The green snake was getting nearer, but the squirrel was tied up tightly by the grass. Seeing that its struggle was in vain, its squeals were becoming harsher.
"Uncle, wait a second."
Uncle Fang did not care about animals. He waved his hand and was about to leave. Gu Yu, on the other hand, could not bear to see the squirrel get hurt. He put down his load and walked into the woods. The dense grass rustled under his feet as he stepped onto it. Both animals sensed his arrival and turned in his direction.
The squirrel struggled more fiercely now, but the green snake poked its forked tongue in an irritated way, for it smelled a scent it found both familiar and repugnant.
Gu Yu did not think much of it. With the incense pellets in his pocket, he approached the animals. However, as he moved near, he was surprised to find that the snake was only agitated, but did not flee from the scene as snakes usually did.
What? This did not make sense!
Had the pellets expired? No, they shouldn’t. These were freshly made.
As he was trying to figure it out, the green snake hissed with its tongue out again. It ignored the human being nearby and kept moving towards its prey, as if it felt some fatal attraction from that squirrel.
Seeing this, Gu Yu immediately picked up a long twig, ready for a confrontation. Sensing his threat, the snake lifted its head abruptly and contracted its black vertical pupils. Snakes… there was something particularly sinister and savage about these cold-blood creatures.
Gu Yu knew what he was up against, for he had had his fair share of snake beating on this mountain ever since he was little. He clasped the twig tightly and stared at the snake’s most tender spot. Just then, a stone was thrown from behind him, which brushed past the green snake and landed with a thump.
Uncle Fang was yelling wildly as he approached quickly from behind, holding more rubble in his hand. His movement was a bit funny, but his manner was imposing. The green snake was taken aback by the newcomer and stopped to estimate the possible outcome of putting up a fight.
In the end, it looked away and retreated reluctantly.
Somehow, Gu Yu felt his hair standing up on his back. The last glance the green snake gave him had an undisguised hatred in it.
An animal should not be capable of feeling such emotions!
He shook his head to calm his mind and moved to untie the squirrel. Luckily, it was not hurt, only a little stiff from the struggle. The little creature strolled around and was alive and kicking again.
"Well, you’re safe now. Go back to your peanuts!"
He stood up and waved a playful goodbye. However, the squirrel put its front paws together and bowed at him.
Gu Yu was dumbstruck. One weird animal was an accident. Two at a time was just too weird! He was lost in his thoughts for a while. When he looked up again, the little creature was long gone.
"Xiao Yu, stop staring blankly. Let’s go!"
Uncle Fang was yelling his lungs out from the other side. Gu Yu came back to himself and replied, "I’m coming!"
"There used to be a lot of snakes around here when you were little. They have been killed off, though. It’s been quite some time since I last saw one. Where did that one come from?"
"The mountain is a huge place and they could be hiding anywhere. The snake had a beautiful color, though. Each of the spots on its body was of a different color!"
The two talked about the incident as they walked. The event had already taken enough of their time so they did not stop for a second time but continued walking all the way until their respective destinations.
"Three tea eggs and two bottles of water."
"Here you are!"
"How much are the corn cobs?"
"Three yuan each. Five yuan if you buy two."
"Ok, I’ll have two, then."
"Hey, fella, could you take a picture for us?"
Gu Yu held the camera and took several photos for a couple cuddling beside the rail, revealing no trace of bad attitude a single guy like him would feel and show at the scene. He said with a smile, "It’s done."
It was past noon in the resting area below the Old Bull’s Back, the most crowded time of the day. The tourists would start climbing in the morning and an average speed would bring them to this area around this time.
The largest resting area on Phoenix Mountain was halfway up the hill, where the tourists were the largest in number and where most vendors would gather. Gu Yu joined the business later than the others and could not get a spot there. He had to move some distance uphill to open his stall.
There were both advantages and disadvantages in doing so. Although his spot was a remote one, it was the only resting area at such a high altitude—he had no competition here.
The benefit of the warm weather was apparent. There were even more tourists today and, before two in the afternoon, Gu Yu had almost sold all his goods. The only things left were a few eggs with broken shells and a relatively small corn cob.
After three groups of tourists came and went one by one, the boisterous scene had finally quieted down. As usual, he took the broom to tidy up the garbage scattered on the ground and picked up a few empty bottles.
It was not because he was more cultivated than the others; he simply couldn’t stand a dirty and disorderly environment. To put it bluntly, he was a clean freak.
It was ridiculous. Being a clean freak would be a normal thing for a rich man, a white collar, a teacher, or a university student, but... a peddler on a mountain? Please, you do not belong to the same world!
Gu Yu tossed an empty bottle into a woven bag, which had already contained quite a few of them and would be worth several yuan. He sat down on his folding stool and started playing with his cell phone while waiting for customers.
It had probably been past the peak time as there were no other tourist groups, only some idle tourists strolling in twos and threes. He could not be bothered to sell anything else, so he picked up that corn cob and ate it for lunch.
"Ah, let’s have bad luck together and whoever draws the superior super rare card is a traitor!"
Cell phone signal was pretty good on the mountain. He played a game for a while and finished it with a sour face, apparently having bad luck in drawing cards again.
When he was stuffing the corn cob into the garbage bag, he heard a familiar sound. He turned around and saw the big squirrel from the morning crouching behind him.
"Crouching" may not sound like something a squirrel would do, but it did.
It was standing on bent rear legs with a straight upper body. Its head swayed back and forth, reminding one of a big-tailed wolf. The most amazing thing was, it was holding a dark-red fruit with its front paws.
Seeing that the human being had noticed it, the squirrel let go of it paws and the fruit dropped on the ground in a rolling motion.
Gu Yu watched it in silence.
It stared back at Gu Yu in silence as well.
An awkward silence fell again. After a while, realizing the human being was probably not smart enough to understand it, the squirrel bent down and poked the fruit with the tip of its nose. The fruit then rolled to Gu Yu’s feet.
"Are you here to show gratitude? Can I have a white fox, then? A squirrel looks like something on the lower end!"
He crouched down and picked up the fruit as he whined. It looked a bit like a hawthorn, with smooth and delicate skin and no observable spots. There was also a faint fragrance about it.
‘Would I turn into something weird if I eat this thing of questionable origin?’ The name of a whole bunch of famous "philosophers" passed through his mind in that instant, such as Billy Herrington, Sanada Yuto, Tristan, etc...
‘Oh my god, it’s so exciting!
Seeing that Gu Yu was hesitating, the squirrel became impatient and started jumping around and being noisy. He pondered for a bit longer and decided to just go with it. He knew all of the plants on the Phoenix Mountain and this thing wasn’t among the poisonous ones growing here.
He still gave it a good wash, though. After all, for a squirrel to carry it all this way, the fruit could stay nowhere but inside its mouth. After rinsing it for several times, he brought the red fruit to his mouth and swallowed it down without chewing.
He had no idea whether it was sour, sweet, bitter or tart. After the red fruit entered his mouth, it felt like the thing vaporized into a cooling sensation without digestion. It went down to his belly, entered his internal organs and filled all his limbs and veins… Every cell and every channel of his were gradually nourished. The feeling was pleasant and sweet beyond description.
As the wonder deepened, Gu Yu’s countenance was drained of color little by little, as if his vitality was leaving his body. The strange feeling inside his body had made him forget everything else, even the normal ability to think had disappeared.
However, a hint of his consciousness remained, resembling a flame wandering around in complete void and darkness. Meanwhile, the cooling sensation was still moving inside him. The two were like a couple of contestants, neither willing to give up and dissipate first.
No one knew how much time had passed before the cooling sensation could no longer continue. It moved downwards like a silver dragon; its destination was Gu Yu’s Dantian.
If he could see inside himself right now, he would notice a streak of white Qi twirling and circling around his Dantian; it was as if a sphere of white mist had been formed there.
A good while later, Gu Yu opened his eyes and was rather baffled to find himself lying on the ground. Luckily, no one else was around. He stood up swiftly and shook his head. He felt his head clear up and even his spirit was lifted, making his eyes light up.
The branches swayed in the wind, the grass thrived and there were butterflies dancing among the flowers. The world had never seemed so delicate and full of life.
He had no idea what exactly happened, but it must have been something miraculous.
The high-pitched voice echoed out again. He looked at the big fat squirrel crouching on the ground, watching him with a tilted head. An uncontrollable complaint burst out of his chest. "What the hell! I’ve lived for 21 uneventful years and you’ve rewritten everything just like that?!"