unsheathed – Chapter 76: Back to Back

Chapter 76: Back to Back

Chapter 76: Back to Back

As Chen Ping'an approached the stone bridge, he gulped nervously and was rather hesitant about continuing onward. After some internal conflict, he decided to follow the creek, and upon reaching the narrowest part of the creek, he performed a run-up, then vaulted himself over the creek before making his way toward the Azure Cow Ridge.

Unbeknownst to him, his decision to take the long route had resulted in him missing Ruan Xiu, who was on her way to the blacksmith shop, rushing over the stone bridge while holding a flagon of spring peach blossom wine.

This time, as she was walking past the pastry shop on Dragon Riding Alley, she had lowered her head and hurried past for fear of being tempted by the array of delectable pastries. She was going to begin saving up a private stash of money, and she couldn't afford to splurge on those pastries.

Meanwhile, Chen Ping'an paid a visit to Liu Xianyang's house. He carried an oil lamp as he made his way throughout all of the rooms in the house, and only after confirming that nothing was missing did he snuff out the oil lamp before departing and returning to Clay Vase Alley.

While passing by the old house with the hole in the roof, Chen Ping'an heaved an internal sigh of relief. There was still a burden on his shoulders, but it was already far lighter than when he left Clay Vase Alley on the way to the blacksmith shop. A smile involuntarily crept onto his face as he thought about how good it felt to finally have some money in his pocket.

Throughout his entire life thus far, Chen Ping'an had only ever seen pieces of scrap silver. He had never seen an ingot of silver before, and he had certainly never seen any gold.

Upon returning to his house, he opened the door, then rushed back out into the yard to ensure that the yard gate had been bolted shut properly. After returning to the house, he carefully lit the oil lamp, and it cast a dim yellow glow onto the surrounding earthen walls.

He then pulled out the three pouches of Good Fortune Coins, Offering Coins, and Good Fortune Coins from the clay pot in the corner, and the pouches contained 25, 26, and 28 gold essence copper coins, respectively, amounting to a total of 79 copper coins.

Ning Yao had briefly explained to Chen Ping'an that these copper coins were extensions of the money used in the mortal empires, and they were extremely rare, thereby contributing to their high value.

Of course, the main reason why they were so valuable was because outsiders had to spend these copper coins in order to be granted entry into the town. This was an unspoken rule that dated far back in history, and Ning Yao wasn't from Eastern Treasured Vial Continent, so she couldn't tell Chen Ping'an when this practice first originated.

Chen Ping'an pulled out one of each type of copper coin before placing them onto the table. The Greeting Spring Coins had a "Happy New Year" message inscribed onto its surface, surrounded by intricately engraved divine clouds, and there was also an armored deity beating on a drum.

The five pests, namely the snake, the scorpion, the centipede, the gecko, and the toad were engraved onto the front of the front of the Good Fortune Coins, while a message of "Ward Off Evil Spirits" was engraved onto its back, alongside the image of a turtle and a snake wrapped around a sword.

On the front of the Offering Coins was engraved the message "Sincerity is the Key", while the message "Gods Above" was inscribed onto the back. Aside from that, there were no intricate accompanying illustrations, and it was the most plain and simple in design of the three types of coins.

Chen Ping'an picked up a Greeting Spring Coin and carefully inspected it over and over again, struggling to wrap his head around the concept that such a tiny little coin could purchase the entire True Jewel Mountain. Chen Ping'an knew of this mountain that Master Ruan had referred to as nothing more than a small hill. The first time Old Man Yao had taken him into the mountains to search for soil, they had gone to the summit of True Jewel Mountain.

There were many types of soil, and the most complex part about assessing a type of soil was determining which of the four elements, water, fire, metal, and wood, it had a natural affinity with. This was a very complex and involved process, and Chen Ping'an wasn't able to learn everything there was to learn about tasting soil from Old Man Yao before he passed away.

At the time, Chen Ping'an had been squatting down on the ground, scooping up soil from True Jewel Mountain, while Old Man Yao had stomped a foot down and declared that the soil on the mountain was the most flavorful, but it was a pity that the mountain itself was too small, much like a man trapped in a tiny cage, unable to raise their head or extend any of their limbs, and that was why this type of place was colloquially referred to as a snail shell.

Chen Ping'an gently set down the Greeting Spring Coin, then picked up the Good Fortune Coin, only to quickly set it back down again with a slightly dejected expression.

The fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar was the day that all five pests came out to roam, and it just so happened to also be the same day that he had been born on. Song Jixin had told him that in many places, children born on that day were seen as bad omens, and some places even had a tradition of drowning those children in rivers.

Chen Ping'an shook his head to rid himself of that train of thought, then picked up the Offering Coin.

All of a sudden, a thought occurred to him. The first time he met Ning Yao, Fu Nanhua, and Cai Jinjian, he recalled that each of the outsiders had to give Zheng Dafeng a pouch of copper coins at the eastern town gate in order to be granted entry to the town, so where did all of those copper coins ultimately end up? Did it all go to the emperor of the Great Li Empire?

Chen Ping'an knew that this was a question that was impossible for him to answer, so he heaved a faint sigh and gave up on that futile pursuit. Instead, he began to make some mental calculations.

Master Ruan had told him that True Jewel Mountain was only going to cost a single Greeting Spring Coin, while medium-sized mountains like Lotus Lantern Mountain were going to cost somewhere between 10 to 15 copper coins, and large mountains like Incense Mountain were going to cost 25 to 30 copper coins.

Given this information, it didn't take him long to figure out what he should do.

The Great Li Empire clearly held Master Ruan in very high regard, as evidenced by the fact that it was willing to give him three mountains free of charge. Seeing as Master Ruan intended to establish his own sect, it would naturally be ideal for his three mountains to neighbor one another. Otherwise, the sect would be geographically scattered, and that clearly wasn't very feasible. This was quite a smart ploy from the imperial court.

They knew that there was no way that Master Ruan would be able to pick out the three most valuable mountains, so they were willing to make him this offer that seemed extremely generous on the surface. Chen Ping'an intended to pick out his mountains with Master Ruan, but he also intended to pick out a small mountain or two elsewhere, and mountains like True Jewel Mountain were exactly what he was looking for.

Perhaps no one else would care about those tiny mountains, but they were very important in Chen Ping'an's eyes. After all, no matter how small a mountain was, it was still a mountain, and it was only going to cost him a single copper coin. With that in mind, Chen Ping'an decided that he definitely had to claim that mountain for himself.

As for the most expensive mountains that Master Ruan had mentioned, such as the Dry Spring Mountain Range, Divine Elegance Mountain, and Incense Mountain, Chen Ping'an was most definitely also interested.

His plan was to spend a single pouch of gold essence copper coins at the very most to purchase a large mountain that was inferior to the aforementioned mountains, but not by much. In addition to that, he would buy some small mountains like True Jewel Mountain, Ideally for around 10 copper coins, and he would spend the rest of his copper coins on mountains near the three selected by Master Ruan.

As for that nameless mountain that was laden with Dragon Slaying Platform, Chen Ping'an had already made up his mind that he wasnt going to touch it no matter what. Even though no one else knew about the Dragon Slaying Platform on the mountain at the moment, he was going to stay away from that poisoned treasure.

The town was no longer the Jewel Small World that was sealed off to the outside world, and with outsiders flooding into the town, someone was sure to discover the Dragon Slaying Platform on that mountain, so owning that mountain could only spell trouble for him.

However, prior to making the purchases, Chen Ping'an planned to make another trip up to the mountains in person.

He couldn't accept the notion of spending so much money without knowing what he was paying for. Even though he knew this was most definitely a profitable endeavor, it still simply didn't sit right with him.

He had spent his entire life in poverty, so he felt like he had to be extra responsible with all of his spending.

At this point, Chen Ping'an still had eight snake gall pebbles that hadn't undergone any discoloration, and there were many more snake gall pebbles hidden in his house and Liu Xianyang's but for some reason, all of them had undergone different degrees of discoloration and no longer looked as vibrant and pretty as they did when they were first fished out of the water.

However, all of them were still carrying tinges of an indescribable aura. It was a feeling that was impossible to explain, much like how Chen Ping'an knew that Gu Can and Li Baoping were definitely extremely intelligent children as soon as he first laid eyes on them.

Chen Ping'an put the three pouches of gold essence copper coins back into the clay pot, and he was beginning to sweat in the palms at the mere thought of having to apply for leave with Master Ruan so he could make a trip into the mountains.

Neither Old Man Yao nor Master Ruan had been particularly fond of him, and Chen Ping'an couldn't help but wonder if this was simply because he was fated to have terrible affinity with his masters.

He made his way over to the basket sitting in the corner of the room, and he stared at the chunk of Dragon Slaying Platform inside. He reached out to stroke the black stone, and it was very smooth and slightly cool to the touch.

He couldn't help but wonder how an unremarkable-looking chunk of stone like this had anything to do with sword-riding immortals like Ning Yao, and he was also curious about just how sharp a sword could become from being sharpened on Dragon Slaying Platform.

All of a sudden, a thought occurred to him, and he pulled out the five locust leaves that Li Baoping had given to him. At the time, she had picked up eight for him from the old locust tree, but he had given her three of the leaves as compensation for her efforts.

Chen Ping'an carefully examined the locust leaves, and despite their thin and frail appearance, they were remarkably sturdy. Unfortunately, the green light traveling along the veins of the leaves had disappeared, with only some tiny specks of green radiance remaining at some of the major points where the leaf veins intersected, and Chen Ping'an guessed that this was most likely the so-called ancestral blessings.

Chen Ping'an carefully tucked the five locust leaves between the pages of the Mountain Shaking Guide.

After that, Chen Ping'an emerged into his yard to commence his walking meditation.

At this point, the neighboring households on either side of his residence had already moved away.

Chen Ping'an quickly became completely absorbed in his meditation, losing his sense of self, with fist intent flowing over his body like water.

Ning Yao had once told him that practicing a fist technique 1,000,000 times was only the starting point in the pursuit of martial arts mastery, so Chen Ping'an couldn't afford to slack off.

As he continued in his practice, he suddenly thought of the red spots and black characters on that wooden figure, the ones that denoted the acupoints that were said to facilitate the flow of energy in and out of one's body.

His entire body felt loose and hot, and it was as if there were a fiery dragon roaming within him. It was descending from his head in a rather bumpy journey that was far from smooth, and his acupoints were like dilapidated checkpoints.

The paths between these "checkpoints" were also far from smooth and consistent, with some of them being wide yet rugged, while others were narrow and steep. Thus, the fiery dragon was quite shaky as it passed over these paths and checkpoints, much like a person making their way over a rickety bridge.

In the end, the fiery dragon settled near his Dantian, surging back and forth between the few nearby acupoints, as if it were trying to find a suitable location to serve as its palace.

Ning Yao had once told him that of the three tiers of the Physique Refining Tier, the first tier was the Mud Molding Tier, and that upon reaching the peak stage or consummate stage, one would become like the mud statue of a deity.

Their Qi would descend to their Dantian, and they would become as immovable as a mountain. At the same time, their body would be rejuvenated, and their blood, flesh, tendons, and bones would be reciprocated. It would be like a dead tree being revitalized in early spring, and many impurities would be slowly forced out of the body.

Chen Ping'an was currently on this path, and even though he had no master to guide him, he wasn't exactly walking this path completely blind, either.

What he lacked in talent, he had made up for in hard work. He had spent eight years regularly traversing through the mountains, as well as practicing some crude, yet somewhat effective, breathing techniques.

Even so, he was still yet to surpass the first tier in these eight years.

Aside from in Ning Yao's hometown, there was a prevailing notion in the mortal empires that one had to become a scholar if they came from an impoverished background, while those who were more privileged could practice martial arts.

In the pursuit of martial arts, it was frowned upon to compare the speed of one's progression to others. The more advanced and established the martial artist, the more value they placed in building up as solid a foundation as possible with every single step that was taken.

Even so, Chen Ping'an's progress was still extremely slow. It wasn't particularly embarrassing or anything like that, considering there were countless young individuals from wealthy and powerful clans who were never able to exceed the first tier in their entire lives, but judging from his current rate of progression, it was clear that he was certainly no martial arts prodigy.

All of a sudden, Chen Ping'an snapped back to his senses and gently exhaled, then slowly strolled through the yard while gradually loosening up his own body.

As he did so, he spotted the locust branch slanted against the wall of his yard, and he was suddenly struck by the idea to craft a wooden sword for himself.ll new stries at n0ve/lbi/(.)cm

After his parents passed away, Chen Ping'an would often see other children around his age playing without a care in the world. The girls mostly flew kites, while the boys were often seen sparring with one another using the wooden swords that they had asked their fathers to craft for them.

At the time, Chen Ping'an had always wanted a wooden sword of his own, but he quickly became consumed with his duties as an apprentice at the kiln, so the thought eventually slipped his mind.

Chen Ping'an crouched down in front of the locust branch, and he felt like it was definitely large enough to craft a wooden sword, but two would be a stretch.

He started by carrying the locust branch to the entrance of the house, then made his way inside to bring out a bushcraft blade in preparation to craft himself a wooden sword.

He sat on his doorstep with the bushcrafting blade in his hand, feeling a little hesitant. After a moment of consideration, he decided to put the blade back in the house. He felt like the old locust tree couldn't just be treated as any old tree. After all, Mr. Qi had had a conversation with the tree in the past, so it didn't feel right for him to carve a wooden sword out of the locust branch.

Chen Ping'an placed the locust branch back against the wall, and he wasn't feeling sleepy at all, so he left the yard, locked the gate behind him, then made his way out of Clay Vase Alley.

For some reason, he found himself wandering over to the stone bridge, and he couldn't just jump over the creek every time he wanted to get across, so he gritted his teeth and mustered up some courage before stepping onto the bridge, taking a seat down at its center.

His feet were hanging over the creek, and he was feeling a little nervous as he looked down at the surface of the water and murmured, "I don't care if you're a god or a monster, I don't think there's any bad blood between us. If you have something to say to me, don't come to me in my dreams anymore. I'm here right now, so you can just speak to me directly."

15 minutes passed by, then an hour, then two hours.

Aside from feeling a little cold, there wasn't anything else for Chen Ping'an to report.

His hands were placed palms down on the bridge, and he was swinging his feet absentmindedly as he cast his gaze into the distance. Many years ago, as a very young boy, he had been quite curious about where the end of the creek was.

Liu Xianyang, Gu Can, Ning Yao, Mr. Qi, and Old Man Yao were all gone, and Chen Ping'an was feeling a little dazed at this realization.

Never had he been so wealthy before, but this was also the loneliest he had ever been.

His back was facing the stone bridge, and a tall figure in a dazzling white robe that resembled something between an immortal and a ghost was also seated on the bridge with their back facing Chen Pingans and their palms set downward, swinging their feet as they looked up at the sky.

Not only was Chen Ping'an oblivious to this, even Old Man Yang and Ruan Qiong wouldn't have been able to detect this figure's presence.

Chapter end

Chapter 31: Beating Around the Mountain
Chapter 32: Peach Leaf
Chapter 33: White Dragon Disguising as a Fish
Chapter 34: Gathered Together
Chapter 35: Licorice Root
Chapter 36: Ancient Book
Chapter 37: Fist Technique
Chapter 38: Ninth Tier
Chapter 39: Cursing the Locust Tree
Chapter 40: Returning the Courtesy
Chapter 42: Prodigy
Chapter 43: The Young Boy and the Old Dog
Chapter 44: Coming to Light
Chapter 45: Sunlight
Chapter 46: Skirt Dagger
Chapter 47: Going Alone
Chapter 48: The Hunter and the Hunted
Chapter 49: Porcelain Shard
Chapter 50 (1): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 50 (2): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 51: Confrontation
Chapter 52: Shudder
Chapter 53: Gift
Chapter 54: Facing the Enemy
Chapter 55: Feeling Proud in the Spring Breeze
Chapter 56: Nodding Bodhisattva
Chapter 57: Sword Nurturing Gourd
Chapter 58: Teacher
Chapter 59: Sleep
Chapter 60: There's a Ghost
Chapter 61: Helpless Pawn
Chapter 62: Falling Tree
Chapter 63 (1): So That's How It Is
Chapter 63 (2): So That's How It Is
Chapter 64: The Three Chens
Chapter 65: Jewel
Chapter 66: Looking Up
Chapter 67 (1): Long Journey
Chapter 67 (2): Long Journey
Chapter 68: Spring Under the Heavens
Chapter 69: Night
Chapter 70: Daylight
Chapter 71 (1): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 71 (2): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 72: Black Cloud
Chapter 73: Wooden Figure
Chapter 74: The Fire Dragon Roams the Water
Chapter 75: Mountain Selection
Chapter 76: Back to Back
Chapter 77: Entering the Mountains
Chapter 78: Another Dream
Chapter 79: Spring Welcome Seal
Chapter 80: Leaving the Mountains
Chapter 81: Imperial Preceptor
Chapter 82 (1): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 82 (2): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 83: Dreams
Chapter 84 (1): I Have a Sword
Chapter 84 (2): I Have a Sword
Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 85 (2): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 86 (1): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 86 (2): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 87 (1): Little Teacher
Chapter 87 (2): Little Teacher
Chapter 88: Grand Entrance
Chapter 89: Two Heads
Chapter 90: Heavy Rain
Chapter 91: Jade Hairpin
Chapter 92 (1): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 92 (2): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 93 (1): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 93 (2): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 94: A Feast for the Eyes
Chapter 95: Too Small a Place
Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers
Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain
Chapter 98: The Meddlesome Mountain God
Chapter 99: The Mountain God and the Bamboo Saber
Chapter 100 (1): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 100 (2): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 101: Guard the Mountain
Chapter 102: Soaring White Ray
Chapter 103: Bamboo Building
Chapter 104: Sharing the Spoils
Chapter 105: Rootless Duckweed
Chapter 106: People from All Walks of Life
Chapter 107: Fishing Net
Chapter 108: Spring Hunting
Chapter 109: The Young Boy Has Some Words to Say
Chapter 110: All Good Things Must Come to an End
Chapter 111: Bamboo Hat
Chapter 112: Powerful Individual
Chapter 113: Unparalleled Might
Chapter 114: Seeing A'Liang Again
Chapter 115: There's an Old Scholar In the World (1)
Chapter 116: There's an Old Scholar In the World (2)
Chapter 117 (1): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 118 (1): There's Righteousness In The World
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