Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
When Dong Zhi saw the other party reaching out towards him, he suddenly reacted and took a step back. Long Shen’s hand stopped in midair.
Dong Zhi grabbed Liu Qingbo and asked him to step back as well, with a cautious expression. “I think what we’re seeing now could be another illusion created by that monster.”
For no other reason, he just felt that what was in front of him was too unreal. Although he missed him thousands of times in his mind, he didn’t expect to see the other person just when he was in danger. The moment his dream came true, it became illusory.
When Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie heard this, they all looked at Long Shen with inquiry and vigilance.
No matter how calm he was, he couldn’t help but laugh a little. “I’m not an illusion.”
Liu Qingbo suddenly asked, “On the first day of our training at the Special Administration Bureau, Director Jiang gave us a lecture. What happened after that?”
Long Shen: “After that, you were trapped in a simulation training of a zombie city. You left your group and hid in the Special Administration Bureau and managed to survive by luck and passed the test.”
Liu Qingbo: ‘…Why did I ask such a cheap question?’
When his black history was mentioned, his face flushed.
Long Shen said to Huo Jie, “Shu Gou is fine. He couldn’t find you, so he returned to shore first.”
His gaze finally fell on Dong Zhi. “Before you left Beijing, you gave me a painting.”
Now the three of them could finally be sure that Long Shen’s arrival was indeed timely, and it wasn’t their hallucinations.
Dong Zhi moved forward, a bit embarrassed. “Master, I didn’t know just now…”
Long Shen: “You’re vigilant enough. You didn’t relax just because you saw me. That is good.”
After being soaked in the lake for so long, they felt clammy and cold inside and out. As soon as this person appeared, everyone had regained their motivation, especially Dong Zhi, but he didn’t show it. There was Huo Jie, who, whether unintentionally or not, had distanced them.
Long Shen didn’t seem to notice. Liu Qingbo asked about the situation on the shore. Even if Long Shen spoke succinctly, what he said took several minutes. At the end, he said, “According to the clues provided by Ming Xian before his death, below this water area is a small dragon vein where a stone tablet is located.”
In just a few hours, so many things had transpired that everyone took a moment of silence in order to digest them.
As for Cheng Yuan, although Huo Yuan didn’t know him, he was an old acquaintance of Dong Zhi and Liu Qingbo. They even participated in the incident regarding the female star, Hui Yiguang, who was possessed by an evil spirit. At that time, everyone didn’t expect that Cheng Yuan would fail the interview, but after they came out, they felt regretful. Cheng Yuan had doubted the results of the exam and wasn’t in high spirits. He told them he was going to train for a period of time. Who knew that when they met again, he had already sided with the enemy’s camp and was willing to merge with demonic energy to become a representative for a demon and fight against his former companions?
They all thought how Cheng Yuan had fallen so far.
Huo Jie asked, “Boss Long, do you think that monster is a Wuzhiqi?”
Long Shen sighed. “Ancient records say that water beasts are dangerous. King Yu the Great* trapped it underwater in the Huai River. It’s called a Wuzhiqi. Shaped like an ape, with golden eyes and snow-white teeth, and extremely nimble.”
*Legendary king in ancient China who was famed for his introduction to flood control, his establishment of the Xia dynasty, which inaugurated dynastic rule in China, and his upright moral character. He figures prominently in Chinese legend of “Great Yu Who Controlled the Waters”.
As an ancient beast, the Wuzhiqi once turned the Huai River upside down so that later generations even used it as a prototype for the Great Sage Monkey King*. It was no wonder that they weren’t a match for it at all.
*Also known as Sun Wukong featured prominently in Journey to the West.
In fact, the strange beasts like the Wuzhiqi and the three-headed giant python that had survived for thousands of years, although they hadn’t reached the point of immortality, they all contained the fate of heaven and earth. They were closely related to the heavens in a way which made practitioners reluctant to kill them, if they actually had the strength to do it. What was more, they were powerful tyrants. The last time they were underground, they failed to kill the three-headed giant python. At most, they could only throw a few punches then flee.
Liu Qingbo was puzzled. “But the Huai River is far from here…”
Long Shen said, “A few years ago, the Huai River wasn’t connected to the Yangtze River. Now the Huai waters have finally poured into the Yangtze River. The underground water veins are already crisscrossed, and many undercurrents can’t be known from just above ground.”
Most of the books written by the ancients were just estimates. Even if they say that they were in Junshan, they weren’t necessarily in it. So if they said they were in the Huai River, it didn’t really specify where exactly that was. From ancient times to the present, legends were simply just legends. As members of the Special Administration Bureau, they could occasionally confirm legends with reality, but for ordinary people who couldn’t see the magnificent fantasy world, this was impossible to do.
Dong Zhi slowly recovered from the shock and embarrassment of suddenly seeing his master and gradually regained his ability to think. He quickly sorted out the general context.
“Was it because, in order to let the Wuzhiqi guard the stone tablet, he didn’t kill it but locked it in here, just like the bone dragon on Changbai Mountain? After Yamamoto Kiyoshi learned about it, he asked Cheng Yuan to come over, kill people and refine their souls to lure the Wuzhiqi with demonic energy and allow it to destroy the stone tablet?”
Long Shen said, “My guess is similar, but in the end, we still have to find the stone tablet first.”
His words solved everyone’s doubts that they had since they went underwater. The three of them were exhausted and had no time to think about it anymore. For a moment, the cave was extremely quiet, with only the rustling of footsteps as they moved forward.
He wasn’t sure whether it was too tired, or they were walking too fast, but Dong Zhi had accidently tripped over and fell towards the stone wall. He used his arm that had just been swiped by the Wuzhiqi and broke out into a cold sweat before letting out a groan.
“What’s wrong?” Long Shen asked. His hand was already stretched out to help Dong Zhi up. Long Shen’s tone of voice was always cold, but his hands were warm, which made Dong Zhi tremble slightly.
“No, it’s nothing.” He found that no matter how many times he had done psychological preparations, when he touched the other party’s skin, he would still have a strange feeling in his heart.
He didn’t want the other party to notice, and he didn’t want him to misunderstand that though he had promised to maintain their master and apprentice relationship on the surface, deep down, he was still harboring frustration. He forced himself to bear the pain and took the initiative to pull his arm back and sidestepped a distance away.
“Your hand may be fractured. Show me when we get out.”
Long Shen knew he was exhausted and wanted to carry him. Seeing that his apprentice took the initiative to avoid him, he remembered how they had unhappily parted last time. He pursed his lips and didn’t mention carrying him. He only put his hand on Dong Zhi’s waist and helped steady him.
Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie didn’t seem to notice the awkwardness between master and apprentice. Huo Jie was drowsy and lacked stamina. He had to keep himself awake by talking to himself or to Liu Qingbo.
Dong Zhi and Long Shen had unknowingly fallen behind. The road in the cave was bumpy and wasn’t spacious, forcing them to walk side by side. It was difficult to avoid each other as their shoulders would occasionally bump into each other. Dong Zhi had the intention of getting rid of this awkward situation, so he consciously moved his steps away, but almost stumbled into a sharp corner of the wall. This time, a hand grabbed his shoulder just in time and led him to the middle with a slightly forceful command.
Dong Zhi’s body stiffened. The distance between the two was close to zero. With Long Shen’s support, he was able to move much more easily now.
In fact, this kind of awkwardness was inevitable after the milk had been spilt. They had already talked about it, and Dong Zhi knew that his master only regarded him as an apprentice. Only he was unable to let go. Though he looked no different than a human, his master was a transformed sword who didn’t hold human temperaments. He wouldn’t think about these thoughts and become entangled in embarrassment and other emotions. This feeling existed only within him alone.
In order to divert his attention, Dong Zhi focused his brain, which was spinning wildly, on the matter of the stone tablet and the Wuzhiqi, and gradually the atmosphere became more natural.
Long Shen felt that his apprentice’s body had naturally relaxed and felt a little joy in his heart. When he heard the other party calling him, his tone was unconsciously a little softer than before.
“Are you not going to kill the Wuzhiqi?”
Long Shen was surprised by Dong Zhi’s question. He was surprised by his sharpness.
“If the stone tablet is intact, I’ll drive the demonic energy away from it.”
Even though the Wuzhiqi was originally suppressed here and was a fierce beast, it had guarded the stone tablet for thousands of years without any credit for its hard work. It was only because of Yamamoto Kiyoshi and Cheng Yuan, who had ulterior motives, that it rekindled its ferocity and became calamitous. In the end, it was also being used. Secondly, if the Wuzhiqi died, the stone tablet would be left unguarded. Since the stone tablet was part of an array, it was impossible to dig it up and transport it back to the Special Administration Bureau for protection. Thus, the Wuzhiqi was still its best guardian.
Long Shen didn’t plan to say this just now, but Dong Zhi had already guessed it.
Although everyone’s footsteps weren’t as fast as when they first started, they had been moving forward for quite some time, but the cave seemed to have no end in sight. Liu Qingbo didn’t even bother to calculate the time any longer. He looked as if he had two heavy weights tied to his legs. Each step took great courage and reminded him of the days when he was ordered by his grandfather to run with sandbags tied to his legs. Huo Jie’s injuries were more severe than Liu Qingbo’s, but he still insisted on walking on his own, which made Liu Qingbo more reluctant to show weakness.
All topics that could be talked about had been discussed to the point where Huo Jie’s mouth was dry. He really didn’t have the strength to speak any longer, and the two fell into silence.
Behind them, Dong Zhi was telling Long Shen about his experience in Lucheng, which barely distracted everyone.
In fact, what Dong Zhi did in Lucheng was already written in the reports that were received by the General Administration Bureau. Long Shen had already known about it, but reports were written and didn’t have a human touch to its details. This was the first time Long Shen had heard Dong Zhi talk about it.
Putting aside the confession that made him unable to respond, his apprentice not only lived up to his expectations, but actually surpassed them.
In the past, when he saw Dong Zhi, who was obedient and did whatever he was told, Long Shen thought he wouldn’t be able to adapt to work when he was alone on the outside. However, facts had proved him wrong. Dong Zhi not only adapted well, but he also made such great achievements that when the General Administration mentioned Dong Zhi, they would say how he never accepted apprentices and the first one he accepted was incredibly good.
He once thought that exorcizing demons and maintaining order on earth were the only requirements he needed in an apprentice, but now he wasn’t sure.
He hoped that Dong Zhi would remain well, wouldn’t get hurt all the time, and always be happy every day, just like how he used to be in front of him, where he could simply smile for half a day while pulling him excitedly to introduce him to restaurants around the Special Administration Bureau.
He knew that when Wu Bingtian and Song Zhicun talked about their children and disciples in private, they occasionally showed worry about them. Long Shen could now understand it. He thought that he might not be able to give what Dong Zhi wanted, but he cared about this apprentice more than anyone else before.
Is this love?
He didn’t know, but when he listened to the other party’s every word that he spoke, combined with the joy of reunion, there was a faint happiness in his heart.
That kind of feeling was like the first time he climbed to the peak of a dangerous cliff after he took form. On top of the high mountain, he looked down at the world from a human perspective, listening to the wind, the sounds of birds fluttering their wings, and seeing the clouds rolling into misty fog and flowing in all directions. Even though this situation was different, the subtle joy was similar and made him feel hot-blooded and his heart would race. He was indeed a human that had the emotions humans should have along with their mood changes.
Long Shen frowned slightly, listening to Dong Zhi talk about the nightmare on the plane. He stretched out his hand to hold his wrist and put three fingers on his pulse.
The slightly warm fingertips touched his skin, causing Dong Zhi to subconsciously freeze before he relaxed again, letting Long Shen pinch his key points.
“There’s no evil aura in you.”
Long Shen came to the same conclusion as Tang Jing, but Dong Zhi couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief when it came from his master. “Then I shouldn’t have made a fuss about it.”
In the dark, Long Shen made a solemn expression. In fact, he had another guess, but it hadn’t been confirmed yet. He didn’t want to say anything unnecessary to trouble Dong Zhi.
“After we get out, I’ll look more closely at it.”
Dong Zhi responded well, but after a moment, he felt something was off. Long Shen kept his hand on his wrist. It didn’t feel like there was any ambiguity in this as he felt Long Shen injecting his qi into it. The warmth rose little by little until it made the wet clothes that stuck to his body no longer uncomfortable.
Then Long Shen let go.
“Can you walk on your own?”
It was impossible for the injuries to not be painless even if he was injected with qi, but Dong Zhi had regained a bit of strength. Before he could think, “he was like a child of his master, a treasure,” Liu Qingbo’s flashlight suddenly shook.
“Look, there’s something up ahead.”
This underground cave could be considered an underwater passage, but no one currently had the strength to marvel. Even though they felt that this place wasn’t naturally formed, the craftsmen who could chisel such a passage were by no means ordinary people.
Perhaps tens of millions of years ago, there were dragons and beasts living here, or immortals with the ability to move mountains and seas. They explored the bottom of the river, full of the vicissitudes of life with miraculous workmanship. However, it seemed that time was still here. No one spoke as they had a pessimistic expectation that the road ahead would never end. When they saw the stone tablet half-exposed in the ground, everyone was shocked.
Huo Jie, in particular, almost couldn’t breathe and fell directly to the side.
Liu Qingbo took the flashlight that he had snatched from Dong Zhi and ran over.
Dong Zhi and Long Shen shortly arrived.
The stone tablet looked old, and due to having been soaked and exposed to the humid environment for so many years, the top of it was covered with moss. Liu Qingbo and Dong Zhi picked up the stones next to it and scraped off a bit of the moss, causing it to gradually reveal the inscriptions underneath.
It was the kind of familiar yet unknown runes. When everyone looked at it, they immediately knew this was the stone tablet they were looking for.
Liu Qingbo was puzzled. “Is there a dragon vein in Shencheng?”
Huo Jie took a deep breath and said, “Yes! This place gathers wind and water. Although it’s not as good as the capital, it’s still a good spot for a dragon vein. The heart of this vein is in the city, and there should be a viaduct above it.”
Hearing a bit of it, Dong Zhi said, “It’s said that when the pile bridge was built, they couldn’t continue, but the urban construction couldn’t stop. Later, they invited an eminent monk to look at them and then added carvings of dragons to the pillars to block the qi leakage when the pillars were built.”
Huo Jing said with a smile, “Rumors are always exaggerated and fictitious. It is indeed where the ‘dragon heart’ is located, but it’s not as divine as the world says. Now it seems that the stone tablet here should be the ‘dragon head’.”
Unlike the stone tablet they discovered before, this stone tablet still had an iron ring embedded in it. The iron ring was connected to the chain that was tied to the Wuzhiqi. This proved that Long Shen’s speculation was correct. Many years ago, someone suppressed the Wuzhiqi here and made it guard the stone tablet.
“It seems a bit worn out and there are cracks in it.” Liu Qingbo leaned closer with the flashlight to look at it.
“It should be due to demonic energy. Cheng Yuan was using it to corrupt the Wuzhiqi and, through its chain, had affected the stone tablet. When the demonic energy accumulates to a certain extent, even if the Wuzhiqi didn’t go crazy and destroy the stone tablet, it would crack because of the demonic energy,” Long Shen said.
Dong Zhi: “Is it useful to cut the chain so it will cut off the connection between the Wuzhiqi and the stone tablet?”
Long Shen said, “We can’t kill the Wuzhiqi, and there’s no need to. It and the stone tablet are now connected. Without it, the stone tablet will have no guardian and the situation will become more dangerous.”
Liu Qingbo couldn’t help but curse. “That motherfucker Cheng Yuan is really cunning to think of such an evil move! If he had stayed on the righteous path, wouldn’t he have been a winner long ago?!”
It may not be Cheng Yuan’s idea but Otowa’s. After all, Cheng Yuan had already dedicated his soul to the demon at that time and was no longer himself.
However, at that moment, Long Shen didn’t explain much and only said, “The Wuzhiqi has rested for a bit, so it should have recovered. It will undoubtedly come after us for vengeance. I want to draw away the demonic energy, so I’ll need your cooperation. Since it holds hatred for Dong Zhi, it’ll be attracted to him. Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie will work together to hold it off for a bit while I’ll wait for the opportunity to start.”
Everyone had no objection, including Dong Zhi, who immediately agreed to be arranged as bait to “draw hatred” because he knew Long Shen didn’t assign this most dangerous task to him due to him being his apprentice, but because Dong Zhi drew the most ire from the Wuzhiqi. As soon as the Wuzhiqi saw them, it most likely would attack Dong Zhi first and the most efficient counter was to fight for the greatest initiative.
The next thing to do was “wait and see”. More importantly, they needed to rest and quickly recover their physical strength to cope with the upcoming intense battle.
Needless to say, everyone sat cross-legged and adjusted their breathing. They closed their eyes and refreshed their minds.
The cave was extremely humid. The soil was so muddy that it felt disgusting to sit on it. Liu Qingbo didn’t want to stay in this environment for even a second, but the members of the Special Administration Bureau often had to deal with such harsh environments and faced difficult conditions. Compared to what he saw in front of him, he suddenly found that hiding in a narrow and cramped room during the zombie simulation, combined with the anxiety of listening to the zombies passing by, was nothing at all.
The harsher the environment, the stronger people would become.
Everyone was like this.
After Dong Zhi rested for a while, he felt that his spirits and physical strength had recovered quite a bit. On the contrary, since he had been sitting for so long, he felt a sense of laziness that he didn’t want to move, so he had to open his eyes and look around.
In order to not consume power, Liu Qingbo adjusted the brightness of the flashlight to the minimum. With such faint light, the outlines of everyone could only be vaguely illuminated.
Long Shen was sitting next to him, motionless. He should also be taking the time to recuperate. Dong Zhi’s gaze fell on the outline of the other party that was cast by the faint light, and he felt slightly absent-minded. The tranquility of this moment made him feel that it would be great if things could continue like this.
Seemingly aware, Long Shen’s eyelashes twitched, and he opened his eyes, causing Dong Zhi to quickly close his.
Then he felt a hand on his pulse as if he was checking his physical condition.
After a shiver, Dong Zhi didn’t dare to move. He knew he had failed to pretend to be asleep, so he could only open his eyes.
Seeing that he was fine, Long Shen took his hand back.
At this moment, the chain suddenly moved, as if it had been pulled by something not far away.
Everyone instantly opened their eyes and moved!
Huo Jie turned off the flashlight. Liu Qingbo and Dong Zhi picked up their swords, while Long Shen leaped lightly, sticking to the ceiling of the cave in a seamless manner.
Dong Zhi didn’t expect his master to have such bat-like abilities, but now wasn’t the time for jokes. He moved across the stone tablet and slowly walked forward.
The iron chain’s movement became more violent. The sound echoed in the cave, overlapping, and was beating down the mood.
To be bait, one needed the consciousness of bait. After taking a few dozen steps, Dong Zhi was some distance away from Liu Qingbo and the others. He stopped and listened to the unpredictable danger ahead. The Changshou Sword was in his hand, Long Shen was behind him, as were his companions and friends, with whom he had been through thick and thin.
At this moment, he had no fear and was as calm as the long drops of water in this cave.
It was getting closer, the sound was getting louder, and the fishy smell that penetrated his nostrils became heavier.
A gust of wind blew against his face. Dong Zhi didn’t even think about it. With the greatest of his strength, he swung his sword!
The speed of the sword’s edge had already turned into a white rainbow. Its potential was like a thousand waterfalls flying off a cliff into hundreds of rivers and returning to the sea; the turbulence was unmatched.
However, the Wuzhiqi was worthy of being an ancient beast. Even though the Changshou Sword had left deep cuts in its hand, it also aroused its ferocity. The monster clung to the sword’s body and pulled it back as it roared, wanting to break Dong Zhi’s neck.
In the blink of an eye, Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie also arrived and pounced on the Wuzhiqi, one on the left and the other on the right. One was swinging his sword to prevent its claws from falling towards Dong Zhi, while the other attacked the soft parts of its chest and stomach.
Shortly after, Long Shen’s figure descended and swept down from above. The long sword in his hand pierced straight into the baihui point above the Wuzhiqi’s head!
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Dong Zhi: Observing in the dark.jpg
Legendary king in ancient China who was famed for his introduction of flood control, his establishment of the Xia dynasty, which inaugurated dynastic rule in China, and his upright moral character. He figures prominently in the Chinese legend of “Great Yu Who Controlled the Waters”.