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636 Returning to the Civilized World

 The ungrateful bear cub ran off to hide from the rain. Gu Nianzhi looked at the thick sheets of rain and thought she couldn't just stay and get soaked. She climbed down the tree and saw that there were also some evergreens in the forest, so she ran over to shelter from the rain.

This time, she was thankful it wasn't summertime because there was no lightning. Otherwise, hiding under a tree would be suicide. But even if there was no lightning, she was practically destroying herself. Gu Nianzhi considered it as a cold wind mixed with the rain blew towards her, chilling her to the bone. Shivering, she sneezed and thought she might have a cold. She rubbed her nose and tried to press herself closer to the trunk.

The rain was unrelenting, sometimes falling heavier and sometimes lighter. It continued for almost a whole day! Gu Nianzhi was completely soaked and was a mess. When it was almost nighttime, she finally couldn't stand the hunger and thirst anymore. Walking out from under the tree, she planned to forage for some berries. Suddenly, the bear cub bounded towards her and circled around her feet. Gu Nianzhi sighed and knelt down to pat his little head. "You'd better hurry home. What's the use of getting soaked here with me?"

The bear cub's marble-like black eyes stared stubbornly at her, then he turned to run off. He ran a bit and turned back to look at her. When he saw she wasn't moving, he would run back and crouch at her feet to wait for her to notice him before running off again. He continued to run a bit then turn back to look at her, but Gu Nianzhi remained standing, so the bear cub would run back to crouch at her feet or look up at her or run in circles around her feet. After the cub did this several times, she finally understood. "You want me to follow you?" She looked fearfully at the bear cub like it was going to nod like some fairy creature! Luckily, it didn't nod but only looked up at her for a while before running off.

This time, Gu Nianzhi began to follow it to see what it was up to. When the bear cub looked around again to see Gu Nianzhi was following him, it stopped running back and happily moved forward. Gu Nianzhi was finally certain the bear cub was taking her somewhere... To get away from the rain? That was amazing... She was so touched... Eyes glistening, Gu Nianzhi didn't even notice she had begun smiling. She finally felt hope for life again in a place where almost everyone seemed to have forgotten her, because a cute bear cub was desperately trying to help her. She only saved it once, but it knew to repay the kindness. Compared to some people, who didn't even deserve to be human, Gu Nianzhi thought it was an insult to animals to call those people as such. They were less than animals.

Gu Nianzhi followed the bear cub with some trepidation along the narrow and rugged mountain path. Because it was still raining, the path was muddy, and when she stepped into deep and shallow mud, her sneakers were completely ruined by the yellow dirt. She still had no idea where the cub was taking her. They walked until the sky grew dark before finally turning a corner on the winding mountain path where a steepled castle suddenly appeared! Gu Nianzhi looked up, covering her mouth as tears welled out of her eyes.

The castle wasn't especially large or small, and light spilled from several windows. There must be people in there! Warm tears danced in Gu Nianzhi's eyes as she quickly walked towards the light from the castle. After getting off the muddy mountain path, she quickly walked onto a clean asphalt road. Gu Nianzhi sighed in deep relief and felt revitalized by returning from the wilderness to the civilized world. She nearly jogged over there but only moved a few steps when she sensed something was wrong.

She stopped and looked around to see the bear cub had stopped before the road. It didn't step onto the asphalt road but only looked up at her from across it before turning around to waddle back the way they came. Looking at his lonesome back, Gu Nianzhi felt guilty, like she was idly watching a small child walk alone at night. However, she quickly composed herself and convinced herself that the bear cub was a wild animal that had grown up in the mountains. Compared to her, she was the one who truly needed help. While Gu Nianzhi still felt thankful towards it, right now she couldn't even save herself. There was truly no way she could express any more gratitude towards the bear cub. Once she escaped, she would do other things to help the bear cub like increase the punishment towards criminals who poached black bears for their bile. She promised to accept more animal protection cases for free or even pay out of her own pocket!

Thinking this way, Gu Nianzhi finally turned towards the great castle doors. There were indeed such castles in the Alps, and Gu Nianzhi remembered she had come across them when she was researching the Königssee. Many German monasteries were in the Alps, and like temples in the Huaxia Empire, they tended to be established in famous mountains and rivers inaccessible to humans. That way, they were isolated from worldly interference and allowed for better religious practice. She didn't know if this castle was one of those legendary monasteries, but since there was a castle here, wouldn't there be a cell signal?

Gu Nianzhi got excited and quickly took out her phone only to find there really was a weak half bar of signal! She was ecstatic. How could an internet child survive without going online?! She quickly called Yin Shixiong and the other men, but it didn't go through. She then tried going online to send Yin Shixiong and his men a message. She tried for a long time but couldn't connect to any network, so she could only give up.

Stuffing the phone back in her pocket, she jogged all the way to the castle's iron gates. The castle was on a round plot of land encircled by a wall. Directly facing the main road was the iron gate. It was half a person tall and inlaid with exquisite wrought iron flowers. This type of door was standard security against good people but useless against criminals. Although Gu Nianzhi did not see herself as a criminal, she had no choice but to do what she had to. Pressing against the top of the gate with one hand, she vaulted her long legs and easily jumped over the castle gate.

When she got onto the castle path, she noticed it was probably cement and a bit better than the asphalt roads outside. The rain continued, and she was already completely wet from being out in the rain all day. It didn't matter anymore, so she jogged all the way to the castle's great doors. A lamp hung at the top of the door, emitting a bright white light that illuminated the fine spray of rain outside. Gu Nianzhi looked at the obviously time weathered wooden door and took a deep breath before grabbing the large iron door knocker. She knocked for a full five minutes before she heard the door creak open from the inside. A fat nun wearing a black habit and white wimple appeared. Her round face revealed a double chin. The nun was shocked to see the soaked Gu Nianzhi and gripped the door tightly as she asked in German, "What can we help you with?"

Gu Nianzhi quickly used her newly learned German to stutter, "Shelter from the rain, is that ok?" She then felt it wasn't what she meant and switched to English, "Do you speak English?" The authentic Oxford English accent was very useful on the European continent, since it indicated a good upbringing and family background.

The nun's nervous expression relaxed immediately as she smiled at her while nodding. "Where did you come from? Are you lost?" As she spoke, she opened the door to let Gu Nianzhi inside.

Gu Nianzhi sighed with relief and nodded with a smile. "Yes, I was traveling with some friends. They left today, but I was alone, entranced by the beautiful scenery. I was a bit late and got caught in the rain, then ended up lost." She nervously adjusted her clothes and scratched her head.

The nun closed the door with a smile. "That's ok. Go take a bath and change."

Gu Nianzhi was extremely happy. After being stranded in the wilderness for five days without internet and not being able to shower, wash her hair, or eat a proper meal, she was completely done with it! It felt amazing to return to the civilized world! Nodding quickly, she replied, "Yes, yes. Thank you." She then continued, "I'll pay whatever the cost is." She was very worried the nun thought she'd be eating and staying for free, so she explained right away.

The nun smiled. "That's ok. We are all the Lord's people. The Lord allowed you to meet us, so we must help without asking for anything in return. Amen." She crossed herself and sounded very religious.

Gu Nianzhi also crossed herself quickly and was liking the Lord more than ever. She followed the nun inside. The first floor of the castle was a hall surrounded by tall stained glass windows. Because it was very dark outside, she hadn't been able to see it clearly until she came inside. Gu Nianzhi couldn't look away. The nun was very chatty and told her about the history and heritage of the nunnery. Noticing her interest in the stained glass images, she explained the images to all to her. They were all of biblical stories including the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus Christ. Although Gu Nianzhi had heard of it long before, she appeared like she was learning it the first time and sighing in awe to be polite. The nun got even more excited and began chattering the whole time until she walked Gu Nianzhi to the door of a small room where she finally stopped talking about the Bible. Opening the door, she said kindly to Gu Nianzhi, "You can stay here tonight."

"Thank you, thank you." Gu Nianzhi nearly bowed, she was truly grateful. She didn't know what else to say but thanks, having been taken in without question in an unfamiliar place like this. Even her normally glib tongue was totally useless. Seeing the tall four-poster bed in the room, along with fluffy down quilts, a simple and elegant sofa, and a small vanity with a desk, Gu Nianzhi could almost cry with happiness. She finally had a bed to sleep in! She didn't have to worry about a beast suddenly attacking her in the night! Gu Nianzhi kept nodding with a smile and decided that if she could escape, she would make sure to donate lots of money to this nunnery! Everyone was happy to add icing to the cake, but how many would actually help to bake it from nothing? She must reward them!

"You're welcome." The fat nun pointed to a small door inside the room. "There's a bathroom over there, and there's still some hot water. You can bathe." She then glanced at Gu Nianzhi's discolored, filthy clothes. "I also have an unworn habit. It was made when I was very thin. I can't fit in it anymore. Do you want to wear it?"

A nun's habit couldn't be worn by just anyone, and it was especially taboo with Germans, so they refused to wear it. Because of this, the nun had asked cautiously. Of course, Gu Nianzhi couldn't care less and nodded vigorously. "Thank you so much, I really do need clothes to change into." She hesitated and whispered, "Also some underwear... Do you have any here? I can pay for it..."

"Oh yes, we have some, and it is brand new. You don't need to pay for it. Our nunnery always buys some new undergarments every year to donate to orphanages."

Great, so Gu Nianzhi had become an orphan accepting donations. She was a bit flabbergasted but nodded quickly. "Thank you."

The fat nun thought Gu Nianzhi was interesting to speak with, and her mood improved. Gently closing the door for Gu Nianzhi, she turned to get a change of clothes for her. At the end of the long hallway stood a tall, slim figure. The fat nun walked closer to see it was the Reverend Mother and quickly said, "Reverend Mother, why are you up?"

"Josephine, who is that?" The Reverend Mother was a woman in her forties or fifties. She was very thin and had a wrinkled face. However, her eyes were sharp when they assessed people.

The fat nun Josephone answered. "She's a passing traveler. She got separated from her friends and needs to stay the night."

The Reverend Mother frowned and whispered, "Lost? When did she get lost?"

"She said it was today."

"Haha Josephine, she's lying. There's no way she was only lost for a day if her clothes are that tattered. Also, her shoes are very dirty and completely caked with mud. She must've been on the mountain for several days."

"Oh? Reverend Mother is so amazing!" The fat nun Josephine appeared very impressed.

The tan, slim Reverend Mother merely snorted and walked away as she said, "Let her stay one night, but she must leave tomorrow." The Reverend Mother hated people who asked for help but didn't tell the truth. Also, although the girl wore tattered clothes and appeared filthy, her exquisite little face looked like it had been polished by the Lord himself. Her large eyes were enough to pull at heartstrings from the darkness, resembling the largest jewels on the royal crown. She was so beautiful, and the Reverend Mother instinctively knew that such pretty women were never good people.

...

Gu Nianzhi walked around the room and raised her arms to twirl happily before looking in the bathroom. It was truly a nunnery's bathroom, simple and robust. A black bar of soap and a bottle of handwash sat on the white marble sink. In the shower was a white bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo, the kind easily found in German supermarkets. But all of this was much too precious for Gu Nianzhi, who had been lost in the wilderness for five days!