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The area of the Red Leaves Forest was not very big. In each of the four directions, there were rows of wooden houses joined together like the fish scales, neatly arranged in such a manner that surrounded the few large houses at the center of the square.

There were some people living in the wooden houses and walking in the woods, but their expressions were all as cold as ice and they ignored Wen Leyang’s innocent smile. In fact, they even ignored Fourth Elder Wen, it was as if they were treating themselves and others like air.

Fourth Elder Wen was indifferent to this treatment and walked ahead with both his hands at his back. He said to Wen Leyang without turning his head, “Without my consent, no one is allowed to walk in this wood for more than seven steps.”

Shocked, Wen Leyang quickly tried to recall how many steps he had he taken.

Fourth Elder Wen snorted, “There’s no need to count anymore. I’ve already dosed you with the antidote when you first entered so you’ll be fine. You can access this place as you please for these two years but you’ll have to notify me before you bring other people here! ”

Wen Leyang said with his head bowed down, “Rest assured, Fourth Grandpa, I won’t bring anyone here without your permission.”

Fourth Elder Wen sounded as if he were smiling as he continued, “I’m telling you ahead of time, there is no need to be afraid.”

Wen Leyang was just about to answer when suddenly there was a sound of tree leaves rustling above his head followed by an attack from an agile figure. During the sudden ambush, the practice and hard work for the past two years paid off as Wen Leyang dashed forward instinctively and bent over the ground with his feet attacking the assailant like a pair of scissors.


A dull thud was heard and both Wen Leyang and the attacker grunted at the same time and staggered backwards. With a loud scream, a second attacker appeared on all fours and lunged at Wen Leyang like a beast; his face was contorted ferociously with his white teeth aimed at Wen Leyang’s throat!

Wen Leyang defended himself and pounced like a wolf. He immediately exerted power into both of his arms, leaped on all fours and clashed head-on with his second attacker!

Fourth Elder Wen issued a warning sound and the two assailants instantly came to a stop and retreated to the side. Back on his feet again, Wen Leyang finally had a chance to have a closer look at his assailants. One of them was stooped over with both his arms dangling at the ankles like an ape whereas the other was crouched like a wolf with his nose constantly sniffing as if scenting the smell of a stranger.

Wen Leyang rolled his shoulders which were sore from the earlier clash and asked in a shocked tone of voice, “Are they from the Death Trademark?”

As emotionless as always, Fourth Elder Wen explained, “In this mountain, there are some highly spiritual beasts that stole and raised human babies when they lose their own cubs. I snatched one of them back from an old ape and rescued the other from the wolf’s den. Just like you, they’re considered as guests of the square.” He then looked at the two eccentrics affectionately and said, “Come on over and meet each other, he’s not an outsider from now on.”

The two eccentric attackers nodded compliantly with difficulty. With a rumbling sound, they ran over to the side of Wen Leyang and rubbed against him lightly. Feeling sorrowful, Wen Leyang just stood still, not knowing what to do.

“Don’t be afraid, you can either tap on their shoulders or touch their heads, they will no longer try to fight you in the future.” Fourth Elder Wen went on with a quiet and low voice, “Luckily you’re smart enough not to blend the poison strength into The Faulty Punch.”

Wen Leyang smiled honestly and innocently.

“There’s no one training in the Death Trademark right now and you’re not allowed into the Life Trademark and the Sickness Trademark. Never mind if you can’t remember now, but if you trespass you will lose your eyeballs immediately. And there’s one other thing, you mustn’t light the incense tripod in the Red Leaves Forest.”

Wen Leyang acknowledged with a nod but could not help feeling surprised and bewildered by the fact that there was no one at the Death Trademark.

The door of a wooden house in the forest opened with a creaking sound. There stood a young girl, aged around twelve to thirteen years old who waved to the two eccentrics, “Yuan, Old Wolf! Come here now, Dinner is ready!”

The two freaks immediately let out a cry and ran into the house like the wind.

The young girl had a pair of elegant eyes which glanced over at Fourth Elder Wen while a puzzled Wen Leyang stood behind him. A look of joy appeared on her face, “Grandpa, you’re back so fast! That’s just great!”

The sincere and honest smile of the young lady brightened up Wen Leyang’s eyes and a smile appeared on his face uncontrollably as he was affected by her pure emotions.

Fourth Elder Wen acknowledged the girl in his usual aloof manner and turned to Wen Leyang, “This is the little servant girl, Ya Tou, you can ask her about anything. Don’t come to me apart from an issue related to your studies. Thirteen years ago…”

Wen Leyang gulped anxiously, worried that this young lady would suddenly devolve into a person who was raised by a giraffe or a blinded bear.

“…I picked her up from the river and she grew up in the square. She is well acquainted with the Birth Trademark. You can ask for her help when looking for books.” After saying this short introduction, Fourth Elder Wen then walked past them into the largest wooden house in the Forest and shut the door up with a bang.

The young lady looked at Wen Leyang timidly while the latter was also silently observing her.

As a thirteen-year-old who grew up in the mountains, a trace of innocence could still be found on her face. However, it was this innocence and honesty in her eyes that made Wen Leyang feel so comfortable and at ease.

The innocence of Wen Leyang, accumulated in the past eighteen years was nothing worth mentioning when compared to the lady in front.

Stretching his hand forward, Wen Leyang introduced with a smile, “I’m Wen Leyang.”

Baffled, the young lady looked at the hand in front of her not knowing what to do. She awkwardly started to pull on her braid unconsciously. She was abandoned by her parents in the river, swaddled in a wooden basin just days after she was born. When Fourth Elder Wen scooped her out of the water two days later, she barely made it out alive. She had stayed by the side of Fourth Elder Wen ever since she was saved. As she rarely left the mountain and spent most of her time in the Red Leaves Forest, she knew absolutely nothing about the social etiquette of the outside world. Wen Leyang grabbed her hand and brought it into his own and shook them while smiling warmly, “This is called a handshake, when people meet for the first time, they will shake their hands as a sign of courtesy and friendliness. My name is Wen Leyang, what’s yours? Do you like carrots?”

In an instant, a crooked carrot appeared in the hands of the young lady.

The pair of big and beautiful eyes of the young lady was clearly glinting with excitement and with a hard nod, she replied Wen Leyang’s question, “Grandpa calls me Ya Tou, so my name is Ya Tou.”

Fourth Elder Wen’s voice suddenly appeared from the wooden house, “Stay away from Ya Tou when you’re working with poisons as she has never practiced the martial art of Wen! She has a name, called…Xiaoyi, Wen Xiaoyi!”

Wen Leyang twitched his lips in secret as he realized that the name was probably made up right on the spot, although he thought the name was pretty nice after all. The generation of his grandpa was indeed better than his dad’s in terms of naming their children.

“Wen Xiaoyi…” The young lady carefully recited her name over and over again in pure excitement before pulling Wen Leyang along, “Wen Leyang, let’s go get some dinner!”

Wen Leyang had a wonderful dinner of a few colorful dishes in green and red, a plate of cured meat and a bowl of porridge. Wen Xiaoyi blushed in embarrassment as a result of his praise and gave him a few extra rounds of porridge.

After the dinner, Xiaoyi showed Wen Leyang around. It was after all just a few rows of houses with the Birth Trademark at the East, Life Trademark at the South, Sickness Trademark at the West and Death Trademark at the North. Within the whole square, apart from Wen Leyang, there were only three other living beings in the area. These included Wen Xiaoyi, Yuan, and Old Wolf. As for the rest, including Fourth Elder Wen, in his eyes they were as emotionless as the walking dead.

According to Xiaoyi, Fourth Elder Wen had never taught the two eccentrics any form of Kung Fu. He had merely prescribed medicines and acupuncture to nullify the beastliness that had accumulated in them since young. Wen Leyang was left speechless as he knew very well that in terms of power, no more than ten ordinary brawny men could match up with his own physique while these two beastly children, who had no formal training before, were well-matched with him in strength.

While Wen Leyang was walking around the wooden house with Xiaoyi, a familiar chirping sounded from his backpack. The Buddha’s Light Bug would call out to him to play once it had rested enough. He made sure Xiaoyi was at a safe distance from him before taking out the tripod and putting his hand in there to play with the bug.

Xiaoyi had hidden obediently behind a big tree. But she tip-toed and stretched her neck long to peep into the tripod. After studying for a while, she asked with a smile, “Wen Leyang, is that a Buddha’s Light Bug that’s inside the tripod?”

As the little girl grew up by the side of Old Fairy Wen, it was not surprising for her to recognize the purpose of the tripod. However, there was no way that she could see the Buddha’s Light Bug which was rolling around on his palm inside the tripod from where she was standing. Wen Leyang could not help but feel curious.

Seeing Wen Leyang’s expression, she explained calmly, “Only the Buddha’s Light Bug will hide inside the tripod and insist for people to play with it. Am I correct, Wen Leyang?”

Wen Leyang nodded with a smile, “Fourth Grandpa has taught you quite a lot, you’ve got to help and teach me in the square in the future. ”

Shaking her head she said, “Grandpa refused to teach us. I practically grew up in the forest and apart from taking care of Grandpa, Yuan and Old Wolf, I’m always reading. That’s where I learned about the Black Jade Incense Tripod and the Buddha’s Light Bug!”

Little Ya Tou was brought to the Red Leaves Forest by Fourth Elder Wen when she was still a baby and was nourished by drinking milk from the hundred beasts in the mountain. This made her naturally gifted and talented. She could read at the age of three and at four, she was already reading with ease. Though Fourth Elder Wen scrupulously abided by the rules of the sect to not pass on his skills to someone who was not an Inner Disciple, the books in the Birth Trademark were left for her to access freely.

Fourth Elder Wen had been single all his life with no wife or child and lived alone in The Place of Birth, Life, Sickness, and Death. Unsociable and withdrawn by nature, he had grown fond of this little girl deep in his heart; he would place the fundamental books at easily accessible places for her whenever she was reading. Under his special care, Xiaoyi was learning systematically from the fundamentals to the advanced level and the majority of the books were about poison and medicine. She had indeed read quite a lot by the age of thirteen.

Xiaoyi knew nothing of the world outside. In her mind, apart from taking care of her grandpa, there was only reading as her other activity. She could read with great speed as she was able to concentrate intensely on the text. And though she does not have a photographic memory, she could recall most of what she had read. Moreover, she was still a young reader and would choose the books she liked to read, for example, a treatise with profound complexities on cultivation methods would often be returned to the shelves after she had glanced through it. She was far more interested in books about the attributes of insects and vegetation, intriguing folk prescriptions and other miscellanies. She would read them thoroughly like a storybook.

Though Wen Leyang was skeptical of her at first, three days later he realized he had found a little fairy maiden. With more than ten rooms of books, Wen Xiaoyi was exceptionally familiar with each and every one of them, be it the location or the contents of each book. As for the rest of the disciples of Wen who were arranging the books in the Birth Trademark, they were all as uncommunicative as a block of wood. They ignored Wen Leyang utterly as they went about the daily tasks of sun-drying the books and fixing aberrant copies.

The books in the Birth Trademark are categorized into four sections with the first section being known as the Basic Fundamentals of Materials, which focused on the Five Elements, properties of drugs and pharmacology of all living things.

The second section covered the theory of inimical remedies and synergism of drug properties as well as methods of refining drugs and poisons, which could be regarded as the Biochemistry section.

As for the third section, one would find information from the complete records of the cultivation practice to the practice of sorcery of other sects and the summaries of all observation and learning documented by the Wen ancestors.

The fourth section consisted of large varieties of effective but odd prescriptions and strange arts among the folk with some that have remained unsolved by the Wen ancestors.

Wen Leyang’s main focus would be the first two sections, which consisted of thousands of books.

Theoretically, to maximize the effects when learning from these ancient books, the best method would be to combine both theory and practice at the same time. However, Wen Leyang was given only two years to do so. In the end, due to his stubbornness, he opted for the stupidest learning method – memorization! He was purely memorizing based on the books without understanding the theory and principle of each prescription, not to mention improvisations.

Wen Leyang was not the smartest among his generation, but he was pure-hearted and determined. Once he had set his mind to something, he would do it diligently like a fool. Not only were his days spent only at the stacks, he was even reciting them in his dreams. Wen Xiaoyi would come over and help with his recitation every day when she was not caring for Fourth Elder Wen.

Other than eating, sleeping and paying respect to Fourth Elder Wen, Wen Leyang was only doing four other things: training, reciting, playing with the bug and munching on carrots.

While playing with the Buddha’s Light Bug, he would share with Wen Xiaoyi on the world outside, the crappy television shows that he had watched, the funny little things that happened during his training last time. It was the most anticipated time of the day for Wen Xiaoyi.

Fourth Elder Wen probably had never thought about this foolish approach at all. All of his brothers, including himself, had first started off with reading the summaries on cultivation and the prescriptions on refining methods documented by the ancestors. After finding out the most suitable refining method for themselves, only then would they begin to specialize in one area. According to the ancient method, everyone was born with different life destiny and personal astrology so not all Five Elements would be in harmony. Therefore, they would select medicinal materials and alchemy that best complements their element of destiny during the prescription refining and cultivation process. The method adopted by Wen Leyang, which involved reciting blindly, was unheard of.

Wen Leyang was reciting the books day in, day out without much understanding or question. The only time he would take the trouble to ask Fourth Grandpa would be when he was faced with unfamiliar words. However, Fourth Grandpa was equally unfamiliar with those words too.

Fourth Grandpa, therefore often felt ambivalent towards Wen Leyang.

More than ten days after Wen Leyang had arrived in the Red Leaves Forest, the Buddha’s Light Bug inside the tripod began to get agitated and bad tempered all of a sudden. It refused to sleep or play with Wen Leyang and constantly circled around inside the tripod. There were times when it wanted to come out of the tripod but it would always jump back in as if could not bear to be parted from the tripod. Fortunately, things got back on track a few days later and Wen Leyang did not pay further attention to this matter.

Fourth Elder would usually chase Wen Leyang out from the Forest every ten days to half a month’s time. Wen Leyang would then bring Wen Xiaoyi and the two beast children along with him and spend a good day in the mountains. Not resisting, Wen Leyang just obeyed his Fourth Grandpa as he had been used to making the best of any situation. After all, he is going to enjoy it when it was play time and study hard when it was time to recite.

Every now and then, the two silly uncles of Wen Leyang would also call out to him from outside of the Forest. Wen Leyang would then drop his things and go play with them all around the mountains and usually ended the night with a barbeque of poisoned animals.

Ever since Wen Leyang began his studies, he would hand in a monthly notebook stating down the repeated content he had found during his study to Fourth Elder Wen. He mainly focused on alchemy and the properties of materials as summarized by the Wen ancestors. The ancestors had summarized all their experiences and findings and made it into a record book with some repeated content. Wen Leyang had made a simple record on some of the major duplicated paragraphs that he had encountered so that the next reader would get to skip the repeated paragraphs entirely in the future. Fourth Elder Wen had never commented on his work, maintaining his zero degree Celsius icy cold attitude towards him as usual. However, with the increasing number of notebooks submitted, the level of disdain in Fourth Elder Wen’s eyes had slowly begun to diminish.

Apart from Wen Leyang, Xiaoyi and the two beast children, everyone else in the Red Leaves Forest lived like the living dead, not making a single sound even when walking. Wen Leyang once attempted to strike up a conversation with the others and after a few fruitless tries, he gave up all hope of finding someone to talk to.

Six months later, from early spring to late summer, Wen Leyang was still reciting as usual with Xiaoyi seated next to him weaving a grass ring from weeds. Suddenly, there was a chuckle and Xiaoyi asked with a sweet smile, “Wen Leyang, why are you cursing?”

Overwhelmed with the recitation, Wen Leyang blurted, “Did I curse?” He then took a look at the book in his hands and laughed, “I didn’t! The ancestor who wrote this book did!”

In his hand was the summary of the learning experiences gathered from the Art of Poison written by an ancestor of unknown generation in his twilight years. It was not too ancient from the look of the papers and ink, estimated to be only a hundred years ago. Wen Leyang had basically recited this book completely with this one being not much different from the other books; it documented the attributes and properties of materials as well as the description of poisons discovered from experiments, and the experiences and doubts encountered during the cultivation of the Art of Poison. As before, there was repeated findings and content found. Yet, towards the end of the book, it was written “B*llshit! The one who studies is no better than b*llshit! The one who regurgitates is just like b*llshit!

Taking a closer look at the book, Xiaoyi got interested and said, “Wow, the ancestor’s saying you’re just like b*llshit! I’ve only flipped through this book last time without paying much attention to it.”

There were another few lines of words further down the swearing part that read: If we were to attack the enemy with poison, memorizing any one of the books in the square would be sufficient.

If we were to obtain the insight, none of the ancestors of Wen’s had succeeded in immortal cultivation. What benefit would we obtain in studying the records and books left behind by these unsuccessful ancestors?

We are as dumb as pigs, fellow piglets! Regards, Wen Lazi.

Blinking her eyes, Xiaoyi stuck out her tongue and laughed, “Ancestor Wen Lazi was desperate it seems!”

Wen Leyang massaged his temples while frowning. He found the name of Wen Lazi all so familiar, yet he could not recall when he first heard it.

Nonetheless, it seemed that this ancestor shared the same thinking as him because he had asked a similar question when he first entered the mountain with his First Uncle.

To fight against the enemies with so many poison prescriptions documented by the ancestors in the square, to learn one from it would be more than enough.

Nevertheless, to realize the ultimate dream of the Disciple of the Tuo Xie Sect to become a cultivator that could attract the lightning strike anywhere he went, these ancient books only served as references and nothing else. The idea was similar to having over hundreds of university entrance examination dropouts giving tuition to a twelfth-grade high schooler.

None of the ancestors of Wen had achieved spiritual enlightenment to Daoism through cultivation over the course of over two thousand years, with the best achievement having lived to ninety-nine years of age. The cultivation methods and poison prescriptions documented in the ancient books were of the same category as an after-dinner walk. However, it was pleasing for the Wen to see that the Miao Clan and the Martial Art of the Luo at Crow Ridge were no better off as well.

As he was lost in his thoughts, the Buddha’s Light Bug suddenly called up to Wen Leyang. Handing over the record book of Wen Lazi to Xiaoyi while taking out the tripod, Wen Leyang put his hand into the tripod to play with the bug.

“Let me see what else Ancestor Lazi cursed,” Xiaoyi took over the book with a smile and flipped through the last few pages. After spending time with Wen Leyang for half a year, she knew that the Buddha’s Light Bug would not leave the tripod when playing with Leyang and so she did not hide from it anymore. “Oh my, it’s indeed messy!”

In the last few pages, it was all doodled with ink with only a few readable words in each line to link up the sentence. Wen Lazi must either be extremely troubled and distressed to keep alternating between drawing and writing.

“Without breaking, there’s no…forming…to be the Meridians of Poison…” Wen Xiaoyi was working hard to identify the words from the mess of handwriting and doodles. Reading silently on the experiences left behind by Wen Lazi, her gaze became more and more intense with her eyebrows turning into a lovely question mark.

Sticking his head over while his hand still played with the Buddha’s Light Bug, Wen Leyang studied the book together with Xiaoyi.

After a while, the two youngsters let out a breath at the same time and took a glance at each other with their eyes filled with horror and disbelief.

After cursing for a few pages, Wen Lazi eventually scribbled in his notebook his approach of using the Art of Poison of the Wen as a basis to practice Heaven’s Cultivation. He intended to first cut off his own Meridian vessels and channel the accumulated toxins in the Meridian vessels into his body. Right before his body would be corroded by the toxins, he would gather the toxins with The Faulty Punch, remold the Meridian vessels and refine the toxins directly into the flesh!

Just when Wen Leyang was about to say something, he was momentarily stunned because the Buddha’s Light Bug did not jump back to the tripod after rolling around in his palm. Instead, it arched its fat body and crawled inch by inch along his arm and out from the tripod. It finally curled itself up on his arm and looked up at him while its fat face swayed around.