Thirty Years of Demon Slaying at the Demon-Slaying Department - Chapter 17
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The bookkeeping monk’s name was Zhang Cheng.
He was perpetually drunk and always reeked of alcohol. The uniform he wore was so crumpled that it was highly possible that he had not washed it for a long time.
Judging from appearance alone, he was at least seventy years old.
If Zhang Cheng was just an ordinary man, then going by the standards of the Great Qian Dynasty, he would be considered a man blessed with longevity.
Upper-third-grade masters, whether they were from the orthodox Taoist sect or the unorthodox heretical sects, were more or less involved in the Way of Spirit Cultivation.
This was when the elusive soul with spirituality would transform into a Yin-God with a physical form. At first, it would only be able to come out at night, but later on, it would also gain the ability to be active in the day. It was said that spirits and souls of the first-grade realm were basically no different from ordinary people.
The body would nourish the soul, while the soul would reciprocate to the body, and the life expectancy of this being would be at least three to five hundred years.
Life expectancy was closely related to the method of cultivation. Generally speaking, the average life expectancy of those who followed the Way of God was the longest, followed by those who followed the Way of Buddha, and those of the Way of Martial Arts. The Path of Demons had the shortest life expectancy.
The Way of Martial Arts was considered a heretical sect. It emphasized the strength of the physical body and placed little importance on the soul. Its threshold of cultivation was low, as well. If one did not concurrently cultivate to be a Yin-God via the Tao, or if one did not have any Buddhist relics, then by simply cultivating the Way of Martial Arts alone, the life expectancy of one in the upper-third-grade realm would at most be 150 years.
Those who cultivated the Path of Demons were considered to have short lives as well, but not for the same reason as the Way of Martial Arts. They were always fighting and killing enemies everywhere they went, so there would come the day where they would make a careless decision and pay dearly with their lives.
In a world where demons and monsters, ghosts and ghouls, were everywhere, there were many ways for one to stay alive. Masters of the Way of Martial Arts could always choose to cultivate in the Way of Ghosts.
Zhou Yi felt that Zhang Cheng exuded an aura of magic powers, so there was a higher possibility that he was from the orthodox Taoist Sect.
The Taoist Sect method was best for anyone intent on cultivating body and mind. Attaining eternal youth for upper-third-grade masters was nothing difficult. But surprisingly, Zhang Cheng was trembling and tottering. It seemed as though he would drop dead any moment.
Zhou Yi was guessing that either this was done on purpose or his life expectancy of hundreds of years was soon coming to an end.
“Our logistics department doesn’t have too many rules to adhere to. The task of a clerk is to record the demon materials that are sent to the warehouse every day.”
Zhang Cheng walked ahead of Zhou Yi to lead the way. From time to time, he would introduce the sections that they passed by, for instance, the skin and fur section, the claws and teeth section, the ears and eyes section, the foreign bodies section…
There were one or two officials assigned to every section and most of them would be busy penning records with their heads buried in their books. However, when they saw Zhang Cheng, they would still take a minute away from their books to greet him. These were clearly the veteran officials of the logistics department.
“Our office is located in a relatively remote area. We belong to the Five Internal Organs Section. Our job is to divide and sort the different internal organs of the demons into the right categories so that we can put them into our record books.”
Zhou Yi almost thought he had come to some underground black hospital. Fortunately, the demon materials were stored and sealed in special boxes tailor-made for that purpose. This prevented the repulsive stench of blood from pervading the air. If not, this place would have become an underground slaughterhouse.
A large proportion of the workforce at the logistics department is comprised mostly of storeroom officials and coroners. The former was responsible for the custody of materials, while the latter was responsible for the fine processing of materials in storage.
The total number of officials here was not even half that of the total number of executioners working in the torture rooms of the prison. But all the officials here were quite strong, with everyone at least in the middle-third-grade realm when it came to the cultivation of Qi.
From the demon’s memory, Zhou Yi learned that someone of middle-third-grade rank would be called a master by the locals of a county, with such a resounding reputation that anyone would gasp at the mere mention of his name. But in the logistics department, someone of the middle-third-grade could only be a petty errands official.
Zhang Cheng brought Zhou Yi around the place so that Zhou Yi could roughly know his way around. He also told Zhou Yi a few things about the places that were out of bounds, important rules to adhere to, and then finally led him back.
The Five internal Organs Section was just a small room but it was filled with many booklets, many of which had accumulated thick layers of dust.
Zhang Cheng handed a pile of booklets to Zhou Yi and said, “Now, let’s get down to work. This is yesterday’s accounts that were sent here by the coroners’ section. We have to sort these into the right categories and then transcribe accordingly. This will make it convenient for us when there are future inquiries to address.
“The classification method is simple. You just have to follow the order of the first word of the names in The Catalogue of All Demons, then record it into the ledger of the Five internal organs….”
Zhang Cheng only needed to explain once and Zhou Yi immediately understood what he had to do, which was mostly to record the daily storage of demon materials in alphabetical order.
In the future, when there was a need to refine certain elixirs and weapons, or when there was a need to know which cooking methods – for instance, frying or decocting – should be used, they could quickly flip through the records. Then, according to information like the type of organ, time of entry into the storage facility, or name of the demon race, etc., they could easily locate the exact position of required material in the warehouse storage facility.
This was a very mundane and time-consuming job.
Zhou Yi was puzzled and asked, “Lord Zhang, how come I don’t see any place allocated for our accommodation and meals?”
“We are officials of the logistics section under the Great Qian Dynasty’s Demon Slaying Department. As formal officials, how could we be assigned to live in torture rooms that were originally meant for imprisonment purposes?”
Zhang Cheng said, “For meals, you can go to the canteen of the Demon Slaying Department, but there is no accommodation provided. It is not easy to maintain a living in the capital. With the salary you earn, you will need at least fifty years before you can afford a place with a small courtyard.”
The monthly salary of an official holding a clerical position was around a thousand copper coins. In the eyes of ordinary people, this was, no doubt, a high salary.
“After spending ten years in communal sleeping quarters, do you still want to go back to living in a civilian shanty?”
A civilian shanty was comprised of straw huts built by the court to provide free lodging for the homeless. This was a measure to prevent them from roaming all over the place, making it hard to keep them under control.
Back when he was still a commoner living in the outside world, the civilian shanty was Zhou Yi’s only means of accommodation. It remained that way for him until he saw that the Demon Slaying Department had opened positions for recruitment. Later, he managed to pass several tests and eventually signed a contract to sell himself to the Demon Slaying Department.
Zhang Cheng said, “You can put up at the dormitory of the prison. You’ve gotten used to living there anyway.”
Zhou Yi let out a bitter laugh and said, “Lord Zhang, you got to be kidding. I’d rather lie in my bed on the streets and gaze at the moon and stars as I go to sleep.”
Zhang Cheng laughed heartily, and then, lowering his voice, he said, “I’m just fooling around with you, kiddo. I will lend you two thousand copper coins. You will have to make do with this for your first month here. By then, you will know the benefits of working here in the logistics department.”
There was a confused look on Zhou Yi’s face, but Zhang Cheng did not give him the chance to ask questions. He simply felt around for a wine gourd and downed a few mouthfuls. Then, he found a comfortable position to lie on the ground.
“This old man here is feeling a little tired. You are young and strong, so you should hurry up and get to work. If we are just a tad behind in transcription, the chief secretary will definitely reprimand and punish us.”
Zhou Yi was in no hurry to start writing. First, he combed through and sorted out the pile of ledgers. Then he looked through the content of the previous records made by Zhang Cheng and compared the different formats.
Zhang Cheng had beautiful handwriting. The strokes of his characters were written with very fluid movements, and the characters were elegant and had good proportions. This was the result of the long time he had spent writing.
There was only one problem to find fault with. It was probably because he was always spending the second half of each day rushing to wrap up the entire day’s work, but his handwriting went from an elegant semi-cursive script to fully cursive handwriting. And, finally, it became so terrible that it was simply illegible.
Pages and pages of ~~～～~~～symbols.
“No wonder the chief secretary repeatedly admonished me not to pick up the habit of drinking.”
Zhou Yi had a photographic memory and could remember anything that he laid eyes on, even if it was just a glimpse, so he quickly knew what should be done and how he should go about doing his work.
The job of a clerical official was to sort out and organize the text catalog before transcribing and recording. It had nothing to do with the study of mathematics.
Zhang Cheng’s snores were heard coming from inside the Five Internal Organs Section. Even in this dark and gloomy underground room, he was able to sleep so soundly. He had really proven himself to be an upper-third-grade master.
Time flew by.
Zhou Yi was done sorting out all 785 demon materials that were sent to the Five Internal Organs Section yesterday. He was also done organizing them into the right categories. He started to flip through the older ledgers.
These ledgers were the original records sent over to them by the coroners. The clerical officials would hand them over after they completed the categorization of records. The storeroom officials would store the ledgers according to the entry records as a way of safekeeping them.
“Soul-devouring bugs, able to penetrate the human’s brain, devour the spirit and soul, control the body and flesh, and live just like a human, and yet it has actually kept its tracks hidden for decades.
“True-bred dragons are lurking about the Great Qian Dynasty. For most of the half-dragons in the Great Qian Dynasty’s territory, tracing their roots would lead one back to the same ancestor, just one dragon can multiply into one clan. Awesome!
“The demon king of Black Wind Mountain turned out to be a half-demon. This was only discovered after a coroner was testing the bloodline attributes of the son of this demon king, who died in the hands of the Demon Slaying Department….”
The oldest records of these booklets dated back to events that occurred hundreds of years ago. The number of demons killed in the Demon Slaying Department was really immeasurable, but still, they were not enough to fill the entire Demon Refining grotto.
Many different races of demons proved to be real eye-openers for Zhou Yi. In the future, he would also know how to deal with them if he ever crossed paths with any.
“Oh, what a good rest…”
Zhang Cheng slowly opened his eyes and stretched lazily.
Zhou Yi pretended not to know that Zhang Cheng was actually faking being asleep and handed over the booklet he had completed.
“Lord Zhang, you’re awake. This is the ledger for today’s records. Will you take a look and see if there is anything wrong with it?”
“Hmm? You’re actually done? Let me take a look.”
Zhang Cheng flipped through the ledger and randomly selected a few entries to cross-check. He did not find any problems with the job done and praised Zhou Yi, saying, “Not bad. Not bad. From now on, you shall be responsible for transcribing and recording, and I will do the proofreading.”
Zhou Yi was not really bothered by this. If it were not for the fact that he had to control his writing speed so that he would not be discovered by Zhang Cheng, who was pretending to sleep, he would have used his magic powers to manipulate both paper and pen. Then, the task would be done in a second.
“You write pretty well. Who did you learn from?”
“I was imitating your handwriting, Lord Zhang. This is why the characters look similar but are still lacking in essence and life. I’d love to receive guidance from you shortly, Sir.”
According to his personnel records, Zhou Yi was known as someone with exquisite technique and high-precision skills in the Demon Slaying Department. He had extremely nimble and flexible wrists, so for him to perform such a menial task of imitating someone else’s handwriting, was really a complete waste of talent.
“Very good. I do think highly of you, yeah!”
The transcribing and recording tasks for the day were completed ahead of schedule. Zhang Cheng led Zhou Yi over to the storeroom department, where the ledger was handed over to the officer-in-charge, Official Wang.
“Two thousand copper coins. If you use them sparingly, they should be able to last you up till the end of the month. Remember to pay me back next month.”
Zhang Cheng was humming an unknown tune, shaking his head to the rhythm as he walked along the tunnel to get to the opening of the underground cave.
Zhou Yi followed in his wake. There was a complicated look on his face as he caught sight of the rays of the sun whilst approaching the exit of this underground tunnel. The feeling he had was so unfamiliar yet still foreign.
“After ten years, I am finally out!”