The Portal of Wonderland
Chapter 4: The Manor
Translator: Novel_Saga Editor: Novel_Saga
“Seven or eight isn’t a low number. It’s a lot! Do you have any idea how much it costs to train a Xian Tian Warrior? An unthinkable amount! There’s no guarantee of the desired outcome even with this kind of an investment. A very few people are able to reach the Xian Tian level,” Aunt Zhen sighed and spoke with a bitter smile.
The boy sank into a deep silence.
“Well, there’s still a lot of time for that. The entire nation would be at your service if you ever manage to reach that level. Even the Emperor of Da Qi would be polite and favourable to you. That’s why… the top-most warriors are called the National Guardians. Let’s discuss the Art of Body Tempering and Qi-sensing for now. Which level are you on?” the woman asked.
“The seventh level,” Shi Mu replied with pride.
Shi Mu with his talent and abilities would indeed benefit if he could learn some Qi-sensing, and get enrolled into the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School.
“The seventh level? That’s a decent achievement. The enrolment process at the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School will start next year. You must reach the ninth level to be eligible for that. Do you think you can do that?”
“I wasn’t sure earlier… but now I’m beginning to realize that I can… at least to a certain extent.” Shi Mu thought for some time. He then said in a positive manner.
“Reaching the ninth level and sensing one’s Real Qi are the basic requirements for everyone. Besides that… you’ll also have to prove your worth by competing fiercely with the other candidates,” the woman said in a ‘strange’ tone.
Shi Mu listened carefully.
“I’ve heard that the number of talented candidates this year is more than usual. Some of them have already tempered their bodies to the ninth or even tenth level. It’s true that the higher levels are able to sense Qi more successfully. It has been seen in the past that less than one-tenth of the total candidates are able to sense Qi even with the aid of the Qi Ling pill.
“Mostly the Martial Disciples in their thirties or forties are able to manage this… that too with great difficulty… and with the help of innumerable Qi Ling pills.
“The applicants at the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School need to be between the age of ten and fifteen. It’s because one is unable to temper one’s body before the age of ten as the body’s bones aren’t yet shaped properly. Fifteen is the age at which one loses one’s potential for further accomplishments. So, any efforts to continue training would be in vain if one hasn’t tempered one’s body by this time.
“The Feng City boasts of many accomplished warriors. But, less than a hundred of these warriors have the opportunity or the talent to make it to the upper levels. Our Jin Family was blessed to have an advanced Hou Tian Warrior as our ancestor. It’s partly because of his reputation that the Jin Family has managed to assert its prominence in Quan Zhou,” a wave of pride appeared on the woman’s features as she said.
Shi Mu couldn’t get the woman’s words out of his head. His ears kept echoing with the words that ‘reaching higher levels make Qi-sensing easier’. Moreover, the figure ‘one-tenth’ stayed with him. He took a deep breath to calm himself down. He hadn’t assumed that everyone who took a Qi Ling pill successfully achieved Qi-sensing. But, he hadn’t expected that the chances would be this low.
“You can still change your mind if you’re regretting your decision.” Aunt Zhen looked at the boy and smiled.
“No! I’ve made up my mind,” Shi Mu shook his head and said.
“In that case… take this suburb manor’s title deed. Jin Cheng – our butler – will live with you there… and assist you if you need anything. The Qi Ling pill that the Jin Family has ordered will come in a year’s time. I’ll let you know when it arrives. You should take it upon yourself to learn martial arts – besides the Body Tempering – in order to duel in the real fights for the enrolment test. The Jin Family has a unique martial arts manual in its possession. But, only the Jin family members are allowed to learn from it,” Aunt Zhen nodded and advised.
“Thank you, Aunt Zhen,” Shi Mu said with gratitude.
Shi Mu left the manor after a quarter-of-an-hour. He held a wooden case in his hand; he seemed quite puzzled.
The wooden case contained his late father’s properties and belongings – including the deed to the big manor in the suburbs, three-thousand liang of silver notes, forty-five or sixty hectares of fine farmland near the manor, and a well-located restaurant in the city. He had gone from being a poor village boy to a rich young man in less than a day’s time.
A middle-aged man paid a visit to the manor shortly after Shi Mu’s departure. He seemed to be extremely angry. He started to question Aunt Zhen in a violent manner.
“Seventh Sister, how can you give the only Qi Ling pill to an outsider over your nephew?”
“Father had promised me this in person. Do you have any objection to Father’s decision?”
“I do have objections with our dealings with the Biao brothers. But, that’s not the cause for my visit. That boy isn’t a Jin. Why should an outsider benefit from the pill that we’ve obtained with so much difficulty? Father will not refuse you… if you were to change your mind. You’re aware that your nephew couldn’t achieve Qi-sensing last time. So, it’s essential that he takes advantage of this opportunity. He has finally reached the peak of his development. It’s also the year of the enrolment at the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School. He’ll have regrets his entire life if he misses the enrolment.” The middle-aged man’s long face expressed his anger and frustration. His eyes seemed to be spouting flames. He almost blew his top with rage.
“Humph! An outsider…? He’s the only flesh and blood of my husband – the same man who saved half of the Jin Family’s properties. Does this answer satisfy you, Brother Wu?” Aunt Zhen retorted bluntly.
“Well… if you still wish to favour an outsider… who has no blood relation with you… then I’ve nothing more to say. I’ll not plead with you anymore. Neither will I hold back in obtaining a Qi Ling pill for your nephew myself,” he said. Then, he rushed out in a rage.
“Mother, will you let Uncle Wu disrespect you… and walk away so easily?” Yu Huan emerged from a hidden spot after the man’s departure. She then blinked her eyes and asked.
“No harm has been done. You’re aware that your cousin’s talents as a warrior aren’t quite up to the mark – considering the number of herbs that he had to use to manage his Body Tempering. A Qi Ling pill wouldn’t help him much with his Qi-sensing. Your uncle had to ask me for it since this was his last hope.”
“That’s true. Shi Mu is far more talented than Jin Tian. Jin Tian would have a very low chance at being enrolled even if he were to manage Qi-sensing.” Yu Huan gloated and clapped her hands.
“Haha… it seems that you’ve already started taking your step-brother’s side. But, I’m not yet sure about Shi Mu’s abilities. Still, I’ve done everything I could for your brother. Any more help on my part would anger the family.”
“I have a good impression of him even though we met for the first time. He’s much better than those Jin Family’s idlers,” Yu Huan grinned and said.
“The fact is that your grandfather promised to give Shi Mu a Qi Ling pill only because of you. After all… you were the one who sensed Qi at the tender age of twelve. Moreover, you’ve managed to reach the tenth level since that time. Your grandfather expects a lot from you, little one,” Aunt Zhen said with a smile.
“Don’t worry; I’ll surely complete my studies of ‘sword art’ in one year. After that, I’ll have no difficulty in getting enrolled into the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School. I’ll not let grandfather down,” the young girl replied with confidence.
The woman nodded; her eyes reflected extreme affection for her daughter.
In a manor ten miles away from Feng City…
Shi Mu stood in the middle of a square; it was surrounded by houses on all sides. He looked around with a contented expression on his face.
He had spent his entire life in a small hut in a tiny fishing village. So, this spacious square was a wonder for him.
He was overjoyed to see that the manor carpeted a space of at least four to five acres, and had over twenty rooms. He turned his gaze to the twenty or so servants and the tenants that stood in front of him.
“Who looked after the manor and the fields before my arrival?” he asked.
“Young Master Shi, I did,” a sandy-haired middle-aged man in a clean shirt answered in an obedient manner.
“What’s your name? Are you a local?” Shi Mu asked as he observed the man. He finally decided that he seemed quite honest.
“The name of your humble servant is Zhang Suo. My family has lived here for seven or eight generations,” the man answered with great respect.
“Good, I’ll leave you to do your old job. The same goes for the rest of you. So, do your usual work… and pay the same rent. Also, inform the restaurant’s manager to meet me here tomorrow,” Shi Mu gave his orders after a brief thought.
“Yes, Young Master,” Zhang Suo answered quickly. He was relieved that his fear regarding the changes in the arrangements had turned out to be baseless.
The other servants and tenants also breathed a sigh of relief. They bowed to the boy to show their appreciation.
Shi Mu turned to the blue-robed old man at his side once everyone had left. He then asked, “Have I made the right decision, Butler Cheng?”
“Well done, Young Master Shi. You settled the matters very well. It amazes me that you were born in a fishing family,” the old man answered with a smile.
“I was quite surprised myself… as it feels very different to ask people to do things for me. I would like to ask a favor of you,” Shi Mu said with a tinge of unease.
“Anything, Young Master Shi. I’ll assist you in any way that I can,” he said quickly even though he was surprised.
“Alright. I wish to learn from an expert martial arts instructor – someone who can teach me personally. Is there anyone you have in mind, Butler Cheng?”
“Oh, all the four martial arts schools in Feng City are quite famous.”
“I would like to learn a martial art apart from the Art of Body Tempering,” the boy added.
“In that case… I would recommend Instructor Li Cang Hai from the Liu Feng Martial Arts School. He’s well-known for practising rare skills. What kind of martial arts does the Young Master prefer?” the old man questioned him after some thought.
“Hmm, I used to chop a lot of wood back in my village. So I think a ‘saber art’ would suit me best.”
“The Liu Feng Club’s ‘Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade Art’ and the ‘Stone-Breaking Fist’ is quite famous. But, it’s extremely expensive to be privately trained,” the old man said after thinking for a moment.
“If it’s really worth the money… then so be it,” Shi Mu said. He felt like a rich man with three-thousand liang of silver notes.
“I see. The first thing that I’ll do tomorrow is to invite Instructor Li here,” the blue-robed old man replied with a smile.