Chapter 53: Night of a Thousand Ghosts (1)

Wang Chenghao had a bad feeling about it. He gulped nervously, “This matter has blown well out of proportions. Shouldn’t we… flee instead?”

Qin Ye shook his head, “There’s nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide.”

“If I were Cao Youdao, the first thing I would’ve done with the time remaining last night was to seal off all entrances and exits to the City of Salvation. If we dare to even take a step out of the city right now, he would immediately be alerted, appear right before our eyes and kill us. Right now, with the existence of the Special Investigations Department, the most dangerous place has truly become the safest place. Even though Cao Youdao has been silently building his strength in the City of Salvation for the last hundred years, we can’t forget that mankind… has been here for thousands of years!”

“If not for the existence of the Special Investigations Department, Cao Youdao would have wreaked havoc across all of the City of Salvation by now!”

Wang Chenghao nodded his head and continued to probe apprehensively, “Then, Brother Qin, what do we do now?”

“We wait.” Qin Ye licked his lips and sat down, “I eagerly await the opening of this unprecedented war between the netherworldly forces and the mortal realm… And the moment their confrontation begins is naturally also the moment our opportunity reveals itself.”

Time passed by quickly. Winter nights always came earlier. By 6 p.m., the sun had completely set, leaving the lights from the multitude of households and the constellations in the sky gently illuminating the city itself. 

At 6 p.m., a clear, crisp voice echoed out from every corner of the city:-

“Attention all citizens. Please note that there is a city-wide curfew in place with immediate effect. Citizens who have not returned home, and are unable to return home by 7 p.m. are to look for alternative lodging nearby.”

“Please ensure that you do not stay in the city alone. Please do not leave the house alone. Furthermore, please ensure not to store antiques, mirrors or other similar items…”

Qin Ye stood at the window, watching the traffic on the streets dwindle minute after minute. Finally, the entire streets were dead silent.

It was not the usual, gentle dwindling of the hustle and bustle of the streets. Rather, this was an abrupt cessation of activity that followed the public broadcast of the announcement.

It was as though even the winds had stopped.

The birds of the fields and the wild beasts have also returned to their nests and lairs.

The only thing that remained on the streets of the entire City of Salvation were the occasional vehicle that sped by. Nature was practically completely silent, interrupted only by the 1% of human activity that remained. The atmosphere was so stifling and silent that it bordered on becoming chilling and horrific.

Qin Ye’s gaze flickered slightly, and he couldn’t help but tense up his fingers that were gripping onto the window frames right now. A gentle night breeze swept past, tousling the bangs that were dangling over his forehead. Yet, in just less than ten seconds, the breeze began to grow stronger and stronger! Within moments, the gentle breeze had transformed into a powerful gale so strong that it sent the curtains in the room fluttering horizontally above the ground! It was almost as though a hell rift had opened up and was spitting out an endless nethergale.

It has begun…

“Classmate Wang.” He gazed into the dark clouds that were brewing on the horizon as he instructed, “Don’t go anywhere tonight. If anyone knocks on the door, don’t open it.”

As soon as he finished speaking, the ground suddenly shifted and became blurry. In the very next moment, innumerable strands of greenish-white Yin energy began to rise up from every corner of the City of Salvation.

The entire downtown district of the City of Salvation covered a full 130 square kilometers. Yet despite the sheer magnitude of the city, Yin energy continued to pour out of every single crevice in the city, from the skyscrapers to the streets to the basements alike! It was as though a tidal wave were building up from the still waters below!

The phenomenon grew larger and more menacing. Then, almost ten minutes later, a sight unfolded that remained invisible only to the eyes of mere mortals. Yet Qin Ye could see everything. The entire City of Salvation… was covered with a greenish-white roiling fog, almost akin to a sea of Yin energy!

And in the midst of these fog stood innumerable illusory figures that had maintained their appearances just before their deaths. Some were employees wearing suits, some were civil servants carrying briefcases, and some were students with backpacks… All of them had different appearances. Yet the one thing that they all had in common was the fact that they were all holding a lantern in their hands.

It was a red lantern with the stark contrast of black letterings.

It was the word “Cao.”

They were dense and endless, akin to the blood red stars that littered the skies in a gloomy night! And, like a massive tidal wave, the Yin spirits rushed madly in all directions!

These were the Yin spirits under Cao Youdao’s direct control!

The spirits and souls that had perished in the entire City of Salvation over the last hundred years had just been summoned and called upon to comb through the entire city itself!

“Arti, I recall that you’re able to conceal my Yin energy with the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, can’t you?” Qin Ye asked softly.

“Yes… cough cough… More accurately speaking, it would be to disguise, not conceal. Just like how I’d once transformed the quality of your Yin energy and made you appear akin to an Anitya Hellguard of the Black and White… haa--...” Arthis spoke slowly, and there were parts where her voice was barely even audible, “Every Emissary of Hell has a distinct Yin energy profile… cough cough… If not for the shard’s ability to disguise your energy, your energy signature would already have been captured and recorded by the mortal realm… Anyhow, don’t call me again… I don’t have enough Yin energy to speak with you anymore…”

Whoosh… A black light shone from Qin Ye’s chest as a thick layer of Yin energy promptly enshrouded his body, taking the place of where his own Yin energy would otherwise have been.

He didn’t make a move immediately. Just like a seasoned hunter, he continued to bide for his time and wait for the best opportunity to strike.

“I’ve lived for decades… yet this is the first time I’ve been looked down upon with such disdain…”

“This is unacceptable, even if from a stupid soul sphere!”

………………………………………………

The Yin energy continued to spread across every corner of the City of Salvation. Yin spirit after Yin spirit continued to drift about and pervaded every single neighbourhood in the area.

Lin Ming was a second-year high school student who lives on the thirteenth floor of Block 3, Feng Run Neighbourhood near Insignia University. The street he lived on was already considered part of the suburbs. When night fell, he became the only person walking along the side of the street, under the shade of the ominous shadows cast from the trees and houses on both sides of the road. With the dim yellow illumination of the street lights, he felt as though something was following and creeping up from behind him all the time.

“Haa…” He finally returned to his neighbourhood by 6.30 p.m. Cursing the curfew under his breath, he pressed the button to call on the elevator.

Krrrkk… The elevator doors closed. For some strange reason, he felt as though tonight was a particularly cold and chilly night.

And it was quite different from the cold of winter. Rather, it was.... Something almost inexplicable, as though his heart had been frozen solid by something creeping through his body.

The elevator slowly began to ascend. He was just about to whip out his phone to check on the latest news when suddenly, the elevator stopped.

Second floor.

Lin Ming raised his eyebrows curiously, but saw nobody around. So he simply continued to use his phone.

However, he didn’t pay any attention to the fact that the lift had stopped on the second floor for exactly ten seconds.

And during this time, the elevator’s doors never attempted to close a single time.

Ten seconds later, the doors closed once more, and the elevator ascended again. Yet, before Lin Ming had read a few lines of words on the news article, the elevator… stopped once again.

Third floor.

“What the hell?!” He looked at the open elevator doors in shock - Someone’s got a problem? Why did they press the second and third floor buttons? Are they crazy?

“Retard.” Not knowing who to direct his anger to, he furrowed his brows and mashed on the ‘close’ button on the elevator panel. Unfortunately, it appeared unresponsive.

“Bloody hell! Have our property maintenance fees all been flushed down the toilet bowl?! Why can’t they just send someone down to repair this rotten piece-of-shit elevator?!” He smashed hard on the button several times. Ten seconds later, with the same grinding sound, the elevator doors shut once more.

“Tsk…” As soon as the door shut, he suddenly shivered uncontrollably, “It’s too cold. I didn’t even feel so cold on the roads earlier. How am I going to make it through winter at this rate?”

Krrrkk… The elevator doors shut, and the elevator ascended for a second time.

Three seconds later, the elevator stopped for the second time.

Fourth floor.

Lin Ming no longer cursed and swore.

He blinked his eyes and cautiously stuck his head out onto the corridor outside to take a peek at his surroundings.

Dead silence.

Apart from the bright, white light illuminating the corridor, nothing else noteworthy could be seen in his surroundings.

He looked at the buttons outside the elevator once more. There were no traces of anyone messing with them at all.

Gulp… He swallowed his saliva nervously and rushed right back into the elevator.

His heart began to beat quicker and quicker.

Krrrkk… The elevator doors shut for the third time.

The elevator also began to ascend for the third time.

And three seconds later, it stopped for the third time!

Bzzt! Lin Ming felt his scalp buzzing!

Something’s not right… something’s not right! There’s most definitely a problem here!

The buttons on the panel aren’t lit up at all, so why is it still stopping on every single floor?!

It’s almost… it’s almost as though… something invisible was pressing every single button, stopping the elevator on every single floor.

A quiet elevator and a silent corridor outside reveal no traces of any living person. Yet it was precisely the solitude of his surroundings that turned the silence into a maddeningly oppressive force. Lin Ming’s lips slowly began to dry up.

He furiously rushed to the elevator and mashed on the button to the thirteenth floor once more. However, just like before, the elevator refused to budge!

Ten seconds.

A third instance of a ten-second pause.

He stared at the door with widened eyes, ascertaining there was not a single person who entered the elevator. Despite that, he still got the niggling feeling that something unseen had been entering the elevator on every floor!

It was a hair-raising feeling that sent shivers down his spine.

Perhaps… I’m not the only person in the lift right now… A terrifying notion crossed Lin Ming’s mind for the first time. He glanced about at the mirrors in the elevator, yet the reflections of his own image gave him the feeling as though there were several strangers just staring right back at him.

He backed himself into a corner and trembled as he glanced around nervously. However, he couldn’t see any other person in the lift with him.

Krrrkk… The elevator began to move for the fourth time, and then stopped for the fourth time again… The fifth floor, the sixth floor, and even on the seventh floor, the elevator continued to stop on its own and open the door!

T-t-t-t-t-t… Lin Ming’s teeth chattered as he wrapped his arms around himself protectively.

He didn’t dare to go out.

It was deathly silent outside. He didn’t want to walk down the corridor at all! He was afraid. He needed light, and the corridors were only dimly lit with ominously yellowing lights. He was afraid of the unknown - afraid of whether he would see the stairs as soon as he turned the corner in the corridor, or… see a whimpering little girl with her back faced to him.

It was only the bright lights in the elevator that gave him a sense of assurance and security.

Just then, the lights above him flickered twice. Pop! The lights had fizzled out.

He almost screamed. The fear that had been brewing in his heart all this while was finally ready to explode! But in the very next second, he covered his mouth in horror.

When the fear experienced by a person exceeds a particular tipping point, he would find himself completely unable to make a single peep of sound.

With trembling hands, he continued to cover his lips and fumble for his cell phone. The elevator was now engulfed with darkness akin to a gloomy morgue. The teenager’s suppressed sobs and whimpers reverberated coldly across the metallic corners of the elevator. His thumb was trembling so much that he could barely unlock his phone. And when he finally did, the first thing he noticed was the time.

6.38 p.m.

The illumination from the phone’s screen was feeble at best, so he immediately looked to activate the flashlight function on his phone. Light. He needed light! If he remained in the darkness like this, he would go mad in no time!

However, just as he was about to activate the flashlight on his phone, he suddenly froze altogether.

T-t-t-t-t-t…. His teeth chattered uncontrollably and his lips trembled as though he was suffering from a stroke. His entire body was drenched in cold sweat. Tears streamed down his eyes, and he opened his mouth wide, as though he had a multitude of words to say. Yet, he was unable to enunciate a single word.

Under the dim glow of the phone.

Where light and darkness intersected.

Tens of pale white faces were staring straight at his cell phone.

And only their faces could be seen.

Their bodies were completely obscured by the darkness. Somewhere, and at some time, the elevator had somehow become overcrowded.

“AHHHHHHHHH!!!”

His miserable scream echoed through the night sky. However, he was not the only one. Simultaneously, an unknown number of people and families experienced a similarly unfathomable and inexplicable sight as well!

The city’s Second People’s Hospital. Things were different during the curfew. The main entrance was tightly shut at night, disallowing visitations altogether. The nurse’s job during this period of time was simply to look after the remaining patients in the hospital.

“Hey, how’s your new intern, 024?” The two nurses on duty sat at their desk and made small talk with each other. The short-haired nurse was playing games on her computer as she squinted and smiled at the other nurse, “He’s tall and handsome, isn’t he?”

The other nurse with shoulder-length hair was playing Hearthstone on her iPad. Without lifting her eyes from the screen, she responded, “Being tall and lanky doesn’t help much does it? What’s more important is that he’s diligent and he gets things done. If given a choice, would you pick between good-looking or diligent--... What the hell? Another control card?! Didn’t he already play two of those earlier?! These light decks are just disgusting!”

Just as she was about to quit the game in a fit of anger, her hand suddenly froze.

And she wasn’t the only one. The other nurse also ceased whatever she was doing and recoiled in shock.

Both nurses exchanged glances in horror. Seconds later, the Hearthstone nurse muttered with some measure of hesitation, “Hey, did you hear something?”

“Did... something just pass by earlier?”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter