“Can you say anything other than the words ‘treason,’ ‘heresy’ and ‘rebellion against the Dao of alchemy?’” Meng Hao sat there cross-legged, as calm as a spring breeze. His expression hadn’t changed; he still had a smile on his face. But his words were incredibly sharp. The surrounding apprentice alchemists watched on, their faces shining with admiration.
Zhou burned with wrath, and his mind was reeling. His words began to grow more venomous. “You ignorant youth!” he said. “You don’t even know what it means to concoct pills. I suggest you get the hell out of the Sect and go back to suck your mother’s teat! Wait until….”
His words only caused Meng Hao’s smile to disappear. The cold look in his eye grew icy. “You don’t even deserve to utter the words ‘concoct pills.’ Medicinal pills are concocted, and concocting requires intelligence. That’s why it’s called concocting. Your Dao of alchemy is nothing more than copying. Concocting pills and copying pills. That’s a difference of only one word. The crux of the difference, however, is that your Dao of alchemy reached the end of its road years ago!”
“Lies! Lies!” howled Zhou, his hair in disarray as he glared at Meng Hao. He had always thought his own words to be sharp, but today he found out that Fang Mu’s words were beyond sharp; they were diabolical. He took a deep breath to clear his mind, and then made his counterattack. “How could you blaspheme the rules of the Dao of alchemy? They have been passed down amongst alchemists for tens of thousands of years. If you don’t respect the rules, then you are concocting not pills, but abominations!”
“Abominations?” said Meng Hao with a cold smile. He stretched out his right hand. “Apprentice alchemists, does anyone present happen to have a medicinal pill on hand? Give it to me!”
As soon as his words rang out, one of the cleverest of the nearby apprentice alchemists quickly produced a medicinal pill and handed it to Meng Hao. Everyone one else looked on.
Meng Hao took the pill, glanced at it for a moment, then looked back at Zhou.
“This is a Qi Condensation Pill of twenty percent medicinal strength. Currently, there are ninety seven formulas for this pill. Now, I will help you to understand what rules are! The first formula for this pill requires three leaves of Blood Cinnabar grass, root of Blue Residual, Gyrfalcon leaf vein…. The second formula requires…. The third formula….” Without stopping, Meng Hao slowly recited all ninety seven different formulas. All present were disciples of the East Pill Division, including master alchemists, some of whom were recording the information as Meng Hao spoke it. When he finished reciting all ninety seven formulas, there was a deathly silence.
All the formulas he had recited were correct; each one could be used to concoct a Qi Condensation Pill.
“The ninety eighth formula requires three pistils from Eastern Dust Flower, three Spicewood seedlings, a flaming leaf from a Luan Phoenix plant…. The ninety ninth pill formula requires East Path sap; three years, seven month, nine day old Ink leaf, as well as…. The one hundred and third formula…. The one hundred and seventeenth formula….”
Everything was completely silent. The old man named Zhou stared with mute astonishment at Meng Hao. It wasn’t just him. All of the apprentice alchemists and master alchemists were staring blankly at him as if he weren’t even human.
No one had ever heard of the final twenty formulas he had recited. Based on the thoughtful look on his face, it was obvious Meng Hao was not reciting them from memory, but rather, had spontaneously created them himself after looking at the pill.
Such actions were exponentially more incisive than any of Meng Hao’s previous words. After he finished reciting all one hundred and seventeen pill formulas, the space of ten breaths passed in which no one said anything. Then, everyone exploded into a huge hubbub.
“He created pill formulas!! What realm is this? No wonder he’s a Furnace Lord! This is just astonishing!”
“He didn’t just create one pill formula, but twenty! I was listening carefully, and I can say with ninety percent confidence that all of them could be used to concoct a Qi Condensation Pill!”
“That’s Instantaneous Formula Scrying! According to legend, only Violet Furnace Lords with incredible skill in the Dao of alchemy can do such a thing!”
Up on the stage, old man Zhou’s face was pale white. His breathing was ragged, his expression lifeless as he stared dully at Meng Hao. His mind roared as if with thunder.
“Could I be mistaken…? Is my Dao of alchemy flawed…? Impossible, I couldn’t be mistaken. If I were, how could I have become a Furnace Lord? But…. but if I’m not mistaken, how come my skill in the Dao of alchemy hasn’t improved for an entire sixty year cycle….?”
“I just created twenty pill formulas. According to Furnace Lord Zhou’s logic, I, Fang Mu, am the maker of rules!” Meng Hao flicked his sleeve, sending the medicinal pill in his hand flying back to the apprentice alchemist who had given it to him. The apprentice alchemist clutched it excitedly. He had already decided to save this pill as a keepsake for the rest of his life.
Meng Hao’s words slammed like a thunderclap into old man Zhou’s ears. His face drained of blood, and his body trembled. His eyes were filled with veins of blood.
“Cease your ravings! Everything you’ve said is a contradiction of the East Pill Division’s Dao of alchemy! You’re simply trying to sow seeds of doubt in my heart. Such actions are worthy of execution!! My unfamiliarity with those pill formulas proves only that I’m unaware of where you acquired them! You’re just trying to put on a show!”
In Meng Hao’s mind, this old man was tenaciously annoying. A cold smile spread on his face as he retorted: “Oh? I’m just trying to put on a show? Furnace Lord Zhou, let me ask you this. What medicinal plant were you just holding in your hand?”
“Medicinal plant?” Old man Zhou was so furious that he could only stare blankly for a moment. He slapped his bag of holding to produce the medicinal plant he had been lecturing about earlier. “This is Seven Leaf clove….”
He was about to continue talking when Meng Hao let out an uproarious laugh. “Seven Leaf clove thrives on light which contains opposing Yin and Yang properties. It only grows during the evening, when the sun and moon shine together. Furthermore, at dusk, it will shine with a glow that contains seven colors. It looks almost exactly the same as Confusion Apex leaf and Blue Dawn leaf. The only way to tell the difference is by examining the stems, leaves and branches. The sky conditions can also be used as a determining factor.” Meng Hao’s gaze was as cold as ice. “Obviously, the plant you are holding in your hand is not Seven Leaf clove, but Blue Dawn leaf!”
His words sent the valley into an uproar. All of the apprentice alchemists turned their heads to look at old man Zhou, whose face instantly tightened. To misidentify a medicinal plant would lead to an incredible loss of face within the Sect.
More importantly if Zhou, as a Furnace Lord, had misidentified a medicinal plant, it could have a destructive effect on his reputation.
“Dusk is about to fall,” said Meng Hao in a voice that could sever nails and chop iron. “Soon the sun and the moon will shine together in the sky. If that plant you’re holding is really Seven Leaf clove, then it will glow with seven colors, and prove that I am wrong. In that case, I will humbly apologize to you in front of all the Sect disciples here today. Furthermore, in the future, I will never dare to place myself in your presence.” He flicked his sleeve.
The debate with old man Zhou had long since gone past the appointed time to end the lecture. Dusk was about to fall, and the moon was just becoming visible.
The debate had gone on for a long time, but the apprentice and master alchemists present could barely hold back their enthusiasm. They were virtually entranced with the proceedings.
“Nonsense!” fumed old man Zhou. “I’m one hundred and thirty seven years old! How old are you? How could I possibly misidentify… huh?” Before he could finish, the sky grew dark as dusk arrived. The sun and moon were both shining in the sky!
However, as the light of dusk fell onto the medicinal plant in his hand, no trace of a seven-colored glow could be seen. Meng Hao didn’t need to say another word. The buzz of conversation lifted up from the apprentice alchemists in the valley.
“That’s not Seven Leaf clove!!”
“I can’t believe… Furnace Lord Zhou actually pulled out the wrong medicinal plant!”
“If he can’t even produce the right medicinal plant, who could possibly listen to him speak of the Dao of alchemy!”
When Zhou heard all of the things people were saying, his face paled. He felt so ashamed that he wanted to hide. However, fury rose within his heart as he stared angrily at Meng Hao. It seemed he still had some fight left.
“You ignorant youth. You’re spouting nonsense! I became a Furnace lord sixty years ago. You….”
“You became a Furnace Lord sixty years ago, and sixty years from now, you will still be a Furnace Lord. As for me, perhaps I’m ignorant, and perhaps I’m young, but I am a Furnace Lord, just like you. In sixty years, you will be forced to prostrate yourself in worship to me! The reason for that is… your Dao of alchemy is flawed!” Meng Hao stood. Without so much as looking at Zhou, he walked out of the valley.
Meng Hao’s words reverberated in the man’s ears like thunder. He raised his hand to point at Meng Hao, but then a tremor ran through his body, and he coughed up a mouthful of blood. “Flawed…? Flawed…..?” Meng Hao’s words echoed about in his mind, causing him to forget to even offer a retort.
As Meng Hao departed, the eyes of the tens of thousands of apprentice alchemists glowed brightly. They watched him leave, absolutely certain that in the days to come, his name would continue to send shockwaves throughout the East Pill Division. Furthermore, his future lectures would certainly be explosively popular.
Unfortunately, the ways of the world are impossible to fathom. Meng Hao’s days of comfort within the Violet Fate Sect were soon to come to an end.
A month after his debate with old man Zhou, Meng Hao sat in his Immortal’s Cave. He had just finished with a batch of medicinal pills, and was fantasizing about how he would take advantage of the resources of the Sect to concoct more pills and then accumulate a vast amount of Spirit Stones. It was at this time that a command jade slip arrived. Based on the recommendation of all the Furnace Lords of the East Pill Division, he was to be sent out of the Sect to gain experience.
After being promoted, all Furnace Lords were required to leave the Sect for a period of time to get experience. It was actually a rule, although a flexible one. Generally speaking, alchemists prefer to concoct pills in solitude, and don’t like to travel on the outside.
However, the Black Sieve Sect had offered vast compensation in exchange for the Violet Fate Sect to dispatch two Furnace Lords, one to give lectures on the Dao of alchemy, one to concoct special medicinal pills. Such an arrangement was common within the great Sects and Clans.
Even Li Tao, who wasn’t a Furnace Lord, had been invited a month before to visit the Li Clan. This was of course because they had purchased his Foundation Establishment Day.
As for Meng Hao, the reason he had been recommended to the Black Sieve Sect in the first place was because of the unorthodox nature of his promotion to Furnace Lord.
Of course, there were quite a few people who were just waiting for Meng Hao to make a fool of himself. The pills to be concocted outside for a great Sect were not ordinary, and every one would require the full skill of a Furnace Lord.
Considering that Meng Hao had bypassed some of the requirements for becoming a Furnace Lord, there really was no way for him to refuse the order.
“The Black Sieve Sect….” Meng Hao’s brow furrowed.