On the dawn of the second day, Bai Xiaochun walked out of his wooden hut early in the morning. He immediately noticed that the spirit bamboo planted in the spirit field had actually grown to half the height of a human. Only after nodding his head in satisfaction did he head out the yard and walk along the mountain trail towards the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion.
The morning sun rose in the distance, its rays illuminating a distance of tens of thousands of zhang. Mist swum amidst the sunlight like golden koi, an incredibly spectacular sight. Bai Xiaochun’s posture was relaxed and at ease as he walked forwards without making any stops. Gradually, he began to see many outer sect disciples along his path. Only, since he did not recognise a single one of them, he could not help but miss his Brothers of the Burning Stoves Kitchen.
[TL: One ‘zhang’ is equal to 10 feet.]
“I wonder how Eldest Brother is doing now, and also Black Fatso Three…” Bai Xiaochun felt a sense of wistfulness in his heart. By the time the sun had risen completely, he could see the ten breathtaking stone steles of the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion in the far distance.
These ten steles were the symbol of the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion. Each stele glowed with a soft blue light. They were at least ten zhang tall and as majestic as a rainbow, as though ten giants with an extraordinarily formidable presence were standing at that spot.
On the steles, rows and rows of characters could clearly be seen. They represented the top 100 rankings.
However on each stele, there were no names written, only symbols. Each symbol was the mark of a medicine master who was the pride of the outer sect and who had left an awe-inspiring reputation within the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion.
Every medicine master had a mark unique to themselves that they would carve on the spirit medicine that they had satisfactorily refined. Since these medicines would spread through the ages, the marks symbolised glory for the medicine master and were of great importance.
That day when Hou Yunfei had brought Bai Xiaochun to this place, he had introduced it briefly. Now, Bai Xiaochun had come by himself. As he closed in, he read the rankings on the ten stone steles.
The most eye-catching one was the first symbol on the stone stele right in front of him.
It was an Aquarius symbol!
Hou Yunfei had once told Bai Xiaochun that this flask was the symbol of… Zhou Xinqi!
This name was not new to Bai Xiaochun. When he had still been a handyman, there had been a time when he heard Zhang Fatso One speak about this Zhou Xinqi while he lamented and savoured ginseng roots under the moonlight.
That girl was originally from an ordinary family. Numerous years ago, a predecessor of the sect had sensed her shocking latent talents and persuaded her to join the sect. After a careful examination of her qualifications, the entire Spirit River Sect had instantly been stirred into a furor.
In fact, she possessed the extremely rare flora spirit pulse. Not only was her cultivation speed multiple times faster than a normal person, her potential talent in refining medicine was even greater. Eventually, she had entered the Scented Cloud Mountain and became Li Qinghou’s only disciple. She was seen as Li Qinghou’s successor and one of the medicine masters who would be one of the future pillars of the sect.
According to the rules of the Spirit River Sect, no matter how high a person’s qualifications were, they still could not directly become an inner sect disciple. Therefore, this girl, along with the other talents of the other two mountain peaks, had started out as an outer sect disciple in order to hone her skills. Even so, it was the inner sect who granted her supplies for her cultivation.
Anyone could understand that it would not be long before this Zhou Xinqi would justifiably become an inner sect disciple.
It just so happened that this girl was beautiful enough to move people’s hearts, causing countless male disciples to admire her incessantly.
Because of those reasons, her reputation among the disciples of the outer sect was monumental. There was not a single person who had not heard of her. Disciples of the inner sect had already considered her as an a member of the inner sect. Even the traditionalist inner sect approached this girl with fear.
As he thought about this, Bai Xiaochun was filled with curiosity towards Zhou Xinqi. He gazed at the stone steles as he walked in a large circle around them, feeling increasingly breathless as he inspected them one by one.
“This Zhou Xinqi is too powerful! Ten stone steles, yet she’s number one on eight of them. The remaining two didn’t have her name, but that’s probably because she hasn’t competed for them!” Bao Xiaochun widened his eyes as he scanned the stone steles.
At this moment, the disciples surrounding the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion gradually began to increase. Very soon, a large sea of people had gathered. Bai Xiaochun had been searching for the position of the second herb almanac but when he noticed that the number of people here was increasing by the second, he became very curious. He didn’t understand why there were so many people here today so he pushed his way to the front. Suddenly, he heard an uproar spread from his surroundings like the waves of an ocean, moving in his direction.
“Senior Sister Zhou is coming!”
“Haha, to be expected, the rumors that have been circulating for the past few days are true. Senior Sister Zhou would definitely be coming here in these few days. Waiting here for so many days is worth it.”
“This time, Senior Sister Zhou is already first in the fifth volume of herbs and the third volume of spirit beasts. This time for sure, she’s going to challenge the fourth volume of spirit beasts!”
As surrounding discussion suddenly surged, the crowd began to squeeze against each other. Bai Xiaochun was trapped inside. Fortunately, his body was not too fat. After being squeezed back and forth, he finally forced his way out of the crowd. He lifted his head to see a long streak of light flying rapidly from a distance.
That long streak of light was actually a blue damask. There was a girl dressed in the robes of an outer sect disciple on the damask. Her hair was floating in the wind like strands of silk, her eyes were like the stars and the cold moon. Her beautiful complexion and delicate figure were elegant and refined.
In an instant, the streak flew straight towards one of the ten stone steles. Amidst the cheers of the surrounding outer sect disciples, the girl landed. She did not even glance at her surroundings as she seemed to only have eyes for the ten orderly wooden huts lined in a row beneath the stone steles. She picked a hut and walked inside.
It was only now that Bai Xiaochun noticed that below each of the ten stone steles, there was a wooden hut. At this moment, apart from the stone stele that the girl had chosen, there were many other people entering and exiting the wooden huts beneath the other steles.
“Finally I’ve seen Senior Sister Zhou again. This time, Senior Sister Zhou will definitely succeed in becoming number one on the ninth stele--!”
“Senior Sister Zhou’s goal is the unprecedented feat of taking first place on all ten steles. Only she can possibly do that. Since she’s going to be assessed for the fourth and fifth volume spirit beasts, she’s definitely going to be first!” While the surrounding disciples rapidly became excited, a frail-looking outer sect disciple standing beside Bai Xiaochun first loudly shouted “Good luck, Senior Sister Zhou” a few times. Bai Xiaochun latched onto this opportunity to ask him a few questions. Since the disciple was in good spirits, he provided a detailed answer.
Bai Xiaochun confirmed that if he wanted to attain the second volume of the herb almanac, he would have to go to the wooden hut beneath the stone stele to be assessed. Only if he succeeded could he take the second volume. Hence, he hurriedly began squeezing his way towards the first stone stele. As he closed in with great difficulty, he discovered that this wooden hut was already full. After waiting briefly, when he saw someone walking out of the hut with an air of depression, he immediately stepped into the hut without hesitation.
The moment he entered the hut, it was as though the outside noise had been completely blocked off. It became extremely quiet. The wooden hut was not big. In the middle of the hut, there was a futon, and in front of the futon, there was a stone stele one size smaller.
Following the instructions he had been given outside, Bai Xiaochun knelt on the futon and took out the jade tablet containing the first volume of herbs. The moment it came into contact with the stone, it was instantly absorbed. The stone stele shook slightly before a ray of light diffused outwards.
“Just now, that fellow Brother said that I need to draw a mark which represents my future medical mastery onto the stone stele now.” Bai Xiaochun thought briefly before he chuckled and drew a turtle on the stele. He really liked turtles. Although this drawing of a turtle was rather crooked and looked somewhat ugly, he felt that it was relatively good.
The turtle-shaped mark disappeared with a flash. Bai Xiaochun took a deep breath before he focused his concentration, his eyes flashing with acuity. Lifting his right hand, he slowly pressed his palm against the stone stele. Almost at the exact moment he touched the stone stele, a loud boom resonated in his mind as his vision blurred. When his sight cleared, his surroundings was no longer the wooden hut, but rather, he was standing in the middle of an empty space.
Before Bai Xiaochun even had time to size up his surroundings, a bright light suddenly flashed before his eyes. In front of him, there instantly appeared countless medical herbs that enveloped the sky and covered the ground.
These herbs were incomplete. Rather, they had all been ruthlessly broken apart. Split into more than ten sections, all the fragments had been mixed together. They spread out in a densely-packed mess.
Looking around, there were so many fragments that it was impossible to count them all.
This was the fear-inducing assessment of the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion that terrified the outer sect disciples to the extent that their hair stood on end. All these years, countless people have had their hopes dashed and their spirits shattered by this assessment. This was why, whenever someone entered the first hundred rankings and had their names appear on the stone, it was natural that they would be admired by numerous other people.
This was especially so for the tenth position till the first, whose achievements won them well-deserved fame.
“In the time it takes for an incense stick to burn out, patch together the stalks of spirit herbs. You will be assessed on how many you complete. Begin.” An ice-cold voice seemingly without the slightest trace of emotion resonated in the air.
“This simple?” Bai Xiaochun felt that this was inconceivable. After just a sweeping glance, with the extent of his understanding towards the herbs listed in the jade tablet, he picked out fragments of more than a hundred kinds of herbs that he could piece together.
He had pondered for quite awhile on this assessment before he came. But now, when he saw what kind of assessment this was, he instantly heaved a sigh of relief in his heart. But immediately afterwards, he became anxious again.
“This won’t do. With such an easy assessment, the number that I need in order to pass must be really high.” Bai Xiaochun began to panic as he raced for time. Raising his right hand, he pointed ten times in rapid succession. Every piece of herb that he pointed towards would combine instantly according to his thoughts. In the blink of an eye, he had assembled two stalks of medical herbs.
His hands moved without pause as he pointed again. Without even a moment of respite, numerous fragments flew outwards and combined with similar fragments, forming numerous stalks of herbs. Gradually, more and more stalks of herbs were formed, soon surpassing a hundred.
Bai Xiaochun’s gaze did not waver. His spirit was entirely focused as he forgot about everything that was happening around him. He only had eyes for those fragments of medical herbs as his hands moved at lightning speed. In a panic and worry that he might fail the assessment, he was totally ruthless at that moment. Blood vessels slowly began to appear in his eyes as his hands moved even faster.
One hundred stalks, two hundred stalks, three hundred stalks, five hundred stalks...One thousand stalks!
Bai Xiaochun’s forehead dripped with sweat. White smoke was even being emitted from the top of his head as the speed of his movements increased. He only needed a single glance at those fragments of herbs to instantly identify what kind of medicine they were. This was because when he was memorising from the jade tablet, he had even memorized them to the point that he wanted to grind those herbs into powder in order to study them further.
But since he did not have that option, he could only observe the herbs to their smallest detail, understanding them completely.
If this scene was seen by the outer sect disciples, it could have caused them to inhale sharply with disbelief. In their minds, this assessment could be considered terrifying. But they could not have possibly imagined that what was truly terrifying was Bai Xiaochun’s insight towards the ten thousand kinds of herbs in the jade tablet.
Time passed. Two thousand stalks, three thousand stalks…
Bai Xiaochun’s eyes were filled with blood vessels as his hands struggled to keep up with the pace of his thoughts. If it weren’t for his cultivation at the fourth level of Qi-condensation, he would have long since been forced to stop.
Since it had come to this degree, Bai Xiaochun did not know whether, he could ultimately pass the exam or not. He could only grit his teeth forcefully and continue to persist.
Four thousand stalks, five thousand stalks, six thousand stalks, seven thousand stalks…
After an unknown amount of time, when there were not many fragments of medicine left, all the medicine suddenly disappeared with a flash. His vision blurred, and when it cleared up, he found that he had already returned to the wooden hut. On the stone stele, there appeared a jade tablet, exactly the same jade tablet containing the first volume of herbs that had assimilated with the stele.
“There was still some left, only so little was left…” His heart was unsettled. As he picked up his jade tablet and depressedly walked out of the hut, he heard the loud cheers of numerous people outside.
Bai Xiaochun raised his head and immediately spotted Zhou Xinqi coincidentally walking out of her hut at the same time. And on the stone stele behind her, the Aquarius mark that represented her name had already appeared at the number one position.