Wen Leyang walked out from the big house absent-mindedly while Xiaoyi came hopping around and took a bite of the carrot that she plucked from his slack hand, “What did Grandpa say?”
Shaking his head, Wen Leyang narrated the life story of Wen Lazi briefly to Xiaoyi. With the notebook of the ancestor in his hand, Wen Leyang proceeded to study it intensively. He had been reciting blindly in the past without looking through them carefully nor pondering the opinions in between lines.
Xiaoyi was also full of curiosity about this extraordinary ancestor and she stuck out her head which still held the fragrance of mountain flowers and studied intensively together with Wen Leyang.
For the next ten days, aside from eating and sleeping, Wen Leyang diligently studied Wen Lazi’s notebook. The notebook was merely a flimsy booklet written sparsely with a Chinese brush and there was not much written in it. Wen Leyang was reciting wholeheartedly for the past half a year, with his mind so accustomed to reciting, he basically had all the content memorized unintentionally.
After going through the notebook numerous times, Wen Leyang finally lets out a long sigh and put the notebook down carefully. Turning sideways, Wen Leyang looked at Xiaoyi with a grin, “I’ve got it now.”
Wen Xiaoyi stretched herself while twitching her lips, “I’ve got it a long time ago, what took you so long? This ancestor was a lot stronger than you, he had already made his name by your age now.”
Dumbfounded, Wen Leyang explained, “I dare not compare myself to this ancestor! He passed the Major Examination at the age of thirteen and I nearly didn’t make it to junior high school at the same age.”
Wen Xiaoyi giggled.
Laughing along for a while, Wen Leyang continued, “The way I see it, ancestor Wen Lazi did not intend to go for the Closed Door Cultivation when he first returned home. He solely wanted to record down his experiences with the Art of Poison at first but changed his mind later on. He’s a genius, endowed by nature with such unusual intelligence, who was so proud and arrogant to not fall into the same path like his predecessors; he was determined to obtain the insight of Heaven’s Enlightenment through the Wen clan’s Art of Poison.”
Wen Leyang seemed to understand the mentality of Wen Lazi well. He was either too ambitious, reaching for what was beyond his grasp or had overestimated his own ability. The Art of Heaven’s Cultivation was too much of an attraction for someone like Wen Lazi who made a name for himself when he single-handedly destroyed the four main families in Jianghu. To him, the other martial arts and cultivation methods in the world could no longer hold his interest. Moreover, with the Heaven’s Cultivation background that was passed down verbally by the predecessors for generations, it was only normal for Wen Lazi to want a breakthrough in this.
Not limited to Wen Lazi, even Wen Leyang also had such a thought deep in his heart.
Shrugging her shoulders, Xiaoyi went, “It’s not that easy.” The Wen, Miao, and Luo had labeled themselves with cultivation methods that could achieve Heaven’s Enlightenment. However, none of them had ever succeeded for so many years.
Wen Leyang shook his head with a smile, “That’s why this ancestor of ours had cultivated himself to death.” Feeling disrespectful to the ancestors after such a comment, he quickly worshipped to the heaven with his palms put together devoutly.
Xiaoyi followed suit and prayed for forgiveness to the ancestors before saying, “Unfortunately, the insight into the cultivation method that he came up with was too…frightening, to first break the meridian vessels, then re-gather the dispersed toxins with The Faulty Punch to forge the poisonous meridian vessels again. However, the moment the meridians break, one is as good as dead and the accumulated toxins will spread all over the body.”
You’ve Got Me peeped out from Wen Leyang’s chest and crawled out. It took a look at the two bored youngsters, hung around for a while before crawling back into its master’s chest.
Nodding his head, Wen Leyang went, “That’s why he spent a few decades just to make The Faulty Punch into his instincts, with the idea that when the meridian vessels break yet before the spreading of toxins into the body, he can nullify the toxins with The Faulty Punch. In fact, the so-called forging of the poisonous meridian vessels is actually refining the toxins directly into the veins, flesh, and skin. His idea was not all nonsense as meridian vessels are just a buffer. There’s a limitation in terms of the poison’s strength when the toxins are just accumulated in the meridian vessels. However, if the toxins are refined directly into the body and skin it’ll be the real deal – the actual refining of poison into one’s body…”
Wen Leyang pondered for a while as if searching for the right vocabulary, he then grudgingly said, “A saint’s body!”
Xiaoyi waved her hands in front of a zoned-out Wen Leyang and tried to get his attention, “Hey, beware of Qi Deviation! I’ve read before saying that the cultivators of Heaven’s Cultivation will have to start off with foundation establishment and imbuing your body with Qi to cultivate vitality and mentality.”
Wen Leyang may have a humble personality but he was no fool, else he would not have passed the Major Examination of the Decade and instead would be learning mathematics with his two foolish uncles. Although the records in the notebook of Wen Lazi was not detailed, Wen Leyang was able to speculate accurately on the true intention of Wen Lazi after much deliberation.
Recovering from his own thinking, Wen Leyang smiled, “We cannot practice the Art of Poison this way because building a foundation on poison is as good as courting death. That’s why ancestor Wen Lazi looked for a new path. The Daoist cultivators emphasize on cultivating from the inside whereas Wen Lazi did it the opposite way. If he really succeeded in gathering the toxins with The Faulty Punch after breaking his Meridian vessels and before the toxin outbreak corroded his body, who knows, he might have achieved the state of a saint’s body!”
Xiaoyi became worried when she saw Wen Leyang’s increasing interest in learning Wen Lazi’s suicidal cultivation method so she shook her head and said solemnly, “That’s incorrect! There are way too many paradoxical points with this method. Once the Meridians break, the toxins will immediately spread to the body with absolutely no time to regather the toxins with The Faulty Punch; once the Meridian vessels break, one will be so weak to even lift up a pair of chopsticks, not to mention practicing The Faulty Punch. Even someone like Wen Lazi who had merged The Faulty Punch to be one with his body was no match for the speed of the toxins that were spreading and corroding his body.” Xiaoyi had belittled their ancestor out of desperation to prevent Wen Leyang from following Wen Lazi’s suicide manual.
Wen Leyang nodded his head helplessly, but rose with hope again moments later, “What about people like me? I’ve very little toxin accumulated in the meridian vessels, so even if they were broken, the toxins in my meridian vessels will not kill me instantaneously. If I manage to practice The Faulty Punch, I might be able to re-gather the toxins in time for…”
Before he could even finish his sentence, an icy cold noise penetrated his eardrums. Unknowingly to the both of them, Fourth Elder was standing behind Wen Leyang with both his hands at the back, “Lunatic ravings! With your cultivation base right now, you can’t even feel the existence of meridian vessels, much less to try to break them. By the time you’ve found the prescription that suits you, with enough power and skills to self-destroy the meridian vessels, the accumulated toxins in your meridian vessels will be enough to turn you into a puddle of rotten meat in an instant; if it’s through external force, say I break your meridian vessels with a punch, your viscera will be completely mashed as well. Don’t you ever mention the cultivation method left by ancestor Wen Lazi again!”
You’ve Got Me seemed unconvinced and climbed up to the shoulder of Wen Leyang. It hummed impudently at the old man before the shocked Wen Leyang hurriedly grabbed it in his palm.
It was at this moment that brisk but somewhat tumultuous footsteps were heard coming towards the direction of the Red Leaves Forest. Dozens of somber-looking men scurried into the woods, with every two persons carrying a rattan stretcher which was covered entirely by a thick black cloth. The leader was a middle-aged man of wretched appearance, thin and withered, with a thievish look that resembles a weasel which was sure to catch the attention of any anti-snatch theft police of at the train station.
Wen Leyang had been living in the Forest for half a year and had never seen anyone else enter the woods. After being stunned for a moment, he whispered to Xiaoyi, “Are these people from the Death Trademark?”
Xiaoyi knew something had happened as well and was hiding behind Wen Leyang with a pale face, “Yes, they left the Forest one month before you got here.”
Emotionless as always, Fourth Elder Wen pointed those people towards his house.
The thievish looking man waved to his people behind him, “Move them in!”
The door was closed with a thud.
Half an hour later, the black wooden door creaked open again with Fourth Elder Wen’s voice coming from the inside of the house, “Come in, Wen Leyang.”
Not far away, Wen Leyang heard the call and quickly ran into the house. Upon crossing the threshold, a thick stench quickly enveloped his body through the nose, ears, eyes and even the three million and six thousand pores on his body.
Those strong men were standing still at a corner in the house while the stretchers were placed neatly on the floor with the thick black cloth removed revealing the human on the stretchers.
Apart from their head, the remaining parts of the corpses were all shriveled and caved in; the flesh, blood, and bones had all been completely removed, leaving behind a layer of translucent human skin.
The heads, on the other hand, other than being hairless, were all in one piece with a contented smiling expression, as if they were dreaming in their sleep.
Wen Leyang was slowly regulating his breathing, trying hard to suppress the horror of seeing the unearthly corpses and the odor that came from their innards. He then walked up to Fourth Elder Wen and bowed his head obediently, waiting for his instructions.
Without even looking at Wen Leyang and with a voice as cold as ever, Fourth Elder Wen said, “There is something that I have to take care of and I need to be away for a few days. When I’m not around, you’ll be in charge of this place.”
Taken aback, Wen Leyang wanted to object but dared not. He then hurriedly followed behind Fourth Grandpa and said, “There’re…so many elders in this place…”Apart from the newly returned Death Trademark, there were close to a hundred of people in the Red Leaves Forest normally, taking care of the Birth Trademark, Life Trademark, and Sickness Trademark. However, Wen Leyang had only spoken to Xiaoyi and Fourth Elder in the past six months he was here.
Although The Place of Birth, Life, Sickness, and Death belonged to the Wen, the atmosphere was entirely different from the Wen Village at the hillside, where everyone was from the same family and met each other on a daily basis, living harmoniously and lovingly. The people in the square, however, either did not know how to speak or disdained to speak and apart from Xiaoyi, no one else cared about him. Even if he greeted them joyously, they would just treat him like thin air, completely ignoring him. He even considered himself lucky that they did not just try to walk through his body.
“The Inner Disciple of the Wen is the master of The Place of Birth, Life, Sickness, and Death. Naturally, you’ll take charge when I’m not around.” Hesitantly, Fourth Elder Wen picked up a Red Jade box the size of a lighter from the table and passed it to Wen Leyang, “Take care of this thing. If I don’t return after three months, pass it on to your First Grandpa.”
Having said that, Fourth Grandpa stood up and strode out of the house with the people from the Death Trademark following behind.
Wen Leyang carefully kept the Red Jade Box in his chest pocket and looked anxious and uneasy. Not knowing what to say, he followed behind those men. He had never seen such a thing before, seeing it was on the table of Fourth Elder just now, the people from the Death Trademark must have brought it back.
There was also a newspaper beneath the Red Jade Box that read – A mysterious ancient cave was discovered deep in Mount Emei . However, Wen Leyang did not get to read it in detail before running out from the house following Fourth Elder.
Fourth Elder Wen walked to the edge of the Forest and stopped abruptly, “Just now, inside the house, why didn’t you use the Refreshing Breeze Powder?” Every disciple of Wen carries along with them Refreshing Breeze Powder to repel stench and to nourish one’s lungs with a detoxifying effect.
Wen Leyang replied honestly, “I needed to remember that smell.”
A rare trace of a smile was spotted on the face of Fourth Elder Wen as he continued walking while nodding his head with the people of the Death Trademark following closely behind.
“Go back now. Remember, if I don’t return within the next three months, you’re not allowed to leave the Forest, not even by half a step!” After this was said, he disappeared into the woods together with the others.
Fourth Grandpa was gone and he was now in charge of The Place of Birth, Life, Sickness, and Death.
Wen Leyang tried saying loudly, “Hello!”
He was completely ignored but moments later, a pair of icy cold hands grabbed his arms from behind. Turning his head, Wen Leyang saw that a blanched-looking Xiaoyi who was barely able to stand, with her eyelids fluttering uncontrollably and a look of agony on her face.