Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
The moon hung high in the west, and cups and dishes lay in complete disorder on the table.
Li Changshou stood in front of the Pill Chamber, looking in the direction that Jiu Wu left. The smile slowly disappeared from his face.
One could say that he had this Uncle-Master under control for now.
From that day in the North Continent, when Jiu Wu had given him a knowing look, Li Changshou knew that this short and meticulous Daoist had grown ‘curious’ about him.
In addition, he had become much closer to Aunt-Master Jiu Jiu during that period. Asking Aunt-Master Jiu Jiu to help him with so many things would inevitably pique Uncle-Master Jiu Wu’s ‘interest’.
Curiosity and interest could both easily turn into suspicion. This was a hidden threat to Li Changshou.
‘How could I deal with the threat Uncle-Master Jiu Wu posed? It was simple. I had to kill him. Cough, I’m joking. I have no feud with Uncle-Master Jiu Wu. What’s more, Uncle-Master Jiu Wu is strong and powerful and is a reputable attendant in the sect. The sect would be greatly shaken if anything untoward happens to any one of the Nine Jiu Immortals. Plotting against Jiu Wu would be akin to courting death. Among the remaining options, the most appropriate and reliable was to invite Uncle-Master Jiu Wu over to have an open discussion.’
Li Changshou had to make an oath in front of Uncle-Master Jiu Wu that he would not do anything to harm anyone in the sect.
At the same time, he had to expose some of his hidden cultivation. That would make Uncle-Master Jiu Wu feel like he knew this disciple inside and out.
This way, Jiu Wu would stop dwelling on Li Changshou so much, and he would also develop a liking towards this disciple.
These had to be done on Li Changshou’s initiative in order to lower the chances of a future threat being realized.
Li Changshou thought about every detail of his chat with Jiu Wu. Everything played like a film in slow motion in his head. Scene by scene, he reviewed his own performance.
Li Changshou had gone over the topics they covered during the conversation, the pace and direction, and even his expressions and gestures, time and time again, before it took place.
He reviewed the entire conversation once through and confirmed that he probably did not reveal any more than he intended to. This would prevent Uncle-Master from making any more connections.
‘Would he develop any misunderstandings because of what I said?’
Li Changshou still could not relax. He recalled the conversation again and listened closely to every word and phrase.
Then, he touched his cheek as he recalled every expression and gesture of his, as well as Uncle-Master Jiu Wu’s ever-changing gaze…
Li Changshou probably made no mistake.
In his peripheral vision, a slender figure dressed in light-pink appeared. Li Changshou turned and saw Lan Ling’e floating through the sky in a cloud.
Her hair danced gently in the wind as the flowers on her light-pink dress glowed.
Holding on to an empty wicker basket, she leaped in front of Li Changshou. She had light make-up on her face. In the candlelight, she looked exceptionally delicate and beautiful.
“Senior Brother! How did it go? Did you settle the problem with Uncle-Master?”
“You could say so,” replied Li Changshou, smiling. “Actually, these are just remnant side-effects from my trip to the North Continent. If I don’t go out anymore after this, I will probably not attract the attention of high-skilled elders like him.”
Lan Ling’e blinked. “Senior Brother, how did you do it? Did you expose your hidden cultivation to Uncle-Master Jiu Wu?”
Li Changshou stared at his junior sister and helplessly sent a voice transmission.
“I revealed a part of it. Otherwise, I would not have convinced him. Didn’t I tell you many times before not to say these things out loud?! The walls have ears, and the wind has immortal awareness. You’ve really not learned much from all my lessons over the past ten years. For all we know, a well-informed person might be listening to our conversation right now.”
“Oh,” said Lan Ling’e, pouting. Then, she said gloomily, “I didn’t do it on purpose. I was just concerned about you. I’m going to keep the plates now.”
She bowed her head and took two steps forward. Suddenly, she turned her head, leaned forward, and rested a slender hand on her senior brother’s shoulder. Then, she whispered in Li Changshou’s ear, “Senior Brother, what is your current cultivation level? Have you caught up with Master? Are you going to become an immortal?”
Li Changshou shot her a sideway glance and began humming a melody. Clasping his hands behind his back, he walked out of the Pill Chamber.
Lan Ling’e made a face at Li Changshou’s back, then quickly kept the empty dishes on the table.
At the same time, on a cloud returning to the Heaven-Breaking Peak…
“The wine was quite strong. It’s Ganges River’s Dry Wine indeed. It’s getting to my head, too…”
Jiu Wu’s face became flushed, and he felt intoxicated. His entire body seemed to be swaying, but his eyes remained clear.
This was because he used sorcery to keep his essence soul from becoming drunk.
As he approached the Heaven-Breaking Peak, Jiu Wu laughed gently. Sorrow filled his heart.
‘This Martial Nephew Changshou is already in the Fifth Stage of Void Return! He’s among the top few disciples in his generation! He could achieve such progress in just 100-odd years. He has excellent potential, indeed! Even his comprehension is amazing. When I assessed his Array Formation Dao earlier, he understood many things I was saying without needing me to explain. The rarest of all is his good nature. Compared to the likes of Yuan Qing, he is like the mood against sludge.’
Jiu Wu bowed his head and heaved a long sigh. Then he said in a low voice, “He did not explain, but how can I not understand his reasons for hiding his cultivation level?
“When we were drinking, he visibly held himself back several times. The subtle expressions, which he tried to hide, already revealed the helplessness in his heart.
“Martial Nephew Changshou is hiding his cultivation level to avoid bringing trouble to the Little Qiong Peak, which already has few people, to begin with. Even if it meant that he would not be properly nurtured and focused on by the sect, he chose to prevent trouble from befalling Junior Brother Qi Yuan and his other disciples.
“A good disciple. A good disciple indeed.
“If Junior Brother Qi Yuan fails to endure the Heavenly Tribulation, I will ask Big Senior Sister or Second Senior Brother to invite Martial Nephew Changshou and his junior sister to the Heaven-Breaking Peak.”
As he wallowed in sorrow, the Heaven-Breaking Peak came into view.
Jiu Wu looked at his junior sister’s building and found that she had already activated a protective array formation. She was probably already resting.
“I will bring some books and texts to Junior Sister later, and ask her to pass them onto Martial Nephew Changshou.
“Mm, I should look for the Skills-Imparting Elder to have a chat one day. It should not be a problem for immortal seedlings like him to start working on the Inaction Sutra before ascending to immortality.
“Little Qiong Peak…
“Junior Brother Qi Yuan has a good disciple. I cannot help but admire him.”
Shaking his head and sighing, Jiu Wu returned to his own building. Then, he activated the surrounding array formation and drifted to his bed, where remnants of Jiu Shi’s fragrance lingered. There, he sat cross-legged and began to meditate.
Two days had passed since Li Changshou had spoken to Jiu Wu in the night.
Li Changshou could finally be sure that this Uncle-Master would not do anything else to him.
This comforted Li Changshou. Peace had finally been restored to his life as a cultivator, and things were just as it had been for the past 100-odd years.
In fact, all of these things had only happened because of those Immortal-Emancipating Herbs.
The Immortal-Melting Pill was already complete, and the ups-and-downs were over. Li Changshou was satisfied with both the process and the outcome.
In the afternoon, Li Changshou went to the Pill Chamber and wrapped one Immortal-Melting Pill in a thin layer of candy.
Currently, Li Changshou could say that he was done with all the preparations required for the first plan.
He looked at the additional 11 Immortal-Melting Pills that he had produced and then divided them into three portions. Carefully, he put them away.
Few people refined pills like that, but they were treasures to people who had no hope of becoming immortals, but who wanted to escape the Heavenly Tribulation and live a long life. If Li Changshou had the opportunity, he would go to a noisy marketplace and sell a few of these. There, he would trade these for more precious materials to make array formation foundations.
Of course, he had to keep two as spare.
Li Changshou knew that he now had an 80% chance of making it through the Heavenly Tribulation and that these chances would keep increasing as he kept cultivating.
He also knew that his junior sister would advance quickly towards Immortal Ascension and that her chances of making it through the Heavenly Tribulation would be above 60% as well.
However, one could not be too sure about these things. Nobody would be able to tell what would happen in the future.
At the very least, if he kept an extra Immortal-Melting Pill on hand, he would not have to fear that the Heavenly Tribulation would go wrong and kill him.
Li Changshou would also keep an extra pill for his junior sister. That would allow her to replicate their master’s plan for old age.
As a disciple and a senior brother, this was the most that Li Changshou could do for them.
Looking at the Immortal-Melting Pill caused Li Changshou to fall into deep thought once again.
‘What if, I’m just saying what if, Master cannot even make it through the first tribulation? If he is reduced to ashes when the first bolt of lightning strikes, what should I do? The preparations for the first plan are done. I should get started on the second and third plans while I’m at it. It would be best if Master suddenly has an epiphany and makes it through the Heavenly Tribulation to become an ordinary immortal.’
Li Changshou sighed and stood up, keeping the candy-wrapped Immortal-Melting Pills in his sleeves. Slowly, he walked out of the Pill Chamber.
An hour later…
Li Changshou stood in front of the place where his master was secluding himself. He cleared his throat, gave a Dao salute towards the door, and shouted, “Master! Your disciple wants to ask you a few questions about cultivation! Your disciple is deeply sorry for disturbing Master while you are cultivating!”
Soon, the wooden door opened, and the old Daoist priest, Qi Yuan, walked out, smiling. He waved his hand at Li Changshou.
“Come, let’s go to the lake. Your master has been neglecting to teach you these few years as well.”
Li Changshou sighed softly in his heart.
‘Master opened the door so quickly. It’s obvious he was not meditating. Is it hard for him to meditate now? It looks like the Heavenly Tribulation is really right around the corner.’
They arrived at the side of the lake, underneath a willow. Qi Yuan pulled out two meditation cushions and sat opposite Li Changshou.
Qi Yuan said in a warm tone, “Feel free to ask me any questions.”
Then, Qi Yuan’s gaze darkened. He sighed and said, “If I don’t make it through the Heavenly Tribulation, I might not have a chance to answer your questions in the future.”
“Master, what are you talking about?” Li Changshou smiled. “You will make it through the Heavenly Tribulation for sure.
“Master, haven’t you always said that if we don’t have confidence in ourselves, we will not be able to face the obstacles and training that the Great Dao gives us?”
“You’re so afraid of death, yet you are turning around to teach your master!” Qi Yuan chided Li Changshou with a serious expression.
Li Changshou grinned and quickly cut to the chase. He began to ask questions about his own cultivation.
Li Changshou’s first three questions were quite ordinary. They were all questions that most cultivators in the Void Return Realm would have. Qi Yuan explained the answers in great detail.
Li Changshou’s fourth question was “What does ‘A soul returns to its soul, aura returns to its aura; the five elements function in a cycle, the world is restored to order’ mean?”
Qi Yuan paused, and then walked towards the lake, deep in thought.
Li Changshou did not stop. Instead, he asked three more questions, which were obviously ‘outside the syllabus’. At that moment, Qi Yuan did not know how to respond to Li Changshou.
Li Changshou was not making his master look bad on purpose. He merely wanted to remind his master tactfully that if there was a bottleneck in his cultivation journey, these few paths remained accessible to him to explore.
Currently, Qi Yuan was well aware that the chances of him making it through the Heavenly Tribulation were slim. He wanted to try his best to teach his disciple well and was deeply considering his own understanding of these problems. He dared not mislead his own disciple.
Slowly, Qi Yuan fell into deep thought.
Shortly after, Qi Yuan closed his eyes to focus.
Subsequently, flower petals appeared around the old Daoist. This was a common sight for cultivators who were approaching the Heavenly Tribulation.
However, the flower petals around Qi Yuan were extremely faint. The silhouettes of the petals were also blurry…
Very carefully, Li Changshou set up a simple, noise-cancellation layer around his master. Then, he turned around and headed back to his straw hut to busy himself.
This was the main part of the second plan. He needed to try his best to improve his master’s skill, as well as his master’s comprehension and understanding of the Great Dao.
‘Ai, if only I could give master a portion of the epiphanies I have every once in a while.’
Li Changshou sighed in his heart and then prepared the supplementary steps of this plan.
The supplementary portion of the second plan was awesome.
Li Changshou took out a pouch marked Metaphysics Number 32. From inside, he retrieved several three-feet-long, purple logs and six six-feet-long, multi-colored, metal rods. He began to fiddle with them quietly.
Lightning-Conducting Logs were common materials used in setting up lightning-elemental array formations. They could conduct the power of thunder and lightning.
The Lightning-Accumulating Seven Deity Metal was also a common material used in lightning-elemental array formations. They could accumulate and distribute the power of thunder and lightning.
According to Li Changshou’s knowledge, the destruction caused to cultivators by the Heavenly Tribulation could mostly be attributed to the power of thunder and lightning. Only a small fraction could be attributed to the attacks of the Great Dao.
If he could build a Two-Times Lightning-Diverting Rod, it could help cultivators mid-way through the Heavenly Tribulation. When the lightning struck, more than half of the power of thunder and lightning could be diverted out of their bodies. This might increase one’s chances of making it through the Heavenly Tribulation.
What’s more, theoretically, this should not trigger an amplification of the Heavenly Tribulation’s power.
No matter what, Li Changshou had to give it a shot!