The two words pounded against Qingsong Zi's eardrums like a sledgehammer and his heart lurched, silently blaming himself for acting recklessly: extremely capable and a woman, who else could this one be?
However, he managed to maintain his posture and cupped his hands. "Sorry for not recognizing you right away, Laywoman Jiang. Could you tell me what has happened here?"
Squinting, Xiaojin instinctively realized something was amiss from that address. She asked, "Do you know who I am?"
"Laywoman Jiang's fame is so widespread, how could I not know? Is Layman Gu not with you?"
"Don't beat around the bush. Do you really know who I am?" Xiaojin pressed on.
Qingsong Zi hesitated at her tone. On Phoenix Mountain there were the couple and a Miao woman… oh, there seemed to be a distant relative also, making them four in total.
He couldn't have been wrong!
The only thing was that the word around was that Laywoman Jiang was far bolder and more generous than any ordinary man, but this one standing here seemed quite girlish. That was a little strange...
F**k, f**k, f**kity f**k!
Little Soap was fuming up at the look on his face. EXCUSE ME! She had finally stolen the spotlight: she detected the lurking man at the alley, left behind the hair on purpose, trapped the Tame Head with her Thunder Technique, made the dummy with the Shape-changing Spell, demonstrated her might power in front of everyone, and killed the evil man with her lightning… she had planned it all out so that she could be the center of this big show.
What did she get in return? She was mistaken for her sister?
She was about to lash out when the sound of her brother-in-law came from the roof. "Ok, that's enough!"
The man himself arrived with those words. Gu Yu—who had been playing the happy bystander for a while—landed lightly on the ground with a smile. "Nice to meet you, priest. I have heard so much about your prestigious temple. Had it not been for our tight schedule, we would have visited you the first thing."
"You flatter us. Senior Brother Shi of our Longmen Sect is in the temple at the moment. Would the layman have the time to meet him?"
Once seeing the famous man in flesh, Qingsong Zi was all the more polite and appropriate. He was a clever man and knew that since these two could kill someone in broad daylight and make such a big scene, what had happened had grown out of his hands. He was thus more than happy to make it his superior's problem.
"Shi Yunlai is here in Spring City?" Gu Yu was a little surprised, but then smiled. "Sure. I need to talk to your abbot anyway."
While they were still talking, sirens rang out in the residential area as a police car drove in through a passageway. Gu Yu shrugged and told the security team that was still standing staring at them in utter confusion, "Tell them that I'll be in Zhenqing Temple!"
With that, he and Xiaojin leapt out and disappeared from sight. Qingsong Zi and the other priest followed suit, also jumping over the wall.
The bystanders were silent for a long time before someone asking in a bemused tone, "I'm not seeing an illusion, am I?"
"Nope, nor are my eyes tricking me."
"Is it, is it possible that immortals and monsters are real?"
"That lightning must have been real, right?"
"What did she say just then? Phoe... phoe..."
Zhenqing Temple, a meditation room.
Shi Yunlai sat a little awkwardly in the middle, while the abbot Chen Qingyou sat on a lower seat next to him on one side and Gu Yu and Xiaojin sat on the other.
He was not as generous as Chao Kongtu and was still brooding over that fight in Changbai Mountains. What had happened this time only made it worse: he had had everything planned out and was ready to show his mighty hand when that Thant Tun screwed up.
And we all knew what actually happened: that fellow messed with the wrong person and he was out of the picture in no time!
Gu Yu had no idea of Shi Yunlai's unsettled mind and only said, "This is a happy coincidence. Why is Priest Shi in Spring City?"
"I'm just following orders. It's not just me. The others priests of the monastery have also come down the mountain to other places."
"To deal with those Tame Head masters?"
"With the Taoist community's participation, these people will not stand a chance. I admire you all greatly for that," said Gu Yu wholeheartedly.
Shi Yunlai did not know how to respond to that and gave his ambiguous answer with a couple of coughs. He then asked in return, "May I ask why are you here?"
"Well, I have been staying on the mountain for too long and thought I could use a little trip. I heard a lot was going on here, so I made Spring City my first stop. I have never thought I would get involved in this, though, which is making everything much more interesting," Gu Yu replied half-seriously. After a little pause, he added, "Speaking of which, there is something I need Abbot Chen's expertise on."
"May I ask what is it about?" Chen Qingyou winced a little, not expecting his name to be called.
He took out that yellow talisman and told them about everything. "I attended an auction yesterday. Does Abbot Chen know anything about it?"
"An auction…" Chen Qingyou pondered for a moment before answering, "About twenty days ago, a very well-connected secret society was suddenly established in Spring City. It also had a considerable manpower, which was turning over every stone to search for cultivation-related objects, which would be auctioned off. They came to ask me to host the event, but I turned them down."
"Oh, it's just that I saw this talisman at the auction. Did a disciple of your temple draw it?"
Chen Qingyou took the talisman and examined it. The more he looked at it, the more worried he became, for it looked distinctively like the drawing of one of his disciples. He asked, "Was it really from the auction?"
"Haha, you're holding eight million there!" Gu Yu chuckled.
Shi Yunlai's face turned livid at that. However fierce the internal strife of the Taoist community was, there was one general guideline: never get involved with the secular forces.
The Taoist community was able to maintain its high political status because of its relative independence and impartiality. They only followed the orders from the top and never meddled with local problems.
If some individual disciple was taken away by their selfish desire and colluded with local power to gain financial benefit, the impact would be unfathomable.
First of all, the Taoist community had gone through some serious "self-inflicted damage" to clear away the rotten roots and cleanse the system. Once this dam was open, that acquired seriousness was gone and they would be back to the old corruptive ways.
Secondly, the status of the Taoist community would decline and also gone would be the independence.
Most importantly, it was asking for trouble! A local tycoon joining hands with an innate state cultivator: what were you trying to achieve? An insurgence?
The bosses would never let such thing happen!
As for Gu Yu, although he was not part of the Taoist community, being a fellow cultivator, he still hated to see the community falling apart for such crap. Hence he decided to give these people a heads-up.
Chen Qingyou's face darkened and he called out suddenly, "Qingfeng!"
"Yes, Abbot!" someone answered outside.
"Go get Yiming!"
The man left. Before long, the door of the meditation room was pushed open and a young priest in his twenties entered, then bowed. "Master! Master Uncle Shi! How do you do, Layman and Laywoman!"
"Yiming, did you draw this?" Chen Qingyou handed him the talisman.
The priest gave it a look and asked in surprise, "I did. Is there anything wrong with it?"
"Humph! You should be proud of yourself, then. Not only was it used for an auction, it was sold for eight million!"
"Mater, I-I know nothing of this!" Yiming instantly became flustered and tried to explain, "A layman came for a blessing the other day, saying that his house was pestered with snakes and insects, whose number was so great that they could not be eliminated. His wife and children were unable to sleep at night. I pitied him, so I drew him this talisman… Master, I did not do it out of greed!"
"Who was this man?" Chen Qingyou asked in a stern tone.
"He has visited us a couple of times before and was always behaving appropriately. I don't know him very well and only know that his family name is Duan."
Chen Qingyou darted a look at Shi Yunlai, certain of what was happening, but he still tried to test the young priest some more. He pressed on, "You really have no idea who he was?"
"No, absolutely not!"
"And you really gained nothing financially from it?"
"Master!" Yiming was an honest and humble one. He fell to his knees with a thump and said, "Ever since I became a disciple of the sect, all I ever wanted was to pursue the Great Dao and never for once did I linger on the comfort of the secular world! If you, Master, yourself do not believe me, I, I can only—"
Chen Qingyou flipped his wide sleeve and raised his pupil to his feet. "I believe you. But after all, the error was a result of your doing. You will stay in seclusion for a month to reflect on yourself."
Yiming lighted up at the punishment and retreated with a bow.
Gu Yu sat there watching the whole thing, feeling his jaw going slack.
This was exactly why he did not like Quanzhen. These people were rigid to a fault with their precepts! The free and easy-going Chao Kongtu was much more pleasant to hang out with.
Shortly after Yiming left them, someone else came to report to Chen Qingyou. "Abbot, men from the BIMAUP are outside. They are here for Layman Gu."
Chen Qingyou glanced at the man in question, who could not look more indifferent at the news. He said with resignation, "Show them in!"
Myan, the Kachin Hills.
The mountain was to the north of the city of Myitkyina and was covered by a vast virgin forest. In the local language, its name meant "the place where devils dwell."
It was once a Chinese territory, but outstanding historical issues led to redrawn national boundaries and it was now part of Myan.
The kachin hills were known for their precipitous mountains, vast and luxuriant forest, neverending swamps, roaming beasts, countless insects, venomous snakes, and vicious miasma.
During the second world war, around 100,000 soldiers of the Chinese Expeditionary Army entered Myan to fight the Japanese troops. More than 10,000 were killed in battles, but over 50,000 died trudging through these mountains.
Of course, with the modern age, part of the mountains had gone through some development and roads were also built. Hikers visited this area every year and the Hpakant quarry—the most famous jade stone quarry in the world—was also in the region.
The quarry was famous for its top-quality emeralds and was of great value. Myan was going through some tumults lately and wars were fought among various forces. Naturally, this valuable mountain was among the things they fought for.
The strange thing was, no matter how fierce the battles were, all forces had avoided going near a certain valley, as if some cannibal demon was living in it.
A black bubble rose up from the bottom of a pond and burst instantly before another one repeated the process. The stench was unbearable.
The pond was deep inside the mountain in a corner that no sunlight could break through. Poisonous miasma filled the air, rendering it a genuine no-man's-land. However, right next to the stagnant water was a grotesque and dilapidated wood house.
Inside sat an extremely old woman as thin as a skeleton.
She was murmuring something sitting in the center of a circle of white candles. Evil-looking objects littered the room; among them were some crawling worm-like things, which looked like they had been dissected and randomly put back together.
All of a sudden, half of the white candles extinguished despite the absence of any wind. The room instantly grew dimmer.
The old woman opened her eyes, revealing a pair of vertical serpentine pupils. She fumbled out a black soul plate from her waist in a hurry. On the plate carved a small figure, which used to be glowing in a dark light, but was now completely lusterless.
"Thant Tun is dead?" she whispered to herself in an incredulous tone.
Momentarily, the murmur grew louder, eventually turning into a shriek that reminded one of some vicious ghost. "Sob… Thant Tun is dead… who dared to kill Thant Tun… sob… they're going to pay for this with their own life!"