Chapter 216: The Meaning of Grandmaster
The instant the old man turned and looked at Meng Hao, his eyes filled with a bright light and he said, “You joined the East Pill Division with a recommendation medallion from a Furnace Lord. What is your purpose here?!” A mysterious pressure locked onto Meng Hao’s body.
As the man spoke the words, he took a step forward.
When the step fell, ghost images vibrated up everywhere, as if the area had been cut off from the rest of the world. Such a scene gave the feeling that any escape was impossible.
Even while his first words were still echoing out, he spoke again, “I’ve thoroughly investigated all of the Cultivators with the surname Fang in the entire State of Eastern Emergence. I couldn’t find any record of you anywhere. As an alien in the State of Eastern Emergence, tell me… why are you here?” It was obviously supposed to feel like an interrogation. Add in the display of power, and it seemed as if dark storm clouds were rolling Meng Hao’s way.
Inside, Meng Hao was calm. However, his face visibly paled, and he stood in place, body trembling slightly. His chin, though, was set stubbornly.
“State your real name, and reveal your purpose here! This is your last chance. If you refuse to come to your senses, then don’t blame me for being ruthless!” The old man took another step forward. When the step fell, the sound of rumbling thunder filled the courtyard. A fierce wind sprang up, and waves of pressure roiled out. The medicinal plants in the garden seemed as if they were being harmfully catalyzed; they were growing dark and ugly.
Meng Hao’s face grew paler. However, inwardly, he was as calm as ever. This old man’s Cultivation base was at the Core Formation stage, and his words seemed cold and merciless. In reality, though, he was obviously bluffing. Considering Meng Hao’s path of Cultivation, and the level of his experience and training, how could he not tell?
He had already been in the Violet Fate Sect for the better part of a year. After all this time, the fact the old man chose today to come visit was telling. Meng Hao only had to think a moment to come to a fairly certain conclusion.
Obviously, the promotion day was approaching, and although Meng Hao didn’t qualify to participate, his first rate latent talent had attracted quite a bit of attention in the East Pill Division. That was the whole purpose of this whole scene; the display of power was basically a warning of sorts.
All of these thoughts flitted through Meng Hao’s mind in an instant. He also thought about how he had crossed the chain bridge to enter the Sect, and his heart grew even calmer. He took a deep breath and, continuing to keep his face pale, clasped his hands and bowed deeply to the old man.
His expression bitter, his voice light, he said, “Sir, my name really is Fang Mu, and I am not from the State of Eastern Emergence. I have long yearned for the Dao of alchemy, and that is why I thirsted to join the Violet Fate Sect. I have no other purpose. I wholeheartedly wish to study alchemy.
“Unfortunately, the Violet Fate Sect does not accept outsiders, so I had to figure out another way to get the recommendation medallion from a Furnace Lord. In order to enter the Sect, I had no choice other than to use subterfuge. I had no option. Sir, if you believe junior is in error, then I will accept any punishment the Sect deems fit.” Meng Hao bowed down and held the bow, not lifting himself up straight.
Everything was quiet. The old man looked at Meng Hao. He had long since investigated Meng Hao, and knew there were some things about him that weren’t quite right. However, there were one hundred thousand apprentice alchemists in the Sect. More than a few of them had things about them that weren’t quite right. The fact that they had passed the Bridge of Truth, however, was evidence that they harbored no ill intent toward the East Pill Division. If they did have any such secrets, they would not be able to pass the bridge.
If Meng Hao was an ordinary apprentice alchemist without first rate latent talent, then the old man wouldn’t have paid him the least bit of attention, and things would have run their course naturally. However, Meng Hao’s latent talent had attracted not just the attention of this old man, but other Furnace Lords in the East Pill Division. When the question came up regarding his qualifications to participate in the promotion examination, he went against convention to acquire a spot for Meng Hao… which therefore led to the current scene.
Wang Fanming was quiet for a moment. Then, he looked at Meng Hao and coolly said, “Once you join the Eastern Pill Division, you may never forsake it, not for the rest of your life. Can you do so?”
Meng Hao finally stood up straight. Looking at the old man with determination in his face, he spoke in a voice that could chop nails and sever iron: “It is a great kindness on the part of the Sect to teach me about the Dao of Alchemy. As long as the Sect doesn’t kick me away, I will never forsake it!”
Actually, after living in the Violet Fate Sect for the better part of a year, being part of the East Pill Division, and studying alchemy, Meng Hao really had developed this view. As long as he could stay here and study alchemy, he would not leave the Sect.
The old man gave Meng Hao a deep look. “I don’t care about your background. If you say you’re Fang Mu, then you are Fang Mu. However, if you ever betray the Sect, I will take away your Dao of alchemy. If I am unable to, there will be another alchemist in the East Pill Division who can.” He flicked his sleeve, and a medallion shot toward Meng Hao.
It landed in Meng Hao’s hand, glowing mysteriously, radiating coldness.
“In one month, you may attend the examination for promotion to master alchemist. Only one candidate will be selected. Whether or not you are selected will depend on your luck.” With that, Wang Fanming turned and flew away, disappearing in the blink of an eye.
As he said, he didn’t care about Meng Hao’s background. There were many people in the Violet Fate Sect who had mysterious backgrounds. Even among the Furnace Lords were people who had previously been members of other Sects, or who had enemies in the outside world and joined the East Pill Division to hide.
Actually, Wang Fanming himself was not from the State of Eastern Emergence. It was only because of various circumstances that he ended up becoming a Cultivator of the East Pill Division.
This was the tradition within the East Pill Division, a tradition created by someone who commanded high prestige and universal respect in the Violet Fate Sect: Grandmaster Pill Demon.
Grandmaster Pill Demon had uttered the following words regarding the East Pill Division: “One must take the long view when traversing the great path of the Dao of alchemy. Any qualified alchemist may become a Cultivator of the East Pill Division. The only requirement is that he harbor no ill intentions, nor have the reckless ambition of wild wolves.”
Because of this, the traditions of the East Pill Division of the Violet Fate Sect had existed for a very long time. Unfortunately, it had also led to circumstances in which disciples forsook the Sect. Despite that, the techniques of the East Pill Division had never been revealed. Many outsiders wondered about this mystery, and also why those who forsook the Sect were so sentimental about it afterward.
In actuality, from time immemorial, all disciples who forsook the Sect were eventually brought back. Except for two. Those two had rocked the Southern Domain, and were the only two people other than Pill Demon to become Grandmasters of the Dao of alchemy!
Both of them had once been novitiates of Grandmaster Pill Demon. Eventually, they brought forth new ideas and innovations. Regardless of what outsiders thought, these two never believed their skill could outmatch that of their Master.
The reason they had become famous, and the reason they never returned to the Sect, was also because of the words of Grandmaster Pill Demon, words that continued to be passed down to this very day.
“Along the path of the Dao of alchemy, if a hundred flowers bloom, who has the right to permit only the Mudan peony to exist? Cannot the lesser peony and the orchid also coexist? Thus is birthed the flower garden. If the medicinal plant garden only contained one medicinal plant, how could the Dao of alchemy come into being? 1
“If those who inherit my Dao of alchemy are full of the ambitions of wild wolves, I will take back the Dao of alchemy. However, he who can weed through the old to bring forth the new, he who can tread the untrodden path, that person may establish his own school of thought. If he is able to bear the weight of the title Grandmaster, then it has nothing to do with me. In that case, there is no need to discuss returning to me.”
Because of this, there are three alchemists called Grandmaster. In reality, though, the Dao of alchemy in the Southern Domain has only one true Grandmaster!
Meng Hao watched Wang Fanming leave, and his eyes shone with a mysterious light. He never thought he would be able to secure a spot in the promotion examination so quickly. He looked down thoughtfully at the jade slip he held in his hand. His eyes glinted, and he cast Spiritual Sense into it. His mind suddenly shook.
In his head suddenly appeared the words:
He sat down cross-legged in the courtyard, holding the jade slip in hand. He closed his eyes and immersed himself in the Alchemy Scripture which had appeared in his head. It wasn’t until the sun began to rise the following morning that he slowly opened his eyes. He took a deep breath, and looked off at the distant mountain peaks. His eyes were filled with reverence. He sat there quietly for a long time.
This so-called Alchemy Scripture was in fact not really a scripture. Actually, it was a record of events which had occurred in the East Pill Division in the thousand years since Grandmaster Pill Demon rose to fame.
There were many stories recorded, for example the origins of the two other Grandmaster alchemists of the Southern Domain, as well as various quotations from Grandmaster Pill Demon. After examining the entire Alchemy Scripture, an image appeared in his mind of a figure standing at the peak of the Dao of alchemy.
Now he understood why Wang Fanming was so quick to discard the issue of his hidden past.
Meng Hao slowly put away the jade slip. He took a few deep breaths, and then began his daily apprentice alchemist cultivation.
Time went by slowly. Soon, a month had passed. The news about the examination for apprentice alchemists with ten years of experience, spread like wildfire throughout the East Pill Division. It quickly became the only conversation topic among the apprentice alchemists.
Roughly eighty percent of the apprentice alchemists had ten or more years of experience. However, not all would participate in the promotion examination. Only thirty thousand slots were available for registration.
When the day of the test came, the entire East Pill Division bustled with noise and excitement. The furnace bells rang out, and an enormous pill furnace once again appeared up in the air. Tens of thousands of strands of light reached out toward the qualified apprentice alchemists, who were all bursting with excitement. Meng Hao was among them as they shot toward the pill furnace.
In the blink of an eye, thirty thousand people vanished. When they reappeared, it was not in the Celestial Land of medicinal plant fields. Instead, they were in an enormous public square paved with limestone. In the middle of the square was a gigantic blue-green pill furnace. Medicinal aroma wafted out from it, filling the square with medicinal mists and clouds.
Arranged in the enormous square were thirty thousand worktables. On the surface of each worktable was a black jade slip. As the thirty thousand participants arrived, there was no hubbub or racket. They all looked nervously toward the pill furnace, which was surrounded by eight old men, sitting cross-legged.
One of them was Wang Fanming.
The crowd of people looked down at the eight men, who slowly opened their eyes. They looked over everyone with kind, gentle expressions.
“In the promotion exam of the East Pill Division, one person shall be selected from your midst to practice the Cultivation of the Dao of alchemy! The examination consists of two rounds. The first round is an elimination round which only ten participants will pass. The second round is the final round, from which one master alchemist will emerge!
“One hundred thousand medicinal plants. One million variations. Your task is to silently list them out. Write down as many as you can think of! In front of you are thirty thousand work stations. Please organize yourselves among them and prepare to begin!”
- The “Mudan peony” referred to here is the peony which once was the national flower of China. It is also called the “king of flowers.” What I’m translating as the “lesser peony” is another type of peony flower that resembles the Mudan peon. These two are sometimes contrasted. For example, in the ancient court, the Empress would be the Mudan peony and the concubines would be the lesser peonies ↩