Two days later, Huo Zhou.
Standing in a shaded corner, Gu Yu was on the phone, bombarded by his girlfriend's satirical comments. "It was just boring! So boring! There was not a single person that could stand a fight. The formidable birthplace of Chan is filled with rookies! Do you know what level of security the Scripture Room had? A greasy monk, a few cameras, and that's it! Gosh! Where was the sweeping monk?"
'Probably having his ass kicked by you even if there was one…'
Gu Yu rolled his eyes. "Ok, calm down. So how's everything now? With that big a scene raised, has anybody pounded on your door yet?"
"They surely are searching for me, but I've shut myself in to reflect on my little misdeed and they couldn't find me. Oh, by the way, I did quite a lot of research these two days and there was this post on the internet. Do you remember the Three Patriarch Temple in Tianzhu Mountain? They said the monks in it had been thrown out."
Three Patriarch Temple was the birthplace of the three patriarchs of the Chan School and held an unparalleled status in the Buddhist community. Even that could not stop them from being evicted? Gu Yu was surprised. "It seems the government is rather decisive. Do they know it for sure that the Buddhist community does not have its own tricks to play?"
"I cannot say about the other schools, but the answer is definitely yes for the school of Chan."
He heard the sound of page turning, then Xiaozhai went on. "I've been studying Buddhist classics recently. Chan emphasizes on the will of people and one could only reach enlightenment after knowing their own heart. If that really is their standard, haha, I don't think anybody can ever achieve that goal."
Xiaozhai's tone was filled with sarcasm and contempt.
Bodhidharma travelled east to this country during the Northern Wei Dynasty and established the School of Chan in Shaolin, which was passed down for six generations of patriarchs from Huike, Sengcan, Daoxin, and Hongren, all the way to Huineng.
Hongren used to have two pupils—Huineng and Shenxiu, who each believed in their own idea and would debate from time to time. The famous gatha "Bodhi is originally without any tree; the bright mirror is also not a stand." was the result of one of their debates.
After Hongren passed away, the two pupils went their separate ways and each established a sub-school of their own.
Shenxiu founded the Northern School, who believed that enlightenment was gradual and based his teaching on "Meditation and Introspection Method". The learning of Chan doctrines and the progress towards enlightenment both took place gradually. Huineng was the founder of the Southern School, who believed in sudden enlightenment. The school taught "Buddha is in one's own mind" and did not insist on meditation or introspection.
Doctrine-wise, the Northern School was the orthodox one, which emphasized on taking things slowly and one step at a time. The Southern School, on the other hand, had an extremely high "barrier to entry", which required the most exceptional natural endowments. In other words, they wanted the wisest pupil, who could gain insight through conversations.
In plain words: you talk, I listen; I instantly understand my nature and my mind, then enlightenment comes and I'm Buddha.
However, development-wise, the Southern School had eliminated its northern counterpart. The Northern School had lost its inheritor by the end of Tang Dynasty and everything passed down on the School of Chan belonged to the Southern School nowadays.
And that was where Xiaozhai's contempt rooted from. In her opinion, the School of Chan was digging its own grave. They had it coming!
"There is so much stuff to collect on all ten schools of Buddhism. I'm going to be buried…" Xiaozhai wailed. She then asked, "Well, how are things going on over there?"
"And I thought you'd never ask."
"Oh my, wouldn't that make you grumpy? What am I gonna do then?"
Curling his lip, Gu Yu told her about everything from the encounter with Zhang Wei, fighting the ghostly faces, and his exploration and wretched escape in Flaming Mountain. "I'm at a loss as well. I have no idea where these people came from. But I'm going to stay for a while here in Huo Zhou and collect some fire-attributed spiritual essence. I wonder if I can refine the green jade needles further with it. If it works, I'll go to Tianshan again and chop down some of that green jade stone."
"Why are you suddenly so active?" Xiaozhai wondered.
"Can't help it. The more battles I go through, the more I realize how inadequate I am. I need to improve myself sooner or later." There was frustration in his voice.
After Gu Yu became a cultivator, his abilities consisted of the Essence-consuming Method, the conjuring skill, and the martial arts movements he learned from his girlfriend. Do remember that the Essence-consuming Method was not compatible with Thunder Technique, for the two required different mindset, were of different theories, and needed different cultivation methods.
Neither were mere magical skills or supernatural powers, but both were major skills important enough to found a sect upon. They were Taoist orthodoxies and rarely any of those were compatible with one another.
Back then, Gu Yu had suggested Xiaozhai to learn the Essence-consuming Method. Fortunately, Xiaozhai had turned him down, or she would have no choice but to repeat his experience.
The conjuring skill could be used in one-to-one or one-against-many battles, but was restricted by his spiritual essence and mental force. His one charge could affect seven or eight people at most. The power of this skill depended completely on the conjurer's own capability. The more powerful the conjurer, the more potent the vision.
The skill was recorded next to the Essence-consuming Method and there was no way it was anything mediocre. Therefore, he had never thought less of it, but the potential of the skill lay in the future, not now.
Other than those, there were also the two green jade needles, which didn't have much worth mentioning apart from being fast, accurate, and relentless.
So, here was the problem! He realized that he had very limited means of attack, which could really put him in a quandary when he had to deal with multiple unintelligent creatures such as those insects.
What was worse, at a time when Taoist skills were near extinction, he did not have much choice. All he could do was to make the most of the current resources system and try his best to develop something out of it.
The scorching sun hung high in the sky, so bright that it stung the eyes.
In the valley, indolent streams flowed into the distance. There was a heaviness about the quiet water, so much so that its movement brought no pleasure to any onlooker. Even the occasional breeze felt stuffy and dry, which made one restless with anxiety.
Hanging up, Gu Yu looked around at the surrounding grape trellises. The shrivelled vines were droopy and the withering leaves were offering the tiniest shade.
After coming out of Flaming Mountain, he did not return to the city, but settled himself down in Grape Valley straight away. On his way back, he had collected some fire-attributed spiritual essence with a gourd, so that he could experiment with it later.
He walked through the trellises, went past a recreational area, and entered a small hotel. Only a handful of guests were staying there. Of over twenty rooms, only four or five were taken. Business was not looking good.
Gu Yu returned to his room, locked the door, and sat erect on the bed. He then untied a green-skinned gourd from his belt. The gourd was 12 cm in length, with a balanced shape. Its verdant color gave it a look of an exquisite piece of art.
He activated his mental force and a green flash materialized in front of him, which then wheeled around the room slowly in the air. Holding the gourd on his right palm, he removed the plug with his left hand. He then stirred the gourd with the spiritual essence on his right hand. Provoked, the fire spiritual essence swooshed out.
The air stirred violently and the room was instantly enveloped by a heat wave. It had turned into a sauna house.
The characteristics of the fire spiritual essence were its acuteness and extreme aggressiveness. Controlling the green jade needle, Gu Yu harassed it deliberately. As expected, the fiery cloud noticed its mark and suddenly winded upwards, heading straight towards the green flash.
In a split second, the red cloud and green flash were all over one another, entangled into one inseparable lump.
Gu Yu dared not take it lightly. A swift sweep of his mental force and both were wrapped in it. He then followed the method of refining by mental force and started the refinement process tentatively.
This method was to nourish the object with the spiritual essence and temper it with the mental force. The spiritual essence here generally referred to that of one's own. However, he was trying to use a foreign object to refine a magical instrument now, which was feasible in theory, but not so easy in practice.
Gu Yu was very focused as he stared into the air unblinking. The red cloud was extremely irritable and very antagonistic towards the green flash. No matter how hard he tried to guide it, it simply refused to calm down.
About ten minutes later, with a final soft blast, the red cloud was worn out and disappeared. The green jade needle also dimmed a little.
Gu Yu paused, but he was not ready to give up. He closed his eyes and readjusted his breathing. When his vital essence was recovered, he unplugged the gourd, drew out another streak of fire spiritual essence, and tried again.
The process was repeated three times and the gourd was almost empty. He had failed each time.
Gu Yu was delighted rather than worried, for during the third trial, something started to make sense.
Immediately, he released the green flash again, then watched the red cloud rise and wrap around the needle. He kept his composure and was even controlling the green jade flash in such a fashion that it would not resist the attack.
The cloud surrounded the green flash on all sides and flowed up and down. Gradually, a streak of cloud separated from the lump and appeared to be breaking into the green flash. Still controlling the green jade needle, Gu Yu opened it up to the cloud, as if welcoming a girlfriend. Unhindered, the cloud went deeper, then...
His eyes flickered with a faint satisfaction, then his mental force was activated and surged at the cloud with all its force. Immediately, it jabbed into the green flash like a tenacle and wrapped around the tiny bit of red cloud. A forceful tempering began.
It was very clear this time that the fire spiritual essence was completely defenseless. It could only go with the flow as Gu Yu turned it this way and that, nourishing the green jade needle a little bit at a time.
After quite some time, he withdrew his mental force and the green flash landed steadily on his palm. It was still 5 cm in length, slightly thicker than a sewing needle, and sharpened on both ends—nothing seemed to have changed.
However, he had sensed the difference—it now had the faintest burning sensation.
Gu Yu was finally relieved. That was some tough job! It was the sad thing about this skill-waning time. An expert master could at least save two hundred years of his cultivation time! Yet now, he could only find the way on his own.
As a refining manual widely adopted in the ancient time, the method of refining by mental force was indeed worth its reputation. Its applicability was impressive.
Gu Yu had reasoned that the fire spiritual essence had a devouring and dilapidating power on all lives and living creatures, and even the spiritual essence in general.
After the green jade needle was fully refined, it would no longer simply be fast, accurate, and relentless, but have a fire property to it.
He even imagined mining in Tianshan and refining as many needles as necessary. By then, the needles could shoot out like pouring rain. A sky filled with "Pop!" would be the most flamboyant picture!