Translator: sophiaxlm Editor: Kurisu
"A baby born on a pasture… em, I do recall such an incident."
The next day, in his room, the old man puffed at his crudely made cigarette, which was yellowish in color with a poignant smell, and said slowly, "I think it was over a decade ago. It did not happen here in our village, though, but in Quanshui [TL/N: meaning "spring water"] Village."
"Quanshui Village? How far is it?" Gu Yu asked.
"About thirty minutes on a motorcycle. I can take you there," said Shiriahun.
"That'll be great. Thanks so much!"
"You saved my life. That's the least I can do." The young man gave them a good-natured smile.
The old man stood up at this moment and picked up two pendants from a tray, which were two curving wolf fangs. They were slightly yellow in color and hollow at the roots. The fangs had distinctive side ridges and a blood groove lined the insides. They were both about 4-cm-long, had a smooth surface, and were perfectly intact.
Each wolf had four fangs, and the upper two were the more precious ones. After being pulled out, the fangs were easily cracked. Therefore, a crack-free fang that was also longer than three cm was definitely a rare thing to come by.
"For as long as I can remember, I seldom saw fangs as fine as these. You are both blessed by the deities of the snow mountains. I wish you all the peace there is!"
The old man handed them the pendants, which were already threaded through with red and black strings respectively. The red one was for Xiaozhai and the black one for Gu Yu. Both were so fond of them that they had a hard time putting them down.
After that, they bid their farewell to the villagers and set out on their bumpy trip towards Quanshui Village on the shabby motorcycle.
The two villages could pass as twins, only that Shuimogou had a bit more inhabitants. Shiriahun took the initiative to be their guide and led them into the village. He stopped an aunt at random and asked, "Auntie, we're here to look for someone."
"Who are you looking for?"
"The one, the one gave birth on the pasture…"
The answer dawned on the aunt before he finished his description. "Oh, you mean Aygul. Her house is over there."
"Thank you, Auntie!"
Their names were taken directly from their language, mostly using words referring to heaven and earth, the sun and the moon, as well trees, flowers, plants, or even gold and jewels. "Shiriahun", for instance, meant "lion", while "Aygul" was "moonflower".
It took them no time to arrive at a courtyard where a thickset woman was working inside. Shiriahun called out to her. "Sister, I'm from Shuimogou. These two guests want to see you."
They all talked in this tactless manner, which could sound impolite at times. Aygul was the same. She strolled near and asked, "Why do you want to see me?"
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai were still not used to this manner. "I'm sorry, but may we talk inside?"
With that, they entered her house. Sitting down, Gu Yu asked, "We want to ask about a certain person, the one who helped you deliver your child. Do you still remember him?"
"Of course. What do you need him for?"
"He's a friend of mine and has been missing for many years. It took us a great effort to find some information about him, that's why we're here."
"Oh, I don't actually know his name. I only know his surname was Sima and he had come back a couple of times af
ter that. He also gave Erkin an amulet. Erkin!"
She beckoned a little boy with curly hair over and pointed at a pendant hanging around his neck, "That's the one."
The two looked at it closely. It was a green, round jade plate with Yin-Yang fish drawn on the front surrounded by four traditional Chinese characters—each for one direction. Together, they read "Annihilate demons. Expel evil."
A forbidden word was written on the back, which translated as "Thunder".
Xiaozhai was pleasantly surprised. This man was doubtlessly the disciple of Tianshan Sect. Gu Yu, however, was only surprised, for a very familiar energy was fluctuating around the jade plate: the spiritual essence.
That made no sense. He had examined the city of Dakang already, which came up with a 0! Based on his past experience, the theory on nodes and radiation ranges was definitely correct. But, where did the spiritual essence on this jade plate come from?
The two brooded on their separate thoughts and it was after some time when Xiaozhai asked, "Do you know where he lives?"
"I don't know. Somewhere in the mountains, I think."
"Please try to remember. Does anything come back to you at all?"
"He lives in the mountains… oh, he said the place was beautiful, a green valley in a snow mountain."
"What about the location? A general direction, maybe?"
"I think, I think it's to the southeast of Bogda Peak."
"When was the last time he came here?"
"About seven years ago. I haven't seen him for a long time."
The woman could not give them an explicit answer, but only some vague recollection. After a lengthy enquiry, they could not get much out of her.
Leaving her house, both Gu Yu and Xiaozhai looked dispirited. Gu Yu was worried. "I guess our only option is to go into the mountains."
"It's always the worse-case scenarios we end up predicting... why can't our positive predictions come true instead?" Xiaozhai shook her head.
"Are you nuts?"
Hearing their plan, Shiriahun went into a frenzy immediately as he shouted, "No one dares go into the mountains during winter! They're full of hungry bears, wolf packs, leopards, and terrible avalanches!!! You have no food and don't know the direction! You'll never make it out alive!"
"We will if you are our guide," teased Gu Yu.
"By the love of the supreme deities of the snow mountains, I still have my parents and a younger sister to feed! I haven't even married!"
Xiaozhai also burst into a laughter. She then looked at Gu Yu and, after reading his thoughts, she straightened her face. "As a matter of fact, there is something we need your help with."
"Anything, as long as you don't ask me to go into the mountains."
"We have another friend coming, but she's in poor health. Can we leave her at your place for a few days?"
"No problem. She can stay for as long as she wants. My younger sister can take care of her."
The two thanked him wholeheartedly. He was indeed a nice fellow.
Later that day, they returned to the city of Dakang and brought Long Qiu to Shuimogou.
The decision was an impromptu one. They had no idea how long they would be gone for and it would not be safe to let Long Qiu stay in the city alone. Moreover, there was a Golden Silkworm that needed sealing up.
Gu Yu doubled up the lock on the insect, which should get her through for the next three to five days. Shiriahun had returned to the winter pasture. His mother and younger sister were at home, and were both very kind. They liked Long Qiu as soon as they set eyes on her.
The night before their departure, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai summoned the girl with a seriousness they had never exhibited before.
"Xiao Qiu, we're being followed by someone at the moment and we don't know what their purpose is. But, you have to promise us one thing," said Gu Yu.
"Yes, of course!" The girl nodded at once.
"After we're gone, they might try to contact you. I'm not worried about your capability at all, but you're a simple girl. Don't give them your trust easily. If you feel threatened, use your needle insect. If the threat feels great, do not hesitate to use the Golden Silkworm when you can!"
Our two fellows did not notice the people of the Second Department following them before. It was only after the old man mentioned the dead wolves being taken and deeming it the doing of some outsiders that they became aware of them.
They would take Long Qiu with them were it not for her poor health. The little weakling would be frozen to dead out there.
The girl hesitated at his words. Releasing the Golden Silkworm would eliminate all her pain, but at the price of other people's lives.
"Promise us. Your safety is the most important thing. Without us around, you have to protect yourself," added Xiaozhai.
Long Qiu was frightened by their this-might-be-our-last-words tone and asked puppy-eyed, "Aren't you, aren't you coming back?"
"We are, of course we are! We're just saying this in case anything unexpected happens."
"I see. I'll be waiting for you. I promise."