# 64. The Many Great Cultivation Paths The highest tower of the Nightwatcher constabulary was the Tower of Noble Spirit in the centre, with a sharp roof, and layers on layers of overhanging rooves, symmetrical on all four sides. The bottom four floors had surrounding walkways, the fifth and sixth had walkways that could also be used as balconies, overlooking the entire complex. That great eunuch, the one named “Azure-cloak Wei” by the men of the Jianghu, lived in that building. In the tea hall on the seventh floor, on a soft couch, the azure-clothed man half lay there, reading a book. That sky-blue robe was embroidered with intricate cloud motifs, excellent in its craft. His black hair was held up by a jade hairpin, the hair on his temples starting to whiten. His face was clean, with no sign of stubble, and his eyes were deep, carrying within them the experiences of many years. He had a handsome and refined-looking figure, with a reserved and calculating personality. In the tea room were two more people. One, who was accompanying Wei Yuan in drinking tea and reading, was a stern, humourless man, his features so stiff they looked carved, with absolutely no sign of emption. The other had a feminine aura, with a delicate and pretty face, red phoenix eyes, and brows like willow leaves. His lips were thin and red, and if one were to just glance at him, he almost looked like a cross-dressed woman. That effeminate man stood at the balcony, bathing in the warm sunlight, a hand resting on the sword hilt around his waist. He said, “The sun is radiant and enchanting, and there are no clouds for a thousand li, is not standing here and looking a the scenery better than hiding inside and reading books?” Wei Yuan put down the book in his hand, and laughed, “The number of books I can read is getting ever smaller. Recently I heard that the Sitiajian acquired a blue-cover book, recording the fundamental attributes of all things. I’m very curious. “Yang Yan[^1], after ten days is the day His Majesty pays respects to his ancestors. Send a notice down, to increase the number of patrols in the inner city, and reduce the traffic in and out.” The stiff-featured man merely grunted assent. The effeminate man let out a breath, “Father,[^2] you really have no plan to compete for the position of Deputy Minister of Revenues, and put one of your people there?” “This one we must let go.” Wei Yuan said, as he looked towards the entrance of the tea room. A blue-clothed clerk entered, head down. “Duke Wei, here are the results of this new bronze gong’s aptitude test, and his background. Please make your judgement.” He handed over a stack of documents. Wei Yuan opened the background check and glanced at it. This new bronze gong was called Xu Qi’an, and was originally a bailiff of Changle County. His father and uncle came from the army. These details were both important and not important. They were important, because the status of the Nightwatchers was very special, and so one’s family must be clean for three generations up. Xu Qi’an was a native of the capital, born and raised. Thus, Xu Qi’an’s background was up to standard. They were not important however, because every Nightwatcher had a similar clean background. Underneath the background check were the results of the intelligence test. Wei Yuan glanced at it, the corners of his mouth curling, “Qianrou, back when you answered this question, how long did you take?” The effeminate, flower-like beauty of a man raised his chin, “Fifteen breaths, Yang Yan took nineteen.” “This new recruit took twelve.” *Twelve…* The effeminate man raised his eyebrows, and commented haughtily, “Not bad.” The stiff-faced man did not show any expression, “Given that he could solve the tax silver case in such a short time, it is not strange that he has this much intelligence.” Wei Yuan laughed, and looked at the footnote afterwards, adding “The clerk holding the box was in a daze for about five breaths.” “Impossible.” The effeminate man suddenly turned, and walked back inside. Yang Yan frowned. This was to say, that in terms of thinking time, he only took seven breaths. What kind of sharp thinking did he possess? Yang Yan rose, and clasped his fists, “Father, give this person to me.” “He’s already under you; he’s under the silver gong Li Yuchun.” Wei Yuan put down his teacup, and looked towards the effeminate man, “You’ve seen him, that day at the Sitianjian.” *Sitianjian…* the effeminate man thought for a few seconds, and then sneered, “Him? The one with that wild and arrogant tongue.” As soon as Yang Yan heard that this new bronze gong was under Li Yuchun, he nodded approvingly. Every gold gong commanded seven silver gongs, and Li Yuchun was under his banner. “Father, how is he in battle?” Yang Yan asked. “Peak of Refining Body, there’s no point in testing him,” Wei Yuan laughed, “This person was recommended by the eldest princess. I think his thoughts are thorough, and he’s very able, so I specially let him join the Nightwatchers.” The eldest princess!? Yang Yan and the effeminate man exchanged looks; Wei Yuan did not tell them about this beforehand. Wei Yuan continued to read through the “conscience test” results, and slowly, his kindly expression became serious, as his deep gaze became sharp. Yang Yan stretched his back, and looked at the paper. The effeminate man instead brazenly walked over to Wei Yuan’s side, sticking his neck out to look. He immediately laughed, “He’s even crazier than me. Father, how do we deal with him?” His smile carried within it a heavy amount of schadenfreude. Wei Yuan pulled out the bottom most piece of paper, and upon it was written in ugly characters: *Your food and your money,
the flesh and blood of the people.
The people are easy to abuse,
the heavens are hard to cheat.* Azure-cloak Wei’s pupils suddenly froze, as he stared at the two sentences, not speaking for a long time. “The people are easy to abuse, the heavens are hard to cheat…” Yang Yan repeated this line. The effeminate man’s gaze flickered slightly, as he recovered from a brief moment of shock, his focus and Yang Yan’s on opposite lines: “Your food and your money, the flesh and blood of the people… heh, so this small bailiff thinks he’s eating from the hands of the common people, and not from the emperor.” Yang Yan thought for a moment, and asked, “What does father think?” Wei Yuan asked back, “What do you think?” Yan Yuan thought for a moment, “We eat our ruler’s salary, and take on his worries.” Implied in his words were that he did not agree with this sentence. Wei Yuan nodded, “One day in the future, when that small bronze gong rises to become a gold gong, you can debate that with him yourself.” The effeminate man raised his eyebrows, “Does father think that this kid will become a gold gong one day?” “As long as he is a martial artist, then there will be no problem.” Wei Yuan’s smile was kindly, “The three sects all have their rules; the Arcanists are restrained by the fortune of humanity, the Shamans and Warlocks also. Upon this world, only the martial artists are the purest. “Even though I despise martial artists breaking laws with force, I cannot but admit that the more proud and arrogant a martial cultivator, the faster they will progress. “They only when they respect nothing, fear nothing, can they upturn yin and yang.” Wei yuan pulled out a new ink stone from under the table, and poured into it cinnabar pigment and water. Making it into ink, he dipped his pen in. On the background check he wrote two words: Upper Jia. “A martial artist, arrogant and unrestrained, wants to be the hero of the world. The greatest hero, is one which serves a country and its people.” Upper Jia! Since the founding of the Nightwatchers, the people who ever got that rank could be counted on one hand. … A secret room, somewhere. Li Yuchun pointed to the wooden tub, “Strip, and sit inside.” *Finally, I can reach Refining Qi…* Xu Qi’an calmed the excitement in his heart, and looked at the bathtub, filled with an inky green liquid, the vapours irritating his nose. This little thing was called marrow-washing liquid. Just this tub was worth about a hundred and fifty taels of silver. He quickly took off his robe, trousers, shoes, and sat in the bathtub, naked. Li Yuchun asked, “You have not lost your virginity?” Xu Qi’an nodded, “My second uncle is a Baihu of the city guard. He told me, that before Refining Qi, I was not to lose my virginity.” He leant back comfortably in the bathtub, asking, “Boss, you’re Refining Spirit?” Li Yuchun grunted a yes. “After Refining Spirit, is Copper Skin and Iron Bones, right?” Li Yuchun grunted again. Xu Qi’an laughed, “The name sounds awkward, why isn’t it called Diamond Body?” *Copper Skin and Iron Bones was too “low”, it makes us martial artists seem like cultureless buffoons.* “The Buddhist third rank is called Diamond Body.” *So that’s why!* Xu Qi’an nodded, as he further asked for knowledge, “Boss, of all the cultivation paths in the world, which one is the strongest?” Li Yuchun said without hesitation, “The Daoists say, they are the strongest.” “How about the others?” “They all say they are the strongest.” “Oh… I get it.” “But under heaven, all cultivation groups have one common point of agreement, that martial artists are the most vulgar, and don’t deserve any limelight.” “… I do know about this, because martial artists only have extreme strength, and not any magic.” They’re not flamboyant enough. “This is only what’s on the surface. Within, there’s a greater secret, that touches on the upper limit of cultivation.” Xu Qi’an straightened his back, asking, “Boss, can you tell me?” --- A “breath” is a set amount of time, just under a second. [^1]: 杨砚 [^2]: Wei Yuan is Yang Yan and Nangong Qianrou 南宫倩柔 (this person)’s adoptive father.