PG Chapter 87: Urgent summons

Arc Six: Nameless Burial Mound

Zhang Lan drew in a deep breath before she let out a dry chuckle and began to reply.

But her reaction caused the person on the other end of the call to start panicking. “Don’t laugh, Lan-jie!”

Zhang Lan: “…”

I’m not. Can’t you tell I’m about to fucking cry?

There were a thousand different things she wanted to say in return, but under Zhou Xu’s attentive gaze, she swallowed all of them back down.

However, the idiot on the phone thought that she wasn’t taking it seriously, and he continued to vow loudly and earnestly, “It’s true, I’m not trying to trick you, Lan-jie! The name register mural is right there—as soon as you see it, you’ll know I’m not kidding. We just got back from a round of night patrol when we saw that that section of the mural was lit up. We didn’t even turn on the lights yet! I swear by the heavens that we didn’t see it wrong—”

In the middle of that guy’s speech, another voice interjected. “I swear on it too. Really, Lan-jie, all of us saw it—there’s no way we were mistaken! Wasn’t there a theory about this? If an ancestor’s name suddenly lights up, it means that something bad is going to happen to that ancestor’s branch, because the ancestor foresees a calamity and is trying to warn their descendants. Didn’t our family’s ancestor warn us a few times as well? Of course, you must already know that.”

Almost everyone knew that, not just Zhang Lan. There were even a few elders who had personally witnessed it before—it had been several decades since the last time something like this had happened with the name register mural. Not too long after the warning, the person appointed to be the next Zhang family head, Zhang Yanshan, met his end in a cage vortex and perished.

Zhang Yanshan was Zhang Lan’s father.

The person on the phone didn’t dare to elaborate further, as it would inevitably bring up sad memories. Instead, he said with concern, “I don’t know what it looked like in the past when it lit up, but it really was super eye-catching this time. The venerable ancestor Bu Ning died over a thousand years ago, so his name is written in vermilion—when it lit up, it seemed almost as if it was on fire.”

“And that venerable ancestor doesn’t have any descendants, that’s the scariest thing!”

“Yeah, exactly! Because he didn’t have any disciples at the time of his death, his branch ended with his own name, and there aren’t any other names listed behind his. In that case, who is this warning meant for?! That idiot Da Dong said that it was meant for everyone, but if that’s true, how terrible is it going to be?! Hey! Where’s Da Dong? Da Dong, come over here and say something, why are you just standing there in front of the mural?”

A burst of noise came from the other end of the call, mostly the sound of hurried footsteps; he was probably walking towards Da Dong.

They were all extremely worked up. As a result, their voices were also astonishingly loud and projected quite far. If even Zhang Yalin, who was sitting in the passenger seat, could hear the entire exchange perfectly, Zhou Xu could definitely hear it as well, considering he was right next to Zhang Lan.

He sat there with one leg hiked over the other, openly and blatantly listening to the conversation.

All of a sudden, his expression froze for a second in the middle of the call. Then he put his leg down and switched to a more refined way of sitting as he said, “My sincerest apologies for eavesdropping.”

He looked at Zhang Lan and pointed at her phone. “I have never encountered such an unusual item before. Hence, it took me some time to understand the situation. Forgive me for my rudeness.”

Great Lady Zhang spotted her chance to hang up the phone, but just as she was about to hastily seize the opportunity given to her by Bu Ning—

The person next to her unexpectedly froze again. Immediately after, his tone of voice switched to something more matter-of-fact. “It’s not rude, how can that be considered rude? They’re talking about you, after all, so why can’t you listen? Auntie, don’t hang up, let me hear what else they have to say. Also, don’t switch places with me so abruptly like that. It makes me dizzy, I might end up throwing up in here.”

Zhang Lan: “…”

I fucking swear…

But before she could swear anything, the person on the other end of the call started shouting again. This time, his voice really did crack—

“Oh shit Lan-jie you won’t believe what just happened!”

Squeezing her eyes shut, Her Great Ladyship averted her head away from her phone as if it had burned her.

Zhang Yalin sat stiffly in the passenger seat, one hand covering his face.

The voices of Da Dong and the others echoed through the car. “The flames are gone and it’s not lit up anymore, but the venerable ancestor Bu Ning’s name is black now… it turned black, Lan-jie! Vermilion is for the dead, and black is for the living. Why would the name of someone who’s been dead for over a thousand years suddenly turn black?”

Indeed.

He’s currently sitting right next to me listening to you speak. Why don’t you ask him?

Zhang Lan rubbed her face forcefully. Then, after tossing a few parting words to Da Dong and the rest, she promptly hung up the phone.

She said: “Because he’s alive again.”

Those four brief words were enough to send every living person listed on the name register mural—over a hundred families in total, large and small—into a frenzy.

As the prodigies of their generation, Zhang Lan and Zhang Yalin were in touch with every family on the mural, and they had a seemingly endless number of contacts saved in their phones.

Old and young alike, everyone had grown used to reaching out to the Zhang siblings as soon as something happened.

At that moment, countless calls began to flood in simultaneously, overloading Zhang Lan and Zhang Yalin’s phones to the point that they automatically shut down. Consequently, the first thing the siblings did upon restarting their phones was put them in do-not-disturb mode.

After they finished doing that, they looked up and instantly received a shock—

Xie Wen and Wen Shi were standing next to the car. One was relaxed and unbothered, the other cool and indifferent… but both were observing the ongoing chaos.

Zhang Lan abruptly remembered the rumors that she had overheard throughout the years. She wasn’t sure about anything else, but the part about Chen Budao personally raising Wen Shi definitely had to be true.

Looking at those two great buddhas that they couldn’t seem to shake off…

She felt like she was going to suffocate.

***

Since they had guests present, Lu Xiao and his wife originally turned down their neighbor Huanzi’s invitation to see what was happening by the river. However, their guests unexpectedly offered on their own, “Let’s go take a look. Maybe we’ll know them.”

Upon arriving at the river, the couple saw that the car stuck on the riverbank also had a Ningzhou license plate.

“You really do know them?” Old Man Lu asked.

Xie Wen nodded. “Yes, they arrived right after us.”

His answer was worded quite cleverly—it almost sounded as if they were traveling on a road trip together.

Both husband and wife were the enthusiastic type, and they immediately pushed aside the other locals surrounding the vehicle. After a round of pulling and tugging, the Zhang siblings were dragged out of the car.

Zhang Lan’s face was twitching from having to keep up her smile as she attempted to decline Old Man Lu Xiao’s magnanimous hospitality. “No need, no need, we couldn’t possibly trouble you like that—there are so many rest stops along the highway, we can just pick one and fill up our stomachs there. And we aren’t even hungry right now.”

Lu Xiao tried to persuade her. “There’s still some distance between here and the nearest rest stop, and you have to drive on a dirt road part of the way to get there. It’s not easy to drive on that road at night. Your friends are already staying the night with us, so what’s the rush?”

Zhang Lan was baffled. “Our friends?”

Lu Xiao turned to point at Xie Wen and Wen Shi.

Zhang Lan: “…”

Who would dare to claim them as their friends???

But at the same time, they didn’t dare to not claim them.

“These two anc—” Zhang Yalin shot a glance at Lu Xiao and his wife before he cut himself off in the middle of calling them “ancestors.” Tentatively, he asked, “Is there a matter that would require us to stay the night?”

He and Zhang Lan were both intelligent people. They actually knew very well why those two ancestors were staying the night, and why they wanted them to stay too. It was undoubtedly because they didn’t want them to go back and tell everyone that the people listed at the very beginning of the name register mural had come back to life—at least not yet.

Perhaps it was purely because they didn’t want to be bothered, or perhaps they had some other misgivings as well.

Either way, they didn’t want them to spill anything.

But the siblings obviously couldn’t promise that.

The oldest ancestors had returned from the dead; how could they possibly hide something like that and not say a word about it to anyone else?

If it was just one ancestor, then maybe.

However, this revival spawned a whole group, and most importantly… that group included Chen Budao.

For a thousand years, none of the families dared to even think about the honorable founder. This was especially true for the Zhang family. After all—apart from Wen Shi, Bu Ning, and the other direct disciples—the Zhang family had contributed the most to sealing away Chen Budao back then.

After the sealing, all of the direct disciples perished or vanished one after another, and the Zhang family ended up becoming the branch with the most renown among the remaining panguan. When the siblings first heard stories of the past, they hadn’t thought much of it, but now that they had personally met the figures from the legends, both of them felt like there was clearly something strange written all over this.

In such a situation, as the two people with the most authority out of the Zhang family’s younger generation, they naturally had to be a little more cautious.

They didn’t want to stir up any trouble for their family, nor did they wish to offend the ancestors. As a result, they had no choice but to play dumb and run in circles, pretending not to understand.

This strategy was usually relatively effective, and it was the most tactful way of giving both parties some leeway.

But when it came to the ancestors, it was truly no use whatsoever.

Smiling leisurely, Xie Wen said, “I can tell from your expressions that there’s no need to ask that question, that you both know. In that case, let’s just treat it as if you both know everything. Surely, you can’t be dumb to have reached such a high rank on the name register mural.”

“…”

Zhang Yalin doubled down and said, “When my sister and I were practicing our spellcasting and puppetry skills, we liked to strive for perfection, which is why our ranks are just a tiny bit higher than other people’s. But we are still rather dumb most of the time.”

They had interacted a few times with Xie Wen before in the past, and they knew that the other person didn’t like to engage in deep conversation; he would often only touch on a topic and leave it at that. If you doggedly refused to admit something, he couldn’t be bothered to waste his time bickering about it.

And because of that, this matter would most likely be dropped.

That was what Zhang Yalin was betting on.

However, there was someone else with Xie Wen this time.

That someone was Wen Shi, an ancestor who was terrifyingly blunt. He looked at Zhang Yalin and said, without sugarcoating it in the slightest, “Who are you planning to tell about us?”

Fuck.

Zhang Yalin responded internally.

Wen Shi heard a low, faint chuckle come from the person standing next to him. It ruined the atmosphere quite a bit, and he leveled a look at him.

“Don’t glare at me.” Xie Wen fixed his expression cooperatively before he lifted his chin, indicating that Wen Shi should glare at the Zhang siblings in front of them instead.

Wen Shi withdrew his gaze, but just as he was about to continue interrogating Zhang Yalin, Xie Wen spoke again. Without looking away from the Zhang siblings, Xie Wen said in a voice that only Wen Shi could hear, “If you stare for too long, I might also start to stain1.”

Wen Shi: “…”

He was sure of it now: this person was messing with him.

“Stop talking,” he muttered out of the corner of his mouth. Then he said to Zhang Yalin, “Don’t play dumb, I’m asking you a question.”

Zhang Yalin said awkwardly, “That wasn’t my intention.”

“Then what was your intention?” Wen Shi asked.

“…”

Zhang Yalin felt like he was about to go bald.

Xie Wen tilted his head towards Wen Shi and said to Zhang Yalin, “When he’s determined to get to the bottom of something, not even I can hold my own against him. You should just give up.”

Zhang Yalin searched vainly for another way out, but in the end, he was forced to say, “Don’t worry, we won’t say anything.”

As if to prove that he was telling the truth, his phone immediately started to vibrate.

Zhang Yalin rejected the call without even checking who it was from. However, only a few seconds later, it began to vibrate again.

After he rejected it three times in a row…

Zhang Lan’s phone rang.

Her Great Ladyship glanced at it and saw “Grandpa” written across the screen. Although she hesitated a little, she eventually answered the call.

Right after she said “hello,” a young man’s voice sounded from the other end; his intonation was a bit flat. “Your grandfather is summoning you to the main residence for urgent business.”

Both she and Zhang Yalin recognized that voice: it belonged to a puppet named Ah Qi that was often at Zhang Zhengchu’s side. Their grandfather wasn’t actually the creator of the puppet—it had been passed down from the earliest generation of the Zhang family, accompanying countless family heads and surviving all the way until now.

Precisely because of this long-lived puppet, many people believed that it was truly a bit of a waste for the Zhang family’s ancestor to have only been an outer disciple back in the day—that it had squandered an exceptional talent. If he was a direct disciple, perhaps he would have reached an even higher level of puppetry or array-casting.

“I probably won’t be able to go back tonight.” Zhang Lan glanced at Xie Wen and Wen Shi.

“You must.” Ah Qi said, “It is of utmost importance.”

Zhang Lan: “I know, but I can’t leave for the time being.”

Ah Qi: “Is there something troublesome?”

Zhang Lan: “Mn…”

Ah Qi: “What can be more troublesome than Bu Ning-laozu coming back to life?”

Zhang Lan: “…”

Well.

For example, Chen Budao and Wen Shi have also come back to life.

And they won’t let us leave.

And they’re listening to this call.

Zhang Lan wished that the puppet could read her mind, but unfortunately, that was impossible. She had no choice but to keep making up vague, evasive excuses until the puppet finally pulled away from the phone and inquired quietly of someone nearby.

She could faintly hear her grandpa Zhang Zhengchu’s voice: hoarse and aged, but still quite severe. 

Ah Qi returned to the phone and said, “Your grandfather has acquiesced. However, it is imperative that you return tomorrow.”

Someone suddenly sneezed near Zhang Lan.

Ah Qi asked, “Is there someone else with you? I can tell that wasn’t Yalin.”

Zhang Lan thought, There are, in fact, many people with me…

But because Xie Wen and Wen Shi were both watching her, she shot a look at the person who sneezed and responded to Ah Qi not untruthfully, “Mhm, Zhou Xu. He left with us.”

Ah Qi let out an “oh” and said, “Then you should come together tomorrow.”

Zhang Lan: “Together with who???”

Ah Qi: “Xiao Xu. Your grandfather said that everyone must come, no exceptions allowed.”

Zhang Lan: “…”

“There is still much to discuss regarding this sudden return to life. Considering how abnormal the situation is, there must be something darker at play, even if this is Bu Ning-laozu. No one is planning on sleeping tonight—all of the families are rushing towards Ningzhou right now. Your grandfather is going to talk to everybody and decide how to deal with this.”

Zhang Lan: “…”

Are you planning on discussing how to screw over Bu Ning right in front of his face?

But that wasn’t the end of it. Ah Qi continued, “Haven’t you and Yalin been getting closer to those two Shen family disciples lately? Bring them along too.”

Zhang Lan was already at her breaking point.

She opened and closed her mouth quite a few times before she finally said, “I just have one question.”

Ah Qi: “Yes.”

Zhang Lan hammered the nail into her coffin. “Are you planning on summoning Xie Wen too?”


Translation Notes

  1. Reference to the last chapter when XW was teasing WS for blushing so much. ^
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