Stifling the fire within their hearts, everyone around Xu Yangyi was even more respectful.
“Do you have a gun?” Xu Yangyi suddenly asked.
“I… I-I do…” Li Zongyuan’s voice fluttered. He still hadn’t regained his bearings from his prior shock. From what outsiders could see, Xu Yangyi was testing the power of the middle stage, however, it wasn’t just this alone. Xu Yangyi was also reminding him not to make any dirty moves, otherwise, he would come to an end!
Xu Yangyi pointed at him. “Come.”
Li Zongyuan hesitantly took out the gun, and trembled for a very long time, yet he simply dared not fire it.
“Don’t be scared.” Xu Yangyi laughed, “My intuition is telling me that this won’t hurt me.”
Li Zongyuan gritted his teeth, waveringly taking aim at Xu Yangyi. He closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger!
Xu Yangyi was standing in place, and a tiny bullet hole appeared on his chest. He undid his clothes to take a look, the flesh beneath faintly reddened. Surprisingly, the bullet tumbled into his clothing.
“Heh…” Wang Chunlai smiled wryly to himself. Regardless of the number of times, this was something that middle-stage cultivators had to test.
At the initial stage, gunshot wounds were still able to cause traumatic injuries, but in the middle stage… ordinary firearms wouldn’t even pierce the skin! This was the direct result of the final ten meters of the spiritual-light sea that drilled into Xu Yangyi’s bones, transforming his flesh and internal organs!
Xu Yangyi’s skin was like bronze and his bones were like iron. His speed, reaction, and power, all were over a hundred times beyond a mortal! A true transcendence! From here onwards, humans, the race, were gradually growing distant to him, a middle-stage cultivator, an outstanding divide. Resisting a gun was already enough to state that he had taken the initial step into the immortal path.
Xu Yangyi calmly held the bullet. In his heart, a quiet sigh of emotion bubbled in his mind. The middle stage… He was finally at the middle stage.
At eight, he entered Heavens Law. At thirteen, he began drawing qi into the body. At twenty-one, he tried assailing the middle stage for the first time but was unexpectedly obstructed. Three years later, he attacked once again, breaking through in one go.
However, he also wasn’t sure if he could say if these three years could be considered within the limit of his cultivation time. Truly… these affairs could be considered matters of the past. The recruitment fight of major powers on the airplane, and his scuffle with Chu Zhaonan. The bitter competition of the Qualifier, Vermilion Snow’s massacre of Heavens Law, and then Thousandedge’s scouts hunting him down...
In three years, there were many changes but also many experiences. Nevertheless, he held no regrets. Even if he was lonely and even if he was solitary, such a feeling as oneself as god, such a powerful sensation of true existence, the hatred he shouldered, and these people showing reverence to him, of any of these, which one of these things didn’t come through cultivation in full?
There was never a matter that the Heavenly Dao reaped without sowing. To wish to stand at the world’s apex, possess a lifespan forbidden to ordinary people, and observe the vicissitudes of the world’s affairs like a deity, but be incapable of enduring the loneliness, then why even cultivate? Why defy the heavens?
The Heavenly Dao rewarded the diligent and was always impartial.
Gently rolling the burning-hot bullet between his fingers, Xu Yangyi then transformed it into flat metal. Yet in the next second, everyone was completely dazed! This was because a fire had appeared in his hand. For any cultivator, it wasn’t strange at all to create the Five Phases from nothing. What was strange was… 
This fire… was different from ordinary fire! Its temperature far exceeded ordinary fire! Li Mu, Wang Chunlai, and Zhang Gongchang were even separated by several meters, but they could even feel the scorched flavor in the air. The air currents in the entire room seemed to fuel it, and space appeared hazy!
“What… What powerful strength…” Zhang Gongchang forcefully gulped and fell back several steps, his heart beating wildly.
This was no fire that a cultivator could ordinarily produce… From its might, he knew just from looking that this flame was much, much more intense than any common flame he could make! He even had a feeling that so long as this fire touched him, it was capable of turning him into flying ash!
In the same vein, Li Mu, Wang Chunlai, and Li Zongyuan looked at this fire in astonishment. It was unrestrained and carefree, and it flickered with infinite changes in mere moments. From time to time, it was like a fluttering butterfly on Xu Yangyi’s finger, and occasionally it was like a snarling tiger. At the beginning… its power was great, and even now it was still great! A kind of terrifying might, completely reserved, could only be vaguely felt, yet none wished to test it whatsoever!
Sizzle… In less than a second, the bullet transformed into molten iron and fell to the ground. On the ground, a scorched black hole appeared. The sizzling noise was gentle, but at this instant, it was incomparably distinct.
Xu Yangyi pulled his hand back in satisfaction. With his initial understanding of the Fire Manipulation Art and the increase of his spiritual sense and power, he was quite pleased.
“No!” Zhang Gongchang suddenly remembered something and looked to his two other co-workers, in shock. “This… This is Pill-Elixir Fire?!” Before his voice even fell, Wang Chunlai’s and Li Mu’s eyes became blazed to life.
What was an alchemist? To say it without the least bit exaggeration, it was a person wholly removed from the likes of them! A difference of heaven and earth!
“Pill-Elixir Fire?!” Li Mu dumbly looked at Zhang Gongchang for a moment and suddenly turned to Xu Yangyi. “Congratulations F-Fellow Daoist for congealing an alchemy flame! Felicitations to the Fellow Daoist!”
Wang Chunlai was dazed for several seconds. Afterwards, his eyes reddened, and he clasped his hands with a shrill voice. “Congratulations, Fellow Daoist! My felicitations to the Fellow Daoist!”
Pill-Elixir Fire? On the contrary, Xu Yangyi was stunned. What the hell was that?
His gaze swept over Li Zongyuan and also discovered an amazed look stretching across the other’s face.
Seeing the look in Xu Yangyi’s eyes, Li Zongyuan’s first reaction wasn’t “you don’t know?”, but rather a deep bow at the waist that seemed to have been fired off. “Master! Pill-Elixir Fire is the most apex flame in the Dao of Alchemy! Although a vast majority of pill elixirs use apparatuses in production, those… are of the common type!”
“Genuine pill-elixir, the most supreme pill-elixirs, are all privately custom-made! Ones unable to be emulated by the use of apparatuses! A grand pill-elixirist has to refine it by hand and seal the elixir! A pill elixir like this…” Li Zongyuan’s voice trembled in excitement, “is valued at a million… no! Ten million spirit stones!”
“As for those who have condensed Pill-Elixir Fire… even among grand pill-elixirist, not even a tenth of masters have one!”
Xu Yangyi understood one matter. It seemed… that those who were capable of forming Pill-Elixir Fire… were quite few? However, his fire wasn’t just any pill-elixir variant.
In his heart, this was Xu Yangyi’s thinking, but his face was still and imposing. He merely glanced indifferently at Li Zongyuan and said, “Have you properly done your task?”
“Of course! Naturally!” Li Zongyuan practically wanted to jump up in excitement! Who didn’t wish for a profound cultivation? Was it believed that those cultivators who indulged in the pleasures of life didn’t hold initiative?
No… they were all once ambitious students, but they ultimately discovered their own talents were indeed inadequate. Their connections were truly too inferior and their scope truly too small. In the end, they had abandoned themselves to misery.
Now… that a cultivator with the chance of someday being capable of “private custom-orders” had appeared before him, Li Zongyuan’s long-silent heart awakened again! Fuck… just this possibility was worth him staking it all, no limits! Xu Yangyi didn’t need any promise. So long as Xu Yangyi said the word, all of Li Zongyuan’s past grievances would fade away without a trace!
Li Mu, Zhang Gongchang, and Wang Chunlai all glanced at each other in dismay. This reversal of events was too fast… They had planned on settling accounts and leaving… but now such a matter had surprisingly occurred! The Xu Yangyi’s neurons had absolutely been unleashed! In addition, the numerical figure wasn’t low… no, it was quite possibly extraordinarily high!
The other really was… cultivating alchemy! What was wrong with following a master pill-elixirist as a hunting dog? Even becoming a meat toilet was fine!
“Fellow Daoist!” In his mind, without nearly any deep consideration, Zhang Gongchang stepped forward. “I’ve already taken the liberty to record Fellow Daoist’s time—the required time. It comprises the number of days of the first seclusion! How much time the first seclusion required! All of it’s recorded on file!”
Shameless! In a flash, Li Mu and Wang Chunlai came to a realization, but… they hadn’t produced this statistic! What to do? How were they going to befriend Xu Yangyi?
Right now, salary wasn’t important; it truly was insignificant. They didn’t even have the qualifications to meet face-to-face with the most rudimentary apprentice pill-elixirist, but now, faced with a potential prospect seated before them, how could they be willing to part?
“Fellow Daoist Xu…”
“Everyone, no need to stand on ceremony.” Xu Yangyi seemed to have just discovered their deferential and respectful attitudes. He sat down on a chair, waving his hand and cutting them off. “Since I just left seclusion, I need to stabilize my realm. I won’t be able to stay with all of you.”
A single word, a bolt of thunder across a clear blue sky.
The hearts of the trio were all inwardly regretting; why hadn’t they made relations with the other at the beginning? He had left seclusion several times, and they were all present. Why hadn’t they realized there was a real possibility that Xu Yangyi was training in alchemy?
Several times they had greeted dispassionately, and now? Xu Yangyi had broken through to the middle stage of Qi Condensation and even condensed a Pill-Elixir Flame! Such a prior investment opportunity… But, he obviously didn’t have a very great impression of them!
The remorse in their hearts rushed forth like a tide. In this half a year of training, an alchemy flame had emerged… Which sect’s Pill Dao was he cultivating? What kind of pill elixirs would he be able to refine later on? Absent of reprieve, their hearts seemed to be raked at by a cat!
“Yes.” Three extremely reluctant voices rang out. Everyone knew right now that whatever Xu Yangyi said was to be followed. Moreover, recent advancement did indeed require the stabilization of realm.
“Then…” Zhang Gongchang muttered and asked tentatively, “Fellow Daoist Xu… may we pay a visit in a week?”
In the past, they had still wanted to leave, but why would they want to take off now? To say the least, they wanted to make good relations first!
The three people sighed. Once they left, Xu Yangyi gently waved his hand and the door leading to the basement immediately shut. He softly stroked his chin, not uttering a single word.
“My congratulations, Master, for advancing to the middle stage…” Li Zongyuan’s heart was filled with unparalleled admiration. The middle stage… Each progression in cultivation brought a sizeable change. A breakthrough in realms was to moreover flip the heavens and overturn the earth.
The middle stage… If it was the past, the body could only be said to be more robust and qi even richer, but now it possessed the most direct standard! It didn’t have to fear light firearms!
With regards to a master like this, Li Zongyuan’s first feeling was—well, perhaps such a master is pretty decent? Especially… since Xu Yangyi truly was training in alchemy! Xu Yangyi hadn’t deceived him! Not to mention making him earn cash, he wouldn’t even break wind now if he had to go sell his blood!
Wasn’t it just Dew Congealing Grass? I’ll just work a bit harder; isn’t it being supplied to an elementary pill-apprentice?!
If Xu Yangyi succeeded… it was him that would always be the constant attendant, it was his initial investment… Thinking about this, Li Zongyuan was even a bit bashful…
Xu Yangyi raised his hand, looking at him indifferently. “Do you have a divine ability?”
The first time they met, the toad had used the Wind Edge Technique.
“No.” Li Zongyuan promptly calmed down and bowed. “Master… the value of a single divine ability is without market. This is the magik treasure that each great clan and major power uses to coax the people’s hearts. Along with supplementary crafts, they can be jointly named as a two-horse chariot. If one doesn’t join these major powers, it’s very hard to get a hold of a divine ability. Among us demons, a lucky person with a high bloodline-concentration might be able to enlighten themselves in one or two moves from bloodline inheritance. As for common cultivators, who would have such an item…”
“Even other ordinary divine abilities like the Wind Edge Technique and Fireball Technique can be bought as long as the initial price is raised, no more than 2 million. Defensive divine abilities are the hardest to obtain, even the widely spread Earth Shield Technique is over 5 million… million… M-Master!!”
Before Li Zongyuan’s voice subsided, his entire body had already grown weak on the ground! This was because a roaming flame-dragon had appeared before him. Xu Yangyi narrowed his eyes and propped his chin with his hand. In the wake of his fingertips stirring, the roaming dragon moved along with his fingers.
The wandering dragon was no less than three to four meters long, vivid like life. It was composed of flame from snout to tail, like a living creature. However, Li Zongyuan, who was rather close at hand, could clearly feel the passing sensation of his slightly scorched hair!
It was a kind of terrifying temperature. He held not the slightest doubt that he would be burnt to ashes! This was a result of him beginning to feel that in such proximity… the moisture level of his entire body was swiftly falling to volatility!
“T-This is…” His perceptions were no longer too important. He looked at the roaming dragon in disbelief and said tremblingly, “D-Divine ability?!”
Even the cool and collected Xu Yangyi betrayed a sliver of irrepressible excitement in his eyes. He clearly remembered how great the shock of Chu Zhaonan’s Gun Kata had left upon the whole audience in the Qualifier that year!
Now, he finally had his first divine ability! It wasn’t the cheap and ordinary Wind Edge Technique and it wasn’t the divine abilities of a low-rank arcane effort like the Hundred Solutions. Instead, it was a bonafide ancient inheritance that far outstripped the Burning Heavens Revelation, the acquisition of the first divine ability after obtaining the elementary qualifications!
No… to say such wouldn’t be totally correct. The first move was the Fire Manipulation Art; he had gained two divine abilities! One was the supplementary Wind Brandishes Traces, and the second was this offensive one!
The wind aids the strength of the fire, and the fire lends to the might of the wind! He had continued to believe the Wind Brandishes Traces was a divine ability, but just over the course of burning the furnace fire for six hours, this move, a true divine ability, suddenly emerged within his mind! This was the first killing divine-ability of the Eternal Alchemy Canon. Wind Brandishes Traces was no more than a supplementary arcane effort!
“It shall be called… the Ten Cardinals Red Lotus.” He sensed the roaring, everlasting fire-dragon coil around him. The fluctuation of roiling heat caused him to inwardly nod. Through special methods to draw worldly qi and use oneself as a conduit to release this qi, this was a divine ability. It… could take the original move of the common, widespread Fireball Technique and transform it into all kinds of different appearances. It possessed a completely different might!
For example, his unique divine ability, the Ten Cardinals Red Lotus, held a strength that was twenty-two times greater than the Fireball Technique. This power comprised explosive force, sustainability, and destructive power. Moreover, it also carried its own uncontested valor.
Upon meeting water, it would not be quenched. Upon encountering wind, it would not be extinguished. Without seizing a target to cinders, it absolutely wouldn’t die! In particular… he still had an idea within his heart which he hadn’t validated.
And that was between these two moves born from the Fire Manipulation Art of the Eternal Alchemy Canon, was it a possible… that both sides could unite? Then maybe the true might of the Ten Cardinals Red Lotus demanded the corresponding use of the Wind Brandishes Traces? Or perhaps… the addition of Life Sacrification?
Of course, it wasn’t necessary to tell these matters to anyone. This was his own hidden ace.
The corner of his mouth suddenly perked up. Since he left the academy, like Chu Zhaonan had recognized him, he also only recognized the other. Back then, that bullet which had disabled him from gathering qi nearly spelled his doom. He really did want to use this move against Chu Zhaonan and roast him to a crisp—of course, the other’s clothes would be lost afterwards, and the gunslinger would have to head out into the heart of the provincial plaza.
Xu Yangyi carefully formed a seal, and the fire dragon instantly transformed into sparks, vanishing in the air.
He silently glanced at the even more respectful Li Zongyuan. How could he be unaware? Were it not for forced circumstances, demons were otherwise no way willing to serve as a familiar. He could determine the other’s life or death with a single thought, yet to have a willing assistant was leagues better than an unwilling one.
Xu Yangyi buried his excitement within his heart. He inhaled deeply and gradually settled his mind. Since he broke through the middle stage and grasped the initial Fire Manipulation Art of the Eternal Alchemy Canon, an esotericism of this divine ability had appeared in his mind. However, another one caused his heart to stir even further.
That was… he could vaguely sense the location of the Vermilion Bird Fire! It flashed momentarily and died away, but it deeply engraved an image within his mind. An expanse… a boundless grassland. In this grassland, a tranquil and bending stream flowed. Behind it, there was a verdant cliff.
Yet this seemed to be a jigsaw puzzle. After his initial mastery of the Fire Manipulation Art, something similar to a grainy picture flickered within his mind. Wind Brandishes Traces seemed to be a hand that wiped away at the surface of a region of grit. He couldn’t see any more.
This place explain nothing at all. It was only capable of demonstrating one thing… He could feel… clearly sense… that as he looked at this image, a strand of formless spiritual sense, separated by thousands of kilometers, even over ten thousand kilometers, fell upon his body!
In kind, the other could perceive him! It was a strand… of inexplicable spiritual sense. It wasn’t strong, and although its realm couldn’t be confirmed, he felt that it shouldn't have surpassed Foundation Establishment. However, the Spirit Flame carried within it the wisp of a deep, eternally ancient flavor, seemingly capable of rendering a man into waste under a glance.
At the same time… a kind of inexplicable intent of roiling heat charged forth from the entire image, like it wanted to burn one to ashes! He only saw two eyes and then understood. This place was of lush green hills and clear, limpid waters, however… this place was without qi!
Anything related to qi became fuel for that World Spirit Flame! As expected… it was there!
“There are still three steps…” Xu Yangyi sighed gently. Three more steps and then he would be able to clearly see the whole picture and understand where the Vermilion Bird Fire was! The ultimate resting place of that Spirit Flame that witnessed several millenniums of China’s development!
These words couldn’t be spoken to anyone… He looked at his surroundings and furrowed his brows. “Why is it only you? What about Cheng Jianfeng and Zhou Tingting?”
Once Li Zongyuan heard these words, he suddenly coughed dryly, “Master… T-This was the matter I was just about to report to you… a joyous occasion…” He looked at Xu Yangyi’s face. “Those two have been discussing marriage recently…”
Xu Yangyi’s hand that took a Cleansing Talisman stopped. This was truly an unexpected horror—no—a pleasant surprise.
“When?” Once the Cleansing Talisman stuck onto him, he felt much more comfortable and asked.
“Probably in two years…”
Xu Yangyi nodded. “I see. I’m going into seclusion for a week to stabilize my realm. After a week, we’ll set off to the Four Great Joint Pools at once.”
Just at this time, two old voices suddenly rang out upstairs. “Is Fellow Daoist here? I, Qi Nan, have come to pay a visit.”
“I, Wang Sanshan, have come to pay a visit.”
Xu Yangyi knitted his brows and Li Zongyuan immediately said, “Master, let’s just meet them. Right now, we ourselves don’t have anything. Other people have to at least bring a gift when they come visit for the first time. Also, we still don’t know how long you’re going to cultivate here. It’s well and fine to meet these neighbors. Master, you are from a prestigious house, the orthodoxy of Heavens Law. You might be unaware, but many opportunities do in fact originate from a few words shared between rogue and fringe cultivators.”
Originally, Xu Yangyi didn’t want to meet them; he wanted to enter seclusion again if only for the medicine-placement hymn. He was still unaware of how long he was going to cultivate—at the minimum over a year. Nonetheless, Li Zongyuan’s final remarks had roused him.
Yes… presently, he was no longer from the prestigious orthodoxy of that year. He wanted to wait until he was capable of refining a pill to get in touch with those powers, admittedly in order to highlight his own position. More importantly…
If a branch master of the Featherwood Guard was moving against him, then what of the others?
Without completely solving how many additional people were tracking him down, and before he didn’t have enough protective hidden-aces, he would in no way choose to casually reveal himself before the major powers.
Extended Note: This is regarding the chapter title. So the vanilla name of the term would be “Ten Directions Red Lotus”, but I spruced it up and used the word “cardinals” instead. The gist of the concept of ten directions refers to north/south/west/east/NW/SW/NE/SE + zenith/nadir, but can also refer to past and future. These ten directions are believed to hold a god/buddha in Buddhism.