Many hands makes light work
Editors: xX5w0RdOfjU5t1cEXx & Mr Voltaire
The Ethereal Peak had an excellent tradition of watching the fun down below.
At first, it was only because the two disciples in black and white above the clouds became bored, so they killed time by chatting about the performance of the people on the Immortal Path. But as Hai Yun Fan arrived at his last trial, the monster of the ninth rank of the third level, more and more disciples dressed in black and white showed up, and started evaluating and critiquing his performance.
“This dandy is pretty fast. Already reaching the last trial in only ten or so days?”
“What good is being fast? Not one person completed the Immortal Path in hundreds of years. His approach to failure is the only thing that’s getting faster. The last trial is a ninth rank of the third level monster from what I remember… Isn’t it the mutated mammoth from the Xiyi continent? The big fellow is probably the most overbearing monster of that level- it’s probably even stronger than a monster of the seventh or eighth rank of the third level. There is no chance he’ll win.”
“It’s hard to say, the mammoth’s strength has been reduced to seventy percent of its original power, and has dropped by a whole level.”
“What use is that? Even if the Head Elder’s cultivation stage was reduced by one whole stage, would you be able to beat him??”
“Shh. Look, Hai Yun Fan has taken action!”
“Using that toothpick of a sword against the hard-skinned and fat mammoth? What a brave action! Really, a brave act!”
“To swing his sword even in the face of certain death. Truly admirable.”
“Ah, he’s been hit… Oh, and it looks like that he’s going to fall off the cliff.”
“…I think he really fell off.”
“No way! Wait and see, maybe he’ll fly up and turn the situation around.”
“But he’s been lying in that pile of snow for so long.”
“What is he doing? What happened to the so-called secret weapon? And the comeback from an impossible situation?”
“He can’t have died. Didn’t this kid impress a few Martial Uncles? Master was just complimenting him a few days ago on being the genius with the best chance and brightest hope of finishing the Immortal Path. He can’t just die here!”
“Master probably wanted to teach us that anything can happen on the path of cultivation, so we mustn’t be proud or impatient.”
“Well, there’s no more entertainment anymore. Let’s go.”
With that, the crowd was gone in minutes, leaving the two original disciples behind.
“…Senior brother, did Hai Yun Fan really die?”
The senior brother was focused on the clouds. “I think he did it on purpose, the position he was in when he flew out was a bit unnatural. Although the Cloud Array’s blocking our view, I’m not really sure. Perhaps jumping off the cliff could have increased his chances of survival.”
“Ah! Senior brother, he’s moving again!”
The junior brother pointed at the image in the clouds that started moving again.
Hai Yun Fan was of course, not dead. Dying would have been a disgrace to the secret swordsmanship art passed down in the royal family, Mellow Cloud Sword Art, that he’d practiced all these years.
The Celestial Gathering did not accept cultivators that had already stepped onto the Immortal Path, and Hai Yun Fan had only practiced the martial arts of the mortal world. While his talent in cultivation was third-rate, his talents in martial arts were first class. Having completed half of the Mellow Cloud Sword Art at the age of twelve, Hai Yun Fan displayed his quality swordsmanship through one of the three best weapons he owned, the Mellow Cloud Soft Sword.
The mammoth’s strike at full strength was immensely powerful, but in the presence of a creature so tiny like Hai Yun Fan, all it’d need to do was swing its long, stone-hard nose to shred him into pieces. [TLN: ‘shredded into pieces’, an idiom that means to sacrifice one’s life fiercely, originally written as ‘powdered body and crashed bones’.]
Hai Yun Fan blocked the mammoth’s first strike precisely, then used the large force to propel himself off the cliff. Had he not jumped, the mammoth would have squashed him under its large foot.
Falling off the cliffs weren’t a big deal because the Frozen Wind Valley was piled with snow all year round. Although the impact of the mammoth and the fall caused his body great harm, it was a win in itself to stay alive. But even after decreasing the mammoth’s strength three times, the mammoth proved to be undefeatable. And this time, Hai Yun Fan had no more secret weapons hidden up his sleeve. His journey on the Immortal Path seemed to reach its limits here.
Using the ‘Eternal Stamina’ perk gained from the Garden of Peaches, he finally reached his starting point in the Frozen Wind Valley after three days, where other challengers had caught up.
And to his own surprise, the person who caught up, was Wang Lu’s pageboy Wang Zhong!
Hai Yun Fan barely recognized Wang Zhong upon seeing him. When they last met, he was still the submissive pageboy following his young master. This time, the submissive pageboy had become a gloomy little boy.
This did not surprise Hai Yun Fan, who being born into a royal family, knew that the pageboy held a rebellious nature within. On the Immortal Path, where anything is possible, he couldn’t have been under someone’s protection forever. He probably split up with Wang Lu, but still felt guilty about it.
When both of their eyes met with each other, the depressed face of his turned into a sincere and simple smile.
Hai Yun Fan smiled back. It didn’t matter what bitter things had come between Wang Zhong and Wang Lu, it had nothing to do with an outsider like him. They were all companions simply trying to accomplish the trial in the Frozen Wind Valley.
“Wang Zhong? I didn’t think I’d meet you here.”
Wang Zhong expressed both surprise on his face when Hai Yun Fan called his name correctly, but he cut to the point immediately. “Are you resting here, your highness?”
His eyes still swept over Hai Yun Fan: that ragged jumper, the mud all over his body. He was the first to leave the Garden of Peaches yet he was caught up by the people behind him.
Hai Yun Fan did not try to hide this fact; he told Wang Zhong of his unsuccessful experience, and Wang Zhong’s bright expression dropped as he went on.
Wang Zhong had been trying his hardest on the way here, and thought that the trials would not be as hard, and thus used half of his rewards from the Garden of Peaches. But on hearing how hard the last monster was, he knew all hope was lost for him.
“I’ve got five Invisibility Talismans from the Garden of Peaches, but they can only hide you if you’re within three metres from the target. It also doesn’t cover smell and sounds that you make. If the monster is what your highness described, then I’m afraid the talismans won’t be of much use.”
“I think that we need to find a way to defeat it. I don’t think that we will get approval for avoiding it.”
“Defeat? Do you even know what you’re saying? How can uncultivated mortals overpower that monster?”
“It’s possible if the power of the environment is considered. For example, lure it into falling off the cliff, or find other monsters nearby to fight it, team up with other challengers or breakthrough with raw power. There’s always a way.”
Wang Zhong smiled, but did not answer. The kind of talk coming from Hai Yun Fan reminded him of the young master that he served originally.
Hai Yun Fan went on. “But that creature is quite smart, and it has lived in the Frozen Wind Valley longer than we have. It would be difficult to trick it into falling, and its strength is probably more pronounced than any other monsters in this area. We don’t know when the next batch of challengers will be coming along, let alone the possibility of being too cowardly to face it. No wonder no one has succeeded in the past few hundred years.”
“They didn’t have the Garden of Peaches in the past hundred years, and we have the magical tools from that place. There might be a chance.”
Hai Yun Fan laughed. “As if your talisman can be relied on.”
“Not just me. A few of my friends behind us still have their stuff.”
Hai Yun Fan was startled.
There are only four to five paths after the Garden of Peaches, and around thirteen or fourteen people can clear the Garden of Peaches. Averaging that number, only three to four people can be on one path, but from Wang Zhong’s tone, this path of the Frozen Wind Valley might be occupied by more than just a few…
And he found a group already? No wonder he fell out with Wang Lu. So he feels secure now that he himself has backing. Being ahead of the group, I guess he’s been made to scout the path ahead. But who could put a divide in between this pageboy and his former master? [TLN: ‘secure in the knowledge that one has backing’ (有恃無恐) a Chinese idiom saying.]
The one who convinced Wang Zhong to their side was none other than Zhu Qin, prince of the Great Ming Kingdom of the Blue River Continent.
The Great Ming Kingdom could only ever be counted as a fifth-rated country in the Nine Continents, and in no way could they compare to the Cloud Mountain Empire. But the family that holds the throne have the specialty of great social skills, and Wang Zhong, who came from the Great Ming Kingdom, held awe to his country’s royals by nature. And naturally, it only took the prince of his home country to present to Wang Zhong, a ten year old kid, an offer he couldn’t refuse.
The two people by Zhu Qin’s side were also nobles from other countries, and one of them held even more power than Zhu Qin. But as a testament to Zhu Qin’s specialty in people skills, he respectfully followed him as his subordinate.
Certainly, no matter how great his ability was, Zhu Qin still had to be reverent and respectful to a fierce person like Hai Yun Fan. And, after some greetings, both of them cut to the point and began to discuss about countermeasures.
“Let’s combine all our resources we have now…fifteen Spirit Blade Talismans, one Returning Dream Bell, three Invisibility Talismans, one packet of Rock Softening Powder, one Flute of a Hundred Birds…Oh, and three useless Reducing Scarecrows.”
Hai Yun Fan shrugged his shoulders, and signaled him to go on.
“Other than that, everyone got different special prizes, such as unlimited stamina, doubled strength and so on… If we were to go alone, like his highness here, we’d probably fail miserably. But if we work together, we can clear this trial.”
Hai Yun Fan nodded with approval and added, “At least competition does not exist in this trial. We all have the same goal.”
“Indeed, as long as we can beat the creature, we can all become Inner Court Disciples of Spirit Blade Sect. The competition can wait until then.”
Wang Zhong laughed. “And it must be fate that joined us five together here on the same path. Many hands makes light work, we can certainly pass this!”
“Haha. Yes, many hands makes light work.” [TLN: The saying in Chinese is ‘Strength grows bigger when there’s more people’.]
The battle plan was simple: everyone would charge in at the same time, and hypnotise the mammoth with the Returning Dream Bell. Then, break through its defense with the Rock Softening Powder and use the Flute of a Hundred Birds to summon the hundred birds and harass it, after which everyone uses a Spirit Blade Talisman to target the mammoth’s weaknesses. Accounting for its strength being decreased by the Reducing Scarecrow, Hai Yun Fan calculated a success rate of over seventy percent.
Because the effects of the Reducing Scarecrow fades over time, the group immediately sprang into action.
Hai Yun Fan led the way, cautiously and carefully approaching the mammoth’s cave. Along an old, narrow path and around a corner, he came face to face with the beast that forced him off a cliff.
“Wait…are my eyes okay?”
Hai Yun Fan rubbed his eyes hard, nearly squeezing water out of it.
“Or did the trauma from the fall mess with my head?”
Much to Hai Yun Fan’s surprise, a hundred meters away, the huge creature crouching in the cave seemed to have gotten bigger.
[TLN: 1 zhang(丈)≒3 meters, 1 zhang≒10 chi(尺 feet)] It was originally thirty metres, which became twenty one after using the Reducing Scarecrows, but now it seemed to be over forty five metres high. The icicles on it had become much sharper too, and then muscles underneath its long fur had swelled up several times making the huge creature even bigger.
The rest of the group couldn’t help but scream upon seeing such a beast. “Wh-wh-what is that thing!?”
“Are we supposed to defeat this guy?!”
“The Rock Softening Powder probably can’t melt even a single icicle on it!”
“Please tell me that the Spirit Blade Talisman can make it itch!”
In all the fright, Zhu Qin turned around and abruptly pulled Hai Yun Fan aside. “Didn’t you said that you weakened it over thirty percent!?”
Hai Yun Fan too gave a bitter smile, cursing inside. ‘Why would I need to lie on this kind of stuff? Would I gain extra points from killing teammates? Would it kill to use your brain!? It’s obvious that the monster mutated!’
It’s not rare to have monsters mutate in the Xiuxian world. Sometimes they accidently swallow some treasure, or undertake rigorous training for years, or the Hemorrhoids that had been straining it for a long time became cured all of a sudden… These can all cause a monster’s cultivation to grow rapidly in overnight, and the rate at which they can grow is frightening. There was once a fox monster that grew from a third level into a sixth level nine-tailed fox in one night. The mammoth’s case would have been a mild one compared to that.
By the way, that fox increased its cultivation rapidly because it met a spoony old Yuanying stage man, who willingly gave up some of his cultivation to practice karmamudra with it. This mammoth had an ugly, ferocious face- which nutty senior brother from Spirit Blade Sect would want to have intercourse with it? Please come forward to let everybody pay tribute to you. [TLN: ‘karmamudra’ is a Buddhist way to cultivate. It exists in real life. I’m sorry that I am not able to explain it, so here’s the link to Wikipedia, guys. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karmamudr%C4%81 (NSFW)]
Clearly there was something behind the mutation.
“What the hell is this?!”
Above the clouds, the master of the Ethereal Peak was furious. “Who altered the Frozen Wind Valley without permission? Isn’t the ninth rank of third level fierce enough? Did you really have to promote it to third rank of third level, with enough power to wipe out a Foundation Establishment stage under one of its steps? Do you hate new people that much!?”
In front of Liu Xian, the disciples in black and white looked at each other, then looked down in silence. The only other person they could think of that had access to the Celestial Gathering at this point was…
An indignant voice of a woman sounded out from behind Liu Xian.
“Senior brother you are talking shit again, I realized that since you passed Jindan, and a Yuanying was born inside, you have become irritable on your temper, could it be Postpartum Depression?” [TLN: reminderàJindan and Yuanying are cultivation stages.]
Her voice nearly broke Liu Xian’s soul into two as he turned around and pointed at the woman in white clothes. “Explain yourself right now, or else I’ll ask for an explanation from the Head Elder!”
The woman sneered. “Explanation? Alright, I’ll give you an explanation! Yes, I did alter the Immortal Map, but I only did it to balance the map.”
Shocked at her shameless words, Liu Xian’s body was trembling with anger. He pointed to the clouds. “Balancing! You call ‘upgrading an already impossible monster’ balancing?!”
His words did not faze her. Instead, she gave out a condescending laugh. “But of course. When Hai Yun Fan fought it by himself, the mammoth was ninth rank of the third level. And now that they’ve gathered up a five person team, the mammoth’s ranking should surely rise to compensate. Isn’t that how the old saying goes, ‘many hands make light works’?” [TLN: The pun here is that the proverb in Chinese literally says “more people means more power”… meaning with more people in the team, the power of the mammoth should be greater…]
Liu Xian couldn’t stand it anymore. “You. Mother. Fucker.”