The training field.
Gu Yu sat beneath an old yet still verdant cypress tree, practicing the Shadow-switching Technique.
This occult technique was most obscure. The actual manual was filled with descriptions written in ancient Shamanic words and Xiaozhai had to translate it first before they could study them together. They had barely made sense of the texts as a whole.
In spite of its various branches, all Shamanic followers shared a common belief, which was the spirit, or "Teng" in ancient Shamanic terms. They believed that all things had its Teng and humans were the composite of the physical body and Teng. In plain words, this occult skill was a method to switch back and forth between the actual substance and Teng.
Essentially, Teng was an intangible concept. In order to switch into multiple forms, one had to depend on how well they mastered their skills.
Gu Yu seemed to have sat there forever, moving not even a muscle, his ears closed to the outside world. He looked like a stone statue.
Mountain breeze suddenly blew in from the north. The swaying tree branches and leaves seemed to have brought with them the chilly air from the distant mountains. A thin, white fog rose up in the training field and as the smoke spread out, the man under the tree disappeared.
The white fog twirled in the wind, as dreamlike as it was eerie. When the mountain breeze ceased and the field quieted down again, the man reappeared, still sitting where he was.
"It's still not working?"
Just then, Xiaozhai's voice came from afar. Before the sentence was finished, she was by his side.
"I still need to work on the stability and duration, but I got the drill." Gu Yu opened his eyes and asked softly, "What's the matter?"
She tossed him the phone, which he curiously tapped back to life. He then smiled. "That was fast, and very straightforward, too."
"Straightforward and practical." Xiaozhai went up to him and sat down next to him, leaning against the tree. "Modern days do have its merits. All those developed technologies should not be just lying around."
Gu Yu browsed through the contents. Of the four categories, "Plant" had the most entries—sixteen of them were spread across twelve provinces. "Animal" was the runner-up, which contained nine entries collected from seven provinces.
There was nothing overlapping in the nineteen provinces, which had covered half of the area of this country.
"Meteorology" came up empty and there was only one entry under "Geography", which was the peach blossom miasma in Grass River Mouth. The entry read:
"Location is about 50 km to the east of Bai Town and is an island on the river. The island is shuttle-shaped, with a narrow span from east to west. To the north is a river dam and to the south a bridge which links the island directly to the mainland. Troops are stationed at the bridge at the moment.
"There are six administrative villages on the island, which spans an area of 105 km^2. All of the original 70,000+ residents have been resettled.
"Peach Blossom Miasma is a mutation from closely packed peach trees. Its toxicity is of a complex nature. It is highly corrosive and has a secret aphrodisiac effect, which is hard to detect for common cultivators."
Gu Yu's mouth twitched at the mentioning of aphrodisiacs. What he went through that night would probably remain fresh in his memory forever.
"Government personnel is bound to be among these users. The Red Feather Vulture and Peach Blossom Miasma entries are probably their work. Unusual events are happening more frequently these days and we should also keep an eye out. Anything might turn out to be useful.
"The plan you brought back only talked about the information platform, but the government must have something further than that. I think they'll soon add a forum for discussions," said Xiaozhai.
"You're right. Sharing information will naturally lead to discussion, and discussion helps all sides to understand one another. With understanding, there will be demand and differentiation… then, it'll be time for a trading floor." Gu Yu heaved a soft sigh. "It'll all be supervised by the authorities, but it's better than chaos."
The measures the government of this country took were not complicated—one could even call it simple.
Stage one: information platform. Theoretically, it was open to everyone, but the users were divided into different security levels, which determined the amount of content they could read.
Stage two: communication platform. Users of this stage would be selected from those in stage one and would be the main force of this circle.
Stage three: trading platform. Users would be selected from stage two—those able to exchange resources. These would be the elite of the elite.
With these progressive layers, one's capability determined which circle they could become a member of. It would not be a far stretch to say that this App would become the essential tool of the society and people would be fighting head over heels for the level of security and the merit points.
"At the end of the day, it's the same old story: the top ones pick around, the middle ones have the meat, and the bottom ones are content as long as they don't starve to death." Gu Yu shook his head and suddenly broke into laughter. "Come to think of it, it's actually quite funny. We're almost entering the age of cultivation and we still can't live without our phones."
"Where the Taoist skills are absent, technology fills the gap. Why, maybe that's how things will be in the future...
"Fire Feather Set available, 80,000 spiritual stones, pm if interested!
"Zhen Mo Valley boss team, strong tank 1 needed! Suckers stay away or there will be abusive words!
"Experienced player looking for team for Phoenix Mountain dungeon, gentle girl Qiu Qiu only… gosh, it's giving me a headache just thinking about it."
Xiaozhai dumped out her sarcastic comments and went on about it. Gu Yu was utterly amused. Grabbing her into his arms by her shoulder, he comforted her, "Don't worry, we have the flying talisman! We're not going to mix up with the rest of those losers!"
"Flying talisman is a pain in the ass. I was looking into it just now. It's very strict in the type of talisman paper and cinnabar used. Celestial Master Temple, Maoshan, and Lingbao should all have the things we need. We should pay them a visit," said Xiaozhai.
"Sure. Chinese New Year is coming up soon, though. Let's wait until after the holiday season."
Yan Han stayed overnight on Phoenix Mountain, sharing a room with Li Dong and Zhang Qianqiu.
The atmosphere was extremely awkward at first. Zhang Qianqiu then fetched a bottle of spiritual liquor and they each took a few sips. Everyone was dizzy and sweaty, and things got quite lively after that.
There were confessions of regret and comforting words, even bursts of tears, which we would not go into details about. Early next morning, Yan Han and Zhang Qianqiu were summoned to the Cottage of Pure Mind, where Fairy Jiang surprised them with every word she said.
"Open a shop?" Yan Han cried out involuntarily, but immediately thought his tone inappropriate and chose his words more carefully. "What I mean was, what are we going to do with this shop?"
"Selling stuff, obviously. The supply is not available just yet, so you can sell whatever you want for now," said Xiaozhai.
"It'll be a medium-sized one with a warehouse at least. We're not particular on the location—even remote ones would do. We'll provide you with the capital," added Gu Yu.
Yan Han immediately grabbed his meaning: set up the shop first—the rest could wait.
"What shall it be called?" he asked.
"Pavilion of Gems." Xiaozhai gave him a name without thinking and added, "Zhang Qianqiu will be your contact. I've loosened that restriction a little and you can come once every three months from now on."
"Thank you, Immortal Master! Thank you, Sir!"
That was the real gem. Both men thanked them wholeheartedly.
Before long, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai finished their instructions and Yan Han went down the mountain feeling conflicted. It all seemed ridiculous.
He was a businessman to start with and abandoned his career to pursuit a life of cultivation. As it turned out, he was back to where he used to be and was going to run a business again. From now on, he would be the business representative of Phoenix Mountain in Shengtian, which might turn into something important.
Oh my! This thought brought palpitations to his heart again. That sounded like a great opportunity!
We would leave Yan Han's palpitating heart for the time being and turn our eyes back to the mountain.
Zhang Qianqiu remained standing in the cottage, cross-examined by the stares of both bosses, who were giving him the most unusual look. The pressure they were giving off almost sent him to his knees.
He could barely keep his legs from giving out as he asked, "Pardon me, but is there anything else?"
Xiaozhai darted him a look. "You're fond of Xiao Qiu?"TL/N: or meat shield, if you like