After Lu Yuanqing was politely led away, the other five returned to their dwellings.
The monastery only came with a handful of guest houses and the government had to arrange extra shifts and work overtime to make up for the extra rooms needed. Courtyards like the ones the five occupied usually contained three houses, each taken up by two individuals, who had their separate bedrooms. Toilets and bathrooms were all equipped with modern facilities instead of those pit toilets one might find in old houses.
Once back to his place, old Priest Mo greeted his housemate, a fellow cultivator of Heshan Sect, and went back to read in his room.
About two hours later, there was a "knock knock" at the door and he went to answer it. Lu Yuanqing beamed at him. "Senior Brother, is it a good time now?"
"I'm quite free."
"In that case, I've just made a nice pot of tea. May I indulge you with it?"
It took old Priest Mo about two seconds to realize that the young man wanted to have a word with him. He smiled. "Sure. I presume that Junior Brother Shi is also invited."
"Haha, nothing gets past you."
Lu Yuanqing made no attempt to deny it. The two then went to Shi Yunlai's yard and the three men returned to Lu's place together.
There was no one else in the room. It was a quiet and beautiful spot and as promised, there was a pot of hot tea sitting on the table. Lu invited the other two to sit down before serving the tea himself. Mo and Shi tasted the tea; a delicate fragrance filled their mouths right away—a memorable taste indeed.
After briefly exchanging some pleasantries, old Priest Mo put down the cup and asked bluntly, "Have you just got back from the back hall?"
"What do you want to talk to us about?" Shi Yunlai also had his own ideas.
"There is much I want to talk about, please bear with me."
Lu Yuanqing served another round of tea before going on, "I think we all know that the setup earlier must have been a test designed by those above. It was by sheer luck that I managed to pass. There was indeed one genuine spiritual stone among the ten. Oh, I'm not saying this to show off. It's just that after that, I met a very important person from the capital…"
He paused briefly and went on, "That person revealed one piece of information to me—this Qiyun Monastery is a temporary dormitory for now, but judging by the current situation, those above are thinking of making this place permanent."
"How so?" Old Priest Mo asked hastily.
"It'll be set up as a formal Taoist monastery should be on all aspects, including the precepts and regulations, the structure of personnel, the facility layout, the recruitment of disciples, etc. And, the first to reach the innate state will be the first abbot of the monastery and will be directly supervised by those above."
The announcement shocked the other two men, for the amount of information this decision conveyed was immense!
According to Lu, Qiyun Taoist Monastery was going to be placed above Quanzhen, Zhengyi, or even the Taoist association. Any talented pupil the sects found in the future would be sent here for their training.
That was an exceptional position! Whoever became the abbot would surely lean towards his own sect. The position also came with great decision-making authority over personnel assignment, selection of pupils, allocation of resources, promotion, etc.
"What about the cultivation method? Are we going to switch to using the same one?" Shi Yunlai asked suddenly.
"They did not mention that. I guess that, to them, we're all pretty much the same."
Lu Yuanqing sounded a bit dispirited, as though this aspect of the government had made him rather speechless. He then added, "But I am sure of one thing—the innate state is the deciding factor. Whoever breaks through first will own the absolute sway over others."
It took the other two a while to let the message register, then Shi Yunlai came to himself and asked, "So, what do you want?"
"That's very simple…"
Lu Yuanqing sipped his tea and smiled. "For one, we can not allow this position fall into the hands of Zhengyi. For another, please forgive my presumption, but I will be contending for the position myself. I hope that I will have the two Senior Brothers' support."
Shi Yunlai snorted right away at the request. "Junior Brother, we two are almost on par in terms of our capability and our Longmen Sect is not all that inferior to your Baiyun Temple. Why should I support you instead of running for it myself?"
"Almost on par?"
Lu Yuanqing blinked. There was no taunt in his question; he was simply amazed by the confidence Shi Yunlai held for himself. Lu sighed. "In that case, let's try each other out. We won't push things too far; it's not a battle."
"Great! I was thinking of the same thing!" Shi Yunlai replied.
Baiyun Temple was the birthplace of Quanzhen in the north when Qiu Chuji preached Taoism at that time. Longmen Sect was also established by Qiu Chuji and the two sects were essentially one and the same. However, the two sects had long separated, concentrating on making each sect's own profit.
Despite being much senior in his age, Shi Yunlai was no match to Lu Yuanqing in terms of Qi-nourishment. Seeing that the latter sat there steadily like Mount Tai, Shi shouted, "Watch out!"
With that, he shook his wide sleeves, which twirled like flowing clouds. A solid and long-lasting energy charged out.
Seeing this, Lu Yuanqing lifted his right hand and slowly struck out with an open palm.
It was not a fast strike, yet it reminded one of a giant warship sailing across the sea, steadily ripping the energy streak apart. Shi Yunlai held his eyes wide open. He watched helplessly as the hand moved near and met his own palm, upon which energy was released.
His arm jolted as an enormous force ran along its length. He stumbled back involuntarily. It was thanks to his solid skill that he immediately let his legs take the impact and forced himself to stand still.
The wooden stool he was sitting on scattered into pieces with a crackling sound and fell all over the ground.
Putting down his hand, Lu Yuanqing asked in a soft voice, "Senior Brother, do you want to continue?"
Shi Yunlai looked utterly humiliated. He thought he was at least able to exchange a few blows with Lu Yuanqing, but as it turned out, the young man's capability was much more profound than he could ever imagine. Shi Yunlai was not a vile character. He replied at once, "I am inferior in cultivation skills. You have won."
Lu Yuanqing then turned to old Priest Mo. "Senior Brother Mo, what do you think?"
Old Priest Mo shook his head with a wry smile, "I'm no match for you whatsoever and there's no need for another trial. We're not from the same sect, but we all want the Taoist orthodoxy to be that of Quanzhen. You will doubtlessly have my support. However, Junior Brother, I need to remind you something. That Phoenix…"
"Do you mean those two on Phoenix Mountain?"
Lu Yuanqing interrupted him and smiled. "As cultivators, we each have our own fate. They have taken an early start, for which they have my admiration, but I have my own path to follow. There is no law forbidding me from catching up with them."
Hearing this, old Priest Mo was moved. Instantly, he knew what was the one thing he lacked.
The Heavens were in motion ceaselessly and the enlightened should exert themselves constantly. To cultivate was to blaze a way through all manners of obstacles and never yield in spite of all the setbacks. With more than half of his lifetime behind him, he was drawn to the vanity of the secular world; little was left of that fierceness of his youth.
It was the same when he met Gu Yu for the first time, when he was so flustered that he had abandoned all his self-awareness of being a fellow master himself.
Presently, he was overwhelmed by regret and a mixture of other feelings that he was actually enlightened by such an experience.
Meanwhile, in another room.
Zhang Shouyang, Chao Kongtu, and Zhong Lingyu were secretly discussing among themselves as well. Doubtlessly, they had also guessed the government's intention. All that the authorities cared about was the innate state; the rest meant nothing to them.
Despite lacking in assault skills, Quanzhen's great advantage lay in their Neidan method. For all their combat-effective techniques, Zhengyi just happened have a blank spot in this aspect.
How frustrating! The essence-consuming method of Zhengyi had been long lost and what was left was bare scrapes, preserved after generations of Celestial Masters' collection and reorganisation.
They had little faith in achieving the innate state at all.
As a result, the discussion was fruitless. Without any ready solutions, they had no choice but to write to their respective sects, explaining the situation.
"That is to say, he couldn't yet sense it accurately."
"No, not yet."
"Then how much longer will it take before he can be put to use?"
"Well… according to Lu Yuanqing, he will need to reach the innate state before he could fulfill our requirement. This process cannot be timed precisely, for it all depends on his mind and comprehensive ability. Of course, our spiritual rice is there to facilitate his efforts. It should be able to reduce the time needed to the largest extend."
Inside a certain secret room in the capital city, a man fell silent for some time before saying, "We can't force such things. Fortunately, we're at least on the right track. Given enough time, we will definitely have our own team of talented people."
The man giving the report paused before asking, "If Lu Yuanqing indeed reaches the innate state, then shall we…"
"Offer preferential treatment, of course; that includes himself and his own sect. But the general policy remains the same. Remember, to these Taoist persons, support and suppression will always be carried out together. They are there to serve our purpose—that's the key."
"My only concern is that they might turn against us in the future."
"Haha, when the government loosens its grip too much, someone is bound to stir. Don't worry, I won't allow such things to happen… oh, by the way, that news of setting up a Taoist monastery, have you let the word out?"
"I have hinted at it. They should be able to read between lines."
"Em, from now on, we will not get involved unless it is absolutely necessary. Let them fight among themselves. We are only there to make sure the general direction is correct."
The man replied and asked another question. "Sir, about Phoenix Mountain, do you have any further instructions?"
"Keep everything as it was and don't make any reckless moves."
After the man left, the official sat alone in the room, deep in thought with his eyes closed.
The current situation was simple and complicated at the same time. All problems pointed to one fundamental factor: the spiritual rice.
The total national reserve was a mere 515 kg, which had to be divided into three parts—one for the dignitaries, one for Qiyun, and the third one for the research base.
For the dignitaries, even men at his level were only given a lump sum of 30 kg. It might sound like a lot, but don't forget that he was not the only member of the family. There were so many younger generations to consider.
The country needed the support of the dignitaries to maintain stability; the families needed their offspring to keep the bloodline running.
From the beginning of time, members of families had always acted in groups. Consequently, after the primary and secondary distribution of the resources, the amount each individual received was barely worth mentioning.
They were all looking forward to the harvest of the late season rice, whose estimated yield was 500 kg—an amount enough to ease the current shortage.
Then, the monastery.
Those in the monastery were deemed "special workforce" chiefly used for resources development. They were yet to be considered useful for actual battles. It was a rational decision, for the level of their Taoist skills was way too low—they would not even be able to stop bullets. As a result, the government had unconsciously ignored this aspect.
However, these people had a hidden function called "health-preservation", or in other words, achieving longevity.
This concept was even more alluring than the actual development of resources. Among the dignitaries, someone had actually practiced it themselves: purchase a common Taoist scripture, get a room, and sit down promptly for meditation.
However, the practical part was always difficult. The second-generation have-it-alls simply had neither the natural endowments nor the mind for cultivation.
Moreover, no one knew so far that whether or not this thing would work out. Qiyun was considered an experimental land for the purpose.
Finally, the research base.
Based on the spiritual essence map, the government had tried planting various crops in those places, which all turned out to be failures apart from those tiny plots in Tianzhu, which yielded that little amount of rice.
The researchers were conducting further experiments. For instance, they had planted ordinary seeds in spiritual soil, or planted the spiritual rice they harvested into non-spiritual soil… the purpose was to observe whether or not the yield or effect would be affected.
The three strata and three different groups just happened to form a chain: discovery of new resources—new resources proved effective—dignitaries enjoying the benefits—training of professional talents—urgent demand for more resources.
That was how expansion took place.
The government was stubbornly holding off the development of Mt Emei because they were waiting for the result from the monastery. They were gripping tightly onto the resources.
With the train of thoughts going through his head, the man rubbed his forehead involuntarily. His expression was a mixture of fatigue and confusion. After all, no one could predict at this point what would this country turn into in the future...