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Evening, the mansion of the He Family.

A vehicle approached from afar and slowly came to a stop outside the front gate. The car doors were opened and out came two men--they were none other than Wang Yao and the Taoist priest he invited. He Zun and Li Yan had been waiting in the courtyard. On their arrival, the two fathers rushed up to meet them.

"Haha, you haven’t shed a kilo."

"You look the same as before too… hello there, Chairman He, it’s been quite a while since we last met."

After greeting Li Yan, Wang Yao shook hands with He Zun before introducing the priest. "This is Priest Mo, the abbot of Wuliang Temple on Lotus Mountain."



Li Yan and He Zun kept their composure while studying the priest with their eyes. In spite of his white hair, the old Taoist priest had a youthful complexion and clear, bright eyes. The gray frock he wore was antiquated, but it gave him an aura of someone who did not belong to the secular world.

Both Li and He were business tycoons with plenty of experience in evaluating people and they had seen enough brainless pretty faces to recognize one. Judging he wasn't one, He Zun put on a smiling face right away. "We are both very honored that Priest Mo could come here in person! Please come in!"

With that, they all entered the main hall, where Li Yang was waiting in a wheelchair, appearing rather depressed.

After each taking a seat, none of them went down to business straight away, but started chitchatting instead. Li Yan led the conversation. "I’ve heard so much about the true immortals of Lotus Mountain and am finally given the honor to meet one today. Priest Mo is indeed worthy of his reputation. May I ask which Taoist branch does Priest Mo belong to?"

Priest Mo answered with a smile. "I am a disciple of Patriarch Zixu from the Southern Sect of Quanzhen School, which has been established by the founder for around a thousand years." [1]

He Zun felt the corner of his mouth twitching. That introduction sounded so out of place that it sounded as if the old priest was going to spit a flying sword out of his mouth and start making clouds and summoning rain. He did not believe in those things and only considered them as deliberately mystified tricks.

Li Yan on the other hand appeared to be quite interested, and went on asking, "I only knew that the Quanzhen School consists of the Southern and Northern sects, but am rather hazy on the details. Since we rarely get an opportunity like this today, could Priest Mo tell us more about it?"

"Well…"

Stroking his long beard, the old priest smiled. "In that case, I’ll give you a brief introduction.

Taoism nowadays mainly consists of two schools, which are Zhengyi and Quanzhen. Zhengyi was founded by Celestial Master Zhang, and includes branches such as Maoshan, Lingbao, Qingwei, Jingming etc. Founder of the Northern Sect of Quanzhen School was Patriarch Chongyang, who had seven disciples, known as the Seven Masters of Quanzhen, among whom were Ma Yu, Tan Chuduan and Qiu Chuji. The Southern Sect was established by Patriarch Ziyang and the lineage had been passed down from Patriarch Cuixuan, Patriarch Zixian, Patriarch Cuixu and Patriarch Zixu in turn. Together they were known to the later generations as the ‘Seven Masters of the North’ and ‘Five Patriarchs of the South’. [2]

Both sects emphasized on the practice of Neidan, which meant the two branches actually originated from the same source. As a result, the Southern Sect merged into Quanzhen School during late Yuan Dynasty period, greatly improving the prestige and influence of the latter, which made it possible for Quanzhen to become the leading force of all Taoist branches in China. [3]

I became a Taoist priest in the region south of the Yangtze River when I was little and had traveled all over China before I was forty years old. I then settled down on Lotus Mountain, where I established a temple and started to take in disciples…"

At this point, Li Yang interjected, "From what I’ve heard, Wuliang Temple has been built for over thirty years. I was wondering how old…"

"Hoho, I’m 75 years old now."

The reply astonished everyone present, for the priest showed no sign of belonging to that age group at all. If he were to dye his hair black, he would definitely pass as a middle-aged man. Weighing and considering the priest’s words to himself, He Zun couldn’t help but take their guest more seriously.

"Beep-beep!"

"Vroom!"

Just then, they heard a vehicle arrive outside. He Tian walked into the room.

"A Tian, come here. This is Priest Mo."

He Zun beckoned at him and was about to introduce him.

However, that fellow showed no interest in their guest. He walked right up to Li Yang and sat down beside him. "I don’t care who you are. I’ll be on my knees thanking you if you can cure us. Otherwise, with that attitude of yours, don’t blame me for coming down on you with heavy hand."

His disposition had always been perverse--after his private parts failed, though, he had totally abandoned his normal self.

"You!"

He Zun lost face due to his son’s act and was about to scold him. The old priest waved his hand and smiled, "Nothing is absolute in this world. I can’t guarantee anything. Well, let me have a look at your affected parts first."

"Snort!"

He Tian snorted and turned to look at his buddy. Li Yang looked even worse than He Tian and was so dispirited that he barely seemed alive.

One was affected in the legs and the other in the private parts. Naturally, the former one got the attention first. Li Yan crouched down and rolled up his son’s trousers. Those legs were so pale that there seemed to be no blood flowing through them.

Priest Mo took a look and felt his pulse before giving the conclusion. "The meridians are indeed damaged, with stasis in the vital energy and blood."

He then also crouched down and put his fingers on Li Yang’s calf. He pinched hard and asked, "Does it hurt?"

"No," Li Yang shook his head.

"What about here?" He moved 1.5cm up and pinched again.

"Doesn’t hurt either."

"Here?"

"Um…" Li Yang frowned. "It’s sore and aching."

The old priest nodded and took out a rolled-up pouch from his chest pocket--in it were dozens of silver needles, varying in diameter and length. He selected a long, thin needle, sticking it into that acupoint.

He then picked up another needle, which was different from the previous one in that the tip was three-edged, one which was specifically used for bloodletting so as to release the excessive heat. With a slight turn of his hand, some blood gushed out, the color of which was considerably dark, almost a blackish purple...

After repeating the process for several times, Priest Mo finished the check-up in half an hour or so.

"Priest, how was it?" Li Yan asked hastily.

"If nothing else, that young man will have a very similar condition. Both are suffering from damage of their meridians."

"Can they be cured then?"

"It’ll be very hard! If they can be treated with daily acupuncture therapy together with directing vital energy into their bodies through chiropractic, maybe their condition can be improved."

The old priest was not willing to go too far into that subject. He put away the rolled-up pouch and sat back down. "Your speculation was not unfounded. Someone has indeed done this to them. Moreover, this person is very skillful in what he did, not something that can be easily dealt with… did you say that they had fallen ill all of a sudden?"

"Yes, very suddenly," said Li Yan.

"Before that, did they have any physical contact with anybody?"

"What sort of contact?" He Tian could not help but ask.

"Anywhere on your body would do, as long as that person touches you with his hand."

"F**k! How the hell am I supposed to remember that?" He was cursing again.

The others did not bother to react to that. He Zun did not believe in all this at first, but was now wavering. He probed, "Priest, do you think it could be some evil magic?"

"It’s not anything that dark, just a special method, that’s all. If that person wanted it to work, he must have touched them with his hands. You can follow that clue… oh, it would not have taken too long for the effect to show up, so he should have made the contact on that same day."

The two fathers exchanged glances. They both looked delighted, for that had narrowed down the suspects significantly. He Zun added immediately, "Please stay here for a few days and I’ll let you know as soon as we find something."

"That won’t be necessary. I’ll stay at Taiqing Temple for the time being," the old priest waved at him. [4]

Taiqing Temple was a Taoist temple in downtown Shengtian and was often frequented by the believers. There used to be a series of rules for those wanting to ask for a short stay in a temple. The person had to be dressed in tidy clothes and call out, "To lord in the reception’s office, please have mercy on me!"

He could only enter after the people in the reception’s office gave him their approval.

Upon entering, there would be some more questions coming, such as, "Where did the Old Taoist Brother come from?" with the reply being "The humble disciple has come back from a visit to this or that place and is going back to my permanent residence," or, "Which branch does the honored guest belong to?" to which one should answer, "I’m a disciple of the branch X."

After that came the retreat ceremony and paying respect to the cooks, only then could the person successfully take temporary residence in the temple.

Of course, all those procedures were not applicable to Priest Mo. Being the abbot of Wuliang Temple, he would only get the warmest welcome at whichever Taoist temple he went to. After staying for a while longer, Priest Mo stood up and took his leave.

Li Yan was going to accompany the old priest on the vehicle to Taiqing Temple. He Zun and the rest of the group followed them to see the priest off. Just as they walked out of the front gate on the first floor, someone screamed over their heads.

"Ah!"

They all looked up and saw a black shadow smashing down from the second floor right above He Tian. None of them had time to react and He Tian was so dumbstruck that he forgot to dodge.

That thing was about to crash on to He Tian’s head when a wide sleeve flew over, catching the shadowy thing on its bottom and flipping it around. The gray sleeve moved as freely as a floating cloud as it clapped onto the ground with a shake.

"There you go!"

With a soft remark, the thing swooshed back to the second floor and landed steadily on the balcony.

"Hiss!"

Only then did the group of people realize with shock that the thing that had fallen down was a huge painted porcelain flower pot, together with a house maid that was still shaking from the shock.

[1] TL/N: Zixu = "Purple Sky"; as for Quanzhen, or 全真教, it's a branch of Taoism. The meaning of Quanzhen can be translated literally as "All True".

[2] TL/N: Zhengyi = "the Orthodox Unity"; Celestial Master Zhang = also known as Zhang Ling (张陵), or Zhang Daoling (张道陵), an Eastern Han Dynasty Taoist figure; Maoshan = "Grass Mountain"; Lingbao = "Sacred Jewel"; Qingwei = "Pure Tenuity"; Jingming = "Pure Light"; Patriarch Chongyang = "the Wang Chongyang" (王重阳) that appears a lot in wuxia, an actual historical figure that lived in the 12th century, a Chinese Taoist and one of the founders of the Quanzhen School in the 12th century during the Jin Dynasty; Patriarch Ziyang = "Purple Sun", also known as Zhang Boduan (张伯端), a Song Dynasty scholar; Patriarch Cuixuan = "Green Abstrusity"; Patriarch Zixian =

"Purple Virtue"; Patriarch Cuixu = "Green Sky"; about the patriarchs, their real names were respectively Shi Tai (石泰), Xue Shi (薛式), Chen Nan (陈楠) and Bai Yuchan (白玉蟾). All four were Taoist figures of Song Dynasty.

[3] ED/N: Neidan is ‘Inner Alchemy’. It's the, well, let's call it philosophy, of making human body into a cauldron and using it to refine dan(s) (for example jindan, which is golden core, yep, the same as the realm's name in many stories), and that's what many Chinese actually tried to do (in contrast, western alchemist tried to do stuff like creating homunculi or the philosopher's stone and turn crap into gold). Long story short, Neidan is "cultivation" most(?) cultivation novels describe.

[4] TL/N: Taiqing = "Great Clarity".

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