Chapter 5: This Kid isn’t Bad
“It turns out Master Uncle Shangguan is distributing the pills himself, along with Inner Sect disciples Elder Sister Xu and Elder Brother Chen. They all came. You don’t see this very often. Don’t tell me there’s an Individual Pill Distribution this time?”
“It must be. Look, Elder Brother Han Zong [1. Han Zong's name in Chinese is 韩宗 (hán zōng) - Han is a common family name. Zong means "Sect" or "religion"] is here. He’s the second-ranked disciple in the Outer Sect. His Cultivation base has reached the fifth level of Qi Condensation. If he can reach the seventh level, then he will automatically become an Inner Sect disciple. Too bad Elder Brother Wang Tengfei [2. Wang Tengfei's name in Chinese is 王腾飞 (wáng téng fēi) – Wang is a common family name. Tengfei means “to soar"] isn’t here.”
“Considering Elder Brother Wang Tengfei’s abilities, he wouldn’t care a whit about medicinal pills. The year he joined the Sect, he caused a big sensation amongst the Sect Elders. He probably doesn’t want to violate Sect etiquette, so he’ll rely only on himself to enter the Inner Sect. Then there will finally be a third Inner Sect disciple.”
“Heh heh, this is gonna be fun. With Individual Pill Distribution, there’s a twenty-four hour period of sealing in which the pill can’t be used. Every two hours, the pill glows brightly. Anyone who wants to fight for it will be able to determine its location. Even if you grab the pill and run, you won’t be able to keep it hidden for twenty-four hours.”
Meng Hao listened to the discussions around him. Even though it was his first time taking part in this sort of thing, he knew whenever pills were distributed, there was a lot of fighting. In his half a month here, he had seen plenty of fights and even some deaths.
If today was really an Individual Pill Distribution day, then the fighting would be even more intense.
Meng Hao remained silent. Considering he was at the first level of Qi Condensation, there was no way he would end up with the pill. Just looking at the greedy faces around him gave him a deeper understanding of the expression “the law of the jungle.”
“Quiet!” said the old man in the gold robe. His voice was cold as he stood on the platform, and though he didn’t speak loudly, his voice reverberated like a booming thunderclap. The Cultivators standing below him were shocked to the core. Their ears hummed. Meng Hao was the most shocked of all, and it took him some time to recover.
“I am Shangguan Xiu [3. Shangguan Xiu's name in Chinese is 上官修 (shàng guān xiū) - Shangguan is a relatively obscure family name. Xiu is the same character which appears in terms like "Cultivation" and "Cultivator"]. Today, everyone in attendance will receive one Spirit Condensation pill, and half a Spirit Stone.” Shangguan Xiu flicked his right arm, and immediately, hundreds of medicinal pills and Spirit Stones flew about in all directions. They landed perfectly in front of everyone present. Meng Hao gazed at the medicinal pill and Spirit Stone floating in front of him. A fragrant, intoxicating aroma washed over him. This was his first time ever seeing a medicinal pill or a Spirit Stone.
The Spirit Stone was about the size of his fingernail, sparkling and almost translucent. Just looking at it could mystify a person.
His heart began to beat rapidly. These two items must be worth thousands of pieces of gold. Without any hesitation, Meng Hao reached out and grabbed the pill. He was about to pop it into his mouth and swallow it down when he noticed that no one around him was doing any such thing. His heart lurched. He looked down at the pill in his hand and noticed that it had a faint glow to it, and was sealed with a strange mark.
As Meng Hao stared at the pill in his hand, Shangguan Xiu's voice once again rang out from the platform: “There is also … a Dry Spirit Pill.” A purple-colored medicinal pill could be seen in his hand.
As soon as it appeared, a wonderful fragrance filled the entire square. Even just breathing it, Meng Hao felt as if his spiritual energy had increased a bit. This was clearly no ordinary pill.
“That’s… a Dry Spirit Pill!”
“That’s … that’s something incredibly precious to anyone under the fifth level of Qi Condensation. There can’t be many within the Sect, and yet, there it is!”
“When that pill is distributed, the fighting here in the Outer Sect will be fierce. Who knows how many people will die?” The crowd buzzed as they stared up at the glowing pill held by Shangguan Xiu, their faces filled with greed and desire. This was especially true of disciples who were on the brink of breaking through to a new level of cultivation. They fairly panted.
“Originally, the Dry Spirit Pill was not to be distributed today. However, I heard there was a disciple promoted to the Outer Sect this month, which makes me very happy. If we can do this every month, then brilliant glory lies just around the corner for the Reliance Sect. I bestow this pill upon that person as an encouragement.” Shangguan Xiu smiled, and his glittering eyes swept across the crowd to fall upon Meng Hao.
Meng Hao’s heart began to race. The first half of the short speech had left him feeling unsettled, but he had no time to react; Shangguan Xiu’s right hand flicked, and the purple pill appeared in front of him. Before he could even make an attempt to refuse, the pill lowered into his hand.
As of that moment, Meng Hao’s entrance into the Reliance Sect could be called unprecedented. The eyes of the entire crowd focused on him.
Greed and cruelty filled their expressions, as if they planned to rip him to pieces alive. Even the man and woman standing next to Shangguan Xiu were staring. The woman had a look of shock on her face, which she quickly covered up with an icy expression.
“Haha, so a first level Qi Condensation disciple receives the pill. There will be a lot of fighting this time. This guy is going to be public enemy number one.”
“He’s finished. Last time there was an Individual Pill Day, the guy who received the pill was at the second level of Qi Condensation. He hesitated for just a moment too long, so Elder Brother Zhao Wugang [4. Zhao Wugang's name in Chinese is 赵武刚 (zhào wǔ gāng) - Zhao is a common family name. Wu means "martial" or "military." Gang means many things, including "strong" and "unyielding"] dragged him in a fury to the Public Area and lopped off his head.”
The sound of discussion reverberated across the square, and many disciples of the second or third Qi Condensation level, despite knowing the danger, grew greedy. Because the Cultivation base of the person who received the pill was so weak, they felt as if they were qualified to snatch it.
Meng Hao’s entire body broke out in a cold sweat. He wanted to throw the pill away, but he found that it actually stuck to his hand, making it impossible to get rid of. Around him, covetous eyes stared at him menacingly, and suddenly, it was as if he could feel the shadow of death hanging over him. Some people began to slowly walk toward him, murderous expressions filling their faces.
“Junior Brother, why don’t you toss that pill to me? If you don’t, I’ll give you a thrashing.”
“If you don’t give it to me, next year today will be the anniversary of your death.”
The murmurs blasted at him like a cold wind from all directions.
At that moment, two old men sat cross-legged on one of the nearby mountain peaks, smiling as they discussed the scene unfolding in the Outer Sect Square.
“Master Shangguan really doesn’t pay attention to things. To give the medicinal pill to a pup like that who just entered the Sect… He’s finished. It seems our Reliance Sect will be short another disciple.”
“The fighting this time isn’t going to be interesting at all. I bet that as soon as the restrictive fog dissipates from the square, the pup will toss the pill.”
As soon as the second old man finished speaking, the nine colorful, dragon-carved statues surrounding the square began to fade in color. From the look of it, after the space of about ten breaths, they would be completely colorless. At that point, the restrictive fog would also disappear.
Meng Hao’s heart began to pound. He didn’t need anyone to explain to him what would happen when the glowing pillars grew dark. The square would become a scene of madness. Even if he threw the pill away, that in and of itself would make some of the people angry at him.
“How… how could this be given to me?” said Meng Hao, sweating. His mind began to spin. If he didn’t get rid of the pill, he would die; if he did throw it away, he would become an object of hatred. Trying to make use of all the knowledge he had acquired in his three years of studying, he looked at the fading, colorful glow, and then at Shangguan Xiu, who stood amidst the colorful fog on the platform, preparing to leave. At this critical moment, Meng Hao suddenly had a flash of inspiration.
He took a step forward and called out, “Disciple has something to say."
“Being able to come to the Reliance Sect and experience the wonders of living amidst Immortals has been a wonderful stroke of good fortune. Disciple would very much like to offer thanks to the one person who made this possible.
“Disciple has been waiting day and night for another opportunity to lay eyes on her, to offer thanks in person. Today, I finally have that opportunity.” He talked faster and faster, and as he did so, Shangguan Xiu stared in shock, no longer making his leave.
“That person is Elder Sister Xu. Elder Sister Xu, Junior Brother is extremely appreciative of what you did, and is truly unable to pay you back. I would like to offer this pill to you as a measure of my thanks to you for giving me a new lease on life.” Meng Hao lifted up his right hand, raising the medicinal pill up high.
Shangguan Xiu gaped, clearly never having imagined that Meng Hao would say such a thing. A strange expression appeared on his face, and he slowly smiled. Standing next to him in her silver robe, Ms. Xu also stared in shock. Even though she was still cold and detached, there was something different about her expression now. Her Cultivation base was the seventh level of Qi Condensation, thus the Dry Spirit Pills would not be of much help to her. However, Dry Spirit Pills were still relatively rare and not easy to acquire, even for her, a member of the Inner Sect. If she took this pill and melded it together with a few other pills, she could create a new pill worth five normal pills. For a moment, she couldn’t help but palpitate with eagerness.
At this moment, even the man in the silver robe with the cool expression looked down at Meng Hao.
Everyone was quiet. The Cultivators who had been advancing on Meng Hao suddenly stopped in their tracks, strange expressions on their faces. They stared at him with confusion.
After the brief silence, there was a sudden uproar.
“You can do this…?”
“To give away a medicinal pill in front of all these people, to an Inner Sect disciple… who dares to fight for the pill now? That would basically be picking a fight with the Inner Sect.”
“What a simple method! How come I never thought about that? Dammit, dammit!”
“That freaking… I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this that one time. I was injured so badly I was bed-ridden for three months.”
The people staring at Meng Hao seemed to all have different feelings on the matter. It was hard to say what had happened in ages past, but as for the Cultivators here, they had never seen anyone deal with a medicinal pill in this fashion. As of now, Meng Hao had been indefinitely impressed onto everyone’s memories.
As of now, the dragon-carved pillars were completely colorless. The pill still lay in Meng Hao’s outstretched palm, and yet no one moved to take it. This was truly something rare to see in the Reliance Sect.
Ms. Xu’s expression had returned to normal. Without hesitation, her right hand flashed downwards, and the medicinal pill flew from Meng Hao’s hand into hers. Seeing the pill taken away, Meng Hao secretly sighed. However, he knew that in his current state, it could only bring him calamity. Around him, everyone else sighed, feeling angry at Meng Hao. But, as soon as they thought of Elder Sister Xu, any such anger dissipated.
Ms. Xu hesitated for a moment. Considering her status as an Inner Sect disciple, it would be a bit improper to take something so valuable from an Outer Sect disciple and not offer anything in return.
She was silent for a moment, then said, “Years ago, when I was a member of the Outer Sect, an Immortal's Cave was bestowed to me. I shall lend it to you to live in.” She reached into her bag of holding and pulled out a white jade slip. She tossed it down toward Meng Hao and he grabbed it from the air.
“Elder Sister Xu’s Immortal's Cave… this fellow really got lucky. They say there’s a lot of spiritual energy in there, more than anywhere else in the Sect.”
“Elder Sister Xu says she’s going to lend it, but she’s obviously just giving it to him. She just used the word lend so that everyone wouldn’t think too much. This kid really did the right thing in giving her the pill.”
“Dammit, I wish I had thought of this back then.”
Just then, back atop the mountain peaks outside the Outer Sect were the two gray-robed old men who had been betting on the proceedings. Tall and grand, their eyes glittered brightly with praise. They laughed heartily.
“This kid is pretty interesting. He just entered the Sect, but already knows that he should find someone to rely on. Don’t tell me he has innate instincts… Very good, splendid. He comprehends the true meaning of the Reliance Sect. This kid isn’t bad. He really isn't bad!”
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