"You and Qiqi, is your relationship very good?"
Editor(s): juurensha, Jane, jelly
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Light, light was everywhere.
There were glowing spirits flying about everywhere, and millions of small sprites made up a cloud of dancing white points of light. It was as if a heavy, cotton-like snow was falling, flooding the entire alley.
Just like the fairy realms in bedtime stories, all of the snow was glowing. Xiang Cheng also found this a little strange, and he looked left and right, before reaching out a hand to pick up one of those little spirits dancing through the air between his thumb and index finger.
That was a strange lifeform. Chi Xiaoduo let out an “ah” as he took it, only to find that its body was made from a yet-to-bloom magnolia blossom, and the wings that it spread open were the petals of a magnolia.
The little spirit struggled uncomfortably, so Xiang Cheng released his fingers, allowing it to fly away.
Though it was snowing heavily in the alley, it wasn’t cold at all, as the snow avoided a few areas. Along the long, winding alley, there were three roadside vendors, two of them sold artisanal crafts, while one sold jianbing guozi and fried potatoes. The smell of vegetable oil drifted towards them in the wind.
A megaphone was currently blaring the message, “As you pass by, don’t miss this! Everything in this store must go, it’s the last three days, the last three days…”
No matter how he looked at it, this atmosphere was odd. It was only after walking for a while when Chi Xiaoduo realized none of the snow had landed on him.
At the end of the alley was a dirty, rundown six-story building, and at the very top were two old towers sandwiching a thread of blue sky. There were just a few people, two punks with their hair dyed a flamboyant yellow squatting on the ground, picking through things, and a girl with her hair tied up in a ponytail, a counterfeit bag slung across her torso, standing in front of the small stall, waiting for the owner to fry a jianbing.
The two sides of the alley were planted full of magnolia trees, and the trees were currently scattering their blossoms throughout the alley, which formed the snow that surrounded them.
“Don’t take pictures.” Xiang Cheng linked hands with Chi Xiaoduo, walking into the alley.
In the entirety of the narrow alley, there was only a single three-story building. At the end of the alley was the yard of the tower, and outside the yard hung a blue, square sign. Where the address plaque was usually located, a strange symbol was drawn instead. An Eight Trigrams Mirror hung on the door, and there was a shrine on the ground in front.
Two beat up wooden boards carved with words hung on the door. The one on the left had two vertical lines of words: “Guangdong Province Exorcism Committee Office”, “Guangdong Province Department of Yaoguai Management and Reform in the Civilian Realm”, while the one on the right had “National Exorcism Congress - Guangdong Regional Office” and “Civilian Exorcism Event Committee Office”.
Chi Xiaoduo: “...”
Xiang Cheng was just about to walk in when he saw that there was a notice posted by the side of the door, so he stopped in his tracks and backed out to take a look.
For the year 2015, the first and second class exorcist examinations will begin on the 15th of June.
All candidates, please truthfully fill out the application and present two one-inch photos with no headwear on. Head to your local exorcist department to obtain a form and apply.
A man walked out of the yard, looking oddly at Chi Xiaoduo and Xiang Cheng.
Xiang Cheng nodded towards him, and that man’s brows furrowed, but he didn’t say anything.
“Bro, has Director Li come in yet?” Xiang Cheng asked.
The man didn’t respond at all, completely ignoring Xiang Cheng and his companion, directly walking away.
Xiang Cheng then said, “Come in ba.”
There was no snow in the yard, and entering it was like entering another world. The yard had been swept clean, and on the wall, the “Guangdong Branch of the Exorcism Department Assessment of Cleanliness and Civility” was posted. The gate guard sat in the yard, listening to Cantonese opera on the radio, but now he lifted his head to give Xiang Cheng a glance.
“How come you’ve brought a normal person in?” the guard, who was an old man, asked.
Chi Xiaoduo dimly felt that this guard looked a little familiar. Xiang Cheng replied, “I’m investigating a few matters and need to consult Director Li.”
“Take a seat outside,” the guard replied.
Since Xiang Cheng was having Chi Xiaoduo sit, he sat, but he couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at the old guard now and then. He kept feeling as if he had seen him before, and the guard said, “Have you taken the magnolia home and hung it up?”
“Ah!” Chi Xiaoduo remembered. This person was that old man selling magnolias under the overpass.
The door guard smiled, and his face was filled with overlapping wrinkles.
Xiang Cheng was just about to stop Chi Xiaoduo from saying anything, but upon seeing that the old man had already answered, he said, “This individual is Elder Qu.”
“Hello.” Chi Xiaoduo sensed that things were a little unusual. Elder Qu went to make a call, and he no longer paid attention to them. He notified the office that visitors had arrived, and after hanging up, he slowly and methodically pulled out a cigarette. Xiang Cheng hurried to rise and light it for him, but Elder Qu waved his hand, so Xiang Cheng had no choice but to sit down again.
“Thanks, Elder Qu,” Xiang Cheng said.
Chi Xiaoduo: “?”
Xiang Cheng made a “shh” motion, replying quietly, “I don’t know.”
Originally, Chi Xiaoduo had wanted to sneakily ask him, but upon seeing that Xiang Cheng didn’t really want to speak, he could only keep silent.
“This place is not one where normal people can enter,” Elder Qu said, exhaling a mouthful of smoke as he looked Chi Xiaoduo up and down. “Magnolia Alley, on the outside, looks like it’s located in the Zhuhai District, and you can still see the street outside. If you were to walk in from the street, you’re entering a different spot than if someone brought you in, understand?”
Chi Xiaoduo “ah”ed. Looking out from the courtyard door, he could indeed see the street outside, but the humans outside seemed to be unable to see this small alley.
After waiting for five minutes, Elder Qu’s phone sounded, and with a wave of his hand, he said, “Go in ba.”
Only with this did Xiang Cheng lead Chi Xiaoduo into the darkened tower, climbing up to the second floor.
“Wait for me for a bit here,” Xiang Cheng said, before he knocked on one of the office doors. Inside, a man’s voice said, “Come in ba.”
Chi Xiaoduo saw that in this old-fashioned tower, in the hallway on the second floor, there sat a girl who was sketching away, facing a sketchboard.
On the sketchboard was Magnolia Alley buried under heavy snow.
Chi Xiaoduo stood behind, watching, only to find that the girl’s eyes were covered with a black blindfold. Her lips were pale white, and her face had a sickly air to it.
“Is it pretty?” the girl asked.
“It’s very beautiful,” Chi Xiaoduo replied. “Does it snow here every day?”
“No,” the girl responded. “Only when I draw.”
The girl thought for a moment, before tearing off the topmost sheet. Instantly, the snow of magnolia petals stopped, and all of the little spirits vanished, returning the alley to its original form.
The girl switched it out for a new sheet of paper, and Chi Xiaoduo, his expression filled with awe, said, “I’ll help you.”
Chi Xiaoduo helped her clip the new sheet on. The girl asked, “What season do you like?”
“I like… spring.” Chi Xiaoduo took the small cutter and pencil from her hands and helped her sharpen her pencil.
“En,” the girl replied lightly.
“Whatever you draw, will the world become that form?” Chi Xiaoduo asked, his voice filled with praise and surprise.
“Whatever I draw,” the girl replied, “will become what others see, under the influence of my spiritual realm.”
Chi Xiaoduo: “???”
Xiang Cheng pushed the door open and came out, indicating that Chi Xiaoduo could go in now.
In the office, the four walls were painted half-green, half-grey, and a fifty-plus uncle sat there, wearing square-rimmed glasses with black frames, sporting a beer belly, wearing hospital-issued pajamas, and holding a thermos as he rose to pour water.
Chi Xiaoduo: “...”
Oh my god, was this a mental hospital?! Chi Xiaoduo felt that his entire being began to feel strange.
“Hello, director,” Xiang Cheng said. “Xiaoduo, you sit first ba.”
Director Li watched Xiang Cheng enigmatically from behind his glasses, and Xiang Cheng said, “Sorry, it really was presumptuous of me to come this time.”
Director Li didn’t pay any attention to Xiang Cheng. Instead, he beckoned towards Chi Xiaoduo and said, “You, come here.”
Chi Xiaoduo anxiously glanced at Xiang Cheng, but he didn’t stop him. Director Li took off his glasses to look at Chi Xiaoduo from every angle like a pervert, and goosebumps rose along Chi Xiaoduo’s arms from his gaze.
“How come you brought him here?” Director Li put his glasses on again, gesturing for Chi Xiaoduo to go over and sit down.
“I’m unsure of what to do next,” Xiang Cheng said truthfully.
“Oh, Xiang Cheng,” Director Li said, “you aren’t under the control of this local committee. Unless you first change your residence to here, you’re exorcising yao across provincial boundaries. I won’t even talk about whether you have evidence or not, because it’s already against the rules, huhu, don’t you agree?”
Xiang Cheng replied, “To get the blue stamp for Guangzhou, I need to buy a house, but one square meter costs over thirty thousand, and I can’t afford that. My difficulties, I’ve already addressed them as they are to the committee, but even now they still haven’t helped me resolve them.”
Chi Xiaoduo: “...”
Xiang Cheng continued, “Those colleagues who work at Foxconn, they don’t have residency cards either.”
Director Li chuckled and said, “As for them, they have their department to vouch for them, and even if they run off, their department won’t be able to. You’re just one person, and if you cause some trouble in Guangzhou and run off, who am I supposed to go find? Right?
“Let’s not talk about the issue of your residency just yet. Where’s your qualification certificate?” Director Li asked, shrugging, as if he was being put in a hard situation. “Since your certificate got revoked, if you catch yao without the right qualifications and the higher ups find out who is responsible, I can’t afford that either, isn’t that right?”
Xiang Cheng said, “I can’t temporarily affiliate myself with the Guangzhou branch?”
“You can’t, you can’t,” Director Li said, with a wave of his large hand. “That’s a rule from who knows how many years ago, and it won’t fly now -- we are no longer in a period where you can just write up a statement and wander the world as you please. Now, if you want to be an exorcist in Guangzhou without a residency permit, you must have paid two years worth of social insurance.” And saying this, he opened the lid of his thermos to pour out some water, muttering to himself, “One person coming here to affiliate themselves, two people coming here to affiliate themselves, if everyone was like you, the entirety of the country’s exorcists would all come to the Pearl River Delta to affiliate themselves. You tell me, you think this will be okay? Ehehehe.” He then chuckled dryly a few more times.
Chi Xiaoduo: “.............”
Xiang Cheng said, “Can I use my assets as a guarantee? My prowess has been recorded in my previous cases, and all of the cases have been sent over, you can take a look.”
Director Li waved his hand, putting a little bit of tea leaves into the cup as he said, “If you passed the first-class test, then no matter which province or autonomous region, I imagine the leaders there would all welcome you. But solely based on your skills, without any certificates, no matter where you go, no one will believe you. When the time comes, and the disciplinary committee comes for an inspection, how should I explain it to them? Hahahaha…”
Chi Xiaoduo: “... &*%#.”
Xiang Cheng asked, “Can I at least ask a friend to help me obtain a departmental certification?”
Director Li shot Xiang Cheng a glance from underneath his black-framed glasses, and he responded, “This is your own personal matter, we aren’t in charge of that.”
Xiang Cheng thought for a moment, before saying, “Thank you, Director. Xiaoduo and a recent incident are connected.”
“En,” Director Li said, satisfied. He then pulled open a drawer and pulled out a pile of paper, which he jogged up and placed flat. He then said, very methodically, “I was just hoping to find someone to investigate this matter. Let’s talk about you first, your punishment from last time has finally been determined, a fine.”
Xiang Cheng: “...”
Chi Xiaoduo: “...”
Director Li said, “On the night of March 12th, in the process of heading from the Keyun Road subway station to the Tangxia Apartment Complex, you did not have this kid sniff Lihun Pollen, which is considered gross negligence. You are fined three thousand RMB, and ten ancient coins.”
Xiang Cheng said, his face drawn with melancholy, “Right now, I don’t have any.”
“I do,” Chi Xiaoduo said. “I caused this, let me ba. Do you take card or cash?”
“It’s alright,” Director Li said, chuckling. “Whenever you have it, you can come pay, and only after you pay can you get the registration form. Pay downstairs, I’m not in charge of collecting money.”
Green veins stood out on Xiang Cheng’s forehead, but he didn’t dare to argue back, and he could only hold it in.
“Chi Xiaoduo,” Director Li suddenly said, “hmm, according to our investigation, when you were seven, you were marked by a devil.”
“Ah?!” Chi Xiaoduo grew bug-eyed. Xiang Cheng hurriedly gestured for him not to speak, and he explained to Director Li, “I’ve already found that devil.”
“Where’s the proof?” Director Li watched Xiang Cheng severely.
Xiang Cheng responded, “It’s a personal relationship, they’re relatively close.”
“Wh-what?” Chi Xiaoduo couldn’t sit still any longer.
“That won’t do,” Director Li said, shaking his head regretfully. “You cannot designate everyone who gets close to him as a devil. What we want is proof, and only with proof and detailed reports, can we issue an arrest warrant. Even if you’ve found the devil, you can only investigate, you cannot act. Your certificate has already been revoked, and you’ve already been fined, Xiang Cheng…”
Xiang Cheng pressed one hand against his forehead, leaning in his chair.
“... If you do something like this one more time, then all of your related memories will be wiped, and all your artifacts confiscated,” Director Li said. “You need to think this through clearly.”
Xiang Cheng sighed and nodded.
“Investigating, I can do,” Xiang Cheng said. “But what about acting before anything is disclosed?”
“That is only allowable when appropriate --” Director Li said. “But you must not startle that devil. I don’t care where you believe it is, but you must first turn in enough evidence, and only with conclusive evidence will we send people in to act. You can protect your friend, but you cannot attack wildly.”
Xiang Cheng could only respond with, “Thank you, Director.”
“No need, no need,” Director Li said. “You still have a bright future ahead of you, and as long as you make amends with your continued service, I won’t hold you accountable for bringing the perpetrator here. After all, giving him a reminder is a good thing, and if you didn’t remind him, Director Lu would have sent someone…
“It’s just that with the amount of reminders, well, you have to control that well. You can’t let the kid go out and wildly tell people, nor can you tell him what he shouldn’t know. For example, who’s a devil, or who’s a yao, you can’t talk about that, to prevent him from growing afraid, because if he does get scared, it’s much easier to startle the snake from its den then, don’t you agree? You’ve also got to make sure that he keeps his lips sealed, and as soon as the mission is finished, you must wipe his memories clean.”
Xiang Cheng rose, and Chi Xiaoduo followed suit, saying, “Thank you, Director.”
The director chuckled. Xiang Cheng then asked, “Director, can I check the case records here?”
Director Li replied, “Before, this would not have been permitted, but on behalf of you having served the committee meritoriously and bled for it not too long ago, I’ll personally write you a slip ba. As long as you go to the Records Office before they close, that’ll be fine, but no pictures allowed.”
Director Li wrote a slip in an elegant hand, and gave it to Xiang Cheng, who thanked him time and again, before leaving the office with Chi Xiaoduo.
“He wants to…”
“Let me check the case files first,” Xiang Cheng said quietly. “You go take a walk outside, there’s nothing to worry about anymore. Since the director’s already said so, no one can make you sniff Lihun Pollen at least for now.”
It was only with this that Chi Xiaoduo truly felt relieved. When the two of them came out, that girl was still drawing. She had finished sketching an outline with her pencil, and now she was gently applying color onto the paper.
Now, Magnolia Alley had changed to spring, and the wind blew through the entire alley, bringing the smell of the blossoms and the dust of the sunlight into their faces. The magnolia trees were sprouting branches and leaves like they were making a statement, and they kept growing upwards, becoming denser and denser. Within the alley, the buds planted along the fence of the yard also slowly blossomed at a speed that the naked eye could observe.
“Let’s go,” Xiang Cheng said quietly.
When the two of them passed through the door to the Records Office, there was coincidentally someone who was pushing the door and exiting.
“Xiaoduo?” That was a man wearing sunglasses, clad in a set of casual clothes.
“Qiqi?!” Chi Xiaoduo stared dumbly.
That was Qi Wei, Xiaoduo’s bestie’s cousin. When Chi Xiaoduo and his bestie had gone out for vacation, they had sat in his sports car before.
“You guys…” Xiang Cheng remembered, and he continued, “en, you two know each other.”
“Xiang,” Qi Wei said, frowning. “Why did you bring him in here?”
Xiang Cheng waved a hand and said, “Relax, he won’t tell any outsiders.”
“You come inside with me for a bit,” Qi Wei said.
Chi Xiaoduo watched the two of them apprehensively, but Xiang Cheng motioned for him to take a walk, so Chi Xiaoduo left the yard. Elder Qu had gone off to who knows where, so Chi Xiaoduo stood in front of the wall, looking at the newsletter pinned to the bulletin board. There were many topics about exorcists in there, and a messy bunch of yaoguai were also drawn there. A few pieces of paper were pinned off to the side.
Chi Xiaoduo flipped through and saw that one of the drawings in there was of a “guiche”, which was exactly the one that Xiang Cheng had taken care of in that recording.
Below it was stamped a rectangular red stamp: highly dangerous.
With that, there was also a blue stamp, “already exorcised”, and next to it, written in ballpoint pen, “subduer’s identity unknown”.
Chi Xiaoduo kept flipping, and he saw quite a lot of odd, strange depictions. Some of them were “extremely dangerous”, some were “dangerous,” and some were even “lethal”. At the very end, there was a black-colored dragon-like thing, with the tail of a fish.
Its danger level was marked as “unknown”, and underneath, in ballpoint pen, was written seven words. Chi Xiaoduo turned his head to look, but the words were written in a scrawl, and it was hard to make out what had been written.
“Turned into a devil... source of pollution.”
To the side of the circular, there was also a magazine whose binding had been taken off, affixed to the display window. It was some tens of pages, and the cover read Exorcist Business, the April 2015 volume. The first page’s topic was: “The latest scenes and fashion of spring -- remembering the model Heibei Exorcist Chang Yang.”
From afar came the sounds of Elder Qu’s coughing, and Chi Xiaoduo quietly left the yard, walking into the alley.
Within the Records Office, the sunlight streamed in past motes of dust. Xiang Cheng lifted his head, looking along the shelves until he found “Yuexiu District”, the entire shelf filled with case records. Qi Wei took off his sunglasses and leaned against the window, glancing outside. Chi Xiaoduo had gone into the alley.
“It might be at Liwan Plaza,” Qi Wei said. “We’re currently busy with the matter at the Chimelong Water Park.”
Without even lifting his head, Xiang Cheng pulled out that stack of folders involving China Plaza, clearly not wishing to talk with Qi Wei.
“You’re searching for the guiche?” Qi Wei asked. “I heard someone say that there’s a devil manipulating this matter behind the scenes. Its store is located in China Plaza.”
Xiang Cheng put the file holder back onto the shelf.
“It also sells crystals, green phantom crystals, pink quartz,” Qi Wei said. “It tricks little kids into playing with it, and then sucks in their energy and lets them keep it, offering their energy up for that devil to use.”
Xiang Cheng narrowed his eyes.
“What devil?” Xiang Cheng asked.
Qi Wei shrugged his shoulders, and Xiang Cheng put down the case records. Qi Wei said, “I don’t know. With that matter of the guiche that you already intervened in, Elder Lu brought people to investigate it after, so the store closed down that day.”
Xiang Cheng silently walked to another shelf.
Qi Wei shook his head and said, “Its whereabouts are unknown, the trail was lost.”
“My instincts tell me that the matter at Chimelong Water Park and that of a wish store in China Plaza are connected,” Qi Wei said, putting one hand on a shelf, tilting his body, facing Xiang Cheng dashingly. “There is a yao that hides in the exit of the waterspout to eat people’s eyes. This year it’s already eaten three, and every time we go, we can’t find the real culprit.”
Xiang Cheng was silent.
Qi Wei continued, “They suspected it was a water monkey, but it ran way too fast, and they couldn’t catch it.”
“After people die, their corpse qi and their resentful qi combine, turning into a yao that eats humans’ eyes and fingernails,” Qi Wei said. He then thought for a bit, before continuing, “They drained the water too. They also tried out electrocution, but they couldn’t find anything, and they’re going in one more time. If they still can’t find it, they’ll give up and let it be.”
Chi Xiaoduo squatted in the alley, looking at the items an old man had out on display at a roadside stall. His was set up just like Xiang Cheng’s, with a red sheet covering the ground, on which were arranged a bunch of strange decorated monsters. There were quite a lot of odd handicrafts laid out on the sheet as well.
“What’s this?” Chi Xiaoduo stared curiously at a bell.
“The Shehun Bell,” the old man said. “It’s used to capture yao.”
Chi Xiaoduo pointed at a box. “How about this?”
The old man replied, “Lihun Pollen, it’s for filling snuff bottles. Have you seen a snuff bottle before?”
Ah! Chi Xiaoduo thought, perfect, he could buy a little for Xiang Cheng as repayment, but if he bought it, would Xiang Cheng make him sniff it? He’d best not.
“This is the Qiankun Bag,” the old man said, pointing towards where Chi Xiaoduo was looking, at a beaten up little bag made of rough fabric. “It’s Doraemon’s artifact, you understand? It can hold many things! If your boss makes things hard for you, or your coworkers try to sideline you, with a simple shake, you can put the whole office full of people into it, and use a stick on the outside to hit them!”
The corners of Chi Xiaoduo’s mouth twitched, and he nodded.
“It sounds very powerful, but when the boss comes out, then what?”
“Let them smell a little Lihun Pollen!” the old man said. “Then they won’t remember a single thing ~”
Chi Xiaoduo broke out in a cold sweat, agreeing with those words.
“And this?” Chi Xiaoduo pointed at a carving of a goddess.
“A statue of Nuwa,” the old man said. “One twenty.”
“What can it be used for?” Chi Xiaoduo asked.
The old man seemed like he was teasing Chi Xiaoduo as he replied, “Take it home and pray to it. You can ask for fortune in marriage, and that fortune will immediately come; it doesn’t matter if you like men or women!”
“Does it work?” Chi Xiaoduo asked.
“It works!” the old man said, glaring at Chi Xiaoduo. “If it doesn’t work, I won’t ask for any money!” And saying this, he picked up the statue of Nuwa and placed it in Chi Xiaoduo’s hand. “When you get back in the morning, and when you get back at night, pray to it once each time! Make sure that when you’re praying, you ask that the goddess Nuwa make sure that you get a rich one! A tall, rich, and handsome one! Or a pale, rich, and beautiful one!”
Chi Xiaoduo: “Then I’ll buy one ba.” And he thought to himself, since it’s something that exorcists use, it must work. As he spoke, he pulled out a hundred and twenty dollars and handed it to the old man.
The old man said, “1.2 million! What are you thinking!”
Chi Xiaoduo: “...........................”
“Oh well then,” Chi Xiaoduo chuckled hollowly. “I didn’t bring that much money.”
As if he was casting magic, the old man pulled out a POS machine from the bag and said, “You can use Unionpay!”
Chi Xiaoduo pressed one hand to his forehead, and the old man continued, “Do you want some Lihun Pollen?”
“How much.” Chi Xiaoduo was on the verge of tears.
“One gram is a hundred and fifty thousand!” the old man said.
Chi Xiaoduo rose resolutely and said, “Bye bye.”
The old man cried, “Hey, don’t leave! You asked about so many things, yet you didn’t buy any of it, are you using this old man as amusement? Do you believe that I can cut you down with a single strike of my trusty cane?!”
Chi Xiaoduo’s entire body froze at that, and the old man said, “Stop right there! Either sell your body and come here to wait on me, or you leave the Nuwa statue here; otherwise, don’t even think about leaving!”
Chi Xiaoduo almost peed himself, but thankfully Qi Wei came out from the yard and smiled. “Great immortal, stop teasing children.”
That old man laughed loudly, shaking his head to himself, and he put the Nuwa statue back. Chi Xiaoduo’s back was covered in sweat, and he hurried to hide behind Qi Wei.
“Immortal Ceng finds you funny, and he wants to take you in as a disciple,” Qi Wei said. “Are you willing?”
Chi Xiaoduo came out shakily, glancing at that old man, before he looked at Qi Wei.
That old man who had been called Immortal Ceng by Qi Wei chuckled, and he waved his hand. “I’m not taking him as a disciple, his fate does not lie with me.”
Qi Wei then had Chi Xiaoduo stand to one side, and the two of them stood across each other under a magnolia tree.
Chi Xiaoduo and Qi Wei were both a little self-conscious. With what Chi Xiaoduo had known of Qi Wei before, this guy was clearly a flirt, because every day, he had gone about with that careless manner. He had never expected that with this Armani outfit, standing under the magnolia tree, Qi Wei actually seemed both severe and earnest, and was unexpectedly dependable.
“Remember to protect Xiang Cheng,” Qi Wei said. “He’s a good person.”
“Ah?” Chi Xiaoduo didn’t know whether to cry or laugh at that. “He should protect me instead, isn’t that right?”
Qi Wei shook his head and smiled. He pointed at him with his sunglasses, as if he wanted to say something, but it was just then that Xiang Cheng came out, holding a piece of paper.
Qi Wei said, “Xiang Cheng, you go get your license ba, I’ll lend you my car.”
Xiang Cheng shook his head. He slung an arm around Chi Xiaoduo’s shoulders and said, “Let’s go.”
The two of them walked out of Magnolia Alley, and Chi Xiaoduo suddenly found that they had appeared on a familiar street. He couldn’t resist turning his head back and walking back in, only to find that he had entered a narrow alley piled high with paper boxes and junk. It was exactly as Elder Qu had said, the two alleys didn’t exist in the same space! It really was too magical.
Xiang Cheng had gone to get the car first, and as Kuang Desheng came racing out, Xiang Cheng speedily picked up Chi Xiaoduo and ran, not even giving Kuang Desheng the chance to speak. It was nearing dusk, and Xiang Cheng and Chi Xiaoduo bought hot dogs, sitting shoulder to shoulder on one of the benches along the river as they ate this dinner.
Under the light of the setting sun, the Pearl River turned golden-red. The ferries going on a night tour of the Pearl River were just about to set off, and the blast of the horns came to them from afar.
“Over the next few days, you have to follow by my side,” Xiang Cheng said.
Chi Xiaoduo hadn’t asked anything on their way here. Far too many things had happened today, and his brain felt a little swollen from it. However, amongst that multitude of things, what he cared about in the end was only one thing --- whether or not he had to smell that pollen.
But according to Xiang Cheng’s conversation and negotiation in Magnolia Alley that afternoon, perhaps only this committee was very strict, which was also to say that right now, Xiang Cheng would help him, but after everything ended, he would still have to be dealt with in the aftermath.
“En.” Chi Xiaoduo didn’t say anything more; he merely nodded and said, “Alright.”
Xiang Cheng didn’t know what he was thinking about at all. Actually, after they had left the Exorcism Office, he was constantly thinking; thinking about things that had nothing to do with Chi Xiaoduo’s mood. To him, that devil was the most pressing thing right now.
“I will protect you,” Xiang Cheng said.
“Is it alright that you’re telling me these things?” Chi Xiaoduo asked. “I heard Director Li say just now that if you didn’t tell me, then some other person would come to remind me, is that true?”
Xiang Cheng was currently thinking of other matters, and his mind was occupied elsewhere. A moment later, he finally nodded carefully, saying, “That’s right.”
Chi Xiaoduo’s brow began to furrow, and he asked, “Will the committee also notify normal people of these matters?”
“You people in the city encounter very little,” Xiang Cheng said, “because there are a lot of people in cities. Sometimes, if you’re in the mountains, in a village, or in some other place, and someone brushes by you and tells you that there is a looming threat of disaster, or that you should pay attention to what you do and say in the near future, these people could have been sent by the committee to let you know.”
“But not all of them are,” Xiang Cheng said. “This doesn’t eliminate swindlers.”
“And after they’ve made their reports?” Chi Xiaoduo continued to ask. “Can they then get rid of the problem?”
“Usually, they’ll make you cooperate, but they won’t tell you what’s actually going on. They will then do their best to send people to clean up the matter in the dark, but for things that cannot be resolved, they have no choice but to let it be,” Xiang Cheng said. “Of course, the exorcists will be disgraced.”
Chi Xiaoduo said, “So, since I was marked by some yaoguai, that yaoguai wants to make trouble for me, is that right? But I’ve never done anything bad.”
Xiang Cheng thought for a bit, before saying, “That’s not entirely certain. When you were seven, did you have any particularly strange encounters?”
Chi Xiaoduo thought for a bit, but he really couldn’t remember. He was being asked to recall his entire childhood, especially what he had done in an entire year, but his memories had truly grown very vague.
“Does almost drowning while swimming count?” Chi Xiaodou asked.
Xiang Cheng waved his hand. Chi Xiaoduo remembered, and he said, “I remember that there was one night, as I leaned up against the window, I saw very many strange things. There were lights outside, and lanterns flew back and forth…”
“That’s the Zhongyuan Festival, when the gates to the ghost realm open,” Xiang Cheng replied earnestly, one hand pressed against his forehead. “It has nothing to do with yao, it’s the work of monks and Daoist priests.”
Chi Xiaoduo: “Is that right? And here I thought I was dreaming. I merely remembered that dream very clearly, but why is it that I could see them when I was small, but after I grew up, I couldn’t anymore?”
“Children burn dimly,” Xiang Cheng said. “Seeing those things isn’t something strange.”
“Why?” Chi Xiaoduo asked curiously. “And what does burning dimly mean?”
“The burning,” Xiang Cheng said, making a gesture of pointing towards Chi Xiaoduo’s chest, “refers to the light in your soul. Yao and devils, ghosts and monsters, all kinds of evil spirits are afraid of light, and people who burn dimly attract yaoguai and ghosts easily, so they end up seeing what they shouldn’t. What else?”
Chi Xiaoduo recalled what he and Yang Xingjie had chatted about that day, the sea caves of his childhood, and he said, “When I was small and went to the seaside, sometimes I would run into some strange things.”
“Like what?” Xiang Cheng watched Chi Xiaoduo, and his eyebrows twitched at that.
“I forgot,” Chi Xiaoduo said, scratching his head. “I remember seeing something very much like a yaoguai, and it died on the beach. I was greatly frightened, and I left it behind as I tried to find someone, but in the end, other people said it was only a manta ray that got washed ashore.”
Xiang Cheng’s fingers were interlinked, and his thumbs kept rubbing his eyebrows as he muttered to himself, “What exactly is it? That day, he didn’t feel like a devil… he seemed entirely like a normal human, but he didn’t feel right…”
Chi Xiaoduo asked, “Who?”
Xiang Cheng waved his hand and said, “Don’t mind it right now. Are you sleepy?”
Chi Xiaoduo hurried to shake his head. Xiang Cheng continued, “Can you help me out with something?”
Chi Xiaoduo chuckled. “Of course, what should I do? Should I help you get proof of work?”
Xiang Cheng froze for a second, before continuing, “I didn’t think of that, can you do it?”
Chi Xiaoduo thought for a moment, before replying, “Architects can’t, but logistics should be able to. Let me give him a call.”
Xiang Cheng waved a hand. “No need to go through that much trouble. As long as I have a legitimate employment contract, even being a security guard will do.”
Chi Xiaoduo laughed himself half to death, saying, “It’s too much of a waste for you to be a security guard.”
“A security guard doorman,” Xiang Cheng replied, locking the car. “I’ve even been a duck before, so I’m not picky this time.”
Chi Xiaoduo gave Wang Ren a call, and Wang Ren nattered a lecture at him for a long while. Finally, Chi Xiaoduo roared angrily, “You make sure this happens! Stop being long-winded! Otherwise I won’t hang up my certificate with you guys!”
Wang Ren could only reply with “alright, alright”. Chi Xiaoduo continued, “Have a contract ready by tomorrow, and tomorrow I’ll bring him over to sign it.”
“Are you insane, Chi Xiaoduo?!” Wang Ren said. “It’s one thing for you to ask for a different position, but what’s going on with you introducing someone to my design institute to be a security guard?!”
“Ay, stop worrying about it,” Chi Xiaoduo replied. “Let’s just agreeably settle on this.”
Xiang Cheng found this very amusing. Chi Xiaoduo hung up and asked, “You and Qiqi… is your relationship very good?”
“No,” Xiang Cheng shook his head.
From looking at Xiang Cheng’s expression, Chi Xiaoduo could tell that there was something there that would be awkward to put into words, so he didn’t keep asking.
“Qi Wei proving it to the bureau isn’t important, but resolving it like that is perfect. Actually, the reason I wanted to get your help was related to devils. There is a devil seal on your body,” Xiang Cheng said earnestly.
“En en,” Chi Xiaoduo said. “What should I do?”
Xiang Cheng said, “In the next few days, I will keep you by my side. When we approach that devil’s real body, your body will sense it a little. I will then, according to the movement of your devil seal, seek it out via that trail, but I’ll make sure to protect you well.”
“No problem,” Chi Xiaoduo said happily. Xiang Cheng’s actions were not only to protect him, but also to protect all of the people living on this earth, so of course he had to agree.
Chi Xiaoduo got in the car. Xiang Cheng’s driving skills were very good, and like a needle threading through a crack, they sped through the crowds. At eight o’clock, they arrived at the China Plaza.
Juurensha: The committee is too real.
moon: All of this work stuff is too real.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.