Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Ming Xian subconsciously took a few steps back.
People around him rushed to check, and he was quickly pushed out. His expression was still a little stunned and he didn’t seem to understand how that person could be dead.
The sudden death of a cosplayer caused a small commotion, but more people didn’t know what was going on. The venue was too big. Ming Xian looked around blankly, holding a cellphone in his hand, hesitating whether to call the police or call an ambulance, when his arm was suddenly caught.
He turned his head, and it was Tang Jing.
Ming Xian didn’t have time to think about why Tang Jing ran over, but when he saw the other party, he couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.
“Someone’s dead!” he said sharply.
“I know, there’s also an incident over there.” Tang Jing grabbed his arm. The casual smile on his face was no longer present and the pretty face that had makeup on looked faintly demonic. “Go find the nearest exit and leave. I have to notify security and the police. They will come over soon and evacuate the crowd.”
Seeing him turn around, Ming Xian couldn’t help but say, “What are you looking for? I’ll help you find it!”
“No, you need to leave first. Hurry up!” Tang Jing let go, and before Ming Xian had time to say more, he was gone.
While Tang Jing participated in this anime convention as a hobby, it was only a secondary reason, and he used helping out friends as an excuse. The real reason was to ensure the smooth progress of the event.
Recently, because of the search for the stone tablets, the Special Administration Bureau had loosened its grip on the outside but tightened it on the inside, especially regarding the Japanese. In particular, since Shencheng was an international metropolis and close to Japan, it was better to be vigilant. With all these unreasonable events, somehow there tends to be a loose connection to them. Large-scale events or meetings like this convention could attract unwanted attention, so the focus was on prevention.
Soon, there would be a high-profile international conference held here. In this case, not only would the police be on high alert, but even the Special Administration Bureau would have to cooperate and assist.
The branch office had a lot of manpower, and most of them had their own duties. During these three days of the anime convention, Tang Jing personally took Shu He and Huo Jie to guard here. He thought they would simply be going through the notion, but he didn’t expect anything to happen on the last day.
Together with the cosplayer just now, two people had already died suddenly. Shu He and Huo Jie were one step late when they found out. Tang Jing knew very well that even if they managed to get a forensic doctor for an autopsy, there would be no results. At most, it was a myocardial or cerebral infarction.
But just now, he clearly smelled a trace of magic…
In a flash, it was covered up by the yang from the sea of people. This method was truly clever.
As soon as that ray of magic aura entered the sea of people, it instantly became like a fish in the water, disappearing without a trace, occasionally leaving a cunning tail behind. When the hunter heard the news, it had already disappeared. Even for Tang Jing, it was difficult to trace the ray of magic in such a huge venue among tens of thousands of people.
Some people already knew that two people had suddenly died, and the unexplained panic made them want to run away. Those who didn’t know yet continued to wander around in a daze, but the news would eventually spread like wildfire. Even with security personnel, it was inevitable that there would be a stampede when everyone panicked, making the scene more chaotic and it would become more difficult to catch that ray of magic when the time came.
Tang Jing had an extra mirror in his hand. When he was illuminated by the lights of the venue, he suddenly emitted a dazzling light. Many people’s eyes swept to him. Before they could remove their gaze, they immediately felt their eyes tingling, and they couldn’t help but cover their eyes and scream.
But Tang Jing caught a flash of a black shadow in the light. It was extremely fast and fleeting, like the blink of an eye.
Tang Jing pushed away the crowd and ran towards the northwest gate.
He didn’t seem to use much force, but the people around him fell to the side as soon as he pushed them. Tang Jing left all the curses behind, and quickly rushed towards the door.
No matter how fast he was, at the end of the day, he was running on two legs, which was incomparable with an ethereal and invisible demonic energy. Seeing that he was about to lose the chase, Tang Jing squinted his eyes and casually touched the hairpin on his head and threw it.
The hairpin turned into white light and chased after the demonic energy at such a high velocity that no one had time to see clearly. The light quickly hit the demonic energy and suddenly stagnated its movement. In the blink of an eye, Tang Jing had already arrived.
The northwest gate was a small gate, which was not usually open. There was a long and narrow alley behind it, and at the end was a warehouse.
The demon energy condensed, landed and looked back. It roared lowly at the person blocking its path.
“A soul eater?” Tang Jing looked surprised and puzzled. “How could this thing be mixed with demonic energy?”
The name sounded terrifying, but in fact, this strange beast ate the souls of the dead, or those souls who refused to pass on and still lingered in the living world. They often haunt cemeteries or crematoriums. In a sense, humans didn’t need to be afraid of it.
But now it was clear that interested people had taken advantage of the characteristics of the soul eater and injected it with demonic energy, turning it from an ordinary and harmless soul eater to a monster that devoured the anger of the living.
In this kind of venue with tens of thousands of people and a lot of mobility, it was difficult to trace if it were to swallow up a little bit of anger. At most, those it devoured would only feel a bit weak, and their traces of anger would leave them. However, if its target happened to be weak, then it would become life-threatening.
The soul eater also seemed to be aware of the threat posed by Tang Jing, and after roaring, it slowly retreated, in order to pave the way for its next attack.
Tang Jing didn’t give it such an opportunity. He skillfully threw out the ribbon in his arms, and the soft, slender ribbon suddenly shot straight at the soul eater, directly entangling its neck tightly. Tang Jing shook his wrist, and the soul eater was involuntarily pulled over.
“What is this?!” There was an exclamation from behind.
Another soul eater was waiting for an opportunity to act, and its body lowered slightly, then jumped directly up and pounced on the person behind Tang Jing.
Tang Jing closed his five fingers one by one, and dazzling light poured out of his palms. Before Ming Xian could see clearly, the soul eater that was covered with black demonic energy was shrouded by light and instantly crushed. The magic energy exploded into fine powder and dissipated into the air, leaving no traces behind.
Ming Xian’s face was shocked, as if he had just watched a fantasy blockbuster.
“Didn’t I tell you to leave? Why did you follow me?”
Tang Jing pulled his hand, and the remaining soul eater also entered the light. The ribbon was burned by the demonic energy, and he put it aside.
His hair and clothes were still neat, and Tang Jing still looked like the charming Yu Ji. On the other hand, Ming Xian was covered in dust and his wig was tangled everywhere.
“There are too many people at the exit. I can’t squeeze through. Seeing you running over, I just followed, wanting to see if there is anything that can help…” Ming Xian swallowed and couldn’t help but take two steps back. “If I say I didn’t see anything, is it still too late?”
Tang Jing showed a grim smile. “What if I say it’s too late?”
Ming Xian said weakly, “Then you’re not going to kill me, are you?”
Before he finished speaking, his chin was pinched.
Ming Xian involuntarily raised his head slightly, letting the other party’s slender five fingers slowly slide down to his neck, which was tantamount to exposing his fatal weakness and was just waiting to be slaughtered.
He wanted to cry without tears. “You, are you really going to kill me?”
Tang Jing’s face slowly approached, and the pair of beautiful eyes under his slender eyebrows seemed to be smiling but not really smiling. Ming Xian looked at it steadily, unwilling to blink. If he was going to die, he might as well die looking at this peony flower. It would be quite romantic if he became a ghost.
Then he made a request that was even scarier than death.
“Then, can I kiss you before I die?”
Tang Jing raised his eyebrows, not as sullen as he had imagined.
“Where my dear?”
He could still choose? Ming Xian was overjoyed, and his gaze fell on Tang Jing’s lips.
“You—you close your eyes first.”
Of course, Tang Jing didn’t close his eyes and instead directly slapped him.
“What are you thinking?! Let’s go!”
Ming Xian was dragged away by him in a daze, while looking back. “Those things…”
Tang Jing casually said, “I took care of them.”
If it weren’t for the presence of people from the Special Administration Bureau, these two lives would at most be regarded as having suffered from suffocation and fainted. Their sudden deaths were attributed to too many participants in the event, and they would make the local daily headlines.
The people involved in this conspiracy had absorbed a lot of yang energy from the living during this time. Tang Jing couldn’t speculate out of thin air on what they were planning, but he felt a headache when he thought that security must be strengthened at all large-scale events and conferences in the future.
Ming Xian was unaware of his distress, and said with interest, “You’re really not an ordinary person, are you? In fact, I saw it on the plane. You have a mysterious aura, just like the male protagonist in my novel. Tangtang, I want to write to you as my male protagonist and promise not to reveal your real name and keep your privacy. Is that okay?”
What kind of mysterious aura? Tang Jing slowly turned his head. “Who are you calling Tangtang*?”
*Calling someone’s name like this indicates fondness and closeness (whether it be their last or first name).
Ming Xian: “Then Jingjing?”
Tang Jing: “I prefer it if you just shut up.”
Back at the venue, the crowd had been almost evacuated. The exhibition hall closed early on the grounds that the lighting failure affected safety. This reason naturally caused some people to be dissatisfied. They felt that they had spent money but suffered a loss. As soon as the crowd dispersed, it wasn’t easy for the other party to absorb a lot of yang energy. Shu He and Huo Jie were still searching constantly, trying to discover the real murderer behind the scenes.
Tang Jing couldn’t help frowning.
At today’s anime convention, exhibitors and players would dress up in different novel costumes. With the various cosplays to provide a convenient cover, it was easy for demonic activities to take advantage of this. That’s why Tang Jing personally came to monitor the area. In fact, the Special Administration Bureau had already made arrangements in advance. There were magic arrays all around the venue, which were difficult for normal people to detect. If it was a demon with an evil aura, it would trigger an alarm and be discovered by them.
But the magic arrays didn’t sound any alarms the entire day. That is to say, whether it was the murderer or the soul eaters, it was very unlikely that they snuck in from outside.
What the hell went wrong?
Tang Jing raised his eyes to look at the various lights on the steel frames at the top of the venue. His gaze swept across the venue that gradually became empty and finally fell on Ming Xian beside him.
Ming Xian: ???
Tang Jing frowned at him.
Ming Xian looked back blankly and innocently.
Tang Jing: “Did you notice anything unusual before you saw that person fall to the ground just now?”
Ming Xian said indifferently, “No, it was his companion who pushed him, and he fell down in a daze, but now that you mentioned it, I remember that when I was walking in the crowd before, the venue was extremely crowded, so it was pretty stuffy. I’m not sure why, but every now and then, there would be a few cold breezes blowing from my neck. I thought it was the air conditioning at the time.”
Tang Jing: “Neck?”
Ming Xian nodded. “I felt it on the back of my neck. The breeze jumped into my clothes from below and blew out from my collar.”
Tang Jing looked behind Ming Xian, his eyes slowly looking down.
Ming Xian moved embarrassedly. “Don’t…”
Tang Jing could see what was going on in the other party’s mind from a glance. The person on the plane looked pure, but he didn’t expect that yellow waste* had already flooded his mind. He was indeed worthy of being a novel writer.
*Refers to crude/explicit things. Basically, he’s saying Ming Xian has a dirty mind.
In normal times, he might tease him, then take him home, and fornicate amidst the golden autumn wind and the jade-glistening dew*, but there were more important business matters at the moment. When the words of ridicule came to his lips, Tang Jing took those thoughts back.
*This is referencing Meeting across the Milky Way from the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl tale. I’ve explained this in an earlier chapter, but it’s the story of the romance between a weaver girl and a cowherd, which was forbidden, and thus they were banished to opposite sides of the heavenly river (the Milky Way) and are only allowed to meet for a single day once a year. The golden autumn wind and jade-glistening dew represent the season in which the cowherd and the weaver girl get to meet. || In this context, it’s basically saying he would take him home and bang him (put in a cruder way) but more poetically written (alluding to the single day of the year where the cowherd and weaver girl meet… and you know what they would do as lovers since they could only meet once a year).
He saw a bulge that was temporarily covered. It was originally supposed to be a ground plug, which was generally used to connect the power supply. It was everywhere in the exhibition hall. The red carpet had been specially covered to prevent everyone from tripping over it.
The wires led to the underground and also to the outside.
This was a loophole in the magic array. Because the venue was too big, they only had time to arrange the surroundings, and they couldn’t cover the upper and lower parts. It would take too much energy, and the gain wouldn’t be worth the loss. Even the head of Mount Longhu couldn’t do it, thus the other party took advantage of this and came from underground and walked the grounds absorbing yang energy without them knowing.
Tang Jing smiled coldly.
The other side of Shencheng.
The auction was located on the second floor of a gallery. The content was exhibitions and auctions. However, when he checked online, Dong Zhi found that the auction had been held several times. It was initiated by a well-known local collector. The target was aimed mainly at high-end customers. If they had stayed at the express hotel as originally planned, they wouldn’t have received this kind of promotional brochure.
Although there were brochures, generally speaking, this kind of activity would usually involve people in the circle bringing acquaintances with them. Very few outsiders would rush over to participate like Dong Zhi.
A well-dressed young lady entertained them. When she saw the two of them coming, she didn’t show any surprise or contempt for these country bumpkins. She still smiled and asked, “Are you two planning only to visit the cultural and entertainment exhibition, or do you plan to participate in the auction together?”
Dong Zhi: “Is there any difference?”
The other party patiently explained, “The exhibition is mainly based on classical Chinese culture. There are paintings, calligraphy, antiques, jewelry, and the like. It is a collection from various folk collectors. As long as you two register, you can enter and look at the exhibits. If you still want to participate in the subsequent auctions, you have to pay a deposit of 500,000 per person. When the event is over, if the two of you didn’t bid on anything, the deposit will be refunded by the full amount. If you bid on something, then the money will be directly deducted from your deposit, and what remains will be returned.”
Dong Zhi hadn’t participated in this kind of high-end auction, so he looked at Liu Qingbo. Anyway, it was mainly the young master who wanted to participate so he could cause some trouble.
Liu Qingbo frowned and said, “How do I know that the deposit will be refunded?”
The young lady’s smile stagnated slightly. “Sir, our event is held five times every year. Mr. Xiang Mu is a well-known collector in our city and has a good reputation both at home and abroad. Moreover, this event is in cooperation with Christie’s Auction House*. Your concerns can be said to be non-existent.”
*British auction house founded by James Christie.
Dong Zhi had heard of the name Xiang Mu but only knew that he was an entrepreneur. He didn’t realize that the name was also associated with a collector. Now that he thought about it, it was normal. In troubled times, buy gold, while in prosperous times, buy antiques and art. Only those with considerable financial strength could afford such a thing.
Liu Qingbo curled his lips and took out a card. “Okay, register for us. We’ll participate in the auction.”
The lady smiled slightly and said apologetically, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t make it clear just now. It’s half a million dollars U.S. dollars. This could potentially freeze your credit card. It won’t be an issue for the two of you, right?”
Liu Qingbo raised his brows. “No problem.”
Dong Zhi jabbed him with his elbow. “You also pay for my half million!”
Liu Qingbo rolled his eyes. “Didn’t Boss Long give you a black card?”
Dong Zhi was taken aback. “How did you know?”
Liu Qingbo said arrogantly, “The last time I saw you going through your wallet, I accidentally saw it. If I didn’t even have this kind of eyesight, what kind of sword would I practicing?”
Dong Zhi spread his hand. “If I swipe that card, Master will immediately know that we are messing around here. I promised him last time not to run around casually. My own money is in the treasury. I won’t be able to get so much cash for a while. It’s up to you. Anyway, it doesn’t matter to me if I participate or not. Otherwise, you can just go by yourself, and I’ll take a stroll outside, and we’ll find a place to meet.”
Liu Qingbo originally went because of Chen Guoliang. If Dong Zhi was missing, he would have had no one to share the fun with, so he said angrily, “Go, go, I’ll pay for you!”
Between the two of them, one million U.S. dollars was spent, which was roughly between six to seven million yuan. Young Master Liu didn’t even bat an eye when he swiped the card directly and signed his name. They both got the invitation letter for the function, and he went in with Dong Zhi.
Dong Zhi gave a thumbs up. “So chic! So arrogant!”
Liu Qingbo snorted, “Isn’t your black card more arrogant than me when you take it out?”
Dong Zhi: “That’s my ultimate lethal weapon and cannot easily be displayed.”
The two of them went to the second floor as they chattered. The exhibition would be open from 9 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon. There would be a cocktail party and meals at noon, all of which were provided free of charge, but only guests who had paid a deposit were allowed to participate, while ordinary guests could only visit the cultural exhibition for free.
They originally thought that the cultural exhibition was just a gimmick, and the focus was still on the auction, but as soon as they entered, they knew that they had the wrong idea. There were really a lot of good things in the exhibition. Of course, whether it was genuine or not, the two of them weren’t experts, and they couldn’t tell with their naked eyes, but the richness and heritage of the collection was still beyond imagination.
It spanned thousands of years of Chinese history. From the royal families to the nobles to the common people, there had been wars and displacements, changing of dynasties, and many treasures had been scattered overseas, while an untold number of treasures were buried in dirt. Although the collection of the museum was precious, it was only a small part of all the treasures still yet discovered, and by chance, these could be acquired by folk collectors.
Like collections, wealth would always be collected and circulated slowly, and eventually it would be acquired by the very few. These collectors had a dazzling array of things in their hands. If they only collected and enjoyed it themselves, there would be some regret, but they were reluctant to donate their treasures. Thus, this kind of private exhibition existed, which was open to the public for viewing, but really was to satisfy their own ego and sense of accomplishment. After all, the idea was similar to children who possessed novelty toys and wanted to show off to their friends.
Dong Zhi looked down at the catalogue of exhibits he took at the door. Today’s exhibits were quite mixed. It included things from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. There were also a few from the Qin and Han Dynasties. It was mainly porcelain, calligraphy, and paintings, and there were also some ancient jewelries. The latter was gorgeous and dazzling, with various precious inlaid gems that were quite colorful. It was the highlight for most visitors. Many people lingered around the jewelry showcase and used their phones to take pictures.
Liu Qingbo was quiet for a while, and then he couldn’t help but complain, “I think it must be fake… Fuck! Look over there. It says that this is a Chenghua Doucai chicken cup*. How fucking laughable! Do you know the price tag on this thing outside? And the guy just puts something worth hundreds of millions on display that’s only separated by a piece of glass for everyone to see? If you ask me, it must be a replica from the Qianlong period!”
*Bowl shape Chinese porcelain painted in the doucai technique and decorated with chickens, hens, and roosters. There are currently 13 authentic Chenghua cups help by museums and 3 owned privately. According to auction records, the highest price one of these ever sold for was for $36.05 million USD.
Compared to Liu Qingbo, who was a skeptic, Dong Zhi was truly interested in looking at the collection seriously.
With a background in painting, he gave more importance to the lines and color of each collection. Facing the patterns of the porcelain, he could stand there motionless and look at it for a long time.
Of course, as Liu Qingbo said, there may be fakes mixed in, but even if they were fakes, at least the workmanship was delicate enough that it could be appreciated as a work of art.
Seeing that he hadn’t moved for a long time, Liu Qingbo was too impatient to wait, so he went around the exhibition hall first, but when he looked back, Dong Zhi still hadn’t moved a step, so he came back and urged him.
“What’s so good about a bunch of fakes?”
“Look at this painting,” Dong Zhi said.
He was talking about a landscape painting in front of him. The name was that of an unknown painter. According to the introduction next to him, the painter’s name was Wei Kun, a person from the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty. This painting was from the 19th year of Yongle. When he passed by the foot of Shaohua Mountain and saw the setting sun on the peaks mixed with the emerald greenery of autumn, he painted this painting with that emotion. There were two poems next to it.
An unremarkable feng shui painting.
For things like brushwork and artistic conception, Liu Qingbo had no artistic bone and couldn’t see it, but it could be seen from the painter that this painting must’ve not a name in history. At most, it was old and well-preserved, so it was worth some money.
However, Dong Zhi wasn’t bored enough to tease him about such trivial matters, which made Liu Qingbo suppress his impatience and take a serious look at the painting, seeing if he could really find something in it.
“You mean, this?” He pointed to a rocky road in the forest.
There was a forest at the foot of the mountain. The water flowing down from the top of the mountain gradually flattened and turned into a stream under it. Pieces of red leaves fell on the stream and the stones that occlude it. There was a large stone tablet standing crookedly, half buried in the soil, as if it had been washed down by heavy rain. It looked like a tombstone, but it didn’t seem like it was one because there was no grave next to it, and no one would put a grave next to the edge of a stream.
Dong Zhi nodded. “Take a closer look at the words above.”
Wei Kun’s painting was painted with great care, which was specifically reflected in his presentation of the details. When one looked closer, one could still see the lines of trees and stones, and the feathers of birds. Not only that, but even the text on the exposed half of the stone tablet was portrayed beautifully.
Liu Qingbo squinted for a long time and finally remembered that the stone tablet they found in the underground alter in Yinchuan had exactly this kind of rune!
Although half of the stone tablet was still buried underground, the painter painted the other half that was exposed. However, even with just half to go off of, Liu Qingbo confirmed that it wasn’t a mistake. After returning from Yinchuan at that time, before they resealed the alter, Long Shen had specifically copied the runes of the stone tablet and distributed it to everyone. It was used as an internal circulatory material for them to study. Although everyone was still puzzled by the meaning behind the runes, they were quite familiar with them and could recall them after seeing them.
Liu Qingbo didn’t expect that he would actually make a shocking discovery on a whim of wanting to tease Cheng Guoliang.