Chapter 26: Netherworld Craftsman License

“Sit.” Qin Ye sat down at the wooden table in the middle of the room and nodded at the two others with him. Yet, evidently fraught with abject fear, both Huang Sanhe and the plump lady simply shook their heads silently without moving a single muscle.

What kind of a joke is this?

Such terrifying Yin energy… this man is more terrifying than any other supernatural entity I’ve encountered before!

How can one possibly escape while seated down? But then again, escape might not be a possibility at all.

Qin Ye didn’t force the issue, “I’ve got two questions. Firstly, why are you here? As far as I know, there’s nobody in Clear Creek County who can afford your asking price, so don’t tell me you’re here for profit.”

The woman and Huang Sanhe glanced at each other and heaved a huge sigh of relief in their hearts.

This isn’t an evil ghost.

“Profit”, “asking price” - these seemingly innocuous words weren’t something that even 100-year ghosts were unable to enunciate with such proficiency. This was a type of discernment that professionals like them who dealt with the dead all the time were extremely sensitive to. 

But, despite knowing that the man seated before them was no evil ghost, they still found themselves unable to let their guards down.

Who is he?

How can mere humans possess such terrifying Yin energy? It’s… it’s practically comparable to the Anitya Hellguards of the legends!

“Zhou Lingling, pallbearer, descendant of the Zhou family from Westriver. Greetings, Your Lordship.” Repressing the fear in her heart, the plump lady bowed courteously, “Your Lordship… the phantom market… has made its way to Clear Creek County.”

As suspected! Qin Ye’s eyes shifted slightly underneath his conical bamboo hat, “Who’s the host?”

“The government.” Unexpectedly, her response stunned Qin Ye, “Previously, the phantom market has always been hosted by a Taoist monk or a Taoist priest. But, ever since half a year ago, an entity called the Special Investigations Department has taken over everything in its entirety. Furthermore… they even have records of exactly what each of us has done to date - including the clients we’ve undertaken assignments from.”

Zhou Lingling continued, “From thenceforth, all transactions pertaining to the netherworld had to be registered and recorded, from the largest of municipalities, to the smallest of villages. All personnel must first have their identities verified before they can enter. The phantom market is organized once every six months, and the location is designated by the Special Investigations Department. And it was only two days ago that we’d received the news that the upcoming phantom market will be held in Clear Creek County.”

The massive sweep. Neither Qin Ye nor Arthis opened their mouths. This obviously had to do with the investigations. The first step was naturally to commence their search from those who regularly dealt with the dead.

“Identity verification?” Qin Ye raised an eyebrow.

“Yes… it’s this.” Not daring to conceal anything at all, Zhou Lingling immediately pulled out a card with a magnetic strip and placed it on the table.

Qin Ye picked it up and inspected it. He nearly swore aloud.

“What’s this?” Arthis looked at the card in his hands with interest. It was approximately two inches long and one inch wide. Zhou Lingling’s photograph was on the left side of the card, while the national emblem was printed on the right side of the card. A thin line of words were imprinted on the bottom - National-Registered E-class Underworldly Craftsman; Verification by the Westriver Branch.

“It’s an identification card.” As though he’d recalled something, Qin Ye gnashed his teeth and continued, “This is the most anti-social, inhumane invention in all of history…”

Arthis immediately understood what he meant. “Ahh… I understand. As an undying person who’s been living among the mortals for an extended period of time, you’re forced to change identifications multiple times. It’s been difficult, hasn’t it…”

Qin Ye was incensed. It’s already difficult enough to get identification cards these days, yet even simple occupations like underworldly craftsmen now require identification as well? Do they even want ghosts to pass on to the netherworld anymore? Is this how difficult earning merit points is going to be?

“Secondly,” Suppressing the ghostly fire raging in his belly, he continued to speak in a deep, low voice, “Have… any pallbearers taken over any of your jobs recently?”

Zhou Lingling and Huang Sanhe were stunned by the question, but they both shook their heads in unison, “Not that we’ve heard of.”

Then, before Qin Ye could even respond to them, Huang Sanhe continued to explain the situation, “Your Lordship, we’re nothing more than ordinary E-class underworldly craftsmen. How could we possibly know about the business of others? That said, we know of a person who would definitely be in the know of such things.”

Qin Ye was sharp, and he immediately probed further, “Where is he now?”

“Two days ago, he travelled from Lotus City to Clear Creek County.”

Qin Ye stood up slowly. “Do you have some Incense of Paramnesia with you? Do I need to provide you with some?”

Naturally, they had some. The two craftsmen took out a stick of Incense of Paramnesia each, obsequiously lit them up and then shut their eyes. 

Qin Ye didn’t leave the scene until twenty minutes later, when the incense finally burned out and the two craftsmen had fallen into a deep slumber.

Outside, the breeze swept gently across the lands as usual. He sighed wistfully, “Looks like things are going to become slightly troublesome.”

“Indeed.” Arthis agreed, “The easiest way to gain entry is to immediately apply for registration as an underworldly craftsman. But...as soon as you make such an application, the authorities would immediately connect you to the incident at Hyatt last night. Yet, if you don’t apply for registration, you might not be able to gain entry at all.”

“Actually, there’s a third method we haven’t explored yet. The only problem is that the risks are far too high, and it doesn’t quite suit my preferences.” Qin Ye chimed in with indifference.

“To go directly to the host?”

Qin Ye nodded his head, “That’s right. We can get the information we need straight from the horse’s mouth and be done with it.”

………………………………………………….

A plane cruised through the dark sky, leaving a trail of shimmering light in its wake as it cut through the thick black clouds of night.

A young man yawned in boredom. If not for the fact that the 2 a.m. flight was cheaper, he would never have taken this flight.

It was quiet on the plane. The man enjoyed sitting by the window-side because he would be able to look out from the plane at the clouds below, and on occasion even gaze upon the dim splotches of light emanated by thousands of households in cities. The fact that he was flying high above others gave him a sense of delight and satisfaction.

Unfortunately, even though he had taken a night flight, all of the window seats had earlier already been booked out. What made things worse was the man who was seated just beside him.

He was a strange man.

It was already early autumn, yet the other person was already tightly wrapped up in a large trench coat. Notwithstanding that he was already on board the plane, he continued to wear his flat cap, a black face mask and black shades. His neck was even wrapped with a black scarf.

From the time he boarded the plane until now, the young man hadn’t seen the other man speak a single word. Even when the flight attendant asked the strange man what drink he would like, the man only shook his head lightly, keeping completely silent.

The most peculiar part about the man was the fact that he had purchased two tickets.

He had a suitcase with him which had not been placed on the cabin compartment. Instead, he chose to leave it in the seat beside him. When the flight attendant popped over to ask him about it, he simply pulled out his two tickets to justify his actions.

Strange man.

And the most abominable thing he did as soon as he boarded the flight was to pull up the window flap, depriving the young man the joy of his flights, and stirring a deep sense of frustration within him.

“Shit…” The night flight took off, and everyone was quickly settled into their flight. The young man found himself unusually bored, and began to play video games to kill time. This was a flight from Spring City to Lotus City, and the flight duration was only one hour and forty minutes long.

Thirty minutes into the flight, he yawned lightly and straightened his back as he glanced about his surroundings, ostensibly overwhelmed by boredom.

Everyone was resting by now. The lights on the plane had been somewhat dimmed. Nevertheless, the young man possessed good eyesight. After looking around only to discover that there were no pretty ladies in sight, he looked disappointingly at the window at the other end of his row.

What dumb luck… who purchases a window seat only to shut the window flap? Is something wrong with him? I’d like to look out the window even if you don’t want to…

He glanced longingly at the window on the other end of his row. However, everything appeared dark and murky, and there was hardly the same delightful sensation of walking on clouds he got when he had a closer look through the window. Thus, he withdrew his gaze in dismay. Just then, he suddenly froze and blinked several times, before doing a double take at the other end of his row.

Carefully, and without blinking this time.

Seconds later, his entire body began trembling, and sweat began to roll off his forehead in just an instant. His teeth began to chatter uncontrollably, and he even began to shift his bum subconsciously away from the window.

At that very moment, the young man hated his excellent visual acuity.

No one…

The man seated beside him - that strange man - could not be seen in the window’s reflection! Only his clothes were visible! The man himself could not be seen!

A dim aisle; and a silent cabin. They were thousands of meters above the ground. It was 2 a.m., and he… was seated together with an unknown entity!

Pat… Just then, a hand tapped gently on his shoulder and an incredibly hoarse voice spoke, “You don’t… seem too well?”

“Ahh!!” The young man gasped in horror and shrieked loudly. Yet all that did was to draw the ire of several displeased passengers. This was also the first time that the strange person seated beside him who presently had his hand on the young man’s shoulder spoke.

“N-n-n-no…” With a face completely drained of colour, the young man trembled in response.

The strange man wore leather gloves on his hands, even under his trench coat.

“Should I take a look?” The strange man spoke at a peculiar pace with oddly placed pauses.

“No! There’s no need!” The young man stood up abruptly, before immediately sitting down once more.

The strange man had pulled him back down to his seat.

“Do you know… what treatment I specialize in…” The strange man’s voice seemed to grow hoarser by the minute. The young man felt as though he had been locked in an icy cold cellar. His teeth chattered uncontrollably as he responded compliantly, “W-what do you treat?”

The man appeared to smile faintly as he pulled down his sunglasses, “I treat the living…”

The passenger seated one row behind these men noticed the seats in front of him moving slightly. He grumbled and kneed the seat in front of him in displeasure before shutting his eyes again.

One hour later, the plane arrived in Lotus City as scheduled. The strange man alighted from the plane through the aisle with his suitcase in tow. He switched on his phone at the earliest possible opportunity.

“It’s me. I’ve arrived. Are you certain this line won’t be tapped?”

“Hah… We haven’t seen the light of day for decades now… You don’t even see the presence of any Red Guards patrolling the streets anymore…”

“That’s right… I’m headed straight for Clear Creek County. Don’t worry. I’ll bring back the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. Nobody should be allowed to touch His Highness’ possessions… regardless of who they are… Don’t worry about me. Hell should no longer be in existence. As long as the old fogeys from the three great Taoist Ancestral Courts don’t personally make a move, none of these cute little things from the Special Investigations Department can hinder me at all…”

“Yes… Understood. I’ll bring back the corpse of the culprit who has touched the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, no matter who it is… That’s it, I’m hanging up… It’s been too long since I’ve last spoken. I’m still getting used to it…”

The clopping sounds of his leather shoes drifted further and further away from the plane. Just then, a flight attendant who was packing up noticed a young man slumped at his seat with his eyes shut tightly. His face was unusually pale.

“Do you need any help, sir?” The beautiful stewardess smiled genially as she asked.

No response.

“Sir…” The stewardess was smiling as she thought to prompt the man a second time, yet her face froze momentarily.

The young man’s chest wasn’t moving at all.

His nostrils weren’t flaring up either.

With trembling hands, she stretched out a finger and placed it under the young man’s nose to check for breath. As soon as her finger made contact with his nose, the young man’s entire body began to deflate as though it were a leaking football. In an instant, the young man transformed into nothing more than a piece of shrivelled human skin!

“Ahhh--AHHHHHHHHH!!!” A miserable scream echoed throughout the entire airport.

Twenty minutes later, a group of heavily armed policemen surrounded the airport. The leader of the group was a lieutenant colonel. He walked into the plane with an ashen expression, and he stopped in his steps in no time.

“Seal off the vicinity. Check the passenger manifesto! Also…”

He drew a deep breath and continued with a fiery blaze in his eyes, “Notify the Special Investigations Department of a D-grade supernatural incident… and… the fact that the perpetrator completely slipped through our supernatural perimeter.”

“We have a hostile… And I’m afraid it’s one that is at least as strong as the top 30% of the spirit-beings we have encountered thus far!”

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Minotauruz & RWX's Thoughts

'At least', lol...