Long Qiu dodged, landing in the middle of the river like a leaf from a willow; the surface of the water was not disturbed in the slightest.
She looked down at her shoes curiously. Although she was standing on water, there was no undulating feeling underneath her soles. The surface she stepped on felt as even and steady as solid ground.
The girl was elated. Bolting to a sprint, she was a distance away in no time, making only the faintest splashing sound as she trod on water.
"Qiu Qiu, wait for me!"
Xiaojin, who had been standing on shore, was eager to follow suit. She dashed out as Long Qiu did, but sank right into the calf-deep river like a flopping poodle. Water splashed everywhere.
"Sh*t! How does it work again…"
Brandishing her arms, she twisted this way and that. Fortunately, she adjusted in time and rose out of the water again. Long Qiu turned around and chuckled. "You are not doing it right. See, it should be like this…"
"Aaaaaaah! I'm not taking lessons from you!"
Humiliated, Xiaojin suddenly leapt forward, her right palm unfolded like a blossoming orchid, and grabbed at Long Qiu's chest.
"That's how you repay my kindness?!"
Long Qiu glared at her and raised her hand to parry.
The two girls crisscrossed, skimming over the water like a pair of butterflies dancing among the flowers. After exchanging a few blows, when the two flitted past each other again, Long Qiu suddenly put her palms together. When she opened her hands, there was a ball of water in between.
"Jin Jin, here!"
She activated her energy and threw it out the moment Xiaojin turned back to look. The water ball hurled at the latter and exploded on her face.
With a splash, Xiaojin was soaked wet instantly.
"What skill was that? Brother-in-law has been giving you private lessons again!"
The girl bristled and hissed.
"That was only the Small Moving Technique. Have you forgotten what brother said? The methods are fixed, but not our ideas…"
With that, Long Qiu put her palms together again. The surface of the water nearby immediately caved in and the water became a ball in her hands.
Xiaojin dodged right away, almost grinding her teeth in vexation. She was not as well endowed with energy and less dexterous in using the skills—she was still a stiffish beginner.
Her mind, though, was naturally filled with tricks. Rolling her eyes for an idea, she suddenly bent down and pressed her palms on the surface of the water. "You're so pleased with yourself, aren't you? Try this!"
Lightning flickered in her palms and the water surged.
Waves over a meter high closed in at a tremendous speed, together with crackling purple electric arcs.
The lightning arrived before the waves did. Long Qiu felt a prickling and numbing sensation rushing up from the soles of her feet, spreading all over her body. It was the most uncomfortable feeling. Watching the approaching waves, Long Qiu stomped and the water surface caved in abruptly, which swallowed her whole.
Simultaneously, the surface underneath Xiaojin swelled up suddenly, rising into a tall mound of water.
The girl started brandishing her arms again, as if she was doing some strange dance.
Long Qiu dived into the river until she was right below Xiaojin. She then leapt up and grabbed her by the ankle and laughed. "Get down here!"
Both girls sank to the bottom of the river, where they jostled merrily for a quite a while before resurfacing together. Both were panting by that time and their drenched clothes were half see-through.
Water-walking Technique was a minor skill easy to learn and did not require much spiritual essence, but Small Moving Technique was a different story—it all depended on the application.
If the energy consumed by moving a teacup on the table to your hand was one, turning the river water into a ball as Long Qiu did would be two.
In other words, the more complicated one's application was, the more energy was needed.
Her temperament determined that Long Qiu was a bit at a loss with the conjuring skill, but savvy in skills like the Small Moving Technique, whereas Xiaojin was held back by the slow accumulation of energy of the Thunder Technique, which often impeded her from using the skills.
Xiaojin usually gained the upper hand in casual rough and tumble play, but when things got serious, Long Qiu could crush her with a little finger.
Zhang Qianqiu followed the long stone staircase from the back mountain and after walking past a few houses, he reached the path in front of the cottage. Tilting his head, he looked into the distance where Long Qiu was playing in the water. He stared with unblinking eyes.
"Hey, no gawking! We're dead if Miss Jin finds you like this!"
Li Dong gave him a shove and the fellow only then came to himself. He then lowered his head and entered the room.
Gu Yu was in the training field at the moment. Xiaozhai was reorganizing some stuff and seeing them coming in, she asked, "What do you need?"
"Immortal Master, we've been here a month today," reminded Zhang Qianqiu tactfully.
"Oh, how time flies."
Xiaozhai knew why they were here right away. She flipped her fingers twice and two streaks of energy struck them in the chest. Both men immediately felt relaxed as the lurking tearing sensation disappeared.
"Thank you, Immortal Master!" Both men bowed to express their gratitude.
"Mhm. You may leave if there's nothing else." She nodded and went back playing with her jade slip.
Li Dong was never a talkative guy and kept his head lowered in silence. Zhang Qianqiu hesitated a little and asked all of a sudden, "Immortal Master, do you have any task for us?"
Xiaozhai looked up.
Gathering up his courage, he went on, "We have been here for a month and familiarized ourselves with quite a few things. It is true that we're no match for the elderly masters in certain skills, but we have our own merits—"
"Such as?" she asked.
"I used to run a company. Trade and business and personnel management are where my specialty lies. Li Dong is an expert in electronic technology… I think, I think we two should be differentiated from the others."
Xiaozhai smiled. "To me, you're all the same. You can leave now."
Pursing his lips, Zhang Qianqiu tried to argue, but was dragged out of the room by Li Dong.
"Do you have a death wish? We leave as she asked! There's no point in arguing with her!"
"But I just want to give it a go."
"It's only been a month. Be patient. These things cannot be rushed!"
The two mumbled to one another as they walked. They did not make it very far when they met Yan Han head on. That was awkward! Embarrassment filled the air and all three almost did not know how to say hello.
Quite a while passed before Zhang Qianqiu broke the silence. "Wanna come visit us in the back mountain later?"
Yan Han squeezed out his reply and went hastily into the meditation room.
Ten minutes later. Yan Han stood quietly on one side, almost too anxious to breathe.
Xiaozhai sat opposite him, reading carefully from a mobile phone as she swiped through the pages—she was checking that app. Obviously, she knew about the "preliminary plan on the sharing platform of cultivation information". They had thought it would take a while and never expected it to be kicking off this soon.
She was using her own phone and did not register in the app. As soon as she tapped it open after downloading, the app recognized her number automatically and logged her in right away. A reminder also popped onto her screen.
"You have reached the highest authority level and now have access to all content."
She randomly tapped into the Red Feather Vulture entry and saw the same information as Yan Han did in the beginning paragraphs, but there was more to follow.
"Originally, its species was the red back Steller's eagle endemic to Xihai, which nested on trees on the banks of lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Its breeding season was from November to March the following year, with an average of two to four eggs each time. The eggs had a smooth and spotless shell. The incubation period was 30-40 days and the nestlings matured late. Both parents contributed to raising the nestlings, which would leave nest in 70-105 days.
"The mutated Red Feather Vultures are savage, cunning, and have an appetite for human flesh. They usually hunt in packs. The feathers on their back and wings have some defensive capability. Tests have proved that they could withstand the stabbing and slashing of a dagger, as well as buffer the birds from the impact of bullets.
"Their abdomen is relatively softer and coated with plumage, which could be made into garments. Their meat is edible, but we advise against the ingestion of their blood, for it is toxic and corrosive."
After reading it through, Xiaozhai pondered for a moment before asking, "If I remembered it correctly, both you and Zhang Qianqiu used to run businesses?"
"Yes, we both have opened our own companies before," replied Yan Han.
"I see. You can stay here today. We'll talk tomorrow."
"No problem. I'm going to the back mountain now."
Yan Han dared not even asked for the reason and left the room promptly.
Xiaozhai had a few more moments of consideration and strode out of the door as well. She was heading out to the training field.