Chapter 40 - Pursuing perfection
Humming a melody, Bai Xiaochun joyfully stepped through the sect doors. When he returned to his courtyard, he couldn’t help but lament.
“Cultivation is for the sake of immortality, these people, who always go on about fighting and killing, must have something wrong with their heads.”
In his courtyard, Bai Xiaochun organised the storage pouches of Chen Fei and his gang. These three people weren’t wealthy and their pockets were rather shallow. Even though the loot this time wasn’t large, Bai Xiaochun wasn’t particularly disappointed with it. He took out the medicinal plants he bought, and looked at them closely as he held them in his hand, thoroughly inspecting each and every one of them.
Although he had a strong foundation in plants and herbs, he still didn’t have many opportunities to truly come in contact with actual medicinal plants and herbs. And at this moment, as he studied the medicinal plants, his observations and analysis gradually merged with the knowledge in his mind. He even lightly slit open the plants and conscientiously observed its inner structures.
After consolidating his knowledge of all of them, Bai Xiaochun fell deep in thought as he took out the two medicinal recipes. He only took a single glance towards the medicinal recipe for the Spirit Replenishing Pill, then shifted his attention onto the medicinal recipe for strengthening a mortal’s body.
“Longevity Incense Stick……” Bai Xiaochun murmured softly; this medicinal recipe did not require a lot of medicinal plants - only seven kinds - and it did not have any unique points when it came to mixing the plants. This medicinal recipe only used the principle of allelopathy to maximise the strength of these seven types of medicinal plants by grounding them into powder and then coagulating it into an incense.
(ED note: Allelopathy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allelopathy) is the chemical inhibition of a plant (or other organism) by another, when exposed to substances acting as germination or growth inhibitors.)
Especially for two of the plant types in the medicinal recipe, they were actually poisonous. Although it wasn’t any kind of lethal poison for cultivators, one would still get diarrhea for about half a month. But for ordinary people, such poison could be a threat to their lives.
“Between the Heavens and the Earth, there is a boundless diversity of spirit plants and herbs; some can be eaten directly, some can be refined into pills for a better effect, and some, due to their poisonous content, can only be refined into incenses.” Bai Xiaochun pondered as he carefully scrutinised each and every medicinal grass used to refine the Longevity Incense Stick, until he could understand each of these seven types of medicinal grass down to the last detail.
“It’s still not safe. The main point of refining medicine is the success rate of completing the medicine, and even if it is just the most simple Grade One spirit medicine, there still exists a high risk of failure.”
“I only have ten sets of each type of medicinal grass, I can’t afford to be wasteful.” Bai Xiaochun’s personality has always been a cautious - one that seeks safety and stability. When he was memorising the plants and herbs, he made sure to remember them down to the finest detail. And at this moment, before Bai Xiaochun started refining medicine, he first approached the subject with a similar attitude - choosing not to start the refinement immediately, instead, thoroughly studying the medicinal recipe.
Time passed, one day after the other, until seven days later, he had completely comprehended the medicinal recipe; Bai Xiaochun had closed his eyes as he continuously analysed and simulated the medicinal recipe in his mind. Not until the sun was about to set did Bai Xiaochun finally opened his eyes again. After thinking for a moment, he took out the medicinal recipe for the Spirit Replenishing Pill and started studying again.
Half a month later, blood vessels filled Bai Xiaochun’s eyes; he had thoroughly comprehended both recipes and the medicinal plants they required. After pondering for a short moment, he suddenly stood up and walked out of his courtyard.
Medicine refinement required a pill furnace, however, the price of a pill furnace was not cheap and Bai Xiaochun could not afford to obtain one. Luckily, within the sect, there was a Medicine Refinement Pavilion specifically built for disciples to refine their medicine. A disciple only had to spend a certain amount of contribution points in exchange for the opportunity to refine medicine within the pavilion.
The Medicine Refinement Pavilion lay on the eastern side of the Scented Cloud Mountain, which was not too far away from where Bai Xiaochun stayed. The Medicine Refinement Pavilion was also peaceful, unlike the Ten Thousand Medicine Pavilion which was always packed with crowds of people. After all, even if one searched the entire Scented Cloud Mountain, there still wouldn’t be many who had the skills to refine medicine. Moreover, some of these people already possessed their own pill furnaces and as such they had no need to come here.
After paying the specified amount of contribution points, Bai Xiaochun obtained a month’s time in the Medicine Refinement Pavilion. As Bai Xiaochun walked in, a structure made up of over a hundred individual rooms greeted his eyes. Each room also had an array formation around it to prevent the medicine-refiner from being disturbed by the outside world.
Holding on to the wooden tablet he received, Bai Xiaochun walked into the thirteenth room and swept a glance around its interior. The room wasn’t big, it was almost empty except for a single pill furnace placed in the center of the room. Under the pill furnace, a flame seemed to be faintly burning.
Sitting down cross-legged, Bai Xiaochun took in a deep breath as he laid his eyes on the pill furnace. After closely inspecting it, he looked at the fire beneath the pill furnace and tried to stimulate it with his spirit Qi. In an instant, the fire grew fiercer, causing the temperature in the room to rise. The pill furnace also started to redden at a speed visible to the naked eye.
After trying numerous tries, Bai Xiaochun soon managed to control the strength of the fire with the help of his mastery in the Purple Qi Cauldron Melting Technique. Once he familiarised himself with the control and could accurately manipulate the fire, he slapped his storage pouch and retrieved the medicinal plants and grasses.
“The Longevity Incense Stick is of great importance to me. I shouldn’t refine it first, only when I familiarised myself with medicine refinement should I refine this incense. In this case, I should start practicing with the Spirit Replenishing Pill first. This pill is ranked Grade One and is suitable for those under the fifth level of Qi Condensation.” Bai Xiaochun made up his mind as his expression turned to one filled with concentration. As he once again recalled the medicinal recipe of the Spirit Replenishing Pill in his mind, he immediately began refining the medicine.
He took out a stalk of a medicinal plant required for the Spirit Replenishing Pill and held it in front of his eyes. With a wave of his right hand, the leaves on the stalk of the plant immediately fell off. Bai Xiaochun’s eyes turned serious as he spread out his spirit Qi from within his body to form a gust of wind that instantly compressed the leaves together. Nine drops of sap dripped out of the compressed leaves and fell into the pill furnace.
‘Pfft’ ! Plumes of green mist immediately rose from within the pill furnace as Bai Xiaochun increased his concentration to its peak. The moment this mist had appeared, Bai Xiaochun rapidly waved both of his hands and removed the stem’s vessels from the medicinal plant in his hand. He threw each of them into the pill furnace while controlling the flame at the same time. During the process, more and more mist started to form within the pill furnace.
However, this mist refused to dissipate, instead, it coalesced together. As the mist continuously rolled in the furnace, Bai Xiaochun took out the second stalk of medicinal plant and catalysed it as he held it in his hand. Flowers immediately bloomed on the stalk of the plant from which Bai Xiaochun plucked the petals that he had thrown into the furnace.
Time passed by, Bai Xiaochun devoted his entire heart and soul into medicine refinement; he continuously took out medicinal plants and threw them into the furnace. After he had put in eight different plants, his gaze shone with a bright light as he stared at the pill furnace. He then slowly changed its temperature by controlling the fire. Under this intense concentration, beads of sweat formed on his forehead and they trickled down the silhouette of his face.
Two hours later, a dull sound echoed from within the pill furnace. At the same time, billows of black charred smoke dissipated into the air; although it was rapidly sucked away by the array formation in the room, Bai Xiaochun still coughed a couple of times from choking on the smoke. Looking at the the black residue in the pill furnace with an ugly expression, Bai Xiaochun couldn’t help but frown.
“Failed……” Bai Xiaochun sat down and propped his chin with his hand. His eyes revealed that he fell into deep thought, carefully recollecting the details from the medicine-refining process. Since his personality was cautious, he did not continue attempting to refine the medicine again. Whether it was memorising the plants and herbs or medicine refinement, Bai Xiaochun always pursued perfection.
This lasted over three days. On the third day, Bai Xiaochun had replayed his first medicine-refining process in his mind over a thousand times, finding no less than fifty mistakes. Finally, he took in a deep breath, resting for a moment, and lit up the furnace once again.
The actual time to refine the pill did not take long. Four hours later, the same sound resounded from the pill furnace as a similar smoke spread into the air, revealing the residue in the furnace once again.
The tenacity and stubbornness in Bai Xiaochun’s character surfaced once again. He scooped out the residue and carefully studied it. Coupled with the recollection of the medicine-refinement process, Bai Xiaochun studied the medicinal recipe and the medicinal plants once more. This time, the analysis took ten days, after which, with bloodshot eyes, Bai Xiaochun finally started the furnace for the third time.
The third attempt with the furnace started out steady, however, just when the pill was about to form, cracks appeared and the dull sound echoed once more. Bai Xiaochun jumped and fixed a death stare on the residue inside the pill furnace. Silence reigned for a long time, and then finally, Bai Xiaochun sat at one side, closed his eyes, and once again fell into deep thought.
This time, he pondered for almost half a month, not until his time with the medicine room was almost over did Bai Xiaochun finally open his eyes, grit his teeth, and start the furnace for the fourth time.
At the moment his time with the medicine room ran out, this attempt had already ended up as a failure.
If other Medicine Apprentices were to see this scene, they would definitely find it unbelievable. In a single month, if it was any other person, they would have easily refined over ten times, and no matter what, at the very least, they would produce some medicine.
Even if the medicine was refined into just a single grain, that was still an achievement.
After all, no matter how one looked at it, medicine-refining was extremely difficult. Otherwise, throughout the entire Eastern Forest Continent, there would not have been just two true Medicine Masters.
Even if one counted all the Medicine Apprentices, they would not amount to a particularly large number. Moreover, most of them wouldn’t have the chance to promote themselves into a Medicine Master their whole life.
In reality, the main reason for this was…...there simply weren’t not enough resources to groom a Medicine Apprentice. If one had enough resources, and under constant and repeated practice, though it may not necessarily ensure that one would definitely become a Medicine Master, the chances would definitely be much higher.
Hence, the success rate of medicine refinement in the eyes of everyone only had a single method to be increased - through constant practice and increased proficiency.
And what everyone was pursuing was indeed this kind proficiency.
Only when one has reached a sufficient level of proficiency could they increase the success rate of medicine refinement. Even when the medicine-refining failed sometimes, most Medicine Apprentices think of it as nothing out of the ordinary; one just had to learn their lesson and start refining again, only then would their proficiency increase. Especially when it came to refining ordinary pill medicines, where the ingredients were inexpensive, Medicine Apprentices would use the chance and spare no effort in practicing.
As for Bai Xiaochun, though his path was the same, his speed was much slower than normal. Every single time he failed, he would spend countless of his precious medicine-refining time to continuously study, analyse, and simulate the process in his mind.
All of this stemmed from his personality - cautious and meticulous. This meticulousness had just barely been revealed when he was studying the plants and herbs. However, now that he had come into contact with medicine refinement, this trait had been exponentially magnified, overtaking his character and attitude.
And because of this meticulousness, Bai Xiaochun was able to discover more mistakes than the average person, and this amount was not just a small amount. Instead, because he pondered a lot and thoroughly analyzed everything, including areas where others would not even think there was a mistake, he would still feel there was a problem when he looked at it.
And because of his cautiousness, no matter how miniscule the mistake was, he would always make sure he corrected it first before continuing with medicine refining. As a result, his time spent on thinking was many times that of the time spent on medicine refining.
The month's worth of time had finally ended, Bai Xiaochun walked out of the Medicine Refinement Pavilion exhausted; his hair disheveled, his face black with soot. Once he returned back to his courtyard, he fell silent for a long time as he constantly recollected his experiences in his mind.
“There are still nine areas with mistakes, once these nine areas have been cleared up, I can continue with the medicine refinement.” Bai Xiaochun gritted his teeth as he sat in his courtyard. With his eyes closed, Bai Xiaochun was deep in thought. He continuously analysed the problems in his mind, taking out the medicinal plants to observe them in detail from time to time.
Half a month later, he fervently dashed out from his yard and once again spent some contribution points to enter the Medicine Refinement Pavilion.
The fifth time…..failed!
He used seven days in analysing the process, seeking out the problems, and solving them before starting to refine again.
The sixth time…….failed!
With his eyes bloodshot, this time, Bai Xiaochun spent twenty days before he finally felt that there were no more mistakes, then started the furnace for the seventh time.
Two hours passed, yet the dull sound did not appear, instead, a pill aroma rose toward Bai Xiaochun, and he excitedly looked at the two green-coloured medicine pills within the pill furnace. He sucked in a deep breath, it was the seventh attempt, and he had finally succeeded!
Following that, he continued to refine. The eighth time…... success, with three pills!
The ninth time…... success, with five pills!
The tenth time…...still a success, however, when the pill appeared from the tenth refinement, there was only one of it. Moreover, it wasn’t green coloured, instead, it was black. It did not exude any pill aroma, and when one tried to smell it, there would even be a strange scent…...
Just when Bai Xiaochun was still in shock, the entire Medicine Refinement Pavilion immediately trembled.
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Translated by: Xin
TLCed by: Xin, Nat Nat
Edited by: Arch, Crimsonguard 5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2018 So Far