The ship stopped shaking shortly after the voice disappeared.
"Looks like they have managed to deal with the Sea Demon." Qin Kai said before going back to his cultivation.
Yuan also closed his eyes and returned to looking through his memories.
A few weeks have passed since he became a servant of the Immortal Monastery, yet he hasn't been able to learn the cultivation technique, which is a far cry from Yuan's ability to learn even Heaven-rank techniques within minutes.
"Haaaa… Becoming a Cultivator is much more tedious than I'd anticipated… I have read through the manual over a thousand times by now, and I can even recall every single word in the manual backwards with my eyes closed, yet I still cannot sense any spiritual energy."
Yuan placed the scroll down and tried to sense the spiritual energy in the air again but to no avail.
After failing to sense spiritual energy for half of the day, Yuan decided to go outside to do his quota, which required him to cut down 200 bamboo in a week.
"How are you feeling, Tian Yang? Still can't sense spiritual energy?"
Someone called out to him as he was working.
Yuan turned around to see a skinny young man who looked incredibly fragile approaching him from behind.
This fragile-looking young man was Ning Zixun, a friend he'd made the same day he came to this place.
"I should be asking you that question. Do you feel like dying yet?"
Ning Zixun laughed at his words and said, "Don't be discouraged. It normally takes at least a year or two for most people before they can sense spiritual energy. We just got here less than a month ago. How can we possibly already sense spiritual energy? We're not geniuses."
"At least a year? Hmph! I am not like 'most people'! I will sense spiritual energy in less than a year and become a Cultivator so that I can leave this place!" Yuan declared.
"Why are you in such a hurry to leave? This place isn't even that bad. Although the labor can sometimes get tiring, everything else is great. The food is amazing. The bed is warm, albeit a little small and firm. We even get to practice a cultivation technique for free! Do you have any idea how expensive they are outside?"
"We can work for the rest of our lives and still won't be able to afford the lowest rank cultivation techniques!" Ning Zixun said.
Yuan shook his head and said, "Ning Zixun, if you wish to remain here forever as a servant, you can be my guest. However, I want to become a Cultivator as soon as possible and start growing stronger. Every day I cannot sense spiritual energy is another day that I am powerless!"
Ning Zixun shrugged, "Even if you say that, it's not like we can force our progress to move faster just because we want it to. I wish the world worked that way, but alas, reality is harsh."
Time passed very quickly in the Bamboo Garden, and in the blink of an eye, half a year passed.
"Hey! Tian Yang! Did you hear? One of the girls managed to sense spiritual energy and became a Cultivator! She's now accepted as an official disciple and will be moved to the outer court with the other official disciples!" Ning Zixun revealed this news to him.
"Really? Who is this genius?" Yuan asked.
"I believe her name was Meng… Meng Li?"
"Meng Lili…" Yuan muttered in a low voice.
"That's right! Meng Lili! You know her?"
Yuan sighed and nodded with a bittersweet smile on his face.
"We came from the same village, and we were friends back there."
"How lucky. You're now friends with an outer court disciple. Maybe she'll even help you in the near future."
"I doubt it."
"Anyways, can you leave me alone for a while. I have a feeling that I am close to sensing spiritual energy." Yuan then said.
Ning Zixun nodded, "Good luck."
"You as well."
After Ning Zixun left the scene, Yuan proceeded to stare at the space in front of him for many minutes in a dazed manner.
"Congratulations, Meng Lili. You're no longer powerless. However, don't be so proud of yourself just because you managed to become a Cultivator before me! The cultivation path is not a short race but a long marathon! I will follow in your steps soon and even surpass you! Just watch!"
Yuan began studying the cultivation technique with even more intensity starting that day, almost obsessively so.
However, despite his efforts, it took him until his third year in the Bamboo Garden before he could start sensing spiritual energy and becoming an official disciple.
During this time, his friend Ning Zixun had passed away due to natural causes. Ning Zixun was born with a weak body, yet he endured many years of hard labor just for a chance to become a Cultivator.
It was also shortly after Ning Zixun's death that Yuan managed to successfully sense spiritual energy.
"It's truly a pity that you can't be here to see me in this uniform, Ning Zixun…" Yuan sighed as he stood in front of Ning Zixun's empty residence while wearing the outer court's uniform.
"However, even though I have finally managed to become an official disciple, I don't feel any happiness. Is it because of how long it took me to reach this point? I was so confident that I would succeed in less than a year, but here I am, three years later…"
"It shouldn't be too late to catch up to Meng Lili even now, right? I wonder how far she's progressed in these three years. With her talents, she might even be an inner court disciple now. Guess I will find out once I move to the outer court."
After saying his goodbyes to Ning Zixun and the place, Yuan left the Bamboo Garden and was taken to the outer court by the same person who brought him to this sect, unaware of the countless challenges that were waiting for him there.
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