Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
The old man and the young girl didn’t care about the whispered conversation between Lao Zheng and Dong Zhi. They both took time to rest their eyes and recuperate, wanting to quickly recover the energy they had just expended. The fat man next to them, the president of the Aso Consortium, Aso Kenzo, glanced around nervously, as if he was still worried the black mist would return and attack. The man in the jacket looked at Lao Zheng from time to time with a wary expression.
Dong Zhi’s gaze fell on the middle-aged man holding a mahogany sword on the periphery.
“The one with the sword seems to be Chinese?”
Lao Zheng said disdainfully, “That man’s name is Yin Huai. He’s a broker. I don’t know where he learned such crooked skills, but he specializes in buying cultural relics from tomb robbers and reselling them to foreigners. He was released some time ago and is also on our blacklist. It’s obvious they’re up to no good if he’s following this group of Japanese to the mountains!”
Dong Zhi was surprised. “Are there any cultural relics on Changbai Mountain?”
Lao Zheng shook his head, and his expression became solemn. “There have been some abnormalities in this vicinity recently. We originally wanted to close off the mountain, but we felt that the situation was not serious enough. Hastily sealing the mountain would instead beat the grass and startle the snake*. The black mists you encountered are called Sneaky Yaksha. It’s not a ghost but a kind of demon that devours people’s souls.”
*(打草惊蛇) Idiom originally meant punishing others and warning oneself. Later, it’s a metaphor for doing things not secretly, causing the other party to be alert and guarded. It comes from Zheng Wenbao’s “Recent Events in the Southern Tang Dynasty”. In this context, it’s the latter meaning.
Influenced by anime, the Yaksha in Dong Zhi’s impression were a very beautiful race. These Sneaky Yaksha obviously were not, and they’re even more terrifying than actual ghosts. He remembered the incident on the train and quickly relayed it to Lao Zheng.
Lao Zheng frowned and said, “Sneaky Yaksha can only be derived from places where resentment is deep and there are lots of demons. Changbai Mountain has never had them before. Their sudden appearance is already very unusual in and of itself. If your account is true, there must be a reason behind this. Perhaps someone is deliberately releasing these evil things and manipulating them.”
Hearing the heaviness in his words, Dong Zhi couldn’t help but become nervous. “Why are they on this mountain now? Are we going to run into them again?”
Lao Zheng sighed and whispered, “He Yu and Boss Long are from the Special Administration Bureau. If we knew they were coming, we would have waited for two more days. We hadn’t heard from them before we went up the mountain. Now I’m separated from another colleague.”
Dong Zhi was shocked and said, “How many days have you been staying on this mountain?”
Lao Zheng said depressingly, “It will be at least four or five days now. I have been searching for the source of the Sneaky Yaksha, but unfortunately I haven’t found any clues.”
He shouldn’t have revealed so much to Dong Zhi. While he looked calm in front of the Japanese group, he was really suffocating internally and finally had a chance to vent. What he said just now showed that he was alone. To make matters worse, the Japanese side had more people and held ulterior motives. Though they were polite now, due to being scared of the Special Administration Bureau behind Lao Zheng, if they knew that he was alone, they might just kill him on the spot and even drag Dong Zhi and Zhang Xing with him. In the barren mountains, who would know?
Dong Zhi finally realized why Lao Zheng’s tone was so heavy. What they face now wasn’t only the elusive Sneaky Yaksha but also the Japanese with an unknown purpose and possibly even a more mysterious and unpredictable force behind all this.
Mom, I just quit my job and wanted to have a little fun. Why is this kind of thing happening?!
Recalling his job, he thought of his project manager, who was also a fat man. Compared to the ill-intentioned consortium president in front of him, his original picky project manager seemed so cute now. If he could get down the mountain safely, he would go back and give that fat man a hug and shower him with kisses.
At this moment, Yin Huai suddenly yelled in surprise, “Look, the road is open!”
The originally dark forest suddenly had a path that had appeared out of thin air. It looked as if it had been trekked on. No one moved. Lao Zheng went up and explored it first, then asked Dong Zhi to wake Zhang Xing up and follow him.
The man in the jacket asked Fujikawa Aoi. “Why don’t I explore the way first?”
Fujikawa Aoi shook his head. “Follow them.”
Two groups of people walked in the dark, one after the other. As he walked, Dong Zhi whispered to Lao Zheng, “Where are we going?”
Lao Zheng said, “Up this road. We can reach the top of the mountain. I have told my colleague to meet me there. Once we arrive, we can talk.”
Zhang Xing had twisted her foot when she was fleeing for her life, so she was walking with a limp. Seeing her frown and painful expression, Dong Zhi said, “I’ll carry you on my back.”
Zhang Xing was a little hesitant, but Dong Zhi had already bent down and squatted in front of her. She took his generous offer and lay down on his back, wrapping her hands around his shoulders tightly.
Suddenly, Dong Zhi remembered something. “Do you have any objects on you that ward off evil spirits?”
Zhang Xing was taken aback. “What do you mean?”
Dong Zhi: “Those monsters possess the human body, but why didn’t they attack you when you were alone with Yao Bin?”
Hearing his words, Zhang Xing also felt it couldn’t have been just a coincidence that she managed to survive. After thinking about it, she took out a necklace and showed it to him.
“This is the celestial bead that my mother brought back from Tibet. Does it count?” As soon as she finished talking, she shouted, “Why do the beads look so dark!”
Dong Zhi breathed a sigh of relief as he somewhat understood. “It may have saved your life just now, so keep it safe.”
The sky was moonless, but the lightning still illuminated the area from time to time. Their torches burned fiercely as they trekked along the path, casting dark and unknown shadows as the night wind howled, blowing the leaves violently.
This was a terrifying night. Seeing the slender neck of a young man close at hand and feeling the body temperature of the other party faintly coming through his clothes on her palm, Zhang Xing wanted to cry.
“Thank you.” She whispered.
Dong Zhi didn’t speak. He was afraid that if he spoke, the breath he was holding back would leak out and he would collapse…
…Because Zhang Xing was too heavy.
Physical intimacy with a beautiful woman with a good figure like her should have produced countless wonderful thoughts, and Dong Zhi was indeed full of thoughts at this moment, but they had nothing to do with his current journey—
Golden mushroom rice with fatty beef, tomato seafood noodles, charcoal-grilled pork neck, crispy char siu sausage noodles…
Ah, so hungry.
The last of the chocolates had been consumed ages ago, so he could only use thoughts of food as motivation. From steamed chicken feet to shumai—he even began to meditate on the ingredients for mandarin duck pot.
Suddenly, he felt dizzy. He thought it was due to sheer hunger that his strength was leaving him, but the dizziness got worse, eventually causing his feet to become soft and he collapsed onto the ground, throwing Zhang Xing off.
The ground was shaking!
Dong Zhi reacted as the others were also shocked and ran to the nearby trees to support themselves. Lao Zheng looked up in the distance and blurted out, “Damn it!”
The frequency of lightning increased to the point where it lighted up the entire darkness with no interval in between. The top of the mountain was illuminated, shaking violently, and the rumbling sound seemed to be coming from the depths of the ground, containing an inexplicable strange power, as if something was about to break through and emerge from it.
Suddenly, a roar rang out, resounding through the entire area and deafening everyone’s ears, causing tinnitus as no other sound could be heard.
Zhang Xing felt the tingling of her eardrums and couldn’t help but scream as she covered her ears. Her hands were shaking as she touched her ears and discovered that they were bleeding.
Lao Zheng suddenly ran up the mountain like crazy. The Onmyojis reacted quickly as well, as they followed closely behind, and soon they had almost passed Lao Zheng. Fujikawa Aoi looked almost seventy years old, but he actually ran faster than his apprentice. No one else knew what was going on, so they all ran after them.
At this time, they were not far from the peak of the mountain, but the higher they went, the more severe the shaking got. There was even a tendency for the ground to crack. Stones rolled down, and although they weren’t large, they would still break one’s head in if they landed a hit.
Fortunately, Lao Zheng swung his whip side to side while running up, turning many of the stones into dust, and Fujikawa Aoi also released his own shikigami, blocking the front and saving everyone a lot of trouble.
When they were about to reach the top of the mountain, the ground was shaking so violently that no one could walk. They all had to hold onto thick trees so as to not tumble down with the rocks.
Suddenly, there was another roar! This time the sound was so piercing that even if he covered his ears, the sound still penetrated through the palm of his hand and struck his eardrums, causing him headaches and rendering him into a state of confusion.
“Dragon! The dragon is real!” Yin Huai suddenly yelled and started laughing, as if he was crazy. “There really are dragons. This place really is one of the great dragon veins*. I was right!”
*Source of great life energy that forms paths in which they flow. In Feng Shui, it’s believed that the earth is alive, and its pulse is the mountain range. Because mountains are undulating, always appearing and disappearing, like a dragon traveling around, Feng Shui refers to the mountains as dragon veins.
Dong Zhi endured the pain that felt as if his head was about to split open and looked up. He saw a tall and majestic figure rising into the air. The dragon shape slithered and swam amidst the thunder and lightning, creating a dazzling sight full of power and beauty. After a while, it turned into a cloud of smoke and slowly dissipated, as if he had fought with the heavens and was laid to rest.
However, the dragon’s roar did not stop and still sounded, blending in with the thunder, from time to time, but it was not as piercing as before. Everyone was shell-shocked, having never before witnessed such a fantastical and magnificent scene.
“It’s over! It’s over! The dragon corpse has been resurrected!” Only Lao Zheng had clear eyes as he murmured while staring blankly in front.
Coming to his wits, Dong Zhi was stunned at the mess that lay in front of him. All the trees and rocks were completely gone, replaced by a huge sinkhole, almost comparable to the size of a small lake.
He wasn’t the only one who was shocked by the appearance of the sinkhole. Only Yin Huai expressed excitement as he ran to the edge of the pit. His eyes lit up and he laughed. “As expected, I was right. Wherever dragon veins are, there must be a real dragon!”
The shaking of the ground continued, but it was not as violent as before. Another flash of lightning swept across the sky, illuminating a person standing not far from the pit. His figure was vague and unclear, but, while everyone else was busy holding onto something to stabilize themselves, the figure of this person was still standing steadily, as if he was completely fearless even if the sky was falling apart.
“Who is there?!” The figure turned his head to face them.
Dong Zhi recognized his voice at once, and the inexplicable excitement almost made him call out to him, but Lao Zheng, who was ecstatic, replied even faster, “Boss Long, is that you? I’m Lao Zheng from the Northeast Branch!”
The author has something to say:
Dong Zhi: Wuwuwu, I was robbed, and I couldn’t smoke*…
*Smoke is a buzzword that has the connotation of happy/happiness. He’s saying he couldn’t smoke so it’s the opposite of the connotation.