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Chapter 23: Smudges and stains
Following the complete fusion of both energies, Huo Zaiyuan discovers his spiritual power has increased quite a bit, and its behaviour has clearly changed. Before it was aimless, flowing through his body at random. Now, it seems to possess a consciousness, automatically gathering at his abdomen when not in use.
Opening his eyes leisurely, Huo Zaiyuan gently exhales a lungful of turbid air, finally feeling a lot more comfortable, his heart and mind much calmer and serene.
Because his spirit is within the space, he doesn’t know if it is night or day outside. Just as he is about to stretch out his hand to support himself to stand, the ground beneath became slippery, nearly causing him to fall. Looking down, he is momentarily stunned stupid.
His clothes are stained jet-black from head to toe, and on the ground beneath where he sat, a heap of thick, viscous ooze similar to ink lay. The substance also gives off a strange stink, gross enough that Huo Zaiyuan feels like vomiting.
Without thinking more about it, he rushes over to where his containers of water are placed, seizing one plastic container, peeling off his clothes and starts to clean his body. Every inch of skin is covered by the slippery, oily substance that simply refused to be washed off. After scrubbing furiously for a while, he abruptly recalls the ancient book and hurries into the bamboo house, stark naked.
Reading through the text, he finally knows what this smelly, oily, black stain on his skin is. This substance is all the impurities that have gathered within his body over the years, and the Holy Peach he ate expelled these impurities, hence the mess that accumulated after he opened his eyes. Ordinary water cannot cleanse this smudge. The only method is to submerge himself in the Holy Nine Dragons Spring Pool.
Closing the manual, he arrives at the pool now brimming with water. The strange thing about it is, no matter how full the pool is and how much water falls in, not even a drop of water splashes over the edge. Having reached the peak of the first level, he is able to feel the same rich energy within the pool. Sucking in a breath, Huo Zaiyuan lifts a foot and steps into the spring. An ice-cold sensation shoots up his leg.
So cold ah…
This kind of feeling is as though stripping one’s clothes to enter the icy water in the middle of winter. However, in order to rid his body of these stains, he endures the biting chill and slowly lowers his body in until he is fully submerged. And before his very eyes, the dark smudges that refused to be washed away now begin to dissolve and disappear into the water. Seeing this occur, he takes a deep breath before plunging his head underwater.
Large droplets of water rise from the surface. And in the middle of the pool, a figure with fair, translucent skin, delicate and gentle facial features emerges. Silvery water drops slide unhurriedly down his slender body, providing a dazzling image.
On the bamboo house’s low table sits a mirror (Author’s note: Don’t ask me where it came from), and Huo Zaiyuan stands before it to look at his reflection, still feeling a sense of wonderment and astonishment in his heart.
Ever since cultivating this Taoist art, he realises his outer appearance has undergone change, but he never would have thought that by breaking through the first level, the changes to his appearance would be this much. His skin is now even more flawless and delicate than before, his hair that hasn’t seen a haircut in a long time now hangs freely, strands draping over his shoulders. Although he now exudes a little feminine air, he really can describe himself as having shed one’s mortal body and exchanged one’s bones.
Rubbing his hair between his fingers, he turns his head to look at the painting hanging on the wall, murmuring lowly. “I wonder if once I finish cultivating this art, will I look as immortally beautiful as my ancestor…”
Within the space, the only living individual is Huo Zaiyuan alone, so of course, there wouldn’t be anyone to answer him. A breeze from outside blows into the house, making the painting sway gently, giving rise to a soft noise.
That very noise sounds distinctly like a person laughing softly.