Book 1: Winds Begin to Blow in Tai Yuan
Chapter 1 - Seventeen Years Later
"The third one."
Meng Fuyao used one foot to step on the chest of the person beneath her, with her elbow supported by her knee and her body tilted. Using the thin rays of sunlight that penetrated through the dark green foliage of the surrounding forest, she curiously examined the object within her palm.
The object was a dark, hexagonal seal with intriguing patterns, made of material that was similar yet different when compared to both gold and jade. The bottom right corner was slightly larger than the others, polished to a sharp point and looked like a blue-gray fang dimly glittering in the sunlight.
Fuyao's finger lightly stroked the protruding corner while her face had on a smile with an undecipherable meaning to it. She tossed the seal into the air a couple times and then started to whistle.
As she tilted her head upward, the golden sheets of sunlight traced the flowing angles of her jaw line, framing a delicate face with pleasing angles and a pure white forehead. Two relaxed eyebrows leisurely spread out, overhanging two dark eyes bright with barely contained reckless spirit that shot out like the edges of sharp knives.
"Hey, it's Nemesis1 Dynasty's command seal! Lucky me!"
Meng Fuyao dusted off her hands, casually shoving the dark command seal into the folds of her robes. When shoving the seal in, there was a faint sound of jade objects rubbing against one another; Fuyao had already collected two other seals that were slightly different in construct, each one representing a different state.
When Meng Fuyao heard the clinking of the jade seals, she raised her eyebrows with a smile.
Once she gathered the command seals of all seven states, she could then ...
The sound of someone rustling through the grass and brushing aside leaves came from behind her. Fuyao squinted her eyes, then jabbed an acupuncture point on the person underneath her feet and kicked him into the forest shrubbery.
Walking over was a green-clothed, handsome and tall youth with clear and smooth skin. Just from his dress and temperament one could tell that he was from a noble background; the corner of his mouth curled up in a mellow and affectionate smile, giving one a feeling of enjoying a spring breeze.
He was Profound Sky Sword Sect's most outstanding disciple, the noble prince of the influential Yan Jing aristocrat clan, and the dream lover of most of the sect's female disciples: Yan Jingchen2.
"You're playing here in the back of the mountains again." Yan Jingchen stopped three chi3 to the side of Fuyao, with a slight smile containing both gentleness and blame. "By not diligently practicing your martial arts, in tomorrow's competition you will be reverse number one4 again. Does being yelled at feel that good?"
Meng Fuyao had on an unconcerned smile, and lazily brushed some hair away from her face. "It's no big deal, after eating loss after loss, I'm pretty much used to it now."
She carelessly repeated the usual reply that she would use when this topic came up between the two, not noticing that today Yan Jingchen's eyes held a hint of hesitation and struggle. She also didn't realize that when Jingchen heard her reply, his expression sank a little.
"Fuyao," Yan Jingchen intently stared at her for long while, and then couldn't stop himself from stepping forward and saying using a low voice: "Why can't you spend more effort on learning martial arts? In our Five Regions Continent, strength is above all. A person who has never cultivated, will struggle with every step they take and only receive the cold-shoulder from everyone they meet. Have you ... never thought about improving your situation?"
After pausing a little, he added on another sentence. "Even if, it's only for me?"
Even if, it's only for me.
Meng Fuyao's heart moved a little, and she rose her head to look into Jingchen's eyes. Inside she saw hesitation, worry, and also a slight pain, causing her to feel a small amount of pain in the depths of her heart as well. She suddenly realized that recently she was seeing Jiangchen's disappointed gaze more and more often.
Fuyao opened her mouth, and in that moment she wanted to say out loud the deep secret that she was hiding within her heart.
She wanted to tell him, that it wasn't because she couldn't learn martial arts; wanted to tell him, that the reason why she couldn't cultivate the profound origin technique, was because it conflicted with her sect's "Breaking Nine Heavens" cultivation method; she even wanted to tell him that, if given enough time, one day she would make him smile in pride instead of being embarrassed and having his status be harmed by the ridicule directed at her.
Yet ... she could not.
The parting words of her master still lingered beside her ears: "You can never reveal your previous martial skills to any sect."
She had made an oath, and so she had to uphold it.
Jingchen was loyal to the sect and obsessed with martial arts. If she told him the truth, then the Profound Origin5 sect master would know about it sooner or later.
Meng Fuyao took a deep breath, lifted her eyelashes, and with clear and shining eyes met Yan Jingchen's gaze that already contained a hint of crestfallenness after waiting for her reply for so long.
"Jingchen, I, have already done all I can ..."
Yan Jingchen steadily looked at her, and after a long time, slowly let out a long exhale. After hearing her response, the nervousness and disappointment in his eyes suddenly faded away, leaving only a type of shallow helplessness that comes after the dust has settled.
He suddenly switched to another topic.
"In a year's time at Nemesis Dynasty's capital city Pan6 there will be a 'True Martial' competition that will gather aristocratic cultivators from the seven states. The conference will test martial strength, war strategy, and tactics to determine the strongest seven individuals from the seven states; those who obtain victory will be able to command the armies of their respective states. My master has said, the Profound Origin Sword Sect will be sending me and martial sister Pei Yuan7 to attend the conference. Tomorrow I will depart early in order to return to my clan and prepare for the battle."
While speaking his voice was faint. Behind him, the setting sun beyond the distant mountains weakly shone through the tips of the forest leaves, scattering pale yellow speckles onto the back of Yan Jingchen; this made him look blurry and far away, his expression hard to make out.
Meng Fuyao's heart shook a little, and she forced herself to smile. "You guys are the sword sect's most outstanding pair of disciples, and the king of Tai Yuan8 even bestowed upon you two the title 'Twin Swords of Jade and Pearl'. Who else would the Profound Origin sect send if not you two?"
Yan Jingchen deeply gazed at her. His tone of voice sounded slightly abnormal. "Fuyao, I actually have always hoped that the title 'Twin Swords of Jade and Pearl', would refer to you and me."
Fuyao's smile became even more forced.
How could she not hope for that? No matter how generous a woman may be, she would still be unable to accept it if the person she liked had a 'couple name' with another woman, and that couple was even widely regarded as a match made in heaven!
The sun quickly set behind the horizon, causing the boundless sky to shift from the previously brilliant indigo and scarlet to a pale shade of red in a blink of an eye. After the rays of the dying sunset passed through the deep green foliage, they fell onto the blurred figure of Jingchen three chi away, who had not moved any closer all this time.
A prompt sense of panic arose in the depths of Fuyao's heart, causing her heartbeat to become erratic. That strong feeling of unease gave her the urge to say some crucial words; if she didn't ... then perhaps she may never get the chance to say them again.
"Jingchen, I want to tell you ..."
"Fuyao, I want to tell you." Yan Jingchen suddenly cut her off. His words were spoken quickly, as if he needed to get them off his chest urgently in case he couldn't continue on. "A letter came from my clan, they have proposed marriage to the Pei family, and the Pei family has already accepted the betrothal gift. After the True Martial conference, I ... will marry Pei Yuan."