Wang Chongyang was a sneaky bastard.
He promoted the unification of the three religions and fused the core ideology of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism into one, which was flexible and malleable enough to fit into the political framework. It was exactly as what He He had been told in the "primary ten true precepts": be loyal, be filial, obey your lord and your parents.
No ruler of any era or dynasty would reject such an ideology. Hence, after a period of suppressing religions, the country was making Quanzhen the orthodoxy again, offering the sect a high degree of freedom at the same time.
Zhengyi received no such favor. Even their Celestial Master was appointed by the government.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai sat in the living room when a gaunt old priest entered. He was of average height and they could tell that he had been practicing Qi-nourishing methods. But probably because of the burden of common affairs on a daily basis, his cultivation level was far below that of Zhang Shouyang.
They were very curious. After all, so much gossip was going around in the community, talking about things like "the strife between the uncle and the nephew". In spite of that, they still greeted the old priest with proper courtesy, bowing in unison. "Celestial Master Zhang!"
"Layman Gu, Laywoman Jiang, please sit down."
Zhang Jintong gestured with his hand. His face revealed no melancholy as previously; instead, he looked as majestic as the abbot of a sect birthplace should be.
After all three took their seats, Gu Yu gave Xiaozhai a look and spoke, "Celestial Master, the reason for our visit is to ask for your advice on Dan refinement. We would appreciate it very much if you could teach us a thing or two."
"Haha, I've heard a lot about the way Phoenix Mountain do their business."
Zhang Jintong stroked his beard and grinned. "If I'm not mistaken, the Dan-refining method is not what you are after. You are here for my divine furnace. Am I right?"
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai were slightly taken aback. Their plan was to exchange some pleasantries first, but the old priest had cut to the chase first—and in a sarcastic tone, no less.
It did not affect Gu Yu the least. It was going to be a negotiation and the parties involved were free to play around with their words. "Since you have figured out our purpose, we will not beat around the bush anymore. You have guessed right. We have come across some Dan recipes and would like to borrow your furnace."
"The thousand-year heritage of the Celestial Master Temple still has a thing or two left despite the countless tribulations fallen upon us, among which is the Dan furnace. I could even go so far as to claim that of all the renowned palaces and temples still standing, we have the only Dan furnace made from Six One Mud," he spoke slowly in a low pitch, reminding one of a candle flickering in the wind.
What he did not say was obvious: this treasure of ours is so amazing that you'd have to pay a sincere price for using it.
"Celestial Master, I am aware of the inconvenience we bring you by borrowing the furnace. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know. We will do our best to meet your needs." Xiaozhai paused a little before adding, "And, well, we'd like to exchange for some of the talisman paper your sect preserved, too."
Hearing that, Zhang Jintong half closed his eyes and sat in silence as if he was deep in his thoughts. As a matter of fact, he had decided on the terms beforehand already. But now that the talisman paper was mentioned, there was one more thing on the list, which meant he had to change the terms accordingly.
The couple waited in patience. After a long pause, the old priest finally asked, "What do you need the talisman paper for?"
"To make Flying Talismans."
"Will we be lucky enough to know the method?"
"And the Dan recipe is for?"
"I'm sorry, but we can't reveal that."
"I have heard a lot about the brilliance of Phoenix Mountain's Taoist skills. We have a skill of talisman paper-making, I wonder if you two would be interested to learn?" Zhang Jintong sweetened the pot himself.
The so-called talisman paper was made in a similiar way to ordinary paper, but since the former could be refined into talismans—and high-level talismans, for that matter—there had to be something unique about the skill. If Phoenix Mountain could obtain it, they would be able to produce it themselves from now on.
"Please give us a minute to think about it."
Gu Yu waved his hand and set up a confinement. They then began to discuss right in front Zhang Jintong's eyes.
"What are we going to exchange for that?"
"Void-arranging, Water-walking, Small Confining, or Storage Technique—any one of the four will do."
"Small Moving Technique, Mental Force Refinement Technique, and our core skills are off the limit."
"Talisman paper is very useful. We can accept exchanging for it with two or three of our skills."
"In that case, shall we raise the stake and ask what talismans does he have?"
It was like shopping for a car. You started off thinking about buying an electric cart and realized the good ones would cost as much as twenty or thirty thousand yuan. Raise your budget a little and you could buy a BYD F3. But since you had decided to by a BYD, you might as well move up the ladder a little bit and choose a Geely instead. With yet a little more money, you could get a Corolla and a Buick Regal was just a little bit more expensive than that… you ended up driving back home a Rolls Royce.
Phoenix Mountain might seem to have a lot of Taoist skills, but the amount was nothing compared to the tens of thousands of talismans, which would make an excellent supplement. They cared little about which sect was which—they would take whatever that worked for them.
"Celestial Master, we have made up our mind." Gu Yu removed the confinement and said to the gaping and astonished Zhang Jintong, "Since we're here, we might as well make this deal count. Is there somewhere we can talk in private?"
Zhang Jintong finally let his excitement show. He rose to his feet. "Follow me, please."
With that, the three walked into the inner chamber, where the old priest held onto a porcelain bottle and twisted. With a creaking sound, a door to a secret chamber opened.
The three entered. Just to be on the safe side, Gu Yu put up another layer of confinement.
He told Zhang Jintong about their intention and the latter considered it for a moment before sighing. "With your capabilities, I trust you two will not deceive me. All right. The Celestial Master Temple has been passed down for over a thousand years with a lot of talisman spells. Let me talk you through them. We have the Pure Heart Spell. It dispels distractions and calms the mind."
"We won't be needing that." Gu Yu shook his head.
"We have the House Protection Spell. It keeps the house and family free from evil spirits."
Anyone else would have taken it. But it was Phoenix Mountain we were talking about here. Which idiotic evil spirit would dare to go through their door? Hence, Xiaozhai said, "No, thanks."
"We have the Golden Armor Divine Soldier Spell. It summons a golden-armored heavenly god and is fierce beyond comparison."
This was the one Zhang Shouyang used in Changqing Village. Gu Yu thought about it. The spell was powerful enough, but still more like a chicken rib to them. He replied, "Sorry, but no."
Zhang Jintong went on like this for over a dozen spells and the couple rejected them all. He then said, "We have the Shape-changing Spell. It changes any metal, stone, grass, wood, and the like into your appearance for three days."
That was indeed very interesting. Gu Yu asked, "Can it talk or move?"
"It can walk around and make basic conversations, but has none of your abilities. It will self-destruct after three days."
"Good, I'll take it!"
He nodded. That was a unique function that might turn out useful someday.
Zhang Jintong then introduced another dozen spells and sold none. All those he listed were lower level spells that were of the blue level at most. They did sound amazing, but were of no use to Phoenix Mountain.
Seeing that it was not going well, the old priest frowned and pondered. He would exchange for valuable items only if he himself offered something valuable enough in the first place. And only through that could the value and status of the Way of Celestial Masters stay steady.
He had been running Zhengyi long enough to prove himself a resolute leader. Grinding his teeth, he said, "If you two would follow me, please."
With that, he pressed another button and a secret chamber within this secret chamber was revealed. It was a sizeable room with a shrine inside, sitting on which was a statue of the sect founder Zhang Daoling. On the wooden table in front of the shrine was a purple talisman.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai felt their hearts lurch. The level of the talisman went from gold, silver, purple, blue, and down to yellow. A purple talisman! It had got to be the hidden card up their sleeves!
"The Five Transformation Rain-praying Talisman. The first transformation starts the wind, the second summons the dark clouds, the third darkens the sky, the fourth brings thunder, and at the fifth, there comes the downpour. What do you think about this?" asked Zhang Jintong.
"Well…" Gu Yu suddenly found what was going on very strange. "Celestial Master, I'm afraid I don't understand what you're trying to achieve here."