The priest made his grand entrance like an immortal swordmaster, turning the crisis around without breaking a sweat. With his resolute manner, the wounded felt compelled to follow his order without any objection. Those that ran at the front quickly got on the vehicle, while those that fell behind retreated hurriedly into the hospital building.
The police officers gestured and the anti-riot vehicles rumbled out of the courtyard. The first batch of the wounded was sent away. Just then, two more priests arrived in a hurry with swords in their hands, calling out, "Senior Brother, are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Let's talk inside."
The priest waved off their concern and entered the hospital with his two junior brothers. The officials in charge saw the whole thing from upstairs and had scrambled downstairs now, holding the priest's hands tightly. "Thank you so much! Thank you so much!"
Another one asked, "If we may know which esteemed priest do we have the honor to meet, please?"
"I'm Bai Yunsheng 1 of the Immortal Cave." The priest saluted them, then said, "I got a message from my junior brother. What exactly is going on here?"
"We're not sure, either. All we know is that someone has been catching birds on Phoenix Mountain in Zhuzang Township, which enraged a flock of birds and they somehow ended up flying here to the county town"—the official lowered his voice—"I'm afraid this is a matter concerning the cultivation community. We're depending on you for a solution."
"I'm perfectly capable of handling the lesser unnatural creatures, but don't put too much hope in me. I'm not advanced enough in my cultivation and there is only so much I can do."
Bai Yunsheng was a natural and unrestrained character with a manner neither haughty nor humble; he was all about telling the truth. The man was tall, broad-shouldered, and had slender fingers and a powerful grip. His bright eyes reminded one of stars, and with the long sword on his back, he looked very much like a chivalrous swordsman of the ancient times.
The Immortal Cave of Forest City was the largest temple in Guizhou Province. Despite being a branch of Zhengyi, its founder and history remained rather mysterious, with little written records.
That inscrutable sword technique Bai Yunsheng used was exactly the reason he was able to secure his place in Qiyun among all the other extremely talented priests.
Sword technique was a common physical training method adopted by all sects in the Taoist community, but rarely did any of them consider it their sole specialty.
Acting under the order of the monastery, Bai Yunsheng came to Guizhou to remove the evil creatures pestering the land—well, mostly the Tame Head masters that had snuck into the country. He had just finished cleaning up the province and was about to head back to Tianzhu Mountain when this happened, hence his showing up here.
His arrival made little difference in solving the problem, though. He was not yet an innate state cultivator and could not detect the abnormality.
"Are the fire engines here yet?"
"Yes, yes. Make way!"
Outside the building entrance, four fire engines dispatched here on a short notice had each taken up a corner of the courtyard. A group of people pretended they were making a run, luring the birds to approach, then the water hoses were switched on.
That was quite a scene. Water mist filled the air and dampened the birds' feather, which weighed them down until they were falling to the ground one after another. Bai Yunsheng and the other two priests guarded the perimeter to take down any bird that managed to make its way in. Under such a close protective system, the second batch of wounded patients got safely onto the vehicles.
"Hahaha! That's great!"
"A fallen phoenix is weaker than a chicken. Let's see who's the tough one now?"
There was indeed wisdom within the common folk. Some old man had come up with this idea and the crowd's spirits were significantly lifted at its effectiveness.
After that, the third and fourth batches made a smooth departure. You Le and You Yu belonged to the sixth batch. They were now waiting in the lobby, looking out through the glass door.
"That's good. We'll be safe!" You Le sighed with relief. Patting his younger cousin on his shoulder, he said, "They're sending us to the city. Dad and Mum are also there."
"I still want to go home. No one knows if these birds are ever going to leave or not, what are we gonna do?" You Yu sounded crestfallen.
While the brothers were whispering to one another, the other people relaxed with how smoothly things turned out. The fifth batch was ready to head out.
The fire hoses were switched on again and the birds fluttered to the ground. All of a sudden, a fireman shouted, "Sh*t! There're too many of them!"
This method seemed to have enraged the birds as they were pouring in from all over the town, diving into the courtyard from all directions. As soon as a wave of birds was shot down by the gushing water, more would take their places.
"Turn the water up! Turn it up!"
"It's already full on. Watch out— ah!"
A fireman cried out as a bird knocked into his back and he fell down the fire engine with a thump. The rest of the firemen were given as hard a time as he and the water flow instantly flagged.
Bai Yunsheng's face turned stern and he jumped into the courtyard without hesitation. His sword reached out like a precise machine, brushing past a girl's cheek.
The girl felt the cold air grazing her skin and almost thought half of her ear had been cut off. The next second, the sword was back to Bai Yunsheng's hand as if nothing had happened. Shivering, she turned around and saw a big bird dead on the ground with a hole through its body.
The two junior brothers were not as extraordinary in the sword technique as Bai Yunsheng, but they fought in perfect unison and were also able to clear out an area.
Seeing this, the birds grew all the more frantic and ferocious. They charged at the three with a deadly determination, even to the point of using their own bodies as the weapon, as if trying to take the three down to the same doomed fate.
"Zap, zap, zap!"
The police shot at the birds from outside the circle, but completely to no avail. The three priests were surrounded by the birds and there was no way out.
"We're done! This is a disaster!"
The officials watching the fight were drained of all color. Their only savior had also fallen into the quagmire—and he was a man of the monastery! If he died here in Zhijin, there would be enough officials to punish for such a loss.
"Ah, ah… hm…"
Just then, his deputy slapped him hard on the shoulder, who could not even make a coherent sentence because of the excitement. He only pointed at the courtyard.
"What's this? That's…"
The official's heart skipped a beat, then the charging birds suddenly turned rigid and slow. The next moment, they were dropping to the ground like fallen apples.
There was a shower of falling birds and in the blink of an eye, they could see the three priests again.
Bai Yunsheng was utterly frustrated by the siege and was about to use his killing move when the enemies simply dropped dead. Looking up, he saw a fellow walking into the courtyard and winced a little… 'Huh? Why is he here?'
"Tsk, tsk. That just looks miserable!"
Taking in the chaotic yard, Gu Yu shook his head. The white jade bird chimed in with a little chirp, also putting on a sad face.
Gu Yu was not in a good mood at the moment. He was just visiting the Cultural Affairs Bureau, but saw no one there, nor was he able to find any relevant records. When he finally managed to find someone alive enough to answer his questions, he was told that the bureau was having an outdoor event when the birds came and everyone was now in the hospital!
The atmosphere was rather strange for a while. All eyes on all floors and inside and outside the building were following him as he strolled unhurriedly into the hospital.
The official was covered in sweat by now. He thought he recognized the face, but dared not make any assumptions. "Are you, are you…"
"I'm Gu Yu!"
All the officials gave a shudder and felt ease flooding over their body. The man was overjoyed. "Mr. Gu, it really is you. We're so glad to see you."
Gu Yu ignored him and turned to the priest, asking, "And this is…"
"Bai Yunsheng of Qiyun."
Bai Yunsheng put his sword back into its sheath and cupped his hands.
"Oh, nice to meet you." Gu Yu nodded and went on, "I'm just passing through. Is anyone here familiar with local chronicles—oh, especially on Fish Mountain? I could use some help."
The official hesitated. The fellows of the Cultural Affairs Bureau were all badly injured and bedridden at the moment.
"No, no, there is. It's just a little, um…"
He was struggling to find the right word when someone called out, "I know! I know!"
You Le came up to Gu Yu, dragging You Yu behind him, and smiled obsequiously, "Master, we know Fish Mountain very well."
Gu Yu looked at them up and down and asked doubtfully, "Aren't you still students?"
"He is, I'm not… no, I mean, he knows, I don't!" You Le was apparently very nervous. It took him a while to finally form his words. "We're cousins. My grandpa used to guard the gate of Fish Mountain when he was young—he was there for half of his life. He used to tell us stories, but I didn't remember much. My younger brother here is a good student. He remembers everything!"
"I see. What are your names?"
"I'm You Le. He's You Yu!"
You Le nudged his brother who, for some reason, seemed reluctant to get involved.
Gu Yu decided he would give this a shot. Seeing that it was unlikely for one to find a private room around here, he set up a confinement and asked, "So, could you tell me a little bit about the legends or allusions of Fish Mountain, please?"
The two young men had no idea what had just happened. They only saw that the crowd was pointing at them with frighted looks.
You Yu hesitated for a while and finally said, "Fish Mountain got its name because of its resemblance to a wooden fish. As early as the Tang Dynasty, there was a Zhiqiong Memorial Temple on the mountain, which was to worship Zhiqiong the goddess. Legend has it that Jianwen Emperor fled to Zhijin after he was deposed, where he lived a secluded life. However, he later travelled as far as Emei and his whereabouts became a mystery after that."
"Wait a minute!"
Gu Yu had "WTF" written all over his face. That sounded so like the first paragraph of some groundless concocted historical fiction. 'I was just walking around and stumbled upon this tiny mountain, why was Jianwen Emperor suddenly involved?'
Zhu Yunwen (i.e. Jianwen Emperor) went missing after being deposed by his own uncle and his whereabouts became the ultimate mystery… nope, he was not going to dig into that.
"Do you have any proof for that?" asked Gu Yu.
"No, I only know what grandpa told me," answered the honest You Yu.
"Keep going, then. Maybe not the folklore, though. Tell me something related to Taoism." Gu Yu was not having much hope at this point.
"Taoism…" You Yu gave it a thought and said, "Taoism of Guizhou was mostly introduced from Sichuan area. Priest Luo Shengxian of the Song Dynasty was the earliest Taoist priest recorded to have lived here. He was an expert in landscape painting and used to live on Fish Mountain for a while. Later, Li Jue, Chen Zhixu, Zhao Lianshi, Immortal Grandma Li, and a priestess Gong Suran all took their residence on Fish Mountain once."
"They were all from Sichuan?" Gu Yu was amazed.
"Yes, all of them, probably from the Northern Song to the Southern Song Dynasties," You Yu replied, then went on, "When time came to the Ming Dynasty, people like Bai Feixia and Cheng Guangzuo arrived here—Black God Temple was also constructed during the Ming Dynasty. However, the person that contributed the most to Fish Mountain was Priest Tuo Jichan of the Republic of China era. He was also a man from Sichuan and has put much effort in developing Fish Mountain for many years. The mountain flourished under his work. Unfortunately, it soon declined because of the roaming bandits. Oh, that library in the backyard of Black God Temple was built by Tuo Jichan."
"How about the two pairs of couplet of the library?" An idea suddenly struck Gu Yu.
"Grandpa said Tuo Jichan loved books more than his life, which was why he had the library built. The couplet was composed by a local talent Yu Youshan, but he only wrote one of them—'Alongside the Mountains of Dayou and Xiaoyu and together with the Toad Cave, the knowledge stored in the three mountains are like the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon of West Lake'. I don't know who was the author of the other one."
Well, that was very interesting!
Jianwen Emperor's whereabouts aside—it was impossible to verify the truth of that—all those Taoist priests had been travelling thousands of kilometers from Sichuan to a tiny mountain here in this remote little town. What did that tell us?
It was an obvious sign for the people of the later generations, saying 'check this place out!'
Gu Yu felt an idea was forming. He then asked, "Does this Tuo Jichan have any relics left behind?"
"Um, there is a grave at the foot of Fish Mountain. It was said to be his."
Oh? Gu Yu had missed that when he was there. He removed the confinement and smiled. "I see you do know the mountain very well. How about going on a trip there with me?"
You Yu hesitated, but You Le knew better—even the county officials were talking respectfully to this man, he had to be some big shot. Therefore, You Le said in a haste, "He's going with you, of course. He's just being a shy little boy!"
"Brother, you're transferring to another hospital in a minute. I have to take care of you," said You Yu.
"Think with your head!" You Le wished he could beat some sense into his young cousin and scolded, "It's just a scratch on my head. I don't need you around! Just go with this master!"
"No. Uncle and Auntie are not here. What if something happens to you?" The boy shook his head stubbornly.
You Le could choke the boy right there. He was about to scold him some more when Gu Yu interrupted, "That's ok, you can both go. That's just a minor wound." After that, before You Yu could speak, Gu Yu turned to Bai Yunsheng. "If it is all right with you, how about joining me on the trip?"
Bai Yunsheng was slightly surprised, but such an invitation would not scare him off. "Sure!"
A streak of red light pierced the air and made a round outside the building. A smell of barbecue filled the air and a passageway was cleared out.
The brothers watched this with gaping mouths. A moment later, You Le grabbed his brother by his shoulder and whispered, "Did you see that? Did you? These are the real masters. Others would die for such a chance and what did you do? You dumb kid! This is our opportunity and we must take it! F**k, are you listening to me?"
You Yu nodded with a blank face, yet to recover from the shock. You Le, on the other hand, stared at the backs of the two men walking in the front. He was suddenly overwhelmed by a desire. 'I want to be like them'!
"Everyone on board!"
Gu Yu took the official's special car, got the other three in, and headed directly for Fish Mountain.
He got his driving license shortly after he and Xiaozhai were officially together and by now he was quite an experienced driver. He set up a confinement while driving and chuckled at Bai Yunsheng. "Don't worry, they can't hear us."
Bai Yunsheng had been curious about this technique for a while. He jabbed the hilt of his sword at the confinement and felt as if it was poking a transparent film. He was amazed. "This is fantastic!"
"It's just a petty skill. Your sword technique, on the other hand, was truly exceptional. Is it a heritage of your sect?"
"If I may ask, exactly which sect does the Immortal Cave belong to? I'm really unfamiliar with the name."
Bai Yunsheng hesitated a little before answering, "We are a very small sect not worth mentioning. You could call it Yiyang Way."
Gu Yu had indeed never heard of the name. The man obviously did not want to talk about it and it was inappropriate to press on. However, when the man was not looking, Gu Yu took out his phone and sent Xiao Qiu a message, asking her to ask Xiaozhai about this Yiyang Way.
A couple of minutes later, his phone beeped at an incoming message. "Ask him who the founder of his sect was."
Well, it seemed the head of the household herself had come out of seclusion.
"Well, if I may ask another question, who was the immortal that established your sect?"
"Perfected Man Lingyu."
Bai Yunsheng gave him an unspecified alternative Taoist name, looking perfectly calm. He then closed his eyes and rested leaning back onto his seat.
Gu Yu pursed his lips and sent a message. Xiaozhai's reply said, "There is no famous priest with that name in Guizhou. The history of the Immortal Cave is quite mysterious. Since you ran into the them, it won't hurt to make a friend."
A few seconds later, there was another message. "Did you say he was an expert in sword technique?"
"He's very good, even better than you."
Xiaozhai completely ignored his provocation and did not reply to his message.
Damn it! Gu Yu sulked. 'Why can you be the arrogant one and I can't? That's not how you play the game!'TL/N: the surname and given name put together meant "rising white clouds"