Early morning, twilight.
The empty mountain was still and quiet. All living creatures had yet to get up and it was the laziest hour of the day. However, a sudden rustling sound broke the silence of the dense forest as the branches were parted, revealing a group of people.
There were six of them in total and the one leading the way was none other than Uncle Fang himself, having his cuffs and the bottom of his trouser legs tightly tied up and clutching a pair of pincers in his hand. Another man was walking half a step away with a powerful searching light in hand. The rest of the team scattered behind them; two had string bags, one held a wooden fork while another one was carrying a medicine chest as he scattered some yellow powder along the way.
It was a snake-expelling powder specially concocted by the specialists, which was supposed to drive away all snakes and insects. Phoenix Mountain was quite vast, so the team decided to use this method to narrow down the available space for the snake bit by bit so as to flush it out.
Bamboo vipers were crepuscular snakes which preferred weak light and would normally come out in early morning and evening. In hot months like July, they would usually move to live in cooler and darker places.
The scenic spot had organized two teams in total. One team was sent to investigate the main routes while the other worked deep in the woods and searched along the unmarked paths. Uncle Fang had proven himself an experienced highlander.  The interwoven paths seemed all in a muddle to the others, but he knew them like the back of his hand, which had saved his team a lot of trouble.
The one with the searching light was a policeman called Song Chao. Being a lively young man, he was especially talkative. He had managed so far to restrain himself from speaking a word, but when the snake was still nowhere to be seen, he could not help but start blabbering. "Old Fang, where are we now?"
"We are below the Old Bull's Back, about 1.5 to 2 km from the stairs. This area is what we call a 'grass stockade'. See, a lot of tall and thick grass grows around here. If the cattle can be herded up here, I'm sure they can gain an extra 3 kg weight at least."
The team looked around and saw that they were surrounded by lush weeds, some as tall as their waist. The one with the medicine chest was much prudent and warned, "Xiao Song, look out. This is a perfect hiding place."
"Oh, I will!"
Song Chao replied and winked at Uncle Fang, apparently not concerned at all.
They walked a bit further and were about to exit the stockade when Uncle Fang suddenly stopped and turned to look into another direction. He yelled, "Over there!"
Song Chao quivered and switched on the searching light involuntarily. A streak of blinding light shot out, extremely distinctive in the dim mountain. If the snake was caught in the light, it would definitely be dazzled and cuddled up in a heap.
The others were quick to react too. The one with the wooden fork led the way, followed by the two holding string bags. They closed in cautiously and swiftly. However, as they got to the spot, all they found was a shivering yellow-haired mountain rat.
"Dear me, that was a waste of my excitement!"
Song Chao turned off the light and complained, "Old Fang, could you please make sure before shouting out? Switching on and off like this is very power consuming."
"Sorry, my bad, I did not see it clearly," Uncle Fang also felt embarrassed.
This little episode had livened up the stiff atmosphere and everyone was much less nervous. The one with the medicine chest was the team leader; he checked the time and said, "Ok, we've been here the whole morning. Let's find a place to eat."
"The cement road is not far ahead. We can find chairs there," Uncle Fang made out the direction.
"All right, we'll take a break there."
The six of them then moved forward to the right. In less than twenty minutes, the dense woods thinned down and the horizon seemed to be opening up. They could faintly make out a main road ahead.
They had brought their food with them and their stomachs had been grunting for long. Song Chao took off his thorn-proof gloves and ran out in the front like a show-off. "Don't you try to take my seat. I'll need a sleeping berth for myself. My feet are going…"
Before he could finish his sentence, a green shadow pounced at him like a streak of lightning and he could only watch it approach. Even his brain did not have enough time to react, let alone his body nerves. He felt the back of his hand going numb, which sensation was then replaced by a sharp pain, throbbing violently in his blood vessels.
The shadow landed and swished into the thicket as though it had already chosen an escape route beforehand. With a few turns of its body, it was nowhere to be found.
Such a turn of event happened in the matter of a few seconds. The rest of the team was too shocked to think, they only came to themselves with a shudder after seeing Song Chao drop to the ground. They ran to him in a flurry.
A young man brimming with energy minutes ago had now gone into shock. The wound was scorching hot, turning purple-black before their eyes.
The leader swore. He dug out the first aid medicine and fed it to Song Chao. The other members contacted their department to arrange immediate evacuation to send Song Chao down the mountain for further treatment. Uncle Fang was utterly frightened as well. They were just getting started and one man was already down. He was secretly overwhelmed with fear.
After they carried Song Chao to the bench, the leader asked in a rancorous tone, "Old Fang, you were the closest, did you take a good look?"
"No, that bastard was so fast. It disappeared in the blink of an eye!"
"Damn it! If I ever catch it, I'll skin it alive!"
The one with the wooden fork suddenly called out, but hesitated.
"Speak your mind!"
"Well, it feels, it feels like that bastard had this all planned out. It had probably been following us since the grass stockade and only jumped out when we let our guard down," the man chose his words carefully.
"And that powder does not seem to repel it at all," added another man.
The captain shuddered and did not dare to consider it further. However, the more he restrained his thoughts, the wilder his imagination became. 'If that was indeed the case, this thing is so d*mn funky!'
Suffering a setback on their first day, naturally the snake-catching activity came to a halt. Especially with the fact that the wounded this time was a policeman—a proper civil servant, which had escalated the graveness of the incident.
Just as Uncle Fang and the team were getting ready to go down, several hundred meters away on a tree, a green snake was hissing with its two-pronged tongue stuck out, its color seemingly more exquisite than before. After lying still for a while, it slithered down like a beautiful silk sash.
The ground was covered in snake-expelling powder, which did not at all hinder the snake. It slid away on top of it and moved directly deep into the mountain.
It was indeed a bamboo viper; its ancestors might have migrated here from Changbai Mountains. It had always kept a low profile and played its role of a decent snake. However, at some point, it started to feel an aura wrapping around and nourishing it.
The intelligence of a snake was not advanced enough for it to figure this thing out. All it could tell vaguely was that hunting was becoming easier and its movements were much faster.
Living creatures had only two instincts--to survive and to reproduce.
Right now, the green snake had a third one—craving. It craved for this mysterious aura and had become incredibly sensitive to anything containing similar sensation, such as a flower or a fruit… they were supposed to be its and its alone, yet a godd*mn fat squirrel was competing against it.
Everything was going smoothly on the mountain for the green snake, but recently, it could sense the aura become more agitated everyday, even affecting itself. Together with the fact that the two-feet creatures were coming in larger batches these days, the snake just wanted to lash it out on someone, so that it could relieve some of that anxiety.
The green snake was slithering forward. Suddenly, it came to a halt and lifted its upper body.
On a tree not far away, a big gray-haired squirrel crouching on a branch like a farmer was greeting it.
Despite making utterly different sounds, the two animals seemed to be communicating with each other.
After exchanging these indiscernible sounds for a while, the green snake was suddenly enraged and swooshed up the tree. Keeping an eye on the snake, the squirrel saw it coming and leapt onto another tree right away, then disappeared into the woods.
Staring gloomily into that direction with its vertical pupils, the green snake also slid away a while later.
Meanwhile, in his home in Phoenix Fair, Gu Yu was moaning and groaning.
The incidents of two tourists being bitten were front page news in Bai Town, which he obviously was aware of. He also knew about the snake-catching teams, and only did not expect Uncle Fang would be involved.
What was bothering him now was that he could not go onto the mountain for his cultivating exercise. If he were spotted, they would probably lock him up and turn him into a lab rat.
However, more importantly, tomorrow was Saturday—Xiaozhai was coming.
 ED/N: I know that this word is usually used capitalized to refer to highland Scots, but it is nevertheless (albeit rarely) used to mean anyone living in similar areas, and that is unexpectedly the only relatively close translation of the term used by the author (it could also be "mountain person" but it sounds like some kind of dayum yeti, so nope).