Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Wu Bingtian wiped his face, as if intending to erase the fatigue of staying up late.
“I haven’t had time to tell you. The day before yesterday, I had a meeting with Zong Lao and Zhang Lao. They all agree that the eye of the array should be on Mount Kunlun. However, Mount Kunlun is too big. The exact location can’t be determined yet. We can only start little by little. Zong Lao and Zhang Lao have rushed over and participated in the search as well.”
Mount Kunlun wasn’t just a mountain but an endless range of mountains. It was regarded as the ancestor of ten thousand mountains of China and the starting point for all dragon veins. Numerous myths and legends originated there and had never been cut off since ancient times, so it was indeed likely that was where the eye of the array was located.
However, this place had 19 peaks that were 6,000 kilometers tall, and the snow caps didn’t melt all year. Not only that, but there were also deep caves and trails that no one had ever set foot in before. If they were to search them one by one, it would take at least five years, not to mention the countless natural wonders out there.
Long Shen asked, “Are there any news from Ding Lan and the others?”
Wu Bingtian shook his head. “I told them to put their own safety first, and they don’t need to keep in touch unless it’s extremely critical.”
Li Ying lacked experience, but he wasn’t the leader of this three-person operation. With Ding Lan and Yu Buhui, they could act according to the circumstances. However, Otowa Yasuhiko had been in business for many years, so it was impossible to not expect anyone to come to his door. Ding Lan and others had to act calmly as there were many hidden dangers.
Long Shen turned his head and said to Dong Zhi, “Go back and rest first.”
Dong Zhi had listened to them this entire time and heard a lot of news but couldn’t assist in any way. Seeing that the atmosphere was turning solemn, he felt uncomfortable. He nodded and got up when he heard Long Shen’s words.
Song Zhicun stopped him and handed over a folder. “This is the information from the exchange conferences in previous years. Take a look at it. When everyone gathers, I’ll say a few things, but you’ll have to come up with the specific division of labor on your own.”
Dong Zhi was taken aback. He thought the candidate for team leader was only verbal and had to go through a specific assessment, but after hearing Song Zhicun’s meaning, it seemed a foregone conclusion.
He subconsciously looked at Long Shen, who nodded slightly with encouraging eyes.
Dong Zhi suddenly showed composure and courage. He took the documents and said goodbye to Song Zhicun and the others before leaving.
Watching him gently walk to the door, Song Zhicun finally showed a smile that had been missing for a few days.
“Your apprentice did a good job. I regret it a bit now. If I had rushed to grab his hand from you, perhaps he would be calling me master today.”
Wu Bingtian chuckled. “Really? I thought he didn’t eat anything cooked by people*. It turns out that his heart wasn’t move, but he met someone who moved it.”
*(不食人間煙火) Idiom has a few meanings but refers to the Daoist belief that celestial beings never eat cooked food. This later on is used to describe a person who has other-worldly qualities similar to those of celestial beings, but it could also mean being out of touch with reality. || In this context, Wu Bingtian is jokingly saying he thought Long Shen didn’t touch things that were mortal, as his heart is unmoved by them, but it turns out that he touched things that moved his heart (Dong Zhi).
Although these words were easy to misunderstand, what they were teasing about was actually just the matter of accepting disciples.
Long Shen smiled slightly, and his brows loosened a bit. He had no intention of actively mentioning his relationship with Dong Zhi, but he wouldn’t deliberately conceal it either.
“Dong Zhi is really good.”
Song Zhicun smiled again. “I was worried before. As soon as Li Ying left, Dong Zhi was cursed. Liu Qingbo and Zhang Song aren’t capable of taking on the responsibility of leading the team. If that didn’t work out, we would’ve had to re-select people again. Now it’s fine. Dong Zhi has worked with Liu Qingbo a few times. With him, who can restrain Liu Qingbo, Zhang Song should be a cinch.”
Wu Bingtian added, “After they come back from this exchange, we can put a heavier burden on them.”
The three of them took advantage of this topic to relax for a while. Long Shen talked about the result of his meeting with Carlos and the others in Bangkok.
“The remnant qi of the heavenly demon may take advantage of this exchange to mix in with the practitioners. I suggest sending two more people to the team to replace Li Ying.”
Wu Bingtian said, “This is fine. I will find suitable candidates as soon as possible. How about Chi Banxia?”
She had been accepted as Song Zhicun’s apprentice, so naturally he had more say on this issue.
Song Zhicun shook his head and said, “She’s not suitable at this moment. The most important thing for this kind of experience is team cooperation. She and Li Ying are in love. I’m afraid with Li Ying’s life and death right now on the line, she’s too concerned and may not be able to concentrate on the competition.”
Dong Zhi didn’t know what Long Shen and others would discuss next. After he left the conference room, he went back to the dorms.
He hadn’t been back here for more than half a year. The mattresses were still stacked up where he left them, still neat and deserted, but the tables and chairs weren’t covered with dust. There was a gap in the window, and the pots and plants on the windowsill were also well taken care of. When he looked at the coffee table again, there was a note saying: [The cat is being watched at the pet shop at 175 North Point Lane. The foster care fee has already been paid for half a year.]
This should have been written by Long Shen before he went to Shencheng. At that time, he probably felt he wouldn’t have returned so soon, so the note was probably for the person entrusted to read it.
Dong Zhi paused for a moment to reflect. The two of them had met again in Shencheng and then went to Hainan before going to Thailand and Myanmar to kill Songen and eliminate the demon. Accidents happened one after another, so when he looked at this note and recalled what had transpired, he found that he had experienced quite a lot.
When he went from the capital to Lucheng, he had already been prepared to not return to Beijing for several years. After confessing to Long Shen, he felt he would never come back in his life. Who would have expected that life would always turn around and miracles would occur? The feelings that he thought were hopeless were responded to by the sea in Sanya. Being here again, it was inevitable that he would have the illusion that these things were a lifetime away.
There was no need to clean up. Dong Zhi sat down at the desk and decided to call Liu Qingbo first.
When the line connected, the other party didn’t even give him a chance to speak as a flurry of questions bombarded him. “Where are you now? Have you returned? Did you solve the curse? Is Boss Long with you?”
Dong Zhi couldn’t laugh or cry. “Which question do you want me to answer?”
Liu Qingbo quipped back, “All Of them, one by one!”
“Okay, okay, okay,” Dong Zhi replied good-naturedly. “I’m in the capital now. My curse has been lifted. The exchange conference is about to be held, and I’m injured. Master asked me not to go back and forth, so I’ll recuperate in the capital and wait for you to come. When will you be coming?”
Liu Qingbo said, “In two days. Mu Duo wants to report the situation here through video chat. Is it convenient now?”
“Sure!” Dong Zhi was just about to ask, yet the other party took the initiative and brought it up.
The two hung up and used the communication software to start video calling. Dong Zhi quickly saw Mu Duo and Zhang Chong on the other side. Nothing had changed. Zhang Chong was still carefree and happy, Mu Duo was just the same as before, and Liu Qingbo naturally still had airs of a young master.
“The Lucheng branch has worked hard during my absence. When I return, I’ll treat everyone to a meal,” Dong Zhi said sincerely.
Liu Qingbo rolled his eyes. “We have worked so hard for so long, and that’s only worth a meal?”
Dong Zhi smiled. “Then what do you want? Except for my body, I can agree to anything.”
Liu Qingbo scoffed. “Cut the shit! Let Mu Duo tell you about what happened during this time!”
Hearing this, Dong Zhi knew that his deputy director was probably a handful during this time.
Liu Qingbo had never had the patience to deal with specific affairs, let alone cumbersome interpersonal contacts, so no matter how capable he was, he would never be able to lead a team like Li Ying or Dong Zhi. Either he could be a lone ranger, or he could only be led. This was also his shortcoming.
There was no shortage of lone rangers in the Special Administration Bureau. Most people could take the lead alone, but there weren’t many who could lead. During this session, Li Ying was the favored one, and now there was also Dong Zhi.
Mu Duo began to report on the work progress to Dong Zhi.
The milk tea shop had been renovated and was open for business. Unfortunately, business wasn’t booming, so the first month was a loss, but after it stabilized, it could basically make ends meet. In fact, this was just a cover for the office to be hidden from the world. No one expected it to make money, and all profits would be used for the operations of the office.
The initial proposal by Dong Zhi was good. The location was close to a school, and students often came to buy drinks. Mu Duo and Zhang Chong were busy at times, so they hired two young men to help. On the pretext that the shop owner was a novelist who liked to collect supernatural stories, they often communicated with customers to collect rumors. During this exchange, if they heard anything strange, whether it was true or false, Mu Duo would screen the stories.
She was, after all, meticulous. Among the gossip, Mu Duo found some abnormalities. Finally, it was discovered that there was a transnational drug smuggling case. After it was handed over to the relevant departments, they cooperated with them and arrested the drug dealers. During the bust, there was even a gunfight. A policeman was almost injured. Luckily, Liu Qingbo was there at the time and managed to block the bullet with his sword. Seeing how his sword was faster than a bullet, everyone looked at him as if he were an alien.
For this matter, the office received praise from the top and thanks from their sister departments. Wu Bingtian believed that this method of concealment in Lucheng was worth promoting throughout the world’s offices, so he frequently asked them to write summaries of their experiences. Naturally, Liu Qingbo was impatient to do this, and Zhang Chong’s writing disgusted Mu Duo, so she had been writing summaries until she was about to vomit.
When Dong Zhi heard what had transpired, he was stunned. He didn’t expect so many things to happen in the office after he left for a short time. In this way, it seemed that he was more incompetent than a “negligent” leader.
Mu Duo saw his apologetic face and laughed. “These changes are only after you came to the office. We would still be a lifeless office if it weren’t for you. Director, when you go to the exchange, you must fight and get some face for our office!”
Dong Zhi pointed to Liu Qingbo. “With Deputy Director Liu here, there will be no problem.”
Dong Zhi then said to Mu Duo and Zhang Chong, “Since Lao Liu and I will not be in Lucheng, if you have anything, you should report it to Boss Tang. Don’t try to take it on yourself. I’ll send some sunlight talismans later. Put them on your body to drive away evil spirits and calm your mind if you don’t have any use for them.”
Mu Duo recognized his generosity and immediately expressed her gratitude, wishing them good luck on their journey and a safe return.
Not all practitioners were from extraordinary origins like Liu Qingbo, who was so arrogant that they didn’t even bother to engage with others. After all, there were those who went to extremes, such as Cheng Yuan. There were many, like Xiao Qi and Yan Nuo, who were more capable than ordinary people, but were also influenced by human nature. They would be afraid or jealous and push back or procrastinate. Naturally, such a personality wouldn’t achieve anything great.
For a few years after Mu Duo entered the Special Administration Bureau, she went from being ambitious to being so indifferent that she had considered resigning; in the end, she met Dong Zhi.
This young man was tender and inexperienced, but he was smart and studious. These were the necessary qualities to become an excellent practitioner. What was even more rare was that he was willing to take responsibility when things happened and didn’t hog the credit afterwards. On the contrary, he was willing to share it with them.
Mu Duo felt that working with such a person was like a spring breeze. If she had to add a comparison, she had to say that Dong Zhi was much stronger than Yan Nuo and Xiao Qi. Only such a person could truly lead everyone forward and make people willing to follow him, even through heaven and hell, life and death.
Dong Zhi said a few more words to Liu Qingbo before ending the call. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the information that Song Zhicun had handed over when he left just now.
The full name of the World Exchange Conference was actually the World Unknown Field Cultural Exchange Conference. It began after WWII but was not held on a regular basis every two years. It had been suspended several times due to some reason or another. Nowadays, once every two years, the executive council of each member country takes a turn hosting.
The so-called unknown field of cultural exchange was actually a general term for the practitioner world. It was a term that was all-encompassing, including Taoism, witchcraft, yin and yang techniques of the East, psychic spiritualism, demon hunting, voodoo, and the like. Many practitioners were naturally willing to take this opportunity to enhance their understanding and expand their influence.
Today, the exchange conference was actually an arena for practitioners from all over the world. Many unknown practitioners had gone on to become world famous after leaving here. Naturally, some fell and lost their lives.
Teams from various countries or regions were generally organized to participate in the conference. Individuals weren’t allowed. China had participated five times, of which Long Shen was included as a team leader once but did not participate in the competition.
Seeing this, Dong Zhi couldn’t help but smile.
He knew why Long Shen didn’t participate—simply because he was too strong. Once this man joined, there would be no chance of anyone else winning. As a senior member of the Special Administration Bureau, Long Shen didn’t actually need to be in the limelight. Carlos obviously knew a bit about Long Shen’s abilities, which was why he regretted not being able to see the skills of Long Shen’s apprentice with his own eyes.
With Long Shen’s ability, even if he didn’t deliberately show it, it was destined that it couldn’t be hidden in the crowd. Dong Zhi could imagine, in the years he wasn’t able to participate in Long Shen’s past, what a dazzling light this man had shed and how heartbreaking his strength and tenacity were.
On Changbai Mountain, Long Shen still had old wounds on his body, yet he was still able to fight the bone dragon. This time, he even sealed the passage to the abyss with his own strength. It was no wonder he dared to break into Songen’s lair with just his apprentice. Even though Dong Zhi could be considered his closest, he still couldn’t explore the limit of what this man’s strength was.
He had already missed a lot of the former Long Shen but would not miss Long Shen’s future for the rest of his lifetime.
Dong Zhi’s fingertips rubbed the familiar name as he continued to look at the folder.
He Yu had participated once, but he didn’t see Kan Chaosheng. This was not because of his lack of abilities, but most likely because the Special Administration Bureau feared that Kan Chaosheng didn’t have enough self-control and, in some cases, would expose his true body, causing unnecessary trouble.
He Yu took part in it on the Siberian ice fields at the time. Participants needed to fight against strange beasts in the snow and eventually get the items designated by the organization. That time, He Yu and the others were able to achieve the final victory. He had participated with Zhang Heng and Yu Buhui. The appearance of these familiar names meant that the stars were shining during that time.
After that, the last exchange was a competition held in Africa, where black magic was prevalent. Everyone fought in an environment full of witchcraft and traps, with the United States ultimately coming out victorious. Dong Zhi took a look at the people who participated last year and saw two acquaintances from the Northeast Branch, Zheng Sui and Wang Jinguan.
Naturally, Lao Zheng and Wang Jie weren’t newcomers who had just joined the special administration bureau. Being in the Special Administration Bureau for so long, Dong Zhi had developed a deep understanding and knew they weren’t the elites of the Special Administration. The fact that they participated last time meant there were no great talents that year, so they had to temporarily fill the participants.
It was said that this time, there would be even more teams participating than ever before, so by allowing Dong Zhi to participate, the Special Administration Bureau hoped that they would win this year.
When Dong Zhi closed the file, he breathed a soft sigh of relief.
He never thought that he could take on the responsibility of leading the team. This trust came too suddenly, and he only felt a heavy weight on his body, diluting the sense of honor and happiness that he should be feeling.
Liu Qingbo, Zhang Song, and Liu Si were all considered future elites by the Special Administration Bureau. They had performed equally well in training and actual combat. If there was no accident, the future of the Special Administration would belong to them. A year ago, he didn’t even dare think that such a position would also be his own.
At first, he was attracted to the “beauty”, and then he was retained by the magnificence of the new world. He could no longer move his eyes from it. He was originally self-aware and felt that, at best, he would become an ordinary staff member in logistics in the Special Administration Bureau. Just having the chance to look at his male god from time to time would be enough satisfaction, but every time something happened, he wanted to try his best. He didn’t want others to look down on him, and he wanted to feel worthy of himself. So step by step, he got to where he was today. When he looked back, he couldn’t help but laugh.
He had walked all the way only looking at the front, walking on thin ice and trembling, but when he suddenly looked back, he found that he had inadvertently sprinkled a large number of seeds. Those seeds had broken through the soil and blossomed before his eyes, bringing about unexpected joy that could be considered a reward from heaven.
Dong Zhi was full of anxiety. He was worried that Zhang Song’s temperament would not accept him and that it would be difficult to integrate into the team. He was also worried they would not be able to win the competition this time. They would lose face not only for the Special Administration Bureau but for their country as well, but now that the matter had been settled, he didn’t think about shirking or evading and instead began to plan what to do and how to do it well.
After his return, he didn’t rest much, so he fell asleep on the table before he knew it.
A cold wind blew from outside the window, causing Dong Zhi to sneeze. He rubbed his eyes and found that an hour had passed.
The dorm outside was quiet, which meant Long Shen hadn’t come back yet. He put on his coat and went out for dinner first, then would pick up Longlong on the way back.
He hadn’t seen it in more than half a year. Longlong had grown up and was well-groomed. The advantages of a white cat were now fully revealed. When Dong Zhi saw its round and innocent face, he almost told the pet shop owner that they had given him the wrong cat.
“When Mr. Long brought it here, he specifically specified a certain brand of cat food. We have been feeding it one can per week during this time. We just gave him a physical exam last week, and everything looks healthy.” The clerk smiled and handed over the results of the physical examination. After seeing the results, Dong Zhi marveled at their meticulous care.
Of course, such meticulous care came at a high price. Dong Zhi found that the cat food they had been feeding Longlong was exactly the one he had bought before he left.
Long Shen’s thoughtfulness was usually not easily noticed by others.
After confirming his identity, the shopkeeper praised Longlong’s breed and his good behavior with the other cats. She even remembered Long Shen’s appearance and mistakenly thought Dong Zhi was Long Shen’s younger brother, saying that both siblings were so good-looking that it was hard to forget.
Dong Zhi didn’t bother rectifying it and just laughed at the shopkeeper’s compliment. Before leaving, the shopkeeper gave him a generous 20% discount and a free bag of cat food so that he would use their service here next time.
When Dong Zhi left the pet store, he held the cage and said to Longlong inside, “I had to sacrifice my appearance for your cat food.”
Longlong meowed, stretched out its fat paw, and rested it on Dong Zhi’s hand, as if he hadn’t forgotten his cheap owner.
Dong Zhi nodded. “I’m taking you back to see your other master.”
As night fell, one person and one cat returned to the Special Administration Bureau.
Long Shen had already returned. The door to his dorm room was ajar, and light was streaming out from inside.
“Master?” Dong Zhi opened the door and poked his head in.
“Your back.” Long Shen had just come out of the bathroom. From a few meters away, Dong Zhi could feel the moisture exuding from Long Shen’s body.
“I picked up Longlong.”
Dong Zhi opened the cage and let the cat out. Longlong wasn’t afraid at all. He walked around their legs a few times and curled his tail up and down their legs.
“Leave the Changshou Sword with me for now. During this time, it accompanied you through many hard battles. The sword’s body will inevitably be polluted. I’ll take it to have it purified and return it to you later,” Long Shen said.
Dong Zhi naturally had no objection. Even if Long Shen didn’t explain it, as long as he asked him for it, Dong Zhi would not hesitate to give him the sword. There was a trust between them that didn’t need to be expressed.
“Master, when you blocked off the abyss passage, were you also injured? I’m not going to leave right away, so it’s okay to release the Changshou Sword in advance.”