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Pursuing Immortality Chapter 405



The week soon passed.

They were told to use the time to get familiar with the environment, but everyone knew that the one-year observation period had already begun.

The adaptable ones had by now not only figured out the rules of the mountain, but were also able to play their subjective roles to the largest extent within the boundary of those rules. Those less adaptable had also become more or less familiar with the regulations, only that they did not get much out of it because of their conservativeness.

This was reflected the most through the choice of tasks. Some preferred the routine work of cleaning and taking care of the orchard and tea plantation, while others were keen on challenging themselves, and only claimed the quests involving going out and exploration.

Because of the "most excellent" evaluation, Tang Bole received the only reward of the week, which created an incentive for a lot of people: they had to compete! This was very different from the monastery's methods, for what was the first thing the pupils were taught when they were taken in by a temple?

The rules.

All in all, a lot seemed to have happened during those mere seven days, and there was now a subtly complicated relationship between dormitories and individual roommates.

Zhou Zhiming kept demonstrating himself as the mature man he was supposed to be: shrewd, worldly-wise, and flawless.

You Yu maintained that same attitude towards life, and remained determined.

Wang Rong tried her best to adjust her mentality to fit into this new environmentafter all, no one here was stupid.

And there was that Guo Xu, who had impeded his teammates while searching for the blood-sucking grass, and one of the bosses actually witnessed the whole process. He had been on edge for two days after that, thinking he was going to be kicked out immediately. However, nothing happened.

He did not attribute it to luck, but was only more aware of the sense of urgency.

Everyone now knew that four bosses lived in the inner mountain area. They were: Gu, Zhai, Qiu, and Jin. Most of them had met Xiaojin, and a few had seen Xiao Qiu, but the first two hardly ever showed their faces.

Nonetheless, the pupils knew all the same that the overpowering pressure on the first day of the lectures and during the enrollment was from Mr. Gu himself.

This gave them a feeling that they were the most unimportant worms down here, while the four looked down from over the cloud. Nothing they did missed those eyes, and there was no hiding from them.

Most of their conduct, be it satisfactory or not, was neither rewarded nor punished. However, they had set up their own boundaries in their heads, and dared not act presumptuously.

The official teaching of Phoenix Mountain began after that first week.

The basic subjects were pretty straightforward. There were three of them: Qi, physical training, and identification of matters. Qi was on how to breathe and the Mind-calming Manual, physical training was to teach free-hand boxing and swordplay, and the identification of matters was to have students know about the characteristics and application of all mutated creatures.

The Mind-calming Manual trained one's mind, while breathing properly could help with sensing Qi in the acquired state. The free-boxing the mountain taught was a simplified version of the forty-eight hand movements; the swordplay was also a modified version of the common skill from Xiaozhai's sect.

None of the four would participate in the actual teaching, and had left that job to Old Shui and Li Dong.

Of the 1008 people, most of them still need further observation after such a short time, but over a dozen of them were already standing out from the lot.

***

July, the capital city.

Inside some research center, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai had entered an inner room, led by the head of some department. Only a cabinet stood inside the room, containing five fossilized bones of different sizes.

"Mr. Gu and Miss Jiang, these are the dragon bones from back then," said the head.

"Are you sure they're dragon bones?" Gu Yu glanced at them, feeling the words a little absurd.

"We've gotten used to calling them that after all these years" The head was observably embarrassed, then asked tentatively, "Do you think there is anything unusual about these bones?"

"I can't see anything unusual. They're just your common fossils."

"We've had other priests here before to examine them, and the conclusion then was the same Sigh, I do wish they were real." The head sighed with emotion.

After the enrollment and the rain, everything was going smoothly on the mountain. Hence, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai kept their promise, and were ready to go to Fujian to dig up that divine mountain at the bottom of the river. Before that, however, they went to the capital city out of curiositythey wanted to check out the remains of that incident of the "fallen dragon of Mogou Camp".

The incident basically went like this:

In early July, 1934, a lot of people found a living dragon in upstream Tianzhuangtai. They then set up sun shades with rush mat for the dragon, and carried water there to pour over it. Monks from nearby temples ran expiation ceremony every day, but the dragon disappeared after a rainstorm several days later.

Then, in late July, a dragon was said to have been spotted in Mogou Camp. It wrecked three small boats, then crushed some workshops, and threw over a train; nine people were killed during this process.

After that, on August 8th, a body was found in the reeds 10 km from the estuary. It was about 10 m long, had a pair of horns and other characteristics very similar to a dragon.

It was not dead when it was first spotted, and was making a mooing wailing sound. It decomposed soon after death, leaving behind the giant skeleton. Its backbone had 29 sections, and its scales filled two large baskets.

The skeleton was then transported to an open space next to a dock. Shengtian Times even ran a report on it, calling it the "fallen dragon of the river by the camp" with corresponding illustrations, which was quite sensational at the time.

However, it was war time, and the nation was in disarray. The bones were soon lost.

Later, the national TV station made a documentary about it, which gave a far-fetched conclusion, saying it was a "stranded whalebone whale". The witnesses received it with strong objections. The documentary was then re-edited, and given an open ending.

These five bones were donated by an old man for the production of the documentary.

However, specialists had run tests on them, and found them to be fossils of wild horses from about ten thousand years ago, not dragon bones. Because of the unconventional donation source, they couldn't reach a definite conclusion of the bones' authenticity, so they had been kept in the back room since then.

As for the fallen dragon incident, it remained an unexplained issue.

Gu Yu was simply here to have a look, and was not sorry about the finding. "The bones are fake, but the falling dragon might be real. You'd better be prepared for it."

"Are you saying that, that dragons are real?" The head jolted.

"Is it still a surprise to find a dragon nowadays?" Xiaozhai chimed in with a chuckle. "I'm just quoting here: dragons are created at the calling. So when our world has a prospect magnificent enough, dragons should show up."

"Certainly! Certainly!"

The couple did not find anything during this brief visit, and was going to leave promptly. The head hurried out to see them off.

Their main interest recently included dragons and gods, and both were preoccupied with such subjects. An idea came over Xiaozhaiall of a suddenas she walked, and she asked, "By the way, you've been identifying ancient objects lately, haven't you?"

"Um, that's right."

"Any discoveries?"

"To be honest, hardly anything." The head smiled wryly. "We thought that with the recovery of spiritual essence and the Taoist skills, we would find treasures among all those ancient objects, but we found nothing after two years' work. We then realized that we had gone astray, for things left behind by ordinary people are mere antiques, and only those of the cultivators are treasures.

"There are countless relics here, but unfortunately, they are all common objects. We then changed our focus, thinking that while cultivators led a secluded life, emperors were almost all after immortality, so they might have had the treasures we're after.

"Hence, we began to search among the tombs of eminent figures of all dynasties, but did not find much apart from some ancient jade objects. Moreover, most of the big graves had been robbed before, so we have little idea of what they looked like originally, or what funeral objects were there at the first place.

"Priest Li Qingzhi of Baiyun Temple said that ancient cultivators mostly lived in secluded places far from the secular world, studying on their own and caring little about which emperor was on the throne. Their personal possessions were rarely shown to the outsiders. Even if they have left anything behind, it must be in a way seen fit by the cultivation community, and would be kept somewhere for the chosen one to pick it up. It was not as simple as opening up a couple of imperial tombs and fetching some antiques."

"Priest Li had a poin wait a minute?" Xiaozhai grinned, and leered at her boyfriend. "Old Gu, I have an idea."

Gu Yu rolled his eyes at her, saying, "Stop that train already. Qin Shi Huang 1 died at fifty. He'd have lived longer if he had had some spiritual medicine or treasures."

"Not necessarily. Maybe he didn't have what it takes to enjoy them."

"Not interested! I agree with Priest Li: the relics of cultivators are not to be found in the mortal world."

"Tsk, you know what? You're getting unruly these days!" While the two bickered on, the head of the research center listened in astonishment. 'What on earth am I hearing?!

'Is the fate of the tomb of Qin Shi Huang to be determined by their squabble? Somebody help me!'

***

Fujian Province, the city of Zuohai.

Longtan 2 Corner was an ancient ferry 3 in the downtown area by Min River, across which was Cangxiazhou. An islet stood in the middle of the river, and it had been built into a park. It was connected to the river bank by a suspension bridge, and was a good place to kill time.

A few decades ago, this was the busiest ferry service in Zuohai. There were eight boats, and it only cost 5 cents to cross the river. A lot of street vendors also set up their stalls nearby, selling fruits, sugar canes, peanuts, and renting stools to pedestrians.

Later, bridges were built across the river, and ferries became redundant. With the pass of time, Longtan Corner grew modern, and high-rise buildings stood up in great numbers. However, one place remained unchanged: the Chen Jinggu Memorial Hall by the ferry.

Legend had it that a great drought hit Zuohai one year, and the pregnant Chen Jinggu set up an altar in Longtan Corner to pray for rain. When the rain finally came, she died from exhaustion. After that, the local people made this place a sacred spot to pray for rain, and would come here whenever there was a drought.

Squeak!

Gu Yu and Xiaozhai pushed open the wooden gate, and entered the tiny temple. The cramped courtyard only had enough room for a big banyan tree, a set of stone table and chairs, and a memorial wall.

Looking up, they saw two shrines set into the wall of the temple. The one in the middle read "True Lord Xu of Lshan", whose statue showed a white-bearded immortal with a whisk in his right hand. Beside him was the statue of "Mother Chen of Linshui".

The two immortals sat there, facing the green river running outside for thousands of years.

Gu Yu and Xiaozhai arrived early and waited in the temple. A while later, the wooden gate opened, and half a dozen people filed in.

The courtyard was filled up right away. Lu Yuanqing led the team, accompanied by Shi Yunlai, Bai Yunsheng, and Huang Huiguangthe former abbot of the Lshan Sect. Mu Kun also showed up, together with a top official of Zuohai.

After greeting one another, Gu Yu noticed the wooden box Mu Kun was carrying, and chuckled. "May I have a look at the sword?"

"Why ask? I've brought it here, haven't I." Mu Kun put the box on the stone table, and opened the lid. Whoosh! The cold and strange sword energy reached out right away, almost as if it was rising out of an abyss; even the light seemed dimmer.

"Nice sword!" Gu Yu and Xiaozhai exclaimed in unison. They then picked it up and watched it closely, finding it too attractive to put down.

It was quite some time when Gu Yu placed the sword back in to the box, saying, "That must have been a tough choice. I wouldn't be able to bear the thought of using it as a tool if I were in your place."

"We don't really have an option. The Sword Seed is nowhere to be found, and the sword alone is not a happy reminder." Mu Kunsighed.

"You've gotten over it quickly enough." Gu Yu teased Mu Kun a little, then said, "Priest Huang, I'm not very familiar with the history, and would need your instruction in this."

"You flatter me, Layman Gu. My sect descends from Chen Jinggu, the female immortal of the Tang Dynasty, whose master was Xu Jiulang. Jiulang had an immortal dwelling, which was the Great Hall of Skills of Lshan hidden in Min River.

"Lshan reappeared every thirty years to share its knowledge with the mortal men, but it vanished one day to an unknown location. However, after consulting the works of ancient sages and running various textual research, I have finally made a discovery"

Huang Huiguang turned around and pointed towards the river. "The Great Hall of Skills of Lshan should be right beneath that islet in the middle of the river!" TL/N: literally, "First Emperor of Qin", the founder of the Qin dynasty, and the first emperor of a unified China. TL/N: meaning "dragon pond" ED/N: As it's a rarer use of this word, a word of explanation. Ferry as in place where ferries ferry :P
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