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AIP - Chapter 10: The Dao of Formations

Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr

In the room, Tang Jie glared at Xu Muyang and asked, "So you're saying that you laid down a formation in a moment of excitement and then went back to your room to write down your inspirations, forgetting about me?"

Xu Muyang's face reddened. "I just forgot the time."

He was a mighty True Person of the Celestial Heart Realm, but in front of a boy, he was like a child who had done something wrong. It was quite an amusing sight.

Of course, Tang Jie couldn't be blamed for being angry. No one would be happy to be imprisoned for several hours the moment they got home.

After hearing Xu Muyang's answer, Tang Jie stood up and left.

"Where are you going?" Xu Muyang asked in surprise.

"To make dinner. I was imprisoned the moment I got back, so I haven't even started on dinner yet."

It wasn't long before Tang Jie came over with dinner.

The two of them ate together in the courtyard, Tang Jie never saying a word.

"What's wrong? Are you still angry at me?" Xu Muyang chuckled and looked at Tang Jie. "Fine—I admit that I was wrong. I apologize. Is that okay?"

The relationship between Immortals and mortals was like that between gods and the common folk. Let alone being imprisoned for half a day, even if Tang Jie had been killed, no one would have dared to say anything. But now, Xu Muyang was actually apologizing to Tang Jie. It was easy to see that their relationship was an extremely deep one.

Tang Jie shook his head. "I'm not angry. I'm just wondering about what formations really are. How can they be so amazing?"

In the formation, he had felt like he was in a maze. The courtyard was still the same courtyard, but he couldn't get out no matter what he did. The room had been right over there, yet it had felt like it was on the other end of the world. He had been rather panicked and fearful at the time, but now that he thought back to it, he found the entire experience incredibly mysterious. For this reason, even when eating, he couldn't help but ponder it. What was the principle that could make ordinary dirt and soil into this sort of divine dimension?

"You've noticed it as well?" Xu Muyang laughed. "Yes, the Dao of Formations is truly an amazing field, encompassing all things and containing the supreme principles of the world. A single blade of grass and a tree can be made into a formation. It can be considered the number one mystery of the world. Even if cultivators use their entire lives, they might not be able to plumb even one ten-thousandth of its depths, and its uses are limitless…"

When it came to his favorite subject, Xu Muyang became a fountain of ceaseless praise.

"So what is the Dao of Formations, really?" Tang Jie asked.

Xu Muyang answered, "In the final analysis, the Dao of Formations is really just the cultivation of the world!"

"Cultivation of the world?"

"Correct!" Xu Muyang sternly replied. "If you consider the human body to be a world, what we cultivators do is cultivate our bodies. Outside of our bodies is the vast universe, another world. This world has mountains, rivers, lakes, landmasses, and seas, and in truth, every part has its corresponding element in our own bodies. The human body absorbs spiritual energy and circulates it to use Immortal arts. The world also has spiritual energy, so why can it not be circulated to also produce Immortal arts? The world has no consciousness, so it cannot circulate spiritual energy on its own, but through various methods, cultivators can configure this energy. These are formations!"

"I see." Tang Jie understood now. In truth, this was just the physics from his previous world!

Formations were really like advanced and exquisite machines that used spiritual energy as their power source, the formation lines in place of circuits. Spiritual energy was circulated to achieve a certain effect.

But the laws of this world were different, and the users were different, resulting in different forms and effects, and even completely different methods of production.

It was for these reasons that the Dao of Formations covered an extremely broad range of topics in the cultivation world.

Of the four auxiliaries of Immortals—pills, talismans, tools, and formations—formations had the broadest use. Not only were there guardian formations that could be used to protect sects, there were even formations that could support the other three auxiliaries. Refining pills required laying down a formation, creating talismans required a formation diagram, and forging weapons required carving formations. It could be considered an omnipresent art with far-reaching influence. Thus, there were many sub-branches of the Dao of Formations.

Xu Muyang explained that formations were usually divided into dead formations and living formations. Dead formations were fixed and immobile. The small bewildering formation that Tang Jie had been trapped in was an example of a dead formation. Living formations were normally battle formations, and cultivators normally worked together to use them. These could multiply one's strength and were valuable tools used by the weak to overcome the strong.

Besides that, they could also be divided according to function. For example, formations were required in the creation of pills, talismans, and tools, and people normally called this kind 'auxiliary formations', auxiliaries within auxiliaries.

In short, there were many schools of formations with long and storied origins, and there was no real unified standard. Everyone had their own way of judging them and even different opinions on them.

For example, some people believed that formations should be used as a support. They were manifestations of a cultivator's will in the outside world, and they should serve cultivators. For this reason, these people regarded Xu Muyang's view that the Dao of Formations was the Dao of the World with scorn and disdain.

Ideals would guide one's conduct.

Xu Muyang's ideals led to his proficiency in worldly formations. He was skilled in laying down or undoing formations of enormous size, but he was not as skilled when it came to battle formations or small auxiliary formations.

When it came to an understanding of large-scale formations, there was probably no one in the Rosecloud Domain who could match Xu Muyang.

Xu Muyang went on and on, ceaselessly chattering, his eyebrows rising and falling in excitement.

Tang Jie had never seen him so open with information before. He had gone to great efforts before this to learn about cultivation from Xu Muyang, even risking his life, and in the end, all he got to learn was the Visceral Manifestation Classic.

In the middle of all his excitement, Xu Muyang suddenly said, "Why not learn the Dao of Formations from me?"

"Eh?" Tang Jie was dumbfounded.

Xu Muyang said, "This Dao of Formations is my own, developed from all the formation treatises I gathered throughout the world. It's not a secret art of the Xu Clan, so I can pass it on to you. I can see that you're smart and clever, a perfect fit for learning it!"

"But… my heart is on the Great Dao, and it's not good to have my attention divided…" Tang Jie hesitantly replied.

While the Dao of Formations was good, a person's focus was limited.

Tang Jie was no longer that little boy who knew nothing about cultivation, and he was now deeply aware of just how difficult the Immortal path would be. Many people would go their entire lives without reaching the apex.

Why had the Xu Clan patriarch been unwilling to have Xu Muyang learn the Dao of Formations? It was precisely because he feared that Xu Muyang's scattered attention would interfere with his progress on the proper course. Tang Jie knew that he didn't have Xu Muyang's heaven-defying aptitude, and even someone who had opened seven cycles like him had been hunted down by that golden-armored god. If Tang Jie split his attention, his future achievements would be limited.

"You can't say that," Xu Muyang said with a shake of his head. "The path of cultivation is very difficult, and besides putting in hard work, you also have to possess comprehension. The Dao of Formations and cultivation both contain the utmost principles of the world, and it's not like the two of them can't assist each other. Moreover, the Dao of Formations is not completely useless in battle. In the battle at Jade Orchid Mountain, I was far weaker than that He Chong, but I still managed to beat him away with my Eight Gates Heavenseal Formation."

If you had listened to your dad and focused on cultivating, you probably wouldn't have needed formations to beat that He Chong silly, Tang Jie mentally grumbled. But seeing how happy Xu Muyang was, he truly couldn't bring himself to say these words out loud.

Xu Muyang had mostly been a rather quiet fellow, exuding the aura of an Immortal. Only now did Xu Muyang truly have the air of a mortal about him.

It could only be said that he truly loved the Dao of Formations.

Xu Muyang continued, "Moreover, you're only washing your meridians right now and can't cultivate, so you don't have anything else to do. Since I've agreed to teach you a few things, but I can't pass on the Xu Clan's Immortal arts to you, teaching you all about the Dao of Formations I have learned in my life doesn't go against our promise. In the future, if you truly have no interest, I won't force you. What about it?"

"Fine…" Tang Jie helplessly replied.

Xu Muyang saw how unwilling he was, and was both happy and amused. Patting him on the head, he said, "Kid, still trying to suck up after getting such a good deal? Do you know how many people wanted to learn the Dao of Formations from me? But I refused all of them." 

Yes, your dad didn't want you to learn the Dao of Formations, but you insisted on learning it. Others wanted to learn from you, but you didn't want to teach them. I didn't want to learn from you, but you insisted on teaching me. I wanted to learn Immortal arts, but you're teaching me the Dao of Formations. You must be a donkey, right? Doing the opposite of what anyone asks you… Ever since he had learned that Xu Muyang couldn't read minds, Tang Jie's silent rebukes were getting stronger and stronger.

But whether he was willing or not, it seemed that he would have to learn the Dao of Formations.

After dinner, Xu Muyang started the lesson.

"The Dao of Formations is a broad and deep field, but no matter the kind of formation, they all have four components: the formation eye, the formation lines, the formation gate, and the formation source. The formation eye is the pivot of the formation, the location of its core. It is like the human brain, controlling everything, and is the most crucial component. Without the formation eye, the formation will not operate as you want. This sort of formation would be a truly dead formation. The formation lines are the routes through which spiritual energy flows, like the blood vessels of the human body or the roads of the world. Without formation lines, the formation will be unable to operate. The formation gate is the door. It can allow people entry, permit them to leave, or keep out enemies. The formation source is where the formation obtains the power to activate. Humans require spiritual energy to use arts, and so do formations…"

"I understand. The formation eye is the brain and gives commands. The formation lines are the blood vessels and bones, offering support. The formation gate is where the power is actually exerted, the four limbs. As for the formation source, it is the heart, a power source, like an engine… oh, I mean, like our Spirit Eye, right?"

"Correct. Cultivators use arts by drawing on the energy in their Spirit Seas, and formation sources use spirit stones or other external objects as a powerful source. Of course, the cultivator can use their own body as a power source as well."

"That's weird. I didn't see any spirit stones with that small bewildering formation of yours."

"That's because I added a small spirit-gathering formation that can automatically gather spiritual energy. This technique is called overlapping formations."

"Then doesn't that mean that with a spirit-gathering formation that can automatically gather worldly spiritual energy, a spirit-gathering formation can serve as a formation source? But how is a spirit-gathering formation activated? Does it power itself? Perpetual motion?" Tang Jie's eyes almost popped out of their sockets.

Xu Muyang had never heard of the term 'perpetual motion', but he could understand the meaning by looking at the individual words. Laughing, he said, "How could anything be that good? The spirit-gathering formation requires external power to activate. I had to add spiritual energy to get it moving. And even then, the spirit-gathering formation can only absorb the spiritual energy in the vicinity. Once the surroundings have been drained of spiritual energy, it will stop working. This bewildering formation was just a little game to me. Unless it were supplied with spirit stones, it would come apart on its own after three days at most."

"So there really is no such thing as perpetual motion." Tang Jie sighed. "So that means that there's no such thing as a truly eternal formation under the heavens. Every kind of formation actually needs someone to maintain it or sufficient spiritual energy reserves to exist?"

Xu Muyang replied, "Perhaps there's no such thing as eternal formations, but there are formations that can exist for tens of thousands of years."

"Tens of thousands of years?" Tang Jie was alarmed by Xu Muyang's words.

"Yes, I experienced one myself not too long ago," Xu Muyang said, his expression turning solemn, his eyes brimming with reverence as he recalled that experience.

After a long while, he sighed. "I'm still very far away from the great ones of ancient times. Otherwise, I wouldn't have only been able to open that first gate…"

He stopped there, changing the topic. "Forget it. Let's not bring that up. These are all things that you can't understand yet. Let's return to the Dao of Formations. Of the four core components of a formation, the formation lines and formation source are the most complex. I will first teach you basic formation lines."

He raised his hand and began to draw in the air. Several flashing lines appeared in the air, but after a few moments, they faded away.

"Draw the formation lines I just drew in the air. Remember, you have to draw in the same order I did, without the slightest error," Xu Muyang indifferently said.

Drawing formation lines was a basic skill for formation masters and often served as an entrance examination. While Xu Muyang wanted to teach Tang Jie, he also wanted to see if Tang Jie had any talent in the field. If Tang Jie truly had no talent to speak of, then he would not force the issue.

A moment later, Tang Jie grabbed a tree branch and began to draw on the ground. He couldn't create light with his fingers like Xu Muyang, so he could only do this assignment the old-fashioned way, but his work was fine and meticulous.

Xu Muyang was rather nonchalant at the start, but as he watched Tang Jie draw, he was startled.

This was because Tang Jie had almost perfectly copied his formation lines. Once Tang Jie was done, Xu Muyang realized that it was an almost stroke-by-stroke imitation.

"How… how did you do it?" Xu Muyang said in shock.

"It's very simple. Isn't it just an image made of lines?" Tang Jie was somewhat at a loss. In his eyes, while these formation lines were complex, they were just some geometric images. He just needed to focus a little to remember them. After all, back in school, he had become extremely familiar with such things. Since Xu Muyang wanted him to draw them, he would just draw them.

He had not known that while Xu Muyang had asked him to draw them, he had never dreamed that Tang Jie would be able to draw everything.

It wasn't like the Rosecloud Domain didn't have math, but this kind of knowledge didn't have much status, and the depth of knowledge was lacking compared to Earth's. Those that understood it might not be capable of cultivating, and cultivators didn't have a need to understand. Only those cultivators who studied the Dao of Formations would study this kind of knowledge.

For this reason, what were extremely simple pictures to Tang Jie would leave passersby baffled.

Upon hearing Tang Jie call this 'very simple', Xu Muyang hastily drew another complicated figure on the ground. This time, instead of having Tang Jie copy it, he pointed at a formation line and said, "Starting from here and ending here, find three connecting lines that do not intersect."

Tang Jie glanced at it and used his stick to point out, "This line… this line… and this line."

Xu Muyang was flabbergasted. Finding three non-intersecting lines that connected amid this pile of complicated designs wasn't hard, but doing it so quickly was not easy.

Xu Muyang asked another question, this time having him calculate the routes of each line and the areas they covered.

Tang Jie hadn't imagined that a class on formations would become a math test, and he didn't know how far he should go with his calculations. Thus, he could only do exactly as Xu Muyang requested of him.

Tang Jie had little interest in his math, but his mother had been a math teacher and had often used the lash on him to spur him in his studies, saying that he wasn't allowed to shame his mother. It had been less than two years since he had graduated, and he still retained most of what he had learned. Moreover, the questions Xu Muyang asked were not too hard. Thus, Tang Jie was able to answer more than half of the questions. 

Xu Muyang was getting increasingly alarmed.

This was because Tang Jie had used several solving methods that even he didn't understand.

The Dao of Formations was very demanding on one's skill in changes and divination, but there were few who were truly interested in it. Those people who pursued the Dao of Formations were mainly after the power of formations. The divination knowledge that was needed to use it was incredibly boring; the learning process, excruciating.

It could be said that Xu Muyang could count the number of people he had met that were good with math using his fingers. But now, he had made a discovery that was both shocking and delightful. He grabbed Tang Jie and shouted, "Incredible! Genius! And you say that you don't want to learn? You're a genius at the Dao of Formations!"

Scared out of his wits, Tang Jie blurted out his thoughts: "But I don't actually want to learn it."

"Nonsense! With such talent, how could you not love it?" Xu Muyang was so excited that he had lost all of his usual grace. Seeing Tang Jie refuse to acknowledge his talent in this field, he was wracked with heartache. "You don't understand what love is!"

He was a diehard believer in the principle that attitude determined everything, firmly believing that only with love could one achieve great things.

His accomplishments in the Dao of Formations were purely because of his deep love of the Dao of Formations, his love of divination. In his view, Tang Jie's talent was because of his passion for the Dao of Divination. Otherwise, how could he have reached such a high level of attainment?

Tang Jie had never seen him like this, and was at a loss for what to do. "But, Big Brother Xu, I truly don't feel any interest toward this."

"Then how can you explain your talent?" Xu Muyang stubbornly insisted.

Tang Jie helplessly answered, "How do I know… Maybe I don't love the Dao of Formations, but the Dao of Formations loves me!"

Hypersheep325's Notes:

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