The mysterious cave in Mount Emei quickly became a media sensation due to the death of a person, and the media exposure was how the Wen family learned of this matter. Afterwards, a specialist went and inspected the cave and announced that the air of this cave contained large quantities of arsenide. The cave has since been sealed off and the mainstream media advised the citizens not to deliberately burrow into every hole…
Wen Tunhai nodded with slight fatigue and said, “These poisoned sightseers will all die soon; their symptoms are very similar to the effects of the Plague Ointment, which is a rare Wen ancestor’s legacy poison. Wen Leyang, take a look at this. Our apprentice spent a great price to obtain this, it’s a photograph of the wall mural in the cave, taken by a sightseer before they died.
Wen Leyang only needed one look before he leaped up and declared, “This is The Faulty Punch in its primary style!”
As this was a crucial matter, the four grandfathers of the Wen family met up and descended the Nine Peaks Mountain before rushing off towards Mount Emei’s Zhanyan Peak. According to a few family leaders’ analysis, the cave was of antique origin and it could very possibly be related to the Great Grand Master Tuoxie. Mount Emei is a place of divine sanctity, with hidden dragons and crouching tigers (used to describe persons with incredible talents who remain in concealment). In order to be prepared for any contingency, they brought along all the master practitioners from the Death Trademark who are the strongest fighters.
Wen Tunhai’s spirit was gradually depleting. After all, he had suffered severe injuries. He said with great effort, “It would not take more than two days by car to reach Mount Emei from the Nine Peaks Mountain, yet the four grandfathers had been gone for almost four months now. Their phones could not be reached, and as I was burdened with guarding the village I can’t leave to go look for them. So I sent out a few groups of apprentices one after the other to search for them, but so far there hasn’t been the slightest news of the elders.”
Wen Leyang had already stood up and said, “I will go to the Mount Emei’s Zhanyan Peak now. But… how about the issue of the Sun Dynasty Palace? Now that you’ll be all alone in the village…”
First Uncle laughed boldly, “Did you think that there’s only a prohibition spell in the Red Leaves Forest? Because of our Wen family’s growth and gradual connection to the outside world, Grand Elder Wen was worried that the prohibition spell around the village might accidentally harm an innocent visitor so he disabled the spell. But we will no longer tolerate the few riff-raff who have made their way up the mountain to flaunt their prowess! There’s no need for you to worry, once you’ve left the mountain I will enforce the prohibition spell!”
Wen Xiaoyi followed closely behind Wen Leyang and grabbed his hand tightly while her big eyes were filled with anticipation.
Wen Leyang shook his head hastily, “You do not practice the Art of Poison…” But before he could finish his sentence, Wen Xiaoyi took the big-muzzled blunderbuss from the bundle on her back and loaded the weapon with quick agile movements. It took only a short moment for her to do so and she exclaimed proudly, “Do no fear, for I have this!” The little girl’s expression was determined as she held on to the old-fashioned blunderbuss that is almost as large as her, the look of it was ludicrous.
Wen Tunhai supported her by saying, “Wen Xiaoyi knows of many things, she will be of great assistance if you brought her along, as Mount Emei has many hidden dragons and crouching tigers. Her vast knowledge and experience will come in useful if you were to encounter any trouble.” His main motive for encouraging Wen Leyang to bring Wen Xiaoyi along was an entirely selfish one. He had watched Wen Leyang grow from a child and had been training with him for two years before Leyang went to the Red Leaves Forest. Wen Tunhai felt a responsibility towards guarding the Wen family’s only Inner Disciple and as long as anyone can be of assistance to his nephew, he would certainly encourage Wen Leyang to bring them along.
If Fourth Elder Wen had been here, he would have given Wen Tunhai a sound beating.
Wen Leyang hesitated for while more before he gave a curt nod. He made a firm decision in his heart that whatever threats they may face, he would risk his petty life to ensure that Wen Xiaoyi remained unharmed.
If Wen Tunhai knew that Wen Leyang would willingly risk his life in this way, he would have certainly asked Xiaoyi to stay behind in the village.
The little girl burst out with loud cheers, while the two foolish uncles each took a stride forward and squeezed Wen Leyang tightly between them. Their faces bore a determined expression.
Wen Tunhai slammed his fist on the bed plank and cursed, “This time Wen Leyang is leaving to handle some proper business!”
The two foolish uncles immediately started to make a scene and Wen Leyang quickly tried to manage the dispute. He told them that the four grandfathers had disappeared, and now First Uncle had suffered severe injuries to his body. He was also worried that there were not enough capable fighters left to defend the village. After persuading them for half a day, Wen Nine and Wen Thirteen finally and unwillingly stayed behind in the village to help guard their injured brother.
Wen Tunhai gave Wen Leyang some instructions and they agreed that he would make the journey to Mount Emei early the next day. After making arrangements for his travel Wen Leyang went to visit his parents, elders and his siblings. Since defeating the group of priests who had assaulted the village earlier, his popularity has soared sky-high and anywhere he went he was greeted with kind, smiling faces and respectful looks. His parents, especially, smiled so broadly that it was almost impossible for them to keep their mouths closed. To the Wen family, becoming an Inner Disciple of the Tuo Xie Sect was more prestigious than their son becoming a battalion chief in the city.
Early next morning, amidst his father’s paternal advice and his mother’s gentle tears, Wen Leyang and Wen Xiaoyi left the village and descended the Nine Peaks Mountain. The little girl was carefree and picked a bunch of winter herbs during the trip down. It was spring when Wen Leyang first entered the Place of Birth, Life, Sickness, and Death. He studied for half a year and was then unconscious for another four months. By now it was already mid-winter and all the plants on the mountain had wilted, leaving only the hardy winter herb which still bloomed persistently with red flowers.
Not long after, they arrived without incident at the base of the mountain and boarded the long distance bus towards Mount Emei.
Mount Emei has a reputation as one of the most exceptional mountains in the whole wide world. It has a majestic quality and its lofty peak stood tall above thousands of miles. The long-distance bus arrived right at the base of Mount Emei. Wen Leyang and Wen Xiaoyi immediately started making their way to Zhanyan Peak aided by the detailed map provided by First Uncle. They slowly deviated their path away from the main road into the mountain. One can clearly see Wen Leyang’s growth in both his spirit and his physical abilities compared to how he was before he lost consciousness, as he was able to trek the rugged mountain paths with ease.
He also carried Wen Xiaoyi on his back ever since they entered the mountain.
Wen Leyang kept thinking of the four grandfathers. He had a firm and sturdy physique with the eyes of a hawk and needed very little rest even during nighttime. They were making good progress up the mountain at a steady speed. The impressive winter scenery of the mountain filled their eyes, all the foliage had wilted and when seen from afar, the bare trees added a tinge of desolate beauty to the profound vastness of the mountain.
Wen Leyang was full of energy but it was Wen Xiaoyi who felt overwhelmed first and called for a break. The two of them built a campfire on a piece of flat ground on the mountainside and rested for a moment.
It was Wen Xiaoyi’s first time traveling such a long distance. Though her body was fatigued her enthusiasm for remained high. While living at the Place of Birth, Life, Sickness, and Death, her favorite books from the Birth Trademark had been those which contained summaries and records from travelers. She has a huge trove of knowledge of many things and her mouth has been talking non-stop, recounting tales about Mount Emei that ranged from real-world facts to fantastic stories about insubstantial flying swordsmen.
Wen Leyang’s mood was slightly somber but he was not willing to disrupt the little girl’s excitement, so he let her lead the way while talking and laughing. Once in a while, he would add his opinions to the conversation.
Suddenly, the cracking sound of dry branches came from not too far away. Wen Leyang immediately felt his heart tighten though his facial expression remained neutral. He adjusted the direction of his body slightly to face the source of the sound while at the same time shielding Wen Xiaoyi with his back.
The sound of a Buddhist chant cut through Wen Xiaoyi’s brisk laughter. Quick footsteps sounded next to them and moments later, a sloppy fat monk waddled towards them with big strides.
Thinking they had bumped into a robber, Wen Xiaoyi muttered, “Oh dear.” She immediately stretched out her arm to remove the big-muzzled weapon slung on her back.
The monk looked to be about over forty years of age and wore a string of Buddhist prayer beads the size of quail’s eggs around his neck. The prayer beads were jet black and it was impossible to guess the material that they were made of. He was at least one head taller than Wen Leyang but almost twice as wide. His Buddhist robes were stretched around fat belly rolls that bulged against the cloth. However, contrary to his fat midsection, he had a pair of slender arms and legs. The effect was as if a pencil compass had been stuffed into an apple. His facial features too were akin to being pinched into a bunch by his father at birth, with a face as large as a wash basin but the nose, eyes, and mouth were all grouped closely in the middle of it. Despite his looks, he could still wear a serious expression. He must have found a way to transcend his limitations.
The fat monk was momentarily stunned upon seeing Wen Leyang but recovered himself immediately. His eyes glowed valiantly and he seemed like a huge mountain as he walked towards Wen Leyang with huge strides. He circled around them for two rounds before suddenly bursting into a loud cheerful yell. He then started roaring with laughter, with the fat rolls on his belly jiggling and quivering with an alarming movement. Wen Leyang had perfect hearing now and he could hear the sound of mighty waves beating against the shore as the monk laughed.
Wen Xiaoyi hid behind Wen Leyang and softly said, “Look at the monk’s shoes!” The fabric shoes on the monk’s feet had been completely worn out for heaven knows how long. It was full of a thousand holes and had deteriorated into such a state that half of his ten toes were completely exposed to the outside.
The huge monk laughed for a little while, then extended his arm and gave a few strong smacks on Wen Leyang’s shoulder as he said, “Little benefactor, fate has brought us together!”
Wen Leyang was trying to suppress the poison’s desire with all his might, for the shoulder of a Wen Bucao practitioner could not simply be patted by anyone. He controlled himself and laughed along with slight puzzlement as he asked, “Great master, what kind of fate is that?”
“The little benefactor has a fine and clean bone structure, it glows with a divine light from the outside, yet your divine essence is contained from within. This has nothing to do with fate, quick give me a kowtow and formally acknowledge me as your Master!” While saying all that, the monk was extracting something from his chest pocket and he unexpectedly pulled out a thick stack of hundred dollar bills. He touted as he stuffed the bills into Wen Leyang’s hands. “This is a welcoming gift from your Master!”
Wen Leyang numbly accepted the stack of dollar bills not knowing if he should laugh or cry. He’s a pioneer in his area of expertise, and therefore could not formally acknowledge another Master as his teacher. And even if he were to be an ordinary apprentice, he would not acknowledge a random vagrant as his Master either. Before he could come up with an appropriate response, the sound of clothes flapping in the wind could be heard from a distance and a moment, an old monk as large as the huge monk ran towards them.
The fat monk seemed to recognize this old monk and reacted with fury. He stood in front and blocked Wen Leyang with his back as he cursed in a low, muffled voice, “Useless fellow! No matter where I go the ghost of you inexorably hangs on. Dare you try to rob this old monk of his apprentice?”
Wen Leyang suddenly recalled a funny joke about stealing apprentices.
The old monk had not seen Wen Leyang at first but after hearing what the other monk said, he paid closer attention and started to examine Leyang in detail. His expression then shifted into one of joy and he roared with laughter as he approached Wen Leyang and said, “Hey there little brother, don’t you be fooled by this monk’s trick! You should acknowledge me as your Master instead! As your Master, I will teach you how to live forever and never grow old as well as to turn stone into gold!” As soon as he said that he jumped up high into the air and looped his arms around the other monk’s bald head with great effort and said, “Bald donkey, do not block the Great Master!”
The huge monk was speechless with fury and angrily raised his small hands to grab the other monk’s head and followed that with a punch. The two of them then scuffled and threw punches at one another but it was soon over as there was not much of difference between the level of their skills.
The big monk had a red-hot palm print on the top of his bald head while the old monk had a bruised black circle on his left eye.
The old monk looked to be about the same age as the first monk, but his appearance was much flashier than the other guy. His face was the color mauve jade, his waist was like a bee’s and his back was like an ape’s. A purple jade crown sat on top of his head while a turquoise jade pin was fixed to his long hair. He wore a jade-green colored monk’s robe and by the way the fabric rippled in the light breeze, one can tell that it was of high quality.
Wen Xiaoyi again spoke up behind Wen Leyang, “Look at the old monk’s shoes.”
Despite his ostentatious appearance, the old monk also had on a pair of torn shoes. However, his shoes were not as deteriorated as the other monk’s and only his great toes protruded from the holes in his shoes.
The old monk flushed red with shame as he heard Xiaoyi’s observation, he tried to pull his great toes back into his shoes with great effort. Shortly, his sage-like behavior like that of the immortals was blown away with the breeze, and what remained was a ground full of exclamation marks.
The old monk had ultimately arrived one step behind the other monk. He felt slightly anxious in his heart as he looked at the fat stack of dollar bills in Wen Leyang’s hand and feared that this goodly young man would leave with the other monk. Without wasting a moment, he drew out a square jade pendant as red as a blazing flame from his chest pocket and shoved it into Wen Leyang’s hand while saying, “Little brother, this is a treasure beyond the what can be found in this world. It is far more superior and can’t be compared to any earthly gold and silver!”
Wen Leyang had just received the pendant in his hand when Wen Xiaoyi made an astonished exclamation and grabbed it from his hand. She narrowed her large, lively eyes and scrutinized the jade pendant closely under the sunlight.
Wen Leyang hastily pulled Wen Xiaoyi to his side as there are many hidden dragons and crouching tigers especially in a place of divine sanctity like Mount Emei. Though based on their fight the monks did not show an exceptional level of skill, it was still obvious that they have a firm underlying foundation of martial arts.
Wen Xiaoyi studied the pendant for a short while before she placed it between her palms and started to rub hard. The old monk became flustered and jabbered while he tried to stop her, “You… What are you doing! Stop that or you’ll destroy a precious divine treasure!” Whether it was out of respect for their gender difference, the old monk spun around in anxious circles but did not lift a finger against Wen Xiaoyi at all.
To Wen Leyang, the old monk gained a higher level of respect deep inside his heart.
Wen Xiaoyi gave the jade pendant a few good rubs then lifted her hands and said to Wen Leyang, “It’s fake!” Her delicate and fair palms were smudged with patches of red dye!
Wen Leyang’s heart skipped a beat and he hastily looked at the stack of dollar bills in his hand… they were all printed with the same serial number!
These two monks that they had encountered, one carried around forged bills and the other carried around forged jade but neither of the items was forged with the even the slightest amount of professional care. For this round, both monks held equal footing.
Wen Xiaoyi, at a loss of whether to laugh or cry, stared at the two of them and berated, “Welcoming gift? A precious divine treasure? Shame on the both of you!”
The fat monk stared into the distance and said, “These are but mere worldly possessions. How can you cultivate yourself to become immortal if you are chained down by earthly desires?”
The old monk was obviously more intelligent than the fat one as he was capable of not making a fool out of himself at this crucial moment. He firmly clenched his teeth and pulled out another small square tablet from his chest once again. He stuffed it into Wen Leyang’s hand and said, “This is for you, it is a genuine precious treasure!”
Wen Leyang felt a burst of cold dread when the square tablet touched his palm. At the same time, he heard an indistinct gust of shrill and sad cries in his ear. He looked down at the old monk’s gift, it was a piece of stone-like or jade-like square tablet about the size of a cellphone battery. A strange pattern was carved on it and in the middle was a curvy and twisty Gu Zhuan (a type of chirography used in ancient Chinese seals).
Wen Xiaoyi squeezed Wen Leyang’s hand in hers as she stood on tiptoes and whispered in his ear, “This is a Necromancy Seal from Crow Ridge! This old monk…Is he one of the Luo family from Crow Ridge?”
Wen Leyang shook his head as he gently weighed the Necromancy Seal in his hand. Though he did not know what the purpose of this object was, he is certain that it was not made by the Luo family to be a commercial gift. If the old monk was really from Crow Ridge, it would be unlikely that he would bring this item around with him and simply gift it to a stranger.
There was still a difference between the Necromancy Seal and carrots.
Without caring for his composure, the fat monk gathered around to poke his little round head at the Necromancy Seal as he made a sound, “Hmm.” An instant later, he came to a revelation and he started fumbling around his chest for another gift and seemed to regret his tardy response as he slapped his thigh hard.
Wen Leyang kept his head lowered and did not say a word. The old monk watched him with bright eyes and said proudly, “This is a welcoming gift from your Master and you would do well to keep it safe! Don’t ever let others catch sight of it as this item here…”
Wen Leyang lifted his head and addressed the old monk in a tone which was far more polite than before, “How do I address you, Master?”
The old monk was ecstatic and he forced a steady look on his face, smiled lightly and nodded at Wen Leyang, “I, your teacher, was given the Taoist monastic name of Ji Fei. My practice of Buddhist magic arts is beyond the prediction of the divine and evil, my three feet long double-edged sword named the Serene Spear defends traditional moral principles and vanquishes the devil, my six spirit coins divines the secrets of the Universe, my nine pieces of celestial talismans…”
The fat monk could not procure any treasure of value and could only watch as the precious apprentice (whom he had discovered first!) is now following another person. He was dejected and despondent but upon hearing the old monk’s bragging, he raised his fist and punched a little tree next to him in rage, splitting the tree into two.
Wen Xiaoyi almost swallowed her tongue in shock, “And how may I address you, Master?”
The monk’s demeanor had brightened upon hearing this and he took a closer look at the little girl, but an instant later his face dimmed again. He shook his head as he muttered, “Little girl, you are gifted with quite decent natural endowments, with lively eyes and a clear gaze. But what a waste to Old Na, who has already attained a high level of spiritual practice, and prefers to have male apprentices over female ones; little girl, you are not born under a lucky star!”
Though the two monks appeared to be on opposing sides, Wen Leyang was convinced that they must have learned to brag from the same teacher.
Wen Xiaoyi chuckled and shook her head, “I am not asking you to be my Master, I’m only asking what your name is!”
“I am referred to as Old Na, or Shui Jing Chan Master.” The monk may have a coarse appearance, with a body full of fat rolls, yet his name was unexpectedly elegant.
Wen Leyang cautiously held the Necromancy Seal with both hands and asked the old monk, Ji Fei, “Master Monk, do you know what this is?”
“This is…” The old monk’s hand that had been stroking his beard stopped and his gaze glistened as he answered, “This… This is the Thunderstorm Summoning Stone! It can summon the wind and call for rain as well as control thunder! It is our own… our party’s most valuable treasure and you should take good care of it. Once you have succeeded in practicing the Buddhist magic arts in the future, this tablet will naturally become useful to you.”
All of a sudden the fat monk erupted in a stream of deafening, ear-splitting laughter.
The old monk’s expression changed abruptly as he leaped up high into the air, brandishing his fists towards the fat monk like a hurricane as he cursed loudly, “Bald donkey, leave immediately! If you were to spoil the elder Taoist’s good thing here, this elder Taoist will strip off your dog’s skin!”