"All of my things are in my Heaven-Earth Pouch, so we can leave right away." Then, Ye Chen asked, "Can I bring Little Wingsy along with me?""He is...?" Li Xu's gaze fell upon Little Wingsy, who was standing next to Ye Chen. Little Wingsy appeared to be around five to six years old and had a rather chubby figure, which made him look particularly adorable.
"A family member of mine," Ye Chen replied with a smile.
Upon hearing Ye Chen's words, Little Wingsy started tearing up slightly and gripped the corner of Ye Chen's clothing tightly with his right hand. Aside from Grandpa, Ye Chen was the second person to think of him as a family member. Little Wingsy felt very happy to be together with Ye Chen and Little Tanuki.
"In that case, let him come along then," Li Xu said and nodded. Normally, outsiders were not allowed into Xuan Pavilion but an exception could be made this time. After all, Little Wingsy was just a child who seemed to be around five to six years old. His presence would not affect the situation that much.
"Thank you, Master Li."
Ye Chen felt slightly nervous about becoming Master Apothecary Xuanyi's apprentice since his success rate had been unbelievably low during his previous attempts at alchemy in the s.p.a.ce in the armguard. Although ancient alchemy methods were somewhat different from contemporary alchemy methods, it would still be rather embarra.s.sing if Ye Chen turned out to be not so talented at alchemy and ended getting turned away by Master Apothecary Xuanyi.
Nonetheless, since he had already come all the way here, Ye Chen would not back out, so he followed Master Li and entered the Imperial City in a carriage.
The ancient roads of the Imperial City were paved with black bricks. As the carriage moved along the road and entered the Imperial City, the view outside became entirely different. The pavilions and paG.o.das around them were a clear sign of the imperial family's prestige while the scenic lakes and mountains were too beautiful to be fully appreciated all at once. Some distance away, row upon row of palaces with golden bricks and jade tiles stretched over dozens of miles, giving the place an air of grandeur and majesty.
"Master resides in Xuan Pavilion, which is located in the northern court of the Imperial City. This means that the south side of Xuan Pavilion is the Imperial Palace, which is strictly protected by imperial guards. You must never go there without Master's permission. Yin Clan of the Royal Tribe has quite a lot of prohibitions," Li Xu warned Ye Chen.
Little Wingsy looked around curiously in the direction of the Imperial Palace. This was his first time visiting such a luxurious place after all and he could not help gaping at the splendid and magnificent buildings in this place.
"How did Master Apothecary Xuanyi end up staying in the Imperial City?" Ye Chen asked and looked rather puzzled.
"It's a long story. Master came from a famous sect. Later, due to some matters, he was forced to leave his sect, so he began traveling around the Great Eastern Continent. Then, when he arrived at the Xiwu Empire, he ended up staying here under the invitation of Great Emperor Mingwu. As for why he accepted Great Emperor Mingwu's invitation, you'll find out about that once you become his apprentice. So far, Master has four official apprentices. I'm your eldest senior brother. You'll be able to meet the other three apprentices in another two days. One of them is an advanced apothecary whereas the other two are intermediate apothecaries. Among these three apprentices, two are from the Central Empire while the remaining one is from the Hao Clan of the Xiwu Empire." As Li Xu told Ye Chen about the other apprentices, a hint of worry appeared between Ye Chen's brows.
The Hao Clan? Ye Chen raised an eyebrow slightly.
"The three of them aren't really on friendly terms with me. Since you've been recommended to Master by me, they may try to make life difficult for you. However, be tolerant of them no matter what they do. After all, we're here to learn from Master, not to fight and scheme against one another," Li Xu advised. Master Apothecary Xuanyi thought very highly of Li Xu compared to the other three apprentices. Thus, Li Xu was often shunned by his three junior brothers. Nonetheless, Li Xu stood aloof from worldly affairs and was fully devoted to the art of alchemy, so he rarely came into contact with those three apprentices.
"Okay," Ye Chen replied with a nod. He could tell that Li Xu was the kind of person who would try not to offend anyone among his fellow apprentices. The nicer way to describe him was to call him a kind and tolerant person. The less nice way would be to call him a pushover. Ye Chen thought, 'I suppose it's fine if no one bullies me but if those three guys dare to mistreat me, then they better not blame me for being discourteous to them either. I'm not as easygoing as Li Xu.'
"Aside from the official apprentices, there are also thirty over registered apprentices. Unfortunately, none of them have managed to earn Master's approval with the talents they've displayed in the art of alchemy so far. Since you've just joined us, you can only be a registered apprentice first. Once Master verifies your talent at alchemy, you can then become an official apprentice. When that time comes, we can address each other as Senior and Junior Brothers. With your natural gift, I believe it won't take long for you to become an official apprentice," Li Xu said with a laugh.
"I'll try my best," Ye Chen replied. Since he had yet to formally start learning alchemy, Ye Chen could not help feeling a little nervous about his situation.
They continued travelling down a winding and narrow forest path until they reached a lakeside spot. Then, Ye Chen and Li Xu hopped onto a boat and slowly sailed toward the small island in the middle of the lake.
Soon, they arrived at the island which was around two to three miles in circ.u.mference. There were a few hills and a dense forest area with faintly discernible buildings at the center of the island.
In the entrance hall of Xuan Pavilion.
"Li Xu, so this is Ye Chen whom you've told me about?" As Master Apothecary Xuanyi examined Ye Chen from head to toe while stroking his beard, a satisfied expression appeared on his face. Despite his ability to make discerning judgments, he could not tell what rank Ye Chen's cultivation base was. This suggested that Ye Chen was quite accomplished in his martial arts cultivation.
Ye Chen raised his head and looked at the elderly man in front of him. This man was Master Apothecary Xuanyi. The Master Apothecary's hair and beard had turned white but his face had a ruddy glow which indicated that he was in good health. He was dressed in a gray robe and his every movement seemed effortless, swift, and otherworldly.
"Greetings, Master Apothecary Xuanyi," Ye Chen said while giving a slight bow.
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"Mm. I shall take you in as a registered apprentice for now and see how talented you truly are. Once you've pa.s.sed my test, you can become an official apprentice of mine." Master Apothecary stroked his white beard and smiled kindly as he continued, "I'll have Li Xu make arrangements for your residence. Now that you're here, feel free to read through all the ancient books and records in Xuan Pavilion. It depends on your luck how much knowledge you can learn here. Every month, there'll be fifteen days where I'll personally explain the art of alchemy to all apprentices. You will have ten days to engage in advanced studies on your own. As for the remaining five days, you shall go fishing together with me. Three months later, if you can meet the requirements, then you may begin to try refining and producing pills under my guidance."
Just like Master Li, Lei Yi was also an advanced apothecary.
Hao Feng and Yan Cheng both glanced at Ye Chen with a faint smile on their lips. Every year, all of them would recommend one or two individuals to join Master Apothecary Xuanyi's tutelage as registered apprentices. However, only the four of them had succeeded in becoming official apprentices, so these three guys obviously did not think highly of Ye Chen too.
"Senior Brother Li has recommended seven apprentices in total before but six out of the seven apprentices could not withstand the hardships of learning alchemy and have left Master's tutelage. I wonder if this newcomer will be able to pull through," Lei Yi commented and laughed loudly as he turned his gaze to Li Xu.
Upon hearing Lei Yi's words, Li Xu became somewhat annoyed as he knew the cause of those outcomes. Those seven apprentices had been ostracized by Lei Yi until six of them had decided to leave. Meanwhile, the remaining one ended up joining Lei Yi's side. Out of the thirty over registered apprentices, more than half of them were Lei Yi's people, so Lei Yi was the one manipulating and leading their fellow apprentices. Unfortunately, their master had no care for such petty matters, so Li Xu felt rather helpless and replied coolly, "Ye Chen is extraordinarily talented and is different from those few apprentices. He's even more talented than me. To help Ye Chen achieve progress in learning the art of alchemy, I've decided to let Ye Chen stay in my courtyard so that it would be more convenient for us to compare notes and learn from each other."
After giving it some thought, Li Xu realized that he might place Ye Chen in an unfavorable situation by letting him stay with the rest of the registered apprentices. Although Ye Chen's cultivation base far surpa.s.sed that of those apprentices, it was difficult to say for sure that they would not resort to trickery to bring him down. Thus, he felt the need to protect Ye Chen from them.
"He's even more talented than you? Senior Brother Li, you're being too modest. Your apt.i.tude for alchemy is second only to Master. It's highly possible for you to become a master apothecary in the future. How can any average person be more talented at alchemy than you? Senior Brother Li has always been fully devoted to the art of alchemy. If someone were to move into your courtyard and disrupt your cultivation process, won't that person be a sinner?" Lei Yi smirked slightly.
Among all of the apprentices, both Li Xu and Lei Yi had high chances of becoming master apothecaries. If either of them succeeded in becoming one, their status would be quite different. Unfortunately, both of them were still far from being able to advance to the next rank.
"Li Xu, are you really willing to let Ye Chen stay in your courtyard?" Master Apothecary Xuanyi asked in surprise. He was also aware of the strained relationship between Li Xu and Lei Yi and felt quite troubled about it since there seemed to be no way to resolve their conflicts. He knew very well why those few apprentices had left previously but since they did not possess much talent in alchemy, it would not make much of a difference whether they decided to leave or stay. The Master Apothecary had spent most of his life cultivating the art of alchemy and teaching his apprentices, so he was sick of seeing people fighting and scheming against one another. Furthermore, he looked forward to seeing what Ye Chen had to offer, so the fact that Li Xu was willing to let Ye Chen stay in his courtyard was indeed the best arrangement possible.
"Yes, Master," Li Xu replied while nodding.
Based on their conversation, Ye Chen had managed to get a clearer idea of the relationships between these people. In the eyes of outsiders, Li Xu had a high and respectable status, so Ye Chen had never expected him to be in such an unpleasant situation when he was around the other apprentices. Nonetheless, he felt very grateful towards Li Xu for trying to protect him.
"Alright then, you may leave now," Master Apothecary Xuanyi said with a wave of his hand.
"Understood, Master." Li Xu, Lei Yi, and the others took their leave.
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