Southern Yue Kingdom, Yue Dragon Mountain.
The Southern Yue Kingdom was no more than one of the Azure Dragon Territory’s several dozen small kingdoms. Across the entire Azure Dragon Territory, it was not worth any mention. So was the Yue Dragon Mountain. Although the mountain was precipitous, the entire summit was barren, not a single shade of green in sight. The mountaintop was desolate, filled with countless cracks as if it had been cleaved open by a blade, a scene wretched to the eyes. The loess-like summit had a broken palace, covered in dust. There were no signs of life. Occasionally, several figures in brown robes walked by, but they were aimless. The atmosphere was lifeless, and the rustling autumn wind brought an even more desolate feeling whenever it blew by.
However, who would have thought that five hundred years ago, the Yue Dragon Mountain was once one of the Azure Dragon Territory’s famous mountains, once a famous destination sought by countless cultivators, once filling the Yue Dragon Mountain only yearning to hear those ancient sermons; and that broken palace had vestiges of magnificence, evidence of that Senior Nine Dragons’ glory.
This was that Yue Dragon Hall that the Azure Dragon Territory had once acclaimed as the “Azure Dragon.”
And upon mention of the “Azure Dragon” Yue Dragon Hall’s legendary flourish and decline, the folk living at the foot of the mountain even now would still sigh in lament.
After the Star Duels began, the contracts of the Star Duels changed the situation of the Azure Dragon Territory’s cultivators. Countless sects began to seek a chance in the Star Duels to turn a sparrow into a phoenix. The ancient Senior Nine Dragons’ Great Sect thus began its sudden and devastating decline. Although the Yue Dragon Hall spared no effort, even with a genius during the Fourth Star Duels, one Star Master who was able to contract two Stars, he was unable to change this fate.
By the time of the Fifth Star Duels, it had finally withered. The Yue Dragon Mountain’s spiritual power had been eaten clean away by countless cultivators. In the end, it had fallen into a barren state. Although the Yue Dragon Hall disciples that came after felt nostalgia, returning to these grounds to establish the “Yue Dragon School,” they were like many other small sects, merely prolonging their dying gasp.
Star Duels, year 980.
On this day, a ray of green light descended from the horizon and landed at the foot of Yue Dragon Mountain. When the green light receded, three figures appeared. The middle was a man, and his body was somewhat large, with a bit of belly drooping down. The man appeared ordinary, but his small eyes beamed from ear to ear, making people feel he was very straightforward. He was draped in a beautiful and embroidered full body Azure Dragon robe, colored yellow with dark markings. The color and luster were dark and gloomy, circulating magic energy. Unexpectedly, there was the shadow of a dragon coiled around his surroundings. This felt like a magic weapon with profound magic energy, but if one had delved deeply into the study of the Azure Dragon Territory’s secret rumors, this would be an enormous shock.
This robe was astonishingly the long-lost robe that allowed the Yue Dragon Hall to be famous for a time, the “Yellow Gown of Coronation.”1
There were two women flanking the fat man. Compared to the bland appearance of the fat man, these two women could be said to be moving beauties. The left-hand side woman was very young, about fifteen or sixteen in age and wearing very plain white clothes. She had no accessories, like a common peasant, but her unadorned attire nevertheless gave the woman a sort of simple beauty, just like the faint fragrance of ocean cherry-apples.
The woman’s figure was delicately outlined by her white garb, revealing a young girl’s immaturity. Compared to her, the woman on the man’s right was the exact opposite. Her head wore a red tasseled official’s cap, and her body wore a blue skintight shirt and skirt. The skirt was wide on both sides, splitting towards the ends, revealing her shoulders and golden inner breastplate. Her skirt had exquisite embroidery and had every kind of long ribbon. This outfit was arranged in a complex manner. She was like an heavenly immortal descended into the world from a painting.
She had a pair of dazzling eyes, decorated with long eyelashes; that tall and straight nose in the center of her face was very attractive. She had cherry lips, small and delicate, a glossy red like blood. What was amazing was the woman’s slender jade legs. She did not wear boots, but her snow-white legs were protected by white skintight leggings. Her hands were similarly magnificent, with a vaguely gem like quality. Under the sunlight, she appeared translucent, lustrous to the eyes.
From far away, she was like a high fairy descended into the world.
“Old Pig,2 is Qingshang blind?” The beautiful, fairy-like woman blinked her blue and clear eyes, wrinkling her brow.
“Big Brother, this is not the place, is it?” The plain and simple girl gazed at the far-off Yue Dragon Mountain.
“Really?” Fenghua still felt that no matter what, the mountain before her eyes was very desolate, practically the complete opposite of what she remembered.
“It looks like something misfortunate happened.” Qingshang surmised.
“Let us go inside and look!”
Old Pig’s eyes contained coldness as he walked up the mountain. Fenghua said to Qingshang: “Sister Qingshang, what do we do?”
“Whatever Old Pig wants to do, we shall see.” Qingshang did not hesitate to harrumph.
The girl shrugged and had no choice but to follow along.
The Falling Blossom Ghost Kingdom received its name from “ghosts” and “cherry blossoms,” but in the eyes of the Azure Dragon Territory’s cultivators it was always an uncivilized and barbaric place. That place cultivated Ghost Path sword arts similar to the Black Turtle Territory’s. Ghost Martial Cultivators were particularly noteworthy, and it was this reason that gave people a kind of negative feeling. In many people’s eyes, a place like the Falling Blossom Ghost Kingdom was as stifling as hell, a place enveloped year-round in a deathly aura.
But not entirely.
Falling Blossom Ghost Kingdom’s national capital city. It was constructed imitating the design of the Great Liang’s Bian City. There was a castle and pavilions, halls lofty as the mountains, but the difference from Bian City was that Kyoto had planted many cassia trees, willows, and also sakura.
The number of sakura trees was astounding. Looking down at Kyoto, the landscape was full of pink. The splendid willows and sakura intersected, planted like woven silk.
From Su Xing’s perspective, to stroll down a road of sakura with his beloved was just that romantic.
“Never expected the people of the Ghost Kingdom to be pose as being cultured.” Wu Siyou was beside him, showing a bit of wonder as she looked at the surrounding sakura trees.
Su Xing felt deeply the same.
“However, Your Servant nevertheless feels this is strange. Your Servant heard that the Ghost Kingdom is split into countless vassal states, competing against one another all year long. Apparently, this is not the case?” Wu Siyou was perplexed.
Su Xing had also heard Wu Xinjie mention the Falling Blossom Ghost Kingdom’s matters.
This long and narrow island nation had always been in endless conflict. The people had no way to get by, so although the Azure Dragon Territory’s cultivators disliked the Ghost Kingdom’s martial cultivators, they were also content to watch their world burn. However, now it appeared as tranquil as the Great Liang.
“Perhaps a character like Emperor Liang has appeared and taken rule.” Su Xing shrugged.
Wu Siyou felt this was also a possibility.
“Lord Husband, have you prepared how to take care of this Ghost Path Sword Chant matter?” Wu Siyou’s thoughts returned to Su Xing.
“I’ve already finished planning, however, it’s still early right now. Let’s the two of us take a stroll.” Su Xing tugged Wu Siyou’s hand, allowing no time for explanation as he dashed to every vendor booth along the Kyoto street.
“Selling steamed buns, delicious sakura buns~~~~~”
A young and cute voice reverberated along the street. Su Xing and Wu Siyou followed the voice at the same time and spotted a cart along the side of the road. A super, super cute little girl wearing an apron was holding a steamer basket in one hand while the other held a white pork bun as she shouted out to the street.
This street led to Kyoto’s famous imperial city and several important forts. There were many travelers, so the girl’s business was very bustling.
“Such a young person, yet she’s selling steamed buns?” Su Xing was speechless. Just as he was about to step forward and ask a question, he noticed that Wu Siyou’s expression was somewhat pained. “Wifey, what’s wrong?”
Wu Siyou’s gaze stared at that no more than seven or eight year old girl, her icy pupils flashing a bit of coldness. She immediately recovered: “Nothing.”
“Let’s go have a taste.”
Su Xing dragged Wu Siyou over in front of the girl.
“Hee-hee, do you two customers want to buy sakura buns? Freshly made desuyo.”6 The little girl was exceptionally cute, with a pair of big eyes and two little pigtails. When she smiled, her cheeks showed a dazzling red hue.
Even a porcelain doll could not be this cute.
“Two.” Su Xing smiled.
Sakura buns were like other normal large steamed buns, but the buns had a sakura petal’s red imprint. Su Xing took a bite, and when it entered his mouth, the flavor actually was pretty good. Wu Siyou carefully bit, but her gaze still sized up the little girl.
“What’s your name? Is it just you alone?” Su Xing asked.
“I am called Koito,7 what is customer thinking of doing?” The little loli blinked her innocent eyes, making Su XIng suddenly have a sort of feeling of guilt.
“…Where is your family?” Su Xing asked her.
“No can say~”
“You’re so young, how can your parents have the heart to leave you on your own.” Su Xing wrinkled his brow.
“Koito’s interest is only in selling buns~” Koito’s eyes widened in offense.
“Eh…” Su Xing had never encountered this sort of situation, and he temporarily did not know what to say.
“Lord Husband, there is no need to worry about her.” Wu Siyou softly said. The Pilgrim glanced at Su Xing. Su Xing understood tacitly. He glanced at the surroundings and immediately sensed a powerful presence hidden in a corner standing guard here, as if Su Xing only had to act without thinking for that presence to immediately kill him.
What made Su Xing pay particular attention was that presence was exceptionally strong. This sort of feeling made Su Xing himself very surprised.
With Su Xing’s current strength, to give him this kind of powerful feeling was already a very rare thing, and Wu Siyou was apparently provoked as well. The Pilgrim’s blood was beginning to stir, her interest piqued.
The surrounding people felt pressure, and they already ducked away somewhat in fear.
Just at this moment, that dangerous presence suddenly vanished, making Su Xing and Wu Siyou lose track of it. The two of them looked at each other, thinking they had been mistaken.
“Customer, Koito has just made this Sweetheart Bun desuyo.”
Koito said, presenting a heart-shaped meatbun, “Are you two married? If so, then Koito shall gift this to you desuyo.” The little girl’s innocence made Su Xing incapable of refusing.
“Truly, thanks. If you have any problems, Big Brother will help you.” Su Xing stroked the girl’s head.
“Really?” Koito’s red cheeks were even redder.
Su Xing nodded and suddenly whispered: “Do you want to play hide-and-seek?”
“But Koito still wants to sell steamed buns.” Koito thought and shook her head.
Su XIng did not expect her to be so dedicated to her work, making him perspire endlessly.
After giving them the Sweetheart Bun, Koito began shouting again, cheerfully hawking her steamed buns. Her little face brimmed with a happy expression. It seemed that selling steamed buns was indeed her interest. Su Xing had originally thought of using her to lure out the owner of that powerful aura. Instantly, he felt somewhat guilty.
Su Xing and Wu Siyou sat to the side and ordered a bottle of wine. As they drank, they watched the little loli’s work. However, Su Xing did not forget his own work to monitor information from this place’s residents about Kyoto’s strongest Ghost Martial Cultivator. As before, top-notch Ghost Path sword-qi appeared in the Falling Blossom Ghost Kingdom. Then, to take action starting from the strongest sword saint was the simplest method they had.
However, the answer Su Xing received gave him a bit of a headache.
Kyoto’s kendo arenas were simply unsurpassed in number, and the Ghost Path sword chant’s schools were even more complex than the Azure Dragon Territory’s, such as Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s Kyohachi-ryu, Kamakura Era Jito-ryu, and some Jikishinkage-ryu, Itto-ryu, Yagyu-ryu and more, and there were even some subordinate to Ghost Saint Kakukei.
A cultivator’s strength could be told at a glance if they cultivated in the Azure Dragon Territory, but the Falling Blossom Ghost Kingdom was the opposite. Perhaps those sword saints had cultivation, but how could the general populace understand this. Discussions about whoever was stronger were of conflicting opinions.
“Lord Husband, there is no need to feel so distressed. We shall directly ask the person themself when the time comes.” Wu Siyou disapproved.
“Fine.” Su Xing thought. It could not be helped.8