"Shut up!" Qin Ye closed his eyes, perked up his ears and listened carefully to his surroundings once more.
An uncanny silence.
The juxtaposition of the deafening bangs and clangs of the drums and gongs only seemed to accentuate the solitude around them.
Dong dong… CLANG! The rhythmic sounds echoed throughout the entire building. It was harrowing to hear such hair-raising sounds in the dead of the night.
Qin Ye continued to listen patiently to the procession of sounds. One minute later, the sounds of the drums and gongs became somewhat muffled. Qin Ye immediately knew that this was because… the procession had already entered the building!
The source of the clanging and banging of the drums and gong was a mystery to all. In fact these sounds appeared to be only audible to those it was intended for. Right now, the sounds appeared to be moving up the stairs and towards a particular room.
The closer the procession of sounds drew, the louder and brighter it grew. Qin Ye raised his eyebrows curiously. Ten minutes later, the procession of sounds arrived on the fourth floor, as loud as it had ever been. Accompanied by the grave chants of "Hey, ho, hey, ho," the procession of sounds slowly drew closer and closer to the door to Qin Ye's room.
The three spirits in the corner of the room appeared incredibly pale and soulless.
Swish… The sound of something descending came from just outside the door. Following that, everything went completely silent.
It was a deathly silence.
Not a single trace of sound could be heard. The deafening silence was so loud that anyone in the room right now would have begged for even a peep of sound. The swaying of the trees outside cast terrifying, shifting shadows onto the walls in the room.
Thud… Seconds later, a soft sound echoed from the door to the room.
Thud thud… Once a second. It was constant and rhythmic.
The moon shone brightly amidst the sea of constellations.
The fourth storey of the building was illuminated by the gentle glow of the moonlight. Notwithstanding that, the moonlight that crept through the gap under the door revealed that there was hardly a trace of anyone’s shadow outside!
The dull thuds of knocking sound continued to echo from the old wooden door to the room. They were neither light nor heavy handed. Yet despite all that, the soft, muffled knocks continued to slowly ebb away at one’s fragile nerves.
It was the exact same phenomenon that occurred three years ago!
Qin Ye ignored them. After approximately five minutes, the continuous and incessant knocking sounds finally ceased altogether.
Are they gone?
Amidst the darkness of the room, Qin Ye stood up, stretched lazily, and then peered out through the peephole on the door!
Yet the only thing he saw was a bloodshot eye, covered with sprawling blood vessels staring straight back at him through the peephole!
They were only separated by the width of the door right now!
Even someone like Qin Ye recoiled in shock, and his heart froze momentarily.
Ssssshhhh… Just then, a light rustling sound echoed from right above his head.
Their dormitory occupied a building that had been standing since decades ago, and the doors here naturally did not close as seamlessly as the doors used in modern day constructions. Instead, the wooden door to their room sported innumerable cracks. There was even a panel of glass just above the door that was cloudy from the lack of maintenance and cleaning after all these years.
And right now… four heads had squeezed themselves onto the glass panel above, peering through it as they stared right at Qin Ye!
The gloomy moonlight illuminated their pale faces which were only further accentuated by their ink-black clothes. The sight of four faces staring straight at him through the dusty glass panel was truly creepy and astonishing!
And these were four paper effigies at that.
The entire boys dormitory building was dead silent. Nobody knew of the horrors of the night that had crept silently through the hallways. It was almost as though everyone were dead in slumber.
“My lord.” Just as the Yin energy began to ripple from Qin Ye’s body, a sharp voice called out from beyond the door, “My lord, my master wishes to extend an invitation to you.”
Qin Ye was taken aback.
How dare mere ghosts extend an invitation to an Emissary of Hell. Were they looking down on him?
“Interesting.” With a chuckle, he opened the door to the room.
The corridor outside was illuminated by the dim moonlight, and several wisps of ethereal greenish-white Yin energy hovered about the area. A long procession stood right in the middle of the corridor.
There were a total of twelve people… no, a total of twelve unknown entities.
The corridor was hardly wide. The ones walking right at the front of the procession were four figures dressed in colourful rags, almost as though they were a troupe of ancient opera actors.
They were incredibly tall.
Their height was approximately 2 meters tall, and their heads nearly touched the ceiling above them. They were dressed in the exact same manner, had the exact same dishevelled hairstyle that hung straight down across their heads and over their chests, and they all held an oil paper umbrella in their hands. Their uniformity was uncannily fetid.
Their faces couldn’t be seen at all.
Every single feature on their face had been obscured by their drooping hair.
The next four entities were humanoid paper effigies with sharp, pointed hands and feet. Each of them wore a one-meter tall hat, vermillion-red lipsticks and had pink, greasy blushers painted on the cheeks of their incredibly pale faces.
These four paper effigies carried what appeared to be a coffin on their backs.
It was a dark coffin with no lid on it. The inside of the coffin was lined with exquisite fur designed to make it look like a comfortable seat.
The four paper effigies were followed by yet another four two-meter tall ghosts.
The procession of twelve stood in the middle of the corridor, completely silent and still. The ends of the corridor faded into the darkness in the distance.
“Who’s your master?”
“My lord, our master says that you’ve already received his invitation this morning. Tonight is an auspicious night where we’re celebrating our master’s promotion. We’ve been instructed to spread the word and extend invitations all around. All of the respected and prominent ghosts will also be present at the celebrations tonight. We humbly ask that my lord give face to our master and grace the occasion tonight.” One of the paper effigies responded with a sharp voice.
Qin Ye was somewhat dumbfounded. He immediately took out the card he received this morning and scrutinized its contents again.
The card’s appearance had transformed completely after midnight.
Two large words were now scrawled across the back of the card in blood-red lettering.
Ripples of emotions stirred in the depths of Qin Ye’s eyes as he stashed the card back into his pocket. He cursed and swore in his heart - I couldn’t get bribes earlier, and now I’m even encountering complications militating against the collection of the bounty from the mortal realm!
This was the nest of the head honcho in the entire City of Salvation!
It was hidden right under his feet!
“Please.” The humanoid paper effigies knelt down in an extremely concerted fashion. After a long period of deliberation, Qin Ye finally stepped into the coffin and leaned against the soft furs within. The four humanoid paper effigies stood up at the same time, twisted their bodies in a peculiar manner, and faced the corridor almost instantly. Finally, they cried out in unison, “A guest of honour is on his way. We march!”
Dong dong dong! The two ghosts at the front of the procession beat on their leather drums, while one of the ghosts at the end of the procession struck his copper gong lightly.
Shrill sounds of the procession continued to echo throughout the entire corridor.
The coffin-seat was incredibly stable. The entire procession of twelve ghosts didn’t touch the ground with their feet. Instead, they simply hovered along as they slowly descended from the fourth floor to the first floor.
Just as they arrived on the first floor, Qin Ye suddenly raised his hand, “Hang on.”
The coffin-seat came to a smooth stop.
This was the first floor where the caretaker’s lodge was located, and there should naturally be someone present.
In fact, that person was here right now.
Old Man Liu was trembling all over, wearing clothes plastered all over with yellow paper money as he held three incense sticks tightly in his hands. His face was even painted with the same greasy blushers and vermillion-red lipsticks. He cowered at the door, making his already short stature look yet even smaller. At this moment, he was kneeling and praying to the gods for dear life, almost like a lunatic, “Heavens protect me… heavens protect me!!”
Qin Ye picked up his saber and placed it silently onto Old Man Liu’s neck.
He would be able to slice off Old Man Liu’s throat with the slightest exertion of force right now.
However, Old Man Liu didn’t seem to have felt anything on his neck. Instead, he simply continued to plead and pray, almost as though he were afraid of awakening the devil. Qin Ye withdrew his saber.
“Let’s go.” Qin Ye withdrew his gaze, got back into the coffin-seat and waved his hand.
“Raise the coffin!” With a sharp call from the humanoid paper effigies, the coffin was raised to their shoulders once more. And then… they turned around and made their way straight into Old Man Liu’s lodge!
“Buddha blesses me… the Supreme Lord blesses me!” The door behind Old Man Liu opened itself, while Old Man Liu continued to bang his head on the table, praying at the top of his voice.
Old Man Liu lived in the space between the stairs and the ground of the first floor. That said, this space was neither small nor suffocating. The room was pitch-black, and the air within was incredibly dense and murky, almost as though it were hazy with smoke.
Sha… A bright light lit up overhead. It was only at this moment that Qin Ye noticed how Old Man Liu didn’t have a bed in his room.
There was only an extremely wide sofa that one would be able to rest on. There were two potted plants placed in the corner of his room. But apart from that, there was nothing else - no bookshelves, no tables and no stools. And what was strangest about this room was the fact that the entire walls of his room… were made out of only mirrors!
It brought about an inexplicable sense of familiarity… Qin Ye was almost certain he had seen something similar in other parts of society… Qin Ye tapped his fingers on the mirror and furrowed his brows, but he simply had no recollection of where he had seen something like this before.
The mirror was covered all around with yellow talismans that were drawn with blood-red ink. There were clearly twelve other entities standing around him right now, yet their reflections could not be seen in any one of the mirrors around. Then, before Qin Ye could examine the room any further, the entire room suddenly sank downwards with a soft swishing sound!
Whoosh! As they descended, the talismans on the mirrors appeared to float upwards and out of sight. Simultaneously, a blood-red arabic number appeared on the mirrored walls.
The numbers changed rapidly. After a few seconds, and together with a cacophony of dull, clacking sounds, the number changed to… -2.
-3, -4, -5… And it finally stopped at -6.
“Is this an elevator that leads directly to Hell? No wonder it looked so familiar. To think that he’d build something like this right below the dorms. And how are the students residing here still alive… Should I praise him for his benevolence?” Qin Ye sneered and walked out as soon as the door opened.
A wide stone path with a width of five or six meters extended straight out of the door. The stone walls were carved with extremely archaic patterns, while stone-carved lanterns shaped like the heads of beasts shielded the flickering flames within from the elements.
And right at the sides of the stone path stood… two full rows of Yin spirits!
There were some who wore suits, some who dressed like students, and others who appeared to be preppy-looking office workers. All of them appeared different in their own regard. Yet the one similarity that they all shared was the fact that they were all toting a red lantern in their hands as they appeared to drift aimlessly towards the end of the stone path.
As soon as Qin Ye opened the door, all of the Yin spirits immediately paused in their steps, and the slurping sound of drool and saliva could be heard amidst the still, tense atmosphere. Then, at the very next moment… more than a hundred pairs of bloodshot eyes turned around and gazed right at Qin Ye!
"To think that he'd even prepared a hundred ghosts to celebrate my arrival. This man truly esteems me so…" Qin Ye slid his fingers gently across the walls. The walls were damp and chilling to the touch, and even bore thick traces of corpse energy and Yin energy. Qin Ye immediately understood what this meant.
"It's an ancient tomb that's at least a hundred years old. And something of this magnitude isn't accessible to just any wealthy man of that era. This is something only possible for a bureaucrat of at least the fifth order or beyond! Furthermore… there must have been at least a hundred people buried alive with him."
Roar!! Just then, the ghastly figures in front of him shifted all the the same time, screaming at the top of their lungs as they charged straight towards him. A shimmering light from his blade gleamed brightly and swept past his surroundings. Several Yin spirits were instantly reduced to nothing more than wisps of Yin energy. Simultaneously, a wave of powerful Yin energy erupted explosively from his body! It was on a completely different level than that of the Yin spirits around!
"Scram!" He bellowed coldly. The hundreds of spirits immediately retreated to the side, creating a path for him akin to how Moses had parted the red sea.
After walking for ten minutes, he finally arrived in front of a heavy stone door with carvings shaped like the head of a ferocious predator. The words “Orchid” and “Clubhouse” were chiseled on the left and the right of the door respectively. The words appeared to have been etched out with powerful strokes, and an ever-burning netherfire illuminated the words, giving the entrance to the clubhouse an ominous green glow.
As soon as he arrived at the entrance, the card which he had received earlier flew out of his clothes on its own and inserted itself into the gap between the doors. Shortly afterwards, the entrance opened up with a low hum.
Qin Ye shut his eyes and drew a deep breath. Then, just as he was about to step into the Orchid Clubhouse, he froze in place.
“What about ghostly legends; and what demons and monsters? The falcon cries out in a soulless tune!”
“The amber sands sweep across the skies, fill the ends of the earth, and all of the constellations in the sky…”
Can you believe it?!
The entrance was completely different from what one would’ve expected it to look like. There was none of the archetypal imagery of severed heads dangling from the ceilings with pits of netherfire burning all around. As soon as the door opened up, the breathtaking reverberations of EDM beats immediately engulfed him. A splendid display of strobe lights dazzled the four hundred square feet of dance floor as a crowd of ghosts danced wildly to their hearts’ content!
A gorgeous female ghost wearing a bunny suit weaved in and out of the sea of people serving drinks. From time to time, a wandering hand or two would pinch her perky butt, causing her to squeal in surprise. Moments later, she would pull out the stacks of Hell notes sticking out of the crevices of her bunny suit with a faint smile on her face. A disco ball shaped like a skull hung above the entire dance floor, dazzling the entire surroundings with an impressive display of colours.
That’s not just a hundred ghosts… all of the ghosts who possess cognitive abilities in the entire City of Salvation must be here right now!
And why was he so certain that these were all ghosts?
The answer was simple. It was because… every single one of their legs were completely illusory from the knee down! Furthermore, all of their faces were incomparably pale, and their bodies were covered with spots of livor mortis. The entire dance floor also stank of an overwhelming stench of corpses that no amount of air-freshener could obscure!
This was a clubhouse for evil ghosts!
1. This is a song written, composed and performed by Zhanzhan and Luoluo released online on 19 July 2017. They won the best original group award and the 2018 Asia Music Awards for this song on 29 November 2018.