The youth of the Du Clan seemed to have noticed her surveying gaze, for he turned his head in her direction.
Locating An Fei’s figure, Du Yongkang’s countenance flickered for a brief moment, and the young girl noticed a strain of disdain flashing across.
“…he didn’t do anything?”
An Fei mused, making a mental tab to investigate into the peculiarity of Du Yongkang’s current behavior. As for the rest of the people, the young girl could only describe them in a single sentence.
Young Masters and Young Misses who decided to uphold the bitter and astringent path of cultivation.
The youths were dressed in a vast assortment of fashion, elegance, color, and extravagance.
Nonetheless, An Fei noticed that their demeanor were all imposing and calm to an astonishing degree, a trait most commonly found amongst endowed aristocrats.
Imposing and domineering were traits that could be easily obtained by living on the streets for a few years, but the combination of calmness and a silent imposing aura manifested when the person found it below themselves to interact with the rest of the world unless necessary.
As such, not even scholars, who desired to disseminate their findings whenever possible – could acquire an aura of that extent.
Even Du Yongkang wasn’t exempt from this rule with his explosive and arrogant personality – An Fei couldn’t detect a strain of yesterday night’s personality from his current, reserved and respectful attitude.
“Everyone has improved quite well since we had last met.”
The shopkeeper’s voice calmed the silent but boiling atmosphere, and the old man gently coughed to obtain everyone’s attention.
“Though many of you have yet to reach the threshold of the Spirit Building Realm – and some of you have reached or perhaps even gleaned the world beyond it, this will be the topic of my discussion for today,” the elderly shopkeeper released a long exhale of breath.
“Then, let us begin with a simple question: what exactly is the Spirit Building Realm?”
The youths simultaneously frowned as they gazed upon the old man’s figure with earnest expressions.
The shopkeeper supported his waist with both hands as he slowly rose to his feet, the creaking of bones prompting everyone to wince.
“The Spirit Building Realm is the first monumental change in the path of cultivation – for it is when practitioners are permitted to effectively execute the Five River Stones Stage of a martial arts technique,” the hoarse voice gently rang close to the ears of the listener.
“Others associate the Spirit Building Realm to be the stage of which the practitioner may communicate with the world to attain greater strength. Some treat it as a realm of divine insight, for which enlightenment becomes a miracle easier to grasp with the proper preparations; these are all perspectives regarding the grand path of cultivation, but do not describe the subject in its entirety.”
“The Spirit Building Realm – positioned directly after the Foundation Establishment Realm and before the Core Formation Realm – is the strengthening of the practitioner’s spirit. Until the Core Formation Realm, the prior realms of cultivation are akin to the mills that temper the practitioner in three forms; the physical body, the meridians and reservoirs of spiritual essence, and the spirit.”
These words, she had read them somewhere…
An Fei instinctively frowned at the words escaping the elderly man’s mouth, her heart undulating with a gentle urgency and trepidation.
The young girl’s hand hovered to the folds near her bosom, prepared to sever the string supporting the qama’s position and draw it whenever necessary.
“The spirit of the practitioner is oftentimes mistaken as the soul – a grave mistake that cultivators and techniques stumble onto without fail,” the shopkeeper demurred in a placid tone, his eyes fixated onto a steaming cup of tea that had appeared before him without alerting any of the youths.
“The soul determines the lifespan and vitality of a practitioner, as well as their consciousness. The spirit, on the other hand, is the external manifestation of the communication between the world and the practitioner.”
At the point, one of the youths raised their hand and stood.
Their countenance displayed an expression of worry and confusion, the youth dipped into a low bow towards the shopkeeper.
“Esteemed Senior, if the spirit is the external manifestation of the communication between the world and our souls, then how is it tempered?” the youth’s brows furrowed as he spoke.
“If its an external manifestation, doesn’t that entail that it is not a part of the practitioner? How, is then cultivating in the Spirit Building Realm possible?”
“The spirit manifests into an external phenomenon upon reaching the Spirit Building Realm, and is malleable by unceasing practice by the practitioner. If intangible natures cannot be interacted with and tempered by the practitioner, how is a cultivator capable of manipulating spiritual essence?” the old man displayed a soft smile.
“The process of manifestation is the threshold that bars a cultivator from entering the Spirit Building Realm. When the spirit is attuned to a specific attribute of the world, it is able to manifest into an external phenomenon not unlike that of spiritual essence; this, in part, affects the nature of the martial arts techniques a practitioner learns in the future.”
The cup was placed onto the table, and the old man extended forth a finger to lightly brush against the porcelain rim.
“What decides the nature of our martial arts techniques – Yin and Yang?” the shopkeeper breathed deeply.
“If Yin and Yang were the only attributes employed by practitioners, the jianghu would never develop to its present state, nor would it progress any further. Yin and Yang are the primary attributes that determines the compatibility of a certain technique to the practitioner – this is true, but the path of cultivation consists of many, many more.”
“Everyone should be familiar of the <Cloud Rending Sword> martial arts technique, for it was the first technique that I imparted onto you,” the old man smiled.
“Then, why does Cheng Yu Xuan’s <Cloud Rending Sword> resemble that of swift strikes that sacrifice defense for extreme dexterity and destructive potential? On the other hand, why is Yu Xian’s <Cloud Rending Sword> softer in its approaches and weaker in its strikes, when both have attained the second river of the Five River Stones of the technique?”
The secondary attribute of a martial arts technique is intentionally left blank for the practitioner to employ their distinctive traits, and the unconscious portrayal of these attributes of hardness, softness, swiftness, and so many more are what comprises of the Spirit Building Realm’s foundations…
“…shi – urgh!”
The young girl’s fingers clutched at her chest as a searing heat rushed through her body.
Sitting across from the enraptured Shen Ming Yue who seemed to be receiving a brief enlightenment of unknown proportions, An Fei’s countenance soured to the maximum.
Beware the deadly weapon of the world that is the mortal’s enlightenment.
The cautionary words of the Sanctum, how could she have forgotten about them?
…and she even dared to listen through a significant portion of the shopkeeper’s speech, that her own mind temporarily lapsed into a dreamlike state…
The pulses of heat ravaged the interior of her body, causing An Fei to tightly clench her teeth and wrap her arms around her torso to prevent herself from shouting aloud in pain.
The young girl couldn’t help but permit a pained hiss to escape her lips, unheard by all save for one old man.
At the same time, she felt a trickle of warmth drip from the corner of her mouth; the damage inflicted onto her body from the single moment of forgetfulness had incurred moderate internal injuries.
Hastily wiping away the trickle of blood from her lips, the young girl’s gaze rose to meet that of the old shopkeeper of Dong Lin City.
“Well, I’ve spoken all of the words I need to for today,” the old man rubbed at his waist as his eyes surveyed the dreamy youths, his words gradually arousing them from their moment of understanding.
“Now, let us conduct our customary routine – to have our newest student introduce themselves!”