Chapter 30: A Hero's Final Road
"How old do you think I am?" His cheek muscles throbbed visibly as he stiffly asked a strange question.
"Based on your appearance, you look to be older than sixty years old, but since you asked this question, your age must not match your appearance. You are either way older or way younger than you appear to be."
"Ze ze! For a brat from the countryside to become a sharp and intelligent person, you sure live up to the name of an "Eternal Spring Arts" cultivator!" Doctor Mo's mouth continued to praise Han Li, but he stared at his disciple with a feverish gleam.
"You guessed correctly. I am only 37 as of this year." A number that caused Han Li to feel disbelief came out from Doctor Mo's mouth
"That's impossible?" Han Li said in surprise, unable to maintain his composure.
"Impossible! It is indeed impossible! The people who see me, not even mentioning sixty, would tell others that I am an elder in my seventies. I'm afraid no one would would be able to guess my true age, " Doctor Mo said as his voice suddenly became high and sharp in pitch. To Han Li's ears, the ear-piercing sound caused extreme discomfort, as if it touched upon a sore spot within his heart.
"I, Mo Juren, used to be so famous in my early years that at one point in time, within the Lan Province of the State of Yue, I barehandedly established my own spot within the heavens, making an name for myself. Heihei! At that time, everybody heard of my prestigious name "Ghost Hand" within the Lan Province; whether they were good or bad, those who follow me lived while those who went against me died." Doctor Mo resumed his normal pitch and used a deep and slow tone to narrate his story. Following his own narration, his eyes took emitted a sharpness that was comparable to a blade's edge, as if he were back in the past when he was high spirited and in a position of power.
Listening to Doctor Mo's story, Han Li was secretly shocked. He never thought that his master would have had such a renowned name at one point in time.
"Regrettably, good things don't last forever. Right when I entered my thirties and was preparing to take a big step forward in spreading my name, I fell under the plot of a despicable character and was poisoned by my own trusted aid. Even by relying on my impressive medicinal knowledge I was only able to prevent the poison from flaring up but was unable to completely recover, causing my power to decrease dramatically. As a result, I was unable to maintain my position in the north. Fearing that my enemies' clans would take advantage of my weakness, I was forced to abandon my profession and family in order to disappear without a trace. I could only travel to other parts of the State of Yue to look for a cure to help me regain my previous skills." As he was narrating, Doctor Mo became lost within his own story and tightly clenched his two fists. His fingernails dug into his palm, causing flesh blood to flow, but he did not notice this. Only his face revealed any expression; his teeth gnashed together, giving him a savage appearance. Doctor Mo's vicious expression could cause anyone who witnessed it to tremble in cold sweat, showing that he still harbored a bone-deep hatred for the despicable figure who poisoned him.
Listening to the deep hatred within his words, Han Li could not help but feel goosebumps. A cold feeling began to rise within his heart.
"Heaven has eyes, and through some mysterious means, I came upon a strange book called "Scripture of Longevity." I spent tremendous amounts of energy trying to understand it, and from reading it, I found a shortcut to recover my former martial prowess. I followed the steps, and..." Doctor Mo suddenly stopped, but his face betrayed him by showing anger and remorse.
"As a result, you now look like a demon," said Han Li as he tried to help Doctor Mo complete his sentence.
"That's correct. I didn't think that by following the steps within the book, I would regain my former powers at the cost of an accelerated aging into a prematurely aged old man that resembles a mixture between a human and a corpse." Doctor Mo sadly dropped his head and was too dejected to express any anger at Han Li's satiric comment.
"By now, you should have found out the reason for your accelerated aging, right?"
"It was because my method was inappropriate, causing evil Qi to invade my body. For me, the energy consumed in a single day is equal to the energy needed to live ten days as a normal human. As a result, I am constantly overtaxing my lifespan. Thankfully, I have proficiently trained in a skill to take care of my body and have followed the instructions in the book to concoct a secret medicine which decreases the speed of my aging, allowing me to last all these years."
"How is the oracular chant that I cultivate relate to your problem?" Han Li asked bluntly concerning the core of the issue.
"Not long after I became the way I am now, I learned from the book of a method to solve this issue, and is the 'Eternal Spring Arts' which you are cultivating. I only need to have a cultivator of the fourth layer to use his Eternal Spring Arts Qi to help me massage and stimulate my hidden acupoints to regain my lost life force."
(TL: acupuncture points - > acupoints )
"Why do you specifically need me? Can't you just find a random person to cultivate the chant?" Han Li muttered to himself for a moment, revealing a question that has been buried within himself for a long time.
"Do you think this Eternal Spring Arts Technique can be cultivated by just any random person? This chant not only requires a young man to cultivate from the an early age but also requires its cultivators to have body that contains 'Spiritual Roots.' Even though I don't know what 'Spiritual Roots' are, I have looked through countless hundreds of disciples before you, all of which were incapable of cultivating the Eternal Spring Arts Technique," said Doctor Mo with an annoyed face.
"It requires such conditions?" Han Li stared blankly; he never thought that training in this chant would require such strict conditions.
"In my last remaining months, I thought that I would never find someone who could cultivate the incantations, so I gave up and started to wander. I never thought that I would suddenly meet the Sect Leader of the Seven Mysteries Sect, who was also being plotted against. As a similar individual suffering from similar circumstances, I gave a hand and saved the Sect Leader's insignificant life. Immediately, the Sect Leader invited me to the Seven Mysteries Sect, where I became a valued member. I had planned on living the remainder of my life on the mountain, hidden in seclusion. Heihei*! But all of a sudden, a miracle happened! Originally, I was worried that my medicinal skills would not be passed on, so I invited the two of you into the valley to accept you two as my disciples. As luck would have it,, on a whim, I let you two try to cultivate the Eternal Spring Arts Incantation. Maybe it was because I was still holding onto a small bit of hope. But there seemed to be demons and gods at work* since I suddenly let you two try out the Eternal Spring Arts incantation. In reality, even if you two had been unable to cultivate the incantation, I would have still accepted you guys as my disciples and bestowed upon you all of my medicinal knowledge, but I never would have thought that you would have a reaction to the incantation. Haha! It seems Heaven never halts one's path to cultivation!"
(TL: *Heihei= small chuckle
*demons and gods at work (idiom)= when an event is only explainable by the supernatural)
Doctor Mo revealed all this in one breath, causing his face to look red from the lack of air. He appeared very pleased with his stroke of good fortune.
"I have not yet cultivated up to the fourth layer of the Eternal Spring Arts Technique, so why did you stop me at this moment to discuss this matter with me?" Han Li finally asked the question he was most concerned about.
"You only have yourself to blame for this! I spent so much blood and energy on you, yet you still can not satisfy my demands, always playing tricks on me. You are only lacking this one last step, yet you choose to continue on slowly, unwilling to advance to the next layer. Originally, I was planning to wait another two years, but when I went down the mountains this time, I was recognized by a member of an enemy clan. Through an intense battle, even though I won and had killed my enemy, I consumed large amounts of energy, which greatly shortened my lifespan. Even if I were to use all of my abilities, I would only be able to prolong my life for another year. How can I possibly wait any longer?" Doctor Mo's originally proud expression vanished without a trace, replaced by a savage expression as he roared out at Han Li.
After Han Li finished listening, his expression remained the same. He didn't reveal even a trace of being stirred.
However, his heart was like a raging sea, which was completely different from his confident and unwavering appearance.
Even though he knew from the beginning that Doctor Mo had been placing an unsettling importance on Han Li's cultivation, he never thought that there would such an intense story behind this. Doctor Mo's identity and experience far surpassed the scope of his imagination.
(TL: Title Explanation. As you know grand "heroes" in wuxia and xianxia aren't always kind and benevolent. They are often vicious, ruthless and merciless, and are 'heroic' from their grand feats and strength. The actual title is defined as a formidable character which I found to best translated as "Hero".)