Nightfall Chapter 884
Four pig trotters were arranged neatly on a chopping board. The hair had been removed from them and they had been rinsed over with water. They looked as pale and white as new shoots plucked freshly out of the mud. With one glide of a sturdy knife, the earthy brown paper unfurled like a lotus leaf. The four trotters tumbled lightly onto the paper and were wrapped up into a parcel.
The Butcher handed the wrapped trotters silently to the waiting young man. Li Guangdi fished some coins out, placed them on the shop table and walked towards the exit.
Suddenly, the Butcher had a strange feeling. He raised his head and looked southwards in the direction of the West-Hill Kingdom. His vision passed directly through the blackened wall. His face paled.
The half carcass of a large white pig that was hung up on a hook behind the butcher shop began to sway. The slaughtering knife in the Butcher’s hand began to tremble too. No wind blew, but the whistling sound of the wind filled the air.
Looking towards the West-Hill Kingdom with his knife in his hand, the Butcher came to a realization.
He raised the sturdy knife above his head with both hands as quickly as he could, with a fixed stony expression on his face. Neither the wind nor anything else would be able to reach him.
The half carcass on the iron hook continued to sway slowly. The movement made blood trickle out of the pig’s organs. Each drop clapped on the floor like a clock counting down the seconds.
Time seemed to move slowly. Nothing happened. The Butcher squatted down, shrinking his body into a corner of the wall. His hands held the knife up, shielding his face. He seemed very much like a turtle hiding in its shell.
Outside the butcher shop, Li Guangdi and Zhang Nianzu were walking towards the calligraphy shop. If one were to stand near, one would have been able to hear one of them chanting something under his breath, as if he were trying to memorize something.
Zhang Nianzu asked worriedly, “Is there something wrong?”
“Don’t speak.” Li Guangdi’s expression was similarly in panic. He glared. “Don’t think about using pen and paper either. It’s best for you to just memorize it.”
Zhang Nianzu pressed his lips shut and decided not to continue talking about the issue. Li Guangdi reflected quietly on the scene he had just witnessed and realized that the Butcher’s weak spot must be his face.
The parcel of four pig trotters that was wrapped in brown paper tossed about in the young mens’ arms. They seemed identical to all of the human necks that the Butcher had broken.
On the plateau before Peach Mountain, thousands of li away, Ning Que’s iron arrow was no longer aimed at the little town on the border of Song and Yan. Instead, it was pointing northwest.
The Drunkard and the Butcher were both in that little town. Those two people were the Academy’s strongest enemies and the strongest in Chang’an. He really did want to see if he could kill them.
Nevertheless, the two were still skilled cultivators who had survived the Ever Night. They had been able to hide from Haotian for centuries. One had an idea of what kind of advanced state they must be in and just how powerful the tricks they had up their sleeves might be.
When facing a change in the paths of their lives, cultivators in the Knowing Destiny State get a certain feeling an inkling of what was to come.
All cultivators in the Knowing Destiny State had the ability to sense when their destinies were about to change. Of course, skilled cultivators like the Drunkard and the Butcher would be able to do so as well.
When Ning Que lifted his bow and aimed his arrow at the little town, the Drunkard and the Butcher felt it immediately and began taking defensive measures: the Drunkard prepared to leave and the Butcher raised his sword.
When the Hierarch became a wastrel, the Drunkard became the fastest person on Earth, even faster than Eldest Brother. He had attained the Distanceless State and had innumerable tricks up his sleeve. Unless someone managed to imprison him, he would be extremely difficult to kill.
On the other hand, the Butcher was the strongest in the world, whether in bodily strength or sheer force. Other than Xuankong Temple’s Chief Priest of Scripture, no one could be compared with him, not even Yu Lian.
The Drunkard was ready to leave and the Butcher was poised to strike with his sword. Ning Que’s Thirteen Primordial Arrows would not be able to kill them. In that case, he did not shoot.
It was not because he was running out of arrows or that they were too precious the Academy was willing to pay any price for the Drunkard and the Butcher’s lives.
Ning Que did not shoot for one simple reason: he would not be able to kill them. All along, he had never done anything which was exceedingly dangerous where success was not guaranteed.
The danger lay in the fact that if the opponent was not killed, they would surely be provoked.
He was a little regretful about this, but not too much. Although the Academy had always wanted to try killing them, they had never lost their composure. It was an aspiration, not a feral desire.
Furthermore, the Academy already had long-standing plans for the Drunkard and the Butcher.
The iron arrow in Ning Que’s hand was now pointed northwest, towards the Qinghe Prefecture.
When Ning Que moved the arrow slowly, the atmosphere of the Peach Mountain plateau became increasingly tense and fearful.
Nobody knew who he was going to shoot.
In fact, even Ning Que did not know. In his Perception State, Qinghe Prefecture was an exceedingly unremarkable little space amongst the ocean of humanity. There was not a single speck of light.
Suddenly, a glimmer appeared.
It was Song Xian.
Jun Mo stood with Mu You on the banks of the Fuchun River, looking at the elegant gardens across the river. After a long period of silence, he asked, “Do you understand now?”
Mu You fished the embroidery needle out of her handkerchief and replied, “It will be a little troublesome, but not too hard.”
“Let’s go then,” Jun Mo said.
Mu You heard the changing from the other side of the river and furrowed her brow slightly. “Little Brother’s plan doesn’t include us.”
Jun Mo said, “He underestimated the powerful individuals. Wang Jinglue can’t do this.”
In the Academy’s original plan, Ning Que would go to West-Hill, Eldest Brother would go to the small town, while Second Brother, heavily wounded at Verdant Canyon, would stay in Chang’an to defend the rear.
He had instead materialised in Qinghe Prefecture, leaving the Academy deserted.
At that moment, Wang Jinglue was in Cui Garden, by the banks of the Fuchun River. All of the famous people of Qinghe Prefecture were gathered. This was because the West-Hill Divine Temple was convening a Rite to Light, but due to the strained state of affairs in the prefecture, many could not go to Peach Mountain to pay their respects. They chose to perform similar rituals in Cui Garden instead.
He had gained entry to the Cui Garden through Cui Huasheng. Seeing the pious expressions of the mighty, famous people alongside the rushing creek, his brows formed a deep furrow. He was not able to determine who was his target.
The Qinghe Prefecture belonged to the Zhu family, whose regime relied on traditional and customary rules. However, the real reason for the Qunghe Prefecture to dare to betray Chang’an was due to the two powerful Knowing Destiny fighters of Fuchun River bank.
Not many people knew who the two Knowing Destiny Experts of Qinghe Prefecture were. Wang Jinglue did not know, and even if he did, it would be very hard to complete the task that Ning Que had assigned to him.
A gust approached from the south. It was a dry wind. The cultivators in the garden felt a certain divine solemnity from the breeze.
The autumn flowers on the riverbank were covered with a fine sheen of liquid, so they looked pure and holy.
There was an old cultivator under the rain shelter. He was an unknown and distant relative of the Song clan. Although he was hunched over due to age and usually nodding off, his eyes were now wide open.
After the talisman shook Peach Mountain and the Tianqi sent shockwaves through the world, every cultivator knew that something big had happened on Peach Mountain because they could feel the huge change in the Qi of Heaven and Earth.
The accuracy of this feeling depended on the individual cultivator’s state of cultivation. Advanced cultivators like the Drunkard and the Butcher naturally had a clearer sense of what had transpired, but others like Wang Jinglue, who had only reached the See-through Zenith, could only guess.
It was enough for him to be able to guess. In the arrangement he made with Ning Que, if he were to guess that the event had happened, it would be the right time to strike.
Wang Jinglue surveyed the area. Looking at the scene, his heart thumped. He knew he had found the right moment, but how was he to proceed with getting the opponent to release his entire state?
He was known to have no enemies at the Knowing Destiny State or below. However, as Chen Pipi said long ago, even if one could defeat anyone at the Knowing Destiny State or below, a strong cultivator at the Knowing Destiny State might not necessarily have to release his entire state.
At this moment, a man with a bamboo hat and a cane and a woman in red appeared by the creek in the Cui Garden. Nobody saw how they had arrived there.
An urgent warning sounded throughout the Cui Garden grounds. The air was filled with the sound of scabbards colliding. An ancient array’s energy began to slowly seep out of the courtyard pond.
The Song clan elder slowly lifted his head and looked toward the pair by the creek.
Jun Mo never looked at the Song clan elder. Although he knew that the elder was one of the Knowing Destiny individuals that his Little Brother was searching for, Jun Mo was looking for a different person someone stronger than this elder.
The Cui clan of Ruyang County was the first of the seven surnames of the Qinghe Prefecture. Cui Garden was their business and the clan leader Cui Shi was naturally the person with the highest status. However, on this day, he was not allowed to sit.
This was because Elder Cui was sitting, and as his son, Cui Shi could only stand.
Long ago, Elder Cui was a university scholar in Chang’an. He was appointed Prime Minister and was given the title of Imperial Tutor after retirement. Thus, he was sitting on an Imperial Tutor’s chair, drinking scholar’s tea.
At the sight of the man and woman on the riverbank, Elder Cui slowly put down his tea. His expression showed his unreadable mix of emotions somewhat perplexed and afraid, but also taunting.
Once he saw the man’s empty sleeve, Elder Cui knew his identity.
He never thought that the Academy would ignore its agreement with the West-Hill Divine Temple and send someone to Qinghe Prefecture, much less send this person.
After a moment, he shook off his confusion and disbelief with the realization that the one he most feared and respected, Fu Zi, was no longer on this earth, and the Academy was no longer the same.
“If this was before, I wouldn’t have had the courage to fight Second Master.”
Elder Cui looked at Jun Mo on the riverbank and said calmly, “But one of your limbs is broken and you have not recovered from your serious wounds, how can you be any match for me?”
With these words, the Cui Garden array began to manifest in a show of power. The array of the Fuchun River’s bank, passed down between countless generations of the long-established family, was indeed powerful. A somber, deathly atmosphere filled the air.
Jun Mo knew that the man’s conclusion about the current situation was accurate. If this were before, he would have been able to kill all the enemies in the garden while brandishing his sword alone, but today, he was in no position to defeat the man.
Still, he neither said nor did anything.
Mu You picked up her embroidery needle and pierced it into an autumn lotus on the riverbank.
Her movements were nonchalant, almost subconscious.
Elder Cui’s expression turned.
The fearsome array of the Fuchun River’s bank dissipated in a single breeze.
The old family names of Qinghe Prefecture had a formidably rich history, dating back further than the Academy itself. Yet age did not necessarily make one mightier, or turtles would have long ruled the Earth.
Mu You was a bride; she was Seventh Sister, a lover of cracking melon seeds between her teeth, idle gossiping, and playing mah-jong. She was also the most talented array master on Earth. Having had half of the day on the banks of the Fuchun River to observe its array, she had long figured out how to dissolve it.
Jun Mo regarded Elder Cui coolly.
Elder Cui said indifferently, “I passed through the Academy many times as Prime Minister and saw you growing up as a child. Who would have thought that I would kill you today?”
Qinghe Prefecture had many spies in Chang’an. Elder Cui was sure that Jun Mo had not recovered from his severe wounds. More importantly, nobody knew that he had not only reached the Knowing Destiny State, but was also now at the Knowing Destiny Zenith. Although the array of the Fuchun River bank was so easily dissolved by that Academy girl, he still had the utmost confidence that he could crush Jun Mo into the riverbank.
In the crowd, Wang Jinglue’s face was ashen.
He was shocked enough at the appearance of Second Master. Finding out that Elder Cui was the Knowing Destiny State expert he had been searching for the whole time made him stunned.
According to Ning Que’s plan, now was the time for him to strike. However, to make a Knowing Destiny expert unleash his complete State, it required a sufficiently strong person to strike with a sufficiently strong blow. After hearing Elder Cui’s tone and unwavering confidence in his ability to defeat the Academy’s Second Master, how could Wang Jinglue succeed?
Jun Mo did not strike, but simply stepped forward.
Elder Cui’s expression turned to one of intense concentration. Under the shelter, the Song clan elder stood up, holding his sword.
Although Jun Mo had a broken limb and his state was nowhere as powerful as it was before, he was still Jun Mo.
Qinghe Province was quite close to Verdant Canyon. The nightmarish image of Jun Mo slaying thousands with a single sword in the Battle of Verdant Canyon at the end of the previous year was still branded in people’s minds.
Nobody who faced Jun Mo in battle dared to underestimate him. Even Liu Bai would approach him as a formidable enemy if they were to fight now.
Elder Cui exhaled sharply and was instantly at the Knowing Destiny Zenith!
He smiled at Jun Mo. “Isn’t it a little surprising?”
Jun Mo replied, “I’m surprised by your stupidity.”
A wild, ferocious wind suddenly rose, stirring up the waters of Fuchun River. The waters of Cui Garden’s little creek were so disturbed they seemed to boil, while autumn lotuses were tossed around on the creek’s surface, limp like the floating carcasses of dead fish.
An arrow approached from the south.
Elder Cui paled, and was torn into pieces.
His body was shattered into hundreds of chunks of flesh, scattered all over the garden.
To keep from being discovered by the Academy, Elder Cui had lived his whole life quietly, keeping his cultivation State secret until he was a hundred years old. Today, when Jun Mo came to Cui Garden, Elder Cui thought that the moment had finally come. He wanted to shock the Academy by revealing his decades of training and unleashing years of bitter hatred in one go.
In the end, he died without carrying out any surprise ambush.
The whole time, he had never gotten the chance to fight with Jun Mo.
This was because Jun Mo never moved to strike he only took a single step forward.
He only needed to take a single step for his opponent to release his entire state.
It was because he was Jun Mo.
At the sight of Elder Cui being ripped into countless pieces of flesh, the Song clan elder’s expression turned to one of shock and horror. All these years, he had remained at the lower levels of the Knowing Destiny State. Amongst the rest of the world, he was considered as a formidable opponent. Yet he had just seen with his own eyes how the mighty Elder Cui at the Knowing Destiny Zenith suffered a cruel death after a single step from Jun Mo. How could he have the courage to fight?
Jun Mo turned to face him.
The Song clan elder decided to release his entire state with a mighty bellow. His sword hurtled into the sky.
He was only at the lower levels of the Knowing Destiny State. Even if he were to unleash his entire state, he would not shine brightly enough to show up in a certain person’s Perception State ocean, so a second arrow did not come hurtling from the south.
Jun Mo raised his left hand and moved it slowly in the autumn breeze.
The flying sword abruptly turned back around. In a single thrust, it drove straight into the Song clan elder’s bosom.