Night was coming.
The days were relatively short in the north. To make matters worse, it was a cloudy day, and dark clouds loomed right over the horizon. It was likely going to be a stormy night.
After dinner at 5.30 p.m., three jeeps promptly departed from the military zone and sped straight towards the edge of New Hale City.
“Nervous?” Ye Xingchen smiled as he glanced at Wang Chenghao. They were seated right beside each other.
Ye Xingchen came from a family of cultivators, so he had naturally purged Yin spirits before.
“I’m still alright.” Wang Chenghao smiled back. The incidents which took place at Clear Creek County would forever be etched in the depths of his heart. The massacre of the puppet master and the river of blood which flowed from the corpses of his classmates had been a sight far worse than any ordinary Yin spirit they could face right now.
And it was precisely because he had prior experience in this regard that he began to carefully examine the magic artifact and talismans issued to him.
He had been issued a gourd-shaped artifact that could easily be activated upon the infusion of true energy, as well as talismans called the “Talisman of the Thundergod’s Fury”. Over the course of the previous semester, he learnt that one of the things of nature most feared by Yin spirits was thunder itself.
Each student had been issued with ten talismans and a single magic artifact. If they put to use everything they had learnt over the last semester, holding out for a period of thirty minutes wouldn’t be an issue at all. That would buy Qin Ye sufficient time to come to their aid.
Ye Xingchen glanced at the other two students sharing the same jeep as them, both of whom possessed excellent grades in the academy. Right this moment, they were actually bragging to one another about what they were about to do, “I’m going to slaughter all of the evil ghosts within the hunting zone assigned to me!” “That’s right! Who needs these talismans! I, alone, will be enough to deal with the rabble around!”
Pfft… Ye Xingchen chuckled contemptuously, before giving them a friendly warning, “It might still be better to err on the side of caution. You never know when you might need these things.”
The jeeps had already driven out of the heart of New Hale City by now. The scenery ahead of them grew increasingly desolate. Perhaps the vicinity once used to be hale and hearty, but right now, there was hardly any traffic seen plying these roads at all.
Even the pedestrians on the roads all appeared to be in a hurry, scurrying away on foot or zooming off on their bicycles as they desperately sought to get back before the darkness fully set over the lands. Public transport had already ceased operations by this time of the day. Taxis would also have called it a night early on.
Every shop and store that lined the street were already shuttered for the day, while the lights illuminating the billboards and signboards were gradually extinguished. The entire city transformed from a thriving, bustling marketplace to a desolate wasteland in no more than an hour. And then, just as the oppressiveness in the air came to a head, the clock in the jeeps finally sounded its bells.
It rang a total of six times. It was now 6.00 p.m.
Right at that moment, New Hale City, as well as the 85% of the rest of Cathay, began to broadcast the exact same announcement, “Dear citizens. It’s 6.00 p.m. again. The government solemnly reminds all citizens to be back at your place of residence within the next twenty minutes. Please take heed. A failure to do so might potentially result in death.”
“All citizens still in public places are reminded to depart by no later than 6.10 p.m. Please be mindful not to walk around places with glass, mirrors or uninhabited locations. Kindly also avoid the vicinity of buildings that are in disrepair or abandoned. If you see anything unusual, please refrain from investigating on your own, and leave immediately. All citizens travelling along are reminded to never look back.”
“Furthermore, please be mindful that all persons, whether local or foreigner, should not stay alone as far as possible, as that might pose a risk to life and limb. We strongly recommend that you stay in threes or more in a single apartment. Do not leave your place of residence at night. Finally, please remain calm even if you encounter anything unusual. This message will repeat itself. Dear citizens. It’s 6.00 p.m. again…”
These broadcasts were heard all throughout New Hale City. Kakakaka…. The shops in the vicinity were shuttered promptly. Several owners could even be seen carefully putting up talismans and other wards and protection. Although the government had never provided full clarity of the matter to their citizens… most citizens would already have guessed as much by now.
The only vehicles that remained on the streets were military vehicles. It was now 6.00 p.m.
Whoosh… Just then, all cultivators felt a prickling chill run down their skins.
Yin energy in the surroundings was on the rise.
Nobody said a single word. The battlegrounds were already in sight, and even the most boastful, confident students were silently checking their talismans and recalling everything they had learnt over the past one semester. Then, amidst the atmosphere of tension and silence, the jeeps finally pulled over in front of a small neighbourhood.
Hunting Zone D-72.
Mosaic Gardens Neighbourhood.
The region was well-lit, and there were approximately ten soldiers guarding the main gate, all of whom were ostensibly relieved to see the arrival of their replacements.
“You guys may take your leave.” Li Jixi and Qin Ye entered the guard room, “Are the monitors all in order?”
“Yes. Everything has been set up in accordance with the instructions. The monitors are now receiving the surveillance footage in the region.” A tall guard wiped off the cold sweat that was beading up over his forehead, “Then, we’ll be making a move first, alright? You guys… have to be careful…”
He gulped nervously as he leaned closer to whisper with a trembling voice, “Evil lurks in this neighbourhood...”
Li Jixi nodded. After the earlier shift departed, he promptly connected several devices onto the main computer, and the twelve hunting zones promptly showed up on the monitors in the room.
The ten students had already left for the respective hunting zones they had been assigned. Incidentally, the surveillance footage for Hunting Zone D-69, which Wang Chenghao had been assigned, was displayed right in the center of the monitors in the guard house, in full view of both Qin Ye and Li Jixi.
Qin Ye glanced up placidly, before looking back down to continue playing with his cellphone.
“Students.” Li Jixi stood up. There was an ostensibly complex emotion welling up in the depths of his eyes, “I declare that the First Academy of Cultivators’ cleanup operation henceforth begins.”
“Please come back alive.”
Nobody was aware that this message was also simultaneously relayed to another location.
Guan Gen stood right in front of an abandoned factory, wearing an earpiece, and accompanied by several other cultivators. He, too, heard the declaration of the commencement of operations.
“Shit…” He bit down hard on the cigarette butt in his mouth, before spitting it to the ground, “Fellow colleagues… at my command. Release it!!”
Ka-la-la-la-la… As soon as the rusty steel mill gate in front of him opened up, a miserable, terrifying shriek promptly resounded from within the steel mill.
It was laden with bloodthirstiness and cruelty, and filled with copious amounts of resentment for humanity and venomous grievances.
“Ssss… Ahh…. Yaaarrrgggh… Why… Why didn’t you save me… I don’t want to die… I… want to live…” The soft cry of a ghost weaved in and out of the soft howling of the wind. Chains could be seen extending into the heart of the steel mill, each of which were plastered all over with innumerable talismans. They fluttered menacingly. In fact, even the inner walls of the steel mill was covered with talismans that were scrawled all over with striking cinnabar ink.
Whoosh… The leaves and twigs rustled softly on the ground. Guan Gen gritted his teeth, grabbed tightly to one of the chains with one hand, pulled out a blade from behind his back, and then hacked straight down without hesitation!
SSSS!!!! The chain broke. Back in the steel mill, the heart-rending screams instantly grew far louder than they had been before. Ka-ka-ka-ka-ka! A split second later, the remaining chains snapped at the same time! The talismans plastered all over them also spontaneously combusted in unison and were immediately reduced to ashes!
Everyone could sense that something… something no different from a gust of wind, had just barrelled straight out from within the steel mill, rushing straight across their bodies.
It was a chilling to the bone.
A second later, Guan Gen’s knees buckled, and he collapsed to the floor weakly. He chuckled bitterly and lit up a cigarette, before picking up his phone with great trembling, “Reporting to headquarters… Subject at Hunting Zone C-56 has been released… All personnel are to take defensive measures… Its destination… is Hunting Zone D-69…”
“Its previous place of residence…”
Blue Sky Neighbourhood.
Wang Chenghao stood right in front of Building No. 2. He drew several deep breaths in order to suppress the wild thumping in his heart.
This was the first time he would be facing these terrifying entities ever since the incident back at Clear Creek County. He kept telling himself that he shouldn’t be afraid. After all, how much more terrifying could these Yin spirits be compared with the puppet master back then? However, he couldn’t shake off the fierce beating of his heart no matter what he did.
“The Blue Sky Neighbourhood is where the supernatural incident was first reported…” He finally plucked up the courage to open the door. But as soon as he stepped into the door, there was a massive rumble and crash!
“Holy shit!!!” Wang Chenghao’s scalp immediately went numb. He turned around, only to be startled by his own blurry reflection on the glass door behind him.
It was none other than the storm clouds which had been brewing the entire day. A torrential downpour had just begun.
The rain pelted down heavily, rattling the trees in the vicinity. Wang Chenghao shook his head slightly, mustered his courage and began to head in.
But… just as he took the first step, the lights in the inner hallways suddenly flickered, and then… they all went out.
Simultaneously, the lights in the rest of the first floor also fizzled and popped. Everything was suddenly enshrouded in darkness.
“Curses!!” A startled cry of what sounded like an old man came from the elevator on the first floor as soon as the lights went out. And then, it was followed quickly by the sound of mashing of elevator buttons.
Someone’s still around?
Wang Chenghao paused. And then, just as he was about to shout for the old man to stop, he heard the elevator doors begin to close.
He snapped back to his senses. Then, without thinking too much about it, he immediately rushed towards the stairs!
He wanted to save the person inside.
His heart was filled with concern for his fellow human being in that very instant. The overwhelming sense of duty and responsibility even served to diminish the fear in his heart greatly, because he knew full well that there was something unclean in the area.
There was something hidden in the shadows around him. Perhaps… this thing had even been following him stealthily from when he first entered the building.
Unbeknownst to Wang Chenghao at this point in time, the lift numbers were already changing frantically. What should have been 1... 2... 3… had suddenly changed to -1… -2… -7… -8… -9!
Inside the lift. The lights flickered wildly. When the lift door first opened, a young man within immediately jumped up and buried his head in his hands, screaming at the top of his voice, “No! Don’t come over!!”
His voice was incredibly hoarse.
The open lift door slowly closed. The young man’s face was immeasurably pale when he suddenly heard the voice of an old man speak up, “What are you so afraid of?! You’ve startled me!”
A living human being?
The young man licked his drying lips and gulped nervously, before slowly lowering his hands.
There was an old man who was likewise also scared out of his wits and leaning heavily against the walls of the elevator. The flickering lights in the lift accentuated his pale and pasty complexion, and also revealed that the old man appeared to be holding something in his right hand. The old man’s chest was heaving and falling sharply with every gasp of breath he took.
He was very old.
His face was covered with old age spots, but he still appeared to be filled with vitality for someone of his age. Yet, for some strange reason, the young man couldn’t shirk off the feeling that the old man’s complexion was unusually… pale.
Thus, the young man didn’t let down his guard entirely. Instead, he continued to keep his back pressed heavily against the walls of the lift. His eyes quivered in fear as he stared back at the old man, “What… are you holding in your right hand?”
The old man had his right hand behind his back, and it was clear that he was holding onto a rope.
However… the other end of the rope was completely empty!
“Ah…” The old man’s ragged breaths had finally calmed down substantially, and he responded with an incredibly deep voice, “Do you want to hazard a guess?”
The young man’s scalp went numb, and his legs grew weak, “I-I-I don’t…”
The old man looked up. He looked almost deathly ill under the flickering light in the lift, “Of course… it’s a dog…”
The old man looked back.
And then, he was completely dumbfounded.
“Holy shit… where’s my dog?!”
Before he could even finish speaking, the old man suddenly stiffened up like a rusty old robot.
His pupils began to dilate, while his lips dried up in an instant. A second later, his entire body began to tremble violently, and he immediately pounded on the elevator doors, “Open the door! Open the door! Let me out! I want to get out!!!”
The walls of the elevator were well polished and smooth.
So smooth that they were somewhat reflective on its own.
Thus… he could see that the teenager behind him had already peeled open his mouth half a meter wide, revealing rows after rows of teeth as sharp as canines!
“So… it’s a dog…”
“You’ve scared the hell out of me…”
“For a moment there, I was actually afraid that a cultivator might have followed you into the lift… Hahaha… excellent…”
The lift shook violently to the tune of a heart-rending scream and the crunching of bones. Simultaneously, a stream of fresh blood began to flow down from the cracks within the elevator.Previous Chapter Next Chapter