“I’ve asked for help before…” Li Jiankang chuckled bitterly, “There was one organization that approached me and informed me that they would take over this matter, and that I should move away as soon as demolition works commenced. However… it’s been a year, and they still haven’t commenced the works at all…”
Qin Ye nodded his head, “Go on.”
Li Jiankang finally took a sip of water.
He lifted his mask. His lower lips were pale and devoid of any colour of blood. He coughed dryly and continued with a hoarse voice, “Jingle Bells vanished completely ever since that fateful incident.”
“I thought that this was the end of the matter… and so I refurbished my home. It’s not that I didn’t want to leave. Rather… I just don’t have the financial capability to relocate.” He sighed wistfully, “I had no other choice but to remain in this horror house… day by day, enduring the terrors that hid in the shadows…”
“Whenever night fell… I would always feel as though something or someone were watching me. It’s almost as though it were looming just over the head of my bed… I’m certain that it’s there after midnight…” He shuddered vigorously once more, “It just stands there, silently watching me… I struggled so much to open my eyes, yet I was simply powerless to do so…”
“It’s an apartment large enough to accommodate only a single person… yet I’m not the only one there! Do you know what kind of feeling that is?! It’s… it’s driving me crazy!!”
His tone of voice rose again, and he began to pant nervously. He took another ten seconds or so to calm down before speaking again, “Then, in about September, Jingle Bells showed up again.”
“It was still on the night of the fifteenth. At that time, I… heard a cat meow. The door had been tightly shut then. But Jingle Bells immediately began scratching at the door and crying and wailing madly!”
He grabbed Qin Ye’s hand in agitation. Qin Ye raised his eyebrows. Li Jiankang’s hands were icy cold and barely warm at all.
Beads of cold sweat were rolling off Li Jiankang’s face, “You probably don’t believe me… but the door to my home is one of those security doors with a smooth finish. When you switch on the lights at night, you’ll be able to see some reflections in it.”
“I saw it… There, just behind me… was a person… there was really a person there!!! It… it was just standing there, staring at the reflection in the door just like I was!!”
“There’s another person living in my apartment!”
He finally shrieked at the top of his voice. He gripped Qin Ye’s hands tightly, and it took him a full minute before he finally managed to calm down once again.
He appeared completely spiritless, as though his soul was swamped in the mires of desolation. He continued hoarsely, “Since then, I’ve never gone home. I live next to my home in a rented apartment right now. The only time that I dare return is in the day…”
“Help me…” He persevered and gripped tightly to Qin Ye’s arms. His voice choked up, “It’s a haunted house… It must be a haunted house! I want to go back. My late wife and children’s things are still in the house! That organization called the something-something-department has informed me that the person who replies would be the only person who’s able to help me with this.”
“I got it.” Qin Ye nodded his head and stood up, “Incidentally, it’s the fifteenth of the month today. I’ll go to your house at midnight tonight.”
With that, Qin Ye quickly took his leave.
The paper crane was perched on his shoulder. Qin Ye turned the corner and immediately leaned close to the wall, “Is he still there?”
“He’s still there.” Arthis responded lazily.
“Is he watching me?”
“Yes.” Arthis gave him a look of surprise, “I must say, I admire your keen senses. As they say, the older you get, the wiser you get. Yet even I wasn’t as keen as you are back when I was your age. When did you first begin to grow suspicious of him?”
Qin Ye leaned close to the wall and furrowed his brows, “It’s not suspicion.”
“It’s just that the colour of his face just wasn’t quite right.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “I’ve lived through eras of war, and I’ve seen my fair share of death. The colour of his face is a typical example of one suffering from the loss of blood.”
“In fact, it is typical of one who has suffered a massive loss of blood.”
Arthis was unmoved, “Perhaps it was just some form of illness or other?”
“Perhaps I might have been over sensitive as well.” Qin Ye muttered placidly, “But there’s one other thing - and that’s my appearances.”
“With such exuberant beauty like mine, how could he have remained completely unmoved…”
“Please speak in plain human terms.” Arthis muttered icily.
“Ahem… What I mean is that I don’t look any different from the average high schooler out there. How do you think normal people in his shoes would react?”
Without waiting for Arthis’ response, he answered his own question, “If I were in his shoes, and regardless of how desperate he actually is, I would still have been suspicious given my age. He should have cautioned me not to go instead. His friend ought to be about his age, and yet even an adult like them perished to the mysterious cause. As a person who doesn’t know a single thing about the supernatural forces of the world, how could he not possess the slightest bit of suspicion given my age? How could he be so certain that a high school student would be able to help him?”
Arthis remained expressionless as she sighed wistfully, “This is why you haven’t died a single time, despite having lived through an era of wars and battles.”
“It’s not a fluke… How many people have you deceived with those appearances of yours? And your sense of impending dangers and crises is so much stronger than an average Hunter-class cultivator at that.”
Qin Ye smiled, “That’s right, huskies possess a keen sense of smell… The other thing I’ve noticed before coming here is that regardless of where one is going, one would have to pass through this location if he’s leaving from Coffee Shop No. 4. I’m currently… waiting here for someone.”
Time passed by quickly.
Over the remaining course of the afternoon, Zhou Xianlong once again announced the current standings in terms of teaching credit distributions, and Qin Ye discovered that he was no longer in first place.
Instead, he was merely tied for first place!
“First place - S9527, 10 teaching credits, accepted ‘Lost Tracks’ mission, C-grade difficulty. “First place - S4532, 10 teaching credits, accepted ‘Danger Blocks’ mission, C-grade difficulty.”
Someone’s catching up…
And that wasn’t all. Most of the other instructors had shown a small uptick in their scores as well.
“As expected, these experts of the mortal realm aren’t mere pushovers…” Qin Ye switched off his phone and leaned against the wall as he shut his eyes to rest.
It wasn’t his style to panic and flounder about. What he now needed most was to grasp every opportunity he had.
There were currently two tied for first place. The first to complete their mission would truly take the lead! Given the way the school is run, there might even be bonus credits for taking the top spot!
It was early spring, and the sun generally sets early in the day. At 6.10 p.m., a set of footsteps finally made its way towards Qin Ye.
It sounded hurried and hasty. As soon as the footsteps turned the corner, Qin Ye smiled wickedly and whistled, “Dear, you’ve been lynched.”
“Bloody hell!!!” With a loud cry, the blond haired man fell back onto the ground. He stared at Qin Ye with a flushed face and his chest rising and falling heavily. Several moments later, he leaned against the wall for support and got to his feet, “Damn it! You piece of shit, do you know how bloody scary that was?!!”
Qin Ye shrugged his shoulders. Indeed, the entire street was undergoing demolition works, and yet he hadn’t seen a single soul pass by the entire afternoon.
Nevertheless, frightening someone… is truly a delightful experience…
“Why haven’t you left yet?” The young man patted off the dirt on his buttocks as he regulated his breathing.
“I’m waiting for you.” Qin Ye raised his eyebrows and smiled faintly, “You get off work at 6 p.m. I’ve waited for close to two hours now.”
“Why are you waiting for me?”
“To see if you’ve lost as an oracle.”
“......” Does crippling someone count as committing an offence of causing grievous hurt? I’ll wait on the line. This is pretty urgent.
“That’s right.” Almost as though he had suddenly recalled something important, the young man quickly pulled Qin Ye into the alley in the side and gazed into his eyes with a serious expression on his face, “Are you… really going to that haunted house at night?”
Qin Ye looked back at the young man, “What’s the matter? Is the haunted house very famous?”
“Please don’t go!!” Goosebumps immediately crept all over the young man’s skin, and he shuddered uncontrollably. He suppressed the anxiety in his voice, “It’s… really haunted there…”
“If not for the fact that I didn’t have money, I would have shifted away a long time ago! Please don’t go! Seven people have already gone missing there! It really is a haunted house!! Nobody dares to step within a ten meter radius of that place!”
Qin Ye’s expressions turned serious as well, and he nodded his head, “Don’t worry. You’ve managed to ignite a Yama-King’s goodwill. I’ll make sure to save a good seat for you in the afterlife.”
“......” May I please know what circumstances qualify as the act of self-defence? And at what point does it become excessive? Is verbal assault counted? I’ll wait on the line. This is pretty urgent.
“I’m not pulling your leg!” The young man glanced at his surroundings and trembled. Then, he drew a deep breath, “Li Jiankang… His house… is unclean, do you know what I mean? There’s that infamous case which occurred there just a few years ago.”
Without waiting for Qin Ye’s response, he added, “Matricide.”
Qin Ye’s eyes gleamed, and a flashback occurred in his mind in that moment.
It was indeed a rather high-profile incident.
Both parents had gone out to work, leaving their young child alone at home. When they returned home, they discovered that their twelve year old son had already picked up the vices of smoking, drinking, fighting and skipping school. In order to correct their son’s bad habits, the parents no longer went out, and they instead stayed at home.
Unfortunately, the protracted period of separation earlier had created a rift in the family, and their son no longer listened to his parents. Finally, when the son was caught smoking at home for the umpteenth time, the mother picked up a leather belt in a fit of anger and disappointment and gave him a good lashing. Unexpectedly, the son retaliated. In his rage and discombobulation, he ran into the kitchen, picked up a knife in a frenzy and stabbed his mother over twenty times. His mother died immediately.
But this wasn’t the end.
The son changed into a set of new clothes and tossed the murder weapon into the middle of the pond. That night, the son answered a number of work calls on behalf of his mother and even tweeted on his mother’s behalf to apply for sick leave.
The next day, the neighbours discovered that something was amiss, and they even asked the mother’s father-in-law to open the door. Yet, even at that point in time, the son maintained to his grandfather, “My mother’s gone out. She’s not in.”
As there were no traces of blood on the first floor, the grandfather hardly thought much about the matter. Instead, they even went to the grandfather’s place for breakfast.
It wasn’t until noon that the grandfather finally noticed something amiss and went to the second floor of the house, only to discover the blood splatters everywhere, and his horrifically mutilated daughter-in-law.
Unfortunately, since the son was not of age yet, he couldn’t be sentenced, and the law had no choice but to acquit him.
The entire internet seethed with rage, and news of the incident reverberated throughout every corner of Cathay for well over a year. Qin Ye remembered these news vividly.
“This is…” Qin Ye took a deep breath and looked down the street.
“Tianxi Fourth Street, Li Jiankang’s son is Li Cheng, and his wife is none other than Song Jiafang.” The young man bit down on his lower lips, “Ever since that day… you can practically hear the sounds of a belt lashing against a person’s skin coming from Uncle Li’s house every night after midnight… And there’s still the occasional sound of reprimanding, cursing and crying, and even… even the sound of someone plunging a knife repeatedly into flesh…”
“But Uncle Li can’t hear it even though everyone else can! There’s a ghost in there… there really is a ghost in there! You musn’t go!”
Qin Ye’s thoughts churned. Seconds later, he asked in a hushed tone of voice, “Didn’t he say that his son was already dead?”
“I don’t know…” The young man glanced nervously at both sides of the road, “That’s the scariest part of it all… his son had simply… vanished.”
“He didn’t go missing. Rather, he simply vanished off the surface of this world. It’s… it’s almost as though… Aunty Song has taken him away with her!”
Qin Ye nodded his head, “One last question.”
“Do you know anything about Jingle Bells? A little black cat.”
“What little black cat?” The young man asked in bewilderment, “I’ve never heard of it.”
Qin Ye gazed deeply into the young man’s eyes, “Li Jiankang’s cat.”
“That’s impossible.” The young man trembled as an inexplicable chill surged throughout his body, “He’s never owned a cat! Think about it, how could he look after the cat if he was always away at work? Would he deign to have a cat if he didn’t even have the time to look after his child?! There’s no cat… I’ve never seen any cats in their house at all!”
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