“Oh, that’s right, this is my classmate, Wang Chenghao. Mortal.”
“Since I can’t get the things that I want, it would be best if I kept a low profile here. Old Zhang, how goes the arrangement for my college?”
“It’s all done.” Zhang Baoguo took out another leather bag beside him and handed it over to Qin Ye. It was filled with detailed information and a number of photographs of the college. Qin Ye skimmed through the documents. The environment appeared fairly decent, and the campus was new as well. Qin Ye was pleased.
“Branch college of the Insignia University. It was only built three years ago, and it sports a fairly green campus. Linhua studies here as well. He has by some stroke of luck made it into the student union. Perhaps he might be able to lend you a hand with the college affairs. I’ve also personally spoken to the principal. You’ll be able to matriculate any time you like in a faculty of your own choosing. Your identification and other vital documents are all in the bag. That said…”
He paused for a moment, before continuing with some measure of apprehension, “Old Qin… I won’t hide it from you. You’re aware of how formal the procedures at universities are these days. They’re under a completely different system. The only reason why they agreed to take you in is because…”
His voice softened to a hush, “That place… hasn’t been too ‘clean’ lately.”
“Interesting.” Qin Ye smiled, “Those are the kinds of places I’m least afraid of.”
Naturally, this was on the condition that the ‘uncleanliness’ was on the level of an Operative-class Emissary of Hell.
“What about the Special Investigations Department?”
“Insufficient manpower… The Special Investigations Department have prioritized locations where human lives have been lost. The bizarre incidents taking place in the college haven’t resulted in the loss of human lives yet, so the Special Investigations Department have temporarily shelved the corresponding case file. Furthermore, the Special Investigations Department have issued an internal bounty on the task, stating that anyone who resolves the issue plaguing the college would be given a reward.”
“I know that it’s not too easy for you to make money given the sensitivities surrounding your identity. As long as you’re able to resolve this issue, I can conceal your identity and claim the bounty on your behalf.”
He held up a finger. Qin Ye raised his eyebrows, “A hundred thousand?”
“It’s one million.”
Qin Ye was suddenly filled with pride and complacency.
Lord Midas was seated just beside him right now. Qin Ye’s heart was awash with an unshakable confidence.
“Old Zhang…” His smile was now laced with the disposition of a billionaire, “I don’t need money right now.”
Zhang Baoguo opened his mouth, yet he found himself completely speechless and unable to continue.
Qin Ye’s intentions were clear - he didn’t need money right now, so he naturally wouldn’t risk exposing his identity by resolving the matter.
Wang Chenghao’s lips twitched as he looked begrudgingly at Qin Ye. Then, he suddenly spoke up, “We… actually are in need of money right now…”
Qin Ye glanced at Wang Chenghao as though he had just seen a ghost. Did your savings in excess of 600,000 suddenly get eaten up by a dog? What else were you doing on the trip apart from playing with the games on your phone?
Did you tip some female broadcast streamer, or are you simply saying in a roundabout manner that you’re now abandoning me because of my age?
Then, almost with tears in his eyes, Wang Chenghao revealed the truth on his phone, “It just happened… my bank card… has just been frozen…”
It can’t be…
Qin Ye stood up in shock and grabbed Wang Chenghao’s phone in disbelief.
Are the heavens messing with me? Bloody hell… I’ve only just said that we’re not in need of money, and what goes around has already come around?!
Several minutes later, Qin Ye tossed Wang Chenghao’s phone back at him and slumped back into his chair lifelessly.
The fact that the card had already been frozen naturally meant that they’ve already wrapped up investigations pertaining to the incident in Clear Creek County. The Special Investigations Department has already followed all of the leads and traced the incident back to both Qin Ye and Wang Chenghao.
The whole class is dead, and yet the two of you are the only survivors?
And you’d even left Clear Creek County immediately? What else do you know? What exactly happened then?
In modern day society, anyone with money would be able to remain hidden in the comfort of their own homes for an extended period of time on end. Therefore, the first port of call to lure out the prime suspects of the incident was to freeze any of their access to funds.
And as for the second step… perhaps the day when the Special Investigations Department comes knocking on their door wouldn’t be too far away from now.
That said, Qin Ye could hardly care less about the latter step for now. After all, what could be worse than being alive yet completely broke?!
How does one deal with such crippling pain in their hearts…
“Old Zhang, I imagine that the Special Investigations Department is going to come looking for me. But don’t worry, I’ve made certain to bury all of my previous identities. The only other thing I’d like to trouble you with is to let me know as soon as any unexpected circumstances arise, alright?”
“Apart from that…” Qin Ye coughed somewhat awkwardly, “About… Insignia University, was it? I suppose if the offer is still on the table, I’ll deal with the problem at my convenience… I mean, the fact that the principal was willing to allow us to attend college with no questions asked means he’s pretty reliable, isn’t he? As a student, shouldn’t I also contribute back to the school wherever I can?”
The most awkward situation in the whole wide world was to look for a pretext to step out of the spotlight after giving yourself a good, tight slap across the cheek.
Having regard for Qin Ye’s awkwardness, Zhang Baoguo firmly suppressed the laughter in his heart as he solemnly concluded, “That’s right, Old Qin. Let’s do it this way, then. I’ll make the necessary arrangements for you to lodge in a downtown hotel for now. That way, you can spend the next few days getting a feel of the atmosphere in the City of Salvation. Then, when you’re ready, you can head over to the college whenever you like.”
After a period of casual chatter, Qin Ye and Wang Chenghao finally left the premises.
Zhang Baoguo didn’t leave immediately with them. Instead, he simply sat on his own and quietly drank his tea. After a long time, he finally sighed in his heart and dialed on his phone, “Get your ass up here!”
Thirty seconds later, Zhang Linhua appeared at the door. Zhang Baoguo’s expressions were incredibly ashen, “Grown wings, have you? Your old man can’t even ask a simple thing of you any longer?”
“No, dad, what the hell do you mean by this?!” When triggered, Zhang Linhua’s temper was comparable to that of his father, “Godfather?! It’s fine if he’s of the same generation as you. But, him?!”
“Is he even twenty years old?! How do you expect me to call a person who’s still in his teens my godfather? Have you ever considered my feelings?”
“You little brat!!” Zhang Baoguo stood up from his seat abruptly and bellowed, “Do you know how rare this opportunity is?! It’s something that others won’t get even if they begged for it! In fact, he probably wouldn’t have cared to bat an eyelid if not on account of our friendship for more than twenty years! And yet now that the perfect opportunity is served upon you on a silver platter, you’ve just cast it aside as though it were worthless?!”
“You’ve been riding on the coattails of the relationships your mother and I have built up over the years. But have you considered what’s going to happen after we leave one day? You wouldn’t be able to build such relationships even if you tried!”
Zhang Linhua’s brain began to hurt from the sheer incredulity of it all, “Twenty years ago… He wasn’t even born yet, was he? Alright, alright… dad, don’t be mad at me. Let me put it this way. Did you catch a whiff of the smell on their bodies?”
“No? I did. It’s the stench of sweat. How amazing could they possibly be if they can’t even afford to take a flight here? Besides, shouldn’t you at least tell me what they do for a living rather than tell me to address them as godfather without any form of context at all? I’m a student councillor when all is said and done. And you even mentioned last night that they were going to attend the same college as me. Don’t you think that this is going to make me lose face?”
“Don’t act like a snob!” Zhang Baoguo castigated him, only to realize the applicability of these words to himself as well…
After glaring at each other for several more seconds, Zhang Baoguo finally slumped back down onto his chair and waved his arms dismissively, “Get lost, get lost. All I’d been trying to do was to help you establish a relationship with him in the hope that he’d keep our family safe as well… You… you don’t know any better.”
“Just remember to help them in any way you can in school. You’re all grown up now, and you’ve got a mind of your own. Even if you’re unwilling to recognize him as a godfather, he’s still someone you can’t afford to offend.”
Zhang Linhua lowered his head and furrowed his brows together in vexation. Finally, he replied reluctantly, “I’ve got it.”
Then, before Zhang Baoguo could even respond, he opened the door and left the room.
“Sigh…” Zhang Baoguo sighed wistfully and chuckled bitterly, “I hope my children and their children find their own forms of blessings…”
Back in the hotel, both Wang Chenghao and Qin Ye were lying on the bed and staring blankly at the ceiling.
“Brother Qin, shall we get some food?” Wang Chenghao suggested as he clutched at his growling stomach.
“That’s fine.” Qin Ye was famished as well. The confluence of both physical and mental exhaustion had pushed him to the brink, and his eyes were glazed over with a look of despondence, “Beef, seafood or duck soup?”
Wang Chenghao gulped, “About that… Brother Qin, like I’d mentioned earlier, there’s no way we can afford to be too extravagant right now… so, let’s settle for seafood. That one?”
“Fine.” Qin Ye stood up, walked over to the corner of the room and opened the packet of Master Kang prawn and fish flavoured instant noodles, “How much water do we add?”
Wang Chenghao’s heart was filled with cursing and swearing, yet even he couldn’t bring himself to utter a single word of it.
“... I think that we can still afford to eat some braised chicken… Didn’t Uncle Zhang leave us with a card with RMB 20,000 on it before we left?”
“Hahaha…” Qin Ye chuckled coldly, “We’ve saved on tuition fees, but what about the cost of books, club fees, this and that, as well as your upkeep?! We don’t even know how troublesome and difficult to handle the matter at Insignia University is going to be, and here you are, telling me to splurge on the food of opulence, braised chicken?”
Having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Wang Chenghao hardly associated opulence with braised chicken at all. Thus, he simply blinked at Qin Ye, as though he had a multitude of words, yet nothing to say at the same time.
“Then… then what do we do?”
“Make money!” Qin Ye soaked the noodles in boiling water with indignation. Just as Wang Chenghao was about to grab the cup of instant noodles, Qin Ye picked it up naturally and leaned back on the window. Then, with his free hand, Qin Ye drew the curtains and peered outside, “Let’s take a look at the situation within the City of Salvation first, before heading straight to Insignia University.”
Knock knock. Just then, knocking sounds came from the door to their room.
Wang Chenghao was just about to respond when Qin Ye covered his mouth. Then, with a grave expression on his face, Qin Ye gestured for Wang Chenghao to keep silent.
Wang Chenghao’s recent experiences had turned him into a little bird that frightens easily. As soon as Qin Ye reacted the way he did, Wang Chenghao’s eyes immediately widened, and sweat began to pour out from his forehead. Qin Ye could also feel under his palm that Wang Chenghao’s lips were quivering incessantly. Wang Chenghao nodded knowingly.
The room was absolutely silent. However, the knocking sounds didn’t stop. Instead, it continued with a constant tempo - two knocks every five seconds.
Knock knock… knock knock…
T-t-t-t-t-t-t… Wang Chenghao’s teeth began to chatter uncontrollably. Even Wang Chenghao had sensed that something was up. After all, even hotel attendants would call out the purpose of their visit after knocking the door. Unfortunately their visitor did not.
The mysterious visitor didn’t identify himself. Instead… he simply continued to knock on the door for one whole minute!
The atmosphere in the room appeared to have become frozen solid. Then, Wang Chenghao began to panic and struggle. He grabbed onto Qin Ye’s arms with his trembling hands and pleaded for Qin Ye to peek under the door on their behalf.
The knocking outside continued.
And yet… there wasn’t a trace of a visitor’s shadow outside!
Clack… clack… Just then, a peculiar, cringeworthy sound echoed from right underneath the door. Immediately after that, a twisted, jade purple hand stretched into the room.
It was livor mortis .
And the person who was standing at the door… was a dead man without any shadows!
His nails had become black, while his pale hands that were devoid of the colour of blood only served to accentuate the sprawling veins that were crawling all over his hands like minute earthworms. The grotesquely contorted hand held a card and placed it gently behind the door.
Then, it shrank back without another sound.
Nobody spoke a single word.
It was exactly noontime right now. Yet a man who had evidently been dead for a long time and possessed no shadow had just stood right outside their door, delivering nothing more than a black card to them.
“Spa services?” Even Wang Chenghao’s voice had changed. Qin Ye barked back resentfully, “Are you an idiot?! How could anyone possibly be operating sleazy spa services in a place like this? Besides, who in the right mind would visit a prostitute operating out of a burial mound? And can you stop pushing me forward?!”
“But I’m scared…” “I’m scared too!”
Wang Chenghao stared at Qin Ye with indignation in his eyes. Qin Ye’s lips twitched, yet he still caved in and walked over to the door to take a look.
It was an exquisite looking card covered with silver-coloured patterns that appeared akin to ancient totems. The patterns twisted and tangled, converging together to form an image of a skull in the middle of the card. A green netherfire appeared to burn at the forehead of the skull, right between where the eyebrows would have been located. As soon as Qin Ye’s hand touched the card, the fire began to burn brightly.
“What’s this?” Qin Ye flipped the card around, and his face instantly turned green.
“Whether you’re fat or thin, all flesh and bones will eventually wither away. Indulge in the glory of the afterlife only at the Orchid Clubhouse.”
What the hell...
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