Chapter 45: Matriculation

“Who was that?” The student next to him blinked his eyes and asked, “Why does your expression look so gnarly, Senior? Is someone trying to blackmail you?” 

It’s a type of blackmail indeed… blackmailing me to call him godfather!

Zhang Linhua’s heart was filled with rage whenever he recalled the earlier incident. He mocked contemptuously, “It’s just a stupid idiot. Ignore him. Can you take a look and let me know which dorms are still available?”

“None.” The student thought about it, “There’s still an available room at the place near the old shrine, but…”

“That’s fine.” Zhang Linhua chuckled with a wry smile, “They’ll have to comply with the arrangements. How can anyone be picky about these things?”

The other student paused for a moment, glanced about, and then muttered in a hushed tone of voice, “But senior… that place… is somewhat unclean…”

“Those who can move out have already moved out, and even the caretaker doesn’t deign to linger about the premises. It seems like you know this guy from the way the conversation’s taken place. Why don't we--...”

“Who knows this guy? Can you say I know him after seeing him only once? If that’s the case, wouldn’t I already know the entire world?” Zhang Linhua glared at the other student, “And where did all these feudalistic superstitions come from? The old ancestral shrine behind has already been sealed off to begin with. And the female dorms aren’t too far away either, yet we don’t hear reports of bizarre incidents from them either. Stop being so overly suspicious about everything and get on with it!”

“Alright.” The other student left obsequiously without another word.

It was already 4.30 p.m. by the time Qin Ye came back out of the finance department. As soon as he stepped out, he immediately received a text message.

It was from Zhang Linhua’s number - Fifth dormitory, room 409. The two of them were roomed together.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” Wang Chenghao was already raring to go. They had already purchased the bedding and other necessities as soon as they had arrived. Thus, he dragged Qin Ye along and made a beeline straight towards their allocated dormitory.

It was currently the time when classes had come to an end, and the sports centers were already filled with energetic and spirited students. Loud cries echoed from the basketball courts nearby, and the kiosks just next to the courts were filled with a constant stream of students. The scenery at the branch campus was truly remarkable. At the end of a lengthy footpath lined neatly with trees for shade lay a large lake filled with lotuses. A stone arch bridge sat squarely across the entire lake.

A pair of lovebirds were passionately making out just under the gently swaying willow trees on the side of the lake. Light, spirited laughter echoed through the air. A number of male and female students could be spotted sitting along the stone arch bridge as well, each of whom were listening to music on their headphones and enjoying the idyllic scenery around.

Qin Ye looked at them with some measure of envy in his eyes, before shifting his gaze away with a faint smile on his face.

“No wonder everyone’s desperately trying to enroll in college… The difference between this and our high school is practically like heaven and earth!” Wang Chenghao’s eyes darted about the fresh sights and sounds as he exclaimed excitedly, “Everyone here is filled with passion and energy! It’s nothing like our school where everything is all about tests and examinations!”

“That’s right… energy…” Qin Ye swept his windblown bangs, “This is exactly the reason why I enjoy college life.”

After stopping several times to ask students for directions, they finally made their way past a brand new dormitory building and arrived in front of the dormitory allocated to them. The entire journey took thirty minutes.

The two were somewhat flabbergasted.

They were already located in the suburbs of the city.

And this particular dormitory building was located at the far-flung corner of the entire campus grounds. The rolling hills and mountains were located just beyond it. The entire building looked like it had been shoddily maintained for a number of years now. The paintwork was mottled and peeling, and there were spots where patchwork repairs had evidently been done. The only thing that the building could truly be praised for was the fact that the walls were covered with dense creepers, making the four-storey building look somewhat green.

Yet even though it looked shabby, it couldn’t truly be considered dilapidated. In fact, the building arguably even had its own charms. That said, it was still a far cry compared to the brand new, high-rise dormitories situated just beside their building.

“The distance from this building to the cafeteria, library, classrooms are all at least half an hour away by bicycle.” Qin Ye looked at the sheer number of sharing bicycles parked around the building, “He’s really not giving me any face here… Does he really resent the fact that he was asked to call me a godfather?”

Qin Ye shook his head, but he could hardly be bothered with Zhang Linhua’s petty thoughts. He picked up his belongings and walked towards the dormitory building.

“Freshmen?” An old man sat at the concierge, snacking on melon seeds as he surfed the web. Qin Ye glanced at the screen, only to discover that the old man had the series “At the Dolphin Bay” playing on it…

And he was already even a few dozen episodes into the series.

This is probably what the author of that web novel was referring to, when he described the old man who lived at the bottom of the dangerous Mount Hua showing off his climbing skills to young, aspiring climbers.[1]

It wasn’t matriculation season, and nobody was around to help them with their things. Thus, the two were already exhausted by the time they arrived at the main hall of the dormitory. The duo wiped off the sweat on their foreheads, while the old man at the table sized them up, before asking, “Got screwed, didn’t ya?”

Before the duo could respond, he continued with an even deeper, booming voice, “Friends, don’t say that I didn’t warn you. Move out of here as soon as you can. This place… isn’t very clean.”

Wang Chenghao’s spine immediately straightened, and he gulped nervously. On the other hand, Qin Ye simply smiled faintly, “Old man, what are the rumours like? Nobody’s told us anything yet.”

“Of course nobody would say a thing. You were assigned this place by the student union, weren’t you? Who would bring up such matters without being prompted to? This concerns the school’s image after all.” The old man glanced about with some measure of trepidation, drew a deep breath and continued in his deep voice, “I’m on night shift tonight. But I’ll be applying for a transfer tomorrow morning. This place… it’s not possible to stay here.”

Then, as though he recalled something, the old man sighed, picked up his thermos mug and took a large gulp of water, “Ever since a few months ago, there have been reports of the sounds of beating drums and gongs every single night around here!”

His entire body trembled slightly, “There’s not a day that I dare open the door at night. Do you know something? Every day at midnight, without fail, you’ll be able to hear people marching upstairs while playing on the drums and gongs, and then marching down again some time later. But the strangest part is that the main entrance here is already locked at midnight! I’ve never heard the sound of the entrance being unlocked either.”

“It’s almost as though… at midnight, someone… someone… keeps standing watch over the main hall until dawn!”

With trembling hands, he picked up his cigarette and took a deep drag from it, “I wouldn’t dare to open the main entrance every dawn until I hear the cocks crow in the morning. Yet whenever I head out to open the door, I would always see four sets of wet footprints around the main hall. I’ve reported these bizarre incidents, but nobody cares! It’s all because nothing has happened to the residents here yet!”

“And I’m not the only one who’s heard these things… the entire block of residents have had their own similar experiences at all! Nobody opens the door, yet someone can be heard entering and leaving, and even leaving behind a set of footprints! It’s been months! This dormitory used to be filled with students! But right now, the only ones who remain are those who can’t or have no means of moving out! Kids, heed my advice - move out of this place as soon as you can! This place… is truly unclean!”

As he drew close to the end of his spiel, the old man’s teeth even began to chatter, causing the end of the cigarette bud in his mouth to quiver slightly.

Qin Ye nodded his head, “Thanks for the warning, old man. We’ll move out as soon as we have the time.”

“Hey, I’m not kidding here! This isn’t just a ghost story! You’ll know tonight! Oh, that’s right, do not answer your door at night!” As they made their way up the stairs, the old man continued to holler after them.

“Brother Qin…” Wang Chenghao couldn’t help but stick closer to Qin Ye, “This place… could there really be a problem with it?”

The building was old, and the electric lights all around appeared somewhat dim and yellow. Coupled with the mottled walls and peeling paint, Wang Chenghao couldn’t help but feel ill at ease even though it was still daytime right now.

“Of course.” Qin Ye responded lazily, “With such incidents occurring every night, it would be more peculiar if the students still living here weren’t already scared out of their minds. Yet there are still students who remain in this dormitory. Say… what do you think these students truly are?”

Wang Chenghao’s face darkened, “D-d-dead people?”

Qin Ye leaned in slightly and whispered his response into his ears, word by word, “No… they’re zombies.”

In the corridor, Wang Chenghao stiffly turned his head around and looked at Qin Ye in horror. And it took him a long time before he managed to gulp in shock.

He was so horrified that his entire mind had gone numb and blank.

“Pfft… Hahaha!” Just then, an uproarious laughter echoed from upstairs. A student peeked out from the gap in the stairwell, laughing uncontrollably, “This is hilarious… Hahaha! I can’t take it anymore! Brothers, did the old man scare you guys? Puhahahaha! Old Man Liu practically tells the same story to every single freshman he sees! Back then, I was so scared by him that I didn’t even dare to go to the toilet on my own!”

“Gahahaha!!” Old Man Liu’s laughter burst out from the first floor, sounding practically akin to a duck, “I can’t… I’m dying of laughter. It’s been so long since someone has fallen for the story. I can’t take it anymore…”

Bloody Hell!

Wang Chenghao’s face flushed as red as a baboon’s ass. Do colleges these days still do these kinds of things? Is this how the city-folks have fun?

It’s… simply too embarrassing…

“You…” He glared soullessly at Qin Ye who was laughing so hard that he had to lean against the wall, “Bloody Hell… how can you sell me out like that?!”

“Alright, alright!” Qin Ye wiped the tears coming out of his eyes as he patted Wang Chenghao’s shoulder, “How can there possibly be so many ghosts and demons lying around? Anyway, it’s almost six, and we wouldn’t be able to leave the premises once the announcements start broadcasting. We haven’t had dinner either.”

However, as soon as they entered the dormitory, the duo immediately grew taciturn.

This was a dormitory room for six.

Apart from them, there were already three occupying the room, and their belongings were strewn all over the fourth bed. Furthermore, the curtains were tightly drawn, and the room was practically enshrouded in darkness.

Three people lay uniformly in bed, covered with their snow-white blankets, while maintaining the same pose. None of them moved an inch at all.

Gulp… Wang Chenghao couldn’t help but gulp nervously. For some strange reason, he kept thinking back to Qin Ye’s earlier reference to zombies.

A sliver of sunlight peeked through the cracks in the curtain, revealing the dust particles that were floating about in mid air. What should otherwise have been a warm beam of light instead seemed to have only accentuated the darkness in the room, just like… a quiet and cold morgue.

“Number Three… Is that Number Three?” Just then, a pained voice spoke up from one of the beds, “You… are you finally getting dinner for us?”

“Don’t push it… this old man is still lying here… shit… This hunger… I’m so hungry I can’t even move…”

Another voice sounding as feeble as an insect responded from yet another bed, “Don’t speak… The less you speak, the less hungry you are… Who opened the door? Can you close it? It’s unbearably cold…”

Wang Chenghao had never seen such a strange dormitory before, and he was practically astounded. On the other hand, Qin Ye simply ignored all of them and flicked on the light switch. In that instant, three painful howls echoed throughout the entire dormitory room.

“The full moon is messing up my vital energy! I’m going to revert to my true form!” 

“Which dorm buddy is this? Give me a break… I haven’t slept a wink all night while rushing my thesis. Can’t you just give me the chance to sleep in?” 

“I beg of you, Father, please give me a chance at life. I’ll pray for your welfare and longevity tomorrow. Please turn off the lights!”

Wang Chenghao’s hopes for a vibrant, idyllic college life with passionate, like-minded dormitory mates were instantly plunged into a sea of ice.

“United or Master Kang[2]? What would you prefer?” Qin Ye queried placidly.

“It’s a day of fertility! Braised beef!” “And an earthen jar of pickled vegetables for me! Dear daddy! I thank you and your eight generations of ancestors for making you!” “Fresh shrimp and seafood… I will never forget your benefaction even if I become a ghost!”

“Ahh… I might have forgotten to bring it.” Qin Ye pulled out a wad of paper money and fanned himself, “I can offer you one billion dollars in Hell notes instead. How would you like that?”

“Since you’ll never be able to cross the Naraka Bridge in any event, why don’t you just head down rather than stay and be an eyesore around here?”

The dry smile on Wang Chenghao’s face instantly froze.

Seconds later, he turned his head around stiffly and stared at Qin Ye with tears in his eyes.

Don’t mess with me… please don’t bully an honest and trusting person like me…

“What are you looking at?” Qin Ye pointed at the bed in confusion, “They’re earthbound spirits. Really, I’m not kidding you this time. But everything will be resolved once we burn some Hell notes for them. It’s a very clean process.”

Brother… dear brother… I think you might be a little bit mistaken about the idea of what ‘clean’ truly means...

1. The author here was referring to a web novel called 老夫聊发少年狂, but I thought to put the synopsis here for better context.

2. Both are brands of instant noodles.

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