[TL/N: in the title of the raw, "耕田" (ploughing) is a euphemism for "doing it".]
"Xiao He, has your grandpa gone to the municipal government again?"
"Gosh, why did that Old Man He put himself through all that trouble? Poor kid, being left behind at home all by herself. Xiao He, my boy's at home, do you want to come and play with him?"
"That's ok, I've got some washing to do. Thank you, Auntie."
In the relocation village near Hongmei Street, He He greeted the aunt from next door and went to the public tab with a small basin of clothes. She then filled the basin with water, went back, and sat down in front of her house.
The clothes she was washing were a mixture of hers and her grandpa's. Her seven-year-old little arms were having a hard time with the task. She used to be a naughty and mischievous girl, but had become much maturer since moving here two months ago.
Some government personnel had indeed visited them after the incident that day and carried out repeatedly the usual ideological work, as well as provided them with appropriate subsidies. Her grandpa's behavior changed slightly afterwards, for at the end of the day, they still had a life to get by. He managed to get himself a tricycle and started going around the streets collecting scrap.
He certainly would not get over the idea all at once. His daily visit to the municipal government had now changed into a weekly one; he simply needed the grumble. The government did not know what to do with him and had to adapt to their new weekly task: listening to Uncle He's complaints.
He He finished washing the clothes. Panting, she poured the dirty water into the sewage, then, trying to lift the wet clothes onto the drying rack, she picked up a bracing rod only to find herself too small for the job. After much swaying and stumbling, she still could not hang the clothes up there.
The little girl's arms were aching from all the trying. Nervously irritated and aggrieved, she was about to cry when the rod was lifted by an extended hand, which easily reached up and rested the shirt on the stack.
The little girl turned around and saw a tall and slim young man with pretty eyes next to her. She paused, then cried out in a low voice, "Hey, you're that big brother!"
"You're home alone again?" Gu Yu took over the rod and one by one, put up the clothes.
"Em, grandpa is out."
"Have you eaten?"
"I have. I reheated some leftovers."
Despite having only met him twice before, He He already felt quite close to the man who also smelt nice. She asked, "Brother, where are you going?"
"Nowhere in particular. I'm just walking around… there, the clothes are all up. I've got to go. Bye bye!"
Followed by He He's eyes, Gu Yu returned to the side of the street where Xiaozhai was waiting. She chuckled. "Is that the little girl you talked about?"
"Yeah, I almost feel we're brought together by fate."
"Nice bone structure. She'll make a good cultivator."
The two did not think much of it and left the place a little while later.
Walking past Hongmei Street and a little distance away, they reached the old town long-distance bus station. Passengers were streaming in and out of the station. Together with the heavy traffic, the place seemed exceedingly boisterous.
Three taxis were waiting by the side of the road, their drivers calling out, "Poplar Hillock! Anyone going to Poplar Hillock? 15 yuan a seat! 15 yuan a seat!"
The most energetic driver was a fatso. He wore a tank top with the lower hem lifted up, revealing his fat belly. Picking out Gu Yu and Xiaozhai as potential customers, he went up to them and asked, "Need a taxi?"
"How many have you got on board?"
"I will have more with you two in there. The car will be filled real fast!"
By that, he meant he had solicited no passengers so far.
Gu Yu asked, "We'll have your car all to ourselves. Can we leave right away?"
"Yes, sure! You pay the money, you call the shots. This way!"
The fatso was apparently delighted by the offer and led the two to a shabby Alto. It was a carpooling taxi that could take four passengers at most. A round trip could earn him 120 yuan.
Poplar Hollick was a small village near Grass River Mouth with a few hundred households. It was so remote that only one bus passed the village once every day. Previously the main route was from Bai Town to Grass River Mouth, then to Five Dragons Ridge and the city of Dongyun.
Now that there was no longer a Grass River Mouth, the traffic was rerouted to Poplar Hollick, which made this minor route rather popular. Four of five taxis had stopped running in the downtown area and started carpooling outside the long-distance bus station. The job turned out quite lucrative.
As the car drove further away from Bai Town, the chatterbox fatso asked eagerly, "Hey, where are you going?"
"Five Dragons Ridge," replied Xiaozhai.
"Ha! I knew it. Young couples love the hot spring there. I've driven quite a few pairs there."
The fatso gave the steering wheel a pat and laughed. "Since you're going at this hour, I guess you're staying there for the night. Good. The place's pretty nice. I've been there with my wife before… you know what, it just didn't make sense that they locked the town up like that and forced those people to move away. Gosh, tens of thousands of people poured in after that and I thought Bai Town was becoming a big city… if you ask me, it can be anything. The government builds their secret weapon and we folks get to pay the price…"
And he babbled on like so. About forty minutes later, they arrived at Poplar Hollick.
The small village was incredibly popular now, for it had almost become a transfer station. All vehicles travelling the route from Bai Town to Dongyun would take a break there. Those spots where people were getting on and off had even given rise to numerous small merchants and peddlers selling soft drinks, roasted sausages, egg pancakes, etc.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai got off the car, each with a huge bag on their backs, and headed directly towards the north of the village.
Once there, they followed a township road leading straight to Grass River Mouth. The road was narrow-ish and flanked by pleasant, shady trees. The view was rather nice, but unfortunately, it was completely deserted.
They met not a single soul after a long walk. It was only when they reached the main road and heard the sound of the river that they saw the barbed wire set up ahead with a sign saying "Military Zone. No Access."
The area was also patrolled by sentries with loaded guns.
The two took a detour up a small hill and looked into the distance. At the junction of two rivers was a small island, which was covered by a pink fume halfway between a cloud and a fog.
"Wow, that's a gigantic marshmallow!"
Of course, Xiaozhai's thought processes were unique as always and she complimented it wholeheartedly.
The island was none other than Grass River Mouth itself. With the stationed troops, ordinary people would never be able to get in. To them, however, it was just one more tricky detail.
They walked around the fence by going up the hill, then descended slowly. With their mental force as natural radar, their super-perceptivity, and their agility, they jumped and hopped, successfully avoiding all sentries and crept up to the bridge.
The bridge connecting the island to the mainland was about thirty meters long. With the dispersing peach blossom miasma, more than half of the bridge was covered. Only the bridgehead was guarded.
Carrying their guns, the two soldiers were patrolling to and fro when their head went muddled all of a sudden and their senses all chaotic, as if their entire body was scanned by something. It was extremely uncomfortable.
A couple of seconds later, everything was normal again. The two looked around and saw nothing out of the ordinary. They kept the fear to themselves, deeming it the impact of the toxic miasma.
"Tsk, such a pity!"
Xiaozhai shook her head and signed with emotion as soon as she set foot on the island.
The houses once filled with busy voices were still here, but there was no sign of a single person... scratch that, not a single living creature. However, the air was filled with an enchanting light-pink fog and bright and beautiful peach trees were everywhere, as if the prettier they were, the more deadly silent this place would be.
"The wood and bricks are not affected and the turf is intact. It seems the erosion only works on people and animals. Hey, how are you feeling?" Gu Yu examined the area and asked.
"I'm good. The miasma is probably afraid of me."
"Afraid of you?" He was puzzled.
"See for yourself!"
Xiaozhai activated her Metal Thunder and struck out with an open palm.
The movement raised a gust of wind with a hint of lightnings. As if reacting to a natural enemy, the miasma dissipated instantly, leaving a small blank spot which was filled by the fog again a moment later.
'Awesome!' Gu Yu eyed her enviously. Thunder Technique cultivators must have their own add-ons! The premium players! They were worthy of their renown as the nemesis of all things sinister and evil…
Had his girlfriend reached the Human Immortal state, with a few thunderstrikes, this island would be cleared up instantly.
The two walked around a little bit and went their separate ways. They were much more relaxed now, for with the entire island covered by the miasma, no one on the outside could see them.
Gu Yu found a spot, took out the little gourd, and started collecting the toxic miasma. He was looking into incense-making recently and had just come up with some ideas when the miasma he collected earlier was used up. He had come back for more this time.
It was Xiaozhai's first time here. After having enough fun, she found a few thick peach trees and broke off quite a few twigs.
The twigs were of two kinds: one was with a length of 5-10 cm and a diameter 0.5-1.5 cm; the other kind was longer and thicker, but of the same quality and sturdiness.
She then opened up her backpack, fumbled out two crude wooden box, and put the twigs in—the boxes were made from the old tree in the valley and used as containers for the time being.
Xiaozhai then stuffed the boxes back into her bag. Her body froze abruptly. An irritating heat was rising in her abdomen and her cheeks were burning slightly.
She blinked. Instead of flustering, she breathed more in deliberately. The cloying pink fog drilled through her nostrils, bringing with it an itchy and numbing sensation.
"Are you done?"
Just then, Gu Yu's voice came from behind her. Turning around, she noticed that he was also blushing with keen eyes.
"Yup, let's go!"
Their eyes met and they pursed their lips simultaneously. They left the river mouth holding hands.
Please! I have my own Dao companion now. The last things that'll concern me are love potions!
Bearing that in their minds, they doubled back, reached Poplar Hollick in the afternoon, and returned to Bai Town.
Such was the purpose of their trip—namely, collecting some peach blossom miasma and snapping some peach tree twigs so that they could try cutting and grafting back in Phoenix Mountain.
One had to admit that after witnessing the development work of the research team, the spectrum of Gu Yu's ideas was much broader now. With his current capability, they had no way to tackle the miasma. It had been a while since he asked Zhang Hongru for information on formations—the latter still had not brought him anything. He could only assume that the Taoist sects had lost much of their heritage throughout the centuries.
Therefore, he turned to filtering. Oh my, this concept from Qiu Guan was like a gospel. With the absence of formations, special skills and magical instruments, certain problems could be solved through agricultural technology instead.
Quite a lot of wild peach trees were scattered across the inner Phoenix Mountain and there was more than enough spare land in the valley. Plus, cutting and grafting weren't exactly rocket science.
As a matter of fact, the government had also thought about the same approach, but could not carry it out because of the danger of the miasma. It would not stop Gu Yu, however, for his small family of three consisted of innate cultivators and could completely withstand the effect.
If it worked and the peach trees could keep on reproducing, they could plan a belt of trees in the inner mountain, which would be their defense zone.
And that was exactly why they kept it from Zhang Hongru.
Night, in the valley.
Long Qiu had prepared dinner for the three, which she left in the pots to keep it warm while she remained in Gu Yu's meditation room going through his notes. She was slightly less talented than those two, which she made up for with her diligence; she was improving at a noticeable pace.
She was still reading when she heard the sound at the gate. She immediately put down the notebook and ran out. "Brother, Sister, you're back."
"Yep. Have you been a good girl?"
"Ah, put me down!"
Xiaozhai held Long Qiu up and spun her around. It was only after Long Qiu's near-exploding protest that she finally put her down casually. Gu Yu and Xiaozhai briefly cleaned themselves up and sat down to eat. Long Qiu showed them the box and said, "Someone came to see you today. It was that Zhang Hongru."
"What was he doing here?" Gu Yu was surprised.
"He brought this."
Long Qiu opened the box and reported, "He said these are samples of the spiritual stones and asked you to see if they're up to standard. He needed your reply asap. He'll be down the mountain these days."
"Oh? That's very efficient of them."
Gu Yu picked one up and studied closely, then probed it with his mind. There was some loss of spiritual essence, but not so significant that the content of the stone couldn't still be considered 1.
He was reassured. "Are there four only?"
"Well, there used to be five. I used one up by accident." Long Qiu was abashed.
"Don't worry about it. How did you feel?"
"It was slightly faster than my usual cultivation, but not too noticeable…"
Long Qiu thought about it and asked, "Brother, are we cultivating with spiritual stones from now on?"
"You wish. The state only has 24,500 tons in total so far, and those are crude ore. At best, they would treat them as reserves or special rewards. More lodes will show up, though. It's only when the scale is sizeable enough that they would become usable resources."
Gu Yu paused there and turned to Xiaozhai. "Actually, we can spare some stones for cultivation only. They'll be helpful, especially with your Thunder Technique…"
All three were in high spirits that night and they went on chating after dinner.
Our two fellows were both feeling agitated as they chatted on. The aura around them seemed to be heating up. Even the air was filled with a pink atmosphere of foreplay.
Long Qiu was ignorant to what was going on as she said sincerely, "By the way, Brother, there's something I don't understand from you notes."
"Where? Let me…"
He was about to say 'Let me explain it to you now' when he felt a chilliness on his back. He forced back the words and changed his reply to, "Let me explain it to you tomorrow. It's so late already."
The chilliness was gone as Xiaozhai eyed him with a 'very clever young man indeed' sort of look.
Long Qiu checked the time. It was only nine.
She was going to say something else when Xiaozhai stood up. "Yeah, take some rest. We're tired, too."
"Uh huh, go back to your room. Time for bed."
Long Qiu was mercilessly thrown out. Pouting, she mumbled, "Do you think I know nothing about that? It's nothing but, but…"
Her words choked her right there, unable to utter the term.
The other two paid no attention to that. Closing the door behind them, they went quietly to their bed (and other things).
As the saying went, the beanstalk was dripping and the night was long; the thin clouds moved aside, revealing the glowing moon; dewdrops on the berries reflected the view of flowers, which poured out into those two red lotus petals. 1TL/N: basically, a doggerel filled with euphemism of certain body parts and the process of exchanging body fluids.