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By "the top cultivator", they meant that of the thirty-six cultivators here in Qiyun, he was the closest to reach the innate state.

Lu Yuanqing was the last disciple Li Qingzhi took in and was of exceptional qualities. Li had been training Lu as his successor ever since the latter was little. The method Lu Yuanqing used for cultivation was called "Small Universe Technique", one of the purest Neidai techniques. It consisted of four steps: collecting the medicine, sealing the furnace, refining the medicine, and ignition.

With the vital essence of the body, activate the intrinsic essence and primordial Qi. Starting from Dantian, lead both kinds of energy up the Du vessel passing through the three meridians Wei Lü, Jia Ji, and Yu Zhen 1 , the upper, middle, and lower Huang Ting 2 , and the upper and lower Que Qiao 3 , before a full cycle was completed, which was also the process of refining the essence of the small universe.

The purpose of this practice was to nourish the mind with the essence while circulating the "medicine" all over the body. With Mud Ball Palace 4 as the cauldron and Dantian as the furnace, the body was "sealed" and the "medicine" refined. Once succeeded, the body would be rid of all maladies, achieving full health and longevity, and the innate stated would be thus obtained.

As the natural endowments differed from one person to the next, the method also worked differently on each individual.

For someone like old Priest Mo, who was a mere member of a sub-sect of Quanzhen, he would probably get nowhere even after devoting his entire life in cultivation. Lu Yuanqing, on the other hand, was one of those one-in-ten-thousand geniuses gifted with great talent.

Adding the status of Baiyun Temple—the birthplace of Quanzhen, Lu Yuanqing was to some extent recognized as the leader of Quanzhen here in Qiyun.

His blunt comment in entering the dining hall was an explicit taunt toward Zhengyi, which naturally irritated the latter. The crowd of Zhengyi was about to retort when another voice came from outside.

"We raise chickens and ducks without harming their eggs or their little ones, but would consume the full-grown ones when we need to, how can that be killing? Horses offer their service with pulling carts and the virtue of cows lies in providing food for men; they would live to an old age and die a natural death, why should we bother to kill them? We don't cut down grass when it's still growing, but would harvest it when time is right, how can that be useless? Senior Brother Lu, exactly who is the ridiculous one?"

With that, two other men walked in.

The speaker was of similar age as Lu Yuanqing and also had a bright, free, and easy look about him. The man was the disciple of the abbot of Mao Mountain Sect, Chao Kongtu.

The other man was a few years their senior and looked rather genial. He was the disciple of the abbot of the Way of Celestial Masters, Zhang Shouyang. He added, "Junior Brother Lu, all living creatures do coexist with us, but Gods have their forever lasting wills that everything here on earth is reserved and harvested according to plan. Only in that way will life on earth become inexhaustible. It was said so in one of the famous passages of the Patriarch's Instructions on Morality. Have you forgotten or have you read too much Buddhist theories that you had your basics all confused?"

"My basics are the same as Quanzhen's basics, how is it possible to have such confusion?"

Countered by the two, Lu Yuanqing remained composed, showing no sign of vexation.

Back when Wang Chongyang established the sect, he argued that Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism should merge into one and create a separate school by combining the loyalty and filial duty concept of Confucianism, the emphasis on the mind of Zen Buddhism, and the idea of "letting things take their own course" of Taoism. The product was infinitely in line with the golden mean of the Confucian school and conformed to the orthodox ideology, which the authorities at the time found agreeable, hence the status of Quanzhen in the latter years.

Zhengyi, on the other hand, followed the traditional Taoist theories, whose core idea was that man was an integral part of nature and that the Great Dao was conditioned by the ways of nature. Followers of Zhengyi were after cultivation, becoming immortal, and living a long life with good eyes and ears.

There was no clear-cut solution to their disagreement. It was a major competition over the Taoist orthodox issue, as well as the subject of their daily debates.

"Haha, Senior Brother has a tough mind. Please accept my admiration!"

Chao Kongtu was the flashier one among the pair. He cupped his hands at the comment, as if making a bow. However, with his lips moving slightly and a flick of his right pinky, a streak of red, fine sand consisting of numerous minute granules was ejected.


With a sweep of his long sleeve, Lu Yuanqing sent out a small gust of wind, which then twirled and blew the fine sand out of the door into the distance.

With a sizzling sound, white smoke rose from the red sand-covered flagstone ground, as if being licked by fire. Before anyone realized it, a small area was charred.

"Junior Brother, that was some quick petty trick of yours. Please accept my admiration, too." Lu Yuanqing also cupped his hands.

"Too bad you don't even have a single petty trick. I have no problem accepting your challenge if you're still not convinced." Chao Kongtu grinned.

"They are nothing but external aims. Challenge me when you reach the innate state."


The three all swung their sleeves in vexation and proceeded to their seats. The onlookers were long used to such scenes and took little notice of the altercation.

Of the thirty-six people of the two schools, Lu Yuanqing was the top candidate of Quanzhen, followed by Shi Yunlai, the disciple of the abbot of Longmen Sect. Old Priest Mo was the third in line.

Whereas among the people of Zhengyi, Zhang Shouyang came on top, followed by Chao Kongtu. Being the third member of the "Three Mountains of Talisman", Lingbo Sect did not manage to provide a good candidate and the disciple was only of mediocre quality. It turned out that Qingwei Sect had a fine pupil, whose name was Zhong Lingyu.

And these six people represented the highest combat capability of the group.

The crowd ate their breakfast in silence, each brooding over their own problems.

The dishes were embellishments only and the key was the porridge. It was thicker than the one Xue Zhao cooked and was served twice daily. As cultivators, they were more acutely aware of the effectiveness of the spiritual rice.

It was especially the case for disciples of Quanzhen. With the help of the spiritual rice, the practice of Neidan was accelerated and they would need much less time achieving the innate state.

Moments later, when everyone was almost finished eating, a stranger entered the room. "Excuse me, Priest Lu Yuanqing, Priest Shi Yunlai, Priest Mo Haofeng, Priest Zhang Shouyang…" He named six people all at once and announced, "Please come to the back hall after the meal."

With that, the man left in a hurry.


A perfect silence prevailed over the dining hall. There was an implicit awkwardness in the air.

Apart from these priests, the rest of the people here in the monastery were all service staff sent by the government. The two groups had minimal contact in their daily life and the service team also tried their best to avoid the candidates. It was their first appearance after the whole month since they arrived here.

The six people were in no mood for any food and left promptly for the back hall.

Someone was already waiting there. "Please stay here for a moment. Priest Shi, this way, please."

"Oh, sure!"

Shi Yunlai was a shortish man in his forties. He was slightly surprised to have been called first. Following the staff, they walked through a passageway and entered another room.

He felt something peculiar the moment he set foot in the room, as if a pair of eyes were staring at him from somewhere. It was probably a hidden camera.

The room was empty save for a long table. On it were ten stones about the size of duck eggs. They were pure white in color and looked rather pretty with their glittering and translucent surface.


Shi Yunlai's heart lurched at this. It immediately dawned on him that these were the famous spiritual stones.

He dared not take it lightly. Striding near, he picked up a stone and looked at it closely. This was obviously a test. Among these stones were probably some real spiritual stones and some fake ones, or they could be either all fake or all real. All in all, it was his job to tell them apart.


Shi Yunlai closed his eyes and focused his mind, trying his best to sense the stone, but it was to no avail. It was said that spiritual essence existed in this world, yet he had no idea what it felt like.

Momentarily, he put down the first one and picked up a second… he held onto this one even more briefly and gave up a few seconds later. He felt each stone in turn, but not a single one elicited any reaction in him.

Dispirited, he realized that he was not capable a cultivator enough. He heaved a soft sigh and left the room.

Chao Kongtu was the next one.

He did even worse than Shi Yunlai. After looking randomly at the stones, he promptly announced his abstention. After that, old Priest Mo, Zhang Shouyang, and Zhong Lingyu came in turn… without any exception, they all failed, unable to pick up a single stone.

Finally, it was Lu Yuanqing's turn.


Letting out a breath, he walked slowly to the table, but did not reach out to feel the stones and only stood there in silence. A couple of minutes later, he walked straight to the middle section of the table, staring at the four stones in his sight.

These stones were all identical in their shape, size, color, texture, and weight. There was no way of telling them apart by normal senses. The only way was through spiritual essence.

Lu Yuanqing's current cultivation level was similar to that of Sima Che of Tianshan Sect, which was infinitely close to the innate state. He could faintly sense the existence of the spiritual essence, but was unable to pinpoint it.

Therefore, after much consideration, he simply swept across the table and carried all four stones away in his sleeves.

The five other men's expressions changed color when he walked out. The government staff was also extremely excited, who said in a hurry, "Priest Lu, please follow me!"

Right away, they turned a few corners and entered yet another room.

A white-haired old man was waiting there. It was none other than one of the persons in charge of the development base, Qiu Quan himself. The old man was even more exhilarated, and asked eagerly, "Can you tell?"

"No, not yet."

Lu Yuanqing had no idea who he was dealing with, but dared not take it lightly. Arranging the four stones into a line, he said, "But I'm positive that the real spiritual stone is among them."

TL/N: meaning "coccygeal end"; "Spine Ridge"; "jade pillow" in order TL/N: meaning "yellow court" meaning "magpie bridge" TL/N: the Taoist term for the brain

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