After the Huo Zhou incident, that old man wrote a report for the central government, expounding in full on his suggestions and worries. Those above had discussed much about the issue before and taking this opportunity, they had held multiple conferences over a short period of time, thus producing this preliminary programme.
It was no laughing matter. Anything could be planned and cultivation was no exception.
This three-year plan was on the crude side. The second half of the year would be spent on the transition and perfection of the details. Starting from the following year, it would be fully implemented. Overall, it was of a three-in-one structure—the social, cultural, and cultivation ideology.
It was in fact rather fascinating, for the two major foundations—politics and economics—had been omitted. The development concept could be summarized in one word: stability, stability, once more stability!
There were three main goals:
In one or two years, lead the public in an orderly and smooth manner so that they could critically understand and accept the concept of cultivation.
Within three years, achieve full development of various resources in Tianzhu and Emei, as well as establish a thorough supply system.
Within three years, train a rudimentary group of talented people who had passion for cultivation, were naturally gifted, and persevered in their practice.
Centering around the three goals, a multitude of facilitative projects were to be carried out.
Transportation-wise, for instance, new mountain roads were to be constructed and old ones revamped, as well as the interoperability of urban railways and high-speed rail coverage in major cities, which was to be improved. Focusing on the mountainous and river regions all over the country, a smooth, fast railway and highway network was to be established to ensure prompt transportation.
Another example would be in the ideology domain, where guidelines were drawn on how to gradually make the public interested in Taoist culture and form an ideal ambiance and context for discussions, etc., through channels such as the internet, movies and TV series, and extracurricular reading materials.
The above-mentioned pretty much covered the main body of the programme, which did not stop there. It was a top-down guideline issued by those above and in order to implement the specific regulations, the local authorities needed to come up a plan of their own.
The current situation was that domestically, the public was growing more suspicious every day with possible new abnormalities looming on the horizon, while externally, the other countries were all acting secretly, creating much pressure for this one.
The measures the authorities had taken were safe enough without giving up too much competitive power.
"Keep up! Don't fall behind!"
"Quickly! Men go first, then the vehicles!"
"The road is very narrow ahead. Be careful not to slip!"
Midday, a procession snailed up the mountain road, stretching out for miles on end. The line seemed neverending. A dozen large vehicles, whose drivers were terrified as they gingerly inched forward along the tatty and narrow flagstone path, drove on the rear.
The road condition in Emei node was much more complicated than that of Tianzhu. There were many areas unsuitable for road-building, but the roads were built anyway, or the machines and materials would never be shipped in.
They had set out early in the morning and were only halfway through by noon. Everyone was overwhelmed by a helpless feeling, as if the mountains would stretch out before them forever and trap them inside for good.
As for the team, aside from the troops and the scientific research division, only two members of the monastery had joined in—Lu Yuanqing and Wang Ruoxu. Together with Li Suchun, a member of the BIMAUP, there were only three so-called cultivators.
"Junior Brother, there is, there is something I don't understand…"
Wang Ruoxu was dripping with perspiration, large patches of his robe soaked wet both on his chest and his back. He was panting heavily. "Why me of all people? What can I do here? I'm not, not an innate state man."
"You are accomplished in Feng Shui and it might do us great good. An able man is always busy. Senior Brother, I think you should stop complaining." Reaching out, Lu Yuanqing put a palm on Wang's back and gently injected a streak of spiritual essence, then smiled. "How's that? Feeling better now?"
"Why, I do feel stronger!"
A warm current flowed inside Fatso Wang, soothing his aching muscles and meridians. Momentarily, he was in high spirits again.
They were walking somewhere in the front, among the first 20% of people. Li Suchun, on the other hand, was at the forefront, leading and guarding the team with his iron corpse.
They walked for long until the sun was slanting to the west and the light dimmed. Li Suchun suddenly gave his hand a wave and said coldly, "We're here!"
The soldier walking beside him was taken by surprise and ran hastily to check the road ahead. A few hundred meters out, steep cliffs erupted, surrounding an area in the middle. There was indeed a deep valley.
"We've arrived at the destination!"
"We;ve arrived at the destination!"
The announcement was carried down the line, the men's voice resounding in the mountain. The team's mood was momentarily lifted and they managed to overcome their fatigue and quicken their steps a little.
Lu Yuanqing led Wang Ruoxu through the crowd and ran to the forefront. They sighed in amazement. Towering trees rose out of the luxuriantly green valley. Even from above, they could feel the otherworldly tranquility and long years.
"This is indeed a blessed land. To say that cultivating here is half the work with doubled results would be an understatement." Lu Yuanqing took a deep breath, his tone rarely showing a hint of emotion.
"Sigh, a philistine like me can't feel a thing!"
Wang Ruoxu envied him greatly. He couldn't help it. A money-chaser he might be, he had received proper Taoist teachings all the same. Who in the right mind would refrain themselves from the anticipation?
As the two chatted, the majority of the team snapped into action around them. The clearing on the top of the cliff instantly burst into life with all the bustling crowd. Like bees in a hive, each was attending to their own task in a perfect order.
The valley was over twenty meters deep and the bottom was covered by trees, rendering it unsuitable for a campsite. As planned, the camp was set here above it.
The one in charge of the scientific research group was called Liu Yu, another white-haired old man. He went up to them and asked, "Priest Lu, what do you think of this place?"
"The spiritual essence is abundant and the view strikingly unconventional. It is indeed as what we expected of a node."
"Good, good. In that case, do you want to go down there and have a look first?" the old man asked.
Lu Yuanqing gave it a thought and smiled. "Sure, let me be the first explorer."
While they were talking, the descending device was being prepared. Lu Yuanqing fastened the ropes and lowered himself down into the valley a little distance at a time. A couple of soldiers accompanied him while carrying loaded guns, their faces painted with camouflage.
"Oh my god, that's too deep for me. I just remembered I have a fear of heights." Holding his round belly, Wang Ruoxu looked down, his tone self-deceiving. He turned around after the comment and saw Li Suchun still there. Surprised, he asked, "Why, you aren't going down with them?"
"Are you with the monastery or the BIMAUP?" the young Li boy asked coldly.
"It's the same thing! Both are following the government's order. My status is not important." Fatso Wang was quick with his excuses.
"Humph!" Li Suchun could not be bothered to retort him. Pinching his fingers together, he commanded, "Move!"
A shadow flew towards them, bringing forward a smell of blood. It was none other than the iron corpse itself, which felt more ferocious and violent than when it changed blows with Gu Yu.
Wang Ruoxu backed off with a grimace as soon as he caught sight of it. Li Suchun leaned casually onto its back and ordered, "Go!"
The iron corpse jumped right off, stirring up a gust of wind. When it was five or six meters down, it turned slightly in midair and stepped hard on the cliff. The move was a slowing-down mechanism, and with this, the corpse resumed whooshing downwards.
The process was repeated several times and in mere seconds, the two had landed steadily on the bottom of the valley.
It had been a while since Wang Ruoxu last saw Li Suchun and he had no idea the latter and reached such a level. He was almost speechless.
Lu Yuanqing did not miss a thing from below and also complimented, "This iron corpse the Fellow Taoist has is indeed an exceptional treasure!"
"Thank you," Li Suchun gave him a two-word reply, "leave me alone" written all over his face. Lu Yuanqing certainly did not think much of his attitude and went on leading the exploration team.
After a year and a half, the place was no longer what it used to be. The previously sparsely covered ground was not covered by wild flowers and grass, which almost ran through the entire forest.
The tens of thousands of trees stood tall and straight. Within each of them was the profound vitality of life.
The group explored deeper into the woods, admiring nature's creation and this heaven on earth as they walked. Lu Yuanqing opened up his senses, looking out for any movement in the woods at all times. They had been walking for nearly twenty minutes when he halted suddenly.
"Something is out there!"
The soldiers raised their guns, pointing at the tree trunk somewhere ahead. A long white tail miraculously stretched out from behind the trunk and immediately after that, a round head showed up.
It was about 15 cm in height, covered by white fur, and had an inky black face. The pair of big eyes rolled this way and that, filled with strong curiosity and insecurity.
Such a pretty little monkey!
Lu Yuanqing's eyes lit up. He ordered them to lower the gun barrel with a pressing-down gesture. "Don't be so nervous. It should be harmless."
He seemed to like the little monkey a lot. Walking closer, he smiled kindly. "Here, come to me…"
The little monkey stared at him, as if hesitating if it should go near the person or not. There was something cordial about this man, but instinct was telling it to resist it.
Five seconds later, the little monkey simply turned around, hopped onto another tree with a few jumps and disappeared.
Lu Yuanqing: "..."
With a beastly snarl, the iron corpse waved its hands and sliced violently at the trunk.
The claws made contact with the trunk, the shrill sound ear-splitting. Wooden splinters sprayed everywhere, yet apart from some scratch marks, the trunk remained intact.
Li Suchun blinked, apparently finding this unexpected. The slashing claws of the iron corpse were almost powerful enough to cut mountains and rocks open, let alone tear a human into pieces. Holy crap! How hard must this tree be?
He would not give in and ordered in a low voice, "Go!"
With another series of shrill noises, the result was more apparent this time. A chunk of the trunk had been scratched out, revealing the dark-red core.
Bring it on!
Young boy Li was stubborn in this task. Pinching his fingers together, he would not stop until the tree was put down. He was about to chant a spell when Lu Yuanqing stopped him. "Ok, Fellow Taoist Li, I think we have an easier way to do this."
Giving him a sideway look, Li Suchun did not look too thrilled with the suggestion, but he remained silent.
The group had covered much ground of the valley. Aside from acres upon acres of plantation and trees, they found nothing else. That little monkey was the only living animal there.
Therefore, the scientific research group lowered some equipment down, asking them to cut down a tree and send it up in sections for research purposes.
Since the iron corpse was rather inefficient, several soldiers carried the machine to the tree, tilted by 90 degrees, and aimed the saw blade at the trunk. It was made from a very hard alloy and was usually used for cutting hard metal. It was a very hardcore piece of equipment.
The equipment made an unbearable noise once switched on. The saw blade quivered and cut into the tree at an angle. At first, the blade felt blocked, but the resistance did not last for more than a few seconds. After that, it cut smoothly in.
Just then, the little monkey showed up again and hid itself on a tree, watching from afar.
Seeing that the tree was going to be destroyed, it let out all sorts of anxious noises. There was a human-like anger on its black face.
"Almost there, almost there… dodge!"
Seeing that the blade was almost all the way through, the soldiers shouted at the top of their voices. The rest of the group dodged in time. After that, they cut another opening on the opposite side of the trunk and jabbed a wedge in, which they smashed against with a hammer.
"It's falling! Falling!"
With the hubbub of nervous and exhilarated shouts, there came a loud thud. The tree that had been here since god-knows-when died a violent and sad death.