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Past noon, a sunny day.

On the mountain road from Wudao River to Bai Town, a bus was slowly advancing. The landslide had been cleared up, but since the earlier bus was cancelled, many people had to board now, making it extra crowded.

There were no empty seats available by the time Gu Yu got on and he did not have an opportunity to sit down until the bus reached Sandao River. Yup, the towns along the bus route had some very straightforward names, from Yidao River and Erdao River all the way up to Wudao River, as if the person naming them could not be bothered to think of something better! [1]

Shengtian was a big city built on a plain, yet there were some mountainous regions around it, especially in the southeastern area. Setting off from Wudao River, Bai Town was the fourth town down the road—from there, if one drove on to the mouth of Grass River, then went down 400 km until they reached the city of Dongyun, they would be travelling in the mountains all the way through. It was also the most prosperous tourist route in the province.

After a night-long rainfall, the verdant mountains flanking the road were washed clean and thriving with vitality. Gu Yu was admiring the view as he leaned on the window. However, without realizing it, he kept stroking that fishbone with his right hand.



The object was about 10 cm long and 5 cm wide. It was silvery white in color and the material it was made of was neither stone nor jade—Gu Yu had no idea what it was. The reason he named it "fishbone" was that its shape reminded him of an abstract form of fish—it had a triangular tip, a forked middle part and a fan-shaped tail.

Gu Yu found a string and hung it around his neck. In others’ eyes, he was only wearing a weird necklace.

Because of his tight schedule, he did not have much time to brood over it. He only knew that the fishbone somehow gave him an intimate feeling—not physical, but more of a spiritual one.

That was not funny!

‘I almost died there last night, and you’re acting all innocent now?’

Putting his mocking remarks aside, he actually learned something from that experience. The life-threatening vision last night was a kind of a trial and if one managed to survive it, they would eventually find this thing.

Judging by the reaction of people like Old Li, Gu Yu didn’t think they were able to sense the energy.

After stroking it for a while, Gu Yu put the fishbone back under his shirt and thought to himself, ‘If everything goes as planned, the spiritual essence in Wudao River will gradually calm down and the bees act normally again. I should probably come and make sure later when I have time.’

To be honest, although he had been expecting difficulties and obstacles ever since he started cultivating, this was the first time that something actually happened to him. It went without saying that the impact of the incident was significant, which had also brought about a subtle change in his mindset.

In modern society, one would show consideration for others’ feelings and leave room for their possible mistakes, for such compromise was not life-threatening. The worst that could happen to one was losing a job, breaking up with a girlfriend, being unable to afford their own house, offending one’s boss, being stuck up in the stock market etc…

Thus, expressions such as "a matter of life and death" or "come hell or high water" seemed way too irrelevant and distant.

However, the cultivation world was a totally different story. The road was far, without an end in sight. Along this road, one had to pursue the truth and was often confronted with the cruelty of the choice between life and death. Worldly affairs seemed evanescent; one’s life could be ended at any moment even if one lived up to a hundred years, turning into nothing but ashes and dusts. All effort might turn out to be futile in the end and the entire lifetime would be wasted for nothing.

If one did not have enough tenacity in their pursuit of the truth, it would probably suit them better to be satisfied with small pleasures and live an ordinary life.

Gu Yu might seem indifferent and aloof facing most things, but there was great stubbornness buried inside him. This trial turned out to be very effective—in the sense that it had brought out this stubborn nature of his.

It took the bus just over an hour to cover the 70-km-long road and arrive at Bai Town.

After he got home, Gu Yu had a nice long sleep before anything else. He did not get up until dusk and found the rest very relaxing and therapeutic.

He had a simple dinner and started to process that 200 grams of silver osmanthus he’d bought.

The golden osmanthus had too sweet a fragrance, while the scent of the silver osmanthus was much fresher. For an elderly person like Granny Zeng, a flashy scent would not be suitable.

He took 150g of silver osmanthus first, ground it into fine powder and baked it slightly until it was dry. The powder was then set at the bottom of a double-layered jar. A few pieces of dried ginger were put on top of the powder to get rid of the odors and intensify the fragrance.

He then sealed off the porcelain jar, which needed to be cellared for three days before the incense powder inside would be up to standard.

The remaining 50g was pounded into paste first before he added 25g of liquorice and three salted plums before pounding it again. The mixture would be squeezed into incense cakes the size of bottle caps, also to be cellared in a sealed porcelain jar.

The incense cakes could be used to make tea or soups, especially the latter. Add an incense cake to boiling water and one would get Divine Smell Water, which would regulate the flow of vital energy and nourish the lungs.

The cakes were a gift for Xiaozhai, for the girl had a very stressful job and no time to exercise at all. Judging by her irregular routine, she was surely experiencing stagnation in the circulation of her vital energy and was straining her nerves. The Divine Smell Water would be perfect for her.

To some extent, incense-making and traditional Chinese medicine had much in common. Gu Yu did not consider himself an expert, but he still knew a thing or two about the basics.

After he finished all the preparations, night had already set in outside.

Gu Yu went out into the yard and locked the gate, which was very rare for him. He then returned to his room and locked that door again. The bedroom was unlit and he had drawn the curtains of the workroom closed, leaving only a dim lamplight.

He sat on a rush cusion and fretted over the fishbone in his hand. What should he do with it?

‘Should I deliberately knock myself over the corner of a table or a chair to get my head bashed and bleeding? Alternatively, should I drop a glass for no obvious reason and have my hand cut by the shards? Oh, come on, these things require some serious maneuvers! You have to act all clumsy and absent-minded, but in fact be secretly overwhelmed by excitement. Be a scheming bi*ch and follow the script to a tee, only then will the treasure take in the blood and choose you as its master.’

"Tsk!"

He shook his head while clucking his tongue and got rid of that idea right away.

In that case, he was left with but one choice. Gu Yu hung the fishbone back on his neck, closed his eyes and began meditating again.

His body was fading into nothingness as his sensation drifted away, leaving only a hint of consciousness. The spiritual essence was still floating and circulating placidly in the air with the same familiarity as before.

After a little while, an unusual fluctuation surged out of the fishbone and held itself slightly aloof from Gu Yu. It appeared to be probing and sizing Gu Yu up. Another moment passed before it finally confirmed its target and whooshed near, drilling directly into his brain.

"Zoom!"

Gu Yu felt a shock go through his head, as if someone had knocked a great bell beside his ears. After the vibration stopped, a piece of information emerged in his mind. It was neither in the form of texts nor an image, but was a direct expression of its meaning.

"Yin and Yang are the fundamental Daos of heaven and earth, the order of all things, the origin of all changes, the starting point of life and death, and the dwelling of gods and deities. Hence, those pure and positive exit through upper orifices and those turbid and negative exit through lower orifices. Yang is in charge of the smells and Yin of the flavors. Flavors rely on the body, the body relies on smells, smells rely on the vital essence, and the vital essence relies on transformations; the vital essence feeds on smells and smells feed on flavors, while transformations create the vital essence and smells create bodies…

Accumulate the vital essence and the goal is to open up the abstruse. Once the essence goes through all extra-meridians and after one has trained their body to perfection, one could be considered an immortal on earth. To train one’s mind, one has to start from manipulating physical phenomena and make sure their soul was held pure and intact. Once one achieves transformation in both the body and the soul, one will be free to fly among all the mountains in this world…

Excessive use of the ears will weaken the vitality, excessive talking will hurt the essence, excessive use of the eyes will exhaust the mind. Retrieve your eyes and introspect; turn your ears to listen to yourself; stop talking and save your vigor. Concentrate your mind on your Dantian and clear your head of all distracting thoughts, so that your mind would take in the vital essence, which fits the primordial state before you were born…

Elegant mountains stood tall and straight with tiers upon tiers of peaks, verdant and beautiful. The vitality filled heaven and earth. White cranes resided in the mountains and Blue Luan Birds stopped by the pavilions. Irises and orchids were giving off delicate scents. It was such an auspicious place…"

It felt like forever before he opened his eyes, which remained unfocused, as if he was still pondering over the message.

The origin of that fishbone was unclear and its contents were full of clutter, without any logical order. It contained cultivation methods, personal insights, and even some baffling observations and travel notes. Judging from the ethereal scene it described, the place did not appear to be of the mortal world.

The impact of this message was more intense than that of the red fruit by a hundredfold. It was like a loud bang, which blasted away all of Gu Yu’s apprehension and confusion. A most splendid and colorful world had jumped right in front of him, into which he was completely absorbed and unable to extricate from.

"Woof!"

"Arf! Arf!"

Faint barking sounds of neighboring dogs echoed outside. It was past midnight, but Gu Yu remained wide awake. With great effort, he suppressed his increasing excitement and delight so that he could comb through the contents carefully and see which ones were of value to him.

[1] TL/N: Sandao River actually means Three Rivers. As for the rest, they follow the same pattern, "one river", "two rivers", "three rivers", "four rivers" and "five rivers".

[2] TL/N: MC actually calls the item a "big-tailed wolf", which refers to a smug/self-righteous person. The "big tail"part refers to their showiness.

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