Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
This was the county seat. The nearest office was a branch office in Shencheng, which would take a few hours to drive to. Everyone was a mess. They could only find a nearby farmhouse to take a break before heading back.
However, Liu Qingbo found a very important problem. They forgot to bring money and their cellphones were left ashore since they were going underwater.
At this time, Dong Zhi pointed to his pocket and said weakly, “I seem to have a little cash. Looking through it, it should be enough for the boss and us to have a meal and a shower.”
Liu Qingbo: ……
Like Dong Zhi said, the pocket space was small, and there was a few hundred dollars left in cash. Liu Qingbo didn’t know how he managed to stuff that much in such a small crevice.
When the owner of the farmhouse saw that their group was carrying weapons and was covered in blood vomit, he didn’t dare take them in. Liu Qingbo had to call Tang Jing, who notified the relevant local department, who then sent out a police car to pick them up.
It took quite some time before everyone finally returned to Shencheng. Except for Long Shen, everyone was exhausted and didn’t want to speak. Halfway before returning, Dong Zhi had fallen asleep on Long Shen’s shoulder. When Long Shen got out of the car, he carried him to the hospital. Together with Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie, who both had various degrees of injuries, they were all admitted for an examination.
After arranging all this, Long Shen and Tang Jing returned to the branch office to rendezvous with Song Zhicun, who had been waiting for them for a long time.
“How are they?” Song Zhicun asked as he greeted them. He received the news early in the morning. After Tang Jing went to pick them up, he stayed at the branch and waited while arranging the relevant security work for the international conference that was soon to begin. Seeing Long Shen return unscathed, he finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Long Shen briefly explained the matter.
Song Zhicun held Long Shen’s hand and shook it vigorously. “Boss Long, it’s really hard on you!”
He knew that despite Long Shen’s few words that sounded unremarkable, in fact, this journey was probably full of dangers. If Director Jiang, who wasn’t in the know, was here, he might really think that Long Shen and the others had easily triumphed.
“You’ve worked hard as well.” Long Shen patted him on the shoulder.
The three of them sat down.
Long Shen spoke about the stone tablet and what the Wuzhiqi told them, then finally said, “Tang Jing told me the clues provided by Ming Xian before his death. Both of them corroborated, indicating that the information should be truthful.”
Hearing the word “death”, Tang Jing’s face changed slightly and his hands on the table slowly clenched, but in the end he said nothing.
Long Shen’s and Song Zhicun’s attention weren’t on him. Song Zhicun frowned. “The Kunlun Mountain Range is so vast. It’s definitely not easy to find!”
Long Shen: “I’ll talk to the Northwest Branch first and have them start the search operation. We must also pay attention to the movements on Tokyo side. We know that Otowa Yasuhiko may not know about it.”
Song Zhicun nodded, then suddenly remembered something. “By the way, speaking of Otowa, we have already found his true identity, but it might sound a bit bizarre. Boss Tang can tell you.”
Tang Jing cleared up his mood and said solemnly, “According to what Ming Xian said, we have found a person named Asaka Yasuhiko.”
He pressed the remote control in his hand, and a black and white photo appeared on a large screen on the wall.
“Asaka Yasuhiko, born in 1887, Japanese imperial family, uncle of Emperor Hirohito. He is known as Prince Asaka in the Imperial Palace. He served as a general during World War II.” Tang Jing’s paused slightly. “He’s also the culprit who ordered the Nanjing Massacre*.”
*Also known as the Rape of Nanjing, was a mass murder of Chinese civilians in Nanjing during the Second Sino-Japanese War and was one of the worst atrocities committed during World War II. It seems that this character is based after Prince Yasuhiko Asaka who commanded the army during this massacre. It is disputed whether he ordered it or simply stood by as this happened, but he took no action to stop it.
“But after the war, he was not sent to a military court. Due to the cover-up by the United States, the entire royal family was able to escape the guilt. Asaka Yasuhiko was only deprived of his imperial status. He still retained his wealth and lived until he was ninety-four years old before he died*.”
*This is mainly true. You can read more on the Wikipedia on Prince Yasuhiko Asaka for more information.
“We also checked on the Otowa Consortium. It rose sharply after World War II and started in the military industry. Generally, this kind of industry has a political and economic background behind it, but the Otowa Consortium seems to appear out of thin air, and the same goes for its founder. However, if we connect it with Asaka Yasuhiko, if he secretly prepared it in advance in another capacity, it makes sense.”
“After Boss Song discussed this with me, we all believed that Otowa Yasuhiko might have inadvertently learned the secret of obtaining demonic energy. With the help of the Japanese onmyojis and priests, he successfully transformed himself into a demon so he would be able to live forever. In order to hide this, he died as Asaka Yasuhiko at the age of ninety-four, and continued to live as Otowa Yasuhiko, who was well prepared.”
The amount of information was so astounding that even Long Shen needed a moment of silence to process it.
“Yes,” Tang Jing said. “Ming Xian’s true body is the Gold and Silver Pingwen Zither. This is a national treasure of Japan, which means it’s impossible for Otowa Yasuhiko to easily obtain. However, since he’s part of the royal family, naturally it would be easier for him to get these resources than others. Based on the fact that he was able to repeatedly send Fujikawa Aoi and other onmyojis to China, those priests and onmyojis has a deeper connection with him than we thought.”
Song Zhicun added in a heavy tone, “I also notified Boss Wu about Dong Zhilan. His soul—”
Thinking of the torture that Dong Zhilan had suffered before the end of his life, Song Zhicun couldn’t continue for a moment, even for a person like him who had worked for many years and had endured many angers and sadness. “Since his soul has been integrated with Ming Xian’s soul by Asaka, there must be no ashes left. Boss Wu said that he will do a posthumous recognition and memorial service for him.”
“Good.” Long Shen had no objection.
At the end of the meeting, Song Zhicun was busy contacting the General Administration to arrange various aftermath matters. When he got up and was about to leave, Long Shen stopped him.
“Boss Song, ten days later, when the international conference is over, I will not return to Beijing. I will be taking Dong Zhi to Hainan.”
Song Zhicun was startled. “What?”
Long Shen said, “Dong Zhi has been cursed. It may be related to the Han Qi incident. I will take him to visit the Chi family to see if there’s a way to lift the curse.”
Although his face wasn’t obvious, how could Song Zhicun not see through this. He immediately happily said, “Go, go. There’s still me and Boss Wu at the General Administration!”
After thinking for a while, he comforted, “That child Dong Zhi is blessed. I don’t think anything bad will happen.”
Long Shen nodded his head to express his gratitude.
After Song Zhicun left, Long Shen looked at Tang Jing, who was obviously depressed.
“Are you okay?”
Tang Jing reluctantly smiled. “It’s okay. I just need some time alone. Is there anything else, Boss Long?”
Long Shen said, ‘Before we came out of the well, we broke the iron net that closed it off. When you get the chance, please ask someone to reweld it so as to prevent any accidents.”
Tang Jing: “Will do.”
He really wasn’t in the mood for further discussion. He pressed his hands on the table and slowly got up, but he couldn’t help but sighed unintentionally due to being so physically and mentally exhausted.
“You, are you with Ming Xian…”
It was rare for Long Shen to hesitate. Because of his temperament, he never inquired about other people’s affairs. Although Ming Xian was a vessel spirit created by Asaka Yasuhiko, he was now dead. As with all things, once dead, everything would disappear. What was more, Tang Jing wasn’t negligent in his dealings with Ming Xian, so he couldn’t be accused of improper behavior.
As soon as he spoke, Long Shen suddenly realized that it was selfish to ask something like this.
Tang Jing didn’t notice this. All kinds of emotions in his heart poured in, scrambling together and piling up like a mountain that was crumbling, and he was in urgent need of venting. Long Shen’s question just opened the gap between this fragile state that was about to collapse.
“I thought we were just acting on the spot. I wasn’t human and he wasn’t either. Don’t you think it’s ridiculous for a mirror to like a zither? But when he died, I cried,” Tang Jing murmured, as if he was talking to himself.
Long Shen was silent. He knew the other party didn’t need his response.
“If he had nothing to do with Otowa Yasuhiko, maybe it would be possible. Between us, it was never pure from the beginning. There’s no point in talking about whether it was love or not.”
Tang Jing closed his eyes, as if he wanted to laugh at himself, but he could only utter a smile. The corners of his mouth were forced, but his eyes were red.
“Actually, I just realized now that after living for so long, it’s rare to suddenly meet someone who can see through my origins and be in harmony with me in bed and under the sheets. It turns out that I will be lonely and miserable. Boss Long, will you also?”
Long Shen thought for a while.
He never stopped for anyone or anything, but now he had an apprentice that walked slowly and would cause him to stop in his tracks from time to time and made him wait for him to catch up.
Both sides had different thoughts so the conversation naturally ended.
Tang Jing said, “As soon as matters are over, I want to take a long vacation and have a good rest.”
Long Shen nodded. “Submit a leave report at that time. However, if there’s an emergency, you’ll need to report back.”
Tang Jing smiled. “Of course. It is my duty. Boss Long, if you deal with Otowa Yasuhiko in the future, even if you want to go to Japan to kill him in person, you must count me as one of the people among your group.”
Long Shen stared at him for a moment. “Okay.”
Long Shen returned to the hospital after leaving the branch office.
He first went to see Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie. Their injuries had been properly dealt with. As for their internal injuries, those could only be healed slowly. Long Shen had already asked the General Administration for Shanqing Pills, which would be delivered soon.
Everyone needed rest after such a long and thrilling battle. When Long Shen passed by, Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie were fast asleep, and Dong Zhi wasn’t an exception. This hospital was a public security hospital, so there was a Special Administration Bureau attached to it. The three of them were injured on duty and were assigned separate wards. There was also a small living room and a separate bathroom. The conditions weren’t so bad that even the temper of Young Master Liu Qingbo couldn’t pick out any dissatisfaction.
Long Shen sat in Dong Zhi’s ward for a while, motionless. He was still thinking about many things in his mind, including Dong Zhi’s curse, Otowa Yasuhiko, Mara, and the stone tablets. Thousands of thoughts rushed in all at once.
Now that there was a major breakthrough and progress on the stone tablets’ clues, the direction of their search should also be changed, and they had to quickly do it ahead of Otowa.
In the era of the end of law, demons had been resurrected one after another. In addition to Otowa Yasuhiko and Mara, many incidents had been going on in the west. Perhaps they needed to strengthen their intelligence exchanges with the other side. They should take advantage of the opportunity during the World Exchange Conference.
There was also the upcoming international conference. Otowa Yasuhiko was driven back in time with the demise of Cheng Yuan and Ming Xian, but he would surely not give up. He had to strengthen his precautions and would discuss it with Song Zhicun and Tang Jing again…
Perhaps due the surrounding environment was too quiet, or he was infected by Dong Zhi’s sweet sleeping that Long Shen felt a little tired himself, and all his thoughts finally faded away, like the dark scene at the end of a movie. Everything returned to nothingness. His consciousness precipitated and he sank into the deep pool of dreams.
Dong Zhi blinked several times as he looked at the snow-white ceiling above his head and listened to the cheerful cries of birds jumping under branches outside the window. Finally, he was sure that he was lying safely in a hospital bed and not in a dark underwater cave.
There was pain in his limbs from overdrawing his physical strength. His arms were medicated, and the back of his hand had a tingling feeling. He saw an IV bag hanging by his bed that was almost finished. He pulled out the needle and sat up. Except for a little dizziness, there wasn’t any particular discomfort.
If it weren’t for Long Shen’s words, he’d never have thought he’d be able to lay his head on his shoulder.
The room was quiet, so quiet, that when he turned his head to the other side, he saw Long Shen sitting on the sofa asleep.
In his impression, Long Shen rarely rested and always seemed energetic. When everyone was tired after their battle in Yinchuan, Long Shen was still in high spirits. He once felt that Long Shen might have slept for too long before his transformation, so he no longer needed to sleep after being refined, though he only dared joke about this in his heart. Now that he saw Long Shen asleep, he finally felt that his master also needed rest in the real sense.
He picked up the blanket by the bed casually and wanted to get out and put on his shoes, but suddenly changed his mind and instead stepped on the floor barefoot, walked over silently, and gently covered Long Shen with a blanket.
He didn’t expect Long Shen to be as alert as he was, and almost as soon as he got close, he had already woken up.
Dong Zhi’s movement stopped mid-action and he could only explain, “I was afraid you’d catch a cold.”
Long Shen sat up straight, nodded, and took his blanket, but didn’t cover himself and just put it aside.
“Master, why don’t you sleep some more?”
“No, I slept all night.” Long Shen glanced at his feet. “Why didn’t you put on slippers?”
Dong Zhi smiled embarrassedly. “I was afraid to wake you up.”
As a result, he still woke up Long Shen.
“Let me see your body,” Long Shen said.
Even though the room was heated, it was indeed a bit cold being barefooted. Dong Zhi sat cross-legged on the sofa while holding the blanket while Long Shen checked his pulse.
Dong Zhi took a closer look and found that Long Shen’s expression hadn’t changed much. He couldn’t tell from the other person’s face whether he was terminally ill and the situation was hopeless or if it was a minor problem.
“Master, is my curse serious?” he asked tentatively.
Long Shen said, “I can feel that there’s a force in your body that doesn’t match, but as for the specifics, we have to go to the Chi family and have them take a look at you. I don’t know much about curses.”
It felt worlds apart due to the differences in their professions. Dong Zhi could only nod.
Dong Zhi said honestly, “I’m okay.”
He was really okay. Those few mouthfuls of black blood felt like hallucinations, and he didn’t even smell the blood in his mouth.
“Master, are you done? How are you preparing for the international conference?” After their reunion, they were finally alone for the first time. He didn’t know how to get along with Long Shen. He wasn’t enthusiastic, nor was he indifferent, but he had nothing to say.
Seeing that Long Shen didn’t answer, he thought he inquired too much and had overstepped his authority, so he hurriedly apologized.
Long Shen shook his head. In fact, he was just thinking about Dong Zhi’s problem just now, and his thoughts trailed off for a bit.
“The meeting will end at the end of this month. After that, we’ll go to Hainan. Before then, you can rest a bit more.”
Dong Zhi reacted quickly. “The Chi family?”
Long Shen nodded. “The Chi family is the only clan that are witches and witchdoctors in China. Chi Banxia’s father is an excellent witchdoctor. We have also considered recruiting him into the Special Administration Bureau before.”
Dong Zhi became curious, so he took advantage and asked, “Didn’t he want to?”
“At that time, Zhang Xiankun, the former director of the bureau, paid more attention to his family background and believed that curses and witchcraft belonged to the evil path. Chi Banxia’s father was young and arrogant at that time. He couldn’t bear it, so he left and threatened that he would never return to the Special Administration Bureau again in his life.”
Dong Zhi was quite surprised. From his impression, Chi Banxia was a sweet, lively little girl. He didn’t expect her father’s temper to be so hot.
Having said that, Chi Banxia was now working with the Special Administration Bureau. Even if it was only for the sake of his daughter, he would not shut them out. Dong Zhi just had a faint feeling that witchcraft may not be so easily understood.
Long Shen must had recognized this, so he deliberately mentioned the Chi family and gave him some reassurance.
The deeper the understanding, the more Dong Zhi could feel his care under the indifference.
“Master, I’m sorry I made you worried. You didn’t need to go through all this trouble, and now you have to take up your time to attend to my private matters.”
“You were injured while on duty, so it’s not a personal matter.” After saying this and seeing Dong Zhi’s astonishment, Long Shen added, “I have a year’s worth of vacation and I haven’t been to Hainan for a long time. This is just a short tour.”
Dong Zhi was relieved to hear this and joked, “There are many nice sea view hotels in Sanya, as well as an infinity swimming pool. If I ask you to stay for a few days, will you treat this as a vacation between master and apprentice?”
He said this purely casually and never thought that the other party would agree. Who knew that Long Shen thought about it and nodded.
Dong Zhi was taken aback for a moment before a scene of Long Shen swimming breaststroke in the water blankly appeared uncontrollably.
No. Stop. If he thought about it, his Master’s reputation would become defiled in his brain for the rest of his life!
The days of recuperation were nothing more than the same. He would eat when he woke up, go back to sleep after eating, occasionally visit Liu Qingbo and Huo Jie, who were next door, and more often than not, he would lie in bed, as if to make up for the vitality he had lost in the past few days.
Long Shen was extremely busy each day, especially as the international conference was approaching. Although Song Zhicun and Tang Jing were also there, he was indispensable. Dong Zhi watched the news introducing the international conference on TV, which said that this year was a new record for participating countries over previous years. While the leaders of many countries met with each other, he couldn’t imagine the amount of effort Long Shen and the others put in behind the scenes to run everything smoothly.
But no matter how busy Long Shen was, he would go to the hospital to visit Dong Zhi almost every other day and would stay there for a long time every time.
During this period, Dong Zhi vomited black blood twice more. However, his body didn’t further deteriorate, nor did his eight meridians open up. His state wasn’t bad but leaned towards lethargy. His biological clock gradually extended from the original eight hours of sleep to about ten hours, but this didn’t really mean anything. When he went to school in the past, he knew some of his classmates wanted to stay in bed for 24 hours when winter came.
On the other hand, Dong Zhi learned that in order not to scare the snake, the original search for the stone tablets continued like headless flies on the surface, but the General Administration had secretly ordered a search to focus on the dragon vein.
There were many dragon veins, large and small, in the south. One was the Qinhuai River area that included Jinling, which was consistent with the direction He Yu and the others were looking for before, and now they could narrow the scope even more. First, the Yanchang area; although it had been a land of barbarians since ancient times, a dragon vein wasn’t dependent on whether there was an emperor or not. Still, it could barely be considered a dragon vein and it extended west into the region of Bashu, which radiated out with Chengdu as the center. This included Emei Mountain and Qingcheng Mountain in the search scope. In this way, the workload of He Yu, Kan Chaosheng, and the others had greatly increased.
In order to avoid worry, Dong Zhi didn’t mention to them that he was cursed, but He Yu had probably heard it from Long Shen, as he came up with a bunch of messy thoughts. Even Kan Chaosheng called and said that if necessary, he could provide a piece of a Jiao’s scale. Dong Zhi could hear both concern and reluctance in his tone, and his heart couldn’t help but feel moved that he disregarded his wallet and promised to buy three large boxes of snacks and willingly signed an unequal contract.
The calm and lively days weren’t always smooth. There was bad news from the Northwest Branch. According to the “Shaohua Travel Map” provided by Dong Zhi and Liu Qingbo, the Northwest Branch searched up and down near Shaohua Mountain. With all their efforts and troubles, they finally found the location of the stone tablet at the foot of Shaohua Mountain, but when they dug three feet into the ground and dug out the stone tablet, they found the last thing they wanted to see.
The stone tablet was broken to the point where it couldn’t be restored, but even if it could, the array had already been invalidated. According to the comparative study of the soil composition around the stone tablet, the people of the Northwest Branch found that the soil around it hadn’t been moved for hundreds of years. This meant that the stone tablet might have been damaged hundreds of years ago after the painting. Perhaps it was due to unintentional destruction by ordinary people.
The Northwest Branch flipped through the local county records and ancient books in Hua County, where Shaohua Mountain was located, and they found a clue that could be related to this.
A few decades after the “Shaohua Travel Map” was painted, in 1556 AD, a severe earthquake was recorded in the Ming Dynasty that was extremely catastrophic, leaving more than 800,000 dead. According to the county records preserved in the local area to this day, it was around midnight at the time of the earthquake. Some people saw the area around Shaohua Mountain lit up as bright as day, mixed with red light, like the rising sun. It seemed as if day and night had flipped upside down, and there was a terrifying earth movement.
Of course, this discovery didn’t explain anything. After all, the writings of the ancients, no matter what natural or man-made disasters occurred, were always attributed to the ways of heaven. It was incomprehensible.
However, this matter wasn’t without gain. There was at least eight stone tablets, of which four were currently known, with one damaged from Shaohua Mountain. This meant that they only needed to find the remaining four stone tablets.
It was only at this time that Dong Zhi realized the trouble caused by his curse. Like Liu Qingbo and Huo Jing, although they were still lying in the hospital, resting in the name of recuperation, if there were no accidents, they would soon be able to return to work. As for him, this would be longer. Unconsciously, he had become accustomed to the thrilling days of adventure, while painting had become a lifelong hobby. In the Special Administration Bureau, he had found ideals and dreams that were worthy of his constant pursuit. There was a group of companions of different personalities, and there were friends who were worthy of entrusting his life to, and even more people that he liked and respected.
Long Shen wasn’t idle either. He sent an email to the Association of White-Robe Witches in Southeast Asia to inquire about Dong Zhi’s situation and quickly got a reply.
The one who replied to him was a well-known witchdoctor in Thailand and the Vice-President of the association. His name was Xinchai. It was rumored that he was also one of the witchdoctors of the royal family. Xinchai told Long Shen that since he couldn’t meet Dong Zhi himself, he didn’t dare make any conclusion lightly, but according to the description, Dong Zhi was indeed very likely to have been cursed, and it was by a witchdoctor that specialized in black magic.
There were thousands of types of curses in the world, among which there were many that were created by the witchdoctor himself. They could be described as strange and imaginative. There was always a cause and effect in the world, and naturally, curses were no exception. Curses harm people, and the person who harmed them would also suffer backlash, some serious enough that they could die from it. Many witchdoctors and witches would be unwilling to do such a thing, but there were some that used unscrupulous means. If they had to kill someone, they would use substitutes to eliminate the backlash of their curse, so they could continue to do whatever they wanted. Some would even capture their target and torture them in all kinds of ways, causing them to die in resentment. They would then refine their grievances into their curses, which only made them more complicated and deadly.
The letter then ended with a meaningful sentence: I have traveled all over the world over the years and have seen countless bizarre things. Long, my dear friend, you can never imagine how vicious humans can be. Good luck to you and your apprentice.
Although he didn’t say it clearly, the implication was that even if he saw Dong Zhi himself, he would be helpless to lift the curse on Dong Zhi.
If even a master-level figure among witches and witchdoctors like Xinchai said so, was it even necessary to visit the Chi family in Hainan?
Correction on a name: Otowa Yasuhiko was originally translated as Otowa Hatsuhiko. Previous chapters should be fixed, but if you have read before the fix, please note this. If there are any chapters I have missed, please let me know so I can update.