Wu Qi was surrounded by several old Oracles who held high positions in Yan Tian Palace, showering in their words that came lashing at him like a fierce storm. Among them were Yu Chen and Elder Gouchen, whose full name was Gouchen Mi.
A piece of dead wood would have turned into a lump of coal if it was buried underground for as long as these old men had lived. There they stood, trying their best to talk Wu Qi into giving up his status as Marquis of Dong Hai Province and join the Yan Tian Palace. They urged him to contribute his talent to the development of the Dao of Formations, and devote his youth and life to Yan Tian Palace. "It would be best if you can contribute both your efforts and your offspring," Gouchen Mi said. "If any of your future sons and grandsons prove to be as talented as you, they must join Yan Tian Palace as well."
As he grimaced, Wu Qi endured the bombardment while sipping on a cup of watered tea.
He had come to a realization that these old men were very similar to those mad scientists on Earth. They were a different kind of people in Great Yu; men unfamiliar with the ways of life who had spent their entire lives immersed in the boundless knowledge that they were interested in. They lived on nothing else but their passions.
These old men dwelling in Yan Tian Palace were a group of simple people. They devoted their lives to the Dao of formation, and they burned their lives for it. Apart from the Dao of Formations, they did not know anything else.
Every newly discovered formation would make them thrill and cheer, and whenever they came upon a talented junior, they would try their best to recruit that person into Yan Tian Palace, just like what they were doing to Wu Qi right now. To them, a genius such as him who could solve three formations with just a few flicks of the finger should not waste his talents in just being the Marquis of Dong Hai Province. If he were willing to join them, they could immediately make him the 'Model Oracle' of Yan Tian Palace, a title that was more honorable than those Kings.
Gouchen Mi grabbed Wu Qi's arm and repeatedly told him what it meant to join the Yan Tian Palace. Meanwhile, his other arm was in Yu Chen's hand, who was describing how beautiful his wife was, the one he was ordered to marry by the Head of Yu Clan in Liangzhu, and how cute and pretty the daughter she had given birth to was. He promised that once Wu Qi joined Yan Tian Palace, he would immediately betroth that daughter to him. Although she was still at breast, all Wu Qi had to do was wait patiently for sixteen years, and he would have himself a beautiful wife. But, if he could not wait, eleven or twelve years would still serve just fine.
He then turned to the Elders around him and engaged them in a discussion about the likelihood of the children of Wu Qi and his daughter having an excellent talent in the Dao of Formations.
These Elders had a firm belief that just like the other talents, the talent in the Dao of Formations was inheritable through bloodlines. As the First Master of Yan Tian Palace, Yu Chen's talent needed no further clarification. And as a genius who could solve three formations easily, it proved that Wu Qi's bloodline was excellent as well. They believed that the union of both extraordinary bloodlines would surely produce offspring who were better than the parents, eventually bringing Yan Tian Palace better and fresher blood.
An old Oracle grinned, revealing his gums which were missing several teeth, and said, "It's the same as breeding those cattle. When the parents are excellent in quality, they will produce excellent cattle. I find Master Palace's idea brilliant!"
Wu Qi bit off a chunk of his cup. Had he not known that these old Oracles were purely one-track-minded academic lunatics, he really would have thought that they meant to satirize him. How could they talk like that? How could Yu Chen list his daughter as one of the benefits just so he could recruit Wu Qi into Yan Tian Palace? For heaven's sake, Yu Chen's daughter had only been born for about a month!
Clenching his jaws, Wu Qi firmly shook his head and refused these old Oracles. Had he agreed, he would have to abandon his friends, his base, and all his plans, and be trapped in this oppressive place to study formations for the rest of his life. That would not serve; he did not wish to become a lunatic one day, just like Yu Chen and Gouchen Mi.
After hours of refusing and rejecting, Wu Qi finally got himself out of the restless bombardment the group of maniacal old men had thrown at him.
Upon realizing that nothing could change Wu Qi's mind, Yu Chen and the others gave up completely. Gouchen Mi and the other Elders sighed helplessly, staring at him for a full quarter of an hour as if he had committed some crime, before returning to their apprentices and resuming their teachings.
For a moment, Yu Chen stared at Wu Qi with a strange, bitter look. Then he sighed, grabbed Wu Qi's teacup, and threw it on the floor as he said in a low voice, "Well, well...What a waste of talent! But, since you have chosen to be happy in your own degeneration, what else can I say? Come with me!"
With hands clasped behind his back and a gloomy face, Yu Chen brought Wu Qi across the square, past a thick rock wall, and over to a pitch-black great hall. It was entirely hewed out of a mountain, surrounded by an empty field blanketed by a faint layer of mist hovering a few inches from the ground. The foggy white mist made the great hall look especially mysterious.
As Wu Qi studied the great hall, he found that everything about it coincided perfectly with the Heavenly Secrets. Its dimensions, the lines on the walls, the height and diameter of the thirty-six pillars looming before its entrance, and the seemingly nature-derived stains on their surfaces, everything formed into a perfect unit. It was as if this great hall was a living being in a deep slumber, laying there quietly with a grave danger brooding underneath.
"This is where Yan Tian Palace keeps all the books and records," said Yu Chen with a sigh. "Don't you want to think it over again? That title of yours, Marquis of Dong Hai Province, can never bring you the same pleasure as studying the Dao of Formations. How about you entrust your territory to some loyal subordinates? That way, you will be able to stay here and do research with us!"
Wu Qi gave no answer, just staring at Yu Chen with a faint smile.
Yu Chen heaved a long sigh and said, "You were born and grew up in the wilderness without any proper education. However, you were able to master all sorts of amazing formations from just a catalog you had found accidentally. It proves that you have an amazing talent. The Gouchen brothers have been cultivated wholeheartedly by their clans since they were children. They joined Yan Tian Palace half a year ago, and are the most talented apprentices we have recruited in all these years."
He turned to look at Wu Qi and said softly, "Although they are young, they had been studying the Dao of Formations for ten years, which gave them extraordinary experiences and knowledge. And yet, you are able to solve their formations with just a few flicks of a finger. With your exceptional talent, it will be a pity that if you don't join the Yan Tian Palace!"
Wu Qi still did not say a word. His passion was not to become an old researcher. It was true that he was interested in all kinds of profound knowledge relating to formations, but he was absolutely not interested in becoming a member of Yan Tian Palace.
They had been standing in front of the entrance to countless books and records, but Yu Chen did not bring Wu Qi inside the great hall. Instead, he stood there and kept nagging and repeating the same words those old Oracles had used previously, telling Wu Qi that it would be a waste of his talent and life if he refused to join Yan Tian Palace.
It was true that Yu Chen and those old men had unfathomable cultivation bases, but they were weak in words. There was no way they could convince Wu Qi with their pale and weak words.
Seeing that Yu Chen was wasting his breath, Wu Qi heaved a long sigh and counterattacked, "Master Yu, there is one thing I don't understand. Since there are so many books and records of formations in Yan Tian Palace, why was His Excellency Ji Ao so helpless in the face of the formations laid out by those immortals of Myriad Immortal Alliance? Are there no experts of formations in Great Yu?"
Yu Chen lost his words when he heard the question. He blinked his eyes and said with a frown, "Yan Tian Palace only studies the Dao of Formations. As for other things..." He did not continue but compressed his mouth into a line.
The truth was that Ji Ao did not carry enough weight to make these Great Oracles of Yan Tian Palace to fight for him. Apart from that, as Yan Tian Palace was an independent institution in Great Yu, no outsider except the Oracles studying in it could obtain the results of their researches, and no one dared ask the Human Emperor for the secret books and records it kept.
Wu Qi gave a cold snort and said disdainfully, "Yan Tian Palace has been studying the Dao of Formation for ages, and I'm sure that you all must have come out with countless findings. However, how would you know if the results of your studies are correct? How can you prove that the formations built with your findings are effective and perfect? If you have no ways to test and verify, what good would I bring even if I agreed to join Yan Tian Palace?"
While frowning, Yu Chen stared thoughtfully at Wu Qi. No one had ever told him something like that.
Wu Qi stared at him with a serious expression and said in a deep voice, "May I make bold to ask Master Yu to give me all the secret books and records in Yan Tian Palace, so I can test and verify every single one of them, find out their weakness, and patch them up for Yan Tian Palace?"
"Master Yu, testing and verifying are the only ways for finding out the truth!"
Yu Chen shook his head as two bright beams of light shone from his eyes. He studied Wu Qi with surprise, then suddenly guffawed and said, "Aye, you have hit the mark with a single comment. That's brilliant! No wonder I have always felt that Yan Tian Palace seems to have come to a dead end over the years, as we can no longer progress in the study of the Dao of Formations. So, this is it..."
After narrowing his eyes and pondering for a long time, Yu Chen brought Wu Qi into the great hall.
"I'll give you a copy of all the books and records in this hall. Use them at will, but remember…never give them to any outsiders.
"Also, I'll make an exception for you, that if you make any new discoveries in the Dao of Formations in the future, you can come here to discuss your findings with me. What say you?"
Not only would he have a copy of all the secret books and records in Yan Tian Palace, but he could also come here to discuss his findings in the Dao of Formations anytime with Yu Chen...Wu Qi's eyes brightened. Did he just luck out?
Maybe Yu Chen just wanted to make Wu Qi a part of Yan Tian Palace in another way, but how much of an extra benefit did it give him?
He had really lucked out.