Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
The Chi family was well prepared. The guest rooms had been carefully cleaned and were spacious. The bedding and pillows were also new. Dong Zhi’s skin hurt from being scalded by the hot water so badly that he couldn’t fall asleep due to his clothes agitating the pain. He could barely change into clean clothes, then sat on the bed to take a short break.
An hour quickly passed. Elder Chi couldn’t help but sink his face when he looked at the “peach blossom” behind Dong Zhi. It had gotten lighter in color but hadn’t disappeared.
When Dong Zhi looked in the mirror, he naturally saw it.
“I’m sorry. My abilities are limited. It seems there are too many masters in this world!” Elder Chi shook his head. Although unwilling, he could only give a bitter smile. “In this situation, the curse has been suppressed for a bit, but treating the symptoms is not a cure. If you want to lift the curse, I’m afraid there’s only one way. Solve the source. You need to find who cursed him and kill that person, and the curse would naturally be resolved.”
He also knew that what he said was tantamount to not saying it. There was no doubt how vicious this person was that could create a curse like this. How could the other party let Dong Zhi easily find them? Even if he went to great lengths to track him down, it would most likely be too late by then.
Dong Zhi was a little disappointed, but this was what he expected. He had a hunch that things wouldn’t be resolved so easily.
“Elder Chi, if this curse can’t be lifted, what will be the final result? Will I die?”
Elder Chi hesitated for a moment, but he saw the answer on Dong Zhi’s face.
“Then if I die, will my soul be used by the witch to do other things?”
Dong Zhi was afraid of dying. He yearned and loved life just like every person who was instinctively born with the desire for survival. He still had many dreams that hadn’t been fulfilled, but he was even more afraid he would be used as a puppet after he died, standing on the opposite side against his former friends and companions. It was truly hopeless whether he would survive or die.
Before Elder Chi could answer, Dong Zhi’s shoulders were pressed down.
Long Shen said, “You won’t die.”
Elder Chi secretly sighed and expressed his regrets and apologies to them again. It could be seen that the old man was hit hard, not only because he failed Long Shen and Dong Zhi, but also because this incident realized that although he was considered powerful, there were still too many curses in the world that rendered him powerless to help.
The curse lifting had failed. Neither of them had the heart to attend the reception banquet hosted by the Chi family. Elder Chi knew that what they needed most now was to rest and discuss countermeasures, so he didn’t keep them. He personally sent them on their way and promised that if there was any progress in the future, they could come back to him at any time if they needed help.
Chi Banxia’s cousin, the young man who had picked them up, drove them back to the hotel in person.
“I have already done the check-in procedures for you. All your luggage has been taken in, so you can just go directly to your rooms.”
Dong Zhi thanked him, took the room card, and went upstairs with Long Shen.
They booked two adjacent rooms on the same floor. The location was excellent. There was a huge, floor-to-ceiling window in the room. When he opened the curtains, he could see the gorgeous sunset slowly falling into the sea. People in twos and threes were strolling on the beach, creating a scene that was perfect for romance.
“Master, do you have any plans for the next step?” Dong Zhi could barely cheer up.
Long Shen said, “Take you to the northwest and meet someone. He may have a solution.”
Even Long Shen said “may”, which meant he wasn’t confident, but Dong Zhi continued to ask, “Will we leave tomorrow?”
Long Shen shook his head. “Didn’t you say you wanted to stay here for a few days? I booked five nights.”
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “That’s great. We can walk around the seaside and eat seafood for the next few days. I’ve been to Sanya, so I’ll be your tour guide and take you to all the fun places.”
Long Shen nodded.
“Master, I’m a little tired, so I’ll sleep first. I’ll find you tomorrow morning. You don’t need to call me for dinner.” It was rare for the two of them to have alone time, but Dong Zhi took the initiative to send off Long Shen with a sense of fatigue between his brows, and his voice was a little weak.
Long Shen stared at him for a moment. “Then have a good rest.”
Watching the other party leave and closing the door, Dong Zhi could finally breathe a sigh of relief. He was overwhelmed by the surging pain.
He bent down, his back against the door, and slowly slipped down to the floor. His hands were clenched tightly on the clothes on his chest, and the pain penetrated to his back as if he was being pierced by a needle. The pain was so excruciating that he couldn’t do anything else but do this to relieve some of it.
In fact, this attack wasn’t as intense as last time. Perhaps Elder Chi’s method had alleviated some of it, but Dong Zhi still didn’t want Long Shen to see such an embarrassing side of him, because just now, he clearly saw the pity in Long Shen’s eyes, knowing that there was nothing they could do.
Long Shen was supposed to be omnipotent and all-powerful. In the thousands of years he had traveled, he had experienced many winds, frost, rain, and snow, and now he finally accepted an apprentice. Not only did he not enjoy the benefits of having one, but he also had to worry about him.
Even Dong Zhi thought he wasn’t worthy of Long Shen. As an apprentice, not only did he not have a long lifespan like his master, but as soon as he made some achievements, he was cursed and was about to meet a terrible end. If he went back in time, he most definitely would have regretted this.
Thinking of this, he couldn’t help laughing out loud, but it caused another pain in his heart. This time it was a bit more intense. Dong Zhi closed his eyes and told himself that he just had to fight back. The last time he had such a severe attack, he survived. This time, he would certainly be fine. However, tears still came out unconsciously.
He saw the Changshou Sword placed by the bed with his luggage and wiped away his tears. He staggered over, grabbed the sword, and held it in his arms, as if this would give him a little strength.
He was afraid of death. He was afraid of the dark and unknown world. He wanted to keep fighting with He Yu, Kan Chaosheng, Liu Qingbo, and the others, facing the dangers of the future. He wanted to stay behind Long Shen silently, even if he was healthy and could only live for a few decades and stay master and apprentice all his life. He wanted to draw another picture of Long Shen. He wanted to remember the words, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here,” firmly in his mind. Even if one day he fell into the underworld, he would never forget.
Tears surged out and dripped onto the scabbard of the Changshou Sword. At that moment, it seemed that only the cold temperature could convey a little comfort.
‘I’m sorry, Master,’ Dong Zhi said silently. He should have been more cautious so that he wouldn’t be plotted against. Because of his own selfishness of wanting to be Long Shen’s apprentice, he was now exhausting his master and hurting him. His master should have an apprentice who could accompany him through the long years and be as strong as he was, not someone weak and useless like himself…
The edges of the scabbard caused pain to his face, but the pain wasn’t as painful as a tenth of a thousand compared to this curse. Cold sweat had soaked his entire back as he tried to hold back his groaning, using the scenery outside to divert his attention.
The round red sun had been completely submerged by the sea, dyeing the sky a bright orange that still had a touch of blue remaining. Soon, the sky was no match for the overwhelming night. Darkness covered the sky and the earth, as lights flickered on the beach one by one, but such sporadic firelight couldn’t warm the coldness in his heart.
The wind blew in from the window. Even though there was no severe cold here all year round, the winter nights still brought some coolness.
Dong Zhi was motionless, sitting by the bed as if he was asleep.
He didn’t realize when he had lost consciousness. When he woke up, he found he was covered with a blanket and there was hot porridge with side dishes by his bedside, with a familiar person nearby.
When Dong Zhi opened his mouth, he found that his throat was hoarse, his nose was stuffed, and his voice was muffled.
He thought for a while and suspected he might’ve caught a cold from the wind when he sat down near the window and fell asleep.
Long Shen let out an “Nn” and said, “Eat your porridge first. Then take medicine.”
Dong Zhi felt guilty as he didn’t dare say anything and acted as if nothing had happened. He obediently picked up the bowl, drank all the porridge in one go, then took the water and medicine handed by the other party and swallowed it. He couldn’t help laughing afterwards. “Master, how did you get in?”
“I have the keycard to your room.”
Then Long Shen probably saw him holding the sword as streaks of tears ran down his face? Dong Zhi felt even more guilty now.
“I’m sorry.” He hurriedly apologized, hoping his frankness would bring leniency.
Long Shen looked at him. “Why didn’t you call me when you had an attack?”
Dong Zhi lowered his head and whispered, “I know you have spent a lot of effort on my affair and done many things I don’t know about. I can’t help you, so I didn’t want to make you more worried.”
Long Shen said lightly, “In this matter, I don’t want you to keep it from me. You are my apprentice and the only apprentice I have taken on so far. I care about you and do not think that it’s a burden.”
At the beginning, Dong Zhi could only obediently nod and didn’t dare to respond. After hearing this, he couldn’t help but look up at Long Shen.
Long Shen said, “I’m not the kind of person who doesn’t care about anything like you imagine. I also have emotions and desires. They may be weaker and duller than ordinary people, but in the end, they do exist. In the past, I thought that I was moved by your persistence and hard work, so I accepted you as an apprentice. But the more I thought about it, if I wasn’t looking at you from the start, how could I have known that you were persistent and hard-working?”
Dong Zhi was in a daze. He found his ability to understand had deviated. For the first time, he couldn’t understand Long Shen’s words, and he didn’t dare to think in that direction at all.
Long Shen didn’t continue this topic.
“Do you want to continue to sleep?”
Dong Zhi shook his head.
Long Shen: “The weather is okay today. Want to go for a walk?”
Hearing the surging waves coming from the window, Dong Zhi felt a little moved, so he nodded.
He had a bit of a cold. Long Shen brought him his coat and asked him to put it on. He opened the blanket and Dong Zhi got out of bed. He had forgotten that he was weak, so after lowering his head, his feet got soft and he almost fell forward.
After hesitating for a moment, he said to Long Shen, “Master, why don’t we go tomorrow?”
Long Shen saw that Dong Zhi didn’t want to be carried. It was indeed troublesome to carry someone on his back in the middle of the night. The key point was that they might not be able to find a place to sit by the beach either. Long Shen paused, said, “Wait a bit,” then he turned around and left.
Dong Zhi didn’t know what Long Shen was doing, but ten minutes later, Long Shen came back with a wheelchair.
“Sit on this. It’s more convenient this way.”
Dong Zhi joked, “Master, is your nickname Doraemon*?”
*Cat-like robot from the future. I believe it has the ability to pull things out of its pocket, which is why Dong Zhi makes this joke.
Long Shen explained quite seriously, “The hotel has wheelchairs for loan.”
It was really convenient to get in and out with a wheelchair. Long Shen also covered Dong Zhi’s knees with a thin blanket. The aftermath was that others thought he was disabled and gave way to them. In the elevator, Dong Zhi met a girl who gave him the flowers on her head and wished him a speedy recovery.
In front of the hotel was the beach. There were many people walking on it at night, but since it was late at night, there were few tourists. The vast emptiness was greeted by the smell of the sea, which made people’s minds suddenly clear. There was a shower during the day, so the night was cloudless. The sky was full of stars rushing out to guard the moon. There was no need for artificial light. The waves were sparking as they rushed onto the beach, then quickly retreated, leaving lonely wet marks behind.
A couple ran while laughing. The girl was barefoot in a long skirt. Her long hair was being blown by the wind, and she covered her face as the boy who was behind her picked up his phone and started taking pictures, capturing his girlfriend’s best moments. Even if the night wasn’t bright enough, this moment would be imprinted in his heart.
The boy quickly caught up with his girlfriend, and the two kissed under the presence of the stars and moon. Perhaps because they caught a glimpse of Dong Zhi, the girl became a little embarrassed. She hurriedly pushed her boyfriend away, then dragged him along, leaving behind a few hurried footprints on the sand. The tide came and went, wiping out their traces, but the faint smell of love was still in the air.
The two walked away with a smile, leaving footprints on the beach, while Dong Zhi involuntarily sighed, feeling envy and regret.
Long Shen stood behind him and suddenly spoke.
“Do you envy them?”
Dong Zhi shook his head. “I’m just happy for their simple and beautiful bliss.”
After all, not everyone in this world could get what they wanted. Those people, like the two just now, were able to find each other in a vast sea of people, fall in love, and would one day get married.
“Do you think this is happiness?” Long Shen asked.
Dong Zhi said with a smile, “It should be. Some people still yearn for happiness. Despite the entire world in front of them, they still feel as if they could get more. Some people want very little happiness. Even if they see the sea, the stars, or even the person that they like, they can feel happy for a long time.”
Another wave came. It was still some distance away before it flooded the area, so they didn’t have to quickly retreat. However, the footprints left by the couple just now were almost completely gone, swept away into the sea.
As far as Dong Zhi could see, the young couple had also disappeared. Perhaps they walked into the darkness in the distance and quietly whispered loving words, or maybe they went back to rest. His eyes followed where their figures had disappeared, while his heart felt inexplicably lost.
Suddenly, a small shadow shrouded him in front of him. Before he could react, his lips felt warm.
Long Shen bent forward and gave him a light peck. Dong Zhi suddenly stiffened, completely petrified and unable to respond when their lips parted.
“Now, do you feel happy?”
Dong Zhi settled down. He almost thought he had experienced an illusion just now. The illusion felt so real that even the heat on his lips seemed to remain.
His heart skipped a beat and then started beating faster. He couldn’t help but grab his chest for fear he would aggravate the curse.
“Master, what did you do just now?” His voice was a little airy.
If it wasn’t his hallucination, then it may be that Long Shen thought this was a way to express a master’s love to his apprentice, or perhaps Long Shen originally wanted to kiss him on the forehead or nose, but he couldn’t find the right direction, so he made a miscalculated move.
He began to think of excuses for Long Shen, but then heard his reply. “I’m kissing you.”
“Why?” Dong Zhi was confused. He looked back at the sea in front of him, as if to see if the waves would bloom into flowers. He remained frozen and didn’t dare turn back, afraid that this would give his emotions away.
However, Long Shen’s tone was more puzzling than his. “Don’t you like me? I thought you would be happy if I did this.”
Happy. Of course, he was happy.
The great tide of joy came and he was like a string of footprints that was submerged in an instant. He was at a loss, wishing time would freeze at this moment, and even if he died, it would be without regrets.
However, the joy turned into severe pain in an instant, like a sharp blade cutting into his heart. The pain was so bad that Dong Zhi couldn’t help but bend over slightly and stoop. It made his eyes sore and swollen, and he wanted to shed tears.
Long Shen saw that Dong Zhi was lowering his head. He wanted to pick Dong Zhi up, but when he crouched down, he was held back.
Long Shen felt Dong Zhi’s forehead. The temperature was normal, and the skin was clean and free of sweat.
Dong Zhi took a deep breath, as if he had survived the pain, and said, “In fact, when I entered this field, I had already considered the dangers, knowing that I might be injured or even sacrificed. Since my parents are gone, even if something really happens, no one will have to worry about me.”
Long Shen listened quietly.
“Even ants are greedy for life*. I’m also afraid of death. I’m even more afraid that I’ll become a soulless servant after the curse, like Ming Xian, and one day fight against you. At that time, I’ll be just a puppet, no longer your apprentice, no longer a human with feelings and thoughts.”
*(蝼蚁尚且贪生) Saying refers to that even a tiny creature is greedy to live, so humans should cherish life even more.
Dong Zhi thought he had finally calmed down, but when he saw Long Shen squatting down in front of him, looking at the other party’s forced expression, he could not help but let his tears flow.
“You won’t become like that. I will try my best,” Long Shen said, reaching out to wipe his tears. “I have already contacted the director of the Northwest Branch. He’s an extremely powerful figure. Perhaps there’s a way.”
“Master, I don’t need any sympathy, including yours.” Dong Zhi held Long Shen’s hand. The slight coldness was met with warmth and was quickly wrapped in it. “I am a disciple of Long Shen. Even if I can’t be as strong as he is, I should strive to be nonetheless.”
Long Shen frowned. “I’m not sympathizing with you.”
He didn’t know how Dong Zhi came to such a conclusion.
“I never force others or myself to do things I don’t want.” He pinched Dong Zhi’s chin and pecked him on the lips again.
This meaning should be clear, right?
“Sorry, Master, I regret it.”
“You also know that humans, especially men, have a bit of an inferiority complex, so they think what they can’t get is the best. After you kissed me, I actually recognized how I felt about you. I may have been wrong before. I was just confusing admiration with love.”
“And you’re right. When I’m old and you still look the same, I’ll definitely be angry and self-conscious and wouldn’t be able to accept such a situation. I now understand. What I like should be a sweet girl, like the one just now. Lively, a little coquettish, and ordinary, unlike you, where I will have a sense of pressure and distance.”
He had gritted his nails into his palm and was using the pain to sober himself up so that he could say these words without missing a beat.
A hand came up and broke apart Dong Zhi’s fingers, one by one.
“You’re lying,’ Long Shen said. “When you feel guilty or nervous, you clench your fists, just like last time when you tried to get me drunk.”
He looked at Dong Zhi’s frozen expression. There was a trace of a smile in his eyes. It was rare for Long Shen to be mischievous. He deliberately asked, “Hm, did you forget?”
How could Dong Zhi forget? He remembered it clearly, but he didn’t expect Long Shen to remember such small details so early on.
“This time, I may not be able to live. Even if I can, I will only have a lifespan of decades at best. I can’t accompany you through your whole life. I can’t just look at my life and ignore yours. We’re not suitable for each other and I’m not worthy of your affection.”
Life was nothing but give and take, constantly taking and giving up, and giving something up in the process of getting it.
He once confessed to Long Shen in order to “get” Long Shen’s love, his affectionate gaze; getting what he wanted, and in the end, it turned into a kind of possessiveness. But now he had “given up”, abandoned what he wanted, choosing restraint instead, just so that the other party wouldn’t be sad because of their concern for him in the future.
If this was the Long Shen who had just transformed into a human, or the Long Shen who calmly watched as Lord Jie went to his death, he might not understand Dong Zhi’s giving up, but he had been in the Special Administration Bureau for many years. How could he not notice that Dong Zhi was pretending to be calm and duplicitous.
His heart was slightly moved. There was emotion that even he couldn’t tell what it was. Long Shen said, “There is no such thing as worthiness in the world. Only whether I like it or not.”
He lowered his head again, this time kissed Dong Zhi more deeply. He left a red mark where he had pinched Dong Zhi’s chin. Dong Zhi’s eyelashes trembled, and his eyes drifted as his breathing became ragged.
“I have never done this to anyone before,” Long Shen said.
Dong Zhi was probably the first and only.
“Without you, I would continue to go on like this. With you, at least for these decades, I’ll have someone to walk with me. Are you willing?”
Long Shen’s face was half hidden in the darkness, but the hot air he breathed out was still visible. Dong Zhi blinked, as if to blink away the dense fog. Before the other party could wait for his answer, Dong Zhi had let go of Long Shen’s hand and got up. His impulse preceded his reason, and he grabbed Long Shen’s neck and took the initiative to meet him, giving Long Shen a light peck on his cool lips, then quickly separated.
“Are you sure it’s not revolting?”
Long Shen shook his head and even asked him, “Do you want to try again?”
“No need!” Dong Zhi hurriedly said. The heat on his face was steaming, and he thought how fortunate it was that it was dark so the other person couldn’t see him clearly.
Then he heard Long Shen’s voice ringing in his ears.
“I have never loved anyone, and I don’t know what love is, but I’m willing to try to be a Long Shen, one of flesh and blood, and work to understand love and hate for you.”
The mist that had lingered in Dong Zhi’s eyes finally dissipated. Dong Zhi trembled and buried his head in the crook of Long Shen’s neck.
Even though he hadn’t cried when facing the many dangers that nearly cost him his life, in front of Long Shen, he always looked weak.
Tonight, he wanted to be weak again.
The darker the night, the cooler the sky. The sound of the waves was still. Dong Zhi wasn’t sure when the surging tide had changed to consistent harmony.
With a fiery body around him, he couldn’t help but sneeze.
“Let’s go back,” Long Shen said.
Long Shen got up and pushed the wheelchair in the direction of the hotel. As he did, Dong Zhi turned his head and glanced in the direction of the sea.
The lights of distant ships were on, twinkling, like the echoing stars in the sky. The starlight came from billions of light-years away, traveling through time and space, converging into a wonderful destiny.
Perhaps there were countless such fates in this vast universe, just like his and Long Shen’s. Even if he was like the ship’s light that would go out tomorrow, at the very least, they had met and the stars knew that there was such a little light in the sea of a certain planet, accompanying them through the long night.
Happy Halloween. I figured a release would fit the theme quite well given the supernatural element of this novel, but this chapter was kind of the opposite, given how sweet it is. For those interested in this kind of modern-day supernatural genre, you can check out my newest project from one of my favorite authors: Evil As Humans. The prologue has been released.