Chapter 211: A Despicable Name
Soon, the old man brought Meng Hao and the young woman to their destination. It was a very large mountain valley, filled with a variety of buildings. Off in the distance were areas devoted to growing medicinal plants. As soon as they arrived, Meng Hao could smell a fragrant aroma wafting through the air.
There were many young people in the valley, all of whom wore short, light yellow garments. Some were picking medicinal plants and others were lost in thought as they studied jade slips. Some sat beneath the evening sunshine, staring at medicinal plants which they held in their hands. The plants swayed back and forth in a very bizarre fashion.
After landing, the old man flicked his sleeve and cried, “Bai Yunlai!” 1 The young people nearby all looked up. Catching sight of the old man, their faces filled with respect, and they saluted with clasped hands.
An average-sized young man ran out of one of the buildings and approached them. He looked to be about thirty years of age.
“Master Xu, sir, I’m here,” he said in a flattering tone. “What orders do you have? I can help you with absolutely anything.”
The old man glared at him. “These are two new apprentice alchemists who just joined the Sect. Explain things to them and then take them to get their medallions.” With that, the old man turned to look at Meng Hao and the young woman. He nodded encouragingly, then transforming into a beam of light and shot away.
Now that the old man was gone, the surrounding youths ignored Meng Hao and the others and continued on with their various activities. They didn’t seem to have any good or bad will toward Meng Hao whatsoever. Their expressions were calm and even.
Meng Hao was going to have to get used to being in a Sect like this. Life in the Reliance Sect had been very different. This was now the second Sect he had joined. He sighed inwardly.
The young woman next to him clasped hands toward Bai Yunlai and said, “Greetings, Elder Brother Bai.”
“Hey, no Elders here, and no need for saluting.” Bai Yunlai laughed heartily, looking back and forth between Meng Hao and the young woman. “You two came just at the right time. Most of the apprentice alchemists in the Sect have been very busy with the Pill Auction. There aren’t very many people left behind. Alright, you two don’t worry. With Old Bai here, you’ll quickly get into the swing of things. Come come. Let’s walk around a bit, and I’ll introduce the place to you.” After asking their names, Bai Yunlai led the way as they began to walk around.
“If you want a description of the Violet Fate Sect’s East Pill Division, well, that’s a massive topic. There are no less than a hundred valleys just like this one. Each one is home to nearly a thousand apprentice alchemists. Most of our time is spent growing medicinal plants, memorizing the names of various medicines, and occasionally harvesting the plants. Do you know who the most tired people in the whole Southern Domain are? Us Violet Fate Sect apprentice alchemists, that’s who!
“One hundred thousand apprentice alchemists, each with their own work to do. Actually, we have to participate in all the different activities. We need to memorize the names of over one hundred thousand medicinal plants, we have to care for the growing plants, plus we have to find time to practice Cultivation. If we didn’t do that, then we wouldn’t be able to catalyze the plants into growth. As for you two, well, you’ll figure everything out eventually.
“Us apprentice alchemists are real peons. Only if you stick out like an awl poking through a sack, and distinguish yourself in some way, can you possibly become a master alchemist and study true alchemy. Then Inner Sect disciples will come looking for you to concoct pills. According to Sect rules, they have to provide compensation to us when we concoct pills for them. It’s always a good day when that happens.
“Too bad there are one hundred thousand apprentice alchemists. How many do you think become master alchemists? There are only a thousand in the entire Sect! It’s so difficult!”
Bai Yunlai spoke very quickly as he led Meng Hao and the young woman through various valleys.
“See here? This is one of the places where only master alchemists can go. We aren’t allowed in….” They continued on. “This area belongs to the Violet Qi Division, although it’s not the Inner Sect, just the Outer Sect.” Bai Yunlai had led the two of them to one of the valleys toward the front of the Sect. Here were congregated quite a few Cultivators of the Violet Qi Division. Courteous expressions appeared on their faces when they saw Bai Yunlai. It seemed he was a relatively influential person within the Sect.
Meng Hao cleared his throat and then said some flattering things to Bai Yunlai, who instantly looked very happy and said, “You know, I know almost everything about the Sect, and there aren’t many things I can’t take care of. Junior Brother Fang, if you ever have any problems in the future, you just come look for me and I’ll take care of everything for you.”
Suddenly, Bai Yunlai stopped in his tracks. He pointed up toward the center of the valley, where an iron spear was stabbed into the side of the mountain. The spear was bent, and having been exposed to the wind and rain, was covered in rust.
Bai Yunlai looked around, then lowered his voice and said, “Do you see that iron spear? There’s a story behind it.”
A strange expression appeared on Meng Hao’s face. He had noticed this valley when they’d flown past earlier. He looked up at the spear, coughing slightly, and feigning extreme interest.
“Do you know who put that spear there? It was Wu Dingqiu of the senior generation. They say that ten years ago, on a dark and stormy night, Elder Wu returned to the Sect in a foul rage, with that spear in his hand. He threw it with all his might, and it landed right there!
“According to the rumors from that year, he wanted all the Outer Sect disciples to remember the shame caused by that spear. He said, ‘You fools are always stupid to the point of death! If you keep being this stupid, you really will die one day!’” Bai Yunlai’s voice was very quiet as he spoke, and yet extremely vivid. The young woman’s eyes went wide as she listened.
Meng Hao spontaneously gave another light cough.
“Where did the spear come from?” asked the young woman.
“Where did it come from? Heh heh. You might not believe it. According to the legend, ten years ago, a group of Outer Sect disciples participated in an Outer Sect promotion test. It was held in an extremely dangerous location, where they met a vile creature of a man. That guy ended up selling the iron spear to the two strongest of the disciples!
“The price they paid reduced them to poverty and ruin. They even borrowed Spirit Stones from fellow disciples to pay for it. They thought it was a precious treasure, which was why they bought it. Ai, it wasn’t until a few years ago that they finally paid back all the Spirit Stones. Anyway, when Wu Dingqiu heard what happened he felt it was an utter humiliation. And he was the leader of the group! What do you two think, was that man despicable or what?” 2
The young woman had been listening with wide eyes and gaping mouth. She looked up at the iron spear, which looked in all respects to be completely normal. She couldn’t understand why the two strongest of the disciples would waste so much money on it.
Meng Hao felt a little guilty. Then he noticed that Bai Yunlai was looking at him, so he nodded and solemnly said, “That fellow is definitely matchlessly despicable. It’s enough to make one’s hair bristle with anger!” Actually, after meeting Qian Shuihen and Lu Song back in the Song Clan, he had guessed that the matter from that year had had a profoundly negative effect on the two of them, which continued on down to this day.
What he had never imagined was that it actually affected the entire Violet Fate Sect. Suddenly, he felt a bit sorry for Qian Shuihen and Lu Song. And now he understood why they had been gnashing their teeth with fury back at the Song Clan.
Bai Yunlai sighed and shook his head. “The spear is here as a reminder to all Violet Fate Outer Sect disciples. They are never to forget this matter….”
“Who was the person who sold them the spear?” asked the young woman, her curiosity piqued.
“His name is Meng Hao,” said Bai Yunlai quietly. “Have you heard of him? Recently, everybody in the Southern Domain has been talking about him. At the Song Clan search for a son-in-law, he revealed himself as the successor of the Sublime Spirit Scripture. He’s the same person who was involved in that scandal with Chu Yuyan.”
“Meng Hao?” said the young woman, gaping.
“Quiet!” said Bai Yunlai quickly. “That name is taboo in the Violet Fate Sect! No one dares to speak it aloud….”
Meng Hao stood off to the side, feeling even more guilty. He continued to clear his throat. He suddenly had the feeling that coming to the Violet Fate Sect might not have been the best decision.
It was at this time that his facial expression suddenly flickered. He had just caught sight of a beam of light approaching from the distance. It transformed into a grim-faced young man who stared ferociously at Bai Yunlai. This was none other than… Qian Shuihen.
“Bai Yunlai, what are you doing sticking around here?! Why haven’t you moved on?!”
Bai Yunlai suddenly shivered, and a flattering expression appeared on his face.
“Elder Brother Qian, I’m just showing these two apprentice alchemists around the Sect. We were just leaving, just leaving.” With that he grabbed Meng Hao and the young woman and hurriedly led them away.
“Did you see? That was one of the two who bought the spear that year. In the future, you must never under any circumstances utter the name Meng Hao in front of him. If you do, he’ll fly into a violent rage.” He continued on with some more earnest exhortation: “Furthermore, if you two ever leave the Sect to do training in the future, you must be extremely careful if you ever run into Meng Hao. His deviousness knows no bounds!”
The wide-eyed young woman’s face was covered with disbelief. However, she quickly nodded, clearly placing the warning deep in her heart. Inside, Meng Hao laughed bitterly. Now he knew why they had looked so wary back in the Song Clan when they heard his name, and yet he didn’t even recognize them.
“Remember,” Bai Yunlai repeated, “the name Meng Hao is taboo in our Sect. Don’t forget that! Okay, now we need to go get your identity medallions and handle your living arrangements.” As of now, the girl clearly viewed Meng Hao as a fearsome tiger. Meng Hao could only laugh bitterly inside as Bai Yunlai led them away.
Soon they arrived at a valley which was relatively large and crowded.
“Since you’ve joined the Violet Fate Sect, you’re obviously from local Cultivator Clans. As you know, we all have limits to our Cultivation bases. As apprentice alchemists, you must master the first technique of alchemy. Pay attention.
“This technique is called Violet Cloud Spirit. With this technique, you can feed a plant with your spiritual energy, and catalyze its effectiveness, which is based on its medicinal age. Depending on your skill and the nature of your Cultivation base, the catalyzation will produce different results.”
There were several hundred people here. Most sat cross-legged, looking at the medicinal plants rocking back and forth in their hands. In the very front was a solemn, middle-aged man who was currently giving a lecture about some alchemic technique. He held up his hand, within which was a growing medicinal plant. In the blink of an eye, it grew up two inches.
Meng Hao looked around, focusing especially on the medicinal plant in the hand of the middle-aged man. His eyes gleamed with a strange light. Bai Yunlai led them to the center of the valley, where an unimposing man old man in a gray robe sat there with eyes closed. He looked like he was asleep. It was impossible to tell the level of his Cultivation base. Seemingly out of habit, Bai Yunlai walked over and retrieved two medallions and a bag of holding from the old man’s side. He pulled out two violet-colored jade slips which he then handed to Meng Hao and the young woman.
“Give it a try,” he said solemnly as the two looked at the jade slips. “The technique is very simple. You should be able to master it very quickly. Then, you’ll have a chance to try catalyzing for the first time. It’s very important, though. It will reveal your aptitude toward alchemy, and we have to record the results.”
This chapter was sponsored by Collin Brinkmans