Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
The two took a deep breath, dived back in, and moved forward with great difficulty in the muddy water. The python’s body loomed in the water. The size of it was almost the height of a train. It wouldn’t be easy to find the hole of such a behemoth.
Water constantly surged all over their bodies. The river was deep that their feet didn’t reach the bottom. Dong Zhi could barely control his body while he was on constant vigilance from being swept by the python’s body.
As soon as he saw a dark shadow looming above, he immediately dove into the water as the tail of the python swept across the top of his head. Dong Zhi kicked out and grabbed the body of the python with his hand. At this moment, he was suddenly grateful for his kung fu tona that he had learned. At least now he could hold his breath underwater for much longer, instead of constantly floating to the top to get air.
The python’s body was scaly and slippery to the touch. He bit on the flashlight and held it in his mouth as he groped upward according to his feelings. The impact of the water made his body float like seaweed. He faintly saw Liu Qingbo’s figure as the other party was doing the same thing as him.
While touching the scales all over with his hands, Liu Qingbo cursed Dong Zhi from the bottom of his heart for his stupidity. Why did he believe the other party’s words in a moment of confusion! It would have been better for him to follow Li Ying and the others to escape than to look for a chrysanthemum!
Still, he held his grievances in his heart, as he didn’t want to be a deserter. He hoped to be accepted as Long Shen’s apprentice and proved that he was the best candidate for him. The name Liu Qingbo would sooner or later be famous in the history of the Special Administration Bureau!
Although he kept his mouth closed, it was inevitable that a little water would enter. The rancid smell made him nauseous. Seeing as how Dong Zhi was next to him, he held his postulation, as he didn’t want to be seen as a joke in front of him. He continued groping around the python’s tail, trying to find his goal.
Perhaps it was because their actions were too insignificant, or perhaps it was because Long Shen and Song Zhicun were distracting it, but the three-headed giant python did not respond fiercely to their small movements, as its tail maintained a regular swinging motion. Gradually, Dong Zhi and Liu Qingbo had figured out some of its patterns and become accustomed to them, so they weren’t thrown off at every turn.
Suddenly, Liu Qingbo almost screamed aloud! He had almost forgotten that he was still underwater and was holding his breath! His reaction was due to touching a scale that was clearly different from the one next to it. He opened it slightly, and there seemed to be a small hole under it. In fact, it can’t really be called a small hole, because he could insert his entire arm into it, but compared to the body of the giant python, it would be considered small.
As soon as he put his finger in, Liu Qingbo realized that this place was used by the giant python to excrete. He suddenly felt sick as he quickly pulled his hand back, took out his Feijing Sword, peeled the scales with one hand, and inserted the sword into it without hesitation!
In an instant, thick liquid gushed out of the hole, spreading rapidly in the water and spilling it all over his face. Almost at the same time, the three-headed python became enraged and churned violently. This pain was much more severe than when it had lost an eye to Long Shen just now. Its movements shook the entire cave so violently that even Li Ying and the others could feel the ground shaking!
The tail of the giant python tossed desperately in the water, provoking waves after waves. With a bang, its tail slammed against the stone wall, creating another violent shake. Large and small stones fell from the top, causing everyone to hurriedly avoid them.
It had lived here for hundreds of years and was the ruler here, yet now these small and weak creatures dared to challenge its authority!
Liu Qingbo had always had the mentality of either doing nothing or doing it perfectly. After the Feijing Sword was inserted into the chrysanthemum of the python, he clenched the hilt and stirred it with his body, using the sharp blade to wreak havoc on the inside of the python’s body. Although the python had scaly armor on the outside, making it invulnerable, on the inside it was soft and held fragile organs. The entire abdominal cavity was almost devastated by Liu Qingbo’s stirring. The pain immediately mapped to the python’s brain, causing the three heads to hiss and roar as they crazily twisted frantically. For a while, it felt like the sky was falling, and the mountains and rivers shook, almost turning the entire cave into a shura field*!
*(修罗场) Is used to describe a tragic battlefield. Later, the meaning was extended to a person’s desperate struggle in a difficult situation.
“What’s going on?!” Song Zhicun exclaimed. He and Long Shen didn’t hesitate much and flew forward to attack the python.
The giant python became even crazier. One head slammed into the stone wall, while another head bit at Long Shen and Song Zhicun, while the last head bent down and plunged into the water, trying to find the culprit who injured it.
The three heads spewed black mist at the same time, which was far stronger than previous, and it quickly spread.
Since he was in the water, there was no need to worry about being sprayed by the black mist, but the taste didn’t make him feel any better. As soon as Liu Qingbo was inattentive, his whole body was washed away by a huge undercurrent. Just now, when the python was struggling, a huge boulder fell into the water and hit his arm. He felt severe pain and could only paddle with one arm while the entire river was turned upside down by the python. It was impossible to swim with just one arm, especially in this situation. He wanted to surface in order to catch a breath, but found that the undercurrent was raging everywhere, wrapping him in all directions. The pressure was so powerful that it overwhelmed him.
With the loss of his strength and his body unable to exert anymore, Liu Qingbo tragically found that his breath was almost exhausted, and he would drown in a few more seconds. He didn’t know where the flashlight he had was thrown to, so there was only darkness all around him, and his ears only heard the sounds of gurgling water. He couldn’t even hear the movements of the water, let alone the voices of Long Shen and the others.
Could it be that he would die here before he could succeed in his studies? If he died here, would he be posthumously recognized as a martyr and granted special approval to enter the Special Administration Bureau?
He thought about how his own portrait would be hung in the Special Administration Bureau, and every year as new students would come in, they would be pulled over to visit it and listen to the narrator explain: “This person died heroically stabbing a giant python’s chrysanthemum with a sword during a practice exam…”
Fuck that! It was so embarrassing that he would rather not be recognized at all! He wanted to blame that fucker* Dong Zhi who came up with such an idea!
*Killing a thousand knives (杀千刀的) = In ancient times, this refers to death by a thousand cuts (from knives). Nowadays, it’s a cursed word referring to a bad person.
As he was lost in his thoughts, his neck was suddenly encircled, and his body started floating upwards involuntarily. He was taken aback and, slowly, his consciousness returned to him. He thought it was an enemy’s attack and subconsciously slammed his elbow against it.
Despite being in a state of half-consciousness, Liu Qingbo’s strength was not light. His attack almost made Dong Zhi let out the air he was holding in as a bunch of bubbles escaped from his mouth. Still, Dong Zhi kept holding onto Liu Qingbo, no matter how hard his opponent struggled, as he was dragged up to the upper reaches of the river.
Eventually, Liu Qingbo’s strength was exhausted, and his struggling became less intense, until it finally stopped completely, allowing Dong Zhi to drag him out.
Dong Zhi’s condition wasn’t much better than his opponent’s. His entire arm was almost out of strength, and the Changshou Sword that he was lugging behind him had become extremely heavy at this time. It seems as if it was dragging him down. All the while, Dong Zhi kept silent, thinking that he couldn’t die here. How could he be with his male god if he were to die here! Never mind that, if thousands of years later, others came here and saw two withered bones entangled together, wouldn’t they make some kind of wrong assumption?!
The projection was so terrible that it was enough to stimulate Dong Zhi. In the end, though his mind was muddled, he didn’t know how, but he was able to rescue Liu Qingbo and dragged him ashore.
After lifting the upper body of the person to the shore and ensuring that he would not slide back down, he completely lost his strength. He collapsed on the side and only had the strength to exhale and inhale.
Time passed, and Liu Qingbo was the first to wake up. He was surprised when he opened his eyes because the first thing he saw was a big, pale face with its eyes closed right in front of him.
Liu Qingbo wanted to reach out and nudge the other but found that his arms was resting on his head, which had long gone numb. The other was still trembling slightly due to excessive exertion that he couldn’t move at all.
Dong Zhi’s eyelashes trembled a few times, and when Dong Zhi opened his eyes laboriously, he saw Liu Qingbo’s flustered expression looking around.
“Where’s my Feijing Sword?!”
Dong Zhi took a deep breath, turned over, and lay on his back on the shore. If it weren’t for his lower body still soaked in water, it would be as if he was sunbathing on the silver sand by the ocean.
“Did you forget to pull it out of the chrysanthemum?” he asked.
Liu Qingbo’s face turned instantly turned blue. He couldn’t imagine that his famous sword through the ages was now buried inside the chrysanthemum of a giant python!
“It’s all your fault. If it weren’t for your bad idea, my Feijing Sword wouldn’t be lost!” he said angrily.
“Yes, it’s all my fault.” Dong Zhi perfunctorily coaxed him like a child, but his tone was soft, as his breathing shortened.
Only then did Liu Qingbo see that Dong Zhi’s face was whiter than a sheet of paper. Dong Zhi closed his eyes and didn’t speak anymore, looking as if he was a dead man. This involuntarily made Liu Qingbo’s heart stir.
Dong Zhi’s eyelids trembled, but he didn’t bother to open them.
“…Just now, thanks.” Liu Qingbo reluctantly said.
Dong Zhi opened his eyes and looked at him in surprise.
Liu Qingbo was not used to being soft with others since he was a child, especially when the other is the object of his contempt. Speaking this sentence was more uncomfortable than being cut with a knife. Still, he felt he needed to say it, because if it weren’t for Dong Zhi just now, his fate would most likely be buried at the bottom of the river. Dong Zhi could’ve abandoned him and then relayed his death to the others, or not even told them at all, and eventually the others would find out about his disappearance.
“I admit that you are now qualified to become my rival. However, I’ll never give up becoming an apprentice to Boss Long,” Liu Qingbo said awkwardly.
Dong Zhi said weakly, “Save your efforts from talking, big brother. Don’t you think it’s weird?”
“What?” Liu Qingbo didn’t have the strength to move, so he could only roll his eyes as he thought in his heart, he had just given him color, and now he was opening a dye workshop*.
Reminder: Metaphor for insatiable greed (AKA give an inch take a mile).
Dong Zhi: “This place doesn’t seem to be where we fell into the water just now.”
Liu Qingbo was taken aback, as he barely supported his body to look around. It was dark, but there was still some light. The light didn’t seem to be from a flashlight. They had lost their flashlights when they were struggling underwater.
The light was faint, and they didn’t know whether it was coming from plants or beasts. There was a cluster of them, like dandelions, and they swayed gently under the mountain’s breeze.
Like in <Avatar>*, the male protagonist, under the leadership of the female protagonist, walked through these plants that glowed at night, and appreciated the amazing beauty between their different worlds.
*I believe this is the scene he’s referring to. I would recommend watching it to get an idea of what the scene he’s describing looks like.
However, being underground, where did this mountain breeze come from? Liu Qingbo was shocked slightly, as his consciousness became clearer.
“Where are Boss Long and Boss Song?!”
Dong Zhi: “I don’t know. I think we might be separated.”
They were at the edge of the pool of water, and around it were gentle slopes. They need to climb up them to see the road ahead clearly. The glowing plants were close at hand. Liu Qingbo stretched out his palm to pick one up and examine it, but he was slapped on the hand by Dong Zhi.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” Dong Zhi said righteously.
Liu Qingbo glared at him, presumably from the pain of the slap, but he didn’t persist. The two of them sat for a while, using their kung fu tona to recuperate. They felt that their strength had recovered a bit and slowly got up from the ground.
Liu Qingbo’s gaze swept past the Changshou Sword that was behind Dong Zhi, and he said sourly, “You should have used your sword while we were underwater!”
Dong Zhi sighed. “This is just life!”
Liu Qingbo’s hands felt itchy. Their strength was exhausted, so they could only channel what energy they had left into bickering.
The gentle slope in front of them was not much higher than a person, so usually they could climb over it in two to three steps, but now it would take the strength of nine bulls and two tigers* to barely reach the top.
*(九牛二虎之力) Idiom referring to an immense amount of effort (AKA a Herculean effort).
When they finally managed to climb up, they were both stunned. They saw four entrances in front of them, leading in four different directions. There were faintly glowing “dandelions” in the corners along the way, which vaguely illuminated the distance, but the light was not enough to see what was beyond these caves. The distance remained dark and infinite as all four caves looked exactly the same.
“Which way to go?” Liu Qingbo was dumbfounded.
“Rock, paper, scissors to decide?”
Liu Qingbo said angrily, “How can you be so unorthodox?!”
Dong Zhi looked innocently. “Then what better suggestion do you have?”
“Where’s your compass? Take it out and measure it.”
“I don’t have one.”
“Don’t you use talismans? How do you determine the position without a compass?!”
“I use the compass app on my phone.”
Liu Qingbo: …
He really wanted to slap this person flat, but he couldn’t. Besides him, there was only this gasping person next to him, so he had to endure!
Dong Zhi lowered his head to check his equipment. When he came out this time, he specifically used waterproof bags to hold his items that contained talismans, talisman paper, cinnabar, brushes, and the likes. There was also a little dry food and water, which didn’t take up a lot of space, so he kept it for a rainy day*.
He took out his phone but saw that there was no signal, but it could still be used without the internet. The compass app still works just fine.
Looking back and forth, there seemed to be no abnormality between the caves.
“These four caves lead south, east, north, and west. Which way should we go?” He asked Liu Qingbo.
Liu Qingbo answered angrily, “Whatever you want! Just pick whichever you like!”
Dong Zhi said casually, “Purple clouds* come from the east, which makes the east particularly auspicious, so let’s go east!”
*(紫气) In ancient times, it was thought to be auspicious since it had the affiliation as the harbinger of the appearance of emperors, sages, etc..
Liu Qingbo was a little anxious. “We have to hurry up and rendezvous with the Boss Long!”
Dong Zhi comforted, “It’s useless to be anxious. I also want to see them soon, but we need to take it step by step.”
In terms of field survival experience, he wasn’t as experienced as Liu Qingbo, but Liu Qingbo found that the other party was far more at ease than himself, even calm maybe. Perhaps he had resigned to the status quo and accepted it helplessly.
Seeing that Liu Qingbo was still unhappy, Dong Zhi said, “Just think, if I wasn’t here, wouldn’t it be worse for you to be alone and not have someone to quarrel with? God has graced us so well.”
Liu Qingbo suddenly asked, “Did you bring incense and a lighter? I heard that you could invite Gods. Can you ask them which way we should go now to meet with Boss Long and the others?”
Dong Zhi smiled bitterly and said, “Brother, how can I have the strength to invite God now? And you’ve seen all the corpses and spirits around. So many have died here, the ancients, the Japanese. Who knows what I’ll invite if I try!”
Liu Qingbo also knew that what he was saying was true, so he had to give up. The two sat on the ground and rested for a while, and when they regained a little strength, they stood up and walked to the cave to the east.
In the dark environment, the faint light of one or two points became a comfort to their souls. People were destined to live in the light, especially at this time. A little light could also double their sense of security. If your eyes could see things, you wouldn’t be at a loss.
Dong Zhi said to Liu Qingbo, “You have lost your sword, so stay behind me.”
“When we encounter danger later, we’ll see who will save who!” Liu Qingbo curled his lips. He may not be able to understand the other party’s good intentions, but his mouth continued to involuntarily spew attacks.
“In front. There’s a black figure. Is it a stone or…?”
“It seems to be a person.”
The two of them stopped at the same time, glanced at each other, and slowed down. Dong Zhi took out his phone, turned it on airplane mode to save as much power as possible, then turned on the flashlight. Since they had lost their flashlight, this was their only remaining source of light, so they had to use it sparingly.
The bright light shone on the contours of most of the cave in front of him, faintly illuminating the situation ahead. There was a person leaning on the ground, motionless.
“It seems to be… Xing Qiaosheng?” Liu Qingbo said uncertainly. This was one of the 20 candidates that had passed through to the final training course. Dong Zhi wasn’t familiar with him because he usually followed after Zhang Song and wasn’t very talkative. He would only greet Dong Zhi superficially, not bothering to mention his interaction with Liu Qingbo. The two seemed to have never interacted at all!
“Qiaosheng?” Dong Zhi said, tentatively.
The two approached slowly. The light source on Dong Zhi’s phone illuminated the dropping face on the figure. Sure enough, it was Xing Qiaosheng!
Liu Qingbo and Dong Zhi took a step back.
They saw Xing Qiaosheng’s eyes tightly closed. His face was covered in dense purple meridians. His lips had completely turned purplish black, and the skin below his neck that was not covered in clothing had turned completely black!
“Qiaosheng! Qiaosheng!” Dong Zhi shouted, but the figure remained motionless.
Dong Zhi bent over and stretched out his hand, but Liu Qingbo held it down. Still, they must determine whether the other party was still alive or dead. Dong Zhi continued to move his hand and stopped right under Xing Qiaosheng’s nose.
“It seems… he’s dead.”
Liu Qingbo suddenly pulled out the Changshou Sword from behind Dong Zhi and gently cut Xing Qiaosheng’s shirt open. Wherever the sword went, the clothes would crack inch by inch. Xing Qiaosheng’s neck was also dyed purplish black.
The two were silent for a moment, mourning for their lost companion.
Before they set off, Song Zhicun mentioned that death was extremely possible and told them to take this trip seriously. However, relying on their own skills, they were still ignorant of the greatness of heaven and earth and felt that it wouldn’t be so easy for them to become “lucky” ones.
That was until Liu Qingbo almost died in the water and now witnessed firsthand the death of one of their companions.
Dong Zhi felt sad. Although he didn’t have much contact with Xing Qiaosheng, he was, after all, their companion. If he hadn’t died here, he might have been able to leave this area safely and become a member of the Special Administration Bureau.
After mourning for a bit, Dong Zhi investigated. “What’s the cause? Poisoning? Did he touch those glowing flowers?”
Liu Qingbo said, “He may have come from the direction we are going—that is to say, there may be fatal danger ahead.”
“What do you mean?”
“Change course! Take a different path!” Liu Qingbo spoke without hesitation.
Liu Qingbo thought for a while. “The north faces south and is the position of the emperor. Let’s go north!”
The two of them had just entered the cave not long ago, so it wasn’t too late to withdraw. Before leaving, they bowed to Xing Qiaosheng’s body again, and Dong Zhi said softly, “We still have to find our way out and can’t take you with us. If we have a chance in the future, we’ll find your body and take it back for burial. Please rest in peace!”
They exited the cave and found the one to the north. This time it went much smoother. After walking for nearly half an hour, they encountered no danger.
Liu Qingbo couldn’t help but say triumphantly, “Look, just listen to me…”
Before he finished speaking the words, Dong Zhi suddenly stretched out his hand and dragged him behind him, and he took out his Changshou Sword and slashed in front of him. A pale wrist fell to the ground while the other was still buried in the earthen wall of the cave.
Liu Qingbo: …
Dong Zhi said deeply, “When you least want something to happen, bad things tend to happen. This is called Murphy’s Law*.”
*An adage that typically states “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” In some formulations, it is extended to “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time.”
Liu Qingbo said angrily, “Murphy’s Law my ass! Let’s hurry back!”
Dong Zhi: “I’m afraid it’s too late. Look behind you.”
Liu Qingbo suddenly turned his head and saw that on the road they had just come from, hands started to appear one after another, scratching their fingers in the void, as if waiting for their prey to fall into their net.
Recalling the five-finger mark on Ou-Yang Yin’s ankle, the two of them took a deep breath and galloped forward at the same time, walking faster, eventually simply sprinting with all their might.
More hands started breaking out from the ground, and occasionally they would burst from the top of the cave above their heads. The sides were even more difficult to avoid. It seemed as if this entire cave was like a demon’s bloody mouth that was swallowing them.
Along the way, they encountered more “dandelions”, allowing their vision to become clearer. Dong Zhi didn’t pay much attention as he still gripped Liu Qingbo as they both continued running forward. He didn’t know how long they had been running, but eventually they didn’t encounter any more hands, so they slowly slowed down. He let go of Liu Qingbo, bent down, and panted.
“We ran pretty far. Where are we going to find Boss Long and the others? Should we continue forward?” Dong Zhi said this while gasping for air, breaking up his sentence into fragments.
However, he didn’t hear a response from Liu Qingbo, who would normally yell and shout at him. The surrounding was completely quiet that he couldn’t even hear Liu Qingbo’s breathing.
Dong Zhi’s heart sank. He was tense all over and slowly turned his head back. While mentally prepared, his scalp couldn’t help but tingle!
Liu Qingbo, who had fled with him, had disappeared and was now replaced by Xing Qiaosheng, who should have been dead. His opponent’s face was covered with purple meridians, becoming weirder in the faint light, and his eyeballs were half convex as they looked at him faintly.
“Qiao-Qiaosheng?” Dong Zhi tentatively said, as he prepared his body to run for his life at any moment.
Xing Qiaosheng’s movements were faster than he thought. Almost before he finished speaking, his opponent had rushed up and overwhelmed him as he tried to strangle Dong Zhi’s neck tightly.
Dong Zhi grabbed his arm in response and broke it forcefully, then kicked him in his lower body, but Xing Qiaosheng remained motionless and extremely sturdy. The hand gripping his neck became tighter while Dong Zhi dug his nails into his opponent’s skin, but it felt as if he was holding onto an old tree that was shriveled and inelastic.
In desperation, he bit the tip of his tongue hard and soon smelled a fishy smell. He sprayed out a mouthful of blood foam mixed with his saliva.
In normal times, he wouldn’t be able to do this, as he was afraid of pain. At most, he would cut himself with the sword to draw blood, but facts had proven that in critical times, the glands secreted hormones that drew out human’s infinite potential. Anything that was usually unimaginable could happen.
The mouthful of blood foam splashed onto Xing Qiaosheng’s face, causing him to shake slightly and loosen his strength. Dong Zhi took the opportunity to kick him while he rolled away. He stood up, took out his Changshou Sword that had fallen nearby, and swung it.
Only then did he clearly see Xing Qiaosheng standing in front of him, clearly transformed into a ghoul. His facial features were so rotten that he could hardly recognize his original appearance.
The sword slashed open the ghoul’s chest, but no blood flowed out. Instead, his opponent continued to rush towards him. Dong Zhi gritted his teeth, using his arms to exert his strength while he held the sword with both hands, preparing to cut off someone’s head with it!
With a swing, he slashed again, but his strength was weak. Instead of cleanly cutting off the head, it made a deep gash that made the ghoul’s head tilt to the side. However, its mobility remained unabated.
Dong Zhi: …
If it weren’t for the battle with the python and having to swim for so long just now, he wouldn’t have believed that he couldn’t behead this ghoul! Still, if one swing wouldn’t do it, then just do it in two.
Two-thirds of the ghoul’s head fell off, while a third still clung to its shoulders.
Dong Zhi was going mad!
The ghoul seemed to become completely enraged as he whizzed its hands, which had long black nails, towards Dong Zhi like the wind.
Finally, the head flew completely off and hit the wall, bouncing on it before rolling down. Dong Zhi stepped back a few steps to breathe and waited until he was sure the ghoul would not be resurrected again.
Third time’s the charm.