Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
While Long Shen didn’t have any impatience, Dong Zhi still felt embarrassed. After crying for a while, he gradually stopped. Taking a deep breath in, Dong Zhi said, “Master, how many apprentices are you going to accept? Before me, are there any other shixiong and shijie*?”
*Elder martial sisters. Basically equivalent to shixiong but refers to older girls.
Long Shen: “I didn’t accept disciples before you and I’m not accepting any more after you.”
Dong Zhi was taken aback. “I’m good enough for you than over a thousand sails*?”
*(过尽千帆) Comes from <Wang Jiagnan> by poet Wen Tingjun. It depicts a woman’s longing, looking forward to her husband’s return, yet thousands of ships had passed over, but none had her husband on it. || In this context, Long Shen is like the woman but instead of waiting for over a thousand sails, he had settled for Dong Zhi.
Long Shen shook his head. “Too many. I don’t have the energy to teach them all. One is enough.”
So Liu Qingbo has no chance? Dong Zhi couldn’t help feeling happy and sorry at the same time. After all, he still didn’t know Liu Qingbo’s fate.
“Master, do we save people now?”
What are we waiting for? Waiting for someone? Or waiting for the right time?
From their commanding position, they had a panoramic view of the secluded lights in the caves. Several faint areas with lights glowed from the “dandelions”. They looked weird at first, but after looking at them for a while, they started to grow on you.
Dong Zhi: “You said that those plants that look like dandelions are called ceylon forget-me-nots?”
Long Shen: “They are everywhere, and so are the hallucinations. The terrain here is very complicated, which causes chaos in time and space.”
Dong Zhi: “After we attacked the python, what happened? How could so many of us be separated?”
Long Shen: “The giant python was struggling with its injuries, causing the river to surge and many people got washed away. I went to Boss Song to find them when I encountered a thousand corpse figurine.”
Dong Zhi: “What is a thousand corpse figurine?”
Long Shen: “It’s made up of corpses that died in vain and are piled together. Due to fate, they will encounter a land of absolute darkness. Their resentment remains rampant, and gradually they’ll become a demon corpse. Hundreds of thousands of these corpses gather together to tangle endlessly, until they become refined into the thousand corpse figurine. This thing is the most sinister and poisonous thing in the world, and it’s extremely difficult to deal with.”
Since he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, it was natural that Dong Zhi couldn’t imagine it. “Even harder to deal with than an Archfiend?”
“An Archfiend can only act through a human body. No matter how powerful their magic is, in general, they will be confined to that body.”
Dong Zhi said suddenly, “And the thousand corpse figurine is equivalent to an expanded container, which can carry more magical energy. Is this why it’s more difficult to deal with than a single ghoul?”
Long Shen nodded. “In this area lies truth and falsities. The only thing that remains unchanged is the giant python. I have been observing here for a long time, and the illusion has never had any effect on it. It is the only real symbol of this place. As long as we wait for it to pass by next time and keep up with it, we should be able to get out of here.”
Dong Zhi remembered that Liu Qingbo’s Feijing Sword was still inserted in the chrysanthemum of the giant python. In any case, that was his issue. Such a waste of a famous sword from the ages was now lost, buried in the depths of a giant python’s chrysanthemum. Even if Liu Qingbo had other swords to use, he still felt some regret.
Long Shen heard Dong Zhi tell him the events that transpired and how he wanted to get the sword back and shook his head. “That sword should have been thrown to the bottom of the river by the python. It’ll be difficult to find, so we don’t need to worry about it for now.”
At this point, Dong Zhi secretly apologized to Liu Qingbo and moved on to tell Long Shen about his encounter with Fujikawa Aoi and the cloaked figure. “I heard them mentioning an altar. Is this a huge underground altar and those who died here were sacrifices?”
Long Shen agreed with him. “The bronze mirror may be related to the altar, and the altar may be related to the stone tablet.”
Dong Zhi said, “Only when we find the Japanese or the altar will we know their intentions.”
He remembered something and said with concern, “You just fought against a thousand corpse figurine. Did you get hurt?”
Dong Zhi took out the chocolate from his pocket and handed it over.
“You should eat something first. I still have water here.”
Long Shen didn’t answer.
“You can have it.”
Dong Zhi was a little anxious. “But when you came down, you only brought your sword with you. You didn’t bring any water, right?”
Long Shen said, “It doesn’t matter whether I eat and drink or don’t.” This sentence was plain and faint and seems to have a deeper meaning.
When Dong Zhi looked at the man’s face that was shrouded in darkness, he couldn’t see his expression clearly, but he seemed to be able to see that in that man’s eyes held countless secrets. Many words came to his lips, but he couldn’t speak to them easily because he felt those words were too shallow.
After a long silence, he whispered softly, “I’ll worship you as my teacher today and for life. No matter what happens now, tomorrow, or in the future, I’ll always be your disciple.”
Long Shen said nothing, only patted the back of his hand. It seemed like a sign of a kind of silent encouragement and approval, which made the corners of Dong Zhi’s mouth slightly curl up.
Neither he nor Long Shen knew when the giant python would appear again, so all they could do now was wait.
Dong Zhi yawned. Besides Long Shen, he unknowingly relaxed a lot of his vigilance.
Long Shen seemed to notice his tiredness and said, “Rest first.”
Dong Zhi wanted to be polite, but when he opened his mouth, his consciousness was immediately pulled into darkness. It seems that his body was exhausted to the extreme, as he didn’t even dream during his slumber. He hadn’t changed his clothes since he came out of the pool, and with the mountain wind blowing on him, feeling wet and cold, he couldn’t help leaning towards a heat source after falling asleep.
Long Shen noticed his behavior and took him in his arms.
It wasn’t on a whim that he decided to accept Dong Zhi as his disciple. From the time he lent him the Qingzhu Sword, he had actually faintly expressed his willingness, but he wanted to observe for a while, because he felt that Dong Zhi had too soft a temperament and could easily be moved by strange things, which meant his will wasn’t firm enough. However, after transpiring several events, though he may not be as good as Liu Qingbo in terms of comprehensive abilities, he has shown more plasticity.
Liu Qingbo was like a rock with sharp edges and corners, while Dong Zhi was like water. It could be quiet. It could be rushed. It could turn into a thousand-foot waterfall and be a deep pond that reflects the moon.
At this stage, Dong Zhi had made great strides in his decision-making progress in situations of difficulty, but when dealing with many things, it’s still not thoughtful and proper enough. There’s also his lack of ability, which needs to be strictly honed and practiced in order to become a great weapon.
Long Shen leaned against the stone and closed his eyes to rest, but his mind never stopped working.
Dong Zhi remained asleep, peacefully and quietly, unaware of the thoughts that his male god was thinking about him and the reasons why he accepted him as a disciple. This was only the beginning, and the master had already prepared a devilish training plan for him.
Suddenly, he was patted on the shoulder. With a slight movement, Dong Zhi’s throat subconsciously made a sound, but his mouth was immediately covered.
Heat sprayed on his ear as Long Shen whispered almost inaudibly, “It’s here.”
Dong Zhi felt a chill as he instantly woke up. Only then did he find that most of his body was buried deep in the arms of Long Shen, who propped his back up to let him sit firmly, then turned his body sideways against the mountain wall, as if he was observing the situation below.
Dong Zhi quickly rubbed his face and looked out like him. A huge behemoth that looked like a hill was haunting in the faint light that he could occasionally see its vague outline. While the three-headed python slithered silently, its five red lightbulb eyes were extremely recognizable.
“Grab the vine and fall on it, just like how you did it before. We need to follow it!”
Long Shen’s speed of speech was very fast that didn’t leave Dong Zhi any time to think, so he took action subconsciously. He took a deep breath, grabbed the vines hanging from the top of his head, kicked his body and swung towards the python, landing on it. He almost slipped but didn’t fall. Dong Zhi hurriedly bent over and fell on his body, lying on top of the python.
The fishy smell once again hit his nose, and that made him almost vomit. He quickly pinched it and looked back.
He didn’t know when, but Long Shen had already fallen lightly behind him, though his posture was much more graceful and elegant.
The two landed on the python without speaking to each other.
In the dark, the giant python continued moving forward at a very fast speed, so Dong Zhi had to stick his entire body to it to reduce as much resistance as possible.
The python led them through the cave and along the big river they first encountered. Dong Zhi found that this underground river was extremely long. From upstream to downstream, the surface of the river gradually changed from wide to narrow, and the flow of water slowly eased out as it divided up into several smaller rivers, which had its own vitality.
If it weren’t for the dangers below, the three-headed giant python, the illusions, and the ghouls, this would be a good spot for scientific research.
But how did the ancients discover this place thousands of years ago? As the Japanese said, there’s an alter below, so how did the builders avoid the three-headed python? Was there another entrance?
Dong Zhi lay on the python and thought wildly, and several thoughts flashed through his mind.
“Come down!” Long Shen whispered suddenly.
Dong Zhi slid off the python and his feet were almost squashed by the python. Fortunately, Long Shen had a sharp eye and quickly gave him a hand. Long Shen led him to a nearby path which gradually opened. There were many ghouls in the cave that were either sitting or lying down, which made him shudder. Dong Zhi followed Long Shen carefully, trying not to touch the ghouls.
“Help… Help me, Boss Long… Dong Zhi…”
It’s Zhou Yue’s voice!
“Go forward, don’t look back,” Long Shen said in front.
Dong Zhi did not look back, but his footsteps inevitably paused a little. That was the chance it needed, as two hands immediately wrapped around Dong Zhi. The cold and weird touch and the long fingernails were not the feelings of a living person!
Dong Zhi was taken aback before he turned around and slashed at the figure with his sword. Zhou Yue’s body was cut with a deep mark by a sharp sword, but no blood came out. He showed a hideous smile towards Dong Zhi and rushed up again towards him. His nails on both hands were long and curved, and his face was covered with purple meridians, just like Xing Qiaosheng before.
Dong Zhi didn’t show any mercy now. He took a few steps back and quickly pulled out a Sunlight Talisman from his bag.
“The heavens give birth to water, the earth gives birth to fire, the heavens give birth to wood, the earth gives birth to gold. The five central palaces, subdue malignity, overcome disasters, and eliminate all traces of evil! Imperial edict!”
He could now recite the mantra at a very fast speed and could complete it within four seconds but compared to the speed He Yu’s and Li Ying’s, which was less than two, there was still a lot of room for improvement.
The talisman burst into flames and attached itself to the blade of his sword, which he slid towards Zhou Yue. With a puff, Zhou Yue’s head ignited into flames, and his entire body was instantly covered by fire that quickly overwhelmed him.
Zhou Yue screamed and struggled in the flames. Dong Zhi couldn’t help but want to step forward but was held back by Long Shen.
“You did the right thing. He’s not Zhou Yue.”
After a pause, Long Shen said, “Zhou Yue is dead.”
Dong Zhi was taken aback. “When did it happen?”
Long Shen: “When we were fighting with the python in the river before, he fell into the river and was swallowed by one of the python’s heads.”
It was difficult to kill a huge creature like the three-headed python that has lived for at least thousands of years. Its life has been integrated with this cave. At that time, the purpose of Long Shen and Song Zhicun fighting it wasn’t to kill it, but to buy times for others to escape. It was unfortunate that Zhou Yue was just unlucky. He washed away in the river and failed to return to shore in time like Li Ying and the others. As a result, one of the python’s heads plunged into the water and directly ate him like a fish. Although Long Shen and Song Zhicun finally hit the python hard, it was too late for Zhou Yue who had died instantly when his heart was pierce by the giant python’s fangs.
However, the giant python didn’t fare much better. The reason why it has become more docile now, and it had no response when Dong Zhi was lying on its body was because Long Shen had seriously injured two of its heads, greatly reducing its attack power. Except for its large size, it poses no other threats.
The news of the death of another companion reminded Dong Zhi of Ba Sang and Gu Meiren. Ba Sang should be fine. He was quite strong and should have substantial vitality, so Dong Zhi didn’t need to worry about him, but it was unknown whether Gu Meiren’s flute would work on the ghouls.
While thinking about it, they had reached the end of the cave, and Dong Zhi screamed, “This is the pool where we’ve been before!”
The water pool led into four directions. The caves they walked in were located to the west, north, south, and east. Liu Qingbo, and he had already walked through them before. The east was impassable, and he finally encountered Long Shen in the north. After a big circle, he was brought back here by the python again, which meant that the caves in the west and north were connected.
He no longer needed to worry about it. In the end, there was only one choice left, the south. With a new master, no matter how dangerous the new environment was, it didn’t seem to be so terrifying.
Dong Zhi also discovered something new. After entering this cave, the forget-me-nots that seemed to be beautiful but were actually hiding traps suddenly disappeared. As he walked inside the cave, it became darker and darker in front of him.
Where there were those forget-me-nots, there were illusions. If those forget-me-nots were not there, did it mean that those half-truths, half-false illusions would end as well?
Dong Zhi turned on his phone flashlight to illuminate his surroundings. There was only 1% of power left. Seeing that it was about to run out, the light may have turned off at any time.
“Master, where’s your phone? Can you lend it to me?” he said.
“I didn’t bring it. I left it above surface before entering.”
“Do you have night vision?”
“No, but bringing a phone down here will get it damaged. I’ll have to buy another one when I go back.”
Dong Zhi felt that he had taken an arrow to the knee*, because although he was wearing a waterproof bag, his phone still got soaked in water and the battery had now dropped, barely usable at this point, so it was on the verge of being a piece of scrap metal.
*This spawn from the game Skyrim, where it’s now become a meme. The whole quote is “I use to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee.” The meaning behind this is debated, as taking an arrow to the knee in the Nordic sense means getting married, while the developer put the quote there as an Easter egg as a reference that an armor type wasn’t in the game that protects the knee. According to Baidu, Chinese people use it as a way to express unforeseen accidents in life.
“Does the Deputy Director’s equipment not get reimbursed due to business-related activities?”
Long Shen: “No.”
He paused, and then said, “If you can pass the training exam in the end, I’ll buy you a new one.”
Dong Zhi was at a loss as to whether to laugh or cry. Usually, people busy themselves with giving gifts to their master, but why does it seem like he’s taking advantage of his master instead?
The phrase eating the old* came to his mind as he hurriedly said, “It’s okay, I have…”
*(啃老) Describe young people who have reached adulthood and can earn a living but still haven’t been “weaned” off of relying on their parents for support (AKA being a moocher off your parents when you’re old enough to support yourself).
Before he could say the word money, he heard a faint movement in front of him. Long Shen accelerated his steps, and Dong Zhi hurriedly followed. The farther he went, the louder the movement.
There were not only curses and quarreling but also the sound of fighting. The terrain here was strange. While it sounded like the noises weren’t far away, they still had to make more than eight turns. After several turns, Dong Zhi estimated that they’d been walking for about twenty or so minutes, because his phone was completely dead before they saw the situation at the end of the road ahead.
In the center of the high and wide main cave stood a stone statue. In terms of appearance, it looked like an ancient woman. Behind the stone statue, there was a round stone platform with nothing above it.
However, instead of being called a cave, it was more appropriate to be called the main hall. As soon as Dong Zhi saw this hall, he realized that this was probably the final destination of their trip. The area of the main hall was at least the size of the Taihe Hall in the Forbidden City. Bronze lamps hung around the stone walls, which revealed some light from inside, but it wasn’t candlelight.
These were just the rough impressions he had at first glance, as he didn’t have time to observe more, because just in front of the stone statue, Li Ying, Zhang Song, and Xie Qingling, as well as several unknown men, were forced to retreat step by step by several thousand corpse figurines.
Seeing it with his very own eyes, Dong Zhi couldn’t help but take a deep breath.
They were at least two meters high, and their bodies were densely packed with skulls. There were at least a dozen of them that were stacked together, from the front and rear. All had varied expressions that looked completely wrong. Some still had rotten flesh and blood that was still attached to them. The eyes were purplish blue, and the fangs were ferocious, as if they could eat anyone at any time. Numerous arms hung from its body, stretching out from its chest and back in all directions.
Before Long Shen and him arrived, the three people leaned against each other and formed a triangular battle array to deal with the four thousand corpse figurines, but it looks like they were pretty stretched out.
In the blink of an eye, Li Ying threw out a talisman that was swallowed whole by one of the heads. Xie Qingling manipulated several puppets that were holding daggers that jumped around the thousand corpse figurines flexibly, looking for weaknesses, and stabbing them when she saw an opportunity, causing a certain restraint from the thousand corpse figurines. Zhang Song, on the other hand, had to deal with the other three thousand corpse figurines, which proved to be quite difficult. He was born on Mount Longhu, and while a good swordsman, he naturally also knew how to draw talismans. Seeing that the thousand corpse figurines could not touch oil and salt, he gritted his teeth and pointed his sword and sliced off a piece of his arm, allowing blood to gush out and slide down the sword’s body. He chanted a mantra while holding the sword in one hand and pinching his palm with the other, and asked Li Ying to cover him. He flew forward as the sword flashed with red light as he drove it into the heart of the thousand corpse figurine.
Zhang Song yelled and turned the hilt of the sword slightly. The thousand corpse figurine stretched out a few arms to grab his sword, but they were immediately cut off by his sword and fell to the ground. Zhang Song wanted to withdraw his sword but found that it was stuck in the body of the thousand corpse figurine. His face changed slightly as Li Ying handed him a talisman in the nick of time.
Zhang Song didn’t even look. He grabbed it with one hand, abandoned the sword, retreated, and took a deep breath before jumping up. With the sword inserted into the body of the thousand corpse figurine, he slapped the head of the figurine with one palm. The moment the talisman came into contact with the thousand corpse figurine, it immediately burst into flames and the fire quickly spread to its other heads. Zhang Song turned over in the air and landed on the ground, pulled out the sword smoothly, and kicked the thousand corpse figurine fiercely, causing it to stagger back a few steps before finally falling to the ground.
But before Zhang Song could catch his breath, another thousand corpse figurine rushed over.
“Fuck, it’s not over yet. I’m almost out of strength!” He couldn’t help yelling.
The other side didn’t fare much better, but they didn’t know what tricks they were using. There seemed to always be a strange aroma emitting from the other party’s body that the thousand corpse figurines seemed to be afraid of, so they didn’t dare approach. Naturally, they went for Li Ying and the others instead, focusing on them as their key targets.
Not only did Li Ying and the others have to deal with the thousand corpse figurine, but they also had to guard against the two unknown people, so as not to be backstabbed by them in such a chaotic state.
When Long Shen and Dong Zhi arrived, Li Ying and the others were already at the end of their limits. Seeing Long Shen, their eyes lit up as if they saw hope.
Death count so far 2: Xing Qiaosheng, Zhou Yue.
I guessed that the “dandelions” had something to do with the illusion, and when Long Shen told Dong Zhi they were forget-me-nots, that pretty much confirmed my theory. What a fitting flower for this cave.