Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
After the fight, Kan Chaosheng walked away with a pile of snacks, while He Yu went out with an ambitious Dong Zhi.
“What kind of job can ordinary people like me hold if I enter the Special Administration Bureau?” He was motivated at the beginning when He Yu and Old Zheng had encouraged him to join, but Long Shen’s words kept circling in his ears, whittling away at his confidence. It was a trivial matter to die by himself, but it would be a big deal if he implicated others.
He Yu shrugged. “There are many things you can do. Not everyone has to rush to the front line. There are some ordinary people like you in logistics. You usually do reports and pay wages. What do they need magic for to do that kind of job? In addition, we now have regular exchanges with other Department of Exorcism in many foreign countries. Your English is good, right?”
Dong Zhi nodded. “I also know a little Russian.”
He Yu: “There are many people like me in the bureau who have been training in the mountains for years and have not received a formal education. Don’t think that just because someone’s a master1 means they are omnipotent. Except for the boss, most of the others in our group don’t even speak a foreign language. There are so many foreign devils2 from so many different countries that speak so many different languages that they all sound the same to me. If you join us, we won’t need to go to another department to borrow someone when we go abroad in the future.”
1High Man (高人) Refers to someone whose spiritual ability surpasses ordinary people.
2[Yang Guizi] (洋鬼子) The term is generally use as contempt to describe foreigners.
Dong Zhi said, “Boss Long looks like a master who cultivated deep in the mountains, not like someone who could speak a foreign language.”
He Yu laughed. “You are mistaken. As far as I know, he can speak at least five foreign languages.”
Dong Zhi praised him in his thoughts, ‘So amazing! The male god is truly a male god!’
He Yu wrapped an arm around his shoulder and said solemnly, “Don’t worry. There are 360 lines* but there’s only one apprenticeship. Besides, the boss can scold you to the point where you wouldn’t be able to lift your head, so the fact of the matter was, you got off easy. It can be counted as him being polite to you. Don’t stress about it. After you pass your exam, the higher-ups will know what to do. Also, my uncle likes a good kid like you, so when he accepts you as an apprentice, wouldn’t that mean you have a solid background?”
*Refers to all walks of life.
Dong Zhi nodded earnestly. “Thank you.”
He Yu instantly gave him a goofy smile. “Since you want to thank me… can you help me get the autographed collector’s edition peripheral kit from the development team of <The Great Wasteland>? It’s been so popular that it sells out as soon as it hits the shelf! I can’t get my hands on it!”
The corners of Dong Zhi’s mouth twitched, and all the emotions he previously felt vanished. “…Yes.”
Before he had the chance to even regret what he said, He Yu urged, “Then it’s settled! Yesterday I said I’d take you to a place. It’s just ahead. Hurry up before we’re late and they won’t let us in!”
The two crossed the road, and He Yu led him to the National Museum, next to the Ministry of Public Security.
Dong Zhi looked dumbfounded. “What does this place have to do with the exam?”
He Yu took their ID cards and went to get their admission tickets. There weren’t many people around since it was a weekday. He quickly got the tickets and handed one to Dong Zhi.
“According to the experience I have gathered in interviews and entry training exams over the years, they like to ask questions relating to things in the National Expo the most. The questions are usually about the origins or the roles of various cultural relics or their makers. In short, they’ll test you on every relic imaginable.”
Dong Zhi: “…Are your leaders lovers of cultural relics?”
He Yu shrugged. “Maybe it’s because the Special Administration Bureau has produced a few bigwigs that transformed from them.”
Transform… from this?
Dong Zhi didn’t react at first, too shocked at the thought. “You mean cultural relics can become human?”
“Is it weird?” He Yu said with a relaxed tone. “Didn’t you already see a bone dragon and Kan Chaosheng turning into a cat? I know there are also legends about the fox spirit and the white snake spirit, but generally speaking, there are few animals that could transform.”
Dong Zhi thought for a bit and said, “Because most animals have a shorter life span than humans? Can’t they break through their lifespan limit?”
He Yu snapped his fingers, praising his quick wit. Dong Zhi remembered the fox-eared boy they had seen when he first entered the office and couldn’t help but raise some doubts.
He Yu explained, “The Hu family is a bit special. It is said that their ancestors have the blood of the white fox, but as their bloodlines age, it becomes thinner. The one you saw looks weak, but it’s actually the best of its generation. It’s like sailing a boat against the current, if you don’t advance, there’s only retreat. The same is true for racial evolution.”
After lunch, the primary school students who were on a field trip with their teacher left. It became much quieter in the Sui and Tang Dynasties Museum as there were few tourists about.
The National Museum was classified by dynasties, each with a collection of cultural relics that were in a variety of colors. When Dong Zhi had visited last time, he was still young and had followed a group of second-year students to mess around and get into mischief. He couldn’t appreciate the breadth and depth of these antiques. Now that he’s looking at them from a perspective of an art student, he could feel the charm of each of them that were indescribable.
Each piece was filled with ingenuity, reflecting the great craftsmanship it took to create them. In addition to admiring their appearance, Dong Zhi also read every text description carefully. If he couldn’t remember, he took pictures of them on his phone. After a while, he started feeling dizzy and light-headed.
“The bigwigs you mention; what are their original forms? Are they foxes? Is Kan Chaosheng one of them?” He asked with interest.
He Yu sneered, “That little fart a bigwig? How rich. Regarding their original form, unless they are willing to tell you, or you find the answer yourself, I can’t say.”
After less than three seconds, he spoke bitterly. “Actually, I really want to talk about it, but we have confidentiality rules. After you officially join, if you still don’t know by then, I’ll share with you all the gossip to your heart’s content. You don’t know how hard it is for me to hold back when I see those who are engaging in secret affairs with each other!”
Dong Zhi: …
The two of them whispered while walking. He Yu had been to so many exhibitions here that he could almost count all the relics with his eyes closed, as if he was one of the guides here. He casually pointed to a separate showcase in the middle. “That’s the most famous secret color* porcelain of the Tang Dynasty. There are only a dozen pieces unearthed in the world, and this is one of them.
*The secret color is a layer of mysterious color that is put on Yue Kiln porcelain during the Tang Dynasty. It wasn’t until 1987, when some of these artifacts were excavated, that people could bear witness to the secret color that could only be imagined through the verses of Lu Guimeng’s works. The meaning of secret color varies.
Dong Zhi walked in front of the secret color porcelain bowl. The azure porcelain glowed softly under the light, as if a puddle of water was slightly rippling in it, mesmerizing people so they were unable to look away. Its shape and color contain the ultimate beauty and fragility.
Dong Zhi suddenly asked, “Even if porcelain has a long history, it really can’t transform, right?”
He Yu snorted. “Why do you think that?”
Dong Zhi said, “I just thought of it suddenly. Although these porcelains are beautiful, they are also very fragile. Once they are broken, they are almost impossible to restore to their original condition.”
He Yu: “The person I like is so smart! You are right. If you want to transform and take shape, you must have enough time to absorb the spiritual energy of the heavens and earth, and at the same time, you must have a sturdy shape. Generally, folk-made artifacts are rough, and it’s difficult for them to absorb spiritual energy. Although the kiln porcelain is an exquisite work of art, it’s too fragile and cannot be cultivated.”
Dong Zhi blinked. “So, antiques made of gold, silver, copper, and iron are easier to cultivate?”
He Yu shook his head and said, “That also depends on the specific circumstances. Some antiques were stolen by tomb robbers too early, and they fell into human hands and were contaminated too much with worldly evil spirits. Anyone, or thing, who can cultivate into a human form must have the advantage of time, place, and people, among a variety of other factors.”
After that, he scratched his head. “Didn’t I tell you that one of my junior brothers failed the exam last year? Just now, you asked if porcelain can be transformed, which was one of the interview questions last year! Alas, he was also a disciple of the Hezao Sect, which made me lose face and our school scolded me for a long time!”
Dong Zhi said strangely, “He failed by just this question?”
Famous disciples have a strong family background that generally specializes in art. How could they not even answer a question like this?
He Yu shook his head and said bitterly, “No, he was eliminated in the written test. The multiple-choice questions ask about the core values1. Isn’t the last one friendliness? He actually stupidly chose well-behaved! What’s even more hateful is that the reviewer said that if he can’t even remember this kind of basic knowledge, he needed to go back and rebuild2 before he comes back!”
1The values are patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendliness.
2It means one shortcoming shouldn’t be there, which makes it difficult for the other party to change, so he needs to rebuild it. In this way, he can start over, and those shortcomings will disappear. This is usually used in a derogatory way.
Dong Zhi: …
He Yu said, “At that time, I was out in the field, and I couldn’t intercede on his behalf. Those bastards really eliminated him. Last year, the papers were changed by the people of Longhu Sect. I have heard that they are jealous of our Hezao’s Zhong Lingyuxiu, who’s smart and cute…”
Dong Zhi’s mouth twitched, and he hurriedly interrupted him, “What other questions were asked in the interview last year?”
He Yu thought hard, scratched his head, and said, “I don’t remember the others. There was a question on adaptability that asked if you were out in the field with a female colleague and you happen to be in danger, and suddenly you find that you forgot to bring your cinnabar, so you can’t draw talismans, what should you do?”
Dong Zhi asked with a blank face, “What should I do? Just roll up my sleeves?”
He Yu: “Wrong. You ask your female colleague for her lipstick and use it to draw the talisman!”
Dong Zhi: ???
“You have to review the questions carefully. First, the question is related to drawing talismans, so you can’t think of other ways. Second, the female colleague is a clue on how you adapt to the situation,” He Yu said sadly. “Little comrade, it’s easy for you to lose points if you’re like this!”
Dong Zhi was speechless. “What if a female colleague doesn’t like makeup and doesn’t wear lipstick? There may not be cinnabar in lipstick!”
He Yu: “The person who asked the question just assumed a situation. What they want to see is if your on-the-spot thinking is quick or not. You don’t need to overanalyze. Just say what the most suitable plan would be.”
Dong Zhi sighed. He thought he understood the thinking of the person who asked the questions but didn’t realize that they did their best to set traps and pits for candidates. No wonder few people could pass the exam every year.
He Yu said, “The Special Administration Bureau has a wide range of jurisdiction. We oversee strange things that cannot be solved by other departments. In the past few years, our benefits and perks have been greatly improved. Therefore, there are more candidates who want to join these days. Many of them rely on relationships and get in through the backdoor, so the Bureau had to introduce some measures to limit the number of people. Although the exam questions are tricky and strange, as long as you pass, it shows that you are indeed capable, and others won’t be able to talk down to you.”
Dong Zhi nodded. What he said has some truth. It seems that no matter where you go, this kind of thing is inevitable. He thought it was a little funny to think about those monsters walking through the backdoor with gifts.
While his mind was on the subject, he said, “I’ve always been curious, why do monsters cultivate themselves into human form? Could it be that because humans dominate the legends of the world and think that all monsters want to be human?”
He Yu spread out his palms and let Dong Zhi see the palm lines.
“You see, from the index finger to the pinky finger, there are a total of twelve sections*, which exactly represent the twelve areas of the zodiac. When those Fengshui masters are pinching their fingers, they are actually calculating units with them. The lines on the palm of your hands condense your whole life, which is extremely long and unpredictable. Except for humans, there is no other creature that possess this.”
*I don’t even think there’s an English term for this area. Translation was giving me knuckles, but it’s not really knuckles. From what I read, they are referred to as the short section, central section, and shorter section III. Click the link to see the area that He Yu is referring to.
Dong Zhi also looked at his palm. Except for a thin callus on the tiger’s mouth due to holding a pen all year round, the rest of the area was fair and tender, as the ten fingers did not touch spring water*.
*(十指不沾阳春水) Metaphor to describe a person whose family conditions are such that they do not need to do laundry or housework. Typically refer to people who are pampered, mostly referring to women from wealthy families.
“Three lights, sun, moon, and stars. Three talents, heaven, earth, and man*,” he murmured.
*From “Three Character Classics” written by the poet Wang Yinglin from the Song Dynasty.
He Yu smiled approvingly. “Since human beings are the three talents that can be juxtaposed with heaven and earth, it can be seen that they have great spiritual wisdom. Therefore, those who are capable of spiritual cultivation will only choose to cultivate in human form. In their view, being born as a human being is a great blessing. It is a pity that many humans do not cherish this unattainable blessing.”
Dong Zhi sighed. It took the Hu family many years to cultivate, and this generation only produced a single shapeshifter. In contrast, humans often easily give up their own lives and some don’t even take other lives seriously.
He looked around. “When you said this, I suddenly felt that the museum was full of eyes, all staring at us.”
He Yu laughed. “Don’t be afraid, those who can transform have already transformed. The spiritual energy in the museum is thin, and now with the pollution from outside, it’s difficult for these relics to cultivate. However, it’s good to come and walk around here often. Remember Zhong Yuyi, who you recently met? He’s very interested in cultural relics. Maybe you can learn more from him in the future.”
Every time he learns more about the other side of the world, the more interested he becomes. If it was impulse guiding him to join the Special Administration Bureau at that time, now that impulse had been transformed into exploration and liking. With so many role models in front of him, Dong Zhi was invigorated.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he caught sight of an exhibit. It showed: [The Bronze Sword of King Helu of Wu].
Dong Zhi’s mind drifted slightly as he recalled the two swords hanging in Long Shen’s office. At that moment, he heard the phone ring.
After He Yu answered the phone, his expression became serious. He said to Dong Zhi, “Something’s happened to my master. It seems that we have to set off early.”
Seeing that he was rarely serious, Dong Zhi didn’t ask much. The two hurriedly left the museum, their leisurely itinerary ruined. Dong Zhi was sent back to the dorm to rest while He Yu went to settle his own business.
He Yu’s dorm room had been relatively cleaned up. It had air-conditioning, a TV, a washing machine, and the overall condition of the room was good. However, it hadn’t been occupied for a long time, so there was an inevitable smell of dust.
Dong Zhi opened the window to diffuse the smell and went to the supermarket to buy some daily necessities, then came back to clean the remaining areas. After the room was fully cleaned, it was almost dusk. He was so exhausted that he didn’t even want to lift a finger. After taking a shower and changing into a new set of clothes, he skipped dinner and went straight to bed, immediately falling asleep.
When he opened his eyes, it was past dawn. Since he was young, his physical strength recovered quickly. He stretched his waist and felt refreshed. He looked at his phone and saw that He Yu had called around 6 AM. He was still sleeping, and the phone was on silent, so he didn’t hear it. Now, it was already 9.
Dong Zhi quickly called him back. After the phone rang twice, He Yu answered and said, “Where are you? Come over for breakfast!”
He Yu told him the location was near Wangfujing and, after hanging up, he went out and found it shortly after. He Yu and Kan Chaosheng were sitting together in the breakfast café. Their table had cups and plates scattered everywhere, creating a mess. When He Yu saw him, he said, “Did you sleep well last night?”
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “Not bad. Thank you for letting me stay in your dorm. Yesterday, Boss Long asked me to fill out the form. The bonus should be sent soon, so let me treat you to this meal. Are you full? Would you like to order more?”
“No, no, no!” He Yu hastily said.
Dong Zhi thought he wanted to be polite until the other party said, “This meal is too worthless. At least treat me to Jude*!”
*I think this is referring to Jude Huatian, which is a corporation that owns multiple restaurants.
Kan Chaosheng followed suit. “Jude is too cheap. I want Tan Jiacai*!”
*(谭家菜) There is a restaurant named this in Beijing, but I think he’s referring to the dish itself. It’s one of the most famous government dishes in China. You can read more by clicking the link.
Dong Zhi burst out laughing as he clasped his fist and obediently acknowledged the slaughter. The two uncles expressed their satisfaction and stopped fooling around.
He Yu said, “I am going to Guangzhou and will leave in the afternoon.”
Dong Zhi was taken aback. “Aren’t you going to Jiangxi to celebrate your uncle’s birthday?”
He Yu sighed. “My junior martial brother is missing. It’s the one I told you about yesterday who failed last year’s exam.”
He Yu’s junior brother was named Cheng Hui. While the Hezao sect was known for their talismans, Cheng Hui was more proficient in divination. Two years ago, after the death of He Yu’s elder martial uncle, Cheng Hui’s master took over the mantle and became the best diviner in the Hezao sect.
After failing the exam last year, Cheng Hui didn’t return to the school, but instead continued to travel abroad. The hexagram* corresponds to fate, so it’s not possible to know the world’s affairs behind closed doors. Therefore, it was necessary for Cheng Hui to travel thousands of miles to increase his knowledge and consult with experts in his field.
*Also known as the I Ching book, consists of 64 hexagrams. The hexagram lines are traditionally counted from the bottom up, so the lowest line is considered line one, while the top line is line six. Hexagrams are formed by combining the original eight trigrams in different combinations. Each hexagram is accompanied by a description, often cryptic, akin to parables. Each line in every hexagram is also given a similar description. || I believe, in this context, they are using the hexagram as the divination method.
After the Changbai Mountain Incident, He Yu contacted Cheng Hui, who was on his travels, and asked him to use his divination skills to check on the matter. After he raised the hexagram, Cheng Hui told him that he had reached a breakthrough and that the matter was most likely related to something in the south. He happened to be traveling there himself, so he would help He Yu look for any clues along the way.
As a result, He Yu had received news yesterday that his junior brother had disappeared.
“Can’t you use any communication device to contact him?” Dong Zhi asked.
He Yu shook his head. “Don’t talk about communication tools. After he came out, his passion became playing games. I have his account number, so I went to check up on it. His teammates said that he hadn’t played games for the past few days. While he may be a bit aloof, he wouldn’t disappear without saying a word for no reason. Yesterday, I asked someone to check the IP of his phone and confirmed that he last login to play his game when he was in Guangzhou before he disappeared.”
Kan Chaosheng suddenly asked, “What of his natal lamp*?”
*(本命灯) It’s the lamp of one’s life and the light reflects the person’s condition (i.e. if the light is strong, the person is in good condition). If the light goes out, it means the person is no longer alive.
“Master said it was still on, but it was much dimmer than before. He might’ve encountered something and become trapped temporarily. I’m going to go and check to see if this is the case.” Because of this, He Yu didn’t seem particularly worried.
He turned his head and asked Dong Zhi, “Why don’t you stay here for the time being. I’ll let you know when my affairs are over. Then we can meet directly in Jiangxi.”
Dong Zhi hurriedly said, “Let me go with you. I am familiar with Guangzhou and can guide you around.”
Kan Chaosheng said coldly, “Yes, take him away; otherwise if the boss sees him dangling in front of his eyes all day long, he’ll get annoyed and will give him a low score during the exam, then he’ll really have no place to cry.”
Dong Zhi: …
He Yu said, “Also that.”
Dong Zhi suddenly felt his knees was shot with countless arrows.
He asked He Yu, “Are we the only two going?”
Kan Chaosheng rested his hands on his chin and, with regret, said, “I would like to go. Guangzhou has so many delicious foods, but unfortunately I have other tasks on my hand.”
Dong Zhi said, “Why don’t you write down what you want to eat, and I will buy some that I can bring back.”
Kan Chaosheng waved his small hand. “It won’t taste as good when it’s not fresh. When I’m done this time, I’ll take an annual leave to go to Guangzhou for ten days!”
He Yu said, “You’re such a glutton. Why are you so greedy?!”
Kan Chaosheng bared his teeth. “Leave me alone!”
While the two of them bickered, Dong Zhi went to solve his breakfast problem and took care of the bill. He ordered a bowl of bean curd and two deep-fried cakes. The catch is that the bean curd here wasn’t sweet. After ordering, he beckoned the boss to check out.
The boss said, “Thank you! It’s 307 yuan. I’ll give you the discount and round it down, so it’ll be 300-yuan total!”
Dong Zhi thought there was something wrong with his ears. “How much?”
The boss brought a long list of bills and nodded at Kan Chaosheng with his chin. “He has a big appetite.”
Dong Zhi looked at the meal on the bill and couldn’t believe it. “Are they finished?”
“Finished!” The boss obviously often treats Kan Chaosheng and the others, so he wasn’t surprised. He pointed to the plates that were stacked high on a table next to him. “Before you came, he ate all of this.”
He Yu gloated and said to Dong Zhi, “Now you know how much he can eat. Forget Tan Jiacai, even KFC would bankrupt you!”
Kan Chaosheng said angrily, “It’s not that I eat this much every day!”
Dong Zhi habitually smoothed out his hair as he said, “Okay, okay. Just eat it and don’t waste it. Don’t be angry. I’ll go and buy you some candied gourds later.”
Kan Chaosheng angrily harrumphed and cast a triumphant glare at He Yu and didn’t care that Dong Zhi was coaxing him like a child. On the contrary, he found this beneficial to him.
Instead, it was He Yu’s turn to speak sourly. “Why are you treating him so well?”
Dong Zhi blurted out, “He’s cute!”
He Yu: “Then who is cuter, me or him?”
Dong Zhi: …
This kind of question could be answered without thinking.
Seeing his appearance, He Yu covered his heart and said, “You hesitated! You actually showed a hesitant expression! I want to break up with you!”
Kan Chaosheng was elated as he sneered at He Yu.
Their flight was at 2 in the afternoon. Based on the traffic conditions, there wasn’t much time left. The three came out of the café, and Kan Chaosheng went back to his own place. He Yu and Dong Zhi returned to pack their luggage and then meet downstairs.
The building he was staying at was divided up, with the upper floors being office workspace, while the lower floors were staff dormitories. Dong Zhi left his laptop back in the dorm and packed two simple outfits in his backpack, then brought his drawing board that he always takes with him and headed out.
Coincidentally, as soon as he opened the door, he saw Long Shen coming out of the opposite door. Dong Zhi was stunned, and it took him a while to react.
“Long—Boss Long!” Just as he spoke, he felt that calling him that was inappropriate, so he hurriedly changed his words. “Long Bureau is awesome!”
Long Shen nodded, didn’t care about how he was addressed, and didn’t even bother to look at him as he left in a hurry. Dong Zhi wanted to stop him but couldn’t find a reason. When he went downstairs, He Yu was already waiting there, and started complaining that he was dawdling. Dong Zhi told him that he ran into Long Shen.
He Yu sighed. “The boss’ dorm is opposite of mine. He has a house in the city but usually stays in the office like me, though he rarely goes back to the dorm.”
He thought he was being empathetic, so he comforted him. “Don’t worry, few people can stand his stepmother face*, but you won’t meet him often in the future!”
*(晚娘脸) In a broader sense, refers to a face that is very big, unsmiling, fierce-looking, or wretched.
Dong Zhi blinked, wanting to say that he didn’t dislike meeting him, but when he spoke, he changed his words. “Isn’t Boss Long particularly busy lately?”
He Yu said, “The trip to Changbai Mountain last time involved a lot of things. The news of the stone tablet has not yet been released. The higher ups must have been asking questions, so he’s probably quite overwhelmed right now.”
Dong Zhi said curiously, “He became a Director* at such a young age. Are there many people who are not convinced?”
*Secretary (局长) This is the title of the highest official of a department in China who manages certain administrative affairs of a city or county (i.e., the current US Department of State is Secretary John Kerry.)
He Yu touched his face. “Is he young? Isn’t he close to my age?”
He smiled and said, “Who dares to be unconvinced?! Shou Xinggong hanged himself thinking his life was too long*!”
*(寿星公上吊) It’s an idiom that refers to someone who must be tired of living/courting death. The story goes that Shou Xingong is a metaphor for a long-lived old man who hangs himself because he thinks his lifespan is too long and wants to die.
Dong Zhi: …
Well, when it comes to narcissism, no one can match He Yu.
The flight time from Beijing to Guangzhou was less than three hours, but flight delays at the Capital airport were commonplace. Today, they were lucky to be delayed by only an hour. When they arrived in Guangzhou, it happened to be just as night fell and around dinner time.
The two of them had a meal on the plane, so they weren’t hungry. They hurriedly found the hotel that they were staying at, and after checking in and throwing their luggage into the room, they went to investigate the place where Cheng Hui was last seen before his disappearance, an urban village in Tianhe District.
Around this time, 6-7 PM, the streets were bustling with people coming and going. The nightlife had just started in this southern city, which was on par with Beishang.
“Where do the two of you want to go?” The taxi driver, who was stopped by Dong Zhi, asked in Cantonese. This was a typical old Guangzhou driver. They normally don’t speak Mandarin at the start. If the guests don’t understand the answer in Mandarin, they will switch to speaking Mandarin. This was a unique sense of superiority in their industry, and outsiders who are new to the city will feel the local characteristics when they first arrive. For tourists, Lingnan culture were not obtained from food or scenery, but from experiencing the accents of these drivers.
Dong Zhi was already familiar with this kind of routine, and when he heard the taxi driver, he told him the location in Cantonese. The driver thought they were out-of-town tourists. When he heard Dong Zhi’s accent, he suddenly became energetic. Along the way, he chatted with Dong Zhi endlessly, ignoring He Yu, who was sitting in the backseat.
Poor He Yu was forced to fill his ears with “bird language*” that his ears were still buzzing when they got off the taxi.
*(鸟语) Has 3 meanings. In this context, it refers to incomprehensible language.
“What hell was he saying? What were you talking about?”
Dong Zhi said, “He was just complaining, saying that the recently popular rideshare app had robbed him of a lot of business.”
He Yu complained, “You should have pretended to sleep just now, and he would have shut up.”
Dong Zhi shrugged. “Then he will just turn his head and talk to you in Mandarin.”
He Yu rolled his eyes.
“This is where we are looking.”
Walking in from under the archway, there was no barrier from the wall, but it seemed to have an invisible boundary of its own. Long queue lines stretched outside, and the traffic was bustling as a surge of people moved about, as if this was a night market. There are restaurants everywhere, and a stove grilling oysters was placed on the side of the road, making passersby hasten their steps. Inside and out, it was full of people chatting, and laughter rang everywhere, mixed with the sound of cups and plates, creating an atmosphere like fireworks.
He Yu looked around. “The buildings here are so dense. Can you find the specific location where he was staying?”
“Yes, but we don’t have a key.”
He Yu said, “I have already contacted his landlord, who lives on the first floor of his building.”
Dong Zhi nodded, not surprised. Nowadays, most of the residents in urban villages were people who came from abroad to work, and there were also many recent graduates. They fancy the low rent here, and it could be used as a residence during the transitional period.
Dong Zhi was a little curious. “The Special Administration Bureau has a Northeast branch, so do they also have a southern branch?”
“In the past, there were only two branches, North and South. Later, when there were too many things and the Bureau got too big and had to expand, four branches were then created, Northeast, South China, Northwest, and Southwest. The Logistics Department of the General Administration Bureau also manages the hinterlands of the Central Plains.”
He Yu spoke eloquently. “The headquarters of the Southern Branch was originally in Guangzhou, but later the South China Branch was moved to Shanghai, and the leader was also promoted to the General Administration Bureau, so there are only a few people here, and their abilities are average. Moreover, this is a personal matter, so there’s no need to bother them.”
While talking, the two followed the directions to the address, finding an eight-story building. It was nestled in the alley, separated from the hustle and bustle of the streets. The alleyway was narrow and dark as there were no streetlamps to light the area.
He Yu made a call, and after a while, the sound of footsteps could be heard. The security door opened, and the head of a middle-aged auntie poked out from inside.
“Are you Cheng Hui’s cousin?”
The other party’s expression was a bit wary. It was obvious He Yu’s appearance didn’t give her enough peace of mind.
He Yu nodded, took out his phone, and showed her a group photo with Cheng Hui as well as his ID card.
This still didn’t dispel the Auntie’s doubt. “You should go to the police station tomorrow and get a certificate and come back. Otherwise, if he comes back and says he doesn’t know you, I won’t be able to explain it.”
At this time, Dong Zhi stepped up to the plate. He moved forward and said warmly, “Hello, elder sister. I’m Cheng Hui’s classmate. I’m the one who told his cousin about his disappearance. He ran away from home after causing trouble with his family, and we’re all afraid he might have been abducted by some MLM* organization, so I wanted to come and have a look. If there’s really no clue, we’ll call the police, but his parents are a bit worried right now.”
*Multi-level marketing organization. Basically, a more “legal” pyramid scheme org.
The landlady had a better impression of Dong Zhi. He hesitantly glanced at He Yu and asked, “Is he really that person’s cousin?”
He Yu: …Hey, we just met, yet you treat Dong Zhi like your nephew and me like a thief. Isn’t this unfair?
Dong Zhi nodded with a smile. “Really, we just want to go in and have a look. We’ll leave in half an hour. You can guard the door. This is my ID card. Here, take a look.”
The landlady took the ID card of the Dong Zhi and glanced at it and said, “You look so handsome in your ID photo. Do you have a girlfriend?”
He Yu: …
Dong Zhi said shyly, “Not yet.”
The landlady said enthusiastically, “Which school did you graduate from? Do you work in Guangzhou now? What do you do?”
He Yu couldn’t bear to listen anymore, so he coughed vigorously to remind the others of his existence. The landlady glared at him and finally let them enter.
“Cheng Hui paid the rent for half a year, and the utility bill was just paid a week ago. He lives on the sixth floor. I don’t see him very often, so I don’t know if he’s been back these last few days. It’s not easy to raise a child nowadays. Make sure you don’t let any marketing organization deceive him…”
The auntie chattered endlessly, half in vernacular and the other half in Mandarin, while guiding them to Cheng Hui’s room. The one-bedroom space wasn’t large. The living room and bedroom were all connected, with no walls separating them. There wasn’t a TV, and the only valuable thing was a desktop computer. The layout was rudimentary, and from a single glance you could see everything.
He Yu frowned.
“How is it? Have you found anything?”
He Yu said, “He disappeared four days ago. I didn’t see a backpack or any belongings in the room. This means he hasn’t come back since he went out from here.”
“Can you locate him via his phone?”
He Yu shook his head. “The signal is completely dead. There is another way; we can use the earth.”
He took a piece of Cheng Hui’s clothes from the bed, sniffed it, spread it on the floor with disgust, then brought an abandoned flowerpot from the balcony. The plants inside had withered long ago, but the soil was still there. He took a handful of it and strewn it around the four corners of the room.
“Go and see if you can find chopsticks.” He said to the Dong Zhi.
Cheng Hui didn’t cook, so the kitchen was empty. There was nothing but a kettle. After rummaging through the cabinets, Dong Zhi finally pulled out a few pairs of chopsticks from a pile of debris on the balcony. It was probably left there by the former tenant.
The auntie looked at He Yu’s weird actions and suspiciously asked, “What are you doing?”
He Yu ignored her and asked Dong Zhi to hold the chopsticks on top of the clothes while he held a mantra in both hands and recited the words. “Cheng Hui, a disciple of Hezao, was born on April 15, 1992, and is missing here today. Please, creatures passing by from far and wide, lend me your strength and help me find someone! Rise!”
After a while, without opening his eyes, he quickly said to Dong Zhi, “Let go!”
Dong Zhi hurriedly let go of the chopsticks. It didn’t fall, but instead stood firmly in place. Not only was Dong Zhi wide-eyed, even the landlady was stunned.
“Heavenly Emperor1, the secluded pass2 of the earthly world3, please follow my wishes and find someone! Go!”
1(太帝阳元) Also known as Emperor Tianguan, is one of the three official emperors of Taoism who bestow blessings on the world.
2(幽关) In Taoism refers to the area (secluded pass) between the two kidneys.
3(四罗) In Taoism refers to the human world.
“West.” He Yu let out a long sigh. “Cheng Hui went west.”
Returning the key to the landlady, the two left the building. He Yu took out a small compass the size of a palm from his beloved Rilakkuma backpack and measured the azimuth.
They left the urban village and followed the direction of the compass, heading west. After walking for more than 20 minutes, the compass didn’t change, and He Yu started getting impatient.
Dong Zhi proposed, “Why don’t we take the bus and get off as soon as there is movement on the compass? It’s also more convenient this way as well.”
Naturally, He Yu has no opinion. There was a bus stop not far from where the two were. They wasted a lot of time at the rental house, so it was already 11 at night. Since it wasn’t the weekend, there were very few people waiting for the bus. After they entered the station, Dong Zhi looked for a bus heading west on the roadmap.
Just then, a bus slowly pulled into the platform. He glanced around and vaguely saw that the bus route was heading west, so he hurriedly dragged He Yu to get on. There weren’t many passengers onboard, and no one got off when the bus stopped, and there were still many vacant seats, so they went directly towards the back, picking the rearmost seats. As they sat down, He Yu coughed twice and thumped his back.
“Are you okay?” Dong Zhi noticed that his face didn’t look good.
He Yu complained, “The injuries I suffered in Changbai Mountain were too serious, and I haven’t fully recovered, wuwuwu*.”
*[Ying ying ying] (嘤嘤嘤) buzzword that express grievances and crying but has a cute attribute. It’s mainly used to act coquettish. || When translated, it’s hum hum hum or ying ying ying pinyin form, but that doesn’t really make any sense, so I personally use wuwuwu, which is more fitting of the meaning. This is noted due to Dong Zhi’s response after this line, because generally this is mainly used by girls.
Black lines appeared on Dong Zhi’s face. “Speak properly! Don’t learn from girls!”
“That kid Cheng Hui doesn’t know what he’s doing. If he’s really abducted by some MLM organization, after finding him, I’ll give him a proper beating to dispel my hatred!”
“Doesn’t Cheng Hui have the ability to protect himself?”
He Yu shook his head. “Don’t think that all practitioners are proficient in all eighteen martial arts*. There are very few people like me who can draw talismans and fight, okay? Many people spend their entire lives learning to be proficient in one subject, which is already a remarkable feat. Now I am the quintessential genius of the world, and no one else can compare to!”
*(十八般武艺) or known as the 18 weapons (十八般兵器). It refers to a variety of skills/weapons and the list varies depending on the time period. The modern list includes: knives, spears, swords, halberds, axes, tombs, hooks, forks, whips, mace, hammers, guns, ge, tungsten, lances, sticks, spears, and rakes.
Dong Zhi complained, “If you’re the quintessential genius, then what’s Boss Long?”
He Yu crossed his legs and sighed. “The bad thing is that my parents didn’t give me a good name, so I already lost at the starting line.”
Dong Zhi grabbed He Yu’s bear backpack and started punching it. It felt so good that he couldn’t help pinching the bear’s head a few more times before casually responding, “What does that have to do with the starting line?”
He Yu began to run his mouth again. “His name is Long Shen! Think about it. The dragon roots1 are thick and long. For men, what could be more impressive than this? So, I shouldn’t be called He Yu. If I were called, He Qida2, it’d certainly be bigger now3!”
1(被苏) Refers to the root of a wild orchid.
2(其大) Translated means it’s big.
3Clarity: He’s making an innuendo. The Long in Long Shen is also used in dragon root [Longen] (被苏) which refers to a wild orchid root. Supposedly, they are thick and long. The He (何) in his name translate to how/what. So, if he was named He Qida, when people call his name, they’re basically saying “How big!” (in reference to his dick).
Although he wasn’t drinking water, Dong Zhi almost choked on his own spit.
I tried my best to translate the spell chants orz.
My god, this was a long ass chapter, probably the length of 5 regular chapters combined.