Chapter 10 – The First Match of the Freshman Competition (I)
Night fell. Qin Shang was seated in front of the bamboo house within the Desolate Jade Sea. He was surrounded by an air of melancholy. On the table before him sat a single guqin.
“Yin Zhu ought to have arrived in Milan by now. I wonder if you saw him? Nina, oh Nina, you know I want to see you, but alas, I cannot. My body must bear too much, too much.
Water flows from the heavens, pleasant to the ear in the pure, clear night.
An elegant memory emerges, not to be plucked by the string.
The sound of the music flows into an ode, asking only for you to listen closely.
A cherished desire – fortune cannot make up for the past mistakes of my zither and your xiao in this life. To this, beautiful fated music has been left behind.
Slowly you come, embracing your favorite instrument. The night becomes even more clear and beautiful.
Under an expanse of light, you are one with the moon.
I take comfort in both this song and the letter I sent you, despite the distance between us. I am worried. But inside, my heart is resolute.” 1
As the zither cried out, teardrops sprinkled down. Although it was not the Moon and Tides’ Clear Brilliance Zither, at this very moment, when both of Qin Shang’s hands pressed down on the strings, his thoughts were immersed in past recollections.
Yin Zhu didn’t put on the the Divine Celestial Protection Robe, but he tightly strapped on the Life Guardian Bracelet. Though Nina appeared to be quite vicious upon learning that he was Grandfather Qin’s disciple today, it was clear that she was feeling a deep sorrow. He was also able to sense and understand Grandmother Nina’s longing for Grandfather Qin. Perhaps it was because of this that he was having a sort of familial feeling.
The silver Spirit Guardian necklace was made of an unknown type of metal and had a silver self-absorption gem embedded within the pendant. When Ye Yin Zhu wore it around his neck, the gem unexpectedly started to undulate. It absorbed his spiritual power, and then fused it together with a strange element. His mind became even sharper as his intangible spiritual energy compressed and concentrated.
The Life Guardian Bracelet, which was tightly fitted against his wrist, was approximately an inch wide. It had a total of eight light-green gems embedded in the cyan colored metal. Theses gems sent a soft energy flowing through Yin Zhu’s heart and arteries, producing a warm sensation. All three magical items he had received were defense related. Yin Zhu was unfamiliar with them, but even he could sense just how precious they were.
“Hey, you’ve been sitting there for at least half a day now, neither sleeping nor meditating. What are you thinking about?” Sura laid down on his own bed and inquisitively asked Yin Zhu.
“Oh!” Yin Zhu was roused from his deep thoughts. “It’s nothing. Anyways, there’s still two days before the Freshman Competition begins.”
Pfff. Sura giggled and smiled. His two big eyes shone bright in the darkness of the night. “You really still plan on participating!? You don’t have any hope of winning you know; your Divine Music division doesn’t stand a chance. Rest early tonight, I think it would be better if you carefully consider your future prospects.”
Those two days passed by very quickly. Both days Nina had called the five competitors together and thoroughly explained the tactics they were to employ during the competition. Apparently she had already forgotten about that matter from the other day, as she wasn’t paying much attention to Ye Yin Zhu anymore. Though she still looked quite strict on the outside, whenever her gaze passed over Yin Zhu, however, she would appear to soften somewhat.
A golden sun shone down upon the glorious earth. Beneath the shining sun, numerous plants of all shapes and sizes filled the air in the Milan Institute for Magic and Martial Arts with the freshest fragrance. Milan was bustling with excitement. Though the institution was located towards the northern end of the mainland, it was summer, and thus the temperature was still quite cozy.
Excluding the small center region of the Milan Institution for Magic and Martial Arts, more than two-thirds of the area were division specialization training fields. After all, regardless of whether they cultivated magic or martial arts, all divisions needed ample space to practice. Today, every training field was bustling with noise and excitement. This was because the competition between these ten divisions would determine who advanced in the Freshman Competition.
The bulk of the students, and even a good majority of the upperclassmen, had gathered around the large training field to watch the competition. The most popular attraction today was the match between the Divine Music division and the Water division over on training field six.
The Divine Music division’s training field was also the place where the new students took their entrance exam—the auditorium. Clearly they couldn’t host the match there. Thus, after the lottery determined the lineup, they had no choice but to use the Water division’s training field to carry out the match.
Training field six has an area of around a thousand square meters. Taking into consideration the amount of space needed by each field of magic to practice, this wasn’t considered to be a very large area. Because this was the Water division’s field, the majority of the spectators would normally be from their division. At this moment, however, training field six was surrounded by nearly six thousand people—ten times the amount of students in the Water division. The reason why was simple: this was the first time since the establishment of the Milan Institution for Magic and Martial Arts, that the Divine Music division participated in the Freshman Competition. In addition, the ladies of the Divine Music division were renowned for being both noble and beautiful. It was common knowledge that the overwhelming majority of those who chose to cultivate as a Divine Music mage came from some sort of nobility. They were the only ones who didn’t need to contemplate a future career. Who could say that a princesses from each of the mainland’s countries weren’t among them?
“Divine Music division! Divine Music division! Divine Music division!” Loud, joyous shouts rose and fell like waves, echoing out. Even some of the Water division students were cheering for the Divine Music division. No one thought they would emerge victorious, but they still came to stare at the Divine Music division’s numerous beautiful ladies. It was something all the male students thirsted for. If they could by chance impress these beautiful ladies, then it could be an enormous blessing.
Normally the area for spectators on training field six would have twenty seats reserved for the Water division teachers, who would watch the students train. Now, however, the Water division and Divine Music division teachers shared this space to watch the fight. Dean Nina sat in the center with the Dean of the Water division, Intermediate Level Indigo rank Mage Scholar Wa Ge Lei. As for the other teachers, they took seats on either side. Fortunately, the Water division teachers were all women, so they wouldn’t harass the beautiful teachers from the Divine Music division. One must know that the Divine Music division’s teachers were as well-known for their beauty as their students.
“Dean Nina, I was still under the impression that the Divine Music division’s participation in the competition was merely a rumor. I didn’t expect for it to be true.” Wa Ge Lei was a wizened old man. He stared at Nina with an expression that was like a smile, yet not a smile.
Nina didn’t even glance at him, her gaze was focused only on the stage and the two groups of students. She responded indifferently, “Our Divine Music division is Milan Institution for Magic and Martial Arts’s best division. Why shouldn’t we participate? Instead of thinking about whether we would be participating or not, you should’ve been thinking about how to prevent your Water division from padding the bottom of this competition once again.”
“You…” Wa Ge Lei was extremely embarrassed. Water division magic was always considered to be a relatively weak magic. It wasn’t as good as the Light division in healing, and you needed to reach Green Rank or higher in order to to truly bring out the offensive magic’s power. Which was why in the past they, for the most part, ended up padding the bottom ranks in the Freshman Competition. The great majority of students who chose the Water division were from financially-strapped backgrounds. The Water division had the most work-study student mages. This meant that the students didn’t have the financial resources to purchase High-Grade magical items.
“Since all of the new students are allowed to compete in the Freshman Competition, it’s only natural for the Divine Music division to participate as well.” An aged voice sounded from behind them. Nina and Wa Ge Lei turned around simultaneously, shocked. They discovered an elderly man who was wearing a faint gold robe behind them. Neither of the deans knew when he had arrived.
Though Nina had been rather haughty earlier, upon seeing this individual she promptly rose up. She deferentially greeted him, “President Ferguson, hello.”
Wa Ge Lei astonishedly asked, “President Ferguson, why have you come here?”
Ferguson let out a slight laugh. The wrinkles on his face were so deep they could hold beans. “The Divine Music division has come out to fight. It’s only natural that I would want to come and cheer Dean Nina on. I think there must be some remarkable students amongst the Divine Music division’s freshmen this year.” He understood Nina better than Wa Ge Lei. Nina was well-known throughout the entire Milan Empire for her pride. If she didn’t have confidence in her students, then the Divine Music division wouldn’t be standing on the training field today since they lacked offensive power.
- (Some of this poem was loosely translated. 流水悠然天(Leisurely from the sky, water flows) refers to water flowing down from a high cliff as if falling from the sky. 玲珑知意下，不语一弦声 (the second line) can be interpreted as the sound of water bringing out an insightful or elegant thought that made Qin Shang remember his time with Nina. In 泠泠的音韵化作诗章，诉与你，细细地听 (the third line), 泠泠 refers to the sound of the music, not specifically the sound of the water. This describes a duality between reality and Qin Shang’s memories. In 一段心愿，宿命不让琴箫今生错过，留下至美的音缘，于斯 (the fourth line) 宿命 is translated to fortune instead of karma to better describe the dual meaning of optimism and sadness. In 姗姗而来，抱着你喜欢的琴，今夜更加清丽 (the fifth line), 抱着你喜欢的琴 directly translates to holding the instrument you like. 琴(qín) is a pun for Qin Shang’s surname: 秦(qín). 清 translates to clear, but means clear like water, which also emphasizes a duality of water and the night in reality and the night from his memories. In 千里清辉下，与月相惜 (the sixth line), 千里清辉下 is an idiom for the distance to the moon. In the final line, 抚一曲遥相寄，切切，里面我心于坚, 寄 describes the letter that he gave to Ye Yin Zhu to give to her. 抚一曲遥相寄 could also describe that Qin Shang sent her his hope (Ye Yin Zhu).) ↩