Takuma Asakura felt his hair stand on end in an instant!
The small washroom already felt cramped given his height and build. To make matters worse, the shower within the washroom was sequestered by the frosted glass wall. The tight space, coupled with the glimpse of the horrific company he had immediately engulfed him in terror.
Anyone would take some time to get used to the dark, especially when the lights went out as suddenly as it did. He couldn’t see a single thing in the room, and the silence in the darkness was stifling and oppressive - almost as though he were camping out in an empty graveyard in the middle of the night.
Every slightest sound was a trigger for immense terror.
Gulp… A visceral sense of danger filled his mind, and he immediately broke out into cold sweat. His inner voice desperately screamed in his heart - Run! Get out! Leave this place right now!
Without hesitation, he turned around and twisted the doorknob. However…
It wouldn’t open!
There wasn’t any locking mechanism on the door, and yet, for some strange reason, he wasn’t able to open it no matter how hard he tried! An electrifying sensation numbed his mind, and he hammered the door desperately. He even kicked it with all his might. But, the flimsy wooden door that would otherwise have collapsed with a single kick from this hunk of muscle stood strong like a steel plate, completely impervious to his attempts at breaking it down!
“Haa--... haa--...” He mustered every ounce of strength from his body and continued to exert himself for the next ten minutes, until his legs began to go numb. Gasping for breath, backed into the washbasin and screamed at the top of his voice, “Iwatani! Master Iwatani!! What are you doing now?! Answer me!!”
However, there was no response.
Just then, goosebumps suddenly crept all over his skin! He instinctively backed into the corner of the bathroom, leaning back heavily against the cold walls. And then, his heart stopped.
Someone’s watching me…
He’s right here! He’s right beside me!
Who is it? Who could be here?! Here was a man who has had blood on his hands before, and yet he found himself shuddering incessantly right now, glancing around warily, until he suddenly fixed his gaze in a particular location. A second later, sweat percolated every pore of his skin, his knees buckled, and he slid down slowly to the ground!
“Ahh--... Haa--... Ahh---...” He couldn’t find his voice at all. His eyes widened, his jaws dropped, and his breaths began to grow shallower and shallower. He could now see that his reflection in the mirror was staring right back at him!
And it wasn’t as though the mirror were staring back at him in the form of his present reflection. Rather, it had taken the form of his reflection several moments ago - one that stood upright and tall. Just like that, the figure in the mirror stood silently, gazing intently back at him.
It was almost as though the mirror depicted a memorial portrait of him.
“This… what the hell is going on? Is there a ghost? Are there really ghosts around?” His voice trembled and carried traces of weeping. Simultaneously, his reflection in the mirror suddenly turned his head and looked elsewhere.
Elsewhere… he’s looking elsewhere… that’s not me in the reflection, so what the hell is it?! No… elsewhere… what’s there on the other side?
He fervently suppressed his ragged breaths as best he could. And then, his body trembled violently with a quick realization, and he stiffly turned his head to where his reflection was looking.
The other side… is the shower room…
And right as he turned his head, water began to pour out of the washbasin faucet and the shower head at the same time! Takuma Asakura screamed and crouched down like a madman, running his fingers through his hair and shutting his eyes tightly.
It’s a ghost… there’s really a ghost here!
This is definitely something unclean!
Squeeaaakk… The washbasin faucet suddenly shut itself, leaving only the rushing sound of water coming from the shower room itself. A dim glow of moonlight shone through the small ventilation window in the shower room, painting an eerie, misty sheen on the walls of the room. Takuma Asakura began to tremble all over. The moonlight had actually cast the shadow of a man on the frosted glass of the shower room!
Someone was currently showering and scrubbing his body. Although these actions were simple and menial, it looked incomparably hellish to Takuma Asakura, and even sent wave after wave of electrifying sensations of terror surging through his mind!
That’s impossible… The person inside cannot possibly be human! I’ve checked earlier! The shower room had always been empty!
A lump swelled up in his throat, and his limbs stiffened up. He was trapped alone in a cramped washroom, only to realize within moments that the reflection in the mirror was not his own, and yet another man had suddenly shown up in the adjacent shower room. Everything was absolutely driving him crazy.
He didn’t want anything more than to get out of the washroom and leave the shower room as far behind him as possible. It was almost as though there were only a thin, frosted glass panel separating him from an evil ghost right now.
Just then, a hoarse voice suddenly called out from the shower room. It was harsh to the ears, almost like cat claws against a chalkboard. And yet, there was a peculiar rhythm to it.
“かごめ, かごめ. 籠の中の鳥は / Circle around, circle around. The bird in the cage.”
“いついつ出やる 夜明けの晩に / When, oh when will it come out, in the night of the dawn.”
“鶴と亀が滑った / The turtle and crane have slipped…”
Takuma Asakura was drenched in cold sweat by this time. He knew this children’s song. He was also aware that it was called… ‘A Caged Bird’.
More importantly, he also knew what the next line was.
And neither did he have to wait for the next line, because the voice from the shower room quickly continued. However, he wasn’t singing this time.
Instead, together with his reflection in the mirror… they spoke each word with a hoarse, chilling voice.
“後ろの正面だあれ / Who is behind you now?” 
Takuma Asakura mouthed the words at the same time. Then, as he arrived at the last word, he suddenly froze abruptly, because… out of the darkness of the cramped washroom, a cold hand had just run itself gently across his cheek…
A few minutes later.
Back in the room, the buff young man reading the newspapers on the sofa heard the door open up, so he casually quipped without looking up, “Done smoking?”
There was only the sound of heavy footsteps thumping towards him, almost as though a zombie were approaching.
The buff young man was just about to turn the page of his papers when he suddenly furrowed his brows.
What a thick stench of blood…
He looked up slightly, and the first thing he saw were two feet trudging towards him like a zombie.
That’s Asakura’s slippers…
“Haa--...” The man drew a deep breath and immediately reached into his suit for his pistol. His drawing speed was reasonably quick. But he was soon dumbstruck by what he saw.
A split second later, his teeth began to chatter uncontrollably. His pupils narrowed, and he couldn’t help but scramble backwards, breaking out with profuse cold sweat as he did so.
That’s not Asakura…
That’s a corpse… a living corpse.
It wore Asakura’s clothes, but there was no head above the corpse’s neck! Instead, the corpse held Asakura’s head by its hair in one of its hands.
“You’re going to shoot me?” Asakura’s lower jaw had been torn cleanly off his head, and was presently being held in the other arm. The other arm manipulated the lower jaw almost as though Asakura’s head was a puppet. But he somehow managed to speak complete words to form a sentence.
The corpse turned Asakura’s head to the young, buff man and stared at him with his vacant eyes, “Are you really going to shoot me?”
“Go to hell!!!” The man was stricken with fear, and he impulsively fired off his pistols with several loud bangs. Unfortunately, the room he was in was completely sequestered from the rest of the cruise liner, and nobody could hear these gunshots of his.
Five minutes later, the room door swung open, and Asakura and the other buff man walked out, completely unharmed.
“I’ve gotta hand it to the Cathayan underworld. They’ve got their theory spot on.” Asakura muttered, “Humans have three lamps over their bodies, and these lamps waver and flicker the most when they sustain an emotional trauma. Incidentally, that’s also the best time for us emissaries to take possession of their bodies.”
“If not for the cardinal rule that underworlds aren’t supposed to interfere with the matters of the mortal realm, we wouldn’t have to go through so much trouble at all.” The buff man replied, “But it’s just as well - one body for each of us. We’d be able to enter the cargo hold without any issues this way. Honestly speaking, this is the perfect solution for us right now.”
He looked at his phone, “There’s still thirty minutes remaining. So… why don’t we link up with our dear master for now?”
Qin Ye opened his eyes to the melodious hum of the cruise liner.
He could sense that the cruise liner had just begun to move. He waited silently for a minute, and then he abruptly sat up.
He rolled his sleeves up to his arm and strapped Ming Shiyin within his clothes. And then, he walked softly to the door.
“There have been two instances of energy fluctuations in the last one hour.” He didn’t open the door immediately. Instead, he simply stared at the doorknob, “One was a true energy fluctuation, while the other was a Yin energy fluctuation. Both were in the Hellguard level. I couldn’t tell how many Hellguard-class entities were involved. Lord Ming?”
Ming Shiyin responded softly, “Don’t worry. I’ve already tampered with the surveillance systems along the route that you’re going to take. The cargo hold is located at the bottom of the cruise liner. Just follow my instructions. When will you be transforming into your Hell’s Emissary state?”
“There’s no need for now.” Qin Ye gazed at the long, deep corridor. There wasn’t a single person walking through the corridors at this moment. The desolate corridors and the slight sway of the ship made it seem as though this corridor… led straight into hell.
“I’ll save my ability to transform into my emissary state so that I can take them by surprise. After all, it would be far too obvious what my goal is if I donned the emissary state right now.”
Foof… foof… The impact of the soles of his leather shoes were absorbed by the thick carpet along the corridor, and Qin Ye moved along slowly and silently. Guardian Auctions had quite a number of artifacts lined up for the upcoming major auctions, and it would naturally take them at least one hour before they got to the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl. Sixty minutes was enough time for Qin Ye to accomplish plenty.
The interior of the ship was very similar to a regular building, while the access door leading straight to the basement of the cruise liner appeared no different from the access doors in regular malls. The signposts with a green man indicated human access. And yet, for some strange reason, Qin Ye could only feel a slight chill as he stood in front of the door. The access door right in front of him fluctuated slightly.
“Diffusion of Yin energy.” He stared at the half-opened access door. It was dark right behind the door. But bright light illuminated the latter part of the access corridor in the distance. From where he was, the long, deep access corridor appeared as though it would lead straight into an underwater graveyard.
The lights were bright and dazzling. In fact, he could even hear some soft, weeping sounds coming from behind the door, almost as though it were the eerie cry of a ghost.
The silence was deafening. Qin Ye raised his hand and touched the access door, and he immediately sensed an immense wave of baleful energy from it. It was as though a hint of frigid air like that from a morgue were wafting out from behind the door.
It seemed to be a warning to all living things that what lay behind the door was out of bounds to them.
Living, beware. Access restricted to evil ghosts.
“Most ordinary people wouldn’t go beyond this point because of the innate flight response.” Qin Ye’s hand pushed beyond the doorframe, “Just like how ordinary human beings instinctively avoid dark places. Because… they fear the unknown dangers hidden in the shadows, especially the unclean things…”
Then, just as his hand pushed past the frame, lines of crimson Nipponese words immediately appeared on the access door. These words spelt a special incantation which formed the basis of a formation array. Yet what was perhaps most surprising was the fact that there was another spell barrier erected at this place that was spelt out in golden Sanskrit words that overlapped with the crimson words on the access doors. The intersection of the two sets of bright, glowing texts made the access door seem like one that opened into an asylum filled with insane ghosts.
“Two factions. The crimson letters are written by emissaries. I can detect Yin energy emanating from it. Furthermore, it consists of the exact same Yin energy signature that we had detected back at Eastsea City. It’s the same group of emissaries. Excellent…” Qin Ye licked his lips, “It would be great to finally close that chapter over here…”
Ming Shiyin continued where Qin Ye left off, “The other set of writing is also a spell barrier, but it is derived from the Nipponese Tantric Buddhists. They should be affiliated with the Onmyojis. They weren’t able to see the spell barrier erected by the Nipponese emissaries nor the text on the access door, so they wrote directly over it.”
“Well then, what are we still waiting for?” Qin Ye raised his brows and sneered as he finally waltzed brazenly through the access door, “This should be the final probe before the great battle unfolds at the East Cathay Sea. The supporting cast is all present, so isn’t it time for us, the main actors, to take the stage?”
Dong… The door immediately slammed shut behind them, while the overhead lights fizzled out in an instant. Moments later, the emergency lights game on, filling the entire access corridor with a dark hue of dusk that permeated every corner of the access corridor and the spiral stairs that led straight down.
This appeared no different from an access corridor leading straight to an abyss of punishment, filled with the mournful cries of thousands of ghosts.
Revelment of evil ghosts! Enter at your own risk!
1. Kagome kagome is a popular Japanese children’s song/game. One player is chosen as the Oni, or a demon, and sits blindfolded, while the other children join hands and walk in circles while chanting the song for the game. When the song stops, the Oni is supposed to name the person standing directly behind them. You can listen to the song on wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kagome_Kagome