Two essential factors when cultivating were resources and one's natural endowments.
Spiritual essence was considered a type of resource—the most fundamental one, for that matter. If this place was as essence-abundant as Gu Yu depicted, practicing cultivation here would be much more efficient than in the outside world.
This discovery excited him because it was relevant to the essence-consumption cultivating method he adopted. However, Xiaozhai appeared to be as excited as he was, despite her lacking any Taoist skills. She smiled, "That's great."
"I do have reasons for my reaction, but why are you so happy about it?" He found her expression strange.
"Difference brings changes, which are what makes this world wonderful."
Gu Yu could not draw his eyes away from her. Other people in her place might be upset, envious, or even dispirited to the point of faltering, but not her. She simply stood there, expressing herself in the most frank manner.
This place was rather secluded and not even a hint of breeze could be detected. Low vegetation scattered the perimeter, giving the valley a peaceful yet peculiar feeling, much like a motionless landscape painting.
Nothing seemed out of the place but that old tree, which was way too conspicuous.
The two exchanged a look, then approached it tentatively. Feeling the soft soil beneath their feet, they reached the streams without running into a single living creature.
The two streams were around four meters in width each and were amazingly clear. The water originated from somewhere afar and separated into two streams here, which flowed around the alluvial shoal, merged back into one, then ran into the distance.
The only water body in the one-hundred-kilometer area was the Grass River and the two here should be its tributaries.
Gu Yu looked around and snapped a short twig, which he stuck into the water; his entire arm went in along with it. Withdrawing the twig, he gave his estimate, "The water's just over one meter deep."
The long-legged duo had no problem wading across the stream. If it were a kitschy kind of script, by now the girl should roll up her trousers, revealing those bare, smooth legs, splashing water everywhere and drenching her clothes. What Xiaozhai did, though, was lifting her hand and tossing her backpack over the stream. Following that, she made a small step forward and her slender figure leapt up like a human-sized bird and landed on the other side effortlessly, as though she was treading on air.
Gu Yu curled his lips and followed suit, jumping across the water without any difficulty.
Speaking of jump, the world record of standing long jump is 3.476 m, and 8.95 m for normal long jump. These two were no athletes, but that was not something we should be concerned with here. Enough was to say that they had amazing physical strength.
After arriving on the other side, they started to examine the old tree closely.
The tree had an exceptionally thick trunk, so thick that five people would have to spread out their arms to wrap around it. Numerous branches and twigs stuck out from the tree, with wide leaves growing from them. The one tree alone had created such a sizable shade. What was the most special about it, though, was the obvious vitality it exhibited.
"Hey, look at that!"
Gu Yu's eyes fixed upon a spot and he lifted his hand to point at it. Following his finger, Xiaozhai looked up and saw two green, round fruits, apparently quite heavy. They hung down from a branch, jiggling in the air. Xiaozhai blurted out, "Is that what you ate?"
"They are of the similar shape. I suppose so." He gave them a few looks and chuckled, "So, the fruit Brother Fatty gave me must have come from here. Xiao Qing must have also eaten them to become as spiritual as it is now. Haha, they are taking this place as a land of their own."
"In that case, Brother Fatty was stopping you to protect its food?"
Feeling the rough bark, Xiaozhai wandered slowly to the other side of the tree.
"Maybe. It could be afraid that we would pick too many… hey, that's not the reason!" He stopped in mid-sentence involuntarily and shook his head. "Brother Fatty is no Scrooge and it definitely did not try to stop us for that. Could it be that it knew the danger of this place and was worried about us?"
He could not figure it out just yet and was mumbling to himself when Xiaozhai called out suddenly, "Come here! Quickly!"
Gu Yu walked around to the other side and was immediately taken aback by the sight. Scattered behind the old tree were piles upon piles of bones—apparently, they have been there for quite a long time, for it would take rather long for the soft tissue to decompose completely.
He prodded them with his foot and said in an uncertain tone, "This seems to be a bird and that one a rabbit."
"There are also snakes, rats, hedgehogs, even a frog… oh, this one is the most impressive—an owl."
Tossing out a skull carelessly, Xiaozhai picked around in the pile of bones with the manner of an experienced doctor. "You've got every small animal of this mountain here."
That was a weird and creepy way to put it, but she was not aware of the peculiarity of her wording and added, "They have probably fought against one another for the red fruit."
"Very likely, but there's another possibility," Gu Yu also crouched down and sighed. "Those who won have eaten the red fruit. Unable to withstand the energy it contained, they also died in vain."
Both fell silent at this.
Countless lives were wasted here judging from the size of the bone heap. They did not understand how the red fruit worked and had no idea what immortality was. Following their instincts alone, they sprang to take the place of the killed ones and lost their lives here, one after another.
People outside the mountain lived their lives in numbness and animals on the mountain fought their fierce yet tragic fights. To the long cultivating journey, this was only the beginning.
Probably affected by the oppressive atmosphere, even Xiao Qing stuck out its head to recall its kins, taking the opportunity to peek at the unripe fruit.
Flicking it on the head, Xiaozhai sighed with a grin, "You lucky one!"
Gu Yu also smiled in approval.
Undeniably, this old tree was where the spiritual essence was the most concentrated. Brother Fatty and Xiao Qing were freeloaders who had eaten the fruits, and with sheer luck, survived the backfiring of the energy, hence obtaining their spirituality.
To show its gratitude, Brother Fatty gave Gu Yu one as a gift.
Of course, other mysteries remained unsolved. Why on earth was the spiritual essence here exceptionally dense while it was thin in the outside world? The two of them were utterly puzzled.
After taking another few rounds, they found nothing else out of the ordinary and had to give up.
Before knowing it, they had spent half a day outside since their departure and it was already four o'clock. Days were long in summertime and the sunlight had yet to fade.
After all the tossing about, they both felt hungry. Xiaozhai opened her backpack, taking out various stuff, ready to start a fire and cook. Gu Yu, on the other hand, hesitated and said, "You know, I have to recover, or the journey back will be very hard."
"That's alright. I'm an excellent cook."
Xiaozhai knew what he was getting at. Those frantic black mosquitoes were such a handful that he would have to use his Taoist skill again.
The girl got herself to work right away. She snapped down some twigs and picked some stones, then made a cooking stove out of them. After that, she took out two stainless steel lunchboxes, pouring water into one of them and adding in a handful of fine dried noodles.
Heating up the other one, she peeled open the oil seasoning bag and smeared a thin layer of oil inside the lunchbox. She then added in some sauce and other flavorings, and sprinkled in some fine sugar. After all the ingredients were fully mixed together, a sticky paste was ready.
With these preparations done, Xiaozhai dug into her backpack and produced a cucumber, which she held in her left hand. With the fruit knife in her right hand, she was demonstrating her previous claim. She was indeed telling the truth—her fingers were VERY FLEXIBLE!
With the blade flying up and down, the cucumber was turned into thin slices, which swirled into the lunchbox.
As she was making the make-shift noodles with soybean paste, her eyes lingered on Gu Yu not far out, who was sitting cross-legged by the river with a countenance as still as water. His usual hidden enthusiasm and joker-ish manner were nowhere to be seen, replaced by an out-of-this-world atmosphere lingering about him.
Gu Yu did not try to hide anything from Xiaozhai. He breathed out and a long streak of white tide tumbled out onto the stream, which maintained its shape and form above the water without scattering. He then breathed in and the white silk of substance was back into his stomach.
As he repeated this process, a light mist seemed to suffuse the air above the cool water, as if enshrouding it with an immortal essence.
This is the first time he ever cultivated in front of another person, and the first time she ever saw real Taoist practice. They were each attending to their own business without disturbing the other person, yet were at the same time well aware of each other.
The light and the color of this landscape fused harmoniously together under the pale blue sky. Those two people were becoming a part of this picturesque scene.