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Li Yang returned home to have a rest after the agarwood exhibition. He had been busying himself for the past few days so he took a nap when he got home. However, after he woke up, he found both of his legs completely stiff. He could still feel them, but they just wouldn’t move.

He called out for help at once and had himself sent to the hospital in a hurry. After an examination, he was told that the symptom was a result of pathogenic dampness and heat, as well as stagnation and blood stasis in his meridians. The doctor could not pinpoint the exact cause and only said it was induced by overworking, which caused deficiency in the spleen and weakened his vital energy.

The Li family certainly would not accept such a diagnosis, but there was nothing they could do, for they had tried every medical method there was and they all came up with that same conclusion. It was not incurable, though. Taking medicine daily together with acupuncture and chiropractic therapies might give him a chance for a slow recovery.

The panic-stricken Li Yang was almost terrified now. Everything had been fine until he woke up from his nap and he was paralyzed. No one could stay calm when such thing happened to them. His father, Li Yan, also rushed to the hospital. Just as He Zun, his first reaction was "Who did this to my son?"

The news of heirs of the He and the Li families falling ill on the same day had "trouble" written all over it. Despite all the precautions they took, word of it still got out somehow. Thus, the most popular subject in the "Tuhao" circle the next day was that He Tian and Li Yang had turned against each other over a woman and came to trade blows, which sent both to the hospital... [1]



Never mind all those gossip and rumors, the two families only found the incident abnormal. One of them falling ill could have a reasonable explanation. When it happened to both of them, that could not be a mere coincidence!

That night, in a club.

He Zun and Li Yan sat across the table in a private room, facing each other and both looking rather gloomy. The two were actually close friends. He Zun skipped the pleasantries and asked directly, "How’s Xiao Yang now?"

"He still can’t move his legs. The hospital had drawn up a recovery plan for him. Well, I guess we’ll have to try it out for the time being. Is A Tian feeling better?"

"He’s awake now, but what happened was too much for him…"

He Zun shook his head and did not want to go into details. He went on, "Old Li, what do you think of this incident?"

"Normally, we should trust the test results, but what happened was so fishy that it just keeps me wondering."

"I felt the same. A Tian might be a self-indulgent kid, but he is only in his early thirties, how could his health deteriorate so fast? By the way, I had my people look into it and here’s what they have found so far," with that, he tossed over a manila folder.

Li Yan opened it and found He Tian’s itineraries during the past three days, every person he had contact with included. The file was put together in a hurry and the information was not displayed in the most careful way. Dozens of names were listed in it, "Gu Yu" and "Jiang Xiaozhai" among them. However, one of the names stood out the most, underlined with a red pen.

"Zeng Yuewei? Oh, that girl of the Zeng family," he took a while to recall the name.

"A Tian’s secretary said he saw Zeng Yuewei a lot recently and the two seemed quite intimate. As far as I know, though, the girl was not all that into A Tian. The three of them were together yesterday."

"Do you think she’s involved?" Li Yan frowned and seemed to disagree. "I can’t think of a way that would let her achieve so much all at once."

"How the hell am I supposed to know!" He Zun suddenly raised his voice, appearing all agitated. "A Tian is wrecked now. If someone is indeed behind this, I swear I’ll find that person and cut him up into little pieces!"

"Calm down, Old He. Here, have some tea."

As the saying went, an apple never fell too far from the tree. Li Yan was the scheming type just like his son. He poured a cup of tea for He Zun and asked, "So, from what you have said, do you think Zeng Yuewei is the prime suspect?"

"No, there must be someone else. You know very well that those two have made quite a few enemies along the way. I think we should investigate it together."

"Of course."

The two fell into silence after that, worried by their own thoughts. After a while, Li Yan said, "Old He, you don’t suppose something evil was involved, do you?"

He Zun was surprised by the question, but soon sneered at him. "Are you that superstitious?"

"It’s not that I believe in such stuff, just that this whole thing was so unexpected. Think about it, apart from ‘them’, what can induce sickness at any time without any sign beforehand?"

"So, you want to…"

"A friend of mine lives in Taiping County. He is on friendly terms with a Taoist abbot and we could invite him here to have a look." [2]

Taiping County was about 300 km to the north of Shengtian. Located there was Lotus Mountain--it was a magnificent mountain with a long history, considered the most renowned mountain in the province. Numerous Taoist temples and abbeys were found all over the mountain. Incense sticks were burnt vigorously day after night there and they were also the most popular site for the believers and practitioners.

He Zun pondered over the idea and found it harmless. He then gave his approval. "Then let’s invite him over. If he really can do what he says, we won’t send him back empty-handed."

"Great. About Zeng Yuewei…"

"We’ll follow her around for a couple of days and find out what’s she up to."

"Ding-dong! Ding-dong!"

"Ah ah ah!"

In an office, Zeng Yuewei’s thoughts were interrupted by her ringtone. She pushed aside a pile of blueprints and dug out her cell phone. "Yes, mum?"

"Where are you now?" Her mum sounded anxious.

"Working overtime, why?"

"He Tian and Li Yang are both in a hospital. Did you know that?"

"When did that happen?" She was taken by surprise.

"Yesterday. One of them got in in the afternoon. Rumor was that he was paralyzed from waist down. The other one was hospitalized in the evening. I heard that, well, his fertility was damaged."

Her mum could not bring herself to say things like "problem with his private parts" and used a euphemism instead.

"They, they were both fine yesterday," Zeng Yuewei was shocked and dumbfounded at the same time.

"That’s the problem! Weren’t you with them yesterday?"

"I only went to the agarwood exhibition, had tea with them at noon and ate dinner with He Tian in the evening, then I went home… why, what did the doctors say? They are not suspecting me, are they?"

"Forget about the doctors. With the usual ways of handling problems of those two families, they will definitely let it out on some innocent people. I’ll have your dad talk to someone about it."

"Hey, don’t do that!"

Zeng Yuewei might be confused right now, but she was not stupid. "I didn’t do anything. If you go around talking to people, I would look guilty."

"Yeah, you’re right. That was silly of me. In that case, you, you…"

"Hell, it’s not like they’ll start killing people and setting fires. We’re in a modern society now. Don’t worry, I’ll take extra care."

They talked a bit longer after that before Zeng Yuewei hung up. She was still utterly confused, but was overwhelmed with an uncontrollable excitement at the same time. That son of a bi*ch had irritated her so much these days. So he was barren now?

Hoho!

Bai Town, a drizzly morning.

It had been sprinkling nonstop since early that morning. Raindrops pattered on the windows and were drifting freely in the air in the courtyard. There was something natural and exquisite about the scene.

Gu Yu did not have the luxury to sit down and appreciate the view. Old houses like his were easily affected by the damp weather, not to mention all the incense he kept here. He rose very early this morning and ran to the west wing to make sure everything was watertight and work on it if it wasn't. He then checked all the tiles on his roof to make sure they wouldn't be washed away by the rain.

It had been two days since he got back and he had been busying himself ever since. As it happened to be a rainy day today, he decided to take a day off and did not go into the mountain for his cultivation.

As for what was going on in Shengtian, Gu Yu had no idea whatsoever. After overhearing that conversation the other day, he sent out two streaks of spiritual essence when he passed the private room, corroding the two young masters' meridians without a trace.

Bodies of average people were not compatible with spiritual essence. If the essence was guided, it could indeed benefit their bodies--otherwise, it would only harm them. The little trick Gu Yu invented was based on this characteristic, damaging Li Yang and He Tian duo's meridians, and naturally leading to their current plight.

Frankly speaking, he had not only found those two evil, but also felt them violating the interests of himself and his friends, especially Zeng Yuewei. Ever since that girl warned him and told him to run away, he had started considering her his friend.

As the saying went, the moment one stepped into the cultivation world, no matter how peaceful a temperament they had, they were no longer the same as the common folks.

That was why he skipped any half-assed measures such as face-slapping and used his "deadliest" weapon right away.

The clock struck eight o’clock. Gu Yu had finished his breakfast and walked out of the door, carrying that tightly wrapped fragrant rosewood. Uncle Fang was coming towards him from not far away. He greeted, "Uncle, out on a job?"

"Just some physical work. I’m on my way there. What are you up to?"

"Oh, a friend gave me some wood material and I’m taking it to the factory."

"Wood material?"

Uncle Fang gave that stick a glimpse and did not ask further questions. Instead, he said, "Xiao Yu, I see that you are not really into your business these days. Why, something wrong? Do let me know if you need any help."

"I’m fine. I just had a few orders and was busy making incense."

"That’s good…" The two walked out the alley together and Uncle Fang added, "Boy, you used to be Phoenix Fair's boy wonder. It was such a pity for all of us that you couldn’t finish school. Please don’t do anything indecent. If you need anything, just ask. We’re all here for you."

"Ha, please don’t worry, Uncle. I know what I’m doing."

With that, the two went separate ways at the main street.

Gu Yu proceeded north and soon reached the suburbs, where a wood processing plant was--it was the factory he'd mentioned earlier. It was a rather small business and was doing all it could to make ends meet. He entered the plant and found it quite empty. Junk and waste were piled in the corners, exposed to the weather.

He looked around and found an old master in a warehouse. "Uncle, do you cut materials here?"

The old man looked at him over his reading glasses. "What material?"

"This one."

He drew the cloth open and revealed a pale-yellow log.

"Wow, it’s fragrant rosewood, isn’t it? Sure, we do!"

The old man’s attitude took a U-turn. He moved closer for a better look and became rather excited. The two agreed on the price right away and the old man set up the operating platform, ready to start.

This wood Xiaozhai picked was a spongy type, it had less oil and emphasized on the patterns.

The old master had been stuck in Bai Town his entire life and did not have much experience with rare materials. Hence, he took this job rather seriously as he switched on the jigsaw and pushed the wood towards it carefully. With a tearing sound, a section was cut off.

Gu Yu picked it up and was taken aback. He did not have high hopes for the material yet he hit the jackpot on the first cut.

The palm-sized cross-section had a pure oil color and was covered with vivid patterns. Black stripes arranged themselves into even, concentric circles. A dark spot resembling a human eye was right in the center.

The second cut gave him the same result.

'Holy crap!'

Gu Yu was dumbstruck this time for real. It was a set of eyes!

The so-called "set of eyes" referred to the instance when the material was made into beads and arranged into pairs. Each bead would have a dark spot--the "eyes".

The old man also shuddered. He looked up and asked, "Shall, shall I go on?"

"Yes!"

The third cut followed, then the fourth one… when he finished at last, the material could roughly be made into two strings of beads, one 1.8 cm in diameter and the other 1.2 cm. With the current market price, the two strings would be worth at least 100,000 yuan.

"Young man, thanks to you, I got to see some good stuff today!"

The old master was almost rejuvenated and started processing the beads without further instructions from Gu Yu.

Gu Yu, on the other hand, was leaning against the door and watching the drifting rain with some mixed feelings. ‘Did she know, or was it just dumb luck?’

[1] ED/N: See chapter 24. Tuhao refers to the rich, especially tycoons, local tyrants and nouveau riche.

[2] TL/N: 'Tanping' means ‘peace and tranquility’

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