The entirety of the pond heated up to an alarming temperature, giving off the bizarre and frightening scene of Fang Xing being cooked alive inside a pot of boiling water while sitting stoically in the center as though unable to feel any of its heat. This was actually because the source of the pond's boiling was the surge of heat from his body; the temperature of his body was even more alarming than the pond's.
As the temperature of the water rose, the boiling only grew wilder with streams of white steam shooting right up towards the heavens. Heavy white smog covered the entirety of the pond, hiding Fang Xing completely from view. It wasn't until quite some time later that a long howl broke out from the pond, its sound like that of a dragon seeking to shake the earth. Along with the dragon-like howl, the temperature of the pond also began to gradually cool.
Fang Xing had completed another full cycle of the body purification and slowly relaxed himself. The seemingly uncontainable bubbles from the boiling pond also began to visibly calm, before the waters once again returned to its frigid state.
"Good. This is the seventh time I've completed the body purification by myself. This means I have already grasped the concept completely…." Fang Xing opened his eyes, both of them shining with a bright vigor. It wasn't until some time later that the shine in his eyes wore off.
"Looks like you've nearly mastered the Blue-Flame Grand Smithing method," a voice was raised behind an unsuspecting Fang Xing, causing him to jump in surprise. Turning around revealed the source to be the white-haired Bai Qianzhang, and his dirtless white boots looked as though they were floating atop the pond while his body gently rocked up and down along the pattern of its ripples.
"Can you not be so quiet when you're walking?" Fang Xing complained. "You're going to give me a heart attack some day!"
Bai Qianzhang's reply was a calm, "To be frightened only means your will isn't strong enough. Besides, I flew here; of course there would be no sound!"
Fang Xing smirked. "Are you trying to show off? I can use Gravitational Force, too!"
[Gravitational Force] was the other name for [Dragon Catching]. Amongst the martial artists of the mortal realm, it was well-known for its great power and mystery, and "Dragon Catching" was usually the name new disciples from the mortal realm would know prior to joining a sect. If somebody managed to make it into the inner courts, however, it would no longer seem like anything more than a very basic technique and most would call it simply as "Gravitational Force". This was also a demonstration of the change in mentality people had as their cultivation increased.
Bai Qianzhang ignored Fang Xing's backtalk, as he had already grown used to it. "Since you've already mastered the foundation of this method, you have proven you haven't wasted the past half year here with me. In the future, always remember to use your True Samadhi Fire for body purification, for it is only through that method that your Qi will be much more pure and concentrated. Even when using the same spell or technique as others, those coming from your hands will be much more powerful. This will be the basis of you becoming a Battle Cultivator."
Fang Xing giggled before asking with pride, "Of course. So can I go back to the inner court now?" In the past month, he had been kept atop this mountain peak by Bai Qianzhang and been made to practice only this bland technique of the Blue-Flame Grand Smithing. When he grew tired, he would sleep in the cave estate's side room. When he grew hungry, he would eat the spirit fruits from the tree outside the cave or just take a few spirit pills from Bai Qianzhang's collection like candies. After a month without knowing the flavors of meat, he longed for a good meal; Fang Xing wanted to leave this place and head back to the inner court as soon as possible.
Unexpectedly, Bai Qianzhang only faintly smiled. "Who said you were allowed to go back to the inner court?"
Fang Xing looked at him blankly. "Then…?"
"Come with me down the mountain," Bai Qianzhang replied.
Fang Xing was surprised. "I'm ready to go down the mountain already?" For an ordinary disciple of the sect, they did not leave the Qing-Yun Sect's territory of the mountain ranges unless they had either encountered a particularly difficult bottleneck, were working to complete Duty Talisman missions, or had been expelled. Fang Xing naturally did not understand the purpose behind Bai Qianzhang's words.
Seeing Fang Xing's apparent confusion, Bai Qianzhang replied, "To have your skills tried and tested."
Fang Xing scratched his head. "Can't I do that within the sect?"
"You only train and learn when you're in the sect. Only the world outside will allow you to develop further through tests and trials. You will have to come with me this time if you wish to become a true Battle Cultivator."
"In order to become a qualified Battle Cultivator and not the trash kind that was left with no other choice, you must meet three criteria. First, you need to have a superior method for body purification; second, you need to have plentiful cultivation resources; and third, you need to have superior techniques for combat. Now that you have mastered using the True Samadhi Fire to purify your body, you have indeed satisfied the first requirement, but you still have no progress for the other two," Bai Qianzhang spoke in a soothing voice without expression as he rode atop a blue cloud with Fang Xing next to him.
"Then what's going to happen? Are you going to teach me?" With his legs crossed, Fang Xing looked at the white-haired youth with enthusiasm.
Bai Qianzhang smiled. "I've prepared an excellent method for you. It will ensure that you become a well-qualified Battle Cultivator!"
"What method?" Fang Xing eagerly asked, still full of enthusiasm.
"Look below the clouds."
As Fang Xing stuck his neck out to see beneath the netted clouds, he noticed a lake so large that it seemed to be without end. Before he could even raise another question, he felt a kick on his bottom and fell straight down off the cloud with a howl. "You son of a bi*ch white-haired freak! You plotted this all along, didn't you!"
Still sitting atop the cloud, Bai Qianzhang touched his nose with a bitter smile. " 'White-haired freak', is that the nickname you've given me?"
Fang Xing activated [Gravitational Force] while in the air to control the speed at which he was falling. A sword then settled beneath his feet to allow him to finally regain control of his balance, and Fang Xing was left speechless as he peeked at the area below him. The lake was massive, and he had to have been at its center. If he wanted to fly to its shore, any direction would require him to fly for at least a thousand feet, considerably more than his maximum capabilities would allow.
When Fang Xing wanted to fly back up to the cloud where he had been kicked off, Bai Qianzhang simply steered the cloud several hundred feet higher and pulled it out of Fang Xing's reach right before his very eyes.
"There is a Blue Serpent beast living inside the lake. It was struck by lightning ten years ago and was then able to start cultivating itself. It is already a fifth-tiered beast, and it spends every day destroying fishing boats and devouring innocent villagers, while still being worshipped by those ignorant fools as the 'Blue Dragon King'. It is nothing more than a snake beast that is almost at the stage of becoming a Jiaolong. Go and kill it; its beast core should be rather nutritious for you!" Bai Qianzhang's voice was heard pressing down towards Fang Xing from above.
"And this was the 'excellent method' you prepared for me?" Fang Xing screamed back with fury.
"That is correct!"
"Why couldn't you have told me earlier? What was that kick for?"
"You ate my spirit fruit, took my spirit pills, and cursed me behind my back every day. Why then can't I kick you?" Bai Qianzhang's question was so full of innocence that it left Fang Xing unable to argue any further.
"So this Blue Serpent is a tier five beast?" Fang Xing was still hanging mid-air, unwilling to dive down towards the lake.
"Yes, and perhaps even only a small step away from a tier six beast!"
Fang Xing shivered as he heard this. "I'm only at tier four! Did you want me to kill him, or did you want me to be his meal?"
Bai Qianzhang did not immediately answer. Just as Fang Xing was about to curse at him once more, Bai Qianzhang finally spoke, "There are over a thousand excuses you can find to say you cannot defeat it, but when you are faced with a much stronger opponent in the future, you have only one life!"
Fang Xing was stunned. What Bai Qianzhang was saying was true.
"If you really feel that you cannot defeat it, activate this talisman and it will save you." Just as Fang Xing flew towards the talisman, Bai Qianzhang then let out another sentence that forced a change in Fang Xing's expression, "But if you activate this talisman, it would mean you are just so-so. There would be no need for you to continue your trial with me here and it would be for the best that you to return to the sect."
As Fang Xing's expressions changed, he clenched his teeth and toughened himself. He threw himself down towards the middle of the lake while that talisman flew away somewhere unknown.
Fang Xing did not take the talisman, as he had decided he would not use it. Since this was a trial of his abilities and the white-haired freak was so confident he would defeat the Blue Serpent, he would accept this challenge.
As Fang Xing leapt into the lake's depths and his head sank below the surface, small air bubbles were released into the cool waters where his ears and nose had been. Fang Xing swayed both arms to balance his body within the water before taking a look below. Before him was the color of aqua, but it was muddled and hindered his sight further beyond; although his sight had also improved alongside his cultivation level, he could only see as far as a hundred feet away here.
Within such a vast lake, where could Fang Xing find this Blue Serpent? After some thought, he took out his dagger and slit right at his own palm, allowing blood to seep out and spread amidst the lake's waters.
Fang Xing waited while using his full concentration to feel the movement of the water around him. The blood and flesh of a cultivator was especially appetizing for spirit beasts; as long as the Blue Serpent was carnivorous, it would certainly be lured over.
'Come at me!'
Fang Xing clenched his teeth, his gaze fierce yet firm.
'Even if this is merely a trial, even if it's extremely dangerous and tough, I've accepted!
'I will become a Battle Cultivator, the greatest Battle Cultivator in all the realms!
'Longevity in life? Journeys of a thousand miles? Who cares!
'The only impression I have of cultivators… is the power to kill an entire village of bandits with a single person and a single sword!
'That is what I want. I also want power that is unmatched in this world!
'I will avenge all nine of my uncles….'