Zhang Jintong smiled. "We each have something the other side wants, that's all. We will come back to that later. Tell me, what do you think of this talisman?"
"Does this Five Transformation Rain-praying Talisman require an altar to carry out?" Xiaozhai asked.
"Does it require any specific weather condition?"
"And the maximum area it covers?"
"Well, as long as one has the adequate energy, they could bring rainfall to the entire Northeast."
Xiaozhai and Gu Yu exchanged a look and read each other's mind.
In this modern society with well-developed artificial rainfall technology, a rain-praying talisman might sound redundant. On a second thought, however, one would realize that artificial rainfall was greatly restrained by weather conditions. The rockets could not be launched until certain criterion was reached, or the province of Liaodong would not have suffered from that great a drought last summer.
The rain-praying talisman would not have such problem; with it, they could summon the rain whenever they wanted. Almost instantaneously, the couple decided they would take it!
"Celestial Master, does your sect have other similar talismans?" Gu Yu asked tentatively.
"I regret to have to say so, but this is the only high level talisman our temple has." Zhang Jintong led them out and resealed the secret chamber. "According to my maternal grandfather, there was a silver talisman here at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. It was similar to this one, but much more powerful. It was called the Seven Transformation Sun-praying Talisman. One transformation chases the six divine animals into hiding, two dispels the four evil spirits, three clears away dark clouds, four stops excessive rain, five brings brightness back, six allows the sun and moon to shine together, and seven seals up all lakes and oceans. It collects the deviant energy and exposes it under the Five Thunders, so that it will be annihilated. The talisman was powerful enough to remake nature. Such a pity…"
He heaved a couple of sighs but did not go on, which suggested the talisman was either lost or destroyed.
Gu Yu was greatly intrigued, but found it inappropriate to inquire after it. When they were back in their seats, he said, "Celestial Master, since you have shown your sincerity, we will also be blunt. We'd like to know everything—how to use the Dan furnace, the talisman paper and its manufacturing method, as well as the Shape-changing and Rain-praying Spells. In turn, you're welcome to choose from our Void-arranging, Water-walking, Small Confining, Storage, and Flying Talisman Message Techniques." He explained each skill in turn, then asked, "Which ones would you like to learn?"
Stroking his beard, Zhang Jintong struggled internally. He noticed Gu Yu had said "ones", which meant he was free to choose multiple skills to learn.
They were all excellent, but none of them felt like the right thing. They were not what the Way of Celestial Masters needed most.
"I will take none of them. I only ask for one thing."
After much consideration, he gave his answer one word at a time. "All I ask for is a promise from you."
"Well…" Gu Yu frowned slightly. "That could be anything. I'm afraid you'd have to be more specific if you want a positive answer."
"Fine, I'll be specific, then. You are following the essence-consuming method, aren't you?"
Zhang Jintong fixed his eyes upon them. The stare was not exactly malicious, but it was still strangely intense with a hunger about it, as if trying to swallow them whole.
"We would be lying to you if we deny that," said Gu Yu.
"I see! I know you would never agree if I ask you for it. In that case, I'd like a promise from you two: if you ever come across another essence-consuming method, please give it to the Celestial Master Temple!" Zhang Jintong almost growled out these words in a tone that was hardly recognizable.
The two exchanged another look and Xiaozhai said, "You have our word on that! Even if there is no other essence-consuming method for good, we Phoenix Mountain will always be in your debt. Should trouble occur in the Way of Celestial Masters one day, we will spare no effort in helping you out."
"Why, we should be the one saying thanks."
Zhang Jintong rose to his feet and was about to bow, when Gu Yu stopped him and the couple bowed to the old priest instead.
Gu Yu was much more thorough and added, "The government is bound to know we have come here and they will be asking questions. Here, please take the Flying Message Technique so that you could have a plausible answer if questioned."
The old priest almost broke into sweat at the reminder—he had completely forgot about the other party. He said repeatedly, "Yes, you're right. That was very careless of me!"
With that, the talk was over. They secretly reached an agreement without getting physical. Both sides had got what they hoped for.
The tension was diffused and everybody relaxed.
Seeing that it was almost noontime, the old priest sent order to have a vegetarian meal prepared. After lunch, he led the two out of the temple and got on an official car. Yup, you heard it right. The temple was allotted an official car.
About 10 km to the southwest was the front gate of Longhu Mountain. Seeing the car, the administrative staff immediately opened the gate for them. The driver drove the car slowly up the mountain as if he was guiding them through their backyard garden.
The three got off and found themselves in front of a four-column and three-doorway stone memorial archway. Relief sculptures of the Three Pure Ones were carved across the architrave, surrounded by propitious clouds and auspicious animals with dragons and tigers coiling and crouching among them. Behind the archway was a brick-paved path leading right to Zhengyi Temple.
Zhang Sheng, the fourth generation Celestial Master, moved back from Hanzhong to Longhu Mountain and set up an ancestral hall here once to worship the forefathers, which gradually evolved into the Zhengyi Temple we knew today. Each generation of Celestial Master had set up altar here to take registrations. The mountain was filled with Taoist establishments and the grand scale had won it the title "the forever bright land of immortals".
Of course, the Zhengyi Temple standing before them now was a modern reconstruction, and worse still, worshippers were few and the place was deserted.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai had no idea what they were doing there and only followed Zhang Jintong. The old priest, however, ignored the paved path and headed straight for the backyard, from where he exited through a small gate. Outside was a half hidden unmarked track winding up the mountain slope.
The old priest marched on, explaining while walking, "Up ahead is a cave, the opening to which decorated by a running waterfall. It was where our founder refined his Dan back then. 'Dragon and tiger appeared as the Dan was completed', well, you know the saying."
The three walked on for another fifteen minutes. The terrain was forever rising as the slope was getting steeper. From somewhere out of sight came the faint sound of running water. Fifteen more minutes and they suddenly walked into a clearing. A waterfall poured down from above surrounded by dangling wisteria. Behind them was a secret cave.
The water ran down and formed a small pond. Strangely enough, although the opening of the cave was rather low, it was not flooded by the pond. Instead, it gurgled away into some unseen corner like an underground spring.
The three moved closer. In front of the waterfall was a wide opening with some remaining sign of a hut. Inside the cave stood a swarthy Dan furnace.
"Celestial Master, it can't be the divine furnace, can it?" Gu Yu found it hard to believe. The whole setting was so casual!
"It is. It has been standing here for the past thousand years or so. Mortal men were simply too ignorant to recognize a true treasure…" Seeing the astonished look on their faces, Zhang Jintong smiled. "Don't worry. It is unmovable. During the upheaval four decades ago, some people have stumbled into this place. They tried all the methods they could think of, but could not move it an inch. In the end, they had to set a fire to vent their evil temper. The furnace still stands here, all intact. Where are those people? Humph! Somewhere underground and rotten!"
Shaking his head, Zhang Jintong would not speak further about it. He stomped the ground and leapt easily across the pond, then lurched into the cave.
The two followed the old priest. Once inside, they realized the air inside was rather dry. The waterfall seemed within reach, but it felt half a world away. The moisture simply could not get in.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai stood on either side of the furnace and walked around it.
The furnace consisted of three levels. The bottom one was a three-legged Dan stove in the shape of an orb. It came with an ear on either side, which seemed possible to pull out. Inside the stove was probably where the fire would be lit.
The middle level was also an orb. Together with the bottom one, they two looked like a gourd.
The top part reminded one of the top of a pagoda, which had a bead at the tip and seven round holes around it.
The furnace was about one meter tall and 80 cm wide. There was nothing attractive about its appearance and it just stood there like a little simpleton.