However, even after much consideration, he couldn’t think of anything that would help him speed up his cultivation progress. And the heavenly dragonfish weren’t really an option anymore.
“I guess I’ll have to concoct some pills,” he murmured under his breath. Although the techniques in the Eternal Lands differed from those in the Heavenspan Realm, and were very costly, Bai Xiaochun couldn’t think of any other options.
Most importantly, he had a lot of medicinal plants in his bag of holding.
“I also have some fish jerky left over….” He had actually caught too many fish to eat at once, and had therefore dried some of it out to save for later. “I bet people would pay a pretty penny for jerky like this!”
Although concocting some pills seemed like an exciting prospect, he also hesitated. After all, throughout all the years, it had become obvious that strange things happened whenever he concocted pills.
And if anything disastrous happened in Saint-Emperor City so soon after the heavenly dragonfish incident, it would likely be very bad for him.
Another half a month went by in which Bai Xiaochun went about his cleanup work. The dragonfish were completely back to normal, and he could only grit his teeth as he watched the days go by.
Eventually, he made his decision. He bought the equipment he needed to concoct medicine, and then spent several days making all the necessary preparations. Only then did he murmur, “I’ll just be really careful. Everything… should be fine….”
Perhaps it was because his skill in medicine concocting had improved, or perhaps it was because he was being overly cautious. Either way, even after concocting several batches of pills, nothing out of the ordinary occurred.
Bai Xiaochun was elated, but at the same time, had learned his lesson from all the times in the past in which he proudly assumed that he had succeeded. Therefore, he continued to be very careful. Although it made things take more time, it also ensured that things went very smoothly.
Time continued to go by. Bai Xiaochun would attend court every month, but most of the time, he just stood there bored, or even just closed his eyes and ignored what was going on. His only other main activity was concocting pills.
A few more months passed. His cultivation did not progress as quickly as it had when he was eating heavenly dragonfish, but it grew more stable, and did experience some progress.
From what he could tell, it would only take a few more years for him to reach the great circle of the Demigod Realm.
In the months that passed, the court officials and the Saint-Emperor noticed that he was keeping a low profile. There were no nasty incidents, and therefore, they began to breathe sighs of relief inwardly. On the outside, they were as sanctimonious as ever with both their smiles and words alike.
To the people of the Saint-Emperor Dynasty, it didn’t matter how much of a low profile Bai Xiaochun kept, he was still a foreigner.
Bai Xiaochun simply pretended to not understand their condescending way of speaking. He spent his days concocting pills and working on his cultivation. Eventually, Saint-Emperor City entered a period of protracted peace and quiet.
The only person who wasn’t happy was Heavenly Marquis Liu. He had been sharpening his proverbial swords as he waited for Bai Xiaochun to cause a problem, but even after all the time that had passed, nothing happened. All the peace and quiet was making Heavenly Marquis Liu very nervous.
“He must have hatched some big plot!!” Convinced of this, he began to watch Bai Xiaochun even more closely.
And thus the days passed. Autumn became winter, and cold settled onto the lands of the Saint-Emperor Dynasty. Eventually, lotus seed pods began to appear on the surface of the water.
When the cultivators of Saint-Emperor City noticed this, they got very excited, and word quickly began to spread.
“The lotus seed pods are out!!”
“Don't tell me we’re going to be blessed with a series of grand lotus banquets!?!?”
“The last time the lotus seed pods appeared was half a sixty-year-cycle ago! I heard that anyone lucky enough to eat some lotus seeds will have significant cultivation base advancement!”
“It must be because His Majesty the Saint-Emperor used that special divine ability on the heavenly pond earlier in the year. That’s why the lotus seed pods have appeared earlier than usual!”
As word spread, crowds would gather at the edge of the lotus leaves to look at the lotus seed pods, of which there were dozens. Along with the pods came a fragrant aroma which filled Saint-Emperor City, and would stimulate the cultivation base of anyone who inhaled it.
There was such a buzz in the city that Bai Xiaochun heard about what was happening even though he hadn’t left his residence. And before long, he was able to smell the unusual aroma.
“Lotus seed pods!” Curious, he went out and started to ask around. What he discovered caused his eyes to light up.
“I was too focused on the heavenly dragonfish before. How could I have forgotten that the heavenly pond also has these other precious materials in it!?” He simply couldn’t suppress the look of joy that appeared on his face.
The reason Saint-Emperor City had been built on this heavenly pond to begin with was because of the consummate immortal lotus which existed in it. It was the only lotus like it within all the Eternal Lands, and was the envy of the Vile-Emperor himself. It was considered a precious treasure belonging to the entire city.
Its roots spread far and wide, and although it only had one flower, it had many leaves. Furthermore, every hundred years or so, it would send lotus seed pods to the surface of the water.
The seeds in those pods were nothing like ordinary lotus seeds, and in fact, once they were harvested, were almost like immortal pills.
Such seeds were considered precious treasures within the Saint-Emperor Dynasty, and of course, the Saint-Emperor had set strict rules regarding how they could be harvested. In fact, only he himself was qualified to do so. Furthermore, he would only harvest 1,000 seeds in total. Usually, from the time the first lotus seed pod appeared until the last, and all of the 1,000 seeds were harvested, only a few weeks would pass.
Another custom was that, when the lotus pods appeared, and the seeds were harvested, the Saint-Emperor would throw a series of banquets. All of the court officials would attend, and would sip on immortal alcohol while the Saint-Emperor graced them with a performance of archaean magic. Then, he would reward certain individuals with lotus seeds.
Of the total of 1,000 seeds, only about 300 or so would be given to individual members of the court. Another 200 would be given as rewards to people who had performed great services for the dynasty. An additional 200 would be sent out and sold at auction.
The remaining 300 would remain in the imperial palace to be used as ingredients for concocting pills.
A few dozen lotus pods had already reached the surface of the water, and therefore, everyone was already talking about the possibility of a series of lotus banquets. People throughout the two immortal domains controlled by the Saint-Emperor Dynasty were getting excited, and the major clans began to make preparations to send representatives to the capital city.
“Lotus seeds that are similar to immortal pills?!” Bai Xiaochun couldn’t help but lick his lips as he thought about what he had learned.
“As Duke Heavenspan, I should receive one of them as a gift, right?” His anticipation grew as a few more days passed. Then, the sound of tolling bells echoed out from the imperial palace. The lotus banquets that the court had been waiting for were about to begin.
Trying to keep his excitement in check, Bai Xiaochun arranged his garments and headed toward the palace. Upon arriving, he saw that the huge square was filled with thousands of banquet tables, upon which was spread a variety of delectable alcohols and immortal fruit, which numerous palace handmaidens drifted about to serve.
Quite a few important cultivators were already present, seated at various tables and engaging in small talk. Chen Su was there, as was Gu Tianjun and the other celestials. When Gu Tianjun caught sight of Bai Xiaochun, he simply looked the other way. As for Chen Su, he didn’t really like him very much, but still plastered a warm smile onto his face.
Most of the other important cultivators reacted similarly. The disdain that flickered deep in their eyes was something that most people wouldn’t notice. But considering the level of Bai Xiaochun’s cultivation base, and his familiarity with the nature of people, he could see it clearly.
“Well, if it isn’t Duke Heavenspan. He’s usually late when he comes to attend court, but now he's early!”
“Duke Heavenspan comes from a very small world. Presumably, he's never even seen immortal lotuses before. Considering his rank, though, the Saint-Emperor will probably give him a seed as a gift.”
“Now that you mention it, I bet Duke Heavenspan is the first person from the Heavenspan Realm to have ever eaten one of these immortal lotus seeds. Few ordinary people could be as lucky as him. He'd better make sure to eat it slowly and savor the flavor.”
Bai Xiaochun heard all of the talk about him, but merely cleared his throat and pretended he hadn’t noticed. Laughing heartily, he found a spot near the front of the square, where he sat down in the crowd.
Clearing his throat, he said unblinkingly, “Now that I think about it, I really miss how, back in the Heavenspan Realm, I would constantly munch on 100,000-year-old lotus seeds. I would usually spit them out though. I mostly just put them in my mouth for the flavor. The aftertaste would last for a whole day, and was truly unforgettable. I’d assumed I would never enjoy that again. Who would have thought I would run into some immortal lotus seeds here?
“It's too bad there aren’t any spirit tail chickens here. You know, there was one kind of immortal fowl back where I come from that evolved directly from the natural laws of heaven and earth. We called them heaven-destroying, earth-extinguishing spirit tail chickens. We would usually roast them with 10,000-year-old snow lotus seeds, and then add in a few 500,000-year-old immortal peppers. Ah, now that is a flavor that will go with you through reincarnation!
“Sadly, I was only important enough to eat a few thousand of them.” With that he sighed, the gleam of reminiscence flickering strongly in his eyes.