Xiaojin was very scared.
With a temperament like hers, there were only a handful people that could actually "scare" her and even her father was not among them—for toward him, it was more like giving in, compromising, or even being forced into submission because her economic lifeline was at his mercy… but towards this older sister, her apprehension was genuine.
The study was incredibly quiet. Xiaozhai sat on the chair and Xiaojin rested her bottom on the edge of the bed. She could hear the indistinctive sounds from other rooms, a mixture of Long Qiu's running shower and the cliche TV drama Gu Yu was watching.
Keeping her head lowered, Xiaojin dared not look into her eyes. After much stalling, she finally gathered up enough courage to ask, "What are you going to say to me?"
Leaning against the back of the chair, Xiaozhai crossed her fingers and asked softly, "This thing today, do you think you've done anything wrong?"
"I, I'm sorry, it was my fault," said Xiaojin anxiously.
But Xiaozhai shook her head. "No, that's not what I meant. I don't want to see you fawning on me, admitting to some mistake that you don't feel you've committed. I'm only asking you, from the bottom of your heart, do you think you've done anything wrong?"
Xiaojin was baffled. Her first reaction was that it was a setup! But stealing a glance at her sister, she did not think it was meant to be that. After a moment of hesitation, she said, "I don't think I was wrong."
"Because I thought it was fun. And I didn't harm anybody. That Li Daoyu was humiliated at most! We were going to leave, but that Xue person tried to grab me. That was why Sister Xiao Qiu started fighting." Xiaojin resolved to speaking her mind.
"Hm…" Xiaozhai made no comment, but went on. "In that case, let me ask you a question. You're a grown-up already, do you know what you want?"
Seeing that her little sister did not quite get the question, she explained, "Some people want stability, some want to be rich, others want love, power… what is it that you want?"
"I, I… well, it's fun! I want to live each day experiencing something new and be thrilled every minute of my life!" Xiaojin gave it some thought and replied seriously.
"Ok, remember it, then. That will be your intention." Xiaozhai was even more serious.
Blinking, Xiaojin was at a loss. She thought she was here to get a scolding, but it turned out to be nothing. Instantly, her swaggering manner was back as she chuckled, "Hehe, Sister, I thought you were going to lecture me."
"Yeah, you know, about virtues and manners, solidarity and friendship, be good and stuff."
"Be good, huh?"
Xiaozhai gave her a strange look and asked, "As a businessman, your father loves his wife and daughter and has been involved in quite a few public welfare projects. But in all these years, he also pushed many a competitors to the point of bankruptcy and some of those people had thrown themselves off buildings. Would you call him good or bad? I have released snakes in the Miao village and injured hundreds of people while saving Xiao Qiu. Do you think I'm good or bad? Or some of those government officials, whose policies alternate between benefiting and harming the people, would you call them good or bad?"
She shook her head. "There's no way to tell. Even if you could make the distinction of good and bad in people, how about the Great Dao? Is it a thing that is only there for the good ones to achieve, while the bad ones cannot? Remember, there's no such thing.
Cultivation is a training of one's mind. What is a mind? It's the intention, the thing you want. So long as you're fixed upon that intention and would follow that path unwavered, you will eventually understand."
She paused for a moment to let Xiaojin digest the message before going on, "That's why I would not lecture you. I will only teach you how to do things. What I want so say is, before you do anything, ask yourself this: can I walk away from it safely? You want to have fun? Go ahead. But are you capable enough to deal with the mess you made yourself?
Solve it all by yourself, that's called 'having it your own way'; having us solve it for you, that's just petty trick! Your own mess, your responsibility. Blame no one if you get killed by your own wrongdoing because you're too weak. We can't follow you around cleaning up your mess forever."
Those were some harsh words and Xiaojin went rigid, but eventually let it register. As a city girl, she was brought up used to be restless, loud, and flashy. She had yet to correctly understand the cultivation life and the future perils she was going to face.
Seeing her reaction, Xiaozhai stood up. "Ok, that's all I'm going to say. You will learn gradually."
Xiaojin thought it was over and was going to let out a sigh of relief. However, her sister straightened up her face and added, "But today, you have indeed given us a lot of trouble. You'll be punished for that."
She puckered up her face and pleaded, "Sister, how was I supposed to know that that old man was a cult member and there were some second-generation lordlings… ah!"
Xiaojin let out a scream, for her sister had poked her a few times with a finger and her body went stiff. She was then held up and placed on the bed. Xiaozhai announced her verdict.
"Twenty minutes. Use the time to think it over!"
"Don't, Sister! Sister!"
Watching Xiaozhai walking out, Xiaojin had yet to understand the meaning of those words when there came a sensation. Something reminding her of the paw of a kitty had scratched somewhere inside her—it could be anywhere from inside her heart, her bones, or within her blood and flesh.
Her eyelids trembled. Immediately after that, she was overwhelmed by a violent wave of tingling itches, which soon took over her entire body. It was worse than dying.
"Ah! Sister, Sister…"
She shouted at the top of her voice, trying hard to twitch her body around to ease the itches, but could not lift even a finger.
"Sister, please forgive me! I won't do it again!
Ah… sob… it's so itchy… sob…
Screw you, Jiang Xiaozhai! You just wait when I'm strong enough. I'll nail you to the ground… sob…"
Xiaozhai paid no attention to her words whatsoever and had gone into the living room. Long Qiu had finished her shower by now. She then ran into the study to comfort Xiaojin.
Gu Yu was still watching TV. Seeing his girlfriend coming, he could not help but ask, "Can she understand that much?"
"Much? I thought I still did not say enough. I really wanted to give her a*s a good kick!"
Xiaozhai was genuinely angry. She was about to sit down when she suddenly moved a few steps back with sparkling eyes. "Get up. Let me have a look."
Gu Yu followed the order obediently. He rose to his feet, stood in the center of the living room, and started posing like a model. Technically, the clothes he was wearing was a retro-style night-robe in deep blue.
The color was not for everyone, but suited him perfectly. The lower hem sat 3 cm above the ankle and he wore it with the collar hanging open, revealing a bit of flesh. The whole picture had a vitality to it, like water flowing out of a tap.
"Very nice. I thought it would suit you."
Xiaozhai walked around him, apparently very pleased.
"When did you buy this?" He had to wonder.
"Just after we got back from Tianshan."
"Hm? Before we…" He was a bit surprised.
Turning off the TV, Xiaozhai took his hand and led him slowly to the bedroom. "You were mine, sooner or later!"
After all this was solved, the family of three returned to Bai Town.
The rise of Li Daoyu meant one thing only: the spiritual essence of Phoenix Mountain had spread out all the way here. Based on the standard set up by Gu Yu, the density of Shentian had reached at least 1, the basic requirement for cultivation.
By now, from Shengtian to Langtou County, the several-hundred-kilometer-long route was covered by spiritual essence from the east to the west. Further out was the city of Dongyun, where Gu Yu had not visited yet and did not know the local situation.
As for the government, the development of Tianzhu continued, but Zhang Hongru was showing up less frequently. There was no sign of starting the work on Mt Emei. Gu Yu had asked in passing once, but Zhang only replied by saying they were not in any hurry and it was more important to develop Tianzhu well first.
Gu Yu did not think it was only in his head, but Zhang sounded much more confident now. Hm, interesting...