Days pa.s.sed and Ye Castle remained closed off from outside contact. However, a physical barrier such as a closed gate still could not keep out the shrill cacophony of shouts and noises that echoed behind the Castle.
On the very next day since the infamous visit, an entourage of labor workers dispatched by the House of Yun had immediately begun working on the mining mountain. They blared every part of their commotion seemingly for no other reason than to spite the Ye's.
The Ye's could only endure their underhanded insults. Yet through this shared strife, the family became more united than before as they strive with the same conviction by training themselves even harder. Mirroring the clansmen's effort in upgrading themselves was the ma.s.sive upgrade on every defense mechanism within the castle. It was as if they were already on the brink of war.
Ye Chen himself had not stepped out of his own quarters barring the times when he had to visit the canteen. Most of the time, he remained in his personal yard, focusing on his Celestial Chi cultivation to the point that he had largely neglected the more physical elements of martial art such as his martial techniques.
He sat on the gra.s.sy clearing like an old monk deep in meditation. He was completely absorbed in the mystique of the last five cultivation systems detailed in the Nine Astra Skies discourse.
He may be practicing all five techniques simultaneously, but as the Five Agents were interconnected with each other, learning them together was, surprisingly, no slower a task than training with an individual cultivation system.
The Flying Dagger continued to supply endless streams of Celestial Chi while Ye Chen's dantian ravenously absorbed as much Celestial Chi as possible, like a sponge thrown into the water. Most notably, every new intake of the Flying Dagger's unadulterated Celestial Chi was a new push of growth and fortification to his own reservoir of Celestial Chi that swirled within his body. Slowly but surely, Ye Chen could feel his Celestial Chi maturing exponentially.
Time flew when one was completely occupied with their endeavor. Ten odd days had pa.s.sed in what felt like a blink of an eye.
Then, one day, something extraordinary happened.
It started as a day, not unlike others. Ye Chen's yard was just as quiet and tranquil as it had always been, with lush green leaves rustling in the dense, whispery mist of the morning. The first ray of sunlight shone through the tiny gaps that potted the sylvan canopy.
Ye Chen was still sitting cross-legged at his usual spot. By then, he had been training for hours before he encountered a puzzling quandary. For some reason, his Celestial Chi's growth had apparently reached a sort of bottleneck, regardless of his efforts.
"What's the matter with my Celestial Chi? It's restless as if it's going to run around amok… Did I do make any mistake with my method?" Ye Chen wondered out loud, frowning, and that was when his Celestial Chi suddenly burst. From the usual point of acc.u.mulation within his dantian, the Celestial Chi went rogue. It thrust into a kind of stampede and trampled through every single meridian channel in his body. Everywhere it reached was accompanied by severe unrest that ended up puncturing each meridian channel.
Ye Chen cried out in alarm. He tried to force control over the insurgent Celestial Chi but found the Celestial Chi completely severed from his conscious control. It was as if it had a mind of its own.
'No, no, no! Am I going to be crippled again?! Could this be the side-effect of blazing through my Celestial Chi Stages too quickly?'
His nerves were firing up in a panic and in a desperate bid to protect the rest of his meridian channels before they were destroyed by what seemed to be a mutiny of Celestial Chi. He instinctively started to revolve any Celestial Chi that was still under his control per the combined cultivation systems of the Five Agents.
Yet, shortly after acc.u.mulating all five different elemental Celestial Chi, that same surge of rogue Celestial Chi proceeded to effortlessly swallow every ounce of his defensive effort while gleefully snapping every link in the meridian channels.
Helpless with no idea in availing the situation, Ye Chen could only resign into an intense pang of bitterness. Now, his entire meridian channel system was so decimated it was akin to the aftermath of a hurricane.
As if sensing that its work was done, the rogue Celestial Chi dispersed aimlessly into the atmosphere on its own, still resisting Ye Chen's control right to the end.
By this point, the only power he could still wield was his astral powers. In lamentation, the young man weakly turned to activate his astral body. As he was doing that, there was a strike of thunder in his mind before he was filled with the bliss of emptiness and clarity.
His astral body sprung from his body in a stupefying speed, growing increasingly larger until it had become several folds bigger and stronger than it used to be.
Little Tanuki, who had been training beside Ye Chen, opened its eyes precariously. Upon setting its eyes on Ye Chen, every fiber and every hair on its body abruptly stood straight as if it had seen something terribly frightening. It even dashed out of the scene and straight into the young man's bedroom, as if it was eager to leave Ye Chen's side, only extending its head out from the door to peer cautiously.
Ye Chen's astral body almost looked corporeal. If any pugilist even possessed the ability to see one's astral body, they would probably be squirming at the sight of a towering, intimidating knight in golden armor, equipped with a lance and suspending in midair above Ye Chen. It's several-feet-tall build gave off a commanding and dauntless air.
It was an Astral Knight!
Too bad it was just a phantom rather than an actual knight!
Ye Chen triggered the Flying Dagger to release more Celestial Chi once more. This time, it finally coursed through his body obediently, pa.s.sing through every severed linkage and seemingly restoring them back to health again.
Could that be an ineluctable effect of practicing Nine Astra Skies which one must go through, having their meridian channels destroyed before they could become better?
An idea struck Ye Chen as he mused. Again, he revolved his Celestial Chi according to the cultivation systems of the Five Agents. It was then when the five Celestial Chi Vortices suddenly manifested around certain internal organs within Ye Chen's body, rotating slowly in their corresponding internal organs.
The liver for Wood. The heart for Fire. The spleen for Earth. The lungs for Metal. The kidney for Water.
Each of these Chi Vortices exhibited their unique elemental qualities. Could this also be another outcome of practicing Nine Astra Skies, where one could gather and form Chi Vortices in their own body?
Ye Chen's focus remained undivided as he allowed the sensations of these ever-shifting, ever-changing Celestial Chi to course through every faculty of his awareness. Physically, five halos of different colors started to form around his body and illuminated his silhouette.
These halos glided slowly over him, sometimes crossing into each other as they did. Their lights and the ensuing shadows danced on Ye Chen's face, adding into his collective radiance of mysterious bliss. It was as if he was completely united together with the very tapestry of nature, and if anyone happened to throw a pa.s.sing glance at his direction right then, they might even miss him completely.
The cultivation systems of the Five Agents did not seem hard to practice at all. Just like that, Ye Chen had mastered all of their First Grade teachings.
'So if the Five Agents could form Chi Vortices, could the Four Forces of Nature do the same?'
With that thought, Ye Chen started to revolve his Celestial Chi accordingly.
Following that, the five halos of light slowly transformed into golden discs while they continued their orbits around Ye Chen's body. Then, four bolts of even more dazzling rays shot up from nowhere and started darting about the discs in a palpably higher velocity.
A man being flanked by brilliant haloes of the Five Agents and the Four Forces of Nature — the nine quintessential elements of the world — was nothing less of a wonder to behold.
Now, on both of Ye Chen's palms and feet, four new Chi Vortices had appeared. Indeed, they were Chi Vortices of Ice, Wind, Thunder, and Lightning.
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Little Tanuki's eyes belied its confusion.
"I know, I know. I just only had a glimpse of it, too. How shall I put it? Well, Dao is expressed in the growth of every living being. Dao is expressed in the rise and fall of the mountains, the coursing water of the rivers. Dao is in the constellations, the planets, the galaxies, and even the governing laws of the orbits and rotations of these heavenly bodies in s.p.a.ce. They are all manifestations of the Dao. Dao binds everything in the cosmos. From it, of it, and on it, everything is borne."
Ye Chen regretted not reading enough in his past life as it would have helped him understand even more of his own gnosis. Yet, even with most of the essential understanding eluding him, Ye Chen's cultivation base had already been enhanced to a marvelous degree.
He continued to muse, "Every single one of us who dedicates our life diligently to the martial arts is just seekers of the Dao. All it takes for one to rise from their beginning, however mundane, is a little peek into the truth of Dao."
Little Tanuki's questioning expression remained as it raised its head in confusion. Though greeting its quizzical stare were the young man's own crystalline eyes radiating the brilliance of enlightenment like a tapestry of infinite stars.
Little Tanuki had forgotten how long it had stared into that microcosm of the cosmos behind Ye Chen's eyes before realizing it had unwittingly fallen into a trance. Blushing just as much as it was startled, the little critter found a comfortable spot in Ye Chen's lap and snuggled.
Watching the little critter's antics made the young man smile as he shook his head. It looked like he had been giving talks to the air, after all; a simple tanuki may not understand him at all.
Ye Chen's eyes gazed at the sun, his mind equanimous. He realized that one possessed an inherent capacity to cultivate Celestial Chi without limiting oneself to hours sitting on the floor all day. He could cultivate it even when he's walking, eating or even sleeping.
He stood up, and the Celestial Chi in his body started to revolve on their own as his body absorbed the Celestial Chi from the Flying Dagger. Albeit, it revolved in a much slower and less focused fashion than a session of seated meditation.
Now that he had completed the First Grade Teaching of every cultivation system in the Nine Astra Skies, he could start practicing the six martial techniques in 'Palms Puncturing the Cosmos'!
Just then, a series of knocking echoed from his door.
Ye Chen opened it and saw that it was a grinning Ye Rou.
The girl had looked even more sublime than the last time he saw her. Her skin, for example, had become so supple and soft that Ye Chen sometimes found himself itching to give it a squeeze.
He directed his astral sense on the girl and realized that she had already attained the Mid-Seventh Stage. Rou's Celestial Chi may not be as st.u.r.dy and strong as the Celestial Chi in the Flying Dagger, but it was nonetheless an entire league of its own when compared to most others' Celestial Chi.
He also noticed that the almost-unnoticeable pendant that was hanging on her graceful neck was emitting unique energy that continuously bathed her body. Only then, Ye Chen realized that this pendant must be a sort of unparalleled treasure. For Rou'er to so readily and unwaveringly offer it before the fight with Ye Kongyan back then, the young man's heart softened and warmed at that recollection.
"Anything I can help you with, Little Rou?" he asked.
Staring at the young man's handsome features, Ye Rou was startled by a bizarre, nagging feeling that the Ye Chen she was seeing today was very different from before. It was as if the young man was quietly radiating a deep sense of harmonic serenity. Moreover, for some reason, her heart started to race crazily the more she looked at him.
"Our uncles request your presence in the clan's meeting hall," she replied bashfully. Her voice came out almost like a whisper and her face turned scarlet-red.
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