Nine Astra Skies

Mad Snail

202 The Roc And The Snail

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After hearing what Li Xu had said, Master Apothecary Xuanyi laughed loudly. He had underestimated Li Xu's character. If Li Xu had hankered after the Tianlu Cauldron, he would be the same as Lei Yi, Hao Feng, and Yan Cheng, and Master Apothecary Xuanyi would not have regarded him so highly. Now that his troubles were put to rest, Master Apothecary Xuanyi instantly became happier and advised Li Xu, "Ye Chen's talent is abnormal. Having lived for over a century, I've still never seen talent like this. We're just ordinary folks, unable to be on par with him. It's good to accept this and move on."When he heard what Master Apothecary Xuanyi had said, however, Li Xu shook his head stubbornly. "The commander of the army may be carried off but the will of even a common man cannot be taken from him. Master, remember when Xuan Yu and the other registered apprentices joined us, what you taught them then?"

"Oh? I've forgotten." Master Apothecary Xuanyi shook his head, smiling.

"Back then, you told a story that remains fresh in my mind. You said, in the most western region of the Great Eastern Continent, there was a tower that reached the clouds. No one was able to reach the peak of the tower except for two creatures. One was the Golden-winged Roc and the other was the snail. I may progress slowly but with enough steady determination and willpower, crawling upward one step at a time, one day, I'll be able to enjoy the view from the tower's top," Li Xu said seriously. "I won't be jealous of Junior Brother Ye Chen's future brilliant achievements. I'll only wish him well in my heart. But as his senior brother, I can't lose to him by too much."

Master Apothecary Xuanyi stared at Li Xu and was stunned for a moment, then finally sighed. "At that time, I only told the story in pa.s.sing, Li Xu. Today, however, you've taught me a lesson. As your master, I'm ashamed."

At the doorway of the imperial family's side courtyard, Ye Chen retracted his Astral Body. Today, everything that Li Xu had said moved him greatly. Whether it was Senior Brother Li or Master Apothecary Xuanyi, they were impeccable in their moral conduct. Ye Chen truly had a deep, sincere wish that one day, Senior Brother Li would achieve his goal.

As Ye Chen looked into the courtyard, currently in his heart, Master Apothecary Xuanyi and Senior Brother Li were as intimate to him as his family.

Just as Li Xu and Master Apothecary Xuanyi were speaking, there was a knock on the door of the alchemy room.

"Li Xu, open the door and see who it is." Master Apothecary Xuanyi glanced at Li Xu.

"Yes, Master." Li Xu stood up and walked over to open the door. When he saw that it was Ye Chen, he could not help grinning in delight. "Junior Brother Ye Chen, you're back?"

"Mmm." Ye Chen nodded with a smile. "h.e.l.lo, Senior Brother Li."

"Come on in. We didn't expect you to be back so soon. We thought you'll enjoy yourself outside for a few more days." Li Xu chuckled.

Ye Chen brought Little Wingsy and Little Tanuki into the alchemy room. Upon seeing Master Apothecary Xuanyi, he bowed slightly. "Master."

"You've settled your business?" Master Apothecary Xuanyi beamed at Ye Chen.

"It's all settled." Ye Chen nodded.

"Lately, my eyelids have been twitching. I was worrying that you'd run into trouble outside. Since you're back safely, all is well! It must've been a difficult journey, so rest up for these two days," Master Apothecary Xuanyi said affectionately. Now that Ye Chen was back, it was a weight off his mind. After all, there were too many people outside who had their eyes on Ye Chen.

Upon hearing Master Apothecary Xuanyi's caring words, Ye Chen was rather touched and felt a swell of reverence toward Master Apothecary Xuanyi.

"Oh right. Previously, Mingwu came by twice but you weren't here. Since you're back, find a time to visit him," Master Apothecary Xuanyi said.

"Yes, Master," Ye Chen replied.

Master Apothecary Xuanyi and Li Xu asked about how Ye Chen had been the past few days. Ye Chen briefly recounted how he went to Emerald Cloud Mountain to look for his cousin, found out that she was being bullied, and sent her back to the Ye Clan on the Vermillion Spirit Condor. Ye Chen did not mention Little Wingsy transforming into his original form to frighten the Emerald Cloud Sect or how he was ambushed by those from the Nanman Kingdom or how they encountered a mystical beast tanuki clan in Emerald Cloud Mountain. It was not that Ye Chen did not trust Master Apothecary Xuanyi and Li Xu but rather, telling them all these would bring no benefits, and would instead cause unnecessary trouble.

Master Apothecary Xuanyi nodded slightly and did not press for more details.

Being Master Apothecary Xuanyi's apprentice was such a great fortune. Ye Chen could not understand why Lei Yi, Hao Feng, and Yan Cheng would betray Master Apothecary Xuanyi. Could they possibly find a master who was even better than Master Apothecary Xuanyi?

Ye Chen chatted with Master Apothecary Xuanyi and Li Xu in the alchemy room and only took his leave when it was near evening. He returned to his residence and continued cultivating. As for Little Wingsy, he started to practice the martial arts technique of mystical beasts under Little Tanuki's guidance.

In his battle with Dongmen Yingyang, Ye Chen had learned a lot. He was slowly comprehending the marvels of his Astral Body. In the final confrontation between the gold-armored soldier and Dongmen Yingyang, that one strike was fused with the Heavenly King Rupturing the Sun martial arts technique. At that point, Ye Chen simply had a flash of inspiration amid the intense battle, just like a flash of insight during cultivation. Now that he thought about it, he had gained a lot. 

It would be too shocking for everyone if Ye Chen unleashed the gold-armored soldier to practice the Heavenly King Rupturing the Sun martial arts technique in the imperial family's courtyard. Thus, Ye Chen dared not manifest his Astral Body. He simply circulated his Celestial Chi, stood with both feet apart, and a.s.sumed the horse stance. He delivered punch after punch, feeling the chi flow changing in his body as he practiced Heavenly King Rupturing the Sun. He was going to master Heavenly King Rupturing the Sun.

It was an immense challenge for Ye Chen to get the gold-armored soldier to use martial arts techniques.

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Ye Chen did not know how the chi flow in other people's bodies was like. Possibly, due to the Nine Astra Skies, each time he practiced Heavenly King Rupturing the Sun, Ye Chen could distinctly sense nine threads of Celestial Chi covering his body like the strings of an instrument, which would vibrate and occasionally resonate. The const.i.tution of these threads was also widely different. Each thread was connected to a Chi Circle in his dantian.

"Mmm." Little Wingsy nodded solemnly.

"Let's go then," Ye Chen said and picked up Little Tanuki.

They headed to the alchemy room to bid Master Apothecary Xuanyi and Li Xu goodbye, then walked out of the imperial family's courtyard together.

Great Emperor Mingwu had thirty-two side courtyards in the Capital City. These courtyards were used as residences for imperial concubines, diplomatic envoys who had come to the Xiwu Empire or aristocratic heirs. Ye Chen, Master Apothecary Xuanyi, and the rest were presently living in a side courtyard that was rather close to the Imperial City.

After exiting the strictly guarded courtyard, they reached a large street by the side of the Imperial City. There was an endless stream of traffic here as people went to and fro. It was extremely busy.

If they continued onward for five more streets, they would reach the most famous Silk-washing Bridge Lane of the Capital City. It was a well-known red-light district. The famous courtesans of the Xiwu Empire were gathered there. Even descendants of aristocrats would often stay the night there, spending their money extravagantly.

Ye Chen was in no hurry to meet Great Emperor Mingwu. He was thinking that if he strolled around the busy Capital City in the morning, he would still have time to visit Great Emperor Mingwu in the afternoon. Of course, Ye Chen would not go to Silk-washing Bridge Lane.

As Ye Chen walked along, he enjoyed the scenery on both sides. The buildings lining the street had a quaint architectural style. The Xiwu Empire was an ancient country with a long history. Although it was advanced in martial arts, a splendid civilization had also evolved from it. 

As Ye Chen walked, his thoughts threaded through the river of history. He paced slowly as he thought about the Dao and seemed to have an insight. Humans reproduced in large numbers, pa.s.sing on skills and art, and civilization progressed onward. Was this not a way of Dao as well?

As if she sensed the changes in Ye Chen's heart, Little Tanuki also closed her eyes and perceived the chi flow in her body.

As for Little Wingsy, he had already ran to a snack stall by one side with the dozens of taels of silver that Ye Chen had given him, ready to buy something. He realized that silver was a good thing indeed. It can be exchanged for many delicious things and he could have whatever he liked. He heard that one Chi-ama.s.sing Pill could be exchanged for fifty taels of silver. In the future, he must get more Heaven-Earth Pouch, more silver, and more medicinal pills!

In five short minutes, Little Wingsy had already wolfed down more than eighty buns, sixty pastries, five catties of spiced beef, and innumerable miscellaneous breakfast snacks.

The two vendors by the side looked at Little Wingsy as if he was a monster, their mouths opened so wide that one could fit an egg inside. In all their years, they had never seen a chowhound that was comparable to Little Wingsy. 

[1] a Chinese proverb meaning that everything and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

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