Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Still lost in a daze, Chung Hui slumped to the ground without saying a word. His expression was listless, as if he hadn’t heard their conversation at all. Since they met, Dong Zhi felt there was something off with him, but the situation at that time was urgent, so he didn’t have time to ask questions.
“What’s wrong with him?”
He Yu said, “A person has three souls, fetal light, cool spirit, and secluded spirt*. He has lost his cool spirit, so now he’s muddleheaded, like a mentally handicapped person. After getting off the bus, it seems you ran into a ghost that was determined to lead you towards the bridge. I wanted to chase after you, but I was stopped by a few naked girls who appeared dancing in front of me.”
*The three souls that govern the spiritual part of the body. Fetal light governs your life. Cool spirit governs your knowledge and wisdom. Secluded spirit governs your personality. See Kinky Thoughts for lore.
The corner of Dong Zhi’s mouth twitched. “Sola Aoi*?”
*Former Japanese AV idol who is widely considered the most famous AV idol of the 2000’s.
He Yu rolled his eyes. “Their figure was better than Sola Aoi’s. How could this master who had seen all her thousands of sails be fooled? Seeing that they couldn’t stop me, they all turned into Cheng Hui, and only one of them was real. I was eager to deal with them and rescue Chung Hui, but I lost you. Fortunately, the boss helped us out, or this would’ve been quite troublesome!”
Dong Zhi bluntly said, “I think you might get punished when you return.”
He Yu wailed, “That’s for sure! When I went out, not only did I carelessly lose you, but I also had to rely on the boss to save us. I can already see my beloved money sprouting wings and flying away!”
Dong Zhi wanted to cover his ears to block out He Yu’s whining, but he couldn’t help but think about the execution ground and the military policemen he encountered. The chill didn’t dissipate in his heart.
“What happened just now? Did we run into a ghost, or did we travel through time?”
He Yu said solemnly, “Neither. Someone had set up a trap around here and was waiting for us to crash into it. The things you saw were demons with highly condensed grievances. Human vision is often limited, so they can get easily confused.”
Dong Zhi was stunned. “So, what we saw just now was an illusion?”
But he was physically apprehended, and all the sobbing he heard felt so real.
He Yu: “It’s not an illusion. These guys belong to the same kind of demons as the Sneaky Yaksha, but they are of a lower level, so they cannot absorb the essence of the human brain and can only survive in a specific boundary.”
Dong Zhi said worriedly, “Then ordinary people will not be affected, right?”
He Yu shook his head. “This place was once an execution ground in the Republic of China. There were countless dead here, and their resentment was condensed here. After hundreds of years, it still had not dissipated, forming a special magnetic field. However, nothing was wrong until someone took advantage of this fact, deliberately lured us here and created an enchantment, making us think we had traveled a hundred years back in time. If we were to stay for too long, we would not be able to return again.”
The two set off with Cheng Hui, one holding his left side the other his right. There was no resistance since he was still muddleheaded. The hotel was crowded with people, making it inconvenient, so they returned to Cheng Hui’s rented home instead.
It was late at night, and the sky was clear. The landlady, who was in the middle of a good dream, was awakened by their arrival. She came to open the security door with a grumpy expression. When she saw they had really recovered Cheng Hui, she recalled the strange method they were using when she led them to his room and was in complete disbelief. The scolding that she was about to give them was instantly forgotten.
Dong Zhi lied and said that they had rescued him from the MLM organization, but because he had been bullied, he was in bad spirit and needed rest. They would take care of him for a few days and said she could temporarily increase the rent, successfully appeasing her anger*.
*Strangled in the cradle (扼杀在摇篮) Idiom referring to killing the idea before it’s even implemented. It refers to babies being defenseless and weak and therefore easier to kill before they can grow up and become a hidden danger. || In this context, the landlady was angry that more people were going to stay in a single room, but they offered to pay more rent, which appeased her before she even proposed the idea (and thus appeased her anger).
After settling Cheng Hui down, they both collapsed on the floor, exhausted and feeling like they never wanted to move again.
“I’ll report to the boss later and ask him to find someone to investigate that Liuhua’s Bridge enchantment,” He Yu said weakly.
Dong Zhi reluctantly got up, collected two bottles of water from the fridge, and tossed one to him.
“I feel as if someone is always seemingly pushing us towards something. Cheng Hui’s matter is most likely related to what you asked him to investigate.”
He Yu opened the bottle, took a big gulp, and let out a comfortable sigh. “It’s all my fault. I was too careless. This kid is very curious. He must have discovered something unintentionally attracting the other party’s attention.”
Dong Zhi took out a pen and paper, wrote the word train on it, then drew an arrow pointing it to Changchun. Southeast of Changchun is Changbai Mountain. Then there’s Guangzhou. Finally, he connected all the dots. From north to south, it spanned almost half the country.
Dong Zhi placed brackets with [Sneaky Yaksha] written in them besides the train, Changchun, and Changbai Mountain. He looked up at He Yu and wrote by Guangzhou: [Low-level Sneaky Yaksha].
He Yu frowned as he looked at the schematic diagram Dong Zhi drew.
“I remember there was a past event,” He Yu said. “Seven years ago, I was sent to the boarder of Yunnan to perform a mission there where I encountered a similar situation at that time. We were confused by the demons and thought we had returned to ancient Yunnan, thousands of years ago. I had just joined back then, so I was hotblooded and not afraid of either the sky nor the earth. As a result, I almost met my end. I later learned that those monsters were called Sneaky Yaksha, and they specialize in feeding on blood essence and souls.”
Dong Zhi was surprised. “They’re everywhere?”
He Yu shook his head. “They’re not difficult to deal with, but they’re elusive and they specialize in finding human weaknesses. The weaker ones are like those that we ran into in the enchantment, while the stronger ones possess the human body and suck out their brains, like what happened on the train.”
“I heard the boss say that for these demons, the weak follow the strong, while the strong follow the stronger. If they suddenly appear, they must’ve been summoned by a more powerful demon. They provide blood essence and souls for the demon, and in return the demon provides them with protection, so they can feed on humans without scruples.”
“However, last time on Changbai Mountain, we completely destroyed the bone dragon and also killed many of the Sneaky Yaksha. The demon hidden behind the scenes must also have suffered some backlash. Even if we didn’t kill it, they were most likely severely injured and shouldn’t dare show up again so shortly after.”
Dong Zhi pinched the two fluffy ears of He Yu’s backpack as he had now developed this habit while thinking. Lost in his thoughts, he almost deformed the bear’s head from his rubbing.
“To summarize, there are two possibilities. The first is that there may be a stone tablet here and the other party came to deal with it.”
He Yu let out a sigh, showing that he wasn’t surprised, as he was thinking along the same line of thought.
“The second possibility, according to what you said, is that the person who is manipulating the Sneaky Yaksha may have been severely injured due to the backlash on Changbai Mountain. If this is the case, he must find a place to heal, right? Since he’s injured, his power has decreased, so he can only summon lower-level demons in a limited enchantment, as he doesn’t have the strength to support the higher-level Sneaky Yaksha.”
Dong Zhi further analyzed it and said, “This corresponds to the fact that you asked Cheng Hui for his divination. It’s very likely that he had found some clues and inadvertently attracted trouble.”
He Yu was stunned, showing that he obviously didn’t think of this possibility.
Dong Zhi continued, “If he needed more blood essence and soul resentment, the ideal target area should be in a city like Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, where there are three religions and nine streams1, and fish mixes with dragons2. Even if a few people go missing every year, it’ll probably be difficult to track them down in a vast sea of people.”
1Three religions are: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. The nine streams refer to the identities of different ranks. See lore for more details.
2(鱼龙混杂) Idiom that means the good people mixes with the bad.
He Yu asked sarcastically, “Then why Guangzhou instead of Shanghai or Beijing, which are closer to Changchun?”
Dong Zhi answered seriously, “I remember you said that after the Special Administration Bureau was split into four, the southern headquarters was moved to Shanghai, and now there’s only a small office in Guangzhou. If I were that person, I would definitely choose a place that is far out of sight from the Bureau and has a decent foreign population size. Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and even Hong Kong are all good choices.”
He Yu stared at him blankly, speechless. Dong Zhi got the creeps when he saw He Yu’s expression, but he couldn’t prevent him from patting him heavily on the shoulder.
“I didn’t expect you to be so smart!”
Black lines appeared as Dong Zhi asked, “Do I look stupid?”
He Yu: “You should show your cleverness in front of the boss next time, so maybe he’ll be willing to open a backdoor for you!”
Dong Zhi wanted to tell him, ‘Every time I’m in front of your boss, I get so overwhelmed by his aura that I forget where north, south, east, and west are, so how could I possibly show him anything?’
With that said, He Yu took Dong Zhi’s phone and called Long Shen. The phone rang for a while before it was picked up by Kan Chaosheng.
“What? The boss helped you get out of trouble today, so he’s exhausted and is resting. What do want?”
He Yu knew that Long Shen’s condition was severe, otherwise he would have answered his phone instead of having Kan Chaosheng do it.
“Can you wake him up for me? It’s urgent!”
Kan Chaosheng didn’t question him. After a while, the voice on the other line changed.
“What’s wrong?” Long Shen sounded tired.
Dong Zhi was too worn out and no longer had the energy, so he didn’t listen to He Yu’s conversation, and instead fell asleep while in a haze until he was awakened the next day.
He Yu’s spirits looked much better today, as he was joking around. “You sure can sleep. You didn’t wake up at all last night, as I talked to the boss. He said he could hear your snoring!”
Dong Zhi was shocked. “Really?!”
He Yu said bitterly, “Of course I’m lying. Why are you so gullible and cute! My little baby Dongdong, you’re no longer the great Dongdong Qiang* in my mind!”
*Clarity: That’s Dong Zhi’s online handle. Also, the Dong (咚) in his handle is a different character than the Dong (冬) in Dong Zhi.
Dong Zhi: …
Since Cheng Hui had lost a part of his soul, he was unresponsive. He sat cross-legged on the bed as he nibbled on a bun in his hand, remaining quiet, and didn’t get involved in their bickering.
He Yu slapped him with a stick, then gave him a sweet jujube* and hurriedly said, “I bought breakfast. There’s soy milk, fritters, rice noodles, and buns on the table. Take whatever you want to eat. To reward you for your hard work yesterday, this brother will treat you to a big meal at noon!”
*Metaphor for using both reward and punishment to induce a desired behavior (AKA carrot and stick).
Dong Zhi couldn’t care about food, so he hurriedly asked, “What did Boss Long say last night? What should we do next?”
He Yu said, “Good news and bad news. Which one do you want to hear first?”
Dong Zhi: “…Bad news.”
He Yu: “According to the portrait you provided last time, we used facial recognition to find Xu Wan and her daughter. Their identities are not abnormal. Xu Wan did divorce her husband a few years ago and then took custody of her child.”
Dong Zhi found this strange. “So they’re not suspicious? What kind of bad news is this?”
He Yu: “A week ago, Xu Wan brought her daughter, Chen Tong, to Guangzhou.”
Dong Zhi was surprised. “They really have something to do with Sneaky Yaksha?!”
He Yu said, “You met Xu Wan on the train, and there happened to be a Sneaky Yaksha on the train. You met her at the hotel, and it happened that someone died there. Later, on Changbai Mountain… There are many coincidences in the world, but it’s rare for this kind of coincidence to happen related to this point. I even suspect that she wanted to attack you at the beginning—the water bottle being evidence—but was interfered with by the boss, so she had to divert her target to the train attendant.”
Dong Zhi murmured, “She became my replacement?”
He Yu shook his head. “No, I said that although your Ba-zi is useful, they are not the easiest to attract ghosts and demons. The train attendant was born on the Mid-Autumn Festival, so her Ba-zi was more suitable than yours.”
Dong Zhi: “But then at the hotel, you weren’t there. She obviously had many opportunities, so why didn’t she start with me?”
“Because of this.” He Yu took out a sunlight talisman and put it on the table.
“We broke her schemes on the train, so she had to remain vigilant. If something happens to you, it’ll allow us to track it back to her. She was eager to resurrect the dragon corpse and couldn’t afford any extra trouble, so she let you off.”
He sighed. “But others are not as lucky, like the person who jumped out of the hotel and Yao Bin. Before that, she must’ve killed many people along the way, collecting enough blood essence and resentment to awaken the dragon corpse.”
He thought about the number of times he ran into Xu Wan, even staying in an adjacent room next to her, and how he managed to escape death, making him inadvertently shudder. He couldn’t help pondering why he didn’t feel vigilant against her through their multiple encounters.
Dong Zhi recalled carefully and found that whenever he looked at Xu Wan, he always felt she gave off a gentle and amiable aura, and he even felt it was similar to his deceased mother, so he consistently dropped his guard around her. Even when he saw her on Changbai Mountain, he didn’t even doubt her, but instead thought she got lost, and didn’t find anything wrong with the situation until after a while.
It wasn’t until later, after they came down from Changbai Mountain, He Yu and the others started investigating the stone tablet that he told them about his “chance encounter” with Xu Wan that they started a deeper investigation into her.
He was afraid after that realization hit him, so he told He Yu about his thoughts.
He Yu didn’t seem surprised by them. “It’s not shocking. It’s a demon’s nature to confuse people. If Xu Wan is really related to demons, if she wanted you to fall in love with her wholeheartedly, it could be done. It’s just that we were too careless at that time and didn’t block the train for on-the-spot inspections. Otherwise, perhaps Yao Bin wouldn’t have lost his life. Fortunately, it’s not too late to make amends.”
Dong Zhi comforted him, “She was prepared from the beginning. First using the train attendant to distract our attention and even attracted the Japanese as a cover. This was done intentionally, and no one would have expected it.”
He Yu said, “Is there someone else behind Xu Wan, or is she a demon herself? Now that we have a clue, we need to find her to get answers. When the mother-daughter duo came to Guangzhou, whether it was through immigration or hotel registration, there were no records of them. I suspect they have used fake documents and certificates and are now hiding somewhere.”
Hearing such unexpected news first thing in the morning, Dong Zhi had to drink some soy milk to suppress his shock.
“What about the good news?”
He Yu smiled and said, “Willows and flowers*. Before you got up, I used a location method, and based on the approximation given by the chopstick, I asked my brother’s department to help with monitoring and investigation, and finally found a video of Cheng Hui before his disappearance.”
*(柳暗花明) Metaphor for sudden survival after twists and turns and hardships.
Dong Zhi gave a thumbs up. “The combination of Chinese and Western medicine has a good curative effect. So amazing, brother!”
He Yu brushed back his hair chicly. “That’s right. Look who’s doing all the work!”
Cheng Hui looked at him blankly and suddenly said, “Fool…”
He Yu said angrily, “Shut up! You’re the fool. I’m helping a big fool like you find your soul!”
Cheng Hui: “Big fool.”
He Yu: …
Dong Zhi was trying hard to hold back his laughter. Cheng Hui had lost his soul and was usually unresponsive. From time to time, he would utter a few irrelevant words out of nowhere, and He Yu was too lazy to argue with him. He pulled up the map app on Dong Zhi’s phone and entered the location.
“The video showed that Cheng Hui did not come out since he entered this alley that day. I did not sense a remnant of his soul near Liuhua Bridge, so it’s very likely that it’s still imprisoned somewhere. For now, since this is the only clue we have, we’ll check here first.”
Dong Zhi looked at the map. “The alleys in urban villages like this are generally very narrow, so there are no cameras. Most likely, it’ll be difficult to check.”
He Yu said, “We’ve narrowed it as much as possible. Let’s go over and have a look first.”
After finishing breakfast, Dong Zhi felt he had regained all the strength he lost from yesterday. “Is there anything I can do?”
He Yu said, “I’m injured. Come and help me draw talismans. We should prepare first, then set off in the evening.”
Dong Zhi thought this was odd. “Isn’t there more sunlight during the day?”
He Yu replied, “The other party is aware of this, so she’ll definitely choose to be active at night. As the night passes, I’ll be more likely to sense their magic energy.”
With that said, the two got busy quickly. Things like drawing talismans require focus. Even though he still remembered how to draw them, he wasn’t necessarily efficient at it. By the time evening approached, Dong Zhi was sweating profusely as he set his brush down. His ability to draw talismans had improved a lot, but still, only one in ten could be used, which was already quite remarkable. Using over half a day, he was only able to draw ten decent sunlight talismans.
He Yu had lost too much blood. In order to strengthen the talisman, he had to infuse his own blood into them. By the time he was done with all of them, he collapsed onto the floor, gasping for breath.
“I regret it now…” He Yu face looked as if he was dying. “I knew I should have pulled Kan Chaosheng over. His blood is much better than mine!”
Dong Zhi was a little worried. “Are you still able to locate someone in your current state?”
He Yu raised his hand weakly and made an OK gesture.
Dong Zhi also lay on the floor, not wanting to get up anymore either. “What do you want to eat? I’ll order takeout.”
He Yu said, “No, I’ll have someone deliver it.”
He made a call and ordered over a dozen dishes, such as Buddha jumping over the wall, stewed black chicken with donkey-hide gelatin, sea cucumber congee with millet, and ten other dishes, all in one breath, before contentedly hanging up.
Black lines appear on Dong Zhi as he said, “Can you finish eating all this and isn’t stewed black chicken* eaten by women?”
*Clarity: The dish is broken into 3 parts (based on ingredients) that each have a variety of (supposed) benefits. Black chicken helps with dysentery, wrists, and abdominal cramps (so it’s good for mothers) and also cures postpartum weakness, collapse, and leucorrhea. Jujubes can invigorate the spleen and stomach, nourish qi and blood. Donkey-hide gelatin helps with the liver, lungs, and kidneys and returns them to their meridians.
He Yu said confidently, “Replenishing blood and nourishing qi is what we need now!”
Dong Zhi: “You’re suddenly so extravagant. Is it because you can be reimbursed?”
He Yu proudly said, “My family’s Xiao Dongdong is so smart. Since this is related to demons, it shows that the Changbai Mountain incident is not over yet, so it’s business matters. The boss has agreed to reimburse me!”
Dong Zhi couldn’t stand him pretending to be cute like a five-and-a-half-year-old. “Who’s your family? Cheng Hui’s your family!”
He Yu frowned. “Then whose family are you? Boss’?”
Dong Zhi blinked, paused, and then said, “Why did you suddenly involved Boss Long?”
He Yu laughed. “Look at how nervous you are. The boss is so powerful, so it’s normal for you to admire him!”
While they were talking, the phone rang. He Yu went downstairs to pick up someone, and after a while, he came back with a young man who was carrying food in his hand. As soon as the takeout box was opened, a strong fragrance quickly filled the entire space.
He Yu introduced them, “This is Lin Jun, from the Guangzhou office. This is the Dong Zhi.”
Dong Zhi gave him a smile while the other party was extremely enthusiastic. “I wonder where Dong Shixiong* is from?”
*Senior martial brother (师兄) Term normally used to address people who are from the same teacher and who are older than you.
He Yu said impatiently, “Eat first! I’m starving to death!”
Hearing him, Lin Jun shut up. The three, plus a Cheng Hui who had lost his soul, were like winds sweeping away clouds*, and swept away the entire meal quickly.
*(风卷残云) Metaphor for sweeping away the remaining things all at once, usually people’s food.
After finishing, He Yu stretched his legs out and twisted his waist side to side. His spirits looked much better now. He said to Lin Jun, “The incident happened so suddenly that I had to ask you for your help. If the people of the South China Branch arrive in time, can you ask them to come to this address to find us.”
Lin Jun looked at the location sent by He Yu on his phone, nodded, and said, “He Shixiong, don’t worry. I’ll be watching Cheng Shixiong here.”
Their luggage was still left at the hotel when they first checked in. Lin Jun was enthusiastic and volunteered to go collect it for them. After showering and changing into a new set of clothes, Dong Zhi felt completely refreshed. He Yu explained a few more things to Lin Jun and then left with Dong Zhi.
Dong Zhi was very curious about Lin Jun. “Is he your shidi*?”
*Junior martial brother (师弟) Term used for a disciple that’s younger than you (same concept as shixiong).
He Yu shook his head and said, “Shixiong is just a generic term. He’s a member of the side branch of the Lin Family in Lingnan. His ability is mediocre, and his kung fu is just for show*. There’s no one in Guangzhou’s office now, so sometimes he comes in handy!”
*Stalking horses (溜须拍马) Metaphor meaning fawn over, shameless flattery.
Dong Zhi said unexpectedly, “Do cultivators also have this kind of life?”
He Yu rolled his eyes. “Cultivators are also human beings. Of course, flattery and intrigue are indispensable. If he was more capable, there would be no need for the two of us to brave the devil’s lair. I already sent an urgent request to Shanghai, hoping they’ll send a few reliable people over.”
Braving the devil’s lair was a very accurate way of putting into words of what they were doing right now. Suddenly, Dong Zhi felt a sense of sadness and solemnity.
The two took a taxi to the place they had found. It was another urban village that was lively at night, but this one was still on the main road. Once they entered the alleyways, there weren’t any bright streetlamps, and the surroundings immediately dimmed as lightbulbs that had fallen into disrepair flickered occasionally, making a sizzling noise.
“It’s here,” He Yu said.
They were standing at the entrance to an alley that was extremely narrow. Two self-built houses stood next to each other, leaving a small gap in the middle that formed the alley. Some alleys were difficult for even one person to squeeze through. Luckily, this was better. There were scattered lights and signs throughout the alley for shops for massage parlors, inns, and mahjong halls.
He Yu and Dong Zhi first picked the inn and went in.
The boss was sitting at the front desk watching a Korean drama. From the corner of her eyes, she caught a glimpse of them coming in but didn’t take a closer look as she casually asked, “Want a room?” After asking, she gave them a quick glance, and her expression immediately changed as she gave them a meaningful look.
Dong Zhi: …
You’re the one who spoke up first before even looking at people!
What are your thoughts on Chinese idioms? Should they be translated if a good translation exists, or do you prefer them footnoted? I usually footnote them unless they are too awkward to put in the translation or if the translated meaning makes it flow better. For example: “the fishes mixes with the dragons” could probably be translated as the good mixes with the bad or a mixed bag. They basically mean the same thing.
IMO I like the Chinese idioms as they give a little of Chinese culture to the novel, and it is, after all, a Chinese novel.
The three souls, more commonly referred to as the three souls and seven souls, governs the spiritual part of the body.
In Taoism, the three souls refer to the “heaven soul, earth soul, and human soul” which are respectively named “fetal light, cool spirit, and secluded spirit”. In ancient times this was called “main soul, awakened soul, and living soul” or “primitive spirit, yang spirit, yin spirit”.
- Fetal light: is in charge of your life. If this is gone, that means you’re dead.
- Cool spirit: is in charge of your wisdom, inspiration, and everything you need to think about. It is said that people who are stupid lack this soul.
- Secluded spirit: is in charge of your lineage and any personality that comes with it. This includes such things like your hobbies, sexual orientation, your earthly wants and desires, ect.
When a person dies, the three souls return to their three lines.
- Heavenly soul/fetal light returns to the Heavenly Road as it is only a conscious thought and is immortal.
- Soul of the Earth/cool spirit returns to the underworld because it knows the karma and retribution of everything in your main soul.
- Human soul/secluded spirit lingers among the cemeteries.
The three souls will reunite again when the main soul reincarnates.
The seven souls refer to:
3 Religions and 9 Streams
The three religions are:
- Confucianism: Confucianism revolves around the pursuit of the unity of the individual self and the God of Heaven, or, otherwise said, around the relationship between humanity and Heaven.
- Buddhism: As expressed in the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the goal of Buddhism is to overcome suffering caused by desire and ignorance of reality’s true nature, including impermanence and the non-existence of the self.
- Taoism: Is the concept that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (natural order of the universe) and achieve perfection through self-cultivation.
These religions are further divided into 9 streams that are classifications of people’s status and occupational names in ancient China. They are: