"As we all know, the city's been having quite a few very hot days lately and the power consumption is hitting the roof… here, let me explain to the audience a scientific fact: the capacity of our power grid is not limitless. When the power consumption is reaching the limit, the amount of electricity used will be artificially controlled, hence the blackout by time intervals and areas…
Please be advised that from 6pm to 9pm tonight, the power will be temporarily off in the following residential district: Hongmei Street, Phoenix Street, North of the Fourth Primary School, and South of the Stadium. Residents of these areas, please make any necessary arrangements in advance."
Switching off the radio, Old Man He stretched out his sweat-soaked body and plodded inside, his slippers scraping against the ground.
Stripping off his shorts with one tug, he scrubbed hard at his body with a cold-water-soaked towel. He only went out again when the scorching heat had left his skin. This time, he did not even bother to wear a tank top. He slouched into the rattan chair, stripped to the waist.
There was nothing to be ashamed of, for men of all ages were doing the same thing.
Damn it. It was the end of August already, but the weather showed no sign of cooling off. Those living in apartments had air-conditioned rooms, but what could these people do? The makeshift shafts were crammed with hundreds of people; the heat they gave off concentrated into the narrow space and would not dissipate. The area felt like a steaming sauna.
Some were willing to splurge the resettlement fee on renting houses elsewhere, but more decided against it as they ground their teeth and endured the tough life. The daytime was unbearable and they took their beddings outside to sleep in the street at night—a huddle of bodies lying all over the place. The household garbage and sewage not disposed in time only worsened the picture. The area was becoming more ghetto-like everyday.
The government had wanted to straighten things up in the beginning, but had pretty much given up by now. All they were doing now was to wait for the completion of the residential buildings so that these people could be shipped out.
The old man was still lying there when He He trotted near with a little boy. It was the grandson of their next door neighbor. The two had been playing outside and their little faces were covered with dirt.
"My gosh, look at your pathetic faces! Go wash yourselves!" Old Man He scolded.
The two kids went in obediently to wash their faces clean. When they came out again, the little girl's face lighted up as she called out, "Sister Qiu!"
A tall, slender young woman dressed in white walked towards them. Her willowy gait and graceful movement reminded one of a gentle breeze. It was none other than Long Qiu, who had just gone off the mountain.
"Good afternoon, Grandpa He!"
She went up to them and greeted the old man, then smiled at the little boy, who was all of a sudden very shy and dashed back home.
"Mhm, thank you for yesterday."
Old Man He was much nicer towards her—the girl was too sweet for anybody to lose their temper over. He He was even more delighted than the old man. Holding Xiao Qiu's hand, she asked, "Sister, why are you here again today?"
"I want to see how you're all doing. Oh, and I brought something…"
Opening the fabric bag she had strapped across her shoulder, she took out a few pouches and asked, "Grandpa He, may I borrow your stove?"
"It's all yours!" The old man gestured with a forceful sweep of his hand.
After that, Long Qiu went in, filled a large pot with water, added coal into the stove, and started a fire. She then emptied the pouches of all the scrapes of roots and stems into the pot and started brewing.
The inquisitive He He hovered around the stove and asked, "Sister, what is this?"
Long Qiu gave it a thought before answering, "It's a herbal tea I concocted myself. It'll relieve the summer heat."
She couldn't tell the truth, for these were the herbs her brother planted. After half a year of growth in the spiritual atmosphere, the plants now had a tiny bit of spiritual essence in them. She picked a few and found the right ingredients that very night. The medicine would not only prevent heatstroke, but also cure a series of related symptoms.
In a short while, a pleasant fragrance was rising out of the pot. The neighbors were all curious and gathered around to check it out.
"Oh my, making soup on such a hot day?"
"Why, isn't that the girl from yesterday? How come today… oh, herbal tea, that's the good stuff!"
"My dear, you're not from around here, aren't you? You don't sound like it. Where do you work? You're such a kind person…"
She offered these people much help yesterday and most of the neighbors knew her face now. Everyone was talking at the same time. Someone commented unexpectedly, "What do you know about the ingredients? You can't just mix random things together and make a herbal tea. It could make people sick."
"Don't worry. I know a thing or two about the art of healing and this will work just fine." Long Qiu was not at least irritated and replied good-temperedly.
She wasn't lying. Women of Grass Ghost in Miao villages all had some knowledge of the traditional cures. After they moved to Phoenix Mountain, she had read quite a few medical books. Besides, her brother was an incense-maker, who knew very well of the medicinal properties of various plants.
She couldn't cure cancer, but heatstroke prevention? That she could do.
A long time passed and the concoction was finally ready.
Now was the time to test their true attitude. Despite all the noise they made earlier, few dared try the herbal tea themselves. He He was indeed a brave girl. Pouring herself a bowl of the tea, she downed it in a few gulps.
The light brown liquid flowed down her throat. She felt it warmed up her stomach first as she broke into a comfortable sweat. Immediately after that, the warmth turned into a cooling sensation.
It was not a dropping of temperature of the skin, but a delightful coolness felt from inside out.
Blinking, He He's face was blank for a second before she shouted, "Sister Qiu, this tea is awesome!"
Seeing her reaction, Old Man He also gulped down a bowl of tea. He let out a long breath. "That feels amazing!"
"Let me have one!"
"Give me a bowl!"
All of a sudden, the crowd was fighting over the tea. One after another, they went home to grab their own pots and pans. Some even took the liberty to try to pour the tea themselves.
In all the hubbub over the medicine, the most strange thing happened. No matter how hard they pushed, no one could move beyond the table. The hand stuck out somehow turned to other directions without ever touching the spoon.
Long Qiu stood in the middle of the bustling scene as if under the protection of a sacred light, dazing anyone who would try to stare at her. She handed out the liquid in order while explaining, "You can't drink too much of this. One bowl is quite enough. Anything more than that would harm your health.
That's because the herbal tea is a cold-natured drink. Too much of it will bring deficiency and coldness to the spleen and stomach."
This went on for a while until each person had at least a bowl of the concoction. They all believed it to be some sort of herbal tea and were amazed at the girl's great medical skill. The heat had indeed dissipated completely from their bodies and they were all in high spirits once more.
In the end, Long Qiu also poured two bowls of the medicine and took them across the street to the two police officers stationed there.
These two fellows were having a hard time as well. Instead of their comfortable offices, they had to sit around in this place every day. Seeing that a young woman was bringing beverage for them, they were overwhelmed by the unexpected kindness.
Nevertheless, they were secretly suspicious inside. Where did this girl come from? She looked so refreshing and sweet that they could see a sense of freedom in her smile. Could it be one of those publicity stunts? But there was no cameras around.
They couldn't help it. It was so hard to be just a good person nowadays. People would either deem it a play-acting, or suspect that you had an ulterior motive.
"Thanks a lot!"
"You're welcome. It's hard work staying here all day."
After they finished their drink, Long Qiu retrieved the bowls and was about to go back when she halted all of a sudden.
She felt two pairs of eyes scanning her. Looking in their direction, she noticed a man and a woman standing by a convenient store nearby. They were mumbling to each other and would dart a look in her direction every now and then.
The duo stood there for a bit longer and snuck away.
Long Qiu frowned, but did not think much of it.
Mostly, she was quite fulfilled with what she achieved today. Although the neighbors' reactions weren't exactly pleasant, she would not be affected by it since she had already set her mind on it.
Yesterday, when she returned to the mountain, she told her sister that there was no deeper reason for her suggestion. She simply wanted to help these people.
Both "parents" gave her their full support, only that they would not give her any actual help and had her do everything herself. However, she was delighted with such an arrangement, for they had always had her under their wings and she almost felt like an overprotected child. It was such a rare opportunity that she could do something all by herself.
The three family members of Phoenix mountain each had their own aspirations.
What did Gu Yu want? Just as what he had told Xiaozhai, "I want immortality, and I want you."
Xiaozhai did not make hers explicit, but it was not a difficult guess. She desired a carefree life, doing everything at her own will.
Xiaojin's was the simplest: fun.
What about Long Qiu? She wanted happiness for herself and those around her; she hoped bad people doing bad things would be punished; when she saw someone pitiable, she wished she could help...
It almost sounded naive and even did not look like the intention of a cultivator. But that was also the most admirable quality of this young woman.