AIP - Chapter 12: Sorrowful Parting
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The days of cultivation flew by very quickly.
After a big downpour at the end of summer, the autumn silently arrived.
Half a year had gone by in the blink of an eye.
In this half a year, Tang Jie's days were rather packed with washing his meridians and learning formations from Xu Muyang.
Today, in the courtyard, Tang Jie was practicing punching.
He was currently practicing an arm boxing routine. Xu Muyang had taught it to him, and it was meant to work with the Visceral Manifestation Classic in washing his meridians.
At this time, he was punching with such vigor that he created small gusts of wind. Occasionally, spiritual energy would make an entire circuit of his body. With each of these circuits, Tang Jie would experience an incredibly pleasant sensation, and at the same time, his body grew stronger.
Xu Muyang said that this was an indicator that his meridians had yet to expand to their limit.
After finishing the routine, Tang Jie felt the spiritual energy leave his body with great reluctance.
He could have kept practicing, but Xu Muyang explained that cultivation was not something that got better the more diligent one was. Excessively domineering training methods would cause one to overdraw on one's potential and even cause long-lasting injury to the body. It was best to strike a balance between work and rest.
Thus, he could only stop, yet he also couldn't restrain a sigh. "I wonder when these days are going to end?"
"What? Can't wait any longer?" In the pavilion, Xu Muyang was drawing on paper with a brush, and what he was drawing was a set of strange formation talismans. Hearing Tang Jie's words, he chuckled. "For people like you, washing the meridians and establishing a foundation might be monotonous and boring, but do you realize how many cultivators pray to the heavens to be given a chance to redo this period?"
"Big Brother Xu is right," Tang Jie hastily replied.
Thinking back to his school days, he recalled that many of his classmates were anxious to enter society and break free of those prison-like days in school. Only when they spent some time in society and got battered and bruised did they recall how wonderful their school life had actually been.
Tang Jie had been through life before, and though that life hadn't granted him any powerful starting advantages, it had given him abundant life experience. His mindset had long ago surpassed his age, and he was well aware of what was most important. He had only sighed just now because of his sensation of momentary helplessness. If he were really told to give up on laying his foundation and move straight to cultivation, he would absolutely refuse.
Xu Muyang had seen many cultivation disciples who had gotten bored of this routine, even the geniuses getting anxious to begin cultivating.
In the cultivation world, the number of people who actually started cultivating Immortal arts without properly laying down their foundation was rather small. Rather, the more common sort was those who did not treasure their bodies, clinging to a small thread of hope and trying to pull up the plants to help them grow faster.
Thus, he was full of praise for Tang Jie's composure.
He smiled and said, "Since you're done boxing, come and study today's formations."
Tang Jie couldn't help but bitterly smile.
The Dao of Formations, much like medicine, was a discipline where knowledge far surpassed technique in importance. For this reason, it also had few restrictions.
In this half-year, Tang Jie practiced the Visceral Manifestation Classic only twice a day, the amount of time put together taking only an hour. He spent most of his time studying formations.
At times, Tang Jie wondered whether Xu Muyang was using this method on purpose to try and draw his interest.
Compared to the slow pace of washing meridians, Tang Jie was advancing in leaps and bounds in his studies of formations.
This was not entirely because of his excellent mathematical foundation.
The Dao of Formations encompassed everything: divination, mathematics, geography, and even the weather. If one considered the existence of ancient formations, one could even add in history and culture. Math served as only a single component.
What was far more crucial was his adult mindset, allowing him to learn things much faster than the normal twelve-year-old boy. It was often said that children were strong learners, but a child's learning ability came more from the fact that they were always copying others. When it came to a capacity to take in knowledge, they were far inferior to adults.
The content an elementary student learned within a year couldn't even compare to what a high school student learned in a month.
For this reason, Tang Jie was rapidly proceeding through his formation studies. The memorization abilities and techniques primed by exam-preparation classes had laid down an excellent foundation, and in just half a year, Tang Jie had basically mastered all the basic knowledge needed for the Dao of Formations, leaving Xu Muyang effusive with praise.
With a flick of Xu Muyang's hand, the formation talisman he had been drawing flew into Tang Jie's hand. "Lay down a formation according to this diagram."
"A spirit-surveying formation?" Tang Jie said with a glance at the diagram. He was currently able to easily identify the function of each formation diagram. Spirit-surveying formations were used to survey the movements of the surrounding area's spiritual energy so that cultivators could seek out areas of abundant spiritual energy. This was one of the simplest kinds of formations.
Normally, cultivators also had spirit-seeing arts, but as formations were in tune with the laws of the world, they were more effective than spirit-seeing arts.
"Yes. This time, you must lay down a completely usable spirit-surveying formation, and it must cover a range of three li."
"Understood," Tang Jie firmly replied. He raised a hand, and a line of spiritual light shot out of his hand and landed on the ground.
His Jade Gate was open, so he could take in spiritual energy. It was just that without a Spirit Eye, he could not store it. Thus, so long as he used the spiritual energy he absorbed before it dissipated, he could still use it to lay down spirit formations. However, this way of doing things was very discontinuous, and it was impossible to finish everything in one go. This resulted in a pitifully limited effect, comparable to the tracings of a child.
As Tang Jie drew out the formation, Xu Muyang watched from the side, occasionally giving pointers.
After two whole hours, he finally finished drawing the formation. He inserted spiritual energy to activate it, and he immediately saw a strange fog appear within the formation, churning around. Besides that, there were also white plumes of smoke.
"Success!" Tang Jie shouted in delight.
The emergence of these plumes of smoke was a sign that the formation was a success. These plumes of smoke represented the surrounding spiritual energy. The formation lines had markings, and these markings represented different locations. The size and color of the plumes of smoke represented the differing amounts of spiritual energy.
This was his first time laying down a formation, and the formation only covered three li. If Xu Muyang had done it instead, it would have been instantly completed and probably would have extended for ten thousand li.
As Tang Jie watched those plumes of smoke rise from the formation, he felt as elated as could be. Half a year of bitter studying had finally borne fruit, and he couldn't help but feel sincere gratitude to Xu Muyang. He even felt that it was no longer a waste of time to learn the Dao of Formations, that it was actually rather useful.
Many labors could only become enjoyable once they yielded results.
Xu Muyang was extremely satisfied by this performance. "There are still large gaps in the connections between the formation lines. Formation lines are where spiritual energy travels through the earth, and just drawing the lines isn't enough. You must also unblock the formation lines to ensure that the spiritual energy can flow freely. Look at this formation line. You made two patches, and there's already a break in the middle. While they look connected, in reality, only a thread of spiritual energy can get through. Laying down a formation isn't drawing a picture, and it's not good enough to make a good drawing. What's truly important is what's inside. Look here, here, and here… While some of this is admittedly because you don't have enough spiritual energy to sustain the laying down of the formation, some of it is also because you are unaccustomed to the work."
"Mm, I get it. It's just like how a road needs to be kept open. The widest road, if it's not kept properly cleared, will still end up being blocked. At times, a single breakpoint can paralyze traffic on the entire road."
"Correct. Besides that, your knowledge of divination is shallow. The spirit-surveying formation is a formation for surveying spiritual energy. Since it is a surveying formation, it should be primarily operating through the Qian Gate. The Qian Gate represents heaven, to sit upon the central platform and listen to the flow of energy from all sides. Thus, the spirit-surveying formation has the Qian Gate as its primary. For what reason did you bolster the Xun Gate instead?"
(TN: The Eight Gates represent the Eight Trigrams that are used in Chinese divination. The names of these gates are Qian, Kun, Zhen, Kan, Gen, Xun, Li, and Dui.)
Tang Jie awkwardly scratched his head. "The Xun Gate represents wind, light and nimble, emphasizing change and distance. You said that you wanted the spirit-surveying formation to cover three li, so…"
"Forsaking the root to seek out the branch!" Xu Muyang swiftly rebuked. "What you needed to do was to make a good spirit-surveying formation, not to simply satisfy my requirements!"
"Yes, I understand," Tang Jie sternly replied.
Cultivation was not the same as preparing for an examination. While Tang Jie benefited from his past experiences, he was also restricted by the mindset from his past life. Fortunately, Xu Muyang had promptly pointed it out, so he understood where his mistakes were.
Xu Muyang continued to lecture him on how his formation was insufficient, and as he got more into it, spirit lines began to shoot out from his fingers, repairing Tang Jie's spirit-surveying formation. As the formation was repaired, it grew larger and larger, covering a greater and greater range. Not only were the clouds visualized, Tang Jie could now faintly make out rising and falling mountains. It was as if the entire world was within the formation, everything under his control.
In Xu Muyang's hands, this spirit-surveying formation had become a reflection of the world. Tang Jie was amazed, but Xu Muyang thought little about it, saying, "All formations are connected. There are many times when just a few minor changes might create a completely different formation. When a spirit-surveying formation is brought to its ultimate form, it can reflect the entire world, becoming a Chiliocosmic Formation. And it's not just the spirit-surveying formation. Other formations can do this as well. The composition, changes, and improvements needed for this are incredibly complex, the mysteries endless. Even if you devote your entire life to the pursuit, you might not be able to reach the end. Do you still have no interest in this field?"
Tang Jie giggled. "I know I was wrong. In the future, I will study hard and get better every day!"
Xu Muyang laughed at his words, but just when he was about to say more, there was a gleam of violet light in the formation.
Startled, Xu Muyang looked at the formation and saw a flashing light within it.
"Violet energy surging to the heavens?" Xu Muyang blurted out, his face paling.
"Violet energy surging to the heavens? What is that?" Tang Jie's experience in cultivation was limited, so he did not understand the meaning of this phrase.
Xu Muyang said nothing, falling into deep thought.
"What happened? Big Brother Xu." Tang Jie could tell that something was off about Xu Muyang's expression, and spoke with concern.
After a moment of silence, Xu Muyang suddenly laughed. "It's nothing. There's no need to worry about this matter. Oh, right, we've lived together for half a year now, but it seems like we've never drunk wine together, yes? Today is your first time successfully laying down a formation, so let's celebrate a little. Why don't we do this? Go out and buy some wine and food. Today, let us brothers recite poems to the moon and drink together. Oh, right, remember to get Old Chen Ji's braised duck."
"But Chen Ji lives in Anyang Prefecture," Tang Jie replied with some difficulty.
"Then just go over. It's fine," Xu Muyang said with a casual wave.
"It's already late, so going to Anyang Prefecture now isn't very good. Moreover, Chen Ji's duck has always sold extremely well, and it normally doesn't last until the evening."
Xu Muyang's face froze as Tang Jie continued, "But there's some aged wine in the kitchen that was left behind by the original owner. Besides that, there are two chickens in the yard. If Big Brother Xu wants to eat, I can butcher them to go with Big Brother Xu's wine."
Saying this, before Xu Muyang could reply, he rushed off to the kitchen.
Xu Muyang frowned. He wanted to say more, but as he saw that flashing violet energy in the formation, he helplessly sighed.
Tang Jie worked very quickly, and after one hour, dinner was served.
The sky had gone dark, save for the moon hanging overhead.
Xu Muyang and Tang Jie sat across from each other in the small pavilion, drinking white wine while eating sliced cold chicken.
The moon was very beautiful. Xu Muyang looked in a daze at the sky. In the light of the golden rose-tinted clouds, the moonlight was intensified, seeming like golden liquid as it illuminated the courtyard.
"These evening clouds… truly beautiful!" Xu Muyang suddenly exclaimed.
"Oh." Tang Jie saw that Xu Muyang had a weird look on his face, so he did not dare reply.
As if talking to himself, Xu Muyang said, "These evening clouds are the afterglow of the Gold Ignis Astral Winds. They protect us, repelling any outside invaders, protect the Rosecloud Domain, allowing its spiritual energy to continue to circulate and flow rather than leaking out. But they also shackle us, shackle the people of Rosecloud, preventing us from leaving this domain… I truly want to go out and see the Great Stellar Chiliocosm."
'The Great Stellar Chiliocosm' was what those Immortals who had attained the Dao and could ascend to the heavens called the world beyond the Rosecloud Domain. It was said that there were actually countless worlds of various sizes beyond the Rosecloud Domain.
If the Rosecloud Domain was the Earth, then the Great Stellar Chiliocosm was the universe.
Alas, leaving the Rosecloud Domain was not an easy task. The Gold Ignis Astral Winds that enclosed the heavens served as a natural barrier that not even spiritual energy could escape. If ordinary cultivators got close, they would be burned to ash. Only true Immortals who had stepped onto the Immortal Platform could endure the Astral Winds and leave this domain to freely roam the nine heavens.
Some people said that this was the Rosecloud Domain's method of protecting itself. It was precisely because of the Gold Ignis Astral Winds that the majority of cultivators had no other choice but to return their remnants to the earth, giving back to the world the spiritual energy that they had stolen and allowing the cycle to continue.
Without the Gold Ignis Astral Winds, cultivators could leave whenever they pleased, and with the passage of time, all the spiritual energy was certain to be exhausted.
For this reason, in the eyes of some extremists, each Immortal that ascended and departed was a criminal who stole spiritual energy and did not return it.
Fortunately, the number of ascenders was low, and the amount of spiritual energy the Rosecloud Domain truly lost was like a single hair from nine oxen.
Tang Jie didn't understand why Xu Muyang had suddenly brought up the Great Stellar Chiliocosm.
Xu Muyang drained his cup and filled it up again as he continued to talk to himself. "When I was young, my father was very strict with me. Every day, if it wasn't cultivation, it was learning how to manage the clan. But I was born a rebel, so I would always be looking for chances to run out and play. Every time, my father would catch me and give me a good beating. At those times, Second Sister would protect me. I remember one time, when I went out to play, in a moment of mischief, I managed to burn down a little pavilion in the house. It was Second Sister who stood up and said that she burned it. Alas, Father was no fool and still managed to find out that I was the real culprit… That board smacking down really hurt."
Tang Jie silently listened.
Xu Muyang continued to talk to himself. "Thus, I began to plan on running away. Unfortunately, I ran away three times and was caught every time. One time, I even got out of Nadir Hill, but my father personally captured me and gave me a good beating."
Xu Muyang dropped his head and chuckled. "It was only later on that I came to know that since I carried the blood of the Xu Clan in my veins, when I was born, my blood was registered in the ancestral hall, leaving behind a Life Lantern. No matter where I went, the Xu Clan could find me through that Life Lantern, unless I left the Rosecloud Domain and entered the Great Stellar Chiliocosm. At that moment, I began to dream about leaving this world. Of course, that was just a fantasy, and I later on realized how difficult it was to become an Immortal. My Xu Clan was one of the four great clans, but it could not even produce a Violet Palace True Lord. If I wanted to leave this world, it would have to be through other means. At that point, I began to research the Dao of Formations… The Dao of Formations is extremely profound. It can turn the earth into a prison, create a world of its own. This Rosecloud Domain is like a world-sized cage, so it can also be considered a natural formation of immense size. As I devoted myself to undoing this formation and immersed myself in the Dao of Formations, I fell in love with it. As I delved deeper and deeper, I eventually forgot my initial goal."
He looked at Tang Jie. "You said that you sought freedom unbound by all restraints, but did you know? While your dream looks simple, it is actually incredibly difficult. How could a human actually be truly free? Even if you succeed in cultivation one day, so long as you are still imprisoned in the Rosecloud Domain, imprisoned in this worldly cage, you will not have achieved your freedom unbound by all restraints!"
"So, as long you remain in the Rosecloud Domain, you can't avoid your pursuers, right? That violet energy surging to the heavens… Have the people from Godhead Palace caught up?" Tang Jie coolly said.
Xu Muyang was startled, and then he shook his head and bitterly smiled. "I knew I couldn't hide it from you."
"So you wanted me to go and buy Chen Ji's braised duck to try and send me away?"
"Mm." Xu Muyang nodded. "But later on, I realized that I didn't even know exactly when they would show up. What if they didn't come while you were out but did once you were back? So when you didn't accept the excuse, I decided to drop the matter. Better to just explain everything to you here so that you didn't die unaware."
"So why don't you run?"
"I can't run… I laid down a bewildering formation at Jade Orchid Mountain, and since they didn't chase me for half a year, they shouldn't have been able to find me. But since they're after me now, it means that they know where I am, so there's no point in my trying to run." Xu Muyang gave a slight shake of his head, and a hint of grief appeared in his eyes.
Tang Jie was stunned. He recalled what Xu Muyang had been telling him about the Xu bloodline and finally understood. He blurted out, "Your clan sold you out! Violet energy surging to the heavens… The Violet Palace Realm?"
Tang Jie understood everything now.
Violet energy was indicative of massive spiritual energy pulses, and violet energy surging to the heavens meant that someone with formidable spiritual pressure had appeared. Only an extremely small number of people in the Rosecloud Domain had reached the Violet Palace Realm, and in this remote region, encountering one was basically impossible.
Now, the spirit-surveying formation had detected violet energy, and it was approaching Anyang Prefecture, straight to their location.
There was a sliver of a possibility of encountering a Violet Palace True Lord by chance, but the fact that this one was headed straight toward them clearly meant that they were coming for Xu Muyang.
They were not moving very quickly, so either this individual was not good at flying or was confident that there would be no escape. Considering how terrifying Violet Palace True Lords were, the latter was more probable.
Xu Muyang hadn't even been able to beat an ordinary Celestial Heart Realm expert of Godhead Palace. Now that a Violet Palace True Lord was coming, how could he fight back? Tang Jie stared at Xu Muyang in shock, but Xu Muyang was as calm as an ancient well.
Tang Jie stood up and yelled, "How could they treat you like this? You're a member of the Xu Clan!"
He wasn't angry that Godhead Palace was coming, and Xu Muyang wasn't afraid. In the end, it just meant that he couldn't run any longer.
But Tang Jie couldn't understand why the Xu Clan had sold Xu Muyang out.
But Xu Muyang shook his head. "In lasting for half a year, they have already done their duty to the utmost. Tang Jie, you still do not truly understand the cruelty of the cultivation world, nor do you understand the status of the six major sects in the Rosecloud Domain. The four great clans? In front of the six major sects, they are just small fish… A single Violet Palace True Lord can sweep over the four great clans. Due to the limits of the techniques my Xu Clan cultivates, no one has been able to enter the Violet Palace Realm as of yet. As for the six major sects, each sect has at least three True Lords and Celestial Sovereigns, and even a few who are great powers of the Immortal Platform Realm. My father has no choice but to lower his head!"
Tang Jie felt despair at these words. "Then are you just going to give up like this?"
"What else can I do?" Xu Muyang smiled as he once more drained his cup. "In truth, I knew that this day would come eventually. It was lucky that I even had half a year. This is the last kindness my clan could show me. I owe my clan too much, and if I could be reborn, I could only try to repay them. Tang Jie, let me tell you this. You cannot hate my clan for this, and in the future, you are not allowed to seek vengeance from them."
"Wh… what?" Tang Jie was stunned. Vengeance?
Where did this come from?
Xu Muyang swiftly said, "Yes. Remember, I was born in the Xu Clan, and I will die as a ghost of the Xu Clan. In the future, when you succeed in cultivation, if you can still remember what I told you, then you may only treat the Xu Clan with kindness, not hate."
"But why should I…"
"Because of this!" Xu Muyang shook his wrist, thrusting the Profound Martial Mirror which he had been so attached to into Tang Jie's chest. "The Ninedark Profound Martial Mirror is the key the martial lord left behind to undo the array, and the formation lines on it are those of the Nine Executions Immortal Formation. It can simulate nature and is bursting with mystery. Only by comprehending it can you truly undo the Nine Executions Immortal Formation. Moreover, when I was examining the mirror, I discovered that, besides the formation lines, there was also some strange mantra in the mirror, though I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Not even Godhead Palace knows about this. All they know is that the Martial Mirror is the key. If you have the time, try to comprehend this mantra. You must not miss out on this chance. In truth, I've always felt that the martial lord's arrangements can't have been this simple. While the Nine Executions Immortal Formation is an ancient formation of extraordinary power, that's only to us. To those existences capable of killing him, it shouldn't have been as effective. It's clear that a single formation isn't enough, and the secret might be within the mirror."
Xu Muyang then handed over a thick notebook, several bottles of pills, and his own sword to Tang Jie. "The book contains all that I have learned about formations over the years. Take good care of it. Until you've reached a level of formation where you can emulate nature, where you can perceive things as clearly as one can see a blazing fire, it is best if you do not try to comprehend the Martial Mirror. Otherwise, your life might be endangered. As for the Azure Light Sword, it is my only treasure. Though you still can't use it very well, it should be enough to protect you. The rest is rather ordinary, so sell it for money. I'm not good at fighting, so I've never liked things like treasures. I actually don't have much to give you, but so long as you continue to study the formation knowledge I have left for you and comprehend the diagrams, you will eventually be able to undo the Nine Executions Immortal Formation and take the treasure within."
"There are no 'but's. Quickly leave this place. They've never seen you before and have no idea you exist. Even if I die, I will not let them get the Profound Martial Mirror!" Xu Muyang was shouting now, and the violet energy was getting closer and closer.
"No! I won't go! I don't care about some Xu Clan! I only care about you!" Tang Jie shouted. "I won't throw you away!"
At that moment, he suddenly understood that in this half-year, Xu Muyang had treated him like a little brother, and he had truly treated Xu Muyang like his older brother.
No matter what, he could not just watch Xu Muyang die!
Xu Muyang smiled. "There's no need for you to be so agitated. I am not dying for your sake. If I wanted to survive, there would be some small sliver of hope if I handed over the mirror. But I'm not a magnanimous sort, so if someone schemes against me, I have to repay it. Rather than gambling on a chance at life, I would rather take my sweet revenge! I give you the Profound Martial Mirror so that I can borrow your hand to take revenge on Godhead Palace, burdening you with danger and trouble. Thus, there's no need for you to be too moved. Besides, without the mirror in their hands, my Xu Clan will also be much safer!"
Saying this, Xu Muyang stood up and made a snatching motion at Tang Jie. Countless spirit lines appeared and wrapped around Tang Jie like threads. Xu Muyang took out a piece of paper and folded it into the shape of a horse.
Xu Muyang drew a few lines on the paper horse and threw it to the ground. With a loud neigh and the stomping of hooves, a muscular white horse appeared.
Xu Muyang threw Tang Jie onto the horse, the spirit lines wrapping themselves around the horse. He then slapped the horse on the buttocks and sent it off.
"Big Brother Xu, don't make me go!" Tang Jie shouted for all he was worth.
Xu Muyang shouted back, "Go north, and don't come back!"
"Noooo!" Tang Jie desperately shouted, but he had no means of breaking free of the spirit threads that bound him to the horse as it galloped away.
As Tang Jie's figure faded into the distance, Xu Muyang finally sat back down.
He took the wine and filled his cup again, muttering, "A pity… In the end, I didn't have time to send you to the Basking Moon Sect. You'll have to rely on yourself for your future path."
Thus, he began to quietly await his fate.