Team-building involved activities designed to motivate employees and enhance their cohesion. The reality, though, was that most of these activities had turned into beer and skittles.
For an enterprise of Tianbao's scale, the annual staff turnover rate was always significant, hence the necessity of team-building activities appeared.
The bus arrived at Phoenix Mountain around ten o'clock. The amount of tourists seemed to have reduced to some extent, but there was still a bustling crowd at the mountain gate. Gu Yu fetched the tickets and led the team in. They walked in twos and threes, but not too far apart.
He led the way with He Shan, Xiaozhai and Panpan, explaining as they walked, "There are few cultural relics here in Phoenix Mountain. Apart from a pavilion built by a scholar in Qing Dynasty and a Taoist temple, the rest are all parts of natural landscape. But the mountain routes are very steep here, so please be extra careful."
"It's actually my first time here. I heard that the Old Bull's Back is especially steep?" He Shan asked.
"Yes, that's the most famous tourist spot."
Gu Yu looked back as he talked. Seeing that the team was scattering behind, he added, "Remember to save some strength. There is no resting area in this part and the nearest one is halfway up the mountain."
His clear and rich voice floated gently in the air and could be heard vividly even by the person at the end of the line. A fat guy obviously short of exercise was already breathing heavily after climbing dozens of stairs. He strained his neck and shouted, "How long till we reach the halfway?"
"About an hour, so keep it up!"
Gu Yu grinned and turned back, only to find Jiang Xiaozhai staring at him with unblinking eyes. Taken by surprise, he asked, "What is it?"
"You seem to have really good lungs."
"I'm alright, it's thanks to my frequent exercise."
Gu Yu felt his heart racing. Because the team had stretched out quite far behind, he decided to use spiritual force without realizing it. No one but Xiaozhai had noticed that.
Xiaozhai nodded, noncommittal to his answer, then resumed her chitchat with Panpan.
Climbing alone was a pleasure; climbing with a crowd was annoyance itself. The narrow path was crawling with tourists who had to line up to pass through many narrower sections. The crowd was moving forward at a slow pace. Warning signs were set up along the path and patrolmen were going to and fro in groups in the thick woods flanking the road.
These fellows found it a novel sight and could not help themselves from discussing animatedly.
"Hey, it seems the snakes are real. I wonder if we'll get to see one."
"I've never seen a wild snake before. The snake looked fabulous on the photo, almost like a spiritual creature."
"You two are unbelievable. From what I've heard, that snake is super venomous. One bite and you're finished."
"You're such a wuss. What are you afraid of? There are so many of us. Plus, we have our guide. He's super dependable."
"Dependable my ass!" A jarring voice interjected, which was from none other than Tang Hao himself, who went on taunting, "He's nothing but a local man. What can he do? If the snake does show up, he'd be scared out of his mind as well."
Zhang Xiaoru added in immediately, "I say he's a total poser. All this is just for wooing a girl, right?"
That was it!
One in love with Jiang Xiaozhai while the other disliked the same person, the two miraculously managed to form an alliance when talking about Gu Yu. The other colleagues found them rather annoying and tacitly kept silent.
They walked for quite some time like this and finally reached the resting area halfway up the mountain. Closely-set stalls lined the ground and the area was packed with tourists, all bustling and hustling.
"Everyone, take a rest here. To the left is a scenic spot and there is a temple to the right. Take a look if you're interested."
"Come back here in 40 minutes. Don't go too far!"
Gu Yu and He Shan reminded the team in turn, which then broke up joyously. Gu Yu glanced around, then ran to a stall and greeted, "Hello, Uncle Fang!"
"How come you're a tour guide now?" Uncle Fang was busying himself grilling the squids as he threw out a question.
"Just taking care of some friends, They're here on a trip. I thought you were working on catching the snake, why are you here at the stall today?"
"Well… here, that's ten yuan in total!" Uncle Fang passed out some squids and laid out some new ones, then said, "I was up here yesterday. You wouldn't image what had happened. A lad was bitten right in front of my eyes. Let me tell you…"
He looked around and lowered his voice all of a sudden. "That snake was the one we ran into together that day. It has definitely become a spiritual creature! I've taken out a lot of snakes in my youth and was never afraid of any, but not this time. I backed off right there. I'd like to stay alive for a bit longer."
"Exactly, safety is the most important thing. The business is going so well these days and you can make it up with a few days of extra work."
Hearing his story, Gu Yu consoled Uncle Fang at once and had formed some idea of the situation. Just then, Panpan ran towards him, dragging Xiaozhai behind her. She grinned, "Hey, we're going to that temple, wanna come?"
Before he could answer, Uncle Fang's face brightened up and asked, "Xiao Yu, are these your friends?"
"Well, this is Jiang Xiaozhai and this is Panpan. This is Uncle Fang."
"Nice to meet you, Uncle Fang!"
Uncle Fang was exalted with the two polite girls. He beamed and said, "Hello, hello! I don't have anything around here as a gift. Here, take these two squids... You guys are of the same age, you should hang out more often... I've watched Xiao Yu grow up. The boy is excellent—good-looking, tall…"
Gu Yu covered his face with his hands in shame, wishing he could disappear right there, right now.
The three entered the temple. While Xiaozhai was accompanying Panpan to have her fortune told, Gu Yu found an excuse and ran into the backyard. He grabbed a young priest. "Excuse me, is there an old priest here on temporary stay?"
"There is. What does the layman want?"
"Please let him know that Gu Yu is here to see him."
The young priest eyed him in suspicion and said, "Ok, please wait here."
Shortly after the young priest went in, old Priest Mo walked out in a hurry, looking surprised and joyful. "Senior!"
"Let's talk inside," he stopped the old man from bowing.
They then went into a quiet room in the backyard and the old priest still hadn't fully contained his excitement. "I wonder what instructions does Senior have today?"
"I heard that you treated the one bitten by the venomous snake?" Gu Yu asked.
"Anything strange with the venom?"
"Well…" the old man stroked his long beard and appeared to be in disbelief as well. "I used to catch snakes myself for medical use and was quite familiar with the behavior of various snakes. However, I have never seen anything like the venom of this snake before. I heard that it was a bamboo viper, but bamboo vipers do not have such a potent venom."
"..." Hearing that, Gu Yu pondered in silence.
He noticed a while ago that the spiritual essence on the mountain was becoming more agitated every day and even some animals were affected. He had been worried all this time if some cliche, Resident-Evil-style apocalyptic catastrophe was coming.
So far, nothing was pointing in such direction. Apart from the abnormal snake, all other animals remained well-behaved.
Had the green snake kept it to itself, he would not care to meddle with it. However, with that crazy aggressiveness towards humans, he could not afford to have it wandering around.
"Senior?" The old priest did not get a reply, so he continued, "I presume that the snake is somehow unusual?"
"Hoho, that snake is a very spiritual creature and I would like to meet it myself."
"I'm at the senior's disposal, should you require my service," he declared his stand immediately.
"Em, that's very thoughtful of you."
After sorting that out, Gu Yu quickly returned to the front yard to meet the two girls.
Panpan was looking into her fortune in romance. It just so happened that she had drawn out a Peach Blossom stick , which had satisfied her so much that she was laughing her head off. They returned to the resting area and found the others well-rested. He Shan asked the team to gather together so that she could do a headcount.
As she counted on, she suddenly asked aloud, "Hey, where is Tang Shuo?"
TL/N: In traditional [Chinese] concepts, peach blossoms are often related to love and romance.