Ever since the accidents, Gu Yu had been trying to tactfully persuade Xiaozhai to change their destination. However, her bunch was full of typical shirkers who would consciously avoid making any decision if they could help it--they had chosen Phoenix Mountain, so Phoenix Mountain it was.
Left with no other choice, he could only do his best to ensure their safety.
The next morning, a bus was driving slowly along the mountain road leading to Bai Town.
There were over twenty passengers on the bus, all quite young with the oldest member only in their early thirties. They set off before dawn and had all fallen asleep once they were on board. Now that they were approaching their destination, everyone more or less revived.
"Xiaozhai, where is your friend waiting?" A woman seated in the front turned around unexpectedly and asked.
"He's at the long-distance bus station. We'll see it as soon as we arrive at the downtown area," replied Xiaozhai.
"Em, let him ride with us later. We've given him quite a lot of trouble already," the woman said.
The speaker was He Shan, director of the department. Single and unmarried, she was your archetypal city slicker—white collar, backbone employee and one of the elites.  She could always draw a clear line between personal matters and professional ones and despite being scrupulous at work, she was very easy to get along with in private and hence was held as a prestigious figure in the company.
He Shan had barely finished speaking when a voice came from behind. "Exactly, let us all take a good look, see if he is as handsome as we expected."
The speaker was a good-looking and voluptuous girl, yet her comment came out rather harsh. Her name was Zhang Xiaoru, and she had joined the company in the same year as Xiao Zhai but was not comparable to the latter in terms of either popularity or capability. Consequently, she had always found Xiaozhai disagreeable.
At her words, other colleagues also joined in the jeering.
"Xiaozhai, how did you two meet?"
"He's not your boyfriend, is he?"
"A male confidante at least if not a boyfriend. Who else have you seen her this close with?"
Among the booing and hooting, one man alone had a gloomy face. When the noise gradually died down, he couldn't help adding in, "Xiaozhai, what does your friend do for a living?"
"He is… sort of a craftsman," smiled Xiaozhai.
"There are all kinds of craftsmen out there. What does he make? Weaving straw sandals or making sugar paintings?"
Before Xiaozhai could reply, Panpan stood out in defense and retorted, "Hey, Tang Shuo, what did you mean by that? Are you saying that straw sandal weavers or sugar painters are somehow inferior to you?"
"Whew, that's not what I meant. I was just asking, that's all," Tang Shuo shrugged his shoulders and stopped talking.
Others made faces. Everyone knew about his feeling towards Xiaozhai and saw at once that he was sensing a threat.
Another twenty minutes of a bus ride and they finally entered downtown Bai Town. The bus drove a bit further, then the building of the long-distance bus station came into sight. The bus stopped and the door was open. Leaning on it, Xiaozhai waved, "Hey there!"
The crowd strained their necks as once, their heads turning to the door in unison. A white and clean trainer stepped onto the stairs and with a deft movement, a man got on board like a summer breeze.
Apart from Zhang Xiaoru and Tang Shuo, the rest of the team took up the role of Xiaozhai's family members, eyeing Gu Yu with undisguised curiosity. Other things aside, Gu Yu's appearance was almost impeccable.
The silence was only maintained for a moment before someone shouted out, "Dear me, destiny has drawn you two together across thousands of miles!"
The rest of the crowd chided in and jeered.
Some goofier colleague even stood up, patting and poking the others, "Everyone turn around! The following scene is now suitable for children!"
Gu Yu watched them in utter bewilderment. What sort of crazy colleagues were these people? However, for Xiaozhai's sake, he could not lose face. He introduced himself in a natural and poised manner. "I'm Gu Yu, a friend of Xiaozhai and also your local tour guide for the next two days. Nice to meet you all."
"Wow, nice voice!"
Ok, he had no idea why they were applauding. Just put it this way: a bustling scene was never boisterous enough to the onlookers. He Shan appeared to be the only normal person, for she laughed and said, "I'll call you Xiao Gu, then. Thank you for going through all the trouble for us."
"That's fine, my pleasure."
With that, he glanced around, trying to figure out where to sit. Xiaozhai lifted her eyes and looked to her side. Gu Yu paused for a second, then obediently sat beside her.
Covering her mouth, Panpan was trying very hard not to laugh out aloud.
The bus stopped outside a hotel with the name "Holiday Villa", which had a pleasant environment and reasonable prices.
The 26 people shared 13 rooms among them. It was 8:30 a.m. when they arrived. He Shan gave them an hour to get ready and asked them to assemble at 9:30 for the climbing.
Inside their room, Xiaozhai and Panpan were sorting out their clothes when a knock came at the door. Panpan went to answer it and found Gu Yu outside. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Of course not. Come in, come in!"
"Oh, I heard that you haven't eaten, so I brought you some food," he was carrying a plastic bag.
"You heard? Yeah, right!"
Panpan threw a quick glance at Xiaozhai and took over the bag. In it were two corn cobs, two tea eggs and two cups of hot soy milk. She smiled, "Thanks, that's very thoughtful of you."
She had some biscuits on the bus, but being a foodie, she would not let any food go to waste. Panpan slouched happily on the sofa and started peeling an egg.
Gu Yu stood there and glanced around. On the bed were two pieces of pink, laced, almost see-through… thump! Before he had time to savor the scene, a comforter was thrown over, just happening to cover them all up.
Xiaozhai casually concealed Panpan's 'disgrace' and put away her own clothes, then turned to Gu Yu with a smile. "Gone up the mountain these days?"
"No. The number of orders has been growing. If I can get a steady stream of customers, I don't think I'll work the stall any more."
"En, that's great."
With that, she also picked up an egg and knocked it lightly. At her pinch, a large piece of the egg shell was cracked open. Many girls preferred to have longer nails, but her hands were left the way they naturally were, looking neat and pleasant.
Panpan paid no attention to their conversation and gulped down the tea egg in a couple of bites. She then exclaimed, "That was delicious! Where did you buy it?"
"I made them myself."
"Wow, you're an expert! Bonus point!" The girl was struck by his cooking.
He was a bit embarrassed.
It would not be appropriate for him to stay in the room of two girls for too long, so Gu Yu only had a few words with them and left them for the time being. Time soon came to 9:30. After taking their rest and finishing their breakfast, everyone showed up on time.
The twenty-or-so people squeezed in the lobby. He Shan gave them a pep talk first and Gu Yu also reminded the team, "I presume you've all heard about the snake-biting accident. There is some danger in going into the mountains after all. The atmosphere up there is a bit tense and there are quite a few patrolmen, so please follow me later. Because there are a lot of unmarked paths in the mountain, make sure not to wander off alone and please be careful."
"What's the fun in that? I was thinking about hiking and trekking!" Tang Shuo provoked.
Gu Yu glanced at him and found the man a dimwit. He couldn't be bothered to answer and moved on to instruct the team to set off. Being ignored in front of everyone, all sorts of expressions were flashing across Tang Shuo's face and his hostility towards Gu Yu had only aggravated.
All leaders behaved more or less in the same unreasonable way—they knew exactly where the problem lay but still would not let go of the immediate interests.
The snake problem was no exception. Now that a policeman was wounded, the situation had instantly escalated to a new level. However, they did not want to close the mountain for the tourists. As a result, they were selling tickets and sending in a crazy amount of people at the same time, trying to beef up the security.
The accident had indeed scared off some people, but it had also attracted some other tourists. Some even made special trips to Phoenix Mountain just to see the snake.
The same went for the team led by Gu Yu. At least three people could not hold back their excitement at the thought of the snake. Gu Yu was having a headache. These people had been in the city for so long they had no idea what danger was—such spoiled kids!
 TL/N: For anyone interested, there is only one and not 3 terms used (i.e. 白骨精 here is an abbreviation for 白领,骨干,精英.)