Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Unlike Long Shen, Lao Zheng and He Yu both sat down on the ground, gasping for breath, disregarding their entire image. Yin Huai was lying on the ground not far away, seemingly unconscious.
Lao Zheng was brooding about letting the few remaining Japanese go and muttered, “We could have left them behind and say that they all disappeared on Changbai Mountain. After all, they didn’t report to the Special Administration Bureau!”
He Yu said, “We still have diplomatic ties between the two countries, and both the master and apprentice have status in the Shinto religion over there. If we kill them, it’s impossible for Japan to be unaware, and next time we have a mission over there, little Japan will retaliate, and the rules will become a chaotic mess.”
“Well, I’m only from the General Administration Branch, so your overall view is better than mine!” Lao Zheng patted He Yu on the shoulder. “I was just venting. What I hate most in my life is Japs!”
He Yu laughed. “I don’t know you that well yet! We should have a chat. Since I’m finally here, you have to invite me out for drinks, and you have to order at least three rounds for me!”
Seeing Dong Zhi cast a curious look, he said smoothly, ” Lao Zheng’s ancestor belonged to the Northeast Army. He once followed Zhang Zuolin* who was later murdered by the Japanese, so he has hated them ever since.”
*An influential Chinese bandit, solider, and warlord during the Warlord Era in China. He was backed by Japan and successfully influenced politics in the Republic of China. He was later assassinated by a bomb planted by the Kwantung Army.
Lao Zheng curled his lips. “This is a common hatred*, and there are a few in the northeast who don’t hate little Japan!”
*(国仇家恨) National enemy and family hatred. It’s an idiom meaning the hatred of the country being invaded and the hatred of the destruction of one’s homeland. Generally, it is used to refer to a common hatred.
“Is it okay to let them go down the mountain like this? In case they go elsewhere…” Dong Zhi coughed twice, feeling a faint smell of blood in his throat.
“It’s okay. The boss asked Kan Chaosheng to follow them.” He Yu stretched out his hand and grabbed Dong Zhi. Seeing him wince in pain, he said, “You have a broken rib. Don’t move. We’ll take you down the mountain and to a hospital.”
When Dong Zhi heard the words “Kan Chaosheng” he said in surprise, “The cat?!”
He Yu smiled and said, “So you found out?”
Realization hit Dong Zhi. It was no wonder when he got lost by the waterfall, the big yellow cat had guided him back and that greedy and tsundere* look was exactly the same as Chaosheng.
*Japanese term depicting someone who is initially cold, stern, stoic, harsh, temperamental, hotheaded (and sometimes hostile), before gradually showing a warmer, friendlier side over time.
But for a person to become a cat… He thought of the fearful appearance of the snow wolf facing the big yellow cat and said curiously, “Is he a cat spirit or a tiger spirit?”
He Yu smiled mysteriously and did not answer him.
Dong Zhi was so exhausted that he couldn’t even lift a finger. The heat gradually evaporated and the chill surged in. He was completely drenched inside with sweat, making him extremely uncomfortable.
At that moment, he heard Long Shen say, “The stone tablet is broken.”
The faces of He Yu and Lao Zheng, who were still talking and laughing just now, suddenly changed.
“How could this happen? Wasn’t the dragon corpse subdued?!”
Long Shen walked over, but his tone did not change much. “The stone tablet was under the dragon corpse. I suspect that the aim of the person who resurrected the dragon corpse was the stone tablet.”
He Yu’s mind turned quickly. “So, the reason why those Japanese people get news that a dragon corpse was buried here most likely came from someone deliberately leaking it?”
Lao Zheng also said, “I’ll check on the Sneaky Yaksha when I go back. It must have something to do with this! As soon as the bone dragon died, they disappeared. How could there be such a coincidence!”
Long Shen snorted, “I just got in touch with Wang Jingguan. After she was separated from you, she couldn’t find you, so she went down the mountain to find help. She’ll be coming over soon.”
Lao Zheng was relieved. “That’s great!”
He Yu smiled and winked at Long Shen. “Boss, Dong Zhi has made a great contribution this time. He was an innocent bystander but got involved with us. Shouldn’t you be a bit more concerned?”
Long Shen remained completely neutral. “What kind of expression do you want?”
He Yu hurriedly poked Dong Zhi. “A batch of funds had just been issued recently, and Dong Zhi was injured due to public affairs. How about giving him a five-star resort package or something? It’s best if it’s for two, don’t you think?”
Dong Zhi couldn’t help laughing and blurted out, “What do single dogs need a package for two for?”
He Yu said pitifully, “For me! Can’t I be the two?!”
Long Shen looked at him with a smirk. “I remember that the salary deduction from your demerit last time hasn’t been deducted yet, right?”
He Yu’s mouth changed into a dogleg smile. “Boss, I worked so hard this time. Isn’t it worth balancing my merits against those demerits?”
Long Shen nodded. “That’s right, so in order to reward you, this month’s salary will not be deducted.”
He Yu: …
In other words, it will be deducted next month! He Yu suddenly felt that there was no love in life. His games were running out of currency, and he needed to recharge them to buy more heroes!
Dong Zhi laughed while in a daze, triggering his injury. The pain jolted him, making him sober again. “Then can I make a request?” He asked.
He Yu said meekly, “Single dogs are not allowed to make requests!”
Dong Zhi automatically ignored He Yu and looked at Long Shen. He fortified his heart and blurted out, “Can I join you?”
He thought his tone was calm, but others could still sense the anxiety.
Seeing that Long Shen didn’t answer, Dong Zhi became nervous. “I don’t know how to fight, especially compared to you, but I can draw. Uh, my talismans seem to be okay. I can be He Yu’s assistant, or I can work the front desk or something…”
It was originally a request made impulsively, but later he expanded on it more clearly.
He Yu broke the ice and joked. “Our front desk’s job is better than mine.”
Dong Zhi snorted and, like god’s messenger*, added, “Then playing games makes you very powerful, huh?”
*(神使鬼差) Idiom which means it seems there are ghosts and gods in support, unconsciously doing things that were not expected to do before.
He Yu made an aggrieved sound. He was so embarrassed by what Dong Zhi countered that he wanted to dive into the sky and lie dead by the bone dragon’s side.
Long Shen was noncommittal and only said, “Go back and have a good rest first.”
He didn’t refuse on the spot, but to Dong Zhi, it seemed like a polite decline. He felt a bit disappointed and embarrassed for being rejected and didn’t know what to say. Long Shen didn’t give him much chance to respond either, as he turned around and walked to the edge of the pit to survey the area.
He Yu patted Dong Zhi on the arm and whispered, “The boss is right. You should take care of your injuries first. Don’t think too much about this matter. I will try my best to apply for your rewards.”
Dong Zhi wanted to respond, but his body was in so much pain that he couldn’t even move the corners of his mouth. His eyelids grew heavier as He Yu’s voice, who was talking to Lao Zheng, slowly got softer, like trying to listen to someone talking through a layer of glass.
“Zhang Xing,” Dong Zhi whispered, suddenly remembering the girl who was still placed halfway up the mountain.
Lao Zheng seemed to hear him and comforted him with a few more words. Dong Zhi tilted his head and finally passed out. The aftermath matters had nothing to do with him.
The world was quiet.
Perhaps he would dream of a dragon.
Thin eyelids first sense light, and a bright and dazzling feeling was then transmitted to the brain. When he opened his eyes, Dong Zhi saw a bunch of pink and white bellflowers. Half of the water in the vase reflected the branches below, which were clear and bright like the sky. The faint smell of disinfectant lingered on his nose. The ward was quiet, and he saw another bed beside him that was empty.
“The double room I specially found for you is in good condition, right?” A familiar voice was accompanied by the sound of a door being pushed open.
Dong Zhi said in surprise, ” Lao Zheng!”
Lao Zheng came in with a smile. “Yo! You’re recovering well, and you have no memory loss!”
His arm was bandaged, but he still joked around when he opened his mouth. The image was extremely different from the way he looked around the Japanese that day. Following him in was a woman.
Lao Zheng introduced, “This is Wang Jingguan. Just call her Wang Jie. She was the colleague who was separated from me on the mountain that day. She heard that you were honorably injured and came to visit. I didn’t expect we would catch up this early, but we’re just in time as you just woke up!”
Dong Zhi wanted to sit up, but Wang Jingguan motioned him to stop as she said kindly, “You can lie down. The doctor said you have a concussion, so you need to recuperate!”
No wonder he felt a little dizzy. He raised his hand to his head and found there was still a needle in his arm.
Dong Zhi: ” Lao Zheng, are you okay?”
Lao Zheng: “I’m fine. My arm’s broken, but it’s not serious.”
Wang Jingguan glanced at him blankly. “What’s fine? Your internal injuries were not light. The doctor told you to rest in bed, but you constantly have to jump around!”
Lao Zheng scratched his head. “I can’t lie still. Makes me too antsy.”
The doctor soon came and gave him a general examination, pulled out the needle, and explained, “You have some broken ribs and a slight concussion, but it’s not serious. You mainly need to rest. Don’t walk around when you’re free. The nurse will come check on you regularly to give you medicine for the traumatic wounds on your body. Remember to take your anti-inflammatory drugs on time.”
Compared to the disobedient Lao Zheng, Dong Zhi nodded compliantly and was more well liked, especially since he looked so sunny and handsome. The middle-aged female doctor couldn’t help but rub his head, and then walked away smiling under Dong Zhi’s embarrassed gaze.
Wang Jingguan smiled and said, “Although it’s not too serious, do you want to call your family, so they don’t worry?”
Dong Zhi said, “I’m an only child. My parents passed away in a car accident a few years ago. There are no close relatives at home, so I won’t bother them. Besides, it’s not a big deal.”
His tone was calm, but to the others, they didn’t know how to respond to his words. Dong Zhi didn’t let this awkward atmosphere permeate and soon jokingly asked, ” Lao Zheng, Wang Jie, since I was injured while on duty, do I get the benefit of free food while I’m here?”
Wang Jingguan laughed and said, “Of course. Not only is the food free, but the check-ups and your stay are also included. You can stay as long as you want.”
Lao Zheng opened the food box. “Here, your Wang Jie has prepared it for you. Let me see… There’s yam porridge and pork rib soup. Not bad, but you should make pig’s trotter next time.”
This remark made Wang Jingguan roll her eyes.
As soon as he drank the pork rib soup, he knew that it was homemade. The addition of carrots and corn made the soup turn golden yellow, and the taste was sweeter. There were a few pieces of pork cartilage in the soup that had soaked in the sweetness, and after tasting it, he praised, “This soup is really delicious!”
Wang Jingguan smiled and said, “I made this myself. Go on and eat more. I’ll bring more for you tomorrow.”
Seeing Dong Zhi’s well-behaved demeanor and attitude stimulated her motherhood, and her eyes became softer when she looked at Dong Zhi.
Lao Zheng showed envy and jealousy. “I haven’t seen you give me soup for so many years!”
Wang Jingguan sneered, “Didn’t I send you some twelve years ago and it was dumped into the toilet.”
Lao Zheng: …
Dong Zhi sensed an unusual ambiguity between the two as he lowered his head, sipping on the soup in silence.
The author has something to say:
[Not related to the main text] Short story：
(Time point: after Dong Zhi’s apprenticeship)
Dong Zhi liked Long Shen, but he didn’t dare say it. He was afraid that after he confessed, he would be slaughtered by him and clean the door1. In desperation, he turned to superstitions and would turn koi2 daily. He would actively retweet on Weibo every day whenever he saw: [As long as you forward this koi, you will receive good news within 30 days.].
1Refers to throwing away dirty and bad things in the house (AKA clean house). It’s also used to refer to the “sect” extending its meaning to remove or rectify the members of the sect that disgrace its reputation.
2Internet buzzword referring to seeking good luck by reposting pictures of koi. Koi is a symbol of wealth and luck, and it’s used by bloggers as a gimmick to gain forwarding volume. While many netizens hope to take this for good luck, it has eventually become a modern internet superstition.
Until one day, the busy Boss Long discovered that his apprentice was obsessed with forwarding kois. He called Dong Zhi into the office, pointed to a young man, and said, “Turn.”
Dong Zhi looked dumbfounded. “Turn what???”
The young man said shyly, “My original form* is a koi.”
*Clarity: This will be explained later in the novel, but just know that in this novel’s setting, animals and things can cultivate and become human.
Long Shen: “He’s visiting from the General Administration Branch and will stay for about a week. Isn’t there room at your place? Just take him back and you can turn him every day.”
Dong Zhi felt exasperated. He really wanted to say: “Master, it’s not koi that I want, it’s you!”
PS: This short story has nothing to do with the main text. Don’t confuse the plot~