“Of course 10 million isn’t enough.” Xu Yangyi quietly lit a cigarette, a smile yet not a smile scraping at the corner of his mouth. “But I can apply for the Pill Cauldron Corporation’s newcomer’s project aid.”
“Master!” Li Zongyuan was astonished, his mouth teeming with bitterness. “The applicant for this project must be an alchemist! Moreover, there has to be a definite result and project planning! The team size and the project progress! Computer-drafted design graphing and exhaustive data has to be offered to the Pill Cauldron Corporation for investigation, and each newcomer’s project aid represents several tens of thousand to even a million spirit stones! The regional CFOs of the Pill Cauldron Corporation will lead their team to personally estimate…”
“Are you reproaching me?”
Before Li Zongyuan’s voice even fell, Xu Yangyi’s smile yet not a smile caused Li Zongyuan’s entire body to grow cold. Xu Yangyi’s following words had completely corked his mouth. Choking on them for a couple seconds, he then laughed self-deprecatingly, “Little me dares not to. I only…”
Xu Yangyi moved to wave off Li Zongyuan’s closing remarks with his hand. He faintly furrowed his brows. “Don’t call yourself ‘little’, and don’t say ‘master’, either. It’s unpleasant to listen to; use proper names.”
“A couple years ago when I was resting, I watched a relaxing anime once in a while.” He seemed to think back of a story and gently tapped the table. “There was a toad called Bunta.” 
“You’re only required to carry it out,” Xu Yangyi said without a trace of emotion. “There will never be a pact of equality between myself and those not of my race.”
Li Zongyuan’s Adam’s apple shivered and he said lowly, “Understood.”
“How many idle cultivators are there in this village county?
Clearly recognizing his own status, Gamabunta… No, Li Zongyuan said softly, “Approximately dozens… Mast—Mr. Xu. Are you going to recruit them?”
“Recruit three people with a specialty in cultivation supplies statistics and cultivation time programming. Those from the Bountiful Treasures Pavilion take precedence. Also, bring me back a pill furnace, one of high quality. Go.”
“Mr. Xu…” Li Zongyuan swallowed his saliva and summoned his courage and asked, “Are you certain not a pill-elixir vessel, medicine-condensing device, and drug-stirring tool?”
Xu Yangyi glanced at him, and Gamabunta immediately bowed at the waist, gritting his teeth. “It will be delivered in five hours.”
Li Zongyuan moved into action quickly. It was the afternoon right now. As night fell, a car had already brought the items back with three additional middle-aged cultivators.
“Zhang Gongchang.” A middle-aged cultivator looked at Xu Yangyi who was sitting upright in the middle and immediately recognized that this was his employer. He bowed slightly. “Initial Qi Condensation. I once did the statistics for the Bountiful Treasure Pavilion’s drug ingredients department.”
“Li Mu. I was once an employee of the CSIB’s planning department. Initial Qi Condensation.”
“Wang Chunlai. I’m a retired employee of the CSIB’s computer department. Initial Qi Condensation.”
Xu Yangyi only nodded, his gaze falling on the half-person-tall pill cauldron behind Li Zongyuan.
Pill cauldrons weren’t expensive. Since the technique had already vanished, all of its related components only had a single value and that was collecting.
This pill cauldron was a four-legged cauldron, the surface carved with profound runes. There were five round holes on the body of the cauldron, split apart into five spirit objects of corresponding attribute. The inside of the cauldron was a thick black shell, however, there was no unusual scent at all. Rather, it emitted a dull medicinal fragrance of over a hundred interweaved medicines.
These were the medicine dregs… Xu Yangyi’s gaze slightly rippled as it swept over the hard black shell. Was it not known where that ancient alchemist was today? To be capable of causing the pill cauldron to emit medicine dregs, his alchemy technique was bound to be a cut above. However, with the past several hundred years and that which had transpired in the last millennium, he had obtained this cauldron.
“What’s its name?” He looked at the medicine cauldron and asked indifferently.
“It has no name.” Li Zongyuan laughed self-deprecatingly, “Mr. Xu, as you will.”
Xu Yangyi walked over, gently stroking the cauldron. “Then… it will be called ‘Origin’.”
“One gives birth to two, two gives birth to three, and three gives birth to all beings. As all return to the beginning, all things are born anew. You aren’t a three-legged cauldron, and through countless eras, you’ve arrived in my hands. This is also a rebirth of nature.”
With a flick of his finger, the pill cauldron issued a hum just like that of a dragon’s cry. He nodded his head in satisfaction.
“Without my demand, do not come in.” He finished saying these words and picked up the pill cauldron in hand, walking towards the cultivation room.
Watching Xu Yangyi walk to the room door, Zhang Gongchang stroked his chin and faced towards Li Zongyuan and laughed, ‘Fellow Daoist, do you not know of what we’re going to do?”
“I don’t!” Li Zongyuan’s expression sunk in a flash, his face so ashen that water could be wrung from it. 10 million… His many years of capital and holdings! In a single afternoon, it had been wiped out clean! Moreover, he even had to buy this useless hunk of junk!
Without testing the degree the neurons had activated, a system of study, and detailed arrangements, he, Xu Yangyi, actually dared to refine pill-elixirs as such!
Presently, all the pill-elixir manufacturing tools he was using were all from the most famous cultivation research institute, the Bright Truth Company. All that was required was for a cultivator to throw in the ingredient quantity, and the devices would tune it to a hair. There wouldn’t be a loss of the refined pill-elixir. The difference in medicinal efficacy could be completely viewed in an alchemist’s two hands, and the neurons could sense how much there was of the drug ingredients. A tenth of a percent more or a tenth of a percent less, there was quite the possibility of two kinds of results!
This was already under the situation that alchemy techniques had died out. The pinnacle of what modern cultivators could accomplish.
And as for Xu Yangyi?!
He had zilch! Yet he dared to refine pills in such a manner! Even using a most ancient pill cauldron! Where would the hygiene certification for pill-elixirs refined like this be obtained? Who was willing to test the quality?
Even though his wish to escape was uncertain, looking on helplessly at such a waste of his money was practically like a blade cutting apart his heart!
“Yes! Yes! Do you have instructions?” Li Zongyuan’s extreme misgivings of moments ago were thoroughly vanquished at the sound of this voice, the expression on his face piled with a slow smile like it was conjured.
Xu Yangyi stood before the door, looking at him with a hollow smile. “Remember, you still have something else to do. I hope by the time I come out of seclusion that you have some progress.”
“Understood!” Li Zongyuan knew what the matter being spoken about was the box.
The door rang out with a thud as it shut. Li Zongyuan breathed in deeply a couple times, the pain of dripping blood in his heart dissipating. With both a smile heaped onto his face and clenched teeth, he said awkwardly, “Mr. Xu… seems to be going to refine pill-elixir. Your duty is to record the wear and tear of drug ingredients, classification, accuracy to zero-point-something grams, and the time required for failed furnaced pills… please.”
As he said please, his teeth gnashed in fury. An alchemist was a sunk cost; there wasn’t enough money to fill it! How many alchemists were there that went hungry before they grasped talent? Sold their own blood to buy medicine ingredients?
Restraining the anger in his stomach, on the contrary, he dared not let it flare out. Furthermore, his name had been inexplicably changed! He gritted his teeth and walked up stairs.
Below, the three cultivators looked at each other in dismay.
“Alchemy?” Several seconds later, Wang Chunlai looked towards Xu Yangyi’s tightly sealed room like he had seen a ghost. “Pill furnace? Did I see that right?”
“Hehe… I almost thought I was mistaken, a pill furnace to refine pills… This?”
“Say a few words less.” Li Mu sighed, pouring a cup of water thoughtfully. “Cultivators and demons have a dove faction and a hawk faction. The dove faction pays special interest to the development of equality, and the hawk faction cares for hard-line treatment… All of us are part of the dove faction. Since we’ve accepted this work, then it doesn’t master who’s posted it. In any case, we’ve also taken a few hundred grand in cash.”
The trio spoke no longer, finding places to sit down one after another and starting the portable computers they had brought with them.
Xu Yangyi pushed open the basement door and walked in. This basement had been separated in two halves. One half was a living room and the other half was a cultivation room. Naturally, this was his exclusive cultivation room.
He looked at the surrounding fixtures in satisfaction. The pill furnace had already been placed before him.
Stone, everything was stone. The inside of the room was built with the hardest stone. After that, there was also a great amount of soundproof materials added. It appeared quite simple and crude, yet it really was in accord with his soundproof and shockproof requests.
As he had said, he was of the pragmatic faction. White cat or black cat, a cat that caught a rat was a good cat. The process was of no significance. What was important was the result. It seemed he just didn’t mind things like collaborating with humans or demons. Sitting down on the ground, he closed his eyes, and his mind entered meditation. His spirit condensed in his qi sea, and in a flash the Eternal Alchemy Canon appeared once again in his mind.
“Immortals are divided into nine ranks, paths divided into three vehicles. The Dao of Alchemy is one way, deep and profound. Ancient cultivators differentiated those who had refined a thousand Qi Condensation medicinal pills and made less than two errors as elementary pill disciples.” 
At this moment, a great voice clearly resonated within his mind. Both of his eyes shimmered, and he immediately gathered his mind to the extreme and carefully continued to listen.
“Refine the way a thousand times, and its meaning will be self-evident. According to this arcane effort, this is the refining of a thousand pills or the attainment of the Great Circle of Qi Condensation. Seek a chance for Foundation Establishment. A Qi Condensation pill is elementary craftsmanship in the Great Dao of Pills. The abundance of Qi Condensation medicinal pills a master can refine is different from a pill disciple. The way of pills is profound. A pill that can rouse 70% of the medicinality is called an Envoy Pill. 80%, an Assistant Pill. 90%, a Minister Pill. 100%, a Monarch Pill.”
“A single Monarch Pill is equal to a hundred Envoy Pills. Thus, the Dao of Alchemy is boundless, the path so entered by Monarch, Minister, Assistant, and Envoy. Daolord Ge Hong, an ancient cultivator of the Eastern Jin, once again innovated in his book, The Master Who Embraces Simplicity, of an Emperor Pill that had 120% of medicinal efficacy above the Monarch Pill. Beyond the Emperor Pill was the titled Sovereign Pill. Surpassing the Sovereign Pill was the Primordial Pill. The end after the Primordial Pill, its name… was to create something from nothing, a mirage.” 
Xu Yangyi tightly shut both of his eyes, the sliver of a stray thought ceasing to be. Never did he expect in his wildest imagination that in the instant the pill cauldron appeared before him, a kind of deep connection would emerge as if it was the world. The Eternal Alchemy Canon surprisingly began to explain a general outline of the scripture!
The so-called general program was the outline for a part of the arcane effort and its spirit. He didn’t understand what he wanted to study, but he wished to learn. Yet that which was studied was merely the wooden word-by-word reading of a secular scholar removed from the world.
The so-called scripture explanation was a person of high capability matched with a dull beginner student, taking these concepts and crumbling them to lecture another. It wasn’t memorized and used. Instead, the understanding to truly make one come to a realization was placed within the heart.
Xu Yangyi’s hand carved a picture on the ground with great effort. This matter had occurred suddenly, and he hadn’t made any preparation, while the Eternal Alchemy Canon hadn’t displayed any indication. However, in that twinkling, he arrived at a decision.
Strength passing through his fingertips, he drew robust and vibrant details on the ground. He didn’t know whether things would still be explained later, and he also didn’t have the time to know who was explaining, however, this opportunity couldn’t be relinquished!
“Of the realms of the Pill Dao, the first layer is the western wind of yesternight blowing on the withered verdant trees, to stand alone atop a tall building and gaze towards the end of heaven’s path. This is a Pill Disciple.” 
“The second layer is the gradual broadening of the sash to an unrepentant end. For she, a man will grow wan and sallow. Cultivators of this realm are Pill Experts.” 
“The third layer is to seek through the crowd in a myriad motions to search for her in nought. With a sudden turn back, one finds her where the lantern light dimly wanes. This is an Artisan.” 
“The fourth layer is the inseparability of two hearts beating as one, like a phoenix without its two vibrant wings. This is a Master.” 
“The fifth layer is where the jade sleeve splits through joss all around, the bright pen giving birth to a flower in a familiar dreamland. This is a Grandmaster.” 
“The sixth layer is the minor skill to just idly chat and delight, none the wiser I am an immortal. To take nature as master and follow. This is… a Pill Lord.” 
“Engrain it into the mind, only a Pill Lord’s methods can challenge to create something from nothing, else not, the concept will fall apart. Irrevocable in retrieval.”
Scribble scribble scribble… Xu Yangyi’s finger cut notes into the ground, with the utmost effort. After these words ended, there was eventually no longer even the sound of half a breath. Yet just as he paused his hand, a grand noise like a bell chime rang out again.
“The Eternal Alchemy Canon enlightens, set free the medicine song. Congeal the pill with the four abilities. Control the secrets of the fire. Complete the pill in the essential way.”
The name was terrifying in a simple and crude manner, yet Xu Yangyi didn’t have the least bit of carelessness, rather his expression was incomparably solemn.
In history… these four things were what was lost to the cultivation world!
In true alchemy, each step had to inwardly conform with heaven and earth. Which world treasure had to be put in first and which one had to be put in last? Which ingredients would produce what reaction? What kind of situation would arise because temperature was insufficient or control was imprecise? There was a possibility it was one kind or several kinds. These circumstances had to be understood in the heart.
Congealing a pill was to refine each respective essence of the ingredients, form it into an orb, and how to cause their qi energies not to clash. It was the section on how to whittle away at the minute conflicts into a single piece. The completion of the pill was how to tenderly nurture this piece and condense it into a crystal. Even still, the importance of controlling the fire was of the highest order.
Even if one section was amiss, and granted that the other three steps were known, this Dao legacy could only be gazed and sighed at.
2. Just a quick note I wanted to make. The word vehicle here is interesting to use, especially the number three. The idea of “vehicle”, at least in the texts that I am familiar with, refers to the three vehicles of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. This sentence might also be referring to Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism themselves though.
5. Poem here is from a Song dynasty poet named Liu Yong. I know I worded it quite vaguely, but this line of the poem refers to how a man will waste away for a woman he loves because she is worthy of it.
8. Poem from Yuan dynasty poet Tang Shunmin (circa 14th and 15th century) Some background on this poem. Although Tang Shunmin wrote this, it is referring to the Poet Li Bai whose writing skill was so great that he dreamt he drew a flower in a dream.
Thanks for reading! If you're enjoying the novel, consider recommending or reviewing it! If you'd like to discuss Archfiend, report a typo, or check on update status please come to the Archfiend channel on the Wuxiaworld Discord! Access to the channel can be accessed via the bottom-right image of discord on the web page or https://discord.gg/FKUPcue!