"Stay away from the heat?"
Lu Yuanqing felt the corner of his eye twitching. Being someone so used to concealing his real feelings, he found the thoughts of such upright and candid youngster very hard to follow.
"The summer heat is so overpowering lately that the Yin and Yang energy of my previous burial site has gone haywire. That's why I'm going to stay here for a while," Li Suchun explained why he was here, which was extremely rare for him, then added, "If it is all right with you, I will now go find a place where Yin energy converges. I won't make any trouble for you."
"All our guests are welcome. Priest Li, you can stay as long as you want. Since Senior Brother Wang Ruoxu is an acquaintance and a master in Fengshui, I will invite him over."
Right after that, Lu Yuanqing gave the instruction to a priest and before long, a rotund Wang Ruoxu strolled into the front lobby. After exchanging some pleasantries, Lu Yuanqing and the others left the two.
Wang Ruoxu examined Fengshui of Tianzhu Mountain when the monastery was newly constructed. About 10 km to the northern slope of Zhu Ridge was a place called White Crane Hillock, which was a perfect place to raise a corpse.
He knew the young man's temperament well. Without further ado, he led Li Suchun towards the place.
They went down the mountain and walked unhurriedly in that direction. Pleasant cool breeze blew gently through the trees, carrying with it a fragrance of bamboo and pine leaves. The powerful spiritual essence of the node seemed to have formed a protective film, stopping the heat wave outside.
Every now and then, they would pass two or three priests playing chess or comparing notes by exchanging friendly blows; their wide sleeves flapped and billowed in the wind. Turning everywhere, they were met by verdant plants and flowers. The mountain felt like a blessed place of the immortals.
" The portals of the rich reek of flesh and wine while frozen bodies lie by the roadside 1 ."
As they walked on, Li Suchun blurted out those words all of a sudden. "I never had much schooling, but right now, I think I can appreciate those sentences. Of course, I am in no position to judge, for I am among those who are getting the benefits."
"Dude, what got into you when these past months? You're so sentimental," remarked Fatso Wang in amazement.
"Throughout my journey down here from the North, I saw stretch upon stretch of farmlands drying out and the farmers were suffering beyond description. I'm just expressing my feeling on that." Li Suchun paused a little and his next subject took a 180-degree turn. "Speaking of which, staying on the mountain all this time is having, well, an effect on your body shape… you're becoming a fatter version of your old self."
'I am what I ate. Did I steal from you kitchen to get that from you???'
Had he had the ability, Wang Ruoxu would have been more than willing to hop up and smack the kid. He shouldn't blame the young man, though. Fatso Wang was overweight before, but was within a reasonable range. Now, well, he had gone into an uncharted category.
Shaking his head, he asked, "Are you really here to stay away from the heat?"
"You're not on some other mission?"
"Ok, great. In a couple of days, some intern disciples are coming for a visit. They are all little kids, so you'd better keep your iron corpse well hidden from sight. We don't want to scare them."
Li Suchun sneered at his words and could not be bothered to answer. Quickening their steps, they arrived at White Crane Hollick in no time.
The dense Yin energy here was in its purest form. As soon as the iron corpse sensed it, it could not help but made a low, bestial growl. Youngster Li was also delighted. He was not an innate-state cultivator and operating an iron corpse was his limit. Long absence of the nourishment of Yin energy would drive the iron corpse into a frantic state, rendering it to turn on its master.
"I'll live here, don't trouble yourself to come and visit. Thanks!"
"No problem. I'll have someone to deliver the meals for you every day."
Wang Ruoxu cupped his hands and left promptly without asking where the young man was going to live.
"Ah… I'm… I'm coming…"
Inside a luxurious villa in Le Zhou, a man in his fifties groaned loudly and shuddered suddenly, then slumped onto the bed like a shrivelled balloon.
Useless piece of sh*t!
Brushing her long hair away from her face, Du Hong disdained the man silently. What she presented was some award-winning performance. Cheeks flushed and eyes watery, she was curled up between the man's arms like a satisfied and loving kitten, saying softly, "How come you're getting better every day? I almost can't take it."
"Hahaha, satisfied today?" The man was exhausted, his raspy voice making a hoarse laughter. "Didn't I tell you that I have been taking a medicine lately? It's a new product by the factory. On my, it is indeed that awesome!"
"I see, you're taking the medicine to do naughty things to me!"
Raising her head swiftly, Du Hong put on a face that was a perfect mixture of enchantment and innocence. "You people are not taking your job seriously. All you did it making this stuff."
"It's not what you think. This is not some aphrodisiac, but a proper tonic especially suitable for my age." The man had the dialect of the capital city. Shifting his body with much difficulty, he said, "It nourishes the spirit and Qi and can prolong life and improve health. I have only just finished one course and the effect is already so obvious. I think it's time to release it onto the market."
He trusted the woman very much. Or, should we say, he had not realized he had been snared by what was between her legs, so much so that he would let such confidential information casually slip out.
Blinking, Du Hong gave him a smile. "Hey, I want to talk to you about something. I have this ready cash in my bank account and want to start a business. Wanna give me some advice?"
"Oh my, a strong woman, aren't you? What do you have in mind?" the man teased her.
"Drug market is doing pretty well these days and I'm thinking about starting a small business. Not making medicine, just selling."
"A pharmacy, then! It'll work. We're having a big shortage in pharmaceutical retailers. Opening a new one is absolutely fine. Do you want to have one of your own or join a franchise?" asked the man.
"Um, I have no idea. Open my own, I guess. I can always, well, expand it if business is good," said Du Hong anxiously.
"That'll do as well. I still have a quota left. It's yours."
"What quota?" She did not understand.
"You'll see. It's good stuff!" The man chuckled.
Two hours later.
Coming out of the villa, Du Hong was instantly enshrouded by waves of heat. Even with her initial success in establishing her inner energy, the heat was still a little too overwhelming.
This goddamn weather!
Trotting on her high heels, she quickly got to her sports car, where she opened the door and hopped in, then stepped on the gas and dashed off.
Her previous lover was Tang Yu, a high-ranking official of Le Zhou government, who had been given the "I forgive you" hat by his wife by now. The newest candidate was called Hu Yang, an official assigned here from the capital city, who specialized in coordinating the sales of medicine.
Those above were very strict in the division of responsibilities of Emei Pharmaceuticals. The factory only manufactured, leaving the sales to someone else. Exactly to whom? Some dignitary family, obviously.
With a population of close to two billion, the pharmaceutical business was unfathomably lucrative. It would be inappropriate for those taking the job to scrape away every bit of profit and they found it necessary to spare some leftovers. Hence, after the majority of the profit was taken, the so-called quota was invented.
Only those with a quota could sell the products of Emei Pharmaceuticals.
Du Hong had found all those out beforehand and was only carrying out her usual ruse.
She was a natural now. After learning the energy-sucking method, she took to life around men like a duck to water. Be it the business circle, the political, or the military one, she went, she slept, she conquered. Half of the men in Le Zhou had probably been there.
It was not that those men were unaware of her past, they simply could not compete with her skill. As long as they could get that final release, they would do anything!
She was a clever woman. Despite the Qi-nourishing method provided by Lu Yuanqing, her gender and status meant she had to open a new path for what she wanted.
She even went as far as finding a few sisters, whom she taught herself, so that they could expand the client list. It was clear from the beginning that she was using the strategy of directing the men from under sheets and behind closed bedroom doors.
All she wanted was to climb up high, and higher! When she reached that position, all the resources would be there at her disposal.
The city of Sanping, Da'an Village.
Sanping was the poorest city of Wula Province and Da'an the poorest of Sanping. Someone visiting here first time on a vehicle would mistake it for some WWII film scene after their first glimpse of the houses on either side of the road.
Zhang Jingui was born and raised in the village and his family had been farmers for the past few generations. He was no exception.
He was very proud of himself, though, for in spite of his meager education, he had raised a son who had successfully finished his master degree. The young man had found a job and was going to buy his own house in Xidu. He called the other day, trying to ask for a little financial aid from his old man.
The old man almost had a heart attack when he heard the figure.
Had it been one of the previous years, he would probably have been able to come up with the money by selling everything he had, but the drought last year had reduced the yield of his hundred-mu farmland. Even with the government subsidy, he still suffered a great loss financially.
This year was worse. There was not a single drop of rain so far.
The agricultural irrigation of Sanping depended mainly on the traditional surface irrigation, which was to submerge the soil with water by drawing from surface and underground water. It was both inefficient and wasteful, but there was nothing they could do about it. They didn't have the money! The water-saving irrigation project was on the to-do list for the past few years, but nothing had happened.
The village used to depend on a nearby small river whose water level had dropped last year and completely dried up this year. The riverbed was so cracked it looked like dried steam buns.
What was worse, because of the exhaustive exploitation of the underground water, that water level was dropping as well. The pump would be rumbling for half a day and the water coming up was still not enough to cover the few mu of his land.
The experts had been sent down here several times. They swiftly drilled some new wells, dredged and cleared the old ones, then dispatched over a dozen water wagons. The experts had informed them that if rain still would not come, their only option was to release water from the upstream reservoir.
The series of measures had indeed eased the drought noticeably.
However, it did not ease Zhang Jingui's mind, for a major reduction in the yield was certain this year. Half a year of hard work only result in a loss of money. And there was his son's house. He was told that without it, the girlfriend would not marry him.
It was killing him!
Shirtless, he squatted down in a shed puffing at his hand-made crude cigarette; his ribs protruded from his dry skin. The thick branches and leaves only offered the minimal shade from the sun. His sparse hair was already soaking wet with sweat and stuck to his scalp.
It seemed forever before he finally rose to his feet. Taking another look at his lackluster rice paddy, he was ready to leave the shed.
Either because he had squatted there for too long or the weather was too hot, the old man only made a few steps when everything went black. He swayed a little and fell forward to the ground with a thump.
The last idea going through his head before he passed out was: sh*t, the sun will kill me in this heat!
It was a while later when Zhang Jingui moaned. Only half conscious, he felt a coolness running down this throat, which gradually brought his sense back and he slowly opened his eyes.
With a strength he did not know he had, he bolted up into a sitting position, then squirmed backwards supported by his hands. For in front of him was a snowy white fox!
It was about 30 cm in length and had fur so white that it almost looked transparent. Its eyes were not the nonchalant yellowish brown, but were round, bright, and black, which were shining with spirituality.
The fox neither ran nor cried, but only put the bamboo tube in its mouth on the ground, then tilted its head and watched him.
"Were you, were you… feeding me water?"
Checking the bamboo tube, Zhang Jingui saw that there were still some water left. Instantly, his fear was overtaken by surprise. The next second, however, the surprise grew exponentially—the white fox nodded.
In all his days, Zhang Jingui had never heard of such strange things. His head spinning, he was trying to make sense of what was happening.
There was a fox farm here in Da'an village, so the animal was no stranger to him. Those foxes had gloomy eyes and were sensitive and easily irritated. One of them even scratched his hand once.
But this one...
He shivered all of a suddenly as an idea came unstoppably into his head: could it be a spiritual fox? No, not that. Could it be a fox fairy?
Thanks to the hundreds of years of cultural background of the Northeast, the old man grew nervous and excited. He gingerly moved closer, but the white fox shook its head, then raise its right front paw and waved, as if bidding him farewell.
There was then a flash. All Zhang Jingui saw was a blurred shadow and the white fox was gone.
"T-thank you for saving my life, fox fairy!"
He was only 30% sure before, which had now increased to 50%. Mumbling some words to himself, the old man stood there dazed for a while before heading back home. His demeanor had somehow changed, as if there was some more hope in him now.
"Teehee… that was easy!"
In the woods not far from the spot, a woman dressed in white leaning against a tree covered her mouth and chuckled. It was none other than Yu Lanzhu herself.TL/N: taken from a poem of Du Fu, the prominent poet of the Tang Dynasty.