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Chapter 75 – Collapsing the Clouds into Disarray
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Every one of the Wenshui Tang clan knew that their clan's young master could not endure long battles. By not being able to endure, it did not mean that he could not keep up or had no stamina, but rather that he was impatient.
Tonight, Tang Thirty-Six acted very impatiently. His right foot took one step forward, the blade of grass was blown flat by the wind, and the Wenshui Sword in his hands reflected the vast sky of stars as it swept towards Qi Jian. Its sword Qi tore through the night, a fiery light faintly visible within.
"Gathering Evening Clouds!"
Someone amongst the spectators on the steps recognized this sword technique and cried out.
Tang Thirty-Six expressed all his true essence, his sword Qi filling the air. It really did seem like the night sky had been set ablaze.
The several wispy clouds slowly drifting over the plaza lit up in the fiery light and also seemed to be set ablaze, just like the blazing clouds at sunset.
Even more frightening was that these blazing evening clouds contained boundless sword intent, extremely swift and forceful sword intent.
The crowd was flabbergasted, thinking, this proud and impudent youth really did have a reason to be proud and impudent.
Gou Hanshi's expression also grew solemn. He could imagine that after Tang Thirty-Six left Wenshui and cultivated in the capital's Heavenly Dao Academy for several months, he would certainly have made some progress, beyond the strength that placed him thirty-sixth on the Proclamation of Azure Sky. Yet he had not imagined that he would make so much progress, that he would reach such a level.
The night sky blazed with evening clouds and sword intent raced forward in assault. Qi Jian's thin and frail body tottered, his small face slightly pale, but there was no fear in sight.
With a soft shout, he placed the Iron Ruler Sword horizontally in front of his chest. It was like two mountain peaks over a river slowly drawing together, shutting out all the brilliance of the setting sun!
Tang Thirty-Six continued forward, fire all around him. His sword moved within it, tyrannical to the extreme. As it moved, it brightened, a ball of dazzling light forming at the tip of the sword!
The pitch-black plaza in front of the palace was first illuminated by the evening clouds and then was suddenly lit up as brightly as day. It was like the morning sun had risen in advance, or as if someone had pulled the setting sun back into the world!
Another cry of shock arose from the spectators.
Only now were those discerning experts able to finally confirm that Tang Thirty-Six had already grasped the true meaning of the Wenshui Tang clan's sword style!
Gathering Evening Clouds!
A Stream of Maples!
The Three Forms of Wenshui!
(TN: The Three Forms of Wenshui take their names from the first line of a poem by Xu Zaisi, 西山夕照, 'Sunset at Xishan'. The line goes 'The evening clouds gather, the sunset hangs, a stream of maple leaves, two riverbanks brimming with reeds'.)
The Three Forms of Wenshui was the Wenshui Tang clan's strongest sword style. This sword style only had three techniques, but these were sufficient to affect the world.
With Tang Thirty-Six's current level of cultivation, even after learning this sword style, he was definitely not able to express its full might, but it was already sufficiently powerful.
Even with his lazy personality, he had still engaged in focused cultivation an entire four years for the sake of this sword style. Coupled with his bitter cultivation over the last few months, he had finally cultivated it into proficiency. He had originally planned to use it at the Ivy Festival, perhaps directly crippling Tianhai Ya'er or using it at the critical juncture of his battle with Zhuang Huanyu, yet he never had a chance until tonight's match with Qi Jian.
The front of the palace was abuzz with shocked discussions.
Chen Changsheng was somewhat puzzled, so he asked Luoluo, "What's happened?"
"These three sword techniques are very powerful, swords of blazing death."
Luoluo continued, "But the reason for everyone's shock, besides this point, is that no one expected Tang Thirty-Six to use his strongest technique the moment he stepped up."
Chen Changsheng fell silent, thinking to himself, is there something wrong with that?
"There's no one that will use their greatest technique right after stepping on stage."
Luoluo knew that her teacher had no experience in cultivation or fighting. After thinking, she explained, "This way…is too improper."
It was truly very improper.
On the stone steps, whether it was the Temple Seminary and the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green, or Holy Maiden Peak and the other southern sects, those teachers and elders were just about to calmly narrate the details of this battle to their disciples when, contrary to everyone's expectations, Tang Thirty-Six unleashed a grand technique right after the battle began. Now, victory and defeat was on the verge of being decided.
Those teachers and elders of the academies and sects had no time to speak. They could only sigh or be struck speechless.
In fights between cultivators, very rarely were major techniques used right at the start of a battle. Of course, this had nothing to do with confidence or bearing, nor did it have anything to with whether it was proper or not. The most important reason was that major techniques were the strongest techniques, deciding techniques. Using a major technique indicated that in the next moment, victory and defeat would be decided.
Only in those battles where the strong and weak were clearly distinguished would this sort of scene occur.
Those experts with absolute confidence in themselves would choose this method, and also those who clearly knew that they were weaker and could only put everything on the line.
Tang Thirty-Six's and Qi Jian's cultivation levels were similar. If this fight were to proceed at a normal tempo, at least a dozen exchanges would be required before the outcome became clear.
There was simply no reason for him to take such a risk, to decide victory or defeat on a single attack.
Tang Thirty-Six was not impatient, nor was he confident that he was too powerful, and it was even less likely that he had no confidence.
He knew that Qi Jian's quantity and purity of true essence surpassed his by just a bit. If discussing the true meanings and profundities of sword styles, the Mount Li Sword Sect was also probably above the Wenshui Tang clan. If this battle continued, defeat would still ultimately rest on his body.
He wanted to win, so he had to go on the offensive to snatch victory.
Taking the offensive to snatch victory meant being the first to build momentum.
Without hesitation, he pulled out his trump card, the Three Forms of Wenshui. Two mighty and extremely terrifying sword techniques proceeded in spectacular fashion, directly enveloping Qi Jian.
This was what was meant by momentum.
He had thoroughly researched Zhuang Huanyu's match with Qi Jian two years ago, and he knew what Qi Jian's weakness was.
He believed that although two years had passed, with Qi Jian certainly getting stronger and strengthening his mind, that weakness had still not been eliminated.
Because a twelve-year-old child after two years was still a child two months from fourteen.
In the end, a child was still a child.
Children were too young in age, had too little experience. Critically, they could not bear as much pressure as adults—in the end, not everyone could be like Chen Changsheng, constantly living under the world's most terrifying pressure from the age of ten.
Qi Jian was the youngest disciple of the Mount Li Sword Sect, yet he was also one of the two people in Mount Li that took on the most pressure. The other person was Qiushan Jun.
When he was almost twelve, he was able to directly fight against the strongest student of the Heavenly Dao Academy. Even though he lost, it was still a feat capable of shocking the world. When that most legendary martial granduncle of Mount Li made one of his occasional returns to the mountain after traveling the four seas and learned of this fact, he gave this evaluation: "With this disciple, Mount Li will not decline for one thousand years."
How high the evaluation, how heavy the pressure.
Qi Jian had to cultivate and study under this pressure. At his young age, he grew quieter and quieter, becoming more and more like a little adult.
But just as Tang Thirty-Six had surmised, in the end, children were still children.
Tang Thirty-Six attacked with the Three Forms of Wenshui so that he could increase this pressure to the extreme.
Solely through this pressure, he wanted to make Qi Jian collapse.
Besides capable seniors like Mao Qiuyu, only Gou Hanshi immediately noticed Tang Thirty-Six's intentions.
His expression grew increasingly solemn. He knew that as talented as his junior brother was, because of his age, he always had a weakness. Two years ago when he lost to Zhuang Huanyu, the world believed that it was because he was lacking in experience, had not cultivated for long enough. However, Gou Hanshi understood that his junior brother had ultimately lost because he had wavered.
The reason for this wavering was that Qi Jian had panicked, and the reason for this panic was that the pressure was too great.
Just as expected, when confronting the blazing sword energy of the evening clouds, confronting the white brightness akin to the setting sun on the tip of Tang Thirty-Six's sword, Qi Jian seemed to maintain a calm expression. His Iron Ruler Sword was still composed and steady, his Qi had no signs of disorder, the two invisible mountains were still slowly closing shut, but Gou Hanshi could still see…that he had begun to panic.
Gou Hanshi's forehead slightly creased.
Some people might feel that the intentions carried in Tang Thirty-Six's sword intent were shameless, bullying the young, but he did not feel this way. Just as he had said earlier, as long as it was one's own power, then it could be used. Since this was a fight, one's mind or one's ability to bear pressure were all prone to attack.
He only felt that it was somewhat of a pity. His junior brother was clearly stronger than his opponent, yet he would still lose because of his mental weakness.
Tang Thirty-Six's figure had already reached Qi Jian.
The Wenshui Sword ignited all the clouds in the night sky. The blades of grass growing in the cracks of the plaza were transformed completely into a jade color.
The world was ablaze, the setting sun enveloping all the earth.
Qi Jian's expression was still unswerving, the Iron Ruler Sword gradually forming into a mountain, protecting the clear stream in his heart, unwilling to let it run dry.
Tang Thirty-Six did not give him the slightest chance.
With a clear whistle, the Wenshui Sword began to fiercely tremble. Countless streams seemed to flow along the sword, ultimating transforming into a single great river.
The blazing evening clouds in the heavens, the setting sun at the tip of the sword, and the jade grass on the ground all fell upon this river, forming tens of thousands of golden coins.
The sword intent was completely withdrawn, the river waters lightly washed against their banks, and the green trees on the banks combusted into flames, transforming into the red maples of autumn.
This was the final move of the Three Forms of Wenshui.
A Stream of Maples!
A tinge of panic appeared on Qi Jian's small face.
At this time, many people already recognized that he was about to lose.
The final disciple of the Sect Master of the Mount Li Sword Sect, without having any time to display the finer aspects of the Mount Li Sword Style, was about to sullenly lose.
Seeing the frustration and pain in his junior brother's eyes, Gou Hanshi could no longer bear it.
He shouted towards them, "Clouds come, clouds go, far and near the mountains!"
(TN: Another line from a poem by Xu Zaisi, 皇亭晚泊, the title of which translates to 'The Evening Pool at the Imperial Pavilion'. This line is part of the first line, going 'The waters shallow, the waters deep, flowing east or west. The clouds come, the clouds go, far and near the mountains'.)
When this voice entered Qi Jian's ears, the youth did not understand. Why had his senior brother said these words at such a critical point?
These words were a less popular part of the Mount Li Sword Style, a very ordinary sword technique. To be more precise, this was a set of sword movements learned by all disciples after entering the sect to calm their hearts.
But just as he had acted in the past when practicing his sword in Mount Li, Qi Jian very obediently acted according to his senior brother's instructions, doing so without the slightest hesitation.
He raised his right knee and slightly bent his wrist. The Iron Ruler Sword was swiftly drawn back, and his body lunged backward like a damaged lotus in the wind.
With this movement, those two mountains that were in the midst of collapse stopped in midair.
Tang Thirty-Six's Wenshui Sword followed in pursuit. Releasing a massive burst of light in the night sky, it instantly arrived in front of Qi Jian.
Cha! Cha! Cha! Cha!
Several corners of Qi Jian's robe were cut and a wound appeared on his shoulder. He looked extremely miserable, but he had actually succeeded in escaping Tang Thirty-Six's sword energy!
No person had expected this conclusion.
The crowd was very sure that it was primarily because of Qi Jian's retreat.
What was so mystical about this retreat? How was it able to escape the Three Forms of Wenshui?
Qi Jian clearly understood that what had allowed him to escape the Three Forms of Wenshui were his own movement techniques and sword intent.
But this was all premised on the retreat.
He first needed to retreat before being able to once more stand firm.
The retreat had been an admission that he was inferior, was going with the flow.
Whether the mountain peak was near or far at the time only depended on whether the cloud on the horizon was coming or going.
What Gou Hanshi had taught him was not any specific sword technique, but how to correctly confront pressure.
Because of his age, because of several objective facts, there would always be a time where he would not be able to bear the pressure.
To hold on in spite of adversity was admittedly quite courageous, but learning how to retreat was a sort of wisdom.
Gou Hanshi had used his own wisdom to help Qi Jian alleviate the overbearing pressure of Tang Thirty-Six's Three Forms of Wenshui.
Now, it was Tang Thirty-Six's turn to bear the pressure.
Qi Jian's expression grew slightly more serene and his sword energy rose once more, swift and forceful like the boulders of a mountain.
But different from before, the Iron Ruler Sword in his hands went with the flow, rising up like a cloud.
Those two mountains were no longer slowly closing shut, but rather…collapsed!
His clothes furiously flapped in a strong gust of wind. The youth wielded his sword and stabbed, breaking through the setting sun, his sword carrying the momentum of an avalanche!
When the mountain face suddenly shattered, it collapsed the clouds into disarray!
With a groan, Tang Thirty-Six drew back his sword, his feet seeming to step on clouds as he retreated. His movements carried a sense of indescribable casualness and ease.
At this time, a thump resounded in the night sky.
The clash of the Wenshui Sword and the Iron Ruler Sword.
In but an instant, the situation had suddenly reversed.
In this single exchange, a wound had appeared on Tang Thirty-Six's stomach.
His two feet touched down. The hand holding his sword at his side was shaking slightly.
He knew that he was already at a disadvantage, but he was still not the least bit panicked.
Just then, a voice came from behind him.
Tang Thirty-Six heard Chen Changsheng's voice and thought, what's he playing?
How confident and at ease he would seem by calmly awaiting Qi Jian's strike with his sword. If he retreated again, wouldn't he look rather wretched?
This was what he thought, but for some reason, his feet retreated several steps.
Just as he left, an extremely deep crack appeared where he had stood a moment ago!
Tang Thirty-Six's complexion slightly changed. Only now did he realize that Qi Jian's sword intent had managed to stealthily and noiselessly approach him!
Only now was his opponent's sword intent finally exhausted!
The collapsing mountain face had crossed the river and destroyed the red maples on the shore, but the boulder had tumbled even farther than imagined!
If not for Chen Changsheng's warning, he would now be severely injured!
Very surprised, Gou Hanshi turned to Chen Changsheng.
The stone steps in front of the palace were completely silent. Everyone's eyes were fixed on Chen Changsheng.
Tang Thirty-Six and Qi Jian had only crossed swords a few times, for a few moments, but both had been in extreme danger.
Gou Hanshi was able to see through the true meaning of the Three Forms of Wenshui and break it with a single shout, assisting Qi Jian in using the simplest of Mount Li's sword techniques to respond, reverse, and strike. This sort of experience, this sort of wisdom, was truly worthy of praise. However, he was Gou Hanshi, so no one felt too shocked or surprised.
Yet…why had Chen Changsheng been able to see through Qi Jian's sword energy? Why did he seem uncannily familiar with the Mount Li Sword Style?
Could he be like Gou Hanshi, possessing an incredibly vast and profound amount of experience?
No person could believe this conjecture.
Xiao Songgong also could not believe it. He thought of that old affair from several hundred years ago and then stared across the plaza at Jin Yulu, his eyes even more resentful.
The silence over the plaza lasted for only a brief moment before being broken once more.
Chen Changsheng seemed to be unaware of those several hundred gazes on his body.
He drew back his gaze from Tang Thirty-Six and turned to Gou Hanshi.
"Falling Golden Flask!
"Heavy Sea Air!
"Shadow Cast on the Window!
"Hang the Sword in the Tall Forest!"
He said four phrases in succession.
They were the names of four sword techniques.
Four techniques of the Wenshui Tang clan's sword style.