When Mini Frostcloud Sect was first established, there was no fanfare in organizing any entrance examination to enter the sect, but Sun Zhong’s ‘recruitment drive’ was made as per the sect leader’s instructions, and he deliberately made inquiries about the conduct of these people. Therefore, although he could not say for sure the comprehension level, their mental aptitude was considered qualified for the time being and they were all officially accepted by Mini Frostcloud Sect.
Sun Zhong had been away for a few months. After he returned to the mountain, the changes were overwhelming.
A large area of the mountain behind the Daoist temple was razed, and Wu Zhongchun led the villagers of Jujube Village to build about a hundred houses. At the same time, the temple also created halls for refining talismans, a dojo, a meditation room, and other places of practice, and this place gradually took the shape of a proper sect.
Sun Zhong split up the disciples and put them in dormitories, mostly in a room of four, but Song Xiaobao was too young, so he arranged for the other party to live with Gui Sheng.
Some of the other disciples were from poor families. When they looked at the room in front of them, not luxurious but clean and tidy, thinking that they could be rid of the fear of hunger in the future, and secretly vowed in their hearts that they must practice hard and strive to stay on the immortal mountain.
The disciples spent two days settling down on the mountain. On the third day, Sun Zhong led them to meet the sect leader.
Although the sky was still dark, they were used to getting up early on the way back to the mountain with Sun Zhong. Even the petulant Song Xiaobao obediently allowed Widow Jiang to help him freshen up and held Gui Sheng's hand to the dojo.
In just two days, he had forgotten all about the pretty little Jiejie and only liked little Gui Sheng-gege now.
Everyone stood in line, looking at the sect leader with eyes full of enthusiasm, expectation, confusion, or humility.
Jing Yue stood at the forefront in a blue Daoist robe. His gaze swept over the crowd in a circle before slowly asking the first question, “Why do you want to cultivate immortality?”
The first person to respond to Jing Yue was Princess Qi. She said graciously, “For longevity, of course.”
Another child who looked like he was raised in a rich family said, “My father told me to come here! He said that after I became a cultivator, my second uncle and his family wouldn't dare to harbor any intentions toward my family.”
A girl with a pale face whispered, “To have a full meal and wear warm clothes.”
Song Xiaobao also said in his childish voice, “Grandpa said that when I become an immortal, he can be a big official!”
Suddenly, all kinds of strange answers could be heard. Jing Yue said, “Longevity, wealth, and becoming the family’s dependence… Whatever your purpose, after joining Mini Frostcloud Sect, as long as you are persistent, diligent, and motivated, your wish will come true someday.”
All the disciples were excited and stared at Jing Yue with scorching eyes.
“When you join Mini Frostcloud Sect, you’ll be under the protection of our sect. Although Mini Frostcloud Sect is not well-known at the moment, if you encounter any unfairness or injustice, the sect will do its best to bring justice to you. As the first-generation disciples of the sect, you are the cornerstone. Under our joint efforts, Mini Frostcloud Sect will become a top-level sect on par with or above the Five Great Immortal Mountains, and be your most favorable and reassuring support!”
Jing Yue first fed everyone a bowl of chicken soup for brainwashing followed by another shot of stimulus. After the crowd was boiling with anticipation, his voice suddenly fell cold.
“There are both weak and strong points in your spiritual root talents and comprehension aptitude, which will inevitably lead to a vast difference in the progress of your cultivation. I don’t want to see any bullying or rivalry happening in the sect. Once I find someone with improper conduct…”
Jing Yue flicked his sleeve slightly and a dozen ice blades hit an old tree trunk not far from the dojo. He was about to threaten ‘I’ll personally send you off the mountain’ when a little blue chicken was seen stumbling down from the treetops to the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust. It sprawled flat on the ground at this time, with a wing on the soft chest, eyes tightly closed, tongue sticking out, looking like it was not breathing at all.
In his divine consciousness…
“Jing-jing! Ji-ji will pretend to be dead and help you frighten them!”
Jing Yue, “……”
He felt dizzy… Jing Yue steadied himself and said smoothly, “Improper conduct… will end up just like this chicken!”
Qin Yanzhi, who was standing next to him, looked over incredulously, but the other disciples were silent. They looked at the row of shiny murder weapons on the tree trunk before turning their eyes to the ‘dead chicken’ on the ground. The timid ones such as Song Xiaobao started bawling in fright.
Jing Yue took a deep breath, mourned briefly for his brain that was kicked by a donkey, and chided, “Don’t cry!”
The sobs stopped abruptly and everyone stiffened. Snot still hung from Song Xiaobao’s nose but he dared not wipe it off.
Jing Yue eased his expression. “As long as you don’t make mistakes, the sect will treat you well.” He pointed to the several people beside him and introduced them one by one, and explained some future cultivation arrangements, saying, “If there’s anything you don’t understand, you can ask the three seniors, Gui Sheng, Wu Zhongchun, and Sun Zhong. So, do you have any other questions?”
How would the disciples dare to ask any questions? Everyone replied in unison, “No!”
Jing Yue nodded slightly. “Very well, today, we start with the first lesson—body forging.”
The mountains drizzled and the autumn rain took away the last traces of summer heat. More than a hundred new disciples gradually adapted to life on Flying Blossoms Mountain.
They had different aptitudes, but under Jing Yue’s guidance, one after another successfully opened the first acupoint, officially entering the Body Forging stage. The more outstanding ones had even reached level-1 Body Forging stage.
On this day, they gathered in the dojo again, but noticed many benches arranged around the dojo, and also pens and papers and a small dish of cinnabar on the tables.
The sect leader sat down and said, “Today, we’ll conduct a simple test. Those who pass the test can join the Talisman Refining Hall and learn talisman-making with me every night.”
Seeing the confusion on the disciples’ faces, he didn’t explain further but activated a talisman instead.
At this time, the night moon hadn't faded and the sky was dim. But suddenly, light flourished as if the sun was shining on the world.
When the disciples discovered that the light source came from a yellow paper in the hand of the master, their jaws dropped wide in surprise. Then, they were filled with excitement as if they had just witnessed some magical means.
Jing Yue, “This is the Luminance Charm and it’s also the simplest type of daily-use talisman. As long as you have the talent for talisman Dao, you’d soon be able to master the refining method of this talisman.”
With that said, he nodded to Qin Yanzhi. The latter stepped forward and said solemnly, “Each person will come to me in turn to receive a luminance charm. Try your best to imitate the rune pattern on the talisman and draw it on the yellow talisman paper.”
Despite his small stature and a childish voice, seemingly without authority, all the disciples knew that he was the younger brother of the sect leader and everyone’s senior, so no one dared to object.
Moreover, at the thought of having the opportunity to master such skills, their chests grew hot with excitement.
When the disciples got the talisman, they found that the simple patterns on the talisman seemed obvious at a glance, but after careful study, they couldn’t make sense of it. It was like a tangled mess, making it impossible to even start.
Jing Yue's eyes swept across the crowd, seeing most of them pondering quietly. Of course, there were some special cases, such as Song Xiaobao, who couldn't even hold his pen steady and was staring at the talisman dumbfounded at this time.
Jing Yue shook his head helplessly. Suddenly, he noticed a disciple beside Song Xiaobao—Gui Sheng.
Gui Sheng had already lifted the pen at this point. For some reason, there was a sense of affinity when he first saw the luminance talisman. The structure comprised of those subtle lines was imprinted into his mind without having to be deconstructed. His fingers tingled as if he instinctively knew how to do it.
For a full half-hour, Gui Sheng stared at the yellow talisman paper on the table without moving.
How could this be? Gui Sheng was at a loss.
It was supposed to be very simple. There was a clear pattern of the runes in his head but somehow it was difficult for him to put his pen on the paper.
The talisman in front of him seemed to have transformed into a vast desert and he was a lost traveler in the desert, tired, heavy, and thirsty. He wanted to find a source of water but didn't know which way to go.
Surrounded by yellow sand on all sides, the traveler couldn't take a step forward. He was afraid that if he took a wrong step, he would embark on the road of no return.
So the traveler closed his eyes and let the world plunge into darkness. He heard the direction of the wind and smelled the call of the water. He kept his eyes closed the entire time.
In the darkness, lines of red became clearer—it was the guide to survival.
The traveler walked along the red line, sometimes making a small bend, sometimes making a big circle. After walking for some time, the darkness was finally replaced by green—he found it!
Then, the traveler opened his eyes suddenly!
The brilliant light stung Gui Sheng’s eyes for a while but he didn’t even blink, staring fixedly at the yellow talisman in his hand.
Were all the strokes and lines on it really drawn by him? He just closed his eyes and drew a talisman? Gui Sheng couldn't believe it!
The glowing light soon submerged into the talisman. Gui Sheng immediately picked up the sample luminance talisman and compared it with the talisman he drew. The two runes were exactly the same!
“Gui Sheng, you passed.”
Gui Sheng turned around in a daze. The sect leader had stood behind him at some point. Then, he reacted to what the sect leader said and was immediately overjoyed!
He was certain—he loved talisman! Talisman-making made him happy!
However, what Gui Sheng didn't know was that Jing Yue was also secretly amazed. Although this kind of daily use talisman could be drawn without urging the spiritual power of heaven and earth, and it was not difficult for people who were initiated in talisman Dao, he never thought that a person who had never been in contact with a talisman before could comprehend the fundamentals of the runes so quickly! This was definitely not something that could be done even with acquired practice. The fact that Gui Sheng was so perceptive meant that his talent in talisman Dao could potentially outperform everyone else!
Great! Jing Yue was very satisfied. He looked at Gui Sheng affectionately as if he could already see the first generation elders of the Talisman Refining Hall in a few years.
That day, amid the envious gazes of the others, twelve disciples followed Jing Yue to the Talisman Refining Hall with joy, and Gui Sheng was undoubtedly one of them.
These disciples were here for the first time, even though they had always known that there was such a classroom in this sect.
The furnishings in the room were nothing special. The disciples obediently found a seat after looking around and waited for the master's instruction.
Jing Yue, “You have not yet entered the Qi Refining stage and cannot mobilize the spiritual power of heaven and earth, so the talismans you can refine now are only daily talismans that are of little use to cultivators. Although the daily talisman doesn’t have the effect of attack and defense, it can make the life of mortals more convenient. For instance, the luminance charm can replace lamps and candles, warming charms can prevent the cold in winter, cleaning charms can keep the clothes spotless, body protection charm can prevent minor disasters and illnesses…”
Jing Yue quoted more than a dozen examples in a row and the eyes of the disciples gleamed.
He had thought about it. Mini Frostcloud Sect could first use the daily talisman to build a reputation. When the time was ripe, they would gradually launch some spiritual talisman and sell it to the cultivation world.
“Every talisman you make will earn you corresponding merit points of the sect. The function of the merit points will be announced later. In short, you can trade for all sorts of cultivations resources with it. Similarly, you can also ask other disciples to help you collect the materials you need to refine talismans, but you also have to pay a certain number of merit points.”
When the disciples heard this, they knew that the talisman refining had little effect on cultivation progress. The only worries in their hearts disappeared and they were all overjoyed.
The disciples were enthusiastic about learning. As time went on, they gradually understood more about talisman-making. Daily talismans finally began to make an appearance in Chen, Xiang, and Qi Kingdoms.
Capital City, Xiang Kingdom.
Plum blossom petals fluttered in the cold wind outside but it was warm in the Autumn Palace.
The emperor of the Xiang leaned on the soft cushion with a look of enjoyment. “The product from the immortal mountain is really good. This warming charm is not dry, long-lasting, and the heat is very well-balanced, just like the seasons of spring and autumn.”
The graceful woman sitting opposite him said, “This is to be expected. After all, this talisman is made by an immortal. This concubine heard that many foreign merchants have come to Xiang, Chen, and Qi to purchase Mini Frostcloud Sect's talismans, so it’s clear that there are no such useful charms elsewhere.”
She suddenly lowered her voice, “Your Majesty, about that matter, do you think that we should…”
Despite the unfinished sentence, the emperor clearly understood what she meant and said after a moment of contemplation, “Let’s wait and see.”
The woman continued, “Although Tiangang Sect is strong, it’s far away in the mountains and they have many vassals under their care, so it has always left us to fend for ourselves. But Mini Frostcloud Sect is in the territory of Chen, very close to us, and now it has good talisman-making skills. Even though they are still weak now, they may not be inferior to Tiangang Sect in the future. Since we are in the right time and the right place, why don't we offer our goodwill as soon as possible?”
The emperor frowned. “Mini Frostcloud Sect may be weak, but they are still an immortal gate. How can mortals like us approach them just like that?”
The woman smiled. “Your Majesty might have heard of a young elder in Mini Frostcloud Sect who is the eldest son of the imperial merchant Yuan family before he joined the immortal gate. Yuan Genzhu was a villager who is now in full control of Xiang’s talisman business, most likely as a favor to his eldest son. Why don’t we ask him to explore this option for us?”
The emperor was silent for a long time before he said, “This matter is related to my royal family's foundation. Let’s wait and see…”
Jing-jing: Everyone says I'm a scumbag.
Ji-ji: Actually Jing-jing is not.
Rouge: It should be Song Xiaobao. When we watched the moon together back then, he used to call people Little Jiejie. Now, I’m Qin-shishu^.
Jing-jing: He called you Little Jiejie?
Ji-ji: You watched the moon with him?
Rouge: … No! Delete the above!
(TN: Shishu 师叔 = martial uncle)