Shenxiao had Wang Wenqing as its first patriarch, but Lin Lingsu and Zhang Jixian also made remarkable contributions to the establishment of the sect. Lin provided the sect with the "Jade Book of Five Thunders", while Zhang Jixian was the thirtieth generation Celestial Master himself. The fact that he would humble himself to help Wang with setting up a sect suggested there might be an element of investment in it.
As a result, the teachings of Shenxiao were diverse, with three separate lines of inheritance descending from Wang, Lin, and Zhang respectively.
By the time Shi Liangsheng came along, the thunder techniques had gone through such serious decline that only scattering bits were left of the legacy. Shi had no choice but to go to Longhu Mountain for help and learned the talisman skills there. It was only after that that he was qualified to set up a sect of his own. Another three hundred years had passed since then and this courtyard was what was left of the sect.
As for contracting out a Taoist temple, that was common practice almost everywhere. As long as the contractors paid the agreed amount to the scenic area management and the local Taoist association each year, they could operate the temple as they saw fit. Things like fake priest would be not at all surprising.
Tan Chongdai used to have a pupil back in the day, one who could not endure the austere life and secularized himself. The old priest had tried to take another pupil, but couldn't find anyone suitable. In the end, he had to live alone in the Hall of Celestial Master, spending his days waiting for the end to come.
Hearing this, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai sighed for the old priest. No wonder the man walked around with a gloomy face; he must be full of pent-up frustration.
The old priest's years of loneliness were finally broken today by visitors. Before he knew it, he was deep in conversation. After two rounds of tea, he finally said, "I am content with simply having you here to talk to. But I still need to ask, exactly what are you here for?"
Gu Yu remained silent while Xiaozhai replied after some hesitation. "We are here today because we want to borrow the inherited secret techniques of your sect."
"How dare you!"
Tan Chongdai lept up to his feet, his face darkened with anger. The favorable opinion he had formed of the young couple earlier was completely gone.
He had speculated about their intentions, but never expected them to be this bold. From the way she put it, she obviously did not mean the written theories, but was referring to the real cultivating method itself.
Did she take it for something that could be lent out to any random person? The ignorant junior's attempt on the fundament of a Taoist sect would surely be in vain!
The atmosphere changed drastically. Tan Chongdai swung his wide sleeves with a grim face and said, "Please leave. Meeting your request is out of the question!"
Gu Yu was somewhat embarrassed. Xiaozhai, on the other hand, remained adamant. "It regards the inheritance of my own sect and I would not have asked if I had another choice. And I promise I'll give it back as soon as I finish reading it."
The old man snorted, too indignant to reply.
The girl went on, "If there's anything you wish for, why don't you tell us? We'll try our best to fulfill it, and in exchange, we get to see the techniques. How does that sound to you?"
"Exchange? How self-assured of you! What if my answer is no?"
"In that case…" Xiaozhai also rose to her feet. "We'll have no other choice but to take it by force."
Tan Chongdai was surprised and infuriated. He was enraged by the youngsters' defiant manner and taken aback by the way she put it, for he had never met anyone who could speak of their roguish ways so frankly.
"Fine. Let's see what you have got there!"
Realizing a confrontation was unavoidable, his manner changed abruptly. His gaunt figure seemed to straighten up on its own. Thinking high of his own status, the old priest set his feet in position and stood still, waiting for his opponent to make her move first.
The position he assumed followed the "Gang-Dou Steps", a basic leg movement of Zhengyi. [TL/N: Dou (斗) means the Big Dipper, while Gang (罡) refers to the handle of the Big Dipper.] It contained over thirty varieties and could be used either in conjuring rituals or ordinary competitions. The one the old priest performed was called "Gang of Divine Tiger", whose moves resembled tigers dashing down a mountain, very powerful and bold.
"Senior, sorry about this!"
Xiaozhai did not hesitate and strode out, her long legs bringing her several meters forward at once. She was right at the old priest's face within no time. Pinching her long, white fingers together, resembling a bird's beak, she pecked at his eyes.
How come she was that fast?!
Tan Chongdai had been standing upon his dignity. He shuddered at the strike and made some Gang steps hastily, barely escaping the fingers' attack.
Xiaozhai then stretched out her left hand, which spread out like the most exquisite orchid. With a smooth move, she brushed at the old priest, her manner leisurely yet fierce at the same time.
The leg movement the old priest used was not known for its agility and the room was rather small. Within seconds, tables and chairs were bumping into each other while the old priest was dodging the strikes in a fluster. Xiaozhai had only made two moves and he was already on the losing side.
Each sect had its own specialty; some emphasized on physical training while others did not, but all sects would teach some basic forms of movement. The hard style martial arts were never a specialty of Zhengyi and Priest Tan had underestimated Xiaozhai to begin with. As a result, Xiaozhai was soon making rings round him.
Gu Yu watched on the side and was secretly admiring Xiaozhai's leisurely manner. He was right to think the "Flapping of Green Sparrow" only one of a series of movements, which on the whole should be a complete set of physical body refining technique.
He was growing all the more curious about Xiaozhai's sect, for it seemed incredible! They had Thunder Techniques, could control snakes and their hard style martial arts were so eye-catching that the sect must have had a blessed fate.
Turning his attention back to the duel, he saw that the old priest was reaching his limits and on the verge of being defeated.
Xiaozhai charged again while the old priest had lost his balance slightly. Taking the advantage of it, Xiaozhai's porcelain hand landed right on his chest. Tan Chongdai thumped backwards rapidly, his back hit the wall with a thud.
"Nice, very nice! I see you are an extraordinary youngster!"
His gaunt face contorted violently, apparently infuriated. Fishing out a yellow talisman from his chest pocket, he smashed it onto his right shoulder with a facial expression that said "this is very expensive stuff".
The appearance of his arm was as ordinary as before, yet something inexplicable seemed to have wrapped around it. Gu Yu's heart skipped a beat as he warned, "Watch out!"
Xiaozhai also concentrated on the old priest's movements. When he approached her, she lifted her hand and pecked at him again.
This time, however, Tan Chongdai showed no intention of either dodging or evading, but raised his right arm to take the hit.
There came a crisp sound. It was a clash of human flesh, but sounded like a collision of metals or stones.
Xiaozhai flung her hand in the air as she stumbled back for half a step. It was quite painful. She knew the power of her pecking better than anyone else, yet that arm felt as though it was wrapped inside an armor, which was impenetrably hard.
Zhengyi had a talisman named "Golden Armor". Once attached on somebody, no blade or spear could harm the person. However, after centuries of decline, the effectiveness of the talisman was also significantly reduced; by now, it could only work on a certain part of the body for a short duration.
At the price of his own essence and blood, the old priest had managed to make two pieces of the talisman. The event today was costing him an arm and a leg.
"You do not get to do as you please just because of your little achievements. I'll teach you a lesson on behalf of your master!"
Gaining the upper hand, he showed no mercy to his opponent. Carrying out Gang of Divine Tiger, his limbs swiped forcefully in the air with extraordinary momentum.
Grinning with a small laugh, Xiaozhai turned to evade his attack at once. Taking advantage of her own nimbleness, she dodged, shifted, leapt, and twirled in the room, sneaking in an attack every now and then. She was sure that the effect of the talisman would wear off soon, so she dragged the old priest into a dogfight.
After a while, the old priest was indeed getting impatient. Grinding his teeth, he took out another piece of talisman and was about to put it on.
Right at that moment, a figure breezed into the small area and stood between the two. Xiaozhai backed away immediately, but the old priest would not let it go.
"There's no point fighting on like this… sorry about this!"
Holding Tan's arm, Gu Yu emitted his spiritual essence and bang! Tan Chongdai stumbled back with thumping steps and was pushed against the wall again.
The force he felt did not enrage him, but had brought horror to his face instead. He blurted out, "Are you a disciple of Quanzhen? Have you reached the innate state?"
Quanzhen and Zhengyi had been arch-rivals for centuries and knew one another through and through.
Tan Chongdai had reacted in exactly the same way as old Priest Mo; both found it hard to believe. After all, it had been over a century since there was any record on innate state. Right now, he was overwhelmed by a mixture of feelings. He was still a sect leader himself, but had barely kept his feet against a girl and was defeated by a boy in a matter of seconds.
Fury and grief engulfed him. Yet in those emotions, there was a hint of relief and self-consolation, 'He has reached the innate state. There was no way I could be his match!'
His head was riddled with all sorts of emotions; he stood dazed at the spot after shouting out that one sentence.
In the end, Gu Yu broke the ice. "I'm not from the Taoist community and this is not the innate state."
He straightened the tables and chairs, then gestured with a sweep of his hand, "Old priest, please take a seat."
Tan Chongdai felt rather humiliated, but he had enough self-awareness to realize that he should take the chance when Gu Yu was giving him an out. He took the hint and the three of them resumed their seats as if nothing had happened.
Gu Yu said, "We really did not have another choice. We do hope you could understand."
"I'm inferior to you in skills. No need to apologize on that." The old priest was quite adaptable to circumstances. He went on, "One thing I don't understand is that you two are already accomplished cultivators, what do you want my heritage for?"
"Well, I'm afraid we're not at liberty to tell you that. Now, may the old priest consider our offer?" Gu Yu grinned.
Such undisguised roguish behavior!
They would beat you first before proceeding to negotiating, and if you would not yield, they would beat you again… what could Tan Chongdai do? He was becoming a desperate man!
Yet after a brief moment of silence, he spoke again. "There is only one thing I want to ask you—exactly where are you from? If you could exchange that information with me, I'll hand you the secret techniques myself. Otherwise, you would never find them even if you turn this place upside down!"
The stakes were high and Gu Yu was quite hesitant. It was Xiaozhai who replied, "We can't give you the answer right away. We need time to consider it."
"That's right, we'll come back another day."
"Sorry about the disturbance today."
Tan Chongdai was both vexed and amused. 'How could you pretend nothing ever happened after you have practically taken this place apart?'
He saw them off with a grim face and closed the door behind them, feeling he had seen enough visitors for a day. Returning to his room, he sat still for quite some time before the feeling of grievance started to subside.
Recalling Gu Yu's capability, he sighed involuntarily.
Under current circumstances, those who would not give up on cultivation must have their minds set on the Great Dao. He had discovered a possibility to reach a higher level, but it would be at the cost of the heritage of his sect. Such dilemma was not conceivable to ordinary people.
Coming out of Shangzhen Temple, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai turned to the restaurant on the mountain, where Xiaojin was driven mad by the long waiting and showered them with another round of jibber jabber. The three of them resumed their sightseeing after lunch and returned to Jiang Zhao in the evening.
At night, in the hotel room.
The sisters had taken their showers and were now lying in bed, watching TV. Both of them were very tall, 177 cm and 175 cm respectively. Wrapped in white bathrobes, they vividly reminded one of two mermaids.
"Mountain-climbing was so boring. I wouldn't go there in a million years if it weren't for you two. Ah, the whitebait we ate for lunch was so delicious.
How come you have so much energy. I'm exhausted!
Aiya, I'm a little hungry. The dubbing is so lousy! Sister, can we go out to have some spicy hot pot?"
Xiaojin was a chatterbox. She could miraculously hop among all sorts of irrelevant topics, which could drive one nuts.
Xiaozhai had been ignoring her this whole time. Checking the time, she suddenly sat up and got out of bed. "You go sleep first. I'm going out for a while."
"Where are you going?"
"Next door," she changed into her daytime clothes.
Sweet Mother of Jesus!
Xiaojin bolted up in bed and shrieked with sparkling eyes, "Wow, Sister, you've finally got your head around!"
Xiaozhai did not like that expression. She walked to Xiaojin and held her up by the collar. "What did you say?"
"I, I did not say anything… ah, I was saying, if you have time, buy me some spicy hot pot! Sister, it hurts, hurts…" the little rouge immediately begged for mercy.
"Go to bed. Eating before sleeping is bad for your health."
After "racking" Xiaojin with her sisterly authority, Xiaozhai went out.
The little rogue's face immediately became lively. Putting on a jacket, she trotted out after Xiaozhai. She looked around to make sure no one was around, then stuck her ear to the door of the neighboring room, hoping to hear the talking (or groaning, if it were up to Xiaojin) inside. 
 ED/N: As you may have already noticed by now, the author enjoys such ambiguous jokes being put into brackets between other words in a sentence. Not sure, but it may also be wordplay-based. Anyway, this is another such instance.