unsheathed – Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination

Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination

Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination

By the time Chen Ping'an woke up, he discovered that the flame in the lamp had already fizzled out, and the sky was already beginning to brighten outside.

All he recalled were five things that the tall woman had said to him.

"You'll forget all of the secrets that I told you about up to this point when you wake up, and there's no need for you to try and recall them. I simply revealed them to you as I wanted to talk."

"If I were to appear in this world now, your current body and soul won't be able to bear my presence even if the Sages don't come to subjugate you and me, so it'll only harm you while providing no benefit. Hence, let's establish an agreement of 100 years. All you have to do is become a 10th tier cultivator within the next 100 years, and you'll be able to return to the stone bridge in the town to take the iron sword."

"Even though I chose you as my master, that's absolutely no reason for you to become arrogant or complacent, but at the same time, you must not look down on yourself. Over the past 8,000 years, I've seen far too many stunning prodigies, the most recent of which include the likes of Cao Xi, Xie Shi, and Ma Kuxuan, but none of them have managed to catch my eye, so you can rest assured that I chose you not because my life is about to come to an end, and I have no other choice."

"I won't be able to battle alongside you for now, but I do have a gift for you. During the dragon slaying battle 3,000 years ago, I had nothing else to do, so I decided to watch those kids fight, and it was quite the spectacle. They were dropping things everywhere, and I managed to pick up an exquisite white jade badge. It's quite petite and has no engravings, and I simply liked the look of it.

It can be used to store items, and it can be considered to be quite an old storage treasure. Compared with the popular pocket arsenals and pocket sword vaults nowadays, it's a treasure of an even higher caliber, with a storage capacity similar to that of your ancestral residence on Clay Vase Alley. On top of that, you don't have to carry it around. Instead, you can nurture it in your acupoint.

I've already linked the item with your will, so all you have to do is come into contact with an object, and it'll be stored into the acupoint that the jade badge is situated in at your behest. Unless the jade badge is forcibly broken by a cultivator at or above the Ascension Tier, nothing will be able to harm it in the slightest. The only downside about the storage treasure is that you'll only be able to use it after you reach the Middle Five Tiers.

"The final thing that I have to tell you is that I placed three additional tiny wisps of sword qi into your body."

Chen Ping'an remained rooted to the spot in a dazed manner, feeling as if he were in an entirely different lifetime.

His intention was to stay up the entire night in front of the lit lamp prior to leaving the town to make up for the fact that he wouldn't be able to observe the passing of the year at the end of this year, never had he anticipated that something like this would happen.

At the same time, he was feeling utterly bewildered. At the moment, his body already resembled a dilapidated house that was entirely unable to keep out the elements, so it was extremely difficult for him to gather energy.

In light of that, how was he supposed to cultivate at all, let alone reach the Middle Five Tiers or even the 10th tier? Not only was Chen Ping'an destined to be unable to cultivate, if he wanted to live, then he had to nurture his own body by practicing fist techniques.

Ning Yao had once mentioned to him in an offhand fashion that it was very easy to damage one's aptitude and acupoints, just like how Cai Jinjian was able to point the way for him and forcibly open his acupoints with nothing more than a tap to the forehead.

However, restoring a body so that it was complete and fit for cultivation was even more difficult than trying to ascend to the heavens. A good analogy here was that a small child could easily hack up a door with a meat cleaver, but it was far more difficult to restore the door to its former state.

Chen Ping'an had promised to accompany Li Baoping to Mountain Cliff Academy, and that was undoubtedly going to be a very long journey. It was difficult to say whether he was even going to be able to return to the town alive, and he had no idea how he was going to fulfill this agreement of 100 years.

Chen Ping'an had been very open and honest at the time, revealing his concerns to the woman, but she had brushed those concerns aside and told him that it was too late for her to go back on her decision. In her words, Chen Ping'an was her master, and if he died, then she would just have to die as well.

Even if that old sword billet were to fall into the creek someday, and her soul was to completely dissipate, Chen Ping'an wouldn't owe her anything. She would only be able to blame herself for choosing the wrong master, and the consequences of that decision were hers to bear alone.

At the time, Chen Ping'an still wanted to protest. Despite what she had said, how was he supposed to live with this on his conscience? They were the only two people involved in this agreement, so he couldn't help but feel a sense of responsibility and culpability.

Chen Ping'an had no idea how to become a 10th tier cultivator, nor did he have any concept of what storage treasures and pocket treasures were.

However, in spite of the fact that this agreement had placed a massive burden on his shoulders, deep down, he was feeling a little elated about it as well.

From this day forth, there would be one more person in this world that had to rely on him.

Following the conversation in that dream, Chen Ping'an recalled sitting side by side with the woman on a golden stone bridge that stretched on far into the distance with no end in sight, like a golden flood dragon traversing through the clouds.

Chen Ping'an took a deep breath, then laid down onto the table. Ultimately, he felt like the easiest way to assess this situation was by adopting a mindset that Old Man Yao had imparted upon him: "If something is meant to be yours, then hold onto it and don't let it go, but if something's not meant to be yours, then don't even think about it."

Chen Ping'an packed all of the belongings that he needed for the trip into a small basket, including things like his slingshot, his fishing rod and line, and his flint for lighting fires, which proved to be quite a tedious process. In the end, he carefully pulled a small cloth pouch out from the bottom of his clay pot, and the pouch was full of porcelain shards.

There were quite a few things that he had to pack, but none of them were very heavy. Having made many long journeys into the mountains, Chen Ping'an knew from experience that packing too much on long trips was only going to hurt him over the long run. Hence, one had to learn how to feed oneself using the natural environment around them.

After hoisting the basket onto his back and locking the door of the house, Chen Ping'an stood in the yard, and he spotted the locust branch resting against the wall. After a moment of contemplation, he opened the door again and placed the branch in the house so that it wasn't exposed to the elements, thereby leading to accelerated decomposition.

Chen Ping'an brought the two taels of silver that he had made from selling the medicinal ingredients he had gathered during his last trip into the mountains, and he paid a visit to Apricot Blossom Alley, followed by Dragon Riding Alley. It was still very early, and the shops were closed, so he squatted outside and waited patiently.

Soon, the shopkeeper opened the doors of the shop while yawning in a bleary-eyed fashion, and Chen Ping'an purchased some incense sticks, paper money, and a flagon spring peach blossom wine. Finally, he bought a bag of tartary buckwheat cakes. He recalled that his mother had eaten this cake once when he was a small boy, and she had told him that it was delicious.

She also said that she was going to buy the cake for him on his fifth birthday, which was why Chen Ping'an had such a clear recollection of this memory. However, upon arriving at the pastry shop, Chen Ping'an was informed by the employee that they no longer made this type of pastry.

Only the old pastry chefs knew how to make tartary buckwheat cakes, but seeing as the shop was about to close down, those old pastry chefs had already gone to the capital city with the shopkeeper and the others to enjoy their retirement lives. Thus, Chen Ping'an had no choice but to settle for a bag of peach cakes, the same ones that Ruan Xiu had given to Li Baoping the day before.

After emerging from the town, Chen Ping'an passed by the small temple where he and Ning Yao had hidden from Bai Yuan, and he continued southward until he arrived in front of a small hill. He began to climb up the hill, and halfway up the hill was a barren plot of land that hadn't been farmed for many years, as well as a pair of small soil mounds.

The plot of land and the pair of mounds were completely devoid of weeds, and Chen Ping'an stood in front of the mounds as he slowly crouched down, removing the basket from his back before setting down his offerings to his ancestors one by one onto the ground.

The town had been around for thousands of years, and it was unclear whether it had always been like this, or if the town's traditions had changed at some point, but none of the town's residents, regardless of their status, ever knelt down or kowtowed when visiting the graves of their ancestors. Instead, all one had to do was light three sticks of incense and bow thrice.

Chen Ping'an naturally also followed this tradition as well, but before lighting the incense sticks, he habitually picked up a handful of soil from beside his feet as he always did, then placed it onto the mound before gently packing it down, making a symbolic gesture of adding soil to the graves.

Due to the fact that he had to leave soon, he could only use the soil from nearby. Otherwise, whenever he entered the mountains, he would always collect some soil from each mountain that he visited, then bring the collection of soil here to add to the graves. Of course, there was no special meaning to any of this, it was just to make himself feel better.

He always felt like he hadn't done anything for his parents back when they were still alive, so he wanted to make a bit more effort to do things for them now as a form of compensation. Additionally, Old Man Yao had once told him that this was a tradition that had been passed down from generation to generation among old-school potters, so Chen Ping'an had maintained this tradition this entire time.

The two graves were nestled tightly against one another, and neither of them had a tombstone.

After lighting three sticks of incense and bowing thrice to the graves, he stuck the incense sticks down into the soil in front of the graves, then opened the flagon of wine before gently pouring it onto the ground. [1]

Finally, Chen Ping'an rose to his feet, and he closed his eyes as he joined his palms together while speaking to his parents in his heart.

He was telling them about how he was going on a long journey with a little girl by the name of Li Baoping, and that it was a journey that was going to take him an immeasurable distance away from home.

Cui Chan was standing in a small temple by the side of the road, and he raised his head as he looked up at all of the names inscribed on the wall. The names had all been written using charcoal sticks, and the entire wall was densely packed with these names, all of which differed from one another in size and handwriting.

Perhaps in the eyes of the town's residents, this was just an insignificant mural left behind by naughty children, but in the eyes of Cui Chan, it was like a river of time that was flowing through history.

Situated in the sky above Eastern Treasured Vial Continent's Great Li Empire, Jewel Small World was the smallest of the 36 small worlds. It was only around 500 kilometers wide, and if it weren't for restrictions placed on mystical abilities, any cultivator capable of flight could easily explore the entire small world in a very short time.

However, the allure of Jewel Small World laid not only in the treasures and artifacts left behind by the powerful cultivators who had died in battle, but also in the people who had been born in and nurtured by this blessed place, all of whom were far more intelligent and good-looking than people from other places.

If a pair of powerful cultivators were to come together and produce offspring, their children would be all but sure to reach the Middle Five Tiers, but what was quite astonishing was that their chances of reaching the Upper Five Tiers weren't actually much higher than those of the children who were taken from Jewel Small World.

Given the meager population of the town compared with the outside world, this was the equivalent of flood dragons emerging from a pond, and there would always be at least one or two such prodigies that arose each generation.

Hence, the fall of Jewel Small World would've been a huge relief to all of the imperial rulers on Eastern Treasured Vial Continent, as long as they had any sense of urgency. Finally, the Song Clan of the Great Li Empire had been deprived of this incredible gold mine, and that was sure to have a negative impact on the Great Li Empire's southern expansion.

Cui Chan's gaze lingered on the names on the wall for a long time, and a myriad of complex emotions was running through his heart. Ever since the inception of the imperial examination during ancient times, there had been friendships between examination-takers who had studied together, who were of the same age, or who came from the same hometown, and the same was true on the path of cultivation.

Jewel Small World had fallen and settled, and it had been granted a good ending at the cost of a certain person's demise.

All of the cultivators who emerged from Jewel Small World would be grateful to that person, but to different extents, and this was especially true for the four surnames and ten clans, as well as their backers.

Unfortunately, even though the Song Clan of the Great Li Empire hadn't been set back by this tumultuous event, it hadn't benefitted from the turmoil, either. The Great Li Empire could've been a bit more humane and considerate. For example, when Ruan Qiong requested to enter Jewel Small World early, they could've waited a bit longer before agreeing.

Furthermore, if they had known that Qi Jingchun was going to refrain from using his powers to the bitter end, choosing instead to contend with those unfathomably powerful beings with his two kindred characters alone, then back when the four powers demanded the return of the Sages' subjugation treasures, the Great Li Empire's ministry of rites should've displayed more reluctance to return the treasures.

Granted, they wouldn't have dared to refuse outright, but they certainly could've stalled for some time by claiming that this was against the rules. There was also the mistake that the Great Li Empire's imperial court had made in sending out those letters, essentially blatantly informing the four surnames and ten clans that a major tribulation was about to befall them, and that they should leave the town, lest they be implicated by Qi Jingchun's blasphemous actions. These were only a few examples of the many mistakes they had made in handling this situation.

Once the emperor of the Great Li Empire realized his mistakes, or became overcome by his greed, then the imperial preceptor, who controlled half the imperial court and was pulling the strings from afar, would most likely be met with severe retribution.

However, at this moment, Cui Chan was standing in the small temple with a relaxed and carefree expression, seemingly completely unfazed by the prospect of having to face the emperor's wrath.DiiScver w storis on no//e()/lbin(.)com

"Hold on a second," Cui Chan murmured to himself.

Having already memorized all of the names on the walls, Cui Chan was just about to wipe them all away with his sleeve so no one else would be able to do anything with these names, but right as he was about to do so, Ruan Qiong appeared at the entrance of the temple with a cold smile on his face. "You're a brave little rascal, I'll give you that! How many times have I caught you now?"

"I haven't done anything yet, have I?" Cui Chan asked with a faint smile.

All of a sudden, a casual voice rang out near the temple. "Don't worry, fight to your heart's content, and I'll clean up the resulting mess. I assure you that there won't be any earthquakes or mountains being toppled. At the very most, I'll ensure that only 10% to 20% of this place gets destroyed in your battle.

Ruan Qiong, aren't you sick of constantly having to keep an eye on this bastard? I think you should just take the easy route and end things right here and now. He may not have done anything yet, but he's constantly prowling, like a thief plotting to steal something from you."

Cui Chan's expression remained unchanged as he chuckled, "How cunning of you, Old Man Yang! If you instigate a battle between me and Ruan Qiong, you'll be able to claim the spoils without having to lift even a single finger yourself."

"I think that's a good idea," Ruan Qiong mused with a nod.

Cui Chan hurriedly extended an apologetic salute as he implored with a fawning smile, "Alright, alright! From now on, I'll only wander around the town. Is that alright with you two, Sage Ruan and Senior Yang?"

It was clear that Ruan Qiong was still weighing up his options, but Cui Chan suddenly said in a casual manner, "Even if Senior Yang has the ability to ensure that most of this place remains intact, what if I focus all my efforts on destroying Divine Elegance Mountain and Gallant Spear Mountain?"

Before Ruan Qiong had a chance to reply, Old Man Yang's voice rang out once again. "You're just going to allow him to threaten you like that? I wouldn't be able to take that sitting down if I were you."

"Piss off back to Erlang Alley!" Ruan Qiong snapped.

Cui Chan's head wobbled from side to side as he casually made his way out of the temple, and he even made a funny face at Ruan Qiong while passing him by, as if he really were a cheeky young boy.

After Cui Chan crossed the creek to the other side, Ruan Qiong turned to find Old Man Yang seated on a withered bench in the temple, puffing on his pipe.

In a rare display of compassion, Old Man Yang didn't mock Ruan Qiong. Instead, he smiled as he remarked, "You really do care a great deal about your daughter."

Ruan Qiong heaved a faint sigh, and it was clear that he was feeling very indignant about having to hold back in spite of such blatant provocation from Cui Chan.

He sat down across from Old Man Yang, then leaned against the wall as he mused, "I don't owe anything to this world, and I've even repaid my debt to my masters, yet that girl's mother is the only one I remain indebted to. Now that she's dead, how am I supposed to repay her? All I can do is give everything I owe her to her daughter."

Old Man Yang smiled as he said, "Given your status, abilities, and your relationship with the Yingyin Chen Clan, surely it's not impossible for you to find the current incarnation of your wife."

Ruan Qiong shook his head in response. "Her aptitude for cultivation was quite mediocre in her previous life, and she wasn't even able to reach the Middle Five Tiers before she passed away, so even if she's been reincarnated as a human in this lifetime, there's no chance she'll be able to recall what happened in her previous life.

In my eyes, an empty husk with none of the memories that we shared is no longer my wife, so what's the point in finding her? I'll just let her live on in my heart."

Old Man Yang nodded as he remarked, "That's a good mindset to have. It's exceedingly difficult for Militarians to progress beyond the 10th tier, yet you were able to come from behind and outstrip your contemporaries, and it seems that this isn't without reason."

Ruan Qiong didn't want to discuss this matter any further, so he changed the subject and asked, "Do you think he was bluffing?"

Old Man Yang smiled as he shook his head in response. "If you think he's bluffing, then you're underestimating him. There have been heroes lauded throughout history for having the courage to bring down despotic emperors at the cost of their own lives, yet if you ask me, he's the type of person that would dare to bring down even the Buddha himself at the cost of his own life.

Of course, I'm only talking about his ambition and resolve. As for whether he actually possesses the ability required to accomplish such a feat, that's yet to be seen."

Ruan Qiong was still rather skeptical.

Old Man Yang pointed at the ground at the entrance of the temple with his pipe, where there was a particularly solid and compact path from being repeatedly trodden on, and he mused, "He's different from us. He feels like he's gone down a path of no return, so if he encounters an enemy, then he feels like he has no choice but to confront them and strike them down.

Alternatively, if anyone tries to surpass him from behind, they must be killed as well. When it comes to someone like him, it's impossible to simply categorize him as a good person or a bad person."

All of a sudden, Ruan Qiong moved on to another subject. "Chen Ping'an's parents and ancestors were just ordinary residents who grew up their entire lives in the town, so how did his father know the secrets behind kindred porcelain?

And why did he insist on smashing Chen Ping'an's kindred porcelain even at the expense of his own life? It's clear that someone had to have intentionally revealed these secrets to him and encouraged him to do something like this."

Old Man Yang was silent for a long while, then blew out a cloud of smoke before replying, "In the beginning, I thought this was just an ordinary conflict between clans, and by the time I realized that things weren't as simple as they appeared on the surface, it was already too late.

Having said that, I can't be bothered to get involved in these convoluted mind games anyway, I only think about things like this when I'm bored so I can work my brain a little and don't go senile. I thought that this was nothing more than a minor part of the massive plot that had been woven to target Qi Jingchun, but only at the last moment did I realize that this is the true kill shot. In the words of top-tier go players, this would be considered to be a brilliancy.

To put it more accurately, this wasn't done just to target Qi Jingchun. Instead, it was aimed at targeting the fortune of the Scholarly Sage's lineage as a whole. The final battle of Qi Jingchun's life was so spectacular that everyone habitually equated his demise with the demise of the Scholarly Sage's lineage, and the truth isn't far away from that."

Old Man Yang took a glance at the grim look on Ruan Qiong's face, then continued, "Back when you requested to enter Jewel Small World early, I suspected that perhaps you were also one of the people pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Either you had no choice but to get involved because Wind Snow Temple made an agreement with the Yingyin Chen Clan, or you received some immense benefits from the Yingyin Chen Clan in secret, thereby prompting you to make the decision to establish a sect here."

"You were overthinking things, Senior Yang," Ruan Qiong chuckled.

Old Man Yang also chuckled in response. "Just because I was overthinking things doesn't mean my thought process is wrong. You're only able to maintain a clear conscience right now as Militarians like yourself are very good at keeping things simple and not pondering any matter too deeply. Perhaps only after the truth is revealed to the entire world will you come to realize that you were used as a pawn."

1. This is a practice known as libation, which is a ritual where wine is poured as an offering to a deity or spirit, or in memory of the dead.

Chapter end

Chapter 31: Beating Around the Mountain
Chapter 32: Peach Leaf
Chapter 33: White Dragon Disguising as a Fish
Chapter 34: Gathered Together
Chapter 35: Licorice Root
Chapter 36: Ancient Book
Chapter 37: Fist Technique
Chapter 38: Ninth Tier
Chapter 39: Cursing the Locust Tree
Chapter 40: Returning the Courtesy
Chapter 42: Prodigy
Chapter 43: The Young Boy and the Old Dog
Chapter 44: Coming to Light
Chapter 45: Sunlight
Chapter 46: Skirt Dagger
Chapter 47: Going Alone
Chapter 48: The Hunter and the Hunted
Chapter 49: Porcelain Shard
Chapter 50 (1): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 50 (2): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 51: Confrontation
Chapter 52: Shudder
Chapter 53: Gift
Chapter 54: Facing the Enemy
Chapter 55: Feeling Proud in the Spring Breeze
Chapter 56: Nodding Bodhisattva
Chapter 57: Sword Nurturing Gourd
Chapter 58: Teacher
Chapter 59: Sleep
Chapter 60: There's a Ghost
Chapter 61: Helpless Pawn
Chapter 62: Falling Tree
Chapter 63 (1): So That's How It Is
Chapter 63 (2): So That's How It Is
Chapter 64: The Three Chens
Chapter 65: Jewel
Chapter 66: Looking Up
Chapter 67 (1): Long Journey
Chapter 67 (2): Long Journey
Chapter 68: Spring Under the Heavens
Chapter 69: Night
Chapter 70: Daylight
Chapter 71 (1): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 71 (2): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 72: Black Cloud
Chapter 73: Wooden Figure
Chapter 74: The Fire Dragon Roams the Water
Chapter 75: Mountain Selection
Chapter 76: Back to Back
Chapter 77: Entering the Mountains
Chapter 78: Another Dream
Chapter 79: Spring Welcome Seal
Chapter 80: Leaving the Mountains
Chapter 81: Imperial Preceptor
Chapter 82 (1): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 82 (2): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 83: Dreams
Chapter 84 (1): I Have a Sword
Chapter 84 (2): I Have a Sword
Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 85 (2): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 86 (1): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 86 (2): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 87 (1): Little Teacher
Chapter 87 (2): Little Teacher
Chapter 88: Grand Entrance
Chapter 89: Two Heads
Chapter 90: Heavy Rain
Chapter 91: Jade Hairpin
Chapter 92 (1): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 92 (2): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 93 (1): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 93 (2): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 94: A Feast for the Eyes
Chapter 95: Too Small a Place
Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers
Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain
Chapter 98: The Meddlesome Mountain God
Chapter 99: The Mountain God and the Bamboo Saber
Chapter 100 (1): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 100 (2): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 101: Guard the Mountain
Chapter 102: Soaring White Ray
Chapter 103: Bamboo Building
Chapter 104: Sharing the Spoils
Chapter 105: Rootless Duckweed
Chapter 106: People from All Walks of Life
Chapter 107: Fishing Net
Chapter 108: Spring Hunting
Chapter 109: The Young Boy Has Some Words to Say
Chapter 110: All Good Things Must Come to an End
Chapter 111: Bamboo Hat
Chapter 112: Powerful Individual
Chapter 113: Unparalleled Might
Chapter 114: Seeing A'Liang Again
Chapter 115: There's an Old Scholar In the World (1)
Chapter 116: There's an Old Scholar In the World (2)
Chapter 117 (1): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 118 (1): There's Righteousness In The World
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