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Walking The Jiang Hu (Xianxia)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by bandicoot879, Nov 16, 2021.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1-4
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    I wanted to create a story about the honest journey of a village boy becoming an immortal. A good one.


    Chapter 1 - The Musing of Men


    In a quiet, countryside village in the western reaches of the Xiang province within the state of Hua, a small crowd of elderly and middle-aged people had gathered around a small house built out of mud and thatching. Everyone spoke in quiet whispers, seemingly afraid to disturb someone inside the house. A few distant coughs would occasionally come from inside the house, causing many to have unsightly complexions.

    Inside the house, a frail man who was as pale as a ghost laid on on his deathbed. This man’s name was Ip Nan. Ip Nan’s closest friends stood at his beside with heavy eyes, observing his helpless situation. Aside Ip Nan’s stood Ip An, his grandson. An elderly woman with squinting eyes and a slight frown combed through his hair with her left hand, comforting the boy.

    Aside from Ip An’s uncontrollable whimpering and his grandfather’s hoarse coughing, a small group of men were currently talking in quiet whispers.

    “Tsk, tsk. It’s a shame. Ip An is a smart boy he will be on his own once he is gone. I wonder what he’ll do?” An old man with a regretful expression filled with bitterness and a straw hat on his head who was a friend of Ip Nan mused.

    “His grandpa was a wise man, but to refuse the treatment of Doctor Qin? He’s simply a fool”, a middle-aged man with a scar on his left cheek shook his head in disapproval with his arms crossed.

    “Not just that! He even argued that his medicine simply wouldn’t work on him!” An old man with a wooden cane nearby also added.

    The old straw-hat wearing man was completely stunned at this comment and soon became infuriated.

    “Watch your tongue! It’s implausible for him to just be rushing to his death! He has his reasons..” The old man who was a friend of Ip Nan rebuked with clear anger in his voice.

    Although he knew he was touching a sensitive topic and the old man’s status was higher than his, the middle-aged man didn’t back down, “Everyone knows that Doctor Qin is a miracle man! Every single one of his patients has always recovered, no matter the illness or condition they are in! Even the imperial doctors from the capital can’t even compare! Yet why did he simply refuse his kindness?”

    The old man grumbled in annoyance before facing the rest of the small group and asking, “Does everyone remember that day a decade ago when those two sword-immortals came to this humble village?”

    The middle-aged man rolled his eyes but still nodded along with the rest of the group as he too couldn’t forget that unforgettable day. Everyone remembered that day very clearly. Not just them, nearly the whole village did. It was just an ordinary spring day filled with the warmth of the sun.

    On that day an ordinary six-year-old boy had been playing with his friends underneath an oak tree on a small hill and seemingly spotted two black dots in the distant sky. He ignored the dots as he thought they were a couple of birds. However, a few moments passed and they soon enlargened to what looked like two white-robed figures riding on swords!

    The boy was astonished and immediately told his friends who were playing with him at the time. All the children gave no thought and ran off to their parents, telling them about the two strange swords flying figures they saw in the sky. Their parents were in disbelief and very distrustful, thinking they were playing one of their pranks.

    However, due to the serious attitude and continued pleading of the many children, they reluctantly left to see the so-called “Sword-Immortal”’s as the children thought them to be. When they exited their houses, they couldn’t believe their eyes!

    They saw two extremely handsome and charming white-robed men, slowing descending on their swords, towards the centre of the village. The children didn’t expect them to seemingly visit their village. They simply thought they would fly over and they and their parents could catch a glimpse. This was far out of their expectations!

    More and more people slowly gathered due to the commotion created. The people in this crowd naturally included the men who were currently in front of Ip Nan’s house. They too held similarly astonished faces.

    As the two “Sword Immortals”’ finally touched down, no one spoke a word, simply staring on. They waited for their first words, wondering why they were here.

    One of the men cleared his throat before scanning the crowd before asking with a soothing to the ear, crystal clear voice, “Me and my Senior Martial Brother have come here in hopes to meet with a man named Ip Nan. We hear he lives here in this very village”.

    A majority of the crowd formed confused expressions, unable to recall an Ip Nan. However, several key people in the crowd had faces of surprise, wondering why they wanted to see that old man. After a moment of slight hesitation, an old man walked up. This happened to be the old man with the straw-hat who was currently arguing as of now!

    He bowed with profound respect, not daring to even look the two men in the eye, “This old man happens to know of an Ip Nan living in this village. Fortunately, he lives but just a short distance away from where we are currently standing. But, this one is ignorant and struggles to think he is the correct person and is unable to comprehend why your Immortal Excellence’s are seeking him out. May you please enlighten me?”

    The Immortal at the back raised an eyebrow, while the one who the straw-hat old man was addressing gave a slight frown.

    “Hmph! You do not need to concern yourself, mortal. Don’t speak anymore and lead me and my Senior Martial Brother to his residence promptly”, he said with disdain, almost looking at the straw-hat old man as if he was now an eyesore. He also heavily emphasised the word mortal, almost looking at him as if he were an ant.

    The old man and many people in the village were left speechless due to the cold response. Nevertheless, due to their status’s as immortals which could be seen very clearly by their attire, heavenly appearances and their ability to fly in the sky, they thought this to be normal. After all, they were simply mortals that farmed for a living. Whereas they were beings that could upturn the heavens and live forever.

    Naturally, the straw-hat old man nearly bit his tongue in half, causing it to bleed. He realised that he had made a grave mistake offending this immortal as he noticed the immortal giving him a cold gaze filled with resentment, causing a cold shiver to run down his spine. Swallowing a lump in his throat, he turned around and led the immortals to where Ip Nan lived with as much confidence as he could muster.

    Everyone else merely stood in place as their figures became more and more distant. As it would be improper and could be taken as an offence if they followed them around. The crowd went into a heated discussion as to why they wanted to meet that unassuming old man that most of the village had never even heard of. The crowd eventually dispersed, many planning to simply ask the straw-hat man about what happened afterwards.

    Once the straw-hat man and the two immortals reached Ip Nan’s house, they knocked on the door and were greeted by a much more youthful and energetic pink-faced Ip Nan. He talked to the straw-hat man with much vigour and passion, asking him how his day was and about small things. His onslaught of words didn’t even let him get to why he was here in the first place! His carefree attitude gave the straw-hat man a lot of stress.

    He was afraid that if Ip Nan talked any longer, the two immortals would smite him with lightning for talking too long!

    Thankfully, he eventually noticed the immortals behind him. Several emotions flashed on his face in just a single second before darkening and becoming solemn. He let out a long sigh before asking the straw-hat man with a fake smile, “I am deeply sorry, Qin Xiao. However, these highly-esteemed guests behind you are a very high priority. If it is convenient, we may catch up on a later date!”

    Qin Xiao, the straw-hat man, gave a wry smile as he nodded his head in understanding before he scuttled away to escape the dangerous situation he had put himself in.

    Qian Xiao had no clue as to what they talked about or who these two men actually were. But he could tell that Ip Nan was no common man. He could see that he held very deep connections to some very powerful and influential people.

    Later that afternoon, the two immortal masters could be seen riding on their swords, towards the sunset. When the people of the village came to question Ip Nan, he had seemingly disappeared from his home! People thought he may have been killed or kidnapped by the immortals.

    Fortunately, the next day he had reappeared and a flood of people appeared, asking countless questions. In response, Ip Nan gave a confused look and said he couldn’t recall what they were talking about. One by one, he denied anything that may have occurred yesterday, saying that all he remembered was sitting under his favourite oak tree and reading an old scroll about birds.

    After a whole week of this nonsense, everyone gave up and soon left him alone. Much to his pleasure and relief.

    In front of Ip Nan’s house, Qin Xiao gave a quick recall of what happened those many years ago, rousing those distant memories within everyone present. For a few moments, everyone pondered in deep thought, heavily considering what he had said.

    “You mean…”, the man with a wooden cane asked with a lost expression as if he was trying to put together the pieces.

    Qin Xiao gave a small smirk which was obviously directed towards the middle-aged man, “This one thinks that due to Ip Nan’s connection to those mysterious immortals he is most likely a hidden master. Although I have not witnessed even the slightest hint of a martial artist in all my years of knowing him, I speculate that somewhere along with his life he must’ve been a well-respected expert, his profound strength would’ve allowed him to make many valuable connections. Thus, prompting a visit from those two immortals that fateful day.”

    Suddenly, everyone had a look of understanding, except, the middle-aged man still did not see why Ip Nan would reject treatment from Doctor Qin. He furrowed his eyebrows with a slight frown, “So what if he was an expert? That doesn’t mean he can ignore death’s shadow.”

    Qin Xiao responded to the middle-aged man with steady eyes and proposed, “Well, if we consider that he was most likely an expert, a person who conditioned their body in extreme ways, causing the common man to even wince in pain thinking about their training methods. We can also take into account his accumulation of Inner Qi. Inner Qi, has been shown time and time again to change the human body in unfathomable ways. If it were the case that Inner Qi changed the body in the same way for every person then all doctors would need to do is adapt their methods with some simple trial and error. Yet, this is not the case

    Lastly, due to the extreme increase in strength, vitality and changes the body undergoes from Inner Qi, normal medicine is almost useless. It is akin to giving the medication a normal person would need to a giant. And even if the dosage is increased accordingly, problems can still occur that would cause dire consequences. The only way to treat them is with spiritual herbs of legends and a master alchemist to concoct them into pills for treatment. Even then, they would not be willing to squander these priceless herbs for an aging or sick person. They would use it to create pills that increases one’s own strength. Therefore, due to all of these reasons, it becomes an incredibly difficult matter to cure or even help these types of people.

    Everyone looked on with a look of natural agreement, taking Qin Xiao’s proposal and theory into serious consideration. Just as the middle-aged man was going to argue again his words got caught in his throat and his face turned a sour red. He also realised his words were very reasonable despite his bitterness.

    This reaction brought a warm, pleasant smile to Qin Xiao’s face.

    Qin Xiao gave the defeated middle-aged man a pat on the shoulder before reminding everyone, “Despite all of this, it is just pure speculation. He could be in fact an old fool wishing to die. But i guess...”

    He gave a long pause.

    “We will have no way of knowing who he truly is.”

    (AN: Doctor Qin and Qian Xiao are completely different people, in case someone didn’t notice. Just making sure there isn’t any confusion)



    Chapter 2 - The Medallion in the Painting


    Inside the house, three old people, two men and one woman all with grey hair and wrinkly skin stood near the bed with dark expressions. They were all of Ip Nan’s closest friends. Out of everyone in the modest Five-Step village, he had a particularly small, but close-knit circle of friends. They had built their friendships over the course of many years. Although they didn’t willy nilly share all of their close secrets, they knew each other considerably well.

    The inevitable passing of Ip Nan had caused all three of them to become heartbroken. The people outside weren’t really his friends per se but these people had occasionally talked to him. When they heard the news of Ip Nan’s dire condition they came over. They were there to simply pay respects and to leave a good impression. As for Qin Xiao, they had a large argument a few years ago, causing an unfixable rift between them to form.

    Despite leaving off on a bad foot, he still held great respect for him and the remaining feelings he had buried deep down inside himself caused him to find himself standing in front of Ip Nan’s house. When he arrived there he received many strange looks, as a majority of people had witnessed their argument. Still, they did not tell him to leave as they understood that he wanted to honour their friendship one final time before he left this world.

    Yet, next to his bedside sat a teary-eyed boy that stared at Ip Nan with warm eyes. He was scruffy, tanned and had short black hair and every so often a whimper would come out of him. This was Ip Nan’s grandson, Ip An.

    In both hands, he held the skeleton-like right hand of Ip Nan as if he wasn’t going to let him die just yet. Standing right behind him was an old lady with facial features that showed remnants of a once beautiful young woman. Her name was Mei Yawen. She combed through his hair with one hand, hoping to comfort the boy’s immense sadness.

    The other men had grave expressions as they stood in thought-provoking postures, simply looking at the scene in deep thought. It had been only a few hours since his condition had crossed the tipping point and it was only getting worse and worse.

    But suddenly, Ip An and Mei Yawen noticed Ip Nan’s lips quivering as he tried to form words.

    He inhaled deeply with great strength and seemingly glanced at Ip An even though his eyes didn’t move, “Ip An…”

    Everyone’s jaw dropped slightly as Ip Nan began speaking, amazed he was even able to speak a word. Ip An’s whimpering suddenly stopped as he looked on with unsteady eyes, cherishing every single one of his grandfather’s words, especially when he was addressing them to him.

    Ip Nan wobbly lifted up the pointer finger of the hand Ip An was holding as he wheezed, “I can see...the longing for the… outside world… in…. you”.

    One of the elderly men mumbled incredulously, “He spoke!”

    Ip An blinked his eyes multiple times in disbelief. How did he know?

    Whenever someone asked him what he wanted to be he always said a ‘farmer’. He would always hide away his true feelings about what he wanted to be or do, scared of what others might think. Or the possibility people would stop trying and stop him or he would get reprimanded.

    He made sure that no one knew about his dream to travel and explore the wonders of the outside world. He didn’t even tell his closest friends and would think about it only when he was alone, scared that people would figure out his thoughts just by looking at his expression or posture. He would find himself sitting in place, fantasizing about hitting it rich and becoming a merchant. And how he would spend loads of money to make sure his grandfather stayed healthy and lived a long time so he could spend as much time with him as possible.

    Or as a scholar that passed the Imperial exams, who would then fight words with words against countless legends and have his name imprinted into history as someone remarkable. He could imagine him and his grandfather relaxing in bliss in an imperial palace courtyard all to themselves.

    One time he even thought about becoming a martial artist that could split a boulder with just a single punch after seeing a similar demonstration from a travelling expert, though he only stayed very briefly. He dreamt about fighting against mythical masters in legendary battles that would be watched and retold by millions into tales of his peerless strength and legacy. And with that strength, he would get his grandfather anything he wanted and use his strength to help him.

    All of these dreams involved his grandfather. But now that he was on the verge of death, he didn’t care about these dreams of his. All he was wishing for right now was that his grandfather would live for even just a bit longer so he could be with him. He was everything to him.

    He didn’t know who his parents was, but he was told they died in an brutal accident when he was just a baby. Since the only living relative he knew was Ip Nan, he went under his wing. He never knew his parents, and couldn’t blame himself for not having any feelings for people he never even technically knew.

    As for his grandfather, he holds very deep respect for him as he takes care of him everyday despite his old age and had the kindness in his heart to take him in. If he hadn’t he would be just another orphan, starving and in poverty. He had taught him how to read and write, countless stories and lessons and guided him to become a person with good morals. He was also favourite talking partner, even better than his funniest andmost interesting friends.

    He was a friend, a teacher, and the missing father that had died when he was a baby.

    His grandfather spoke again to the continued surprise of everyone in that same strained voice, “The painting… On the wall”

    Mei Yawen stopped stroking Ip An’s hair and looked to her right where a serene painting of a landscape of mystical mountains, rivers and a bright sky hung. She looked back to Ip Nan with uncertainty in her eyes.

    “Take it down and… Take off the back cover”, Ip Nan asked right before falling into a minor coughing fit.

    Mei Yawen nodded before walking over and taking it down with great care. It was surprisingly much heavier than she thought it would be! She could feel that the bottom right corner of the painting was significantly heavier than the rest for some odd reason.

    She raised an eyebrow at this and looked at the painting from the side and noticed that there was potentially a gap in between the canvas and the back cover for something to be inside. Noticing Mei Yawen strange reaction the other two men came over and eyed the painting with curious gazes, wondering what was contained inside for Ip Nan to ask about it right before his death.

    Ip An hadn’t left his place, still desperately holding onto his grandfather’s hand. Yet he too looked over with scrying eyes. With pursed lips, Mei Yawen nudged the back cover repeatedly until it eventually eased off. Placing the cover to the side, she now saw that the source of the extra weight in the painting’s right bottom corner came from a strange, fist-sized medallion of an unknown dark colour.

    Reaching down she grabbed it in her hand and held up in the air. Light from the room’s window reflected off of the medallion causing it’s features to become obvious. It was painted a dark-crimson colour as if it had been soaked in someone’s blood. Fortunately, it didn’t smell or seem like actual human blood. It was quite heavy in her hand and seemed to be made out of some sort of unknown metal.

    However, the depiction on the medallion gave Mei Yawen an ominous feeling. A man in robes sat in a lotus position atop a mountain of bloody, mutilated bodies. There were decapitated heads, arrows in flesh and all sorts of weapons strewn around. The most chilling thing on the medallion wasn’t the gruesome nature of it, but the chilling smile the man gave. It was as if he was a human demon that revelled in people’s deaths.

    Unwilling to hold onto it anymore she passed it over to one of the old men with slightly shaking hands, “Here.”

    The old man nodded and after a short inspection from him, he then gave it to the other old man. Once they both got a look at it they each gave a slight frown.

    “What is it supposed to be?” One of the old men said with a confused yet slightly fearful face.

    “The… The letter”, Ip Nan mentioned with an extremely strained voice.

    “A letter?” Mei Yawen raised an eyebrow and reinspected the inside of the painting with extra scrutiny and soon discovered a thin piece of yellow paper right under where the medallion was. She was surprised she didn’t notice it before.

    She grabbed it and opened it out on the table. On the parchment of paper were many lines of profound, majestic characters in heavy black ink. Each stroke flowed into the next. Every character was like a piece of art.

    Mei Yawen and the two old men looked on in amazement before she admitted with a wry smile and a tinge of embarrassment, “None of us can read.”

    Hearing this, Ip An blurted out loud, “I can! My grandfather taught me how to!”

    Mei Yawen chortled, “Oh, I almost forgot!”

    Ip An gave a nod as she walked over and handed the letter to him. The two old men also shuffled over to stand behind him, trying to see if they could discern what the letter would be about from his expression. When Ip An’s eyes met the parchment, his eyes widened in amazement at the profound nature of the handwriting. He shared a similar impression to Mei Yawen but quickly began reading the letter.

    It took him a few long minutes to finish reading it, but once he was done it took a moment to take it all in as he frantically looked from the letter and his dying grandfather repeatedly. His heart started beating faster and faster in ecstasy as he thought about what it said despite his father’s condition.

    “Hand me the medallion please Uncle Huang ”, Ip An asked respectfully to one of the old men who was currently holding it.

    (AN: In this case, Uncle Huang isn’t actually his Uncle. It’s just for the respect due to his elderly status. If this is in somehow wrong then please point it out for me please.)

    “Yes, Here”, without any hesitation, one of the old men handed it over to him.

    Ip An accepted the medallion and began inspecting the medallion similar to how they did previously. However, he was also looking in between the letter and the medallion, constantly observing certain key features in the medallion. Eventually, he began eyeing the medallion as if it was a priceless treasure. Uncle Huang subtly noticed this.

    “Wha-What is it about?” Uncle Huang as Ip An called him, asked with a stutter.

    Ip An suddenly got a weird feeling in his stomach as Uncle Huang asked that question. Just as he was about to say what it was about, he stopped himself. He swallowed a lump in his throat and thought about deeply for a second, scanning the letter’s contents as he did

    He closed his eyes and exhaled deeply out of his nostrils before giving an innocent smile filled with excitement, “This precious letter details an opportunity as an apprentice crafter in the western Peerless Cliff City. As for the strange and gruesome appearance of the medallion.”

    Ip An gave a pause to think before continuing, “This is because the establishment that the apprentice would be working for is under a contract from the military. The Peerless Cliff city is not a stranger to war and it is common for fighting to occur in its territory. This medallion is used as proof of the establishment’s ancestor’s will and will confirm the authenticity of the letter.”

    Ip An looked back. and saw one of the old men and Mei Yawen looking on with jealous expressions. As for Uncle Huang, he noticed him giving a mysterious long stare at him. Uncle Huang suddenly snapped out of his daze and gave a warm smile while patting Ip An on the shoulder.

    “It seems you are truly destined for greatness. This small village isn’t going to be able to contain you for much longer. Though, I didn’t expect your grandfather to hold such deep, distance connections. None of us noticed that he was a giant living amongst mere men”, Uncle Huang praised in obvious jealousy.

    “Though I can see it is well deserved. You are able to read and write at such a young age, possess such well-refined and controlled speech and are less swayed by emotions unlike other children your age. If only my nephew could be like more you”, Uncle Huang continued compliments and comparing him to his nephew caused Ip An to feel awkward. It also felt kinda strange for Uncle Huang to be saying this sort of stuff so suddenly. But Ip An knew why.

    If in the future he ever became successful, which it was very likely. Ip An would remember Uncle Huang’s praise and support and would surely pay him back if he had even the slightest bit of back-bone. Alas, currying favour is one of the unwritten rules of surviving in a dog eat dog world. And it didn’t even cost anything, just a little bit of short-term shame and dignity.

    The other old man seeing this naturally didn’t miss his chance to gain favour with the potential future prospect and began hurling countless compliments at him. Worlds like “Genius” and “Tiger gaining wings” were used, causing Ip An to blush embarrassingly.

    “Thank you, thank you”, Ip An wryly smiled once he was also done.

    As for Mei Yawen she was surprisingly very genuine and gave him a warm smile as she congratulated him, “Congratulations, I wholeheartedly wish for your future success.”

    In contrast to the other two old men’s praise, this one he genuinely felt appreciative for. Then, he turned back to his grandfather with an unsteady heart.

    As Ip An stared at Ip Nan’s slowly deteriorating condition he gave a bitter smile and whispered in his heart, “I can’t let anyone know what that letter and medallion is truly about grandfather. I will not let this opportunity you’ve given to me disappear. I will make the most of it and make you proud. No matter what difficulties i will face in the future, i will push through with all my strength and will.”

    As Ip An thought this, he struggled to stop himself from crying again. But soon tears ran down his face yet again as he embraced his grandfather’s cold, tender hands until his final breath.



    Chapter 3 - Scheming

    Ip Nan died later that evening. There were many points leading up to his death where it seemed as if he had died, yet it would turn out he wasn’t. But eventually, he passed. Ip An couldn’t control his sorrow as he collapsed into an uncontrollable breakdown. The old lady tried her best to comfort him, yet even she couldn’t help him.

    After news of Ip Nan’s death, everyone outside gave a short moment of silence. Then, everyone left to the pre-determined burial place of Ip Nan. It was a small hill nearby. The very hill that Ip An would find himself dreaming under, the one where he and his grandfather used to talk and laugh.

    A couple of the men, which surprisingly included Qin Xiao helped carry his body and bury it right under the tree. The old lady almost voiced herself in protest but stopped herself. It didn’t matter anymore. To stop a person from paying respect to the dead, no matter their prior relationship was considered very inappropriate.

    They then inserted a stake in the ground to mark his grave and lit some incense. Everyone gave a short prayer and like that it was done. However, it was very difficult for Ip An to keep himself composed as he fought off waves of tears every second. Every second that passed for anyone else felt like a minute to him. Soon, it finished and everyone left. Except for Ip An. He cried and cried with his head buried in the ground, his teeth clenched, his fists scrunched into balls and his head feeling like it was going to explode. Sweet, familiar memories of his time with his grandfather would appear in his mind every second, sending him further and further into grief and sorrow.

    By the time he found himself unable to cry any longer, he found that the sun had already set and the old lady was patiently waiting beside him with the medallion and letter in hand.

    Ip An hastily tried to apologise for the inconvenience but she waved it off saying it’s fine. As they were walking down the hill the old lady suddenly offered for him to stay at her house before Ip An departs tomorrow for Peerless Cliff City. Ip An accepted without fighting back, causing a warm smile to form on the old lady’s face.

    Once they arrived back at her house, Ip An was given a large, warm meal to eat as he ate along with her and her husband. Her husband didn’t talk much, only giving the odd disgruntled grunt every so often. The old lady was used to this and just talked to Ip An with an energetic voice, trying to shift his mind to other things.

    The old lady told many hilarious tales of her husband, though her husband didn’t react no matter what she said. It seemed he was used to it. Finally, after his belly was full and his hunger satiated, he retired into a small guest room the old lady had spare. According to her, she had given birth to five healthy sons and daughters. They all used to live in that one room much to the displeasure of their parents. Once they all grew up, they all got married and swiftly moved out, unable to bear it any longer.

    After he closed the door behind him, he jumped onto the straw bed with a thump and let out a long exhale that seemingly contained his stress and worry. He laid the letter on the table beside him and then pulled out the medallion from his pocket and examined the medallion with an unreserved gaze of fascination yet disgust at the strange nature of it, especially the figure of the robed man sitting upon the pile of corpses. He continued to stare at the medallion like this for a whole hour until he eventually fell asleep while hugging it in both arms to his chest.

    ……

    It was the middle of the night in the Fifth-Step Village. It was dead silent as a cold breeze of wind blew over that caused many to unknowingly shudder in their sleep.

    Yet, at this moment a shadowy figure was peering into a small house’s back window. Inside, a small boy with tanned skin and a scruffy appearance slept soundly underneath a dirty yellow quilt. He was formed into a tight ball while he seemingly held something tightly in his hands. This boy was in actuality Ip An!

    Seeing Ip An asleep, the shadowy figure let out an evil smile before jumping into the room with frightening grace. He somehow landed onto his feet without a sound and seeing that Ip An didn’t wake up or react his heart eased. Frantically, he began searching around the room in search of something.

    Quickly, he spotted a white piece of parchment on a bedside table and let out a small chuckle, confident that Ip An wouldn’t wake up to the sound of it. To which he didn’t. The shadowy figure quickly snatched the piece of parchment from the bedside table and silently escaped out the window into the distance with great speed.

    Eventually, the figure stopped in front of a particular house on the outskirts of the village. They knocked on the door and shortly waited until an old man opened the door for them. He had a surprisingly thick, healthy head of grey hair still on him. No sign of balding at all. There was but a small hunch in his back as he glared at the figure with squinted, judging eyes.

    This person happened to be Uncle Huang!

    “Come inside”, Uncle Huang stood aside for the shadowy figure, allowing him inside. Once they were inside he tightly shut the door and sat down in front of some burning incense he had prepared. The surroundings were pitch black, leaving only their very close surroundings visible. The shadowy figure joined him on the opposite side of the incense. After they made themselves comfortable they took off their hood and they were revealed to be a middle-aged man with a thick beard and bun of hair.

    The thick-haired middle-aged man stroked his beard for many moments until Uncle Huang perked up, “So…”

    He gave a long pause.

    “Did you find it?”

    The thick-haired man harumphed, “Of course I did.”

    Although Uncle Huang’s heart turn cold due to his rude response, he still gave a warm smile as he was glad that he was able to get the letter.

    “That’s good”, Uncle Huang nodded with a sharp look in his eyes.

    “What do you think is inside the letter?” The thick-haired man asked with great interest, stroking his beard.

    “Why are you asking these types of useless questions? Why can’t you just read it first and then tell me? There is no need to theorise or anything of the sort when it is simply right in front of us”, Uncle Huang replied with a slight frown.

    “I am a cautious man, and I do not wish to potentially get involved in any troublesome matters”, the thick-haired man answered with a tone mimicking an intelligent scholar.

    Uncle Huang grit his teeth, “What do you mean you’re a cautious person? Don’t you remember when we stole a priceless jade from the Three Star Pavilion? Is this the same person, I, Huang Shu teamed up with that many years ago? Is this truly the legendary thief, Yu Zheng I so dearly remember?”

    Yu Zheng’s face twitched in slight annoyance at the mention of that old name he had forgotten long ago. He replied with a regretful tone and pursed lips, “I have never been the same since their patriarch crippled both of our Inner Qi, that includes you too. And since then we’ve been forced to retreat to this village in fear for our lives.”

    Silence suddenly hung in the air for a couple of moments, as they both sat in regret at the mention of their past.

    Huang Shu let out a long sigh, “Sorry, i didn’t mean to bring up those matters from our youth. This one wasn’t thinking.”

    Yu Zheng shook his head, “No, it is fine. Don’t apologise. Now, What do you think is in the letter?”

    Huang Shu gave in and answered, “Well, according to what Ip An said, the letter explains how the medallion that the boy possesses gives an opportunity as an apprentice crafter from an establishment at the Peerless Cliff City west from here. Though, there are holes in what he said. Firstly, the medallion looked incredibly demonic-like and bloodthirsty? No person with any sane mind or taste would design a medallion that represents one’s own establishment in such an arrogant way. They are mere crafters! If certain people were to see the medallion they would even see it as a declaration of a challenge to their strength! This would incur many undesirable people to appear at their doorstep, attracting much trouble!”

    Yu Zheng rubbed his chin in firm agreement.
    “Additionally, the pause he gave in between at a certain point was much too long. And the expression he gave was as if he was in deep thought! No one would require such a pondering expression to think about such things they had just read. Although I admit that boy has quite some capability as he is able to read at just ten years old with just the help of his frail, old grandfather. And that his mannerisms and speech are quite mature and intelligent, even he couldn’t stop this old bag of bones from seeing through his lies.

    That is why I am certain there is something that boy is hiding within that letter! It is even more likely to be true due to his grandfather’s mysterious character. Those two flying immortals from so long ago really frightened his one at the time. I had thought Three Star Pavilion had tracked us down with the help of some of their benefactor sect’s immortal disciples”, Huang Shu explained in great detail.

    “And finally, what do you intend to do based on the contents of the letter?” Yu Zheng, continuing to stroke his chin. His features were well defined and accentuated due to the incense’s fire.

    Huang Shu grinded his teeth before answering with the same tone as last time, though with a hint of surging anger, “This one doesn’t have any truly bad intentions. If the medallion and the is and revealed to be of extremely high value for any kind of purpose, then naturally I and you can simply cooperate to steal it from the boy and use it for ourselves. It will not require any excessive effort. If it is however what he said it was, then, of course, this old man and you will steal it from him. And then i would ask a favour from you to allow me to gift it to my nephew, so he can attain the position Ip An would’ve received as an apprentice crafter. One cannot blame me. The heavens merely decreed for this to occur, such is destiny. Ip An was just misfortunate to bump into me.”

    Yu Zheng merely stared at Huang Shu with an incredulous expression before collapsing into laughter, holding his belly with both hands. Huang Shu squinted his eyes in confusion, “Why are you laughing?”

    It took Yu Zheng a couple of moments to compose himself. Wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes, “I see you are as calculating as ever, The Iron-Skinned Scholar! Creating such schemes and plans against but a child! But I must apologise for touching your sore spot by asking these questions! I just missed your unique facial reactions. They are quite amusing to this one!”

    Yu Zheng finally calmed down, “And as for your favour to your nephew in the case of it being as Ip An said, this one will comply without any arguing, it is but a small matter. I am sure we both hope for this medallion and letter to be of high value, enough to boost us out of the sad situation we are in right now. I speculate that the letter just details the use of the medallion, so this letter can be disregarded. I have zero doubt that the boy was lying through his teeth based on what you said. And in the end, all that matters is if we can just get that medallion. Now, allow me to read the letter. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

    A warm smile was brought to Huang Shu’s face as he saw him pull the letter out from his pocket. Yet he slightly frowned when Yu Zheng lifted his head back, looking as if he wanted to say something else.

    “What is it? Do you yet again wish to delay this matter?” Huang Shu said with annoyance in his voice and scrunched eyebrows.

    “No, no”, Yu Zheng’s lips formed into an uncontainable smirk, “I just find it quite hilarious that the person who is older and seemingly the wiser and intelligent of us two doesn’t know how to read.”

    Surprisingly, Huang Shu couldn’t stop a smirk forming on his face, “Hmm, that is quite hilarious indeed.”



    Chapter 4 - Departure


    At first, Yu Zheng was likewise in awe of the great calligraphy skills of the unknown master who wrote the letter, showering praises to the mysterious writer underneath his breath. Under the light of the incense, Yu Zheng began reading the letter. Yet, mid-way through the letter, his jaw began slightly shaking in disbelief, unable to believe what he was reading. As he continued to read, his expression would sometimes turn confused, amazed or even dark. Yet, once he seemed to almost be finished, he read it once again trying to confirm that he read it correctly.

    Then, as he finished reading it for the second time he put his head down in deep thought. After a while, he suddenly began to laugh like a crazed person! Under the light of the incense, he truly looked like an evil villain, causing even Huang Shu to be slightly put off. Once Yu Zheng finally calmed down and regained his demeanour he simply began staring at Yu Zheng with a strange look in his eyes.

    A strange feeling manifested in Huang Shu’s heart as he stared at Yu Zheng. It was a feeling that was mixed with excitement, anxiety, fear, and hope. Yu Zheng licked his lips in anticipation before asking the very question he had been waiting to ask since the start, “What did the letter say?”

    Yu Zheng gave a low chuckle as he simply kept staring at Huang Shu. Huang Shu didn’t respond this time and merely waited for the madman to talk, knowing his past schemes and similar mannerisms in vivid memory.

    After a moment of brief silence, Yu Zheng asked, “Say, what do you know about immortal cultivators?”

    At Yu Zheng’s question, he gained a clear premonition to what that letter and medallion truly were. After some deep, inward contemplation Huang Shu replied with a finger on his chin, “Immortal cultivators are celestial beings that are separate existences to us mortals. Even martial artists that possess inner qi can’t even compare. Their techniques are mysterious and boundless. If they wish so, countless kingdoms and empires would immediately crumble under their feet. They can also be considered as being Heaven’s Chosen.

    And according to scarce rumours I have heard, only one out of ten thousand people would a person with the ability to cultivate appear. And even then, it’s not guaranteed! Such people are extremely fortunate, have peerless strength and without a doubt hold great wisdom. Such is befitting of Heaven’s chosen.”

    Huang Shu’s conclusion of immortal cultivators deeply satisfied Yu Zheng, causing him to nod several times in strong agreement.

    “It is indeed as Huang Shu says. Immortal cultivators are peerless beings, already on another plane of existence from even the moment of inception”, Yu Zheng agreed.
    Suddenly, Yu Zheng’s face turned solemn and he stop his facade, “Now. I will stop beating around the bush. This letter. This very letter here describes the true purpose and usage of the medallion. Immediately, I can tell you that brat was lying. I must congratulate you on your deduction skills, they never cease to amaze me.”

    Huang Shu waved it off, not taking his compliment to mind.

    “Continue”, Huang Shu said.

    Yu Zheng nodded his head before revealing with wide eyes, “The medallion that boy possesses is essentially a one-way ticket to join an immortal sect. However, if one doesn’t have ‘spiritual roots’, as cultivators call it then this is not possible even with the medallion. This is what I assume sets them apart from the common mortal.

    According to the letter, that medallion belongs to the Bloody Path Sect. They are located in the Long Tang mountain range south of Peerless Cliff City. If you join the sect, you will gain a monthly allocation of what they seem to call ‘spiritual stones’, a residence and the status of an Outer Disciple.”

    Huang Shu blinked his eyes, processing what he just heard. A moment later, he couldn’t stop himself from smiling as he went into maniacal laughter that could be heard for kilometres.

    ...

    The next morning on the outskirts of the Fith-Step village, a small boy with tanned skin and scruffy hair could be seen tightly hugging an old lady with well-refined features, despite her possessing the clothes of a simple commoner. This was naturally Ip An and Mei Yawen.

    Ip An buried his head into her soft stomach, unwilling to let go as tears fell down his cheeks. Mei Yawen stroked his hair as she did the day prior. This scene continued for many minutes until Ip An broke away and bowed respectfully with a genuine voice and tears still in his eyes, “Thank you, Auntie Mei! I will never forget your kindness. I will make sure your money goes to good use throughout my travels to Peerless Cliff City.”

    Just before, Mei Yawen had gifted him with a small pouch of coins, causing him to feel guilty yet also very thankful.

    He gave a distant stare at the village behind Mei Yawen. This was where he grew up, the place he had called home for his whole life. And now, with the death of his grandfather and just at the age of 10, he was now leaving his small village for something greater. Something even greater than he ever expected. He had not even fully accepted that this was happening. He thought he was dreaming!

    Then, Ip An turned to two old men standing behind Mei Yawen with plastered smiles on their faces, “Additionally, this young one thanks Uncle Huang and Jin for being there for when my grandfather was on his deathbed. I will naturally not forget your kindness either!”

    These two men were Huang Shu and the other unnamed old man who were there for Ip An’s dying grandfather. Each gave a smile of satisfaction in response to Ip An’s act of respect and kindness. Both stood with their hands behind their backs.

    “You do not need to thank me! I have known your grandfather for quite a while, obviously, I would come to visit. This is just natural”, Uncle Huang gave a deep belly laugh for the umpteenth time as he eyed Ip An with those same strangely affectionate eyes.

    Ever since Ip An had arrived, he subtly noticed that Uncle Huang was looking at him caring and gentle eyes and had suddenly found everything he said to be incredibly hilarious! It truly was strange but he did not mind. He was old after all. Ip An just thought he was growing into his eccentric phase. But there was also another part of him that was on guard. A part of him that felt Uncle Huang had evil intentions. It was the same feeling that had appeared yesterday when Uncle Huang had asked to hear the contents of the letter.

    Just as Ip An was planning to inquire about his behaviour in an inconspicuous way, Uncle Jin surprisingly took action for him!

    “Huang Shu”, he said his name with a familiar tone as he began to ask, “I have discovered that ever since you have arrived, you have held a deeply affectionate attitude and mannerisms towards Nephew Ip. Yesterday, you acted quite normal and only gave a few words and yet today you are speaking many words, are very animated and find everything that nephew Ip does to be funny! Why is this the case?”

    Uncle Jin had felt off-put the whole time due to his change in personality. So he asked in both curiosity and in slight annoyance, wondering why he had become so obnoxious and different. His constant laughing had almost given him a headache!

    Huang Shu spoke with the same distant laughter in his voice and teeth-baring smirk, “Sorry, This one must deeply apologise for acting inappropriate! It’s just that this one was feeling sorrowful due to Ip An’s passing and had dug up some saved up wine that I had been saving for a special occasion to use!”

    Uncle Jin sucked in a sharp breath of air, “Yi! Is this truly the case? You are quite fortunate. But such is one of the many benefits of old age. One can never expect the kind of things a person can have in possession after a whole lifetime of hardwork and roaming this earth. However, did your esteemed self take into account that we would be wishing Ip An farewell along with Mei Yawen?”

    Huang Shu did not break character as he began to apologise, “Hehe, this one is quite sorry. I did not take into consideration that Ip An’s farewell and departure would occur the day after! Yet again, i was intoxicated due to my deep sorrow and cravings for liquor. And due to my old age, it was quite difficult to remember this thing. I hope everyone here, especially Ip An can forgive my actions. ”

    Huang Shu turned towards Ip An, and bowed with cupped fists, causing Ip An to give a nod.

    Ip An then waved it off with a fake smile, “It is ok Uncle Huang! This nephew can naturally understand Uncle’s feelings. If one day i was feeling sorrowful or in deep sadness, then i would also naturally resort to such measures! ”

    Huang Shu gave a thankful smile in response.

    However, Ip An felt that Uncle Huang’s attitude toward him today was incredibly creepy and sinister. It was like watching a bug wrath and squirm, trying to crawl onto your face. He was simply upholding a facade the whole time as he tolerated him. And he knew that something was up with him. Something wasn’t right. That reply wasn’t the truth either. His face hadn’t even the slightest shade of red!

    And just as he was thinking that, his face almost paled as he managed to seemingly dodge Uncle Huang’s trap.

    Luckily, he had immediately formed a very believable lie in that moment with his quick-wriited intelligence. As for his reaction, it was completely genuine, with no need to hide it at all. He was going to become an immortal! A person who could fly in the skies, wield supernatural abilities, and live forever! He just couldn’t believe that him, a person who would’ve been destined to become an orphan or even just a simple farmer was given a chance to mix with heaven’s chosen!

    His very destiny. His very existence. It was destined for something greater! He could feel his heart beating like a drum when he thought about that!

    Yet, this chance. This once in a lifetime opportunity that seemingly occurred from all the good karma accumulated from his past 100 lives! He would never let this go. Nor would he ever let down his grandfather’s expectations. This gift was something he felt like he could never repay.

    At that moment he swore yet again, “Grandfather, I will not let myself, other people or anyone stop me from fulfilling my destiny! I will see all that this world has to offer and not let myself be controlled by others who wish me otherwise.”

    Yet, as of now his destiny was not set in stone and was still just a common boy. And he still had to take about a 3-month long journey to the Bloody Path Sect who were the owners of that intimidating medallion! With that in mind, he raised his hand to touch a certain part of the backpack Mei Yawen had also given him where a hard object sat. This was a knife!

    While he had been seemingly enamoured by the medallion last night, he was actually in very deep thought. In the morning after Ip An woke up he stole a small knife from Mei Yawen. This was in case he ever encountered any dangers on his journey and because he had a bad premonition that caused him to be on edge. He didn’t want get murdered by bandits or have the medallion or letter identified as priceless treasures and have them stolen from him!

    Then, just as Ip An was planning to depart, Uncle Huang warned with a devilish smile on his face, “And don’t forget to keep that medallion well hidden! You will never know when you will encounter someone with malicious intentions. This world is filled with all kinds of people and no one is ever safe. Keep this in mind!”

    Ip An’s heart skipped a beat as he thought about the implication of those words.

    “Yes”, he bowed with respect. In his heart he was secretly very frightened as his image of Uncle Huang became much worse. He could feel that something bad was going to occur to him soon. He became desperate to escape and quickly bid them goodbye and walked into the distance, down a long dirt road.

    Little did Ip An know, the journey he would embark on would change lead him to places and people he would never expect. He would fight with immortal celestials, slay mythical creatures from myth and shock the whole world of cultivation with his frightening strength. His future actions would inevitably leave an imprint on this realm for countless millennia to come!

    note: i am also posting this on royalroad!

    I will update again soon! :)


    edit1: changed titles to make it easier to determine which chapter it is



     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2021
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  2. AbyssalDragonKing78

    AbyssalDragonKing78 Making the rounds.

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    Watched with great interest.
     
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  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 005 - Struggle At The Temple
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Chapter 5 - Struggle at the Temple

    It began raining late into the very same day Ip An departed from Firth-Step Village. Grey clouds formed as lightning boomed into the distance, causing Ip An to slightly worry. For multiple reasons, he had taken a far less travelled road instead of the main road. Firstly, Uncle Huang had caused him to become very suspicious and paranoid. And secondly, there would be a lower chance of encountering undesirable and malicious people.

    Although it would take a bit longer to traverse it, his safety was a higher priority. He had to make sure he made it to Peerless Cliff City with the medallion and letter. And more importantly his life. Yet, his biggest worry as of now was simply making it out of the rain. The rain’s intensity had slowly been increasing ever since it started. And if he didn’t find somewhere to shelter out the rain then he would become completely drenched in water!

    Luckily, he had thought of a way to keep the letter safe from the rain. He had simply folded it and placed it inside of his hand and closed it, keeping it completely safe from the rain. He secretly hoped that folding it wouldn’t ruin its validity or that they wouldn’t accept it and he wouldn’t be allowed in.

    While he was running the rain the cogs in his brain were slowly turning. That’s when he suddenly remembered that along this path was an abandoned Buddhist temple! He had never been to this temple before, but he had heard that it was built long ago by a tiny sect of martial Buddhists that lived in the forest.

    However, a great tragedy struck them and ever since then the temple has not been maintained. This has caused it to significantly deteriorate and collect dust for many years! While remembering these details, he had spotted a small building in the far distance on the right side of the road!

    He momentarily increased his speed and soon found himself in front of the buddhist temple that he had heard about! It was slightly large than expected, having quite alor of room to move around in. It was only one stroy high and was made with a dark brown wood. Remnants of colorful banners hang at the side of the entrance.

    As he entered, it was completely empty other than a small shrine with a statue of buddha opposite from the door. Only the remaining dregs of incense from long ago were left on a low pedestal in front of it. For a couple moments, he stood in place with a blank expression trying to figure out what to do from here.

    “Hmm, i don’t think the rain will stop anytime soon. Let’s make ourself at home then!” Ip An stared at the dusty wooden flooring as he made this decision. Just as he was about to sweep himself a circle of floor free of dust he stopped himself in realisation.

    “Well, before that…”, he glanced at the shrine over his shoulder, turned around and walked to the front of it. Putting his hands together he closed his eyes and put his head down in a silent prayer.
    ‘Thank you for sheltering me from the rain’, he silently whispered in his heart in appreciation.

    After he finished his prayer, he suddenly noticed a rolled up bamboo mat large enough for him to sleep on! It was sitting to the side of the shrine in a way that wouldn’t be visible from first look.

    ‘Ah! Thank you again’, he thanked in his heart once again in genuine surprise. Rolling out the mat onto the floor nearby, he laid down on his back and took off his shirt. He dropped it on the top of his chest and closed his eyes. As he slowly doze off he listened to the rain impacting against the temple’s roof, the temple’s stale but unique scent. The small pricks of bamboo that was shooting off the mat and into his skin.

    It wasn’t the most comfortable place to sleep at all. Yet there was something novel about it that made it that much more than just satisfactory. He was out here on his own, he was on a journey all by himself. He didn’t have the help of anyone and was simply wandering through the wilderness of the world. Which is what he had wanted to do since he knew about the outside world.

    If only his grandfather was here to experience it with him. Though he knew that even if he was still alive he would’ve been too old to go with him safely, it still saddened him. He let out a long sigh while blinking his eyes. They stared right at the wooden floor for many minutes until he slowly felt his eyelids shudder and his consciousness daze off.



    As he slept, he dreamt he was a handsome, flying sword immortal standing in the air high above fluffy, white clouds! His graceful, black hair fluttered in the wind as he stared into the distance where he seemingly waited for something to appear. Suddenly, an azure dragon with jet black whiskers and a dazzling mane appeared from beneath the clouds.

    It stared at him with blood-shot eyes as it rushed towards him with a heaven-shaking roar! Yet, he was not fazed at all. As it came closer and closer it seemed like he was not going to take action. as they were about to collide the dragon opened up it’s mouth attempting to eat him.

    Ip An let out a harrumph as a hundred-meter long suddenly appeared from air. It was illuminated with dazzling gold light and it’s appearance greatly shocked the dragon. However, despite the appearance of this sword it only slightly faltered and continued on as normal.

    Seeing this, Ip An gave a small smirk as the sword suddenly shot forward and cut through the dragon in one clean cut! Each half of it’s body quickly dropped from the sky and disappeared through the clouds back from where it had came from.

    Then, Ip An turned away coldly as if what had just happaned could not even be put in his eyes. But, just as he turned around he found himself him face to face with a pitch black face with red eyes. It was like staring into the void. He became greatly alarmed as a flood of primal instincts flood overran through his whole body screaming him to run!

    In just a single instant, he teleported away at a frightening speed using all his strength, will and reserved resources. Sweat had instantaneously started dripping down his face, goosebumps formed all over his skin and his sense hightened to their maximum potential.

    Yet, after just a couple seconds he suddenly couldn’t feel his outer limbs and when he looked down and stopped he found himself crumbling into ash and scattering into the wind. Before he knew it, he had turned around and found himself staring at the void-like being as his whole body crumbled into ash.

    The last thing he saw before his consciousness faded was the flash of a devilish, red smile filled with sharp teeth.



    Ip An suddenly jerked himself up to a sitting position as he sucked in a sharp breathe of air. He looked around with frantic eyes, checking his surroundings for anything that could be dangerous. Seeing nothing out of place, his racing heart calmed down as he just then noticed he was covered in sweat!

    Ip An simply let out a low grumble before letting his body fall back down onto his back. However, just as he was dozing to sleep again he heard a distant voice throughout all the rain.

    “Aargh! Curse the heavens! It just started raining right when we left! We’re forced to shelter out the rain in this abandoned temple as the closest shelter on the main road is nearly five days away! Such insanity!”, An oddly familiar aged voice complained.

    Hearing a stranger’s voice in this secluded place he swiftly reached into his bag beside him and pulled out the knife he had stolen from Mei Yawen and assumed the same position he had just then. The only difference was that he held a knife in between his bosom. His back was also turned from the entrance making it appear as if he was just sound asleep!

    So if anybody decided to….

    If they tried to...

    These thoughts clogged his brain like muddy water. However, another voice that wasn’t as familiar came from outside, “It seems like the heavens really aren’t on our side on this matter. Nevertheless we will succeed. No matter how far the boy-”

    Ip An’s heart skipped a beat as they mentioned the word ‘boy’. His mind blanked and he felt his grip on the blade become tighter and much, much colder. His blood seemingly reversed directions on him for an instant. His brain quickly made certain connections and he quickly figured out what was happening.

    “-runs he can’t possibly be too far ahead. Once this rain clears up we will travel through the jungle back onto the main road and catch up to him. After all, though both of our inner qi’s have been crippled both of us have still maintained certain skills.”

    “Mhm, Indeed”, the familiar, aged voice replied. After a moment of horrid realisation and hearing his heart beating in his ears, Ip An matched this voice to Uncle Huang. As for the other voice, Ip An had no clue who they were but assumed them to be some kind of accomplice.

    Knowing this, he had deduced that Uncle Huang was after the medallion and letter! A strong feeling of fear manifested in his heart like a blooming flower coloured a deathly black. But, underneath the shadow of one of its smallest petals was a tiny seedling with but a single petal. Despire It’s insignificant size it shone a dazzling rainbow filled with courage and hope that matched even the presence of even the flower filled with fear.

    Then, as the black flower filled with fear tried to stick it’s roots further into Ip An’s heart, it suddenly found that it had been blocked by the roots of the insignificant seedling that it hadn’t even considered!

    Like this, Ip An overcame his fears and began thinking calmly, unaffected by his fears.

    In a couple moments he looked at all his current options and settled with just laying where he was right now in the same position as he listened to Uncle Huang’s conversation with his accomplice. For a while, he heard about many matters he did not hear of and many insignificant things that didn’t really matter.

    But, at one point in their conversation their speaking abruptly stopped and Ip An felt the sound of quiet footsteps that were slowly approaching him. Despite having conquered his fear, he was still felt a bit nervous as hair all across his body stuck up in the air!

    Second by second, the footsteps grew closer and closer until they were seemingly right behind him. He saw the edges of a large, dark shadow appear at the bottom of his vision which confirmed his suspicions. Just as he heard the sounds of someone shuffling through his bag that’s when he striked!

    He wasn’t going to let anyone steal the medallion or letter from him! Not even Uncle Huang!

    Like an arrow released from a fully-strung bow he shot forward with surprising speed. As he turned around in that exact moment he saw who was searching through his bag. They were a middle-aged man of average stature with a thick beard and bun of hair. Without any hesitation he made a compromise in his heart and struck downward for the man’s leg!

    Unexpectedly, as his hand holding the knife travelled through the air, mid-way it had just stopped. He had found that a hairy, rough hand covered in cold, blue veins was holding his small wrist in an unbreakable grasp. Ip An tried to pull away with his strength yet found that he didn’t even budge nor did his grip show any signs of loosening!

    “Hehe”, the thick haired man chuckled as he began to tightly squeeze his wrist causing Ip An to moan in pain, “I dare say that you almost cut this venerable one’s leg in half! I am sorry if this is a misunderstanding! I was simply checking your belongings in case a thief had come along and decided to misplaced some of your items. I truly have no bad intentions!”

    The thick haired man smiled like as if he was a good samaritan, acting oblivious to his earlier actions of scrummaging through Ip An’s bag.
     
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  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 006 - Life And Death
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Chapter 006 - Life and Death


    Ip An’s pupils dilated as his brain studied that man’s arrogant smile filled with dirty yellow teeth. It was revolting. Suddenly, he lunged forward and bit down on his hands with all the force his jaw could muster. For a few moments, there was just silence as he gave no response or signs of pain.

    “That isn’t going to work brat”, the thick-haired man arrogantly chuckled.

    Realising that was useless, he retreated from the thick-haired man’s hand that now had faint teeth marks and his saliva on it. Then, he brought his free hand to the knife-wielding hand and passed it over. With the same fervour as his original strike, he struck toward the man’s hand hoping to severe or hurt him enough so that he would let go.

    Unfortunately, yet again his hand was intercepted by the man’s other hand he now found himself at a stalemate with both his hands completely restricted. Then, his hand that held the knife was suddenly squeezed extremely tightly, causing Ip An to give a scream that echoed throughout the whole temple. The knife dropped to the ground and tears started to form in his eyes.

    His breathing became uneven and rapid as realised he had lost his only weapon. He briefly lifted his head up and met eyes with his opponent. He could see the confidence, the playfulness and carefreeness mixed into just a single point. His heart slightly wavered at this.

    However, that did not mean he had given up.

    After, he began to pull and push, twist and turn. He wreathed as much as he could, attempting to break through his iron grip. But after almost a minute of this, he seemingly gave up, out of breath with sweat starting to form on his face.

    “Is that all you got?” The thick-haired man raised an eyebrow in disappointment.

    Little did he know, Ip An was just stalling for time as he wracked his brains for ways to escape with the medallion and letter. This gave him enough time to form some kind of plan. That’s when he grit his teeth and said words even he couldn’t believe he was saying while looking the thick-haired man in the eye, “Alright, I’ll give you both the medallion and the letter. Just let me go!”

    The thick-haired’s jaw slightly dropped as he heard this. Just then, Uncle Huang’s voice came from behind.

    “I think you misunderstand something brat”, Uncle Huang mocked with a devilish laugh, “Today, you’re not coming outside of this temple alive.”

    His figure then came from the side of the thick-haired man with a smirk on his face and his hands behind his back. He then began to laugh, “I’m surprised though! I didn’t expect finding you to be this easy! I thought it would’ve taken us at least a couple more days to catch you but who would’ve expected you to be here in this abandoned temple on the side of this lonely road! I do find it funny that you went this down in order to shake us off your tail. Yet! This only brought you right to us. It seems I hold heaven’s favour today!”

    The thick-haired man gave a small smirk hearing this. Although the thick-haired man and Uncle Huang had joyous expressions, Ip An was likewise plainly mortified. Was he going to die? No. He wouldn’t allow it. As he steeled his will like this, the rainbow seedling in his heart began to shine brighter, completely covering the black coloured flower in its powerful illumination.

    Ip An asked with obvious desperation in his voice, “Why?”

    Uncle Huang stopped his laughter and explained, “Why? Letting you escape would simply become an extremely troublesome matter! One must always pull a plant out by its roots or they will simply grow back!”

    A tight squeezing sensation took hold over Ip An’s beating heart as he heard this.

    “Since you’ve finished, allow this one to enlighten you of true strength!” The thick-haired man’s battle-crazed voice suddenly boomed as a powerful fist struck into Ip An’s stomach causing him to tumble to the ground several meters away.

    The pain was immense, enough for Ip An to fall unconscious but he held on. He knew that if he were to give in and fall down, he would die. Stumbling to his feet he could only watch as the thick-haired man approached yet again with ready fists and a pair of bloodthirsty eyes. Behind him, he could see Uncle Huang pulling out the medallion and letter from his bag with greedy eyes and a joyful expression.

    As the thick-haired man came close again he sent out another punch to his stomach. Ip An tried to dodge but that earlier punch caused his movements to become lazy and uncoordinated. This time, Ip An coughed up a considerable amount of blood as he was sent to the ground. He moaned in great pain, unable to orientate himself.

    Right after being sent to the ground, another punch was sent into his stomach causing another cough of blood to spurt from his mouth. It felt like his consciousness was floating in and out of existence every second. Even Ip An couldn’t defend against this very well. After all, although he was quite a smart child with some wisdom. A child was a child! Their wills weren’t unbreakable.

    Unexpectedly, during the next several seconds an additional punch did not come! Subconsciously, Ip An knew that if he were to get hit again another time then he would just have to accept his fate and wish for better luck in his next life. This was strange as Uncle Huang was had just talked about pulling plants out by their roots. Why hadn’t thick-haired finished him off yet?

    Currently, his vision was incredibly blurry and he couldn’t make out anything except a couple of blurs! This made it impossible for him to discern what was occurring.

    Just then, he heard the thick-haired man stutter with profound disbelief, ”W-W-Why?”

    Ip An then heard the faint noise of something splattering onto the ground. The thick-haired man let out a low cough which caused another splatter. After, he heard Uncle Huang let out a chuckle, “Why? Hmph, this old man has been asked too many of these sort of questions in these past few days. But if you really want to know it’s simply because I want the medallion and the letter to myself. It would be too troublesome and less beneficial to share the spoils with another person.

    Once upon a time, our bond used to be as strong as the connection between heaven earth and this sort of thing would’ve never happened. But, this is what becomes of people who have lost everything. They resort to petty things like betrayal. I am not afraid to admit I am one of these such people. But all I want to do for the rest of my life is to live in peace, doing what I want. All i need is to sell these two things to the right person and I’ll be able to live in relative prosperity for the rest of my meagre life. I can even give the leftovers to my nephew I dote on!”

    This sudden revelation of what seemed like Uncle Huang’s betrayal struck like lightning. By this point, Ip An’s vision had recovered well enough to see the general outline of things and lifted his head up to see what was happening.

    He could see two blurry figures just a couple meters away right next to eachother. Yet, Ip An could see that a sharp, metal knife was poking out of the front person’s stomach. He identified this to be the thick-haired man. One the ground below him was a large puddle of blood which was quickly expanding due to the blood pouring out his wound every second.

    The thick-haired man coughed more blood as he suddenly revealed with bitterness and e , “I was planning to kill you after i finished off the kid. B-But...You betrayed me first.”

    Uncle Huang chuckled nonsensically, “As expected! I should’ve known you were up to something this whole time. Yet it was me who ended up out on top at the end.”

    Uncle Huang then pulled out the knife from the thick-haired man and sent him falling to the ground like a stiff tree. Silence hung in the air as the thick-haired man’s bleeding showed no sigsn of ending as the light left his eyes. Eventually, his body completely stopped moving.

    Uncle Huang let out a regretful sigh, “I am truly sorry that this is the end result of our relationship. Who would’ve known that the legendary Yu Zheng would’ve met his end in such a way in an abandoned temple in the middle of nowehere?”

    He gazed at Yu Zheng’s body for a strangely long time with affectionate eyes. After what seemed like several long minutes of silence he averted his gaze to Ip An who was now stumbling to his feet with slightly shaking legs and dry blood at the side of his cheeks.

    Yu Zhneg let out a harrumph before walking with heavy steps and stopping just a couple meters away from Ip An who had just made it to his feet.

    “Brat, Yu Zheng was merely playing around with you with his punches. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be alive right now. It seems like i’ll have to be the one who has to finish off the job”, Uncle Huang looked at Ip An with squinting eyes as he watched him desperately trying to gather himself.

    “Though i do have to give you some considerable thanks. Me and that fox made meticulous efforts to ensure we had no weapons on beforehand in case one of us had tried to quickly finish off one of the other without their knowledge. Luckily, you had a knife on hand and that gave me the chance to finish that old fox off unknowingly! You saved me quite alot of effort. In another world i would’ve let you go but im afraid there are too many risks.

    No matter what i do you will inevitably hold strong resentment for me and thus i cannot allow you to live. You could come take revenge on me or possibly go after my family in the far future! I am simply looking after my safety. Excuse this one’s following action!” Uncle Huang’s two-face attitude caused Ip An to seathe with rage.

    Internally, he was screaming with all his strength to force his body to listen but no matter what he did it wouldn’t. However, a moment later just as he took a step back from Uncle Huang he sensed something overhead.

    He looked up and saw a sharp, grey knife being plunged right towards his face. At this very instance, his life flashed through his eyes. Memories of talking with his grandfather, playing with his friends in the rain and becoming sick the next day. Coming with his grandfather late at night to witness one of Fifth-Step’s villages annual rituals to pray to a god he had forgotten the name of.

    Rolling down a steep hill like a log with one of his friend’s which caused them both to hurt themselves. His grandfather’s old, wrinkly fingers showing him the correct stroke order to a particular character. The warm smiles of all his childhood friends, their funny jokes and all the places they went as a group.

    The shine and warmth of the sun on his skin. The cold, dark atmosphere of the night as he walked amongst some tall grass all alone. The countless times he had gotten up early to see the sun rise and every time he had watched the sunset appreaciating all of its beautiful for all it was.

    The moment’s he would sit alone, thinking and dreaming about the outside world was like. He wanted to see all of it. And in the final moment of that very instant he saw a flash of his grandfather’s lifeless face filled with paleness. His limp body being thrown into his grave on that small hill underneath the oak tree. That painful feeling of his being twisted and squeezed of all it’s blood as he watched on.

    His unwillingness to let his grandfather down and to make him proud. His aspirations. His dreams. His hope. Being brought to the brink of death. The struggle for his small life with all his strength. All of these factors caused a mysterious, profound transformation to suddenly occur within him.

    (Note: I'm also posting on RoyalRoad and Scribblehub so make sure to drop a follow or like if you can! I would really, really appreciate it)
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 007 - Awakening
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Chapter 007 - Awakening

    Deep inside Ip An’s stomach, a thin thread of vibrant green light the size of a grain of rice winked into existence. Instantly, Ip An’s body underwent a mysterious transformation. A strangely powerful boost of vitality and energy surged through his whole body like a rushing tsunami. Miniscule changes occurred across his whole body. Bones shuddered, blood churned and organs wreathed. And upon closer inspection, one could see minuscule tendrils of green light spreading out across his whole body with the thread of green light at its centre.

    And just as Ip An could feel the edge of the knife’s blade touch his nose, his body suddenly jerked to the left that sent him to the other side of the temple! It was as if he had just been caught up in a tornado. With a racing heart and a face full of disbelief, he discovered that he was somehow still alive!

    “What?” Uncle Huang scoffed in disbelief in seeing Ip An’s sudden ghost-like movements. And along with this sudden boost of vigour came sudden clarity of mind that helped him recover from his previous state of mind. His mind started to churn away as he thought of a way out of his situation.

    Where did this energy suddenly emerge from?

    Except, Ip An had no time to answer this question and suddenly clenched his fists, feeling the newfound power that was coursing through his whole body with increasing familiarity. He then looked at Uncle Huang with hope in his eyes. He was not going to die here!

    Ip An then looked at Uncle Huang and saw him muttering unintelligibly. After a moment he snapped himself out of it and looked at Ip An with a sudden look of respect. With zero sign of wavering, Uncle Huang gave a sly smirk and charged at Ip An. As Uncle Huang charged he took in a strangely deep breath that made a noise akin to an arrow flying through the air.

    Then, as he exhaled his arms suddenly increased in size by seemingly over twofold! They were now as big as a young man who had been labouring every day for the past several years! Cold, green veins now bulged out of his wrinkly skin like slithering snakes as he held the knife that was soaked in the thick-haired man’s blood.

    This caused Ip An to become slightly intimidated but his resolve was still solid. He observed every single one of Uncle Huang’s movements as he charge towards him in a sprint that caused dust to fly. He quietly reminded himself to avoid that knife at all cost.

    And soon, Uncle Huang reached the still idle Ip An. With the mysterious energy flowing through him, he watched the blade move in slow motion as it travelled through the air towards him. With unexpected coordination and speed, he ducked under the blade and sent his fist deep into Uncle Huang’s stomach just like the thick-haired man did. Uncle Huang’s eyes bulged in pure shock as Ip An’s fist contained frightening power rivalling that of an adult man’s!

    Due to his frail build and old age, he suddenly limped to the ground without any energy left to fight back. The knife dropped out of his hand, clattering to the ground. His veins and arms quickly deflated back to their normal size.

    Ip An couldn’t believe it! That mysterious energy that had suddenly coursed through his body on the brink of death had just saved his life. His whole body suddenly gained power that made him feel like he could fly and destroy boulders. Ip An then walked over to Uncle Huang to make sure he didn’t get back up and once he saw he was unconscious he let out a sigh of relief. He wouldn’t be getting back up any time soon.

    As Ip An looked at Uncle Huang he held a strange glint in his eyes. He held no remorse. Yet, he didn’t want to kill him. He knew that if he was older he would have the heart to do it. But as of now he just couldn’t see himself doing it. He felt like it was wrong to even though the latter had just tried to kill him.

    Uncle Huang looked very pitiful. Well, he should call him Huang Shu after how he had tried to murder him. But had suddenly been defeated by a mere child. In the end, Ip An had come out on top. Huang Shu had betrayed the thick-haired man who he had now identified to be Yu Zheng after jogging his memory. And Ip An had then defeated Huang Shu.

    Knowing that Huang Shu was completely incapacitated from his earlier punch, he walked over to Yu Zheng’s corpse and just looked on with a lost stare. Strangely, it didn’t disgust him nor was he terrified. He didn’t really feel anything. And that terrified him. Why wasn’t he feeling anything? He should’ve collapsed to his knees and vomited.

    But here he was staring at Yu Zheng who was now laying in a puddle of blood with him at the centre. Ip An had little recollection of Yu Zheng. He had rarely seen him. If he remembered correctly, he lived on the opposite side of the village and usually kept to himself. In that moment he wondered about the person he had been and the kind of life he had lead.

    As Ip An continued pondering, his mind drifted back to when it felt like death was imminent. The instant when Huang Shu’s knife that he had stolen from Ip An which he stole from Mei Yawen was plunging towards him. He had just brushed with death. Ip An had unconsciously gained a profound revelation about death. He had greatly matured due to this life and death experience.

    If he hadn’t been mustering all his strength and will to get up, he thought about what would’ve happened. Would he have died? No, he was here now and alive. That’s all that mattered. And despite Yu Zheng’s role in trying to take his life he felt a weirdly deep connection to him on a spiritual level. It was strange. Thus, he gave him a small prayer to pay respects and turned away. He wasn’t planning to bury their dead bodies. He didn’t even have any proper tools anyway!

    After retrieving his knife, letter and medallion from Huang Shu’s unconscious body with zero shame he packed them all away in his bag and promptly left the temple. Near the end of their conflict, the rain has stopped raining.

    This meant Ip An didn’t have to wait around for Huang Shu to wake up! Eventually, his figure had disappeared into the distance and several hours later Huang Shu woke up! After many minutes of foggy thinking, he soon recovered his general train of thought and quickly remembered what had happened.

    Suddenly, Huang Shu felt a cold shiver run down his spine. Ip An could’ve killed him! Yet he decided to leave him alive. This was. Very surprising. But also incredibly relieving. He looked around and saw that Ip An was nowhere to be seen and started muttering under his breath.

    “That boy, just as he was on the brink of death he suddnely gained such strength, coordination and speed out of seemingly thin air! I had crossed out that possibility and thought he was just putting on an act earlier. Yet, the more i think about it the more likely it seems to be the truth! This boy. Ip An. Did he really have an awakening just then?” Huang Shu’s eyebrows crossed as he pondered this very seriously, no trace of joking in his expression.

    He swallowed a lump in his throat, “Although neither I nor Yu Zheng has awakened, I had heard rumours of famous martial artists putting themselves in life or death situations to rouse and awaken the inner qi deep inside themselves. But even then it only happens under extreme circumstances and when the person wholeheartedly is on the brink of death. But to think a small ten-year old boy would just undergo an awakening in this situation? That is...”

    Huang Shu couldn’t think any further. His mind blanked. He was unable to grasp what was real anymore. Mind, Huang Shu was a very old man that had seen many things. He was a powerful martial artist in his youth in a big city. He had seen countless betrayals, profound phenomena, and the darkness of the world.

    Yet, if Huang Shu’s speculation was correct that Ip An had just awakened. He had most likely witnessed the birth of a genius. Those who have awakened will find that their talent to have increased twofold! They would soar through the heavens and find themselves treated with utter respect by everyone they encounter. Their strength could silence nations and bring emperors to their knees! And people would become incredibly envious and jealous when they realise that they could also live upwards of 120 years old due to being seemingly impervious to disease and illness!

    They are almost always the peak powerhouses of the mortal martial fighters. But what was even more frightening was that he had seemingly awakened when he was only ten years old! Most who had claimed to have awakened were almost always past the age of fifty. They were significantly past their prime and would therefore receive a reduced effect.
    Whereas, Ip An was merely ten years old! His life energy was significantly more vibrant. This would cause his life energy to increase not double-fold. But almost severalfold! Additionally, as it is still in a stage of growth it could inadvertently cause his life energy reserve to have a higher maximum capacity!

    The reason why awakening was so rare was due to the special circumstances that were required. Most often, several key conditions would have to be met in order to awaken. One, the person must wholeheartedly believe their life is on the line and be in a life or death situation. Two, a great challenge both physically and mentally must be created. A challenge that is seemingly insurmountable to the person. And lastly, a significant change mentally and physically has to occur. And even if all these conditions are met, there is still only a small chance of it occurring.

    Some people are simply less prone to awakening than others and thus require significantly more effort to do so. While others are extremely sensitive. However, these people are exceedingly rare. They are almost as rare as heaven-chosen! If not the same rarity!

    That’s why, when Huang Shu realised that Ip An had awakened. He couldn’t believe it. And at this point, he had given up pursuing him! He was already severely injured and felt that the punch he gave him would hinder his bodily functions and health for the rest of his life. But he quickly shook his head. He had to get out of here! And go somewhere far away. Somewhere even further away than he ever thought he would. Somewhere Ip An would never think to search!

    If Ip An ever found him, he would certainly die! By that time, his heart would’ve definitely matured and he would have the heart to kill him. With this attitude, he gave Yu Zheng’s corpse a regretful look that had started to release a horrible stench and quickly left the temple.

    Like this, Huang Shu would continue to travel in paranoia until he finally settled in a small village similar to that of the Fith-Step Village. Ip An’s injury would continue to hinder him for many years to come. He would live a relatively peaceful, quiet lifestyle that showed no indication of his martial path. Slowly, he began to forget about Ip An’s existence but even until the day of his death, still feared that he would one day show up at his doorstep and end his miserable life.

    :D
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 008 - Long Tang Mountain Range
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Chapter 008 - Long Tang Mountain Range



    Peerless Cliff City was incredibly renowned and prosperous throughout the entire province of Xiang. This was due to the sheer ferocity and eccentric attitude of the people that lived there. It was always a scramble for life and death every day no matter who you were. You would always find yourself being pulled into some kind of scheme no matter your identity. Thus, due to the serious attitude of the population, it naturally had a wide influence socially, economically and politically.

    Additionally, its military power was nothing to scoff at! Peerless Cliff City had a very ancient history dating back to a full millennia ago. It was located on a stretch of highland plains that meant they had a signficantic strategic advantage. Due to its geographical significance, they were unwilling to let go of this advantage and heavily invested in its defence. Over time, Peerless Cliff City and its surroundings had become so heavily entrenched that it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to call the place a fortress!

    Yet, no matter the efforts Peerless Cliff City went into developing its territory, city officials never dared touch even the outer reaches of the Long Tang mountain range. It was a supernatural mystery that they weren’t willing to provoke the ire of. All year round, it’s mountains were covered in a thick-grey fog. And it wasn’t a strange occurrence for their to be sightings of strange sightings of certain things. Such as people flying on swords, flying beasts of legend and catastrophic weather suddenly seen brewing inside it.

    Due to the strange but also famous reputation of these mountain ranges, many brave figures had taken it upon themselves to learn the secrets of the Long Tang mountain range. However, the grey fog posed a massive problem. All who tried to delve into the mountain range would simply find themselves walking outside of the fog after just a short walk, even though they were certain they were walking in the same direction the whole time.

    Despite this, they kept trying. But one day, people found themselves stuck in the fog for days. And when they finally escaped, they were starving and desperate for even a drop of water. For some reason, this made the people of Peerless Cliff City even more curious as to what was in the Long Tang mountain range. So, the head of the famous Heng Clan being on of these people sponsored an expedition into the mountain range. They made countless preparations to make sure they made it through the fog and he hired only the best.

    In the end, the expedition included about thirty people in total. And as they departed everyone was very optimistic, thinking that success was certain. It was the complete opposite. No one was seen again. And the following day, everyone in the Heng Clan residence was found dead. The head, his family and every single one of their servants and guards. Not a single person was spared. Nobody caught even a glimpse of the killer, and even if they did it was most likely they would’ve died too.

    That was when even the peoeple of the Peerless Cliff City were forced to back down. The whole city was terrified of the force that had massacred the whole of the Heng Clan residence in but a single night. There were countless speculation regarding who the killer was but no one knew anyone that was strong enough to do what the killer did. Even the most famous martial artists claimed that even they didn’t have the skill to do what the culprit did.

    Thus, it was natural that the supernatural force or owner, no one knew which one it was, that lorded over the mountain range did not wanted to be disturbed or ther would be dire consequences. And that was the end of it. Not a single person dared to travel into the Long Tang mountain range ever again apart from the occasional person with a death-wish. Naturally, neither they were ever seen again.

    But, at this moment standing just several meters away from the Long Tang’s broiling fog was a young child seemingly only ten or eleven years of age with short, black hair and tanned skin. He observed the illusive fog for a while, with slight uncertainty and fear of the unknown in his eyes. Naturally, this was Ip An.

    After leaving the abandoned buddhist temple he had traveled for two whole months until he finally reached Peerless Cliff City. During this time, he spent nearly all the money he had from Mei Yawen but saved just enough for a inn room after asking around some people in neighboring villages that were inside Peerless Cliff City’s territory.

    And when he had arrived at it’s border he was in awe! There was a great stone wall several meters that extended all the way past the horizon. And the guards weren’t any less intimidating. They were adorned in thick, jet black armour that resembled that of a dragon. Each guard was seemingly the size of a bear and at least a head taller than the common man. And like many people that were crossing the border into the Peerless Cliff City’s territory he was naturally a bit nervous.

    But as he reached the front of the line and was inspected, they were surprisingly very quick. After just a rudimentary inspection, they let him through and like that they were onto the next person! It was incredible. Peerless Cliff City was like it’s own mini-nation. They had their own border, separate policies and laws that was seperate of those in the Heng province. They were so far entrenched that the Emperor couldn’t order it around all he wanted.

    And it’s for a good reason. Or otherwise the emperor would’ve been knocking on their door with his army a long time ago. Their militiary power was nothing to scoff at. Their armies were a cut above the rest. The way they were trained, disciplined and mentally molded. Combine this army with the basically imprenetrable fortress of the Peerless Cliff City territory then it would become a aggressive turtle that wasn’t afraid to bite back! They were basically a separate power. But they weren’t rebels, or the emperor would’ve had to force his hand and upturn the place in order to save face even if it took a long time and a large amount of resources.

    And when Ip An finally arrived in the city. Ip An was speechless. The colours, the sounds, the beautiful architecture that had been delicately crafted by experts of their craft. The bustling crowds that you could easily get lost in, the shouting street-side merchants always trying to grab your attenion. The flawless street that he walked on, no trace of an unpleasant stench in his nose. Some of the people he walked past werebeautiful! Some wore very luxurious clothes that only made their graceful figures and faces even more breath-taking. And at one moment, Ip An had bumped into another person because he couldn’t take his eyes off of this peerless beauty that had suddenly walked by!

    Many had seen this and burst out laughing seeing Ip An’s foolish actions. This actually managed to catch the lady’s attention and made her chuckle seeing his funny appearance! To clarify, Ip An currently was just a little boy and hadn’t underwent puberty yet. He was simply in awe of beauty that he had never seen before in his entire life.

    After recovering from this embarrassment, he simply wandered through this city until sunrise in awe. Then, he found a nearby inn and bought a room for the nigh. He had a warm meal that was filled with flavours he didn’t even knew were possible and when he finally retreated to his room for the night his mind blanked. He couldn’t believe it. It was all just like a dream. Just last night, he had been sleeping under the stars with barely anything in his belly. And just two months ago he would’ve been dying to be in his current position. His dream had seemingly come true. He was in the very place that his past-self had been dreaming of his whole life.

    And that wasn’t all, he currently had the ticket to become a powerful immortal in his bag! This was just the start for him. He was going onto bigger things already. And he couldn’t even comprehend anything that could possiblly be more amazing than this very city. It had been just a day since he had arrived at his place of dreams, and tomorrow he was travelling to a place of dreams for literally anyone! Not even just the common person. Even stone-faced court officials and rich merchants would easily give in to the opportunity to become an immortal. Ip An, even after all this time really didn’t have time to soak it all in. But, he was slowly adjusting to it and was finding it less and less shocking to think about day by day.

    The next day, he asked for directions to Long Tang mountain range ignorant of it’s status within the population’s hearts. He was thoroughly ignored as he looked like a poor beggar trying to scrounge for money. And even when people stopped for him and they heard he wanted to travel to the Long Tong mountains they always gave him an affirmative ‘no’ and gave him a brief warning before leaving. Eventually, he did find a person that gave in but not without eking out a coin from the reluctant Ip An who finally received the hint.

    That afternoon, he finally arrived. And here he was. Staring at the broiling fog unsure if he wanted to go through with this. For a while he was uncertain, almost questioning if it was all real in the first place. Would he really go through with this? What if he regretted it?

    That’s when he found himself looking back towards where Peerless Cliff City was. He didn’t have to make this hard decision and go down this difficult path. He could just retreat and live his life in the city. It had everything he dreamt about. Stuff that he was familiar with. But this. Becoming an immortal. He was uncertain. What would it really involve? He had heard many legends, rumours and stories about it but nevere really anything that pinpointed what it really entailed.
    But, Ip An quickly stopped this train of thought before it got out of control. His grandfather, Ip Nan, had given this chance to him for a reason. And yet. He had the audacity to consider throwing it away? That would not do. He had to do this now before he hid his tail in between his legs and fled. He calmed himself down by breathing in and taking some long breathes.

    He knew what he had to do.

    Step by step, he approached closer and closer to the grey fog and once he was one step away from entering it he turned back one last time. From here he couldn’t go back. No matter what he did. For a few seconds he relished in this feeling of having one step in two paths. Finally, Ip An gave a small smile and stepped inside the fog.

    As he began walking he could see nothing. He tried putting his hand out in front of himself and couldn’t even see that. Of course, Ip An didn’t know about the Long Tang’s infamous reputation and therefore didn’t know anything about it or the fog. He had only heard about it very briefly from people in the Peerless Cliff City and inside the letter. Strangely, when he put his hand out to see it he felt no resistance from the fog. It was as if it was immaterial and didn’t even exist. And whenever he breathed in it felt like he was still breathing in air. It seemed not even a trace of the fog entered his lungs.

    Soon, Ip An came to a stop and mumbled to himself, “Alright, i think this as far i need to go. Let’s pull out the medallion.”

    Then, he dropped down his bag onto the ground and shuffled around for a couple moments with no idea where anything was inside. When he finally found the medallion he pulled it out and lifted above his head and just stayed still where he was standing. The reason for this action was that in the letter, it detailed the exact steps one would have to undertake in order to join the sect.

    It explained that when entered the fog, they would walk a short distance and then lift the medallion above their head. And eventually, someone from the sect would come to receive them. Like this, Ip An stood in place for what felt like hours. The fog remained unchanging as he stood there in boredom. But he was determined. He just thought that even if he were a magnanimous immortal that lived on a mountain then it would naturally still take him a long time to reach someone at the base of that said mountain.

    That’s why he was fine with it. But as time continued to pass it felt like it was already night time. And that’s when the nearby fog suddenly dissipated and a person appeared!


    (AN: My posts on Questionable Questing don't get polished on re-edited for mistakes. But on RoyalRoad. They DO! So if you want slightly better, edited versions then keep yourself updated on the royalroad platform! Make sure to give a like or follow the thread if your interested in this series and if you read on royalroad then make sure to give a follow or fav if you want to!)
     
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 009 - Entering The Sect
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Chapter 009 - Entering The Sect




    As the fog dispersed around Ip An, a person suddenly appeared from the fog in front of him. His heart began to fill with excitement and uneasiness. They were a teenager with jet black hair that extended all the way past their shoulders. Not even a single stray hair could be spotted sticking out of their head. Adorned in robes that were a mix of red and white, it well-represented the extreme wealth that the person possessed.

    If this person were to appear inside the Peerless Cliff City there would be a stampede of women chasing after him! He was incredibly handsome. But what made Ip An feel uneasy wasn’t his appearance, but the frighteningly cold expression they held on their face. And at the same time, he was incredibly excited. It was an immortal! They were real! He had no doubt in his mind about it.

    Suddenly, Ip An found the medallion had escaped his hand and flew through the air into the cold-face teenager! Ip An’s jaw slightly dropped as he looked at the other person with an incredulous expression as if he had just seen a ghost.

    The cold-face teenager inspected the medallion with sharp eyes as he felt it in between his hands. Once he was finished, the medallion flew into a leather pouch by his side that had magically opened up its mouth at that moment. After it was stowed away into the pouch, its mouth closed like magic. During this, Ip An stood in place. Ip An knew that if he tried to move then there was a possibility that the immortal in front of him might take action.

    “Where did you get this medallion?” the cold-faced teenager asked him with a cold voice that caused Ip An’s heart to skip a beat. Ip An knew where he got it from, but this person was just so scary!

    “Immortal! I was entrusted with this medallion by my grandfather just a couple of months ago. After I received it I took a long journey to reach these mountains and finally arrived here”, Ip An answered nervously, hoping he didn’t mess up his speech or answer incorrectly, “However, I also have this!”

    Ip An rummaged through his bag that was completely visible to him because the fog was gone and found the letter. Strangely, he had accidentally bent the letter and had started to panic thinking he had ruined it. But once he woke up in the morning the next day he found that it was back to normal. It was a strange material. He then presented the letter to the cold-faced teenager and like that it was also sent through the air flying to him.

    “Yi! A letter?” The cold faced teenager’s unchanging appearance suddenly broke as he received it. And as he began reading his eyes slightly widened in shock. Once he was finished reading he was at loss for a couple of seconds with rapidly blinking eyes.

    “You…”, he pursed lips with a struggling expression, “I can’t really deal with this myself it seems.”

    Just as Ip An was beginning to question the strangeness of that pouch, his jaw immediately dropped when he saw the cold-face teenager pull out a three-meter long grey sword from it with just a wave of his hand. And that wasn’t all. It even began floating in mid-air. And then the cold-faced teenager hopped onto it like he was as light as a feather! Ip An had no words. One by one all of these immortal techniques were used right in front of his very eyes. And the other person didn’t even bat an eye!

    “Hop on”, the cold-face teenager’s facade resumed.

    Ip An’s confirmed in disbelief as he eyed the flying sword as if God had just descended, “R-Really?”

    “Yes, of course”, the teenager gave a slight smile seeing his awe-struck expression. His reaction made him feel some sense of pride so he wasn’t offended at all despite his useless question. Even then, he could sense that Ip An was just a mortal so he naturally expected him to be surprised upon seeing what an immortal like him could do.

    Shortly after, Ip An hopped onto the sword and expected to be holding onto the immortal for support but found that the sword was seemingly as stable as the ground he walked on. It felt strangely unnatural that it felt like this. Without warning, they launched through the air at a frightening speed that nearly caused Ip An to scream but luckily didn’t when he reminded himself that he was in the presence of an immortal.

    Quickly, they rose high enough to exit the fog and a tranquil mountain range filled with greenery entered his vision. And upon these mountains were small dots that quickly expanded to otherworldly buildings that seemed straight out of a tale. High rising pavilions that had several floors, colossal halls that spanned hundreds of meters and grand stone monuments. It was like heaven!

    They continued flying past all of these sights and tall mountains for a couple of hours and during all this Ip An did not ever get sick of it. The whole time there was an uncontainable smile on his face as he looked at the amazing views. Additionally, as they flew in the air there were also other people flying through the air. And when they saw him, many would raise an eyebrow and give the cold-faced teenager a strange look. And Ip An had managed to get the courage to ask for his name despite his cold affront and learnt it was Luan Shui.

    Eventually, the pair landed in front of a particular hall on a noticeably smaller mountain compared to all the other ones he had seen. From the outside, it was built out of expensive wood and carefully shaped to create patterns that would cause Ip An to question how long it would’ve taken to do that. And as they entered the place the wealth of the Bloody Path Sect, as he knew it was called from the letter, became very evident. These guys were just monsters with all the wealth priceless treasures they were hoarding!

    As they walked inside, they were both greeted by a male servant that quickly attended to them with a bright smile. They completely ignored Ip An, however, only acknowledging Luan Shui, “Senior Martial Brother Luan, what brings you to the guest hall today?”

    Luan Shui gestured to Ip An beside him, “This mortal boy has just presented the Heaven-Chosen Medallion and thus I wish to have him retire here in the guest hall until I sort out this matter with the Inner Sect Stewards. Make sure to take good care of him.”s

    The servant suddenly looked at Ip An with a surprised look on his face, “The Heaven-Chosen Medallion! The last time one of those was used was centuries ago, I even forgot they exist if I hadn’t been an avid reader of the sect’s ancient records myself. But don’t worry Senior! This servant will make sure to take great care of this valuable guest.”

    Luan Shui gave a nod before leaving, his long black hair swaying side to side underneath the golden-hair pin at the back of his head. After Luan Shui exited the hall the servant’s attitude changed as he ordered with a disinterested expression, “Follow me.”

    Ip An followed in the male servant’s footsteps and after a couple of turns through some equally grandiose hallways at the side of the main hall, the servant stopped at a particular closed door. Then, he pulled out a green gem from a leather pouch that looked identical to Luan Shui’s apart from being a slightly duller colour. He too used the same wave of his arm to pull out the green gem as it floated in the air in front of him. Yet again Ip An was in awe but this time he was more used to it. It was still a novel experience seeing this.

    “Go inside”, the servant ordered after the green gem lit up in a bright light that caused the doors to ease open. With no other option, Ip An went inside with a wry smile slightly sensing that something was off. But, just as he took a couple of steps inside the door behind him swung close.

    Ip An became alarmed as he screamed, “What’s the meaning of this!”

    A devious chuckle came from the servant who was on the other side of the door, “Sorry, but you’re an unknown factor. Luan Shui is going to address this matter to the stewards of the inner court who are essentially in charge of all internal matters of the sect. They will decide what your fate is. After all, you are but a mere mortal and as I said earlier it has been centuries since the Heaven-Chosen Medallion has been enacted by someone. Until then, you stay put inside this room. And don’t try to escape. It is useless. Even that immortal I call Senior Martial Brother Luan cannot escape this room.”

    Hearing this, Ip An lost all hope and he felt uncertain of what was going to happen in the future. What was going to happen to him? All kinds of unpleasant possibilities flashed through his mind. Soon, he let out a long sigh and turned away from the door and looked around at the room he was in.

    It was surprisingly very bare for a guest room in an immortal sect. Well, if he thought about it was to be expected. He was just a mortal.

    There were only four things, a thin bamboo bed in the middle of the room, a small pond of water in the far right corner, a wooden table and chair and a small bookshelf filled with books. This wasn’t including the bright white gem that kept the whole room illuminated in a low light that was just the right of brightness for his eyes.

    Although Ip An became excited when he saw those books he wanted to familiarise himself with the room and take some time to intake the situation. After a short walk around the room and sticking his finger into the crystal-clear water that didn’t have even a single sign of muck in it he pulled out a few books from the library, sat down at the table and began flipping through all of them to distract himself.

    Either way, he couldn’t resist because the only books he had read were the same five books that his grandfather had possession of. They were by no means useless, it was enough content to let Ip An become fluent in reading with additional help from his grandfather. But as Ip An began reading he was very surprised. A majority of these books used terms and vocabulary he had never even heard of before. But by inferring their meaning and the characters they used, he could make a rough guess as to what they meant.

    Like this, he flicked through every book at a slowly increasing pace and once he was done he thought upon all of it for a moment. All of these books were about the history of the Bloody Path Sect. It made sense, if they were a guest then what else would they want a guest to read about in their spare time?

    But as Ip An briefly glazed over some of the sentences in these books he suddenly felt a slight chill run down his spine. This sect…

    According to one of the most exotic looking books that were titled, ‘Ancient Tales of the Bloody Path Sect’, apparently that the sect had been established over ten thousand years ago! That was…

    Although Ip An didn’t know it yet, the people in the sect in the Bloody Path Sect weren’t actually real immortals. It would be much more accurate to call them cultivators. Their lifespans depended on the deepness of their cultivation and surprisingly the very vast majority of cultivators never even passed the stage that actually increased their lifespans. Most were actually stuck with their original, unaltered mortal lifespans.

    But what Ip An thought was that everyone in the sect was over 10,000 years old! He almost fell from his chair in worry when he realised that he had been potentially in the presence of people who were older than even ancient kingdoms and the corpses of dead turtles.


    :D Holidays just started for me, I'm aiming to release at least 70 chapters over the course of these next two months, right up until the start of school next year!!
     
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  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 010 - Absence of Spiritual Roots
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Chapter 010 - Absence of Spiritual Roots


    Ancestor Ai!

    This name rang out within the hearts of every single steward in the hall at the exact same moment. They were the legendary person that had founded the Bloody Path Sect and over ten thousand years ago, had been a figure that dominated the entire world of cultivation. They slaughtered countless powerhouses and massacred entire sects and clans. Until one day they suddenly disappeared from thin air. And when over ten thousand years later, a letter that seemingly belongs to Ancestor Ai appears in the Bloody Path Sect, a storm is sure to brew!

    That’s why at this moment in the Bloody Path’s Grand Hall, it was dead silent.

    Inside, there were about forty white and red-robed figures seated at a long table crafted out of smooth, glistening brown oak wood that had been matured for many years within one of the sect’s medicinal gardens. These were all the Inner Court Stewards that managed the internal matters of the sect. Just moments ago, Ai Guanyu, a late descendant of Ancestor Ai had confirmed with certainty that the writing belonged to Ancestor Ai.

    When Luan Shui came in shortly before and informed them of this many were naturally very sceptical. But, after each and every steward had inspected the letter and the confirmation of Ai Guanyu, they were speechless. As for the Heaven-Chosen Medallion that Luan Shui had presented prior, they were given a pleasant surprise and it was indeed not a problem. However, that letter was a completely different matter entirely.

    There were currently many questions rushing inside the hearts of every single Stewart present. Why was a mortal boy in possession of it? For what reason did Ancestor Ai make this letter? Is there possibly more to this letter? Is there a hidden message? Are there any ulterior motives?

    The Head Stewart, Wei Jin, who sat at the end of the table opposite from the entrance suggested, “I will send a message for the Guest Hall to bring the mortal boy over, while we wait for him to arrive how about we discuss other matters so we can take out minds off of this. Is this agreeable?”

    Everyone gave an affirmative nod in response. Seeing this, Wei Jin caused a rectangular piece of paper to appear overhead with a wave of his hand. Then, he formed multiple complex hand gestures with his hands and that caused the paper to transform into a streak of golden light that disappeared out the entrance of the hall and into the distance.

    Soon, their discussions quickly returned to normal. But, nearly every single steward maintained an ever unchanging outer appearance that showed not even the slightest hint to their inner thoughts as they secretly thought about this matter very deeply.

    Suddenly, a clear voice echoed from the entrance of the hall, “Yu Zhedong of Guest Hall reporting! I have brought the mortal, Ip An as requested by Wei Jin.”

    Their discussion abruptly stopped as every single pair of eyes in the room landed on a dark-tanned small boy with jet black hair that stood just a few steps away from Yu Zhedong. This was Ip An. But surprisingly, he was wearing clean, silky white robes instead of the farmer clothes that he had been wearing since he embarked at the Fifth-Step Village. Furthermore, his hair, skin and appearance had been cleaned up well enough to barely pass as presentable in front of the Inner Court stewards.

    When Ip An thought about what occurred just a couple of hours ago at the guest hall, Ip An let out a slightly pained chuckle. It was late in the afternoon and he had been reading for several hours. Just as he plopped himself down onto the bamboo bed, Yu Zhedong suddenly charged into his room while screaming about how he had to get ready for the Inner Court Stewarts. And that if his appearance wasn’t passable then his reputation would suffer.

    Like this, he underwent some very unpleasant things to have him prepared as quickly as possible. But through this scrupulous method his skin, face, body odour and hair had undergone a complete transformation! He went from a poor, scruffy village boy to a slightly less poor, scruffy village boy. Seeing that all his efforts had done nearly nothing to fix his painfully common appearance, Yu Zhedong was quite frustrated.

    Alas, he could do nothing else and they immediately jumped on his flying sword and travelled to the Great Hall at his maximum speed. And on the way Yu Zhedong completely expected Ip An to have the mannerisms and speech of a country bumpkin so he planned to teach him at least a few key points so he didn’t lose face. But soon he found out that it was the exact opposite and found himself talking to a person that acted and talked like an old person who had read many books.

    And thus, Ip An now stood in front of the stewards of The Bloody Path Sect. Being straightforward, Ip An was incredibly terrified. It felt like he was being watched down by a pack of predators. His whole body was slightly shaking, his heart racing and his mind uneasy. He was standing in front of people who could kill him with but a single thought, he was but a tiny ant compared to them. No wonder, that servant had treated him so differently compared to Luan Shui. Mortals were basically lesser beings to immortals.

    “Restrain your gazes!” Wei Jin boomed, staring down the several stewards who were giving gazes that eked just the slightest trace of hostility. Once their hostile gazes stopped, Ip An felt like someone had just taken off a boulder that had been weighing him down his whole life. He was no longer shaking and his heart had calmed down considerably. With a dry mouth, Ip An stared at the ground with uncertainty still in his heart, unsure of what was going to happen to him.

    “Ip An is your name?” Wei Jin asked, noticing the slight strangeness of his name.

    “Yes, Immortal”, Ip An cupped his hands and bowed with his eyes continuing to stare straight at the ground, afraid to look anyone accidentally in the eyes.

    Wei Jin stroked his long brown beard that had several grey hairs, “So according to Luan Shui you had received the Heaven-Chosen Medallion and the letter from your grandfather, is this correct?”

    “Yes”, Ip An answered cordially.

    “And what is the name of your grandfather?” Wei Jin stopped stroking his beard and just looked at Ip An with a strange look.

    “His name was Ip Nan!” Ip An revealed, wondering if his grandfather possibly had some connection to the Bloody Path Sect. Yet, when he said that name there was no reaction from anyone.

    “Does anyone know of an Ip Nan?” Wei Jin asked while scanning every single Stewart with his gaze. After several moments of silence, still, no one answered.

    Wanting to learn more about this Ip Nan had nearly no relation to the Bloody Path Sect, Wei Jin asked several more questions in quick succession about him. Yet, none of them revealed any clues. Additionally, he also asked questions about Ip An, such as how long it took him to get to the Bloody Path Sect, where his village was located and his age.

    As Wei Jin exhausted all the questions he had in mind, he heard a voice in his head.

    “Brother Wei! Let’s just soul search the boy and have this be done with. I need to urgently leave for the Annual Xia Province Trade Meeting as soon as possible in case I miss any rare opportunities. So don’t waste my time any further!” A disgruntled male voice with a hint of slight annoyance resounded in Wei Jin’s mind.

    Hearing this voice, Wei Jin looked at a certain white and red-robed fatty with sharp eyebrows who was just five seats down from him on the right-side. The fatty didn’t even notice Wei Jin’s gaze and merely continued playing with the delicate, red-furred fox that sat in his lap. For a few moments, he considered this proposition but then gazed at Ip An’s figure with gentle eyes.

    Finally, he let out a long sigh and said, “Since asking Ip An any further questions will most likely be useless, let’s just address the matter of him presenting the Heaven-Chosen Medallion.”

    Hearing this, the fatty’s face slightly twitched in annoyance.

    “It has been over 600 years since someone has presented a Heaven-Chosen Medallion to the Bloody Path Sect! However, this does mean that yours is any less invalid or worth more in any way. You will receive the same benefits as any person that has used it before. In accordance with the official sect rules, you will now directly enter the inner sect, be gifted a top rank magic tool of your liking, and one hundred low-grade spiritual stones”, Wei Jin announced, “Welcome to the Bloody Path Sect, Ip An.”

    When Ip An heard this, he became quite elated. He was going to join the ranks of immortals! All kinds of dreams and possibilities quickly flashed through Ip An’s mind. Finally, he gained the courage to look up and saw the accepting wrinkly smile of Wei Jin.

    But suddenly, Ai Guanyu’s voice interrupted this moment, “Correct me if I am mistaken, but I am certain that when Luan Shui reported to us, he said that he had checked to see if Ip An had any spiritual roots in secret while they were flying to the Guest Hall. And it turned out that he had none”, that last sentence resounded throughout Ip An multiple times. From his brief reading session in the guest hall and the context of the situation, he could sense that not having spiritual roots was not a good thing.

    Wei Jin became alarmed, “Ip An, come on over so I can confirm if this is true or not.”

    With an anxious heart, Ip An scurried over with his head down under the many gazes and stares of the other Inner Court Stewards. Now standing just a meter away from Wei Jin, the other person asked, “Give me your hand.”

    Ip An wordlessly stuck his hand out. After leaving his hand hanging for a couple seconds, Wei Jin grabbed his wrist and suddenly closed his eyes as if he had just gone into a deep meditation. A couple of seconds went by and Wei Jin reopened his eyes with a slight frown.

    “Hmm, indeed. He does not have any spiritual roots”, Wei Jin acknowledged. His voice then changed to reveal a slight sense of surprise as he continued, “However, I also sensed a small thread of Inner Qi within his lower dantian. This is very strange.”

    Hearing this, Ip An became desperate to know what was happening so he asked Wei Jin with a slightly nervous voice, “Immortal, what is a spiritual root? And what’s Inner Qi?”

    Wei Jin’s question caused him to give a pained expression as he explained, “Spiritual roots are what allows us to intake heaven’s spiritual energy. Without them, one cannot walk onto the path of immortality no matter how hard they try. It is simply hopeless. As for inner qi, it is essentially internal life energy that is cultivated by mortal martial artists in the secular world to utilise their various martial techniques.”

    Wei Jin’s explanation had revealed how he had survived that fateful day in the abandoned temple. In Ip An’s mind, there was no other explanation other than that he had somehow gained inner qi! He had the power of powerful martial artists dormant in his body. Yet at the same time, Ip An suddenly became very depressed discovering he was unable to tread the path of immortality.
     
    GWrangler likes this.
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 011 - Paralysing Killing Intent
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Chapter 011 - Paralysing Killing Intent



    After hearing that he had no spiritual roots, meaning that he was unable to walk the path of immortality, Ip An became quite depressed. Some hope appeared when Ai Guanyu mentioned, “Although Ip An is a mere mortal, he essentially presented us with a letter of recommendation from Ancestor Ai, the founder of this very sect in combination with the Heaven-Chosen Medallion. If we were to “renegade on her word and the decree of the medallion, even if the person in question is a mortal, wouldn’t this be considered a very unfilial action and unfair to Ip An?”

    He began stabbing needles into the people who he knew would be least favourable towards the idea of Ip An joining the sect as he continued, “Do we, the Inner Court Stewards that represent the Bloody Path Sect on all internal matters really have the face to steal from a mortal boy? Even then, I can say with much certainty that the words of Ancestor Ai overwrite any rules that our sect has. You can’t just send him off with nothing.”

    The Stewards spent several moments thinking on Ai Guanyu’s words until Wei Jin pondered, “Hmm, Brother Ai’s words are definitely quite agreeable. Is everyone else in favour?”

    Everyone nodded in agreement, albeit the fatty gave a very stiff one, an impatient expression of displeasure on his face. He was clearly in opposition to a mortal potentially joining the sect but painfully nodded his head in agreement as he didn’t want to become an outlier and waste his own time.

    “However, we still have to make a compromise”, Wei Jin stated.

    He looked to his side where Ip An stood as he proposed, “How about this Ip An. One of my close relatives is the leader of a very wealthy and influential clan in Peerless Cliff City. I can simply send him a single letter and you can live in supreme luxury for the rest of your life. What do you think?”

    Ip An was slightly shocked for a second but soon began pondering Wei Jin’s words. If Ip An was being honest, Wei Jin’s words were very tempting. He could do literally whatever he pleased if he decided to live that kind of life. He wouldn’t have to worry about anything at all except what he wanted to do every day when he woke up. He would be living like a king!

    But Ip An remembered the promise he made to himself and his grandfather. He had to make him proud. If he was still alive, what would he think if he decided to just live his life like that? To just live without any challenges or difficulties. Living on top of the efforts and work of others. Besides, Ip An had been a village boy his whole life, he couldn’t see himself living in riches in a big city the rest of his life. It would just never feel right.

    And he would be a fool to be tricked by Wei Jin. He wasn’t going to be dealt with that easily. His heart was already set on joining the sect, there was no other way he was willing to go.

    Ip An responded, “I am deeply sorry, but I am going to have to reject Immortal’s proposition.”
    Many Stewards were at a loss when they saw Ip An reject Wei Jin. Many now had a newfound respect for his bravery while otherwise were ticked off thinking that Ip An was merely being an ungrateful brat and was asking for the moon.

    Wei Jin wasn’t offended but rose an eyebrow as he investigated, “Then what is it that you want?”

    Ip An pondered what he wanted to say for a short moment before answering in a humble tone, “All this one wishes for is to enter the Bloody Path Sect. Immortal does not even need to give me anything or make me what Immortal calls an ‘inner sect disciple’. Simply let me enter the sect as if I was just another ordinary disciple. I do not ask of anything else.”

    Ip An’s proposal caused many to wonder what Wei Jin’s decision would be.

    “That is…”, Wei Jin made an exaggerated expression of struggle, “Doable. But what does everyone else think? If we get a majority vote then i will allow it.”

    Immediately, a number of hands were thrown up, showing an overwhelming majority vote in favour of Wei Jin. If one didn’t know better then they would think that these people all agreed with Wei Jin. But this was far from the truth. These people were simply part of Wei Jin’s faction, this included Ai Guanyu. But, the fatty, for example, was part of the other faction in the Inner Court Stewards. Wei Jin’s faction accounted for about seventy-five per cent of the Inner Court Stewards.

    Whereas, the remaining twenty-five per cent were led by a coarse, irritable young man named Fu Cheng. If it weren’t for him being absent on this particular day, then Ip An’s process of entering the sect would not be as smooth. There would’ve been significantly much more resistance from the other faction. But Fu Cheng was missing, so it had played out as it has currently.

    As for Ip An, he could barely contain the excitement that was rushing through his body. A bright smile was brought to his face as he began to repeatedly thank Wei Jin with deep gratitude, bowing several times in the process. At that moment, he swore that he would repay Wei Jin someday for his kindness towards him.

    ……

    “And this is where you’ll be living”, a tall man with small eyes and a long face gestured to the small wooden house in front of him. On the right side of it was a small vegetable garden and sitting on a wooden chair beside the house’s entrance was a snoozing middle-aged man with greying hair.

    A small child with tanned skin wearing the same white and red robes as the tall man asked, “With him?”

    This was Ip An.

    “Correct”, the long-faced man confirmed before continuing, “Since you are still a child you will need someone to watch over you. This place has all you need to survive so you don’t have to be hiking up mountains to get all your necessities. If you had spiritual roots, then you would be sent to the Training Pavilion. But Wei Jin would like to keep your entrance into the sect a relative secret so he sent you out here. And this is good for you too. I can imagine many prideful and hot-blooded disciples would try stirring trouble if they found out about you.”

    The long-faced man’s words realise how much Wei Jin had put thought into this. He had only become even more indebted to the Head Stewart.

    “Now that I have introduced you to the sect and all its rules, dropped you off at your permanent residence and you have gathered what you need, I will bid you goodbye. And a piece of advice, make sure to leave a good first impression on old Manzi, you don’t want to get on his bad side.”

    The long-faced man then swiftly hopped onto his flying sword and into the distance. When Ip An turned around to face the house, the ordinary-looking man had already awoken. Noticing the man’s sleepy gaze on him, he walked over and introduced himself, “Greetings! This one’s name is Ip An. I am going to be living with you from this day forth. Please treat me well.”

    Ip An bowed, respecting the other person’s seniority. When he lifted himself back up, he saw them wiping their teary eyes while letting out a low yawn. Once the ordinary-looking man was done he stared at Ip An with a blank face for several seconds.

    “Are you oka-”, as Ip An was in the middle of asking his question, the ordinary-looking man released a frighteningly strong killing intent that paralyzed his whole body. A moment later, a fist seemingly made out of leather met his face, sending his face directly into the ground. Ip An’s vision quickly darkened as he fell unconscious.

    ……

    As Ip An woke up, his eyes met a dark-brown wooden ceiling. For a few seconds, he stared blankly, until he suddenly jerked up and looked at his surroundings. Where was he? He was inside a small room with a closed door. He currently laid on a mattress made out of thatching, and covering his body was a thin white quilt.

    Anxious, Ip An jumped to his feet and exited the room. As looked around at the homely house, decorated with quite a few objects, he spotted an ordinary-looking man middle-aged man sipping tea while reading a book in his left hand. This was the very person who had just knocked him unconscious.

    Ip An’s clenched his fists tightly as he began approaching them. A strong fear of this person had already developed in Ip An’s heart, but his courage was stronger.

    “Why did you punch me?” Ip An asked, his eyes glazing over the words the man seemed to be reading at that very moment.

    He was ignored. The man’s eyes remained on the book below him as if Ip An was not there. That’s when Ip An recognized that book. It was one of the books he had chosen out from the Sect’s Library earlier today with the long-faced man!

    “Is that also my book?” Ip An asked with a slightly frustrated expression due to being ignored. Yet again the man ignored him. Having enough, Ip An walked even closer, intending to steal the book from him. But before he could take a second step the man gave him a gaze filled with the same intense killing intent as before. It completely paralysed Ip An like last time, he was unable to fight back.

    “I will talk to you when I’m finished reading”, his eyes widened to a scary degree as his eyes seemed to pierce into his very soul. It felt like he was going to kill him at any moment, his life akin to a flickering candle in the midst of a large storm.

    As he turned back to his book, his killing intent dissipated, allowing Ip An to move again. A cold shiver ran down his whole spine as he thought about what he had just experienced. He struggled to also fight back tears in pure fear towards the man.

    “I have to listen to this person. He’s not afraid to do what he says he will. Let’s just do as he says. I have no hope at defeating him in a fight even with the strength that my inner qi can give me”, Ip An analysed before walking away from the man with an erratic heartbeat.

    Acknowledging this, he went to explore the rest of the house he would be living in as that scary man was reading. He almost couldn’t believe he was living with someone like this. But after all the things he had seen in the last two days, it became quite believable and was actually quite tame in comparison.

    Immortal techniques, flying swords, structures that seemed as if they had been directly plucked from the heavens. It was a lot to take in. But it wasn’t bad. It actually excited Ip An very much.

    A couple of hours passed as Ip An familiarised himself with both the outside and inside of the house. Eventually, Ip An decided on something and sat opposite of the man as he read. A couple of hours passed like this but just as the sun was starting to set, the man flipped the last page and placed the green book on the table in front of him and let out a long sigh.

    When the man looked up, he courageously looked him straight in the eyes, unwilling to back down in front of him.
     
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  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 012 - New Understandings
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    The man cleared his throat, “Excuse my behaviour from before. I was just testing you.”

    “Uncle was testing me?” Ip An repeated those words in extreme fascination, emphasising his use of the word ‘uncle’ very heavily to try and pretend as if hadn’t just gone off on the man in frustration just earlier.

    “I was incredibly disappointed. You froze up the second I used even a slither of my killing intent”, the man complained as if Ip An was a faulty product, “It had been years since I had seen someone with awakened Inner Qi, and it just had to be some scrawny kid from out in the sticks? I would rather be living with a monkey right now.”

    The man crossed his arms, giving Ip An a hostile look. Ip An’s heart skipped when he discovered that


    felt a hit to his self-esteem and pride hearing the man’s criticism.

    “Though I guess I can excuse this since you came here with some very nice books indeed”, the man patted the small stack of books laying on the table very sensationally. These were the books that Ip An had brought from the Sect’s library when he was with the long-faced man.

    “What is your name?”, the man asked while slightly turning his head. His eyes were still partially focused on the books on the table, treating them like priceless treasures.

    “Ip An”, he answered with a clear voice, “What is Uncle’s?”

    “You need not know my real name”, the man informed, “Call me Manzi.”

    “Yes! Uncle Manzi”, Ip An shouted with enthusiasm.

    “Good”, Ip An calling his name brought a pleasant smile to his face, “However before you settle in here. I want to make some things very clear. From now on, you will be doing all the chores around here. Secondly, you are to not enter my room without my permission. And most importantly, you will listen to everything I say, and do it, no matter what it is. Is that clear?”

    Ip An nodded vigorously, afraid to make Manzi think otherwise.

    “Good. Now follow me so I can show you what you’ll have to be doing every day from now on”, Manzi stood out of his seat, signalling for Ip An to follow. In the time it would take to finish a meal, Manzi led Ip An around and outside the house, telling him everything he would have to do. But by the end of it all, Ip An could feel that Manzi’s attitude towards him was similar to that of a mere chore boy. Not a Bloody Path Sect Disciple.

    After, as Ip An had an awfully silent dinner with Manzi, consisting of some fresh cooked rabbit, rice and vegetables, he thought with careful consideration about what he was going to do with his time.

    Since he was unable to cultivate, he decided he would practice mortal martial art techniques instead. Unlike cultivation, anyone could practice them! That’s when Ip An had an idea. Cultivators are beings that dedicate their whole lives to transcending their mortal form. Therefore, they should be very knowledgeable on all matters concerning the human body.

    That’s why he asked the oddly kind and very talkative long-faced man, named Li Shufen, about inner qi and awakening. Plus, after hearing what he had to say he became incredibly excited to start learning. Li Shufen explained that inner qi existed in every single living organism, big or small. It was even present in even the tiniest blades of grasses! Though in extremely miniscule amounts. Inner qi could be utilised to perform supernatural feats such as jumping over buildings with a single leap and breaking boulders with a single punch. This explained why Ip An had suddenly gained such raw strength and speed when he had fought Huang Shu.

    However, he was confused as to why he suddenly lost these supernatural abilities once he had defeated Huang Shu. During his journey to Peerless Cliff City, no matter how hard he tried, focused or willed it to happen, he wasn’t able to replicate what happened at the temple. He used this opportunity to also ask why this had happened.

    Hearing this, Li Shufen gave a small chuckle as if what Ip An had just said was a funny joke. Ip An became confused but Li Shufen quickly explained that in order to be able to consciously use inner qi, he would have to spend many gruelling years learning how to sense and manipulate it. He had only been able to use his inner qi because he was in a life or death battle. He had subconsciously manipulated his inner qi in order to help him escape death.

    As for Ip An’s awakening, Li Shufen was pleasantly surprised when he realised he had awakened. Essentially, a person would awaken when their life energy was roused by an external force. This usually involved being in a life or death battle, but could also be caused by other things in extremely rare cases.

    Once a person awakens, their connection to their life energy and inner qi would significantly increase. Their life energy would also increase, usually allowing them to live past one hundred years of age as they would become impervious to disease and illness. But in rare cases like Ip An, who underwent an awakening during a period of growth their life energy would also have a higher capacity in the future, increasing future potential.

    In addition to these things, Ip An learnt a few things about cultivators. Firstly, the depth of one’s cultivation could be split into five stages: Qi Condensation, Foundation Establishment, Core Formation, Nascent Soul and finally Celestial Transformation. Qi condensation consisted of twelve layers. While every other stage consisted of an early, mid, late and peak stage. All representing a person’s progression through that stage.
    The Bloody Path Sect, for example, had several thousand qi condensation disciples, several hundred foundation establishment disciples, a dozen core formation elders and one nascent soul ancestor. As for Celestial Transformation cultivators, there were none.

    As for realms that existed above Celestial Transformation. No one knew what they were or if they even existed at all. It was merely speculated that those of even higher cultivation layers had already ascended to a higher realm.

    After finishing his dinner, Ip An retired to his room and as soon as his head hit the bed, he fell to sleep. The next morning, he began his chores like Manzi ordered him to. He tended and maintained the backyard garden, cleaned the house with a wet rag using water from a nearby pond and a duster and then swept dust off of a small, stone-tiled courtyard to the side of the house using an old, wooden broom.

    And by the time he was done, it was almost noon. With sweat beading down his forehead, he stripped naked and jumped into the pond that he had taken water from. He let out many blissful moans, relishing in the satisfying feeling of having done all his work. After several minutes, he hesitantly left the pond as if he was leaving the embrace of a long lost lover.

    He patted himself dry with a towel and then reclothed himself with a new pair of robes that were the same exact red and white as the ones he had received from Yu Zhedong. Strangely, Manzi had several dozens of pairs of robes all in varying sizes in a tiny closet in one of the hallways. But it was very convenient!

    Now that he had done all his work and had cleaned himself he began reading the books he had borrowed at the dinner table. There were three books in total, “Immortal Matters in the State of Xiang Province”, “Elementary Fighting Arts”, and “Insights of Inner Qi”. Ip An was only given three books to borrow. So, he only borrowed the most necessary things. A book that helped him understand the world of cultivation. A book on manipulating and using inner qi, with some additional basic techniques he could practice. Finally, a book that taught him basic fighting stances and moves.

    Ip An read in relative silence until sunset, reading each word with focus, trying to intake as much information as possible. He was determined to make the most out of these books. Then he had dinner. Though this time Manzi said he was quite pleased with him as he had done all the chores with no complaints or resistance. This made Ip An feel a bit of pride in his work. After, he fell asleep.

    In this manner, one week flew by. During this time, he read both “Insights of Inner Qi”, and “Immortal Matters in the State of Xiang Province”, twice, and “Elementary Fighting Arts” once. Ip An gained some decent insight into the State of Xiang’s current immortal affairs. And he had finally understood how inner qi worked quite thoroughly and what he had to do in order to learn how to manipulate it to his will.

    With this, Ip An the following day after he completed all his chores, instead of reading, had actually taken the bamboo mat from his room and chose a shady spot to sit down in the side courtyard. Once he was settled, he began breathing very slowly.

    “Before learning how to manipulate my inner qi, I first have to learn how to sense it. This process could take anywhere from one year to just a single month. Fortunately, I have awakened so this process should be slightly easier than it would be for other people. As long as I put in the time, effort and dedication I should see results. Let’s start”, Ip An silently thought to himself as he began slowing his breath.

    In order to sense his inner qi, he would have to basically unlock a sense that he didn’t even know existed. Fortunately, the book “Insights of Inner Qi” , listed techniques employed by nearly every single mortal martial artist when trying to first discover their inner qi.

    However, if an outsider saw Ip An trying to do this, they would shake their head many times. They would say what Ip An had to do first was condense a baseline of inner qi over the course of a few years so that he actually had something to sense. He couldn’t just condense inner qi for a couple months and then start trying to sense it. It would be akin to grasping at small threads with a blindfold on. But, if he condensed inner qi for several years, it would go from grasping at threads to grasping at a small piece of rope. There was a massive difference!

    Yet, when they realised that Ip An had already awakened, their eyes would turn red in jealousy!

    Ip An’s awakening had caused a small thread of inner qi to condense. This seemingly insignificant tiny thread of inner qi had actually saved him potentially several years of pain. This was the reason he was so excited to start cultivating earlier. He had such a massive jumpstart compared to everyone else!

    From noon till sunset, all Ip An did was breath in and out at a slow pace while performing meticulous introspection, trying to grasp at his inner qi. Yet, by the time Manzi entered the courtyard, calling him for dinner, he hadn’t even the slightest clue if he had done the right thing. Had he progressed or had he ended up taking a step back? It was a very straining thing to do, especially when he was just ten years old. But his determination was too strong for him to give up any time soon.

    AN: I spent way much more time on this chapter than i should've. literally 50 minutes past midnight when I'm posting this. *(extremely long sigh)*
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 013 - Genius
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    Upon a desolate mountain located in the eastern reaches of the Long Tang Mountain range, inside a tidy courtyard with not even a speck of dust or stray leaves from the trees that existed just beyond its tiny, thin walls sat an unassuming boy who was currently in silent meditation with his eyes closed. He was akin to a statue as he remained unmoving in the gentle breeze of wind that was caressing him. His only movements were the rising and lowering of his chest as he breathed in a very slow and controlled pattern. Strangely, even inside the boy’s mind, there was not a single thought that passed by. This was Ip An.

    As Ip An continued his meditation, the sky slowly began to turn from a calm blue to a lazy, dark shade of purple. Still, he remained in place. Suddenly, at this moment, Ip An grasped at a seemingly spiritual substance within his lower dantian. Upon discovering this, his face expressed a slight hint of surprise for the slightest moment.

    However, Ip An’s expression returned to normal as he swiftly calmed his mind, body and spirit. Fortunately, he maintained his grasp and he slowly began feeling his way around this substance. With every breath, he discovered more and more of what had been burrowed deep within himself. A few moments later, he fully encompassed it with this new, very strange sense. It wasn’t anything he had experienced before.

    This was Ip An’s inner qi.

    After a whole month of arduous meditation, he had finally sensed it! Like a ghost, it had constantly eluded him no matter how focused and concentrated he had become. There were many moments of doubt and times where he felt like giving up and just doing something. But, he soon realised something. If he gave up so early like this how would he ever be able to face anything difficult in the future? How would he be able to have the courage to speak to his future self? This would be nothing in comparison to the things he imagined himself doing in the future.

    Finally, he had gained the ability to sense his inner qi. The book he read called it spiritual sense, the exact same sense cultivators used to sense spiritual qi. Though, there was a slight difference between the two.

    Ip An wasn’t done yet. He continued to familiarise himself with this new sensation and his inner qi in fear that he would suddenly forget and be forced to start all over again. That would not be pleasant. Once he became confident that he now had a temporary grasp on this new sixth sense, he opened his eyes. Right in front of him in the exact same lotus position as him, was Manzi. He was currently staring at him with a very odd glint in his eyes.

    Seeing that Ip An had finished his meditation he began speaking in an almost envious tone.

    “One whole month to grasp your inner qi? You’re not half bad monkey!” Manzi stroked his chin with crazed laughter. He gazed at Ip An as if he was an incredibly fascinating animal that had just performed a trick from him!

    Hearing this praise from Manzi, his face turned a bright red as a very awkward smile formed.
    With stiff laughter he humbly thanked Manzi. Inside, Ip An became very alarmed and exposed. How exactly did Manzi know this? He knew that he was awakened just by looking at him once, and somehow he knew that Ip An had grasped his inner qi just then. This made Ip An only want to know who Manzi truly was?

    “How long had uncle been waiting for me?” Ip An asked embarrassingly.

    “I had only arrived a few short moments ago!” Manzi answered with an innocent smile.

    Hearing this, Ip An became confused. Only a few moments ago? Wouldn’t he have heard something then? How did he approach him without waking him up?

    “Uncle, when I was meditating I did not hear you approaching at all! How could this be?” Ip An asked curiously.

    “Haha!” Manzi laughed with all his white teeth showing, “Ever since I was a young teenager, I had always been light on my feet!”

    Ip An knew that Manzi was most likely making excuses. But he would just have to accept that he was unwilling to reveal anything. As Ip An ate dinner shortly after, he noticed Manzi mumbling underneath his breath incessantly, having not touched his food in the slightest. After finishing another steaming white bun that he packed some rabbit meat into, a combination that had become his favourite over the past month, he asked, “Is uncle okay?”

    When saying this, Ip An remembered what happened the last time he asked Manzi the same question. For a small instance, he tensed up, preparing himself for Manzi’s killing intent and a punch that both inevitably didn’t come.

    Manzi lifted his eyes up from his plate of food and stared at Ip An with conflicted eyes for a few moments. He let out a sigh filled with dread while rubbing his temples with one hand, “It seems you have forced my hand. I didn’t expect an awakened to have such monster talent. One month to sense your inner qi? That is simply unheard of.”

    Unheard of?

    ‘Could it be that I’m a genius?’, Ip An wondered. He couldn’t stop the corners of his lips from slightly curling into a tiny smirk.

    Manzi’s voice became incredibly imposing as he stared at Ip An in the eyes, “I underestimated your talent monkey. As any sensible person would do in my position, I am going to have to make you disciple. But, I’m going to tell you this right now. Countless geniuses have grovelled at my feet, begging me to take them in as my disciple. Yet, I ignored them and even senselessly beat a few who had been a bit too persistent. In comparison to you, however, they are trash. Mere insects. If you become my disciple I can guarantee that your strength will become unrivalled, comparable to even peak qi condensation disciples in this very sect!”

    Ip An was in disbelief, his small dissipating as his jaw slightly lowered, not fully accepting what Manzi just said. He was a genius? What made him a genius? He knew that in the past month, he had put in an immense amount of effort. He was proud of himself and was happy that he now was able to sense his inner qi, but he didn’t expect that what he did to be so extraordinary. Wasn’t he just ordinary?

    At the same time, hearing that Manzi was potentially a remarkable person he became curious. It made a lot of sense. After all, why did he have a killing intent that could literally paralyse him? He had ignored this fact for the past month, knowing that directly asking about it wouldn’t get him any answers. But now, he had a chance to satisfy his curiosity and see what kind of hidden strength Manzi had. Additionally, an opportunity to learn under this man as a disciple, and not as a servant.

    “Excuse me, but I have never seen Uncle’s strength before so I am feeling unsure. If Uncle could demonstrate some of his strength, then I will be able to feel at ease and come to a decision much faster. After all, deciding to come under a person’s tutelage is a life-changing decision that would heavily impact a person’s destiny is it not? Is this too difficult for Uncle to fulfil”, Ip An didn’t give immediately take in Manzi’s offer just yet?

    He remembered that one of the five books he had learned to read back in The Fith-Step Village, was a story about an unassuming imperial scholar who would fight toe to toe with very influential and powerful figures over internal affairs. He ended up overcoming every single one of his opponents through sheer wits and became a legendary figure amongst the imperial court. However, in the end, he ended up on the wrong side of history and was slaughtered in a coup de tat by a rebelling prince.

    Using what he saw the scholar did in this book, he cleverly enticed Manzi. Other than his grandfather, this very book was one of the reasons his speech was so refined for his age.

    Manzi chuckled with a confident smile, “Alright, I’ll show you a bit of my power. You are quite fortunate, not many have witnessed my strength and lived to tell the tale.”

    Manzi stood out of his seat and lead Ip An out the back of the house and to one of the mountain’s cliff faces that weren’t too far from their house. The cliff face was perpendicular to the ground, extending thousands of meters up into the air. Stacked in front of the cliff face were multiple humongous odd-shaped boulders and rocks.

    Manzi stopped just short of the cliff face and delegated with a pondering expression before silently walking over to a boulder about the size of an adult mammoth. He raised his right hand in slow motion and then hit the grey boulder with a normal punch. For a couple of seconds, nothing happened and Ip An had doubts for an instant while he watched on with expectant eyes.

    Suddenly, a crack formed down the middle of the boulder, with where Manzi punched as it’s origin point. Several cracks branched out from this crack and then several more cracks appeared from those ones in quick succession, this occurred with each and every crack that formed. All at once, the boulder collapsed both on the inside and outside, completely turning into dust.

    Manzi then turned back to Ip An with a sly smirk, “Did you think nothing was going to happen for a second? Ha! What do you think? I’m happy to have you prostate yourself right now if you want!”

    Ip An’s jaw completely dropped, his eyes bulging to the size of ripe fruit. Manzi had just turned a boulder into dust with seemingly the slightest bit of effort. This was going to be his master? Manzi was right! He was willing to drop onto the dirt right now and prostrate himself, worried that he would go back on his offer.

    Ip An praised with a slight bow and cupped hands, “Uncle, I have no more doubts about Uncle’s strength. If you may, I wholeheartedly wish to learn from Uncle!”

    Manzi gave a satisfied smile and immediately had Ip An perform three kowtows and a short initiation ceremony with him repeating a few words after him several times. And like that, it was completed.

    “Now that you are my disciple, I guess I will have to excuse you from your chores and hire a servant again like I used to before you came. Go get plenty of rest tonight, you will be needing it tomorrow and every day thereon”, Manzi explained as he walked back with Ip An to the house with his hands behind his back.

    “Yes, Master!” Ip An replied with pride, knowing that he had just gone under the tutelage of a profound master.
     
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  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 014 - Pain
    bandicoot879

    bandicoot879 Getting out there.

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    “Again”, Manzi’s monotone voice caused Ip An’s immense dread to further increase. With both fists, the skin completely torn off, muscles and tendons exposed he sluggishly punched the wooden board in front of him with his right. Where Ip An had been punching over the last few hours, a small sphere of dry, dark blood had formed.

    As Ip An’s fist impacted against the familiar wood, a sharp pain stabbed into his fist, causing it to ache, his body begging him to stop. His shoulders were on fire, completely exhausted from all the rotation and explosive movement.

    Just as Ip An was expecting the pain to continue, Manzi gave a short clap, “Well done, I am pleased.”

    Breathing heavily, his fists drooped down by his sides, he looked at Manzi with a distant stare wondering if this was the end of it. He could feel himself preparing to tear up at any second from the pain, but he resisted the urge.

    “From hereon, today’s training will become your daily routine”, Manzi declared, his short jet black hair slightly ruffling in the wind, “Pain makes you strong, those who do not know pain as well as you, are weaker. If you know pain more than anyone else, you will be unrivalled and have nothing to fear.”

    Ip An began to internally regret his decision to become Manzi’s student so hastily, he should’ve asked what he would be doing. But, here he was now. This torturer, his so-called master had put him through hell. He had been punching a wooden board that Manzi had suddenly erected with alternating fists for four hours at a constant pace. If Ip An didn’t keep up with his pace he would get brutally kicked in the abdomen, which would send deep, rupturing pain throughout all his organs. Luckily, he learnt very quickly what the timing was and only got kicked three times.

    Ip An had cried. A lot. But halfway through, he ran out of tears, the only signs of his weeping being his incredibly red cheeks and red eyes. After this session, Ip An didn’t like Manzi. He despised him. He hated his very existence. But he was too beat up to care, he needed to heal and rest. However, when hearing he would be doing this every day he looked down at his blood-soaked hands, in disbelief at how he would be able to recover for tomorrow. By the end of the week, wouldn’t he bleed out?

    Manzi’s next words rang like bells, giving Ip An some much-needed relief, “What I put you through today has been very intense, but I am not a sadist who likes to cripple young children. Out the front of the house, I have prepared a herbal bath for you to soak your whole body in. Through this method, you will completely recover and be able to train again tomorrow with no worries.”

    Ip An followed Manzi to the front of the house, where his small hopes for a session of relaxation were quickly crushed.

    Several meters in front of the house, stood a waist-height barrel filled with poisonous green liquid, with green leaves floating about in it. A horrible stench wafted into nostrils as his eyes met the brown barrel, though he was unable to close his nose due to the current conditions of his fists.

    “Strip, then hop in”, Manzi said, observing the reluctant Ip An.

    Although Ip An wanted to protest, his fists were in more pain than what he was smelling. Even though he hated Manzi right now, he knew that he could at least trust him that the herbal bath would help heal him from his training. In just a few moments, Ip An stripped, using some awkward movements to take off his clothes due to his destroyed fists.

    With no further hesitation, he hopped into the surprisingly warm bath, the only thing good about the bath. The putrid smell became even worse as he sat in the barrel, his nose only a very short distance away from the strange-coloured liquid. As Ip An sat in the bath, his body completely submerged apart from the top of his neck and his head, he could slowly feel the pain in his fists fading away.

    Due to Ip An’s tired mind, his aching hands and his desire to just relax, the next hour flew by extremely quickly. Suddenly, he was awoken by Manzi, who was giving him a stern look, “ Get out now. You’ve exhausted all of the bath’s herbal properties.”

    Slightly unwilling but happy to leave the bath, he hopped out of the bath, the herbal bath’s water dripping down him. Ip An then dried himself and accepted the new clean robes Manzi had gifted him with.

    As Ip An was dressing, he subtly noticed that his fists were no longer in pain and had miraculously completely healed. In place of his injury was now new, tender white flesh and skin. In fact, it felt like he held a stronger connection to them after all the suffering he put himself and his fists through. Ip An looked back at the barrels with an incredulous look, trying to wrap his head around how a herbal bath had healed his injuries. He had vaguely heard of such things, he knew they were most likely to exist and to actually work as they were rumoured to, but it hit entirely different when he had just undergone the experience himself.

    Finally finished with his training, but dreading the fact he still had to do this every day from now on, he spent the rest of his afternoon meditating inside his room. He gently pondered upon the sensation of his inner qi sitting within his lower dantian. As of now, Ip An still had to get familiar with his inner qi before manipulating it, because if he made a mistake with his inner qi early on, there was a high chance an accident may occur and he could potentially, injure, cripple or even kill himself.

    After that, he would have to learn to manipulate it and then learn to use it to the specifications of the techniques he would practice. This, even for Ip An the suddenly proclaimed genius, would take him a whole year to accomplish. Still, this was freaky fast as others would take upwards of even ten years to accomplish what he would in one year.

    Yet, this was but an estimation from Manzi. Ip An saw some truth in this though. As Ip An was currently meditating, he felt that the connection he had with his inner qi was slightly intimate, like that of a mother and their child. It felt warm, comforting and gentle to sense his inner qi.

    Later, as Ip An had his dinner, he asked Manzi about certain things concerning his training.

    “I will give you a firm reminder of the process I am putting you through. You will first have to forge a body that can be put through even the worst pain imaginable and endure through the toughest of situations. Train your inner qi to a profoundly deep instinctual level using the techniques I train you in. And lastly, you will form a powerful killing intent through glorious battle and slaughter. In that order, no other way will you do this”, Manzi finished his meal of rice, vegetables and meat long ago. It was a meal that he and Ip An had every day, though he wasn’t complaining as it was much better than what he had been eating his whole life.

    “This is the method I believe is suited best for your long term-potential”, Manzi noted, gazing at the front of Ip An’s hands with squinted eyes as he ate with his wooden chopsticks.

    “I will say this now, I will not allow you to leave until I squeeze every single bit of potential I can out of you. It will be a waste of your talent if I don’t do it. Your life from now on will be incredibly tough and filled with many days that you wish your suffering would just end already. Your existence too painful to consider anything else, but the ending of that very pain. But once you have completed your training, to a level where I feel like I have nothing else to teach you, you will be free to walk your own path if you so wish”, Manzi’s words gave Ip An something to look forward to.

    Ip An wanted to train in martial arts, but Manzi’s method was just too brutal and involved too much pain for him to handle. He wanted to practice it in a way that involved hard work, but not torturous pain for extended periods of time. He was scared, very scared of all the pain he was going to potentially be put through in the future. That’s why, after Ip An escaped from the dinner table and slept that night, he began to silently cry in pain.

    “You are always free to give up any time you want, but just know that from that point on you will never amount to anything but trash”, Manzi’s words struck him deeply. This caused Ip An to become very split between the decisions he had right now.

    He could either train under Manzi training and fulfil his potential to its fullest, or go his own way with no one to guide him. He would sitll progress but without Manzi’s guidance or any light in the darkness, he could get lost and end up doing useless things. Ip An wanted to tap into the talent the best he could. He knew he only had one life, he knew that he apparently had talent that was coveted by countless martial artists that were willing to train much harder than him, but was it worth going through all this pain?

    He spent several moments pondering this question, the words echoing out throughout his mind several times, begging for him to answer its calling. That’s when several images suddenly flashed through his mind. His grandfather’s cold hands, Manzi’s boulder-dissolving punch, and the arduous three-month journey filled with countless peril. His duty of fulfilment to his grandfather, his aspirations to strive for strength and all his prior effort that he spent getting here.

    He was still at the starting line, and this was the last time. The very last time he would hesitate, or dishonour these things. Ip An’s hairs stood on their ends, goosebumps forming as an iron resolved slowly formed.

    Pain?

    He would embrace it.

    Strength?

    He would become unrivalled.

    He made these two promises to himself. He was not going to let life make him question what he was doing and for what reason. He would never stop. Never.

    The next day, Ip An arrived at the side courtyard with Manzi, his eyes filled with a newfound determination. He knew Manzi’s training was going to be hell. But, with the strength, he saw he possessed. He had no doubt of the effectiveness of his methods. He would do this, and become stronger. No matter the suffering he would have to go through.

    Ip An stared at the wooden board in front of him, waiting for Manzi’s signal, his eyes seemingly staring through it.
     
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