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The thirty-six provinces in this country each had their own characteristics. The province of Henan exceeded all others in terms of its population. Ji Zhou was only a medium-sized city in the province. Even so, the tidal waves of the crowd still impressed the newcomers with its imposing force.

The three of them managed to get back to the downtown area just after eight o'clock in the evening and checked into a hotel. They used to get one room when there were just two of them, but had to have two rooms now, one of which was occupied by the two girls. Long Qiu did not have her ID card with her, but had remembered her ID number, with which she got herself a temporary identification paper.

After rearranging themselves briefly, they went out again to have dinner. They did not walk far and chose to eat in a barbecue restaurant on the next street.

Long Qiu was taken away from her family when she was only nine. Although she had been to the city before, most of the times, she still behaved like an innocent child. Right now, she was staring curiously at the ingredients in the cupboard. To be more precise, she was eyeing the skewered worms.



"Hello, sweetheart, can I challenge you to one of these? The roasted centipedes are 30 yuan a skewer, the scorpions 20 a skewer, and the grasshoppers and budworms are 5 yuan each." Attracted by her remarkably good looks, the waiter could not help but try to flirt with her.

"Are these wild insects?" The girl asked.

"Of course not. No one wants to eat the wild ones, they're not clean. These were all artificially bred. Would you care to have a taste, sweetheart?"

"Such low-grade creatures. No wonder they're nothing but food…"

Mumbling to herself, she paid no attention to the waiter and trotted back to their table. Xiaozhai had just finished with the order and asked, "What were you talking with him about?"

"About the worms."

"Do you pity them?"

"Not really. That's just how the natural selection and survival of the fittest works. It's no one's fault."

"Oh my, you're picking up the idioms real quick," chuckled Xiaozhai.

"You're teasing me all the time."

"No, I'm not. I only want to cuddle you all the time…"

While the two girls were giggling and tittering, Gu Yu sat opposite them, busying himself with his phone. A while later, he said, "Ok, our flight tomorrow afternoon is booked."

"How long is it going to be?" Xiaozhai asked.

"Less than five hours. It's a direct one."

"Good, I hate transfers."

"No, not good at all!"

The expression on Gu Yu's face was one he seldom exhibited, which was a worried look a stay-at-home parent would have over household affairs. "Do you have any idea how much money we've spent so far?"

"It can't be a hundred thousand yuan 1 , can it?" Blinking, Xiaozhai was having a bit of a guilty conscience herself.

"That was a pretty good guess, actually. I did some calculation just now. The plane tickets has made the sum reach exactly a hundred thousand!"

"Well…"

Hanging her head, she sipped her tea, pretending she had heard none of those words.

"Listen to me! If we keep spending money like this, we wouldn't have enough left for our return tickets!"

"Why, this tea is pretty good…"

"Hey!"

They proceeded into their routine banters, which Long Qiu was not familiar with. She fluttered at once. "Am I spending too much of your money?"

"It's not your fault. We two are too free-handed."

Gu Yu tossed his phone aside in frustration, feeling utterly vexed.

They had been travelling for around two months now and thought little of their expenses until he made some calculation of their overall spending, which made him jump. He had savings of seventy thousand yuan, and she sixty. With them idling away in their pleasure-seeking manner, it was like that saying: like wind blowing away the egg shells, when the money's gone, one feels at ease.

For instance, with Long Qiu, they bought her a couple of outfits and a cell phone, which cost them just a little under ten thousand yuan. They would rent a car, hire a driver, eat good food in various cities, and sleep in comfortable hotels all the time...

All in all, as much as our two fellows could take the hardship trekking the mountains, they were equally indulgent in the civilized world. The lives they led inside and out of the mountain were polar opposites.

"Kick his a*s!"

"Screw you! Do you know whose shop this is? Think yourself a somebody, are you?"

"I'm, I'm not going to lower myself to the same level as you people. You're so impolite."

"F**k! That way he speaks is so annoying. Beat the hell out of this piece of sh*t!"

After dinner, when the three of them walked out of the barbecue restaurant, a row was breaking out next door, which was also a barbecue place. There had probably been some disagreement and a group of people had circled around some fellow, kicking him together.

They were all burly men with a northern accent. The one taking the beating in the middle was shouting incoherently while burying his head in his hands. "A gentleman should reason things out and does not resort to force. Where are your manners? Ouch! Ouch!

I'm telling you, hitting people is against the law. Ouch…"

He had a squeaky and high-pitched voice, which sounded neither particularly male nor female and was quite uncomfortable to the ear. [1]

It was none of their business to begin with, but those men had blocked their way and the guy seemed miserable, so Gu Yu spoke up. "If it's not that big a deal, give him a break."

"Who the hell are you? Wanna get your a*s kicked or what!" One of the men shouted.

"Someone's calling the police. You'd better scat."

He couldn't be bothered to handle these men himself and pointed at a passer-by who was on the phone. Seeing this, those men uttered something foul-mouthed and each gave the guy another kick. "Boy, it's your luck day. Keep your head down and your mouth shut from now on."

"Keep my mouth shut? Your food is bad and I can't have an opinion? Bah!"

The guy rose to his feet and spit after them, then turned to the three, "Aiya, you guys are godsend. They are animals!"

"Well…"

The look on the faces of the three were identical, which said explicitly: such a sissy!

Up close, they saw that the man was in a gaudy outfit with a pair of noisy, pink platforms and yellow-ish hair. He had three piercings on his left ear and relatively delicate features, but his face was so powdered up that it looked like a painted wall.

The weird silence lingered in the air for a few seconds before Gu Yu said, "We're off. You'd better have yourself checked in a hospital."

"Not so fast. You guys saved my life. I've got to thank you properly."

"That's really not necessary. Bye bye!"

"I knew there are still good people in this world. Thanks a lot!"

With that, they went their separate ways. However, the separation did not last long. They realized with surprise after a short distance that they were going in the same direction. The effeminate man's face brightened up. "Where are you guys going? I live in Jianhu Hotel."

"That's such a coincidence. We live there as well," Long Qiu found much novelty in a man like him.

"Aiya, that's wonderful. I'm a tourist here and only just visited Wangwu Mountain yesterday. How about you guys?"

"We haven't been there yet. We're going tomorrow," replied Gu Yu.

"Wangwu Mountain is really nice. Remember to visit the site of that altar, it's beautiful. It's such a pity that I have to leave tomorrow. Oh, here, take my name card." The sissy handed him a pink card.

Gu Yu took it, which said "Lu Ningning, Artistic Director of Tianxue Artistic Styling Studio".

Lu Ningning?

Gu Yu's mouth twitched. A very suitable name. [TL/N: The name sounds very feminine from a stereotypical point of view.]

"I'm a stylist and have a studio in Jiang Zhou. If you happen to be in the area someday, do let me know. I'll show you guys around."

"Haha, no problem."

"You're just saying that to be nice. I mean it. One ought to return a favor by ten folds regardless of how trivial the favor is. If you guys come to visit, rest assured, you'll see some proper hospitality…"

The fellow was a chatterbox and would not shut up for even a second on their way back. He only left them after they arrived at the hotel, apparently still reluctant to say goodbye.

Long Qiu followed him with her eyes and chuckled, "That's an interesting man. He'd actually be very handsome if he did not dress himself in that way."

"..."

The other two did not comment on that, but touched each other's hand lightly, both finding the man somewhat peculiar. Xiaozhai took another look at his card and realized the studio was not far from Jiang Zhou University, so she dialed Xiaojin's number.

"Hello? My dear Sister, you finally remembered you've still got a younger sister out here."

"I need to ask you something. Is there a Tianxue Styling Studio near your campus?"

"Yup. I've actually had my hair done there before. What about it?"

"Have you met the owner?"

"I have. Kinda cute, but a real pansy. It gives me the chills just hear him talking."

"What's his name?"

"Lu something, I think… that's right, Lu Ningning. He got dumped a while ago and I think he's out travelling somewhere. What on earth is going on with you?"

"Nothing, gotta go."

"Hey, you can't use me like that! F**k!"

"Brrr… brrr… brrr…"

[1] TL/N: Similar to conservative values in other societies, being labeled "neither like a man nor like a woman" (不男不女) under many circumstances in China is still considered a great insult and denial to the person's identity and character.

TL/N: roughly 16,000 USD.

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