Volume 1: Lunatic | Chapter 1

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After every huge fire, there will survive some mole crickets and ants.

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  After every huge fire, there will survive some mole crickets and ants*. — Epigraph

*"Mole crickets and ants" is also an idiom referring to powerless individuals.

  Outskirts of Yong'an Capital City, Xishan Nature Reserve

  The red leaves on the hillside had more or less fallen after some autumnal rains. There were few visitors in the evening, and only the sound of a lonesome evening drum from the small temple could be heard. Even though the day was very cool, on the way up the hill, Xuan Ji's whole body broke out in a hot sweat —— Director Xiao, who was leading the way, was walking very quickly in front of him. He seemingly had two flaming wheels underneath his feet that made him skate and run like the wind; they kept rolling until they reached the back door of the small hilltop temple.

  Director Xiao opened the door. Xuan Ji finally took a deep breath, put his hands on his waist, and said flippantly, "Say, Director Xiao, in any case, we're government officials now, can we be a little bit more elegant? I was afraid all the time, fearing you would take a wrong step and do splits on the spot."

  "Cut the crap, I still have things to do later." Xiao Zheng opened the door and impatiently waved at him. "Hurry up!"

  Director Xiao, full name Xiao Zheng, was 30 years old. He was dressed meticulously in his uniform; he had sharp features and looked like an attractive young man who wasn't easy to mess with. He quickly picked up his steps through the employee passage of the small temple, leading Xuan Ji straight to the backyard with "No Visitors Allowed." There was no one in the backyard, and there was only an old well. Director Xiao felt his wallet with his hand, took out the work permit, and shook it towards the mouth of the well. "Bring your ID when you go to the office in the future, shake the card in front of the well when you enter or exit."

  As soon as his voice fell, they heard a light echoing 'ding' coming from the well, and immediately after, the limestone tiles around the well slowly separated to both sides, revealing a tunnel that was enough for one person to pass through.

  Director Xiao bowed his head and went in, and Xuan Ji caught up with him at once. The two men changed directions frequently and walked about a hundred meters. At the tunnel's end, there was a row of stone stairs going up. Following the stone stairs and returning to the surface, Xuan Ji found himself in a thick forest. Before he could see clearly, a thick fog rose up in his surroundings, and his visibility was rapidly reduced to less than a meter. Then a white light came out of the forest, swept over the two men, and a mechanical voice said, "Authentication in process, please wait—— Ding! Authentication passed. Director Xiao, good evening. Welcome new colleague, please watch your feet, and support yourself."

  Xuan Ji: "Huh? Support what?"

  As he spoke, the ground under his feet suddenly moved. Xuan Ji was caught off guard, and from then on, could only try to stand firmly. The ground between the thick forest changed into a huge "conveyor belt," carrying the two men through a thick maze-like fog at lightning speed. The plants hidden behind the thick fog turned into afterimages; it truly made a person dazzled. Approximately about five or six minutes later, the "conveyor belt" slowly reduced its speed and stopped. 

  Xiao Zheng said, "Here we are."

  As the thick fog cleared up, Xuan Ji narrowed his eyes and looked up at the grand building in front of them. After a pause, he breathed out slowly and said, "Magnificent!"

Lie Huo Jiao Chou/烈火浇愁 by priest (English Translation)Where stories live. Discover now