His voice was frigid and even trembling at times, “Mr Qin, you’ve never been to Valley County before. Valley County is a newly established county. Ever since it’s formal recognition as a county, we’ve… had our very own infamous murder mansion.”
Emotions couldn’t be faked. As a native of Valley County, Lu Ping couldn’t help but gasp slightly when he first brought up the murder mansion. Even his hands that were holding onto the steering wheel trembled slightly.
“Other places might have similar stories of murder mansions that turn out to be no more than rumours, but Valley County’s murder mansion… is a hundred percent real. I dare say that almost the entire county has personally witnessed and even experienced it for themselves… Ever since we were young, we’ve all grown up with this horrible legend…” His voice trembled with unspeakable fear.
Chen Nian could sense the great emotions that were stirring in Lu Ping’s heart, and he thus volunteered, “Let me do it instead.” His expressions turned grave as he flipped open the folder in his hands, “Eastrise Neighbourhood was known to be a mass grave from the 50’s to the 80’s. Then, the neighbourhood was used by the state-run Valley Agricultural Cooperative, which was shortly thereafter repurposed into the Valley Leather Chemical Plant. From the mid-80’s, riding the success of the leather chemical plant, the state began to construct dormitories and residences in the vicinity. This was the rise of the Eastrise Neighbourhood.”
Qin Ye nodded softly. The 80’s were when state-run plants and facilities abounded. Back then, housing and residences weren’t purchased, but distributed and assigned. The establishment of a successful plant or factory naturally saw the creation of jobs and housing. Thus, in the 90’s, when a certain prime minister made up his mind to restructure the state-owned enterprises, it resulted in mass lay-offs, and the entire society back then was practically in mourning.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear of three generations in a family working for the very same factory or plant. In fact, many citizens prided themselves in the ability to work for such state-run enterprises.
Chen Nian continued, “But… there was also a series of paranormal activity that plagued this locality, even before it was known as the Eastrise Neighbourhood. It’s not even an exaggeration to say that at least a third of the residents in Valley County have personally experienced supernatural incidents. And the reason why I say this is because at least a third of the county’s citizens once used to work in the leather chemical plant that I had earlier spoken of. That said, the paranormal activities back then weren’t life-threatening. They were only startling at best.”
“Then, the 90’s saw the decline of the leather chemical plant, until it completely went insolvent, leaving behind a legacy of neighbourhood and community that was formed around the plant. After some discussion, the plant manager and its staff decided to sell the land on which the plant was built on. But… the excavation works resulted in an incident.”
Their car turned towards the heart of the county, but then promptly turned once more into a smaller but more charming side road that was lined with two rows of trees and beautiful arches.
As they continued on this side road, Chen Nian continued, “When demolition works began, the construction companies had invited Taoist Wu Weiguan of the nearby Mount of Three Immortals to preside over the works. We aren’t fully aware of the details of what exactly happened. But... that very night, the entire county heard the cries of a thousand women, almost as though they were right outside their doors and windows! Yet, none of them were able to see a single person in sight! The next day, Taoist Wu Weiguan was discovered dead at the site of the demolition works, with blood seeping out of his seven apertures. Even then, the developers didn’t want to lose their investment, so they pressed on with the works.”
“This led to the development of the Eastrise Neighbourhood. Back then, it was called the Splendid Gardens Neighbourhood. It was the first commercial district of Valley County. Come to think of it, it was rather peculiar that the supernatural incident completely vanished into thin air as soon as the construction works were completed. At least, this was the case until half a year ago, when the Splendid Gardens Neighbourhood was roped into the redevelopment plans of yet another developer. To be fair, it did make sense to include the Splendid Gardens Neighbourhood, given how dated it is right now. However…”
Qin Ye shut his eyes and hazarded a guess, “Another supernatural incident occurred?”
Chen Nian took a deep breath and nodded, “In fact, it was even worse than the one that occurred back in ‘98! This time it opened immediately with over ten murder crimes, all of which were closed-door murders. The state of each deceased person told us that it simply couldn’t have been the works of a mortal. To make matters worse, we could tell through the surveillance cameras that nothing entered nor left the neighbourhood during the time of the incident! Having assessed the evidence before it, the Special Investigations Department thereby classified Valley County… as a predatory zone.”
Chen Nian was done speaking, but everyone remained silent.
Everyone knew exactly what a predatory zone meant - it represented an area in which Hellguard-class evil ghosts were spotted! Valley County was a small county with no more than ten ordinary investigators from the Special Investigations Department. How were they supposed to deal with something as malignant and powerful as that?
“What a pity.” Qin Ye was the first one to break the silence, “Wu Weiguan must have been at least a Hunter-class expert, or perhaps even a Hellguard-class expert.”
“Ah? How could it be?” “W-wasn’t he only a regular practitioner?” “If he was truly a Hellguard, he would have been granted special allowances! How come nobody ever reported about that?”
Qin Ye shook his head, “I’ve seen it before. Some practitioners in this world employ unique techniques in order to conceal their true abilities. I postulate that… he must have discovered something amiss about the Splendid Gardens Neighbourhood when it was first demolished. So, he tried to suppress what lay within with a formation array of his own. Unfortunately, the evil ghost was equally powerful, and both ended up being gravely wounded. In the end, the old Taoist succumbed to his wounds and departed from the world without leaving a message.”
The others glanced at each other, not knowing what to say about the brand new perspective.
“I’m just hazarding a guess.” Qin Ye didn’t mind whether the rest believed him or not. After all, everything stemmed from a single lead he had - that is, that the predatory zone lay right beneath the Splendid Gardens Neighbourhood. Unlike other predatory zones, there was no need for him to look around for clues pertaining to the exact location of the source of evil ghosts. This was good news to him, especially since he didn’t wish to stay for too long within Valley County.
What made a supernatural incident peculiar was the fact that it could manifest in a wide variety of ways. Evil ghosts could take up residence in just about anything, and anything could trigger its ire! And if there wasn’t any particular reason or trigger for an evil ghost’s manifestation, then it would simply mean that this ghost… was incredibly ferocious!
Crack, crack… Qin Ye gently cracked his knuckles. Are you really so ferocious that you simply can’t resist the taste of flesh and blood? I’m sorry, let me show you just how much more ferocious I can be to all entities below the rank of an Infernal Judge.
But… what has this Yin spirit got to do with the 水 mark on my face? Is this Yin spirit one and the same as the one that attempted to assassinate me back at the train station? If not…
Things at Valley County might be even weirder than we had earlier anticipated.
Perhaps this incident is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Well, I guess we’ll know once we see it. Cultivators have their own nebulous sense of intuition. If the old Taoist had known that he wasn’t able to hold on any longer, he would definitely have left a hint for those picking up after him.”
Just then, the car stopped.
The area just ahead of them was cordoned off, not with ordinary tape, but thin chains with talismans and bells attached to them. The surrounding areas had already been completely evacuated, and what remained was only the police and the military that were patrolling the vicinity.
What powerful Yin energy… Qin Ye’s heart began to beat slightly faster. This is undoubtedly an advanced Hellguard-class evil ghost… an entity that is merely one step away from becoming an Infernal Judge… What the hell happened at this place? What kind of tragedy must it be to cause this evil ghost to pummel on the foundation of this neighbourhood, trying desperately to rush up to the mortal realm to fulfill its grievances?
They exited the vehicle, and the surrounding officers promptly saluted them all. Lu Ping nodded and promptly led the way.
The area that was cordoned off was a small passageway. They walked followed down the passageway and into the turn. And as soon as they did, Qin Ye’s eyes immediately flickered and widened.
It was a construction site. The perimeter of the site was still hoarded up, but there wasn’t a single sound of construction works at all. Instead, what remained was an eerie, deafening silence.
Hundreds of police officers and military men were armed at the perimeter with their guns all aimed directly at the work site. The work site wasn’t large either. At least, it was small when compared to the size of regular neighbourhoods seen in provincial capital cities. That said, the tense atmosphere at the site made it seem as though the construction hoarding was a faint metal sheet that separated the realms of life and death. It was no different from a brittle veil that sought to keep out the ferocious beings that should never be seen in the mortal realm.
Qin Ye glanced around. The greenery in the county was rather commendable. The trees in the vicinity were all banyan trees with massive canopies that stirred and rustled with a gentle breeze.
At least, that was the sight had this neighbourhood still been inhabited with citizens going about with the hustle and bustle of life. But, right now, it looked no different from the silence of the morgue. The rustle of leaves was stifling, like a multitude of evil ghosts scratching at the door, asking to be let into the mortal realm. It was horrific and chilling.
“Old Chen.” As soon as they arrived, three men dressed in white lab coats immediately walked out. But as soon as they saw Qin Ye, they immediately gasped and flushed with delight. They scrambled to set down the documents in their hands and then hurriedly pressed their fists to their chest as they greeted, “SRC t-trainee researcher, Shen Mo, greets esteemed investigator, sir!”
“Spare the formalities. Tell me more about the situation.” Qin Ye nodded at him, before turning back to the construction site.
It looked no different from a massive arena with only one entrance and exit. The rest of the hoarding was bound up tightly with layers upon layers of chains. As soon as they entered, Qin Ye’s pupils immediately shrunk!
Woooo… Nobody could tell whether it was the howl of the wind or a mournful cry. A split second later, everything darkened slightly almost as though the sun were consumed by a heavenly tengu, before slowly returning to its usual brightness once more.
The temperature dropped abruptly by several degrees. It was approximately 20 degrees outside, yet the area within the hoarding was only approximately fifteen degrees at best! All kinds of machinery and construction equipment were parked across the entire construction site like massive, towering coffins. For some strange reason, their equally massive shadows on the ground… appeared almost as though they were shifting slightly on their own…
Yet what was most striking was the massive pit in the middle that opened up right in front of their very eyes. It was clear that this was the location at which they had dug through the foundations. On the surface, it appeared no different from any other ordinary pits. But what Qin Ye saw was completely different - he saw… a massive conflagration blazing from the depths of the pit!
It was almost as though the pit itself were the eighteen abysses of punishment, filled with endless hellfire and accompanied by heart-wrenching screams and tortured groans. There were even dozens, perhaps even hundreds of charred hands sticking out of the pit, desperately picking and twisting and scratching the walls of the pit as they continued to howl at the top of their voices, before slowly being dragged back into the seemingly bottomless pit.
It was almost as though there were hundreds of people desperately clambering at the edges of the pit, struggling to escape from the endless torture, only to slip back into Hell with a despondent cry of anguish.
“Death by conflagration?” Qin Ye remained silent. He hadn’t expected to gain the ability to perceive a Yin spirit’s life and death at a single glance together with his promotion to an Infernal Judge. Arthis had never told him about such powers either.
I guess… this is only befitting of a genuine Emissary of Hell, huh? It’s so different from these pieces of trash around me…
“It’s strange that we aren’t able to get a proper reading on the Yin energy in this area.” A voice suddenly spoke up beside Qin Ye, causing him to snap back from his reverie. Qin Ye turned to look at Shen Mo, who now had an eight-trigrams compass in his hands as he peered over the edge of the pit.
It was as though countless people were chattering around them, and thousands of ghosts were wailing in chorus. In that instant, Qin Ye saw a scene that made his heart skip a beat.
Pit of a thousand!
The base of the pit was approximately five or six meters from ground level, but… there weren’t stones in the pit. Rather… the pit was filled with bones and skeletons!
The bones were buried in the earth, and the skeletons were all frozen in a variety of postures. Everything, including their skulls, ribcages, and other bones could all be seen clearly! It was a mind-numbing sight!
Yet, what was even more peculiar… was the fact that they were all wearing clothes! And brand new clothes at that!
That said, it might be a misnomer to suggest that these were brand new clothes without any qualifications. After all, they were dressed in the 40’s and 50’s fashion, with flowery shirts and oversized white coats. Yet… their garments appeared as though they had been untouched by anything, and they remained just as fresh as ever!
How could this be?!
Having been buried underground for such a long time, their clothes should have decayed and decomposed a long time ago. Yet now… these garments look no different from pairs of eyes that remain open in death, staring intently at each person that passes with an immense amount of hatred!
“This is the latest report.” Shen Mo’s voice trembled softly, “In fact… before its usage as a leather chemical plant, and even before its usage as a site for mass graves, this place… had another horrific past…”
He drew a deep breath, “During the War of Resistance against Nipponese Aggression, this place… was the eighth silk factory of Breakwaters Province to be colonized by the Nipponese forces.”
“There were twelve hundred employees working here, all of whom were women. Then, one week before the end of the war, all of them suddenly went missing altogether.”
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