On the second day, Lei Wujie woke up to the sound of a flute. Its melody rang with a desolate timbre that left with a sense of dread in his heart. As if pulled along by the melody of the flute, his thoughts traveled back to the world renowned Lei Clan. There, within its sprawling courtyards was a dilapidated house with a grey robed, middle aged man stood. He was extremely skinny and his skin was deathly pale. Sitting in the courtyard, he quietly read his book in silence. Suddenly, he raised his head as if he felt the presence of someone in front of him. His face contorted in anger as he chided the presence, “What are you doing back here?!”
Lei Wujie snapped back to consciousness.
Standing up, he massaged his head before raising it to look into the distance. He found Xiao Se still sitting on the roof but he was no longer playing his flute. Instead. There was a piece of leaf in his hand which he had plucked off at an unknown time. Placing it in front of his mouth, he played the same tune as before. When he saw that Lei Wujie was awake, he waved his hand slightly and the leaf was blown away by the wind. With a leap, he jumped down from the roof.
“You’re awake?” Xiao Se asked in a soft voice.
“Where’s the boss?” Lei Wujie scanned his surroundings but he didn’t see the man with a small stubble on his face.
“The boss has left the city. He said that his Granny Meng’s soup was missing a touch of alcohol so he left for the Immortal Mountain Beyond the Seas in search of some ingredients.” The waiter arrived in the courtyard and explained to them with a smile on his face.
“That boss…” Lei Wujie frowned, “Who exactly is he?”
Xiao Se clapped Lei Wujie’s shoulders and said, “The man just helped you to open three tiers of the Blazing Arts. Long story short, he’s both an expert and a good person, is there a point in asking any further?”
Lei Wujie scratched his head and said, “That’s true… Alright, let’s go challenge that Tower of Ascension.”
Xiao Se rolled his eyes, “Shouldn’t you have breakfast before going?”
“Right right right.” Lei Wujie just realized his stomach was empty as well so he nodded his head furiously. The two of them bade farewell to the waiter and walked out of the Eastward pub before sitting down at a roadside stall which was steaming from the hot buns on display. Xiao Se ordered two trays of buns and two bowls of soy milk before saying softly, “After today, we’ll go our separate ways. This final breakfast is on me”
“Brother Xiao, you almost sound a little depressed.” Lei Wujie drank a mouthful of soy milk and felt its warmness in his stomach. It was a comfortable feeling which couldn’t be described with words.
“I’m not depressed…” Xiao Se placed his bowl on the table and turned his gaze towards the distant tower. “It’s just that when I think about how long the trip back will be again… Thinking back, I came all this way for five hundred silvers…”
Lei Wujie’s face froze. He knew what Xiao Se was about to say next.
“It was such a pointless trip and I almost lost my life… Counting interest, I think I should charge you eight hundred…”
“Alright, I’m full! I’ll off to challenge the tower now!” Lei Wujie swallowed a bun whole and grabbed his sack before dashing off.
Xiao Se laughed before drinking a mouthful of soy milk. After swallowing his drink, he fell into silence.
The waiter who was standing beside them with a towel slung over his shoulder looked at the red clothed youth as he ran off towards the Tower of Ascension. Shaking his head, he said, “Yet another fellow who doesn’t know how high the heavens reach.”
“Oh?” Xiao Se glanced at the waiter.
“Even members of the martial world who trained bitterly for tens of years aren’t able to overcome the Tower of Ascension, much less this brat who still smells of his mother’s milk.” The waiter spoke with a trace of disdain.
Xiao Se took out a piece of broken silver. “How about we have a bet then?”
“A bet?” A confused look appeared on the waiter’s face.
“We’ll bet how high he’s able to climb.” Xiao Se pointed towards Lei Wujie.
“Alright, what’s the bet?” The waiter’s interest was piqued as he quickly replied Xiao Se.
“I bet on him.” The look on Xiao Se’s face became serious as he looked at the waiter. “I’ll bet on him reaching the sixteenth floor.”
The waiter was stunned for a moment before breaking out into uproarious laughter. In his mind, he probably thought that this customer of his had his brains turned to mush from all the steam. Why else would he give away a free piece of silver?
It was then that a figure dressed in a book attendant’s outfit led an old and tired horse through. Atop the horse was a white robed scholar with a wooden bookshelf on his back as he rode towards the Tower of Ascension.
“Junior martial uncle, that red clothed youth in front of us looks like he is going to challenge the Tower of Ascension as well.” There was a trace of rebuff in his voice as he continued, “See, that’s what happens when you doze off like a pig, another person has taken the lead now.”
The scholar simply laughed, “Who knows, that fellow might just fail at the first level?”
“Junior martial uncle, didn’t you just receive our ancestral inheritance? Don’t you know the Art of Clairvoyance? Look at that person’s qi… how many levels can he climb?” The attendant signaled for the scholar to look at Lei Wujie’s figure.
Lightly waving his hand, the scholar reached high into the sky before lightly slapping the book attendant’s head. “I told you to call me young master, not junior martial uncle.”
The kid seemed as though he was really struck by the scholar as he covered his head. “I’m telling our martial ancestor!”
However, the scholar paid him no heed. He simply raised his head and smiled as he looked at Lei Wujie’s distant figure. “That youth… I think he can reach…” The scholar suddenly held his tongue and a look of shock flashed past his face.
“What’s wrong?” The attendant turned his head.
After a long time, the scholar finally sighed. “Fei Xuan, it seems like this young master’s nap was really too long this time around.”
As for Xiao Se who still was seated at the steaming bun shop, he slightly frowned as he looked at the scholar and the attendant. Lightly tapping on the table, he said with a pensive look on his face, “Mount Qingcheng?”
Lei Wujie finally arrived at the foot of the Tower of Ascension where a huge door stood in front of him that led all the way through the tower. Several extravagantly dressed disciples, most likely hailing from an influential family, walked through the door cheerfully. Beside the huge door was a small door that led up the tower. A yawning youngster sat in front of the small door and munched on a huge bun while mumbling, “Can this day be anymore rotten? Not only am I stuck with tower watching, it had to be this floor as well. Who knows how many idiots I will have to deal with today?” He heard footsteps in front of him so he raised his head. Looking at Lei Wujie, he said, “Kid, you want to challenge the Tower of Ascension?”
Lei Wujie nodded his head.
The youngster harrumphed and said, “Wait till I finish this bun.”
Lei Wujie was in no rush either so he merely smiled. Walking up to the youngster, he sat down.
The youngster instantly developed a better opinion of Lei Wujie. Often, the people who tried to challenge the Tower of Ascension were those martial artists who acted as if they were here for a stage match – none of them bothered to wait for him at all. They would instantly raise their fists at him, raring to go right away. Someone like Lei Wujie who was so confident and at ease really had the bearings of a disciple from the influential families.
“Sigh, I’ve only been a disciple of Snow Moon City for three months but it’s already my sixth time guarding the Tower of Ascension. I even have to guard the first floor this time… It’s going to be a tough time.” The youngster bit down on his bun and sighed.
Lei Wujie’s eyebrows jumped. “So the tower guards rotate over time?”
“That’s right.” The youngster glanced at Lei Wujie and continued, “you don’t even know something like that and you’re here to challenge the Tower of Ascension… People guarding the first five floors are disciples who are newly admitted to Snow Moon City, those under a year old. From the sixth to the tenth floor, disciples who had been here for at least a year. From the eleventh to the fourteenth floor, only disciples who had been in Snow Moon City for over three years would be present. The tower guarding elder is situated on the fifteenth floor and as for the sixteenth floor… there are several tens of people stronger than the tower guarding elder in Snow Moon City and no one knows who would be the one guarding the sixteenth floor. After all, only one person has managed to reach the sixteenth floor in several decades. At that time, the third citymaster was the one present.”
“Disciples who have only entered Snow Moon City for less than a year are actually able to defend the tower?” Lei Wujie asked.
“Of course. What do you think the Snow Moon City is? Even though I’ve only been here for three months, those muscle brains who claimed to have practised for over a decade can’t even beat me. It’s not that I’m boasting but if one isn’t from some influential martial family and has a nice shiny invitation card, one shouldn’t even come to the Tower of Ascension to suffer. Let alone reaching the tenth floor and studying under an elder, I haven’t seen anyone who has managed to pass the first five floors!” The youngster finally placed the last of his bun into his mouth. Glancing at Lei Wujie, a look of regret appeared on his face. “Look at you, you have the face of a young master of an influential family. However, you don’t have the fate of being one. How about you listen to me and leave this place?”
“I finally reached this place after traveling several thousand li. I can’t just leave.” Lei Wujie shook his head.
The youngster clicked his tongue. “Such perseverance… what’s your name? Even though I’ll beat you up soon, we can be considered acquaintances. From now on in the martial world, I’ll look out for you.”
“Oh, Lei Wu…” The youngster didn’t manage to swallow his bun as his eyes went wide. “Which Lei?”
Lei Wujie stood up and patted the dust off his body. He laughed candidly and replied, “It’s the Lei you’re thinking of.”
‘Damn it. He’s actually a disciple from an influential family. And it even has to be the most difficult one as well. But shouldn’t this Lei Clan disciple just walk through that nice sunny path over there? What is he doing here, trying to make things difficult for me by challenging the Tower of Ascension?! The youngster hurriedly stood up. “This humble one is called Xie Yanshu, from the Xie Family of Lingnan.”
Lei Wujie nodded his head and laughed. “Done eating?”
Xie Yanshu swallowed the last of his bun and nodded back at Lei Wujie, “Yes!”
“Then I shall start my challenge.” Lei Wujie took a step forward and said.
In his heart, Xie Yanshu thought to himself, even if he lost in terms of ability, he won’t lose in terms of dignity. So what if the other party was a Lei Clan disciple? He was someone who trained in the way of the blade for three months in Snow Moon City, why would he be afraid? He aggressively took a step forward and said, “If you want to challenge the tower, you have to do it over my…”
Lei Wujie didn’t wait for him to finish as he simply punched out, sending the youngster flying with a single fist
“Dead body…” Xie Yanshu struggled to get the last few words out of his mouth as he flew away. He finally landed on the ground and the red clothed figure stepped over his body without hesitation to ascend the tower.
Lei Wujie’s challenge had begun!
The moment he started, he made it up to the tenth floor in a single breath!
Within the inner city of Snow Moon City, there was a young disciple running towards the Snow Sea Pavilion, back drenched in sweat. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Not good, not good!”
“What’s wrong?” A man who was several years older than the young disciple stepped out of the pavilion and frowned. The other disciples who heard the commotion streamed out as well.
“There… there’s someone challenging the Tower of Ascension!” The youngster spoke in short bursts as he was out of breath.
Everyone immediately started scolding him. “Of course there are people challenging the tower !What do you think the tower is there for?”
“This guy… this guy climbed up to the tenth floor in a heartbeat!”
The crowd immediately broke into commotion. “The tenth floor? Senior brother Han is guarding the tenth floor today! Could it be someone from the older generation of experts in the martial world? He defeated Senior brother Han?!”
“No no no. He isn’t someone from the older generation. He said he is seventeen!”
“What? Seventeen?” Everyone stared at each other in shock. Just as they were about to bombard the kid with questions, all of them fell silent. The disciple who was here to deliver the news felt puzzled and he turned his head. In the next instant he lowered it to look at the ground. “Eldest Martial Brother…”
The black robed Tang Lian didn’t scold him at all. Instead, he asked, “Is there anything special about that guy?”
“As senior wishes: that person is clad in red clothes and he’s holding a long sack in his hand. He claims to be… someone from the Lei Clan.” The young disciple reported dutifully.
“It’s really him.” In a flash, Tang Lian had already sped off into the distance towards the Tower of Ascension
“Eldest Martial Brother… does he plan to defend the tower personally?”
“If it’s Eldest Martial Brother, which floor would he guard?”
“Eldest Martial Brother’s martial art is only slightly weaker than the tower guarding elder. If he really does try…”
“It would have to be the fourteenth floor!”