Chapter 4: The First Secret Manual

“Of course I do.” Old Mi gently stroked his beard. Perhaps he used a bit too much force, because a few strands accidentally fell down. He hurriedly tucked those strands into his sleeves, his eyes turning cold.

“What’s the method?” Zu An asked frantically, not noticing such minor details in the slightest.

Old Mi cast him a sharp glance, then said, “The seal is located in a sensitive area which is extremely fragile. If we were to use outside force to disperse it, you could easily suffer internal damages. You have to rely on your own power to dissolve it. Once you reach the Master level of cultivation and your qi becomes spiritual, you’ll naturally have the ability to unseal it.”

“Master? What level is that?” Zu An had a blank look on his face.

Old Mi frowned. “You don’t even know such rudimentary concepts? No wonder everyone says you are useless.”

Old Mi then began to explain, allowing Zu An to understand the cultivation levels of this world. The vast majority of cultivators were graded across nine ranks. At the first rank, you would learn to use unique breathing methods to harmonize with the natural world, drawing elemental ki into your body. This signified that one had formally embarked upon the path of cultivation. The second rank involved using that ki to temper your skin, making the absorption process faster. The third rank involved tempering the flesh. The fourth rank involved tempering the muscles. The fifth rank tempered the bones, the sixth rank tempered the marrow, the seventh rank tempered the blood, while the eighth rank tempered your internal organs and established a network of ki meridians throughout your body. The ninth rank tempered the brain and your senses, allowing the storage of raw ki.

Once cultivators were able to gather the raw, unruly streams of ki in the body into a ki vortex, the ki would continuously strengthen your limbs and your bones, allowing you to finally break into the Master stage. If Masters were to then develop their soulsense, they would break through to the Grandmaster stage and be able to control the fates of all below this level.

Above the Grandmaster stage was the ‘Earth Immortal’ stage. With but a wave of the hand, one could topple the mountains and overturn the seas, becoming akin to the gods of the ancient legends.

“Temper the skin, flesh, and bones? That’s a rather casual way of setting up the levels,” Zu An mused to himself, an odd look on his face. “So what comes after Earth Immortals?”

“After Earth Immortals?” Old Mi raised his head to stare into the stars, a hint of eagerness and anticipation in his gaze. “Supposedly, one would then be able to wander through the stars and gain truly eternal life. Alas, it would seem that no one in all of history has ever reached this stage.”

Zu An didn’t care about this too much, as for now it was far too distant for him. He quickly brought the conversation back to the topic he cared about. “But I’ve been told that I have no talent and am already an adult. How can I possibly reach the Master stage?”

Old Mi glanced at him. “It is indeed pointless for you to train in any ordinary techniques. I, however, just so happen to have a strange, ancient technique that I acquired in my early days. It just so happens to suit you perfectly.”

“What’s so strange about it?” Zu An’s heart clenched.

Old Mi replied, “Ordinary cultivators rely on using elemental stones, also known as elementum, as well as various medicines and herbs to help them absorb natural energy and use it to strengthen the body. The goal is to create ki-passageways throughout the body. Given your talent, however? Even putting aside the fact that you are already an adult, if someone gave you far, far more elementum than an ordinary person, you would at most be able to train to the third rank. Given how rare elementum is, who would be willing to waste it on someone with no future such as yourself?

“But my technique is different. It is the essence of rebirth through destruction. If you want to master it, the only requirement is that you get beaten up. Repeatedly. The more badly you get beat up, the more easily you will break through to the next stage.”

Zu An felt as though he was spinning in the wind. “Why would such a ridiculous, shitty technique even exist in this world?”

Old Mi was instantly enraged. “Ignorant child. This divine technique is the only technique in the world that can grant etern-… ahem.” He quickly caught himself and immediately changed the topic. “Hem-hem! Do you want to train in it or not?”

“Yes! Of course I want to train in it!” By this point, Zu An was like a drowning man grasping at straws. For the sake of his pride and joy, even the most ridiculous of techniques was worth training. “But, the two of us have never even met. Why are you being so kind to me?”

Old Mi let out a long sigh. “Solely because I am not long for this world. I do not wish for this technique to enter the dirt and be buried with me.”

Only then did Zu An understand. “Elder, may I ask your venerable name? In the future, I will definitely bring this technique to new heights and ensure that your reputation is not besmirched.” By now, he was naturally certain that ‘Old Mi’ wasn’t the man’s real name.

“You should continue to address me as Old Mi.  Heh heh… I’m glad to hear you express that sentiment. Looks like I chose well.” Old Mi let out a strange chuckle. “Take this book back and slowly analyze it. If there’s something you don’t understand, seek me out.” 

Old Mi tossed a black scroll tome over, then turned to leave. In his heart, he was almost unable to hide his delight. Finally! After so many years, I’ve finally found an appropriate receptacle!

Many years ago, he had been given a top-secret mission. He had nearly died countless times before finally managing to acquire this secret manual, but afterwards he chose not to turn it in. Instead, he killed his comrades, feigned death, then hide and trained in the art in secret. Alas, there’s no such thing as a perfect secret. That organization seemed to have caught wind of him, and was most likely going to find him here soon.

He had yet to master this marvelous art, and so he was completely incapable of truly fighting back against them. In the end, he had decided upon a ‘golden cicada flees the shell’ strategy, via a possession-rebirth technique he had acquired in his youth.

Old Mi’s current body was tottering and decrepit anyhow. He had long ago wanted to switch to a new body, and the current danger he was in had only solidified this decision. However, possession was no easy task. First and foremost, the target had to train in the same technique as him. Only then would he be able to pour his cultivation base into the target. Second, the person had to have a yin-dominant body.

Possession was a highly dangerous endeavor; the possessor had to find a target that suited him almost perfectly. Old Mi himself was a eunuch; if he tried to possess a forceful, yang-dominant personality, the likely result would be that it would almost instantly burn him up alive.

But… he was also rather unwilling to transfer himself into yet another eunuch. In every world, eunuchs dreamed of being full and complete men. Who would be willing to be reborn as a eunuch?

As a result of these competing pressures, till now he had yet to find a suitable candidate. Now, he had finally encountered this useless son-in-law of the Chu clan. The child had been sealed in a fashion that made him equivalent to a eunuch, but he wasn’t really a eunuch. Old Mi was confident that once he took over the child’s body, he would be able to slowly repair it.

Just as importantly, this person didn't seem to have any real family or friends. If he possessed this person, there wouldn’t be many who would notice any strange mannerisms or personality changes. In addition, this person was the son-in-law of the Chu clan; in the future, he would have plenty of opportunities to win fortune and glory. And, he had an absolutely stunningly beautiful wife!

Even a eunuch like Old Mi couldn’t help but feel a bit excited when he thought about Chu Chuyan’s beautiful visage.

Zu An knew none of this, of course. He was excitedly and hopefully eyeing the scroll in his hand. This was his only hope, after all.

The scroll seemed to be made out of silken gold, yet different from both. He couldn’t tell what it was made from. Just as he was going to go ask Old Mi some questions, an icy voice suddenly rang out by his ears:

Detected: Mountain Secret Scroll - [Phoenix Nirvana Sutra]. Consume it to activate a keyboard function?”

Zu An was stunned. He never would’ve imagined that he would acquire a secret manual with such ease. Aren’t the ‘Twelve Unknowable Places’ supposed to be super-deadly and super-mysterious places? Aren’t the scrolls supposed to be almost impossible to get?

Despite his shock, he still replied in the affirmative without hesitate.

A heartbeat later, the keyboard appeared before his hands. The scroll suddenly transformed into a streak of golden light and was sucked into the ‘F2’ key. The light glimmered across the energy lines which covered the key… and then, the keyboard suddenly powered on, with multiple keys now backlit.

You have found your first secret manual and have activated the Troll/Rage system. Part of the lottery rewards system is now available.

Troll System: As a dedicated Keyboard Warrior, your noble mission is to constantly drive the people around you berserk with rage. Once you have successfully trolled your target, the owner of the keyboard shall receive an amount of Rage points commensurate to how furious the target has become. You can spend the Rage points to purchase items, use techniques, and play the lottery…

Zu An noticed a holographic display suddenly appear above the keyboard. The explanation had appeared on this holographic display, which also had a few buttons on it. He was able to move the cursor to various options. The options available were ‘Lottery’, ‘Shop’, and a number of other commands which were blurred under a mosaic for now.

For now, the ‘Lottery’ command was shining, while the ‘Shop’ command was grayed out. Most likely, it would be the next function to unlock.

At the bottom of this virtual screen was something which seemed akin to an ‘item bar’ or ‘skill bar’ in RPG’s. Alas, there was nothing there for now. At the very top of the screen there was a short line of text:

Current Rage Points: 0.

Zu An was puzzled. Earlier, I clearly pissed off Snow so much that her period was about to arrive early. Why didn’t I receive any rage points for it? Must be because back then the keyboard wasn’t activated.

He moved the cursor to the ‘Lottery’ command, then hit the enter key on the keyboard. A new paragraph of words appeared on the screen.

For each 100 Rage points you expend, you may draw one lottery ticket. As this is your first time activating a keyboard function, you are permitted to draw three tickets for free. The drop rates for these three tickets have been greatly increased, and the specific drops will be randomized. In the future, all lottery drops will be based off the user’s level. Do you wish to begin drawing your tickets? Y/N.

Holy shit, so this is a newbie gift package? Zu An excitedly clicked ‘yes’. A spot of light suddenly appeared on the keyboard and began randomly flashing across all the different keys.

Zu An watched with hot, eager eyes. What sort of reward would come up? A level 999 artifact saber? An incomparably powerful pet? A hot little fairy maiden companion wouldn’t be bad either…

As he was salivating over the possibilities, he saw the spot of light suddenly come to a halt on the ‘space’ key. Three words suddenly appeared on the screen: “Thanks for playing!”

“?”

“???”

“??????”

Zu An was speechless. Didn’t you say the drop rates would be greatly increased? I want my Midas touch! I want my completely overpowered MC powerup system! Everything had seemed so incredibly exciting, but in the end all he got was a ‘thanks for playing’. This keyboard system must be the laughingstock amongst your fellow systems in whatever system-universe you come from!

Do you wish to continue drawing prizes? Y/N. These words appeared on the screen.

“You can go straight to hell!” Zu An gritted his teeth. Just as he was about to push the ‘yes’ button, a sudden thought came to his mind. He hurriedly ran to a basin of water, washed his face, and only then drew his second prize.

This time, he didn’t let himself get lost in wild flights of fantasy. He stared unblinkingly at the spot of light, memorized how much time the light spent atop each key. It spent the most time atop the ‘space’ bar, the second most time on the various numbers, and flitted through the various letters at lightning speed.

I bet the amount of time it spends on each key corresponds to how valuable the prize is. Still, by now he had mostly given up his wild fantasies. Anything would be better than the space bar!

His prayers were apparently answered. In the end, the spot of light came to a halt atop the ‘Q’ key. Something appeared on the screen, and this time it wasn’t a ‘thank you for playing’.

Zu An felt overjoyed… but quickly, his smile froze into a rictus of a grin. Why is it… that this ‘reward’ seems like the steel wool pads we used for scrubbing pots in the kitchen? Is the system encouraging me to walk the path of a chef? Or perhaps the path of a transmigrant merchant?

Hell, I used to buy those things in packs of four! Why the hell would it appear in this reward system?! Zu An was beginning to question the meaning of life itself.

Congratulations! You have won a ‘Heiress Ball of Delights’! [1]


1. So, this is based off a Chinese internet meme which states that there are rich women who pay large sums of money to hire boytoys, then do some really SM stuff to them. One of the meme-jokes is that one of the things these rich women like to do is to use steel wool pads to scrub their boytoys, uh, ‘privates’. The ‘artifacts’ used to do this are jokingly referred to as a ‘Rich Lady’s Ball of Delights’.

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