When Xiaozhai went into the room, Gu Yu was reading.
He bought a book on their first day in Jiang Zhou from some random shop and would read a few pages when there was nothing better to do.
"Is the book good?" She asked.
"Don't expect too much. I only read to kill the time. It's readable, if you ask me."
He put a marker in the book, then put it squarely on the bed stand, making sure it was not skewed to any side before asking, "Is Xiaojin asleep yet?"
"Not yet. She's watching TV."
She sat down on a chair and said, "She's probably exhausted after today… hm?"
They both halted, and after staying silent for a second, Gu Yu walked to the door and yanked it open.
Xiaojin, who was eavesdropping with her face flat against the door lost her balance and stumbled in, rolling and tripping. Gu Yu moved aside and the little rogue fell on her knees with a thump.
Sensing two pairs of eyes gazing at her, Xiaojin put on a shameless face and giggled, "Well, I won't be bothering you. I'm off to bed. You guys continue with whatever you were doing!"
With that, she lept up and ran out, mumbling all the way back, "What kind of ears do they have anyway? How the heck did they hear me?"
Gu Yu was speechless. He closed the door without any comment and returned to his seat.
When a man and a woman had a room of their own, regardless of what they might do next, chances were that hot water would be involved. There are kettle and glasses in the room but they'd rather not use it. What if someone had been boiling underwear in it?
Luckily, neither of them were the hot-water-only type. Xiaozhai took a sip of bottled water and asked, "What do you think of the old priest's terms?"
"Actually, before you came in, I have been thinking of something."
Gu Yu did not answer her question, but turned to talk about something else instead. "Suppose one day this world is filled with spiritual essence and the Taoist skills reappear, what do you think it would look like?"
"Ha, it'll probably look like the TV series. Sects and schools are established everywhere, competing for the Great Dao and cutting each other's throats," chuckled Xiaozhai.
"But couldn't they exchange ideas, make progress, and create the future together?"
"They certainly could. Since it has not yet happened; any assumption is plausible."
Xiaozhai was apparently very interested in this subject. "I don't know what the future will be, but what I do know is that I'm looking forward to it."
"Looking forward to blessed spots, uncharted places, and spiritual mountains?" He chuckled as well.
"Those, and rare treasures, pellets, magical formations, killing people from a thousand miles away and swooshing through the air riding a sword."
"The riding sword part might be problematic."
"What if you bump into an airplane?"
Xiaozhai laughed. She then rose to her feet unexpectedly and bowed to Gu Yu. "I see what you mean. Thank you for coming this time."
"I wanted this myself, and it was also to return the favor."
"A favor can weigh as much as Mount Tai if you value it so, otherwise it could be nothing to you. Anyway, thank you."
The two went on with this enigmatic wording, which might make no sense at all had a third person been present. After all, they knew what they were talking about.
Two days later, Qionglong Mountain.
The two visited the temple again, this time without Xiaojin. There were still no more than a handful of people inside Shangzhen Temple. A couple of hapless tourists were being bamboozled by the fake priests.
They went straight into the rooms behind the Hall of Celestial Master. Tan Chongdai closed the door and waited nervously and eagerly. When Gu Yu started talking, the old priest was wishing he would agree as much as wishing him to refuse.
He would obtain information on cultivating to a higher level if Gu Yu agreed and would not have to reveal the secret of his heritage if Gu Yu refused.
"I cannot tell you everything about my background…"
Gu Yu started by that statement, then went on, "But I know very well what you want."
Tan Chongdai winced, not sure what that ambiguity meant. He asked, "So, what are you going to do?"
Looking at the old priest, Gu Yu sighed to himself, then waved his hand.
As if the light had been switched off, the old priest felt his mind go dark and his surroundings seemed to have been turned upside down. In a flash, he was in another world.
"This, this is…"
Tan Chongdai turned pale with fright. The world in front of his eyes had no tangible form, as though it was floating in mid-air. Clouds stacked up under his feet, which were held together by a virile energy. The clouds were soft to step on, but could support as much weight as one could imagine. Looking up, he could see jade terraces and splendidly decorated grand towers, which had gone through vicissitudes of thousands of years. They were built upon the vital energy of Great Dao; high above as the buildings might be, they did not look imposing.
Aside from those, the place was also brightly lit from the splendor of rare treasures. With the Green Birds hovering overhead, it was indeed a divine abode.
On the jade terrace above the highest heavens sat a divine being, whose figure was blurred and face indiscernible, yet whose prestige was so magnificent that one could not help but be moved.
Then, the divine being seemed to wave their hand.
Instantly, the world changed drastically as clouds rolled in tidal waves, gathering towards one spot where they accumulated and became heavier and heavier. Without any warning, the chunk of clouds cracked, revealing a crevice from which appeared the body of a dragon, whose roaring reverberated in the air. Then came some other sounds, "Boom! Boom!"
Streaks of purple lightning wrapped in divine light struck down, which would stop at nothing and threatened to destroy all things on earth.
Tan Chongdai felt goosebumps break out all over his body and he was filled with surging excitement and anticipation. He was about to move closer to kowtow, but realized that he could not move his body.
As anxiety took hold of him, his mind went dark again. When he reopened his eyes, he realized he was still sitting in the guest room.
Tan Chongdai sat still for a little while, as if in a trance. When he saw the young man in front of him, everything became clear in an instant. His hollowed face twitched slightly and the muscle on his neck trembled. A faintly discernible agonized sound was squeezed out of his throat: "Weep… weep…"
The next moment, the old priest started sobbing, which was growing louder and finally became a hoarse wail. "Time waits for no man! I don't want to believe this! This cannot be the end for me! Sob… I don't want to give up!"
His face was crumpled up by all the wrinkles, giving him an almost deformed look, yet the aura of utter grievance was emanating from his body.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai watched him in silence. They did not expect his reaction to be this strong and could not help but feel touched.
Tan Chongdai wanted nothing but to raise his cultivation to a higher level. Therefore, Gu Yu conjured up a vision and dragged him into the one place his heart desired most.
In his illusion, Tan saw the divine clouds of all heavens, the stately Immortals and the ultimate thunder techniques. Yet it only dawned on him when he came back to reality that everything he just saw was made up by that young man.
The Great Dao!
The TRUE, Great Dao!
Being the leader of a sect, Tan Chongdai was perceptive enough to grasp at once what Gu Yu had revealed. What he had learned caused the meltdown and his crying "Time waits for no man!".
The millennium before his time was a flourishing age for cultivators, but he was not born to the time. Now that Taoist skills were resurfacing, he was having one foot in the grave. He did not know if he could live to the day when he could see it with his own eyes…
For a cultivator, the sadness and despair of missing such an event surpassed anything else there was.
Tan Chongdai took his time crying and calmed down a bit after a while. He stood up and bowed low at Gu Yu. "Young Friend, thank you very much!"
"Senior, you don't have to do this!"
Gu Yu held him up immediately and seated him in a chair.
"Young Friends, you have my word. I will never tell anyone about this."
Tan Chongdai wiped away the tears with his sleeves and fumbled out a few pages of thin paper, then handed out with trembling hands. "Here are the secret skills passed down in my sect. Now it's yours."
"Thank you, Senior. I'll give it back as soon as I finish," said Xiaozhai.
"Sigh, what's the point of returning it. You can have it."
The old priest had experienced more excitement in the past two days than everything put together in his entire life, which had significantly affected his state of mind.
His original plan was to take the inheritance into the grave and set an end to the legacy of Qionglong Mountain. But knowing that the Taoist skills were coming back, he could no longer give up on his sect.
"I'm too old to travel freely; the greatest regret of my life was not having a suitable pupil," Tan Chongdai's face was clouded by sorrow. "The fact that you were willing to reveal such great matter to me means that you must not be narrow-minded people and that you were doing this out of desperation. Therefore, I have a presumptuous request. In your future journeys, if you happen to come across children with nice natural endowment and temperament, could you teach them the secret skills on my behalf? In that way, when I move on to the other world, I would not have to face my antecedents in shame."
Exchanging a look, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai answered in unison, "We won't betray your trust."
After letting go of this obsession, Tan Chongdai found the energy flow inside him much more smooth now, giving him an idle and relaxed feeling.
These three had gone through quite a few twists and turns since they became acquainted. They talked, got physical, and talked again; they even almost became friends in the end, which only proved how unpredictable life could be.
Despite what he'd revealed to the old priest, what Gu Yu had held back was much more in comparison—such as the method of consuming essences—for the stakes were so high that if it got out, the entire Taoist community could be at his heel.
Xiaozhai took the secret record. She did not read it until they left Shangzhen Temple and found a secluded spot.
The record was obviously written down recently. The heritage of Qionglong Mountain was very likely not passed down in written form but was all in the old priest's head. That was why he made the claim that they would not be able to find it even if they turn the temple upside down.
They sat on a bench under a tree. No sound of men could be heard, only a stream was gurgling past them.
Xiaozhai unfolded the pages and saw that the text did not contain a lot of words. The record started by saying: "The fundament of the skills come from the Dao and the Dao comes from the mind."
It then went on:
"The East is given the number three, the South two, the North one, and the West four. Together, they are the origin of all great numbers. The Center is denominated with five.
Thunders operate in the air in the center of heaven and earth, hence the name 'Five Thunders'. Thunders are the crux of heaven and earth and represent the commands from heaven. The supreme power they have enables them to dominate everything within the three realms and nine levels of the universe!
Thunder skills are innate Dao and the God of Thunder can be found within oneself.
Those using the Five Thunders Technique to eliminate haunting spirits would apply the technique based on the Great Dao, corresponding to the profound theories. Coordinate water and fire while making metal and wood occur simultaneously, so that one is rid of the mortal frame and deified, becoming a paramount immortal.
Arrange the five Qi in the middle Dantian and gather all one's spirit. One has to think like a dragon, act as unrestrained as a dragon, and dominate all things in the world like a dragon. Summon thunders in one's palms and embody the universe within oneself…"
Reading this paragraph, Xiaozhai kept mumbling to herself, "Think like a dragon, act as unrestrained as a dragon, and dominate all things in the world as a dragon; dominate all things in the world like a dragon …"
Gu Yu was worried and curious. He couldn't help but ask, "What is it? Anything wrong?"
"No, it's just that my master had told me some bits and pieces of theories, which sounded very close to this record."
She lost control of her emotions and her voice cracked. "Gu Yu, the thunder skills of Shenxiao is indeed closely related to my sect."
"Are you saying…"
"Exactly! The Book of Thunder of Wang Wenqing and Lin Lingsu, where on earth did they get it?"
Clutching the thin paper, Xiaozhai said, "One of them must have had contact with the patriarch of my sect." After that, she resumed reading in a hurry, but the look on her face changed slightly as she turned the pages from side to side. "This is it… this is it? These sentences are the only things left of the thunder skills of Qionglong Mountain?"
Gu Yu took over the paper to have a look. She was right. Only half a page was about the thunder skill and the rest was on making talismans, praying rituals, incantations, Gang Steps of Divine Tiger, etc.
He did not know whether he should cry or laugh at that moment.
These few lines were the only thing they got after everything they had gone through? However, they did learn something. At least they were following the right lead. What they were looking for was in Shenxiao.
It was safe to say that their days would become very busy.
With Xiaozhai's temperament, if Shenxiao really was the one robbing her sect of its inheritance, she would take it back from them even if she had to search through all the mountains in this world!