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Spiritual essence was the foundation of all cultivation.

Therefore, the first thing to do when one entered the cultivation world was to check whether or not their body could hold spiritual essence inside. According to what Gu Yu found out through the fishbone, this first step was called "awakening of the spirit" and was usually performed by a senior member, who would infuse a streak of spiritual essence into the entrant’s forehead to identify their innate quality and temper their spirit.

Only those with wonderful innate quality could make the spiritual essence flow inside their bodies and hold it for a long time without it scattering. Similarly, only a tenacious spirit could maintain clarity and tranquility of the mind, keeping the spiritual flame from extinguishing.



Only by fulfilling these two criteria would the spiritual essence gradually sink into one’s Dantian and be concordant with one’s body, leading to the successful awakening of one’s spirit. Those who failed to do so would either be drained of all their spiritual essence, or lose control of their mind.

The former was somewhat bearable. The latter, on the other hand, would cause dementia or destroy one’s spirit and soul completely, turning one into a vegetable.

For any mortal man who wanted to join the cultivation world, the awakening of the spirit was the priority among priorities. If a senior member was present as a guardian, the process would be fairly safe. Those who actually had to brave the danger were the newcomers who had stumbled onto some treasure and recklessly decided that they would take things into their own hands—they were simply bringing disaster on themselves.

"Yikes!"

Seeing this part of the information, Gu Yu gasped involuntarily as he feared for the possible dangerous situation he could have fallen into.

He recalled the time when he swallowed the red fruit and the two sensations fought against each other. Luckily for him, he had a relatively tough state of mind, which helped to keep his consciousness intact. He had no idea what it meant back then. Now that he came to think of it, he had survived a most perilous trial.

What he lacked the most right now was the understanding of the cultivation system as a whole. Being introduced to the awakening of the spirit had given him some tantalizing glimpses of the cultivation world, but the amount of information was very limited and he was still ignorant of everything else.

That was only a section of the information in the fishbone. The part that followed recorded the most valuable contents. He had been disgruntled with not having a cultivation method and the fishbone just happened to contain one—the method of consuming six natural essences.

The so-called six natural essences came from the glory of dawn, the midday sunbeam, the cliffside spring where the sun set, the midnight mist, the black sky, and the yellow earth. As it went in the poem, "One would appease their hunger by consuming six natural essences and quench their thirst with the midnight mist. The midday sunbeam was what one rinsed their mouth with and the glory of dawn was to be held in one’s mouth without swallowing. To keep one’s spirit clear and pure, one had to take in the spiritual essence and get rid of all things filthy." [1]

In plain words, this cultivation method was to temper one’s physical body, mind, spirit and soul with the spiritual essence, whose density had peaks and troughs in the natural world. The pattern of this fluctuation was determined by seasons and the climate.

One was to: consume the glory of dawn in spring, taking in the red and yellow essence at sunrise; consume the cliffside spring in autumn, taking in the red and yellow essence at sunset; consume the midnight mist in winter, taking in the essence of north at midnight; consume the midday sunbeam in summer, taking in the essence of south at noon.

As for the essences of the black sky and yellow earth, the fishbone only said, "They are the origin of all essences and had not been seen for thousands of years."

‘If you say so…’

Other than that, there was also a conjuring verse, which should allow one to create a vision like the one Gu Yu was dragged into. The instruction seemed rather profound and learning it required great concentration. He decided to put it aside for the time being.

Even so, he was rejoicing and went all ecstatic like a kid with his mouth full of sweets. He could not wait to try out the method now.

Gu Yu checked the time, which happened to be midnight. He quietly walked into the yard and sat down facing north. The so-called "consuming midnight mist in winter" meant it would benefit one the most during the winter, not that one could cultivate it during winter only.

He pushed out his chest slightly and breathed normally, keeping his body unbent and his mind undisturbed. His Baihui, Shanzhong, and Huiyin were aligned in his mind as he held his tongue lightly against his palate, his teeth touching his lips. Above him, the moon shone brightly in the sky. He focused on turning his mind and spirit inward, feeling his body as relaxed as a cotton boll. [2]

He silently activated the magical formula and opened his mouth. As he made a swallowing motion, the spiritual essence wandering in the air changed for the first time. It turned into something reminding one of streaks of white threads, which slid down his throat and eventually gathered in his Dantian.

Immediately after that, he breathed out slowly and then repeated that process.

At some point, when he was taking in the spiritual essence again, Gu Yu suddenly shuddered. With that violent shaking, all his orifices were opening and closing. A melting sensation flew smoothly through Gu Yu and his mind was filled with an exceptionally pleasant feeling.

The key to the method of consuming six natural essences lay in the motions of intake and release. The former was to take in the spiritual essence of heaven and earth so as to temper one’s entire body from head to toe. The breath would then be released, and taken in again with another wave of spiritual essence. With time, one’s mind, spirit and soul would all be enhanced and a solid cultivation foundation would be established.

The night was coming to an end as the moon hung low in the western sky.

Gu Yu had finally stopped cultivating. He sat meditating in silence for a moment before regaining his composure. After opening his eyes, a ticklish sensation swept across all his body hair and orifices. He felt he had been in a trance and had sweated profusely. The joy he felt was beyond description.

"Uhh…"

His lips twitched as he held back his voice with some difficulty. Had it not been a quiet night now, he would definitely shout out his excitement. He felt he was playing a puzzle game. Although he had only solved the entry level and had no idea of either what levels there would be further up the ladder or what mighty magical or supernatural power was waiting for him, the fulfillment and satisfaction he was feeling now were absolutely unparalleled.

Why did people choose to become cultivators? To show off, of course!

Sorry, that was not the correct answer. Of course they did so to become immortal. Then what were they becoming immortal for?

Gu Yu’s answer was to be free and explore the unknown. The decades-long life of mortal men had so many restrictions that one had no choice but to follow the rules and become a drop within the society.

However, with an endless life and limitless power, one could naturally break these shackles to appreciate all the wonders of the world and do all things as one pleased.

It was not until this moment that he had truly entered the cultivation world. That being said, Gu Yu was not someone aiming at overturning the world and making a saint out of himself. He found such goals too unrealistic and felt it suit him better to start from something more attainable.

For instance, he could learn to identify a cross-dresser with but a glimpse, get a girl’s bra without taking her clothes off, enter a world renowned for easy sex, make all his ultimate delusions come true, blah blah blah...

Ok, those should be enough to be considered as contributions to mankind.

***

The following morning.

At the peak of Phoenix Mountain, Gu Yu was sitting on a limestone, facing the rising sun, its half still below the horizon. As he exhaled, a wisp of almost invisible, thin vapor was blown out.

The vapor rolled about in the air for a long time without dispersing, as if it was a living creature. Gu Yu then opened his mouth again, swallowing it back. Repeating this procedure again and again, his vital energy and body functions would be enhanced and his mental faculties strengthened.

By the time the sun had risen above the horizon, Gu Yu had also finished his exercise.

He barely slept at all since last night and hurried up here before the sun was up, for he had to start cultivating before the sun had risen completely. However, after a whole night of excitement, he was rather frustrated and in low spirits right now.

It was not because of anything else but the idea that had just occurred to him, ‘I have to consume the essence at sunrise, midday, sunset, and midnight! What the heck? Is this how cultivation is supposed to work? Whoever’s up there must be taking me for a fool, right?’

If he followed the instruction, he would have to spend the majority of his day cultivating instead of tending to his business. Come on! No business meant no money, and no money meant no bread on the table!

‘I’m merely a pedler. How am I supposed to live with that?’

"Oh my…"

He walked down the peak sighing. Within no time he was off the Old Bull’s Back and returned to his stall.

Now he knew why out of the four essential conditions for cultivation—money, companion, method, and location—money was the first one to be named. He was barely setting off and had already become keenly aware of its importance. Of course, he could totally ignore the material well-being if he decided to forget about everything else and become a vagabond cultivator with no roof over his head and live in the wilderness.

However, that obviously was not an option!

Gu Yu shook his head and set up the stall with his nimble movements, then stewed the corn cobs in the pot with some water over a blazing charcoal fire. Before long, a pleasant aroma was coming out of the pot.

"Coo, coo!"

Brother Fatty arrived, as if attracted by the smell. It whizzed out of the woods and jumped onto Gu Yu’s shoulder right away, rubbing its big tail all over Gu Yu’s face.

"Aiya, aiya, your hair has split ends!"

Gu Yu complained and pulled it down to the ground, then casually fed it a few peanuts. It was only a day since they last saw each other and Brother Fatty already seemed to miss him very much. It bounced up and down in excitement, trying to jump onto Gu Yu again, and he had to drag it down each time.

Just as these two were struggling with each other, Gu Yu’s cell phone rang all of a sudden. He took it out and noticed the call was from someone unexpected. It was Zeng Yuewei.

[1] TL/N: Taken from 楚辞, Chu Ci, or Verses of Chu.

[2] TL/N: Baihui, the "Hundred Convergences", an acupuncture point located on the crown of the head. Shanzhong, the "Chest Center" or "Chest Altar", located in the middle of the chest. Huiyin, the "Meeting of Yin", located in the center of the perineum.

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