"Ge, if I don't learn it properly, will I have a psychotic breakdown?" Liu Zhongqi asked nervously while putting a book cover on the swordplay manual left behind by Old Mr. Yu Huaide.
With a complicated expression on his face, Yu Lanchuan watched the Seven Secret Arts of Han Jiang receive the same treatment as school textbooks and answered, "That won't happen."
"But I heard Yu-dage say that that man they caught last year, Yang Ping, had a psychotic breakdown. It was super scary. Before he could be sentenced, he bled from all orifices and died."
Yu Lanchuan's glasses slid down a little. He gave Liu Zhongqi a look over the rims, unsure of how he should explain this to the teenager. Even though Yang Ping was a terrible person, he had practised martial arts diligently since young and when he had grown up, he was still ambitious and had learned demonic skills on his own. When it came to practising martial arts, he could be said to have truly achieved "lifelong learning" and "constant breaking out of the comfort zone." Other than him, the vast majority of people lacked innate talent and hard work, and there was no basis for their training to go astray.
"Don't worry," he spouted some nonsense to hoodwink Liu Zhongqi. "There is a difference between the orthodox and the unorthodox. The martial arts of the righteous and reputable sects are very safe."
Liu Zhongqi asked excitedly, "Ge, then when can I become a highly-skilled expert?"
Yu Lanchuan told him sincerely, "If you practise with this kind of profit-oriented thinking, you probably won't be able to learn it well. Your mental state must be calm and you should remember that your main target is your physical health. Just treat it like those broadcasted group exercises when you have nothing to do. Every time you gain a bit of experience, it is an additional benefit. This way, it would be easier for you to experience for yourself the cold river, the twilight snow, the state of Heaven and Man as one."
Liu Zhongqi wasn't sure if he was imagining things, he couldn't help but feel that his brother was hoodwinking him.
"Don't understand? When you have graduated and need to bust your liver working overtime every day, when you see your comrade-in-arms fall one by one into the hands of baldness and the three highs, you will understand." The experienced Yu Lanchuan patted him on the shoulder. "In your field of study, there is a high chance of those things happening. Tell Mum and Dad that I have something on and I'll be leaving first. I won't be eating at home today."
Liu Zhongqi had just received his letter of admission from the university. His results were decent and the university was his first choice. His field of study was software engineering. His parents had purposely rushed back from abroad to accompany him for his summer vacation. Yu Lanchuan handed the gremlin kid over to them, successfully extricating himself.
"Oh, right." When Yu Lanchuan reached the door, he remembered and took out an actual physical red packet from his pocket. "Your birthday present, buy yourself something you like. I won't be back for your birthday."
Liu Zhongqi was nearly a full eighteen years old, almost an adult. He had been sullied by the world of the adults and its overwhelming material desires, and was no longer pure and innocent. Rather than his older brother's accompaniment, his new interests were new computers, new handphones, and in-app purchases in mobile games. He happily tested the thickness of the red packet and said with no reluctance at all, "Ge, goodbye… Will you still come back?"
"Yes." Yu Lanchuan put on his shoes, his back to Liu Zhongqi. "In a couple of years. If I can, I'll go to your university and visit you."
"Ge, I think you're pretty cool!"
"Don't be jealous, there's no point," Yu Lanchuan said. "Your family doesn't have this gene."
After saying that, he called a cab and left, avoiding meeting with his mum so that the old madam wouldn't catch him and again look at him with that lamenting gaze like she was looking at a young man taking the wrong step in life, and say, "You're truly from the Yu family."
He had always been a member of the Yu family.
Yu Lanchuan went straight back to No. 110 Courtyard, Rongxian Street. Han Dongsheng was already waiting for him there. "Little Master Yu, will the Martial Arts General Assembly still go on as usual this year?"
"Yes," Yu Lanchuan said. "I've signed the Alliance Leader's Command. The time and location will be as usual and I've entrusted Yu Yan with the applications. I'll come back in November. When it's near the date, you'll have to hurry him… Ai, speak of the devil."
Yu Yan ran in from outside, panting. He quickly greeted Han Dongsheng, then dragged Yu Lanchuan away. "We'll go to your place. I have something to say to you."
1004 had been cleaned until the windows were gleaming. Yu Lanchuan had not done a large-scale renovation in the end. He only changed and rearranged the furniture, and the old apartment immediately exuded a refined air that matched its owner. Only the windows remained unchanged and were still the old-fashioned bolted windows. The paint on the window frames had already flaked off and was covered in mottled spots. They looked out of place in the apartment.
Yu Yan strode into his house and before his leg had completely crossed the threshold, he was already saying urgently, "Master Lan, I heard people talking about something. It gave me a fright. I don't know where the rumour came from, they're saying that you-"
"Resigned," Yu Lanchuan said.
Yu Yan sucked in a breath. From the depths of his belly, he let out a shout. "Are you mad, Yu Lanchuan? If you don't want to do it then recommend me for the post!"
Yu Lanchuan picked out a pair of slippers and tossed them to him.
"Is it because your boss is dumb, because your subordinates are idiotic or because your clients are weirdos? Let me tell you, Yu Lanchuan, the high salaries you guys receive includes compensation for the damage caused by dumbasses, idiots and weirdos. Why are you making a fuss out of nothing? You haven't become the CEO yet and you've let it get to your head! Have you saved up enough for a wife? Have you paid off your credit card bill from buying all the branded stuff you're wearing? You still have over twenty years of house loan to pay!"
Yu Lanchuan turned around and spread his hands at him. "I sold it."
Yu Yan looked like he had swallowed a chicken bone. He choked, staring dumbstruck at Yu Lanchuan. "S-Sold it… You sold what? Speak clearly!"
"I sold the other house. After keeping it in hand for over two years, from first-hand to second-hand, after taking off the various fees and charges, my net profit is a little over a million. The yearly return on investment is around 16%, plus the effect of leverage… Mm, but the investment market isn't great this couple of years. I guess it can be considered satisfactory. It's good enough that I didn't make a loss." As Yu Lanchuan spoke, he washed a porcelain mug, boiled water and steeped tea, his movements as calm and unrushed as the drifting clouds and flowing water. It somehow made Yu Yan recall the first time they asked for help from Elder Yang.
Yu Yan, "..."
There were people who said that the current day young people buying houses was like what was written in the book "Fortress Besieged" by Mr. Qian Zhongshu: those outside wanted to come in, those inside wanted to go out. But in actual fact, it was not a very suitable analogy because those outside the fortress might laugh and joke when they saw the house loan slaves counting their pennies and running around working their asses off under the command of their house loans; but when they went back, they would still keep their heads down and strive to save up enough for a deposit, preparing to send themselves into the fortress as soon as possible so that they could also live this kind of exhausting yet secure life. Meanwhile, those inside the fortress rarely wanted to leave and would even, within a certain timeframe, get infected with the habit of checking property prices when they had nothing better to do. The moment they found out that the price of their house bathroom had increased 1,000 yuan per square meter, they would immediately feel very satisfied and gain the illusion of having "earned money." They would be more energetic even when they leave the house the next day to do their dreary jobs.
Yu Lanchuan was the first living house-seller that Yu Yan knew.
For a long while, Yu Yan couldn't return to his senses. His words tumbled over each other, his mouth repeating the same thing. "You're mad, you're mad, Yu Lanchuan, you've gone mad, you don't plan to live anymore? Last November… No, from the moment Teacher Meng-Meng left, I felt that you weren't your usual self…"
When Beggars' Sect and Travellers' Sect announced their disbandment, Han Dongsheng had asked Yu Lanchuan if he would still be holding the Martial Arts General Assembly in November. At that time, Yu Lanchuan had firmly rejected the idea. Then, when it was nearly November, he unexpectedly asked Yu Yan to help him with the procedures and again signed the Alliance Leader's Command.
One by one, he registered all the sects from all areas. Then, using more than half a year's time, with the old-timers in Yanning that he was more familiar with as the intermediaries, he contacted them personally, sorted out a clear and comprehensive social network, and pooled their resources. He made the first move and put up the Seven Secret Arts of Han Jiang that had been annotated by generations of sect leaders of the Han Jiang Sword Sect. The current generation weren't so conscious about family status or about maintaining the secrecy of their sects, and there was a fair amount of people influenced by him, especially those led by the younger people. Following that, job introductions, rooms for rent, assistance for major illnesses, emergency jianghu rescues, helping to look after the children of non-local friends who had come to the city to attend university, etc… all these things smoothly unfolded.
Yu Lanchuan finished laying the foundation and pointed directly at the evil cult hiding everywhere—the Xu clan.
Just last month, three major sects in the southwest worked together and got rid of one of the Xu clan's brainwashing nests. They shook out a large group of escaped criminals from that place, each one of them with a bounty on their heads. Added together, it was a considerable sum.
After news of this got out, quite a number of "experts" who had always felt that their talents were going to waste were eager to give it a try. Yu Lanchuan had laughed and thought, Someone's going to have their business all snatched away.
"I just changed my lifestyle and it means I've gone mad?" Yu Lanchuan calmly answered with a question. "Is putting on a suit and going to work to pay off a mortgage the only way to live in the world? My granduncle only had his pension but he would go out and party every month; my dad doesn't even have a pension, he carries his camera and roams to the four corners of the world. I'm much better than these two, at the very least, I don't lack a place to stay and I also don't lack money. In the future, even if I don't have a proper job, I can start a foreign language class and make enough to survive."
"Director Yu! Was it easy for you to make it to where you are now?"
"To be honest, no, it was not easy." Yu Lanchuan sighed. "Being cautious in everything I do, thinking twice before acting, not being able to act freely even when fighting with other people. It really wasn't easy to qualify as an 'excellent young man.'"
"But, Old Fish, all your accomplishments are also your shackles, don't you agree?"
Yu Yan paused.
Yu Lanchuan spread his hands. "When you understand this, you can let go of them whenever you want to."
Yu Yan fell into silence for a while. "Are you going to look for her?"
"I have an agreement with her. I told her to wait for me for a year." Yu Lanchuan pulled out a luggage bag from under the cabinet in the entrance hall. "I sent my younger brother to university, disposed of the assets I needed to dispose of, and also cast the net I had to cast. It's almost time."
"When is it?"
The wide brim of the cap fell down, hiding half of Gan Qing's face. She slowly walked into the little guest house in the tourist area and accepted the bottle of water her colleague was handing to her. From behind, the sound of police sirens could be heard sweeping past.
"I heard that they're catching an evil cult, something called Paradise." Her colleague had kindly asked around and was sharing with Gan Qing, full of excitement. "I think I read about them in the anti-cult pamphlet a few days ago. Their nest is super hidden, they've hid here for more than ten years. Someone reported them to the police and that someone had even tied them all up. Isn't it amazing?"
Gan Qing said indifferently, "For every action, the retribution would eventually come."
Her colleague mulled over this bizarre gossip for a while, then thought of something and asked her, "By the way, Xiao-Wei, I heard that you're resigning?"
The tag hanging over Gan Qing's chest was written with: Tour Guide Wei Meng-Meng.
"I'm bored of this route," Gan Qing smiled at her. "I want a change of scenery."
"Ai… you, all right. You're really carefree. There's still one more tour for today, are you still going to do it?"
Gan Qing gulped down half the bottle of water in one go and stood up. "Let's go, I'll do one last shift with you."
Half an hour later, Gan Qing sat in the empty little bus, going with the driver they were partnered with to pick up a group of tourists. On the way, the colleague tried repeatedly to chat with her about the evil cult hidden in the sightseeing area but Gan Qing's replies were half-hearted so she gradually quieted down. She glanced at Gan Qing out of the corner of her eye and saw that she was playing with a phone. The phone wasn't the one she normally used.
"Did you change your phone?"
"Hmm?" Gan Qing answered distractedly. "No, this is my private number. It's for contacting my family."
Since three days ago, she had been receiving notifications warning her that the service was about to be stopped due to lack of credit.
She stared at the "Unable to send" notification and spaced out. She realised with a start that it really had been a year.
Perhaps it meant… that was it?
She looked out the window at a loss. The waters were emerald-blue, the mountains lushly green. Each traveller walked their own, separate road.
After handling this last batch of tourists, it was time for a change of scenery.
Then… should she return to Yanning for a look?
But if she went back and found out that he had changed his windows and she could not enter, then what?
When the driver stopped the bus at the tourist pickup point, the scale in Gan Qing's heart was still wavering between "return to Yanning" and "let it be." She could not decide.
She forced herself to put these emotions aside and hung the customer service smile on her face. She turned to face the tourists, all with backpacks on their backs and umbrellas in their hands, and gave each of them the same spiel. She didn't have the heart to scrutinise each one of them, her soul had already flown back to Yanning and only her body was left there to robotically direct the tourists to store their luggage and go up the bus in an orderly manner.
Even her words were the ones she was so familiar with by now that they didn't have to go through her brain, the tongue automatically shot them out.
"...In a while, we will be travelling through a rather long mountain road. If anyone feels uncomfortable, please immediately inform me. We have prepared common medicines for everyone…"
Someone suddenly interjected, "Do you have all kinds of medicines?"
"For the more common ailments like colds, diarrhea and car sickness…" Halfway through her words, Gan Qing suddenly realised something. She twisted her head around to look at the person who had asked the question, but the overly wide brim of her soft cap fell down, blocking her vision.
She reached up to pull it off in near-panic. Right at that moment, a hand reached over, cupping the back of her hand and lightly lifting the brim of her cap. There was a clear mint fragrance on the sleeve. Their eyes met.
"Do you also have the medicine for treating lovesickness?"
— END OF MAIN STORY —