Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
At this moment, He Yu let out a snort. Although he was talking nonsense with Dong Zhi, his eyes never left the compass in his hand. Suddenly, the compass needle vibrated slightly, then the vibration started to grow.
“Master, please stop at the next station. We have to get off!” Dong Zhi shouted upon seeing this.
The driver didn’t respond. Dong Zhi wasn’t sure if he had heard him. Only then did he realize that they were most likely on the last bus, and it was so late that there wouldn’t be anyone waiting at the bus stop. The bus kept moving forward without stopping once, and the other passengers inside never asked to get off either.
He couldn’t help but look around and notice that the bus route sign that should’ve been posted was blank. He wasn’t sure if this was due to the staff’s negligence or for a different reason. Suddenly, his wrist was caught, startling him as he turned his head back.
He Yu also found that something was amiss with this bus and whispered to him, “I’ll talk to the driver. Stay at the door and, as soon as possible, get out!”
He nodded nervously, and the two got up and walked to the driver’s seat.
“Master, what’s the next stop? We want to get off the bus, so can you please stop!” He Yu exclaimed loudly.
When passing by the other seats, Dong Zhi deliberately glance at the passengers. Their sight shocked him. There was a middle-aged woman who looked pale and was staring blankly. She didn’t seem to notice him as she remained motionless.
What was more shocking was her clothes. Her chubby upper body was wearing a plain striped dress. The fabric was a bit rough, and the corners had some stains on them. She looked to be a blue-collar worker who was used to working all year round. The issue was… such coarse clothes and style were obviously not the daily wear of people in modern cities!
The bus stops in this area adopted the method of swiping cards and coins at the entrance, so passengers could get on the bus directly when it entered the stations. When they got on the bus, they entered through the back, so they didn’t pay much attention to the outfits of the other passengers.
Dong Zhi suppressed the chill he felt inside and walked quickly, as if nothing was wrong, and caught up with He Yu.
After He Yu shouted a few times, the driver slowly turned his head, glared at him, and said in a hoarse voice, “You can get off at the terminal.”
“How can you say this? I’m going to file a complaint against you!” He Yu said.
The driver cackled, causing him to tremble from the sound. The bus was still moving forward. Dong Zhi found that the driver’s feet were flat on the ground and there were no brakes or gas pedal near his feet!
“Laozi told you not to play tricks!”
He Yu raised his right hand, which was already holding a talisman between his second and third finger and stuck it on the driver’s forehead. As soon as the talisman was pasted, the driver grunted and hissed. His whole body shriveled down at a speed visible to the naked eye and soon turned into human skin that limped flatly on the seat.
The speed of the bus slowed down, and He Yu quickly pressed the button to open the door.
As he was speaking, Dong Zhi had already run to the side of the bus by the door and jumped out. He Yu quickly followed closely behind and landed steadily as the bus continued slowly moving forward.
The passengers by the window turned their heads towards Dong Zhi. Under the dim lights, it reflected their blue and pale faces, looking eerie.
“Where is this?” He Yu looked around.
Everywhere was gray, and the faint sound of water could vaguely be heard. In the mist, there seemed to be a few figures walking about, but they couldn’t see clearly.
Dong Zhi stared at the bus that was gradually getting further away and shuddered.
“I suddenly remembered something,” he said calmly. “There doesn’t seem to be a bus No. 588 here…”
He Yu said, “When I was talking to the driver just now, I found out that it was a ghost car.”
Dong Zhi trembled. “Are those people in the car really not human?”
He Yu shook his head and said, “Not human, but not ghosts either. It should be the same kind of situation we encountered on the train last time.”
The compass needle in his hand was spinning frantically as the two walked along the side of the road. The ground was bumpy. Judging from the drive just now, it was impossible for them to have reached the countryside.
Dong Zhi pondered, “We may have been targeted and deliberately guided here. The person who misled us was probably the same as the person manipulating the Sneaky Yaksha on the train.”
He Yu nodded. “I think so too. Let’s take a look around and find out more about this place. Chung Hui is very likely to be trapped here. Follow me closely and don’t get separated.”
While he was a little nervous, his psychological tolerance had greatly improved since the events on the train and Changbai Mountain, so this nervousness wouldn’t affect his judgement.
With no light around, the two turned on their phones to illuminate the way. As they walked, they got closer to the sound of water. The gray mist had gradually dissipated, revealing a bridge. A stream was gurgling under the bridge, and the forests were densely packed on both sides. If this had been a normal day, this could have been an ideal place to go for leisure or relaxation.
All Dong Zhi could feel now was a chill that was steadily increasing and spreading all over his body.
He Yu snorted, “Why is there a bridge here? Is this supposed to be the Naihe Bridge*?”
*(奈何桥) Bridge across the Naihe River that all souls must pass through in order to reincarnate. See Kinky Thoughts for lore.
Dong Zhi: “…Brother, there are four characters on the bridge.”
“Oh, ‘By the Naihe Bridge*’ is exactly four characters.”
*Clarity: He Yu added a (边) which means by/side to Naihe Bridge (奈何桥).
“Your joke sucks.”
The two bickered as they approached the bridge. He Yu took out his phone and shined it on the characters.
“Liu, Hua, Ancient, Bridge?”
Dong Zhi inhaled, taking in the cold air. He looked intently at the four characters of Liuhua Ancient Bridge that were engraved on the side of the granite. The bridge had wooden railings on both sides.
Wrong. How could it be such a desolate scene near Liuhua Bridge?
He grabbed He Yu and prevented him from moving. “This place is near the train station, but I remember it’s not like this.”
“What’s it like?” He Yu asked.
Dong Zhi frowned and said, “There shouldn’t be so many trees and it’s in an urban area where there’s a lot of traffic…”
Suddenly, he noticed something strange. He Yu’s voice didn’t seem to be so dull… His heart seized, and Dong Zhi quietly reached into his pocket, squeezed the talisman inside, and turned to look at He Yu.
Even if he was mentally prepared, one look and he still felt distraught. Where He Yu was standing was the passenger that was sitting by the window on the bus!
Dong Zhi hastily took out the talisman, threw it at him, then turned around and fled without saying a word, disregarding whether anyone was chasing after him.
He was in a panic and didn’t know how far he had run. He suddenly saw a group of people in front of him, and thinking he was out of danger, hurriedly ran towards them, only to find that it was actually a group of prisoners who were being escorted.
The prisoners were all wearing single-clothed gowns, and the people who were escorting them wore uniforms that didn’t resemble policemen. They were more like the military police of the Republic of China that you would see on TV. Some still had braids behind their heads.
Dong Zhi’s arrival had alarmed them, and everyone looked over. Their eyes were cold and expressionless. Before he could turn around and escape, he felt his shoulder sink as he was already being held hard on both sides of his shoulders.
“Turns out there was a fish that slipped through the net!” A cold sneer entered his ears.
“We’re short one for today’s execution, so we can take him to make up the number!” Another person said.
Though Dong Zhi struggled and yelled, it was to no avail. The opposing side was extremely powerful, as they dragged him away. He reluctantly turned his head around, but all he could see was two people dressed as military police.
He was up the creek without a paddle*. He shouted He Yu’s name loudly, but he didn’t know where he was, and He Yu never appeared. Scared beyond wits and at the point of helplessness, he suddenly heard a voice.
*Called the heaven and earth and got no response (叫天天不应，叫地地不灵) full saying is: Cry out to the heavens, but the heavens don’t respond. Cry out to the earth, but the earth is impervious. It means being without aid.
“It’s me. Don’t speak.”
Not He Yu. Long Shen!
He was surprised and couldn’t help getting excited. The voice was like a star in the dark night, suddenly giving the lost lamb a guiding light. Dong Zhi held his breath as his heart beat wildly, barely able to suppress his elation.
Long Shen said, “Listen to what I say and respond in your mind. Don’t make a sound.”
Dong Zhi didn’t dare to look up, for fear of exposing the other party, so he quickly agreed in his mind.
Long Shen said, “I don’t know what the situation is on your side, so let’s talk about it first.”
Dong Zhi didn’t know Long Shen found him, let alone tell him where he was now, and the situation made him unable to ask in detail, so he could only quickly relay how he was separated from He Yu then said in his mind, “I don’t know where they are taking me!”
There was a moment of silence, but a few seconds felt like a long winter to him. Dong Zhi was hanging by a thread and forgot to struggle as he let the other party escort him forward and merge into the long line of prisoners. He was pushed hard, staggered a few steps, and almost bumped into the person next to him.
Faint cries ahead came one after another, like a whimpering cat in the dark night, chilling his bones. Some of the people who were dressed in the single-cloth gown had shaved moon heads like those of the Qing Dynasty, but their whole bodies seemed to be covered with a layer of white mist that blurred their image.
“I seem to recall a rumor,” Dong Zhi murmured in his mind. “The locals say that near Liuhua Bridge was an execution ground during the Republic of China. The clothes of these people aren’t like modern day. Could it be…”
But this kind of thing felt too fantastical. They were just on a bus in the city. How could they have come to the Luahua Bridge that existed hundreds of years ago.
Long Shen finally said, “I am using someone’s mind to communicate with you right now, so help is limited. You must save yourself.”
Dong Zhi cheered up. “I will do as you say. He Yu may also be in trouble, so I have to find him!”
Long Shen: “Do you have a talisman on you?”
Dong Zhi: “Yes, three!”
Long Shen said, “According to what you say, you’re with a group of prisoners who’re being taken to the execution ground and are about to be beheaded. Look for an opportunity where your opponent’s defense is most lax and use it as a chance to escape. Run east.”
Dong Zhi: “…It’s dark all around. I don’t know where east is.”
The silence resumed, and just as he was about to feel uneasy, he heard Long Shen say, “Let go of your mind and don’t think about anything. I’ll borrow your eyes to take a look.”
Dong Zhi didn’t know what he was planning to do, but he subconsciously trusted Long Shen. He took a deep breath when he heard the words and swept out as much of the messy thoughts in his mind as possible, made a space, adjusted his breathing and calmed his mood.
He suddenly felt as if his heart had been pulled. While it didn’t hurt, it felt a bit weird. His spirit gradually slackened, as if he couldn’t control it. His ears were buzzing as if he had been separated by a glass screen. Dong Zhi opened his mouth but couldn’t make any sound. His body suddenly became lighter and he started floating up little by little.
Looking around, the surrounding area was covered with gray. The military policemen behind him and the prisoners in front of him all melded into the fog. As the angle of view slowly rotated, only a little light flickered not far behind him, blinking uncertainly.
“Right behind you. Run in the direction of that little light. He Yu is there too,” Long Shen said.
With this, Dong Zhi felt that his body fell heavily and sank back into his body. His ears had regained their clarity, and the sound of crying came from the front again. He gasped for breath as his heart was palpitating.
“Do you remember?” Long Shen asked again.
“Yes!” he said hurriedly.
Here, time seemed to have become an existence of nothingness. He had lost track of how long they had been moving before they finally stopped. Dong Zhi quietly took out a folded talisman from his pocket and squeezed it into the palm of his hand.
The prisoners were taken to the execution ground and lined up one by one as they were shot. Following the order of the warden, the sound of distinct gunfire was heard as the prisoner bodies fell down, motionless.
The surroundings were full of onlookers, but on closer inspection, those people’s faces were covered by a layer of white mist, so their faces couldn’t be seen clearly.
The number of people in front of Dong Zhi dwindled in batches until it was about to be his turn. He hesitated for a quick moment before pushing the crowd away fiercely and running forward.
Commotion was heard as verbal abuse came from behind. Dong Zhi turned his head and found that several military personnel had quickly caught up to him, their faces blue as they bared their teeth at him, showing a hideous expression. They weren’t holding guns but knotted rope, trying to lasso him from time to time. The scene was thrilling as they barely caught him several times.
Dong Zhi gritted his teeth and threw out the talisman in his hand! It cut through the heavy mist and landed on the head of one of the military personnel. The personnel let out a scream as it burst into flames. The flames then soared into the sky!
Looking back, Dong Zhi saw the other chasers temporarily pause their pursuit as the waves of fire caused by the explosion caused them to hesitate. However, the light from the burning fire quickly faded and the personnel turned into a mass of scorched ashes that scattered all over the ground.
He only had three talismans, and one had just been used. It was impossible to eliminate all his pursuers with just the remaining two. Dong Zhi didn’t dare look behind him again and continued to run forward as fast as he could.
Facts have proven that people have unlimited potential when they are exposed to extremely dangerous situations. In the past, when he was still in school, he hovered on the edge of getting a passing score on a 1-kilometer run, but if you were to ask a physical education teacher to time him now, he would probably at minimum meet the standard of a national athlete.
The roaring behind him was frightening, as the sounds of ghosts crying and howling got closer. It was like they were close at hand and at any moment they would be entangled with him again. The hairs on his entire body stood up, and he subconsciously wanted to look back.
Long Shen, who hadn’t spoken for a long time, seemingly aware of his thoughts, shouted at the right time, “Don’t look back!”
This shocked Dong Zhi and caused him to stop his action. Even if the other party was thousands of miles away, hearing his voice had reduced a lot of his fear.
The point of light gradually became bigger, signifying that he was getting closer. Dong Zhi discovered that it was the light from a phone that was lying flat on the ground with the flashlight turned on.
He Yu was close. There was also a young man sitting next to him, with a ban inch head* in gym clothes. The two of them sat cross-legged, with their eyes closed, motionless.
*Ban brush/Board size (板寸头) It’s a specific hair style like this. It got its name because it has about an inch of hair, and it is short like a board. I’m not sure what the English equivalent name would be.
“He Yu!” Dong Zhi called to him excitedly. However, the other party’s eyebrows furrowed, as if he had fallen into some kind of nightmare and didn’t notice his movements at all.
The chasers behind him got closer. Dong Zhi clenched his teeth, threw another talisman back, then charged forward and yanked He Yu up!
He Yu was much larger than he was, but the motionless reaction almost made Dong Zhi fall on him. There was no time for hesitation as Dong Zhi took out the last talisman and stuck it on He Yu’s forehead.
He Yu’s body shook, and he suddenly opened his eyes, as if he had awakened from a deep slumber.
“Why are you here?” He said, confusingly.
Dong Zhi dragged his body up and ran without saying anything. Now that he was able to move, He Yu followed him, staggering a few steps. Seeing that there were pursuers close at hand, He Yu took out a talisman, bit the tip of his tongue, sprayed blood on the talisman paper, pinched his fingers, recited a mantra, and reflexively put the talisman on the ground.
When the talisman landed, a loud bang was heard, and a huge wall of fire suddenly ignited, separating them from their pursuers. He Yu slapped the young man next to him with his backhand a few times, and the latter spit out a mouthful of blood as he slowly opened his eyes with a blank expression.
He Yu grabbed him with one hand and started to run away. The three of them tried their best as they ran a few dozen meters. Dong Zhi had used his phone flashlight to light the way when suddenly, they saw the edge of a cliff appear in front of them. They immediately braked, causing He Yu to fall to the ground.
Below, the cliff looked bottomless. He Yu casually threw a stone down but couldn’t hear a sound.
“How is there a cliff in this place?!” Dong Zhi was flabbergasted.
“Goddamn it*, if it weren’t for laozi’s injury, how would I be caught in this mess!” He Yu scolded.
*Grandma’s leg (奶奶个腿) Depending on the usage, it could be a bad curse phrase or a light catchphrase that one would say before you start complaining about something. In this case, it’s the latter.
The fire was gradually dying out, and the number of soldiers chasing them increased. Behind the wall of fire, the flames revealed the mottled faces of the military policemen, exposing white bones underneath the flesh and blood. Some had no eyeballs, leaving two round empty holes. They smiled grimly at them, waiting for the fire to be completely extinguished.
He Yu panted. “I ran out of talisman just now, and I don’t have enough blood, so I can’t draw anymore. Do you still have any?”
Dong Zhi smiled bitterly. “The last one is on your forehead!”
There was an abyss in front and demons in the back. What could they do?
At this moment, Long Shen’s voice suddenly sounded, “Jump!”
Dong Zhi immediately said to He Yu, “Boss Long told us to jump!”
He Yu was taken aback. “Are you sure?”
Dong Zhi nodded. “Boss Long said that the abyss may just be a trick.”
In other words, it may not be. If they jumped, there was a possibility that they would shatter into pieces. He Yu smiled bitterly, gritted his teeth, and made a quick decision. “Jump!”
Dong Zhi had no objection. He would rather believe Long Shen’s words than deal with things that are neither human nor ghosts. Cheng Hui was still lost in a daze, and before he realized what was happening, he was pulled by He Yu. The three of them held each other’s arms and leapt off the cliff in a posture of martyrdom!
He Yu’s screams echoed in the darkness. “I forgot my phone-“
The last bit of power on Dong Zhi’s phone emptied and everything turned pitch black. Unable to see, his body fell sharply, and he couldn’t help but close his eyes, grit his teeth, and pray silently. At this moment, he didn’t care that Long Shen could glimpse into his inner world as messy thoughts flashed through his mind subconsciously.
“Ouch!” He Yu yelled.
There was no shattering to pieces as expected. When they landed, except for the blooming of their asses*, all other parts of their bodies were still intact.
*(屁股开花) Means an ass injury. It derives from adults telling children to obey if they don’t want to get a spanking.
It was the middle of the night. Occasionally, a few cars sped by, and the city night lights remained lit, emitting a warm glow. Everything was so familiar that it brought them to tears. The two of them panted, slumping on the side of the road like a dead dog, with no manner, so to speak.
He Yu was still mourning the untimely death on his phone. “Wuwuwu…”
Dong Zhi apologized and said, “I just pulled you away and left the phone next to you!”
He Yu was distraught. “There were many old masters in the collector’s edition that it’s difficult to find them now!”
Dong Zhi: …
He mustered up the courage and asked Long Shen in his mind. “Boss Long, how did you contact me? Why didn’t you communicate directly with He Yu just now?”
“Last time you met with Zhong Yuyi, he saw that your complexion was dark and said that you might run into a catastrophe on this trip. He Yu’s injuries have not healed yet, and he was afraid that it would be difficult if you ran into a strong enemy, so I called you into the office to take a piece of your hair,” Long Shen said after a brief pause. His tone was calm.
Dong Zhi suddenly recalled Long Shen’s ambiguous behavior when he was in his office last time. It turned out that he was trying to save his life. He felt ashamed of his crooked thoughts and hurriedly wanted to express his gratitude. Perhaps knowing that they were out of danger, Long Shen unilaterally cut off contact. After that, Dong Zhi did not receive any further messages from him.
He Yu gasped and asked Dong Zhi, “How did you find me?”
Dong Zhi said, “Boss Long uses his mind to communicate with me and help me find your location.”
He Yu was surprised. “Wow, the boss used telepathy*?”
*Heart Connection [Xintong] (心通) Ability to communicate telepathically. See lore for details.
Dong Zhi nodded. “Zhong Yuyi said that we might encounter trouble when he saw me, so Boss Long took a piece of my hair, but now he’s no longer answering me.”
He Yu: “Of course, telepathy is an extremely mentally-consuming technique. What’s more, we just went to a place that was isolated from the real world. The boss was already injured, and now it’ll probably be worse. Since I lost my phone, lend me yours. I have some questions to ask him.”
Dong Zhi was worried and said, “Will Boss Long be okay?”
“He’s much more powerful than you think. It’s better to worry about yourself than him.” He Yu pointed to Cheng Hui. “We also have this guy!”
The author has something to say:
Last time, some people were surprised that Boss Long took Dong Zhi into his office, but it was impossible to predict at that time. That foreshadowing comes into fruition in this chapter.
A small theater that’s irrelevant to the novel:
Long Shen: I don’t think you’ll learn your lesson if I just deduct your wages and bonuses now.
He Yu: ???!
Long Shen: From now on, your office and phone will be disconnected from the internet to prevent you from downloading any bad movies or playing any games. You can come to my office if you need to work.
He Yu: Dear god! You’re killing me here!
I’m not sure if “heart connection” has any deeper significance than just meaning telepathy. My wishful thinking is the deeper meaning is that they are connected to each other’s hearts and that’s why the author called it “heart connection”. After all, they are the pairing of this novel.
In Chinese folklore, after death, all souls must cross the bridge on the Naihe River. The bridge is divided into 3 layers. The good souls can pass safely through the bridge on the upper layer. The half-good souls cross the middle section, and the wicked and evil the lower section. These souls are often stop by ghosts in the filthy water and bitten by copper snakes and iron dogs.
At the end, they will meet an elderly female deity called Meng Po who feeds them Meng Po Soup that makes them forget all the memories of their past life before they reincarnate.
Heart Connection [Xintong] (心通)
Buddhist term and one of the six links of Buddhism. Xintong is telepathy, which means that you can understand what others think without language. It referred to as “thinking sensing”, which means that this super ability can sense the thinking (thought waves) between people or animals and can transmit perception in unknown ways.
The characteristics of xintong is that when interacting with people, you don’t need any internal information. You will be able to analyze their inner world to know who they are, their characteristics, what they are thinking, ect.
Applied spirituality, it is divided into three categories:
- Spirit Healing: it refers to channeling to cure diseases, which is similar to the miracle doctor in China. It can cure diseases with hands or voice.
- Geodesy: it is a method of measuring underground water sources or minerals with psychic power.
- Psychometry: a psychic can know everything about something someone has used, or can detect sealed letters, or items placed in the next room.