Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
“You will meet in the United States first. The process of the meeting in the first few days is nothing more than an exchange of the respective situations over the past two years. When we first participated in the past, we didn’t understand, so we asked a deputy director to lead the team. Later, we found that it was actually just a regular exchange. However, the competition part does need to be paid attention to. This is not only a means of honor but also an occasion for you to exercise and communicate with others. The world isn’t closed. Over the years, the entry of foreign practitioners has increased, and many emergencies will catch you by surprise. You’re the future pillars of the Special Administration Bureau. I hope you can make good use of this opportunity.”
Deputy Director Song spoke as if he were like a mother hen, which made everyone drowsy when he started babbling, until they heard him say they were free to ask any questions. Li Han’er raised her hand.
“Boss Song, is there any news about this year’s competition?”
Song Zhicun said, “No. The United States is hosting this year. As you know, the Americans like things that are high-tech. All we know now is that the competition is held on an uninhabited island in the Atlantic Ocean. I wouldn’t be surprised if they move the zombie simulation there. Oh, by the way, neither Shouyi nor Han’er have experienced that system, right? I can let you experience it later alone.”
Seeing Li Han’er turn her gaze to Dong Zhi, Song Zhicun smiled knowingly. “Dong Zhi and the others have already experienced it last time when they took the exam and passed it with no problems. I believe you won’t be any inferior.”
That exam was Liu Qingbo’s black history. He didn’t even want to mention it, so he looked at the floor and pretended to be deaf.
Yang Shouyi looked troubled.
“Boss Song, I heard on the first day we have to speak and communicate. My foreign language isn’t very good. Will there be interpreters there?”
Song Zhicun smiled. “Of course there is. The captain and vice-captain of the delegation will oversee the meeting. There may also be a link for free communication. After discussion, the bureau decided that Liu Qingbo will be vice-captain of the delegation. Liu Qingbo, is this okay with you?”
Liu Qingbo raised his head blankly and nodded slowly.
If the head of the team was Zhang Song or someone else, he wouldn’t be convinced, but since it was Dong Zhi, he could reluctantly accept it. Besides, when he was in Lucheng, he had already been Dong Zhi’s deputy, which wasn’t something to be ashamed of.
Zhang Song didn’t expect that not only was he not selected to be captain, but even vice-captain. He pursed his lips, but in the end, he didn’t say anything.
Yang Shouyi wasn’t actually interested in being captain of the team, or vice-captain. He only had doubts about Dong Zhi’s abilities.
Li Han’er’s expression was a bit subtle, but she didn’t object.
Only Liu Si was the calmest, and he had no opinions.
Song Zhicun’s gaze swept across the faces of these young people, amused. “When it comes to free exchange, I must remind you of one thing. The exchange conference is for practitioners from all over the world. Of course, most people are friendly, but it doesn’t rule out that there will be some hostility. Some people will make more excessive jokes, and sometimes it’ll be easy to rile you up. I hope everyone can maintain their dignity without destroying friendships.”
This sentence was meaningful, as everyone’s mouth twitched when they heard it.
Dong Zhi and Liu Qingbo even thought to themselves that they couldn’t believe a man like Boss Song, who was carefree and upright, would speak so bureaucratically like Boss Wu. Wasn’t it basically asking them to “try not to move with your mouth first, and if you do, make sure to put a sack in it”? Why bother to speak so cryptically?
“Together with the competition, the annual exchange conference over the years has lasted for about 20 days. In these 20 days, you must have sufficient tacit understanding and team spirit. I don’t care what you thought about each other before, but from this moment on, it’s best to let go of stereotypes and look at each companion objectively.”
After Song Zhicun finished his debrief, he left the room for them to communicate among themselves.
Dong Zhi took the initiative to get up and walk in front of everyone.
“Since I’m fortunate enough to be selected as captain this time, I’ll be brazen and say a few words. I believe everyone here is no stranger to me, but I would like to introduce myself. My name is Dong Zhi. I was once an ordinary person who painted, but coincidentally, I entered the cultivation world.”
His smiling look had no deterrent. Liu Qingbo curled his lips and couldn’t help but think how stupid this was. If he were Yang Shouyi and the others, it would be strange if they could be convinced by this look. After being with Boss Long for so long, couldn’t he even learn the way of speaking with a cold face?
Naturally, Dong Zhi couldn’t hear Liu Qingbo’s thoughts, but he turned his words around. “To you, I’m a junior, and I was originally not qualified to lead everyone. If you have any objections, you are welcome to ask for a replacement of the leader. I’m happy to give way, but if you don’t raise any opinions, then I will acquiesce that you’ll all obey orders. I’ll try my best to be responsible for everyone, and I hope you can cooperate. This time there is only one team leader. I don’t think anyone wants second place, right?”
The soft and hard tone made everyone a little uncomfortable. Yang Shouyi spoke up. “I have no other requirements. I just want to spar with you. If you can beat me, I will be convinced. If you say east, I will never go west, but it’s hard for me to believe that you can lead us to victory. It’s better for me to just quit early now.”
Dong Zhi said, “Yes, shall we go to the rooftop later?”
Yang Shouyi was a little surprised by this response and happily nodded.
Dong Zhi looked at the others. “Besides him, who else wants to spar?”
Zhang Song said, “You have an injured arm now and have to fight with Yang Shouyi. If I fight with you again, won’t that look like I won with a handicap?”
The implication was that he also wanted to fight with Dong Zhi.
Dong Zhi shrugged. “Then I’ll spar with you tomorrow.”
Liu Qingbo said to Zhang Song, “I’ll spar with you on his behalf.”
Zhang Song: “You?”
Liu Qingbo: “What? I’m the vice-captain of the team. Am I not qualified?”
He turned and looked at Yang Shouyi again. “His arm is injured. What can he do right now? So I’ll do it for him. If I beat you, it’ll be as if Dong Zhi has beaten you.”
Dong Zhi knew that Liu Qingbo took the initiative to stand out because he was afraid his injury wouldn’t heal properly and there would be sequelae. He smiled and said, “Lao Liu, no need. I can do it.”
Liu Qingbo rolled his eyes. “What can you do?! You didn’t even bring a sword with you!”
Dong Zhi said, “The sword is in my dorm. I can get it now. As for the arm, it’s okay. I’ll just fight with one hand. There are many emergencies in a real combat environment. It’s not like we haven’t encountered things like this before.”
Coincidentally, this time, most of them used swords. Even Li Han’er carried a long sword with her. The tassels on the sword were golden, and it swayed with each of her steps, graceful and dainty, but she wasn’t like Zhang Song or Yang Shouyi, who took the initiative to pick a fight.
Dong Zhi first went back to his dorm and got the Qingzhu Sword, with Liu Qingbo following him.
“If you’re not sure, don’t be brave. Let me help you.” Liu Qingbo was still trying to convince Dong Zhi otherwise.
Dong Zhi said strangely, “I never said I wasn’t sure. In fact, you want to fight Yang Shouyi, right?”
Since he was the center of the matter, he kept quiet, but his hands were still itchy.
Dong Zhi: “Well, let’s do it this way. You’ll spar with Zhang Song tomorrow, while I’ll fight with Yang Shouyi today. This group has just taken form. If I don’t gain their respect, I’m afraid the team will be disbanded before we even start.”
Liu Qingbo questioned, “Can you fight with one arm?”
Dong Zhi shrugged. “Well, I didn’t really suffer any injuries at all. It’s just that my arm was fractured, and I need to take care of it for a few more days. I’ll be fine if I just fight with one hand.”
Liu Qingbo narrowed his eyes. “I heard that you encountered the phantom of the heavenly demon this time. There’s also a very powerful sorcerer as well. Were they so easy to fight like weak chickens?”
Dong Zhi: “Did you forget that my master was there as well? Even so, it wasn’t an easy fight.”
He pulled down the collar of his sweater and showed Liu Qingbo his neck. Liu Qingbo saw that there were clear pinch marks on it, which had gradually faded, but he could still imagine what kind of life-and-death situation Dong Zhi experienced that day.
“Who told you not to bring me along? If I was there, I could’ve prevented you from suffering more!” Liu Qingbo didn’t forget to highlight his position as an afterthought. “Okay, okay. If you don’t want to go up later, I’ll take both of them on!”
Dong Zhi said casually, “In fact, it doesn’t matter if I lose. It’s impossible for me to be kicked out of the exchange group because I lost to Yang Shouyi. If they continue to make trouble, it’s even more impossible to be captain of the group. At most, the head of the group will be replaced by you, and I’ll be your deputy. They can’t avoid me in any case, so wouldn’t that just make them even more angry?”
Liu Qingbo: …It turns out you had this kind of idea.
But after thinking about it carefully, this was really the kind of thing Dong Zhi would do. He would never change. Even if everyone was angry, he would always stand still.
Liu Qingbo couldn’t help but wonder. “Boss Long is such a serious person. After accepting such an apprentice, doesn’t he feel as if he received the wrong goods?”
Dong Zhi: “How is that possible? Where would he find such an obedient and motivated apprentice?”
Liu Qingbo wanted to vomit blood.
When the two of them returned, Zhang Song and the others were waiting for them impatiently. Dong Zhi took everyone to the rooftop of the Special Administration Bureau. Because of his arrogance, in order to show fairness, Yang Shouyi tied up his left arm as he pulled out his sword with his other hand and said to Dong Zhi, “Now it’s fair.”
He was so serious that Dong Zhi could no longer put on his casual smile. The two stood next to the stream with their swords in hand.
Neither moved as if they were testing each other’s patience. Yang Shouyi stood in place, as did Dong Zhi. At first glance, they looked similar, but under careful examination, they could be distinguished.
Yang Shouyi was solemn. His gaze was like an eagle’s or a falcon’s, looking for the slightest flaw in his opponent.
While Dong Zhi looked relaxed on the outside, he was tense inside. His grip on the sword tightened along with his body.
The waterfall that flowed down from the top of the mountain would splash a few drops of water on their bodies from time to time, gradually condensing before dripping down, but no one wiped it. A water drop hung at the corner of Dong Zhi’s eyelash, but it didn’t drop.
Feeling the weight on his eyelash, Dong Zhi slightly blinked.
At this moment, Yang Shouyi suddenly moved!
His sword was longer and wider than the Changshou Sword, but when his wrist moved at this moment, it immediately diffused dazzling sword light, as if the sword were an insignificant object in his hand.
He used this light to seal off all retreat in front of and behind Dong Zhi. No matter which way Dong Zhi wanted to dodge, the sword light would rush towards it and cut him off.
Liu Qingbo’s light-hearted expression was instantly restrained and became serious.
Li Han’er and Zhong Song looked surprised.
Except for Liu Si, everyone present was an expert in swordsmanship. Even if Li Han’er and Zhang Song used talismans together with their swords, they had practiced with them since their childhood. Naturally, they could see how dazzling Yang Shouyi’s swordsmanship was.
Not only dazzling but also murderous, as fierce as ice and snow.
After this attack passed, how would Dong Zhi deal with it?
Dong Zhi knew his shortcomings.
After all, he hadn’t practiced since he was a child. For more than a year, no matter how good his talent was, even if he was practicing every day outside of eating and sleeping, it was impossible to achieve the same proficiency as Yang Shouyi and the others. Long Shen also knew this well, so the cultivation plan he formulated for Dong Zhi was to promote strengths while avoiding weaknesses, allowing Dong Zhi to make full use of his advantages.
For instance, in sword practice, Long Shen didn’t teach Dong Zhi that kind of cumbersome and dazzling swordsmanship. Naturally, it could confuse the enemy, but if the fire wasn’t there, it would be easy for him to bind himself. Instead, he taught Dong Zhi practical moves, like stabbing, sweeping, slashing, thrusting, and turning, without the fancy and superfluous movements.
Long Shen had even asked Dong Zhi to stand still and not fight back to meet his countless attacks, then told him to try and find an escape route and retaliate. At first, Dong Zhi was scared to death, but later he gradually calmed down, and his eyes didn’t even blink. It could be said that this was all the experience accumulated through blood and tears.
Long Shen had come from thousands of years of bloodshed, not to mention that he was originally an artifact spirit. Furthermore, given his swordsmanship, even someone at Zong Ling’s or Che Bai’s level may not be able to find a weakness, let alone a rookie like Dong Zhi. Dong Zhi could only try to escape and fight back from attack after attack, and finally he was barely able to retreat. Long Shen also explained to him the various points of active and passive attacks during a fight. It could be said he was imparting his own experience on Dong Zhi. Dong Zhi, who was talented and willing to work hard, couldn’t justify himself under such learning conditions if he couldn’t at least achieve a basic satisfactory result.
So when Yang Shouyi’s sword struck, Dong Zhi’s instinct turned on.
Since Yang Shouyi was wielding the sword with his right hand, the place where he defended most tightly was naturally the right side of his body, leaving his left side negligent. Dong Zhi didn’t meet him head-on but moved in the direction of his left arm. He jumped, causing the sword light to rise and fall, while his other hand, wrapped in gauze, grabbed a talisman. Accompanied by the sword light, he stuffed the talisman into his mouth and spat it at his opponent’s right arm.
The talisman paper turned into a flash of fire and swept towards the sword wind. Yang Shouyi’s sword cut the talisman paper in half before it ignited and aimed it at Dong Zhi’s shoulder, but the moment the talisman fire was split by the sword wind, sparks splashed everywhere; some going into Yang Shouyi’s eyes. This made him close his eyes, and his movement stagnated for a moment.
But it was in this moment of stagnation that Dong Zhi had already reached Yang Shouyi’s left shoulder with the Qingzhu Sword!
Yang Shouyi felt a chill on his cheek, as if liquid had fallen. The hair tie on the bun on top of his head loosened, causing his hair to spill, scattering all over his head. Yang Shouyi grew up on Qingcheng Mountain, so he naturally wore his hair in a Daoist bun. On the way from Qingcheng Mountain to the General Administration Bureau, he was noticed by passersby, who gave him salutes.
Yang Shouyi stretched out his hand and touched it, finding that there was blood on his fingers.
Seeing this, Dong Zhi said apologetically, “I couldn’t hold back just now. Sorry!”
Zhang Song frowned and said, “He was using a sword with his hand tied. Is it fair for you to use both sword and talisman together?”
Dong Zhi smiled and said, “Lao Yang’s sword is too fast. I really can’t win without a talisman. Do you want to try again?”
Yang Shouyi shook his head. “No, I didn’t say that you only have to use swords. Since you won, I recognized you as the captain of the team.”
Zhang Song said, “I don’t!”
Liu Qingbo clenched his fist and smiled grimly. “Why wait for tomorrow? Let’s have a match right now!”
Zhang Song said, “Let’s go. You think I’m afraid of you?”
Dong Zhi said, “Let me do it. Lao Zhang, you can use talismans, and I’ll also use talismans. We’ll have a match between talismans, and you don’t need to tie your hand. Is that fair?”
Zhang Song curled his lips and nodded, then said, “Daoist Dong, please don’t be so familiar with me. My name is Zhang Song, not Lao Zhang.”
Dong Zhi let out a sigh. “Okay, Xiao Zhang.”
Zhang Song: ……*
*Clarity: As a reminder, using Lao before a name generally is a sign of closeness, so Dong Zhi is like saying “Zhang, my old bud”, but Zhang Song doesn’t like this address, so Dong Zhi got cheeky and called him Xiao (generally used for someone younger than you) instead.
This address was even more unpleasant, as if he had been relegated to the younger generation, but Dong Zhi refused to change it now. Zhang Song’s face twitched when he heard this, and he thought he would cut this person to death in a while.
The two sides stood still, each holding a talisman while chanting a mantra. Zhang Song was worthy of being a great disciple from Mount Longhu. He pointed his sword, which was standing in front of his chest, as he pinched a talisman with one hand to trigger the four directions and the five elements. Not long after, Dong Zhi felt the soil under his feet loosen, but before he could move, the originally solid ground suddenly softened and swallowed his feet. It wrapped around him like he’d fallen into a swamp. It was difficult to extricate himself as there were a pair of arms grabbing his feet and pulling him down, and soon, all parts below Dong Zhi’s ankle were swallowed.
Zhang Song wasn’t idle either. He took out another talisman and threw it in the air. Under his manipulation, the talisman paper turned into a spark and quickly flew towards Dong Zhi, just like how Dong Zhi had dealt with Yang Shouyi just now. It was obvious Zhang Song wanted Dong Zhi to taste defeat with the same move he used to win previously.
But at this moment, he heard a noise in the sky. From far away and getting closer, he couldn’t help but look up and see rolling thunder clouds covering the sun. His hand accelerated faster, pulling out several talismans, which ignited and became fireballs. Before Dong Zhi had time to lead the thunder successfully, those fireballs flew towards him. It was enough to burn him to a crisp.
Unfortunately, while it was fast, lightning had already struck.
It was a small bolt, as thin as silk. Seeing this, Zhang Song couldn’t help but laugh and think that such a small bolt wouldn’t even extinguish the talisman fires, let alone kill him.
While he was lost in his thoughts, the lightning bolt didn’t strike him or the talisman but instead split the pool under the waterfall. When the bolt struck, the surface of the pool of water was instantly disturbed, splashing water everywhere. Nothing in the area was spared. Zhang Song was doused with a faceful of water, and even the fireballs were extinguished.
Zhang Song: ……
Before he could get angry, another lightning bolt struck. This time, the thunder clouds had been brewing for a long time, so the power was much greater, and the target was directly aimed at Zhang Song.
Zhang Song didn’t have the mind to care about Dong Zhi any longer. He turned around and jumped onto the branch of the tree next to him. Seeing the heavenly lightning in hot pursuit, he had to jump to the stone nearby, then to a few other places, to avoid the lightning. Lightning finally struck the stone he had just been on a second before. With a loud noise, the stone exploded, causing Zhang Song’s hands and feet to be scrapped by the flying debris. Drops of water dripped down on his head and face, making him look entirely wretched.
Dong Zhi had taken advantage of this time and pulled himself out of the quagmire. Although he also became a drenched chicken*, it was obvious who the victor was between the two drenched chickens.
*(落汤鸡) Metaphor for a person who is soaked or has suffered a great loss of fame and fortune but could also referred to someone being physical drenched in water.
If it was a fluke that Dong Zhi beat Yang Shouyi just now, it couldn’t be said that he could be lucky so many times. It was due to his flexibility and adaptability that he was able to take full advantage of the battlefield.
Naturally, Yang Shouyi didn’t dare underestimate the new leader of the team, and even Li Han’er was slightly shaken.
In any case, being able to attract heavenly lightning in such a short period of time was itself a manifestation of strength.
Li Han’er had been on Maoshan since she was a child and naturally knew that summoning lightning wasn’t an easy task. More importantly, she knew that Long Shen didn’t know this technique, which meant Dong Zhi learned it from somewhere else. If he could learn to summon thunder so easily, was it also effortless for him to learn other things?
Was it because he was extremely talented and flexible that Long Shen looked at him differently?
Just as she was thinking this, Dong Zhi asked Zhang Song, “Still want to fight?”
Zhang Song felt embarrassed as he was defeated in front of Li Han’er and Yang Shouyi. He wiped the beads of water from his face and said coldly, “No, I lost.”
Liu Qingbo sneered. “Lost? What do you mean lost? Let’s have another fight if you’re not convinced.”
He was anxious to stir up more trouble and couldn’t wait to roll up his sleeves and have a fight with Zhang Song.
Zhang Song ignored Liu Qingbo and kept looking at Dong Zhi. “Is there anything else we need to discuss today? If not, I want to go back to change clothes.”
Dong Zhi said, “If there are no other opinions, then today’s sparring is over. I have something to say first. Starting tomorrow, I don’t want anyone to have any more grievances or dissatisfaction.”
Dong Zhi was drenched and had his arm hanging. Given his image right now, there really was no heavy aura, but he was expressionless. He had just won two matches back-to-back. Even Zhang Song didn’t object.
And with no objection, that meant they had to acquiesce to Dong Zhi.
Li Han’er said, “Captain, will we come here for training tomorrow?”
Dong Zhi’s expression relaxed and softened a bit. “No need. This time it’s going to be a long trip. Everyone must have a lot of things to bring, so prepare your luggage first. If there’s any notice from Boss Song, I’ll let you know. Wait for the day of departure and we’ll meet and talk then.”
He originally wanted to take advantage of the fact that everyone had just met, especially given the two new team members, and invite them all out for a meal to get better acquainted, but it seemed that no one had any intention of going to dinner. He might as well save some time and spend more of it with his master.
After the dissolution, Zhang Song quickly disappeared. Yang Shouyi and Li Han’er at least greeted Dong Zhi before leaving. Liu Si said he still had things to do, so he also left, leaving only Liu Qingbo behind, who curled his lips at Dong Zhi.
“You know it’s not easy being captain, right?”
Dong Zhi spread his hands. “Then do you want it? I actually don’t want it.”
Liu Qingbo gave him a look of “no thanks” and said, “Forget it. I’m afraid I won’t be able to hold myself back from beating a someone surnamed Zhang.”
Dong Zhi laughed. “You have to hold yourself back. We still have to spend more than ten days together. Let’s go. I’ll treat you to dinner later, after we wash off.”
Dong Zhi pondered whether his master and Boss Wu had finished their meeting. The two of them stopped by the conference to have a look. Long Shen had just come out from inside, looking extremely tired. Dong Zhi poked his head around and found that Wu Bingtian and Tang Jing weren’t there.
“Master, have you finished your meeting?”
Long Shen nodded. “Is there anything wrong?”
“No, I just wanted to ask if you wanted to have dinner together with us, but you should go back and rest!” Seeing him like this, Dong Zhi felt a bit distressed.
Long Shen hummed. “Go on your own. I have other things to do with Boss Wu and Tang Jing.”
He was indeed tired; not the fatigue from physical exhaustion but being mentally overdrawn after the meeting.
Dong Zhi nodded and added, “Then you don’t have to wait for me at night.”
In the past few days, he had been sleeping in Long Shen’s dorm. If he needed to read information at night, Long Shen would accompany him until he finished reading. Their living habits were getting closer to each other. Long Shen didn’t say anything, but he was gradually learning to trust and tolerate the other out of desire.
Facing the kindness of his apprentice, he raised his hand and touched Dong Zhi’s face, then told him not to stay out too late, and then walked to the other end of the corridor.
As the relationship between the two changed, there were more intimate actions, and often inadvertently, they became natural habits. His movements were so natural that Dong Zhi didn’t notice anything wrong until he looked away and realized that Liu Qingbo was still standing by his side.
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Liu Qingbo: ?????????????????
Liu Qingbo inadvertently ate a handful of dog food without knowing it.