Xie Lingya was looking through the Baoyang’s notes for good ways to promote the temple . Zhang Daoting was next to him . Honestly, Zhang Daoting would rather Xie Lingya found ways to lure people into working in the temple instead . He was really tired of being popular . He had no privacy at all—there were even people snapping pictures when he was just eating . The only privacy he had left was when he was in the toilet .
At this moment, Xie Lingya’s phone rang, the display indicating that it was a call from He Zun . When the call connected, Xie Lingya heard He Zun’s urgent cry for help . He immediately stood up and rolled up his sleeves, pushing the curious Zhang Daoting away .
Many supernatural beings resided in the shadowy mountains, and someone like He Zun, with his poor fortune and weak vitality, was more likely to encounter them . Furthermore, the place that He Zun and his friends went to was Boshan . The mountain was high and the foliage thick . It was indeed scenic but it was rumored that people had seen the whole mountain lit up with ghostly light and that it was a route that the Underworld’s soldiers took when they escorted the spirits of the dead back to the Underworld .
Luckily, He Zun had been worshipping Spirit Official Wang recently . Thanks to the Spirit Official’s Hand Seal, he was able to get ahold Xie Lingya—if he hadn’t managed to reach him, he and his friends would’ve been in big trouble .
“Xiao He, you have to do exactly what I say now, no matter what it is, understand?” Xie Lingya said . They were miles apart, so for the remote exorcism to work, he needed He Zun’s cooperation .
[ Your friend Xie Lingya proposed to aid you remotely . Please choose to accept or reject . ]
He Zun shouted frantically, “I accept!!!”
There were many Taoist talismans that were useful for protection when entering a mountain . These talismans could not only be used to ward off ghosts and supernatural creatures but also deter predators like tigers and wolves . If the person did not carry any talismans, or if they lost their protection charm like He Zun, then the Liu Jia Secret Mantra was a good choice .
The name “Liu Jia Secret Mantra” might not be well known, but if one was to mention its other name “Nine-Characters Mantra”, many people would find it familiar . The Master Who Embraces Simplicity, Ge Hong, once said, “When entering the mountains, you must know the Liu Jia Secret Mantra—Lin Bing Dou Zhe Jie Zhen Lie Qian Xing (‘May those who preside over warriors be my vanguard’) . These nine characters should be recited repeatedly and all evil will flee . ”
When the Liu Jia Secret Mantra was brought to Japan, the last four characters were erroneously changed to Chen Lie Zai Qian .
For Ge Hong to claim that it could vanquish all evil, one could deduce that the mantra was indeed powerful . However, when the Liu Jia Secret Mantra was recited, one needed to be in a meditative state . If He Zun had the time to learn that, he would have mastered the Spirit Official’s Mantra .
From what he’d heard of the current situation, these few students were already scared witless, so they probably wouldn’t be able to muster the strength to recite the mantra and therefore the effect would be limited .
“Does anyone have a mirror?” Xie Lingya asked .
The girls quickly looked into their bags . There were tiny compact mirrors and mirrors attached to cosmetic products; they found a total of five mirrors of various sizes .
“Each person take one and wear it on their back . Not enough for everyone? Ladies first . ” Xie Lingya instructed them to secure the mirrors on their backs with elastics or strings . A clear mirror deflected evil; a nine-inch mirror hung on the back would ward off goblins and ghosts . Although not every mirror in their possession was nine inches large, it was better than nothing .
He Zun had put the call on speaker mode . The girls hearing Xie Lingya’s instructions let down their hair or looked for rubber bands in their bags to secure the mirrors to their backs .
“Next, all the boys, take off your shirts,” Xie Lingya continued . The human chest was shaped like a natural Bagua . Naturally, the Bagua could ward off evil . It was inconvenient for the ladies but it wasn’t a problem for the guys to go topless .
While the girls busied themselves with the mirrors, the boys quickly took off their tops . Night in the mountains was quite cold, but they didn’t care about that at the moment .
“He Zun, your fortune is poor and your vitality is low . If you’ve brought a knife, use the knife, if not, bite on your middle finger until it bleeds . ” Xie Lingya’s words made He Zun feel like crying .
The blood from the middle finger contained pure yang energy . Previously when Shi Changxuan had run out of talismans, he had used the blood from his middle finger in place of cinnabar to draw the symbols .
He Zun was still forming the Spirit Official’s Seal with one hand while he endured the pain from using his friend’s eyebrow razor to cut open the skin of his middle finger on the other . Blood started dripping out of the wound and he tapped the finger on his friends’ bodies a few times, saying, “Don’t waste it…”
Zhang Daoting, who was listening in, leaned closer to Xie Lingya and said quietly, “Boss, using so many tricks?”
Xie Lingya also replied softly, “We are not done yet! How the heck would I know what they’ve run into? What if it isn’t a ghost but a mountain goblin? Spreading our net wide is the way to go . ”
Zhang Daoting: “……”
Xie Lingya’s demeanor of complete confidence wasn’t just to show off . It was of utmost importance to remain calm in such situations . He was worried that the students wouldn’t trust him, so he put up a front to reassure them .
“Next, all of you, use your left forefinger to press down on the spot between your nostrils beneath your nose . Hold out the phone behind your back and head towards the hotel . Whatever I say, repeat the words after me . If there’re any other movements or sounds, just act like you didn’t hear it . Don’t stop walking and don’t turn your head back . ” The spot that Xie Lingya asked them to press down on was known as “Shan Yuan” . The old saying went, ‘Left hand on the Shan Yuan, the Ghost Well closes its doors . ’
Xie Lingya confirmed that they were ready, and then reminded them, “Be louder when repeating my words!”
“Ok . ” He Zun and his classmates continued their way forward with trepidation . In the darkness, the voice on the other end of the phone was all that kept them safe .
A gale buffeted the trees, rustling the leaves . In the night with neither stars nor moon, the sound stirred the unease in everyone’s heart, as if there was some creature waiting to strike at any moment .
Among the group, a timid girl suppressed a sob . On her back was an open box of eyeshadow, suspended on her backpack with a hair tie . The box came with a mirror which was reflecting the long winding mountain path behind her .
“Heaven and Earth Origin of the Mystic, The Universe of the Same Source… Overflowing Gold Light from the Body, Shroud and Protect Me…” Xie Lingya’s voice transmitted from the phone carried a strange calming rhythm .
He spoke every word and syllable clearly . Everyone repeated after him subconsciously . Gradually they got louder and more fluent . Although their words didn’t carry the same aura as Xie Lingya’s, as they recited them out loud, they gradually started feeling braver .
The timid girl wiped off the tears from her eyes, climbing the steps in front while loudly repeating the incantation .
He Zun was walking next to her . The corner of his eye caught some movement in the bushes nearby . He didn’t dare stop reciting the incantation or turn his head to look . He remembered what Xie Linya said . He continued forward without a comment .
Rustling sounds like slithering snakes came continuously from the surrounding . Upon closer scrutiny He Zun realized that maybe he was the only one who could hear it . Teeth chattering, he squeezed on his middle finger and blood started flowing again from the finger that had previously stopped bleeding .
He reminded himself that he must not look, but he couldn’t help peeping out of the corner of his eye .
The group panted as they climbed and recited the incantation . When climbing up a particularly high step, the eyeshadow box behind the timid girl swayed .
Snap, the box snapped shut .
He Zun saw what happened and his heart pounded nervously . The girl shuddered and felt for the box with her hand, trying to open it .
At this moment, everyone felt a chilly gust of wind billowing from behind . Their voices wavered . He Zun subconsciously raised his hand and put the phone behind the girl’s back .
On the other end of the line, Xie Lingya couldn’t see what happened, but as if sensing something unusual from their voices, his tone became even more certain . His recitation became faster, “Golden Light Come Forth, Protect the Living!”
The girl closed her eyes and repeated, “G-golden Light Come Forth…!”
The tree leaves swayed gently in the wind . Moonlight peeked out from behind the clouds and shone upon the mortal realm .
In an instant, the dark mist that surrounded everyone dissipated . In front of their eyes, a sign pointing out the direction to the hotel appeared, indicating that their destination was 500 meters away .
They could tell even without Xie Lingya saying it: all was well .
The girl, still dumbfounded, opened the eyeshadow box . Just now when she was panicking, she couldn’t open it no matter what .
She felt it clearly .
When the chilly wind touched her from behind, she nearly broke down . But when that “Teacher Xie” recited the final line of the incantation, she suddenly felt warmth in her body . Involuntarily she started reciting with everyone, forgetting her fears .
After that, the chill she felt disappeared .
“We’ve reached the hotel, Teacher Xie!” He Zun yelled emotionally .
“En,” Teacher Xie was very calm on the other end of the phone as if there hadn’t been any doubt about their safety . “Go quickly!”
Then he hung up .
He Zun was still giddy with relief . “I… ouch!”
His classmates asked in a panic, “What happened?”
“Ouch! Seems like my hand is cramping,” He Zun cried . He raised the hand forming the Spirit Official’s Hand Seal and poked at the middle finger . “Oh no, oh no, I can’t move it! ”
He Zun, enduring the pain, wailed, “Wu, wu, let’s go to the hotel first…”
Then, with his hand still weaving the hand seal, he ran to the hotel with his classmates .
The security guard and the receptionist jumped when the group of students came in through the door . The students were disheveled, sweating profusely and their hair all tousled . The boys were all topless and two of them even had blood on their faces and hands .
What horrible thing had they just gone through?
One of them was waving his arm, which, upon a closer look, was pointing his middle finger!
Xie Lingya rubbed his chin in thought after hanging up . “Say, what do you think they encountered?”
Zhang Daoting: “……”
Zhang Daoting felt another bead of sweat forming and replied, “Boss, you just finished exorcising the thing but you didn’t even know what it was?”
Xie Lingya glanced at him . “I sensed some being, but I’m too inexperienced and I don’t know if I’m right . I suspect it was a mountain goblin, maybe a maple sprite or something like that . If it was an ordinary wandering spirit, the first few tricks we did should have repelled it and we wouldn’t have needed to wait until the Incantation of Golden Light took effect . ”
When Xie Lingya said that he was inexperienced, Zhang Daoting sweated more heavily .
The Incantation of Golden Light was one of the eight great spells in Taoism, offering protection and banishing evil . Of course, not everyone would achieve such a powerful effect when they recited it . After all, the person reciting the incantation was the medium communing Heaven and Earth . The effect varied according to the medium .
So the students were totally ineffective .
Boss had only asked them to repeat his words to scare away some ghosts and make them braver . It was like playing the recording of a mantra, better than nothing . If a person’s fortune was good, even if they had no cultivation, the spirits would not bother them . If they had met a malevolent ghost, then this scare tactic would have had no effect .
Zhang Daoting was completely in awe of Boss’s display of remote exorcism . Moreover, Xie Lingya was ‘inexperienced’ . The difficulty of remote exorcism was much higher than reciting a mantra at the scene . Zhang Daoting thought he’d try to teach the students spells to call upon the mountain deities for help instead .
Of course, if Zhang Daoting put forth this idea to him, Xie Lingya would’ve told him, “I never learned that and the situation was too urgent to learn on the spot . ”
The next day, when He Zun returned, he led his classmates to Baoyang Temple .
His classmates blushed once they saw Xie Lingya, including the boys . It was mainly because they had refused to come here with He Zun previously . They wouldn’t even come for tea .
This day they were a bit embarrassed . They were also shocked to see Xie Lingya in person .
Yesterday, Xie Lingya’s calm voice left a very strong impression on them . When they finally met Xie Lingya, seeing such a young person, they were even more impressed .
Xie Lingya had prepared water boiled with herbs for them to clean themselves with . They had, after all, encountered some supernatural beings and their bodies needed to be cleansed .
The students all had dark circles under their eyes . They didn’t dare sleep last night at the hotel or remove their mirrors .
“The security guard nearly called the police last night . He thought we were robbed,” He Zun said dejectedly .
Another student added, “He almost hit you . You were pointing your middle finger at him for ten minutes . ”
He Zun: “…That was because my finger was cramping!”
Hearing of He Zun’s hand getting cramped from weaving the Spirit Official’s Seal, Xie Lingya nearly lost his mystical image from laughing too hard .
He Zun said, “It was all thanks to my hand seal, otherwise we wouldn’t even have been able to make the phone call . Teacher Xie, after we got to the hotel, the receptionist said they had never changed their number . They also didn’t receive any call from us . We tested the number again on the spot and the call went through . ”
Xie Lingya had predicted this, so he laughed lightly . “Just take it as a practice . You need to be more careful, especially at night . If the creature had been more powerful, what would you have done if you couldn’t even make the call?”
He Zun’s hair stood on end when he imagined the scenario . He quickly nodded and agreed .
The students took turns cleaning themselves with the herbal water in the room . Perhaps it was just psychological, but they felt refreshed after they were done . He Zun, with great familiarity, brought his classmates to offer incense to the venerable founder, then went to have tea in the front yard . Xie Lingya asked him to wait there and went to prepare a new protection charm for him .
He Zun’s classmates were more relaxed after sitting down, and started chatting .
“I didn’t think this place would be so pretty . There’s some nostalgic feel to it and a lot of people are taking photos . ”
“I think the most unimaginable thing is probably Teacher Xie…!”
“Damn, you’re right . He Zun, if you had told us that Teacher Xie was so good looking, we would’ve come sooner!”
The female classmates were all blaming He Zun .
He Zun: “…You think I didn’t think of that? The last time I told the girls in my class that Teacher Xie and the priest here are handsome, they said I was being gay!”
At this time, Xie Lingya came over with a few newly drawn talismans . The talismans were folded carefully and inserted into plastic covers . The plastic covers were new additions . Now that they weren’t so poor, the packaging of the charms and talismans was naturally upgraded .
“Don’t lose it again . Take another one as a backup . ” Xie Lingya handed He Zun an extra talisman .
He Zun quickly thanked him, “I’m very touched, Teacher Xie . ”
He Zun’s fortune this year was honestly at a ground-breaking low, having experienced several supernatural encounters within such a short time . He Zun carefully tucked the talismans away and joked, “If I lose the protection charms again, I won’t move to the provincial capital in the future . I’ll buy a house nearby, so that it will be convenient for Teacher Xie to protect me . ”
Xie Lingya glanced at him, “Then you might as well donate a golden statue to the venerable founder instead . I guarantee that you could go anywhere in the world without fear then . ”
He Zun: “……”
His classmates also joined in the teasing, “That’s right! Donate a golden statue!”
He Zun promised confidently, “Just wait for me to start working and earn money . ”
Xie Lingya muttered in his heart that it would probably be faster for him to earn the money myself .
A week later, He Zun came to Baoyang Temple again . It wasn’t because he’d suddenly earned money, but because he had forgotten a certain matter .
“Both my hands hurt!” He Zun cried miserably while holding his hands up . “My one middle finger is injured and the other middle finger is sore from muscle cramps . I was too affected that day . I only remembered to ask for a protection charm and forgot to ask Teacher Xie to look at my luck . ”
The others stared at him . “And?”
He Zun sat with his legs spread over the bench and, with the tone of someone whose life was devoid of meaning, said, “A few of my elective classes had ended and the exams were this week . I thought of asking my friends for help due to my injuries but the test examiners were particularly strict . I didn’t manage to finish two of the papers…”
He Zun slumped onto the table and wailed, “I did study properly! I reviewed everything! Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone out to have fun!”
In the end, he had too much fun and crashed .
“Actually, I applied to postpone the tests to a later date and take the tests alone . But my lecturers wouldn’t believe that my hand was sore from injuries and thought that it was because I gamed too much . They even said if I failed I might as well take the exam again next semester . ” He Zun’s gaze was filled with sorrow as if seeing death . “Teacher Xie, didn’t they say that effort could overcome destiny?”
Everyone looked at He Zun with sympathy . Xie Lingya comforted gently, “You see, you need to be more honest normally . Why did the lecturers not believe you and suspect that your injuries were due to gaming? Besides, the results are not out yet . You only had two unfinished papers, maybe you’ve only failed two subjects and saved one?”
He Zun: “……”
Hai Guanchao added contemplatively, “Such is destiny . ”
When He Zun heard that he would fail his subjects, he’d studied hard . Then when he thought he had done enough, he went out to enjoy himself . While out to have a good time, he’d injured his hands and in the end, it became a hindrance to his exam . These kinds of situations were really unpredictable .
Temples and clinics usually had no rest day on weekends, in fact, they were usually busier on these days .
One weekend, Zhang Daoting was receiving worshippers, Hai Guanchao was in his clinic, while Xie Lingya was about to head out to buy offerings for the gods . He shamelessly invited Shi Changxuan, a guest, to accompany him .
Without a word, Shi Changxuan followed Xie Lingya out .
The pair walked to the market a few streets away to procure incense and flowers . Fruits, they’d purchase from the wet market behind the temple . On their way back, they passed by a park .
Many elderly were exercising there . On the roadside, there were a few fortune-telling stalls . The fortune-tellers in their garbs looked even more authentic than an actual Taoist priest like Shi Changxuan .
Xie Lingya took several peeks curiously . One of the fortune-tellers, perhaps thinking that it was a business opportunity, called out, “Little brother, don’t you want to foretell the fate of the wish you have?”
Xie Lingya looked around, “Me?”
The fortune-teller nodded, “Yes, you . You know clearly in your heart . ”
What do I know clearly? You, on the other hand, do you know that the two of us work in a Taoist temple?
But Xie Lingya took a few steps closer anyway . Squatting down, he asked, “You were just saying that I have a wish?”
Shi Changxuan stood to the side and watched indifferently .
The fortune-teller regarded Xie Lingya for a moment and laughed . “If I am not wrong, what you are wishing for is related to someone . ”
Xie Lingya raised an eyebrow . “Yes, that’s right . ”
There were many mystics among the masses . One should not assume that a person peddling their skills at a roadside stall must be a good-for-nothing . Of course, Xie Lingya did not immediately believe this person, he was just interested in hearing more .
The fortune-teller pulled out two small stools from behind him, “Hehe, please have a seat and listen to me . ”
Xie Lingya sat down graciously . Seeing that Shi Changxuan did not move, he tilted his head . “Shi Dao— Ah, Changxuan, sit down too . ”
Shi Changxuan: “……”
It took a while before he sat down, as if with some difficulty .
Xie Lingya looked at the Da Liu Ren Diviner Board by the stall and smiled . “Mister reads the Liu Ren? Can you divine for me?”
Judging by Xie Lingya’s familiarity with the tools, the fortune-teller felt that he might have some understanding of Liu Ren . His eyes darted around before saying, “There is no need for the Liu Ren Board, let me divine with the Shen Nong Gua for you . ”
Shen Nong Gua? He had never heard of this . Xie Lingya looked at the fortune-teller curiously .
The fortune-teller took out a piece of bamboo and a small sack of rice from a box next to him . Then, he started measuring and counting the rice using the bamboo .
Xie Lingya couldn’t figure out the methodology after observing for a while, so he looked at Shi Changxuan .
Shi Changxuan was originally staring off into the distance, but his attention was recalled by Xie Lingya’s intense gaze . “…Mister comes from the southwest?”
The fortune-teller stiffened . He raised his head and asked, “How did you know? Do I have an accent?” Not only did he not have any southwestern accent, after staying in Niuyang for so long, he was even speaking with a Niuyang accent .
Shi Changxuan stared at the rice in his hand and said calmly, “Rice grain divination…”
Immediately, the fortune teller knew that the person in front of him was well-informed . There were many methods of fortune-telling: Qimen Dunjia, Liu Ren, Purple Star Astrology, these were some of the common ones that most people knew .
In folk traditions, there were even more methods . From the oracle bones of ancient times, to the common methods in Taoist temples like astrology, dream interpretation, calling upon the gods, observing human physiology, interpreting climate patterns… There were just too many .
Every region had its own specialties . From the fortune-teller’s method, Shi Changxuan could tell his origins . He either came from the southwest or he had learned this technique from a southwesterner .
“Excuse my impudence,” the fortune-teller quickly said . He didn’t think this person just coincidentally knew about rice grain divination and its origins .
Shi Changxuan shook his head, unbothered .
Xie Lingya asked instead, “Mister, can you continue?”
The fortune-teller blushed, “I dare not . ”
He knew the limits of his own skills . When he was speaking to Xie Lingya, it was all cold reading . No matter what Xie Lingya answered, he could respond with something that would seem reasonable . But to scam in front of someone with internal know-how would be breaching the unspoken rules .
Xie Lingya was slightly disappointed . It appeared that those with real talents were hard to find .
The two stood up, nodded to the fortune-teller and left . Resuming their journey, Xie Lingya asked, “Shi Daozhang, do you know Liu Ren?”
Shi Changxuan shook his head, “I practice the reading of objects and conditions . ”
Divining by reading a situation or an object’s condition was a broad category in divination . This included many things such as the cries of birds, the heartbeat, the growth of grass, all these could be used for divination .
From Shi Changxuan’s words, it seemed like he wasn’t referring to one in particular, instead, it sounded like he could make a reading with anything, even a tree or blade of grass .
Xie Lingya asked, “How about this willow tree? Can you divine anything from it?”
Shi Changxuan glanced at the willow tree . It was one of many willow trees planted in the park . After regarding it for a moment, he said casually, “The willow branch points to the west . Something good will happen if I enter the mountain tonight . ”
Was it really that simple? How’d he come up with that??
Xie Lingya said immediately, “To prove this, I will accompany you into the mountain tonight . But before that, I need some clarification . What do you mean by something good? If you pick up five yuan by the roadside you can’t count that as something good!”
“……” Shi Changxuan actually had nothing to say in reply .
TL checker: Darkchocolatesan