From battling against a jiaolong underwater to fighting against a tiger on its mountain!
For three years, Fang Xing had followed Bai Qianzhang in and out of all parts of the kingdom. From the Hundred Broken Mountain in West Chufung to the Unchained Ocean in the East; from the Thousand Ghost Forest in the south, to the Desolate Desert in the north.
One cloud, two people, and thousands of slain beasts. At the Ancient Battlefield, it had been a fight with a demon corpse that had been infected by the energy of malice, and at the Cave of Spirit Panacea, it had been a conflict with the cave's ferocious guardian beast. Fang Xing had even joined a battle against savage barbarian soldiers!
Three years had passed and Fang Xing was now a youth of fourteen years. His height had grown quite a bit—although he was still very skinny—and his face was filled with a faint smile that was somewhat cheeky, somewhat lazy. His pupils, however, were exceptionally bright. The number of silver strands in his hair seemed to have increased as well, and the casually-tied ponytail behind his head was now a mix of black and white.
His cultivation level, however, was still that of tier four. It hadn't moved forward even an inch.
This had been intentionally done by Bai Qianzhang, who had taught Fang Xing the methods of using the True Samadhi Fire to purify his body and strip his Qi of any impurities. Numerous beast cores and spirit pellets were used up within these three years. It was enough for an ordinary cultivator to push their cultivation into the seventh tier, yet Fang Xing had only used this to further solidify his foundation.
"Where are we going next, Uncle Shi'yi?" Fang Xing absentmindedly asked while laying lazily on the cloud. He had his arms pillowed beneath his head with one leg hanging over the other.
Within these three years, he and Bai Qianzhang had grown very close. During this time, Fang Xing had felt hatred towards this white-haired freak for throwing him right in the middle of a group of maddened zombies, yet Fang Xing had also been thankful when Bai Qianzhang spent an entire ten days and ten nights beside Fang Xing to mend his wound without a second of relaxation. During these three years, Bai Qianzhang became someone Fang Xing approved of, and he started to call him Uncle Shi'yi.
Bai Qianzhang had once asked, "Why Shi'yi? Why am I the eleventh?" yet Fang Xing had never answered that question. He already had nine uncles, so if another uncle were to be added, it would naturally be the tenth... but he himself was already the tenth! No one could be his tenth uncle, and Bai Qianzhang had therefore ended up with such a name: Uncle Shi'yi—his eleventh uncle.
If Bai Qianzhang knew that this boy had placed him on par with a group of bandits, and in fact had been ranked even lower than all of these bandits, what sort of expressions would he make? However, when Fang Xing blurted out "Uncle Shi'yi" after those ten days and nights of Bai Qianzhang mending his wounds, the latter felt that it was full of genuine sincerity and a rare side of Fang Xing. Since then, Bai Qianzhang quietly acquiesced to the title; it was many times better than being called a "white-haired freak", after all.
As for why Bai Qianzhang was so kind to him or whether or not he held any ulterior motives, Fang Xing did not bother considering. To Fang Xing, whatever it was, there had to be a motive behind it all. Why would anyone be so nice to someone for nothing? It was just that Fang Xing did not mind being used by someone as long as he got his own share of the reward. Therefore, even if Fang Xing indeed knew there was an ulterior motive behind the fostering care of Bai Qianzhang, he would not mind it. After teaching and taking good care of Fang Xing for the past three years, if Bai Qianzhang had truly wanted Fang Xing to help him with something, Fang Xing would also be willing to do so.
Of course, if Fang Xing felt that whatever Bai Qianzhang needed was out of his reach, all he needed to do was find a way to sneak away halfway through it.
Bai Qianzhang locked his gaze upon Fang Xing without a word, his gaze filled with a complicated mix of some kind of appreciation. After a long time, he suddenly passed Fang Xing a black jade pendant with so delicate a design that it looked to be a rare find. However, it also seemed as though the pendant had been split into two. Fang Xing immediately knew with a quick look that it was nothing more than ordinary jade and that its only function was to gather surrounding Qi towards the pendant to make the rate of Qi fluctuations slightly faster.
"Take this pendant as a keepsake. When the time is right, go and get married."
Although Bai Qianzhang spoke in a manner like that of a gentle breeze, Fang Xing jumped and widened his eyes. "What? Get married?"
Bai Qianzhang was not surprised and continued to speak with a calm voice. "Indeed, get married. With this jade pendant as a token, you will be able to wed nine beautiful women from respectable backgrounds and clans…. Perhaps even ten, though I'm not quite sure on that."
Fang Xing stared dumbfounded at the pendant. "Have you gone crazy?"
"This is like a free meal. Are you not willing to have such a good thing?" Bai Qianzhang laughed.
Fang Xing giggled with traces of embarrassment. "Ten… is a bit too many!"
Bai Qianzhang continued to laugh. "Then divorce a few and keep only the most beautiful!"
Fang Xing laughed as well. "So the rumors are true! When one has a shifu, not only does this shifu come with teachings of miraculous skills, but they also act as a matchmaker. Ten at once! I've sure found a fortune for myself…. But all that aside, where are these ten wives of mine from?"
"I cannot reveal that now. All you have to do is keep the jade pendant safe. When the time comes, you will know," Bai Qianzhang replied.
"When does the time come?"
"When they cannot kill you when you visit them. Or, let's say, when you are able to run away when they chase after your life!"
Unamused by the answer, Fang Xing was left dispirited. "So it's your enemy. Did you want me to get revenge on your behalf?"
Bai Qianzhang smiled. "No need to avenge me, and no need to kill anyone for me, either. You just marry your wives."
Fang Xing put aside the jade pendant and shook his head. "Whatever. I'll go and see if they're beautiful or not, first…."
With a smile, Bai Qianzhang stopped talking and gently pointed his finger towards the direction ahead, the cloud picking up its pace shortly after.
"Where are we going?" Fang Xing asked with curiosity.
Bai Qianzhang sighed. "It has been three years. It is time that you return to your original track."
"The Qing-Yun Sect?" Fang Xing's eyes lit up as he guessed, hopeful. After so many years of continuous killing and marking their footprints across the entire kingdom, he longed for the peaceful lifestyle of the Qing-Yun Sect.
Three years ago, no one knew that a single cloud left the vicinity of the Qing-Yun Sect. Three years later, Bai Qianzhang and Fang Xing returned on that same cloud, yet still no one noticed. As they descended to the stone forest, Bai Qianzhang let out a long sigh. "From now on, it'll be a long and arduous journey for you. Stay alert at all times."
Fang Xing yawned with a smile towards Bai Qianzhang. "Shall I call you Shifu?"
After a look of slight surprise, Bai Qianzhang gently nodded. "It does seem suitable. Kneel before me, then."
Dark-faced, Fang Xing replied, "You're pushing it! I don't want you as a shifu, then!" As soon as Fang Xing finished his words, he turned to leave while Bai Qianzhang laughed loudly and watched him walk away. In the past three years, he had gotten to know Fang Xing quite well, and the fact that Fang Xing was able to ask such a question meant he had already acknowledged Bai Qianzhang as a good teacher. After being mocked, however, Fang Xing had decided against it.
In fact, this was done on purpose. Even though Bai Qianzhang had taught Fang Xing for the past three years, he didn't plan on becoming his shifu.
"I do want you to do something on my behalf, after all. We'll just view these three years as a trade for your help…." Bai Qianzhang sighed to himself, and just as he walked back into his cave estate, his body let out an involuntary shake. A clear cracking sound came from within him, and his expression immediately changed as he looked bitterly towards the inside of his body.
With his Spirit Sense, he saw a single golden core floating ever so dimly in the middle of his mental space. There was some golden liquid Qi oozing from a visible crack in the core before dissipating into the space.
"Breaking of the Golden Core, exhaustion of Qi… has the end of my lifespan arrived early?" With a long, helpless sigh, Bai Qianzhang sat down with his legs crossed outside of his cave estate and held his head up towards the heavens. There was a faintly self-consoling smile at the edge of his lips. He never told Fang Xing that he had intended to spend more years teaching him, but after those ten days and ten nights mending Fang Xing's wounds, he had used up too much of his own Qi and forced him to end it a few years early.
Yet Bai Qianzhang did not regret what he had done. If it wasn't for him, Fang Xing would be left with invisible wounds that would hinder him later on.
Bai Qianzhang knew that there wasn't much time left for him. He did not have enough time to craft the perfect sword that would be able to slice open the heavens with the comprehension of the True Samadhi Fire gleaned from the [Decapitation's Portrayal]. However, he could still do his best to craft the perfect sword nucleus to lay the foundation for the perfection it would eventually gain through self-tempering and growth.
"I've taught you everything you could learn. The rest is up to you," Bai Qianzhang muttered to himself. After a long time, he threw a talisman up towards the sky.
The talisman exploded mid-air, and a golden ray of light hung high above him like a gold-colored cloud. Within the Qing-Yun Sect, the sect master Chen Xuanhua and the four chief elders all saw the talisman and thought the same exact thing: 'Shishu Bai must have something important to let us know.'
Whether they were in seclusion or in the middle of a teaching session with their pupils, all five of them paused what they were doing. The traces of five neat flying tracks were seen above the Qing-Yun Sect as they all immediately assembled at the stone forest.
"I've taught that child for three years. However, he was unfortunately still not suitable to have all of my knowledge passed on to." With his back turned to the five people, Bai Qianzhang quietly sighed.
A glimpse of disappointment settled in the expressions of Chen Xuanhua and the rest of the elders. The sect had always wanted to keep the knowledge of this mysterious elder with them in the sect. When this Elder Bai had taken Fang Xing under his wings three years ago, they had all been somewhat reassured and believed that their hope would be fulfilled. Who would have thought that the end result was completely the opposite?
"I will be going into a seclusion of life or death. I will either enter the stage of Budding Soul and double my lifespan, or this shall be the end of me." Bai Qianzhang sighed once more.
Everyone appeared solemn at his words. Only when somebody believed they were nearing the end of their life would they choose a life-or-death seclusion.
Uncle Shi'yi: Shi'yi is the romanization of 'eleven' in Chinese.
When someone officially takes another person under their wings (or when a person officially becomes the shifu/teacher of someone), the pupil-to-be must formally kneel and perform the act of kowtowing in front of their future shifu. Only under such formal ritual is it deemed "official".