"That's why you're depressed?"
Under the old tree, Xiaozhai yawned after hearing Gu Yu's story, then leaned back into her chair.
"Excuse me? Stop looking so bored! I'm being very serious here," complained Gu Yu.
"So am I. I'd be depressed too if it were me to go through all that, but you were telling me what had happened not because you wanted my consolation; you wanted an affirmation. So, an affirmation I will be giving you."
Xiaozhai picked up her small, round teapot and caressed it between her hands. She reminded Gu Yu of a big cat curling up lazily in its cozy nest, playing with a fluffy ball with its pink pads. Slowly, she began to talk.
"Old Gu, we're both selfish people, and selfishness comes in various degrees—some believe everyone for himself and devil takes the hindmost, while others wouldn't mind helping out their friends and families. We're the latter kind. We can probably count all the people we really care about with two hands. National identity is too big a thing for us to worry. Of course, every now and then, we will stand up against injustice or champion the good, kill the tyrants, help the people, and save the world, but it's all up to us. We give a hand to those we like and kill off those that piss us off. That's how we live our life. The bottom line is, whatever choice we make on such occasions, we won't be bothered by it afterwards."
Pursing his lips, Gu Yu said, "Yea, I agree."
"But what's happening now? Well, your mind is disturbed and you're unsettled. You want to do more than that: you're actively trying to take more responsibility and make more things your own problem. I have no problem with that! Do whatever you want! Succeeded, your Taoist belief is sublimated, and you're one step closer to immortality; failed, you have Phoenix Mountain to fall back onto. We're all in this together with you. What are you afraid of?"
Gu Yu was speechless. He was still used to the idea of girls being the moody ones in couples/Taoist companions, who would turn to their boyfriends for comfort.
It was the other way around with them. Xiaozhai was so lucid and level-headed in certain aspect that ever since they met, nothing seemed to disturb her—other than things to do with her master.
Talk about the pressure of having such a strong girlfriend!
What was more, she was a year older than Gu Yu, making her a teacher, a companion, an elder sister, and a friend at the same time… why, that almost sounded as if he had four girlfriends at the same time.
"In my four years of cultivation, although I have my own understandings of this new experience, I've always kept them inside and ignored them subconsciously. It was only until I met the old priest and heard his words, sigh…" Gu Yu heaved a sigh and said slowly, "I felt I had been too damn lucky, that it seemed unreal and that a whole world of people out there might be jealous of me. It's giving me the jitters.
"As the saying goes, the law of nature is like setting an arrow on the bow: you lower it if the string is pulled too high, raise it if it's too low, reduce the strength if it's drawn too tight, and pull hard if it's too loose.
"We're now in a prosperous time when everything is coming back into a new life cycle, but people will end up in such different places because of their different destiny. As the torchbearer, I do feel ashamed for that. I would really want to help them within my capability."
Still playing with the teapot in one hand, Xiaozhai flipped her fingers of the other hand and the big spider just about to wake up was knocked out again.
"The Technical Sword of Youxian Sect!"
Gu Yu had enough of a spider rolling around under his nose; with a wave of his hand, he sent it flying to the other side of the river. He then waved again, cradling his girlfriend between his arms, saying, "I want to teach it to others and spread the knowledge. Of course, I won't rush it. I'll start with people here in the mountain."
"Great! We were keeping things to ourselves in the beginning because everyone had so little. Now that everyone is having something up their sleeves, the first one opening up gets the initiative. There's one thing I need to remind you, though."
"What's that?" asked Gu Yu.
"Them!" Xiaozhai pointed upwards and chuckled. "In case someone up there wants to play dirty, it'll be safer for you to open up to the public only after you reach the Human Immortal state. You can then set up the altar and spread all the knowledge you want, enlightening the ignorant living souls…"
Set up an altar, spread the knowledge, and help the common people!
The prospect Xiaozhai depicted was almost rousing in Gu Yu's ears. He was about to respond to that when Xiaozhai said, "I see that Guo Fei and Li Dong have come up here—you have made your pick, then. I'll go work with that spider. See you later."
With that, she shifted her body and was on the river bank the next moment. With another swift move, she disappeared, taking the spider with her. Immediately after that, her voice came from the southeast side of the valley.
"Don't take too long. I'll be back soon!"
A large piece of land had been circled out in the southeast corner as a farm, where the little boars they caught earlier were also kept.
Gu Yu almost blushed a little at the last reminder. He then walked out of the cottage and saw that four men were waiting outside. He said, "Come in."
He led them into the meditation room, where Old Shui, Li Dong, Guo Fei, and Zheng Kaixin arranged themselves in a row.
Up till now, there were 43 people directly employed by Phoenix Mountain.
There were fifteen orchard workers, tea growers, and brewers on the mountain in total. After a lengthy "probation period", Li Dong barely made his way into the "management level". There were also Zheng Kaixin and his mother.
Old Shui was in charge of the manor down the mountain where Zhang Qianqiu and six others took care of reception and maintenance work. Old Shui had also set up a small freight company covering the route between Shengtian and Bai Town, which had another nine employees.
Near the manor was a workshop making talisman paper, which had five workers.
As for out there in Shengtian, Yan Han took charge of Pavilion of Gems. With the growing amount of goods going in and out, he could no longer handle the business alone and had hired two more people.
These old acquaintances had all been put through tests and passed. They each had their own shortcomings, but overall were good people. As for Zheng Kaixin, he was brought back to Phoenix Mountain as a potential pupil. Old Shui was almost part of the family.
Yan Han was still in Shengtian, so the three men and a boy were all he summoned here today.
Actually, there was one more candidate—Fang Qing, Uncle Fang's young daughter. It was slightly different with her, though. These four here all knew about Gu Yu's real identity and were here to learn, but Fang Qing knew nothing about this side of Gu Yu. He made a mental note of talking to her about it later.
"Old Gu, why are we here? You want to check the accounts? I have the ledger with me!"
Old Shui was closer to Gu Yu than the rest and had always said the first thing coming to his mind. The other three dared not behave the same way, though they all thought they were here because Gu Yu wanted to check the accounts and make inquiries.
"Put that away!" Gu Yu rolled his eyes at Old Shui, then straightened his face. "I have asked you to come here today because there is an important thing I need to tell you. I have a method here that can train your body and mind. It is an excellent way to set up a foundation, but it is very strict in the natural endowment of the practitioner. With it, you will have a very slim chance of breaking into the innate state. Do you want to learn it?"
It was as if a bomb had gone off in the small room—everyone was over the moon. Old Shui was the calmest, whereas the other three were all dumbstruck, especially Li Dong, who had snuck into Phoenix Mountain for this day to begin with. Holy crap! He had lived to see this day coming!
As the only kid here, Zheng Kaixing was exhilarated, shouting, "Yes! We do!"
"Can I ask what the skill is? Aren't we a bit too old for that?" asked Old Shui.
"Yes, do we still have time to learn it?" Guo Fei chimed in, for he was well into his thirties.
"It is a sword skill. Although it is very basic, it is more powerful than you think. Regardless of how old or untalented you are, even with one or two stances of it, you'll gain a way to protect yourself. If you're more perceptive and master the skill, it will benefit you greatly."
"Then what are we waiting for? We'll do it!" Waving his big hand, Old Shui made the decision on their behalf.
"Good. Now, go get yourselves a wooden sword and a steel sword each. We'll begin three days later."
After the four left, Gu Yu paced around in the room for a while and suddenly relaxed, chuckling. "Well, I'm doing it; there's no need to overthink it."
The job was finished faster than he'd thought and Xiaozhai had not come back yet.
He took a shower, then having nothing better to do, he rearranged the various Taoist skills Phoenix Mountain had so far.
There were four major skills: Essence-consuming Method, Thunder Technique, Devil-smashing Sword Manual, and Whirlwind Sword Manual.
Because the essence-consuming method was calm, tolerant, and had no attribute, one could cultivate it together with the sword manual without suffering from incompatibility. Gu Yu and Xiao Qiu, for instance, both had essence-consuming method as their main skill and used sword manuals as their assault method.
Of course, one could always cultivate in the sword manual alone. Thunder Technique, on the other hand, was quite the character. It was so domineering that it would not allow any parallel methods. Nada! Zilch!
Phoenix Mountain had seven chapters on cultivation, which he now expanded to ten with quite some new content.
Section One contained the Method of Consuming Six essences, which could take one as far as the Earthly Immortal state.
Also recorded in the same chapter was the Boundless State Conjuring Technique and Shadow-switching Technique, of which Xiaojin had taken the former and Xiao Qiu the latter, only that they were not using them frequently for lack of capability.
Section Two contained "Shenxiao's Tinkling Jade Book of Great Thunder", which could also take one as far as the Earthly Immortal state.
Section Three was the Devil-smashing Sword Manual and Section Four the Whirlwind Sword Manual; both also enabled one to reach the Earthly Immortal state. Each sword manual was of a different individual system, including the Technical Swords.
Section Five contained three talisman skills: Flying Talisman Message Technique, Shape-changing Talisman, and Five-transformation Rain-praying Talisman.
Section Six contained three transportation skills: Void-arranging Technique, Small Moving Technique, and Water-walking Technique.
Section Seven had eight basic skills: Small Confining Technique, Storage Technique, Mental Force Refinement Technique, Forty-eight Hand Movements, Snake-controlling Technique, Wood-appraisal Technique, and Swordcraft.
This was the sword skill passed down through Xiaozhai's sect. It was mighty enough, but one could not reach the innate state by practicing it.
Section Eight contained three passages on refining instruments.
Whisk of Tranquility: recorded in the Seal of Patriarch Sa. Flaming Cloud Needle: Gu Yu's own instrument. Thundercloud Grit: Xiaozhai gave it to Xiaojin. Sky-turning Seal: Xiaojin was still working on it. Qingping Sword: the long sword Long Qiu refined again. The saber Green Leaf: the short blade Xiaozhai refined again.
The ninth section contained three passages on Dan and three incense recipes.
Essence-gathering Dan: recorded in the Seal of Patriarch Sa, a consumable for Human Immortal cultivators; very difficult to make.
Body-refining and Mind-enhancing Dan: recorded in the "Book on the State of Mind of Black Bead", consumables for innate state cultivators; successfully made.
Evil-expelling Dan: consumable for acquired state cultivators and ordinary people; successfully made.
And the additional recipes containing unusual materials to help with cultivation.
Essence-gathering Incense: suitable for acquired state cultivators; accelerated the speed of refining Qi.
Peach Blossom Incense: made from the Peach Blossom Miasma, confused the mind and had an arousing effect.
Civet Incense: a delightful incense Gu Yu concocted in passing. Unlike the peach blossom one, this was mainly for private use between the young couple.
Section Ten contained a book called "Cultivation Anecdotes" and a map of the mutated regions of the country from the north to the south, which he had complied himself.
Some were not included in the app, and those that were in the app were described in more detail here with Gu Yu's own experience.
The essence-consuming method and Thunder Technique were so strict on the requirement of natural endowment that they could not be applied to ordinary people. The Technical Sword was also strict, but it would at least improve one's combat capability. Even if they couldn't reach the innate state, training themselves into capable acquired state cultivators would not be a bad idea.
The Tao Family of Diannan knew they duty very well and had sent Gu Yu some jade stones shortly after they returned to Phoenix Mountain. The stones were not of the top quality, but were good enough to make into jade slips.
After finishing rearranging this, he sealed up the ten jade slips, the Seal of Patriarch Sa, and the drawing of the eight-armed evil Buddha into their library. The once empty bookshelves were growing fuller by the day, which was such a comforting picture. He was imagining buildings ten thousand meters high erupting out of the ground in his head.
The next second, our Old Gu turned around and saw Xiaozhai coming towards him. His triumphant face slacked and he went into the kitchen to heat up their dinner.
However high those buildings were rising, the phoenix back to his nest was no prouder than a rooster. It was time to fulfil his duty again.