Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
At around 8-9 PM in Lucheng, people who had work and needed to rest early had already had their dinner and were gathered in front of the TV to watch their programs. Huang Wendong had come home early tonight, as he usually didn’t get home until at least 11 PM.
“You came back so early today. Didn’t you go socialize?”
Hearing the opening of the door, his wife came out of the room.
“Originally, the customer temporarily canceled. I brought you and our kids some takeout from Happy House, but you guys must’ve eaten already, right?” He raised the bag in his hand.
The wife took it and joked, “Oh, how rare. You work so much every day that you haven’t brought food back for so many years!”
The Liang family wasn’t short on money. It can be seen from just the decoration of the house and the jewelry on his wife. Even in Lucheng, an economically developed city, their family background was well-off, which is enough to stand out from most families.
However, her appearance was given by God. Even if she exhausted the best skin care products to maintain herself, her wifely skin still sagged day by day, as fine wrinkles began to appear more.
Of course, Huang Wendong wasn’t much better. For a man over forty, it was inevitable that he’d start to gain weight, but he still had glimpses of his handsome self when he was younger.
“Where’s Xiao Wen and Xiao Hong?” Huang Wendong asked.
“They are all watching cartoons in the room.” His wife opened the bag and saw boxes neatly packed with snacks, including her favorite, begonia cakes and dried bamboo shoots, as well as shumai that the kids like.
“Why did you buy so much?” She complained, showing that she had a stubborn heart. After all, her husband used to socialize constantly and had never brought them back anything to eat. Although she didn’t lack food, how could she be unhappy knowing that her husband still remembered her preferences.
Huang Wendong said, “It’s fine. If you don’t want to eat it, just give it to the nanny.”
“Who said I wouldn’t eat it?” His wife glared at him.
“We want to eat shumai! We want to eat shumai!” The two children shouted as they ran out when they heard the news.
His wife couldn’t resist them, so she had to agree and asked Huang Wendong, “Have you eaten? I can ask the nanny to make a few dishes for you.”
Huang Wendong smiled and said, “I’ll take a bath first before eating. You can start without me and give me some hot porridge later. I’m tired of eating out all this time.”
It was past dinner time now, so they had already eaten, but what Huang Wendong brought back was more like a snack than a meal. What was more, the pastries couldn’t be kept for long. When it got cold and had to be reheated, it tasted much worse. The two children were clamoring about, wanting to eat. She asked the nanny to put it on the plate, and the greedy children followed her like little tails attached to her.
Huang Wendong took a bath for an hour. In normal times, his wife would knock on the door, thinking that he had fallen asleep in the bathtub, but tonight, she didn’t come to check on him. She was probably distracted by the two naughty children, or maybe she was too busy watching TV, or perhaps she was busy eating the pastries he had brought back.
Huang Wendong stepped out of the bathtub slowly, put on a clean bathrobe, fastened the tie, opened the door and walked out.
The dining table was strangely quiet. His wife, two children, and nanny were all unconscious. The son was only four years old. He had fallen off the chair and his head had a large bump on it.
Huang Wendong was not shocked at all. Let alone yelling, he walked up to his wife, patted her cheek lightly, and called her name. His wife did not respond.
He got up with satisfaction, walked to the kitchen, and scanned the knives with his eyes. He took a sharp porcelain knife and a kitchen knife and returned to his family.
Huang Wendong’s face was red and a little nervous, but more excited. His gaze shifted between his wife and children, as if he wasn’t sure where to begin, before settling on his four-year-old son.
He thought it should be easier since children had delicate flesh. Tremblingly, he raised the knife in his hand, gritted his teeth, and waved it at the youngest son’s elbow!
At that moment, Dong Zhi didn’t know that his inner thoughts had been discovered by Long Shen. He was standing in front of an old residential building in a residential area, looking around blankly.
According to the address given by the other party, Lucheng’s office should be on the first floor, which should be easy to find, but he found that the building here was so old that there weren’t any number plates hanging and the security guard for the property was nowhere to be seen. After looking around for what seemed like hours, he had to call the other party to find the destination under the guidance of the person who had answered the phone just now.
Yan Nuo thought that after the other party arrived, he would explain a few things and leave. He could have dinner and a few drinks with his friends. As a result, he waited from 9 PM until nearly midnight for this long-overdue newcomer.
According to the normal process, a group of newcomers, like Dong Zhi, should’ve reported to the branch first and then gone to various offices with the personnel arrangements from the branch, but that would have delayed too much time. Besides, they had come directly from the General Administration Bureau, which had issued the documents, so they didn’t need the branch office to be involved.
There were only three people in the Lucheng’s office, and they weren’t very keen on newcomers, because newcomers generally don’t understand much. They have to learn everything from scratch. They could also be reckless and arrogant. What’s more, this newcomer had a background. It’s said that he’s a disciple of a Deputy Director.
With such a big Buddha, their small temple can’t hold it. Yan Nuo felt a headache when he thought about it.
He waited until midnight when he was awakened by a phone call from the newcomer, and after patiently giving directions on the phone for a long time and teaching the other party where to go, what little of Yan Nuo’s patient was completely exhausted.
He saw Dong Zhi standing at the entrance with his luggage and shook his hand hastily before saying, “Welcome. Dong Zhi, right? My name is Yan Nuo. The Yan from serious1 and Nuo from promise2. It’s too late now for a proper reception. Why don’t we order some takeout first?”
1The [Yan] (严) from [yan su] (严肃) which means serious, solemn, earnest.
2The [Nuo] (诺) from [cheng nuo] (承诺) which means promise to do something.
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “It’s okay. I’m not hungry. I’m really sorry about this. I’d encountered some issues when I got off the plane, or I wouldn’t be here so late.”
He didn’t mention much about Han Qi, nor did Yan Nuo ask. He stuffed the key into Dong Zhi’s hand and said, “Okay. Then help yourself. I’ll go back and get some rest first.”
Dong Zhi was taken aback for a moment, and hurriedly grabbed the other party. “Yan Ge, where am I staying for tonight? Didn’t you say that the unit allocates dorms?”
Yan Nuo: “Yes. This is an office converted from a private home. It has two bedrooms and one living room. You can choose whichever room you want to stay in. If you feel that the conditions aren’t good, you can go out and rent a different place!”
He was in a hurry to leave. Suddenly, a call came in at that time. Yan Nuo frowned when he looked at the number before picking it up.
“Hello, Zhao Branch.”
Dong Zhi didn’t know what the person on the other end of the line said, but it made Yan Nuo’s expression change slightly. After saying that he would go immediately there, he hung up.
“Xiao Dong, something urgent just happened with the Public Security Bureau. They had called me to go help. You can take care of yourself, right? Call me if you need anything!”
He left without waiting for Dong Zhi to react. Dong Zhi saw that the other party didn’t look back, so he dragged his suitcase in.
The walls hadn’t been painted for many years, and there were bits and pieces falling off. There were cobwebs and dust accumulated in the corners of the ceilings. The living room had no desk, just a sofa set, a coffee table, and an old TV. While Yan Nuo had told him that the place had 2 bedrooms and a living room, one bedroom was full of junk and couldn’t accommodate a person, and the other room had a bunkbed, but the sheets, pillows, and blankets hadn’t been changed for a long time, so there was still the smell of grease. He didn’t dare sit anywhere. Looking around, he couldn’t help but grimace.
Even the warehouse office opposite the cemetery in Yancheng was better than this! Not only is Lucheng not a backcountry town, it’s also a well-known tourist destination in the country. It had beautiful scenery and ample finances. Why is the Lucheng office in such a place? Was this intentionally harassing him?
Dong Zhi wanted to sleep on the sofa for a night, but when he looked at it again, he didn’t know how many years had been put on the leather sofa. The outer leather had long been cracked and spotted, revealing the sponge below. When he touched it with his hands, it felt oily and there was a faint smell of food residue. Even though he wasn’t a neat freak, he really couldn’t lie on this sofa.
Helpless, he had to carry his luggage and go out again. He found an express hotel nearby and rented a room to temporary rest for one night. If the dormitory provided by the office referred to that old house just now, then starting tomorrow, he’ll find a different place to rent.
He turned on his phone and sent a message to Long Shen. After a while, he didn’t get a reply back.
The other party was probably working overtime again. As he lay in bed, the fatigue from his trip was completely released; he didn’t even want to get up to take a shower, so he fell deeply asleep.
The second before he drifted off, he was still thinking about whether he should tell Yan Nuo about the incident on the plane.
The next day, Dong Zhi slept until half past noon before waking up.
When he was in the General Administration, he would have to get up early, around four in the morning. He hadn’t slept so comfortably for a while now. He rolled lazily on the bed, thinking to himself that if he had slept on that sofa last night, most likely he would be greeted with a backache today.
Picking up his phone, he saw that there weren’t any messages. There seemed to be silence on Long Shen’s side, and no one from the branch office had urged him to go to work. His job, though, was irregular as it wasn’t a 9-5 business. There would always be a few emergencies throughout the year, and there was no time to rest when things got busy.
Dong Zhi wanted to send another message to Long Shen, but after thinking about it, the people in the Bureau were recently busy with the excavation of the stone tablet from Liang Weiqi’s tomb. His master must have seen his message, but he may not have had time to reply, so he temporarily gave up.
He wanted to stay in bed for a while longer when he suddenly got a call. It was Yan Nuo.
“Where are you?!”
The other party’s tone wasn’t very good. Dong Zhi didn’t want to admit that he was still sleeping in, so he hurriedly said, “I’m outside. What’s the matter?”
“Mu Duo is waiting in the office, looking for you. Hurry up!”
After speaking, Yan Nuo hung up the line. As for who Mu Duo was, Yan Nuo didn’t make it clear, leaving Dong Zhi confused. He couldn’t greet people in such a state, so he quickly got up and took a shower, then changed his clothes before going over.
The door of the office was ajar. Honestly, there was nothing of value in such a dilapidated house that even if thieves were here, they wouldn’t be interested.
Dong Zhi pushed open the door and saw a young girl sitting on the sofa.
The girl raised her head, slightly impatient, and was taken aback when she saw Dong Zhi. Her attitude improved a little bit.
“Are you the new colleague?”
Dong Zhi took the initiative to extend his hand. “I am Dong Zhi. Who are you?”
The girl shook his hand. “Mu Duo.”
Dong Zhi: “Hello. Yan Nuo asked me to come over and said you were looking for me?”
Mu Duo nodded. “Yes, there was a murder case in our city last night. The police judged that the case was unusual and asked us to help, which is why we didn’t have time to pick you up on the first day. Sorry.”
Dong Zhi said it was okay and asked if there was anything that he could do to help.
“The quarterly report hasn’t been written yet and needs to be submitted in the next few days. We’re busy with the current case, so it’s estimated that we won’t be able to hand it in before the deadline. Can I trouble you to write it?”
Dong Zhi looked confused. “But I only arrived yesterday. I don’t know what you guys did last quarter!”
Mu Duo handed him a piece of paper. “I have written an outline here. Everything is roughly listed, but I have to trouble you with refining it. If you’re not sure, just do what you feel best.”
A newcomer was a newcomer. He couldn’t refuse the task assigned to him by his senior, so he could only agree.
“Do you need my help with the case?”
Mu Duo smiled and said, “No, there are three of us, so I will ask you for the report.”
Dong Zhi scratched his nose. “Well, be careful, and just ask if you need help. I may go out often during the day these days.”
Mu Duo: “Why? To catch up with friends?”
Dong Zhi said honestly, “Looking for a place to rent. Yan Ge asked me to live here, but I really can’t…”
Mu Duo looked around helplessly.
“That’s okay. The report doesn’t need to be rushed. You can write it when you have time. I’ll leave first and call you if I have something for you.”
Mu Duo, like Yan Nuo, didn’t feel very good when they heard that there were new people coming. They felt that three people in the office was enough. They would only cause trouble if more arrived, but they couldn’t refuse the arrangements from above, so they had to hold their noses and put up with it. She had thought that it would be the same as last time since the newcomer had a deep background. A newborn calf was not afraid of tigers, and they set their eyes above the top. However, after chatting with Dong Zhi, her impression had changed a little. Although he had a background, at least this newcomer looked good and had a good attitude.
After she left, Dong Zhi picked up the outline and looked at it. He immediately understood why he was asked to write the quarterly report. What outline? What do what you feel best? It was clear that they were too lazy to write the report and just pushed it onto the newcomer who just happened to join.
Dong Zhi felt flabbergasted. Still, there was no other way. As a newcomer who had just entered the workplace for the first time, he inevitably had to put up with being ordered around. Fortunately, he had been in the workforce three years before, so he wasn’t a rookie. There was no resentment or dissatisfaction. He turned on the computer and started the report.
The next few days were calm.
It was different from the exciting life he imagined, being involved in chaotic messes and slaying demons all day long. Although there were three people besides him in the office, Yan Nuo and Mu Duo were often elusive* so he rarely saw them, while the other, Xiao Qi, he hadn’t even met yet.
*The dragon sees the beginning but doesn’t see the end. (神龙见首不见尾) Use to describe the mysterious whereabouts of people without revealing the truth.
They seemed to be very busy with a murder case, but they had no intention of letting Dong Zhi participate. When Dong Zhi asked, they would give vague and perfunctory responses. With no other choice, all Dong Zhi could do was write the quarterly report and find a place to live. After a week, no one had urged him on the progress of his report, which made it obvious that asking him to write it was just a cover, and they didn’t want Dong Zhi to get involved in the case.
Since they all got along, they all made a group comprised of only newcomers. Although everyone was separated far and wide, they would say a few words in the group every day. It gave them the same feeling of getting along daily, like they had been when they were together. It also gave them the comfort of home as they could feel the warmth of their companions.
Ba Sang was the luckiest of them all because he was assigned to an office that was in the province of his hometown, so he was close to where he lived, which only made Gu Meiren and Dong Zhi envious. Gu Meiren was assigned to Yinchuan, which was just the area where the Liang Weiren’s Tomb is and where they had experienced their life and death and discovered the second stone tablet. As a participant last time, it made sense for her to continue following up on it. She was familiar with the process, so she had something to do. Liu Qingbo and Li Ying weren’t bad either. He heard that they participated with Group One and Group Three in searching for the other stone tablets. Everyone else seemed to have good jobs, while he was the only one stuck here writing quarterly reports.
Dong Zhi laid down on the table and typed for a while and couldn’t help but send another message to Long Shen.
[Master, are you busy today?]
Long Shen did not reply immediately. It took about half an hour before Dong Zhi received a response: [There have been many meetings recently. If you have questions about your cultivation, you can call directly.]
The implication is that if it’s a trivial matter that has nothing to do with cultivation, he shouldn’t be contacting him.
Dong Zhi stared at the message on the phone screen for a while. He wasn’t sure if he was overthinking things, but he felt that Long Shen seemed to have become a little colder lately.
It had only been two days since he left the capital for Lucheng. Before he left, he was still sitting with Long Shen for dinner as they talked about the future and their parting. Long Shen had asked him not to take Longlong away, saying he would help feed it in his spare time since he’d have a full workload once he joined the branch office. There would be a lot to deal with and adjust to, so he wouldn’t have the energy to care for the cat in a short period of time.
Everything was fine then, so why did it suddenly change?
Dong Zhi was puzzled.
Empathetic farewells, terminal illness, and other dog-blooded* scenes played through his mind. He even found it so funny that he couldn’t help but laugh from his imagination.
*Refers to cliché overly dramatic.
How is this possible? Not to mention that it had only been two days. Even after another twenty years, his master most likely remained unchanged.
After thinking about it for a while, he finally decided to focus on his job first. At least he had to wait until he knew the situation here before calling. Otherwise, if Long Shen asked, how could he tell him that because he was a newcomer, he was excluded from participation? Such a useless excuse would never make his master happy.
Dong Zhi put aside the messy thoughts and concentrated on completing the quarterly report at hand. In fact, writing this report had some merit. At least by doing this, he had roughly formed an understanding of Yan Nuo’s and the others’ daily work.
In the last quarter, the office did a total of three relatively large tasks.
One was the international conference that Lucheng hosted, and many world leaders participated in. In addition to ordinary security work, special-level security must also be done properly. In this regard, the people of the South China Branch of the Special Administration Bureau were responsible. The three from this branch mainly cooperated with them.
The second thing was a transnational drug smuggling case. The police had asked Yan Nuo and the others for assistance, but in the end, it was confirmed that it was only a criminal case between ordinary people and did not involve practitioners.
The third thing was that an internationally wanted practitioner had fled to China. Rumors had it that he was hiding in Lucheng. The South China Branch had sent someone to hunt him down. Yan Nuo and the others cooperated with them as well. In the end, they successfully arrested the fugitive and brought him to justice. With the integration of the world, the portals of various countries have opened wide, allowing practitioners from foreign countries to come and go. This also meant international crime had also increased. As a coastal and port city, Lucheng bore the brunt of the responsibility.
Mu Duo’s outline was very simple. What Dong Zhi had to do was nothing more than expand the details of these three tasks. He had to affirm the contributions made by the Lucheng Office in the last quarter so that they could receive funds and bonuses from above, which will also be good for their future promotions.
One thing Dong Zhi found in common with all these three tasks was that Yan Nuo and the others had never taken the initiative to accomplish them, but they always cooperated passively after it had happened.
Combined with the dilapidated environment of this office, he felt he had arrived at an understanding.
Before leaving Beijing, Dong Zhi did not inquire with Long Shen about the origins of several colleagues in Lucheng. He only heard that the Special Administration Bureau does not recruit as high of a number of employees as this year. There have been several years where there were no applicants and they had a shortage of staff, which made the Special Administration Bureau occasionally relax their criteria. They had many offices in China, but the General Administration could not cover everything, so experts were installed in every place. Lucheng has Yan Nuo as part of a group of three, which was considered a very good configuration, compared to Yangcheng, which only had Zhang Chong and Lin Jun.
Thinking about it now, though Zhang Chong and Lin Jun were half-buckets of water, with limited abilities and a lack of ambition and talent, they were both very active. On the top floor of Tianyuan Building, Zhang Chong even risked his life and almost died heroically. When others spoke, they would praise the disciples from the Longhu Sect for being brave and not being afraid of death, which was a reputation that was well deserved.
Long Shen also said that as a practitioner or a practitioner of a state institution, you must first have the courage to take the initiative, because even in a small office, the safety of ordinary people in the entire city is their responsibility.
Obviously, Yan Nuo and the others hadn’t done well, at least not good enough that it would give them an outstanding reputation.
The author has something to say:
Dong Zhi doesn’t know it yet… hahaha.
Lucheng is the starting point for Xiao Dong Zhi’s job entry, and it will also the be the starting point for him to move towards the vast sky that’s filled with a sea full of stars in the future~
I like to address some criticism regarding my translations. I am absolutely open to them both, positive or negative… Provided that you actually let me know where I can improve. It’s pretty demoralizing to see people talk negatively about your sincere effort and all that they say is “it’s bad” and then proceed to bash it. Please point out my errors and mistakes so that I can fix them. The reason why I include the original Chinese text in my footnotes is because I’m not sure if it’s been translated correctly or if I’m interpreting it correctly. I welcome fixes in order to improve the translation quality.
Secondly, I have always been upfront that I cannot read and understand Chinese, so I can’t vouch for its full accuracy. My disclaimer is everywhere on my website that these translations are done via MTL and I simply fix them. I have never passed myself off as a “professional” translator. Please don’t hold me to some professional standard, especially when my translations are free and easily accessible.
This is done purely as a hobby and because I wanted to read things that weren’t translated, and I figured I’d share them with like-minded readers. The English danmei community is pretty niche, and the pool of translators is even smaller. It’s not very conducive to bash translators as it demoralizes them and burns out their motivation. We should be supportive of each other and help improve each other, so no need to badmouth me and instead help me fix what’s wrong.
Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get that off my chest.
To address criticism of footnotes. I get it’s a decisive issue, and many readers don’t like seeing footnotes as it breaks their immersion while they read. However, I’m translating it as how I want to read novels, and that means I want to understand idioms and terms that are unique to Chinese culture as I’m reading, so I don’t want to include the notes at the bottom of the page. I know there are ways to hide them as well, where you can hover your mouse over the text, but that requires coding knowledge (which I do not have) or a premium account in WordPress to access plugins (which I’m not willing to pay for).
I also know my grammar, especially tenses, is not the best. I’m working on it. I have started going back to my previous translations on all my projects to do a scrub and fix up the grammar and mistakes. As such, releases for Bu Tian Gang will be slower until that’s finished.
Finally, as readers, you can help me out as well by proofreading my releases and letting me know where the mistakes are.
At the end of the day, we’re all here to read some danmei, so let’s take it easy and be amicable.