Immediately, conversations rippled through the crowd.
“He’s actually charging a fee!!”
“Doggone-it! How shameless! How fake!”
“Let’s go to some other peak. None of the other alchemists charge merit points!”
Almost immediately, tens of thousands of apprentice alchemists flicked their sleeves and left. Meng Hao watched them leave and sighed.
“These Fang Clan people are so stingy,” he thought. “There were so many people before, but as soon as I mentioned charging merit points, so many of them just got up and left….”
In the end, only about a thousand people remained behind. To them, one merit point wasn’t very much; considering it was Meng Hao who was lecturing, they felt it was worth it.
This time, Meng Hao lectured for six hours, after which, he collected several thousand merit points, then left the Dao of Alchemy Division and returned to his Immortal’s cave. A few hours later, Fang Xi returned, looking both excited and cautious at the same time. The parrot perched on one of his shoulders, the meat jelly on the other. He looked very proud of himself.
“Coz! We really made a profit this time!”
Meng Hao laughed, and his eyes glowed with bright light. In the Fang Clan, merit points were essentially the same thing as spirit stones, or even Immortal jades. Anything you wanted required an exchange of merit points.
Meng Hao waved his sleeve, producing a jade medallion. After scanning it with divine sense, he partitioned a hundred merit points and transferred them to Fang Xi.
“We need to make sure the apprentice alchemists you hired don’t get discouraged. Tell them that the better they do in promoting me, the more merit points they can earn.”
Fang Xi was actually quite excited. He had never before thought of using such a method to earn merit points. Normally speaking, the most he could ever get in a one-month period was about five hundred. But just now, it only took about six hours to make several thousand. To him, it made Meng Hao even more enigmatic than before.
It was at this point that Fang Xi said, “Coz, I promised them ten points apiece….”
“Don’t be stingy, Fang Xi,” Meng Hao replied, sounding very solemn. “Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re simply too stingy. You need to think big! It’s just a bit of money, right?! If cultivators like us are constantly thinking about material things, then how can we ever increase our cultivation base?”
Fang Xi gaped for a moment in hesitation, but couldn’t hold back from carefully saying, “Coz, what I mean is… you didn’t give enough. I promised them ten per person, and I hired 173 people….”
Meng Hao’s face immediately flickered, and he said nothing for a moment.
His silence caused Fang Xi to immediately get nervous, and he quickly continued, “Coz, I know I messed up. Next time I hire them, I’ll tell them it’ll be fifty per person.”
Meng Hao’s cheek suddenly twitched. Taking a deep breath, he looked at Fang Xi and sincerely said, “Fang Xi, listen. You haven’t lived the hard life, so you don’t know how difficult things can be. Do you know what cultivators like us use up the most? Resources! Spirit Stones! Immortal jades!
“If you want to be stronger than everyone else, then you need more spirit stones! More resources! That’s the path to power!
“Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to learn how to work hard and live a simple life! Be diligent, thrifty! Learn how to take only one merit point, and split it ten ways! That’s how cultivators like us can reach the top and stay there!” Meng Hao patted Fang Xi’s shoulder. Suppressing the inward pain he felt, he took out his command medallion and once again sent his divine sense out, causing a thousand merit points to transfer over.
“Remember what I just told you,” Meng Hao urged. “One merit point, split ten ways…. You can’t just throw your money away!”
Fang Xi gaped at Meng Hao in utter shock. The words he had spoken just now were the complete opposite of what he had said before. And yet, both made sense.
In the end, Meng Hao couldn’t hold back from adding, “Next time you hire people, it’s one merit point per person. That should be enough.”
Sighing, he turned and headed into his residence.
Of the more than three thousand merit points he had started out with, he now had less than half left. It was quite a blow.
Add to that the fact that later that night, Meng Hao had to duplicate more Spirit Elixir to use on the Nirvana Fruit, and the result was that by the following day, his bag of holding once again seemed sadly shrunken. By that time, Meng Hao truly felt as if he were about to go crazy.
He loved spirit stones, and loved being wealthy. Furthermore, what he loved least was spending his spirit stones….
To him, it felt like draining out his own blood.
At dawn, Meng Hao emerged. When Fang Xi saw him, he stared in shock.
“Coz, what’s wrong?” he asked, concerned.
Meng Hao’s eyes were completely red, and his expression had become somewhat vicious. He took a deep breath and cleared his head. Deep within his eyes, a brilliant light flickered.
“I HAVE to get rich! I HAVE to get merit points!!”
Meng Hao returned to the Dao of Alchemy Division, and to Peak #7191. Yet again, he lectured about plants and vegetation. However, this time, there were actually fewer people than last time, only about nine hundred.
There wasn’t much he could do. In order to get as many merit points as possible, he lectured for an entire day before leaving in exhaustion.
Each time he came after that, there were fewer people. After about a month, there were just over four hundred people who came, causing Meng Hao to sigh. The ones that stayed behind were the original group of apprentice alchemists, the ones whose fervor toward Meng Hao was the most intense.
Among their number was also tier 1 alchemist Fang Qun, who fairly worshipped Meng Hao.
After finishing his lecture, Meng Hao didn’t leave. Instead, he went to Fang Qun’s Immortal’s cave and directly asked some questions.
“Fang Qun, in the Fang Clan’s Dao of alchemy division, how do apprentice alchemists get promoted to full alchemist?”
Fang Qun always treated Meng Hao very respectfully. Despite his surprise about the question, he quickly answered.
“To become a full alchemist, you have to concoct at least a thousand tier 1 medicinal pills, and must also pass through the first level of the Medicine Pavilion.
“The first thing to do is pass through the Medicine Pavilion. That indicates that your skill with plants and vegetation has reached the level of a tier 1 alchemist.
“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult. Anyone in the Dao of Alchemy Division who hasn’t studied plants and vegetation for at least ten years would have a very hard time passing the first level. Take me, for example. I can concoct tier 2 medicinal pills, although my success rate isn’t very high. However, despite my best efforts, I barely passed the examination of the Medicine Pavilion. Due to my lack of skill in plants and vegetation, I wasn’t able to get past the second level, and in the end, I became a tier 1 alchemist.” Fang Qun chuckled bitterly.
“Medicine Pavilion?” asked Meng Hao, his eyes sparkling. “How do you get into it?”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a full alchemist or an apprentice alchemist, anyone can enter the pavilion at any time. The Medicine Pavilion was set up in the past by a Patriarch of the Dao of Alchemy Division. It tests everything that you can think of, and has nine levels, which corresponds to the nine tiers for alchemists.
“Anyone who feels confident enough, can pay one hundred merit points to go to the inner mountains and take the Medicine Pavilion trial by fire.
“It’s extremely hard,” said Fang Qun, lowering his voice. “Of all the apprentice alchemists from Peak #7191, only about seven or eight might be able to attempt it, and that would only be after another ten or more years of study. As for the rest, most would need dozens of years of study before they could even think about trying. If you were to try to brute-force imprint your memory with knowledge, your mental world would burst from being overwhelmed by the infinite possible varieties of plants and vegetation. Unless your cultivation base is at an unfathomable level, of course.”
Meng Hao knew that when it came to plants and vegetation, there were endless variations, which were hard to imprint with spiritual sense. After hearing Fang Qun’s explanation, Meng Hao began to mutter to himself. Then, a plan started to form in his mind.
“Is there any other way to become a full alchemist?” Meng Hao asked.
“Other ways…?” Fang Qun thought for a moment, and then his eyes brightened. However, they grew dull again just as quickly. “There is, but it’s too difficult. In fact, it’s impossible to succeed that way.
“For tens of thousands of years, there have been three specific medicinal pills in the Dao of Alchemy Division which, if any full alchemist or apprentice alchemist can concoct, will allow them to immediately be promoted to tier 8 alchemist. That person would instantly become famous in the entire clan.
“Those three pills are famous pills concocted by past Patriarchs. Unfortunately, even though they left pill formulas behind after they perished, no one has been able to successfully concoct them.
“In all of Planet East Victory, even the Medicine Immortal Sect is only capable of concocting two of those pills. Of course, even though the Medicine Immortal Sect has its roots in the Fang Clan, and might even be considered a branch of the sect and a part of our Dao of alchemy, they are still almost considered outsiders. The fact that they can concoct pills that we cannot is somewhat disgraceful.
“That’s why those three pill formulas were placed in the Pill Pavilion. The clan has posted incredible rewards for concocting them. Supposedly, the reward for even the most simple of the three includes Immortal jade, tons of spirit stones, and 5,000,000 merit points, not to mention vast quantities of medicinal plants, magical items, and technique manuals.
“Unfortunately, after all these tens of thousands of years, nobody has ever succeeded. Even our only tier 9 alchemist, Pill Elder Fang Danyun, had to admit that he can’t concoct them.” 1
Fang Qun shook his head.
Meng Hao’s eyes glittered and then almost seemed to glaze over.
“Another thing: because the cost of the medicinal plant ingredients is so high, anyone who attempts to concoct the simplest of those pills is must put up 1,000,000 merit points as a collateral. Regardless of whether they succeed or fail, the merit points will be erased.”
When Meng Hao heard that, he felt like someone had grabbed him by the neck and started squeezing down tightly. It took him a long moment before he could breathe again.
“Merit points! Merit points again!!” He suddenly frowned, and pushed down the impulsive feelings rising up in his heart. After spending a bit of time planning, his eyes began to glitter.
“Take me to the Medicine Pavilion!” he suddenly said.
“You… you want to try to challenge the Medicine Pavilion!?” asked Fang Qun, looking shocked. Then, he suddenly looked excited. He was well aware that he had no idea as to the limits of Meng Hao’s skill in plants and vegetation.
“Try to challenge the Medicine Pavilion?” Meng Hao replied, sounding surprised. “What, are you going to pay for it? Nah, I’m not going to try to challenge it, I’m just going to take a look at the first level.” With that, Meng Hao flew out of the Immortal’s cave.
“Uh… no, I’m not going to pay for it….” Fang Qun hurried to follow as Meng Hao shot through the mountains.
Soon, two mountain peaks appeared ahead of Meng Hao, between which was an enormous treasure pavilion, floating there in mid air, emanating brilliant and colorful light. Clouds and mist floated around it, and it truly looked like an abode of Immortals.
Two old men sat cross-legged outside of the treasure pavilion, next to an enormous stone slab.
“This is the Medicine Pavilion,” Fang Qun said softly, a pious look in his eyes. “According to the stories, this pavilion is actually a magical item, a precious treasure that the first generation Patriarch brought from off planet. It was originally owned by someone else, and had always attempted to fly away to rejoin him. However, after the Patriarch passed away in meditation, it has remained locked in place here, floating in midair and unable to go anywhere.”
Meng Hao’s eyes flickered, and he flew up into the air directly toward the Medicine Pavilion. As soon as he got close, an incredibly powerful medicinal aroma hit him in the face. In the blink of an eye, he sensed millions upon millions of different types of medicinal aromas all mixed together.
“So many types of plants and vegetation!” thought Meng Hao with a gasp. He was still outside, and yet could already tell how terrifying it must be inside.
As he neared, the two old men who acted as guards outside the Medicine Pavilion opened their eyes. They appeared to be incredibly ancient, as if they were Immortal Divinities with unfathomable cultivation bases. From what he could tell, they were even more powerful than the Grand Elder.
His face solemn, he clasped hands and bowed.
The two old men looked over Meng Hao, and it almost seemed as if they could see through him. Finally, they retracted their gazes and closed their eyes. Meng Hao took a deep breath and then looked at the huge stone stele that rested off to the side.
The stone stele was divided into nine levels, upon each of which were written names. The first level had the most names, hundreds of thousands of them. After the first level, the higher you went, the fewer names there were, and some of the names were gray-colored. On the ninth level, there were ten names, with nine being gray, and one shining brightly.
Fang Danyun’s name in Chinese is 方丹云 fāng dān yún. Dan means ‘pill.’ Yun means ‘cloud’ ↩