Lancel and Ziyan look at each other before Lancel suddenly sigh and said
‘Is there a point to our battle when the answer to the question has been revealed?’ Lancel ask looking at Ziyan.
‘Bring out your sword, Lancel!’ She said before unsheathing her own sword and sword intent filled the Peak.
The cold that inhabits the Peak dispersed as Ziyan sword intent repels all cold.
Lancel also unsheathe his red sword, bringing it out from his scabbard as an incomparably hot energy collided with Ziyan fierce sword intent.
Each of their sword intent is sharp and hot, fierce and unrelenting.
‘Begin!’ Ziyan shouted and she dash forward as she executed one of her sect swordplay technique, the Carefree Swordplay.
Charles immediately went inside the Pavilion of Immortals far away from the battle as the sound of swords being unsheathed could be heard, like a glass was rubbed into the wall.
Lancel slash to her right and she immediately sweep her sword to her right and the colliding sword sparks fire and lights as shockwave ripples from their sword encounter.
The surrounding boulders on their left and right were cleaved into two as their sword slices were deflected to their left and right.
Ziyan smiles showing an expression of satisfaction as she began inciting her internal energy as waves of energy wafted out of her body, boundless like the sea.
Lancel was grinning as it remind him of the old days when they used to train with each other as they wander the Jianghu.
‘The Young Master of Wellham and the Holy Daughter of the Jade Palace Gate….once upon a time’ he mused as he smiles wistfully amidst the battle.
Then Ziyan uses one of the moves of the Carefree Swordplay, Searching the Sea. Her sword tingles with excitement.
Her left feet kick towards Lancel thigh as one of her hand chop downwards towards him with her sword, sharp and swift.
Lancel deflect the kick with his right foot and with his left foot, he push the ground as he dashed backwards, narrowly missing the chopping sword from above.
The internal energy embedded in that sword moves continue to move downward and the ground exploded into mass of soil, disturbing each other eyesight.
‘Holding the Moon’ Ziyan whispers as she withdraws her sword backward which might seems a tiger that hides its fang but Lancel knows better.
This is an internal energy movement.
Lancel was aware of the Carefree Swordplay. Everyone in the Jianghu knows about the Carefree Swordplay.
One of the core swordplay techniques of the Jade Palace Gate, it is renowned in Jianghu to be a swordplay technique that is full of mess.
Yet, no one dares to say that it is a garbage technique.
There is lightness movement, internal skills, external technique, Boundless Path and Nirvana Path understanding in each of its moves.
One could even say that the swordplay was the interplay between the two philosophies of the Great Teacher and the Wise Master.
With every sword moves, it was like the Great Teacher and the Wise Master were debating the order of Heaven and Earth, talking about the Path and the ways of mortals and immortals, of the truth and mysteries of the world.
It is a profound skill and technique combining probably almost everything. This is why it is called a mess.
Every move could be understood differently by each of its practitioner so much so some people in Jianghu claims, that those who practices this swordplay, none of their moves is the same.
The technique name is the same but each people executing it all have difference in strokes or attack or methods.
Eight Immortals cross the sea, each employing his or her theory.
This is why Lancel did not underestimate this retreating move of Ziyan.
It seems like she is retreating, pulling her sword back but almost immediately when she pulls hers word back, her feet retire, and the energy of Heaven and Earth coils around her waist, like she was about to explode with power.
She grins and then said
‘Let see you take this move, Red Sword!’ she shouted across the distance.
And then with her movement of pulling the sword back, a pulling force envelops Lancel and his face changes.
It was like all the spaces around him were oppressed by an external energy.
‘Internal energy technique infused with a sword sequence!’ The shock in Lancel heart was massive.
This is the famed move, Holding the Moon.
Then against his will, Lancel could feel his feet lurched forward as he is brought towards Ziyan.
The pulling force pulls her close to her area of attack where she grabs him on the neck with her left hand and with her right hand she points towards Lancel chest with her sword.
‘ARRGHH!’ Lancel shouted.
The feeling of being constrained does not sit well with Lancel. His school technique stressed out the importance of freedom.
Freedom of will, freedom of mind and the body. To be carefree by severing the shackles that hold one from attaining freedom of the soul.
His shouts incite his internal energy like a tiger being caught in a net, struggling mightily like the overlord of the forest.
Lancel burst with his internal energy and heat exploded from his body. He knows if he could not release himself from her grips he would have immediately lost.
It is one thing to lose to Old Immortal disciple; it is another matter entirely to lose to Old Immortal disciple in just a few movements.
He could not bring shame to his Teacher, the Sword Saint Wu Ming. What Lancel didn’t realize, reputation is a worldly thing and this is also a shackle for Lancel mind.
If the Sword Saint Wu Ming is here, he would point out the mistake in Lancel thinking.
So, as his body exploded with his internal energy it weakens the pulling force of Ziyan skills.
It was at this time that he smirks as he deflect her sword with his sword side, as a sound like bells tolling rings out on the Peak of the Mountain as his and her sword deflect each other, sparks fly out and silver lights filled the Peak, sword intent cleaved all around this two experts path.
It was a battle of Dragon and Tiger, both seems to be evenly matched in the first few exchanges.
Ziyan might be proficient in swordplay but comparing internal energy, he is still superior.
The Jade Palace Gate Sect skills are all formidable and imposing, but do that means the Sword Saint Disciples technique is any worse?
Sword Saint once fought Old Immortal Li in the Divine Peak when he was young in a battle that lasted three days and three nights.
While Sword Saint lost in that bout, Old Immortal Li praised the Sword Saint saying that if not for his superior internal energy and experience and the teachings of the predecessor of the Jade Palace Gate sect, Old Immortal Li in terms of swordplay and mastery of the path of sword, Old Immortal Li admitted he might have lost.
The Jade Palace Gate had a long foundation since the time of Olaf and some even said they even existed since the Ancient Han dynasty which is why their martial arts and swordplay technique are refined to almost perfection.
But does the old always win against the new?
Lancel knows that his swordplay is not as refined as Ziyan swordplay, knowing even more clearly that in the path of sword, he did not walk the path of the straight sword as straight as his teacher or his junior brother.
But does that mean Red Sword Lancel is unskillful? There is a reason his moniker in Jianghu is Red Sword.
His Red Sword, Fyrerend could cut apart energies which is why managed to deflect Ziyan Holding The Moon moves even though the space around him were pressured by Ziyan impressive ability to manipulate the external sources of power of Heaven and Earth.
Form this Lancel could see that Ziyan is already touching the understanding of Heavenly Immortal.
‘Hmph’ Ziyan snorted as she was about to apply pressure on Lancel neck.
But Lancel was not worried now. His Red Sword has cut the energy and as such his body could now moves according to his will.
It was this time Lancel shot out his feet to the ground and the ground exploded as his internal energy create an earth splash as the cold stony ground of the Peak was turned to mud the moment Lancel shot his feet to the ground.
Shocked and panicked, she unconsciously loosen her grip and Lancel use this opportunities to use his left hand to execute a palm strike.
‘Great Wisdom Palm!’ he shouted as he strikes towards Ziyan chest area.
Boundless energy fills his palm as the wind shrieks as his hand passes the wind, generating heat pressure that repels the cold.
To counter this attack Ziyan immediately uses Black Dragon Whipping Its Tail.
She uses her sword to push Lancel away three feet from her and uses her other free hand in a coiling movement to dissipate the palm strike internal energy with her back of her hand.
Her hand produce an illusionary image of a Black Dragon, only possible because of her thick internal energy manifesting in the real world, munching the palm strike internal energy and the roar of the wind was like the roar of the Black Dragon
That move reminds Charles who was watching in the Pavilion of Immortals of a white stork cooling it wings in a calm lake.
But even as Lancel was three feet away, Ziyan was not about to relent her assault.
The fact that Lancel managed to get away from her grips is because of her unpreparedness and lack of guard.
She already were certain of her victory thus she lack her guard. She underestimates him thus the unpreparedness.
She thought after all this year, she could prove to him that she could easily beat him in a few moves but Lancel previous attack and his smile only seems to irritate her further, proving he was not an easy opponents.
Ziyan had to respond in kind as she executes another moves from the Carefree Swordplay.
‘Green Dragon Emerges from Water’ Charles almost shouted as he saw her teacher execute that movement.
When Charles was in the Sword Tomb of Heartless, his teacher would shows him the moves of the Carefree Swordplay and ask him to remember all the moves first without teaching him any of the profundities meaning of each move.
‘Memorize the moves first’ she would always instruct him.
And this is one of the sword moves he remembered as one of the ambush type sword skills, Green Dragon Emerges from Water.
Amidst the dust of the ground Lancel could not see anything as his eyesight was obstructed and the surroundings is a blur.
But across the dust, Ziyan is drawing her right leg back and then she kicked the ground, dashing through the dust.
Her speed blows the dust away like it was beings truck by a fierce gale. And then her figure was interposed with illusory image of a dragon emerging from the Golden River.
Her sword is lifted up and trusted forward.
The explosive power combining the speed of her movement and the lethality of this move was truly like an enraged Green Dragon Emerging from the Water.
Before Lancel was about to reach Ziyan sword was already on his throat, only inches away, her sword vibrates as it stops perfectly just below Lancel head.
It took a few second before Lancel realizes that Ziyan is in front of him, holding her sword at his throat.
Lancel look at Ziyan and smiles bitterly.
Their gaze seems to tell a story, each telling the other their hopes and dreams.
Charles looking from afar marvel at the expert moves and at the same time sighs as he recognizes the subtle emotion underlying their moves and attack.
His Teacher could have ended this battle earlier, yet she did not. His Uncle could have strikes harder but he did not. What does this tell Charles as the observer of the battle?
An unresolved feeling.
Rain suddenly falls down, first with droplets of water, and then slowly it turns into a downpour.
But, they both stay still in that moment, her holding him at sword point, he, stands there looking at her, like he was admiring a beautiful painting.
As he looks at her, loneliness fills his heart.
For some reason, today, he misses the old times with Ziyan, remembering her innocent expression and her good days with him and Kyra.
Ziyan look at him as tears began welling up, her eyes turns red and moist because of her tears.
‘Could you not forget?’ Lancel asked his voice was trembling, amidst the downpour and the sound of the rain falling down on the stone hard ground, his question seems to be full of regret and sorrows.
‘I reminisce you in my heart and carve you in my memories. I want to forget…but I can’t. I want to sever…but I won’t. Tell me Lancel, was it easy to forget?’
Lancel look at Ziyan and his heart also waver. She still looks as beautiful as she was in her youth.
Drenched with rain, she is still beautiful.
As the rain keep falling down, memories of the past spills inside both of their heart.
Each memory is coming down with every droplet of rain, bringing pain to each other heart.
‘I did not forget’ he answers simply and honestly, like a whisper he said this word and like that a weight was released from his shoulders.
And suddenly the raindrops feel comforting for Ziyan.
Slowly she remove her sword point from Lancel throat and she look at Lancel. It was the same place, but both of them are not the same person they were before.
She did not need to ask who won and he did not have to announce it. They both know each other capabilities and such obvious thing does not need to be said.
But a promise could never be broken.
Decades ago, they promised to meet each other in the Divine Peak and decide once and for all who is the most proficient in swordplay.
It was a childish promise brought about by the naivety of the youth. Youth are wasted on the young, wisdom are wasted on the Old.
During the decade she spent waiting; she cools her heart and understands many matters she did not understand before.
The matters of the heart are different in many other matters of the world. It could not be forced easily.
Now, they have grown, and they both have been disillusioned from such concept of honor or loyalty or many other things they believe in their youth.
They have seen many things and experience many things.
He was not the Young master Lancel of Wellham and she was no longer the Holy Daughter of the Jade Palace Gate.
The place is the same, the characters are the same, yet Time changes everything, the feeling is different, no longer naïve and thus no longer it is easy to speak the matters of feelings and desire.
Charles who is the third observer could see the complicated expression on both of them from afar and he sighed.
‘The matters are simple or not simple, depending on each other wills. If you want to make it simple, then it is simple. If you want to make it hard, then it is hard.’
Charles understands this matter the most.
In his life on that Earth, he also has the same complications. In the world, is there anything more troublesome and more complicated matters than the matters of the heart?
Not knowing, guessing each other intentions and wavering and changing. The heart is truly a mysterious thing
‘Will you release my nephew now?’ He asked Ziyan as they walked towards the Pavilion of Immortals.
They were walking distancing themselves a few meters from each other but there is some sense of closeness from them
From afar it almost seems like they were walking shoulder to shoulders.
They did not have to say much. Both understand each other complications and intentions. Or maybe they guessed.
Both believe that they know better and know each other feeling yet they did not talk about it as both of them thinks they know better.
Time has given them the illusion that they both has grown in wisdom and experience.
In the end, if no one talks, how heartfelt desire and longings of the past could be communicated?
And as such because of that, they remain obtuse and an adult. To be carefree and full of joy one has to be like a child.
But even Old Immortal Li could not be carefree and joyful even though he wanted to be. And why is that?
As a man lives, there are responsibilities.
How could a grown man be able to shirk all responsibilities and act like a child instead? Those who shirk their responsibilities then must not be called a man.
That is a child. Which grown men could say they are not shackles by responsibilities? And each man bears these burdens.
A turbulent era is approaching and at that time men will be separated into three kinds of people.
In turbulent time, there will be victims of the turbulent time, a fighter against the turbulent time and a rider of the turbulent times.
Charles would not let himself becomes the victim. And he would not be a rider. A world of blood could not be saved by spilling more blood.
To fight against the turbulent times. That is Charles determination. Meanwhile, coming down from their sites of battle, Ziyan began explaining some things to Lancel.
‘He is my disciple’ Ziyan state the fact. Lancel was shocked and stood in place.
‘What are you saying, Ziyan?’
‘Charles Martell is part of the Jade Palace Gate. He is the Third Young master of the Martell House. That is a Princely House of Westhold. He is not a part of Jianghu and even if I did intend to induct him in Jianghu, I will not induct him into your sect.’
‘So?’ Ziyan replies looking totally unconcerned
‘It has been known that even though the Jade Palace Gate Sect martial arts are wondrous and magical they have never interfered with the life outside of Jianghu and rarely meddles in politics. Did Immortal Li also know of this matter? This could complicate your sect positions in Jianghu.’
‘I didn’t know you would be so worried about my sect wellbeing’ Ziyan asked her words were brusque but there is hint of appreciation there.
Then looking at the worried expression on Lancel face Ziyan did not hold back giving him the true reason she accepts Charles as her disciple.
‘Your nephew is afflicted with the Extreme Poisonous Yin Body.’
Hearing this Lancel was once again shocked and then he looks toward his nephew figure sitting on the stone chairs of the Pavilion from afar and he shakes his head.
‘To think he was afflicted with such physique. No wonder he could not incite any internal energy.’
Ziyan nodded in agreement and added
‘You of all people know that my sect could cure the Extreme Poisonous Yin body. But to cure him he needs to practice my sect core technique. Everyone knows that to learn the Jade Palace Gate sect technique one need to enter my sect. We do not teach to outsiders without permission’
Lancel nodded and as he looked towards Ziyan there is gratitude in his heart and it is expressed in the way he looked at Ziyan.
Both of them look at each other like they think they could understand each other with a gaze but to Charles they are nothing but a pair of idiots
What are you?
A psychic? Do you know each other heart by looking at each other eyes? If there is such an amazing ability like that everyone would want to learn it.
They need to talk…but they don’t want to. Each one believing they know what on the other hearts.
Yet, they both know nothing.
One is full of heartfelt desire to once again resume their destinies, while the other one is full of longing and memories of the past, desiring to rectify the wrong of the past.
Lancel display his gratitude for Ziyan to accept Charles as her own disciple but that is because he doesn’t know the tenets of her sect.
There is a reason why the Jade Palace Gate did not spread the news that people with Extreme Poisonous Yin body could learn all the great techniques of the Jade Palace Gate.
This is because the sect fears to be infiltrated by wicked people.
If the Jianghu knows that people with that affliction could learn the consummate skills of the ancestor of the sect, won’t they find some boy or girl with that affliction and train them in their house before sending them to Jade Place Gate and stealing their skills and technique.
The reason Old Immortal Li did not like Charles in their first meeting is because he possess Extreme Poisonous Yin body afflictions.
Old Immortal Li might be powerful but even he could not learn the Heartless Sutra and the other technique of the Patriarch who possess the affliction.
This birthed envy inside Old Immortal Li towards people who have Extreme Poisonous Yin body who felt it was unfair.
The second is because the succession of the sect. The management of the sect is different from the past.
It has been centuries since a person with Extreme Poisonous Yin enter their sect.
This would surely affect the entirety of the sect.
Lancel on the other hand had to send letters to Lindberg to the Prince to inform him that his son is safe.
He also needs to send letters to his younger sister informing that her son has found a great teacher in Jianghu.
As they reached the Pavilion, the rain slowly slowed down and shown sign of stopping.
‘Uncle Lancel, it has been a long time. Teacher has defeated my Uncle, hope the knot inside teacher heart has been untangled’ Charles said as he greets them entering the Pavilion.
Ziyan face slightly turned red in embarrassment as she felt she was seen through by her own disciple.
‘Still has the face to joke?’ She reprimanded as she come closer to hit Charles buttocks.
Charles laughed as he taps his foot and slides backward, the First Step of Twelve heaven Steps but Ziyan circles around him like she was a graceful storm and pinch his cheek and then slap his buttocks as Charles cried in pain.
Lancel coughed in embarrassment not knowing where to look.
‘Now, sit properly’
Charles then sits on one of the stone chairs as he looks at his teacher and pouted.
There is nothing else he could do. If only his martial arts were strong he could have evaded that pinching and hitting.
As they sit down, Charles realized he is being watched intently by his uncle.
Then his uncle grabs him and injects his internal energy inside Charles body as warmth filled Charles body.
Charles did not resist the warmth since he knows his uncle is only checking his progress.
‘You have been able to reach Worldly Wanderer cultivation level in just a short time’ his uncle said impressed
Ziyan then added
‘Because his body already possessed the energy backed up by his long years of enduring the Yin energy. It would take time for him to reach your level but his speed of improvement will be faster than when you were young. His internal energy is still scarce but in time my sect technique will remedy that weakness and turns it into his strength’
Lancel only nodded.
He knows that Jade Palace Gate martial art techniques are miraculous and could increase one internal energy just by practicing their martial arts
‘Anyway, Charles, as I have talked before, after Xianyang, I promise you that you would be granted freedom from me. But since you have become my disciple and a part of the Jade Palace gate, I think you would rather trains martial arts with me instead, right?’
‘Yes, Master’ he nodded in agreement.
‘Good. Then it is now time for you to roam in Jianghu. A flower in a green house is weak. You must forge yourself inside the treacherous Jianghu. I will not be at your side to provide guidance but I will leave you with three martial Art Manuals. I hope in your journey you could learn these manuals and master them enough to satisfy me.’
‘What is my objective and how long will I have to wander?’
‘This is Han’ Ziyan states.
‘Before you reach your sixteenth day of birth you must return to Lindberg by your own strength. Of course you can also use your gold to hire a carriage to go back, but would you learn anything from doing that? By that time, I will be waiting you for there to check your progress. Disappoint me and I will expel you myself from the Sect!’ she said sternly.
Lancel who was hearing this beside Ziyan was shocked. Not because she was stern. He was used to that side of Ziyan. It was the first part of her words.
Checking his progress in Lindbergh? Then doesn’t that mean she will be at Lindberg, Beyond the Pass, on Westhold?
Ziyan nonchalantly said as she notices the expression on Lancel face.
‘I have always been meaning to see the cities beyond the Pass. It would also help me to widen my experience.’
Then he ruffled the knapsack she left in the Pavilion when she first arrive today. Fishing out three books she handed the book to Charles.
Each book was inscribed with the symbol of Jade Palace Gate which is a white curved moon.
‘Never let anyone read the content of the book. And never let it get stolen. If it’s stolen, then you must retrieve it. If one person sees it, kill that person. If one hundred people see it, kill all one hundred people. If you kill 99 out of 100 then don’t bother calling me Master again.’ She said almost like she was shouting out the words, her tone was harsh and her eyes shows her determination.
‘Do not scare the kid. With that crest who would dare stole the book. The people in Jianghu know not to offend and the people who are not part of Jianghu won’t even be able to understand, so why be so cruel? It is known that those who wanted to steal the skills of the Jade Palace Gate ending rarely have good endings.’ Lancel spoke trying to change Ziyan mind but Ziyan just snorted and look at Lancel like he could never understand her positions and difficulties.
Charles however shock his uncle when he said
‘If one person sees it, I will kill that person. If one hundred people see it, I will kill all one hundred people. If I kill 99 out of 100 then this disciple won’t see Master again until the task is accomplished.’
‘Good disciple’ Ziyan praise.
The one thing Ziyan like most about her disciple is the fact he is decisive in his actions.
‘However, setting you out in Jianghu without a protector is irresponsible. Since you are not yet able to effectively protect yourself, take this medallion and go to Hundred Joy Pavilion in the city of Xianyang. The moment you enter the Pavilion yell this word, ‘’Heaven and Earth’’ and shows this medallion. There will be two people that will come out. One of them is tall, the other is short. The tall one is a woman. The short one is a man. State your status as my disciple and they will protect you until you could fend for yourself. They will know what to do after they met you.’
Ziyan toss the golden medallion to Charles and Charles grabbed it in the air. He looks at the medallion.
There is the crest of the Jade Palace Gate sect and below that crest is a word Heaven. Looking at the back of the medallion there is another word Earth.
‘That is the Heaven and Earth Decree Medallion, the highest level medallion inside our sect that lets you commands our outside forces. Since you are my disciple, you are one of the Holy Sons of Jade Palace Gate. In the Jianghu stand tall and don’t let anyone humiliate you. Humiliating you means humiliating our sect. In the history of our sect, we were always the one humiliating other sect and not the other way around. We might rarely surfaces in the Jianghu but that was not because we are not strong but because we are strong, we rarely interfere. Do you understand what master is trying to say, Charles?’
‘Charles understands master advice. Disciple will engrave this advice, and will not forget’
‘Good. Smart people don’t have to be told too much. You are still tired so rest in the Pavilion. Next morning, I will not be here. As for your uncle’ and her eyes leered towards Lancel,
‘He could choose to stay and protect you thought I will remind your uncle, a sword not forged in fire is just useless metal.’
Saying this she stands up and exited the Pavilion searching for firewood for tonight.
Lancel look at his nephew and after thinking for a few moments, he said.
‘Your Teacher is right.’ Charles nodded.
‘I understand Uncle. Uncle, do you have any advice for me to wander in Jianghu?’
Lancel was about to say something but he then stop himself.
‘Each one has their own experiences when wandering in Jianghu. There is no advice to be given. But if there is some advice I can give to you, it is that to train not only your body but also your mind. Soak all the experiences and the culture of the Eresian. Take what which strengthen you but left out those that does not conform with your Path.’
Charles nodded and gratefully said
Finished saying this Lancel kiss Charles forehead and walk out and help Ziyan searching or firewood and Charles sit back down on his stone chair.
In his mind, he has begun thinking how to spend the next few years. He will return to Westhold one day.
And when he returns he will be returning as a man capable of protecting his mother. The only one he cares about inside the Martel household is only his mother.
His other Brother all wanted to kill him.
Even now, the First Wife of House Martell must be plotting against his mother. But even so, Charles did not do the emotional things.
Because being kind is not enough. Being good is not enough. Charles has seen a lot of people who wanted to the right thing being subjected into an ignoble ending.
Being kind and good while not possessing power will not change anything.
One could not see it but the eyes of Charles Martell are full of bloodlust.
The first Contender of the Dragon Throne: Charles Martel, Third Young Master of House Martell.