The second day after Jiang Xiaojin got back home, she arrived happily at Shengtian.
Gu Yu's demonstration in the restaurant the other night, when he showed off by grinding down a chopstick holder with his bare hands and had to pay an extra ten yuan for the damage, was still fresh in her memory. In fact, she was rather curious, for her brother-in-law had said, "We have something to tell you."
Just listen to that "we".
The message this plural pronoun conveyed could only be a picture of two nude fairies, engaging in some plunging and thrusting activities.
Ok, fine. She admitted to herself that she was more curious about the cohabitation of those two...
"Hello? Sister, I've just arrived at the downtown area. Where are you now?"
"Oh, ok. Hurry up, then!"
Hanging up, Jiao Xiaojin drove her little red car flauntingly towards Phoenix Fair. She had two cars of her own—one she kept in Jiang Zhou, and the other in Shengtian.
Given her age, one might not expect her to have much practice, but the truth was, she was already racing around in her father's car at the age of fourteen. Her unruly driving peaked after she got her license and she had been on a rampage ever since.
Driving experience was the only thing she could beat her sister at.
The car turned into Hongmei Street and slowed down. Seeing the crowd blocking the road ahead, Xiaojin hooted her horn impatiently, but was completely ignored.
A few minutes passed and the crowd showed no sign of dispersing. Xiaojin then decided to get out of the car and have a look herself. Standing in the way were two groups of people, consisting of men and women of all ages. Everybody was shouting at everybody else.
"I've told you a million times, don't dump your water to my side. Can't you understand Chinese?"
"The sewer on our side was blocked, where else am I supposed to dump it?"
"Get someone to fix it, then. Don't mess with mine! Damn! You yokels are so ill-bred."
"Who the hell are you calling ill-bred?"
"You! So what!"
Tension was growing all of a sudden as the squabble grew louder. The scene was on the verge of getting physical. Xiaojin had realized by now that one side seemed to be foreign to the town, while the other was local. The dispute was over some trivial matter.
Ordinary young female would chose to make a detour. However, she was everything but ordinary.
"Hello? Is that 110 1 ? Yes, two groups of people are fighting here. Oh my, it's so violent! Just listen to the noise. My car even can't get through…" Picking up her phone, she dialed the number and started rambling. "Come here quickly. They're probably getting their weapons out in a minute… I'm not making it up. Taking precautions, that's all… I'm a helpful citizen, a helpless girl. I see injustice happening and I turn to you police for help…"
As she babbled on, both groups became quiet and turned to glare at her.
"Who the hell are you?" a burly brute sort of a man shouted.
"Why should I tell you? Do you know you're in the way? What? Is this your private road?" Jiang Xiaojin did not even flinch and shouted back. "You're all grown-ups, for Christ's sake. Save your spit! Bring it on or move! Let my car through!"
She successfully irritated both sides at the same time, who all felt the urge to give her ass a good kick.
However annoyed by the girl, they couldn't actually do anything about it. Besides, the police were coming. The two groups exchanged a few more insults and dispersed.
Pursing her lips, Xiaojin thumped into her seat again and swaggered her way through Hongmei Street.
She was amazed at the same time, for the last time when she was in Bai Town, it wasn't this chaotic. Where did all those country folks come from? And what was the deal with those post-earthquake-looking makeshift houses?
She just couldn't figure it out and drove on. Soon, she reached Phoenix Fair. Looking up, she saw a demon king-like figure standing at the street corner. It was none other than Xiaozhai herself.
"Sister, how long have you been waiting? I was stuck in traffic." Xiaojin flew to her sister like a little toady.
"Not that long. I've just got here myself."
"Hehe, let's go, then. Is my brother-in-law inside? Why isn't he here to meet me… ouch!" She was just marching out when she was twirled around and dragged back by her sister.
"Not that way. We're going into the mountains," said Xiaozhai.
"Going into the mountains?"
She was taken by surprise and blurted out, "Have you bought a villa?"
"Yep, quite a big one, actually. It's a few hundred square meters in size, a single building with a river view, completed and fully furnished. And it also comes with a garden," Xiaozhai answered in all seriousness.
"Wow, have you won a lottery or something, sharing a gigantic house between just the two of you?"
"Not just we two. Xiao Qiu's with us."
Xiaojin opened her eyes widely and put on a horrified look. She immediately buried her head between her hands. "Ouch!"
"To the north!" Xiaozhai could not be bothered to "manage" her at the moment. She simply raised her hand and pointed out a direction.
Pouting, Xiaojin had no choice but to drive on as instructed. She expected their destination to be somewhere near. Instead, they were only driving into more remote corners. On one side of the road were the unbroken stretches of green hills, while an endless open country was on the other. There was no sign of any household at all.
The girl was becoming all the more bewildered. Another quarter of an hour passed and she finally saw a courtyard ahead of them on the right.
The car slowly came to a stop and the two got off. Xiaozhai took over the car key, tossed it to a butler coming out to greet them, and said, "She'll probably be here for a few days. Sorry for the inconvenience."
"Not at all. We'll take good care of it." The butler gave a little bow, apparently holding Xiaozhai in great reverence.
Watching from the side, Xiaojin kept her silence, which was rather unusual of her. She might be reckless, but she was not stupid. The whole thing was so out of the ordinary that it was getting on her nerves.
Knowing her sister's temper, she dared not ask unnecessary questions, but only followed her into the mountains.
They walked on a naturally formed path flanked by lush weeds and covered with a thick layer of leaf mold, which was weirdly squashy to walk on. The woods around them were incredibly thick as well. The deep forest was almost soundless.
As they marched on, Jiang Xiaojin's face gradually crumpled up, as if she was imagining some terrifying scenes in her head. Seeing this, Xiaozhai took Xiaojin's hand in hers. Ten fair and delicate fingers then weaved together like the petals of an orchid. They walked on along the zigzagging path.
About half an hour later, they stopped.
"Where are we?"
Xiaozhai looked around and only saw black woods ahead. The thick branches had blocked out all light and she thought she could see mountain ghosts flickering among the trees. To her right was the path they came from and to her left was the thick forest. Not far behind her was a large clearing, where a seemingly-newly-built switch tower stood upright.
She somehow relaxed a little at the presence of the tower, as if this modern object had brought her some comfort.
"It's just inside… Xiao Qiu!" Xiaozhai called out.
Even before her voice died away, Long Qiu rushed out of the black thorny forest, smiling brightly. "Jin Jin, you're finally here! It's been a while. How have you been?"
"Haha, as beautiful as I always was."
Eying the fat squirrel on Long Qiu's shoulder and glancing at the indistinctive bloody mist behind her, Xiaojin could hear her own voice trembling. But she still managed to produce a saucy remark.
"I'll go check the peach trees. Take her inside first," Xiaozhai instructed Long Qiu, then turned to her sister. "Don't worry, we won't eat you."
Xiaojin almost burst into tears. Following her sister with her eyes, she was reluctantly dragged into the black forest by Long Qiu.
Her nerves had tensed up into a thin line by now. Luckily, Long Qiu was thoughtful enough to keep the bloody mosquitoes away, saving Xiaojin from further excitement. Once they were out of the black thorny forest, the view in front of them opened up right away, revealing the clear river, the green valley, the old tree, the fields, and a cottage sitting on the other side of the river.
"Is this where you live?"
Xiaojin was baffled, for she had expected witchcraft and altars. Where did this pasture-like idyllic view come from? There was no way she could have guessed it, though. Separated by the black thorny forest, the view on the two sides was of stark contrast.
"Yes, didn't brother and sister tell you?"
Long Qiu led her to the river and chuckled. "Here, let me give you a lift."
With that, she waved her hand and the Golden Silkworm flew out.
Xiaojin cried out in surprise right away. She felt gravity was losing its effect and she was floating in the air as if something was holding her up.
"Ah! Put me down!"
Her previous irritating arrogance was all gone. Waving her limbs in all directions but daring not make too sharp a movement, Xiaojin was slowly carried across the river like this. Once on the other side, she was given back control of her body and landed with both feet.
Her face had drained of all colors. She felt today was more exciting than her past twenty years put together. However, when she turned around, she realized that Long Qiu was not with her, but was now working in the field. She even called out to her, "Brother is inside. You can go in!"
Xiaojin cursed under her breath. Having no other option, she marched into the cottage. There were six or seven rooms inside. She wandered around and randomly pushed one door open. The room was empty.
She walked to another door and pushed.
As the door opened, a cloud of obscure haze gushed out, forming into various shapes in the air despite the absence of any wind. Immediately after that, the haze rolled, spread out, and amalgamated again, before it slithered back in, as if under a suction force. The air resumed its clearness.
Then, a man strolled out of the room with a smile. "You're here."TL/N: Chinese equivalent of 911 ED/N: emergency police number I guess