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Volume Five Chapter 1: Night of Shangdu
A bright moon reflected in the still waters of the well.
In the Yan Shangdu, beside this well was Zhang Yi, resting and rubbing his swollen and aching right shoulder.
For cultivators like him, carrying water was not a difficult task. But the paths in some parts of Celestial Seal Sect were very different from the paths in the rest of the world. Carrying water in through places was much more difficult than ordinary people carrying water on a mountain path.
“Why are you not sad?”
A familiar voice reached his ears. He knew it was Su Qin.
He slowly turned around and was confused when he saw Su Qin walk towards him in the night.
Su Qin looked coolly at him. He stood by the other side of the well and repeated, “Why are you not sad?”
Zhang Yi was slightly surprised, but out of politeness, he still responded. “Why should I be sad?”
“You had the best cultivation in White Goat Cave, and were favoured the most by the teachers. In the Min Mountain Sword Trials, you received an opportunity to study in Min Mountain Sword Sect. You count as outstanding in Changling. But here, you are the lowest of the low. Just this month, you were punished by carrying water seven times.”
Su Qin said with slight disdain, “Of the people who joined at the same time as you, the worst has entered the Third Path Palace, but you have not even comprehended the seal essence of the first path palace. Do not say you are not sad.”
Zhang Yi finally understood. However, his serene countenance remained unfazed. He was certain Su Qin could never understand him, even so, he was polite for he knew any amount of words were useless so he remained silent.
Sometimes, the gentleness and silence of someone like him appeared to be contempt and resistance in the eyes of others.
Su Qin looked at him and his brow slowly furrowed.
“Look at this seal,” he said slowly to Zhang Yi, “this is one of the seals on Celestial Seal Sect’s thirty paths.”
After saying this, his left hand moved slightly.
Cracking sounds came from the wooden bucket next to Zhang Yi.
Zhang Yi glanced at the water bucket and then at Su Qin’s left hand. He was shocked and paled slightly.
The water bucket remained motionless, but multiple cracks had appeared on the surface with water slowly flowing out. Su Qin’s left hand was still twisted oddly. This was still a crippled hand which could never grip a sword again in this life but Zhang Yi could clearly sense the seal essence had come from his left hand.
Looking at Zhang Yi’s pale face, Su Qin smiled in pleasure. “The stone of the mountain can attack jade. These twisted flesh and meridians could no longer use the sword, but can create different seal meanings. Can you understand the feeling of the hope at the end of the tunnel?”
“Congratulations,” Zhang Yi said.
He did not like Su Qin anymore, even if the other had once been his respected junior sect brother. But his congratulations was still sincere. He thought, if Su Qin benefited from the calamity and his crippled hand could let him use stronger seal essences, then his hate towards his little sect brother would lessen greatly. Alas, he was too kind and did not understand people like Su Qin enough.
At those congratulatory words, Su Qin’s smile transformed into an icy sneer.
“Now, Celestial Seal Sect only has this water bucket. When you carry it up the mountain, half of the water will leak. So you will have to carry double the water than before. Even if you do not stop starting now, you will have to work from midnight to noon. You will not be in a good mental state for tomorrow’s test. You will likely not pass … and have to continue carrying water.”
“You say you are not sad. But I do not believe you will not be sad if you continue to struggle with the water bucket and the mountain paths.”
After speaking sarcastically, Su Qin left without looking back.
Zhang Yi still could not understand Su Qin. But he did not go find a teacher to complain to. He felt that arguing to a Celestial Seal Sect teacher about something like carrying more water was meaningless. But his time would be tight. So he did not rest anymore and started to carry water.
The clear well water leaked constantly through the cracks in the water bucket, dripping down and falling on the mossy mountain paths.
Su Qin was correct. When the moon was high in the sky, he still had not finished carrying water. Both his shoulders were red and swollen high. He felt pain at the contact of his clothes, much less the carrying pole. His steps grew heavier. Heavy enough that they shook off some of the dried moss on the mountain path.
The water from the bucket and his sweat moistened many parched places on this mountain path. He was still persisting. All along, his countenance was gentle and patient.
Suddenly, his eyes filled with shock. He saw many strange silver lines.
The silver light was weak, and came from the dozen of stone steps on the mountain path he had the most difficulty with. These faint silver lights came from the places where the dried moss had fallen off. The silver lines on each stone step form a profound seal in his eyes.
He still could not understand the specific meanings of these seals. Because he could not understand, so he only saw the most obvious shapes of these seals. Looking at these shapes, some of his vital energy, suppressed by the strange power of these steps, seemed to flow inside his body in a circulation according to the shape of these seals.
His vital energy started to flow slowly. Under the suppression of a power multiple times his own, his vital energy finally started to flow.
If vital energy could flow, it could be used.The water he carried on his shoulders became weightless under the support of his vital energy.
At this moment, Zhang Yi’s breathing stopped as he grew more shocked.
The silver lines of light from the stone steps clearly formed a method of vital energy circulation. Working with the power of these steps, he could sense his vital energy flowing slowly but also grind over all places of his body, causing his body to change substantially. This vital energy method was much more powerful than the vital energy method from White Goat Cave that he cultivated.
His steps unconsciously stopped.
The moon had passed over the sky. The silver light started to disappear from the stone steps, it was if the seals never existed.
Zhang Yi started to understand. He saw the faint silver light from those usually imperceptible marks because he had sweated enough, the water had leaked enough, and the moon had been bright enough.
But why did these stone steps have such marks?
Why would there be a method like this that teachers did not mention?
Zhang Yi could not understand.
Of course, he did not know that an old man, who he knew but did not know the identity of, was looking at him from a hut on the other side of the mountain path, his gaze comforted and emotional.
Celestial Seal Sect had many powerful seals, but in reality, the nature of Celestial Seal Sect, the mountains and water, concealed the strongest true seals left behind by the generations of Celestial Seal Sect masters.
Many people spent their entire lives searching for powerful attacks in those records and teachings, but never sensed even one true seal. Was it because those people had heads held high that always looked up, wanting to fly, not willing to look at the path, or another reason?
Regardless, before the summer even finished, Zhang Yi had obtained one of the most important true seals of Celestial Seal Sect.
This old man was very satisfied. At the same time, he was convinced his decision was correct.
After the moon passed over the sky, moonlight dimmed. In an alley of Shangdu, several dog barks sounded.
This capital of the Yan Dynasty had experienced centuries. While it had changed, it had never been drastically modified like Changling had been in the Qin Dynasty. So the buildings were of different heights, the paths varied in width, and old and new buildings mixed together. The prosperity of centuries and new life caused this city to have a sense of artistry, but also made the black night more complicated.
An out-of-towner took along a subordinate through this unfamiliar alley. He stepped into a puddle and dirtied his shoe.
His subordinate behind him nimbly avoided all the puddles which could dirty his new shoes, and the shoes remained extremely clean.
The dogs stopped barking. On both ends of this complicated alley, many figures had arrived.
The out-of-towner seemed to have expected this and bowed. His voice was slightly tired and fragile “This one only asks to feel oneself. Leaders, please allow this.”