Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Liu Qingbo was furious.
“How can you act like this? Do you still want to be Boss Long’s apprentice? If you lose before the war, do you dare say that you’re inferior to me in front of Boss Long?!”
His sentence was three points of anger and seven points of provocation.
Dong Zhi said with a smile, “I think Boss Long accepts apprentices not only based on abilities but also on character. As long as you’re realistic and are kind and humble, even if your ability is slightly insufficient, you’ll always make progress in the future. Only such an apprentice is worthy of teaching, am I right?”
Seeing that his opponent refused to make a move, Liu Qingbo gave him a fierce look and did not bring up his duel with Li Ying. Rather, he turned around and left, angrily.
Dong Zhi shrugged.
Ba Sang said, “I have long disliked him. He acts crazy all day long. Don’t mind him!”
Others didn’t speak out as bluntly as Ba Sang since they dared not talk about Liu Qingbo.
Li Ying patted Dong Zhi on the shoulder and continued his big brother persona, “Don’t take his words to heart.”
Gu Meiren said worriedly, “Isn’t his family background deep? Will he wear small shoes* for you?”
*(穿小鞋) Metaphor referring to secretly attacking or making things difficult for others (AKA A tough nut to crack).
Li Ying said, “No matter what his relationship with his family is, they can’t get involved in the recruitment of the Special Administration Bureau. Don’t worry.”
Hearing what he said, Gu Meiren and Ba Sang breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Alright then.”
Dong Zhi wasn’t worried. He had disagreed with Li Ying’s father during the interview at that time, but he still passed, so it could be seen that the Special Administration Bureau was still relatively fair and just. Besides, Liu Qingbo was the first to provoke the matter, and he didn’t bite the bait, so he didn’t do anything that would warrant trouble.
As soon as Liu Qingbo left, there was one less person who could raise their nose and eyes vertically*. The atmosphere became more relaxed. Seeing that there was no longer any excitement, Zhang Song went to find Xiang Yongnian to train with him.
*(横挑鼻子竖挑眼) Metaphor meaning picky in every possible way. A nitpicker who finds faults in a petty manner.
Gu Meiren said, “Boss Long was really powerful just now. I even learned that such a legendary immortal swordsman truly exists in the world!”
Whether they be men or women, who didn’t dream of martial arts. Gu Meiren made a leisurely and fascinating appearance, but there were also traces of regret.
“It’s a pity that I already have a master since elementary school. Otherwise, I would definitely worship Boss Long as my master!”
Ba Sang was in high spirits. “Dong Zhi, don’t you also use swords? Can you use yujian*?”
*(御剑) Ability to control swords through magic such as using them to fly or moving them to fight with just your mind ect. || There’s no English equivalent that I can think of, so I’ll keep it in pinyin.
Dong Zhi smiled bitterly. “Are you kidding me? I don’t even know the basics of how to use a sword. This Qingzhu Sword is used as a talisman aid!”
He touched the body of the sword and thought how truly wasted this Qingzhu Sword was in his hands. He couldn’t even use 10% of its power compared to Boss Long.
Ba Sang said, “Can I borrow your Qingzhu Sword?”
“Of course you can.” Dong Zhi handed the sword over.
Ba Sang drew out his sword, weighed it in his hand, and then danced in front of them. They were stunned by his elegant maneuvers, as his sword dance was like a tiger in the wind. When he finished, they all, including Dong Zhi, applauded.
“So you can use a sword too!”
Ba Sang returned the sword to Dong Zhi and said embarrassedly, “When I was a child, I practiced swordsmanship with my master. This is a sword technique. Don’t you see what I did just now wasn’t like using a sword at all? A sword is mainly used to slash, stab, and chop. Weapons are different and their usage varies. That is to say, while you laymen watch it with excitement, the experts would laugh to death seeing this.”
Dong Zhi said thoughtfully, “How did you do it the same as Boss long and lift the sword like it barely weighs anything? Honestly, this sword is already quite light, but I still get sore after holding it for a long time. The last time we fought those demons during Hui Yiguang’s incident, I almost dropped it several times.”
Ba Sang: “Practice your strength. You don’t have enough strength. Here, reach out.”
Dong Zhi was perplexed but did as he said and stretched out his hand. Suddenly, the other party grabbed and twisted it, causing him to scream in pain.
“You’re so soft like a girl. You need to build some muscles in your arms and wrists.” Ba Sang patted his arms to show off his hard muscles. “I’ve been practicing since I was a child. I carried large buckets of water for three hours and ran with them back and forth for several miles!”
Dong Zhi asked worriedly, “Where can I find buckets of water in the Special Administration Bureau?”
Ba Sang said, “Just take something and hold it flat. Don’t bend your arms and keep practicing like this every day!”
Dong Zhi nodded and wrote it down.
The next day was Long Shen’s class again. Everyone came to the rooftop entrance earlier than yesterday. When Long Shen arrived, everyone looked at him even more intensely than yesterday. Long Shen had shown them the highest level of swordsmanship and left them not only dazzled through his breathtaking demonstrations, but also a yearning for the pursuit of the strong.
Those who could pass five levels and cut six generals* were not ordinary people. Everyone had their own insights and expertise. Ba Sang was inspired by this and planned to apply it to his own sword technique, while Dong Zhi saw a gap so wide like the boundless sky between him and Long Shen.
*(过五关斩六将) Metaphor for being brave and determined to overcome difficulties. From Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
“I won’t demonstrate anymore today. You can practice on your own. If you have any questions, you can ask them.”
As soon as he finished speaking, Liu Qingbo stepped forward to ask for advice. Everyone secretly chastised themselves for being too slow.
Dong Zhi did not stay in place to listen to their conversation. This wasn’t because of any prejudices he had against Liu Qingbo, but because he knew that his current understanding of swordsmanship wasn’t deep enough. It’s taboo to run before you learn how to walk. Instead of rushing to the next level, it was better to begin with the fundamentals.
When Liu Qingbo finished, several other people came forward to ask questions. After waiting for a long time, Dong Zhi finally had his chance to tell Long Shen his questions and difficulties.
Long Shen agreed with him. “If you want to learn swordsmanship, you must first familiarize yourself with its basic movements so that you can make rapid attacks and react quickly in order to take the lead against your enemies.”
He took the Qingzhu Sword and turned his wrist.
“This is the sword flower technique*. If the speed is fast enough, it can keep the enemy from approaching for a while.”
*Sword technique where you spin the sword with your wrist. See this YouTube video for a demonstration.
After speaking, Long Shen started to turn his wrists several times in a row causing the sword to gleam like a light as if it was a flower* blooming. As soon as he stopped, the sea of flowers disappeared, and the myriad of changes closed in his palm. Long Shen pierced the sword flatly at a willow leaf hanging in front of him.
*Named after the White-Fleshed Pitahaya flower (also known as the Sword Flower).
“This is a lunge. Practice your wrist strength and eyesight.”
He raised his wrist slightly, holding the tip of the sword facing up.
“This is a feint.”
The sword’s body swept forward flatly, and the branches broke in response.
“This is a sweep.”
Long Shen put the sword back in its sheath and handed it back to him.
“The movements of using the sword are very simple. As long as you practice these movements to the extreme, no ordinary person will be a match for you. You don’t have to rush to learn swordsmanship now. Just learn these basic moves first.”
Dong Zhi recalled his movements just now and thoughtfully said, “How ingenious. It’s so simple.”
Long Shen nodded approvingly. “Swordsmanship is extracted from basic movements and combined with actual combat experience. It can be regarded as a collection of essence, but you haven’t learned it yet.”
Dong Zhi’s questions weren’t long. After quickly answering them, Long Shen moved on to help others. Dong Zhi stayed behind and recalled Long Shen’s words just now as he tried to imitate his movements. He stabbed the sword over and over again, recovered, then repeated his stabbing motion.
At first, he couldn’t hold on for even ten minutes, and he had to take a break after a while. Eventually, the practice time increased and the rest time became shorter. His wrists and arms seemed to become more accustomed to this kind of force. At first, when he stabbed using the sword, he couldn’t last long at all, but gradually, in addition to improvements in his accuracy, the hand holding the sword was much more stable as well.
Dong Zhi knew that he wasn’t as good as those orthodox practitioners who had studied their techniques since they were children, but he could make up for his shortcomings with diligence. If he continued his practice, he would be rewarded one day. Heaven rewarded the diligent. That was all that needed to be said.
There was no meeting today. Since he had no other arrangements except for giving classes to the potential recruits, it was rare for Long Shen to get off work early.
Though he had a house in the city, it was only him who lived there, so he never went back on ordinary days. Long Shen thought that he would have to clean it up when he returned, so he dispelled that thought and instead went back to the dorms.
When he reached the door to his room, he saw that the door to the opposite room was closed. He paused for a bit before turning around to knock on it.
“Who is it?” A voice inquired from inside.
A bang sounded so loudly that even Long Shen could hear it through the door. After a while, the door opened, showing Dong Zhi limping with a bitter face.
Long Shen frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Dong Zhi revealed a painful smile. “Nothing. Ba Sang said I didn’t have enough strength, so I was practicing my arm strength with two stools and accidently dropped one on my foot.”
He let Long Shen in. “What can I do for you?”
Long Shen saw two round stools made of wood and surmised it was one of those that hit Dong Zhi’s feet.
“I was negligent last time. With your current ability, it’s a bit too advanced to use the Qingzhu Sword. If you use an ordinary peach wood sword, the effect should be the same.”
Dong Zhi asked nervously, “Then you want to take back the sword?”
Long Shen looked at his round cat-like eyes. He originally wanted to say no, but somehow, he had an urge to tease him.
“What if I say yes?”
The hair on Dong Zhi’s head seemed to droop along with his eyes. He didn’t want to beg or cheat, so with a pitiful cry, he turned around and took down the Qingzhu Sword hanging on the wall and obediently handed it to Long Shen.
Besides, the sword was originally lent to him for practice, and Long Shen never said he wanted to give it to him. Now that the rightful owner wants it back, it was only reasonable.
Seeing how Dong Zhi took it so seriously, it was hard for Long Shen to say anything. He took the sword and heard Dong Zhi say, “Boss Long, when I have the strength to be worthy of this sword, can I borrow it again? Er, I mean, as long as you’re not using it, of course.”
Long Shen couldn’t help but laugh.
“Go and wait for me in front of my office. I need to get something first.”
Huh? Dong Zhi was confused, but before he had time to think about it, Long Shen had already left. He climbed the stairs all the way to Long Shen’s office and loitered around for almost 20 minutes before he saw Long Shen coming.
He saw that Long Shen wasn’t holding the Qingzhu Sword any longer but instead two stones the size of a baby’s fist. This only made Dong Zhi more inexplicable.
Long Shen took out his key and opened the door, put the stones on the coffee table, turned around and rummaged in the drawer, taking out two red silk threads.
“Reach out,” he said.
Dong Zhi didn’t ask much, and obediently stretched out his hand. Long Shen wound the silk thread around the stone a few times, then tied it into a knot. He then tied the extra length of the other end to Dong Zhi’s wrist.
The red silk thread wrapped around his fair wrist three times before Long Shen tied it into a loose knot.
“In the future, if you want to practice, stick a piece of paper on the wall and then practice calligraphy upright. This is the ancient ways of practicing calligraphy by hanging weights on your wrist. Don’t tie it to your joints, as it’ll hurt your bones, so go up half an inch. To increase your strength, gradually replace the stone to make it heavier. This in turn will eventually give you a more powerful force when practicing your sword. The characters you draw must be correct with no smudges from trembling.”
Dong Zhi’s eyes shone like stars. This was a great method, and he wouldn’t be hit by a stool when using it. He picked up a pen on the coffee table and immediately gestured in thin air. Although his hands were soon sore, it showed that this kind of practice was indeed useful.
Long Shen got up and untied one of the swords hanging on the wall. “Practice with this from now on.”
Although the scabbard was well maintained, it still had traces left by the years. The few gems inlaid on the scabbard were slightly dim, but its former magnificence could still be vaguely seen.
Dong Zhi still remembered that when he came to Long Shen’s office for the first time, he saw two swords hanging on his wall. At that time, he made up a lot of dog-blooded stories in his mind regarding their history, but never would he have imagined that Long Shen would give him one of them without even blinking an eye.
“The Qingzhu Sword is too valuable, and this one is even more beloved to you. How can I take it?”
Long Shen shook his head and said, “A sword’s purpose is for it to be used, not something to be beloved.”
Dong Zhi blurted out, “Isn’t it from your lover?”
Long Shen frowned. “Who told you that?”
Dong Zhi: ‘…I made it up by myself.’ But he couldn’t say this, so he could only dryly laugh and play dumb.
Long Shen said, “This sword is called Changshou.”
Dong Zhi: ‘Eh, what a strange name!’
It was no wonder Dong Zhi had developed such an imagination. After all, the Qingzhu Sword had hundreds of years of history behind it, but Long Shen had lent it to him so casually. These two that had been hanging in his office must be at least the level of Mo Ye*, but he had never heard of their names before.
*Reminder: Swords made by couple Gan Jiang and Mo Ye. See lore glossary for details.
Long Shen said, “The original scabbard of this sword has been lost. The current scabbard was rebuilt by its owner during the Ming Dynasty. The owner was a wealthy businessman, so the scabbard was extremely gorgeous.”
Dong Zhi suddenly realized why the sword, which looked so simple, didn’t fit with the scabbard. The difference in their styles was quite incompatible.
He asked tremblingly, “If the scabbard came from the Ming Dynasty, how old is this sword?”
Long Shen: “Fortunately, it’s just from the Sui Dynasty*.”
*Clarity: The Sui Dynasty is from 581-618. The Ming Dynasty is from 1368-1644. This novel takes place in 2017, so it would make this sword at least 1,400 years old.
What do you mean just?!
It’s from the Sui Dynasty?!
Are you a local tyrant? Most definitely a local tyrant!
Dong Zhi suddenly felt that he was holding a hot soldering iron in his hand.
He gulped for a moment. “Has this sword been insured?”
If he lost it, he couldn’t afford to pay it back.
Long Shen said lightly, “It doesn’t matter. A sword is a murder weapon. If someone tries to steal it, the thief will not meet a good end.”
The male god was a local tyrant. Dong Zhi felt he was under great pressure. How could he chase someone that could easily throw out a sword from the Sui Dynasty so casually?!
Is this the real reason why Long Shen never had a lover?
It was very likely that a person who stood on the top of a high mountain and overlooked all sentient beings would not even spare a glance at ordinary humans who were still climbing said mountain.
Dong Zhi guessed that Long Shen would probably only appreciate the value of someone like Bill Gates*. Thinking of this, Dong Zhi imagined a scene of Long Shen and Bill Gates falling in love and suddenly felt guilty.
*Co-founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world.
No matter how powerful Long Shen is, he couldn’t guess what was going on in the head of the person that was sitting opposite him right now.
“This sword is slightly heavier than the Qingzhu Sword, but if you continue to practice your wrist strength, there should be no problem.”
Dong Zhi nodded, then immediately thought of something and said, “Boss Long, can I take this sword out? Will it be damaged if I encounter a powerful monster on the level of an Archfiend?”
Long Shen originally wanted to say that this sword was given to him, so it was his own business if it broke, but when he saw that the other party thought of it as something borrowed instead of given, he estimated that Dong Zhi would categorically refuse to accept it, so he said. “No, this sword has been blessed with incantations, so it’ll be more helpful than the Qingzhu Sword.”
For a sword from the Sui Dynasty, it was estimated to be more than 1,400 years old. During this period, he didn’t know how many hands it had passed through and how many heroes had wielded it. Being able to be passed down all the way until now, its previous owners were most definitely not ordinary people. It was said that the more blood soaked the sword, the more ferocious it was. In this way, this sword must be more precious than the Qingzhu Sword.
Having thought that, first he was given the Qingzhu Sword, and now the Changshou Sword. Liu Qingbo didn’t even get scraps, let alone this, so did this mean that the male god had some bias in his heart?
“Thank you. I will try my best to live up to it.” He held the sword with a pure and sincere expression. “Last time I said that I wanted to invite you to dinner. You just happened to be free today. I found a nice private restaurant. Would you like to try it?”
He Yu and Kang Chaosheng had both gone on a business trip, and Zhong Yuyi wasn’t here, so there was no “lightbulbs” around. This was the perfect opportunity that he needed to seize. Sure enough, Long Shen had no reason to refuse. He hesitated for a bit before nodding.
Dong Zhi struck while the iron was still hot. “Then let’s go. There’s no traffic on the road now.”
Strictly speaking, this should be the first time the two of them have gone out for an engagement alone. With a smile on his face and a happy heart, Dong Zhi decided to take advantage of this meal to improve his favorability. It does seem more feasible to get closer when alcohol can loosen them up.
Despite inviting Long Shen, he felt embarrassed as Long Shen was the one who had to drive. But what could he do? He was still a “drifter*” in the capital. Let alone a house, he didn’t even have a car.
*[Beipiao] (北漂) Refers to non-locals or foreigners who work and live in Beijing.
The car moved forward, and the scenery flew past them outside the windows as Long Shen drove steadily.
“Boss Long, when did you come to the capital?”
Long Shen thought seriously for a while, then shook his head. “I forgot. It’s been so many years ago.”
How many years is many years? Dong Zhi recalled that he asked him where he was from last time, the other party’s response was also vague. There didn’t seem to be any intentional concealment, as if he really couldn’t remember.
Dong Zhi: “When you first arrived at the Special Administration Bureau, what was it like?”
Long Shen: “It wasn’t called the Special Administration Bureau before. It was just an office under the jurisdiction of the Public Security Bureau. At that time, there were only a few people, just two or three. Zong Long, who you met last time, was the head of the department then. Later, it became a sub-branch of the National Security Bureau. It’s only in recent years that it has separated and become its own department.”
Dong Zhi thought this was odd. “How many years ago? Zong Lao looks very young!”
“In the early days after the founding of the People’s Republic of China,” Long Shen said.
“Isn’t it impossible to be refined from essence after the founding of the People’s Republic of China?”
Long Shen turned his head to look at him. “Who told you such rules?”
Dong Zhi smiled. “It’s a joke that’s circulating online, which can’t be regarded as true. Of course it can’t be true!”
He thought that Zong Lao would be in her 60’s at this time, but if her roots traced back to the early days of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, then just how old was Zong Lao?
Could it be that she’s not a human? This would make the most sense. The Special Administration Bureau had Kan Chaosheng, so it wasn’t unusual for there to be others like him.
He couldn’t help but cast his gaze in the rearview mirror to look at Long Shen, who was driving intently. If he didn’t speak, Long Shen would rarely take the initiative to make conversation.
The atmosphere was a bit stuffy, but even so, even if Long Shen didn’t speak at all for an entire day, Dong Zhi would still feel happy that he could share such a moment alone with him. Metaphorically put, it was like facing your favorite rose. Even if the rose couldn’t speak, just by looking at it every day, it could still motivate one’s heart. What was more, this was the most unique rose in the world in his opinion.
“Since you have been in the Special Administration Bureau for so many years, you have probably encountered something particularly weird or dangerous. Can you tell me any stories?” He smiled as he asked.
Long Shen was a person who didn’t like to speak nonsense. He wouldn’t mince words and would just directly state them without any superfluity. Even when he was teaching, he didn’t act like Director Jiang, who would ramble incessantly.
Dong Zhi had never seen him chatting with others. Outside of work, it looked like he was always alone, seemingly having no friends or no forms of entertainment, but it didn’t seem like he resented communication. At least he never showed any impatience when he was speaking.
This was a very good start, and a good start is half the success.
Long Shen remained quiet for a while, as if he was thinking about the past. Then he said, “One year, a batch of artifacts were unearthed in Hubei, which brought out a stacked tomb of three.”
Dong Zhi interrupted embarrassedly, “What do you mean stacked tombs?”
“Some places are regarded as having good fengshui, so they will be repeatedly surveyed as burial sites. Future generations may not know that there were already tombs there in place, so they built another tomb on the same site, thus creating the stacked tombs.”
Dong Zhi became intrigued.
“At that time, the tomb at the top was a feudal king in the Ming Dynasty, and in the middle was an eunuch in the Tang Dynasty. The tomb at the bottom can be traced back to the early Spring and Autumn period*. At that time, the area was in real estate development. If the Ming tomb was found at the construction site and reported to the archaeological department, construction would have to be shut down. The developer didn’t want to delay profits, so they hid the matter, but accidents kept happening on the site.”
*Corresponds to roughly the first half of the Eastern Zhou period 770 to 476 BCE.
Long Shen wasn’t really a suitable storyteller. The ups and downs and eeriness of the story told by him came across as too flat and straightforward. It was too concise, but it still sent chills down Dong Zhi’s spine.
“What happened after?”
“Eventually, something from the crane fell and killed a person on the spot. The developer turned the incident into a small matter and suppressed it. After a few days, a shelf collapsed, killing around six workers. The matter couldn’t be concealed any longer. The person who put up the shelf insisted that he didn’t cut corners, but it was inexplicable how the shelf had collapsed. The worker who drove the crane also said that he had watched the hook slowly straighten with his very own eyes.”
Dong Zhi took a deep breath. “And then?”
“Later, this matter was handed over to us. We went to investigate with the archaeological team and discovered that there was an Eastern Zhou tomb below, and the owner of that tomb was sentenced to death for adultery with the King of Chu’s concubine. The King of Chu hated him so much that he ordered people to bury him there so that he would live there forever and never surpass him. After years of resentment, the tomb became a hostile place, nourishing on blood and bones, creating a perfect environment for evil spirits. If we had been one step too late, the demonic energy of the coffin would’ve leaked out and the spirits would’ve taken shape. Don’t bother mentioning the construction site, but even nearby residential areas may not have been able to escape.”
Dong Zhi thought it was strange. “But didn’t you say that the place was regarded as having good fengshui?”
Long Shen said, “There are no absolutes in the world. Misfortune is dependent on blessing, and blessings are dependent on misfortune.”
Dong Zhi replied, “Everything is relative. An auspicious place can be transformed into an unfortunate place, and likewise, the reverse is true.”
Long Shen nodded. “The <Book of Burial>* states the energy of life disperses as the wind rises, and halts as the water becomes restricted. The ancients gathered the wind so as not to let it disperse, so water could continue to flow. Henceforth, this is known as fengshui. Fengshui flows endlessly and never stagnates. However, the tomb of Chu used eight black nails to crucify the eight compass points of vitality, cursing the tomb. Based on outward appearance, the site remains a good place for fengshui. However, once the deceased are buried, not only will they be unable to bless their descendants, but they will also never rest in everlasting peace and their souls will be bound to the tomb.”
*Book proposing the theory of fengshui.
Dong Zhi asked thoughtfully, “Did the King of Chu also have the purpose of deceiving latecomers by doing this? The two people in the Tang Dynasty and Ming Dynasty thought it was a fengshui treasure but never suspected it was a cursed place.”
A look of approval appeared in Long Shen’s eyes. “Yes, according to our speculation, the King of Chu probably had this purpose at the time. The entire cemetery was designed to have a wide top and a narrow bottom, similar to a funnel, so that vitality could be continuously transmitted. The two tombs above served as nourishment for the bottom tomb to continue endlessly circulating resentment that eventually transforms into demons.”
While talking, they arrived at their destination.
Dong Zhi has such an active imagination.