"Haha!" Lee Yue laughed as he swung his fist harder.
"You can't defeat me!"
"Haha! Hahahaha!" Lee Yue's laughter roared even louder.
"I can't seem to find the joke here," Chu Li's voice betrayed a hint of annoyance. "Afraid?" he taunted.
Lee Yue stopped moving. The giggle started to fade away, and lacked its initial intensity. "You're serious," he said.
"Well, you don't say."
"Heh...I wouldn't want to hurt you. I'll have you know I can win a fight against a rank nine Protector."
"Save the chatter. Are we doing this or not?"
"Alright, let's give it a shot."
Chu Li placed the Emerald Tipped Sword on the stone table, taking up its scabbard instead. "Wouldn't want to hurt you!"
"Fine, fine!" Lee Yue grit his teeth behind closed lips.
Chu Li held up the scabbard.
"Watch me!" Afraid he would be mocked by Chu Li for standing on ceremony, Lee Yue targeted Chu Li with his Black Tiger Heart Digging Fist.
His heart brimmed with confidence. The difference between one who possessed of inner strength versus that of an ordinary person was that of a grown man and a child.
Chu Li activated the Omniscient Mirror, morphing the perception of his surroundings.
In his vision were traces of Lee Yue's skeleton. Following the flow of his mind, the skeleton's muscles began to show, with white meridians laced with green inner energy. He could see Lee Yue's mental imagery forming in real time. Including a scene of Chu Li being struck right in the chest, falling over, and surrendering.
Everything originating from Lee Yue, every single one of his muscle movements, the erratic flow of his inner energy, the changes in his thoughts. Everything appeared in full view of Chu Li like a curious animal gazing into a mirror.
He raised his scabbard and knocked it on Lee Yue's shoulder right as he was pushing his energy from his old move to a new one. It seemed as if Lee Yue was patiently waiting for Chu Li's strike like a docile child, his muscle movements slow.
"Ah!" Lee Yue screamed, rubbing his shoulder vigorously.
Chu Li smiled. "Wanna have another go?"
"Take this for size!" Lee Yue yelled once more.
Chu Li lightly flicked his wrist and made his move once more, and Lee Yue looked as if he had purposely placed his fist onto Chu Li's incoming scabbard. Another scream followed. Half of his body was suddenly engulfed in numbness.
Chu Li's scabbard stopped an inch short of Lee Yue's throat. "You're finished, buddy!"
Lee Yue widened his eyes in surprise. "W-What sword technique is that?"
"The Delusion Split. You want another taste?"
"Naturally..! I haven't used my trump card either!" Lee Yue said with his blood boiling, his face beet red.
He almost felt as if he had dug his own grave. Chu Li already knew of all his moves, and had cracked them open like a book beforehand. He would have to pull something from his repertoire that he had never shown Chu Li before!
"It'll the same, no matter how many times you try."
"Hah!" Like thunder accompanying a lightning fist, Lee Yue roared and charged forward, going all out.
Chu Li raised his scabbard once again in a lazy motion.
"Ah!" Lee Yue yelled again, backing up from Chu Li.
Chu Li followed with a step forward, and the scabbard once again found its way to Lee Yue's throat. "Got you again!"
"T-this is scary! Really scary!" Lee Yue rubbed his own wrist, staring at Chu Li, puzzled.
"This should be the first time you're seeing this technique of mine"
Chu Li retracted his scabbard and continued, "All of them are the same to me."
"Is the Delusion Split really this powerful?" Lee Yue met the sword skill with some skepticism.
Chu Li nodded, "You could always try training for it."
Chu Li had tried other sword techniques before, but they were incredibly different compared to the Delusion Split. It was impossible for those to have defeated Zhuo Fei Yang.
The Delusion Split shared a similar string to the Nine Swords of Isolation technique. Working together with his Omniscient Mirror, its potential was limitless. He could definitely put up a fight against Zhuo Fei Yang now.
"Gah, forget about it. I don't have talent working with swords." Lee Yue quickly declined.
"Your little swordplay can definitely get you a pass on the Tower of Ranking."
Chu Li replied with a snap.
"It's my hidden weapon!"
"Ha..Hah!" Lee Yue burst into laughter as that fact dawned on him. A weight lifted itself off of his shoulders afterward.
"It's a shame you didn't have the foundation for it. You would've been another Zhuo Fei Yang!"
Passing two levels of the Tower after joining for a year, Zhuo Fei Yang was an Eighth-Rank Protector; an unparalleled genius with infinite possibilities laid upon his future.
"Zhuo Fei Yang," Chu Li smirked.
Lee Yue walked towards him and lowered his voice,
"Chu Li, what's there between you and Zhuo Fei Yang..?"
Chu Li scoffed.
Lee Yue asked out of curiosity, "I thought the both of you were from the same school? There's no reason for your relationship to be so sour!"
"Tsk. Enough, stop talking about him!" Chu Li waved his hand, sheathing his sword back into his scabbard.
Now that Zhuo Fei Yang had achieved success and fame, Chu Li was left behind as a nameless servant, unknown to the public. The gap was almost insurmountable. Could Zhao Ying tell how hard Zhuo Fei Yang was trying to get into her good books? It was impossible for Chu Li to not feel pressured at the mention of him.
Chu Li sighed, and trudged his way back into the east room. He sunk himself on his bed, lost in thought as he vacantly stared at the caisson ceiling.
To look at the world with a clean and clear view. Such was the Omniscient Mirror
A combination of the Eye of the Sky's connection, and his connection to their heart.
There was nothing that could escape the Omniscient Mirror, including the interior of the human body, its bones, muscle, blood, veins, veins, energy, and inner strength. Even the mental image in someone's head.
He had photographic memory and his mind capacity far exceeded that of a normal person, thanks to his mastery of the Wisdom's Root.
For that reason alone, he thought he deserved more. He wanted the riches and prosperity that came with it.
He shook his head at the thought of this.
His master used his connections to get him into the Public House. Only when he entered it had he realised that he had joined without any solid foundation, leading him to fall behind the others, requiring him to dedicate a larger amount of effort just to catch up to them.
However, every since he joined, the Yi's Public House had been in deep in conflict. It was never a symbol of peace and harmony.
When he first joined the province and was lectured of the rules and mannerisms within the province, he was the laughing stock for the general populace, for being one who was not able to practice martial arts. He even managed to make an enemy, Zhuo Fei Yang. A genius in the realm of martial arts, the man who challenged the rank ninth tower and ascended into an eighth ranked Protector. Chu Li was just still a lowly, rank-less servant.
Zhuo Fei Yang was always against whatever he set out to do. If it weren't for Chu Li coming back to life and being able to use the Omniscient Mirror, he would have most definitely gone insane! Now that he had mastered the Delusion Split sword technique, he had no reason to keep that anger in check any longer.
On the break of dawn on the second day, he practiced the Delusion Split, and rowed himself to the island to where The Tower of Wisdom is located.
The Tower of Wisdom was glimmering. The people on the lower floors looked as if they were ants.
Two large bronze cauldrons were placed on the sides of the grand entrance, with the tower itself three stories high.
An armchair rested on the bluestone steps, with a skinny, short old lady perched upon it. She had immaculate silver-hair on her head and a deeply engrossing book in her arms.
"Grandma Sun!" Chu Li bowed and walked toward her.
Grandma Sun's hands made a cursory wave, not parting her gaze from the book.
Chu Li bowed once more, and walked into the tower nonchalantly.
As he stepped into the Tower of Wisdom , he felt as if time and space itself had been altered, as if he had gone back to the previous world's Tower of Wisdom , with the scene of multiple rows of books, pungent with the smell of ink.
He read the books in quick succession, bulldozing his way through multiples of them. Before he knew it he had already finished the entire first floor, and the first half of the second floor.
He was the only one in the tower. Everybody else had moved out of the Tower of Wisdom and into the Hall of Martial Arts. With the Tower of Wisdom containing only specialized martial arts guidebooks, it was only natural that not many people visited the Tower in the first place. Chu Li had been a regular visitor, but Grandma Sun was his only company.
He felt as if it was truly a waste, but also a stroke of luck in a sense. They did not appreciate the books in the Tower of Wisdom, not knowing that the knowledge these bookshelves contained were incredibly powerful, and could be transformed into influential wisdom. It was by no way, shape or form, weaker than strength or martial arts.
"Eh?" He suddenly staggered to a halt. He took a deep breath to curb his excitement, then double checking if what he was seeing was indeed true. Was it a picture of the Tree of Life and Death in front of him!?
A true stroke of luck! He had never had the chance to see the picture of the Tree of Life and Death before, but here it was, right in front him! It was as if he had won the lottery!
The Temple of Autumn had two treasures, one being the Scripture of Wisdom's Root, and the other being the Scripture of Life and Death. He had studied the Wisdom's Root, but without the picture of the Tree of Life and Death, he was unable to practice it.
The Tree of Life and Death, a truly legendary item. It had been the stuff of legends for a long time, said to live on Tryastria.
How was it possible for something related to Tryastria, to exist in the mortal world? It was by this reasoning that Chu Li chose to not give it much attention. As he used to be a studious geek in his past life, he had an insatiable amount of curiosity. He quickly went through the sculpture of the Scripture of Life and Death; it was said that people who had successfully trained in it could attain eternal life.
Now that he had gotten a picture of the Tree, would that mean that his day had finally come?
He closed his eyes and emptied his mind. There seemed to be a force preventing him from memorising anything with regards the picture. This, then, must mean that it was genuine!
Chu Li appeared on the steps of the entrance, "Grandma, this piece of art is rather interesting. I'd like to trace it."
"The Tree?" Sun gave the piece a quick glance.
"Hold on," She said as she stood up and walked into the tower.
She then came out in a short time, handing Chu Li a scroll.
"Here is an authentic piece of work, from Lee Yu Ning himself. A little gift from me to you."
Chu Li took a step back, opening it up and reading it.
This was also a picture of the Tree! Drawn in a way that seemed as if it was popping out of the paper itself. The impression of vastness it gave off was so powerful that Chu Li almost began to kneel down in the presence of it.
Sun sized up Chu Li with a smile. "This is...interesting."
Chu Li was the first one who did not go on one knee to the artpiece after opening it. She chuckled at the fact that this boy was not an ordinary one.
"I offer my gratitude, Grandma," said Chu Li as he kept the scroll and bowed to Sun.
"Ha," Sun sighed as she shook her head.
"Young men who actually take an interest in reading is a dime a dozen these days. Impulsive, every single one of them. There aren't many who actually succeed. It's great that you have taken an interest in reading!"
Chu Li bid his farewells and left, rowing all the way back to the East Garden.
The boat calmly floated and ebbed along on the lake. The blue sand underneath the crystal waters made the lake appear incredibly clear, schools of fish could be seen swimming around, accompanied by lotuses waving along in the wind.
Chu Li smiled as the wind made its way across the lake. Now equipped with a renewed hope, the only way from here was up.
The piece of the Tree would make up for his lack of foundation. At least, it would allow him to begin training his inner strength.
He hung the scroll above his bed and sat on his bed with his legs crossed. He observed the piece, shutting his eyes every few moments before analyzing it again. He repeated the action, attempting to build his imagination.
A long while passed with no visible results. Chu Li grit his teeth, before activating the Omniscient Mirror, analyzing the Tree of Life and Death.
A deep noise echoed around, like thunder in the sky. With a tremble, his body was frozen in place, unable to move.
The noise continued to reverberate along with everything in front of him. A powerful force was pushing its way into his body, tearing him apart.
And then, silence. It felt as if it all happened in a flash, but as if time was extending at the same time. Then, his senses returned to normal, the pain faded away. What was left was a sense of peace and comfort
He stood up and walked towards the yard. He raised his head to the sky, his face wearing an elated expression.
The shapeless shell containing his body had been destroyed. His facial features, once bound to his body felt free, completely unending, and fusing with everything around him, living as one.
He was a tree, a light zephyr, a piece of rock, a large plain.
He put his hand on a plum tree and immediately felt himself merge with the tree, aligning all five senses. It was like he had become the tree. The warmth of the land, the sunlight, the fresh breath of air, everything was converted into energy.
The aura of the plum tree passed into his body, and he instinctively activated the Minute Pulse. In a flash, energy circulated around his body, there was an incredible gap in the level of efficiency compared to before.
Only four years were required to train with the aura of the plum tree!
He went off to try the other trees. The willow, pine, birch, and on to the many types of flowers and flora available. At the end, he settled for the Dasiphora, also known as the Shrubby Cinquefoil.
The Dasiphora was similar in looks to the Chrysanthemum, a fine and delicate flower. Its aura, however, was much purer and clearer than any kind of tree. With it, he could complete the Minute Pulse in three years.
He had the urge to just look up to the sky and scream his lungs out. The Tree of Life and Death it's amazing!
The Dasiphora by itself was a grade-nine spirit herb. Due to its soft exterior, the Third Lady, Angel, took a great liking to it, even going so far as to plant and display the flower in the East Garden.
The herb garden had nine different grades to it. The guards of the herb garden were far higher in rank than the guards of the flower garden, who are at least rank eight. They specialised in the field of herbs, being the only ones able to enter the Ranked Herb Garden.
What mattered most now to Chu Li, was to rise in the ranks.
Once he achieved a higher rank, he would be able to get in touch with a higher ranked spirit herbs. Allowing him to complete the Minute Pulse even faster. The earlier he stabilised his base, the earlier he could get Zhao Ying back!
"Brother..! This is bad!" Lee Yue rushed towards him, stopping Chu Li's train of thought.
"What's going on?" Chu Li asked, still immersed in his wonderful world, a feeling of longing in the future.
"The Cymbidium have fallen ill! Come with me, quickly!" Lee Yue then took off immediately in the direction he came.
As it finally dawned on Chu Li what he had just heard, his feet brought him to a sprint as fast as he could, almost like a meteor, straight to the paterrer of Cyndibium.
The Cymbidium looked like the common orchid, except that its leaves were crystal clear, mimicking ice and snow; a mysterious creation of nature.
There were a hundred and twenty Cymbidium in the parterrer.Stepping into it is likened to entering a perfect world, cleansing the souls of those who enter.
At this point in time, fifty of the leaves of Cymbidium have black, jarring spots on them, ruining the perfect image they gave off.
He took in a whiff of the leaves, and his nose was barraged with a distinctly fishy smell. He recoiled backwards, almost revolted.
"Those aren't rust spots!"
"Then what is it!?" Lee Yue speaks anxiously.
The Cymbidium were worth ten taels each! If they died, the province would penalize the guardians for fifteen taels each! Accounting for fifty deaths, it wouldn't be just about the money, even their rank may be affected, going so far as to be transferred away from the eastern garden!
It was a carefree and relieving affair to be posted in the East Garden. Being under the ownership of the Third Lady, the close proximity to her made opportunities to impress her come in abundance. If they were to get acknowledged by her, it would equate to many benefits!
Chu Li reached his hand towards the Cymbidium, aligning his senses with the flower. Every single detail of the flower appeared in front of him.
His expression darkened. He began to search in his thoughts for a specific memory coming from the palace.
In a few moments, he jolted out of his trance.
"It's the Dew Eaters!"
"Dew Eaters..?" Lee Yue looked dumbfounded, his eyes wide.
"Lee Yue, could you go get me some grass of Broken Intestine, as well as some Soul Eater grass?" Chu Li urged.
"Those are some really toxic plants... I am only rank nine, I can only get you ten of each."
"Then do it, and grind them into a juice."
"Got it!" Lee Yue runs off to collect the items.
Chu Li sat within the parterrer, touching a pair of Cymbidium with his two hands, transferring the aura of the healthy plants into the infected ones.
The Dew Eater Worm had the appearance of strands of hair, as long as a fingernail. They enjoyed eating dew, hence their name. This process also released a toxic saliva, capable of taking lives.
The aura of the infected Cymbidium were waning. They appeared unenergized and were moments away from wilting. If it weren't for the sculpture of the Tree of Life and Death, a number of them would have died at any moment.
In waiting for Lee Yue to reach with the two boxes, five of the worst Cymbidiums had regained some of their energy. Chu Li sighed in relief, the worst case scenario had been averted.
Chu Li took a thin grass stick and poured some of the grass juice on it. He proceeded to wipe it carefully on the leaves, trying to fight the toxin with another toxin. The method would fix the black spots, but may also cause uninfected areas to become infected.
Lee Yue stayed his hands, knowing that he was clumsy and unable to do work as precise and fine as Chu Li.
"Chu Li, shall I call for Old Meng?"
Chu Li waved his left hand.
Lee Yue scratched his head out of embarrassment, as the question itself was an act of distrust. However, the situation took priority. Staying out of trouble was what mattered the most!
Chu Li remained unaffected. Lee Yue had been ignorant of his powers, and in addition to being timid, he was someone more likely to fall back on the safest solution.