Xu Baocai had completely ignited Bai Xiaochun's desire to reach Foundation Establishment. In the following days, he went to the Scripture Pavilion on numerous occasions, and eventually, even went to the Divine Might Hall.
The Divine Might Hall was a place where much general information about the cultivation world was gathered for the purposes of study. After studying the detailed explanation about Foundation Establishment, Bai Xiaochun confirmed that what Xu Baocai had said was accurate, and it was like a spark was lit within him.
In his view, only by reaching Foundation Establishment could he truly take his first step upon the road of eternal life.
What got him even more excited was the information about how there were three ways to reach Foundation Establishment, each of which affected longevity in a different way. At long last, he had a much clearer understanding.
"Heaven, Earth, and Man. Three types of Foundation Establishment....
"Foundation Establishment via the Dao of Man requires a Foundation Establishment Pill. The probability of success is low, but if you succeed, you acquire a hundred years of longevity.
"Foundation Establishment via the Dao of Earth involves absorbing Earth energy and transforming it into shocking power. The probability of success is even lower, but the result is an addition of two hundred years of longevity!
"Last is the legendary... Foundation Establishment via the Dao of Heaven! That's very rare, and can only come via random chance. However, if you can succeed with that type of Foundation Establishment, then you get an extra five hundred years of longevity!" After more detailed study, Bai Xiaochun confirmed that Foundation Establishment via the Dao of Heaven could not be specifically pursued. As for Foundation Establishment via the Dao of Earth, there were special requirements to be able to acquire Earth energy.
Therefore, the simplest thing for him to do was aim for Foundation Establishment via the Dao of Men, which required a Foundation Establishment Pill.
Bai Xiaochun put down the jade slip he was holding and took a deep breath, his eyes shining brightly. "I need to start planning for the future, and make sure I'm completely prepared. And I have to get one of those Foundation Establishment Pills....
"Foundation Establishment Pills are expensive, and just to be prepared for all possibilities, I should definitely have more than one on hand. In that case... the best thing to do would be to concoct some myself!" Bai Xiaochun's eyes flickered as his dream of becoming a master apothecary and concocting a Live-Forever Never-Die pill became even stronger than ever.
"Apprentice apothecary, journeyman apothecary, master apothecary.... Right now I'm an apprentice apothecary. To become a journeyman apothecary, I have to concoct some medicinal pills and take the promotion test.... The minimum requirement for the test is that you master the fifth volume of plants and vegetation. But that alone is no guarantee. I also need to completely master all five volumes of spirit creatures." Eyes gleaming with determination, he pulled out the jade slip that contained the third volume of plants and vegetation and went through it in detail one more time. After confirming that he had memorized everything, he immediately left his courtyard.
However, moments later, he came running back and quickly put on several layers of clothing, and also disguised himself a bit. Only then did he actually leave.
"Those fans of Zhou Xinqi are too frightening. Supposedly they've been telling people they're going to cut me to pieces.... I really have no choice other than to keep a low profile." He still felt a little bit uneasy.
After considering the difference between himself and Zhou Xinqi's fans, he finally reached a decision. "Hmph. Just wait until I reach Foundation Establishment. Then I'll make a big scene and tell everyone that I'm Lord Turtle. Then we'll see who dares to try to cut me to pieces!"
As usual, the 10,000 Medicines Pavilion was completely packed. It wasn't just Outer Sect disciples from Fragrant Cloud Peak in attendance, there were also disciples from Green Crest Peak and Violet Cauldron Peak, who for various reasons were required to be proficient in plants and vegetation.
Currently, Bai Xiaochun was worming his way through the crowd, trying to make sure he didn't attract any attention. After reaching the log cabin dedicated to the third volume of plants and vegetation, he snuck in, took the test, then melted back into the crowd.
Although he had originally planned to just leave, after a moment passed, he couldn't hold back from popping his head up and looking around. It didn't take long before a clamor rose up as people realized that on the stone stele of the third volume of plants and vegetation, the turtle design had overtaken the magic bottle.
Feeling quite pleased, he plastered a shocked look on his face and shouted out in astonishment. However, it only took a moment for Zhou Xinqi's fiendish fans to appear, which caused Bai Xiaochun to ball his fists in frustration.
"It's their fault that I have to keep such a low profile," he thought angrily. He glared at them for a moment and then turned and hurried away.
In the following days, news about the little turtle once again spread like wildfire through Fragrant Cloud Peak's Outer Sect. Everyone was talking about the little turtle design that was so prominently displayed on the stone steles.
However, another month later, just as the rumors were beginning to settle down, the disciples outside the 10,000 Medicines Pavilion suddenly noticed that the little turtle had appeared on the fourth stone stele, and it had once again passed the magic bottle to take 1st place.
The result was an instant uproar!
"The little turtle is going to completely surpass Elder Sister Zhou Xinqi soon! He has four 1st place spots!"
"He has four stone steles, and Elder Sister Zhou Xinqi has five. Just who is the little turtle...?"
Of course, it was Bai Xiaochun shouting these things out, and it made him feel quite good. However, when Zhou Xinqi's fans started devolving into a frenzy, he cleared his throat, lowered his head, and went on his way.
A few days later, Zhou Xinqi showed up in the 10,000 Medicines Pavilion and studied the four stone steles, a very serious expression on her face. Then she entered the tenth stone stele. When she emerged, her name now occupied the 1st place spot.
By that point, all of the Outer Sect disciples on Fragrant Cloud Peak were paying close attention to the 10,000 Medicines Pavilion. Zhou Xinqi had her six stone steles, and the little turtle had four....
Everyone was speculating as to whether or not the little turtle would eventually take a fifth stone stele, which would put him on par with Zhou Xinqi.
In fact, some of the Outer Sect disciples were starting to place bets on whether or not the little turtle could actually take 1st place in five stone steles. It even reached the point that some of the Elders of Fragrant Cloud Peak were taking note.
Bai Xiaochun was going absolutely all out to try to take that next 1st place spot. After getting the relevant jade slip, he studied it day and night. Coupled with how much he hated Zhou Xinqi's fans, whenever he made his monthly visit to the 10,000 Medicines Pavilion and got a first place spot, he would make a point of whipping up the crowd in favor of the little turtle.
Gradually, quite a few disciples began to admire the little turtle, and much of that had to do with Bai Xiaochun himself. He never passed up an opportunity to promote the little turtle to whomever he could speak to about it. For example, by this point, Hou Xiaomei was thoroughly obsessed.
Eventually, a month later on a bright and sunny day, the magic bottle on the fifth stone stele flickered and then dropped down by one spot, whereupon the little turtle appeared above it.
As of that moment, the Outer Sect disciples of Fragrant Cloud Peak were thrown into pandemonium. Entire crowds came to check out the scene, and soon, all conversations on the mountain revolved around the little turtle.
"The little turtle's skill with plants and vegetation is definitely at an indescribable level. How else could he be so shocking?"
"So awesome! The little turtle and Elder Sister Zhou are about the same now...."
It wasn't that nobody in the crowd suspected that the little turtle might be Bai Xiaochun. In fact, some of Zhou Xinqi's fans didn't ignore any possibilities, and naturally were paying attention to him.
Feeling quite indignant, Bai Xiaochun decided that he needed to get rid of any doubts, so he made a big scene of reluctantly trying to take the test for the fourth stone stele. He remained inside for a bit, after which he stepped out and did his best to convince everyone that he had performed badly.
After doing this a few times, Zhou Xinqi's fans started to shift their attention to others. Of course, there was no way to prove anything about anybody one way or another.
However, they continued to spread hateful gossip, telling people that if they found out who the little turtle was, they weren't going to cut him into bits, they were going to cut him into teeny tiny bits!
When Bai Xiaochun heard about that, and thought about what he would look like in such a state, he began to tremble. Finally, he gritted his teeth, and his vicious determination once again bubbled up.
"Not happy, huh? Well I'll make you even less happy when I take more 1st place spots!" Gritting his teeth, he decided that he was going to make that happen, and close the distance between himself and Zhou Xingqi.
A month later, the little turtle took 1st place on the sixth stone stele!
After another month, it took 1st place on the seventh!
Shouts of alarm and astonishment rang out around the 10,000 Medicines Pavilion at that point.
"Seven 1st place spots! Go, little turtle, go! Not even Elder Sister Zhou was able to get ten 1st place spots!"
"Hahaha, I like this little turtle. He's definitely going to pull it off!"
Even as numerous disciples in the crowd were crying out such things, there were a dozen or so young men in the area, all of whom had very grim expressions on their faces. Some of them were even Inner Sect disciples, whose expressions were particularly icy. One of them was a young man with a pockmarked face, whose eyes glinted with particular ferocity.
"Ladies and gentlemen, fellow disciples," he called out. "If anyone knows who the little turtle is, please tell me, and I'll owe you a favor!" That pock-faced young man's voice caused everyone to tremble, and instantly silenced all of the voices calling out about the little turtle.
People in the crowd immediately recognized who this young man was, and quickly averted their gazes. Others were incensed, but were too afraid to speak up.
"That's Elder Brother Qian from the Court Hall, Qian Dajin...."
"I heard that he's been chasing both Elder Sister Zhou and also Du Lingfei...."
Bai Xiaochun stood there in the crowd, glaring at the pock-faced Qian Dajin with righteous indignation. Finally, he stalked back to his courtyard, feeling very irritated.
"You can't even find me, and yet you insist on fighting a duel with me!?" Setting his jaw, he focused on studying the fifth volume of spirit creatures. As he learned more about how the various parts of spirit creatures could be used when concocting spirit medicines, his skill with plants and vegetation made further advancement.
In fact, because he was able to compare and contrast the two, and see how they worked together, his skill with plants and vegetation actually experienced significant growth.
The next month, the little turtle design replaced the magic bottle as the 1st place spot holder on the eighth stone stele!
After another month, he took 1st place in the ninth!
He now had nine 1st place spots!
The Outer Sect disciples around the 10,000 Medicines Pavilion were aboil. More and more people were loudly proclaiming that the little turtle was definitely going to take ten 1st place spots.
As for Zhou Xinqi's fans, there was nothing they could do to stop it at this point. All they could do was watch as the little turtle's popularity gradually exceeded Zhou Xinqi's.
When the final month came, Bai Xiaochun went to the 10,000 Medicines pavilion when it was at its busiest. He went in disguise, but his expression was one of determination as he worked his way unnoticed through the line leading up to the log cabin beneath the tenth stone stele.
Once he entered, he sat down cross-legged, reached out, and placed his hand onto the stone altar. Rumbling filled his mind as he once again entered that familiar void.
In front of him were 1,000,000 flickering fragments of medicinal plants and spirit creatures. Eyes gleaming with focus, his hands began to fly about and reorganize the pieces.
1,000. 5,000. 10,000....
30,000. 50,000. 80,000
This was the most difficult of all the tests he had taken so far. Soon, sweat was dripping down his face, and his eyes were bloodshot. He looked crazed, as if he had forgotten about everything else. He was fully immersed in the process of reconstructing plants and vegetation, and spirit creatures. His hands hurt, and his mind reeled, and yet he kept going.
Before long, the test was over, and Bai Xiaochun sat here, his hands trembling as he put the last medicinal plant together. With that, his vision went blurry, then cleared, and he was back in the log cabin.
Breathing heavily, eyes shining with satisfaction, he wiped the sweat from his brow and clenched his fists.