AIP - Chapter 4: Tricking an Immortal
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
When Xu Muyang woke up, the stars were already twinkling in the night sky.
Nearby, a bonfire burned, the light illuminating a young boy that was sitting next to him.
As he was about to sit up, the boy pushed him back down. "Don't move. I just applied medicine to you."
As Xu Muyang was just about to ask, he saw the medicine bottle in the boy's hand.
"White Jade Spread?" Xu Muyang exclaimed. He could tell from the style of the bottle that it was his.
Only now did he discover that all of the medicine he carried had been taken from him by the boy and was now placed at his feet.
"Who are you to dare to touch my possessions without permission?" Xu Muyang was furious.
The items cultivators carried on their bodies were often linked to their lives, and they could not be recklessly touched.
His storage bag had been destroyed in the previous bottle, so he was carrying his items on his person. He had never imagined that some mortal boy would scour his body of everything.
He immediately sat up, his right hand snatching at the air. In the distance, a simple and heavy copper mirror suddenly flew into his hand. As he had used spiritual energy, his blood roiled once more, and he vomited a large mouthful of blood. But Xu Muyang ignored this and put away the mirror, after which he grabbed at a jade writing strip beside him. This time, he did not use his long-range item-seizing spell.
The boy explained, "I know that it's not good to look through the possessions of others, but both of us were injured. If I didn't use the medicine, we would both be dead."
Xu Muyang realized that his wound was already slathered with a thick layer of White Jade Spread. It appeared that the boy had been reapplying medicine for him.
The boy also had a layer of White Jade Spread over his back. White Jade Spread was a valuable medicine, and only a small amount was needed. Using it in the way the boy had was an enormous waste.
Xu Muyang's tone softened. "I see. But you were still a little too bold. Don't you know that while Immortals carry medicines, if not used properly, they will do more harm than good? Not using the medicine will result in death, but using it incorrectly will also result in death."
"Mm." Surprisingly, the boy nodded and said, "I know, so I took a look at your wound first. I thought that you probably applied medicine to your wound. This White Jade Spread you speak of is something I confirmed after comparing it against the medicine on your wound multiple times, so it should be the right one."
Xu Muyang was speechless.
It turned out that this boy had first looked at his wound before choosing a medicine. It was no wonder he had chosen White Jade Spread out of the many medicines in his possession.
If not for the White Jade Spread, he probably wouldn't have woken up so quickly.
Xu Muyang said, "My injury appears to be an external injury, but it is actually because of tyrannical energy running through my body and upsetting my meridians. White Jade Spread can help me stabilize my spiritual energy and repair my meridians. I intentionally did not have that wound heal, as the bleeding will actually make the medicine work faster. But to treat your external injury, it is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Moreover, the medicine is not fit for the illness. You should have used that bottle of Patch Cream next to you."
"Oh, I get it. I was wondering why an Immortal's medicine was having a hard time healing a simple external wound." The boy appeared enlightened, snatching up that Patch Cream and spreading some on his back. Sure enough, he felt a refreshing chill on his back, and even the pain lessened.
He had not asked the owner of this medicine if he could use it. Though Xu Muyang had thought about stopping him, he ultimately decided that since this boy had saved him, he would be a little too petty if he stopped the boy. Thus, he decided to let the matter go.
The boy sat at his side and said, "My name is Tang Jie, the Jie (劫) of calamity (劫难)."
In truth, he had already heard that golden-armored god call out this man's name, but he was pretending not to know.
"Xu Muyang," Xu Muyang somewhat coldly replied.
Tang Jie smiled at this answer.
This answer meant that Xu Muyang had not noticed him in that previous battle.
Of course, he could have noticed and not cared. In the eyes of an Immortal, a mortal like him was like an ant.
Who would pay much attention to an ant?
Since that was so, it would make the rest of his work easier.
"Tang Jie?" Xu Muyang mulled over the name, creasing his brow. "This name is too heavy with killing intent. It's inauspicious!"
Tang Jie smiled. "When I was born, it was during the Dark Cloud Coup in the Central Plains, and there was also the calamity of the Sunset Clouds Swallowing the Moon. A fortune teller said that these were extremely inauspicious signs from the heavens. He said that I was born in response to disaster and that my life would be fraught with disaster. I would be a bane to my father, my mother, my friends, my wife, to all the people close to me. I would even be a bane to heavens, earth, all things in the world, and even the Dao of Heaven, a bane to everything. Thus, the fortune teller advised my parents to call me Tang Jie so that my name could suffer the calamity in my place, perhaps turning disaster into fortune."
"Absurd!" Xu Muyang shouted. "All things in the world cycle beneath the Dao of Heaven, and even the sacred Immortals can only gaze up at it. The mysteries of heaven are unfathomable, so who would dare to speak so brazenly about banes? This fortune teller was a wicked deceiver who spoke only nonsense. He should have been beaten to death!"
"He wasn't beaten to death, but he was beaten. Despite this, though, my parents ultimately decided to give me this name. Two years ago, I encountered a great calamity. Both of my parents died, and I died and then came back to life… Perhaps this was the disaster that my name suffered in my place," Tang Jie casually said.
To be frank, he didn't know if Tang Jiye had transmigrated into Tang Jie's body, or if Tang Jie was some sort of reincarnation of Tang Jiye.
But regardless, in this life, he was Tang Jie!
After some thought, Xu Muyang asked, "Did you belong to Little River Village?"
Tang Jie shook his head. "I was only passing by. I just so happened to see you kill all the bandits and then fall unconscious."
As he spoke, he patted the readied bundle at his side and then began to sort out the medicines on the ground, using this busywork to conceal his nervousness.
He was nervous not merely because he was lying, but because he was lying to an Immortal!
This was his first meeting with an Immortal!
But on this first meeting, he was deceiving an Immortal. This was audacious to the extreme.
But he had no other choice!
When Tang Jie saw that white-clothed Immortal appear, he knew that his moment had come.
The gate to Immortality was difficult to find. Many mortals sought to become Immortals, but few succeeded. Even if one managed to encounter an Immortal, Immortals rarely offered instruction.
He had been bitterly searching for an Immortal, but now that he had found one, there was no guarantee the Immortal would accept him as a disciple.
However, Tang Jie was well aware of how important it was to step onto the path of immortality, and even if there was only a one-in-ten-thousand chance, he had to try.
Though he had saved Xu Muyang, Xu Muyang had killed the bandits and saved him. In other words, Xu Muyang didn't really owe him. On the contrary, if not for this battle, Xu Muyang's old injuries would not have started acting up. In truth, Tang Jie owed more to Xu Muyang.
It was precisely for this reason that he could not admit that he was someone from Little River Village.
He wanted this Immortal to owe him a favor. Only then could he have a chance at becoming an Immortal.
For this little bit of chance, he could chase and pursue, even give up his life, so naturally, he could lie.
It was fortunate that he had come out when Xu Muyang was already unconscious and had not noticed him. Moreover, from their conversation just now, Tang Jie had determined that Xu Muyang had not noticed his presence in the earlier battle, either. Thus, it was completely possible to say that he had just been passing through.
The only thing he did not dare to be certain of was if Xu Muyang, as an Immortal, would be able to sense if he was lying.
This was a gamble, a gamble that the human mind was unfathomable, that not even Immortals had the ability to read the minds of others.
At least not all of them!
Tang Jie was determined to take this bet!
If he won, he could have an Immortal owe him a favor.
If he lost, it was just a small lie, not enough to get him the death penalty.
This was an Immortal who punished the wicked, so he wouldn't just kill him because of a lie.
And besides, what would it matter if he were killed?
Become an Immortal or die trying!
The calamity that had befallen the villagers of Little River Village had let Tang Jie clearly understand how miserable it was to live the life of an ant. Tang Jie was willing to go to any lengths to alter this fate.
Sure enough, Xu Muyang was clearly taken aback upon hearing that Tang Jie didn't belong to Little River Village. "You don't belong to Little River Village? Then how did you get that wound on your back?"
"That man you chased away on his horse. I couldn't dodge in time, so he got a hit on me with his saber," Tang Jie calmly said.
Compared to the nervousness from his first lie, Tang Jie was much more composed with his second.
The lie was not immediately exposed, meaning that Tang Jie had won his bet on the two most important points.
Xu Muyang was stunned, and after a momentary daze, he replied, "I see. Thank you for your assistance, little brother."
"Honored Immortal is a righteous and noble warrior, a slayer of bandits. What I have done is nothing in comparison."
"In the end, I was a step too late and could not save the people of Little River Village."
"I am sure that they are grateful that you avenged them," Tang Jie calmly replied, as if the people of Little River Village really had nothing to do with him.
Upon seeing the look on his face, Xu Muyang had no more doubts. He could only sigh as he pondered the heavy karma he had brought on himself.
When an Immortal took on karma that could not be resolved, it would often leave a crack on their heart.
While these cracks would not seem like anything, cultivators had to face five realms and fourteen tiers, and one tier was the Heart Demon Tier.
If the heart had a crack, a Heart Demon would emerge from it, and if the cracks were innumerable, so would the Heart Demons be. When that time came, even if one possessed outstanding cultivation, there would be no salvation. For this reason, all those who sought the Dao had to be very careful about this matter.
What one needed to pay attention to was that Heart Demons had nothing to do with virtue, nor was it a matter of 'you saved me, so I must repay you'. And it was also not the case that every incident would seed karma that would bear fruit. It was connected to one's character and convictions.
If Tang Jie had helped some devil who followed the principle of the strong eating the weak, who returned kindness with enmity, then even if this man immediately killed Tang Jie, there would be no Heart Demon, for this man would have followed his convictions.
In killing Tang Jie, he would have verified his Dao. On the contrary, not killing would have created a Heart Demon.
From this, one could see that Heart Demons did not care about good or evil, only about what cultivators did on their path to immortality that went against their will and convictions, and led to mental contradictions.
It was also for this reason that cultivators were often very firm in their convictions. Once they attached themselves to an ideal or point of view, their minds were not easily changed.
If they suddenly changed their minds, they might feel regret over their past actions, and this was how Heart Demons were born.
A heart was difficult to change, and even if one had forgotten what was done in the past, the heart would remember, and thus Heart Demons were born.
Xu Muyang had been born in a great clan, and though he was not some benevolent sage, he held the viewpoint that kindness must be returned.
Since someone had 'lent a helping hand', he had to repay it no matter what.
He took out a bottle of pills and placed it in Tang Jie's hand. "This is a bottle of Spirit-Nurturing Pills. These can nourish the spiritual organs and strengthen one's spirit. Even if a mortal takes them, they can still strengthen the body and cure illness. You helped me, so you can take these pills. In addition, you can also take that bottle of Patch Cream."
Karmic debts had to be settled, but there was an art to it.
Cultivators had long lives with countless experiences and all sorts of karmic debts burdening them. If they treated them all earnestly, they would never get anything else done.
Thus, cultivators had their own ways of resolving their problems. The simplest way was like this, gifting a bottle of spirit medicine.
There was no need to worry about whether it was enough. Heart Demons came from one's heart, and if one believed that the compensation was enough and felt no regret, there was no problem.
Thus, selective ignorance, self-deception, and self-consolation became necessary lessons for cultivators. But if someone were to point out and expose these tricks, a few words would be enough for the strategy to fall apart and for a Heart Demon to be incited.
In battles between Immortals, this was how one could win with words. It was for the same reason that cultivators rarely spoke about their personal experiences, so that they did not expose any weaknesses.
Xu Muyang was clearly lacking when it came to deceiving himself. For this reason, his first offer had been a bottle of first-rate Spirit-Nurturing Pills. Shameless, black-hearted fellow, I'm even paying you back for the White Jade Spread you used up.
Tang Jie was a rather sharp person. He was no Immortal, but he had lied without shame, and he had little interest in these pills, putting them down and lightly saying, "I don't want them."
He didn't understand Heart Demons, but he knew about favors. From a certain perspective, they were the same thing.
Xu Muyang wanted to return a favor with a bottle of pills? Absolutely not!
Seeing that he didn't want it, Xu Muyang hastily said, "If you don't think it's enough, I…"
Tang Jie stood up. "I simply helped you in the passing, and there is no need for Honored Immortal to be so concerned. Right, I saw that you were coming from the east, so I presume that you were headed for Anyang Prefecture. I happen to be going there too, so why not accompany me? Honored Immortal is injured, and there might be many inconveniences on the road that I can help you with."
Of course, Tang Jie had no idea where Xu Muyang was going, but Anyang Prefecture was up the road, so there was nothing wrong with saying that Tang Jie was going to Anyang Prefecture.
So long as he could follow this man, Tang Jie was in no rush on the matter of seeking instruction in cultivation.
His many years in bureaucracy had made him understand that if one wanted to cling to the leg of someone else, one first had to win the owner's favor.
On the other end, Xu Muyang wanted to cry.
If only you had just stopped at saying that you were just helping in the passing and didn't mind! Xu Muyang would have just hardened up and comforted himself by saying that this boy didn't want a reward, and as the boy hadn't suffered any sort of loss, the karmic debt would have been settled.
But then, the boy had added that they should travel together, thus creating a problem.
The boy had helped him, so if he refused, he would seem too cold, thus going against his heart.
Cultivators could do anything except go against their heart!
In truth, he really could just leave. The Heart Demon created from such a trivial matter was not guaranteed to do anything to him.
After all, the Heart Demon Tribulation was formed from the accumulation of one's actions across one's lifetime.
But settling karmic debts and taking actions that did not go against one's heart was a habit that all cultivators would develop. This was like opening shop every day. Whether one had a little or a lot of business, each day had to be taken seriously.
After thinking it over, Xu Muyang decided to accept this request.
In his view, this was just a twelve-year-old boy who would need his help at some point. When the time came, he would settle this karmic debt.
Upon learning that Xu Muyang was willing to travel with him, Tang Jie happily smiled.
The door of opportunity was wide open, and so all he needed to do was hold it fast.
The heavens had sent him to this world but had not given him any sort of cheat.
He would just create one himself!