We lived within the boundary of established rules from the minute we came to this world.
Apart from the most basic activities such as eating, sleeping and "getting it", any other social behavior and social relationship, be it one's parents and relatives, education, exam results, teachers and classmates, life in university, homo- or hetero-sexual relationship, job hunting, career-ladder-climbing, house-purchasing and marriage, or children-bearing, etc… all the way till one's time was up, everything was within a comparatively stable system of rules that had been accumulated, developed, and eventually established after hundreds or thousands of years.
Only under one condition would such system be broken—which was a revolution in resources and technology, pushing the entire human society forward. However, a new set of rules would be formed then by repeating the above-mentioned process.
Gu Yu had taken the initiative to comb through what he learned ever since he returned, so as to sum up and organize his ideas for this period; it had always been one of his good habits.
First of all was the general situation. By now, four nodes were found. He had Phoenix Mountain, Tianzhu was being developed, Emei was left idle, while Tianshan was closed for the time being. There was also a restricted area of abnormality, which was the peach flower miasma of Grass River Mouth.
Those fully aware of what was going on included his own team, senior government officials, as well as Taoist sects controlled by the government. Since Zhengyi was gathering sect leaders to Longhu Mountain, they must have obtained certain information from the authorities.
As the saying went, the economic base determines the superstructure. Only with the establishment of productivity and relations of production could ideology emerge—together with its corresponding systems, organizations and facilities.
Nevertheless, they still had a long way to go from achieving an economic base; they only discovered new resources which were the spiritual stones, crops and the short-tailed sawfish.
We could call it an embryonic stage.
These were all rather abstract concepts and what he cared about more was something else—the manuals.
The government focused on the big picture and considered issues on the level of resources, whereas the skills were the foothold of individual cultivators. For the past year or so, the skills he heard of and saw included the Essence-consuming Method of his and Xiao Qiu's, Xiaozhai's thunder technique, Li Suchun's Corpse-refining Technique, Tan Chongdai's smattering talismans, old Priest Mo's Neidan method, as well as Sima Che's Heel-pressing Technique.
Quanzhen's approach was to move from the acquired state to an innate one. The advancement required an internal cumulative process.
Zhengyi followed the teachings of the Celestial Master and carried out a practice similar to essence-consuming. Unfortunately, the method was long lost, leaving behind a waning and incomplete Qi-nourishing Method.
Therefore, if the government included the Taoist sects, Quanzhen would definitely dominate over Zhengyi, for the former was equipped with a comparatively systematic cultivative manual.
In the past few thousand years, the Taoist community had proceeded from consuming essence among the ancient immortals to explorations of the transition period to the complete transformation to Neidan practice, during which time the skills of cultivators had been declining consistently to adapt to the waning spiritual essence.
In other words, the previous approaches were no longer adequate, hence their elimination.
Even with the valuable heritage of each major sect, the thousand-year-long dynastic changes and war-ridden periods after Song Dynasty made sure that when the spiritual essence dried out completely, little of those heritage was left.
It was thanks to Quanzhen's leadership status of two dynasties that it was able to preserve the Dan methods to the largest extent. Being the constantly suppressed one, Zhengyi saw much severer disruption in its inheritance.
Obviously, one should not overlook the heritages of certain secluded sects such as Heel-pressing Technique, with had their own merits.
All in all, those achieving the innate state could sense the spiritual essence, but, on the other hand, only with the spiritual essence could one achieve the innate state. Otherwise one could accumulate as much internal Qi as one wanted, but they would never build the bridge between the body and the outside world.
This became the key to have the government allow the Taoist sects on board, for it was a prerequisite to train talented people they needed.
The skills could be ranked by their grade as followed:
Essence-consuming Method started from the innate state, which was a very advanced starting point. It was very efficient to cultivate, but did not have much offensive capability.
Thunder Technique could enable one to reach the initial achievement of any type of thunder energy and eventually to the complete achievement, which was where Xiaozhai was right now. The cultivation itself was incredibly tough, but the power gained was significant.
Then came the other Neidan skills.
Zhengyi came the last.
Other than that, there was also different levels to consider.
According to Gu Yu's own classification previously, the secondary levels of Human Immortals were Enlightenment of the mind, Refinement of the form, Concentration of the spirit, Spiritualization of the body, and Human Immortals 1 .
He himself should be in Concentration of the spirit at the moment, where one could work their mental force to external targets and wield magical instruments. After this, one should turn their entire body into one giant abstruse and generate spiritual essence on their own, so as to achieve Spiritualization of the body.
This could be rather tricky, for different skills had their own levels. It did not work the same way as in an established cultivative civilization, where all levels were standardized to terms such as Lianqi ("training of Qi"), Zhuji ("building base"), Jindan ("golden Dan"), Yuanying ("primary infant"), etc.
Contrary to his complicated classifications, Xiaozhai was much careless with her settings—she used something as perfunctory as round one, round two, round three, round four, and round five… when five thunders were all achieved, one became a Human Immortal.
Gu Yu was utterly shocked. Could she be less indifferent about it? It sounded like something out of a web game.
Before they knew it, June arrived and it was the height of summer.
With its reopening, tourists poured into Phoenix Mountain. The outer section was as boisterous as the inner section was tranquil; they could as well be of two different worlds. The long-stretching and tall perimeter wire became the focus of jokes, for it was over two meters in height, with sharp spikes on top, and made with thick and tough wires.
All were completely baffled and wondered what exactly was in it. Many had thought about crossing the fence and taking a look of the other side. Unfortunately, the wire was more than adequate to stop anyone with an such idea; they couldn't come up the mountain carrying a ladder, could they?
In the valley, under the old tree.
With a wooden sword in hand, Long Qiu was practicing sword movements which looked similar to the forty-eight hand movements. They felt elegant, unrestrained, sharp, and fierce all at the same time.
Xiaozhai was a sword-wielder, but she seldom used one and only went around carrying a dagger, for swords were too long to carry and way too conspicuous.
When she instructed Long Qiu, however, she was without reservations.
The girl charged her sword forward with a whistling sound. The sword swiped a half-circle in the air and with a turn of her wrist, its tip flipped upward diagonally at an impossible angle. She then hid the sword behind the back and with it, finished her practice.
She let out a breath, looking adorable with her blushing cheeks.
With her improving strength, she was gradually gaining control over the Golden Silkworm. She probably did not have to wait until the end of the year to subdue the silkworm once and for all.
Long Qiu wiped away her sweat and raised her little face to look at the old tree. Hidden in its dense canopy was a swaying branch where two fruits were dangling. They were plump and reddish, apparently almost ripe.
Tianzhu Mountain had its spiritual stones and strange fish. Being a node, Phoenix Mountain naturally had its own specialty. The fruit would ripen roughly every eighteen months, producing two pieces at a time, which contained powerful and pure spiritual essence.
Inspired by Qiu Guan, Gu Yu intended to copy the former's move and planted the stones of the fruits first, so as to test if they could filter the energy. As for the pulp, he would try refining Dan or making incense with it, or just eat it straight away, which could also improve their capability.
Long Qiu squinted at them for a while and was delighted. She leapt to the river bank, ready to take care of the herbal garden.
The garden was not big, just one mu or so, and the herbs were planted sparsely. However, the medicinal plants were of excellent quality. Facilitated by the node, every single one looked healthy, strong, and full of vitality.
The most promising one was undoubtedly a forty-year-old wild ginseng, which had seven pairs of leaves and was delicately beautiful.
Gu Yu had scanned it with his mental force already. The ginseng was in excellent shape with an exquisite texture; its fibrous roots looked like the swift movements of calligraphy. The plant was definitely of top quality. He almost could not bear to dig it up just to see to what extent it could grow.
Other than that, two lattices of newly planted gourds were also quite eye-catching. The vines had covered the lattices and white flowers were blossoming. The gourds would be used as containers for spiritual substances.
Long Qiu spent quite a lot of time in the garden before she returned to the cottage and entered Gu Yu's meditation room.
She sat down cross-legged on the rush mat and flipped through a notebook, which recorded what Gu Yu had learned from his cultivation and was rather useful to her. A whole stack of notebooks was on the low table beside the window, which were all hand-written.
Recorded in them were the Thunder Technique, forty-eight hand movements, snake-controlling skill, vision-conjuring skill, wood-appraising, attack skills, etc.
Apparently, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai were consciously consolidating their foundation in order to establish a small force with it own systematic heritage and resource base.
While Long Qiu was reading, her mind was suddenly disturbed, for she could sense through the mother insect out in the black thorny forest that someone was calling outside.
Whee! The girl opened her eyes widely, feeling both excited and anxious. She scuttled out immediately—with both her brother and sister away, she was so bored!
Outside the black thorny forest.
Holding a small box, Zhang Hongru was peeking through the branches, apparently quite troubled. The dim forest seemed to be swarmed with ghosts and monsters, refusing any sunlight its due entrance.
It was his first time this deep into the other side's territory, but the aura alone was evident enough that it was some sort of defense mechanism and not to be trifled with. He did not have a choice, though. Had it not been for the urging of his superiors, he would never have come here.
Zhang Hongru shouted a few times but got no reply. Just as he was about to venture in, footsteps finally came from inside.
A tall and slim figure materialized from the dimness and approached slowly. When the person was out of the woods, darkness seemed to turn into lightness in an instant and all the sunlight landed on that small face.
"Why, it's you!"
Long Qiu was surprised to find him outside.
"Miss Long, sorry about the intrusion. I would have waited down there, but it's still quite a few days from Mr. Gu's visit. The matter at hand is rather urgent and I had to come unannounced." Zhang Hongru was surprised to see her as well and he asked, "Is Mr. Gu in?"
"Neither my brother nor my sister is here. What do you want?" Xiao Qiu asked.
'Both of them are out?' Zhang Hongru wondered in secret and only said, "Oh, have a look at this. It's a batch of samples we have acquired in advance, I'm here to show it to Mr. Gu. If the content of spiritual essence is stable and the wastage is reasonable, we'll start mass production following these samples."
With that, he handed her the box.
Long Qiu opened it and found five stones the size of duck eggs inside. The surface was smooth, moisten, translucent, and almost glowing in a white light. The texture was rather peculiar—not a single pore was detectable; the surface was frighteningly sleek.
Blinking, she grinned. "Ok, I'll let my brother know when he comes back."
"I'll be down the mountain these days, please let Mr. Gu reply me asap. Oh, there's another thing. The seeds and farm tools are already at the station, ready to be shipped up at any time."
"Uh huh, I got that. Don't worry."
"Great. Thank you, Miss Long. Goodbye."
With that, Zhang Hongru did not wait for Long Qiu's reply and took the initiative to leave on his own, showing no intention of probing or pestering, which rather impressed Long Qiu.
She held the little box and returned to the cottage, where she hastily opened the box to check.
'So, this is the treasure my brother's been talking about. They're indeed very pretty!'
There were only five of them. Playing with them between her hands, she was almost unwilling to part with them. Chuckling, she said, "'Spiritual stones', that's almost like snacks 2 . Are they actually be edible?"
With that, the Golden Silkworm was in the air out of the blue and turned into a chubby kid in a red dudou again, now eyeing the spiritual stones with undisguised desire. Its master's presence was the only thing stopping it from pouncing at them.
"Why are you naughty again? Are you really going to eat them?"
Long Qiu closed the box immediately and refused it. "You can't have them. They're for my brother."
The Golden Silkworm couldn't speak and only blinked at its master. It did not understand facial expressions either, but was forcing out a pleading one. Its face was contorted into a weird shape, which looked terrifyingly odd.
Long Qiu ignored it and ordered, "Go back!"
The Golden Silkworm dared not disobey her and disappeared with a poof.
As a matter of fact, Long Qiu was also tempted. Being as well-behaved as she was, she would not take any reckless move.
The girl picked up a stone again and played with it, her habit of talking to herself from her days in the Miao village still not gone. "Brother said this is a treasure and a must-have for cultivators. There's even spiritual essence inside. I wonder how much is there and how it would compare to my own essence-consuming… um!"
She paused suddenly, showing a troubled little face, which then gradually relaxed as she resigned to her curiosity.
As she was mumbling to herself, she was unconsciously activating the manual. She could now feel a thin streak of spiritual essence flowing out of the stone, which was gentle and peaceful. The energy was slowly absorbed into her body, then integrated perfectly into Qihai in Dantian.
Long Qiu lost the count of time and when she opened her eyes again, she was delighted to see the improvement in her Qihai 3 .
However, her face wrinkled up again when she turned to look at the stone. Being drained of its essence, the white glow was gone and the stone had lost it vitality. It was now simply a lifeless substance.
"Brother said there are 20,000 of these. I didn't make too big a trouble by wasting one of them, I think?" Scratching her head, she comforted herself.TL/N: see Chapter 65 TL/N: spiritual stones are "灵石" (líng shí), which sounds identical to snacks, or "零食" ED/N: Some readers may be more familiar with the term 'sea of qi'.