Book 1: A New Lease on Life (枯木逢春)
Chapter 1: 80th Birthday
7th day of the 7th month, the country of Da Kun, Zhong residence in the city of Xuan Cheng.
Today at the Zhong residence, the front gate was wide open. 800 tables filled the inside of the compound to the point that they spilled out onto the street outside the gate. Anyone who arrived to celebrate, regardless if they were a stranger or a friend, were welcome to sit at the table.
Today was an important date as it was the 80th birthday of the patriarch of the Zhong family.
The old head of the family was a living legend, who began life with nothing, worked hard for fifty years, and created a large family business. His life story was known as a legend in Da Kun.
He had even drunk with the previous emperor of Da Kun.
He was a businessman all his life and never worked as a state official. However, in Da Kun, he was held in high esteem. In the past fifty years, he earned so much money that it was impossible to count it all. There was so much money that even the emperor became envious. Even more than the amount those great houses had accumulated after a thousand years.
Not even he’s sure how much wealth he had accumulated, because every day, an influx of money would come under his name.
But maybe Heaven had played a trick upon the old man as he had no children of his own. No sons and no daughters. He had a wife and seven concubines, but none of them ever gave birth. It seemed as if Heaven was on purposely creating a huge regret for a man who had led such an impressive life.
But he never blamed his wife and concubines and instead adopted many children. Right now, all of his adopted sons numbered over a hundred.
He taught his adopted sons knowledge on various subjects so that they could maintain the huge family business. He was very attentive to each and every one of his adopted sons. And each and every one of them had a special talent in learning martial arts. It seems that he adopted each of them based on their builds.
These adopted sons now had their own children and though old man Zhong never had children of his own, he now had many grandchildren.
Each of these sons had a sliver of hope that they would be the one to inherit the family business, just like the children of an emperor who all schemed for the throne.
Early in the morning, many people came to partake in the celebrations. It was a full-house. The whole residence was full of joy.
Inside the Zhong residence, there is a five story high building which stood out among the other buildings, just like a pagoda.
At this moment, an old man stood at the top of the pagoda watching the well-wishers arriving from all directions.
This old man, whose hair, eyebrows, and beard had all turned white, had piercing eyes that burned with youthful energy and a stern face that commanded respect. This is Zhong Shan, the pillar of the Zhong family.
The old man had his brows slightly furrowed, as if he was pondering about something.
At that moment, a honest looking middle aged man walked up from down stairs. Even though the old man had his back turned, the middle aged man still gave a slight bow.
“Father, the banquet has been prepared and we’re all waiting for you to begin.” the middle aged man said reverently.
Interrupted by his words, old man Zhong came to his senses and turned his head towards the middle aged man.
“Zhong Tian, your training has already reached the 8th rank of Hou Tian (后天 [lit: acquired])?” the old man asked lightly.
“Yes, father, I’m at the 8th rank of Hou Tian. But I’m already fifty this year, there is no hope that I can reach Xian Tian (先天 [lit: innate]) in my lifetime.” the middle aged man sighed.
“Un,” the old man nodded his head in agreement.
Afterwards, the middle aged man helped the old man down the stairs to the banquet room in the front.
The banquet room was full of guests, half of them were Zhong Shan’s adopted sons and the other half were important Da Kun officials. Even though the old man was never an official, in Da Kun he was held in high regard. Even though he wasn’t on the same level as one of the four great houses that had lasted for over a thousand years, the difference in status was not very large.
On the north side of the room, there was a large golden Shou character, which was given by the emperor himself for the old man’s birthday.
At this moment, all the tables in the banquet room were filled. Everybody was chatting and enjoying themselves, but nobody had touched the food and wine on the table.
“The honorable Mr. Zhong has arrived~~~,” a servant suddenly called out into the room.
After the announcement, the entire room quieted down, even those outside the building became silent.
Everyone watched the white haired old man Zhong, with the help of his eldest son, Zhong Tian, as he walked in from a side door.
Though he had become old, his was still very energetic. After he arrived at his seat in the middle, he gave a great warm smile.
“Thank you everyone for coming.” the old man spoke to the crowd.
“Mr. Zhong, it’s not a problem at all.”
“Wouldn’t miss it, wouldn’t miss it.”
“Of course we’d come.”
Many guests humbly replied in a similar manner one after another. The old man occasionally nodded in response.
“Su Xing, in the place of my father, the emperor, we wish the honorable Mr. Zhong a long life, happiness, and good health.” spoke a man clad in a purple robe.
Obviously, this was one of the princes of Da Kun.
“Zhao Lin, in the place of my master, we wish that the honorable Mr. Zhong will continue to shine as long as the sun and will not age even as the seasons pass.”
“Qian San, in the place of my master, we wish that the honorable Mr. Zhong’s life will be bright as long as the sun and a long life as long as pine tree or a crane.”
“Sun Li, in the place of my master, we wish the honorable Mr. Zhong that all of your endeavors will be realized and continue to enjoy the safety and closeness of your family.”
“Li Ru, in the place of my master, we wish the honorable Mr. Zhong that his dreams will come true and continue to enjoy endless fortunes to come.”
Another four middle aged men, spoke as they each bowed to old man Zhong.
“Un. Good. I give my thanks to His Imperial Majesty and the four great masters. Please be seated everyone.” old man Zhong said with a faint smile.
Everyone began to sit one after another. Then old man Zhong’s adopted sons all approached him one after another to wish him a happy birthday.
The banquet lasted for three days. The entirety of three whole days.
During the entire time, old man Zhong only appeared on the first day. Since then, he hadn’t been seen by anyone.
In these three days, all of his adopted sons returned to celebrate his birthday. Some left immediately to take care of family business after wishing old man Zhong a happy birthday. Some of them were asked to stay by old man Zhong.
After three days, the banquet was over. In a conference chamber inside the Zhong residence, old man Zhong sat in the seat of honor alone holding a red ball in the size of a longan in his hand. He was lightly rubbing the red ball, treating it as his most precious possession.
He continued to rub the ball for the entire time it took to burn a stick of incense. Finally, the old man carefully placed the red ball into a small cloth pouch and tied it to a thin string that he hung on his neck like a pendant.
“Let them come in.” old man Zhong gently called to those outside.
“Yes.” came Zhong Tian’s reply from outside.
Quickly, seven people followed Zhong Tian into the room. Three of them, were about the same age as Zhong Tian, in their forties and fifties. The other four were much younger, around the ages of thirty or early forties.
“Father,” all eight of them bowed in unison.
“Un, sit.” old man zhong softly said.
“Yes,” the eight immediately sat down.
“Zhong Di, Zhong Xuan, Zhong Huang, Zhong Yi, Zhong Liu, Zhong Shi Ba, Zhong Shi Jiu. As of now, have each of you reached the 10th rank of Hou Tian?” old man Zhong asked.
“Yes, father.” they all replied.
Only one of the younger men spoke in surprise: “I just reached the 10th rank ten days ago. I had originally wanted to surprise you with the news, but didn’t realize that you had already known.”
“Zhong Shi Jiu, to have reached the top rank of Hou Tian at the age of thirty two is already quite a surprise.” old man Zhong looked at the youngest adopted son here with a faint smile. This son was also the one he favored the most.
“Father, your words are too kind.” Zhong Shi Jiu immediately replied with embarrassment.
“Un, do you know why I’ve summoned you all today?” old man Zhong asked.
“We don’t.” they all shook their heads. They all curiously looked at their father, wondering about the reason for their summons.
“In a few days, the Dragon Gate Tournament will begin. All of you will come with me to the tournament.” old man Zhong gently told them.
“Dragon Gate Tournament? Father, do you know where the tournament is going to be held? Only the four great houses and the imperial family know it’s location.” Zhong Si Jiu immediately shouted in excitement.
At the same time, the other sons looked up with excitement at old man Zhong.
Only Zhong Tian with his honest looking face sat there in silence. He was mildly surprised but wasn’t very enthusiastic.
“Indeed, I will be taking all of you to the Dragon Gate Tournament. The best fighters from every country will be there. All of whom have reach the top rank of Hou Tian and even some strong practitioners of Xian Tian. When you come with me, show your strength in the tournament so that one of the Immortal Schools will take you in as a disciple. After which you will be able to learn the supreme secret of immortality.” old man Zhong spoke with anticipation.
“Yes, father.” everyone responded cheerfully.
There exist supernatural beings in this world. Though most think that these are merely myth and legend, the Zhong family knows that they weren’t fairy tales and truly did exist. It was just that they never found a way to find one of these creatures.
“I am taking all of you to the Dragon Gate Tournament. On one hand I hope that you can give up your worldly desires and enter one of the Immortal Schools, but on the other hand I also hope that you will be able to do me a favor.” old man Zhong’s eyes suddenly shone as he spoke.
“Father, tell us and I will try to accomplish if I am able.” Zhong Si Jiu responded immediately.
Seeing his youngest adopted son agree to the task without knowing what it was filled old man Zhong with happiness.
“Un, it isn’t difficult. As long as you can enter one of the Immortal Schools, merely ask one of the masters or elders of the school for a Po Jin Pellet for me.” old man Zhong asked with some excitement.
“Yes.” his sons nodded.
“Father, what is a Po Jin Pellet?” only Zhong Tian asked uncertainly.
“A Po Jin Pellet, amongst the Immortal Schools, isn’t a particularly special item. It’s only used to help a person break the limits of Hou Tian, but only those who have risen above the Golden Pellet stage have the ability to concoct such a pellet. Once you have reached the Immortal Schools, you wouldn’t have a need for this pellet at all. Thus such an item is rare. Many years ago, I tried to trade all of my possessions with a daoist for this pellet, but he ignored me in disdain. To these people, any worldly items was worth the same to them as a passing cloud.” old man Zhong sighed.
After hearing this story, the others in the room also sighed in agreement. Each of these sons were interested in their family fortune, but in the face of immortality what worth was that fortune? Nothing at all.
“Father, do you intend to use this Po Jin Pellet to reach Xian Tian?” Zhong Tian immediately asked.
“You are all my sons and I will not conceal my intentions. I will indeed use it. I began training late and though I spent much of my wealth to acquire elixirs, I was only able to reach the same level as each of you here. I could no longer progress any further. I am eighty years old. There is no hope that I can have a break through now. The Dragon Gate Tournament is held once every fifty years. This is my only chance. I hope that you will not disappoint me.” old man Zhong spoke to his sons.
“Don’t worry father. As long as I am selected by one of the immortal masters, I will ask for the pill even if it’s at the cost of being barred from entering the school.” Zhong Si Jiu said immediately.
“Father, I,” Zhong Tian spoke with some hesitation, after all, he had only reached the 8th rank of Hou Tian.
Having an idea for the reason of his hesitation, Zhong Shan smiled and said “All of you go and prepare yourselves. We will begin traveling there in three days time. Zhong Tian come with me too. I won’t be comfortable if you’re not by my side to assist me.”
“Yes.” they quickly responded. Even Zhong Tian was excited. Though he knew that he would never be selected as a disciple, the fact that he could witness the Dragon Gate Tournament was amazing. At the very least, he wouldn’t have any regrets in this life.
Afterwards, everyone left the chamber in high spirits.
After his sons had left, old man Zhong slowly stood and shuffled towards one of the courtyards near the back.
This courtyard was off limits to everyone, even the servants and his own adopted sons, unless he summoned them.
After he entered the courtyard, he closed the front door and walked into his bedroom. Sitting on the bed, he took the pouch that held the little red ball off.
At that moment, a red glow radiated from the ball and floating above the glow was a multitude of different colored lights.
“It’s been fifty five years since I reached the top of Mount Everest, found this red ball, and was transported here. This is a magical world because there are immortals. I have been searching for fifty five years to find one of the immortal schools. Each and everyone of them told me that I had started training too late, that my body was too weak, and that I was too old. There was never a chance in my life that I could reach Xian Tian. Immortality? Becoming immortal? Just because I didn’t start training when I was around twenty?” old man Zhong spoke to the red ball with his brows deeply furrowed.
“In the past several decades, didn’t I reach the top of Hou Tian? Even though I can’t go past it, didn’t I succeed? It only takes one Po Jin Pellet and I can reach Xian Tian and then I can continue training and reach Zui Gao (最高[lit:”highest”]), Zhi Gao (至高[lit:”most highest”]), and finally become immortal. Determination. Is there anyone else who has a greater resolve than I do? I spent a lot of effort to find a piece of ice that had been frozen for ten thousand years, which I sat upon for twenty years. Can any of the students in those schools with more suitable body builds than I dare to go to the same efforts as I did?”
“Transported, huh huh, I had almost forgotten about those novels on Earth. Transported. Why didn’t it make my body become stronger? Why is it still the same? Otherwise, all of these years, I wouldn’t have suffered so much. Indeed, when I was transported to this world, I acquired a special ability. I can separate myself from my shadow which can transform into a doppelganger of myself. I can control the shadow from ten billion miles away as if I had two bodies at the same time. The shadow has no will of its own, only I. The ability to control two bodies with one mind is a very special power. This was one of the reasons why I could accumulate so much wealth in such a short amount of time. But what’s the use of it? The shadow is controlled by myself and is limited by the same restrictions as my own body, thus it also cannot reach a level higher than Hou Tian. All I need is a starting point, a starting point for Xian Tian. I just need to reach Xian Tian and I’ll become better than everyone else and train harder than any of them.”
“I’ve raised so many sons and finally seven of them have reached the top of Hou Tian before the Dragon Gate Tournament. They will definitely succeed; of those seven, at least one of them will succeed. Just one Po Jin Pellet is enough. In regards to me, it’s enough. More than enough.” old man Zhong softly murmured to himself.
: 寿shou, literally means “long life”
Translator’s note: We had a difficult time translating all the lines where important dignitaries are praising Mr. Zhong. The phrases are mostly idioms and so we tried to make sure the meaning came across without making it sound too strange. We’ll list any that might be confusing for those who don’t know Chinese (which I assume is most of you otherwise you wouldn’t be reading an English translation). Basically everyone is wishing him good fortunes and a long life.
: Pine trees can live up to 5000 years. Cranes in Chinese mythology supposedly live long lives and hence symbolize long life and youthfulness.
: In ancient China, one way of keeping time was to use incense sticks. A unit of time in this system was the time it took for 1 incense stick to burn down.
: The Chinese used is “破禁丹” which literally means “breaking forbidden/taboo pellet.” In Chinese alchemy, the potions and such are normally created in pellet form and I suppose the author made up the name for this pellet. It makes you immortal which basically is breaking taboo.
: The Chinese used is “金丹期” which directly translated to “Golden Pellet Stage.” It’s a level on the path to immortality.