Qin Ye’s neck stiffened as the amount of blood dripping from above increased. Despite the darkness engulfing the classroom, he glanced up slightly, gently tilting the phone in his hands so that it illuminated the area over his head.
The dim glow of the light shifted slightly. In that split second, he saw a foot-long gaping wide mouth replete with pasty white skin hanging just overhead!
With a sharp hiss, the vicious teeth snapped ferociously at him!
From behind, it appeared as though a naked child with sickly skin was hugging Qin Ye’s head as it took a bite from it.
“Ahhhh!!!” Zhang Yilong and Wang Chenghao squealed at the same time. Their eyes rolled back, and both of them passed out in the very next moment.
Fortunately, the vicious teeth never got the chance to clamp down fully, nor did any grisly sound of crushing bones echo out.
With his back turned, Qin Ye held a silver staff with intricate lotus flowers etched on both ends right above his head, wedging it horizontally right between the little child’s mouth.
“Woooo….WOOOO!!” The bizarre child’s body contorted as it struggled to shut its massive mouth. Unfortunately, the silver magic staff lodged in its mouth easily thwarted its efforts.
Qin Ye’s expression was now starkly different, laced with both an intent to tease and some measure of indifference. Smiling faintly, Qin Ye remarked, “You’ve finally made your appearance, huh…”
“I’ve been searching for you for some time now. I’d even put on a show of weakness and cowardice. You’ve finally caved in to my efforts…”
As soon as he finished speaking, a black wind visible to the naked eye erupted from Qin Ye’s body. At the same time, a majestic, domineering voice boomed through the darkness, “By Hell’s dictum, all rabble must disperse!”
Whoosh! A sudden storm swept up, picking up all of the dust particles on the ground and sending them flying out of the classroom with a powerful shockwave visible to the naked eye. Even the curtains were immediately swept aside.
As soon as the storm began billowing, the dark orifices on the bizarre child’s face where eyes would otherwise have been constricted immediately.
Did ghosts have physical bodies?
Perhaps. Because, right this moment, one could see with the naked eye innumerable strands of black qi twining around the child’s body. That said, this was nothing compared to the much thicker and denser Yin energy that had already enveloped Qin Ye, swirling intensely as it formed a pitch-black vortex.
Fearsome… The child’s body trembled. This feeling… was something that emanated from the deepest part of its soul - it was a manifestation of its primal instincts when faced with a qualitatively oppressive force.
That’s right… it had previously only heard of such qualitative levels of oppression… and this was...
Suddenly, the child shuddered and let out a shrill shriek as it frantically sought to rush outside, “Emissary of Hell! It’s an Emissary of Hell! Hell’s gates are open! An Emissary of Hell is here to arrest us!”
Swoosh! The child immediately ran like a dog with its tail between its legs, completely ignoring the fact that there was a magic staff lodged horizontally in its mouth. The only thing weighing in its mind was overwhelming fear - surpassing that experienced by Wang Chenghao and Zhang Yilong combined by a thousand times!
How could it be an Emissary of Hell?
Emissaries of Hell have not appeared for over one hundred years! No… this was nothing more than an incidental point. It was an undeniable truth that all Emissaries of Hell were clothed with authority as an official, and each Emissary of Hell wielded so much power that they would be able to deal with these wild ghosts almost effortlessly.
Thud thud thud! The previously tightly shut windows and doors were immediately slammed wide open as the wild ghost charged desperately out of the classroom. Just then, a long chain and hook sped straight after the ghost. The hook shot straight towards the magic staff as though it were intelligently tracking the staff.
This was a top-of-the-line ghost shackle formed entirely out of silver-white chains. As soon as it latched onto the magic staff, the shackle’s chains began to glow with complex, ancient writing, albeit only for a split second. With a devastating howl, the frantically running ghost child slammed onto the ground, knocking up a massive cloud of dirt.
“I bear the authority of Hell’s dictum. Do you really think you can escape?”
With a calm voice, Qin Ye tightened his grasp around the chain, and the little child was forcibly pulled back as it continued to choke and sputter. The door to the classroom slammed shut with a bang once more.
CRASH! The surrounding desks and chairs were smashed to pieces. With a clang, the hook flew back, bringing back with it the silver-coloured magic staff. At the same time, the little child's body exploded with a sickly hum, turning into nothing more than wisps of black qi that scattered in all directions. Just then, a hoarse voice laced with a thick trace of vengefulness hissed, “When Hell’s dictum arrives, the Anitya Hellguards seize spirits… It’s an Emissary of Hell… There are actually Emissaries of Hell still in existence!”
Right in the middle of the classroom, the outpouring of black qi formed a massive vortex before exploding powerfully. Qin Ye’s face sported a pale complexion. He wore an asymmetrical black robe embroidered with three round black-and-white patterns. The Soul Shackle was wrapped around his waist, and he donned a black fretwork chinese skullcap. Wisps of pure nether energy emerged from his sleeves and lapels, while his robe fluttered eerily without any wind. He looked awesome and imposing.
His hand wrapped gently around the scabbard on his waist as he exclaimed, “What ghostly existence speaks? Introduce yourself!”
There was no response. Several seconds later, the vengeful voice boomed aloud, “Hell has already washed its hands off the affairs of the mortal realm for a hundred years. What gives you the right to interfere?”
Whoosh… Qin Ye drew the saber from his scabbard and gently ran his finger across its edge, “Well then… today marks the first day of Hell’s governance once more.”
“You!!” The voice screeched, and the windows and doors slammed open at the same time once more. A powerful gale blew into the classroom.
“Hey, hey, hey… I’ve only just taken up my post here as one of Hell’s Emissaries after all… Wouldn’t leaving right now be far too disrespectful?”
Qin Ye spoke softly. Yet, as soon as he finished speaking, a soft swishing sound sliced through the air - his blade was light as snow.
Everything came to an abrupt halt.
A bloodcurdling scream echoed in the night. It was an incredibly deafening sound, yet it seemed to be drowned out by the torrential rainfall outside. The appearance of a child glowed faintly on the blade of his demonhead saber before turning into wisps of black smoke and dissipating into the surroundings. Finally, it was swallowed by the ghastly head etched onto the hilt of the saber, igniting a bright green flame for a split second before flickering out.
Qin Ye furrowed his brows as he shut his eyes once more, almost as though he were attempting to sense something. Several moments later, he sighed with resignation, “It’s not it either…”
“I still can’t find it anywhere within this ‘hunting zone’. Is that old granny just messing with me? Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve already captured three vengeful apparitions this month, I’m still nowhere close to achieving the requirements for tenureship. Is she just using me as free labour?”
Just then, something caught his eye, and he glanced out the window into the distance.
He had a good vantage point. The classroom was pitch-black, so nobody from the outside could see anything on the inside. However, Qin Ye could clearly see what was outside. Amidst the torrential rain, a stooping man dressed in ink-black with a walking stick in hand was slowly hobbling towards him.
“It’s him again.” Qin Ye collected his thoughts and furrowed his brows. The black-coloured energy enveloping his body abruptly vanished, and his clothes transformed back into his usual uniform. He controlled his breath, shut his eyes, and laid on the ground quietly.
As the rain continued to pour down incessantly, the school returned to a state of complete stillness and silence.
After what felt like five to ten minutes, knocking sounds finally echoed from the door to the classroom.
The knocks were neither fast nor slow.
“Hello. I’m an investigator from the National Special Investigations Department, Qingxi County Branch. My registration number is AC-285. May I come in?”
Naturally, nobody responded.
After approximately ten seconds, the voice added, “Then… please pardon the intrusion.”
The door was gently pushed open. There were two coughs, followed by the light, rhythmic tapping of the walking stick on the ground. There were also faint traces of the clinking of chains muffled by the sound of thick clothing.
Then, the visitor crouched down. His clothes brushed gently against the ground and rustled gently. Several moments later, he switched on his phone, “It’s me.”
“Yes… there’s nothing here. It’s strange. This is the third supernatural incident within Qingxi County, each of which had been caused by an evil ghost powerful enough to necessitate my personal involvement… yet for some strange reason, each of these three evil ghosts had already been purged by someone else by the time I had arrived…”
“There’s no doubt - it’s the same person. His mark is very distinct. In particular, the remnant Yin energy is far thicker than the ordinary ghosts that we’ve seen… I’ve never seen such thick Yin energy either… I know, I’ll notify the city if necessary. But so far there’s no sign that this B-rated supernatural entity is out to hurt anyone. It’s almost as if… it's only targeting the evil ghosts themselves. I don’t think there’s a need to alert the city just yet…”
“Mm… got it. I’ll take care of the scene. Don’t worry…”
After the man hung up, Qin Ye heard a wistful sigh and the ignition mechanism of a lighter clicking softly. Shortly afterwards, a peculiar fragrance drifted through the air.
Qin Ye remained still and silent, like a tortoise playing dead. In fact, he waited for a full hour before taking a peek at his surroundings once more.
There was no longer anyone left in the classroom. The desks and chairs had been magically restored to their initial condition. The only difference was that there was a pile of burnt out ash that was still emitting some residual heat lying on the teacher’s podium.
Qin Ye picked up some of the ash and took a whiff of it, before sneering, “Incense of Paramnesia.”
“Anyone who smells this won’t be able to remember anything that happened the next day when he wakes up. If I recall correctly… something like this is extremely valuable. Even the old granny doesn’t have much of it. Yet, this person...had just expended an entire stick of it just to ‘take care of the scene’? Isn’t that far too extravagant?” Then, Qin Ye shifted his gaze and looked thoughtfully out the door, “He’s been pursuing me ever since the first evil ghost I’d cleansed and purged. It’s almost like a wild dog that doesn’t know how to give up… He’s really fortunate though. If not for the fact that it’s not his time yet, I would’ve given him rest a long time ago.”
Qin Ye walked over to Zhang Yilong and Wang Chenghao’s side, stretched out his arms and held their heads up gently. He then opened his eyes wide and glared disdainfully at them for several seconds more, before suddenly unleashing a barrage of fierce punches and kicks on their abdomen.
Thud! Both students were sent flying towards the blackboard by a powerful kick, where they landed with a muffled thud.
“The Incense of Paramnesia will prevent you from recalling exactly what happened here… Since your parents haven’t taught you properly, then let me teach you a lesson on behalf of your parents.” Qin Ye chuckled coldly as he grabbed Zhang Yilong and gave him a tight slap across the face. Before his face could recoil from the impact, Qin Ye’s chained a back-handed slap once more.
“Don’t you know the concept of unity among students? Friendship and fraternity? Students these days… face my wrath!”
Pak! Pak! Pak! Crisp smacking sounds reverberated throughout the otherwise silent classroom…
“Been hanging out with too many hooligans? You young sproutlings haven’t even learnt to fly yet. Have you ever seen what members of a true secret society are like?”
Pak! Pak! Pak!
“A good man doesn’t live long, but the misfortune one brings upon himself lasts a thousand years…”
Bursting with emotions, Qin Ye lifted the two other students and slammed them down over his shoulder with a loud thud as though he were tossing a deflated ball. Finally, he clapped the dust off his hands in satisfaction.
He was pleased.
The two students were completely bruised and swollen, and yet their eyes were still tightly shut. Qin Ye had beaten them up skillfully and methodically. It looked bad; it felt worse, yet they suffered no internal injuries at all. In other words, these were injuries that they would recover from in just a few days. They were merely students and classmates after all. There was no life-or-death feud between them - at least, there was no enmity that couldn’t be resolved by a good, violent beating.
Even if there were, he could just beat them up once more…
After leaving the room, Qin Ye walked to the bordering wall surrounding the school, leapt over a height of two meters with ease and somersaulted over the wall before landing on the other side. Incidentally, there was a bicycle parked right outside.
The rain had already stopped by now, yet not a single person could be seen on the streets. The former bustling night markets had ceased operations as soon as the national announcements had begun. In fact, there were hardly any traces of the living right now. The only thing that remained were the street lamps that were softly illuminating Qin Ye’s silhouette as he plodded on unhurriedly.
The rabble had dispersed around the Emissary of Hell, and the road Qin Ye took was unnaturally tranquil. As he plodded on, his mind began to churn and race, “I gather that that man must be from the government. He mentioned something about a B-rated supernatural entity… doesn’t this mean that Cathay has already begun to take notice of such matters on a national level?”
“No wonder things have seemed rather bizarre lately… given the customs and conventions these days, how could such news about the supernatural otherwise have made the headlines? The government must already be laying the foundation for the future, huh… And how could it already have developed to such an extent? They’ve even begun nation-wide announcements and establishing the relevant departments to handle these matters! Such incredible speed…”
“Then… I wonder just how many people know about these developments to date?”
Qin Ye knit his brows together even more tightly, mumbling as he continued to gaze blankly into the darkness of the night sky, “With so many people getting involved, I’m afraid it’s only going to be even more difficult locating ‘it’...”
As he continued to immerse himself in his thoughts, Qin Ye found himself arriving at the outskirts of the county. Qingxi County was hardly large by any means. Incidentally, all of the county members who had passed on over the last few decades had all been buried on the Green Dragon Mountain just behind the county. Naturally, it stood to reason that the present street Qin Ye was on had become ubiquitously known as the funerary street.
Some peddled paper dolls in the shape of humans and horses, while others sold firecrackers and paper money… The narrow street was lined with approximately twenty shops that all thrived on the business of the dead. Even though the number of shops could hardly be considered substantial, it was nevertheless considerable for a county whose population numbered only 30,000.
His family’s business was known as “The Afterlife”. The name was simple and easy to understand, and it was located at the very end of the street. Regardless, he was startled to find a large group of people surrounding his home at this very moment.
“Little Qin!” An old lady noticed him dismounting his bicycle and immediately skittled over, “You’ve finally returned! Quick! Something’s happened!”
1. The mandarin words used here are 无常, and it can mean a number of things, including a concept that is central to Buddhism which states that everything is constantly changing. In this context, the author is probably made in reference to the 黑白无常, who are the black guard and white guard in charge of escorting souls back to hell. That said, the author goes on to use the same word to refer to a class of Hell’s Emissaries later in the story, so I will use Anitya instead, a Sanskrit word for the term Impermanence. The class of Hell’s Emissaries will be referred to as the Anitya Hellguard class, Hellguard-class, or simply Hellguards