Aspiring to the Immortal Path - Chapter 362
Chapter 362: Sounding Out
When Shi Jingzhai arrived at Tang Jie’s residence, he found that he wasn’t in. Upon asking the maids, he learned that Tang Jie had gone out to Goldpool Peak to fish.
Goldpool Peak was a mountain on the western side of Mount Eternal. But its original name had actually been Gold Apex Peak. Around one thousand years ago on Gold Apex Peak, a Celestial Heart True Person had engaged in a battle that darkened the heavens, shaved off the top of the mountain, and cratered the summit, and a lake ended up forming in it. When the sun illuminated the lake on the summit, it flashed golden, and so it was called the Golden Pool, and Gold Apex Peak became Goldpool Peak.
But while Goldpool Peak had a pool, it was one without fish. What had gotten ahold of Tang Jie, that he was running off to the Golden Pool to fish? Fortunately, cultivators often did many absurd things. So long as they wanted it, they could make the Golden Pool have fish.
Upon learning that Tang Jie was at Goldpool Peak, Shi Jingzhai flew over to find him.
Goldpool Peak was covered in white snow, and the surface of the lake shone with a rosy light. For these two opposite scenes to appear in the same place was both bizarre and harmonious, a unique sight.
A wooden raft floated in the center of the lake.
Tang Jie casually sat on the raft with a wooden fishing pole in his hand, very much like a wandering and relaxed Immortal. A large school of koi swam back and forth in the water. A slender sewing needle had been dropped among the fish as Tang Jie’s fishing hook.
Such a hook naturally wouldn’t be able to hook a single fish, but Tang Jie didn’t care, just quietly waiting.
Shi Jingzhai flew out from the distance, and when he called out to Tang Jie, Tang Jie finally smiled.
The fish had bitten on the hook.
He looked up and said, “Is that True Person Shi? Why not come down to fish with me, share a few drinks?”
He raised the wine jar next to him into the air.
Shi Jingzhai laughed and said, “Young friend, you truly are in good spirits. If that’s the case, there’s no harm in keeping you company.”
He spoke as if he was just passing through.
He took out a piece of paper from his Mustard Seed Bag and folded it into a paper boat. He blew on the paper boat, which swelled in size, becoming as large as a real boat and resting on the surface of the water.
Shi Jingzhai descended from the sky and landed at the prow of the boat. He waved his hand at Tang Jie and said, “Young friend, why not come on my boat? Your vessel is a little small.”
Tang Jie couldn’t help but sigh in admiration.
While Shi Jingzhai’s turning paper into a boat seemed simple, this was truly the ability to transform objects, an ability that only those at Celestial Heart could grasp. Xu Muyang had used the same method to use a paper horse to send off Tang Jie.
Upon receiving Shi Jingzhai’s invitation, Tang Jie jumped onto the boat and praised him for his prowess. He took out a cup from his bag, poured some wine for Shi Jingzhai, and presented the cup to him.
Shi Jingzhai sniffed the wine and laughed. “Twenty-year-old ginkgo flower wine! Tang Jie, did you rob the Chen Clan at the base of the mountain? You managed to get the only fine alcohol in all of the Mount Eternal region. And the fish in this lake! These are clearly the embroidered gold carp from Prince Jing’s estate in Pearl City, yet they’re here. It seems that you disappeared yesterday to run off to Qiong Province.”
True Persons had sharp and formidable eyes, so formidable that Tang Jie brought his hands together in a salute. “In the end, Tang Jie’s little trick could not deceive the True Person’s wise eyes.”
Shi Jingzhai looked at the koi in the lake, shaking his head and sighing. “It’s said that embroidered gold carp have a delectable taste, each one being the apex of gourmet in the mortal world. Prince Jing’s estate has only raised around one thousand. For you to have brought over so many at once, you must have emptied out all the ponds in his home.”
Tang Jie chuckled. “That Prince Jing was far too petty. I only asked for one hundred from him, but he refused and said that he could only sell me ten at most. In a fit of rage, I sneaked in and emptied out his entire pool. That Prince Jing is probably about to explode from anger.”
Shi Jingzhai frowned. “Young friend, I know that you enjoy much favor from the Basking Moon Sect, being someone who has even personally received a recommendation placard from Chief Ming. As Prince Jing is a mere mortal, taking a few of his fish is nothing much. But the Basking Moon Sect decreed long ago that only a True Person can sit on the same level as a mortal prince. Young friend, you are merely a Spirit Master, so your conduct was somewhat excessive.”
Tang Jie indifferently replied, “It’s fine. At most, it is only the crime of disrespect, no big deal. Making a few small mistakes does nothing to harm one’s greater dignity. One merely has to have a firm grasp on the major problems. After all, messing up on those could lead to the destruction of one’s entire household.”
Shi Jingzhai was shaken by these words.
What sort of major affair could lead to the destruction of one’s entire household?
Now that he thought about it, there really was one.
Had Tang Jie said these words on purpose, or were they just a passing comment?
Shi Jingzhai didn’t know, but he grew more apprehensive.
Dryly laughing, he said, “Young friend, you are right. So long as one keeps a firm grasp on major affairs, a few minor trifles will have no effect on one’s dignity.”
Tang Jie sat on the prow of the boat and threw his fishing rod back into the lake. “True Person, do you want to fish with me?”
Shi Jingzhai looked at his “hook” and laughed. “This is very interesting, young friend, using a straight hook to try and fish.”
Tang Jie replied, “There’s nothing else to do, so I’m just playing around. True Person, don’t look down on these embroidered gold koi. While they seem ignorant, they are actually very wary. If I truly managed to fish one out, they would probably immediately scatter, and this sight of the koi all gathered around would be no more.”
Shi Jingzhai ruefully said, “But doesn’t that mean that I won’t get to eat any embroidered gold koi?”
Tang Jie heartily laughed. “If that’s what True Person wants, then even if Tang Jie must destroy this beautiful scene, I must catch a few fish.”
He shook his rod, and the straight hook pierced through ten-some fish, skewering them together and landing on the deck, where the fish flopped around. The remaining koi saw what had happened and, sure enough, they instantly scattered. Even with his eyes, Shi Jingzhai couldn’t see where all these fish had swum off to.
Tang Jie said, “This should be enough.”
He took out a small knife and began to scrape off the scales.
Shi Jingzhai saw him getting to work, so he took out a small stove and began to boil water. Tang Jie washed the slain fish in lake water and then threw them into a pot. Cultivators normally carried around a bottle of seasoning with them, so with a little chopped onion from one and some ginger slices from another, the two of them soon got to cooking up some fish soup on the boat. Occasionally, there were comments like “Don’t make it all into soup! There are more than ten of them! Leave some to braise or to steam! If you don’t have a wok, you can just create one!” “We’re cultivators, so if we don’t have soy sauce, we can just make some! You can’t? Then forget it. We’ll just sauté it. That’s also pretty tasty.” “Do you know what a steamer basket is? I’ll make the base while you create the rest.” “The fire on this side is pretty strong. Old Shi, this pot of yours is pretty bad. One poke and I managed to break it! Yes, yes, I know it’s made from paper.”
Most of the time, it was Tang Jie speaking and Shi Jingzhai listening. His background and his past history meant that Tang Jie was rather well-qualified when it came to cooking such that he could become Shi Jingzhai’s teacher. As he busied around, a feast of fish gradually began to form.
Looking at this sumptuous fish feast, even Shi Jingzhai couldn’t stop his fingers from twitching. Tang Jie said in satisfaction, “Not bad! At least our mouths will be delighted today. Right, True Person, why not invite Sect Master Qiu, True Person Liang, and True Person Yu? These embroidered gold koi are hard to come by, so it’s a little improper for the two of us to enjoy them alone.”
Shi Jingzhai could only say to this, “Old Liang has business and can’t leave. As for Wanniang, she’s not in the sect, so we can’t call her over. But I can send a message to the sect master and invite him.”
“Oh? Is Miss Yu out?” Tang Jie casually said, “That’s a great pity. The Jin Clan’s accounts will probably be done in a few days. I wonder if I will be able to see her before I leave.”
Shi Jingzhai smiled. “She’s just gone to see a few friends and will be back by tomorrow night. It should be just in time to eat your embroidered gold koi.”
“That’s good.” Tang Jie smiled.
Liang Yu couldn’t come, and Sect Master Qiu sent back a reply that he had business to do and couldn’t free up any time. In the end, none of the three could come, and the two were left alone to gorge themselves.
After they had their fill of wine and food, Shi Jingzhai said that he had to leave. Although he had been told to keep an eye on Tang Jie, it wasn’t like he could stay around Tang Jie twenty-four hours a day. In any case, so long as Tang Jie didn’t leave the Stone Gate Sect, he couldn’t make any trouble, so there was no need to pay him too much attention.
Tang Jie grinned as he sent Shi Jingzhai off. But once Shi Jingzhai was gone, his eyes turned sharp.
With a light wave of his hand, the fish that had fled swam back and began to circle Tang Jie’s little raft.
Tang Jie pointed, and one of the koi popped like a bubble. Clearly, it had been a fish made through Duplication. More pops could be heard as the numerous koi exploded into nonexistence. Apparently, the nearly one thousand fish here had all been duplicated. It was no wonder they had moved in such unison.
Fortunately, they were fish. If they had been humans, Shi Jingzhai would have seen through them.
He could have never imagined that, besides the ten-some fish he had eaten, all of the fish were fake. Tang Jie truly had gone to Prince Jing’s estate to buy ten-some embroidered gold koi, but no matter how arrogant he was, he couldn’t possibly completely flip over a person’s house.
He had done all this to test whether Shi Jingzhai could see through his Duplication spell.
Though he had managed to fool the two maids with his duplicate while ambushing Lu Dong’s men, he had lacked the confidence to fool the True Persons with it, which was why he disappeared during the daytime. But after today’s test, where he learned that Shi Jingzhai had not seen any problem with the fish, Tang Jie finally had the confidence to carry out his plans.
For example, if Tang Jie wanted to go somewhere, he could have a duplicate drink and chat with Shi Jingzhai so that no one would suspect him.
Besides that, Tang Jie had made an even greater discovery.
Looking down, he muttered, “She’ll return tomorrow night. A round trip, flying at full speed…”
Tang Jie estimated the distance Yu Wanniang could fly and took out a map of the Rosecloud Domain.
The oceans lay to the east and south of Sageheart, so it was basically impossible to fly in those directions. To the north was the Basking Moon Sect, and getting close to there was suicidal. Thus, the only direction Yu Wanniang could have gone was west. As it was only a one-day trip, it put her right in Duskland.
He finally understood who these people were selling their goods to.
“The Seven Absolutions Sect,” Tang Jie coldly said.
The mine at night was still busy.
This had always been a world without day or night—or perhaps it was better to say that light had never existed in this place.
Haggard miners walked around the mines with their heavy baskets, picks in hand as they sought out any possible ore locations and dug away at them. Occasionally, when they spotted a flash of spiritual stone, they excitedly shouted and then hastily covered up the light for fear that others might notice.
As the ore vein gradually ran dry, it became harder and harder to find high-grade ore. At times, one could mine for an entire day without finding anything. And with the withering of the mine, struggle and murder became more frequent.
Occasionally, one might see a dark silhouette running past, and left behind would be a fallen corpse and an empty basket.
Tang Jie walked in the dark and chaotic world, no one noticing his existence.
He was like a ghost as he ventured deeper and deeper into the mine.
Unlike last time, he didn’t need a guide.
As he got deeper, the number of miners dwindled.
When he came to where he had encountered the Earth Devil Ape, he stopped.
He took out some silver kernels from his Mustard Seed Bag, crushed them, and then sprinkled the powder over the ground. He then took out ten-some kinds of items and began to arrange them on the ground.
Tang Jie had come much more prepared this time.
As the materials were put down, spiritual energy flew from his fingertip, forming spiritual lines. Finally, Tang Jie punched at the wall. Sifting through the stone, he picked out several pieces of spirit ore, and after crushing them, he found a small piece of spirit stone that he placed on the ground.
Light emerged, and silver motes danced in the air and began to spread. In a flash, they had swept over the tunnel, and even the area below the cliff was lit up in starry splendor.
Tang Jie’s vertical eye emerged. Borrowing the power of the starlight, it released a bright light that swept over the bottom of the cliff like a flashlight.
With the power of the formation, Tang Jie had strengthened his vision enough that he could pierce through the darkness and see what was at the bottom of the cliff.
Down below was a withered forest, dead trees rising from purplish-black soil. Their desiccated branches were covered in Deadland Venomoths so motionless that they seemed to be asleep.
All of the soil was cloaked in the powder from the moths, and a purple gas floated about.
These venomous creatures that could kill even True Persons lay silently in the bottom of the mine. So long as no one disturbed their rest, they wouldn’t move. This was perhaps one of the better places for a venomous creature to be.
Looking past this decayed land, Tang Jie very patiently continued his search. If the sandworm source was near the territory of the moths, there had to be a way to get in nearby.
Tang Jie trusted that he could find it.
Alas, besides moths and withered trees, the only other thing on this poisoned earth was an underground river, which had been rendered a dark green by the poison.
And Tang Jie received a jolt to his mind.
He jumped off and flew down, coming to the very edge of the starlight. This spot was still under the effect of the formation while bringing him close to the underground river. At this distance, he could see that there were several unusual marks on a large boulder near the river.
These marks weren’t clear, but he could tell that they were footprints.
There were few places in this dead forest that one could set foot on, and this large boulder at the very edge was probably a good place.
Upon seeing this stone, Tang Jie had an idea: Could they have swum over through the river?
Tang Jie decided it wasn’t completely impossible.
The river flowed, meaning that it would not be poisoned long-term like the rest of this place. The moths had two kinds of venom: powder and liquid. Their liquid venom was very powerful while their dust was a long-term, slow-acting venom.
The withered forest had been created by the powder from the moths. As for the underground river, while it was green, this was completely different from the liquid venom of the moths. It was nothing more than diluted powder venom.
A Celestial Heart True Person was definitely strong enough to resist this venom.
But on the other hand, swimming in this underground river long-term without a means of removing the poison would cause this poison to slowly accumulate, which would eventually affect the body.
To this, Tang Jie could only say that a person could die for money and a bird could die for food.
Compared to the immense fortune they were about to receive, two years of hard labor mattered for nothing.
Tang Jie sighed and went down.
He was much more careful this time. As he landed on the stone, he didn’t dare to make a single sound for fear of alarming the moths.
He quietly stripped and then slowly dipped his body into the water.
Although he wasn’t at Celestial Heart, Hundred Refinement plus his Jewel Body granted him around the same level of poison resistance as a Celestial Heart cultivator. Moreover, he wasn’t planning to do this over a long period of time, so he didn’t have much to worry about.
Upon entering the water, Tang Jie felt cold all over, and his skin felt numb and itchy, as if tens of millions of ants were gnawing at him. He knew that this was in reaction to the poison, and he could only bear it. After a while, his skin somewhat adapted to the intensely corrosive river water, and the itching faded.
Tang Jie began to swim downstream.
He had originally kept on his underwear, but as he swam, his underwear tore apart. Reaching out to feel it, he discovered that the poisoned water had made the cloth extremely brittle, causing it to crumble apart at a touch.
It was a good thing Tang Jie was no longer mortal. A normal person would only have to be in this water for a little while before dying. This weakened poison still had a power that could not be underestimated.
Tang Jie couldn’t help but shake his head and mentally sigh. In the end, he decided to just keep swimming while naked.
After he advanced some more, he saw a thin tunnel appearing in front of him, its inside pitch-black. Without the assistance of the formation, Tang Jie couldn’t see what was inside. This left Tang Jie hesitant about pressing forward.
This tunnel was so narrow that someone even slightly fat wouldn’t be able to get in. Tang Jie could squeeze in, but once he was in, even turning around would be difficult. If he wanted to go back, he would have to slowly inch his way out. If he encountered any danger in this tunnel, he would basically be dead.
Tang Jie didn’t immediately make his decision. He first took stock of his surroundings and confirmed that there were signs of someone being here before. Recalling Shi Jingzhai’s tall and thin body, he gradually pieced together what had happened, so he stopped hesitating and swam into the tunnel.
He slowly advanced through the tunnel for some time. Fortunately, cultivators had excellent breath-holding techniques, and they could go two hours without breathing with little problem. Finally, Tang Jie emerged from the tunnel, and with a splash, he landed in a large pool.
He was now able to see that this tunnel came out in the middle of a rock wall, and below it was a paradise.
Compared to the withered forest occupied by the moths, this place of gurgling streams and standing rocks was an Immortal wonderland. Even rarer was that it had those moths standing guard outside, making it a highly defensible area.
But when he saw what was inside this cave, he was left utterly stunned.