Elder Wu later too joined the disciples in the evening lessons. The three Elders together lectured the disciples with various theories and knowledge. The lessons continued until dawn, when Elder Song instructed two acolytes to distribute to everyone a thick booklet.
"These manuscripts contain theories on cultivation methods of the Body Refining Realm, some explanations and descriptions of elixirs, methods of magical formations and barriers, as well as some other basic skills and techniques. Memorize them well, young ones. There will be a written test for all of you seven days later."
Everyone cradled their thick and heavy manuscripts, feeling sullen. Would they be able to memorize everything in seven days? Not to mention comprehending them.
Later on, Elder Song opened a pouch that an acolyte had brought to him and poured out some green-colored crystals which are in the size of a person's thumb. He said, "These are Spirit Stones. You will receive three stones each month. On most occasions, you use them by absorbing the spiritual energies from these stones. But there are also other uses for them mentioned in the manuscript you hold." As he spoke, he motioned an acolyte to distribute them.
The disciples received the stones. Some were excited, however, some remained indifferent. Elder Song then said, "Do not take these Spirit Stones lightly. Although they are just Rank One stones, they are integral in helping you rise into the Qi Refining Realm quickly. Take good care of them and don't give them to others easily."
Listening to this, the disciples fell into a cacophonous hubbub, talking and chattering with the precious stones they held tightly to. Prince Zhao fiddled with the stones in his palm and said, "How do we use this? Do we ingest them directly?"
Elder Song glared at him, saying, "Be my guest. But not here, please. I do not intend to be the one taking care of your funeral arrangements."
Hearing this, Prince Zhao was so shocked that he nearly tossed them away as if they were poison.
In truth, the Spirit Stones were magical resources that came with finite supply even in the Three Pure Sect. They were treasures beyond any equal, and no one would ever trade them for gold, save for extraordinary magical treasures, Immortal's Swords, or magical talismans.
Most people would amass more and more Spirit Stones to trade for magical treasures or Immortal's Swords from Inner Disciples of the sect. Quarrels and fights because of Spirit Stones were hardly rare as they tend to take place at least a few times every month.
At sunset, the fresh recruits were returning to their dormitories when they were stopped by a few other older disciples.
"Junior Brothers and Sisters, we have an offer to make. We are willing to pay a good price for your Spirit Stones. I am willing to pay for 200 taels of silver for each Stone. Is anyone interested?"
"I am willing to pay 300 taels of silver a piece."
"I am willing to pay 400 taels for each Stone."
Some of the younger disciples began to stir. Despite their wealthy origins, the things and food sold at the mess halls here were terribly expensive. To some of them, the Spirit Stone looked useless other than its beauty and glittering flashes.
Prince Zhao sneered and said, "300 taels and 400 taels of silver? Are you dealing with beggars and tramps here? Come to me! 1000 taels of silver! That is my price! Sell all your Stones to me! I will buy as many as you have! There will be no limit!"
His loud cries irritated a good many older disciples. A dozen of them came over to him, seething with anger. He hurriedly showed his jade medallion, saying, "What do you want? I am a Prince of the State of Zhao! What are you doing?"
"A Prince? Not even the Emperor amounts to anything here!"
Xiao Chen took a step forward and spoke pensively, "That is enough. The Elder had ordered us to keep our Stones well." He then turned to the three princes behind him and said, "Let's go."
Back at the courtyard of their dormitory, Lil Ruo had finished boiling water for him. She had even prepared a table full of delicious food. Xiao Chen said, "We would best save some money for the future. I know that these ingredients do not come cheap." Before he had finished, he noticed something was different with Lil Ruo. The hairpin on her head was no more. As was the bracelet that she had normally worn. He sighed and said no more.
That night, he took out the three Spirit Stones. He channeled some Energies into one of the Stones. Immediately, the spiritual energies from the Stone flowed into his body and turned into an ordinary piece of gem.
"I-is... Is that it?"
The use of the stone felt dear to him. The spiritual powers of the Spirit Stones were helpful to him, but he could still use the Mystic Cyan Cultivation Method to absorb the Spiritual Qi from nature. It would be waste to even use another piece of the Stone. He then decided that he would continue enhancing his powers with the Mystic Cyan Cultivation Method until it became no use to him. The Spirit Stones would be accumulated and kept until then.
The next seven days passed quickly. The written test was nothing more than child's play to him. Even the three Elders were amazed by the answers he had provided for the questions in the examination for some of which were unknown even to them.
He had but merely riffled through the pages of the thick manuscript for information on the Divine Vessel technique. It was then tossed to Lil Ruo who would once in a while read it in leisure. He then found out that Lingtai Mountain had a number of main peaks. The Dragon Peak is the first, followed by the Star-plucking Peak, the Moon-gazing Peak, the Oak Crane Peak, and the Shrouded Peak; all of which were resided by the other Elders.
But the biggest conundrum he now faced was that his Mystic Cyan Cultivation Method was once again useless. Having reached the bottleneck of Lv 1, the level of his cultivation would have risen if not for the fact that he still lacked that last ounce of energy.
The aura in the courtyard is getting thinner and thinner day by day. It might have been due to the absence of its former occupant, hence there was no one to man the magical formation that drew all Spiritual Qi from nature. Xiao Chen himself knew not where the magical formation was.
He had only slept for four hours daily for the past seven days, rising even before the sun was up to continue his training and meditation. His resolve and will were continually renewed whenever he saw the broken sword by his bed.
With the end of their written test, the disciples were now into the actual phase of training for the Body Refining Realm. The purported training was actually a long marathon around the rear mountains from morning to noon. There will be an hour's time for a break before the disciples continued their marathon until dusk.
For three days they ran and everyone was badly exhausted by the ordeal. The three Elders stood at the top of a mountain, overlooking the disciples' progress as their robes fluttered in the mountain breeze. Shaking their heads and sighing in dismay, they said, "It seems that only the one called Xiao Chen makes the cut."
"From where does he come from? There are whispers that he should have been one of the new Inner Disciples. For reasons unknown, he has ended up here."
"What is wrong? Are you not happy about this? Finally, there is a glimmer of hope for us Sunset Peak. Moreover, he is a courteous young man; unlike that pompous Ye Fei."
"Well well well. You both have so much free time to start gossiping, eh? How about thinking about the two large bags of medicinal herbs? We have slightly more than 10 days till the end of the month."
The three Elders sighed in unison before they leaped onto their Immortal's Swords and took into the skies, flying down to a clearing at the foot of the mountain.
"All right then. This is it today. There shall be no more running tomorrow onwards."
"What? There's no more running? That is great!" Whoops and cheers erupted at the notice that the disciples would no longer need to run tomorrow like a jubilee celebration.
But in truth, everyone's physique had been greatly improved. Those with good potential had reached Lv 4 or Lv 5 of the Body Refining Realm; those with lesser potential had reached Lv 2 or Lv 3 at least.
"Let's go somewhere good. Follow closely and don't get left behind." As soon as he finished, Elder Song, with the two other Elders immediately used the Sky Treader technique, flying swiftly into the distance.
"Huh, we still have to run after all..."
After an hour's journey, the crowd, led by the three Elders, reached a secluded little valley. The valley was full of blooming flowers, green vines winding tightly around trees and wood, a gurgling brook flowing with water, and butterflies fluttering. There were a number of older disciples too around. All of them were sitting cross-legged, meditating and training. Noticing the arrival of the three Elders, they rose to their feet to greet them.
Xiao Chen instantly felt a robust amount of Spiritual Qi around him. The ambiance of Spiritual Qi in the courtyard he lived in simply could not compare to the richness of the spiritual energies here. Elder Song then spoke to them, "This is Sky-gazing Gorge, a place where many of our disciples come here to cultivate. I am sure that you can feel the abundance of Spiritual Qi in the vicinity, no? Training here for one day would do you more good than training outside for three days."
"Indeed. I feel it too. What a strong atmosphere of Spiritual Qi around here." Everyone was overjoyed.
Elder Song coughed once to draw the crowd's attention and said, "The Sky-gazing Gorge is only open for twelve hours a day. One can only enter during dawn and must leave before dusk."
Elder Wu said, "You can now look for a spot to train and meditate. There will be no disturbances today."
He had barely finished and everyone each found a spot where they sat down and meditate. Only Xiao Chen had noticed Elder Wu's final sentence: There will be no disturbances today.
Elder Liu cast a look at the main peak which was covered with clouds and said, "Do you know why is this place called Sky-gazing Gorge?" As he spoke, he pointed to the main peak of Lingtai Mountain and continued, "There. Every time when dusk comes, the main peaks of Lingtai Mountain appear as if they are grazing the shadows cast by the twilight. But, we could only watch from below."
Elder Song then said, "Hence, practice hard as you can. Strive for an early promotion to be an Inner Disciple and tarry here no longer..." With that, he sighed heavily once more.
The three Elders then leaped onto their swords and took into the skies, flying into the mountains.
Xiao Chen sat down too. The Body Refining Cultivation Method of the Three Pure Sect had long been useless to him. He could only use the Qi Refining Cultivation Methods of the Mystic Cyan Sect. He projected his Divine Sense around him and found that some older disciples were rising, eager to come over.
"What are you doing?" The older disciples were muttering among themselves. "Did you not hear the words of the Elder earlier that they are not to be disturbed today?"
Xiao Chen smiled thinly, ignoring all these distractions.