Chapter 54: Night of a Thousand Ghosts (2)

Nobody responded.

Just a little while ago, they had vaguely heard… the sound of a walking stick tapping gently on the floor. It was a light, soft sound, yet it was evident that the sound was slowly approaching them.

They were at the inpatient unit.

As nurses who dealt with medical situations on a daily basis, death and debilitation was not something foreign to them. At the very least, it wouldn’t be accurate to call them cowards. That said, there was a city-wide curfew in place right now. The fact that they heard the tapping sounds of a walking stick approaching them in an otherwise empty duty room made their hair stand on end.

“Shall we go take a look?” The short-haired nurse picked up her flashlight and asked.

The nurse with shoulder-length hair nodded her head and set down her iPad to respond to duty’s call. Just as the two of them stood up, their eyes immediately widened so much that they almost fell out of their sockets.

The door to their duty room was slightly ajar, leaving a crack that they could still look through. Just a moment ago, they had clearly seen the blurred silhouette of a person walking past their door.

Tuk… tuk… The sound of the walking stick was incomparably clear in the dead of the night. However, none of them heard the sound of any footsteps!

No… in fact, they didn’t even hear any traces of sound normally made by humans!

No breathing, no coughing and no rustling of clothes. The only sound that could be heard was the crisp, eerie thuds of the walking stick.

Bzzt… Just then, the lights in the room suddenly flickered out.

“The power got cut?” The short-haired nurse drew a deep breath. For some strange reason, her heart palpitated anxiously, almost as though a still, small voice were cautioning her - Leave now… leave this place right now!

Gulp… She swallowed her saliva anxiously. Before she could continue, the nurse with the shoulder-length hair responded, “The lights must have spoilt. Look, the computer’s still working fine.”

The short-haired nurse glanced to the side. Indeed, images were still being displayed on the monitor as per normal. Most hospitals had an elaborate surveillance system within the duty room so that they could monitor any unexpected situations.

Thus, they could tell from the monitor that all of the lights in the corridors were fine. Yet, for some strange reason, it was only the lights on the first floor that appeared to have malfunctioned.

“That gave me a scare…” The short-haired nurse heaved a sigh of relief and shifted her gaze away. Yet, merely one second later, she blinked vacantly and did a double take.

Right there, in the black and white images of the monitors, the door on the second floor had just… opened silently.

It was room 201 - the first room on the second floor.

Something didn’t feel right about this. She furrowed her brows and dragged the nurse with the shoulder-length hair to the front of the monitor to take a closer look at the situation.

Then, at the very next moment… the second door… opened.

Following that, the third, fourth, fifth… all of the wards on the second floor were slowly and silently being opened one by one! It was almost as though an invisible person was pushing open these doors in turn!

“Ahh!!” The short-haired nurse gasped. She finally understood what was wrong about this entire situation.

“X-Xiao Liu…” Her voice trembled, “Do you remember… two years ago, a patient gave feedback, saying that there were times when the doors weren’t closed properly, so when the wind blew, the doors would slam shut and give the patients a scare…”

Nurse Xiao Liu nodded her head in bewilderment, “I do recall something like that.”

The short-haired nurse leaned closer to her and continued with a voice so shaky she was struggling to string a sentence together properly, “Then… do you remember… that after that… the president of the hospital changed all of the door mechanisms and equipped them with a silent locking system?”

“That’s right, I recall that it happened when I first got posted here…” Nurse Xiao Liu’s voice trailed off before she finished her sentence, and the two nurses glanced into each other’s eyes with utter horror.

That’s right. Doors with a silent locking system could never be opened or closed by the wind.

And, having used these doors over the last two years, they knew of this fact better than anybody else.

These doors… could only be opened by human hands!

If that’s the case… then why did the doors on the second floor suddenly open by themselves?

As though a chilling wind had just swept through the room, the two nurses immediately shuddered uncontrollably. Even though they weren’t cowards, the hospital was still one of the prime locations where rumours of bizarre, supernatural incidents abounded.

Ever since they embarked on the path of becoming a nurse, they had heard so much of such horror stories from their seniors in school and their senior nurses at work that they had become almost unfazed by them any longer. That said, this was not because they had grown more courageous. Rather, it was simply because… they had grown jaded and numb to such stories.

After all, no matter how scary these stories were, they would gradually find them less and less scary if they never personally encountered such bizarre incidents to begin with.

Yet, who would’ve known they would personally encounter such inexplicable incidents tonight?!

Someone’s on the second floor…

Some unknown entity… had just opened the doors silently…

It was almost as though a spirit or soul of sorts were inspecting the wards! Apart from the two nurses, perhaps there were other entities on duty in the hospital as well!

T-t-t-t-t… Their teeth started chattering uncontrollably. Waves after waves of goosebumps crept over and about their skin. The short-haired nurse continued with a trembling voice, “S-s-should we still get the flashlight?”

“Get it!!” Xiao Liu gritted her teeth as she barked back, “If we don’t get it… we might scare ourselves to death tonight!”

She needed light. Urgently.

The two nurses drew a deep breath, turned around and slowly made their way towards the door of their room. Yet before they made it halfway across the room, both nurses froze in their steps.

Tuk… tuk… The gentle taps of the walking stick hadn’t departed. Instead, it had just arrived right in front of the door. And… it had entered the room!

Nobody was there.

No shadow.

No breath.

In the horrific darkness of the night, the eerie reverberations of the walking stick continued to strike their hearts with fear. Step by step, the sound finally made its way right in front of them!

The two nurses were clinging tightly to each other, unable to even mutter a single word. They could sense that… something was right here. Something was standing right in front of them and staring straight at them right now!

“Haa… ahhh….” Streams of tears began to flow from Nurse Xiao Liu’s eyes. There’s a ghost. There’s really a ghost… Then, just as she was fervently holding back her heart-rending scream, her mind suddenly went numb.

Someone had just picked up her hair from behind, and was gently combing through it.

That person’s icy breath was gently tickling her neck.

And the short-haired nurse in front of her still had both of her arms tightly wrapped around her own waist.

“AHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

……………………………………….

“Report! A spike in Yin energy readings has been detected at the city’s Second People’s Hospital! Readings are estimated to be above 200 Yin!”

“Sir! A spike in Yin energy readings has been detected at six neighbourhoods along Southgreen Avenue! Total energy readings are estimated to be above 3,000 Yin!”

“S-sir! A spike in Yin energy readings has been detected at the commercial street along the Dragonhorse Neighbourhood! Energy readings are approaching 10,000 Yin!”

“Report…”

Underneath the city hall.

It was an incredibly modern place. The ceiling and floor were all constructed out of alloys. An oddly shaped three-meter tall cylindrical-shaped supercomputer stood in the center of the room. Streams of red, yellow and blue light could be seen flowing through the fiber optic cables lying between the alloy materials as they flowed out towards the surrounding computers positioned in a ring around the supercomputer. 

The room was filled with people wearing white coats.The walls were covered with screens which presently displayed the map of the City of Salvation.

As the supercomputer continued to crunch numbers and process the influx of information, the originally green zones in the city which represented safe zones had slowly faded away. Instead, the suburbs of the City of Salvation had turned yellow, while the center of the city was covered in a shocking red hue, almost as though it had become drenched in crimson blood!

“Sir, a total of twenty cultivators from the Special Investigations Department stationed at five locations within the Peace Neighbourhood have taken the initiative to engage with the enemy forces! The supercomputer, Styx, has determined that they’ll be overwhelmed by the enemy soon. Please send reinforcements!”

“Sir, a total of thirteen practitioners from the Special Investigations Department stationed at three parts of the Dragonhorse Neighbourhood are struggling against the enemy! The Dragonhorse Neighbourhood is located at the heart of the city, and the Yin energy readings there exceed 9,300 Yin! They need urgent backup right now!”

Alarms were blaring from every corner of the room, while five men stood in front of the main screen in the center of the room.

The mayor of the City of Salvation; the bookkeeper; the Special Investigations Department’s special agent, Zhang Chenghai; a withered, scrawny middle aged man wearing ink-black flowing robes and an old-fashioned square scarf; and finally a nun who was approximately forty years old with speckled white hair.

All five people had an incredibly grave expression written all over their faces.

“Without any portent at all?” Zhang Chenghai’s eyes were growing bloodshot as he asked the nun through gritted teeth.

The nun shook her head and responded with an equally ashen expression, “Not a tiny bit… It’s just as we’d speculated - the City of Salvation… most certainly hides a head honcho of the underworld. He’s the one who calls the shots on everything that happens within the City of Salvation. Otherwise, there’s no way that the Yin spirits could move on such a united front.”

The withered man gnashed his teeth, “According to my Master’s own investigations, Hell hasn’t reaped souls from earth for the last hundred years… I’m afraid that the Yin spirits that are moving tonight… are the souls of all the people who have perished within the City of Salvation for the last hundred years! Despite the fact that they’ve all come together, we’ve still been unable to find the orchestrator behind all of this!”

Humans were unable to see Emissaries of Hell.

This was why Cao Youdao dared to single handedly wage war against the lords of the lands!

“So, is this a provocation against us?” The mayor glared coldly at the screen and muttered placidly, “Mr Zhang, are there any Hunter-class experts stationed in the City of Salvation?”

Zhang Chenghao shook his head, “There’s nobody else apart from myself. Mayor Zhao, as you know, Hunter-class experts are few and far between. A city would at best have one such expert deployed, and there are generally no more than four or five such experts deployed across an entire province. Some cities don’t even have Hunter-class experts at all.”

The nun snorted, “Regardless, it’s clear that someone has declared war against us tonight. Mr Zhang, let’s meet it head on… After all, the confrontation between the netherworldly forces and the mortal realm is only a matter of time, and the citizens cannot remain in the dark about these things forever!”

“Mr Zhang, this old man awaits your command.” The withered man responded with a deep voice.

The mayor and the bookkeeper remained silent.

Truth be told, their hearts were conflicted.

This is a fight we have to take!

But, as soon as we engage with the enemy forces in an all-out battle, we’ll no longer be able to conceal the truth about such matters across the entire city!

Cathay was a one-party system - one that allowed the government the widest of mandates without a single peep from any opposition parties. This was why the nation had been able to conceal the outbreak of supernatural incidents for such a long time to begin with. They had always known that it was only going to be a matter of time before the outbreak grew out of proportion. Yet when faced with such an important juncture at hand, they felt somewhat frazzled.

What do we do after that?

How would we explain the situation to a million people amidst all the speculative buzz and chatter?

What’s the nation going to do?

“Mayor Zhou.” Zhang Chenghai drew a deep breath, turned around and muttered through gritted teeth, “The Special Investigations Department has the authority to mobilize the army without any approval from the mayor and the bookkeeper. Right now, I’d like to make full use of that authority.”

To war!

They had already guessed that something like this was going to happen. Yet as soon as they heard Zhang Chenghai’s decision, Mayor Zhou and the bookkeeper still let out a deep sigh before nodding their head.

Cathay had never feared war!

“Alright.” Zhang Chenghai turned around, took a deep breath, and addressed everyone else who was present in the room, “Henceforth, all armed forces, including the Public Security Bureau and National Guardsmen, are to heed my command.”

“Immediately notify all garrisons and stations to clear their surroundings of Yin spirits! Do whatever it takes!”

“Immediately activate the supernatural perimeter in the City of Salvation! Without my approval, the perimeter is not to be released!!”

“Open the equipment depot and issue spirit hunting equipment to all troops!”

With reddened eyes, he continued, “By dawn tomorrow, I want to see living persons standing victorious at every corner of the City of Salvation!!”

“This battle is the head honcho’s challenge to our sovereignty! Whether he’s merely probing or going all out on us tonight, this is a fight we cannot afford to lose!”

“If he wants a fight, we’ll give him a fight he’ll never forget!”

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