There was no such thing as being an invincible cultivator. Even a spoiled child needed a full army to protect him, never mind a cultivator at the Foundation Establishment stage or even a cultivator with the Three Huas and Five Qis1 who had entered into the Origin Core stage could also get chopped down anyway.
Therefore, getting a breakthrough to the next realm was the poorest method of gaining power. Using magic weapons, talismans and other external items were the greatest source of power for cultivators.
There was no way some lousy sword or that so-called Sword Spirit could possibly replace any of those things.
After reading the entire booklet, Gu Suihan had a good idea of the sects in this world. He had to either enter the Seven Kill Sect or the War Demon Sect. The rest were a waste of time, because what he was looking for wasn’t some powerful martial arts technique. He was looking for the long-lost history of the past.
These two sects had been around for the longest time, so they probably had several secrets from ancient times. That alone made them much more attractive to Gu Suihan than the other sects.
As for how the sects took in disciples, the booklet had included pretty detailed descriptions of the process. One had to be tested for their bones’ age, then tested for their gift in martial arts, then go through a test of their will and heart for the Way. After all that, you get to choose which sect you want based on your understanding of your true self.
Testing for how gifted students were was probably going to eliminate 80% of the people. The rest would have to go through a test for the heart for the Way2. Having a good heart for the Way early on would reduce the chances of running into demonic distractions or obstructions in your cultivation journey3, but that was if and only if you even passed this test.
For those who did not pass this test, they could either just return to their own lives and live like normal people or they could insist on cultivating anyway. But choosing to persist in cultivation usually ended in tragedy. Either they ended up being overcome by the demons in their heart, or their Qi got messed up and they died from an implosion. There were people who did manage to make it, but those were few and far between.
Immortals. Humans who became immortals. Heaven. Nirvana. The few scenes that flashed by in that long river of history. The living Way of Heaven that Earth unfortunately encountered.
Gu Suihan had an unparalleled thirst to know more about these things. But the first thing he needed to do was to become as powerful as he had been before. Without power, there was no point in talking about anything else.
There were a couple of reasons why he didn’t immediately dive into cultivation after he took over this body. Besides having few resources, the other big problem was that he didn’t really understand much about the cultivators of this world. Becoming part of a sect with influence would make things a lot more convenient in the future.
The Disciple Selection was happening the next day. Gu Suihan narrowed his eyes and stared at the candlelight in front of him. His eyes were unfocused, but his mind was busy thinking.
Was the aim of cultivating the Way or the Truth really just to become an immortal? After all, he had practically reached the stage of immortality, but the Way seemed to extend much further.
In the past, Gu Suihan might have believed in it with all his heart, but now, he sneered at it.
Perhaps, he had to ask it himself.
After thinking about these things for a long time, Gu Suihan finally put the candle out and went to bed.
The next day, Gu Suihan slowly had his breakfast and only strolled out of his room when it was nearly noon.
He wasn’t in any hurry at all. Over the past few days, Li Rong had been a little doubtful of Gu Suihan’s potential and had secretly brought Gu Suihan into the sect to be tested for his gifting in advance. The results were very satisfactory, since Gu Suihan had a very good Spiritual Root, which wasn’t something you saw every day. Li Rong was just hoping that Gu Suihan would turn out to be a good one too, anyway. If Gu Suihan turned out to be a sham, the people in his sect would just kill Gu Suihan and it would be the end of the matter.
And because of these results, an old man named Li Xingwen, who was supposedly one of Li Rong’s relatives from his father’s generation, immediately slammed the table and got up, declaring that he wanted to take Gu Suihan in as his direct disciple.
Of course, Gu Suihan turned him down. This old man was someone who had been stuck at the Foundation Establishment stage for ages. Not only was his gift for martial arts poor, but he hadn’t made it very far within the sect either. Why else would he have been sent to be one of Li Rong’s lackeys? And this man thought he had a chance to become Gu Suihan’s Master?
But Gu Suihan was still quite interested in the test of the Heart for the Way. After all, Earth was at a stage where cultivation was on the decline, so he could only observe a thing or two on the 80% of whatever was left of all things.
In the end, Elder Li had little choice but to give Gu Suihan a token very unwillingly. This thing was like an exam hall pass. It didn't do much else, but it saved Gu Suihan time on lining up.
As for why Elder Li didn’t allow him to just join Seven Kill Sect directly, the reason was that there were other people from other sects present as well, since every sect usually kept an eye on each other’s happenings.
But more importantly, nobody could tell exactly what sort of heart for the Way Gu Suihan possessed, and whether he suited Seven Kill Sect’s mantra:
Those who obstruct my cultivation journey shall die.
Those who distract me and make my heart waver shall die.
I shall become the Great Way.
My heart shall encompass the universe.
In less abstract terms, the first two lines meant that anybody who stood in their way of cultivation, both physically and mentally, shall be killed without question. The last two lines were about becoming the perfected person, or an immortal, successfully transcending mortality.
If Gu Suihan did not match their ideology, values and aims, then it was best for him not to join the sect and in most cases, he would be killed. It was foolish to leave someone who might become your enemy alive.
But Gu Suihan was gentle, elegant, polite and extremely well-mannered. He didn’t seem the sort who could enter Seven Kill Sect.
After packing his things, Gu Suihan sauntered out of the inn very leisurely.
The city center was already filled with people, like those parents who had put in their heart and souls into preparing their children for the national high school exams. But the difference was that if their children got into a sect, then even if they were classified as Outer Disciples, they would still enjoy the same social status as a court official. That was very different from the results of passing the national high school exams on Earth4.
“Why are you so late!” Li Rong spotted the strolling Gu Suihan miles away and quickly ran over to drag him aside.
“Where are we going?” asked Gu Suihan puzzledly as Li Rong pulled him far away from the crowd.
Li Rong didn’t even turn back as he said, “Of course we’re going to wait in line for the third test! You mean, you want to go through the first two again?”
Gu Suihan raised an eyebrow. It was like he had gotten access to the staff only entrance. He didn’t say anymore and allowed Li Rong to drag him towards a heavily guarded door in the distance.
“Hey, why does that fellow get to go in while we line up out here?” A fairly honest and earnest looking young man spotted Gu Suihan and immediately cried out to the guards.
“You’d better behave yourself, otherwise I’ll cancel your eligibility,” snapped one of the guards in an annoyed voice. He was clearly unfazed by the fact that Gu Suihan had been allowed to cut the line.
“Why…how could you…”
Before the young man could finish his sentence, the person next to him clamped a hand over the young man’s mouth and hissed fiercely to the young man, “Not all people are equal! That young man in front is obviously the son of a wealthy family! Don’t go around making trouble unnecessarily! I don’t want to be implicated for nothing.”
After the older man glared at the younger man several times, he turned to smile at the guard and said, “I’m so sorry, sir. It’s my younger brother’s first time outside of the village and he doesn’t know anything. I hope you won’t take it to heart.” As he spoke, he secretly stuffed a few silver coins into the guard’s hand.
The guard felt the coins in his hand and his expression became a lot friendlier. He reminded the two men, “Just a word of advice. Becoming a cultivator isn’t that easy. Some of those rich families have had connections to the best sects since their children were very young, so some people have already guaranteed their place in the sect. Don’t create trouble or stir up anything if you can. Shutting up and saying and doing the right things at the right time is the one true way of life.”
“Yes, yes, yes, you’re so knowledgeable,” said the older brother quickly in order to sound polite.
“Don’t think that I’m just trying to scare you two.” The guard seemed to have sensed that the older brother wasn’t taking his words seriously, so he scoffed and said, “For us ordinary folk, if we do something wrong, the court will mete out punishment accordingly. But for cultivators, well, they might have found the way to attain immortality and can change the world with a wave of their hands, but there isn’t any real law or rules governing their world. If one of them doesn’t like your face, he might just disintegrate you with a slap and nobody would even bat an eyelid.”
The more naïve younger brother paled at these words and quietly tugged at his older brother’s sleeve as he whispered, “Elder Brother, this place is so dangerous, and we could die if we’re not careful. What will our parents do if we end up dead? Why don’t we…”
“Shut. Up.” The older brother flung his younger brother’s hand away and hissed back, “If we go back now, we’ll still end up being bullied by all those gangsters in our village. But if we can get into a sect, even an Outer Disciple will be treated with as much respect as a court official. Nobody will dare to bully us anymore!” He licked his lips and said a little shakily, “Anyway…anyway, I’m sure these sects have some sort of rules. How could a sect grow bigger and stronger if they just go around killing anybody they don’t like?”
The guard looked at the two brothers with contempt and sighed before walking away as he seemed to mumble, “Tsk, there are always these idiots who don’t understand exactly how much danger they’re in.”
Of course, none of this was a problem to someone like Gu Suihan, who had skipped the entire line outside. After walking for some time along the corridor, Gu Suihan and Li Rong finally began to hear the sound of people chatting.
“How many disciples get selected each time?” Gu Suihan suddenly turned to ask Li Rong.
“Why are you asking?” Li Rong was puzzled, but he still answered the question, “It’s always been a few hundred each time. But most of them are only averagely gifted, so they usually get stuck at the Foundation Establishment stage for ages. It’s pretty impossible to get to Origin Core realm if one doesn’t have any chance encounter5.”
Gu Suihan was rather puzzled by this. This wasn’t the same as what he remembered from those novels. A Foundation Establishment pill was insanely expensive and getting to the Foundation Establishment stage was as difficult as travelling to outer space.
Actually, to put it simply, the Foundation Establishment stage was just firming up one’s foundation. The part before this was one’s human stage, where you had ordinary joints, bones, skin and organs, and it was best that you never injured any of the vital organs.
But with the correct method, you could activate the Spiritual Root within your body, spread the Spiritual Root to all parts of the body and use Spiritual Meridians6 to replace the meridian channels in your body. This process was usually known as transcending mortality or establishing the foundation for you to become an immortal, therefore Foundation Establishment.
Reaching Foundation Establishment was hard for two reasons. One was finding a technique to even activate one’s Spiritual Root and it depended on how strong a cultivator was in fighting. If a low-level technique could transform a person’s meridian channels into Spirit Meridians, that was considered not bad already. Some higher-level techniques were not only able to transform one’s meridian channels, but were also able to transform some other smaller channels besides the 12 main ones. The more transformed meridian channels one had, the faster one would be able to absorb Qi and the faster one would be able to cultivate.
The Clacker’s Bonsai Garden
Today’s snack recommendation: 旺旺仙貝, Taiwan’s take on the Japanese senbei or rice crackers, comes in a million flavors now. But I don’t think even the original is as salty as before because #healthyliving. MSG: ****
Three Huas and Five Qis Translated from: shixiu.netIf you cultivate according to the Daoist practices, what does it look like when you’ve “refined your jing (essence) and made qi your own”? We have to look towards two popular phrases among the Daoists: “gathering of Three Huas in the top” and “Five Qis towards their origins”. Three Huas refer to jing (essence), qi (duh), shen (mind) Five Qis refer to the heart, liver, spleen (apparently the Chinese one is not quite the Western one), lungs and kidneys, or the five elements of gold, wood, water, fire and earth. Indian yoga terms it as the five vital energies (please read What is Prana? Definition of Prana & the 5 Vital Energies yourselves). The names are different, but the idea is the same. “Gathering in the top” refers to the head. “Towards their origins” has a few opinions. Some think it’s the traditional lower dantian where cultivators cultivate their qi, some think it refers to the Huiyin acupoint, or what Vajrayana Buddhists and yoga practitioners call the Muladhara Chakra. Either way, it means that everything in the body is where it is, fulfilled, in harmony, balanced, not blocked anywhere. TL;DRGetting all Three Huas = highest level of control over your mind and body. Getting all Five Qis = healthiest level of internal organs. ↩️
Heart for the Way Taoists call this a heart for the Way (or the Way’s heart) but Buddhists call it bodhicitta, or "enlightenment-mind", which is the mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings (thanks wiki). Essentially it’s a heart that has ultimate self-control over natural human desires (lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life), unaffected by worldly desires and therefore able to transcend humanity into Buddhahood/Immortality. ↩️
ED: This is buried in technical jargon, but basically he’s saying you need to know yourself well, so you can follow the correct path in cultivation and not feel regret on past decisions. ↩️
China’s national high school exams, or the National College Entrance Examination. The author wrote this book when he was in university, so I suppose he was still reeling from high school exam trauma and has mentioned it twice in five chapters. The high school exams, or gaokao, is a very big thing in China. This is the exam you have to take in order to get into university there (which is very big to them because #Confucius), and while it is held at the same time, the exam differs from province to province and there are many controversies surrounding exactly how the papers are set and graded, as well as the differing quotas allowed into the universities depending on whether you’re from a city or a village. People study like no tomorrow for this exam, devise a million different gadgets to cheat in this exam, have ambulances on standby outside the exam venues in case of hyperventilators/nervous breakdown etc. It’s absolutely insane. ↩️
Chance encounters in these books are usually referring to running into anything that could help you level up, including getting fancy dantian upgrade pills, meeting some grandmaster, obtaining some super-secret manual, or being in some extremely dangerous situation that forces your body to level up etc. ↩️
Meridians = Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners define this as the channels in your body that carry Qi. It does not correspond exactly to western medicine definitions of body channels like blood vessels or the nervous system, but the concept is pretty similar. Spiritual Meridians = If meridians are the channels that carry qi within the body, Spiritual Meridians are the channels that carry qi to the world, corresponding conceptually to things like rivers, tectonic plates, wind patterns and the like. Geomancers (or popularly known as the fengshui master) check some of these to find a good location for various uses so that your house or your grave doesn’t get bad Qi. ↩️
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