Ten minutes later. Qin Ye sitting at the end of the bed with Wang Chenghao with a somber expression on his face.
The scorching stench of burning paper lingered in the air. The three Yin spirits stood in front of Qin Ye, rubbing their hands with avaricious glee. Wang Chenghao sat numbly next to Qin Ye, thinking to make the bed yet not daring to make a single move.
“You’ve changed.” Qin Ye lamented, “You were so powerful and domineering in our high school back then. What happened to you?”
Wang Chenghao coughed dryly, “Brother Qin… people invariably change after experiencing a massive upheaval in their lives…”
“Look at you - thick eyebrows, standing tall at 1.8 meters tall, and an appearance that is at least worth 80 points, yet you cower like just a little girl. To train your guts, you’re going to be in charge of fetching water and buying dinner from tomorrow onwards. Any questions?”
Something feels off… something feels off about this entire situation… Yet despite his reservations, Wang Chenghao still nodded his head.
His ambit of his boldness and domineering attitude extended only to those of his own kind. Yet, ever since leaving Clear Creek County, it felt almost as though he hadn’t encountered a single normal human being…
I already no longer scream at the top of my voice at the slightest of scares. Shouldn’t I be given a little bit more time to adjust to the situation?
He knew that Qin Ye’s suggestion was for his own good. That said, the refinement of one’s guts and courage was still a process that took time…
Mm… his suggestion seems logically watertight, but I still can’t help but feel like something is a little bit off somewhere…
“Alright.” Qin Ye waved his hands dismissively at Wang Chenghao before turning his attention back to the three spirits before him once more, “Are you going to head down by yourselves, or should I send you on your way?”
“My lord.” A baby-faced student scratched his head, “About that… is it possible to give us some paper effigies and the like...”
“Possession? Are you still unwilling to head down under?” Qin Ye rolled his eyes, rubbed his face lightly, and then stretched out his arm and rubbed his thumb, index and middle fingers together as he continued, “No way. Rules are rules.”
“My lord… we don’t even know how we died… I-I-I just want the opportunity to speak to my family and give them one final account.”
Qin Ye continued to rub his fingers faster as he spoke with some measure of impatience, “Nothing can be accomplished without rules and regulations. If it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Don’t you guys know that if you stay like this for another half a year to a year, you’re going to turn into evil ghosts?”
“But my lord…”
“But that said…” Qin Ye was almost rubbing his fingers in front of their faces now, “Rules are man-made after all…”
What happened to your basic level of comprehension?
Don’t you have any idea what I’m trying to do here?
The three spirits were all taken aback. Is he… trying to ask us for a bribe?
Ah… so this is the dark side of society - something we can’t even get away from even in death. Oh, how wicked can humanity get…
“My lord…” The tallest student coughed dryly, “We’re… we’re just poor students…”
Without another word, Qin Ye turned around and motioned to pick up his demonhead saber.
“My lord! Please don’t!” “Please spare us! I’m very familiar with Insignia University! I can be your guide and companion!” “My lord, please have mercy on us! I think we’ve still got some room for negotiations! Why don’t I sing you a lullaby every night?”
What the hell would I need a stupid lullaby for?!
Qin Ye suddenly felt incredibly miserable. Ever since he had taken on the role as the last Emissary of Hell, the only profitable situation he had dealt with so far had been the incident with Wang Zemin. The others were either the owner of a rundown inn, or a bunch of poor students wearing their tattered uniform. There was simply no place for him to make a windfall!
I’d never wanted to be a clean and honest official… but society isn’t even giving me the opportunity to be corrupt at all…
“My lord! We’ve got a grievance!” As they saw the unyielding expression on Qin Ye’s face, the students immediately went down on their knees and begged him with trembling.
“Stop trying to delay matters. I’ll allow you to run thirty-nine meters first.” Qin Ye brandished his demonhead saber. Yet, before he could finish speaking, he suddenly froze in place.
This word was as innocuous as it got, yet it still ignited within him a moment of dazzling brilliance.
Wang Chenghao was still watching the scene intently when Qin Ye stood up abruptly and suddenly instructed, “Go fetch us a pot of water.”
“... Later?” Wang Chenghao was ostensibly comforted knowing that there were ghosts who appeared far more miserable than himself.
Slightly miffed, Wang Chenghao picked up the kettle and left the room. Qin Ye promptly locked the door after him, turned around and gazed deeply at the three spirits kneeling on the ground.
“Interesting.” Several seconds later, his smile faded, and he asked placidly, “How long have you been dead?”
“Three years.” The students responded respectfully.
“Three years… Interesting… very interesting…” Qin Ye tapped his fingers on the table and mumbled to himself as though deep in thought, “Anyone who’s a human and not a suicidal maniac would definitely be left with a remaining grievance if the death was unnatural. But… I don’t see that in your case.”
“In fact, you’ve even become spirited and cheerful earthbound spirits after death. And there’s hardly a change in your disposition since your death. Since that’s the case… did you guys die voluntarily?”
The three spirits shook their heads in unison.
“An involuntary death, yet there are no remaining grievances…” Qin Ye’s eyes grew frosty and cold as he gazed out of the windows. Dusk had fallen, and darkness was engulfing the campus grounds, “Then there’s only one other possibility remaining.”
“You… must have died without any form of pain, whatsoever. In fact, you probably didn’t even know you had died!”
The tallest spirit bit down on his lips and firmly nodded his head.
“I didn’t want to die.” His earlier jolly, spirited personality had vanished completely. Instead, his lips were now trembling, and even his form had begun to waver, “But… we weren’t given any options.”
“None of us know how we died. There wasn’t any pain either. It was almost as though we had just fallen asleep… And then we witnessed with our very own eyes our parents coming to the premises to collect our belongings… I saw my mother crying on my bed… I was just beside her, yet I was powerless to do a single thing!”
His voice began to choke up, “Over the last three years, we’ve wracked our brains trying to figure out the cause of it all. Unfortunately…”
“Unfortunately, you haven’t been able to take a single step out.” Qin Ye finished his sentence, “Earthbound spirits are entities that are trapped and locked to the last place that they had been while they were alive. In other words, your area of movement over the last three years had been limited to this dorm room. But this shouldn’t be the case, since you’ve got grievances as well. Instead, your grievances must have been forcibly suppressed, causing you to be trapped here and be bound to the room as earthbound spirits.”
This college… something’s wrong with it!
“What do you remember?”
He hadn’t expected much of an answer with this question to begin with. After all, the three spirits weren’t even aware of how they died, so how could they possibly recall the precursor to their death?
However, as soon as he finished asking his questions, the three spirits immediately responded in unison, “Gongs and drums!”
Swish… Qin Ye gazed deeply at them, and then at the ground, as though he were gazing through the flooring and staring straight at Old Man Liu and his wrinkled face.
Gongs and drums…
“We heard the sounds of a troupe of people playing the gongs and drums as they marched upstairs at midnight. Then, these sounds would be followed by the sound of messy footsteps retreating back to where they came from. But this entire place is locked at twelve midnight!”
“Furthermore, we also see four pairs of wet footprints everyday! It’s almost as though… as though those people would stand silently in front of the locked main entrance, staring out of it until the sun rises again…”
What a coincidence.
“It first happened three years ago, during spring… None of us cared a tiny bit when we first heard the sounds of these gongs and drums.” The tall spirit gritted his teeth, “However, when we asked around on the second day, not a single one of the other students had heard it at all!”
“We were the only ones who had heard it extremely clearly. It was… it was almost as though someone had struck the lottery and was being promoted to a top official. Apart from the gongs and drums, there would even be the festive sounds of firecrackers and the chinese sorna playing in the background. It created such a huge ruckus that none of us could sleep at all!”
“We initially thought that someone was merely pranking us. But… it wasn’t. We stayed up and crouched at the door all night, and we’d even looked through the peephole that we’d installed earlier! But there was simply nobody outside at all!”
“My lord, can you imagine what it was like… Twelve midnight, in the still of the night when all the lights are out, and you suddenly hear the clanging and banging of loud gongs and drums… You look out of the peephole, yet not a single soul can be spotted outside even though you can hear footsteps stopping right outside our door!!”
“We almost went mad!” The baby-faced spirit recalled the incident three years ago and continued with trembling lips, “On several occasions, when the footsteps paused right outside our door, we lit a candle and saw that someone was in fact standing outside our door! We saw their shadows through the gap under the door! But… but when we looked through the peephole, not a single soul was in sight!”
“We’ve reported the incident, but nobody believed us. Then, just when we were supposed to move out of this room… that’s where our memory ended.”
The three spirits sobbed.
They had mysteriously died in the prime of their lives, only to realize that they had been transformed into earthbound spirits that were unable to step out of the confines of a room that was no larger than twenty square feet in size. Since then, apart from the cleaners who came in to refresh the rooms every year before matriculation season, there wasn’t a single other living person who had entered this room. Nobody even remembers them anymore. And so they forced themselves to be happy and cheerful at all times. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to scare away anyone who entered their room.
They wanted to talk.
They wanted to get out.
More than anything, they wanted to find out what was going on.
Unfortunately, they were unable to do these things.
Qin Ye ruminated over the details for some time, “You’ve been here for three years now. Have you heard the sound of those gongs and drums at any other time in recent years?”
“Not at all. In fact, we’ve not even heard of others speaking of such horrors before! Otherwise, how else could we possibly continue living here?!”
“Got it.” Qin Ye pointed across the room, “Stay over there. I’ll bring three paper effigies for you tomorrow.”
“Thank you… thank you my lord!”
He wasn’t doing this out of the kindness of his heart.
Rather… if this matter were in fact the supernatural incident reported in Insignia University, its resolution could very well bag him a million bucks!
Wang Chenghao finally returned with the kettle of water. The duo first looked through the university timetables, and then discussed which clubs and societies they were planning to join. By the time they were done, it was already 10 p.m.
As a result of the announcements being broadcasted nation-wide, the entire campus grounds were enshrouded with an almost oppressive silence as soon as dusk fell.
There were no longer any sounds coming from the fields and sports courts.
The lights from the kiosks around were also completely extinguished.
Not even a single running bicycle could be seen on the paths and roads.
Apart from the dormitories, the only sources of light around were from that of the street lamps. As the night breeze swept across the campus, the trees made ominous rustling sounds, as though a mysterious beast were creeping around under the cover of night.
Even the entire dormitory was still and dead. Nobody was out clamoring along the corridors in a fashion that would otherwise usually be seen in such college dormitories. In fact, the corridors were so silent that it almost felt like the eerie foreshadowing of a terror beast’s approach.
Wang Chenghao had brought his laptop along with him, but they were not connected to the internet yet. After playing some games on his phone for a little while, he quickly got bored, yawned, and went to bed. Qin Ye continued to browse the web on his phone for a little while before turning in as well.
Click… click… Devoid of all forms of entertainment and contact with the outside world, the dark of the night soon crept into the building, and the lights in the building were extinguished in an orderly fashion. By the time Qin Ye fell into a deep slumber, the entire school was already enshrouded in darkness.
Qin Ye slept peacefully.
Then, after some time, he suddenly woke up again.
Clang… A loud bell chimed melodiously from the school’s bell tower, yet it also reverberated ominously throughout the entire campus grounds
It was almost as though the bell tolled from a place that the living could not enter, reverberating throughout the lands with an otherworldly chill to it.
It was midnight.
Qin Ye woke up as soon as the clock struck twelve.
He furrowed his brows. Then, just as soon as he was about to return to sleep, he suddenly heard a bright, clanging sound coming from close by!
Dong dong dong!!! CLANG!!! It first started with three dull thuds of a drum, followed by the clear, crisp sound of a gong! In the very next moment, the chinese sorna started playing, only to be accompanied by the incessant bangs of firecrackers!
Qin Ye sat up immediately and glanced at Wang Chenghao. Wang Chenghao was still sleeping like a log.
Qin Ye then shifted his gaze towards the three spirits resting on the other bed. They looked completely dazed. With great trembling, they got out of their beds and glanced nervously about their surroundings.
“It’s coming… it’s coming!!”
“Here it is… here it is!!”
“The sounds of the gongs and drums from three years ago… are here again!!”
1. It’s a chinese woodwind instrument that is similar to an oboe. It emits a somewhat loud and high-pitched sound, and is used in both wedding processions and funerary rites. It is also an essential part of ritual music for a number of Taoist rituals and rites.