Lu Chen continued walking along the mountainous path, gradually advancing higher and higher upward. The view of the straw cottage and the village beneath the mountain gradually grew smaller and the small stream that flowed through Clear Stream Village resembled a slim but long snake.
The tea mountain was tranquil.
Sounds of chirping and the wind could be heard, but it was still tranquil.
There were many different paths on the mountains, and there would be a fork every now and then. Lu Chen would stop in his footsteps and ponder for a moment. Then, glancing upward at the tea mountain and recalling the location where the fire torch lit up, he continued advancing.
After an hour or so, he stopped by a mountainous path nearing the peak of the mountain. Before him, below a spirit tea tree, there was a withered branch that was charred black, as though it was burnt.
Gazing at the branch, Lu Chen walked up and squatted next to it. Then, after picking it up and examining it closely for a moment, he suddenly reached out to touch the charred portion.
It was still slightly warm.
He stood up abruptly and scanned his surroundings, be it the ground, bushes or the forest.
There were disorderly footsteps all over, some of the bushes skewed from being stepped on and there were quite a few broken twigs and floating leaves.
The mountainous wind blew, bringing a chill to the high altitudes of the mountainous peak.
Lu Chen stood on his original position for a moment before proceeding forward with an impassive expression toward the back of the tea mountain, in the direction of the west foothill.
Waterworks suddenly sounded from the clear stream, shocking Old Yu, who was sitting under the large Chinese scholar tree. Raising his head to take a look, he saw the fishing rod shake intensely. After freezing up momentarily, intense joy appeared on his face as he hurriedly pulled his fishing rod in.
The fishing rod first went taut. As he pulled the fishing rod backward abruptly toward him, a large force suddenly surged through the fishing rod, and with a dull thud, the fishing line snapped.
Old Yu retreated two steps involuntarily and his heart sank. Just as he was about to continue doing something, he saw a flash of black shadow in the depths of the water which disappeared in the blink of an eye. Ripples appeared on the stream, as though the wind was blowing on it. Very quickly, the ripples started to slowly fade away and the surface of the water regained its calm state. In the clear water, no further abnormality could be seen as it reverted back to its original state.
“Aiya!” The old fisherman released a furious howl. He stomped his feet, his back slouched and disappointment enveloped his face. At this point, he suddenly heard a voice from his back. Someone chuckled and spoke gently, “That was such a pity, that seemed to be a large fish.”
Old Yu turned around. At some point, a young man had started standing behind him under the large Chinese scholar tree. He was dressed in a white shirt and his features were dashing. One of his hands held a fold-able fan, and a drawing of the mountains and flowing rivers could be seen on it. Even in this sweltering summer day, he looked elegant and exuded an extraordinary aura.
This young man’s smile was tender and, not to mention, he was good looking as well. The feeling that he induced in others at first sight was intimacy and comfort. Old Yu’s first impression upon seeing the young man was that the fellow seemed to be even more good-looking than the Li Ji from a while ago.
However, he had never met this person, so it was unlikely that he was a resident of Clear Stream Village. At the same time, Old Yu wasn’t a sociable person. He frowned, and without saying a word, turned back, picked up his fishing rod and started to fix his fishing line.
The young man behind did not panic. Rather, with a smile, he gazed at Old Yu. After a moment, he said, “Old fisherman, have you been fishing here for a long time?”
“Un.” Initially, Old Yu did not intend on answering his question. However, the young man’s attitude was too polite, which made him feel a some guilt for snubbing him. Thus, he answered him subconsciously.
The young man fanned himself twice as he looked at the sky, “Such a hot day. It might be an uncomfortable weather, but I heard that there are fishes that are different from the others when the weather is hot. These fishes would choose to swim to the surface instead. The situation a moment ago could very possibly be a result of that.”
Old Yu was taken aback. He turned around to look at him, “Do you mean it?”
The young man chuckled, kept his fan and cupped his hand, “I have only heard of it, so I dare not guarantee it.”
Old Yu pondered for a moment before nodding his head, “Alright, I will continue fishing here then.”
The young man nodded with his head with a smile. Not saying anything else, he stood under the shade of the large Chinese scholar tree, as though this transient life we were all born with should be lived leisurely and unconstrained.
Old Yu did not feel repulsed by his actions at all. Besides, the young man wasn’t interfering with his fishing. Just that, when he momentarily glanced about, he would see that in the distance, in some corners and on the roads of the village, there were a few other figures and their faces were foreign to him.
Unlike Lu Chen who had no attachments whatsoever, the plump Old Ma, who was packing his luggage in the back of his small tavern, seemed to realise that the items that belonged to him, or rather, the items that he wanted to bring away, seemed to be exceptionally numerous.
He packed them one after another, filling them into one bag after another. In the end, even he himself couldn’t stand it any longer. He stared at the mountain-like luggage that filled half of his dwelling and depression loomed over his face. He muttered, “Forget it. If the fellow were to see this, he would definitely reprimand me severely.”
He shook his head. Pain and regret plastered his face as he kicked off a few bags of luggage with a deep sigh. Then, he picked up another few and repacked them. In the end, only three bags were left in the center of the room.
Old Ma stopped packing. Instead, he walked toward a wall and pulled out a drawer forcefully. After which, his hand fumbled about the corner of the wall and in the next moment, a secret aperture revealed itself.
A bulging sack lied in the secret aperture, and the faint sound of knocking could be heard from within, as though it was filled with numerous little pebbles. Old Ma carefully carried the sack up and a satisfied expression appeared on his face. He used his hand to touch it lightly before exerting his strength to carry it. After which, he walked over to the center of the room and stuffed it into the depths the one of three remaining bags.
Accomplishing this matter, Old Ma heaved a sigh of relief and satisfaction appeared on his face. As he was about to leave, he surveyed the surroundings for one last time. Yet, at this moment, from the main entrance of the tavern, several clear knocks could be heard.
“Peng, Peng peng!
Accompanying the knocking was an extremely gentle voice of a young male from beyond the door, “Is there anyone inside?”
Old Ma turned around and looked at the entrance of the small tavern. For some inconceivable reason, his eyebrows knit together.
The sunlight scattered onto the ground in the form of thousands and thousands of golden rays, each incomparably searing. Yet, the water of the Dragon Lake at the back of the tea mountain was as calm as a mirror, as though a beautiful gemstone was embedded into the mountain peak. In fact, when a person approaches the surface of the lake, he would feel a rare, slight humid and cooling sensation even in this sweltering weather.
The green mountains and the clear emerald water. The mountain reflected in the water while the lake radiated a painting of the mountain, creating an incomparably picturesque scenery.
The boundary between the water and the mountain should have been a land of calmness. Yet, a ruckus broke out by the shore of the lake. Two figures were standing by the Dragon Lake. A male and a female, facing each other.