Xidu, the BIMAUP sub-bureau.
The research team only had a short break of one day before being summoned to the bureau for a meeting.
Now that the spiritual essence had almost spread to the entire country, more changes were taking place every day. Needless to say, with that, the BIMAUP was gaining more authority as well as a growing number of subordinate institutes, among which was the research laboratory.
The popularity of the bureau rocketed. Many were fighting crazily to get a position there. Although it was under the jurisdiction of local governments in terms of administrative level, do recall that there was a special order issued by those above:
Under exceptional circumstances, the BIMAUP could take the command of any local government!
Exactly what made the circumstances "exceptional"? The possibilities were unlimited. Essentially, anything out of the ordinary would count. There! Staff of the bureau that used to feel unappreciated and undervalued all the time were finally able to hold their heads high with the beginning of the social transformation.
Right now, all major officials of the sub-bureau had gathered around in the conference room, listening to the team leader's briefing.
"We have received two leads in total. We only managed to take pictures of one of them and have successfully obtained samples of the other. The original form of this one was rhodiola of Changbai Mountain, a valuable medicine herb. We've found as few as thirteen plants in total, but we cannot exclude the possibility that it grows in other regions as well.
Our preliminary estimation is that the mutation would significantly increase the potency of the herb, manifolding its effectiveness. In traditional medicine, the rhodiola is said to improve dexterity, replenish Qi, rejuvenate the body, and prolong life. Moreover, the herb is toxin-free and could be consumed in large quantities without any negative side effect. It is ideal for daily nourishment."
The officials reacted with various facial expressions, but were all subtly excited. What that description meant was apparent: regular consumption of this plant would at least prolong their lives for a few more years and would help with maintaining one's health even at an old age, keeping their minds clear, their ears sharp, and their eyes bright.
All thirty-six sub-bureaus up and down the country were vying with one another both openly and in private. Everything about the mutated creatures in their jurisdictions must be reported to the higher authorities, including the amount, types, value, hazardness, etc., all counted as achievements directly connected to one's political career.
The more valuable the discovery, the greater the credit. Had they been still in ancient feudal times, discoveries like this rhodiola would be entitled a "blessing from the gods", which could earn one a promotion of three pay grids.
"Ahem!" Wang Xuqiao, the director, cleared his throat and asked, "Old Fang, what is the pharmaceutical value of this rhodiola? With our current technology, can we make a new medicine that retains its effectiveness?"
"Although it has mutated, its basic biological characteristics remain unchanged. The traditional medicine is a field with ample experience with the application of rhodiola and they have a well-developed theoretical system in that aspect. I don't see any potential problem there," affirmed the team leader.
"Glad to hear that! I will be contacting Mayor Hao in a moment. Let's get you the best local resources possible so that you can develop the new product as soon as you can."
Wang Xuqiao was still light-headed over the discovery and added, "By the way, organize another research expedition. We must find out its entire growth area and yield."
The team leader found that request problematic. "We ran into some major difficulty this time and have barely made it out. A few comrades have yet to recover emotionally from the incident. I don't think we'll be able to re-enter the mountain after such a short intermission. We'll have to reselect members to form a team."
"No problem. Whatever you need, just ask. As long as it is within reason, it will be our priority."
The director had given his word, but the deputy director Guan Pan interjected all of a sudden, "Old Fang, you said you ran into Mada Mountain this time and were saved because Mr. Gu happened to be there?"
"After he rescued your team, he went on chasing the two birds?"
"What happened after that? Did he find anything?"
The team leader did not see where the deputy was going with it and told the truth. "Those two birds were mallet birds. Legend has it that by following them, one could find ginsengs. We waited overnight in the cabin and Mr. Gu returned before dawn, empty-handed. We then went off the mountain together."
Guan Pan nodded, his expression somewhat ambiguous.
"So, that's about it. Go prepare for your new task, then. The meeting is over!"
Wang Xuqiao realized something has gone awry. After dismissing the rest, he asked with a frown, "Old Guan, what were you getting at?"
"Haha, it just occurred to me that with what Mr. Gu could do, he shouldn't have come back empty-handed. Maybe they have found something but could not bring it back because of some difficulty on the spot?" He smiled.
"What does that have anything to do with us?"
"Tsk, didn't you hear what Old Fang said? It might be a ginseng!" Guan Pan went on with emphasis. "Ginsengs are divine herbs since the ancient times. What if they have discovered a mutated ginseng? It might not bring back the dead or enable one to live for over a hundred years, but it must be at least more potent than the rhodiola. How about we take it over and hand it to those above? In that case—"
"That's out of the question!" Wang Xuqiao interrupted with a wave of his hand before Guan Pan could finish his sentence. "The general instruction from the government remains unchanged and we are still to maintain a friendly relationship with them. Moreover, we're not even sure if he has a ginseng or not. We can't take the liberty."
Guan Pan did not respond to that, but dialed a number and pressed down the speaker button. "Hello, Xiao Cheng… Yes, are you still over there? Have Mr. Gu and his friends left?"
"No, they're still in Songjiang River. Our men overlooking the hotel said they had extended their stay for another three days. Long Qiu and Jiang Xiaojin have returned on their own, though, and they were travelling on return tickets only a day apart. They seemed to be in a hurry," replied the guy on the other end.
Wang Xuqiao fell silent. Judging by common sense, such behavior indeed seemed strange.
The two parties were at peace at the moment, but neither had confidence in the other's promises. Whenever they came out of Phoenix Mountain, the government always made sure it knew their whereabouts. Gu Yu and the rest were perfectly aware of such actions, but had given their tacit consent as long as they were not disturbed.
To tell the truth, for a split second back there, Wang Xuqiao was tempted. However, his cautious side immediately took over and he rejected the suggestion. "Old Guan, we're happy enough with the rhodiola. Don't be too greedy."
"Where did that come from? Changbai Mountain is no Phoenix Mountain. We're entitled to confiscate a mere piece of ebony, let alone a mutated ginseng," retorted Guan Pan.
"Let me, let me think it through first… That'll be all for today. See you."
Guan Pan watched the director leaving the room and with a snort, he also left.
The sub-bureau was under the jurisdiction of the municipal government, so it was only natural that it was allotted a residential quarter which was quite close to the office building, just about fifteen minutes of walk away.
Guan Pan returned to his place on foot, where he noticed a thin black pattern on the door lock. The look on his face went grave as he opened the door. "You're here!"
"At least I'm your brother. Show me some respect, will you?"
A tiny men hopped off a chair, his strange voice sounded disgruntled.
"Cut the crap. What now?"
Guan Pan took of his coat and sank into the sofa, eyeing the man groomily.
The other man seemed rather vexed, but had not means to vent his displeasure and only asked, "How did it go today?"
"Wang Xuqiao is nothing but a craven. He does not have the balls. We can't count on him," Guan Pan gave the reply, then asked, "But are you sure there is a treasure over there?"
"Most likely. As soon as I went up to that tree, there came this impulse. If I can eat it, I will definitely reach the innate state, or even higher."
"Ha! Too bad you can't have it!" Guan Pan sneered.
"You!" The man grew all the more irritated and said in a harsh tone, "Let me remind you that you're an errand-man of the sect as well! Allowing Phoenix Mountain to grow stronger will only do us great harm."
"Of course I remember that, but I've been playing the political game long enough to rise above you lot. I have a brain. All you people can do is fighting and killing." Guan Pan sneered at the man some more before saying, "Before, the government and Phoenix Mountain had no conflict interests and the two sides needed one another. Now that the government has two innate state men at hand and with Emei, where the resources are said to be abundant, under development, the importance of Phoenix Mountain is doubtlessly diminishing. I know those bosses only too well. A little instigation and they're bound to go into war. We can just wait aside and let the prize fall on our laps."
"Humph! Let's hope your little trick won't cost you your life in the end."
The man had said enough. Wrapping his thick down jacket around him and putting on his beanie, he looked like an average ten-year-old. He pushed the door open and paused at the threshold. "I'll bring help. Keep in touch."
Songjiang River, light snow.
In the backyard of Shui Yao's hostel, Gu Yu was teaching him that body-enhancing movement. The hostel was almost empty of any guests and the employees were about the only ones there, all familiar with the boss' martial arts hobby. Hence, no one found what they were doing strange, but only thought it as the boss' new way of making friends.
"That's still not right. Stop there, please." Gu Yu stopped Shui Yao after he went through an entire set of movements and explained, "I've told you many times. The strength you exert is not the key, the control of it is. This movement will only work when you have perfect control over every single muscle of yours so that you can tense up or relax any of them at your will."
"I understand what you said, but my actual move is another story."
Shui Yao also felt dejected. His sheer strength had been used only in ordinary martial arts and now that he was to follow the teachings at a whole new level, he simply could not match the requirements.
"There…" Gu Yu looked around. Seeing that no one was looking, he put his hand on Shui Yao's upper right arm about three cm from the elbow and instructed, "Follow my move. Relax, relax, relax… go!"
Shui Yao felt a gentle tug and his arm waved forward despite himself. Then, with a twist, this move of his right fist was accomplished.
Right after that, Gu Yu took his left arm and called out softly, "Go!"
His left hand moved accordingly this time. The catching move that he had failed for a million times was accomplished, the movement perfect to a tee.
Just like so, Gu Yu worked as a puppeteer, controlling this cumbersome puppet to finish one swift and fierce move after another. It was the most strange yet amusing scene.
A couple of minutes later, the whole set was finished.
Shui Yao was sore to the bone and despite the drifting snow, he was dripping in sweat. He gasped as he said, "That... that was awesome! No wonder you're my younger brother-in-law. Any man less able would be sucked dry by that girl in no time."
"Old Shui, one more word of your bullshit and your tongue is mine."
Just then, Xiaozhai strolled in through the front gate. Shui Yao immediately stopped talking, pretending to be savoring the view. One could almost believe the innocent and unaffected look on his face.
Gu Yu gave his girl a few looks and asked, "Up on the mountain again?"
"Yeah, sat there for a while."
Gu Yu sighed inwardly. The so-called "sat for a while" meant she was there mourning her master again. It was not his place to say anything. After all, the bound between this pair of master and pupil had been very deep. His only concern was that such obsession would one day hinder Xiaozhai in her cultivation.
"Brother Shui! Brother Shui!"
Before they had a chance to talk some more, a young waitress ran in from the front, yelling at the top of her lungs. "Big news!"
"Gosh, keep your voice down. What news?" Shui Yao asked.
"There, there is a spiritual ginseng on the mountain!"