Fu Li’s handwriting was as stiff as a child who had just learnt to write – when put together, every stroke just barely managed to form a complete word. It could be said that there was no sense of aesthetics. Zhuang Qing’s gaze swept across one of the answers to the questions. He was left stunned.
Question: How should one increase their cultivation?
Answer: Listen to your heart. Breathe in Heaven and Earth’s spiritual qi. Pray to the moon. Absorb the essence of moonlight. Take in the vitality of the Four Seas.
There was a huge discrepancy between this answer and the current cultivation methods. However, Zhuang Qing couldn’t draw his gaze away from the phrase ‘breathe in Heaven and Earth’s spiritual qi’. A few hundred years ago, using the identity of a human, he had taken on an official’s post in the imperial court. Due to this, he was able to get close to the archive of books and found many unpublicized ancient texts. Many books were badly damaged and made outlandish, illegal claims, but certain supernatural stories had indeed been recorded in these books. For example, the story of nine-tailed foxes praying to the moon, plants transforming into yao by absorbing the essence of moonlight, bird yao transforming into their human forms during a full moon, and other such sayings. At that time, he felt that these sayings were thought up by human scholars. Yet for some reason, he had always kept them in his heart.
Now that he suddenly glimpsed a similar saying written on Fu Li’s exam paper, besides astonishment, he also felt that these methods might truly be the way the ancient yao cultivated. The cultivation methods of that time appeared simple and crude, but embodied reverence towards nature. Strategies made up a greater proportion of modern cultivation methods, so the influence of nature on cultivation naturally decreased as well.
As the times progressed, yao and humans also gradually reduced their dependency and reverence towards nature. It was unknown if this was good or bad.
“Boss, what’s wrong?” Chu Yu and Xu Yuan had also accompanied Zhuang Qing to search for the exam paper. Seeing Zhuang Qing’s grave expression, Chu Yu thought that he was angered by his benefactor’s written exam results. Thus, he spoke up, “Benefactor might have been cut off from the world for too long. This… his poor results are pardonable.”
Zhuang Qing ignored him. He took out his handphone and dialed Fu Li’s number.
Fu Li was currently studying. Even after hearing the phone’s ringtone, he didn’t have much of a reaction. This was because it hadn’t rung ever since its purchase. Only after staring at the handphone for more than ten seconds did he answer the phone.
“Mr Fu,” Zhuang Qing placed the exam paper on the desk after Fu Li picked up. “I would like to consult Mr Fu on some things, do you happen to be free at the moment?”
Fu Li glanced at the half-memorized <Graduation Form> in his hands. “I’m studying now.”
“I’ll only take up a few hours of your time. I’ll drive over and pick you up,” Zhuang Qing’s voice softened a little. “Is that okay?”
Hearing the other party’s softer tone, Fu Li recalled that the other party was merely an underaged, parentless dragon. Unable to utter words of rejection again, Fu Li could only nod and reply, “All right.”
On the other end of the call, Xu Yuan and Chu Yu looked at Zhuang Qing in shock. What was up with the boss today? He was actually willing to take the initiative to pick someone up, did his heart no longer ache from the petrol cost of a round trip?
“Many thanks,” Zhuang Qing hung up. Noticing his two colleagues staring at him, he handed Fu Li’s exam paper to Chu Yu. “Put this in my office.”
“Oh,” Chu Yu nodded. Had his benefactor’s answers taken the boss’ breath away?
“Mouse’s ear?” Xu Yuan’s gaze casually swept over it. Seeing those two words on the paper, she spoke without much thought, “I remember that it was recorded in an ancient text that eating the meat of a mouse’s ear can confer immunity to a hundred poisons. It’s just a pity that after so many years, mice ears that possess such miraculous effects have long vanished.”
Chu Yu looked at the answer and couldn’t help sighing with emotion. This was probably the gap in knowledge between the ancient great yao and the new age of yaoguai?
One hour later, Fu Li was seated in a small meeting room in the management bureau. The bureau’s elite were also present. Zhuang Qing handed Fu Li’s exam paper to him. Fu Li took it and glanced at it, asking in puzzlement, “Why do I only have 28 marks?”
Zhuang Qing looked at Huang Can. Huang Can stroked his beard and laughed awkwardly. If he had known that the paper was senior Fu Li’s, he would have given a round figure even if he had to have a guilty conscience.
For many of the questions he had been marked wrong, Fu Li didn’t feel that he had answered incorrectly. He looked at everyone in suspicion. “I heard them say that people will go through the back door for certain exams nowadays. Have you guys already decided on the candidates internally, and deliberately gave me a low score because my combat test results were good?”
Everyone: How much confidence did he have to say such words out loud?
As the person responsible for grading the exam paper, Huang Can made a supreme effort to conceal his nervousness, inwardly telling himself that he could never let Fu Li know that he was the person who had given him the grade. Just think about how Fu Li had flung that Suanyu about like it was a toy, what more a Siberian weasel like himself?
“You’re thinking too much. It’s not our intention to give you a low score. It’s just that your answers aren’t consistent with the current knowledge in the cultivation world,” There was no change in Zhuang Qing’s expression. After inviting Fu Li to take a sit, he continued speaking, “I’ve lived for 1900 years, yet I’ve never seen the essence of moonlight or Yansuan grass, so I’m unaware that they have such miraculous effects.”
“Essence of moonlight is a rare thing that comes by only once in a thousand years, it’s normal to not have seen it. But Yansuan grass is very commonly seen, how can you guys not have it?” Fu Li took the exam paper and pointed at his answer. “All the yao cultivators nowadays like to slack off. It’s fine if you don’t pray to the moon, but how can you have the nerve to say that my answer is wrong?”
“Praying to the moon isn’t of any use,” Ning Xuan who was fond of reading cultivation novels said in a low voice. “I’ve tried it.”
“Then the way you did it must have been wrong. It will only work if you meditate after praying on the night of a full moon,” Fu Li said seriously. “If it can be done so simply, why would we still cultivate?”
Ning Xuan abruptly understood. Nodding repeatedly, he fished out a small book and noted this down.
“Ai, all you yao these days don’t know anything,” Fu Li sighed helplessly. “What exactly are your seniors doing, why didn’t they tell you anything?” They were completely unlike that white ape on his mountain who constantly jabbered on every day about everything under the sun. If there was something he couldn’t remember, the ape would nag him about it yet another time.
Huang Can felt that these words were somewhat familiar. They seemed to have uttered similar words while marking the paper.
“As for the Yansuan grass…” Fu Li dug around in his Qiankun pouch before pulling out a long and slightly strange-looking plant. The dry branch was square-shaped, and there were even small yellow flowers between its leaves. What was most mystical was that despite the number of years the flowers had been in his Qiankun pouch, when Fu Li took it out, it seemed as if it had just been plucked from the earth. “I’ll gift these to you.” The yao nowadays didn’t have it easy. They hadn’t even tasted any good things, no wonder their cultivation was so low.
Did the Yansuan grass capable of detoxifying a hundred poisons look like this? Everyone looked at the strange plant on the table with wide eyes.
No, wasn’t the main point the fact that such a precious medicinal herb had been flung onto the table as if it were a weed?
“What’s wrong?” Fu Li observed their shocked expressions as they stared at the table. Thinking that they were worried about there being too little of the medicinal herb to go around, he took out yet another handful of it. “Take these and distribute them amongst yourselves. Come find me for more when you’ve eaten all of them.”
“Their cultivation isn’t high enough yet, my concern is that they’ll attract trouble if they bring this sort of rare medicinal herb out,” Zhuang Qing collected all the Yansuan grass and gave each member a few leaves, only leaving a few for the other bureau employees. “Finish those first. It’s still better for the rest to be placed with you, you can give more to them when they need it.”
Zhuang Qing shifted his gaze away from the Yansuan grass and stuffed them back into Fu Li’s hands with clenched teeth.
Fu Li wanted to say that they weren’t rare items and that he had a huge pile of it. However, the current era was different. Since Zhuang Qing said so, there was definitely a reason for it. With these thoughts, he stuffed the Yansuan grass back into his pouch.
Xu Yuan silently stuffed the leaf into her mouth and realized that despite the plant’s strange appearance, the taste was a pleasant meld of sweet and sour. Upon entering her tummy, her body seemed to loosen up; the effects were profound and significant.
After coming back to her senses, she stood up and bowed deeply to Fu Li. “Many thanks, senior.” The rest also followed after her to thank Fu Li, especially Huang Can, whose face was so flushed that it could be taken as a red lantern.
“Such a minor thing isn’t worthy of thanks,” Fu Li shifted their discussion back to their original topic. “I didn’t answer this question wrongly, right?”
“That’s right, that’s right,” Huang Can nodded again and again. Even if Fu Li were to say that the earth wasn’t round and that the sky was round and the ground flat, he would simply nod and agree. This round of yao face-slapping came both quickly and viciously. The shame was so great that he was on the brink of becoming a red-furred weasel.
Fu Li glanced at Zhuang Qing from the corner of his eyes. Zhuang Qing took out a red pen from a pen holder and added the marks from the two questions to his score.
Afterwards, the people from the management bureau watched on blankly as Fu Li took out oddity after oddity to prove that his answers were correct, and it was them who simply didn’t have these items. By the end of it all, everyone was looking at Fu Li with admiration. With so many good things, why did he need to be a bureau employee or security guard? Just casually selling something to the Pill Refinement Sect would be enough to make him a rich and powerful person in the yao world.
“Benefactor, did the yao cultivators in the past all have such good things?” Chu Yu secretly regretted not being born a few thousand years earlier. That was a land brimming with good stuff, a glorious time when divine spiritual grass was as plentiful as dogs.
“Probably,” Fu Li put item after item back into his pouch. “Everybody on our mountain was an unknown little yao, yet we didn’t lack these things. What more of the great yao outside?”
“No,” Xu Yuan couldn’t help saying. “How do you distinguish between ‘great yao’ and ‘little yao’?”
Great yao like the Zhuyan and Suanyu also fell to him, so she couldn’t help but suspect that Fu Li had some misunderstanding of the word ‘little’.
“The original forms of great yao are extremely menacing. In addition, they were created by Heaven and Earth, and possess incomparable divine power since their birth,” Fu Li smiled with embarrassment. “Their original forms are all majestic and awe-inspiring, unlike us who don’t look very pleasing to the eye.”
“Then your…” Xu Yuan nearly inquired about Fu Li’s original form. Fortunately, she recalled that this was an extremely taboo matter and hurriedly suppressed it. “Innate power is merely a momentary thing. Someone such as yourself would be called a brilliant younger generation who surpassed his seniors. You should be given the respected title of ‘great yao’.”
A subtle awkwardness appeared on Fu Li’s face, as if he was embarrassed to bring up the status of the past him. “Let’s continue talking about the exam paper.”
Seeing Fu Li’s manner, everyone instantly had a clear understanding. It seemed this senior was truly a very ordinary yao cultivator and was even the type with a very unremarkable original form. This was why he was so awkward when they raised the matter of his original form.
Everyone exchanged looks. In the future, they absolutely could not mention anything related to original forms in front of Fu Li, so as to avoid putting the other party on the spot.
“I’ll send you back,” Seeing the awkward expression on Fu Li’s face, Zhuang Qing stood up. “About the exam paper, our lack of knowledge has inconvenienced you.”
“I don’t blame all of you. This is what those humans often term as…” Fu Li’s expression became a bit more natural. “Generation gap? Is that the term?”
Zhuang Qing turned and looked at the others.
Everyone else nodded repeatedly. “Yes yes yes. Your words make a lot of sense.”
Fu Li revealed a smile. “Humans really are very interesting. The words they create contain a lot of meaning.”
The human cultivators present: I-It’s our honor?
As Zhuang Qing drove out of the bureau, he casually asked, “You haven’t eaten lunch, right? I’ll treat you?”
“Okay, thank you,” Fu Li nodded.
Zhuang Qing squeezed out a stiff smile. “You’re welcome.”
He forgot that this was an older yao who didn’t seem to understand human words of courtesy.
There were two meat dishes, one vegetable dish, as well as a bowl of kelp soup that the restaurant had given them free of charge. There were several pieces of thinly cut kelp littered sparsely throughout the extremely clear soup that gave off steam.
Fu Li caught sight of a pickled vegetable fish dish that a neighboring table had ordered. The smell was extremely enticing. He glanced at the fish and then glanced at Zhuang Qing. Zhuang Qing clutched the menu tightly and remained silent for half a minute before beckoning to the lady boss of the restaurant and adding a small portion of pickled vegetable fish.
Although Fu Li professed to be a yao cultivator who had been in deep sleep for nearly two thousand years, he ate in a very sophisticated manner, somewhat like a child of noble lineage. Although, the speed at which he ate wasn’t slow at all.
After their meal, the two people walked out and had just reached the carpark when a young fellow suddenly scuttled out from the corner and grabbed a hold of Fu Li’s sleeve, refusing to let go of it.
“Big brother, boss!” Zhou Chang gripped tightly onto Fu Li, fearing that Fu Li would escape the moment he relaxed his grip. “This little brother was blind and didn’t understand that you were an able person. Don’t lower yourself to my level.” He stuck a hand into his pocket and fished out a check. “Don’t leave, I must thank you.”
Zhou Chang had been searching for Fu Li for a very long time to no avail. The fact that they were able to run into each other despite the size of the capital indicated that they were brought together by fate.
“Oh, it’s you,” Fu Li took a few looks at Zhou Chang and recalled that this person had once said his medicine was fake. “There isn’t any issue with my medicine, right?”
“No problem, no problem at all!” Zhou Chang released his grip. He filled in a check for two million and stuffed it at Fu Li. “This is a tiny token of appreciation for you. If I offended you in the past, please just treat me as a fart that you released on a whim.”
Ever since he invited someone to appraise the effectiveness of the ginseng and brought it back home for his family members to eat, his entire family’s health had improved considerably. His mother had said that eating the medicine he brought back was even more effective than beautifying herself a hundred times, praising him on a daily basis for his ability to handle affairs. The recent treatment he had received at home was almost equivalent to that of the two years after his birth.
“Big brother, where are you going now, I’ll send you there,” In Zhou Chang’s eyes, the Fu Li at this time was a golden doll that gave off a lofty radiance. Apart from him, no other person or creature existed.
“No need for that,” The ignored Zhuang Qing’s tone of voice was flat. “We drove here.”
“Ah, is this handsome brother a friend of big brother?” Zhou Chang observed Zhuang Qing’s imposing and dignified manner, as well as the exquisite clothes he was wearing, and knew that he couldn’t offend such a person. Thus, he retreated and made another plea, “Big brother, can you give me a way to contact you? When you’re free, I’ll definitely express my gratitude to you.”
Fu Li turned and asked Zhuang Qing. “What’s my handphone number?”
“You haven’t used your handphone?” The tip of Zhuang Qing’s brows raised slightly.
Fu Li nodded.
Resigned, Zhuang Qing took out his handphone as he commented, “Even if you don’t use the call time given to you every month, it won’t be brought over to the next month.” Wasn’t this making it too cheap for the operations company?
Zhuang Qing found Fu Li’s handphone number and swiftly recited it.
Zhou Chang held his handphone and asked cautiously, “Can you repeat it once more?”
Zhuang Qing lifted up his eyelids and stared at him.
Zhou Chang stammered, “It’s n-not your fault, it’s my brain that’s poor.”
Zhuang Qing lowered his eyelids and recited it again at a slightly slower pace.
After Zhou Chang was sent off, Zhuang Qing led Fu Li back into the car. The car was driven a distance in silence. When they were at a red light, Zhuang Qing asked, “If I could be so bold as to ask you a question?”
Fu Li turned his head, looking at him.
“Two thousand years ago, which mountain did you live on?”