The airport, in the lobby.
There weren't too many passengers around. At least, it was not crowded enough to make the hall boisterous. In some areas, it almost seemed quiet.
The brother had went to change their boarding passes and check in their language, while the sister had wandered off somewhere without leaving a word. A puppy-eyed Long Qiu sat alone on the bench, carrying two small bags.
She was not actually bored, for she was playing one of those old-school games on her phone: Dou Dizhu. [TL/N: literally meaning "fighting the landlord". It's a card game quite popular in China.]
She was terrible at the game and lost a hundred thousand beans in the blink of an eye. [TL/N: "beans" are the "currency" used in the game app.] She was about to start another round when someone nearby called out, "Aiya, gorgeous, is that you?"
Long Qiu looked up to find a giddy Lu Ningning standing in front of her.
A little red handbag was dangling on his arm when he came up to her twisting his hips and chuckled, "Is this fate or what? We're running into each other all the time. I'm going to Guangzhou, what about you?"
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai prepped her on answering questions like this yesterday, but she was a bad liar and had to change the subject. "Your travel plan is all over the place. Isn't Guangzhou several thousand kilometers away?"
"Sigh, don't laugh at me, but to tell you the truth…"
Lu Ningning let out a seemingly genuine sigh and said in a sad voice, "I've just broken up with my boyfriend and my heart is like shattered glass right now. I've given myself a half-month-long vacation. I decided to visit all the places we've been to when we were together. Guangzhou is my last stop. We became lovers there."
B… b… b-boyfriend?
Wow, that was an idea way too modern for the girl from the mountains. She did not hear anything else after that word, her head buzzing with the revelation.
"Here, this is him."
Lu Ningning dug out his phone and showed her several pictures. In them, two pretty boys were cuddling and hugging each other, with lots of kisses and winks.
"I'll have to delete all of them when I get back. Sigh, my heart aches just by looking at them…"
He was pouring out his heart incessantly, completely ignorant of the girl's reaction. Long Qiu felt a tickle all over her body and could barely sit still to listen to him. All she wanted now was to get away.
At that moment, Gu Yu got back after the check-in and was surprised to find Lu Ningning there. "Hello, how come you're here?"
"Teehee! Like I said, it must be fate! We're taking planes at similar hours. I say, aren't you guys going to Wangwu Mountain?" Lu Ningning giggled.
"We had a change of plan."
"Wow, that's a big change. You're flying there… aiya, I need to go through security check now. I'm off. Promise me to let me know when you're in Jiang Zhou. Bye bye!"
Lu Ningning went swiftly away, flirty laughters trailing behind him, which gave Long Qiu the shivers.
When they met up with Xiaozhai later and she told them about the encounter, all three were at a loss.
It was most unusual for Lu Ningning to show up out of the blue like this, but no evidence suggested that it was intentional. They never told him anything about their real plan, including the flight number, their destination, etc. Even the tickets were only just bought last night.
What was more, Xiaojin had verified his identity. The man was indeed a stylist from Jiang Zhou.
It was an intriguing thing. Could it really be a coincidence?
They boarded the airplane, still baffled. The three sat on the same side somewhere at the back of the plane with Long Qiu, who was apparently very excited, by the window. She pulled up the window shade and could not stop watching the view outside.
The plane took off and the journey was uneventful.
Gu Yu sat between the two girls, feeling the reality hard to swallow, for nothing was making any sense.
Sitting to his left shouldn't be a fearless power woman, but the daughter of the governor of a province, a straight-A damsel who had graduated from some famous university abroad with an abnormally high IQ; she should be gentle and understanding yet someone who had never fallen in love with a man before and the only reason she was flying in economy class was to prove that she was an approachable person.
And on his right side, there shouldn't be a poor little thing infested with bugs, but some heiress of a business empire she had helped to build, who had a body to die for and a heart of volcano hiding beneath her coolness. She should have never met a man in her life either and only sit in an economy class to observe the life of ordinary people. 
'Yeah, that sounds more like it!'
"The two showed no obvious signs of anti-government behavior and my preliminary conclusion is that we can establish some form of peaceful communication.
They had some suspicion about me, but could not find my true identity.
The extra woman, that is, the Miao girl they rescued… she has a red mark on her left wrist, which does not fit the description from our interrogation… no, I cannot tell what her ability is just yet. She is in poor health and rather simple, in the sense that she has limited knowledge of the outside world.
The three of them appeared to be very close, not typical for those newly acquainted… we only found evidence of camping sites in Wangwu, nothing unusual.
They're on a flight to Urumqi, probably heading towards Tianshan. We can make our next move based on that.
Judging by their itinerary, they must be looking for something… that's too risky, these people have very acute senses… fine, but make sure the people involved are very discreet!
If there's nothing else, I'll leave you here."
Inside a concealed room in the airport, Lu Ningning had just finished his briefing. Straightening his clothes, he strode out of the room, not a trace of that femininity detectable on him.
The airplane burst out of the clouds, descending gradually along with the strong turbulence. The scenery of the land beneath turned from blurry to distinctive. They could even make out ant-sized vehicles running along the toothpick-sized roads.
Urumqi, a grand city. It had been the gateway of the western frontier for thousands of years and with the economic development, the downtown area was no less prosperous than any inland cities. Immediately outside the city center, however, the scene took a sharp turn towards.
With the background of the bleak scene with shabby houses and abandoned construction sites, there were the towering snow mountains that erupted out of the horizon. It was part of the eastern Tianshan Mountain, the periphery of Bogda Shan.
"Hiss, it's so cold here!"
Long Qiu wrapped her down jacket tighter around herself, taking in a winter completely different from what she was used to in the mountains. It was freezing.
Gu Yu showed some concern. "We'll definitely be going into the snow mountains this time. I'm not sure you can take the cold weather."
"Don't worry, I'll be fine. Climbing a snow mountain can't hurt as bad as the Golden Silkworm, can it?"
"It's not the same. You'll see."
While they were talking at the rear of the small team, Xiaozhai walked ahead alone, as if she could no longer hear them. She had been behaving oddly ever since they landed, very unlike her usual indifferent self.
"Brother, why does sister seem unhappy?" Long Qiu asked quietly.
"She's not unhappy. It's just the stress. If this place comes up empty again, the manual for the skills of her sect is gone for good," replied Gu Yu in a similiar low voice.
Looking at the figure walking ahead, the girl suddenly said in an adamant tone, "I'll help sister find it! I promise!"
"Haha, we're counting on you."
Watching her serious little face, Gu Yu laughed despite himself.
There was nothing much they could do about it, for the search here was going to be much more difficult than any of their previous experiences. The sects of Qionglong Mountain and Xihe at least had tangible locations; Tianshan Sect, however, seemed as though it had been wiped off from the face of the earth. There was no mention of it in the Taoist association website, let alone a specific address.
Their plan was to reach the city of Dakang at the foot of Bogda Shan first, then they would make some enquiries, such as checking the local chronicles in the municipal library, or visiting the local Taoist association to see if they could find a lead there.
The three of them took an airport bus to the city center, then a bus to Dangka, a municipal-level city with a mere population of 300,000. One couldn't help but be amazed by the low density of population in the west of China.
They arrived at nighttime and checked into a hotel. As usual, the two girls shared a room and Gu Yu had one by himself.
Long Qiu was exhausted. Xiaozhai tucked her in and got dressed herself, arriving outside Gu Yu's door. A few seconds after a "knock, knock", Gu Yu showed up neatly dressed.
"I knew you wouldn't be able to wait," he said grudgingly.
Seeing him all prepared, Xiaozhai winced at first, then smiled. "Let's go!"
 TL/N: the description of these two kinds of females are probably sarcastic remarks regarding female characters surrounding the male protagonist in certain type of novels. ED/N: In other words, the author's making fun of cliche female leads / harem members.