Chapter 9: Life-prolonging Pill
Time passed by swiftly, like a white pony's shadow flashing across a crevice. A month passed, the cold winds slowly started to blow across the Spirit River Sect through the Tong Tian River, and the autumn leaves began to fall from their trees, Bai Xiaochun suddenly realized that he had been living in the Spirit River Sect for a year.
He had been through so much during this year. He had gone from just being an ordinary person to a cultivator, and had even reached the third level of Qi Condensation. He had also ended the series of conflicts that had started because of his new position at the Burning Stoves Kitchen.
Xu Baocai never showed up in front of the Burning Stoves Kitchen’s main gate again. When Bai Xiaochun went downhill to purchase daily supplies for the Burning Stoves Kitchen, he once glanced at Xu Baocai from afar. After noticing him, Xu Baocai hurriedly fled away from the area. It seemed that Xu Baocai was completely frightened of Bai Xiaochun.
Nevertheless, Bai Xiaochun often pulled a long face during the past month. He silently sighed in his head, but didn’t talk to Zhang Fatso One and the others. He constantly felt helpless.
“A year of my life…” Bai Xiaochun murmured while gazing at the tree not far away from him. The tree’s leaves had already turned yellow, falling to the ground as the wind blew.
“I am just like this tree and those falling leaves are that year of my life…” Bai Xiaochun instantly fell into depression while thinking of this.
During the past month, he had tried everything to replenish and nourish his body. However, the strand of white hair near his forehead still hadn’t turned black. He had also consulted with Zhang Fatso One and the others about this in an indirect manner, and learned that in the world of cultivators, life replenishing methods did indeed exist. But they either had certain limitations or they were as rare as phoenix feathers and Qilin horns.
Gradually, he became more and more anxious. He started to gain a habit of either skipping meals or binge eating. As a result, his face started to become sickly and pale. However, just when he was about to give up and accept the fact that he had lost a year of his life, he stumbled upon something. It was a normal afternoon. He was going downhill again to purchase daily supplies when he suddenly stopped walking, stood under the third mountain peak, and stared at the gigantic monument that had been standing under the peak. He gradually started to feel breathless.
At the Southern Bank of the Spirit River Sect, every peak had a monument standing under it. These monuments were covered with lines of characters which were flashing brightly. From time to time, these characters flowed on the monuments’ surfaces like water streams, then got replaced by other lines of characters.
This was the spot where the Spirit River Sect’s cultivators accepted missions from the sect. All of Spirit River Sect’s disciples needed to complete missions given by the sect, in order to gain spirit stones and contribution points for their cultivation.
Contribution points were especially important. Whether it was for viewing the sect’s manuals, access to Daoist magic, normal housing or usage of those special cultivating grounds, almost every single activity in the sect would require contribution points. In some ways, contribution points were even more precious than spirit stones.
Currently, quite a lot of outer disciples were standing near the mission-monument under the third peak, their eyes fixed on the monument. Occasionally, some of them would choose missions from the monument before immediately walking up to a middle-aged cultivator who had been sitting under it with his legs crossed. They would then politely talk to him in low voices.
Some handymen were also standing in the crowd beside the monument. Compared to those outer disciples who were wearing cyan cloaks that had patterns of clouds and water streams, the lower status of these handymen could clearly be seen from their clothes.
Amongst all of the missions that were given by the Spirit River Sect, only certain missions that were required to be assigned to Main Sect disciples would not show in these monuments. As for other missions, both outer disciples and handymen could freely choose.
Some handymen, who had been striving vigorously to improve themselves, saw the mission-monument as the first step for them to gain a higher status.
Bai Xiaochun had been standing there for about twenty minutes, staring at a line of flashing characters in the middle of the mission-monuments. His facial expression was constantly changing. Hesitation could be seen in his eyes.
“Life-prolonging pill…never thought that this kind of medicine exists in the sect. Judging by the name of it, this kind of medicine seems to be able to extend one’s lifespan…” Bai Xiaochun murmured. He muttered to himself and pondered for quite a while, before he finally decided to finally walk up to the middle-aged cultivator beside the monument.
This cultivator was currently surrounded by quite a number of outer disciples, all of whom chose to disregard Bai Xiaochun when they had noticed his advent. Due to the difference in status between them and Bai Xiaochun, they did not even want to throw him a glance.
When the number of people surrounding the middle-aged cultivator had been reduced, Bai Xiaochun walked forward, cupped his hands, pulled on an adorable and innocent mask, then saluted the man.
“Good afternoon, Senior Brother.”
The middle-aged cultivator raised his head, took a look at Bai Xiaochun, then slightly nodded but didn’t say anything.
“Senior Brother, there is a mission that asks to search for a few herbal medicines, and the mission-taker can turn it in for a life-prolonging pill. Can this pill truly enhance one’s lifespan?” Bai Xiaochun asked in a hurry. After all, this was related to his life.
“Life-prolonging pill…hmm, there is indeed such a mission, and this pill is indeed able to prolong life for one year. However, the use of this kind of pill has quite a lot of limitations. It is only effective on cultivators under fifth-level of Qi Condensation; and it will only work once, after that, taking anymore won’t have any effect. Although it’s precious, it can only prolong your life for one year so it’s not that useful.” The middle-aged cultivator saw that Bai Xiaochun seemed like a good kid, so he kindly told him what he knew.
“Usually, this kind of pill is only used by Main Sect disciples to pull their elder family members back from the brink of death, quite expensive though. Are you going to take this mission?”
Bai Xiaochun raised his head and took a glance at the monument, then he nodded to the man.
The middle-aged cultivator raised his right arm and pointed his finger at the monument. Following this movement, the lines of characters for this mission instantly stopped flashing, turning grey in the process. At the same time, a jade slip appeared in his hand. He then threw the jade slip to Bai Xiaochun.
“Cyan-spirit leaves, earth-dragon fruits, stone-worms’ sloughs, these three medicinal materials can be traded for one life-prolonging pill.” The middle-aged cultivator said blandly. He then turned to the other outer disciples and started introducing missions to them, never speaking to Bai Xiaochun again.
Bai Xiaochun held the jade slip in his hand and left. His head was filled with the words: life prolonging pill. Slowly, his eyes began to show determination.
“I must find all these medicinal materials and trade them for that pill, in order to recover my lost year of life.”
With extreme determination, Bai Xiaochun directly went to the Four Seas House, looked around in some databases that were allowed for handymen use. Eventually, he found the information he was looking for. The cyan-spirit leaf was a herbal medicine that could only be found in the habitats of migratory spirit birds. This kind of bird lived in flocks, and a single one of them had the same amount of Qi as a cultivator in the second-level of Qi Condensation. It was not easy to catch this kind of bird, so their prices had always been high.
As for the earth-dragon fruit and stone-worms’ slough, the Four Seas House didn’t seem to have any records on them. Bai Xiaochun touched his own pocket, then left with a bitter smile. He asked Fatso One and the others about these two kinds of medicinal materials after he got back to the Burning Stoves Kitchen; it turned out that none of them had heard of the earth-dragon fruit, but Black Fatso Three knew about the stone-worms’ slough. The stone-worms’ slough was actually obtained when a type of spirit worm called the ‘stone worm’ shed its skin.
It was said that the stone-worms’ slough was incomparably hard, strangely heavy and very rare at the south bank. At the north bank, because most of the Daoist magic that north bank cultivators practiced were in the animal-control category, some of them were able to produce the stone-worms’ slough. However, although both the south and north banks belong to the Spirit River Sect, they were separated by the main peak. Unless he became one of those Main Sect disciples, Bai Xiaochun couldn’t possibly get the qualifications to walk onto the main peak and travel between the south and north banks.
“What did you ask about these medicine materials for? You can’t eat them anyway. And, the prices in the lower south bank market are incredibly high.” Zhang Fatso One said in a surprised tone while patting his belly .
Bai Xiaochun’s eyes suddenly shone when he heard the word ‘market’. He briefly explained to Fatso One, before he darted out, running towards the base of the hill. He had been working in the Burning Stoves Kitchen for a year. Although during this year, he had only gone out of the sect’s front gate a few times, he knew that there was a market located right outside the Burning Stoves Kitchen.
Stalls in the market were mostly opened by the families of Main Sect Disciples, and offered special services for Sect Disciples. Some of them were even directly owned by Main Sect Disciples. Year after year, the scale of the market had been expanding.
Normally, when Bai Xiaochun needed to purchase daily supplies for the Burning Stoves Kitchen, he would come here.
Bai Xiaochun started looking around the area, especially those herbal medicine shops. However, after he got back to the Burning Stoves Kitchen, his eyebrows were furrowed and he couldn’t stop sighing in his head.
“So unfair. Especially the earth-dragon fruit. It’s nothing but the fruit of a plant that grows underground, how can it be that expensive?!” Bai Xiaochun complained in his heart.
He helplessly realised that with what he currently had, he could never get that life-prolonging pill.
He did not care about money. Compared to his life, he didn’t even care about how much money he had to spend. The problem was that he didn’t have that much money on him. Apart from himself, he only knew the few brothers he had been working with well enough to borrow money. Sadly, even though those few were very knowledgeable, their pockets were as empty as his; none of them could be richer than him.
As for the spirit food in the Burning Stoves Kitchen, while they could sneakily eat and no one would notice, if he ever tried to sell them, the horribly strict supervisors of the Administrative Department couldn’t possibly let him off.
Bai Xiaochun had been thinking over and over again, but couldn’t come up with a good money-making method except to sell his Spirit refinement materials. However, he felt uncomfortable doing so. He had been thinking very hard for a couple of days. One day, when he was sitting in his room with his legs crossed, in the middle of cultivation, he suddenly heard a the sound of a bell, which resounded across the entire sect.
This ring wasn’t loud at all and had disappeared quickly. Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes calmly. He wasn’t surprised when he heard the bell ring. Actually, ever since he came to the Spirit River Sect, he could hear this sound every single month. Long ago, he had learned from Zhang Fatso One that it meant that today was the day the mountain peak’s entrance tests opened to handymen. Today is when handymen will have the opportunity to become outer disciples.
If one wanted to go from a handyman to an outer sect disciple, he or she must first possess the third-level Qi Condensation. Secondly, he or she must choose the entrance test of the peak they wished to join. Although the test was only to walk up a set of stairs that stretched to the mountaintop, it was enchanted with some kind of magical power, and could make people have an extremely hard time even taking a single step forward. If one could walk up to the mountain top through the stairs, that person would gain the opportunity to become an outer disciple.
However, the positions in the outer sect were limited; therefore, each peak would only allow the first three handymen who passed the test by climbing the stairs to join their peak in the outer sect. This was to select the best of the best. The Spirit River Sect had a lot of handymen; the number of handymen in the South Bank alone was over ten thousand. Therefore, the competition in every single test was intense.
People in the Burning Stoves Kitchen had always held the same attitude towards this kind of tests; they would rather starve or burn to death than compete with all the other handymen. So, every month when the test began, they were always scornfully watching from the sides.
Bai Xiaochun closed his eyes again before suddenly re-opening them. A strange expression flashed across his pupils for a short moment, before being replaced by surprise. He had gradually developed an idea in his mind. He stood up, walked around the room, and carefully considered every angle of this idea. Soon after, his face was filled with happiness.
“This will work!” He pushed open the door and called Zhang Fatso One and the others, who had been discussing which unlucky handyman would become an outer disciple this time, and gathered them into a corner.
“Brothers, I have came up with a great money-making method! Please help me, and we will share the wealth together!” Bai Xiaochun excitedly said after licking his own lips. He was staring at Zhang Fatso One and the others with a pair of shining eyes.
This wasn’t the first time that Zhang Fatso One and the others saw him like this. Earlier, when Bai Xiaochun suggested that they thicken the bottom of the bowls, which greatly benefited the Burning Stoves Kitchen, he looked exactly like this. Therefore, Zhang Fatso One and the others instantly showed interest in Bai Xiaochun’s idea.
“Bai Fatso Nine, what idea do you have? To be honest, all of us are poor as well. It’s all because of that damn Administrative Department! Otherwise, if we could sell a little bit of our stuff, we would be so rich!” Zhang Fatso One said as he patted Bai Xiaochun’s shoulder. His eyes were shining with anticipation.