Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
[Master, are you busy today?]
Long Shen looked at the text message on his mobile as he remained motionless for a while.
This is not the first time that Dong Zhi has sent him such a mundane text. He would send them from time to time before he became Long Shen’s apprentice, and now that he was his master, he started to send even more. Like asking if he had eaten or slept yet. Sometimes he would send a text if he saw a flower on the side of the road that was a different color from the other flowers. When he ate a delicious dish, we would also send an entire paragraph about it.
Dong Zhi obviously knew that the content he sent was irrelevant, and he didn’t expect Long Shen to suddenly become attracted to him. The goal of these texts was to establish a connection. Even if the other party doesn’t reply, he would still see them. As long as he reads them, it’ll leave traces in his eyes and heart.
The days were long, and the water ran deep*.
*(静水流深) Metaphor use to describe a person who’s shy/quiet on the surface but is often intelligent and interesting underneath.
Long Shen would reply with one or two sentences during his spare time, but usually he would ignore them. This text message was no different from the previous ones, but to his surprise, he hesitated for a few seconds for the first time whether he should respond to it.
The meeting was still in progress, and it was rare for him to look at his phone during such a time. He put down his phone and continued to concentrate on the meeting.
Half an hour later, during the break, he finally returned a response.
[There have been many meetings recently. If you have questions about your cultivation, you can call directly.]
He was truly busy, and there were many meetings. No matter how he felt in his heart, Long Shen despised lying and cheating.
Since setting the general direction to look for the stone tablets, various branch offices have repeatedly sent back reports. This kind of task was like finding a needle in a haystack. As the central command, the General Administration Bureau made adjustments to the direction based on feedback from the branches. In addition, there will be a high-profile international conference in the capital. Leaders from all over the world will come to participate, so the Special Administration Bureau couldn’t remain idle.
What Dong Zhi didn’t know was that not only Long Shen, but the entire General Administration Bureau was so busy that even Zong Ling and Zhang Xiankun, who were already semi-retired, were asked to assist Group One and Group Two.
Long Shen hit send and watched as the message prompt quickly showed that it was successfully sent.
He Yu’s big head suddenly leaned over. “Boss, why have you been staring at your phone for the past two days?”
His face was full of gossip, trying to find clues from Long Shen’s immovable face.
“Lovelorn? Ah, no, you haven’t been in a relationship before. How did you become lovelorn? Did you try online dating? No, boss is like an old man who doesn’t eat, drink, or gamble and doesn’t have any bad habits, but as the saying goes, proper relaxation helps meet greater pressure, right?”
Long Shen: “Why haven’t I heard this saying?”
He Yu said with a sigh, “A Master of Chinese Studies named He Yu said this, but that’s not the point. The point is, as your dear subordinates and companions, we also hope that you can relax. There have been so many things happening lately. If you’re under too much pressure and suffocate, won’t our group be headless?”
Long Shen: “In your opinion, how should I relax?”
He Yu laughed. “In my opinion, it’s best to play games. Lend me your full level account and I’ll lend you mine. Let’s exchange, so that you can also experience the fun of leveling up and changing equipment. What do you think?”
Long Shen: “Okay.”
He Yu thought there was something wrong with his ears, so he said incredulously, “What? Did you agree?”
Long Shen: “I’ll lend you my account for an hour in return for 10% of your month’s bonus.”
The corners of He Yu’s mouth twitched. “Why don’t you just rob me?”
Long Shen turned to look at him, causing He Yu to quickly cover his mouth and run away, for fear that his month’s bonus would be docked again for “insubordination”.
“Don’t you think that the boss is acting a bit strange?!”
During the break, Zhong Yuyi was laying down on the conference table and took the opportunity to doze off. Unexpectedly, someone elbowed him, waking him up.
“…What?” He looked back with his tired eyes.
He Yu gossiped nervously, “In the past, he never looked at his phone for more than five seconds. This time, he stared at it for almost nine. With the boss’ temperament, isn’t this very strange?”
Zhong Yuyi didn’t understand what was strange about this and said slowly. “It takes me five minutes to read a message. The boss is much faster than me.”
“…I can’t tell you anything. Just go back to sleep!”
He Yu had the expression of “I’m super intelligent that you mortals just don’t understand”, and didn’t bother to tell Zhong Yuyi more. He waved his hand, leaned on his crutches, and limped outside to play games.
Before the meeting started, he had to get in as much time as possible. Every second was worth a second more in gold, and with such a measly amount of gold, it was hard for him to buy upgrades!
An afternoon passed quickly. Dong Zhi’s efficiency was good, and he had nearly completed the report. He only needed to consider his words at the beginning and end.
Although the house was old, the lighting was good, and the leaves outside the window reflected mottled shadows on the table, swaying uncertainly, like the restless heart of a young man.
The southern coast didn’t have an autumn season. It spanned from summer directly to winter. At that moment, there were still many trees that still had all their leaves, and the old indoor air conditioning was running, making a whirring noise that couldn’t be ignored.
Dong Zhi stopped typing and stretched. He planned to stay in the hotel for one more night before looking for a place to rent for tomorrow. Originally, he wanted to call Long Shen, but as his finger went through his contact list, he dialed Yan Nuo’s number instead.
The call was quickly connected with Yan Nuo’s voice coming through, and it sounded impatient.
“Hey, what’s the matter!”
Dong Zhi: “Yan Ge, is there anything I can do for you? I have nothing to do now, so I can assist you.”
Yan Nuo: “If you have nothing to do, just rest. There are a lot of people here. I don’t need you for the time being. If you want to do something, just go play by yourself!”
He hung up without waiting for a response from Dong Zhi.
What do you mean, go play by yourself? Dong Zhi was speechless. It was clear that the other party did not want him to get involved, as he refused to even tell him where he was.
Dong Zhi also knew that no matter where he went, newcomers would be treated unpopularly. They didn’t know anything, so they had to ask about everything. Things would often go wrong because they were not familiar with the situation. Like when he used to work at the game company, he didn’t like to bring in newcomers. If he said things lightly, they wouldn’t understand, but if his tone was heavy, it would make them angry and possibly hold a grudge.
But now that he had become the newcomer who was hated and guarded against everywhere, he didn’t feel so happy. Not in the mood to finish the report, Dong Zhi closed the document and planned to work on it tomorrow. He opened his social media instead.
He hadn’t had time to update his comic serialization in the past few days. The latest message on his account was two days ago, with already thousands of comments under it. Most of them were pretty standard, saying that they liked it, they thought it was cute, they were looking forward to the next edition, and the likes… but one caught his attention.
The message said that the stories in his comics were very thrilling. It goes on to describe how she had inherited a hotel that was run by her relatives. Both her staff and the tourists had encountered strange things inside it, but business for the hotel had always been good, so she thought it was quite amazing.
There were a lot of responses to this comment. Some people laughed, some made jokes, some thought she was talking nonsense, and others said that the hotel was haunted and suggested she should exorcise the evil.
Dong Zhi had seen a lot of comments before, but the stranger things that couldn’t be explained scientifically, the more interested people became. The development of the internet had made the exchange of information much faster. Since Dong Zhi’s comic serialization belongs to the urban fantasy and supernatural genres, it was natural that readers interested in that topic would gather below.
However, this reader said that her eyes and nose were perfectly fine, and she wasn’t making up nonsense. Although she didn’t explain where she was, from the description, Dong Zhi had an intuition that she was located in Lucheng.
He sent a private message and soon got a reply.
The other party didn’t seem to expect that the comic book author would personally reach out to her. She was so excited that she was speaking incoherently. From the tone of her voice, it seems like she was a young girl. Dong Zhi’s guess was correct. The hotel was indeed in Lucheng, and coincidentally, it wasn’t far from where he was.
Dong Zhi said he happened to be in Lucheng during this time and asked if it was convenient for her to meet. He wanted to learn more about the hotel.
The other party was originally a big fan of him. When she heard that she could see her idol, she naturally agreed. The two parties made an appointment at a restaurant not far from the hotel.
Considering that it would be too eye-catching to have a sword on his back while walking out in public, Dong Zhi came up with a solution. On the way to the appointment, he went to a music store and bought a guqin case. After putting the sword in, he used the spare space to hold his cinnabar and talismans, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Sure enough, when he walked outside carrying the guqin case, he suddenly lost a lot of strange glances.
As soon as he arrived at the restaurant, he found a place to sit at random and saw a long-haired girl in a t-shirt and shorts hurriedly entering while looking around, as if she was looking for someone.
“He Jia?” He raised his head to signal and shouted tentatively.
The other party immediately turned her head, showing a surprised look, and walked over to him quickly.
“You—Hello. May I ask if you’re the great Dong Dong Qiang?” The girl didn’t expect that the comic drawer himself was such a delicate and elegant boy, which far exceeded her expectations.
Dong Zhi got up and smiled. “I’m just Dong Dong Qiang. Hello. I’m sorry for taking the liberty to invite you out.”
He Jia hurriedly said, “It’s okay. I just happen to be free!”
Dong Zhi handed the menu to her and gracefully asked her to order. After the waiter came and took their order, he got down to business. “I have been looking for some new materials for my serialization recently. I saw your comment saying that strange things are happening at your hotel. Is this true?”
He Jia nodded. “It’s true. The hotel wasn’t originally mine. It belonged to a relative, but she went abroad and settled down there, so she won’t be back for a while. However, the hotel still needs to run, so she entrusted me to handle its affairs. When I took over, I did not replace the original staff, so everything is as it should be. I would occasionally go over and monitor the situation and found that strange things often happen.”
With the popularity of his comic, Dong Zhi had become one of those famous internet celebrities, but unlike them, who relied on their face to attract fans, he purely attracts readers that liked his style and content. His readership count was very stable. Many have secretly tried to guess his age and appearance. He still had old fans back from when he was an artist for <The Great Wasteland>, but no one had ever seen him in person. They all guessed that he was most likely a young man. He Jia didn’t expect that she would be the first fan to see him in person, so she was quite excited. She wished she could take a photo with him and post it online to prove that she had a meal with Dong Dong Qiang. She naturally trusted Dong Zhi, so she spoke without reservation.
For her, not only was she able to witness her male god with her very own eyes, but his appearance and speech patterns were very much in line with the tailor-made image that she had in her mind, which made it even more shocking.
Dong Zhi listened very seriously. “Can you tell me more about it?”
He Jia said, “Some staff members reported that they had seen dark shadows floating by when they were patrolling at night, but when they got closer, they saw nothing. We even checked the surveillance, and it didn’t show anyone passing by. We also had residents who said that when it’s midnight, the faucet would turn on by itself, inexplicably. Others said that they could hear someone signing and talking in their ears and could feel ghostly steps on their bed.”
She lowered her voice and made a mysterious expression. “Later, I asked the original owner of the hotel, who’s my great aunt, and she told me I needed to worship regularly on the first and fifteenth days of each month and I wouldn’t need to worry about anything else.”
Seeing that there was no response from Dong Zhi, He Jia continued, “But the strange thing is, my hotel business remained very good. In order to solicit business, I asked someone to make an official website for it. As a result, despite no advertisements, guests would make reservations online, almost fully booking us. We’re completely booked out for the holidays.”
Dong Zhi: “Who does your great aunt want you to worship? Did you do what she said?”
He Jia: “I don’t know. She asked me to vacate a room and not allow guests to stay there, and then enshrined fruits on the offering table inside all year round. I just need to change it once a week. I did everything as she asked, but the strange things didn’t go away.”
Dong Zhi pondered, “Were there ever any deaths there?”
“No… Ah, actually, there was one!”
Slender fingers held her fair chin casually, and her other hand tapped unconsciously on the table. He Jia felt that the other party was not only born handsome, but he also had an indescribable taste. She looked a little dazed for a moment before slowly reacting.
“I heard from my great aunt that before her hotel, the previous building was also a hotel but was burned down by a fire. The fire had killed the previous owner. It took a few years to rebuild the hotel to its current state. Later, a guest committed suicide by cutting his wrist in his room. It was too late to rescue him. I heard that it seems to be because of feelings. However, besides these incidents, there were no other deaths.”
Having said that, He Jia felt a little distressed.
“In fact, it used to be normal, but recently, our employees have often gotten sick, and many guests have had memory loss. I don’t want to stay there myself. The strange thing, though, is that despite all this, business still remained good. I thought about it last time and I wanted to ask a specialist to take a look, but my great aunt firmly opposed it, so I could only give up.”
“How long have you taken over that hotel?”
“Just the last six months. I asked my great aunt when she was in charge of the hotel, and she said there was no frequent illness for employees or guests.”
As the two chatted, the dishes they ordered came one after another, and the topic was switched to talking about the local customs.
Hearing Dong Zhi was new in town, He Jia enthusiastically offered to show him around. While Dong Zhi found the proposition exciting, he first had to find a place to settle down, so he politely declined.
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “Don’t call me great. It’s quite awkward. My surname is Dong. Given name is Zhi. You can just call me Dong Ge.”
“So this turns out to be the origin of your screen name, Dong Dong Qiang!” He Jia realized it at once and immediately asked, “Dong Ge, do you still play games now?”
She wasn’t only a fan of Dong Zhi’s comics but was also a player of the <The Great Wasteland>. It could be said that she had watched Dong Zhi come a long way from all the way back then.
“Not anymore.” The identity of the Special Administration Bureau is special and couldn’t be easily revealed to ordinary people. Dong Zhi came up with an excuse. “I’m currently helping a friend’s company, so I only draw during my spare time.”
He Jia looked regretful. “What a pity.”
Dong Zhi laughed. “What’s there to pity? Isn’t it better to like your hobbies than have them be the source of how you can eat?”
He Jia thought about it, and then laughed as well. She enjoyed this meal very much.
From her impression, male artists were generally otakus who weren’t good at speaking and were very slovenly. She had seen some male artists in the past when she went for autograph signings or seen their pictures online, so it only deepened her stereotype. She didn’t expect Dong Zhi to be an exception. What’s even more rare was that the other party was very polite and gentlemanly, letting her order and taking the initiative to pay when she went to the bathroom, so as not to leave her in an awkward state. Even if it hadn’t reached the point of falling in love at first sight, being invited to a meal with a handsome guy was already a plus for girls like her.
After the meal, Dong Zhi asked her, “Are the rooms in your hotel full? If not, I would like to book a room and stay for one night tonight.”
For a moment, He Jia was taken aback. With a shy look on her face, she said, “I asked before I came here. There are still two rooms available today. Why don’t I take you there?”
She was afraid Dong Zhi might misunderstand, so she quickly added, “Dong Ge, I’m a little afraid of going by that place at night.”
Dong Zhi laughed. “That’s okay. You can just take me to the entrance, and I’ll go in by myself.”
Facing such a charming and handsome guy, she gritted her teeth and hardened her heart. “Forget it. I’ll go in with you for just one night!”
Dong Zhi chuckled. “Just take me there. You don’t need to accompany me.”
“It’s fine!” Who told you to look so good, He Jia silently added in her heart. She suddenly remembered something and said shyly, “Dong Ge, I don’t mind if you use the hotel as material for your comic, but can you hide the city and hotel information when the time comes?”
Only now did Dong Zhi realize that He Jia thought he wanted to go to the hotel purely out of curiosity so he could collect more materials for his comic. He thought to himself that this was a good excuse he could use when it was inconvenient for him to reveal his identity in the future.
“Of course. Even if I use it in my comics in the future, I’ll never expose any relevant or personal information.”
He was really interested in the hotel, especially the strange events that He Jia had described. It would be good if those strange things didn’t lead to any evil outcomes, but since the employees and guests were getting sick often, this showed that it had affected the lives of ordinary people, which meant it fell within the jurisdiction of the Special Administration Bureau.
The Special Administration Bureau was different from other departments. Things may not always be delivered to you. Although Dong Zhi was new and Yan Nuo didn’t let him interfere with their work, it didn’t mean that he couldn’t take the initiative himself.
After the two of them finished their meals, they rested for a bit before He Jia took Dong Zhi to the hotel.
The hotel was located in the old district. There were some well-preserved arcades from the Republic of China days. Plants grew on the left and right of the entrance, and flowers swayed back and forth. The scenery must be even more beautiful during the day. The hotel had three floors and adopted the architectural characteristics of both Chinese and Western styles, most likely to integrate it with the nearby old buildings in order to attract more tourists.
When Dong Zhi stood at the door and looked at the words “Langhai Hotel” on the wooden signboard next to the hotel gate, his feet stopped abruptly, as if the brake button was suddenly pressed in his body, catching him off guard.
“Dong Ge?” He Jia asked when she was motionless.
What was this bad feeling that he felt standing in front of this place? Was it the eerie hotel that made people not want to go in?
No. As soon as he saw the entrance, he had a strong desire to go in and stay there, as if he couldn’t wait and felt impatient.
This was the strangest feeling. Dong Zhi was now struggling with such instincts, holding back his body’s reaction forcefully. The doors to the entrance were like a magnet in his eyes, with the ability to suck people in.
“Every time you come through the entrance, do you get a strange feeling?” He asked He Jia.
“What strange feeling?” He Jia was puzzled.
“I feel like I really want to go in. Like there’s something there that’s attracting me.” Dong Zhi couldn’t describe this feeling very accurately because it was just an invisible force, illusory and immaterial.
He Jia shook her head. “No, I actually don’t like coming here very much, but I have heard guests talk about the feeling you mentioned. They said that they wanted to go to the nearby island to find a hostel, but when they passed by here, they somehow became attracted to coming in.”
As a practitioner, Dong Zhi was more consciously observant and could better control his will, but most ordinary people couldn’t do it, and they wouldn’t think too deeply about the weirdness either.
“Let’s go.” He didn’t say anything more as he walked in with He Jia.
The furnishings in the hotel were deliberately designed to create a sense of history. A combination of Chinese and Western styles could be seen everywhere. The stairs were European-style in imitation of the Republic of China era. There were quite a lot of guests. When Dong Zhi entered, they happened to run into two groups of guests who were checking out and another group that was waiting to check in. It could be seen that, as He Jia had said, business was booming.
Dong Zhi carefully observed their expressions and saw that among the two groups of people who were about to check out, there was a mix of old and young, and their expressions weren’t very good. The children were coughing as they looked at the furnishings in the hotel, showing reluctant expressions.
“Hello, auntie. Are you checking out?” He took a step forward.
The middle-aged lady who had taken her family out for a trip nodded and said, “We had checked out the day before yesterday and were leaving, but the stay here was so comfortable that we couldn’t bear to leave, so we stayed for two more days.”
“Comfortable? Is the service very good?” Dong Zhi innocently blinked and smiled. “I’m staying here for a night. If it’s as good as you say, I might book another night.”
The auntie laughed. “It’s not like that. I can’t really describe it. Anyway, I would feel lazy after coming in, and I would have good dreams every night. Since I stayed here, it really felt like a vacation. We don’t want to go anywhere else. Just sleeping here is enough.”
Dong Zhi felt touched and smiled. “Then I’ll book two nights so I can feel the sense of vacation.”
As there were guests present, He Jia couldn’t say anything. As soon as they left, she said, “Dong Ge, just stay for one night. You don’t need to check in. I’ll tell them.”
Dong Zhi shook his head. “How can you do that? You opened this place for business, so there’s no reason to offer me such benefits.”
When he saw that He Jia was about to object, he quickly said, “Don’t worry. I can pay.”
He Jia didn’t press the issue, believing that she’d simply compensate him for the night when he checked out.
“Is it convenient to get a tour of the place?” Dong Zhi asked.
“Of course. I’ll show you around.” He Jia told the front desk and asked them to reserve a room for her tonight, then she took Dong Zhi upstairs.
There were only three floors in the hotel. The corridors were brightly lit, and paintings and decorations were hanging from both sides. The windows were made of colorful glazed glass, which was very much in line with the bourgeoisie style of the city. There were iron railings hanging outside the window that had various sunflowers planted in them. The sea could be seen from a distance. Although it was located in the old district, it wasn’t surprising that this place would have an endless stream of guests due to these attentive arrangements.
Dong Zhi inquired about this question, and He Jia replied, “Even if that’s the case, there are many tourists in Lucheng all year round, but fewer come during autumn and winter. Generally speaking, every hotel would be full. This hotel was booked at maximum capacity almost every day, and the rooms that were available would be immediately booked. The problem is, I rarely advertise and have never cooperated with any travel websites or tourism groups to promote it. Furthermore, the guests who made the reservations online said that they originally wanted to book another hotel, but for some reason, their search ended up at my website. They thought it looked good, so they changed their mind and booked mine instead.”
As she said this, she couldn’t help adding, “While I’m very happy that business is good, still, this is just too strange!”
Dong Zhi looked around the room in the corridor and asked, “Your great aunt told you to dedicate a room for worship. Can I take a look?”
He Jia nodded and whispered, “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I feel weird whenever I go into that room. I’ll let you take a look, but don’t stay too long.”
Dong Zhi naturally agreed.
The author has something to say:
Dong Zhi never expected to become a male god in the eyes of others.
Let’s put a (non-related text to the novel) as welfare:
At the time, the Special Administration Bureau was still attached to the National Security Department and had to act with them every time when dealing with issues. It was always inconvenient to go in and out, and the application for funds was even more troublesome. The Special Administration Bureau had a special job dealing with monsters and demons, so they had to maintain a high level of vigilance. What would happen if they accidentally injured ordinary people? Once, former Director Zhang Xiankun saw Lanzhou ramen and Shaxian street food all over the street and it gave him inspiration. He thought about it and disguised his local offices as restaurants serving braised chicken and rice, worried that they wouldn’t have enough money.
Later… There was no later.
Because Kan Chaosheng joined the Bureau.
Just for some clarity, the Special Administration Bureau refers to the entire exorcism department as a whole (all the branch offices along with HQ), while the General Administration Bureau is the HQ of the Special Administration Bureau, so while they were in the capital, the General and Special Bureau usually mean the same thing, but when it’s specifically referred to as the General Bureau, it means that it’s where all the leaders are (as HQ is the one that gives out the orders to the other branches).
I probably should have added this note way before.