The following day, the black thorny forest.
The sun was shining brightly elsewhere outside, sprinkling the mountains with a layer of golden sheen. The brightness stopped abruptly at the edge of this forest, as if being swallowed by a bottomless pit. With the diminished light, the thick woods looked gloomy and the air was filled with a faint stench.
In a clearing in the woods, Long Qiu set down a three-legged bronze cauldron, then sat down in a cross-legged position. The cauldron was custom made—genuine brass and quite pricey.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai stood behind Long Qiu and watched her with curiosity. After all, it was their very first time to ever witness the refinement of an undead insect.
Long Qiu took out a handful of green powder, threw it into the cauldron, and started heating it over the fire. Before long, a strange and pungent smell wafted up from the cauldron.
The smell was not pleasant to human noses, but the poisonous 1 creatures could not get enough of it.
Long Qiu might seem frail in everyday life, but once an undead insect was involved, her demeanor changed into an authoritative one. Right now, with her straight face, her beautiful eyes were focused on the movements in the surrounding woods.
One minute passed, which turned into two minutes, then three… It seemed forever, but the venomous mosquitoes still did not show up.
"Take it easy. It's Saturday today; they're probably having the day off," consoled Xiaozhai.
"Exactly. I think they're getting out of bed now. They'll show up before you know it." Gu Yu also joined in.
Long Qiu blushed and whined, "It's all your fault! They dare not show up with you two around! Go away, go away! I can do this on my own!"
They never saw her flustered like this—the embarrassed Long Qiu looked adorable. Taking after Xiaozhai, Gu Yu also rubbed Long Qiu's head and chuckled, "We're not going anywhere. Let me find them for you."
With that, he dashed promptly into the woods.
"Wait here. Don't go anywhere!" Xiaozhai disappeared after him with an instruction.
Biting her lip, Long Qiu felt rather humiliated. She called out softly, "Golden Silkworm, go get me some mosquitoes!"
The command had barely rolled off her tongue when an invisible fluctuation flew out of her body, drifting slowly to the ground. The moment it landed, it materialized into a fair-skinned chubby little kid about 30 cm in height, wearing a red dudou.
The Golden Silkworm was
invisible and a form-shifter at the same time. It enjoyed turning itself into snakes, frogs, or little boys just to frighten people. Honestly, when it was not going ballistic, it was quite a loveable creature.
Xiao Qiu sat at where she was and waited. About five minutes later, a cacophony of buzzing sounds were coming her way.
Chased by Gu Yu and Xiaozhai, a swarm of mosquitoes flew out of the woods from the east side. The mosquitoes were clashing and shoving in every direction, but were unable to break free because of the barrier of spiritual essence surrounding them.
Poor venomous mosquitoes. They had a good time frightening the novice Gu Yu and Xiaozhai back then, but not any more. Right now, all they could do was to tolerate it.
Almost simultaneously, the trees on the west side also started rustling violently.
A huge cloud of black haze emerged abruptly into their sight. Mosquitoes were pushing forward on top of one another, as if they were running for their lives.
Tailing after the black haze was the chubby kid, whose face was radiating with joy. It could not talk, but the widely opened mouth was indicative enough of its slavering over the "delicacy".
"That's too much!"
Long Qiu cried out in surprise. She fumbled out a handful of white powder in a hurry and tossed it into the cauldron. Sizzling white smoke rose into the air. As soon as the two swarms of mosquitoes were driven into the cauldron, she slit the skin on her arm and dripped in the blood, then closed the lid with a loud bang.
"Pop! Pop! Pop!"
Instantly, the bronze cauldron started shaking violently, as if countless venomous mosquitoes were clashing and knocking about frantically inside while tearing at each other. The noise went on without any sign of stopping.
"Are we done already?" Gu Yu asked with curiosity.
"We're only getting started. It'll take as long as forty-nine days for the Undead Insect of Blood Mosquito to take its shape. After that, I'll subdue it," explained Long Qiu.
Xiaozhai lost her interest after a minute or two. Turning around, she just happen to see the Golden Silkworm, which she found rather amusing with its ability to change into human or animal form and all. She moved near to take a closer look.
The Golden Silkworm spotted her and the man behind her right away. The memory of dealing with those two was still very fresh! It would gladly tear them into pieces had it not been for the fact that it could not overpower them! The Golden Silkworm did not want to hang around these two people. Jumping up with its short legs, it turned back into the invisible being and returned to Long Qiu's body with a woosh.
Xiaozhai blinked, then turned to Long Qiu with a nosy tone, "Hey, Xiao Qiu, do you think it'll start talking once it becomes powerful enough?"
"I have no idea. No one's actually been able to tame a Golden Silkworm before. The hosts have always been controlled by them instead… maybe, maybe it will." Long Qiu was not sure herself.
"Tsk, it'd better be! Just imagine, we'll have a chubby little boy who would chuckle and giggle this moment and eat someone the next. That sounds like an amazing character!" Xiaozhai was letting her imagination run wild again.
Gu Yu winced. Just thinking of that scene was giving him the creeps.
Before they knew it, it was March and early spring had come.
One could feel the temperature rising. Phoenix Mountain was no longer its gray self, but was decorated with clusters of green here and there.
After the two-month-long readjustment, Long Qiu was much more settled in her mind. Since leaving the deep mountains, she went on an adventurous trip with Gu Yu and Xiaozhai. She had seen the wide world out there, killed people with her own hands, and even fell into despair in confinement. Such events in this mortal world seemed to have passed with the blink of an eye.
Observing her condition, Gu Yu thought it was time for them to give it a go. He picked a day when the peach flowers were blooming to enlighten her spirituality. The three of them gathered in a meditation room. Long Qiu was a little nervous, clutching Xiaozhai's hand from time to time without realizing it.
"Just meditate as you usually do. Don't be afraid, I'm here by your side," said Gu Yu.
"Em!" Long Qiu nodded vigorously.
With that, Gu Yu and Long Qiu sat down facing each other and the latter closed her eyes, starting on the method of coordination of mental activities and breathing taught to her by Xiaozhai.
This superior mind-clearing manual was indeed worth its fame. A couple of minutes later, Gu Yu saw that Long Qiu's breathing had become effortless and long and her entire body was following an amazing natural rhythm. He knew she was deep in her meditation.
He stuck out a finger and let its tip rest lightly against her forehead, then very carefully sent in a streak of spiritual essence. After that, he put his finger down and together with Xiaozhai, they kept their gazes on the girl—it was impossible to stay calm at such critical moment.
The process of cultivating was a battle against oneself as much as it was against nature and the flitting time.
Even when the time had come when methods and techniques became ubiquitous, only about one in ten million people would be able to pass the threshold. The difference in natural endowment and temperament was the fundamental factor in determining whether or not one could become a cultivator.
What did natural endowments consist of? Firstly, there was the innate quality of the physical body and secondly, the mind and consciousness.
Take the enlightenment of the spirituality as an example. Only with the adequate innate quality could the spiritual essence make its way inside the body without obstruction and maintain its form without dissipating. And a tough mind was needed to keep the soul from missing.
After sinking deep into her meditation, Long Qiu's mind was quieted down and her breath steadied. She felt a streak of cold sensation enter her body through her forehead, which then reached her internal organs and nourished her meridians, making her ticklish inside.
As the tickling grew more prominent, her own consciousness seemed to be shrinking and dimmed with it, until finally, it was floating in a sea of darkness, feeble as a candle in the wind, threatened to be extinguished at any moment.
She hanged on with all her effort, her face twitching slightly. Immediately after that, voices filled with sorrow or hatred resounded in her head.
"She killed her own clansmen. Kill her! Kill her!"
"Aaah! Don't kill me! Stop!"
"Once you become the Grass Ghost Woman, family means nothing to you. You will live a lonely life until the end of your days."
"You killed six people! Six people!"
The cacophony of voices echoed, attacking Long Qiu's consciousness like something erupting frantically out of an abyss. The small flame of her soul flickered and swayed, enwrapped by the ceaseless waves of screams. It was on the verge of destruction.
Her face grew paler as her body felt colder. The abyss of utter coldness and desolation was ready to drag her down.
Just at that moment, from the endless darkness came two soft and gentle voices.
"Xiao Qiu, whom do you prefer, your Brother or Sister?"
"Cough! Easy on the salt. Is this stir-fried celery or stir-fried salt?"
"Xiao Qiu, you're my bedmate tonight, no sneaking away!"
"Em, this character is very well written. Keep at it!"
The expression on her face calmed down. Those two voices were two suns that had dispelled the darkness in an instant.
As if shackles had been broken somewhere inside her, all illusions were gone and the cold sensation returned, now turning into a silver dragon slithering its way downward. It then coiled up and roamed in circles at Dantian before turning into a thin white vapor.
Gu Yu put down his hand and let out a breath in relief. He was that close to retract the spiritual essence for Long Qiu's safety. From the look on her face now, they had made it!
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai waited by her side in patience. After quite some time, the girl opened her eyes.
She sat there dazed for a brief moment, taking in the exquisite and wonderful view of this world, then she landed herself in Xiaozhai's arms, her body shivering slightly.
"Oh my, are we playing crying babies now?" Xiaozhai teased her.
"I'm not crying."
She tore herself from Xiaozhai abruptly. Despite her reddening eyes, she had actually held back her tears.
"Good. We'll let you steady yourself for a couple of days before starting you on the essence-consuming method."
Gu Yu was genuinely happy for her. He paused before asking, "By the way, what did you see back in there?"
"I didn't see anything; I was disturbed by a lot of voices. There were the voices from my uncle, my master, and those people I killed. I almost could not make it. Then there were your voices and everything was, was fine." That was the best she could do to describe it.
"There were only sounds, but no illusory images?"
"Well, I don't think so."
Xiaozhai was cultivating with a whole different set of methods and could not connect much to this experience. Gu Yu, on the other hand, attached much importance to it, for it was invaluable to him. With some careful study, it would definitely help to increase the successful rate of the enlightenment of the spirituality.
The voices the girl heard—in more scientific terms—were the negative emotions in one's subconscious, or the inner demons, if you prefer the more dramatic expression.
Except for infants, all men were subjective to negative emotions. Each individual would make contact with various people at school and in workplaces. Feelings such as reluctance, dissatisfaction, resentment, and jealousy were formed during such contacts, which were all examples of negative emotions.
Gu Yu was no exception. However, he had the exceptional ability to make self-adjustments and eliminate such emotions on his own.
With things he desired, he would pursue them with a plain and honest manner. If life was a journey forever sailing against the current, he would sail it even if he only had the smallest boat. When he fell for someone wholeheartedly, he would like to spend the rest of his life with that person.
Such were what ideal natural endowments supposed to be.TL/N: the expressions of being "poisonous" and "venomous" are the same in Chinese, so the "poisonous creatures" could well be venomous as far as we know.