The Serene Ice Jade
Elder Moye was rendered speechless at first, but he quickly agreed that this was a good idea nonetheless. If they truly did end up making a mistake and offended the Melodic Ice Palace, at worst they could simply have Ying Qiaoqiao publicly scold him and send an apology to the people they'd taken the cottage from. If it wasn't a mistake, however, helping Ying Qiaoqiao through a trial would earn him quite the sizeable amount of merit. Elder Moye was a bit of a pedant, but he wasn't an idiot—he soon came to a decision and stood up. "Alright, then I shall go and find a suitable target!"
Fang Xing smiled. "I wish for your immediate success, Elder…."
"You look rather clever, so let's go and check it out together!"
Fang Xing was caught off guard at first, but he soon decided it actually wouldn't be a bad idea for him to follow along considering how unreliable Elder Moye was. He quickly agreed, filling Elder Moye with a sense of surprise towards this boy's courage.
Ying Qiaoqiao was similarly impressed; although the other servants would have tried to run away from such a thing, Fang Xing had accepted it without any fear. "Here, take this Protection Talisman," she offered while taking out a golden talisman from her storage sack to pass on to Fang Xing.
Fang Xing accepted the talisman without even looking at it before closely following Elder Moye along the ship. "Elder, I've been paying attention the whole time, and it seems as though the weakest clan is the Cui clan from the Mohe-or-something country. They only have a total of four people including their young master and guardians. The only reason why were able to enter Cold Soul Valley in advance was because they ride on spirit beasts, allowing them to use every inch and gap to sneak their way to the front. Let's just take theirs! With your battle prowess, it's a sure win!" Fang Xing schemed with gleaming eyes, excited to do something like this.
Elder Moye gave a curious glance at Fang Xing's bizarre behavior, but what Fang Xing had said was reasonable. He agreed, and the two of them began to walk towards the cottage of the Cui clan.
The valley had grown quiet by now. Those who'd managed to get themselves a cottage were already settled inside, while those who hadn't had instead parked their spirit vessels along the side of the valley. Nobody was still outdoors—everyone was inside, trying to keep warm.
Elder Moye's brows creased when the pair arrived at the Cui clan's cottage. It seemed some restrictive formations had been set up outside the cottage that activated once the doors closed. Although he was a Foundation Stage cultivator, he still didn't have enough battle prowess to actively break something like this. When Fang Xing saw Elder Moye's hesitation, however, he confidently swaggered up towards the door to knock while crisply calling out, "Anyone there?"
"Who is it?" someone promptly answered, their voice filled with suspicion.
'It seems not everyone is stupid. Looks like this Cui clan noticed something as well…' flashed through Fang Xing's mind as he exchanged glances with Elder Moye. Elder Moye considered leaving when he saw Fang Xing's guarded gaze, but just as he was hesitating, Fang Xing let out a cold laugh before loudly declaring, "I am a disciple from the Melodic Ice Palace, and this is the elder who will be hosting the recruitment ceremony, Elder Grey-Beard. We are here to speak to you about the rules of this ceremony!"
Elder Moye was considerably surprised by this and couldn't help but to send a look Fang Xing's way. This boy's courage was so great he even dared to fake being a disciple and elder of the Melodic Ice Palace on their own grounds.
If even Elder Moye felt Fang Xing was too bold, those within the cottage naturally didn't expect someone would dare try such a thing. "It is our rudeness," came from the cottage before the door was cracked open just enough for a servant-seeming person to peek outside. "You're… disciples of the Melodic Ice Palace?" the servant asked, taken aback by what the pair was wearing—their clothing obviously didn't belong to the Melodic Ice Palace!
"We're your uncles from the Myriad Beasts Sect…." As he spoke, Fang Xing quickly kicked the door open before turning his head and calling out, "Elder Moye, go!"
Although Elder Moye was caught off guard at first, he soon dashed inside with lightning-like speed; he was a Foundation Stage cultivator, after all, and Spirit Stage cultivators couldn't compare. Although he might perhaps be considered the weakest of all Foundation Stage cultivators, he was still effectively invincible in front of the Cui clan who were all still in Spirit Stage.
"Why does this kid seem to be even more experienced than I am?" Elder Moye muttered to himself after seeing Fang Xing kick open the door. The restrictive formation was connected to the door; the restriction would activate the moment the door was closed, but keeping the door open would prevent it from triggering.
Banging and crashing sounds could be heard inside the cottage, alongside the occasional pained cries. It soon became quiet, however, and Fang Xing smirked before entering the cottage as well. Once inside, he saw Elder Moye standing on the staircase with his hands folded against his back, while four men were groaning on the ground of the first floor. They were indeed the people of the Cui clan—not one less, not one more.
"What shall we do with these people?" Elder Moye quietly asked. Not even he noticed that a Foundation Stage cultivation like himself had started to seek advice from someone supposedly still in Spirit Stage.
"Let's throw them out. You go and pick up the little miss and bring the rest of them over!"
"Sounds good!" Elder Moye nodded before leaping out of the cottage in a flash. Fang Xing, on the other hand, began to frisk these people. It was his rule to never leave empty-handed in situations like this, and he wasn't about to stop just because he entered the Foundation Stage!
Everyone from the Cui clan had already been knocked unconscious by Elder Moye, so Fang Xing was able to grab all of their storage sacks without any resistance. After a quick look, however, he was left disappointed—these people were just too poor! None of these items were good enough in Fang Xing's eyes. He decided to keep it all for himself regardless, though; even the meat from a tiny mosquito was still meat!
Just as Fang Xing was about to toss these people out, the young master of the Cui clan slowly stirred and began to loudly question him, "Who… who are you…? How dare you—"
Fang Xing didn't want to bother chatting with him and kicked him back into unconsciousness. The kick was a bit too strong, and the young master was sent rolling while a sparkling and translucent jade plate fell onto the ground.
Fang Xing could tell at a glance that this was the Black Ice Order since he'd seen Ying Qiaoqiao's before, so he opened his palm and welcomed the plate into his hand. Upon contact, an icy sensation traveled from the tips of his fingers directly towards his mind, causing it to suddenly become clear. "Nn? This Black Ice Order is interesting…" Fang Xing murmured in surprise before activating the Book of Revelation.
"Low-grade Serene Ice Jade…. Drives out devils and suppresses demons, protects the soul and its senses…." As it so happened, this Black Ice Order had been crafted from a unique jade from within the Melodic Ice Palace. It could be found in veins of jade that had been secluded in extreme Yin environments for millions of years without seeing the light of day, and so had an extreme Yin property. It was called "Serene Ice Jade" and had the ability to restrain evil and clear the user's mind. "Drives out devils and suppresses demons? I wonder if it'll be useful for that demonic spirit…." Newly moved, Fang Xing tightly clutched the Black Ice Order before continuing the appraisal through the Book of Revelation, and it didn't take long before he deciphered how to use it.
Fang Xing began to introduce the Qi contained inside the jade into his own body just like he would a spirit stone. As the chilling energy moved from the Serene Ice Jade into his body, its chill moved the same way Qi did, tracing through his meridians all throughout his form. Fang Xing's hairs stood on end and he shivered from the cold, but his mind was clear. It was as though he just drank a large pot of ice water during a summer heatwave, leaving behind an indescribable sense of satisfaction.
At the same time, Fang Xing used his spirit sense to view his own Sea of Consciousness and could instantly tell the malicious black energy wrapped around his foundation had been suppressed a bit after the chill entered his body. Although the effect wasn't very pronounced, the jade's ability to suppress the black energy was very clear. This immediately filled Fang Xing with joy—he felt there was a faint possibility he'd stumbled upon the answer he'd been searching for.
The black smog that had covered Fang Xing's foundation was slowly eroding its energy, and the issue only continued to worsen. Fang Xing didn't dare to use many spells, and it had reached the point where he'd even halted his cultivation practice. The more he used the energy of his foundation, the stronger the demonic spirit would become. If the demonic spirit managed to break free from its seal, Fang Xing would no longer be able to handle it.
Simply put, this single demonic spirit was enough to completely end Fang Xing's path of cultivation.
During the journey here, Fang Xing had been considering what sort of method old man Hu Qin might have to help cure his demonic spirit, and although he'd made all sorts of guesses, he couldn't think of any actual methods. It was worth mentioning that even the person who first suggested he seek out Hu Qin in the first place—Chen Xuanhua, Qing-Yun's sect master—hadn't even been sure himself. The only reason he thought old man Hu Qin might have a method to resolve this demonic spirit inside Fang Xing was because of an event that had occurred to Hu Qin in the past.
Before old man Hu Qin had formed his golden core, he once needed to fight against the Demonic Phantom Sect from the western continent of Godaniya. That evil sect had ten powerful Foundation Stage cultivators collectively known as the "Ten Phantoms", and they'd established a branch in the northern part of Chufung amidst the Yunci Mountains. Their greatest strength lay in their curses, and they would often steal infants from nearby to craft the "Curse of the Blood Baby".
After making his way to the mountains, old man Hu Qin fought against the Ten Phantoms by turning his instrument strings into swords to cut through their formations and curses. Despite being a single man, he struck them down one by one and destroyed the entire branch of this Demonic Phantom Sect, making him famous throughout all of Chufung overnight.
He'd paid a great price for his fame, however. Upon the Ten Phantoms' death, he was cursed with an extremely malevolent spell that nearly took his life. After that battle, old man Hu Qin chose to go into seclusion and vowed he wouldn't leave until he'd found out how to resolve the curse. Nobody believed even old man Hu Qin would be able to escape his fate, and they behaved as though he'd already passed on. Combined with the inner turmoil within the Melodic Ice Palace, his eldest pupil was pushed aside by others and his extremely talented second pupil was killed through shameful schemes.
Hu Qin's influence weakened, yet he defied expectations by emerging from seclusion three years later after breaking past the Foundation Stage and into the Golden Core with a strong comeback. He was typically a peaceful old man, but it went without saying that he began a mass slaughter of the Melodic Ice Palace once he'd emerged from his seclusion in order to avenge his two students. From there, he laid the foundation, and his position and authority within the Melodic Ice Palace had remained stable ever since.
As for why Chen Xuanhua felt old man Hu Qin might have a method to help Fang Xing resolve his demonic spirit, it was because the curse Hu Qin had been faced with back then was many times stronger than the one Fang Xing was currently dealing with. If old man Hu Qin had been able to resolve his in the past, perhaps he would also have a method to help Fang Xing as well. This wasn't guaranteed, of course; Fang Xing's demonic spirit had been created using the Spirit Lantern as a catalyst, making it different from other curses.
'Could that old man's method to resolve the curse have something to do with this Serene Ice Jade?' Fang Xing couldn't help but to think to himself. His eyes lit up and various schemes raced through his mind.