Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 100: Master!
Cheng Yuan couldn’t help cowering when he heard these words. He had a kind of bone-deep awe for Long Shen, which came from his experience in the Special Administration Bureau. At first glance, when he saw Long Shen, he was greatly disoriented.
But he soon remembered that he was no longer the newcomer who needed to tremble before the Special Administration Bureau. Those high and mighty practitioners didn’t look up to him, but he was no longer what he used to be. He had the power now to make the people of the Special Administration Bureau prostrate themselves at his feet and tremble for mercy.
With judgement returned back to his head, he looked at Ming Xian and angrily said, “You brought them here!”
Ming Xian ignored him and said to Tang Jing and Long Shen, “Don’t you want to find the real culprit who manipulated the soul-eaters? He’s inside. Recent events are indeed not at my hands. If it were me, I would have done it without leaving any traces.”
Tang Jing asked rhetorically, “Do you feel guilty?”
Ming Xian smiled at his mockery. “Consider it as a reward for your dewy love and the end of the obsession in my heart.
Cheng Yuan snapped, “Shut up! Ming Xian, you dare disobey Mr. Otowa’s intentions?!”
Long Shen no longer wanted to listen to his nonsense, so he stretched out his hand and grabbed him. Who knew that Cheng Yuan reacted extremely quickly. His body shrank and moved back. He suddenly stood up and reached out with both hands, which had long and sharp nails. Long Shen dodged, grasped his wrist with a slight force, and the sound of broken bones clicking could be heard, but Cheng Yuan smiled strangely. His chest suddenly burst open, and two withered claws sprang out towards Long Shen’s chest as fast as lightning. It pierced through Long Shen’s windbreaker, looking as if it was about to puncture his chest and abdomen!
This forced Long Shen to let go, which Cheng Yuan took advantage of to twist and run away. He leapt forward, trying to escape through the window, but his back was violently pulled back. In the blink of an eye, Long Shen grabbed his long sword with his backhand and inserted it into Cheng Yuan’s heart. The entire process flowed smoothly and neatly. Suddenly, Cheng Yuan’s eyes were wide open, full of resentment.
The look became more intense, causing the green and black veins on his face to seemingly come alive as they began to slowly flow.
Long Shen noticed something was wrong. Cheng Yuan suddenly grabbed his sword with both hands as a cackle came out of his throat, as if the bones were being pinched off one by one.
The blood flowed out of his hands, but it wasn’t the normal human dark red, but a green-black color. However, within a few seconds, his body turned into black air and flew away, then condensed back into human form again behind Long Shen.
“The Special Administration Bureau is nothing more than that! Long Shen, why do you look down on me? Why didn’t you let me into the Special Administration Bureau? Today, I want you to have a taste of life that’s not as good as death!”
The black air suddenly turned into a gale and swept towards Long Shen.
Ming Xian was obviously in the same camp as Cheng Yuan, but he watched coldly, as if he had no interest in intervening. Tang Jing didn’t move in order to keep an eye on him.
Although the opponent didn’t make a move, Tang Jing intuitively felt that this person’s ability was very strong, even comparable to his own.
“I think the battlefield between us should be broader.”
Ming Xian suddenly smiled, turned around, and ran out. Tang Jing chased him without a second thought.
The two landed in the middle of the wilderness full of wild grass as they stared at each other.
It wasn’t the kind between two enemies that were about to fight to the death, but rather a pair of friends who hadn’t yet finished or a couple after breaking up.
Tang Jing laughed slightly in his heart because of his rich imagination.
They were never officially together, so what was he even thinking about?
Ming Xian’s eyes were soft and harmless, like the little writer who talked a lot but wasn’t annoying when he first met him on the plane.
But Tang Jing knew that it was just one side of Ming Xian, a mask that he used to hide the true Ming Xian.
He wasn’t a writer, and the author of those books wasn’t him at all. He just took advantage of the fact that the writer never showed his face and got close to him under false pretenses.
As if guessing what Tang Jing was thinking, Ming Xian suddenly said, “When I was on the plane, I didn’t know your identity yet.”
Tang Jing said lightly, “I have an innate sense of closeness to you, and you took advantage of this to let me lower my guard against you.”
Ming Xian shrugged and spread his hands. “But you didn’t. Didn’t you put a tracker on me and send someone to check on my background? Moreover, you should know why you feel so close to me.”
Tang Jing said, “Because you and I are the same.”
Min Xian smiled, magnanimously, without concealment. “My body is a zither.”
The night was late and moonless. The distant streetlamp shone on the side of Ming Xian’s face. There was a different kind of softness to it.
Even if the enemy was clear and irrevocable, Tang Jing still saw the rippling waves and the stars and moon in those eyes.
When he suspected that the other party was an artifact, Tang Jing also guessed his original shape. He thought that with Ming Xian looking so beautiful, his true form must be elegant and lovely.
It took at least thousands of years of elegance to give birth to such gracefulness.
Tang Jing said, “I am a mirror.”
Ming Xian quickly guessed his origin, “A mirror from the Tang Dynasty?”
Tang Jing nodded. “Thousand Autumn Coiled Dragon Mirror*.”
*Qianqiu Panlong Mirror (千秋蟠龙镜) I believe the author is referencing the Sunflower-shaped Thousand Autumn Dragon Mirror (葵形千秋龙纹镜) or something of that nature. It’s a bronze mirror with a dragon on it from the Tang Dynasty that has the inscription of “Thousand [Qian]” and “Autumn [Qiu]” on it, which should be related to the Qianqiu Festival celebrated during the Tang Dynasty. Also, as a reminder, the Tang in his name is the Tang in Tang Dynasty.
Going back thousands of years, he was once a Tibetan mirror in the Tang Palace, created by a famous craftsman and later given by Emperor Xuanzong* to his sister Princess Yuzhen. Under pure chance and coincidence, the princess never married and became a monk who loved to travel around the world, searching for immortals and visiting hermitages. By coincidence, Tang Jing also encountered mountains and rivers, the essence of the sun and moon, and finally cultivated into a human body after being refined by the wind and frost.
*Seventh emperor of the Tang Dynasty, he’s credited with bringing Tang China to a pinnacle of culture and power.
Ming Xian smiled and said, “No wonder I feel close to you when I see you. In terms of age, you and I are not far apart. It’s a pity that I don’t have as good of luck as you.”
Tang Jing: “Are you a Chinese artifact spirit?”
Ming Xian shook his head. “I don’t know if I was made by the Tang people or by Easterners early on. I have no roots, no name. I only know that when I was first formed, there were several inscriptions under the zither, and the sound of my strings can cleanse an evil heart. Although positive, the feeling is also deep. Elegant and solemn, yet no forbidden extravagance. Smooth and upright, joyful but not obscene.*”
*This is the actual inscription under the zither (虽有正性，其感亦深。存雅却郑，浮侈是禁。条畅和正，乐而不淫.) I tried my best with the translation, but I really can’t make it poetic.
Tang Jing was startled and blurted out, “The Gold and Silver Pingwen Zither*?!”
*Jinyin Pingwen Qin (金银平文琴) It’s an artifact collected to the treasure house of the Shōsō-in (an imperial treasure house belonging to Japan) around 814 AD to Emperor Saga.
The gold and silver pingwen zither was a national treasure of Japan and was now part of the collection of the Shōsō-in*.
*Treasure house of Tōdai-ji Temple in Nara, Japan that houses artifacts connected to Emperor Shomu and Empress Komoyo.
The reason why it was called the gold and silver pingwen zither was because it had gold and silver plain decoration on its body, so it was name after its characteristic, not after the timbre or the marker, as in the case with Chinese zithers.
The name Ming Xian* was also given to him after he first gained sentience.
*Translated means bright strings/chords.
“Then the one in Shōsō-in…?” Tang Jing couldn’t help but say.
Ming Xian gently spat out, “Imitation.”
Tang Jing understood.
The gold and silver pingwen zither was created in the Heian Period of Japan, which was the same period as Emperor Tang Xianzong* in China. It was no wonder Ming Xian would say those two were similar in age.
*14th Tang Emperor formerly known as Li Chun. He reigned from 805-820.
“Japan’s land is limited, so the spiritual energy is thin. Even with the power of the entire country, there are very few artifacts that could be spiritually refined. Originally, my spiritual wisdom was first developed, but it would take at least a few more decades to cultivate into human form. However, at that time, Otowa Hatsuhiko got a Chinese practitioner and injected his soul into my body, forcibly helping me take shape in advance.”
Ming Xian’s tone was leisurely, as if he was talking about other people’s affairs.
Tang Jing’s heart tightened as he had already developed a guess. He would rather have this guess be wrong.
However, the other party still slowly said the answer he didn’t want to hear the most, “That person, his name is Dong Jilan.”
Of course, Tang Jing knew who this was.
A few years ago, he was a carefree, rambunctious wanderer who didn’t care about the affairs of the world. At that time, he was still laughing at Long Shen, Zong Ling, and others who had bound themselves. They had an endless life span and the ability to ascend to heaven, but they would rather put themselves in a cage and obey human law and be governed by humans. How suffocating.
Later, he inadvertently encountered a big problem and ran into an extremely tricky enemy and almost lost his life. He didn’t even manage to protect his original form. Fortunately, a man named Dong Jilan passed by and helped him. Tang Jing was grateful and didn’t want to owe any favors, so he offered to repay him. Dong Jilan told him that he was about to leave the Special Administration Bureau to perform a secret mission. At that time, the Special Administration Bureau was short of manpower, so he wanted Tang Jing to help them instead of him. After five years, whether he returned or not, Tang Jing could leave on his own.
Five years passed, then another five, year after year, but Dong Jilan never came back. Tang Jing got used to life at the Special Administration Bureau and gradually became accustomed to living under their rules, but he had never heard about Dong Jilan again. Many people who knew of him felt that this brisk and spontaneous man was probably sacrificed in a foreign country. Even last time, Long Shen and Song Zhicun wanted to exchange Fujikawa Aoi for hostages with Japan, they failed to get him back.
But now, what Ming Xian said, there was a wisp of Dong Jilan’s soul in his body.
Tang Jing was silent for a long time, as if mourning a friend who could not return to his homeland.
“So, Dong Jilan is completely dead?”
“Yes. He is, after all, only human. I watched Otowa pour hot molten iron on him with my own eyes, torture him with all kinds of methods, just to stimulate his power to the extreme, then extract his soul. But he never begged for mercy from beginning to end.”
“In my spiritual wisdom, there are Japanese mountains and water, flowers and birds, and—”
He pointed to his heart, “The soul of a Chinese.”
Ming Xian smiled slightly, but there was a line of pain and helplessness at the corner of his mouth.
“I envy you very much, Tang Jing. You have the purity and freedom that I don’t have. If I could, I don’t want to be your enemy.”
Tang Jing couldn’t help but take a step forward.
Ming Xian took a step back.
“You can change all this.” Tang Jing looked at him.
“It can’t be changed,” Ming Xian said lightly. “From the moment I took shape, everything has been predetermined and irreversible.”
Tang Jing said, “I’ll help you. If I can’t, Long Shen can. If Long Shen can’t do it, there are many capable people in the Special Administration Bureau and even in China as a whole.”
“It’s too late.”
Ming Xian looked far away, with sorrow in his eyes.
“When I was about to take shape, in order to control me, Otowa Hatsuhiko incorporated his own blood into my body, refined me again, and took out a part that he kept with him. It’s impossible for me to break away from his control.”
That touch of sorrow passed extremely quickly, so quickly that Tang Jing thought it was just his own illusion.
“I approach you, but I remind you everywhere, providing you with clues. This is my gratitude to Dong Jilan. Without him, there would be no me today. I know that he never forgot his motherland and had a passion for the people here. I couldn’t save him back then, and now I can only help you here. Otowa has also manipulated Cheng Yuan, but I think Director Long should have a way to deal with him.”
Ming Xian finished speaking slowly, took off his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves one by one, and exposed his slender, fair arms.
He stared at Tang Jing and said, softly yet cruelly, “Now, it’s time for us to fight to the death.”
Long Shen quickly discovered that there was something else wrong with Cheng Yuan.
It hadn’t even been two years since Cheng Yuan was rejected from the Special Administration Bureau. Even if he made rapid progress during this time, he wouldn’t be as strong to the point where he could match Long Shen—even if Long Shen hadn’t used his best effort.
His body had merged with demonic energy, and he could change his form as he pleased between fantasy and reality at will. Whenever Long Shen’s sword was about to cut him, he would turn into demonic energy and dissipate, then regroup behind Long Shen. Taking advantage of his unpreparedness, he would counter-attack.
With Cheng Yuan as the center of the circle, the surrounding air flow got bigger, surging like the gale before the tide. It was raging, wanting to completely destroy everything in the world. The debris in the house was swept up by the air flow and was swirling around him. From time to time, under Cheng Yuan’s command, it would smash into Long Shen.
Long Shen didn’t parry it back. Using his sword, he cut the old refrigerator that was flying towards him in half. The refrigerator suddenly broke in half and fell to the side with a loud crash. If it weren’t for the desolate surroundings, they would’ve been discovered by others from the sound.
“I can’t believe it. I’m not a newcomer who can be flattened and rolled around by you anymore!”
Cheng Yuan smiled grimly at Long Shen. His whole body was overflowing with black energy. The demonic energy suddenly soared several times, almost reaching the roof, then it surged towards Long Shen, trying to swallow him up.
As far as he could see, all the light bulbs shattered with a bang, and the whole room was instantly surrounded by black air, as if the sun was covered and no light could pierce through.
In the darkness, the wind howled as the black demonic energy swept towards Long Shen from all directions. Even the air couldn’t help but moan and wail, and the dead trembled beneath the ground, unable to resist the powerful and demonic invasion.
However, around Long Shen’s body, a faint white light formed a layer of astral energy that the demonic energy couldn’t penetrate. No matter what Cheng Yuan did, he couldn’t break through.
His bright red eyes narrowed. His five fingers, which were thin like withered claws, opened and closed as they released a few souls.
These were objects that he once took their life and used to refine his soul. There were handsome boys, young girls with sad expressions, ignorant children, middle-aged women with angry faces, and a weasel whose fur was faintly visible.
They were manipulated by Cheng Yuan and rushed towards Long Shen from all directions. They had already been refined and merged into part of the demonic energy. Now the remnant souls were just residues of demonic energy after being corrupted, but they still carry the grievances of their unjust death during their lifetime.
The fierce and vicious spirit of resentment surrounded Long Shen, gnawing away at his astral energy. These resentful souls and demonic energy rushed up without hesitation, trying to bite off his flesh and eat his body.
Long Shen stood still.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to move, but that his whole body was so tightly pressed by the demonic energy that he couldn’t even take a step.
However, even under such an overwhelming attack, the demonic energy couldn’t advance. The two sides maintained a delicate and dangerous balance.
Long Shen’s gaze fell on the gray weasel.
“You were in Lucheng, colluding with Yamamoto Kiyoshi to kill people?”
Cheng Yuan: “I am one of Mr. Otowa’s men. How could I cooperate with him! That idiot boasts that he has the support of Mara, so he was unscrupulous, treating Lucheng as his own territory and even almost exposed me! As everyone knows, his master is nothing more than an unformed demonic energy until now. How can he be comparable to Mr. Otowa!”
Long Shen said, “Your qualifications are good. Even if you can’t pass the interview this year, you still have a chance next year. Even if you don’t enter the Special Administration Bureau, it doesn’t mean you have to cooperate with demons.”
Cheng Yuan said angrily, “You were born high and mighty, so of course you would say this kind of thing. Do you know how hard it is for me to live? I don’t have a sect with a strong background or a master with deep connections. Even if I join the Special Administration Bureau, how many years will it take to sit in your position? It’ll never be possible! But Li Ying, Liu Qingbo, and your apprentice—how long did it take them? I heard that Dong Zhi has already become the leader of the Lucheng office. It’s no wonder it’s easy to lean on the back of a big tree, while I, who’s obviously more capable than Dong Zhi, can’t even enter the entrance of the Special Administration Bureau just because I don’t have a good master!”
Long Shen’s expression was faint in the dense demonic aura.
“Your dismissal has nothing to do with whether you have a good master or not. It’s because you, as a psychic, walk between yin and yang, and those with uncertain minds are more likely to be affected and go astray. We originally planned not to let you pass the interview this time and observe you for a year. If you are good enough and willing to take the exam again, we would have admitted you next year and put you directly in charge of an office.”
But obviously, Cheng Yuan didn’t pass the test. Because he got rejected, he resented the Special Administration Bureau and turned to the demon camp.
Greed, anger, madness, ignorance, and doubt, the five poisons of Buddhism were inherent in human nature. They were buried deep in the bones and blood and were difficult to eradicate, but some people could restrain and resolve them, while others let them spread and eventually become like Cheng Yuan.
Cheng Yuan’s expression changed. The greenish-black demonic energy corrupted his entire face hideously, but when he heard Long Shen’s words, his complexion twitched slightly. The demonic energy subsided for a bit, and his normal complexion gradually surfaced. Regret and shock flashed across his face, but soon, the demonic energy that quickly extended from his neck to both cheeks occupied his face again, and the demonic energy became even denser than before.
“Why are you observing me! Why not observe the Dong Zhi and Li Ying?! Why do you have to treat me differently? Where can I not compare to them?! In the end, it’s because you guys are biased!”
Under his fury, the demonic energy rushed over, forming a high pressure on Long Shen, tightly oppressing his astral energy that covered his body. As long as his astral energy showed a little weakness, the demonic energy would immediately take advantage of the gap and enter, completely crushing his body!
Long Shen said nothing more.
In fact, he didn’t even want to say what he just said, but he always saw things through. Since he didn’t let Cheng Yuan pass the interview in the beginning, he should give the other party an answer today.
He had been in the world for thousands of years, and he had also seen human nature for these thousands of years.
Mortals rolled around the world and persisted for daily necessities, fame, and fortune all their lives. Human nature always showed a very different polarization in darkness and light.
Just as in times of crisis, there were heroes who stood up and sacrificed themselves for others. There were also villains who were greedy for life and feared death and stabbed others in the back. They were also humans, and after death, their bodies turned into dust, and only their souls remained in the world. The souls of some were like the brilliance of stars. Although sometimes hidden, they never go out, shining in the long night with their faint light.
Most of human nature in the mundane world was like time frozen at the moment before sunrise. The darkness was constant, and many people were like Cheng Yuan, thinking that the day was dark, so the world must be too. But there were also some people, even if the number was small, who were still willing to shine by themselves and become the enlightenment that led to the sunrise. They bravely step forward in order for others to see the magnificent mountains and rivers, dyeing the world with a touch of their warm light.
Long Shen had been disappointed by the thinness of human nature only because he had seen too many betrayals and killings.
But he had also seen those souls who weren’t afraid of danger and walked in the wind and snow. All things under the heavens and the earth were born to be human, not to experience misery and pain but to use human spiritual wisdom to listen to the wind and rain, sing and write poems, feel joy and wonder, the pleasure of the world, and feel the emotions that only humans would have and pursue for life.
And now, there was another person who called him Master; who was willing to work hard for him and be a better person. Even if Long Shen felt that he couldn’t give what the other wanted, the other would never give up on himself as a result.
The magic pressure increased a little, but the aura around Long Shen compressed a bit. Soon, there was only a thin layer left, which could be crushed at any time, making Long Shen not look as powerful and invincible as before.
Cheng Yuan’s fear of him gradually disappeared, replaced by contempt and ridicule.
“Now I don’t need you to look at me differently! As long as Mr. Otowa is around, I’ll have endless power to sway the rivers and seas around the world! Look at you, Long Shen. I can’t forget the way you looked at me at that time. It was like looking at an ant that could be crushed at any time. But what about now? You’re now at my mercy!”
With Cheng Yuan’s crazy words, the demon pressure on Long Shen’s body became heavier. Long Shen could almost hear the arrogant and crazy clamor of the demonic energy. If there was even a single break, the demonic energy would get in immediately…
A demon-surging shadow loomed behind Cheng Yuan. Through the heavy darkness and mist, Long Shen confronted those eyes.
He saw an old man sitting in a room surrounded by an endless void. After the void, after the galaxy, there was an endless sea of blood.
As far as he could see, the thick blood spread out, and the sickening smell of rust lingered. There was killing, hatred, and betrayal everywhere. Humans use the most cruel and vicious methods to kill each other. Heads and limbs were floating in the sea of blood as a demon hid at the edge of the darkness with a hideous smile.
A round red full moon slowly rose at the end of the darkness. The abyss was connected to the sea of blood. The demon opened its bloody mouth and devoured the limbs in the sea of blood one by one.
The wailing and crying were endless, and the voices were full of despair, sharp and tragic, piercing through the heavy void, through the chaotic time, straight into the heart.
The old man opened his mouth slightly. His voice was like a mosquito, but it was like a heavy hammer, hitting Long Shen’s eardrum heavily.
That may be from Song Zhicun, or perhaps from someone in the Special Administration Bureau. It overlapped heavily, making it sound familiar yet unfamiliar.
That was He Yu’s voice, and also Kan Chaosheng’s and Zhong Yuyi’s.
Long Shen once led them through life and death countless times, turning danger into safety, but now they were also sinking into the sea of blood, unable to save themselves and could only look at him from afar, full of pain and despair.
There was another person whose face was blurred, and he couldn’t see clearly, but he would never forget that voice.
Only that voice passed through the layers of demonic barriers, mountains of corpses and the sea of blood, out from the red moon that covered the world, and from the wreckage everywhere, so that he would never mistake it. But it was like the top of Mount Tai was pressing directly on his heart and crushing it, along with his last layer of astral energy.
Long Shen shook slightly, and the corners of his mouth overflowed with bright red.
The author has something to say:
Dong Zhi said, “You’re the flower in my heart. You show me the wings of the sun and lead me to a magnificent world. You are the guide in the dark, and you’re the most respected Master and my favorite person.”
P.S. The word “Qianqiu” in the Qianqiu Panlong Mirror refers to the mirror given by the emperor. During the first year of Emperor Xuanzong’s reign, the Tang Dynasty ushered in the peak of prosperity in the world. The ministers proposed that Tang Xuanzong’s birthday be used as the Qianqiu festival. During the festival, the mirror will be given to Princess Yuzhen by Tang Xuanzong. I hereby explain it so that everyone won’t misunderstand that Qianqiu is the name of the mirror.
To answers some questions since there hasn’t been a release in a while, I have not dropped Bu Tian Gang. I’ve been fixing my translations in previous chapters before I planned to release more, which took some time to do. Unfortunately, I recently contracted COVID, so I’ve been recovering from that. Thankfully I am on the mend, but releases will be slower until I fully recover.