"The real reason?"
Wang Qi was stumped for a second before replying with a smile, "It was never about the real reason. International politics is constantly changing. As long as you know where your bottom line is, you can be as creative as you want. If there has to be one, let's call it a tacit agreement among the countries to nose around one another."
"Then what are you here for?" Gu Yu asked another question.
"The answer to that is simple. The recovery of the spiritual essence is a global thing—well, we don't know what everyone else is calling it yet. The current situation is that everyone is suspicious of everyone else and no one knows what cards the others are holding. We cannot guarantee that they'll play by the book. On the other hand, neither will they put their trust in us…"
Wang Qi paused a little, then concluded, "Therefore, it is only reasonable to raise the security level to the highest against any possible accident."
'So, after all the big talk, you still need me as a bodyguard!'
Despite the sarcastic remarks rushing through his head, Gu Yu was a little intrigued, for he, too, wanted to see the other countries. Hence, he asked, "What's the standard of the meeting?"
"I can only tell you that Boss No. 1 is not going." Wang Qi revealed that little piece of information, then said earnestly, "Mr. Gu, we'd appreciate it if you could give it a careful consideration. You will be the only one we hire, for we cannot reveal too much to the other countries. Should you decide to take the job, we will remunerate you with forty thousand spiritual stones."
Gu Yu was genuinely surprised by the offer. There were only so many in the national treasury and forty thousand was a very generous reward! He did not rush to a decision, though, but asked, "Around what time will this meeting take place?"
"It's not determined yet." Wang Qi shook his head. "Twelve countries intended to take part in the beginning, but more are joining in. By now, 52 are coming. Uncle Sam then proposed that we should simply hold it together with the global climate conference. The bosses are still exchanging views, but it will definitely happen within the year, October at the earliest and December at the latest."
Gu Yu knew about the global climate conference. It was a meeting held each December by countries belonging to the "United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change", where developed and developing countries were arguing futilely back and forth about problems such as greenhouse gas emissions.
"I need some time to think it over. You'll have my answer in a few days," said Gu Yu.
"Sure, no problem." Wang Qi did not press on, but switched the subject without hesitation. "I'm also here for another job. I need ten Evil-dispelling Dans."
"Hoho, I knew it. You people bought the pills the other day." Gu Yu chuckled.
Ever since Old Shui delivered the Evil-dispelling Dan to the Pavilion of Gems and put up an eye-catching advertisement on the app, the audience had been restless with excitement. People were arriving from all over the country to close a deal on the spiritual Dan.
The minimal price was either a thousand spiritual stones or bartering with other substances.
Obviously, no one could come up with the spiritual stones, nor was the stuff offered good enough to trade with. Hence, the pills had stayed on the shelf for a while.
It was so alluring that someone actually tried to take it by force. Luckily, Old Shui was clever enough to send in some hatchet men beforehand to guard the shop and together with the turtle shell Yan Han wore, they were able to keep the merchandise safe.
However, someone suddenly offered twenty thousand spiritual stones recently and bought the pills. Needless to say, it was from the authorities.
The purchase was for one of the two reasons: to study it, or to eat it.
Who would eat it, then? Well, it could only be some top level boss who was old, weak, and in desperate need for a little magic.
Some might find such claim dubious: the Evil-dispeling Dan could only cure diseases and strengthen the body, which hardly made it an exceptional medicine. Was it worth it? Consider it this way, then. With modern medical procedures, certain condition might require operations, chemo, and a couple of months' recuperation before the patient was back to health.
The Dan was different. Nothing couldn't be solved by popping a pill. If there was, pop another one.
"Judging by the eagerness of the authorities, the first two should have worked very well."
"Well, we don't have enough materials for ten pills. You'll have to wait." Our cunning Gu Yu put on a troubled look.
"We can provide you with the materials. Just give me a list." Wang Qi was ready with his offer.
"Oh, that'll make it much easier. We'll refine them ASAP," replied Gu Yu.
"One last thing. Here…" Wang Qi fumbled out a thick stack of files and handed it to Gu Yu. "A little preparation for the class. It might come handy."
Gu Yu took the files. Wang Qi then bid his farewell and Gu Yu walked with him to the outside.
Night, the meditation room.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai were bending over the table studying the files. There were several hundred pages in total and all were substantial stacks. Fanning out, they made the table look rather crowded.
Printed on the front pages were striking titles in boldface:
"Analysis on the Existence of Mages, Sorcerers, and Witches"
"Textual Research on the History and Inheritance of Druids"
"On Legends of Werewolves and Vampires"
"Historical Research on Zoroastrianism"
"Factual Analysis on Curses of African Witchcraft"
"On Legends of Pharaohs and Mummies"
"Textual Research on the Existence of Onmyoji and Shikigami"
You heard it right. That was the tutorial material given to Gu Yu, which was a compilation of collected literature, records of experts' discussion, and a small amount of information brought back by the intelligence agents.
Of all seven continents, apart from Antarctica, all the rest had its own ancient civilizations.
Using the characteristics of the inheritance of the domestic recovery and creation of the spiritual essence, the team of specialists of the country had untangled the possible supernatural phenomena of the other countries. They had proceeded from two angles: ancient civilizations and ancient religions.
The theories they came up with were very interesting. They concluded that the core of the Western supernatural phenomenon was "Gods and men", whereas that of our 1 country was "men and Immortals", or "men and Dao".
All western spiritual civilizations rooted from some form of divinity, such as the Olympians of ancient Greeks, the Ennead of ancient Egypt, the three Hindu gods, Odin and his sons of Norse mythology, etc.
Gods created their worlds, whereas in ours, Dao begets One, One begets Two, Two begets Three, Three begets all things.
They started from gods, which gave birth to the messengers of gods in the mortal world—religious believers. We began from believing in the world of men, which then declined, and the faith turned to the world of the immortals.
Therefore, strictly speaking, the term "god" did not really apply to our world. Of course, if you must mention figures such as Erlang Shen 2 , then be my guest.
Then there came the problem. No one could say for sure if this god thing existed or not. Let's forget the groundless mythological legends for the time being and consider the cultivation of individuals first.
The team of experts had come up with a hypothesis: their individual "cultivation" could be a divine gift, but more likely, it could be something similiar to ours, which was achieved through communicating with the law of Nature and elevating the level of life.
The most typical example would be the Druids of the ancient Celts.
The Druids believed in oak trees—yes, that type of thick, hard trees. In order to receive power from the oak trees, the Druids had to have some special practice.
These civilizations shared one thing in common—sorcery. The ancient Shamanism and the Incan religions, for instance, both carried out primitive worships, believing in the spirits of all things such as fire, bears, ghosts, male members, cartoon characters (just kidding), etc.
Therefore, the experts reached a conclusion that the power system of other countries was probably similar to ours, which was following one of the three paths: sorcery, the inheritance of religious sects, or some concoction of ambitious individuals.
Other than that, there was one more thing that worth mentioning.
When western supernatural beings were mentioned, to ordinary people, the first things that came to their minds were—among other things— werewolves, vampires, Marvel universe, etc.
The origins of vampires could be traced back to the Mesopotamian and ancient Hebrew civilizations thousands of years ago. It was said that devils feeding on the essence and blood of human beings walked the earth then. As for the image of the modern vampires, it owed mostly to the large number of folklore and literary works.
As for werewolves (lycanthropes), their origins were even more complicated.
There was the mythological source: Zeus transformed a cruel king into a wolf.
There was the medical source: the term "lycanthropy" described a psychiatric condition where the patients had a delusion about themselves being wolves.
There was the historical records source: King John Lackland had turned into a werewolf after being poisoned by a monk.
The files hence came to the conclusion that these two kinds of creatures might exist, but were definitely not something that would tear their clothes off and run naked on a full moon night, nor would spend their days as some beautiful men and women losing their heads over cheating love affairs.
Their appearance would be hideous, very hideous...
Well, Gu Yu quite trusted the team of experts, for he was on the opposite end of the spectrum from a curve wracker.
All in all, after a few days of studying, the couple had a pretty good idea of what it was all about and Gu Yu was greatly intrigued. After the head of the household gave her permission, he replied Wang Qi, saying he was willing to go along.
The head of the household herself did not think much of it. She could not be bothered to travel that far and would rather stay at home eating, sleeping, and disciplining Xiaojin.
The city of Dongyun, Tianhua Mountain.
Dongyun was the second largest city of the province with a coastline and an developed economy. Tianhua Mountain stood 200 km to the west of the city under the jurisdiction of Guanshui Town.
The mountain was a tourist destination, but had never been too popular, for most of the area was covered by virgin forest and the rugged terrain provided little development opportunity, hence there wasn't much activities available for the tourists.
Somewhere on the west slope, a thick growth of branches was brushed aside and out came six people in turn. All were equipped with outdoor gear. One had a transmitter on his back and the other five carried knives, sticks, and a gun on their back.
These five were none other than the members of the scientific research team, who were here to explore and verify a clue offered to the app.
"This section has been swept. No unusual creatures found!"
"This section has been swept, too. No discovery!"
The reports came in one after another and the team leader marked each set of coordinates in turn. He then checked the time: 3.00 pm. It was an awkward time—too early to return, but a little late to keep searching.
After a brief consideration, he made the decision. "We will carry on for another forty minutes. We'll go back if nothing comes up by then."
The six men fanned out right away, proceeding forward slowly.
They did not know what exactly they were after. The information provider only snapped a blurry photo from afar. All they could tell was that it was huge and ferocious-looking.
Another few minutes and they were marching even deeper into the woods. The air in the mountain was quite pleasant. Without the burning sun, it was almost cool in the shade.
All of a sudden, one of the men halted and warned in a low voice, "I heard something!"
The other team members stopped in unison and pricked up their ears. There was indeed a shuffling sound from an unknown distance away, as if something was threading through the woods.
At the command, the team was combat-ready in no time. Two men climbed onto trees, two lay in wait in the bushes, while one man backed away to keep the research specialist safe.
The sound was moving closer and closer. It was almost at them when all was silent. The six waited a long while and nothing showed up. The team leader then gestured with his hand.
One fellow on the tree took up his binoculars to check, then he felt something...
The trunk as thick as a pot snapped without warning. The man panicked. Before he had time to react, a giant shadow pounced at him.
"Aaaaah!"China of course TL/N: "Erlang Shen" literally means "the second son god". Chinese mythology has a lot of "gods" in it, but I guess what the author meant by saying "gods" doesn't apply to us Chinese is that our "shen" (literally translated to "god") is not the same thing as western "gods".