you implying a Talisman of God?” The noble was stunned for a second, but scoffed at her own idea, “There are billion of people in the world, but only a few charmist living. Those expert are either hiding in the palace or training in temples. They spend their own life meditating to absorb the qi of nature, yet that youngster has no wave of qi around his body – for sure he is just a regular person. Even if he reads another fifty year of Extreme Sense he cannot enter the primary stage, speaking less of comparing him to those experts.”
The elder smiled a bit, but did not speak another word. Although he had the noble’s respect because he is a Xiu Xingist, their social status differs greatly. The so-called respect was only due to his old age and ability, so it is best not to argue with the noble anymore.
However, the elder did not agree with the noble in the camp. He has his own evaluation of the young man. In this world most people are unable to Xiu Xing. It is common to see none out of ten thousand people who entered the primary stage through meditating and absorbing the qi of nature. But if Ning Que is able to enter the Academy and study there, furthermore, if he was lucky enough to step up and enter the second floor, the uniquely weird calligraphy of his will help him for sure.
Even if that boy couldn’t Xiu Xing, just by using his calligraphy he can shock and surprise the teachers in the Academy and temples, or at least he can teach the famous calligraphists a thing or two.
Ning Que put down the book, shook his head and walked out with disappointment and unwillingness on his face.
The book called Extreme Sense, bought during his childhood on his way to a fair in Kai Ping with the military supply group. As the noble’s maid said it was a common thing that anyone can get at anywhere. He clearly understood that, but he still didn’t forget to recite and study it daily, treating it like the legendary Seven Scrolls of the Way that is being consecrated in one of the forbidden lands, the Great Sky Way.
The book’s corner was already curled due to long time uses, if Sang Sang didn’t use cotton thread to sew the back of the book, it would fall aparts immediately. Unfortunately, after many years, the book’s pages were badly thumbed, and its words and sentences were printed in Ning’s memory, yet Ning Que still could not find the entry to the Xiu Xing. Now, he could not even achieve Sensation, the simplest part mentioned in the book.
At some point in the past he did feel disappointed and even despaired until he knew that most people in the world could not sense the Qi of nature. He felt much calmer knowing that he has this talent — yes, those experts are not regular people, they are the special ones, because only the extremely rare experts could sense the Qi of nature, otherwise anyone could fly around Chang An, since there are so many Extreme Sense’s** in the world.
Nonetheless Ning Que was really normal, or common. However, if you suddenly discovered a mountain of treasures, but you can only return with bare hands and if you suddenly discovered that Qi fully filled the world around you yet you cannot not even use it, how would you feel?
“The Wei City is such a poor place. The barbarians on the Great Plain were already scared of the Tang Emperor. They haven’t dared to fight us for years so I could not earn military exploits that fast. It would be perfect if I get to go to the Capital, why would I feel unwilling?”
Inside the dark military camp, Ning Que gave a salute to show respect to the general, then explained gratefully and honestly, “Yet now it’s still far away from the registration date to the Academy, I think it’s not necessary for me to leave so early. In these years, even though I did not evolve into a much better person under the leadership of general, but I still learned a lot, otherwise now I would not have the chance to enter the Academy. I sincerely want to stay in Wei City and stay at your side for a few more days so I hear your lectures. Even if it is only for a few more days, I would like to spend my time with you.”
Ma Shi Xiang looked at the youngster, with beard slightly flowing, not sure if it’s because of the wind or the result of his irritation, said, “Ning Que, since when did you become such a shameless person?”
Ning Que replied seriously, “If the situation requires me to discard my honor and reputation, I am willing to throw it away without hesitation.”
“Speak the truth, ” Ma Shi Xiang’s facial expression became cold and asked seriously, “why don’t you want to serve as their guide?”
Ning Que remained silently for a long time, then whispered, “General, that noble probably doesn’t like me.”
“The noble doesn’t like you?” Ma Shi Xiang scolded loudly, “You seemed to forget your status. Keep in mind that you are still not a student of the Academy yet. As a soldier of the Empire, you have to obey higher rank officials’ commands, obey my command! It’s none of your business whether the noble likes you or not! You only need to accept the command and then complete it!”
Ning Que did not reply, bowed slightly, looking down at a piece of grass growing out from the soil between his shoes. Remaining silent meant disagree.
Ma Shi Xiang did not know what to do with this kid. “What do you want to do? Why don’t you follow their way to the Capital?”
Ning Que looked up to the general, spoke gratefully and seriously, “I have seen their carriage. They must had encountered an assault on the Great Plain. Recently there was a spring famine and the chief of the Zuo Jing Tribe died last year. The skin of that noble’s maid is somewhat dark, so… I dare not to go with them.”
The carriage’s encounter of an assault, the famine of the Great Plain, the death of the Chief, and the dark skin of the maid. These details may seem unrelated, but as he linked them together, they formed up his reason of not leaving the Wei City with the noble.
Ma Shi Xiang looked at him, sighed and asked, “You realized who they are already?”
“Among the entire Wei City, who still didn’t realize who they are? ”
Ning Que could not help but shrugged his shoulders and looked towards the dark side of the military camp, “Only the ignorant princess highness herself, who grew up in the royal temple in Chang An and married to the Chief in the Great Plain, would not know that her husband had already died. Her identity is not that big of a secret.”
* = Xiu Xing – Like in Stellar Transformation the people is practice to become immortals this is like the term for meditation to become stronger by understanding the universe and the natural laws or gather qi from nature*
** = Low level books to teach and allow people to xiu xing to become stronger and improve their abilities. (there are many different paths )
*** = Charmist- Fighters who specialize in the process of making talismans and using them in combat.