Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 49: Can I introduce myself to him?
Dong Zhi was too excited that he couldn’t fall back asleep. After Zhong Yuyi left, in high spirits, he flipped around on the bed for over half an hour, as if he was like a smoldering pancake.
Oh my god. He actually invited a righteous god in his first attempt. Is there such a genius in the world! But geniuses need to be humble, modest, and have humility.
He narrowed his eyes for three minutes before he suddenly thought of something.
Since it was clairvoyance, then everything he saw just now should have happened in real time, right?
Long Shen’s meeting. Being underwater. The Japanese man.
The more he thought about it, the more Dong Zhi felt something was wrong. He got up and immediately texted Long Shen. [Boss Long, are you free now? I have something to tell you.]
After waiting for a while, the phone rang. Long Shen had taken the initiative to call him.
He hurriedly picked it up. “Boss Long, why are you calling?”
Long Shen: “Didn’t you say you have something to tell me?”
It seems that he had left a reliable impression on the other party, as he reached out shortly after he sent his message, signaling that Long Shen believes in him.
Dong Zhi felt proud momentarily before he hurriedly got down to business. “Were you in a meeting just now? About half an hour ago. It was in a conference room. Boss Wu was sitting on the left and Boss Song was on the right.”
There was a pause before he replied, “Yes.”
Dong Zhi then recounted the three scenes he had just seen through his clairvoyance.
Long Shen paid careful attention to the second scene. “What else did you see in the water besides the corpses?”
Dong Zhi tried to recall. “It seems to be just an ordinary lake… But I seem to recall seeing some buildings faintly in the distance, but I couldn’t see it clearly. I was quickly pulled away, so I didn’t stay long. However, those water corpses were particularly strange. Their demeanor and posture are still as if they were alive. I thought they were stone statues at first.”
Long Shen: “What about clothing? What dynasty are they from?”
Dong Zhi: “I can’t tell, but judging from their hairstyle, it shouldn’t be modern.”
Long Shen said deeply, “In the third scene, did you see the appearance of the cloaked man in the end?”
Dong Zhi: “No. I saw you looking up at me during the first scene. Did you really see me?”
Long Shen: “I could only feel a sense of peeping, but I couldn’t see anything.”
Dong Zhi hurriedly said, “Then I suspect that the cloaked figure may have sensed my peeping too. The last thing I saw before the scene was over was it reaching out with its hand that was a white bone!”
The other end of the phone fell silent.
Dong Zhi: “Boss Long?”
“I see,” Long Shen said. “For these days, don’t invite Gods anymore and under normal circumstances, don’t use this spell so casually in the future.”
“Do you understand?”
Long Shen’s tone became stern. Although Dong Zhi didn’t understand why, he agreed.
Long Shen said, “If you encounter anything strange again, feel free to call me.”
After a pause, he said again, “Have a good rest.”
Dong Zhi obediently said, “Okay, goodbye.”
After hanging up the call, Long Shen looked at the files on his desk blankly. His thoughts have already flown away. He didn’t know what he was thinking, but he only felt his eyebrows frowning tighter. With a slight movement, he dialed He Yu’s number.
When the phone line picked up, a careless voice spoke out. “Hello, the number you have dialed is not in service for the time being. Please try your call again at a later time.”
Long Shen: “He Yu.”
Sensing trouble was brewing, He Yu hastily became like a dog who obediently was ordered to sit. “Yes, what are your orders?”
Long Shen: “How is it going over there now?”
He Yu: “Ugh, don’t even talk about it. The place where the accident happened is near Mount Laohei. We’ve searched all over, but we can’t dig the entire area three feet deep. The water’s been flooding the area every day, but don’t bother mentioning demons and ghosts. There’s not even any signs of water sprites! Say Boss, we have been feeding mosquitoes here for almost a month. It isn’t an issue to continue on like this but when can we go back?”
*Kelpie (水鬼) Shaft-shifting spirit usually portrayed as a black horse-like creature that can adopt human form. Usually, it lives in bodies of water like rivers and lakes. See Kinky Thoughts for lore.
Long Shen asked, “Except for Mount Laohei, what about other places?”
He Yu said, “Fuxian Lake is really too big. Even if you search just along the coast, there may not be results for half a year. The water in that area constantly rises and falls. I don’t know how many dark water caves there are or where to go. Kan Chaosheng is now going into the water every day but can’t seem to find anything. At this rate, we may have to ask Zong Lao to come out!”
Long Shen ignored his joke. “Don’t just look along the coastal line and Mount Laohei. Make sure you search the middle of the lake as well.”
He Yu smelled something unusual. “Boss, are you privy to something?”
Long Shen said, “I’ll tell Song Zhicun and group three about it. You make Chaosheng work harder.”
He Yu: “Well, I’ll relay that to him.”
After ending the call with He Yu, Long Shen thought for a while, and then dialed Zhong Yuyi’s number.
The next day, when everyone gathered, they received a notice from Zhong Yuyi. His class would come to an early end. It wasn’t only Dong Zhi, but everyone else was inexplicable. However, Zhong Yuyi said that this notice came from the higher ups, so they all had to return to the city in advance.
While they had “finished” their course, Li Ying and the others had just started under Ding Lan’s leadership. This meant they had to wait for the others to come back before they could move to the next course together.
With nothing to do during this time, they all had free reign. While everyone came to apply for the Special Administration Bureau and had passed the written exam and interview, some, like Gu Meiren, certainly didn’t come with the mentality of idleness and fooling around. For some inexplicable reason, now with this extra period of “vacation”, they felt depressed as they had nothing to learn.
“Did Old Zhong disclose what the course of the next stage was?”
After they came back from a meal, someone asked Dong Zhi.
Dong Zhi smiled bitterly. “No, he’s also acting strange.”
Zhong Yuyi didn’t have many reservations. After a few days of getting acquainted with everyone, they had stopped calling him Teacher Zhong and instead switched to Old Zhong.
Gu Meiren comforted. “There should be arrangements from above, so we can just take it easy.”
Chi Banxia propped up her chin and sighed. “If I knew about this, it would’ve been better to go with Li Ying and the others. I heard that they stumbled upon a tough situation in the mausoleum yesterday. It seems that it was a lich*.”
*Fly Stiff (飞僵) A classification of zombies that becomes a demon after turning into a scorpion, allowing it to fly, thus known as a flying stiff (stiff being that the body is hard like a corpse after rigor mortis). See lore for details || I’ll be using lich as the translation.
The so-called lich is a classification of zombies and tomb robbers collectively referred to as “zongzi1“. It would take at least a hundred years for a zombie to skeletonize and become a lich. Liches were covered with white hair and float, as if they could fly, which was why they were called liches. On top of liches, there was also other classifications2 such as jade liches and white liches. The catacombs that produce these zombies must be extremely fierce to produce these things, but it could also be a situation like in Long Shen’s story, where an original place had good fengshui but was actually artificially changed to be auspicious to deceive latecomers.
1Name after the dish, it’s a code word among tomb robbers referring to a relatively well-preserved corpse in a tomb that has turned into a zombie.
2Clarity: According to Chinese folklore, there are 18 kinds of “zombies”. I won’t list them all since some of the translations don’t really make sense translated. The lich is one of these types.
For ordinary people, encountering this kind of situation is a bad luck. Countless tomb robbers have died while trying to rob a tomb through the ages, either through traps or being infected by corpse poison. However, for practitioners like them, one encounter only equals one more experience. Besides, there’s also a powerful leader mentoring the team, so generally they won’t encounter any great danger.
So when they all heard that Li Ying and the others had encountered a lich, everyone’s first reaction was not fear but envy.
Chi Banxia: “I heard Li Ying say that we will send representatives to participate in the World Exchange Conference next year. There’s also a certain quota for newcomers. Since we have one less training course than them, I wonder if it will affect our recommendation?”
Gu Meiren: “I don’t think so. After all, it was not our initiative to withdraw from the course. It was a decision made from above.”
Zhou Yue said, “I’m not worried about the recommendation qualification. The competition for this kind of important international-level event must be very fierce. Not only newcomers but also many seniors would want to go. If we can pass the training, the bureau should handle everything accordingly.”
Ou-Yang Yin smiled and said, “Our family has helped people with fengshui for generations. Occasionally, we would encounter one or two tricky things. If I run into such a situation, and you want more experience, I’ll let you know. Of course, you’ll also be paid as well.”
To everyone, though, remuneration was second, and above all else, it was better to have something to do than be idle every day.
Even with the class cancelled, Dong Zhi still had many things to do. His comic serialization was reaching a critical plot point and had an increasing number of people chasing it. They were hungry for more, as they left comments urging him to update. Besides that, he also climbs the stairs to the rooftop every day for practice. He never slacked off and felt very fulfilled in his life. However, he didn’t express any of his opinions rashly as he just sat there resting his chin on his hand and listening to everyone else obediently, while still recalling the event of when he had invited God in and thinking about Long Shen during his meeting.
At that time, everyone else looked bored while Long Shen listened very carefully and took notes from time to time. Recalling that look, perhaps he would try once again to draw Long Shen’s eyes and solve his distress of being unable to finish his portrait before.
The latter two scenes, though, were very strange. Listening to Long Shen’s tone, he seemed to know where the second scene was. There was also that Japanese man who looked extremely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. Where had he seen this person before?
When a pot of beef in sour soup was served, it finally relieved everyone’s depression and also diverted Dong Zhi’s attention. Everyone had a great meal and enjoyed their time socializing. After the meal, they parted ways and made an appointment to contact each other later, then they dispersed.
Dong Zhi declined the offer of others to give him a ride, saying that he wanted to walk after dinner, so he walked along the streets alone. As he walked, he discovered that the street he was currently on was the road filled with antique stores that Long Shen had brought him once to get the Qingzhu Sword.
Thinking of this, Dong Zhi couldn’t help but dispel the idea of taking a taxi back, and instead walked towards the antique shop Long Shen had taken him to. Since it was still broad daylight, the store was naturally open, and the person working there was still the same uncle he saw last time.
The uncle seemed familiar with him. When he saw him come in, he wanted to greet him, but hesitantly said, “You’re that gentle looking young man?”
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “I came with Boss Long that night when he took back his Qingzhu Sword. Do you remember?”
“So it turned out to be you. I do remember!” The uncle patted his forehead. “Since it was at night and the lighting wasn’t good, I couldn’t see you clearly. No wonder why I felt your face looked so familiar. Sit down, sit down!”
He greeted Dong Zhi and motioned for him to sit down on a chair nearby.
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “What is your name?”
“Just call me Uncle Qian. So, how’s the Qingzhu Sword?”
Dong Zhi asked curiously, “How do you know it was given to me?”
Uncle Qian smiled and said, “I have known Boss Long for so many years, but I have never seen him bring someone with him when he takes back swords, so it means that sword must be for you.”
Hearing this made Dong Zhi’s heart happy. He took advantage of the situation and asked, “How many years have you known him?”
Uncle Qian: “It must be at least 20 years.”
Dong Zhi was surprised. “So many years? Then Boss Long must’ve been very young at that time, right?”
Uncle Qian smiled and said, “No, he hasn’t changed much and looks pretty much as he did 20 years ago.”
Dong Zhi pondered it thoughtfully.
“By the way,” Uncle Qian thought of something and said, “I have a bronze mirror here that someone just brought over. I want your help to assess its value so I can price it. You’re Boss Long’s apprentice, so you must be knowledgeable. Won’t you take a look?”
Dong Zhi said, “Why do you think I am Boss Long’s apprentice?”
Uncle Qian: “You look like you would be his apprentice. Is it possible that you’re his son?”
When he heard those words, Dong Zhi almost spat out the water that he had just sipped on.
“It’s better to be an apprentice!”
Uncle Qian laughed. “Is that so?”
Dong Zhi scratched his nose. While he wanted to called Long Shen master, he was afraid the other party wouldn’t respond.
Uncle Qian took out the box containing the bronze mirror. “According to my speculation, the age of this mirror is probably before the Zhou Dynasty, but I’m not entirely sure. It could be even earlier.”
If it was earlier than the Zhou Dynasty, it would either be the Xia and Shang Dynasties, or the period of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors*.
*The Three Sovereigns span from 4,000-8,000+ years ago, while the Five Emperors period was about 4,000 years ago.
Dong Zhi was surprised. He took a closer look at the bronze mirror in the uncle’s hand. There was a pattern carved on the back of the mirror, but it wasn’t the usual ordinary figures of flowers, birds, or bats, but rather a… phoenix? Behind the phoenix, there seemed to be undulating mountains and a sun rising eastward.
“To be honest, I don’t know anything about antique appraisal. I’m afraid it will have to be done by Boss Long.”
In general, if the antique was old, the bronze on it would oxidize, discoloring and blurring the text and patterns made of bronze to varying degrees. However, this mirror looked as if it was 70-80% new, which made him suspect it could be a fake.
Dong Zhi couldn’t help raising his concern. “Uncle Qian, the pattern on the mirror looks so new…”
Uncle Qian lowered his voice. “I know what you are worried about. The pattern is new, and it may have just been taken out of an anaerobic environment.”
Dong Zhi understood. “So it hasn’t been unearthed until recently?”
Uncle Qian nodded. “The person who brought it here is a junior of an acquaintance of mine. He’s usually a broker who’s responsible for exchanging these items. He doesn’t actually go to the tombs himself. Occasionally, he would get new things in his hand. There’s a character on it that I can’t understand. Show it to Boss Long for me. If the original isn’t clean, I don’t want it.”
Text to the dead*?
*(殄文) Also known as the water book, or ghost book, or anti-book, it is written text for the dead. Legends have it that it was created by a man named Lu Duogong. It’s ancient writings that mainly record cultural information such as astronomy, geography, religion, folklore, ethnics, and philosophy.
Dong Zhi took a closer look at the back of the mirror again and saw that there were indeed a few strange symbols and text. He hadn’t paid much attention to it previously. When Uncle Qian said this, he remembered that once when he was on the train, he saw a fairytale book that lay in the corner of the soft sleeper. When he opened it, it turned out to be a notebook that was full of writing he couldn’t understand. He Yu later said that those were Long Shen’s notes.
Above those notes, he realized they were vague text that looked similar to this.
“What is the text for the dead?”
“This kind of text originated from the ancient ancestors, at least before the Xia Dynasty or much earlier. Some people say that it’s the writing of the gods. During that time, only a great witch in charge of sacrifices could understand it. Later, with the oracle bone script*, the writing gradually died out. Legends have it that there are still a few sorcerers in Guizhou who can do this kind of writing. They are revered as ‘ghost masters’ and their writings become a communication between yin and yang, which is specifically written for the dead. The texts are gathered into documents, forming a collection of works generally called the Book of the Dead, or the Book of Rebirth.”
*Was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bones—animal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromantic divination—in the late 2nd millennium BC and is the earliest known form of Chinese writing.
Dong Zhi: “Boss Long can read such thing?”
Uncle Qian smiled and said, “Which is why I have to ask him about this matter.”
Dong Zhi hesitated. “Uncle Qian, if this is stolen goods…?”
Wouldn’t this cause trouble for Long Shen?
Uncle Qian: “Don’t worry, Boss Long knows how to deal with it. I don’t want to accept anything unclean. I’m not looking for trouble. You need to tell him that after three days, if the owner wants it returned intact*, he must come and take it. Afterwards, what they want to do with it is their business, but I can’t have it affect my small business.”
*Return to Zhao (完璧归赵) Idiom refers to returning something intact to the original owner.
Dong Zhi laughed. “Uncle Qian, do you call this a small business? Last time I went back, Boss Long told me that if you take the mountain made of jade in your shop to an auction house, you can at least get one or two thousand for it!”
He deliberately omitted the 10,000’s to avoid making it sound too eye-catching.
Uncle Qian couldn’t help feeling a bit proud. “What are you saying? It’s just a piece of rough stone that I have a home. When I cut into it, what did I find? Bright imperial jade, and the best quality! After that, I didn’t let anyone cut it anymore, as I wanted to pass it on to my children and grandchildren!”
Dong Zhi gave him a thumbs up. “You are a gentleman who loves money, and you make it in a proper way!”
Uncle Qian was extremely flattered by him, and his attitude became more affectionate.
“Anyway, I heard from the junior who brought over this mirror that there are quite a few foreigners who are attracted to it if it has a high appraisal. I thought that since this is a treasure from our ancestors, no matter what, it shouldn’t fall into the hands of foreigners. Don’t you agree?”
Dong Zhi repeatedly nodded. “Yes, you are right!”
Uncle Qian: “The truth of the matter is, there are many genuine and fake antiques in this industry. Many of them are from unknown origins, so everyone’s walking in a gray area. If I’m found out that I reported it to the Relevant Department, then my reputation would be ruined in this industry. Therefore, this is a big risk I’m taking this time. No matter what, you must bring back the mirror in three days.”
Dong Zhi put the mirror in his backpack and smiled. “Don’t worry, I promise the first thing I do when I return is to give it to Boss Long, but do you really believe in me? You don’t need to take my ID card or anything? Such a valuable thing, yet you’re willing to let me take it away?”
Uncle Qian: “If Boss Long is willing to bring you here, that’s enough proof for me.”
Dong Zhi felt a little guilty. “But I haven’t been about to call him Master yet.”
Uncle Qian squinted. “Are you not diligent or pious enough?”
Dong Zhi looked wronged. “I can barely wait to invite him to eat three meals a day. Isn’t that diligent enough? I’m afraid he’ll be annoyed if he sees me too much!”
Uncle Qian laughed. “That’s just who he is. I believe, as my grandson put it, boring. Boring1, right?”
Dong Zhi: “You mean mensao1?”
1Clarity: The word the Uncle is trying to think of is [mensao] (闷骚) but he instead incorrectly remembers it as [menshen] (闷什) which means boring/stuffy. [Mensao] is a catchphrase that is popular among young people (thus he mentioned why his grandson used this word to describe Long Shen) and it refers to a person who is quiet on the outside but passionate on the inside. Such people do not easily express their emotions but, on specific occasions, often behave unexpectedly. Such actions, to a certain extent, reflect the true personality of that person. || I’m leaving it in pinyin form since I can’t think of an English equivalent that describes what it truly means.
Uncle Qian: “Yes, he’s just mensao! You have to keep at it!”
Dong Zhi deliberately acted cute*. “Then you give me advice?”
*Selling [meng]/acting cute (卖萌) Refers to purposefully showing one’s cuteness to impress others.
Uncle Qian: “To gain his favor doesn’t mean you need to gift him something. Boss Long is a serious person, so you need to be serious in front of him. You have to learn more and ask more. Don’t be afraid that you’ll make a fool of yourself. It’s better to ask than be scared and pretend you understand but really don’t.”
Dong Zhi nodded and asked, “Does he have any hobbies?”
Uncle Qian thought for a while. “Not that I can tell. He occasionally put ancient swords on consignment with me and would also ask me to help keep an eye out for them. I asked if he liked to collect ancient swords, but he said no. Having said that, he usually lives in an ascetic way. He doesn’t smoke or drink, so I really don’t know what he does for enjoyment… Oh, but I did see him feed the stray cat that’s around here a few times.”
Dong Zhi: “In the years you’ve known him, have you seen Boss Long with maybe a girlfriend or wife?”
Uncle Qian laughed. “I haven’t seen one before. You’re the first person he has brought by, but I know that you practitioners are different from ordinary people. It’s said that there are many bachelors in your Special Administration Bureau. Perhaps it’s because you guys are usually too busy. If you can introduce him to a girlfriend, let alone be an apprentice, it should be no problem for you to be his godson!”
Dong Zhi muttered, ‘Can I introduce myself to him?’
Uncle Qian didn’t hear clearly. “What was that?”
“It’s nothing,” Dong Zhi said with a smile. “I can guarantee the task you entrusted me with will be completed.”
Uncle Qian nodded in satisfaction. “By the way, I have a sword here that I recently acquired. It’s said that it was Sun Quan’s* sword during the Three Kingdoms period. I’ve looked at it, but it doesn’t seem to be his usual sword, and its quality is only average, maybe slightly inferior to the Qingzhu Sword. Can you help me go back and ask Boss Long if he wants it-“
*His courtesy name is Zhongmou. Founder of the state of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period. Unlike his rivals Cao and Liu Bei, Sun Quan was much younger than they were and governed his state mostly separate of politics and ideology. He is sometimes portrayed as neutral, considering he adopted a flexible foreign policy between his two rivals with the goal of pursuing the greatest interests for the country.
At this moment, a young man came in from outside. “Uncle Qian!”
Uncle Qian raised his head. “A’Shun*, why are you here so soon? It’s not time yet, is it?”
*Clarity: He adds (阿) in front of Shun’s name. This is a term of endearment.
A’Shun’s t-shirt had a few stains on it, and his hair looked like it hadn’t been cut for a long time, which he simply tied back. He walked in with a happy-go-lucky smile.
“Yo, you have guests?”
“What’s the matter?”
A’Shun glanced at Dong Zhi as he replied to Uncle Qian with nothing much, before sitting down on the sofa crossed-legged.
Dong Zhi was about to leave, when suddenly Uncle Qian held him back. “This is my eldest nephew!”
A’Shun gave a goofy smile. “So it turns out he’s your eldest nephew. Not bad, not bad. Sure enough, he looks quite talented, unlike you!”
“Fuck you!” Uncle Qian scolded with a smile. “If you have something to say, spit it out!”
A’Shun looked back and said, “Is the mirror still with you? I am here to take it back.”
Seeing Uncle Qian winking at him, Dong Zhi immediately understood that this should be the one who had sent him the bronze mirror.
The author has something to say:
A small theater that has nothing to do with the text:
Dong Zhi heard that Long Shen had fed a stray cat, so it dawned on him that the male god had pity for the poor and weak, and he’s a caring person. Thus, he deliberately dirtied his clothes and messed up his hair, then squatted outside Long Shen’s bedroom waiting to touch porcelain*.
*(碰瓷) Racketeering. It originated where gangsters would deliberately bump into people while holding fragile porcelain in their hands causing them to drop and break it, then in turn would blackmail the pedestrian to pay for it. || In this context Dong Zhi is pretending to be pitiful to gain Long Shen’s affection.
When Long Shen got back from work and saw him squatting at the door to his room pitifully. Dong Zhi said, “Boss Long, I was robbed and now I have no food to eat. Can I hang out with you for the time being?”
Long Shen: “It just so happens that last time you made a great contribution, and your bonus hasn’t been paid yet. It’s about 20,000. Follow me to fill out the form to get it.”
Dong Zhi: …
Water Sprite/Kelpie (水鬼)
A shape-shifting spirit in Scottish folklore that is usually described as a black horse-like creature that’s able to adopt human form. Some accounts state the kelpie retains its hooves when appearing as a human, leading to its association with Satan. It is often seen in bodies of water like rivers and lakes.
The legends vary, though the most famous association with it is the Loch Ness Monster.
You can read more about it on Wikipedia.
Flying Stiff (飞僵) / Lich
A zombie that becomes a demon after years of gathering resentment. After turning into a scorpion it gains the ability to fly/float thus giving it it’s flying aspect. Stiff refers to the corpse of its original zombie form that’s stiff since rigor mortis has set in. Wherever it goes, it is said to be the king of zombies.
It can cause drought, and therefore, when there’s a drought, people will search for zombies and burn them to ashes. According to legends, it can also suck human blood within a hundred paces.
I have decided to translate this to lich because flying stiff sounds awkward and one of the results from baidu gave me the Dota 2 hero lich.
Text to the dead (殄文)
Also known as the water book, or ghost book, or anti-book, it is written text for the dead. Legends have it that it was created by a man named Lu Duogong. It’s ancient writings that mainly record cultural information such as astronomy, geography, religion, folklore, ethnics, and philosophy.