In the hall, the lights shone brightly.
On the round dining table, the wine was already cold, and the dishes were cool.
The brilliant red candle flickered and danced, projecting the shadows of Aunt and Uncle onto the wall.
The two figures’ shadow combined into one, and swayed gloomily with the candlelight.
In front of them, Mother Shen was kneeling.
Uncle broke the silence, "To think this Fang Yuan is dead bent on going against me. Sigh, I wanted to calm him down with nice words and keep him in the house first before finding a reason to chase him out of the house. To think that he did not fall for it! He has made up his mind, rejecting my invitation without a single way to negotiate! Not even taking a step into my house!"
Aunt gritted her teeth, her expression slightly flustered, "This scoundrel is already sixteen years old, so if he wants the family fortune now we cannot deny it to him. Years ago we obtained that family fortune and it was clearly recorded in the inner affairs hall. Now that we cannot deny it, what shall we do now?!"
"Leave first." Uncle waved at Mother Shen to withdraw, laughing coldly, "Don’t be anxious. Throughout the year, I have already been planning for this. First, to get back the assets, he needs to have Rank one middle stage cultivation. He already achieved this and is even at peak stage, and gotten number one in the exam, that is very impressive. Hehe..."
"But, to successfully obtain his family fortune, it is not so easy! Rank one middle stage cultivation is only a pre-condition. To split the assets, Fang Yuan has to apply for it, and the internal affairs hall has to approve it and send him a mission to test if he has the qualifications. This is to prevent the clan from splitting family assets nonsensically, causing internal strifes and weakening the clan."
Aunt was enlightened, "This means that, he has to complete the mission before he can get his parents’ inheritance."
"That’s right." Uncle laughed sinisterly, "But the internal affairs hall’s missions are sent to groups. The family asset mission will be the same. If Fang Yuan wants to complete it, he would have to rely on the group, he cannot do it alone. The family does this to make sure that the small groups stay united and increase their cohesiveness."
Aunt laughed loudly, "Husband, you’re too smart. Getting Jiao San to recruit Fang Yuan — this way, if Fang Yuan wants to accomplish the mission, he would need their strength. But Jiao San is on our side, so Fang Yuan can never accomplish this mission."
Uncle’s eyes shone smugly, "Hmph, even if he cannot get him into the group, I have other ways to deal with him. Not to mention completing the mission, even if he wants to apply for the splitting of the fortune and receive the mission, it might not be possible!"
Nightfall arrived and the snow stopped.
Fang Yuan walked on the streets. The bamboo houses along the way were all covered by a layer of white snow.
The snow that he stepped on emitted a light sound. The cold air entered his respiratory system, causing Fang Yuan’s brain to be extremely awake.
After rejecting Mother Shen, Fang Yuan disregarded Jiao San and the group’s advice and said goodbye to everyone, leaving by himself.
"So that's it." He walked and thought, "Uncle and Aunt are trying to trap and delay me, causing me to lose the chance to take back my inheritance."
"After the new year, I would be sixteen years old and be qualified to split the assets. My parents are dead, and my brother has new parents. If I am successful, the entire inheritance is mine. But to take back the inheritance, there are two crucial steps, each being extremely important."
"The first is to apply for the mission at the internal affairs hall without any other missions at hand. The second is to complete the mission to earn the rights to inherit the asset."
"Jiao San is in cahoots with Uncle and Aunt. Leaving aside the second step, he’s already trying to trap me at the first step."
The clan rules state that Gu Masters can only be on one mission at a time. This is to prevent Gu Masters from hogging and causing negative competition in the clan.
Jiao San received missions consecutively. After finishing the permafrost decayed soil mission, he immediately accepted a new mission for catching wild deer.
The clan’s missions were all given to groups, that is to say, according to clan rules, Fang Yuan has to finish the deer capturing mission before applying for his asset splitting mission.
"But at that point, I believe Jiao San would just accept another new mission. As the leader, when accepting missions, he will always be a step ahead of me, causing me to be unable to accept my mission, thus always stopping me." Thinking of this, Fang Yuan’s eyes shone ominously.
These plots and schemes were irritating, like an invisible rope blocking Fang Yuan’s progress.
But Fang Yuan did not regret entering this group.
At the arena, he was backed into a corner. Jiao San’s invitation became a way for him to be free from the predicament.
If he did not enter the team, his uncle and aunt would have other ways to deal with him, this cannot be prevented and will be hard to defend against. But now that he is in the group, he can clearly see their schemes and easily counterattack.
"Solving this problem, I have my ways. The easiest way is to just eliminate Jiao San, or assassinate uncle and aunt, then no one would compete with me over the family assets. But this way is too risky, they are all Rank two Gu Masters and my cultivation is still too low. Even if I kill them I cannot get out of the troublesome aftermath. Unless there is a good chance for me to take advantage of... but these chances are usually by luck."
Fang Yuan could kill the servant Gao Wan and could kill old man Wang, but that was because they were mortals and servants, with life cheap as grass. Killing them was akin to killing a dog or pulling off weed, it was insignificant.
But assassinating Gu Masters is very troublesome.
Gu Masters were all Gu Yue clansmen, no matter which one dies, the punishment hall would investigate. Fang Yuan evaluated his own strength and knew there was too much risk in killing them now; he might even get killed. Even if he kills them, the punishment hall’s investigation is even more troublesome. His future actions would be spied on and they might even find out the Flower Wine Monk’s inheritance.
"Attracting a much larger problem when eliminating a small problem, that is not what a wise person does. Oh? I’m here," Fang Yuan spoke lightly, stopping at a worn out bamboo building.
This bamboo building was torn and worn out, like an old man about to die, panting for his last breath in the cold harsh winter.
Seeing this bamboo building, Fang Yuan’s face showed a trace of reminiscence.
This was the room he rented in his previous life.
In his previous life, after being thrown out by his uncle and aunt, he had less than fifteen primeval stones left and had to sleep in the streets for a few days before finding this place.
This place was too worn out and had much lower rent than other places. In addition, while other places counted the rent by months, this place calculated it by days.
"I do not know about other places, whether or not they have uncle and aunt’s traps. But my previous life’s memories tell me that at least this place is safe." Fang Yuan rang on the door.
After half an hour, he established the renting terms and was brought to the second floor by the owner.
The floors were old, emitting dangerous and concerning sounds when stepped on.
The room had only one bed, and a blanket. The blanket had many patches but was still riddled with some holes, and the yellow cotton wadding leaked out from inside.
The head of the bed had an oil lamp. The landlord left after lighting the lamp.
Fang Yuan did not sleep, but sat on the bed and started cultivating.
As his primeval sea raged on in the aperture, every drop of primeval essence was black green.
The aperture’s four walls were a white crystal colour, in a translucent state.
Rank one peak stage.
Suddenly, the green bronze primeval sea started to have currents, like wild beasts raging and suiciding towards the four aperture walls.
Bam bam bam...
The huge waves crashed onto the aperture walls, causing the little ripples to break into small droplets before dissipating.
After a while, the 44% primeval essence sea was quickly expended, with large amounts of primeval essence used up.
On the sturdy aperture walls, there was lines of cracks.
But just cracks were not enough.
Fang Yuan wanted to break through Rank one peak stage and reach Rank two, thus he needed to break this aperture wall completely, evolving through its destruction!
Black green primeval essence continued to attack the crystal wall, and the cracks increased, forming a giant piece. At some places, the cracks were even deeper, forming very evident lines.
As he used up the primeval essence, he did not continue to use primeval essence to attack, and the crystal walls started to heal, causing the cracks to vanish.
Fang Yuan was not surprised, collecting his spirits and opening his eyes.
The oil lamp had gone out already. There was not much oil anyway.
The room was dark, with only the window providing a little bit of light through the crack.
The room had no firepit and was not warm. Fang Yuan had sat on the bed for a long time without moving, and felt that the chilliness had intensified.
His dark iris fused with the darkness.
"To breakthrough Jiao San’s lock, there is an easier and safer method. That is to advance to Rank two! Rank one Gu masters have no right to give up on missions, but Rank 2 Gu masters can do it once a year. If I advance to Rank two, I can give up on my mission and apply for the asset splitting."
"But to breakthrough to Rank two, it is not an easy task." Thinking of this, Fang Yuan sighed. Coming down from his bed, he strolled in the tiny room.
From initial stage to middle stage, middle stage to upper stage, these are all small realms. From Rank one peak stage to Rank two initial stage, that is breaking through a large realm. Between these two cases there was an extremely different difficulty.
Simply put, to break the crystal wall, it needed explosive strength, forming a strong impact in a short time to smash the wall.
But Fang Yuan only had C grade talent, and the primeval sea is only at 44%. If he used his entire force to attack the wall, his primeval essence would be used up immediately.
Just like earlier, after his primeval essence was exhausted, he would no longer have the strength to continue. And the wall had recovery ability, so before long, it would heal up. Whatever Fang Yuan did earlier would have been wasted.
"Breaking the wall and reaching Rank two without special situations, one needs 55% black green primeval essence. But my talent is limited, having only 44%, thus people say that talent is the key in a Gu Master’s cultivation!"
Thinking of this, Fang Yuan slowed in his steps.
Unknowingly, he had moved to the window, thus he opened the windows casually.
Every gust of wind shook the bamboo lattice window, and when opened the snow-covered mountain greets one’s eye. (1)
Under the moonlight, the snow was like white jade, spreading out and letting the world resemble a crystal palace before one’s eyes, untainted by dust.
The snowlight shone onto Fang Yuan’s youthful features. His expression was peaceful and calm, his brow smooth, his pair of orbs looking like the ancient spring underneath the moon.
As the cold winds blew onto his face, the young man laughed, "It is merely a small bit of wind frost(2)."
(1) This is a line from a poem.
(2) Just a little wind frost: non-literal sense refers to hardship/obstacles. A pun to the obstacles that he is facing.