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Xiaozhai went back to Shengtian, taking the green snake with her.

However, the people of Bai Town had no knowledge of this, not to mention that five people had fallen victim to snake-biting so far, Tang Shuo included. Reports of the incident were fermenting online and the press joined in criticizing local authorities. Even officials at higher level in the government were holding the authorities of Bai Town accountable. Municipal officials of Bai Town were so bogged down by the buzz that they finally determined to close down the mountain.

Unfortunately, such an attempt would only prove to be futile.

The tumult would go on for at least half a month and only subside gradually after the public safety was reassured.



For Gu Yu, though, the most valuable outcome of this incident was discovering Xiaozhai's true identity, which had helped to clear up much of his previous confusion, such as the fragrant rosewood she gave him. As it turned out, she had indeed picked it out deliberately.

That piece was worth a hundred thousand yuan and she gave it to him without batting an eye.

When Old Priest Mo revealed his identity to Gu Yu, he was a little surprised at most--'So, cultivators do exist in this world.' However, when Xiaozhai made the same claim, he was secretly rejoicing over it.

It was said that the greatest paths were always walked alone and those superior beings were void of all feelings. But was their life that awesome?

To achieve immortality alone was to watch the evanescence of worldly affairs and the changes brought by time all by oneself. There would be no family, friends, or companions around--not even emotions such as love, hate, happiness and joy were available… to live forever in such a manner would be a bit too boring.

Mid-July, sky had just cleared up after a shower.

The air quality in Bai Town had always been excellent. After the rain, the air was even more pleasant now that some moisture in the atmosphere had been restored, dispelling the dry heat of summer.

Early that morning after breakfast, Gu Yu arrived at the Zeng manor with two large bags.

The courtyard looked even quieter and more beautiful after being moistened in the fine rain, especially the trellis of calabash in the corner, which was blossoming and bearing fruit. Little calabashes were hanging here and there along the vines, all green and luxuriant. [1]

Gu Yu found the view rather intriguing and halted his steps ever so slightly.

The nanny, who was cleaning the main hall, looked up and noticed him. She called out at once, "Granny, Xiao Gu is here… come in, kiddo. The yard is too cold to stay in after the rain."

"Good morning, Sister Zhang!"

He greeted and strode into the house. The nanny was in her forties and had a sweet temper. She had shown much care for Gu Yu once they became more familiar with one another.

Shortly after he took a seat, the old lady came out with a smile, "I was practicing calligraphy. Have you eaten yet?"

"I have. What font are you practicing?"

"The running hand, the cursive script, the official script, the seal character--you name it. I'm good at none of them, anyway," the old lady made a self-depreciating remark. Then, she asked, "Xiao Gu, since you're here today, I presume that the incense is out of the cellar?"

"Em, I took it out last night. Here."

He took out a box and passed it over. Granny Zeng opened it and found six pale incense pills displayed inside. They were the size of longans and were glistening in a jade-like luster.

Before she could comment, Gu Yu pulled over a large bag and went on, "These are from Mr. He and Mr. Li. I have been quite busy recently and did not have time to bring these over until today. May I trouble you with returning them to where they came from?"

"Well…" the old lady was slightly taken aback and replied tactfully, "The gifts are from them to you. Won't it seem inappropriate if I am the one returning them?"

"Hoho, that's fine. They won't say anything."

Gu Yu put on a peaceful, smiling face, yet the old lady felt her heart skip a beat. She changed her mind and agreed, "In that case, I'll keep them here for the time being."

Granny Zeng was well aware of He Zun and Li Yan's bizarre behavior the other day. As much as she was astonished, she couldn't help wondering--exactly what ability did this young man possess that could make those two tycoons yield to him in a matter of minutes?

Being a worldly-wise woman, she was on more intimate terms with Gu Yu after that event even when she knew nothing about the ins and outs of the matter, for it was in line with her principles to befriend this young man. The old lady understood that their bond lay in incense-making. If she wished to maintain their relationship, she would have to work in that direction.

Therefore, she sniffed the pills and led on the subject. "Xiao Gu, what is this called?"

"It's Moon-Side Incense, but I find that name rather pretentious. You can pick whichever name you like."

"How should I burn it?"

"Sit around a censer on a moonlit night and burn it slowly with tender heat. It's better to be accompanied by several good friends with fruit and tea," Gu Yu's professional attitude disappeared after two sentences. He returned to his casual tone as he grinned. "Of course, it won't have to be as painstaking as that. Those are just tricks to add in some fun. It will burn the same way even with you watching TV while eating hotpot."

"Oh my, you naughty kid…" the old lady jabbed him lightly with her finger and put away the incense attentively. She paused and went on tentatively, "Xiao Gu, to tell you the truth, some of my old friends are coming in a couple of days and this incense is to be used for the occasion. If you have time, come and join us. Wei Wei, Xiao Fei and the others will be there, too."

"Um…" Gu Yu pondered and said, "I'm not sure whether I will be free or not. Please send me a note on that day. I promise I'll let you know even if I'm not coming."

"Ok, I'll do that," the old lady did not press on.

After finishing his business, he stood up and was ready to leave. Halfway across the courtyard, he paused and said, "Granny Zeng, your little calabashes over there are growing quite nicely. I was wondering if I could have one."

"Treat yourself. Take the entire vine if you need it," waved the old lady.

"Hehe, in that case, thank you so much."

With that, this fellow turned to the calabash trellis and looked around. He ended up choosing a small calabash about 5-cm-long with clear skin and a well-balanced shape. The diameter of its two bulges was almost equal. The jargon for this type of shape was "equal happiness and richness". [2]

Those with a larger top and smaller were called "happiness and richness arriving" [3], and those with a smaller top and larger bottom were the most common ones, which were called the proper shape.

Fancy calabashes were of a great variety. Those shorter than 8 cm were categorized as "hand-twisting calabashes". Gu Yu used to play with one himself, but had unexpectedly lost it. Picking one here was on the spur of the moment.

Most people play with a calabash by covering it with a layer of walnut oil first then rubbing it with a flannel cloth. If it's done for long enough, the color of its skin would turn from green to red, and then purple.

The plan he had in mind though was to nourish this calabash with the spiritual essence. By playing around with it between his fingers and palms, he could also practice the control over his spiritual essence.

After leaving the Zeng manor, Gu Yu went to the nearest express delivery office with his other bag. He had completed the first batch of the order of 15 boxes of Wake-up Incense and 7 boxes of incense pills and was going to send them out today.

Zeng Yuewei's friends were affluent people who did not think twice over that amount of money. The payment had already been transferred to his online bank account, which was more than enough to cover his living expenses for a while.

Old Priest Mo would drop his jaw over such news. He would never imagine the man he admired greatly would have to worry about how to make a living.

'In his mind, the benefits I enjoy should be proportionate to my capability… he is right to think in this way. However, maybe it was exactly because of this idea that the old priest could still not make the breakthrough after so many years.'

Two days later, dusk time.

The usually quiet Zeng manor was alive and boisterous all of a sudden. Small vehicles lined up outside the gate--all low-profile vehicles, inconspicuous yet comfortable to ride in. The house normally occupied by Granny Zeng and the nanny alone was now receiving more than twenty guests. Luckily, it was spacious enough to hold them all.

The five families of Lei, Xiao, Zhang, Sun and Zeng had always been quite close. Although the older generation had retired and the family businesses were ran by their juniors, the connections remained solid. An unwritten agreement among the five families was that they would gather together every six months, each taking turn to host the event--this had turned into the Winter and Summer Tea Parties renowned in the business circle of Shengtian.

The middle-aged parents did not participate in the parties--the ones attending were grandparents and their grandchildren only. The other four families all sent their young members. Needless to say, Zeng Yuewei and Zeng Shufei were here to represent the Zeng family.

Right now, Zeng Yuewei was enjoying herself talking to a young man by the calabash trellis.

The tall man had sculpted features and spoke in a crisp manner. He was a member of the third generation of the Lei family and one of those most beloved by his family members. His name was Lei Ziming, a childhood friend of Zeng Yuewei. He had been abroad for the past few years and only returned at the beginning of the year.

As they were talking, Zeng Shufei approached them and blurted out, "Has he picked up yet?"

"Nope. Granny called again?"

"You bet! He's not answering my calls either. God knows what he's doing!" Zeng Shufei was disgruntled.

Lei Ziming was curious about their conversation. "Are you looking for someone?"

"Em, someone we came to know recently. Granny wants to invite him over."

"That arrogant already? The old lady has to invite this person?" He made an exaggerated face.

"..."

Zeng Yuewei rolled her eyes at him and replied, "Not in the way you put it. That man is just weird, hard to get a hold of."

"Wow, to hear that coming out of your mouth has made me want to meet this person even more!" Lei Ziming was excited.

[1] ED/N: Perhaps it will be easier to understand if I say it's a vine with bottle gourds growing on it.
[2] TL/N: The pronunciation of calabashes (葫芦) in Mandarin is Hú Lu, which is similar to that of happiness and richness (福禄)--Hú Lù, hence the connection.
[3] TL/N: Reversed, or 倒, has the same pronunciation as the character 到, which means the arrival of sth/sb, hence the translation. (ED/N: 到 is also a verb and has several other meanings, but they're irrelevant here).

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