Cottage of Pure Mind, the meditation room.
Gu Yu was sitting on the rush mat with a fiery red feather between his fingers. He probed it with his mental force repeatedly, apparently conducting some experiment. In a while, he shook his head and said with resignation, "I still can't make it work. My mental force is not powerful enough to change its structure and appearance."
"So, chicken rib again! 1 Starting from scratch is indeed Hell Mode. It's never as easy as those with a favorable environment and steady output of resources," said Xiaozhai, who was sitting on the opposite side, disappointedly.
"Don't give up just yet. The feather won't work, but we still have the fluff. There's enough to make a down jacket with," comforted Gu Yu, not bothering to feign the least sincerity.
Ever since the Pavilion of Gems sent the red feather vultures to Phoenix Mountain, the two had been experimenting on them, hoping to find some sort of clue. Unfortunately, they had not succeeded so far.
There were two kinds of bird feathers. Those covering their back and wings were vaned feathers, which were tougher—sort of like the keratinization of epidermis. The other kind were the down feathers found on the abdomen—soft, light, and fluffy.
And here came the problem: vaned feathers were more abundant and had a better defensive power, but they could not be used as a fabric and could only be stitched onto ready-made clothes; the down feathers, on the other hand, were fewer, not as good in fending off attacks, but could be used to make things like down jackets, duvets, pillows, etc.
Gu Yu's current mental force was not powerful enough to change the shape of substances. For instance, if he wanted to refine a sword, he had to forge the raw material into the shape of a sword before refining it with his mental force.
He would make a fool of himself if he tried to refine a sword from a piece of jade stone directly.
The existing Taoist conjuring instruments were divided into two kinds. Those made by Phoenix Mountain were all products of mental force refinement, which could be stored away in the mental space and were imposingly powerful. As for those used by men of Qiyun, they went through no refinement by mental force but were mere apparatus, such as the whisk and wooden sword Lu Yuanqing and the others used.
It worked the same way with the red feather. They had to make the feathers into clothes first before having it refined. Take a wild guess what Father and Mother Jiang would say if someone suggested them to go around wearing a costume not much unlike two human-sized bats!
The feathers were too prickly as a lining and too ridiculous as an outer layer—Father Jiang was a high-ranking official in the province, for God's sake!
God forbids if someone should see him in some feathery costume, well… "firstly, it was sheer fabrication; secondly, we've put it into the hands of our lawyer" would probably be what followed.
"Why did everybody else get to start from a novice village but we have to build a novice village first?" Frowning, Xiaozhai feigned a tantrum and swept the feathers aside. "There are times I don't feel like a cultivator at all; a self-taught folk scientist, that's what I am."
"There, there, it's much more fulfilling this way. Just think about it. We're basically setting the rules of the future cultivation world. Isn't that an enormous merit to brag about?" Gu Yu chuckled and put the fiery feathers away, then raised his girlfriend to her feet. "Come, let's go check it out. It's been a while and those medicine materials should be ready."
With that, he dragged Xiaozhai out of the room, passed a stretch of cottages, and arrived at the southeast corner of the compound. There, a house stood alone with tightly shut door and windows; a faint spiritual essence fluctuation was coming out of it.
Gu Yu waved his hand, removing the confinement, and pushed the wooden door open. Instantly, they were welcomed by a rich fragrance of medicine. It was intense and restless, as if containing a hint of unusual aggressiveness.
The room was filled with cubes, dividing it into multiple small sections. In each section were shelves with name tags on them, indicating the various medicinal materials the shelves held.
"The smell alone is proof enough. Let's get to work!"
Gu Yu was elated. He fetched a few trays and started to pick around. Xiaozhai followed suit. They examined and appraised, reminding one another from time to time in case their selection overlapped.
"250 g of prepared rhizome of rehmannia, 100 g of desert cistanche, 100 g of whole Chinese angelica and 100 g of Chinese dodder pellets!"
"100 g of icariin, 100 g of tuckahoe, 100 g of polygala root, 50 g of ootheca mantidis, and 50 g of whole scorpion!"
"Seven big black spiders, 15 g of golden cypress, 100 g of tender pilose antler, 100 g of eucommia bark, and one placenta!"
After much bustling about, they had picked out 23 medicine materials, which together had covered half of the floor. They did not stop there, but immediately moved on to the next round of selection.
"50 g of oyster shell powder and 50 g of osthole!"
"50 g of semen irisis and 50 g of poison yam!"
"100 g of tortoiseshell paste, 100 g of pilose antler paste, and 100 g of fish glue!"
They soon selected 11 other materials. These two batches were none other than the ingredients of the two Dan recipes recorded in the Book on the State of Mind of Black Bead, which were the Body-refining and Mind-enhancing Dan and the Evil-expelling Dan.
The former could enhance one's body and benefit one's spirit and mind, while the latter could expel evil energy and cure maladies.
Both recipes were lower in grade than the Essence-gathering Dan in the Seal of Patriarch Sa. It took them a great effort to collect all materials and complete the first-phase preparations.
The refinement of Dan took more than throwing herbs into a cauldron, lighting up a fire, and getting the Dan out two minutes later with no extra help other than the "halo of the protagonist". In reality, even the material-preparing stage alone was unfathomably tedious.
The Indian mulberry, for instance, had to be soaked in the liquor overnight, then sun-dried. The scorpions needed to have their heads and tails removed; only the trunks were to be used. The desert cistanche had to be heated until crisp. The handling of tuckahoe was the weirdest, which had to be mixed with human breast milk and steamed and process hae to be repeated nine times.
Human! Breast! Milk!
Phoenix Mountain was not short of plump bosoms—three pairs, for that matter—but where on earth were they supposed to find breast milk? In the end, they had to search for a seller. As it turned out, they had indeed made a purchase—fresh and organic.
"Take in the goods as usual while we're away. Yan Han knows his way well enough and Old Shui will help on our end. There shouldn't be a problem," said Gu Yu.
"Do we just take everything that we haven't seen before?" asked Long Qiu.
"Yes. Check the app regularly. New content is coming up faster now. Make sure you know what's going on."
"What about the price?" Xiao Qiu asked a second question.
"Leave that to Jin Jin. She would make every coin count." Xiaozhai chuckled, holding her younger sister by the shoulder.
The elder pair were leaving detailed instructions for the younger pair before setting out. To their surprise, Jin Jin was very well behaved this time and did not nag them about tagging along.
Probably because of the shame of being kidnapped in Changbai Mountain, she had been working more arduously than ever since coming back—she had even almost abandoned her tumble plays with Long Qiu. They never saw her for an entire day and only got a glimpse of her after well into the night. When Xiaozhai asked, the answer was always that she had been in the training field.
The improvement in her cultivation was apparent. It would not be long before she reached the passionless state of Metal Thunder.
After a lengthy instruction, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai set out. They went to the manor at the mountain foot first, where they talked with Shui Yao briefly. Old Shui was a born prince of the street. Having been in Bai Town for just over a month, a few underlings were already circling around him, running for his biddings.
He was very good at planning and managing. The transportation channel between Bai Town and Shengtian was running smoothly in his hands. Whenever the Pavilion of Gems received new goods or Phoenix Mountain had new product available, he would make sure everything reached its destination as soon as possible.
He spent his spare time training himself hardly. With the help of the spiritual rice and liquor, he was now several sizes larger in his physique.
After everything was taken care of, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai header for Shengtian, where they took a flight towards Longhu Mountain.
The Celestial Master Temple, inner room.
The current celestial master Zhang Jintong sat on a low bed with a "visitation notice" in his hands. His fingers were trembling slightly despite himself.
"We have long known the virtue of the true masters of your honourable sect. We youngsters admire your Dan-refining method and would like to visit you in a few days."
The note was written in black ink. The strokes of the Chines characters felt carefree and unrestrained. Only from the slight delicate touch of them could one guess that the note was written by a woman.
Zhang Jintong put down the note on a low table, his hands still shaking. To him, it read more like an "eviction of life" notice straight from hell. He had heard enough about the way Phoenix Mountain tending their business to know that those two wouldn't take no for an answer.
God damn it! Who told them about the Dan furnace in the Celestial Master Temple?
For a moment there, the old priest was overwhelmed by sorrow. He could almost feel the hand behind his neck which was going to pin him to the ground and rub the floor with his face. Could he fight? There was no hope of winning. Could he turn to the government for help? Whom was he kidding? Phoenix Mountain and the government had just finished a round of intensive cuddling and were in their peaceful unresponsive period.
Zhang Jintong heaved a long sigh and slowly walked to the window. Since he could not resist it, at least he should think of a way to exchange some favor for Longhu Mountain.TL/N: "chicken rib" is a metaphor in Chinese describing something of little value or interest, but at the same time something one still cannot bear to abandon.