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The stuff Gu Yu hammered out might not be appropriate and could even be faulty, yet didn't all systems and ideologies start from something crude then got improved and perfected over time so that the systems could get established and ideologies passed on?

The above-mentioned were only the secondary levels of the Human Immortals. The Deity, Earth and Heaven ones were yet to come!

In reconstructing the essence-consuming method in a period when Taoist skills were in terminal decline, Gu Yu tried his best to keep his explanation coherent with little ambiguity, and made sure the choice of words was close to modern terminology. To some extent, he was leaving his own mark in the long history.

Despite a sleepless night, our fellow remained full of spirit and energy on the following day and ran out for his cultivating exercise early in the morning. Before long, Xiaozhai also showed up on the mountain by herself. They wandered around for a bit, then picked up Xiao Qing and went back together.



Xiaozhai boarded the bus back to Shengtian at noon, leaving her manuscripts behind for Gu Yu.

Gu Yu put the files away, taking them rather seriously. He had been rereading them every single night, each time discovering some new detail (or gossip, if you prefer) read between the lines, especially the implicit strifes among various sects, which were as good as the juicy conflicts in an emperor's court.

Take the sect of Shenxiao mentioned by Xiaozhai as an example.

The sect was founded in Northern Song Dynasty, which was in fact a branch of the School of Zhengyi. Of the two leaders, Wang Wenqing had a good reputation, and Lin Lingsu did not.

Lin was a rare specimen of a priest who interfered with the politics. Taking advantage of the trust and fondness the emperor showed him, he discriminated against those who held different views, colluded with treacherous court officials, and indulged himself in hedonistic activities, all of which only exacerbated the political corruption. Later, overtaken by his arrogance, he challenged the crown prince in a direct confrontation, which eventually enraged the emperor and Lin was dismissed from office.

As notorious as Lin Lingsu was, under his influence, Shenxiao was able to rise into a despotic force of the time. However, it declined almost as quickly as it came to power. Nowadays, only a few disciples of the sect could be found—if any at all.

After Xiaozhai left, Gu Yu resumed his previous pace of life. Cultivating. Eating. Threading his incense.

According to his classification, he was merely a cultivator of the Refinement-of-form level—long way to go before achieving the Human Immortal state. He was now getting up before dawn and went up straight to the black boulder at the mountain top, taking in the first streak of purple energy emanated by the sun.

After that, he would cross the thorny woods and continue his cultivation under the old tree, where he would consume the midday sunbeam at noon and the cliff-side sprint at sunset. The old tree was too far off on the mountain's depths, so he decided to take food with him and spent his entire day out there, doing nothing but sitting in meditation.

By the time he returned home, night would already set in and he had to start making incense sticks.

Such repetitive routine would drive any other people crazy in a couple of days, but Gu Yu knew better than that. There was no shortcut in practicing the essence-consuming method.

Of course, he realized that relaxation and adjustment were also necessary and would give himself a day off every now and then. He would use that time to go out and do some shopping.

Before he realized, mid-August time had come and the summer heat was gradually fading.

The city remained much the same as before with everyone dreaming their daydreams. Grass River ran nonchalantly across Bai Town, cutting it into two halves.

The old district lay in the west and the new one where a new housing project was completed this year on the east side. It was opening for sale this day in a shower of crackles and splutters from the firecrackers.

Outside its gate a stage had been set up with a host and singers from the countryside performing one after another, complemented with boisterous lucky draws and promotion activities. [1]

"Baby, baby, baby oooh. Like baby, baby, baby oooh. I thought you'd always be mine…" [2]

Gu Yu stood away from the crowd and watched the performance earnestly for a while, finding it rather amusing. A young woman with a wild hairstyle—which looked as though it was burnt crisp by the heat—had blue veins bulging on her neck, yet miraculously, she still managed to put on an enthusiastic smiling face. It was remarkable.

After the song was finished, he turned swiftly away and left the spot. Along the road to his left, the high street was only a short distance away. It was around six- to seven-hundred-meter long and was flanked by all the shops one needed on its both sides. In the middle section was an impressive small square, where the largest department store in Bai Town could be found. [3]

He entered the department store. Instead of going upstairs, he walked into a cafe on the first floor. He ordered an ice-cream and searched randomly for a seat. [4]

Two tables were put side by side with four chairs around, one of them already been taken by two girls. He sat down by the other one.

Ritualistic formalities ruled the modern society. For instance, one must not attend to their food until the picture was posted on instagram. Gu Yu was not a rule-breaker. He took a photo and sent it to Xiaozhai.

It was after a few minutes when his phone dinged. Pecking at his ice-cream with a little scoop, he clicked the message open without paying much attention. 'Poof!' The ice-cream almost spurted out of his nose.

What she sent him was a high-definition, uncensored, full-frontal picture of a fellow. Half of his body was badly mangled into an indiscernible bloody mush scattered with white bone residues and pieces of yellow fat tissue.

"Where did this happen?" He was feeling a headache.

"Jiangzhou, the Master Ridge. Gnawed by a wild boar, or so they said."

"Now why on earth would a wild boar do that?"

"It came down from the mountain to mess with the crops. A group of people encircled and chased after it, then the wild boar got angry and went crazy."

"That's nothing unusual. Why did you send it to me?"

"To disgust you, obviously!"

"..."

Fine, he raised his arms in surrender. Glancing at his strawberry sundae subconsciously, the red, squashy, sticky sauce…'Retch!'

While he was having a miserable moment, the two girls at the other table were having an exciting time.

Even since he sat down, those two did not stop texting each other. Nowadays, male beauty consumption was far more prominent than the female counterpart. Bolder girls would ask complete strangers for group photos if they were a handsome male. [5]

These two were obviously of the subtle type. After exchanging a few more messages, the one sitting opposite of Gu Yu held out her phone sneakily and pretended to take a selfie. Tilting her phone to a side, she was actually aiming at Gu Yu instead.

She found the right angle and adjusted the focus and tone of color. That profile of his was perfection itself!

The girl was chuckling inside. Clicking the shutter, she could not wait to see the photo. Damn! The guy just happened to shake his head at that moment and turned the photo into a blur.

The other girl moved near and tried to help. Well, the next photo could almost qualify for a horror film.

"..."

Pursing his lips mischievously, Gu Yu stood up and left the cafe swiftly.

His main task today was to find an outfit and a pair of sturdy shoes; both were for the upcoming long journey to the south.

The male clothes were on the fifth floor. Taking the escalator, he glanced at the sign when he got to the fourth floor, which said "Recreation & Entertainment, Pool Table, Video Games, Gym, Taekwondo".

An idea suddenly dawned on Gu Yu. He paused, then turned towards the Taekwondo gym.

As soon as he walked in, the girl at the reception welcomed him with a smile. "Hello, sir. Membership card, please."

"This is my first time here. May I look around?"

"Well, in that case, please take this temporary card and return it in an hour. We are holding a teaching class today, right in there. You can have a look."

"Ok, thank you."

Taking the green card, he walked inside immediately. The gym was quite spacious, with an eye-catching boxing ring. It was also equipped with a practice area, a changing room, and a shower room.

In the practice area, several members in Taekwondo jackets were teaching a bunch of little kids. He moved closer quietly and stood at the last row, listening carefully.

Do remember that Gu Yu still had a long way to go before he could use his mental force externally and he would have to depend on his conjuring skill until then. Once his spiritual essence was exhausted and he could not come up with a vision, he would have no choice but fight hand-to-hand.

He was in excellent shape in terms of his physical strength, but he had never tried learning martial arts before and knew very little about specific moves and exerting his power.

Having nothing better to do at the moment, our fellow walked in all glad and diligent in the hope of learning a thing or two.

[1] TL/N In case anyone is wondering, the 乡村歌手 here are not singers of country music (as in, the genre), but are referring to singers of a rustic, dowdy or even cheesy styled pop songs. Remember the "agricultural heavy metal" from previous chapters?

[2] TL/N: I thought using this song of JB's might help in grasping the vibe of this "countrified" music. The song quoted in the raw is called "爱情买卖"(Buying and Selling Love) and the lyrics roughly say "You were the one to break up with me first, but are not trying to coax my back by saying I'm your true love. Love is not something you can buy and sell like that…" It used to be (maybe still is) a song very popular in the pubs and bars in small tourist towns.

[3] ED/N: I thought that due to singing JB's song, the performer turned into a man and ran away... in case anyone else had a similar impression, let me clarify: it was not JB... I mean, it was not the performer who left, but MC. The performer stayed where she was.

[4] ED/N: To all of you BrE speakers out there, not the British first floor (American 2nd), but the ground floor. Dunno why, but Americans and Brits count floors in a different way...

[5] ED/N: As in, handsome guys would be in greater danger of being hit on by the opposite sex compared to beautiful girls. LoL.

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