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The following day, Gu Yu went down the mountain to meet Zhang Hongru.

There were no problems with the spiritual stones, which were ready for large-scale production. What concerned Gu Yu, however, was what they would do with the odd bits cut off during the process. Zhang Hongru explained that the research team was going to use them as experiment materials for developing eco-chains.

For instance, the bits could be ground into powder and sprinkled into ordinary soil or used to feed fish. The powder could also be used directly as a culture medium so as to examine whether or not it could further catalyze the bioactivity.

Well, it was not like Gu Yu actually understood what Zhang said.



The two did not talk for long and Gu Yu soon headed back up the mountain with the seeds and farming tools. The early season rice of double-cropping was usually harvested in July and the late rice started sowing in mid-June, followed by transplanting seedlings in July and harvest in November.

Unlike the plain countries, mechanization would never happen in the valley. To picture Gu Yu whooshing around driving a tractor was simply ridiculous. Anyhow, the size of their spare land was so small that they would have a few mu at most. Therefore, they preferred traditional techniques and tools.

While the time to sow the late rice had yet to come, they could start experimenting with the peach trees.

The ideal time for cutting and grafting of peach trees was in early March when the flowers were budding and filling out. The nutrient elements were very active during this time, which would positively affect the survival rate.

However, that was only a general guideline. Exactly when to start the process depended on whether or not the flowers were budding.

It was June at the moment, when normal peach trees were bearing fruits, with no flowers left. Those in Grass River Mouth, on the other hand, were blossoming at full blast from every twig and branch as if there were no tomorrow.

The job could only be carried out by Gu Yu and Xiaozhai; Long Qiu was shooed away. After all, the peach tree twigs were toxic and what would they do with her if she accidentally inhaled it and became all horny?

The two of them found seven wild peach trees in the inner part of the mountain, sharpened the end of the twigs with only a little remaining bark, cut open the rootstock, and slowly inserted the twigs. The "wound" would then be tightly wrapped up by layers on layers of thin film and fastened securely with ropes.

It was the most common grafting technique. The twig would sprout in about two weeks and the films could be removed after three months.

Cutting was slightly more complicated. The twigs of 5-10 cm in length would be soaked in a common nutrient fluid before being inserted into a perlite substrate. With appropriate watering and careful shading, the twigs would take root about a week later.

With the roots, the twigs could then be transplanted into the soil and cultured.

Of the twigs that had been "filtered out", seven were grafted and ten went through the cutting process, which made it seventeen in total. Gu Yu and Xiaozhai took the task very seriously and tended the twigs daily. For a while, it was as if they had turned into a peasant couple and spent their days carrying water and irrigating the plots.

The meditation room.

Gu Yu sat by the low table with quite a few things displayed on it, among which were pots, boxes, planks, bowls, tweezers, etc. All items were strictly arrayed and neatly laid out. There were many, but not messy.

He had prepared quite some raw materials before going to Tianzhu and had studied them for long after he got back. He was struck by some new ideas today and thought he should give it a go again.

The incense powder in several small pots were those of over a dozen ingredients such as Chinese lobelia, liquorice, chrysanthemum, bletilla, etc., all of which were fine, mild medicines with heat-clearing and detoxifying qualities. For the sticky powder, he used to use elm bark. Now that he noticed that the bark of the old tree was far more effective as it also contained spiritual essence, he cut down a piece and ground it into a sticky powder.

Poor old tree. It had lived a quiet life in the valley for god knows how many years. But ever since this fellow got here, it was covered with cuts and bruises.

Gu Yu took a ceramic bowl first and, one by one, he put in the powders he had measured out; he had found out the optimal ratio after repeated trials. Clear water from the river was then poured in, followed by his hand-pressing.

When the incense powder and sticky powder were mixed with water, what happened next was similar to kneading a dough. Gu Yu soon had a dough-like lump the size of an adult's fist.

After that, he picked up the small gourd and took a deep breath. A streak of pink fog floated out of the spout, then twirled and twisted in midair.

Gu Yu dared not take it lightly. With his mental force, he controlled the pink fog to stop it from dissipating while kneading the incense dough repeatedly with both hands. He then opened his mouth and breathed out. "Ha!"

Stimulated, the pink fog seemed to come to life—it turned into a thin thread and was blown onto the dough.

Between his two hands, a tiny airflow field was created. The spiritual essence wrapped around the pink fog, which slowly sank into the incense dough. As he kneaded on, the lump shrank further and further and quite a while passed before Gu Yu paused abruptly.

He opened his palms, revealing a light-pink incense base, whose size was only half of the original lump. With his continuous pressing, rubbing, and kneading, it had become extremely dense. The surface was smooth and even boasted a mellow brightness.

He ripped a piece of it off, pressed it under his finger, and entered the state of looking into his own mind. His mental force watched in silence from above his head like a bright moon, Gu Yu sitting right beneath it.

As his finger kneaded on, the incense dough stretched out, thinned down and elongated. About ten minutes later, a new kind of incense stick finally took shape.

The stick was evenly shaped. It had a pink hue, but was not enchanting like the color suggested. It also looked white-ish, but felt more fuzzy.

"I thought the Wake-up Essence was as far as I could get; I never thought I could exceed myself…"

Gu Yu shook his head and sighed. If the Wake-up Essence could be considered an art, this incense had transcended the level of all earthly objects, for it possessed a quality hard to pin down—spirituality.

Once he succeeded, Gu Yu was able to carry on the job with ease. He finally made twenty sticks when the incense dough was used up. The sticks were then carefully put into a wooden box.

Gu Yu briefly adjusted his breathing. Instead of taking a break, he moved on to make another type of incense.

This one was an improvement on that Dan recipe. The ingredients remained the same, but he had largely lowered the requirement on the age and potency. There were as many as eighteen ingredients in it, including wild ginseng, glossy ganoderma, poria cocos, dendrobe, lotus seeds, etc.

An ordinary person would probably die of "nutrition overdose" from a soup made out of all those ingredients with blood oozing out of all orifices. Worried by the potency, he added a few more medicinal materials that could adjust and mediate the effect, making it twenty-five ingredients in total.

Repeating his previous steps, he made another twenty incense sticks with the same state of mind and technique. In simple terms, with his mental force and spiritual essence, he had blended all medicinal properties into one and got rid of all impurities in the process.

When all these were finally finished, Gu Yu looked up and realized it was dark outside already. He pushed himself up a little from the rush-mat ground, trying to stand up, but slumped back down with a thump.

"Haha…"

He chuckled. He was weak from exhausting his mental force and energy.

He was delighted, though. The two boxes of incense sticks satisfied him greatly. He had named the first one Peach-blossom Incense and the other Essence-gathering Incense. The former was something he made at a whim. The latter was crucial.

The Essence-gathering Dan was used to speed up the cultivation process. If the Essence-gathering Incense could have the same effect, even if it was only one tenth or one twentieth of the original form, it would be able to replace the spiritual stone to some extent.

With that, his people of Phoenix Mountain would have the most solid foundation!

The end of June, Jiang Zhou Railway Station.

The station was a major one and countless passengers tread on its platforms everyday. Over twenty waiting areas were all closely packed with people.

In the waiting area of the trains to Yingtan 1 , despite all the bustling, everyone was curiously darting looks in the same direction from time to time.

On a seat somewhere in the middle, a gaunt old priest sat with his eyes closed. He was extremely old but, strangely, even the wrinkles on his face were emanating a mystical vitality.

He was a round peg in a square hole: gray Taoist robe, white socks, cloth shoes, and no luggage. Beside him was a bundle wrapped in cloth—exactly like the bundles one saw in costume dramas.

The old priest was none other than the abbot of Qionglong Mountain Sect, Tan Chongdai himself.

It was the 19th today and the ceremony started on the 20th. There was no airport at the location and he could only take a train, which was a ten-hour ride by high-speed rail. The Taoist association drove him to the station and left him with a ticket and some allowance to cover travel expenses.

It was a rare occasion when Qin Yunfeng was not stingy, for he had given Tan 50,000 yuan. The man had probably got wind of Zhengyi's possible major move and old Priest Tan was the representative of Jiang Zhou after all, so he should not be sent out looking all shabby.

"Dear passengers, train No. G808 from Jiang Zhou to Yingtan is ready for ticket-checking…"

At the broadcast, Tan Chongdai rose to his feet, his posture as upright as a green pine tree. The aura instantly made those around him jump.

His face serious, the old priest strode out and proceeded to the platform. Next stop: the shrine of Southern Taoist community for the past two thousand years—Longhu Mountain!

TL/N: meaning "eagle pool"

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