Chapter 40: The Final Release

Silence. 

Zhou Dongfang’s obsession stemmed from the fact that he hadn’t heard from his daughter for far too long. Wang Chenghao’s heart experienced the whole spectrum of emotions all at once. Finally, the confluence of emotions culminated in a single question, “Your daughter… what was her name? I mean… do you know what user handle she goes by on the internet?”

The old man nodded, “I still remember it was a pretty unique name. I think she was called… That Amorous Affair.”

Wang Chenghao buried his face into his hands and sat silently on the couch.

The only perspective he had known… was that this damned woman had harmed his family!

But he didn’t know the entire truth about the situation. Qin Ye hadn’t shown him the video recordings depicting the entire truth of the matter.

Instead, Qin Ye thought that it might be better to leave his son with a pristine image of his father. After all, the man was already gone for good.

A father’s debt didn’t have to be paid by a son who was unaware of the truth.

However, none of these things changed the fact that Wang Chenghao’s heart was filled with ambivalence right now.

He wasn’t the only one whose family was torn asunder and completely ruined by this incident.

Even after death, Zhou Dongfang had lingered about, waiting for any modicum of news about his daughter. He had even waited several years on end, only for an Emissary of Hell to show up at that.

“What are you planning to do?” Wang Chenghao interlocked his fingers around his forehead and glanced at Qin Ye with red, puffy eyes.

“I’ll take him away.” Qin Ye responded emotionlessly, “He’s done wrong. Firstly, there was no corpse in the coffin upstairs. The corpse had already been taken by the pallbearer to Westriver. I imagine that someone must have told him that they had the means to allow his daughter to live in a different manner. So, he agreed.”

Qin Ye could vividly recall what he had seen just a little while ago - an evil ghost with thousands of grisly holes riddled throughout her body.

The thousands of pointed verbal attacks had resulted in the tiger fabrication phenomenon.

So… did she choose to bear the sins of the entire family on her back as well?

“Secondly, he’s fully aware of the reasons why his daughter hasn’t returned. As a household god, he had naturally sensed it when his daughter’s soul had been routed. It was precisely because of this… that he’d begun to toy with the idea of using living souls to nourish his daughter’s spirits. In turn, the fact that he’s begun to entertain such thoughts means that it’s only going to be a matter of time before he devolves into an evil ghost.”

Then, Qin Ye turned his gaze to Zhou Dongfang, “But you have no basic understanding of the world of souls at all. Those ideas of yours aren’t going to do anything for her soul at all. Regardless, I can no longer condone your presence here. You’re no longer considered a household god as long as you’ve even begun to entertain such thoughts. I’m just doing my duty here, understand?”

The old man chuckled bitterly and lifted the trousers, revealing the fact that his legs had already turned black and ethereal.

“I understand…”

Cockadoodle-doo!! A neighbour’s rooster crowed once, ushering a symphony of crows that followed soon after.

The sky had begun to brighten, and the old man’s body began to fade under the faint glow of dawn. Qin Ye continued calmly, “One final question.”

His voice grew incomparably somber, “Back then, you’d allowed them to take away Zhou Fangrong’s corpse. I’d like to know who the ones who approached you were.”

“Have they ever revealed to you any traces of their true identity?”

Zhou Dongfang thought carefully, “No, they didn’t. But the truth of the matter was that I would never have acceded to their request to begin with. After all, I know that good and evil will be repaid accordingly, and I also believe in the existence of the netherworld. As a household god, I naturally understand some of the fundamental truths of the world. Thus, I knew nothing good would come of it if I’d let them take my daughter’s corpse.”

He took a deep breath and continued with a trace of fear in his eyes, “But then they showed me something! And, as if by magic, I don’t even remember when I nodded off. When I finally came to my senses, my daughter’s corpse was already missing from its coffin.”

“What did they show you?”

“It was a runic symbol of sorts. It looked incredibly ancient, and it even seemed to emit fluctuations that transcended time. I… I’ll draw it for you!”

Household Gods were able to interact with physical objects, albeit only small, lightweight ones, including the pen. Zhou Dongfang finished his drawing on a piece of paper and handed it to Qin Ye.

Qin Ye took a closer look, and his eyebrows furrowed deeply.

Indeed…

The symbol was definitely something of interest.

Some things rarely accord well with modern society, and the existence of such traits make it fairly easy to identify whether an object was archaic or not. This runic symbol was a prime example of that.

It depicted a wolf’s head.

It looked akin to an ancient totem symbol, and the manner of drawing only made it seem more primeval than ever. Whenever Qin Ye looked at the wolf’s head, the wolf’s head also appeared to be staring straight back at him.

This was a vital clue to unravelling the mysterious identity of the mastermind behind the puppet master!

Qin Ye carefully put it away and nodded to Zhou Dongfang, “Are you ready?”

As the light of dawn grew brighter and brighter, Zhou Dongfang’s body grew more and more illusory. He smiled and looked down at his own hands, “Truth be told, I’ve grown weary after waiting for such a long time.”

“Let’s go.”

Qin Ye nodded his head. The demonhead saber materialized out of nowhere. With a single stroke, Zhou Dongfang’s body transformed into a wisp of smoke and vanished into the saber.

“Let’s rest here for a while. We’ll be on our way again as soon as you’re ready.” Qin Ye patted Wang Chenghao’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry, there aren’t any ghosts here. The lady you saw earlier is merely Zhou Fangrong’s lingering simulacrum. Don’t you recall her wearing her characteristic long flowing black dress? With Zhou Dongfang’s departure, the simulacrum no longer has any right or capacity to linger around any longer. The coffin on the second floor is also completely empty.”

“And the ‘blood’ on the first floor is in fact nothing more than splashes of paint left behind by vigilante vandals at the time when the Zhou Fangrong incident blew up. The memorial tablet standing on the shelf just behind the concierge is naturally Zhou Fangrong’s as well. Even though the old man had contemplated hurting us, it doesn’t change the fact that his conscience got the better of him and he refrained from doing so in the end. In fact, he’d even time and again advised us to leave. I imagine… he must’ve been struggling with his conscience at that time.”

Wang Chenghao slowly made his way back upstairs with his eyes glazed over.

Qin Ye, on the other hand, didn’t sleep that night.

He made his way before Zhou Fangrong’s coffin. A gale of Yin energy swept across the room, and Qin Ye was back in his Hell’s Emissary state in no time.

Then, Qin Ye reached into his robes and pulled out… a recording device.

“To think you’d actually have an Emissary of Hell conduct a memorial service for you after your death. This is truly your honour.” Qin Ye smiled faintly. Then, a flame ignited from his hand, incinerating the recording device and turning it into a pile of ash.

Strangely enough, the black ash appeared to be somewhat alive. It immediately transformed into a swirl of black smoke that began to circle around the four candles on the coffin until the four candles were finally extinguished. And it was only then that the ash finally ceased swirling and scattered all over the coffin beneath.

“Rest in peace.” Qin Ye patted the coffin, “You were guilty, but Wang Zemin wasn’t completely innocent either. Regardless, the pursuit of truth as to who’s right and who’s wrong is now completely meaningless after your deaths.”

“I’ve just learnt that you’d murdered his entire family only because you wanted vengeance for what's happened to your parents. That’s something that I can sympathize with. That said, there are still things about you I can’t help but resent. For instance… I simply can’t bring myself to sympathize with you for your past acts.”

“Don’t worry. I didn’t show these videos to anyone - not even to Wang Chenghao or your father. We’ll just… live and let live. After all, it’s a blessing to leave them with a beautiful parting image of their loved ones.”

He shut the door softly.

In that instant just before the door closed, Qin Ye vaguely heard a whimper of grief, as though the brokenhearted were weeping at the end of a play.

Click… This represented the closure of the tumultuous chapter between the Wang family and the Zhou family. The curtains had finally been drawn on the final act.

Finally, Qin Ye went downstairs again, leaned on the sofa, and got his much-deserved rest.

When he awakened again, it was to a large group of people hammering at the door of the inn.

Everyone’s faces were filled with anxiety. There were uncles, aunties, and several other young people gathered at the main entrance as they continued to pound at the door desperately while yelling at the top of their lungs.

“Don’t fall asleep!” “Wake up! Wake up!!” “Please don’t fall asleep in there!! It’s haunted… it’s really haunted by ghosts!!”

Qin Ye rubbed his eyes and walked to the main entrance. As soon as he touched the lock on the door, it immediately broke into pieces and fell off.

Unlike the shiny lock he had seen last night, this lock appeared to be completely covered in copper rust. It was as though the lock hadn’t been opened in years.

“Kid! Are you alright?!” A middle-aged aunty immediately rushed in and pulled him out of the house, “Hurry up… leave this place! This… this place is unclean!”

“I’m fine.” Qin Ye pried away the aunty’s hand, “I don’t even know how I got here last night. Oh, and speaking of which, my classmate is still resting upstairs.”

“Hurry up and call him over!” “It’s daytime now. I’ll go!”

At once, two young men took large strides upstairs and woke Wang Chenghao from his deep slumber.

The people around were all incredibly concerned. As soon as Wang Chenghao came to his senses, the duo made their way out of the inn in the company of a throng of people. They took another glance at the inn, only to realize now that the entire inn appeared even more dilapidated than it had been when they had arrived last night!

The sign which read “Rujia Inn” appeared as crooked as ever, and had cobwebs all over it. The paint over the entire building was mottled and peeling. It hardly looked like a place that anyone in the right mind would ever enter.

“Young men, you must count your lucky stars.” A middle-aged man took a drag from his cigarette as he continued, “An old couple died inside this building several years ago. Ever since then, people have noticed that the same old man who had passed away continues to open the inn for business at night. It’s uncanny.”

“I’ll say…” The passionate middle-aged aunty from before sighed wistfully as she added, “The world is cruel… No matter what their daughter has done, it doesn’t change the fact that Old Zhou and his wife are good people… Why can’t these hot-blooded youngsters these days learn to think before they speak?”

Wang Chenghao remained absolutely silent. It was as though he had matured overnight. After nodding his head and thanking the thoughtful citizens, he dragged Qin Ye back onto their car.

“What’s the hurry?” Qin Ye leaned on the window as he exclaimed. The car had started up quickly, and they had once again begun on the final leg of their journey towards the heart of the City of Salvation. 

Wang Chenghao shook his head, “The longer I stay there… the more I feel a stifling sensation weighing on my heart.”

“You’ll get used to it once you experience a little more of such things. There’s always the possibility that you’ll become my assistant in future.”

Wang Chenghao shook his head once more - this time with firm resolution, “I can help out with logistics or other necessary arrangements behind the scenes. But… I really don’t think I want to experience something like that a second time.”

Qin Ye chuckled, “Do you know something? I was once just like you.”

“Oh? Then what changed?”

“Life experiences. Humans are interesting creatures… After all, maturity begets jadedness.”

“... Don’t make it sound so doleful. I’m only eighteen this year!”

“Oh, yes. There’s also hypocrisy and denial.”

The voices of two youngsters drifted further and further away. Several hours later, the signboard seated above a tollbooth reading “City of Salvation” slowly pulled into view.

Traffic was heavy and incredibly slow.

From his wealth of experience, Wang Chenghao had already expected some traffic conditions. Thus, he had prepared water, bread, instant noodles, portable chargers and the like. That said, it still never occurred to him that they would be stuck at the line to the tollbooth for two full hours!

“Oh my god!” Wang Chenghao still had the patience of a teenager when all was said and done. He rolled his eyes and slumped back on his seat with resignation, “Bloody hell… what kind of efficiency is this?! How can it take two hours to get into town?! How do people live like this?!”

Knock knock knock… Just then, someone knocked on their door. Wang Chenghao wound down his window lazily, only to be greeted by an enthusiastic young man carrying goods on his round, bamboo basket, “We’re not buying. We’ve got everything we need in the car.”

The young man’s sprightly expression immediately turned downcast. Then, sighing with resignation, he turned away and began to make his way towards the next car under the hot midday sun. Just then, Qin Ye abruptly turned his head around, “Hang on.”

“Yes, boss? What would you like? Mineral water, tissue paper, cigarettes, pickled peppers, chicken feet, magazines, we’ve got everything! Take a look for yourself!” The young man was immediately filled with vigor once more.

He’s like a well-oiled machine isn’t he?

Qin Ye chuckled, pulled out a tenner and handed it over, “Why is there so much traffic today?”

The young man smiled radiantly, “Boss, today’s not the first time this has happened. It’s been just as congested everyday for four months now. The drivers are all going mad. Furthermore, the number of cars entering the city far exceeds the number of cars that leave. As a result, the situation has only gotten worse.”

Qin Ye blinked, “Why is that the case?”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter