When it is almost noon on the first day of the New Year, the devilish chaos at No. 4 Bright Avenue has finally subsided, and the intoxicated crowd grab their coats and queue up at the doorway waiting for taxis.
Old Li washes his face when everyone has left, takes out some cleaning equipment out of nowhere, and begins cleaning up the giant mess in the office.
Da Qing heads inside, and as it sees the room in an utter shambles, it cautiously retrieves its paws.
Old Li hastily takes out a towel and wipes the chairs clean, then proceeds to line them up. He puts master cat on to the chair with reverence, “Walk up here, it’s not dirty.”
“They left you here all on your own again. Youngsters these days, so inconsiderate.” Da Qing mumbles with conceited venerability. It carefully bounces from the chairs on to the desk.
“Not just me, there is still someone.” Old Li points towards a corner, and Da Qing sees Guo crawling up.
“Oh, perfect. Hey kiddo, come here, I was looking for you.” Da Qing glares at Guo, and grabs a saucer on Zhu’s desk. It paws the saucer away and finds a red packet with a few shopping coupons inside. It picks up the red packet with its mouth and hurls it towards Guo, and humphs, “Old Zhao wants you to bring this to your Uncle Two. Chief Zhao said he won’t disturb the Director’s New
Year holiday, so help him pass this gift, maybe buy some new clothes for his wife and children… humph, stupid human, these kinds of words are sure to disgust a cat.”
The slow-witted Guo understands after a while: he stands in place, dizzied and half-conscious, and finaly remembers where he is. He picks up the red packet and puts it away with restraint, and smiles sluggishly. He turns around and sees Old Li smiling at them, holding a mop. He immediately rolls up his sleeves and walks forward, “Big Brother Li! Let me help you, let me…”
And he trips on the leg of a chair and falls flat on to the floor.
Da Qing humphs and sits upright in front of the computer. It turns on the computer, and uses its cat paws to move the mouse, inconveniently, and opens a web browser.
Old Li sees that and walks up enthusiastically, “What do you want to type? I’ll help you.”
Da Qing carelessly says, “Shanhai…”
“Hai” comes out of its mouth but quickly changes in tone and almost sounds like “he”. Then, Da Qing shuts it, stares at the monitor with no expression, and then looks down, “Oh, I mean I want to go on Weibo.”
Zhao said he is headed to handle a “big deal”, and will come back to pick it up later. Da Qing sits behind someone’s computer, and opens its Weibo account “No. 1 Master Cat in the World”, and begins posting selfies out of boredom.
Old Li and Little Guo quietly clean up the chaos. In that moment just now, Da Qing really wanted to find out about the pavilion twenty miles outside Shanhai Pass.
But the raven elder was right. So what if you find out? A dead person is dead; all are from the dust, and to dust all return.
“Click” and Da Qing posts its fatty cake face on to the web, and adds a description: “World’s Handsomest Cat”. In no time, many cat lovers have left comments; some praising the cat for its pure-bred fur, others kindly suggesting: “OP, your cat might be too fat. Be careful of what it eats, and remember to take it exercising to keep it healthy.”
Da Qing deletes that comment at the speed of light. It thinks angrily, “Stupid humans.”
The bell round its neck wiggles to its movements, but it doesn’t ring; only the occasional golden light reflects on to the snow-white walls.
Old Li can’t help but block the blinding light. He turns around and looks at the unusually desolate black cat, and is about to say something. Suddenly, Chu rushes out of the wall. It seems that the first day of the New Year is the only time when he is allowed in the library. And yet, he doesn’t look like he borrowed any books or read anything. He wears an incredibly bizarre expression: mocking, yet inherently wretched.
Guo instantly stands upright to greet him, “Brother Chu!”
Chu doesn’t seem to hear. He heads for his bag, lips slowly curving upwards into what can almost be described as a smirk marked with grief and suffering. Then, he heads outside.
Da Qing peeks out from behind the computer, and asks randomly, “How many years?”
Chu stops walking, and says almost inaudibly, “Exactly three hundred.”
Da Qing goes “ah”, and says, “Well then… uh, congratulations I guess?”
After it says this, Chu suddenly takes out a black wooden plate. He doesn’t turn around, and just holds up the plate and shakes it in the cat’s face. Perhaps it’s Guo’s own imagination, but there seems to be a flash of writings on Chu’s face, right on his cheeks, like the engraved words used to mark criminals in ancient times.
Da Qing’s ears stand upright, and its eyes widen.
Chu’s hand turn pale green as he clutches the wooden plate with tremendous force. Veins pump up on the back of his hand, oozing in ferocity.
Without a word, he heads out in hasty steps. Da Qing instantly turns towards Guo and says, “Little Guo, call a taxi for your Brother Chu!”
Guo replies sluggishly as usual, and Da Qing continues with a stronger tone, “He is drunk, go home with him and make sure he is alright before you come back, do you hear me?”
Guo rapidly takes out a napkin and wipes his hands, then sprints outside, and helps Chu carry his bag. Chu is acting like he lost his soul; Guo takes away his bag, and he has no reaction at all.
From behind, his figure is incredibly slender. For one moment, he almost appears cadaverous.
Just as Shen is carrying the drunk-as-mud Zhao home, the plump, good-for- nothing head teacher who only knows flattery suddenly calls. Apparently, he needs a document urgently.
Shen finds this very odd. Before he can ask further, the head teacher is like ants in a hot pan, and hangs up hastily after some hurried mumbling.
Shen has no other choice, so he brings Zhao the koala to his cold and tiny apartment that he rarely stays at.
He steps inside, and coincidentally, the head teacher’s stubborn and resilient phone call is on to him again, urging him to send the stuff to the west gate of Dragon City University.
Zhao rolls around on the cushionly sofa, opening his eyes only slightly, and says, half-awake, “It’s the first day of New Year, is that fat guy out of his mind?”
Shen searches for his stuff, while sparing a hand to save Zhao’s head from banging on to the coffee table. He puts a pillow under his head, “I have to go, I’ll be back soon, you…”
“I need sleep.” Zhao’s voice sinks down like his eyelids.
Shen asks, “Want some water?”
“Uh…” Zhao turns to the side, and gently squats his hand away, “No.”
His eyes glisten in watery light, cherry lips soft and fine. His long eyebrows tilt up and almost hides underneath his hair. His head is slanted a little, extending his neck, and his chin is marked with a slightly rigid outline. Buttons are undone on his shirt; his slim and long neck is bared with indescribable charisma.
Shen skips a breath, and carefully flicks his fringe away. He covers him with a blanket, thumb tenderly lingering over Zhao’s lips, caressing him affectionately, and leaning forward to kiss him on the forehead. He takes what the head teacher needs and car keys, and heads out.
A moment later, Zhao hears the door close.
Zhao instantly springs up like a zombie, though he was still intoxicated and disoriented just a few moments ago. He takes out his phone and sends a message: “hold him for longer”, and then he phones the moving company he contacted before.
The young man from the moving company has never received such a ludicrous order before. He hesitates, “Then… if the owner is not here, shoud we…”
“Should your head, I want everything moved today.” Zhao says bossily, “Sooner or later I’ll add his name to my household register, you think I’ll write two addresses in the same booklet? I am pissed whenever I see all his disposables. Get your ass here in five minutes, do you hear me?”
Zhao hangs up and takes out a big pile of memo notes from his bag, and starts rapidly making a list of what to move, and what to throw away and buy again later.
Suddenly, Zhao stops at the tip of the pen, and an extremely lecherous thought sprouts in his mind… He absurdly begins to ponder: wherever might Shen’s underwear be? Especially the ones he has worn… Although recently Shen has been forced to stay at Zhao’s tiny apartment, half-reluctantly, he has managed to keep his fine tradition of “love shall be bound by etiquette” in such a cramped space.
Besides, Zhao has been blind for more than half a month, though he never stopped trying to actualise his perverted plots, he is nevertheless limited by the confines of his physical capabilities. He lives under the same roof with the man he loves every day, and yet it is not for him to see or eat, only to imagine… Gradually, he finds himself living very much like a monk.
“I really have no other choice, you see.” Zhao rubs his hands, snickers a “hehe” to himself, and walks outside to the balcony. Perhaps it really has been long since Shen stayed here; the clothes hangers are still on the balcony, but nothing is hung. Zhao doesn’t give up, and proceeds to open the big wardrobe in the living room. Yet, he only finds a few shirts, trousers and coats, and a few pairs of shoes that look basically alike; there isn’t even a pair of socks.
Zhao’s eyesight is still recovering, and he doesn’t see a small box covered under a long trench coat. He adds “clothes” to both the “move” and “buy” lists. Still not willing to give up, his gaze rests on the eternally-shut door of Shen’s bedroom, which seems to contain an otherworldly dimension.
The door does not have a handle, nor is it locked overtly. Zhao takes out a small hand torch, flashing it around through the gap and the shaft of the door. He doesn’t find a pivot, nor does he find a hidden lock.
He finds this oddly suspicious. With his palm on the door, he sees subtle markings on the door with his third eye; the black door seems to contain some kind of flowing energy. It flows in a steady path, with indescribable solemnity. Each strand of marking is tightly fitted with another, and all are impeccably woven.
Zhao feels the door with his hands for a while, and finds this sensation somewhat familiar. Soon, he remembers, “Kunlun lock?”
0 These few days, behind everyone’s back, he has been asking Sang for help in researching about Kunlun. But besides the fact that it is a really awesome and really ancient mountain, as well as some strange techniques named after Kunlun, he did not find anything useful.
Using his third eye, he came across Kunlun lock as recorded in one book.
It is said that the Kunlun lock is round at the top and square at the bottom, symbolising that the sky is round and the earth is square. There are fourteen pins in the middle, thus the eight direction points of the compass, and the six direction co-ordinates. At that time, the sixty-four hexagrams system had not been developed yet. The Kunlun lock was only based on Yin and Yang, and is therefore not as convoluted as succeeding lock structures. Yet, on some level, it is in fact more eccentric and capricious, and difficult to grasp.
What would require a Kunlun lock to protect?
No… what is the relationship between the Ghost Slayer and Kunlun? Why does Shen know about this ancient seal?
Zhao stands at the door for a while, his mind filled with uncertainty. Then, he gathers spiritual energy at his palm, and tries moving the Kunlun lock. The lock is instantly activated, and all fourteen pins begin propelling in and out, according to the order of Yin and Yang. It is difficult to catch up with the constant motion. Zhao has too many thoughts in his mind, he knows an ample but is an expert in none. Sometimes his imagination brings him to greatly unrealistic places. All in all, he is not as apt in dealing with such intricate structures as Chu.
However, when Zhao is faced with the Kunlun lock, for some unknown reason, a sense of familiarity boils up inside of him. He sees every change and every motion, and the shifting lock seems to be in sync with a particular rhythm ready to launch from within his heart.
Zhao’s fingers rapidly run across the door, as if someone is guiding them.
Sky door, earth joint, round square, along thirty-six columns, until…
The pitch-black door slowly opens a small gap. There is not a beam of light inside. Zhao stands at the doorway, and is suddenly hesitant.
For some reason, he regrets opening this door.
But after moments of hesitation, he takes off a miniature torch from his key chain and cautiously enters the room.
What the walls are congested with has Zhao effortfully squinting his eyes in the light, and instantly petrified in place.
Filling up the entire walls: some large, some small, some angry, some laughing, all are… Zhao’s hand trembles and the torch almost drops to the ground. His subtle intoxication quickly wears away.
In a while, the torch light slowly moves towards an antique painting on the western wall. It is gigantic, almost taking up the entire wall. Made with some unknown material: as light and delicate as cicada wings, and as smooth and clear as snow. On it is a portrait.
The man is painted with fine and detailed eyes and brows; his presence vivid as to almost coming to life, with lengthy hair extending to the earth and in a long turquoise gown that cannot be more simplistic. He looks to the side slightly, and appears to be wearing a hint of a smile… Zhao feels like he is looking into a mirror.
On the side of the painting, a line of small words are written. It is not in simplified or traditional Chinese; in fact, it is not in any script that he is familiar with. Though he has never seen these characters before, for an uncertain reason, he understands what is written instantaneously:
Beneath the umbra of peach woods
First encounter with Lord Kunlun
One fleeting glance from astounded allure
The aria of my heart had stirred
Ten minutes later, the young man from the moving company arrives and knocks on the door. A strange man comes out of the apartment.
He does not explain anything at all. All that he says is there is no need to move anything. He grabs his wallet and pays. He apologises for having troubled them for nothing.