Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
The hand he had put in his pocket didn’t move. First, he made a small talisman array with his other hand, and then slowly took out his hand that was clenching and threw it into the talisman array!
With a cry, a group of dark shadows jumped up and down in the array, trying to break free from its confinement; but seeing that they couldn’t escape, they could only turn villainous and bared their teeth and claws at Dong Zhi.
Dong Zhi tilted his head, puzzled, and observed for a while. He originally thought it was an evil spirit, but now it didn’t seem to be.
“What are you?” He said.
The black shadow seemed to understand. The three-inch villain suddenly swelled and became bigger, transforming into a black dragon in the talisman array, reaching the height of the ceiling and opening its mouth to roar at Dong Zhi.
Dong Zhi laughed. “Dragon? You’re not. Don’t even mention Jiaos. Come on, who’s ordering you? Who’s the one behind you?”
Seeing that he was unmoved, the black dragon shrunk its figure and turned into a young girl with long hair that was tied up in a ponytail, wearing a white shirt and jeans. That looked a bit familiar.
Dong Zhi quickly remembered that this was the family member who had just cried next to the sick person earlier.
The girl sobbed and wept as she pointed to the talisman array, signaling to let her out. Her face was small and fair, and she was crying pitifully, so it touched his heart. Dong Zhi seemed to soften as he withdrew the talisman array.
The other party seemed to sense that Dong Zhi was kind and soft-hearted and wouldn’t be unnecessarily cruel. Taking this advantage, when the talisman array was removed, it directly turned into a dark shadow and flew out!
Unexpectedly, a gust of wind came from behind. Before it got the chance to turn its head, its body was directly nailed to the wall!
Dong Zhi walked over slowly and pulled out his Changshou Sword.
A gray piece of paper fluttered to the ground.
Dong Zhi picked up the piece of paper and frowned. It didn’t seem that things were that simple.
When they were in their training class, they learned from Wu Bingtian and Song Zhicun all the popular techniques all over the world.
There were many wonders in the world, from psychics in Russia to vampires in Europe, from witchcraft in Southeast Asia to black magic in Africa. However, the two directors talked most about the art of Onmyoji.
It was mainly due to China and Japan being old enemies. Japan had been copying China since the Sui and Tang dynasties. This situation lasted until the end of the Qing Dynasty. After the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan learned from the Europeans and Americans and defeated the Beiyang Navy, which was ranked ninth in the world at that time. Since then, there’s been animosity between the two countries. Although the two countries maintained friendly exchanges, there was always discordance in private, even at the level of practitioners.
Japan would frequently make small moves by sending spies to fish in troubled waters*. It was considered impolite to not reciprocate, thus China also sent no fewer numbers of spies to their side as well. Both sides were firmly aware of this and had a somewhat tacit understanding.
*Reminder: Taking advantage of times of trouble.
In regard to Japan, the general consensus of the Special Administration Bureau is that there was no shortage of good people, but these were ordinary people who couldn’t play much of a role because the entire Japanese political scene was controlled by the right wing. Politicians colluded with consortiums and Onmyojis, and there was no lack of shadow consortiums behind them either. The three were closely related and couldn’t be separated.
Therefore, Dong Zhi had an unusual sensitivity to Onmyoji techniques. But this one was very strange. This style of shikigami was not the same as what he had seen before.
After the shikigami summoned by Fujikawa was destroyed, it would disappear because they had been refined to the point of fusing to their master’s body.
When the shikigami lost its effectiveness, it usually turned into a blank piece of paper. Though it was said to be a blank piece of paper, it was in fact not a real blank piece of paper. It was a special secret material used by the Onmyoji.
With the shikigami in his hand, he took a closer look and saw countless gray “silk threads” wrapped around the white paper, which were stacked on top of one another, without substance and touch. It seemed there was some kind of aura or evil thing attached to it.
This didn’t seem to be in the category of the shikigami that he knew of. Dong Zhi felt that either his knowledge of the shikigamis was not enough, or that this thing might not be related to an Onmyoji skill.
Was it related to demons?
But the Archfiend was completely destroyed, and there was no possibility of resurrection. It was even more impossible for it to be related to Fujikawa Aoi.
Could it be a subordinate of the Archfiend who was unwilling to accept its master’s defeat and wanted to take revenge?
Dong Zhi found that the more he thought about it, the more boundless his thoughts became, so he quickly gathered his thoughts like reigning in a wild horse.
The most puzzling thing was that the shikigami appeared in a small hotel in Lucheng. Was there an Onmyoji hidden here?
If he hadn’t been there just now and caught this thing in time, it was estimated that someone would’ve died by now. From his point of view, it couldn’t be interpreted as “unintentional” or “careless”.
Dong Zhi recalled the man that he and He Jia saw last night who wanted to jump off the building. One incident could be interpreted as a coincidence, but now there were two conspiracies.
He picked up the phone and wanted to call Yan Nuo’s number, but after thinking about it, he dialed Mu Duo’s instead. Yan Nuo was too impatient and would always hang up after saying a few words. It was useless to tell him anything, so it was better to talk to Mu Duo.
Sure enough, Mu Duo wasn’t as difficult to talk to as Yan Nuo. She had picked up the phone after only two rings. She was surprised when she heard that he had found a shikigami in a hotel and asked about the situation.
Dong Zhi explained briefly, and asked her again, “Have there been any cases related to shikigamis in Lucheng recently?”
Mu Duo said, “No, the office has been established for less than ten years. I’ve been here for about five years and have not encountered anything of the like. I had heard that Shen Cheng had fought with an Onmyoji before. Would you like me to ask for you if they had encountered a similar case?”
Dong Zhi said, “No need for now, but there may be others behind this matter. I’m worried that the other party is planning something. If you’re not busy over there, can you come and have a look? Maybe you can find more details I neglected.”
Mu Duo hesitated for a moment. There were sounds of movement, as if she had changed to a quiet place to talk to him.
“In fact, we’re having a difficult case right now.”
Yan Nuo’s style was the same as his surname*. He didn’t disclose any content. Dong Zhi just knew that the three of them had been busy recently, but he didn’t know what they were busy with. Sometimes, he thought they were deliberately avoiding him. Only when he heard from Mu Duo did he find that they were busy with a homicide.
*Yan (严) means strict/stern/stringent ect.
The homicide case was extremely gruesome. In addition to that, the state of the corpses showed that the murderer was crazy and cruel. No matter which country this case happened in, it would be considered a high-profile case. With the Special Administration Bureau’s involvement, it indicated that it was no longer just a simple homicide.
There were a total of five dead. A family of four, plus a nanny.
The man’s name was Huang Wendong. He was a construction businessman, and his wife was a housewife. They had a son and a daughter. The family was well-off and had no worries about food and clothing.
When Huang Wendong’s friends found that he was missing, they tried contacting him to no avail. Eventually, the relatives of the Huang family called the police. After checking surveillance, they found that after entering the home, no one had left the house since that time. The police broke in and found all five of them dead, covered in pools of blood. Except for Huang Wendong, all the others were brutally dismembered. Their limbs and heads were cut off, and the son’s expression before he died looked horrified. It was very likely that his head was cut off while he was conscious. Huang Wendong’s chest and stomach were cut open by a knife, and his organs and intestines flowed out.
Seeing such a scene, even the experienced police officers couldn’t handle it.
With such a case, the police immediately took action. The criminal suspect did not leave any fingerprints on the scene, but this wasn’t the strangest thing.
The Huang family lived in a high-end residential community. An elevator connected two households together. From the entrance of the residential area to the door of each household, there was strict surveillance. When the police adjusted the monitoring at that time, they found that no one went in or out of their home. There were no signs of outside invaders from the windows or any other places either.
In other words, it was very likely that the Huang family did all this by themselves, but no one could imagine that Huang Wendong would kill his wife and children, and their nanny, and then stab and disembowel himself with a knife. This wasn’t something a normal person would do, but according to the investigation, Huang Wendong was completely normal and the relationship between the couple had always been good.
The progress of this case had progressed to this point, and it was filled with oddities everywhere, so the police had invited the people from the Special Administration Bureau to participate in the investigation.
The latest development now was that the police had discovered that Huang Wendong probably kept a mistress outside. There were also remnants of sleeping pills in the food that he brought back for his wife and kids. The mistress may have fled as she hadn’t been caught yet. Yan Nuo and the others found traces of a magic on Huang Wendong’s body.
Hearing this, Dong Zhi couldn’t help asking, “What magic technique was used?”
Mu Duo said, “We think it might be witchcraft, because Huang Wendong’s passport and flight records showed that he went to Southeast Asia a month ago, but we’re not sure yet. We’re still investigating other possibilities.”
Since they had business to do, Dong Zhi was embarrassed to ask others for their help, so he said, “Then you take care of your business. If you need anything, just call me. I’ll try to solve this myself first.”
Mu Duo said, “Okay. Be careful yourself and let me know if you have any trouble.”
After a few more words, the two ended the call.
Dong Zhi looked at the gray paper in his hand and slowly frowned. The middle-aged man who almost jumped off the building last night and the woman who had a heart attack just now would make sense if they were related to the shikigami, but what about the inexplicable things like the TV turning on and off and the faucet? Was it a shikigami style to scare people?
He suddenly found that the mysteries surrounding the hotel had become foggier.
If he hadn’t been here, these strange things might still happen. Whether it was someone falling off a building or someone dying of a heart attack due to a failed rescue attempt, they were seemingly ordinary, so it was hard to connect them with the mystery.
Dong Zhi considered whether he should ask He Jia to gather all the guests and staff of the hotel and ask them one by one, but that could scare the snake.
After thinking about it for a while, he got up and walked out to chat with the young lady at the front desk.
The business of the hotel was good as usual. The beautiful young girl at the front desk was busy answering calls and making reservations months in advance. Dong Zhi waited for a long time before he had an opportunity to chat with her.
He first asked about what happened to the guest who had a heart attack just now and pretended to inadvertently ask about the strange things that happened in the hotel.
He didn’t know whether He Jia had told the girl in advance and revealed everything to her, or whether she was impressed by his looks, but the young girl was extremely enthusiastic and talkative. She told him a lot in a single breath, but it was just about the same information as what He Jia had told him, except that the cleaners often found that things would disappear and reappear again in other places. The kitchen sometimes found that the food was reduced, and flowers that were placed on the balcony would appear in the lobby inexplicably. Generally speaking, this would be considered on the level of a prank. She also mentioned that there may be a recent epidemic of influenza as more and more guests became sick, as they had to prepare commonly used drugs for room service and would remind guests to take them.
Dong Zhi asked, “Are there many guests who would have a heart attack like that right now?”
The other party said no. Although strange things were happening, they were all trivial matters, so they wouldn’t make people too scared to stay at the hotel.
Dong Zhi said that he wanted to walk around the hotel at night and asked her to talk to the staff in the monitoring room, so they wouldn’t think of him as a suspicious person up to no good.
The young girl smiled and said, “Feel free. The boss had already explained that there’s nowhere you can’t go except in the rooms where guests are staying.”
Dong Zhi returned her smile and said, “Then I want to go to the tail room on the second floor to have a look. You should have the key, right?”
The other party was taken aback and hesitated. “Yes I do…”
Dong Zhi: “Your boss took me in yesterday. She shouldn’t have said that that room was an exception. I’ll come right back out after going in and walking around for a bit. I won’t damage anything.”
The young girl was still hesitant and didn’t dare make a decision, so Dong Zhi called He Jia and asked her for permission. Although He Jia liked to read the comics Dong Zhi drew and had a nagging great aunt, she herself wasn’t very enthusiastic about this kind of weird and chaotic thing, so she agreed without any pushback.
With the boss’ approval, the young girl naturally stopped hesitating and took the key and accompanied him upstairs.
“In this room, we let a cleaning lady come in once a week to clean it and change the offerings. No one comes in at any other time,” The young girl said.
Dong Zhi: “Then have you ever heard any movement coming from inside? Or had any tenants who stayed next door reported anything?”
The young girl shook her head. “Not that I know of.”
When the room opened, the dusty smell smack him in the face. It hadn’t been cleaned for almost a week and cleaning was arrange for tomorrow.
Dong Zhi brought the key with him, so the young girl didn’t have to wait on him. When he watched her leave, he entered the room and closed the door, then instantly slapped a talisman on the door! He quickly walked to the window and slapped another one there.
The doors and windows were now blocked. Dong Zhi glanced around the room, habitually adjusting the compass on his phone, pointed at one of the directions, and pasted another talisman.
If someone else was here, just a little observation would reveal that the room was simplified into a geometric three-dimensional space in the mind. The three talismans Dong Zhi pasted were exactly on the same horizontal plane. If one were to use a ruler to measure, they would find that the margin of error would never exceed five centimeters.
This turned out to be something that could be done with eyesight alone. After all, Dong Zhi had practiced this many times.
When he had free time, he would set up formations in his bedroom. From the most ordinary eight trigram array to the thunder-summoning array, Liu Qingbo had seen that he was making rapid progress, while Ba Sang and Gu Meiren saw that he had extraordinary talent. He was only a halfway monk, shaking and clanging a half bucket of water, but had managed to survive the experience of the training exam and was able to worship the eye-catching Boss Long. However, they didn’t know how much effort and sweat he had put in behind the scenes.
Being a genius was never accidental.
At that moment, he was using a very common eight-trigram array that exorcised demons and purified filth.
Dong Zhi didn’t open his eyes, so he could only judge by intuition. It was said that people who have the eyes of heaven are said to be able to understand yin and yang and could see things that ordinary people cannot.
Some people were born with the eyes of heaven. Some people would only open these eyes on a certain day, and some people would only open them in a special way for certain needs, and then artificially close the door that was different from ordinary people.
According to Dong Zhi’s yin-biased physique, it was originally very suitable for him to open the eyes of heaven, but Long Shen refused to let him. He said that this would hurt his body. Dong Zhi had always listened to his master’s words. If his master forbade him, there would always be a good reason for it, and it must be for his own good, so he accepted it without thinking much about it.
Occasionally, when he needed to determine the enemy’s position, it would be more convenient to have the eyes of heaven, but it didn’t matter if he didn’t have it. Dong Zhi was holding the fourth talisman in his hand and was pacing slowly in the room, but he didn’t rush to paste it.
The bathroom light suddenly lit up with no one there. After a few seconds, it went dark again.
After several incidents in succession, the lamp made an unbearable sound. The TV also began making trouble. After it turned on automatically, it would change channels by itself. That was faster than pressing the remote-control button.
The antique floor fan in the room started to turn on by itself when it wasn’t plugged in, causing a gust of cool breeze to blow through the room. Dong Zhi, who wasn’t originally hot, instantly got goosebumps. The current season was late autumn, so it was indeed very cold.
If this had been Dong Zhi who was on the train to Changbai Mountain, he would definitely be so scared that his legs would go soft, but now that he had experienced all kinds of hellish training from the Special Administration Bureau and had escaped near death, not only did he not feel the slightest hesitation, but he wanted to actually laugh.
“Besieged on all sides, but one side of the net is left open*. I have left a way out for your excellency. If you don’t drink my proposed toast, then I can only give you a penalty.”
*(网开一面) Idiom referring giving the wrongdoer a way to escape.
Dong Zhi didn’t care about the TV that kept changing frequently behind him. He leaned against the cabinet in front of the TV, holding the talisman in his hand, with his long legs overlapping, so he could relax.
Suddenly, the lights in the room went out!
There was an angry curse in the air. “Laozi is staying here. Why don’t you mind your own business!”
Dong Zhi didn’t talk nonsense with it and directly pasted the talisman into its last position.
The electric fan suddenly stopped turning, and an unknown curse came into Dong Zhi’s ears. Immediately afterwards, a gust of wind swept from behind him, as fast as lightning, threatening to penetrate his body!
Dong Zhi didn’t turn his head back. He stretched out his arm and pulled out the Changshou Sword beside him, and using his backhand, slashed with the sword. With a sharp scream, it seemed as if something had fallen heavily on the bed and bounced up again. The speed was so fast that the mattress squeaked.
But at a time like this, Dong Zhi didn’t care about the bed. Using his other hand, he immediately threw out a Sunlight Talisman and locked the thing firmly in place.
He still didn’t feel that it was enough, so he pointed the Changshou Sword directly out the window and recited the thunder-summoning spell, “The four great enlightenment, heaven and the earth are eternal, by the Jade Emperor‘s1 orders, clear the three yuan2. The mighty sword of the Divine King, slay evil and destroy its traces…”
1(玉帝) Ruler of the Taoist Gods. You can read more about him in the Wikipedia.
2Has many meanings, but I think in this case it’s either referring to the upper, middle, and lower Dantian, or the jing, qi, and soul.
The thing must have had some insight, as when it heard the spell being recited, it yelled. “You brat, I don’t believe you can summon lightning! Don’t you dare recite it! Recite it again and I’ll ask my disciples and grandchildren to bite you to death!”
Dong Zhi remained unmoved as he pronounced each word clearly. The thing became erratic, breaking free from the talisman paper that was stuck on it, but it couldn’t break out of the talisman array that Dong Zhi had set up. It could only jump around the room, overturning furniture and smashing windows, causing the melons and fruits on the offering table to be swept away, but still, it couldn’t escape.
The people outside probably heard the movement and had called a staff member to assess the situation. The young girl at the front desk knocked on the door outside. “Mr. Dong, what are you doing inside?!”
The knocking on the door became more urgent, and seeing that there was a possibility of them coming in, Dong Zhi had to stop his spell and said loudly, “It’s fine. I’m catching mice. I told your boss, so don’t come in!”
The person was a friend of the boss, and the boss herself had told them that he could do whatever he wanted, so naturally the young girl didn’t delve much into the issue. After a while, it became quiet outside again.
With the outside interference gone, Dong Zhi breathed a sigh of relief and looked into the room as the thing kept jumping up and down, so fast that he couldn’t see the real thing clearly.
“If you don’t stop, I’m going to summon lightning again.”
“Bah, are you so good at Leifa*? A small brat like you, telling Grandpa that you can summon lightning? Don’t make me laugh to death! If you don’t let Grandpa out now, I’ll make you restless in the future!”
*(雷法) Taoist technique that can call for wind and thunder, which can exorcise demons, pray for sunshine and rain, and stop floods and droughts.
Dong Zhi calmly asked, “Are the strange things in the hotel related to you?”
“It’s none of your business! You’re too meddlesome*! Get lost!”
*Dog catches the mouse (狗拿耗子) Idiom referring to being nosy/meddlesome. It comes from the duty of the dog to guard the house and the cat to chase the mice, but the dog is now catching the mice, which is being meddlesome.
Dong Zhi was expressionless. “The four great enlightenments, heaven and the earth are eternal, by the Jade Emperor’s orders, clear the three yuan. The mighty sword of the Divine King slays evil and destroys its traces. The purple qi ascends to heaven, the landscape collides, swallowing demons and ghosts, and drinks the wind. With the sound of wind and thunder, startling ghosts and spirits from thousands of miles…”
The other party didn’t believe that Dong Zhi could use the five-thunder dharma. Nowadays, there were tens of millions of charlatans. How could it be possible to attract a person with real skills?
Besides, even if he was capable, it didn’t mean he could attract lightning. Who knew that it really kicked the iron plate* this time? Dong Zhi recited in a fast but undulating tone. Suddenly, a dull noise came from outside the window. It was a cloudless, sunny day, but at that moment, heavy clouds suddenly gathered, showing signs of a heavy rainstorm.
*Refers to thinking something is soft and easy to bully, but in reality, is better than themselves, so they suffer a loss from it.
The people in the streets hurried their pace for fear that they would be caught in the rain.
The demon in the hotel room finally panicked. It didn’t expect Dong Zhi to do what he really said.
“You—Are you a disciple of those priests* from Mount Longhu?!”
*[niu bi zi] (牛鼻子) It’s an old way of referring to a Taoist priest.
Dong Zhi remained unmoved and continued reciting the mantra. The sound of thunder rolled in from afar, and the sky suddenly became bright.
“Stop! Don’t recite! I’m convinced! I’ll tell you everything! Just stop!” The other party finally couldn’t help shouting, and there was a trace of sadness in its voice.
Isn’t this enough?
Dong Zhi finally put his sword back in its sheath, stopping at the last word of the spell. The thunder stopped and the dark clouds dissipated, causing passersby to raise their eyes to the sky as they muttered how moody God was today. One minute there was a thunderstorm and the next it was gone to who knows where.
Dong Zhi looked at the gray mass and said succinctly, “Talk!”
The thing whimpered and Dong Zhi didn’t know what it was scolding him. Its body slowly stretched out, and only then did Dong Zhi realize that it was actually a small animal. The little animal didn’t seem that young, but it was small and delicate. On its gray fur was a pair of eyes that were spinning in circles, full of aura and restlessness.
The other party curled up its front paws and stood straight, “staring” at Dong Zhi as it spat out its words.
“Who are you priest? Why don’t you know the rules?! Didn’t your teacher teach you not to be nosy when you go out?!”
Seeing it appearance at first glance, Dong Zhi had a hard time trying not to laugh out loud. After hearing that it was still being stubborn, he raised his Changshou Sword with his hand slightly.
“My teacher only taught me to do my best to get rid of evil when I go out.”
“Put down the sword. I am not evil!” The thing jumped.
Dong Zhi: “Cut the crap. Why are you creating those strange things here to disturb others!”
“How can I harass others? This was originally my territory. I am the Bao Jiaxian* enshrined by the master of their family!” The other party screamed to defend itself. Listening carefully, Dong Zhi found traces of grievances.
*(保家仙) Title of feudal folk god, usually written on paper and pasted on the wall or tablet made of wood. Some people would build small temples as well. Usually tributes it paid to them on the first and fifteenth day of each month. || I believe that they are like your local god.
Dong Zhi didn’t know much about the Bao Jiaxian, but he had heard people talk about them.
Northeast China often said that memorial tablets often refer to the four animals: fox, weasel, snake, and python. Legend has it that they needed to accumulate merits in the process of cultivation, but it wasn’t convenient to show people their true bodies, so they often used human bodies to guide people and do good and accumulate virtue. This kind of thing gave rise to the worship of Ma Xian*. After coming down from Changbai Mountain, Dong Zhi met Sister Wang from the Northeast Branch during his hospitalization, who he found out later from He Yu was a Ma Xian.
*(仙的) Local god but is female.
As for the Bao Jianxian, as the name suggests, it was natural for these four spiritual objects to be enshrined by some people to protect the well-being of their family. There were a few people in the Northeast who didn’t know what Bao Jiaxian and Ma Xian were, but outside of the northeast, fewer people knew of them.
Dong Zhi was taken aback and asked, “Isn’t Bao Jianxian only from the northeast?”
The other party said angrily, “Which law stipulates that only the northeast can have them? Are we not allowed to travel around in our country?! Does Lucheng not belong to China or are we splitting it up?”
Dong Zhi didn’t care for its sarcasm. Thinking about all the trouble the other party had caused, his face grimaced. “Speak well. What the hell is going on?”
Seeing his opponent’s eye drooping, he directly pulled out a Sunlight Talisman and shook it in front of him.
“I’ll be lenient if you confess, and stricter if you resist.”
Just to provide more history on the tension between Japan and China, China does have legitimate grievances with Japan. The biggest in recent history is the Second Sino-Japanese War. Many atrocities were committed by the Japanese to Chinese citizens, including the infamous Rape of Nanjing (of which death toll estimates vary from 40,000 to over 300,000, with rape cases ranging from 20,000 to over 80,000 cases), of which Japan today still have been quite reluctant to fully acknowledge.
So, while some may think that the author is quite nationalistic and very anti-Japanese, do keep in mind that there’s history between the two countries, and it’s not surprising a citizen of one country would choose the villains of another (though as the author pointed out, there’s no shortage of good people in Japan), which in history has done wrong to their country and its citizens.
At the end of the day, this is a work of fiction set in a fictional world. There’s no blanketed statement made by the author that all Japanese people are bad. It just so happens the author has chosen some of the villains to be Japanese.
Just some food for thought. I’m not defending Japan or China; each country has its own issues, but it’s good to know your history. As the philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Bao Jiaxian (保家仙)
Title of feudal folk god, usually written on paper and pasted on the wall or tablet made of wood. Some people would build small temples as well. Usually tributes it paid to them on the first and fifteenth day of each month
Ma Xian( 仙的)
Local god but is female.