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AIP - Chapter 32: Choosing a Sect (I)

Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr

The Heart Demon Aspiration was something that every servant student needed to make before entering school. The clans were not fool enough to take them at their word.

A Heart Demon Aspiration was far more binding than a verbal promise.

When it came to Heart Demon Aspirations, there were great aspirations, minor aspirations, and non-aspirations. Tang Jie's oath to destroy Godhead Palace was a great aspiration, while Xu Muyang's desire to end the karmic debt he owed to Tang Jie for saving him could not even be considered an aspiration, so it was called a non-aspiration.

Non-aspirations were like opening up a store for the day. Success or failure, it was just business with one or two customers and wouldn't have much effect, and it took an ordinary amount of effort.

Minor aspirations were like signing a purchasing contract with a company. Each contract had a lot on the line. A lost contract wouldn't be fatal, but it would have serious consequences and could not be taken lightly.

Great aspirations were like large contracts that the fate of the company hinged on. A failed contract would lead to the bank asking for repayment, cash flow problems, and ultimately, closure.

Thus, great aspirations were not to be made lightly, but declaring a great aspiration could also strengthen one's Dao Heart, erecting a foundation for the heart that would make one's path to cultivation smoother.

This was the nature of aspirations.

Aspirations had nature, but they also had contents.

"I declare my great aspiration: to eat meat with every meal from now on!"

Such absurd contents could be called a great aspiration, but there was no point, and it would bring no benefit, only trouble.

As for an aspiration like "I declare my great aspiration: to destroy Godhead Palace," this was an aspiration of extermination. It would bring Tang Jie no benefits when it came to cultivation, but when he faced off against the people of Godhead Palace, he would obtain some kind of external aid, but as for how it would manifest, it depended on the person.

As for Shi Wunian's "I declare my great aspiration, to destroy all conditioned existences in this world", this was an aspiration for the breaking of arts. It did not mean that he could truly destroy all the arts in the world, but when he sought to break arts, it would provide him extra help. But his Great Aspiration divine connection was truly mystical. Not only was he allowed to make the aspiration before every battle, he could even alter the aspiration, and the price for going against the aspiration would be much smaller than usual.

As for the seeking of immortality or freedom, these were foundational aspirations, the foundation of what a cultivator sought. Thus, the vast majority of aspirations were foundational aspirations.

Great aspirations were the form. The likes of extermination, foundation, and breaking of arts were the contents, and they could be declared as great aspirations or minor aspirations.

The servant students of every great clan normally had to declare an aspiration before entering school. These aspirations were called aspirations of gratitude, and their contents would also differ. 

Clans normally would not force servant students to declare a great aspiration, as this would affect their Immortal foundation and the fruits of their cultivation, but a minor aspiration was a must. However, if someone were willing to make a great aspiration, no one would stop them.

Tang Jie believed that Shi Mo still had a chance because of the potential of a Great Heart Demon Aspiration.

In the past, Shi Mo was still deluded into thinking he had a chance, so he would not have made a greater promise in the hopes of entering school. But after this incident, Shi Mo was once more at the heart of the struggle, and he would inevitably realize that he had little chance of being selected by the lady. He would no longer be fooled by his status as 'secretary'.

In dire straits, people would often fight a desperate battle.

To get into school, Shi Mo's only option was to promise more, to offer up the greatest repayment he possibly could in the form of a great aspiration. When you can’t borrow money, just take a higher-interest loan! There was never a lack of risk-taking investors in the world!

Of course, not just everyone would do this.

You first had to be worthy.

And those who were truly worthy might not be willing to make this choice.

The path of cultivation was one of many dangers, and rather than risking one's life to become a high-class slave, it was probably better to just live a safe and muddleheaded life.

But Tang Jie knew that Shi Mo would probably do this.

He understood Shi Mo, and he could see that desire for fame and power in Shi Mo's eyes.

For this, he might even be willing to sell off half his life.

Steward Qin understood the moment he heard 'Great Heart Demon Aspiration', and his brow creased. "That's truly a problem if this is the case. If there's really nothing to be done, you'll just have to do the same."

"That's just a bidding war, an attempt to see who will put up the higher price. Unless my life is on the line, this sort of pursuit regardless of the costs is not necessary." Tang Jie shook his head. "I have benefitted from the Wei Clan, and if I am able to enter Basking Moon Academy in the future, I will repay it, but I have no plans to sell off half my life… Uncle Qin knows that I have always longed for freedom. Though I have not declared an aspiration, I have marked it in my heart. If I sell off half my lifespan to cultivate, I will go against my Origin Heart, at which point stepping onto the Immortal path is pointless. Thus, I can accept being a servant and heeding orders for the time being, but not for an eternity!"

"No matter how great your ambitions, you have to step through the Immortal gate first. If you can't, what's the point?"

"It's not like it's impossible. There's actually a most simple method of defeating Shi Mo's Great Heart Demon Aspiration. It's just that I don't really want to use it."

"And what is that?"

Tang Jie smiled. "Actually, the Wei Clan isn't some cultivator clan, so it has no true understanding of the Heart Demon Aspiration. I've been fortunate enough to interact with an Immortal before, so I happen to know some things about the Great Heart Demon Aspiration."

"You've met an Immortal?" Steward Qin was shocked.

"Mm." Tang Jie nodded. "But it was just a chance meeting, and in those brief days together, I managed to learn a few things about the cultivation world. From what I know, the Great Heart Demon Aspiration has many constraints. It is not as useful as everyone thinks it is."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Uncle Qin, do you know why cultivators have Heart Demon Tribulations?"

"No." Qin Yuan was an ordinary steward. He only knew about the Heart Demon Tribulation because he was well-informed, but where would he find out what exactly a Heart Demon Tribulation involved?

Tang Jie smiled and explained, "Cultivation consists of five realms: the Spirit Platform Realm, the Mortal Shedding Realm, the Celestial Heart Realm, the Violet Palace Realm, and the Immortal Platform Realm. The focus of the Spirit Platform Realm is energy, opening the Spirit Sea in the body to absorb spiritual energy and then using spiritual energy to produce various kinds of spell arts. But these spell arts consume the body's energy and do not make any modifications to the body. In truth, these are simply methods of moving energy around, like the difference between a mortal with a weapon and one without. At the Mortal Shedding Realm, when one opens the Heaven-Earth Bridge, a cultivator can use the spiritual energy in one's body to harness the spiritual energy of the world. At this time, the spiritual energy in the body is only a lure, a booster. Human power is limited, but the power of the heavens and the earth is unlimited. Thus, it is only at this time that Immortal Masters possess their heavenly abilities. Besides that, there is something else that separates the Mortal Shedding Realm from the Spirit Platform Realm. At this stage, one can use spiritual energy to purify, temper and transform the body. And does Uncle Qin know what happens at the Celestial Heart Realm?"

Steward Qin blankly shook his head.

"In truth, the Celestial Heart Realm is simply the next step in the purification and tempering, but at this time, what is being purified is not the body, but…" Tang Jie pointed at his own head.

Steward Qin trembled. "The head?"

"To be more precise, the brain, the mind. Though the Mortal Shedding Realm is about shedding the mortal body, the head remains a weakness. They can survive a damaged heart, but they would still die if their head is no more. That is because this place is still mortal. The brain is the most complicated part of the human body, and even those mighty Immortals of the Mortal Shedding Realm cannot casually purify and temper it. They must wait until after they have formed their Celestial Heart to do so. Once they form their Celestial Heart, they will form their Spirit Will, and after that is the Divine Will. Whether it is the Spirit Will or the Divine Will, it is actually our formless consciousness given form."

Steward Qin understood. "So you're saying that this is where the Heart Demon Tribulation comes from?"

"Correct. The Celestial Heart Realm is about cultivating the Spirit Will, turning it from formless into formed, and with it, you also give form to Heart Demons. Heart Demons are those things we've regretted or been upset by, and they will emerge in the process of manifesting the Spirit Will. Put simply, it's just the difference between the Divine Will and Demonic Will, like the good and evil sides of a person. The Divine Will can be controlled, and at high levels of cultivation, it can move heaven and earth with a single thought. Without the need for any sort of spells or incantations, it can create ten thousand arts. This is the Violet Palace Realm. The Demonic Will cannot be controlled and will only bite back at its owner. Thus, the Heart Demon Tribulation is a tribulation that will only happen at the Celestial Heart Realm."

"So you're saying that ordinary Spirit Masters don't fear the Heart Demon Tribulation?"

"The fear is there, but it's a fear that if they do too many things that dirty their heart, then they'll have to pay up when they reach the Celestial Heart Realm. But if they decide to stop at the Mortal Shedding Realm and go no further, then they really don't need to fear anything."

Steward Qin's entire body felt cold. "But I've never heard the clan's Spirit Masters talk about this."

"Why would they?" Tang Jie countered. "They probably had to declare an aspiration upon entering the Wei Estate, and since they declared an aspiration, they probably got a little higher pay for it. What sort of person would be bored enough to tell their master, 'By the way, I don't plan to try for the Celestial Heart Realm in my lifetime, so don't take that Heart Demon Aspiration I made to you seriously'?"

Steward Qin was utterly speechless.

Tang Jie chuckled. "In truth, all the old-school cultivator clans know about this, but why would anyone talk about it? After all, that could easily offend many people, as there are many Spirit Masters who rely on this for a living. In the end, the Wei Clan hasn't been around for that long, and it doesn't have its own Spirit Masters, so it still doesn't know about a lot of things. Besides that, those Spirit Masters might not have intentionally deceived you. Many Spirit Masters haven't reached that stage and might not have even realized it themselves."

"And why is that?" Qin Yuan asked, very curious. How could not even Spirit Masters be aware?

"Because cultivation itself is a very dangerous affair, and the slightest lack of caution might result in corruption. Learning about the later parts of the path of cultivation too early might result in cultivators making risky attempts. While this might be a result of a moment of curiosity, the results are often tragic! For the sake of safety, masters normally won't tell their juniors such things too early, and even if they do tell them, they will add on warnings to not talk about it or rashly attempt it."

"Then how did you…"

"It's not like that Immortal had any intention of taking me as a disciple, and I still don't know any Immortal arts, so he just casually told me a few things. Perhaps he felt like I would never in my lifetime be able to get into an academy," Tang Jie said with a smile.

In truth, Xu Muyang had told him all this partially because he trusted in Tang Jie's mature personality and believed that he wouldn't mess around, and partially because he had drunk a few cups of wine that day and had not been on his guard. After the incident, he had been so full of regret that he wanted to die, and he repeatedly warned Tang Jie not to try it. Fortunately, Tang Jie had not believed himself to have such heaven-defying talent that he could succeed. Whenever it came to his safety, he was never reckless.

Steward Qin paced back and forth and then shook his head. "No, I must tell the lady about this."

"You'd better not," Tang Jie advised. "If you really tell her, wouldn't you be hated by those Spirit Masters for the rest of your life? If they hold grudges… if they want to kill you, you might not even realize how you died. And in truth, it's not like those Spirit Masters are guaranteed to not want to advance to the Celestial Heart Realm. So long as there's a sliver of hope, is there anyone who would truly be willing to stop? Thus, the Heart Demon Aspiration still carries some meaning. It's just that you can't take it too seriously or place too much trust in it."

Steward Qin sighed. "I hope that they're unaware of this as well. You're right. If I caused trouble over this problem, it would be awful whether they knew or not, and what if I ended up harming the innocent? But the lady is wise and has never staked everything on the Heart Demon Aspiration. She has always said that while the Heart Demon Aspiration is important, a person's nature is also important. Only when both are present can the safety of the clan be ensured."

"I agree." Tang Jie smiled. "The truly smart people never blindly believe in something they do not understand. As always, the lady is wise!"

"But if we can't talk about it, then there's no stopping Shi Mo's great aspiration, and your only choice is to imitate Shi Mo. At most, you'll have to stop at Mortal Shedding. It's still better than being unable to enter the Immortal gate."

But unfortunately, Tang Jie was not willing. "I won't use my future as a chip and wager it all. In truth, even if the Wei Clan doesn't choose me, I'm confident that I can still enter the Immortal gate. It's just that it will be more troublesome."

Steward Qin was startled by these words. "You're saying you have another way of entering the Immortal gate?"

"Of course. The Sageheart Kingdom doesn't just have the Basking Moon Sect. If I can't get into Basking Moon Academy, can I not go to another sect? It's just that the Basking Moon Academy is the orthodox path, and if I can take the regular road, why would I take the small roads? If I were willing to stop at Mortal Shedding, many sects in the Sageheart Kingdom would be willing to choose me, and getting into any of them would be much easier than getting into Basking Moon. Besides…"

Just when he was about to say "I actually have a way of beating Shi Mo", Steward Qin grabbed Tang Jie and excitedly asked, "That means you know of a way to get into another sect? Please, Little Jie, I'm begging you: you have to help me with something!"

"Uncle Qin, what are you doing?" Tang Jie was startled. He had never seen Steward Qin this agitated, much less use the word 'begging' in front of him.

Steward Qin anxiously said, "Please, you must help the fourth young lady! She's about to go crazy from wanting to cultivate!"

In a dimly-lit room, Wei Die nervously sat across from Tang Jie, and next to her was the equally nervous Steward Qin.

Rubbing his hands, Steward Qin somewhat awkwardly said, "I guess I can tell you this without being laughed at. Little Jie, I've watched the fourth young lady grow up and taken care of her, so I already regard her as my own daughter. Over the last few years, as the fourth young lady is a woman and has no opportunity, she has been in a very bad state, and I have also been worried about her…"

"I know. The year the fourth young lady was born was also the year Elder Sister Little Ru died, yes?" Tang Jie lightly said.

Steward Qin shivered, his head dropping as he began to sob.

Steward Qin had had a daughter called Qin Ru, his only daughter.

The year Wei Die was born, Qin Ru came down with a serious illness and died. Wei Die had just been born, and the servants of the Wei Estate were at their busiest, so Qin Yuan hadn't even been able to see his daughter one last time.

This had been an enormous blow to Qin Yuan.

One girl was born and another passed away. And after Wei Die was born, Qin Yuan found that she looked rather similar to his own daughter. Thus, he placed his affection on this girl. In his mind, he believed that Wei Die was his daughter's reincarnation. Even though Wei Die had actually been born before Qin Ru's death, Qin Yuan ignored this point and treated her as his daughter's reincarnation.

His fatherly affection for Wei Die over the last few years had been no secret. Only Steward Qin thought that it was. It was only when Tang Jie softly exposed the matter that Steward Qin dropped his head and began to cry.

After some time, Steward Qin finally said, "Little Jie, if you know a way, then please, teach it to the fourth young lady. Please, if you really know a way to get through the Immortal gate, then if you help me with this, you won't owe me anything in the future…"

"Uncle Qin…"

Wei Die and Tang Jie called out at the same time.

Wei Die was moved. On the matter of cultivation, not even her father, Wei Qingsong, had put in more than a token effort, but Steward Qin was willing to go to any lengths, seizing on even the smallest chances.

Tang Jie said in displeasure, "Uncle Qin, what sort of person do you take me for? We're all family, so how can we owe each other? I will do my best for the fourth young lady, but success will still depend on herself."

Wei Die hastily said, "I wish to cultivate, so I am willing to endure any kind of suffering."

"If being willing to endure suffering were all it took, wouldn't everyone be an Immortal? Is life in a rich clan more difficult than farming?" Tang Jie answered with disdain.

Wei Die's face reddened, and all she could say was, "Then what do you think I should do?"

"If you wish to enter the Immortal gate, you must first have a definite goal. Fourth Young Lady, let me ask you why you want to cultivate…"

Wei Die very seriously considered the question before finally answering, "I want to cultivate because I'm not convinced. Why is it that men can do it while women cannot? This isn't fair. In addition, I also want the freedom of an Immortal."

"So you wish to cultivate to seek fairness and freedom?"

"Yes, fairness and freedom!" Wei Die firmly said.

"Good. Now let me ask you: what do you think of yourself as a person? In other words, I would like you to evaluate your personality."

"Ah?" Wei Die hadn't expected this question. After a while, she finally muttered, "I think… I should be… a good girl…"

Wei Die felt rather embarrassed to compliment herself, and with the last few words, her face blushed in shame, and she lowered her head, unwilling to meet Tang Jie's gaze.

Qin Yuan hastily said, "Wei'er is a good child with a gentle personality. She has always treated the servants magnanimously."

Tang Jie coolly said, "Your words don't count."

"Eh?" Qin Yuan was confused.

Tang Jie explained, "Your affection for the fourth young lady will hinder you from giving a fair assessment, so your assessment does not count. To understand what sort of person the fourth young lady is, you must observe her with your eyes, analyze her with your mind, and test her with time. In my view, the fourth young lady is still somewhat far away from having a magnanimous personality."

Wei Die's face turned completely red. "Tang Jie, I came to see you because Uncle Qin said that you had a way of getting me into the Immortal gate, not so that you could humiliate me. Are these questions supposed to help me in that?"

"Of course. If you can't get into Basking Moon Academy, you can only fall back and settle for the next best thing. But while the Sageheart Kingdom has only one major sect, it has countless smaller ones, so you have to carefully consider your choices. I know that you're going to say that you're fine so long as you can get into any sect, but sometimes, it's better to act slowly rather than act with too much haste. If you don't think carefully now, you might regret it in the future. Fourth Young Lady is currently like a person about to starve to death, willing to eat anything you can put into your mouth. But I cannot let the young lady casually choose a sect. Fourth Young Lady must understand that cultivation is no simple matter. Starting from the foundation, one must proceed carefully with each step. A single mistake might lead to a loss of opportunity for a lifetime."

Saying this, Tang Jie took out a piece of paper. Wei Die watched as he wrote a row of names on it. These were clearly the other sects of the Sageheart Kingdom.

Tang Jie placed the paper on the table and said, "Other than the Basking Moon Sect, which is Sageheart's only major sect, there are several hundred sects of various sizes. But, Young Lady, you must understand that only a small number of these several hundred sects can actually lead you to the Great Dao. Some techniques might feel good when first practiced, but they go against the Great Dao and cause the foundation to be laid down incorrectly. In the future, no matter how hard you work, your results will be limited. The direction of a human life is very important. Taking the wrong road might have you going in the opposite direction of where you want to go. This is why I asked Fourth Young Lady the first question. I wanted to know if Fourth Young Lady's ambitions were focused on the Great Dao. If this is not the fourth young lady's ambition, then you can just find the easiest one to get into so you can go through the motions."

"How could that do?" Wei Die shouted. "I seek fairness, not going through the motions!"

"Very good." Tang Jie once more waved around the paper. "There are twenty-two sects on this paper. I specifically chose them because I believe that they are sects that have the potential. Since Fourth Young Lady seeks the Great Dao, we should start with these twenty-two sects."

"Wait." Steward Qin was rather confused. "How do you know that these twenty-two sects can allow one to cultivate to the Great Dao while the others can't?"

"By looking at history."

"Looking at history?"

The two were further confused by Tang Jie's answer.

"Yes, by looking at history! The will of the heavens is unfathomable, and the future is unpredictable, but the future is constantly repeating history. Thus, by understanding history, you can understand the future!"

Hypersheep325's Notes:

Ah, more world-building. And a look at how mortals navigate a world of cultivators.

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Written by Yuanfen 0 缘分0. Translated by Hypersheep325. Edited by Michyrr.