Qin Ye furrowed his brows as he probed, “How should we meet up?”
There was no response.
Three seconds later, his screen was suddenly filled with a blue frame, while Master Bai’s words turned red, “We’ve activated this mode to ensure that our conversation isn’t monitored by anyone. Please forgive us for taking such liberties. I assure you that this is merely for the convenience of both parties.”
“The City of Salvation’s phantom market.”
“Let me know what time is suitable for you. The phantom market is located east of the City of Salvation, right next to Mount Monarch. Someone will reach out to you once you’re there.”
Qin Ye recalled that it was where the cemeteries of the City of Salvation were located, and a funerary street ran around Mount Monarch. It was rather apt that the phantom market would be set up in such a location. That said…
It was located just outside the city.
It wasn’t far from the First Academy of Cultivators. The journey there would only take twenty minutes by car. However, every entrance and exit to and from the First Academy of Cultivators were equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance cameras capturing every single perspective possible and leaving no blind spots whatsoever. There were even teams of cultivators patrolling the surroundings both day and night.
“The government has taken charge of the phantom markets, and every phantom market would have their fair share of guards on patrol.” Qin Ye responded without committing to an answer, “Perhaps you can enter the City of Salvation instead. It’s too difficult for me to head out right now.”
Master Bai’s response came in almost immediately, “Mr Qin, might I remind you that no matter how well-reputed you are, your artifacts can never be listed without a proper prior appraisal from our mavens. If you’ve already made up your mind, then please make haste. All items to be placed on auction will be announced on 1 June. In other words, we’ve at best another eight days to make the trip down to appraise the artifacts in your possession.”
He paused, and then continued, “If you dally any longer, you might just miss out on the upcoming major auction.”
“I understand.” Qin Ye closed the chat box, foreclosing any further responses from Master Bai. Then massaging his temples, Qin Ye murmured, “He’s anxious.”
“Although I don’t quite know what’s going on, something must have happened over the last few days… but it’s no use speculating just what it was. I should at least try and make the trip down to meet him. That said… how am I supposed to do that?”
“Has Your Majesty forgotten something?” A pair of hands gently massaged his temples for him, and a soft, alluring voice came from close behind him, “Your concubine is currently alone in bed, feeling lonely in the Palace of Earthly Honour. I long only for the warmth of your embrace and care.”
Qin Ye instantly felt goosebumps all over his body. Ahhhhhhh… does this mean Prince Lordaeron has finally unlocked the storyline of palatial affairs… She's gone straight from a newbie, to an addict, and into the realms of a collapse of the mind… to think that she's even begun to roleplay as a royal subject…
"Is something the matter?" Qin Ye's voice was drifty.
"Naturally." Arthis turned Qin Ye around, placed both hands on his cheeks, locked eyes with him, and then muttered softly, "The purpose of my existence is to warm Your Majesty's bedlinen. That way, I will forever have the favour of Hell and be blessed with good health and prosperity."
"... In human words."
Arthis chuckled heartily, "Since it's so difficult for you, why don't you… entrust everything to me and let me bring it safely to the phantom market on your behalf? Then, you can sincerely beg me to accept a small token of gratitude, and I'll graciously accept the phoenix seal… Do consider my proposition and let me know if this is an offer you can accept?"
Dear! This is a public cemetery! A bloody public cemetery!
Do you really think it's proper for a silicone doll to be walking around a public cemetery in the middle of the night, and even attempting to negotiate with other humans? Are you sure you're not thinking of a murder plot instead? You're going to give everyone at the cemetery a heart attack!
Qin Ye's hopes of asking Arthis for help were dashed before they could even take off. His eyes quivered slightly, "I've got a rather immature suggestion… Why don't you bring it there and then come back for no remuneration whatsoever?"
There was a reason why alcohol was often called liquid courage.
Arthis smiled faintly.
One second later, a loud bang from a particular instructor's dorm room startled all the students who were sound asleep. They immediately sat up from their beds and rubbed their eyes, "What's going on?" "Another emergency drill?" " What happened?"
Meanwhile, in Yan Capital, Master Bai closed the webpage and shut his eyes.
As the second-in-command of Guardian Auctions, he was expected to be well-kempt and presentable. But instead, there were dark rings around his eyes, and his hair was disheveled. The rest of his appearances were covered with a face mask, while his entire being was hidden underneath a heavy trench coat.
Furthermore, he was currently at the airport.
There were two other men beside him. One wore a face mask and shades so that his appearances were completely hidden, while the other was tall and silent. They stood on both sides of Master Bai, as though they were protecting him.
“How much longer is it till the flight…” Master Bai asked. His voice was hoarse and slightly drifty, and he shivered slightly, finding comfort and security in the protection of the two men beside him.
The tall man didn’t respond. Instead, it was the masked man who lowered his head and whispered, “The plane will be ready for boarding in approximately ten minutes. Master Bai, don’t worry. It… won’t be able to catch you here.”
Master Bai didn’t feel reassured at all. He ran his fingers through his hair in desperation. His eyes were bloodshot, and he gnashed his teeth, “I shouldn’t… I really shouldn’t… but there’s no way I can remain here any longer! That bowl… that bowl is the devil…”
“Nobody is willing to take that thing off my hands, while the special department can’t detect anything wrong with it at all… Only I… only I am aware of this… Whenever I let my guard down, it will appear right beside me, just like my shadow! And I know that it’s just waiting for the right opportunity to slit my throat…”
He hunched over subconsciously. The dense human traffic in the airport didn’t give him any sense of security at all. He rested his elbow on his thighs and buried his head into his hands as he trembled uncontrollably.
Just then, his body suddenly shivered. His mouth abruptly opened wide, and then his entire body trembled like a falling leaf in the autumn wind.
T-t-t-t-t… His teeth began to chatter incessantly. It was because… everything around him had suddenly become muted.
The sound of people, cars and television reports had all vanished in an instant. A frigid chill ran down his spine, and an electrifying sensation surged straight through his mind and filled his heart.
It was a suffocating terror, and a palpable murderous intent.
“Haa… haa…” He seemed to have aged ten years in an instant. Varicose veins grew denser and denser in his irises until his eyes became completely bloodshot. His jaw dropped; his mouth was parched, and his soul felt as though it had been wrung dry.
It’s here… it’s here!
It’s here again… I’ve already escaped into the airport, so how is it still after me?!
Tap… tap… These were the kinds of sounds that had been driving him crazy over the last few days - dry and mundane, and yet deafening at the same time. Master Bai’s hair stood on end. From his hunched position, he could tell that the two men beside him still remained stationary. He, on the other hand… didn’t even dare to lift his head.
Tap… tap… The sound drew closer and closer to him. It was clear that the sound was headed directly for him. There was a sea of people around him right now, and yet he felt incredibly alienated from the world. A terrifying sense of desolation weighed heavily on his heart. Then, he finally caved to the pressure, and his lips trembled, “Help… help!”
“Somebody, save me… I won’t want to die… HELP!!!”
He was practically screaming at the top of his voice. But, just then… Tap… It was another soft, familiar sound. A pair of ippon geta stopped right beside him.
The ippon geta was a type of Nipponese wooden clog. One of the main traits that distinguished the ippon geta from the traditional wooden clogs was the fact that it only had a single centered tooth, somewhat similar to the traditional Cathayan stilts.
“Sss… Ahhh….” It was as though a hellrift had opened right beside him. He could hear faint wisps of blood curdling shrieks and moans creeping up along his spine, but he didn’t dare to lift his head in the slightest. His eyes were bloodshot, and his entire body shivered uncontrollably. Then, a second later, his eyes abruptly opened, and he leapt to his feet with a great cry!
The floor of the Yan Capital airport was bright and shiny. In fact, it was so well-polished that one could see the reflection of the lights above in the ground.
But instead of electric lights, Master Bai saw… another face right beside his own reflection. It was a pale face, with a ghastly gaze peeking right out of a curtain of wild, disheveled hair. It was almost as though a rotting corpse had crept out of his grave and peeked right over his shoulder! It was a freakish reflection on the ground.
It’s right on your back! It’s leaning against your body!
“Ah… AHHHHH!!!” He screamed at the top of his voice like a madman, but the sound that came out was nothing more than a sharp shriek, almost as though someone was pinching hard on his windpipe.
And the face that had been right behind him just moments ago was now standing to his right!
T-t-t-t-t…. His teeth chattered uncontrollably. His Adam’s apple writhed violently, and his entire body was soaked through with cold sweat. The airport was packed with travellers at night, and yet he found himself completely isolated from everyone else, and the only thing beside him right now… was an evil ghost.
He didn’t even dare to turn his head to take a closer look. He could see a pair of ancient ippon geta out of the corner of his eyes. The wood was rotting slightly. It was clear that these wooden geta were at least a few centuries old. The thing beside him wore a black feather weave, and his entire body was snow white, almost as though he had been dusted with white powder. Furthermore, his hair hung down all the way to his waist-level. The image from the waist down was incredibly bizarre.
Shiiiiing… Master Bai heard a menacing sound. He knew this was undoubtedly the sound of a katana being drawn. His mind was instantly filled with a buzz, and he drew a complete blank. Silently, Master Bai shut his eyes and waited patiently for death.
But, just then--!
Clink! A crisp sound reverberated through the surroundings, and he suddenly opened his eyes once more. Everything before him was hazy and blurry, and the man wearing a face mask and sunglasses appeared to be shouting at him.
“What happened to me?” Moments later, he came back to his senses, only to discover that he had at some point in time collapsed to the ground, and was covered in cold sweat. He was currently lying in the arms of the man wearing the face mask and sunglasses.
“You suddenly collapsed to the ground! And you didn’t respond to us, no matter how much we yelled at you. We were just about to call an ambulance.” The man heaved a sigh of relief, and then asked anxiously, “What’s wrong? What the hell happened?”
Master Bai didn’t say anything. He knew full well that what he had just seen was no illusion at all. A Nipponese evil spirit… had traveled across the waters in search of him!
And there was no need to ask what this ghost was after.
“Go…” Just then, an announcement was made to inform all passengers that the flight was ready for boarding. Master Bai mustered all of his strength and scrambled to his feet, “We depart Yan Capital for the City of Salvation immediately. That’s where all evil spirits must die!”
The officers checked his ticket, and he boarded the plane. As he walked through the aerobridge, he looked into the distant sky, right over where the heart of the capital lay - I’m finally leaving this place… But just as he did so, he screamed and grabbed the man beside him with a vice-like grip.
It was still there… and he was the only one who could see it! The evil spirit was standing right behind him in the crowd, dressed in an ancient, tattered feather weave. It was silently but surely following him!
He ran straight into the plane like a madman, found his seat, and then curled himself into a ball where he cowered in shock. He stuffed his hands into the comfort of his trench coat pockets. And then, he found something.
It was a slip of paper.
No, more accurately speaking, it was a talisman.
He couldn’t tell what exactly was drawn on the front, but he could see that a line of words were written in vermillion ink on the back.
“Don’t look back. This is Mori Ranmaru and it’s right behind you. Turn back now, and you will die immediately. We’re helping you hold him back.”
That’s right… who saved me earlier?
He didn’t dare to think much more of it, so he simply curled up in his seat. But it was for this reason that he failed to notice a somewhat shady-looking man seated just a row behind him, staring at his back with disapprobation in his eyes.
“That’s him?” The man spoke in Nipponese. Another well-built man lowered his head and whispered back, “Yes. It’s been confirmed that the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl is on him right now.”
“Idiot…” The shady-looking man squinted, “You don’t even know… what kind of hell you’re bringing upon yourself…”
“After all, how can a mere mortal like you fully appreciate the mighty name of the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven?”
2. Mori Ranmaru was one of Nobunaga’s attendants. Ranmaru and his younger brothers defended Nobunaga during the Honnoji incident, allowing him to commit seppuku. Then, they set the entire temple in which they had barricaded themselves on fire and allowed it to burn to the ground, killing everyone inside.