Xiang Zhou, in the hotel.
The door to the outside was tightly shut with Xiao Qing coiling up at the doorstep, guarding it, while in the inner bedroom, Long Qiu looked at Gu Yu with uncertainty and asked, "Are you sure you want to try this?"
"Don't worry, just do it!"
Cowardice was not part of Long Qiu's personality. Her lips then started moving; she seemed to be mumbling something in Miao language.
Undead insects struck in the most amazing way—it was completely untraceable. The host made no movement suggesting that anything had been unleashed whatsoever and one never knew what hit them. It sounded almost like the strange poisons of the ancient times.
However, Gu Yu had his mental power to depend on, which he could use to scan the air around him and detect distinctively that an odd energy was charging at him. He made no resistance and let it penetrate deep into his body. A couple of seconds later, he jolted violently and cried out in pain uncontrollably.
It felt like someone was putting a long and thin steel needle under his fingernail, then jabbing into his nail bed forcibly. What a sensation!
Long Qiu fluttered at his cry. "How are you feeling?"
The girl had to stand there and watched him with concern.
Gu Yu held on despite the pain. Soon, that one needle seemed to increase to two, then three… it was not only under his fingernails now, but was spreading out to other parts.
Finally, he could no longer stand it and shouted hastily, "Stop it!"
Xiaozhai flashed out her dagger and swooshed to his side. Long Qiu instructed, "The left index finger!"
"The right little finger!"
"His right shoulder!"
"The left rib!"
Following her instructions, Xiaozhai slit the skin of these spots open. Blackened blood oozed out from the wounds. Gu Yu circulated his spiritual essence frantically, which soon forced out the poison. A couple of minutes later, the blood flowing from the wounds was red again.
Xiaozhai then took out some medical spray and bandages, wrapping up the wounds.
"That was incredible. It felt even more impressive than the Golden Silkworm!" Our fellow exclaimed after recovering himself.
"Actually, the Undead Insect of Needles just feels more painful. It's not all that potent and it is extremely afraid of strong liquor. A common way to cure someone infected with this insect is to soak them in a wooden barrel filled with strong liquor and some herbs. Stay in the barrel for a few hours every day for three days in a row, and they are as good as new. If not, the victims will suffer from the pain of having ten thousand needles drilling into their hearts and eventually die from it," explained the girl.
"Is there an effective range to discharge it?" Xiaozhai also asked.
"The attack should work as long as I can see you face clearly."
They were both pleasantly surprised. The practice of undead insects was indeed worth its fame of being a secret skill passed down throughout time. There was nothing else like it.
However, the shortcoming was just as apparent. The Undead Insect of Needles had limited amount of energy and could only be used twice a day at most, each attack focusing on one person only. Overusing it would lead to exhaustion and eventual death of the insect.
Such limitation did not apply to the Golden Silkworm, which could be used for infinite amount of times. However, it ate people in exchange and its infection was incurable.
They were content enough. This skillset of Long Qiu almost seemed to be obtained specifically for plotting against people, assassination, and interrogation! What was more, she even had some medical skills.
They stayed for two days in Shimen after rescuing Long Qiu, then went to Xiang Zhou.
From there, the three of them were heading for Ji Zhou, exploring the Wangwu Mountain region. However, before their departure, they needed to stock up on some necessities, and buy Long Qiu some new clothes while they were at it.
The girl came out of the mountain with nothing but the Miao costume she had on her. Xiaozhai had lent her some clothes, but they were too big for her.
Afternoon, in the mall.
Outside a women's lingerie shop on the fourth floor, Gu Yu sat waiting on a sofa, not feeling out of place in the least. Xiaozhai was picking out underwear for Long Qiu inside.
The wall was covered by bras and underpants of different sizes, colors, and styles. Teenage boys passing by would steal a look from time to time, which would turn them as "pompous" as little poodles. [TL/N: As you may know, poodles are famous for their "virility" and readiness to "ride" just about everything.] Xiaozhai glanced around and asked, "What size are you?"
The girl blushed, too shy to answer. She had hardly visited any department stores growing up, let alone one selling this sort of merchandise.
"You have been measured before, have you?"
Xiaozhai was amazed, sighing, "I can't believe a land with total ignorance of bras still exists in this world… excuse me, I need a measuring tape here!"
"You don't have to. Anything will do for me." Long Qiu was getting even more bashful.
"Anything will not do! Trust me!"
Fetching the measuring tape, Xiaozhai took a few samples and dragged her into the fitting room with the briefest instruction, "Strip!"
Folding her arms in front of herself, Long Qiu shook her head.
"Come over here!"
Xiaozhai was losing her patience. Her fingers fluttering around like blossoming orchid, those forty-eight movements of her sect were put to good use. Before Long Qiu had time to react, her coat and sweater were taken off.
"Don't move, or I'll strip you naked!"
"I, I'm going to release the undead insect…"
A few meters away, Gu Yu could hear their every word. He then sighed for no obvious reason.
Inside the fitting room, when her embroidered blue dudou , the last piece of her tops, fell down, the view reminded one of a bright, cool moon being revealed from behind thin clouds and a plum branch unburdened of snowflakes. The fair skin was dazzling in the light, decorated by those little cherries.
"Tut tut tut!"
Watching the almost perfect bosom, Xiaozhai was full of admiration. "Here, let me measure for you."
She wrapped the measuring tape around her gently and said, "Don't be shy, this is the most normal thing. You were shut in the mountains for too long and have to get used to the outside as soon as possible. Take in your surroundings—the crowd, the environment. Feel it yourself."
"Do I have to learn from them?" Long Qiu asked in a whisper, despite the tickles.
"Why do you ask that?"
"Because, because back when I was in the village, I always felt I was different from everyone else. Nobody liked me. I want to try, to see if I can live in the same way as they did…"
Xiaozhai suddenly interrupted her, her face sterner when she spoke again, "Do you know why they disliked you?"
"Of all the people there are in this world, who may fear nothing and no one, there is one thing that frightens them all. That is someone unlike them. You're bullied when you're too weak; you're beaten down when you're too strong; you're slandered when you're too good… they will only feel safe when you're almost the same as them. Only then will they leave you alone, therefore…"
She helped Long Qiu into a light-pink bra, shook her head and took it off. "There are those who choose to drift with the flow and those who walk their lonely path. Which do you want?"
Long Qiu was not weak-minded. She was only limited by her past experience and hence had an inadequate world view, the outlook of life, and the sense of worthiness. She looked indecisive.
"Quickly, choose! Do you like the pink one or the white one?" She prompted, holding two bras.
"What?" The girl was baffled.
It took Long Qiu forever to pick two sets of lingerie. Xiaozhai then bought her some other outfits.
She expressed her gratitude, which she felt even more so deep inside. She had only just joined them, but they were treating her like family. Their kindness was genuine.
Before long, evening had set in.
They went down on the escalator, each carrying a large bag. Having walked around the mall for half a day, Long Qiu was still delighted and curious about everything. She was no longer as reserved as in the beginning and was chitchatting with Xiaozhai, feeling much closer to the latter.
Gu Yu was left out of their conversation and could only interject every now and then. However, when they were halfway down the escalator, his heart leapt. He felt something.
Turning around, he indeed found Long Qiu frowning in pain.
"Go to the first floor!"
Xiaozhai realized what was happening at once and ran down the escalator, dragging Long Qiu behind her. They found a fast food restaurant on the first floor, chose a seat in the corner and sat down. Gu Yu took the girl's hand and felt her wrist with his fingers. The Golden Silkworm was restless, ready to break loose.
He said nothing, but only circulated his spiritual essence and sent it into her body streak after streak, mending the damaged seal. The way it worked was actually very simple: force the Golden Silkworm to her wrist with the spiritual essence, then wrap the insect up and lock it there.
Long Qiu leaned her cheek against her right hand and let her hair fall down, blocking her face from others' eyes; she was deadly pale by now.
It took some time before the Golden Silkworm quieted down again. She felt the pain subsided and looked up. What she saw was giving her the palpitations.
Gu Yu was holding her hand (actually, her wrist) in his and was watching her with those nice eyes, which were filled with concern.
It was an awkward scene. To any passers-by, they were definitely a young couple madly in love, who could not let go of each other's hands even over a quick meal.
Long Qiu lowered her head in silence again, her look even more indescribable than before. It had only been three to four days and the Golden Silkworm was breaking out and required re-sealing. 'Does this mean I have to, have to stay by his side a lot?'
The mind of a teenage girl was the most forthright and the most intricate at the same time.
Xiaozhai, who was sitting next to her on the right, was relieved to see her recovery: 'Good, she's OK! (Hello! I'm still here, you two!)'
 TL/N: Dudou - literally meaning "belly wrap", a traditional Chinese form of bodice worn as an undershirt.