Chapter 18: Visitation

“So she’s doing this to protest?” Qin Ye tapped on the edges of his phone thoughtfully before he finally answered the call.

He put her on the speakerphone, yet there was no sound. It was almost as though his phone had been connected to the bottomless abyss in the depths of Hell.

Everything had suddenly gone incredibly silent. Then, about twenty seconds later, Qin Ye finally heard the first audible sound communicated through the phone.

It was the sound of water droplets.

In fact, it was the sound of water droplets falling from mid-air and striking the ground.

Drip...drip...drip… The rhythmic drops sounded incredibly still and tranquil, yet eerie at the same time.

“Urrrgh....uuuurrrrrrrrrgghhhh....” Just then, the phone transmitted a different type of sound altogether. It was faint and barely audible, yet it was a drone that went on and on.

It sounded like the desperate gasping sounds made by a person who had been locked in a dungeon for decades on end and deprived of water. It was the sound emitted by parched throats, almost akin to the sound of glass shards grinding against each other.

“Hey dear, that’s poor form.” Qin Ye finally responded, “Stop using the dated spooking techniques of the nineties? It’s a bit underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not trying to nag at you, but given that you are a modern-day ghost, don’t you think that you should keep up with the times as well? Is there really any point in mimicking the sounds of a horror film? For that matter, have you even obtained the licensing rights from Ms Ju-On?”

“Don’t…” A low and hoarse voice could be heard on the other end of the phone. It was intermittent, almost as though someone was playing back an audio recording on an old-fashioned recorder.

Qin Ye sneered, “Don’t? What do you mean by don’t? Are you finally afraid of me now? Weren’t you still happily fooling around earlier?”

However, it sounded as though Qin Ye’s provocation didn’t even register with the voice on the other end of the phone. Speaking with the same low frequency, the hoarse voice continued, “Butt...”

“In!”

Beeeeeep--- As soon as she finished speaking, the line was immediately cut.

“She’s a feisty one, isn’t she…” The frivolous expression on Qin Ye’s face diminished substantially as he glanced meaningfully at the soul sphere on the table, “What do you think?”

“That was quite the insightful interaction.” Arthis paused for a moment of deliberation before continuing, “Firstly, you need to understand the distinction between each rank of ghosts. You’ve been apprised of the differences among the S-grade ghosts through to the E-grade ghosts. The truth of the matters is that there are corresponding qualitative classifications to the ghosts as well.”

“The E-grade ghosts correspond with ordinary souls or spirits. In other words, these are the ghosts that are more commonly known as wandering spirits or drifting spirits. The D-grade ghosts refer to vengeful apparitions. These are ghosts who had been so enraptured by their obsessions prior to death that their spirits were unable to dissipate after they died, thereby becoming vengeful apparitions. The vengeful apparitions only possess ordinary capabilities.”

“The C-grade classification refers to malevolent ghasts. Malevolent ghasts have developed the capacity to infiltrate and influence a person’s mind as well as manipulate external objects. Ghasts must be eradicated once discovered. Furthermore, ghasts also possess cognitive functions and the ability to speak just like any other human out there.”

“The ghost that we had just interacted with was mumbling incoherently at all times, and that tells us that it probably isn’t a C-ranked ghast. If we use the proper nomenclature, it would either be a pseudo-ghast or a vengeful apparition at best.” Arthis pondered, “This means… she’s never truly mastered the use of the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. She won’t be too formidable. It should probably be well within your abilities to subdue her.”

“It’s not just a mere ‘probability’.” Qin Ye continued to fidget with his phone. Several seconds later, he continued with a categorical declaration, “It’s a ‘certainty’.”

“She didn’t react in the slightest despite my sudden interjection earlier. Her tone of voice didn’t even change one bit. This proves that she has no capacity for conscious thought at all. Her existence is purely built on her obsession, and she simply wants the death of the Wang family. Nothing else forms part of her considerations.”

He furrowed his brows slightly and paused for several more seconds before he continued, “But… have you considered this - her abilities are far from strong, yet she dares to provoke and challenge a fully fledged Emissary of Hell. She even possesses the ability to make a move against Wang Chenghao in broad daylight. This is well beyond the abilities of a mere apparition.”

Arthis was silent. It took her some moments before she finally responded in a calm voice, “Do you know something… Humans are interesting creatures after all.”

“I’d really like to know something. I’d witnessed you fawning over Granny Meng and currying favor with her earlier at the Naraka Bridge; previously, your life was centered around the tenet of mere survival and getting by; and yet, now, you’re courageously confronting the troublemaking ghost with no qualms at all - even spinning silk from cocoons and painstakingly investigating the matter. Which exactly is the real you?”

There had only been mere seconds from the time when Qin Ye received the phone call to the time when he started buffeting the evil ghost with probative questions. Yet, despite the short interval of time he had to make preparations, he had made the most appropriate choice by asking what seemed like a completely innocuous set of questions in order to achieve the answer that they so desired.

They were now able to assess the ghost’s true abilities!

Arthis immediately understood what Qin Ye was trying to achieve as soon as he had embarked on his line of questioning. One old man, and one old ghost, were able to cooperate surprisingly seamlessly without any form of prior coordination.

“...Please be precise with your words. What do you mean by fawning and currying favour? It was a tactical retreat in the circumstances.” Qin Ye continued bluntly, “Truth be told, I’d very much like to continue cruising along and doing just enough to get by, but there’s no longer any way of doing so without confronting the problem in front of me right now. So, …”

Arthis interjected, “So you’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no longer a point in just getting by?”

“Not quite.” Qin Ye sighed with exasperation, “My goal now is simply to dine and dash…”

This kid truly knows himself well… Arthis found his response rather apt for the circumstances, and she found herself completely lost for words. “Well, what do you plan to do next?”

Qin Ye sneered, “I’d initially been thinking of tackling the root of the problem while leaving myself some room for manoeuvre… But given how Wang Chenghao hasn’t returned yet, I’m left with no choice.”

“I’ll have to strike without mercy.” He declared resolutely, “She dares to fight back against Hell’s dictum? This ghost truly hasn’t understood the meaning of death.”

“...Should I be pleased? Why does it seem like you’re far more confident after learning of the extent of your enemy’s strength? It’s like you’ve transformed from a Gintama character to a Dragon Ball’s character in just an instant. I still can’t quite get used to the stark change in your persona so far…”

“... You know nothing.  I’ve merely made a tactical choice.”

***

The weather today was peculiar, to say the least. The sky had been clear and cloudless all throughout the morning. Yet, as soon as the clock struck 3 p.m., the sky quickly became overcast.

Whoooooosh… Strong winds began to sweep across the lands. Anyone could tell that it was the precursor to a massive downpour.

At 6 p.m., a peal of thunder resounded powerfully, and crackles of greenish-white lightning peeked out from the blackened clouds like mythical dragons dancing in the sky. The entire lands were blanketed with darkness and trembled at the mercy of the thundergod’s fury.

Squeeaaakk… A wooden door was gently pushed open in The Afterlife, and a paper umbrella extended out of the gap between the door and its frame. Qin Ye stood under the umbrella, dressed in his Hell’s Emissary uniform and fully clothed with his authority as an inspector of Hell. He was heading out at the onset of the demonic hour.

Fwoosh! A massive gust of wind replete with splatter from the torrential downpour kicked up the corner of his robes. The recent surge in reports of paranormal activities on online forums and social media, coupled with the government’s lack of intervention meant that the entire county was devoid of life as soon as the clock struck 6 p.m. The only trace of civilization were the dim yellowish glows of the street lamps lining the roads.

This was the funerary street.

Patter patter!

The torrential rain poured down like innumerable silver threads connecting the sky and the earth. From time to time, Qin Ye could see some people, both young and old, drifting by the roads that should have otherwise been sparse and empty. However, the strangest thing was that these pedestrians were only dressed in green or white, or a mix of both. No other colours could be seen on their bodies.

In fact, one could make out wisps of smoke emanating from their bodies. If one took a closer look, he would realize that the feet of these pedestrians never once touched the ground. They acted like puppets, monotonously repeating the same actions that they had habitually done in their previous life, over and over again.

These were spirits. Drifting spirits, also known as wandering spirits.

“These souls no longer have a place to go to because Hell has been emptied out. That’s why they’re simply drifting about aimlessly.” Arthis explained in a hushed voice, “If a magistrate doesn’t appear very soon, the mortal realm is going to experience a great collapse.”

Qin Ye nodded his head. Rain continued to wash off the edges of his paper umbrella, forming a neat curtain of water in front of him as he continued to march towards his destination. Wherever he went, the wandering spirits would bow down and prostrate to him, paying their respects to him with trembling as though he were an emperor walking among his palace servants.

There was no logical thought process behind these actions. They were merely instinctual.

Clink-clank… The soul shackles around his waist clattered. Qin Ye glanced in the direction of the Hyatt Corporation, “The heavens are furious, and Hell’s gate is open. Do you really think you can get out of this predicament alive?”

This was an incident that would determine whether he lived or died three days later. He would very much have liked to explore an amicable solution to this problem. But, now that he was forced into a corner, anyone in his shoes would go for broke.

Meanwhile, at the top floor of the Hyatt Corporation building, two bloodshot eyes seemed to have sensed something amidst the torrential downpour, and they glanced menacingly in the direction of the funerary street.

“Urgh….uuuuurrrgghhhhh….”

Qin Ye continued to walk on slowly. He saw wandering spirits drifting everywhere within the county. By Hell’s dictum, all ghostly rabble must disperse. Not a single spirit dared to even draw close to an official Emissary of Hell.

The county was not large by any means, and Qin Ye found his way to the entrance to the Hyatt Corporation building very soon.

Even though it was only a small five-story building, it was still considered a very conspicuous existence within the county. This was a building that had been erected in the 2000’s, and it was already showing signs of its age. Just then, the main door that should have been locked tight was silently opened. Faint yellowing light glowed from within. It looked almost as though the gates of Hell had just been opened.

“We Emissaries come from Hell to begin with.” Without hesitation, Qin Ye stepped right through the main door of the building.

Qin Ye was immediately greeted with a grand reception desk. Yet, nobody was manning it. Flashes of lightning toggled the ambience of the main hall between light and dark. Qin Ye entered the elevator and pressed a button. Then, as soon as the doors shut, the lights in the elevator flickered and sizzled before going out completely. His eyes glanced around his surroundings sharply.

Someone’s here.

The elevator had been completely empty when he first got in. Yet as soon as the door shut, his reflection in the mirror revealed that behind him… stood a woman with long dishevelled hair. She was wearing a long black dress and red high heels, and she hung her head lowly.

Just like that, she stood silently behind Qin Ye, almost as though she were his shadow!

As the lights went out, her bloodshot eyes could be seen underneath her curtain of dishevelled hair - she was staring directly at Qin Ye!

It was that moment when light and dark intersected. The strangest part about all of this was the fact that the elevator was still slowly ascending.

Bzzt…  Just then, a peculiar sound could be heard in the pitch-black darkness of the elevator.

“Urgh….uurrrrrgghh…” It came from right behind Qin Ye!

Qin Ye’s palm wrapped around the hilt of his saber in the dark. His ears perked up and twitched slightly as though he were a prowling tiger. He regulated his breath and lowered its magnitude to a minimum.

One man, one ghost. Both were trying to sense each other in the dark. 

Swish… A faint trace of cold wind tickled the hairs on Qin Ye’s neck. Simultaneously, a bright gleam of light cut through the darkness in the elevator like a bright shooting star.

It was the bright gleam of a saber.

A glint of light shot through the air like a jade shooting star, and the saber shimmered like autumn frost.

The sounds of the saber unsheathing and sheathing seemed to echo at the same instant. A miserable scream cried out. Then, with a click, the lights came back on once more, and the only person that could be seen in the lift’s mirrors was Qin Ye’s reflection. The lift door suddenly opened.

The third floor.

He had clearly pressed the button to the fifth floor earlier.

“You’re guilty of the crimes of resisting arrest and obstruction of justice.” A crackle of lightning flashed in the background. Qin Ye’s arm was wrapped tightly around the hilt of his saber, “Well then… do pardon my lack of manners.”

Before he even finished speaking, the soul shackles around his waist began clattering. In the blink of an eye, the chains had already transformed into tens of chains and shot in all directions around him.

The chains seemed endless, and appeared to act as though they were Qin Ye’s eyes. With a massive crash, everything on the third floor, including the doors, desks and cabinets, were immediately shattered into pieces! That said, the hooks at the end of the chains didn’t penetrate the walls, and instead appeared to act as Qin Ye’s eyes. In just less than ten seconds, innumerable chains had already scattered across the entire floor, dividing the space into far smaller partitions as they continued to linger about menacingly.

Office paper scattered like confetti in the air.

Ding-a-ling…. A chime echoed softly from the end of the soul shackles that were wrapped around his waist. Within moments, the sound of several bells echoed throughout the rooms like a rising tide of sound.

“She’s escaped.” Arthis remarked placidly, “She’s even weaker than we had expected. That said, where does she think she can run to? This building only has five floors. We can lock down each floor of the building systematically from the ground up. There’s a massive thunderstorm out there, and the evil ghost will most certainly perish if it goes out right now.”

Qin Ye remained silent. His pupils were gleaming with traces of bright light. 

A Netherworld Operative could hardly be considered a high-ranking Emissary of Hell. In fact, he was merely akin to a village leader in the netherworld. He didn’t possess any magical powers like the Anitya Hellguard or the Infernal Judges did. And apart from the low-grade implements such as the demonhead saber in his hands and the soul shackles around his waist, the only other thing that he could rely on was merely the privileges and benefits that were conferred upon all Emissaries of Hell.

In this regard, one of the most basic of benefits conferred upon all Emissaries of Hell was the infernal eyes. Upon activation, everything in one’s vision would turn completely monochromatic and nothing would be hidden from sight. Neither day nor night made any difference to a user with the infernal eyes.

“Escaped?” He still held onto the hilt of his saber tightly, “That’s right… her physical body has escaped. But can you tell me what this is?”

Arthis was completely startled, “This is…”

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