The old man sleeping in the back seat woke up with a start. Eyes half closed, he took a while to clear his head before opening the window and asked, "What time is it?"
"It's four in the morning," replied his assistant.
"How are things looking?"
"We are still able to keep it at bay, but the decrease of the water is quite significant. Although the red fog has fallen back a little, it showed no sign of dissipating."
The assistant looked dejected. "We estimate that the water will dry out completely at around nine o'clock…"
"Sigh. That water is not enough, after all."
The old man heaved a sigh and said right away, "Be as it may, we have tried our best. We have followed our conscience and fulfilled our duty. Anything else?"
"The city of Huo Zhou i-is gone." The assistant pursed his lips tightly.
The old man winced. Despite having been prepared for the news, he couldn't help but let his mind slip for a few seconds. He sounded pained when he asked, "Anything else?"
"Wang Ruoxu has arrived."
"Oh? Where is he now?"
"He's with Mr. Gu, and so is Priest Lu."
The old man frowned. "Keep an eye on them. We can't put our complete trust in them just yet."
"Understood. Please take some more rest," the assistant replied and left.
By "them", the old man did not make it explicit whether he was talking about those of Phoenix Mountain, Qiyun Monastery, or both; the assistant got the precise message nonetheless.
The whole big area had been turned into a temporary campsite.
The staff in the downtown area had all gathered here, together with countless vehicles and tents. With all the bustling crowd, it looked more like a giant open-air bazar.
Inside one of the tents, four people were sitting in a circle chatting.
"Gosh, this place is abominable. A few more days staying here and I'll become a roast pig."
Wang Ruoxu was as fat as he always was, his big face dripping with sweat. He could not stand such weather and was wiping away the sweat with a towel all the time. Since he was acquainted with both sides, he naturally took up the part as the middleman. "Let me introduce you all first. This is Junior Brother Lu Yuanqing, the pupil of the abbot of Baiyun Temple of Quanzhen. I don't think I need to introduce these two here—they're the Two Sages of Phoenix Mountain—"
"Stop! Stop right there!" Gu Yu found it utterly ridiculous. "What the hell is 'Two Sages'? It almost sounds like ' Phoenix Legend 1 '!"
"Hey, Phoenix Legend isn't that bad. That can be our nickname." Xiaozhai put on a serious face.
"You wish! You're not dragging me down with you on that!"
Wang Ruoxu had seen the couple bickering back on Iron Mountain and this was nothing new to him. Lu Yuanqing, on the other hand, was sitting quietly beside them while eyeing the two curiously.
So, the renowned Phoenix Legend… scratch that, two masters of Phoenix Mountain looked like this in real person.
It was evident enough that the speech and finesse he had prepared beforehand would no longer be necessary.
As for the couple, Gu Yu was butchered by his girlfriend like always when he finally turned to the other two, acting as if nothing had happened. "Priest Lu, I presume you have achieved the innate state. Correct?"
"That's correct." Lu Yuanqing smiled.
"When did that happen?"
"About three months ago. I was fortunate enough to sense the godsent opportunity and by sheer luck, I succeeded."
"I see. There are so few cultivators around nowadays and you have reached the innate state even by following Neidan practice. That would give the community much hope. I admire you for that!"
"You're too modest. I should be the one impressed by all you have achieved." Lu Yuanqing cupped his hand in return.
Gu Yu exchanged a few more lines with him, not minding Lu Yuanqing's status at all. The longer he walked the cultivation path, the more he realized how difficult this task was. As long as there was no conflict of interests, he didn't mind sitting on the bench to play the happy cheerer.
"Priest Wang, it is very kind of you to come all the way here this time." Xiaozhai cut to the chase. "We need a favor. It has something to do with Feng Shui."
"Hahaha! Observing Feng Shui is the one thing I can assume authority on," Wang Ruoxu bragged, his round belly all the more conspicuous.
"Exactly! You're not called the Millionaire Wang for nothing!" Xiaozhai teased him, then took out paper and pen, starting to draw the area surrounding the cave. She used to be a member of the art society back in college and was quite skilled in scenic sketch. In a few strokes, the general shape was lined out.
Wang Ruoxu tilted his head and watched. He did not think much of it in the beginning, but was growing uneasy. By the time Xiaozhai was wrapping up, his enormous face was all crinkled up like a greasy lard-filled steam bun.
"That's about it."
Before long, Xiaozhai tossed her pen down.
Wang Ruoxu picked up the paper and looked closely, making not a single sound. It was quite some time before he asked, "Here, are you sure about the mountain's shape?"
"I think it was higher."
Gu Yu glanced at the sketch and rubbed a line upward. A gentle slope was instantly sharpened.
"Like this? Are you sure?"
"Tsk, that would be spectacular!" Fatso Wang exclaimed with admiration.
"What exactly is this?" Lu Yuanqing was also curious.
"As the saying goes, when Yin and Yang are separated, the acquired substances are created; when Yin and Yang combine, the primordial Qi reveals itself." He sat down with an unrestrained air, his legs wide apart while he assumed the lecturer role. "The Feng Shui and Yin and Yang we talk about on a daily basis are all indefinite concepts, by which we mean a balanced state, one that the elements do not interfere with one another. But this is not the same. This place is where the fire dragons meet and one of the utmost Yang quality, yet it just happens that there is a Yin cave within. I've been studying Taoist theory for several decades and this is the first time I have ever seen something like this: Yin within Yang and Yang wrapping around Yin."
He paused a little before asking, "Did you say that there was a cave there, which was gloomy and cold?"
"In that case, I can assure you that there is a profound mystery in that cave. It should lead you further into the mountain and at its end is where Yin and Yang truely combine into one!"
Seeing that the man was all excited, Gu Yu interjected, "Then what?"
"Then what? The combination of Yin and Yang creates the most unique setting that will give birth to the ultimate demon!" Wang Ruoxu made it sound very ferocious.
"So, a big monster is hidden there?" Xiaozhai's tone made it sound ridiculous instead.
"I think so."
Wiping away his sweat, Fatso Wang could not be bothered with their wording.
The couple exchanged a look and read each other's mind. 'Wang Wei and his bunch were playing with a very big fire!' Gu Yu asked immediately, "Priest Wang, can you find the spot?"
"Hard to say. I can only be sure when I see it for myself."
"Ok. Next time we hang around here, we'll ask for your help again."
"Pfttt!" Fatso Wang almost choked on his own spit. 'When on earth did I agree to that?'
Lu Yuanqing was enthralled by the conversation. "Mr. Gu, are you looking for something?"
"Not me, a bunch of cult followers…"
Gu Yu thought about it and decided it would not matter much to tell them, so he briefly told the other two about the Shamanistic incident, which great surprised the two—there was still a deranged organization like that around nowadays?
All the while, they were also detecting a feeling rising inside that was hard to describe: that was how marvellous cultivation life should be!
The four chatted for quite some time. Lu Yuanqing behaved the most appropriately, neither humble nor impertinent, mentioning nothing out of the line. Wang Ruoxu was a wonder himself, for he had a double identity—a cultivator of the monastery and an undercover man for the BIMAUP.
He was timid, sly, and shrewd at the same time. By now he had figured out part of Lu Yuanqing's integration strategy.
He had expected to see Lu Yuanqing tactfully reaching out to Phoenix Mountain, laying the groundwork for getting in touch in the future. As it turned out, he had underestimated Lu Yuanqing's forbearance and prudence. The man showed no such intention whatsoever.
Fatso Wang was actually struggling inside as well. On one hand, he dared not go against the government, on the other hand, he would like to see improvement in the Taoist community. His position in the middle was giving him a hard time.
Before they realized, it was daylight.
Trumpets rang out outside, indicating it was time to eat and strike camp. Gu Yu and Xiaozhai walked out of the tent and noticed that the water had been nearly all evaporated and was almost drained. The red fog did not look much better, though. It was noticeably thinner.
Around nine o'clock, the observation team resumed their work and half an hour later, data came in from the front line. "The fog is advancing again, but at a much lower speed. It is now down to 0.3 m/s!"TL/N: the name of a Chinese pop music duo.