Chapter 4: The Manor
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: - -
"Seven or eight is not a small number. It's a lot! Do you have any idea how much it costs to train a Xian Tian Warrior? An unthinkable amount! Even with this kind of an investment, there is no guarantee of the outcome. There are very few who are able to reach the Xian Tian level," Aunt Zhen sighed, smiling bitterly.
The boy sank into a deep silence.
"Well, there's still a lot of time for that. The whole nation would be at your service if you ever manage to reach that level. Even the emperor of Da Qi would be polite and favourable to you. That is why the top most warriors are called National Guardians. Let's discuss the art of Body Tempering and Qi sensing for now. Which level are you currently on?" the woman asked.
"The seventh level," Shi Mu said with high spirits.
Indeed! It would benefit him greatly if he could learn some Qi sensing, and get enrolled into the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School, considering his present talents and abilities.
"The seventh? That's a decent achievement. The enrolment process will start next year at the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School. You must reach level nine within that time period to be eligible. Do you think you can do that?"
"I wasn't sure earlier, but now I am beginning to be... at least to a certain extent," Shi Mu said positively, after giving some thought to the question.
"Even if you succeed in reaching level nine, and sensing your Real Qi, that only constitutes the basic requirement for everyone. You will still have to prove your worth by competing fiercely with the other candidates," the woman interjected in a somewhat "strange" tone.
Shi Mu's ears were wide open, and he listened carefully.
"I've heard that this year, the number of talented candidates is more than usual. Some of them have already tempered their bodies to the ninth or even tenth level. It is true that the higher levels are able to sense Qi more successfully. As has been seen in the past, less than one-tenth of your peers would be able to actually sense Qi, even with the aid of the Qi Ling pill.
"Most of the time, only Martial Disciples in their thirties or forties are able to manage this, that too with the help of innumerable Qi Ling pills and after great difficulties.
"The reason why the applicants at Kai Yuan Martial Arts School need to be between the age of ten and fifteen is because before the age of ten, one is unable to temper their body since the body's bones are not yet shaped properly, and fifteen is the age at which one loses one's potential for further accomplishment. If one hasn't tempered their body by this time, any efforts to continue training would be in vain.
"Da Qi boasts of many accomplished warriors, but less than a hundred of these warriors have the opportunity, or the talent to make it to the upper levels. Our Jin Family was blessed to have an advanced Hou Tian Warrior as our ancestor, and it is partly because of his reputation that the Jin Family has managed to assert its prominence in Quan Zhou," said the woman, a wave of pride washing over her features.
Shi Mu couldn't get the woman's words out of his head. His ears kept echoing that reaching higher levels make Qi sensing easier, and the figure 'one-tenth' stayed with him. He took a deep breath to calm himself down. Though he had not assumed that everyone who took a Qi Ling pill successfully achieved Qi sensing, but he still hadn't expected that the chances would be this low.
"If you are regretting your decision, you can still change your mind." Aunt Zhen smiled, looking at the boy.
"No, my mind is made up," said Shi Mu, shaking his head.
"If that is so, take this suburb manor's title deed. Jin Cheng, our butler, will live with you there, and assist you if you need anything. The Qi Ling pill that the Jin Family has ordered will come in a year's time, and I will let you know when it arrives. You should also take it upon yourself to start learning martial arts for duelling in the real fights of the enrolment test, besides the Body Tempering. The Jin Family has in its possession a unique martial arts manual, but unfortunately, only the Jin family members are allowed to learn from it," nodded Aunt Zhen, offering the boy more advice.
"Thank you, Aunt Zhen," said Shi Mu, with a real sense of gratitude in his words.
A quarter of an hour later, Shi Mu seemed to be puzzled when he left the manor with a wooden case in his hand.
The wooden case had all of his late father's properties and belongings inside it, including the deed to a big manor in the suburb, three thousand liang of silver notes, forty-five or sixty hectare of fine farmland near the manor, and a well located restaurant in the city. He had gone from being a poor village boy to a rich young man in less than a day's time.
Shortly after his departure, a middle aged man paid a visit to the manor. Enraged, he started violently questioning Aunt Zhen in the hall.
"Seventh Sister, how can you give the only Qi Ling pill to an outsider over your nephew?"
"Father had promised me this in person. Do you have any objection to father's decision?"
"I do have objections with our dealings with the Biao brothers, but that is not the cause for my visit. That boy is not a Jin, so why should an outsider benefit from the pill that we have obtained with so much difficulty? Father will not refuse you, if you were to change your mind. You are aware that your nephew could not achieve Qi sensing last time, so it is essential that he makes the most of this opportunity this year. He has finally reached the peak of his development this year, and coincidentally it is also the year of the enrolment at Kai Yuan Martial Arts School. If he misses the enrolment, he will regret it his entire life!" the middle aged man's long face clearly expressed his anger and frustration. His eyes seemed to be spouting flames, and he almost blew his top with rage.
"Humph! An outsider? He's the only flesh and blood of my husband, the same man who saved half of the Jin Family's properties. Does this answer satisfy you, Brother Wu?" Aunt Zhen retorted bluntly.
"Well, if you still wish to favour an outsider who has no blood relation with you, then I have nothing more to say. I will not plead with you anymore, but neither will I hold back in obtaining a Qi Ling pill for your nephew myself," he said, and then rushed off in a rage.
"Mother, will you just let Uncle Wu disrespect you and walk away so easily?" Yu Huan asked with her eyes blinking, emerging from a hidden spot after the man's departure.
"No harm has been done. You are aware that your cousin's talents as a warrior are not quite up to the mark, especially when considering the number of herbs that he had to use to finally manage his Body Tempering. A Qi Ling pill wouldn't help him too much with his Qi sensing. Your uncle simply had to ask it of me since this was his last hope."
"That is true. Shi Mu is far more talented than Jin Tian. Even if Jin Tian were to manage Qi sensing, he would have a very low chance at being enrolled," Yu Huan clapped her hands, gloating.
"Haha, it seems that you have already started taking your step-brother's side. However, I am not yet sure about Shi Mu's abilities. Nevertheless, I have done everything I could for your brother, and any more help on my part would only anger the family hereafter."
"It may have been only the first time we met, but I have a good impression of him. He's much better than those Jin Family's idlers," said Yu Huan, grinning brightly.
"In reality, your grandfather promised to give Shi Mu a Qi Ling pill because of you. After all, you were the one who sensed Qi at the tender age of twelve, and you have managed to reach level-ten since then. Your grandfather expects a lot from you, little one," Aunt Zhen said, smiling.
"Don't worry; I will surely complete my 'sword art' study in one year, after which I will have no difficulty in getting enrolled into Kai Yuan. I will not let grandfather down," the young girl was brimming with confidence.
The woman nodded on hearing her daughter, her eyes reflecting the affection she felt.
In a manor ten miles away from Feng City, Shi Mu stood in the middle of a square, surrounded by houses on all sides. He looked around thoroughly with a content expression on his face.
For the boy who had spent his life in a small hut in a tiny fishing village, this spacious square was a new wonder altogether.
He was overjoyed to see that the manor carpeted a space of at least four to five acres, with over twenty rooms. He turned his gaze to the twenty or so servants, and the tenants that stood in front of him.
"Who looked after the manor and the fields before my arrival?" he asked them.
"Young master Shi, I did," a sandy haired middle-aged man in a clean shirt answered obediently.
"What is your name? Are you a local?" Shi Mu asked slowly, observing the fellow, deciding he seemed quite honest.
"The name of your humble servant is Zhang Suo. My family has lived here for seven or eight generations," the man answered with great respect.
"Good, I'll leave you to do your old job. The same goes for all of you, so do your usual work and pay the same rent. Also, inform the restaurant's manager to meet me here tomorrow," Shi Mu gave his orders after giving them a brief thought.
"Yes, young master," Zhang Suo answered quickly, greatly relieved that his fears of a change in arrangement had been without cause.
The other servants and tenants also breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement, bowing to the boy one after the other to show their appreciation.
When everyone had left, Shi Mu turned to the blue robed old man at his side and asked him, "Have I made the right decision, Butler Cheng?"
"Well done, young master Shi. You settled the matters very well. It amazes me to think that you were born in a fishing family," the old man answered with a smile.
"I was quite surprised myself, as it is very different to ask people to do things for me. I would like to ask a favour of you," Shi Mu said with a tinge of unease.
"Anything, young master Shi. I will assist you in any way I can," he accepted the boy's request quickly, though it had come as a surprise.
"Right. I wish to learn from an expert martial arts instructor; someone who could teach me personally. Is there anyone you have in mind, Butler Cheng?"
"Oh, all the four martial arts schools in Feng City are quite famous."
"I would like to learn a martial art apart from the art of Body Tempering," the boy said.
"In that case, I would recommend Instructor Li Cang Hai from the Liu Feng martial arts school, as he is well known for practising rare skills. But what kind of martial arts in particular does the young master prefer?" the old man questioned him after some thought.
"Hmm, back in my village, I used to chop a lot of wood. So I think a 'saber art' would suit me best."
"Then I would say that the Feng Chi Club's 'Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade Art' along with their 'Stone-Breaking Fist' is quite famous. But it is very expensive to be privately trained," the old man said slowly, after thinking for a moment.
"If it is really worth the money, so be it," Shi Mu said. With three thousand liang of silver notes, he felt like a rich man.
"I see. I shall invite Instructor Li here first thing tomorrow," the blue robed old man said with a smile.