Time flew as fast as a steed flitting past a crack!  A month passed, and chilling winds were beginning to blow; sending autumn leaves floating through the air along the Tongtian river, just past the Spirit Creek Sect. As the seasons changed, Bai Xiaochun suddenly realized that it had been a whole year since his arrival at the Spirit Creek Sect.
For him, this year had been quite eventful. He had changed from an ordinary person, into a sect disciple with a cultivation base at the Third layer of Qi Condensation. This change absolved any conflicts that may have arisen due to him joining the Hearthfire Kitchens.
Xu Baocai never appeared before the Hearthfire Kitchens’ doors again. Even when Bai Xiaochun ventured down the mountain in order to procure materials for the Hearthfire Kitchens, to replenish all the materials the nine brothers consumed, he would almost always catch a glimpse of Xu Baocai hurriedly attempting to avoid him. It appeared as though Xu Baocai was absolutely terrified of him.
Despite that, for the past month Bai Xiaochun would often be seen in a miserable mood. He would sigh from the bottom of his heart and say nothing to Big Fatty Zhang and the others. For Bai Xiaochun, this was something he had to deal with by himself.
“One year of my life… ah…” Bai Xiaochun looked at a nearby tree, its leaves that had turned yellow were being carried away by the wind as they fell.
‘I am just like this big tree. These falling leaves represent the one year of life I’ve lost…’ thought Bai Xiaochun, feeling rather sentimental.
This past month he had tried every method of nourishing his body, yet the strands of white hair that covered his forehead still hadn’t regained their colour. He had indirectly asked Big Fatty Zhang and the others about it, and discovered that there were actually some methods to supplement one’s life. However, they either had some kind of restriction, or were as rare as phoenix feathers and unicorn horns.He gradually forgot about eating and drinking, causing even his small face became haggard. In the end he had no choice but to give up and accept the fact that his lifespan had shortened. After leaving one afternoon in order to purchase materials for the Hearthfire Kitchens, Bai Xiaochun spotted a huge stele at the bottom of the third peak. The pace of his breathing gradually sped up.
At the foot of every mountain on the southern bank of the Spirit Creek Sect was a stele just like this one. On its side were countless rows of densely packed texts that flickered with light. From time to time some of the text would slide off the stele like running water, after which new lines of characters would appear to replace them.
This was where the Spirit Creek Sect mission reception area was located. Every disciple needed to complete sect missions in order to receive the spirit stones necessary for cultivation, as well as contribution points.
In particular, contribution points were needed for things such as listening to scriptures, entering the Technique Pavilion, and accessing any of the special training areas. Contribution points could be used to obtain nearly anything in the sect. To some extent, contribution points were more precious than spirit stones.
Currently, many outer sect disciples had gathered at the base of the third peak. They were all staring at the mission stele with unwavering eyes. Occasionally someone would select a task to complete, and then respectfully relay it to the cross-legged middle-aged cultivator who was sitting in front of the stele.
Furthermore, there were even some Miscellaneous Chores disciples among them. Amidst the sea of outer sect disciples who wore cloud-like cyan robes, they could be clearly distinguished due to their different clothing.
The only missions that were not specifically visible here, were the ones that required an inner disciple of the Spirit Creek Sect. As for the other missions, both outer sect disciples and Miscellaneous Chores disciples could choose them.
Some of the Miscellaneous Chores disciples who strove to advance would view this place as the first step for themselves, as a carp leaping through the dragon’s gate. 
Bai Xiaochun had been standing here for as long as it would take an incense stick to burn. His expression was indiscernible as he stared attentively at one of the lines of flickering text in the center of the stele. The look on his face betraying his apparent hesitation.
“Longevity pill…I didn’t expect inner sect disciples to have this kind of herbal medicine. Going by the name, this pill should be able to extend one’s life.” After staring for a long time, Bai Xiaochun mumbled as contemplated this matter for a short while before approaching the middle-aged cultivator who was sitting in front of the stele.
Many outer sect disciples surrounded Bai Xiaochun on all sides. Even though they had all sensed his arrival, each and every one of them chose to ignore him. Due to his standing, and because he was a Miscellaneous Chores disciple, they didn’t even consider him worthy of their attention.
Bai Xiaochun waited until the people the amount of people between him and the middle aged dwindled. Then he cupped his fists to pay his respects, displaying an obedient countenance.
“Good afternoon, Senior Brother.”
The middle-aged cultivator raised his head and swept a glance over Bai Xiaochun, then slightly nodded his head without saying a single word.
“Senior Brother, there is a mission here that requires one to search for several strands of herbs in exchange for a longevity pill. Can this pill truly extend one’s lifespan?” Bai Xiaochun asked about this particular detail, as he was still concerned about his lifespan.
“Longevity pill… yeah, there is such a mission. And the pill you receive as a reward will extend your life, though only by one year. However, it comes with many restrictions. It can only be used at the Fifth layer of Qi Condensation or below, and it’s only effective the first time one uses it; consuming it a second time is completely useless. It‘s considered precious, because it can extend a person’s lifespan by one year, but it isn’t very useful in the end.” The middle-aged cultivator saw how obedient Bai Xiaochun looked, and couldn’t help but blurt out additional details.
“Generally speaking, it’s only used by sect disciples to prolong the mortal lives of their family’s elderly, however it has a considerable price. Do you still want to accept this mission?”
Bai Xiaochun raised his head to eye the stele, pondered for a bit, and then nodded.
Seeing this, the middle-aged cultivator lifted his right hand and pointed at the stele. Promptly, the mission text turned grey. A smooth jade white strip appeared in his right hand shortly after, which he then threw to Bai Xiaochun.
“Azure Spirit Leaves, Earthen Dragonfruits, and Stone Insect Shells. Once you’ve gathered enough of these three herbs, you can exchange them for a longevity pill.” The middle aged cultivator said indifferently, and stopped paying attention to Bai Xiaochun. Instead, he moved on to presenting missions to the other outer sect disciples – who were arriving at his side.
Bai Xiaochun took the jade strip and left, as four words continued to echo in his mind, ‘can extend your life.’ His eyes slowly revealed his resolution.
“I must obtain this medical pill, in order to regain the year of life that I’ve lost.”
With this newfound determination, Bai Xiaochun sprinted towards the Four Seas House to seek out information. Among the resources available to Miscellaneous Chores disciples, Bai Xiaochun found information related to the Azure Spirit Leaves. It was a type of medicinal herb that only grew in the habitat of a creature called the Climatory Spiritual Bird. As these Climatory Spiritual Birds liked to gather in flocks, and a single one was akin to a cultivator at the Second layer of Qi Condensation, trying to obtain the herbs was no easy feat. As such, its price wasn’t low either.
As for the Earthen Dragonfruit and Stone Insect Shells, the Four Oceans House did not have any records of them. Bai Xiaochun groped around in his pockets, and then left with a bitter smile. When Bai Xiaochun returned to the Hearthfire Kitchens, he tried to obtain more information from Fatty Zhang and the others. None of them had heard about the Earthen Dragonfruit before, but Third Fatty Hei knew of the Stone Insect Shell. This item was actually the carapace of a spirit insect called the Stone Insect.
According to him, this shell was incomparably hard. Furthermore, it was extremely heavy. They were rarely found here on the southern bank and would only be produced at the northern bank as their cultivation technique worked primarily to tame beasts. Even though both the Southern and Northern Shores were part of the Spirit Creek Sect, and one would only have the qualifications to cross the Main Peak’s mountain bridge that stood between them when they became an inner sect disciple.
“Why are you asking about these medicinal herbs? These things can’t be eaten, and their prices at the Southern Shore Marketplace at the bottom of the mountain are also ridiculously high.” Big Fatty Zhang inquired in puzzlement as he patted his stomach.
Bai Xiaochun’s eyes brightened the moment he heard the word ‘marketplace’. He immediately sprinted down the mountain after giving the others a simple explanation. Although he had only stepped out of the sect a limited number of times in the year he had been in the Hearthfire Kitchens, he still knew there was a marketplace outside the sect.
Most of the shops in the Marketplace were opened by the families of the disciples in the Sect. There were even some shops that were owned by Sect disciples which exclusively provided services for the disciples of the Sect. Over time, these businesses had slowly grown to a considerable scale.
The everyday necessities required by the Hearthfire Kitchens were also bought from here.
When Bai Xiaochun returned to the Hearthfire Kitchens after walking around the Marketplace and visiting the Medical Herbs sections, his brows were knitted and repeatedly sighed from the depths of his heart.
“This is too blackhearted, especially for that Earthen Dragonfruit. Isn’t it just a fruit of a plant that grows underground? How can it be so expensive!” Bai Xiaochun helplessly discovered that he simply had no means to exchange for a single Longevity Pill with his current abilities.
Bai Xiaochun had no idea about the importance of money; when compared to his lifespan, he couldn’t care less about how much wealth he had. While he was in this impecunious situation, he suddenly remembered that the only valuable items the Senior Fatty brothers had in their possession were already in their stomachs. Therefore, Bai Xiaochun came to the conclusion that they were in fact no richer than himself.
As for the spirit food in the Hearthfire Kitchens, nobody could catch and punish them if they secretly ate it. However, if they tried to sell it outside, given the degree of strictness that the disciples from the Supervising House had, the punishment would not be light if they were caught.
Thinking back and forth, Bai Xiaochun could not come up with any idea to earn money – unless he sold the items he had spirit refined.
But such a matter didn’t sit well with him. Bai Xiaochun was cultivating in his room after several days of contemplation, when suddenly a loud bell chime echoed throughout the Sect.
The bell chime wasn’t extremely loud, and it disappeared quickly. Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes with no expression of surprise. He had heard this bell chime every month since he had entered the Sect. And long ago, he had already known from Big Fatty Zhang that this sound signified the day that the various Peaks opened their Trial by Fire to the Miscellaneous Chores disciples. This was their chance to be promoted to an Outer Sect Disciple.
To be promoted from a Miscellaneous Chores disciple to an Outer Sect disciple was akin to a fish transforming into a dragon. One must firstly have attained the Third layer of Qi Condensation cultivation, and secondly, choose a Road of Trial on one of the mountain peaks. Though the Road of Trial was simply a flight of steps that stretched all the way to the altar at the top of the mountain, this road has been layered with magical force, making it extremely hard for anyone to take even a single step. If one could walk successfully to the top, one could earn the right to become an Outer Sect Disciple.
However, the number of Outer Sect Disciple spots were limited, and each time every Peak only chose the three that had finished walking the road in the least amount of time. As there was an enormous number of Miscellaneous Chores Disciples in Spirit Creek Sect – just the southern shore alone had over 10 000 people – it made the competition extremely intense.
As for the disciples of Hearthfire Kitchen , they naturally followed the commandment of “rather starving to death in the Hearthfire Kitchen than competing for a spot in the Outer Sect”. At this time of the month, they would only watch the show with excitement and without a single worry on their faces.
Bai Xiaochun closed his eyes briefly, but soon opened them again with a weird look on his face, instantly turning into happiness A thought slowly formed in his head as he stood up paced back and forth in his room. After closely inspecting the details of this thought, his face immediately brimmed with joy.
“It can be done!” He immediately pushed open his room door and gathered Big Fatty Zhang and the others who were busy discussing who the unlucky fellow that would become an Outer Sect disciple would be.
“Fellow Senior Brothers, I have an idea to make us rich. I’m asking for the assistance of my fellow Senior Brothers, let’s get rich together!” Bai Xiaochun smacked his lips and looked towards Big Fatty Zhang and his group with a glint in his eye.
Such a look wasn’t foreign to Big Fatty Zhang and the others; when Bai Xiaochun had suggested to thicken the base of the bowls which benefited the Hearthfire Kitchen, he had the exact same look on his face. Big Fatty Zhang and the others immediately showed their interest.
“Ninth Fatty, just what kind of idea do you have? To tell you the truth, the rest of us are also very poor. It’s all because of that damned Supervising House; if it weren’t for them, we would have struck rich just by selling those things in the Hearthfire Kitchen!” Big Fatty Zhang slapped Bai Xiaochun on the shoulders and looked on with a gaze of anticipation.
You guys are too ferocious…….to think we actually got second place for recommendation votes!! Brothers and sisters, be a bit more ferocious please~~
 idiom: The general meaning is “How time flies!” as a horse would run very quickly past a slit.
 Mythical Dragon gate where a carp can transform into a dragon