Gu Yu had summoned Brother Fatty in order to let it help them with finding the snake. However, their communication was obstructed by the language barrier as usual and Gu Yu had to resolve to using body language. As a result, he was making hissing sounds one moment and twisting his hips and bending his waist the next. Xiaozhai was cracking up on the side.
Probably, it had been a while ago that the squirrel got his idea, and it was simply pretending not to just to watch him keep embarrassing himself. Several minutes had passed before it "coo-cooed" and leaped swiftly up a tree. After disappearing for a few minutes, it showed up again and pointed to a direction with its paw.
"Great, we've found it!" Gu Yu rejoiced. He turned around and slowed down his speech instantly. "Stay behind me."
"En," chuckled Xiaozhai.
Right after that, the two followed the squirrel in search of the snake. In less than ten minutes, Brother Fatty crouched on a branch and waved its paw. Gu Yu halted immediately and whispered, "We're almost there. Don't startle it."
They made their way forward noiselessly right away. After brushing aside some branches, a green snake was indeed coiled up under a tree, its eyes tightly closed and motionless. Apparently the fleeing just then had exhausted it.
Its possible attack did not scare Gu Yu, who only worried about its running away. Fleeing meant pulling away, which in turn would make it impossible to conjure an illusion. The maximum distance from which he could use it was seven steps. Closing his mouth tightly, Gu Yu approached it one step at a time, breathing shallowly as he moved.
He was almost close enough to make his move when wind just happened to sweep across the woods, sending all branches swaying and shuffling. The green snake opened its eyes abruptly and those vertical pupils fixed right onto Gu Yu.
The cold-blooded creature did not even hesitate for one single second. It coiled up then sprang out instinctively, swishing far into the distance.
"Brother Fatty!" Gu Yu did not waste time cursing, but called out instead. The squirrel got his message instantaneously and started pursuing from above straight away. Gu Yu and Xiaozhai followed suit.
The green snake fled desperately for its life, skimming over weeds and bushes flanking its path.
It remembered that human—the one that saved the squirrel back then. As vindictive as this snake was, it knew better than to stay and fight. That man was surrounded by a dangerous aura it could not afford to go against.
When in distress, all living creatures would flee to a hiding place they found the safest. The snake might seem crazy, but its escape route was very clear. It was heading towards the deepest corner of Phoenix Mountain.
Seeing it getting away, Brother Fatty also became frantic and galloped from one branch to another like a meatball. With the advantage in its physical strength, it finally shortened the distance between them after a prolonged chase. The squirrel landed with a thump, blocking the way ahead.
The snake and the squirrel were old rivals and confronting each other under such circumstances had only served to aggravate their conflict. Brother Fatty seemed to try to stop the green snake from getting through, while the latter was grumpy and frightened, not willing to engage in a fight at all.
The two archenemies seemed to be sharing a secret hidden in the deep part of the mountain ahead of them.
Realizing its squeal was to no avail, Brother Fatty arched its back, set its stout hind legs firmly on the ground and stuck out ten black claws with a swish.
The squirrel was so good at acting cute that people tended to ignore the fact that it got strong teeth and sharp claws.
Seeing that the squirrel was taking the offensive, the green snake released its ferocious self. It smacked its tail and turned into a green flash, biting at its opponent. The squirrel had been on guard against such move. It swung into midair and brandished its right paw at the snake's tender spot.
The snake made an unbelievable twist of its body, dodging the strike in time, then bent its neck and bit at the squirrel from an impossible angle.
They fought on like this for a few rounds, but neither gained the upper hand.
The green snake's agitation seemed to be growing. It could not afford to be stalled here any longer. When the squirrel struck with its claws again, madness flickered in the snake's dark yellow eyes as it remained stiff and took the hit without attempting to dodge it in the least.
The tips of the claws scraped across the damp snake skin, making a noise that would bring out one's goosebumps. Fresh wounds appeared on that green body and the snake stuck out its two-pronged tongue in agony. However, this also created an opportunity, which it grabbed at once as it wrapped itself tightly around the squirrel.
Brother Fatty did not expect its opponent to fight so desperately. It gnawed and scratched, but could not break loose. The green snake opened up its mouth widely, revealing the blood-red interior embedded with two barbed venomous fangs, ready to bite into the squirrel's neck.
Brother Fatty closed its small eyes, waiting to die.
As if time had been stopped, the snake froze in mid-air in front of the squirrel in a weird pose, its face perplexed.
"Oh my gosh!"
"Luckily we made it!"
'Holy crap!' Gu Yu was almost swooning with fright. He hurried near and pulled Brother Fatty out, then took a look at the snake.
He could only maintain the illusion for a short period. Equipped with neither a string bag nor a weapon, he had no tools to capture and kill the snake. In that case, the most straightforward way would be to send a streak of spiritual essence into its body and directly destroy its internal organs.
He made up his mind at once. Just as he was about to proceed, a slender and fair hand stuck out from aside and stopped him. "Hey, can I have this snake?"
"Your squirrel looks like so much fun that I want one for myself as well," Xiaozhai grinned.
"Don't be ridiculous! This snake is super venomous. Stop messing around!" He was vexed.
"I mean it… well, where did I put it?"
She unzipped her backpack and ransacked inside, then added, "It's not like we can run into something as spiritual as this one every day. It'll be such a pity to kill it."
"There's no room for discussion. Move away."
"Ha! There it is!"
As they were bickering, the illusion wore off.
The green snake shook its head, unable to figure out what had happened; it only knew that the current situation did not look good. It turned around and was about to flee. Gu Yu was so flustered and exasperated that he almost thought of smacking Xiaozhai. Just then, she put a small gadget between her lips and gave it a slight blow.
"Whew… wheeze… whew… "
A peculiar rhythm consisted of short and shrill sounds rang out abruptly, resembling something between a whistle and a bamboo flute. At this, the green snake collapsed to the ground after slithering for merely half a meter, as though hit by a spell.
The snake always had human-like facial expressions, which at the moment became more vivid than ever. It rolled around as if in excruciating pain, crunching the weeds and rubbles around it.
Gu Yu stared at this with his mouth open. What the hell was that? A bright and pretty young lady had nailed the snake and was scraping the floor with it!
He had sensed for some time that Xiaozhai was no common girl, but he had never thought she could be this 'special'!
Xiaozhai left him aside and played the flute as she pleased. The tune turned from being pressing and intense to melodious and soothing, which was quite pleasant to the ears.
Finally, the flute stopped and the green snake was lying limp on the ground, barely alive.
The girl sauntered near and crouched down with a chuckle, "Ready to give up?"
The snake stuck out its two-pronged tongue, unable to make any sound. Those vertical pupils that usually looked so gloomy were now filled with deep fear.
"If so, eat it."
Xiaozhai reached into her backpack again, took out a black pill after some fumbling around and handed it to its mouth. The snake hesitated for a while and lowered its head in the end, swallowing the black pill as instructed.
"Good boy." She picked up the green snake and tossed it inside her backpack as though she had just found a one-yuan coin on the ground. "Done. Let's go back."
'Just like that?!' Gu Yu went frenzied and almost shouted out, "Don't tell me you're also a…"
"Do you know what I was going to ask you?"
"No matter what your question is, I'm not."
Xiaozhai watched Gu Yu's bitter face and broke into laughter. "Let's go back first, then we can talk. Can you find the way back?"
Gu Yu could not say no to her. He couldn't help it; the girl knew him too well. He looked around and found it rather strange. "Well, that's odd. I've actually never been here before."
Taking in their surroundings, he said in an uncertain tone, "This should be an area stretching deeper into the woods. The trees are less dense over there and there could be an opening. How about we…"
Before he could finish his sentence, the squirrel, who had been huddling between his arms acting all dispirited and nagging for attention, suddenly came back to life. It darted up a tree and pointed to the right, apparently showing them the direction of their return journey.
Gu Yu found that rather strange, for this little fellow was never this active; adding to his suspicion was the fact that it was avoiding direct eye contact--standard telltale sign it had a guilty conscience. He noted down this place in his head and waved with a smile. "Thanks a lot this time, Brother Fatty. I'll treat you to something delicious some other day."
"Glad to meet you. Hopefully we'll meet again some day. Bye bye!"
Followed by the squirrel's eyes, the two left the woods.
"Where have you been? Is everything alright?"
The troublesome pair was halfway back when they ran into a patrol team, which was searching for them in utter anxiety. The leader had forgotten about getting mad at them, but only inquired about their safety.
"We're fine, just ran out further than we expected. Luckily, I knew my way back."
"What about the snake?"
"We couldn't find it. The snake was so fast. There was no way we could catch up with it," Gu Yu put up an upset face.
"Well, you weren't hurt, that's the most important thing. Your friend has been taken to the hospital and the wound was not serious. You guys should get back, too."
The two couldn't not help but feel apologetic towards these people. They nodded and thanked them.
The return journey was uneventful. Gu Yu and Xiaozhai got down the mountain, returned to the hotel and reunited with their friends. In her decade-long experience as an employee, He Shan had never encountered such a stressful situation. It was only thanks to her tough mentality that she did not pass out from her anxiety.
Tang Shuo's family was on its way here and a dispute over the trifles was expected, such as arguing over compensation for the on-the-job injury. After the incident, the team was not in the mood to sightsee anymore and waited only for the returning journey back to Shengtian early tomorrow morning.
Without anyone noticing it, time had come to three o'clock in the afternoon.
Gu Yu did not get involved in their company affairs and waited alone in the lobby… well, not exactly alone, for he had a backpack with him.
No matter how long he scratched his head for, he could not come up with an explanation--Xiaozhai had definitely not cultivated any spiritual essence, or he would have found out by now. He could not detect any Qi from the sound of the flute either, which made it safe to conclude that she was not a cultivator.
Then what had happened to the green snake? Why did it go limp all of a sudden?
"Tsk!" Gu Yu smacked his lips, feeling rather dejected.
Ever since he met Xiaozhai for the first time, he had felt there was something indescribably attractive about her; it was intoxicating and impossible to resist. Now that he came to think of it, this attractiveness probably originated from that atmosphere of mystery surrounding her.
Women were drawn to mysterious men... and vice versa.
He sighed and pulled the backpack nearer, giving the inside a quick peek. The snake coiled up inside, silent and resigned, apparently having accepted its fate.
Rhythmic footsteps came from somewhere at this point. It was Xiaozhai, coming downstairs. She had changed her mountain-climbing outfit to a white shirt, cropped trousers and a pair of low-heeled sandals.
"Sorry I took so long," she smiled.
"Oh, that's all right…" Gu Yu took a quick look at her and asked, "Isn't this outfit the one you wore when we first met?"
"Hehe, you've got good memory."
Xiaozhai picked up her backpack and threw it over her shoulder. "Where are we going?"
"Well, are you hungry?"
"I will be in two hours," she checked the time on her watch.
"In, in that case, do you want to come to my house and try my cooking?" He probed.
Xiaozhai was not burdened by the suggestion at all. 
 ED/N: Indeed, the raws say "burdened"... the author of this novel is quite fond of putting some things indirectly, so I guess she meant that Xiaozhai was without apprehension etc. when faced with MC's invitation; like, if she was worried or sth it'd become a burden on her mind.