"Are you telling me that you've been cultivating all this time and Phoenix Mountain is you territory?"
"Yup. Things were too complicated before and it wasn't a good time to tell you. Now that it's all out in the open, it's much safer to talk about it."
Inside the old house in Phoenix Fair, Fang Qing watched Gu Yu, apparently not very surprised, and gave a one-word reply.
Gu Yu turned out to be the one taken by surprise. "You knew about my identity?"
"No, I didn't!"
"Haha, my dear Older Brother, do you think I'm still that old self? Let's see. We haven't met for how long, almost a year? Look at me."
Fang Qing stood up, spread out her arms, and turned around on the spot.
Gu Yu watched her closely. Only then did he suddenly noticed that the little girl that used to be only as tall as his chest was now reaching his shoulders. She was no longer wearing the dowdy clothes, but had chosen an outfit that looked both fashionable and had her own style. She had lost a bit of her baby fat, her hair was dark and full, and she was full of that 18-year-old youthful charm.
Do recall that when he first ate the red fruit, Fang Qing was preparing for her high school entrance examination. Now that four years had passed, she should be… wait, she should be in college now. Why was she still in Phoenix Fair?
For a moment there, Gu Yu was utterly embarrassed. He wanted to ask about it, but didn't know where to begin.
"Teehee!" Seeing his awkwardness, Fang Qing burst into laughter. "All right, enough with my teasing. Thanks to the money you sent every year, my mum and dad didn't have to work till their backs broke and my grades were not bad. It actually puzzled me all this time: with your temperament, what kind of business could you run? And what idiot would spend that much money to have you make incense for them?
"That's why I never believed your story, not to mention all those beautiful women and rich people popping up around you… hoho, I have read webnovels, okay? Then, there was the whole business about cultivation and I pretty much figured it out myself."
She sat back onto her chair, leaning on the desk behind her, on which was that old laptop from back when Gu Yu was still here. She chuckled. "Brother, do you really think I'm still that foolish little sister? I'm a big girl now!"
Before Gu Yu could respond, she went on, "But you said Phoenix Mountain is yours—that's something I've never expected. Why, you must be one of the big shots now."
"Well, I don't know what to say!" Gu Yu waved his hands embarrassingly and finally asked the question. "In that case, what is it with your study? Shouldn't you be in college already?"
"I was going to take the exam, but there was this new regulation last year, requiring all universities to set up a discipline called 'research on the relationship between new environment and social development', and one had to meet certain criteria to apply for it, which I didn't meet back then. That's why I waited another year. I've applied for it this year, and I'm going to a university in the capital next year."
Gu Yu was amazed. The kid somehow managed to surprise him—instead of the other way around. He waited a moment before asking earnestly, "Qing Qing, I came back today not only to tell you all about the truth, but also to ask you if you're interested in joining me in the cultivation world."
Hesitation flickered in Fang Qing's eyes for a splitting second before she said, "Brother, I know you're offering me this for my own good, but I still want to go to the capital city, study that subject, and work in the relevant field in the future. I think that's where my real interest lies."
"Have you made your decision?"
"All right. I'm not going to force you into anything. But if you run into any problem in the future, promise me you'll tell me." Gu Yu sighed and added, "Oh, if Uncle Fang and Aunt Fang want to come to Phoenix Mountain, they're more than welcomed."
"They're so used to the life here in Phoenix Fair… all right, I'll ask them for you later."
Fang Qing really was a big girl now. He could still recall the mischievous brat she once was—she was still sparky and lively, but there was now an independence and incisiveness in her.
Sensing that Gu Yu had said all he was here to say, Fang Qing rose to her feet first and said, "Everything is fine with my family, you don't have to worry about us. I should go now. Although, Brother, I'm off to college soon, so don't you have any gift for me?"
Gu Yu did not see that question coming. He fumbled around hastily, taking out everything from spiritual stones to Dan pills. Fang Qing almost went dizzy seeing him flustering around and stopped him in a hurry, "All right, just give me, um, this."
With that, she held up that old laptop.
As expected, Uncle and Aunt Fang had little interest in going up the mountain.
They had been living in Phoenix Fair all their life, practically knowing all their neighbors since they were in diapers. Here, they spent their spare time shooting the breeze in one another's homes, exchanging one's dumplings for another's skewered meat, and playing mahjong for five cents a round every now and then.
To them, such a life was better than heaven. Why on earth would they want to move onto a mountain and become some empty nesters of the cultivation world?
Well, the real reason was that they knew perfectly well they were not cut out for cultivation and decided not to fantasize about it.
Maybe it was because of him approaching the Human Immortal state and the recent events—from Tan Chongdai, the replanning of Shengtian, and going back to his childhood memories—Gu Yu was feeling low these days. He couldn't get over the idea that once he was over that threshold, he was really saying goodbye to everything in this mortal world.
He had no idea if such a feeling was normal. After all, there hadn't been a Human Immortal for centuries, and as the first one (in this cycle) to try tomato, he had no one to turn to for past experience.
Before they knew it, a month had passed and it was mid-December.
Early this morning, Li Dong and the other three were still repeating the monotonous basic moves in the training court: draw, lead, wave, wipe, lift, skim, crack, flip, stab, beat, twist, intercept, hack, parry, split, prod, poke, hitch, grind, and pare… the same old twenty words!
It would not be an exaggeration to say that it would take them at least a year to master all twenty moves. Over on the other side, Long Qiu was no longer telling stories and was now teaching Zheng Kaixin how to use his force taking him by the hand.
Gu Yu himself was sitting on a big rock, cultivating his sword energy. He did not have enough time when he was in the South and had to carry the sword around in a box. Now that he was finally free, he thought he should at least achieve storing it away in his Sword Seed.
Eyes half closed, he activated his Sword Seed and gold sword energy floated around him in threads as thin as silk which then wove into seven thicker streaks and extended upwards into the sky.
Right above his head floated the Red Sun Sword, which circled around slowly as the seven golden streaks wrapped themselves tightly around it.
It seemed forever before Gu Yu's eyes shot open and he waved his hand, commanding, "In!"
Red Sun Sword let out a long and clear cry and rotated until the tip of the blade was pointing right at Gu Yu. There was then a golden flash and the sword disappeared, as if it had dived into a deep pool and sank right to the bottom.
He immediately turned his mental force inward to examine the Sword Seed. A tiniest sword was now floating inside it, while the seed was emanating pure energy of golden flame, nourishing the sword constantly.
Meanwhile, his mind also shuddered, and he felt he was now more closely connected to Red Sun Sword, which—like his vital essence—had now become part of him.
"Good, it worked. Going abroad carrying a shabby box would be too embarrassing."
Activating his mental force, Gu Yu tried a few times to let out and take back the sword, then nodded with satisfaction.
He was about to move to somewhere further to try its power when he turned and grabbed at the empty air.
A streak of flashing light dashed towards him, turning into a talisman in his hand. It then burst into flame and a message rang out in his head: guest at the mountain foot.
It was a message talisman from Xiaozhai.
He expected to see someone from the government discussing affairs of the international conference, but it turned out to be a man from the sub-bureau of the BIMAUP, and a quite high-ranking official at that.
"Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Gu!" The man went up to him and explained right away, "It happened so suddenly, and we felt we should come here in person to show the appropriate respect."
"What is it?" asked Gu Yu.
"We just received news from the monastery. Old Priest Tan has passed away."