Before lunch that day, they went to the student affairs office.
“Teacher Xuan, Teacher Xuan?” Xie Liao called out to Xuan Hezhi.
“Teacher Xuan!” Jiang Hong shouted.
Xuan Hezhi was taking a nap and was suddenly startled. He almost fell off his chair.
“What? What?!” Xuan Hezhi exclaimed, but in a blink of an eye, he saw Xie Liao bringing Jiang Hong and became extremely frightened. “Another teaching accident?! What happened? Why do these teaching accidents keep happening!”
Xie Liao stood with his hands behind his back and looked at Xuan Hezhi helplessly.
Jiang Hong sighed and felt a little down.
Xie Liao said, “Here’s the thing. I want to see Jiang Hong’s recommendation letter for admission and his resume. I’ve already gotten his permission.”
“Oh, okay.” Xuan Hezhi breathed a sigh of relief. “Sure, I’ll pull it up for you. Um… is something wrong?”
Xie Liao gestured for Jiang Hong not to worry and invited him to join them in front of Xuan Hezhi’s computer to look at Jiang Hong’s personal resume.
The personal resume was divided into three parts, each very detailed. Even Jiang Hong himself had never seen it before. The first part was about the paranormal events he had encountered from birth until he was in his final year of high school at age eighteen. Amazingly, Jiang Hong had encountered them more than once, but why didn’t he remember? It was probably because the exorcists used a special method to erase his memory.
When he was four years old, Jiang Hong even stumbled upon a group of ghosts who were reportedly on a team building activity… Although his memory was erased by the exorcists, the psychological trauma remained, which might explain why Jiang Hong instinctively feared ghosts.
The second part was an analysis of his family lineage and qualifications, tracing back five generations and coincidentally ending at the fifth generation. As Xuan Hezhi had said, Jiang Hong’s great-grandfather was a feng shui master from Jiangsu who could communicate with the heavens and the earth. His life story was also included.
The third part was a evaluation written by the late Master Yiwei from Naping Laojun Cave in Chongqing. It said that Jiang Hong was gifted, intelligent, lively, highly adaptable, sympathetic, and had a strong sense of justice.
However, the column that should have listed Jiang Hong’s supernatural abilities was completely blank.
“Did we make a mistake somewhere?” Xie Liao asked in doubt.
Xuan Hezhi carefully looked it over. “Did Master Yiwei forget to evaluate his qualifications? The name and ID number are correct.”
At this moment, Jiang Hong’s phone received a message.
Lu Xiu: [I’m waiting for you in the cafeteria.]
“What’s the news?” Lu Xiu had finished his meal.
The entire university exuded an air of nouveau riche. The eight yuan cafeteria meal set included Hangjiao Beef Fillet, Sweet and Sour Pineapple Shrimp Balls, a large Matsutake Steamed Meat Cake, a bowl of Chicken Soup with Tea Tree Mushrooms, and a piece of Macaron for dessert.
Jiang Hong said, “Let me continue with my class first. Teacher Xie will discuss this matter with other teachers.”
Lu Xiu casually responded with an “mm-hmm.” Jiang Hong smiled to himself and began to eat his lunch, saying, “The food in school is really good.”
Lu Xiu didn’t respond to him, and Jiang Hong took out his phone and looked at it. His three roommates all sent the same message: “Dad, please bring me some food.”
He Jian: “Only vegetarian.”
Jiang Hong continued to eat silently. Suddenly, Lu Xiu spoke up, “Even if you don’t have spiritual vein aptitude, it doesn’t affect your ability to use magic. You can prepare some talismans and scrolls. There are also some special treasures in the world that can temporarily grant people the ability to borrow the power of the earth’s veins.”
“I’m not very frustrated.” Jiang Hong smiled. “And I’m not going to drop out, so don’t worry.”
Jiang Hong was gradually calming down. For the rest of the time in class today, he kept mulling over this matter. This meant that he might never be able to learn “magic,” but for Jiang Hong, who had just been introduced to spells for the first time, it didn’t seem too hopeless. It was like a person who couldn’t fly hearing that they couldn’t grow wings – they wouldn’t be too sad, at most just a little regretful. No, very regretful.
“There were many exorcists in ancient times,” Lu Xiu continued. “They didn’t know magic at all, but it didn’t stop them…”
“How did you find me?” Jiang Hong suddenly asked.
Lu Xiu: “?”
Jiang Hong remembered what Lu Xiu had mentioned before he lost his memory – the story about Feng Zheng. It was about 160 years ago, around 1870, during the time when the Boxer Rebellion had just broken out, China was still in the Tongzhi era, and Lenin had just been born.
How did Lu Xiu manage to find him after 160 years? How did he know that Jiang Hong was that person?
Lu Xiu said, “I have my ways.”
Jiang Hong curiously asked, “What ways?”
Lu Xiu’s face darkened and he asked, “Are you questioning me?”
Jiang Hong quickly clarified, “No, no! I’m just curious. How did you know that we would meet again after 160 years? During those 160 years, did I not reincarnate? Where was I?”
Lu Xiu stopped what he was doing and just looked at Jiang Hong in silence.
Jiang Hong muttered to himself, feeling a bit down: “That demon mentioned my uncle the other day… but I don’t have an uncle. After reading through my resume, I couldn’t help but wonder if something went wrong somewhere?”
Suddenly, Lu Xiu stood up and said, “I’m going back.”
“Ah.” Jiang Hong didn’t understand why Lu Xiu was so angry, but he instinctively felt that something was wrong. He wanted to stand up and pull Lu Xiu’s sleeve, but in a blink of an eye, Lu Xiu disappeared.
Jiang Hong stood there dumbfounded for a while, then sat back down and messaged Lu Xiu.
Jiang Hong: [I’m sorry, senior, I said the wrong thing. I’m a little scared. I’m afraid of everything now. What if, what if… I’m sorry! If I said something wrong, please scold me.]
For the first time ever, Lu Xiu didn’t reply to his message right away.
Jiang Hong waited for a while, then had to stand up and clean up his and Lu Xiu’s food trays, and buy food for his roommates. Walking back to the dormitory listlessly, he finally received a message from Lu Xiu. As expected, he couldn’t bear to stay mad at him.
Lu Xiu: [It’s not your fault. It’s my problem. Let me be alone for a while. I’m not angry. It’s normal to have this question.]
Jiang Hong breathed a sigh of relief and felt a little better, but still had some worries.
“Dads.” Jiang Hong carried the food box and went back to feed his three roommates who stayed up all night, knocking on the bed railing. “Food’s here, do you want me to pour it into the feeder for you?”
“Thank you, Dad!” The three roommates called out respectfully and got up to eat.
“What’s wrong?” He Jian asked Jiang Hong kindly, seeing that he looked a little off.
Jiang Hong waved his hand, indicating that everything was fine. In the afternoon class, his mood improved a bit. It was a big class called “Nature and Supernature”.
The whole dormitory acted together and sat in the third to last row of the classroom. The entire tiered classroom could accommodate more than eighty people. The teacher who came to class was an old man who also had a teaching portfolio in his hand.
“… Today we’re going to talk about nature and supernature.” The old teacher introduced himself, “My name is He Yongshun. ‘Yong’ as in forever, ‘Shun’ as in smooth. In this class, I will be taking attendance and randomly calling on three to five people, and checking homework. Attendance for the final exam will also be included in the final grade.”
“Some students think, isn’t this class just about supernatural abilities and phenomena? I’ve learned them at home before! Especially students from the demon tribe. They think, hey, I am a supernatural being! Let me tell you! You must not think like that…” He Yongshun said slowly on the podium. “This course will be the most solid foundation for your four years of study, whether it’s spells or magical artifacts, the study of the world’s veins, the potential of the demon tribe and humans, everything must be attributed to supernature… Regardless of your major or what kind of work you will do after graduation, treat it equally… You must have reverence…”
Jiang Hong said in despair, “How could he teach such a mysterious and exciting course and make it so boring! I’m falling asleep!”
He Jian also had a helpless expression. “It’s not as good as my grandma’s storytelling.”
“I’ll take a nap first,” Zhang Xiting said. “Call me when it gets important.”
Jin started reading a novel under the desk, while Jiang Hong opened his notebook, intending to take some notes, but the teacher’s lecture was too hypnotic. It seemed that learning anything was equally painful. Even the study of supernatural phenomena could be as sleep-inducing as calculus.
“The world’s veins are the pulse of the sky… the ‘Qi veins’ of the world…”
Jiang Hong first sent a bunch of apologies to Lu Xiu, but then he dared not send any more messages, afraid of disturbing him. After waiting for a long time, Lu Xiu finally sent a message.
Lu Xiu: [I forgot to remind you of something.]
Jiang Hong: [What? Are you feeling better?]
Lu Xiu’s side showed “typing”, as if he wrote and deleted a couple of times. After a full ten minutes, he finally sent another concise message: [My abilities have been sealed, and I can only transform into my true form for about five minutes every day. When you need to summon me, pay attention to the time.]
Jiang Hong didn’t know what to say and could only reply with an [Oh]. Lu Xiu stopped sending messages after that.
So the day he was in danger and had to summon Lu Xiu, did he fly from school to Chongqing? Xi’an to Chongqing was over 570 kilometers, and Lu Xiu flew this distance in five minutes, what was his average speed?
Over 1,900 meters per second?! That’s supersonic! Jiang Hong was shocked. Wouldn’t his face be distorted while flying like that? It’s all because of me being useless! Jiang Hong immediately started blaming himself again, but without the aptitude for magic, his aspirations of becoming an exorcist had become a pipe dream.
“That’s all for today’s class,” the teacher said. “Go back and answer the first two pages of the questionnaire. We’ll have a random check next class.”
The bell rang for the end of class, and everyone left the classroom with a pile of fluorescent yellow-covered “Supernatural Phenomena Research” books from the street vendor under the overpass, heading to the next class.
On the second class of Monday, “Exploration of the Inner World,” two classes of modern exorcism and management were combined, with a total of twenty students. Jiang Hong saw classmates from his own class, as well as Xiao Pi from the next dormitory.
Management is a popular major at this school. After graduation, most students joined the Exorcist Committee’s branches in various cities. Many of Jiang Hong’s classmates were also children of wealthy families. However, it seems that wealthy families were also divided into different levels, and everyone was obviously a bit more polite to He Jian.
The teacher’s name was Zhu Jinling, an elegant old lady dressed in jewels and clearly well-liked by her students. When she entered the classroom, everyone smiled.
Zhu Jinling wrote her name on the blackboard and said candidly, “Attention, everyone. My class is not easy to pass. Even if Cao Bin or Xiang Cheng come to plead with me, it won’t work. You all better study hard.”
“Ooh,” the students drew out their words.
Jiang Hong perked up, temporarily putting aside his worries and decided to take the class seriously.
Zhu Jinling smiled and said, “Although I am also a member of the demon race, don’t expect to get any preferential treatment from me. Everyone is equal, understood?”
“Understood!” the students responded.
This was the first time Jiang Hong had encountered someone who candidly admitted to being a demon, and he couldn’t help but have a good impression of this teacher.
“What kind of demon is she?” the skateboard youth sitting behind them poked He Jian with his pen.
Jiang Hong remembered his name was Lian Jiang, and that he was in the same class as him. At this point, he could probably summarize the pattern. The surnames and names of demons mostly used homophones or features of their race. He didn’t know if this was a conventional rule, but for example, He Jian’s “He” was a homophone for “crane,” and “Jin” meant “golden lion”. Was Chang Jun’s “Chang” corresponding to “long”? What about Xiao Pi?
“Don’t poke people with your pen!” He Jian whispered. “It’s rude! Her surname is Zhu. What kind of demon do you think she is?”
“Oh,” Jiang Hong thought, “is she a pheasant demon?” But he didn’t say it out loud, feeling that it was a bit impolite.
“She’s a crested ibis demon!” He Jian seemed to infer from Jiang Hong’s expression what he was thinking and whispered.
“Wow…” Jiang Hong said. “That’s really elegant.”
Xiao Pi said, “Jiang Hong, can’t you tell everyone’s race?”
Lian Jiang said, “I can’t tell either. I can only recognize you as demons. The rest I have to guess.”
“I see.” Xiao Pi wrote down his own race with a pen – “Pixiu (1)” – and showed it to Jiang Hong.
“In the first class,” Zhu Jinling said, “the first thing everyone must do is form groups. Each group must have two human members and two demon members. Don’t ask me why. That’s the school’s rule, and I can’t do anything about it. Anyway, you are free to form groups first. After that, the group leader reports the group name to me, and the entire semester’s assignments will be completed in groups.”
The classroom began to buzz with discussion. Jiang Hong suddenly felt a bit nervous. He entered the school as a normal person, with a blank slate for his past experiences. He hadn’t passed the aptitude test yet, and he couldn’t use magic. Oh no, will everyone despise me?
Jiang Hong looked nervously at He Jian and held his gaze for three seconds. Suddenly, he noticed that the teacher Zhu Jinling on the platform was also looking at him, with an encouraging expression in her eyes.
Three seconds later, He Jian suddenly became enthusiastic.
“Hey- Jiang Hong!” He Jian hugged him warmly. “We’re such good friends. You must be in the same group as me!”
Jiang Hong’s heart suddenly lifted. “Really? You’re willing to be with me? But I don’t know anything! I’ll just hold you back!”
He Jian elegantly replied, “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter! Come on! We’re a team now! Wherever you are, I’ll be there.”
“Ah…” Xiao Pi also reached out to call Jiang Hong softly, but after thinking about it for a while, he became timid and sighed instead.
“What about the rest of our teammates?” Jiang Hong asked.
He Jian said to Jiang Hong, “You can choose whoever you want.”
“No, no, no,” Jiang Hong said, “you…you choose. I’m just riding on your coattails. Xiao Pi?” He noticed that Xiao Pi and Lian Jiang were both looking at him.
He Jian whispered, “You have the final say. Choose whoever you want. Our team will be solid.”
“Really? Can I?” Jiang Hong turned to the hopeful Xiao Pi, saying, “Then let’s bring Xiao Pi with us. Lian Jiang, are you human? Oh, we have four people in our team now.”
“No problem!” He Jian said. “It’s decided! Let’s be happy about it!”
“Yeah!” Xiao Pi and He Jian high-fived, and Xiao Pi was so excited that he was about to cry.
“My final exams will be a breeze!” he exclaimed.
Lian Jiang didn’t know how he had won without trying, but he also didn’t know what was going on. After a moment, he whispered to Xiao Pi, “Is he really that strong? We just met him.”
Xiao Pi whispered back, “My dad said he can summon a graduate student!”
“Can’t you use a different unit of measurement than ‘head’ (2) to describe a graduate student?” Lian Jiang asked.
Xiao Pi added, “That graduate student is a dragon!”
“Is it Lu Xiu?!” Lian Jiang was shocked.
“Did you hear the dragon roar during military training?” Xiao Pi continued, “That was Lu Xiu! Summoned there by Jiang Hong.”
“That’s right!” Lian Jiang said, “I heard it…and I was wondering what it was!”
“What about Lu Xiu?” Jiang Hong vaguely heard the name and turned around to ask.
“It’s nothing!” Lian Jiang and Xiao Pi immediately pretended nothing was going on.
“Zhu Jingling also teaches us the Book of Changes in our sophomore year,” He Jian said. “Her class is really challenging and requires a lot of effort. Also, she is a teacher with a strong understanding of the Book of Changes, so you should never cheat because it’s easy to get caught.”
Jiang Hong asked, “Is she good at fortune-telling?”
He Jian nodded solemnly, “Yes! She is an expert in the Book of Changes and is one of the best at numerology.”
Lian Jiang said, “I’ve heard of her. Sometimes, even the school higher-ups come to her for fortune-telling.”
Next was the selection of group leaders, and everyone didn’t want to be a leader. Finally, Lian Jiang felt embarrassed about not taking any responsibility, so he applied for the position of group leader. Then, Zhu Jingling said, “The five group leaders come to me. I will give you your project for this semester.”
Lian Jiang went up and received an envelope.
Everyone gathered together and opened it to take a look.
Inside was a picture of a strange symbol, like a little person in pictograms.
“What is this?” The four people were confused.
“The symbol each group gets is a clue for your project this semester,” Zhu Jingling said. “If you are confident, you can skip classes and finish the final project early and go on holiday.”
Jiang Hong asked, “Is this a character or a logo for something?”
“What do we need to submit?” someone from another group asked. “Do we have to catch this demon for you?”
“It’s up to you to decide how to present your project,” Zhu Jingling said elegantly. “You can submit a research paper, a photo, or even capture the creature if you can. Of course, I will grade you based on the difficulty of execution. If you want to take it easy, don’t blame me if you fail and have to retake the class.”
“Can we ask for outside help?” someone else asked.
“You can ask anyone for help, including your parents,” Zhu Jingling said. “But I believe your parents won’t help because learning is your responsibility, right? And your parents may not be able to help much, and they might even make things worse.”
Jiang Hong was completely confused. Zhu Jinling continued, “Next, we will officially start class. Today, we will talk about the general outline, which is: how much unknown knowledge is there in the inner world?”
“As we all know, our knowledge system is like a circle. The larger the circle, the more areas outside of the circle we can touch, and it can be said to be endless. Some scholars believe that our research on the inner world that we can currently clarify is still less than 3%. One reason for this is that there are too few people engaged in the exorcism industry; secondly, this knowledge system was established much later than various social and natural professions, and even later than computers…”
“Based on the composition of the knowledge system, we can divide the outer structure of the known world into four major areas. The first area is the world of the afterlife, including souls, reincarnation, and mysterious powers that drive the cycle of life and death; the second is the origin of immortals, gods, and demons, also known as the ‘upper dimension’; the third area is the vast realm of spirit and dreams; and the fourth area is the ‘pocket dimension’ hidden under the natural world…”
Zhu Jinling marked the four major areas in the circle she drew on the blackboard, with “outer world” written in the middle, which was where they lived.
“Currently, our understanding of the pocket dimension is the deepest among the four areas…”
“Our school was built using the pocket dimension. Do you remember seeing blurry scenery on the mountain road for a period of time? That was the experience of entering a pocket dimension boundary. It’s not just this university. Exorcist Committee offices across the country and various branches of the International Exorcist Association use pocket dimension technology…”
Finally, they talked about the event that Jiang Hong experienced. The Chongqing Exorcist Committee was a building hidden in a pocket dimension! Later, the exorcists joined forces to capture demons and created a boundary on the river surface. Maybe it was similar.
Zhu Jinling’s class was very lively and interesting, and combined with her personal experiences. Time flew by without anyone realizing it. Jiang Hong took the assignment envelope and went to ask Zhu Jinling.
“This assignment was determined for you through divination,” Zhu Jinling said. “This includes the sequence you drew and the randomness involved. I can only tell you that the assignment itself has a certain connection with one or more classmates who are participating.”
Jiang Hong: “?”
Zhu Jinling spoke a little louder, addressing both Jiang Hong’s group and other students. “Don’t ask me how it’s related. I don’t know either. According to the hexagram, the research topic will have some degree of relevance to most people by the end, so we must be diligent.”
Well… Jiang Hong didn’t think the symbol had much to do with him at all. It probably had something to do with Lian Jiang and his group, but everyone was confused.
Jiang Hong stretched lazily, nearly forgetting his frustration from earlier in the day. A girl came over to invite He Jian to dinner, and he accepted, taking her with him. Xiao Pi went to find his father, Xuan Hezhi. Jiang Hong had something to do, so he bid farewell to Lian Jiang after forming a group of four with them, naming it “Four Missing One Waiting for a Dragon,” a normal name for a group.
Jiang Hong decided to go to the club department and see if Lu Xiu was there.
In the evening, the sun was setting, and the fencing club’s door was open. Many people were training in swordplay, but Jiang Hong couldn’t tell who was who, and the coach didn’t pay him any attention. He sat on the sidelines for a while.
A tall person facing his direction lost several points and took off his helmet to shake hands with his opponent. It was Lu Xiu.
Lu Xiu’s hair was soaked with sweat, but he didn’t see Jiang Hong. He went to sit on the bench on the other side and covered his head with a towel.
Jiang Hong felt like Lu Xiu had seen him but didn’t want to come over and say hello, so he took the initiative to bring him a drink.
Lu Xiu glanced at him, took the drink, twisted it open with his gloved left hand, and drank it in one gulp.
Jiang Hong sat down next to him, but Lu Xiu didn’t say anything, and neither did Jiang Hong.
It wasn’t until everyone had finished training and left for dinner that the fencing club was almost empty. Lu Xiu finally asked, “How was class?”
His tone was calm, and it didn’t seem like he blamed Jiang Hong. Until now, Jiang Hong still didn’t know why Lu Xiu was angry, but the best course of action was not to mention the incident from earlier.
“It was good.” Jiang Hong smiled, trying to please Lu Xiu. He took out a photocopy of the symbol from class and showed it to him. “Do you know what this is?”
Lu Xiu glanced at it and replied, “I haven’t seen it before.”
Jiang Hong smiled, and Lu Xiu got up to change clothes. Jiang Hong followed him like a little dog. When they arrived outside the changing room, Lu Xiu drew the curtain, and Jiang Hong helped him tidy up his fencing outfit and metal clothing, saying, “Let me wash it for you.”
Lu Xiu pulled back the curtain, reverting to his usual cold demeanor. He changed into a black T-shirt and loose jeans and looked at Jiang Hong.
“Leave it. I’ll wash it myself.” Lu Xiu said.
Jiang Hong eagerly put the item in his bag and said, “I’ll take it with me, and bring it back to you tomorrow.”
Lu Xiu always helped Jiang Hong, and Jiang Hong wanted to do something for him as well. He suggested, “Let’s go eat?”
Lu Xiu didn’t answer and walked ahead, with Jiang Hong following behind him.
At night, the campus was lit up, and there were couples everywhere in love.
1. Pixiu – a mythical creature in Chinese mythology that is believed to have protective and auspicious powers. It is depicted as a fierce-looking creature with the body of a lion and the head of a dragon or a dog, and has wings and horns. So Xiao Pi is actually supposed to be quite a powerful demon.
2. Unit of measurement – something like a flock or birds, a murder of crows. Xiao Pi used a “head” of graduate student to describe Lu Xiu.