Qin Ye wondered in his heart whether it was time to change the signboard for his shop to read “Gloaming Ghouls Gambling Den”.
And then he would have the most epic ethnic song playing in the background.
No, wait… what kind of forcible conversion of property was this? Do you know just how much that coffin costs?
Qin Ye stared daggers, fired freeze rays, ice arrows, fireballs, and even death rays at the old granny, yet the old granny completely turned a blind eye to it. Instead, she looked straight at the other old grannies seated around her and chuckled, “How’s this grandson of mine?”
“Not bad. Fairly pale skin, so he wouldn’t need to purchase skin care products when he goes down under. Nine coins.” “He looks like one with a rather short life span. He’ll be able to enjoy his youth down under. Three coins.” “Kong! Five Wan...He runs a family business, and whether coffin, money, paper servants or horses, he’s got them all prepared. This kid is ready to head down under and enjoy life at any time, isn’t he?”
“Have you prepared the method to go down under, boy? Come here. Let me give you a piece of advice. Drowning is the worst way to go, and you won’t even look good at the point of death.” “Wait! I’ve won. I was waiting for one, four and seven Wan… Going back to the topic, hanging isn’t a good way to die either, since your tongue would hang out three feet long after death. It’s a pain to roll it back.” “I would suggest a car accident. Adjust the angle properly and don’t look back. If you do it properly, you won’t suffer any pain, and your looks won’t be affected either. You’ll spiral up to heaven spectacularly with an instant explosion.”
What happened to all the cultural norms and conventions?
Isn’t the usual response to a question like “how’s my grandson” would be “not bad, he’s well behaved”; or “how old is he”; or “has he learnt to write”?
What’s up with their bizarre response? Aren’t they being far too presumptuous here?
In the first place, who’s your grandson?! Don’t identify yourself as my relative!
Qin Ye was so upset that he almost spat blood. His face had turned ashen by now. The old granny took another puff of her pipe as she added, “Take a closer look.”
The other gloomy grannies immediately turned their heads and scrutinized him further. The smiles on everyone’s faces vanished in the very next instant. They all set down the mahjong tiles in their hands as well.
The four old ladies exchanged glances with each other in silence. Then, several seconds later, one of the old ladies queried the old granny, “Is this… the fungus of the Aeons?”
The clattering sound of mahjong restarted once again. As eight hands mixed the mahjong tiles thoroughly, the old granny chuckled, “Whenever he’s in front of this old bag of bones, he insists that it isn’t… so we’ll just leave it at that... Hey, what’s-your-name, why don’t you bring some sky juice here? The water from the mortal realm is a little bit too spicy for our taste.”
Ahhhhh… that was quick. How has it already changed from grandson to “what’s-your-name”...
The sky juice that they were asking for was none other than rainwater - something that neither touches the sky nor the ground; something that was not contaminated by Yin nor Yang. This was the only thing that the old granny had consumed this entire week.
Qin Ye obsequiously brought over four cups, setting them down on the coffin board with loud thuds before turning to leave.
Don’t mess with me anymore. It’s annoying.
The game of ghastly mahjong went on till midnight. As soon as the clock struck twelve, the old granny immediately rose from her seat and sighed softly, “That’s the end of this session...and perhaps this might also be the last time we’re gathering for mahjong as well.”
Following suit, the three other old ladies stood up as well, bade farewell to the old granny, before transforming into wisps of green smoke that quickly vanished.
“What’s this?” Qin Ye asked curiously.
The old granny didn’t respond immediately. Instead, she laboriously retrieved an ancient oil lamp that was covered in dust from the coffin as she massaged her back, “The Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts.”
“You’d tapped on the powers of the Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts for mahjong?”
“What do you know! I’ve earned 1.2 billion today. Why shouldn’t I use the Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts?!”
She makes a good argument… Even Qin Ye was rendered speechless.
“Do you know what day today is?” Collecting her smile, the old granny sat on the bed and stared straight at Qin Ye. Without waiting for his response, she continued, “Mid-seventh month, the ghosts run amok. Today is the last day of the Hungry Ghosts Festival. It’s also the day that the gates of Hell will finally shut.”
“The day that a person’s mortal life is snuffed out is also the day when he first enters the gates of Hell. Unfortunately, Hell has far too many spirits and too few Emissaries of Hell in comparison. Therefore, there will always be some spirits who aren’t detected and detained in time, and these spirits will end up drifting about aimlessly within the mortal realm. Over time, these souls begin to lose consciousness, and are left with nothing more than their desire to enter Hell. These spirits are called drifting spirits. The purpose of the three major ghost festivals is for us to receive them in Hell.”
“Do you… understand now?”
When the old granny got serious, Qin Ye felt almost as though he had been drawn into the heart of a massive vortex. Having experienced the vicissitudes of life, he could tell that this was the power of her aura - when one’s extreme conviction was displayed through his or her actions, disposition and speech, thereby affecting others.
It was difficult to fathom how an elderly who appeared so frail and on the brink of death could actually manifest such a terrifying display of aura.
Qin Ye subconsciously collected his smile and responded solemnly, “Do you mean...that the person who has ‘it’ has died within the last seven days?”
The old granny nodded her head. Qin Ye furrowed his brows, adding, “I wasn’t able to find him. That said, you seem certain that this person will be heading towards the gates of Hell today?”
The old granny responded, “Mm.” Qin Ye observed her facial expressions closely as he continued to probe further, “So… the thing that you wanted to tell me was…”
At that moment, the old granny suddenly revealed a cunning smile on her face. Then, without waiting for him to finish, she suddenly grabbed tightly onto Qin Ye’s hand. Qin Ye wasn’t even able to scream before everything simply went black. When everything became clear again, he couldn’t help but draw a breath of cold air.
Black, white and green - a world comprising only three colours!
As far as the eye could see, most things were black and white in colour, whether the room or his bed. The only green he could see were the wisps of green smoke emanating between all the other elements. To make matters even more bizarre, he was astonished to see his own physical body frozen in a squatting posture, his eyes still shut, while the old granny was still grabbing onto his arm!
These physical bodies were akin to two statues - completely still and unmoving.
“This is… my soul?” Qin Ye glanced at his own hands in amazement. His assessment of the old granny’s abilities had risen once again.
He had personally witnessed innumerable monks or priests performing rites to separate a person’s soul from his or her own body. However, none of these experts had been able to pull out a person’s soul with such a simple tug on the wrist! Next to the old granny, all of the revered monks and priests could at best be described as mere infants!
“First rule, don’t look back.” The old granny hunched her back and lit an ancient lamp.
The lamp was incredibly unique. The ancient lamp was made of bronze, square in shape, and it was approximately the size of a palm. However, there were actually two carps painted on the back of the lamp - one black, and one white.
“Shut up… Second rule, don’t open your mouth.” The old granny began to move. As she took the first step, the three-coloured world trembled slightly. Qin Ye felt the temperature around him dip immensely, while the fog around him continued to grow thicker.
The green fog was everywhere, and it even seemed to be alive. After mere seconds, they found themselves surrounded by nothing more than a sea of fog replete with clouds in the sky. In this world, the ancient lamp was the only source of light.
He could even hear the wails and moans of countless people echoing through the sea of fog in the distance.
“Put this in your mouth and hang on to my clothes.” Qin Ye inspected the object as soon as he received it. It was a willow leaf.
As soon as he placed it within his mouth, a warm feeling immediately spread from the tip of his tongue. He grabbed on tightly to the old granny’s clothes, and they began to plod on.
“This path is not for the living.” Even though Qin Ye had many questions weighing on his mind, he remained completely silent. They walked on for approximately twenty more minutes before the old granny spoke hoarsely again, “The living call this road the Yellow Springs Road. That said, the Yellow Springs Road is in fact divided into three portions. The Ferryman’s Creek of Forgetfulness, Granny Meng’s Residence, and finally the Necropolis. We’re presently only on the first part of the Yellow Springs Road.”
She then pointed to the surroundings, “The green fog is in fact formed by the Yin energy diffusing from the spirits around. It’s supposed to be pure black in colour, but the Yang energy in this place is too strong right now. The green Yin energy is the result of the clash of both Yin and Yang energy.
“As soon as any living creature opens its mouth in this place, Yang energy would leak out from its body and act like a lighthouse or a beacon in tumultuous waters. The innumerable spirits around would begin to recall their lives in the mortal realm - some with attachments and some with regrets. These spirits that haven’t consumed Granny Meng’s soup of forgetfulness will tear the source of Yang energy to shreds. Therefore, please don’t open your mouth.”
Qin Ye blinked. It suddenly dawned on him that the sea of Yin energy… was in fact generated by the gates of Hell alone?
According to what the old granny had said before, the gates of Hell would shut tonight, so the innumerable drifting spirits in the mortal world would naturally swarm to the gates. But… just how many spirits did it take to form such an endless, overwhelming sea of Yin energy?
Were the Emissaries of Hell all malingering and neglecting their duties?
Just then, a ghastly sigh echoed from behind, “Don’t turn back. There are creatures called the Echoing Worm living on this road. As soon as you respond to it, it will begin to chat with you. The Echoing Worm has the face and body of a human, and it’s a creature formed by the convergence of innumerable lingering obsessions. As soon as you are hooked by its call, you will be forced to converse with it for a thousand centuries, forever losing the opportunity to reincarnate.”
Qin Ye tugged gently on the old granny’s sleeves. The old granny chuckled lightly, “You must be wondering why this old bag of bones talks so much, yet not a single Echoing Worm has attempted to approach me?”
“It’s simply because… they don’t dare.”
“Scatter.” With a single imperative command, her primly bundled white hair instantly loosened up and began to dance on its own without any wind. The sea of green fog in the surroundings suddenly began to roil and crash as they dissipated into the distance.
Their surroundings finally became clear. Qin Ye glanced around before drawing a deep breath as chills ran down his spine.
Where was the road under their feet?! What they had been treading on was in fact… the silver-white bones of a skeleton!
The skeleton was gargantuan, and the bone that they were walking on must have been at least a hundred meters wide, and so long that he could not see the end in sight. The bone was rather flat, and Qin Ye posited that it must be the cervical bone of a vertebrae. At the same time, there were two rows of people - too many to count - lined up on either side of them. Some were dressed in suits, some were dressed in t-shirts and jeans, while others were wearing maxi-dresses. These people were all lined up neatly, making their way towards the end of the road, just like Qin Ye and the old granny were!
These people presented themselves with appearances that were hazy and illusory, replete with a blank look on their faces. Yin energy continued to escape from their bodies from time to time. Yet the most frightening thing about these two lines of people… was that their appearances were snapshots of their exact appearances just before they died!
Some of them had long tongues sticking out of their mouths and disgusting, bulging eyes. Some had a contorted expression on their faces and broken limbs, and they were resigned to painstakingly crawling this entire journey across the bridge. Some had their skulls fractured, while others had their chests or abdomens slashed wide open… it was almost akin to a gallery of death and demise!
The museum of the living dead.
These living dead appeared to be floating in the air, and their feet never touched the ground, even when they moved.
The gates of Hell closed on the last day of the Hungry Ghost Festival. In the darkness of the night, all of these pale ghosts were presently trudging along this Yin-Yang road just beside a living person.
He was right there among them. He was right there beside them.
Unfortunately, Qin Ye couldn’t help but gasp in shock. In that single moment, everyone in their surroundings froze.
Hundreds, thousands, or even ten thousands of illusory spirits paused in unison. Then… without moving their bodies, their heads all turned stiffly like grotesque machines. There were those with long tongues hanging from their heads, and even some without heads at all. All of them fixed their gazes on Qin Ye at this very moment!
There were traces of greed, confusion and other emotions in their eyes… In that instant, Qin Ye’s body trembled as an intense wave of netherworldly chill washed across his heart. Then, in the very next moment, a frail, withered hand patted firmly on his back, and the chill that was permeating his entire body immediately vanished. All of the spirits around continued to stare at him for a full thirty seconds, before turning their heads back and plodding on.
Thump. Thump. Qin Ye placed his hand gingerly over his chest. His heart was beating wildly. That instant when innumerable spirits turned to look at him had caused his entire back to be drenched with sweat.
“Look over there.” The old granny pointed in another direction. Qin Ye glanced over, before covering his mouth in shock. His pupils constricted immediately.
He could see the silhouette of something akin to a hill in the distant where gloomy Yin energy filled the air. He was unable to see exactly what this was, but it appeared almost as though...there were innumerable stink bugs piling one on top of the other. Two green eyes burned brightly in the darkness as netherworldly flames flickered ceaselessly within them. And on its body… hung countless people!
They were living people - rather, living spirits!
Each one of these spirits appeared to be muttering something inaudible. The spirit that hung closest to his current location was no more than twenty meters away.
This was an Echoing Worm and its human pupae!Previous Chapter Next Chapter