"Elder Fang Zheng." Shi Hong bowed in greeting.
Fang Zheng returned the greeting, but felt somewhat awkward inwardly. This elite disciple, Shi Hong, was older than Fang Zheng, and had originally been a senior disciple several generations above Fang Zheng.
"I would like to receive guidance from Elder Fang Zheng. One of the four entry tasks for the current Refinement Path Convention pertains to refining earth treasury flower Gu. The third last step of refining this Gu requires the use of upstream grass, matched with zen lion's mane, supplemented by the Gu refinement method. But this disciple has always failed in this step, I would like to know what the correct Gu refinement method for this is?"
"This….." Fang Zheng was stupefied, and hesitated. His main cultivation path was enslavement path, and his battle strength when controlling cranes were at an outstanding level among mortal Gu Masters. But he had entirely no understanding of refinement path.
Fortunately, he had the spirit incubating flea, from which Lord Sky Crane transmitted the answer.
Fang Zheng replied: "This Gu refinement technique is called 'one after another'. Its purpose is to entwine every stalk of the upstream grass with every strand of the zen lion's mane. To refine earth treasury flower Gu, you must weave together a hundred stalks and strands within thirty breaths of time. If you go beyond this time, the fire from the Gu refinement will burn these stalks and strands to ashes. Thus, if you are not familiar with this method, you will easily fail in this refinement."
Fang Zheng repeated the words of Lord Sky Crane, and the more he spoke, the calmer he became. After explaining this, he then went to explain on how to practice the 'one after another' Gu refinement technique.
Shi Hong's expression slightly changed, showing astonishment before hurriedly bowing in thanks: "Many thanks for Elder Fang Zheng's guidance, I have learned a lot."
"Do you still have anything you don't understand?" Fang Zheng smiled, getting addicted to this feeling of teaching.
"There is no more, no more. This disciple shall take his leave!" Shi Hong bowed, and left.
After the two parted ways, Fang Zheng walked for a while before suddenly starting to slow down.
He frowned and came to a realization: "This Shi Hong did not come to truly ask for advice, it feels like the other way around, like he was intentionally trying to create difficulties for me."
"Hehe, you noticed it? Good, good." Lord Sky Crane smiled.
Fang Zheng inwardly shouted: "Master, you already knew!"
"Nonsense, your background is extremely easy to probe, your age is also openly on display. Everyone knows you don't cultivate refinement path, Shi Hong, however, intentionally asked such a question, what could it be if not about trying to give you trouble?"
Lord Sky Crane paused here, before asking Fang Zheng: "Do you know why he was trying to create difficulties for you?"
"Why?" Fang Zheng did not understand.
Lord Sky Crane smiled brightly as he explained the reason: "Because Shi Hong likes a female disciple called Yi Yue. And this Yi Yue is Elder Yan Tang's daughter. Elder Yan Tang is weak, he is sidelined in Immortal Crane Sect, and has had difficulties. He plans to betroth his daughter to you to form a connection, an alliance of benefits with you, the youngest elder in the history of Immortal Crane Sect. Otherwise, why would he repeatedly invite you for drinking? Moreover, intentionally arrange his daughter to sit together with you every time?"
"Ahh." Fang Zheng exclaimed as he realized only at this point. He could not help but recall the beautiful appearance of Yi Yue sitting beside him, and warmly serving him dishes. Also how she frequently proposed a toast to Fang Zheng, and how after few sips of alcohol, her face would flush red, which made her even more attractive.
"Do you remember now? Hahaha, foolish boy!" Lord Sky Crane was happy to see Fang Zheng looking dazed. Clearly, the spirit of gossip was commonly held between men and woman, the old and young, and even the living and dead.
Fang Zheng helplessly sighed, shaking his head and saying in a weary voice: "Schemes and benefits again, I really don't like them. From now on, I shall refuse Elder Yan Tang's invitation. I am also an elder like him anyway, refusing shouldn't be considered rude."
"Foolish boy, which organization in this world is not held together by benefits? True feelings of warmth do exist, but they are rare, which makes them even more valuable." Lord Sky Crane sighed with emotions, "Don't avoid these, and especially don't refuse Elder Yan Tang's invitation. Even if you don't marry his daughter, there is also no need to ruin the relation with him. Because currently, you are even more weak than Elder Yan Tang."
"Let's not talk about this. Master, just now the Refinement Path Convention was mentioned, and recently everyone, both disciples and elders, are talking about it. What is this Refinement Path Convention?" Fang Zheng intentionally changed the topic.
"It is good that you asked me this and not others. Otherwise, they would look at you as if you were stupid. I will explain it to you properly. This Refinement Path Convention is not a normal event, but a grand occasion that occurs only every one hundred years in Central Continent. That means, without special lifespan prolonging methods, most Gu Masters can only participate once in their lifetimes." Lord Sky Crane explained.
"Refinement Path Convention, is it an event of refinement path Gu Masters?"
"Not exactly. The cultivation of Gu Masters involves three aspects - nurture, use, and refinement. The Refinement Path Convention is not an event where only refinement path Gu Masters can participate, as long as you have skill in the Gu refinement aspect, or experience and insight, you can participate."
Lord Sky Crane continued: "The scale of this grand event is unprecedented, it is the biggest refinement path event in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Gu Masters participate in every Refinement Path Convention, they come from all sizes of sects in Central Continent. Even Gu Masters from Eastern Sea, Western Desert, Southern Border and Northern Plains will appear."
"Southern Border…" A wisp of emotion rose up in Fang Zheng and he could not help but recall Qing Mao Mountain.
He asked, after a moment: "Then what are the four entry tasks Shi Hong mentioned?"
Lord Sky Crane spoke everything he knew without reservation: "The so-called four entry tasks can be said to be qualifications for entering. Any Gu Master, no matter who they are, will refine Gu sometimes in their cultivation journey. The Refinement Path Convention has generous rewards which attract countless Gu Masters to participate. If there were not some tests set up, then there would be way too many incompetent people wanting to try their luck. Thus, the four entry tasks were created, to distinguish the truly skilled ones and those with refinement path attainment."
"That is to say, one must finish the four entry tasks if they want to participate in the Refinement Path Convention." Fang Zheng came to a realization.
"Hehehe." Lord Sky Crane chuckled, "Actually, these four entry tasks test the basic skills of Gu refinement. Usually, any Gu Master with certain experience can pass it."
Fang Zheng was startled: "Master, I can't pass it."
"No problem, with my guidance, if you train crazily in this period of time, you can also succeed."
"Truly? My vision will be expanded!" Fang Zheng was joyous.
Central Continent, Five Virtues Mountain.
Streams of people were busily moving around Five Virtues Mountain.
Five Virtues Mountain was not tall. It was located in the eastern part of Central Continent and was the base of a middle sized sect - Five Virtues Sect.
Five Virtues Sect was considered a large influence within the surroundings. Its background was profound, in the past, the leader of Five Virtues Sect had been an elder of Heavenly Lotus Sect. Heavenly Lotus Sect was one of the ten great ancient sects of Central Continent, a super force. Thus, although Five Virtues Sect had not been established for long, it was able to develop smoothly, and the established forces in the surroundings did not dare to sideline or suppress it.
Fang Yuan, disguised as a mortal Gu Master, was mixed in the stream of people, slowly moving up Five Virtues Mountain.
He was covered in a black robe, his physique was average, not tall, not short, not fat, not thin. He covered his face with a mask and his head with a rain hat, the brim of the hat was low and its shade under the sunlight covered even Fang Yuan's shoulders.
But this disguise was not conspicuous in the stream of people. A lot of people's disguises were even more excessive than his.
Following the slow stream of people, Fang Yuan arrived in front of Five Virtues Sect's entrance.
This tall entrance had an archway of sixteen huge columns, was about ten meters wide and taller than a five storey building. On a plaque atop the entrance were three giant words shining with golden light - Five Virtues Sect. Under the archway of the entrance were six magnificent stone lion statues.
Behind the entrance was a wide staircase paved using the finest blue jade stones, it was like a blue river leisurely moving up Five Virtues Mountain.
The stairs were under the shade of green and verdant trees beside them. Winds of the mountain occasionally blew over, bringing cool sensations with them.
People of all walks of life jostled with each other, pushing and squeezing as they moved up the stairs.
Fang Yuan gazed around, in front of him and towards the left was a group of female Gu Masters with long wavy hair, wearing identical striped dresses, indicating they were probably from the same sect. To his right was a white clothed young master fanning a folding fan, seated on a leopard, and constantly glancing at that group of female Gu Masters.
To his left, a pair of master and disciple, clothed in shabby clothes, were in the midst of a discussion.
"Master, there are so many people!" The disciple said with excitement.
The master chuckled: "There are many people, don't wander off. My good disciple, you have great talent in refinement path, this is an opportunity for you to make a meteoric rise. You can pass the four entry tests with no difficulty, but you must make sure to get a good position. Only in that way will others change the way they look at you, and fight over each other to recruit you."
The disciple proudly smiled: "Master, you can rest assured. I will definitely take first place. With the Gu worm reward of first place, I will treat your illness!"
The master was about to speak, when suddenly an enormous force pushed him from behind.
The master was sent rolling on the ground, and the disciple cried out as he hurriedly moved to support his master by the arm.
"Step aside! Step aside!" A group of five burly men walked over arrogantly.
Behind them was an old Gu Master, whose gaze shined with a dangerous light, he was sitting comfortably on a chair which was carried by four men in front and behind.
"The esteemed lord first elder of Flying Frost Sect is here, are you still not making way!" The burly men who were clearing a path shouted.
"Let's move, people of Flying Frost Sect are here, we can't afford to provoke them."
"Flying Frost Sect sent their first elder, and are coming with such aggression, they are probably thinking of restoring their face from Five Virtues Sect."
"Right, last time, Five Virtues Sect and Flying Frost Sect fought for the mouth of the spring, in the end, Five Virtues Sect barely won, while Flying Frost Sect suffered severe losses."
The crowd discussed amongst themselves, and all made way, not wanting to provoke Flying Frost Sect.
"Damn it, this is going too far!" The disciple supported his master in standing up, and was about to confront them with words.
"Don't." The master was an experienced person, and quickly stopped the young disciple.
"What kind of force is Flying Frost Sect?" Ahead of Fang Yuan, a male Gu Master asked his companion.
After he received the answer, the Gu Master snorted disdainfully: "Hmph, the whole sect has only three rank five Gu Masters, this is a joke."
His companion quickly advised: "This is Central Continent, it is not Eastern Sea, we are outsiders here, it is better to avoid trouble whenever possible. Alright, enough now."
The male Gu Master thought for a moment before finally giving a snort, and without waiting for the Flying Frost Sect's people, he squeezed into the crowd to the right.
"What is with you, are you deaf? Make way, I said make way!" The burly men shouted furiously behind Fang Yuan, and tried to drive him away.
Fang Yuan did not turn around, as if he had heard nothing.
"Hmm?" The burly men were furious, but their expressions changed immediately, "Rank five cultivation?"
Fang Yuan was disguised as a rank five Gu Master, and right now, he intentionally leaked out a trace of his aura.
The burly men were bewildered, but drew back in the end.
On the bamboo chair, the first elder of Flying Frost Sect, An Han, straightened up and stared at Fang Yuan's back.
"Rank five aura… it's real! Such a disguise is not that of a lone cultivator… demonic Gu Master…" An Han narrowed his eyes, and moved his hand, sending the command, "Are you still not moving around?"
The burly men immediately changed direction, moving around Fang Yuan towards the front.
Among mortals, rank five was an existence at the peak, a leader of a force. Even the sect leader of Immortal Crane Sect only had rank five cultivation.
"This group of cowardly bullies!" The disciple and master converged into the crowd again, the young disciple furiously staring at the receding figures of Flying Frost Sect's people.
Shortly afterwards, he looked at Fang Yuan with curiosity, probing and with a slight hint of reverence.
The white clothed young master on the right folded his fan and got off the leopard, the group of female Gu Masters ahead intentionally stopped, many other Gu Masters stopped as well, and took the initiative to approach Fang Yuan, trying to leave a good impression.
Rank five Gu Master… if they could build a relationship with such a character…
Beside the stairs were the Five Virtues Sect disciples in charge of maintaining order, they were hurriedly transmitting messages: "Send the report, there is a rank five Gu Master."
Facing these people, Fang Yuan only said one word — "Scram."
His tone was calm but his voice carried coldness and ruthlessness.
The crowd changed expressions, a chill emerging from the bottom of their hearts, why would they still dare to trouble Fang Yuan?
The young disciple also retracted his gaze in a hurry.
Fang Yuan restrained his aura again. In a range of three steps around him, there was no one else.