The daughters of the Sect Leader were spoiled and their mothers were, although from cultivation families, were not necessarily talented cultivators themselves. The Leader had married them for connections or because he was interested in them physically, not due to such reasons as love. But as 'poor' a husband he might have been in EQ terms, he loved his daughters, spoiling them and not placing expectations upon them.
Their mothers, on the other hand, did have expectations, but that was as future mothers of strong sons and as wives of men who could support their father-in-law and his sons in the future. Thus the daughters of the Sect Leader were given the tools to cultivate, but not expected to succeed in cultivation.
Merylin and Maimai showed talent in cultivation, but their mothers pressed them with lessons to shape them into virtuous wives, stifling their potential until Merylin snapped and begged her father to let them attend the Ascending Mountain Institute. Originally, it had been her thought to delay her marriage, allow her some freedom from her mother's heavy expectations and overly doting father suffocating affection, but there she had discovered she had real talent as an alchemist. She began to soar and left her little sister behind in her shadow.
Maimai didn't mind this though, it was nothing new to her and she was happy just to have skimmed some benefits for herself, aka the freedom to be herself and to enjoy whole heartedly her pass times . Yet now, she too was about to blossom, shedding off the stigma of being stuck in primary stage cultivation due to her mother's interference and beginning the true step onto the path to immortality as a secondary stage Cultivator!
Merylin naturally would not be far behind, but her body was not quite ready for that step yet.
Leon, the best friend and 'long suffering shou' of an 'overwhelming gong', was also experiencing changes in his cultivation, however it wasn't due to the arduous task of herb farming.
He'd forgotten about it, but that didn't mean it had gone away; the discordant yet somehow benign little gem star in his innersea's universe, that moved against the stream of his naturally circling energies. Just as before, it was weaving in and out, over and under the tiny stars about it, which were sluggishly moving in one direction while it moved in the other. Whenever a star came into its sphere of influence, that star seemed to glow just a tiny bit more for a while, but otherwise there seemed no other effects to his innersea.
Making pills were as normal, his mostly average pills still average, his good pills still good. His control over fire and cauldron were unchanged, this ability that was what made him originally stand out over other things. His innersea was still calm, not turbulent nor deviating, so nothing should have changed, right?
But on this day, he had decided to cultivate some more. Now the field work was done and he had no Jin Li to distract him (that man had returned reluctantly to the inner Martial Arts school), he wanted to focus on this somewhat neglected task. If he wanted to catch up to Jin Li, even a little, he really needed to put more effort into this. He didn't feel like he should rely on them being Dao Companions to keep Jin Li by his side. Death could still part them without mercy. The average life span of a secondary Cultivator really wasn't much more than a mortal of noble descent after all and that was because one had to survive still to enjoy old age. The world of cultivators was as cruel if not crueller than this realms mortal scape. Only by advancing and becoming stronger could he truly stay beside Jin Li longer.
If Jin Li knew his intentions, he would be smugly satisfied.
As usual, Leon made himself comfortable as he sat and focused on his inner sea. He stirred the energies within into a quickened pace, that the thick clusters thinned and the space between specks widened before bringing it into his meridians to circulate. All the while, he chanted the words taught to him within that jade scroll from the library as he moved the energies along a specific route. Who knew that the discordant crystal star would become suddenly obedient and follow the flow into his fragile meridians!?
A stinging sensation followed in its wake, like a trail of needles poking into his body along the intricate network path. However, before he could debate whether to risk damaging his body by letting it continue or risk damaging his body by forcefully stopping midcycle, the stinging was soothed with a heady warmth and a most comfortable feeling spread throughout him. He felt that to explain it would be to describe it as if his body had frozen before stepping into a hot bath, suffering the pain and comfort that would come from such.
So he did not stop midcycle, but continued into the next and that is when he felt that his cultivation had changed again a little. If the celestial cultivation method had felt smoother than the basic cultivation method, then this feeling was even more so; it was the difference between hemp and cotton before switching to satin or silk. He couldn't help but expel a long drawn out sigh.
After that, he cultivated without pause, not noticing that the sun had set, the moons taking up the duties of lighting the sky before retiring as the sun once more rose at dawn. A fierce hunger drew him back from his meditations, his belly rumbling loudly in the confines of the bedroom. By that time, a whole day had passed and Leon found himself facing two sullen coeurl who'd been forgotten about him again.
The coeurls' growth had not been small during the winter season. Wu Ye's shoulder now met the apex of Leon's head, he would not be able to mount at all if the beast did not lower itself to allow it (in more ways than one). It would not now grow much more in height and width, just muscle mass unless it managed to shed this adult form to become an evolved beast. To evolve was the potential of all spiritual beasts, but only a few would achieve it. Teacher Volun believed that Wu Ye's bloodlines were good, however, so its chances were also excellent.
On the other hand, Li Ming was, while unusual of pattern, only a runt of his litter. That and while its mother's bloodline was good (though not as impressive as Wu Ye), its coat was a sign that it had inherited a second bloodline and in that lie doubts. Female coeurl could carry a litter of many fathers, usually one bloodline or the other was inherited, it was rare to find mixed bloodlines and that in itself was generally not a good thing. Li Ming's growth, however, was reasonable, it was predicted it would definitely reach the height and mass of a full adult Male in due time.
Right now, the tip of its pointed ears were just above Leon's shoulder, its growth having been steady, not explosive like Wu Ye's. However, it had not yet lost the snowy and jet black mess of baby fur around it's neck and the upper portion of its chest. Leon didn't mind this, though it hurt the striped coeurl's pride to mention it, as it was soft and warm to snuggle against.
Apologising to the intimidating midnight coeurl, who shadowed him with its mighty presence, Leon opened the gate of the courtyard to let them out. He did not need to remind them to hunt only in the areas most distant from the schools, they were intelligent beasts, but he did remind them to return before sunset, as he'd most likely lock the gate then. Actually, he didn't need to remind them about that either. The last time it had happened, Wu Ye simply battered the wood door until the lock broke, then sauntered straight in. Unfortunately, that had cost it the promised beast pills the following day as Leon had had to fix the lock instead. There were battles to pick and choose from, Wu Ye might grumble, but it would not bite the hand that its little companion favoured.