Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
In the midst of their conversation, He Yu returned. The old man felt a little tired, so he waved his hand and asked He Yu to instruct Dong Zhi while he gave pointers on the side. When He Yu heard that the old man was teaching Dong Zhi the Five Thunder Talisman technique, his mouth dropped. “Shishu, are you serious?”
The old man gave him a dissatisfied look. “You think I’m messing around? Of course I’m serious!”
“Then why don’t you just accept him as a disciple?” He Yu was puzzled. He had just left the mountains for a few years, yet his shifu and shishu were acting stranger by the day.
The old man glared at him. “Are you going to help me or not? Don’t delay my dinner!”
“All right, all right!” He Yu scratched his head and said to Dong Zhi, “The Five Thunder Talisman is a teaching that is specifically used to subdue demons. All sects have similar talismans that work the same way, but heavenly thunder is not something you can just invite whenever you want, so those who are not firm-hearted cannot learn…”
The old man interrupted him, “I already told him this! Get to the point!”
He Yu was speechless and could only continue, “You just started learning, so you shouldn’t learn this kind of advanced talisman technique, but since shishu wants me to teach you, I’ll demonstrate it first. Watch and ask if there’s anything you don’t understand.”
Since they were at the Hezao Sect, yellow paper and cinnabar was readily available and can be found at any time. He Yu pressed the paperweight on the yellow paper, closed his eyes, and inhaled. He brewed his thoughts , then opened his eyes, and quickly picked up a brush, all in one go.
Dong Zhi held his breath and didn’t dare disturb him as he watched He Yu intently while he drew on the yellow paper.
“Don’t you need to bite your fingers and drip blood on them?” Dong Zhi asked as he looked at the completed talisman.
“Usually, it’s not necessary. I only did it on the train because I couldn’t find yellow paper at that time and when I was fighting the Archfiend in order to enhance the effect,” He Yu said.
The rune on the Five Thunder Talisman was extremely different from the Sunlight Talisman. It looked much more complicated and was mixed with deformed Chinese characters. Dong Zhi simulated it in his head and silently wrote it down. Some details he couldn’t remember with just a glance, but his memorization will improve by rote.
After the talisman was completed and the ink was dry, He Yu walked to an open space, holding the talisman in one hand while pinching his palm with the other, and began reciting the spell.
Dong Zhi looked up at the sky. He wasn’t sure if it was an illusion, but the original sun that was obscured by dark clouds had looked even more gloomy. When He Yu recited the mantra, the talisman fluttered and suddenly ignited spontaneously. He let it go, but the talisman didn’t fall but swayed and slowly rose.
The wind blew from all directions. At first, it was a gentle breeze that held the heat of early summer and the smell of green grass in the mountains, but soon the wind became stronger, and the leaves overhead rustled aggressively. Many young leaves that were just growing were blown right off. Dong Zhi and the old man narrowed their eyes as sand blasted around them and eventually had to cover them to avoid sand from getting in them.
Dong Zhi asked, “Shishu, is the heavenly thunder about to strike?”
The old man snorted, “Talismans are a kind of medium. Just like in ancient times, when you visit someone’s house, you need to ask for an invitation. This is the same way as the heavenly thunder. The faster the talisman rises, the faster heaven will receive your message. But the boy can’t do it now… the talisman is as slow as a tortoise crawling.”
When He Yu heard this, he couldn’t help but protest. “I’m injured, yet you still asked me to invite heavenly thunder, and now you’re admonishing me. You think this is easy for me? I…”
Before he could continue, a spark of light suddenly flashed in the clouds, and shortly after, thunder followed closely behind. With a bang, Dong Zhi and the old man covered their heads and ran away as the stone table under the tree nearby was instantly split in half!
Old man: …
He Yu chuckled dryly. “I’m injured, so my accuracy is a bit poor. Sorry. Please forgive me!”
The old man reached out his hand and smacked him. “With the table gone, where am I going to eat?!”
After the thunder stuck, Dong Zhi found that the dark clouds had quickly dispersed, and the sky had returned to its normal brightness. He Yu was chased and beaten by the old man for a long time before a junior brother came to deliver dinner, rescuing him.
The disciples of the Hezao Sect must have been accustomed to this kind of scene as they turned a blind eye to the tragic fate of the stone table and asked the old man, “Shishu, where do you want me to put the food?”
Of all of Headmaster Xin’s disciples, He Yu was the youngest. The eldest of his disciples was the next head, and he was twenty years older than He Yu. His other disciples had accepted several apprentices of their own, and they were younger than He Yu and separated by two generations from the old man.
The old man casually pointed to the ground. “Put it there!”
The two disciples put down the food and looked at Dong Zhi curiously. They didn’t work in the kitchen and only wanted to see the excitement when they heard that He Yu had brought someone in. Dong Zhi greeted them with a smile, and the two shortly left after.
He Yu saw the food on the ground and yelled, “You’re secretly eating duck again!”
“This is for Dong Zhi!” The old man said stiffly.
Dong Zhi resolutely took the pot and gave a large piece to the old man first. “It’s okay to let shishu eat a little piece, right?”
The old man smiled. “Look at him compared to you!”
He Yu rolled his eyes. “Home flowers are not as fragrant as wild flowers*!”
*(家花不如野花香!) It refers to the spouse at home is not as good as the others outside. || Basically he’s accusing his shishu of favoring Dong Zhi (outsider) over him.
The old man wanted to beat him again.
The farm-raised ducks in the mountains were indeed much fatter and tender than the usual ones outside. In additional to their own deliciousness, the duck was also mixed with the aroma of tea leaves that made their meat tender so that it melts in the mouth. The duck meat that was originally slightly greasy was neutralized by the sweet tea leaves, leaving a crisp and refreshing taste.
The old man moved faster than anyone else. When Dong Zhi had only taken his second bite, the old man had already stuffed most of the duck’s meat into his mouth.
Seeing Dong Zhi watching in a daze from the way he was eating, He Yu said, “Look, this is the real evil intention of shishu when he asked you to catch ducks!”
As soon as he finished speaking, he received a slap on the back of his hand, then the old man moved the whole plate of duck meat towards Dong Zhi and himself.
“Then don’t eat it. You should lose weight too. You are too big and thick. It’s no wonder you can’t find a girlfriend. We’re a decent school, not a monastery. I don’t expect you to grow old alone!”
Dinner ended with a slap in the face.
It’s been a long time since Dong Zhi felt this kind of atmosphere. It reminded him of when his parents were still alive. They had a good relationship and often acted lovey-dovey with each other as if there was no one else around. Dong Zhi was like a phone bill, cast aside on the table. The dinner between the three would always end as a sugary sweet meal for his parents. At that time, he felt that his titanium dog eyes* were going to be blinded, but after his parents passed away, he wanted to be blinded but there was no one to do it.
*(钛合金狗眼) Term associated with the game World of Warcraft. The saying “blind my titanium dog eyes” refers to the visual impact of peculiar things.
After the meal, the old man asked He Yu to bring over a bamboo recliner. He sat comfortably under the tree to cool off while continuing the unfinished topic with Dong Zhi.
“The shifu leads you to the door, but the cultivation depends on the individual. The key to all talismans lies in the individual’s understanding. For example, the effect that this kid used just now is a failure.”
He Yu, who was used as a negative example, was also lying on a bamboo recliner, playing on his phone, paying no heed to his words.
Before He Yu went down the mountain, let alone cellphones, there wasn’t even internet. At his strong behest, and in order to facilitate better ways to contact each other, Headmaster Xin asked people to come in and set up a communication facility.
Since then, it has now become commonplace for disciples in the sect to use phones, and under He Yu’s influence, they have formed groups to play games together, but they were all forcefully suppressed by Headmaster Xin.
The stars twinkled overhead, lighting up the ground that was as bright as frost, while insects buzzed and birds sang all around. Dong Zhi imagined he had entered a wonderful warm night of early summer and pictured this scene deeply in his mind. He planned to draw it when he returned.
It was cool in the mountains at night, but the old man still took out a pu fan and fanned himself. “If you use poetry to compare the effect of the thunder talisman, it’ll be more vivid. ‘When the east wind rustles and the drizzle comes, there is light thunder above the lotus pond’*. If you practice a few more times, you can achieve this effect, but it’s best to practice it in an empty space to avoid hurting innocent people.”
*(飒飒东风细雨来，芙蓉塘外有轻雷) Excerpt from “Four Untitled Songs”. They are a set of four untitled poems created by Li Shangyin in the Tang Dynasty.
Dong Zhi nodded humbly.
The old man said, “When your proficiency reaches a certain level, you may be able to achieve the effect of ‘thunder bringing the torrential rain, and suddenly the wind’*. He Yu barely reached it just now, and he is one of the best qualified in his generation of the Hezao Sect.”
*(暴雨逐惊雷，从风忽骤来) Line from the poem “Big Water” by Xue Feng.
“What about further improvement?” Dong Zhi thought his way of using ancient poems to compare the effectiveness of the thunder talisman was extremely novel and interesting. He thought of the scene where Xu Wan was destroyed on the rooftop of Tianyuan Building. At that time, tens of thousands of thunder made a concerted strike that was earth-shattering, but according to the old man’s opinion, that wasn’t even the strongest.
The old man: “Then it’s ‘soul united with the land, the thunder like the power of a god’*. No one can reach this level. When I was young, I saw my shifu use it once, but since then, his vitality had been greatly damaged, and his body got worse by the day. If you remember He Yu’s demonstration just now, then we can try it out. You’re not able to draw the runes yet, so let He Yu go to my place and get you a few talismans that are already painted for you to use.”
*(魂魄山河气，风雷御宇神) Line from “Cold Food” by Lu Xiang.
He kicked He Yu. “Go get the Thunder Talisman!”
He Yu who almost ate the floor, cried out, “Am I raised by a stepmother?”
Old man: “Yes!”
He Yu: …
He muttered to himself as he got up and finished his game while walking away. The old man shook his head and said to Dong Zhi, “You don’t play games, right? Don’t learn from him.”
Dong Zhi laughed dryly and didn’t dare answer. He Yu quickly brought the thunder talisman and handed over a large stack.
“These will allow you to practice until dawn!”
The old man laughed and scolded, “Are you deliberately taking revenge?”
Dong Zhi took a talisman, walked to the open space, recalled He Yu’s actions, and began his practice.
His first attempt, nothing happened.
His second attempt, nothing happened.
His third attempt, the talisman ignited but failed to float.
On his eighth attempt, the talisman ignited and floated, but the sky was quiet.
On his ninth attempt, the burning talisman slowly floated into the air and dark clouds gathered overhead, as if a storm was coming.
Despite repeatedly failing, Dong Zhi didn’t care. He looked at the talismans in his hand intently and completely forgot about the outside world, including the old man and He Yu. It was as if he was in a separate dimension where even the sounds of insects buzzing, and birds crying didn’t reach his ears.
The thick stack of thunder talismans was depleted until there were only three left. Dong Zhi picked up the top one and sandwiched it between his index and middle fingers. With a straight figure, he closed his eyes to recite the mantra and broke the seal with one hand.
With a bang, the talisman ignited. He opened his eyes and let go of it, throwing the talisman out. The half-burning talisman slowly rose as if a hand was holding it. The sky was already dark, so it was impossible to tell if dark clouds were gathering, but the sound of thunder could faintly be heard from afar, echoing in the vast expanse, making muffled sounds.
Dong Zhi ignored the sounds and focused all his attention on his own little world.
Talismans are the medium of communication between heaven and earth. Humans are so small, but they can often burst out with great energy. They have the ability to invent talismans to arouse the power of the heavens and do things that other creatures cannot.
The talisman was about to burn out, and the flames got weaker, but the thunder overhead was getting louder. Dong Zhi was expressionless, no longer having his usual soft and cute demeanor. His face was like a jade carving that was illuminated by lightning from time to time.
Even He Yu, who was focused on his game, couldn’t help but take his attention away and sat straight up looking at the scene in front of him. Neither he nor the old man made a sound, afraid they might disturb Dong Zhi during his spellcasting.
Suddenly, a loud bang sounded as lightning flashed, accompanied by thunder that struck less than three feet in front of Dong Zhi. The extremely dazzling light made the two of them squint their eyes. But things had just begun, as immediately afterwards, three to four more flashes crashed down above Dong Zhi, surrounding him but not hitting him.
Several scorch marks soon appeared on his body, seemingly forming a circle. The thunderbolts were no thicker than the size of his fingers, but they were enough to surprise the old man. It had taken a month of practice for He Yu to reach the stage that Dong Zhi had done in a single night!
He quickly ran out and held Dong Zhi, who was in mid-fall.
“My head’s a little dizzy…” Dong Zhi looked pale and was profusely sweating.
“You overexerted yourself. Go take a break and rest.” The old man said kindly.
Dong Zhi said with some regret, “But I still want to hear more of your stories.”
The old man smiled. “Wait until tomorrow. When you get up, I’ll tell you all the stories you want, but it’s time to rest now!”
Dong Zhi nodded obediently.
After Dong Zhi left, He Yu put down his phone, got up from the bamboo recliner, and said triumphantly, “Well how about it, shishu? The person I found is pretty good, right?”
The old man sighed. “It’s not just pretty good, but it’s a pity that he could easily be taken advantage of.”
He Yu’s face straightened, and he stopped smiling. “Shishu, why are you talking so much today? Be honest, even if you like Dong Zhi, you wouldn’t treat him like an old friend and talk endlessly with him from just the first meeting.”
The old man rolled his eyes at him. “I’m in good spirits today, so can’t I? Besides, my time is approaching. Don’t you think it’s better for me to eat and talk more?”
He Yu was taken aback.
“Don’t tell me, your shifu didn’t mention it to you?” The old man said slowly, “Why do you think I didn’t accept Dong Zhi as a disciple? I can’t teach him, but even if there’s no apprenticeship between us, the child has a good heart and temperament, so I’ll teach him the Five Thunder Talisman so you’ll have more helpers in the Special Administration Bureau.”
“Shishu…” He Yu’s eyes were slightly red, and he smiled reluctantly. “Why would you say that? The boss was reluctant to recruit him in the first place, and now that he can’t be your apprentice, without the Hezao’s name, he most likely won’t be admitted to the Special Administration Bureau.”
The old man shook his head and said, “That’s not necessarily true. I think his chance will come in the near future. We’ll cross the bridge when we get there*. You don’t need to think about it. I did a divination on myself a year ago. The deadline should be in the summer of this year. It’s good for you to come back so I can see you one last time.”
*The boat will naturally go straight to the bridge (船到桥头自然直) Refers to no need to worry in advance and the problem can be solved by then.
Seeing that He Yu’s face had turned sour, the old man patted him on the hand. “Although we and the Maoshan and Longhu are of similar heritage, the Hezao lineage has been broken after all. They have been the same for thousands of years, so it’s normal for them to look down on us. In the beginning, you complained to me that you wanted to enter the first group of the Special Administration Bureau, but in the end, you couldn’t get in, so instead you went to the second group, the Dragon Bureau. When I look at it, I think with your temperament, staying in the second group is actually better than the first. Am I wrong?”
He Yu nodded. “Yes, the boss has a cold face but a warm heart, and the atmosphere in the group is lively. His strength is not inferior to that of the first group. Now, even if I’m asked to go to the first group, I won’t be able to get used to it.”
The old man smiled. “Sometimes blessings come from misfortunes. Everything in the world is like this. Don’t blame your shifu. He’s not passing on the leadership to you because he doesn’t value you. On the contrary, the Hezao Sect needs someone who can speak in the face of officials. Your outgoing temperament is the most suitable.
He Yu said, “I understand. Don’t talk about it. After so many years, I have already figured it out.”
The old man: “A while ago, you informed your shifu of Cheng Hui’s disappearance, so your shifu asked me to do a divination for Cheng Hui. According to the divination, at that time Chen Hui was in danger, but there may still be some follow-up troubles. You need to be more careful going forward.”
While in front of Dong Zhi, He Yu didn’t reveal his feelings, but now listening to the old man as if he was saying his last words made him even more uncomfortable.
“Stop talking about it. I’m sleepy, so I’m going to bed. We’ll talk more when I get up tomorrow!”
“Go, go on then!” The old man didn’t keep him. He got up with a smile and walked into his room with his hands behind his back.
Back in the guest room, Dong Zhi was lying on the bed tossing and turning as he couldn’t fall asleep. He had both the excitement of learning a new spell and the illusion that he had reached the pinnacle of his life. Rolling side to side like a pancake, he couldn’t resist sending a message to Long Shen.
Dong Zhi: [Boss Long, I have good news for you. Today I learned how to draw the Five Thunder Talisman! O(∩_∩)O]
After sending it, he regretted it. He didn’t know Long Shen well, and it seems to be too presumptuous of him to send a message this late. Dong Zhi put down his phone and rolled around again, causing the bed to rattle.
Since his insomnia wasn’t going away, he took out a pen and paper from his backpack and began practicing drawing the Five Thunder Talisman. After doing it for a while, his phone screen lit up, and he glanced at it, finding that Long Shen had replied, so he hurriedly picked up his phone to look.
Long Shen: [When you master it, you can roast squid for me!]
Dong Zhi: ???
Following the message was a drooling emoji.
Five Thunder Talisman? Use the thunder to roast squid?
Dong Zhi’s mind swayed between “the other party was possessed” and “the other party’s phone was stolen”.
Before he could reply, he immediately got another message: [It’s me. I had Kan Chaosheng watch my phone since I was expecting a call.]
The corners of Dong Zhi’s mouth twitched as he breathed a sigh of relief and hurriedly replied: [I see. I couldn’t sleep, so I wanted to talk to somebody. I hope I didn’t bother you. Today I met He Yu’s shishu at the Hezao Sect. Although he didn’t accept me as an apprentice, he still taught me the Five Thunder Talisman. It’s said that this talisman is a powerful magic weapon of Taoism. If I can be admitted to the Special Administration Bureau in the future, I won’t drag people down.]
He typed out a lot of words in a breath and sent them.
This time, Long Shen replied back quickly: [It’s difficult to master the Five Thunder Talisman. Even He Yu’s performance is not stable.]
The implication is that for a rookie like Dong Zhi, who just started, he shouldn’t expect to be able to do anything earth-shattering with the technique.
Seeing this message made Dong Zhi disheartened. There was no praise or encouragement, but this was Long Shen’s style of seeking truth from facts, but it also made people feel that he was cold. He didn’t tell Long Shen that he was able to successfully attract thunder, but compared to Long Shen’s abilities, this was nothing to boast about.
Dong Zhi took a while before simply replying: [I see, thank you, Boss Long. I will practice well. (*^__^*)]
He put the phone aside and didn’t look at it again.
What he didn’t know was that Long Shen was currently sitting by a fire in a yurt somewhere in the desert far north of the northeast as he looked at Dong Zhi’s messages.
“What do you think of Dong Zhi?” he asked suddenly.
“…” Kan Chaosheng, who was gnawing on a roasted leg of lamb, stopped chewing. His usual cheeks were puffed with food. He was caught off guard momentarily by the question as he swallowed the lamb with difficulty and said, “He’s okay, right?”
His answer was perfunctory to satisfy his immediate boss. Although Kan Chaosheng wasn’t afraid of heaven and earth, when facing Long Shen, he still couldn’t help but restrain a bit of his impulsiveness.
“Human beings are very fragile, but He Yu said that Dong Zhi is very talented at drawing runes. If he can learn it well for a few years, it shouldn’t be bad. Isn’t He Yu planning to take him back to his master’s school and have him become a disciple? When he becomes a disciple of the Hezao sect, he’ll be able to add some impression points during the interview exam.”
Long Shen said, “The Hezao Sect won’t accept him.”
Kan Chaosheng was surprised. “Why?”
Long Shen: “But they taught him the Five Thunder Talisman.”
Kan Chaosheng scratched his cheeks. “Then, it should be fine then? Our group two has always been short of people. It’s usually okay, but when it comes to major events, our weaknesses are exposed. This time we were the ones who discovered the Archfiend first, but group one took away our credit under the pretext of our lack of manpower.”
Long Shen said lightly, “It was indeed our negligence to let the Archfiend go on the train.”
Kan Chaosheng was unconvinced. “At that time, we were busy dealing with the bone dragon, and the Japanese were interfering as well, but we still did our best. Those groups of bastards are only strong when spewing slander. Why didn’t they find out there was a problem on the train first? They threw the blame on us and then grabbed the credit at the critical moments. Obviously, we put in more effort and are stronger! Boss, when recruiting for the exam this year, you must be strong. Don’t let group one poach people again!”
Long Shen allowed him to keep complaining as he retained his sullen expression. “I see.”
Kan Chaosheng continued to chew on the leg of lamb as Long Shen continues staring at his phone. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with telling the truth, so he sent that message. Seeing that Dong Zhi didn’t reply, he assumed he had fallen asleep.
He put down his phone, clasped his hands and put them behind his head, then lay down on the carpet. The warmth of the fire quickly made him close his eyes.
The road to chasing your male god is a hard one.