“These four secret arts are altogether four divine abilities. Therefore, they are the foundation of the Dao of Pill’s myriad ways. I must remember this, no matter the cost.”
Swish… Xu Yangyi’s finger finally stopped. After he waited no less than half an hour, not a trace of a voice rang out. He then opened his eyes.
The black floor was already filled with white scratches. His surroundings were dense with characters. If a modern pill-elixirist saw this, they would’ve most certainly madly fell to their knees, prostrating these ancient marvels.
He inhaled deeply and his gaze was somewhat bloodshot because of the excitement in his heart. Absent of a second word, he opened the door, and with strength coursing through his fingertips, six large characters shockingly appeared on the stone door.
Trespassers will be killed without pardon!
Apart from him, no one else could be allowed to see the things inside! The jaws of the three people outside fell to the ground as they watched this scene.
“What is this?” Li Mu was shocked as the door opened and closed. Regarding the large characters on the door, he said in confusion, “Is he crazy…”
“Doesn’t matter, we just take the money and go with it… All alchemy nutjobs have problems, anyways.” Zhang Gongchang looked at his personal computer as he scrolled a web page, indifferently.
Within the cultivation room, Xu Yangyi cautiously looked at the front of the large cauldron, listening to the magnificent voice expound this most fundamental arcane effort word for word.
The Fire Manipulation Art, the Wind Brandishes Traces.
To speak of controlling fire was in fact to manipulate the wind. Any cultivator could make a fireball out of thin air. This was the most common flame that the most ordinary cultivator used at the beginning of alchemy.
His spiritual sense was like threads of silk, stretching out all around. Circulating the arcane effort, he quickly felt the direction of the wind flow. It was different from a normal flow. He could even feel the rushing movement of air currents inside the windless cultivation room as they neared his body, forming unseen vortexes.
My neurons have definitely been unleashed… He inwardly thought to himself in his mind. After I killed that berserker back then, I had already become used to that sensation which was like looking at a new world. For example…
Xu Yangyi opened his eyes and narrowed them as he looked around, muttering, “There’s no way that the past me would’ve been able to see the flow of these currents… even incapable of winning the paragonship in the Unrivaled Beneath the Heavens Arena. But after that…”
He silently clenched his fist. It was now that he discovered that this already-familiar feeling granted him many advantages! For instance, in shadowy surroundings, it was equal to him having many more countless sets of eyes vigilant for him from sneak attacks in the dark.
“Now…” He inhaled deeply and suddenly revolved the arcane effort.
The wind brandishes traces, the blowing snow cleaves the bridge, and the clouds perch upon pine.
In an instant, he distinctly felt the surrounding wind move. As if he had become a magnet, at this moment the surrounding air was completely drawn to him like metal! His all-encompassing spiritual sense ‘feelers’ were like invisible helpers, manipulating the surrounding wind. The slivers poured into the furnace fire within the cauldron.
Simultaneously, his right hand gently waved, and a scarlet flame crackled and ignited inside the cauldron. Xu Yangyi’s gaze was calm as usual, carefully watching the skip of each flame. The Wind Brandishes Traces was required to attain the most fundamental alchemy requirement, to make the flames within a six hour period not decrease and moreover not increase.
In the way of alchemy, fire intensity was the whole cornerstone of pill refining. When the fire was great and when the fire was small. If these matters were incorrect at a single step, the requirements would not be met. Precious heavenly treasures could only be completely squandered.
The Wind Brandishes Traces, as the name implied, was to take all wind traces and draw them into the blaze via the spiritual sense. This was the Fire Manipulation Art. Xu Yangyi carefully manipulated the trajectory of each wind trace, prudently pushing them towards the flame. However...
The flame pulsed about rather obviously. This was evidently an unfamiliar omen. He didn’t care; in any case, it was impossible to ascend to the heavens in a single bound. At the same time he controlled the wind power, he was performing the first counting, to see how long he was able to persevere.
From the scripture explanation just now, he already understood that in ancient alchemy, a Qi Condensation medicinal pill would take around fifteen days, a Foundation Establishment one at least two months. For Core Formation, a year was standard. As for beyond… there wasn’t any record.
That was to also say that he presently had to maintain at least twenty-five days worth of energy. Only then he could consider starting the next step. This was because he was unclear whether these fifteen days were talking about a skilled pill disciple or a novice like him.
One hour, two hours… three hours passed. The flame before him swooshed and was thoroughly extinguished. As for he himself, his back was already drenched with cold sweat. He stood up and took a long sigh.
“It’s even more difficult than I imagined.” He narrowed his eyes, looking at the suddenly darkened cultivation room. This time’s failure was within his forecast. Not only was he not a bit dispirited, there was an even more fiery expectation!
This was an alchemy technique. An alchemy technique lost to the world for a century! So long as he brought forth a pill, the entire cultivation would go mad for it! Pill-elixirs and capsules, both were simply incapable of preventing the problem of medicinal volatility, options of last resort!
“Proceed!” He gaze flashed. Without any idea of rest, he rather threw himself again into training the Fire Manipulation Art’s Wind Brandishes Traces straightaway.
After all, in the Eternal Alchemy Canon, alchemy was cultivation. His great hatred was still unavenged, and he couldn’t even discover a shadow of his hated foe. His promise to Firecloud was also unfinished, and there was also Su Lianyue’s promise back then. If he even considered stopping, he would be unable to make it through this seclusion.
A day went by, two days passed… a month… two months… half a year...
Apart from coming outside to eat everyday, Xu Yangyi seemed to live in the stone room, seeing no one at all.
“Is he crazy?” The weather had already changed to spring’s end, and all things were flourishing with vitality. Not to mention Li Zongyuan, even the three cultivators were unable to contain their nervousness. This was because the time that Xu Yangyi left seclusion was becoming longer and longer. There were too many times that he actually required the aid of Fasting Pill-Elixir.
Furthermore… each time he left seclusion, while his mental state was well, the condition of his entire person was awfully poor!
Even now, his hair had transformed from short locks to a shawl that trailed over his shoulders. Xu Yangyi disliked this inconvenience, so he’d tied his hair into a braid. If he was also wearing a narrow-sleeved changpao of the olden days, he would be like a living incarnation of an ancient cultivator in the modern world.
There were holes that appeared on his clothing. In a flash, he seemed yet not to smell. Each time he left seclusion, he would finish eating and bathe, using a Cleansing Talisman to wash, and then enter the cultivation room once more.
“Fellow Daoist Li… say, what’s up with Fellow Daoist Xu?” After another month passed, Zhang Gongchang couldn’t bear to ask, “What… is he doing inside?”
Li Zongyuan shook his head, bitterness stretching across his face. In this half year, his capital had long since been wiped out clean. Fortunately, the market demand for Dew Congealing Grass was great, capable of supporting them. Otherwise, even the wages of the three helpers couldn’t be paid.
However, what was this trio counting? They had originally come to do statistics, but none dared to enter the door that bore the six large characters of “trespassers will be killed without pardon” on it.
And he still had to fork over their salary of several hundred thousand a month per person!
The dissatisfaction in his heart towards Xu Yangyi and the unspeakable hatred in his bones had reached an absolute stage of teeth-gnashing rage.
“It won’t do for this to continue…” Li Mu sighed, “Fellow Daoist Li, we want to cultivate, too. We had originally planned to make a quick buck in your place. But at most, once another two years go by, we’ll have no choice but to bid farewell.”
“In the opening and closing of a cultivator’s eyes, many years and moons usually past. If Fellow Daoist Xu is in seclusion for three to five years, isn’t that the same as us waiting on him for three to five years?” Wang Chunlai said somewhat reluctantly, “I also haven’t cultivated in more than half a year… In the struggle of all things, without advance, there can only be retreat. Fellow Daoist Li, after this month’s bill is settled, I’m going to have to take a temporary leave.”
Li Zongyuan was eager for them to leave now! Nonetheless, without Xu Yangyi’s word, he simply dared not play the master.
“Since that’s how it is, then I won’t stay much more, as well…” Zhang Gongchang put on an act and said, “It’s still unknown when Fellow Daoist Xu’s cultivation…”
Creak… Following the rasp of a stone door, a stone door that hadn’t been opened in more than a month opened once more. Xu Yangyi walked out with a hale and hearty spirit, but his outward appearance couldn’t be ventured to be praised.
A scraggly beard already graced his face, and although it seemed to give him an even manlier air, the present whiteness of his skin was somewhat scary because he had only seen the light a few times. Even his eyes seemed to be faintly reddened. Anyone who looked at fire for many years was like this. Under this contrast, though, he appeared to be fairly incongruous. The word ‘terrible’ could be completely used to describe him.
Merely his eyes were like star fire in the night, luminously frightening. There wasn’t a single trace of a dispirited aura on him as well. Similar to untamed grass in the wilderness, his spirit was blooming.
Without a second word, the gaze of Zhou Tingting who was at the side flashed, and she immediately ran up, pounding the staircase as she came back holding a large platter of dishes. Xu Yangyi glanced at her, not saying anything, only slightly nodding his head and taking big bites from a bowl.
He ate with much gusto that left behind a remaining breeze, silent. Zhou Tingting pursed her lips. These were the dishes that she’d learned how to prepare in detail. Still, she was quite sensible, and said nothing.
Thud… Xu Yangyi gently put down his chopsticks and picked up a napkin to wipe his mouth. He faced towards everyone and nodded, heading back into the cultivation room again. Cultivation was like this. After the eyes closed, azure seas would transform into mulberry fields. Perhaps it wasn’t a loneliness of the body, but rather a loneliness of the spirit. Any cultivator understood that only by enduring the loneliness could the long ages be guarded against.
As the eyes shut it was 2016. As the eyes opened, it was already 2026. Such a situation was far, far too many in number. The simultaneous sorrow of the whiteness of clouds turning to the grayness of dogs and the vicissitudes of current trends realized an even more formidable power in the body. It was thereupon in this feeling; how one supposed to know of a fish’s delight if you weren’t a fish? 
I am not you, so of course I don’t know about you. Success and failure are determined. Gains and losses, all care for the heart. So long as the heart perseveres, my true self is discerned, and in addition to all kinds of destinies in my possession, I will be able to ascend to that supreme Core Formation throne.
20% talent, 30% fortune, and 50% sweat. Any lord that stood upon the throne of Core Formation were all inhumans of absolute willpower and unflagging wisdom! Of cultivation, refining was to take nature as one’s master and follow, while also the refining of one’s own heart.
Half a year of seclusion was just in the details.
“Mas… Mr. Xu! A moment!” Just at this time, Li Zongyuan anxiously said, “The Fasting Pill-Elixir is finished!”
Xu Yangyi came to a halt, not speaking for a long time. He even felt his tongue turn somewhat stiff. Pausing for five seconds, he said indifferently, “Buy it.”
Li Zongyuan nearly spat out a mouthful of blood!
Buy?! Who would buy it?! What about the money? Don’t you know that while you pay no attention to outside stuff, I have to earn the money here to support the family?!
Every kind of curse and swear word tangled about in the toad’s heart. The expression on his face wished to curse yet was also at a loss. Several seconds later, a cordial smile piled onto Li Zongyuan’s face once again. “Mr. Xu, can we take a chance to step out and talk?”
1. This fish line is a famous line from a conversation between Zhuangzi and Huizi. They are above a bridge on the Hao River talking about the joy of being a fish, which Huizi remarks “well, how can you know the fish is happy?” when Zhuangzi remarks that swimming in the water is a fish’s delight.