The East wing of the house was filled with steam. The air smelt heavily of herbs.
It was the usual place where Chu Li and Xue Linge would take their showers.
A wooden bucket as tall as a man was placed in the middle of the room, below it furnaces made from cobblestone. Xue Linge squatted beside the furnace and added firewood from time to time. She was wearing a white robe. The curve of her backside looked attractive.
The pile of firewood burned with ferocity. At times you could hear popping sounds from the burning flames. A thick cloud of white steam swirled above the wooden bucket. Soon, the thick herbal smell spread throughout the whole house.
The bucket was delicately crafted. There was a piece of metal welded onto its base. The gap between the metal and the bucket base was filled with an inch deep of water. The working principle, was to utilize that the amount of hot water to heat up the rest of the bucket, maintaining the temperature of its contents, which in this case, was the herbal bath. It also ensured that the temperature of the bath wouldn't be too hot or too cold.
"Creak..." Chu Li pushed open the door and walked in.
He sniffed the air, then nodded satisfyingly, "Not a bad brew, let's begin!"
Xue Linge stood up and made her way towards the door.
Chu Li smiled, "Where are you going?"
"I shall leave for the time being." Xue Linge said with a blushed face, "You'll be taking off your clothes."
Chu Li watched her sheepish face and thought it was comical. She was unable to keep that usual cool vibe of hers. It looked like a girl as emotionless as her still had her weaknesses.
Xue Linge hurriedly turned her head away and walked out. She did not dare to turn back at Chu Li.
Chu Li shook his head. He had come from from a modern world, so he did not feel as awkward when it was about stripping naked. In contrast, this world that he currently lived in had a much more traditional mindset. Even revealing one's shoulders would be too much for them.
Chu Li took off his clothes and leaped into the wooden bucket. His mouth twitched a little, as the boiling water numbed his senses. The scorching hot brew of herbs transformed into tiny needles, each piercing his skin, repeatedly and increasing in intensity.
This was more tormenting than the batons. It felt like there was not a single inch of his body that was spared the pain, as the herbal bath enveloped him completely.
He used his Sentient Menace heart technique and activated his Omniscient Mirror. He could then clearly see the transformations of his skin and flesh. The herbal mixture and his heart techniques combined into greater effect, making his flesh feel more and more compact, more and more flexible.
As time went on, the herbal bath in the bucket continued scorching him. The firewood under the furnace was already burnt out, but the temperature of the bath was still maintained at a steady level. The temperature drop was extremely slow.
Drops of perspiration formed on Chu Li's forehead, impurities and wastes from within his body seeped out of his sweat pores.
After what seemed like an eternity, Chu Li finally opened his eyes and called out, "Xue Linge, come in."
Xue Linge was outside the room, and answered, "You're done?"
"Yes, come in."
Xue Linge pushed open the door and walked in with her head down. She grabbed a smaller wooden bucket and stopped in front of the furnace pot. The water inside the pot had already finished boiling, so she scooped them into the bucket. She then added some cold water to lower the temperature. Soon, she walked out of the room once again, appearing red-faced.
Chu Li turned and leaped into the bucket she had just prepared. He washed his body clean and then dried himself. After that, he put on his green robes and exited the room, making his way towards the small kiosk outside.
Xue Linge prepared and served him tea.
Chu Li fidgeted with the jade white tea cup, and then took a sip. He looked like he was pondering about something.
The effects of the herbal bath were not too bad, but he felt that it had not met his initial expectations. It made quite limited progress for the Sentient Menace skill move.
The Sentient Menace move had a total of nine stages. Skin, flesh, tendon, vein, bone, marrow, energy, chi, spirit. The last three stages were shrouded with mystery, as almost nobody had successfully cultivated until there. It was said that when you reach those final stages, you would transcend into a saint, becoming immortal, and invincible.
Chu Li had a deep mastery of the Buddhist techniques, so his powers were able to escalate quickly. When he mastered the first level, his skin became unusually tough, able to withstand normal knives and swords. But when it came to the second stage, he could not seem to find a way to master it. He tried everything, but still could not break the deadlock in the progress of his muscles.
Baton hits worked at first, but its effects would fade, and would even vanish completely when it reached a certain level. Herbal bath showed some effects too, but with it alone, it was not enough to master the second stage.
Chu Li shook his head and sighed. He conceded that maybe using the Temple of Tempest's way was the last resort, which was the usage of cultivation techniques. But it was a shame that the Hall of Martial Arts did not have any top-notch cultivation techniques. Even if they worked, the resulting effects would not be too great either. Plus, the consequences of using a cultivation technique were too great a price to pay. Therefore, he tried to avoid it as much as he could.
Xue Linge stood beside him, and asked gently, "Did the herbal brew work?"
Chu Li nodded, "Next time, don't brew me a herbal bath. Make them into a herbal paste instead, and I will apply it on my body to give it a try."
He reckoned that if it was made into paste, the medical effects of the herbs would become much more condensed, and the effects might be increased. It would not harm to give it a go.
Xue Linge promised him.
The two were chatting casually until Su Ru pushed the door and walked in, her yellow dress swaying with the wind. She had a faint fragrance on her as she sat right opposite to him.
"You're looking for a cultivation technique, right?" She took out a small notebook from her sleeves and handed it to Chu Li. The book looked frayed and yellowish with age. "This was taken from my Lady's hidden storage room, have a look."
Chu Li smiled and accepted it. He noticed the four big words on the book's cover, which read, "Art of White Tiger". The title was written in gold ink, and it gave the book a magnificent look.
"Art of White Tiger...." Chu Li slowly opened the pages, and his facial expressions changed.
There was a total of six diagrams, and on every diagram, was a white tiger. Every tiger had a unique posture, different from each other. These include crouching, leaping, prowling, charging, rolling and chasing.
Each diagram looked very vivid. It was as if a white tiger was really in front of him. Plus, they had a fearsome aura. If not for Chu Li's composure, he would have thrown away the book at first glance.
Xue Linge stood behind him and glanced across the book curiously. Her face turned pale at that instant, and she was frightened to the core, her body shuddering. It was an instinctive reaction of fear in her blood.
Once he finished looking at the six diagrams, he raised his head and looked at Su Ru.
Su Ru held her hands together and laughed, "You truly are impressive. You don't look frightened at all!"
Chu Li flipped through the pages again, but this time, he closed his eyes, picturing the images in his mind. From the six diagrams, he could feel a faint energy emitting out of them.
"Growl..." A sound of tiger growl rang out in his mind, as a snow-white tiger leaped before him, imitating the six postures according to order. The tiger brought to him a fearsome vibe.
Su Ru watched Chu Li's face.
She noticed that his facial expressions had changed. She knew that he had understood something. He only needed such a short time to understand the meaning behind the Art of White Tiger, which is very impressive. He was truly a genius of martial arts!
Chu Li slowly opened his eyes and realized how tight his body had become. He felt rejuvenated, concluding that it was the resulting effects of the Art of White Tiger.
Su Ru smiled, "How was it?"
"A very mystical technique!" Chu Li nodded slowly, "Is it meant to be cultivated via imagination?"
Su Ru smiled, "You're smart, ... This, is one of the most top-secret techniques ever passed down. Legend says that it originated from the Cave of White Tigers centuries ago and was a forbidden technique."
"The Cave of White Tigers..." Chu Li recited the name, and searched within his mind palace, but he did not find any records of it. He then smiled, "Did it origin from the Nan Zheng District?"
He made the guess based on the name, making the inference that it might have originated from one of the sects in Nan Zheng district.
Most of the people in Nan Zheng district were barbarians. They lived in remote areas deep within the mountains and forests. Each of the tribes named themselves after a cave, hence the name "Cave of White Tigers" sounded like one of the tribes from Nan Zheng.
"Yes, it's from Nan Zheng." Su Ru gently nodded, "They had thousands of years of history, but unfortunately they still could not avoid extinction. Even the strongest of tribes could not evade the wrath of natural disasters. History recorded that a giant meteorite crashed down onto their place, wiping out the entire Cave of White Tigers tribe.
Chu Li nodded slowly.
The barbarian techniques there were one of its kind. Their primary concept was to focus on cultivating their bodies. Most of them were brutes but were highly agile. It was a shame that their martial arts and techniques were mostly crude and clunky, lacking a certain delicateness. Hence they were not able to assert total dominance over the area.
Some wanted to harness the best out of their techniques, and patch their weaknesses, so that they could become the world's best. But unfortunately, it was easier said than done. Until today, no one had ever succeeded in it. It was like trying to combine the light of the day and the darkness of the night. The laws of nature could not be overridden easily.
The Temple of Tempest's Sentient Menace skill move bore an eerie similarity to the Southern barbarian techniques. It must had been researched on and modified by the high priests of the Temple of Tempest who were innate masters. They had transformed them to become the ultimate technique that we see today, which was able to transcend one's physical form to immortality.