Chapter 5 - Fate Pill
“So you went to see them already?” In an empty factory room, a man emerged from under a processing mill. He wore a pair of old, worn-out linen gloves, a set of discolored factory uniform, and a pair of protective glasses.
“Yeah, that’s about it,” A voice came from a lean figure sitting on a bench right next to the machine.
“Why are you here then? I’ve told you that I’m not interested in whatever you’re up to. I’m satisfied with my life now.” The factory worker removed his glasses and wiped off his sweat with his greasy gloves.
“I’m just here to see you,” The lean man said with a smile, disregarding the dissatisfied expression of his friend.
“Hey, you’re not allowed to smoke here.” The worker frowned.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to set fire to your factory…” The lean man ignored the warning and lit up his cigarette.
The factory worker sighed and continued his work on the processing mill.
“I heard you wanted to see Aunt Wu?” The man inhaled a mouthful of smoke.
“Did the kid tell you that?” The worker turned around and stopped what he was doing.
“You don’t need to go there. I’ve seen what you’re capable of. You won’t be able to win against Aunt Wu.” The man flipped his lips and brought his cigarette to his lips again.
“Is that a challenge?”
“I’m only speaking the truth.”
“Did she really force you into a draw?” The worker suddenly said.
“Not really. She only cast eight moves out of nine.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll admit that I did fall for a few of her tricks. Her way with the sword was exceptional too. She asked me to fight only until the ninth move, because that’s how many she knew. I deflected the first three attacks and dodged the next three. I endured the seventh hit head on, but I had to block the eighth with my fists, and I’m pretty sure that I would have been forced to draw my own weapon to block the ninth sword attack.”
“Why didn’t she go all the way then?”
“She knew that there would be no going back if she went to the last move. She most likely wanted to avoid that…” The man said.
“Okay, so what do you want me to do?” The factory worker sighed and removed his gloves.
“I need you to kill someone for me.” The skinny man bit his cigarette, his face hidden by a veil of blue smoke.
“Give me the name.”
“Liu Meng. I’ll teach you the last three moves when you’ve done the deed.”
* * *
‘The Fate Pill…’ Li Yiming remembered what Bai Ze told him a long time ago. ‘Bodhi Leaf, the Water of the Past Life, the Fruit of Nirvana… Resetting one’s talent.’
“I took a look at your condition. It’s quite a rarity to become a sage at level six, a full level earlier than usual, but you’ve still taken a shortcut. The power which resides within your body doesn’t belong to you,” Aunt Wu said as she sat on a stone bench nearby.
Li Yiming found himself on the ground, deprived of all of his energy and unable to do anything other than listen to Aunt Wu.
“I’ve yet to determine your true identity, but needless to say, you’re not who you appear to be. It would be a complete waste of potential for you to stop at sage-level.”
“This pill will reset your talent and wash away your old self. If you really are him, then your destiny will be changed the moment your power from another life comes back, but if you’re not him, then none of this will matter…” Aunt Wu said as she stood up.
“You will be on his list of people it needs to kill. It used to send one hundred thousand soldiers from the Heavens themselves for the deed, but now it’s only a few inexperienced kids. You should be able to take care of them.” Aunt Wu sighed and walked toward the exit of the park.
The moment Aunt Wu vanished from sight, Li Yiming instantly recovered his strength. He sat up from the ground, looking at his hands dumbly — Everything he had acquired since the beginning as a guardian was now gone: his metallic orb, the mysterious rune inside his body, and even Bai Ze.
He clenched his right fist, and as he had already guessed, the dome of light did not appear. ‘My boundary… I’m no longer a sage.’
Li Yiming performed an introspection. He no longer found a single, golden Heavenly Vein, but rather five veins, each with a different color. He then turned his attention toward his talent. He saw a dark silhouette of a man standing, and two characters floating in the air.
Wukong — Dance in the Air. 
“There’s something wrong with him.” A man dressed in a cameo suit said as he observed Li Yiming from a skyscraper on the opposite side of the park.
“Something’s changed. His aura fluctuated and stabilized again. It’s back to level six.” Another man said as he kept both of his hands on his temples.
“Is he trying to bait us into attacking first?” A tall man with fair skin said as he squinted his eyes.
“I don’t think so. That fat woman just gave him something to eat.” The man in the cameo suit put down his binoculars.
“So should we risk it?”
“There’s no need to. Other people will do the job.” The dark-skinned man glanced at a surveillance camera nearby.
“It’s been a long time since old man Xie has done anything, most people have forgotten about him…”
“Shame that those cowards earlier were scared off so easily. Otherwise, we would have been to have a look at his abilities…” The man who had his hands on his temples suddenly opened his eyes, revealing abnormally bloodshot eyeballs.
“Don’t expect those trash to give us any kind of useful information. They’re far too weak… We should keep contact with Ying Mei to see what more she needs, we have to be careful around anyone who’s worthy of such treatment from Heaven’s Laws…”
“Ying Mei just went to find old man Xie…”
“No big deal. We share the same goal, and we’ll see who’ll have the last laugh…” The dark-skinned man grinned.
* * *
Inside the luxuriously decorated living room, an old man stared at the monitors on his desk with a frown.
“The baits have been scared off, should we try again?” A woman asked politely.
“It’s okay. I don’t think that other guardians will fall for it so easily anymore. We’ve checked his strength, and that’s all we needed…” The old man answered while playing with his thumb ring.
“Mr. Xie, there’s something wrong with that woman…”
“Her? She's exactly what I'm worried about. We might be able to take on a newly achieved sage, but her…”
“Is there something wrong with her?” The woman asked curiously.
“Have you ever heard of the battle of the Southern Sea?”
“Aunt Wu? The Nine-Step Sword?” The woman’s eyes widened.
“Go buy some fruits, and give it to Aunt Wu. We should pay our respects to her first.” The old man suddenly said.
“Me?” The woman was shocked.
“She won’t harm you. Just be polite, and she’ll talk to you.”
“Yes…” The woman bit her lip and acquiesced. Her master’s words did not worried about facing Aunt Wu, who was rumored to be as strong as Mr. Kong.
“What happened to Ying Mei?”
“She went to the North after coming to see us.”
“The North?” The old man opened his eyes in surprise.
“Yun Yiyuan is rumored to have been seen over there.”
“She has a big appetite…” The old man smiled.
“News has come from Xiao Liu that Ying Mei went to see Pan Junwei before coming to us.”
“Let her do what she wants. The more help she finds, the easier it will be for us.” The old man closed his eyes once again and relaxed against his long chair.
* * *
In the middle of the forest, a single mountain peak stood tall, reaching the clouds and providing refuge for the birds nearby. Halfway to the mountain peak, a young boy stopped his climb and looked at the rock at the summit.
“This is as far as I’ll go…” The young boy glanced at his trembling legs and wiped away his sweat, putting down his bag.
He opened his bag, revealing a bag of perfect-looking peaches arranged in a neat pile. The little boy took a deep breath and bowed down in the direction of the rock, and repeated his salutation until he performed a ritual of utmost respect, which consisted of nine kowtows.
Upon completing his salutation, the young boy took three steps backward and threw a long stare of admiration at the stone. After a while, he smiled and it seemed like he became one with the mountain peak for a short moment.
“It’s about to start...” The young boy said, saluted the peak once again, and finally left.
1. This is a play on the homophone with Wukong, which originally means, “The one who has understood emptiness”. Only that the first character, “Wu” (悟), is replaced by another “wu”(舞), which means dance.