Striving for Science Chapters List

Chapter 35: The One Path for Humanity to Escape

Watching as Grandpa Zhang suddenly took out a bottle containing some unknown liquid, poured it onto his fingertips and was about to smear it on his eyelids, Shen Changan was startled. "Grandpa Zhang, what are you doing?"

“Amitabha, Daoist Zhang, your mind is not calm.” Master Yan Yin stepped out from behind Grandpa Zhang and pressed his palms together to greet Shen Changan. "It’s been a few days since we last met, and Benefactor Shen has grown even more handsome.”

"You Buddhists preach about the purity of the six senses," Grandpa Zhang sneered. "How is it that you’re so unrestrained when flattering someone?"

"Daoist Zhang, you misunderstand. Every word this humble monk said is true, with no intent of flattery," Master Yan Yin smiled kindly at Shen Changan. "Benefactor Shen is brimming with spiritual energy, seeing him is like being bathed in the spring breeze. He looks very much like the spiritual child before the Buddha..."

“Hmph.” Grandpa Zhang snorted, pulling Master Yan Yin behind him. He said to Shen Changan, “There is a soul that doesn't want to reincarnate attached to your foot, but don't be afraid. It's not malevolent. I'll let you see it.”

"Wait a minute," Shen Changan lifted his foot, bringing up the geeky ghost hanging onto him. "You mean this one?"

Grandpa Zhang's smile froze, and he angrily turned his head to look at Zhang Gu. “Did you help him open his third eye?”

Seeing his martial uncle's furious expression, Zhang Gu quickly shook his head. “It wasn't me, it wasn't me. He can see them by himself.”

"Impossible!" Master Zhang couldn't help but say, "Shen Changan has the constitution of someone with ten lifetimes of merit. After reaching adulthood, because of his physique he is not able to see ghosts or evil spirits. Unless they cultivate the entity, they are no different from air in front of Shen Changan. How could he possibly see them?"

"But..." Zhang Gu whispered, "He just casually saw it like that."

Both Master Yan Yin and Grandpa Zhang's expressions grew serious. Grandpa Zhang put away the cow tears, then glanced at Shen Changan and Zhang Gu, “You two, come inside first.”

"Master, can I also come in by any chance?" The homebody ghost clung to Shen Changan's leg, trembling.

Grandpa Zhang frowned and looked at Zhang Gu. “What's going on?”

Zhang Gu explained the situation, emphasizing that the homebody ghost not only did no harm but also helped living people with product marketing on the internet.

"A ghost still helping the living, how bizarre is that?" Grandpa Zhang muttered under his breath, allowing the homebody ghost inside.

The homebody ghost rolled onto the floor and continued clinging to Shen Changan's leg. Although the golden light emanating from this big shot was blinding to ghosts, as long as the big shot didn’t intend to eradicate him, hugging his ankles made the geeky ghost's soul feel more solidified.

“Let's sit down and talk.” Grandpa Zhang instructed Master Yan Yin to brew some tea, then turned to Shen Changan. "We'll discuss this ghost later. For now, I want to talk about your constitution."

"My constitution... is quite good." Faced with Grandpa Zhang's serious expression, Shen Changan couldn't help but become serious as well.

“When did you start seeing ghosts?”

“I don’t know.” Shen Changan shook his head. “Unless I look very closely, I can't distinguish ghosts from people so I have no idea if I've seen ghosts before."

"But theoretically, you shouldn't see ghosts after reaching adulthood," Grandpa Zhang shook his head. "Something must have gone wrong."

“Is it a serious problem?”

“I don’t know.” Grandpa Zhang remained silent for a while before shaking his head again. His expression was grave. "The records on those with ten lifetimes of cultivated merit don't mention a situation like yours. However, the golden light of virtue on you and your ability to deter ghosts are exactly the same as those of someone with ten lifetimes of accumulated virtue. I can't think of anyone else with a constitution like this.”

The homebody ghost couldn’t help but speak up, “Could he be a reincarnation of a Buddha or an immortal?”

"This... departed soul makes a valid point," Master Yan Yin came out with tea and fruit. "Perhaps Benefactor Shen is the reincarnation of a Buddha?"

“Don’t mislead the young man. If he were truly a reincarnation of a Buddha, he would have shown interest in Buddhism from a young age and wouldn't be able to bear to harm any living being.” Grandpa Zhang dismissed Master Yan Yin’s speculation. “He’s not the reincarnation of a Buddha, nor could he be the reincarnation of an immortal."

"Why couldn't he be the reincarnation of an immortal?" Zhang Gu was puzzled. Some ancient texts told tales of immortals reincarnating as humans and eventually attaining enlightenment again. Why couldn't Shen Changan be one of them?

“In ancient texts, it’s noted that people often summoned deities to expel demons. However, in the past century, no one in our entire metaphysical community has succeeded in summoning a deity,” Grandpa Zhang sighed. “Perhaps the gods have long since fallen, and even if they still exist, they no longer intervene in mortal affairs. How could they possibly reincarnate as humans? This isn’t some mythological TV series."

Under the probing gazes of Grandpa Zhang and Master Yan Yin, Shen Changan felt a bit of a backache from sitting too long. He glanced at his watch. "How about we resolve the ghost issue first?"

Regardless of whether he had the constitution of the Ten Lifetimes of Merit or not, he had managed just fine for the past twenty-odd years. There was no rush to discuss it right now. It would be better to resolve the matter of the ghost quickly so he could hurry back to have lunch with Dao Nian.

Grandpa Zhang sighed and looked at the homebody ghost. “Tell me your name, birth date, and place of birth.”

Seeing that the master had no intention of exterminating him, the homebody ghost readily provided his details: "The day I was born, it was snowing heavily.” Mentioning his own birth experience, the ghost felt a bit proud. “In our place, it usually just rains mixed with snow, but that year, the snow was particularly heavy, a rarity to see in over twenty years. My family always believed I would surely grow up to be extraordinary..."

But after his parents passed away, leaving him several properties, he lived a mundane life of collecting rent, playing games, and writing novels—a life marked by mediocrity from head to toe.

It was perhaps for the best that his elderly parents passed away early, sparing them the disappointment from witnessing their supposedly extraordinary son turn into an unambitious recluse. 

"You were born on the thirtieth of the twelfth lunar month, at the hour of the Rat, a time of transition between the old and the new," Master Zhang calculated for a long time. “Your fate indeed should not have been ordinary.”

The twelfth lunar month is a time for worshiping deities and warding off evil. It marks the end of the year and passing through the month of Lunar New Year is the beginning of the new spring, holding significant meaning to people.

“Strange, your birth chart clearly shows a life of prosperity and longevity. How did you meet an untimely death in the prime of your life?” Grandpa Zhang endured and held back from saying that such an ordinary life was really unfitting for his potential.

A destiny chart fit for being a soaring dragon, yet lived as a nobody, with a shortened lifespan to boot - this devastating blow could crush anyone's spirit.

"You mean, I wasn’t supposed to die?" The homebody ghost was a bit dazed. He didn’t have grand ambitions of becoming a great figure. But if he could live a peaceful life even as an ordinary landlord, enjoying his favorite foods, that would have been nice enough.

Who wants to die when they could live well?

At that moment, a wave of resentment welled up in the ghost, yet he didn’t know whom to resent. He looked around, hoping to find answers from these masters, but all he saw were their solemn faces.

"He's been lingering in the mortal world, unable to reincarnate because, according to the Book of Life and Death, he's still alive?" Shen Changan roughly understood Grandpa Zhang’s point. "So, he's essentially an unregistered ghost in the underworld?"

"Pretty much... that's the gist of it," Master Zhang nodded. "No household registration makes things difficult anywhere."

"And there’s nothing you can do?" Shen Changan asked. "In TV shows, masters set up altars to summon underworld soldiers to help innocent souls. Can’t you think of something to sort out his registration issue?"

Grandpa Zhang coughed dryly. "TV dramas are all lies."

Seeing Grandpa Zhang and Master Yan Yin’s expressions, Shen Changan  immediately understood they couldn't summon underworld soldiers.

Because of his comment, the atmosphere became a bit awkward. Shen Changan kept glancing at his watch and finally bent down to the homebody ghost, "Why don’t you stay with Grandpa Zhang for now? I need to meet a friend for a meal and I’ll come back to find you tonight."

The ghost’s overwhelming resentment and anger gradually calmed down under the golden light of Shen Changan's merits. He shook his head, wondering what happened to him just now, how he could suddenly feel such intense resentment.

"Boss, where are you going?" He didn’t dare leave Shen Changan and clung to his leg, "Seeing how pathetic I am, please help me."

"I will definitely try to find a solution, but my friend is also important." Shen Changan reached down to gently pry the geeky ghost off his legs. "The most crucial thing is to keep one's word. I promised my friend to have lunch with him, so I can't go back on that. Grandpa Zhang's place is safe, I'll come back for you tonight."

The ghost pitifully looked at Shen Changan. "Boss, you must come back tonight."

"Sure, sure, I'll definitely come," Shen Changan nodded as he walked towards the door. "Listen to Grandpa Zhang, he won't harm you."

At this, he turned and looked at Master Zhang. "Grandpa Zhang, I'll leave him in your care."

"Alright," Grandpa Zhang nodded. "You go ahead, I'll check if someone has robbed his fortune and lifespan."

With Master Zhang's assurance, Shen Changan hurried out, not mentioning Grandpa Zhang's words about how he wouldn't be surnamed Zhang if he didn't scare him out of its wits.

Once the door closed again, Master Yan Yin, seated on the sofa sipping tea, put down his cup and smiled compassionately, "Daoist Wang, what do you think of this matter?"

Master Zhang angrily turned his head. "Who are you calling Wang?"

"You, of course," Master Yan Yin chanted a Buddhist verse. "Amitabha Buddha, cultivators do not tell lies. Since you won't be surnamed Zhang anymore, I think Wang suits you just fine."

"Get lost!" Master Zhang kicked Master Yan Yin off the sofa. He then looked at the obedient homebody ghost squatting on the floor, got up, and fetched cinnabar and talisman paper from the room to start calculating the ghost's fate trajectory.

After drawing a talisman, he was drenched in sweat, his face extremely grim.

Master Yan Yin reached out and patted his back. Master Zhang's complexion improved slightly. Shaking his head, he said. "Someone maliciously ruined his fortune. I can't decipher it."

In the metaphysical world, Master Zhang was already an outstanding figure. If even he couldn't figure it out, it meant that the perpetrator's skills far exceeded his own.

"Why not let Yunfeng do a divination?" Master Yan Yin, looking at the ashes of the completely burned talisman paper on the ground, felt a vague sense of unease. Perhaps some conspiracy was unfolding without their knowledge. Yunfeng was the most skilled at divination in the metaphysical world. If even he couldn't solve it, then no one would be able to do anything.

"It’s useless," Old Master Zhang swallowed a pill, his paper-white face regained some color. "I suspect the one behind this is not human."

"If it's not human, then what?" Master Yan Yin's unease deepened. Who could it be that is more powerful than humans - a deity or a demon?

When Shen Changan rushed to Dao Nian's house, it was already past one o'clock in the afternoon. He quickly wolfed down his meal and casually helped Dao Nian pick up a few bites of fish. Wiping his mouth, he prepared to rush to the office.

At the doorstep, he remembered that he had something to do in the evening, so he said, "Dao Nian, I have something to take care of tonight, so I won't be coming over."

Dao Nian, looking at the table full of fish, rice and vegetables, put down his chopsticks, and responded expressionlessly. "Oh."

The sound of hurried footsteps grew distant. Dao Nian closed his eyes and with a wave of his hand, the steaming dishes on the table vanished without a trace.

The moment Shen Changan left, the previously lively atmosphere in the house room instantly turned quiet and desolate.

"Master," Liu Mao whispered, "A massive typhoon is forming in the East China Sea. It will hit the coastal areas in two days. Should we let it landfall?"

Dao Nian: "Winter is almost here."

Liu Mao hesitated to speak, worry appeared in his eyes.

"Winter isn't the typhoon season. It doesn't need to make landfall." Dao Nian had barely finished his sentence when the sky erupted with thunder, the sound was so loud that it seemed to explode right above their house.

Hu Ming, who was pulling out weeds in the garden, was so frightened that he trembled uncontrollably, unable to keep his tail from poking out. On the bird stand, the parrot Fei Ying was so scared that she buried her head under her wings, her claws gripping the bird stand could not stop trembling.

"Master!" Liu Mao's voice trembled, "You've broken the natural order."

"The Great Dao has long since perished. What can it do to me?" Dao Nian looked out the window, the sky was roiling with dark clouds, as if growling at him. A look of scorn appeared in his eyes. "I said no landfall, then there will be no landfall."

Lightning flashed amid the clouds and a thunderbolt struck down.

Dao Nian waved his hand and sent out a beam of golden light from his palm, blocking the descending thunderbolt.

"Thunder is too noisy." Dao Nian's gaze didn't waver. "Everything will perish eventually. Adhering to these rules now is pointless."

The dark clouds churned in the sky for a moment before dispersing, and the sky returned to its clear, sunny state, as if the recent thunder and the changing weather had never happened.

"Mas-Master, why are you defying the natural law?" Liu Mao's teeth chattered in fright. "If you continue like this, you may befall the same fate as the Great Dao..."

"Oh?" Dao Nian sneered. "The Dao itself could not withstand obliteration, so what use are the rules it left behind?"

"But you shouldn't act like this. Even though you govern the forty-nine laws of the world, there is still one vital force that is not in your hands. I worry that this one law may become your bane, causing you to meet the same fate as the Great Dao..."

"I am an existence, not life," Dao Nian lowered his eyelids, expressionless. "If I must perish, then so be it."

"But... but..." Liu Mao didn't know how to counsel a being devoid of joy or anger. Looking at the empty dining table, he suddenly said, "But you accepted Mr. Shen's key. Even if you don't care about perishing, at least you should accompany him for a hundred years. Your current actions make your servant very worried about you."

A hundred years was a short time, but it only took an instant for the Heavenly Dao to dissipate.

"There are fifty principles of Dao; Heaven reveals only forty-nine, leaving one path hidden for humanity to escape." Dao Nian recited softly. "Other races think I favor humans, but they don't realize that it is the Dao that truly favors humanity."

[T/N: This phrase comes from the Daoist text, the "Book of Changes" or "I Ching" (Yijing). It refers to the idea that the universe is governed by a set of principles or laws represented by the number fifty. However, Heaven (or the natural order) reveals only forty-nine of these principles, leaving one principle hidden. This hidden principle is what humans can use to influence or change their fate, implying that there is always a possibility for humans to transcend or alter their predetermined path through wisdom, understanding, and their actions.]

Thus, before dissipating, the Great Dao bestowed the vital force capable of restraining the Heavenly Dao upon humanity. Among all races, only humans dare to say, "Man can conquer Heaven."

[T/N: The word "man" comes from the Old English "mann," which meant "person" or "human being" regardless of gender. The term "werman" (or "wer") was used to refer to a male person, and "wifman" (or "wif") referred to a female person.]

In human films and dramas, demons and deities who have attained the Dao always appear in human form. However, humans are unaware that deities and demons existed before them. The Great Dao granted humans the form that deities and demons only achieve through cultivation. This blatant favoritism was unmatched by any other race.

Since the Great Dao favored humans so much, Dao Nian thought he might as well follow its will and prevent this natural disaster from harming humans. However, the subconscious rules left by the Great Dao seemed to urge him to play the villain, to allow the typhoon to make landfall, and let humans overcome the disaster with their own strength.

People always love to curse the heavens, saying "God has no eyes," "Damn God," "God is unfair." This time, he followed their wishes and decided to be truly unfair.

The typhoon that was supposed to make landfall suddenly stalled over the sea, swirling in place. The aquatic demons were astonished, and the aquatic clan leader even specifically performed a calculation.

"Strange. According to the original trajectory, the typhoon should hit the coastal city by midnight, causing many casualties. Why did it inexplicably stop moving?" The aquatic clan leader calculated several times but got the same result each time. He hesitated in his palace for a long while before seeking an audience with the Lord.

However, after meeting the lord, he thought his ears were playing tricks on him.

"What, this was your decision?" The aquatic clan leader was shocked, unsure if he had miscalculated or if the Lord of Heaven had suddenly gone insane.

Dao Nian toyed with a shimmering star, and responded expressionlessly. "Mmhm."

"But originally..."

Dao Nian looked at him silently.

A chill ran through the aquatic leader's heart. He bowed deeply. "Thank you for informing me, my lord. I understand."

As he exited the lord's domain, his mind was in turmoil. Ever since the Lord of Heaven became less and less interested in meeting with the elders of various clans, he had felt increasingly uneasy.

Today's incident didn't surprise him at all; instead, it gave him a sense of inevitable resignation that it had finally come.

"Have you seen the news on Weibo? A satellite detected a massive airflow over the sea, which can form a typhoon over level ten, potentially hitting the coastal area," Chen Panpan shared the news she saw online with her colleagues. "The meteorological bureau said if the typhoon makes landfall, several coastal cities will be affected. They’ve already started evacuating nearby residents to typhoon shelters."

Hearing this, Shen Changan took out his phone. The satellite images showed a massive typhoon airflow, nearly covering half the globe, looking extremely terrifying.

"If it makes landfall, who knows how much property and how many lives will be lost," Chen Panpan sighed. "I have classmates living in coastal areas. I hope the heavens show mercy and let this typhoon dissipate over the sea."

Shen Changan scrolled through the comments under the news, where many netizens were posting prayer emojis, with countless people praying for heavenly protection.

The locals, however, remained quite calm. Some netizens even mocked online that a certain brand of food was unpopular—while all other foods were cleared out from the supermarket shelves, that brand was still available.

"This brand's food is actually delicious," Shen Changan muttered to himself. "It's spicy and numbing, it's really satisfying to eat." He sighed and joined the netizens in praying for a safe passage through this disaster.

"I hope the people in the affected areas can safely weather this natural disaster."

After work in the afternoon, Shen Changan hurried to Grandpa Zhang's house, only to find the homebody ghost sitting on the floor, happily munching on a few sticks of incense.

"Boss, have you eaten?" The homebody ghost asked instinctively upon seeing Shen Changan return. "Would you like to join me?"

Shen Changan: "..."

"No, thank you." He wouldn't be interested in that kind of food for decades to come.

Realizing his mistake, the homebody ghost grinned sheepishly. "I can cook. How about I make something for you? I cooked lunch today."

Shen Changan glanced at the three people sitting on the sofa, finding it hard to believe that they would even enslave a ghost.

After a moment of thought, he sat down next to Zhang Gu and smiled at the homebody ghost. "That would be great, thanks."

Old Master Zhang and Yan Yin exchanged glances, each giving him an approving look, as if to say, 'This kid has potential.'

"Have you gotten to the bottom of it?" Shen Changan glanced at the empty table. He had gotten used to having food readily available at Dao Nian's house. Now, seeing the bare table, he felt a bit uncomfortable.

"No," Grandpa Zhang shook his head.  "Even Yunfeng, the strongest in metaphysics, couldn’t decipher the cause. From every angle,  this lad was destined for a blessed and prosperous life."

"But he died suddenly," Shen Changan said, and looked toward the kitchen where the homebody ghost was peeking out from the doorway. "Boss, can you handle spicy food?"

Although the homebody ghost's appearance was quite ordinary, his smile was rather endearing. Thinking about how such a simple young man not only died for inexplicable reasons but also lost the chance to reincarnate, Shen Changan couldn't help but feel sympathetic.

He smiled at the homebody ghost. "I can't handle much spice, but sometimes I do crave a bit. Thank you for your hard work."

"Got it! I'll make something you'll definitely enjoy," the homebody ghost smiled at him before retreating into the kitchen. Soon, the sound of cooking could be heard from inside.

Shen Changan stroked his chin and asked Grandpa Zhang and Master Yan Yin again, "Is there really no way to summon underworld soldiers?"

He couldn't bear to see such a well-behaved young man face such an unfair fate.

Having trouble resolving even a small ghost case already made Grandpa Zhang feel he had lost face. Hearing Shen Changan's question, he snapped and said in a fit of frustration: "If you think you can do it, then be my guest."

Shen Changan was left speechless. "Grandpa, please don't joke with me. I haven't even learned any mystical arts."

"How do you know it won't work without trying?" Grandpa Zhang stood up imposingly. "Just wait, I'll prepare the altar for you." To convince a strong-willed young person, letting them experience failure is the only way for them to understand reality.

"Oh..." Shen Changan watched in disbelief as Grandpa Zhang actually went inside to prepare the altar. Does everyone in the metaphysical world handle things so straightforwardly?

Zhang Gu patted his shoulder sympathetically. "My martial uncle has always been like this. Once you fail at summoning, he'll calm down."

"What if I succeed?" Shen Changan joked.

"Benefactor Shen, you truly have an imaginative mind," Master Yan Yin smiled warmly. "I believe someone like you would be well-suited for Buddhism. Have you really never considered it?"

Shen Changan: "..."

"No, thanks."


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