AIP - Chapter 40: Selection (1)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Screams like those of a pig being butchered could be heard loud and clear, causing one's hair to stand on end. At times, it was even possible to hear the lady shout in concern, "Don't shout! Gather your energy! Push! My son, you can definitely endure it. Open… it's open, you can do it…"
It sounded like someone was giving birth.
Tang Jie couldn't help but smile.
The other boy servants mistook this smile for one of self-assurance. Shi Mo glared at him and mouthed several words. Tang Jie could tell that he was saying, 'Don't think you've already won.'
He softly chuckled in reply.
The screams gradually dwindled away. Tang Jie knew that the charging at the gate was over.
A few moments later, Spirit Master Lu appeared with the master and the lady. As they walked, he said, "Congratulations, my master and lady. With four cycles of the gate open, the third young master's talent is not bad."
His talent wasn't bad, but his will was too weak, Tang Jie mentally commented. From Wei Tianchong's alarming screams alone, he had been able to tell that he had failed to fully exhibit his talent. Otherwise, he could have reached five cycles, and with a little more resolve, he might have even reached six cycles.
"In any case, he's still of middling aptitude, much better than Tianzhi… Alas, it seems like the men of the Wei Clan still fall short of the women." Zheng Shufeng ignored the fact that her son was in the lower end of the middle aptitude, instead lamenting how the Wei Clan's sons were worse than its daughters.
Her daughter, Wei Qing'er, had opened six cycles, and she was born with Seven Passion Meridians, making her an excellent match for the arts of the Thousand Passions Sect, so she was the one with the greatest prospects. Wei Qingsong's daughter, Wei Die, had opened five cycles, and she also had a bright future. But the first young master, Wei Tianzhi, had only opened two cycles. While he had managed to get into Basking Moon Academy, he had made little progress and was still working to get into the Spirit Sea Tier. If his luck was bad, the Spirit Sea Tier might be his peak.
As for Wei Qingsong's son, Wei Ming, he had opened three cycles, a head above Wei Tianzhi. This had always left Zheng Shufeng unhappy.
Now that her younger son had opened four cycles and entered the middle grade, so long as he were provided enough resources, he could reasonably be expected to become a peak Spirit Master without a problem, and if he was lucky, he might even have a chance at the Celestial Heart Realm.
A clan ultimately relied on its men to continue. With four cycles of the Jade Gate, Zheng Shufeng could finally rest easy.
As she walked out, Zheng Shufeng announced to the servants, "The third young master has succeeded in opening four cycles of his gate!"
All of the servants loudly replied, "Congratulations to the third young master; congratulations to the master and the lady! May the third young master succeed in cultivating to Immortality early and bring glory to the clan!"
Zheng Shufeng nodded in satisfaction. "The third young master is done with his business, so now, it is your turn. I presume that some of you have been waiting for this day for a long time now."
Everyone tensed up at her words.
Tang Jie inwardly praised Zheng Shufeng's methods.
Wei Tianchong had just opened his Jade Gate, so his energy was drained and he required rest. He had probably already fallen unconscious.
If the servant students were decided now, he could not possibly intervene.
Although Zheng Shufeng was his mother and his interference was essentially useless, one less objecting voice, one less person to contradict her was a good thing. If both her husband and son opposed Zheng Shufeng's choice, then even she would find it hard to force the matter through.
Without this possible objecting voice, and her husband unwilling to contradict her when it came to domestic matters, Zheng Shufeng had essentially endowed herself with all the authority for the selection.
In this aspect, one could say that Zheng Shufeng's attitude toward Shi Mo had become even more obvious: she would never leave her son in Shi Mo's hands.
Wei Danbai and Zheng Shufeng sat down, upon which Zheng Shufeng slowly said, "Since that is so, I presume that I do not need to say anything more. Everyone knows how difficult it is to get a single spot in Basking Moon Academy. While the Wei Clan is a grand enterprise, it cannot waste a spot on somebody useless. We must look to your performance to decide on our selection. Now, I will give all of you one last chance to say anything you want. One by one now. Shi Meng, you first."
Though Zheng Shufeng had spoken in a vague manner, there was no question that she was asking everyone to make their Heart Demon Aspirations. Of course, demanding that they make it would be too much. The other party had to be willing to make the aspiration, itching to make the aspiration. The master would have to politely and 'helplessly' accept it.
Shi Meng came forward and loudly said, "At a young age, Shi Meng was sold into the service of the Wei Clan, coming under the care of the master and the lady…"
After saying a pile of useless gratitudes, Shi Meng finally said, "…If I am able to receive the generous favor of the master and the lady, and allowed to enter the academy, Shi Meng swears an oath upon his Heart Demon, to be marked on his Origin Heart, that from this point onward, Shi Meng will be loyal to the Wei Clan, be part of the Wei Clan, and do everything in his power to serve the Wei Clan and bring it glory."
Shi Meng's Heart Demon Aspiration was quite standard, swearing loyalty, fealty, and servitude. To put it bluntly, he would owe the Wei Clan, but if he managed to become a Spirit Master, he would still receive the treatment that was owed to him.
This was very normal. People wagered their future prospects in hopes of changing their lifestyles. If one became an Immortal but still needed to serve as a servant for the rest of their lives, who would waste their time in cultivation?
"Mm." Wei Danbai and Zheng Shufeng nodded their heads at this.
After Shi Meng, it should have been Shi Mo, but Shi Mo lowered his head and didn't come forward, instead pushing forward another boy servant.
The boy servant who was pushed forward had no choice except to make an aspiration.
He knew that he had no chance. In truth, at this point, everyone knew that they were just going through the motions. If everything went as expected, the lady would choose Shi Meng and Tang Jie. Thus, the boy servant made a rather half-hearted aspiration.
The boy servants went up one by one until only Tang Jie and Shi Mo were left.
Tang Jie knew that Shi Mo wanted to be the last so that no one could imitate his Great Heart Demon Aspiration. With a soft chuckle, Tang Jie came forward and began to speak. "If I can be blessed by the Wei Clan with the opportunity to cultivate, then Tang Jie will do his utmost to serve the young master. I make an aspiration upon my Heart Demon that if the young master does not achieve Mortal Shedding, Tang Jie will not shed his status as servant, and if the young master does not achieve Celestial Heart, Tang Jie will not leave the clan register. And if Tang Jie has the chance to glimpse the secret of the Celestial Heart, he will create an Immortal art to be left with the Wei Clan!"
Wei Danbai and Zheng Shufeng were both shaken by this vow.
Compared to the aspirations of the other boy servants, Tang Jie's Heart Demon Aspiration was very concrete.
'If the young master does not achieve Mortal Shedding, Tang Jie will not shed his status as servant' meant that for every day Wei Tianchong did not break into the Mortal Shedding Realm, Tang Jie would remain a servant for another day. And when the third young master entered the Mortal Shedding Realm, so long as he didn't enter the Celestial Heart Realm, Tang Jie would not leave the clan registers, meaning that he would always appear as a representative of the Wei Clan. Of course, he would no longer be a servant.
It was a very solemn oath. Not only did he bind himself, he also expressed that his repayment to the young master would not merely be manifested in his service, but also in cultivation. He would not dare to say such words unless he was confident in himself.
But at the same time, it also meant that when Wei Tianchong entered the Celestial Heart Realm, Tang Jie would officially cease to be part of the Wei Clan and would regain his freedom. Of course, this freedom had its own price, for he would have to leave behind an Immortal art that could be passed down in the Wei Clan.
The boy servants had made aspirations that were illusory and made no reference to anything practical. This was so that they had a chance to walk back their words in the future. When seeking an opportunity, no one would say that if they succeeded in cultivation in the future, they would leave, even if all of them were really thinking about it.
Tang Jie was probably the first person to swear a Heart Demon Aspiration that noted that he would leave the Wei Clan's service, but at the same time, he had stated the conditions for his departure.
This was precisely what had surprised Wei Danbai and Zheng Shufeng and caused them to have a different reaction than to all the other aspirations they had heard.
Wei Danbai grunted, clearly unhappy.
But Zheng Shufeng was smiling.
One had to at least be at the Celestial Heart Realm to create an Immortal art, which also meant that Tang Jie was confident he could reach this level.
To tell the truth, this promise carried far more force than the promises of the other boy servants. It was just the stated intention to leave that made it unpleasant. However, for a practical woman like Zheng Shufeng, promises with clear goals and repayments were more acceptable.
Putting aside everything else, the guarantee of Wei Tianchong entering the Celestial Heart Realm and guaranteed Immortal art that could be passed down in the Wei Clan made it worth investing in Tang Jie. What Tang Jie lacked in loyalty, he made up for with a most generous repayment, and at least it was more substantial than some "service to the Wei Clan". Eating and slacking off in the Wei Clan every day could also be called "service". After all, wasn't that what the Spirit Masters of the Wei Clan were currently doing? The times when they were actually put to use were few and far between.
In addition, Tang Jie's departure was tied to Wei Tianchong, meaning that in the future, if Tang Jie wanted his freedom, he would have to assist Wei Tianchong. In this aspect, he was more motivated to help Wei Tianchong than any other servant, as this would also benefit him.
Finally, Zheng Shufeng didn't believe in Heart Demon Aspirations. She trusted more in a person's nature. In her eyes, if there really was a servant student who could reach the Celestial Heart Realm, it wasn't someone the puny Wei Clan could control. It would be better to let them go and establish a good relationship with them. Even if the other party was truly free, so long as they were on good terms, they might come to help the Wei Clan in the future. At times, affection was even more important than contracts.
Thus, she took a great liking to Tang Jie's Heart Demon Aspiration.
Husband and wife had showed opposite reactions, which was Shi Mo's chance.
A moment later, he came forward, and prostrated before the master and the lady, saying in a tearful voice, "Through the blessing of the master and the lady, Shi Mo was allowed into the Wei Clan and followed the young master in reading and recognizing characters, living a life without worries. Shi Mo is willing to go so far as to have his body crushed and pulverized to repay this great generosity! Shi Mo knows that he committed many grave errors in the past, but Shi Mo feels remorse and is willing to change. Thus, I make a great aspiration. If the master and lady are willing to give Shi Mo one more chance, Shi Mo will loyally serve the Wei Clan, taking it as his only master for his entire life, serving it like an ox or horse, without the slightest complaint, for all eternity!"
A great aspiration!
Not merely a great aspiration, but one in which he had sworn to serve the Wei Clan for the rest of his life, serving it like an ox or horse.
Shi Mo, you're truly a ruthless sort. For the sake of cultivation, you would be willing to bring yourself to the lowest class. It seems like you're going all-in, Tang Jie inwardly sneered.
He knew what Shi Mo's plan was. So long as he could become a Spirit Master, even if he didn't ask to no longer be a servant, the Wei Clan could not actually treat him as a servant. His status would just be the lowest of all the Spirit Masters, even lower than the likes of Steward Qin!
Zheng Shufeng and her husband were clearly taken aback by Shi Mo's aspiration.
The two of them looked over at Spirit Master Lu seated on the side. He nodded, confirming that Shi Mo had made this aspiration on his Origin Heart and that it was valid.
There was no set procedure for swearing an oath upon one's Heart Demon. The key was that it had been made sincerely. Spirit Master Lu was here to confirm that the servants were making their Heart Demon Aspirations sincerely.
Wei Danbai sternly asked, "Shi Mo, do you know what you're doing?"
Shi Mo loudly answered, "This lowly one knows. This lowly one's words all came from his heart. None of it was a lie!"
"Is that so? Shufeng, you see…" Wei Danbai began to think, glancing over at his wife.
He had already agreed with his wife that they would pick Shi Meng and Tang Jie, but he couldn't help but be tempted by Shi Mo's great aspiration. He was already hoping that his wife would change her mind.
But to his surprise, Zheng Shufeng grimly shook her head.
Shi Mo was stunned, and Wei Danbai was also rather displeased. "Shufeng, aren't you a little too biased against Shi Mo?"
Zheng Shufeng snorted. "This isn't bias, but understanding. Those who aren't fit will never be fit, not even if they make the greatest aspiration in the world. I do not understand cultivation, but I understand the ways of the world. I have never heard of an ignorant child who can suddenly mature upon making an aspiration. Moreover, the Sageheart Kingdom has thousands of clans, but I have never heard of any clan that dared to make a cultivator into a servant, so how could my little Wei Clan dare to start a precedent? There are some promises that he can be bold enough to make, but that we do not dare to receive… I feel that it is better to conduct oneself in a steadfast manner. Promises, no matter how pretty, are still only promises. Rather than standing at the pond and longing for fish, better to go home and weave a net!"
Wei Danbai was left speechless by these words, Master Lu nodded and smiled, Shi Mo felt like he had been dropped into an ice house, and even Tang Jie was shaken.
He had never expected Zheng Shufeng to be utterly unmoved by Shi Mo's Great Heart Demon Aspiration. This was far, far beyond his expectations.
Zheng Shufeng added, "While Tang Jie's ambitions are long-term, they have substance. The Celestial Heart Realm is still rather distant to our Wei Clan, and if we can exchange one spot for a Celestial Heart Realm cultivator, we will greatly profit…"
Wei Danbai also smiled. One spot for one Celestial Heart Realm was naturally a huge profit. Tens of thousands of people entered the Immortal academies every year, but less than one Celestial Heart Realm expert was produced every year. Tang Jie's promise truly was extremely valuable. His wife's argument made sense, so he nodded in approval.
Shi Mo shouted, "I'm not convinced! My lady, what sort of person is Tang Jie? How is it that he can help the young master reach the Celestial Heart? He speaks without thinking…"
"I have a five-cycle Jade Gate. Is that enough?" Tang Jie casually said.
Everyone was stunned by these words.