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Chapter 4 - The Manor

"Little? That's a lot! Do you know how much it costs to train an Xiantian Saint!? An inconceivable amount! Moreover, there is no guarantee of success even with such a huge investment. Very few can really reach the Xiantian level at all.” Auntie Zhen let out a sigh with a bitter smile.

The youth sank into an utter silence.

“Well, that’s still a long way ahead. If one day you really reach that level, the whole nation would be at your service; even the emperor of Da Qi would be polite to you to curry favor with you. That’s why the top warriors are called National Guardians. Now let’s talk about the art of body tempering and Qi-sensing first. Which level are you at now?” The woman asked.

“The seventh level.” Shi Mu answered with lifted spirits, for it would suit him best if he could learn some Qi-sensing and get enrolled into Kai Yuan martial arts school considering his current abilities.

“The seventh? That’s only a fair achievement. Kai Yuan Martial Arts School will start its enrollment next year! You must reach level nine within one year. Can you do that?”

“I was not sure before, but now I am… at least to some extent. “ Shi Mu gave a positive answer after some thought.

“Even if you could reach level nine and succeed in sensing your Real Qi, that’s only the basic requirement for everyone. You will still have to compete fiercely with all the other candidates.” The woman seemed a little strange, but still said so.

Shi Mu listened with his ears wide open.

“As far as I know, there are more than a normal amount of talents among the candidates this year. Some of them have already tempered their body to the ninth or even tenth level. After all, the higher levels help one to sense Qi more successfully. According to previous records, even with the aid of Qi Ling pill, less than one-tenth of your peers would be able to really sense Qi. The majority of Practitioners can only manage this with difficulty in their thirties or even forties, not to mention their repeated use of Qi Ling pills. This is why Kai Yuan requires applicants to be between the ages of ten and fifteen. At that age ten and under, one’s bones are not quite shaped, making one unable to temper his body, while at age fifteen is the point which one loses his potential for accomplishment. If one has not yet tempered their body by then, it is worthless to continue the training. Da Qi boasts many accomplished warriors but only less than a hundred of these warriors have the opportunity or talent to struggle for the upper level. One of our Jin’s ancestors was an advanced Houtian Warrior! His reputation is the one of the main reasons that the Jin clan has become so prominent in Quan Zhou. “ An expression of pride was shown on her face as she ended her words.

The saying that “higher levels make Qi-sensing easier” and the tiny number of “one-tenth” kept resounding at Shi Mu’s ears. He took a deep breath to calm himself down. Though he had expected that not all who took a Qi Ling pill would successfully acquired Qi-sensing, he did not expect that the chances would be that low!

“You can change your mind if you are regretting your decision.” Auntie Zhen smiled, gazing at the youth.

“No! I have made my mind.“ Shi Mu shook his head.

“If so.Take this suburb manor’s title deed. You can live there with Jin Cheng, our butler. If ever you need anything, go to him. The Qi Ling pill the Jin Clan have ordered will be delivered in one year. I shall let you know when it arrives. Mind you, besides body tempering, you should take upon yourself to learn martial arts for real fights as they will be needed in the enrollment test. The Jin Clan owns a unique martial arts manual, but alas, only the Jins can learn them.” After giving a nod Auntie Zhen gave him another piece of advice.

“Many thanks, Auntie Zhen”. This time there contained a real sense of gratitude in Shi Mu’s words.

A quarter of an hour later, Shi Mu left the manor with a wooden case in hand, his expression somewhat puzzled.

The wooden case contained all of his late father’s property: the big manor in the suburb, three thousand liang of silver notes, some three to four hundred mu[1] of fine land near the manor, as well as a well located restaurant in the city. In less than a day, he went from a poor village boy to a rich man.

Shortly after Shi Mu was leaving a middle-aged man, quickly paid a visit to the manor in a violent rage, questioning Auntie Zhen in the hall,

“Seventh Sister, are you really going to send the only Qi Ling pill to some outsider instead of your own nephew?”

“Father had promised this in person, so do you have any objection to father’s decision?”

“I do have objections as to how we deal with the Biao brothers, but that’s not what I came here for. That chap is not a Jin, so why should the pill we Jins obtained after so much trouble be handed over to some outsider? Father will not refuse you if you change your mind. You know your nephew did not make it last time when he tried Qi-sensing, so this year is a very important opportunity he must not miss out on. He has finally reached the bottleneck this year in coincidence exactly the same year of Kai Yuan Martial Arts School’s enrollment! If he misses the enrollment, he will regret this for his whole life!” The middle-aged man’s rather long and narrow face contorted in anger and frustration as he nearly hit the roof, his eyes as if spouting flames.

“Humph, an outsider? He’s the only flesh and blood of my husband thanks to whom half of our Jin’s properties were saved. Are you satisfied with this answer, Brother Wu [3]?” Auntie Zhen snorted bluntly.


[1] Mu: a unit of area (=0.0667 hectares).

[3] Wu: the number five in Chinese. “Brother Wu” means one’s fifth older brother.

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