"It looks like a mutated Red Dragon, a plant of the pinophyta division. These trees used to be spread widely across Bashu area, but have become very rare in the past few decades. It is now listed as an endangered species.
Possibly affected by the node, significant changes have been recognized in various parameters of the Red Dragon in the valley. According to our preliminary analysis, this tree species has an average height of 26 m and a diameter of around 2.5 m. The bark is grayish brown and the core red. This is a monoecious species flowering in spring. It might bear a limited amount of fruit, but that still needs further observation.
It is extremely selective in terms of the environment it grows in and the valley is its only habitat. The species is highly drought and shade tolerant.
The hardness of this species has a value of 5200 by international standard, exceeding that of the known hardest wood, that is, the ox oak. In terms of economic value alone, this type of wood has a variety of uses in aviation, watercraft, construction, electrical pole, sleepers, mine props, bridges, farm implements, apparatus, paper making, etc.
In addition, it also has great medicinal value, especially its bark and seeds, which can be widely applied to aspects such as anti-oxidation, free radical elimination, antitumor studies, protection of cardiovascular, improving microcirculation…"
In the conference room, Liu Yu briefly explained the results of the research on the tree. There was a slight complacency on his relaxed face, for ever since the recovery of the spiritual essence started, the entire scientific research system had been in a rather awkward place.
This was the first time that the applicability of a substance could be analysed by scientific equipment.
Of course, the old man did not let the satisfaction take him too far. He added, "Everything I talked about is within the area of modern science. As for the rest, we will have to trouble Priest Lu with the explanation."
With that, a dozen pair of eyes instantly turned to Lu Yuanqing.
In his unhurried manner, Lu Yuanqing smiled. "Senior Liu has been very thorough and I only have a little to add. The spiritual essence in the Red Dragon is very reactive. The tea made from its leaves alone can improve ordinary people's health and help with prolonging life.
I have also sampled some soil from both the bottom of the valley and up on the top of the cliff, which all displayed high reactivity—the difference between the two places is negligible. We could try planting spiritual rice outside the valley. Unfortunately, I found no mutated minerals, so it is very unlikely that there are any lodes in the valley."
The sound of breathing grew heavier at these words. Liu Yu was also very excited and asked hastily, "Do you mean that the spiritual rice can be sowed on a larger scale here in Emei?"
"Senior Brother Wang Ruoxu has examined the shape of the mountain earlier. This place is abundant in Wood and Earth elements, making it ideal for sowing." Lu Yuanqing smiled.
Instantly, the crowd was exulted, so much so that they almost burst into "hooray!"
They couldn't help it, for the scientific research group had been under an enormous pressure. All efforts on Tianzhu Mountain had turned out to be fruitless—they had tried every method to increase the yield of the spiritual rice, which was to no avail. Now that there were more mouths that needed feeding, the two harvests a year were almost unable to meet the demand.
The discovery in Emei was a godsend at this critical moment!
All in all, the exploration team had spent their first few days in exhilaration and full-on enthusiasm. Hubbub filled the air and machines rumbled, completely ruining the tranquility of the the place.
Those above took a great interest in the matter after receiving the news. All demands of Emei were promptly fulfilled, be it money or personnel. The order they received were two sentences: make sure the daily supply of the spiritual rice is met; develop more necessities.
Just listen to that wording. Daily supply was not the same as supply, in the same way that necessities were not mere "goods".
Night, the campsite.
Lu Yuanqing sat by the lamp, playing with a short sword. It was about 60 cm in length, with a wide and thick body. The sword was in a modest style and of a deep red color from tip to end. It was made from none other than the Red Dragon wood.
Apart from Neidan practice, Quanzhen's teaching also included some basic physical training such as martial arts and sword fighting skills. This short sword, however, was not for himself, but a gift for Chao Kongtu—wooden sword was widely used in Maoshan skills.
Being the abbot of the monastery meant the matters he had to consider were much more complicated.
Red Dragon wood was remarkably versatile and of great use to cultivators such as Zhang Shouyang—the Way of Celestial Masers still kept some incomplete Waidan skills and even had a Dan furnace stashed somewhere.
It was the only existing Dan furnace made from Six One mud.
Although not many Dan recipes were left in the Way of Celestial Masters, with the furnace and materials at hand, they would be able to slowly figure it out. He had confidence in Zhang Shouyang's capability; the man would not fail him.
Lu Yuanqing was still deep in his thoughts when his expression changed. Putting away the short sword into his sleeve, he quietly pushed open the door and walked out.
A sorrowful whimper seemed to be carried this way by the night wind, almost too faint to be discernible. He searched for the right direction, found it, and followed the sound. In a couple of minutes, he was outside the campsite.
It was deep into the night and the bright moon hung high above.
The deep valley was enshrouded by the moonlight, the verdant and silent woods gilded with silver. Trees swayed in the night wind, scattering the white frost of light, as if a cold fog was spreading across the air, giving the valley a look of a secret heaven on earth.
On the edge of the cliff facing the campsite crouched a little monkey, its front paws covering its face and was whimpering like a human child.
The little monkey curled itself up and its back heaved pitifully as it made the sad sound. Suddenly, its hair bristled up and it stopped sobbing abruptly. The monkey spun around and tried to flee, but was not quick enough. A big hand snatched the back of its neck and effortlessly lifted it up.
It struggled violently in mid-air, brandishing all paws and limbs. Anger was radiating from its body.
"Such a spiritual creature. Were you mourning for your home?" Holding it by the neck, the appreciation and possessiveness in Lu Yuanqing's voice was apparent. "We have invaded Emei out of desperation. Living here must have been nice, but there's a wide world outside. From now on, you're with me."
Unlike his usual forbearance and mild temper, the character he exhibited towards this little monkey was like a different person. Tucking the monkey away in his sleeve, he strolled back to the campsite.
"Stop the vehicle for inspection!"
A vehicle with a government license plate was stopped by the soldiers at the mountain gate. Tang Yu stuck out his head out of the window and chuckled. "Why, it's you, Old Li. On sentry duty again?"
"It's my team's shift. You have been busy, haven't you? Two days out of the mountain and you're back again."
Seeing that the visitor was Tang Yu, the team captain was all smiling. He gave a casual look at the permit and glanced into the vehicle. There was a woman on the passenger seat. "Who is this?"
"Oh, my assistant. She's helping me with recording information."
"Well, it's not that I'm making it difficult, but you know how it is these days. The rules are very strict…"
"Fine, fine. There, her permit!"
Tang Yu handed him the papers stamped by the official seal, which reassured the man inside. The soldier chuckled. "That'll do. Drive carefully! Let the car pass!"
The roadblock was moved aside and the vehicle drove in, heading towards the campsite deep inside the mountain.
As the representative of Le Zhou government, Tang Yu had been staying at the frontline the entire time. He went back to the city a couple of days ago, but instead of going home, he spent the two whole days snuggling up with Du Hong—his wife and child did not know he was back, anyway.
Hearing him talking about all the events, Du Hong was tempted.
Surrendering to Du Hong's persuasion, Tang Yu managed to get her a permit and brought her in to have a taste. Needless to say, the two had agreed beforehand that she could only stay for one night.
The vehicle followed the bumpy road and more than half a day had passed before they finally reached the camp.
Tang Yu had his job to do. He reminded Du Hong of some matters and went to attend his own business. Du Hong could not stand the boredom. She only stayed inside for a little while before she snuck out to walk around.
With the conspicuous permit hanging around her neck, even those who did recognize her as a stranger would find it inappropriate to question her. It was rather clever of her.
"This place feels so nice!"
She wandered around and ended up at the edge of the cliff at the east end of the campsite. She stood there and looked down into the deep valley.
Her feeling in one word: heaven!
Although she couldn't sense the spiritual essence, she was instinctively soothed by the atmosphere. Her breathing was so smooth that she felt lifted inside out. And there was a stirring inside her.
"Who are you?"
Du Hong was enjoying the wonderful sensation when a sound came from behind.
It made her jump. Turning around, she saw a young priest standing there, his hair in a Taoist bun and dressed in a loose robe with wide sleeves. The priest was extremely handsome and bursting with vitality.
A naughty idea came into her head right away and that unknown desire burning stronger. She swallowed secretly and answered, "I'm Director Tang's assistant and have just got here. And you are?"
Lu Yuanqing nodded, realizing she was talking about Tang Yu.
He was in fact amazed. The woman was emanating an alluring aura from head to toe, a small amount of which was a natural gift and mostly acquired. Her inner Qi was facetious and unsteady. One glance and he knew she was no decent cultivator.
That was very interesting!
"What method are you practicing?" he asked directly.
Du Hong shuddered inside, backing away despite herself.
"Hm, your method follows an unconventional path and is rather clever in a way, but your foundation has been poorly built. In the long run, your meridians will become tangled up, endangering your life."
Du Hong's face was ashy white. She did not know the man by sight, but had heard Tang Yu talking about him. He would be the pupil of Baiyun Temple's abbot, a true master and a skilful cultivator.
She knew next to nothing about cultivation and had come so far by sheer luck alone. Now that her biggest secret had been exposed, she was petrified at first, then overwhelmed by an unknown panic.
"There's no need to be flustered. I mean no harm." Lu Yuanqing was as mild as ever and smiled. "I have a manual that can adjust Qi and breathing. It will help with your cultivation. If you want to learn it, come back at three this afternoon to fetch it."
"You, I…" Du Hong was so baffled that she was barely keeping her head straight. "We've only just met. Why would you help me?"
"Cultivation is a tough road. I feel sorry for your ignorance of the true knowledge."
With that, Lu Yuanqing flapped his sleeves and left.
Du Hong returned to Tang Yu's place, her head still muddled and face blank. It was quite some time before she could think again.
Firstly, about that shabby book, the man said it was a practicing method.
She did not think much of it in the beginning, but as the effect grew more apparent, she could no longer hold back that desire. No one could resist the allure of cultivation.
She then thought about Tang Yu. The man was good to her, yet she was nothing but a mistress. The relationship would end sooner or later.
She had tasted the wonder of consuming Yang to nourish Yin and there was no turning back. It was only out of the consideration for Tang Yu that she dared not venture out. If she wanted more, she would need to expand her client list.
This woman was remarkable. In a few moments, she figured out her future path.
When a woman thought something through, she would be more persistent than any man.
At three o'clock that afternoon, she returned to the cliff. Lu Yuanqing spared her no small talks. He tossed her a paper scroll right away. "Now, go."
Du Hong winced, then stashed it away in her clothes and said, "Thank you."
Lu Yuanqing smiled involuntarily as the woman walked away. She was great—not her looks, but her intelligence and the relationships she was involved in.
A woman skilful in certain occult method was in bed with high-ranking officials. What disturbance would she bring in the future? What trouble would she cause the government?
It intrigued him greatly...