Ancient Strengthening Technique - Chapter 850-851
AST 850 –Marionette Sect, Nine Yang Marionette King
Qing Shui followed the waitress and slowly ascended to the upper floors. Along the way, he realized that the business model of the Octagon Inn was significantly different than the other inns he had visited. The lowest cultivation base of the waitresses was Xiantian and yet all of them were young and beautiful. Nevertheless, the waitresses were sufficient to satisfy the vanity and psychological needs of most martial warriors and wealthy merchants.
The architectural style and the atmosphere of the Octagon Inn was more or less similar to the other inns. However, Octagon Inn was a bit unique, in the sense that the waitresses assigned on each floor were different. The higher the floor level, the stronger the waitress would become and they would be progressively prettier than the previous floors.
As he climbed the floors slowly, he also noticed that each level was almost 70% occupied by patrons. Based on that alone, the profit of the Octagon Inn for one day would be immeasurable. Fortunately, the expenses on the food and utilities of the inn were considered modest. If they didn't contribute part of the profits to the improvement of their service quality, it would be difficult to maintain their business in the long term.
The area of each floor had also become progressively smaller. The higher the floor level, the fewer the number the patrons would be. The number of patrons decreased considerably starting from the sixth floor. The seventh floor had fewer than hundred patrons and the eighth floor had less than twenty. On the ninth floor, there were only three people………
"Perhaps some of them are inside the private rooms." Qing Shui thought.
Qing Shui chose a room close to the corner where he could overlook the scenery outside from the windows. Moreover, he chose the room because it was significantly brighter than the other rooms.
"Please wait for a moment, sir. We will serve the dishes shortly. I will inform Miss Huang Wu and check on her schedule." The waitress showed a smile before she left the room for her duties.
Feeling bored, Qing Shui decided to check around the room. The area of the living room was about a hundred square meters, where it had access to the bathroom, kitchen and two bedrooms. The entire room was filled with a refreshing air and there was no dust to be seen. The floors and the walls were all white, giving the room an impression of purity and holiness.
Knock knock knock!
"Come in!" Qing Shui commanded.
As the door opened, eight waitresses wearing neat uniforms entered in succession, each carrying eight smaller dishes on their trays. The dishes looked appetizing, with the delicious aroma filling the room within seconds.
Eight waitresses each with eight dishes, totalling to about 64 dishes altogether……….
Would he be able to finish everything? The staggering amount of dishes wasn't strange at all when Qing Shui realized the amount of money he had paid for this room. After the waitresses had left, Qing Shui sat down in front of a long end table without touching the dishes. There were two pairs of chopsticks in front of the dishes as well.
After the time to burn a stick of incense had passed, Qing Shui finally picked up his chopsticks to begin his feast. Just when he was about to eat the food….
Knock knock knock!
Someone knocked on the door.
"Come in!" said Qing Shui as he put down his chopsticks.
The door opened and a came in a beautiful woman. Qing Shui could tell that she was Huang Wu simply by her aura. She seemed quite young despite her tall, seductive figure, which could not be overlooked even with a black stylish dress draping her body.
Her brows were curved like the sickle of a new moon and her lashes curled and elongated, which complemented her pretty eyes, as if she was smiling, albeit subtly. The straight bridge of her nose was the centerpiece of her delicate face and there was a hint of individuality on her pouty red lips, in contrast to her smooth skin which was as white as snow.
However, there was something else emitting from her body –a strange aura that felt quite forceful to him!
Her cultivation techniques were of the metal element!
"Are you not going to invite me to sit down?" The woman noticed Qing Shui staring at her but without a shred of excitement or eroticism. From the beginning, his expression was as calm as the serene waters, which ironically caused her heart to skip a beat.
She had a pleasant voice that could sooth the hearts of those who heard it. Realizing his manners, Qing Shui stood up and gave a warm smile as he said, "Please, sit down!"
Huang Wu was startled after she found herself developing an interest in this young man. She knew he was different from the first moment she saw him. Even though she couldn't feel his true strength, she could still tell how strong he was based on her intuition.
Qing Shui was actually shocked as well. She was a Grade Five Martial Saint….. Which was the same as Di Chen. He also found it odd that a woman of such strength would work here as a hostess to entertain male guests.
"Miss, why do you choose to work here despite possessing such ability?" Qing Shui was curious. If she needed money, she could easily acquire it from the countless admirers in the city. Moreover, she might be someone with an influential status, otherwise she would not be able to stay here without any problems.
Maybe she had the support of a powerful force behind the Octagon Inn?
"Do you think I am shameless for doing so?" The woman asked softly as she smiled at him. However, Qing Shui was still unmoved by her charm.
"No, I don't. There's no difference between nobility nor humility in life. We are, however, all born in different classes," Qing Shui replied as he shook his head gently.
"Then you are saying that I'm shameless."
"I only said there's no nobleness and lowliness in life. Perhaps you are looking down on everything you've done?" Qing Shui looked at the beautiful woman, yet he could never bring himself to be swayed by her appearance nor her behavior.
"Alright, let's not talk about that anymore. Let's talk about something more cheerful." The woman beamed.
"Sure. Do you know the origins of the name 'Sky City'?" asked Qing Shui without hesitation. He didn't have much time, so naturally, he decided to retrieve as much relevant information as he could from her.
"Actually, there's no clear explanation on that. Some say that the city occupies an extremely high ground, almost to the point of touching the sky. Thus, the 'Sky City' was adapted. Others say that there's a small inner city located at the highest peak of the city, which is ironically known as the 'Sky City' as well. In the end, the entire city was renamed as the 'Sky City'," the woman said without rushing her words.
"This Sky City should be the same powerful city I was told about!" Qing Shui murmured, as if he was talking to himself.
Half an hour had passed. The woman didn't intend to leave yet, so Qing Shui picked up the wine and poured a cup for her. Then he poured himself some as well.
"I see that you're quite powerful. Have you ever thought about looking for a powerful advocate?" The pretty woman swivelled her cup for a while before pursing her lips to drink the wine.
Qing Shui picked up his cup and drank the wine as well. Then he lowered his head and squinted his eyes for a brief second. The woman couldn't see his face clearly when he had lowered his head but if she did, she would have seen the coldness in his eyes. Qing Shui, however, maintained his smile and replied in a soft tone.
"You mean an advocate like you? You seem alright but not strong enough," replied Qing Shui. His eyes seemed a little bit colder than earlier.
"Of course I'm not strong enough. But I can introduce you to a powerful force. If you are willing, you will get all the money, skills, medicinal pills and women of your choosing. How about it?"
"I might be inexperienced but I still have some knowledge about the powerful forces in the Central Continent. May I know what kind of 'powerful force' you meant earlier? At least you can tell me that, right?" said Qing Shui as he looked at the beautiful woman with slight anticipation.
"We are from the Marionette Sect," the woman said in a calm tone while flashing a smile to Qing Shui.
"So the drug you slipped in was to nurture me as a marionette for your sect." Qing Shui turned to the woman and locked his terrifying aura to suppress her movement.
"You are actually unaffected?" Her face turned pale as she stared at Qing Shui with a surprised expression.
Qing Shui knew exactly why she had approached him –she was not simply a woman who was employed to entertain guests but a woman to select marionettes for the Marionette Sect. Her goal was to find those with decent cultivation through a reliable network before marking her targets. Regardless how much those wealthy traders or merchants paid to see her, she would not entertain them, as they were unsuitable to become a marionette for her sect.
Qing Shui was no stranger to the term 'marionette'. Marionettes were divided into various categories or realms. The lowest realm would be those of a walking corpse with high defenses refined from drugs and potions, unsusceptible to the sharp edge of a blade. However, this type of marionette would lack the basic intelligence of a human being, replaced with a basic instinct to attack until the brain or the heart had been struck or crushed. Marionettes of this type were immune to the sensation of pain from broken arms or legs. The power they could unleash was limited to 30% of their overall strength.
The next level of marionettes would maintain their basic yet elementary intelligence, as they would possess the basic instinct to evade deadly attacks. The power they could unleash would be limited to half of their overall strength.
As the level of the marionettes progressed, the limitation to their strength would decrease and they would be able to restore a progressive amount of intelligence. The highest level of marionettes were rumored to be different, as they could unleash power a few times stronger than their overall ability. Not only would they become increasingly stronger than a mighty demonic beast, they would behave like an ordinary human with a functioning intelligence capable of processing complex thoughts.
In any case, the acts of the Marionette Sect were still unbelievably terrifying. They could be considered an elite sect, much more formidable than those skilled in utilizing poison. The Marionette Sect was more or less similar to those sects that specialized in beast taming –a beast tamer's goal was to tame demonic beasts, while the goal of the Marionette Sect was to control a human being. Demonic beasts were no exception to the Marionette Sect, albeit rare, as these beasts could become marionette beasts after a successful nurturing of their mind and body.
Moreover, marionettes have a time limit to function as they were intended. After a certain amount of time, marionettes must consume a special medicinal pill that allows the continuous control of their state of mind. In spite of that, a marionette of a higher level would be able to retaliate as they possessed a stronger state of mind but would not be able to dispel the control of a marionette master completely.
"Why did you target me?" Qing Shui observed the woman. She was as beautiful as a blooming flower but her heart was as venomous as a poisonous scorpion. Qing Shui would have never expected her to be such a woman from the first glance. Truly, one could never judge someone solely by their appearance!
"No matter. If I knew this would happen, I would have slipped a greater amount of drugs into your wine. I didn't think you would possess such terrifying power. Why did we choose you? Because your body is very suitable to become the 'Nine Yang Marionette King'. I have already contacted the Grand Elder. Soon the Old Ancestor will nurture you to become the strongest marionette king the world will ever know." The woman spoke at a casual pace, undisturbed by Qing Shui's demeanor.
"I can kill you easily right now, do you believe that?" Qing Shui looked at her with a perplexed expression, confused as to why the woman was still confident despite his threat.
"It's too late now!" She shook her head and fled.
The door suddenly burst open, followed by an old man entering the room.
Qing Shui felt goosebumps as soon as he saw the abrupt appearance of the old man. All he could think of was to escape from this room as soon as possible. But before he could, the room suddenly felt like a torrid purgatory as he became increasingly uncomfortable. However, it was still bearable as the suffocating sensation was considerably weaker than that of the woman in the crystal coffin.
In addition, his spiritual energy had become remarkably stronger after the incident with the woman in the crystal coffin, which was why he was able to endure the suffocating force of his opponent despite his current strength.
And that begged the question: What was the highest power a Peak Martial Saint could possess?
The strength of ten stars was essentially an enlightenment towards the Martial Emperor but that was just it, an enlightenment. He couldn't sense the power of this Grand Elder of the Marionette Sect but he could tell that he wasn't a Martial Emperor. However, this old man was undoubtedly far stronger than Qing Shui currently was.
The Grand Elder of the Marionette Sect…. Seemed like in every supreme sect exists at least one extraordinary martial warrior. Only when Qing Shui had reached a higher platform did he realize there were other stronger existences in this world.
When he was a Xiantian warrior back then, all he could see was other significantly stronger Xiantian martial warriors. If he didn't manage to reach a certain realm of cultivation, he would never cross his path with any powerful martial warriors at all. As he gained his power progressively, the stronger ones would begin to emerge, much to his chagrin. If he were to come here with the strength of a Xiantian, he would have never realized the existence of a stronger force, nor he would cross his path with them. Just like this Octagon Inn, he would never be able to ascend to the ninth floor, as that privilege would be stripped from him immediately.
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AST 851 –Nine Yang Golden Body, Confounded Retreat (teaser)
"Grand Elder, today's the lucky day. We have finally found the man with the legendary 'Nine Yang Golden Body'," The woman named Huang Wu said to the old man in a respectful tone.
Qing Shui, on the other hand, quickly raised his cautiousness and carefully observed the old man. He couldn't pinpoint the old man's exact age but the geezer was certainly old, as evidenced by his withering appearance. The old man was also wearing a full set of plain clothes –the simplest, most common clothes in the market –over his moderately thin body. In spite of his appearance, the old man's eyes were gleaming with a bizarre mannerism –it was weird and perplexing.
When Qing Shui saw the old man's cane, he froze. That was the Dragon-Headed Cane, if not very similar to the one kept in the Realm of the Violet Jade Immortal. There wasn’t any obvious difference in terms of their appearances, so for Qing Shui, the canes were of the same kind.
The old man snapped his attention to Qing Shui and revealed a grin. His eyes were transfixed on Qing Shui as he said, "Haha, this is great. I’ve been searching for 300 years for the legendary Nine Yang Golden Body and was about to give up, until you showed up to our doorstep. Thank the Heavens for treating me so well."
"Nine Yang Golden Body?" This was the second time Qing Shui heard of this term that was supposedly a type of special constitution of a human body. However, he was extremely bewildered because he had heard two different terms to this constitution. In the case of the Marionette Sect, it was the 'Nine Yang Golden Body'. For the outsiders, it wasn't the Nine Yang but the body of 'Nine Yin' Instead.
Qing Shui was essentially a marionette to this old man –a marionette that could potentially become the Nine Yang Marionette King.
The lower levelled marionettes were more or less walking corpses but they were not dead entirely, as their bodily functions, like the heart, were still intact –all except the brain. In other words, the brain was dead, thus rendering the marionette the incapability of utilizing the basic cognitive functions. Marionettes of lower levels would always display such behavior and as such, the chances of retaliation would be extremely low.
The 'Nine Yang Golden Body' was said to be the strongest constitution amongst the other types of constitution for a marionette in the Marionette Sect. Moreover, whoever could obtain such person of said constitution would be able to reach the top level with just the control of the Body, thus achieving the greatest dream a marionette master could strive for. Should they achieve the process of nurturing a marionette to become the Nine Yang Marionette King, the influence and power of the Marionette Sect would never be underestimated ever again.
The old man maintained his gaze on Qing Shui while shivering with an overwhelming sense of excitement.
Qing Shui's first instinct was to escape quickly as he clearly had no confidence in winning against this old man. In the presence of absolute power, everything was futile. He feared that he wouldn’t be able to kill his opponent even with the deadly forces of his Primordial Flame Ball and Poison Weapons. So the only realistic way was to run when he had the chance to.
Fortunately for Qing Shui, he wasn’t as helpless as he was during the time he faced the woman in the crystal coffin. Last time, his powers and body were confined and restricted, so he wasn’t able to retaliate or move his muscles. So while he had the freedom to move this time, he decided to think of ways to escape this predicament as soon as possible.
"Enough. Don’t even think of escaping, because you can’t. If you try anything, I will make sure you suffer the consequence of doing so," said the old man as he curved a sly smile on his face.
"Such confidence? Then this Octagon Inn must be the front of your Marionette Sect!" Qing Shui laughed.
"And you’re still able to laugh? You’re right, this Octagon Inn is one of the many outposts of the Marionette Sect. All these years, this outpost had acquired a lot of decent marionettes for our sect." The old man spoke with pride, as if using the Octagon Inn as a bait to capture potential marionettes was the greatest idea the Marionette Sect ever had.
Qing Shui gathered up all his power within the body and raised his spiritual energy to the maximum. His hand shivered for a moment, then with a quick movement, he shot out ten poisonous Ten Thousand Coldsteel Needles toward his opponents instantaneously!
Petal Rain Under The Skies!
At the same time, Qing Shui exerted his force on his feet and released the Mighty Elephant Stomp!
In a mere second, Qing Shui instantly fell to the lower floors –from the ninth floor to the ground floor –like an 'atomic bomb' of a tremendous force. He was able to escape swiftly in the midst of chaos in the Octagon Inn.
Nine Continents Steps!
After Qing Shui had managed to escape through the use of the Nine Continents Steps, the entire Octagon Inn began to collapse instantaneously, killing the unfortunate souls unwittingly caught in the crumbling of the building. The patrons were consisted of men from the supreme aristocratic clans and wealthy merchants, so Qing Shui didn’t feel pity when most of them had died. Those who were able to escape were people of martial cultivators. While some of them were fine, most of them were injured from the falling debris.
The thought of using the 10,000 Years Coldsteel Needles to inflict heavy damage on the old man didn’t cross his mind but the needles were sufficient to block against the Grand Elder's assault, allowing a small window of time to escape from the predicament.
The old man and the woman quickly dashed outwards, hovering in mid-air as they scanned the area below with attentive eyes. However, no matter where they looked, they just couldn’t seem to find the silhouette of that young man. Realizing something was wrong, they quickly glanced at the heap of debris below their feet.
"He should be here. Why can't I feel his aura?" The old man ordered his men to remove the debris with haste. Even if they had to dig up the soil below three feet, they must find him –dead or alive.
Unbeknownst to the old man, Qing Shui had already escaped ten thousand li away from the scene through his Nine Continents Steps. He immediately mounted on the Fire Bird without hesitation and flew as far as he could. This incident in addition to the one with the woman in the crystal coffin had made him realize the great disparity between his power and that of his opponents. The road to the top of the martial arts world was still quite far.
He could initiate a split-second kill if he were to fight against martial warriors of the same level. But in the scenario against a higher levelled opponent, it would be difficult as the disparity of strength was too great. If he were to combat against the old man alone, he might be able to land a few hits. However, that thought immediately vanished when he sensed a tremendous amount of strength emitting from the old man’s body. He wouldn’t be able to win anyway, so without a second thought, he chose to escape.
Against the old man alone, Qing Shui might have half a chance of winning, especially if he used the Thunderous Beast’s Violet Lightning Strike and his own divinity Protection. The divinity Protection may prove to be ineffective should he clash with the old man but if the Violet Lightning Strike was able to show an effect, then the old man would surely die.
Power, he needed to gain more power!
At that moment, Qing Shui found himself wanting more power, his desire grew stronger the more he felt helpless. If he could break through the Seventh Heavenly Layer of his Ancient Strengthening Technique, killing the old fool would be a piece of cake…….
Qing Shui hads currently reached an area of wasteland that stretched toward the path of the Eastern Victory divine Continent. He finally felt at ease as he rode on his Fire Bird, despite the subtle nervousness during his focus to escape the grasp of the old man. He wasn't too worried, because he knew he could escape for safety and destroy the Octagon Inn at the same time.
At the same time, the Grand Elder of the 'Octagon Inn' was on the verge of going mad. He released his anger at the mountain-pile of debris, feeling dejected as ever……..
A number of old men and sect members stood behind the Grand Elder with frowns on their faces. They were so close in snatching a marionette of the Nine Yang Golden Body and now they had lost the chance.
Qing Shui kept his eyes on his surroundings before affirming the safety of his current position. He urged his Fire Bird to fly as fast as possible as the sky began to light up brightly, indicating the current hour to be afternoon. Due to his quick reaction and swiftness, he had managed to lose the pursuers from the Marionette Sect completely.
He didn’t expect the Grand Elder to reveal his own constitution as the NIne Yang Golden Body, much less possessing a body of extraordinary power too. Qing Shui didn’t think he was born with the Nine Yang Golden Body but an outcome of an illusion wrought by the cultivation of the Ancient Strengthening Technique.
He shook his head and dispersed the confusing thoughts. He didn't care if he had the Nine Yang Golden Body or not, nothing felt satiated unless he had the Ancient Strengthening Technique and the Realm of the Violet Jade Immortal, as well as everything he had owned until now. If only he had the opportunity to gain an immense power, he would be able to reach the heights of the entire continents in the world as he had dreamed of. By then, he could do whatever he wanted and do the things he had been wanting to do.
He had been running relentlessly for the whole day. It wasn’t until the sky had turned dark that Qing Shui finally took the time to enter the Realm of the Violet Jade Immortal.
With the Realm of the Violet Jade Immortal as his haven, Qing Shui felt happy as this place was private space of absolute safety. When he was inside, he had practically spent 100 days or three months, doing absolutely everything to strengthen his cultivation and artifacts. Moreover, a lot of things could change within three months but in reality, Qing Shui had only spent six hours of real time strengthening techniques and his power.
He also took some time to temper some artifacts!
After a lengthy period, the Spirit Gathering Lamp had reached Grade Three!
The Spirit Gathering Lamp: An ancient artifact that could allow the user to increase the spiritual power of their demonic beasts engaged in a battle, thus increasing the attacking prowess of the demonic beasts. Moreover, the increase was in correlation to the realm of the grade. A passive artifact with zero energy consumption, the lamp was now in Grade Three, which had further increased the efficiency of its usage.
Qing Shui was particularly pleased with the 30% increase to the demonic beasts' powers. Even though the speed of the advancement was comparably different than before and the time required to level up seemed longer, that had little effect on his pleasant mood. As long as the progress remained on the steady path, everything would be fine.
Soulshake Bell: Grade Seven. The Soulshake Bell had a superb effect that would be extremely formidable against most demonic beast. There would also be an absolute hit on demonic beasts of Peak Martial King. If death was not meant to be, then they would certainly be crippled. The bell has an extraordinary effect on Martial Saints as well.
Demon Binding Ropes: Grade Six. The ropes could overcome powerful opponents of greater strength easily.
Qing Shui hadn't been using the Demon Binding Ropes for quite a while, so he wasn't sure what kind of power the ropes could possess for now. The further the realm, the longer the time required for the upgrade would be. Speaking of upgrade, it has been a while since the Soulshake Bell and the Demon Binding Ropes hadn't achieve a breakthrough.
The speed of upgrade of the Blackjade Poisonous Spiderweb and the Spirit Gathering Lamp seemed a little bit slower. Regardless, the Blackjade Poisonous Spiderweb was now in the Grade Four –the best among the other weapons!
Despite the increase to its battle prowess, the time required for the upgrade was uncertain. However, one thing’s for certain –the magical treasure has the ability to nurture a person to a powerful warrior once the artifact had reached the final realm. In extreme cases, a magical treasure could even bring forth a destruction to the world.
If he didn’t have the Realm of the Violet Jade Immortal, the realm of the magical treasure may require a longer period of time to break through. But when he thought about the immense power the magical treasure could potentially achieve, he didn’t mind waiting even for a few more years as he was quite confident that his Realm of the Violet Jade Immortal could hasten the process without a hitch.
The drawing of the [Hundred Forms of the Tiger] and the 'Realm of Drawing Bones' was just on an elementary level. There was still a long way to go despite the potential growth of his drawing. Luckily, he still had an ample time to advance his drawings, so the only problem he had was the accumulation of time. If he continued to put a constant effort to his drawings, he would eventually yield a great success.
Qing Shui continued his way to the east the next day. With a lot of free time on his hands, he decided to look at the [Hundred Forms of the Tiger] and the [Poison Scripture] while mounted on his Fire Bird through the long dull journey. He would also ponder over a few things sometimes. As he had been busy for the past few days, he left practically left no room to think some things through.
He didn't need to ponder over some matters purposely as everything had happened according to his will. Moreover, he had no choice and most times he was required to act as quickly as he could. After he had calmed himself down, the first thing that popped into his mind was the matters involving his romance.
Qing Shui felt quite troubled thinking about his relationships with his wives. He had never doubted himself as someone who was extremely possessive with the ladies. He couldn't give up on them, yet he clearly understood that he shouldn't be promiscuous with any women he met. Falling in love was easy, as feelings could develop in a mere few seconds. It would be hard to get along with each other over time but it would be way harder to forget about someone he truly loved. The worst part about any relationship was getting along with a few exceptional women, as it would be the hardest situation a man could face in his lifetime.
In any case, the ladies had practically never asked him to love them solely or even pester him with that matter. They didn't even limit the number of women he could love either…….
Perhaps this was the custom in the World of the Nine Continents. Even though all men and women were considered equal, men were allowed to wed multiples times and have numerous wives but no one would hear the news of a woman having multiple husbands. The reason may have to do with the majority of martial warriors being male. Essentially 90% of men had dominated the martial arts scene in the World of the Nine Continents.
After the time was almost right, he recalled his Fire Bird.
Nine Continents Steps!
He had to use the Nine Continents Steps once every single day despite this technique being weaker than before due to the improved speed of his Fire Bird.
Qing Shui always knew something was different but he couldn't explain what exactly had changed.
Suddenly, Qing Shui glanced down at the Nine Continent Boots on his feet!
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