Chapter 186 Drinking Tea
It was hard to find two people who were willing to learn the emotionless swordsmanship. Chu Nanping was eleven years old now. Three years ago, he replaced his elder brother to serve as Immortal Peng’s attendant and began learning the basic skills of the Essence of Perceiving Passion. After undergoing many ordeals, he became the prime candidate for the emotionless swordsmanship a year ago.
After waiting for a whole year, he finally met the killer Yang Huan.
The castle had many cold-blooded killers, and Southern Jade City was also full of murderous sabremen. But, none of those people met the criterion of ‘being emotionless’.
“The emotionless man kills, but is not addicted to killing.” Chu Nanping, who was several years younger than Gu Shenwei, explained seriously, “Since they’re emotionless, they will naturally kill without mercy and without excitement or happiness. Being emotionless means that they don’t feel any emotions towards anything.”
Gu Shenwei had killed many people for a variety of reasons, but he had never been addicted to it. He hated blood, a ‘flaw’ of his that had never been remedied, but he would never call himself ‘emotionless’. Unlike Chu Nanping, who was indifferent to his elder brother’s death, Gu Shenwei would become angry or sad when he thought about avenging his family.
“You are still raw material that needs to be ground down and trimmed,” Chu Nanping said like a little sage who had already become an immortal.”
The first step in Gu Shenwei’s ‘grounding and trimming’ was learning about drinking tea.
The first floor of the Essence Pavilion was a teahouse, but it was actually not open to the public. Gu Shenwei and over thirty ugly-looking ‘fellow disciples’ sat at different tables. In front of each of them was a cup of strong tea with dark colour. They would sip the tea and finish it in two hours. Then the waiter would refill it right away. They had to drink three to six cups a day.
The tea was so bitter that Gu Shenwei almost spat it out the first time he drank it. But as this was part of the training, he had to drink all of it, even the dregs. And he had to savour it in his mouth for a while until the bitterness gradually subsided before he swallowed it.
Once he got used to the bitterness, everything changed.
It felt like a bucket of water at the perfect temperature was pouring down his head, his whole body becoming soft and light. It was as if he could elegantly glide into the air with a single breath. During this time, even if someone shouted abuse at him, Gu Shenwei would respond with a friendly smile.
He was ready to accept all instruction without question or timidness. No matter what the other party said, he would believe it, and at last, he heard the celestial knocking sound.
Monotonous and faint, the beat came from upstairs and one could only feel it by listening intently. The interval of the beat varied in a special rhythm, ranging from a dozen beats every two hours to over a hundred.
The first time he heard the knocking sound, Gu Shenwei’s heart uncontrollably thumped and he almost fell off his chair, his face red as blood. The Essence of Perceiving Passion had a set of practice method of guiding the internal Qi. Chu Nanping had indicated that it was a kung fu necessary for drinking tea, but Gu Shenwei had not yet understood at that time. As he followed the method to guide his Qi, his heartbeat actually returned to normal.
Gu Shenwei drank tea for three days before he gained a better understanding of it. The knocking sound was made by Immortal Peng, who was on the third floor, with his cane. To an outsider, it was just a meaningless light noise that one would not even notice without paying special attention. To the tea-drinkers, however, it was a hint, and specific acupoints would pulse in beat with the light knocking sound.
Once his heartbeat could keep up with the rhythm of the knocking sound, Gu Shenwei finally reached the state of ‘pulsing acupoint’.
The first pulsing acupoint Gu Shenwei felt was the Shaochong acupoint on his finger, which beat ten times in a row. Following that were those acupoints on the Heart Meridian of Hand-Shaoyin. All the acupoints beat accordingly ranging from three or four times to over a dozen times. Gu Shenwei felt his pores relax and blood surge after the beating of the acupoint, as if his acupoints had transformed from ponds to lakes, and his meridians had expanded from streams to rivers.
Gu Shenwei had never heard of this method of practising internal energy. He felt both curious and uneasy, as if a vine had meandered down from the third floor, coiled around the feet of the crowd, climbed around the legs of the table, and finally reached out to the tea drinker’s heart.
Ever since that he had that face-to-face conversation, Gu Shenwei had not seen Immortal Peng. But as he proceeded with learning the Essence of Perceiving Passion, he felt that his connection with that dwarf was growing stronger, the vine growing thicker day by day, gradually becoming more and more difficult to cut down.
Whenever he felt restless, the pleasure of drinking the bitter tea would spread all throughout his body and purify away the small clumps of distracting thoughts.
Like a dispirited misanthropist, Gu Shenwei watched himself slowly walk towards deep water, knowing that danger was imminent, but having no passion to save himself.
Gu Shenwei spent five days getting through the Heart Meridian of the Hand-Shaoyin, which was actually quite fast according to Chu Nanping. Then it was the Triple Energizer Meridian of the Hand-Shaoyang, which was even faster and only took place in three days. Later, the breakthrough of the Kidney Meridian of the Foot-Shaoyin became slow again, which took him eight days. Then he carried through and broke through the Twelve Regular Meridians within a month.
Then he began breaking through the Eight Extraordinary Meridians, starting with the Yang Heel Meridian and ending with the Governor Meridian, which took him half a month.
The Eight Extraordinary Meridians connected with the Twelve Regular Meridians. Which, if broken through, would bring him into the great circle of vital energy. The internal Qi could then flow unobstructed from one acupoint to another. There were only two exceptions, the Baihui and Xuanji acupoints, which held the Desolate Finger Energy and didn’t react to Immortal Peng’s knocking sound. It seemed that the hidden trouble couldn’t be simply removed with the basic practice.
As time went by, Gu Shenwei became immersed in the aroma of the bitter tea. He was even a little addicted now, and would become restless if he didn’t drink at least a cup a day.
In fact, this internal energy training method wasn’t particularly meaningful to him. The Desolate Finger Energy had limited the increase of his internal energy and since he had already mastered the Balanced Power through the shortcut manual, it made it impossible to improve his internal energy. However, the expansion of his meridians was very helpful in the circulation of his internal Qi. It was like how a horse would always run faster on a wider and smoother road. Gu Shenwei felt that he reacted swifter and had better control over his internal Qi.
In particular, the pulsing of the acupoint was so wonderful that Gu Shenwei, who was undergoing a rebirth, would not stop even if it were useless.
The kung fu of drinking tea was endless. After all the acupoints were broken through, it would start all over again. In short, it would continually help widen the ‘path’.
Drinking tea was only one of the basic skills, Gu Shenwei still had to follow Chu Nanping to learn lightness skills the rest of the time.
The emotionless swordsmanship of the Essence of Perceiving Passion had seven levels. The first level was where ‘the person is lighter than the sword’, which required the practitioner to have very good lightness skills. Chu Nanping had already reached this level, as he could run a full lap in the peach grove behind the Essence Pavilion without landing on the ground.
The Balanced Power was not suitable for practising lightness skills, so Gu Shenwei progressed slowly in the first month. He was like a clumsy bear chasing a swift rabbit, and was often scorned by Chu Nanping.
This made Gu Shenwei feel frustrated. His internal energy was far stronger than this emotionless kid, but while the root was deep, the branches and leaves were not lush.
He finally started making rapid progress after he broke through his Yang Heel Meridian and Yin Heel Meridian, which dominated the Qi in the lower limbs. Soon after, he could move neck and neck with Chu Nanping and sometimes was even a bit faster.
The second level was ‘the sword is heavier than a mountain’. The practitioners of ordinary martial arts skills usually pursued lifting the heavy in an easy manner, while this set of swordsmanship was just the opposite. It had the purpose of lifting the light like a mountain. Chu Nanping was also having difficulties with this stage. The two ‘emotionless people’ could finally study the swordsmanship together.
Time was fleeting but Gu Shenwei felt almost nothing. He had forgotten about the infighting between the twins, forgotten to meet with Lotus, and didn’t even notice that he had almost finished writing the strange characters and was handing out the most important part of the swords manual.
He would occasionally remember that this was just a deal and that he had come here for something else. Everytime he thought of this, he would remain calm for a short time, observe the Essence Pavilion, and discover many hidden secrets.
The person in charge of the teahouse was a man in his thirties, who often wore thick makeup powder and had a pair of naturally melancholic eyes. Gu Shenwei had met the man when he came to the Essence Pavilion for the first time, and now he knew the man was named Tang Ji.
Tang Ji and the waiters didn’t know kung fu. Their only duty was to boil tea, serve tea and receive the guests who came to ask their fortune.
What made Immortal Peng famous was not his martial arts skills but his marvellous fortune-telling skills. He only told fortunes for fifteen people a day and required them to make appointments in advance. The guests would come on time and sit on the second floor, waiting. They might be summoned at once or have to wait until dark.
The fortune-teller was Immortal Peng, but the ones who spoke were those puppets. Many people didn’t know this and thought that they were talking with the living immortal himself. After they left City View Alley, they would confidently describe the appearance of the immortal to outsiders, which only caused chaos and added a sense of mystery to the Essence Pavilion.
It was in the process of a fortune-telling session that Gu Shenwei gradually came to understand Immortal Peng’s secrets. This man was a top-notch hypnotist, who not only could speak through his disciples’ mouth, but could also let the people who came to ask questions pour out their past memories and future dreams. This was how his reputation as a ‘living immortal’ came.
Practising internal energy through drinking tea was also related to the hypnotism. The bitter tea helped the drinker fall into a state of excitement and confusion, and more easily accept Immortal Peng’s control.
Gu Shenwei grew wary after discovering this. He was afraid that he would unconsciously end up becoming Immortal Peng’s loyal puppet.
His worry seemed to be superfluous. Although he drank tea in the Essence Pavilion, he had never been called to speak for Immortal Peng on the third floor. Additionally, the disciples in the pavilion came and went freely, like Ye Silang, who had left long ago before returning on the premise of coming back after wandering in the world, making a name for himself in Jade City. Although the Essence Pavilion didn’t help him when he was in danger, they also didn’t expose him.
Amongst those grotesque disciples, some were actually disguised to hide their true faces, of which Gu Shenwei would never know.
Gu Shenwei completely believed this deal now and thought it was fair. He believed that the Baihui and Xuanji acupoints would also pulse with the knocking sound one day and then those two strands of long-entrenched Desolate Finger Energy would be removed. He didn’t even consider the fact that one of the emotionless swordsmanship practitioners would die in the end.
Gu Shenwei had fallen deep into the net and no longer struggled, which was actually his original plan. Now, he needed a strong awakening.