25 PUREMOON 1501 AFTERFIRE, 13 YEAR OF JULIAN ERA.
Yuyang is inside the border of the Liao Kingdom.
This large vast of land have three geographical regions, the highlands where the Mountain Tribes of Liao always warred against each other for resources and dominion, the plains in the middle and hills in the east.
The one ruling the Liao kingdom is a confederation of tribes that rules in turn every four years.
Charles did not know which tribe rules it but this is the gist of their administration in this area.
They were divided but when foreign invasion came they throw away their differences and fought as one.
At least Charles could appreciate this virtue.
Charles is actually participating in the gathering of heroes held in the Tuhulu Mountain and is now resting at a waterfall below the mountain.
Water keep pouring down over a sheer massive cliff into the Clear Water Pool, making this area cool and refreshing.
Charles and his entourage arrived yesterday, earlier than anyone so, they waited here. And Charles himself does not want to rush.
The only reason he came to the gathering is because he was interested.
From what he heard, this gathering is held to persuade all heroes to hunt the Saber Monarch. Unlike The Four Master of Weapon or the Three Great Grandmaster the Saber Monarch rarely appears in Jianghu.
He is not of Aeropean descent but instead comes from the Western Barbarian sect.
At the age of thirteen after learning a set of saber moves from his grand teacher he sets out on a journey.
The Pilgrimage of Warrior.
Any warrior that wanted to improve their skills could do this any time they want, living frugally and invite hardship to temper the body and mind.
He arrives at the Central Plains of Aeropa and begun a murder spree, killing many righteous heroes and even burns and destroy a few evil sect.
Using his saber, he terrorized the entire Central Plains.
When he was injured after the attack of one of the Three Great Grandmaster, he went South and terrorize there instead.
For ten years he rampage all over Aeropa until Purple Fairy Lin Ziyan who was at the time also on her Pilgrimage of Warrior stumbles onto the infamous Saber Monarch.
They instantly battled each other on Water Flowing Mountain in Qin state, the Purple Fairy with her slender sword battling the huge tiger saber of the Saber Monarch.
The sound of their battle alarmed the Bi city prompting the patrol to come but none of them dare to interfere.
They battled for seven days and seven nights with each day, Lin Ziyan would clinch victory and the Saber Monarch refuse to accept the decision.
At the end of the seven day, the Saber Monarch accepts his defeat and expects his life to end.
But for some inexplicable reason that the entire Jianghu did not understand Purple Fairy order him to return to the Liao kingdom and do not step into the Central Plains again.
Many ask why she let him go, but she did not answer. Jianghu was at peace again and the prestige of the Jade Palace Gate rose again.
But a month ago, in the Chen state a sect was annihilated with all of them dying of saber slash. After investigation by some Jianghu sect, this kind of martial art technique is undoubtedly belongs to the Saber Monarch.
This time young and old all wanted to kill the Saber Monarch. Since he has been quiet all this time, the people that have grudge against him did not set out to make trouble for him.
But now, it is different.
If the Saber Monarch really violate the promise he makes with the Purple fairy all those years ago, why should they let the Saber Monarch live in peace?
And so the gathering was held. And Charles comes because this concerns his teacher. What makes Charles perplexed is why did his teacher let the Saber Monarch go?
He of all people knows that his teacher when dealing with enemies is merciless and ruthless. There must be another reason.
It is for that reason Charles went to Liao, traveling in caravans and riding horses through the harsh plains to come to the gathering.
But now, as he has time, he refined his skills.
Charles was sitting on the boulder not too far away from the waterfall, sometimes looking at the waterfall and smiles.
His hand was furiously painting on a hand scroll.
Shorty and Long is fishing nearby while at the same time protecting him.
To call Tian Ji and Tu Jia by their real name would bring to much attention. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Charles realizes that these two bodyguards of his are very famous in Jianghu.
Or to be more accurate they were infamous.
From one of the stories that he heard both Tu Jia and Tian Ji once robbed the entire storage room of the Shadow Shroud Sect, burn the True Heart Temple and pillage the village of fisherman in Southern Chu.
Old Immortal Li when he heard of this act was so enraged and embarrassed that he went out of his cultivation seclusion and hunts both of them.
When Old Immortal Li found them not only they were unrepentant they even had the guts to fight the Old Immortal.
Old Immortal reputation as the strongest martial artist on Aeropa is not empty reputation.
Those that spectates the battle from the distance noted that Old Immortal did not even use any weapons instead using his famous Divine Flicking Finger to immobilize them in one stroke.
If not for the Jade Palace Gate rules Old Immortal Li would behead these two ungrateful disciples. But after he calms his anger, he also admires the boldness of these two disciples.
But they are too untamed and too impulsive.
Jade Palace Gate sect is not a monastic sect or Daoist sect that follows the Path of the Great Master but they were also not a lawless sect like the evil sect that kills without remorse instead they uphold righteousness and protect the weak.
So, Old Immortal Li punish both of them to be Guardians for the Holy Sons and Daughters of the Sect.
The other sect and factions these two have destroyed and take advantage of all wanted to kill both of these two ingrates but none of them dares to offend Old Immortal and all gives him face.
But they all said that if they met these two in Jianghu, their enmity will be settled by themselves.
After all how could the Old Immortal be protecting these two people all the time?
The Old Immortal agreed with this and since then they were assigned at one of the establishment belonging to the sect, never setting foot inside Jianghu again.
The Holy Sons and Daughters of the sect also do not want to use them since going out with these two would surely bring calamity.
After knowing the background of these two guards of his how could Charles call them by their true name so easily?
After all there is still a lot of faction still wanting to kill both of his bodyguard.
Charles could only blame his teacher. His teacher must have wanted him to encounter trouble.
Since trouble would not come for him without reason, his teacher gave him this two dud to give him trouble.
How could Charles not understand the thinking of his master?
His master knew that Charles is a smart person which surely means his journey would be smooth sailing.
But without dangers how could he grow?
So, his teacher gives him a problem.
Not a problem to solve but a problem to endure.
His Master knows even as smart as he is, he could not solve the problems of his bodyguards with a few words.
Enmity…..this kind of thing in Jianghu means a lot and most of the time it is not rational.
‘More ink, Young Master?’ A voice brings Charles back to his attention.
It was Liu Yi sitting beside him, on another boulder of stone, water flowing around the stones, a stalk of grass on his mouth as he pestle the ink for Charles to continue drawing.
Charles only shake his head as he look back at his painting.
‘It is finished’ he answer, satisfied with his own painting.
He is drawing birds on a large big tree.
Calling and waving to each other, they seemed to be especially close, which is why he likened them to a group of brothers demonstrating fraternal affection.
Charles lack familial love. His brother always wanted to rid of him and even his stepmothers are all plotting for him to die.
What he wants is a loyal brother to follow him in his journey, to drink together when he is sad and to sing together when he is happy.
But that kind of brother…..how could it be easy to find? And he swishes his brush creating a landscape of the vast sky in his painting.
Charles is honing back his painting skill, his brushwork is steady and the use of the ink was rich, with each stroke containing a force of vigor with his brushworks rarely reveals pauses and transition in his painting.
It was a skillful painting. Neither seen in the past nor in the future. Charles is a weiqi expert and also a talented painter.
His talent is enough to shock the world.
‘It is finished. My mother would be happy to receive this painting’ He shows it to Liu Yi and asks him
‘What is your opinion of my painting, Liu Yi?’
Liu Yi looked for a while and then exclaimed with a shocked expression
‘It is perfect Young master! I must say it-‘ Before he finishes his work Charles smack Liu Yi head.
‘There you go again. Honeyed words.’
‘Hehehe’ Liu Yi chuckles
‘Young Master knows that I am not a refined person. I didn’t even touch the four treasure of the study before meeting Young master, how could I know whether Young master painting is good or not? But if Young Master painting is not good, so what of it? With Young Master attainment in sword arts, that alone is more important than exquisite painting. What good is painting other than to be burn when winter came?’
Liu Yi said, showing a noble disposition so unlike him. But Charles knows better than to believe anything coming out of this urchin mouth
‘Still flattering…but at least this time your words have meanings and your statement shows concern for the common people. If not for me knowing your behavior I would truly believe you to be a gentleman.’
Liu Yi laughed
‘Young master knows me too well.’
Charles handed the painting to Liu Yi for safekeeping as he sits cross legged on the boulder with the sound of the waterfall acts as an impetus for Charles to focus.
He focuses his mind to the sound of the water drooping from the creek.
Slowly the sound disappears, until there is only the darkness and then he chants the Heartless Sutra, guiding the internal energy all around his body as his body slowly absorbs the cold energy here in the waterfall.
‘Emptiness is just form, and form is just emptiness
Let go and be formless and shapeless
If the heart is not still, the essence is lost’
With each chant he takes a deep breath and inhale and exhale as the energy inside his body is being purified again and again, strengthening and fortifying his bones and muscles.
This is the Heartless Sutra.
His Life Force is replenished as his fatigue gone away with each breath exhaled.
The more he meditates the more he feels in harmony with the way things are, and being reconciled with the matters of the world.
And slowly he becomes at peace, his heart beat slowed mimicking a sleep but not. It was a state of peace.
A state of harmony.
At this state Charles could almost feel the very nature of Heaven and Earth.
Then he opens his eyes as his body was full of cold energy and then standing up he executes the Twelve Steps of Heaven.
He executes the first step, Dragon Gliding through the Sky as he jumps and was doing image training, dodging sword point and edge.
He circulates his internal energy in his foot, his feet moves like a dragon hiding in the clouds, his tail could not be found, dodging left and right with incredible speed.
Then midway he executes the Second Step Fairy Points the Way to Immortal Abode.
He place his feet together for a while as a point of energy as he avoids sword intent by feeling the flow of energy.
The moment Charles executes the Second Step Tu Jia leapt and accompanies Charles slashing him with his saber.
This step requires a sparring partner and Charles immediately felt the tyrannical and domineering saber intent of Tu Jia rushing to him and like an Immortal Fairy pointing the way he avoids the slash by the vibration energy of his enemy weapon.
‘Young Master has improved again’ Tu Jia complimented.
Even though he didn’t use even fifty percent of his power, for an eleven year old child this Young Master could be called a prodigy in martial arts.
‘Now, be cautious. I will execute the third Step’ Charles said as he executes the third step Stepping on Top of the Dragon Scale.
Tu Jia snorted.
Charles kicks away the pivot of Tu Jia saber which is Tu Jia hand, trying to deflect the enemy weapon with internal energy.
But Tu Jia smiles
‘Not yet. Not yet’ he said while smirking as he releases his saber and Charles missing the hand that holds the saber.
Charles face wore a complicated expression as he clearly was not expecting that.
‘Truly, even though he is poisoned, Senior Tu must not be underestimated’ He thought to himself in his mind.
The saber was suspended in the air for a second before Tu Jia use his other hand to grab back the saber while attacking Charles rib by using the back of his saber as Charles glided backward far away from the boulder, feeling a little pain in his rib.’
‘Young Master is too slow and too impatient. The distribution of energy to the feet must not be too much and not be too little. This time Young Master put too little. Last time it is too much.’ Tu Jia said as he tosses back his saber and it landed perfectly inside its sheath a few distance away.
‘Too little and Young master enemies will not be stunned. Too much, it will mess up Young Master movement afterward and Young master will lose the initiative.’
‘Senior is right. I have been impatient’ Charles said as stand up straight and wipes the dirt on his white robe.
‘There is still much to learn.’ Charles reflected on himself.
‘Young Master has mastered two steps of the Twelve Steps of Heaven in such a short time. This is magnificent enough. Do not be haste, moves one step forward each time.’
Tu Jia said before he bowed and return to his fishing spot.
He is becoming too impatient. He takes a deep breath and sit back meditating.
Right now he is practicing Heartless Sutra, Soul Devouring Palm, Twelve Steps of Heaven and the Poison Devouring Breathing Technique.
The hardest to cultivate is the Poison Devouring Breathing technique. It requires variety of deadly poison from animals, pills, herbs and poisonous beast.
By now he is only at the first stage of the technique.
There are four stages. Right now he is at a Herb Body meaning ingesting poisonous herb would rarely affect him as much.
To cultivate this first stage he had to buy a lot of poisonous herb and ingest it and then using the Poisonous Yin energy inside his body to meld it into his body.
This process would take him a few hours writing in pain.
But the more he ingest, the lesser the pain. When the body no longer feels any pain, it is then he could practices the second stage, Beast Body.
This is cultivated by eating poisonous substances in beast organs and extracts venoms from snakes and poisonous insect and ingesting them.
Then and only then he could cultivate Divine Pill body.
This is cultivated by eating Poisonous Pills until like the previous training the pain can no longer be felt.
Then if all three stages are cleared, Charles could finally have the Poisonous Physique. This Physique render him almost immune to effects of poisons and not only that but to channel poisons by the use of internal energy,
Some Patriarch of the Sect that uses this technique has always been feared since those who could reach the fourth stage all could create terrifying poison.
The reason why he can cultivate this technique was because he already possesses the most poisonous physique which is the Poisonous Extreme Yin Physique.
And then there are also the three books that his teacher gave him.
He did not yet check the contents of the book but he knows it is the consummate skills of the Patriarch and Matriarch of The Sect.
One of them is the Divine Flicking Finger. The other is Nine Dragon Palm. And the last one is a sword technique called Severing the Heaven sword art.
It is impossible to add much weight with a single morsel; it is hard to travel afar with a single step.
Step by step.
Charles was about to practice his Soul Devouring Palm which stuck at the when suddenly the sound of people coming closer could be heard.
‘Tu Jia, Tian Ji!’ Charles called both of them and they quickly leap from their position appearing to guard Charles without leaving any openings.
‘Go and check whether they are martial artist coming to the Gathering or some people sent by my brothers to take my life. If it’s an assassin kill them and dump their body. If it’s the people of Jianghu then treat them well and don’t tell them your name’
Charles order was not met with shocked. After being with their young Master for almost a year they already knew this eleven years old kid could not be judged by normal standard.
His decisiveness could shock some people but Tian Jia and Tu Jia is not perplexed.
The Jade Palace Gate only accepts those that are extraordinary as their Holy Sons and Daughters so why would they expect normalcy from this eleven year old kid?
‘But Young Master, your safety?’ Tian Ji was about to protest.
‘Liu Yi is here.’ Tian JI look at Liu Yi for a few second before sighing and then she nodded.
‘Yes, Young Master’ she said before she leaps into the forest, her spear thrust forward as she disappears amongst the bushes with Tu Jia behind her.
Liu Yi then sits beside Charles, quiet and silent.
‘Do not worry too much.’ Charles said as he sits down in the boulder waiting for the news. The water keeps dropping from the cliff, water splashing and crashing is the only noise in the area.
‘Young Master is calm’ Liu Yi states and did not say anything for a few minutes, always maintaining vigilance with his fingers always on his sword, ready to sprang into action at a moment notice.
Suddenly he was startled by the rustling of sound and he stands up, his eyes were focused to the source of the sound.
Then a face appears from the bushes and he heaved a sigh of relief.
‘Tu Jia. What is the news?’
‘It is the Sword Mountain Sect.’ Charles nodded
‘Did you explain well?’
They both nodded.
‘They wish to greet Young master.’ Tian Ji spoke
‘Greet me? Why?’
‘The Sword Mountain owed the Old Immortal once. So, the relations between our sect and their sect has always been good’
‘Oh, then let us meet them. We can also climb together to the top. Walking with more people would also be safer. The Evil sect influence here in Liao Kingdom is more powerful than in the Central Plains of Aeropa.’
Tu Jia and Tian Ji nodded.
Saying this Charles get up from the boulder and walk down as he walk to the forest with three people guarding him.
Charles himself was excited.
The only other sect member he meets before that is different from his sect members is Liu Yi and he was alone.
‘The Sword Sect Mountain, huh?’ And Charles smiles in anticipation.
There is a reason why Charles comes to Aeropa and it is not only to learn martial arts but also to ascertain whether the martial art sect could be used to further his future ambition.
‘The martial art sect…could they be used?’ This is the question Charles asks himself as he walked slowly to meet the Sword Mountain sect followers.