Chapter 16: Product of the Sword
The doors of the manor were rolled open.
Bai Qi shook the flakes of snow off his shoulders. Untying his dark cloak, he handed it to the waiting housekeeper.
Ghost Valley was sitting quietly in the main room, contently sipping some recently-brewed tea. Ever since he committed to teaching Gu Nan, he’s taken the opportunity to settle into the Wu’an Manor.
Noticing Bai Qi walk in, he lifted his gaze.
“For you to have left so early in the morning, it must be no less than the King, hm?” Ghost Valley faintly said with a certain confidence. But not intending to force matters, he resumed drinking his tea without speaking further.
When the days are cold and the winds are dry, the tea warms and comforts the throat.
Bai Qi didn’t rush to answer, although his face displayed his slight helplessness. With minor mannerisms, he slowly took a seat opposite of Ghost Valley.
“Zhao intends to play their move.”
Ghost Valley neatly put down his tea and smiled. “So, the Zhao King is growing frustrated, and Zhao’s situation is slowly worsening. Your thoughts?"
“Zhao must fall. If not, it will be Qin who does instead.” Bai Qi said with a resolute certainty, slowly pouring himself a cup of tea.
In his career, he’s fought more than seventy battles and still no defeats, his tone expresses his honed confidence.
“Is that so?” Ghost Valley eyed Bai Qi carefully.
Bai Qi frowned slightly at his next line. “This time, however, I want to use this to temper her.”
A soft quietness fell upon the room.
Only after a long time did Ghost Valley finally break this silence. “You’ve taught Nan’er for half a year already?”
Bai Qi took a deep breath and sighed. “Yes, a half year.”
“Then you should know what kind of person she is.”
Turning his head to look out to the snowing skies, he sighed even deeper than before. “I know.”
“Then you should know, Nan’er is quiet and timid, and her disposition is weak. These trouble times and these heinous wars are not the places for a young girl.”
“Ghost Valley, I should tell you. I once asked her what she wants in life. She said to live an uneventful life. Maybe she is a young girl, but her mind has far surpassed that.”
Ghost Valley sighed and nodded in agreement. “Nan’er won’t like war. You should understand that. She is just not suitable for the battlefield.”
He took another hard look at Bai Qi. “But you, you know that. You have the authority to give her the quiet life she desires.”
Bai Qi sat for a long time without speaking. “When I took her in that day, it was partly because I wanted her to use her talents in service to Qin.”
To him, she represented the last contribution he could make to the state he devotedly served.
If she only held little talent, it wasn’t a loss. Bai Qi could still make comfortable arrangements.
But, because she’s too talented, it’s impossible for him to allow her a normal life.
“To serve…” Ghost Valley faintly muttered and nodded. “So it passes like this.”
For a long time, the room became a void of silence.
Finally, Ghost Valley spoke up with hints of frustration in his tone.
“Bai Qi, do you know what I once asked Nan’er?”
"What did you ask?"
Ghost Valley sighed a bit. “I asked her what she thought of you as her master.”
Bai Qi picked up his cup and smiled.
“She said because you saved her life.”
It seemed to be an unremarkable answer, but Bai Qi’s hand stopped as he heard it, splashing some tea onto the table.
“Maybe she has long understood your intentions. Because you brought her in, no matter what plan you set, that reason alone is enough for her.”
Ghost Valley grabbed his sword and got up.
“This afternoon, I’ll assess her swordsmanship for the final time, then I’ll leave.”
Ghost Valley walked away, leaving Bai Qi alone in the room.
“Master.” Gu Nan bowed slightly at the two people standing at the courtyard entrance. “Mr. Ghost Valley.”
The snow had stopped falling, but the courtyard was still covered with it.
The wind remained strong, slowly disheveling her hair further. Her appearance has always been rugged, but the household has since gotten used to it.
Ghost Valley looked at Gu Nan and smiled.
For the last three months, he has become increasingly content with this student. Although she often acts lazy and uncontrollable, she has never quit in the teachings. Because of this, she now has a solid introduction to swordsmanship.
Of course, it’s only an introduction, it will require more work and practice to reach proficiency. Nonetheless, taking three months for this result is already quite good.
Learning the sword requires a foundation. If that foundation is bad, these flawed habits will weaken the final result considerably. It’s normal for ordinary people to take a year and a half for this result.
However, in the future, her level of attainments will depend entirely on her own ability.
“Nan’er, so you’ve been learning from me for three months?”
“Should be, more or less.”
“Ha, more or less.” Smiling at her unceremonious answer, Ghost Valley only shook his head.
“Today, I will conclude my duties as your teacher.” Ghost Valley said with a sigh. “This is the last time I will teach you, and then I will return to my sect.”
Gu Nan was stunned by the sudden change of events.
The past several months, Ghost Valley has treated her quite well. In addition to swordsmanship, he also taught philosophy and reasoning. Although he’s exacting and strict, his efforts in teaching are noticeable.
“Come and attack, show this old man the results of your work.”
“This…” Gu Nan felt like scratching her cheek.
Ghost Valley is naturally very strong, she wouldn’t be able to win even if she used the so-called internal qi.
Her swordsmanship is at a level of taking care of groups of street bandits.
But when compared to this kind of person, it’s more of a test of mentality. Otherwise, you can’t even draw your sword.
Gu Nan made up her mind and nodded. Focusing, she went into the draw stance with a hand resting on the hilt.
“Ha, don’t worry, this old man is still quite well.”
The level of strength in her hands, even she’s not too clear right now.
Even her body feels strange, as if faster and stronger, but it’s only a vague feeling.
Bai Qi said that, theoretically, once someone started martial arts training, they will see a strong period of growth. However, this growth is limited, unless they begin practicing internal qi, it would be difficult to have any further gains in physical strength.
But for Gu Nan, her strength has been constantly increasing. Three months ago, she was at seven hundred jin (400kg) of strength.
And today, it’s surpassed that as well.
Power is speed.
The sword was drawn out of the scabbard like a blurred line. With a step forward, she propelled forward, as fast as an arrow.
In just a blink of an eye, the blade had already arrived in front of Ghost Valley.
In this move, she dedicated her full strength and her fastest strike.
Out all the sword moves, the one she was most familiar with was also her strongest, her forward thrust.