Roaming through the vast library, Zhang finally spotted Cai Cao who had an old looking gold colored book in his hand. From the size of the book alone, one could tell that it possessed a high level technique and would be difficult to master.
Seeing this and not wanting to be a bother, Zhang decided to go look for a suitable technique on his own once again. As he continued walking aimlessly through the library he realized that not a single person was in sight any longer.
“What the… Where’d everyone go…” Zhang thought as he looked around and did not see a single soul. That was when a red colored book with golden thread binding caught Zhang’s attention from the corner of his eye.
It was as if the book itself was calling out to him as he made his way toward it. Once the book was taken out of the shelf and held in his grasp, Zhang noticed that the book did not have a name. The cover was completely blank, without any writer at all. Intrigued, he began flipping through the pages of the book.
The contents of the book basically taught someone to harness the essence and power of fire. One can ignite their essence into a wide variety of flames, that range from the weakest orange colored flame to the strongest white colored flame.
“Anyone who masters this technique cannot be harmed by any kind of physical fire. Hmmm what does it mean by physical fire?” Zhang thought after reading a page from the book. After skimming it some more he found out the requirement to begin learning this skill was not very high at all. One only needed a decent affinity with fire and an actually fire to begin cultivating the skill.
“First one must get used to being immersed in fire, then be able to manipulate fire before being able to create one’s own fire out of essence. Simple enough… Guess I’ll take this manual.” He thought as he closed the manual and headed back the direction he came from. He was fairly happy that this skill could be cultivated by anyone with an affinity to fire and there was no high demand for essence. If the user did not have a lot of essence, then the fire would just simply be smaller.
Soon Zhang ran into Cai Cao and the two headed toward the checkout counter together.
“Did you find something suitable?” Cai Cao asked, knowing Zhang’s situation regarding his essence points.
“Yup.” Zhang replied with a grin as he showed Cai Cao the nameless red book in his hand.
As the two arrived at the checkout counter they were greeted by a middle aged lady who was one of the elders who acted as a librarian.
“This is a fairly difficult skill, are you sure you wish to cultivate this one?” The lady asked Cai Cao once she was shown a golden colored book with black binding. The title of the book read, “Ice Demon’s Prison.”
“I’m sure, if anything I’ll exchange it for another book later.” Cai Cao replied as he took the book off the counter.
“Alright if that is what you want. Now give me your door sealing jade so I can make a record that you have checked out this book.” The middle aged lady replied with a smile as she put her hand out and waited for Cai Cao to hand her, his door sealing talisman.
Moments later the checkout of the book was recorded onto the talisman and a record was taken. Then came Zhang’s turn to check out his manual. But unlike Cai Cao, when Zhang placed his book on the counter the middle age lady simply smiled and said, “are you sure? This skill is one of the lowest ranked skills in the entire library and is one of the hardest to master.”
This was obviously because the requirement to truly master the skill and attain fire immunity was extremely high. But Zhang did not pick this book because he wanted to master it, he simply needed a skill that had a low requirement. This was because he was going to focus on physically strengthening his body first before he would strengthen himself cultivation wise.
If his body became stronger than his channels would become slightly stronger, then he would be able to unseal more essence points and not have them burst his channels.
“If I change my mind I’ll be back to check out another manual.” Zhang replied with a smile. With a nod, the middle aged lady checked out the manual to Zhang.
With weapons, pills and cultivation skills out of the way, the duo headed outside of the exchange center.
“Now it’s my turn to pay.” Cai Cao said as he took the lead and led Zhang to a large store that sold items for gold instead of contribution points.
Upon entering the store, a wide variety of things could be seen. Things such as clothes, pills, weapons, and a bunch of other things could be seen on display. Of course the pills and weapons here were very expensive compared to the ones one could trade for at the exchange center. This was because contribution points were not all too easy to obtain, so some more wealthy sect members opt to purchase what they need with money instead. Thus the stores possessed a higher variety than the exchange center, but in terms of quality the exchange center’s items were somewhat superior.
“Welcome, fellow disciples. How may I help you today.” A young man who looked like he was about the same age as Zhang and Cai Cao said as the two stepped into the store.
“We’ll call you if we need anything.” Cai Cao said as he and Zhang began browsing through the store’s wares. It seemed that he had an idea of what he was looking for as the two made their way through the store.
“We’ll be needing these.” Cai Cao said as he grabbed a few miniature statues of horses.
“We’ll be needing horse statues?” Zhang asked, somewhat confused.
“You’ll see when the time comes.” Cai Cao replied as he continued looking for things to buy.
“Take this and this and that.” Cai Cao said as he handed Zhang silk vest, a pair of boots, and a drawing with a chicken on it. Dumbfounded, Zhang kept quiet and simply carried whatever items that he was handed.
He did not possess enough knowledge regarding cultivation and magical items to know what these things actually did so he thought it was best to leave it to someone who knew and keep quiet. A while later and a small pile of stuff later, the duo was ready to check out.
“That will be three hundred thousand gold coins please.” The young man who had greeted the duo earlier said when they brought everything Cai Cao picked out to the counter.
“Three hundred thousand gold coins!? That’s what my entire clan made in a year! This is flat out robbery.” Zhang thought but did not voice his opinion as to not make a fool out of himself.
Without saying a word Cai Cao withdrew a jade card from his robe and placed it on the counter, where the young man scanned it against a jade tablet. As he picked up the jade card his eyes sparkled as if he had found a fortune.
“We offer a free delivery service if you two would like these things delivered to your courtyard.” The young man said with a grin on his face.
“No thanks we’re in a hurry.” Cai Cao said as he retrieved the jade card and began taking steps toward the exit.
With an awkward smile, Zhang retrieved the pile of things that they had just purchased and followed Cai Cao out of the store.
“Brother why didn’t you have them deliver all of this stuff?” Zhang asked as he tried to keep the pile of things from falling onto the group.
“Because they might swap out what we bought with defective ones and we wouldn’t know until we used them. Also I didn’t like the look on that guy’s face and didn’t want him to know where our courtyard is located. Even though we are all in the same sect, there’s no telling if someone has good or bad intentions toward us.” Cai Cao said as he led Zhang to a two story diner. The two had been out and about for most of the day and their stomachs had long since become empty. Thus the two had a long hearty meal before heading back home.
As they headed back toward their courtyard, Cai Cao kept an eye out in case someone was following them. In the Mist Mountain Sect, every time a new batch of disciples were admitted, hundreds of courtyards were magically placed randomly in the mountains and there was no way for others to know where someone lived unless they were shown or stumbled on the location by chance.
Although none of the disciples knew why things were this way, no one questioned it because it allowed everyone to have a bit of privacy. People assigned to the same courtyard could request a transfer if they did not like each other so everyone who stayed in the same courtyard became friends and looked out for each other.
“It doesn’t seem like anyone is following us, but in the future we have to keep an eye out. Although killing is prohibited, robbery, extortion and crippling of cultivation is not.” Cai Cao said.
“Also if you want to go explore the graveyard, at our current cultivation we wouldn’t be able to hold our own there, however if it’s only for a quick look then the stuff we bought should be more than enough to keep us safe.” Cai Cao added as he looked at Zhang with a smile.
The two of them had grown to be rather closer friends and if Zhang wanted to go visit a graveyard that is crawling with dangers, then Cai Cao figured he might as well come and keep his buddy safe. Also Cai Cao himself was a tad bit curious about the graveyard, and figured taking a look around wouldn’t pose too much of an issue.
Once the two of them arrived in front of their courtyard and produced their door sealing talismans, the pair of doors in front of them swung open. After they walked through, the two gates behind them shut close almost immediately. Now that they got back home safe and sound, after putting away the treasures that they had just acquired, the two of them split up and began cultivating the new techniques that they had gotten from the technique library.
Soon Zhang could be seen sitting atop a boulder the courtyard.
“You must first be able to completely manipulate the essence in your body and focus it at one point of your body, releasing a steady stream of it from the tips of your fingers will then allow you to ignite it with your will.” Zhang said as he read off the manual in his hand.
“So the most important part is manipulating my essence and releasing it at one point.” He thought as he began circulating the flow of essence in his body.
The tiny streams that made up Zhang’s essence channels, and the few essence points that he had managed to open were pushed to the limit as Zhang absorbed the essence around him and circulated it around his body.
Now that he knew his limit and had strengthened his body a bit, Zhang was certain that he wouldn’t harm himself like he had done so when Cai Cao had opened up all of his essence points for him.
“Almost there…” He mumbled as he concentrated all of the essence he could muster into the tips of his fingers on his right hand. Not long after an invisible stream that was as faint as the thread was released from his middle and index finger.
“Okay all I have to do now is ignite it.”
A raging fire soon formed in Zhang’s mind as he tried to project the image on the stream of essence on his fingertips. Sweat began flowing down Zhang’s brow as he spent massive amounts of concentration on trying to ignite his essence.
After an excruciating long time, Zhang could feel a change in the stream of essence that was being released from his fingertips. Moments later the tiny stream was ignited and turned into an orange colored flame.
At the sight of the burning flame flickering about at the tips of his fingers, Zhang didn’t know if he should be laughing or crying. This is because although he succeeded in igniting his essence, the flame that he managed to make was tiny.
“I guess now I won’t even be afraid of being cold if I get lost in the forest because I can start fires…” He thought with a chuckle as he eyed the tiny flickering flame.
With a single thought the tiny flame levitating into the air and swirled about as if it had a will of its own. After circling around Zhang’s body a few times the flame faded into nothingness, leaving no trace that it had ever existed. This was because it had burned out the amount of essence that was used to ignite it.
“Guess I should stick to strengthening my body first before I can use this technique to its fullest.” He thought as he began circulating the essence in his body and dispersing it throughout his body.
Normally if someone had encountered the same setbacks that Zhang did then perhaps they would have given up, but for him when a setback appears and blocks his path, all he has to do is find another path and a solution. There is no end to one’s path, only slight detours that one must take to proceed onward.
If he lost everything then he must become stronger in order to never lose anything again, if his channels are too weak then his body must be strong so he could fight his enemies, and if one technique did not work for him then there is bound to be another one out there. For him giving up means forsaking those who had died in order for him to live, all of the comrades that were lost in the war would have meant nothing if he were to give up.