“How old do you think I am?” The muscles in his cheek suddenly throbbed as he bluntly asked this question.
“Based on your appearance, maybe about sixty years. But this sounds like a trick question… don’t tell me you are actually really young?” Han Li, as he considered this possibility, was stunned but kept a level and dull voice.
“Tsk tsk! It is fortunate that I am a practitioner of Eternal Spring Art. From a wimpy kid from the countryside, I’ve become such an intelligent and powerful person!” Doctor Mo’s spoke as he watched Han Li fervently.
“You guessed right! This year, I turned thirty seven.” This kind of unbelievable line came out of Doctor Mo’s mouth as he was talking to Han LI.
“How is that possible?” Up to this point, Han Li had managed to put up a calm exterior, but now on his face was a shocked look.
“It’s impossible! Definitely impossible! When people look at me, they are certain that I am an old man sixty years of age or sometimes even seventy, and treat me as such. Of course nobody would doubt their impression, after taking just one look at me.” Doctor Mo spat loudly and sharply. His voice ground on Han Li’s ears, making him feel as though his nerves were being pierced.
“I, Mo Juren, was once an impressive martial artist in the early days of Lanzhou province of the state of Yue. I’ve established many a name for myself under the heavens by my own hands, ha ha! At that time, there was not a single person who didn’t know of me, the ‘Hand of the Demon’, both allies and enemies.” Doctor Mo’s voice returned to normal after he took in a deep breath of air, then continued telling his story. As he recalled his glorious past, the glint in his eyes grew sharp like a sword, almost as if he had regained his youthful vigor.
Hearing Doctor Mo speak, Han Li was surprised. He didn’t think that his master had such an impressive background.
“What a pity! Good things don’t last forever. In my later years, I continued achieving great feats in martial arts, but a vile person suddenly stabbed me in the back. My most trusted aide slipped poison to me, effectively turning me into a cripple. Even though my healing skills are brilliant, I wasn’t able to recover completely, and flare ups continue to plague me. My martial prowess plummeted, and my reputation was ruined. For fear of my enemy seeking to finish the job, I had to abandon my family and go into hiding. I fled to other regions of the state of Yue and tried to find medicines that would return me my former ability.” As he related his bitter experiences, both his hands tightly clenched into fists. His fingernails stuck so deeply into his palms that he drew blood. Apparently he didn’t notice this, for his face was clouded with rage as he gnashed his teeth and emanated savage killing intent. In his eyes was a malicious and chilling gaze. It seemed that he loathed the man who had taken everything from him down to his bones.
Hearing the resentful tone in his voice, Han Li couldn’t help but feel terror. A chill ran through his heart.
“But the heavens have eyes, and through a mysterious incident, I stumbled upon a strange book. This book was strangely profound, and I had to expend a tremendous amount of effort to try and understand it. I discovered a potent method to restore my martial arts within this book. The result….” Elder Mo suddenly trailed off. More anger covered his face, though a tinge of regret could be seen.
“As a result, you’ve become like a demon.” Han Li guessed at Elder Mo’s meaning and finished for him.
“Correct. I didn’t think that, by practicing the techniques in accordance to this book, I would recover my martial arts at the cost of immensely accelerated aging. I ended up looking like this, like a demon.” Elder Mo sadly nodded his head at Han Li, and his anger seemed to fade.
“You must have found the reason by now.”
“It was because I practiced the technique incorrectly, allowing evil Qi to enter my body. At the moment, every single day I live consumes the same amount of energy as ten days for a normal person. Everyday, I would lose a vast portion of my life energy, but fortunately I was able to use a healing technique and a secret medicine from the book to slow down the aging process, which I continue to rely on to this day.”
“I’ve been diligently practicing the chant this whole time. Could this be connected to your dilemma?” Han Li cut to the core and went straight to the center of the matter.
“When my appearance became like this, I suddenly made a breakthrough with regards to understanding the book’s meaning. That is what you have been learning this entire time, the Eternal Spring Art. Once you cultivate into the fourth layer and gain the ability to harness Qi from Eternal Spring Art, I will be able to restore the life energy that I lost.”
“Why did you insist on forcing me to learn it when you could instead look for someone who was actually willing to cultivate with this chant?” Han Li muttered. This question had been bugging him for the longest time.
“Do you believe this Eternal Spring Art is something that any common peasant could learn? This chant requires that the practitioner start cultivating at an early age. Apparently, it also requires the practitioner possess a Spiritual Root. I don’t know what this Spiritual Root is, exactly, but I’ve already gone through hundreds of children, who were all unable to practice the Eternal Spring Art,” Doctor Mo said with some annoyance.
“It had these sort of conditions?” Han Li was startled. He didn’t know that this chant was so restrictive.
“After all of these years, I gave up hope on finding someone who could practice this chant, so I decided to disguise myself as a doctor of the martial world, drifting around the world. During my travels, I unexpectedly saw the Sect Leader of the Seven Mystery Sect fall victim to the same cruel plot. As they say, misery loves company, so I saved his life. Out of gratitude, he invited me to go and live at his sect. I recognized this as a chance live in hiding, within the sect.
“But one day on the mountain, a miracle occurred! I had long given up on trying to restore my former glory, but then I came across two disciples, you and the other boy. Somehow, the demons and gods must have smiled upon me, as both of you held the potential to practice special martial arts. Even if the two of you lacked that capability, because both of you had favorable attitudes, I would have still passed down my knowledge to you. I didn’t expect that you two would be able to cultivate these skills! Ha ha! Truly, heaven never bars anyone’s way. Never lose hope and you’ll find a way!”
Doctor Mo showed great fatigue on his face. However, a dangerously giddy look was also visible as he praised his own fortune.
“I haven’t even managed to cultivate to the fourth layer of the Eternal Spring Art yet. Why do you place all this expectation on me? Why do you pressure me so?” Han Li voiced the question that his heart he was most concerned about.
“You can blame only yourself for that. I’ve expended so much effort and care for your sake, but you never satisfied me and always tried to deceive me—that iron tube, your cultivation progress, everything. We are so close, for there is only one more layer to go. Originally, I was willing to ignore this and give you two more years. However, during my trip, I came across a hated enemy. After a fierce battle, I managed to kill the opponent, at the cost of consuming even more of my dwindling energy. As a result, my life span was cut down even more. At most, I have one more year to live. How could you possibly ask me to wait?” Doctor Mo’s proud expression disappeared without a trace, replaced with a sinister glint he sneered at Han Li.
When Han Li heard this, his face was the same as ever, revealing none of his emotions.
The inside of his heart was like the roaring sea. He could not have possibly imagined that the truth would be like this. How could he be calm?
Although Han Li had long since expected Doctor Mo to make a move, he had no idea that there was such a grand, sinister plot at work here. Doctor Mo’s motivations and the truth behind Han Li’s cultivation with the chant both vastly exceeded his expectations.