The trip to Mo City was finally over. The benefits Bai Yunfei had gained during this trip were certainly more plentiful than he had anticipated.
The plan had originally been to reunite Tang Xinyun with her mother back in Mo City, so she’d be able to slowly forget about her lost essence fireseed and alleviate her sorrows with her mother.
Then many things happened, some beyond Bai Yunfei’s wildest dreams, turning this uneventful reunion into a fantastical journey filled with stories to tell.
The first tale to tell would be of his encounter with Big and Little Dagger where he was able to obtain the rest of the Flying Dagger Compendium and learn the techniques required to throw them.
Next up was meeting a plethora of people in Mo City, such as Xuanyuan Jie, Zhong Liyan, Jing Mingfeng, and Zhao Xiluo again. He even met Kou Changkong’s once-mentioned daughter, Kou Tingting.
The appearance of the fireseed spirit mushroom in the auction house was surprising, but what was just as surprising was the fact that it was stolen and then taken back shortly before Tang Xinyun was kidnapped, forcing him to eat the mushroom meant for her.
He formed a second essence fireseed in his body, and his first essence fireseed had reawakened during a battle where he killed a Soul Exalt. The reawakened essence fireseed brought him back to full strength, elevating him to the level of a mid-stage Soul Ancestor.
Lastly, while he was worrying about how to replace the fireseed spirit mushroom, the Tang came out of nowhere with a stored fireseed spirit mushroom of their own. Tang Xinyun was allowed to eat it, and she too was able to form her essence fireseed and return to her original strength.
Having weighed the pros and cons, one would have to admit that the pros definitely outweighed the cons.
To put it succinctly, all of Bai Yunfei’s problems had been taken care of all at once.
There was of course still the problem of Chu Qingxue being poisoned, but with the earring, she should at least be safe from any imminent crisis for now.
In short, the trip to Mo City was more than worth it.
On the day that marked their second month in Mo City, Bai Yunfei and Tang Xinyun finally started on their journey back to the Crafting School.
Nothing special happened on their way back. With his strength back to normal, Bai Yunfei was able to fly even faster on the Tempest Sword without needing to stop.
The two of them were able to return back to the school in just twenty days.
On the Northern Peak of Mt. Crimson—
In a small bamboo house sat Zi Jin. Sunlight glinted through the window. It sprinkled onto the simple walls and floor of the room, basking the room in a peaceful but warm silence.
Only the occasional ‘clack’ sounds could be heard when something small was pressed against the hard ground.
“Haha! Killing the Dragon! Zi, my old friend, did you expect such a masterful move like this!?” A brassy voice roared in laughter, breaking the silence.
TL Note: Dragon is a term in Go where there is a long line of uninterrupted stones of the same color. Killing the Dragon means to interrupt the line, essentially.
“Isn’t it a little early for you to get excited, Hai, my old friend? Can you really claim to have ‘killed’ my Dragon after capturing so little of my stones? It’s far too early to see who the victor is.” A moderately more calm voice replied back, shutting the other speaker down.
This speaker was Bai Yunfei’s master, the previous headmaster, Zi Jin!
In the room sat two elderly men. In front of the two was a small square table with lines running this way and that, forming hundreds of small grids. On the intersections of the grids sat just as many stones of black and white—
—the game being played was clearly Go.
Both of the players had white grizzly hair. One of them was Zi Jin while the other person was an unknown entity. The elder wore a rather plain but slightly tattered blue robe and his white hair rested freely on its back. His face was weathered from time and age. He seemed not to care about his appearances since his beard was prickly and messy rather than combed.
What was most noticeable about him was the calabash gourd in his left hand. He was drinking alcohol rather greedily from it, like a drunkard.
The fact that he was able to drink and play Go with the one he called an ‘old friend’ clearly meant that he wasn’t any regular drunkard.
A white stone was held betwixt Zi Jin’s right hand before it was placed on an empty space of the board.
As soon as the stone was in place, the face of the other old man start to drop.
“There… there was still a move like that!? How didn’t I catch that earlier!”
“Haha, playing Go requires a calm mind and heart. How could someone as noisy as you play well? Hai, my old friend, you’ve lost, that means your thousand-year-old frozen soulstone is mine now…” Smiling, Zi Jin began to clean off the board.
Though his words were without emotion, the smile on his lips was anything but. If anything, it seemed as though he was intentionally goading his friend.
“You—I… pah! You’ve been learning this game longer than I have! Where do you get off pretending to be wise? I was this close to winning!” Angrily waving his right hand, the old man launched a fist-sized blue stone out his space ring. It headed toward Zi Jin.
There was a pained look on the elder’s face when the frozen soulstone was taken away. Almost accusatorily, the elder said, “Zi, you old fogey, I’ve only won three earth-tier soul armaments from you, but you’ve already cleared me out of almost half my precious herbs and minerals. Were… were you planning this?!”
Zi Jin laughed, “Now now, don’t spout nonsense. I wasn’t the one that forced you to play Go, and the stakes were optional to begin with. Well? Would you care for another game? I’ll let you start with three stones, weren’t you saying how you were ‘so close’ to winning the last one?”
“Come then! I’ve the secret now. I’ll definitely win the next round!”
A new game was starting between the two. Both players laughed and chatted merrily as it progressed. It didn’t seem like two powerful men were having a fearsome battle of wits, rather it seemed like any game of chess between two ordinary old men in an alleyway.
“Ah, Zi, my old friend, I nearly forgot to ask. You were in such a hurry last time when we met, why did you trade two of your low-heaven tier soul armaments for the fire-type herbs I had? What was the rush?” The old man asked as he placed a stone down.
Zi Jin’s move was swift as was his reply, “Ah, it wasn’t anything important. Perhaps I didn’t tell you about the new disciple I’ve gained. The one named Bai Yunfei? Several months ago, there was an accident with his essence fireseed, so I wished to help him recover his strength… all is well now. Changkong’s daughter, Tingting, came back several days ago with a message saying that she had met with Yunfei in Mo City and that his strength is back to normal now.”
“I see… it is still surprising to say the least. You having a disciple just twenty years since our last meeting? I had thought after that youngling from the Eastern Underworld you’d…” His sentence floundered at the last bit when he noticed the sour look on Zi Jin’s face, “Haha, I misspoke, pretend I didn’t say anything…” he hurried to correct himself, “I only meant that I’m quite interested in this new disciple of yours. I’d like to see just what kind of man he is if he could catch even your interest.”
“Haha, a frog in the pond, he is not. I’m confident that in the future, his achievements will surely be on par with our own…” A look of satisfaction could be seen on Zi Jin’s face as he praised Bai Yunfei.
“Oh? So this Bai Yunfei has that high of a praise from you?” The other man remarked in surprise.
Even Jiang Nan hadn’t received such a wonderful comment from Zi Jin before.
“Yunfei is a special person with many things that I can’t even possibly began to explain him…” The stone in Zi Jin’s paused briefly in the air, “Haha, what luck!” Zi Jin laughed, “Speak about him, and he appears.”
Just as he finished speaking, the voice of a polite Bai Yunfei could be heard, “Master, your disciple has returned to pay his respects.”
An affectionate light entered Zi Jin’s eyes as he smiled, “Come in, Yunfei.”
The door to the room creaked open as Bai Yunfei entered. Standing off to the side of Zi Jin, he bowed, “Yunfei pays his respects to the master.”
Zi Jin nodded in satisfaction, “Haha, very good, you’ve returned. I heard from Tingting that plenty happened to you in Mo City. You’ve done well for your master.”
“Zi, my friend, this is your new student? His strength doesn’t seem anything special, he’s just a Soul Spr—” The other elder was already observing Bai Yunfei as he entered, but before he could even finish his verdict, he paused for a moment.
“Eh? That’s not right… you’re hiding your strength…
“You’re a mid-stage Soul Ancestor!!”
Bai Yunfei was quite adept at using the Soul Concealment Art to hide his strength to the levels of a mid-stage Soul Sprite, but this old man had been able to easily deduct his actual strength, shocking Bai Yunfei.
Zi Jin came to the same realization as his friend. He gave a nod of his head in satisfaction. “Haha, not bad… it seems that regaining your strength wasn’t the only thing that happened in Mo City…”
Casting an eye to the other man, Zi Jin introduced him to Bai Yunfei, “Yunfei, this old fellow is named Hai Dongqing. He’s a friend of mine and is currently a wandering soul cultivator.”