Chapter 23: A Lesson on the Journey
Translator: TransN Editor: TransN
Late at night, Ning Que got off of the horse carriage. Lyu Qingchen pulled open the cloth curtain and looked at the lad’s back as he walked away. At that moment, a frontier fortress song faintly came through the field and a wisp of a smile appeared on the cultivator’s face.
For cultivators reaching the Dongxuan State, even if just half-finished, they would be deserving of great respect in any country or city. There was no need for them to make contact with the common people. Psyche Masters required more time for meditation and cultivation, so Lyu Qingchen’s every second could be comparable to gold.
However, Lyu Qingchen, being fond of Ning Que, was gladly willing to sacrifice one or two nights, or even more, to chat with Ning Que about seemingly trivial things. The old cultivator liked the calm, self-improvement hidden behind the lad’s gentle and youthful demeanor. And, he enjoyed Ning Que’s heroic spirit, which occasionally leaked through. Actually, a heroic spirit, self-improvement, and calmness were the traits the Tangs appreciated most. That would also explain why Lyu Qingchen, having been born and bred in Tang, showed a preference for Ning Que.
What he taught Ning Que at night was a pre-compulsory lesson from the South School of Haotian Taoism. Though it was not a top-secret lesson, it still couldn’t be shared with just anyone because of the school’s rules. Regardless, he decided to teach Ning Que due to his believing in one thing:
“I get the feeling that you’ll be an extraordinary cultivator someday.”
He did this even though he knew that Ning Que couldn’t be a cultivator since his Qi was blocked. Despite this fact, and without reason, he believed that this lad would still be able to take this hard and arduous journey. Additionally, he truly hoped that Ning Que would go on at a steady pace, and further than he had himself.
The old cultivator watched out his window as the lad’s back got smaller with the growing distance, mumbled to himself, “In this last phase of my life I am just blindly following my instincts, and beginning to do some presumptuous things. Possibly… it’s the Haotian that inspires me to do so.”
When Ning Que returned to the rough tent, Sangsang was already there. He asked her what the princess had called her for, and, as expected, he got an obscure and incomplete answer. He had long ago gotten used to his handmaiden’s lack of clarity. So, they told some jokes and drank several cups of wine, and then went to bed after a cursory gargling and washing.
The next day, the carriages, escorted by hundreds of cavalries, kept heading southwards to the capital, Chang’an. For Ning Que and Sangsang, their journey was not as boring and dull as before.
Before evening fell, Lyu Qingchen would call Ning Que to chat with him in his carriage, and the princess would often summon Sangsang. Their humble carriage, thanks to Peng Guotao, was driven by a bodyguard. Otherwise, Ning Que would have had to put on an unmanned-driving performance.
Ning Que had learned more about the cultivating knowledge through the chats in the carriage. For instance, he got to know a variety of approaches which cultivators applied to control their Qi of Heaven and Earth with psyche; some special objects which cultivators used to strengthen their connection with the heaven and earth; and the manner which a Sword Master condensed primordial Qi into an invisible rope and then bound up a lithe and sharp hiltless flying sword.
There wasn’t a strict standard for special objects that could enhance the connection between cultivators and the heaven and earth Qi. For example, a wooden whisk sword was usually employed by Haotian Taoism, and a wooden fish by Buddhism, while Fu paper and a flying sword were considered standard equipment, and rarely, other strange objects like pens, ink, and staves, were used by some of the superior cultivators.
“One that condenses Qi of Heaven and Earth into Fu paper with Psyche Power is called a Fu Master; one who compresses Qi of Heaven and Earth into tactical formation is named a Formation Master; one concentrating Qi of Heaven and Earth in swords is called a Sword Master; one directly mobilizing Qi of Heaven and Earth by Psyche Power is named a Psyche Master; one…”
Lyu Qingchen said joyfully and slowly, leaning against the carriage window while holding a cup of light tea.
“Hey, hey, hey, are you joking? For someone who condenses Qi of Heaven and Earth into a chamberpot, what would he be called? Chamber Master or Pot Master?”
The old man and the lad naturally became familiar with each other after chatting over the passing days, and Ning Que gradually showed his other qualities, like indolence and discourtesy. He was currently biting a Chinese brush that was covered with ink while waving his right arm, expressing his strong doubt.
Putting down the cup, the old cultivator stared at the lad and scolded him. “It was a custom, do you know what a custom is? It has been that way for thousands of years. Are you really doubtful about it? It just needs to be easy to remember, so save your breath!”
“OK.” Ning Que was under fiasco before the custom covering a time span of over thousands of years. Inside the shaky carriage, he hung his wrists and kept focused. Then he made some notes, with his thick black nip freely moving on the snow-like rice paper.
“About the battle approaches of cultivators, what a Sword Master uses is called Swordsmanship and what a Fu Master applies is named Martial Arts of Fu. I, a Psyche Master, of course use Psyche Skill. For those Grand Cultivators who have entered Knowing Destiny State, it is hard to specifically distinguish their skills. I heard that some elderships in the precedent master’s sects cultivated Divine Skill, but I don’t know about the details.”
“These names… are insufficient.” Ning Que face was slightly stiff as he chewed the tip of his pen and looked at the old man before saying, vaguely, “It seems to me that they all could be generally named a Magic Master because all they use is magic.”
The old man, tightly furrowed his eyebrows, and severely said, “How do you define the word ‘magic’?”
Defeated again, Ning Que expressed his innocence by spreading his hands.
“In addition to the cultivators mentioned above, the martial arts warriors are the most common of all cultivators. Their perception of the Qi of Heaven and Earth may be weaker than the other sects of cultivators, but their capacity for fighting is incredibly powerful. When in battle, a martial warrior could fill their whole body with the Qi of Heaven and Earth, and it was just like they had put on a suit of armor from head to feet. Additionally, when in regular training, they would utilize their Qi of Heaven and Earth to stimulate their own flesh and blood, creating a steel-like body.”
“Is that giant man, with a yellowish gloss, at the entrance of the Northern Mountain Road a martial warrior?”
“Yes, but his level is comparatively low. The four great generals in our Tang Empire are the best martial warriors in the world. If an arrow volley could pierce their armor, it would then be blocked by their defending primordial Qi. Even if the defending primordial Qi were pierced, their steel-like body could also prevent them from being severely hurt. In front of these powerful cultivators, your mastery in archery would be useless.”
These remarks naturally reminded Ning Que of two words—Xia Hou. Then he just calmly took down some notes and kept pondering the approaches he could take against these strong cultivators.
“If you choose to get closer to the strong martial warriors during a battle, you’ll get killed quickly. Your relationship can be compared to that of a field mouse and a male lion. Even though you are strong you would not be able to shake them off. With a flick of their wrist, they would break your neck.”
“If an arrow is covered by primordial Qi… could it damage a martial warrior?” Ning Que asked seriously, suddenly raising his head.
After a short thought, the old cultivator slowly shook his head and said, “Few cultivators have tried encasing arrows with the Qi of Heaven and Earth, considering the difference between arrows and swords. In order to make sure of the speed, it had to be very light. Unfortunately, the attached primordial Qi on the arrow would quickly dissipate due to the interference of natural induction and the lack of an engraved Fu. Of course, if someone could figure out the dissipation problem of primordial Qi, the arrow, beyond a doubt, could be a type of formidable long-distance attack weapon.”
After listening, Ning Que looked as if he were thinking of something.