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AIP - Chapter 11: Only Seeking a Free and Unfettered Life

Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr

Whether Tang Jie was willing or not, he was set to study the Dao of Formations.

Thus, in the following days, in addition to cultivating the Visceral Manifestation Classic, Tang Jie learned about formations from Xu Muyang. Fortunately, all he had to occupy him every day was washing meridians, and he did not need to cultivate, so he had time enough.

"The Dao of Formations is the use of techniques to resonate with the will of the heavens. Thus, to master the Dao of Formations, one must understand the will of the heavens…"

In today's class, Xu Muyang was lecturing Tang Jie on formations and the concept of natural evolution.

Xu Muyang said that the will of the heavens was present in all things within the world, every blade of grass and tree having its reason to exist. For this reason, Xu Muyang's Dao of Formations emphasized natural evolution, following one's heart and making the best of new situations.

This meant that the same formation in different environments could differ in how it was laid out, and its effect and power would also change.

To take that small bewildering formation as an example, if it had been used in another area, it would have needed to be laid out in a different way and would have had a different effect.

Of course, this was not absolutely necessary, but to lay out a formation in this way was the most natural and would have the greatest power.

For formations, nature served as the best cover.

Unlike cultivators, formations drew directly on the spiritual energy of the world and possessed incredible power, so cultivators could not recklessly step into them. Thus, a formation that could not hide its existence was a bad formation. Xu Muyang was an expert in his field. All of the formations he laid down were basically undetectable before triggering. That golden-armored god he had been battling with had utterly failed to notice the existence of the Eight Gates Heavenseal Formation, and if not for his prodigious strength, he would have died within that formation.

Besides this, one also had to be skilled at observing one's environment and identifying what could be used.

"Don't look at mountains as mountains or water as water. Every existence in this world, if used properly, can become a formation eye, a formation line, or a formation gate. Ordinary people are ignorant, and frequently use spirit materials as the basis, but this loses the original meaning of the Dao of Formations," Xu Muyang said with a sigh.

"Big Brother Xu is saying that other people use various spirit materials as the basis for formations, just like how when building a house, one would use stone as the foundation and wood for the beams to build a high tower, but when you lay down formations, you might dig a hole out of a tree? Is that correct?" Tang Jie asked.

"In saying this, you seem to make me a worse builder of houses than others," Xu Muyang snorted. "Using a tree as a house naturally can't compare to getting materials and building a house. But what if I used this world as a house? The mountains as the bones, the rivers as the veins. What would you think about a tower built like that?"

"Then that's naturally something that others can't compare to. But is there really such a formation?"

"Yes!" Xu Muyang firmly replied. "In the past, I might have had my doubts, but now, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it does exist!"

"Was it a formation set up by that Ninedark Martial Lord?" Tang Jie suddenly asked.

Xu Muyang couldn't help but be taken aback. He looked at Tang Jie and asked, "You know?"

"Mm, that's not all I know." Tang Jie nodded. "I also know… that the golden-armored god who was chasing you that day was a member of Godhead Palace, right?"

Xu Muyang trembled. "How do you know all this?"

"It's not strange," Tang Jie leisurely answered. "The Kongs, Gus, Mings, and Xus are the four great cultivation clans. From what Big Brother Xu has said, you also have a resounding reputation in Nadir Hill. If it were some ordinary sect, how would they have dared to send people after you? Is there anyone else besides Godhead Palace that would hunt you to the ends of the earth?"

In this time with Xu Muyang, Tang Jie had deepened his understanding of the Rosecloud Domain.

The Rosecloud Domain was home to six kingdoms and fifty-nine provinces, seven seas and ninety-eight islands. Sageheart and Nadir Hill were two of the six kingdoms.

The Immortals had set down rules: one sect could control one kingdom, and one kingdom could venerate one sect. The Basking Moon Sect was the major sect backing the Sageheart Kingdom, and Godhead Palace was the sect backing Nadir Hill.

These six sects had transcendent status, and even kings would have to kowtow to them.

The other sects besides these six were all small sects that had to pay obeisance to the big six in order to survive.

Though the Xu Clan was one of the esteemed four cultivation clans, it was still far inferior to Godhead Palace. If Godhead Palace dared to kill Xu Muyang, who would dare stop it?

These reasons let Tang Jie easily guess who Xu Muyang's pursuer was.

"Then, do you understand the reason for all this?" Xu Muyang asked.

Tang Jie smiled. "Mm, the ancient powerhouse Ninedark Martial Lord, the Visceral Manifestation Classic intended for use on his reincarnation, and a peerless formation—put all these things together and you get a story. Presumably, it's the usual story about exploring some secret domain and stealing treasure. Besides, as Big Brother Xu has told me again and again, the cultivation world is a dangerous place."

Xu Muyang's mouth opened and closed, but he couldn't manage a word. Finally, he broke into a loud laugh. "Good job, kid! I just knew that it was pointless to try and hide it from you. Yes, Godhead Palace discovered the Returned Remnants of the Ninedark Martial Lord, and invited me to join them and undo the formations so that they could explore its secrets. In the end, I was too naive, believing that since I was part of the Xu Clan, Godhead Palace would not go so far as to cook the dogs once the hares were hunted. But in the end, they were still so ruthless. If I hadn't realized that something was up and pulled out in time, rather than dying to the Nine Executions Immortal Formation, I would have died at the hands of Godhead Palace's cubs!"

He was indignant as he spoke, clearly still furious and sad over what had transpired.

When Godhead Palace had sent people to find him and told him that they had found the Returned Remnants of the Ninedark Martial Lord, he was also flabbergasted.

'Returned Remnants' meant a return to the origin, a person transforming into nature upon death.

Throughout their lives, cultivators would absorb a great deal of the world's spiritual energy, and once they died, this spiritual energy would return to the origin, return to nature.

For this reason, the stronger the Immortal, the more abundant the spiritual energy that would be restored with their Returned Remnants. Some powerful individuals would have their spiritual energy gather up into rain showers upon their deaths that could even turn barren lands into a paradise.

Immortals had no tombs. Returned Remnants were their spiritual lands.

It was also for this reason that the disciples of major Immortal sects, if the situation allowed, would do their utmost to return to their original sects before dying and transforming into Returned Remnants. Over time, they would be able to create a blessed land of abundant spiritual energy for their sects.

At least half of the reserves of a great clan or sect would manifest in this form.

A domain's spiritual energy was limited. If one place flourished, another would wane, and over the long term, different areas would have different levels of spiritual energy.

That bandit called Bei Sihai had criticized Immortals for harming the world for their own gain for this reason.

The world had originally been abundant with spiritual energy, but the majority of it had been taken by Immortals. Even if mortals wanted to cultivate, they could not.

Godhead Palace had said that they had found an area of abundant spiritual energy in the Celestial Mountains, and as there were no Immortal clans or sects nearby, they suspected that it was the Returned Remnants of some great power, so they began a long and protracted search. In the end, they discovered a formation in the mountains, and the spiritual energy was leaking out from it. They had been able to determine that it had not been leaking for very long—a sign that the true spiritual land was even more amazing.

At the same time, they had found an ancient bronze mirror.

"The same ancient mirror you often play around with?" Tang Jie gasped.

"Correct," Xu Muyang said as he took out that bronze mirror.

This mirror had a bright side and a dark side. On the dark side, the images of birds, beasts, flowers, fish, bugs, mountains, and rivers had been carved, surrounded by strange formation lines. Tang Jie didn't notice anything at the start, but as he looked more closely, he felt like this scenery was moving. His surroundings began to morph, and he felt like he was being pulled into an odd and extraordinary world.

Fortunately, Xu Muyang promptly blocked the dark side, bringing Tang Jie back to his senses.

On the bright side, only the character '兵' (Martial) had been written, and it was also surrounded by numerous formation lines.

The '兵' character had been written with great vigor, the strokes imbued with seemingly limitless power. It radiated a somber energy that threatened to penetrate through Tang Jie.

Tang Jie let out a yelp, and Xu Muyang put away the mirror. "You lack sufficient power. This item contains the Divine Will of the Martial Lord. Though it has been worn away by the passage of ten thousand years, its sharpness is still not something you can endure." 

Tang Jie began to sweat. This was something left by a deceased man and carried some of his will, but it was still so powerful even after ten thousand years. How terrifying would its owner have been when he still lived? It was no wonder Xu Muyang spoke of him with such reverence.

"So this belongs to Godhead Palace?"

"Yes," Xu Muyang answered. "After finding this ancient mirror, they had it appraised, and Godhead Palace became very sure that the '兵' character represented the ancient Ninedark Martial Lord. Alas, while the martial lord had dominated the world in his era, little information on him was passed down to the present era. They were only able to reach their conclusions through the age of the object and the lingering energy upon it. This ancient mirror was found in a cave that had been sealed by a formation. The formation was of a very low rank and was easy to break, but the methods maintaining it were extremely high-class, preserving it through generations. Godhead Palace speculated that this might have been left behind specifically for the Ninedark Martial Lord's reincarnation. Of course, whether or not it actually was the martial lord and how the martial lord died remain in the realm of speculation. After all, many years have passed since that bygone era, and many truths have been lost in the river of history. We could only believe that this was a possession of the Ninedark Martial Lord."

"It seems like he didn't succeed at reincarnating," Tang Jie said.

Xu Muyang bitterly smiled. "If he had succeeded, none of this would have happened."

Reincarnation was the helpless choice that cultivators made when their lives came to an end, placing their hopes on the future.

After an Immortal reincarnated, all of their past memories would be wiped away, and only by lucky chance would they be able to recover them.

If they were unlucky, they might go through several cycles of reincarnation without recovering their memories. With each cycle, more memories would disappear, and after enough cycles, the chance essentially became nil.

Godhead Palace speculated that the martial lord might have encountered some major crisis. With no other options, he chose to reincarnate. This Ninedark Profound Martial Mirror was a key he had left for himself to open up his treasury.

But either the martial lord's reincarnation had failed or the memory recovery had failed. In any case, he had not returned to take the Profound Martial Mirror, allowing it to eventually fall into the hands of Godhead Palace.

Since the Profound Martial Mirror was still there, it meant that the wondrous techniques the martial lord had left for himself, as well as his many treasures, were probably also still there.

Thus, Godhead Palace did everything in its power to try and break the formation. The initial probes had cost the lives of numerous people, and after one hundred years, they had still gotten nowhere. It was easy to imagine what sort of mood they were in after finding the door but being unable to get in.

It was just at that time that Xu Muyang, a formation genius, began to rise in reputation. With no other option, they sought Xu Muyang's help, promising a heavy reward.

Xu Muyang was proficient in formation texts, and recognized the long-lost Nine Executions Immortal Formation. With the information left on the Profound Martial Mirror, he was even able to undo the first layer of the formation and obtain the Visceral Manifestation Classic. 

It was also at that time that Xu Muyang noticed Godhead Palace's murderous intentions toward him.

"But why did they insist on killing you?" Tang Jie was confused. "Godhead Palace is a powerful faction, so it shouldn't be so stingy about some small payment, right? And the formation wasn't even completely undone…"

Xu Muyang snorted. "Of course it wasn't about that little reward, but to keep the secret. The Ninedark Martial Lord's Returned Remnants are certain to be an area of abundant spiritual energy. Even if there was nothing in there at all, the land alone would be worth a lot. It would have the same value as a natural spiritual vein, but it would need a long period of time to fully exploit. The problem is that though Godhead Palace managed to get the Martial Mirror, the Celestial Mountains are not located in Nadir Hill, but rather in the lands of Endsea and Tetrapole. If the news gets out that Godhead Palace is digging up treasure and occupying land in the territory of these two kingdoms, Horizon Ocean Pavilion and the Thousand Passions Sect will certainly come to take their share, making a clash unavoidable. Horizon Ocean Pavilion and the Seven Absolutions Sect are firm allies, while the Thousand Passions Sect and the Basking Moon Sect stand together through thick and thin. Godhead Palace will find it hard to stand alone, so it will have no choice but to get the help of the Beast Refining Gate. If all six major sects join in, no side will be able to get much out of it. In the end, I'm not a member of Godhead Palace and am not bound by the Godhead Oath. A promise sworn under pain of a Heart Demon alone would not be enough to let them rest easy. As for the concern about the formation not being completely undone, they primarily didn't understand how to use the Profound Martial Mirror. Once they saw me unlock the Martial Mirror's secrets, my greatest use disappeared. If they hadn't decided to save some energy and have me continue to undo the formation, they might have killed me back then."

"I see," Tang Jie said. "So you immediately ran, taking the Visceral Manifestation Classic and the Profound Martial Mirror with you?"

"If they are not benevolent, I will not be righteous," Xu Muyang snorted. "They wanted to kill me, so I naturally took their treasures and ran. I managed to get the others away from me by saying that I needed space to undo the second layer of the formation. It was only that He Chong, who was the best in formations at Godhead Palace, who stayed to supervise me while claiming to be my assistant. He was also skilled in pursuit arts, so when I used the chance to escape, he chased me down, sticking to me like plaster all the way from Nadir Hill to Jade Orchid Mountain. If I hadn't been able to lay down the Eight Gates Heavenseal Formation, I probably would have died there."

When mentioning this, Xu Muyang's voice grew softer.

Though he had beaten back He Chong, the man would come back eventually, and he probably wouldn't be alone this time, but with a group.

His peaceful life could not last for too long.

"But, Big Brother Xu, didn't you say that cultivators had to go through the Heart Demon Tribulation, that going against one's Origin Heart would produce Heart Demons? How could they dare to do such a thing?"

Xu Muyang answered, "There are great aspirations and minor aspirations, strong Heart Demons and weak Heart Demons. At the start of their journeys, cultivators will usually declare their ambitions, their great aspirations. These are normally the goals they wish to achieve in their life, and this goal will be in line with their Origin Heart, and so their future conduct will often be in line with their Origin Heart. The aspirations of the majority of cultivators can normally be placed into a few categories. They might seek longevity and immortality, seek dominance and tyranny, seek righteousness and chivalry, or seek freedom and lack of restraints… These are all great aspirations, and relinquishing the minor aspirations to pursue the great is a frequent sight. For example, while I brought you along to resolve my karmic debt with you, if you had dared to block my path, I would have killed you, and this would not have gone against my Origin Heart. Even if I had been reluctant to do the deed, that little Heart Demon would be much easier to deal with than the supreme demon that would have been born if I had gone against my great aspiration."

"I get it now. So can you only have one great aspiration? Or can you have a lot?" Tang Jie asked.

"This…" Xu Muyang was taken aback by the question, and he needed some time to think of an answer. "I've never heard of any limit, but while the great aspiration is the basis for cultivating to Celestial Heart, it can also serve as a hindering force. People don't normally make too many great aspirations, I guess? As for you, if you wish to get proper results in cultivation, you must also declare a great aspiration, establishing the foundation of your will. This is also why I asked you why you wanted to cultivate. Alas, the answer you gave was not among the above categories. Now that you've been told all this, let me ask you again: what do you seek in cultivating the Immortal path?"

What was it that he sought?

Tang Jie struggled with the question.

After some thought, he raised his head and answered, "I cultivate not to seek fame or reverence, nor do I seek to live as long as the heavens and earth. Life will eventually come to an end, and all that matters is that the years I do live are good ones. I hope that I will be able to traverse the world and live without restraints, so what I seek…"

Tang Jie paused, then finally, he gave a decisive answer:

"Freedom, unbound by all restraints!"

Hypersheep325's Notes:

Hope you're enjoying the novel! Things are about to get a bit more exciting next chapter!

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