Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Before daybreak, Tang Jie would rise to sweep the courtyard.
There was a rustling sound as Tang Jie waved the broom again and again across the ground. Spiritual energy traveled through every meridian of his body before ultimately dispersing into nothing.
But with each complete cycle, a sliver of spiritual energy would merge with his veins, causing his strength to swell.
This was something Tang Jie had discovered when breaking free of the restraints Xu Muyang had placed on him. He discovered that cultivating the Visceral Manifestation Classic could not only use spiritual energy to expand the meridians, but also merge spiritual energy into the blood and increase one's strength.
Refining the blood, bones, and viscera with spiritual energy was something that only someone at the Mortal Shedding Realm could do, and it was precisely why this realm was called 'Mortal Shedding', because one could shed one's mortal constitution. But the Visceral Manifestation Classic could refine the body while one was still at the initial stage of the Spirit Platform Realm. This was a pleasant surprise for Tang Jie.
At that time, he realized that this was probably the true hidden purpose of the Visceral Manifestation Classic.
Xu Muyang had always believed that the Visceral Manifestation Classic, as a product of the Martial Lord, had to have more of an effect than just helping one break through the Jade Gate, and it now seemed that he was correct. However, he had mistakenly believed that the Visceral Manifestation Classic was meant to help one to achieve nine cycles of the Jade Gate, when it was actually for refining one's body early.
It was hard to blame Xu Muyang for not thinking about this possibility.
Immortals derived their power from spell arts, and the Jade Gate was most important, as it would directly determine one's cultivation speed. No one would have expected the Visceral Manifestation Classic to delve down another path. As for why it was like this, Tang Jie knew that he wouldn't be able to find the answer until he opened the Martial Lord's treasury.
As he cleaned the courtyard and cultivated the Visceral Manifestation Classic once more, he felt his body growing stronger. Though he was just a teenager, he had about the same strength as an adult, and he delighted in this fact.
The door creaked, and Granny Wu came out. When she saw that Tang Jie had already cleaned up the courtyard, she smiled and said, "Boy, you got up early again."
Tang Jie smiled back. "When I was unconscious, the two elders saved me, and even the sacrifice of my life would not be enough to repay this kindness, so what does cleaning the courtyard matter? Grandmother, please go back and rest. I'll start boiling the water in the kitchen."
"Aiyah, there's no need. Once you got here, the two of us were left with nothing to do, with you doing everything," the old woman helplessly said. "I don't even have a place to stretch my old bones."
"Then let me massage your back!" Tang Jie walked over with a smile. He helped the old woman sit down and then began to attentively massage her back.
Having learned massage from his father from his last life, he worked like a professional, his hands carrying just the right amount of force. The old woman was as comfortable as could be.
When Old Wu came out and saw what was going on, he couldn't help but laugh. "You really know how to enjoy yourself. Why, you've practically become Old Lady Wei."
Granny Wu rolled her eyes at her husband and laughed. "Look at this. Not even Old Lady Wei is as comfortable as me. Little Jie's hands! They're truly exquisite! My entire body is relaxed, and I feel like I've gotten younger by a few years. Though I've been married to you for so long, I've never enjoyed something like this. Ah, I suppose this life was worth it now."
"Since Grandmother likes this, Little Jie will give you a massage every day from now on!" Tang Jie said.
"Alright!" Granny Wu immediately agreed.
Tang Jie was very good at conducting himself. In his few days here, he had thoroughly cleaned the house without asking for a single coin, only requiring three meals a day and a place to sleep. No servant came this cheaply, so how could the old granny not enjoy this treatment?
In truth, it was very simple to get into someone's good graces. Someone who knew how to talk, conduct oneself, and work, so long as they did these things well, would naturally earn favor.
The Wu couple had seen little of the wider world, and since Tang Jie could garner Xu Muyang's favor, it would be a simple task to get the favor of the old couple. He served the two elders until they felt like they were in paradise. Moreover, as they were alone, their children having left the house, Tang Jie's companionship caused them to like him more and more, and they truly began to treat him like a child of the house.
"Since that's the case, you can just stay here from now on. You don't need to go anywhere else," Granny Wu said with a hearty laugh.
"That won't do. Grandmother, I still have to go out and work. I can't rely on my two elders for my food and drink for the rest of my life, can I?" Tang Jie replied.
"You're still young. There's no need to be in such a rush."
"Grandmother, don't just look at my age. I'm rather strong and can do all the work an adult can do. Besides, the two of you saved my life and let me stay. It's only right that I serve you. How could I eat and drink for free?"
After some thought, Old Wu nodded. "That's true."
Granny Wu glared. "Old man, what are you saying? Are you really going to let Little Jie go out? Do you really think we can't raise a single child?"
"Haaa, you can't say it like that," Old Wu said, waving his hand. "The child of a poor home starts managing the household early. If not for Tang Jie's troubles, he might not have become so clever and intelligent. I think having him go out to work will be good for him. If you think it's too much, you can just not take his money and let him save it up so that he can use it to get a good wife."
Granny Wu found that this argument made sense, and dropped her head to think. "I suppose it's fine, but since you want this, old man, you're the one responsible. Find Little Jie a good job."
"Me?" Old Wu was dumbfounded. With a bitter smile, he said, "Where am I going to find him a job? And besides, it depends on what he can do."
Tang Jie's massaging hands began to move slower, and he dropped his head as he answered, "Grandpa, I was born in a poor family, and I don't know how to do anything besides plant crops."
"Nothing at all?" The look on Old Wu's face immediately crumbled. "That makes things hard. You've never had another job before?"
"I have, actually," Tang Jie said. "For a time, I was a page for a family there. The people rather liked me and treated me well. But then the bandits came…"
He stopped, a faint sob to his voice.
The two elders understood and sighed.
Granny Wu exclaimed, "Aiyah, let's not talk about such sad things. It's no wonder Little Jie is so good at cleaning the house. It felt like you worked for some big family before. Right, old man!"
Granny Wu suddenly shouted, "Why not ask Steward Qin? Maybe he can get a job for Little Jie in the Wei Estate."
Old Wu immediately frowned. "This… Doesn't it seem improper?"
"What's improper about it?" Granny Wu shouted back. "You saved Steward Qin's life. That winter day, wasn't he just like Little Jie, almost freezing to death at our doorstep? Really, it's quite the coincidence. I didn't think that, after twenty years, Little Jie would end up in the same way. Qin Yuan is now the chief steward of the Wei Clan and has treated us well. If you go and talk to him, I'm sure it will work out!"
"But the Wei Clan doesn't take people of unclear backgrounds, and not even Steward Qin might be able to change that."
"What unclear background?" Granny Wu said, her eyes glaring. "Little Jie is a part of our family. He's… he's… he's my stepson. Am I, Wu Yu Hehua, still someone of an unclear background? If that's still not enough, just say that he's your love child that you had with someone else!"
Old Wu instantly blushed. "What are you saying!? I'm fifty and six years old, so how could I have fathered a twelve-year-old love child? If these words of yours get out, how am I going to walk around the neighborhood? Really… really…"
Granny Wu pursed her lips. "Xin'er is only seventeen this year, and isn't he also a son you had in your old age?"
"How could that be the same? I was still forty, still had… still had… had a little more strength." Old Wu took quite a while to squeeze out those last words.
"Little Jie isn't that much younger than Xin'er."
"Stop making trouble!" Old Wu was so angered by his wife's words that he flailed his hands around.
Tang Jie smiled at the bickering, but a moment later, he dropped to his knees in front of Granny Wu and shouted, "Tang Jie is willing to treat my two elders as my adopted father and mother, and requests my elders to accept me. From now on, I will do my utmost as your son to fulfill my filial duty!"
"It's still this boy that knows how to talk." Granny Wu smiled as she helped Tang Jie up. "Haa, good child, since you've already kneeled, it would be rude of me to refuse. Hurry and stand."
She then turned to her husband. "What? Still not happy? It seems to me that you're blessed to have Little Jie as your adopted son!"
"This… this…" Old Wu shook his head. In the end, he couldn't overcome his wife and finally nodded. "Fine, fine, I agree as well."
He found the fact that he was adopting a son in his old age rather interesting, and couldn't help but chuckle.
"Then why haven't you gone to invite Steward Qin to come over for a visit?"
"I will invite him in time, but you can't rush this matter. Tang Jie has only been at our house for a few days, and he needs to stay here for a while. Once everyone in the neighborhood knows his background, we can invite him over. Otherwise, when Steward Qin questions us about this child, we won't be able to say anything. How could he recommend him then?"
Secretly, Old Wu also felt like he needed to see this boy's character. One or two days wasn't enough for this. A long period of time was necessary to achieve understanding.
"That's true," Granny Wu muttered as she looked at Tang Jie.
Tang Jie smiled and said, "I'm in no rush, so long as my elders don't mind me eating for free."
"Goodness, how could we mind? And aren't you doing a lot of work already? You should get yourself accustomed to this place. Besides, your adopted father is here for you, so you don't need to worry about anything."
"Yes, adopted mother!"
With this, Tang Jie formally began to reside with the Wu family.
Time flew by, and several months went by in the blink of an eye. As winter passed and spring arrived, another year began.
It had been almost a year since his first meeting with Xu Muyang.
In this year, Tang Jie had clearly grown taller. His meridians had finished expanding, and even his veins were brimming with spiritual energy. But it seemed like the Visceral Manifestation Classic wasn't done yet, and it had automatically moved on to his bones and organs, making his entire body stronger and stronger. On the surface, however, he remained an ordinary youth. No one could tell that this youth's body contained enough strength to easily topple three or five strong men.
At the same time, Tang Jie had gradually grown familiar with the surrounding neighborhood. There was no one on Big Willow Street who didn't know that the Wu family had saved a boy in the winter and had taken him as their adopted son. Though he wasn't old, he was extremely smart and clever. From time to time, he would help his neighbors with a few jobs, and he was also rather handsome, drawing the admiration of quite a few of the local girls.
In celebration of the new year, Steward Qin paid a visit to the Wu family, bringing gifts with him. Tang Jie was fortunate enough to get a look at him. He was a middle-aged man in his forties, appearing very mature and composed.
In the past, this Steward Qin had almost frozen to death in front of the Wu home. Fortunately, the two elders had given him a bowl of warm porridge and saved his life. Surprisingly, a few years ago, he had suddenly made it big. Following the master of the Wei Clan, he had become the Wei Clan's chief steward. Of course, he had not forgotten the kindness that had been shown to him. Every year, he would pay a visit during the new year festivities and deliver gifts of some silver taels.
Old Wu's son, Wu Xin, had benefited from Steward Qin and had entered the Wei Estate a few years ago for work. Later on, as a servant student, he had gone with the Wei Clan's First Young Master to Basking Moon Academy. All of a sudden, Old Wu had a cultivator for a son, and his status soared. Though he had yet to finish his studies, even a Spirit Disciple would be enough for Old Wu to not worry about food or drink for the rest of his days, and no one would dare to cause him trouble. It was also for this reason that Steward Qin became even more diligent.
Today, Steward Qin had once more come to visit the Wu couple. Old Wu had Tang Jie prepare wine and meat, and then they ate together at the table.
As they were eating, Granny Wu shot her husband a glance, but Old Wu buried himself in his food and pretended not to see.
Seeing this, Steward Qin laughed. "My elders, you must have something to discuss, yes? It's been so many years, so why the need to hide things from each other? Please, say whatever it is. If it is within my power, I would not dare to refuse."
Angrily glaring at her husband, Granny Wu said, "This man has always been like that, never willing to ask something of others. Even now, he still feels embarrassed for asking your help to recommend Xin'er."
"Just a minor matter hardly worth worrying about," Steward Qin said with a smile. "Brother Xin has not let the two of you down. He's become a study partner, and I'm even hoping to rely a little on Brother Xin's shine in the future."
"Of course, of course. If he dares to not look after you, I'll have his hide. Even if he becomes an Immortal, he's still my son, the flesh that dropped out of my belly!" Granny Wu happily said. She then grabbed Tang Jie and said, "You know my family's Little Jie. Some months ago, we picked him up out of the snow. Now that I think about it, it was just like you."
"Yes." Steward Qin's eyes reddened at the mention of the past. He felt some sympathy for this boy that had shared his plight.
Granny Wu saw that there was an opening and hastily said, "But while this boy has had it hard, he's very clever. He's been cleaning up the house and has done a fine job of it, as you've seen. He worked in a big family before, but that family encountered disaster, resulting in his dire circumstances. You see…"
"You wish me to bring him into the Wei Estate?" Steward Qin understood the old woman's intentions.
"Yes!" The old woman didn't hide it, bluntly asking, "Do you think you can do it?"
After some thought, Steward Qin answered, "Normally, I could, but he's been here for too little time, and I don't understand him enough. Moreover, there are no vacancies in the Wei Estate at this time."
The old woman's expression fell.
Steward Qin added, "But this boy is smart and clever, I can tell. It seems like today's food was all made by him as well, yes?"
"Yes. When he learned that you were coming, Little Jie busied himself the entire day."
Steward Qin smiled and looked at Tang Jie. "I can understand wanting to get into the Wei Clan. But you should know that it is not easy to get in. Tell me: for what purpose do you want to get into the Wei Clan?"
After some thought, Tang Jie answered, "I want to enter the Wei Estate to make some money to support my two elders. They saved me, so I want to return their kindness. In addition, I am envious of Brother Wu Xing for being able to go with First Young Master Wei to Basking Moon Academy. If possible, I hope to be able to also get there through my own efforts…"
Steward Qin nodded. "Very good. You didn't lie."
The world had never been fair.
Basking Moon Academy had only 1500 open spots every year, and countless people tried to squeeze their way in.
But for ordinary families, this was harder than ascending to the heavens. For the rich and noble clans, this was an extremely simple affair. Some of the big clans could easily get a few spots, and the extra spots would be given to the servants.
This was because all the major sects had a rule that students could not bring their servants to the academy. Thus, to ensure that their children were not wrongly treated, these powerful clans would think of a compromise. For example, they would send servants in as students. On the surface, they were students, but they were really servants and study partners.
Of course, they were not merely there to serve. The servants obtained the opportunity to cultivate because of these clans, and they were certain to be grateful for this chance. If they achieved anything in the future, they would often choose to continue to serve the clan.
The Jin Clan retained ten-some cultivators, and more than half had come in this way. These people were more loyal than outside hires, and it could be said that they prospered together with the clan.
As Ling Province had a high economic status and paid a lot of tribute to the Basking Moon Sect, it had 120 spots at Basking Moon Academy every year. Of these 120 spots, 40 were for Canglong Prefecture.
These forty spots were normally first divided between the five great clans, with the remainder to be fought over by outsiders.
The Wei Clan was allotted one spot a year, and it accumulated other spots through mutual trades. Through this method, it could build up a lot of spots, which it would normally use to send off one son of the main branch and two to three servants.
Thus, becoming a servant of a great clan could be considered a chance to ascend to the heavens in a single step.
This was also why Tang Jie had wracked his mind to think of a way to get into the Wei Clan.
The older son of the Wei Clan had successfully entered the academy, but it was said that he was making poor progress and had little chance of getting into the Mortal Shedding Realm, meaning that he couldn't graduate and would remain a Spirit Disciple for the rest of his life.
Though Spirit Disciples were cultivators and could use spells and arts, they still had mortal bodies, of limited lifespan and ability.
The Wei Clan needed to ensure the longevity of the clan, so it needed a true cultivator of its own, at least of the Spirit Master level. Thus, it placed its hopes on the younger son. If he couldn't do it, then hopefully his study partner could, as he would be like an unofficial member of the clan. Normally, the clan would try to make marriage connections with such individuals.
As a result, while the status of servants might be low, once they became a study partner, the clan would treat them rather well so as to gain their favor.
The younger son, Wei Tianchong, was eleven this year. In a few more years, he could enter the academy.
This was Tang Jie's chance to enter Basking Moon Academy, his only chance!
But this was no secret. Many people knew about it.
This was also why it was never hard for great clans to hire servants, particularly those of Tang Jie's age, who were anxious to enter the academy. Every year, countless people would try to bribe their connections to get into the clan, with some going to such extreme lengths as to forsake any pay, seeking only a chance.
Thus, getting into the Wei Clan was extremely difficult. Besides a clean background, one also needed connections. And it was no secret why everyone wanted to get into the Wei Clan. Tang Jie had no need to hide it, much less the ability.
As for whether or not he could stand out and get selected as an attendant once he got in, that would depend on his own ability.
For Tang Jie, while it wasn't easy to get selected amid all the other servants, it was much easier than competing with a hundred thousand others.
After all, he had the experience of an adult. If he couldn't beat a bunch of children, then he had no hope of cultivating to become an Immortal.
Hearing Tang Jie's answer, Steward Qin nodded in satisfaction. "Since that's the case, I will take note of this matter. Currently, the Wei Estate does not have any open spots, so you will have to wait. When the opportunity comes, I will recommend you. Getting in will depend on your own ability."
"Thank you, Chief Steward Qin!" Tang Jie excitedly prostrated on the ground.
With Qin Yuan's recommendation, he had a chance.
Tang Jie had a long road in front of him, but at the very least, he could see the gleam of daybreak on the horizon.