It turned out that this so-called pond was a popular tourist spot in Dongwu City. A seven-mile track looped around said pond, which was located at the foot of Mount Qili (T/N: Qili means "seven miles"; Qi = seven 七; Li = mile 里). The mountain itself was obviously named after the tourist spot, which goes to show just how significant the pond was to the citizens of Dongwu City.
There were two condos in the area. Li Yundong had already spent an hour outside the first condo, showing Su Chan's photo to anyone entering or exiting the building. His efforts were nonetheless fruitless. None of the residents at that condo had seen or heard of Su Chan. It was pretty much the same at the second condo, where Li Yundong had left five minutes ago. Now he was dragging his feet towards the tourist spot to continue his search there.
Where are you, Chan'er?
In hindsight, the fact that nobody in the area could recognize Su Chan's photo sort of fit the circumstances. Su Chan was on the run, so she probably wouldn't be moving around the city in her real appearance. She would've disguised herself or used an illusion spell.
Would it help if he bought a megaphone and then used it to make an announcement to everyone in the area: "Attention, Su Chan! Your beloved has returned! Please meet me at XXX location in XXX minutes! I love you!"
Right. As if that would work.
He probably shouldn't even mention Su Chan's name since she was on the run and all. Maybe he could use a catchphrase, something that only the two of them knew: "I'm here now, my dear little princess cheap monk! Where are you?!"
Maybe add in an inside joke or two: "Come back to me! I miss the cucumbers you bought me!"; "Did you blow up any more kitchens while we were apart?"; "Are you hungry? There's a hot, steaming bowl of Beer Duck Stew waiting for you!"
Li Yundong kept trudging forward until a huge archway came into view. It was a Chinese-style archway with roofs that curved upwards near the edges. Massive spotlights along the avenue shone onto the archway's red surface, illuminating the golden letters carved onto the center of the archway: Mount Qili.
He quickened his pace and moved past the archway.
After that, he followed a winding asphalt pavement until he arrived at a beautiful granite bridge. The bridge had a semi-circular structure, arching upwards from one end before dipping down to the other. He could totally see why this place was hailed as Dongwu City's major tourist spots.
Unfortunately, Li Yundong wasn't in the mood to sightsee. He crossed the bridge quickly and entered what appeared to be a commercial area. Li Yundong turned left and headed west, where the dark silhouette of Mount Qili loomed. The buildings seemed old. In an architectural sense, of course. The buildings were by no means decrepit; they just had an antiquated design. White walls, black roof tiles and all that. The roofs were supported by intricate dougongs, one of those interlocking wooden brackets hailed as one of the hallmarks of Chinese architecture. Even the pavements under his feet were covered in beautiful bluestones.
Li Yundong stopped in front of a row of food stores. He pulled out his phone and checked the time: ten-thirty p.m.
He pocketed his phone and strode towards the establishments. Su Chan might come here to have supper (she was always hungry). It was worth checking out.
His first stop was a shop selling Chinese butter cookies—Su Chan enjoyed those. The store was quite occupied when he entered. Heads turned the moment he stepped in. He ignored the stares and headed straight towards the cashier.
"Excuse me, ma'am. Has this girl been here before?" Li Yundong showed his phone's screen to the young lady behind the counter.
The young lady answered animatedly, but then he couldn't understand a single thing she had said because she had spoken to him in Wu Chinese.
Li Yundong raised his hand to interrupt her. "Wait."
The young lady stopped rambling in her dialect and looked at him quizzically.
Li Yundong gave the lady a cordial smile. "Do you mind switching to Standard Chinese?" His smile turned sheepish. "I don't really understand Wu Chinese."
The lady laughed. "Oh, so you're not from around here."
The lady smiled again. "I said I've seen her a few days ago."
Excitement coursed through Li Yundong. "Where?"
"Not in my shop," the lady said, then paused in thought. "But somewhere in this area."
Li Yundong deflated. "Oh."
"You can try asking at the noodle shop in front," the lady said. "That shop is very popular. Who knows she might have gone there to try out their noodles."
Li Yundong put his phone away and smiled. "Thank you."
He exited the cookie shop and headed towards the noodle shop.
The lady was right. That shop was popular—it was full of people even though it was now close to eleven p.m.
The waiters and waitresses were all occupied, so Li Yundong waited outside the shop, taking occasional peeks inside to see if any of the staff were available to talk. After a while, a customer left the shop. Li Yundong entered the shop and sat down at the newly-vacated table. The staff would come if they thought he was a customer. Well, he might have to order something, but whatever.
"How do you think Master would deal with that demon witch?"
Li Yundong's scalp tingled. Demon witch? The voices had come from the table on his left.
"I have no idea. Probably free her tormented soul by burning her to death?"
"You think so?"
A waitress arrived at Li Yundong's table to clear away the used bowls and plates. "What would you be having, sir? The special?"
Li Yundong mumbled a quick yes and refocused his attention to the conversation happening at the neighboring table.
"Shīxiōng… Do you think—"
"Tsk! Just hurry up and finish your noodles. We have to hurry back to the temple after this, you know?" There was a sigh. "I think it would be best if we get there as quickly as possible. It must be important if Master summoned everyone back to the temple out of the blue."
"Wu Hua shīxiōng said we might run into a disaster this time."
There was a loud snort. "You must be out of your mind if you believe a single thing that comes out of that guy's mouth." There was a pause. "Wu Hua is a disgrace to the temple, period."
"Um… I think you're being a little harsh, shīxiōng."
"Harsh?" There was a humorless laugh. "I tell you what. I'll stop being harsh on him when he finally stops lusting after every single woman who crosses his path!" There was a loud smack, which sounded like a cup being slammed onto the tabletop. "He's a disgrace, I'm telling you. Just look at what he wrote in this letter, for Buddha's sake!" There was a rustling sound, like a piece of paper being unfolded.
Several taps followed suit.
Li Yundong was dying to turn his head, but he didn't want those guys to realize that he'd been eavesdropping on their conversation.
"Read." Another loud tap.
"Shīxiōng… this is…"
"Yeah, that's right. That's Wu Hua's description of that demon witch's physical appearance." The voice lowered into a mumble. "And he went into such great detail too."
"Curvaceous body… Beautiful face… Full chest… Tall… 165 centimeters… Looks to be around sixteen years of age—"
"Oh, for Buddha's sake, don't read it out loud!"
Li Yundong's mind went blank right then. Those descriptions fit Su Chan to a tee.
Li Yundong shook his head after a moment. Nah. There's no way that's her…
Su Chan was a Cultivator. Normal humans wouldn't stand a chance against her.
Except that those two guys weren't normal humans.
They were both lamas.
And he'd seen firsthand just how powerful Dorjee Tenzin was.
Two chairs scraped against the floor. The lamas had just left their table and were now heading towards the cashier to pay for their meal. Meanwhile, Li Yundong's mind was running a mile a minute as he tried to come up with a plan.
Screw it. I'm following this lead.
He had to check it out. Just to be safe.
The lamas vanished through the shop's entrance.
"Here are your noodles, sir! Enjoy your—"
Li Yundong stood up and placed a few bank notes (which, he was sure, was more than enough to cover for the meal) on the table.
The waitress stared at him in surprise. "Sir?"
"Keep the change," Li Yundong said before hurrying out of the shop.