Jiang Xiaojin's winter break had just started.
To little rogues like herself, living with parents was as good as killing her. With Chinese New Year around the corner, her old man was also taking a break from his business, resting his body and soul at home while taking the chance to discipline his own daughter.
As a result, Xiaojin was to get up at eight, go to bed at ten, eat three meals on time everyday, and no night life was allowed whatsoever. The mustang running wild was now a poodle on a leash.
Of course, today she had the perfect excuse. She was going to visit her cousin!
Jiang Xiaojin hopped into her old bucket of bolts and arrived at Xiaozhai's doorstep shortly after the phone call. She rang the doorbell and Long Qiu opened the door for her. Both girls were somewhat dazzled by the other one. The feeling of "hello, beautiful" was mutual.
"Are you my sister's friend?"
Being a senior member of the "good-looks club", Xiaojin was as double-standard as one could be—that was, depending on how good the person in question looked. She would normally have wrapped her arm around the other's shoulders by now, but the Long Qiu's appearance was so pure and delicate that even Xiaojin was more careful than usual.
"Um, yes, I'm Long Qiu!"
Long Qiu was in a flurry herself. She took out a pair of slippers for Xiaojin in a hurry. After all, this was Xiaozhai's relative—unlike herself, who was more like something picked off the roadside.
The two both acted weird and uptight and walked in together each filled with her own thoughts. Xiaozhai was still lying down in the study, staring at the ceiling. She asked indifferently, "What are you doing here at this hour of the night? Xiao Qiu, go cut open a watermelon."
While Long Qiu went to the kitchen as tame as a lamb, Xiaojin went up to Xiaozhai with a sneaky tone, "Sis, who is she? Your girlfriend? Wow, when did you stop being straight? You should have told me. Together, we can… Mm! Mm!"
Before she could finish her sentence, her lips were pinched together, her faced stretched into that of a giant salamander. Xiaozhai could not be bothered to respond and only said, "Don't outstay your welcome. You're not staying here."
"But, I am. I'm sleeping here tonight."
"No you're not!"
As tough as she could pretend to be, Xiaojin was flexible enough to play the weakling. She threw herself at Xiaozhai, wailing and crying, "Have some pity! At home, I can't eat or sleep well. My dad even scolded me for buying a vibrator. Please let me stay here for a few days!"
"I'm leaving the day after tomorrow. I don't have time to hang out with you."
"You're going out? Good! Take me with you. Where are you going?"
She stuck herself to Xiaozhai, showering the latter with all sorts of pleading. Long Qiu stood at the doorway, holding a plate of watermelon, and watched her slack-jawed—so, people can actually mewl and act cute (or, shameless) like this?
In the end, out of some unknown reason, Xiaozhai not only let her cousin stay, but had also agreed to take her to Bai Town together.
That night, Jiang Xiaojin successfully stayed over at Xiaozhai's, squeezing into one bed with Long Qiu.
Night. All sounds were still.
Sitting in the room of quietness on the west wing, Gu Yu held the Seal of Patriarch Sa on his palm as he slowly inserted his mental force into it. Patriarch Sa had left behind three records of Taoist methods: "Shenxiao's Tinkling Jade Book of Great Thunder", "On Alchemy", and "On Refining Instrument".
Although the Thunder Technique was inherited from the "Dragon-snatching Internal Technique of Five Thunders" from Xiaozhai's sect, Sa Shoujian, being the Taoist grandmaster of his time, was not a routineer. With the contribution of his own analysis and complements, the technique was improved and perfected.
The status of a manual was determined by the maximum level its practitioners could achieve. Same as the essence-consuming method, the "Tinkling Jade Book of Great Thunder" now could also sustain one until the Human Immortal stage.
Xiaozhai had transcribed the manual, leaving the study of the other two passages to Gu Yu.
A dim lamp lit the room. Gu Yu had sat by the lamp for hours before he rubbed his temples, his spirits somewhat sagging—the side effect of using too much of his mental force.
The texts were a mixed blessing.
First of all, let's take a look at alchemy 1 . The Dan practice was divided into Waidan and Neidan 2 and the one in question here was the Waidan practice. It could be traced to pre-Qin period and was not formally set forth until the book "The Kinship of the Three, in Accordance with the Book of Changes" of Wei Boyang in late Han Dynasty came out. The book gave a detailed description on various ingredients of Dans, the duration and degree of heating, as well as their effect, etc.
By the time of Wei-Jin period, the practice of Waidan came into fashion, establishing a school of its own with Ge Hong the "Junior Immortal Old Man" as its representative figure. The trend of Waidan made it all the way into Tang Dynasty, when it saw its prime. The practice then gradually waned with the rise of Neidan.
There had always been two misunderstandings of the practice of Waidan.
First, because the main ingredients of Dans were usually chosen among the five metals (gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin) and eight stones (cinnabar, realgar, mica, azurite, brimstone, halite, nitre, and orpiment), which were toxic during the refining process, it was rumored that many ancient people died from "overdosing".
The truth was, just like the practice of talismans, Waidan also required an adequate level of cultivation.
Nearly all dynasties had records of the sudden death of a certain emperor from consuming Waidan. The problem, however, was not with Dan itself, but the people consuming it. Infused with the spiritual essence of heaven and earth and treasured substances of nature, Waidan was the result of favorable climate, geographical convenience, and good human relations. It was only suitable for those capable enough to control such energy.
With their daily cultivation activities, Taoist practitioners had purified their mind and restricted their passions. The channels linking their vital organs were completely unobstructed, enabling them to harmonize with nature itself. As a result, when they consumed a Dan with profound energy, they were able to assimilate its medicinal property; the toxins would not affect them.
What if the common folks really wanted to try consuming Dans themselves? There were certainly ways around it. In ancient times, there were medicinal pellets and powders to go with Dans. While a Dan was used for cultivation, the complementary medicines were there to "detox". Obviously, the potency of the two were poles apart and the toxin would still accumulate over time. How long one could survive would depend on their physique.
The second misunderstanding was that the ingredients of a Dan actually comprised two categories: mineral medicines and herbal medicines. According to the book "Literary Expositor of Stone Medicines" written by Mei Biao of Tang Dynasty, there were as many as 150 common stone medicines. Herbal medicines were as numerous—at least over a hundred, and among those were ginseng, glossy ganoderma, dodder herb, and alkanet, just to name a few.
That was where the problem lay.
The heritage of Waidan practice had been lost for some time after numerous dynasties for two main reasons: the practice was extremely expensive and the spiritual materials were impossible to obtain. To find a fifty-year-old wild ginseng was like a daydream come true, let alone a ginseng that had become spiritual.
Gu Yu felt he was having a headache again. Now that at last there was the recipe of Essence-gathering Dan, it turned out to be as good as nothing.
To begin with, the alchemy furnace itself was impossible to build—it would not do to use some random iron furnace. The "six and one mud" had to be used, which was a substance of neither gold nor silver, nor did it contain any wood or stone. To make such "mud", one would need realgar solution, aluminite solution, halite, halide salt, aluminite, oyster shells from the East China Sea, red halloysite, talc, and leadpowder as raw materials. Take dozens of kilos of each to make the six and one mud, which was to be the seal of the alchemy furnace.
It might seem straightforward, but there was no exact ratio of the ingredients provided! How much was "dozens of kilos"?
That was just the way these things were. The sages would pass on the knowledge of medicine but never the exact procedures. The duration and degree of heating had always been shared among a handful of people alone. After tormenting himself with various ideas, Gu Yu put the Dan recipe aside with much regret; it simply was beyond his capability.
He then moved onto "On Refining Instruments".
Recorded in the seal was a complete system of refining procedure and the product was the Whisk of Tranquility, which was the horsetail whisk commonly used by Taoist practitioners. It was said to dispel evil and help with avoiding ill fortune.
First of all, a pearl was to be mounted at the tip of the whisk's handle, which represented Taiji itself. Taiji was the Great Dao, therefore when making the handle, one had to follow the idea of "Dao begets One" (Bagua bell jar on the top), "One begets Two" (Bagua bell jar in the middle), "Two begets Three" (Bagua bell jar on the bottom), and "Three begets all things" (the whisk head).
The long rod was to be made from a peach tree struck by lightning. A swastika 3 braided from 64 strings and 38 white horsetail strings was to be used for the whisk handle. Together, 102 strings were to be used for the handle; each string was consisted of four horsetail hairs, making it 408 in total.
A Bagua bell jar was to be set on the top, the middle, and the bottom of the handle, each braided from 32 horsetail strings; 384 strings were to be used in total. Tassels were to be attached to the inside of the bell jars, which was of red and yellow in color, representing good luck and happiness.
Each whisk would use whisk would use 4888 horsetail hairs in total.
This crude product was only a mundane object. Next came the refining manual. According to the seal, cultivators could refine instruments with various methods and the most common ways were refining with fire or mental force.
The fire was not just any common flame, but the unusual ones created by nature. It could be found underground, in the water, or even inside tree trunks or beneath the fur of a beast. Magical instruments refined by such fire were extremely powerful after the thorough remolding. Unfortunately, the unusual fires had disappeared for a long time from this world.
Refining using mental force was not as mighty a method, but was much more convenient. Basically, a drop of blood essence was dropped into the instrument to insert the mental force. After that, the instruments was to be carried by the refiner at all times so as to temper it with their mental force. By the time the magical instrument was connected with the refiner in heart and soul, it could be stored in their "house of consciousness", then taken out and retrieved at one's will.
The more powerful one's mental force was, the more likely it was that the refinement would succeed. In turn, the refining process would also enhance one's mental force.
After much consideration, Gu Yu concluded that the key to refine an instrument lay in two factors: the raw material and the mental force.
The importance of the latter was apparent, but the raw material itself was also worth paying attention to. Thunderstruck woods and Bagua, for instance, were able to repel ghosts and monsters on their own; being refined into a magical instrument was an "upgrade" of their power.
After sorting that out, Gu Yu finally let out a sigh of relief. Fortunately, one of the two texts were usable. There was no problem with the Whisk of Tranquility itself, it was just that horsetail whisks were not the prettiest accessories to carry around. The style simply would not match.
To keep an open mind was the characteristic of modern cultivators. They did not have to cling to the old system. Patriarch Sa might have provided them with a sample, but he was not obliged to follow it to a tee. He was thinking of altering the shape of the instrument. As long as it could dispel evil, anything would do.
He was even considering if other materials he had could be refined into magical instruments as well—for example, those two green jade needles.TL/N: or the making of Dan, if you like TL/N: "external Dan" and "internal Dan", in case anyone forgot ED/N: Nazi used it, but it's actually an ancient symbol. So, no relation to naziards here.