Chapter 31 The Eldest Sect Senior Brother of White Goat Cave
Waiting at the doorway to the wine shop was the grey-robed swordsman from yesterday.
Seeing Ding Ning walk out of the door, the grey-robed swordsman did not speak. He inclined his head slightly in a greeting and then silently started to drive the carriage after Ding Ning boarded.
Sitting in the carriage, Ding Ning smiled slightly. Of course, it was no accident that Wang Taixu could stand in Changling for so long. For example, the selection of the carriage drivers suited Ding Ning’s preferences.
The carriage followed the flat and straight street to drive towards the White Goat Gorge outside the city. That was the location of White Goat Cave.
In the first year of Yuanwu, most of the cultivation places were located near Changling. These cultivation sects and prestigious family lands scattered around Changling formed natural fortresses in addition to the Qin Dynasty’s military fortresses.
As Changling grew, more than half of the sects were now inside Changling. While these sects still had special privileges, the Qin Dynasty’s power over these sects grew stronger. In the view of the many cultivation sects who had longer histories than the Qin Dynasty, the only benefits they received were some cultivation resources and opportunities to learn from other sects.
When the carriage passed Willow Wood River, Ding Ning heard many shouts and sobs from inside the carriage. He did not lift the window curtain because he knew that those sounds were due to the corpses that were floating in the river.
Yesterday was not any different than any usual day to most residents in Changling. If Ding Ning had not experienced it himself, he would have not known that the power structure of the streets of Changling had changed majorly.
Willow Wood River’s water was usually used to water some crops, and so it was frequently used to dispose of corpses by the gangs.
Last evening, only Tang Que and Tang Mengchen of Jinlintang died yesterday at Red Charm Tower. But Ding Ning knew that more people from Jinlintang would have died in the long black night. Their corpses should be floating in this river right now.
The geography of Changling was divided from the southeast towards the northwest. The south of the city was a tributary of the Wei River, the Jing River with some flat plains and short hills. The middle of Changling was the part of the land at a higher terrain with many areas made from the depressions left by ancient rivers after they dried up. The north of Changling was plateaus and hills. There were thirteen mountain ranges of various sizes, the tallest being Stone Gate Mountain and Spirit Void Mountain, the shortest being North Soldier Mountain, and Horse Bar Mountain.
The White Goat Gorge, where White Goat Cave was located, was in North Soldier Mountain.
Following the ascending mountain path, Ding Ning’s carriage finally entered White Goat Gorge after rocking and shaking for a long time.
Because the entire mountain ridge was not very tall, this gorge was not deep. However, for some unknown reason, this gorge could keep in moisture. White clouds shrouded most of the gorge. Large halls flickered in and out of view when the mist floated past. The entire place seemed full of an ethereal presence.
Looking at this cultivation place, this grey-robed swordsman finally showed some hint of admiration in his eyes.
While White Goat Cave barely counted as a second-class cultivation sect to the Qin Dynasty, and it was about to meet the grimmest of ends as they joined Green Vine Sword School, this kind of cultivation place was not one that someone like him could enter.
He started to worry.
Worry for this Falling Parasol youth in the cabin behind him. He did not worry if the other could enter the sect, but his situation after entering the sect.
White Goat Gorge did not have any tower or gates at the entrance, only a white stone tablet.
The stone tablet was carved with three simple words “Imperial Forbidden Grounds.”
The first word represented the reward the Qin Dynasty gave the sect for their service, and the last two words represented the special power of the sect.
It was noontime and should be the time that ordinary people ate. Logically, White Goat Cave would not put many personnel near the entrance tablet but when the carriage stopped down near the tablet, the grey-robed swordsman’s pupils suddenly contracted.
Behind the tablet, several dozen young students were standing silently on the mountain path curving up the mountain.
These students wearing hemp robes with the insignia of a white goat on their sleeves. They looked silently at the slowing carriage in a strange atmosphere.
“They probably have not come to welcome me to White Goat Cave,” A low voice sounded behind the grey-robed swordsman.
The grey-robed swordsman stilled slightly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ding Ning calmly get off the carriage and then walk towards the tablet.
His calm advance was like a pebble thrown into the pond and immediately caused ripples.
A student, who looked at least five years younger than Ding Ning, came over with a conflicted expression to meet Ding Ning.
He stopped at a clever position where he stood in line with the stone tablet.
With him like this, Ding Ning could not step over the mountain gates.
The student bowed slightly to Ding Ning and said clearly, “This one is Ye Ming, and comes with the order of the cave master to welcome you into the mountain.”
Ding Ning smiled slightly and return the greeting. “If so, thank you.”
At this time, a furious shout came from dozens of students who were in a strange mood. “When did it become that anyone can enter White Goat Cave if they wanted to?”
Ye Ming’s eyebrow raised slightly but his expression did not change. He knew that this kind of incidents would occur. If not for the fact he could not disobey, he would not be standing here, he would be one of the students behind.
Ding Ning looked up and saw the one who had shouted angrily was a youth of similar age to him. His hair was cut extremely short, his figure thin but he stood tall with a two-feet long sword hanging from his waist. The sword hilt was made from a deep yellow wood with a wavy grain and carved with fine scripts.
However, his gaze did not stay for long on this youth. He only looked calmly at Ye Ming without a word. He knew that someone would resolve this matter and there was no meaning if he spoke.
Ye Ming had not expected Ding Ning to be so calm. His brow furrowed. He felt he had been thrown a hot potato and did not know what he should do.
There were white clouds in White Goat Gorge.
Below one of the clouds was a lonely temple.
From the terrace of the temple, one could clearly see what was occurring at the gates.
Two people stood on the terrace.
One of them was the white-haired old person who had changed the fate of Jinlingtang and Two Level Tower with a sword strike, Du Qingjiao.
His name once appeared in the mouth of the empress. He was the senior sect brother of White Goat Cave’s Cave Master.
“Senior Sect Brother, you were too impulsive in yesterday night’s incident, and today’s as well.”
An old person dressed as a Taoist with a white face and white brocade robes edged in gold stood beside him. He had a white jade sword, that represented the cave master of White Goat Cave, hanging from his waist. He was the cave master of White Goat Cave, Xue Wangxu.
Looking at his senior sect brother who remained silent, Xue Wangxu could not help but sigh worriedly. “You also knew that this has occurred because the empress is discontent with us. You acted last night, and so many people died. I worry she will find another excuse to use against you.”
“Because it was the empress, so I acted last night.” The white-haired Du Qingjiao heard his sigh, turned, and said with a smile.
Xue Wangxu was even more worried. “Senior Sect Brother, do not be so headstrong.”
“I am not headstrong.” Du Qingjiao shook his head. “Junior Sect Brother, your cultivation and knowledge are both above mine, and your ability to disregard fame is above mine. However, your understanding of the empress is lesser than mine.”
Xue Wangxu stilled.
Du Qingjiao said coolly, “While the empress is decisive and vicious in her conduct, she is more measured and careful than the two prime ministers in her actions. Since the Holy One has already sent a decree, she will not allow any accidents to occur in my retirement. She and the Holy One must be closer than anyone else, even for an insignificant matter. This way, she and the Holy One will be at their most powerful, and the Qin Dynasty will be at its most powerful. Also, while I am an old sack of bones, I still have some friends after these years in Changling. The submission of White Goat Cave is not important, but if even my retirement has accidents, everyone will have thoughts.”
“I would not have acted on their behalf just because of Two Level Tower’s slight benefits and old favors. I purposefully did so because I know that Jinlingtang has some connection to the empress’ family. She makes me unhappy, so before I leave Changling, I will not have her be happy.”
Xue Wangxu felt speechless.
This was called not being headstrong?
“If each side takes a step back, everything can be solved. Since I have not said anything and retired, she will take a step back,” Du Qingjiao added coolly.
Xue Wangxu took a deep breath and then gave a long sigh.
On this highest temple in White Goat Cave, the two oldest people of White Goat Cave talked harmoniously and were just worried for each other’s future. Yet the situation in front of White Goat Cave’s gates was at a standstill.
Ye Ming’s expression grew stiffer. He finally took a half step back and said unwillingly, “This is the order of the cave master …”
“I do not believe this is the meaning of the cave master.”
The outspoken youth interrupted his words. His young features were frosty. “Letting him join the sect without going through the tests does not abide by the rules at all. This is not just unjust to us, it is unjust to all the people who have been eliminated at these gates for centuries. I do not believe our wise cave master would make a decision like this.”
Ye Ming grimaced in silence. It seemed that they could only waste time here.
Did he have to go back to the cave master and ask for evidence?
“Eldest Senior Sect Brother, Eldest Senior Sect Brother is here!”
At this time, the crowd shifted and a ruckus sound on the mountain path.
Ye Ming sighed in relief and turned around. A tall young person appeared from the thin mountain mist.
This was a handsome young person with an extraordinary presence. His handsome features had the spirit that young people usually had, but at this moment, his expression was full of worry.
Looking at all the students gathered here, he said in displeasure, “Do not make a fuss, return.”
THe mountain path suddenly quieted.
“Return for what!”
That outspoken young youth had a flushed face as he said loudly, “Eldest Senior Sect Brother, do you feel this is fair!”
The eldest senior sect brother, Zhang Yi, who was usually beloved by these junior disciples, shook his head and said gently, “There is no absolute justice in the world. If there is real justice, our White Goat Cave would not be forced to join Green Vine Sword School.”
“Eldest Senior Sect Brother!”
These surrounding young students had not expected Zhang Yi to say such a thing. Immediately, many people wailed in sorry, some of them had eyes flashing with tears.
That outspoken young youth’s eyes were red as he said harshly, “Eldest Senior Sect Brother, if others cannot give us justice, can we not fight? If we do not care, White Goat Cave will truly be finished.”
“Junior Sect Brother Shen Bai, I understand what you are saying,” Zhang Yi said gently, “but we cannot doubt the cave master’s decision. You know that the cave master will always his reasons for what he does. I have heard the saying to break rather than bend, but I have also heard of those who recognize the situation are heroes.”
Zhang Yi’s voice was very gentle like a spring wind that could warm people up.
Ding Ning originally had just been gazing at the white clouds calmly as though he was just a spectator unrelated to everything happening. But Zhang Yi’s presence and words surprised him.
He started to re-examine this White Goat Cave Eldest Senior Sect Brother with curiosity.
Translator Ramblings: Two points on politics in this chapter. First, the Qin Dynasty managed to consumed multiple cultivation places into their capital and reduce the power and independence of those places. Second, the empress and emperor are not all powerful. They still have to be wary of how they appear in their actions, especially the empress who cannot be seen to be at odds with the emperor.