Chapter 2: The Sealed Youth
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
The Continent of Stellarsky, Kingdom of Shenwu, Skyplume City.
When Jiang Yi opened his eyes, he was greeted with a blurry world. Not an inch of his body was spared from the searing pain. Worst of all was his head, which throbbed with unbearable intensity. Red-faced and grimacing, Jiang Yi managed to raise his body up with what little strength he had. As he made sense of his immediate surroundings, Jiang Yi quickly realized that he was lying on an embankment in the Western Hills plantation, one of the many holdings owned by the Jiang family.
Jiang Yi was overwhelmed by uncontrollable rage when his hand brushed over the large, egg-shaped swelling on his forehead. That morning, he’d rushed to check on the plantation’s herb harvest. Unfortunately, he ran into Jiang Ruhu and some other members of a side branch. They were looting the fields of their medicine, which they planned to sell for some extra money. Normally, the family would turn a blind eye to what these wastrel playboys did, as long as their activities were not irredeemable.
However, Jiang Yi, inexperienced as he was, knew nothing of such clandestine “management practices”. As such, he could not help but berate them for their actions. Unexpectedly, the group responded by joining forces and thrashing him. They had left him knocked out cold—until now, that was.
“Jiang Ruhu,” Jiang Yi muttered bitterly, “all I did was nag you a little, yet you guys attacked me?! Hmph! One day I’ll get my revenge against you!”
Yet, before he could stand firmly on his own two feet, a searing pain made him stumble and almost fall back onto the ground again. Large and small wounds littered his body, leaving him in constant physical agony. His thoughts were muddled by the pain, and his delicate face was twisted in a constant, involuntary wince.
Unfortunately, besides cursing them under his breath, and once again vowing to take revenge in his mind, what else could he do?
Jiang Yi’s family was one of the five great family clans of Skyplume City. The Jiang family had many descendants, with each member being placed in a strict, hierarchical system.
The most respected members of the youngest generation in the Jiang family were naturally the sons with blood relations—direct and indirect—to the main Jiang bloodline. Relatives with no blood ties were deemed secondary. As a result, the top echelon was comprised of direct descendants as well as a tiny minority of highly talented relatives from branch families. Those from a branch family and of average ability, like Jiang Ruhu, possessed less status.
As for Jiang Yi… if one were to judge solely by his descent, he would be ranked foremost among the branch members. But despite this title, his actual position in the Jiang family was not much higher than that of the lowest ranking members of the family.
This had rung especially true in the past few years. For him, being “a young master of the Jiang family” in name only ensured that he was constantly bullied by other, higher-ranking members of the family. Such torment left him with severe injuries—in this case, for one, he was beaten up so badly that he had spent the entire morning unconscious.
“With my lack of strength, I, Jiang Yi, am doomed to be trampled under the feet of swine like Jiang Ruhu and fated to endure countless humiliations! This is not the life I want—neither now, nor in the future!”
Jiang Yi recalled the sequence of events that had taken place in the morning. His face burning with rage and indignation, he clenched his fists tightly, letting his fingernails pierce deep into his palms.
Despite feeling even more lightheaded, he stubbornly kept his head held up high. Step by step, Jiang Yi limped back home, ignoring his surroundings. All throughout the long, painful journey, his dark eyes smoldered with fire and fury, and the immense agony left his delicate, supple face distorted in a frightening grimace.
Twelve years prior, a three-year-old Jiang Yi was brought back to the family by the Grand Elder and consecrated as the Grand Elder’s god-grandson. It was then that Jiang Yi acquired his respectable standing—by being made a legitimate descendant of the Jiang Clan, despite not having the Jiang Clan’s blood flowing through his veins.
At the tender age of five, Jiang Yi began basic training in martial arts, just like the other children in the family clan. Back then, he demonstrated astonishing prowess in martial arts; he was capable of learning and accurately replicating any technique with frightening ease, no matter how intricate or complex it was. It was this ability that instantly propelled him to fame, and people dubbed him “the Jiang Clan’s genius child”.
However, two years later, his fate suddenly changed overnight…
When they were seven, the clan typically taught descendants how to cultivate essence force, and the seven-year-old Jiang Yi was no exception. Jiang Yi was even specifically trained in the superior-grade Jiang Water Art, a Man-tier water-element technique usually taught only to direct bloodline descendants.
Unfortunately, contrary to the high expectations of many Jiang family members, Jiang Yi cultivated a near-negligible amount of water-element essence force despite training for an entire month. This was shocking, considering how even the most ordinary of descendants only needed up to three to five days to achieve the same result.
The inhabitants of the Stellarsky continent regularly borrowed the powers of the basic elements—metal, wood, water, fire, and earth—to cultivate and expand their essence force, as only those with a great amount of essence force could put various techniques of great might to use.
Even splitting entire mountains, flying freely in the sky, and becoming virtually invincible was possible with enough essence force. However, without any essence force, no matter how skilled one was in martial arts and regardless of how many techniques one had mastered, it would all be rendered useless. Without essence force, one couldn’t execute even the most basic martial art!
How could little Jiang Yi’s raw talent in martial arts and actual prowess be worlds apart? Everyone in the Jiang family was completely shocked.
When he realized this unusual circumstance, an irritated Grand Elder personally went to his private library. Out of the countless books available, he gathered dozens of different books dedicated to the practice of mental cultivation and gave them to Jiang Yi to practice the proposed methods book by book, style by style.
Regardless of whether Jiang Yi was only suited to practice the lowest level of mental cultivation abilities or not, as long as he learned it at the speed of an average person, with his instincts in martial arts, he would definitely be able to master them and become a powerful martial artist.
The young Jiang Yi spent almost an entire year trying out every single technique of mental cultivation available in the stacks of secret tomes. Despite this, he did not experience any miracle at all. The amount of essence force collected over a month of cultivation remained less than what some genius disciples extracted in a single day.
How on earth could there possibly exist such a condition of two polar opposites?
With mounting frustration, the Grand Elder finally thought to use essence force to check Jiang Yi’s physical body. It was then that he made a shocking discovery—surrounding Jiang Yi’s dantian was a layer of seals, thinner than a sheet of paper. This layer completely covered Jiang Yi’s entire dantian. It was akin to a filter blocking an entrance and exit alike, greatly reducing the speed at which essence force could enter his naval area!
In other words, this bizarre seal was the culprit behind the young Jiang Yi’s abysmally slow cultivation speed!
Following this revelation, the Grand Elder used his inner vision abilities to draw out the image on the seal, revealing a mysterious dragon-shaped talisman. The problem was that no one could read and understand the words that formed the talisman image, let alone break the seal…
When he confirmed that the Jiang Yi could no longer cultivate essence force, the Grand Elder spent entire days indoors, reading all kinds of ancient texts and old talisman books in an attempt to find a solution to his god-grandson’s problem. He went to the edges of the world in order to seek the assistance of linguists and masters in talisman magic, all in the hopes of being able to break the seal one day. The poor Grand Elder… in mere months, he looked as if he had aged ten years!
When Jiang Yi was nine, the Grand Elder once again left a letter to his family to announce his departure. Yet, this time his departure lasted a full six years! With the family not even once receiving any news or message from him throughout this period, it was as though he had vanished from the face of the earth.
The fate of Jiang Yi—from an incredible genius to a completely useless person who had directly caused the strongest member of the family clan to disappear—led to his reputation plummeting.
As the “main culprit” behind these unfortunate circumstances, Jiang Yi was no longer favored by the elders of the Jiang family. Even though he continued to persevere and cultivate throughout the six years of the Grand Elder’s disappearance and had painstakingly boosted his cultivation from nothing up to the first stage of the Cast Tripod Realm, his position in the family continued to deteriorate.
Two years ago he was forced to move out from the Jiang Residence’s rear court into the servants’ complex situated in the west court. Just a few days ago, he was also made to take up the responsibility of handling the family’s herb plantations half a year earlier than normal. This was a job that sixteen-year-old descendants who were deemed useless for not being able to cultivate to the third stage of the Cast Tripod Realm would usually take on.
Jiang Yi sighed. “Worthy men do not dwell on past glories. It’s useless no matter how much I look back. Come to think of it, I have no idea how much Xiaonu would start worrying about me if she saw me in this pitiful state…”
When Xiaonu came into his mind, Jiang Yi’s ferocious glare finally lost its edge, and his body seemed to stop throbbing for a moment. The days might have passed painfully with much difficulty, but he never gave up completely.
He always felt that the greatest motivation for him—the reason why he could endure day after day of torment—was this little servant girl. Xiaonu had grown up with him, and they were as close as peas in a pod. Despite his situation, she had neither given up on him nor left him behind. Instead, she tried all methods to motivate and encourage him daily.
A loud crash sent the door leading to the tiny dilapidated courtyard flying. Jiang Yi staggered through the doorway, swaying left to right. He barely had enough energy left to even make it back to his house. Jiang Yi’s eyes betrayed his great agony, and his brows were furrowed deeply. The corners of his mouth were flecked with dried blood.
The air in the room was stale and cold. It lacked the familiar, warm glow of a candle and that delicate, weak figure. Jiang Yi leaned over on the table-top to catch his breath. After a few minutes of hoarse panting, he finally sat up and lit the candle with a shaking hand. It was then that he spotted a brief message left on the table.
There is wotou and meat porridge in the pot! Xiaonu has left for a relative’s house and will return tomorrow! Don’t worry about me! Do your best, Young Master!
Jiang Yi’s heart ached as he read Xiaonu’s ugly, spider-like handwriting.Relatives? This silly girl…
Jiang Yi probed the murky depths of his memory with a thoughtful expression. Roughly twelve years ago, after his mother died from an illness, Jiang Yi was carried to Skyplume City in the Grand Elder’s right arm. At the time, there was another kid carried in the Grand Elder’s left arm: Xiaonu. Xiaonu and Jiang Yi both did not know anyone else in Skyplume City besides the members of the Jiang family, so where on earth could she have magically found some relatives?
Jiang Yi knew the truth deep in his heart. These few years, as his favorability in the family decreased even further, the monthly stipend given to him by the family clan had been reduced continuously. If not for Xiaonu heading out to do work, to say nothing of the basic medicine required to sustain his cultivation, even the acquisition of basic food supplies needed for daily consumption would have become a severe problem…
There were many moments when Jiang Yi had wanted to head out to work, to make some money and supplement their daily expenses. But these overtures were all strongly rejected by Xiaonu. Jiang Yi was a scion of the Jiang family, a person destined to do great things! To say nothing of the work demanded by the family, how could a scion like himself head out to do this kind of lowly menial work?
“Great things? Young Master? Young Master my ass! Hahahaha…”
Jiang Yi chuckled loudly, but his laughter rang hollow. He once again staggered off the table and lay down on his bed. His head throbbed with ever greater intensity, as though it would explode in the next moment. Yet he was deep in slumber within moments, without having eaten the dinner left for him in the pot.
That night, Jiang Yi had a dream…
When he opened his eyes, he saw Xiaonu preparing a meal. Her back was facing him as she washed some vegetables, and he could not help but notice her skinny, delicate figure.
Just as he made to assist her, a white-haired old man with a lanky frame entered the house carrying a large stack of ancient texts. Placing the books onto the table, the elderly man told Jiang Yi with a serious look on his face that these secret manuals were sure to have a martial art style he could practice.
Tears streaming down his cheeks, the still-dreaming Jiang Yi whispered, “Grandfather, you’re back, and completely fine! This is great news…”
At this moment, Xiaonu quickly delivered a lit candle and mouthed, “Don’t give up, Young Master! You can do it!”
Nodding at her encouragement, Jiang Yi picked up one of the books from the stack of ancient texts on the table. However, as soon as opened the first page, his vision was attracted by a dazzling blur. The tiny black font on the page flew out of the book and formed a circular-shaped sentence in midair, which began to orbit his head.
“In the vastness of the heaven and earth, only The Way is eternal. To obtain proof of heavenly law, one must first cultivate oneself…”
Jiang Yi tried to read the tiny, dazzling words, yet could not help but feel shocked and awed by the scene before him. Besides spinning around his body, the tiny script was able to move around freely like little tadpoles filled with the energy of life.
Just as Jiang Yi’s interest reached a peak, the words experienced a complete transformation!
The tadpole-like words suddenly abandoned their organized formation and ferociously flew towards his head in a massive swarm. Most latched on to his body, and some made to burrow into his eyes and ears!
“Ah… Ah… No!”
Jiang Yi abruptly woke up from his dream. He had accidentally opened his bodily injuries in the process and grimaced as his frail body struggled to endure yet another wave of agony.
It took half the time needed for an incense stick to burn out completely before the skin-splitting pain finally dissipated. Jiang Yi’s body was covered in cold sweat, and goosebumps rose to full attention on his arms and back. It took a very long time before he finally managed to lift himself into a seated position.
“Oh… Thankfully, it was all a dream…” Jiang Yi had just heaved a sigh of relief when all the color in his face drained, as though he had just seen a ghost. At that moment, he found his mind suddenly filled with countless tiny black symbols and words. “No! Wait! Hang on…”
These words were identical to those he had witnessed in his dream: like little tadpoles they wiggled, turned, and swam in the waters of his mind…