I finally gently landed on the ground. We are now in the wild at the outskirts of the city, standing face to face to each other.
"Miss, you have made attempts to harm me on three separate occasions. The first time was in my room, where you then fled using Night Steps. The second time was on the main road when I met the Princess, where you made me look pathetic. I truly became laughing stock. The third time was tonight, thanks to you and your expensive drug. I have been taught to be cultured and well-mannered since a young age. I, therefore, will not senselessly get physical with girls, particularly one as beautiful as yourself. You have seen my humble room and laughed at my misery, but do you not think that you have gone overboard by using Five Plucks Heart Enchantment That causes harm to one's mental state, and you have harmed my colleague."
'Indeed, this is something that's put me in a pinch.'
'The Princess may be severely poisoned, but she possesses profound internal strength, so she'll be fine after half a day of rest after consuming these sorts of drugs. Su Xiao, on the other hand, is much weaker than her, and the kid has tunnel vision. If we're not careful, he might become retarded. You better compensate me if he does!'
"Master Ming, you are exaggerating." The maiden in black suddenly mentioned my identity, but I wasn't surprised whatsoever. She continued on after a calm giggle, "Had I been half a step late on the first day, I would most likely have been captured by you and hidden in your room. Then you would molested me against my will. Whatever do you mean by going overboard"
She speaks in an elegant tone, which is evidence that she's an educated girl from a prominent family, but hearing her say 'molested me against my will,' in such a righteous tone with no hints of it being a joke is most startling.
"Of course I wouldn't do that. Who wants to molest you!! I couldn't even discern if you were male or female back then!"
She giggled. She made hand gestures of her wiping her tears, and then mischievously said, "With your peerless martial arts skills, I know that I cannot defeat you. If I did not use some little tricks, I might have lost my purity. Therefore, I had to continue testing you. I did not expect to be exposed by you today. Sigh, all the men in this world are carnal animals. If your carnal desires are aroused, I really…"
"Since when did I say I wanted your purity! What did you take two steps back and then cover your chest for! I haven't even moved, okay! Don't pretend to cry! There's nobody around, so it's pointless even if you cry!"
"Master Ming, are you going to take advantage of the fact that there's nobody around and my cries can't be heard to impose your carnal desires on me"
"That's absolute nonsense!! Don't make it sound as though it's true! It's true that I followed you out here to the outskirts, but that doesn't mean I want to act on my carnal desires!"
'Speaking of which, I don't have carnal desires!'
While she personally took action at night, her speech is elegant and poised, suave and composed, so it sounds as though she's been one who gives out commands for a long time.
"Nevertheless…" She stopped laughing and turned a little serious, "Master Ming, you do not seem surprised that I know your identity."
I calmly replied, "You have been secretly spying on me for a long time; therefore, it is not surprising that you know my identity."
"I have asked a stupid question, then. May I ask what you chased me out here for, Master Ming"
She's the one who's made attempts to harm me on multiple occasions, yet she's questioning me, instead.
I didn't immediately reply. Instead, I looked up at the sky.
'The night sky that resembled a large boundless net contained all the stars within. That's the kind of place I feel I'm in at the moment. It seems to have named this era I'm in as Night Net.'
As I thought about totally unrelated things, I said, "Nothing. I just came to ask you what orders you have for me."
It was clear that my response caught her unsuspectingly.
"… What do you mean"
"…" After a moment of silence, I asked, "Where's Night Net Manual"
"Where did that question come from Should I know the answer"
"You used my Night Steps, yet you still intend to hide its whereabouts You do not intend to tell me that you came up with it yourself, do you"
She leaned back onto a tree trunk and folded her arms, revealing a soft bodyline. With smile, she asked, "You think that learnt your skills without your permission"
I looked at her beautiful eyes that were without equal, "My Night Net Manual records the training method for Night Steps. If one with talent was to practice it according to the manual, it wouldn't be hard to master it in three to five years. While you have yet to reach the pinnacle of it, you have shown some degree of competence with it."
"Exactly. As Night Steps is difficult to master, what makes you think that I could master your Night Steps in a short time frame"
I lowered my head to contemplate it. I then responded, "Gold and Silver Sect passes down a style known as Golden Crow Moon Eater Manual. It's not powerful, but the result of mastering it is miraculous. It allows one to learn the style of another. Though it's a hasty way of digesting it, it is effective. The more one learns, the more complex one's knowledge becomes, thereby improving one's skills. If one was to attain a certain level of mastery with Golden Crow Moon Eater Manual, I wouldn't put it above them to master several moves within Night Steps. You must be from Gold and Silver Sect, am I right"
The girl in black covered her mouth to laugh, "Are you genuinely smart or did you go out of your way to investigate me How did you manage to hit the nail on the head without much thought"
"Since Gold and Silver Sect has an information collector as skilled as you, I cannot disappoint, can I"
The beautiful girl snorted then mischievously smiled, "How much do you know about my sect"
"Truth be told, I do not know much about Gold and Silver Sect; however, the former patriarch has had a long standing friendship with me. We've fought side by side before in Jiangnan, so we can be considered friends. He does not hide things pertaining to Gold and Silver Sect that are on the brighter side of things. He did not mention the request to marry the Emperor's daughter to me, though, which goes to show that he is not proud of it. Further, according to what I know, Jin Wangsun is supposed to have a fiancé in the sect. Given the way Jin Wangsun came here in a flamboyant manner to request the Princess' hand in marriage, I would assume things have been turned upside-down, inside-out back home.
Gold and Silver Sect have always prioritised profit and heartily conducted business. If it was detrimental for the sect, not even the patriarch would be able to command the members of the sect. Thus, I would presume that the sect is split between Jin Wangsun and the sect, itself. If I am correct, you must be from the opposing faction, correct"
The girl in black froze. She slightly jolted as though that was her way of signalling I was right on the money. After seeing her response, I continued on, "I, initially, was not sure, but after seeing your reaction, it would appear that my memory is not bad."
"You certainly have proven to be smarter than I imagined," the girls in black made a short pause then went on, "I… am the close friend of the fiancée that you spoke of. That bastard, Jin Wangsun, abandoned my friend, who I see as a sister. I could not accept it; therefore, I copied some of the secret manuals he took from Night Fortress, which is… Night Steps, which I just utilised. Although I have practiced it, it is a fact that Night Fortress' manuals are not with me."
'I fully believe that. Night Fortress' manuals are most probably in Jin Wangsun's hands, and I dare say they're kept very safe.'
'If we're judging from the time frame from then until now, he should be learning from the manuals at this present time. He is unlikely to hand them over even if somebody holds a blade up to his neck.'
"So pretty much what I expected then."
"My good sister had a marriage agreement with him since long ago, yet he ignored his legitimate betrothal to her and just wants to join the imperial family, instead. Once he captured Hangzhou's Night Fortress, he brought a big group of men into the place, along with dried provisions with the intent of using Night Fortress as his base to expand Gold and Silver Sect's power of influence. That got to his head, and made him think he was the overlord of Jiangnan's martial world. Subsequently, he began starting trouble everywhere, thereby provoking somebody he should not have. Therefore, he rushed to get to the Capital to seek a marriage in hopes that the Imperial Court can resolve his problem for him.
I found the former patriarch of Gold and Silver Sect. Both he and I believe that Jin Wangsun needs to be taught a lesson; hence, he wants to ruin Jin Wangsun's marriage request. I am the representative of Gold and Silver Sect's faction that opposes Jin Wangsun."
I revealed a smile indicating I understood, "I thought so; hence my original question, what can I do for you, Miss"
"You are too kind, Master Ming." To my surprise, she responded with laughter, "You are not yet qualified to work for us."
"What makes you say so"
"You possess peerless martial arts prowess, but there are many times when one's martial prowess cannot change the big picture. For instance, you may not be able to prevail against me in a qinggong contest."
I revealed a look of astonishment, "What makes you say that Are you saying that you could shake me off"
Without her expression changing, she replied, "You are very confident with Night Steps, by the sounds of it."
"Not exactly. However, even if I let you take the first ten steps and still catch up to you within ten breaths."
"That is a very arrogant statement." She didn't get angry, but covered her mouth to chuckle, "Let us have a bet then."
"What would you like to bet, Miss"
The girl in black stood with a beautiful pose. She placed a hand on her clothes, adopting a pose that made it appear as though she was thinking. Not long after, she clapped her hands as a young girl would, "Let's have a qinggong contest then."
I may have expected some odd suggestion, but never did I imagine she'd suggest competing in qinggong.
"We shall use this location as our starting point and head North. Whoever goes furthest in half an hour is the winner; what do you think"
The thought of crossing has never crossed my mind, so I responded with a smile, "What's the prize then"
She pointed at her sharp and delicate chin with her slender finger. She faintly replied, "If I lose… I shall tell you my name."
"All right. Learning the name of a beauty is a nice prize."
"But should you lose…" She emphasised every following word, "I will request a favour of you, and you must see that it is done no matter what."
Hearing her make such an assured agreement made me suddenly feel worried.
'Could she really have a trump card'
'During Tian Ji's horse race, the plus won against the super. Does she have a way of triumphing against me, as well'
I pondered to myself for a long while.
'So the deal is whoever gets the furthest after half an hour is the victor Is there a trick in there somewhere'
'I can't think of any reason I'd lose to her no matter how I rack my brains.'
"Master Ming, you are a man. Are you afraid of me by any chance"
I know that she was provoking me, but I was curious as to how she'd win, "All right. Deal."
"Also, you just said that you could let me start with a ten-step lead. Does that still hold"
"I clearly said, 'even if I let you take the first ten steps …' All right. Take it as I said it. You can start with a ten-step lead."
"Great, let us begin then."
The maiden in black drifted over to me with light steps. After a few silent counts, she said, "Begin."
I waited for her to take ten steps, but instead, she stayed in place. She folded her arms, and it looked as though she was giggling.
"Master Ming, your memory sure is poor," She laughed, "Did you not just say you have a decent memory How did you forget that there's still an aroused man and woman in your room"
My mind instantly went blank. I thought of a scary scenario.
'Right now. In my room. On my bed. Is Su Xiao and the Princess. If the dragon meets the phoenix, oh, **!'
'I've left my room for a long time. I did seal the Princess' meridian, but Su Xiao might wake up! The drug is still in their systems! If they lose control of themselves, sparks are going to fly!'
"I shall go on then, Master Ming."
The maiden in black then took off toward the North similarly to a sharp arrow, which is the opposite direction of Liu Shan Men.
'No wonder why she was so certain of her victory. She knew that I had to go back.'
'Fucking hell!! She's so cunning!'
*Tian Ji's horse reference - Please note that this is a condensed version of the story.
During the warring states period, a military strategist named Sun Bin fed from Wei to State Qi. Horse racing was the most popular entertainment among Chinese aristocracy at that time. Both Tian Ji and the king of Qi were horse racing fans. They often spend lots of money bet on winning or losing. Since the King's horses were better than his, Tian Ji lost most of races. Sun Bin told Tian Ji to ask the King for another race, and provided him with a strategy.
The race was conducted with horses divided into three classes: regular, plus and super. Each horse was only allowed to be used in one round. Tian Ji lost every round. Sun Bin pointed out how Tian Ji pitted his regular against the King's regular, his plus against the King's plus, and his super against the King's super.
The victor is determined via best of three rounds.
What he had Tian Ji do was doll up his regular as his super, plus as his regular and super as his plus. Therefore, his regular went up against the King's super, and naturally lost. However, Tian Ji's plus won against the King's regular, and his super won against the King's plus.
Subsequently, Tian Ji lost one, but one two, thereby winning the overall contest.
Sun Bin later explains to the King that strategy will be the deciding factor when two sides are equal in strength. Therefore, MFZ's reference to it is him wondering if the maiden has some sort of winning strategy to overcome the discrepancy in their qinggong skills.
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