The next morning ushered in Jing Yue’s first class in the academy.
With the mini Canglan sword at his side, Jing Yue walked all the way to the dojo. There was a stone stele at the entrance of the dojo, on which the four characters ‘Starlodge’ and ‘Sword Dao’ were inscribed.
At this time, there were already forty or fifty disciples in the dojo. Jing Yue briefly calculated and finally estimated sixty or seventy students.
When those disciples saw Jing Yue, they went quiet for a while, expressions rather strange. Although Nine Heaven Academy had no seniority in the same class, everyone knew that he was the patriarch of Frostcloud Sect—a person that they could only look up to outside Nine Heaven Academy, so they were a little uncertain on how to approach him for fear of offending him.
Jing Yue took the lead to greet them and found an empty futon to sit down.
“Hello, fellow student Jing.” The disciples greeted cautiously.
“Pfft…” Jing Yue was aware of their concerns and said, “There’s no need to be so cautious. Since we’re classmates, just call me A-jing.”
Suddenly, a crisp and melodious bell rang throughout the academy, and immediately, a dark blue figure came with a sword.
The dojo immediately went silent and all the disciples quickly sat down.
Jing Yue noticed that many people's eyes were sparkling as if there was a fire in their eyes, burning wildly towards Qin Yanzhi in front, making him feel an uneasy chill.
When he raised his eyes again, his gaze collided with Qin Yanzhi. Jing Yue smiled at him. Qin Yanzhi nodded slightly before averting his eyes and said, “I’m Qin Yanzhi. Yan-zhenren has returned to the sect to deal with some matters. In this duration, I’ll act as your instructor on his behalf.”
Although the disciples had already heard about it, they could not hide their excitement after receiving Qin Yanzhi’s affirmation at this time.
Qin Yanzhi, “I don’t care where you came from and what status you have. There can be no objections when I teach. What I ask you to do is what you will do. If you don’t want to, or your attitude is perfunctory, then you don’t have to attend my classes again.”
The disciples straightened their backs and looked solemn.
Qin Yanzhi purposely glanced at Jing Yue. Seeing that he listened to his words very seriously, his eyes clear as water, and he did not flaunt his authority as a patriarch at all, he nodded inwardly.
“I know that your talents in swordsmanship are not bad, but now, I need you to forget everything you learned before.”
Having said that, Qin Yanzhi waved his sleeves.
Jing Yue felt the world spinning around him, his vision became pitch black, and there was no spiritual energy around him. Then, there were constant tremors, and he realized that he was transported into a Qiankun sleeve.
It seemed that only a moment later, he was thrown out again and almost fell to the ground.
Jing Yue stabilized himself and saw many people getting up from the ground. Not a trace of resentment could be found in their eyes, instead, a sense of the glory of ‘I’ve entered Qin-zhenjun’s Qiankun sleeve!’ was felt acutely. He could not help feeling a little peeved.
He saw a wooden building behind Qin Yanzhi, with a plaque hanging above the front entrance with the words ‘Sword Pavilion’ inscribed. It turned out that they had arrived at the sword museum of Nine Heaven Academy.
Qin Yanzhi stood with his hands behind his back and solemnly said, “Today’s first lesson is to get to know the sword.”
All the disciples including Jing Yue were taken aback. Get to know the sword? What did he mean? Don’t they know the sword?
Although there were many doubts in everyone's minds, given that Qin Yanzhi had stated his conditions before, no one raised any questions.
Qin Yanzhi, “Aren’t there more than billions of swords in this world? Even for a Tribulation Passage supreme being, it’s quite impossible to know every single sword. However, we can’t talk about the sword if we don’t know about the sword. I don’t require you to know every sword in the world, but the swords in the academy are a good representation. When you can recognize each sword in the sword pavilion, including their name, size, material, origin, matching fighting techniques, and so on, then we can talk about the next step.”
Everyone exchanged glances with each other. Many people wanted to ask questions, but they were all held back by Qin Yanzhi's deterrence.
Jing Yue was not afraid. Qin Yanzhi only said that he would not allow any objections, but didn’t say that the students couldn’t ask questions, so he said, “Qin-zhenjun, how many swords are there in the pavilion?”
All the disciples breathed a sigh of relief. It was quite a small number. A Foundation Establishment cultivator could forget almost nothing, so memorizing more than 30 thousand swords would take no more than a day.
However, Jing Yue didn’t think it was so simple. He wondered if it was an illusion, but he thought Qin Yanzhi smirked slightly when he answered the question. Yet when he took a second look, he couldn’t see anything.
“I’ll give you one year. The assessment at the end of the year is for you to know every sword in the pavilion. Remember, you can only get to know the sword, not practice with it.”
Qin Yanzhi waved his sleeves again. Everyone felt a strong push and many people stumbled into the sword pavilion.
With the sound of the heavy wooden door closing in his ears, Jing Yue fell into darkness again.
Although Foundation Establishment cultivators could see in the dark, they still lit the candlesticks neatly arranged on both sides of the sword pavilion.
Rows of wooden frames extended to the end that couldn’t be seen at one glance. Each wooden frame was nine rows high, and each row was placed with a sword case, and there was naturally a sword in each case.
The atmosphere in the sword pavilion was oppressive and stressful. Everyone glanced at each other without making a sound.
After a while, someone took a sword at random from a nearby shelf and observed it before saying, “Is there nothing on this sword?” He fumbled around the sword case next. “There is nothing on the casing either, so how do I find out its name? Let alone the origin? As for the matching fighting techniques, how do I guess if I’m not allowed to practice with the sword? We can only estimate the material and size by the looks of it.”
“Yes, I can’t find anything on this sword either.”
“This one too!”
Everyone was at a loss. Someone said, “So how are we supposed to get to know the sword? No wonder we are given one year. Isn’t this making things difficult for us?”
“The door is not locked. If you think this is difficult, get out!”
Jing Yue noticed the person who said that seemed to be a disciple of the Sword Inscription Sect, and the other fellow sect members also looked sullen. They had a natural trust and admiration for Qin Yanzhi, so even if Qin-zhenjun told them to die, they would not frown. Therefore, hearing someone questioning Qin Yanzhi inevitably made them angry.
“What did you say? Why don’t you do it if you’re so capable?”
“Although I don’t know how to do it, I know Qin-zhenjun won’t do this for no reason, let alone make things difficult for you!”
“That’s right. Are you even worthy of it?” The other disciples of Sword Inscription Sect agreed fumingly.
Seeing that things were getting out of hand, Jing Yue quickly stepped in and said, “If it's just a simple recitation, I don't think Qin-zhenjun would spend so much time and effort, and even give us a year. Since he made the request, there must be other ways to study the swords. Why don’t we each find a sword and examine it? It’s better than talking about it aimlessly here.”
The few people who got into the argument earlier were still dissatisfied, but due to Jing Yue’s intervention, they reined in their tempers and dispersed.
Jing Yue walked to a wooden frame and took out the long sword from the sword case on the first row.
The sword was black-blue, and the blade had an uneven pattern, but at the end of the pattern, a bit of red appeared abruptly, like a drop of blood. This sword was about 15 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. The sword was heavy and extremely sharp. Jing Yue stroked it lightly, speculating that the refining material should be tin or copper, but other properties were unknown.
He raised his eyes and looked around. Some cultivators from Sword Inscription Sect sat cross-legged with their swords in their arms, eyes closed as if meditating. Jing Yue knew that this was a way to communicate with the sword and quickly followed suit.
Soon, he felt that he had a mysterious connection with the sword. It seemed that he could hear the sound of the sword, but in a blink of an eye, the sound of the sword turned into a whistling wind.
In the vast desert, a man walked slowly. He looked about forty years old, his face weather-beaten. With a long sword on his back, his figure looked a little distorted under the heatwave.
A long trail followed behind him, and in front of him stood a dozen masked men with weapons.
The man drew out the long sword. The body of the sword was black-blue, bringing a hint of chill under the scorching sun.
This sword was used to kill people. Today, it would drink blood again.
Yellow sand flew in the air and blood splashed everywhere.
When the world returned to tranquility, the desert floor was littered with corpses.
The man knelt on one knee, bleeding from his nose and mouth, and no part of his body was intact.
“Shimei, look, they’re all dead.”
There was no other person around, so who was he talking to?
Blood flowed and seeped into the desert little by little. Wherever it passed, the yellow sand turned into cyan slate.
A loud bang was heard and the door with the Liu Manor plaque hanging above it splintered apart.
It was the same man from before, only much younger.
He rushed into the room and approached a young woman dressed in pink. The young woman had a dagger stuck in her abdomen, lying in a pool of blood. The man gently lifted her and said tremblingly, “Shimei…”
The young woman opened her eye with difficulty, her lips moving slightly, “Shi…xiong…”
And then, there was no more.
“Shimei!!!” The man roared up at the sky, his eyes bursting with hatred.
Scarlet red entered the vision before turning into a red silk dress and red lanterns. Suona sounded from far to near, and a sedan chair was carried into the Liu manor. The man in his early twenties leaned against the back wall of Liu Manor, his eyes full of bitterness as he listened to the sounds and chatter in the residence.
He murmured, “Shimei, I hope you and Liu-gongzi will grow old together and love each other forever.”
The scene changed again and was replaced by a quiet mountain forest. The pink-robed woman walked slowly out of the forest with a basket of fruit, and the man outside Liu manor turned into a boy in his mid-teens. With his top exposed, he greeted the visitor excitedly, “Shimei! I succeeded! I can forge a sword now!”
The girl in pink smiled and said, “Shixiong is really amazing.”
“Shixiong will definitely refine the strongest sword and become the strongest swordsman in the world!”
The young man scratched his head with some embarrassment, and then firmly said, “Mm!”
He looked at the woman with affection.
The mountains and forests behind them gradually withered and became frosty, and time regressed again.
The boy became a child. Carrying a wooden sword in his hand, he shouted at the sky, “I, Wang Xiao, will be the most powerful sword refiner and the most powerful swordsman in the future.”
The girl in pink cheered and applauded, “Shixiong is really amazing.”
The boy curled his lips and asked, “What’s your name, newcomer?”
“My name is Zhu Sha.”
At the same time, a muffled voice rang in Jing Yue's consciousness, and he saw the middle-aged man take out a black-blue sword from the furnace. There was a bit of red on the sword, the blood from the man’s heart.
“From now on, your name is Zhu Sha.”
(TN: The first 朱砂 means cinnabar-name of the girl, while the second 诛杀 means kill & obliterate-name of the sword.)
At that moment, Jing Yue sensed the joy from the sword in his hand. He slowly opened his eyes and heard the bell again.
The door of the sword pavilion was pushed open suddenly. The light from outside poured into the room, reflecting a slender silhouette.
Qin Yanzhi stood against the light and said lightly, “We’ll stop here today. Wait here tomorrow.”
After that, he turned and left.
Jing Yue was still in a daze and turned to look at the people around him. They were either at a loss, confused, or triumphant.
He smiled slightly, solemnly put the Zhu Sha Sword back into the sword case, and looked at the afterglow of the setting sun outside the door. He realized that one day had passed.