“Young Master, there’s a village ahead!”
As the fog lifted, the suddenly appearing village shocked the pageboy, who subconsciously stumbled backwards upon seeing it.
Wang Lu put his hand on his shoulder in an attempt to relax him. “What’s wrong? Weren’t you complaining about being hungry and thirsty just then? Here’s a resupply point for you.”
The pageboy frowned with a face full of uneasiness. “Young Master, don’t you think there’s something weird about having a village here?”
“Well, after walking for an entire four hours, anyone would be tired and hungry. Of course there would be a village here. Would they really let us starve to death?”
“But… it still seems so suspicious. Look! There are people in the village!”
The pageboy pointed. On one of the paths in the village, an old lady carrying firewood was slowly walking towards them.
“You–Young Master, I think that old lady was looking at us!?”
“So? Is she making your heart beating faster? Ngaw, that’s cute.”
“N–No, I– I meant that it’s a living person!”
“Yeah no shit. What else could she be, a ‘ghost’?”
“I feel like in this sort of place, meeting a ghost would be more normal than meeting a person……”
“Great. Maybe you can use a ghost pick-up line to start flirting with her. Oh, I’ve got one – ‘Hey there, you’re the most boo-tiful girl I’ve seen my entire life’”.
Realising his sarcasm wasn’t going to work, Wang Lu sighed. “If you’re scared, just follow me. There’s probably going to be lots of things to do in this village. Let’s not rush things.”
The village hidden behind the fog was not as mysterious or terrifying as the pageboy had thought. After talking with a few of the villagers, the two had found out that the name of the village was ‘The Garden of Peaches’. The villagers had been living their hidden village for over a thousand years, and did not concern themselves with matters of the external world. The resources in the mountain were abundant, and they had lived a prosperous life for the past thousand years.
The villagers of the Garden of Peaches were all very hospitable and friendly. When Wang Lu and Wang Zhong had arrived at noon, the Village Chief had organised a banquet at his residence, and half of the village came. Wang Lu and the little pageboy ate until they felt like they were going to explode, and gleefully drank the sweet wine made from the mountain spring water and wild fruits. They had been completely revitalised from their fatigue in the Cloud Wave Map.
At the banquet, apart from devouring food, there was also plenty of chatting and laughter. Like Wang Lu had expected, it was a very good opportunity for gleaning information. What was strange was that the Garden of Peaches was extremely disconnected from the outside world. Let alone the ‘Nine Regions’, they did not even know that they were residing inside the Spirit Blade Mountain. To these villagers, the mountains and waters around them were the entire world.
What was even more strange was that the villagers were not interested in the outside world in the slightest. Although they were very friendly towards strangers, they did not ask about anything in the outside world.
“What? There are Immortals outside? Riding on flying swords would be so cool! Here, have some Yellow Fish; it’s our village’s specialty. Have a taste…”
“Emperor? What’s an Emperor? Is he bigger than a Village Chief? What, you have to kneel down in front of the Emperor, and he can execute anyone as he pleases? What a tyrannical Village! Have a taste of some buns my wife made…”
That was pretty much a summary of Wang Lu’s experiences in trying to talk to the villager’s about the outside world. He had no way of changing the topic while talking with them. Their mindsets were rigid and narrow-focused.
At night, the two of them stayed at the Village Chief’s residence. The Village Chief graciously let them stay in a guest room in the backyard. The quality of the room was even better than the premium rom at the Ru Family Inn. However, this went unnoticed by the pair as they each had different things on their minds.
The pageboy was not at ease, as he could not accept the situation. Why would there be such a banquet on the Immortal Path? In the stories he had heard, people had to face a mountain of trials and difficulties in order to become an immortal. If they had such a merry time on the way to the Ethereal Peak, wouldn’t those two Brothers from the Serenity Peak be a bit too pitiful?
As for Wang Lu, he was not quite at ease with the villagers’ behaviour.
From an adventurer’s perspective, if the Immortal Path was an adventure, then the Spirit River Town would be the ‘Beginner’s Village’. The Golden Bridge and the fog would be the first adventure, after which the Garden of Peaches would be the main focus, similar to the main city in those adventuring stories. However, the villager’s lack of interest in the outside world seemed to cut off any prospect of a ‘main quest’.
At the dinner banquet, Wang Lu talked with most of the villagers, but did not even have a glimpse of that ‘quest’ appearing.
“Argh, why is this progressing so slowly?!”
Wang Lu tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. It was not until the second day’s morning, when Wang Lu was brushing his teeth at the stream, when there was finally a turning point.
“As they say, you just can’t run away from fateful encounters, eh?”
Seeing the person walk out of the forest, Wang Lu almost swallowed the water he was rinsing his mouth with.
Hai Yun Fan’s smile was somewhat awkward. “Little Hai… alright, Little Hai it is. Brother Wang Lu, I never thought I’d meet you again here.”
Wang Lu dropped his toothbrush with a face easily giving away his confusion. “I never thought I’d meet you here either. Does this mean we’ve unknowingly formed a party?”
At the same time, the Elders on the Ethereal Peak were going crazy.
“Where, where did this Garden of Peaches come from!?”
“…… Master, even if you asked me, I wouldn’t be able to answer you.”
The disciple wearing black and white, being shouted at by the furious and red-eyed Ethereal Peak Elder, was under enormous pressure. He almost had to pull out his Spirit Sword and offer it as a sacrifice to prevent himself from being crushed by his master.
Before, when the Head Elder’s rage exploded out from him, he had obliterated the Cloud Array. Now, Liu Xian’s anger, resulting in his primordial spirit energy leaking out, caused the Ethereal Peak’s entire Seeking Sword Hall to tremble. Within 100 metres of Liu Xian, anyone who was not yet at the Xu Dan stage was not even able to stand.
“Senior Brother, calm down.”
Elder Zhou Ming shook his head, and patted Liu Xian’s shoulder. A wave of cold and clear sword aura flowed into Liu Xian, who instantly was awoken from his rage. “Sorry, I lost myself for a bit there.”
Zhou Ming bitterly smiled. “It’s no wonder that Senior Brother is so angry, this Garden of Peaches Village… makes one want to laugh and cry at the same time.”
At the beginning, Liu Xian believed that this village was a certain person’s prank. However, when the second wave of people to walk out of the Cloud Wave Map were sent into the Garden of Peaches Village as well, Liu Xian knew that something was up.
A certain person had changed the Immortal Path, and had randomly added the village between the Cloud Wave Map and the Nether World Path. No matter how well one performed in the Cloud Wave Map, they would inevitably be sent to the Garden of Peaches Village.
This certain person must have had impressive skills and talent to be able to change the Immortal Path without anyone knowing, but using this talent to screw with other Sect members was simply too damnable.
Zhou Ming sighed, “…… I wonder if Head Elder punished her.”
Liu Xian gave a cold harrumph, “Punish? After all these years, he’s never really punished her before!”
“……Aye, I have no idea what Fifth Junior Sister was thinking this time. This Garden of Peaches Village is simply too strange.”
Liu Xian’s irritation was obvious. “It’s probably one of those incomprehensible pranks again.”
“Tut tut. You call my genius design a prank? Senior Brother, your bad taste hasn’t changed at all these hundred years.”
“Ahhhhh! It’s you!!”
Hearing the familiar voice that had appeared in his nightmares countless times, the renowned Ethereal Peak Elder Liu Xian’s calm disposition flew out the window. The sword in his hand flashed like a ray of light, sending a wave of sword energy flying towards the origin of the voice.
Zhou Ming’s eyes widened. “What a furious strike. This sword energy from the Golden Seven Sword has far surpassed the peak of the YuanYing stage… Looks like Senior Brother will be able to enter the next stage within fifty years.”
It was a pity that the overwhelming sword energy had found the wrong opponent.
The bright and dazzling sword energy from the Golden Seven Sword dissolved and melted like snow as it met the white silhouette, and dissipated. The woman in white flicked her wrist. “Senior Brother, what are you doing? Is it time for demolitions and rebuilding?”
After striking out with his sword, Liu Xian had also calmed down, but his anger still burnt fiercely in his heart. “Look at what you’ve done! You’ve completely messed up the Celestial Gathering!”
“What are you talking about? In order to make this Celestial Gathering more efficient and comprehensive, I went out on a limb and used my own personal funds of high grade spirit stones to arrange this Garden of Peaches Village. When I applied for overtime pay from Senior Brother, I was harshly rejected…”
Liu Xian furiously replied, “Who wants to pay you for your own monkey business!? Get it clear in your mind that the stages and procedures of the Celestial Gathering have already been set hundreds of years ago. Every step and stage has been through hundreds of refineme–”
“Even if it was refined by a mediocre hundreds of times, it will still be mediocre. The Cloud Wave Map tests one’s emotional stability and character, while the Red Ridge Mountain, Nether World Path, etc etc, test one’s aptitude and talent. These are decent for sure, and can test the different qualities of a person. However, you’ve all cultivated in the Xiuxian world for hundreds of years, and are all at the YuanYing Stage at least. Don’t you understand that the most important factor in Xiuxian cultivation isn’t the quality of one’s spirit base, emotional stability or affinity??”
After receiving such a rebuttal, Liu Xian’s anger slightly weakened. “Then, what is it?”
“It’s EQ (emotional quotient) of course!”
“Right now, things are not like they were back in the great war between the Immortals and the Demons. The Nine Regions are in a current phase of peace and development. The days of bloodthirsty fighting are long gone. Right now, the most important thing in the Xiuxian world is networking and making friends! The point of this Garden of Peaches Village is to test one’s interpersonal skills. Remember that “Peerless Martial God” from the Royal Soldier Sect one hundred years ago? Heh heh, he was half a step away from the Enlightenment stage, but because he had many enemies, he was obliterated by them when his Divine Tribulation came… If they’re unable to maintain friendly relations with these simple villagers, how are they meant to survive in the XiuXian world?”
Liu Xian and Zhou Ming were completely speechless.
EQ? Networking? Interpersonal relations? You… you villain, you dare to mention these things!?
“Moreover, my Garden of Peaches Village isn’t that simple. It’s right after the Cloud Wave Map, so everyone will have different starting positions. And because everyone’s emotional stability, character and affinity are different, they will trigger different quests, with different consequences for each respective quest. For example, if one raises their favourability from the Village Chief to the maximum, their reward when entering the Red Ridge Mountain will be to reduce their energy consumption by 50%… heh, did you guys listen carefully?”
In the Garden of Peaches Village, Hai Yun Fan found himself in deep admiration of Wang Lu.
Although he was the second person to arrive at the Village after passing through the Cloud Wave Map, his treatment by the villagers was far inferior to how they treated Wang Lu. Although the villagers were still very friendly to him, he was only given a normal villager’s house to live in, let alone a banquet.
This was especially obvious when Wang Lu was walking with him. The villagers would greet Wang Lu with big smiles, whereas they treated Hai Yun Fan like an invisible person.
“However, when I think about those people who will come after me, and how they’ll be treated, that makes me feel a bit better.”
Wang Lu’s face revealed an expression of contempt. “There are other people?”
Hai Yun Fan smiled. “There are probably around fifty or sixty people who are able to walk out of the Cloud Wave Map. However, it seems that the longer it took you to walk out of the Cloud Wave Map, the harder it is to stay in this Village… Strange, what’s with this village? I’ve never heard of it before.”
Hearing this, Wang Lu frowned – Hai Yun Fan was usually quite knowledgeable about the Immortal Path. “Do you know much about this Immortal Path?”
“I know a bit about this whole Celestial Gathering… Brother Wang Lu, would you like me to tell you some of what I know?”
Hai Yun Fan did not seem offended at all. “In that case, what are your opinions on this village?”
“Before, I didn’t have much, but now I’ve got a bit of a clue… though I can only confirm it later on.”
Hai Yun Fan nodded. “Then I’ll have to thank you in advance, because I really don’t have the confidence to do well in this village.”
“Wait, what are you thanking me in advance for? When did I agree to take responsibility for you?”
“Haha, we’re friend’s right?”
“Haha, then we’re friends for life.”