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"The rice we sowed here is the fifth-generation, double cropping super rice. The yield was surveyed and the breed checked and accepted only two years ago in Mei Zhou. The average yields of dry rice per mu of late and early rice are 705.68 kg and 832.1 kg respectively, which is equivalent to an annual yield of 1537.78 kg per mu… the rice we have chosen here is upland rice, also from a newest breed. The survey of its yield was carried out last year when the breed was accepted; the yield per mu has exceeded 900 kg."

In the agriculture section of the base, six team members of the goodwill mission were touring around the experimental rice plot. Qiu Guan and Professor Qin escorted them while explaining various facts patiently.

"What's your estimated yield of these plots?" an official in charge suddenly asked after the introduction.

"Well, because the issue was an unprecedented one, we could only treat it with the optimal planting technology and experience. As for the yield…"

Professor Qin paused before he went on, "It is impossible to give an accurate estimation. We could only suggest an expected number, which is a third of the current criterion."

"A third? Why is the discrepancy so big?" Someone frowned.

"I say, that's the right attitude."

The official expressed his understanding, "It's the same case as animals in the natural world—the more powerful ones are always less fecund—not to mention that it's the soil we are trying to make use of here. We can't say for sure that we would be able to harvest anything at all. It's a tough battle and we need to be prepared for the worst. No blind optimism."

"I completely agree with you. We'll do our best," chimed in Professor Qin immediately.

It was no laughing matter. This official was high-ranked enough to represent the state's will to some extent, whose intention was more than obvious. Strategically, they were eager to see the result; tactically, they would play for safety, even to the point of hiding from the spotlight.

They then walked around the sections of wheat, tubers, and other crops in turn before returning to the camp. The official dismissed most of the entourage, then summoned the captain of the guards and the leader of the Operation Department team for a confidential talk.

"How is our Mr. Gu?"

"He's doing fine ever since he came into the mountains with us, nothing out of the ordinary. Right now, I think he's fishing somewhere."

"Haha, I was told he was very keen on eating fish, never thought he was into fishing as well." The official laughed.

"Well, this man is a bit old-school in his character and hobbies..."

The team leader looked for the right words before he went on, "He's not like your average 22-year-olds. He's also quite weird to hang around on a daily basis."

"Yes, he's mild most of the time, but could make people feel compelled every now and then," added the captain.

"How so?"

"This might sound inappropriate, but on our first day here when we launched a boat into the water and he helped us with getting rid of the weird fish, there was a moment when I felt that I was facing a, uh, creature of a, a superior form of life."


The official winced and was lost in his thought. He was silent for a long while.

"Do you want to meet him?" the captain asked gingerly.

"Not yet. I'm just here to call on everyone and supervise the work in passing. He's irrelevant."

The official waved his hand to stop the others from interrupting and continued, "I know there is some form of agreement between you and him, but don't worry, we'll have someone to deal with that."

"Oh, glad to hear that… if there's nothing else, we'll go back to our posts."

The two were secretly wiping away the cold sweat as they turned to leave.

Anything could happen and they were afraid of the worst. If those above decided not to pay the man for his work, he could well go ballistic the next minute and turn the base to rubble!

With the nearing completion of the preliminary development of the node, Gu Yu's work here was also coming to an end.

He was only needed for data collecting on the spiritual essence and what happened after that was none of his business. Therefore, life was idle for him right now. He was spending his days wandering around, or exchanging some small talk with Li Suchun.

At the moment, the fellow was strolling back from a lake a couple of kilometers away with a fishing pole in hand. It was a makeshift one—he had snapped a twig and sliced it into a thin strip, then made the hook out of a curled iron wire and dug out some earthworm as the bait.

Things like the reel or bobber were non-existent.

He did not care if he could catch anything at all. He was only killing time with it… well, in Xiaozhai's words, he was enjoying an early retirement as a cultivator.


Gu Yu reached his own lodging and tossed the fishing pole aside. He sensed someone was inside before even entering the room. Pushing open the door casually, he saw another acquaintance from before—Wang Qi, the buddy he met back in Urumqi.

"Hello, Mr. Gu, long time no see."

Wang Qi rose to his feet right away with a smile. "I didn't know when you would be back and took the liberty to come in first. I hope you don't mind."

"I knew it was you! Please sit down!"

Gu Yu poured himself a glass of water from the jug on the table and talked while sipping the water, "You people are very clear-cut in your responsibilities. Zhang Hongru is the stalker and you the negotiator. You're not exactly on schedule, though. I should be paid on time, even if I'm just the help."

"We needed to discuss it first. I apologize for that."

Wang Qi was unaffected by the complaint and remained smiling. "I've heard it all in the capital. It was thanks to Mr. Gu's contribution that we were able to reach such a great achievement. Please accept my gratitude."

"Let's just cut to the chase. Shall we talk here or somewhere else?" All the pleasantries bored Gu Yu.

"Wherever you think fit. I would suggest somewhere else, though. We should try to avoid any eavesdropping and it's too noisy here."

"Sure, I happen to know a quiet spot."

With that, they walked out of the room.

It was dusk time and the sun was half-set. People were bustling about on either side of the river in the rumbling of the machines. It was indeed very noisy. Gu Yu led the way and walked to the west, away from the camp.

Wang Qi realized the woods around them were getting thicker as they walked on remoter roads. They finally stopped at the foot of a cliff.

"Here?" He looked around, finding it hard to keep an indifferent face.

"It's quiet, and the view's nice."

"There's no vi-"

Halfway through his sentence, he felt a hand grabbing at his shoulder and he was lifted away from the ground against gravity. He was rising higher, almost like flying.


Wind whistled in his ears and he was floating in a semi-conscious state. When he came to himself again, Wang Qi realized he was standing on a protruding rock.

It was not very sizeable, just about enough for three people to sit cross-legged. Unknown plants grew around the rock. Looking up, he saw the cliff domineering over them.

"Lucky you, just in time to see the sunset…"

Gu Yu pointed with his chin, motioning Wang Qi to look ahead.

Without realizing it, Wang Qi looked up and splendid colors filled his sight. The space between heaven and earth seemed to have divided into three distinctive sections, which also felt perfectly fused together.

The bottom part was a shade of dim, light gray, which was the bustling camp; layers upon layers of trees tinted with a mixture of yellow and green filled the middle section; over on the top was a smear of clouds in the clear sky and the slanting sun was shining through it.


Wang Qi was speechless. After years of trudging through a bureaucratic career, he could not remember when was the last time he witnessed such a wonder. It was quite some time later when he regained his composure, his tone a mixture of smiling, sighing and resignation. "Mr. Gu, this… sigh…"

"Why all the sighing? Quiet enough here? Let's talk."

At ease, Gu Yu sat down with his back against the stonewall and stretched out his legs. Needless to say, here was where he visited to consume essences.

"My principles have not changed—what I want and what I can provide versus what you want and what you can give in return. It's less complicated this time, though, because my work here is done and you've got what you wanted. So, we just need to agree on my reward."

"That's right. I'd like to hear your terms first."

"Sure. I want 3% of the spiritual stones to be extracted." Unblinking, Gu Yu set his price.

"Mr. Gu, even if we're seesawing through unreasonable offers and counter-offers, your term is way too exorbitant."

It was amazing that Wang Qi could stay cool and not jump to his feet with anger.

3% of the 25,400 tons of stones would amount to 762 tons! The truth was, with strategic resources such as the spiritual stone, the state would not part with any single piece if they could help it!

"Don't say no yet, I haven't finished."

Gu Yu waved at him and went on. "I would like to have the seeds and planting technology of that rice of yours, and a portion of those short-tailed sawfish, too. I also need your help in finding some materials."


Wang Qi was so angry that he burst into laughter. "Mr. Gu, are you trying to make fun of me? However important you think you are, don't act so reassured and emboldened."

"I believe you've misused an idiom 1 there. Let me remind you of something—our cooperation is a long-term one. Even if you manage to recreate the rice and the fish, I am the one to judge if they're useful or not. And it's just Tianzhu Mountain you've covered so far. Have you forgotten about Mount Emei?"

Gu Yu kept his gaze and his ground.


Despite his unaffected expression, Wang Qi felt as if he had just been punched on the stomach. Luck was not on his side.

All Gu Yu had was his ability to detect the spiritual essence. The government did not have a clear understanding of its importance back in Urumqi. With the surfacing of various resources, however, the significance of a certain fellow peaked.

Nonetheless, the government had its own bottom line, which was the percentage of the spiritual stones it would give up. After all, Gu Yu had done them a great favor and needed rewarding, only not with so high a price.

Gu Yu's reasoning was quite simple. He needed reserves of the spiritual stones no matter what, for they were rare resources.

It was a much more peaceful negotiation with both sides having their tempers under control. Under the setting sun, the two bickered about every trivial thing like two aunties shopping in an open market.

Finally, they reached an agreement.

After the research team extracted and standardized them, Gu Yu would receive a payment in full of 20,000 spiritual stones. Yup, you heard it right: 20,000 pieces, not tons.

Gu Yu had agreed on a basic criterion with Qiu Guan, which was that a spiritual stone with a content of 1 was about the size of a duck's egg and weighed about 250 g. Under such standard, 20,000 stones would amass to about half a ton.

The research team estimated the first-year yield at around 400,000 kg. Be aware that it was the weight of the crude stones only. The figure would be smaller after they were cut into standardized spiritual stones.

Then came the agreement on the seeds and planting technology. Gu Yu had abandoned the idea of raising the strange fish, for he was not sure they would survive back in Phoenix Mountain.

Lastly, the government had agreed to help him with collecting some unusual materials, which Gu Yu would keep for refining instruments in the future. How would the government know what was unusual? Well, if a thing appeared odd and scientific equipment could not detect any special quality, then it must be unusual.

The two returned to the camp afterwards.

Wang Qi headed straight to the lounge of that official and after a lengthy report, he concluded, "It's a major issue. As long as we do not have a high-level cultivator of our own, we will forever be dependent on him. We will always be led by the nose."

"I agree. It's the key issue. We finally have something to build on, thanks to this project…"

The official sighed after listening to Wang Qi. "Send the report. Let those above know that it seems we're initiating the training program ahead of schedule."

TL/N: the literal meaning of the idiom Wang used was "to be haughty because of one's master's love and indulgence"

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