The clan was in a relatively primitive state.
The village took up a rather large area, surrounded by thick and hard wooden fence on all sides. There was no distinct road inside and the ground was dry and messy. Most of the houses were wooden- or straw-roofed and had two stories and stone walls. People lived on the top floor and the livestock was kept below.
Each wooden house was equipped with an open balcony with a leaf mat overhead which seemed to be where they entertained their guests. What stood out the most, though, were the pestle-shaped objects hanging down from every beam that closely resembled male members—apparently a fertility worship of some sort.
A couple of hundred residents lived here. They were now sitting outside their houses in twos and threes; some were doing laundry, some were tanning hides, and some were smoking their crude tobacco. Men all dressed pretty much the same, while women wore loose collarless and sleeveless robes and long colorful skirts with a small piece of cowhide hanging down their backs.
They were happy to see their handsome boy return, but were curious and nervous to see the two strangers behind him.
Pakka greeted his fellow clansmen along the way as he led the two to the largest wooden building. An old man with grizzled beard walked out and engaged in a conversation with Pakka. The old man shook his head in a while, apparently not believing Pakka.
It got Pakka anxious. He turned around and began to gesticulate in a flurry.
Gu Yu chuckled, went up to the old man, and sent out his greeting with a streak of mental force. "Nice to meet you, grandfather!"
The old man opened his eyes widely and his beard quivered as if he was seeing a ghost or a god. After all, he did not become the clan's leader for nothing and demonstrated his resolution right away. He saluted them with a bow and invited them into the house.
Pakka left and the three went upstairs—the balcony was indeed where they sat down.
The Monpa People were very hospitable. The old man set out a tableful of fruit and wine along with some pasty thing held by wide leaves, which reminded one of poo...
Xiaojin looked around the table and finally picked up a fruit. As she bit into it, her tongue buried into the squashy red pulp and she began to salivate uncontrollably.
"Ssss! That's so goddamn sour!"
She stuck her tongue out, wrinkled up her face, and shook her body around with clenched fists.
Gu Yu ignored her. Because the communication method was rather time-consuming, he saved all the pleasantries and said directly, "We're looking for a kind of stone. It's big but very light—like this one."
He took out a small piece of Hollow Stone and passed it to the old man.
The head of the clan looked at it closely, weighed it up and down in his hand, and suddenly shouted to someone downstairs. Before long, a young man ran up.
The two exchanged some words in their native language and the clan's head turned to Gu Yu. "This is Pemba. No one knows the big mountain like this young man does. He knows about this strange stone."
"Are there reserves of it?" Gu Yu was cheered up by those words.
"..." The head was not familiar with the term "reserves", but could guess what it meant. "There are some."
"That's great. Please help me in this. We have these for you in return."
He thought about giving them money and medicine at first, but on the second thought, he opened his backpack and poured out all the bits and bobs. "These are candies… that's compacted ration… that's canned meat… oh, these are condiments."
He focused on introducing the set of bagged condiments. They were in neat little bags that represented all the merits of modern packaging technology. There were salt, msg, pepper, chilli powder, the whole shebang.
The old man was indeed delighted by such a gift and his face lit up like a blossoming rose. He nodded repeatedly. "Sure, sure, it's no trouble at all."
Many might not be familiar with this, but there was an ancient rule in jade business.
Deep in every mountain that jade stones were found, there lived an old master. The title was passed on from one generation to the next and each master would choose suitable children as their pupils who would be sent to live deep in the mountains and trained for necessary skills. There, they would explore the terrain and learn about every single plant of the mountain.
Anyone planning to go into the mountains for jade stones had to visit the master beforehand and could only proceed after obtaining permission from the latter. This procedure was known as "visiting the master". Even the government had to rely on such masters when they tried to find ancient graves in the mountains.
The Monpa People were no masters, but they knew the Kachin Hills like the back of their hand after living here for generations. After the thousand-year-long exploitation, the Hpakant quarry had barely anything left. One had to turn to the Monpa if they wanted some top-notch stones.
A shiny machete hacked down, cutting down a branch as think as an adult arm. The leaves shuffled and three people filed out—they were Gu Yi, Xiaojin, and Pemba.
They set out as soon as Gu Yu reached an agreement with the clan's head.
Pemba was a little more lively than Pakka. Despite the language difficulty, he was gesturing around the entire time, trying to make himself understood. The three left the village and headed east. The place they were looking for was somewhere to the northeast of the rock hill.
They had been walking for an hour now; the boundless mountains and dense woods just seemed to stretch on without an end.
"Puggy, are we ever going to get there?"
Xiaojin was impatient with the trek. She addressed Pemba, but was actually nudging her brother-in-law. Gu Yu made an estimation and said, "We're almost there. We've covered about two-thirds of the distance."
"You said that twenty minutes ago!"
Little Soap pursed her lips. She couldn't walk in peace, but had to hop up and down, or play with a toad she caught out of the blue.
She managed to walk like this for another while when she looked around and saw a deep valley ahead to her right. She instantly wanted to have a look inside.
"Ah! Ah! Ah…"
She was two steps into that direction when Pemba howled as if he was having a heart attack. Color drained from his face as he waved his hands frantically. He dragged Xiaojin back in a flurry.
"Sh*t, what's wrong with you? What's with that place?" She jumped at his reaction.
Pemba pointed at the valley, apparently greatly agitated and horrified.
The more he overreacted, the more eagerly Xiaojin wanted to see it for herself. She stomped the ground, leapt up, and dashed into that direction. "Don't worry. I'll dispel whatever evil that is in there… oops!"
She only managed to run out for a few meters before she flew backwards like a rewound video. The next second, she smashed into her brother-in-law's arms.
"Stop messing around! We have work to do!"
Gu Yu set his sister-in-law back on the ground and was a little crossed.
Xiaojin knew when to behave and did not retort.
Gu Yu then looked at the valley. It was gloomy, terrifying, and black fog seemed to be rising out of it. Further in was a dense forest too deep to see through. Some unfathomable danger seemed to be lurking there.
After a full two-hour march, the three finally stopped.
To others, this place looked the same as everywhere else, but not to Pemba. In his head, the entire Kachin Hills had turned into an HD map.
"This is it?" Little Soap walked around and asked doubtfully, "There's nothing but trees here. Don't tell me it's still buried underground."
Pemba nodded repeated and swept the ground with his hands. The thick layers of rotten leaves were removed, revealing the tip of a stone. Gu Yu went up to it and explored with his mental force: there were small holes inside with roaming spiritual essence. It was Hollow Stone!
He sigh in relief and smiled. "Thank you for taking us here. We'll have a look first."
With that, he scanned the terrain, moved back a little, and activated the Small Moving Technique.
The Jiang Sisters both loved drama, while Gu Yu and Xiao Qiu were the pragmatic ones. There was no strange movement or sudden gust of wind. The rotten leaves, mud, and the surface soil simply disappeared from where they were and a small mound suddenly appeared on a nearby spot.
"God… god… ghost…"
Pemba dropped to his knees and prostrated in reverence.
Before long, Gu Yu stopped his maneuvering when the top layers were cleaned away. Starting from that tip of the stone, he circled out a giant oval-shaped area. "If I'm not mistaken, this is how large this Hollow Stone is."
Xiaojin was dazed like a cat sitting on a fish hill. That was freaking enormous!
"Stop staring. Come here and help me!" Gu Yu beckoned at her.
She ran happily to him and asked, "Are we digging it out?"
"Let's try digging first. Pile the soil over there. Don't block the road."
Right away, they both activated the Small Moving Technique and began digging.
As the saying went, a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law made the perfect working buddies. The mound grew higher and Pemba's mouth opened bigger and bigger. When the mound was about seven or eight meters high, they finally saw the entire Hollow Stone.
After all the arduous journey and the toil of mind, Xiaojin finally saw her precious. She could not keep her eyes off it. Her rough estimation of the big stone was about 22 meter in length. The height remained unknown and the thickest part was eight meters. It was a shuttle-shaped stone.
If it were a jade stone, something this size would weigh at least 2000 tons, but it was a Hollow Stone instead...
"Move away. Let's see if I can lift it out."
Gu Yu asked the other two to make some room for him, then he activated his spiritual essence, shouting, "Up!"
The giant stone shook a little.
"Up!" he shouted again and turned his spiritual essence full on. A violent fluctuation wrapped around the stone and the Small Moving Technique worked its magic.
With a loud noise, the half-buried giant stone disappeared from where it was and showed up again on the ground.
It was only until then that the three got to see the entire stone. It was as tall as 12 meters and looked like a small rock hill.
"Hahahaha!"Xiaojin lanced herself at it and spread her arms around the Hollow Stone. She was over the moon. "Precious! My precious! Mine!"
The jade stone quarry was brightly lit. The mines were closed at this hour, but the residential quarter was filled with liveliness—the nightlife had just begun. There were 33 fields (mines) here each with its own jade-gambling casinos and the hotels, clubs, and brothels derived from the gambling business. The place was the size of a small town.
Mongkant was a newly-opened mine. Jade stones were relatively abundant here, and so were the customers.
Right now, high rollers from every corner of the world were gathering inside the jade-gambling casino shouting at a table. "Full stone! Full stone!"
"Old Wang, that's some luck you got there. Sell it while you still can!"
"Sell my a*s! Let's see!"
A Myanese master had a raw stone in hand and scraped off the top layer, revealing a translucent-emerald color inside.
In jade-gambling, there was this saying: scraping open would not raise the price, cutting it open would. It might give one a green color with a scrape, but the stone could turn out to be a hollow one after all. But the possibility was looking good, so the price of the stone was bound to rise with a green scrape.
Right now, some other customer was yelling, "Old Wang, I'll give you 900,000 for that! Sell it to me!"
"900,000 is pretty generous. This raw stone was only 300,000."
Everyone was talking at the same time, but Old Wang ignored them. After a pause, he told the master, "Cut it!"
"Good for you!"
"Now, show me what's inside!"
The onlookers were there for the fun if nothing else. They couldn't care less what the result was. The master gave Old Wang a thumbs-up, turned on his machine, and cut down. The stone was in two halves.
It split open, showing two halves both full of green.
"Sh*t! The man's gonna be rich!"
"They're mostly pesized ones, but the quality is pretty good. Old Wang has been losing several days in a roll and luck is finally on his side."
"I'll take it for two million!"
Old Wang was delighted at this good fortune and retorted with a laughter, "Oh, shut up! Two million for a full one? Are you taking me for some newbie?"
He was actually a Chinese firm owner and had a few hundred million in his bank account. He cared for no liquor or women, but had a thing for jade-gambling. Over the years, he lost more often then he won, but he simply loved doing it.
Mongkant had excellent security and he was not concerned with theft or robbery. He was about to go out for a smoke when the door opened, and in came a man and a woman, followed by a native.