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As the saying went, as long as one kept calm, one would not feel the heat too much.

Gu Yu had always found the saying plausible. Probably as a result of working at incense-making all these years, he seldom felt hot growing up, even in the height of summer when the temperature reached as high as over 30 degrees Celsius.

According to the weather forecast, the temperature in Bai Town today would exceed the historical high of the corresponding period, reaching as high as 35 degrees. He was waiting dispassionately outside the long-distance bus station, wearing a short-sleeved top, cropped trousers and white trainers, displaying those well-proportioned calves of his.

To say a guy had nice calves might sound gay, but it was true—those calves looked perfect, from their muscle tone to the skin texture, and were full of an explosive power. [1]



In other words, you've got an excellent stallion over there.

"Hey, over here!"

Ten minutes or so into his waiting and Gu Yu spotted that figure from afar. He couldn't help it, for her height made her stand out from the rest of the crowd. Walking among the mortals, Xiaozhai stood out like that Young Master Void lying on a doolie lifted by those four "great beauties", looking as indescribably weird as it was remarkable. [2]

Xiaozhai walked near with her backpack. He looked up and down at her and asked in amazement, "How did you get through the security check?"

"It's not like they would frisk me," she ridiculed him and turning her head slightly, she chuckled, "Xiao Qing, come out and say hello." [3]

"Hiss!"

At her request, an emerald-colored snake head sprang out from behind her left shoulder, sticking out its two-pronged tongue like a show-off, then sank back immediately. The snake was rather long, but Gu Yu could not detect it by looking at Xiaozhai and had no idea where it had been hiding.

However, due to his tendency to always focus on the less important aspects, Gu Yu's lips twitched involuntarily as he commented, "Xiao Qing… that's a convenient name."

"Not really, it has another name, a proper one."

"Which is?"

"Zhuye," she put on a serious face. [TL/N: meaning 'bamboo leaves']

"..."

Gu Yu was speechless. Zhuye Qing, a "good" name indeed! [TL/N: it means "green bamboo snake", and is the name of the green snake's species]

After exchanging some glib remarks, the two left the station and walked into a supermarket. As they would be dealing with unknown circumstances later and not sure when they could return, they had to go into the mountain fully prepared.

Wheeling the cart, Gu Yu took things like bottled water, food, lighter, bandage, etc., from the shelves; Xiaozhai, on the other hand, gathered a whole bunch of stuff between her arms and dumped them into the cart in one go. They were salt, sugar, spicy sauce, a fruit knife, picnic cloth… add a tent and they could go camping on the mountain.

He was almost compelled to tell her off, but fought back his words in the end. After all, young ladies should not be made to lose face in public.

Afternoon, the sunlight was beating down vigorously.

Phoenix Mountain had just reopened to tourists and there were only four or five buses on the rather deserted square at the foot of the mountain. The staff in the scenic area, though, was better-behaved than ever before. They provided thorough and satisfactory service and were quite enthusiastic—every effort was made to turn the situation around as soon as possible.

"Chirp!"

"Gurgle!"

On an unrecorded path known to few travelers, the woods flanking the trail were completely still and dust speckled the dim light as it shone through the deep forest. Every now and then, chirrups of insects and the sound of a babbling stream would break the silence. The sun was blocked by the dense branches and under the dome of canopy, a mysterious little universe seemed to have been created in this forest.

However, in this seemingly secluded area, a man and a woman were marching on rotten leaves; they were none other than Gu Yu and Jiang Xiaozhai. Having to avoid the others, they took a detour by walking along this deserted trail on the west side of the mountain.

The green snake was slithering around them. It would be up in the trees one moment and chasing after insects the next. From time to time it would return to its master and hang around her arm. Having been confined to an urban dwelling for several days, it was as happy as a silly roe deer now that it was back in the mountain.

After walking for some time, Xiaozhai, who seemed to find the surroundings rather uninteresting, asked, "Hey, why aren't you calling for the squirrel?"

"It behaved strangely last time and I think it might have known about that place for a while by then, but did not want me to go there. I would rather steer clear of that squirrel for the time being."

"What would you do if it tries to stop you?"

"Well, we'll see about that…"

Gu Yu was obviously worried about the same thing. Vexation crept up his face as he continued to lead the way.

The winding trail stretched all the way deep onto the mountain. The first section was easy to walk, but about halfway through, the path turned steep with slippery ground. It was even getting harder to find a foothold.

"We don't have to rush. Be careful and don't trip. You…"

Afraid that she might miss her footing and tumble down, Gu Yu turned around, trying to remind her. As it turned out, the road condition did not bother her to the least bit. Marching out with her long legs, she walked far off in a couple of strides.

An idea struck him suddenly as he recalled that time when he was chasing after the snake. She could catch up with his speed even back then. He could not help but ask, "Have you learned Kungfu before?"

"What?" Xiaozhai lifted her eyes and smiled, "Not exactly. Just some small tricks to enhance my physical strength and carry out attacks."

"Such as?" He was very curious.

"Such as…"

The girl looked around and suddenly put the fingers of her right hand together, pointing into the bushes with a snapping sound.

Ordinary people would not even be able to see her movements. Thanks to the acute senses of Gu Yu, he managed to follow it as she held her five slender fingers together resembling a bird's bill, which then pecked out at a tremendous speed, picking down a light-pink mountain flower.

After that, she passed it casually, "Here, it's for you!"

"..."

With that, before our guy had time to recover from his wonderment, he was thrown back to his distressed state as he said in a vexed tone, "This behavior of yours is really making me not know how to react."

"Hehe, suit yourself."

Xiaozhai took back the flower and played with it between her fingers. She explained briefly, "This trick is called 'Flapping of Green Sparrow'. It's nothing special, really, you just have to be fast. I've been practicing it since I was little. As a result, my fingers are VERY FLEXIBLE!"

The last two words were made very inappropriate by the way she put it.

"Geez!"

When a girl turned shameless, there was nothing one could do about her. Our guy found it impossible to retort and had to clear his throat and change the subject. "Um, why does your sect sound like the Carefree Sect? You know everything and you are keen on good-looking people. I bet your master was handsome as well." [4]

'Tsk!'

Xiaozhai could not be bothered to even comment on his crude flirting lines and only answered by saying, "The teachings I have been following are rather special. The founder of my sect was interested in a wide variety of things, and mastered them all. Having been passed down for many generations by now, the number of tricks in my sect is only getting larger."

The two of them were talking more freely when they got together this time. She continued, "According to my master, there were twelve Taoist skills and twenty-four ordinary skills in my sect. Unfortunately, the Taoist ones were all lost and there are only five known ordinary skills now."

"Which Taoist skill is the most powerful one, then?" He was extremely interested in this aspect.

"..."

Xiaozhai glanced sideways at him and grinned, "That would be the 'Dragon-snatching Internal Technique of Five Thunders'."

'Tsk!'

Gu Yu shuddered at the name. 'Damn it! Why does she get to have an awesome, grand, top-notch sort of name for her skill? Is it a fad now to have girl DPS and boy healers?' [5]

As he was ranting silently in his head, Xiaozhai continued after a pause. "By the way, there's something I want to talk to you about. I have been sorting out some manuscripts these days and found some very interesting stuff. We can look into them together after we get back."

"No problem. I'm quite free."

He did not give it much thought.

The two of them chatted away as they walked and soon reached a landing halfway up the mountain. Gu Yu made out the direction from there and they arrived at a small clearing an hour later, which was exactly where they caught the snake.

"It should be over there."

He pointed to the northeast and Xiaozhai followed his hand. From where they stood downward, far out into the distance, some trees were apparently much shorter than those around them. There appeared to be a valley.

"..."

They exchanged a look and concentrated their minds. However, just as they stepped out towards there, a familiar voice rang out, "Coo coo!"

Gu Yu's face sank. Brother Fatty had indeed showed up, jumping down from a tree with a thump as it landed right in front of them, blocking their way.

[1] ED/N: Good news, guys—this is a novel written by a woman, if you forgot. So, no yaoi/danmei or whatever it was called. I hope.
[2] TL/N: Young Master Void and the four "beauties" are referring to characters in a Chinese comedy film called "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons". ED/N: As for doolie, just google it in google images, you'll see a few pics of something you can carry someone on.
[3] TL/N: "the little green one" ED/N: Not sure if Chinese are lazy about naming pets, or if it's some cultural thing, but you often see pets being named Little Black, Little White, Little Green, etc., in webnovels. I remember seeing the same thing in God and Devil World or whatever it was called, or in the War Sovereign... or whatever it was called :3 read too much to remember the exact titles.
[4] TL/N: The comment on Xiaozhai's sect was referring to the description of the Carefree Sect (逍遥派) from Jin Yong's wuxia novel, 'Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils', or "天龙八部".
[5] ED/N: In the unlikely case someone is unfamiliar with those terms, DPS is iirc Damage Per Second and refers to members of the team in games whose task is to deal damage to enemies (usually without taking their enemy's hits), while healers are of course the support from behind the front lines, recovering their comrades' injuries.

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