Grand Elder Wen did not seem to have slept at all and was sitting in his house fully dressed. He looked at Wen Leyang and smiled while he asked, “Little boy, what was it that you gave your First Uncle during the Major Examination today?”
Second and Third Elder Wen were both seated on the other side with their backs straight as always and were scanning Wen Leyang back and forth like two poisonous snakes analyzing the taste of their prey.
Feeling nervous suddenly, Wen Leyang knelt on his knees, saluted his three uncles and answered obediently, “Those were the Wang Zai Mantou snacks…”
Wen Tunhai scolded impatiently, “Don’t you ever mention the Wang Zai Mantou snack again! Tell me what the medicine pill is!”
Wen Leyang nodded his head repeatedly and said, “It’s Wang…in flavor, I’ve named it The Impotence Pill, and it has the opposite effects of an aphrodisiac. It affects solely ‘that’ ability and nothing else. It is made up of the tail of a red scorpion, hen’s blood, coupled with the ash of Wu Tou grass. It is then cultivated in an icy cold bowl of jade. Lastly, ginger is used to get rid of the unpleasant odor…”
Not paying attention to Wen Leyang’s ingredients, Grand Elder Wen stared with disbelief at the depressed Wen Tunhai and let out a roar of laughter that would scare away even the fiercest stray dogs. Wiping away tears while still laughing uncontrollably, Grand Elder Wen pointed his finger towards Wen Tunhai, “This is the best medicine for you! For someone having too many mother-in-laws to the point of being dismissed from the position of County Head, this serves you right! Hahaha…”
Feeling embarrassed, Wen Tunhai said with a smile, “I was…erm…’in action’ with my wife tonight and it just didn’t work no matter what we did. As the three of you know, we are soaked in the medicinal potion since young. Our body is said to be immune to all kinds of poisons, more even so when it comes to that matter.” All the young ones of Wen, from the moment they were born to the age of twelve, were required to soak in the medicinal potion prepared by their parents every morning for an hour.
Grand Elder Wen was beaming with smiles while nodding his head repeatedly, whereas Wen Leyang’s excitement was clearly shown in his eyes – he was not aware there was such an effect of soaking in the medicinal potion since young and immediately, his innocent face blushed again.
Wen Tunhai took a look at his First Nephew, not only had the anger in his eyes disappeared, it was replaced with a sense of admiration. He explained further, “During today’s Major Examination, the challenges presented by those descendants, be it poisonous pills or powder, I know about all the ingredients that were used. With that in mind, those things definitely won’t affect ‘that’ ability of mine. When I thought it over, it could only be Leyang’s pill and it was indeed him. You’ve got me on this, Leyang, not bad at all! By the way, there should be an antidote for this, right?” Wen Tunhai waited nervously for Wen Leyang’s answer.
“Of course, there is. It’ll lose efficacy after thirty-six days. If you can’t wait, just hold your urine for twenty-four hours will do the same trick,” said Wen Leyang immediately.
Grand Elder, on the other side, was not as concerned about the antidote as Wen Tunhai and asked Wen Leyang with interest, “Young boy, the Wen has won resounding fame under the heavens with poison and all our ancient teachings in the rhymed instructions that were passed down from generations are all about making and using poisons. How come, unlike the rest of the descendants who’ve used poison in the exam, you’d come up with such a wicked medicine instead?”
Wen Leyang was initially inspired by the reckless magic potion advertised on a website, so sheepishly he said, “I thought if the pill was given to a lady, she can easily use it on anybody…This pill can’t be considered as poison, I shouldn’t have used it in the Major Examination.” His answer was honest and truthful as always but it was clearly out of topic. As he was explaining himself, Wen Leyang absently pulled out a carrot with the intent of taking a bite when he suddenly realized where he was and hurriedly hid the carrot. He had somehow managed to bring the carrot along despite being dragged out of bed so late at night.
Third Elder Wen suddenly said, “The Wen had always been renowned in the world as the experts of poison. However, only the outsiders who know nothing about poison will associate poison with death. In fact, poisons can be categorized into the Five Elements and Yin and Yang. There’s no difference between cultivating poison and cultivating Dao. It’s true that poisonous medicine kills, but so is something that allows one to forget about his worries!”
Grand Elder smiled benevolently and said, “The Impotence Pill got the better of your First Uncle this round. In addition, you’ve managed to refine poison into medicine, which technically satisfies the ancient teachings of the Wen that had been handed down for generations.”
Happiness can strike when you least expected it. As naive as Wen Leyang was, he understood the meaning of the Grand Elder’s words. He stood up immediately, his beaming eyes were staring straight at the Grand Elder with so much excitement that his eyelids began twitching.
Laughing out loud, the Grand Elder stood right in front of Wen Leyang in the blink of an eye, his old and dry hand patted on Leyang’s shoulders lightly as he said, “Starting from today, you’re the Inner Disciple of the Wen clan as well as the disciple of the Tuo Xie Sect!”
Wen Leyang was surprised at the proclamation of his success in passing the Major Examination and becoming an Inner Disciple but he froze in confusion upon hearing the unfamiliar name of the ‘Tuo Xie Sect’. He looked in befuddlement at Grand Elder Wen, “The disciple of Po Xie (Which means broken shoes, the two words have similar pronunciation)? First Grandpa, this name is…”.
First Uncle gave a hard slap at the back of Leyang’s head and scolded him, “What broken shoes! We don’t mess with broken shoes! It’s Tuo Xie!”
“The disciple of Tuo Xie (Which means sandals, they also share the same pronunciation)?
“Yes, the disciple of Tuo Xie!”
Despite the late hour, Grand Elder Wen proceeded with the admittance rites for Wen Leyang and lit the incense in the burner in front of the ancestral memorial tablet in the house. He respectfully kowtowed to a tablet with the wordings of ‘The Ancestor of Tuo Xie’ carved on it and began the rite.
Once the admittance ritual was complete Wen Leyang got back on his feet and looked at the three Elders and his First Uncle. He was immediately struck by the sense of respect and kindness in their eyes which were unlike the way they had looked at him before. He felt a happy moment of warmth in his heart.
“First Grandpa, the Tuo…Tuo Xie (sandals) Sect…” The wordings on the tablet were written in the ancient style which was from thousands of years ago and Wen Leyang had difficulty recognizing the words.
“It’s the Tuo Xie Sect!” Grand Elder Wen had finally figured out about Leyang’s strange pronunciation and corrected him with a smile, “Young boy, remember, it’s the Tuo Xie Sect!” He paused for a while before continuing, “Our sect was founded during the West of Han’s time and it has been over two thousand years since then. Our Great Grand Master was an eccentric man who understood the secret mysteries of the universe, his name was Tuo Xie.”
Wen Leyang silently wondered if the ancestor should be carrying the surname Wen instead.
“The Land of Shu during the ancient times was a savage place. Our ancestor found this place and started building the village. He filled up the swamps with soil, fertilized the land, eliminated the devils and demons, and educated the barbarians…” Grand Elder Wen noticed the skeptical look on Wen Leyang’s face and smiled. He could understand why Leyang had looked so dubious of these claims, as he himself had not believed it when his own father had told him of the same thing.
Clearing his throat, Grand Elder Wen continued, “During the West of Han’s time, our Great Grand Master traveled to the Land of Shu and got himself three disciples. All three of them learned the same skill set before the age of twelve by soaking in the medicinal potion and practicing martial arts. When they turned twelve, each of them proceeded with their individual cultivation separately and weren’t allowed to see each other. The Great Grand Master then promised to test their skills and elect one of them to be the official disciple to pass down his teachings and philosophy.”
Wen Leyang nodded his head in agreement. The life of a disciple of Wen from birth until the age of twelve was to soak in the medicinal potion every morning, be it rain or shine, followed by martial arts practice with the seniors. Therefore, everyone’s physique was exceptionally strong during the teenage years and nobody ever fell sick. After the age of twelve, each disciple would then be given sutras and scriptures of poison to study and practice alone without the supervision of adults. It seemed all that, together with the Major Examination of the Decade, were passed down and inherited from the Tuo Xie Sect.
While Wen Leyang was digesting this, Grand Elder Wen continued the narration of the past. Although the information was not considered top secret, only the Inner Disciple who had passed the Major Examination was deemed qualified to know about it.
Ten years later, the three disciples completed their cultivation and returned to meet their master. Jubilantly, Great Grand Master Tuo Xie praised all of them and decided to test them the very next day. On that fateful night, the weather turned bad with strong winds blowing and ominous thunder that seemed to tear down the heavens and earth. When it was over, the three disciples realized that their master had disappeared!
Whether the disappearance of Tuo Xie was due to the wrath of heaven, a thunder escape, rising above or even becoming the lightning conductor remained unknown, the truth was that their master was nowhere to be found. The three of them also realized that each has mastered skills that were very different from one another. The First Senior Brother was surnamed Wen and practiced the Art of Poison; the Second Senior Brother was a Miao who practiced black magic; the Junior Brother, Luo, studied the Secret Art of Zombies.
Wen Leyang could no longer contain himself and interrupted, “That’s us! That’s the Wen clan, the Qing Miao at the Seven Maidens Mountain in the Center of Shu and the Luo on Crow’s Ridge in the South of Chuan!”
Grand Elder Wen nodded his head and did not seem offended by the interruption. “The ancestors of the characters in the folk song ‘Not a single root grows on the Wen; never befriend a Miao; dying a dog’s death on the Crow’s Ridge’ were indeed those three martial brothers. Now Great Grand Master’s thunder escape…”
Wen Leyang noticed that the other two Elders and First Uncle Wen Tunhai twitched their mouths at the same time; they must be despising the description of the ‘thunder escape’ used by the Grand Elder.
After all, Tuo Xie had risen above in an extraordinary method and the three martial brothers each thought of themselves as the rightful inheritor. Yet neither dared to go against the will of their master to take each other out. In the end, the three of them made a pact that whoever found their master first would win.
Of course, they failed to find their master. The three martial brothers went their separate ways and continued with their own cultivation. Though none of them ascended to immortality through Taoist cultivation practices, they eventually settle down in the land of Shu and formed their own sects respectively which no one dares to mess with. The Major Examination of the Decade also became the common rule of the three sects and took place on the same date, commemorating the fateful day when their Master disappeared. All the disciples who made it through the exam would address themselves as the Disciples of the Tuo Xie Sect.
The pact between the three martial brothers eventually became the ancestral teachings and a meaningless innate mission for the Inner Disciples of the three sects.
Wen Leyang’s eyes glimmered with curiosity as he asked cautiously, “First Grandpa, is the Art of Heaven’s Cultivation the cultivation method of the Wen?” Just like the majority of the disciples, he too thought that the Wen clan was once a gang in the underground world of martial arts with the Art of Poison inherited from their ancestors. Never in their wildest dreams to think that they would have a background similar to that of a sect, dedicated to the practice of cultivation. Though no one could be sure of the cultivation part, the thunder that struck their Great Grand Master was equally strange indeed.
Taking a sip of tea, Grand Elder Wen replied diffidently, “That’s for sure! Our Great Grand Master was an eccentric man who understood the secret mysteries of the universe, the secret art that he passed down could definitely be the Art of Heaven’s Cultivation!”
The always silent Second and Third Elder snickered upon hearing this and looked at one another.
“But…” Grand Elder Wen cleared his throat and continued, “For over two thousand years, no one from the Wen, the Miao and the Luo has ever succeeded in ascending to immortality and sainthood. However, there’s definitely no problem with the cultivation method. If it’s not due to the imperfection of our cultivation, then it must be due to the lack of a great wisdom like the Great Grand Master for the epiphany of nature’s secret.”
The other two Elders snickered again.
Grand Elder Wen slammed on the table and pointed at his two brothers and said, “What are the two of you laughing at? That was exactly what our father told us the last time!”
Third Elder Wen took a look at Wen Leyang and said, “Don’t take it too seriously when it comes to things like achieving immortality and sainthood through cultivation although there’s no harm in working hard after all. Starting from tomorrow, you will practice and learn from your First Uncle.”
Second Elder Wen had finally spoken up as well. With a voice as cold as a silver needle frozen in the ice for thousands of years, he said, “Listen here, whether the identity as the Disciple of the Tuo Xie Sect or the secret art that you’re bound to learn in the future, don’t you dare to reveal it to anybody! Else, you’d be left with an incomplete corpse when you die, according to the rule set by our ancestors!”
With a soft voice, Wen Tunhai further added, “When you’ve achieved some accomplishments a few years later, the Sect Leader will present you with a test. Upon passing the test only then will your apprenticeship be considered complete and for you to be regarded as a true Disciple of the Tuo Xie Sect.”
Wen Leyang was awestruck as he knelt on his knees and took his vows while kowtowing. After the meeting was complete he then happily made his way home while munching on his carrot. He went straight back to sleep and his father did not ask him any questions. Though everyone lived in harmony in the Wen clan, strict rules were applied throughout. Whatever the Grand Elder had said to his son, not even the father had the right to interfere.
The conversation at the house of the Head of Village sent a thrill through the spine of Wen Leyang. The Inner Disciple of the Wen Clan, the Disciple of the Tuo Xie Sect and the legend about heaven cultivation. Wen Leyang suddenly felt like he was living his dream.
After the departure of Wen Leyang, the house of Grand Elder Wen fell silent again. The three Elders sat across each other in contemplation while Wen Tunhai stood at the side with his hands down. For a few moments, no one spoke a word. The silence was punctuated by the occasional coughing sound coming from the Third Elder. He had hurt his Lung Meridian of Hand-Taiyin accidentally from refining poisons in his earlier years and left him with an incurable cough since then.
Finally, Grand Elder Wen looked up at his two brothers and asked, “What do you think of this kid?”
Second Elder did not even bother answering his elder brother’s question while only Third Elder answered with, “He’s stupid and much weaker compared to the other two disciples in the mountain…”
Grand Elder Wen smiled but, not saying anything, he then turned to Wen Tunhai. After pondering for a while, Wen Tunhai said, “Amongst this batch of youngsters, Leyang’s qualification and capability is not the best, but he’s an honest and kind person; a good man among his siblings. Also, the redeeming feature about him is the way he thinks.”
A sense of praise appeared in the eye of Grand Elder, “The way he thinks? What about it?”
With a wry smile, Wen Tunhai said, “The Impotence Pill may look like a child’s play, but to a man, it is definitely an insidious trick. Of course, he didn’t mean harm when he gave me the pill. The most it will mean was that he jokingly shared his treasure with me. However, to discard poison and use medicine for the Major Examination shows the maturity of his thinking at his age.”
Grand Elder hit the table excitedly, “Well said, Tunhai! Those two points are exactly what I like about him. Firstly, he’s honest in conduct, kind to his family, never fights with other kids even when he was bullied. Secondly, the way he thinks. He’s not the most adept when it comes to using poison compared to the other disciples who took part in the exam and there was no chance for him to stand out. If that is the case, he might as well look for another way. Who cares if it’s sweet or salty or if he hurts the body or the mind? As long as the enemy is taken down, it’s real poison!”
Third Elder scorned, “What’s so f*cking good about that? He has no talent!” Pausing for a while, he then looked up to the sky outside of the house.
A thick and dark cloud was approaching fast from afar, swallowing up the starry night. The once bright and starry summer night moments ago, all of a sudden, was replaced by a depressing storm of wind and rain.
“This much of a thunderstorm, just for this kid?” The voice of the Third Elder was soft as if mumbling to himself.
Grand Elder Wen did not hear his words, but he abruptly turned to Wen Tunhai and asked, “How’s Old Nine and Old Thirteen doing?”
Wen Tunhai smiled and answered confidently, “Don’t you worry, Ninth Brother and Thirteenth Brother are making progress. If I don’t play up some tricks, I can’t be sure to take both of them down at once nowadays.”
Grand Elder nodded his head slightly and sighed unexpectedly, “That’s good to know. The physiques of those two youngsters are exceptionally good, although it’s too bad that they’re not smart enough. Well, maybe it’s better this way. On the other hand, how’s the progress of that matter? Is there any improvement yet?”
Wen Tunhai shook his head, “Guess it is not time yet.”
Grand Elder said with a bitter smile, “Well, you can’t rush things through, just take your time. By the way, Tunhai, how did you not taste the medicine of The Impotence Pill?”
“If it’s a highly toxic poison, it is more or less multiplying the effects of a poison. No matter how poisonous it is, I’m able to grasp how it works. As for a wicked trick like The Impotence Pill, I’ve never even heard of such a medicine nor of its effect. I didn’t think about how it could affect ‘that’ ability of mine until night time…”
There was a rare gleeful look that appeared in the eyes of the Second Elder, “Then you’ll refrain yourself from the ‘action’ for thirty-six days or not urinate for twenty-four hours?”
Wen Tunhai only hesitated for a moment before he grudgingly said, “I’ll hold my urine!”