A gust of wind swept away the fallen leaves and a heavy rain destroyed the banana trees.
The three got up very early the following morning, but found no breakfast in the hotel. According to the staff, the running water was fine a couple of days ago, but the contamination had grown worse since yesterday and unknown disgusting little worms spurted out all the time.
The word around was that water service in the area had been suspended; only the south and west of the city were not affected.
The three did not think much of it then. It was only when they went out onto the street that they saw the entire Anshun was in a restless state—strong fear filled the air. Police officers were patrolling the streets and vehicles were heading out of the city in lines.
"Such a nice city, but I guess that's the end of it," said Long Qiu sadly.
"It's not just this city. All the places down the stream are finished." Looking up at the overcast sky, Gu Yu sighed. "There was the Southern Wilderness where the Miao people used to live in the ancient time. The land was unruly and the rivers turbulent. One could not see a village for hundreds of miles travelling in the area. Who could have thought that with the recovery of the spiritual essence, a well-established modern urban agglomeration is deteriorating. Are we really going to have another Southern Wilderness?"
"Very likely. Unless they can solve this insect contamination soon, they will have to give up this area."
Xiaozhai also shook her head. "We were so proud of having the picturesque scenery, but it's only making us miserable now… let's go."
Their destination was Huangguoshu scenic area, which had long been cordoned off. They paid a small fortune to find a taxi, which took them 45 km to the southwest of the city before stopping in front of a warning sign.
They made their way around the sentries and snuck into the scenic area.
Huangguoshu was actually a group of waterfalls covering a wide area. Within a radius of 18 km, there were over a dozen overground waterfalls, four underground ones, and more karst caves and underground rivers than one could count.
Huangguoshu was divided into several individual scenic areas with a few Miao villages. Tourists used to flood the place throughout the year. However, as far as they could see now, the area was deserted like dead land.
The three followed plank road set above the water for a while before running into a wide river, which was running smoothly without a single wave. The water seemed extremely heavy as if it wasn't flowing over the riverbed, but lying there like a hefty mass.
Gu Yu casually tossed a stone into the river which was immediately devoured with a muffling plop. From right where the stone sank, ripples expanded out, soon reaching the entire surface of the river, then there was a flash of light.
As if a giant window-shutter was drawn close, shutting out the sunlight, the bright surface of the water turned black.
Long Qiu cried out in surprise, getting goosebumps all over. The surface of the water was covered completely by swarms of aquatic insects: water centipedes, predaceous diving beetles, nepids, water skippers…
Disturbed by the stone, the insects grew restless right away. The water skippers were the most excited at the smell of fresh human flesh and began to move swiftly towards the shore in waves.
When they were about half a meter away from the riverbank, the first batch jumped out in unison and a black waterfall of squirming bugs surged upshore.
Gu Yu set up a confinement and the swarm smashed onto the invisible barrier with thumping sounds. Their negligible intelligence was enough to prompt them to stab the barrier frantically with their long and thin mouthpieces.
Frowning slightly, Gu Yu let out ten Flame Cloud Needles, which joined into a flaming dragon and grazed the water surface.
A foul smell filled the air right away. A fresh supply of bugs would rise to the surface as soon as the previous layer was charred.
"Forget it. This is so gross. Let's check somewhere else!"
Gu Yu felt his stomach turn at the scene and left the spot promptly, or he would be throwing up soon.
The three moved further in and reached the main scenic area in a moment, which was that famous big waterfall.
It was over seventy meters tall and as wide as a little of a hundred meters. Falling off a cliff, it was a picture of flying pearls and crackling jade stones as the water splashed high into the air as it bounced off the surface below. The waterfall reminded one of a suspended bead curtain and a billowy piece of white silk hanging over the side of a mountain!
What was more remarkable was a water curtain cave as long as 134 m spanning all the way across the waterfall halfway up.
The waterfall itself had water clear enough—the insects probably could not survive the impact during the fall. The three savored the scene briefly before moving up along the stairs towards the water curtain cave at the back.
The cave had six cave windows, five cave halls, three springs, and six passageways. As soon as they entered the first passageway, they were shocked by what they saw.
Long Qiu's stomach turned and she gagged, leaning on her sister's shoulder. Xiaozhai and Gu Yu also found it most disgusting. Lying in the cave were seven to eight dead bodies, who were probably unlucky tourists trapped here when the insects broke out and died a miserable death.
That was not the most disturbing part of it. A type of dark red water bugs covered the bodies and were crawling all over them.
With their excellent eyesight, the three could clearly saw that the bugs had a mouthpiece with two long spikes, which had easily penetrated the skin and seemed to have injected something. Little bumps swelled up under the skin where it was punched through.
It was the same with all of the dead bodies, which looked like to have pustules all over—there were so many of them that even the facial features were blurred.
All of a sudden, a bump burst open and a tiny bug squeezed out. It touched the spike of a big bug, apparently quite affectionate towards the latter.
Xiao Qiu finally threw up. These bugs were using human corpse as a medium to hatch their eggs.
Xiaozhai patted Long Qiu on the back to comfort her, while Gu Yu watched it in astonishment, for from the crevice of the stones in this cave, insects were still crawling out. There had to be a million of them!
However advanced weapons one had, they would be at a loss when facing tiny creatures like these. Even if they bombed the mountain to the ground, there was no guarantee that the insects could be eradicated.
Bugs, the meant-to-be overlords of this planet!
The three made themselves undetectable and stood there watching for a few more moments. Finally, they decided it was too disgusting to stay any longer and turned to leave. They only made a few steps when there came a crackling sound of falling stones and a creature resembling a salamander crawled out.
It dashed right into the bugs. With a lick of its long tongue, hundreds of bugs were drawn into its mouth. Its fat lips moved with chewing motions, and then there was the next lick. The water bugs were completely defenseless and could only wait until the animal finished feeding, slithered back into the stones, and disappeared.
The thing came and went so fast that the three were having a hard time digesting it.
Nature indeed was the fairest. The weakest creature had a way to protect itself, while the strongest species had its Achilles' heel. Huangguoshu now was the perfect demonstration: the insect disaster had just broken out, but there was already a natural enemy to restrain it.
The three were only here for an inspection and a few glimpses were enough to reflect the whole picture. They decided they had seen enough after that.
That was how the general environment was now. The remote areas and undeveloped lands were becoming more and more uninhabitable, especially the corners. On the northwest, southwest, northeast, and southeast, large depopulated zoned were created.
In contrast, there were also the dilapidated industrial cities, which were not least affected and where people lived their days like nothing had happened.
The path was set for the future and all that was left was the plan from above.
Tongren, Fanjing Mountain.
The so-called Fanjing Mountain used to be called Three-mountain Valley. The name was changed later when Buddhism gained its popularity. Fanjing was short for Fantian 1 Jingtu 2 . Legend had it that it was the place where Maitreya performed his rites.
Back then, the mountain would be flooded with rich worshippers willing to spend a fortune. But now, well, it was not the best time to be a monk.
Take Tianzhu Mountain as an example. On the mountain was a Sanzu 3 Temple, where Sengcan, the third patriarch of the Chan sect (of Buddhism) used to preach. One could imagine the prestigious status of the place. However, when the country decided to build the research base and the Taoist monastery there, the monks were promptly removed from the mountain.
Things were pretty much the same with Fanjing Mountain. Now that Taoism was gaining popularity, more common folks were believing in the Taoist community and Taoist priests. As a result, no one was coming to the Buddhist temples anymore. Without the worshippers' support, it was almost impossible for the monks to make a living. Many had returned to their secular life and those remaining behind were requesting to be transferred to other temples not pestered by mutated creatures.
In other words, the mountain was completely deserted.
As for the family of three, they headed for Forest City right after returning from Huangguoshu before arriving at Tongren after staying in Forest City for a day. Impressed by the picturesque landscape, they found an abandoned hotel to live in and planned to fuse the Sword Seeds there.
Early in the morning, slightly foggy.
The three went up the mountain along the stairs, which wound up following the turnings of the mountain creek. Peaks rose around them half covered by trees and rocks, which came in all sizes and shapes, and they could find something spectacular wherever they turned to look.
They were following the western route, along which was a famous spot called Guanyin Cave. It was a stone house built out of a stone cave on the cliff wall, in which a statue of Guanyin was worshipped.
Infertile believers would come here every year to kowtow and throw a small stone into the cave. It was said that by doing so, they would conceive a baby the following year.
When passing the cave, Gu Yu and Xiaozhai did not pay any attention, but Long Qiu stopped and put her palms together, then bowed at the cave earnestly.
"What are you doing?" Gu Yu was amazed.
"I was praying for you two to have a little baby soon."
"What the hell? We weren't even beginning to think about it!" He felt the headache again.
Long Qiu blinked and said in all seriousness, "Why not? Babies are so cute. And yours is going to be born an innate state baby."
The girl had been tainted—despite her innocent look, she was all naughty inside.
Xiaozhai was actually intrigued by the idea. "I haven't thought about it that way… hey, Old Gu, do you think it'll be more difficult to have babies when we move into higher cultivation levels?"
"Not in giving birth itself, I think, but in getting pregnant?" Gu Yu gave it a thought. "As our level of life improves, maybe our genes will mutate with it. Isn't there a term 'reproductive isolation'? Maybe the sperms and eggs will start to tear each other apart and cannot fertilize. Something like that? I really don't know."
"Oh…" Xiaozhai nodded and asked another question a moment later. "I wonder, if our baby comes at this stage, it will probably be fine, but won't it become awkward when I'm pregnant after I have my primordial spirit?"
"Babies have their own minds, right? It sleeps in my belly while its mind develops, but my primordial spirit will be inside me too. Won't they affect each other? The baby feeds on my vital essence and my primordial spirit has its own consciousness. What if it affects the baby? Whom am I giving birth to? My kid or myself?"
"Wait a minute! You lost me there!" Gu Yu waved at her and frowned. After several moments, he still couldn't sort it out. "What's wrong with you? Why do you have to bring that up?! It's giving me the creeps!"
"Hahaha!" Xiaozhai pulled him into her arms and laughed. "Don't be afraid. We'll know when we feel like having one some day!"
Just like so, they made all the way to the top of the mountain while exchanging pleasant talks on physiological lessons.
Gu Yu took in the peaks standing in great numbers below them and the clouds floating around, then sat on the ground. "It's nice up here. The air is so fresh. I'll go first."
With that, he took out the Sword Seed. After being immersed in his spiritual essence for two days, it had grown quite close to him and did not resist like it first had. He watched it for a moment, then placed it on his chest and pressed down.
The external force stirred the Sword Seed and it struggled violently, which Gu Yu ignored. He forcibly pushed it into his chest and wrapped it up inside his spiritual essence despite all its efforts to break free.
The glowing globe struggled for a while and realized the futility of its attempt. It finally quieted down.
Gu Yu was delighted. He removed the restraint and felt the glowing globe's slight tremor. It then moved slowly downwards until it reached his Qihai in Dantian. It circled around above Qihai for a moment, as if trying to find the right spot, then dived.
He felt all his internal energy shook with it, as if something had been planted inside his vital essence. Meanwhile, an abundant amount of information flushed into his head in perfect order.
A name lit up in his head out of nowhere, which was none other than the sword skill the seed contained—the Red Sun Devil-smashing Sword Manual!TL/N: meaning "Brahma" TL/N: meaning "pure land" TL/N: meaning "the third patriarch"