“Where am I? I just have a bad dream?” That was Jiang Le first thought when he opened his eyes with terrible sore joints all over his body. He was lying on a stone bed and the room was dim.
“You have awakened?”
Jiang Le almost jumped up and he quickly turned around to see Yue Ling who had positioning herself in a meditating prose!
Yue Ling smiled gently, “You are not dreaming. You are a protégé of the Tranquil Palace.”
Jiang Le was ashen as his wobbling headache returned as he muttered. “It’s not just a bad dream, it is a terrible nightmare that is real!”
Yue Ling looked at him and said with a quiet melancholy, “You ought to address me as your protégé mistress from now.” She hesitated a little before saying, “Is it really such a nightmare for you?”
When Jiang Le saw her sudden quiet expressions, his anger dissipated and he answered coolly, “My respects to protégé mistress then. I do have a right to be unhappy, am I right? After all, you have toyed around with me and I have nearly lost my life. Moreover I don’t know what diabolic plans that you have planned further for me.”
Yue Ling nodded gently, “You’re right. It is true that I want to take your life earlier but no longer now.”
Jiang Le smiled, “I’m glad that you realized that it is just so petty to kill me for just trespassing.”
Yue Ling stared at him and she appeared to be flushing for her ears had turned rosy red, “You have seen what you shouldn’t have seen and you have touched where you shouldn’t have touched!”
This time it was Jiang Le who was flushing as he protested weakly, “I am just trying to help you, to revive you. I am just trying to be a good guy…”
Yue Ling interrupt as she rose up, “That’s enough. You are a protégé of the Tranquil Palace now. Come with me to pay your respects to your protégé grandmasters.”
Jiang Le found himself following her and admiring her back view, probing. “You, you are really not taking my life anymore?”
Yue Ling answered casually without turning back or slowing down her pace, “I have plenty of opportunities when you are down. Therefore you should be rest assured of your well-being.”
Jiang Le thought with a weak smile, “I am not a naïve and inexperienced greenhorn. The intrigues of the martial fraternity are many. Only Heavens know if you just toying with me. I am in a strange place and surround by strange people. I need to be extra cautious. Since I am not their match, I should seize the chance to escape when I can. But the thing is, this group of people is so skillful yet I have never heard of their names or this Tranquil Palace. Are they using an alias?”
Yue Ling stopped in her tracks all of a sudden and said coldly, “Don’t court your own disaster so readily and put aside your mistrust. It is better for you and for your future attainment. You will soon know that we are the only ones that you can trust. But for that to happen, you should prove that you are worthy of trust first. You are the master of the Celestial Gallantry and you have a divine destiny that is awaiting you.”
Jiang Le was startled as he thought, “She can read my thoughts?!”
Yue Ling said quietly, “Your emotions have betrayed you. It isn’t because I can read your mind.”
Jiang Le was even more startled, breaking into cold sweat as he thought. “She did not even turn around. How did she even read my emotions?”
Yue Ling said as she hastened her steps, “Follow me!”
Jiang Le smiled weakly as he hastened his steps. But at the same time, he was secretly looking at his surroundings and making a mind map. He was in a walled passage and it was clean of dirt. It could only mean that this passage was frequently visited and swept. He was not an ordinary pugilist that admitted so readily to his fate and he would find an opportunity to regain his freedom at the first possible option.
As they continued to hasten their steps, Yue Ling said coolly. “There are more than three hundred rooms in the Tranquil Palace. Exactly how many, I do not know as well. Some are small while some are large. If you are not careful, you will be lost easily. Many of the rooms and secret passages are in disrepair as our numbers have dwindled over the years. You are free to explore the Tranquil Palace in your free time but there will be certain areas that will be forbidden from you. As for your meals, I will deliver to you. In my absence, someone else will deliver in my place.”
Jiang Le smiled weakly, “Protégé mistress, you are too esteemed. You can simply order your underlings to do this mundane job. I can also go to the kitchen on my own. After all, I am pretty much a good cook myself…”
Yue Ling interrupted coolly, “You are forbidden to go to the kitchen. Also…”
Suddenly she turned around and looked at him sternly, “In our celestial clan, there is no underling here.”
Jiang Le was startled by her sudden stare and he found himself petrified on the spot. Somehow no matter how much he tried to muster his strength, he simply could not move and he found himself staring at her gray piercing eyes!
She said coldly, “The Verdant Scarlet Fairy Qingshuang is my protégé sister. In terms of seniority, we are on the same level. Xue Ji and Xia Ji is my junior. As for you, you are Xue Ji and Xia Ji junior. You are to address Xue Ji and Xia Ji as your senior protégé sisters and Qingshuang as your protégé aunt while I am your protégé teacher. Is that understood?”
Jiang Le nodded as he broke into cold sweat!
What was going on? It was like a spell was cast upon him and causing him to be immobilized!
Yue Ling said nonchalantly as she snapped her fingers, “Good!”
All of a sudden Jiang Le was breathing hard and he had regained control of his limbs!
He muttered, “What did you do to me? Is this some kind of a spell?”
Yue Ling reply coolly, “It is only because your state of divinity is too low. Come with me.”
Jiang Le nodded as he looked at her with a perplexed look. All of a sudden he was thinking, “Maybe I can make use of my bad situation? Obviously their martial skills are superior. If I can only learn a feat or two then I can evaluate my status in the martial fraternity and earn the respect of the pugilist heroes!”
With this in his mind, he began to follow her hastily.
It was not long before they reached the end of a passage.
Jiang Le was feeling lost after walking in the dim darkness and through the multiple forks of the winding passages. He thought, “Why doesn’t she use a torch?”
Yue Ling pushed a brick into the wall and then the brick wall that was in front of them was opened, revealing an opening.
Yue Ling said quietly, “Come.”
Jiang Le nodded and found himself in a large chamber and there were several tablets in front of them!
Yue Ling whispered respectfully, “These are the tablets of our past protégé grandmasters. Hurry and kneel.”
Jiang Le did as he was told.
Yue Ling said solemnly, “Good. Bow three times.”
Jiang Le did as he was told and bowed thrice, saying as he bowed. “Your protégé Jiang Le pays my respects to all the protégé grandmasters!”
As he bowed for the last time, he noticed that Yue Ling was also kneeling next to him as she said respectfully, “Yueling is here to pay my respect to my benevolent grandmasters! Today, we have a new protégé Jiang Le. He has the divine destiny to revive the Celestial Gallantry and has become the new master of our heritage divine sword. Therefore Yueling can only accept him into the Tranquil Palace and is forced to break the celestial rule of not accepting anyone from the martial fraternity!”
She got up and said to Jiang Le, “Now it is your turn to pay your three bows of discipleship to your protégé teacher.”
Jiang Le nodded and bowed immediately, “My respects to protégé teacher!”
Yue Ling nodded, “Your first bow is to obey the celestial rules of the Tranquil Palace. Second bow, you must be respectful to your elders and to your fellow protégés. Third bow to the heavens and the earth, honor your oaths and never betray your protégé clan.”
She sighed softly as she poured a flask of wine on the floor, “I, Zuo Yueling, twenty-forth protégé grandmaster of the Tranquil Palace hereby accepts Jiang Le as a celestial protégé of the Tranquil Palace and bestowed upon him the Celestial Gallantry as his divine sword. You may rise now.”
As Jiang Le got up, Yue Ling had opened another walled secret passage before saying quietly. “Jiang Le, I am going to reveal to you your divine destiny and the history of our celestial clan.”
Jiang Le was amused as he secretly mused, “I am just a vagabond swordsman. What divine destiny will I have? She is probably going to talk endlessly about the glory of her clan and the renowned deeds of the former grandmasters whose names I can’t be bothered to remember…”
All of a sudden his jaws dropped as he stepped into the secret passage. What he was witnessing stunned him; a gigantic skeleton bony remains of a dragon stood looming over him!
“What is that?” He stammered in disbelief.
Yue Ling answered coolly with beaming eyes, “This is the secret of the Tranquil Palace. From now on, you will be initialized into the celestial secrets of our celestial clan. You will soon realize that how close you are to immortality.”
Jiang Le was too awestruck as he gasped, “The celestial secrets of our celestial clan… immortality? But this? Is it really a dragon?”
Yue Ling nodded, “It is real.”