Having a strong sense of belonging to the Southern Sect, old Priest Mo did not even mention doing something like switching his allegiance and following a new teacher. Even so, Gu Yu was still startled by his act and helped him to his feet immediately. "Please stand up first!"
"Fine, fine, let's go inside, then we can talk!"
People were passing to and fro outside his house—what would they think of him when they saw an old man kneeling at his doorstep? Making sarcastic remarks in his mind, Gu Yu led Priest Mo into the house. However, as soon as they set foot in his bedroom, the old man who had bent his legs was about to annoy Gu Yu with his kneeling down again.
Waving his right hand, Gu Yu emanated a gush of energy, stopping the old man halfway, making him stuck in an awkward half-crouching position. Gu Yu frowned. "Just cut to the chase, enough with the posing."
The old priest brazened it out with a laughter and found himself a stool to sit on. "Mr. He and Mr. Li have gone back to Shengtian. Rest assured, I've let them know enough of what's going on so that they won't bother you again."
"Why are you still here?" Gu Yu did not comment on that subject.
"I intend to stay a few more days here in Bai Town, hoping that the Senior could give me some advice," he bowed slightly to show respect.
The old priest was considered an enemy before but, after all, he didn't actually do Gu Yu any harm and was behaving appropriately now. Gu Yu bore no ill will towards him, yet being well aware of his own situation, he declined, "I don't think I'm qualified to offer you any advice. Judging from you age, you should have been practicing cultivation for many years. Needless to say, you must be remarkably experienced and knowledgeable. There is no way I am comparable to you in that."
"Senior!" The old priest was getting anxious and added, "I started cultivating when I was five and have been practicing for seventy years now. I cannot say that I have experienced no distraction all these years, but I definitely am an assiduous and diligent cultivator. The one thing I have always wished more than anything else for is to meet a true Immortal in person. As long as you could let me have a glimpse of your wonderful technique, I'll do anything you ask!"
"Well…" Seeing the sincerity in his eyes, Gu Yu could not help but come up with an idea. He smiled, "In that case, let's forget about the 'give you advice' and 'do anything for me'. We'll just share our experiences and confirm one thing or two for each other."
Being a worldly-wise man, the old priest figured out the meaning behind Gu Yu's words at once. He replied without any hesitation, "That'll be great. Should the Senior have any inquiries, I'll try my best to answer them for you."
Since they were going to have a long talk, Gu Yu shut the door and windows and poured two glasses of water for the two of them. What he currently lacked the most was some systematic, theoretical and basic knowledge. After brewing his questions in his head, he asked, "Which Taoist school does the priest belong to?"
"I am from the Southern Sect of Quanzhen, whose founder was Patriarch Zixu."
"I've read somewhere that Taoism seems to contain many branches and sects, could you fill me in on that?"
"Of course." Sipping the water, Priest Mo went on, "Taoism has been established for over two thousand years. At its heyday, there were five great sects and over a hundred branches. However, most of those sects and branches are long gone by now. The only major schools left are Zhengyi and Quanzhen, which are in charge of Taoist community in northern and southern China, respectively. Together with other regional branches, there are only 62 branches or sects in total.
The sect altar of Zhengyi is set at Mount Longhu [TL/N: Dragon Tiger Mountain] in Jiangzhou and that school specializes in talismans and prayer rituals. The talismans can be used for summoning gods, exposing ghosts, repressing and exorcising evil spirits, curing diseases, as well as expelling evil influences. The prayer rituals are performed through Taoist rites, which could remove ill fortune for the believers and give them blessings.
Zhengyi consists of numerous branches, two of which are the most important--they are Lingbao School of Gezao Mountain and Shangqing School of Mao Mountain. Together with Tianshi School of Mount Longhu, they are called the Three Mountains of Talismans."
The old priest had given similar explanations to He Zun and Li Yan, but was nowhere near as thorough, for it involved a lot of Taoist secrets. Yet facing Gu Yu, he was not withholding anything.
"The Northern Sect of Quanzhen leans towards deep meditation, while the Southern Sect emphasizes more on the practice of Taoism. Zhang Boduan, the founder of the Southern Sect, did not care for the talismans, but focused on Neidan instead. When the sect was passed down to Shi Tai, the second generation sect chief, the practice was further developed, which enabled the cultivators to accumulate their essence and transform their Qi. The composition of the innate Qi will lead one towards obtaining the Great Dan...
When it came to Xue Shi, the third generation sect chief, the practice was improved and perfected even further...
The fourth chief, Chen Nan, received the Jingxiao Great Thunder Taoist Scripture from an Immortal, enabling the disciples to practice Neidan and Thunder rites at the same time…"
"Wait a minute!" After a lengthy introduction, Gu Yu finally heard something exciting. The name "Jingxiao Great Thunder Taoist Scripture" sounded so impressive that he asked immediately, "What exactly are those Thunder rites?"
The old priest seemed rather disconsolate at the question and sighed, "I have no idea. To tell you the truth, after the vicissitudes of thousands of years, many secret techniques have faded into oblivion. Even the conjuring rhyme of Neidan practice of the Southern Sect was almost lost during all the turbulent and tumultuous times."
"Sigh…" Gu Yu paused and sighed involuntarily with him.
The old priest then went on with the introduction, going through the Taoist history, current situation, conditions of each sect, et cetera, with him. When he finished, Gu Yu finally had a general idea of the Taoist world.
He was drawn first to the talismans of the Zhengyi School. The practice of talismans was to channel one's energy onto the symbol paper, which would then take corresponding effects. There was a Taoist saying that went, "The talismans' shape and form do not matter, for the Qi is what makes them effective."
According to the old priest, there were around 50,000 Taoist disciples in China; among them, less than one in a thousand was a real cultivator. Mount Longhu was also heavily commercialized. People over there were very keen on promotion campaigns and the mountain was swarmed with philistines.
'However, they cannot draw real talismans, but I can definitely try! Moreover, with those small sects little known to anyone, surely they should have some special inheritance.'
Other than that, Gu Yu was reassured now that what he had learned should have come from the Taoist community and was closely related to the Southern Sect. The difference lay in the fact that the Southern Sect used the acquired elements as the foundation of cultivation. The Three Treasures originated from and would circulate inside one's body. Only after being accumulated to a certain extent could they connect to the essence of heaven and earth, which was the innate state mentioned by the old priest.
Gu Yu's method of consuming the six essences, however, started off by taking in the spiritual essence of heaven and earth directly and using it for himself. There was a world of difference between the two approaches—as much as the difference in devotion one could observe between the tag-along gamers and the ones who actually spent fortune on it. [ED/N: aka golden warriors]
As for other legends, such as elevating oneself into the sky in broad daylight or ascending to heaven and becoming immortal… well, there was no way for him to verify those and he would simply ignore them for the time being. After all, he did learn something from this conversation; at least he had some idea of the origin of the fishbone now. As long as he followed this lead, he would make sense of everything sooner or later.
As the verbose explanation came to a halt, old Priest Mo took another sip of the water and was now watching Gu Yu with the most eager look. Although somewhat embarrassed by the old man's reaction, Gu Yu knew exactly what the priest wanted from him. "Well, I can certainly try, but I can't guarantee it'll work."
"That's ok. Whether it'll work or not, our destiny has already been set."
"Sit tight, then."
With that, Gu Yu stood up and put his left hand on his shoulder, then slowly sent in a streak of spiritual essence and let it circulate inside his body. He could not yet separate his consciousness from his physical body and could only opt for this rather cumbersome approach.
The old priest sensed a gentle, cool sensation flowing through his meridians. Holding back his excitement, he closed his eyes and waited in silence.
A couple of minutes later, Gu Yu let go of his hand, absorbed in thought.
He detected a lump of inner Qi in Priest Mo's dantian—a very dense lump, for that matter. Yet it was obviously different from Gu Yu's, which was rather thin but light, quick and floaty, as though there was life in it. Priest Mo's Qi was vigorous and forceful, but it lacked certain vitality and seemed stagnant.
That was probably a demonstration of the difference in their cultivation levels.
Seeing that he had stayed silent for so long, the old priest felt compelled to call out.
Gu Yu came to himself. "I've done some probing and as far as I can tell, with what you have accumulated, it's only a matter of time before you reach the innate state. You don't need to worry."
"But I've been cultivating for seventy years, how much longer do I have to wait?"
"It could be three to five years, or it could happen the next moment. It all depends on you." He carefully chose his words and added, "If you ask me, I would suggest you try leading a real austere cultivation life. It might help you."
"Thank you very much, Senior."
Hearing that, the old priest couldn't help but felt dejected and only replied with a brief acknowledgement.
Gu Yu was having mixed feelings as well. The thing that one pursued for a lifetime without any success might be obtained by another at a hand's turn and the only explanation for that was fate.
However, Gu Yu was telling the truth just then. As Taoist disciple, the old priest would not part with the worldly desires. Such act was simply not compatible with cultivation.
If he could see through that, the perfection of his current stage would take its course, naturally raising him to the innate state.