Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 29: The soul united with the land, the thunder like the power of a god.
Dong Zhi was awakened by his phone alarm early the next morning. He opened his eyes and stared blankly, then habitually picked up his phone, turned off the alarm, and checked to see if there were any notifications. He saw that Long Shen had sent him a message last night.
[When you return to Beijing, come find me.]
Dong Zhi stared wide-eyed at the text and immediately sat up. He kept his gaze on it for over three seconds as the smile on his face got wider. He felt delighted and rolled around in his bed while hugging his blanket several times.
The feeling of loss from last night instantly vanished. He jumped out of bed, washed up, and started his set of morning exercises in the yard according to what the old man taught him yesterday. While doing it, he paid careful attention to his breathing. When he was finished, he was sweating profusely, but his body felt much lighter.
When he was about to have breakfast, he saw He Yu coming out.
“You didn’t sleep in?” Dong Zhi said incredulously.
“Where’s shishu?” He Yu looked around.
“Haven’t gotten up yet,” Dong Zhi said, noticing He Yu’s expression change.
“What’s the matter?” He sensed that something was off. He Yu suddenly took off, and he followed after him, perplexed. After a while, He Yu reached a room, opened the door and strode inside.
The buildings in the Hezao Sect have been around for years. They were all made from ancient brick and stone, and they all had sloping wooden doors. There was only a cell tower dedicated to cellular signals that showed any traces of modern civilization.
When He Yu opened the door, he exerted too much force that it made an unpleasant creaking noise. As Dong Zhi entered, he saw the old man lying on the bed, motionless. He Yu yelled, his face turning pale, but he couldn’t wake the old man up.
Dong Zhi stared in disbelief at the old man whose eyes were closed as if he was peacefully sleeping, and suddenly remembered he didn’t even know his name.
A thunderstorm gathered outside; following it was the sound of pattering rain. The wind blew the raindrops around, bringing in a burst of coolness.
The joy of receiving a reply from Long Shen was erased. The old man had taught him how to draw talismans last night, and his smiling appearance was still vivid in Dong Zhi’s mind. Tears welled as his vision blurred and he couldn’t hold them in any longer as he broke down crying.
The original birthday celebration had turned into a funeral. The disciples of the Hezao Sect came in one after another when they heard the news, and they dealt with the aftermath. Dong Zhi assisted them while silently crying, unable to stop his tears. His fair complexion only enhanced the redness of his eyes even more. They couldn’t bear to see him in this state. Even Headmaster Xin came to comfort him.
“My shidi was nearly a hundred. They say that there is also joy in death. You don’t have to be too sad. He lived his life freely like an urchin, and he didn’t want to watch you mourn for his passing.”
“Sorry,” Dong Zhi wiped away his tears: “Shishu and I hit it off when we first met. Despite teaching me how to draw talismans, I have nothing to repay him in return. My parents have passed away, and just as I met shishu, he too had passed away. Maybe it was because of my misfortune that shishu…”
Headmaster Xin laughed and felt touched by Dong Zhi’s words. He thought that his shidi had not misjudged. The boy was upright and soft-hearted in nature. It was a pity that they were not fated to be master and apprentice.
“You don’t have to blame yourself. My shidi knew his time was approaching long before you came. Your life is destined, and there is no human power that can reverse it. If your parents died young, it can only be said that it was heaven’s will.”
Dong Zhi felt better from his words of comfort: “Thank you, Headmaster.”
Long after his parents’ death, Dong Zhi met a fortune teller at a stall on the street. The fortune teller told him that he wasn’t good to his parents and that his future could not depend on his family*. He was brooding over his fortune when he heard that the fortune teller was later reported and arrested for lying. However, those words still resonated with him as he felt there were some truths in them, so they had stuck with him. Shishu’s death was the last straw that overwhelmed him so that he suddenly lost control of his emotions.
*Six relatives are not close (六亲不近).
Headmaster Xin said: “He Yu is my close disciple. I no longer accept apprentices. Although my junior brother couldn’t accept you, since he had taught you the technique of drawing talismans, you can register him as your teacher in name, so when you go take your exam, you can be named as a disciple of the Hezao Sect. This will not prevent you from accepting an apprenticeship from someone else in the future, and it will be convenient for the sake of your exams.”
Headmaster Xin was extremely considerate. Dong Zhi hurriedly thanked him.
After finishing shishu’s funeral, He Yu and Dong Zhi rested for a day before heading down the mountain to return to Beijing. Cheng Hui was slowly recovering. He was still a bit muddleheaded from the aftermath of losing a part of his soul, so he had to slowly recuperate, and he didn’t join them. Before they left, he had packed them several large bags full of mushrooms and kiwi and asked them to bring them with them and to eat them slowly on their way back.
“Brother, Dong Zhi, thank you!” Cheng Hui sighed: “Originally, I wanted to make persistent efforts this year and continue to participate in the recruitment examination, thinking there would be more open positions, so there would be more opportunities. Who knew that such a thing would happen to me!”
He then said to Dong Zhi: “I hear that you want to join the Special Administrative Bureau. You must fight for the Hezao Sect and crush those people from Longhu!”
He Yu was impatient, so he started rushing: “Alright, alright. Don’t put too much pressure on Xiao Dong Zhi. How can you say anything when you didn’t even pass the exam yourself? Now leave the food and scram!”
Cheng Hui was driven away mercilessly.
Hearing Cheng Hui’s words, Dong Zhi asked: “Is the Longhu Sect at odds with the Hezao Sect?”
He Yu scratched his head: “Not really. In addition to non-staffed personnel and non-combat personnel, the General Administration Bureau has three groups, headed by three deputy directors. Our boss is the leader of group two, but there aren’t many people in our group. Except for the boss and me, there’s just Kan Chaosheng and Zhong Yuyi. The leader of the first group is Wu Bingtian. He was born in Yuanming Palace on Mount Qingcheng. While he has some skills, he is also quite arrogant. If you meet him in the future, you should stay away from him. He likes to find faults, so he could pick on our group!”
Dong Zhi nodded: “Does he often bully Boss Long?”
He Yu yelled: “As if he would dare! The boss is equal to him. It’s okay to pick on us little minions, but if he wants to pick a fight with the boss, he may not win, so he can’t bully him. Let me tell you, Wu Bingtian has a lineage complex. He only recruited disciples from great factions. Yuanming Palace is closely related to the Longhu Sect so many of Longhu disciples are in group one. Peh, I just didn’t join them!”
Dong Zhi started to have a clearer understanding: “So when you joined group two, they regarded you as a traitor?”
He Yu touched his nose embarrassedly: “I just can’t get used to their haughtiness. Besides, group two is just as good as them. With the boss around, those people dared not make any waves. Group three is even more miserable. They’re known as the miscellaneous group, but their leader, Song Zhicun, is pretty awesome. I heard that he used to be a cook. Later, due to fate, he was appreciated by the big brothers of the Longhu Sect, and they taught him a few Taoist techniques. Relying on those skills, he taught himself further and became a talented person that could traverse rivers and lakes. Therefore, those who have the ability and will can make a splash wherever they go, so Xiao Dong Zhi, I’m quite optimistic about you!”
A cook that self-taught himself and eventually excelled was indeed awesome. Dong Zhi became more curious about Deputy Director Song and asked, “Did he join the Longhu Sect after?”
He Yu shook his head and said, “The threshold to join the Longhu Sect is high. It’s not so easy to enter. Song Zhicun was born a cook, and his surname is not Zhang, and he didn’t live on Mount Longhu as a child. I believe that these factors would prevent him from joining, but it’s all hearsay, so who knows! Well, the bus is here, so let’s go!”
Dong Zhi turned around and, while facing the direction of the mountain, kowtowed three times. He had met a lovely old man by chance and didn’t know that his name was Fang Yang until he had passed away. However, his kindness was deeply remembered in his heart. Before leaving the mountain, he solemnly added his name under Fang Yang’s on the lineage line of the Hezao Sect.
The passengers at the station looked at him weirdly, thinking that he was some kind of lunatic.
He Yu patted him on the shoulder: “Shishu understands your feelings, so get up. He had countless legends in his life. He has fought with many foreign devils. He resisted US aggression during the Korean War. Despite his old age, he always acted like a child. I think what he regrets the most is that he wasn’t able to formally accept you as an apprentice and couldn’t spend more time with you. He had no children, so he would definitely treat you as his own, or even like his grandchildren.”
Dong Zhi said, “Tell me more about him.”
He Yu: “When shishu was born, it was the most chaotic time in China…”
The shuttle bus arrived shortly after. They boarded it and watched as the image of Mount Hezao slowly got smaller. Looking back at it from a distance, Dong Zhi saw greenery covering the mountains and lush vegetation everywhere. It was full of vitality, with life blooming in all its layers.
It was like a scene of walking slowly in early summer. Occasional gales and showers could come, but they would quickly clear up, leaving behind a rainbow.
The two took the bus back to the station at the bottom of the mountain and then took a train back to Beijing. Nearly a month had passed since their trip. In addition to the time Dong Zhi spent recovering from his injuries from Changbai Mountain, there were only two months left before the exams.
Dong Zhi had wanted to join the Special Administration Bureau at the beginning, mainly because of his admiration for Long Shen and his curiosity for the fantastical, but after the incident on Hezao Mountain, he felt he needed to live up to his famous master’s intention. He took the time to look at his question bank on the way back, and his level of effort amazed He Yu.
In contrast, He Yu was busy playing games most of the way there, like a degenerate.
“Big boss, don’t practice questions all day. Come and carry me!” He Yu, the unscrupulous demon, said.
Dong Zhi was speechless: “How on earth did you manage to get admitted into the Special Administration Bureau?!”
He Yu: “It hasn’t always been formal like this. At that time, there was a serious shortage of manpower, so if you were willing to join and had some skills, you were accepted. Back then, the Special Administrative Bureau was attached to another department who could claim them for reimbursement. One year it would be under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and another year it would be under the Ministry of Education. It wasn’t until we adhered to international standards in recent years that the Bureau became completely independent. When I tested, don’t bother mentioning the written exam; the interview was just with a few big wigs in the bureau where you just perform a monkey act*.
*(猴戏) Refers performing acts in which a monkey participates in the performances. It is also used to describe people’s pretentious and superficial behavior || In this context, he’s saying the interview was just done for show.
Dong Zhi: “Monkey act???”
He Yu: “Oh, I’m used to calling the interview that. Ah, hurry up and carry me! I’m going to be destroyed! Ah!” He screamed and collapsed onto the chair lifelessly.
Dong Zhi: …
When the two arrived in Beijing, they each went back to sleep for a while. He wasn’t sure how long he slept, but Dong Zhi was awakened by an alarm on his phone. He suddenly remembered that Long Shen asked him to go find him when he returned to Beijing. He hurriedly turned on his phone and found that Long Shen had sent him a message in the morning asking if he had gotten up.
Nearly ten hours had passed since his message, and it was now nightfall, which meant he had been asleep for almost the entire day. Dong Zhi covered his face and hurriedly sent a message to say he’d just gotten up.
After a while, Long Shen sent a reply saying that if he hadn’t eaten yet, to come downstairs and he’d take him to dinner.
The male god took the initiative to make an appointment, so the obvious answer was to take him up on the offer! Even if he had eaten over ten kilograms of shrimp, he wouldn’t even hesitate to say he was hungry.
After replying to Long Shen, they decided to meet at the back door in half an hour. Dong Zhi hurriedly showered, changed into clean clothes, and took extra care in tidying himself up.
When he looked at himself in the mirror, he saw that he was a bit thinner, most likely due to all his trips recently. After a good night’s rest, his fair complexion looked more refreshed, with hints of blush, and a bit tender due to the hot water. He was very satisfied with how he looked as he examined himself in the mirror.
When he went downstairs to the back door, he was surprised. In addition to He Yu, who was yawning, there were also Kan Chaosheng and Zhong Yuyi.
Kan Chaosheng said impatiently, “What took you so long?!”
Dong Zhi hurriedly apologized. He had kept track of the time, making sure he didn’t go over half an hour. Who knew that there were so many people waiting for him?
“Let’s go, let’s go. I’m starving to death!” He Yu rubbed his eyes. It was obvious that he was awakened halfway through his sleep and his attire was all wrinkled as if he hadn’t even bothered changing his clothes.
“Don’t we have to wait for the boss?” Dong Zhi asked strangely.
He Yu walked in front of Kan Chaosheng and said, without looking back, “The boss has already gone ahead.”
Dong Zhi walked behind Zhong Yuyi, who didn’t speak at all. His expression was so blank that Dong Zhi couldn’t tell what he was thinking. He felt as if he should say something, so he introduced himself: “Hello, my name is Dong Zhi. I met you in the hallway that one time.”
A gust of wind blew by, but there was no answer.
Dong Zhi: …
As they walked down the streets, food stalls were seen everywhere, but it didn’t seem like that was their destination as they continued to walk straight ahead. He Yu and Kan Chaosheng had started bickering again, creating a lively scene, but behind him was complete silence.
It wasn’t until ten minutes later that Zhong Yuyi said, “Did you talk to me just now?”
Dong Zhi: “…Yes.”
Zhong Yuyi: “What did you say?”
Dong Zhi repeated what he said, and Zhong Yuyi made a sound and then was silent again. After another five minutes, he suddenly said: “I know about you. My name is Zhong Yuyi.”
Dong Zhi: …Bro, your response time is really slow!
“Your name is very interesting!” Dong Zhi chuckled dryly as he tried to find something to talk about.
Zhong Yuyi: “My mother was eating at home when she gave birth to me. When she finished giving birth, she found that there was only one salted duck egg left over, so she became extremely angry and named me Yuyi*.”
*Remaining [Yu] (余) One [Yi] (一). Combined means one remaining.
Dong Zhi: …
Not knowing how to respond, he embarrassingly said, “Your mother is quite humorous!”
Zhong Yuyi didn’t speak again and resumed, putting on his blank face as if he was lost in another world. Dong Zhi recalled that he had entered the Special Administration Bureau because of Long Shen. He thought perhaps the male god preferred this kind of taciturn tone. Was it too late for him to pretend to act aloof?
They turned the corner and walked towards a barbecue stall on the side of the road. When they entered, they greeted the boss and headed towards a private room. Long Shen had been sitting there already marking orders on a piece of paper with a pen. The scene was unexpectedly down to earth.
Seeing them come in, Long Shen pushed the list to them: “Order.”
Kan Chaosheng didn’t bother marking things down but directly called the boss over and said boldly, “Ten skewers of each serving! Three packs of beer!”
It seems that he’s a regular customer as the boss didn’t have any change in expression. He simply nodded, went out, and came back in with a bill after a while.
Dong Zhi stood up quickly: “I’ll pay for it.”
“I’ll do it.” A voice rang out and a hand was pressed on his shoulder. Long Shen was sitting by He Yu and Dong Zhi hadn’t noticed when he got up. He took the large bill from the boss.
Dong Zhi protested: “Boss Long, I told you I’d invite and treat you!”
“I only promised to have a meal with you but never agreed that it would be your treat.” Long Shen glanced at him and didn’t want to debate for half a day, so he simply sat back down on an empty seat next to him.
Dong Zhi recalled the other party saying “okay” leaving him speechless.
Long Shen said: “You’ve performed well in Guangzhou this time and successfully assisted the Special Administration Bureau in handling the case. I’ll apply for another bonus for you, Dong Zhi.”
Dong Zhi hurriedly asked, “Can the bonus be exchanged for extra interview points or something?”
Long Shen: “It can be used as a reference for the examiner on your resume, but it’s impossible to add specific points.”
It seemed that the 20,000 yuan turning into two points that He Yu talked about before was a joke. Hearing this made Dong Zhi feel a bit disappointed.
He Yu smiled and asked, “Boss, do I also get a bonus?”
Long Shen: “Yes.”
He Yu became excited: “How much?”
Long Shen: “930 yuan and six cents.”
He Yu said strangely, “Why does this number sound so familiar?”
Kan Chaosheng said, “That’s the price of this meal! The boss just quoted it. Is your brain like a goldfish?”
He Yu’s face suddenly turned green, and his smile looked uglier than his crying face: “Boss, don’t do this! I’ve been wanting to buy a game pack!”
Long Shen said: “Last month you said you wanted to change your game handle, so you borrowed 200 yuan from me and said that I could deduct it out of your bonus. To buy more in-game items, you borrowed another 500 from me. Then the month before, you borrowed another 300 from me, making your grand total 1,000. After deducting the money from this meal just now, you don’t need to pay me back the rest.”
Kan Chaosheng gloated, “If you don’t pay your debts, can you afford to owe the boss money?”
He Yu lay down on the table and pretended to be dead: “Wuwuwu, my game package!”
Dong Zhi felt happy watching the excitement from the side until Zhong Yuyi suddenly said: “My mother is not humorous.”
Bro, seriously, how slow is your reaction?!
The corners of Dong Zhi’s mouth twitched. He heard Kan Chaosheng ask about the events in Guangzhou: “Have the Archfiend really been completely destroyed?”
He Yu, who hadn’t recovered from the bad news about his bonus, remained laying down on the table as he said weakly: “I don’t know. Tang Jing and I didn’t find any traces of Sneaky Yaksha in Guangzhou afterwards, which shows that the Archfiend who manipulated them is gone. Boss, did you find anything on the stone tablet in Inner Mongolia?”
Long Shen said: “It’s just a cave painting. It’s related to the stone tablet, but there wasn’t one there.”
He Yu didn’t know this, so he was taken aback when he heard the words: “So the stone tablet hasn’t been found yet? Are there any clues?”
Long Shen shook his head.
Kan Chaosheng said, “We suspect that the other party learned about the stone tablet a step earlier than we did. The boss has people watching those Japanese. The two onmyojis are still half-dead and healing, but Aso is very active. During this period of time, he has been in contact with the people of the Otowa Consortium at least three times already. If there are any major changes, we’ll be able to know immediately.”
While they were talking, barbecue skewers were delivered one after another. A large plate full of grilled squid, grilled duck gizzards, grilled chicken wings, grilled shiitake mushrooms, and grilled eggplants made everyone’s mouth salivate. Couple this with a large glass of cold beer and it was simply the best taste in the world.
Business talk stopped since it would spoil the atmosphere of good food.
Kan Chaosheng looked small but was able to stuff mouthfuls of meat that he had rolled up in a single bite. Sometimes he would swallow it without even chewing. While stuffing his mouth, he chatted with He Yu about a game, and after a few exchanges, they started arguing again. Zhong Yuyi sat beside them listlessly while silently eating in a well-behaved manner.
Taking this great opportunity, Dong Zhi intended to use it to make conversation with Long Shen. He was afraid that he would say the wrong thing and embarrass himself, so he rehearsed it in his mind over and over again.
Boss Long, how are you parents?
No, if someone has parents who are similar to themselves, this topic would be a complete minefield!
Boss Long, do you have a girlfriend?
This topic seemed too superficial. Pass.
Many thoughts passed through his mind, until Dong Zhi gathered the courage and asked: “Boss Long, where are you from?”
Long Shen was taken aback for a moment, then started to think. Dong Zhi looked at him confusingly, thinking to himself if a question like this should require so much thought.
Long Shen thought for a while before giving him an answer: “It should be from Zhejiang.”
It is or isn’t? What the hell is “should” supposed to mean?!
Dong Zhi instantly imagined a bizarre and colorful life full of unknown twists and turns.
“Zhejiang is very good and has outstanding people. I have also been to Hangzhou.” Dong Zhi tried to find something to keep the conversation going.
Long Shen: “I am not from Hangzhou.”
Dong Zhi: …
Help, how can he talk without embarrassing himself!
Seeing his helpless appearance, Long Shen smiled slightly, but it was gone in a flash. Dong Zhi was too busy racking his brains thinking of something to talk about, so he didn’t notice.
“How are your studies going?” Long Shen asked.
Dong Zhi’s thoughts were still stuck on ‘what other cities are there in Zhejiang besides Hangzhou’ that he was caught off guard by the question.
“There shouldn’t be any problems with the written portion, but I’m lacking confidence in the interview.” He scratched his hair embarrassingly: “I asked He Yu, but he has never been an interview examiner, so he can only tell me hearsay.”
Long Shen said: “The interview first is for the director to see your capabilities, and second is to see your adaptability to respond on the spot.”
Dong Zhi blurted out, “Like the question about going on a business trip with a female colleague and forgetting to bring cinnabar, so you have to use her lipstick to draw on talisman paper?”
Long Shen nodded: “In fact, the answer may not be correct. It just needs to be the best in unconventional situations.”
Dong Zhi blinked: “Is there any scope for this examination?”
Long Shen shook his head: “There is no scope, and I didn’t come up with the question.”
This meant that the interview was a pit, and no one knew how deep that pit was. It could be shallow, like jumping a step down and landing safely, or extremely deep, directly falling to one’s death.
Dong Zhi asked, “Is the annual pass rate high?”
Long Shen: “Relatively low.”
Dong Zhi: …
Seeing that he was so choked up that he couldn’t speak, Long Shen said: “When you first arrived at the Special Administration Bureau, I didn’t think you had any hope. Now, at least there is some hope.”
Dong Zhi realized that he had been praised, and couldn’t help but ask happily: “How much hope?”
Long Shen: “Ten percent.”
Dong Zhi: …
His heart that was about to ascend was dragged back to its original place.
The alcohol was hot, and the food was fragrant. Kan Chaosheng buried his head and devoured the food while He Yu got drunk off the beer. He hugged Zhong Yuyi’s arm and whined to him, saying that he couldn’t get his game anymore and that he was always despised.
Long Shen didn’t drink as hard as they did. He would occasionally raise his glass and take small sips. Seeing that the atmosphere was good, Dong Zhi couldn’t let the chance pass to gather more information from the male god while he was in a relaxed state. He asked, “Boss Long, I heard from He Yu that you want to accept apprentices.”
Long Shen smiled and didn’t admit or deny it, but that smile gave Dong Zhi the courage to continue: “Do you think I can make it?”
After asking, he felt he was too impetuous. Sure enough, Long Shen shook his head. Seeing the sight, he couldn’t hide his feeling of loss, as if he had two invisible ears on the top of his head that instantly drooped down sadly.
Suddenly, in the next second, he heard Long Shen say: “But I hope you can.”
Dong Zhi immediately raised his head to look at him as he continued: “In recent years, the Special Administration Bureau has been short of manpower, but the recruitment criteria are too difficult for many. If you really want to join, just work hard.
This was the gentlest comfort Deputy Director Long could think of, but he made Dong Zhi’s eyes slowly light up again. He said solemnly, “I will work hard!”
After their meal was finished, Long Shen asked Zhong Yuyi and Kan Chaosheng to take the drunk He Yu back home while he took Dong Zhi somewhere else. When they left the lively night market, the flow of people gradually decreased and the lights cast a layer of warmth on the city, as if providing a guiding light for people who were returning late to find their way home.
Long Shen didn’t say much, and Dong Zhi didn’t question him either. He now understood the feelings of those star-chasers. Even though he wasn’t as crazy as those fans who would constantly chase after their idols all day, he still thought how nice it was to have the opportunity to walk alone with Long Shen, and how great it would be if this road would never end.
The author has something to say:
Zhong Yuyi is also super cute!