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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

295 Its Been A While

 It was barely daybreak when Meng Qi leisurely made his way into Maoling's city, basking in the sun and breathing in the fresh air.

He did not directly return to the courtyard he had rented, but headed for the alley with the Chinese Pagoda Tree instead. He could not afford to slack off for even a day!

Next to the Chinese Pagoda Tree, the grey-haired old man was already busy carving his wooden sculptures with utmost focus. It almost looked like the items in his hands were the most sacred objects ever. His attitude and devotion were on a level probably unachieved in many people's lives on any one thing. No matter if they were obsessed or religious, they could not reach that level of attainment.

Meng Qi's heart and soul were fresh and clear. As usual, he sat under the Chinese Pagoda Tree and watched the old man carving. He did not utter a word, watching with the same level of focus.

As the sun rose higher and the day grew brighter, the old man finally completed a wooden sculpture. He looked up at Meng Qi and seemed dazed for a moment. Then he said, "Young man, how have you been?"

This was a greeting used after a long period of absence. It startled Meng Qi at once. He was astounded. The man could tell that he had actually been gone for three months?

"Everything is fine. I have improved greatly in strength." Meng Qi gave a considered reply. In the end, he was still worried about the Dominator of Samsara in Six Realms' obliteration ability and thus gave a vague response. He did not confirm or deny anything.

The plain-looking features on the old man's face relaxed. He chuckled and said, "It's good to improve, it's good to improve."

"I made another breakthrough in my sword art, so I have mastered an Exterior-level move at least." Meng Qi intentionally brought up this topic.

If his guess about the old man's identity was right, sword art was his interest. Moreover, he was not randomly talking about it or purposely bringing things up with no actual things to discuss. That would only invite disgust from the old man.

The old man put his carving knife and wooden sculpture down, wholly absorbed in the conversation. Smiling, he said, "You're formidable, young man. When I practiced with my sword back in the day, if I had even a bit of your talent and progress, I wouldn't have been scolded by my teacher."

"But I do not have your unchanging focus. On the path of training, talent, luck and opportunities can help one to walk faster and cover a greater distance in the same period of time. But how long you can walk for comes from hard work and focus." Meng Qi answered with sincerity.

The old man shook his head and replied in a self-deprecating manner, "This old man has always been stupid. I couldn't get distracted no matter what. Others could learn several types of sword art at once, but I could only train at one type until I was very familiar with it. If I tried to learn two types at once, I'd end up failing at both of them. Even when it comes to other things, I'm also like that. Since I was not born gifted, I can only work on my focus, hard work and painstaking efforts. There is no other way for me."

As he spoke, his fingers traced along the body of the sword next to him. It was a long sword enclosed in an old, faded black scabbard. It looked normal and had an ordinary vibe to it as well.

Up until then, Meng Qi had not realized that there was a sword next to the old man. He had completely ignored everything around the old man, focussing only on his focus. Now that he thought about it, he was quite surprised.

"Perhaps your gift is your focus," exclaimed Meng Qi. "If only I were like you."

The old man shook his head again. His expression turned a little serious. "Those who learn from me will swim, but those who are like me will drown."

His words shook Meng Qi. He felt like he had vaguely understood something. "Thank you for your teaching."

"Focus, hard work and painstaking efforts are things you develop," the old man added. Then he picked up his carving knife and wood block.

Upon seeing this, Meng Qi got up to take his leave.

The old man suddenly stopped right before his knife cut into the wood. He paused for a moment, then said, "Young man, there's something I'm not sure I should be telling you about."

"Please go ahead." Meng Qi's heart leaped. Was this the reason behind his saying "it's been a while"?

The old man looked at Meng Qi and quietly gave it some thought. "Let's wait till after the Tidal Bore of Jin River. At that time I'll have to trouble you to come here. You don't have to come here for the while."

"Yes, Senior." Meng Qi gave a serious bow. His heart was full of doubt, anticipation, nervousness and joy. No matter what, he had closed the distance between them.

The old man said no more. He lowered his head as he continued carving away, his focus and devotion shining through.

Meng Qi silently backed out of the alley and returned to the small courtyard he had rented. He would wait there for the things to come that day.

Normally, he should have been keeping a low profile since he had external backup. He should have waited for Jiang Zhiwei, Ruan Yushu and Qi Zhengyan to secretly arrive, then take action in a big way. He would act in the open while his friends helped undercover, letting the Ledgerkeeper of Lives and the scholar know what it meant for a situation to run out of control. However, he was already caught in the vortex. Keeping a low profile all the way would only raise others' suspicions. He and Jiang Zhiwei's friendship was no secret, and neither was her current location. Once there was a suspicion, given Wang Siyuan's ability, it was not difficult for him to infer that Jiang Zhiwei would arrive in secret to support Meng Qi.

Therefore, he did what had to be done, as long as they did not create other problems or put him in danger.

"Bring it on, bring it on. I'm not the person I was yesterday," thought Meng Qi to himself.

In the afternoon, just when Meng Qi had finished his lunch and was working on his breath, there came a series of knocks on his door.

"Brother Jiang, have you gone to look for Qiu Fei's whereabouts?" Meng Qi had just set foot in the courtyard when he naturally felt that it was Jiang Hengchuan outside the door. The man did indeed have a slight flaw in his integration with his surroundings that resulted in a small gap. That was probably why he was never able to consummate his Oneness of Heaven and Men. Otherwise, even with Meng Qi's preliminary adjustment of his Inner World and his exchange with nature, he should not be able to tell it was Jiang Hengchuan.

Jiang Hengchuan looked grave. He glanced at his surroundings, then closed the door behind him. "Master Su, I've found a lead."

His eyebrows were extremely thick, his features plain, and his skin like that of a farmer's. It felt like he was a part of nature, just like the light and dust around him. Yet at the same time, he was like the first ray of light at dawn, or the greenest leaf on a tree. He was also the most special one amongst those in Meng Qi's age group, giving off an ambiguous sentiment of being outstanding.

Previously, Meng Qi had yet to adjust his Inner World and thus his sensing had been poor. Only now was he able to properly discern it.

When he connected it to Jiang Hengchuan's words about how he "trained hard but not to find a master", Meng Qi seemed to be able to make out a truly proud and aloof heart in him.

Aloofness and pride were the real Jiang Hengchuan.

"A lead on Qiu Fei?" Meng Qi's eyes lit up.

Jiang Hengchuan nodded. "Master Su, don't you think the previous events were too coincidental?"

He changed his way of addressing Meng Qi since they had been working together for a while.

"You mean Qiu Fei's going up the mountain several days in a row as if he were waiting for us to find him?" It suddenly hit Meng Qi. He had already felt that it had been too coincidental earlier on, but had subconsciously thought that Qiu Fei's actions would only harm himself.

"Exactly. Since it was supposed to be a secret and there are many experts of the Exterior in the city, he should try to avoid running into them as much as possible. He should try to finish discussing whatever issues with his comrades in one shot as much as possible to avoid revealing his tracks." Jiang Hengchuan's eyes were dark, like that of a hunter.

Meng Qi held his breath and thought about it. "But what good would that do to Qiu Fei? He's ruined his reputation and almost implicated his family."

"It might not have been intentional. Maybe he did have a reason to go to the mountain a few days in a row." Jiang Hengchuan had been considering the possibility for a while. "I did some investigating along this line and discovered that Qiu Fei has recently been meeting someone at Skyfirst No.1 Casino's Dragon-hidden Yard. Hence I wanted to invite you to visit Skyfirst No.1 Casino's true owner, You Shaohui, with me. We'll ask him what kind of people Qiu Fei's been meeting."

Meng Qi did not have an ounce of hesitation, "No problem."

You Shaohui was the brother-in-law of Dajiang Gang's Chief, "Justice" Ye Taoguang. He had barely managed to open his nine acupores from the passing of time and consistent use of elixirs. However, with the reputation of his brother-in-law who was ranked in the Terrestrial Rankings, he had done well with Skyfirst No.1 Casino. There was no one in Jianghu who dared not give him face.

Upon hearing Meng Qi's steady reply, Jiang Hengchuan was initially surprised, but then a smile appeared on his face. "After one night, your confidence seems to have grown by quite a bit."

Meng Qi wordlessly smiled. He simply shook his head at Jiang Hengchuan's words.

...

They waited for an entire two hours. Meng Qi was on the verge of just meditating on the spot instead of wasting his time. After the long wait, You Shaohui finally sent a manager out to invite the two of them in.

Seeing Jiang Hengchuan appear calm and composed with not the slightest hint of annoyance at having to wait, Meng Qi spoke highly of him. The top ten on the Ranking List of Young Masters were indeed worthy of their titles.

"Master Su, you look so at ease. You don't seem to be angry at all at having been belittled. I truly admire you." Jiang Hengchuan praised Meng Qi as well.

Meng Qi chuckled. "Brother Jiang, let's stop flattering each other."

They followed the manager through Skyfirst No.1 Casino's raucous ordinary hall, the VIP room for pro gamblers and down a flight of stairs. Meng Qi spotted a ring, where two people, who had enlightened their Acupores and were of decent strength, were sparring.

Opposite the ring was a protruding platform. There were tables and chairs on it for others to watch the match.

At that point in time, the chairs were mostly empty. The only exceptions were a fat, middle-aged man unceremoniously sitting there and the two masters on either side protecting him. The masters' breaths were long and drawn-out, and they gave off powerful vibes.

"Owner You..." Jiang Hengchuan addressed the man as 'owner' since he owned the casino.

You Shaohui actually had relatively nice features. Were he not plump, he would have been considered a very pretty boy. However, he was so fat that his face just seemed to be full of facial muscles wrapped in flesh.

He raised his hand to cut Jiang Hengchuan off. Without looking at either of them, he asked, "What's the issue?"

It seemed that in his eyes, any Martial Artists not in the Terrestrial Rankings was not considered a master.

"I wanted to ask you about something. While the Wind-chasing Stick was still alive, what kind of people did he meet in Dragon-hidden Yard?" Jiang Hengchuan's self-restraint was remarkable. He did not seem angry in the least.

"Why should I tell you guys?" You Shaohui scoffed. He still had yet to look at Jiang Hengchuan and Meng Qi.

Just as he finished, he thought about it, then looked over at them. There was a ruminating smile on his lips. "I don't have any talent in martial arts, so I can't stand the sight of outstanding youngsters. Since you guys are pretty high up on the Ranking List of Young Masters, I dislike you even more. How about this, you guys have a match with my underlings and show me your kung fu. If I'm satisfied with your performance, I'll consider telling you what you want to know."

"Owner You, we are not performers..." Jiang Hengchuan was cut off by Meng Qi before he could finish.

Meng Qi stepped forward and calmly stared at You Shaohui. "Owner You, I wonder which underling you would like to send out?"

Jiang Hengchuan was about to stop him. He opened his mouth, but eventually no words came out.

You Shaohui roared with laughter, like he was pleased with himself. He pointed at the tall and skinny man at his side. "Ghost Shadow Ding Xiaofeng has yet to enter the Ranking List of Young Masters, but he is only half a step away from unlocking the Hidden Latch of Life and Death. If you can..."

He had just finished introducing the master next to him when all of a sudden, there was a flash of knife energy. It was quick as lightning or thunder, so fast that it completely exceeded his imagination. When he regained his senses, a long saber was already pressed against his neck!

At this moment, Ding Xiaofeng collapsed in front of him. He had still been a tad too slow. The other master's long sword, brimming with Upstanding Qi, made a forceful turn and brushed past Meng Qi. It flew towards the wall opposite and created a mark on it.

"Owner You, we are not performers." Meng Qi smiled at You Shaohui. "With where my hand is right now, your life belongs to me, not you."

His hand holding the sword was unusually stable. It was almost as if it were not You Shaohui's neck beneath the blade, but a mere block of wood.