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Transcending The Jiang Hu (Generic Xianxia Cultivation)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by bandicoot879, Jul 11, 2022.

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  1. Autist4Hugh

    Autist4Hugh Not too sore, are you?

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    That sounds beyond lucky
     
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  2. bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Because Xing Yi is naive.
     
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 24 - Brown Calamus
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 24 - Brown Calamus
    Xing Yi did not expect such sudden bliss upon tasting Martial Uncle Yang’s tea. It was a warm energy that burst inside his
    mouth, causing him to widen his eyes in amazement.


    “Good, isn’t it?” Yang chuckled.

    “It’s amazing, Martial Uncle Yang,” Xing Yi replied, holding the tea cup in one hand.

    “It contains an earth-aspected spiritual herb that is actually beneficial for external cultivators. Nearly all spiritual herbs cultivated in this herb garden are of a heavenly-aspect and do not contain energy that is suited for external cultivators. However, this is one of the few earth-aspected spiritual herbs that is useful for pill refining of heavenly cultivators. I didn’t see it being used in the near future so I decided to brew this tea for you. Make sure to thank this old man for his charitability,” Yang eked out a cheeky smile with that last word.

    Realising Yang’s kindness, Xing Yi eagerly jumped out of his seat and once again kowtowed to the elderly man.

    “This lowly one pays his deepest respects for Martial Uncle's kindness. His gift will not be wasted on this one,” Xing Yi thanked in his high-pitched, childish voice.

    Yang nodded his head in stern approval.

    “Please, sit back down and finish the tea. After you have finished,
    tell me what you are looking for. Make sure to savour it and not simply drink it all down in one gulp. If you do that, I will kick you out on the spot, no questions asked. Such a tea made from a precious spiritual herb for someone like yourself is not something to casually squandered,” Yang explained.


    “Yes Martial Uncle,” Xing Yi replied. The boy committed to the task with due caution, carefully sipping the tea and making sure to savour each sip’s taste to its fullest potential. After a few minutes, the tea was finished and he put it back onto the table with an accompanying clink.

    Xing Yi could feel a sort of bountiful vitality coursing through him that he had never felt. Just by consciously circulating his inner qi for a brief moment, he could feel the earthly energy resting in his lower dantian and slowly leaking into his meridian.

    He almost wanted to turn around, run home and refine this energy as quickly as possible in closed-off meditation, lest the energy began to leak from his dantian and into the outside world.

    However, blatantly disrespecting Martial Uncle Yang was not a good idea.

    “I see that you have already advanced to the first layer of external cultivation. That is not too bad!” Yang praised, his hand stroking his beard. Despite being a Core-Formation Master of over a couple hundred years of age, he still showed no sign of balding or greying hair. He could still be considered to have a youthful appearance.

    “No, this junior is unworthy of Martial Uncle’s praise,” Xing Yi blushed, “But if you don’t mind if this junior asks, how did you read my cultivation?”

    This was the first person to recognise his cultivation. No one else had done so, thus far.

    “I have dabbled in earthly cultivation to a degree. My abilities only extend so far. I can only read how deep an earthly cultivator’s cultivation is. Nothing more, nothing less,” Yang humbly said.

    “Excuse this junior if he offends with his words, but a renowned external cultivator named Lao Qiguang with a layer of cultivation equal to that of our nascent soul ancestor clearly states in his book that if it takes longer than six months to cleanse the first meridian, they should give up. This one simply doesn’t understand how cleansing the first meridian in such an amount of time to be impressive,” Xing Yi said.

    “As I suspected, Junior Bai gave you that damn book. To give you some quick background information, Lao Qiguang is a notorious madman amongst the old literature. He was a crazy-talented child prodigy with such sky-high expectations that they manifested in his own personal writing as a way to assert himself over other cultivators.” Yang asked, a sigh escaping his mouth as he ended his last sentence.

    Xing Yi was stunned. So he wasn’t as bad as he thought he was? All of a sudden, he felt better about himself. Maybe he did have a chance?

    “Well, now that we have gotten to know each other a bit better, let’s get down to business. What are you looking for?” Yang asked, staring towards Xing Yi.

    “I’m looking to buy some Brown Calamus,” Xing Yi said.

    “And how many spirit stones have you brought on hand today?”

    “Three,” Xing Yi held the leather pouch by his waist, feeling the three gems through the leather.

    “Brown Calamus? That is a peculiar herb with only one reason to use. To test the validity of a pill cauldron. It is an old technique but it works,” Yang sighed, “I won’t ask how you got your hands on one. Anyways, before we go outside to harvest the herb, I need to message someone.”

    Summoning a white talisman with brown characters written on its paper, he whispered into it before setting it free from his grasp. It disappeared in a brown streak of light and out a nearby window.

    A few minutes later, Xing Yi and Yang had arrived out the back of the house and in The Bloody Path Sect’s herb garden. All around them laid several dozen square patches of spiritual herbs of varying colour, height and sizes. For example, there was this mega-sized purple flower that occupied an entire patch itself, black-coloured grass with yellow tips, rainbow-petalled flowers, and even a bush that was literally on fire.

    Xing Yi was marvelling at the peculiarities of every spiritual herb-
    Yang standing nearby with a calm expression on his face, when an orange ball of flame landed in front of the pair. Xing Yi stepped back and held his hands in front of himself while also circulating his inner qi, fearing that a thread of stray flame would fly towards him.


    Fortunately, such a thing didn’t happen and the flame quietly dissipated in an instant, revealing a barefoot teenager with unkempt hair that was similar to that of a birdnest.

    “Greetings master!” The barefooted teenager bowed to Yang before turning to Xing Yi.

    He pointed at him and said, “Hey, you’re Mortal Xing Yi. The one that cheated his way into the sect! I saw you reading at the library a few months ago.”

    Xing Yi cringed. When he looked over to Yang, the man had no reaction and ignored the matter altogether. Xing Yi could still see the other disciple looking at him out of the corner of his eye even as Yang began speaking.

    “Ok, He Yazhu, I need you to harvest a Brown Calamus for our guest. I will give you some minor assistance throughout the process, but you will end up doing most of the work. You have studied this plant before, so you should know about it. This is something you must learn how to do and is the reason why I brought you out here. I need not explain myself any further. Let’s begin,” Yang explained before summoning a three-metre wide wooden platform into the air.

    Yang and his disciple stepped on as it rose into the air, carvings engraved underneath it blowing glue. Each assuming a seated-lotus position, Yang Steered the wooden platform over the nearest garden patch, directly above a short, brown-leafed plant. Its leaves shot up into the air from its base, forming stiff, brown branches that mimicked a normal plant’s leaves. From a distance they were deceiving, but once one got closer they would be revealed to be completely solid.

    After a moment, they each closed their eyes and as they did, a blue cloud of energy coalesced into the air. This blue cloud started out large but grew smaller and smaller until it was about the size of a fist. Slowly moving towards the Brown Calamus, it carefully wrapped around the base of one of its leaves. Over the course of a couple minutes, the base seemingly melted until it finally tipped over. The plant was caught mid-air by the cloud and was safely delivered to above the wooden platform, arriving in the qi-coated hands of Master Yang. He inspected the Brown Calamus before giving a stern nod of approval.

    “This is a good quality piece. There is some marking in some parts but it’s good for your first time. A couple more tries and you won’t need assistance to harvest this plant with confidence!” Yang praised He Yazhu.

    He Yazhu replied, “Thank you master.”

    The pair descended back to the ground and the wooden platform was put back away into Yang’ storage pouch. With the Brown Calamus leaf in hand, he summoned a wooden box and placed it inside. He closed it with a thud. He proceeded to walk over to Xing Yi and handed it to him.

    “Here,” Yang said.

    Xing Yi stowed it away inside his leather bag. Knowing what would inevitably come next, he pulled out the three spirit stones and awkwardly tried to give them to Martial Uncle Yang. He held all three in the palm of both of his tiny hands as he tried to stop them all from slipping out and falling onto the ground. That would be embarrassing.

    Thankfully, Martial Uncle Yang sweeped these spirit stones out of his hands for him and stored them away in his storage pouch.

    “I was going to send you off, but something has come to mind,” Yang said before summoning a jade slip from his storage pouch.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2022
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 25 - A Deal
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 25 - A Deal
    “I found this jade slip amongst an old archive deep in a location I shall not speak of. Due to my stubbornness, it has quietly sat within my storage pouch for many decades. But I think I have finally found a suitable use for it. Inside this contains a rudimentary earthly pill refining technique. Seeing that you have somehow acquired a pill cauldron, I am a bit eager to see what it is capable of and is why I have decided to gift it to you.”

    Was this old man crazy? Why would he gift such a precious jade slip to him? Xing Yi was completely stumped. It wasn’t just Xing Yi, so was his disciple as he was also similarly shocked.

    “Master! Why are you- he’s just a trifling mortal-”

    “Quiet. I have heard enough of those rumours. He is not a mortal. He is an earthly cultivator.” Yang snapped, “Do you understand?”

    “Yes, master,” He Yazhu put his head down in shame and admitted with a bit of reluctance. He proceeded to watch on while fidgeting, making circles in the dirt with his bare feet.

    “But there is no such thing as free lunch. There is a catch,” Yang revealed.

    Xing Yi’s eyes, which had been previously focused on the jade slip, now quickly snapped back to Martial Uncle Yang.

    “-If I ever require assistance in the future, you will be the first person I come to. You may have to act as a courier for me, getting involved in the mortal affairs of some of my noble relatives in Rising Dragon City, or I may even send you on an entire quest into the Western Forest-”

    Xing Yi gulped when he heard Martial Uncle Yang mention the Western Forest. For him, going there was complete suicide.

    “This is a one-time request and a complete gamble on your part. There are high risks involved. However, I know very well that if you want to achieve any kind of success in pill refining, you don’t want to be using those crude, idiotic mortal techniques. I will give you some time to think about it.”

    However, Martial Uncle Yang and his disciple didn’t have to wait long for Xing Yi to come to a decision.

    “I accept your generous gift, Martial Uncle Yang,” Xing Yi said. The boy had no idea what the man had seen in him or what he could be scheming, or if he was in the first place. Now that he thought about it, trying to make immortal pills like a mother would make her children soup was for the lack of a better word, stupid. He had been very naive, underestimating the practice of alchemy like that. He was now sure that he would’ve quickly given up on pill refining after his first few tries.

    But the rewards of becoming a successful pill refiner, no matter his lack of spiritual roots, would be tremendous. Almost enough to bridge that gap and give him a real chance at immortality. And with this earthly pill refining technique? Things would be completely different.

    Pill refining techniques were well-guarded secrets. The only way one could get their hands on one is if they were the disciple of a pill refiner, or they killed them and took it themselves. Yet again, some pill refiners cast spells that upon their untimely death, would cause such records to explode or crumble to dust. They were truly fickle things to acquire! Even if he saved up for his entire life, he would never even be able to get even a single page.

    Xing Yi originally planned to do something different, using an artificial blackfire to create a certain type of qi gathering pill that was easy to craft. The rate of success for them was high but it would usually have low quality and about ten times more inferior than a normal qi gathering pill would be. It was a good business plan he had come up with but it wasn’t true pill refining. It was a shoddy mimic.

    But given an actual opportunity at real pill refining? Xing Yi would not decline. The gains to be made would be far greater. It was also an opportunity to gain Martial Uncle Yang’s favour. He wasn’t just anybody either. He was the sect’s one and only pill refiner. He was the backbone of the Bloody Path Sect. Every single person relied on him to produce pills for their cultivation. Without him, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they had lost their most important sect member. His existence almost rivalled that of the sect’s nascent soul ancestor.

    If he could gain his faour or maybe even become his disciple, his position in the sect would give him more freedom to move around in the sect and plenty of benefits. However, Xing Yi didn’t dare to even think of the latter as a possibility. That was simply impossible.

    “Whether my kindness is the precursor to something significant is yet to be seen. In time, I will know if my gift was a good decision. Take good care of this jade slip,” Martial Uncle Yang pondered as the jade slip flew through the air and landed into the hands of Xing Yi.

    The jade was surprisingly warm to the touch as he held it.

    “You may have not used one before so I will give a quick explanation,” Yang said.

    Xing Yi perked up hearing this.

    “This jade slip can only be accessed by circulating inner qi through it and upon doing so, your mind realm will be flooded with a sea of information. You will have to sort through it all before you can organise it in order. Considering that you are only at the first layer, it will take multiple days before you will be finished. But once you are, each time you open the jade slip in your mind temple, it will all already be in the correct order for you,” Martial Uncle Yang explained.

    “Thank you for your wisdom Martial Uncle Yang,” Xing Yi thanked as he bowed.

    Yang nodded before waving over He Yazhu.

    “Escort Xing Yi out for me. I have other matters to attend to now,” Yang said before putting his hands behind his back and silently walking back to the long house.

    He Yazhu summoned a cloud of fire and gave Xing Yi an annoyed look.

    “Jump on,” He Yazhu said, his arms crossed.

    Xing Yi hesitated, not wanting to get burnt by the flames. He looked to He Yazhu and was about to say something when the boy answered the question before he could say it.

    “No, It won’t burn you. Trust me. Now get on,” He Yazhu insisted.

    Xing Yi nodded and stepped on, his whole body stiff like a wooden board. Both surprising and not, he didn’t actually get burnt and the flame was only lukewarm.

    He Yazhu sat down into a lotus position, Xing Yi followed the common courtesy and did so as well. The pair were whisked away through the air and over the surrounding mountains. As they approached the grey fog, it parted for them, revealing a clear path to the outside. Flying through, they cordially made it outside and back in front of the wooden arch.

    He Yazhu slowly lowered down the fire cloud to the ground and Xing Yi jumped off. And before he left, the other bare footed boy had something to say.

    “I don’t know what my master is thinking, giving you that jade slip. But I don’t like it. Don’t think he is going to accept you as his disciple because he gave you some random thing he had lying around in his storage pouch!” He Yazhu exclaimed.

    Xing Yi was taken aback and was left speechless for a moment.

    He replied, “I won’t. Ok?”

    “Good!” He Yazhu shouted before flying away at his maximum speed, disappearing into the grey fog.
    Xing Yi mentally sighed at this and the whole experience that occurred. He wasn’t really trying to become one of Martial Uncle Yang’s disciples. And for some reason, He Yazhu thought he was trying to. Well, he would be lying if he said that he would never. But in any case, he had the Brown Calamus and he could now test it to see if it was legitimate or not.



    It was a day later and Xing Yi had built a small fire pit. Heaving the mysterious black cauldron up onto it, he filled it with water and stoked the fire. Soon, the water was boiling and it was steaming.

    With the brown calamus in hand, he simply dropped it in. There was nothing else he needed to do except wait. If a metallic smell came, it wasn’t a pill cauldron. If there wasn’t, it was a pill cauldron.

    It was many several minutes later that much to Xing Yi’s displeasure, a metallic smell permeated through the air. With this, Xing Yi let out a long, defeated sigh and didn’t even bother to extinguish the flame. He dragged himself inside and sat in silent meditation, not sure what to do.

    It was later into the afternoon that Xing Yi went to take the cauldron off the fire pit. However, when he happened to look inside the cauldron; what he saw caused his jaw to drop in shock.

    The Brown Calamus was lying at the bottom of the cauldron, seemingly untouched.

    AN: The story starts to pick up a bit of pace now.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2022
  5. Lagrange

    Lagrange I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Weirdly enough it seems to stop right here.
     
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  6. Kminari

    Kminari Know what you're doing yet?

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    Starting to read this, I am not good at expressing myself so my comments will be mostly "good chapter" or misspelled words.
    The motivation to travel outside of his village and become an immortal to me came almost out of nowhere, but I could follow the logic.
    you can't what?

    hearsay

    why is he using 'we'?
     
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  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 26 - Magic Cauldron
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 26 - Magic Cauldron
    Xing Yi paused as he gazed upon the familiar stalk of Brown Calamus. He vividly remembered seeing it dissolve in the boiling water. Yet here it was now, unscathed and somehow back in one piece. He thought it to be some kind of hallucination until he picked it up and intimately felt it. It was definitely real. His mind went through the possibilities as he stood in place and stared. That’s when he glanced down at the cauldron.

    “What is happening?” Xing Yi muttered as he shook his head. Was he under some elaborate illusion by an immortal master? Was he dreaming? Had he in fact not even cooked the Brown Calamus in the cauldron yet and had imagined it all.

    No.

    He clearly remembered seeing the Brown Calamus dissolve into the water and that was a fact. So then what caused the Brown Calamus to return to its original state? And that is when Xing Yi thought of the cryptic, black cauldron that sat before him. Could this thing possibly be the culprit? He had found it at the bottom of a river and had no clue about its origins.

    But according to the Brown Calamus test it wasn’t a pill cauldron. Then if it wasn’t the pill cauldron, what could it be? After a few more moments of thinking, Xing Yi still had no idea what was happening. So, instead of further thinking, he decided to boil the Brown Calamus once again.

    If it was the same result every time, he would have a problem, but if it properly dissolved into a soggy mess like it should, then he could almost completely forget about it. Grabbing a metal bucket, he jogged up and down the hill a few times, filling the cauldron up with water until it was halfway full.

    He once again gathered more firewood, lit a fire under the cauldron and dropped the Brown Calamus inside when the water began boiling. And this time, he vigilantly watched over the water. The Brown Calamus dissolved as a tall fog of steam spiralled into the air, the water levels falling lower and lower.

    It was only until the sun had set and the sky turned black, that the water had fully dissipated. Xing Yi looked to the bottom of the cauldron and saw a soggy mess of brown and green. He didn’t know how to react when seeing this. Was he happy? Sad? He didn’t know.

    He extinguished the fire and retreated to his room and fell asleep. The next day, be it due to his curiosity or worry, he checked the bottom of the cauldron again. Just to see it it was still a soggy mess of brown and green.

    But Xing Yi didn’t see that.

    He saw a healthy stalk of Brown Calamus laying at the bottom of the cauldron. At this, Xing Yi took a few steps back, his heart racing.

    What is going on?

    He glanced at his surroundings, feeling up his body and checking the clarity of his thoughts for the sake of his paranoia. It wasn’t an illusion nor was it some kind of mind control. It was real. Very, very real.

    Without hesitating, Xing Yi grabbed his metal bucket and swiftly filled the cauldron back up with water. He lit a fire and immediately put the Brown Calamus, not even waiting for the water to begin boiling. Xing Yi sat in a wooden chair next to the cauldron and carefully began to watch without a single break in his focus.

    Something happened between the time he slept and woke up for the Brown Calamus to transform back into its original form! Once the water fully dissipated and all that was left was a soggy brown and green mess, he would continue to wait and see what would happen.

    And so he did, several hours later the sun was high in the sky and all the water had dissipated. All that remained was the waste of the Brown Calamus sitting at the bottom of the cauldron. But he
    wasn’t leaving anymore. He was going to continue to wait!

    He stood over the cauldron, peering inside the cauldron, expecting at every moment for something to occur. Even as nothing happened, he didn’t give up and continued.

    Finally, after an hour of waiting, he noticed something. An almost corporeal, black veil had appeared over the hole of the cauldron. Xing Yi didn’t even breathe as he continued to observe. This illusory form slowly solidified into existence. Without a single sound, a black lid had materialised on top of the cauldron.

    Eager to see what was happening, Xing Yi attempted to take the lid off of the cauldron. To his surprise, it was as if it was a part of the cauldron itself and didn’t budge. He tried again a few more times but there was still no give. It was completely sealed on.

    At this, Xing Yi’s heart began racing. What was going to happen!?

    Another hour passed and the lid slowly became transparent and dissipated out of existence. Laying at the bottom of the cauldron was now a completely fine, healthy stalk of Brown Calamus. With shaking hands, Xing Yi reached inside and grabbed the spiritual herb. He was in awe as he inspected it.

    This was no mere cauldron. This was an immortal treasure! Somehow, this mysterious cauldron had turned cooked Brown Calamus slob back into its original state. Upon first thought, it didn’t seem to hold any use for him but he quickly gained a few ideas.

    But before he jumped to conclusions, he decided to conduct a few more experiments. Over the course of the rest of the day, he cooked grass, flowers, nuts, wood branches, bark, vines, and more inside the cauldron. He only filled with a small amount of water so that there wasn’t a long waiting time and repeated this process several times.

    In the end, what he found was that nothing else, except the Brown Calamus, would be returned back to its original state through its magic. It led him to believe that only spiritual herbs could be returned back to its original form. But he needed to see if it was the same for other spiritual herbs. Forunately for him, there were plenty around! Due to the high density of qi within the sect, weak spiritual herbs have grown amongst the mountain range. But the qi they have is so weak and insignificant that not even the most desperate cultivator would blink an eye at themy. They are easily overlooked and no one cares about their existence. The only interesting thing about them was that they were quite pretty.

    Hiking up a nearby mountain, he plucked several flowers from a small patch at the top of the mountain. Not wanting to waste his time dawdling, he ran back down and immediately cooked one of the flowers inside the cauldron. An hour and a half later, the corporeal lid slowly materialised into existence once again.

    It does!

    Xing Yi jumped around on his little legs in celebration with a big grin on his face. But he didn’t stop there. An hour later, the lid gave way to the small flower and this time, he did something far
    different. He put the small flower and Brown Calamus into the pot at the same time.

    This is considered alchemy! If these two spiritual herbs melt under the temperature of the fire, then their energies would collide. If he didn’t use any pill refining technique with his inner qi-which he still couldn’t do as of yet- they would form an alchemical waste that was completely useless.

    But that is what he wanted.

    And when the two spiritual herbs turned into alchemical waste and Xing Yi saw the beginning of the cauldron lid’s materialisation, he was even more delirious! An hour later, what he found inside the cauldron was the Brown Calamus and spiritual flower. Both were seperate and intact!

    There was a brief moment of silence as Xing Yi delegated the meaning of this outcome. When he awoke from this deep contemplation, he began laughing! This extreme situation left him not knowing how to react. In the end, his only response was that of laughter.

    Once he finished stumbling around his backyard in delirium, he immediately took action and carried the mysterious black cauldron back inside his house and shoved it inside the tiny closet he had originally put it in.

    But an underlying paranoia had taken hold of his mind. He wasn’t satisfied with the current arrangements and filled the closet with so much firewood that it buried the cauldron in it. Once it was fully stacked with firewood, he softly closed the door. And his preparations were just in time as a familiar voice reached his ears from outside the house.

    “Xing Yi, I, Mo Zhi have arrived with a message for Junior Martial Brother!”

    AN: Was binging Shepherding Humanity and Low Dimensional Game all of today and yesterday.
     
  8. Ame

    Ame Not too sore, are you?

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    .. that's an interesting cauldron. I wonder if it has an active item spirit that has decided to mess with him as it doesn't care to be used by a novice?
     
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  9. Autist4Hugh

    Autist4Hugh Not too sore, are you?

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    Thatd be hilarious, and also entirely incharacter for xianxia face bullshit
     
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  10. Pef

    Pef Versed in the lewd.

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    1. Separate

    2. The caldron is more than magical. The energy to rebuild destroyed plants is 1 billion times larger than heat from wood.

    3. Making pills will prove difficult if plants simply reform.
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 27 - Excluded
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 27 - Excluded
    Xing Yi was frightened at the cultivator’s abrupt arrival but quickly calmed down and made his way outside to meet him. Giving the cultivator his greetings, he noticed the man’s features.
    He wore silk white robes. He had waist-length raven black hair that was delicately tied up into a ponytail by a black metallic ornament with gold lining on its edges. His eyes were a bright green and he exuded an aura of tranquility. There was a brief pause as the cultivator seemed to smirk and inspect the child before him.

    “It has been over a year since we last met, Xing Yi. How have you been?” Mo Zhi asked, stroking his chin.

    Xing Yi answered cordially, “I have been well, Senior. Even with my meagre talent, I have been trying my best in other ways. And for referring to me to your Uncle Master’s great, great niece, I am in your debt.”
    “It is great to hear that you have adjusted well to the sect…”

    Mo Zhi’s mind wandered as he seemed to ponder his next words. Xing Yi noticed this but didn’t dare mention it. After a few moments, Mo Zhi perked up and asked, “Xing Yi, have you heard about the competition that is happening in three months time?”

    “No, Senior, I haven’t,” Xing Yi answered with honesty, having no prior knowledge of this at all.

    Mo Zhi explained, “I shall enlighten you then. There is a competition happening in three months time. It is something that occurs every five years and serves to lift the strong up and crush the weak. The strongest disciples will be gifted with treasures of their choosing, further boosting their development. Whereas, those at the bottom will be forced to stop their training and occupy a working position in the sect. That will inevitably be the end of their cultivation journey as far as the Bloody Path Sect is concerned. In any case, it is of utmost importance to everyone in the sect. And finally, the final phase of the competition will actually be witnessed by everyone in the sect, barring the sect patriarch.”

    Mo Zhi gave a sigh before he finally got to the heart of the matter, “And the reason why I am here right now is to tell you that you won’t be participating. Li Guoji has made a special exemption so that you don’t have to participate in the competition and can save him some face. I have come here specifically to tell you that.”

    Xing Yi knew most of this already. He was a trifling 1st layer external cultivator. He was nothing compared to the actual cultivators. If he were to attempt to participate, it would be a one-sided beatdown even if he versed the weakest disciple in the entire sect.

    “Do you understand?” Mo Zhi asked for Xing Yi’s affirmation while making eye contact with him.

    Xing Yi gave a nod of affirmation and replied, “Yes, Senior. I understand. I will not participate in the competition.”

    Mo Zhi smiled and patted Xing Yi on the shoulder, “Well then, thank you for your cooperation. I will take my leave now.”

    Xing Yi saluted Mo Zhi as the latter summoned up his flying sword and jumped on with the lightest tap of his feet. He gracefully landed and flew off into the sky, soon becoming a distant dot that disappeared over the distant mountains and into the horizon.

    He was so weak that he had to be excluded from the competition.

    I’m pathetic.

    Xing Yi hung his head low as he walked back inside his house and pondered what to do next. Noticing his smober attitude, he forcefully took his mind off of the matter and brought it to others. Walking inside his room, he noticed the jade slip laying on top of the knee-height wooden table at the side of the room. Beside it were other books and scrolls that he had been reading up late at night previously. To the right was an elevated straw bed that he had been sleeping on. And to his front, was a wide window that let in many bright rays of light. Through it was a beautiful view of the valley.

    Grabbing the jade slip, he quietly sat down on the wooden flooring and brought it to his forehead. It was time to see what this earthly pill refining technique was. He began actively circulating his inner qi and after a few moments, it had caught up to full speed and was rushing through his meridians like a tidal wave. Unlike heavenly cultivators, he couldn’t easily bring his qi out of his body.

    The most he could do as of this moment was circulate his inner qi at maximum potential and hope a connection was made between him and the jade slip. After a few seconds of his maximum output, he was snapped out of reality and felt a collection of millions of words smash into his mind realm.

    This sudden entrance into his mind realm for the first time, combined with the vast amount of information that had been let in, caused Xing Yi to have an intense headache that instantly knocked him out.

    His body slumped to the floor but after a few moments, he awoke drowsy. As he sat up, he held his head in defence against the sharp pain that was digging straight into his brain. He took half an hour to recover for the pain to go away and to mentally prepare himself for another dive. He did not expect to knock himself out on his first attempt. This was most likely due to the fact that his soul was too weak.

    Both heavenly and earthly cultivation featured a similar increase in soul strength, but regardless, he was still only at the first layer and that meant his soul was only slightly stronger than a mortal’s. He couldn’t overestimate himself in this way.

    It was only after getting his body and mind back in tune using his breath, that he went back in. Yet again, he was smashed with a tide of information. But this time he wasn’t knocked out and was only left with a slight headache. He grew accustomed to being within this information over the course of several minutes until he finally began sorting through it all to organise it into the correct order.

    It was a strange process, but it was like solving a puzzle. One that would take him a few days. For now, he tried to find the beginning and end as those were the easiest ones to find. For the rest of the day, Xing Yi mentally sorted through this information in his mind temple. By the end, he had the first six chapters and the last one sorted in the correct order. There were twenty-six chapters in total, so he had at least a few days of time ahead of him dedicated solely to sorting through this jade slip. After this, his mind felt sluggish and tired and so he had a long, rejuvenating night of sleep.

    The next day, he left his home and travelled through the teleportation formation to the Main Hall of the Bloody Path Sect. It was where all the official matters of the sect were settled. As Xing Yi was blinked through to the other teleportation pavilion, he was brought directly in front of what Xing Yi could only think of to be a royal palace. It was a grand wooden building situated in the middle of a large fortress. Behind, to the side, and in front of him were tall, mighty walls of stone that surrounded the hall.

    The palace itself was elevated above the rest of the stone-paved courtyard and had seven sets of stairs leading up to it. The roof was a shiny green, built out of only pure jade tiles. Bright red tall pillars supported the building, golden dragons depicted spiralling up them. Xing Yi stared up at the magnificent palace in awe as he walked towards it. After a brief walk, he made his way inside the hall.

    That’s when he remembered. This is where he went when he first entered the sect. Would that rude old man still be at the desk? He hoped not. He glanced to his left and right and saw a few cultivators of the sect quietly waiting in silent meditation. Xing Yi made his way over to the desk and saw that the person at it was actually a petite lady with a beautiful appearance. Xing Yi didn’t dare underestimate her due to her meek appearance and walked over with a respectful attitude.

    “Greetings, what is senior immortal’s purpose here today?” The lady greeted.

    It seemed she was a mortal servant that didn’t know about him. This was fortunate.

    “I want to take out a loan,” Xing Yi replied.

    The lady smiled, “How big is the loan?”

    Xing Yi answered, “One-hundred spirit stones.”

    Note:
    Changed an excerpt from Chapter 25:
    To:
    This was done for convenience sake.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2022
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 28 - Encounter
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 28 – Encounter
    In the sect, loans were taken directly from the Bloody Path Sect’s patriarch. And he was very, very wealthy. Having lived for hundreds of years and forged his very own path to Nascent Soul, he was sure to have accrued a significant amount of wealth. And as the sole patriarch of the Bloody Path Sect his treasury was nothing to scoff at.

    Now taking out loans wasn’t uncommon and was done by many members of the sect. But if that person didn’t manage to pay their loan off in time. That meant they would be beaten in public by an elder in the sect, have their cultivation crippled, all their belongings stolen, then they would be exiled back into the mortal world. Only a disciple with the support of a formidable backer could hope to escape such a fate. And only then, would they be let off from just the former two punishments.

    When Xing Yi first heard of this, he was afraid of the worst and thus didn’t dare take out a loan. Of course, many opportunities would open up to him. But not being able to pay of the loan was not something he thought himself capable to do.

    Several years later, he would’ve most likely taken out a loan. But now there was a chance that could change everything for him. If things worked out how they did in his head, this was something that even Martial Uncle Yang would froth at the mouth to have.

    So once Xing Yi fully acknowledged all the risks of taking out this loan and having the deadline of one year from now being drilled into his head, the sceptic scholar who had been sceptically eyeing him the entire time throughout their discussion finally gave him the hundred spirit stones on a tray.

    He stowed away all one-hundred spirit stones from the metal tray and into his leather bag. They were tiny little things, each the size of his thumb. These were low-grade spirit stones, but there was also mid-grade, and even high-grade spirit stones. Mid-grade was usually the size of a fist while high-grade were big, dense crystals the length of a person’s forearm.

    The spirit stones he received all shined a varying five colours. Green for wood, blue for water, red for fire, yellow for earth, and grey for metal. There were other types of spirit stones, but they were far rarer and wouldn’t be seldom handed out to disciples like him.

    Bowing respectfully to the freckled, bespeckled lady behind the desk, her black hair tied back into a ponytail, he made his exit. He readjusted the leather strap of his bag as he left and made sure not to make eye contact with the cultivators within the reception area. Sneaking across the hall, he walked underneath the doors that lead outside. They were colossal titans that were created out of long, brown wooden boards that gave off an ancient vibe.

    But as he made his ways down the steps leading up to the Scholar’s Hall, he heard some loud laughter from up ahead. Casually strolling along the stone path was a group of three purple-robed cultivators. Leading at the front was a grey, short haired youth. He had a bounce in his step, a proud smile on his face, and held his head up high as he walked.

    To his left was a bulky middle-aged man with multiple scars on his face, a mean look in his eyes, and both of his sleeves forcefully torn off. And to his right was a short, smiling teenager with long-black hair that reached his-mid back. He had crooked teeth and tied by his waist was a green rope.

    Seeing this group, Xing Yi slightly averted his direction of travel so as to avoid bumping into them. But a few seconds later, they seemed to notice him. Particularly the person leading at the front. They seemed to be delighted to see him and after saying something to his friends, he summoned a flying sword and flew over at high speed.

    “Wu Jia, hold up. Wait for me!” The crooked teeth teenager laughed as he ran over ran using qigong, bounding across the distance with single, light taps of his feet. The burly man only look slightly amused and took his time getting over by walking.

    At this, Xing Yi’s heart dropped. This type of situation was something very familiar to him. Back in his village, groups of bullies acted the same way when they found someone easy to pick on. Back then, his brothers and even Hou Li would’ve came to his defence to fight them back and they would all have big group fights against each other. It seemed that things were the same even in the sects of immortal.

    Wu Jia, the proud-looking cultivator abruptly stopped his flight right in front of Xing Yi’s face, causing a large gust of wind to blow away his hair and face. The cultivator jumped off his sword, snatching it from the air with his right hand and he placed both his hands on his hips with a smirk on his face.

    “We have a celebrity here!” Wu Jia laughed in a mocking voice.

    “It’s Mortal Xing Yi!” The crooked teeth teenager screamed in a girlish voice, acting as if he was some kind of fangirl.

    The burly, scarred man chipped in, “I have to say, he’s pretty damn smart. He cheated his way into the sect through such a dirty method. But at the same time, there is something wrong in the head if he think it is actually going to do something for him. If I had been in his position, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give it someone who actually deserved to be in the Bloody Path Sect. And definitely not some fucking trash without spiritual roots.” The scarred man gave a face of disdain as he talked, emphasising his cussing with a further distortion of his facial expression as he spoke the last sentence.

    Making a bold move, Xing Yi turned around and walked away. But he didn’t even make even three steps away when he felt a big push from behind, sending him tumbling face first into the ground.

    “Where you goin’ buddy?” Wu Jia asked in a mocking tone.

    As Xing Yi made it back onto his knees, he was shoved by the shoulder to the ground again. Xing Yi sucked this up as he attempted to get back onto his feet again as he really didn’t want to get into a confrontation with this group. He thought that as long as he got away, everything would be alright. Despite this, he couldn’t help but blurt out, “What is your problem?”

    Wu Jia snapped right back, “No, what is your problem? Why are still here? Just leave the sect already. No one has time for you. I haven’t even seen you even once before this and you have been in the sect for a whole year. What the fuck do you even do? Not much obviously, from the looks of it.”

    “You’re wrong!” Xing Yi argued back. This guy’s accusations all hit him deeply and his anger spilled forth through these words. He was scared of a fight but he couldn’t just let these guys walk all over him.

    The crooked teeth teenager pranced over with his green rope in hand, “Hey kid, where did you used to live?”

    Xing Yi didn’t care to answer and stood in place.

    “Why are you asking him that, Ge Yifeng?” Wu Jia squinted his eyes at the crooked-teeth teenager.
    “Don’t worry about, just- “, Ge Yifeng turned to Xing Yi and asked in an interested voice, “I’m genuinely curious. Where did you used to live?”

    Xing Yi was confused as to the purpose of the question, but seeing that he wanted to know and would temporarily slow down the escalation of the situation, he answered, “I used to live in a small farming village with my family. Why?”

    Hearing this, Ge Yifeng chuckled and said, “So you know what happens when you’re being a naughty servant? That they get punished by their lord when they step out of line and remember their place and keep doing what they are supposed to.”

    The teenager had a creepy smile as he proceeded to unfurl and brandish the green whip he had in hand, “They would use something like this to whip them. It’s a painful weapon that even I’m afraid of. You want to give it a try?”

    Xing Yi sternly declined, “Is there something wrong with you? No!”

    The middle-aged man then pointed out with a massive grin on his face, “Idiot, your restraining rope isn’t a whip.”

    “Shut up!” Ge Yifeng turned around and screamed. The other cultivator only laughed in response and didn’t take their remark to heart.

    Anger coursing through his body towards both Xing Yi and his friend, he stomped over to Xing Yi and instead of whipping him, he lifted his hand high up into the air to smack him across the face.

    At that instant, Xing Yi had had enough. He circulated his inner qi at his maximum limit, causing veins to pop out and his whole body to creak out in a painful retaliation. He hadn’t learned how to fight yet but he was going to. But at this point of time, he didn’t. So, he did what he could and punched upwards, right towards the bottom of the unsuspecting cultivator’s chin.

    Surprisingly, the Ge Yifeng didn’t expect this coming and it was too late for him to dodge when he noticed. He was sent to the ground and began whining like a little boy.

    “Ow! You little bastard,” Ge Yifeng cursed as he gritted his teeth in pain.

    The middle-aged man burst out laughing while Wu Jia gave a light chortle.

    “This dumb bitch forgot to use his qigong to protect himself,” The middle-aged man held his belly in laughter, tears coming out of his eyes.

    Right after, Xing Yi was sprinting towards the hall, hoping he would find solace there.

    “Hey, he’s getting away! Run maggot, run!” The middle-aged man shouted, wanting to see Ge Yifeng chase the boy down. Wu Jia too, thought the same and was similiarly amused at what was occurring.

    “Aah!” Ge Yifeng screamed in a rage as he flipped himself back up using his qigong. The silhouette of his feet glowed an ocean blue as he quickly closed the gap between them with a few jumps.

    However, just as Gi Yifeng reached out towards Xing Yi with his hand, a loud voice boomed up from above, “Wu Jia, you are supposed to be training right now you unfilial disciple!”

    AN: Just want to note that profanity will occur within the story but not too many times.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2022
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 29 - Wu Jia
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 29 – Wu Jia

    Hearing the loud voice from in the sky, Ge Yifeng looked as if he had received cold water shock. The teenager came to an immediate stop, turned around and bowed with his hands held together in front of him.

    “Senior!” Wu Jia, Ge Yifeng, and the middle-aged man all chanted in unison.

    Noticing this abrupt change, Xing Yi turned around to see all three cultivators bowing down to a black silhouette in the sky. Atop a black sword, blood-red eyes peering from beneath the straw hat he wore, did an old man with pale, ghost-like features stood.

    As the old man lowered himself down to the ground, Xing Yi analysed the man’s face, feeling as if he was someone familiar. That he had seen him before…

    Once the old man touched down onto solid ground- ignoring the middle-aged man completely- he strode towards Wu Jia and gave him a loud, hard slap to the face that sent him to the floor. He could’ve protected himself with his qigong, but to do so would’ve escalated into more than a mere slap.

    “Who do you think you are?” The old man pulled Wu Jia up by the hair with a tight fist and got close, looking him straight in the eyes.

    Wu Jia didn’t answer. His loud, boisterous attitude from before had disappeared and his eyes were now filled with dread towards the old man.

    “Huh!” The old man gave him a yank, dragging his body across the stone tiling.

    Witnessing this scene, Xing Yi didn’t dare walk away and bowed in place just like the middle-aged man and Ge Yifeng were. Unconsciously, he found himself quivering in fear.

    At the same time, he heard Ge Yifeng mumble underneath his breath in fear,“I-It’s Master Wu Qing.”

    “You are the most gifted disciple inside this entire sect, yet you don’t even give enough of a shit to train!” Wu Qing dramatically shouted into Wu Jia’s ear, causing him to close his eyes and grit his teeth in pain.

    “What the fuck were you supposed to be doing right now, and where?” Wu Qing man asked in a spiteful mutter.

    Wu Jia eked out with his eyes still closed, “Cultivating the Sanguine Secret Arts in my courtyard.”

    The old man dropped the youth onto the ground, looking down on him with a disgusted look. He seemed to mutter something underneath his breath as he diverted his attention to the other three people standing.

    “Who are you guys?” Wu Qing asked calmly, raising his hands into the air.

    “Wang Kai,” The middle-aged man answered.

    Ge Yifeng answered with his name too.

    But when to Xing Yi, he hesitated for a moment but once he felt the man’s gaze on him he too answered, “Xing Yi.”

    Hearing this, Wu Qing raised a brow, “Xing Yi? I swear I’ve heard that name before.”

    A second later, Xing Yi felt a sweeping presence over him.

    “Oh, you’re that damn mortal that was let into the sect over a year back. I almost forgot about you. What are you doing now, external cultivation? Bah, that is a useless thing that,” Wu Qing laughed.

    He walked over to Xing Yi and patted him on the shoulder.

    “You know Wu Jia, you should be more like Xing Yi, even if you have to be delusional of what is actually achievable and what isn’t,” Wu Qing smiled as he softly touched Xing Yi’s shoulder, much to his displeasure.

    “Yes, Senior,” Wu Jia replied, now standing but with his head held low and his eyes staring at the floor.

    “Xing Yi might be destined for great things one day. You never know! Anyone can be the next big nascent soul cultivator. You can’t really tell these days!” Wu Qing stated as he shrugged his shoulders.

    He turned to Xing Yi.

    “Isn’t that right?” Wu Qing asked.

    Xing Yi replied with a nervous stutter, “Y-yes, definitely.”

    Wu Qing surveyed the surroundings around him before he put his hand on his chin and questioned, “Say, Xing Yi. What was happening just now?”

    Xing Yi gulped as he quickly made up a lie, “Just talking. And my uh… Seniors showed me some cool things. I most liked Senior Martial Brother Ge’s restraining rope treasure. I couldn’t escape it no matter what I did!”

    If he dared tell the truth, he wouldn’t be let away quietly after this senior left.

    “Is that so?” Wu Qing wondered as he turned to Ge Yifeng.

    “Yes, yes! Let me show you,” Ge Yifeng hastily unfurled his rope but stopped as he saw the old man holding up his hand.

    “There is no need. I have seen countless other treasures that operate the same as yours. There is nothing special about it,” Wu Qing explained.

    Ge Yifeng complied and placed the green rope back onto his waist.

    Wu Qing sauntered over to Wang Kai and inspected him before saying, “Wang Kai, what do you do?” Wu Qing inquired.

    “I work at the Talisman Hall. It’s honest work, Senior. I’m responsible for creating the talisman paper that my seniors use to write their spells upon,” Wang Kai answered.

    “Interesting, how long have you been in the sect?”

    “Thirty-two years, ever since I was a young boy and Elder Hu found me in Rising Dragon City.”

    “Hmm, I haven’t even noticed your existence up until now. Anyways, nice meeting you all. And especially you Xing Yi,” Wu Qing gave Xing Yi a strange look.

    Xing Yi panned up to see Wu Qing staring at him strangely, his intentions unclear and shrouded in mystery.

    Xing Yi nodded.

    Finally, Wu Qing summoned his flying sword and goaded Wu Jia on.

    Thus, the two soared into the sky. Having made it away from the group of people down below, Wu Qing stood in front of Wu Jia with his hands held behind his back.

    As the wind blew against his dry, wrinkly face and flapped against the loose fabric of his purple robes, he let out a long, dejected sigh.

    Wu Qing spoke, “This will not happen again. Yes?”

    Wu Jia replied with his head down, his eyes not even daring to glance over the man in front of him, “Yes, Uncle.”

    Silently, Wu Jia closed his right hand so tight that his nails dug into his skin.

    The rest of their trip proceeded in silence. No words were exchanged, causing Wu Jia to wonder what to expect when they arrived at their destination. He had messed up big time. His uncle was in a bad mood today. Well, he always was.

    He hadn’t even seen him for the last three weeks and was planning to start training again a couple days later, but unfortunately, he overestimated how long he would be out for. Such was his luck.
    Landing within a large garden courtyard with a small river running through it, a stone pavilion, and flowers throughout it, there was a brief moment of silence as Wu Qing tapped his foot on the lush grass.

    “Please; at least tell me that you had Lou Zhou eat the Gafni Worm?” Wu Qing telepathically communicated to Wu Jia.

    There was a gap of silence until Wu Jia replied in telepathy, “Yes, Uncle. I had his servant drop it in his food. He didn’t notice a thing.”

    Wu Qing exhaled air and nodded his head in approval as he switched back to his normal voice, “At least you did that.”

    “Now, how did it feel to grasp victory from your greatest competitor? Knowing that once he ate it, you will undoubtedly become the number one outer sect disciple and have your chances of reaching foundation establishment be certain?” Wu Qing inquired, a delirious smile on his face.

    Wu Jia looked to the side and replied, “I-I don’t know. I just did it I guess.”

    Wu Qing was surprised hearing this, “Wu Jia, do you still not understand? In the world of cultivation, you cannot play fair. You have to do everything you can in order to dominate over others. You must scheme, betray, and run away when the need for it arises. If not for that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m just trying to communicate this to you. Wu Jia?”

    Wu Jia muttered, “Yeah.”

    “Once you achieve victory over him at the competition and claim your spot as number one, you will come to understand why I had you do this,” Wu Qing explained, firmly believing what he said.

    “Now, show me your Sanguine Art,” Wu Qing demanded.

    “Yes, Uncle,” Wu Jia sighed before closing his eyes.

    The teenager concentrated inward, circulating his spiritual qi throughout his seven open vessels according to the Sanguine Secret Art. His body elicited a slow rumble.

    Then, he lifted his hands up as he if he was holding two wooden puppets with strings. Blue veins popped all over his bony hands and a crimson-red aura glowed over his body.

    “Up!” Wu Jia shouted, causing Wu Qing who was nonchalantly standing opposite of him to suddenly strain against a force that was trying to lift him up into the air.

    Fighting against the force, he summoned the exact same red aura and returned to normal, only feeling a slight pressure due to the shallowness of his cultivation of the art.

    Wu Jia hopelessly kept trying to pull Wu Qing upwards for a few seconds until he ran out of breath and fell to the ground, huffing and puffing for air.

    “Wu Jia. You have not improved at all since I last checked. An entire month just went by with nothing to show for. Even that fucking insect called Xing Yi would be doing more than you. So, it wasn’t just today, was it? It was the entire time I was out, huh?”

    Wu Jia didn’t answer. He was still trying to catch his breath.

    “There are three months until the competition. And until then, you will be in the basement, cultivating the Sanguine Art night and day. And by the end of it, you have better reached the 3rd layer! Because it’s not just yourself you’re holding back, you’re also compromising my chance at sacking Li Guoji and becoming Head Steward myself! Do you understand?”

    “Yes, Uncle,” Wu Jia complied, dreading the next three months that were ahead of him.

    AN: I dropped TTJH on royalroad.com early so that you guys didn't have to wait as long. I'm doing two chapters a day until it reaches chapter 30. And if you have read this far and like the story, could you do me a really small favor and follow my novel on royalroad.com at this link here: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/58947/transcending-the-jiang-hu-a-cultivation-novel

    My only goal with the story is to hit Rising Stars so if you could help me with that, it would mean alot! Thank you :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2022
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 30 - Camp Black
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 30 – Camp Black
    “To teleport to Camp Black will cost you five spirit stones,” The foundation establishment said with a monotone voice as they studied a tiny, palm-sized book.

    Xing Yi was slightly stunned upon hearing the price but laughed at himself for thinking that it was going to be cheap in the first place. And even having taken out a loan of one hundred spirit stones, he couldn’t afford to casually spend his money and had to carefully delegate each purchase.

    And being able to go to Camp Black was vital to keeping the magic cauldron a secret. If he were to casually waltz over to Martial Uncle Yang and he started asking for loads of spiritual herbs, he would start asking questions.

    Firstly, the logistics of him being able to pay off the loan would be out of the questions as Yang knew that he hadn’t even refined his first pill yet and would be asking him how he was going to be able to pay it all off. He would immediately think that he has a death wish, and that something was fishy going on.

    If he didn’t have some kind of formation to protect himself from prying eyes, any core formation elder or even a foundation establishment inner sect disciple for that matter, could come over and spy on him with their spiritual sense without him even knowing.

    Grimacing, Xing Yi pulled out five thumb-sized blue gems from his leather bag and handed them over to the cultivator behind the desk. The cultivator was surprised he had enough to pay and looked him up and down.

    Saying nothing, the cultivator got out of his seat.

    Scratching the back of his neck, he waved Xing Yi over in a lazy voice, “Follow me, I’ll show you over to the transportation formation.”

    The pair walked through a large hallway that was several meters wide and tall, passing many dark blue vault-like doors. At the end, sitting on a brown straw mat was an old wrinkly man with dishevelled hair and a tired face filled with wrinkles.

    Hearing the footsteps from down the hallway, they opened their eyes and raised an eyebrow at Xing Yi. Immediately, he noticed the peculiarity of the boy.

    “An external cultivator. Hmm, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen one. They are quite a rare bunch,” The wrinkly man noted as he roused from his seated-lotus position and walked over with his hands behind his back.

    “Hey Bai Fan, not now. Put that thing away,” The old man ordered.

    Xing Yi, looking out of the corner of his eyes, saw that the foundation establishment cultivator was still reading the book with intense focus. When he read the title on the front of it, he was taken aback, not knowing what to think.

    “Li Li’s Erotic Adventures in the Xi’an State.”

    Bai Fan seemed to roll his eyes and pocketed the hand-held book.

    “Where’s he going?” Bai Fan asked, cracking his neck with a side-to-side motion.

    “Camp Black.”

    “Alright.”

    Walking several meters back up the hall with Xing Yi following from behind, the two cultivators came to a particular door.

    Standing a few meters apart, they each assumed a strange stance with their hands in convoluted positions and legs spread wide apart.

    Exhaling at the same time, there was a brief moment of silence before they took action. Suddenly, they both moved. Spinning his hands in a circular motion, the old man created a circular wind
    that seeped into small, tiny, runic cracks inside the door.

    As for the young man, he spat fire out of his hands that also seeped into these tiny cracks. After a few moments of intense work, something clicked within the door.
    Hearing this, the two foundation establishment cultivators stopped without breaking a sweat.

    Then, a fiery red core emerged in the direct centre of the door where a dark circle previously lied. It quickly filled up over, the fire and wind coursing through the tiny cracks to reach the core.

    Once the core became full, another click sounded out. With a low rumble, the door split in half and swung open, banging against the walls.

    Stretching his body, Bai Fan suddenly began making a slow humping motion with his hands behind his back.

    “You know Senior Martial Brother Que Zhi, I think I’m ready for the special groin technique now. I’ve been doing this job for what- three years now- so I know how to handle fire pretty well now. I think it’s time to take my fire techniques to the next level. You know how cool it would be to just shoot fire from down there when I’m-“

    “Stop there,” Que Zhi reached out towards Bai Fan with his hand and tightly closed it, causing him to involuntary seal his lips. He let go shortly after and the young man’s lips were set free, and he once again rolled his eyes in annoyance.

    “Anyways, what’s your name, boy?” Que Zhi asked as the three strolled into the room.

    “Xing Yi, Senior.”

    “And I presume you’re an unofficial if you’re wearing white robes,” Que Zhi discerned as he squinted his eyes.

    “Yes, Senior” Xing Yi smiled awkwardly.

    “Don’t worry, I too was an unofficial disciple once upon a time. They were very difficult times, but in the end I triumphed over all who doubted the validity of my pursuit of immortality,” Que Zhi reminisced.

    “Wait, you were?” Bai Fan was stunned.

    “I was,” Que Zhi nodded. “Now, stop gawking at me like that and get on the other side of the circle.”

    Without saying a word, Bai Fan and Que Zhi stood opposite of each other around a gold, cryptic circle engraved atop a jade platform.

    “Xing Yi, please step onto the platform,” Que Zhi kindly asked.

    Xing Yi bowed to Que Zhi and then Bai Fan before he carefully stepped onto the platform as if he was wading into water. Compared to the various transportation pavilions scattered across the sect, this was far more elaborate and obviously far more valuable, evident in the heavy protection and the requirements to unlock the door leading into it. He looked at the dark grey walls and didn’t think they would be any less weaker than the door itself either.

    Reaching the middle of the circle, he tucked his arms in and stood as straight as a stick. Que Zhi gave a knowing look to Xing Yi and proceeded with the teleportation.

    Both cultivators bent down and implanted their hands into hand-shaped jade indents on the ground and inserted a small amount of their qi into it. Not a second later, four fist-sized spirit stones placed in the four cardinal directions around the circle lit up in varying lights of blue, red, and brown.

    And with that, Xing Yi blinked over to the other side.

    Instantly, he noticed that he was in a small, crudely built stone tower and stood on top of almost an exact replica of the formation back the Bloody Path Sect.

    “Identify yourself,” A mighty voice echoed throughout the tower.

    Pulling out his badge, Xing Yi bowed, “This one is named Xing Yi and is an unofficial disciple of the Bloody Path Sect.”

    After a moment, the voice replied, “Good, now don’t make any trouble and we won’t have any problems. Ok?”

    “Yes, Senior,” Xing Yi bowed.

    The exit was a large arch and had no door, so Xing Yi walked right out.

    Straight away, he was greeted with a view of the entirety of Camp Black. It wasn’t really a camp. It was actually a town situated deep within the Western Forest that was established and ruled over by two nascent soul level cultivators.

    Looking around, he saw that he was on a tall hill located directly in the middle of the town. Beyond the edges of the town was a thick, green jungle.

    The reason why Xing Yi was here today was to buy spiritual herbs in bulk to practice pill refining. Since the cauldron could transform alchemical waste back to its original ingredients, he could technically practice pill refining endlessly.

    If he failed, the alchemical waste would eventually turn back into its original ingredients and he could try again. The biggest problem that pill refiners faced was a lack of ingredients to practice their skills with. But with the magic cauldron?

    He could circumvent that problem and become a Pill Refining Grandmaster overnight.

    AN: Yes, there is cheat item. I planned that from the beginning and it took 30 chapters to reveal its use but I'm gonna add that as a tag now.

    Also, I'm not gonna wait for royalroad to catch up to qq anymore. I'm just gonna keep going.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2022
  15. Ice cream dream

    Ice cream dream Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    Interesting
     
    bandicoot879 likes this.
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 31 - Paragon Emporium
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 31 - Paragon Emporium

    Camp Black was established well over two-hundred years ago and serves as a safe haven for cultivators foraging into the perilous Western Forest. Populated by countless tribes and sects of demon beasts, humans are not a welcomed existence. It was only with the strength and support of two nascent soul cultivators that it had survived the test of time.

    In fact, the border between the Western Forest and the human realm has always been guarded in a joint effort by The Eight Great Sects since almost forever- the Bloody Path Sect being one of them. Without this joint protection, the human realm would’ve long been invaded by the demon beasts and turned into a wasteland.

    However, immortal sects didn’t guard the border from the human realm because they necessarily wanted to. Yes, they were humans too and they obviously wouldn’t allow their people to be slaughtered so easily, but it was only because it was the only place with adequate ambient spiritual qi for their cultivation.

    From the far north to the south extended a long mountain-range that divided the mortal realm from the Western Forest, rich with veins of qi. These veins, situated deep underground with almost inexhaustible supplies, released qi that created the perfect environment for cultivation. The ambient qi that these veins produced significantly increased the cultivation speed of any cultivator.

    It rejuvenated the soul, sprouted wild spiritual herbs amongst the valleys, and allowed them to train without worrying about how long it was going to take them to recover.

    In comparison, the mortal realm is completely barren. There are only a few minor veins within its entirety and this lack thereof is the reason why immortals don’t meddle with mortal affairs.

    This was also the reason why in the east, cultivators are thought to be myth. Whereas, in the west- close to the border - they are instead urban legends and often talked about in rumors. Like how the old man living next door who is blind in one eye, witnessed two robed man barge into his house and fight while literally flying across the room, how a little girl saw a man disappear into nowhere after turning a corner that had a dead-end, and how old guards say they saw the clan patriarch get on his hands and knees in front of a mysterious, masked figure.

    But why would two nascent soul level cultivators decide to establish a town all the way in demon beast territory? It wasn’t because they were genuinely trying to establish a civilization.

    It was to procure the rich resources that the Western Forest provided. It was a treasure trove filled with the would-be corpses of powerful demon beasts, their accompanying cores, and rare, aged spiritual herbs that only grow in isolated places deep within the Western Forest. Metallic ores, earth fires, yin and yang outcroppings, the eggs of demon beasts waiting to be stolen, and the list goes on.

    Yet, there is no such thing as a free lunch in this world. It wasn’t rare for even core formation cultivators to go missing. Those at foundation establishment were killed by the dozens every year and for a vessel cleansing cultivator to venture into the Western Forest was a death wish.

    As for nascent-soul level cultivators, they could tread without worrying about their own safety so long as they didn’t provoke any nascent soul beasts. Neither party wished to casually engage in mortal combat as they each had long lives ahead of them and would only do so if it heavily leaned in their favour.

    So, as Xing Yi walked down one of the many streets of Camp Black, he paid great attention to the wares of each merchant that laid their wares bare, hoping to find the spiritual herbs that he was looking for.

    For a place all the way out in the middle of the harsh jungle, it was very well kept and quite tidy. Although its many humble buildings were small, they were built with great craftsmanship.

    Walking past a particular shop with a collection of a variety of strange, colourful fruits, he saw that the owner of it sat upon a wooden chair, smoking out a pipe and blowing smoke into the air with each puff. And to his left, a dark-skinned man with skinny legs silently meditated on a yellow straw mat in lotus-position. He sold big chunks of spiritual wood with tough, dark brown bark.

    None of them had what he wanted and as he continued, he saw all sorts of bizarre things being sold. There wasn’t a large crowd of cultivators on the street, but there were always a few cultivators within the nearby area, either looking at items or on the hunt for a particular thing like he was.

    A few hours passed and Xing Yi still hadn’t found a clue where he could find spiritual herbs. So, walking up to an orange-robed monk chanting ‘Amitabha’ over and over and selling gourds, he asked him kindly, “Excuse me senior. Do you mind if I ask a question?”

    Stopping in the middle of his meditation, he opened an eye and replied, “Of course. What question does almsgiver have for this one?”

    “Does Senior know which merchant this junior could buy spiritual herbs off of?” Xing Yi asked.

    The monk raised an eyebrow, “Hmm, does almsgiver not know the circumstances of Camp Black?”

    “No,” Xing Yi shook his head.

    “All spiritual herbs and demon-beast related items are monopolised by the two Light Clan patriarchs that own Camp Black. No one else but them can trade them in Camp Black,” The monk explained.

    Just as Xing Yi lost hope, the monk pointed to a tall, green-roofed seven-floored pagoda in the distance, “That pagoda is the only place you can buy spiritual herbs. But I will warn almsgiver in advance, the prices are very, very high.”

    Relieved, Xing Yi bowed to the monk before travelling to the pagoda. After a twenty-minute walk, he arrived at the stone steps that lead inside the red, towering giant. Walking inside, he was greeted by a beautiful, tall woman with enchanting green-eyes. A golden, rectangular-shaped earring dangled from her right ear.

    “What brings you to the Paragon Emporium today?” The lady

    “I would like to buy spiritual herbs.” Xing Yi said, looking up at the lady who was a couple heads taller than him.

    Smiling, she turned around, “Follow me and we can talk privately.”

    Following in her steps, Xing Yi walked past glass cases containing shiny treasures, tall jade pillars, and other cultivators currently browsing the Paragon Emporium’s wares.

    They came into a spacious room adjacent to the main hall and Xing Yi took a seat at the table at the centre of the room. Upon the wall to the side was a small window that let in a few rays of golden light.

    “Are you looking for any specific one?” She asked, taking a seat next to Xing Yi. She held up her chin with her elbow against the table, a cute expression on her face.

    “Oh, yeah! Let me pull this out…” Xing Yi fumbled around his leather bag until he found what he was looking for,

    Unfurling a yellow-paper scroll, he read from a list totalling seventeen ingredients. Once he was finished, the lady seemed be surprised at how much he was looking to buy.

    “Oh, are you perhaps looking to refine the Lotus Explosion and grade-one Qi Gathering Pill?,” The lady exclaimed.

    “How did you know?”

    Her face brightened up with a smile, “Why wouldn’t I know such things? I work at the Paragon Emporium after all. ”

    Xing Yi blushed, not sure if he was reacting like this to the lady’s beauty or his lack of foresight.

    “How many pills are you looking to refine each? Tell me and we can get you the correlating amount of ingredients for each. And don’t worry, our Paragon Emporium will not slight you of a single leaf. You can check yourself too,” The lady explained.

    Xing Yi thought on it for a second but recalled what he originally planned and went with that.

    “I want to buy enough ingredients for five of each.”

    “Ok. I will go call for a man by the name of Hua. Once he arrives, we can stamp out the cost of these spiritual herbs.” The lady said.

    Over the course of a few minutes, the lady hit up some small talk with him, asking him about his origins and whatnot. He danced around these questions for the most part, but when the lady touched his hand out of nowhere, he became flustered.

    Just then, a moustached man wearing green-robes and green eyes walked in.

    “Please Ying’er, he is just a boy. Maybe if it was an older customer it might work. All you are doing is making him feel shy,” The man smiled.

    AN: Sorry to sound like an NPC but please for god's sake, follow TTJH on royalroad.com if you haven't already and help me reach my goal of reaching Rising Stars!!!
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2022
  17. Threadmarks: Chapter 32 - Earthly Pill Refining
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 32 - Earthly Pill Refining

    Xing Yi exited the Paragon Emporium with sixty-four less spirit stones than when he entered. Walking down the stone steps of the emporium, he tightly carried a large wooden drawer by his side in one arm.

    As the box slid down the side of him again and again, threatening to fall down, he would have to constantly lift it back up with a pull of his arm and shoulder. Although anyone could fit their fingers around the circumference of his arm, they were not weak and easily held the large object in place.

    Upon the front and back of it were several gold metal latches that withheld drawers from sliding out and onto the ground. Created by a mortal grandmaster; a servant of the Paragon Emporium, this drawer was created out of a wood that could keep spiritual herbs fresh for years.

    The spiritual herbs for the ingredients required for five Lotus Explosion Pills and the other five grade-one Qi Gathering Pill had cost him sixty spiritual stones, while the wooden drawer for storage cost him four.

    In the first place, he didn’t have a spatial storage pouch, but even if he did he wouldn’t be able to store them in there as it would result in their immediate destruction and instead had to be stored in a special container like the one he was currently carrying.

    It was a good deal for what it was and he didn’t have any qualms about it. He still had thirty-six spirit stones in the bank and would be very conservative with what he would spend it on in the future.

    Soon, Xing trekked up the hill and forgot all about the Paragon Emporium and thought upon how he was going to refine these pills and what he was going to do now. Teleporting through the formation,
    he appeared atop a jade platform in a grand hall.

    Nearby, upon a lone, tall wooden beam several metres high in horse position was a grey-bearded old man. Sensing that the formation went off, he opened his left eye for a brief moment before closing it and returning to his own cultivation.

    Xing Yi bowed to Elder Wang, the man who was responsible for the defence of the Bloody Path Sect and oversaw all teleportation into the sect. If enemies were to casually teleport into this hall-where all outside teleporting was received- they would be immediately sent back in the blink of an eye by Elder Wang. There were countless other security measures in case but he wasn’t important enough to know about them.

    But the thing was that this place wasn’t actually inside the sect. It was in a nearby area not disclosed to the public. No one could actually directly teleport into the sect without going through here.

    Thus, with a single wave of his hand, the cryptic red engravings on the jade platform lit up in a red light and he was once again whisked away. Then, he actually arrived into the sect and was greeted by the sight of another elderly man.

    He wasn’t an elder though and was merely at foundation establishment. He too, gave him the same treatment as the elderly man and with a single look, he too closed them and resumed his sitting cultivation.

    Exiting the room and following down the hallway, he found himself inside the lobby of the Void Hall. To his right, with his legs kicked up on the desk, a black-haired young man with shaggy hair read a small, palm-sized book. He didn’t even notice Xing Yi’s entrance and continued to read.

    However, Xing Yi knew that he noticed him as once one reached foundation establishment, a cultivator’s senses would become so keen to the point where they could smell blood from kilometres away, see the individual hairs on an ant’s legs several metres away, and hear people whispering from across a bustling street if they so wished.

    Yet, with his status, he had no option but to respectfully bow to his seniors, even if they didn’t notice his existence. As he did so and proceeded to leave, he hoped that once he grew stronger, that they would finally acknowledge his existence and not so nonchalantly ignore him.

    From time to time, he imagined himself as a cool cultivator that everyone wanted to talk to and was so strong that everyone respected him. And that he would shock everyone with his talents and he would be taken in by a core-formation elder. That he would eventually become a nascent-soul level cultivator in terms of earthly cultivation and save a village from an abrupt landslide.

    He had many fantasies that he constantly thought about and all of them involved becoming stronger. Over the course of his time in the Bloody Path Sect, he noticed that his wants had quickly shifted from making use of the opportunity that his grandfather gave him and making his family proud, to becoming a powerful immortal capable of splitting the ocean and creating ravines with a single move of his hand.

    He had read the myths, felt their strength, and been enlightened by their vast wisdom many times in the past. He wanted all of that too.

    So, as he came to his house, he became determined to succeed.

    Without wasting any time, he waded through the jade slip and consumed its knowledge. Two days later, he had completed sorting through it and within his mind temple was a book named ‘Earthly Convergence’.

    In it, he learned that earthly pill refining did not differ greatly from heavenly pill refining. They merely used different energies.

    Pill refining was one of the very few practices that heavenly and earthly cultivation shared in common. It is one of the pillars of the foundation that the world of cultivation was built upon. If it were to become shaky-say all pill refining Grandmasters were to suddenly die overnight- chaos would ensue.

    In the few myths and legends that covered the lost art of earthly cultivation, they would often consume the corpses of spirit beasts and their cores to improve their cultivation. But over time their bodies would grow resistant to this energy and they would seek other ways to increase it.

    This led to them also discovering and learning the art of pill refining. It also proved to be very useful as they would be able to use pre-prepared pills to recover their diminished qi just like the heavenly cultivators did at the time.

    But, while heavenly cultivation is a gentle spirit and easy to control, earthly cultivation is fierce and dangerous, like trying to control a wild beast. And when a refiner is unable to control this rabid energy, it results in the explosion of all the energy they were currently controlling.

    Fortunately, they are earthly cultivators and don’t have to worry about getting injured and can simply carry on without worry. Just so long as they aren’t trying to refine high-grade pills far above their own cultivation level. It didn’t usually happen but when and if it did, they could very well maim or even kill themselves.

    And when Xing Yi found himself reading this, he couldn’t help but sigh. Everything related to earthly cultivation just had to be extremely difficult.

    Didn’t it?

    No wonder Elder Yang gave this slip to him. He was basically throwing out the trash!

    And if a heavenly cultivator were to try to use this technique themselves- Xing Yi couldn’t help but chuckle to himself, feeling as if he had gotten ripped off- their cultivation would begin to dissipate!

    That stingy old man! Acting all wise and benevolent just to scam him in the end.

    Regardless, the old man was centuries ahead of him. Literally.

    Sitting up from his mat, he walked out into the hallway and came to a particular door. Opening it up, he was greeted with the sight of fire-wood fully stacked inside a small closet.

    Putting his small hands on his chin, he stood in place, feeling lost as to how he should proceed. He stared all around himself as he walked around, leaned on the wall and stared through a window at the end of the hallway.

    “If only my brother was here…” Xing Yi mused.

    A few minutes later, after a lot of blank moments of thinking and standing, he finally hauled all the firewood out of the closet and into a pile near the house, right next to the fire pit.

    Heaving the black cauldron from out of the closet, he carried it across the house, trying his best not to scratch the floor as he noticed that his earlier efforts had caused white scratches to appear on the wooden flooring.

    Bringing it out into the courtyard beside the house, he once again stood in place, unsure of his decision.

    “Surely they wouldn’t notice. Right?”

    He was facing a dilemma. Either to be secretive and make sure no one finds out or to refine out in the open. He had already made up his decision but couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about it.

    There was no way he could really hide that he was pill refining from the cultivators of the sect with their powerful and far-seeing spiritual sense.

    But what made him less worried was that he lived in an isolated part of the sect, right in the middle of the valley with the least ambient spiritual qi in the entire sect. So much so, that the only reason that the valley he dwelled in was included within the sect-wide protection formation was because to the east of it was a tall mountain that could be used as high-ground.

    So, after much delegation and self-assurance, he finally began the arduous journey of pill refinement.

    AN: Fresh out of google docs. :cool:
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2022
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 33 - The Boy (1)
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 33 – The Boy (1)
    There was not a single cloud in sight in the blue sky as a short, beige-robed old man wandered across the land. The hair on his chin was braided into a single strand with the string of a wilted, yellow plant. His eyes shined a bright golden, and within them, a gentle warmness.

    He carried himself like any other ordinary man and apart from his lively complexion and strange eyes, nothing was out of the ordinary. As he treaded further upon the dirt road at the same slow but steady pace, time passed. The man continued to walk on the road, not encountering a single person. When the sun set, the old man walked over to a nearby patch of grass adjacent to the road and laid down, dozing off to sleep without care. And when he awoke, the sun was glistening from over the horizon.

    Thus, this cycle continued. Many days passed and eventually he found himself walking on a stone road next to the coast. Sandy beaches extended into the distance, churning waves washing over the sand to his right as he walked. And after another day of walking, he reached a small town with a port filled with boats.

    Walking on its main street, he passed many happy faces. Children holding the hands of their fathers and mothers, boisterous merchants asking their customers about their days, and wild birds peering their surroundings above the tall roofs of the nearby buildings.

    It was a serene scene. Something that the elderly man knew was precious. Something that was to be protected no matter the cost. It was a sanctuary, a place untainted from war and its bloodshed. It had evaded natural disasters and was lucky enough to not have been discovered by bandits yet. The old man had seen many things and many places. But places like this were scarce and hard to find.

    As he continued his stroll, he eventually stopped and came to a certain stall. A man of similar-looking age to him sat behind it, carefully cutting the leaves of a bonsai plant. The elderly man watched the man behind the stall for many moments, not wanting to interrupt him when he seemed so focus. The elderly man had a keen eye for things like this. Moments of focus were not to be interrupted.

    So, he waited.

    The merchant delicately handled his tiny steel cutters, taking time every so often to lean back and analyse his work before he further continued. He took it leaf by leaf, the process taking an excruciatingly length of time to make progress. When he finally finished, he ended up with a lush green plant, its trunk forming a distinctive s-shape. Setting down his tools and wiping sweat off his forehead, he let out a big sigh. Satisfied, he revealed his teeth in a big grin.

    “Your craftsmanship is beautiful,” The elderly man praised.

    Turning in his seat, he appraised the person before him and chuckled to himself, “No, no. I still have a long way to go.”

    Standing up from his chair, he walked over to the front of the stall and asked the elderly man, “You’re a new face. I haven’t seen you around. What’s your name?”

    “My surname is Wan,” The elderly man named Wan answered.

    “Call me Qin. Well, Mister Wan, you looking to buy some apples?” Merchant Qi raised an eyebrow, gesturing to the large array of bright red apples laid upon his stall.

    Stroking his beard, he pointed to five apples out of the bunch. Compared to the rest, they were all slightly discoloured, and one could say they were the worst ones of the entire stock. Still, he seemed stern of his decision and smiled as they were handed to him and pocketed them inside the pockets of his robes.

    Pulling out a bronze coin, he gave it to the merchant.

    “You are the first customer to deliberately buy the worst ones I have. What’s wrong with you?” Merchant Qin jested with a laugh and his hands on his hips.

    Mister Wan shrugged his shoulders as he bit into one of the apples he bought, “They’re not that bad.”

    The apple merchant could only smile as Mister Wan left.

    Leaving the main street, Mister Wan came into a less-travelled side street. Wooden houses standing side-by-side, the old man saw groups of children and varying ages of woman along the street. Many of the men would be out during this time out day, fishing at sea on big boats. The women were left with the household chores and the children were left to their own devices, free to play and run around.

    After waving to a passing elderly woman, Mister Wan came to the end of the gravel road, which marked the beginning of a dirt one. Upon a large plot of land, at the end of the road, there was a wooden manor. The old man reached the manor after a brief walk and couldn’t help but smile when he saw a squirrel looking at him with a funny face, eating an acorn atop a tall tree nearby.

    Knocking on the door, the elderly man heard a pair of skittering steps before the door was opened. Surprisingly, two small children opened it. One was a snot-nosed, shaven-head child while the other was a red-haired, freckled girl.

    Both stared up at the elderly man for a short moment before they both brightened up and screamed, jumping at him, “Mister Wan!”

    “Oh-Hoh!” Mister Wan laughed as the pair cheerily jumped into his embrace.

    This caused more children to pour out from inside and soon nearly thirty children or so had surrounded him. A few though, peered out from windows inside, unsure as to who this person was. Then, a tall, black-haired, middle-aged women with remnants of a beautiful young lady on her face, walked out and greeted Mister Wan.

    “I was wondering when your next visit was going to be,” The tall lady smiled.

    Herding the children inside, the group sat back down and went back down to eating their food, consisting of fish and rice. It wasn’t fancy but it was still far better than what many people were eating out in the larger world.

    Greeting each child and how their day had been, he eventually came to those he hadn’t met before. As the newest kids in the place, they all happened to sit at the same table together.

    Walking up to the table, he sized up each one with a cheeky smile.

    “You know, I don’t really like hearing about sad stories. How about some apples?” Revealing several, bright-red apples from beneath his robe, the group of children perked up from their previously sombre and less giddy mood. If Merchant Qin happened to be here at this moment, he would be scratching his head at how the previously discoloured apples had somehow turned bright and red.

    Immediately devouring the apples, Mister Wan proceeded to make several jokes and comments, cheering the children up. After several minutes he left them with smiles on their faces and walked up to the tall women who was currently cleaning up in the kitchen in the next room over.

    “You need a hand?” Mister Wan asked.

    “To any other person I would say no. But since you’re such a persistent and helpless old man, I have to say yes,” The woman replied, chuckling as she cleaned the metal pot in water, scrubbing it up and down with a rough fabric.

    Helping her, the duo quickly finished up cleaning up the kitchen and the two came to a room upstairs. Inside was a study with bookshelves and a wooden desk. In front of a window was a wooden desk with paper and ink. Here, the old man and lady caught up with each other over the past year that they had been apart, reminiscing over what had happened in the time they had been apart.

    The women talked about the children at the orphanage while the elderly man talked about his travels around the world and all the things he had seen during this time. How he travelled to the centre of the world and met a small clan of monks to discuss religion. How he accidentally awoke a zombie from their grave, and that he helped a few men catch a murderer.

    They were all interesting tales, but as the lady began talking about the children once again, the topic came to a specific child.

    “Chao An?” Mister Wan raised an eyebrow.

    “Yes, he is quite a troublesome child. He is always creating mischief and creating trouble. But there is something incredibly strange and unique about him,” The lady explained.

    Mister Wan nodded.

    “He-“

    However, just as the lady was about to continue, a tremor shook the building. A loud rumble sounded in the distance and the children playing outside began wailing and crying. Books flew from their shelves, and the lady's chair lost footing and she fell to the ground. Amidst this situation, Mister Wan retained a calm expression and his golden eyes shined as he looked into the distance out the window and towards the town's port.

    AN: My first attempt at an "intermission" chapter. It is a pretty deep seed too lol.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2022
  19. Autist4Hugh

    Autist4Hugh Not too sore, are you?

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    No idea wtf is happening. Cant wait for the next one
     
    Radtank likes this.
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 34 - The Boy (2)
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 34 - The Boy (2)

    From time to time, Chao An felt like his powers came in handy.

    And it was as he was annoying a certain merchant by the surname of Qin that he felt like it was one of those occasions.

    “You know, I’m really hungry right now. Like really, really hungry. I could eat grass at this point!” Chao An made an act of pity as he eyed the array of red apples before him.

    Standing with their arms crossed behind the stall, intently watching the boy was Merchant Qin. His hefty black beard did nothing to hide the frown on his face.

    “You’re getting nothing from me. Now scram,” Merchant Qin firmly stated.

    It would actually be more accurate to say that he wasn’t annoying the man, but actually begging.

    “Come on, Pleeease. Apples are my favourite food out of like- all time,” Chao An pleaded once more.

    Merchant Qin didn’t budge.

    “Come on-“

    “Hello Miss, how can I help you today?” Merchant Qin suddenly brightened up, greeting a young lady while at the same time, keeping a keen eye on the boy and making sure he didn’t pull any tricks.

    At this, Chao An noticed the lady’s attire and couldn’t help but hatch a plan. It took him a couple seconds and a moment of his eyes flickering around to gauge his surroundings, but he put it right into action.

    Not this time Merchant Qin.

    As the merchant and the lady began talking, Chao An curled up his pointing finger repeatedly like he was pulling on a string, causing a small ball of dust to form in front of him. Then, focusing on a wooden box covered in a white fabric that sat inside the stall, Chao An clenched his fist, causing the ball of dust to rush up his nose.

    Raising his head backwards, he prepared himself and then flung his hands forward. All at once, he loudly sneezed and a large gust of wind blew past the other two people and blew the fabric off of the wooden box and with it, several dozen apples.

    In the chaos, Chao An carefully plucked an apple from its flight mid-air with another gust of wind and swiftly hid it in his robes. Finally, he mustered up his best guilt expression.

    “Sorry?”

    “You goddamn fiend!” Merchant Qin shouted, raising a clenched fist up in the air as Chao An ran away with another gust of wind. The middle-aged man didn’t bother to chase though, knowing that it was useless to try and catch him.

    After a couple of turns down a few alleyways, he pulled out the apple and threw it in the air repeatedly, smiling to himself.

    Eating the apple, he eventually found that throughout his mindless wandering he had arrived at the port. It was the most heavily constructed part of town with stone-paved paths along the coast, long wooden bridges extending out into the bay, and many large and small ships anchored down in it.

    With the sea wind blowing against his face and a blue sky stretching out into the horizon, he took a seat on the edge of port, his legs dangling down to the rocky outcropping below, the sea waves periodically smashing against the wall.

    Chao An looked into the distant ocean with a melancholic expression, a half-eaten apple in hand.

    “Hey,” A voice said as a hand touched his shoulder.

    Chao An jumped back in fright and yelled, “Ah!”

    Looking to his right, Chao An saw a small girl with a cute face.

    “Li Fen?”

    “What are you doing out here Chao An? You look so lonely. Are you okay?” The little girls asled in her-pitched, cute voice.

    “Just… thinking,” Chao An replied, averting his gaze to the ground.

    “About what?” Li Fen asked, confused.

    Suddenly, Chao An changed topic and asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

    Putting a finger on her chin, the little girl gave a moment of thought before answering, “A nurse. So, I can help my mommy all the people who got big scars and can’t get up from bed.”

    Chao An nodded.

    Then, he let out a big, long sigh.

    “Why? What do you want to do when you’re older?” Li Fen asked, getting a bit too close to Chao An.

    A few moments of quiet silence passed until he replied, “When I grow up, I want to-“

    Suddenly, an earth-shaking tremor shook the ground, causing the girl to fall over the edge of the port, down to the rocks below. Be it due to his magical powers, Chao An didn’t move an inch but the girl had.

    Relying on pure instincts, he lifted his hands up and, in a blood-curdling screech shouted, “Rise!”

    The low-tide suddenly rose several meters within an instance, catching the small girl in a water-shaped hand. Controlling the magic water hand, he brought her back to land.

    When she landed, she was terrified and ran over to Chao An and hugged him. She began sobbing. Then, another tremor ripped through the ground, but this time Chao An had a decent hold of her and didn’t let her go.

    Chao An stood up and looked around, wondering what the cause of the tremor could be. Then, it happened again. But instead of fading, it turned into a low rumble.

    A man nearby who had been fishing shouted in pure terror, not hesitating to run away, “Tsunami!”

    Unfortunately, when Chao An snapped his head to look into the distant sea, he saw a tall wave that continued to rise every second. Seeing this, Chao An fell to his knees. He didn’t know how to respond and stared on with wide eyes, terror taking a hold of his heart.

    “Are we going to die?” Li Fen questioned, tears falling down her cheeks.

    Chao An couldn’t answer that question.

    It had all come so suddenly. One moment he had been relaxing and in the next he was facing his imminent death. He could already see how big the wave was too. It was gigantic. It looked to be at least a hundred meters tall. The whole town would surely be killed by it. There wouldn’t be a single survivor.

    Chao An shivered in fear as he faced the tsunami. He almost wanted to curl up in a ball and let it happen. But, deep inside him was a force that wasn’t going to let this happen.

    Somehow, he found himself standing back to his feet and he confronted the tsunami. He stood with his head up high and his fists curled.

    Wiping an emerging tear from his face, he let Li Fen back down to the ground and told her, “I’m going to save everyone.”

    Li Fen didn’t stop crying but a sliver of hope could be gleaned from her expression as she looked on at Chao An.

    “I haven’t ever pushed my powers to their limits before. I hope it’s enough,” Exhaling all the air in his lungs, he squatted down and put his hands in front of him, palms facing the tsunami.

    The life of everyone in town was on the line. He thought about all the other kids at the orphanage, Merchant Qin, the happy families that called it home, and all the people interacted with on a daily basis. He may have not of gotten along with everyone, but they were human and thinking back on it, they weren’t all bad.
    And all of it to be taken away by some tsunami.

    No.

    No.

    NO.

    “Please!” Chao An screamed with all his heart as he pushed against the impending tsunami with his magic.

    Instantly, he felt a great force smash against his hands, sending him flying through the air.

    “I-I’m going to-“ Chao An’s foot slipped as he tried to regain his footing and stand up.

    Trying again, he gritted his teeth and stood up.

    Taking a look back down the previously quiet street, he saw a large crowd rushing through it to escape the impending tsunami.

    “I guess I’m going to have to use this stuff then,” Chao An admitted as he looked at his surroundings.

    He would be incapacitated for the next while but so be it. He didn’t think of himself as the hero-type but it was a sacrifice he was going to have to make.

    Chao An stomped on the ground and suddenly a golden aura wrapped around his figure. It ravaged around his figure like a storm. The very matter that made up the surrounding air, ground, trees, and buildings trembled as a kind of energy trembled and prepared itself.

    Chao An, his eyes having turned a bright golden, pulled on this energy and summoned it forward, causing an illusory tsunami to pounce forward to face the real tsunami.

    “Never!” Chao An’s entire body screamed in testament to his fate, refusing to give up. This time, he didn’t get blown away, but it was still like pushing against an immovable boulder.

    With each second that passed, he tried harder and harder to use more and more of his power. The golden light in his eyes shined brighter and brighter. His nose began bleeding, and he felt a distinct crack in his hands.

    With Chao An’s efforts, it seemed that the tsunami would be stopped but it had only slowed down slightly. For kilometres along the coast, a significant portion of the water had been pushed off the wave and back into the ocean. It looked shorter than before, but it was still a mighty opponent that wouldn’t go down just like that.

    “One… final… push,” Chao An muttered underneath his breath, gasping for air in between each word.

    Once again, he summoned all the energy in his surroundings but this time he reached further beyond. Beyond this town and deep within the surrounding forests and neighbouring coastlines. Beyond the mountains and rivers. Deep within the earth and high up, past even the clouds. The ravaging golden aura around him blew up in size, becoming several meters tall and his eyes now glowed as bright as the sun.

    And in that moment, something seemed to take control over his body.

    Moving like lightning, he grabbed onto the energy of the surrounding ten kilometres. His body was a blur as he launched forward, smashing all the world’s energy against the tsunami.

    In one push, the tsunami was completely blown apart, water being blasted backwards and away from the town. Only a few-meter tall wave remained, only big enough to cause a small flood.

    And with that massive expulsion of energy, the golden energy surroundings Chao An dissipated and he fell to the ground. The last thing he saw before falling unconscious was Li Fen’s face of shock.

    But it was not a moment later that a short, beige-robed figure appeared from thin-air and hovered over Chao An’s unconscious body.

    “I-impossible. For there to be an eighth must mean that the heavens have gone mad. There can only be seven worldly beings. But here he is. And to think I would find him in a small village like this,” An elderly man muttered underneath his breath as he gazed upon Chao An.

    “It seems that the world will be thrown into chaos once more.”

    AN: A bit dramatic lol. Next chapter is back to Xing Yi pill refining.

    Also, if you haven't already, considering giving the story a rating on royalroad.com. It'll help the story gain traction and boost it to Rising Stars. Not only that, it's free, and you can always change it any time.

    Thank you for reading. :cool::cool::D:D:D:oops:
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2022
  21. Autist4Hugh

    Autist4Hugh Not too sore, are you?

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    only typo i could find :V. otherwise shit be going down huh?
     
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  22. Threadmarks: Chapter 35 - Failure
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 35 – Failure

    It was only shortly after attempting to refine his first pill that the entire thing blew up in his face.

    “Woah!” Xing Yi shouted as he skittered away from the cauldron and inside the house to take cover.

    With his back against the wall, he didn’t even see it happen when a loud boom resounded throughout the valley. When he peeked through the window, he saw a thick black fog rising up into the air. Black marks stained the paved tiles and the remaining heat left from the burnt liquid quickly dissipated. Black liquid stuck to the side of the cauldron, a slow ooze leaking out of it.

    Xing Yi, despite almost being killed, could only slump forward in defeat.

    “I really have to clean all of this every time I fail?” Xing Yi complained as he stared on at the mess he had created.

    With a long sigh, he grabbed a mop, bucket, and spare cloth to clean it all up. As for the black marks, he could already see the future. For if any cultivator of the sect dared visit him, they would find a black circle around a lone cauldron in the side courtyard. That would raise many questions, but he could always play dumb.

    Earlier, when he had been pondering how he should go about his pill refining, he was worried that if a senior were to have questions, they would go and sifting through his mind. If such a thing were to happen, he would be practically braindead from that point on.

    Mortal minds like his were vulnerable and couldn’t bear the strain of a powerful cultivator searching through their mind for information. They couldn’t just do that either.

    Cultivators could also fuse souls into puppets, brainwash people, control others from a distance, plant ideas into their minds for them to eventually discover and act out upon, and or cause them to self-detonate, killing the person instantly.

    Cultivators capable of controlling the soul were very few and despite many of their capabilities, their most feared ability was their soul-fire. It was a type of torture that was several hundred-fold more painful than being burned alive. Even the most courageous and fearless cultivators would immediately bend to this type of torture and would be at the other person’s mercy. It was what anyone would come to think of first when they heard the person knew soul manipulation techniques.

    So, before Xing Yi began his next attempt, he began worrying about whether or not the spiritual ingredients were going to return back to normal from this. Not all the liquid was inside the cauldron. The majority of it had been mopped up by him and he didn’t know if the cauldron could transmute parts of a completed ingredient. But fortunately, about an hour later the illusory lid had reappeared over the cauldron.

    Immediately, his next question was whether or not it recreated as a whole or just that part. And it was to his surprise an hour later that he discovered all his ingredients fully intact.

    “That’s pretty cool. But where does it come from?” Xing Yi wondered as he looked underneath and around the cauldron.

    Shrugging his shoulders, he walked inside the house and sat in front of his desk. It was a low table that was only knee-height. On it, in neat piles, were a few books and a fresh leather book. It was a thick, large one, filled with a few hundred pages.

    Dabbing his pen into the inkstone, he began on the first page.

    Attempt #1:

    First attempt was pitiful. It blew up in my face as soon as I powered my inner qi into the cauldron. It was sudden and I couldn’t control it. From this, I acknowledge that I lack control, experience, and skill. I must overcome this roadblock through repeated efforts. Discipline is what I need.

    Rich with the readings of many age-old cultivators and their writings, he wrote in his pill refinement diary with neat calligraphy and frank words. With a focused mind, he began once more.

    He hauled water up from the river and poured it into the cauldron, added firewood back underneath the cauldron lit it aflame, and added in his ingredients all at once. Again, unlike heavenly pill refinement, he could not be slow. He had to be quick and quickly coalesce the pill in the shortest time possible.

    The aggressive and rabid energy of earthly pill refinement gave a lot of room for error, and he could not waste time slowly adding in the ingredients as the more time he spent refining, the higher the chance it could all blow up in his face.

    So, sitting down in front of it in a seated lotus-position, white robes covering his ankles, he placed his hands upon the black cauldron. Unlike heavenly cultivators, he couldn’t refine pills from a distance and instead had to be in contact with the cauldron throughout the whole process.

    Taking any of his hands off the cauldron could botch the whole refinement and it was very important that he stayed alert to make sure that didn’t happen. Taking in a few deep breathes, he felt for the energy of the cauldron, patiently waiting for the right moment to begin.

    During this brief waiting period, he protected himself from the blistering heat by creating a layer of inner qi over his palms. It was a technique that he learned from the unnamed pill refining art he received Elder Yang. Despite having all of its contents, the information inside the jade slip didn’t contain its title.

    Strange, he reminisced.

    For now though, he thought of it as the Earthly Pill Refining Art.

    Then, as the energy bubbling inside the cauldron reached a certain point, Xing Yi reached inside and attempted to take control of the energy. However, just as his inner qi made contact with the qi inside the cauldron, an instantaneous chain reaction occurred, causing an explosion to instantly occur.

    Sadly, the same thing had happened, and he didn’t have any time to be sad about it because he had to run.

    Again, he cleaned up the whole thing and went back inside to journal about his second attempt. Much of it was similar to his last entry and he could only tell himself to focus and stay disciplined.

    Journalling was a tool of inner reflection. To face the inner demons, overcome weakness and mental clarity. Xing Yi had read very well from many master cultivators that it was unacceptable to go without mental reflection. To do so would be moronic.

    Other than other cultivators, inner demons were the greatest threats to one’s cultivation. As one’s cultivation progressed, any undefeated inner demons would slowly materialise and turn into actual demons within the mind temple.

    Cultivators, to destroy these neglected demons, would have to enter a dream-like realm and face against them in combat. It wasn’t real combat but more a clash of wills to see who was more valid and stronger. The paradox of right or wrong could be skewed in any side and if the other couldn’t argue back, they would lose sight of what they were fighting for and would succumb to the other side.

    They were serious threats and not to be taken lightly and, in the literature, Xing Yi had read of the many toils of these great cultivators who had not only struggled with enemies and rivals in real life, but within their mind temple that haunted them whenever they meditated and could only be defeated in a life-or-death battle.

    He could not let these struggles with pill refining haunt him. Even with his pitiful cultivation, a small seed could be sowed within his mind without knowing and he would be forced to deal with it when his cultivation had further progressed.

    And when he made another attempt, same thing happened.

    Then again.

    And again.

    And when he woke up the next day, he ended up doing the same thing.

    After each attempt, he had about an hour before the ingredients rematerialized and he could attempt refining again. He spent the first twenty minutes cleaning and the other forty doing to rounds of twenty meditation cycles according to his cultivation technique. Cultivating with his talent wasn’t going to do much in terms of him progressing but it would keep his mind focused and his meridians fresh.

    And before going to bed, he would do an extra quick round and leave the alchemical waste of that to rematerialize overnight.

    He made about fifteen attempts every day, which if other pill refiners were to know, would cause much envy and that supposed waste of its usage on someone like Xing Yi.

    In time, the toils of time left Xing Yi failing again and again with a big explosion right in his face.

    And to the knowledge of nobody, a legendary pill refining grandmaster was being born.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2022
  23. Autist4Hugh

    Autist4Hugh Not too sore, are you?

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    ...ngl that cauldron is starting to sound like a training tool in some great empire for apprentice alchemists "now they cant waste ingredients"
     
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  24. Doomsought

    Doomsought Experienced.

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    Or a gift from a legendary artificer for one of his apprentices, or an apprentice of one of his close friends.
     
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  25. Threadmarks: Chapter 36 - Wandering Butterfly
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 36 - Wandering Butterfly
    Time passed by in the blink of an eye as Xing Yi trained.
    The notes in his journal grew each day. The ground around the cauldron had eventually turned into a distinct black circle and the frequent explosions that boomed into the valley had caused the natural wildlife to be wary of the area.
    And surprisingly, completely unrelated to his training, Xing Yi discovered how long his hair had really gotten. Looking at his reflection in the clear, calm water of the river, he noted his long black hair. It reached his shoulders and was unnaturally healthy, with no split ends and as smooth as silk in his palms.
    Back in the village, some of the women would bathe their hair in rice water to take care of their hair. From his perspective, Xing Yi saw no difference between their hair and those of the other women in the village. But it was only because of how much the women gossiped about beauty and one other occasion that he noticed this about his hair.
    On this one occasion, one of the daughters of their reigning lord had visited the village and her hair was so healthy that all the women of the village were praising her for it and wouldn’t stop pestering her how she got it to look so shiny and healthy. Apparently, what she used to make her hair like that had been really expensive so the women of the village could only be contempt with their current methods.
    Other than that, his hair had never been long. Every few months his mother would cut his hair really short and it was only after being apart from his family for so long that it had been able to grow so long. He hadn’t really paid it attention and would slick his hair back after washing it. After about half an hour, it would naturally form a middle part.
    Judging his appearance, he felt that he looked a bit like a girl. Not a very pretty one though. He still had tanned skin, not the perfect white skin that was coveted by so many women. In the end, all that mattered to him at this point in time was cultivation.
    He didn’t like being blatant or over-showy, but he reckoned that if he further progressed in his cultivation and strength that he could beat any mortal man in a fight with his eyes closed. Surely that would attract some pretty ladies? Didn’t they like strong men? At least that’s what his older brothers had told him.
    Ah well.
    Ruffling his hair and taking one last look at himself, he picked up the four buckets he had filled up-with two in each hand- and made his trek up the mountain.
    And once again, his routine commenced. It was not long after that an explosion sounded out, scaring all the nearby wildlife and Xing Yi walked out with a massive smile on his face.
    “Yes! I finally got it,” Xing Yi celebrated.
    He had finally grasped it.
    It took a little bit. A second at most.
    The explosion didn’t just happen instantaneously.
    Both earthly and heavenly pill refining were like yin and yang. Heavenly pill refining was gentle, flowing, slow, mysterious, and elusive. However, earthly pill refining was aggressive, direct, fast, and solid.
    He could not be gently weaving his qi throughout the energies to combine them. No, he had to continually smash them together again and again in a tight chain reaction. To do this, he had to have reached the Penetration Realm, the first of several stages of mastery in the Earthly Refining Art.
    It basically meant he could interact with the energies inside the cauldron without them immediately blowing up in his face. The term for the energies of the boiled ingredients of the spiritual herbs was the Plane of Convergence. There were other fancy terms for it but the most common and agreed upon one was the Plane of Convergence.
    To reach this realm, he had to learn to weave his qi in such a way that it would penetrate into the energies and not merely press into it. Frightened by the harsh, dominating nature of his inner qi, the Plane of Convergence would explode. It was a process that had taken him over a thousand attempts over the course of two and a half-some months.
    One-thousand and seventeen to be exact.
    When this number resounded in Xing Yi’s mind, he couldn’t help but be proud of what he had done. It had taken him a while but now having acquired the Penetration Realm, he could now start to begin the actual pill refinement process. But one thing was certain, the sound of his cauldron exploding would forever be ingrained inside his mind.
    Xing Yi couldn’t wait until he started refining pills, which he knew was not too far away at this point. Then, he could consume some of what he made and progress his cultivation. With the regular consumption of pills, it would only take a few short months instead of years to reach the next layer.
    Not only that, he would also sell some of the pills he had created to the Paragon Emporium and then in turn buy more ingredients for more pills than he did last time. This would create a positive feedback loop leading to more pills, more spirit stones, and his cultivation to continue to progress faster and faster.
    Pill refiners were the only cultivators whose cultivation never stalled. They would only be stopped at crucial bottlenecks that required them to experience the world or attain enlightenment. And unless he encountered one, Xing Yi’s cultivation would continue to progress at a fast pace, rivalling that of a genius.
    So, as Xing Yi renewed his efforts to embark on a new part of his journey, taking pen to paper to journal, it was completely unbeknownst to him that two cloaked figures were hiding away in the nearby forest.
    Covered in an illusory rainbow light, the two cloaked figures spied on Xing Yi with their spiritual sense. They stood their in silence for some time until one of them seemed to be finished with holding up something close to their mouth.
    “Ok, she’s ready!” A female voice cheered as they lifted up a butterfly into the air.
    The other cloaked figure sighed and had a male voice as they replied, “Finally, now can we go?”
    “Of course, but let’s make sure the butterfly works before we go. Ok?” The other perosn replied.
    The male-voice cloaked figure nodded in response.
    Flapping its small wings through the air, it travelled through the air, through a slit in the roof, through the hallway, and onto the book Xing Yi was currently writing. He was halfway down a page when he noticed the butterfly. It had purple wings, small black limbs and mesmerising green eyes.
    He only looked at it for a brief moment before raising an eyebrow and shooing it away. At least that is what he tried to do. Instead, he stood up and stiffly walked out of his room and out the door.
    What am I doing!
    Xing Yi screamed inside his mind as he watched his limbs move.
    And out of the bottom of his vision, he saw the butterfly comfortably sitting upon his shoulder. Xing Yi’s mind was in chaos as he desperately tried to reach out to his body and take back control but it was as if all his bodily sensations had suddenly been robbed of him. He couldn’t feel a single thing!
    Watching this unfold from a distance, the two cloaked figures were satisfied with the results.
    However, the male-voiced cloaked figure voiced his concerns, “That kid couldn’t even retaliate. What was he supposed to do again?”
    The other person replied and when he heard what it was, his fear for the other person only grew. And as the pair of cloaked figures left, Xing Yi’s body began to pick up the pace and began to jog. The strangeness of this situation and lack of control over his body left him completely terrified and wondering what was going to happen to him.
    Hours passed as his animated body, under the control of the butterfly on his shoulder, traversed the mountain range. And eventually, he found himself running up a familiar mountain. Trekking up the soiled mountain path, his cloth-bound feet carrying him up with each step, he reached the top after a twenty-minute hike.
    When he was there, he saw a large stone-paved arena with crowds of cultivators floating through the air, some sitting upon tall wooden beams, a few lounging upon white clouds, and in ten black thrones all around were the mighty core formation elders.

    AN: Damn, this one was a grind.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2022
  26. Kminari

    Kminari Know what you're doing yet?

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    mind

    him?
    is what?
    Xing Yi
    cultivators

    So... is this a trial? (I don't think so) or the tournament that he was supposed to not form part in.
     
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  27. Threadmarks: Chapter 37 - Lou Zhou
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 37 - Lou Zhou

    Silently floating on a sword next to his master, Lou Zhou meditated as he waited for his next match. His master sat on a black obsidian throne that was several metres high. He was a man with fierce, angular eyes and heavy wrinkles. As the fights unfolded, he had a deep frown on his face.

    “Master, is something upsetting?” Lou Zhou noticed the look on his master’s face.

    Leaning onto the throne’s armrest, he replied, “That mortal boy. Something is up with him.”

    Looking in the direction of his master’s gaze, he saw a young boy wearing white robes. He had gentle eyes, tanned skin and on his left shoulder was a purple butterfly with green eyes. Sitting comfortably on a patch of grass, he diligently watched the ongoing fight with a seemingly keen interest.

    Using telepathy, he exclaimed, “I don-t remember the name of it but could that be a hypnotic butterfly?”

    “It is a Wandering Yivok. Although a grade-one spiritual beast, they can easily hypnotise even peak Vessel Cleansing cultivators. That boy wouldn't have been able to resist its powers,” Lou Zhou’s Master explained.

    “Master, what could it be doing with him then?” Lou Zhou squinted his eyes.

    The loud cheering of the crowd erupted as the match came to an end, the decisive last blow having decided the winner between two 6th layer Vessel Cleansing cultivators.

    Yielding on their knees with long bloody gashes all over their body, Wu Jia held his shining silver sword against their throat. With a calm expression on his face, he sheathed his sword in a fancy demonstration and arrogantly harrumphed.

    He gave his defeated opponent one look before snapping his neck in Lou Zhou’s direction. The other person, instead of waiting for his master’s reply, stared back with confidence.

    Not a single word was exchanged as Wu Jia eventually made his way off stage and broke eye contact. At this point, the large crowd numbering over a thousand had calmed down and now seemed to anticipate the next match. Only the ten core formation elders on their tall black thrones showed no emotion. Only small details could be observed from time to time as they maintained their statue-like facade.
    And as the next match commenced, Lou Zhou’s master silently wondered to himself, “What could it be…”

    Like that, another hour passed and eventually Lou Zhou was told by his master that he was up now.

    Flying down to the arena on his sword, he hopped off of it and faced his opponent for the match. Standing before him was an ordinary young cultivator with a hopeful look in his eyes. He had nothing on him and the only notable thing about him were the red burn marks on his hands and cheeks.

    “This match will decide who will face up against Wu Jia for the finale. On the left we have elemental disciple Yi Heng and on the right is sword prodigy Lou Zhou!” A core formation elder wearing a white mask announced from her throne.

    A cheer came from the energetic and youthful cultivators in the crowd. People sat and watched in various ways. On their flying swords, wooden and earthen chairs were created using their elemental abilities, with one leg balancing upon a wooden staff, and some even just standing or in seated meditation.

    “Begin!” The elder decided the start of the match abruptly after a short moment of waiting.

    Leaping toward his opponent using qigong, Lou Zhou closed half of the gap in an instant. Unsurprised, Yi Heng lunged back and spun his hands wildly, conjuring up a red fire whirlwind that completely entombed Lou Zhou.

    Gritting his teeth, Lou Zhou grit his teeth as he spun his sword and conjured up the Bloody Path Sect’s main cultivation art. It was a blood-red aura with lifelike tendrils that waved around his body. Still, a few sparks of fire landed on his body and left him with soldering hot burns that ate through his purple robes.

    By swinging his sword at a speed that caused his limbs and jian to turn into whip-like blurs, the fire parted and Wu Jia glimpsed Yi Heng from beyond, creating distance between them by blasting fire from his hands and feet.

    Squinting his eyes, Lou Zhou spun quickly and swung his jian to the arena ground. In unison with his sword hitting the ground, he released qi from the tip of his sword in a long straight line.

    Yi Heng was interrupted in the middle of the flight and faltered in his flight technique momentarily and was caught with a thin, vertical gash across his right shoulder.

    However, this was all Lou Zhou needed and his eyes suddenly turned blood-red, a black slit at its centre. His eyes locked onto the young cultivator, he pounced forward and cut horizontally. His sword and body glowed red as the distance between his blade and his neck became smaller.

    Eyes widening in shock, Yi Heng released a burst of blue flame from his mouth. For a moment he thought he was safe but was shocked when he saw Lou Zhou’s blade cut right through his blue flame and continue towards him.

    Left with nothing else, he could only hopelessly conjure up a barrier of fire around his body to protect himself. And it was just as Lou Zhou’s blade seemed to cut through Yi Heng’s neck, both cultivators froze in place and the latter hung his head down in bitter defeat.

    Looking to the mysterious white-masked core formation elder, one could see that she had her hand raised. Then, by lowering her hand, she slowly lowered the two cultivators to the ground.

    “Lou Zhou has achieved a decisive victory,” The white-masked elder announced in her chilly, womanly voice.

    Once again, the crowd cheered and in response to this, Lou Zhou could only exhale out a big breath of air that he had made before his victory-winning jump.

    “Woah.” Xing Yi was awe-struck. After a few hours of his body being taken away from him, his deep fear for the butterfly had turned into a slight discomfort and wondering what was going to happen to him. In this kind of environment with a large crowd he was sure that no life-threatening harm would come to him.

    He speculated that someone, be it an elder or someone high in power was using him for something. Controlling others using hypnotism wasn’t uncommon and difficult to do. So, as Wu Jia came onto the stage for the finale, he could only watch on helplessly, even his own eyesight having been taken from him.

    Wu Jia or Lou Zhou did not exchange a single word before their fight. Neither underestimated each other and only wanted to win.

    Lou Zhou’s arrogant attitude had been quickly extinguished in recent times due to his uncle’s methods that had forced him to cultivate in isolation for three-straight months. It had worked and he was now at the 3rd layer of Sanguine Arts. It was a variation of the Bloody Path Sect’s main cultivation art.

    As for Lou Zhou, he had always been a quiet person. He had never gloated about hsi victory and always stayed disciplined and focused on pursuing the path of the sword.

    So, as the two met each other at such a critical point in their journeys to immortality, both put all the chips onto the table. Undoubtedly, the most important moment in their lives so far.

    “Lou Zhou, you have the right to recuperate before your next fight. Do you wish to take the opportunity to do so?” The Lady asked in an authoritative tone.

    “Yes, Elder Fang. Twenty minutes to complete a single cycle is all I need,” Lou Zhou bowed.

    He proceeded to sit down in a seated lotus-position and after tapping the storage pouch at his waist, a white pill floated into the air and flew into his mouth. Closing his eyes, he cycled the mending energy of the pill to fill his meridians.

    They were only slightly below full capacity but in a fight against his most difficult opponent yet in the finale didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to fight on low fuel. After twenty minutes of cycling the energy, his meridians returned to full capacity and he even felt light. Leftover excess energy from the qi recovering pill was released through his breath as a light blue fog.

    Unsheathing his sword and holding it out in front of him, he stared down his opponent. Likewise, Wu Jia circulated the Sanguine Arts and revealed blue veins all down his arms and legs. A blood red aura emanated from his body. But unlike Lou Zhou’s untamed tendrils, his was uniform and covered him in a thin layer.
     
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  28. Threadmarks: Chapter 38 - Sunrise
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 38 - Sunrise

    From a raised earthen foundation that had been created by one of his close confidants, Wu Qing watched keenly as the match began. Standing on the edge of the platform with his hands behind his back, his red eyes glistened in the light. He clutched the wrist of one arm while the other softly clasped a brown, shell-like object.

    Out of the corner of his eye he spied a piece of trash that should have never been.

    Even a piece of trash can be useful if one is smart and talented.

    To tell the truth, Wu Qing originally thought that man’s disciple was also a useless piece of trash too. But in the end she ended up having something as useful as Yivok in her disposal. He was grateful that he was smart enough to foresee creating a good relationship between himself and Elder Jin. Not only would a single swing of that man’s blade kill him, but he was also a very smart man. Just like him.

    “Attention, disciples! This is the final match of the Golden Blood Assembly! These two young disciples will fight to decide who will receive the Red Jin Chan Pill and an High Earth-Grade armament of their choosing from the Bloody Path Sect’s treasury.”

    The Golden Blood Assembly consisted of three stages. The first was to weed out the weak. It was a test conducted by the senior-most elders- that being Elder Kun and Elder Hui. Each disciple was required to have a bout with either elder, the depth and strength of their cultivation would be tested, and they would undergo three fights over the course of three days.

    Based on their overall performance, the two elders would convene and come to a final judgement. Those who failed, would take a working position in the sect, doomed to never progress past foundation establishment and made a slave of the sect.

    Fortunately, those who passed would live to cultivate another day. From there, they would fight against their fellow brothers and what few sisters they had to determine who would become eligible to fight on stage for the grand prize.

    But it wasn’t all a one-sided matter where only the sole winner of the assembly came out with something to show. All disciples who reached the third and final stage of the assembly would be granted with a Falling Sky Pill that would assist them when making a breakthrough to the coveted foundation establishment stage.

    It was said to increase one’s chances by over twenty percent! It may not sound like a great difference, but when speaking of a cultivator’s chances of a breakthrough, it was no small matter. Say a cultivator was alone in the jungle with a stranger and the other person knew that they possessed a Falling Sky Pill. If they were of similar strength, conflict would only be inevitable.

    And as for the earth-grade armament of the winner’s choosing. That would be for when the winner broke through to foundation establishment. From Vessel Cleansing to Foundation Establishment, the cost of weapons steeply increased and for a while most cultivators would usually be left without a suitable weapon for many months. They would be forced to use the weapon they had used when they were at Vessel Cleansing until they finally found an earth-grade weapon that could replace it.

    But the gifted earth-grade armament wasn’t any old thing. It was high-grade! Only inferior to peak-grade armaments, it would be powerful enough to bridge the gap between an entire minor stage.

    With the champion’s prize at stake, Lou Zhou stared at his opponent with his sword at the ready. His sky-blue eyes calmly rippled in the light, a few red tendrils from his past attack still visible.



    Four months ago.

    Lou Zhou stood alone in his courtyard, only a few dim lights in the distance to illuminate his surroundings. Sweat dripping down his body, his chest heaving for air, and a silver blade in his left hand, he once again steeled himself to perform the twelfth form just one more time.

    “Hagh!” Lou Zhou groaned as he made a slow, sluggish lunge forward and twisted his blade mid-air.

    Moving across the training square, he went through the motions in a familiar but strained manner. His movements were unnatural and stiff.

    Forward! Back. Twist. Up. Back again. Exhale. Focus!

    Lou Zhou repeated these commands within his mind as he went through the motions, drilling the twelfth form into his very bones. As he continued, he grew slower, and his body seemed to not want to respond.

    It wanted to rest. But-

    Never give up! Don’t stop moving until you collapse of exhaustion! And then when that happens, tap into your blood cultivation technique to keep on going!

    His eyes were bloodshot.

    He never rested for water. Not for water. And not for himself.

    He resisted against his urges as his body warned him of his parched throat, rumbling stomach, and aching muscles. Finally, after two minutes of sporadically dragging his body across places, he finished the twelfth form.

    But this wasn’t the end.

    Breathing deeply, he began once again.

    Up! Back!

    Not good enough.

    Again damnit!

    Twist. Back. Back. Back!! Listen to me body!

    Again.

    Move for me!

    Again.

    Again.

    AAAGH!

    His body uncontrollably shaking and not able to stand, he reached to his blade that he had dropped not too far away.

    He grabbed it and despite his shaking, he made sure he didn’t let go of it again.

    But when he tried to stand, he couldn’t. No matter how much he screamed to his limbs to move, they just wouldn’t. So, he did the only thing he could that would make them.

    “Blood Realm. First layer!” Lou Zhou groaned.

    Releasing the qi from his first vessel, it spread throughout his body and gave him life once again. He wasn’t completely fresh but he could keep on going.

    And as he stood back up, he exhaled red fog. He was on borrowed time using his first layer. But he still had seven more he could use.

    Again!

    No longer were his moves sluggish but held within were a silent ferocity that refused to never give up. His focused eyes contained an unwilling resolve that shined brightly in the darkness.

    But soon, his movements quickly deteriorated, and he found himself growing sluggish. It was only a short while later that he ended up on the ground, his body not only quivering in the cold night air but in incredible pain.

    His body was not supposed to do this.

    However, Lou Zhou did not show any care for this fact.

    “Second layer!” Lou Zhou groaned deeply, his determination growing.
    Raging across the training square in a silent frenzy, Lou Zhou kept tapping into his cultivation to keep going.

    “Third Layer!”

    “Fourth layer!”

    “Fifth Layer!”

    Everyone thought that he was a sword prodigy.

    But, If Lou Zhou had a say in what others called him, he wouldn’t include the sword part. Yes, he was gifted with a once-in-a-hundred-year talent that allowed him to blitz through vessel cleansing like he was strolling through a little garden.

    But the sword part…

    Not so much. He was below the natural ability of even a common disciple.

    When he was three, he picked up the sword for the very first time. He wanted to make his parents proud so that they could have a higher standing the sects. As the child of mortal parents, he was mistreated by all the other children his age and had to train harder than others if he wanted to make sure his parents weren’t bullied.

    So that they could live comfortably and didn’t have to work in the fields anymore. He wanted a better life for them. It was natural for any child to want the best for their parents.

    But he was below the average. Far below. What took someone else an hour to get the hang of would take him the entire day.

    And thus, he found the toil of his existence.

    Yet, sometimes, he would remember why he even kept training the sword if he could’ve just walked a different path.

    “I would rather die than give up!”

    Oh boy, the look on his mother’s face when she had heard what he said.

    He may be talented but without strength he wouldn’t be able to defeat even a trifling outer court disciple. He may progress fast but that didn’t mean he could walk around with his head high and without worry.

    So, he compensated. And because of that determination, he was not only praised as just a prodigy, but a sword prodigy.

    If, and only if, does he win the Golden Blood Assembly, will he be able to break through to Foundation Establishment.

    Because, if he loses, he would be afraid to admit that the shame and impact of his failure would cause his dao heart to falter and he wouldn’t be able to breakthrough to foundation establishment.

    Only by breaking through to foundation establishment will he gain the strength to retire his parents by wrestling against the proud and snot-nosed elders of his clan.

    Completing the twelfth form one last time, Lou Zhou collapsed to his knees, his final layer completely drained, and his body wasted. Toned, lean muscles heaved with each breathe that he took in. His dishevelled, shoulder length black hair covered his oily, sweat-covered face.

    Noticing bright rays of light from over his courtyard walls, he squinted his eyes in pain. After a few moments, his eyes adjusted, and he realised something.

    It was sunrise.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2022
  29. Threadmarks: Chapter 39 - Foul Play
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 39 – Foul Play
    “Begin!” Elder Wan announced, a white fox mask covering the beautiful face behind it.

    Without hesitation, both Wu Jia and Lou Zhou bounded forward with their swords held in front of them.

    Their blades met with aggression. Red sparks flew and their eyes met. Two red auras collided temporarily.

    “He has been training,” Lou Zhou thought, gritting his teeth as his feet dug into the ground beneath him.

    Silver blurs reappeared in rapid succession, the two cultivator’s blades colliding loudly each time. Each
    movement was enhanced with qigong, accelerating their movements beyond the limit of the mortal man. Wu Jia’s eyes constantly flickered, whereas Lou Zhou’s remained on his opponent.

    Back and forward, their swords entrenched them into a tight battle that brought them across the entire area of the arena. Again and again, with widened eyes, bulging blue veins, and their robes fluttering in their gathering wind, both Wu Jia and Lou Zhou fought in a deeply focused manner.
    It was strangely hypnotic.

    At this incredible showing, the crowd of young cultivators were in awe.

    “They have both reached the peak of mortal swordsmanship! And they are both teenagers. Just incredible.”

    “Wu Jia is able to keep up with Lou Zhou despite being at the 7th layer!”

    “Hmph, that may be so. But not for long.”

    It was not too long before Lou Zhou found a slim opening as Wu Jia jumped back to create a small opening. His eyes dialled in. His muscles constricted and he released a surge of qi throughout his body. In a flash of red light, a vertical slash appeared along Wu Jia’s leg.

    “Strong Qigong!” Several cultivators shouted.

    Seeing this, Lou Zhou’s master—still unofficial as of yet—could only smile.

    “Since when!” Wu Jia exhaled in shock.

    qigong was a level beyond normal qigong, wherein one could use threefold the normal amount of qi to enhance one’s movements and attacks. However, it could only be used in small bursts due to the high energy cost.

    Lou Zhou did not react to anyone’s shock, and continued, attacking again with another red flash of light. The first attack having shaken his balance, he defended with an inadequate stance. Like when he defeated his last opponent, Yi Heng, his eyes turned blood-red, a black slit at its centre. Like a deadly beast.

    “Hup!” Arriving at Wu Jia with a downward slash, the grey-haired teenager strained against the great force with his entire body. So much so, he spat blood from his mouth and nose. He felt many of his bones crack and felt as if his spine was going to be split in half.

    “Wait, I could lose! I’ll just have to do it now then.” Wu Jia screamed in his mind.

    Pushing back against Lou Zhou’s pressure, he took a long gash to the arm but was able to just escape. Using the most qigong he could, he jumped backwards and swiftly clasped his palms together in a hand gesture.

    “Boil!” Wu Jia had goosebumps appear all over his body as he witnessed Lou Zhou bound forward like a predator, sword at the ready to slice him in half. But just in time, Wu Jia’s body completely hardened, his skin turning a dark maroon.

    “Hm?” Lou Zhou furrowed his eyebrows, wondering what Wu Jia was possibly doing as he stopped in his steps. Boiling his blood would protect him from any of his attack temporarily but not for long.

    Sighing in relief, Wu Jia gave Wu Qing’s distant figure a look out of the corner eye before continuing. Flicking his hands downward, cold blue veins appeared on his hard red skin.

    Then, he raised them. He paused.

    Over a hundred meters away, standing ominously upon the earthen foundation, held the brown shell with a tight grip. He stared at the two distant fighters with a mysterious look in his eyes.

    Then, Wu Jia strained against Lou Zhou’s weight, “Up!”

    Squinting his eyes, Lou Zhou summoned up his own blood cultivation to resist against the force bringing him up into the air. He could barely stop himself from floating into the air, only a single foot keeping him in contact with the ground.

    His head turned crimson, and he gasped for air. Wu Jia could only hold on like this for a bit longer, but Lou Zhou wouldn’t be dead by then. After a moment, Wu Jia’s force began to weaken, and it was at this time that the brown shell within Wu Qing’s hand was crashed.

    Instantly, Lou Zhou felt a tight cramp in his lower abdomen. But it was no ordinary cramp. It twisted and turned in his belly like a crazy fly. Then, it clamped onto one of his vessels and pinched.

    “Agh!” Lou Zhou elicited a blood-curdling screech as the cramp somehow clamped onto one of his vessels. He was brought to his very knees and held his stomach in pain. His face contorted into a horrible expression.
    Wu Jia was taken aback at this and release his cultivation, his appearance returning back to normal.

    Just what type of bug did he put in his food?

    His screaming continued and he fell to his side, head banging against the ground.

    It was then that the white-masked lady decided to stop the match. But before she could say anything, Lou Zhou’s master stepped in. He looked furious.

    “I call foul play! Who dares slight my disciple?”

    He flew down to the arena and held him up. He slapped his storage pouch and with a show of telekinesis, summoned a white pill to fly into Lou Zhou’s mouth.

    Wu Qing could only smile.

    As for Wu Jia, he looked on with a mix of worry and relief. He had won but Lou Zhou also looked to be in a lot of pain…

    He knew from personal experience how much a stalwart the guy was. But this, even this put chills down his spine. Just what sort of bug did he plant in his food?

    “Senior Martial Brother Kun, I ask you to calm your anger and look at the situation rationally-“

    “Rationally? This is a scandal! The culprit is right here. I just have to find him,” Elder Kun interrupted Elder Wan as his eyes turned blood red and he scanned the crowd with his spiritual sense.

    It was when he locked eyes with a smirking Wu Qing that his attitude turned worse.

    “It was you. I will make a public showing of your hanging once I give you a proper beating!”

    However, as Elder Kun jumped through the air, he was surprised when he saw a familiar face appear in front of Wu Qing.

    “Martial Brother Jin, why are you standing there? Get out of the way so I can beat and kill this cheater,” Elder Kun stared down the black-robed man. His close rival.

    “I am afraid I can’t do that. Not only are your accusations false and unproven, me and Wu Qing hold a very close relationship. I can’t just let him be murdered. Not just for my reputation, but because he is also an important person to me,” Elder Jin crossed his arms as he explained.

    “This-“

    Elder Wan bumped in between the two.

    “Please, Martial Brother Kun, he may have had a vessel cramp. He has cultivated through Vessel Cleansing in a short amount of time and could’ve cleansed his meridians improperly,” Elder Wan tried to calm down the situation.

    “No! If he really tries to protect that bastard I will-“

    Mid-speech, Elder Kun quieted down and seemed to look towards Elder Wan with a strange look. Progressively, the anger in his eyes seemed to fade.

    He sighed.

    “Fine. But, I’m leaving!” Elder Kun stormed off and brought Lou Zhou with him. The pair flew off into the distant sky and quickly disappeared.

    Elder Wan let out a long, depressive sigh before giving cultivator Jin a look. Her face hidden by the mask she was wearing, no meaning or what she was thinking could be discerned.

    Witnessing all of this, the crowd was in sheer awe and did not know what to think. The two sword hall elders had almost fought!

    The majority were relieved while some were disappointed a fight didn’t happen.

    As for Xing Yi, he couldn’t even know what to think. He was repeatedly surprised by every revelation that occurred.

    Eventually, Elder Wan and Jin returned to the seats at their thrones and the silent crowd began in low murmurs and whispers. However, Elder Wan silenced even this and announced with grievance, “Please… excuse us elders. Sometimes, we gain a certain temperament. Regardless, Wu Jia wins due to technicality.”

    The crowd did not cheer. It was a boring way to win.

    “I’m sorry,” Wu Jia thought as he looked towards where Lou Zhou had initially fell.

    He had to do what he had to do. At least, what Wu Qing wanted him to do.

    He looked up and saw that the elders and crowd were waiting for him. For anything.

    After a moment, Wu Jia sheathed his sword and sized up the crowd.

    He announced, “If any Vessel Cleansing disciple has any qualms about my victory, step forward and I will meet you with my blade and respect. If you defeat me, you will take my place as champion”

    This surprised everyone present. Even the core formation elders, they seemed intrigued to how this would unfold.

    Wu Jia, though outshined by Lou Zhou, was not weak. He was second to only Lou Zhou. The outer court disciples all feared him, and it had been a long time since the last time someone tried fighting him. It would always end in a one-sided beating after all.

    Several seconds passed, and no one answered Wu Jia’s call.

    That was until Xing Yi found himself standing up.

    Wait, what are you doing to me butterfly!

    Xing Yi screamed inside his mind as he watched his body walk over to the arena and up its steps.

    “I challenge you to a duel!” Xing Yi replied to Wu Jia’s call with a confident expression.

    Everyone was shocked.

    A mere mortal dared?
     
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  30. Threadmarks: Chapter 40 - Public Beating
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting sticky.

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    Chapter 40 – Public Beating
    Just as Xing Yi finished those words, the purple butterfly on his shoulder disappeared into motes of light and he suddenly regained control of his body. And so did his confident mannerisms.

    “I-I didn’t mean to say that! A purple butterfly was controlling me,” Xing Yi frantically explained as soon as he could.

    Xing Yi’s complete three-sixty caused the crowd to be greatly confused. As were the elders. But, a certain elder thought him to be lying.

    “Insolence! Why spout such lies. You are clearly doing this for attention,” Elder Jin objected. His hair was tied up into a tight bun and he had hawk-like eyes.

    “And what of that butterfly? Neither my eyes nor my spiritual sense had seen such a thing!” Elder Ge added. He was an elderly man with black, ugly spots all over his face.

    “Hmph! Having delusions of grandeur despite being a mere mortal. Wu Jia, teach him a lesson for his foolishness!” Elder Hui ordered . He was man that looked akin to a skeleton. His wrists were like tiny sticks and his cheekbones popped out. Despite this, he had a full head of healthy black hair.

    Elder Wan did not say a word and watched the situation unfold blankly. As for Elder He, a handsome young man who sat adjacent to Elder Wan, neither did he.

    Elder Yang didn’t either. He had an amused expression on his face.

    “Interesting,” Elder Yang held a hand on his chin. He took the situation very lightly.

    Whatever that happened would be not his problem.

    And the only person who ended up speaking up was Elder Ye.

    “What are you three saying! I, along with Martial Brother Kun-“

    Wait, he left.

    Elder Ye bit his lip as he realised that Brother Kun had left and wouldn’t come to his aid to back him.

    “I saw that butterfly sitting on Xing Yi’s shoulder the entire time. Then, it disappeared right as he challenged Wu Jia to a duel. Brother Yang, don’t you agree?”

    Elder Ye looked to Elder Yang. Tied onto his waist by string was a yellow book.

    Elder Yang stayed silent and gave Elder Ye a cursory look.

    “Tch,” Elder Ye clicked his tongue in annoyance. Elder Yang had a strange temperament. He just didn’t care for anything other than his herb garden, three disciples, money, and anything that would end up benefitting him. Unfortunately, Xing Yi wasn’t one of them.

    And in the end, it was his opinion versus three other elders. If Elder Kun was here, he could stop this madness. But without him, he could only let it happen.

    He couldn’t get any help from the disciples either. Of course, some of them may have seen the butterfly. But they were mere disciples, their voices would not be weighed in arguments between the strong.

    Elder Jin, Ge, and Hui smiled. And sitting on his earthen foundation from far away, Wu Qing was delirious.

    All was going to plan. That was when he sneaked a look at someone who was seated on the opposite side of the arena. On a necklace around their neck was a flute, their hair was done in a ceasar haircut. There face was a pale white.

    This man was Li Guoji. He had attempted to keep Xing Yi out of the Golden Blood Assembly, even making an exemption for him. But Wu Qing wouldn’t let that happen.

    After all, what would happen if Xing Yi embarrassed the sect like this? All because of some Heaven Chosen Medallion that was an ancient relic of the past?

    “As you wish,” Wu Jia bowed with closed eyes, hands cupped as he heeded the orders of Elder Hui.

    As Wu Jia exited his bow and turned to a vulnerable Xing Yi, he summoned a wooden sword from his storage pouch.

    “Little boy, I will do my best to not kill you. But I will warn you, this will be very, very painful.”

    The many sleepless nights that he had accumulated over the last three-month period had caused dark eyebags to form under his eyes. The droopy, dejected expression that Wu Jia gave Xing Yi, gave the young boy a big fright.

    His entire body shaking, he ran away and attempted to leave the arena. But, he encountered a barrier at its edge. Where he impacted it face first, a blue ripple was made and spread throughout a massive invisible dome that had covered the arena.

    Elder Wan had held up her hand at that instant, not allowing Xing Yi to escape.

    Xing Yi scrambled back up from his fall and kept running along the arena edge to gain distance from Wu Jia. The sword-wielding teenager didn’t let his eyes off his prey and walked at a brisk pace, knowing that Xing Yi, like a cornered animal, would eventually run out of energy.

    “Please, don’t do this!” Xing Yi begged, tears starting to form at his eyes.

    He felt so frustrated that it had already been almost two years since his cultivation journey started, yet he was so weak. He had made little progress despite how hard he has worked and because of this, he was forced to run away from Wu Jia like this. If only he had been stronger, he could stand with his head up high and fight him on equal terms.

    Regardless, he was completely helpless and couldn’t do anything but run.

    He hated being weak.

    Xing Yi, over the course of several minutes, ran circles around Wu Jia while trying to persuade Wu Jia to stop. However, his words fell on empty ears and the sword-wielding youth continued to walk towards him with a calm expression. There was simply nowhere for him to run.

    Still, Xing Yi’s work hadn’t been for nothing. By passively circulating his inner qi, he could keep running for hours. Even days if he had cleansed just a couple more meridians. Other than circulating his qi really fast for quick bursts of strength, it was his only ability.

    It wasn’t too long before Wu Jia and the elders noticed he wasn’t tiring out.

    “Wu Jia, just get to it already,” Elder Hui ordered.

    Nodding, Wu Jia used qigong to cross the distance.

    “No, please-“

    These were the last words Xing Yi said before being smacked squarely in the face with the end of Wu Jia’s sword. It stabbed right into the gap between the bones of his jaws and caused all his teeth to rattle and ache in pain.

    Anticipating the next attack, Xing Yi put up his hands to defend his face. However, this ended up being useless as Wu Jia slashed down the slim gap between his fists and forearms, hitting him right on the top of the head.

    Xing Yi moaned in pain as he held the top of his head in pain.

    Another blow to his side sent him to the ground in a ball.

    The only thing he could do now was to wait out the storm. Until it finished.

    Again and again, at random places all over his body, Wu Jia’s sword hit him. Each hit was followed by a high-pitched, blood-curdling scream. In between were Xing Yi’s incoherent murmuring and him begging Wu Jia to stop.

    But Wu Jia didn’t. He continually hit Xing Yi again and again, in places where it hurt most. The stomach, legs, head, face, and back. He had a soulless expression as he acted out this beating, not a shred of human emotion showing.

    On the inside, Wu Jia did his best to distance himself from what he was doing. This wasn’t like him, and he wouldn’t do something like this again. Well, he hoped he didn’t.

    He had done this kind of thing before when other disciples had challenged him but not to this extent. But after those three-months of training, he didn’t feel like doing these types of things. Especially to a kid. Maybe it was just a phase?
    He would be lying if he didn’t feel bad when he heard how Xing Yi was wailing and crying.

    This beating continued for several minutes, each seemingly lasting for an eternity as Xing Yi’s cries echoed throughout the mountain top. A few cultivators had left at this point, not wishing to see a child be beat.

    But at some point, Elder Ge had raised his hand.

    “You can stop now,” Elder Ge said with a satisfied expression.

    “Yes, Elder Ge,” Wu Jia put away the wooden sword into his storage pouch and bowed. He exhaled a big breath of air, slightly exhausted by the experience.

    Despite his emerging hatred for the man and the rest of the elders who had let this happen or even approved of his beating, Elder Ge’s words had left him filled with gratitude that the pain had just finally stopped.

    For the first time, he understood what it was like to really feel pain. Something that wouldn’t stop no matter how much he wanted it to. He felt a strong feeling of catharsis, ecstasy coursing through his entire body.
     
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