Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Early the next morning, before dawn, Long Shen had already woken up, while Dong Zhi was still sound asleep.
Long Shen hugged Dong Zhi and touched his forehead, which roused him. Dong Zhi opened his eyes in a daze and saw Long Shen standing neatly dressed by the bed. The last bit of his drowsiness immediately dissipated.
“Are you leaving now?”
Long Shen hummed. “You should go back to sleep. It’s not even 5 yet.”
Dong Zhi rubbed his eyes, got up, and gave Long Shen a hug, then quickly let go.
“Master, come back soon. Everything will go well.”
“Okay.” After taking a deep look at Dong Zhi, Long Shen turned and left without looking back.
As soon as he left, he was the armored and invulnerable Long Shen again.
Leaving the Special Administration Bureau, Long Shen took a taxi to an ordinary residential area in the city. In that area, which was comparable to a maze, he made many twists and turns before arriving at his destination. He swiped his card and entered the elevator, which went straight to the 9th floor. When he stepped out, he knocked on the door of one of the two households.
A few moments later, Tang Jing opened the door, and behind him was Wu Bingtian.
A map was spread out in the living room, which showed the internal structure of Atsuta Shrine.
“News just came from Maoshan,” Wu Bingtian said. “They said that Li Ying’s soul lamp hasn’t been extinguished, but it may not last long. We need to hurry.”
Ding Lan’s soul lamp had already been extinguished, while Yu Buhui didn’t have a soul lamp, so his status was unknown. All that was left was Li Ying.
Tang Jing said, “Otowa may have deliberately killed Ding Lan, leaving Li Ying as bait.”
Still, knowing the other party’s intentions, they couldn’t help but take the bait.
In order to rescue Li Ying and Yu Buhui and bring back Ding Lan, two of the three deputy directors of the Special Administration Bureau were personally dispatched. Although Tang Jing was a branch director, he was also extremely capable. This time, it was equivalent to sending the elites of the bureau.
Wu Bingtian gave a bitter smile. “Maoshan attaches great importance to Li Ying. If we don’t make a move, they will. I have temporarily stabilized them for now.”
If Li Ying hadn’t entered the Special Administration Bureau, he would probably have been designated as a candidate for the next sect leader. This showed that the elders of Maoshan attached great importance to him. Even though Maoshan was powerful, they couldn’t compete with the Special Administration Bureau in terms of organization and resources. Li Ying’s master even offered to come with them to rescue him, but Wu Bingtian refused. This time, the more people didn’t mean it was better.
Tang Jing said, “Since Boss Wu is going in person, they should be relieved.”
“To be honest, it’s been a few years since I’ve been out, so I’m a little weak.” In front of Long Shen and Tang Jing, Wu Bingtian admitted truthfully.
While they knew that Otowa Yasuhiko would definitely set a trap for them, they didn’t know what methods he would use. Although the Special Administration Bureau used various channels to inquire, if the other party wanted to hide it, how could any news leak? Just like how an outsider would have no way of knowing the inner workings of the Special Administration Bureau.
At this time, Long Shen put the box he was holding on the table and opened it using the key in his pocket. Wu Bingtian saw that there was a special restriction spell placed on it so that even if someone had the key, they wouldn’t be able to open it.
Just as he was about to inquire, he saw light leaking from the box. When the box was fully opened, the entire room was filled with such dazzling light that even the headlights in the room were eclipsed by it. Wu Bingtian and Tang Jing had to turn away to avoid the brightness.
Long Shen stretched out his hand and wiped it, causing all the light to instantly disappear. The object itself, which had just been obscured by the light, finally revealed itself.
Tang Jing was shocked, while Wu Bingtian hitched his breath.
“This is—the Four-Elements Star Lamp?!”
“Zong Lao gave it to me,” Long Shen said, as he let Tang Jing and Wu Bingtian take a closer look.
“But isn’t this lamp useless?” Wu Bingtian muttered.
The lamp was small and delicate enough to hold in one’s hand. The place where a candle was originally lit was empty. The lamp was square in shape, with lifelike divine beasts wrapped around it. The entire lamp was dark green, carved from jade.
However, what shocked Wu Bingtian and Tang Jing wasn’t its age or carvings that were ingenious enough to become a national treasure, but the mysterious origins that had always surrounded it, as well as its top-secret status in the Special Administration Bureau.
Tang Jing took a closer look for a while, then suddenly raised his head and looked at Long Shen. “Is it this, Zong Lao…?!”
Long Shen nodded.
Wu Bingtian looked back, saw their expression, and quickly understood.
“Zong Lao’s sacrifice is too great.” He sighed, but there was no doubt that with this lamp, they had a much better chance of winning against Otowa Yasuhiko.
Long Shen: “This is just in case. It’s best if we don’t need to use it.”
He closed the box again.
“Have our new identities been created?”
“Here.” As Tang Jing spoke, he took out three sets of documents from a suitcase. IDs, passports, and various forms were all readily available.
“Going forward, after entering the country, we’ll be a newlywed couple traveling with our old father to Japan. When we arrive near Atsuta Shrine, someone will pick us up. At that time, I’ll have a new identity, and you’ll each have to act separately. In this way, even if Otowa expects us to come to his door, he won’t know when we’ll show up. If we find that the situation is wrong, we can always escape and try again another day.”
Wu Bingtian casually said, “Who’s playing the old father?”
As soon as his voice fell, he found that Tang Jing and Long Shen were both looking at him.
Wu Bingtian: ……
“How am I old? Can’t you let Boss Long pretend to be the old father?” He was unconvinced and protested.
Tang Jing smoothly said, “Then it’ll be like some bigshot traveling with his mistress and bodyguard.”
Wu Bingtian’s eyes lit up. “That’s also good!”
It seemed quite refreshing to have Long Shen call him boss with a flat face.
Tang Jing immediately vetoed it. “No, the vehicle and accommodations that are picking us up in Nagoya have already been arranged. It doesn’t fit the identity of some rich elite at all. We’ll be exposed with just one glance. Besides, this helps save us some money!”
Wu Bingtian: …… This sentence sounded familiar. When the East China Branch asked the General Administration to increase the budget last year, he had blocked it saying such a line.
It was true that fortune does turn, and retribution comes quickly.
Tang Jing saw that neither of them had any opinions, so he handed them the information.
“Your hairstyle and face must change, as well as your expression and tone of speech. I’ll do the makeup while you practice your expression and tone. This is the script.”
There’s a script? Wu Bingtian was beginning to get a headache, but when he saw that Long Shen had no opinion, he could only swallow back his muttering.
When he picked up the script, Wu Bingtian was elated.
“It seems that my role isn’t such a big deal. Have you played this kind of role before, Boss Long?”
Long Shen shook his head. “Let me try.”
He picked up the script and began to memorize it seriously.
A day later, two men and a woman walked out of the building.
The woman was very young, with bangs draped down on her forehead and long hair. She was dressed in a fashionable dress that had a nondescript taste. The other old man was similar. He wore plain trousers and a shirt, but the shirt was loose but he wore a belt, making the size look a bit inconsistent at first glance. He was bald on top of his head, which was commonly known as the “Mediterranean Sea*”.
*Basically, referring to baldness where it starts at the top of your head, but the surrounding side still has hair (similar to that of the Mediterranean sea, where it’s the sea that’s surrounded by land). Like this.
The young man, who looked like the woman’s husband, was a little better, but not by much. His hair was messy, as if he hadn’t combed it, and the back of it was cocked. He was carrying a backpack and dragging a suitcase, revealing a kind of anxiety that was more like being late for work than going on a trip.
“The subway station has a direct route to the airport. Let’s take the subway!” The young man said to the other two.
The woman glared at him. “You really want to save such little money? Can’t we just call a taxi?”
The young man didn’t respond as the woman stomped on her high heels and went to hail a cab.
The old man rambled in the back, “What does it matter, ah. It’s just the subway!”
The young man smiled bitterly. “Dad, forget it. Let’s just take a taxi. It’s a bit troublesome to go to the subway with so much luggage!”
As soon as others listened to the conversation between these people, they could immediately guess the relationship between them.
The young man and woman were a couple. They probably had just gotten married but had no children, while the old man was probably the woman’s father, because the man was polite when speaking to him, and wasn’t as casual as he would be to his biological parents.
This was probably a family that was going out on a trip, and it seemed like it was their first time going somewhere far away, so their rush had unintentionally or not shown off a bit.
Passersby who surmised all this information would probably praise themselves for their Sherlock Holmes-like deduction skills, but they would never have guessed that these three people were just following a script.
If Dong Zhi was present, he would award all three with an Oscar.
Acting required a full set. Thus, Long Shen, Tang Jing, and Wu Bingtian, dressed as a family of three, embarked on their journey to Japan with large luggage. Their first stop wasn’t Nagoya but Tokyo, where normal tourists would go.
On the other side, Dong Zhi, who stayed in the capital, began to prepare for various matters to go to the exchange conference.
Time flew quietly amidst such chores. After New Year’s, the new year had officially arrived, and the day of their departure was getting closer.
He made a few copies of information from the previous year’s exchange conference and distributed it to the other five members. He was also busy making reports to apply for various injury medicines that might be used. The competitive process was cruel and intense, and the imagination of the Americans was endless, so it was hard to predict what tricks they would play this year. Dong Zhi had followed Long Shen when he talked with Carlos a while back, so he felt that this time it could be the most difficult test in history. Naturally, life was more important, but team honor was just as important. If one of them were to lose their life and they didn’t even get a good ranking, it would be losing one’s wife as well as one’s soldiers*.
*(赔了夫人又折兵) Idiom referring to suffering a double loss.
Both Long Shen and Wu Bingtian had gone out for official duties, and Director Jiang didn’t care about specific matters. The remaining deputy director, Song Zhicun, was quite amicable. When he saw the report, he agreed with a wave of his hand and directly approved them for a double dose of Shangqing Pills. The number of other injury medicines was also considerable. If Wu Bingtian were here to look at this, he would certainly faint on the spot.
However, Deputy Director Wu wasn’t privy to such information, and Dong Zhi happily tucked away the approval paperwork and went with Liu Qingbo to meet with the others.
“The last session was held within the valley of an Egyptian Pharaoh. The theme was to get rid of a curse. The one before that was on a ghost ship. You have all the information you need in your hands regarding previous competitions. You’re free to speculate on what the organizer may hold this time in order to prepare. Also, please tell me about your respective areas of expertise. I mainly use swords with talismans, so I can be regarded as a dual user.”
Dong Zhi didn’t include his ability to invite gods. After all, Long Shen had forbidden him to use this method again.
Liu Qingbo said, “I use a sword. The sword I’m using is Zhong Kui’s Fumo Sword*.”
As he spoke, he took out his sword from its sheath and spun it into a sword flower. The sword’s light flashed in everyone’s eyes, blinding them.
Dong Zhi was speechless at this ostentatious behavior, but it could also be seen that Liu Qingbo was happy about getting this sword. He had never seen him show off his Feijing or Yinxiu sword before. Thinking of this, Dong Zhi couldn’t help but shed tears for those stepmothers swords.
Since most of them were experts in sword use, they were interested in this sword that had a simple and crude name but an extraordinary origin. Li Han’er even asked Liu Qingbo if she could take a look, but it seemed that the Fumo Sword was quite spiritual. When it arrived in Li Han’er’s hands, it began to vibrate and tremble. When it was returned to Liu Qingbo’s hand, it returned to normal.
Liu Si didn’t have any particular thoughts. He was in the same training group as Liu Qingbo and Dong Zhi and later joined Group 2. Although he didn’t particularly have close interaction with them, he was undoubtedly closer to them than the others.
After hearing Liu Qingbo’s introduction, Liu Si took initiative to say, “I use a whip made of willow wood. It’s useful for dealing with ghosts, but not effective against demons.”
Since three people have gone, the others started to chime in.
Li Han’er said, “I’m from Mount Maoshan and have learned some swordsmanship, but I’m better at talisman.”
Having said that, she glanced at Dong Zhi before continuing, “But I can’t summon thunder.”
Dong Zhi gave her a puzzled look. When he heard her say she couldn’t summon thunder, he quickly added, “It doesn’t matter if you can summon thunder or not. Last time when we dealt with the doppelganger of the heavenly demon, heavenly thunder didn’t do much.”
His reassuring words didn’t have much effect, as Li Han’er simply nodded and said nothing else.
Yang Shouyi: “I can only use swords and am almost at the state of human-sword unity*.”
*Clarity: It’s a term used (usually in martial arts novel) to describe one’s masterfulness at using a sword, as if it was your hand.
He said it lightly, as if it were an understatement, which made Liu Qingbo itchy, as he considered finding someone to discuss this with after their meeting.
What state of human-sword unity? Liu Qingbo was almost there as well but being almost there and being there were still ultimately different.
Yang Shouyi was worthy of being the leader of the new generation of Yuanming Palace. If it hadn’t been for Dong Zhi’s trick last time, it might not be so easily decided who was the victor.
The advantage Dong Zhi had was that he knew complicated techniques and could integrate them. Yang Shouyi specialized in swordsmanship. His depth and comprehension of the sword were not something others could just catch up with after a few years of practice. It could be seen that everyone in this six-person group was indeed capable, but whether Dong Zhi could hold these people down would be entirely dependent on his own abilities.
Though there was a ton of pressure on Dong Zhi, it also acted as motivation. Long Shen had high hopes for him. Naturally, he didn’t want the other party to hear the news of their defeat when he returned.
Zhang Song finally spoke up. “I’m a dual cultivator of talismans and swords. I mainly focus on fire talismans.”
Dong Zhi kept their specialties in mind. He nodded and said, “This time when we go out, if you have any opinions, you can tell them to me privately. Don’t be too impulsive when you encounter anything. Remember, we’re representing more than just ourselves.”
This sounded harsh but wasn’t something everyone could refute. After all, this was a fact. There could be no infighting. If they were to leave and fight again, it would only make them look like a laughingstock.
“Do you have other needs or suggestions? While we’re still in China, I can do what I can.” Dong Zhi picked up a pen and paper and began to prepare to take notes.
Liu Qingbo had long felt that this mother-in-law Dong Zhi was quite long-winded. As soon as the other party’s voice fell, he spoke enthusiastically. “I think since this year is hosted by the Americans, according to their style, it’s very likely we will be directly given a hodgepodge of zombies. Maybe the key props are hidden inside the zombies. Not only do we need to defeat them, but we also have to cut open every zombie and dig through their heart and liver!”
The corners of Dong Zhi’s mouth twitched. “Your taste is really heavy!”
Liu Qingbo rolled his eyes. “It’s not my taste that’s heavy, but the Americans’. Haven’t you watched horror movies? They are always bloody and gory. It seems they have some kind of special complex for zombies. According to the information, there haven’t been any zombies that have appeared yet. Doesn’t that mean the possibility is quite high? If you ask me, there are only a few days left. We can borrow the zombie simulation system from the bureau and go in and practice. That’ll get us to first place!”
Li Han’er said slowly, “The simulation system has been purchased by many countries now. It’s precisely because everyone thinks zombies are most likely to appear that I think the organizers won’t choose it.”
Liu Qingbo, who had been completely overturned, made a snide remark. “Then what’s your opinion?”
Li Han’er said, “Since it’s known that it’s being held on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, I think the content may be related to Atlantis. We may need to go deep into the ocean to find props requested by the organizer, so the enemies we face may also be related to strange beasts at the bottom of the ocean.”
Although it was all conjecture, this one was so well-founded that Liu Qingbo couldn’t really think of a rebuttal for it.
Dong Zhi said, “Is everyone good in the water?”
He got an affirmative answer, so he asked Li Han’er, “Does Fellow Daoist Li have anything to add?”
Li Han’er shook her head. “We don’t have much information now, so we can only adapt to the changes.”
Dong Zhi said, “I got two pieces of information from Boss Song. One is that Japan will send their onmyouji to participate this time. You must also know that because of the stone tablet, we’re at odds with Japan. Although Otowa Yasuhiko can’t control the entire Japanese onmyoji world, there are many who have malicious intentions against us. Please be careful. Boss Song stresses that if the other party stays calm and doesn’t cause trouble, there’s no need for us to take the initiative to provoke.”
After a pause, he continued, “The second piece is from the last session that He Yu’s team participated in and took first place. At that time, they had an accident with a practitioner from England during the competition, and one person died. The United Kingdom didn’t participate in the last session. This year, they have signed up. There is a participant on the list that’s the sister of the deceased, named Grace Smith. She may be targeting us, so we should also pay attention.”
Liu Qingbo curled his lips. “In other words, we’re facing internal and external troubles this time, and enemies are coming in from all sides. It’s like swaying in the midst of a raging storm*!”
*(风雨飘摇呗) Idiom referring to a precarious situation.
Dong Zhi smiled brightly at him. “Classmate, you learn idioms so well, so wish us some good luck!”
It didn’t take long for half a month to pass. When Dong Zhi removed the bandages from his hands, they finally got on a special plane that was flying to Los Angeles and officially embarked on their journey.
The reason the organizers chose Los Angeles as the base was out of consideration for the practitioners from all over the world. Among them, there were those that were unique. With a world-famous movie theater set nearby, no matter how weird someone dressed, it could be chalked up to blending in with the atmosphere. When others saw it, they would only think it’s a staff member or a tourist and wouldn’t make much of a fuss.
When Dong Zhi and his group of six got off the plane, a special car was waiting outside to pick them up. There was a driver and a young man in the car.
“Hello, welcome to Los Angeles. This is a very vibrant city. You’ll fall in love with it after only staying for a day! Oh, my name is Ivan. Who is the leader of your team?”
“Me, Dong Zhi.” Dong Zhi stretched out his hand as he answered. He couldn’t help laughing when he found the young man couldn’t quite pronounce the “Zhi” and could only call him Dong Chi*. “Just call me Dong. Are you a member of Group 51?”
*Clarity: Zhi (至) vs Chi (吃).
Ivan was enthusiastic and outgoing. He winked at him and shook his hand. “To be precise, I’m a logistic staff member from Group 51. I’m just an ordinary person, but I really wanted to join, so I’ve been working hard on my marksmanship recently!”
Including Dong Zhi’s team, there were ten participating teams this time. Including China, the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and Japan had formed separate teams. The other teams were all regional teams, such as Southeast Asia was considered a team, as well as Africa, Northern Europe, and Southern Europe. India originally wanted to form a separate team but later canceled for some reason and incorporated with the Southeast Asia region.
In fact, situations like this weren’t uncommon. After all, practitioners weren’t just casually grabbed, and those who disdain integrating with the world, like those black magic masters, would not come to participate in this kind of exchange.
Ivan said that they were the second last team to have arrived. All the other teams except for Africa were already staying at their hotel. Starting tomorrow, there would be three consecutive meetings and exchanges. Ivan, who really wanted to be the frontline member of Group 51, was excited that he was given the opportunity to observe the exchange.
Liu Si and Yang Shouyi weren’t fluent in English, so they didn’t speak much, while Li Han’er and Zhong Song weren’t the talking types. Since Dong Zhi was the team leader, he mainly talked with Ivan while the others listened along the way. Young Master Liu Qingbo had a bad temper and at most would only say a few words occasionally; he didn’t bother dragging in a logistical staff to inquire endlessly.
In fact, what everyone wanted to know, Dong Zhi had already asked.
Ivan told them that they were staying at the Franklin Hotel. When he said this, Ivan’s face was a little weird. Dong Zhi gave Liu Qingbo a wink. The latter immediately went online on his phone to look up the relevant information about the hotel. In less than a few minutes, Dong Zhi knew all about it. This hotel was very famous not only because it was located near the theater for the Hollywood awards ceremonies but also because of its reputation for various supernatural events. It was said that many people would come stay at the hotel every year just to see celebrity ghosts.
But if that were the case, Ivan wouldn’t give such a strange look and instead would talk about the various supernatural events in the hotel. Since he worked in logistics for Group 51, he must have heard many anecdotes and strange rumors.
Dong Zhi asked him, “Is there a purpose to this arrangement?”
Ivan blinked. His tone slowed. “I think so, maybe?”
From a glance, it seemed he wasn’t good at lying. If he met a veteran, Dong Zhi would’ve had to find another way to deal with it, but the task now was simple. He picked up his phone and said with a smile, “If you don’t tell me, I’ll directly ask Carlos. I know he’s not leading the team this time, but as deputy director of Group 51, Carlos should have no reason not to know, right?”
Ivan was taken aback. “You know Carlos?”
Dong Zhi: “He’s familiar with my master. My master’s name is Long. Maybe you have heard of him.”
Ivan suddenly said, “Director Long? Oh my god, it turns out you’re Director Long’s apprentice.”
He suddenly became excited. “They didn’t tell me that Director Long’s apprentice would be leading the team this time! Of course I have heard of him. Carlos told us about Long’s deeds. They once cooperated to capture a blood demon!”
This was something of Long Shen’s past that Dong Zhi didn’t know, but then again, his master had pretty much experienced anything that others have in half their lifetime. Long Shen didn’t think he needed to say anything, but in others’ eyes, it was no different from a legend.
“Ivan, what’s the reason why you’ve arranged for us to stay at this hotel? Tell me. If you want to enter Group 51, how about I recommend you to Carlos later?”
Ivan’s eyes lit up. “Really?”
Dong Zhi shrugged. “But I can’t make any guarantee that he will admit you. It’s just a simple letter of recommendation. Whether you can be admitted or not will still entirely depend on yourself.”
Ivan was so happy that he started to speak incoherently. “Thank you, thank you! As long as there’s a letter of recommendation, that’s enough. I’ll try my best to let him discover my highlights!”
Based on what Ivan said, the hotel was a bit evil. From time to time, strange things would happen. After every accident, it would be calm for a while, but the accidents would continue. Ordinary people would think it was just a hotel that spawned supernatural rumors as an attraction. They regarded it as fresh and exciting but didn’t really know the hidden dangers behind it. The time of the accidents was usually regular—once every one to two years—and it would happen at the beginning of New Year’s, after Christmas.
There were monsters that appeared in the hotel the year before last. Fortunately, they were discovered and dealt with by Group 51 in time, so they didn’t cause a big stir. No major events happened last year, so they speculate that the hotel might be noisy again this year. Coinciding with the exchange conference, the Americans discussed it and decided to let teams from all over the world stay in this hotel as a way to help them exorcize the evil, killing two birds with one stone.
The author has something to say:
The hotel is just a prototype, but because the content had some empty spaces, the name had to be changed. Otherwise, I could have used the original name~